Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Every business has them. The titles vary but the job is the same: they are the donut-dollies of business. They are detailed to ensure that meetings go smoothly, shows are well organized, or lunch with the boss has the right kinds of food depending on who the boss is lunching with. They know who the power players are and who to keep out of the executive suite. Sometimes they are highly paid but most of the times they aren’t. They are overbooked, over promised, underappreciated and if not smart or too young, under something or someone. They are always pretty and ambitious and think that this job that let’s them network at the highest levels of a company ensures them a bright future.

The future?

Geishas are seldom promoted into real management positions of authority even if they are delegated to roles that give them resources to command. The reasons are simple. The geisha by practice is a hostess. Politely handling situations and people is their primary skill set as far as business is concerned. Those years spent in business classes getting advanced degrees don’t mean anything. Like the person skilled in English and editing, those rare gifts outweigh their training and background ensuring they stay in the service industry of business management. In all the time I’ve spent in business, I’ve never seen a geisha promoted to management. That which makes them skilled as hostesses or the perception of their skills cripples them as managers. The aggressive ruthless cunning that must be displayed by the so-called ‘high potential’ candidate is hidden beneath the politeness and allure. Worse, too often, like the donut-dollies in the military, they become the property of the officers.

The good news is a smart geisha learns much from the upper management class about business, and makes friends with their subordinates. If they are really strong, they start their own business and by their own hand become the power player they believe they can be. Yet all too often they remain geishas, and in a job that values their allure, their career begins to wane in their late thirties as age takes away their power. They fight it in the gym, with diets, with makeup, with dresses ten years too young, or with the thousand indignities that accompany submission, but unless they have created a new source of power, they lose.

The aging geisha is the saddest of the sad in a world of values that only knows winners or losers. On the other hand, in a world that prizes the sharp wife, Mom or companion who’s eyes see all, appreciate the gifts of knowledge and fidelity, they can be quite powerful. As in all arts, and the geisha is an artist, the best loss is the loss of desperation that comes when the mirror is not the model. The world is.

Practice and maturity can produce the most sublime works.

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