I like to think I’m resilient, flexible, adaptable. But I’ll be the first to admit I’m often the one kicking and screaming through changes I don’t think I want.
Like when they said we were moving to an open office space, more ‘collaborative’ environment at work. No walls. No separation from your neighbors. No privacy, no real sound buffers, cube-to-cube living.
How would I concentrate or get anything done? How would I block out unwanted distractions? How would I ever make a phone call without dozens of people knowing all my business? (At least with higher walls, you could pretend you couldn’t hear your neighbors and vice versa).
When they knocked down the walls and we got our cubicle assignments, I was in the exact ‘epicenter’ of a large room filled with 78 small work stations. Great, I thought … translated, NOT great at all! (An astute engineer coworker pointed out the epicenter part – immediately calculating in his head the number of cubes in front, back and left and right of me. And a coworker friend and I recently counted the cubes for ‘research’ for this blog, as I tend to exaggerate for effect – lol.)
But a year-and-a-half or so in, I’ve found that what I’ve lost in privacy I’ve more than made up for meeting all kinds of smart, funny, interesting, caring people … all around me! People with different backgrounds and jobs but a common space that does, remarkably, bring folks together, for real. (A very sweet gentleman named Monprit and I, for example, share ‘custody’ of, and take turns watering, my bamboo plant that seems like it will reach to the ceiling one day. Cool little bonding things like that. Another woman named Crystal, ‘lovingly’ gets on my case when I don’t keep the watering can full as she takes her turn nurturing our office greens too.)
Things were a little rocky at the beginning … when my really small Corporate Affairs team first moved in among some ‘rough-around-the-edges’ characters in our largely male-dominated engineering and field force-driven company. Like a man who proclaimed, “I’ve never worked in a room with women before.” That just seemed like a strange thing to say in the 21st century, don’t you think? Another older employee surprised us with his loud, near constant cursing … on the phone, to his coworkers, possibly to his family, who knows. We simply called him ‘the cursing guy.’
We have new neighbors now, and a recent episode at work illustrates what I said at the start of this blog …
It started out as one of those ‘worst work days ever.’ A computer breakdown led to a personal meltdown, with a good amount of cursing (though quieter than our old cube neighbor’s), some real tears of frustration, and an admittedly complete failure to follow ANY of my previous blog advice about ‘letting go’ and ‘stepping away.’
Without getting into all the gory details, I was stressed, I was on tight deadlines, I wasn’t able to be productive and, truth be told, I was a full-on mess … right in the center of my large cube environment!
I was also kind of embarrassed by my (uncharacteristic, I hope) total loss of composure.
But people all around me were unbelievably compassionate … going out of their way to lend a shoulder and an ear, offer advice, even secure computer equipment for me. They were literally showering me with caring and concern. I was even getting instant messages and calls later wanting to make sure I was o.k. and that I had a better IT service experience in the future.
My friend and coworker Lois sits literally a few inches from me and was the first to drop her work and come right over to my ’emotional rescue.’ Later in the day, we were laughing so hard about the fact that I went from ‘rags to riches’ in one day – a pitiful, cautionary tale in the morning, to a happy, catered-to, new computer-owning employee feeling on top of the world.
I credit the open cube environment and the people in it. As I mentioned in my last blog, an IT superstar Azim, who’s always running around trying to cater to everyone, felt so badly when he saw me upset, he got me a special spot in the magical ‘laptop refresh’ room upstairs. I was getting a brand new computer that’s 100 times better and faster than the old one. And with all the trimmings, including a coveted docking station and ‘dongle’ adapter (yes that’s really what it’s called!). Contractors who I didn’t even know were already working on my profile when I entered what felt like the Land of Oz … Emerald City … getting all my wishes granted by the Wizard. We even joked about it and within just about an hour or two, it was reality.
The rest of the day, it just seemed like caring coworkers were continuing to come out of the woodwork catering to my needs, in what felt like the end of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. I was like ‘George Bailey, the richest man in town!’
Thanks so much caring coworkers! And thanks to Lois, to whom I dedicate this blog. She’s always there for me, in good times and bad, and I hope vice versa! Also she gave me the idea to write this blog when she said, “This story would make a good blog” (lol). She said, “In the morning I was saying to myself, I hope I don’t ever have to go through what Ellen did. By the afternoon, I was jealous, wanting to be you!”