The work zoo

Friday was the last day for the man who got me my job, and there were drinks after work at a nearby bar. I was there for about 90 minutes, chatting with colleagues and drinking beer. It was fine without being anything special, up until the Sales guys turn up. They’re a very different crew.

It’s no secret that Sales and I have had our run-ins and have an uneasy relationship. There’s plenty of practical reasons for that as far as I can see. For a start, I’m ethically driven, and they couldn’t spell it. To them, everything comes second to making the sale. They’re happy to do over other parts of the business to achieve that, and have no regard for anyone – including the customer – once the sale is done. To someone like me – principled, standards-driven – that’s poison. And I guess that’s the fundamental issue. Put us on a line, and they’re pushing the edges at one end, and I’m doing the same on the other.

That counts when it comes to basic style, as well. I catch a glimpse of various Sales guys around the office (you can spot ’em a mile off), and it’s rare that the style snob in me doesn’t emerge.

Friday night was typical. Three of them came along, all burly types leading with their belly. They have a distinct manner, splay-footed, stomach pressed forward as if looking to intimidate with it, shoulders pushed back, walking in a swaggering shuffle. They greeted each other with a hug, though they’d just shared an office together a few hours before. Filtering through the ranks influences seem to range from gangsta and rap to the merely gauche (Peter Jackson suits). Many of them are outright lairy, right up to chunky jewellery and baseball caps. They’re a shallow, egocentric mob in general, lacking grace. (To be fair, there are some reasonable characters too – I have a mate working there, and some of the women are very nice). As a general rule, they don’t give a fuck about anyone else and do whatever they want. (They ignore the lines and colour wherever they wish).

It’s interesting to differentiate between the different personality types. There are Sales, but then now I’m working closely with Marketing, and they’re different again. They’re decent people in general, a tad overdrawn to my taste – a bit louder, a bit more emphatic with their words and gestures (but then I’m old-school hard-arse), a bit gushier. They’re more touchy, feely. More ethereal.

In IT, where I’m sitting, there are some classic IT geek types. There’re a couple of guys who I’ve barely heard a word out of and who avoid all social contact. Much of the floor is taken up with Indian developers, industrious and humble. They’re smiling and gracious when you stop to chat with them, always ready to take time out to talk about the cricket. My own team lead is as lovely a guy as you’d ever meet, more reserved and quiet than anyone from Sales or Marketing. He just gets on with it.

I’ve got some of that, but I’ve probably got a bit of everything here. I’ve got a bit of swagger, but balancing it out is a decent work ethic and a genuine interest in others. I’ll colour outside the lines myself occasionally, but only because I think the lines are in the wrong place (and I don’t always recognise arbitrary boundaries). I’m not as loud as marketing, but I can fire up and be just as smooth and extroverted as they are. What I have and they don’t is a touch of mongrel. I’m having my qualms these days, but even still it doesn’t stop me from being direct and focussed. I’m ideas-driven, and everything comes second to that.

I think back to where I’ve come from, and it feels disorganised and ineffectual. There’s a jobbing mentality. People come and go, and while there are some excellent performers, most are happy to turn up and go home. Even the management is amateur by comparison, lacking a framework and driven by individual whim.

It’s no surprise I left soon after Sales turned up on Friday. We shook hands warily, nodded heads, but we’re not for socialising together.

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