I'm Ready to Re-Connect With My 'Family' At the Office
For a football team in the biggest class in Texas (5A), mine at Victoria High School was a bit undersized.
We went undefeated in the regular season in my senior year with our smarts (our quarterback and right guard were our valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively), strength and conditioning, and discipline. Our coaches attempted to make us aware of another beneficial trait: camaraderie.
I was reminded of this recently while chatting with a coworker, remotely thanks to the coronavirus contagion. I think I’m ready to have the option to stroll over to her desk again.
Inherently, I understood camaraderie at the time. Many of my teammates grew up together, and were therefore friends. It took me a while though, to arrive at a similar mindset at the office.
I got on pretty well with my coworkers at my first job out of college. When I was laid off a few years later however, I felt it best to keep future colleagues at arm’s length. Fate disabused me of that notion at my next long-term job, when I found company in the trenches in dealing with an “unapproachable,” abrasive manager.
At the same time a “Horrible Bosses” element crept into my career, I started to see an “Office Space” aspect materialize when I looked in the mirror. Once I addressed my personal shortcomings, things started to look up.
It’s only been since then, at my current job, that I’ve understood that “people you work with are family” doesn’t have to be a mere platitude.
Of course you don’t go home with them (well, not all of them: I met my wife at work), you don’t pay bills with/for them, you don’t raise children with them, etc.
But think about it. You work for a common cause, which entails initiating bill payments to keep the business afloat, and by extension yourself employed. You gather for holiday parties, ice cream socials, company outings, etc.
And isn’t it just like family to make things work with personalities that may not mesh well?
With enough tenure and the right atmosphere, you develop a rapport with coworkers. You can even let your guard down some, whip out a zinger in conversation, keep things light. A bond is formed. More importantly, there are synergies to be had in-person.
Some of us work together more closely than we do with others, much of which can be carried out from afar. On the other hand, there are spontaneous encounters in which ideas or different takes get bounced off two or more people face-to-face. It could happen passing in the hallway, or running into each other in the office kitchen. The company can benefit from it, not to mention the individuals.
Something else workers benefit from knowing, that too many are learning unjustifiably these days, is that their current employment could end tomorrow.
It’s really a wonder, given how free we laborers are to move from one gig to another, how unfathomable it seems to be to many of us that employers are almost as free to adjust their workforce. This flexibility is a source of American prosperity.
Some years ago, in explaining the differences between the labor markets of Europe and the U.S., Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote something that stuck with me in paraphrased form: there’s no job security like job insecurity.
It keeps us sharp and diligent, so we don’t become complacent in our jobs. It engenders continuing education, or job training, or cultivation of potentially marketable hobbies. Such vigilance comes in handy should your industry, or the broader economy enter a cyclical downturn, and you lose your job.
And it absolves us of a degree of bitterness toward our employers, who must do what is necessary to keep the enterprise afloat. In the best-case scenario, they’ll be as distraught as Norm Peterson was when he was hired as a “corporate killer” on “Cheers.”
Based on my experience, that’s only a mild exaggeration.
In hindsight, perhaps I wasn’t as outwardly aloof as I felt. I’ve maintained some good relationships with former colleagues. As much of a hermit as I am, ‘confined’ to a house that I love, I’m ready to resume my other “family life.”