The Cubicle Chronicles, by Lynn Brookdale

Bethany Bowers is like most recent college grads: idealistic, underemployed, and broke. After leaving her dead-end telemarketing job, Bethany happily accepts a position at a prestigious Pittsburgh recruiting firm. She soon discovers, however, that it’s a corporate world and she’s just living in it. There’s her obnoxious, self-absorbed boss, his scantily-clad “executive assistant,” and a host of other co-workers who give the expression “the inmates are running the asylum” a whole new meaning. After realizing that life in a cubicle farm isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Bethany begins to wonder what else the world holds in store for her. As if professional trials were not enough, the insanity spills over into her personal life. Stress wreaks havoc on wedding planning with her fiancé, aggravates a sibling rivalry with her older brother, and explodes her relationship with her helicopter parents. With the help of Heidi, her friend and only normal co-worker, Bethany goes on a hilarious and introspective journey of self-discovery. (synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

I’ve spent most of my working life in an office, during my long stint in property management, and a shorter one in a call center, obtaining medical records for insurance companies. I’ve worked as an assistant in an elementary school office, and I’ve even been hired on at a temp agency. My employment required me to work well with others, to follow proper office etiquette, and to maintain an obligatory “the customer is always right” mentality, even when I didn’t want to. My experiences really made me understand what Bethany goes through, in The Cubicle Chronicles.

Bethany goes out into the workforce with high hopes. A recent college grad, she soon discovers that her degree isn’t getting her far in the field she’d prefer to work in. It seems the only jobs she’s able to acquire are office admin-related, quickly moving from a hellish experience at a telemarketing company, to what she assumes will be a huge step up, working for a recruiting firm. She soon discovers that the steps she’s taken aren’t leading her up, but down, slowly. Like quicksand.

Her boss is no boss at all, but an overgrown child who has no concept on how to run a business, let alone managing the employees within it. Mostly everyone around Bethany rules their life based on favoritism, who they prefer, who they like the most. The job has no merits based on skill or application. No one cares that Bethany works hard or picks up the slack when everyone else folds. All they care about is being liked, and kissing the boss’ butt.

On the flip side, even though you feel the frustration and pure angst Bethany has while dealing with her inept co-workers, you also can’t help but feel annoyed with her. Having been in plenty of situations where I’m dealing with people I’d rather not deal with, I know how hard it can be to even want to associate with someone who annoys you. But, Bethany purposely distances herself at every given chance, finding every excuse to check out of work functions and moments where she could do some character building with her co-workers. Moments where she could take the high road, finding ways to discover common ground that could make her work environment more palatable.

Her stressors at work bleed into every other aspect of her life, her relationship with her family, her fiancé. What starts out as work issues turns into an obsession, something she can’t help but focus on daily. It gets to the point where Bethany realizes she needs to make a crucial decision on what she wants to do with her life. Can she find something better, or will she be stuck forever?

The Cubicle Chronicles was a fun journey into the world of a young woman who is just starting out, taking me back to my own experiences in an office. I’m sure most of us have a story or two we could share, and that’s what we get with Bethany. Her own hilarious, uncomfortable, awkward moments while trying to find her way. It’s a real learning curve, as it often can be in the customer service realm, and we get to see Bethany’s learning curve, not only in the workforce, but within her outlook, too.

Reviewed for Chick Lit Central

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