I’ve spent most of my accounting career debiting and crediting in one cubicle or another (and, consequently, coming to identify with Dilbert and the guys from “Office Space” more and more) having never giving a second thought to how cubicles came to be. That changed recently as I desperately tried to come up with a topic for Great Moments in Accounting History.
While it wasn’t an accountant who came up with the idea of cubicles, it very well could have been.
It seems that the cubicle came into existence in the late sixties, based on the ideas of one Robert Propst, and were originally dubbed “Human Kennels”. Upon hearing this term PETA created a backlash claiming that, “Such conditions would be inhumane for animals and, therefore, they should not be called kennels” at which time they were renamed “Action Offices”.
“Action Offices” were an instant hit in the corporate world as it afforded companies a way to provide some privacy to the corporate commoners while continuing to reserve their real offices (a.k.a. Inaction Offices) for the employees who never actually show up to the office. This of course created a sense of harmony and equality amongst corporate employees that had not been seen outside of the Middle East (or Alabama).
At some point during this 40+ years of corporate peacefulness the name “Action Offices” was replaced in common vernacular by the term “cubicles” because that’s what they look like, plus Action Office Farm doesn’t have the same ring as Cubicle Farm does.