Cubicle Etiquette ~ my thoughts…

My boss sent us this article a few weeks ago – and I thought it was pretty funny.  I want to preface this with a picture of what 99% of the cubes in my office look like.

I guess working in the land of virtuality – cubes have really become more of a rest stop than a home-away-from-home.  So there is less making it feel like your personal space than there was in the past, maybe.

Unless your me. 

I still live by the philosophy that you should be comfortable wherever you are.  Therefore, my cube is a bit different.  You’ll see that later.

First, though – the article (perhaps with a few thoughts thrown in…)

It’s your cubicle. You even have a nameplate. So it’s your personal space, right? Not really. It’s more like a seat at the dinner table than a room in the house.  I already see a flaw in this theory – because isn’t our seat at the dinner table always the same place?  It’s your spot – and God forbid one of your siblings try to slip into it.  Have you ever, for instance, tried to sit where your Dad sits?  I think we know how that ends.

In other words, any sense of privacy is an illusion. Treat your office space with respect if you want to be taken seriously in the workplace. Uh Oh.

You want to keep your job? Avoid doing any of these 15 inexcusable activities at your desk.

Personal grooming
As annoying as that little snag in your fingernail or chip in your polish may be, resist the temptation for an on-the-spot fix. Oh sure, it will just take a moment. But before you know it, you’ve filed the rest of your nails and touched up your toes, much to the dismay of anyone within range of the grating sounds and noxious fumes.  Also, consider that every snip of the nail clipper will generate a clipping that may descend gently into your trashcan — or alternately fly into office space with your DNA affixed to it.

Shaving? Tweezing? Dental floss? Eww. If you wouldn’t do it in front of your boss, don’t do it at your desk
* I’ve never touched up my toes, shaved or flossed at my desk.  However, for the record, my nail clippers are one of the most popular items in the ‘mom’ drawer. Just ahead of the static guard.

Assembling sandwiches
Unless you actually work on an assembly line, there’s no excuse for assembling sandwiches or other meals at your desk. You make your kids pack their school lunches the night before, right? There’s a reason.

No one needs to watch (or smell) you smear mustard on naked bread and then pile on the deli meat just so.
* Again, I disagree.  You only have to look as far as our nasty office break room to know why I have desk assembly.  See, I know what’s been on my desk.  I know what’s touched it.  It’s safer.

Excessive decorating
Yes, you practically live at your desk. But in reality, you don’t. Whose reality?

So skip the over-the-top seasonal decorations like the bobble head pumpkin man with glowing eyes and a menacing cackle, the musical snow globe that plays “The 12 Days of Christmas” any time someone walks by, your motivational “Valentine’s Day Suck” poster… They’ll work better as home décor — or on the bargain table of your next garage sale.

Framed college diploma or professional awards? Yes. Stuffed tiger mascot that roars when you squeeze its big toe? Not so much.
*Fail.  I have no such awards in my current gig.  I do have a stuffed rooster that crows when you sling shot it across the room.  And a pumpkin that eerily laughs.  And a duck quacker.  And a lot of other stuff.  You really never know when you’re going to need a break from that reality mentioned earlier…

Undressing the part
If the shoes look good but pinch your toes, too bad. You put them on today. And they’re staying there until you get back home … or at least to your car.

Same with the itchy wool jacket. Yes, you can toss it back on in time for your afternoon meeting. But what if your boss peeks in to introduce a new hire and you’re sitting there in a cloud of foot odor and perspiration? Highly unprofessional.
*Wait, I actually agree with most of this.  I can’t stand when people walk around barefoot in the office – it skeeves me.  But I also understand a gal’s need to keep both a pair of flip-flops and slippers handy – because heels get painful and office temperatures fluctuate like the stock market.

Hitting the marketplace
Buying or selling in the office place is bad form. That means no checking on how your old baseball cards are faring on eBay and no hunting down the best deal on snow tires from your office chair.

If you’re a good employee, you’re meticulous about details and any “quick check” would certainly turn into a comprehensive search on company time. Or worse, you’d be time crunched to make a hasty regrettable decision (how’s that Toothpick of the Month Club working out for ya?).

