A man from Oxfordshire has been shunned by work colleagues after giving a lengthy answer to the simple question about how his day was going. Jack Roberts had just made a cup of coffee when he passed a colleague in the corridor who politely enquired, ‘How are you?’ Roberts proceeded to tell the colleague that actually he was not that good, was stressed with his workload and also had some problems at home with erectile dysfunction. ‘He just looked a bit stunned and then walked off,’ said Roberts.
Later on in the day, a delivery driver was dropping off a package of stationery and muttered, ‘Alright?’ to Roberts as he passed his desk. ‘I thought he was genuinely interested to see if I was alright or not. I told him that I didn’t think I would ever get over the death of my mother two years ago and that also I was harbouring some dark thoughts about self harm but I thought I could control them for the time being without medication. He just walked off as well, having called me a weirdo.’
Roberts’ boss Fred Harper commented, ‘I think Jack has just taken people too literally when they have given him a cursory word in passing. No-one really actually cares how other people are, it is just a standard greeting. We have offered Jack some training to help him to interact more normally in future.’
Psychoanalyst Dr Karen Greber has studied human interaction for her entire career and is particularly interested in workplace dynamics. ‘Jack Roberts is a typical needy man,’ said Dr Greber, ‘but his faith in human nature is misplaced. Essentially we are all automatons just grinding through our daily lives so we can head home to even more drudgery followed by sleep riddled with nightmarish thoughts, only to wake up even more tired and slightly less optimistic than the day before.’
Roberts is philosophical about his experiences, ‘I think that there are some people who are good and who want to engage with others in the workplace. For instance Gary who is the sales director, he really likes me and always has a nice word to say, especially when I bring him a coffee or bagel back from the shops at lunchtime. I know that he’d talk to me anyway, it’s just that I was going that way and it isn’t any trouble for me.’