America, the Cubicle Farm, and the Introvert

This post is dedicated to Davina and all the introverts sitting in the cubicle farms explaining for the 50-11th time that “nothing is wrong.”

You know, as Americans spend an ever increasing time at the office, the boundary between the professional and the personal gets harder to maintain.

I’m content to go into the office, do my job, and go home. If I happen to become friends with some of the colleagues while there, then great. If not, I’m content with just being colleagues. I hear this same reasoning from a lot of introverts.

Deep down, I think that most people sort of get this about introverts. Now people will still ask us “what’s wrong?” or “why are you so quiet?” but there’s no malice or nitpicking behind it. American culture just values extroversion, so we introverts are seen in a curious light.

However, the bane of the common introvert’s existence in the cubicle farm is Overly familiar Fred or Habitual line-stepper Harriet (Guys can be a Harriet and Gals can be a Fred). Fred and Harriet get their “lives” so to speak at work. They try to take liberties with you because they foolishly mistake your silence for weakness.

If you don’t have a Fred or a Harriet at your office, you are truly blessed. For Fred and Harriet could test the patience of Job.

Fred is the pushy office busy-body that wants to know what everyone is doing and be everyone’s bud. How does Fred annoy the common introvert? Fred will come to your desk to discuss with you the exact time that you arrived, how many times that you went to restroom at work, what time you went to lunch, and the internet news article that you read at your desk during lunch. Do you know why? Because Fred is concerned about you, dammit! You don’t interact with Fred unless it is work related and you try your damnedest to keep the chit-chat to a minimum. Something has to be wrong with you. Come hell or high water, Fred is going to try to make you get on his level of friendliness. Fred is not necessarily a mean guy, but because he is so pushy and tries to be all in your business, you end up viewing him as an energy vampire.

Harriet is just an asshole. A tragic asshole, but still an asshole. There ain’t a nice way to put that. Unlike Fred, who annoys with you the mundane, Harriet just crosses the line of what is normal office behavior. In fact, Harriet stomps the hell out of the line and then salts the earth under the line. Chick is crazy, yo. Harriet takes the common introvert’s general silence and cordial distance as a personal damn insult. Harriet is at work to primarily socialize and feed some emotional need that she is not getting at home. If Fred is an energy vampire, then Harriet is a supermassive black hole. If she feels unloved at home, then she needs you to be her loving friend. If she feels powerless, then she tries to exercise undue power over you.

And by the way, Harriet does not tell you that you’ve been assigned to fulfill this need. You will just gradually notice that Harriet has no sense of propriety when it comes to your boundaries. Harriet is the type of colleague that will piss fire if you go to lunch without her. Harriet will get rude with you and talk out the side of her damn neck when you have to explain/remind her that she is not your supervisor. The common introvert may have to expend a lot of energy dealing with this foolish individual. See once it’s been explained to Harriet through deeds and/or words that we are just here to work, she can become hostile or an emotional land mine because we’re messing with her grand plan by not being her pawn.

For me, I’m generally cordial to the Fred’s and I try not to let my annoyance show, but I still continue on as my normal self. Deal with it.

I avoid the Harriet’s like the plague. People that cannot keep their emotions in check in a business setting are dangerous to me and I don’t have time for that.

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