Limiting Workplace Interactions-No Schmoozing

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about restriction on non-professional interaction: What would be the best way to approach my concern? Or should I just accept this new limitation?

I work as a subcontractor in a city government building. I have developed work friendships with individuals employed directly by the city. Due to a recent incident between one of the subcontractors and a city employee (one of whom blew the incident way out of proportion), our employer has told us that we are guests of the building, we should remain professional at all times, and “interactions must be limited to business purposes only.” I feel limiting these interactions will create a sterile, unfriendly, awkward, and unpleasant work environment. My direct supervisor seems to be in agreement with upper management/HR on this. What would be the best way to approach my concern? Or should I just accept this new limitation?

Signed, Friendship Is Off Limits

Dear Friendship Is Off Limits:

I’m guessing the incident that you say provoked the “business only” rule bordered on what might be interpreted as conflict of interest or could have led to an accusation of giving sexual favors. Your question implies that you think this rule is an over-reaction and that it limits civility. It could be; however, weren’t you hired to do a certain kind of job and not to socialize? And therefore, is it not best now to honor the letter and spirit of that rule while still being civil? I doubt that you have been ordered never to say hello or in passing not make a comment about the weather? Probably the new business only rule means that your communication with others in this government building should attend to business and should not schmooz, meaning talking intimately and cozily; gossip.

If you and someone you meet want to date, that especially is suspect; therefore, every precautions should be taken to communicate only outside of working hours, even the parking lot. Does this make sense? Possibly you and others after a trial-run of this to remain professional rule will want to relax it. Or you will find some of the projects on which you must join others allow for some “fun” while you work. You might read Fish Tales and share that with others in your building. It can change the way your workplace works.

Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. This is to suggest that cheerleading, finding ways to make each another’s jobs easier and more effective in your building need not be sterile.

William Gorden