How to Make Friends in a Shark Tank

In the world of full-time employment, out there in the weeds of xerox machines and customer service, there are these things called “coworkers” and – just like your neighbors and your children – you don’t get to choose them. Nope. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.

Most of the time. Unless you want to step into the lavatory stall, close the door, and silent scream. That’s a thing.

Jobs can be fun. Right?

“You’re too happy,” commented my coworker early on, “You like people too much. I give it six months. You’ll be jaded and cranky like the rest of us.”

“Jolie, you are a fish in a little pond,” a senior director manager type human said to me once, when I was considering a move up the corporate ladder into a larger professional arena, “but in that circle….they are sharks. You will need to learn survival skills. Don’t trust anyone.”

Too late. I already considered every person in that shark tank my “friend”. We were all helpful, kind, courteous, even going out to lunch once in a while. I couldn’t think of a single reason why any one of them would turn around and have me for lunch instead.

But adult friendships are trickier than third grade ones. I thought I had a friendship that was outside of office politics, the lady being quite worthy on her own two feet, but her loyalty to her boss was stronger than mere courtesy to me, and even though she apologized after the fact, she had not prevented me being thrown under a passing bus.

She was sorry/not sorry.

There were bigger fish fries than that, but are hardly worth recounting. I have since been told The Rules: under no circumstances do you consider a coworker a “friend”.

Even if you go to Happy Hour or yoga with these fish. Even if you “donate” an exorbitant amount of personal money towards an office baby shower gift for a fish from the next department over that you’ve never even exchanged paperclips with. Even if this fish swaps intimate mom stories with you and brings you Valentines Day treats and laughs with you over morning coffee.

If this fish has a personal family emergency, I am expected to act like my own mother was in a  car explosion and make sure “the office” is supportive with donations, flowers, and cards. We will cover his work load with concerned faces and ask how the recovery is coming along.

But.

If this fish senses that I am drifting into their territory, or if the boss needs bait for a bigger fish, or perhaps I am just not taking their teeth seriously enough, queue the Jaws theme song.

I am investing more time and money and love languages with these fish than my own family. In return, I am to expect…shark bites?

This concept is so far out of my box that I don’t know where to begin. So I asked a thirteen-year-old girlfriend for some help. We agreed that relationships in both school and office arenas are based upon being temporary and the “every man for himself” attitude. And we suppose everyone goes in with this expectation. Which is a huge waste of possibility, in our opinion.

Somewhere out there in the deep blue sea is a company getting this aquarium thing right. Employees are trained that there are enough krill and plenty of waves for everyone.

I still have a habit of petting sharks, treating them like shiny yellow tang.

Perhaps the only way you will know for sure whether you made an authentic friendship at school or work is if the person is still friendly after the building is gone. If you remove the competition and the politics and the teeth, and are left with a real person with no agenda, I’d say you can finally call that fish a friend.

Everyone else can go jump in the lake.

Sorry/not sorry.

Just keep swimming.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Rom 12:18

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Digging My Way Through the Day Job

Okay, here’s the deal.

I have been called a perfectionist, a fairly over-zealous housekeeper, and an over-thinker.

While this is sometimes undervalued in the kid-raising environment, I understood it to be a bonus in the work environment. That place called a “real job in the real world”, the place that looks for buzzwords like “organized” on a resume.

“How would you describe yourself?” asked one of the three women who interviewed me.

“Flexible,” I replied, pleased to see the trap and avoid it.

Flexible covers all the bases.

“Um,” suggested another interviewer, “Would you say you were organized?”

I hung my head a little. How did they find out?

“Well,” I admitted, “I am organized,” I glanced up apologetically, “but…it’s just so not sexy, you know?”

Two things happened in that room that day.

I flubbed the world’s worst interview in the history of all interviews.

And they knew exactly who they were about to hire. Not my fault.

Six months down the road, I am standing at the copy machine showing it who’s boss (you get your perks where you find them) and I realize I’m standing in a glorified closet that hasn’t been cleaned since carbon paper was an actual thing.

As you know, I am equally interested in processing purchase requisitions and dusting for cobwebs.

I’m a multi-faceted individual.

I cleaned out the closet before the copy machine was done whining about life, and pleased as punch with the transformation, went about the rest of my professional day. Pinkies up.

You’re welcome, world.

Two days later, our supervisor huffs into the room, “Who took my tray?”

We glanced up from our keyboards, mid-thought.

“In the back closet,” she continued, “I kept a tray of stuff back there so I wouldn’t have to carry it all with me every time I make copies.”

I slunk a little lower in my seat.

“I tidied up the closet the other day,” I admitted, “but I don’t remember any tray.”

