Cymbaline, please wake me

The corner office, the largest office, the best view, the supplest leather, the deepest grain, the deepest pile, a personal parking space for the car you’ve never heard of, a personal Parker with a personal parking space, two secretaries, suits by Rumplestiltskin, the de-badged personal identity (the organisation works for you), the personal toilet. Magnitude and exclusivity, unlocked by fifa’s favourite foldies or the potent power of position. Or, most effectively, both.

Status symbols in the workplace have for decades been about noise – the most deafening display possible of the elevated (occasionally apotheosised) position of the holder in relation to others. Status cymbals.

By the 1990’s such brash display was under muffled attack. We carefully removed the defining drywall and patched in the carpet, converted the coveted khasi to a deli bar and packed off Parker’s polyester pinstripe. But it was far from a revolution. Many of the traditional trappings of birthright, a private education, luck and a sharp eye for an opportunity survive on a rich and fatty diet, even amongst the new digerarchies.

But supposing in this bristling new age of enlightenment (which its not, but run with it for the minute), status symbols softened, hushed, their brash reverberation turned inward upon themselves – and became acceptable, aspirational, a badge of humility, dignity and reserve, and most remarkable of all, an intangible estate free of the buttock-clenching guilt most of us would feel from arriving for a meeting via the helipad.

What would these attributes be?

The unplayed hand, a reputation earned and admired for the gift of talent deployed for the benefit of others, no “profile” other than for word of mouth, carried on the breeze rather than optical fibre.

Time – the hardest currency of all – or at least the appearance of it, creating bubbles of it within the Newtonian continuum, gifted as listening.

A phone that isn’t smart, that rings because someone wishes to speak with you, rather than alerts because they never expected you to answer a call.

Warmth – not as complex or academically dramatised for commercial effect as EQ, just simply an ability to understand people, make them feel good about themselves and the centre of your attention, put them at their ease. And an easy laugh, from the core.

An evident inner calm, a contentment with every minute of every day, for its own value even if appearing wasted, never caught in the mistral of needing or wishing to be elsewhere.

The analogue – treasured heirlooms, watches that wind up, pens with ink plungers, folio cases – the security of a life you don’t have to back-up, because those who passed the items to you to care for did so for you.

A life outside of work that celebrates the small things, with the people who matter – not solo bungee jumping off an orbiting satellite, but an ice cream on the pier at Worthing in November, sharing the foolery.

That would be a quiet revolution.


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