COLLEAGUES. You know, the people sitting round you who are constantly typing things. You sit next to them for 39 hours a week and you know barely anything about them. They sit next to you for 39 hours a week and, because you’re an intern who may be there for a limited amount of time, they may not even know you exist.
The first time you ever work in an office environment, you might find your relationship with your colleagues a little bit alarming. This is because…
…unless you work in an office with less than five employees, absolutely nobody will beam towards you and shout “GOOD MORNING HOW ARE YOU LOVELY?” when you take your seat and warm up your slightly out-dated computer.
…nobody cares if and when you go to lunch, or leave the building for any reason whatsoever during your day of work. I once proudly boasted to all my colleagues around me during my first internship that I was going to the toilet and whether anybody wanted anything. The response I got consisted of a “wuh…? nah.”
…when you leave the office either on time or a little bit late because you know, you had SO much work to do, absolutely nobody will care.
However, the more you stay in the office the more you realise that there are little cliques and big colleague friendships. Everyone knows that Phil from IT has been having issues with his Fiat Punto. Most people know that it is Loletta’s turn to make and bring in some homemade cupcakes. So how do you get in there? How do you get on with people who, I’m taking a stab in the dark here, you may not talk to with if you weren’t forced to be within a confined space for money with?
FIND COMMON GROUND
Age difference might be an issue within the office. Whatever you do, don’t do have a conversation like this with an older colleague:
Colleague: (pouring a cup of coffee) “So what did you do last night?”
You: “I got absolutely WASTED I could not SEE. I got so drunk that Darren ended up passing out into a Meatball Mariana at Subway at 3am (hearty italian, with all the veg but no tomatoes*), and Peter grinded up against a girl called Ashley whilst POUND THE ALARM came on the stereo… POUND THE ALARM DO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO DO”
Colleague: “Well I had to stay up late as Terry’s school play is next Thursday, and he’s dressed up as a sandwich. Countryfile had a good episode about lambing…. though.”
(silence – you have nothing more to say to each other – it is a pain that lasts a million years)
*I have to add here that other sandwich options are available and I may have written this at 3am whilst Pound the Alarm came on my radio, alright?
To solve this, I’ve found that revealing as little about yourself in office conversations can actually bring you closer together. So here’s how you solve this problem:
Colleague (pouring a cup of coffee): “So what did you do last night?”
Colleague: “LET’S BE BESTY FRIENDS*”
*This won’t happen. I have added it for comic effect.
GET INTO THE CULTURE
Much about fitting in within an office is about fitting in with the culture of the office. So…
Do… get involved in open conversations that people are having in the office.
Don’t… shout “ISN’T DAVID A SLUT?” at the top of your voice when everyone is talking about #davidtheslut.
Do… sign birthday cards.
Don’t… not know what the person is, so just write the letters HAVE A FUN LIFE and a sign your name so intensely nobody knows who the tit you are.
Do… offer to bake.
Don’t… find out later you can’t cook, bring something that looks like roadkill, and offer your lovely food around the office whilst discreetly throwing your portion out of the window.
DON’T BE WEIRD
I have something to confess, reader. Last December on my way to work, during a particularly windy day, a pigeon flew directly into my face.
Some German tourists nearby stopped what they were doing, pointed and laughed at me.
Now this story could have ended there. I could have just washed my face, written a tweet or a Facebook status with my story and just the words LOL afterwards and leave it be, but no. I had to tell somebody. I had to tell THE ENTIRE COMPANY I WAS INTERNING WITH.
We had a circular office at the time, with the canteen bit in the middle, so every bit of the office could potentially hear you. I remember standing in the middle of the office, scrubbing my face off with some wet kitchen towel shouting “UGH I THINK I HAVE RABIES” to every colleague that passed by.
That went well.