The employee room is empty. I am standing in it, observing.
It is saturday and most of the employees are not working today, but some of us do.
This room has the same allure of a hospital canteen after one of the meal time. It smells the same. Usually, when people are here one does not pay attention to these things: white, tall tables where you can stand, long legged chairs which seem longer every time I come in, as if they are trying to reach for something and break free through the roof.
The snoring of the fridge, the vending machines, the smell of soap for dishes. On a tall and scheletic rack were left some used containers, waiting to be cleaned. The floor is covered in a grey soundproof mat, when you walk it feels like floating, you can not feel yourself moving ahead or backwards.
So I am standing here. When the room is used you can hear more sounds. The microwave heating up someone’s food, the violent drop of the bottles or packages in the plastic marsupium of the vending machine, loud female laugher, the tinkle of the spoons or forks against the plates, the TV. There are people who come here, put their lunch in front of them and watch the TV. The large waste buckets waiting to swallow anything throwing at them.
Now it is quite and I am trying to understand how did I get here. I try to understand it’s message.
As you move from the entrance, passing by computers with unrestricted internet access, the kitchen corner at the left and the couch on the right, the white silent tables in the front, you arrive in a corner where, on the wall, it is hanged a board. On the board, we were told during the first day tour, one can pin any kind of announcement or question, or invitations or proposals.
I am standing in front of it.
Hair dresser, apartments to rent, football players needed, italian food, christian gathering every sunday, order lunch, a new collaboration with the expat center, real estate agent, the disclaimer on the top saying that employer is not to be held responsable of any of these announcements. Most of them a quite old.
On the left, another board. The hall of fame. Pictures and concise thank you messages for the efforts and dedication of these faithful employees.
And than another board where pictures were pinned. Pictures showing smiling people participating at the colour days. One is supposed to wear something green or orange or purple, as the next chosen colour is. People wearing colourful shirts, pants, hats, nail polish, scarfs… and saying hello to the fotographer.
The room is quite large but not so large and a belt of windows is doing it’s best to suck some light and pour it inside. Looking outside you can see the large street, cars running up and down and closer to the building the green grass.
In this room an employee is supposed to relax, to eat, to talk to the others. From what I have seen people do it but still inside their group, others eat while surfing their FB page or taking mandatory tests.
What is an employee, I ask myself.
It is a person who sells his time, presence, energy and abilities. When inside a company it is expected from you to conform to the rules, to follow them. In case of this company, you are encouraged to improve and develop new ways of smarter working, new rules that is. It is supposed that you want to be there. The conflict mostly encountered when in position of an employee refers to this assumption. Most people want to work, learn new things, feel useful, crack some jokes, help somebody, get the promised money and go home. When companies start inventing new ways of engaging their employees, just to make sure that they are using all the juicy parts, things get sour. I do believe that Human Resources have a tough job. They have to find the middle way. That is, the most neutral ways of treating people. If they care at all. In a company like this one where most of the human resources are foreigners it is quite a challenge to treat people with the corresponding treatment. So, they offer “international breakfasts ” and that should do the job.
Standing here in this empty room I feel not an employee.
I feel like a floating ghost and I am surprised when others do notice me.
I am waiting that all of this be over.
Then I remember that it was me who put myself in this room.
And I remember that my purpose is to discover and dive deep in new environments becoming part of them for a while. To learn how are these people living in order to, finally, learn myself what does living mean.
I also I have this urge to give presence and love. Because I feel that this is missing. Even in this room, in this building. This is my conflict. How to engage with something that I feel outside of me. Something which is always busy, talking, eating, gesticulating. How to be an employee if I do not care to fulfill their grand financial goals but I do care about the ways we live? How to share their desire of gaining even more money when I am struggling with the rent? How to be authentic in an environment where they do not want you to be if that is out of the company’s scope? How not to be authentic and real when this is the meaning of your existence?
Maybe becoming one with the company will solve the conflict? That means that I have to forget my meanings and objectives strive to be on the fame board and feel cosy in the employee room.
That will not work with me. I am going to create my middle way.
I tried already. It happened so that soon after my landing at this desk, they organised a team building. I have never been a party girl (because I can not feel the fun that is supposed to exist), I do not drink alcohol, but I did go this time. I wanted to know my colleagues and I was sure that by now, I learned to say basta, this is enough for me, I am going. I tryed but I still felt like forcing me to be there. And so I left after one hour. The message the colleagues got was that I am not against them, nor with them, not in this case. I do not judge them for spending time like this nor do I wish to follow suite. I am just not there. So, I have to go out and continue looking for me.
One thing is sure, I am not in the employee room but I will respect it.