On the job : Dealing with cubicle lurkers

For people working in cubicles frequent interruption can not only make them work less but can also cause work stress. There are no doors or soundproofing and to top it all there are unwanted visitors dropping by for a chat or peeking over your shoulder. Business-etiquette expert Ann Marie Sabath

calls them cubicle lurkers. Here are four tips to help you avoid such


Stand up

As soon as someone tries to crash your cube, stand up and tell him/her you need to keep your conversation brief. If you’re on deadline, tell them politely that you can talk later. “Don’t initiate a conversation,” Sabath warns in her book. “Start working, perhaps by making a phone call, and hope the person has the presence of mind to realise that you’re busy dealing with a critical project.”

Avoid eye contact

Remember what your mother told you to avoid being attacked by a big, scary dog? It applies to the cube lurkers as well. Sabath notes, “If you make eye contact, people misinterpret that as an invitation to come in.” Don’t look up, and perceptive lurkers will walk on by.

Use indicators

Sabath recommends a variation of the do not disturb sign. Hang a red “deadline alert” or “work in progress” sign to ward off intruders, and alternate it with a green sign for times when you are accessible.

Don’t get boxed in

Sit with your back to your cube doorway, and put something on your guest chair to avoid cubicle crashers. If the person wants to chat about personal matters, tell him you’ll talk when you are free. “People are nosy,” Sabath admits. “But it’s important to set boundaries.” — Agencies