Could We Move The Office, Boss? Thanks
February 5, 2019 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the midst of a job search and have a very promising lead for a job where the one and only problem I have with it is that the office is physically located in an ugly neighborhood. Help me get over my snootiness.

Everything else about the job would be good - it's the right salary, it's the right work, it's a small office, I could rock the work, it's the same commute time as my last job, and I'd even learn a skill. The manager seems decent, the only other employee seems fine. The manager even said that he believes in "both professional and personal growth" so there's even potential for a good work-life balance. But it is in a storefront in a nondescript-verging-on-ugly residential part of Brooklyn where there are no real services to speak of; I think we're between a nail salon and a car dealership, and there's a Starbucks across the street and that's it.

I have mulled it over and that is the one and only objection I have to this job, and it is making me hesitate and that feels like such a dumb thing to do. I've thought about "well, what if it was in this other cute neighborhood" and that hesitancy evaporates. I've imagined the boss saying "oh by the way we're moving to this other more populated neighborhood" and I get excited. I have timed the commute against my current one and there is at most a five minute difference. Believe me when I say that literally the only thing I can find fault with about this job is the aesthetics of the surrounding neighborhood, which is making me feel like such a diva for having this give me pause.

How can I get over that? I've not gotten an official offer yet, but I've got a second interview this afternoon and I am 95% confident that I'm going to be given an offer then. I've already thought of things like "decorate your cubicle so it looks really attractive" or "decorate the office itself so it's welcoming" (which the boss would probably also really go for), and "take a walk on surrounding side streets once a week on your lunch break". So this is the kind of thing I could see myself getting over in time. Looking for other advice to speed up getting rid of that hesitancy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You only see the neighborhood for a few minutes upon entering and leaving. It’s a really small part of your day. Packing lunches almost every day will be healthier and less expensive than a habit of visiting local lunch shops.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:44 AM on February 5, 2019 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Make a point of meeting the people who work in the other businesses around you. Go to the nail salon. Frequent the Starbucks. Find the other restaurants in the area and visit them and be friendly to the staff. Bring coffee from the Starbucks to some of these people in other businesses after you have met them.

If you make a neighbourhood about the people in it, then the appearance of the buildings won't matter.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:46 AM on February 5, 2019 [49 favorites]

I really dislike the neighbourhood in which my office is located - it's grimy and there aren't a lot of amenities about - but this has had the positive effects of making me plan and prep my lunches so I'm not popping out at lunchtime to shop at the (few) eateries around. Tangentially, eating my lunch in the communal kitchen at the office has been a great way of getting to chat with colleagues from other departments, and has actually done a lot for my network/visibility in a relatively short space of time.
posted by unicorn chaser at 9:50 AM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

You'll save so much money on lunches, plus no shopping. Exploring side streets is fun. You can have a really nice background on your monitor, if you have one. You'll adjust.

Source: Went from cubicle world, to world-class, beautiful BEAUTIFUL architecturally amazing building in the heart of my favourite part of my favourite city which I adored, to boss's basement in the 'burbs. I miss the beautiful building but it really is about the job.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:02 AM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Not to threadsit - I'm actually already in the habit of brown-bagging it for budget reasons. I still have this snobbish reaction; the boss said during my first interview that "it strikes me that you're not the kind of person who would disappear for a 6-hour lunch break when we have a slow period", and I nearly blurted out "where the hell would I GO for 6 hours around HERE?"

Upon reflection, this might be influenced by some classism in myself that I maybe didn't know I had, and THAT'S what I'm not liking. Looking for advice on processing that realization as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:03 AM on February 5, 2019 [8 favorites]

Best answer: That actually sounds very atmospheric, in the "private eye heads back to his nondescript office" kind of way.

Plus, it's February. In a month or two there'll be at least a little green and more people in the streets. And if not, and it turns out you can't decorate your office, all the people in the other places are jerks, you can't sprinkle wildflower seeds in random places and watch them grow because of dogs and regulations, there are no interesting stops on the way home, the nail salon does lousy work, and Howard Schultz runs so you need to boycott Starbucks - then looking around for a new job wouldn't really set you back from where you are now, right?

On preview - it sounds like getting to know the people, and the neighborhood in general, is maybe the best way to deal with classism. You can decide to work there for a year (at least) just as a new experience.
posted by trig at 10:06 AM on February 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I have a friend who lives in Indiana and posts a sporadic social media photo series she calls "Another Day in Indiana" that I always look forward to. A lot of her compositions center around looking for interesting color juxtapositions, "found geometry," using the camera lens to reframe the mundane in surprising your eyes open. Treasure-hunt for hidden beauty. Drill in on details rather than the whole landscape. Imagine the lives of the people who live in those nondescript-bordering-on-ugly apartments.
posted by drlith at 10:14 AM on February 5, 2019 [17 favorites]

And don't forget, a new Starbucks in an older area is often the harbinger of change. I don't know how many times I've seen a Starbucks pop up, and within a few years, there are new retail and restaurants, new services, even new construction surrounding it.

