Perception is a funny thing

As one part of the work I do, I have the honor of managing a group of ten people who run a help desk. They do phone and email support for people both inside and outside the company.

If you’ve ever worked a help desk, or known someone who has, you know that it’s really not a very rewarding job.

And to do it well is a major feat.

The team I work with was so well put together by my predecessor that I could sometimes weep at how lucky I am to step into a help desk team that hums.

Sadly, most of the people who work the help desk are contractors, and sort of viewed as the “lowest form of life” around here. People treat my team like their personal admins. Like they are dumb. And often worse.

But these folks endure, provide great support, and I’m proud to heck to be affiliated with them.

When I arrived, once they sniffed me out and decided I was ok, they gave me a hoodie sweatshirt that had our team’s name and logo embroidered into it. The median age of the helpdesk is like 25 years old, so the hoodies make them happy.

The one they gave me is like three sizes too big and makes me look like the unibomber. So of course I rather enjoy wearing it over my work clothes on these cold San Francisco summer days. It’s toasty, and plus I like identifying as part of my team.

This afternoon, wearing my hoodie, I went down to the first floor for a fro-yo break. While I was waiting for the elevators, I found myself standing with a group of executives from the European company that just acquired my own.

Four men, all in *very* sharp suits, middle aged, Caucasian, rich.

They looked me over, saw my sweatshirt, and gave me that warm-eyed condescending smile you give your grandmother when she tells you to have another slice of her over-salted, undercooked apple pie.

So at first I got a little ticked. I was thinking, “I should tell those rich fat bastards that I’m a senior manager and they shouldn’t be so quick to judge! I bet those d’bags don’t do any real work! My team works their collective ass off and you sit up there on the twentieth floor deciding who gets to keep their job and who doesn’t, while you cash your bonus check and drink Cristal out of your Mercedes!”

In other words, as they were judging me, I was judging them right back. Judging them from the top of their perfectly coiffed heads, right down to the cuff of their perfectly creased dark blue pinstripe suit pants. Yup.

They may have been looking down at me, but I was looking down at them right back. And we were all wrong in our assessments.

That knife pleat cuts both ways, now doesn’t it?

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One Comment

  • Lucky

    I totally do this.

    I used to be a mid-level exec and was sooo into the perception of that. Very into my suits and there was nothing I liked better than expensive pens, and I'd judge people the same way. I am now a poor school teacher, but it is very important to me that people know that I have an ivy-league education and am doing this BY CHOICE.

    See, I just told you about it. . .

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