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Management: Keeping An Eye on Cubicle Decor
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Management: Keeping An Eye on Cubicle Decor - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Keeping An Eye on Cubicle Decor

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Keeping An Eye on Cubicle Decor

One can hardly blame anyone for personalizing his or her cubicle space. The sterile, vanilla partitions were designed originally for flexibility and adaptation, to increase interaction and collaboration among coworkers, but of course corporate America kind of destroyed that notion. Now cubicles are symbolic of the sameness many workers feel about what they add to the bigger picture. It’s a depressing way to think about one’s physical and ideological place in an organization, so a bit of decor seems like a positive move against such thinking.

In fact, there’s often backchannel reaction against people with minimalist tendencies when it comes to sprucing up a cubicle. Fellow cubicle dwellers may interpret a lack of personalization as separateness, or at the very least a desire to move on at the earliest opportunity. This is a silly, ridiculous response, but it’s sometimes there.

Which brings us to the holidays, a time of year when decorations are ubiquitous anyway, so cubicles are often included. Many offices hold decorating contests, with more and more elaborate entries each year, as the bar gets pushed higher and higher. There are several Pinterest boards collecting cubicle-decorating ideas, so there’s a kind of infinite loop of decoration madness.

Most of your professionals will understand unspoken limits to cube decoration, but some people need boundaries defined for them, so it’s not a bad idea to communicate some guidelines ahead of the fervor.

Here are the basics. First: sights, sounds, and smells should be contained to each person’s cubicle. If a decoration can be seen, smelled, or heard from common areas or neighboring cubicles, it’s a breach of office etiquette. This includes decorations on the outsides of cubicles which may impede movement. This way, overtly religious decor can more easily be tolerated by those who oppose public expressions of faith. General consensus says as long as the rest of the team doesn’t have to see it, religious imagery is fine.

Yet while most of us are okay with it, some prudence is still in order. Please remind your team that sensitivity to our coworkers is always in order. It’s kind of impossible to spell out all the ways this sensitivity might be breached, so keep an eye on things and move quickly when something crosses the line. This is not the time to leave it up to someone’s peers to express discomfort. You know what an extreme looks like; don’t tolerate it even for a moment.

Usually, all it takes is a gentle conversation with the decorator about sensitivity, but if it requires a firmer hand, that hand is yours.

While it’s great to encourage participation in any decorating contests, don’t pressure anyone who would rather not get involved. It’s not necessarily a rejection of the team: the holidays are a stressful time for many of us, so choosing not to hang wreaths or tinsel may simply be a matter of priorities, or a quiet expression of rebellion against commercialization, or anything else. Whatever the motivation, adding pressure only increases the alienation. Consider instead offering other, passive ways to participate, such as judging the contest, or just taking photos. But be prepared for no participation at all, and be prepared to be okay with it.

General professionalism should always be your guiding principal, and your team will follow suit if you model it and share reminders every so often. Cubicle decorating can be a way to inject some fun and personality into what can seem a workspace devoid of either, and it can be great for morale, as long as you keep it relaxed but appropriate.


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Management: Keeping An Eye on Cubicle Decor - Executive Leadership Articles

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