It’s been a couple of years since I was the new person in the office. Last time I was in the same department at least, so I knew more or less what was going on and already had some connection with some of the people I was working with.
Now, I’m brand-spanking new and know nothing. Well, writing is writing, right? And I’m not worried about that part, but there’s the whole office dynamics, protocol, relationships, etc., etc. It’s all a very delicately balanced minefield because people are keeping a sharp eye on you and talking about you all the time to determine how you’re going to fit in, whether or not you can be trusted, whether or not you’re going to be any good at your job – will you be a godsend or a pain-in-the-neck burden?
Fortunately, I’ve kept careful notes over the years whenever we had a new person in the office and compiled a mental list of do’s and don’ts just in case I was ever the new person in the office. If you don’t mind, I’m going to write them out now so I don’t forget them.Also, I would appreciate any additional advice any of you might have.
1. Dress nicely (not like you did at your last job); but don’t go overboard. Have a look at what your coworkers are wearing; ask them where they got their clothes and go out and buy the exact same outfits. Your peers will be flattered and you’ll be sure to fit in.
2. Do act polite and friendly; but don’t be overly familiar until you really get to know the group. So, no touching or fondling; no personal confessions, crying or weeping; no intimate remarks about anyone’s protrubances or lack thereof, no graphic genital references or jokes (Julian!).
3. There will always be one loud-mouthed know-it-all who knows everything better than anyone else; who believes the office would fall apart without him/her; who is vicious about everyone behind their back. Do make a point of asking that person’s advice about everything, constantly. Feeding their ego makes you like the guy at the zoo who feeds the lion – the lion will be a tad more kindly disposed toward you than other humans and you need people feeling kindly toward you when you’re new – especially lion people.
4. Have your own lunch plans. Lunch is really the only good part of the work day and most people are jealously territorial about their lunch hours. Don’t just start tagging along with whoever strikes your fancy or seems to be doing the most fun stuff at lunch. This will result in people having to sneak out early for lunch in order to avoid you. And that’s no fun for anyone.
5. Don’t engage in any carnal relations with anyone at work, either under your desk, in an unlocked car the parking lot at lunchtime, in the shower stalls in the gym, in the supply cupboard on the post-its, on the big boardroom table (with or without the door being locked), in the emergency exit stairwell or even in the hotel across the street. It’s just a bad idea all around. Of course, things happen sometimes, so if you find yourself in such a situation, try not to make too much noise and always clean up after yourself.
6. And speaking of cleaning up after yourself – the same etiquette goes for the communal kitchen. Fill the kettle again after you’ve used it; make fresh coffee if you took the last bit; clean up the microwave after your lunch explodes in it; don’t eat things out of the fridge unless you brought them. (Taking the name tag off a particularly delicous-looking container of soup, doesn’t count as “up-for-grabs”)
7. Gossip is the heart and soul of any office environment, so be sure to keep your ears on the alert for any and all juicy tidbits. But just listen — wide-eyed and with suitable astonishment. Say encouraging things like, “wow” or “really?” or “holy crap”, but don’t add any further comments. You don’t know anything yet which means you’ll have to make stuff up to get some gossipy attention and that could easily backfire when people find out. And they will. The office grapevine is a far more efficient communications medium than Apple, Microsoft or anything on the Internet could ever hope to be.
8. Even though everyone in your office might get in 40 minutes late and leave 40 minutes early and take 2 hours for lunch and spend most of their day hanging around other people’s cubicles chatting, you don’t get to do that. Not until you’ve been there at least 3 months. Everyone will be outraged if you attempt to slack off before then. (NB: Slacking off in any given environment is a fine art in and of itself. Do not attempt it until you’ve made a careful study).
9. Decorate your office as soon as possible after your arrival. People are rabidly curious about the personal life of new employees. Don’t bring photos of your actual family though. Make up a more interesting life for yourself. For instance, if you’re a boring guy with a wife, 2 kids and a house in the suburbs, bring in a couple of photos of some dishy-looking blond guy and hang them on your wall. Print out certificates from fake Swiss institutions of higher learning. Sling a pair of nunchucks on your doorknob; hang a Julian calendar on your wall. People will ask questions and you will smile and say (modestly and mysteriously) “oh, well…you know…” This way no one will ever get bored of you.