The only thing worse than having to get up in the morning, put on real clothes and go to work, is the people you encounter there. I am referring to the species commonly known as ‘colleagues’. It is a truth universally acknowledged that colleagues are the actual worst.
I’m not talking about your work spouse – that one person whose company you genuinely look forward to each day – or even those co-workers you could accurately describe as ‘friends’. I’m talking about everyone else in the office: Jackie from Accounts, Lisa from HR or Paul the…well no one really knows what Paul does exactly. Those seemingly disparate individuals with whom you have been thrust together, forced to share a kitchen, toilet and in some cases more personal information than you ever wanted to know.
The key to finding happiness at work lies not in feeling valued or fulfilled, but rather in negotiating the mind-numbing small talk colleagues seem to love. And the best way to negotiate these interactions is to avoid them all together. This requires a two-pronged approach.
1. Be as indistinctive as possible
I used to have a special work mug that I brought in from home. Nothing fancy but it did go some very small way towards brightening up another otherwise soul-destroying day at the office. It was a gift from a friend who knew I would appreciate its humourous motif: ‘I’m figuratively dying for a cuppa’. Not the wittiest mug by any means but it brought me a modicum of joy.
I had to get rid of that mug. Too many colleagues would notice it on my desk, chuckle and ask me about it. Worse still were the ones who read it and said “…I don’t get it.” You see, this mug was a conversation starter, and conversation starters are your worst enemy. So I took my happy mug home and now make sure to select the plainest white mug I can find in the lunch room.
The same theory applies to outfits. Avoid colours or prints at all cost. Black is your friend. This is particularly heart breaking for me as novelty prints are like an addictive drug to me. If an item of clothing features a jaunty print, particularly involving animals, you can be sure it’s in my wardrobe or soon to be. I’m talking woodland creatures having a parade, cats wearing glasses and foxes in scarves with takeaway coffee. Alas these items of clothing are reserved for weekend wear only and I have a dedicated nine to five wardrobe consisting of the blandest items money can buy. A good rule of thumb here is ‘if it’s likely to provoke unsolicited comment, don’t bring it to the office’.
2. Avoid peak times
There’s absolutely nothing worse than walking into the lunch room, looking forward to half an hour of peace and whatever questionable leftovers you hastily threw into a Tupperware container that morning, and finding a group of colleagues mid-lunch. Now you have no choice but to spend your precious lunch break enduring brainless chat about weekends and family and what everyone’s eating for lunch today.
Your big error here was choosing to have lunch at the same time as everyone else. Just like if you leave work half an hour early the roads are much clearer, if you avoid peak lunch times you’ve got a pretty good chance of having the kitchen to yourself. You’re going to want to head down there well before midday or after 1.30pm. If you don’t think you can wait that long for your leftover spag bol, a great alternative is having a desk lunch. The benefits of a desk lunch are many: no lunch chat with colleagues, everyone assumes you’re VERY BUSY so they leave you alone, and your boss thinks you’re dedicated to your job and putting in extra hours. Which you are. Browsing the ‘just arrived’ section of ASOS.
We’ve all had those days when we want to just sit alone in a dark room and never see or speak to anyone (I have one of those days roughly every day). Sadly when you got bills to pay and a full-time job that pays them this is not an option, but I promise you that avoiding even the briefest interaction with your colleagues will make getting through the day that tiny bit easier.