10 Things You Learn At An Office Job

1. The refrigerator is the Holy Land.

The break room will prove to be your one respite from being constantly asked — even if just through askance looks — what you’re doing. You can just chill out, have a bag of Sun Chips, and forget about things for 10-15 minutes (AND NOT A MOMENT LONGER). And the refrigerator, beyond all things, will be an unspoken division of territory that cannot be infringed upon. This is the Promised Land, and everyone wants their piece of it. There’s the health nut that has the yogurt and gross-looking muesli she made herself that she somehow feels the need to write her name on, as though anyone would touch that bullsh-t. Then there’s the brown bags with their various sandwiches, pretty standard fare. And then — then! — you have the guy who went out to the thai place and clearly brought his entire pad thai back for the entire office to salivate over until the lunch hour. And the worst of all, of course, is the passive-aggressive post-it notes with the smiley faces littering the fridge, almost daring you to touch it. You will consider, many times, just taking that pudding cup — don’t do it. The Holy War that will ensue is simply not worth it. I promise.

2. If you decide to steal food, you might as well quit right now.

If you end up going against your better judgment and actually stealing something — especially something delicious-looking and clearly marked with a name that is not yours — you are in for endless workdays to come where the bereaved casually mentions to everyone “That Kitchen Thief” that they don’t want to “point any fingers about” but are “really surprised by.” They didn’t think “we worked in the kind of place where people steal.” New heights of indirect accusations will be reached, and you’ll just want to kill yourself — all for a slice of cake.

3. Receptionists are there to gossip and ruin your life.

There are two kinds of receptionists, with no exceptions: a) Overweight middle-to-upper-middle aged woman who wears a cardigan even in blistering heat and is constantly henpecking everyone to turn the AC down, who listens in on everything that happens in the office like some kind of bitter, tea cozy-loving hawk, waiting to tell on someone in between sessions of viciously gossiping and snacking. b) Smoking hot 20-something woman who dresses just on the very, very limit of office-appropriate by leaving one button too many open or a pencil skirt that’s just a bit too tight, but is never reprimanded because — come on. She’s gorgeous. She will spend most of her time ignoring her duties, rejecting the advances of various clueless guys in the office, gossiping, and adjusting her makeup. They are not there to make your life easier or to facilitate any kind of work flow, they are there to be an impediment, and to rub in your face how much easier and more dynamic their job actually is, given that they occasionally get to meet new people and interact with the outside world.

4. A computer facing the wall is the greatest gift God can provide.

If you work in an open space, and many of us have, you will quickly find that having your back to the entire rest of your department is amongst the most cruel fates that can be endured. If you so much as glance over to check your personal Gmail — even if it is technically allowed — everyone will see it and know that you are not being productive, and should therefore be passed over for every promotion and raise that becomes available to you. God forbid you should want to browse Imgur or Facebook or something. In that case, you might as well just put in your resignation before you log on, because every one of your coworkers will know you as the Great Procrastinator from then on — including the boss that always happens to walk up behind you right when you’re not doing anything. If your back faces the wall, however, the internet is yours to enjoy, and you can pretend to work until the end of time.

5. Office parties might have the potential to be cool, but you’re not allowed to have any fun at them.

The ingredients will all be there: alcohol (unless you have one of those dry office party companies, in which case, quit/kill yourself now), that coworker you’ve been crushing on, free food, some music — you should be able to enjoy yourself. Not so. Everyone is waiting for each other to mess up, to make an ass of themselves, to say something inappropriate to the boss about his girlfriend or his recent weight gain. It’s just not worth it. If you’re going to have fun, it’s going to have to be at the after-party hosted by one of the cooler employees. The company-sponsored one is just going to be a lot of stifled conversation and heavily monitoring your alcohol intake.

6. ‘Business Casual’ is awkward.

