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Hierarchies of employment

I've been so quiet here lately because I've had nothing of great importance to say, and also because work has actually been keeping me very busy. It did inspire me to look around and observe that in the average office you can tell how important someone is just by catching a glimpse of the task they're doing. (I think this occurred to me while I was on my knees in the lunch room, stacking bottles of water into the fridge, and musing that you never see the Vice President of Operations doing something like this.) So, here's a basic sketch of the hierarchy, as I see it. Feel free to adjust or add on, according to your own observations.

Official Index of Workplace Importance

Level 1: Peon
Can be identified by these actions and poses: Filing, esp. on knees. Rinsing out coffeepots. Photocopying large stacks of paper. Carrying heavy but not expensive things.

Level 2: Mildly Useful Assistant
Sorting mail. Typing. Bringing coffee or refreshments to Important Personages. Filing occasionally, but not on knees. Photocopying smallish stacks of paper. Carrying expensive but not heavy things.

Level 3: Essential Help
Talking on phone for business purposes. Sorting important mail. Bringing coffee or refreshments to Supreme Beings. Photocopying one page every so often. Making other people carry and file things. Going to meetings with Important Personages and Supreme Beings, but only to take minutes.

Level 4: Important Personage
Talking on phone for business purposes with door closed. Receiving important mail, pre-opened. Going to meetings and giving the presentation. Asking for coffee and refreshments. Looking at catalogs and choosing some of the expensive and heavy stuff that gets ordered.

Level 5: Supreme Being
Talking on phone for business purposes from home or place of vacation. Receiving important mail, sealed. Going to meetings for purpose of scaring others with mere presence. Receiving coffee, refreshments, and expensive stuff without having to ask.

(I'm somewhere between levels 1 and 2 right now, if you were wondering. But, hey, I'm not complaining. There are worse jobs, to be sure.)

Edit, 9/5/03: Recommended humor reading: kenshi has put together a very elaborate D&D-style taxonomy to expand upon this. Check it out!


( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 3rd, 2003 11:16 pm (UTC)
Very well said...or typed I guess. I don't exactly work in an office setting, but there is definitely a lot of paperwork in the tourism industry. The better part of my day today consisted of helping a sick passenger fill out his 3I report. (basically that means he sat there looking at me while I asked him questions such as, "What were you eating right before you vomited all over the tour bus?") It occurred to me then that I have never seen the district manager around when these forms need to be filled out. Must be nice to be in the 4-5 category eh?
Sep. 4th, 2003 11:44 am (UTC)
Heh! Well, at least I don't have to ask people questions like that. :)

I'm betting most people in the 4-5 levels don't have the time or inclination for LJ's...just us peons and assistants.
Sep. 3rd, 2003 11:51 pm (UTC)
I'm levels 1-3. I supervise the workstudy students, but am the lowest ranked person in the office.
Sep. 4th, 2003 11:46 am (UTC)
Hmm. Yes, education-related jobs probably have a rather different hierarchy. With "publish or perish" as one of the Level 5 duties, perhaps.
Sep. 4th, 2003 12:41 am (UTC)
Addendum: where they can be found
Level 1: Does not have own place to sit. Either has no fixed work station or has work station shared with others. (i.e. sits in miscellaneous chair in office or shares desk (not just cube) with others of same level. May be kept running all day long and not have any place (or chance!) to sit. May not have computer access.

Level 2: Has own place to sit. Area may be shared either spatially (i.e. large cube with multiple occupants) or temporally (occupied by others during other time periods). Advanced level 2 personnel may have non-shared workspace, but only the smallest or least-private available. Cubes with half-height walls are distinctly level 2 accommodations. Has computer access but monitor visible to passers-by; advanced level 2 may have viewing filter.

Level 3. Has own place to sit. Area not shared by others (exception for temporal sharing for receptionist; even if temporally shared is emphatically this employee's space - woe betide any who re-arrange contents of drawers or steal pens). Common locations include private cubes, large double cubes. May also be found in shared offices. Likely to be in single office only if small, lacking in door, or otherwise unsuitable for higher-level employee (exception for Attack Secretary for level 5 employee). Has own computer; monitor may be visible or screened from passers-by.

