Monday, January 23, 2023

The Work Underground

 As with most places of employment that I have worked at, I have ended up with two individuals whom surpass the role of coworker and have become friends.

The mechanics of this likely remain the same in the modern era, although much more delicate than they used to be.

In one case it is a someone who used to report to me (I hired them originally) who was my "therapist" in my senior management role, the one who I could go to when I was frustrated or upset or just "out of sorts" and knew both that everything was confidential and that the advice I was getting was good.  The second is a more recent addition, a coworker in my area who, as we worked together, found out we had more in common as people than just we both worked in the same department.

I say "more delicate".  There is almost a dance that happens now, a slow unveiling of the personality, as one continues down this path.  One will have a brief burst of personality in a small, trivial way - what is the reaction?  Is it responded to?  Is it positive?  Is it ignored?  Or one is the recipient of such a contact - the same sorts of questions arise:  Should I respond?  Have I mis-interpreted the comment?  Layer by layer these contacts continue until inevitably there is a conversation - always between the two parties - where something truly personal is revealed.  

And suddenly, you find out you have lots of things to talk about.

It strikes me as odd that these sorts of relationships now in the workplace are what I feel as if the French Resistance must have been like in World War II:  heads down and not attracting attention to yourself, briefly seeing your comrades in the daylight without acknowledging them, and clandestine meetings where real matters are discussed.  There is thought given to what is said on private and non-private communication lines.  

At some point, of course, all of this end:  I will leave, or my likely my friends will leave.  The interesting thing to me (if such a thing can be interesting) is that when they leave, there likely will not be anyone to take their place - much like in the Resistance when people disappeared, they did not come back.  Which makes me equally happy and sad, of course:  happy for my friends, selfishly sad for myself.

When I had started work all those years ago, it seemed like almost everyone I worked with was a work friend.  Now, entering what seems like it could be end of the process, I find it quite reversed: the friends are few and far between, the silence defeaning.


  1. I worked in a manufacturing facility in college. IE department. All the men there were individuals and had their good points. It was fascinating. Then we got a female in the office and it just broke everything. Like flipping a pizza box upside down. I wasn't sure how to learn from that.

    My last job was mobile troubleshooter. When I'd hit an office, and they were glum, I'd sneak out to the store and buy a few pounds of W&W's or snak size candy bars. I'd wander around the desks passing it out. Hey it's "dispatch appreciation day!!" or "it's customer service rep appreciation day!!". I found that overt acts like that were great ice breakers. When I had to do a parts run, asking if any one needed anything was a good one too. They were chained to their desks, and could only leave at lunch break. Having someone run an errand for them went a long way to developing rapport.

    That was my method for finding friends at work. It was a hoot. What was surprising, was the few acquaintances the were really good friends, and the "good friends" that weren't even much of an acquaintance after the injury and my exit from that position...

    I don't know how folks would operate now via Zoom or whatnot. I was and am more of an "in the flesh" type guy.

    1. STxAR, it is certainly different. There are now whole swaths of people that have started at my company, worked at my company, and left and I never met them more than a voice on a web meeting or perhaps a video call. It is quite different. Add to that the reality that so many face of work being less "personal" in general, and I wonder if anyone will even try anymore.

  2. I have always made workplace friends where ever I have gone through the years. But despite how tight they are, whenever a change of jobs occurs, they quickly unravel. I have always hoped that they could be maintained but distance just makes it nearly impossible. I could and have gone back occasionally and it is like I (or they) never left, but as soon as that distance is back between us, it is almost like they don't exist anymore.

    Now that I am no longer working, I really don't have any close friends anymore. I still hang out occasionally with a great group of guys but for the most part, they are two decades my senior and we never interact the way I did with those workplace friends. Fortunately being somewhat of an introvert, I seem to get by with those occasional get togethers with no apparent repercussions.

    1. Ed, I am similar: I have had friends at every job, but as soon as they leave (or I do) the friendships fall apart. Out of a career of 25 years in my industry, I think I have one person I speak to regularly from my previous job and two people before that. Considering that on average I have probably worked with several hundred or over a thousand, that is not saying a lot.

      My hobbies are largely the same: when I am not involved in an activity, those friendships wither as well. The Iai dojo and the Rabbit Shelter are my two main social groups, and even then I only see them for a limited time each week for a specific activity.

  3. Nylon1210:20 AM

    Way back in the days when Betamax and VHS were slugging it out, I got to know enough about a couple of the guys in my office to become friends. Played a lot of tennis and even ran a D&D campaign when the wives wanted us out of their hair. Lost touch with them when I moved back to Minnesota but made new friends in the new office. When I retired almost all of those gradually went away for lack of a better description. And having the parents move in took up a lot of time for a few years with their health problems. You're right TB, as you approach the finish line there is a winnowing down of just about everything and everyone.....(sigh).

    1. Nylon12 - Ah, the heady days of Betamax and VHS (and Laser Disk)! How I remember them.

      Perhaps part of my issue was that I did not have a lot of no-work related activities with my work friends. Even now, it is the occasional Happy Hour and that is it. Or possibly lunch.

      For years, my father would go up and have coffee with a group of guys. Every morning, the same. This became his main group of friends almost up to the end. In fact, they came down and had coffee with him the week that he moved.

      What version of D&D did you play? I played AD&D for several years (Is that version 1? Version 2? We just called it D&D at the time).

    2. Nylon124:19 AM

      Actually, it was DragonQuest that I modified, SPI was the game company that published wargames galore much to the distress of my wallet and table space. Never did care much for
      the D&D aspect using Lawful Good, Lawful Evil,etc etc etc. Good times, discovered that talking as little as possible and let the player's imaginations take over along with making them roll dice as often as possible made the evening fly by..... :)

    3. Had to look it up, but I vaguely remember this.

      The alignment aspect was interesting and an unfinished idea as other than clerical spells and magic items, it seemed to have little impact on what characters were actually doing.


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