After arriving at your desk, still feeling the exhilaration of your first meeting, you suddenly realize that you have no idea how you’re supposed to decorate your cubicle.
Don’t worry—this happens to everyone.
Not surprisingly, your first moment of panic comes you realize that everyone will judge you by your new corporate home, just as they would when pulling up to your residential home. Are your faded fabric-lined walls nicely trimmed? Are your orientation papers strewn across your desk? Is your monitor already caked with scattered dust from your fellow co-workers’ cubicles? Well, don’t despair—you simply need a few simple rules to guide you.
- Before anything else, you have to resign yourself to one thing: this desk, or one very much like it, will be your home all the way up until your retirement 34 years from now. That is a very long time. As a result, you must treat your home as something you’ll have three times as long as your most beloved pet.
- If you happen to obtain any kind of achievement certificate, put it on your wall—and make no mistake, these are not nearly as difficult to come by as you might think. There might be one for completing a required purchase order system training session. Another might celebrate your ability to exhibit a “moment of excellence,” in which case you can display the certificate long after the fleeting program’s demise (and for all anyone will know, you were truly astonishing in that moment). If you’re really lucky, though, you can get a framed certificate that commemorates your survival within the company in five-year increments. That will come later—but goal-setting is very important at this stage.
- Don’t make the rookie mistake of putting away your various project papers. This is because the more papers you have, the busier you will appear. So when you go to any meeting, grab any handouts that you possibly can (even swipe the extras!), then take them back and stack them in your cube. Do you think they’re going to fire the employee with the ultra-clean desk, or the one that has so many important papers that there aren’t enough drawers for them?Exactly.
- Always, always place a mirror in the back of your cube. I know, you’re thinking this sounds strange—but that’s only because this is your first day in a cubicle. If you consider your new space for just a moment, you’ll realize that your chair faces away from the entrance of your cube. Why? Well, because: 1) everyone loves a good surprise, and 2) office environments are designed to keep you from seeing other human beings. Distractions are not good. So the bottom line is: get a mirror, and you’ll feel just a little more human.
- Keep in mind that you exist in a corporate office, so there are many rules about what you can’t do. For example, don’t ever place items on top of or on the outside of your cubicle. This goes back to the previous point, in which you are not supposed to be encouraging human interaction. Second, don’t even think about plants. Plants are only allowed in executive offices. You may be thinking that God gave everyone the right to plants, but you’d be wrong, because God was a big believer in a little thing called trickle-down horticulture. And finally, do not pursue lamps or other lighting. You won’t need it. When working in any cubicle, you will have the blessing of being bathed in overwhelmingly bright fluorescent lighting—which has the pleasant effect of always keeping you awake! Burned retinas and shockingly white skin are a small price to pay for corporate alertness.
If this seems like a lot to remember, don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to focus and create a cubicle action plan—especially with the lack of distractions. Somewhere around 34 years, in fact.