05/01/2004

Cubicle Reality

Stephen Viscusi

A person's workstation can speak volumes.

 
ON THE JOB


Workstation." "Cubicle." "Panel System." No matter what you call it, one thing is for certain—you're not getting a private office!

In today's competitive workplace, your "cubicle" is an extension and reflection of you. Therefore, how you keep it may determine if you get that raise or if, instead, you will hear those two dreaded words: "You're fired!"Here, then, are my Top 10 Tips for decorating your cubicle:

1. Don't let the "stuff" you bring into your cubicle define you as an employee.


You want the boss to think of you in terms of your contributions, not as the "lady who collects Donny Osmond" or the "Mr. Potato Head guy." It may be funny for your bedroom, but leave it there!

2. Whispering in your cubicle only makes people want to listen more!

Ever try whispering at work? Anywhere? It only calls attention to yourself, and makes people think you have a secret—or even better in their viewpoint—office gossip. Whisper only when you want to be heard.

3. Too clean a work cubicle makes it look like you don't have enough work to do.

Then guess what . . . you're fired! That's right—perfect the art of the "busy looking cubicle." Bosses think a pile on your desk means you're busy working away. Too empty or too clean a work- station may look like you don't have enough to do— and that maybe you're not even needed.

4. Don't pollute the office air.

Cubicles have partial walls, but they don't have doors or ceilings. Much like sound, odors travel, too. That means don't over-cologne or perfume yourself and the same applies to eating your enchilada, pepperoni pizza or moo shoo pork at your desk. Nothing is worse than "smelling" your co-worker before you even see them. Simply be considerate of your co-workers' shared airspace.

5. It's called a workstation for a reason . . . it's work.

Bottom line: your office workstation, like your office computer, telephone and office email, belongs to your boss, not you.

6. Making too much of a "statement" by chachke-ing up your cubicle is simply
a mistake.


Competition to keep your job is difficult enough. Why be judged on anything but the quality of your work. Don't distract who you are by having some "over the top" work environment. It's no place for your gym clothes to dry!

7. Talk to the wall.


Don't want to be heard? Well, talk into the fabric panel wall or tack board surface—it will absorb your voice. That's right—talk face to face with the workstation's wall, the fabric will absorb the volume of your voice. Never talk facing your cubicle's opening!

8. It's your cubicle, not the New Hampshire Primary.

Politics have no place in the work environment. Stay clear of anything political or controversial; be it a candidate or an issue. If you need to express your politics, save it for the water cooler, but don't display it on your wall.

9. When in doubt, turn to the American flag.

You can never go wrong by decorating with an American flag; put one up wherever you desire. It's patriotic and, better yet, politically correct.

10. It's not Halloween, so don't attract trick-or-treaters.

Jelly Beans went out with Ronald Reagan. Don't attract visitors by being the "Chiclets Chick" or the "Goober Guy." Keep treats to yourself and don't attract unnecessary
distractions.

Bonus Tip: If you insist on a "decorative" cubicle, at least make it a boss-friendly themed environment.

In other words, don't display themes (i.e., specific sports teams) that you already know your boss will hate. If your boss' dog was just run over by a car—and your theme is "Monster Trucks"—guess what? You're fired!



  • Stephen Viscusi is the author of On The Job: How to Make It in the Real World of Work (Random House). He also hosts the nationally-syndicated radio show, "On the Job with Steve Viscusi." The Viscusi Group, Inc. (www.viscusigroup.com) is an executive search firm for the interior furnishings industry. Viscusi will answer your workplace questions by contacting him at: stephen@viscusi.com.


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