7 Indispensable Office Skills I Learned From Growing Up With Siblings


Trying to traverse the sticky world of office politics and faux-camaraderie with coworkers is an arduous task. Mastery requires a certain cunning and wit that is nearly impossible to fake; some schmoozing skills and survival techniques take years to perfect.

This is why adults who've had experience, mainly those who grew up with siblings, can easily adapt to and prosper in office environments despite, or maybe because of, the office shenanigans that threaten to buckle only children across the United States.

Here are seven invaluable office skills I would have never learned without siblings.

1. How not to steal food that doesn't belong to you in the company fridge

We all know it's tempting. You forgot lunch, you don't have your wallet or eating Top Ramen for the third day in a row seems downright un-American, and cheap.

You swing open the refrigerator door at work and see that pizza box/deluxe deli sandwich or leftover pasta and you hear the angry rumblings of a stomach full of air and broken dreams. Instead of doing the ol' snatch and run while running downstairs (literally down the stairs because you can't risk bumping into anyone who knows you didn't bring lunch in the elevator) if you've grown up with siblings, you resist.

Why? Cause you're mom pitched many a fit after you tried devouring hers and your brothers and sisters leftovers from the night before. It's just not worth it. Much like then, doing it now will lead to open weeping and count on the victim to add in many utterances about the condition of humanity due to your thieving-heart.

2. How to take turns on the potty

Sharing a key to the ladies room is never fun. You're not certain what bacteria's growing on the key/key ring, there's never one in the first location you look for one and someone inevitably takes it on break or home with them, dwindling the supply of strategically placed keys around the office.

I developed great problem-solving skills sharing one bathroom amongst 3 women and Dad. I learned to head potential problems off at the head: take a bath at night, always interrupt your sister while she's in the shower to tinkle, thereby allowing you more bathroom time when it's your turn and always lock that mother when it is your turn, cause your sister will definitely say it's an emergency number 1 when it's really inexplicably number 2.  

How do I navigate the perilous bathroom key dilemma?  Pretty much the same way I did with the sibling situation; I moved and got my own bathroom. Due to this being an office, I won't move out but I will take the damn key home, make a copy and dare the Office of the Building goons to come get me. No more stressing over whether I'll have to steal the key from the reception area, leaving any visitors or potential employees up a creek without a paddle.

The solution whether dealing with siblings or coworkers is to get your own.

3. How to love hand-me-downs

Well, I was the oldest but I received several bushels of previously owned clothes from relatives. Those clothes, along with clothes purchased with me in mind, were then passed along to my younger sister. More often than not, I disdained hand-me-down clothing. It was rarely anything relatively fashionable and the clothes almost-always smelled like basement.

The saga continues in work-environments today but instead of clothes I have now learned to graciously accept whatever hand-me-down office supplies I can corral: The situation usually goes down like this:

Me: "Did Jim get fired?"

Anonymous Coworker: "Yup last night. They said it was about his 'skill lev-'..."

Me: "Is that a stapler on his desk? Cha-ching, look at all these post-its. Did you want the small, pink ones, I can never find any use for 'em? The big, yellow ones come in handy though."

4. How to zone out nonsense

You know that girl with the shrill, high-pitched, squeal of a yelp that's really a giggle? Or that nonsensical conversation your coworkers have everyday about how dumb their clients are and the pungent smell of garlic wafting over the cubicle to your left from what must be either a delightful Italian lunch or recipe to kill vampires? Well, when you have siblings these aren't road blocks to success, just par for the course.

Years of listening to your sibling(s) sing Barney in the background, performing cart-wheels and sword-fighting with foreign-language and sound-effects whilst your favorite television show is on have given you Zen-like concentration skills. The lunchroom banter, coworkers' personal calls (and possibly sobbing on the phone) & the big debate over whether gyro is pronounced guy-ro or gear-ro doesn't affect you.

You're golden.

5. The fine art of tattling

As a kid, I was the victim of deeply-rooted, dare-I-say, vicious, tattling due to my snitch of a sis. Every time I shoved the remote down my pants so she wouldn't be able to turn from my favorite show, took more than my fair share of the lunch money mom left for us or simply Hulk Hogan DDT'd her, I was ratted on. This led to a deep resentment of "tattle-tales"; those who snitch on every little move you make as a child. Our parents would try to keep the tattling culture to a minimum by encouraging us to work things out on our own but never fully revoking her tattling priviledges due to their fear that I'd get one over on them.

Fast forward to the office today and I see that same system of checks and balances. Basically, adults only tattle when it benefits them. For example, we have a new dresscode in the office. Many have bucked the system and still come to work without properly tucked in shirts, clean shoes and, dare I say it, sweaters without collared shirts underneath! Do I snitch? No, because this doesn't directly affect me. However, if HR calls me to the mat on my attire, I've got a memo pad of employees names, dresscode-related offense dated, with pictures, courtesy of my smart phone. I would sing like a canary.

Others, presumably who grew up without siblings, tell everything to HR. They complain, even when they're not at risk at all. You see, I've mastered the art of tattling through numerous exercise growing up with snitch-blings; you only do so to keep your ass out of the hot-seat.

6. How to tactfully point out your co-workers' inadequacies

That moment when you go to the bathroom and see an oddly hanging something-or-rather on your face and realize that you've made your rounds in the office, smiling, offering copious "good mornings" without someone so much as silently motioning to your face, discreetly alerting you to a problem-fixture there.  This is how you know, your office is full of only children.  

I point out everything. "Hey, sales division manager! Fly's open," followed by a smile, which I hope doesn't get me slapped with a law-suit, but rather squash the guy's embarrassment.  

Why do I speak up? Because I've helped my siblings remove the oatmeal from their faces, stepped on the tissue on the bottom of their shoes and whispered for them to untuck their t-shirt from their visible underwear throughout my childhood. When you have siblings, you come to the swift realization that perfection is but a pipe dream. I'd much rather someone point out the obvious rather than allow me to look foolish all day.

7. How not to be offended by the fact your boss likes your coworkers so much more than you

How do I put this delicately? Despite parents protests and naive vows to "love their children the same," siblings often come to the realization that they are/are not their parents' favorite child at some point in time. We use the difference in food rations, selective enforcement of rules and who gets the biggest pot in the will (according to my mom, my sister does because she "has kids" but let's face it, it's pretty obvious she's the front-runner here) to formulate this hypothesis. Siblings pretend they don't know until they're adults and out of therapy but this subtle, life-lesson in favoritism prepares them for the office.

The jokes they intuitively finish for each other, the lunch orders they place without you, the way the boss allows your coworker to drink on the job, it all leads you to the truth: your coworker is your boss's favorite. Or if you're that drunk bastard, you are the boss' favorite! Now odds are (because there can only be one fave) that you're not it. You can either pretend you don't know, start self-inviting to the things you catch wind of but no one directly told you about or just pretend, like you did when you were a kid, that you don't know. Cause let's face it: just like parents, one day the boss may be disappointed in "the fave" and here's your chance to slither on in to the top spot. Trust me come 2030, me and the baby sis will have swapped roles, even if I have to frame her.