New Business Etiquette for Administrative Workers

Julie Shenkman
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In today’s brave new administrative workplace, where BlackBerrys, iPods and iPads connect or disconnect us as never before, and where cubicles have replaced offices to deny us privacy, administrative workers look increasingly to new rules of etiquette for relief. Some guidelines for the new age:

Be Cubicle Considerate. Don’t enter or lean over the wall of a co-worker’s cubicle without first announcing yourself. One worker I know used to shoot paper airplanes at a worker in the cubicle next to his to get the worker’s attention. Not cool. If you see the worker is busy, wait for a pause in his or her work before announcing yourself. Never sneak up behind someone and tap them on the shoulder. It’s best to simply say, “Excuse me,” or gently tap on the wall to get their attention. If the worker is away from his or her cubicle, don’t hang over the wall and try to read notes, computer screens, or anything else on the desk or walls. And don’t loiter in someone’s cubicle after leaving a message for them.

Work Unplugged. Don't listen to your music player in your cubicle even if the boss says it’s okay. People who come by your cubicle with a question will have to speak loudly or tap you to get your attention. It also means, you’ll have to turn up the volume on your telephone ringer. Both can be annoying to others in neighboring cubicles.

Check emails in Private. Don’t check your email in the elevator, hallway or lunchroom. These are places where people like to talk, compare notes and updates about work or just to be sociable. Don’t deny yourself these moments of social interaction by excluding co-workers.

Respect Downtime. If you’re a supervisor, don’t show up at a quarter to five and ask an employee to work late or come in on Saturday. And don’t expect a same-day reply to a phone or email message delivered on weekends.

Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of published articles on health/fitness, "green" issues, TV/film entertainment, restaurant reviews and many other topics. As a former Andy/Belding/One Show ad agency copywriter, he also writes web content, ads, brochures, sales letters, mailers and scripts for national B2B and B2C clients. Please see more of his blogs and view additional job postings on


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  • Patricia F
    Patricia F
    Great comments.  I had a position when everyone went in and out of my cubicle like it was Grand Central Station.  They went into my bins and drawers, without asking, to take food, candy, any supplies I had that they wanted (I mostly bought my own supplies for my use as I am finicky about what I like).  There was no respect that I was even a person sitting there watching them.  Dumb way to treat fellow employees that you may rely on sometime!
  • Susan B
    Susan B
    As the only woman in our offices the previous two positions I've held, I've lived by those rules for over 15 years.  As the part of a larger office facility inhabited by both genders, I've continued to abide by them.  Sadly, the working unplugged and privately checking emails isn't as important to my chain of command.  And absolutley nothing makes me crazier than trying to have a meeting with my supervisor while she is busily texting and reading email replies.  Grrr.  
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