If I were a moodring, my color would be hellfire

Maybe it’s that I’ve realized that I’m closer to age 60 than I am to birth. Maybe my hormones are starting to act up. Maybe it’s that I have a family visit and loads of weekend traffic to face. I don’t know, but I encourage you to respect my space and don’t get within flying-object distance.

Just kidding — I *~*heart*~* you guys. And you know to throw chocolate and to back away slowly. 😉

I read something today that disturbed me. You may know that I read a lot on workplace and management issues (and I promise my Club Medicated colleague-to-colleague cards will come out SOMEDAY!). You may know that I get freaked out at the thought of not having a job because I don’t have anything else in my life to keep me going. But today, I got plain old perturbed when I read that workplaces are just that — places to work. That rules about not socializing should be as pounded into your head as the dress code. And if I read it correctly, the article wasn’t exactly against stuffed-shirt attire.

And maybe I’m hyperemotional, but my head exploded. I remembered temping at an accounting firm, long ago, where the rule was that you couldn’t even be seen walking into the building in tennis shoes — you had to change in your car or at the bus stop. I remembered working in places where your talent was nice and all, but what really seemed to matter was whether you looked the part. You were talked about and, often, talked TO about every imperfection the all-knowing “they” found in you. Every day, you skulked in and out and hoped to simply not be noticed, no matter how much money you spent on your outfit. People hated working there. When creativity and individuality and COMFORT in personal expression are discouraged, it’s difficult to come up with ideas on command. I know — I’ve had to do it in the past. And the truly dedicated among us will suck it up and give the performance of a lifetime, but even we know in our heart of hearts that some places will never change.

But, that’s a fact of life and always will be. Can’t change that. But what can be changed is the spirit in the air, the camaraderie during the day-to-day activity (or, as I’ve found, changing the job doesn’t hurt!). And we do have rules on socialization — they’re called sexual harassment guidelines. Outside of that, it makes the day go a hell of a lot faster when you genuinely like and support the people who see you the most and might even know you the best. You want to know that they’re going to go to bat for you, because you’ll throw yourself in front of a bus for them, if need be. You find that, when you’re happy, you have higher expectations of everyone around you, including yourself. You find that you’ll be happy if you never utter the words, “Well, THAT figured,” unless someone treated you well yet again and it simply figured that they would do something astonishing and special, because that’s what you’ve come to expect.

Shan and I talk often of emotional bank accounts — how there is an account with every friendship or relationship ever built. Some turn into short-term loans; some tank with the stock market. But others flourish from constant deposits and only-as-needed withdrawals. The same is true at work. Like at the places I mentioned earlier, if the bank is robbed or the account is never opened, then you’re operating at a deficit and you’re constantly feeling cheated. But when you have an opportunity to contribute and to build a foundation, then all parties can forgive when an expectation is not met. That’s the weird thing, though — having high expectations. They make you want to work harder — to be better. And they seem to make others want to constantly exceed them. And sometimes you wonder if they just magically, inherently know what to say and do.

In any event, though, “socializing,” as the article called it, is really “trust-building.” It’s investing in the intellectual and emotional health of a relationship. Even if you don’t get a lot of “information” about each other, per se, you find a way to worm into each other’s thoughts and maybe even hearts, on some level or another. It’s the difference between being willing to throw yourself in front of a bus for someone versus dreaming of throwing THEM in front of a bus. And we’re more willing to save those whom we know would walk through fire for us as well.

Not to say that work isn’t *the* priority — of course it is. But it isn’t the only one, especially given that most of us are willing to give way more than 40 hours, so it doesn’t hurt for some of those hours to be filled with laughter, companionship, sunlight, distraction that will ultimately clear our heads for even bigger ideas to be born.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that the value of saying hello is unparalleled. Learning more, asking questions, complimenting one’s personal style or disposition, listening, taking cues from body language (whether knowing when/how to proceed and when to tread carefully without walking away) — it’s a dance, and a hard one to learn. But the payoff is better than any paycheck when you feel free to play the greatest role of your life … yourself.

On iTunes: Sneaker Pimps, “Tesko Suicide”

Comments closed.