I was teaching a class yesterday, Professionalism in the Workplace, and we had a great discussion around cubicle etiquette.   Since there were so many questions, I thought it would be a safe jump to think that many of you are also wondering about cubicle etiquette.

The truth is, cubicle environments aren’t perfect. They are often riddled with noise challenges, space frustrations, and irksome interruptions. Let’s take an honest look at the things you really want to say in your cubicle world … and then learn what you can do.

  1. “Um, hello! Invisible door.”  

In fact, some doors appear to be so invisible that some of your co-workers may assume they can enter your cubicle at any time.

2.  “Congratulations!  You are tall enough to see over the cubicles.”

Some cubicle walls are taller than others; no matter how tall the walls are, there are still those co-workers who think it is best to forego emailing and calling in favor of communicating OVER the wall!

3.  “It’s okay. I completely understand how you could mistake the phone to my ear as an invitation for you to stand there.”

Some people have no idea (others don’t care) that a phone to your ear means you are actually busy having a phone conversation.

4.  “Shut Up!”

Voice immodulation disorder or just loud?  Chances are they are just loud.  This is the person every one can hear – including the customers on the phone.

5.  “Would you like me to get you a cot?” 

How wonderful your co-workers like you, but really!?!  How long are they going to hang out in your space?

Now that we have had a chuckle or two, let’s get down to what you can do about these poor cubicle behaviors.  The following are a combination of ideas I’ve heard from people in my classes and ideas I have used myself.

“Um, hello! Invisible door.”

a)    Post a sign on the outside of your cubicle that says, “Please knock before entering”.  Or if your department has a sense of humor maybe post, “An inability to recognize the invisible door could result in unintended plastic surgery.”

b)    Talk about it at a department meeting and explain why it is important to respect the cubicle space of each other.

 “Congratulations!  You are tall enough to see over the cubicles.”

a)    Be honest.  Simply say, “It is distracting for me when people talk over the walls. Please go to the person you are talking to, email them, or call them.”

b)    Erect a temporary vertical extension to your wall.

“It’s okay. I completely understand how you could mistake the phone to my ear as an invitation for you to stand there.”

a)    Hold your index finger up without making eye contact to indicate you are busy.  After completing your phone call, talk with that person

b)    Turn your back to the person waiting.

“Shut Up!”

This is most common complaint I hear from people working in cubicle environments. ( *Note: There will always be some level of noise that seeps into your cubicle space.)

a)      For the person(s) who is just loud, they need to know.  Some people have voices that carry and resonate naturally (think of James Earl Jones or Barry White). When talking with them maintain a level of respect.

b)      As a team, develop a fun signal to let each other know the volume is getting too loud. Perhaps have a white towel that gets dropped into the cubicle of the loud folks.  Or sing a song.  Whatever signal is decided upon, be sure everyone is truly on board.

“Would you like me to get you a cot?”

a)    Remove all extra chairs from your cubicle.

b)    Tell them you are happy to continue the conversation at lunch time.

c)    Stand up and walk toward the exit opening of your cubicle.

d)   Explain why you can’t chat.

Sometimes a little simple, honest communication is all it takes.  May you enjoy your cubicle!

**If you have fabulous techniques for managing cubicle office environments please share them by leaving a comment.  I would love to read about your perspective and experiences.