They have a knack for creating outposts in areas on the cusp of new development. For better or for worse. :)
posted by mochapickle at 10:23 AM on February 5, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is a really interesting question. Unfortunately, I can't answer it for you, because I never solved the problem for myself. My last job was in a suburban sprawl industrial park at the intersection of two freeways and a railyard. It was awful. Literally miles in any direction before you came to a building that didn't require an ID badge to even enter the parking lot, and even then it was just gas stations and fast food chains. About as charmless as it's possible to be.

And yet, I ended up working there for four years, and being relatively happy for much of that time. I even rode my bike to work! Once you get accustomed to seeing the same thing every day, you kind of become numb to your surroundings. This stinks when you're surrounded by interesting, beautiful things, but when you're surrounded by garbage, it actually works pretty well. If your job is like most people's, you won't often have time to appreciate nice surroundings anyway. You'll be rushing in the morning to get in on time for a meeting, or you'll be upset about something a stupid client or co-worker did, or you'll need to relax your mind after a busy day.

I work in a much nicer area now ("charming" New England prep school town), and I have to constantly remind myself to appreciate what's around me. When I'm coming in or going out, I have so much else on my mind that I rarely even remember that there's a nice, scenic creek that runs by the driveway to my parking lot, or that there's a house with chickens a block away, or wild raspberry bushes in the park across the street.

If your potential job were in a better neighborhood, would you really be able to take advantage of what that neighborhood offers? (Especially if you're already brown-bagging.)

As for classism, well, like any other prejudice, that can only ever be overcome by seeing from the other's perspective. Having read a lot of your posts and comments elsewhere on here, I doubt that will be a problem for you. You're pretty good about stuff like that.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:24 AM on February 5, 2019 [10 favorites]

I would bet there's some kind of appeal to the neighborhood that you just haven't found yet. It's Brooklyn, walk five blocks and there's going to be something different. Could you maybe take a weekend day or something and do some committed prowling around to see if there's anything you can decide you like about the area?
posted by LizardBreath at 10:36 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

"well, what if it was in this other cute neighborhood"

Then they'd be probably spending a lot more money on rent and therefore have a lot less money available for salaries. Not that it's bad to want this, I totally get wanting this. But a place that isn't doing poorly that chooses to locate itself in a less-expensive part of town is signaling that they have priorities that aren't looks. My experience has generally been that the small businesses, especially small professional offices, that most prioritize things like being in a trendy location and making sure all their reception furniture is on point? Not necessarily making those choices only after the whole staff has fair compensation and all the clientele are receiving high-quality goods or services.

Now, sometimes that means that the owner is just stingy with everything that isn't their own profit, or that the place is just struggling to even stay open. But if you're getting a good feeling about them generally, I'd actually take this as a pretty good sign.
posted by Sequence at 10:45 AM on February 5, 2019 [12 favorites]

I work in a store in an ugly strip mall on an ugly stretch of road in a neighboring town that I’d otherwise never visit. I love my job and my coworkers and stopped noticing the drabness of my surroundings approximately 2 days after I started working here. There are a lot of really nice people who work in this ugly strip mall, and it’s been fun to get to know them. Take the job! You won’t notice the neighborhood in 48 hours.
posted by coppermoss at 10:46 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I understand the aesthetic concerns and I'm not going to mock them. There's nothing shameful about wanting to spend your time somewhere beautiful or exciting as opposed to ugly and dispiriting. I ended up turning down a job deep in Newark once, because I couldn't bear the thought of spending my days in Newark long term. (Decision turned out to be very fortunate for other reasons.)

But that's Newark, where you're marooned. This office is in freaking Brooklyn. If you had six hours, you could be anywhere in the tri-state area! Unless this is one of those all-consuming jobs, you don't really need to spend that much time out of the building and in the immediate area. Want to go somewhere nice for lunch? I bet there's somewhere you could get on the subway in short order.
posted by praemunire at 10:50 AM on February 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

Thought question: What if you took one long lunch break a week where you take yourself on a nice transit ride to another neighborhood for a delicious treat in more fun surroundings? Does thinking about that make it seem any less terrible that on other days you might just eat at your desk and take a quick walk about the block? Can a shift from "I WILL NEVER SEE ANYTHING INTERESTING" to "At least once a week I will have a fun field trip to something exciting" make this any more appealing for you?

What if you negotiate for some work from home days so you don't have to go to The Bland Neighborhood every single workday of the month? What if you ask the interviewer what the neighborhood is like in the warmer months when everyone's not huddled indoors and see if you can get any insight?

This feels like an easy choice to me - take the job! Take it! - but my priorities aren't your priorities and if this is absolutely going to make you miserable, then that's fair. But I think you're doing the right thing to really poke at this feeling from a few different angles and see if there's a way you can reframe this for yourself that makes it worth taking a chance on an otherwise great-sounding job.
posted by Stacey at 11:04 AM on February 5, 2019

Questions to consider: Are you subconsciously afraid that working in this neighborhood would mean something about you? If, as you say, it's unexamined classism, do you feel working there will diminish your class status? Do you unknowingly have as part of your identity that you are someone who works in "cute" areas and working in a not-cute area threatens that self-image?

