Sunday, 24 January 2010

Office conversation

Ah the joys of the open plan office.

The lack of privacy, the lack of escape from those who have been popping the stupid pills, and the close proximity to those you despise.

Working open plan is genuinely great for honing social skills, fending off boredom and building relationships. I’ve known nothing else in an office, so have come to accept its funny ways. Yet not having an office is a bitter sweet dose.

I love the chit chat, the banter, the cultural discussion. The constant conversation can make your small part, in a small machine, in a big world, seem important and righteous. However, the dangers of this style of work are twofold:

1. The self inflated importance of your work can lead to you drowning yourself and your conversational partner in a thick sea of pain and boredom. (Note to self – stop discussing your career at length when chatting up girls, its even more difficult for them to care if you don’t too!)

2. Your office ‘mates’ take on the mantle of being like the friends that you don’t really like. You know, the ones who have found a hobby which has taken over their life, like flying planes, girlfriends, or God. I’m running out of friends to ‘hide’ on Facebook. Call me picky, but smug updates on love, accounts of a nice meal you’ve eaten and general self pity hold no interest for this executive, even if I have known you for 10 years. It’s just not good self promotion. Remember, Facebook is a personalised shark pool, unless you pick off the weaker fish, you’ll become one.

We don’t like to let our ‘office friends’ into see the real us. Well, I know I don’t. We tend to stick to safe conversations about things which are universally ‘liked’. You know, coffee table culture. Topics include:

a) The latest ‘cool’ band – Razorlight, Scouting for girls, the Fray.
b) American import TV shows – Lost, Flash Forward, Prison Break, Glee
c) Universally liked funny men – Michael Macintyre, Russell Howard, Eddie Izzard.

I pray that you agree with me when I critique the afformentioned cultural players as follows:
a) Tepid dross
b) A slow and painful road to disappointment and eventual abandonment to better TV
c) Why do these men exist? Macintyre must be culled for the sanity of the country

I have lost count of the number of inverted commas in this column. I’m sure by now you have worked out how cynical, sarcastic and reactionary this executive is, but I like to think I have some cultural critique worth paying attention too.

That’s enough me slipping into a tirade on office workers cultural choices. I started by discussing the pros and cons of open plan chat.

I leave you with one of the most enjoyed topics in our office. The ‘I-like game’. It is almost exclusively food based.

It usually starts with someone saying something like–

“Ooh, you know what I’d like now? A Wispa”

‘Aaahhh, I would love a Crunchie” pipes up another bored and hungry co-worker.

“I like snickers” – says someone else out of the blue.
I start to think “I don’t care what you like Mr. Co-Worker”, but its too difficult to stay out of the game. I can’t do it . . .

“A coffee and a Dime bar” – the words are out of my mouth before I can stop them.

“Dime bar?!?!? Oh no” someone says – a controversial choice.

The game repeats itself throughout the days and weeks with different food topics. Crisps, Donuts, Fizzy drinks, Sandwiches and the like.

That’s what happens when the nation has evolved into a race of pasty, unmotivated amorphous blobs grasping out at any high calorie comforting foodstuff they can think of. Only most of the time, we can’t even be bothered to walk the 100 yards to the nearest shop. The chocolate stays just out of arms reach