October 5, 2001
Lessons

 


 
FIVE USEFUL THINGS
I LEARNED AT THE TOTEM POLE COMPANY

~ By Secra ~


  • Thing #1: Busy is better.

    There were two levels of activity I could typically expect at The TPC on any given day: 1.) Busy to the point of near-hysteria, or 2.) I hope I remembered to bring a library book with me today.

    Here's what I've figured out:

    Busy is better.

    Busy makes the time pass more quickly, for one thing. (Less time at work = more time on the bike/in bed with your husband/at the mall/parked in front of the home computer ordering sweater sets off the Internet.)

    Busy keeps your brain and your hands and your heart-rate fully engaged, which is healthier on all sorts of levels.

    Busy is a *better look* for most of us (as opposed, say, to face-down on desk/drooling into shirt sleeves).

    Plus busy has the hidden advantage of throwing up an invisible protective shield between you and anyone who might want to dump even MORE stuff on you. When people see that you are busy, they tend to avoid doing anything to make you any "busy-er" ... mainly because they're afraid that if they do, you'll hurt them. (Unless they're believers in the old adage If you want something done, give it to a busy person. These are generally the same people who believe that Idle hands are the devil's workshop and Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. We HATE these people, OK?)


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  • Thing #2: Men can be every bit as bitchy as women.

    Who ever said that workplace bitchiness is the exclusive domain of women obviously never spent any time on the fourth floor of The Totem Pole Company.

    I'm not talking about personality conflicts, or professional disagreements, or the occasional harsh word flung at a co-worker during an overheated Marketing Meeting. These are as unavoidable a part of corporate culture as bad coffee and boring monthly newsletters.

    No. I'm talking about hallway gossip. I'm talking about cliques. I'm talking about slamming doors, and calling each other names, and giving each other bunny ears in the company Christmas card photo. I'm talking about all of the petty, ridiculous, asinine, sneaky, inappropriate, unprofessional, underhanded, ludicrously childish behavior I saw demonstrated outside my fourth-floor office doorway, each and every day at The TPC.

    Why is this a "useful" thing to have learned? Because I've spent a large chunk of my life automatically aligning myself with the testosterone, almost every place I've ever worked, mainly because I believed that it was safer that way. I thought that if I steered clear of the women, I'd be steering clear of the nonsense.

    Now I know better.

    (Now I know to steer clear of EVERYBODY. Period. At least until I have a chance to figure out who hates who.)


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  • Thing #3: I don't think I like being an Executive Ass.

    I assumed, going in, that Executive Assitude was going to be a piece of cake.

    Never mind that I had no experience whatsoever, supporting a senior executive. Never mind that, until I went to work for Franz, I'd never scheduled a meeting, booked an airline reservation or created an agenda for more than three people at a time. Never mind that up until that point my administrative experience mostly consisted of me sitting behind a reception counter, smiling a twinkly smile and saying Hi can I help you?

    In all of my infinite wisdom, I assumed that being an Executive Ass was going to be very much like being a receptionist, except that I'd get to wear groovier shoes. After a couple of years of pretty heavy-duty Assitude, though, here is what I've figured out:

    I don't like it very much.

    I'm good at it. I seem to have a gift for it. But I don't LIKEit very much. I don't like being aligned with just one person within the company, for one thing  ...  especially if that "one person" is universally feared and/or loathed and/or laughed at by everyone else in the company. The sins of the boss are visited upon the Executive Ass. I don't like the exclusivity and the singlemindedness of the job, either: answering the phone for just one person. Opening the mail for just one person. Typing correspondence for just one person. Rescheduling colonoscopy appointments for just one person. It's like being married to someone you don't especially want to be married to. (And when things don't work out, it's like a divorce that only one of you wants.)

    Of course, I'll be the first to acknowledge that my experiences as an Executive Ass, so far, have been somewhat less than typical. Maybe somewhere out there is an Executive who doesn't scream, doesn't throw stuff, doesn't keep nudie photos of his girlfriends in his upper desk drawer, doesn't obsess over his dwarf schleffera, opens his own e-mail/listens to his own phone messages/attends his own meetings occasionally, and wouldn't dream of blowing off dinner with his mother on her birthday (or expecting me to make the blow-off call). If I ever find this Executive -- and if he's in the market for a sharp, resourceful, talented Executive Ass -- then maybe I'll think about giving it another go.

    In the meantime ... I think I'll go back to answering phones for a while.


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  • Thing #4: Having a window office isn't all it's cracked up to be.

    Especially if your office faces west, meaning too dark and chilly in the mornings, too bright and stuffy in the afternoons. Or if your window is directly behind you, meaning that you have to turn around in order to enjoy your view of the next-door parking garage. Or if your window is stoopidly bolted shut and doesn't actually open, meaning you can't sit on the windowsill and dangle your legs over the edge.

    On the other hand, having a DOOR is EVERYTHING it's cracked up to be.

    Especially a door that locks.


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  • Thing #5: In the end ... it's all about mirrors.

    As in being able to look into one, at the end of the day, and say I didn't screw up today.

    Or being able to say OK. I screwed up. But I didn't screw up THAT badly. (And if I go in half an hour early tomorrow morning, I can probably clean up the mess before anybody finds out about it.)

    Or being able to say OK. I screwed up. Big time. But I went to my boss immediately, and I assumed ownership of the problem. I didn't try to blame anybody else. I didn't make excuses. I looked for ways to fix the problem, and then I did my best to fix it. (And if I couldn't fix it, I offered to pay for the damage.)

    Or -- at least -- being able to say I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Have a great weekend, everybody.




p.s. i've been called back for a second interview on monday morning. that's the GOOD news. the BAD news is that it isn't the job i wanted: it's a different job, which [from the looks of it, anyway] would mean more work/less money. but i'm going to the interview anyway, mainly because i promised that i would ... and also because if i've learned anything ELSE the past two and a half years, it's that opportunity is useless unless you actually DO something with it.

besides: idle hands are the devil's workshop.




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