Once again via Lifehacker (or so I thought, although now I can’t find the original link), obnoxiously male-oriented tech mag Wired offers advice on it’s wiki on how to “Make Friends at the Office Who Really Count.” The advice is characteristically entitled and self-important, basically boiling down to “Don’t be an asshole, but don’t get too friendly with the help, either.”

As someone who has worked as a receptionist, a secretary, an ad-hoc IT support person, and the “gal in the next cube,” I would like to offer some advice that does not assume that the value of non-team members or bosses is mainly as pawns in a pitiful little game of “My personal life is devoid of real meaning so I like to manufacture drama in the workplace to make myself feel important.”

Do: Be nice to people, regardless of who they are or what you perceive they can do to help you. Look people in the eye, smile, and use words like “please” and “thank you.” Don’t yell or snap at people. Don’t assume that the receptionist, secretary, mail room employee, maintenance person (or anybody else, for that matter) is stupid; that person might very well be not only smarter than you, but more well educated than you. And therefore, don’t talk to that person with a tone that assumes your intellectual superiority because you might end up looking like not just an asshole, but a very stupid asshole.* Ask people about their weekends. Notice when people are ill or have been absent. Ask people about their families (if they provide you with an opening to do so, obviously). Remember their names. And if, as the Wired piece warns, somebody gets chatty with you (because, of course, that receptionist has just been eagerly waiting for you to say hello to her so she can talk to you, that patronizing jackass in QA who never speaks to her unless he wants something, about the minutia of her day), then chat back! You might learn something, like how to treat your coworkers like equal human beings.

Don’t: Be a sanctimonious, condescending prick.

In potentially related business news, “Trust issues can creep up in the workplace.”

* Here’s a story: I once worked as a receptionist for an executive career counseling service (which led directly into my becoming an ardent labor activist for a living, but that’s another story) where a male coworker repeated insisted that Delaware is a New England state,§ even after I told him that, being originally from Delaware, I probably had a better idea of its geographical regional classification than he did.

§ It’s Mid-Atlantic.

Advertisements