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Wisdom from the realm of the office zombies

  • 16 February 2018


The air-conditioning hums, beguiling and deadening. The clock ticking away on the wall soothes the senses. Beware my friend, lest you become one of the sitting dead; zombified into observing the rituals of office life.

Even if we are lucky enough to be able to stare out of a window, the respite of daydreaming doesn't change our reality. The postmodern, multi-levelled, Dilbertian wasteland of open planned desks and shared oxygen is familiar to many of us, by experience or observation. As reported last year, the average office worker in Australia puts in 40.6 hours a week.

On top of that, ABS figures from 2015 suggest that one in three of us are still in non-leisure mode when we leave the cubicle, with 'nearly half of the 3.5 million people who often work from home in their primary employment [doing so] to "catch up" on their heavy workloads'.

The Pollyanna aphorism 'find something you love to do and you'll never have to work a day in your life' has apparently been inaccurately attributed to Confucius since 1985. The closest the sage came to this romantic view of yakka was a line expressed from the view of the bosses, saying, 'When he chooses the labours which are proper, and makes them labour on them, who will repine?'

The answer as to who will repine, rather obviously, is the labourers.

Work is work: a voluntary choice to cede sovereignty of your time and efforts, so as to be remunerated. You may believe in some of the results engendered. You may be using and refining your skill sets. You may actually like some of the people wedged cheek to jowl. But it's not your ideal, your oasis; nor was it ever going to be so.

It's weird, is it not, that we spend so much of our lives with people with whom we wouldn't necessarily engage otherwise, or choose as companions? Awkward social scenarios and workplace malfeasance are not new ground, thanks to the UK and US versions of the mockumentary The Office. There are and will be office politics, misunderstandings, gaffes and inadvertent rifts in the social fabric.


"Abandon all hope, ye who enter therein without a sense of humour and a modicum of tact."


The ABC recently explored the role and presence of anger in the workplace, utilising the research and observations of associate professor Peter O'Connor. O'Connor posited 'merit to both expressing and controlling anger' in, out and around