I’m the outsider

Totally need one of these on my desk

Acute awareness of anything is not always a good thing. For most people it brings clarity in a confusing situation, lets you see something that you didn’t realize before, or lets you empathize with someone else to help them through something. In my case though, I’ve become acutely aware of the fact that even after 7 months at my current job, I still feel like an outsider. Nothing specific that makes me feel this way, just little hints that I’m still not one of the crowd or a trusted member of the company fold. Sure, everyone is courteous and friendly and will often engage in conversation at the drop of a dime. Free coffee here is our “water cooler” and conversations at the coffee pot are an hourly occurrence if you’re inclined to participate.

My introverted nature I’m sure doesn’t help this feeling though. In fact, I’m almost sure its detrimental to me in situations like this one where I’m the “new guy” in a group where the average tenure of an employee is well over 12 years. I work with people that in some cases were hired by the current CEO, not many people can say that at a company that exceeds a few hundred people, let alone a company that is pushing 5,000 employees. I’m 7 months in and still feel that I’m navigating the political waters of how management operates. The learning curve here is mighty steep and has proved to be a difficult journey to say the least.

Having to adapt to a corporate environment here, if you can call it that, has been daunting after having worked in what I consider normal environments for the better part of 18 years. There are so many levels that you have to fight with to get anything done and partnering that with an ever changing focus and direction makes it all but impossible unless you know people. That’s where my issues comes into full focus, I just don’t know the people I need to in order to get certain projects completed. I’m viewed as an outsider with my crazy notions of how something should be done and asking questions as to why it isn’t. My radar doesn’t quite tune to the “I built this process you’re shooting holes in” negative attitude that normally greets me during some conversations.

There is a very real sense that work is done to propel a career or protect a legacy of “it’s always been done like this” that, if changed, requires people to learn something new. I’ve found through experience that changing a routine in a corporate office is probably the hardest thing you can do as complacency takes root and is as hard to remove as a weed with a 2 foot long root into the ground. All of this struggle adds to my awareness that I’m an outsider and until I yield to the status quo, I will continue to be an outsider.

I’m not sure that my future with this company is going to be along one. I keep pushing forward handling obstacles as they come, but my energy and motivation are taking huge hits while doing it. My only hope at this point is that the retirement train keeps moving ahead and some of the crusty bits go away. My dealings with other “new people” (essentially 5 years or less with the company) have been positive. If some of those people can get their way into the vacated positions, I think I might have a chance to make a real difference. Until that happens though, I have to struggle to get anything done as the “outsider”.

The summer is going to be interesting….

Silence won’t make me crazy, no sir

Have you ever stopped to just listen to the noises around you? Would all the ambient sound that bombards us all day long, if it were suddenly to go away, truly make us all insane? My life endeavor has been finding silence so that I can think, focus inward, listen to my breathing, etc. Being the introvert I am by nature, silence is the only thing that truly provides me inner energy. With that in mind, I focused on the ambient sound around me during my lunch break today, this is what I was able to discern:

  • Rain hitting the leaves of the trees
  • Tractor trailer off in the distance
  • Dump truck or large machinery
  • Lawnmowers, weed eaters
  • Various vehicles driving around
  • Jetliner flying overhead
  • People talking while walking through the parking lot
  • Doors opening/closing
  • Cars starting
  • Birds flying and singing
  • Music playing (unknown source)
  • Loud car off in the distance
  • Wind blowing
  • Tree limbs moving and creaking

It was quite interesting that all this background existed that we’re just used to hearing. It was absolutely surprising how many things were actually making noise in the background. All of this would be classified by a normal person as “ambient” or “background” noise. At any given time in our daily routines, we’re subjected to 40-60 decibels of ambient noise. The video linked below actually says that we’re so used to ambient noise that total silence would put some people into the loony bin and over the edge. It’s an interesting ponderance and what prompted me to go outside at lunch and just listen closely to what I normally dismiss.

Without an anechoic chamber, such as the one in this video, its impossible to have complete and total silence unless you submerge yourself into a hyperbaric chamber. Personally, I could do without water, especially since I have no idea where that water has been. Apparently the Japanese are all nutballs over hyperbaric chambers. My curiosity is unfortunately peaked and I’m on the search for an anechoic chamber within driving distance of my home so I can see if I can get into one and see for myself. With my ever vigilant search for silence, I would probably try to build a room in my house that replicated this at least partially.

I already know that I can’t have complete silence all the time. The issue for me is that I’m hyper sensitive to certain sounds around me that overpower everything else around me. Some of those sounds are, in no particular order:

  • Nail clipping
  • Mouse clicking
  • Keyboard typing
  • Nose blowing, sniffing
  • Foot tapping
  • Humming or singing softly (out of tune)
  • Loud conversations (clearly hear)
  • Chewing of all kinds

It’s enough to put me in a bad mood all day long with a general lack of focus or motivation as most of these sounds exist every day while in the office. I’m not that guy that goes around trying to get people to stop, because I admit I’m oversensitive and its not their fault its bothering me. I will talk to someone if their music is too loud or they have vulgar language. I usually end up putting my headphones on and listening to music at a volume that drowns out most of the background sound, but not so loud that I can’t hear someone behind me or knocking on my cubicle. My phone also runs through my laptop, so I can easily pick up the phone.

Wonder how much sound absorbing foam actually costs….