YOUR’E EITHER WORKING HARD, OR HARDLY WORKING
So that six-month mark of working at a larger company has officially been hit. Obviously I was very very wrong about 90% of my previous concerns on being a shiny new cog in the corporate wheel (my tendency to over-dramatise with a dash of neurosis is part of my witty charm – friends you may nod in agreement). Not only is the below a synopsis of British office culture on a whole, but a round up of the top five things I’ve learned working for big company.
1 / CARDS
In an everyday setting, the act of card giving is a manageable and delightfully pleasant token of ones affection to the receiver. In a large office environment they are like an annoying fly that finds its way into your bedroom on a hot summers day, buzzing around your space uselessly nose-diving every so often in a futile attempt to escape back outside, leaving you in a constant state of swatting but the little bastard keeps coming back for more…. My first couple of weeks into the job a glittery card with ‘Happy Birthday’ in pink curly writing appeared on my desk after lunch.
Eyeing the card suspiciously, my brain started ticking over. Do I sign it? Who left it there? Who’s this Carrie chick and what does she have to do with me? What’s the protocol here? At this point I only really know my immediate team members, and even then I don’t say much to them. Will the mysterious Carrie think I’m a cold hearted biatch for not wishing her an insincere generic ‘Happy Birthday, have a lovely day! Xx’. I quietly nudged the card with the stealth of a ninja to the desk of my colleague next to me. And that was the start of it. Not a week goes by now where some sort of card + collection combo hidden inside an ‘innocent’ magazine is casually circulated. Pro tip: Dip into a bank of standard responses so you can appear to be a happy team player with minimal thinking effort.
- Happy Birthday – wishing you the best!
- Good luck- wishing you the best!
- Congratulations – wishing you the best!
- Condolences – wishing you the best (note the drop of the exclamation point here, this is important)
And if you actually like the person the card is intended for throw in a quick smiley face. You know, just to make it clear.
2 / TEA CLUB
‘Welcome to Tea Club. The first rule of Tea Club is: you do not talk about Tea Club.’
You know who’s a (tea)pot-head by saying loud and proud the secret initiation phrase when you first join your new office “I’m going to make a tea, does anyone want one?”. Your desire to be invited into the fold has been established, the Grand Chief (tea)pot-head –i.e. the most addicted- will give a cue to the rest of Tea Club by allowing you to start the ceremony by pipping in with a simple “Oh me please”, then the others will follow with a chorus of “Me too” and “I’d love one!”. Then the ritual begins. Start by asking how everyone takes their tea, memorise preferences as best as you can as you will be tested on this for when it’s your turn to make the round again at a later date. If own mugs are proffered ensure you comment positively on the choice of colour/ pattern or girlishly giggle at any ironic slogans – ‘This is secretly gin’. Now for the closing segment, with the tea made and carefully distributed, the first sips will be the determining factor of your Tea Club admission. After waiting a couple of hours Grand Chief (Tea)pot-head will indicate acceptance into the clan by offering to make the next round and addressing you directly if you fancied another cup. The thing about Tea Club is that it transcends traditional office hierarchy or territories, it gives a chance for interns and MD’s to interact, for analysts and artists to communicate on field they both understand, it breeds a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality akin to secret societies that live on the edge of society’s shadow the world over.
3 / FOOD
Office cake culture is a ‘danger to health‘ says Prof Nigel Hunt, from the Faculty of Dental Surgery and Chief Misery Officer at the Fun Police.
Food is the driving force behind the day in any environment. Probably even more so when you are in office-based employment. 73.87-ish% of the working week is food focused, whether talking about what was had for dinner the previous night, what we plan on doing for lunch that day or just debating the various merits of different types of pizza toppings (don’t even get me started now Bake Off has rolled around, the afore mentioned percentage spikes 20 points this time of year). Or it’s getting stuck into the inevitable Birthday / Leaving / Engagement (delete as appropriate) Buffet attached to the truckload of cards that are churned out. The Buffet is a smorgasbord of junk food laid out for all who pass the communal food trough to dip into. Of course any Buffet spread is on top of bimonthly charity bake sales, pre-planned naughty snacks to pull people through particularly difficult meetings and offerings from Mary Berry–types who get the urge to whip up some form of heavenly sugary confection over the weekend to bring in for all to share with a floor wide email of “Homemade triple choc cookies on my desk, help yourself 🙂 ” You will never go hungry working in an office.
