"It takes only three walls to make a man feel trapped." Anyone who has spent time in a cubicle can relate to that tongue-in-cheek comment from "The Drew Carey Show." Some 40 million Americans--including more than 60 percent of white collar workers--now spend their workdays in a space that sometimes seems too confined--and sometimes not quite private enough.
A little courtesy can go a long way toward improving life in the cube, say Ginger Hobbs Lever, director of marketing and community relations at UNH Manchester, and Colleen Bolton '87, a UNH Manchester academic and career counselor, who have developed a presentation on cubicle courtesy to help prepare both employers and employees for today's offices.
For those in management, creating a culture of mutual respect while clearly communicating professional standards and policies can help solve even the stickiest workplace problems, they suggest. If you are an employee, a few simple suggestions and a sense of humor can help you become a good cubicle citizen or solve problems with colleagues that interfere with your own productivity.
Some of the most common cubicle crises, and possible solutions:
* TUNA FISH SALAD. What one person considers fine luncheon cuisine can cause olfactory distress to others. Management can help by providing a break room, suggests Bolton, and encouraging staff to eat there.
* HOWZITGOING? An open cubicle door, or no door at all, can be viewed as an invitation to stop in for a chat. Bothered by a steady stream of drop-ins? Hang a card--red for "Please don't disturb" and green for "Come in"--outside.
* HERNIA SURGERY. Twenty colleagues, not two, can get an update on a recent hospital stay or on the progress of potty training if someone forgets that voices carry. An iPod can help, or a gentle reminder.
* OVER THE TOP. Don't use a height advantage to hang over cubicle walls to start a conversation. (Someday you might see more than you bargained for.) And don't toss items over the walls to get someone's attention. Bolton remembers the otherwise serious and reserved former staff member who each year celebrated the end of UNHM's registration by dumping a trashcan full of packing peanuts over the cubicle wall and onto the head of the director of admissions.
* "RAWHIDE" THEME SONG. You may love that your cell phone ring mimics the sound of a slot machine, but set your phone on vibrate during working hours. Management can help by providing a private space where workers can make a personal phone call.
With just a little thoughtfulness on everyone's part, cubicle bliss can be within everyone's reach.Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents