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I work as a sole developer and data analyst for an outsourcing company with ~1500 employees, I used to work in one of their centers with 200 other employees and recently moved to a small executive office in a different city. I managed to find several people at the call center that shared similar interests as me, and have made several friends I still talk to and/or collaborate with. This is especially important to me because I'm very introverted, and the only places I tend to make friends are in the workplace.

There are ~10 people in the executive office, the majority of them in a completely different place in life than me. There is little to no social interaction, or shared interests here, and it's depressing.

There is a call center nearby that has ~150 employees, who nearly all live in the same city as me. They have a very active and friendly site-wide slack channel, so I reached out to the site director for an invite into the room. After explaining that I'm not there to play company politics, and just want to foster relationships outside of my official work capacity she wholeheartedly agreed to invite me.

My boss saw the IM window from the site director and asked if she was reaching out for help, or if she was having issues. I explained that I was asking for an invite to the slack room, so that I had somewhere to foster relationships and network. She suddenly became serious and said the following phrases "This is not something I like to see at work", "We have full-time jobs to do", "We have different opinions on this". She was unhappy that I was going to interact with other at the company outside of my official role, though she did not forbid it. After I mentioned how this is actively encouraged within many part of the company and culture she said "while this may be encouraged for colleagues, it is not for us".

I feel like this is unjust, I have no interactions in my current office, I have no local friends, and have no one to share similar interests with. Making friends in the workplace so I can meet up with them after work has been my own saving grace. I feel that I am expected to be nose-to-the-grindstone and not interact with others except when officially needed. It's giving me a lot of anxiety because even though I'm an introvert, I still feel a need to interact and foster relationships with other people.

How can I approach her about this? Is it fine to do it anyways, even though she hinted that I should not? Are her thoughts on this reasonable?

  • Do you really mean slack room? Sorry for your situation but I don't have an answer. – paparazzo Jul 14 '17 at 22:10
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    Does your company have any HR policies that mention the use of slack rooms? If you can find any relevant HR policies contradicting your boss's attitude, that would give you backup if she brings it up again. – Scraping Infinity Jul 14 '17 at 22:19
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    @ScrapingInfinity The companies policies are very vague/non-existent. They leave details up to the site directors, program managers, and colleagues. There is the typical no foul-language/sexual stuff clause. The company is trying to push an open and friendly culture, where going and finding others in the company with similar interests is encouraged, similarly meeting up and having fun outside of work is encouraged as well. They even have banners, posters, emails, wallboards...etc related to that as well as spending money on "community outreach teams" for that kind of stuff. – Douglas Gaskell Jul 14 '17 at 22:27
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    @ScrapingInfinity As a side note, there is an ironic history of company policy/culture not applying, or being actively ignored for people working in this office. There is little to no culture in the executive office. – Douglas Gaskell Jul 14 '17 at 22:30
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    @Polygnome I'm paid to get work done, if casual socialization results in me getting more and better work done then it's a win/win. The "you're here to grind your nose on the stone" mentality is toxic, and does nothing to help the employee or the employer.This if how you get insane turnover and unproductive employees, I see this daily in other departments that I pull stats for here. Not to mention that I'm an employee, not a slave. – Douglas Gaskell Jul 17 '17 at 14:48
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It sounds from the comments as if your immediate boss, and the executive office, are out of touch with the company's culture as a whole. That said, if your boss continues to discourage you from socializing with coworkers, you might set up a short meeting with her to present the evidence that workplace socialization does, in fact, encourage productivity. A simple internet search brought up hundreds of articles to that affect - here are a few:

http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/111766/news-flash-workplace-socializing-productive.aspx

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/1953-socializing-work-friends.html

Someone higher up than your boss must have realized this, which is why they are "informally" trying to encourage more socializing.

If you present these facts to your boss - and as always stay calm and professional during the discussion - it may help defuse the situation.

  • Thanks for the answer. I just had a realization that my boss has no way to "measure" my productivity past how much time I spend staring at code vs doing other things. She is not a developer and has little experience with development. I feel that she sees me doing something else as "not doing my job", when typically I will do non-development related things to let a problem stew for a bit, or to step away from a task so I can better re-engage it later. She may not see it this way. – Douglas Gaskell Jul 17 '17 at 15:09
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Your boss is nervous because you're at the corporate office and she is not. If you were there hiding in a corner interacting only with your laptop, there'd be no issue at all. But it seems that she's really afraid that your contact with others will jeopardize her own position.

Since you're the sole developer, I'm going to assume her technical know-how is limited. If you're there with the decision makers, there's not necessarily such a great need for them to relay requirements through your boss because you're sitting right across the hall. As such, it's making her feel very vulnerable.

Interacting with others is really going to help your position there more than it could ever hurt. You can't accommodate this person's fears indefinitely, but you must handle this with tact and awareness.

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It's your boss' call what you do on company time. If she views socializing with coworkers as something you are not employed to do, then you should not do it during work hours. Like, seriously, don't go behind your boss' back. Even if there's some sort of official policy that permits you to chat with coworkers during the day on topics not specifically relevant to your job (which I doubt any company would codify), your boss still views that behavior negatively and there's no reason to get on your boss' bad side if you want to stay employed.

I would suggest that you seek to move to a different team. It sounds like you hate your current workplace because you can't relate to the people there. It's causing you anxiety and loneliness. It's harmful to your mental health and to your performance at work. I don't know what prompted your original move, but don't fall for the sunk cost fallacy. Transfer out, to a place where people share your values and interests, and you can relate to them.

edit: I am not trying to say that a good boss micromanages your time. I am saying that if you have a boss that does that, your best bet is to be pragmatic and instead of trying to change your boss' behavior, you should change who your boss is.

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    He's an employee, not a slave. If his work is at a satisfactory level it is none of his boss's business what else he does with his time. – Gabe Sechan Jul 15 '17 at 9:24
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    @GabeSechan: yes and no. His boss has no room for complaint if he has been meeting expectations, but his boss is also responsible for assigning and budgetting future work. If he spent an hour a week doing his job and the rest of the time chatting, his boss might decide he can do more work... – jmoreno Jul 15 '17 at 15:05
  • "it is none of his boss's business what else he does with his time" sure, his time, not company time. – 2rs2ts Jul 17 '17 at 18:29
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I am retired. I have been there and done that; meaning I have been in your shoes and your boss's shoes.

Nothing is worse than going behind your boss's back. Do not join the slack group. Also, nothing is worse than arguing with your boss. Don't try to convince her you are right and she is wrong. She is the boss. You need to remember that more than anything else written in these posts. She is the boss! You need to learn to do everything that will make her happy and get you advanced.

To make friends, there are hundreds of other ways, clubs, personal ads, churches, etc. If you can't do that and if you can't stand the work environment with this boss, look for a way out - transfer or find another employer. This is something you can go to her about. Tell her that you feel like an outcast in this group as you don't fit in, you have no mentor and don't see advancement. Ask her what her thoughts are on your future if you worked very hard and was the best employee.

See what she says and decide if you like this or not. If not, ask her help in what can you do to get promoted or transferred.

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    This is truly terrible advice. Be totally subservient and never challenge someone just because they are your boss!? – TheJulyPlot Jul 15 '17 at 11:51

protected by Chris E Jul 17 '17 at 18:23

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