Cubicle Manners and Etiquette
An exceptional article recently landed on my desk by Ellen Reddick. Ellen specializes in training, consulting and coaching in business professionalism and communications. The article tackles the difficult subject of cubicle manners and etiquette. Anyone who has worked in a cubicle knows that frequent interruptions, distractions and lack of privacy go hand in hand with an open space.
Reddick suggests that companies establish basic cubicle and etiquette rules. Ask for input and agreement in a meeting so everyone is included and on board. Write them down so they can be handed to each new employee. Post them on your internal Website for reference and refer to them when a situation requires a reminder. The most important thing to remember is, if you are the boss follow and respect the agreed upon cubicle etiquette. No one is exempt from common courtesy.
Suggested Cubicle Manners and Etiquette
- Don’t eavesdrop. Although you do not mean to eavesdrop, often you simply can’t help it. When someone adjacent to you asks someone a question for which you know the correct answer, resist the urge to volunteer this information. This action will only confirm that you were eavesdropping, even if it was unintentional.
- Be invited. Do not enter another cubicle unless you are invited. Do not stand outside a cube to conduct a conversation. Converse either in your cube or in that of your colleague.
- Don’t be obnoxious. Do not use sign language or whisper to attract the attention of someone who is on the phone. Return later to carry out a conversation if you see someone dialing, checking e-mail or voicemail or involved in another activity.
- Talk softly. Be aware of how your voice carries. Always use your “library voice” when speaking in a cubicle environment.
- Do not play with electronics. Avoid using your speakerphone for conversations and voicemail retrieval. If you listen to music, use your headphones.
- Keep private matters private. Do not exchange confidential information in a cubicle. If you would not want it published in the local newspaper, do not discuss it in your cube. Try to find a meeting room, or take your conversation outside.
- Stay home. If you are ill, stay home. No one likes a martyr. No one appreciates taking your cold or flu home to his or her loved ones.
- Keep snacking to a minimum. The smell, noise and mess of snack foods may be offensive to others. Also, some people are allergic to certain snacks such as peanuts, and popcorn can make others nauseous.
- Decorate with taste. Whether you furnish your office space with lava lamps and throw pillows or company policy and throw charts, remember that your cube is viewed by others throughout the day.
- Prevent distractions. If possible, arrange your desk to face away from your cubicle opening. Less eye contact could mean fewer interruptions.
- Do not sneak up on others. Not everyone has a cute rear view mirror mounted on his or her monitor. Unless you can bring someone out of cardiac arrest, follow the practice of knocking on a cube wall, saying, “Excuse me, do you have a minute?” or likewise letting your presence be known.
- Be cautious with plants etc.. Although serving as good noise buffers, plants tend to drop leaves and leak water – and not only in your cubicle. Don’t overdo it, a conservative approach is usually better than cultivating a jungle. Remember that others may have allergies to certain plants.
- Respect privacy. When working in a shared space, suggest to the others that you take lunch breaks at different times to allow each of you some quiet time.
- Avoid eating strong foods at your desk. If possible, eat your Limburger cheese sandwich or roasted garlic and onion pizza in a cafeteria or break room.
- Get some exercise. Resist the urge to ask your cubicle neighbor a question “over the wall.” Get up and walk around the corner, send an e-mail or instant message, or call on the phone to ask if your colleagues are available. Besides disturbing them, you will be disturbing everyone else by blurting out your query or comment.
- Mind your own business. Use a conference room phone, other remote phone or cell phone (outside the office) for private conversations. No one cares to listen to your wedding plans, confrontations with your spouse, etc.
- Be aware of all scents. Take into account body odor, candles, flowers, perfumes, food etc. Scents travel as easily as sounds over cube walls and if your fellow co-worker has allergies, the odor may make them ill.
- Sounds. Turn your cell phone ringer off and please do not leave it on your desk to vibrate away when you are gone. Don’t be discourteous to others with sounds. Turn your computer sounds down and be aware of the noise you create and make adjustments for your neighbors.