With many employees working in cubicles these days, it is important to consider how to be a good neighbor in cubicle land. Good cubicle etiquette includes the following considerations.
- Consider Your Volume – Even the best cubicles are not completely soundproof. Be conscious of your volume whether you are speaking to someone in your office or on the phone. You do not want to share your conversation with the entire row of cubicles and you don’t want to disrupt their work. You also don’t want to be distracted by their conversations and calls. Be respectful of your neighbors.
- Minimize Hallway Conversations – While it can be convenient and productive to have a quick work conversation in the hallway with a colleague, if you are just outside other cubicles, your conversation can and will be overhead. This has implications for confidentiality but can also be disruptive to those trying to get some work done. Be mindful of the potential for disruption and step to a convenient conference room or to a general corridor away from the cubicles.
- Confidentiality – Do your work each day assuming that everything you say can be heard by others and that whatever is on your desk may be seen as well. Have confidential conversations in a private area. Do not leave confidential materials out on your desk if you are stepping away for a meeting. Protect the information you work with by being mindful of the public nature of cubicle space.
- Shouting Over the Wall – You know the person next to you can hear you so rather than getting up, you shout a quick question over the wall. Unfortunately more than just the person next to you can hear this and it can be disruptive. You also do not know if your colleague is currently on the phone or with someone in their cubicle. Get up and walk to the other cubicle to make your request or if appropriate in the given work situation send a text or email or pick up the phone. Shouting across the wall is unprofessional and distracting.
- Fragrances – Just as noise easily travels between cubicles so do fragrances and odors. Do not wear excessive fragrance to work. It can be very irritating to colleagues with allergies. Also avoid unpleasant odors in your lunch choices or save the stinky fish for the lunchroom not your desk. Whatever is in your cubicle doesn’t stay there, others will smell your choices and could be bothered by them.
- Personal Conversations & Calls – You are at work to work but life often interferes causing the need for a quick personal conversation or telephone call. Be mindful of what you want other people to hear. That call to your doctor may be much more appropriate from the conference room so your colleagues don’t hear personal details. Colleagues will often grow annoyed and resentful if they have to listen to long conversations with your children or parents or a detailed description of what you plan to make for dinner that night.
- Decorations – You should first be aware of the company policy. Do not do anything that violates direct company policy. Keep any personal photographs, sports memorabilia or what ever else you like to surround yourself with inside your cubicle. Do not decorate the outside walls which are in the public space. Do not display anything that could be considered offensive or in poor taste.
- Private Conversations with Staff – If you need to share feedback with a colleague or discuss performance issues with an employee, do not do it in a cubicle. Give the person the respect and privacy they deserve by booking a conference room or arranging to use an office. Performance feedback is not something others in the group should hear.
Bottom line, common courtesy and respect will go a long way in ensuring a peaceful co-existence with your fellow residents of cubicle land.