10 commandments for cubicle dwellers

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By Alina Dizik, Special to CareerBuilder

Still gunning for that corner office? First you’ve got to learn how to work in your company’s cubicle farm. Not sure how to navigate the unspoken rules to be the perfect cubicle dweller? Here, experts weigh in on the 10 commandments:

Focus and refocus

Because of the possibility for constant interruptions, it’s important to set priorities. “If you don’t know your complete inventory of work and you can’t instantly refocus on the next priority — or your manager’s emergency du jour — you won’t work well in a cubicle because there are too many interruptions,” says Scot Herrick, founder of Cuberules.com.

Make it comfortable

Whether you want to be seated with your back to the hallway or watching those who pass by your cube, arrange your space the way you want it, Herrick suggests. Add photos or decorations to create a more personalized and comfortable environment. “You spend all this time there [so] make your space your space,” he says.

Stay off speaker phone

It’s easy to simply start dialing on your desk phone and never pick up the receiver, but it’s important to know that those around you don’t want to hear your whole conversation. Pick up the phone or use a headset. “For some reason, it is easier to tune out a person on the phone with a one-sided conversation than hearing both sides,” Herrick says.

Go elsewhere for meetings

“Don’t hold a never-ending parade of meetings at your desk,” Herrick says. Instead, be more considerate to those around you and find a conference room or grab a coffee for longer talks. While holding shorter conversations at your cubicle is not taboo, using your space as a boardroom can be very distracting to your neighbors.

Be careful of what you say

Even when you don’t see the people around you — all of your conversations are still being heard. Be especially careful when speaking negatively about work related matters. And avoid any foul language, says Jacqueline Peros, founder of JMP Image and Style Group.

Avoid informal gatherings

While it’s okay to stop by for some quick catching up, it can be easy to get caught up on the details of a co-worker’s personal dilemma, Persos says. If a conversation is lingering on for too long, suggest a time to grab lunch or coffee in the break room to catch up with your co-worker when you’re away from your cubicle.

Be mindful of volume

Don’t disturb others with your ringing devices. Set your desk phone to low volume and your cell phone to vibrate. If you’re watching a video on your computer be sure to use headphones. With so many electronic devices it’s important to keep the volume at a level that won’t disturb your neighbors.

Use your indoor voice

Most cubicle dwellers have trouble keeping their voices down, especially when they talk on the phone. Staying aware of your own volume can help. “Some individuals are not aware of how loud their voice projects,” Peros says. “If you think it might be too loud, ask your cube neighbors to weigh in and let you know.”

Befriend your neighbors

There’s no way to be completely isolated from your neighbors, so it’s important that you build a comfortable communication style. “Keeping an open and honest dialogue with your cube neighbors is a great way to build a mutually collaborative and productive work environment for everyone,” Peros says.

Use your manners

No matter what you do in a cubicle, your actions are always on display. Each time you come to work, make sure you’re at your most professional. “Manners are extremely important when working in a cube environment because everyone is sharing a common public space,” Peros says.

Alina Dizik researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for CareerBuilder. Follow @Careerbuilder on Twitter.

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