Office Survival Tip: Doodling

12 Dec

As my laptop is currently in a state of non-animation, I bring you MS Paint-ables! I hope you enjoy this MS Paint monstrosity in lieu of the normal illustrations while I continue to come to terms with the idea of replacing my no-longer-trusty computer friend.

Office Survival Tip: Doodling

Part of office life is dealing with long, intermittent bouts of tedium. These can arise in the forms of meetings, telecoms, or waiting after hours for your boss/customer/supplier to call/email/fax you something of dubious importance. There are several ways to deal with these bouts of mind-famine. Sorting paperclips, shuffling papers, doodling, and playing Klondike on your BlackBerry are all viable options. Or you can focus on the feeling of your soul slowly being sucked dry by your speckled beige cubicle walls. Out of all of these enthralling options my favorite is doodling.

The best part about doodling is that you don’t have to be particularly skilled to do it. It’s like the drawing equivalent of dancing in front of your closet mirror in your underwear, only you can do it during meetings. How liberating! Just kind of let your mind go and let your pen do what it wants. If it only wants to do rudimentary squiggles at first, it’s cool, you can pass them off as snakes or worms. Stick with it! Soon enough you’ll progress to wonky circles and lopsided stars. Keep moving forward, and eventually, if you’re lucky, anthropomorphic sharks.

Your boss may not appreciate your new-found meeting hobby, but don’t let it get you down. True genius is rarely fully realized at the time of its creation. If you still feel the need to justify your budding talent to your boss, I think I heard a statistic once that Doodlers actually pay more attention when they’re allowed to doodle freely. As a Doodler I feel this statistic may be complete horse-crap, but I guess I do pay a lot more attention to the paper in front of me when I’m doodling on it. So throw it out there and say the study was backed up by lots of scientific research and published in an academic journal. I’m sure it probably was.

Who knows, maybe your PowerPoint slide doodles will somehow stir your creative muse and inspire you to start blogging or something.


Oh No! Technical Difficulties

9 Dec

After blogging about technical difficulties it seems my laptop bit the big one and officially imploded. It must’ve sensed the upcoming Sharkables Friday deadline. Thank god we live in a society driven by electronics so I still have access with my smartphone. Sorry for the lack of Friday post, I’ll be here wailing and gnashing my teeth and planning my next step forward.

Office Survival Tip: Party Planning

7 Dec

Office Survival Tip: Party Planning

Office parties are a fundamental aspect of office life, if only because they help relieve the monotony of the day-to-day grind. They can arise for a variety of reasons, depending on the festive inclinations of your boss and co-workers. Holidays, retirement, birthdays, and obscure business milestones are all great reasons to throw an office party.

It is vital that your dedicated office party-planner actually be, well, dedicated. However, if you find yourself the designated party planner and don’t feel dedicated, don’t panic! Follow the below steps and everyone should be awkwardly congregating over warm-ish pizza and sodas in no time.

First you need either supplies, or money to pay for supplies. Wrangling the entire division to contribute $5 or bring Styrofoam cups is a harrowing task, akin to herding cats. Probably the most effective way to get results is to bombard everyone’s inbox with reminder emails (high priority), and if you’re feeling especially task-master-esque, flagged with follow-up reminder alarms. This is the electronic equivalent to walking into everyone’s cubicle or office and tapping them on the shoulder repeatedly, only without all the unnecessary walking around.

If you’re a spreadsheet person, get excited. Party planning is a great excuse to whip up one of your completely extraneous Excel creations. You can even color code the supply list to match the occasion! What fun! Also, be sure to make your spreadsheet an excessively large file and include it in your email spam to the rest of the office. That way it will clog up everyone’s inbox and ensure they have to address the party email in some way, shape, or form, hopefully by contributing to your party cause.  

Now you’re in the home stretch. You just have to order the food, and maybe send out a few more reminder emails, just to be safe, and you should be good to go. Congrats you party planner you! Go ahead and add it to your internal resume if you want. Only snazzy it up a little bit, something like “Experienced coordinating large groups to ensure festive results” will do.

