Made familiar by the hit comedy Office Space and the collective experience of millions of cubicle workers worldwide, the workplace habitat known as the “cubicle” has spawned its own particular culture, not to mention its unique set of professionalism standards, work flow strictures, and other inscrutable details.
In order to survive this distinct universe in office buildings everywhere, here are 10 things one should know when working in the cubicle world.
1. Office Supplies Disappear
Often for mysterious reasons that you would only be driven insane trying to investigate, office supplies will disappear. It does not matter whether it is the few good pens you keep at your workstation, the inkjet cartridges kept in the supply closet, or the stash of candy bars in the corner cupboard of the break room, they will evaporate into thin air if left unattended. Some popular theories include especially clever mice, a devious plot from upper management, or the ever-popular “the interns ate it.”
2. Don’t Trust Anyone
Every employee around you is an opportunistic co-worker looking for every possible way to get a step ahead of their competition: You. The ladder of success is very tall, and sometimes you have to stomp on a lot of rungs on the way up. Keep in mind that, unless you are genuinely good friends outside of the office, that buddy across the way would gladly drag your sorry butt under the bus to get ahead.
3. Assume The Worst
Prepare for the worst, and nothing can throw you off-guard. Even if projections, expectations, and profits are up, gird yourself for the absolute most nightmarish scenario possible. That way, when half the factory burns down and your boss is replaced by RoboJerk 2000, you will at least have prepared the emotional fortitude for the tough path that lies ahead.
4. The Rumors Are True
Heard about the impending round of lay-offs? Discovered the discarded memo about a secret meeting of the mucky-mucks on the top floor? Happen to overhear that the annoying guy sitting twelve feet away might get fired soon? It may not shake out the way you expect it, but even the rumors have to come from somewhere. If your supervisors vehemently deny it, then you can practically call it a guarantee.
5. Job Security Is A Myth
No gig is safe, and spots on the cubicle farm are no exception. Not only is there always going to be someone who is willing to do your job better or for less pay, but “loyalty” is one of those archaic terms that used to mean something back in medieval times.
6. Time Management Is Critical
More so than software skills, more so than verbal communication, more so than any brilliant accounting techniques or innovative marketing concepts, the ability to manage your time effectively and efficiently will be the most important trait you have. Because if you cannot deal with multiple tasks with differing deadlines on a tight schedule while several people are providing other projects simultaneously, you will spontaneously bust in your roller chair within the week.
7. Human Beings Are Morons
People are idiots. This item on the list needs no further elaboration. If you have not yet come to this realization on your own, then congratulations, you have successfully avoided contact with the human race for your entire life. Enjoy the rest of your days on the internet.
8. Network, Network, Network
Connections are key, and although “networking” as a buzzword has long since lost its initial luster, the significance of knowing the right people (or knowing those who know the right people) is paramount. You may never know when the next spectacular deal will pass right in front of you, or even when a better job than you currently have can be offered.
9. Trade Favors
Especially in a tough economy, it can be valuable to hone the fine art of bartering, rather than rely on an ever-slipping flow of cash to purchase your every want and need. Within the complex web of office politics, doing someone a favor now can pay off big later, and if you get into the habit of it regularly with a few select people, you can learn how to make things go your way every day.
10. Everything In Moderation
A little brown-nosing can obtain key tactical advantage, but all office workers are familiar with the cost of the stigma that comes with that particular territory if repeated too often. On the other hand, being a stone-faced stoic silent non-helpful lone wolf can certainly pay dividends, but long-term survival in the cubicle jungle will be difficult without friends in the field. For all strategies one can employ in the workplace world, keep in mind that all have their limits.
Entire survival manuals could (and have) been written concerning the ways of the cubicle warrior, but mastering the essentials behind office life is the least that a workstation monkey can do.