Dilbert Doldrums

July 15, 2008

One of the joys about being back in grad school is the two-year respite, minus the summer internship, we MBAs get from the rat race. Granted, the rigor of the SOM program isn’t always a picnic in the park with Podolny, but the constant intellectual stimulation and flood of extracurricular activities make life a little bit more engaging. No day feels like the one before—there’s something new to learn or do or drink each day. Groan as we may about all the little annoyances of our SOM experiences (whoever thought those chair-swivel-desk-thingees in the HOM were a good idea...and why is it next to impossible to stealthily slip into a middle seat in A51 or A53 when you’re late for class!), it is nice to be free from an office and all the peculiarities associated with the Working Girl world. Which brings us back to “doh!” As week seven of my so-called corporate life commences, I thought it would be fun to list some “office-isms” I’ve experienced and I know many of you will be familiar with. The coffee station/communal trough It’s not just for java. It’s the office “pantry,” complete with fridge, sink and plenty of counter space on which to leave behind cupcakes, caramel corn and other leftover junk food from internal company meetings. Anything you leave there will immediately disappear, though goodness knows who the perpetrators are. Office workers are like raccoons—you never actually catch them in the act of rummaging through the scraps, but you sure see the mess the next morning. (I think my favorite morning was the cantaloupe and jalapeno cheese platter morning. Boy oh boy do people love their jalapeno cheese at 8:30 a.m.) Of course, the absolute worst are the office nibblers. They’re usually female, usually on Weight Watchers, and will usually tear little bits off of muffins or cookies and leave the rest behind rather than just eating the whole darn thing. Unfortunately, they’ll repeat this about nine times throughout the course of the day… Blinders on The larger an office population is, the colder it seems to get in terms of interpersonal interaction. Even if you know someone (i.e. worked with them on a project) and even if you haven’t yet said hello to them that morning, it’s perfectly acceptable to walk past them without saying hello if you avoid eye contact, look straight ahead at point in the distance, and walk with a purposeful gait. It’s really easy to pick up on and then commit against others who would distract you with stories of their dog/baby/sugar glider. Of course, it feels real crummy when no one says “hello” or “how are you” or “have a good night” to you. The cult of the wheelie briefcase Call it a symptom of the suburban office park (or at least this particular office park), but even though the distance from the car to the office entrance is about, oh, a 30-second to minute-walk, depending on the parking spot you snag, everyone owns one of those pullable briefcases on wheels. As if the long and painful commute—most of which took place in a car in which your suitcase sat in the backseat—were just so unbearable that you lacked the energy to carry that bag over your shoulder. I lived in NYC for five years, where everyone walks and is forced to physically shuttle their possessions around on their person. And yet I rarely, if ever, saw these wheelies. Hmm…. Sweet tooth? Candy bowls. M&Ms, Peppermint Patties, Jelly Bellies, candy everywhere! Be on the lookout for the candy pushers. Often they’re under-worked administrative assistants. Troll dolls, porcelain figurines and other such tsatskes are often the markers of their territories. They sometimes leave out money jars to solicit funds for the upkeep of their sugar dealing. Avoid donating at all costs. Swallow that guilt. If they run out of capital, their little candy cartel is history and our thighs are spared! Como se llama?! You’re new, you get that whirlwind office tour, you see lots of faces, hear lots of names…and then can’t remember a single one of them 15 minutes later. Then you have that one co-worker who you always run into, who always makes small talk with you, who’s always saying “Hi Art” or “What are you working on Art” or “Nice shirt, Art” and the best you can muster is “Hey, you….” Or “Nothing, you….” Or “Thanks for the compliment, you…” and at this point in your relationship it’s too late to ask her name and she doesn’t have a nameplate. Sometimes, you can’t even remember whether you did in fact meet this person or whether she’s just overly chatty with everyone in the office. And sometimes, you just give up and see what’s there to eat in the pantry….oh lovely, half an éclair and fruit salad in heavy syrup.

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Art Janik