The work place is a jungle and in order to survive it you have to come prepared with a very specific set of skills – not quite the arsenal that Liam Neeson possesses in the Taken trilogy, but something along those lines.
The thing about entering your office, and it doesn’t matter what day it is, is that you face opposition around every corner: no place is safe.
On the way to the bathroom to drop off the kids, you can easily be blindsided by a co-worker who wants to know what you’re doing this weekend or how the most recent project is looking.
“When will you have it done by?” he or she may ask with a grin that borders the line between psychopathic and friendly. The problem is you can never which side they may fall on. The right answer varies; it’s all very circumstantial – person to person.
The key to eliminating these types of work-related conversations seems obvious: always stay busy or appear to be busy. Nobody can hound the guy who’s constantly type away at his computer, remember that.
Here are eight other interactions everyone else hates to have, and that you should look to avoid at any cost:
1. Coffee break
This is better known as “Do you want to get a cup of coffee before we go over X?” The answer always has to be a firm no.
Why? Because getting coffee adds an extra step to a process you don’t even want to be a part of in the first place – work-related review.
The less steps the better – don’t over complicate things.
You can get coffee on your own time if you really need it. No need to take the elevator with a co-worker you don’t really care for as they bitch about something going on in their personal life. It sounds callous but their problems are not your problems. You don’t get paid to listen.
2. Mondays (or returning after a holiday)
You’re met with the question “what did you do over the weekend?” or “how did you spend your Thanksgiving break?” by a half a dozen co-workers or more. To eliminate this blitzkrieg, the next time asks you this question on a Monday you reply that you “had a nice weekend.”
Do not elaborate. If the co-worker presses you for details, don’t reveal them. One word answers are golden here. The less words, the better – by the time the conversation is over, they will wonder why they asked you in the first place and they certainly won’t expect you to ask them about their weekend.
You’ll develop a reputation as a “shy guy” and that’s fine – it’s better than the verbose douche bag two cubes down from you who won’t quit bragging about how he spent his weekend.
Note: this goes both ways. If someone asks you what you’re planning on doing this weekend on a Friday or what you’re plans are for Christmas, you don’t have to reveal anything to them unless you really want to.
3. Can you do X?
Similar to the coffee question, if the task isn’t in your job description, then the answer is a hard no.
Whether it’s print out something from your printer or get supplies from the supply room, if it won’t get you fired, there’s no problem in resisting the order – especially if it’s coming from one of your contemporaries and not a boss.
4. Trashing the boss
Speaking of upper-level management, is there anything worse than a group of co-workers gather around the water cooler to bash the boss? Not only is it an extremely unproductive thing to do at the work place, it may also lead to your ouster at said job. Again, avoid it like the bubonic plague.
If a co-worker jabs you to make a comment about mean old Mr. Richards, you tell them you don’t have much of an opinion because you don’t know him all that well. Don’t get into any personal history you might have – even if you hate him too, restrain from entering the dialogue.
Why? Because if you bash the boss once, you’re going to be looked at to do it again. And nobody wants to carry that reputation.
5. How do I do this? (aka “Show me”)
This is definitely my least favorite interaction in the office. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen as frequently as coffee requests, Mondays or ganging up to make fun of management. Nonetheless, it’s the most irritating question in the English language. The only applicable answer I can think of is: learn how to do your job.
Of course, you’d never say this because it’s rude, brash and you’re expected to be a team player (that is in the job description, unfortunately), but in a perfect world any worker who’s wasting another person’s productivity would be removed from the position and/or punished until they know what to do without asking somebody else.
It’s this reliance on others that really challenges my faith in the world.
6. Complaints about the office
Talk about something that cuts into productivity! Bitching about the painting on the walls or the way the toilets flush is just downright a waste of time. It’s ADD behavior like this that forces people to work until 6 or 7 at night.
Seriously, think about it: if you removed all forms of complaining, think of how quickly the work day would go by and how shorter it might be.
Now, I understand vocalizing your irritation with where you work is a vital way to decompress, but does it have to be done with such a repetition? I feel like every company should give its employees one 30 minute block to complain every Friday at 10 a.m.
Besides that, if an employee is heard or seen starting up a meaningless conversation about how the heat isn’t turned up high enough, then he or she should be fired on the spot.
It sounds like the CEO way of thinking, but really it’s just a grouchy twenty something who’s seen more than his fair share of co-workers complaining instead of working. Again, it’s all about productivity.
7. Bathroom talk
I hinted at this in the introduction above, but there really is nothing worse than getting sidetracked from going to the bathroom. Literally any conversation can wait – pooping takes precedent, regardless of the situation.
What’s actually worse than getting stopped on your way to the toilet is when a co-worker tries to talk to you about something in the bathroom. Why people haven’t learned this basic social custom by now is beyond me, but it still happens every so often. I’ll repeat: any conversation can wait.
Plus, how can you be expected to perform a task or know a specific detail about something when you’re trying to squeeze one out? It’s an impossible mission.
8. Explaining yourself (and what you do/did)
If you haven’t gotten this yet, listening to your co-workers sucks. But you know what’s actually worse? Talking about yourself and what your role is at the office.
This is only magnified when you’ve made a mistake and you have to explain what you did. Nothing positive can come from this interaction, even if it’s with a co-worker and not a boss, and the only true way to eliminate the possibility of it happening is to be perfect at your job. Spoiler alert: nobody is perfect at their job.
Nonetheless, you’re expected to be a diligent worker and when there’s a screw up you have to take responsibility. Rise above the rest of the pack and take ownership. The more immediately you do this, the less you’ll be in the spotlight and the less you’ll be scrutinized for whatever it is that you messed up on.
Hiding from it will only exacerbate the situation. If you deny it, the more conversations you will have to have in the office and nobody wants that.