It’s Tuesday after a long weekend and you’re about to see a lot of people that are going to throw a lot of small, itty-bitty, pocket-sized talk your way. If you’re one of those lucky people that gets to spend your entire day with a bunch of sort of strangers in cubicles, rushing past you, stopping to waste your time, or not stopping to waste your time when you want them too, then you know what I’m talking about. If you happen to woman the front desk, then you really feel me.
I’ve began to categorize these people, these chit-chatters, or stare-at-the-ceiling passersby. I was lost playing the character of Jane Goodall in Office Chimps–the television series I have invented in my head–when I hypothesized that there were quite a few species of office talkers or non-talkers. Here are a few:
The sideways smile: This person isn’t completely sure of their place — like, in the world. Upon closer look of the sideways smiler approaching the front desk, you will see the indecisive nature of his stride, and the insecure anticipation oozing out of eyes that never really meet your gaze: “Will she look at me back?” He thinks. Or, “Am I sure I zipped my fly back up?” The key is that this person will never actually say a word to you, because then, their identity as a low key, has-something-better-to-do lone wolf will be meaningless.
The Walking By One-Liner: This could be a simple “How’s it going?” or “Good morning.” A key characteristic of this species is lacking original thought. They also are seemingly unable to stop walking. It’s as if they are floating on a work cloud that disallows them from ever not being in motion — unless it’s work related. Some types of One Liners are also known to do a “drive by” work assessment. Like, “Hey, get back to work!” or “Is that work related?” The one liner attempts to be cool in his drive by judging, but in reality he is thinking of all the ways in which he works harder than you. Also his job is more important — you’re just the angel that ordered the chocolate Mousse cake for this month’s birthday party in the break room.
The lingerer: It’s an awkward job but someone has to stand by your desk uninvited for twenty minutes and confess he is “secretly” into restoring old cars. He just wants to get to know you, and your dietary restrictions. He’ll say things like “You’re vegan? No wonder your so trim.” And obviously, these comments are important to hear and always welcome, but it’s the remaining five minutes of summing up the conversation and shifting from left foot to right foot that makes it uncomfortably unmanageable. By the third “allllrighttt well…” you’re already about seven minutes past the time I’ve allotted in my mind for this conversation to begin, progress, finish, and wrap up again.
What I actually enjoy are the people that come up to you and ask a genuine question, like it’s actually conceivable they have remembered your name. I’ll also take a hardcore, eye smile because good for you. And I accept solid eye contact with a smile as a positive and meaningful exchange. You don’t necessarily have to come up to my desk and compliment me on my new shoes to win my affections, although that is always welcomed. On the flip side, why ask me how I’m doing if you’re not going to wait for the answer? I think I’m getting this office thing down.
How do you interact at work? Is working from home the dream I imagine it to be?