Tribalism is when a person strongly identifies and is loyal towards a specific group or “the tribe”
When I joined the corporate-going clan as an analyst at a consulting firm a few years back, I envisioned that I would have a cabin to myself like I had seen on television. Little did I know that having my own cabin was a distant reality and I was given my seat on the office floor, in that ubiquitous feature of the modern office, the cubicle. The colorful world of a cubicle on the 6th floor of my office building was so much fun that the cabin all to myself was hardly missed. My cube-mates were people from the team that I was joining. Luckily for me, two of them were college graduates who were inducted with me and the third guy looked like a happy-go-lucky older and very sane gentleman. The first impression was rather familial but in the coming few days, I learnt the abc’s of cubicle etiquette, the communication channel and how to manage my volume better. A far cry from what happens in the four walls of home sweet home but a great atmosphere nonetheless.
Besides working in a cluster within a cubicle, employees are bound to engage with each other and talk about a multitude of topics because of close proximity. These range from what is happening in their personal lives to how they feel about their day ahead, at work. In today’s close-knit and rapid environs, the “cubicle connect” is really impactful and needs to be nurtured well, in order to maintain harmony and achieve qualitative output at the workplace. Even though social interaction at the workplace has taken a new shape altogether with the rise of social media, the personal touch within the cubicle arena retains its distinction. Sitting together with people you can easily connect with, also helps in getting work done faster. Hence, most companies today typically have the seating plan integrated with the mentoring strategy for new entrants.
Paul Fennemore of ViaPoint Consulting contended six human behaviors that drive any kind of social element at the workplace. Two of these that are directly linked to the bonhomie of the cubicle setup are ‘Homophily’ and ‘Tribalism’. Homophily is the tendency of human beings to associate with others similar to them. Birds of a feather flock together. Tribalism is when a person strongly identifies and is loyal towards a specific group or “the tribe”. A person derives social value from participating in that community. The birth of such communities is typically in cubicles where employees working together are able to communicate and connect with ease.
There sure can be hurdles while working in a cubicle too. If you’re too friendly with the cube-mate next to you, it might be considered unprofessional. Also, one of my team members who sat next to me felt that, often discussions about what other people are working on interrupted work flow and concentration at her end. I had to literally request not just my own cubicle-residents but also the next cubicle’s people to lower their volumes while I would talk to clients from my workstation. These are just some of the everyday issues – I’m sure each of us who has worked for a significant amount of time in a cubicle can speak of something from experience.
All said and done, you haven’t experienced corporate India if you haven’t worked sitting in a cubicle. The everyday happenings of the pseudo four walls as well as the closeness, all are cherished and teach some very important lessons when it comes to people management. Thus the cubicle connect, regardless of all the virtual workplace hype, lives on.