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Cubicle Etiquette, Respect, & Awareness

I work for a fairly small company (40-50 people) where most of the staff have their own office. There are a handful of us, though, who work in cubicles and life in an open work space can become quite noisy as people are walking and talking throughout the office (I'm sure some of you have probably experienced this). That doesn't bother me so much; I chalk it up as being a part of the everyday office environment. What drives me insane are my fellow cubicle dwellers who don't know the difference between a business and personal environment. They sit on the phone and talk to their family and friends ALL DAY. Not only that, but they're EXTREMELY LOUD. I've seen some who shop online ALL DAY LONG. There's even a person here who clips their fingernails and toenails in their cubicle. It's truly unbelievable. I'm wondering what I should do about this or IF I should do anything at all. All of the noise from the personal phone calls and the constant need to dodge flying toenails have become very disruptive. The problem is that the offenders don't sit near there managers so their managers aren't (PROBABLY aren't) aware of what's going on. I hate to be the adult tattle-tale but I feel like I need to talk to someone in management about this. Is this the right/wrong way to handle this? What should I do? Signed, Toenail Dodger in Noisy Office

Submitted by: Anonymous


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Dear Toenail Dodger in Noisy Office: Depending on the state of your relationship with your co-workers, I would first, state to the offenders that you are having a problem. I would respectfully advise the louder talkers to please be courteous of their surroundings and not talk so loud. As for the toenail clipper, I would request that if they have to do it in their cubicle, to please make sure none of the nails land in your cubicle. They might not even be aware that this is happening. As far as the shoppers goes, I wouldn't worry about it too much. There is so much monitoring of computer systems nowadays that eventually something will be done (at least we can hope so). If none of the above situations changes, then I would consider going to upper management. I wouldn't let too much time pass because then upper management might ask what took so long to bring it their attention. I hope this helps. Good luck. Anonymous on 3/1/2013 11:14:55 AM
Ah, life in the cubicle village can be enlightening?sometimes too enlightening. I?ll try to look at this from both vantage points. To live in cubicle village, you have to cultivate a refined ability to ignore what is being said around you. Focus on your work, not what your next door neighbor is saying. If the volume gets too loud, do what I do when my apartment neighbors get too loud. Stop by for a quick visit and saying something along the lines of, ?Hello Mary! How?s it going today. Listen, I don?t know if you are aware of this or not, but with us only having a thin wall between us, I can easily overhear your personal and/or family conversations. I am sure you don?t want everyone in our cubicle area knowing what goes on in your personal life so I just wanted to let you. Have a great day!? Some people don?t realize how loud they are being when talking to family and friends. Give them a chance to correct it before taking further action. As to the personal hygiene, yes, it is shocking what some employees will do within confines of their working space, offices included. I would recommend you speak to HR about those habits and how offensive they are to you. HR professionals usually have a nice way of broaching that subject with the offender and that way, even if their feelings are hurt, they direct that unhappiness toward HR, not you. Same thing goes for folks who don?t like to bathe very often or wear underarm deodorant! They may need to attend a training session on professional behavior! And, they may know perfectly well how offensive they are being and this is their way to get some attention, even if it?s disgust. HR should be able to deal with this. If both of those approaches don?t work, slip a note to their managers and invite them to just show up (you?ll have to provide times of day when the activity is the most prevalent) and visit their support staff. It sounds like your neighbors have gotten used to not being around their supervisors and that tends to cause some employees to become a little too lax in their work environment. Perhaps if Mary?s boss stands behind her and listens to an update of what cousin Patty did at the bar last weekend, he/she can find a way to stop those conversations. I?m guessing that if they do it all day, their work isn?t getting done and their boss is wondering why. You can also ask your boss for a white noise machine and tell him/her why. Talk to him/her about the hygiene issues as well. That may cause the desired ripple effect without you having to approach their bosses! Good Luck! Anonymous on 3/1/2013 9:49:03 AM
