Respect the rank, not the person…

We’re the government and no self respecting government agency goes more than a day or two without having a meeting. Mostly, given our slightly inconvenient location just outside of BFE, we keep our meetings to ourselves. Sadly, though, there are times when someone vaguely approaching the definition of a VIP shows up. Such an arrival, of course, requires a meeting befitting the distinguished status of the guest. That means the development of many, many wonderful charts… because the more charts presented for your consideration, the more important you are in the hierarchy. And then there’s the hardcopy – because a VIP apparently can’t be troubled to remember something from one minute to the next without having a fist full of paper slides in front of him. Reading the ones projected across the room onto a 8×10 foot screen would certainly be below his esteemed level of dignity.

With enough notice, it’s generally possible to make anything happen. Deciding at 8:30 that you want to change half the slides for a meeting starting in half an hour, sure, that’s manageable. But for God’s sake don’t come back ten minutes later and tell everyone they’re late to the meeting… that isn’t supposed to start for another twenty minutes. And then pace the aisle sighing and making comments under your breath about being unprepared. When the only thing keeping someone from beating you to death with a keyboard is an ingrained sense of respect for rank and a desire not to go to jail, it seems best not to antagonize that many of your underlings all at one time.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

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