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The Office, and the Manipulation of Space/Time
A man's office is his or her castle.
Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634)
Hm?! Oh, my. I must have fallen asleep again. Happens to me just about every day at this hour, doesn't it. So nice to be able just to sack out on the couch whenever I feel like it. Nobody bothering me. No bells ringing, at least none I have to answer. I think I'll go downstairs and get myself a cup of cappuccino, extra foam, with a double shot of Colombian. And a cookie. Yeah, definitely a cookie. Better still, I'll have Doris do it. After that, I think I'll go online for a little while. Watch what's new on YouTube. Do some e-mail. Better not forget to water my plants. Better still, I'll have Doris do it. I wonder what time my next meeting is? I don't feel much like seeing anybody. I know. I'll have Fred do it.
No, the person speaking above is not retired. The person we will be hearing from at the top of every chapter of this book is in the blessed state to which we aspire. He or she is an executive. And if we work very hard at not working very hard, we can live like executives too.
We have already explored in brief the five core concepts from which all subsequent executricks extrude. None may be utilized with distinction, however, unless we have a home turf, a base of action, a Fortress of Solitude to which we may repair when tired, bored, resentful, confused, angry, or simply out of ideas. In this chapter, we will be looking at how to create this blessed professional habitat.
This may seem rudimentary to some who have goodoffice space already. To those who do not, the establishment of a fine and private place may seem an impossibility. Yet our program would be lame indeed if it served only those who were already in good shape. We must consider how to serve luxe and schmucks alike.
The first consideration is comfort. No executive can operate without a central commitment to personal well-being.
What are the elements of such physical ease? I would submit to you that, in a business context, the base requirement is a chair, one that is right for you. It could be a recliner made of fine Corinthian leather or a big blue ball on a tripod, it doesn't matter. Your chair is the place where you plant your base. From that, we may move on to other equally important objects and environmental entities.
It is possible that where you are right now in your career, you already have suitable seating. It is, however, unlikely. You could surely do better. Somewhere within the organization, possibly near you, there is someone with seating that would be more appropriate for you. You should probably go out and take it. In seizing that which you require and desire for yourself, you are taking one of the first steps toward being the kind of executive who may graduate to all kinds of cool stuff associated with the kind of ersatz retirement we're contemplating.
To put it another way, if you can't get yourself a chair you probably should quit right now.
I've been in the same chair since the time I was a junior associate in the department. That's because from the start my chair was perfect for me, for anatomical reasons it is unnecessary to enumerate. Without it, I would have had the sensation from the start that I was in somebody else's chair, somebody else's office, somebody else's career, somebody else's life. Eventually, I would have had a choice: to be somebody else, or to give my entire situation to that person, whoever he or she might be. Instead, I found the right chair. You should too.
Options in this regard include:
I opted for the second alternative, which is not as dynamic as some but then again I'm never going to be the kind of psycho destined to be the chairman. I'm just normally duplicitous and selfish, which has served me well and probably will work for you too.
At the time, I was an associate-level droid seated in a tweedy thing with a floating back panel that made me want to lie flat on the floor after fifteen minutes of use. It was clear to me that others were more comfortable in their seats and that I would have to do something about the matter. There were several vice presidents who had what I wanted, but obviously I couldn't simply stroll in and wheel out one of their recliners.
So I waited for Ralph Hamilton, a clearly doomed individual from a prior iteration of senior management, to be fired in one of the regular end-of-year cutbacks that all corporations endure. The moment Chuck was gone, I swooped in and took his chair. There were others waiting in line for it, but once I had it, it would have taken (1) a really senior person to come in and lay claim to it, an unlikely event since most senior people already had their own special seating, or (2) a person on my level to challenge me straight-up for it. This was even more unlikely, because in organizational life very few people will ever challenge you straight-up about anything.
Obviously, the details of the bureaucracy in your locale may militate for a different plan of attack for the seizure of this treasured object. But all bureaucracies are subject to personal/professional influence if you find the right pressure point and have magnitudinous patience. If you are destined to be the kind of executive who patiently waits around and plays by all the rules of nicety, so be it. You're going to have a much slower and more deliberate road to retirement on the job. The most successful and powerful people in business tend to be the ones who just take the chair they want, even if it means killing the guy currently sitting in it.Executricks. Copyright © by Stanley Bing. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted March 3, 2009