If you are laboring under the impression that your cubicle is the perfect place to let your freak flag fly, I have one word for you: don’t.
Yes, I know. You are a very individual individual, and the more your manager knows about you, the more you will be respected and valued and remunerated. Or, maybe not.
According to Taylor Dupuy, a contributing writer at Monster.com, you need to be careful about what you expose about yourself. This brings Dupuy — and us — to the title of a recent article, “5 Items You Should Never Put In Your Cubicle.”
(If I were the churlish type, I would say that one item you should never put in your cubicle is an article titled “5 Items You Should Never Put in Your Cubicle.” It shows you are easily influenced by the opinions of others, when everyone knows that the only opinion that matters is your boss’s.)
Unfortunately, Dupuy’s expert opinion of an item that is verboten does not sync up with my expert opinion. Specifically, the columnist foolishly thinks that an office cubicle is not the place to keep a small pet. “Even in cages,” Dupuy writes, quoting the workplace expert and author Kathi Elster. “Small pets including mice, turtles or reptiles do not belong in an open office space.”
This is ridiculous. There already is one small animal that is on display in your office, and that is y-o-u. Just because you aren’t running on a wheel, like a hamster, it does not mean you are not running in circles, getting nowhere fast. It would be good for a mouse like you to have a companion mouse, or what about a turtle? The glacial pace with which you approach every project will seem positively jet-speed when compared to the progress of Shelly, your office turtle. (Reptiles should not be in your cubicle, I do agree. Reptiles should be with the other reptiles, up on Mahogany Row.)
Bottles of alcohol are another office no-no, according to Debra Benton, yet another author of yet another book about how to behave in the workplace. “Empty bottles of whiskey don’t make you look good,” says Benton. “The fact that they’re empty shows you already drank the liquor and that could make people wonder what’s really in your coffee mug.”
Why Benton would assume that the liquor bottles in your office are empty, I have no idea. I’m sure you are recycling by tossing the empties in the back seat of your boss’s Jaguar, while making sure that the lineup of top-shelf whiskies arranged on your desktop bar are always full and ready for a good, healthy pour.
And if your co-workers do occasionally complain about the deafening rattle of your cocktail shaker from morning to night, you can be sure that turning your cubicle into the hottest before-, after- and during-hours office hot spot will pay off, big-time.
For one thing, in your role as office bartender, you will soon get to know everyone’s most intimate secrets, which you can use to blackmail your way to the top. For another, by establishing a strict dress code, you can reward your friends and punish your enemies as you decide who is cool enough to enter Club Cube, and who has to wait outside with the other members of the bridge-and-tunnel crowd.
Just be sure that when you close up your cubicle and head home, you turn off the disco ball.
Considering the sensitivities of our modern, touchy-touchy cultural environment, you may be thinking that there is almost nothing you can display in your office that won’t offend somebody. And since most of the people in your office are already quite offended by your presence, you are probably right.
Just in case there is someone at your work who you have failed to offend — yet — you will definitely want to ignore the advice of John Thompson, the executive director of career services at Texas Christian College. “Never put up political posters and do not display religious symbols,” Thompson advises.
This may be good general advice, but it hardly applies to you. Who in the office is so politically incorrect that they wouldn’t support your campaign to return Prince Habsburg to the throne of Bosnia-Herzegovina? And who is so free of religious fervor that he or she would not want to participate in a full-moon potluck with your Wiccan coven?
If that’s your freak flag, friend, go right ahead — let it fly.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.