Ways to Make Interacting Always Feel Awkward


"So I just hit reply all, because you know, screw him."

“So I just hit reply all, because you know, screw him.”

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:

office-internet-down-workplace-ecards-someecardsThe 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.

"And I said to him, not bald. SHAVED head."

“And I said to him, not bald. SHAVED head.”
Photo Credit: Forbes.com

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?

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11 responses to “Ways to Make Interacting Always Feel Awkward

  1. Spot on. The lingerer can be a real annoyance indeed. I have a group called “The Hijacker” because they walk by and take control of your mouse and click around, usually with no warning. A rare breed, but annoying nonetheless.

    • Wow, those people sound awful. I know what you mean though — I feel like this is the type of person that, after you show them a cute pic of your dog, proceeds to scroll through your entire photo library.

  2. You nailed it again! I’ve worked from home and I’ve worked in public and really working from home is no picnic. There’s no one there to make you self-conscious and minimize your FB feed and get back to work when they walk by. You have to be your own taskmaster. I can think of no worse set-up than having myself as my manager. It causes disastrously low employee morale.

    • That’s my fear if I ever get to work from home — the work ethic of the lazy and the easily distracted. As we speak, I’m only motivated to work if there’s something about to walk by my desk. Low morale, indeed.

  3. I think I’m a side-ways smiler. Naturally shy and in a new job I’m still not sure of my place. Old job : chatting away and laughing for the first hour, then the boss shows up and the atmosphere totally changed and nobody dares even break a smile. New job : Still keep head down but will always try and chat when there’s something going on.

    • Yeah, I feel like it’s so hard at a new job — for me, I’ll totally do the sideways smile too but mostly it’s because I don’t want to make people uncomfortable with my forward nature. Like, the biggest issue for me is not inserting myself into the break room conversation whenever possible.

  4. I’m a walking by one-liner for most people due to the size of my office. If I stopped and had a conversation with everyone I passed, I would never make it to my office. You’re a special person if I stop to actually talk to you 🙂 Haha

  5. Oh, definitely. And I feel special whenever you talk to me…

  6. “The Hijacker!” Oh no…I fear I may have been guilty of this before… Some people are just so slow! I should be more patient…

  7. Oh no… “The Hijacker!” I fear I may have been guilty of this in the past. But some people are just so slow with the mouse! I need to be more patient…

    The best one I’ve heard – and I would deem this person Most Improved for elevator-chatter if I were in the business of awarding social achievements for the office society – is “I’m making it a point to say hello to everyone I’m in the elevator with. It’s just too damn awkward to share a close space like this and not get to know your elevator partner.” Nice.

  8. Those chimps never complimented Jane Goodall’s new shoes.

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