Office Survival Tip: Kitchenette Microwave Etiquitte

5 Dec

Office Survival Tip: Kitchenette Microwave Etiquitte

Oh the office kitchenette microwave. Standing alone on the edge of the counter, splattered with a thin layer of encrusted chili; it’s usually roughly 20 years old and possibly missing several buttons. It’s a sorry-looking thing, but if you want a warm lunch it’s the best you’ve got. Those 20 Lean Cuisines in the freezer aren’t going to heat themselves.

Despite its decrepit appearance, the kitchenette microwave should be treated with some measure of respect. Mainly because you’re sharing it with a large number of other people and you have that whole Golden Rule thing to consider. Also, if you inadvertently destroy it, it could be replaced by something in an even worse state of decay, or God forbid, a toaster oven.

So please take some time to familiarize yourself with proper kitchenette microwave etiquette.

Heating any of the following items could be considered poor microwave etiquette:
-any explosive item in an improperly sealed Tupperware
-fish (this an include: leftover salmon, tuna, tuna casserole, and even fish sticks)
-Any kind of Hot Pocket (they make the whole kitchenette smell like a 7-eleven)
-Indian food, leftover Chinese, or anything with the power to stink up an entire building floor when heated

As with anything communal, the kitchenette microwave get used very frequently and cleaned very rarely. So consider that next time you decide to nuke one of your bowls of exploding chili.

It’s also in bad taste if you use the kitchenette microwave to make anything involving more than one step or two microwave cycles. The microwave is a limited resource which you must share with a significant number of hungry people. Hungry people are generally not known for their patience and benevolence, so don’t be surprised if you get the stink-eye during step 5 of your Easy Microwave Ravioli Casserole.  The office kitchenette is not the place to bring out your inner Chef Wolfgang Puck (your inner Chef Boyardee, maybe).

If you choose not to follow the above rules, you may incur the wrath of the Kitchenette Nazi, who will hang large, colorful signs outlining the microwave rules as punishment for your sins. So please don’t subject your everyone else to a barrage of passive-aggressive microwave instructions due to your general ineptness.

Office Survival Tip: Setting Priorities

2 Dec

Office Survival Tip: Setting Priorities

Usually people set their work priorities according to whatever they think their job requirements entail. Unless you’re an Under Achiever; then your priorities follow whatever your current whim is (napping, crosswording, drawing cartoons of your coworkers as sharks, etc). 

Everyone is going to have a different idea of what your priorities should be. That’s because everyone believes your priorities should support their own priorities. Which is rubbish. Unless they’re your boss. Then it’s reality.

This will probably lead you to do some very unproductive things. Like spending inordinate amounts of time jazzing up PowerPoint presentations, or regularly condensing everything you’re working on into short, easy to understand sentences so your boss can reiterate it to his higher ups. 

This is a reality of Office Life: your bosses priorities > your perceived job priorities

I say perceived job priorities because any outstanding boss will tell you his priorities ARE your priorities, you just haven’t perceived them that way yet. I know this is getting a little heavy but bear with me. 

If you think about it, your perceived job description probably includes all kinds of inane, pointless tasks. Therefore, when you align your priorities with your boss’s priorities, it’s really just a matter of swapping one stupid task with another.  So! Next time your boss asks you to create a color coded map of the empty cubicles in your office, just smile, accept it, and remind him that means you probably won’t get to sorting your supplier location list by degrees of longitude this week.

Author’s Note: I really struggled with this illustration because part of me vaguely remembers, in the back of my mind, that sharks might not have eyelids. Therefore I had a very hard time drawing one napping with his beady little eyes closed. I tried it with his eyes open, but it just didn’t give off “sleep” vibes (even when I added Zzzz’s). Originally I was going to post the picture and hope no one called me out, but my neurosis got the best of me and I had to say something. The whole thing is silly though, I don’t know why my sharks having eyelids bothers me but them walking around wearing little office shirts is perfectly acceptable.

