The modern office contains enough computer equipment to power the first Moon mission, but enough seething resentment to power World War III. A downtown skyscraper is a gleaming testament to mankind’s achievements, but all karmic monks see is a screaming black hole holding a knife. The combination of “having to deal with other people” and “that’s enough to cause problems, actually” means the average worker has to restrain more negative emotions than Arkham Asylum.
We all know the cliche office annoyances, like the idiot talking about how hard they’re working instead of actually doing it, or refusing to refill the coffee pot (if you’re in one of the four remaining offices which doesn’t go to Starbucks instead), but those aren’t real office annoyances.
Those are assholeries and basic failures to respect other people that just happen to occur on the clock.
We’re looking at five uniquely office-based annoyances.
1. “It’ll only take a minute.”
This phrase has generated more homicidal impulses than Skynet, and at least Terminators get to kill people as part of their job. This emotional bottle to the face is only deployed after they ask if you have a moment and you (politely) tell them no, you’re busy. Then they say: “I’m going to blatantly ignore you to your face and then expect you to do things for me.” But, a sentence that long requires effort and self-awareness they lack, so instead they insist “it’ll only take a minute.”
They are telling you that you’re a monkey. You already know they need something by this point, and instead of letting you finish and get back to them when you can help, they’ve decided that their “saving the bother of waiting a minute” is more important than your “actually getting things done.” In a just world that phrase would be a spell which ties their hands and feet together. Then gives you a tazer and “just a minute” to help them learn the error of their ways.
2. Monday Morning Empty Inquiries
The human voice has hundreds of hidden channels. Intonation can turn the same phrase into a greeting, an insult, a demand, an invitation, a sexual suggestion, or a declaration of insanity. And that’s just “hello.” And the one tone which sounds worse than screaming is the irrhetorical question. A rhetorical question is one which doesn’t require an answer. An irrhetorical question is one which your co-worker waits for you to answer, but it’s irrelevant because he only asked so he can follow up with the answer to his own question. This happens every Monday morning.
3. Themed Memo Pads
Even in a world more electronic than R2D2, paper is still useful. The yellow sticky lets you leave notes for someone who isn’t there — the best way to talk to someone because neither of you have to waste time or think on the spot. And just like bees say in the hive, anything other than “yellow and sticky” is a terrible idea.
Pretty pink borders, paw prints, Garfield or glitter converts every message into “here’s another annoyance!” Their defenders will say that they’re just a bit of fun. Unless they said it the same way they leave notes, in which case they’d say it in a high squeaking voice like they’ve just huffed helium. And they’ll be taken exactly as seriously. It’s unfortunate, appalling, and utterly unavoidable that the human brain still judges the hell out of people and things based on their appearance. So, if your note says URGENT but also has cartoon kittens on it, you’ll be subconsciously filed under “when I have a minute…after New Years.”
4. More Than 2 Anything On The Desk
Decorating your desk isn’t just a right, it’s a psychological self-defense mechanism. You might not have walls, or even a cubicle (if you’re unfortunate enough to work in an open-plan office/zero-privacy psychological experiment), but you can control what’s on your desk. Well, you can’t really, because most of it is work and files you wouldn’t’ have chosen in a hundred years. But those little comics, paperweights, and office toys are yours!
As long as you only have one of each.
A few lunatics start armies of toys, collections of comics, or other arrays of things that aren’t work. And that’s not us being insulting — ten toys lined up along a desktop actually means “lunatic” in various sign languages. A few personal touches mean its your area — a whole collection advertises that you really don’t want to be there and spend every possible second thinking of ways to avoid work.
If you’ve been reading through this thinking, “yeah, I hate all those other people,” you’re part of the problem. And the majority of people think you’re one of those too. The ideal office would be a desk, a computer, and e-mail instantly answered by other people when you need something. Remember that everyone else is stuck in there with you, too, and think about what you might be doing to annoy them.
Image credit: endopack / iStockphoto