I have always worked a 40-hour workweek, the sort of traditional 9-to-5, eight hours a day situation that you envision when you think of having a job as a little kid: an ineffectual copy machine in the corner whirring out endless documents, a burbling water cooler that serves as the center for awkward conversation, the communal fridge that gapes with brought-from-home lunches and stray beers. I go to work every day, I sit down at a desk, push a mouse around for a little bit, eat a sad desk salad, and return to my home. This is the glory, this is the life of a modern employee, and for some, the itinerant, the lost the wandering—this is the dream.
I have a friend who has always glamorized the office job, talking to me about how she wished she could just work a “normal” job, like everyone else. At the time, she lived with her boyfriend on a farm outside Boston, doing whatever needed to be done—tending the farm stand, getting a fledgling CSA program off the ground, raising honeybees and harvesting her own honey, all the while enjoying free health care from Massachusetts. While the rest of us withered under the hum of fluorescent lights trying to figure out how to make a pivot table in Excel, she was doing the kind of work that is the dream of the modern office employee — working outside, answering to no one, turning freckled and strong under a summer sun. The work she did was precisely the kind of work that so many earnest office workers turned to after they were worn down by the rat race, leaving New York and starting organic goat cheese companies in Hudson.
UPDATE: The introvert offices do include options for opaque walls.
After seeing the designs, I’m not sure that Steelcase understands what introverts need.
The offices include comfy chairs so introverts can “sit how they want,” and natural materials for a “calming state of mind.”
I am the kind of person who likes looking at the interiors of other people’s apartments (usually via the Times real estate section), but looking at all these work spaces is fascinating as well.
What do you do if you’re afraid that you’re coming off as a condescending know-it-all at work? Should you try to act “dumber”? Karla Miller who runs @Work Advice at The Washington Post says know-it-alls shouldn’t act dumber—they should be “strategically generous”:
They ask questions instead of spitting out answers: What do you think? Does anyone have a different idea? What if we tried this instead?
They recognize that everyone has a contribution: Great point, and I’d like to build on that by adding … Let me defer to Eloise on that topic.
They dissent politely: I see where you’re coming from, but I think …
They acknowledge vulnerabilities: I sometimes struggle with expressing myself tactfully.
They apologize as needed: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be brusque.
They laugh at themselves: Whoops, I had a Sheldon Cooper moment there. Bazinga!
At a previous job, someone who built a reputation for being a know-it-all and interrupting colleagues at work was simply told, “Stop interrupting people while they’re in the middle of talking—it’s rude.” He apologized, and consciously made an effort to stop himself from correcting people while they were talking. It’s the thought that counts.
Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang have been competitive but loving BFFs for ten seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, the Shonda Rhimes hospital drama. Their time together is coming to an end and, with it, so is one of TV’s richest workplace female friendships:
Unlike other beloved TV friendships among women—on Sex and the City, The Golden Girls, Living Single, Girls, and so on—Cristina and Meredith also work together, and in a highly competitive field. The stakes reach beyond their romantic and personal entanglements: They are often in direct competition with one another, fighting to climb the career ladder while, sometimes fumblingly, also working to maintain their friendship.
When I started my first job out of college at the Very Important Talent Agency, I was excited to become besties with my officemates. Instead I ended up in a department with a guy who accompanied our all-male supervisors to Hooters for lunch and a wealthy young woman who lived rent-free in her family’s surplus Upper East Side apartment but sighed over how much it cost her in taxis. Turns out you can’t always relate to other people just because you work alongside them.
In several different workplaces since, I have made some very good friends as well as a couple of mysteriously powerful enemies. (Cramped quarters have the power to create both.) Occasionally in low moments I have returned to early seasons of my favorite workplace dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The West Wing,” wishing I could sample their camaraderie, but for the most part I feel like I’ve been lucky. What’s your model for an ideal office bromance? Have you had a Cristina or a Meredith?
“You’re My Person” sticker available for purchase on Redbubble