Thursday, November 18, 2004


New Office Arrangement

I get into a lot of arguments with a lot of people. It is one of my defining characteristics. I generally don't take them too seriously, but as some of you may have read here before, occasionally others take them more seriously.

I felt good about myself today because I avoided starting something with an insane coworker. J and myself arranged the supply room one day last week in a manner that made economical use of space, was aesthetically pleasing, and just generally made sense. I came into the office today to find out that a coworker had been in earlier in the week and had rearranged the supply room drastically so that it had none of the above 3 properties. It makes horrible use of space, putting office equipment at bizarre angles for no apparent reason other than to leave corners inaccessible. It is not at all aesthetically pleasing and almost makes me feel claustrophobic. Finally it just defies common sense as to why one would go from the former arrangement to the latter. I came close to writing an email to this coworker and pointing out that he is insane, but I decided that despite my objection to the arrangement I am not particularly upset, but rather just perplexed as to why he would do it. I'm sure it must be because he is a socialist, but I am having trouble explaining the connection.

The economist in me starting thinking though. The office area was arranged when he got there. He had to undergo actual effort and work to rearrange it. It must have been worth it for him to rearrange (revealed preference). So what additional value must he be getting out of the new arrangement that he was not getting out of the old arrangement? My first reaction was that he was specifically trying to annoy me and that would be worth the effort to pretty much anyone who has met me. Still, he doesn't seem to take positions for the sole purpose of annoying me in arguments so why would he engage in an activity that entails much more work than simply saying things to me? Then I thought about budget maximization. He gets to allocate time to rearranging the office on his timesheet. Maybe he is trying to pad his hours? This doesn't make sense either because he actually has to rearrange and this means that he can't really use those hours towards something more productive. It would make sense if he said he spent 3 hours moving stuff but then actually wrote reports. That would at least on paper increase his productivity. This doesn't do that though, so it also seems unlikely. So what could possibly be the reason for the moving of the furniture into an absurd configuration? Well, this coworker is fairly obsessive and just a tad controlling about the equipment room. I honestly believe that this was a territorial move. He came in and saw a sensible arrangement of furniture and equipment and realized that others had invaded his territory. He had to reclaim it. He couldn't just move one or two things around as this would merely be a modification of the design that others had started. The only way to truly claim the territory was to make sure the new design in no way resembled the old design. Hence the nonsensical nature of the room.

Of course this doesn't resolve my economic curiosity as now I want to know why is he so territorial over this area? Well, I have a theory which is probably not right, but I will try it anyway. This person orders supplies for the office. Supplies are stored in the equipment room. If others were to take over the equipment room as territory, then it would be encroaching on the actual supplies and thus attacking a primary responsibility of his. I have worked many jobs and I know as much as anyone that power that the supply person can have to make your life easy or a hellish misery matched only by working in Cleveland. Jobs that give you control over the supplies are precious because they allow you to exert large amounts of power over others. Hence the supply room is a way of signaling that you are willing to fight to maintain control of the supply lines. This person to the best of my knowledge does not use the power over the supply lines for his own benefit or to wreak havoc on his coworkers lives, but judging by his personality, I'm pretty sure he likes the knowledge that he could (who wouldn't?) and so this is the completely ridiculous signaling theory that I am proposing for why I now have to work in an office with a supply room that looks like it was organized by the Mad Hatter.

Night all

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