We see evidence of status all over the work place. The boss in the corner office; larger, more comfortable chairs for management; and cubicles by the window for people with more seniority.
There are companies who try to remove the haughty symbols of status in attempts to make everyone equal. I heard of a company once who, when redesigning their office space, made all of the offices the same size. That way, the CEO and the low-level manager had the same sized office. No status there. Except that the higher someone’s level in the company, the larger his or her office plant was.
The high status workspace seems to be the most visible status symbols in most offices. Some companies have policies regarding seating arrangements. Based on one’s level, there is a specified number of square feet the executive’s office should be.
At lower levels, seniority determines how close you sit to a window or whether you have a corner cubicle.
The Bottom Rung
At the bottom rung of this status ladder is the consultant. When the client arranges the seating for a new project when consultants arrive on site, they are usually relegated to a small conference room or some other less-desirable work space. I’ve worked at tables along a busy hallway and even by a paper sorter that was used regularly throughout the day.
Often times, the entire team is assigned to a team room. This includes our consulting team, third-party consultants and employees of the client. The client employees have the hardest time with this. They have to move from their comfy cubicle with the pictures of their family, into the stuffy conference room with the consultants.
This should not be an issue for consultants. Consultants should go into a client site expecting to have second-class status, at least when it comes to where you sit. A consultant is sometimes given her own cubicle, but it’s more the exception rather than the rule.
No consultant should go to a client site expecting preferred status when it comes to their workspace. Consultants should be able to work productively as long as they are given a flat surface to set their laptop, a power source, and network access.
Any consultant who enters a client’s doors with expectations of treatment equal to that of the employees, should be given an “expectation management meeting” with their superior.
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com