Cubicle Cultures and Cat Videos

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My office received an email that had Do's and Don'ts of cubicle behaviour. There was no way I wasn't going to write about it. Some of it was obvious, the rest made me roll my eyes. Actually most of it made me roll my eyes and the eyes of my colleagues too. I'll try to summarize both without plagiarizing the email:

1. Use an indoor voice. Seriously? Does anyone have an "indoor voice"? Cube farms are rarely quiet. Where I work there are small signs advising people to be quiet. Insert eye roll here. I'm loud, you're loud, we all scream for ice cream. I sit in a row of 8 cubes, 2 on each side. There's a potential of 8 conference calls going on at any one time, multiple visitors, and countless conversations. It's going to get loud whether we like it or not. It may die down but the ebb and flow of communication is what it is. I just don't want to hear my neighbor's weekend stories about her gardening.

2. Use headphones/headsets. Are 'headphones' even a thing anymore? Maybe the noise cancelling ones but I'm assuming they mean earbuds. Headphones... seriously? What century are we in? I have a headset for calls and sometimes wear them so people think I'm on a call and don't bother me. Anyone else do this? Earbuds mean folks will interrupt you because they assume you're just listening to music. Both can be effective in warding off interruptions, just don't be looking at your phone if you have the buds in. Then an interruption will be had and you'll be discovered watching awesome cat videos. I can't live without cat videos, they're so cute!

3. Be aware of how your voice projects while standing. See #1. I'm a natural tenor and there's no way people don't hear what I'm saying. I project, it's almost impossible to do so. Luciano Pavoratti would be proud. It's almost impossible for me to laugh during cat videos. Laughing projects so I think of it as spreading cheer.

4. Announce yourself when entering a cube. Don't even think about entering my cube. It's the only piece of real estate I can call my own, STAY OFF MY LAWN! You can announce yourself but you're not getting invited in unless you ask. It's ALL about personal space here people. An arm length and a half is my rule for personal space. I don't know about your cubes but ours face in a direction that you can't see who's behind you. Even if you have a rear view mirror, you won't notice till it's too late. Those folks will definitely see you watching cat videos... could be a manager. If so, you're screwed. If not, then share the video and hope that person doesn't tell on you.

5. Use perimeter walkways. Ummm... no. How else am I going to find people? Stopping to ask for directions ain't gonna happen. Nope. You can tell when someone is lost if they're trying to look over a row of cubes. This means they're peeking and might see you viewing cat videos. I wish they'd mind their own business, Maru is sliding into another box and I can't be bothered.

6. Keep your cell phones on silent. No one does this. No need for a rule.

7. Use common areas for conversations. So, I have to put down the phone that I didn't silence, pause the latest cat video mashups, go to a perimeter hallway to have a "quiet" conversation with a voice that is one octave below James Earl Jones', so to not disturb people? Ain't happening.

The point here is that cat videos are the devil and will eventually get your fired. TOTALLY WORTH IT!

1. Yell across cubes. Wasn't this already covered under the indoor voice rule?

2. Sneak up on people. We have carpet and are exposed on one side... how can we NOT sneak up? Many people walk around without shoes on. What are they, commandos?

3. Loiter or have conversations outside someone's cube. Really? How is this going to be enforced? Oh yeah, MBWA, Managing By Wandering Around.

4. Cut through cube areas. Wait... what? So, you finally found who you're looking for and you can't actually walk down that aisle to them? What are you supposed to do, jump up and down while waving your hands to get their attention? They probably have their headset or buds on and not paying attention. Go back to your desk and IM them... duh.

5. Eavesdrop. Another rule that can't be enforced. You have to have your own back at work. How else do you find out if someone is talking about you? Voices carry. By nature, we humans are curious. By default, we work in such close quarters that eavesdropping is the norm. The walls, floors, desks, ventilation systems all have ears. No one speaks in hushed tones because no one has an indoor voice.

6. Conduct personal grooming. OK, I'm on board with this one. Anyone clipping their nails at their desk should be flogged. It's disgusting... stop it. That's what home is for. Other grooming atrocities such as applying nail polish remover, refreshing cologne/perfume, popping zits, etc. Pop your zits in the bathroom!!!!

7. Get caught watching cat videos. Duh. It's not breaking the law if you don't get caught but just don't get caught.

With the Don'ts list, it seems that common courtesy has been forgotten these days. Some of those are painfully obvious, the rest are unenforceable. I think gentle reminders are a good thing. I also think working in a clean, polite environment is a good thing. Etiquette in itself is a good thing. The biggest problem I see is that we don't use much etiquette at home, I still walk around in my underwear at the house (we're empty nesters so I can get away with it) but probably wouldn't at work. I've threatened to because of archaic dress codes but I like getting paid so I stay dressed.

Since our cubes are our home away from home I think etiquette is optional. We are usually on the "best behaviour" rule at work. Be professional they say, be cognizant of others they say, stop farting in the general direction of your workmates they say. I'm at home in my cube and I'll break all the unwritten rules. I always excuse myself after a smelly, inaudible fart if pinpointed as the culprit. Else I'll find a convincing way to pass the blame to someone else.

NOTE: Right before finishing the Do's entry, I burped into a napkin. It was audible enough for one of my cube farm neighbors to hear it. I excused myself but I must admit I'm quite proud of it. Made me feel like I was home.

Author: John Rowles Published: 2018-04-07