Meeting up with ex-workmates are increasingly popular. But, you should be prepared for a few surprises
Have you ever wondered what happened to that girl you were friendly with in your first job? Or that joker from the accounts department who was always organising the Friday night drinks after work? Judging by the numbers of people signing up to specialist Internet sites to trace former colleagues an awful lot of us are prone to a touch of nostalgia.
Finding long-lost workmates may be easier than you think. Zoe Campion traced one by entering the personâ€™s name into a search engine. â€œWeâ€™d worked together teaching English in Hungary nine years ago but lost touch,â€ she explains. â€œI knew she was still teaching back home in New Zealand when Iâ€™d last heard from her, so I searched for her name plus â€˜language schoolâ€™ and I found her straight away. Weâ€™ve exchanged a couple of e-mails but because she lives abroad thereâ€™s no pressure to meet up. Itâ€™s just nice to hear what sheâ€™s been up to.â€
The desire to get in touch with people we used to know is natural. As Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University Management School in the UK, puts it: â€œAs you get older, you start to look back at your life. We all wonder, â€˜Did so-and-so really make it to the top?â€™ or, â€˜She was nice â€” why didnâ€™t I keep in touch?â€™ Itâ€™s healthy. It means youâ€™re reflecting on your lifestyle and questioning the judgments youâ€™ve made.â€
Nevertheless, itâ€™s important that you donâ€™t expect too much when tracking down old workmates. â€œThereâ€™s a danger that some good memories will get ruined,â€ Cooper cautions. â€œYou may find that someone is very different to how you remembered them or that youâ€™re the one whoâ€™s changed and donâ€™t have anything in common any more,â€ he adds.
Accountant Iain Marr discovered that looking up old workmates can have unexpected benefits. Some years ago he used to temp, alternating between assignments in South Africa and the UK. â€œOne time when I arrived back in London I called in on a guy Iâ€™d worked for at Rank Xerox, just to say hello,â€ he remembers. â€œNot only was he still there but he said, â€˜Weâ€™ve got something else for you if youâ€™re interested,â€™ so I got another job straight away. A couple of years later, I did the same thing again but heâ€™d moved to a new job in a bank. I rang him up there and the same thing happened â€” he had some work for me! Weâ€™d got on well in the past so he knew he was getting a good worker and I knew I was getting a good boss.â€
The need for group reunions comes from a primitive herding instinct, says Cooper, and is especially strong in organisations where employees have worked together under great pressure. â€œWe often spend more of our waking hours at work than we do with our family. Itâ€™s like war. You see a bond forming with colleagues because of the intensity of the experience. Thatâ€™s why reunions of ex-service people are often very successful. I think weâ€™re going to be seeing more of this kind of thing in future as more people are under pressure at work.â€
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