If you work in an office, you probably already know how awful office life can sometimes be, what with its seemingly endless parade of dealing with other people and performing tasks.
"Yeah, I'm going to need you to stop looking at BDSM sites and do some wor- is that an actual sword?"
But maybe you don't know. Maybe you're a student hoping to one day work in an office and avoid the fate of toiling away in the corn mines that so many of your peers will succumb to. Well, you should know that office life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Office life isn't just filled with work, but also with petty nonsense like politics and mind games being played by people who like "winning" and are "dillbags." At their best, these mind games get in the way of the actual work being done and impede any sense of job satisfaction a normal person might derive from their work. At their worst? They make people cry and quit and go home and go insane.
The corn mines don't sound so bad now, do they?
Here, then, for your reading pleasure (and to stave off the weeping for a few minutes) are six dirty tricks you can find in most offices.
If you do something well at your job, you would expect to receive some sort of acknowledgment and advantage from it, whether in the form of pay, promotion, or just an extremely vigorous pat on the back.
Jan Mika/iStock/Getty Images
"WELL DONE SARAH."
But if you're incapable of doing something well at work, perhaps due to a prior head injury or simply not caring very much, you can still gain the same advantage by stealing credit for someone else's work. This can be as subtle as saying "I helped with that" or "My work made that possible," or as crude as saying "I did that, that was me" while holding your hand over the mouth of whoever actually did it.
How prevalent this is in an organization will depend a lot on its internal politics and the mentality of the people who work there. If a bottom-line mentality has been instilled, where the only thing that matters is profit and employees are naturally more competitive, this is much more likely to happen. And of course in any organization managers will be much more capable of stealing credit from their subordinates than the other way around due to the simple fact that the senior managers the manager is talking to will almost never deign to speak with a junior employee themselves.
Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
"Oh! A norm! I've read about you. Pass on my hello to your brood-wives, and good luck in the coming harvest."
#5. Power Plays
Workplace politics, simply stated, are how the power of an organization is actually distributed and shared, in a way that the formal organization chart might not reflect. Some people, by dint of experience, resources, or screaming ability, hold more power in the workplace, and it's often the case that for anyone else to actually get something done, they'll have to go through those people first. Everyone plays workplace politics at least a little bit; we need to to actually get stuff done. It's just that most people do it unconsciously. Which is good. Because the people who do it consciously are lizards.
"I hear you, Eddie, and I want to help, but what's in this for me?"
Which brings us to the power play, one of those petty little games designed to get power or curry favor from those who have it. There's an endless variety of these; the number of gimmicks surrounding seating arrangements alone is astounding, like always sitting to the right of your boss at a meeting, or picking chairs that are subtly higher than everyone else's, or arranging the seats at a meeting to put an unfavored person at the end of the room.
Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Behind the Coke machine.
This can also take the form of petty one-upmanship, parading around your successes and glorious tail feathers while mocking others' mistakes, all to make yourself look more powerful and important, and thus in some people's minds become more powerful and important. In its most extreme form, this is basically indistinguishable from workplace bullying, especially when one participant thinks they're playing a fun game of one-upmanship and the other participant isn't a participant at all and just wants to do their work without having some alpha peacock pushing them to the ground all the time.
"Oh, stop crying. I was just horsing around."
The downsides to this should be obvious: In an office rife with politics, power plays, and other mind games, it takes a great deal of effort even to speak with another co-worker, much less to actually get stuff done. When all your attention is devoted to not getting stabbed in the back (or face), how much effort will you put into actually doing the work?
#4. The Climate of Fear
Imagine a hellish dreamscape of torment and screen savers, cubicles upon cubicles filled with the sound of crying and clanking manacles.
Somewhere, the distant sound of an air-raid siren announces it is time for the Feeding to commence.
Now imagine that this nightmare exists because someone deliberately created it.
Fear can be a powerful motivator, and whether it comes from people afraid of losing their job (perhaps if the economy in that town or industry is particularly bad) or a tyrannical manager who's too important to offend, the benefits to the manager who instills that fear can be significant. People will work harder, for longer hours, and with much fewer complaints about low pay or health and safety.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
Or all the wasps in the lunch room.
Even in cases where the economy is fine and the manager isn't that important, many managers will do a variety of things to make their workers uncomfortable and competitive with each other. Bonuses and favor will be zero sum, forcing employees to compete with each other. Subordinates who develop close working relationships with each other will be separated to keep them off balance and powerless. Or someone will be given meaningless tasks, solely to demoralize them.
Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images
"Eddie, please count all the wasps in the lunch room."