It’s time for another Office Crush post.
I feel like I have so much to write about and I have to get it out to stop it buzzing around my head. The last three or four weeks have been really good. I made a conscious effort to stop crowding her and it may be coincidence but it seems like things started going a lot more smoothly at that point. It really MIGHT be coincidence because it coincides with Easter school holidays ending and I think she finds the childcare arrangements stressful, but I’m sure it helped a bit.
Since then she’s been much more chatty with me, very open, a little bit gossipy sometimes and apparently quite caring – as previously noted she knows about my anaemia problems and has seemed quite concerned about me on a few occasions.
I was worried before that I was crowding her too much. That she would eventually realise that our accidentally-on-purpose kitchen meetings were in fact not always so accidental. It’s easier to talk in the kitchen because it’s more private. It’s hard to read some things with her though. Occasionally she seemed a bit terse with me and I took it as being a “oh really, you again, what a coincidence”, but she’s since shed a bit of insight that she often feels pressured by our boss and feels like she doesn’t have enough time to find things out before she has to get back to him, which could explain her being quick to try to get back to her desk sometimes. But lately she’s often seemed happy to see me. I even sometimes get a little smile out of her when she first sees me in a morning especially if she’s in before me and she’s settled at her desk as I walk in. When she washed my mug the other morning and I said “thank you but I don’t mind if you don’t do mine you know”… then a few minutes later added “I do appreciate it though” as we passed each other in the corridor, she beamed and very enthusiastically exclaimed “I know you do!”.
So maybe I was crowding her, but she seems relaxed with me. And then she opened up with me in a surprising way this week.
This week we ended up walking up to the station together on two separate days. This has never happened before and it’s probably pure fluke that it happened twice. She is a bit unpredictable in her arrival times but originally she was arriving and leaving about 20 minutes before me, and then about 20 minutes after me. Now she’s back to 20 minutes before. So it could happen again when one of our trains is disrupted, but it won’t happen often. On the first day, she opened up to me a lot about finding the job difficult because of not knowing how to handle our boss. She was very trusting and said a lot of things she wouldn’t have said within the building. She’s his (first ever) PA and he’s not a man who is easily PAed. He’s always run his own companies so he’s always been in charge, he’s quite headstrong, he’s very intelligent but he doesn’t always take on board what other people are saying, sometimes he will listen but other times he wants to do things his way for no clear reason, and combined with his own strong opinions, he can be very hard to predict so it can be hard to know if you’re doing something that he’ll be happy with. He’s not so hard to deal with once you’ve known him for a while, but as his PA she is in a very unique place where he is her boss but she is trying to manage him day to day. That’s definitely a challenge and one of the reasons I made an effort with her to start with is because I thought she might feel isolated with her being the only woman in the office, one of few staff in a non-technical role, and then on top of that having to deal with a potentially very difficult boss.
She gives the impression she knows exactly what she’s doing, that she’s very self confident and can handle these things easily. I’d twigged a while ago that nobody could possibly be this confident and it was almost certainly how she acts regardless of how she is really feeling. Turns out I was right, she told me she finds him intimidating and still often almost expects him to fire her. I’m not surprised she finds him intimidating but I am surprised she feels quite so… insecure. She doesn’t give that appearance at all. I should add that I’m sure she is in absolutely no danger whatsoever of being fired. I tried to be supportive, but walking, crossing roads, talking and thinking of this stuff is a bit hard, so the morning I managed to get her privately in the kitchen and gave her some more carefully thought through reassurance. It was funny really, we started chatting and when I saw my opportunity to move onto the serious subject she repositioned herself into the corridor and kept looking up and down sheepishly as if she was worried someone would walk past and hear us. I don’t know if it was what I said or just that she saw I was trying to make her feel better, but it seemed to make her happy and she was chatty with me all day.
That afternoon we walked up together again and she seemed a lot happier and a bit embarrassed she’d been so negative before, but then the following day she got off the phone with our boss and had a bit of a grumble that she’d tried to use her initiative on something and got told off. The person she sits next to, whom she has taken some responsibilities off (so they tend to discuss work a lot), replied with a slightly sarcastic “what have you done now?” which probably wasn’t what she wanted to hear, so I jumped in and tried to reassure her that he’s a hard man to predict and you will get things wrong sometimes, but it doesn’t actually matter. I felt like I had to say something because she’d have felt let down if I hadn’t, but you can’t say too much in the office because I presume she has not confided in anyone else and wouldn’t appreciate me revealing that she feels unsure of herself, so I don’t know how she really felt or how well it landed. I strongly suspect she felt quite defeated, and the fact she had three cigarette breaks that day might not be coincidental (she usually just has one). But I didn’t get the chance to say anything else to her or learn any more. So I’m not really sure what to do with this – should I bring it up next time? I guess the answer is yes as long as I’m very delicate about it and lead in with something a bit more subtle and let her set it up if she wants to talk about it more.
So it’s a bit mixed. Things aren’t going as well for her as they could be, but she seems to trust me a lot. I feel like we have a good relationship. I feel content with it even though it’s not going to go further. I think about this and I still don’t really understand it. I’ve had no real desires towards her physically, so maybe it’s a platonic crush if such things exist and all I really wanted was a close relationship with her. Or maybe I’ve just accepted that it won’t go any further. Or maybe deep down I know that she has a lot of baggage I wouldn’t really want to take on… like children and cigarettes and commitments from a much more outgoing personality than mine. I don’t know, I’ve never done this before, but everything seems OK. And I do know that if I saw other people having good relationships with her and I was intentionally holding back then I’d feel frustrated, so this is the best option.
I am sure she’ll learn to deal with our boss a bit better in time because I recognised most of the things she was saying as experiences I had in my first year or two here. I just hope she stays long enough to realise it.