Wednesday, 7 December 2011

In which I muse upon the little things

I do not think that either Mr Dickens or Mr Trollope would understand, much less approve, such a phrase as 'corporate culture'. And yet, it is a material fact of working life, which both gentlemen describe in their novels.  For example, the Circumlocution Office (though perhaps that might best be described as an hereditary weakness) or its polar opposite (from Mr Trollope's Three Clerks) the Weights & Measures. The Brothers Cheeryble from Mr Dickens again, or Mr Trollope's Internal Navigation, show how the prevailing tone of the leaders of any enterprise can affect all the persons employed therein. 

I pause for a moment - the Inexhaustible Baby (or more properly speaking, the Inexhaustible Toddler) is stirring. He sleeps again. Phew.

I once attended an entire training session upon the subject of 'corporate culture'. It is a substance surprisingly difficult to define, yet surprisingly easy to understand. I did not admire the language of the definition: 'the way we do things here'; but it grasps an essential truth. Sometimes it is not what we do, but the manner in which we do it which really counts. 

For example, in my new place of work they have a small, but nonetheless significant habit, of holding doors open for one another. It is hard to describe the real importance of this small gesture, which costs the giver so little, yet leaves such a a pleasant impression on the recipient of this minor courtesy.

It is a fine example of real politeness. Historically, one was led to believe, the holding open of doors was yet another example of the strong defending the weak. A lady, after all, or any person suffering a physical impairment, could not be expected to open a door. Heavens forfend! That was the province of the Strong! In our generation, however, we have seen a great improvement in the status of the opened door; it has come to indicate simply a general chivalry. It is now emblematic of a wish to pass through this world considerately, giving space and time to those who need a little more of those commodities. As a fond mamma of two small persons, who frequently rely upon the perambulator, I can assure you I am in no danger of under-estimating the value of that inexpensive yet invaluable gesture.

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