The story of a day in the life of an unsuccessful office worker

1:42pm Understanding your place

In modern corporate life, understanding one’s place is essential for survival. 

Upon returning to the office, I bump into three of my colleagues, Geoff Timms, Brad Bolton and Simon Haynes. We have a quick chat and a few laughs as we pass the reception area, turn right and head toward the security door.  

The door opens in front of us. Out bursts Ted Grundy, the managing director, having an intense conversation on his mobile.  

We each part to the side, allowing him ample space to walk through the middle. He storms through, finishes his phone call and barks an instruction for the receptionist to call him a taxi. 

Barely one of us notices. We don’t think about making way for him - it’s an automatic response. 

Likewise, our act of courtesy fails to register with him. He is accustomed to staff making way for him in office corridors. He simply doesn’t notice anymore. 

But what’s really going on here? Geoff, Simon, Brad and I are all highly qualified professionals on respectable salaries. Ted Grundy is far less qualified than any of us. 

But he is the boss. We work for him, not the other way around. Our future at the company is at his mercy.  

Yes, we are highly skilled professionals. Yes, Ted Grundy is arrogant. We show him professional courtesy whilst he storms through and shows no respect to us.  

But, it is not worth jeopardizing our careers by disputing who has ‘right of way’ in the corridor. Accordingly, we kindly make way for him. 

Understanding one’s place is essential for survival in modern corporate life.


  1. January 5th, 2008 | 8:42 pm

    I wonder if I’ll ever belong to a professional environment like yours, dude. I cannot effectively fake a smile, hide my dislike or accept being pushed around for whatever reason. I will accept that I am a barbarian, merely because I refuse to give any of my respect to anyone who deserves it. That is my weakness, and for that I am doomed to remain where I am forever.

    I respect your tolerance, despite the fact that is only because it is essential to your survival. I wish that I could wish that I can do the same.

  2. January 8th, 2008 | 9:46 am

    Iron Pugilist,

    I can understand your point of view here.

    You mention the word ‘respect’. I think it’s important to distinquish between ‘politeness’ or ‘courtesy’ and ‘respect.’

    In my view, ‘respect’ must be earned. Personally, I won’t ever give respect to anyone who does not deserve it.

    On the other hand, I can show professional courtesy or politeness to someone regardless of whether or not I respect them. Courtesy or politeness are simply about showing good manners.

    Personally, I try to show courtesy and politeness to everybody. But that does not mean that I respect everybody. My respect has to be earned, my courtesy does not.

    You mentioned being pushed around. The character in this story gets pushed around quite a bit. He really is a bit of a chicken when it comes to dealing with bullies - a little too much like myself in real life.

    I respect that you do not ‘accept being pushed around for whatever reason’. That, I believe is a positive trait to a certain degree. Whenever one encounters bullies in any area of life, I believe it’s important to approach the problem in a constructive but firm manner.

    I do not believe aggression is the best way to respond to bullies, but neither is accepting being pushed around. Personally, all too often I have failed to stand up to bullying. Iron Pugilist, it sounds like you’re on the other end of the scale!



  3. January 8th, 2008 | 9:05 pm

    Your reply has enlightened me. From now on, I can differ respect from politeness and courtesy, and when to give any of it. Thank you so much.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had more than my fair share of being bullied. It is true that I am combat knowledgeable and street-wise, but I have a code: I will not deal the first blow. The bullies back then knew about this and exploited it by emotionally and socially tormenting me, which is the main reason for my current insecurities and lack/absence of confidence. For these sorts of attacks, I have no defense or means of retaliation and so I did not know how to react accordingly.

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