5 Unspoken Laws of The Office  

The fates have seen fit to bless me with superhuman administrative powers; something I would be doing the world a great disservice by not putting to good use. While lower middle class wages and caffeine-fueled angst might seem like a prison cell to some, I for one relish the daily gambit where even the most seemingly ridiculous detail doesn't go unscrutinized.

In an environment where you are expected to have answers to the next 10 questions a person may or may not ask, it stands to reason that there is a wide body of rules governing your actions. The majority of these are rooted in common sense or dictated by HR, however, for every one that you are made actively aware of, there is a subset of complementary unspoken rules. I'll refrain from wasting your time or dulling your senses with a complete list of the ones I've learned after a decade of office mastery, instead focusing on five really important ones for those poor souls out there that will never know such joys as printing, proofing, collating, and comb binding 50 copies of a 150 page color document, only to have some jerkface who makes more in a month than you do in a year decide on a "slightly less overwhelming" color scheme, simultaneously hitting the reset button on all of your hard work and criteria for strangling someone with an Ethernet cable.**

Law #1 -- Do not be an exception whore. I can understand the desire of being the person to "wear the white hat" when others are having a tough time. However, if you spell out plainly the importance of adhesion to a certain policy, those supporting you should do their best to enforce it, and with good cause. That being said, people will always seek an exception if they feel strongly enough about something, even if your dictum of policy clearly stated "no exceptions." Nonetheless, those around you will maintain. Then a complaint is lodged, a person asks to speak to the policy owner, and within five seconds is granted an exception. As they emerge victorious, those who were simply doing what was asked of them get scowls and jeers for being such a dick, when in fact that title is decidedly yours for this impressive feat of two-facedness. Dick.

Law #2 -- Using the "!" flag makes you look like a lazy a-hole. Applies mostly to Outlook users. You know that high importance flag you can add to emails? In the world according to me, clicking that button would activate a pop-up window which reads "If it's really that important, pick up the God damn phone."

Law #3 -- You are only as strong as your weakest link. We've all heard this cliché recycled through countless speeches and books on leadership. Taken at face value, it might make sense for some to consider trimming the fat in their department. Not bad for us working on the front lines, right? Get rid of the dumb ones to boost the team as a whole. Wrong. The real meaning of this phrase is of much greater value. Humans are animals who think mostly in terms of relativity, meaning that a douchebag or two within the group serves to make others all the better by comparison. Worried that your department doesn't have a worthless d-bag to fill this role? Odds are it does, you just can't see them without a mirror.

Law #4 -- Never Reply to All. This should have been absorbed by the "common sense" disclosure at the beginning of this post. But much like domestic violence, this happens way more than it should, although it is arguably more tragic than a woman that doesn't listen. The problem becomes exponentially worse with each additional recipient on the email, as does adding a proactive tagline stating "please DO NOT Reply to all." If fast food and those designated driver commercials have taught us nothing else, it's that asking people to exercise rational thinking and/or self control will almost always produce the opposite result.

Law #5 -- Food is the impetus of progress. Thinking of the corporate world as some giant Lovecraftian machine of change, it would be the Red Hots, donuts, and soda that grease its enormous wheels. It's a little publicized fact that fluorescent lighting metabolizes blood sugar 10x faster than normal, requiring a constant influx of sugary, savory, and starchy vices for the pack of office rats. A batch of cookies left in the communal area appears to draw little notice at first, but the moment your back is turned, a flash of argyle and pleats transform it into an empty spinning plate in the most cartoonish of fashions. Individual instances vary little, in that a favor from someone requires knowledge of that person's particular weakness. "Hey Mark, I suplexed Diane for this last Crueller because I know it's your favorite. Would you mind covering for me at next week's committee meeting?"

** Second post in a row to speak of murder via office supplies. Would it be more appropriate to classify this trend as "disturbing," or "disturbingly long overdue?"

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