I spend a fair amount of time during my work day listening.
There are a lot of people around me, and a lot of them aren’t courteous at all about considering others when they speak, whether about business related items or not. Honestly, I’d rather not hear it. But there’s little I can do to avoid hearing it when they’re so loud and open.
I know the business group we’re mingled with is used to having their own area. They never had to use discretion before. They shouted over cubicle walls, bellowed across the big room until they got an answer, and felt free to guffaw in sudden and unbridled mirth. Our business group, on the other hand, were church mouse quiet. We left the lights off for the most part. We had three isolated pods of people, and they worked and chatted together in relative quiet. A single individual in our group has a problem being a loudmouth, to the point the former IT guy asked he be relocated so the thunderous boom of that person’s voice wouldn’t carry into poor quiet IT guy’s office. Other than that, no one ever knew we were there.
Well, when we lost our own private area back in September of 2012, and were moved into the same area with the other business group (long story on the politics of that one, for another day though), the other group didn’t amend their behavior. They just kept being loud, doing things the way they always did them. They simply don’t care we’re here, or that some of us (me) share a wall with their people.
So, long story longer, I get an earful most every day. I’m aware, for example, of the demotion of their customer service supervisor because they simply don’t have enough people to supervise. (They never did; their entire customer service team is a whopping six people when they carry a full headcount. One of them left for another internal position, so they’re down to five. And for those five, they had a customer service manager and a customer service supervisor. So, two bosses for four grunts with a full boat, and without a full boat…)
I’m also aware of her divorce proceedings, and how she’s recently broken up with a boyfriend, and of some of the dates she’s gone on with men she’s met on her dating site.
That’s…way, way, way too much information.
I’m aware of how she and her boss spend probably half an hour or more every morning talking about their personal lives. Yes, we all share in things with the people with whom we spend our days working. And we all take a few minutes out of our work to do other things, non-work things. That’s natural and human. But maybe they could lower their voices to keep private things private, or maybe move to a less conspicuous (read:public) area, or to, y’know, show a little class and discretion when doing these things, and how often they do them.
I suppose that’s an unreasonable request, and because we rent a small portion of the building from them, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the HR department would probably see things their way if we complained. (No one will, though. It’s probably just me.)
Here’s my challenge in this: When I first started dealing with this issue, I brought an MP3 player to work and listened to music instead. (Instrumental stuff, mostly classical, if you’re curious. Anything with lyrics tends to distract when you’re trying to write in a different language and reason things out in logic. So the soothing instrumentals helped me focus.) Then, I had a performance review in 2013 and was told I don’t seem to take the ear buds out as quickly as other people do so I give the impression I’m unapproachable.
(As an aside, I know for a fact who the person complaining was, and because there was something interesting about the relationship between that individual and my boss, it was handed down to me to either turn them down [more – I can barely hear them as it is], or leave one out of my ear. I won’t say any more on that subject.)
So I lose half an hour or more of my day because I have to deal with this other business group yelling at each other over walls or across aisles, discussing (sometimes VERY) personal things (and as I wrote this [ahem!] two of our own team members engaged in a conversation which took up a full 20 minutes of their time, during which they did no work), like maybe their dating habits, or the new CPA who’s fifty-five with a son starting his second year of college they met last night.
I not only don’t care, I don’t want to care. Or know.
No one’s perfect. We all engage in activity unrelated to our jobs during our work day. Some of us blog (ahem!) or surf the web (AHEM!), others among us spend a lot of time texting or Facebook posting, or uploading selfies to Instagram, or whatever. Others get up and spend upwards of forty minutes wandering around bellowing (but think they’re talking) to any- and everyone who will listen. (Or don’t want to listen or chat but are too polite to say, “Get lost, willya? I’m busy here!”)
I try to stay focused. I try to get as much accomplished during my day as possible. I come to work an hour before my job description and offer papers say I’m supposed to start, and I almost never leave at or before my appointing shift ending time. I put in longer hours not because I need to or even want to, but because I need to accomplish certain things and spend whatever time is necessary to accomplish them. I am not unique this way.
Losing half an hour of productive time almost daily isn’t helping my cause. The only positive in that area is, the two biggest culprits leave at four, giving me my last hour or two in peace. But why should I have to put up with this?…I blogged. (Ahem!)
We have other communication tools we can use to stop some of this behavior. We have a company-wide instant messaging tool which can locate anyone with an account anywhere on our network on the planet, and allows instant communication between people. We have email. We have phones, too. Remarkable devices, phones – they enable communication with an individual or a group of people over most areas of our planet. All of these things are at our fingertips, and are meant to replace such communication methods as shouting over cubicle walls, bellowing across large rooms until either hoarse or answered, or getting up and walking to someone’s desk only to discover they’re not there and returning to the origin point, so the process can be repeated later.
