Office culture: the bane of white collar existence (or mine, at least). I work in an rather sterile environment with only the sound of clicky heels and an occasional giggle to pierce the stillness. It’s damn cold from the air circulation system, adding to injury. There aren’t windows that open, nor plants save the token tree in the main lobby (and unfortunately outside the secured, glass box where I reside). Company investments in the form of art instillation are the most natural thing gracing the walls and halls. I’m grateful for that, at least.
I escape the physical aspects of my office life by venturing outside for frequent breaks, so it’s not bad. I wear my headphones to listen to forest birds or music, which relieves my soul. Really, I’m thankful to earn a good salary, and my colleagues are great. I’m not afraid to admit that I want to earn good money for awhile, and offices ’round the world are filled with intelligent, funny and inspiring people.
That being said, office culture could be drastically improved. I really don’t like things like:
- Colleagues getting their panties in a bunch over stepped-on toes (I’m occasionally a victim of this one);
- Colleagues not getting acknowledged for busting ass to achieve pie-in-the-sky deadlines;
- Death by a thousand pointless emails;
- Death by a thousand pointless meetings (save the coffee and cookies);
- Colleagues making mountains of mole hills (this one is the real kicker).
I was completely submersed in my ego during my 20’s, regarding the last bullet point. I was unbearable on some days for my poor colleagues. I remember making our assistant cry on one occasion because I was so worked up about our banner management system not being run properly. It was just my ego displaying its plumage, I realise now.
In my previous job, I managed a large portion of redesigning and relaunching a large-scale web site and its CMS platform, and I became a crazed work horse, working day and night until I became literally delirious. I’m convinced I was in a website psychosis, as no one could convince me that the deadline should again be delayed. The launch was a small disaster because we launched so many things simultaneously, and it ended up running right up against my holiday. My colleague and great love of mine had to literally pry my laptop from my hands the night before I left, and I burst into a fit of tears when he finally succeeded. I just couldn’t handle people thinking that I was not the most perfect project manager ever….I guess no one died when things didn’t go as planned (as if they ever do). The site is still alive and kicking, while I’ll be likely forgotten within the next six months.
Through my experiences as an office animal, I’m finally learning to let go. I know I’m talented, and I know that if people don’t know that, it’s not really my problem. I know that I needn’t bend over backwards to prove myself, as in the grand scheme it’s just not worth my sanity and finite youth.
For those of you struggling with office culture, I suggest these tricks:
- When you’re frustrated with a colleague, look at him like he’s a little child just wanting to be loved and acknowledged. Because that’s the truth of it, after all.
- Own your talent. If you don’t feel talented in your job and have the option to find something else, go for it.
- Ask yourself: will someone die if I make a mistake/miss a deadline/don’t know something I think I ought to?
- Avoid gossip (unless it provides harmless, comedic value to your day…..I’ll admit my guilt here :/).
- Stop whining: you’re lucky compared to many, many people on this planet. You have the freedom to leave or to make the thing your whining about right with a little effort and courage (I have to remind myself of this a lot).
- Be the light and the miracle in the lives of your dear colleagues. At the end of the day, we’re all naked human beings just wanting to love, raise our babies and have a good time in life.
- If you feel that your job is pushing paper (or pushing web pages), try volunteering or taking singing lessons in your spare time. I find that contribution outside of my job makes me a much happier camper during the work day.
Office culture is not going anywhere soon, but we have the chance to make it better. Offices take care of so many things in the world that are super great, and while it would be totally awesome to work on a tropical beach, we can make the most of life within our concrete boxes by acting less like bloated egos and more like the lovely human beings we really are deep down.
Do I sound like a hippy in executive’s clothing? Hmm..maybe I am.