11 tips for being a great cubicle mate

Do you know we spend at least a third of our life at work? And when you consider that another third of our life is spent sleeping that’s a big chunk of our waking time in our jobs.

Because we spend so much time at our jobs, it’s important we treat our coworkers with courtesy and respect. Here are some tips to help you be a good cubicle mate.

Be friendly. Say hello to your cube mates as you walk to your cubicle in the morning.

Mind your volume. Noise carries pretty well in cubeland, so it’s important to keep you voice down.

Nix the speakerphone. When you are in a cubicle avoid using the speakerphone to check your messages or talk to someone. It’s very disturbing to your cubicle mates.

Use earbuds. If you must listen to music wear headphones so that others aren’t bothered by your choice of music. You may love old KISS tunes but your coworkers probably don’t.

Watch the smells. Refrain from eating anything smelly in your cubicle. This includes food items like tuna, eggs, garlic laden pasta, corn chips, etc. Also, it’s best to avoid wearing cologne or perfume. But, if you must, put a small amount on your skin, not your clothes. If people can smell you coming or after you’ve left you’re wearing too much. However, do note that some people have allergies to fragrance, so before putting that aftershave or perfume on check with your coworkers first.

Get some exercise. Rather than yell over the cubicle walls, disturbing everyone around you, get up and talk to your neighbor in their cubicle. If the information is sensitive or confidential, find a conference room or someplace private to talk.

Don’t eavesdrop. It’s hard not to hear conversations when you work in a cubicle but restrain yourself from commenting or answering a question not directed to you. People will think you are eavesdropping.

Keep personal calls to a minimum. Not only do you not want your coworkers to hear the intimate details about your personal life, you also shouldn’t be spending a lot of time on personal matters at work.

Give warning. When you approach someone’s cubicle to talk, knock on the wall or say “excuse me” first. It’s really easy to startle someone who’s concentrating and doesn’t hear you approach. It’s also good manners to make sure someone is available to talk before launching into a discourse.

Attention please. When you have agreed to talk to someone in your workspace, give them your full attention. Turn your chair to face them and do not answer emails or your phone. Give the person in front of you priority to other distractions.

Silence that phone. There’s nothing more annoying than hearing someone’s cell phone blast the latest head banger song or hear it vibrate away while the owner is in a meeting. Turn your phone off or silence it when you’re away from your desk. When you’re at your desk put it on vibrate and put it in your pocket so it doesn’t do the vibration dance on your desk.

Above all, remember do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be the coworker everyone wants as a cubicle neighbor.

Are there things your cubicle mates do that really annoy you? What would you add to the list?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. KimberlyMarieIsleyPesto on February 6, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    Yes, I would add responding to questions not directed to you. This is just plan impolite.

  2. ArdenClise on February 7, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    KimberlyMarieIsleyPesto Good point Kimberly. It’s always annoying when people listen in to your conversations and then chime in. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Jiffster on March 25, 2015 at 8:45 am

    My cubemate will use my phone (that is located on the end of my desk next to his) to call someone quickly to ask a question, etc when he is on a conference call. This annoyes me very much. He’s going into my “bubble”.  Am I wrong?

  4. ArdenClise on March 25, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Jiffster I can understand your annoyance with your cubemate.Tell him you have a contagious disease and you don’t want him to get it by using your phone. No, just kidding. Just ask him nicely if he would mind using his cell phone rather than your phone because it makes it hard for you to concentrate or something like that.

    Good luck.

  5. Deby Boss on August 26, 2020 at 9:31 am

    I would add chewing and snapping gum, sucking loudly on candy, and eating crunchy things loudly with your moth open. One more. How about watching funny videos with you headset on but laughing out loud! ?

  6. Arden on August 26, 2020 at 11:46 am

    Hi Deby,

    Yes, good points. I hadn’t considered that laughing out loud to funny videos with headsets on would be annoying, but you’re right, that would be bothersome. You either want to know why they are laughing or you want them to be quiet. Thanks for sharing.

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