Sunday, April 7, 2013

Don't Be Giving Me Dirty Looks If I Comment On Your Personal Business

Props to David Cranmer's blog post of  2/5/13 for providing the inspiration for this post.

My office building has what we call "open floors". In other words, the cubicle walls are short, the ceilings are high, and on a good day, you can hear clear across to the other side of the room. The one advantage to this concept is that you can hear all kinds of conversations, which is great if your job has a tendency from time to time to give out information with an eye dropper. The one disadvantage to this is that you can hear all kinds of conversations, which sucks if you're trying to get your work done and completed without any kind of monumental F' ups.

Throughout my state career (17 years and counting) I've had the misfortune of occupying cubicles/work stations in seriously high traffic/high visibility areas. I say "misfortune" because having a cubicle or work station in a high traffic/high visibility area means you can't do the following items with any degree of consistency:

1} Goof off.
2} Get your work done in a timely manner.

I'm not going to talk about being able to goof off, 'cause well, we all goof off from time to time, and we all have ways of goofing off w/o getting caught, no matter how many people come wandering by. However, I am going to talk about getting your work done in a timely manner.

I have been tortured by people in more ways than you can possibly imagine, simply because of where my cube or work station has been.

For instance, at one of my pit stops back in the mid-2000's I had two cubes in serious high traffic areas.

Cube #1: Just outside my entrance was the break table, in which all kinds of unhealthy food items and informal staff meetings took place; directly in front of my cube was the entrance to the hallway, the refrigeration and the microwave for our unit.

And no, this is not a good thing. If you enjoy having people talk while they're nuking their smelly disgusting food less than a half hour after you had your lunch and you're trying to get your job done, then you need professional help. Or if you really enjoy having people carry on inane conversations and one of the participants is wearing enough musk oil to gag even a hoarder of garbage, then you really need to be living here.

In regards to the musk oil, the person who was wearing it actually drove me out of my cube twice within a couple of minutes. After the second trip to the great outdoors to clear my head, I came back inside and mentioned to the person that her nasty musk oil was making me ill and could you kindly move your big fat hienie elsewhere (and no, I didn't say it like that, I used tact, thank you very much).

That person, believe or not, got highly offended over the fact that I asked her to move her conversation elsewhere. Never mind the fact that her aroma was making me seriously ill and that it was preventing me from doing my job. No, we threw a hissy fit because we had to MOVE OUR HIENIE ELSEWHERE.


Fast forward a few years later to my current place of debauchery...umm...employment.

The cubicle that I had first called home was directly across from the conference room, which everyone and their Uncle Dan used for meetings. Quite often, when these meetings break up, a lot of noise was much to be had. Which usually meant that I often had to take an extended break from doing whatever it was I was doing and traipse off to elsewhere until the commotion stopped. When it did, I would traipse back to my cube from yonder and get doing what Uncle Dan is paying me to do.

However, there were times when I had to no choice but to speak up 'cause I couldn't vacate the premises. I would politely (seriously) ask the participants if they could keep it down or step to the rear of the bus. Most of the time they would acquiesce and all would be right with my world.

Except this one time, which becomes fodder for this blog. A bi-weekly staff meeting from another unit broke up and as one of the participants was leaving the room, an old friend of the participant who happened to be on the floor, specifically my end of the floor, bumped into the participant.

So right then and there, they decided to have an old home week and proceeded to spend the next several minutes catching up on life. I did my usually thing and vacated the premises for a while, then came back and restarted whatever it was I was working on. Another minute or so passed by, and still they kept on yapping, completely oblivious to their surroundings.

Annoyed, I tried to concentrate while they were still yapping, but because of them had the kind of voice that grates on you after a while, I finally decided to nip this conversation in the bud. So I got up and said something to the effect (and yes I did actually say this) of "As fascinating as this conversation is, would it be possible for you to move away from my cubicle? I'm trying to work and your conversation is preventing me from doing so."

Sarcasm was unpleasantly exchanged between us, and for better or worse, neither one of us spoke more than ten words to each other for the rest of the time that she was employed by us, which was about 5 1/2 years ('07 thru late '12).

I don't get this as much in my new cubicle home, which is mostly due to co-worker cubicle shuffling and thus not too many visitors stop by for conversations. But when they do, I'll usually vacate the premises and take an extremely long break elsewhere until the yapping is completed.

So my friends, here's something to keep in the back of your head the next time you decide to have a personal conversation within earshot of other people.

Some will get annoyed with you because you're disturbing their personal space. Others will simply lean back in their seat, become quieter than a feather floating thru the air, and eavesdrop.

Because as you know, an informed frenemy is a happy frenemy.


  1. I'm always happy to be off the beaten path where offices are concerned, and certianly not be the first one up as students come in. I get enough of people stopping by as it is asking if someone else is in. "did you check their office?" I generally inquire.

  2. Charles: Sounds like they're pretty lazy if they wander all the way to where you are to ask.

    My current location isn't too bad. My former co-worker used to occupy the cube in front of me and because she used to our building's payroll (aka Central Office) everybody would stop by for issues/questions/problems/to chat.

    Now when I get people down my way its usually because they haven't been in my unit for a while (like a year) because they're looking for my supervisor who switched cubes about a year ago.

  3. dead on One of the real drawbacks of the cubicle system, particularly combined with our current clueless, classless, rude society that pays no attention whatsoever to their surroundings. Great post.

  4. That's so obnoxious, like you weren't even there. Kind of like people you see in public and want to say, "Get a room!"

  5. Darth: Mr. Darth! Long time no see!

    Hope life is treating you well.

    Yup, it's one serious drawback and one serious advantage, especially if you work in the public sector like I do.

    M: Believe me, I've long gotten used to it. Besides, in our agency, perception is the working phrase of the day. If you percieve me to be a non-issue, then more power to me in the long run.

  6. My cubicle is on wheels and goes wherever I push it. It is better known as a toolbox.

  7. Travis: And in your profession, the man with the toolbox is the nicest man we know, for he holds the key to redemption.


  8. G, you're gonna laugh (or want to punch me), but because I've run my own business for the years or so, I would love to hear a little conversation going on that doesn't involve me yelling at one the animals...the cats, for trying to jump on my desk, and the dogs for wanting me to give up whatever-the-heck-they-think-I-do and come out and play! :)

    But, looking back to when I was in an office environment, yes, it's hard to concentrate when people are being disrespectful. Because that is what that is, in the end.

  9. Talon: My evenings are pretty much like that, which is why I don't write when the sun goes down.

    Between the comings and goings of both childrens (12 & 20), the french horn practicing, the parrot sqwaking, the dogs barking and multipl televisions going, I don't get anything done.

    And no, I don't hate you. Just envious. :D


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