Last Friday, I came to work to find a large, flat box stored next to my work area (nearly blocking the door to another coworker’s office). Some quick investigation uncovered its origins: the box held a white board that another office had ordered, but the person who ordered it very cleverly did so just before going on vacation. I discovered that he assumed someone else would, in his absence, haul it across campus where it belongs. Naturally, that didn’t happen because no one should be expected to carry around someone else’s crap. Nor is my work space a storage area for other people’s poorly planned deliveries. What to do?
As the only member of my division without a personal office (I have a cubicle), I try to make the best out of weird situations that arise from having a desk with only three walls. Like when the area around my desk is used for storage. For large, flat boxes, for example. So I did what I thought just about anyone would do: I made a fourth wall so I could have a damn office, too.
the white poster board has a sign that says “please knock”
Fridays are quiet in this office. The students are sleeping in/hung over. People dress more casually. The TGIF is strong with this office, and the boss was out of the office that day (unbeknownst to me). So I’m finding it hard to believe that propping up a cardboard box for less than an hour as a joke prompted several (if Little Mole Boss is to be believed) of my coworkers from other departments to complain to LMB that I was behaving “unprofessionally” (because the people in charge of the students have nothing but professional conversations to and about said students in within earshot of anyone who might pass through… ahem) and “antisocially” (because people from other divisions come talk to me all the time when I’m not “unprofessionally” putting up cardboard boxes with post-its that read “please knock”). In fact, MORE people approached me for a quick, friendly chat specifically because of the cardboard box than ever had.
Now, I’d be the last person to say that placing a cardboard box across your cubicle should be filed under “professional behavior,” but I’m having trouble picturing the conversation that happens about this that includes words like “antisocial” and “offended.” Why was that box even there in the first place? It was out of sight, out of mind as far as those who should have taken care of it were concerned, even if that means putting it in someone else’s way. Once I’d had my fun, someone thought to move it into the office responsible for it, so why wasn’t it put there in the first place? This has taught me that I need to use harmless shenanigans to keep people from abusing my desk area, and that the only result is a stern talking-to from my boss (who emphasized, again, that the division is being reorganized, and that we can’t do stuff like this: we’re being watched!), plus one other thing…
She pulled me into her office Monday morning and asked, “So… what happened Friday?” I was clueless that there had been any negative reactions to said shenanigans, given that I had only heard positive responses (and frankly, I had forgotten all about it). Once she felt she had impressed upon me the severity of my offense (and reminded me of it), she asked how we should go about fixing it. I sat, dumbfounded, and finally offered, “Well… I could write an apologetic email to the offended departments…” She said I should write one to the entire division.
I don’t even know where to start here.
-Why didn’t the offended parties discuss this with me? It’s not sexual harassment, it’s a fucking CARDBOARD BOX.
-Why did my boss take this complaint seriously? She wasn’t there to see it, and just assumed it was offensive.
-An apology to the entire division? Really? This was such a huge offense that every single member of my office and every other office that passes though here has to hear about something maybe a dozen people saw? Really?
I’m torn. Do I write this email, or just hope that LMB forgets about it? I’m really, really not interested in writing it, mostly because all it will do is send the message that I’m at the mercy of people with no sense of humor, which is humiliating and demoralizing. I want to work in an office where people treat each other like people. Assuming I have to write this email, I’m tempted to go about it in one of two ways: take it WAY too seriously, thereby making the whole thing sound as ridiculous as it is, or point out gently that a sense of humor is necessary when working with students, and that the apparent necessity of apologizing for the offensiveness of a cardboard box is silly.
So. I’m even closer to being fired now, and even less interested in trying to preserve my position. Why would I want to work here if people are so easily offended but too childish to talk about it? Also, my school load is brutal this month, the several-thousand person event we’re hosting is happening in just three weeks, I’m trying to get organized for the pumpkin carving I’m hosting at the end of the month, keeping up with Shinkendo classes is becoming nearly impossible, and the pain from the muscle spasm apparently gets markedly worse when I menstruate (THANKS, UTERUS). And Kaiso’s 65th bday party is in a couple weeks, and it’ll be an $80 dinner. So. No pressure.