So I’m not sure how the phenomena began but somewhere along the line folks have started using their workspace as a literal home away from home. I’m talking about these cubicles and the ways that people try to make them their own. True story, there’s a woman who has a toaster and a microwave under her desk. When I ask her why she doesn’t just use the one in the kitchen in the company break room, she tells me that she doesn’t want to be responsible for cleaning them if she uses them. There’s another woman down the hall who has at least 30 plants in her workspace. The leaves spill out over her desktop and into the adjoining cubicles and no one says anything! So just for fun I walk up and down the aisles and I start to categorize the cubicles of the Sistahs. Here they are in no particular order:
Stuffed Sistah: Stuffed animals, stuffed beanie babies, stuffed anything. The entire cubicle is one big advertisement for Nick Junior.
Candy Land Sistah: There’s an M & M dispenser and a bowl of Kit Kats along with glass jars filled with jolly ranchers, Swedish fish and sugar babies.
OO7 Sistah: Always whispering and never without her headphones on. She’s got passwords on the phone, her desktop and on the combination locks on her desk drawers. She’s also got a privacy screen made of the darkest material known to Best Buy.
106 & Park Sistah: Every concert ticket, poster and t-shirt for Trey Songs, Justin Timberlake and Usher can be found in this workspace. She thinks no one notices that she’s always watching music videos and listening to Pandora.
While researching for this post I discovered that supervisors and those in the business of handing out employee evaluations often scan the desk of a worker-bee and make several decisions regarding whether or not the employee is worthy of advancement. A messy desk signals to others that you are not only un-organized but likely incapable of taking on another project which would lead to yet another file or document on your desk. An empty desk tells the powers that be that you aren’t there for the long run and that the exercise in minimalism that is your desk is a sure fire sign that you have one foot out the door.
Years ago, I stopped decorating my workspace and I have to say I was heavily influenced to do so by Robert DeNiro. The light bulb went off for me in that famous scene from the movie “Heat” in which he says, “A guy told me one time, ‘Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.’” A little dramatic for some but that’s some real advice for a Sistah Girl. You can’t have 6 pairs of shoes under your desk and a drawer full of hair products and a flat iron and expect to roll out when the “Heat” is around the corner. The flames could come from a corporate merger, a change in leadership or yes…because you are getting the pink slip. Whatever the reason, you gotta be ready roll. Don’t nobody wanna see you spend 3 days packing up your Idris Elba posters, your assortment of Essence Magazines and all your health and beauty aids. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Take a clue from your girl Olivia Pope. Sistah girl goes from the White House to her Office to her Townhouse with nothing more than a Prada bag!
I’m not saying be devoid of personality. I say chose five items to personalize your workspace and keep it moving.
A photo of someone/something you love: Kids, Dogs, Horses---nothing stuffed please. Some people like to know that you are personally connected to something/someone. It makes them feel better.
A keepsake from a company event: No better way to look like a team player than displaying the company logo.
A calendar: No real reason. It just seems like every cubicle has one.
A photo from your favorite vacation spot: Not the one with you in a Tankini but the actual location. Not for them but for you. It’s a constant reminder of something joyful.
A magazine or book related to your business: There’s nothing like giving people the impression that you’ve got your finger on the pulse of your industry.
Hmmm….so why all the fuss about cubicle creativity? I fuss because I’m constantly thinking about the obvious and subtle moves that we make that help people form impressions of who they think we are. I firmly believe that workplace evaluations go beyond the forms that are filled out in the Human Resources office. Yes, you should be evaluated based on your ability to meet your goals and you may think this post is much ado about nothing but hey, you never know. You could be one Beanie Baby, M & M Candy, flip-flop, toaster oven away from a promotion.
By Guest Blogger: LA Drye
*photo credit* LA Drye
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