So it’s all gone horribly wrong. Can you fix it?
There are a few career choices that involve little in the way of human interaction — lighthouse keeper, hermit or, god forbid, freelancer — but for most of us, the daily grind involves spending upwards of forty hours a week in the company of a group of misfits, the exact make-up of which being largely outside of our control.
And your day-to-day survival in this hippodrome is likely to depend on the strength and quality of the bonds that you form with your colleagues, a feat that can stretch your social skills to breaking point.
But most of us manage to do it, forging a variety of relationships: some out of necessity, some out of serendipity. But what happens when things go so far south that you suddenly find yourself in the presence of a waddle of penguins? Let’s look at your options.
The One Next To You
You probably spend more time in the company of your work colleagues than your family or friends, assuming that your job allows you to have any of the latter. So it’s only natural that some of their personal opinions, philosophies or hygiene might be at odds with your own.
The best option here is to make like Obi-Wan and take the high ground. Be polite and friendly, even if you’re grinding your teeth down to stubs. Try and ignore or avoid the problem — drown out their inane chatter with headphones playing Slayer at volume, or cite deadlines to excuse yourself.
There is the option of confronting them, and there are tried and tested methods for having difficult conversations. But if you’re going down this route, check your equipment for sensor error: are they really the problem, or is their behaviour just impinging on one of your pet peeves?
The Best Mate
Most people manage to keep things cordial though, and many find themselves making a Workplace Best Friend, even if the dual relationship principle suggests that this is probably a bad idea. Which is why things can still go wrong past the point of fixing via your shared love of Stranger Things. You might disagree over politics, football, or Eleven’s haircut in season two. And if you bonded over complaining about management and one of you makes the shift from ‘us’ to ‘them’, things can get strained.
The important thing is to recognise the difference between personal and professional — and to ensure that the fallout doesn’t impact your work. It might grate, but greet each other when you work together or pass in the corridor. Above all, don’t involve other co-workers — badmouthing your ex-pal and trying to make your colleagues take sides is likely to create even more bad feeling, with you as the vector.
The Office Romance
You’ve only got yourself to blame if you fish off the company pier and end up reeling in Jaws. But workplace romances are very common, with around 45% of workers combatting mundanity by taking team building to the next level.
Like any other romance, common sense should apply when it all comes crashing down: giving each other space, talking things through and having a final lunch date to clear the air. But since common sense is usually taking a back seat to the likes of hormones and alcohol, it might mean getting HR involved to help mediate if things are heading into Kurt & Courtney territory. Which could be interesting if your company operates a policy against employee fraternisation. And if after all that the atmosphere is still more toxic that downtown Pripyat, then you might want to look at moving on. Sorry.
The Family Affair
Finally, there’s the sort of relationship breakdown that verges on mythology. “We had a clever system that recorded every lecture and uploaded them to the cloud, in a format that split the screen between the lecturer and their own screen,” said a member of staff at a London university.
“On this occasion the lecture had been cancelled — but the capture went ahead. The resulting video showed a split between a member of the IT department at the podium and the screen on his laptop… which showed him browsing through listings of local prostitutes.” The situation had the added complication of him explaining the situation to his wife — who also worked at the same place.
While most of the above scenarios are fixable to some degree, it’s hard to offer words of advice in the case of the latter. Don’t, don’t don’t seems to sum it up nicely.
On the hunt for new work relationships? Swipe right.