The so-called great resignation is underway. But what about those of us with bills to pay, mouths to feed, and other obligations that mean we just can’t quit our bullshit jobs? Many of us who have been asked to return to our silly little office jobs in person are now wondering if the only option is to sit down at our desks and shut up.
Mercifully no — dissent is always on the table. Engaging in small practices of resistance can help fight the malaise of working at a job you don’t believe is useful or fulfilling. As socialists, the horizon includes destroying office culture; today, let’s start with yours.
DECOLONIZE YOUR MIND: YOUR JOB IS NOT YOUR LIFE
Get it in your head: your job is just a job. Are you saving lives? Are you producing sustenance for society? Are you educating the bright young minds of the generation that will hopefully save us from the total ecological destruction brought on by capitalism? If so, you do not have a bullshit job and this guide is not for you. Go organize your workplace.
The rest of y’all: divest from mess. You don’t owe your job your best. If you can believe that, in spite of the work-hard-play-never societal conditioning, you’re ready to fuck some shit up in the office.
GET SOME GOSSIP BUDDIES
Now that you’ve purged yourself of goodwill towards the management apparatus and your job in general, you’ll want to build some alliances. It’s important to remember that while your job is bullshit and management is not to be trusted, your colleagues are in the same boat as you. This doesn’t mean that every coworker is a potential friend — avoid the brownnosers, and the aspirational fools angling to become managers. You’re looking for those colleagues who might also hate their jobs: naïve do-gooders who are just learning that their jobs make absolutely no impact on the world; underpaid people of color juggling multiple workstreams; the office secretary who has been around for 30 years without much increase in either pay or respect.
Make an effort to get to know these fellow prisoners of work. Stop by their desks, occasionally invite them to have lunch with you, and always greet people. Drop your negative opinions about the office gradually. At first you’ll want to stick to subjects that everyone can easily agree are bad — maybe it’s the dress code or the sick leave policy. Do some good-natured complaining! Keep your ear to the ground for complaints about the bosses — this is fertile ground for helping your colleagues make the transition from recognizing the particular suckiness of a single boss to the general suckiness of the entire office. When you’re ready to start spewing anti-work propaganda, work friends are more likely to hear you out than co-workers you don’t have any connection with. You’ll also hear about office bullshit far quicker if you have gossip buddies (pro-tip: you absolutely must be friends with the secretary). And when the heat is on from management, your co-workers can provide cover for you.
ALWAYS BE COMMITTING TIME THEFT
You want to maximize your time spent not working yet getting paid for work. This is a simple principle that can be accomplished in many ways, and it’s best to use a variety of methods so your bosses do not catch on. Clock into work and then take a long time brewing your coffee or enjoying a morning constitutional. Bathroom breaks should always last at least 10 minutes — if questioned about this, graphically describe your lifelong struggle with shitting. Find reasons to make copies or prints of anything, and then find ways to fuck them up so you have to reprint and recopy multiple times. Volunteer to help change the printer cartridges and then bungle the job so badly that the printer is unusable for 45 minutes. If you need to ask someone a question, take a walk to their desk — and on the way stop by to say hello to all your friends. Lollygag! Sneeze loudly and messily during remote meetings and then turn your camera off so you can deal with “grossness” — and then never turn it back on. Go over your lunch break by five minutes, then 10 minutes, then 15 minutes. Schedule a fake meeting with your favorite colleague so you can both hide in a conference room for 45 minutes. Occasionally ask to shadow your boss to their meetings in order to learn more about their work; then zone out. Organize your desk every week. If possible, read a book or scroll on your phone. Do anything and everything you can that isn’t your work. When you run out of stupid little ways to waste your time, take 20 minutes to daydream with a notebook open. If anyone asks, you’re thinking through a big idea for a project.
STEAL AND MISPLACE EVERYTHING
First — figure out if there are cameras in your office space. If there aren’t, steal everything that can reasonably be taken out of the office without suspicion. Notebooks, pens, printer paper, paper towels, tape, staplers, dry erase markers, soap, toilet paper. For everything that you cannot take home or put in your desk (“for use,” if questioned), misplace everything else. Dry erase markers should be accidentally rolled under cabinets, or left without caps on. Take every staple you can find and drop them behind the filing cabinet. The best-case scenario is that this slows down the work; regardless, it’s fun to steal.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO CREATE CONFUSION
Today’s office, especially since the rise of remote work, offers a number of grating technological “solutions” for communication and file management that are easily manipulated to facilitate sabotage without suspicion. For example, if you use Slack and email, be sure to never communicate about a project on just one platform. Ideally, your Slack and email threads about that project should each include different people so someone is always out of the loop, demanding more back and forth to sort things out. Share Google docs without permissions enabled, necessitating requests for access. When you save a file to a cloud server, be sure not to save it in the right folder or to give it a descriptive, unique file name. Half of your colleagues are probably doing these things with no intention of sabotage anyway; in the words of the great ghoulboss, lean in.
CO-OPT THEIR LANGUAGE
Does your workplace believe deeply in diversity, inclusion, collaboration, transparency, efficiency, best practices, competencies, check-ins, equity, self care, and culture? Fantastic, because so do you. You believe it so much that when you’re asked why you’re unable to produce a report by Friday, you will respond that, in the spirit of transparency and collaboration, it’s best practice to allocate at least two weeks for conversations with stakeholders ahead of producing a report. Who could argue with that? If somebody does, remind them of your commitment to workplace values: whichever ones best serve your purposes.
Extra credit sabotage: If you’re a minority in an office that claims to value equity and diversity, you absolutely must play that card whenever possible. Make them squirm.
ASK QUESTIONS TO CREATE PROBLEMS
The only way to make business practices more efficient is to question why and how we do our current work. You are an out-of-the-box thinker, so be sure to ask these kinds of questions at every team meeting and check-in with your boss. Can they explain how the priorities of department A align with the priorities of department B? You don’t want to duplicate work or function at cross-purposes, of course! Can your boss justify why you must complete an analysis if there are no plans to create next steps from that analysis? You want to be sure you’re using your time wisely to achieve the goals of the workplace! Question the impact of your work and push members of your team to concretely identify how their specific task advances the company mission and vision. You can do this over email as well, by simply asking for “more context” about any project or task.
While your questions might not get you out of actually doing the work, they will plant seeds of doubt in your colleagues’ minds about the impact and utility of their own work and the authority of their bosses. If you’re lucky, you’ll also do enough psychic damage to useless middle managers that they’ll just stop asking you to do things.
DO JUST ENOUGH TO NOT GET CAUGHT
The golden rule to cap off all the others: There will be times when you will need to do some work. Eventually, you must write that report. But when you do, do it just well enough to justify your paycheck. Never do your best!
Resistance to office culture is a way to make space for what really matters. Save your best efforts for yourself and your loved ones, always. We live and die for more than work.
Bheryl Mivera loves her job.