Cubicle culture

THE GLOSSY picture in the advertisement for office furniture looked wonderful. It was a riot of colours with the modular furniture, sleek computers and the whole list of other paraphernalia that no modern office can be without. A perfect picture that made you think, "Wow! this is a great environment to work in." The space was very neatly divided into perfect little cubicles, all looking the same and pristine in its purity and cleanliness. Then something struck me. Everything looked untouched, unused and in place. No human to mar the perfection! There were no people in that picture.

For the majority of office goers who are not fortunate enough to have the corner office, work space divided into cubicles is a definite improvement over one large room crammed with desks and chairs. Cubicles provide a private workspace while keeping the physical openness that fosters easy communication, camaraderie and movement.

The intentions are good but the concept of privacy is an illusion. In a recent survey, only seven per cent of cubicle dwellers had anything nice to say about this arrangement. Why? That is because the very reasons that are a boon have become the bane of cubicle setting. That big reason - people! They don't understand that the normal rules for proximity apply here also. The foam and fabric half-wall is there only to obscure sight and simulate privacy.

Check your cubicle savvy and see where you stand in this cubicle land!

Cubicles, of course come with no doors. Just because there is no door, it does not give you the right to just barge into one's office. Ask for permission to enter, once given the permission, finish your business, thank the person and be on your way.

Cubicle culture

Just as you would not walk into someone's home and take something, you would not take anything from anyone's cubicles either, however insignificant the item may be. "No door' reality withstanding, you have to respect each other's space and privacy. Do not hang your favourite swimsuit model in your cubicle. As attractive as she might be in her skimpy outfit, and as inspirational as she might be for you, it is in poor taste. Display her in all her splendour in the privacy of your home and not in your office.

Be aware of the fact that if you can hear your neighbour they can hear you too! People forget that. No one wants to hear your personal conversation. Keep your voice down.

Don't gather outside the cubicle for chats. It makes it hard for others to concentrate. Conversations must be of short duration and in a quiet manner. Use meeting rooms for lengthy discussions to avoid disturbing others.

Resist the temptation to yell across the partition and down the hallway. Walk over to who ever you need to talk to. Don't be lazy now! The other major no no is very strong perfumes and colognes. If the person occupying the cubicles down from you can smell you, then you have marinated yourself in the perfume or cologne. There are a lot of people who are allergic to strong smells, doesn't matter the source.

If you are eating at your desk, again remember that everyone can smell it. It might be the most delicious dish that has been so lovingly prepared and packed for you. If you must eat at your desk, dispose of everything and do not keep it on your desk or stuff it in your garbage can where it continues to emit the odour. Keep your surroundings clean and tidy Finally, keep the volume of your telephone ringer down and limit the use of speakerphones. If possible, answer the phone on the first ring to avoid unnecessary noise.

To put it succinctly, the closer the environment the more considerate one needs to be of the neighbour. That is the rule for a peaceful existence.


(The writer is the director of ProEt Centre for International Protocol and Etiquette. Ph: 23372004/55503605,e-mail:

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