Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Manager's Chair

In one of my previous lives I had a responsible well-paid job at Very Impressive Consulting Company (VICC). What I was doing for them isn't relevant to this story, but I worked in central headquarters. This means I was not actually out in the trenches billing clients by the hour, but was costing the firm big bucks. VICC was organized as a large partnership, not a publicly-owned corporation, so my salary was actually costing the partners a (small) percentage of their income, not contributing directly to it the way the consultants and their managers were.

The partner who hired me knew that what I was doing would become valuable, so meanwhile, in order to convince his greedy partners he had to give me a worthy title. The titles went down the chain: Partner, Director, Manager, Consultant. In the culture of VICC, which was very stodgy, partners would talk only to other partners or directors at headquarters, so I was hired in as a Director.

The fact that I was directing nobody except myself didn't matter. Once I had the title Director on my business card, and the office to go with it, partners would talk to me. And hopefully also listen. As it developed, some did and some didn't. But along with the office came The Furniture. VICC had policies on just about everything, including what kind of furniture you could have in your office. A Partner got Partner furniture, including a leather-upholstered high-backed chair, and a Director got Director furniture, with the same high-backed chair upholstered in fabric. It happened that I hated sitting in the high-backed chair because it hurt my neck. So I told the Person in Charge of Furniture that I wanted a Manager's chair, which was not so high-back and didn't hurt my neck. The Person in Charge of Furniture was taken aback (hah!). Then argumentative. But not himself a Director, so not too argumentative. After all, rank has its privilege.

After a few days' of "thinking it over," the Person in Charge of Furniture proposed a compromise: I could have a Manager's chair in Partner's leather upholstery, the only such chair in the history of VICC. And that's where I sat until I left.

I wonder who got it after me?


Fred said...

Another reason I left the corporate world.

Savtadotty said...

Fred - Another reason I left America!