Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A personal guilty verdict. 50s-era byproduct?

I’ve been at home with a cold today—a very timely cold since it’s also snowing with a promise of one to three more inches later. I have my laptop at home, and I have wireless Internet access and a way to get into the company network (when it’s cooperating), so I decided to work from here.

But why is it that I felt guilty that I wasn’t in the office? It’s the three-day week of Christmas (our offices will be closed on Christmas Eve too), so hardly anyone was around, including my boss, who’s on vacation. And I was working! But I feel that I’m somehow letting everyone down if I’m not sitting behind my desk doing the same thing.

I’ve concluded that this may be a generational quirk. Do those in the younger generation and the younger than younger generation feel the same way when they’re out sick or otherwise not in the office? I doubt it, but I have not asked around or studied the topic. I think our generation still reveres and sometimes fears authority figures, be they bosses, teachers, or group leaders.

Leaders (and doctors) are now almost always younger than us now—even the President has been younger than me, since Bill Clinton. Still, relative age doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to wanting to please those in command and have them look favorably on me. Otherwise, why would I quickly put a serious look on my face when the boss comes by and I’ve been gossiping with my colleagues? There’s always that “Jiggers! He’s here” dialogue in my head on those occasions.

I work hard, get my projects done, and meet deadlines, so I’m entitled to a little coffee klatch at times. But I can’t seem to slough off that pang of conscience. Is this pretty common among those in our sixties? If so, it may be attributed to the 1950s mentality. This was the era of my coming of age, and attitudes about life—and what you could or could not (not ever!) do—were formed and cast in concrete then.

I haven’t discounted the fact that this may be my own personal quirk. But I’m still wondering if it’s also the attitude of others, of many ages. Remind me to bring this up next time I’m standing in the hallway talking with a group of my coworkers (that is, until you-know-who walks by).

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