No, I don’t mean THOSE kinds of relationships (though they’re not entirely excluded). All work environments have a set of relationship dynamics in play, and up until this summer, I had never had to deal with office dynamics, or what some might call ‘office politics’. As an unpaid student intern, I was preparing for the worst. If they treated me like I didn’t know anything, I could hardly blame them – I’m not even studying anything even remotely related to mental health.
However, by and large I am treated as an equal. Although the paid employees delegate tasks to me, they usually ask for my feedback and take it into consideration. My boss always wants me to come to meetings to participate and offer my thoughts, even though I am only here for one more month. Once, I couldn’t make a meeting, and she rescheduled it just so that I could attend.
Of course, in a teeny tiny organization like the one I work for, things like that are easy to do. When you work for a large corporation, it’s inevitable that some things will slip through the cracks. I’m lucky, to be sure, but I’m still a firm believer that everyone else can be this lucky too, unless your boss is truly evil. If you want to be treated more like an equal and gain more experience, ask. Just make sure that you have the time for the new responsibilities. Why wouldn’t your boss let you sit in on a meeting if you’ve already finished all of your other work for the day? And if you show that you’re eager to learn, it’s harder for a superior to treat you like you’re “just a student” who doesn’t know anything.
That doesn’t mean I don’t deal with my fair share of confusion, though. Some offices are full of lively relationships, where people are friends outside of work and go for lunch together and gossip at each others’ desks. These days you even hear about progressive companies instituting things like company retreats and putting recreational activities inside their offices and whatnot. Others are cold and clinical – people do their work and go home, only interacting for business purposes. Mine isn’t quite like that, but I would hardly call it overly friendly.
Everyone gets along quite well at the office. We collaborate on projects, and even when staff members disagree they always keep the discussion respectful and informed. We make small talk about our weekends and the weather. But that’s about where it ends. No one sees each other outside of work hours or shares too much with each other. This is all fine, but what if you want more?
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a packed social calendar, but sometimes I wish that some of us were friends. I really enjoy the company of the younger people in the office – I think they’re smart, funny, and just all around cool people. I would like to spend more time with them and get to know them better. Yet, my few attempts to do so generally fail. I don’t know how to “take things to the next level” without it being awkward. Most people would just say, “Hey, can I add you on Facebook?” But in an environment where no one initiates these kinds of things, it’s hard to feel like you’re not being super obvious and weird.
Unfortunately, this is a problem that I have not yet solved. So this is me asking YOU for advice – how would you make friends at work? How would you take it to the next level?
As usual you can tweet be with your thoughts (or anything else) @chelsearrr and I will see you next month for my last post!