Daily #6: New faces

In my first daily, I mentioned that I had recently started my new job as a content writer. Now nearly 8 weeks in, I’ve been reflecting on what a surreal experience changing one’s full time job can be.

I am a fairly agreeable person. I get on with most people around me – partly due to my people-pleasing tendencies (which I am working on). I worked at my last job for over two years, and it was my first ‘proper job’. For me, that defines the first job not in the customer service or retail industry. During that time, I was part of two different teams.

It’s common knowledge that working full time takes up a considerable amount of time each day. One spends 7-9 hours of around 13-14 total waking hours (on average) at the same building doing the same tasks – and most notably, surrounded by the same set of people. For many, in a week they might spend similar amounts of time with their work colleagues as those they live with (a scary thought).

Spending that much time with the same set of people, one tends to find out a lot about them. Unless everyone is working hard, 100% of the time (which is highly unlikely in an office), conversation will occur, and you might find a surprising number of things about your work colleagues’ lives.

The relationship I have with any of my colleagues is strange to me. There are many invisible lines and boundaries in place which should not be crossed. But simultaeously, areas which an average acquaintance would avoid, some colleagues will happily trample all over. These differ so greatly between each person, that it can be a minefield to navigate. For example, one of my new colleagues is happy to share details of his personal life with our team, even asking us for advice at times – but trying to broach this topic with any other teammate would be a bizarre invasion of their privacy.

I think the thing that is so strange about work relationships is that in other circles, the rules stay the same for each person. For instance, in a group of friends, conversation topics tend to reach similar limits for everyone in the group. Everyone seems to become more familiar with each other at the same pace, so it is straightforward to converse and remember what topics you can and can’t disuss. Due to how well one knows their family members, boundaries are established early on and conversation flows easily. Both of these scenarios tend to be because of the similarities between each person in the group.

Friends choose each other, and families influence each other. But work colleagues are a jumble of different ages, backgrounds, cultures and views all forcibly mixed together. While one may be happy to make a joke about Americans (which is common here in England) in front of their colleagues, as there is an American colleague in the room, it cannot be said. Discussing current internet trends with colleagues of a similarly young age excludes the older person in the room – and everyone is generally expected to get on. It’s not really acceptable to prevent another colleague from interacting with you.

Sitting at a table in a pub, surrounded by my new colleagues, I realised how strange it was that I was able to laugh and talk with eight other people who, less than two months prior, I had never met before. In any other setting, it would take me far longer to become comfortable enough to make jokes and engage in deeper conversation. The fine line between familiarity and unfamiliarity creates a unique set of relationships.

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