Technology…ain’t it grand?
But you’d never know we had any of those things at our disposal if you spend more than a few minutes in this building with this business group. Our team, a small group of only fifteen people, spends a lot of our day exchanging IMs and emails. We have these great devices called “sidecars” on our phones, which allow us to directly dial someone’s phone in our group by pressing a button, and it indicates when that individual is on the phone and shouldn’t be interrupted by lighting up their designated button. But their business group doesn’t have phone sidecars. They just…yell and wait, yell and wait.
Because I have those folk as a shining example of how not to behave, I’m a stellar employee. Right?
Not so much. In fact, this week I’ve been “one of them.” (Right now, f’rinstance.)
I’ve spent more time on the Internet doing research this week than I did in a month prior, and not a whit of it was work related. I’ve blogged my butt off (you’re seeing only one of the fruits, dear reader). I’ve also spent time in the last month reading up on the deceased TV show Fringe and its characters so I’d have an idea what was coming, and what the heck did I not understand, and did I see that right, while we were plowing relentlessly through it on Netflix. I’ve Google searched for stuff I read in other blogs, or to find out what “get bent” is in French, or sent IMs to someone and waited for their response…for, y’know, like, ten minutes.
I’m not a model employee, even though I try to be. I don’t see myself as a person whose job makes up the bulk of my life and other things fit around it. I am first a follower of Christ Jesus, second a father, third a husband, and finally an employee of my company. (Somewhere after all that crap I fancy myself a writer, for some stupid reason.) Just because my employer claims (and pays for) most of my waking hours doesn’t mean they own me. I work as a means to an end, not the other way around. This, I think, is what separates me from the men and women who will rise farther and faster on the corporate ladder than I, and what will ultimately keep me from any greater career or monetary success than I have now. (That, and being horribly lazy.)
I don’t mind, really. What I do mind is rolling my eyes and sighing in disgust when I hear the personal conversations start up, the text message notifications from nearby cell phones, the blatant abuse of company time by people in supervisory/managerial capacities to discuss things which are in no way related to business (while delegating responsibility for tasks to subordinates), and I hurl insults and epithets at those individuals…only to find myself doing the same things with different media. (Like, say, blogging. AHEM!)
Last week, at a non-work function, someone accused me of being judgmental. I didn’t think I was being judgmental, I made an observation and he didn’t care for it. But it highlighted something in me, something I’ve always wrestled with but never completely understood: I don’t even know what “judgmental” means. I never could distinguish between judging (whatever judging might mean) and simply noting, or observing, and stating.
I’ve heard the expression all my life, but never had a practical understanding of what it means. I’ve seen it in biblical narratives – who hasn’t heard of the whole, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” thing? (Even if it is removed from its proper context the vast majority of the time.)
Well, here I am, many, many years removed from my childhood, and I still don’t know what judgmental means, what it looks and feels like, what it sounds like coming out of my mouth. And that likely means I’m doing it. If you don’t know what the speed limit is on a road, you can’t obey it, right? So I’m probably doing it wrong, to be honest with myself and you. But ignorance of the law won’t be an excuse when pulled over on that road, and neither will I be able to say, “but I didn’t know what it meant” when I’m accused of being judgmental.
(As yet another aside, I asked the person who claimed I was being judgmental to explain how I was, but he didn’t offer one. He just sort of ignored me. Then again, there were three other people in the room, so there’s that.)
What I’m learning here, and not expressing very well despite having used 1700 words to try so far, is the people I roll my eyes about and grit my teeth over are just like me, but different. They do it verbally, I do it electronically. They turn away from their computers and don’t do work, I stare into the monitor and don’t do work. How am I better? different? less abusive than they are? Simply by virtue of not distracting someone else with my method of stealing from my company? I think not.
Today, I’m sitting here stealing time from my employer to tell you how I’ve had a bit of an eye-opener on judging others and stealing from my employer. Aren’t I a shining example of Jesus and His principles?
The people in the other business group around me simply show me things in myself I don’t like. Things I’m not proud of, or things I downright despise about myself. I’ve heard it said for many years things we don’t like in others are generally things we don’t like in ourselves. That irrational, or at least inexplicable, dislike we sometimes have for someone, that underlying distaste for something we can’t quite put our finger on – or maybe we can articulate it just fine, with great venom and vitriol – might just be something we don’t like about ourselves.
And so, down the road of self-discovery I go, even at this late stage in life. I’m two-thirds gone, and just now learning things I should have known when I was a young man, a boy maybe.
Life is a journey. Sometimes we fall while taking it.
Lord forgive me.