My jeans are feeling uncomfortably snug just typing this.
4 / PROCESSES
Following and remembering working processes for everyday tasks is an area that I’ve struggled with getting my head around the most. Coming from a work place where I had almost complete autonomy with how I managed what was expected of me from start to end product, I find the majority of processes cumbersomely clunky. However, not knocking the necessity for processes though, particularly in bigger organisations where lots of ~company stakeholders~ need to be kept in the loop with what’s going on within the business. And while we’re on the topic of processes, I’m going to dovetail nicely into office jargon. Because the two are very much a non-funny double act, like Trump & Farage.
I would, and still do to a certain extent, get very lost in keeping up with conversations during meetings where it just sounds like people are speaking in circles with over complex words so no one really understands what it is we’ve come to discuss or what actions are needed to be taken from it. The meeting usually ends with the most senior person in the room saying something like “Ah yes, very good Susan. Insightful. Well I suggest…er.. we all crack on then.” After months of practising this mostly foreign language, I now speak near fluent worker bee with phrases like EOP, DPS, TOY, FOC and topline brief.
Anyone else feel like they are working in an episode of W1A?
5 / MENTORS
My favourite and most valuable point that I’ve taken away from being part of a large business is getting to work with kickass ladies (and gents). I’ve inwardly curated a collection of mentors – whether they know it or not – from across the company. I like to study how they work, see how interact with others and watch closely the ways in which they handle tough situations or tricky questions thrown at them. I think larger companies tend to attract more talented people on a whole (not in 100% of cases but in general). More established colleagues are a huge resource of work-info, even talking to them about their careers and examining the route they’ve taken to get to where they are can be a big chunk of food for thought for your own career aspirations.
They can also unintentionally turn your working perspective on its head too. After a particularly tough day battling with a Difficult Co-Worker on some minute detail of a trivial bit of work, I vented to one of my mentors the frustration on how stand offish this colleague was being with me after I was sooooooo polite with voicing my concerns on the project we were working on, Miss Mentor looked at me, shrugged and said “It’s not a personal thing”.
My narrow little mind split open.
It. wasn’t. personal.
Difficult Co-Worker wasn’t being harsh because of me. It was just the way she communicated her point of view. That was her style of working and nothing to do with me. I’m a overly smiley people pleaser who needs to be nice to everyone, and she’s just more abrupt while expressing herself.
Big penny-dropping moment there.
The ‘It’s not personal’ approach has also helped out in other scenarios. As an academic late-bloomer (only really started to achieve success from university. Hard work actually pays off, who knew mum?!) my desire to be consistently praised – a perfectly human inclination by the way- was doing me more harm than good. I noticed I would feel hurt or personally targeted on the occasions I was disagreed with by colleagues or if a mistake was pointed out. And I knew I was being silly for feeling like that, of course they weren’t being tough for a laugh at my expense. They were offering critiques to HELP me get better and produce stronger pieces of work for the company. But the inner-girly swot had grown accustomed to her pat on the back…
“What do you mean you wont give me a gold star and tell me I’m brilliant??!” <—Me, at my most egocentric stage.
Taking a step back, giving a swift kick to the initial bristles of needtoplease-itus and adopting a ‘It’s not personal’ mentality, allows for getting stuff done alongside people with different working styles or who hand out constructive criticisms a hell of a lot easier to swallow.
If you’re ever struggling with a hot-headed co-worker or feel irrationally slighted for not being told how good you are, I seriously recommended repeating ‘It’s not personal’ to yourself.
And if that doesn’t work then I’m afraid you’re probably A) dealing with an office arsehole B) you are the office arsehole.
BIG COMPANY BONUS : I nabbed a pair of *reasonably priced* sold-out Beyoncé tickets back in June through a work perk which I would not of had the chance to take advantage of previously. If that’s not a reason to LOVE working for the man then I don’t know what is.
OK, we all know *reasonably priced* = a’lotta dolla, but they were a fraction of the price for what resale sites were selling them for. Plus it’s a scientific fact that you can’t put a price on Queen B.