Today, a semi-new colleague who works remotely from South Carolina was in the office, so I suggested that we take a walk and catch up. Based on the few chats I’ve had with him and observing him when he’s been in the office, I can tell that he’s not quite at ease with his job responsibilities or his place in the company yet. He’s still adjusting to new processes and of course, learning our technology, which certainly can be a challenge. He’s also still trying to find his social niche here, particularly given that he’s a remote employee and doesn’t have a lot of face time with any of us. We spent most of our half hour talking about non-work related things, which I purposely constructed. So I told him about observations and experiences I had during my recent India trip, and he talked about the adjustment of his college- and post-college age children moving out, adjusting to adult and work life, and living a bi-state life (they go between New Jersey, where they’re originally from and have relatives, and South Carolina, which is their primary residence). “It’s nice to have a conversation not about work at work!” he exclaimed to me, smiling. It was clear he doesn’t really talk about non-work related topics with other people here.
It’s almost been like an unspoken role of mine, to make people feel comfortable here and at ease. I don’t even know how that’s really happened. I don’t know if it’s just part of my aura, or the questions that I ask or the efforts I make to talk to people, but it’s just kind of become part of my de factor non-job responsibility here. “You make people feel comfortable with your presence,” a colleague in this office recently said to me. “You keep things calm and organized.”
The more I think about it, though, the more it seems like additional pressure on me. It also seems like a bit of a gender role if I want to start digging deeper into this because what man has ever been told that he has a calming presence that puts people at ease?