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Cubicle Etiquette

Updated on April 8, 2012

More and more large corporations are utilizing an open floor plan and installing cubicle walls to make individual workstations. My day job is at such a corporation.

Having worked in this type of environment for the last twelve years, I've made a number of observations and have made a list of things that should be part of any corporation’s "Cubicle Etiquette" memorandum.

  • Although the walls do absorb sound, they do not make your space sound proof. Your voice carries further than you think, and yes, we just heard what you said to your boyfriend.
  • Even though your neighbor two cubes down can hear you if you holler her name, try calling her on the telephone. Employers love it when you utilize the equipment in your cubicle.
  • If someone has mistakenly given you speakerphone capabilities, don’t think you need to use them. Avoid the temptation.
  • Even though you occupy the space between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, you do not actually own it. If you insist on calling it your own, I’m sure someone can have accounting apportion your share of the taxes, insurance, and utilities and deduct it from your next check.
  • Everyone enjoys the latest pictures of your family tastefully displayed in frames. We’re really not interested in a collage of dog-eared photos of your dog Sissy and your brother Bubba at the biggest beer gut competition.
  • A cubicle wall is NOT the same as your refrigerator door at home. Everyone is proud of their child’s artwork, but bear in mind that we ALL don’t see his same star potential. If you simply MUST display Timmy’s artwork, then do it for the day, but take it home tonight.
  • If you’re old enough to be employed at an office with cubicles, then you’re old enough to leave posters of the Jonas Brothers, Hulk Hogan, Nickelback, Spongebob and others at home.
  • Do not peer over the tops of cubicle walls. This is called Prairie-dogging. Approach a cubicle from its open side and treat it as though there were a door there. Stop at the doorway before entering to give the occupant a chance to acknowledge you are there.
  • If someone is on the phone, everyone nearby should refrain from making as much noise as possible.
  • Even though you have your headphones on, with excessive volume we can still hear the noise you affectionately refer to as music. Don’t even think about singing along. Even worse is the stifled humming or toe-tapping.
  • Again, if you’re old enough to be employed at an office with cubicles, then you’re old enough to keep your Beanie Baby collection, McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys, Matchbox cars collection, Barbie collection, etc. at home.
  • When you get something new that you want to display, take down something old. Don’t simply try to layer it. Layering doesn’t really work in cubicles.
  • Remember that less is more. Believe it or not it is perfectly acceptable to have an inch of space on your wall that is NOT covered by something.
  • If you’re going to have live plants, take care of them and water them regularly and keep them bug-free. If you’re going to have artificial flowers or plants, keep them clean. Another tip, if you’re going to go with the seasonal flowers, keep up with the seasons. Poinsettias in the spring are not a good look to have.
  • This is the best piece of advice I can give and I give it to anyone who works for me. Treat your space, no matter where it is, as if it was the desk of the CEO of the company. If you were the CEO, would you have all of this stuff displayed in your fancy corner office with a window as you visited with other top executives from around the world? If you have trouble imagining that scenario, try to imagine this one. What if the CEO came to visit your desk tomorrow with two guests and stopped at your desk and asked you about each item at your desk? Would you beam with pride as you spoke of each thing? If after contemplating those scenarios you can still feel good about what you have around you, then by all means keep it.


Cute Cubicle Parody to the Tune of "You're Beautiful"

Man Freaks Out in His Cubicle! How NOT to Act


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    • profile image

      LeslieB27 6 years ago

      MY gosh . I am so glad to relate to all of you!!! This is my life story. I have the mESSIEST co worker and as a "joke" I told her to enter a contest for the country's messiest cubicle where they come and "pimp" your cubicle if you win. I hope she wins...... I just need that thing to be cleaned!! I thought it would be a funny in you know what I mean??? But she entered! anyone else have that problem... I SUGGEST JOINING! send them this info.... casually.... to enter for free

      or see this youtube link

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 7 years ago from Central Texas

      Very true gmyleford! Food should always be properly stored if you insist on having it. Airtight containers are a must. Perishables should be closely monitored. Do the janitor a favor and wrap peelings, etc. before disposing them in a proper trashcan. Some offices will not allow food in all of the trashcans. Sometimes, only certain trashcans can be used for food items. Know the rules. Thanks for stopping by gymleford!

