What is the Significance of a Corner Office?

Michael Pollick

While those not familiar with the dynamics of office life may not see the difference between a corner office and a cubicle, there is actually a very complex social structure at work. Most employees in a typical office setting work semi-privately in open cubicles placed in the center of the room. Managers, supervisors or executives, however, often work out of finished private offices located around the perimeter of the office floor. The most coveted location on the entire floor is the corner office.

Unlike a corner office, cubicles do not offer privacy.
Unlike a corner office, cubicles do not offer privacy.

The corner office is almost always reserved for the highest ranking employee or supervisor on the floor. Other managers or supervisors may have well-furnished offices, but the occupant of this office is traditionally viewed as the one most likely to advance through the company ranks. This office is considered a tangible reward for years of dedicated service or a promotion with higher responsibilities. While cubicle-bound employees must often work in a frenetic, noisy environment, the corner office provides much more privacy, along with a view of the outside world from two different windows.

While the atmospheric and logistical benefits of this office are important, its real appeal lies in the career advancement that it symbolizes. In many college business courses, students are encouraged to strive for this office, or at least develop the drive necessary to earn such a promotion. The corner office is often described as the desired destination for an employee working his or her way up from the mailroom to the boardroom.

There are hundreds of self-help books on careers which use the corner office as one measurement of career success. Few employees will ever see the inside of a company's executive suite, but through hard work, this office, along the perks surrounding it, can be reached. The corner office gives its occupant a real feeling of accomplishment, and recognition for his or her years of service.

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Discussion Comments


@Phaedrus, I had a completely different experience when I finally got to the corner office. The promotion and the higher salary was great, don't get me wrong, but I found I worked more efficiently when I was around a lot of people. The noise and the energy of the main cubicle farm helped me stay motivated. When I got my own office, I found the silence to be unbearable. I started looking for reasons to leave the corner office, even though my new position required a lot of computer work and interfacing with the executives upstairs. I had to remind myself that I was now a supervisor and I had to keep some distance from my staff down the hall.


I have a friend who finally made it to the corner office and he says it's everything he thought it would be. He has a personal secretary who screens all of his visitors, so he can work all morning without any interruptions if he chooses. His job requires a lot of attention to detail, so being out of a noisy cubicle farm helps him concentrate. Some of his former co-workers still tease him about moving up to the corner office and forgetting the little people, but they also respect his position. He spends time with the company's executives, but he doesn't really want to move any higher than where he is right now.

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