Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On Coworkers

My colleagues at work are great company for most- very social, great sense of humour, and all get along well. So we do beer nights and movie nights and all of that goes very well. I am enjoying it because I was in a one-person lab for most of grad-school so this is awesome. But I know for sure that I will never get into close friendships with any of them. Like most big groups, there's a significant amount of back-biting and bitching here, something I just don't have the stomach for. So while they are super-nice to you on your face, the minute one person in the mix is missing s/he becomes the subject of conversation and ridicule. It's not like that's all they do, but they do it a lot. They recycle the same nasty jokes about a person, and when the subject of their criticism is back, suddenly its all sugary sweetness. I thought I had left behind this kind of behaviour in high school. These people here I'm talking about are either grad students or post-docs. It disgusts me every time I see it, and of course the thought does cross my mind as to what they discuss about me when I'm missing. I don't really care though.

I have dealt with it mostly by resorting to plugging in my earphones and going back to work when this begins. Or just nodding and smiling. A few times I have called the person out on it. Like when my bay mate went into bitching mode about xyz "You know I really like xyz and she's a great friend and very smart but she is slacking at her job and it affects the rest of us.." I told my baymate that if I were a good friend I'd rather be told in the face that I was not doing something right. My bay mate did not take that well at all, as I anticipated but I was getting sick of her bitching. I have also broken away a bit and made friends with people from neighbouring labs to go to lunch or chat with. That does help to keep it healthy.

Sometimes the sheer superficiality of their groupisms, affections, friendships and congeniality irritates the hell out of me. Other times I feel that I need to stop being so uptight about it and just accept it as a part of group dynamics. To some extent gossip is healthy and natural, and I guess we all need to vent and bitch. But the two-faced-ness of it is a bit much for me to take. Eventually I think I'll get thick-skinned to it, its already bothering me a lot less now.


sqrlnt said...

you know, I've always wondered..are you me? you seem to be living my life..or i yours. :) except you are a PhD and I'm not (yet) :)

Well we have that dynamic going on in our lab as well, but there is no sugar sweetness the minute the person enters the lab. I used to think this is because we grad students haven't quite mastered 'professionalism' yet, but recently i learnt this is what goes on everywhere.

all part of life. all we can do, as you said, is have a wider circle and not worry about what others maybe saying about you.

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

(i'm really curious about your nick. what does it mean? squirrel? square of lnt?) :)

you are right, part of life it is. i wonder sometimes if i am too uptight about it or that i've just not seen this side of life for a while since i was not a part of a large group..

sqrl said...

ohh its too complicated. call me sqrl. I used to be 'neon tetra' so sqrlnt was a transition phase. I shd start signing off as sqrlta, since thats my 'official' name anyway. T.A is my last name...
BTW, are you twitter?

Sakshi said...

Oh lord, TGFI - If you get on twitter, I will stop reading your blog!
I want posts, not short commentaries!

ferret said...

well, nothing brings ppl closer than a common hatred they say!

Anonymous said...

Well, I wont call it natural, because I havent seen this kind happening in my work places before, but all I can say is, you can easily stay away from it, which I gather is what you are doing.
And yes, it will obviously stop affecting you a bit, and as long as you dont care about what they are talking about you, you are good!
But I can say this - This kind of behavior at work is just not healthy!!! I'd say, I have better work colleagues in this case, we atleast dont bitch about another person in his absence and be good to him when he is around.. in fact, a lot of trust and thought goes into the whole bitching process:)

P said...

Thanks for the tips. I just moved from a two-student lab to a dozen people lab. I can already see some of the things you've mentioned here. I better be careful.