Minding Your Ps and Cubicles

by Laura Merrill, Editor-in-Chief of Career Connection

You’ve successfully landed a job in a salary range you’re comfortable with, and you’re ready to start work in your new office. You’ve even chosen art work to hang on the walls.

Wake up, newbie! You’re not getting an office with a door; you’re getting a cubicle, along with a lot of the working population. Especially given that you’re new to the workforce, you can pretty much count on residing in a cube for awhile. It’s the new business configuration.
What follows are some tips on how you can make pod life a pleasant experience for you and your fellow cube-dwellers.
Cubicle Farm

Leave the Prairie Dogs in the Prairie
Everyone likes a little privacy when they’re working, so be sure to respect that of your co-workers. You can do so in many ways. For example, don’t “prairie-dog” over the tops of cubes. This is annoying and an invasion of privacy. Likewise, don’t peek into every cubicle as you walk down the corridor towards the copy machine. Instead, avoid making eye contact unless you wish to address someone.

Knock Three Times…
Pretend there’s an office door and knock gently on the cube wall if you need to speak to someone. A lot of cube inhabitants situate their workstation so they’re facing away from the door, so you’ll need to be aware of that when seeking their attention. In other words, don’t sneak up on someone. Announce you’re there by greeting the person quietly.

You Stink!
Do you enjoy Kung Pao chicken from Double Dragon? Well, Susie next door is completely nauseated by Chinese food. Be respectful by eating hot meals in the lounge. If no lounge is available, at least be sure to empty your trash immediately so smells don’t linger for long. Also, be careful not to overdo it on the perfume or aftershave. Your cube mates may be allergic. Sounds simple enough, but keep your shoes on. You don’t want to offend your neighbors with stinky feet or other body odors!

Quiet Please
You’re not talking to your hard-of-hearing Grandpa, so make sure you use your “library voice” to ensure your cube mates can concentrate. You can also help out by turning off your cell phone, by not using speaker phone while you check your voice mail, and by reserving a private room for conference calls. Likewise, use a headset to listen to iTunes™, and mute your PC to avoid auditory distractions.

Do you really want your co-workers to hear about your weekend of partying or your fight with your spouse? It’s hard for your colleagues not to eavesdrop or gossip when you’re providing all the fodder they need by talking about private matters in your pod. Keep such calls to a minimum or, better still, go to the lobby or outside and use your cell phone.

Decorate with Professionalism

Foliage in your pod may help reduce noise levels, so you may wish to invest in a plant or two. But don’t go overboard, allowing the plants to creep into your cube-mate’s workspace. Similarly, don’t offend the eyes of passersby with tasteless and politically incorrect “artwork.” Ensure you choose art that is classy and professional.

Help Yourself
Hopefully, after reading this article you’re informed about pod etiquette. Unfortunately, your co-workers may not be. To avoid distractions and stay focused on your work, keep your back to the entrance to your cube. This will help you avoid eye contact with others as they pass your office space. Too, improve productivity by setting different times for lunch breaks. This will give you and those closest to your workspace a window of time without distractions. If even the slightest noises are too distracting to you, invest a dollar or two in a pair of foam ear plugs. You’ll be able to concentrate without being unrealistic about your expectations for quiet.

Because pod farms are so commonplace, professional etiquette must be held to a higher standard. Demonstrate your professionalism and courtesy by keeping these guidelines in mind.


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