The story of a day in the life of an unsuccessful office worker

1:40pm Keeping my shoulder to the wheel

In modern corporate life, you have to keep your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone and your ear to the ground. 

Taken literally, this means working in a very uncomfortable position. 

Figuratively, it means working doggedly and persistently – putting in a solid day of work every day. 

I return to the office building after a long lunch. The huge glass doors on slide open. I step out of the sunshine and back into prison.  

Thus far today, I have enjoyed coffee with Arnie and Geoff, spent quality time with the ladies in the credit department, and had a time of daydreaming and reflection during the logistics department meeting. 

But there is a problem. These things are not what I am paid to do.  

I am employed to prepare monthly financial reports and forecasts, undertake financial modeling relating to project expansion, and resolve outstanding issues relating to the year-end audit. Such necessary evils are less exciting than watching grass grow.  

Nevertheless, the draft financial report is due tomorrow night. Non completion may adversely impact my career prospects. Accordingly, I need to hunker down and work solidly this afternoon. 

Factory workers who aspire to greatness must keep their shoulder to the wheel, their nose to the grindstone and their ear to the ground. 

As an office worker who aspires to greatness, I must keep my bottom to the chair, my eyes to the screen (away from colleagues) and my fingers to the keyboard or mouse.  

My right ear, where appropriate, must be kept to the telephone receiver.

Merry Christmas

Dear readers, 

I would like to wish you all a safe and Merry Christmas and a very happy new year in 2008. 

I’ll be back on Friday with the next part of the story, which will be followed early next week with a brief review of some of the interesting blogs which I’ve been reading in December. 




12:15pm How to take a long lunch break without being noticed

Working excessive hours can cause stress, fatigue and eventually, burnout. 

Accordingly, it’s important to take a long lunch occasionally. 

You have to know how to work the system. My methods are risk free. Here are my tips: 

·        Don’t take a long lunch every day. Save it for the best sunny days, so as not to attract attention. 

·        Leave shortly after twelve and be back before two.  

Regular lunch hours are between twelve and two. Absence outside these hours may arouse suspicion.  

·        Leave at a time when your boss is away from his desk.  

That way, he won’t see you leave or have any idea what time you left. Moreover, it will probably be thirty minutes before he even realizes you have gone.  

·        Create the impression of going to another department. 

If your company occupies more than one floor, you can create the impression that you are following up a work related issue on another floor.  

Do not take your briefcase, jacket or coat. Instead, take a work related file or folder with you.  

Upon leaving your floor, walk briskly and appear to be pre-occupied with your file. Look like you mean business.  

In a similar fashion, reenact the façade of preoccupation with your file upon your return. 

·        Upon returning to your desk, continue the façade of preoccupation with your file.  

Hurry back to your desk, take your seat quickly, have your file open on your desk and start working away madly at the computer.   

If your cubicle is positioned in such a way that no one can see your screen, you need not actually do any real work at this point. You can type away feverishly whilst emailing your friends or playing computer games.  

However, if your cubicle is positioned in such a way that your boss or others can see your screen, you may actually have to do five minutes of real work at this point. 

·        Finally, external meetings provide a wonderful opportunity for long lunches.  Try to schedule your external meetings to start at around eleven o’clock (depending on the expected duration of the meeting). Indicate to your supervisor that you expect to be back at around two o’clock.  

If possible, politely wrap up the meeting or otherwise excuse yourself at about eleven forty-five. This will give you plenty of time for a long lunch before you are expected back at your office. 

Never feel guilty about taking long lunch breaks. Employees who take time out occasionally are less susceptible to burnout and more productive in the long run. 

Your long lunch break is a favor to your employer. You have a responsibility to take it.

11:16am Empathy for colleagues who suffer misfortune

In the preceding posts, I discussed the importance of adopting a gracious attitude toward the success of your colleagues. 

Equally important is showing empathy toward colleagues who suffer misfortune. 

I have two more invoices which I ‘need’ to follow up with the women in the Credit Department. For one of these invoices, I am directed to Stacey Thompson, the – the tall, slender, brown-haired thirty-one year old who handles dealings with the client from a collections perspective. 

Stacey’s boyfriend is a karate instructor, so she is not a candidate for office romance. 

Nevertheless, I strike up a conversation - and soon learn that their relationship ended after he was seen with another woman. 

“Really? That’s terrible.”  

My response assumes a sympathetic tone, but in fact, there is nothing ‘terrible’ about this at all. Stacey is back in the field – this is great news! 

But now is not the time to show excitement. Appropriate sensitivity will go a long way toward winning her heart. 

I have an opportunity, but I must conceal my delight. 

“I’m really sorry to hear that,” I lie. 

“I saw them together,” she explains. “She looks about twenty for crying out loud. She’s ugly and she’s fat as anything. Why he cheated on me for her – I don’t know.” 

Actually, I think it’s his cousin. But Stacey need not know this. 

I need not interfere. I should mind my own business, cross my fingers and hope that luck is on my side. 

“You did the right thing to break it off,” I assure her. “You deserve better. You deserve someone you can trust. 

“That’s exactly right, Stewie. I do deserve better – and I’m glad I caught him when I did.” 

