Tea-making is not a solitary pursuit – if you make it your ‘thing’ at work, with this handy five-point plan, you’ll earn the respect of your colleagues in no time
The office setting may be a familiar one, but navigating its complex politics can be fraught. Some find their way by forging machiavellian alliances, others try candy to get in the good books – but making the tea might represent the best path to making office life bearable. It can be tricky, but here’s a five-point plan to earn the respect of your colleagues and ensure your bibitory work is fully appreciated:
Make it early
Get in the habit as soon as possible. The advice to the new office starter is elemental: do your utmost to make the tea within the first week. Obviously you have to gauge this – it’s probably judicious to hold off during an active hostage situation, and maybe best not to interrupt the CFO’s mandatory seminar on the latest set of financial results, but time is of the essence.
An early willingness to put the kettle on earns you at least six months of goodwill from your colleagues, and a reputation, however much your subsequent performance will indicate otherwise, as a “good egg”.
Make it often
Experiment with making it “your thing”. Not that you want to be typecast or anything – you’re so much more than just a character actor, dahling – but being the go-to person for a nice cup of tea is a great skill to have on your résumé. The best office operators have their own USP, but we already have a first-aider, a social secretary, and that woman who brings in Reese’s Pieces every time she visits her daughter in Florida. You can be the “tea guy”. Meet your colleagues’ expectations – and then exceed them. Revel in your new role. Those ticks on your appraisal form suddenly look a whole lot more numerous.
Make it properly
Very important, this. Willingness is all very well, but acquire a reputation as a deficient beverage-maker and your stock will plummet. Colleagues will begin to talk. It has to be drinkable: too strong and you’re better off painting your fence with it, but nor should your tea be pallid and anaemic – no one wants to drink a cup of gnat’s piss. Do it right, or don’t do it at all. In American offices, for example, making tea with milk is exotic and alluring and novel: “Oh, we’re having it the English way!” comes the delighted co-workers’ response. Study Orwell’s famous 1946 essay and imbibe the information. It’s crucial. Boil it, brew it, steep it, serve it. Do not fuck it.
Make it for everybody
Unlike misanthropy or self-abuse, tea-making is not a solitary pursuit. Excluding people isn’t an option. “Tea is one of the mainstays of civilization,” as Orwell put it, and no one ever built a society on naked self-interest, however much Rupert Murdoch might wish otherwise. Tea is for everyone: no wonder some of the world’s great tea drinkers have also been socialists. This isn’t some attempt to reinforce one’s status in the organisation: it’s an act of goodwill, and everyone is invited. By contrast, go solo, and you’re the office pariah. No one appreciates a narcissist. (Also, every so often, slip in a cup for someone who doesn’t expect it – and prepare for rave reviews. “Oh wow! For me? Thanks so much!” You’ll be talked about at dinner parties.)
Make a show of it
No one ever won points for modesty. Don’t let your hard work and toil fly under the radar: make your presence felt. Choose your moment. Wait till the atmosphere is becalmed, ideally in that post-lunch lull, then spring from your swivel chair and inquire, floridly: “Now then, who’d like a nice cup of tea?” The cries of “Oooh, lovely” from the banks of desks will be ringing in your ears. And if you feel insufficiently suffused with credit, follow up, afterwards, with something along the lines of: “Well, I thought it was a lovely cup, even if I do say so myself!” They’ll all nod in agreement. Ham it up; luxuriate in it. You made it, after all. You deserve all the praise that comes your way.
This article was published by the Guardian on the 8 Dec 2015.