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On the Playground Life Was Easy

Monday, April 30, 2007

Here are two more Playground Rules that apply to Office Life.

6. No visiting or talking to people in cars, on the sidewalks, or any strangers.

This is probably a good rule to remember from the playground. Once I told a friend that she could visit me at work. I guess that I had forgotten to tell her that I was part-time because the day she came to visit me she shouted, “you are never here!” in front of the secretary and my supervisor. I can’t imagine why anyone would think that is an appropriate comment to say aloud in with witnesses.

I think this rule should be amended for office environment. It should read, “No visiting or talking to people in cars, on sidewalks, in cubicles on the other side of the suite, hollering down the hallway or to any strangers.”

I have my reasons…..

Cubicle visiting is fun. But sometimes it can hurt you when you are noticed too long at a cubicle. When the “On the way out guy” is on his way out, it is not wise to visit him for very long or to permit him to visit you in your cubicle. Come on, we all treat those people as if they have some form of tuberculosis when it is obvious that they are being pushed out of their jobs. They become the creepy guy in the car watching the kids play. Then there are the gossips that I would like to visit but I shouldn’t accept candy from strangers.


There are some easily identified forms of harassment that takes place in the office. There is, of course, sexual harassment, age harassment and then there is hostile environment harassment. I am sure that you can think of examples of each. I have an example of hostile environment harassment that no one ever considers. I call it “Greeting” bullying. You remember it from the playground. A big kid passes you in the school hallway and insists that you did not say hello. He asks “aren’t you my friend anymore? My friends speak to me when they see me. If you are not my friend then you are an enemy and I will have to beat you up…..” Or it goes something like “I noticed that you didn’t say hi to me when I saw you yesterday. Do you that you are better than me? That you are too stuck-up to talk to me….” You get the picture. I bet you had no idea that some people still play that game in the office. I know I was caught by surprise.

I can say hello or good morning to an office co-worker everyday for six months. One day, I might have a cold or I didn’t see her from 30 feet away or she didn’t hear me and suddenly I am “Not speaking to people in the office.” And this is worthy of office gossip and confrontation. Once it spreads and the name-calling has commenced (That’s the “Don’t Speak to Anyone” girl), everything that I do is worthy of confrontation.

Saying hello first doesn’t work. I have tried that. I can see someone and say hello and keep walking not really waiting for a response to judge. The other person says hello and then out of nowhere says hello again louder with an attitude. Good grief! Grow UP!

So what am I supposed to say to that? Am I supposed to say hello apologetically because the A$$hole didn’t hear me the first time? Heck no, I say “I guess you didn’t hear me when I said hello to you first.” Or should I say “Okay is this a game where we just keep alternating “hello” to each other in louder tones each time until you say ‘uncle’ and I get to punch you?”

If you want to confront me about something make sure it is about my work not whether or not last week, today or a few minutes ago, that I said hello. Grow UP!

Respect on the other hand is different. But it is difficult to maintain confidence and respect for someone who on the day before a major report is due leaves the conference room to take chicken soup to her sick (rich) boyfriend and doesn’t return. (he still hasn’t married her)

Or diverts office workers to make party decorations on the office color printer while prohibiting anyone else from printing full-color reports on the same copier. (I guess our needs were not important enough)

Or buys for you the most hideous poster-sized art print and hangs it in your office because you made the mistake of commenting (not complementing) the one in her office. (she was crazy)

Or schedules an intervention meeting with 3 feuding teen girls and their angry parents with you as a female observer, doesn’t bother to show up but yells at you for not knowing what the hell the conflict was all about and calling an available colleague for assistance. (I made him look bad.)

Or publicly hugs colleagues from other universities at a non-work related social event in another city but doesn’t hug you (even though you are standing with them) because you work for him and states his reasons for not doing so out loud. (he was uptight and a lawyer)

Or puts in a two week notice and and ten day vacation request on the same day. (that has happened to me twice)

Okay some of these events didn’t actually happen to me but they make my point all the same.


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