Monday, October 1, 2012

The Office: Not Just A Hit TV Show

As a little girl, I watched my dad (and later my mom) leave for work everyday, dressed in professional attire and would catch a comforting whiff of his spicy aftershave. After I was in grade school, my mom also went back to work and I loved watching her getting dressed up and spritzing perfume-Curve in those days- on her wrists and would beg for a little spritz of my own.  Never did I imagine that these parents of mine-adults for goodness sake-had their own separate work lives that entailed drama and a cast of characters straight out of the movies. I thought that adults were, well, grown ups. As I got older, I realized they too had to deal with petty dramas of their own-not necessarily mean girls IMing nasty stuff about them or spreading rumors about a new girl who'd just transferred-but the high school cliques and drama weren't that different from the dynamics in an office. They just didn't have to ask to use the restroom and could drink coffee all day.

Fast-forward to my first job. It was as if every stereotype from high school was in one large open planned setting: the class clown (the jokester who sent unfunny emails to everyone), the beauty queen (looked perfect all the time but constantly said she looked a hot mess), the jock (brought his gym bag to the office), the brainiac(actually had a pocket protector,  and the cheerleader (who says shut the front door without any irony).  Did adults really behave like they were still in high school? In short-yes.  They did. And they still do.  It's one of the mysteries of the human race. The main difference between the teenage and adult phase is the perspective we have gained from our youth. Some former mean girls turn into nice people. Brainiacs have become super hot and attractive commodities on the single market. Nerds have become hot evil adult mean girls. And some of us have relatively stayed the same but older, hopefully wiser, nicer and somewhat more responsible.  Regardless, these teenage stereotypes and cliques are parlayed right into the office environment. Trying figuring out lunch on the first day of new job. Good luck! Then, there are the rules.

For goodness sake, those of us that went to Catholic school and LOVED jeans day are almost taken back to that grade-school mentality when the boss declares a jeans day if we hit such and such a goal (or donate something to some charity). Jeans for hitting a goal. Think about that. No bathroom breaks during phone-a-thons, call campaigns, insert-name-for-group activity -designed- to- improve- some -statistic -that- is- relevant to- your- career. Sign in and out before and after lunch. Fire drills. No drinks except in the break room. Water fountains. And yet our managers wonder how they can foster a better environment in the office and one that is more conducive to high quality production. The answer, my friends, is not more cubicle toys or food as an incentive.  One thing we all desperately wanted in high school (ok THE other thing we all wanted) was to be treated as adults-with respect. By the time we are 30 it shouldn't be something we are having circle meetings, trust exercises or town halls about.  It should come with the profit-sharing, 401k and insurance benefits that we pay for. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to email to see if I can use the restroom.  Kidding.  I'll just ask on my way out.

Tell me about some of your crazy office situations. Feel free to remain anonymous. xoxo.

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