Great! I am saying all the right things. Keep it up Stewie. 

“You know, Stewie, next time, I’ll choose someone I can trust. Someone more like – well, like you for instance, who is honest and trustworthy.” 

Did I hear that correctly? Someone like me?  Baby, I’m in the game here! Way to go, Stewie!  

Shall I wait a couple of weeks or should I strike now and catch her on the rebound?  

“But you know what?” she continues. “I think I’ve had enough of guys for the time being. Yeah, I think I’ll take a break from the whole relationship thing if you know what I mean.” 

OK, the rebound idea is out of the question.  

Nevertheless, this episode demonstrates the importance of showing empathy toward colleagues who suffer misfortune.  

In all cases, it helps to build harmony and strengthen workplace relationships. In the case of managers, it may have a positive impact on your performance review. 

And you never know. You might just catch a vulnerable colleague on the rebound. 

11:10am I’m so happy for you

Jane is just copying the cheque for me and the conversation is going well. But then the bombshell is dropped. 

“Yeah,” continues Jane (refer previous post). My new boyfriend is really into arts and culture.” 

New Boyfriend. What? Did she say new boyfriend?  

I am instantaneously shattered. But my disappointment must be concealed at all costs.   

“Oh, did I tell you?” she whispers, her tone indicating bubbling excitement. “I’ve got a new boyfriend.” 

“Really? No you didn’t. Wow! That’s exciting.” I attempt to fake matching excitement.  

“Please tell me more. (rub it in) Who’s the lucky guy?” (Who’s the prick who I want to punch out?) 

“Ok. His name’s Rick. He’s in his thirties. He’s just become a partner at the top law firm in the state. He drives a BMW convertible and he’s just bought a lovely new house on one acre with a swimming pool.” 

“Really? Sound’s like a good catch.” I knew it – a rich bastard. Bet he’s not even good looking. 

“Oh, and he’s gorgeous too! He looks so handsome in a tuxedo. He gave me this lovely ring last week.” 

“Can I see? … Wow, that’s so nice!” I want to puke on it. 

“Oh Stewie, I just can’t tell you how happy I am.”  

Please don’t. 

“That’s great. I’m really happy for you. (yeah, right!) I really hope it works out for you.” 

“Oh, thanks Stewie. You know, you’re such a good friend.” 

A good friend. Great! Some lucky rich guy snatches her up and I get to be the good friend. Wonderful, I’m so happy for them. 

Think positive – it could all end in two weeks.

11:08am Delighting in the success of others

In corporate life, it’s difficult to delight in the success of others. 

Some people experience mixed emotions upon hearing about the success of others.  

I don’t. I just feel pure envy and jealousy. But I have learned to apply a façade of graciousness. 


What I say (with manufactured smiles and enthusiasm): 

·        “Congratulations on your promotion, you deserve it.” 

·        “Wow. Love your new car. A convertible. That’s really cool.” 

·        “I’m so happy for you both. You two are made for each other.” 


How I really feel 

·        “Who’d you sleep with to get your third promotion this year while I’m stuck in mediocrity going nowhere.” 

·        “Why do you get to cruise around with the stereo pumping and the top down while I’m stuck in my old Volkswagen which won’t start half the time?”                                                                                                     ·        “Why do you two get to be smiling lovebirds while I wallow endlessly in desperate solitude?” 

Little do I know, I am about to be hit by a bombshell - some ‘great’ news from a colleague which will cause extreme disappointment for me. (details next post) 

Once again, I will need to conceal envy with a manufactured facade of graciousness.

11:05am The Phantom of the Opera

Friendly interactions with colleagues whilst dealing with work related issues are essential for building cooperative workplace relationships. 

But for the relationship to become more intimate, less superficial interactions are required. 

Accordingly, as Jane is copying the check for me, I need to find out about her hobbies and interests. 

“What did you do last weekend?” I ask. 

“I saw a musical at the Arts Centre. It was great. The singing was wonderful.” 

“Really, I like the theatre as well,” I reply.  

Actually, I don’t know anything about performing arts. Nor do I particularly care.  But Jane obviously does, so I need to create the impression of sophistication.  

Think…Think…What’s one musical I at least know the name of….Think…I know….The Phantom of the Opera…That was by some guy…Webber, wasn’t it? 

“I really like the Phantom of the Opera.” I lie. Never seen it - never will. “His music is wonderful.” 

“Really, I love Phantom of the Opera.”  

OK. Good choice. But this is dangerous ground. Follow up conversation may expose my ignorance. Switch topic ASAP. 

But she continues before I can do so. “What did you think of Christine Day’s disappearance?”   

Oh dear - trouble. Who is the bloody hell is Christian Day? I’ve never heard of the man. Is he an actor or a character? 

From what Jane said, obviously he disappeared. What - is he like Elvis or something? What can I say here? 

“I thought…it was a real mystery,” I manage to blurt. Good response under pressure. 

“Yeah, I thought so, too. You know Stewie, it’s great to see guy like you who’s interested in arts and culture. I’m very impressed.” 

Yes! Did I hear that correctly – yes! I’ve got her fooled.  

