Your Co-Worker’s Aren’t Your Friends

Screenshot of a conversation with the girlfriend

This screenshot is what the girlfriend sent me the other day. Apparently, she was ratted out for using her phone while working when her company policy explicitly prohibits this. Of course, everybody at her work uses their phones while working. It’s one of those company policies that everyone pays lip service to until they need to use it to throw someone else under the bus. This was her first time, at least at this job, and as far as I know, that she has been targeted by somebody (or multiple somebody’s) at her work. Like you can see in the screenshot, she’s frustrated because she’s not sure who did it. I told her later that she’s got enemies that she didn’t know about and they haven’t revealed themselves.

Your co-worker’s aren’t your friends.

You may get along with them. You may joke around with them and have a few laughs. You may genuinely enjoy their company and find pleasure working alongside them. They aren’t your friends though.

Everything you do with them and around them is great and fine and funny, until it isn’t. Keep in mind that anything you say and do around your co-workers can, and most likely, will be used against you. Our modern corporate culture virtually guarantees this. Ratting out your fellow “team mates” is encouraged. Think of all those mandatory sexual harassment training’s that you’ve received. Not only should you report to management anything that happens to you, you should also report anything that you witness happening to someone else. You overhear a conversation between a couple of other co-workers that offends you? Report it. You see someone touching someone else in a manner that you consider inappropriate? Go to HR. In fact, if you don’t, you could be the one in trouble.

Several years ago, I worked with a guy who liked to hug the female bank tellers at the bank that we serviced. From what I could tell, it didn’t seem to bother these women. Until it did. One day I get called into the general manager’s office. He’s got my co-worker sitting there, and the lady who is the head of HR, standing there. Needless to say, it was a “closed door” meeting. The bank had called our business and apparently the women were in an uproar about my co-worker hugging the tellers, and my management was going to get to the bottom of it.

Fast forward a little bit: We both got suspended, with pay, until the investigation was completed. That was a week off for me. When I got the call to come back in, I was fairly certain that I was going to lose my job. The company took sexual harassment claims very seriously. They had a zero tolerance policy towards it. When I came back in, I found out that my co-worker was let go and my suspension with pay became a suspension without pay.

Why was that? Because of guilt by association, and the fact that I didn’t snitch my co-worker out. I was there on the days that he hugged the tellers, I witnessed him do it. I didn’t agree with him hugging the bank tellers, it’s definitely something I wouldn’t have done. However, it seemed that the tellers were fine with it. I’m not the morality police. It wasn’t in my job description to keep an eye on him and hold his hand. He’s a grown man. And I’m not a rat. This man was the eyes in the back of my head. While we would be out in the public, delivering money to banks, he was my protector, and I was his. He made a stupid mistake, he got too friendly. He thought “we (the tellers) were all friends.”

This wasn’t the first time that I’ve been in the cross-hairs of a fellow employee at work. I could give more examples, but I’m sure you get the point, and if you don’t, you will eventually.

With all of that in mind, here are my “7 rules” for surviving at work:

  1. Trust No One. Your co-worker’s aren’t your friends. Everything is fine until it isn’t.
  2. Keep a Low Profile. Keep your head down. Watch what you say and what you do. The walls have eyes and ears. Don’t talk about anything, and I mean literally, anything about your personal life. Don’t stare at the hot co-worker chick with the nice rack and the nice ass as she walks by. She may not see you staring, but somebody else will. And they will be offended, be sure of it. Don’t talk about sex, religion, and do not ever engage in politics. Not at this point in time anyways. My co-worker’s have no idea if I’m married, if I have children, or what I do in my spare time. It’s none of their business. If it sounds like I’m describing a war-zone, it’s because I am.
  3. As curious as you may be, don’t ask your co-worker’s personal questions. See rule number two. If you do, you are opening the door to them reciprocating and asking you personal questions. That way leads to Pandora’s Box. Just don’t do it.
  4. Remain calm at all times. Take your frustration out at the gym. Take it out at the gun range. Take it out anywhere except at work. In today’s world of safe spaces, triggers, and political correctness, you don’t want to be seen as anything other than stable and dependable. Smile and nod.
  5. Remember why it is that you work where you do and for whom you do. You are there to get paid. You may enjoy your work and even have a passion for it. I hope you do. But you are their to get paid first. I like all of my co-worker’s just fine and wish them no ill-will, but I don’t hang out with them once it’s time to leave. I’m there to get paid and do a job, not to be friends.
  6. Keep your conversation with female co-workers to the absolute minimum. Talking about the weather is fine. Conversation that entails work is essential of course, that’s part of why you are there. Avoid partaking in gossip at all costs. It’s perfectly ok to listen to gossip, you will have the pulse of the office, so to speak. Do not participate in gossip. Ever. It can and will blow up in your face one day.
  7. Do not apologize. If you are called out on something, if you get called into the office for some offense, however real or imaginary, do not apologize. Apologies are admissions of guilt and will be used as ammunition against you.

If it sounds like I’m being extreme, I am. Just because your not paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent almost all of my working life in the corporate world and I’ve had far more enjoyable encounters than not, and I’ve been able to thrive and make a good living at what I do. You can too if you take my advice and keep those pointers in mind.

One last thing: In today’s world of #MeToo and #TimesUp, if you are a man, it would be in your best interest if you have a witness, preferably another man, present when dealing with your female co-worker’s. Minimize one-on-one exposure if you possibly can. Definitely do not have closed door talks with a female co-worker. It could turn into a “he said/she said” situation down the road, and right now whatever “she said,” will be right and true, and whatever you say will be wrong and false.

Keep this in mind as well: When dealing with office politics and your co-workers, if you don’t know who the mark is, you’re the mark.

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