Money & Career

Ask Louise: Is it rude to talk over cubicles at work?

In this new column, Louise Fox, founder of The Etiquette Ladies, answers all your social conundrums and questions about modern manners.
business woman speech bubble talking Photo, iStock.

Dear Louise,

I work in an office with cubicles and when I have a question for a colleague I usually just stick my head over the cubicle and ask. Some members of our unit say this is bad etiquette because it disturbs others. Are they right? – L. Haskin, London

Yes, they are! Those of you who constantly pop up over the cubicle walls to make remarks or ask questions are called "prairie dogs".

It’s just one of the many ways employees demonstrate a lack of courtesy for their cubicle neighbours. Constant interruptions make it difficult to concentrate on your work and surveys have shown that when you are interrupted it takes approximately 20 minutes to return to the level of concentration you had before the disruption. Here are four rules to follow:

1. Instead of peeking your head over the top of your neighbour's cubicle every time you have a "quick" question, get a little exercise by walking around the corner.

2. Imagine that there is a door on the cubicle and those cubicle walls go all the way to the ceiling. Knock.


3. Do not use sign language or whisper to attract the attention of someone who is busy or on the phone. Saying, “I know you are busy but this will just take a minute,” does not excuse the interruption.

4. A more effective communication is sending an email or text saying, “When you have a moment, I have a question for you....” It is less intrusive and does not distract others around you.

Have a question for Louise? Email

Louise Fox, recognized as Canada’s Etiquette Expert, is the owner of The Etiquette Ladies and She has over 20 years experience in hospitality and special event planning industries, and is Director of Eastern Operations of Civility Experts Worldwide and Certification Panelist and Master Trainer for the International Civility Trainers’ Consortium . She is a frequent guest on Breakfast Television, Entertainment Tonight, MTV, Business News Network, Global News and many others.


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