What is teamwork again?
February 11, 2019 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Please help me with suggestions on how I can adjust to working in an office environment again after more than a decade working independently. More inside.

About 13 years ago, I left London and returned to Chile. Back then, I was a very young professional and was thriving, was ambitious and quite feisty. I enjoyed going out, drinking, smoked heavily, didn't exercise and was about 20kg heavier. Since returning home, I lost a lot of weight, became a vegan, started practicing yoga, became a calmer, more controlled person - and even a bit boring, when compared to my boisterous self of over a decade ago.

I have been invited by my old boss, for whom I have been working as a freelancer during all this time, to do some office-based project work for six months at the London office. Some of the old-timers in the office will remember me from back then, including my boss, who seems to expect my old tenacious self. This is actually one of the reasons why he seems to have invited me to do this project rather than recruiting locally.

So I am freaking out a little. I am not very keen on, for example, going to the pub on a regular basis, or doing very long hours, I want to do my own thing and have a bit of fun while I am in the UK (like going to yoga classes, go on hiking weekends, that kind of thing) as well as work, but I don't want to look like someone who is unaccessible and unfriendly. Also, I just don't know how to do office politics anymore.

I know this may read like a bit of a distorted self-concept (because I am not all that bad), but what advice does the hive mind have on getting on well with British colleagues and leaving a good impression during this short time I will be working with them again, before heading back home to my cosy freelancer life? Any tips appreciated. Thanks!
posted by longjump to Work & Money (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think you might be pleasantly surprised to find that your colleagues have also aged 13 years in the time you've been gone. Chances are they have settled down a bit too and aren't partying all the time. Even if they are, they're older and if you say, "I just can't go out so late like I used to be able to" they'll understand.

Take a deep breath, it's going to be great!
posted by dawkins_7 at 12:59 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]

If the people that you'll be working with have been working there all this time, they've probably changed as much as you have. They're not frozen in amber. They might have family obligations by now, and will perhaps themselves be mellower and less hard-partying. Just go, do your job. See if they invite you out. If so, set some limits up front. Go out once per week, let's say, with the group. Leave early from the pub. It should be fine.
posted by clone boulevard at 1:00 PM on February 11

Don’t freak out. Your old boss is being friendly and it will take a short amount of time for both of you to catch up to the “new you.” Also, just a little side note, don’t let them undermine you with your colleagues. I worked for an old friend for a time and there was a couple times early on where he alluded to earlier, younger, stupider times in front of my new coworkers and I had a few lines that shut that down. All with a smile but no additional info. “Yes, well, very much in the past.” “Ah, to be stupid again.” “Sadly, I enjoy my sleep these days too much.”
posted by amanda at 4:48 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]

To add to the above, my personal experience and observation is that London office culture may have changed a bit in the intermediate years, maybe driven by changes in the broader culture and more awareness of health issues, the smoking ban in pubs etc. Drinking and pub culture, especially when connected with work just isn't what it was around the turn of the millennium.
posted by plep at 4:03 AM on February 13

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