Monday, April 28, 2008
The Dark Spell of the Office Demon
Perhaps you’ve blamed these problems on the insensitivity of fellow employees, society’s over-reliance upon gadgetry in today’s business world, and the possibility that your boss no longer understands what it’s like to take orders.
Maybe you’ve even wondered if these problems are due to some interpersonal relationship skills you may lack. Well, I’m here to tell you today that, although many of your coworkers have pointed out a few things you could improve with regard to personal hygiene and grooming, you need not blame yourself for your troubles.
Your workplace-related strife is not caused by you, your coworkers, or even the office printer that jams at inexplicable times.
No, all your troubles can be rested solely at the cloven feet of the Office Demon. Many people are unaware of Its existence, but through my experiences I hope to bring Its dark deeds to light.
You see, it’s been more than a year since I left the fulfilling by but physically and emotionally-taxing job of teaching English at the Seventh-day Adventist Language Institute in Korea. Since then, I have been working in an office editing and writing textbooks for our institute. At first, it seemed an ideal job: the schedule was better, the job description was easier, and I needn’t have felt guilty when those who would’ve been honors students decided, due some change in barometric pressure or something, to stop attending classes altogether.
However, knowing that I was relatively happy with my job was all it took to make the Office Demon spring into action. His weapons include:
1. Managers Who Assume You’ll Sacrifice for Their Success
Is your office job easy for you, or does it at least challenging in a way that feels fulfilling? Well, take my advice: if you feel this way, don’t ever tell anyone. Don’t ever say it out loud, and don’t even let your face betray the lack of laboriousness. The Office Demon sees all such things.
Rather than permit even one person to enjoy their office work, he will begin infiltrating the minds of department heads, filling their heads with grand schemes that will bring him/her glory and prestige, provided his/her staff can accomplish them in a very finite period of time.
Soon, all your other labors will have to be squeezed into the fleeting minutes that you’re not working on the boss’ pet project. Just be glad that most of you live in America, where concepts such as “labor laws” and “overtime” are not alien.
2. Tasks That Accomplish Virtually Nothing Except to Soak Up Time
These days, we have three basic tasks in my workplace. The first is to write new material for our textbook series, which comes naturally to me; I majored in journalism because of a natural affinity for words, and not just because I would have failed in business, math, art, and public relations, not to mention the physical and biological sciences (though this helped me narrow my choices).
The second task is to edit what I and my foreign wordsmith coworkers have already written. If there’s one thing that comes more naturally for liberal arts majors than the creative process, it’s tweaking what a fellow liberal arts major’s process has created (tweaking in such a way that the fellow wordsmith will still want to talk to you afterwards, however, takes practice).
The third is listening to audio files. Voice actors record the things we have written onto a CD so that our students can hear how English is naturally spoken. Unlike writing and editing, which can be done while browsing the Internet and/or listening to MP3s, listening to audio files requires complete attention for approximately eight hours a day.
Therefore, we must keep rapt attention through the hundreds of lines of text, just in case the voice actor has flubbed a verb tense somewhere. I’m not saying, however, that this task is pointless. It is entirely necessary, thanks to the next tool in the Office Demon’s shed, which is:
3. People Who Just Don’t Get It
The Office Demon’s most frustrating trick is to cloud the reasoning of others as they perform their tasks, provided they were displaying much reasoning ability to begin with.
Sometimes, while checking audio files, the text I’m reading will say, “I bought some roses for my girlfriend” and I will hear a woman’s voice those lines. Then, I’ll hear the line “When I was young I wanted to play outside like the boys did” being read by a man.
Passages such as these lead me to believe that the person assigning text for the voice actors to read has been led astray by the Office Demon. Because of Its dark enchantment, students at our institute who listen to these files may question whether the Seventh-day Adventist church condones lifestyles such as these (and if you think I’m devoting column space to answering that question, you’re obviously also under Its spell).
4. Technology that Doesn’t Function
Performing certain tasks all day wouldn’t be fun under ideal circumstances; such as having fully functioning equipment to do it with. Performing it with, say, a computer that slows down every 10 minutes and freezes completely every hour or so is all the worse.
You can call your company’s technical support if you wish, but be warned: the Office Demon has probably supplied him with appointments until sometime in the middle of your next scheduled vacation.
5. Physical Maladies Caused by the Office
Once It has set you against your coworkers, supervisors, and even the office equipment, the Office Demon will go to work breaking you down physically as well. If you don’t lead an active lifestyle, It will ensure that your workload requires you to move as little as possible while on the clock, thus causing your thighs to swell and your blood pressure to rise quicker than the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
If you enjoy physical recreation, the Office Demon will see to it that you get one of those chairs that provides very little back support. This will cause doctors to tell you to abstain from your active lifestyle for awhile until you’ve mastered the art of sitting up straight for 12 consecutive hours.
What doctors such as these didn’t learn in medical school is that slouching is a completely natural response to the crushing weight of pure boredom. Such ignorance is the Office Demon’s final and most terrible trick of all.
And that’s why I’ve risked so much to tell you this. Not all of us can work outside or be self-employed, so we must be on our guard. Once the Office Demon’s deeds are exposed, ways of combating Its tricks can be developed. That is why it is of the utmost importance that we act as soon as I finish writing this arti
(Note: The author of this piece appears to have mysteriously vanished before it could be completed. His disappearance is still under investigation.)
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