In hindsight, it was probably true that Serena wasn’t a ton of fun to be around, but still …
The small office she worked in was virtually all women – with the exception of one customer service guy and one of the two salesmen who came around three or four times a month at best.
It was one of those workplaces that felt like time had stood still. Most of the women were middle-aged – although one was in her early 30s – the rest were late 40s or even older. It wasn’t that people didn’t work hard, especially when quarterly reports needed to be cranked out, but there could be a lot of dead time and it was usually filled with talk about kids, mostly grown-up, what was on TV last night, celebrities, and local gossip.
The office manager was a classic “queen bee” who saw herself as a fun-loving type, and she had a devoted audience of co-workers who laughed at her jokes, and running commentaries on various things.
Serena got off on the wrong foot, and it was all downhill from there. She was the young new hire, probably a bit over-qualified, who’d come from hundreds of miles away along with her husband, and taken a fairly big job with the city’s biggest high-tech employer.
Part of the problem was her demeanor – guarded, serious, with a tiny hint of superiority – but so often a young person in her first full-time job would be gently nudged off that, and pulled into the fold. Not this time.
Obviously far from stupid, she still couldn’t just “finesse” the learning curve – which meant needing to ask, make mistakes, interrupt someone to be shown again, and generally adapt to a very idiosyncratic world of vendors, customers, public officials, and distant corporate owners.
Without reasonably supportive guidance, even her minor mistakes would blow back, and at the very least force others to break into what they were doing to fix things. Serena was in for a hard ride.
She began to feel a distinct chill, beginning with barely detectable eye-rolling, very mild sarcasm, tiny pauses – you get the picture.
It was compounded by little things – like the fact that most of the women in the office smoked, and even the ones that didn’t went out with the others on their cigarette breaks.
Not only did Serena not smoke, she could barely disguise how much she despised the habit.
Obviously, Serena had become very isolated.