Didrik liked his job. It was challenging, the pay was great, and it was a bit of a coup for an early-career guy like him to land it. He was only 29, and he’d never managed a team before, but his years of experience with SalesFarm, the software platform the company recently adopted, had won him the job.
He was young, full of energy, and eager to prove himself. There was just one problem: He didn’t fit in.
When he was introduced to his team on the first day, Didrik expected to meet a group of recent college grads, with maybe one guy in his thirties who’d changed careers. Instead, he found himself awkwardly shaking hands with Bill, Doug, Jim, Lou, and Steve. Every guy he managed had at least 15 years on him, and their attitude in the workplace was unorthodox, to say the least.
“Deed-what?” Doug said in response to hearing Didrik say his name for the first time. The rest of the guys burst out laughing like it was the funniest thing they’d ever heard, and it took a good 30 seconds for the back slaps and high fives to die down.
“Didrik,” he repeated. “It’s Norwegian.”
“It’s long,” Jim said. “Kinda hard to remember.”
“I-It’s just two syllables.”
The guys—that’s what they wanted Didrik to call them instead of the team—all laughed again and dispersed back to their cubicles, leaving Didrik standing alone in the doorway of his new office and seriously reconsidering his career choices.
Despite the inauspicious start and plenty more weird interactions just like it, things slowly got better with time. After a couple of months, Didrik settled in, adapted to his new responsibilities, and exceeded the expectations of his bosses. The guys warmed to him, and there were never any issues about them doing their jobs well, but Didrik never felt like they truly accepted him. He tried every strategy in his handbook for first-time managers to get to know them and reward their satisfactory performance, but his efforts always came off as forced and insincere. Deep down, Didrik knew he was their manager and not their friend, but he wished he didn’t always feel like the butt of some secret joke they were telling behind his back.
With three months on the job under his belt, Didrik finally felt settled enough in his new city to start cultivating a social life, which meant the usual investment of time spent swiping profiles on his phone, swapping pics, and chatting. One night after work, as he scrolled through profiles of nearby guys, he came across a familiar thumbnail.
“Holy shit,” he said out loud. “That’s Bill.”
The pictures of the other four guys on his team followed right behind Bill’s, which suggested they were all in the same location. Didrik was surprised to find all five of them on a gay dating app because he hadn’t seen any signs from their interactions at work that they were interested in men. They struck Didrik more like stereotypical middle-aged dads than gay men.
When he was first getting to know the guys, Didrik had to make an extra effort to match their names and faces because they looked and acted so much alike. This was even truer in their profile pictures. Each was a selfie of the guy wearing a black baseball cap, smiling confidently, and giving a thumbs-up with a leather-gloved hand. Didrik couldn’t help thinking that they looked good. Handsome. Masculine. He wondered what other pictures they might have on their profiles. His curiosity and budding attraction to the guys faded into panic, however, when he inadvertently double-tapped on Steve’s profile pic, sending the man a ‘flirt.’
“God dammit,” he said as he killed the app and set his phone down. His heart raced, and his anxiety shot through the roof. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
Didrik tried to calm himself down, but accidentally flirting with a direct report on a hookup app was about the worst thing he could think of happening. After a minute or two, he’d slowed his hyperventilating enough to pick his phone back up, but the half dozen notifications awaiting him reignited his panic. Each of the guys had viewed his profile and sent him a flirt, and Steve had messaged him back.
Hey, Deed. Thanks for the flirt. Didn’t realize you were family.
Didrik debated whether to respond at all. It felt weird to converse on the app, but he didn’t want things to be awkward at work because he didn’t deal with the situation right away.
Thanks, Steve. Sorry to bother you. I accidentally tapped on your profile. Just trying to make some friends in the new city. See you at work on Monday.
As Steve typed a response, Didrik looked at his profile picture more closely. The angle of the selfie was low, which drew attention to Steve’s big chest and double chin, but his easygoing smile framed by a salt-and-pepper goatee made him look confidently husky. His reply seemed to reflect his casual confidence.
No worries. Happens to the best of us. Wanna hang out? The guys and I are just playing poker. Happy for you to join.
Didrik hesitated. Really? Wouldn’t that be weird for you guys?
Not at all. If we’d known you were family, we would have invited you sooner. We usually play until late. Buy-in is $100. Feel free to drop by.
Steve messaged his address and then dropped offline. Didrik sat on his sofa and stared at his phone, wondering what to do. Steve’s invitation was friendly enough, and Didrik was lonely sitting at home alone on a Friday night, but poker with his subordinates seemed like it was asking for trouble.
The buy-in was steep, too. Didrik had gone to the occasional poker night in college, but the biggest pot he’d ever won was only about $10… in nickels. Despite his new job and higher salary, $100 still felt like high stakes. He thought about declining the invitation or just not responding at all and leaving it until Monday, but then he recalled all his failed efforts to break through to the guys over the past months. A non-work function might be just the thing to show them he was a real guy and not just some kid who was paid to manage their work.
He opened the app and typed out a message to Steve. Thanks! I’d love to. Just need to run by the ATM first, haha. See you in a bit.
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