Making the Best of a Bad Job

I ran into an old work colleague the other day and, as great as it was to catch up, it left me wondering how we could both have such fond memories of working in a place that was, quite honestly, horrible.
We were treated as an inconvenience: always the last to know but the first to be blamed. Our one toilet doubled up as a shared locker, and we had only one chair between six of us.
If we were lucky enough to get a lunch break, the only place to munch our sandwiches was sitting on the stairs leading to the basement. We were so understaffed that we worked an hour late and came in an hour early every day. All for no extra pay.
When business suddenly tailed off, our boss insisted that, rather than allow rival companies to realise what was happening, each of us should take a turn walking around the town for an hour, so those left behind would at least appear busy.
Yet, while staff moral was low, camaraderie was sky high. I’m sure you can imagine though, after a year of being treated like this, I wasn’t the only one at the Christmas bash who over-indulged at the free bar. The next morning, of course, complete with what I am pleased to say was the worst and last hangover of my life, turning up for work was even more depressing than ever.
A friend reckons that you don’t know you’ve got a good job until you’ve had a bad one. But being well looked after by your boss is no guarantee of workplace happiness. If the chemistry’s wrong your colleagues can be every bit as aggravating.
I’ve been very lucky – most of the people with whom I’ve worked have become friends. But we’ve probably all worked somewhere where office politics and cliques have been an integral and very unpleasant, part of the environment. It’s funny how so-called professional rivalry has the habit of making people behave in an entirely unprofessional manner. And even in the most serene office environment, there are things about your workmates that can drive you mad.
Take, for example, staff rooms. I once shared one with colleagues who never cleaned up after themselves. They could see nothing wrong with crumby worktops, gunky plugholes and slimy crockery. I stopped using the fridge completely when I opened it to discover the cure for something growing at the bottom.
Not that I lay any claim to being the perfect co-worker either. I have what I describe as special system of pyramid filing. Others may choose to call it a great big wobbly pile of papers on my desk, but, believe me, I know what I’m doing. Besides, I once read a study that said a messy desk is the sign of an organised mind. And then there’s that whole empty desk equals empty mind thing. I really don’t do it to annoy my work mates. Although I have to admit the temptation to aggravate does occasionally overtake even me.
Years ago, I worked with someone who was tidy to the point of obsession. Every pen, pencil, notebook, telephone and tissue box was lined up at precisely 90 degrees to the desk. Even her coffee mug had a special spot. But, rather than being irritating, this little trait actually inspired quite an entertaining game.
While she was out of her office, I’d move a pencil a degree or two out of alignment. Then through the glass door I’d watch as she returned and, a split second later, as she formed a puzzled frown swooped across the room to replace the errant object. It was petty, I know, but come on there’s really only so much perfection a girl can take!