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How to Be a Good Office Slave

  • Palo Alto, CA
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Managementmanagement Sarcasmsarcasm

This is a short manual for you, my friend. I assume you are sitting in the office right now, reading this blog post. Maybe you don’t like your office job, or maybe you enjoy it and feel excited to be close to your office friends. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that there is always an alternative to office slavery. I’m not talking about starting your own business. There are people in this world who work for someone without doing what is described below. They do exist, as well as companies that don’t turn their employees into slaves. I really hope you will eventually find one. In the meantime, this manual is for you.

The Office (2001–2003)
The Office (2001–2003)

Help Others. Find the stupidest newbies and help them. Regardless of what exactly you help them with, they should rely on you. Show them where the restroom is, recommend a good restaurant nearby, assist in an IDE installation, explain how the project works, and make standard jokes about the worst class in it. They must become your best friends—and not only them. Be helpful to everybody. No matter what is happening, everyone must know that you’re ready to help. Ideally, they all must depend on your kindness and readiness to save them from the chaos around.

Be the Last to Leave the Office. Nothing annoys a manager more than an employee who leaves the office at 5 p.m. sharp. It’s a sign of disrespect. Don’t you like it here? Is there anything in this life more important to you than this job? There shouldn’t be. Demonstrate that by staying late. Here is a simple trick: just come later. The boss won’t blame you for that. But always stay there after everybody else is gone. Ideally, you should leave right after the boss. Overtime is a clear sign of your loyalty to our mutual results.

Don’t Nag. No matter what is happening, you should never criticize your direct manager. The boss is always right. Everything else may be wrong—the situation, colleagues, suppliers, computers, the CEO, investors, the market, or the weather, but not the boss you directly report to. The word of this person is the law. The boss is the god. Ideally, you should be the prophet. No matter what the boss says, you deliver it to others. And you must look like you sincerely believe that it’s right.

Attend All Meetings. No matter what they are about, you must be there. And don’t just be present; actively participate. It’s not so difficult, and very soon you will start to understand what they are talking about and will be able to say something, even if you had no idea about the subject beforehand. Eventually, everybody will start thinking they must ask your permission in order to make some decision, because you were at that meeting. Important people don’t write code; they attend meetings. Remember that.

Turn Down Recruiters, Publicly. Loyalty! That’s what matters to a real team. When a recruiter calls you, raise your voice and explain that you’re happy in this company and don’t want to move on, ever. The more people who hear you, the better. Also, you can sometimes tell stories about offers you’re getting and how you turn them down. Your boss should be the main audience for these stories. Why do you turn them down? Not because they are bad, but because your life belongs to this company. Loyalty is what makes you a good slave; don’t forget it!

Don’t Take Sides. It’s just too risky. In any argument, you can always find pros and cons for both sides, right? So why support one of them? You may be wrong and lose respect in front of everybody. Why take that chance? Instead, always say that there are drawbacks to both options. That’s what a wise man would say, anyway. There is no absolute truth in this world. That’s why you should always stay in the middle, where you will never be wrong. Well, until your boss takes one of the sides. That’s the right moment to agree and follow.

Never Ask for a Raise. It should be absolutely clear to everybody that you don’t work for money. You work for the big idea. Period.

Attend All Social Events. Birthdays, corporate parties, Halloween, Friday beers—you must be there, always. Don’t worry about wasting your life; you will like them eventually. It is very important to demonstrate that you truly live in the office. You are not just writing code, taking money, and going home to your family. Absolutely not! The office is your real family, and you truly enjoy eating pizza with your boss and listening to his childhood stories. That’s how you demonstrate your loyalty, which is the best quality of a good slave.

Point Fingers Privately. Don’t say anything bad about anyone in public. No matter who is doing what, we’re always a team; we’re together. Together! This should be your main keyword when talking about results, problems, and risks. Never blame anyone—publicly. However, when you’re talking in the kitchen with a few of your most trusted colleagues, let yourself go. Tell them who you think is the weakest part of the team and what you would do with him or her if you were the boss. Don’t restrict yourself, but always make sure there are only a few people who can hear you.

Added 8-Oct-2015:
Never Ask for Vacation. When the time is right, your boss will inform you that you can go on vacation. He is the one who knows when it is suitable for the company to have you away for a few days. It can’t be in the middle of a project obviously, nor in the beginning, and definitely not near the end of it. It is usually matched with popular vacation periods in a year (e.g. Christmas, New Year). That might be a bit more expensive for you, but reward of not betraying the company is priceless. If you do make a mistake of asking for a vacation, try to make it short. The worst thing you can do while trying to extend vacation days is to mention that you could “still work while out of the office”—that will immediately get you in a position where you don’t need the office, hence the office doesn’t need you.

Added 30-Jun-2016:
CC Your Boss. Add your boss in a CC for as many emails as possible. The more emails that come from you, the more valuable you are. Your boss must see that you’re actively involved in many communications and that it’s simply impossible to replace you. Besides that, CC-ing the boss is a sign of respect. She or he will never forget that.

Sigh, Don’t Laugh. You must look very concerned about situations regarding the project, the team, the management, the office space, and everyone’s future. If you’re not concerned and laugh about it, how can you be trusted? That’s a clear sign that you’re not taking your job seriously, and who knows what you will do tomorrow. Don’t be like that. Instead, always look a bit sad. God forbid you look happy in front of the boss.

Care About Everything. No matter what the discussion is about, you care about the subject. There is nothing involving the team that doesn’t bother you. You must show that you feel responsible for every problem and each task. Also, when there is a discussion in the office and someone is doing his own thing, paying no attention to the subject, you should ask, “Doesn’t this concern you at all?” Make him feel guilty for not being careful enough—that will give you a lot of points for “being on top of all things.”

Look Tired. Always look a bit tired, as if you were working all night and barely got a few hours of sleep. Also, try to make it obvious that you were fixing some old bug in the system that nobody except you really cares about. You must not look too energetic—this disrespects your boss. He didn’t give you enough work to wear you out completely? That means he is a bad manager. Instead, you should even joke that “our boss knows how to keep us busy.” That flattery will definitely please even a smart person.

Added 13-Aug-2017:
Have No Hobbies. It’s very annoying to see you enjoying something else aside from the job in the office. Your happiness and your heart must be here, at the work desk. Not somewhere else, at a snow slope or a tennis court. Sport, dancing, singing, gaming, painting, even open sourcing—are the activities you must hide. You are betraying your boss and your company if anything aside from the project is making you happy.

If you follow all these rules, you won’t be fired, ever. Well, until the company is bankrupt, that is. If it’s a startup, it will go bankrupt for sure, thanks to you and people like you. If it’s a big enterprise, it probably won’t, unfortunately. You will be safe, and your resume will have an impressive “12 years at Oracle” statement. Well, that’s an achievement, isn’t it?

I don’t think so.

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