The Work Game

The workplace is very dangerous. You probably don’t have to worry about a pallet of bricks falling on your head, or falling into a vat of molten iron, or losing an arm to a saw, like your great-grandfather might have, but your dignity and your ability to support yourself (outside of living in a cardboard box with a plaintive sign outside) are under constant threat.

Am I being alarmist? I don’t think so. An organization is like a tree full of monkeys. The monkey at the top looks down and sees nothing but smiling faces; the monkey at the bottom looks up and sees nothing but assholes. You’re at the bottom and can expect indifference at best, hubristic cruelty at worst.

As an omega you are probably providing some kind of a technical service. The bad news is your are easily interchangeable and easily replaceable. The good news is you can go someplace else tomorrow and do the same thing, without any glitch beyond learning where the restroom and break room are.

First order of business is stay out of trouble. Everyone is your potential enemy, which is worse than an actual enemy because you don’t know what to expect. Be courteous, and friendly in a business like way with everyone, but take no one into your confidence. Don’t complain to anyone. Assume anything you say to anyone will be heard by an upper level boss with authority to fire you on the spot and go into your HR file. People you serve will feel free to get angry with you, especially women, but should this happen you have to remain calm and business like, not even responding coldly. Do your work promptly, correctly, and without any negative emotion seeping out.

Work socializing is tricky. You are probably not being invited to hang out, but if you are you should go. People view those they drink with as human beings. Have one drink, be polite and friendly, and excuse yourself. You will then be Bob, the tech who’s OK, and not as that weird guy. Don’t overdo it though, they don’t actually like you or regard you as one of them, they just want to see you in another environment. You might try the softball league if you are good, but again with care.

Company parties and other events are another problem. Few people actually like them; not going is probably not a good idea. Show up, smile and say hello to everybody, have a drink and leave. I don’t know if any companies still have picnics or other events that last over hours; those you may just want to skip.

Cultivate some interesting hobbies, which don’t include TV or video games. When asked about your weekend, you can say you went on a long motorcycle ride, and missed the big game. (If you can manage a little sports talk that’s good, a lot of nerds can’t stand sports, in that case don’t worry about it. You might at least know who won.) Your coworkers will then know you have a life outside the office and it is not the reason for your existence.

The other reason for this is to stay sane. TV and video games will not relieve stress or provide enjoyment or stimulation enough to keep you sane.

The “frame” of your job must be that you are a hired gun. That’s true for everybody, but it is more true for you. You provide a service to whoever pays you. Do whatever you can to improve this ability. Whatever certifications you can gain to improve your marketability, get these.

You can still try to help your lot with your employer, but this is secondary. If there is anybody who looks like a winner who you can give a little more help to, give them extra service. Be very careful with this as people who are just users will suck you dry.

Always be looking for a job; network to the best of your ability. Move on before the axe falls or the layoffs come.

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6 Responses to The Work Game

  1. sestamibi says:

    I’m wondering why I’m the first to comment on your new blog, when all the advice you are offering seems quite sound.

  2. Harry Z. says:

    “The monkey at the top looks down and sees nothing but smiling faces; the monkey at the bottom looks up and sees nothing but assholes.” That is hysterically funny. Never heard it before.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wish i had this advice a few years ago. It’s the truth. Damn.

  4. […] I have written a little about how to behave at work before. That post was mostly defensive in nature, but I think you need a little offense as well. I’m in a bad situation. My coping strategy is try to do the best job I can and comply with all their procedures and regulations. From what I hear and see that is impossible, and even if you do a real good job they are on you constantly. […]

  5. slenkar says:

    People you serve will feel free to get angry with you, especially women,
    -ha so true

    I was walking down a corridor and then suddenly a woman with her own office calls me in and takes me to task for not holding the door open for her, I didnt even know she was behind me, but she was fuming.

  6. […] alphas rather than omegas trying to be sigmas it’s a little different than what I have said. (I and II.) The idea is to appear pretty dull and conformist, which is what other people like; for a […]

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