It's all in knowing how to do it

The company where this IT pilot fish works decides that its new office space will use cubicles with modular furniture. "This was much nicer than the old soft walls and metal desks that had been in use," says fish.

"The furniture was nice looking and very well designed. A quick examination showed that each piece could be easily disconnected and reattached in a few seconds. An entire office could be rearranged in a few minutes."

Then word comes down from the corporate higher-ups that none of the new offices were to be changed from the cookie-cutter default layout. The official reason: Moving the furniture would "void the warranty."

If absolutely necessary, the manufacturer could come on-site and rearrange a cubicle -- at a price, of course. And what loyal employee would want to make the company incur that expense?

"We all suspected that management couldn't stand the idea of employees customizing their workspaces to be the most comfortable and efficient," fish says.

"Eventually, my work group was scheduled to move into an office area that contained the new furniture. We were cautioned once again that employees should not change the layout.

"The night before the move, I went in and rearranged my new office to a configuration that I liked. The next day I moved into the office."

A co-worker likes fish's arrangement so much that he puts in a request to have his cube changed in the officially approved manner. A few days later, a tech from the manufacturer shows up.

His first step is to grab a desktop and start pulling as hard as he can -- so hard that the entire bank of cubicles is swaying. When that doesn't work, he finally announces that he's going out to his truck to get some tools.

Fish and his co-worker are stunned to realize that the manufacturer's tech has no idea how the modular furniture works. But they're not so stunned that they don't collar the tech before he can leave.

"We stopped him and showed him how the furniture snapped together, says fish. "The office was reorganized in a couple of minutes and the tech was sent on his way.

"Sometime later, a manager who wasn't even in my organization decided it was his job to inform me about company cubicle policy. He stopped by my office and delivered a long lecture, and wound up with the standard bit about voiding the warranty.

"Fortunately, I was able to look him straight in the eye and tell him the absolute truth: 'This office was set up like this when I moved in. I didn't want to waste precious corporate dollars hiring the vendor to come in and rearrange it.'"

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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