May 10, 2007

If This Cube’s Walls Could Talk

Posted in Office Hijinks at 6:20 pm by devilwearsbrooksbrothers

Everyone in the firm recently had to endure a harassment refresher course.  Not because harassment has been rampant in the office and HR felt that a 22-minute video on the subject would curb the problem.  No, the company that makes the very informative film simply released a new edition.  So we all had to watch it.

There were the obvious examples:  A younger man calling an older man “pops,” a co-worker asking another to get his copy job and the other responding “What, are you handicap?” within earshot of the employee who is wheelchair bound, and my favorite, a woman suggesting to her boss, in front of her pregnant colleague, that if he is going to send her to the conference he had better order two airline seats.

There were also the less obvious, like aggressively hitting on a co-worker at a bar after work.  Or, suggesting that the numbers on a particular spreadsheet “don’t look kosher.”  A side note here, is that really offensive?  I looked up the definition of “kosher” and Dictionary.com says the above is a proper (slang) usage for the word.

But back to my point. There was one scene that I just couldn’t spot the offensive behavior.  It showed two cubicles, one inhabited by a woman talking on the phone about what a great time she had last night.  The other had two women, one sitting at her desk, another sitting on it.  They could hear every word the first woman was saying.  The woman on the desk rolled her eyes.  The woman at her desk proclaimed, “It’s like this everyday.”

Wait.  Was the woman at her desk being harassed because her neighbor was constantly reminding her that she was not out having a good time every night?  Or, did the woman at the desk harass her neighbor by suggesting to the woman on her desk that said neighbor was a dirty, little trollop? 

Now, as my mind is prone  to do, it thought about this particular scenario until it determined that if it could not discern the harassment, none was involved.  Thus, the makers of the training film are stupid. 

Settling that, my mind wandered around a bit before wondering, “What sort of things has the person in the cube next to me heard about my wild nights?” 

It’s misleading; the privacy you think you have in your office area.  I could feel vomit start to creep up my throat until I remembered I do most of my reminiscing with friends over email.  The only personal calls I get are from my mother and father.  So, while Lilly (my nickname for the Paralegal nearest me) probably knows that my mother is disappointed that she doesn’t have grandkids and my father is worried about me in general and both are excited about our family vacation to Nags Head, I doubt she knows much else about my life outside these beige walls.  

I shudder at the thought of all that our IT department could tell you about me.  I just hope they have better things to do than sit there and read what I have to say.  Maybe I will make a habit of sending around an email virus after a particularly tawdry evening. 

Assured that my personal life was still mine (after all those great, terrific and wonderful guys and girl in our IT department wound never spill my secrets) I started thinking of all that I knew of those that sat around me.  At first I came up zeroes; but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I had overheard a lot over the years.  When you start to piece it together, it could paint quite a fantastical picture of my co-workers. 

But then, as if reading this column as I wrote it, our HR department sent around an email requesting that everybody be more mindful of their surroundings and lower their voices when in the office. 

Darn IT people.

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