Saturday, March 18, 2006

So the wood grain tile floor is gone

Well that didn't last long, and shows you truly can't redecorate your cube, and you can only do limited accessorizing.

So it's been a week or so of the lone simulated wood floor cube, and it's gone. The 'furniture police' issued an edict to have it removed. Though the consequences were unspecified, it have involved 'HR action' if not done.

The original point of adding the new flooring is no longer important and perhaps to some never was. I'm not sure, but I'll wager the question didn't even come up as to why it was put down, or how it affected the workers in that space. And order to remove it came with the statement that it was 'unprofessional' and strange. I'm sure glad we have someone to tell us those things; you know us professional programmers, we are so unprofessional and strange. :)

So what's the impact here of the story of one coders choice to be an individual and provide a cube floor overlay? How will this affect his work going forward? His team's perception of him and the company? Will his manager give him less than satisfactory performance marks now that someone else has labeled this action as unprofessional and out of the norm?

Or maybe this will go the way of some things...forgotten and forgiven.

But which is worse? Would it be better that peoples minds still deal with this, even if their response behavoir is negative? Or would we rather they forget the whole thing and move on, like nothing had ever occurred?

I think if he can stand the heat, better they don't let it go away in their minds, and that they continue to have to question the why of the floor, and their response, and the value of conformance to an arbitrary standard.

Let us not go quietly into the night someone once said.



Anonymous said...

This simulated hardwood floor was brought to you in part by the jwz tent of doom and the Katrina cottage.

It was taken away by some PHB and the outcome is predictable from some research by Gallup.

Anonymous said...

Entrepreneur Paul Graham has something to say about the furniture police in What Business Can Learn from Open Source

"The average office is a miserable place to get work done. And a lot of what makes offices bad are the very qualities we associate with professionalism. The sterility of offices is supposed to suggest efficiency. But suggesting efficiency is a different thing from actually being efficient.

The atmosphere of the average workplace is to productivity what flames painted on the side of a car are to speed. And it's not just the way offices look that's bleak. The way people act is just as bad."

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely middle-aged, however, I am not a programmer so I don't know if I'm even qualified to comment but here's the thing:

I guess I missed the beginning of the story but I am a bit confused. Do you mean that you laid down your own floor in your cubicle, Tojo?

Wow, that's weird. Uhm, I mean CREATIVE. Yeah, that's it. Original. Courageous. Indiviualistic. Way to take charge!

Weird. Whoops, who said that?

I've never been fortunate enough to have my own cubicle but I have worked in an office and I can't imagine doing anything more to the decor than maybe putting my kid's picture on my desk. Maybe, and I do mean maybe, adding a potted plant. But laying down flooring???

Maybe the powers that be looked at it as a power play. Like the the Office Manager gets on the phone, "Hey, Stan, did you see what that weirdo Tojo is doing to his cubicle?"

"Heck, I was just wondering the same thing."

"I mean, just who does think he is? Redecorating like he owns the place!"

"Exactly. Hey, I need to make a few phone calls, we'll show him who's boss! I'll have that stuff gone before he can say Dilbert."

On the other hand, it could go another way:

"Hey, Stan, did you see what that guy did to his cubicle? Genius!"

"Heck yeah. It looks great! We should get every cubicle done that way!"

"What initiative that guy has. I'm thinking of recommending him for that managment position that just opened up."

But seriously:

Exactly who was it that put down the flooring? Was it you, a colleague, or the company - like you were a test cubicle or something?

If it was an employee - did he really spend his own money to do that?

And did they tell him to remove it or did they just come and do it themselves?

If so, what did they do with the flooring after it was removed? Is he out the money?

Obviously I don't know enough about the story to give an intelligent opinion. Maybe you have to be a programmer to understand. Maybe its in secret programming language or something.

Maybe the original story is earlier in the blog and I missed it and this was just an update.

I don't know but I'm confused.

Tojosan said...

Not put down by me, or in my cube.
Coworkers inspired by the jwz tent of doom article, and the concept of if the workspace is less limiting, the worker will be more productive.

It grew out of the angst of the cube farm environment. Drab, regular, uncomfortable, and all but sterile. The addition of pictures and plants can do some to alleviate that, but won't make it a more effecient or coder friendly place.

The biggest problems affecting me, in no particular order:
1) too much noise
2) inability to place my monitor for proper work, nor my keyboard ergnomically
3) privacy
4) flexibility in work location/times
5) impersonal space

There are others, but those are big ones for sure.

The point of the flooring might have been to address the ergonomics, or the impersonal nature of the space. Needless to say, inspite of the improvement in morale that immediately resulted, and resulting improvement in work output and enjoyment, the floor is gone.

My question, to be honest, is whether this is the most important battle to fight about work, or there are other areas where a less effort and pain can affect a greater good?

I respect the individuals involved, their hard work, and dedication. I'm sure this was motivated by those characteristics. Also knowing them, this has a small taste of nose thumbing. :)


Anonymous said...

Tojo asks whether the floor was really the most important thing for his fellow workers to address. I work in a cube farm myself, and I agree with him that noise is the most important problem. The next biggest problem is that the cubicle physically inhibits patterns of working closely in a team. Solving these two problems, however, requires pretty serious effort. Consider the alternatives:

* Commandeer an empty office/conference room (this is likely to be taken as an affront to those who view office "real estate" as a power symbol
* Construct a new room (this may upset the fire marshall and union laborers, to say nothing of the Facilities department)
* Lease or buy off-site workspace (requires independent wealth or corporate sponsorship)
* Camp out at the cybercafe (requires special dispensation from the supervisor)

You know, you can get snap-together wood flooring at the local home supply store. The floor probably took just a few minutes to install. It is a quirky idea, but that's not a bad thing. If it made your programmer's work environs a little more humane and provided a little levity, then what was the harm?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I retract my original position. I'm converted. Now that I better understand the situation, I applaud the wood floor cubicle guy! Bravo! What a bold move. And what a dumb move on corporate's part to remove it, those moral crushers!

Given Tojo's description of cubicle life, kudos to anywone who can do it. I would go batty. (Or more batty than I usually am.) I often wondered how anyone could have a phone conversation in one of those things. Any one of those things - the lack of privacy, the sterility, the uncomfortability - would be challenging.

God bless programmers!