I’ve been in the working world since I was 16 years old.
In the past I have worked at a fast-food restaurant (just one, but I worked there for years), a credit card company, a college, and for a small non-profit company. When I moved to Tennessee and took a job with the government, I noticed something quite interesting which had been previously unknown to me.
I call it: Voluntary Forced Participation.
The first government group I was with was comprised of about thirty people. There was one girl who was apparently the self-appointed social director. Every time anyone had a birthday she would send out an email requesting that everyone give her $5 so we could have a cake for this person. She would then go purchase a sheet cake at Wal-Mart and the entire group would stop their work for as long as a half hour to sit around and eat cake together.
I’m quick. It didn’t take me long to figure out that 30 people times $5 equals way more than that sheet cake you buy for $19.99 at Wal-Mart. Plus, in my never-ending quest to lose weight, I wasn’t interesting in eating cake with lard and sugar smeared all over it so I would just immediately delete the emails when they came in and then not partake when the blessed day came around. Not that I’m anti-social, mind you. I’m not. It’s just when I’m at work, I’m there to work. I talk and carry on a little bit, enough to get along, but mostly, its work. I’m only here to make money so I can afford my real life.
Soon after? I got the following email from the social director.
I know that some of you guys are new, but here is how things work around here. When it is someone’s birthday it is customary to give $5 so we can have cake. This is how we do it. This is how we’ve always done it. Everyone participates. Bring your $5 to me for Random Coworker #12’s birthday by 5pm today. Email me with questions.
PS: This is voluntary.
Wow. That sounds SO voluntary. She left out the part about, “We’ll talk smack about you if you don’t participate. Also, we might cut you in the parking lot.” Otherwise, the email was fairly complete.
Since this job was temporary and I had started working there about a month after my own birthday (and knew I wouldn’t still be there when my birthday rolled back around) I forwarded the email to my very cool boss with a note that said something like, “What the hell?”
That was the last we heard about that. Or it was the last I heard anyway. I got cut out of the email loop. I left the job soon after.
The project that I’m on now has, up until a few months ago, had a woman working for us who cooked elaborate meals for the entire group just because it was Tuesday. For her going away party we ordered pizza and she brought in six desserts that she had made herself. Needless to say this has not been a problem in the past.
Until I got an email about the Thanksgiving luncheon.
It will be Wednesday. Sign up by last Friday. Everyone bring a covered dish or something else you want to eat.
Last week was rough. I didn’t sign up. I don’t plan to participate.
So then I get this email:
“I noticed you didn’t sign up to bring anything for the Thanksgiving luncheon. We still need someone to bring cups. I’ll sign you up for that.”
Um, no. You won’t.
I emailed back and said, “I don’t plan on participating. Please ask someone else to bring cups.”
So this morning? The individual sending the email marched down to my office to demand to know WHY I AM NOT PARTICIPATING. In this “voluntary” event.
I explained, nicely, that I have not been feeling well. I had to take a day off work last week because of my hoo-ha (didn’t mention that part) and all its related issues. My work does not stop just because I am not here. I have a lot going on and not enough time to finish it all. When I do eat, it’s in front of my desk while I’m working. I simply do not have the time or the inclination right now to stop work, walk down the hill, and eat with a bunch of people who, for the most part, dislike me.
I didn’t say all that. What I did say was very nice.
And she said, with a sigh so deep I’m sure her soul was pierced, “You just aren’t a team player.”
That’s me. Not a team player. Not a team player in this Dilbert cartoon of a life I seem to have stumbled into.
Seriously? It seems to me that by doing my work correctly and on time and not stirring up a bunch of gossipy crap all the time (prime example? The lady who deemed me "not a team player"? Called someone a f-ing bitch to her face last week. But she said the whole word) makes me more of a team player than not bringing cranberry sauce to some “holiday” party in which all the participants pretty much loathe one another and would probably not voluntarily spend time with about 96% of the room outside of work.
Maybe it’s just me.
Either way, they still aren’t getting my $5.