Better to save the online shopping and eBaying for the middle of the night, where it belongs.
*Wait, are they trying to guilt me into staying away from eBay by insinuating that I’m meticulous? Begging to differ…a good employee actual has a ridiculous multi-tasking ability which allows one to tap around the iPhone while talking on the office phone while running several reports while solving a crossword while responding to email while placing a final bid.

Checking your winks
Yes, the blond snowboarding enthusiast on that online dating site is just your type. Did he respond to that email you sent? Did he notice the dashing new profile photo you posted of you standing next to that random sports car?

Three words: Love is patient. He can wait. You can wait. If there’s going to be magic, it will still be waiting on your home computer tonight after work.
*Okay, actually, I agree here too.  But only because there is nothing I want worse than to broadcast my perpetual single status.  And I certainly don’t want to witness someone else’s online dating success while my attempts live in a town called Fail.

Talking too loud, too soft or in code
The only thing more annoying than hearing co-workers’ loud telephone conversations is hearing their whispered conversations. And the only thing worse than the dramatic whisper is Code Talk. You know, those careful conversations that begin with, “I really can’t talk about it right now, but…” Stop it. Stop right there. Before the “but.”

There will be no word substitution or pointed innuendo. No saying “the situation we talked about” which means “my coworker who wears that really nasty cologne.” Do not attempt to describe last night’s date without actually using the word “date.” Save the play-by-play for later when you can use complete sentences.
*OR instead of avoiding talking in code by not talking about certain situations at work, you could just buck up and share everything with your cube mates.  Consider them your unpaid shrinks.  I’m pretty sure no one minds.  I’m admittedly a loud phone talker.  My nearest cube friend is a low talker.  People like us equally.  So apparently it doesn’t really matter.

Moping around
OK, Snowboard Guy was The One. You knew it. Your friends knew it. But he somehow missed out on that whole love vibe. So now your life is basically over, and you have no one with whom to deflect Aunt Margaret’s sympathy at the family Christmas dinner.

Psssst. That’s personal. You’re at work. If you feel emotional, it’s better to sniffle in Stall #3 than at your desk. And if you focus on today’s tasks instead of moping over The One, you’re not only modeling professionalism, you will actually heal faster.
*Okay, now I’m starting to think that the person who wrote this works either in Candyland or with Willy Wonka.  At the minimum, we’re at work 40 hours per week.  Is it realistic to think that the folks around you won’t pick up on tid bits from your life?  And what if you completely f up a project because you’re an emotional wreck.  Dang right I’ll share the details – sounds a heck of a lot better than, “I’m just a moron.”  And what better way to ‘heal faster’ than to recruit a team of sympathizers in your office?

Sending self portraits
You would never make a personal call at your desk where everyone can overhear you. (Good for you!) But what about sending a quick photo of yourself at the new job with your cell phone camera?
I’m already lost here.  Is it because I’ve done both?  And probably within the last 48 hours?

Of course you need to get a decent picture first. No, not that one. It makes your nose look big. If you hold your arm out a little further …. Maybe put the phone on the edge of your desk, angle your face toward the computer and snap the shot with your right foot…
*Lucky break, I already know there is no such thing as a decent picture.  The sooner you accept this the more time you’ll save with photography.

Pretending you aren’t sick
If you’re going through enough tissues to dent a small rainforest, go home.

Yesterday when you worked past five with those occasional sniffles, you were dedicated and tough. Today you’re just gross. You know that cringing feeling you get when someone is sneezing uncontrollably, hacking like a barking seal or blowing their nose a little too often and a lot too loudly? Uh oh. I might have been that person this week.

Sandy in the next cubicle has moved past cringing and is applying hand sanitizer to her face. And guess who she’s going to blame if she gets sick?
Whoops.  Traditionally, I agree with this.  Traditionally.  Unless, like me, you took your last day off for the year and immediately after contracted the plague.  That’s just bad luck.  On the other hand, I think my efforts to stay in the game balance out the overuse of alleged sick days taken by others.

Saving it for later
Yum! Half of a big crusty bakery muffin and the remains of that Paprika Maple Latte that you might want to finish later (if you decide you really do like it after all).

Define “later.” If later will occur within the next hour, by all means keep the muffin and your red flecked drink to the side on your desk. But put the muffin back in the bag and keep a lid on the latte.

