Work stories

Cubicle Life & Performance Review Tips

I’ve been working at the same company for over a dozen years now.  Recently, my work relocated from an old building to a nicer, newer one.  Most things about the move were great.  We’re in a better area, scenic views, newer décor, and even my commute is better.  However, there was one sad downside.  They moved me…from an office…to a cubicle.  The plastic prison from whence I had once escaped after years of toil is suddenly my jail once more.

I did have some warning.  Many, many months before the actual move, my boss told me that his boss’s boss had said that in the new building he wanted everyone to be working in cubicles.

You cannot trust the lowly peons to work diligently all day if they aren’t sitting where you can pace menacingly past their outwards-facing monitors reminding them of your ever-present watchful eye!”  Is how I imagine that conversation went.  Okay, I thought, it sucks I’m being downgraded but at least everyone else is in the same boat as me.

Except, that turned out to be a total fib.  One day our Client Services Manager was happily chattering away and happened to refer to her office in the new building.  Whoa…back up the trolley here, I thought.  WHAT OFFICE?! Are we not all in cubes now?! 

I later gently questioned my manager.  He said, “Oh yes, well, a few people will have offices.  Me and…”  He proceeded to name three other people.  Okay, I thought, four people will have offices, but everyone else will be working in cubicles like me so I can’t really complain.

a small pretty pink flower used as a page break

It wasn’t until one fateful day much later, when my boss had forgotten all about the house of lies he had built and was happily showing me the blueprints for the new building, when I noticed there were MANY names written beside the word ‘office’.  Except one name was conspicuously absent of course, mine.  In the end, lots of people were granted offices.  In fact, a couple of people that didn’t even have an office in the old building got upgraded from their cubicles to offices at the new one.  As far as I can tell, I’m the ONLY employee out of almost a hundred that got a downgrade.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.  I just figure my boss is paying me back for some time I must have unduly irritated him.

Anyway, while at first, I may have been a bit, erm, put-out about it, I’ve now come to adapt to life in the open.  I mean there are some perks.  There are lots of generous people around who keep snacks at their desks and I’m highly skilled at begging for food.  I also have a window to the outside and I actually face the window now, so I can stare out it with none the wiser.  There are lots of gently swaying trees to gaze upon; sometimes rabbits, geese or even pheasants will run by.

Oh, ha, funny story.  I semi-embarrassed myself the other day when I saw the pheasants for the first time and yelled excitedly out to my co-workers, “HEY LOOK YOU GUYS!  TWO PEASANTS JUST RAN BY!”  I think for a few moments they legitimately had no idea what I was talking about or perhaps this just made them think I had delusions of grandeur.  Pronouncing that ‘ph’ sound is really important you know.  Ahem, moving on.

Anyway, the REAL reason I’ve adapted to my cube so heartily isn’t that I’ve learned it’s nice being around people instead of being alone, (ppffffttttt that’d be ridiculous) nay, the real joy of my new cubicle is…drumroll please….

It has a built-in whiteboard!

I mean, I guess that wouldn’t be that exciting to some, but I like to draw and I’ve never had a whiteboard before (plus simple things amuse simple minds….um, nevermind).  That’s the real reason I never complain about not having an office anymore.  Well okay, don’t complain as much about it.  That and the fact that the last time I brought it up, my boss actually snapped at me.  I mean, I thought my whole sales-pitch about turning the storage room into a half office/half promo storage space with me keeping inventory for him pro-bono was a brilliant idea!  Instead of embracing my ingenious plan, his face changed colour and he told me to never bring it up again.  I mean I promise you, I really wasn’t even being that annoying about it.  Like, I was easily half as annoying as I possibly could have been.

Anyway, enough about that, let’s talk whiteboard!  So, first thing first, before the move I requested dry erase markers and an eraser for my new whiteboard.  That was granted but I decided I wanted better markers and more colours, so I also ordered my own off Amazon with my own money.  I like comic book art, so I decided to draw a comic pop-art type character, voila:

comic pop art style woman face on whiteboard with dry erase markers

After a while, I got bored of it being just a face and added some hair.

comic pop art style surprised woman on whiteboard with dry erase markers

I realized I suck at drawing hair and I should have left it alone because I liked the original drawing better.

I attempted to draw more hair to make it look less awful.

pop art comic style woman on whiteboard drawn with dry erase marker

That didn’t work so I attempted to hide the awfulness by adding colour.

pop art style comic woman surprised worried face whiteboard dry erase marker

Eh, that, I guess, helped?  Whatever.  STOP JUDGING.

Okay I know you’re thinking “Pffffftttt I’m not impressed.” Yeah well, first of all, I’m a beginner at my new career as a white-board-artist, alright?  But, second-of-all, I don’t think you’re appreciating how much harder it is to draw on a whiteboard than on paper.  If your hand/arm is tired and you accidentally touch the board for even a second, you wipe away part of your drawing.  Colouring is a real pain because if you even slightly touch a dry erase marker tip to a line you’ve already made you’ll accidentally erase it too.  And if you get coloured dry erase marker too close to a black line the colours just smear together into mud colour.  Yes, these are all excuses.

