Zombies, zombies everywhere…and not a bite to eat.
Move over vampires. Your glittery cheesiness will not cut it anymore (except for Buffy). Nope, you’ve been replaced as the trendy monster du jour. Zombies are the new thing.
They’re everywhere. Unlike vampires though, zombies are REAL. No, I’m not kidding and I’m not talking about the crazy bath salt zombie people either, though you should always be on the lookout for them. Real zombies are easy to spot and, make no mistake about it, they are hunting for brains. The worst part? No one is safe.
Unlike in “The Walking Dead,” there is a cure. They need to be killed. It’s for their own good. It will help them get back to normal. I know because it happened to me. I was a zombie and I got killed.
I’ll back up a sec and explain. I became a zombie at my last job, the one I parted with most recently. In my professional career, this job was the best thing that ever happened to me…both getting it and losing it. When I first went to work for this company, they’d had a fire a while before and were in the process of designing and constructing what would turn out to be our fabulous new office building. In the meantime, for the first 16 months that I worked there, it was out of a FEMA-style trailer set up to be an office. There were 3 ladies in the middle room, the office manager on one end in her own room, the HR manager on the other, and then they crammed me into her office. It was NOT built for 2 people.
This could have been an absolute recipe for disaster, but a couple of things happened to make sure it wasn’t. For the first seven weeks of this job, I was filling in for an employee out on medical leave in another department and was doing accounting type stuff. I saw the HR manager daily, but for short bursts of time, so I didn’t immediately jump into being squished in this office with her every minute of every day right from the start.
Also, she was cool. I was very lucky to be in an office with someone who, I flatter myself to think, was very similar to me. She was funny, she was liberal (as am I if you haven’t noticed yet), and she was very straightforward. When you are sitting so close to someone that you could high-five (or slap) them without getting out of your chair, it helps if you get along.
Those close quarters were also miserable in some ways. The bathroom was tinier than an airplane bathroom and bending down to pull up your pants could (and did) sometimes result in hitting your head on the sink. We griped about the tight quarters a lot, but I didn’t realize until later how much it helped me learn about the company. HR is often so insulated that it doesn’t matter if you work at a shoe factory, the zoo, or CNN. Sexual harassment policies are the same, FMLA is the same, etc. What the company “does” is largely irrelevant to HR unless it carries some special government or OSHA regulations. Being in that trailer, though, was so enlightening. You couldn’t help but hear everyone’s conversations with each other and on the phone. I learned a lot about patience from the customer service lady who had to calmly explain to a woman that 50 lbs of our product did weigh the same as a 50 lb bag of potatoes (while we were all falling out around her laughing). I saw all the duties of the office manager even though she was clear across the trailer, and I saw and heard EVERYTHING my boss did which was great because I admired her and wanted to model her skills, etc. If any of us needed a REALLY private chat, we’d get our cell phones and go out to the parking lot. There was no privacy but I absorbed so much new info. It was exciting.
Then we moved into the new office. For a while there, before the shine wore off, it was AMAZING. So much space! A full size computer monitor, not a teeny laptop! I can play MUSIC IN MY OFFICE! Woo Hoo! Then the office politics started. The upstairs people vs. the downstairs people. The HR wing vs. customer service. Little things got blown up into big, stupid, mean things…as is the way of every office in the whole wide world consisting of more than 2 people. As we had more space and became more physically distant, we became more emotionally distant as well. I hung out in my office, doing my work, getting really good/fast at it, and playing on the internet.
Without everyone to socialize and laugh with, I got my work done a lot quicker. I know that sounds like a good thing, right? But I stopped learning. We did the occasional cross-training but I was in my own office (something I’d always thought I wanted) and could no longer observe my boss as closely. I was a hallway and a huge lobby away from the receptionist, customer service, and the office manager. I had no idea what was going on with them. I had my tasks, I got very good and efficient with them, and really no new projects came up…none that couldn’t have been done by a moderately-trained Labradoodle, that is. I became a zombie, doing the same routine all the time…or new tasks that were not intellectually stimulating or challenging at all.
By the time I took that 4 weeks off for that neck/spinal surgery I’ve mentioned before, it was like nothing changed. For starters, I trained people on what to do before I took off, but even the stuff they left for when I got back, though large and menacing stacks of work to them, took me maybe 3 partial days to complete. I got a few obligatory “Wow, I had no idea how much Dominique was responsible for!” remarks when I returned, but after those 3 days I thought…”No, you don’t know how much Dominique is capable of.” I was dead inside and I was on the hunt for brains…MY BRAINS. That’s when I knew I had become a zombie.
Here’s how you can tell if you’re an office zombie:
1. You finish your work almost every day by 2 p.m. and have to sit there counting the minutes till 5. Even the internet gets boring sometimes. You may develop calluses on your elbows from leaning on them.
2. You have time to wander the building talking to people, refilling the copier paper, watering the office plants, etc. because dear god you’ll do anything to get up from your freaking desk.
3. You have reorganized your office, obsessively labeled everything, and even cleaned up behind the janitor because DEAR GOD YOU’LL DO ANYTHING TO GET UP FROM YOUR FREAKING DESK!
4. You get excited when asked to participate in anything REMOTELY different…even if you know ahead of time that you will hate it. A meeting? Love to! A presentation? Can’t wait. Lunch? Are you f*#king kidding me? LUNCH?! Hell yes, I’ll do lunch!! You want to run over my foot with a forklift? Is it Christmas already?! Go for it! If there’s a lunch meeting with a presentation about forklifts, you just might climax.
Eventually I completely succumbed to the apathy I felt at work and they no doubt realized that. When my boss left the company for a new opportunity, it was decided that HR should be outsourced and they didn’t need me anymore. I can’t say I disagree one bit considering I could leave for weeks at a time without even a ripple. It made good business sense for them, and I needed to be killed…my position, that is.
Yes, I was worried about bills, etc. but searching for a job made me use my brain. Instead of being routine, things were very uncertain. I was forced to call upon friends, acquaintances and come up with creative ideas. I started this blog and took to Twitter. I took a couple of writing gigs. I signed up to be poked and prodded at the Biomedical Research Dept of LSU to get some money (and ultimately didn’t qualify because of a Rx I’m taking), but still…thinking, thinking, thinking. I spent some time with my family and eventually stumbled into something pretty amazing. More details on that in next week’s Fun Friday. I felt myself come back to life. The uncertainty brought me back to life. The zombie fog had lifted.
As for the rest of you, be on the lookout for zombies. If you are one, you might need to leave. You might need to ask for more work. You might need to do some online crosswords instead of reading about the Kardashian/Kanye baby. You absolutely need a gel mat for your desk so you don’t get the elbow calluses. Those hurt. Do whatever you have to do to USE your brain instead of walking around like a reanimated corpse. If you see a coworker in this state, give them more work. Give them some crosswords or Sudoku. Run over their foot with a forklift. Whatever it takes. Friends don’t let friends turn into zombies. I would kill any of you if I had to. I’m a giver.
Have a great weekend everybody!