Monday, August 18, 2008

The Entire Presentation with Your Fly Down

Working in a large office unavoidably leads to working with a large number of people. Further, it is extremely unlikely that you are acquainted with every single person in said office. Even if you are acquainted with everyone (If you do, you’re likely a CEO or other senior executive who’s duty it is to like everyone [with the exception of the executives gunning for your job]), you likely don’t like every person in the office.

This will inevitably lead to awkward encounters around the office. Silent encounters in the elevator, awkward hand-washing in the bathroom (which is an awkward environment anyway), crossing paths in the hallway, or in the kitchen getting your lunch or watching as your sworn enemy finishes off the coffee pot.

How best can one approach these encounters? There are several schools of thought:

1) The Make Eye-Contact and Smile Approach – This is a popular approach for deranged employees who are happy to be at work on a daily basis, try their best to like everyone and look for the virtue in every person at the office.

2) Look Anywhere but Directly at the Person Approach – Possibly the most popular approach. Approaching the person in the hallway or in the elevator, the individual simply acts as if the other person is transparent and will look around as if there is something far more interesting on the ceiling in the corner of the elevator or in the sink of the kitchen.

3) The Eyes Dead Ahead Approach – This approach is preferred by narcissistic individuals who are acknowledging the person without actually acknowledging the person. It is apparent by the person’s obvious forced dead-ahead stare like their eyeballs are locked in place and will explode the instant they waver.

4) The Half-frown/smile-half-straight-face Gaze Approach – This particular approach is also quite popular. It only varies between smile and frown depending on the mood of the particular person that day. The face made appears as if the person wants to smile or frown but doesn’t quite go full-on either way and the look basically says, “I know you’re on this floor, I don’t know you, but we work for the same company so I don’t want to completely ignore you because I’m not a complete psycho.”

This is not an all-encompassing list but these seem to be the most popular reactions I encounter. Whatever approach you choose personally is up to you. Personally, I don’t stick to one but adjust depending on the individual I am crossing paths with.

One other especially strange environment (as I mentioned above) is the bathroom. It is, without question, the most popular room in any office. No one is immune from the lure of the urinals and stalls.

Because of the high traffic, this often leads to awkward moments between co-workers of the same sex (unless you work in an especially “equal” office that has co-ed bathrooms). Unlike choosing roommates, you don’t get to choose co-workers and thus, you are forced into sharing a bathroom with and people you can’t yell at for less than satisfactory etiquette.

The most popular infraction is the lack of hand washing. Imagine this scenario: you’re in the facilities, doing your thing, finish up, and go to the sink, your normal routine. As you’re scrubbing furiously with the liquid soap, a co-worker that you are acquainted with (and possibly friendly with) finishes up and walks out without exchanging words or ever remotely glancing at the sink. You freeze. Did he/she just make a mistake? Are my eyes playing tricks on me? No. They walked right out the door without washing their hands.

In these situations, rather than confront the person as if you were their parent, you must inform the rest of your co-workers about the negligence and warn them of the possible germ-spreading in order to discourage all contact with said offender. Only then will the scofflaw of hygiene recognize his/her error and amend their ways.

Now, some of you out there may utilize the “I don’t pee on my hands” rationale but we all know that is BS. Individuals that aren’t washing their hands should be cast out into the darkness. Doctors and nurses wash their hands before surgery for a reason. Think I'm overreacting? Read this. This basically reinforces the notion that everyone should be washing their hands.

One final area that I will touch on is awkwardness in the elevator. Perhaps you were introduced to a person once. You never engaged meaningfully or worked together since. However, you might end up crossing each other’s path in the elevator. Potentially the second-most popular common area, the elevator leads to many one-on-one encounters that can be slightly uncomfortable. Fortunately, the elevator encounters are short lived and silence isn’t so bizarre that people would notice. However, if you have enough awkward encounters with the same person, you may start avoiding the elevator all together just so you don’t have to endure another 30-45 seconds of awkward silence.

This avoidance can lead into other re-routing of your comings and goings around the office. Bathroom, hallway, kitchen, lunch, coffee breaks, etc. If you are observant enough, you’ll notice that most people in the corporate world (and probably humans in general) are creatures of habit. This allows you to predict an individual's (or a group of individuals) habits and routines with surprising accuracy and assist in avoidance of those particular individuals whose presence causes your skin to crawl, or who just annoy you enough to point of considering giving yourself a swirlee.

In closing, avoiding all awkward scenarios is, of course, impossible, however, minimizing these scenarios is crucial to your overall health in any corporate environment. I wish you all good luck in attempting to live a less-awkward existence at work. Sphere: Related Content