The corporate world is like high school all over again with strange cliques and reputation on the line. But here you are, the person who wore the same three tracksuits to school and read manga alone at lunch trying to pretend like you’re not totally freaked out and that your blazer isn’t a Halloween costume.
Take a deep breath. (Not too loud, anything sounding like a sob will alert those around you to weakness.) You’ll be just fine as long as you follow this guide.
Only talk about your blandest hobby
It should be a hobby you actually have so you can effortlessly talk about it, but it shouldn’t be interesting enough to make you stand out. Something sports-related is best, but woodworking, tutoring, knitting, or baking are all good non-political, approachable interests.
Women have the benefit of engaging in and talking about side-hustle parties like Scentsy, Pampered Chef, or Lulularu. Dudes need to fall back on stuff like golf or gruffly being fathers to children. How much anyone talks about drinking as a hobby depends on demographics and geography.
It doesn’t matter that this hobby isn’t your favorite thing. The point is you have something besides work to talk about that makes you seem like a human being to your co-workers. You’re not just the quiet person; you’re the quiet person who likes the Titans.
Use all the buzzwords
Synergy, impactful, high-level, etc. Feel free to use them incorrectly. No one will call you on it.
Speaking the corporate language will help you blend in and make it look like you belong there. These words depend on the company; “value-added” won’t fly the way “social experience” will at a marketing firm.
Part of this tip includes not using certain words like “dichotomy,” “conflate,” “onus,” or “disingenuous.” These words make you sound like the nerd that you are. Either find simpler words or simpler ideas.
A family-friendly cubicle
I’ve talked to you before about the importance of interior decoration and sending messages. Sure, you might have a Destiny poster you love, a sword you forged yourself, or a shrine to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but these things don’t belong in your cubicle. They say too much about you, and are too different from the status quo.
Decorate your space in a way to emphasize family, even if you’re on bad terms with them or don’t have one. Like the bland, but humanizing hobby, it will make you seem like a person, but without the risk of being different.
Socialize just enough
Attend social functions outside work when invited, but always leave early before everyone is sloshed. If necessary, lie that you have a dog to go let out. (Put a picture of your imaginary dog in your cubicle.)
People should get a general idea of who you are as a person, enough to like you, but not enough to ask you to pick them up from the airport or anything. You are establishing a certain amount of friendliness and (mis)placed trust, but not friendship.
Mixing friendship and work does not go well, because friendship requires vulnerability while corporate work requires you to be an asshole. Vulnerable assholes do not do well, dear reader.
Watch your back for the gleaming dagger of betrayal
Remember that Brutus was Caesar’s good friend, but that didn’t stop Brutus from stabbing the shit out him. Every interaction – casual greetings, lunchtime banter, happy hours, professional meetings – are Machiavellian machinations of gauging power, influence, and who needs to go. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. If necessary, be ready to strike even those seemingly loyal to you.
The backstabber is always there. It’s just a matter if you can see them. Good luck!