    • gmyleford profile image

      gmyleford 7 years ago

      Your cubicle is not your refrigerator either. If you keep snacks in your drawer, make sure not to leave stuff like cake..that, I don't know, maybe the ants can get to over the weekend and cause a 3 cubicle ant pile up. :)

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks, The's just one of those things that needs to be said sometimes.

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 8 years ago from SE US

      Been there, done that, got the eardrum and eye strain to go with it. :) Love the hub, thanks for bringing up the subject.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks so much Thinker95! Glad you stopped by!

    • Thinker95 profile image

      Thinker95 8 years ago

      I'm a little late on this but I LOVE this hub. You are not a cube nazi, you're hilarious!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I appreciate your comments Marisa. The hub you see above is almost exactly what I sent to my employees when the group I have was formed. I'm not against individuality and people enjoying their workspace because you're right, it's a space we occupy the bulk of our 24 day. I am not sure how you concluded from my hub above that they couldn't make their space feel like home. Perhaps you missed the last sentence or speed-read it? I hardly consider myself, or my ideas, being a "cubicle nazi".

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Marisa Wright 8 years ago from Sydney

      I laughed at some of this but I'm not sure I agree 100%, KCC.

      YES, speakerphone use should be "illegal" in open plan offices. Ditto playing music. And plants need to be well looked after or you get vinegar flies annoying everyone.

      However, I don't see what is so bad about personalizing your cubicle, so long as it doesn't overflow into anyone else's space. Personally, I have one very small floppy dog sitting under my monitor, and that's it. But I'm not going to tell someone who routinely works 10 hours a day that he can't make his desk feel like home. If the business is going to take over his life, the least they can do is allow him some personal space.

      If your desk is in a public area, then that's a different story and the CEO test makes sense - but many of us work in a back office environment where that's never going to happen, so why be a cubicle nazi?

    • Sufidreamer profile image

      Sufidreamer 8 years ago from Sparti, Greece

      lol - Funny because it is so true. One colleague I worked with had so many cuddly toys it was unbelievable. It is quite disconcerting when you are trying to close a sale and all that you can see is bloody Tigger peeping over the top of the cubicle.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas's craziness! Thanks for stopping by nicomp!

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 8 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Speakerphone in a cubicle. :)

      Social faux pas!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks LM! I hate speaker phones! My daughter pulls that.

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 8 years ago

      Hadn't seen this one. I'll forward it to my husband. He gave up his downtown office for a cubicle at a substation about a year ago because he doesn't have to wear business casual (jeans and a collared shirt are about as dressed up as he gets) and he doesn't have to park downtown. This has brought the adolescent out in him and his neighbors. They are constantly pulling pranks on each other. And I'm very cautious about what I say when I'm on the phone with him--he's pulled that speakerphone business with me before. Have you seen the commercial where the guy calls his wife not knowing he was on speaker in the middle of a meeting? Been there. I didn't think it was quite as funny as they did.

      You wrote another great one, KCC!

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 8 years ago

      You're very welcome. I'll let you know if I de-clutter :)

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Glad you enjoyed it, Trish! The CEO 'test' will make most people really think. Thanks fors stopping by!

    • trish1048 profile image

      trish1048 8 years ago

      KCC, you are too funny!  And that comes from my heart, sincerely.  Again, I can so relate to this.  I love the poinsettias in the spring LOL.  At the very least, I keep my screensaver in tune with the proper seasons :)

      I am guilty of having a few kitties on my desk, as I love cats.  However, after reading your question about would I feel comfortable with a CEO and two guests stopping by, I can honestly say, no, I would not beam with pride trying to justify the reason I have them on my desk LOL.

      You've given me food for thought here, and it doesn't hurt that our office is currently being painted, carpeted and the cubes will be coming down soon for the big makeover.  Boxes, where did I put the boxes?  :)

      Thanks for sharing!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      Thank you! :) And, thanks for stopping by!

    • MellasViews profile image

      MellasViews 8 years ago from Earth

      lol. this was too good.