I Suffer From Office Survivor Guilt

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I Suffer From Office Survivor Guilt

It’s 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. I’m in the process of wrapping some admin stuff up (billing my time, scheduling vacation, sending “friendly reminders”, and applying to other jobs), when I see the one coworker I like glaring at her computer and furiously typing.

Mind you, this is the first time in about a month that the rest of my team has managed to sign off before 7:00 p.m., so being finished with all my work before then feels like a Godsend. But given that this is the one person I actually enjoy being around in my office, I walk over and utter the phrase:

“Is there anything I can help on?”

The second the words left my mouth, I knew I was in deep shit, because next words out of her mouth were, “Actually, there is something you can help on. It won’t be that bad.” Two and a half hours later, I’m in a cab home with a blank stare that could rival John Rayburn’s from Bloodline and I was kicking myself that I didn’t leave when I had the chance.

I honestly don’t know why I do this. The same thing happens every time. PR is a field where the work is never really done, and long nights are a frequent (sometimes daily) occurrence. The opportunities to get out of work before all the happy hours in the city officially end are few and far between and I desperately try to make the most of this time, for the sake of my social and dating life. But sometimes, my OSG prevents that from happening.

OSG stands for “Office Survivor Guilt” and it’s a condition I’ve been suffering from for about a year-and-a-half now. My symptoms include anxiousness that I’m forgetting a major deadline, sadness that someone I like is wasting away on a project by themselves and paranoia that people think I’m a shitty employee. I know I shouldn’t feel these things because of my (not to brag) stellar performance review, but so many times, I’ve been the chump sitting in the office at 9:00 p.m. finishing up a major project because I offered to help someone for the greater team. And I truly feel for people stuck in that situation.

But it’s affecting my personal life at this point. My mom is worried she will be left grandchild-less. Friends have started to leave me off invites to go to weekday sporting events or go out for drinks after work because 9 times out of 10, my response will be: “sorry I’m stuck at the office.” Birthday dinners have been missed. Going away parties cast aside. First dates cancelled. Part of this is undoubtedly because of the career path I’ve chosen, but the other part is because I hate leaving the office when work isn’t done, because the client will almost certainly send an email saying: “What’s the status of this?” at 9:00 PM.

And I’m not sure how to get over my condition. Even as I type this, I’m currently waiting for someone to finish their end of the project we chose to divide and conquer and I’m about to lose it. I’ve come up with a few treatment methods below that I think could work, but please feel free to offer any suggestions.

Stop giving a shit about other coworkers.
Probably the simplest way to get over OSG. Simply look out for numero uno. Once all the work that’s been assigned to you is done, pack up and get the hell out. I don’t intend to be friends with the vast majority of these people outside of work, so who cares what they think of me when I’m pounding five-dollar margs at happy hour?

Be proactive with the team about their workload.
Probably the most diplomatic and productive way to go about this. If early on in the day, the team comes together and evenly distributes tasks based on everyone’s workload, everyone should be able to get out at a reasonable hour. However, like communism, this works well in theory but not in practice. There are some major flaws with this thinking. Namely, everyone likes to say how busy they are or make up bogus excuses to get out of work early. Then the hardest task falls on some poor soul who gets stuck here late and then my OSG kicks in.

Dump it on the interns.
The pledges of the corporate world. They are here to get the experience they need to make it in the corporate world after they graduate from a glorified 4-year sleep away camp. What better way to get this experience than to slave away on a project at 9 p.m., under soul draining florescent lights, eating crappy Chinese food from across the street? That, my friends, is the crash course into the corporate world. Sure you may feel guilty that you’re causing them an inordinate amount of stress at such a young age, but at the end of the summer, they get to go back to school with your company’s name on his/her resume, and you don’t. So make the most of their time in the office before they’re back smashing beer cans against their heads and throwing themselves through tables.

The most risky financially and professionally, but it is definitely the most effective way to solve this. There is no guarantee that your OSG won’t return when you get a new job. But at least during your time experiencing funemployment, you wouldn’t have to be guilty of all the work you dropped on someone’s desk. However, I’ve heard unemployed Sunday Scaries are sneaky the worst.

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