When you see, or think about, a boardroom table, what comes to mind? Do you see a piece of furniture with a flat top and legs; a thing that provides a level surface around which men and women assemble to sit, discuss matters and make decisions?
If that is your answer, you’re right of course. On the surface that is what a boardroom or office table is. It is however much more than that. It is an altar.
Whoa there cowboy, you might be thinking. How did we get from a flat sheet of wood with legs to an altar? True, some of them are ornate, with more shine on ‘em than a pair of spit shine parade boots, and maybe even a tad ostentatious, but an altar?
Here is why I think that. The vast majority of business decisions are made around boardroom and office tables. Decisions that effect peoples very lives. Indeed life and death decisions. Any reasonably sized business has one. Around it the boss and his or her lieutenants gather, with chests filled with self-importance, suitable amount of obligatory piousness’s and counterfeit humility they settle into their prearranged positions; the boss always at the head of course.
Then there is a version of the Dearly beloved we are gathered here today, preamble and they’re off. Generally there is a business version of an alter server, taking minutes whilst others fetch tea, coffee, cupcakes and other preferred refreshments.
Also, while the bosses pretend the decision making process is a free and open affair everyone knows what happens to those confused (and sometimes righteous) souls who take that notion too literally. Everyone knows which side their bread is buttered on so perfunctory and always terribly civil, discussion takes place before they arrive at a conclusion that just happens to be the one the boss walked in with. As the legendry Gomer Pyle used to say, Gooooolly, surprise, surprise, surprise!
It is also interesting to note that certain religions refer to their altars as holy tables. Russian Orthodox being one.
When we think about altars images other than holy and virtuous spring to mind. Depending on the practitioners there have been immoral, abhorrent, villainous and downright criminal acts committed upon the various altars. So what’s different with a boardroom table?
Decisions made and executed around boardroom tables may not have involved blood being spilt literally, however people have committed suicide following boardroom table meetings.
And are not decisions made to sell products injurious to peoples health, causing numerous deaths in fact, not acts of immoral and criminal nature, however as the decisions made are made around the business altar they rise above moral and criminal laws.
Worth considering too is the fact that countries are not actually run from parliaments, the congress and so forth. Key decisions are made around boardroom tables by powerful people pulling the politicians strings and greasing palms.
Ours is a world of symbols. The seemingly innocuous boardroom table may not be so innocent.