Week 1 of Semester 1 of the 2009 academic year has begun. And don’t I have a pile of reading to prove it? I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon wading through my organisational communication texts (yes, I have three of them!) attempting to start the semester on a good note. Surprisingly the chapters were pretty interesting.
There were a few interesting pages on interpersonal workplace communication, highlighting the progression of relationships from those of mere co-workers to best friends forever and beyond. It was fascinating reading the ‘technical’ side of something we’ve all experienced and will continue to experience.
Reading those chapters gave the allusion that forming genuine workplace friendships is easy or even guaranteed. From my experience over the last ten years.
From my experience I think the development of work place friendships is quite dependent on the circumstances of your employment. Aspects such as your profession, workplace environment and your co-worker age groups can either foster or hinder workplace friendships.
My first foray into the working world was as a retail assistant where I spent four happy years standing on my feet all day, operating a till, answering the phone and assisting customers. During those four years I worked hard but it never felt taxing. Why? Because I was blessed with lovely co-workers who I could chat with, build up a rapport with, share in-jokes and socialise outside of work with. In simple terms I was able to become friends with these people.
Teaching, with it's isolating classrooms, lunch-time duties and inability to pop out with your colleague for a bit of lunch-time retail therapy, is not a profession that I found friends in easily. The suburban settings of the majority of schools doesn't lend itself easily to after work drinks at the local pub.
When I was teaching, both as a relief teacher and then as a contract teacher, I found it extremely hard to make friends at work. In fact, I have no lasting friendships from my time teaching here. Through the Blair government's push for teaching assistants, I have several dearly loved friends from my happy time teaching at my school in London. But I have no teacher friends from that time. I've always felt that when I taught I never really had a chance to work side by side with my fellow teachers, due to the nature of the way schools are organised and run.
When it comes to co-worker friendships, office based work is entirely different to teaching. The current trend for open plan offices and shared workspaces lends itself beautifully to fostering strong workplace friendships. The formation of work groups or 'teams' also encourages workplace friendships.
Today, some of the people I consider close friends, are people I have met through my time working in an office. These friendships that I value greatly were formed through the sharing of whispered office gossip, by admiring the attractive mailman, by cramming a days worth of retail therapy into a frenzied lunchtime shopping expedition and over endless coffee runs.
As much as I sometimes miss relief teaching, the lure of working in an office, surrounded by co-worker friends is just too great to walk away from at this point in time. Call me selfish, call me fickle but I love getting to go to work with my friends everyday.
Who would have thought that my boring readings would inspire such thoughts.