The office accommodation was being completely overhauled and a new room was being built to house the computer. As soon as the computer had been moved and settled in, the staff of the IT department were to move into their brand new offices surrounding the glasshouse containing the technology. On one side of the new computer room was an office with no windows and no line of sight to a window. On the other side was a smaller room with a floor-to-ceiling window offering a magnificent panorama across Sydney Harbour. The view of the Harbour Bridge was particularly pleasing.
My new office was to be the one without windows. The other room was going to be used to store stationery.
As politely as I could I suggested that it would be preferable for the stationery to live in the dark and the human to have the million-dollar view, but I was told that the office with the window was far too small to be suitable for an executive of the company. I replied that all I needed in my office was space for chairs for me and a couple of visitors, a bench or table to hold my computer and telephone, a small bookcase for those few books which always had to be at hand, and possibly a small coffee table and a pot plant. Anything else could be put in the other room with the boxes of paper and I could go there and get it as needed.
There was much discussion about the propriety of allowing a senior manager to occupy a space which was smaller than a manager’s status dictated, but I persisted. I finally seemed to get across the point that, as a manager, I would not be the least offended by having such a small office, although I would have thought that this point had been made clearly when I asked to use the room. Eventually it was agreed that I could use the office, but I had to have a real desk like real managers use. I have always hated sitting behind a desk so I suggested that if I had to have a desk it should be put in the corner of the room so that I faced a wall and had the window at one side. This was too much, and the final word was that I could only have that office if the desk went across the room and I sat on one side and visitors sat on the other.
It was better than nothing, so I graciously accepted. The minimum of chattels necessary for me to do my job were moved from my old office to the new one, the rest was put in some cupboards in the stationery room, and everyone seemed satisfied. When I wasn’t on the phone or using the computer and there were no visitors sitting on the other side of my desk I sometimes took a peek over my shoulder at one of the best pieces of scenery in the world.
Some time after I left the company I was at a dinner function and I ran into someone whom I had worked with some years before. We swapped some small talk about what we had been doing since we had last met and he told me that he had been going through some files at his new job and had come across my name. In fact, he now had the management job that I had held at his new employer. Rather sneakily, I asked him how he liked the view from his office. He told me that he didn’t have a view, and, in fact, couldn’t even see a window from his desk. I was too kind to ask him if the boxes of paper enjoyed looking at the ferries and the Harbour Bridge.