Sutton Enterprises

Cubicle Etiquette

March 9, 2020



Cubicles are now very common in office settings. Many of us work in office cubicles or other open environments.   An employee can spend 40 hours per week in a cubicle. However, studies show that most workers are not thrilled with the idea of working in a cube because of the lack of privacy and the increased noise.


Life in a cube presents particular challenges. One of the challenges is how coworkers with different personalities, working styles, and preferences and from different cultures can work successfully in a cubicle environment. Some people are more extraverted and need to talk. Others are introverted and prefer to work all day without interruption.  They get their energy from within themselves.


Some people say that cubicles offer more of a psychological than a physical barrier between employee workspaces. It is hard to keep noise, smells, and other disturbances from spilling over the partitions. But if people realize that they must minimize their "spill-over," life in cubicles can be more comfortable, and the cubicle workplace can be very productive.


In cubicle environments, "common" courtesy is more important than ever. A little bit of politeness goes a long way toward smoothing problems. Everybody should model good behavior and expect it from coworkers.  Supervisors can play an essential role in setting the tone, creating policies for healthy office culture, and, when necessary, negotiating conflicts between employees.


Here are some ways that you can exercise proper cubicle etiquette and make your work environment more conducive to getting work done.




  • Conceptualize invisible walls and doors. Do not talk or holler over the top of your cubicle.
  • Never enter someone's cubicle without permission. Do not barge in and begin talking. Behave as though cubicles have doors. Do not enter before you have eye contact "permission" from the occupant.
  • Do not sneak up behind someone in a cube. Announce yourself at a coworker"s doorway or lightly knock on the wall.
  • Post a sign or flag at your cube entrance to signal when you can be interrupted. Avoid making eye contact with people if you don't want to be interrupted.
  • Don't "prairie-dog" over the tops of cubes or peek in as you walk past each one. Keep your eyes straight ahead.
  • Don't loiter outside someone's cube while you wait for him or her to finish a phone call. Come back at another time.
  • Never read someone's computer screen or comment on conversations you've overheard. Resist answering a question you overheard asked in the cube next to you!
  • Keep your hands off a cube dweller's desk. Just because there's no door doesn't mean you can help yourself to their paper clips or stapler.
  • Kick others out gracefully. Let others know you have work to finish.
  • Respect quiet – think before interrupting someone who appears to be deep in thought
  • Don't discuss confidential and personal information in your cubicle. General Rule: Would you want this information on the internet or the PM news? If not, don't discuss it in your cubicle; find a more private space instead.
  • If you are having a break or lunch with someone else, do so in the break room, not in your cubicle.




  • Try to pick up your phone on the first ring. Set the ringer volume at the lowest level you can hear.
  • Never use a speakerphone in your cubicle. If there is someone else who needs to listen in, use a meeting room for these conference calls.
  • Watch your volume when talking on the phone. A headset can help keep your voice low. It can also free up your hands to work on the computer while you are talking.  
  • When you leave your cubicle, turn your phone ringer off and let it go to voicemail or forward your phone number to your new location.
  • Never leave your cell phone behind in your cube without first turning it off or to vibrate.
  • With personal or sensitive calls, be aware that your neighbors can hear your end of the conversation.
  • Don't interrupt people who are taking calls or stand over them.




  • Use your "library voice."  Talk softly – Don't shout.
  • Don't talk through cube walls or congregate outside someone's cube. For impromptu meetings, go to a conference room or break room.
  • Don't bring clients to your cube to meet with them. Go to an office or conference room.
  • Don't yell across the "cube farm." Get up and move to the other person's location.




  • Use email or instant messaging to communicate silently with your coworkers.
  • Use a headset when using an MP3 player, iPod, radio, etc. Do not sing or hum along.  
  • Set your PC volume to a low level and turn off screensaver sound effects.
  • Set cell phones and pagers to vibrate.
  • Work out an arrangement with your neighbors to take lunch breaks at different times. This action will give each of you some quiet time in your cube.
  • Eat quietly. Avoid gum-popping, smacking your lips, slurping, and pen tapping.





  • A good rule of thumb is never to eat hot food or strong-smelling foods at your desk. Food odors can bother your hungry or nauseous neighbors.  Remember that other people will have to live with those odors all afternoon.
  • Perfume and cologne should be avoided in a cubicle arrangement. Your neighbors may have allergies.
  • Keep a neutralizing air freshener handy.
  • Keep your shoes on!
  • Keep snacking to a minimum at your desk.       Choose quiet foods to snack on.




  • Take pride in your work area – it is a reflection of you.
  • Maintain a clean and tidy workspace.
  • Keep decorations simple and not offensive to others.
  • Keep plants clean and trimmed.
  • Do not intrude on your coworker's space with your cubicle plants.




  • Remember that your cubicle is the property of your organization, not your kingdom.  
  • Do your grooming in the restroom, i.e., do not trim your eyebrows, beard, nails, or floss your teeth in your cube.
  • If you are a cube lunch eater, keep in mind that other people are also enjoying your meal with you.
  • Just because you have some visual privacy, don't assume your annoying habits are a secret, i.e., chewing ice, clipping nails, eating crunchy stuff.
  • You are at work to work.


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