ALMOST everyone has come up with a lesson or two from the Haig resignation. Issues and lessons--they seem to gush forth from all our national sorrows, just as soon as we can get the presses to roll and the TV sets to warm up. Yet no one so far has dared to contemplate the lessons concerning office politics or bureaucratic Sturm und Drang that flow from the whole affair, notwithstanding that these matters seem to have had as much as anything to do with the blowup that finally took place last week.
Perhaps this reticence is owing to an unwillingness on all our parts to admit--it is so embarrassing --that the kind of grieving and grappling and intriguing that we have been reading about in the internal administration wars could have anything to do with us. But they do. Workplace political warfare is as common as the head cold in America (and probably everywhere else), and the lessons that may be drawn from the Haig affair concerning it certainly will have more meaning for more people than will, say, the lessons it may provide on how to formulate a policy for El Salvador. Since office politics does not require, strictly speaking, office walls in order to exist, and since there are about 100,000,000 employed people in this country, and since we calculate that for each of these there will be approximately five slights and/or power-plays per eight- hour shift, you are talking about no fewer than 500,000,000 bureaucratic skirmishes in this country every weekday.
What we are dealing with here, of course, is a kind of workplace version of original sin: it comes with the worker, not with the job. You can forget all that terribly earnest stuff about institutional structure and relationships and so forth that you will be reading in connection with the Haig versus White House ordeal. All you need to do is consult Monday's "Cathy," which we have reprinted for your benefit below.
The message is simple and clear: everybody does it. The point is that you must not--ever--admit it, or, God forbid, be seen to be engaging in this dirty, unseemly business. Work and more work and magnanimity and more magnanimity and a lighthearted approach throughout the darkest days of a bureaucratic struggle add up to the only winning strategy, and certainly to the hardest strategy of all to adopt and stay with. Yet no one, we state it as an absolute rule, ever prevailed by going public with his petty grievances of pride and position or, greatly worse, by going to a boss or supervisor with complaints about a fellow worker's cunning. The first time it may get something accomplished--"I have spoken to Sue about hogging the white-out." "I have spoken to Bill about your place on the plane." The second time, inexorably, the complainer will be seen as part of the problem, and this is a condition he will never be able to live down.
In your heart, you know we're right. If it happens to people in high office, it could happen to you. That's the lesson. STYLE PLUS FINDS By Jura Koncius PHOTO(By Milbert Orlando Brown--The Washington Post) Head right to Rehoboth with this straw bag that unfolds into a huge beach mat. $8.25. China-U.S. Friendship Shop, 3235 P St. NW.