Have you ever played the character game where you guess what a person’s job is based on how they’re dressed? With the business industry’s more relaxed protocol over the past few years, it’s a little harder to gauge apart from a uniform or a logo. The next step is to guess what the duties are in their section of the tier. Society still seems to measure people by position, regardless of vocation. And then find ways to lever an advantage.
In the BBC series Downton Abbey, each servant is well aware of their responsibilities and, in some cases, jealously guard their distinction. But they show no hesitation when ferreting out any personal secrets as a power play. In fact some take great pleasure in seeing another servant publicly humiliated or embarrassed.
A young housemaid is ridiculed for taking a typing class. Her attempts to leave ‘service’ are considered snobbery. Two other servants conspire to get rid of the new hire, because they resent his personal connection to ‘The Earl.’ Plus he guards his privacy. Upstairs is not immune either, as a rivalry between two sisters puts their family in jeopardy.
The personal mysteries are as varied as the daily menu. A few seem harmless and a little comical, while others raise ethical dilemmas. To protect his own secret, and therefore his job, a servant stands by while a daughter of the house is placed in moral danger. Later he manipulates and blackmails to attain another position before his own thievery is made public. The lure to uncover secrets for personal gain is as old as time. Cain resented God’s favor of his brother’ offerings over his own and his anger resulted in murder.
Put your protagonist in a new workplace situation. What is one thing her co-workers must not know about her? How does she sidestep their questions and remain friendly? Give one version where she answers with vague comments and another where she bristles at intrusion.