This Rule goes hand in hand with the previous one. You have to know who has the boss’s ear, and you have to know who runs the office. You might be quite senior, but you won’t get the key to the stationery cupboard no matter what, not unless you speak nicely to Mark first. And your morning coffee is going to be delivered cold if you upset the catering staff at all by wandering up to the break room and ordering your coffee without going through the office manager first.
Office protocols and hierarchies are old fashioned, petty, small minded, outdated, and yet still very much with us. It wasn’t that long ago that I worked in an office where you had to take your typing to an office manager who then handed it to a typist and it was returned to you later, all done.
Trouble was that if you upset the office manager—and you could do this by smoking near her, talking about the boss in a derogatory way, swearing, coming to work causally dressed— you got your work given to the worst typist and it came back late, full of mistakes, coffee cup stained, misspelled, no copies, you name it.
Once you got on the right side of the office manager, it all changed and your typist presented you with exemplary work, on time and immaculate.
Now, you might say that this was the way it was and I couldn’t really complain. Yes, but the office manager wasn’t my office manager. I only used the typing facility occasionally and I was senior. I still had to go through this hierarchy, which involved me in having to seek the patronage of someone junior to get a fairly mundane and routine job done. It sure made me mad, and I had to spend quite a lot of time wooing the office man- ager just to get a letter done. It was time consuming, unproductive, and petty. But you’re right—we have to work with what we’ve got.
So what do we do? We play the game. We have no choice but to smile and woo them.
OFFICE PRO T OCOLS AND HIERARCHIES ARE OLD FASHIONED, PETTY, SMALL MINDED, OUTD ATED, AND YET STILL VERY MUCH WITH US.