Level 4: In office, possibly private but likely shared. May have window. Monitor likely screened from passers-by; likely to be seated facing door. Door open unless privacy needed for phone or personal conversation.

Level 5. In solo office. If there are any windows in the building, there's one here. Sits facing door; monitor screened. May not have passers-by. Advanced level 5 will be found in inner office of nested system, guarded by level 3 or better Attack Secretary. Door may be closed even if no conversation is being conducted.
Sep. 4th, 2003 03:04 am (UTC)
Re: Addendum: where they can be found
Good points! I shift and sit where I can. I generally get the desk of whoever is on leave :) And I always feel overlooked on the computer...
Sep. 4th, 2003 11:49 am (UTC)
Re: Addendum: where they can be found
Exactly! You've nailed it. I keep getting shunted from vacant desk to vacant desk here, depending on who's away. They have to page me over the intercom to find me. Ugh.

"Attack Secretary"...heheh.
Sep. 4th, 2003 01:24 am (UTC)
I do level 2 work but get paid as level 1 :/ Oh well! Good observations, Molly m'dear.
Sep. 4th, 2003 11:51 am (UTC)
Underappreciated and overeducated workers of the world unite! :)

Glad to hear the system applies in the UK, as well...heh.
Sep. 4th, 2003 12:11 pm (UTC)
Bollocks do you get paid as level 1! :-P
Sep. 9th, 2003 11:32 am (UTC)
For office work I do! I'm paid standard AA rate, as any Londoner could tell you :P
Sep. 10th, 2003 12:56 pm (UTC)
But you're on over double the minimum wage and thus cannot be remunerated at level 1. :-P Or even level 2, come to think of it....
Sep. 12th, 2003 04:12 am (UTC)
Matt, listen to me. People in offices in London do not get paid minimum wage. No one would do office work for under £6.50 an hour in central London, £5+ in outer. And since we weren't talking of shops and warehouses, I am on the lowest grade for central London, which is emphasised by my rank - the lowest in administration. So ner.
Sep. 4th, 2003 05:50 am (UTC)
Level 3, without the coffee-bringing. But I am called upon to field questions, calls and visitors when my boss is away getting her own damn coffee. :)
Sep. 4th, 2003 11:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, I wasn't entirely sure where to put receptionists and others who do similar tasks, but I'm thinking level 3. In which case I have occasional hours of Level-3-hood. Woohoo!
Sep. 4th, 2003 07:44 am (UTC)
I have been level three for years now... 'yay' customer support... hehe
Sep. 4th, 2003 11:52 am (UTC)
As long as you occasionally get to delegate tasks. That shows you're not too low on the food chain. :)
Sep. 4th, 2003 09:47 am (UTC)
That's good! I especially liked the pre-opened versus sealed mail distinction.

We may need to add a correction factor for the size of business (e.g., small <20 employees, medium 20-100, large 100-500, huge >500) in the formulation of the Official Index of Workplace Importance (OIWI).

At my old job (at a small business) I was hired at level 1, but within 6 months was hovering around level 4. Not necessarily because I was that good, but there just weren't that many other folks around. I might even postulate that levels 2 & 3 don't exist in small businesses, and that levels are added commensurate with the size of the business.

And I'll imagine that for huge businesses, there are even more levels in the OIWI. Perhaps something like -

Level 6: Uber Suit
If you are in levels 1-3, you are significantly more likely to see L6 personages on the cover of a magazine than in the office. The office of L6 is a multi-room affair with its own support staff. An L2 in the staff of an L6 outranks an L2 in the general office. L6 does not use phone, email, or regular mail for legal reasons. L6 persons only meet with other L6 persons, generally on golf courses or on sail boats.

Okay, fine; it's time for me to find a job-should I use the OIWI in the interview, "Do you see this position as Level 2 or 3?"

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )