Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Breaking story: Polite chat at Philadelphia workplace feels hollow

The following exchange happened recently at a Center City office. Some details have been altered to protect anonymity and bolster drama.

An administrative assistant is a busy-appearing office was engaged in a brief conversation by a company superior. "I was on my way to the bathroom and was taken by surprise by the Comptroller," said Jaimie R. who reported that senior staff "hold it in" to avoid facing subordinates. "I guess the turnaround on her takeout from Tiffin was too quick." Ms. R. remembers the conversation distinctly,

"Hi Ms. G"
"Hi Jaimie, how are you?"
"I'm okay and you?"
"Good. Thank you for asking."
"You’re welcome, Ms. G."
"Thank you again, Jaimie. That shirt you're wearing...blue?"
"Yes, blue"
"Yes, it's made of fabric, Ms. G."
"Great talking to you, Jaimie. Excuse me, please"

Ms. R. describes mixed feelings about the exchange. "That was our longest talk in my 4 years at the company." "But I felt empty afterward, like nothing had really changed between us.” Ms. R. returned to her desk and the rest of the day unfolded without incident.

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