A Guide To Looking Productive At Work

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As we’ve established many times before, you hold no clout in your job. You contribute almost nothing to the existence of the company, let alone its growth. You’ve probably been there for nine months and people still ask if you’re new or when you started. The few people who do know you work there often call you by some perversion of your real name. It’s whatever. My theory is that it’s better to be invisible than to be popular (I just made that up). But, don’t let your guard down too much. The boss could be around the corner at any moment, or maybe he or she has some spies or informants. TRUST NO ONE.

You spent a solid four years in college building real skills that are still valid. Perhaps the most important of these is appearance manipulation. You’ve had to appear sober and competent when you were clearly neither of those. You’ve had to appear like you did scrape off half your body last night when you thought it was a good idea to body surf the main hill on your stomach. You’ve had to appear like you created and submitted that paper on time, and that it just must have been a technical malfunction as to why it didn’t go through. You’ve had to appear like you weren’t on the brink of actual homicide when some hipster cut you in the stir-fry line. You’ve had to appear like you spent more time studying than getting laid or high to your parents. You get the point. People should consider us masters of deception. But, my friends, this is a new realm. During the last several months, I’ve amassed an arsenal of pointers to appear extremely productive.

Don’t brush your hair or look remotely put together. If you do, it implies that you get plenty of rest and don’t arrive first and leave last. Obviously, don’t look like a total jackass, because this will work in a counterintuitive manner and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Just make sure you look a little flustered and overwhelmed. People usually leave those kids alone. Or they just take a bigger dump on you and give you more assignments. It’s a risk you’ll have to take.

Do stand by the copier or printer slamming buttons and huffing incessantly. Don’t break anything, because it will most certainly come out of your paycheck if anyone witnessed it. Make sure you print out as much as necessary, and always print to the farthest printer. It doesn’t matter if you’re printing out pictures from high school to superimpose over previously printed pictures from now to see how much fatter and dumpier you’ve gotten. Just print however much is necessary to keep you looking occupied and in control of that damn printer. It’s yours, and yours alone.

Do shuffle said papers around on your desk a lot. Look as if you’re trying to organize something into chronological order. This will be especially difficult, as there are no dates on these “documents.” Even the more reason to furrow that brow. Sell it, baby.

Don’t go out to eat. I mean, yes, please do get something so you don’t have to be the child in the office eating a peanut butter and jelly (although I do this at least once a week). But make sure you bring it back to your desk and continue to shuffle while you shove that burrito in your face. The grosser/messier/louder you are, the less likely anyone will approach you. Would YOU want to talk to the pink-cheeked, no-name kid with the half masticated burger in his mouth and on his shirt? Uh, no thanks. Not that we have interns, but if we did, I wouldn’t even approach one to take over a legitimate project if they looked that gross.

Do stock your cube with many half empty cups of coffee and other remnants indicative of “long” hours and despair. This can help throw off the scent. A cluttered desk can stall productivity, but that’s exactly what we’re going for here.

Don’t take out your headphones. This may allude to you being available for conversation. You’re not. You’re “busy.” Look at the earbuds. Move on down the line.

Don’t simply look steadfast at your computer screen. Sit up straight and make sure your head visibly moves across the screen from one article–I mean spreadsheet–to the next. Again, your brow should be furrowed. If you don’t have default windows or documents open for the quick switch back, GTFO. You’re too much of an amateur to help, and God have mercy on your soul.

Do make binders of seemingly important documents. Turning files into physical documents demands authority and respect. “Yeah, that company just had to PAY for this. It’s important and I MADE it. Back off. No, I can’t help you–I have things to make.”

Don’t, under any circumstance, make eye contact with anyone else. If you accidentally do, just pretend to pass out and vomit in your mouth to indicate that you, still, are not available for consult. God forbid if you ever had to answer someone’s question.


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Mary Swanson

Both a bitter and optimistic 24-year-old entry-level underachiever with 2-4 friends and 0 talents. Washed up is an understatement. I prefer almost all my food luke-warm, what does that say about me?

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