Anyway, after a few weeks of that comic lady hanging out there, I decided she needed a friend, so I drew this guy.  Now I must warn you, I jacked up his face a bit.  Like looking at it is a little frustrating to me.  I haven’t had the time or the impetus to fix him yet so he’s going to stay that way for a while.  I added dialogue for fun (and ‘cause as mentioned I like comics and now it’s like a story!).

comic style whiteboard art man and woman affair dry erase markers


While I was drawing him last week, my boss happened to walk by.

He stopped and said, “You clearly have some artistic talent you know…”

“Thanks,” I said cheerfully.

“However,” he began with a sterner tone, “Some might think that you don’t have enough work to do…”

I looked up at him and said, “Yeah, some might think that.”

And then I went back to drawing.


As a reader of this blog please try to refrain from throwing that script back into my face at some future point should I ever get canned, okay?  I mean, com’on, points for honesty here, right?  Plus, I mean, I am technically a millennial. Isn’t this what we do?  Truthfully, I do work hard, most of the time.  My Dad is the one who really instilled a strong work ethic in me.  His fatherly wisdom was to always work your hardest; first in/last out kind of deal.  Oh, and he even said I should request MORE than once yearly performance reviews to keep on top of things.  Wait, what, I’m sorry, you want me to ask for MORE of those things I hate?  Like, willingly ask for more torture?  HAHAHAHA not happening Dad!  That is NOT happening.  *Laughs millennially.*

Speaking of which, I thought I had evaded getting a performance review this year since everyone else already had theirs a month earlier.  Sadly, that was not the case and I was sent the form to fill out a couple of weeks ago.  Sigh.  Let’s turn lemons into lemonade though.  As this is an excellent opportunity for me to share some of my performance review tips with you while they’re still fresh.

E’s Excellent Performance Review Tips and Tricks

Tip #1

I’m embarrassed to say that many of my co-workers figured this out YEARS ahead of me, but I’ve been doing this for a few years now as well and it’s a great tip.  Tip #1 is to save last year’s performance review, so you can just copy/paste into this year’s form!  It’s brilliant!  Way to turn an annoying task into no work at all!

Tip #2

I do like to tweak my copy/pasted review just a little bit for the year though.  I’m a perfectionist like that.  The first thing I like to do is try to cram more “strengths” into the box asking you to list your strengths.  I discovered I can increase the size of the box, so I make it a little bit bigger each year.  Subtly bigger.  I think some of my points might accidentally just be synonyms of each other as I’m running out of adjectives.  I also have definitely listed some positive attributes that have nothing to do with my job whatsoever, but whatever.  You tell me you want me to brag about myself and I will do that for you, sir!  I will do that for you in spades!

Tip #3

Life is all about balance.  So, it’s important not to leave that weakness box blank no matter how tempting.  Instead, you must feign humbleness and put something in there.  However, unlike strengths, only ever put ONE weakness.  I mean, you’re not looking to rat on yourself here.  You’re just trying to look mature, self-aware, reflective, etc.  Originally this year I was going to put “not having an office” as my weakness…But then I remembered my boss’s bulging forehead vein the last time I brought it up; so, I talked myself out of doing that.  Instead this year I put “forgetful.”  I chose that one for a couple of reasons:  First, it’s true.  Your weaknesses should always be true.  Second, I already have a solution if asked.  “Write down stuff I need to remember.”  It’s important to already have an answer to your weakness in case they ugh, ask you about it.  Boom.  Done.

Tip #4

When I first started working at this company they used to give you like 20 areas in which to rate yourself out of five.  1 being bad and 5 being excellent.  I used to give myself all 5’s every time.  Upon reflection, maybe that’s not the most adult way to fill out a performance review.  Now we no longer have that style of performance review form, but if it was to ever come back, I would definitely give myself one 4 in there and then the rest all 5’s.  I’ve matured over the years.

Tip #5

Now for the most dreaded part of any performance review.  UGH!  THE GOAL SETTING!  It’s so stupid!  Why on earth do I need to make up senseless extra work for myself when I already have a ton of “goals”?  I mean I already do weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports.  I have meeting quotas, revenue targets, blah blah blah.  The last thing I need is some other inane target to hit.  So, here are my brilliant ‘goal setting’ tips for you:  If you have say in what your performance review goals are going to be, try and steer them into language that is actually double-speak for targets you’re already expected to hit.  That way no extra work has been created.  Or even better, if you can, try and get one of the goals to be an objective that your boss doesn’t realize you’ve already done!  Then you can just pretend you completed it after the goal was set.  No one will notice.  Trust me.  It’s genius.

Final Tip

Remember to bring a notebook to your performance review meeting so you seem like you still care.  Also, smile a lot and behave like you’re still enthusiastic for a job that probably killed part of your soul ages ago.  It’s kind of like being at a job interview where the stakes are way, waaay lower.  Oh, and always remember this key insight: your boss secretly hates giving performance reviews as much as you hate receiving them.

And that’s all you need to know to ace your next performance review.


You’re welcome.


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