We spend over 40 hours a week with people that just happen to be working at the same job that we are. They come from different families, backgrounds, and walks of life, and sometimes they end up becoming your best friends. But not always.
There are many times we’re left wishing we could just go to work, finish our tasks, and head home without having to interact with our colleagues.
This poses the question — what is the proper balance in work relationships?
Do you prefer to be good friends with your coworkers or keep to yourself? Do they expect conversation, or do they prefer peace and quiet?
Each individual has different preferences due to their personalities, and I have had my fair share of wonderful coworkers (as well as ones that I did not click with on any level aside).
This made me wonder what could possibly happen if I decided to cut out any form of excess social interaction with my coworkers outside of the required work-related conversations. So we put it to the test, and I tried not speaking to my coworkers for a week.
Here’s what happened…
Let’s define “not talking”
It’s quite hard to have absolutely no interaction with a coworker, simply because some jobs rely on communication between us for them to be completed efficiently. By having absolutely no contact, in many positions, this could end up looking unprofessional to your superiors and may affect work productivity across the board.
We wouldn’t want that to happen.
What we are referring to here is cutting out that extra social communication by sticking to only the cut-and-dry work-related conversations throughout the day. While you may have a quick chat about an important work deadline, to try this out, you won’t be discussing what adorable things your pets did the night before.
You might be wondering, what happens when you cut out that socialization?
A week of no socializing
Some individuals thrive in social environments, while others find it too distracting.
After a week of no socializing, beyond the necessary tasks, I found that while some coworkers were a bit confused — others seemed to enjoy the change.
The coworkers that were typically on the quieter side gave the impression that they were a bit relieved that I did not require any extra interactions with them. A simple smile exchanged in the morning was enough for them, and they went on about their tasks for the day.
As the day progressed, if a work-related task had to be communicated, it was just a simple interaction. Pass the file, hand them the sticky note with the phone call, or explain a customer issue that had to be handled. It was quick, easy, and above all, efficient. I found myself getting more work.
However, there were also the social butterflies that, more often than not, thrive on extra communication. Not having those social interactions with these individuals proved to be a tad more complicated.
At first, I would get the odd glance. The first day I even received the regular question of “Are you okay?” and “You seem upset today.”
It was quite clear that they wanted to continue the conversation, both out of curiosity and confusion. I refrained from responding aside from the simple headshake — giving them nothing to satisfy their curiosity.
Luckily, COVID-19 and social distancing provided a plausible explanation and cover for skipping the watercooler chit-chat.
By the end of the week, these same individuals would either avoid me or act as if they were offended. They did not outwardly express feelings of being offended, but it was quite clear that they felt upset with my behavior. Even when attempting to discuss a brief work task with them, I was met with looks of confusion or annoyance.
The Bottom Line
It was quite obvious that the weeklong social silence had a different effect on my coworkers, depending on their viewpoints on a proper office atmosphere.
What I found the most interesting was how different personalities responded to my silence. On one end, I was met with what appeared to be appreciation and understanding by those that preferred a quiet atmosphere. While on the flip side, those that put a focus on social interaction were struggling with the idea that I simply refused to interact with them above a work-related level.
I have to say that as interesting as it was to see their responses, it is always important to respect each individual person’s preferences. Communication in a workforce is key.
It can also make your daily experience a lot more pleasant.
How you choose to interact is entirely up to your comfort level. However, I would recommend at least getting to know some of your coworkers on a more personal level. It could make your office experience warmer and more enjoyable.