Office Dynamics


It’s hard now to remember how it all began. It seems to have started when people who were not exactly homogeneous, or the type of people who would choose each other to “hang around with,” were forced by circumstance into close daily contact through the coincidence of their common employment situation.

The first thing you know, a sort of petty competition began between those who worked together, and in a mere matter of weeks, it inflated into a full-fledged rivalry – a competition of pettiness:

Round 1

Mary takes a sick day, Alice takes a “me too” day, Carol takes a “get even” day, Betty takes a spite day, and Linda takes an “I’m not letting them get away with this” day.

Round 2

Alice starts a rumor about Betty, so Mary snitches to the boss. Carol updates her resume ’cause she’s getting outta here if that’s the way they are going to act. And Linda? Well, she locks herself in the restroom for an hour to get away from it all.

Round 3

Linda signs up for a new computer class to improve her skills, so Alice, not to be outdone, decides to take two night classes. Betty, meanwhile, decides (again) that this is the perfect time for her to go back to school for a college degree. Carol pouts and listens to self-improvement tapes with headphones on, while Mary, being practical, sends off on the Internet for a degree (or two) in the field of her choice.

Round 4

Mary comes to work with a great new tote bag. Alice decides she really could use a new computer bag for her laptop. Linda buys a new leather brief case which Carol likes so well that she gets one also -– monogrammed. Betty being a person of immaculate taste gets a new leather Gucci briefcase with combination lock and matching shoes, in soft glove leather.

Round 5

Alice buys a new dress; Mary has her hair cut and styled; Betty wears a mini skirt; Linda buys a whole new wardrobe; and in a desperate bid for attention, Carol wears red -– every day of the week.

Round 6

Linda is excited because she has just taken an important call from the media. Alice says “that’s nothing” because just the other day she had a call from an important political figure. Betty recalls that she once had a call from a major movie star, who asked for her name and undoubtedly still plans to call back. Carol had call from Elvis. We don’t believe her either, but that’s what she said.

Round 7

Betty got a new telephone, in color, with all sorts of buttons to push. Alice figured it was a good time to ask for that computer she has been wanting. Mary really needed a new chair, pink to match her office. Carol just wants it all: a new computer, an ergonomic chair, and a desk light. (Why not as long as she is asking?)

Round 8

Linda decided that being called an “assistant” is a compliment. Alice says that only being called a “loyal employee” is a compliment. Mary says that being told you are “efficient” at your job is a compliment. Carol is sure that being “too busy to go to the bathroom” is the only thing that matters, and Betty pouts because receiving no compliments must mean she is not important.

Round 9

Carol is angry because she has to open the mail and Alice doesn’t. Alice is angry because she had to key a batch of letters, and all Carol does is open mail. Betty is angry because the copy machine broke down and she had to call the repairman. Mary is angry because the supplies she ordered didn’t come. Linda is angry because the fax machine cartridge ran out and she was stuck with changing it.

Round 10

Betty takes a coffee break. Alice takes a smoke break. Linda takes a power walk. Carol takes mail run. Mary, well, she is out to lunch.

Round 11

Mary calls her husband; so Alice calls her boyfriend. Betty places a singles ad; Carol calls her lover — and Linda calls her husband and her lover (the slut).

Round 12

Betty is planning her annual vacation. Alice decides she is going to Disney World this year. Mary thinks a Caribbean cruise might be nice. Linda says she might be going to Europe. And, just to be different, Carol is going on an African Adventure Safari. That ought to show em!

Round 13

Mary loses 5 pounds, so Alice loses 10. Betty joins Weight Watchers; Carol joins Jenny Craig; and Linda goes on a crash diet and drinks nothing but Slim Fast for all three meals -– till she crashes.

The boss, who has been trying to ignore it, becomes exasperated and says all this petty bickering needs to stop. Everyone agrees that the others have a problem, however, each knows that the bickering is entirely the fault of everyone else. Each agrees that all the others need to “shape up” and stop behaving in such an inappropriate way.

The next day Alice brings donuts; Mary brings cookies (homemade); Betty orders in a pizza for lunch. Carol suggests they all go out after work some time. However, Linda says making coffee is not in her job description and they can all make their own.

The office keeps on functioning like it always has, and the petty bickering, like the empty coffeepot, remains entirely the responsibility of someone else.

Copyright 2001 Sheila Moss

Author’s Note: any resemblance to persons you know or offices where you have worked is purely coincidental, and you really ought to get a life.

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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