4 Types of Co-workers You’ve Secretly Missed While Working Remotely

I let loose this month. Call it an early summer effect, call it too-much-overthinking-over-overthinking syndrome, call it anything you like; the point is I needed some therapeutical writing. With zero intention to create any drama, please let me elaborate. Too-much-overthinking-over-overthinking syndrome is this imaginary self-diagnosis that describes those few steps right before burnout. You know when you feel like a speeding-up vehicle driving directly into a wall with broken brakes? Don’t look it up in any medical sources; though highly relatable and overly familiar, it is still totally made up. Therapeutical writing, on the other hand, is often the cure to the above state of mind. When we, casual over-thinkers, reach this point where thoughts, words and ideas are overfilling our head, it might be a good idea to”write them off” our system. Raw and unfiltered, preferably.

A disclaimer that this is definitely not a politically correct article is almost necessary here. Despite starting off with the best of intentions not to offend anyone, it might end up offending half of the workforce, including the one who wrote it. Yes, maybe I see myself in some of the behaviours below, but that is as much as I’m confessing today.

With all this time away from hardcore corporate environments and a baby born and raised in the pandemic, I got really nostalgic for my old self. As time passes, it’s funny how we tend to forget the bad moments and only recall the good ones. All these months of social isolation brought back memories of all these types of people I encountered in my corporate years. Seeing things from a safe distance and fully recovered from mental exhaustion and work-related anxiety, I kind of miss many of them, even the most annoying ones. Each of them had their own coping mechanisms that I wasn’t in the position to decode back then as I was struggling with my own demons. However, I now know that a clear head, both a well-rested mind and body, would give me the change in perspective I needed. A mindset where diversity in the workspace is not only about background, culture, and genre. It is about personality, too. 

The Lone Wolves

It’s not that they don’t like you or approve of you. It’s just that they haven’t noticed you. Or care to notice you anyway. They will probably send you an email even though you are three desks on their right. They will most likely do the same with the one sitting right next to them. The trick they use is the oldest of the old: they always wear headphones. Don’t be fooled; they don’t listen to music, podcasts or e-books. They just have some white noise on to make sure none of the office’s decibels reaches them. They see open-space offices in their darkest nightmares. They choose their desk wisely as it has to be the most isolated one. So far in the corner, by the window is not enough. They locate a big plant or a moveable closet to slowly lure close to their desk. The least real-life visibility and engagement is the ultimate goal. 

They don’t attend social events. If they do, they speak as few words as possible. If you are lucky, they will drink a few more beers than they can handle, and they will let their star shine for a brief moment. The morning after, they are back into their sacred cage. Try to approach them, and they will deny everything pleading a blackout and putting their headphones back on. It often happens that lone wolves recognise their own species, in which case they form an untouchable pact where they can be happily silent together. To play it cool, you call them weird. But deep inside, you are secretly jealous of their confidence and their total indifference to anyone’s approval. To get even more provocative, I dare you to admit you caught yourself wondering how to get their approval or, at least, their attention. 

Post-Covid era: Don’t hold your breath; they won’t be coming back to the office anytime soon. They either secured a fully remote contract or they already went freelancing. They were plotting their way out far before the pandemic, anyway. 

The Social Butterflies

They are in charge of every office event and the first to show up at the next team meeting, willing to lead the most imaginative ice breaker game to distract the rest of the team from yet another organisational restructuring. Their name is on every newsletter and they become office celebrities in no time. They are naturals. Over-enthusiastic and always available, they somehow blend in so well with the surroundings that everyone feels like they were always there. Mixed feelings around them are the most common scenario as it may not be clear whether you are envious or enchanted by their effortless charm and endless energy. 

These lovely social butterflies often disappear as fast as they appear, leaving chaos and despair behind them. They seemed so loyal to the company and “so excited to be part of this awesome team” that their quitting feels a little like a betrayal. Not to mention the impact it has directly on you, the humble employee, making you question whether you were not good enough to deserve them. Or fun enough to keep them. Of course, these existential issues go away as soon as the next butterfly flies in, and the office is yet again full of laughter and joy. Plus, no one will ask you to bake a cake for the team breakfast any time soon.

Post-Covid era: With so much hardcore online networking during lockdowns, they have already landed a brand new job. But you already know that because the farewell zoom party had so many participants that it felt like a town hall. 

The Nonconformists

They have zero ideas how they got here. Somewhere between fighting capitalism and running out of money, they lost sight of the bigger picture for a hot minute and landed in a corporate office running excel reports. They tell themselves that this is only temporary and take great comfort in believing they are fighting the system from the inside. They are always looking for that perfect opportunity to do some preaching and are never afraid to share their arguments in public. Deep down inside, they fantasise about an epic exit that will make them look like heroes and provide them with a few salaries ahead. Yes, I’m talking about getting fired, not quitting. 

You love them, admit it. They are like wounded fighters who just won’t give up and will fight all your battles for you. You admire their persistence and idealism and they become the voice of your thoughts whenever injustice happens. 

Post-Covid era: They are digital nomads now, lost somewhere in Costa Rica exploring the true meaning of Pura Vida and fighting the system from the outside. They lead a minimal, eco-friendly life and feel more content than ever. And that leaves you terribly missing your office rebel and wondering whether you’ll ever have the guts to walk the Camino de Santiago by yourself.

The Oversharers

Always be ready for an in-depth, socially awkward, emotionally charged monologue the moment you see an oversharer approaching. There is no escape; you will learn everything against your own free will. You’ll be a whole new person after this encounter. In 10-minutes time you’ll have a brand fresh muffins’ recipe, a complete list of the trendiest bars to go next Saturday, all the embarrassing details on how they ended up with this list after their hardcore Saturday night bar-crawling, a few unasked medical advice and a full update on the office gossip. If you are lucky enough, some of this gossip will be directly or indirectly about you, saving you precious time trying to understand why you got all those weird looks in the elevator earlier. 

Don’t be ignorant; you just got access to a whole bunch of information for free. It is not the oversharer’s duty to filter that information for you. And don’t be a hypocrite; you’ll probably bake those muffins sooner or later.

Post-Covid era: They are back and stronger than ever, ready to lavishly share wisdom and gossip all the way from the corridor to the coffee machine. And after all these months of uncanny hall encounters, meaning children asking for weird permissions (mom, can I pee with the dog in the back yard?) and stepping on legos, you will embrace and cherish these moments. Much like a transient state until you remember how to act normal around people again.

We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity, life would be very boring.

Catherine Pulsifer

If you hire only those people you understand, the company will never get people better than you are. Always remember that you often find outstanding people among those you don’t particularly like. 

 Soichiro Honda

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