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Subversion in the Workplace

June 9, 2015

Today I’ve been thinking about what it’s like for someone like me to work in a strictly hierarchical organization. I’m something of a subversive, you see. I’m generally not openly defiant. I’m definitely not an anarchist. I value structure—to a point. And I don’t usually perform mutinous acts that catch the attention of leadership and jeopardize my position. I’m not that stupid. I need this job. And, mostly, I love this job. However, I do find that there a lot of reasons to be subversive.


My latest issue with a hierarchical structure resides in minutia. It all came to the surface when my team moved to newly remodeled space. Since I spend the majority of my waking hours Monday through Friday at work, when I get a job, I move in. I will restate that: I MOVE IN. I have a variety of things that make me happy and comfortable at work. I like to make my space my own. So when we moved from floor 11 to floor 12, I took the small transparency strip with my name on it out of the nameplate holder and took it upstairs with me because we don't yet have nameplates in the new space.


To mark my cubicle as mine I carefully taped this 1"x6" name tag above my hanging pocket inbox on the outside wall of my cubicle. It was removed when I was out of the office for my birthday (the day after the move). I put it back up and was informed about a week later that nothing is to be taped to the painted surfaces of the cubicles and that I had to take it down. Um, really? It’s two small pieces of tape, holding up a sign that marks this space as MINE. The majority of my waking hours Monday through Friday are spent here, remember? I’m claiming this space. I’m invested. Isn’t that more important than tape on a cubicle frame? I was a good girl, and took the offending name tag down. And stuck it on my inbox pocket instead.


I realize that could be making my employers sound horrible, and you know what? They really aren’t. I know. I've worked in situations where hierarchy was a completely smothering and humiliating experience. These people are truly decent and caring. They are all for personal and professional development and really do spend time and money on their employees. But sometimes the minutia eclipses what’s really important. Like valuing how an employee feels. One who brings things to put around her so she feels at home. Who puts her name tag on her cubicle so the world, or at least visitors to the office, know it’s her space. Who wants to put her personal stamp on that space for the benefit of the organization, not just herself.


Really, ultimately all I want is to be included in the conversations, the planning, the decision-making. Sometimes I’ll get what I want, and sometimes I won’t. But at least I’ll have input and will be much more willing to live with the final decisions when they don’t coincide with my wishes. And who knows? Maybe my superiors would be more willing to consider changes they were initially resistant to, but for which I may have excellent and reasonable arguments.


I’ll be honest, my response to these really minor irritants is probably immature, but definitely conditioned. As the youngest of five children, with siblings ranging from 6 to 16 years older, I don’t like to be told. I like to be asked. My penchant for subversion goes 'way back. But what's truly important to me in all this, is that I just want to be allowed to personalize the things that matter to me and don't really matter to the way the organization runs or looks as a whole. Most of us experience these situations. Policing of activities gone mad. Micro-managing run amok. Flashes of 1984. So until someone relents and lets me make my own life easier, I will always have reasons to be a subversive.



*Side note: there will be NO chair mats to help with the movement of said chair on the new carpet, because they are particularly detested in my place of employment, despite the obvious convenience to the actual user. I was told in no uncertain terms that this is a battle I will not win. Hmmm...

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