There are some things you just don’t want to know about your co-workers

Canon PowerShot S95, 2015

I worked for a company several years ago that really knew how to have fun. The business the company was in was important but unglamorous, and had a huge department doing tedious customer-service work for middling pay. The company tried to make up for it with fun diversions like the Wednesday they rented a camel (as it was hump day), and the Sumo-wrestling competition complete with roly-poly Sumo suits for anyone who wanted to play.

Once a year the entire Engineering team, of which I was a part, went on a three-day junket somewhere. Officially it was for professional development, as we spent time learning new technologies and techniques. But mostly, it was for fun.

One year we rented an enormous cabin in the Smokies. I think it slept 75, which was overkill because we were a team of about 30. A bunch of engineers spent most of a day mountain biking, and another group went ziplining. I took a long solo hike and photographed the hills. We all spent another day doing touristy things in Pigeon Forge. This all had to be crazy expensive for the company, but it was an incredible trip.

Except for the one big thing I didn’t enjoy. The cabin had three hot tubs, and many of my co-workers spent the evenings parading around in swimwear.

I like to know my co-workers as people. Tim is a skilled bassist and plays in a band. Adam is deeply into board games and owns more than a hundred. Taylor dances semi-professionally. Bill was a professional wrestler in his 20s. Amy is a serious motorcyclist who occasionally races.

But I don’t want to know about Jenny’s generous cleavage or David’s surprisingly dense chest hair.

I’m no prude; I’m rather a devoted fan of cleavage. There’s just a point past which being familiar with co-workers crosses a line. That line is different for each of us, but I think most people can agree that there is a line. Past that line for me is knowing what my co-workers’ bodies look like under their usual clothes. I don’t want to think about Jenny’s chest when I see her at work the following Monday.

Similarly, I don’t want to know that Emily smokes weed with her friends on the weekends, especially since that’s still illegal here in Indiana. I also don’t want to know that Andy spends his vacation at the Midwest FurFest convention in full tiger costume. And Amy the motorcyclist I mentioned earlier? She rides to the Sturgis rally every year. I do not want to know how far she walks onto the wild side there.

If these people were my friends, then sure! I’m open-minded and accepting. But at work, I want my co-workers to keep their freak flags furled. And their chests covered.

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7 responses to “There are some things you just don’t want to know about your co-workers”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Maybe I’m just raised in a different group, being involved with the “hipper than thou” advertising industry, and starting my career in small boutique employers, but by the time I had to rely on larger corporations for employment, me and most of my peers would bridle against any of these forced morale building exercises. My entire department threatened to walk out at one company if we were going to be forced to do this stuff, so they backed down. As one of my peers said to a vice-president one time: “…no one who’s smart enough to work in my field, would stand for being forced to participate in this stuff put together by some vapid ex-college cheerleader in the HR department.” Work is work and your friends are your friends, and forced camaraderie is usually a disaster.

    BTW, this is why I also shy away from corporate work out sites and shower rooms. TMI! As you said Jim, no need to see my work peers in their bathing suits, or worse, naked in a shower! Don’t need people at work calling me “shorty”.

    It’s not like off-work interaction was non-existent. I worked in one ad department where Thursday and Friday after work, people started going for a drink at a very seedy hotel bar at the edge of the downtown district. Sometimes two-thirds or more of the department was there, and more than once the VP would stop by and open a tab for about an hour, picking up all costs. Some wild nights there, and weird fun! But, no corporate sponsored event could reach the level of “sophistication” needed for my peers, we even self-financed our own Christmas party, and would avoid the corporate one like the plague!

    All of this, of course, most probably because we worked for a department that was providing a service for our company, and not actually involved in the business our company was actually in. Huge sociological disconnect there. I read an article one time in a business magazine that said if you wanted to hold onto talent in various corporate departments, you should make those departments as close as possible to how they work in the real world in stand alone businesses, and not force people to meet some dress-code and behavior norm for whatever your main business is.

  2. DougD Avatar

    I feel your pain Jim, our company once spent a weekend with families at Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls. It was fun for the kids, but seeing all my co-workers in bathing suits was traumatizing.

  3. -Nate Avatar

    An interesting company to work for, I bet the employees were very loyal and worked hard .

    Also food for thought about the coworkers, I can see some of your points very well indeed .

    I used to have a coworker whom I liked and had fun with, everyone knew he was a sex freak, that’s his business but then he added kiddie porn to the other sex pictures he had in his work area and that was that for me .

    Similarly we had die hard racist jerks, every one of those was also a dishonest and abrasive jerk before I discovered they were also racists .

    I loved to taunt them with pictures of my black girlfriend who was prettier than any woman they’d even had .

    I was childish but don’t back down when faced with racism .

    I also had a boos several layer up who was cute and loved to display her cleavage, one Friday when she and I were the only two person there she dressed up in a tight red pantsuit and tried hard to vamp me ~ I don’t mind a bit of strange now and then but not going to loose my career with the trollop who had screwed her way to the top……


  4. Peter Miller Avatar
    Peter Miller

    My daughter (born in 1989, I don’t know what generation she is), worked for a few years at a big national PR firm. She hated fun Fridays, etc. Then her next job for a family-run real estate firm would have off-site retreats in the boonies, she hated those too, but my daughter told amusing stories of hipsters trying to order avocado toast at the local town diner…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      facepalm. With experience comes wisdom, which includes the ability to read the local culture and adjust.

  5. J P Avatar

    I’m with you 100%. I have always worked in small offices that generated a family atmosphere where everyone liked each other and got along. There was occasionally socializing, but it was organic and not forced.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s very nice to enjoy socializing with co-workers. I take my team out for lunch or beers from time to time — always optional.

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