Office Acculturation 106: Required “Skills”

This morning I picked up my iPhone and asked Siri to do my expense report.  She politely declined as proficiency at this task is not in her job description. Interestingly enough, it’s not in mine either.  As a matter of fact, it is not in most people’s job description or really even mentioned as something you will need ot make part of your monthly routine.  But don’t worry.  I’m here to help you understand the strange ways of office culture so you too can advance your insights and adapt accordingly.
The following is a list of common office subsistence tasks that often fall below the radar when you are given hiring information but are a required part of successfully navigating the corporate landscape:
Expense Reports

If you travel at all for work or are required to front money out-of-pocket for lunches, supplies, client bribes (err…gifts), etc, then it is standard practice to submit a monthly accounting of your spending and expenses. The required skills for this include: saving and filing receipts, taping them down to blank sheets of white paper and entering each separate spending occasion into a detailed spreadsheet.  That is, if you want to get paid back.
Time Sheets

It makes sense to presume that entering a job in a corporate setting will mean that your employer trusts you to make the best use of your time to get the job done.  This is a common but naive assumption by most new migrants to an office habitat. In truth, your value is based on how much revenue your work produces, especially in a client service oriented organization.  This means you will be required to fill out yet another spreadsheet, this time weekly, accounting for every hour of your day.   And don’t let the presumption of a 40 hour work week guide you.  If your  hours don’t typically add up to at least somewhere between 40 and 50 hours management will think you are not busy enough and will give you more responsibilities and tasks.


Most corporate jobs require a lot of meetings. Typically speaking, these meetings happen in physical spaces rather than over the phone and are typically  concurrent and located at opposite ends of the workplace building.  This means that if you are in a 9am meeting that ends at 10 am and you have an 11am meeting you need to be able to haul your sensible leather-shoe wearing self as quickly as possible from one location to the next.  You will most likely be late for most meetings as will everyone else.  But this does not stop corporate workers from scheduling meetings with at least 15 minutes buffer in between.  This is a cultural anomaly that I have not yet cracked the anthropological code on.

Speaking in code

Another essential skill nobody tells you about or trains you for is the ability to speak in the local or industry-specific Jargon of your particular workplace.  See a previous post on this topic:   .  But also remember that becoming quickly conversant in the native language of the people responsible for your subsistence is an anthropological essential.  So brush up on your acronyms and buzzwords and make sure your tone isn’t too snarky.  An appropriate amount of snarkiness is acceptable but only to the degree that your peers also find the chosen language to be equally ridiculous.


Remember this:  we are all “Gorillas in the Mist”.  But in the case of the corporate environment, your jungle is made of synthetic fabrics and temporary walls and the road to assimilation starts with initiation.  These skills will help you negotiate the regular hazing and ultimately thrive in your chosen corporate environment.



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