Protecting against Workspace Intruders
Cubicles were designed to try to give each person a bit of personal space, but as anyone who has smelled a neighbor’s lunch or overheard a colleague’s phone argument knows, the walls aren’t very private. Thus, it becomes especially important for co-workers to practice proper etiquette and respect even the flimsiest of partitions.
Get in the mindset of treating cubicles as offices, simply without doors. Just as you wouldn’t barge into someone’s office without knocking, signal your arrival at a cubicle with a rap on the wall. (A quick call or email beforehand asking if it is a good time to stop by is often appreciated.) If you notice the person is on the phone, come back later. Hovering can make others feel rushed or uncomfortable. Likewise, don’t immediately launch into a conversation when entering. The person may be in the middle of something important, and it is rude to interrupt his train of thought.
If the person isn’t in her cubicle when you arrive, don’t wait inside unless you were specifically told to do so. The appearance of making yourself at home can come off as nosy or intrusive. Similarly, avoid borrowing items from someone who isn’t there to grant you permission to take them. (If you really must, at least leave a note stating what you took and when you’ll return it.)
Finally, if co-workers tend to pop in on you, consider putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the outside of your cubicle during busy periods. To get rid of someone hanging out when you have work to do, try polite but pointed phrases such as:
- I really need to get this done before lunch. Can we catch up then?
- That’s a great point that deserves more thought than I can devote at the moment. Can I get back to you around 3:00?
- I want to give your idea my full attention. Can I email you when I’m finished with this report so we can set up a time to talk?