Leftovers are bad enough in the fridge, left on your desk they will colonize. And mold is bad for business.
*Well, shoot, I agree with this one too.  Only because in my office, we often have science projects happening in the fridge.  On the other hand…when I left yesterday, there were four Clementines sitting on my desk that I meant to eat ‘later.’

Engaging your imaginary friend
We all talk to ourselves occasionally. “You are parking the car in Row G,” “Paper towels, bananas, peanut butter…” It keeps us in the moment and helps us remember song lyrics.

The trick is to keep the conversation private. Between you and you. If you say it out loud, it’s between you, Sandy (who’s still ticked off about all the sneezing) and whoever happens to walk by.
*I’d like an addendum to this one.  If you live alone, talking to yourself is fine.  Chances are you are so acclimated to self conversations that stopping them would be as easy as stopping breathing.  Plus, as I do have the plague, how am I supposed to tell if I’ve lost my voice yet if I’m not in a constant dialogue with myself?

Sleeping on the job
Unless Human Resources handed you a pillow along with your ID badge, you should assume that sleeping is not a part of your job. Calling HR right now.  This is a brilliant suggestion.

While midday siestas are acceptable in many European and Asian countries and have even proven to increase productivity, they are still newsworthy in the U.S., meaning that workplace napping is not the norm. OR it means I am ahead of the curve and very forward thinking.

Yes, if you angle your chair just so, chances are no one will notice the occasional head bob when you jerk awake from a quick snooze. But better that you master your TV recorder and watch late night shows when it fits with your natural biological rhythms.
OR encourage others to nap as well.  And learn to wake yourself up by saying the word “Amen” and no one will be the wiser.

Sneaking one little kiss/hug/squeeze
He picked you up for lunch at the office. This is serious. He’s met your boss. Could your friends and parents be next? It’s not like you’d ever actually make out in your cubicle. But you’re in love! Just one little kiss? Risky. Pick the wrong moment (or the wrong guy) and your private moment will go viral.

There will be a strange and sudden hush when you walk into the break room. People will snicker. Just keep in mind that your sofa is in your living room and that your cubicle is on company property and you’ll be fine.
*Agreed.  No one wants to see that.  Ever.

Cursing up a storm
From the back of the bus in middle school, a well-timed swear word may have given you an aura of maturity (as long as the bus driver didn’t overhear and reassign you the seat directly behind him), but at work or in any professional setting, cursing is viewed as unpolished behavior.

If you can’t control your own language, how does your boss know you’re capable of steering that marketing project to the next level? Come up with alternate word choices and practice saying them instead. Eventually, they’ll become new word habits that will work in your favor, not against you.
*Again, does this writer work at Candyland?  I’ll go 50-50 here.  Cursing up an actual storm can be uncomfortable for the people around you.  But is also generally good for a story later.

Listen to your conscience
Not sure if something’s a desk do or a desk don’t? Use common sense and enlist your conscience. The little voice that said “don’t” to uploading your Lady Gaga dance moves to Facebook is your friend.
It wants you to win at work and in life. Listen to it.
*This makes a rather large assumption, no?  Conscience?  Sounds familiar.  Think I’ve heard of it before.  Somewhere in the dictionary near Common Sense.  I feel like it’s way far away from that other theory about asking for forgiveness later…

In general, I’m sure there’s some good advice in that article.  But it seems to come from a few strange places – like the Old Days.  Or Disneyland Corporate Headquarters.  The real world?  Not the same.  Work is no longer an impersonal place – people know you and your story – you are battle mates.  Things are out in the open, talked about and laughed about. 

So back to my cube…remember the one up top?  The one that represents most of the cubes in my office?  Yeah…mine’s the anti-norm:

But, really – wouldn’t you rather sit next to me than the other guy?

One thought on “Cubicle Etiquette ~ my thoughts…

  1. I'm in a new cubicle at work. I can't tell in your picture, but I want to do a photo montage like that…are those all separate or is it a sindle frame with other pockets? Is your trash can always that full? Do you actually use the sheilds and swords and have a fight. I think that's awesome. Good read…thanks for the entertainment! KC

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