Ahhh, the office cubicle. The home away from home for every office worker not lucky enough to have their own private office. Depending on your job, office culture and coworkers, your cubicle can be your own personal corner of inspiration, or your 40-hour-a-week prison cell – or perhaps a little of both. Regardless, unless you just recently entered the workforce, you have probably come across a variety of personalities in the office, each externalized in varying cubicle décor. Let’s look at a few easily recognizable cubicle personality types.
The owner of this cubicle is the life and soul of the office party. Their workspace is to the office what Toys ‘R’ Us is to the mall. Forget pictures or awards. They just take up valuable space better suited for action figures, stuffed animals and various Nerf products. Chances are the closest your office will come to Google’s ping pong tables and pinball machines is this cubicle. Need a work break? This person always welcomes visitors. Looking to avoid distractions? Probably best to avoid this side of the office altogether.
Too Busy to Organize
This person’s cubicle is an absolute nightmare. Papers, books and folders are stacked everywhere, even though they haven’t been looked at in months. There are a few toys, as well as awards or souvenirs from company events, covered in an inch of dust – reminders of a time before this person became completely overwhelmed by their job duties, and by simple organizational skills. If you choose to comment on the cubicle’s state of disrepair, it won’t bother the owner. On the contrary, it will give them a chance to remind you how busy they are – one of their favorite topics.
Distracted by Decor
This person’s cubicle looks as though they just started working at the company yesterday, even though they’ve been there for years. No pictures on display, no memos, no toys, and minimal papers. This person finds those things a distraction. They’re here to work, and the minute the workday ends, they’ll be out the door, headed somewhere they’d much rather be.
There isn’t much room for photos or toys in this person’s cubicle. Instead, they prefer to display their credentials. Various diplomas are carefully arranged next to awards, plaques and certifications. These are adjacent to a number of photos of them with people of importance. Feel free to look, but don’t stay too long or you’ll prevent others from marveling at their achievements.
The owner of this cubicle is the go-to person for anything you or anyone else in your office might need. No need to announce your arrival – they can already see you coming thanks to the rear-view mirror carefully placed above their head (just in case a prison villain decides to attack them from behind with a sock full of pennies). Need aspirin, Band-Aids, snacks, office supplies, cleaning products or plastic utensils? Look no further than their desk drawer. Just don’t be afraid to ask – they live for this!
The truth is, there are differing margins of acceptability for cubicle décor that are dictated by industry, company culture and management. A typical cubicle in a tech start-up or ad agency will differ greatly from that of a law office or investment bank. Regardless of employer, anything that could be controversial or offensive in any way should be considered off-limits. Likewise, anything distracting or unprofessional should also be removed. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “How would a new client react to this?” If the décor isn’t offensive or distracting, and it inspires creativity or reflects your personality, then by all means, let your cubicle individuality shine!