How to Survive Series: 5 Tips for Maintaining Cubicle Etiquette

Everything written here is in jest, I’m lucky to work in the best office ever!

I am currently living the cube life.

My square block of work paradise is cozy and comfortable; full of my family pictures & my postcard collection, my mini-fridge stocked full of water and yogurt, and a variety of cute little organizational tools and trinkets that I have collected throughout the years. A little oasis in the middle of a rather quiet and unremarkable building situated on the south side of a little university campus.

It is ideal.

As a former middle-school teacher, I welcome the quiet qualities of cube life- the privacy my cube affords me and the calmness I get knowing that I only have to interact with myself on a daily basis.My current profession allows me to interact with others as much as I want or as little as I want.

And this folks, is a wonderful thing!

There are days that I simply want to go to work, do my job, and go home- I know a lot of people can relate to that sentiment. There are other days I want to chat with my colleagues- swap dinner stories or talk about the news headlines or the good shows that were on TV last night. But unlike teaching, I do not have to be on everyday- being on everyday is exhausting.

Of course, there are things about working in a cube that are… not ideal. Over time I have come to realize that in order to maintain my sweet little utopia, a cubicle etiquette must be adhered to and diligently respected. And let me tell you- there is always that one coworker who does not follow cube etiquette.

Here is my Survival Guide for maintaining a highly-productive & peaceful cube life.

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5 Tips for Maintaining Cubicle Etiquette

  1. Keep it quiet! – Wow, shouldn’t this one be obvious? I mean, there are meeting rooms and break rooms and even restrooms for a specific reason. These rooms should be utilized when you are feeling especially social. If you are adamant about discussing last night’s American Idol evictee or the current Red Cup Controversy at Starbucks or the utter adorableness of your brand new puppy, and you see that people around you are working hard, trying to meet deadlines, or basically just being more productive than you; well dang it! You should respect that! After all, would you want to listen to mindless chatter when you are deep in thought? Absolutely not! Cubicle area is not the area to be social- book a meeting room and move your social party there!
  2. Eliminate personal phone conversations from the cube!– I can’t tell you how much I have learned from people having personal discussions on the phone in their cube. A lot of the things I hear I would prefer to have never heard- you never want to know the intensely personal details of a colleague’s life. I am amazed that people even take personal calls at all in the midst of an intensely quiet work environment. I mean, would you not be somewhat mindful of discussing personal details where everyone can hear you? One time, I even heard a guy discuss his credit score with his wife and their outstanding bank loans. Gah! Take your personal conversations outside where they belong, people! I can’t even.
  3. Cubes don’t have doors, but you should pretend that they do!– I will oftentimes work with headphones- jamming out to the Backstreet Boys station on Pandora or listening to Rob Cesternino’s latest podcast. When I have my headphones on, I do not hear anything else and I get pretty entranced in my work. So much of my job as an Instructional Designer takes a deep amount of concentration that I often get lost in what I am doing. Folks, I cannot even list the number of times I have been faced with a pop-in that has literally made me jump 2 feet off my chair. After said pop-in, it takes me at least an hour to slow my heart beat to a work-able pace and re-focus. Let’s just pretend each cube is really a mini office with a door- find a solid surface and give a girl a courtesy knock!
  4. No tuna fish in the office!– Or anything smelly for that matter. Your left-over tuna fish casserole is probably delicious, but day old fish smell is NOT delicious. Take your fish to the break room, or eat your fish outside; the options of where to eat your fish are endless. Smelly food is a great way to irritate the cubes around you, and then you become that person. What if a client visits after your fish feast? Smells always trigger memories, and that client’s memory of your encounter will always be tuna. Is that how you want to be remembered?
  5. Don’t sit on someone’s desk!– Seriously. I mean seriously- do I even have to write it? Yes, because people believe that having a conversation sometimes requires them to sit right on your desk. This is not an acceptable way to conduct business regardless of how casual your dealings may be.  Note that in this conversational setting you are most likely still sitting at your chair so this arrangement will likely be conducive to putting you at eye-level with the offender’s booty. And can I say germs?? I don’t know where this person has previously sat or when they last time washed their pants! The germ possibilities are endless.

There you have it, folks! A simple etiquette that is easy to follow and will ensure the preservation of your work utopia.

Until next time,


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