If you spend most of your 8 hours in a cubicle at work you might be familiar with some of the pet peeves most cubicle workers have including overhearing personal stories of your loud neighbour, having someone’s head unexpectedly pop over your wall to ask you a question or getting the whaff of someone’s lunch three cubicles away.
According to Business 2 Community it’s not that hard to “live in perfect harmony” with your fellow cubicle dwellers if you follow some simple rules of cubicle etiquette at work:
- No Pop-overs. You may be tall enough to look over a cubicle to speak with your neighbor, but avoid this practice at all costs. For one, you’ll startle him as he clips his nose hairs, quite possibly creating an instant medical emergency. Or, if you’re a guy and your neighbor is a woman, she may slap you with a harassment charge for peering down her blouse. If you want to speak to someone, get out of your chair and walk around.
- No Reach-unders. Some cubicles are designed where there is space under the partition. Whose bright idea for that design variation is not known, but it wasn’t likely Miller and Nelson as this design only began to show up years after both gentlemen departed for the great cubicle in the sky. Any part of your person that reaches or moves under the partition can court trouble — an office chair with hard plastic casters can do much damage to one’s hands.
- No. Food. Ever. Those commercials where workers are eating at their cubicles are so very wrong. What, are they trying to convey that people actually work through their lunch breaks? That Wendy’s hamburger may smell so very good to you, but it is turning the stomach of the vegan in the next cubicle. Yes, her salad-munching is annoying and those grains that she eats in the mid-afternoon look like something that was dug up in the cracks of the parking lot. Coffee, tea and water at the desk are acceptable. As for food, that is what the company cafeteria is for.
- Just keep your voice down. Cubicles look private, but as you soon will discover, people can hear conversations including those that they really do not want to hear. Cubicles are an eaves-dropper’s delight and, if your neighbors are nosy, expect that the fight you had with your significant other on the phone will soon be broadcast far and wide. If you don’t want someone to hear it at work, then just don’t say it. Never use a speakerphone!
- Keep it organized and clean. Your cubicle may seem like your very private place, but it is in a very public view anytime someone walks by. Which is often. Keep your workstation organized and avoid placing offensive photos and political cartoons within eyeshot of anyone. Review your company’s conduct code and steer clear of crossing any line that could get you in hot water. You might like a certain political candidate, but that doesn’t mean your can paint a target on the back of an opposing candidate and pin it to your wall.
- Ask for it, don’t take it. Company property is company property, but the rules of cubicles are a bit more complicated than that. For instance, if your neighbor has a stapler or a hole puncher, and you want to borrow it, you need to ask permission first, even if she sourced it from the company supply closet. The equipment ultimately belongs to the company, but she is its steward. Take something without asking and you’ll be branded as a thief for life.
- Tune it down or off. Just like food in the cubicle, music can be problematic too. It might even violate the company’s rules if you have an audio system blaring. Hearing, sight, touch, smell and taste are the five senses and cubicles make sharing these, however unwelcome, a distinct possibility. Put on the headphones if music is allowed, but don’t turn your music up so loud that your neighbors come up behind you and tap you on your shoulder to get your attention.
Remembering and practicing these simple rules of cubicle etiquette will help you be perceived in a positive light by your fellow co-workers and your boss. This in turn will help you gain respect and build more visibility throughout your organization.