Monday, June 25, 2007


The Annoyances Of Cubicle Life

"With the advent of cubicles versus offices with walls and doors, distractions increased," laments a cubicle life veteran at one of the links below. He and other office workers contend that "common courtesy, teamwork and respect are fading away." Among the annoyances that plague them most are Slackers, Gossip, Technology, Rudeness and Bureaucracy. Slackers are characterized as lazy nine-to-fivers who come in late - a phenomenon that may be subtly increased by the prevalence of flex-time, which opens the floodgates to funky business hours and makes it difficult to know how much time anybody's really putting in. Rudeness has increased as an occupational hazard simply because of the shift towards the service industry, whose bread and butter is "human interaction", for better or worse. Bureaucracy is a function of company size - the bigger they are, the more bureaucratic. The problems of Gossip and Technology, in the form of Blackberries and cellphones that facilitate what might be called "remote gossip", are a direct result of open floor plans which allow workers to hear everything their neighbors are saying. The bottom line is that all of these annoyances are intrinsic to modern business, and won't be fading away anytime soon.

What to do? An article at identifies its own list of cubicle annoyances, and suggests ways to, ahem, "solve" them. Unfortunately, you can tell the list was compiled by some HR hack, because the solution almost invariably involves communicating with one's "co-worker" about the problem and - if that fails - bringing the issue to one's "supervisor". If people steal things off your desk, go to the boss. If you can't concentrate with all the Gossip and Technology buzzing around you, go to the boss and get reassigned to another cube. If your cubicle neighbor favors "odoriferous" lunches or if he or she festoons their work area with "Baywatch posters and troll dolls", broach the subject ever so diplomatically with the offender. The article neglects to mention that a major part of such annoyances is the nuisance of having to talk to someone about them to begin with - i.e., the "solution" is essentially part of the problem. Here again Bureaucracy (see above) raises its ugly head.

Interestingly, of the six examples given by, at least three - "I can't concentrate with the constant buzz around me", "I respect my co-worker's obsession with Il Divo... but unfortunately I'm not a fan" and "My workspace has become the office water cooler" - epitomize the sound pollution that is endemic to cubicle farms, and which can prevent you from doing anything mentally challenging. One almost wonders if that other pet peeve, Slackers, become Slackers simply because they haven't been able to concentrate for so long that they have either long since given up the effort while they are at work or avoid the office altogether.

"List of irritants in the workplace is getting longer." from Daily Record (New Jersey)
"Your Six Biggest Cubicle Complaints ... Solved" from

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