The one who brings a ‘novelty’ mug from home – and other people you will work with
It’s a jungle out there
The office is like a dysfunctional family – which means it’s like most families.
Like a family, your colleagues are a group of people to whom you have been tethered, against your say-so; they are people you cannot choose (unless you’re the boss). It’s not exactly a life sentence – you could leave – but as you realised soon after you signed your contract, you’re not going to. Looking for a new job is an effort that counters the inertia your job inspires in you (the only thing it ‘inspires’). You are stuck with these people.
And so you have become a deft chronicler of their different personality types. You can tell which groups are sincerely friends, and which are friends for “political” reasons; you can tell which two of them are shagging. And you can definitely tell which poor individual is in the midst of total psychological defeat. You’re part of the fucking family now.
These are the people of your office.
Emma, who cries in the toilets
No Emma, I didn’t see him side-eye you in the meeting. No Emma, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna get sacked. Yes Emma, you’re really good at your job. No Emma, nobody can see the fact that you’re red eyed and sniffly when you return to your desk at 4.45pm every day.
The one who cycles to work
“I just think that cyclists get a really bad deal.”
“Nah, I actually don’t mind not showering till I get home, don’t sweat that much on the way in.” (NB: everyone else minds)
“Sure, I’ve broken my arm three times this year, but think how much I’ve saved on Tube fares.”
“I’ll never forget what Lance Armstrong has done to the sport’s reputation.”
You’ve seen too much of him clad in Lycra, and you know he has lube in his bag at all times. Once – and you don’t know how it happened – you ended up helping him take his Brompton to the bike shop to fix a puncture and your jaw ached with the effort of not snapping at him.
The mini-breaker, or ‘how do you have the money and time to go on more holidays than me?’
What’s that, Kevin? Off on another dirty weekend with the missus? Where was it last weekend? Bratislava, right? When was the last time you had a weekend at home, Kevin? Money is good for things other than Zara homeware and weekends in Bruges, you know.
Guy who controls the thermostat with an iron fist
“It’s 40 fucking degrees in here.” “It goes up throughout the day.” “No it doesn’t.” “Yes it does.”
It’s like listening to your parents fight, except you’re an adult and you’re getting paid, so actually, it’s not that bad. But it would still be a better morning without the soundtrack of fraught conversation, urgently whispered across a desk next to you. At one point you give up, and write a post-it reading “wear a jumper and open the windows”, which you remember to post between their desks when you’re working late, alone. You blame it on the cleaner when the finger is pointed at you.
The girl who always steals your fags
“Hi babe!” It’s one minute past six, and Olivia is smiling at you over your desk. More than she smiles at any other time of the day. “Do you wanna go for a fag?” Olivia knows you have given up smoking, she knows this, but what she also knows is that you still have half a pack of Marlboros on your desk for emergencies. And she’s ruthless. “Oh, I’ve given up, but -” The words ‘you can have one’ have not even whistled through your gritted teeth before you’re interrupted. Olivia is cringing playfully, “oh I’m so sorry – but would you mind awfully if I stole one?” “No. No not at all.” She has already taken the pack and bounced off. “Thanks hun!”
Desultorily, you tot up how much politeness has cost you in the past six months.
‘I want people to know you came in late because you deserve it’
“Is Fiona OK today?”
“It’s just that she came in at ten past nine this morning, she must have come back from the doctor or something?”
“She didn’t clear that with her line manager today, thanks for letting me know.”
“Oh! I hope I haven’t dropped her in it!”
That bitch Fiona is going to pay.
The one who always complains it’s too cold
Telling me you’re cold isn’t going to help any of us. In fact it’s going to make me try and fake sympathise with you about how cold it is in here but in reality I’m at the perfect temperature and want to get on with my day. Have you even heard of layers?
Harry, who gets a lot of packages
It’s Wednesday, and the Amazon delivery guy is here again. Is he here for Laura, who’s trying to play down how excited she is about her ASOS order (she looks up every time someone comes back from the loo)? Is he here for James, who’s ordered a new iPhone (smashed last weekend, lad) that he’s finally redirected to the office after they tried to deliver it to his empty flat three times and he talked about it every lunch for three days? No, he’s here for Harry. He’s always here for Harry.
Friendly senior staff member
You were wary at first. Surely, someone in senior management wouldn’t be this sincerely apologetic when things went wrong, so considerate of your feelings? Surely they wouldn’t always send you thank you emails, often with kisses on the end (this happens regularly enough that you are certain it is affection, and not a mistake)? Surely they would not put up with your gentle – but noticeable – strops? Essentially it boils down to your disbelief in the human race: surely no one is this nice?
So obviously, your wariness meant you were guarded. Sometimes a bit sulky. You took her for granted. Yet still she – it’s always a woman – persevered in being nice to you, and open, and thanking you, and calling you “lovely” and “brilliant”.
One day, she announces she is leaving and you are, honestly, totally gutted.
Unfriendly senior staff member
Aha. This is how it should be. For poetic reasons you are glad this person exists.
