There are a number of unwritten rules when it comes to the workplace. Well, some of them are probably written in your contract, I don’t know. Unless you’re a professional fighter of some description there’s usually an unwritten rule about fisticuffs, and that is not to have them… That one’s pretty easy to work out because it’s also a rule for everyday life.
There are some other pretty simple rules too. Do your job, no sass please (especially not in the military), be respectful of everyone but even more so your higher ups. There also seems to be the expectation that you’ll develop a kind of friendship with your co-workers. Which, if you ask me, is an odd expectation. I’ve worked in a few different kinds of jobs and at none of them did I think to myself ‘there’s certainly a particular type of person who does this job’ people differ and don’t have everything in common just because they have a career in common.
But all the same there’s an expectation that at the very least you’ll pretend to like your colleagues. There might be invitations to drinks after work, an assumption that you’ll eat lunch together or pressure to get involved in conversations about someone else’s tediously mundane life… However, like I said before, people differ so inevitably you will have people you just don’t like.
But how do you deal with the tricky situation of not liking someone you have to spend an eight hour shift with? Most people just sort of grin and bear it, they feign interest in conversation whilst also avoiding it as much as possible. But that can leave you feeling pretty stressed and you begin to wonder if you’re the only person suffering in conversation with Julie. As she tells you the story of her disappointing holiday for the second time you begin to wonder if perhaps there is no meaning to life. And when she moves on to telling you about her eight spoilt brat grandchildren when you’ve done twice as much work as her so far this shift you begin to wonder whether you’d be capable of getting away with murder… I mean you’ve already watched three series of How To Get Away With Murder and you’ve seen enough CSI in multiple cities to know what not to do. It’s definitely within the realms of possibility…
Yeah, someone at work is getting on my nerves at the moment, though her name isn’t Julie. Recently though a comment I made was taken in a different way than I intended and I inadvertently discovered I’m not alone. All I said was ‘Julie’s got a proper grump on tonight hasn’t she?’ Which I thought was pretty diplomatic, because it implied I thought she wasn’t a miserable cow everyday. But apparently that was enough to let Gertrude know that I, much like her, felt Julie was a lazy, good for nothing, grumpy headache of a colleague.
Word spread on the colleague grapevine to Gerald and before long I was in on the joke. Every time Julie opened her mouth there was a Mexican wave of eye rolls. And we discussed the entertaining way that colleagues test the boundaries. There’s the expectation that you’ll be entirely professional and just be positive about everyone. So you say something minor to test the waters, dip your toe into possibility that they may share your feelings. You don’t want to say anything too offensive for fear they’ll rat you out. But you want to know you’re not alone. And as soon as you know you’re safe it’s a massive relief, now you’ve got someone to vent with.
It’s a shame I won’t be seeing Gerald very much because of our differing shift patterns, but Gertrude and I have a better working relationship because now we have something in common. We don’t like Julie. That forced friendship that is expected with your colleagues when you have nothing in common is hard work, so as awkward as it is that it comes at the expense of someone else’s dignity… feck Julie right?
There’s definitely something to the saying that dislikes in common make faster friends than likes in common.