HR Strange But True!
April 05, 2007

You may wonder how you lasted this long without it, the "it" being James F. Thompson's "The Cubicle Survival Guide."

Subtitled "Keeping Your Cool in the Least Hospitable Environment on Earth," Thompson's book promises a humorous guide to life in the modern office cubicle.

Now, your editors have seen only excerpts so far, but if the rest of the book lives up to them, we can't wait for our (complimentary, we hope) copy to arrive.

Even the promotional description of the book is funny: "Leaving no stone unturned, no ergonomic chair unadjusted, and no leftovers in the communal fridge uneaten, this hilarious guide to cubicle life will be the salvation for the more than 40 million Americans stuck in cubicles."

Among the tips contained in the book are:

  • How not to disturb colleagues with unwanted sounds and smells, such as the crunch-crunch of your sour cream-and-onion chips and the unmistakable odor of your spicy Thai shrimp
  • How to knock when visiting other cubicles and how to devise politically correct ways of saying "Do not disturb"
  • The do's and definite don'ts of cubicle decoration
  • How to set up a security system that will rebuff potential thieves
Passages on cubicle food certainly struck a chord with us, including:

"On the cubicle farm, nothing furrows eyebrows, wrinkles noses, or twists faces more than food that stinks. In a stale and colorless environment such as the workplace, smells take on added dimensions. They are more defined, ambulant, and ghostly. Chicken à la king becomes a poltergeist that haunts the accounting department ...."


"The ocean is magical, but the beach has breezes for a reason. Mackerel, sardines, microwaved fish sticks, and tuna fish sandwiches are all malodorous and therefore inappropriate choices for cubicle dining."

Thompson has created a blog to help hawk his book (a "flog," as they are sometimes called). One of your editors found the last entry to be spot-on, particularly in this TB ward that passes for our office. Thompson writes that nowhere in his varied career did he learn the proper response for when "a bald cubicle neighbor sneezes."

"Andrew," I said. "Do I say bless you? I mean, I can hear you sneeze, but I can't see you."

"You could always e-mail me," he replied from the other side of the fabric wall.

"Well, what happens if Paul, in the cubicle next to you, sneezes? Is he going to think I'm a jerk because I said 'bless you' to you, but not to him? Even if he is two cubicles away from me?"

"I don't know," Andrew said, half-interested, tapping away at his keyboard. "Somebody needs to write a book about this, about cubicle etiquette."

And so Thompson did.

Sources:, Random House, The Cubicle Survival Guide Blog

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