WEEKEND Beach Bum
|by Eric Morrison|
|A Guide to Success in the Office
I offer the following advice to all GLBT workers who toil their days away in an office, supporting the economy of a society that refuses to recognize us for our contributions by extending to us our full human rights.
First and foremost, get in good with the administrative assistant. A decade or two ago, these wonderful people were still known by that barbaric title of "secretary," but their new, politically correct title reflects the fact that they do so much more than take notes at meetings and order H2O for the water cooler. If you think of the workings of the office as a wheel, the administrative assistant is right there in the center, at the hub. The spokes of the wheel extending from the hub are the office workers, and on the very outside of the wheel, around the rim, as far away as possible from really "being in the know," are managers and supervisors.
Admins, as they are affectionately known, can tell you where to find the coffee, the morning meeting, and the paperclips. They're a wealth of information, but do NOT piss them off! They can make your work life hell quicker than you can say "sick day." Tick off the admin, and she'll have no idea why your pay stub shows that you have no vacation days left for the year, and she won't remember how to correct it in the system. Admins know everything about the office, and they're not afraid to use that knowledge. I worked as an admin for a couple of years, and I knew who made how much money, who stole office supplies, and who sucked face with whom at last year's holiday party. Above all else, keep in the good graces of the administrative assistant. If she doesn't like you, no one else will.
Looking to climb the corporate ladder without breaking your back or burning your brain? First of all, look busy and slightly stressed at all timesbut not overwhelmed. If you look too frazzled, your supervisor will think you can't handle your job. If you seem too relaxed, your work ethic will be called into question. It's a delicate balancing act. To maintain it, keep papers on your desk at all times, but keep them organized. Rememberyou want to look occupied, not disorganized. Keep your files folders and your desk drawers full but not overflowing. Keep healthy snacks at your desk. Anyone who needs to munch on trail mix granola or wasabe peas throughout the day must need the protein because their gray matter is working at maximum capacity. Bring in a live plant for your desk, but only water it when it starts to droop. Others will notice the failing plant and pity their co-worker who is so industrious that he doesn't have a minute to nurture the one living thing in his cubicle besides himself.
This next piece of office-savvy advice may seem a little unorthodox, but please bear with me. Start smoking now! Aside from the aforementioned administrative assistant, there's no better way to obtain juicy bits of office gossip and company goings-on than to hang out with the smokers. (If your office administrative assistant smokes, this doubles her power, and she is to be revered as a goddess.) Smokers in a business setting stick together like a hungry pack of mountain lions. Several times per day, smokers gather outside, braving weather both hot and cold, to feed their nicotine habit. This is quality bonding time. Rather than revealing personal information, smokers will talk about non-smoking colleagues and the company's status. Start puffing away the next time you're at work, and you might learn about HR manager's narcolepsy or the company's impending bankruptcy. Granted, smoking leads to lung cancer and a host of other ailments, but isn't that a small price to pay to learn that you'll soon be receiving a pink slip?
Dressing for the office can be a bit tricky. Of course, you want to follow the dress code almost every day, but sometimes, throw in something just a bit risqu. Ladies, why not don a beautiful business suit with a pair of black fishnets? Gentleman, why not do the same? You'll send a clear message that you're in-line with the company's conduct and ethics, while letting management know that you're just a trifle unstable. No one wants you to go postal, so don't push the envelope too far, and you'll invoke respect for your professional attire and just the right amount of fear for your tendency to challenge authority. If you're looking to move up in your office, dress for the next position above you. When beauty queens compete in a pageant, they wear an elegant updo perfect for the desired crown, so the judges can picture that crown on their heads. Let your colleagues and supervisor know that you can dress the part, and when your supervisor moves on, you just might get the part.
All the preceding advice has been given with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. (I wasn't being sarcastic. I just have a nasty canker sore I'm trying to cover.) Still, there is one piece of advice I offer, in all sincerity, to GLBT persons in the workplace: COME OUT, COME OUT,
WHEREVER YOU ARE!!! When it comes to coming out, silence truly equals death. Check to
see if your company has a written anti-discrimination clause regarding sexual orientation. If it doesn't, once you've established yourself as an asset to the company, request that such a clause be written. This isn't necessarily a guarantee that you will never be harassed, terminated, or refused a promotion due to your sexual orientation, but at least you have some peace of mind, not to mention some kind of recourse should you feel discriminated against. It also sets a healthy precedent that slurs and harmful comments are not encouraged and will not be tolerated.
Being out at work will give you peace of mind you wouldn't believe, and you don't have to prance around the office in a rainbow tie to get your point across. Place a picture of your boyfriend or girlfriend on your desk. Put a pride sticker on your car. Mention your partner when you're asked what you did on the weekend. Modern gay rights are a catch 22 situation. We're afraid to come out at work until we have protections in place, but boards of directors and legislators won't protect us until we let them know how many of us there are, and how crucial we are to the world's workforce. Open the closet door for yourself before someone else yanks you out. There's nothing worse than attending the company holiday party solo every year, or having people whisper about your sexuality around the water cooler. Let your little gay light shine in every aspect of your existence, including your work life.
Eric recently became employed againhence, this column. You may offer your hearty congratulations at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 1 February 11, 2005