“It feels just like high school,” someone said to me last week regarding his department. Of course, this wasn’t the first time I’d heard this description. And I’d never really questioned what this meant before. But this time I asked.
“Oh, you know, the cliques, the gossip and all that stupid juvenile behavior.”
“What do you mean by `stupid juvenile behavior’?” I had to get to the bottom of this. I had to know what all these complaining workers really meant when they said their work environment was like high school.
“Stupid stuff like hiding the coffee beans. Seriously, someone hid the coffee. Oh, and someone left a really nasty note in the file room addressed to the slow-witted idiot who misfiled the inventory slips…talk about passive aggressive!”
“Actually, that’s just plain old aggressive. But it is redundant?”
“Right! You know what else they do? They’re dating each other! And then they’re not speaking to each other! And then they’re hooking up again. And we have a policy against that…”
“Yes, we do.”
“Plus, they purposefully annoy each other. They find out what annoys the person they don’t like, and they use every free moment to make sure and deliberately drive the other person nuts.”
“Can you give me an example?”
“One guy doesn’t like his project manager’s taste in music, and so the PM finds this out and decides to turn up the volume and play it all day. He used to play it only in the afternoons at a low volume.”
“Now that is passive aggressive.”
“See! I told you! It feels just like high school.”
I had to reflect for a moment. Did my high school experience include cliques, gossip, hiding things, aggressive behaviors, fraternization and passive aggressive behaviors? Perhaps it did, only in different forms, all of which I’ll explore in a series of blogs. I’ll also explore how different versions exist at work. And—I’m sure you’ll agree—some of these versions are more dangerous and destructive than high-school behaviors.
Does your work environment feel like high school? I’d love to hear why.