She thinks I am refined and culturally aware. Better yet – she is impressed with me! 

It must obviously be Christine Day, not Christian Day. But never mind that. 

Sophistication and cultural awareness are not prerequisites for attracting women – the ability to fake them is.

11:02am Could I please have a copy of the cheque?

“Excuse me, Jane. Do you know if Rod Johns has paid his outstanding invoice from last month?” 

“Oh. Hi Stewie. I don’t know…I’ll just have to check…Hold on a minute” 

Jane Roberts is twenty eight, blonde and single. She is one of the five prospective candidates to make my short list for office romance.  

In order to ensure fairness in the selection process, I am obligated to initiate as much contact with each candidate as possible. Accordingly, I ‘have to’ elicit assistance from Jane in following up this payment. 

“Yep…it seems that was paid…last Tuesday.” 

“Great, do you have a copy of the cheque on file? I just need it for the reconciliation.” 

“No problem, I’ll just get the file.” 

A further obligation I have is to observe each candidate carefully. With this in mind, I have inconspicuously positioned myself in the best possible vantage point from which to scrutinize Jane’s retrieval of the file.  

Points to watch carefully include: 

·        her style of movement from the chair to the filing cabinet;  

·        the methodology with which her hands and eyes flick through and scan the folder to locate and retrieve the cheque; and 

·        the degree of conviction and authority she displays when handling or operating the photocopier.    

“Let’s see… July payments…July payments …” mutters a delightful voice as fine-looking fingers flick pages in search of the payment.  

“Here it is. I’ll just copy this for you.” 

“Thanks. That would be great.” 

Three things have been accomplished. I have built further rapport with Jane through friendly interaction, I have made further observation on Jane’s credentials for romance and last and certainly least - I have obtained a copy of the check payment for my reconciliation. 

November Blog review

Dear Readers, 

Today, I would like to take a break from my office worker story and talk about some of the blogs which I read during November. 

From now on, early in each month, I intend to provide a brief review of a few of the blogs which I have found interesting or enjoyable during the preceding month. 

Broadly speaking, the types of blogs I enjoy include humorous office jokes as well as more serious blogs about dealing with life in the today’s corporate world. 


Word Sell Inc  

This blog, written by sales and marketing specialist Brad Shorr, has both a serious side and a humorous side. 

On the more serious side of the blog, Brad draws on his background in marketing to provide some common sense discussion about effective promotional strategies and ways to build customer relationships. 

On the less serious side, Brad provides some humorous cartoons which give us an opportunity to sit back and have a good-natured laugh about life at the office. 

Another feature of this blog is “Words for Nerds.” In this section, Brad enlightens normal regular people about the meanings of words you have probably never heard of and never intend to use. Don’t know what “Soporific” means? Brad’s November 23 entry deciphers this mystery for you.  



Office Humor Blog 

Bored at work? The office humor blog is here to help! 

This blog makes a great read for those times when you want a quick joke with your colleagues. The site features office jokes, pranks, poems and much more. 

During November, I particularly like the post giving ten reasons to ask for a raise (November 29) and the best Out of Office automated email replies (November 26). 



Resources For Attourneys – Office Jokes, Humor and Satire 

Another good one for a quick laugh.  

In November, this blog discusses what happens to people of different occupations when they get old (November 16) as well as some good reasons to go to work – well – naked. (November 03 – no explicit photos, just good humor) 


The Decision Strategist  

An economist by training and an entrepreneur by heart, Nick (nickname Zot) is here to provide some practical advice into the decision making process, whether it be in the realm of business, investment or personal decisions. 

In my favorite November posts, Zot discusses making the really hard decisions in life (November 19) and ponders the issues that he considers to be important in leading a meaningful life. (November 18) 


All in a day’s work  

In this blog, Kishore, a techie from

Bangalore, reflects on work, his life and his opinions. 

On November 18, Kishore reflected upon an experience which many of us can no doubt relate to – that of his first day in the big corporate world and his transition from university life to corporate life. 


Hustle Humor  

On a site aimed primarily aimed at helping entrepreneurs to leverage money making opportunities, this humor blog provides some good laughs for those who are hustling to succeed in achieving their dreams life. 

On November 04, Da Hustle describes ten things you need to be a good CEO.  


Write Well Me  

Driven by a passion for language and writing, Dawn has created her own company to help those who share her passion to further develop their skills to maximize the effectiveness of their writing. 

In this blog, Dawn describes her experiences and challenges as she enters her new venture. Last week was the first week of a new schedule which she has set for herself – can she stick to it? 


Change Therapy  

A professional counselor, Isabella Mori writes in depth about dealing with the important and challenging emotional issues in life. 

Entries which particularly caught my attention were posted on November 09 and November 17. On November 09,  Isabella discusses thinking differently about success, failure and learning. On November 17, Isabella commences a two part discussion (part 2 is posted on November 22) relating to how to deal with negative experiences at work.  


I hope you enjoy some of the blogs above.  

The regular office worker story will resume tomorrow. In the next few posts, our office worker friend ventures down to the credit department, takes a long lunch break and then decides to hunker down for some real hard work in the afternoon.