How about sending out or posting Cubicle Etiquette. Anonymous on 3/1/2013 9:48:14 AM
Also, I usually have music playing at my desk but it's so low that only I can hear it because I don't want to disturb others. I'm not a stick-in-the-mud; I get that people are going to talk to each other in the office and sometimes you need to make a personal phone call here and there. Life happens. But it's the constant interruptions from the personal business being shared (inadvertently, I guess) that drives me nuts. When people in the office talk about business out in the cubicle area it's usually a quick conversation. This person's personal calls go on all day, anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes at a time, and there are usually about 3 or 4 calls a day. Be considerate of others in the office who are actually trying to work. Sheesh! Anonymous on 2/27/2013 9:13:30 AM
Thanks for the input, everyone. It's really appreciated. I agree with those of you who suggested going to the "offender" directly and in most cases I would but this person is somewhat "odd" and I don't know that they would receive it in the manner it would be given. It's a tough situation. There's been complaints about this person's overall work performance anyway and while I'd rather not add fuel to the fire, but the loud personal phone calls and personal hygiene and care at their desk has become quite disruptive to the office. The person sits about 20 feet away from me and yet I still hear everything that's going on in their life, i.e. menstrual cycle, appointments for breast enlargement, renting trucks to move, their drive to New Jersey, etc. The list goes on and on and on... For the person who asked about my job title, it's "Executive Assistant." I do handle confidential information but when I do I step away from my desk to make phone calls in a conference room or empty office with a phone. I keep any confidential written information locked in a drawer when I'm not working on it. As for asking for an office, I have and on a number of occasions. The request was denied. Anonymous on 2/27/2013 9:05:16 AM
What is your title? Who do you report to? Do you handle confidential material? Is there an open office and can you justify that it be given to you? Something needs to be done. Do you have a suggestion box? Can you go to HR and say something and ask that the complaint be anonymous? I don't know how you can work in that environment. Is it affecting your work? Good luck. Do something! Alice on 2/26/2013 1:12:26 PM
We hold "Retreat" type meetings where, as a group, values for the office were set. It provided an environment where all staff could talk about concerns in a positive way. We developed a Mission and Vision Statement for the office, set values, and SMART Goals for the year. We hold an office retreat at least three times per year and revisit where we are in the goals/values we set. It might be a positive way to bring up your issues where the entire group can work on solutions. Our retreats are simple and sometimes are held in the board room potluck style to keep costs down. It is a team approach to problem solving and helps build relationships which may help in your situation. Shelley Black on 2/26/2013 11:54:59 AM
Maybe creating a "Proper Work Etiquette" sheet would help. Take the initiative and work with some of your team. Have it approved and post it where it is visible to all. Ms. Mary on 2/26/2013 9:29:01 AM
Sorry to hear you have to put up with co-workers who don't have work ethics or consciousness. Unfortunately, it happens everywhere! I brought this to my manager's attention and was basically told to "mind my own business". In our office, it seems to be certain rules for certain people. We have staff who watch their missed TV shows right at their desks, right in front of their managers, who say nothing. Yes, it's disruptive, but I now wear my IPOD and listen to music instead of listening to the office, and it helps. I agree with above, approach the offender first before being a tattle-tale, because that will get you further ahead, but watch how you state it. For the nail-clipper (and yes there is one of those here too!), say something like, "I'm sorry, but would you mind doing your personal hygiene at home before you come in, or in the washroom? I am highly allergic to dust and the clippings cause me breathing problems." They don't have to know that you don't have allergies, and you have politely asked for them to do this somewhere else. Hope this helps, H Hilary A. on 2/26/2013 9:04:42 AM
Have you said anything to your co-workers directly? If not, I would start there first. Give them the chance to hear your concerns in a face-to-face before going to management. Hopefully they will respect your opinion and make a positive change. And, perhaps you will find that there are others who feel the way you do and will speak up as well. Good luck. Lisa Poma on 2/26/2013 8:48:33 AM

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