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6 Petty Things That Start Wars in Every Office

A little over two years ago, I quit my day job to pursue writing full time. That meant that I, at least for the time being, did not have to wake up in the morning and drag myself to an office anymore. Every working day of my life since then has been spent sitting on a couch or chair in my own home, usually unshowered and pantsless.

At least that was the case up until about a month ago, when I ditched my work-from-home ways and settled into a desk at the Cracked offices. The reasons for the change are several, and every one of them is "I need health insurance" or "If I don't see snow again for another 100 years, it will still be too soon." So I guess I have a day job again, even if it's the kind that asks during the interview process how comfortable you are with using the word "dong."

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"Also, what's your stance on laundering money?"

Being back in an office after a few years of working from a room where the History Channel plays constantly in the background and everything smells like smoke is definitely a change of pace, but as you can imagine, it's not exactly like a traditional day job (especially the part where everybody is drunk on hand sanitizer). It's a pretty laid-back environment. I didn't even have to give up working without pants!

Nevertheless, walking through the door each morning never fails to remind me of all those years I spent working in offices of the soul-crushing variety, and all of the petty things that you wouldn't believe can escalate into full-scale wars in any office. For example ...

#6. The Thermostat

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The office thermostat might as well be that comically large red button that sets off a nuclear war in movies. Take a quick survey of the thermostats in your office and you're bound to come across one that has a screaming yellow Post-it note attached to it with the words "DON'T TOUCH!!!" scrawled angrily across the paper.

It usually happens when, through some marvel of shitty heating and cooling installation, the room that holds the thermostat also features a radically different climate from the rest of the building. The thermostat might claim that the temperature is a comfortable 72 degrees, but in that one room, for whatever reason, it's balmy as shit. Meanwhile, the people sitting in the larger part of the office are as comfortable as can be.

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"If not for the part where we all hate life, this would be paradise."

This setup works fine, provided that the smaller room is never used, but unfortunately, that's never the case. Instead, it's usually a meeting room or something, meaning a wide variety of people who may or may not be familiar with the atmospheric dynamic present in the room are filtering in and out all day. All it takes is for one of those people to decide that they don't want to conduct their two-hour meeting in the equivalent of a corporate sweat lodge and turn the thermostat down to, say, 68 degrees. It will still be kind of warm in that little room, but that four-degree drop in temperature might as well be the next ice age for everyone else.

Inevitably, the preappointed office badass, usually determined by a combination of tenure and who smokes the most, will kick in that meeting room door like Dog the Bounty Hunter searching for the deadbeat baby daddy of one of his toothless kids and inform everyone willing to listen that the thermostat is to remain at 72 degrees as stated on the note or hellfire will rain down on everyone in the room.

The people in that meeting will then spend the next hour and a half teetering on the brink of heat stroke and vowing to mess with that thermostat every chance they get going forward.

#5. The Coffee Maker

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One coffee packet or two? That's a question that has divided offices for decades now. The two-packet crowd likes their coffee strong, like a good espresso or a kick to the face. The one-packet crowd prefers a more civilized brew that tastes a bit less robust and doesn't mimic the effects of methamphetamine in such a pronounced way. One thing both sides can agree on, though, is that the other side is completely wrong.

If this seems like a trivial matter, keep one thing in mind: Caffeine is a drug. Toying with the influx of caffeine into a person's bloodstream is inevitably going to end in the closest approximation of a Breaking Bad episode you'll ever get at the office without literally working at a meth lab.

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"Two packs of coffee. That's the deal."

Once a coffee divide arises in your office, it's nearly impossible to stop it from exploding into unbridled chaos. The problem is, neither side knows that the other has struck until they've actually poured a cup of coffee and had a taste. But that's beside the point. Even if it's common knowledge that Jane in accounting shows up 10 minutes before anyone else and makes the "weak" coffee, Rhonda in marketing, who prefers stronger coffee, will pour a cup, go through whatever elaborate Splenda packet and non-dairy creamer ritual is standard and walk all the way back to her desk before trying it out. She knows full well what she's about to taste and that she could have avoided this by just jumping on the next pot of coffee or whatever, but she will complain to her strong-coffee-drinkers-in-arms nevertheless, because petty complaints are the fuel that keep the engine running in any office.

#4. Kids' Fundraisers

Jubilee House

Does your office have a rule against solicitation? Does it only cover prostitution, or does it extend to things like Girl Scout cookies and band camp fundraisers? There's a good chance that those last two things are addressed as well, which means that rightfully, you shouldn't have to put up with an army of soccer moms shoving frozen pizza order forms in your face every time their kid has to raise funds to pay for some bullshit school trip.

But workplace solicitation rules are selectively enforced at best, and even when that's not the case, the pressure just takes the more subtle form of a catalog placed conspicuously in the middle of the break room, replete with names of people who have taken one for the team and purchased a $14 roll of cherry monkey bread from some fifth grader just to keep his hyena of a mom from asking for the sale in person.

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"Buy some Thin Mints and send my kid to Washington D.C., asshole!"

Not a huge deal if, say, the entire company is being asked to play Make-A-Wish with a perfectly healthy child, but it's never that. Instead, it's just something that's circulated between that tight circle of people who make up your department at work. If your department happens to only have 10 or 15 employees, being the lone selfish bastard who decides not to participate is going to draw some attention.

Soon rumors will be swirling around the office about your refusal to play nice. You'll be labeled an outcast who doesn't want to participate with the rest of the "team" and summarily blackballed when future events requiring monetary donations arise.

Translation: You won't be asked to chip in for a Boss's Day gift. Bummer.

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Adam Tod Brown

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