The office -- a guide to the players


This essay began as a nine-word prompt with Patty, Kathy and Mo.~~

Some days the best way to let it all go is to write it down.  I managed 8 of the nine words.(stalled, ego, dog, donut, wink, begin, russet, clang, amber).

 By Patty Lawrence

The Egos consume all they reach. They fill the room. They expand through the digital ether. They suffocate other voices. They endeavor to smother each other too. Their ravenous appetites demand constant feeding. They posture and pose and pound their chests and clang their drums. Look at me. See how great I am? They exude confidence.  But nothing ever happens.


The One with the Custom-Made Pants declares that he has a brilliant idea for a Grand Collaboration. Or rather he means, he had this great big new idea along with his Next Boss. There are many potential bosses in the succession line, so Custom-Made Pants has mastered the art of sucking. One can always tell their place on the ladder by whether he is kissing up or stealing down.  He is absolutely uninspiring but the Next Boss likes him well enough so he is safe.  The only real difference between them is that the Next Boss can afford the entire custom made suit. Custom-Made Pants makes a PowerPoint.


A women notes that the Grand Collaboration was her idea a year and a half ago and that since that time she has quietly and steadily begun working to make it happen. She remembers sitting in the very office where the PowerPoint was hatched and saying, “Do it.” She has repeated the idea to all Egos for a long time but she is never going to be a Boss so it got ignored until it was recycled into their own idea. She shifts to cheerleading the Teamwork Mission. The Egos feast on the validation but they don’t acknowledge that either.


One says “I.” “I made the call.”  I wrote the motion that included “whereas” because it is much more official if I use “whereas.” I called the meeting. I say put this plan together. When I do something, I do it right. This is important because I said it is. I do declare whereas I am the Next Boss. Chest pounding is his specialty.  Nothing is worth doing unless it has I’s name on it.


A woman revealed the Grand Collaboration in advance of the PowerPoint.  This is a mistake as information is for not consensus-building or content-adding. Information is to be used to one’s advantage. The informant’s power evaporates once the news of the All-Encompassing Alliance is divulged.


The One who is We wants onboard. We had this idea too. We will make the presentation with you. We can help with that.  We already have a partnership with all the players. He ignores the basic rule that a noun must proceed its antecedent because using “we” is not as self-centered as “I” and he does not want his ego to get in the way. Besides We implies there is a committee of like-mind souls behind his opine.  He is the We Team.  


The Egos gather for coffee and donuts. A woman, whose resume bests theirs, attempts to join them but they evade.  Once she endeavored to be a boss, but with a wink and a nod, The Egos neatly ensured she was removed from that list. She is strong, the big dogs agree. Yes, strong—like cat pee.


The One who is the Current Boss never says “I” because he likes to empower other people. That is important. He craves respect in an understated manner which leaves him forever jockeying with the rest. He says to a woman, Yes, of course it was your idea and you did the work. But let’s not tell them that. Why do you demand a thank you? It’s about the idea not you, right? Give them their day in the sun. Mostly he speaks so softly that he is difficult to hear, but this he says loudly and firmly. Why are you making waves? Sit down. Please. He is very altruistic.


The Enlightened One proclaims, “Everyone should read Lean In as it is a great book.” It’s a moot point. As he has no plans to let the women lead, he can afford to be generous.  The women will be a distant memory by the time he board a planes for Los Angles, Rio de Janeiro, and Lisbon. He is happy for the good politics of the Grand Collaboration. Secretly he is sure the project is doomed for failure, but outwardly he is on the team and will use the Ultimate Union as a talking point during his travel.


A woman once read that the person who uses “I” is the weaker conversation player and so she removed the “I did’s” from her repertoire.  Obviously, this research was faulty.


The One with the Title is thrilled. By virtue of the position he gets the limelight and as of yet has managed not have to do any work. He is very agreeable. Yes, a great idea! You bet! Hey! Is that an Otterbox? What he lacks in bandwidth, he makes up for in buzz words. He does just enough work as so not to get fired. He has been fired before and that is un-agreeable. His best expertise is knowing exactly what just enough work entails. Once he stretched a job out to five years.


This time he was actually hired to be “The Face” with an office full of women behind him to do “The Work.”  This is a dream job. With is his pretty face and title he gets to make presentations on the Magnificent Partnership and talk about the “pivotal game changer brought to you by the visionaries who are innovating a paradigm shift.” Behind his back, the women, who hit-the-ground-running, call him “Skip.” One day, a woman wearied of a stalled career quits.


LCD projectors get toted into bland banquet rooms with russet carpet.  The women listen to their own words come out of the Egos’ mouths. Some have quaint ideas about plagiarism but they know that requesting acknowledgment is actually whining so they don’t.  The women know that they could improve the PowerPoint and closed the deal, but they have stopped talking. The Grand Collaboration is too big to be shared. The Egos eat underlings for lunch.

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