I don't ask these things to judge you but rather to offer another way of exploring your feelings and thoughts. When I have such strong reactions about something that is seemingly small, it often means I've got some deeper issues to explore.
posted by mcduff at 11:11 AM on February 5, 2019 [15 favorites]

Don't discount the effect of aesthetics on your quality of life. You'll be spending a huge chunk of your time at this place.

My company relocated from a building where we were on the upper floors of a building with wraparound windows and a decent view to a second-floor office with fewer windows that only overlooks the street and the buildings across the street. The air quality is noticeably worse as well.

Predictably, I've been miserable since the move. Not quite to the point of wanting to quit, but I'm getting there... This may be your chance to avoid locking yourself in to a similar situation.
posted by tobascodagama at 11:12 AM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I started my current position, the office was in a truly horrific warehouse in the middle of the industrial district. Now we're in an unheated office in an only slightly less industrial district. Progress!

I have three big tactics I've used:

- Learn a little industrial history. Or the history of the region you're in, if it was always business or whatever. I found feeling connected to the space around me helped me feel at home, and appreciate everything around me a bit more. I worked with an industrial history collection at one point, and rapidly fell in love with giant machines, and the infrastructure of the world around it. I don't know Brooklyn that well, but I assume something beautiful and interesting happened at some point. Learning my landscape taught me to love it, and feel like I belonged.

- Take a long lunch, preferably with workmates, and see what's around. That hellish Location 1 up there? Turned out that about a quarter mile away (after crossing a small highway, hah), there was the cutest neighborhood in the entire world, full of craftsman houses and beautiful gardens. Set yourself the intent to look for beauty in unusual places.

- Find what lifelines to community you can. That Starbucks especially is going to be golden -- I know most of the employees of our local little coffeeshop, and that helps a lot. I guess the thrust of a lot of my comments is -- feel like you belong, decorate your space with as much beauty as you can, but recognize that you will have to work at other beauties of the world.
posted by kalimac at 12:28 PM on February 5, 2019

I feel like the answers to this depend on what kind of job search this job search is. Is it, "I've been laid off/am being laid off, and really need a new gig"? or "I'm starting to stagnate and I'm in search of a Much Better Job and Life"?

Because if it's the latter, then I'd say go ahead and only take a job that is a true, 100% FUCK YES. Else what's the point? Not taking the job doesn't stop you from examining your unexamined biases in other ways.

But if it's the former, and not taking this job would truly be kind of an unwise move, maybe consider it a part of the "personal growth" the manager claims to value. We have a lot of unconscious signifiers of "forward movement" and for sure one of them is that your environment becomes better than it was before, not worse. There's a compelling narrative of the capable career professional who moves ever forward and never looks back and moves in a world of clean, bright, Scandinavian-designed beauty!

So you may have to consciously reframe your situation. There are more narratives than that one. People build empires out of their garages; no reason you can't build one out of a storefront in Brooklyn.

But also, see again: Brooklyn. It will be gentrified in approximately 17 seconds; this is not a permanent problem.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:44 PM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

A local nail salon? Sounds great—maybe they have a neighborhood discount. And they probably know all the good places to get lunch, too.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:29 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I agree with getting to know the businesses and people around you in the new place. If you do that, after a while you will forget that you are next to a nail salon and start thinking about how you are next to the cool people who work and frequent there.

Also, is there any chance you can negotiate some work from home, or at least out of the office time, and perhaps find a cool cafe to hang out in with your laptop once or twice per week?
posted by rpfields at 1:35 PM on February 5, 2019

I think a Brooklyn problem? The last time I lived there, everyone was so, so conscious of neighborhoods and your whole life having to fit into this particular story in a way I think the rest of the country very much does not. “You live on this street? Okay, on which side of 7th Avenue?”

I think the way you solve this is thinking about what the job will bring to you, and how powerful and clever and awesome you are for securing it, and the cool things you will buy for yourself.
posted by corb at 2:55 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am so interested to know where this is, as a fellow Brooklynite — because there are some neighborhoods that I think I would be like "oh no" and others where I could say "oh actually there are hidden gems." If it helps at all, though, I live in a very unscenic part of North Brooklyn and as I have fallen for the community and vibe in my hood, I have come to appreciate the broken glass and barbed wire and architectural drabness because it is my place and I love it. If you're stuck on Atlantic, though, it might always suck a little.
posted by dame at 8:14 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wise words, all; Thank you.

did the interview, no job offer yet. I think we're both mulling each other over for a couple days, and you've all given me food for thought on this piece. (Marked the response from trig as a "best" in particular because the private-eye bit made me chuckle.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:19 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ha, I'm glad!
posted by trig at 2:16 AM on February 7, 2019

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