The thing about giving your employees the opportunity to dress in a more relaxed way every now and then is that “relaxed” means vastly different things to different people. For some, it just means a suit without a tie. For others, it’s khakis and polo shirts — also known as Lame Minivan Dad uniform. For others, it means they can finally break out those horrendous running shoes they’ve been unable to sport thusfar. For still others, they’re just going to stop giving any kind of f-cks whatsoever and show up in jeans and a t-shirt. Unless the company explicitly lays out exactly what Casual Days entail and what is and isn’t appropriate, it’s going to be a time for you to feel totally unsure about whether or not what you’re wearing is okay, and a time for many of your coworkers to demonstrate to the world that, when they’re not under a strict dress code, wear some absolutely unforgivable sh-t.

7. Office romances are almost never worth it.

It’s all sexy and scandalous and thrilling when you’re making out in the elevators and stealing glances in the hallways, but at some point you will probably break up (yes, even you), and things are going to go right back to the boring, boring state they were in before — only now with an added layer of discomfort and attempts to avoid someone who works literally 10 feet away from you. You think it’s worth it, you think it will be amazing and you two will beat the odds, but it’s much more likely that you’ll end up trying not to make eye contact and/or getting in trouble with HR for not reporting this, only slightly before you inevitably break up anyway.

8. You are often assigned 2 hours of work and are expected to stretch that into a full day.

Especially if you’re not too high up on the totem pole, people will often forget to assign you things, or assume you already have enough stuff, and you’ll be left with what couldn’t even take a few hours if you stretched it, and the thing is, you don’t want to be caught with nothing to do or people will literally never again hesitate to dump all of their work on you. So it is now your job to master the art of making it seem like you’re busy, making it sound like you do vastly more than you actually do, and refusing to take on extra work with an air of detached importance like an absolute champ. Your one skill, if you can master it, is to perpetually stay in a safe zone of having some work, but having far from too much of it, which will allow you to seem accomplished and worth promoting even when you’re hardly working at all. Plus, if you don’t see yourself in this job forever, why make things harder than they need to be? Just work on getting your back facing a wall, and you’ll be golden.

9. Data entry is where souls go to die.

The cruelest punishment that the God of work has ever saw fit to bestow upon lowly humans is, without a doubt, data entry. You will find yourself questioning how this level of tedium and repetition is even possible for a human to endure for 40 hours a week, and will often consider murdering your entire department just to do something a little more interesting. But it’s something we’ve all had to do at a certain point, so just hang in there, and one day you’ll be doing something way more fulfilling and engaging — like filing or getting coffee for a superior.

10. You think everyone else has their sh-t together, but no one does.

You’ll spend much of your time working in an office utterly convinced that everyone around you has a real handle on how things work and what they’re actually doing there, but as you move up the ladder and get to know people working in continually higher and more “serious” positions, you’ll realize that pretty much everyone is just kind of faking it until they make it, unsure of exactly what is expected of them and having just as hard a time balancing their lives with their work. Most people have a BA in Something Completely Unrelated, and the “qualifications” you’re all trying to embody are often just demonstrating that you can take orders, work hard, and think on the spot. You’re all padding your resume and exaggerating your participation in various company events, so try not to expect that one day you’ll reach some plateau of enlightenment and finally understand what you’re all doing here — you’re just sitting at a desk, typing things. The rest, you’ll figure out as you go. TC mark

image – Shutterstock

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • Lizz

    #8 is currently my life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alicebchan Alice B. Chan

    So right on. I wish I would’ve known #7.

    Just one change.
    “They are not their to make your life easier or to facilitate any kind of work flow” There not their.. Sorry.

    • Ashley

      #4 is extremely true. And #8 has been my life for the past few weeks – doing enough work to seem busy while still having the time to read great articles like these and make a few visits to Amazon.com.

  • Alison

    Depressing but kind of true.

  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/06/10-things-you-learn-at-an-office-job/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • H

    If I can’t date people at my soul destroying office job, where the hell else will I find people to date?

  • Lauren

    This is tired, predictable, and it reinforces outdated gender stereotypes. There are only two kinds of receptionist, both female, either sexualized to the point of ineffectiveness or written off as a gossipy old fatty. Really?

