A colleague of mine is about to move offices. Or, more precisely, her company is about to move her office across town. This has prompted mass angst (not including her) about office space and what the new digs will look like.

Which got me thinking about how stupidly some companies allocate offices and otherwise make clear the pecking order at work.

Cubicles and Rulers

A friend once worked for a Fortune 500 company that apportioned cubicle height based on job title. When she got a promotion, they came around with a ruler and added 12 feet. Apparently they did this three times, and then you merited a door on your cube! Yes, it sounds like an episode of The Office.

Speaking of The Office, there was an episode that revolved around Secretaries Day. I can relate. I once worked for a small association that took everyone in the office out for lunch on Secretaries Day. I was a year out of college and working as an administrative assistant. Toward the end of lunch, someone came in with roses. The senior VP then proceeded to go around the table pointed out who got roses (female admin assistants) and who didn’t (other female staff, and all the male staff). Perhaps most cringe-inducing was when they pointed to a male staffer and said, “He’s an admin assistant, but he’s a guy so he doesn’t get a rose.”

I was ready to walk out, but my friend Jill convinced me to wait five minutes first.

It’s not about the roses, the rulers, or the cubicles.

I’ve worked in cubicles. When I worked on Capitol Hill, most of the staff worked in a room full of cubes. It made sense; congressional space was at a premium–and everyone was in the same boat. Ditto for big open “bullpen” news rooms, and other open-space formats.

It’s about the signals you send.

It’s okay that the president has an oval office and I don’t. And I get it that there aren’t enough windows and vistas to go around. But there are better and worse ways to show appreciation. Hopefully your company’s doing it right.

What best practices have you seen?

Photo by 200MoreMontrealStencils (Flickr).