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Office Cubicle Etiquette In American Business

Office Cubicle Etiquette In American Business

Phyllis Davis (Business Etiquette Consultant) gives expert video advice on: What are the most common complaints people have about cubicle-mates?; What is the etiquette for eating in my cubicle?; How can etiquette help me when I am having a problem with my cubicle-mate? and more...

What are the most common complaints people have about cubicle-mates?

The most common complaints about the people that work around them in the office, cubicle-mates I call them, is if they use speaker phones instead of using headsets. That's a big complaint. And then if a cubicle mate in the office has music on while they are on hold – that's really annoying. People clipping their nails in the office cubicle, or having deep coughs in the office cubicle instead of going in the washroom, or people having fights with their spouses on the phone are also big annoyances. Or people calling creditors and trying to pay their bills on the phone, or people that eat in their cubicle and it draws bugs, are big complaints. Or another common complaint in the office is when somebody that's popular and people come by to visit that person end up staying for longer than three minutes instead of taking it down the hall. People slurping coffee, people making extraneous noises that aren't necessary, including listening to headline news or something on their radio or computer instead of wearing a headset. Headsets are very important in office cubicles. Also, people having dead plants and indeed there are so many things that people do, such as having too many stuffed animals, or whatever the corporate culture allows can be annoying for people that are trying to be professional. Being interrupted would be my number one pick of annoyances with cubicle mates because you are vulnerable to foot traffic that walks by your crew, and people trying to get eye-contact with you, which is very distracting if you're on deadline and you're trying to have some privacy.

Is it appropriate business etiquette to decorate my cubicle?

People do decorate their cubicles. They want to show their individualism as that's what America is based on and in many countries in the world that is not the case. They work in very simple circumstances within their office cubicles, and they stay very focused, and we enjoy our individuality. It's not a bad thing unless it's against your corporate culture. Indeed keeping greeting cards up year-round is not necessary, just as hanging your child's art that's not framed and is really clumsy art is really not professional. Having more than one stuffed animal in you office cubicle is just not necessary as well and considered unprofessional. In certain arenas like private client banking and wealth management, they rather you not do that. Having a calendar and having a professional diploma up is fine, and fine things like a professional blotter is good cubicle etiquette, as well as having a good headset that you wear when making and receiving your phone calls from your office cubicle.

What is the etiquette for eating in my cubicle?

It's appropriate to eat in an office cubicle if that's part of your corporate culture. As long as you clean up well because of the bugs. People complain a lot about people that create a mess and a smell that causes bugs to come in, so it's okay to eat in your office cubicle as long as you clean up well.

What if I need to make personal phone calls during business hours?

You can create privacy for yourself if you need to make a private phone call during office hours. Usually, companies have phones that are in conference rooms where you go and make some personal calls. Or if you have a cell phone, you can certainly do it over lunch. Or if your cubicle mate is missing for lunch and you have some privacy, make it then. There are some circumstances but to sit and make personal phone calls where everybody around can hear your business is too much to ask of your cubicle mates. They will know that you're having problems in your marriage or that you have bad credit or the debtors are calling you at the office. Whatever you can do to create some boundaries for yourself is appropriate in the workplace. Because if people lose trust in you, they'll lose faith in the fact that you're up for the job and you're up for the challenge of doing business and they'll cut you out. They'll freeze you out.

How can etiquette help me when I am having a problem with my cubicle-mate?

Etiquette can help you whilst having a problem with your cubicle mate. It should be done when no one's around to begin with. You should approach your cubicle mate with a smile. Talk through your teeth if you have to, asking "Can I ask you a question?" or even "Id like to ask your feedback on me and, if I may, Id like to give you some feedback on your cubicle etiquette." Another good one is "Is there anything I can be doing that would make it more pleasant to sit next to me?" And your cubicle-mate may tell you the answer, but you can't resent them for it and you have to listen. They may tell you that they don't like your cologne, or you may not know that you tap your pencil incessantly throughout the day or that you are rude to people on the phone. It could be any number of things you're going to hear, so be prepared and come back with "Well, here are some things Id like to talk to you about." Then you can tell your office-mate "Id really appreciate it if you would not use profanity or curse at your wife or say things that are company lies and aren't really the truth. It makes me very uncomfortable." Finally state that you agree to be more conscious of you office cubicle behaviours and that you appreciate them letting you tell them what it is that you needed to say. Talking to your office cubicle-mate can all be done without a fight if you use etiquette. If you regret sitting next to this person and you don't like going to work, then you have got a problem with productivity. Resentments always come out sideways and low-grade anger will kill you.