Fit guy in sales who will not accept your friend request
We even had a cigarette together last week! Why won’t you concede to liking me ENOUGH TO BE MY FACEBOOK FRIEND?!
The one you steal food from
You’ve been eyeballing their half-eaten bag of chips all day wondering how the hell they have gone this long without eating them. Then – finally – they go on a coffee break. You see your opening. You check the room to see if there’s a potential tattletale looking. They looked away. GO. You pounce, grab enough snacks so it doesn’t seem obvious there’s anything missing and return to your starting position. They come back unaware of what you have just done and you proceed to have a brief conversation about something inconsequential they just noticed. You have won.
The one who keeps commenting on your messy desk
I am aware. You can either accept me for who I am or leave me the fuck alone.
Guy who takes too many smoke breaks
It’s 11am, have some fucking decorum.
The older one who wants to fuck you
Just keep your head down. Stare straight at your monitor. If you look at the cells hard enough, maybe she won’t notice you’re…oh fuck.
Susan thinks she has a Mrs Robinson vibe going for her. She wears perfume, subtle pearls, red lipstick. She drinks wine earlier than she should. Susan is in her mid-forties and is projecting her misspent youth onto you. Susan will email misleading nudes to your work account, rest her hand on your forearm when she leans over your desk, and is counting down the days to the Christmas party when you let your guard down. It’s at this point that Susan will pounce, giving her long-awaited blowjob on an almost industrial level. Does Susan have kids? Don’t think about her kids, Peter. Come on.
The one who’s literally always ill
Try not to breathe near them.
Your office best friend who is your real-life best friend
One of you recommended the other for a role in your company; you ended up working together. It’s the dream, although they won’t let you sit within five metres of each other because everyone knows you won’t get any work done. They have a point. Your friendship is a constant transition from hanging out 9am-5pm and bitching about life gossip to getting wasted 9pm-5am and bitching about work. When they take a day off without you it’s like a piece of you is missing and you have no idea what to do with yourself. Who do you go to coffee with? You wonder if it’s too awkward to crash Molly and Cindy’s daily coffee run. Of course it is, you haven’t done that in months. So you go alone and text your best friend the entire way to tell them you miss them. Please come back.
Your office friend who accidentally becomes a real-life best friend
You didn’t think the office was where real friendships were made. You hoped – if you were being really optimistic – that you might find someone you could have lunch with, someone you’d email when something funny happened, maybe someone who might get you a cup of tea if you were having a busy morning and couldn’t get up from your desk to go to the canteen.
Except you realised this person is actually really funny, really sharp, really interesting. Not just when she’s talking about your boss – but when she’s talking about anything, really. You realise you’re texting each other outside work, and she’s invited you to her house party. You realise you have people you call your mates who you haven’t spoken to – or enjoyed spending time with – in months. Meanwhile, she’s in half your Instagram photos, and all over your Facebook. She has become your real-life, genuine friend.
Person who possibly has a drug problem
It’s in the eyes.
Person who definitely has an alcohol problem
It’s in the smell.
People who try to repeatedly engage you about sport when they know full well you do not care about sport
“How about Alan Pardew this weekend? Mental that,” Richard ventures. “Ha yeah mate,” you’ll reply, trying to look like you’re busy. He persists. “Hughes played a blinder against Brighton, really shored up the attack.” Richard doesn’t get the message. “Yeah,” you say. A niggling voice in your head tells you you’re not even a real man, and memories of countless pub sessions come flooding back – you’re stuck in front of another pointless game spent deciphering what PSG stands for. After two years of working for him, Richard still tries to engage you on football. “Derby have made some real progress this season,” he mentions, feebly. This is a gulf between you that will never be breached.
See also: people who keep you updated about the intricacies of their accumulator bets
The guy who tells stories that last for 20 minutes and don’t have a pay-off
You are laughing a beat too soon, and repeating his sentences straight after him in order to try and reclaim some control of this situation.
People with unreasonable expectations about what your office should be like
No, we’re not going to get bean bags, we’re not going to get a Lavazza coffee machine, and we’re never, ever, going to microdose LSD to see if it makes us more creative.
Andy who plays five-a-side and wants you to play five-a-side
No Andy, I’m fine. I don’t want to play five-a-side. I don’t have anything else to do on a Thursday night, no. I just do not want to play five-a-side with you and your mates who take five-a-side really seriously.
Guy who’s really into Game of Thrones
OH MY GOD I DON’T CARE IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A MORE INTERESTING PERSON
Person you shagged and it’s fine
It’s honestly fine.
Person you shagged and it is not at all fine
They don’t love you. Stop trying to shag them every single time you go for Thursday night drinks. You are embarrassing yourself.
Two people who are secretly in love and make it awkward for everyone
Oh just fucking shag already.
Office couples who buy each other lunch but leave at different times but everyone knows anyway
Man who has got married too fast and must live vicariously through junior staff members
“BEERS. BEERS. BEERS.” Well, Darren, you’re not going for beers are you? Cause Imogen was up with the little one last night and she is very tired so you’re off to pick up an M&S meal for two to make her feel better.
