This week Laura asks the Friday Fivers:
Sharing an office with one or more people can be a bit of a strain sometimes. Humour me, name five annoying habits of co-workers you’ve had to put up with. Or are YOU the one who chews with his mouth open or types aloud?
No fair, Laura. I need to be careful because at least half of the people I work with know about this webpage and could (and probably would) take offense if I said something nasty about someone… and just enough people check it that it would happen if I was nasty. And of course it’s a small enough collection of unique humans that they’re likely to guess right if I describe anything at all. And a cramped enough group of people that there are lots of minor annoyances.
So I’m going to be diplomatic, and state up front that none of this is personal. Tensions between people arise, and we decide whether to say something or just cope. Usually, the way we cope is the more interesting part of the decision to simply accept peoples’ peccadilloes. And really, if what someone else is doing drives me bananas, well, there are something like 15 of us in the office, so it’s hardly surprising.
And I will also add that my current office situation is much better than my previous one, where we had:
- Ms. Koreans Are Unevolved.
- Mr. Passive Aggressive Roommate Who Had Pirated Copies of Howard Zinn Books To Give Away Because The Message Is What’s Important But Who Wanted A Japanese Girl Because They Might Like To Take It In The A** But Wanted A Japanese Girl In Korea.
- Miss Gossip and Backstab And Not Pay Your Bills When You Move Out and Lie About It To Everyone
- Mr. I Don’t Know Why I Get Into F*cking Fights With These F*cking Koreans Every F*cking Few Months But Don’t Dare Imply I’m F*cking Unstable Or I’ll F*ck You Up, B*tch!
And I only wish I were exaggerating on any of those counts.
Also hardly surprising are the things I’m going to mention here.
There’s The Guy Who Likes To Stir Up Shit. This guy doesn’t care much about anything, and he likes to pick at sore points between co-workers as if it were a scab. I realize, saying this, that a few people might think it is themselves. No, it’s not you, Shawn. Someone who tries to ignite fights between co-workers, or worse, to re-ignite them, has something deeply wrong with him. And how do I deal with it? The way sensible humans have done for ages: ignore him as much as possible, minimize the ways in which he has access to things he can use to start fights between me and others, speak evasively when he asks me probing questions. I avoid him, basically.
There’s The Sports Talk. See, sometimes it’s that you’re in a minority, that’s all. I know full well that I amnot alone, mind you, but in a minorityand so I say nothing, or keep it down to wisecracks to a neighbour. Things are really better on this front since the Loudtalking stopped. This one guywho was, from all I can tell, an okay guy otherwisewas just a natural loudtalker and he discussed two things in the office; computer games and sports. Both at a dynamic marking of fff (for those who don’t read music, each f stands for a level of loud, and you don’t get much louder than triple-forte). The worst thing was that other people responded with a similar change in volume… they crescendoed slowly until they were matching the volume of the Loudtalker. And he was Very Loud. But, yeah, still, sports is a perennial topic of discussion. A continual one. An inescapable one. It’s constant. I have headphones on my desk for when it gets really loud or goes on so long it bugs me, or for when someone starts playing streaming sports radio from the web. I think, though, I will bring a CD of atonal jazz to the office and play it out loud for everyone next time the radio comes on. Talk I can understand, but media… that’s different, in my book.
Nationstaters. I used to be one of the people who complained softly, snidely about all the talk of computer games going on in the office. Then again, most of it was about military strategy and technocratic simulation games. Nationstates has hit the office, though, and this game is actually kind of interesting. So now I am one of the people who gets into conversations about silly computer games. I avoid sustaining the conversations for too long, though. I guess, though, that I couldn’t beat ’em, so I joined them. But not really.
I’m counting Loudtalkers as separate from Sports-Talk, so that leaves me only one more office annoyance. Let’s see: How about the I’m-A-Great-Teacher Types? There’s a variety of these. Now, I’m not talking about the people who are good teachers… of which there are, I am certain, several. I’m talking about people who continually self-present as if they are really good teachers, or else who often put down the Korean English teachers categorically… sometimes even in their presence… presumably to give themselves a feeling of superiority.
It’s hard for some of us to even talk about our frustrations with some of our students because some teachers happily declare that their students are really good. (Especially coming from people who, when I’m around them, don’t seem to know how to talk to non-native English speakers, either reverting all-out to Konglish or speaking in far too difficult language. It may be nerves about speaking English in a colleague’s presence, I don’t know. But it is pronounced in some cases, even more than is my own difficulty toggling in this way.) And at the same time, it’s hard to talk about program development because some teachers want us to work on the assumption Korean teachers categorically cannot teach English.
Now, I understand the latter generalization: recently, a guy told me that his third English class in a 2-year program was so hard because he’d never actually spoken English before, only studied it for reading and writing and listening. When pressed, he admitted his first-year conversation class consisted of absolutely no speaking component at all. But then, hiring in the promotion period should have addressed some of that, and the rest… we need to expect people on staff as teachers, to teach. Period. We can’t build a deformed program on the assumption that a hunk of staff isn’t doing (or able to do) their jobs. Ego gets in the way, as does disdain. At some point you have to assume other people will carry their weight, and move on.
Okay, here’s a runner-up: the students who come into the office full of terror and fearas if it’s a den of vampires or something. They seem so scared, they seem almost never to speak in English, even when they’re at the end of the English program, and so often they only appear just before the drop date, never having attended class, and begging that their attendance records be falsified for the drop procedure. Those particular students are really fairly annoying.