I’m working on a theory. It’s not a well thought out theory or even a well put together theory, but it’s a theory nonetheless. My theory is this: If you put more than two people in an office, someone will go nuts. This is inevitable even if both people started out perfectly sane. I’m not sure what causes it – maybe the flourescent lights, some lethal combination of industrial cleaners or raccoon droppings in the asbestos ceilings, but I guarantee one person will take up the mantle of “crazed harpy” while the other will become the “highly put upon whiner”. If there’s more than two players, new variations on the main roles will emerge and then the cliques form.
Now, let me state a truth before citing any examples. Me and all of my friends (I know, not grammatically correct, but if they want to be first, they should get their own blog) are the heroes of this story. The only time we would ever act out at work is if we were so extremely put upon, we were left with no other choice. I’ll “try” not to use any names, because I already feel one of my friends looking over her shoulder to see if a co-worker might have slipped in and concealed himself behind the Ficus tree.
Most of you have heard my stories – you know the ones about the girl who ate the packing peanuts, the one where a gal used VHS tape boxes to fashion shoes and securely attached them to her feet with packing tape, or the guy who was talking to himself in the bathroom mirror about killing people (while another friend slowly pulled their feet up in the stall and got very quiet), then there was the tape outline left on the floor from the rat bludgeoning, or the angry shouts echoing down the hall of “I’m going to kill you” where no one got into any trouble (just another day on the job). Then my personal favorite, the one where the hatch back on the company truck came slamming down on a co-worker while she was trying to unload a piece of art, causing the glass underneath the frame to shatter and a large piece to sheet off and nearly severe the girl’s foot. This is the one where one of the managers got angry and blamed the girl, implying she had it coming. Good times. Good times.
What I’m talking about goes beyond the passive aggressive stuff we all see where someone will hang a sign to try to dictate what you should be doing with the FAX machine, or in the bathroom or on the fridge (that serves 60 people and they’ve claimed an entire crisper for themselves). I imagine in those cases, they’ve lost control of their lives at home, so it becomes very important to remind you that your mother doesn’t work there and everyone should sit up straight and fly right when approaching the printer. Yes, I know I should wash my hands in the bathroom, but I bet the person you had in mind when you put up that sign didn’t have a sudden epiphany when they read it.
A friend of mine has a co-worker who recently joined their team and brought with him one of his many magic wands. This magic wand helps keep things running right and he’s known to cast an incantation when needed. It would be funny if he weren’t serious. Granted, this could be a lesson in religious tolerance, but can’t we agree that I won’t rub the Happy Buddha’s belly if you don’t rap my server with a magical stick? This particular fellow also says “doink” each time he depresses his mouse button, which he happens to do with some frequency. And while hearing about this guy provides me with a great deal of amusement in that “I’m glad he works with YOU” way, I think my favorite co-worker of hers is the one that goes to each company meeting and scampers off with all the plastic tchotchkes he can get his hands on – cups, key chains, pens, koozies – you know that junky swag they pass out with the company logo emblazoned across it. If anyone carelessly leaves theirs behind, he comes through and sweeps it up into his bag.
Another friend got into a squabble with her co-worker only to have the co-worker’s sister call her up and volunteer to drive down to her office and beat her up. Fortunately, she was able to tape the conversation, but the person she had the squabble with never got into any real trouble. Nice. Nothing says fun like a good old-fashioned fist fight at work.
Maybe if we brought back an old favorite from grade school “Plays Well with Others” and added it as a dimension to the performance reviews right after “performs other duties as assigned” it would at least remind folks that we’re all stuck in the same sandbox for 9 hours, so let’s try to be sane during that time – save the crazy for the 15 hours you’re free from this place, it would help.
Anyway, that’s just my theory in progress – feel free to share your own work horror stories!