The person who cackles when they’re on the phone
It’s completely impossible to focus on your own work when your brain is being overwritten by their laughter.
The oracle of office gossip
You would not survive here without her. She is the reason you drink this much tea. Nobody needs this much green tea, and it’s only 11, but here you are loitering by the kettle again because Nathan pulled Ellie last night after Thursday night drinks at the pub and she knows every single fucking detail. Seriously, she is peerless in the way in which she observes interactions and inspires confidences. She should really put that on her CV.
Brenda who sits in the corner who you have never once heard speak
Can she speak? Unconfirmed reports indicate she may have once laughed at a joke with Ally from Sales, but these are mere whispers.
The person doesn’t have their own phone charger
They steal one. Then another one. Then another one until the office landline is the only thing that works.
Your neighbour whose desk is a graveyard for tupperware
Just fucking take it home, it’s not even heavy any more!!!!!!
Very tidy Amanda
When we arrived at this office, Amanda, here are the things we all received: a desk, a computer, a manual, and a very small filing cabinet which sits on the desk. But somehow Amanda has accumulated, in her short time here, a box for her files, multicoloured file dividers, six separate post-it note packs (organised by size and colour), a holder for her pens, a pencil case, more stationary than you ever had at university, school, or primary school. You steal a pen once and she notices it. HOW.
The guy who isn’t over his uni
Did you know a ticket back to Nottingham for Ocean on a Wednesday is only 30 quid? Tom does. Tom likes uni in all its forms. Sure he didn’t go to Loughborough, but that doesn’t stop him from wearing a hoodie he bought on a dirty weekend with the lads from home.
People who leave at 5.01pm every day
4.48pm: Quietly slide notepads and chargers into your bag and hopes nobody notices.
4.51pm: Start closing work tabs
4.51pm and 30 seconds: Examine what MailOnline is saying about one of the lower-born Kardashians
4.53pm: Keep your head down and silently pray for no last minute emails to come in
4.55pm: Six minutes to go, it’s getting tense
4.57pm: Text the friends you’re meeting for bikram on desktop WhatsApp so people don’t see you’re on your phone
4.58pm: Please get the clock to move faster
4.59pm: What if my clock is a bit slower than everyone else’s?
5pm: Can’t leave now, or they’ll see I’m the sort of person who leaves at 5pm
5.01pm and 00 seconds precisely: byeeeeeeeeeee!
Why does Ollie know so much about pension reform? Why does he keep banging on about the Momentum meeting he went to in Bethnal Green? Is that his copy of Das Kapital?
People who bring their own novelty mug into the office
“Harpenden, Harpenden, Harpenden”
“Piggin’ Tea break!”
“World’s best dad”
“Hey,” the note on the fridge says. “Has anyone seen my ‘I hate everyone I work with’ mug? My aunt got it for me for Christmas. It’s just a funny thing but it is mine and if you’ve taken it can you just return it to my desk please? Thanks! Xx”
You rip the note off the fridge. It’s just a fucking mug.
The only person who knows how to use the printer
Once, when you’re asking them to print something for you, you honestly forget their name. Just clean forget it. Gone.
The smug wanker with the ‘standing desk’
They loom over you, periodically launching into a dissection of how many calories you burn by standing rather than remaining sedentary all day. They talk about their excellent posture and how much better they feel after making ‘the big change’.
People who take off their shoes
This isn’t playgroup.
The ‘best of a bad bunch’
He seems hot but only because everyone you work with is a dinosaur.
In a normal setting, like if you saw him at a bar, would he be fit? No, he probably wouldn’t. He did Computer Science at Aberystwyth, and he got this job because his uncle used to fix the printers. He snorts when he laughs. He’s got a gut.
People who say the phrase ‘Manic Mondays’
Yeah, you’re this close to having a nervous breakdown.
The person whose entire relationship with you consists of asking how your weekend was
“Get up to much this weekend?” “Yeah, just saw some mates, was nice.” “Alright then, best get to work”
The Assistant to the Regional Manager
The young arrogant one who thinks he has the best ideas
If you don’t think there’s one of them in your company, and you’re under 25 – I’ve got a surprise for you, it’s you.
The girl who feeds other girls but never eats herself
“Have a cupcake! They’re really nice.”
“…how do you know?”
The girl who has an orchid on her desk
Her name is something like Rowena or Alice or Anna. She went to a university like UEA or Warwick, and probably studied something like Psychology – not because she’s one of those fit mental girls who wants to know what’s wrong with her, but because she holds a genuine academic interest in it. She types quietly, sips at a bottle of Evian, and always does comfortably in the performance stakes. She gets sent home in a cab after one glass of wine at the end-of-quarter knees up. She will marry a man called Tim from her church. You have nothing in common with her.
By Roisin Lanigan, Phoebe Luckhurst, Harry Shukman, Matt McDonald, Josh Kaplan, Jennie Gale, Joshi Herrmann, and Eleni Mitzali.