In '08, I'll Be a Better Cube-Mate Jared Sandberg, the Wall Street Journal's "Cubicle Culture" columnist, talks about New Year's office resolutions.
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In '08, I'll Be a Better Cube-Mate

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In '08, I'll Be a Better Cube-Mate

In '08, I'll Be a Better Cube-Mate

In '08, I'll Be a Better Cube-Mate

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Jared Sandberg, the Wall Street Journal's "Cubicle Culture" columnist, talks about New Year's office resolutions.


So it's the second day of the New Year, and around here, at least half of us are still going strong on our personal resolutions. We're thinking about office resolutions here at BPP world headquarters, too, maybe even beyond using fewer emergency Krulwiches, no scotch before 7 a.m.


I'm not on board with the latter.


(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Maybe no blends.


PESCA: Maybe single malts have an exception, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jared Sandberg is on the line to help us become better officemates in 2008. He's an expert in office dos and don'ts. He writes the Cubicle Culture column for the Wall Street Journal.

Hey, Jared.

Mr. JARED SANDBERG (Writer, Wall Street Journal): Happy New Year, folks.

STEWART: Happy New Year.

PESCA: Happy New Year. So if we're making workplace resolutions, you - let's start with the negative. What are the biggest no-nos?

Mr. SANDBERG: Well, if we're talking about our boss, you know, I think there are few things that we could probably do to improve their bossing. By the way, I like marrying the spirit of giving with resolutions. In other words, it's better to make resolutions for other people. That way, if you're not crushed when you blow your own resolutions by January 3rd.

PESCA: Aren't those known as dictates?


(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Okay.

Mr. SANDBERG: Let's - well, let's call them resolutions. Generally, you know, I think that in the office, we all suffer death by a thousand flea bites. So there are a lot of little things. There are things like, you know, your boss assuming that any task they asked you to do should quote/unquote "Only take you five minutes."

PESCA: Right.

Mr. SANDBERG: Team building exercises. This is a big pet peeve of mine. I can't stand them, and I don't think they work. So - and also, similarly, don't accuse your employees of not being a team player. Try to resolve not to do that once in the coming year.

PESCA: You know what would be good? A list of like the four worst cliches, and try not to say them. It'd better changes your mindset. And team player's got to be up there.

Mr. SANDBERG: Team players is just one of those things that you say to someone you don't like and you can't think of any other reason why you don't like them.

STEWART: Yeah. It's a very passive-aggressive idea.

Mr. SANDBERG: Exactly. Other things, though, scheduling meetings. You know, supervisors tend to think that their authority is proportional to the number of meetings they schedule.

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. SANDBERG: If you must schedule meetings, how about resolving to get something done at them rather than just talking about getting something done? I think - you know, fictional deadlines, that's another big one. Don't, you know, people see right through their bosses when their bosses are sort of making up a deadline earlier than it really has to be. You know, God, for employees, there are a whole set of hygiene resolutions, just around the office bathroom. You know, flush aim, don't clip fingernails, you know, shower…

PESCA: You just paint the picture, though, the phrase the unwashed masses come to mind. I mean, the bosses have to do these things that, you know, maybe the Harvard Business School would tell you to do, and all the employees have to do is not stink.

Mr. SANDBERG: Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, it would be helpful.

PESCA: It's important. Yeah.

Mr. SANDBERG: It would definitely be helpful. But then there are other things that employees that are, you know, go beyond hygiene, like, you know, kiss ups can resolve to treat subordinates with the same obsequiousness that they treat their superiors. And backstabbers might fall on their own blade for once.

PESCA: Yeah, but people have to recognize if they fall into those categories, which is tough.

Mr. SANDBERG: Yeah, which is, by the way, a tough thing for people to do. I mean, one thing that you notice working in almost any office is that someone else seems to lack self-awareness, and you know, if you're an honest person, you begin to realize, God, what am I missing about my self? But, like I said, in the spirit of giving, I'd rather work on other people's resolutions.

PESCA: You know, in the modern office what people don't have their own offices - even though it's called an office, you know, there's cubicles. Sometimes they sit in the dreaded open office. What can we do make ourselves less annoying to the people around us?

Mr. SANDBERG: Put your cell phones on vibrate. Big complaint that I've been hearing this year are the annoying ring tones, you know, some AC/DC ring tone or anything like that, you know. And people tend to leave their cell phones at their desk and then disappear for, you know…

PESCA: Right.

Mr. SANDBERG: …hours. You know, obviously, the clip your fingernails, don't clip your fingernails in the office. It's another big one. Eating - your choice of food at your cubicle is another big one. You know, I remember just recently hearing about someone who's cube-mate brought - ate Kimchi, which I think is heavy in garlic.

PESCA: Yeah, very spicy, pickled Korean…

STEWART: Delicious.

Mr. SANDBERG: Right. Delicious, but maybe…

PESCA: Delicious for the person eating it.

Mr. SANDBERG: Right.


Mr. SANDBERG: Less so for the cube-mate. I think choice of food, you know, lunch is a big one. And you know, similarly, it goes without saying that microwavable popcorn will level a whole floor, not just, you know, your own cube-mate.

PESCA: Yes. And I don't know if you heard about popcorn lung, but there's a problem.

Mr. SANDBERG: Yeah, I have, I have. That illness related to inhaling popcorn.

PESCA: Maybe it's just a myth spread by co-workers who didn't want anymore popcorn in the workplace.

Mr. SANDBERG: Never thought of it, wouldn't surprise me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: We got to get one going on Kimchi, also. Well, that's all good stuff. Very quickly, is there a one good way to do it? If you're - if you make the list and write it down, do studies shows that that sort of thing helps?

Mr. SANDBERG: You know, actually, you know, only one-third of the one-third of the people in this country make resolutions that they actually keep.

PESCA: All right, Jared Sandberg writes the Cubicle Culture column for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks, Jared.

Mr. SANDBERG: My pleasure.

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