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Odd at work

My workplace is perhaps a little strange. One of my favourite colleagues has recently put a hand-written sign next to her monitor saying 'Remember: You are surrounded by IT people'. I've yet to discover what exactly prompted this, but it is perfectly true. They're a bunch of geeks, and, as I have seen in such groups elsewhere, there seems to a rather more diversity in human interaction than amongst people who are, for the want of a better term, normal. For example, some seem to talk to colleagues continuously, some almost never, and others just talk to themselves.

Now, I'm cool with this. As a decent liberal chap, I'm happy for people to act as they wish if it doesn't harm anyone. As a geek with geeky friends, I'm used to people with a social foible or two. And, as a jaded misanthrope, how these people behave is of no concern of mine because (with a couple of honourable exceptions) I don't really give much of a shit about any of them.

My only real concern regarding this workplace culture is that it might lack the exemplars and feedback to keep my own behaviour within, shall we say, societal norms. This is a particular danger given my aforementioned 'cognitive dissonance' approach to work, where I think of my work-self as, well, a work-self, a useful but limited subset of Me. Said subset has been behaving oddly recently, but I'm hoping that examining these oddities might prove useful for recalibration purposes.

Oddity: Vivid mental images of beating colleagues who sniff, cough or have annoying ring tones.
Diagnosis: Little cause for alarm. I'm pretty sure many people have these thoughts, I don't think it actually shows too often, and I can always drown everyone out with my iPod when I'm in a particularly bad mood.

Oddity: A bug has resulted in some people getting pop-up reminders for everyone's calendars, not just their own. With this in mind, I have so far set reminders to 'Complete phase 1 of master plan', 'Warn past self' and 'Kill again'.
Diagnosis: Not too bad. I'm sure the affected people have worked out what's going on, might find it amusing, and will quite possibly guess that I am the culprit.

Oddity: Worrying that my lunch is being analysed in crude pop-Freudian terms by my colleagues. I often lunch at my desk, and I sometimes wonder what people think as I wander past them from the kitchen holding a plate containing just a bagel and a banana. I mean, the symbolism is pretty crass, right?
Diagnosis: Harmless. I think this is really just a mental in-joke, or possibly my brain trying to tell me that my diet's boring. And, anyway, even if people are analysing my lunch, surely al it implies is that I'm thinking about heterosexual sex, and that's something that I convey using actual words on a fairly regular basis, even at work.

Oddity: In the kitchen there is sometimes a giant catering tub of biscuits. It's odd because it's exactly like a normal biscuit tub, but twice the size in every dimension, including all the text on it. At times, seeing it makes me momentarily vertiginous, like it's much nearer than I think, or that I'm suddenly smaller. This is a vivid reminder of lying in bed as a child suddenly convinced, in my semi-sensorially-deprived state, that I have shrunk or grown, and without moving I can't tell whether I have.
Diagnosis: Probably nothing, though it might imply I spend too long staring at a screen, and my eyes just get over-excited when confronted with a depth of focus. The childhood memories are just that, not flashbacks or anything, and they're more bizarre than actively unpleasant.

Oddity: Genuinely considering my work-self to be a distinct persona; performing mental check-ups on said persona; and attempting to do this in the form of light-hearted blog post.
Diagnosis: This is not a great sign, to be honest. While I'm sure everyone acts differently at work to a greater or lesser extent, my dissociation seems as if it might not be very healthy. It was, I think, a mechanism for dealing with previous, shittier, jobs and, in retrospect, was probably of questionable benefit even then. In my current role, which is pretty varied, demanding and engaging, it may have out-lived its usefulness.
On the other hand, it's not as if work demands or rewards a full spectrum of emotional response. It would be like wearing my normal clothes to work: I could, but it would feel like a waste. Is it better to embrace work whole-heartedly, or to regard it as a necessary chore, grudgingly performed? Perhaps some experimentation is in order...


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 2nd, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
My workplace is perhaps a little strange.

Aren't all workplaces a little strange? This not the first time you've had cause to say this about one of your workplaces. *grins*

Worrying that my lunch is being analysed in crude pop-Freudian terms by my colleagues

See, you know how it feels now! Hehe! Anyone for a plum, or two...? :-)
Apr. 2nd, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
lying in bed as a child suddenly convinced, in my semi-sensorially-deprived state, that I have shrunk or grown, and without moving I can't tell whether I have

I still get that, and not just lying in bed. I don't know if it means anything, and I'm not sure I want to find out.
Apr. 2nd, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
One of my friends said that once, after a night where he got very drunk (possibly celebrating the end of finals) he woke up and found that he couldn't move. He assumed something dreadful had happened and said he had just come round to thinking 'life as a quadraplegic wouldn't be too bad' when he realised he had fallen down the side of his bed and was stuck.

[I have possibly told you this before]
Apr. 2nd, 2007 08:53 pm (UTC)
A full spectrum of emotional response isn't a good idea, but dissociation per se from a fairly reasonable job seems Not Useful At All.

There are many possible compromises short of imagining other people thinking "I'll have what he's having" whilst you quietly eat your banana and bagel. (Your brain is right, incidentally.)

You could ditch the calendar popups more or less immediately. Very likely to be misunderstood and cause needless ructions after many more repetitions. Jokes, houseguests, and dead fish get old after three days.

Why assume that work is a chore grudgingly to be performed? Why hurt yourself?

[don't get it]

You're a good bloke; clever, kind, and funny. Be nice to you.
Apr. 7th, 2007 10:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your kind words, though I'm (hopefully) not really as bad as I make out. I suspect that my disconnection from work stems from two sources. It's partly adolescent rebellion against authority, which is certainly not helpful, particularly because these days the authority in question is - ultimately - me. However, it's partly an attempt to avoid taking work too seriously. A lot of my job is about working on frustrating problems. I really don't want to let this make me a frustrated person. As ever, it's all about striking a balance, and this post (and its responses) are all part of that process...

(Your brain is right, incidentally.)
I found this inordinately amusing. I should probably get a tattoo of this. Or at least a t-shirt.
Apr. 3rd, 2007 11:48 am (UTC)
Meh, I always have a different personality at office werk. :P
Apr. 4th, 2007 08:00 am (UTC)
You are OK up to the point where you start referring to yourself in the third person. Once this happens, and is sustained over a period of say a week, go and get some help.

The pop-ups sound fun, I once wrote an anonymous emailer with a time delay this resulted in hours of fun and many emails from BA Baracus.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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