Today’s office job mostly assumes having a cubicle as your working place. While such office space solution has lots of advantages for company owners, it is usually hard for employees to adjust their habits to the given environment. Working in a cubicle often means dealing with loud noises, all kind of surprising smells and general privacy absence.
Various office productivity studies confirmed that these typical open-office components lead to lower productivity and higher level of stress. In 2009 dr. Vinesh Oommen, a researcher from Queensland University of Technology, conducted a large-scale literature review of everything written and researched about open-plan offices and how they affect employees. “It has been found that the high level of noise causes employees to lose concentration, leading to low productivity,… There are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity. ” he said.
If changing the working place design is not an option, what other steps can we make towards more productive, comfortable and harmonious office life? How to behave to ease your colleagues existence? And what is the polite way to explain to your workmate that his habits drive you crazy?
First, let’s confirm you are following the cubicle etiquette rules and don’t give your fellow workers reasons for constant headache.
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
Great Way to Start a Day
- Come to the office with a smile. Your friendly face can inspire co-mates and make the beginning of the day seem brighter. Always greet the colleagues you meet on your way to the desk with a kind “Hello”. This although doesn’t mean you have to go around the office with the intention to wish a ‘Good Morning’ to everyone, unless of course, it is a customary practice in your company.
It is important to remember that entering a cubicle of your colleague you enter an individual’s space.Sneaking-up on others is a very bad practice. Make your presence known before visiting the colleague’s cubicle, knock at the wall if possible and wait until you are invited to enter.
- Don’t barge in and start speaking if you see that a person of interest is on the phone, busy doing something on computer or appears deep in thought. Come back later, once he has time to talk with you. Most of the offices have the instant messenger system in place, write the colleague a line checking if he has a minute to meet you. If messengers are not common thing to use, write an email or call the guy.
- Never borrow items from other people in the office without letting them know. In the worst case scenario, if you need something urgently and your colleague is away, leave an apologizing note on his table saying that you took the item and will bring it back as soon as possible.
- Don’t read workmates documents or memos, same applies to their computer displays. Such ill-mannered interest can cost you a friend.
- Overhearing conversations is not appropriate. If you happen to hear something you shouldn’t have, make sure you don’t share this with anyone else.
- Resist the wish to answer on the question a person you overhear is asking someone else. Don’t put yourself in awkward position and remember, curiosity killed the cat.
Respect the Five Senses
Daily mix of intrusive people, loud music and smelly food turn the most patient person into a misanthrope. Your behavior deeply influences on the efficiency of those around. While at work you might want to let go some of your bizarre habits.
- If you got sick, don’t bring the flue to the office. Stay home several days, get better and work from home if necessary. People don’t appreciate the chance of being exposed to the illness, neither they like to hear nonstop cough and see your fight with the running nose.
- Keep your voice down and use ‘the library mode’. No one feels the need to know about the business issues you are trying to solve over the phone.
- Switch your mobile on silent and don’t make personal calls at work. If there is an urgent matter keep the talk as short as possible.
- While having casual chit-chat with a colleague make sure you don’t distract someone who happen to be near you.
- If music keeps you focused, always use headphones. There is a big chance your music preferences don’t coincide with the preferences of your co-mates.
- Don’t speak ‘over the wall’. It might seem convenient to ask your cube neighbor a question while staying in your chair. In fact, such ‘cross-talks’ are extremely agitating and never lead to a constructive conversation. Instead, use instant messenger or go talk to colleague one-to-one.
- Keep your private affairs private. If the information you need to discuss is confidential, find a free meeting room and continue the communication there.
- Eating at your desk is a no-go. There has to be a break room or corporate cafeteria where you can take your lunch. You may think your meal smell tasty, but most of your colleagues will strongly disagree.
- If you can’t live without snacks, choose them smartly. Avoid all kinds of crispy, crunchy ‘loud’ food. Also, be careful with the gum. People mainly don’t realize how noisy they are while chewing it. To be on the safe side, replace the gum with mints.
- Pay attention to the personal hygiene. Take daily showers, wear fresh and neat clothes and keep your breath fresh. It’s rather difficult for the fellow workers to take you seriously when all they can think of is your strong body smell or the stained shirt you keep wearing three days in a row.
- At the same time, don’t overuse perfumes. All sorts of allergies is a common disorder, so be merciful to the co-mates.
- If you need to brush hair, to floss teeth or to polish nails, go to the rest room and do it there. Fight the laziness. See those extra steps as an exercise and a reason to limber up.
- Don’t ever take off your shoes. You can hardly find anything more repulsive than observing a person staying barefoot in the office.
- Don’t over decorate your working space. You might be the biggest fan of Tera Patrick or Robert Downey Jr., but it’s better to honor them at home.
- Keep your desk organized and tidy, messy table can play a nasty trick on you. People subconsciously assume that the sloppy desk points to the clutter in your head.
Implement these easy-to-practice etiquette tips to your daily routine and see your office reality taking turn for the better!
Now, after reviewing the cubicle etiquette checklist, we still have a serious issue to address.
How do you enlighten your bad-mannered co-buddy? Which way should you go if you want him to lose an annoying quirk, but afraid your comment might hurt his feelings? As you probably suspect, there is no panacea and it really depends on the circumstances. But let’s look at several common situations and try to find the best solution.
“Communication works for those who work at it.”
According to Peter Post, a director of the Emily Post Institute, ‘the most of us don’t intend to offend, the majority of people don’t really want to be rude to their co-workers’. Strong desire to be liked is the typical human wish. There is a great chance that your irritating colleague has no idea that his manners actually upset you.
Good news is, some trouble can be eliminated without an uncomfortable dialogue.
If you want to reduce distractions to minimum, try to arrange your desk so if you would face away from the cubicle opening. As well, you might want to avoid eye contact with those who are passing by your place. It will give an impression that it is not the best time to stop for a chit-chat.
If the small talk occurred anyway and you would like to end it as soon as possible, stand up from your chair and walk toward the cubicle’s entrance. You can even use a sneaky excuse saying that you have to go to the restroom.
If the delicate conversation can’t be avoided and you feel the need to express your dissatisfaction, ensure the efficient result with these 3 components:
Talk to the person Tet-a-Tet – choose the moment when no one else is hearing you
Keep it polite – approach the co-buddy in a friendly manner and don’t ever humiliate him
Focus on Solution – don’t express contempt or rage, instead offer the problem’s fix that would suit you both.
Let’s say you aren’t happy about the fact that your cube-buddy is a fan of the French ‘Munster’ cheese. Make sure you talk with him privately and ask friendly ‘Did you know its smell is quite imperfect? Would you mind bringing the cheese in a better package and eat it in the kitchen instead of the cubicle?’
Another method would be to contact your supervisor and ask him to deal with the problem, but think twice before doing so. Most of the bosses prefer to deal with substantial problems rather than asking his subordinates to stop humming or yawning loudly.
Finally, if you don’t feel comfortable taking any of the listed suggestions, forward your colleague an email with the Cubicle Etiquette Article by Etiquette-tips.com or print the list and put it on the office white board. And hope for the colleague to notice and read it!…
Alona is the co-founder of Etiquette Tips - an online magazine that features articles on business etiquette, communication, dress code, table manners, international code of behaviour, gift giving, events & celebrations and more.You can find her on Google + and Twitter
Do you have some question on the Cubicle etiquette or you think we forgot to mention something important? Come talk to us! Leave your comment below and let’s start the conversation!