An Open and Shut Case Daisy Prince tries to get a handle on the peculiar etiquette issues that come with having an office door
An Open and Shut Case
Daisy Prince tries to get a handle on the peculiar etiquette issues that come with having an office door
I AM WRITING to the readers of Spear’s from my desk — not just my desk, but my office, in fact, with a door and not just one but two windows to the outside world.
For anyone who has toiled away in that Dickensian space known as the ‘open-plan office’, where your every sneeze is magnified to your colleagues and ordering from Net-a-Porter or looking at your friends’ photos on Facebook becomes an art unto itself, I know now that I’ve arrived: I have a door.
My first week in the office, I had to call a friend at Harper’s Bazaar (a far larger magazine with a much bigger and more impressive circulation) and tell her about my good fortune. She wistfully said when she heard the news: ‘I’ve always dreamt of a door.’
I spend a lot of time thinking about my door — should I have it open or closed? And what does that say about me as a person and now, as a boss? Open equals friendly, but I find it hard to write and edit with the door open.
Of course, I could go back to my old solution for blocking out noise: earplugs. I always used earplugs in the offices of ES and Vanity Fair. I wore them so often that other co-workers used to have to stomp over and stand in front of my desk while they asked me a question. When I pulled the earplugs out, they looked more than a little baffled. Now, I don’t need to baffle any more co-workers — I can just shut the door.
I also have windows, and I can see what the weather is. You have no idea how exciting it is to be able to see what the weather is. Previously, my knowledge of the elements came from weather.com or seeing if people were wet after coming back from their lunchbreaks.
Now I know if I need my umbrella or not when I step out for lunch. How many times have I stepped out for lunch only to discover that I’m in the middle of a rain shower? Now that need never happen again.
AS A BOSS, I seem to have inherited all the tics that drove me nuts about my previous employers. I’m in charge of a giant staff of three and shout questions at them from behind my desk with the door open, so they have to hop up and run over to see whatever it is that I want.
Once they are in my office, I hold them hostage while I have a little discourse on whatever is on my mind and they have to sit listening to me. But the worst thing I do is, when they’ve pitched me an idea they’ve worked on for a while, I’ll mull it over and then say: ‘You know, I’m just not feeling it.’
I can feel the rage mounting and I would pay attention, but I’m too busy looking for new ways to spice up our cover or how I can get photographers to work for half rates.
I have also discovered the art of delegation. Previously, if I had a good idea I would have to execute it all myself; now I can just allow my creative energies to flow and make the people who work for me do the work.
Of course, I love it. I feel like my hero, Lord Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, when he was given command of his first sloop. Cochrane went on to defeat large numbers of Napoleon’s navy with his HMS Arab, before decamping to South America to liberate Chile, Peru and Brazil.
It’s tremendously exciting to be able to think of stories and ideas and watch them come to life. The headaches are definitely there, and there were a few Sunday evenings in the summer when I felt a bit weak at the thought of the week ahead, but once the work began I just didn’t have time to take my mental temperature any more.
It’s a great adventure and I’ve always been one for checking out what’s round the bend (I guess that’s why I ended up in journalism — insatiable curiosity), and we’ll see where this new adventure leads.
All jokes aside, most days I feel as if I sneaked in the back door to the best party in town. I have a constant adrenalin rush that comes from the feeling that at any moment they will discover I’m a fraud and chuck me right out on my ear.
However, I guess my ten years of training in British journalism taught me one or two things about how to correctly crash a party. The most important rule is: if you get rumbled, put your glass quietly down and leave — but always make your exit through the front, smiling and nodding to everyone as though you absolutely were invited.
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