“A silent office?” I marvel, when we speak. According to Sokolowski, there was at one point an official code of silence in place, though it may have only been held as “law” in the ’50s and ’60s, when the staff was larger and worked without cubicle walls between them. There remains, however, “a powerful culture of silence in the office,” he explains. “Before email, communication was encouraged through a 3×5 pink piece of paper that would be carried from desk to desk (with the recipient designated by initials in the upper right-hand corner) by the secretarial staff.” While such quaint traditions have gone away with the advent of email, in-person meetings are held behind closed doors, and the overall atmosphere is “very library-like. All you hear are keystrokes on computers, or very hushed conversations,” among the 40-some editors who work there, Sokolowski tells me. This is practical as well as traditional, as “writing a dictionary is like taking the SAT.” Sokolowski, who joined the company in 1994 when there was just one computer on the editorial floor, has essentially taken the SAT multiple times weekly for 18 years.
I love. We should have silent faculty meetings.