Back when I lived in New York, I worked as the media spokesperson for a luxury brand. While I loved the products and the paycheck, I often found myself internally rolling my eyes at the ‘American-ness’ of how my colleagues interacted — often overly effusive and simpering (which, incidentally, are two of my biggest pet peeves.)
While I am a huge advocate for lifting my fellow teammates up and celebrating their wins, this organisation’s habit of sending an email to the whole company every time someone performed the basic function of the role for which they were hired (which, in turn, spawned a hundred reply-all responses cheering for the person as though they had just cured cancer) really made my insides squirm with annoyance.
As a deeply sarcastic and fairly impervious human being (think April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation), such displays of pandering and excess are diametrically opposed to my comfort zone — which is, in a nutshell — a place of getting shit done, treating people with respect and avoiding drama and theatrics like the plague. I find the concept of everything being met with “AMAZING” and “SO CUTE” and “LOVE!!” positively cringe-worthy and insincere.
Don’t get me wrong, if you were to meet me I would greet you warmly, ask you a tonne of questions about yourself (partly to prevent you from asking any about me) and crack a bad dad joke or two. However, I am not going to collapse in a fit of histrionics over your new keep cup exclaiming “OMG it’s so CA-YUTTE!!!!” as though you were showing me a photo of my own dog (who, for the record, is about the only thing that could elicit such a reaction from me.)
I lay all of this groundwork to help you better understand my current grievance — one that has been steadily building as this latest lockdown has dragged on. You see, friends, I have come to realise that while I love not commuting, wearing make-up or shoes, there is a huge downside to working from home… and that is the exclamation mark.
With everyone being forced to communicate primarily over Slack and email at the moment, it seems this little punctuation mark has become a prerequisite for all correspondence and, frankly, I find it exhausting and irritating.
I understand why we do it — replying “sure” without the exclamation mark or a smiley face emoji can read as cold or even angry, and with face to face contact limited at the moment, we all seem to be on edge wanting to make sure our colleagues don’t think we have a bad attitude or are in a strop about being asked go the extra mile.
Here’s the thing though, I am a 40-year-old woman in a professional workplace, not a tween texting with her friend about Justin Bieber’s latest music video. If I don’t add an exclamation, kiss or love heart emoji to the end of my message to you it does not mean I am angry with you. It means I am responding as quickly as I can and am also just sick of assuming an online persona that is contrary to who I actually am as a person.
Not to mention, like so many other Aussies, this lockdown has me feeling as flat as people once believed the earth to be, so I really don’t embody the type of excitable person an exclamation mark can make one out to be at the moment.
Seriously, I feel like I am catfishing my colleagues with every smiley face I send, but I do it anyway because I genuinely adore them and would feel dreadful if I made them feel like I was cross with them. Also, I’ve been doing it for so long now that if I suddenly stopped, my correspondence would absolutely read like I was on the war path about something.
This is not just a problem that women are encountering, either. A quick poll of the guys I work with revealed that they also feel the pressure to “not sound like an asshole” or “come across negatively” and therefore have been more mindful of incorporating punctuation and emojis to counteract that.
I’m not really sure how we got to this point or how things (d)evolved to a place where the absence of a spritely little punctuation mark somehow equates white-hot rage, but I sure would love to be able to return to the days of firing off a message to a colleague devoid of googly-eyed emojis and not feeling instant panic that they are going to think I am a grade-A bitch.
How do we get back to that place? Damned if I know, but surely a good place to start would be with the acceptance that we are all busy, grown-ass adults who shouldn’t feel pressured to communicate in a way that is unnatural for us and if we actually have a problem with someone in the workplace, we will talk it out with them like grown ups and move on.
Do you think we could try that?
LOVE! OMG thank you, babes, you’re the best!!!!!!!!!!!!! ❤️😍❤️