IT Employment

A look at one of the dumbest common sense lists ever


On the tails of my publishing a blog last week about cubicles, my boss dropped off an article from the local paper about rules for "cubicle courtesy." It contained a ten-point bulleted list that I'm still laughing about. The "tips" are not explained in any way, leaving the casual, smart-aleck reader (in other words, me) to fill in the lines herself. Here's the list with my personal observations about each tactic for "building strong bonds and fostering productivity":

  1. Be a courteous guest. [What exactly does it mean to be a courteous guest in a cubicle? Does it mean you should call first before you stick your head over the cubicle wall? Or does it mean that you should avoid being really rude by not saying things like "That loser doesn't have a door."]
  2. Use your "library voice." [This means that at least three times a day you should ask someone where the Periodicals section is.]
  3. Curb casual conversation. [I don't know if the author means you should avoid speaking casually yourself, as in when someone asks you how you're doing, you should just freeze them with a stony glare; or if you personally have to prevent everyone else from having casual conversations, as in loudly blowing a whistle and yelling, "Delores is talking about her car again!!"
  4. Stay home with the sniffles. [I live in the Sinus Congestion Capital of the World. If I stayed home every time I got the sniffles, I would never be seen again.]
  5. Have good scents. [If this is a play on words, I'm not interested. Take your pun-writing self on over to Readers Digest. But if you really mean "scents," then how, pray tell, would one decide what scent is good and what is not? Speaking for myself, the smell of pizza would not bother me at all, but a gardenia-scented candle may induce a minor seizure.]
  6. Ask before borrowing. [Well, no kidding.]
  7. Avoid décor disasters. [Again, very subjective -- See point 5. Am I to assume not everyone would be enamored of my "Wall of Tony Soprano"? Do I have the right to be grumpy if your cubicle's feng shui is all wrong?]
  8. Hit the right tune. [Oh, let's not. Let's just avoid music in the office altogether, unless it's coming through a set of earphones. There's Barry White and there's AC/DC, and never the twain shall meet.]
  9. Avoid phone faux pas. [Again, this would be subjective, but I think it's safe to say you should never, ever speak on your cubicle phone to A) a physician , B) your spouse with whom you're having a spat, or C) anyone else.]
  10. Be friendly. [How am I supposed to do that if you won't let me have a casual conversation?]

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

27 comments
Constantdrone
Constantdrone

What might be the scariest part of all this, is that someone is using this list to update their inter office code of conduct.

toomuchpersonalinfo needed
toomuchpersonalinfo needed

This is all good advice that doesn't need stating, but the simple fact is that making people work that closely on top of each other provides a breeding ground for personality clashes. It is almost impossible to get through life in a cubicle without annoying at least one of your cubicle mates.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

As companies try harder to save where possible, many are moving to smaller and smaller cubicles. I recently visited the cubicles that we are moving to sometime soon (not the exact ones, but the same size). hmmm, to get in and out you have to push your chair into the aisleway. There is no room for anything, If I get forced into one, there is no way I would be able to do what I do, and would likely get canned shortly after for not doing my job

pezperson
pezperson

Our department were just told to move out of our nice digs we'd setup for ourselves 2 months ago and move to the basement of the building we're in. We don't have cubicles and feel that being obnoxious and petty keeps other people from invading our space.... The staircases down to the basement are covered with spiderwebs which we are leaving in place, we dare people to visit us! And we are getting back by punching them all down to a 10mb switch :) and we're gonna block all their streaming audio too!

meryllogue
meryllogue

Seems kind of much for a forum like this. Pent up hostility? Frustration?

Nebo
Nebo

I have never worked in a cubicle. I have either had my own office or worked from home. I think I can see the need for a few rules in a cubicle cavern though, because people being people they are not always naturally considerate of others.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

I really hate it when two people are listening to the same streaming audio source, but they're a little out of sync.

jruby
jruby

You get the full baseball stadium effect when one of them talks and there's the short delay from when you hear them speak and when their voice comes out of the other speaker phones. Our company went out and bought nice headphones for this purpose, but these morons couldn't figure them out (we're a high-tech company, but these phones were just too complex for these twits). And the really bad offender was the jacka$$ who would get on a conference call on his speaker phone and then walk out of his cubicle to take care of 'other' business. He's also the one who only knew how to turn the volume up on the speaker, but couldn't master how to turn it down. I really wanted to open up his phone and disconnect the speaker. Sheesh, those kind of people are why these rules are written down (but ignored). Bah. Anybody who thinks professionals should have to sit in cubicles deserves to be sliced into small pieces with their MBA.

temmerth
temmerth

This was a good list and a keeper. A follow-up blog taking the list from a serious view might be valuable for us as well. Thank you.

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

You really had me going for a minute. Actually for a while. It was only when I remembered a girl I used to date from Penn, and her sense of humor, that I got the joke. Very droll!

jdclyde
jdclyde

And from seeing the cubical rats daily, I can say that lists like this ARE necessary. From the burnt popcorn to the speaker phone user, it is clear what offices were invented for.

Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182
Murfski-19971052791951115876031193613182

I can handle the smell of burnt popcorn. Unfortunately, the smoke detectors can't. Our building has been evacuated three times in the past six months when somebody's burnt popcorn set of the fire alarm.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

for your office. Burn popcorn, spend the next hour outside, burn some more!!! :0 Soon, everyone will be working from home while they 'upgrade' the building...

