Friends or circumstantial acquaintances: The workplace dynamic.
In life the people you most often become friends with are those you meet via circumstance. It could be a classmate, someone from your sporting team or a work colleague, but it’s this repetitive exposure that fosters strong relationships or simply exacerbates glaring differences in personality.
The workplace, in particular the office environment, is an ideal example of social interaction at its glorious highs and wildly uncomfortable lows - a scaled down social allegory for the interactions of the outside world. Like some sort of inert bizarro world bubble, the office setting often elicits an inverse response mechanism, where unfunny moments are hilarious while truly funny moments are absorbed into the work vacuum or simply internalised. As I’ve recounted ‘funny’ work moments to friends in the outside world, I’ve quickly realised the reality of their bland nature. Turns out some of the most painfully awkward moments of office life as I’ve experienced it, have upon reflection been the hilarious highs. Obviously you’re at work to well, work, but for some this also seems to mean putting on a work persona. While there are always people you’re more likely to click with, with others it can be tough to know where you stand, are you friends or acquaintances? Here’s a failsafe guide:
When you find yourself discussing the image within a trite 1980’s/90’s motivational poster with a workmate while anxiously waiting for your lunch to reheat in the microwave, you’ve stumbled into a black hole of conversation – that’s a work acquaintance. “What do you think about whitewater rafting?” “Mmmmmmm… teamwork.”
If you arrive into work on Monday morning and despite your best efforts struggle to generate a conversation with a colleague about their weekend, or receive the dreaded “good” retort, followed by a nonexistent follow-up question about your weekend (ie. silence), you have only a circumstantial acquaintance, at best a rude work friend. Essentially if we can’t have a non-work related conversation or you only speak in your ‘business professional’ voice our status as friends is questionable.
Work is called work, not fun, for a reason. But that’s not to say it can never be both. So next time you’re in the office embrace those uncomfortable moments, bask in them and who knows, you might find a friend under that office hardened acquaintance shell after all. If not, you may have just set the record for world’s longest mid-conversation silence.