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In business organisations, assets are of different types – we have tools and equipment to produce goods and services and in many businesses, the people themselves are the prime assets. Just as a lathe is an asset in the shopfloor of a manufacturing industry, a design engineer is an asset in a R & D lab.

However, it is interesting to observe that assets have both a functional as well as a symbolic utility. A lathe is a lathe, you might argue but the brand new lathe is assigned to the most experienced veteran of the shop not the junior most operator- though actually the junior person perhaps will profit more by using the more modern machine which really needs less skill to operate.

By the same coin, an office is an office but move an executive to a floor perceived to be far away from the power centre and you can hear his screams of protest miles away. It matters, he will argue, that you are seen to be close to those who matter!

Call it ego, call it the need to feel important but everyone has such a need. A doyen of a famous Indian industrialist family once asked a group of managers ” Why do you people attach so much importance to where you sit and the size of your cabins? Look at me, I don’t even have a cabin”.

He forgot that if the managers he spoke to were in his place they would not need cabins either. The amount of power and influence he wielded made any of the trappings of authority and power meaningless. By virtue of who he was, he could afford to work from Timbaktoo and still have the same clout.

I am not suggesting that we should go overboard when it comes to the symbolic value of such things. I am suggesting that we should be sensitive to these needs. They are reflected as status symbols. A senior police official wears a particular uniform to symbolize his position of authority. He cannot wield the same authority if he were controlling a crowd dressed in his out of uniform clothes.

All said and done, these needs, like every other vary from person to person. Some have a high need to display their status symbols, others much less so. What about you? Do you need a status symbol?

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This is the 135 th of the “A Step A Day” series : To provide perspective and provoke thought to facilitate self-development across a wide spectrum of issues- big and small- crucial for executive success