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Detective: "Dr. Zinj, did you notice your coworker acting strangely in the week before he killed three of your other coworkers and then committed suicide?" Z: "Why, no sir. We never talked to each other. When and where did he die?" D: "You didn't notice his body hanging from the lights in his cubical for the past month?" Z: "Oh no! You see, we're not allowed to visit each other's cubicals." D: "So you didn't see all the planning he had posted on this walls with the three coworkers with bulls-eyes on their pictures?" Z: "Um, only when I went to steal a box of staples from him." D: "And you didn't smell anything?" Z: "I have really bad allergies." D: "So you don't stay home when you're sick?" Z: "As much as I'd like to, my boss still doesn't want me to telecommute, even though I can do 80% of the job remotely." D: "Forensics show that he died at 10:00 AM on Tuesday morning. Are you sure you didn't hear anything?" Z: "Nope. You see, we're not allowed to have music in the office, so I have this really loud earworm in my head of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and I can't hear a thing." Detective (loudly): "How could you possibly have NOT heard the shotgun blasts when he killed those people???" Zinj: "Shhhhhh!!!! Not so loud! We're not allowed to speak over a whisper here."

golncor
golncor

You say that the body has been hanging from the lights for a month and that it was determined the death was just last Tuesday at 10AM.. Must have died from hunger having been hung there for so long without food.

Genera-nation
Genera-nation

Yesterday afternoon I walked into our toilets at work where I found two cubicles, one of which one was already occupied. So I entered the other one, closed the door, dropped my trousers and sat down. A voice came from the cubicle next to me: "Hello mate, how are you doing?" I thought it a bit strange but not wanting to be rude I replied "Yeah, not too bad thanks." After a short pause, I heard the voice again "So, what are you up to mate?" Again I answered, somewhat reluctantly it must be said. Unsure what to say, I replied "Umm, just having a quick dump.. How about yourself?" I then heard the voice for the third time .... "Sorry mate, I'll have to call you back. I've got some d1ckhead in the bog next to me answering everything I say."

meryllogue
meryllogue

Oh boy. Some people's kids.

BrewBaker
BrewBaker

Boy that was good for a laugh. Sheesh people in my cubicle are wondering what I'm on and why I'm not sharing.

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

...if it wasn't for the fact that I work with the kind of people who write such lists! . There is always someone in the office who wants to control how the others behave. They want the entire office to fit how they think the world should be. So they create a set of rules for everyone else to follow. They usually suck up to the boss, to get the boss to promote the rules, giving the rules an authority they don't deserve. . The person who does this is usually the one who also makes nasty comments about their co-workers, and will pretend to be friendly to anyone long enough to try to convince you to condemn some practice of a co-worker that actually doesn't bother you at all. They are often unpopular, uncooperative, and lousy workers. . It gets so much worse when they get into management or HR. You start getting memos about "appropriate attire", use of the canteen, cubicle etiquette...

tony
tony

Much better. 1. I can be nice to myself 2. I can shout and swear after I put the phone down 3. I can talk to myself about anything I like 4. I can still work with the sniffles - just as well, as it is "no work, no income" 5. No-one cars about my scents, except the dog. If I go out jogging at lunchtime, being sweaty is not a problem. 6. I can borrow from myself without asking and not upset anyone. 7. If I want a sky-blue-pink office, I can have one 8. I can listen to AC/DC at the same time as Barry White (interesting new game - playing tow totally different music styles to see how they clash) 9. I can call whoever I want. I don't think the dog is offended. 10. I can be nice to the dog, and he is definitely friendly (especially when I am hot and sweaty from jogging - see 5) Note - "sky-blue-pink" was my grandfather's favourite colour

BryanReyn
BryanReyn

The other morning was looking out and noticed the colors of the sky - that names it well. Turqoise & pink was what I came thot, but I like this better. I wonder is that a regional observation.

sllanso
sllanso

....we used two "gels" (actually they were Roscolenes) in combination -- bastard amber and surprise pink -- to provide natural skin tones cheaply. Surprise pink was very much like sky-blue pink -- but I digress. I'm a little surprised that the blue-nose who wrote those tips didn't include: "Keep a clean cubicle". And I wish I'd thought of the term Meerkat Land.

keeleyt83
keeleyt83

That must be nice. Mebbe I'll be there someday.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

1. Be a courteous guest. - Uh, duh? 2. Use your ???library voice.??? - I HATE soft talkers. I CANNOT HEAR YOU! You need to speak loudly enough so my poor deaf ears can hear you. You need to also speak up if you are on the phone, talking in a noisy area, or in an office that may or may not have cubicles (re: open floorplan). 3. Curb casual conversation. - Let's see...I've not seen my coworkers for weeks (we all travel frequently) and we need to say hi. So, I'm not to talk to them? Only business...can't ask them about their trip or how their kids are...got it. 4. Stay home with the sniffles. - There aren't enough sick days in the world. I have BAD hay fever and my nose constantly runs from March until October. 5. Have good scents. - What smells good? I HATE vanilla perfume. I also hate burnt popcorn and the gassy coworker, but it happens...But since I can't talk to them, I suppose I just have to suffer. 6. Ask before borrowing. - NEVER! I'm the pirate of the cubicle seas! 7. Avoid d??cor disasters. - Lemme see, PhD comic about Writing Your Thesis Outline, check. Books upon books on work related crap, check. Yoda toy looking over me, check. Tiki mug for coffee, check. Am I a decore disaster? 8. Hit the right tune. - I have one word for you HEADPHONES. How hard is that? 9. Avoid phone faux pas. - How about no speaker phones in the office save for if it is a conference call in a closed room. 10. Be friendly. - Not gonna happen. I'm an angry cubicle pirate.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

On the other hand, if you show up sick and infect 20 other people, who get sicker than you did, it may harm the company. [i]6. Ask before borrowing. - NEVER! I'm the pirate of the cubicle seas![/i] Right! If I want it, and it's not chained down, it's MINE!

links
links

common sense would prevent their being a list at all... But yeah it does seem to be an ill though out list and everyone who read it probably made some wry witty comments about it to themselves... LTO4