Office Survival Tip: Technical Difficulties

30 Nov

Office Survival Tip: Technical Difficulties

Technical difficulties are the bain of inept electronic users everywhere. They can occur at any time, but are most likely to rear their ugly heads 6.5 minutes before something important is due. This gives you just enough time to panic, but not quite enough to actually do anything constructive about it.

When faced with a technical difficulty, there are several options for dealing:

1.       Walk away and leave the problem for someone else to deal with. (Note: This is an effective tactic for communal electronics, like the printer. This is not an effective tactic for personal electronics, like your PC.)

2.       Plug and unplug it repeatedly until its fixed, you get tired, or the whole thing just up and dies

3.       Call Tech Support

If you got with option #3 be forewarned, the common cubicle worker and Tech Support have vastly different concepts of urgency. If it’s an “emergency” expect support sometime tomorrow. If it’s “not an emergency” expect support sometime next month. Consider this principle before calling in a support request.

And if you want to avoid technical failures happening in the first place, an effective tactic is to try not to care too much. Electronics can smell deadline panic like dogs can smell fear, and will implode if you get within a 10 foot radius with an urgent task.  Thus technical failure can occur anywhere, from your desk PC to the dreaded copier, or if you’ve amassed enough negative energy, the elevator. Of course not caring too much also has the added benefit that if your computer implodes 6.5 minutes before a deadline…you won’t care too much.

Office Survival Tip: Dealing with Embarrassing Moments

28 Nov

Office Survival Tip: Dealing with Embarrassing Moments

We’ve all had awkward moments, and while some of us are more accident prone than others, embarrassing moments are a painful social phenomenon that everyone can relate to.

The absolute worst way to handle any embarrassing moment is to pretend it didn’t happen. While I admire your dedication to your powers of self-persuasion, no one else is fooled into believing you didn’t just eat it on the stairs when you oh so cleverly hop up and keep walking like nothing happened.

No, you need to approach embarrassing moments head on. I know it sounds cheesy, but the best way to take the social sting out of any embarrassing situation is to start it off by laughing yourself.  I think this is a hard one for some people, but if it makes you feel better, if this is an issue for you, you’re probably going to keep getting pounded by traumatically embarrassing events until you learn the lesson. And even then, you’ll still probably continue to be subject to horrifyingly socially awkward situations, you’ll just care less. That probably doesn’t make you feel any better.

The same holds true if you’re an observer of an awkward moment. You may think you’re being polite by pretending not to notice, but in reality it makes the whole situation roughly 10x more awkward. Everyone knows you didn’t just “fail to notice” Tim toppling his office chair during a staff meeting, and shuffling your notes around while you wait for him to get up isn’t a convincing act. Meanwhile Tim, who is now lying on his back on the conference room floor, probably isn’t mollified by everyone’s sympathetic and awkward silence either.

Really, whenever you observe an awkward situation, do everyone a favor and just laugh. Laughing benefits everyone involved: you for getting a kick out of someone being embarrassed, everyone else who now feels like it’s ok to laugh as well, and for the Embarassee for being front and center in a valuable exercise on how to laugh at their own unfortunate situation.

Of course as with anything, practice moderation. Reminding Tim once of the time he bailed out of his chair during a meeting is funny and promotes humility. But don’t be surprised if reminding Tim daily of his embarrassing moment eventually result in bodily injury to yourself.

Holiday Survival Tip: Thanksgiving

24 Nov


Happy Thanksgiving!

Remember to count your blessings today, like the fact that you get to pack a turkey and stuffing sandwich and a slice of pumpkin pie in your lunchbox on Monday. Or that from now until December 25th it is socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music exclusively, and at least one radio station in your area will be devoted to letting you do so. Or that tomorrow is the best day of the year if waking up before the butt crack of dawn to wait outside in long lines is your thing.

Or you know, that whole food, family, friends, and football thing is pretty cool too.

