How do I survive another day at my job?
May 15, 2008 12:27 PM   Subscribe

How do I survive my last 3 months at work? I work in a dungeon with no windows, and lots of crazy people. More below.

I work in a very small office with 7 other people. We are smooshed in here like sardines. Additionally, there are no windows and most of my co-workers are catty, gossipy, and judgmental. I try my very best not to gossip or get involved in any way with the workplace politics. I take my lunch breaks outside, or go home, to help break up the day. But after half way through the day, I find myself ready to walk out and never come back. I end up surfing the net all day and not doing any work.

I've tried to help out with the feel of the place by doing things like planning lunch potlucks, and other activities for the entire office (and this is encouraged by our executive director), but it doesn't seem to help with the general bad attitude around here.

I can't quit - I need the paycheck - and I'm only here until the end of August, so I feel like I need to stick it out until I move away.

Any suggestions on how to help me get through my dreadful work day?
posted by to Work & Money (20 answers total)
posted by Perplexity at 12:31 PM on May 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

Private snark.

Create some games to play centered around commonplace office behavior. Perhaps bingo based on overused words. Or 21 based on situations (assign point values).
posted by desuetude at 12:35 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by pieoverdone at 12:35 PM on May 15, 2008

Is it possible to change your work hours so you're coming in earlier and leaving earlier than most of them? (Or starting and ending later, if that works better?) I used to sit next to the most horrible person at work, but it helped that I came in at 7AM and she didn't arrive until close to 10, so our hours only overlapped a little bit.
posted by LolaGeek at 12:36 PM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Computer Screen Privacy Filter
posted by spec80 at 12:39 PM on May 15, 2008

Untenable situation, short-term, not particularly consequential, and a whole bunch of unremarkable but not particularly nice people around.

It's the perfect situation for absurdity.

Seriously, this job will have little or no impact on your future, so why not approach it with a sufficient quantity of insanity to match its inanity? Being normal in this situation is going to make you crazy; it's time for a pre-emptive strike.

Sure, you might not like to come to work every day, but Brigadier Gereral Morris Simon Wheelybin-Smythe (your alter ego) loves it, and doesn't hesitate to go on at length about his adoration for his stalwart comrades. Use of a monocle is optional, but helpful.

Start charging admission to your cubicle. If you're questioned, explain in great detail that it's due to demand. Write up a report.

Look over each shoulder sneakily before talking to anybody, about anything. Make it as conspiratorial as possible. Wink often. Whenever someone approaches your cubicle, rapidly eat a piece of paper.

Bring an invisible puppy to work. Put out water and food dishes. Walk around the office looking consternated, while whistling. Giggle in your cubicle when no one can see you. When anyone asks about the puppy, act like you have no idea what they're talking about.

Life very rarely hands you an opportunity to weird up peoples' lives for them. Make the most of it.
posted by MrVisible at 12:45 PM on May 15, 2008 [17 favorites]

A few thoughts:

- Do you have sick days or vacation days? If so you should plan them strategically over the next three months to give yourself some time away. Of course, check with HR, or your employment contract to make sure you're not imperiling your job.

- Are you sure you need the money? If you're not making that much, and you need out now, it's very possible that you could find a summer job. Even Starbucks might be a better environment. Remember, your mental health has a value too.

- With three months to go you can probably withdraw some and not worry about the long term consequences. Headphones is(are?) one idea. Changing your schedule slightly if possible so you spend as little time around these people as possible is another.

- Can you relocate your work area? Can you work out some deal with your boss where you work around the other people's schedule, perhaps working weekends or evenings?

Good luck.
posted by wfrgms at 12:48 PM on May 15, 2008

Keep telling yourself its only three months. Start telling yourself you need to mentally check out and chill out. Its easier than you think.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:50 PM on May 15, 2008

I agree with the acting weirdly suggestion. If you feel you're not the type, give it a second thought before dismissing it. You'll have funny stories to tell your friends and you'll look forward to going to work. There are more mundane ways to make your time there bearable, but that's about the only thing can think of that would make it fun.
posted by Nattie at 1:20 PM on May 15, 2008

