SHIFTING STATUS by hamidahbanu



The status we enjoy is relative to the group we are in. The managing director who enjoys high
status of both types will have to shift his roles and expectations when he's asked by the rest of
the board to answer criticism of company performance. The manager who is given status by her
sales team largely due to her expert power will have to adjust her role when she meets
informally with a group of other managers from different departments. In either case, inability
to shift status through behavior and attitude would alienate others. Inability to shift status
when moving from workplace to home can also cause difficulties.

Since many people derive a strong sense of status from the recognition they get at work, when
they stop working they need to readjust. Relocation counselors — occupational psychologists
who are paid by companies to see their senior executives through periods of redundancy —
recognize this. The counselors may provide displaced executives with 'mini-offices' — their own
office space and secretarial back-up that can be used on a daily basis. The executives, though
stripped of job title status, keep some sense of territorial status. And they are able to tell
headhunters and prospective employers that they are working from a serviced office in town.

When people stop working through redundancy, retirement or maternity they need to find
other ways of getting their needs fulfilled. Hobbies, learning, the new role itself, more available
time to spend with family and friends may effectively do this.

As a newcomer to a job and organization, you may find yourself groping around to discover
how status operates. Like this fifty-year-old ex-army major now employed in industry:

When I left the army a couple of years ago, I had great difficulty coming to terms with my
change in status. In the army you know what's what, who's above you and below you, so to
speak, and that status is authority-based. In industry I found the status system much more
difficult to comprehend. It was far less overt. In my first few months I made some real gaffes
sitting in the wrong part of the dining room, for instance, and using a commanding manner with
staff that weren't used to it. I have found much more concern with status in industry than I
expected — it's just not so easy to identify for a newcomer. When people move from the armed
forces into civilian life, they often need to make considerable adjustment to the way status

If you choose to dispense with conventional displays of overt status, bear in mind how
conformist, conservative and resistant to change many people are. The managing director who
suddenly assumes a very friendly, familiar manner may be regarded with suspicion; the
accountant who turns up to work in his track suit may be ridiculed. Non-conformists are often
regarded as mad, bad and dangerous to know. When playing status games, remember the
status quo.

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