Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Office

Things I learned this week…

1. It’s official. Men are not allowed to be ill. If one more person asks me about the “man-flu” I had last week, my fake smile is gonna disappear and I’m gonna get angry. And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. I tend to turn green and all my clothes fall off involuntarily. A bit like last week.

2. If you’re gonna be ill, check your stocks of toilet roll. Enough said?

3. Mission Impossible 3 is not a good movie unless you want to view an example of a film that was constructed using post-it notes. Big bang here. Implausible escape there. Nah, swap them around. Oh shit, we forgot the dialogue. And the plot.

4. If you go to the hairdressers and say “just cut it real short”, don’t be surprised if they do just that. They’ll also have a good laugh at your fake Texan accent.

5. When all newspaper column ideas have been exhausted, bitch about your work.

6. Don’t tell anyone at work that you’re gonna be bitching about your work in your newspaper column.

It’s been ten months now since I went back to work (to what my mother likes to call “a proper job”) after my indulgent two-year career break gallivanting round the world. Since I’ve been back I’ve noticed that the day to day nuances of office life have changed little from those I encountered in a previous life. Fixing a colour printer, for example, still seems to involve a large dose of “percussive maintenance” (i.e. the fine art of whacking the crap out of an electronic device to get it to work again) followed by a minimum of three visits from a so-called engineer.

Then there’s a little something I like to call “the ringing phone two-step”. This occurs when a phone starts to ring at an unmanned desk and colleagues in the surrounding area perform a strange choreography to avoid answering it. The precise moves may differ slightly at your workplace but essentially it looks like this.

Phone starts to ring. All heads in the vicinity lower as if trying to disappear into shoulders. Much shuffling of paper and opening of desk drawers takes place. Pens mysteriously drop to the floor. Two colleagues feeling guilty stand up simultaneously. Both stop dead in their tracks with a blank are-you-going-to-answer-it look on their faces. Both pretend there is something uncomfortable in their shoe as they begin a slow, shuffling limp towards the ringing. Both reach out for the phone at exactly the same time. The phone stops ringing before either touches it. Both exchange weak smiles and resigned shrugs as if to say “well at least we did our Goddamndest to solution this problem”. Both then retire to the office toilets for a well deserved lie down.

One major change to life in the office has occurred however since the last time I had a proper job. The preponderance of management-speak is now at an alarmingly high level and its relationship to the English language gets more distant with each passing day. Fortunately, a great deal of my time is spent staring at a computer screen and surfing inappropriate websites so I don’t need to go out of my way to actually talk to people. Nevertheless, I’ve had the misfortune to be involved in a number of incomprehensible meetings and although I now know it’s best to stay quiet and just nod, the learning process has been painful at times. To help you avoid similar embarrassments, here are a few tips I’ve picked up in the last ten months.

1. Never underestimate the importance of humour and playfulness in the workplace. The next time you have to fire somebody, bring a smile to their face by putting on a red nose just before you break the news.

2. Beware of something called “enhanced performance goals”. This simply means that you’re going to have to work twice as hard for the same money.

3. To get into the habit of “thinking outside the box”, make sure your box is very, very small.

4. If someone describes a project issue as “mission critical”, do not whip out your lightsaber and volunteer to “kick the Dark Side’s ass”. Whipping out your lightsaber in the middle of a meeting seems to make people a little uneasy and they tend to look at you funny. The freaks.

5. A “bench mark” is a basis of comparison for an improvement initiative. This should not be confused with a “skid mark” which is the result of being told you have to improve in the first place.

With the end of my current contract looming, my boss has invited me to a meeting next week to discuss “an enhanced relocation opportunity”. While I’m hoping this means a big promotion to our New York office, the appearance of a red nose on her desk tells another story altogether.


At 9/5/06 10:01 pm, Blogger The Other Half said...

that's not what a "skid mark" is

At 10/5/06 12:14 am, Blogger Neil said...

Go on then, enlighten us...

At 11/5/06 10:49 pm, Anonymous wendi said...

all men know what skid marks are...let's just home the woman doing your laundry didn't notice any

At 11/5/06 11:24 pm, Blogger Neil said...

ALL men? Really? See this is the kind of sweeping generalisation I was talking about with the whole man-flu conspiracy. I mean, you'd never catch me saying that ALL women love Grey's Anatomy.

At 12/5/06 1:57 am, Anonymous wendi said...

ha ha...you WERE a small boy once...just because you may have outgrown them doesn't mean you don't KNOW what they are


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