She walked over and looked at me, “It was just a small tray of random things. It had my stamps, some paper clips, a couple of…..”

In my mind I saw it, sitting on one of the shelves, a pile of junk surrounded by flotsam and jetsam from years of neglect.

The look on my face was the same one used when Hubby approaches me and asks who cleaned the garage – the dumpster where tools and wires are discarded after a job half-done – and I know full well that telling him his tools are actually back in the toolbox on a tidy shelf will only make him madder.

Her words echoed his: “Don’t tidy any more closets. I need to be able to find things.”

She walked back into her office as I made eye contact with my coworker.

“But there’s a nice little container of all that stuff sitting tidily right beside the copy machine now.”

We shrugged and went back to typing.

I did, however, go after my own files with gusto. I approached each pile of papers like an archaeologist, prepared to find both treasure and trash, and excited to discover which might be which.

You can’t always tell (ahem).

The ladies who had gone before me each left their mark, passing on nuggets of valuable information, email chains that hashed out a big question so that I would not have to, ten years down the road. I appreciate their efforts to blaze the trail for those who may follow, even if the trail goes in circles or directly off cliffs.

They left me sticks of gum and rubber thumb thingys that have nubbins on them.

And also, they left me this.

Not only do I salute the Captain Obvious who put this together in what must have been a time of crisis (I remember that year), but I am delighted to admit that I am, by very definition, the guy who makes this list relevant in 2017.

My girlfriends know exactly what I’m talking about.

Administrative Professionals Day

Today, April 26th, is Administrative Professionals Day, and apparently it comes around as a way for In-Desperate-Need-Of-Administration Professionals everywhere to thank the person who keeps their papers spinning.

That’s me. I keep millions of papers in several colors and sizes spinning like tops. My home office alone resembles the NASA Mission Control Center.

But I question this method of acknowledgement.

Once upon a time, all the secretaries got together and decided that, darn it all, they were under appreciated and underpaid, overlooked and overbooked, and needed something else on their jam-packed calendars to fix it.

“Make a note of it,” they said.

Tappity tap, tap…I’m sure men know how to type too, yes?

And they did.

They made up Mother’s Day, Women’s Day, and National Dadgum That’s a Good Day, Day (March 1st). There’s Be Heard Day, Receptionist’s Day, Women’s Checkup Day, Lost Sock Memorial Day, and No Dirty Dishes Day.

This is just a drop in the waterfall of are-you-kidding-me national days.

Only a handful of these “Days” stick to my calendar, and today’s is just vague enough to make me wonder several things:

  1. What qualifies someone as an Administrative Professional?
  2. Who are the non-Administrative Professionals that are supposed to wish you well?
  3. What are their motives for doing so?
  4. Is the well-wishing preceded with “Happy”, “Merry”, or “I need this in today’s mail”?

My research (qualification #1) led me to the greeting card aisle of Target. If there’s one thing Target knows is their shoppers, and sure enough, they were prepared for our imminent need.

Target for the win.

Behold the end cap.

It’s clear that 10 out of 18 Admin Professionals are female (qualification #2). One out of 18 are multilingual. One is an animal-lover. Or thinks everyone else in the office are animals. Four out of 18 have no idea whether they qualify as Admin, and so will take what they can get.

Admin Professionals drink coffee and tea (qualification #3). They make a difference. Their job involves phones, books, clocks, and typing. They require a written “Thank You” once a year for their efforts. They don’t mind feeling patronized instead of professional.

And they can’t mind if you screw up the exact date, because Target has nicely advertised it as a whole week which gives others several opportunities to get it right because we all know who normally is in charge of getting cards out on time.

Who made this??

This one slays me. I am so offended by this bathroom door symbol. If this is the card you reached for when you thought of me, I quit. All 1% of you had better run and hide. These stupid stereotypes exist because you bought into it.

I want just one card that shows a manly man with a dark tie and a beard, sitting at a desk typing away with a real slogan hanging on the wall…Going Commando to Cover Your Butt.

Office Ninja. I could Take you all Down with a Click of my Mouse…

Payroll…Just Do It

Letting Concerned Citizens Scream into my Ear Because I like Money

Boss’s Day is coming up.

What goes around, comes around, and saying “Thank you” is always a good idea.

Flowers and cards and snacks are nice, and the mailroom guy would like some too, by the way. I think he stands with me on the obvious: a Professional is anyone who brings their job up the notch that turns it into a career.

If you’re a street sweeper, be the best darn street sweeper anyone has ever seen.

Here’s to the broom pushers and the paper pushers alike, you have my solid respect every day of the year.