As another weekend draws to an untimely end, 35 hours of soul destroying tedium circles through your conscious like a corporate feathered vulture. Sunday's television schedule does little to distract you from the thoughts of a job that you once donned your finest suit to secure, and here, in a moment of depressing clarity is the realisation that, "this is your life." Instead of a red book filled with your greatest feats and wittiest one-liners, the best that you can achieve is two pages of Arial 11 point detailing your employment history and one or two hobbies that you added in a desperate attempt to make it sound as though you were a true team player and not the mis-anthropic, work-hating malcontent that you actually are.

If this sounds familiar then fear not, you are not alone. The Daily Grindstone is here to help you through the perils of employment and give weight to your long held belief that, despite the hype, work just isn't that great. So... make another cup of tea (remember that a full kettle takes longer to boil and can add minutes to your break), get comfortable, and prepare to adjust the scales of the work-life balance a little more in your favour.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

There's no escaping the office whip-round

Working in a busy office, it is hard to ignore, and to afford, the numerous birthday/Bah mitzvah/We're sorry you're dying/Congratulations on the new baby cards that will be thrust on to your desk at any given opportunity. Whilst it is trying enough to think of an original and heartfelt message for these cardboard messengers of mock empathy, no birthday will be complete without the obligatory "whip round." Like a mafia thug inviting quivering shop keepers to join a protection racket, the office whip round is guaranteed to empty your wallet and make you feel like a penny pinching scrooge for submitting anything less than your entire life savings.

There is no escaping the task of entering a, "Have a great day and don't drink too much," message into the card of a complete stranger. Despite protesting that you have never met the man, the disapproving glances of your fellow workmates will quickly inspire you to enter another cringe worthy message and ceremonial emptying of your wallet. Once the whip round (usually contained within an internal postage envelope) has been filled to the brim with crisply folded ten pound notes, the office head will elect the most embarrassingly out-of-touch member of staff to 'go out and choose something nice.' With the acceleration of a rabid greyhound, the chosen purchaser will race towards their favourite shop. Entering the emporium of imported tat, they will chose the gift that most reminds them of that 'lovely home from the faux leather moccasin advert' that they saw in the back of the Daily Mail. Proudly returning the abomination to the office, they wait with barely-contained excitement for the future recipient to return from their lunch break.

As the gift is unveiled, the office is drained of air as all employees collectively inhale. There in all of its glory is a polished wooden sculpture depicting an angry lion disembowelling a stork. As the recipient smiles nervously, their brain awash with thoughts on how to tactfully decline the gift, each and every birthday card signatory enters a catatonic state of mortification. By putting their mark to the birthday card, they have signed a confession speculating that the gift was their idea. How will they ever be able to look the recipient in the eyes without thinking that somewhere, behind the contact lenses, is a person who suspects them of being responsible for this hideous token. "Don't thank me, thank Jane, she chose it!" you cry as your co-workers let out a prolonged sigh of relief.

As Jane looks on proudly, you return to your desk knowing that not only did you snatch back your reputation from the brink of disaster, but you also, morally and rightfully, condemned Jane to a well deserved future of social exclusion.

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