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How To Tell Where You Fit In Office Hierarchy

May 14, 2008
There is an unspoken rule of where you are placed in the office hierarchy stakes. Of course, we all know that the newcomer makes the tea for everyone, we all expect to be talked about if we are the new one so there is a sense of the time it takes to fit in and the pressure is only relieved when a new body starts.

But when you work in a large office, rules become blurred and it can be difficult to see where you fit in. There will always be the ones that want their little bit of power and feel that if they have been there longer than you, that gives them an automatic right to order you about. In fact, when it comes down to it, they have no more status than you so how can you tell who you should be taking orders from?

Look at the office chairs and this will give you an indication. Since the advent of the railroads in the 1800's, businesses moved from the family base to the purpose built office blocks where big business could be conducted from. Sitting all day running administration tasks is a bone aching chore.

Hips get stiff, legs get cramp and people get restless. This led to a new industry springing up in an attempt to make the office worker more comfortable with office chairs that were more suitable for long periods of time. Originally, this was purely to get more work from the employee, meaning that they could spend longer in their seats. Swivel office chairs were brought in so the worker could reach more workstation facilities without having to waste time getting up and walking around. All heart, weren't they!

Office chairs on wheels became an important part of office furniture. With shaped seats and backs to make them more moulded to the employees body, they were better for spending longer periods of time in. Before long, they came with padded cushions on the seats and backs and arm rests.

However, there was no distinction between office workers when everyone had the same office chair, except for the boss who had a fixed chair, making the statement that he didn't need to reach further than the desk in front of him because he had minions to do it for him

Office culture has since evolved into a whole system of ranking depending on the seat you have. Without doubt, the newbie gets the wonky office chair with no arms. This releases you from the temptation of lounging. Lounge and you will fall off. Fall off and you will feel the wrath of the boss and be seeing the office door from the other side.

Moving up through the ranks, you can get a padded swivel chair next. If you think this is luxurious, wait until you get other newbies join the office and you are promoted to a chair with arms on! Sheer luxury! At last, you can relax a little. If you're really lucky, you may even get one that has an adjustable height lever.

When the boss is out of the office, essential office games involve sneaking up on people and releasing the height lever so they are suddenly sitting chin level with their desk. This is great fun, particularly when they are on the phone.

In an open plan office you can always tell the most important person by their office chair. It will have closed in sides, it will ultimately be made of leather and will be wide enough for to people. This is the chair that most office workers aspire to and will always try out the minute the boss is out of the door.
About the Author
Office culture expert Catherine Harvey looks at the use of office chairs to determine office position.
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