I developed a heightened sense of awareness of workplace culture and norms shortly after becoming a 9-5er. It was a survival tactic, one where I was constantly adjusting my comportment in order to fit in. Here are a sample set of rules that I established for myself: arrive no later than 9am, stick to conservative clothing and make room for small talk throughout the day. I had a hard time sticking to these rules and a lot of anxiety managing the conflicting emotions. I also felt a vague sense of dread walking into the office every day, looking at grey surroundings and anticipating the predictable nature of the small talk that lay ahead of me. It’s taken a while to realize that I don’t need to change. The office and 9-5 culture is just not the right fit.
The 9-5 may not be the right fit for you either if you’re struggling with these same anxieties. I recently spoke to a friend who is a public servant, but on leave from her job and with no plans to return anytime soon. She started off the same way as me 10 years ago: wearing button-down shirts and arriving at 6 am – as early as possible to make a good impression. But she didn’t feel like herself and after discovering the burgeoning world of online shopping, she developed her own distinct style. By 2015, she was rolling into work by 11. That’s how much she was ready for a change.
“I was making my own rules”, she said over a cup of coffee, adding, “as long as I get my work done…what’s the big deal?”. Her style evolved from muted neutral tones to looking like a “unicorn vomited every cartoon character possible”. There were days when she would arrive at work wearing a pair of Simpsons (read: bright yellow) leggings, plus mismatched patterns. Another day she arrived in the office with bright pink and orange hair, looking like “a walking pylon”. Her co-workers didn’t know what to say. Her sartorial choices were so bright they didn’t know whether to stare, comment or simply ignore the clothing statement.
I call this a passive form of rebellion, where you are signalling to others in the 9-5 that you are not interested in belonging in the culture. You are an outsider and you are ok with that status. Here are the 5 signs you are engaging in this. Keep in mind you need to be doing more than at least one in order for it to fit into official rebellion territory:
- Wearing bright colours and patterns
- Arriving and leaving at a different set of hours than the majority of your co-workers
- Avoiding small talk during the day and/or keeping to yourself
- Keeping your office in disarray
- Discussing atypical after work activities
If any of this resonates with you, there’s a reason. The 9-5 or an office culture may not be the right fit for you and that is ok. There are other options out there in the world, especially if you’re a creative person. For more tips and advice on leaving your soul sucking day job and following your creative ambitions, connect with me at www.amenjafri.com
Amen (Ai-mehn) Jafri is a documentary filmmaker, the creator of the doc web series, The Secret Lives of Public Servants and a coach for ambitious 9-5ers making the leap to creative entrepreneurship.