How To Survive A Shit Office Job

how to survive a shit office job

Every idealistic youth takes a pre-poverty line vow to avoid the mire of corporate employment. But mounting living-costs keep the gears of the office world churning, and burnt-out idealism turns into “smart-casual” and a salary. It’s inevitable, but there are methods to surviving a cubical of your own personal hell.

NOTE: I do not do any of the following at my current job. I love you, current job. Current job, please don’t fire me. I don’t want to be hungry again, current job.


– Make work friends. If you’re a smoker, the smoking section is a good place to start. If you’re not a smoker, you probably will be one after a week of soul-destroying, pointless monotony. Misery loves company after all. And misery smells like recycled air, two-minute noodles and industrial carpet. Having someone to share in a rant about your boss or an exaggerated grimace makes life in the CBD salt-mine more bearable. If they have been there longer than you, these people become fonts of knowledge on how to cheat the system. How to punch the clock just late enough to avoid detection. How to take sick days without the mandatory doctor’s certificate. These friends are valuable. They are also people who understand the need to drink heavily everyday post clock-off. You may need these friends when all other friends have abandoned you as an alcoholic beyond compassion or help.

– Invent your own fun. “See how long you can go without speaking before anyone notices,” is a good one. Until you realise that no-one will notice because no-one cares and that this place is actually a limbo of dead souls who thought they would eventually escape, then one day forgot what the world outside looked like and what human interaction was. Congratulations! You beat the high score! You haven’t breathed a word inside the office in three days!

– Drink. Not heavily. And not everyday. And not at your desk. But a glass of wine at lunch is more Mad Men than alcoholism. And maybe Irishing a coffee on your break is okay. And before work. And in the bathroom. Oh hell, just duct tape a goon sack to your chest and have a long straw peeping over the top of your white collar.

karen walker drinking



– Very Petty Larceny. Office stationary is an obvious choice. Get creative! Try opting for toilet paper, label makers, ink cartridges, bandaids and pain-killers from the first aid kit (for the daily hangover after remedial drinking). And hey, if your pay was half-decent you could afford to buy these things, however…

– Monopolise the kettle. It’s your bitch now. Mi Goreng, cup-o-soups, rivers of tea. In desperate times one can easily live off a menu that has a primary cooking instruction of “boil water.” This new fad diet is called “The Second Week Of Fortnightly Pay Cycle”. Guaranteed rapid weight loss, proving conclusively that pride has mass. Though nothing will stoop lower than the cement-grade no-brand instant coffee. Scrape your coins together for the $1 Seven Eleven sludge. It’s slightly, just slightly, more dignified.


– Imagine them outside of work. CAUTION: If you like them even just a little bit this could backfire and make you very sad. However if you would really relish seeing your colleagues faces melt in a atomic blast, piece together an image of their home and social life from snippets of small talk. For example: Overweight 30-something catches peak-hour train to depressingly remote suburb, reading a trashy magazine WITHOUT KNOWING IT IS TRASHY. From the train station she drives her compact car with a butterfly sticker in the rear-window, singing along to Pitbull playing over a commercial radio. She watches her soapie and eats Lean Cuisine and maybe has a glass of sparkling wine if she’s feeling a little naughty. She calls her mum and checks her free online dating profile and stalks her ex-boyfriend on Facebook. And the worst part is she’s actually content with her life.

– Remember you are different. You’re not like these people. You’re getting out soon. This isn’t where you’re supposed to be. It’ll just be a couple of months. Somewhere out there is that tiny independent gallery space going on the market that you can afford despite your student debts. Somewhere out there is that publisher whose acceptance letter is getting lost in the mail. Somewhere out there is that radio station deciding to put the amateur recording of your unknown band on high rotation. But in the end you’re like that greaser kid in The Shawshank Redemption; supposed to be free in a matter of months but alas you die inside prison walls. No Mexican beach. No hug from Morgan Freeman. We can’t all be Tim Robbins.


– Minor acts of subterfuge. “Misplacing” the sugar is a beauty. Because no one notices they can’t find it until the tea is already made. Also drinking out of the milk carton and having the savage joy of knowing your cooties are in everybody’s ass-water Nescafe.

– Play dumb. “Oh, you wanted that menial task done by today? Like, today, today? I thought you meant like today, tomorrow, today.” Acting so stupid they can’t fire you on grounds of discrimination will serve you well. Lower your employer’s expectations so they assume your half-assed, last-minute brain farts are actually your best work.

– Slow time itself. It’s already passing at the rate of a dying sloth. Extend any errands by at least half-an-hour. “Sorry, the bank line was just huge today!/I had to wait for the security guard to get back from lunch and let me in!/The bathrooms were closed for cleaning so I had to go all the way down the block!” Collect excuses to be away from your desk, and remember to sidestep detection and blame. When you do, breathe deep that luxurious, fleeting fresh air. Smells like freedom.

Our modern-day gulag of the corporate workplace has taken many victims. But follow this easy tutorial and you may be more than just another name on the memorial wall. Bide your time, grit your teeth, leave your pride at home and punch the clock. Close your eyes and anticipate the moment you can shake your boss’s hand, lie about being grateful for the opportunity and get the fuck out of there. However if you’re nearing or over five years a slave, god have mercy on your absent soul.




How to survive a shit office job, by Bianca Cornale