This fact, whether you understand and accept it or not, is immutable. The office is not a night club. This is not a place to cultivate your casual social interactions. We did not build the headquarters to provide air conditioning while you flirt with other people’s wives. No, you daft ninco, this is an office. It is a place to work. Shut up.
Okay, you cannot shut up. You have to at least carry out a bit of social interaction; it cannot be helped.
Because: Some office people are very cool and you want to hang out with them. Either funny, or smart, or charming, or good-looking, or a combination of the above. Faced with such a person you will succumb to the temptation to befriend me. It is inevitable.
Also: It helps not to be openly hostile to people you meet in corridors every single day. You may hate their repugnant hairstyles, their taste in Michael Bolton music, their breath, and their habit of undressing every intern with their bu-red eyes every twenty seconds like some sort of American NSA x-ray drone in red alert def-con four standby mode (that is actually a great metaphor. Too bad if you don’t get it) but life is just easier if you don’t have to kung fu fight every time you meet.
Balance: This is why we have our two categories. One is the Cool Kids. The friends. The office family. The buddies.
Then you have the other category– the zombies, the shadows, the moving furniture, the people who might just as easily not exist. You don’t like them. You don’t know them. You don’t talk to them. You don’t acknowledge their humanity in any way.
It’s not because you are antisocial. You are, but that is not why you do not shake hands and greet everyone. It is because you just cannot be friendly to every person in the office. They are too many. Some people have to be cast aside and ignored. Otherwise you will spend all day smiling hellos and blowing air kisses and hugging and no work will get done. Some of you have to go, man. Nothing personal.
The trick is: Deciding who fits where. It starts off easy. Everyone you like is in the Cool Kids. The categorisation “Cool Kids” is a fluid one, you realise, and is quite relative. It is whoever is cool to you, no matter what your tastes. If you like Michael Bolton, you are not actually cool in the true sense of the word, but people who suffer the same lack of standards as you will find you cool enough to be friends with.
This category is the minority, of course. A well-run office will know what the limit of office friends an employee can have and enforce it subtly but rigidly.
Second Category is, obviously, everybody else.
Emigration: It is, of course, perfectly possible for one to move from Zombie to Friend. One day you discover that the askari is a Kendrick Lamar fan, and there you go. Now you are office buddies with the askari. He can ask you for a loan for transi if he wants. You are tight like that.
It also works the other way round. You can excommunicate someone from the family. If they steal your special coffee blend then you will want to break their face into pieces, but don’t do that until after you resign the company. In the meantime, just ignore the idiot. They are dead to you now. It is very very easy to do.
Visa Blockage: This happened just twenty minutes ago. I was approaching the door at the same time as this woman who I often see scuttling around the premises. We have never spoken. We risked bumping into each other in the doorway, so I stepped aside and let her go through first.
She waddled through and on down the corridor. She did not nod, smile or in any way indicate a polite acknowledgment of this sacrifice of mine.
That, my people, is how you get categorised. She is now furniture. I will never step aside for her no matter what other doorways we meet at in future. She could be bleeding to death under the printer and I will just pick up my files and walk on. Dead to me.
That is just how we keep offices organised.