Sunday, 22 April 2012

Graduate Myth #12: You Have To Be Friends With All Of Your Co-Workers

If you work full time, you will spend most of your awake time with your co-workers. With any luck you spend more quality time with friends and family, but the unmitigating horror of full-time work is that you have to be BFFs with all of your colleagues otherwise you are a failure at social interaction.

This is... not exactly a myth. There is, like the best kinds of myth, an element of truth to it. And one I shall tread around carefully for the sake of any old or current colleagues who might stumble on this.

Working full-time does indeed mean that you will be spending most of your awake time with these people. I am firmly of the belief that this doesn't immediately translate to you having to be best buddies with your work colleagues. I am not best buddies with my work colleagues, and whilst we go on occasional work nights out, I don't want to go on holiday with them, or have lunch with them, or go out every week with them. Sorry, guys. I've had colleagues in the past, in this job and in previous jobs, who I've gone on to be real friends with, and catch up with when I can. Just because I'm not BFFs with my current colleagues, though, doesn't mean that I don't respect them, enjoy talking to them, and don't mind the odd after-work drink.

Work colleagues are, in many respects, a microcosm of real society. Some of them are scum, some of them are nice people, a small fraction of them you'll become real friends with. My first job, in Homebase aged 16, was filled with horrible human beings who didn't talk to me. Ever. The managers bitched about me behind my back. It was delightful, as you can guess, and put me off shop work for years afterwards. That said, the job I look back on with most fondness is the shop job I had in university. I'm not naming it as the company is still on my CV for reference purposes, but it had the best group of staff ever, and I miss them all desperately.

That said: one of my ex-colleagues in my current job hated me. Really, fully, truly despised me. Put in complaints about my working standards (occasionally based on truth, on more than a few occasions completely fabricated), wouldn't look me in the eye, nothing. It was weird, and unpleasant, and I'm not sad she left. (Or that I gatecrashed her leaving do, which I naturally hadn't been invited to. Petty but hilarious.) Then again, it was only one person, and the rest of my colleagues were very supportive over it.

Don't let one person force you out. However, if you hate – and I do mean completely loathe – all of your colleagues, then to be honest it's not the job for you. Jobs, logically, attract roughly similar people, and there should be at least a few bits and bobs in common, enough to see through the day and the odd chat over the kettle. If all you do is sit at your desk and plot the deaths of those around you, then that should dictate a culture clash high enough for you to start seeking new employment – fast. Put it this way. Did you get on with every single person on your course at university? Of course not. But you could still be in a room with them. That's what counts.

FULL DISCLAIMER: Obviously if you are a current or ex-colleague reading this, I clearly don't hate you. No, not even you, B, who I talked about above. Your loathing was completely one way.

Unless you worked at a very particular Homebase around 2003 and 2004, then I probably hate your soul. So you know.

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