Only a few of you (who read my blog) have ever worked with me in a professional setting.
I hope it doesn’t sound too pat-myself-on-the-back to say this, but I’m a pretty easy person to work with. I’m funny, cheerful, and definitely a team player. I like to make friends with my co-workers and foster a positive work environment.
Plus, I always stock my candy dish with chocolate.
So, it came as a surprise when - in one of my jobs - that attitude turned out to be frowned upon by the management.
There were two other women in my department. One co-worker was about ten years older than I was, and the other was at least twenty years older. The three of us immediately hit it off.
I found myself looking forward to coming to work everyday to hang out with these hilarious and hard-working companions. Often, we would be in the midst of a mundane workday and erupt into laughter over shared home stories and office high jinks.
Our work was getting done faster too, since – though few career people will admit this – you are much more willing to help people you actually like.
Everything was going along swimmingly until we were unexpectedly called into our supervisor’s office. She broke the news to us that other people were complaining about our department.
“You are much too loud, and you keep laughing,” she warned us.
One compatriot leaned over and whispered to me. “What? Are we working in a library now? Is laughing illegal?”
I, on the other hand, was more than a little offended. I mean, I’d prided myself on bringing a joyful spirit to the office. And now I was being called on the carpet for it?
As we grumbled back to our office, we debated the cause of our reprimand.
“It’s because other people hate coming to work. They can’t stand to see us having fun and getting the job done at the same time.”
“They wish they could make friends at work, but they’re horrible, so they don’t. And then they have to make life miserable for everyone who isn’t a [unladylike word uttered by my co-worker].”
Judging from the smug expressions of several people who just happened to be ambling by our office at that precise moment, we were able to pinpoint our accusers.
Over the next few days, the three of us stewed over the situation. We wanted to show “them” that they hadn’t won. Which wasn’t easy, since several people were crowing over the victory in the break room, and assuming (since we were “nice” people) we would just crawl back into our offices and resign ourselves to a wretched working existence.
As we angrily slammed staples into paper and shoved files drawers back with our hips, we discussed various ideas to harness our exuberant personalities AND make a point.
Finally, I hit upon an idea.
“What if we did exactly what they were asking?” I suggested. “We could whisper our everyday work conversation. Whispering drives everybody nuts! We could be quiet as church mice, and follow the letter of the law.”
“They don’t want us to like each other, either,” one of my co-workers pointed out.
“So, let’s actively hate each other,” said the other one. “We could snarl at each other and call each other ‘hey, stupid.’ No one will know what to think!”
Getting into the spirit, my other co-worker piped up. “Instead of laughing, we could do the jazz hands deaf people use to signify applause.”
“Perfect!” The other two of us responded in sync.
We kicked our plan into action over the next few days. I would tip-toe into my co-worker’s office and whisper. “Can you fax this for me?”
She’d wink at me and say, “Get out of my office, jerk.”
Later, my other co-worker would put her mouth inches from my ear and tell me an amusing story about her dog eating a tampon, and we’d both wave our hands over our heads like we were on fire.
We discovered that whispering drew our accusatory co-workers inexplicably to meander slowly by our offices, no doubt convinced we were talking about them. When, in reality, we were examining the target audience demographic.
After four days of constant whispering, hurling insults at each other, and jazz handing, one of our co-workers – the main conspirator and queen of office unpleasantness – finally came into our department.
“Why all the whispering?” She demanded, not in a whisper.
“We heard we were being too loud,” my other co-worker said innocently.
“We surely don’t want to offend anyone,” I said, working my baby blues with wide-eyed fluttering lashes.
“We just don’t want to cause trouble,” my other co-worker intoned earnestly.
“Well, this whispering is driving me nuts! Can you all go back to the way you were?” She threw her hands up in exasperation.
“If you insist,” said the co-worker closest to me.
As she started to leave, my other co-worker stopped her. “Just one more thing. If you could stop by our supervisor’s office and let her know it’s okay for us to talk and laugh again? We’d really appreciate it.”
Nothing tasted finer than watching the dawning look of realization move across her face. She finally understood we’d known it was her comments that had started the whole thing.
Resigned, she huffed off to our supervisor’s office.
Elated, I turned to my friends, “Well, that’s over. What a relief! We can stop whispering.”
“Not quite,” said my other friend, as she lifted her hands over her head.
Grinning, the three of us happily jazz handed together in silent applause.