Personally, I am thankful to WordPress for plucking my little blog out of obscurity and Freshly Pressing it. But more importantly, I want to give thanks to everyone who has read, liked, commented, followed, tweeted, or generally enjoyed Sharkables. In return, I plan to provide you with many more survival tips, office adventures, and other random (but invaluable!) aids for letting office life be easy.

 So enjoy your Turkey Day! May you consume large amounts of whatever your traditional foods are, and lapse into a blissful, tryptophan-induced coma.

Office Holiday Celebrations: Thanksgiving Potlucks

22 Nov

Office Survival Tip: Thanksgiving Potlucks

Office Thanksgivings are one of the best Office Holidays. It’s a time for co-workers to gather round and give thanks for the upcoming time off and general lack of productivity that settles in around the Holidays. It’s also a time to eat large quantities of lukewarm, mediocre food as part of the Office Thanksgiving Potluck tradition.

Of course as an office worker, you will be expected to contribute to the Office Thanksgiving Potluck, even if you have no interest in eating large quantities of lukewarm, mediocre food. But on the bright side, no one is really expecting anything spectacular from you in the food-making department.

I believe that food-making is best left to the experts (e.g. the Keebler elves, Colonel Sanders, Mrs. Fields, or the Bagel Bites people), but if you feel compelled to actually cook something, keep it simple, preferably something out of a box, where the only extra ingredient needed is water. This is not the time for you to try to show off your self-appointed Paula Dean cooking skills. Your made from scratch apple pie will not bring forth awe and appreciation from your co-workers. Instead you’re just going to annoy everyone else who was perfectly content half-assing things until you showed up with your painstakingly handcrafted treat. And besides, you’ll certainly rouse the ire of the Cubicle Gods who will smack you down for your pride at the next potluck when Susan brings in a triple-tiered organic pumpkin cheesecake.

Remember, the best way to sail smoothly through an Office Thanksgiving Potluck is with limited effort. If you need some ideas, the traditional Thanksgiving 2 liter of Sprite is always appreciated, and holiday themed Oreos are always a safe bet. Hell, even if you bring in a bag of cheese cubes that still beats out the guy who brought the can of yams.

Tip to Drive Engagement: Employee Appreciation Gifts

19 Nov

Tip to Drive Engagement: Employee Appreciation Gifts

Getting the sense that your employees are feeling a little ho-hum, a little un-Engaged? If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time at work, it’s that employee Engagement is Key. Engagement is the magical X-factor that turns employees from easily tired workers with limited resources into productivity machines, able of cranking out 3x the number of widgets with only half as many breaks, sick days, or hours of sleep!

So, in order to cultivate an environment of machine-like productivity, you need to inspire Engagement. A great way to do this is through Employee Appreciation Gifts.

What’s great is you usually only have to invest about $.15 per employee for untold increases in employee happiness and productivity, which makes it an amazing Return on Investment. Some popular options may include key chains, flashlights, desk ornaments, or if you’re feeling extra generous, coffee mugs. Remember to get your company name printed on said items so every time your employee joyously uses it they can remember who the benefactor of their happiness was.

If $.15 per employee happens to bust your Employee Engagement budget, you can always print out Achievement Awards, which we learned the value of here.

An effective way to add an extra bang for your quarter-buck is to have upper management personally shake hands with employees while passing out said Appreciation Gifts. When shaking hands, the big-wig should say something along the lines of “We appreciate you”. This will really drive the point home that you appreciate your employees.

After receiving their gift, you can also bestow upon them some kind of food item such as a hotdog or a mini bag of Nabs. Your employees should now be feeling very Engaged, so be sure to usher them quickly back to their cubicles for some quality widget-making time!


Interesting and Appropriate Author  Side-note: This year my company gave out flashlights for Employee Appreciation Gifts, which I found engaging as it gave me something to play with during the intermittent power outages. Tragically though, it turned out they tended to leak battery acid. Thankfully my company was both savvy and able to prioritize my need to avoid direct contact with sulfuric acid over my need to light up dark spaces, and they recalled the flashlights two weeks later. A replacement gift is still forthcoming, but I’m sure they’ll get to it.