Last week in NYC, I attended the going away party of a great colleague. I am happy for his next adventure but people you like should not get to leave your organization. Off he goes and there were cocktails and stories as we celebrated his career here.
It made me realize I have been extrememly lucky to work with some amazing people since I graduated from law school. Some people shy away from office relationships. I get it. I once, and only once, befriended a girl at work who was mess. And I dont mean a mess like when you accidentally knocked some pencils off your desk. I mean mess like you threw a dozen eggs into an industrial size fan. And then dumped the bin of shredded super secret documents all over it. Outside of that, I have always felt it is important to have a friend in the building. One, this reduces how much work bullsh*t you are going to go home and download on your spouse. Two, it is great to have a someone to confer with who also resides in the deal, the same political climate and ever-changing topography of your corporation. Three, great work friends can give you great advice when you need it.
On the subject of co-workers, there are some simple truths. Simple truths like some co-workers are awesome and some, well, suck. Embrace the first group, dodge the second group. I have had very little interface with people in the 2nd group but when you do, its a little challenging on the patience. How to spot the bad ones? You don't need my help because the same 'type' of ill co-worker exists in every environment. Lets talk about them now. There are many so here is Part One:
1. The Party-Pants: A decade ago, we worked with a girl who came to work hung-over. Everyday. I have come to work hung-over too my friends, but you have to mask that illness up. I walked into the building with her once and thought, what is that perfume you are wearing? 180 Proof? When in doubt, lady bug, brush your teeth and at least spray your hair with Febreze! She also had the next day smudgy black eyeliner going on. Smudgy black racoony eye is hot in the morning but morning as in 2 am not 9 am. You can't hang out with Party Pants long-term because you will either pass out from the fumes OR you will get sucked in and start day-drinking on company time. Not wise. Party pants is going to get hammered at the company holiday party. Party pants is going to do shots that night. Party pants is quite like going to sit on the SVPs lap and later slap her own ass on the dance floor. People have cameras on their phones now friends, dont give photographic proof of your tomfoolery! (More on this to come.) You have to dodge Party Pants. Smile at party pants in the ladies room and politely let her know her shirt is inside out before you depart.
2. The One with Inappropriate Attire: Now I have been chastised by an uber conservative leader for wearing open-toed shoes to work. To this I nodded my head while thinking "Really?" I still did it because I found it a pesky rule and fellow female colleagues needed a pioneer to blaze that trail. Open toed shoes qualify as inappropriate attire only if you work on the surgical floor or in a coal mine. But there is inappropriate attire in the work place for certain. By inappropriate attire I mean clothing worn within a corporate environment meant to highlight: torso, chest hair, cleavage, visibile thong, a Guinness logo under your button down, ripped jeans, converse sneakers, nipple of ANY kind. I have shared previously that while in a corporate environment a woman showed up to interview carrying a purse with the Playboy logo on it. Come on now. However, HR departments should allow open toed shoes, sleeveless, and bare legs. However, I have known people to be reprimanded for wearing highly fashionable patterned tights (too sassy?) yet one of the female VPs showed more boob than Mardi Gras.
3. The Enthusiast: I love a colleague with a festive attitude. I love vim and vigor. I love cameraderie. What gets a little challenging is The Enthusiast who wants all things from NCAA tournament brackets to the company bowling alley to be treated like Survival of the Fittest. I played on a company flag football team once with this person. I am quite competitive but The Enthusiast was the Bobby Knight to my 3rd string red-shirted freshman. The Enthusiast barked orders from the sidelines. The Enthusiast scolded people for failing to dive for flags. The Enthusiast wanted people to pay in pushups and laps for failing to make plays. The Enthusiast is always the one person going way over the top. If the Enthusiast wants you to buy wrapping paper from his kid, he really means 20 rolls. If The Enthusiast wants you to run with him at the Corporate 5K, he really means you better win. The Enthusiast is competitive in every arena.
4. The Curmudgeon: Why are some people so grumpy? There is always one. I guess you don't really like your job. Or life. Try smiling. Just once. There is a super grumpy old man at my son's school who runs the car drop-off lane every morning. You know what I don't really enjoy in lieu of GOOD MORNING? His super grumpy demeanor. And it is not as if this is a one-off. He is this way on an ongoing and committed basis. Hey Frowny, others are worse off than you. Oh, you don't like kids? You are in the wrong job my friend. As for the other salty curmudgeons, I don't get your pent up anger and vinegar. Oh, its not pent up because you actually share it daily. I will steer well clear of you. And I certainly understand that some people are down in life because of unforeseen circumstances and plight. But I also met a 65 year old woman at a 5K once who upon completion cried jubilantly, "I have breast cancer and I just rocked that race!" Perspective is everything.
5. The Constant Complainer: Oh boy, CC, you have a lot of things to say, don't you? I completely understand and empathize with complaints like "I cant believe we are losing 50% of our employees" or "It is unfair we are not appreciated" or "Working for a mean, crazy person is certainly challenging." But I have heard some interesting complaints over the last 10 years. By interesting I mean 'weak' which include but are not limited to:
Why did they take our bottled water away and replace it with a water cooler? Really? You are complaining about the free water? AND you are complaining about your company making an effort to reduce waste and plastic consumption? You suck.
Why did they take the TV out of the staff meeting room? Really? You need constant access to TV during the work day? Unless you work in television, you need to focus. OR, if you simply must watch television during the day so you can sneak a glimpse of what is happening on Days of our Lives, use your phone like everyone else.
I can't believe I had to move out of my office! I once changed offices three times in one year and then went from office to a cube because the rules of who 'gets' an office changed. I was on the phone with a friend during the middle of one particular move. My friend asked why I was moving. Umm, because they told me to...He said, "I wouldn't." Well, that was not an option. He went on to say that you cannot make people move offices. Yes, in fact, you can. Listen, it is not a fun task but it is also not the building you own. And it is not your living room. Move offices and don't bitch about it. I will say, I smartened up after multiple moves and every move I simply decreased what I was moving so by the end, I was moving a pencil and a phone charger. Easy peasy.
Where are the bagels and jelly doughnuts we used to get in the break room? You are right up there with water bottle guy. I love that free snacks are a big hit with virtually everyone. I think it is hilarious when there IS free food and people complain about it because they don't like it. Stop lazing round the break room and get back to work then! Unless "free bagel' or 'free food must be approved by Jeff' is written in your contract, zip it. Hop on down to Einsteins and pick up some snacks so you can satisfy your need and be the snack-time hero.
I can't believe they cut our bonuses!!!! This one might be dicey for some. I love the bonuses. I love surprise cash. I also love the definition of what the word bonus actually means: Something paid over and above what is due. Bonuses are always part of the talk track when you are talking terms in a job interview sequence but they are rarely actually a guaranteed part of your compensation. Believe me, my stance on this surprises even me. But I have heard people rail on their companies about reduction of bonuses. I don't love it but the bonus is like a promise ring, they are not a commitment for life.
Why isn't my work email private! That is a silly question. Your work is email is NEVER private. Ever. Don't write things you don't want printed and tagged with your photo. Don't talk about your boss, her boss, his boss or people in HR on email. A guy we worked with years ago emailed our new SVP to complain about his direct manager. It was not constructive criticism. It was harsh, unjustified and untrue. The SVPs admin did not like this person so she printed the email and gave it to the manager. Many other people saw it in the process. Have fun getting fired jack ass.