Make Paperclip People
posted by emptyinside at 1:33 PM on May 15, 2008

My usual strategy for coping with a mind-numbing clerical job I had once was to try to get less mind-numbing tasks from my boss (working on a procedural manual, etc.), but I knew my department was going to be eliminated and I was going to be laid off in a few months. I found most of my coworkers slightly boring and many of them didn't like me (too much of a know-it-all), so I had to find a way to get through the day as quickly as possible. This was particularly tough for me because I have ADD, but it was going untreated at the time; I would find myself looking at the clock less than 5 minutes into the workday. So I started listening to audiobooks and radio plays. It made time fly like nothing else, much more than music did, probably because of the sense of progress. I even got better and faster at doing my job. I got through the entire Discworld series, everything Douglas Adams ever had recorded, the Lord of the Rings (even (ugh) the Silmarillion), some other random schnaa, and I was well into the Dark Tower series by the time they finally let me go. I definitely recommend it.
posted by ErWenn at 1:38 PM on May 15, 2008

You exist in an invisible bubble. You are inside. They are outside: they don't even matter. (This works best when you don't actually have to talk to the annoying people.)
posted by salvia at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2008

*Noise-canceling* headphones.
posted by philomathoholic at 2:04 PM on May 15, 2008

Thirding headphones. But instead of just music, load up on some podcasts or audio books. It's easy for familiar music to become background to conversations seeping through the headphones, but audio books and podcasts take over more of your brain, and the other conversations will just become noise.

(Experience. That's my current office situation.)
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 2:15 PM on May 15, 2008

Buddhist practice. Work with what is (taped above my computer) and noise canceling headphones.
posted by Sophie1 at 2:29 PM on May 15, 2008

Just out of curiosity - do you know your locale's regulations on amount of space per worker? I'm pretty sure I've worked in offices that had to be reconfigured to meet code because they were cramming too many people in. Might be worth looking into.
posted by kristi at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2008

are you going to take that much of a pay cut by temping or working someplace like starbucks? esp if you have saved up vacation that'd give you a chunk of money (if they pay you for it when you quit).. then quit. maybe even stick it out another few weeks, then quit.. but why ruin your whole summer??

alternately, if you don't worry about burning some bridges.. name those elephants in the room! "HEY GUYS, I NOTICED EVERYONE HERE IS MISERABLE." "Do you have to keep shit talking other people and complaining all the time." stuff like that! What's the worst that can happen..
posted by citron at 3:08 PM on May 15, 2008

As they say in twelve step programs, you deal by taking one day at a time.

Why not channel that energy you've been spending on trying to get everyone else to be communal (potlucks etc) into little ways to make the day better for yourself. Taking your lunch on your own is a great idea, but maybe scheduling little breaks for yourself in between that. For instance every day at 10:00am and 2:00pm you take a non smoking smoke break - walk outside, get some fresh air, take the full 15 minutes you are allotted. Make it a habit and you'll start to look forward to it.

Other little treats for yourself - get one of those little rolly foot massager things under your desk - or just a couple of tennis balls in a sock. After an annoyance slip off your shoes and give yourself a little foot rub.

Become a religious and ritualistic tea/coffee drinker - and get the good stuff. Take your time making your coffee/tea and enjoy it. Savor the drinking of the beverage.

If you have email access and a friend or two that might be willing, start up little email games. I whiled away time during a boring job by emailing a friend the most obscure words I could find and she did the same. We would try to figure out what the word meant and then use it in a sentence. It got pretty entertaining (well entertaining for a boring job anyway). Added bonus you look like you're doing work and your vocabulary increases.

I also used to read Sherlock Holmes stories (or other things in the public domain). You can find them online in text format so it looks like you're doing work, or reading really boring documents and people generally leave you alone.

Most of all, remember that this too shall pass. We've all been there.

Good luck!
posted by mulkey at 3:11 PM on May 15, 2008

I am in this exact same situation. I have about 3 and a half months until I quit my job and go back to school. I really can't stand my job and I work with some annoying people.

One thing that has really helped is to count down the days until I leave for good. 104 more days to go. It may seem like it would make it go slower but I started at 160 something. Time is flying by.

Podcasts are extremely helpful. I try to keep it on low volume that way I can hear when people are talking to me. I don't want to be rude.

One last thing I do to make it somewhat bearable is to be exactly on time. I have to be at work a 1 PM, therefore I leave the house at 12:45. I don't arrive a minute late or a minute early.
posted by bobber at 3:37 PM on May 15, 2008

Seconding email games if you're able to; this really helped me in a crappy clerical job I had once. One of the other workers I got on with and I brought in little magnetic portable chess sets, to keep in a side drawer, and over days we'd challenge each other, at the rate of one move every couple of hours. Now normally I don't like to play chess and I'm not very good at it, and the other bloke wasn't that flash either, but it was absolutely lifesaving for both of us to have something in the day that was mentally demanding and engaging.
And I learned chess notation on the way.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:45 PM on May 15, 2008

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