The art of a first hello: in a big office (chapter 1)

When you start a new job, the first day at the office is a critical one as it is the point from where you get the “real” feel of what it will be like in the next years.

You may have moved from another city or country, and found the perfect location close enough to the new office to minimize transportation time, but far enough to be closer to where the city life thrives (if the office is not there already). You have done your due diligence to be able to make the hard choice on the right balance between rent, transportation costs, and other life expenses with regard to your new salary, and deep dived into the intricacies of the local income tax rules to find out what will be left to you to save and enjoy.

All that happened after probably one or two phone interviews, and one or two face-to-face ones where, yes, you came to the office, but the people there took you straight to a meeting room in the nth floor, bombarded you with questions and tested your resistance to stress, and even when they made you a tour of the open office, you saw nothing because your sight was blurred by all these emotions and your mind flooded by too much new information... What was left was probably only a re-constructed picture that you made to yourself.

That first day is critical because after all the headache you’ve been through in organizing that big change in your life, you are finally going to live the real experience of what you did all that for.

That day, you arrived later than everyone else because your manager wanted to have some time to make sure you are all set with your desk, machines, HR system profile, access rights and so on...And of course at least 50% of that will take another month to be setup, but that’s another story. When you are at the reception, your manager comes and greets you, helps you get a badge, and takes you to your desk: through long corridors, then through a large open space with lot’s of people who, one after the other, throw unaffected glances at you: a new person, slightly overdressed, with a big smile stuck on the face…

There you are, at your new desk, just behind the one of your manager, your computer did not recognize your user ID, and you are on the phone with IT support, waiting on the line for already 10min with this very, very annoying music on and on... With the phone on your already overheated ear, you take this opportunity to look around from your desk: your manager is trying to kill her keyboard because Excel froze again, beyond her, a swarming bunch of people, working on their desk, or talking to each other with a mug in their hand, or leaned back in their chair, hands crossed behind their head contemplating their screens or the window... So many new faces, so many opportunities to make new friends in this new city... you just can’t wait for the tour your manager told you she’s going to do with you just before lunch to introduce you to the team.

Once you’re finished with IT support and changed your laptop (one of the usual conclusion of IT support in that company for any problem with your machine, you’re going to find out), the tour begins: your manager introduces you to the team members, who were...just 3... What? Only 3 out of the hundreds just on this floor? From those 3, only one took the effort to stand up, smile and greet you properly: he said he was happy to see the new generation coming in: he was getting retired by the end of the year... The 2 others were in their 50’s, kind of passive-aggressive, your manager murmured to you not to worry because they are always like that with everybody, but that they are good folks…

When it was finally decided to go for the team lunch together, all the open space flock was already moving towards the canteen on the floor below. On the stairs, you overheard conversations about weekend activities: mountain biking, inline skating, hiking, day trip to the neighboring city... All what you’d love doing on weekends... During lunch your manager was talking about the last TV series she’s addicted to, and the nearly retired one talked about his last miniature ship he finished to build, while the two others stayed in their religious silence, punctuated with slight eyebrows movements, which were the only signs that they were following the conversation..

You’re not a TV series fan, neither a miniature ship aficionado, and you were just amazed of how boring this lunch was... back to your desk, you were considering how to make the first hello to some of the people in the same open space who would share your interest in outdoor activities. But how to start? How to be sure that that person is interested in getting to know a new activity partner? You have already forgotten the faces of the people you overheard on your way to the canteen... Were they actually sitting on the same floor?

Back home, ready for another lonely evening, you pondered upon the meaning of your life, as you usually do when you are alone... But wait, what if there was a way to approach somebody with absolutely no reason, except that you would like to see if you could be friends, or just outdoor activity partner to begin with? How to make that first hello without sounding awkward?

To be continued...

Posted on Mar 05, 2017