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The Animals – Sharing Office Space: Is It A Jungle Or A Zoo?

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 22, 2010 in Executive Coaching, Self Improvement

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Do you share an office space? Are you swimming in a cubicle environment or crammed into an office with more than one person? Is office etiquette different when you are closer together? Yes! When you do not have your own space and your own door, you have to realize that you are around other people and that is where manners need a little jungle taming!

As a contractor on site at a client, I work in the field and share space with 2 other consultants. The quarters are tight and you have no privacy whatsoever. It’s a tough environment to work in, but even more challenging when:

1. Speakerphones! I have often run into this issue and I’ll bet you have too! Even if you are working in your own office space, the polite thing is to close the door so as not to disturb your co-workers. It does not matter how often you have conference calls, who you are calling, the reason, or even what you think you have to do simultaneously (surfing personal internet sites? = not professional), you do not have the luxury of putting a call on speaker when you are in close quarters.
Resolution: If this person is you, give up the speaker! If you have a speakerphone problem person, speak up and politely, but sternly, ask the person to not put their calls on speaker as it disturbs the productivity and personal space of others. (Or just nicely tell them it’s annoying!). Perhaps suggest to that person that they borrow a separate office space or go outside on their cell phones. Most companies can issue a laptop and have wireless internet available if they can plan to move to a different area.

2. Bodily Functions. (Ew!) Miss Manners would say in ANY environment, a gentleman or lady should not burp loudly in front of another person – or any other strange noise emissions. (However, in a work environment, I would venture to say that it’s more inappropriate.)
Resolution: If you are someone who burps loudly, a simple “excuse me” or an apology is appropriate (not: “well you’re in for a real treat today because I forgot my Gas-x.” I can’t make this stuff up!). The offense has already been committed; a slight effort towards damage-control helps co-workers think better of your manners. Burping is natural, but your response to it can make or break relationships. (No joke!). Faced with a burping co-worker, don’t encourage them and be proactive in setting an example for behavior.

3. Food. I can go in a million directions with this, but here are a couple of points: You should not try to cut a whole watermelon at your desk (or do any sort of food preparation outside of the kitchen beyond some condiments) and if your lunch has a very strong odor, not everyone may appreciate it, so please save it for home.
Resolution: Bringing lunch is great and cost-effective, but bringing the farm or sharing the wafting aroma with the entire office can send some people running or gagging. Cold food is typically safe as it usually has less of an odor. Anything that can be packed into Tupperware or comes in its own container is appreciated. Rule of thumb: if you can’t buy it in your building’s café, stop to think about how it could look/smell to others before you pack it for the office. Take it outside or try eating in a less-populated area of the office if you aren’t sure. And always keep your workspace free of lunch-leftovers! NO ONE wants to share a sticky, stinky office with a little critter or a hundred…

Keep these few things in mind and the jungle may seem a little less like a zoo!

Guest post by Michelle Cecchett

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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