4/19/2008

Corporate Survival Guide: The Best Defense

The Best Defense is a Good Office

Your office is a critical part of your image. It's an important part of the fa├žade, like the shrink wrap on fancy cucumbers or the wax coating on otherwise soft and dull apples. Or like an exciting picture on the jacket of another dull mystery novel. Your office needs to clearly state, "This is who I am. Kneel Before Me in Awe. And bring me a donut."

On the corporate battlefield, it's not about what you do, but what people think of you. In fact, this was ever the way of war. The greatest generals thrived on reputation, not results. Witness what happened to Custer, when he left his tent a slovenly mess that morning, bedecked with sports pennants, rock and roll posters, and old dirty laundry piles. The myth is that his opponents slaughtered him, but the reality is that it was his co-workers.

So how can you improve your office?

First, you need to be clear about your goals. You are striving for an air of casual yet total dominance, justified arrogance, divine right. You want to appear approachable, but only to the worthy. Like a smiling pope. Or an asylum escapee with a tazer.

Of course, this is harder in today's corporate environment, where your office is apt to be more like a phone booth or even a cubicle. But if you think size matters, just consider the power wielded by Napolean. Or tiny bikinis.

Let's step through some of the important elements in the office of today's Corporate Warrior.

Chair of Authority

First, you'll need a throne. You want a chair that says "I am King. You are not. I might let you live if it's to my advantage. Or you bring me a donut." Of course, getting a real gold and jewel-encrusted artifact can be tricky, as can hauling it up to the third floor and squeezing it into your cube. So you'll have to make do with what you have. You might have to convert your existing office chair into a makeshift throne. Make sure that there is some glitz to the chair, that it is raised on a kind of altar, and that it has wide arms for you to rest your elbows as you ponder the cases of supplicants. Also, make sure that you remove the casters from the chair, which prevents people from trying to move it out of your cube, stealing it for their own or for some meeting in that conference room down the hall that never has enough chairs. But it's your throne, not theirs. Remember to put your name on it. Use a permanent marker. And use your laptop cable lock to secure it to your desk.

Veri-Table Plethora

You no-doubt have some pathetic modular furniture in your office now; a desk with cheap melamine veneer, maybe a small table. Toss them out. Literally - throw them out of your cube into the hallway, making a statement as well as some room. Bring in a large oak or mahogany desk, preferably larger than your cube so you'll have to expand your cube size (thus taking more turf, a crucial tactic in war and airplane armrest scuffles). You want the desk to say, when you don't have the chance to say it verbally, "My desk is so large because I'm so busy. I have to have enough space to put all the stuff I'm working on."

Picture Perfect

Co-workers will probably put up pictures that their kids drew and place some framed picture of their smiling spouse on the desk. If they're pushing the limits of levity, they'll have a "You want it WHEN?!" cartoon on the wall, inviting laughter with the corporate credo of endemic inefficiency.

This will not do for you. Pictures of family and personal taste are a sign of weakness, another element that your enemies can use to get at you. Instead, you need pictures that will give the impression of power, authority, and drive.

First, you should acquire some dark and foreboding oil painting of a gruesome battle. Make it one of those from the 1800's, with plenty of blood, death, swords, and horses. And make sure it's big; it needs to dominate the wall space, or even overflow it. This painting will awe your visitors as well as keep your big desk company.

Once the Art category is taken care of, go for inspiration. Put up sayings on the wall that will impart some of your philosophy and work ethic to those who read them. Don't go for those motivational posters with pictures of other people. For one thing, you don't want them to have the image in their mind of someone else doing awesome things; it's got to be you. Also, make sure you go for sayings of power. You don't want anything namby-pamby like, "Be your best, every day," this implies that there is an alternative for you. Instead, go for more convincing and confident tones, like "Be even better, every minute, forever." Or try for a more aggressive tone, like "If you don't have anything important to say, get out" and "I'm busy working for the company - what about you?" Make sure that people notice the sayings; consider getting an animated sign, one with foot-high animating letters.

Floor Consideration

Most offices today have a low-pile carpet designed for easy cleaning as well as providing decent camouflage of coffee and blood stains. But battles were never fought on carpet, and today's Corporate Warrior can't hope to reach his or her potential on such feeble grounding. Have marble or granite installed in the floor of your cube. Wear shoes with heels that make a clear clack of authority when walking on it. Pace often, and tap your foot constantly. Your co-workers all over the building will hear you being important all day long.

These are just some of the important elements a successful office requires. There are plenty more subtle accessories, such as spotlights and a looping "Ride of the Valkyries" soundtrack, but the basic items above should get you started on the path to corporate victory.
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