Susan Morrison: Work twonks send me postal

An office-sharing virus spreader. Picture: Getty
An office-sharing virus spreader. Picture: Getty
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Hell really is other people, when you work in an office. One of those surveys has uncovered that there are 50 annoying office habits that drive co-workers up the wall. Only 50?

Offices are hard places to work, you know. Oh, not in the good old ‘by gum it was hard down t’pit’ or the horror of working outdoors building a great Queen of the seas at the shipyard in the dead of winter sort of a way, but in the main, offices are pastel coloured, ergonomically designed nightmares.

Office workers are trapped for about 7.25 hours in a room with a bunch of random folk, some of whom they’d happily run over with a Range Rover.

It’s like Big Brother, complete with pointless tasks and ever-present disembodied voices, usually on the phone, demanding better service, harder work and, worse, can you just step upstairs for a moment? And all around you, people who insist on telling you the entire plot of episode 3 of Broadchurch even though you said you hadn’t seen it and were saving it to watch later that night.

It’s not surprising that workers occasionally flip. They even have a phrase for it in America. It’s called ‘going postal’. One attempt too many to show some highly strung office drudge those photos from that holiday in the Maldives again and the eyes narrow, the fingers twitch and suddenly, the AK47 is in those sweating hands.

Going postal doesn’t happen here. Not surprising, really. It’s a lot harder to get your mitts on a Kalashnikov than you’d think. Trust me, in my days at A Major Telecommunications Company I tried to requisition one, disguised in the stationery requisition. I told central ordering it was a Russian stapler.

But do not think for one split second the average Scottish keyboard tapper and order shunter does not harbour dark fantasies about leaping from his curved-edged hot desk to bound vengefully from faux beechwood workstation to workstation whilst wreaking mighty havoc with a baseball bat, especially on that twonk who insists on using pointless jargon like “thought shower” and “hawk positioning”.

Pointless jargon can become a weapon

Re: “hawk positioning”, I made that up.

I think it might be a good one to use in meetings where you might find yourself on the edge of going postal, even if the only weapon in your hand is a stapler.

Make your own meaning, and shove it in. Watch the barely concealed confusion and mild panic. No-one will ask you what it means.

The next noise you’ll hear is the sound of the stapler dropping from your relaxed hand. Baffle a boss.

That, my friend, is real office worker’s vengeance.

Mug thieves, I am watching

WHERE do we start? Talking too loud on the phone? Saying “working part-time, now, are we?” when you get into the office at 9.06 in the morning?

People who come into work even though they are carrying a viral load of a plague ship, and then spend the whole day making that snorlfling noise and leaving soggy paper hankies all over the place, but most particularly the very place you put your hand down?

People who sit filling in surveys about how annoying offices are when they should be working?

Or worse than any of these heinous crimes, the phantom who uses your mug for their coffee and doesn’t clean it. Every office has one. Hand me the Kalashnikov.

Stapler part of the wider war

MY quest for the Russian stapler was part of the covert war I waged for many years against one of my managers.

There was no chance of a transfer, as no-one wanted to work for a boss who came in at ten in the morning, promptly went into the stationery cupboard, where she had installed a lilo, and slept until lunchtime, which lasted two hours.

In the afternoons she’d kip in her car. All I could do was wage a campaign of such petty actions I still get that curl of embarrassment when I think of it.

Meetings would be scheduled at stupidly early times, and then moved at the last minute to the afternoon. I’d send her to field engineer briefings at buildings far away from base and book parking spaces miles from the door, because I knew of her fondness for teetering heels.

I’d send out six-page reports I had written, but she put her name to, but before dispatch I’d alter all the text on page five, leaving her to explain in the meeting why a document she claimed was all her own work was partially in French.

My piece de resistance came one gloomy morning – I changed the colour of the font on her computer to white.

Who needs a Kalashnikov?