Cubicle Etiquette

Cubicle Etiquette

Cubicle etiquette is for you, for your peers and for those you manage. Didn’t see your boss mentioned….

No, you didn’t see your boss mentioned.

Your boss has his own set of peers and superiors. If he doesn’t pick up on cubicle etiquette clues, that’s his problem and perhaps your opportunity. The rules that apply to you *do not* apply to your boss. Sound unfair?

Yes, it is.

Just remember, the rules that apply to your boss are the same, but YOU cannot apply them to your boss. So if she is doing something that drives you wacky, chances are it drives her boss wacky too. Let her boss noticed, DO NOT point out her bad behavior – unless it is fraudulent, unethical or really, really, really dangerous. Just make sure you are always prepared to step up a level.

Okay, so back to Cubicle Etiquette!

To decorate or not to decorate, THAT is the question.

What is appropriate to use in your office or cubicle? While you want to be comfortable, you are at work to work. Yes, sounds simple, but it bears repeating: You are at work to work.

Cubicle Etiquette Faux Pas
Cubicle Etiquette Green Light: One piece of sports memorabilia, or one beanie from your kid sister, 1-2 pillows to adjust your chair (if you absolutely must), a small to regular size calendar of your favorite sports team, not their dancers….

If you inhabit a cube farm (and who doesn’t), then you may overhear any number of noises. Below are the most offensive as determined by the number of complaints I receive.

TOP TEN Cubicle Etiquette Violations:

10. The Candy Jar.
Having a candy jar on your desk in plain sight (!), and not sharing is not cool. You guarantee that your co-workers will plot for your demise. If you are so cheap that you don’t want to fund multiple candy habits, then buy crappy candy. Or, convert to celery with peanut butter…. No one will fight you for that.

9. Surf’s Up!
Surfing the internet to non-work related sights is bad form. If your office has one woman for every 300 men, like mine, loud proclamations about the preview video to Girls Gone Wild and other similarly themed sights are not only not appreciated, but could land you, YOU, in a heap of trouble. Don’t go there. If you must “go there,” in after hours, don’t share it with the office.

8. Stinky Food Syndrome.
MMMmmmmm. Don’t you just love the smell of bleu cheese melted over raw onions served with liver and asparagus? You do? Well, that makes one. Do not be adventurous with food selections that will be reheated and served in the office via Tupperware.

7. Step away from the Bluetooth.
Gabbing on cell phone, while not the top cubicle etiquette violator, is one of the more dangerous. How many conversations have you accidentally started with someone who didn’t realize you were on your cell phone? More than 1? Instead of annoying people like most of this list, this one ENRAGES people. Really. It’s like road rage indoors, coming to a hallway near you.

6. Crunch-er-ific!
So you like Corn nuts? Sunflower seeds? Well, that’s nice for you. That constant crunching or spitting into cup sound is likely making your neighbors very grumpy. While unscented, the residual noise created by consuming the seeds and nuts is gross AND let’s everyone know what pace you are working. Watch it. Folks might be timing your seed spits…. True!

5. Showcasing Collectibles.
Not only is it tacky to have a pile of action figures, but also it makes you look like an 8 year old. There’s nothing wrong with collecting tin lunch boxes of superheroes, but don’t blame the janitor when one walks away. Keep your treasures at home. This includes your children.

4. Conversations over cube walls
Cross-cube conversations when the speakers are still seated at their desks cause more confusion and disruption than Paris Hilton running through the office in a bikini. Get your lazy butt up and have the conversation face-to-face. No excuse. It may be the only exercise you get all day….

3. No shoes, no service.
Removing your shoes in the office, particularly if you have mildly ripe feet, is grounds for moving you to the elevator shaft. That scent gets into the air and circulates like a bad cold on an airplane.

2. Audible Audio.
I like Cypress Hill; You like Patsy Kline…. Can you see problems? If you absolutely must have music for a short duration during your work day (remember, you are here to work) … Ear plugs or headset, your choice.

1. Using your speakerphone!
Wait until you get an upgrade buddy. If we wanted to be on a conference call with you, we’d be in the conference room. This is particularly bogus when describing things to a doctor, discussing sensitive customer information, and making smoochy noises to your sweetie.

Repeat offenders should be flogged. You know who you are….

Can’t get enough Cubicle Etiquette? For more
cubicle etiquette
on using your phone: Office Phone Etiquette and Business Phone Etiquette (work mobile) should meet your needs.

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Personal Success Coach Series.

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11 thoughts on “Cubicle Etiquette”

  1. Re: Cubicle etiquette

    We have a 4 person shared cubicle, one of the persons constantly clears her throat, whistles when not clearing her throat, laughs and talks to herself…

    Help! How do we tell her to stop? One of us has asked her about the whistling and her comment was, I don’t know I’m doing it! So STOP right? not that easy with this person, and the management knows and does nothing.

    Thanks for your help,


  2. Help! How do we tell her to stop? One of us has asked her about the whistling and her comment was, I don’t know I’m doing it! So STOP right? not that easy with this person, and the management knows and does nothing.

  3. I feel your pain. I have a cube neighbor who likes to listen to classic rock all day. I can (sort of) deal with that. What really bugs me is when she whistles randomly along with the song. I overheard her telling someone the other day that she knows she’s probably driving people crazy, but she just HAS to have music to work. Seriously?

  4. I have a cubicle neighbor who has no “cubicle etiquette” whatsoever. He is constantly grazing on all kinds of crunchy foods (i.e. carrots, toast and cereal) all day long. He also slurps his coffee loudly. All these things I can deal with (sort of, when I put my headphones on and blast something soothing like Metallica or Slayer) but the kicker is all the personal calls he makes to his wife. He starts every conversation with “Hey, Babe! What’s going on…” and finishes it with “Love you too, MMMMM-AAAHH! (that’s the sound of him blowing her a kiss)” and this happens between 4 and 6 times a day. Is there anyway I can nicely tell him to tone it down without causing problems? I don’t know if it is bothering anyone else, I’m his only cube neighbor, though there are other cubes in the department. I don’t want to be seen as the department grouch but if it keeps up I’m going to have to find another place to work.

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  7. There are 8 of us here. One lady (right in the middle of everyone) coughs with her mouth open. Whether she had a cold or not. She claims its “allergies”. The worst is we can’t spray Lysol because she is allergic to it and makes her throat close up! Management had spoken to her but it doesn’t work.

  8. Remember that we spend 8-10 (or more) hours a day in our cubes, try not to get upset because someone likes to eat chips every once in a while or has 8 million postcards on their walls. I used to sit in a cube next to a woman whose family called at least 20 times a day and had long conversations in Russian. You know what I did? Put in headphones or focused on my work. Seriously, you spend so much of your life in that little box, it’s only fair to try and be understanding of those around you. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to be on our best cube behavior (and how is 2011 and people still don’t have headphones to listen to their music?) but asking people to sit and type silently and never eat, remove a shoe, clear their throat, or have a personal conversations is not realistic.


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