Growing up, we always saw them portrayed as the ultimate in horrifying work conditions. Working in cubicles… four padded walls and no door, the ultimate in the insane asylum effect. If you ever wanted to take a person to insanity and push them to the asylum, assign them to a cubicle and give them a menial task for 8 to 10 hours a day, then send them home with no hopes of advancement and no light at the end of the tunnel.
I rest my case.
But coming from someone who currently works in a cubicle and sees very little light at the end of the tunnel and no hope for advancement (nor any real desire to work in management for my company despite my credentials), I have to say the cubes grow on you after a while.
I mean, the nice thing about them is not having to be restricted to one design theme. Sure you’re seated the same way as everyone else, you’re assigned a seat, whether it’s next to the loud-mouth obnoxious woman who gossips at the top of her lungs or the married man who flirts with you every chance he gets is not up to you, and you’re given standard company equipment you have to obtain a doctor’s note to change out for something more comfortable.
And sure you can decorate with all kinds of things that you can bring from home. Though you may want to store it happily away in your desk drawer when you’re not there… I’m just saying. Company theft will not be tolerated and all, but who says that sandwich wasn’t lifted from the refrigerator? Oh, and don’t mind those internal motion detectors they have that go on at night. They only come down from the ceiling and reach a range not far off from the top of your desk. Hope you don’t decorate with anything too tall that shifts in the air conditioning.
See? Cubes aren’t too terrible. They’re perfectly square. Er, I mean, functional. In fact, you can pack a room full of these charming pieces, squeeze a couple hundred reps in and fill the rafters with the charming sounds of people talking all at once.
“Ma’am, I’m not raising my voice at you. I am telling you what we have to do to fix your account.”
“Sir, if you would just listen to me… Fine! You talk because every time I try to speak you interrupt me!”
“Now if you do this, interest accrues, but you don’t have to pay. Wouldn’t that be a nice option since you don’t have any money?”
“I want you to write this down very carefully. I AM REQUESTING…”
Indeed. And for those reps who get chronic headaches, like myself, this is the perfect atmosphere for inducing said headaches. It’s full of all kinds of triggers: loud speech, loud noises in general, obnoxious scents, fluttering lights, varying degrees of lights in different parts of the room, fluctuating temperatures, etc.
Again I digress. (You’ll find I do that a lot.)
All said, the cubes make you wonder if even the comic strip artist responsible for Dilbert could be right.
There’s a co-worker of mine, Rhonda, who’s a bit loud and obnoxious and doesn’t exactly censor herself. She’ll holler across the room to make herself heard despite the super-sensitive microphones we speak into at work to discuss accounts with customers.
That said, Rhonda is one who is rather fashion conscious, which includes how she wants to be seen when she’s not at her desk. It’s color-coordinated and highly organized. It’s got some lovely black and white zebra print office supply items featuring a framed picture of her and her boyfriend, a pen holder, and a mousepad. And one other thing that definitely sets her desk apart, aside from the pictures that feature her in them, is the arrangement of Christmas lights she has draped artfully around her cube.
I tell you this because Rhonda tends to email us all when she’s bored, annoyed, tired, or being dramatic. Which means this happens relatively often, and on a Listserv email operation, it means I can’t opt out of receiving her emails. And if she asks for help or tells you to see her for this or that reason, she makes mention of the lights around her desk as the way to find her.
As if we didn’t know.
I say all that to reiterate that the cubes aren’t terrible. They just turn you a bit jaded, maybe somewhat cynical, and a tad bit hard. Perhaps it’s easier to feel more like a human being when you aren’t lumped in with a number of other people tethered to a computer mouse and monitor, a headset and phone and who feel scrutinized like bugs under a microscope when you stand to stretch or walk to the bathroom or take a small break.
The cubes tend to make you one in a crowd. Breaking it down, they make it easier not to see the faces or attach the face to the nameplate. They make it easier to dehumanize a group of people and begin treating them as a single entity instead of as individuals with differing circumstances. When you do that, it’s easier for management to begin treating the whole as very manageable by standards unobtainable by everyone.
Sure, one person can reach goals such as 400 resolutions a month, 30 people can regularly hit 250 resolutions a month. Then we’ll add in additional goals, stick them in their cubes, and grade them on a monthly basis to let them know where they aren’t working hard enough.
That’s the pitfall of the cube.
That’s the reason for my blog. It’s why I’m trying to escape cubed life. It’s why I am looking for other jobs and other opportunities. It’s why I do take every moment outside my job as a blessing and a chance to think about things that make me happy and bring me joy and make life interesting and challenge me.
Because my job certainly doesn’t.
Personally I think I’m much more inclined to be a bit like this meme that’s become a series of products like mousepads and clocks and coffee mugs…
P.S. Names have been changed to protect the innocent, of course.