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There is a running joke in the office that I am a sophisticated humanoid-like robot, who has undergone thorough AI-learning to reach the state that I am now at.

This originated when a co-worker perceived my walk to be extremely consistent when approaching my workstation. From then on it escalated to the point that almost every action I undertake is seen as robotic in nature.

Whilst this does not have any psychological impact upon me, I believe it is occasionally detrimental to both my work and the work of others, due to the time wasted discussing my "robotic" tendencies.

How can I persuade them to cease this inefficient use of time?

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I believe it is occasionally detrimental to both my work and the work of others, due to the time wasted discussing my "robotic" tendencies.

I disagree! What's happening here is some light teasing to increase the morale of the team and bond together as fellow humans.

TheFreeDictionary defines morale as

The state of the spirits of a person or group as exhibited by confidence, cheerfulness, discipline, and willingness to perform assigned tasks

This teasing is increasing the team's cheerfulness and togetherness, as well as their confidence to work as a team in the future.

Higher morale actually increases productivity and earnings for the company

When employees feel positive and enjoy their work environments, their production is normally higher. This engagement helps managers achieve departmental and organizational objectives.

(source)

So I'd argue that this "time wasted" is actually extremely beneficial to your work environment in terms of productivity!

But what can you do?

If this truly doesn't bother you1 as you say, then there's no real reason to try to make it stop. In fact, this could be a great opportunity to bond with your coworkers and make some friends!

I'd play into the robotic jokes as--especially in the workplace where you need to be careful not to upset others with your humor--self-deprecating humor is almost always a safe bet. Maybe next time you walk by and they make a robot joke, you mechanically reach down to grab their water bottle and in a robotic voice say, "Providing liquids to human 9974," and then hand it to them. Have some fun with it!


1. This is a huge if here. If this actually doesn't hold true, then this is unacceptable behavior and I'd strongly suggest taking a different tact on this--specifically one like Meg's.

8

In situations where a joke has been played out to the point that it feels like a waste of time, or is getting annoying in general, the approach that I like to use is address it in a head-on, straight forward way, but keeping a light tone. Address the issue as soon as someone brings up your supposed 'robotic' nature in any way.

Something like this, adjusted to feel natural for you:

Really? The robot thing again? I feel like we're beating a dead horse with this joke, could we please move on to a fresher source of humor?

If you like to be self-deprecating, you could add something like,

You're all so stuck on the android thing that it's been ages since anyone made fun of my hair.

This should hopefully convey several things: The joke is old and has become boring. You have a sense of humor, which is a very un-robotic trait. You are calling them out (subtly) for persistent/excessive teasing, which may remind them that it isn't a strictly appropriate workplace activity.

If making jokes at your own expense isn't your style, you can express that you are being made uncomfortable by being the butt of their jokes, even if it doesn't really bother you, by going with something like this instead:

This isn't really funny to me anymore. I would appreciate it if we could all leave the robot joke to die in peace.

These approaches have worked for me, using the first one usually when I didn't mind the joke but it was just too overdone, and the second version when I was annoyed or bothered by it. They are good approaches because they let my friends know "this is done now" without making a big scene or creating awkwardness by conveying that I was very upset with them, and we just moved on smoothly to other things.

5

A few years ago, one of the guys working for me gave me action figures of Data and Picard, the two stiffest characters on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

It was entirely in jest and all humor has a grain of truth. This became a running joke on the team and I...thought it was funny. I can tell you from a management perspective that it didn't negatively affect performance of the team.

I believe it is occasionally detrimental to...my work

Fair enough. If you feel the banter is distracting you, then all you should need to do is communicate this directly and firmly.

"Guys, not now, I have to get this out by 1630."

Presuming they are otherwise professionals, I would expect this to address the issue. If not, talk to you manager. If you would like more specific advice on the professional interactions, you can also ask in The Workplace.

Whilst this does not have any psychological impact upon me

If this is really the case, my recommendation is to not worry about their time or productivity. If your manager sees a problem let them address it. If you can show that it causes problems, inform your manager and let them take it from there.

In a somewhat amusing turn, the Data figure lost his head in one of office shuffles. That then became the running joke.

1

I understand where you are coming from; indeed it makes me smile a little how well I can imagine both the scenario you describe, and your reaction to it. I can understand this in large part because I have Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Johns-305 above mentions Data, a character who is often loved by people who are on the autistic spectrum because, though he is an android, his behaviour, and especially his incapacity to understand or emulate certain kinds of human interaction, overlaps somewhat with the way that autistic people operate among neurotypicals ie. those who are not autistic. A similar joke to the one you describe is also made in the TV show The Big Bang Theory where the friends of Sheldon Cooper, a character who is sometimes said to have Asperger's syndrome, joke that he may be a robot.

People who are on the autistic spectrum differ from those who are not in a number of ways. Some of these relate to physicality: people 'on the spectrum' often have an idiosyncratic gait, a way of walking and holding themselves. Often we are said to be more logically-focused, and more literal in our thinking. We are typically not intuitive in our understanding of social situations and can often have problems reading peoples' moods and intentions: very often people do not explicitly say what they think, but suggest it somehow; typically we miss this and interpret only the actual words they say. What may be most relevant to your reaction to the situation you describe is the fact that it does not appear to be perturbing to you but in the notion that it is a waste of time. I have worked in a variety of situations, places, and contexts, in a handful of countries. In none of them did people go to work only to do their job. My guess (and I admit it has often been either galling or challenging for me), is that people in the countries and contexts and workplaces I know (education, hotel & catering, retail) spend 10 to 40 per cent of their time chatting and engaging in social activity not directly relevant to their task. This is about morale, yes, but even that makes it sound rather more pragmatic and goal-based than this tends to be in most work environments I know. People like to chat. To get on well with them people like me have to figure out a few ways to play along with this, even to find a handful of reliable subjects we can enjoy talking about with out colleagues (film, music, television, sport etc).

None of the above should be regarded as anything like a diagnosis (it couldn't be), nor necessarily a suggestion that you may or must be Aspergic. The scenario, however, is familiar to those who have Asperger's syndrome and both the way your colleagues react to you and the way you react to them would likely be understood by people who are 'on the spectrum'. This aside, my advice, if you really are not upset by their comments, and if you are reasonably sure they mean it kindly, would be to find a way to see it as their way of reaching you socially when you are so obviously focused on your work, and perhaps finding a way to understand that for most, chatting and passing the time socially at work is far from a waste of time. It is equally possible some of them may be being mean. If so, they only 'win' if you allow it to bother you.

ps. people on the spectrum, like Sheldon Cooper is sometimes said to be, are frequently highly gifted in their field. Paul Dirac is one example of somebody in the real world who had, to say the least, a fair handful of autistic traits.

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