    • SaraLily

      agreed!! There’s a third kind of receptionist – the smart/cute/classy one who works her ass off to keep the office in check because if she didn’t, no one else would!! haha

      • Lauren

        I just don’t think we should be typecasting women (or anyone for that matter) at all. Boxes suck.

      • http://athousandtimes1000.wordpress.com Sara Katherine

        Amen! I’m a receptionist right now at a real estate office. I’m twenty, work hard, do everyone’s everything, and look classy. Plus, I can’t help it of everyone talks loud or acts like I’m dead when gossiping. Yes, I know everything about everyone in this office but that’s because they tell on themselves. However, I’d never tell a soul their secrets:)

    • http://gravatar.com/shesalittletwitchy Helen

      I agree with you Lauren! I am a classy receptionist who works her ass off and almost never ruins anyone’s reputations! I mean if I do then that b*tch had it coming haha
      No really the stereotypes in this article suck. Receptionists can be dudes, too. They can also be squids, because I recently heard that squids are secretly really smart. So probably squids. But classy, female squids. Go feminism.

      • Lauren

        Yes yes squids with nice twin-set cardigans, gosh forbid its pencil skirt hugs the curves of its tentacles too tightly

      • http://shesalittletwitchy.wordpress.com shesalittletwitchy

        Yes because as soon as a squid wears something that is the slightest bit suggestive God forbid she is an unprofessional bimbo and EVERYONE at work thinks she’s stupid
        this is hitting a little too close to home

      • Lauren


  • Michael Koh


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  • http://twitter.com/nebulalawrence Nebula Lawrence (@nebulalawrence)

    I’ve been #3 (the 20-something version….though can’t say I’m smoking hot).
    Currently living #8. Being a “marketing administrator” sucks butt.

    ps: reading this from my non-wall facing work computer….suck it, nosy coworkers.

  • soy

    Amazing and accurate. Thanks for this :)

  • http://theiiiv.wordpress.com chandlerstephen

    11. Music helps you stretch out the day until 5:00
    Hopefully this will help some find some new songs to get through your day!

  • http://gravatar.com/scenefromahat scenefromahat

    this is great. i’m experiencing this right now…especially number 7. :/

  • http://twitter.com/copper0928 Alyssa (@copper0928)

    I am #3b. #9 is why #4 is essential. #8 is my life right now. Also, I think all my coworkers went on vacation without telling me?

  • http://twitter.com/alisonwisneski alisonwisneski (@alisonwisneski)

    Shouldn’t the title of number 4 be the other way around?

  • M

    Don’t agree with #3. Our administrative assistant is awesome and she keeps our office from running off the rails. She’s not a complainer and doesn’t particularly gossip. There are a couple ppl for whom those descriptions fit in those roles, but this doesn’t apply to many secretaries. Plus, you neglected to mention that some of them are men.

  • http://www.facebook.com/michellerows Michelle Garcia

    Reading this as my computer faces my boss’ open door office. :X

  • Dora

    I was a receptionist for over a year and I worked very hard….never dressed like I could be going to a club and am not overweight. I am a good looking, hard working individual and the only reason I am no longer a receptionist is because I worked my way up and gained the respect of those I worked with because I took my job seriously. The receptionist you described is a movie stereotype and not the real thing.

  • Mike

    I WISH #8 was true for me. I’ve been doing the work of three people for the past two years. And did I mention #9 makes up the bulk of my work duties? Good thing I finally started taking antidepressants today.

  • Guy

    I’m a receptionist & I have a penis. Boom! Fightin gender roles e’ryday!

    • Large Knife

      Now you don’t have a penis.

  • http://www.appliedworkplace.co.uk/ John Waite

    Very funny (yet slightly depressing). However, in regards to #8, I’ve found it more common to be given 16 hours of work and expected to fit it into 8…

  • http://properblog.tumblr.com Jennifer

    Excellent, and so very, very true. I worked in an office after my first summer of university and swore never to again. We’ll see how that goes after I graduate . . .

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  • Shatha_A

    sad but true!

  • Allnighter86

    Men can be receptionists too if they are gay! (I am a gay receptionist so it’s not offensive)

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