The holidays can get quite political, especially if you work in an office.
Where I work there are editors and designers. I’m one of the editors. For the most part the designers hang with the designers and the editors hang with the editors, whether it’s chit chat around the water cooler (which, by the way, we actually don’t have, but it’s proverbial in this case, so let’s go with that) or apres-work drinks, there is rarely any blending of the two tribes.
And then there’s me.
I dabble in both groups because I’m social and find the people I work with each offer something unique and valuable, whether it’s insight into my work as an editor, shooting the shit about our industry or just sharing a mutual addiction to Starbucks. I make it a point to get to know everyone. I believe that, if you try, you can find something in common with anyone, so sticking to any one group is, well, ridiculous and immature. Much like high school, but with paychecks.
But apparently, as I learned yesterday, I can’t expect everyone to feel this way. At least not all the time.
I was left out of one of these groups this week (the group I’m more social outside of work with, ironically) and couldn’t seem to figure out why. I was pissed!
On the whole, this really is a non-issue because work is work and in no way, I feel, does this reflect the way my coworkers feel about me. That would be silly. I know they like and respect me. However this small (yet stinging) incident reminds me that work is a breeding ground for politics, especially over the holidays. Like it or not. Politics, after all, is simply the way we relate to each other in any given environment.
When there is an outing with the designers I’m always invited and have even been to their homes for parties, which I love. They’re a fun and creative bunch, always willing to let loose- I’m so right there with them. (Read: performed the yoga “Crow” pose last week while nursing a wine buzz at one of the designer’s apartments last. No regrets). So it surprised me yesterday when I learned that they, the designers, and one editor (who also dabbles between groups) pitched in to purchase a Christmas gift for our boss- the very boss we all mutually feel intimidated by, at the best of times.
“Gotta say, I’m a little hurt, feeling left out,” I confess to one of the designers, after I find out the purchase has gone down. “I really don’t know what to get him and would have loved to pitch in on the gift.” (I should tell you that he, our boss, got us all gifts, so I’ve been contemplating the return-gift for two days now. Ugh.)
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she replies.
“Ya, well, put yourself in my shoes” I say, firm. “Why didn’t you guys tell me?”
She squints at me a bit and is thoroughly apologetic. I believe that. But I’m still left feeling awkward and, well, a bit like the kid left out at lunchtime with nowhere to sit. Oh, and I’m holding a plate of meatloaf.
To add a little insult to injury, just before the gift purchase happened, I asked the designers and the one editor who accompanied them where they were going (It was lunchtime, and I do love a lunch outing). They said, “to buy gifts for our staff” and said nothing of their collaborative plan. My point here? They made a decision to not include me in the plan and, in the end, I have to accept that. For them, it made more sense to stick as a group (with the exception of the one editor whose professional role in our office is to bridge the gap between editorial and design anyway.)
In the end, no hard feelings. I was simply edited out of their plan.
I learned something important though, and there it is (finally the point!): Don’t take office politics to heart; don’t try to understand them; and don’t analyze them. Just be aware that they, politics, do exist. Even at Christmastime.
I’ve filed this experience under “What I Know for Sure” because it’s the best way, I think, to keep track of what I’m learning this year, as I approach 30. I want to remember this lesson. Also, I want to pass it on to anyone who stops by and so kindly reads my blog.
In fact, I liken these lessons I’m gathering to the time I dated an asshole. I was in high school. It was awful, he was a jerk. But I remember thinking to myself, ‘Well, I’ll now know a frog when I see one and I’ll also know how to spot a prince, too.’ Good lesson to have learned so young and early on in my dating life. I did spot the prince and married a wonderful man.
So… along with politics + holidays + work = teenagers with salaries and bylines (and, really, it’s not personal) I also realized that everything I ever needed to know about the workplace and romance I learned in high school.