This column is a reader submission from Happytoleavehere. To learn how to make a submission, click here.
We all need a little human companionship when we come in to the office every morning. Working from home is a nice on occasion, but I’ve found that it often leads to me losing my mind by lunch time and craving any sort of interaction. In any given day, I’d say that I have about five hours of work to do, and nine or ten hours to do it, so that leaves a good chunk of time left over to kill. Often that looks like an extensive bathroom break or two, just about every meme in existence, and—when possible—some good water cooler chat with the people around me.
I’ll be the first to admit that these are not my best friends, but I don’t mind some surface-level banter. Our conversation typically runs the gamut from a fantasy football analysis to a weekend recap (or discussion of the weekend to come, if it’s after Wednesday). My real personality craves deep conversation and baring of secrets, but I’m too low on the totem pole to actually be myself and introduce those topics at the office. But if people want to get real, I’m open to all conversation from anyone.
Except one person. I don’t want to hear from my boss. It’s not that I don’t like him, he’s a solid guy and a fair manager. And I don’t feel uncomfortable having a chat with someone who has authority over me. But he’s the person I receive my work from, and it just so happens that he’s a lot busier than I am, so every moment he spends talking with me is a moment he has to spend on the backend of the day wrapping up work. It may be different for people that are more senior than I am or in different organizations, but where I am, a youngster like myself doesn’t leave the office before his boss.
I’m sure you can put two and two together by now, but every word I exchange socially with this man is a second that I am kept from doing what I love, which is leaving the office. Each reference to his son’s birthday or his wife’s poetry is a happy hour beer being snatched from my grasp and poured out on the floor in front of me. It’s not even how bored I am when he describes the hike he went on over the weekend that has me glancing at the clock more frequently than a Michael Jordan preparing to take a game-winning shot – it’s what it represents. He could tell me a story more gripping than __ and I’d still be unable to think of anything but what this story was taking from me.
Can you see the bind I’m in? I stay at the office for approximately four minutes longer than he does every day—despite doing roughly half the work—because I’m here to win him over. Making good conversation is one of my strong suits, and using that magic on him can further my career. It’s just difficult for me to nod through an analysis of his lunch and provide a funny response when every word I waste on him is being taken directly from my social life. I’m open to suggestions, unless they’re to keep sucking it up because I’m paying to listen to his monologues with time that could be spent doing, well, anything else. Unless he wants to talk about Black Mirror, because that’s probably what I’d be discussing when I get home anyways.