I work in an office now.
I’ve read Dilbert all my life, and Blondie for a good many years. My father is an Electrical Engineer by trade, and Staple is one of my favourite stores. I thought I understood the office thing pretty well.
Let me tell you; there is a difference between understanding and experiencing. For one thing, it’s all true. Every joke ever made is based in solid fact. The water cooler gossip, the office party, the boss snapping at you to get back to work–it all makes sense now!
To begin with, office work is mind-blowingly dull. It’s all about answering the phone, sending email, and filing. All day, every day. No matter how much you do, there’s more to be done. Delivering pizza or flipping burgers begins to look like as an alternative; except for one thing. Office work pays better than fast food. Much better. And why?
1. Office work is meticulous. You deal with idiots on the phone all day, and you can’t ever lose patience with them. You must be cool and calm and helfup and polite every. single. time. 2. You can’t make mistakes. You know the joke about how a misplaced comma can save a life? It can also save millions of dollars. 3. It takes a brain. Your average hamburger flipper can’t work in an office job. You have to be able to read, write legibly, perform basic math, and not make mistakes.
Besides being better paid, office workers are also better treated. They get to sit on their butts all day, decorate their own space, and work in a calm, clean, quiet, air-conditioned environment. Minimum-wage-job workers are jealous of this, and with reason. But why are office workers so well treated? Because a happy office worker is a productive office worker, and all office work is about productivity. Over at Burger King you threaten and employee with his job if he’s not fast enough. And if he quits, you replace him. In the office you might threaten too, but you also pacify. Anger taken out on hamburgers is anger well spent. Anger taken out on customers means a lost deal.
And that’s why office managers do things like provide a water cooler, throw office parties, and offer bonuses. It’s all about keeping those employees happy, and thus making sure those employees don’t make mistakes. It also helps employees enjoy their job because of the nice atmosphere; because who could possibly enjoy the mind-numbing tedium induced by a page full of telephone numbers?
Which leads me to the other thing I never quite understood: office pranks. ThinkGeek offers many toys for the purpose of pranking the office. These I never understood. Try to pull a trick like that in Wal-mart and you’ll be walking out the door. They have no patience for fun and games. Offices, you see, are different. Fun and games (within reason) are encouraged to alleviate boredom. Office pranking (within reason) is no more out of bounds than gossip.
Ideally would an office manager wish his employees were all robots who mindlessly did their task perfectly, and without question? Of course. But they don’t expect it. Instead they pay well, treat their employees well, and tolerate office pranking. And they do this in so many ways! Staples sells enormous jars of snacks or candy. I never understood why; until now. It’s for office managers to provide their employees with to help spread peace and goodwill and productivity.
Excuse me while I sing a few choruses of “It’s Friday” and watch a few episodes of “The Office” and try to scare some semblance of creativity back into my brain. And the next time you’re laughing at an episode of “Dilbert” remember.
It’s all true.
(And this. This is true too.)