Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Art Of Laying Low

I have a coworker who has made the practice of laying low an art form. He seeks to avoid having his name brought up in meetings, phone conversations and with upper management. As I have been examining his style, I’ve come to realize that laying low is the perfect way to get through your career (or marriage for that matter) without ruffling feathers or bringing too much attention upon yourself. Actually, Lay Low is one of my favorite Eric Clapton songs….what, really? I guess I’ve been singing it wrong all this time. You’d think someone would have corrected me by now but singing it your way does make a lot more sense. I am right about that song “In the Garden of Eden” by Iron Butterfly though, right? Really? But In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida doesn’t even make sense!

I am going to start trying to lay lower in many of my work duties and functions. This will be hard for me as the tendency to speak before thinking plagues me disturbingly often. Upon retrospection, there have been many more times where I should have just nodded or remained motionless instead of yelling something like “what, are you all idiots, that’s completely wrong!” Surely you can see why this may cause the light of managerial attention to be cast in my direction. Being blessed with ears that can hear a pin drop on a mattress in a soundproof room has made lying low harder. Throughout the day, I will hear something said in the office that I have to respond or make a joke about. I shout it out then realize I was trying to get through the afternoon without being disturbed or without anyone discovering how late I really got into the office.

Let’s take this past Monday for example. I was trying to get out of the office early so I tried to not bother anyone and just get my work done as quickly as possible. Then all of a sudden, we heard a screeching sound coming out of the copy machine down the hall. Before I could stop myself, I had yelled out “just engage the clutch!” Well, that did it. Within two minutes, I had everyone in my office asking for help with something or walking in and ranting about something else. If I had just laid low, I could have completed my chores, I mean tasks, and been on my way home in time for reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. I have found it’s also hard to lay low as there is not enough space under my desk to hide comfortably, but then again, maybe I’m taking this thing too far.

Mr. Lay Low has encountered a few bumps along the way though. He went to our headquarters a few weeks ago around noon to pick up supplies. Although he mentioned that he was hoping to get in, keep his head down, speak with no one above the administrative assistant level and then leave, I neglected to tell him not to walk through the cafeteria when he go to our HQ. When he got back, he was visibly agitated and recounted how he got to our headquarters and promptly walked through the cafeteria where he was greeted by virtually every member of our upper management. All I could say was, “um, yeah, I meant to warn you about that.” I don’t think it helped erase the feeling of being ‘discovered’ that Mr. Lay Low felt.

In our large division staff meeting today, we had time to kill when management realized they had forgotten to call our other states to initiate their conference call. While that was going on, one upper manager singled out Mr. Lay Low to ask him what he thought about the company since he joined us. Mr. Lay Low became a shade of red only reserved for really bad sunburns and politely answered the question. I of course asked him how that laying low thing was working for him and did not get an answer. Finally, after our meeting we were wandering through the cafeteria keeping to ourselves as I studied his every lay low move. I watched for body language, where he maintained his field of vision and the speed of his gait. When we did look up, we realized we were just feet from our VP. Following his lead, we immediately veered to the right. Mr. Lay Low then realized that in our haste to escape we had almost backed into the rest of our management team having their daily lunch gathering. What happened next is all a blur. Before I knew it we had driven 35 miles back to our office and didn’t speak about it the rest of the day. In our lay low minds, it was obviously a close call.

While I and those around me would consider me an extrovert, I have to admit that I like Mr. Lay Low’s style. It’s efficient, quiet and he even manages to leave an air of mystery in his wake. The only problem is that I can’t tell Mr. Lay Low that I am studying his style or he will start avoiding me because I’m sure that in his mind, having his technique studied is in direct violation of his lay low policy. I can hardly wait to put the lay low techniques I have learned into practice, although I will have to buy some quieter shoes first. Now I wish I hadn’t told all of my coworkers about my blog…definitely not a lay low move.

14 comments:

mist1 said...

I wish I could lay low too. But, I've found that it's impossible to have hair and shoes like mine and remain under the radar.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Where I work I am the low laying man. Actually, I put it this way: "We fly below the radar, the lower the better, just don't crash." The secret is to not want all the attention but to find your niche and make it your own. Find the right niche and no one will want it. They will be happy to leave you be.

Abigail S said...

You make me crack up everytime I visit!

Too bad everyone in the office knows about this blog... by tomorrow, they'll all know your diabolical plan to "lay low." Very sad!

Odat said...

I'll bet you a box of Swiss Chocolate that you'll never, ever be able to "lay low"..ahhahaha.
Peace

Josie said...

My motto is "never create a moving target".

Okay, now I'm curious about mist1's hair and shoes.

Josie

Violet said...

I never knew there was a name to the way I was working all that time I was at The Bank. It must be how I avoided two redundancies. It's probably also how I avoided promotion...

C said...

I try that but my boss always thinks something is wrong when I avoid him or don't speak. Or he thinks I am a slacker like everybody else.

goodthomas said...

"Laying low" is indeed an art form. I am in constant amazement at those who do it and do it well, so much so that others do work for them. Happily.

I really must take a course or go hear a speaker or something. I am sure it can be learned, it has to be.

Okay, back to nothing.

goodthomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
you'dneverguess said...

We used to have a back door at one of my old jobs. I would regularly use it to sneak out to an early lunch or just leave early. No one knew when I left and sometimes it would take hours before they noticed I was gone. Surely you must have a back door somewhere. I would make it priority one to find it.

Natalie said...

I am all about laying low at work. Then when managements asks me to do something I do it really quickly but with a very n"whatever" attitude, like it was nothing. So they know they can rely on me but they don't bug me. It's awesome.

Dan said...

Michael! Cease and desist. Or, if you'd rather, just cease or just desist, though I'd prefer you do both.

Stop giving away the secrets of us Lay Lowers of the World. If everyone becomes a lay-lower, than we'll ALL be noticed.

Stop!

CSL said...

I have always wanted to be the kind to just fly beneath the radar, but somehow I always end up opening my mouth. I can't help it. But I admire people who can lay low. My brother worked with a guy they called Skate because his remarkable ability to avoid work. He'd find Skate standing behind boxes in the stock room and say, "Hey, Skate, whatcha doing?" And Skate would say, "I'm hidin'!"

PARLANCHEQ said...

I try to adhere to a similar style which I call 'lowered expectations.' I start out by setting expectations on my knowledge and performance really low. Then even if I do just the bare minimum, it seems like I'm going above and beyond and deserve a raise and promotion. After the promotion, the cycle repeats again, with the goal of setting expectations for the new position at or below those of the previous position. ;)