Have you ever noticed the similarities between the reality show Survivor and day-to-day life in the corporate world?
In my own experience the only difference between any office and Survivor’s exotic locales is that instead of meandering barefoot along an endless expanse of powdery white sand bordered with aquamarine water, we office survivors lope around all day on ugly grey industrial carpeting festooned with hole-punch confetti and coffee splatters.
In most offices alliances mutate as rapidly as flu viruses. The most lucrative alliances lead to immunity—from being demoted to a level where nobody will loan you a pen, much less make an alliance with you.
Much like Survivor’s wild locales, there are rats, snakes, crabs and other nasty creatures skittering around the office habitat. Their sting can be toxic and survival behooves you to bite back. Win or lose, you will return to your cube with a very bad taste in your mouth; if gargling with an abrasive disinfectant doesn’t help, a huge hunk of milk chocolate most definitely will.
The office piranhas, vermin and serpents are as venomous as the real enchiladas. As a corporate survivor, I’ve learned to tread cautiously. When I see a stinger coming at me, I usually make like prey and run. Thankfully, the most lethal creatures will form alliances with their own kind and keep to themselves unless otherwise provoked.
You’ll find clones of past Survivor celebrities in every office. You know—the ones holed up in their cubicles texting all day rather than helping the rest of the tribe…the ones who still haven’t clued in that every hello you send their way is punctuated with an invisible middle finger.
And then there’s the general population—pleasant enough, but as nonchalant as sociopaths about the sprinkles that they leave behind on the toilet seats, about taking the last cup of coffee and not refilling the pot, about “forgetting” to return the stapler (or hole punch, or markers, or ten bucks…) that they borrowed from you.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Office Bitch. Biting back isn’t enough. The Office Bitch brings out the Hannibal Lecter in you. Every nightmare you’ve ever had of this noxious creature involves torture and death.
Last but not least is the Big Guy at the very top of the pyramid. (I’d like to be able to say “the Big Girl at the top,” but we all know that this is still a fallacy in most corporations.) In this new Millennium, the Big Guy pretends to be current but deep down nurtures his graduate degree from “the old school” with misty memories of his boy’s club days. Though he’d never admit it, he secretly feels bad for Bill Cosby.
Of course, just like the show, questionable relationships between employees are also apt to develop, particularly when both sexes are mashed together for five unbearably long days per week. Though thank God bitty bikinis and naked bodies are not standard office attire.
As for weekly Tribal Councils? Yeah the corporate world has those too. Only they’re called department meetings. Unfortunately, those of us in attendance are not required to cast votes against tribe members that we’d like to see ousted. Instead of people, innovative ideas not conceived by the boss are extinguished as quickly as a torch flame.
And Daily Immunity Challenges? We call them: inhumane deadlines impossible to meet. During these challenges the first team player to bail is actually the smartest. Clever enough to flee when the clock strikes five, this person gains a life. In the office challenge the last one to bail is not necessarily the winner, depending on how you define quality of life. Mind you, my past experience dictates that he or she will usually be awarded the sought-after necklace or statue that provides immunity from the need to develop a meaningful relationship with an employment agency.
I’m a corporate survivor. I’ve been playing the game for an excruciatingly long time. I’ve learned to treat alliances the same way I would approach a person with Ebola.
I’ve honed the skills I need to exist in compatible harmony with everyone from the Office Lazies to the Office Bitches. I have, through trial and error, learned to play nice in the sandbox.
I win all my immunity challenges by meeting my deadlines with a vengeance, thus gaining myself a measure of immunity from the hassle of filling out unemployment insurance forms—for now, anyway.
I’ve discovered only one significant difference between being the last survivor on the reality show Survivor and the longest survivor in my office: Borneo, the Australian outback, Africa, Thailand, Marquesas, every inch of the Amazon, Pearl Islands, Vanuatu, Palau, Guatemala, Panama, Cook Islands, Fiji, China, Micronesia, Gabon, Tocantins, Samoa, Nicaragua, Redemption Island, Philippines, Caramoan, Cagayan, San Juan del Sur, the entire South Pacific, and any other exotic locale that Survivor crew and contestants should decide to infest will freeze over before I ever receive a cheque for one-million dollars, now or at any other point in my career.
So until I’ve scraped together enough to finance my retirement, I wonder if management would allow me to string up a hammock between my cubicle walls? It would certainly make my daily survival a lot more comfortable.