life in a cubicle

Having spent a few years in cubicles I’ve learned a few rules of etiquette that I’d like to pass on for the benefit of cubicle dwellers everywhere. I’m far from perfect and find myself breaking these rules more often than I’d like, so this is a reminder to me as well as a recommendation for others.

Rule #1 – Don’t ask unnecessary questions
Before distracting someone else with your question, what about a quick search on google, a brief perusal of some documentation or looking it up in a book? If you try to figure out the answer and still need to ask, you can email it to them. It’s much less intrusive and they can answer the question when it’s a good time for them. When you ask a question they have to stop what they’re doing, figure out what you’re asking and then attempt to answer it. When they’re done, they have to try to remember what they were doing. It can be quite time consuming, especially if they were right in the middle of a complicated task. If you make a habit of asking lots of questions, you will end up reducing everyone’s productivity and people will probably not be very anxious to help you with legitimate issues.

Rule #2 – Wear headphones if you want to listen to music
Everyone has their own musical tastes and there is no reason for one person to inflict their preferences on others. I’m not just talking about music from the speakers either. A ripe raspberry (often the result of musical fruit) can be odiferous and very distracting. Humming can also get on other people’s nerves, especially if it’s done off key. Try not to distract those who are trying to work, even if it’s a great tune.

Rule #3 – Talk softly when a friend is visiting
If someone has dropped by to say hello, be considerate of the other folks who don’t have any friends visiting them. They’re already not too keen on the idea that you have friends and they don’t, why antagonize them by being loud about it?


 (Post a comment) | Comments RSS feed
  1. I take it as this is what you have been putting up with ?

    Comment by Tammie on August 1, 2002 @ 12:52 am
  2. Though I’m as guilty as anyone, I agree with the rules

    Comment by Cameron on August 1, 2002 @ 8:31 am
  3. Well, even though I have put up with this, I’ve also dished it out. Like I said, I’m guilty of some of these too. Think of it as my ideal for everyone (including myself) to aspire to.

    Comment by dan on August 1, 2002 @ 9:53 am
  4. I’m probably the one who inspired you to write this. :p Asking questions of other is usually a last resort for me, although humming zippy little tunes and bouncing my leg til the whole floor shakes has got to be one of my favorites.

    Comment by jason on August 1, 2002 @ 7:23 pm
  5. I use a cubedoor to tell others when I am busy. view them on

    Comment by cubeguy on December 4, 2002 @ 1:41 pm
  6. Agh! I should send this out to our team.

    My additions:

    1) Before blurting out your question, ask the person if they have a moment. Maybe they are in the middle of something they need to wrap up. Maybe they have been interrupted 3 times already this hour and if you would just ask, they’d tell you they could help you in 15 minutes.

    2) Once your question has been answered don’t repeat the issue 2-3 more times as an venting of your original frustration.

    3) When you ask for help and you don’t like the answer you get, ask someone else. Don’t argue with the person who helped you.

    4) Along those same being quiet and respectful lines, don’t whistle.

    Comment by Renee on June 11, 2003 @ 8:16 pm
  7. Okay Im usually working outdoors but know that im in this cube i dont wanna get fat. I am in damn good shape now but when i bring things to work the super complains. Are ther exercises within the cub for us who want to be in good shape.

    Comment by Dr Joe on October 24, 2003 @ 10:03 am
  8. I work in a call center and it feels like i am working in a modern day manufacturing plant. There is no difference at all. We are supposed to be perfect little cookie cutter employees!

    Comment by Lenny on January 14, 2004 @ 8:19 pm
  9. Don’t scream over cubicles to discuss matters with your co-workers.

    Do not use your speaker phone to retreive messages from your voice mail OR to dial the phone.

    Comment by KCC on February 11, 2004 @ 12:47 pm
  10. Excellent additions KCC.

    Comment by dan on February 11, 2004 @ 1:57 pm
  11. I am sitting here right now trying to work with some dang humming going on…

    Anyone have a b-b gun?

    Comment by Beth B on December 1, 2004 @ 12:35 pm
  12. Mankind was never meant to sit in cubicles out of the sun for eight or ten hours a day, five or six days a week.

    Which is why I so often find myself threatening, or physically abusing people that work near me. I am Jack’s catlike instincts, and I don’t like people touching me, so stay out of my cube and keep your hands to yourself. I am also Jack’s sense of digust as the politcal agenda of a group of yuppies who still think ownership is the road to success, and that George W. Bush is “a good guy”.

    Thank goodness for drugs, man. Without them I wouldn’t be able to function at the same level as these cretins. Nonetheless, it’s only a temporary fix.

    My advice to people considering any occupation that puts you in a cube is to ask yourself if you don’t mind dressing up like a republican poster-child, talking to and working with people whom you hate more than leprosy, being treated as a number by HR, and micromanaged by a person who has zero experience in your field of business, much less the IQ god gave a gnat.

    Ask yourselves these things and if you still think like in an 6′ by 6′ particle board maze is to your liking, then you’re insane. Go check into your local asylum.

    The only people who work these jobs are greedy, agenda of selfishness a-holes.

    I only do it because Project Mayhem requires it.

    Comment by I am Jack's rage on February 18, 2005 @ 3:23 pm
  13. There’s nothing so new about cubes–open offices have existed for well over a century. There’s also nothing unique about irritating politics; I’ve been treated to a loud 4-person diatribe about how the FCC is killing free speech. What they were defending is already available on cable, via satellite, online, through the mail and at the adult store across the tracks so their complaint wasn’t legitimate anyway. Sure was loud, though.

    So what’s this about “Talk softly when a friend is visiting” followed by a condescending, “You have friends and they don’t”? The generally accepted advice is to keep the noise down, regardless. Here’s a better rule:

    If the conversation involves more than two persons, take it to a conference area. Otherwise, keep it down.

    People don’t seem to realize how much of an irritant noise is. I know a worker who insists that the tapes he brings in need to be heard by everyone, with the volume turned up on the office radio. Forget “library voice”…he doesn’t even have an “indoor voice”. If people would treat noise in offices as they do smoking, we might not even need lists of office etiquette.

    Comment by Eric on July 10, 2005 @ 4:05 am
  14. Eric: I was just being humorous about the not having friends bit. That’s not a bad idea to treat noise like smoking. You can only make noise outside and you have to be at least 25 feet from the nearest building.

    Comment by dan on July 10, 2005 @ 7:21 pm
  15. No gum popping/cracking/snapping! How can people think that is acceptable behavior??

    Comment by Mary on October 18, 2005 @ 4:53 pm
  16. I’ve workined in a cubicle for the first time for two years now and I don’t know if I can EVER ADJUST… Headsets help, but for some people they feel singing along is a great idea!!! NOT… I would much rather listen to the music, so please shut up!!

    Comment by Pam Givens on January 9, 2009 @ 8:29 am

Comments are closed