3 Horrible Cube-Mates & How To Deal With Them

Last Updated Sep 28, 2011 12:07 PM EDT

As a freelancer, I work alone. If my home office gets too quiet, I'll occasionally surround myself with strangers at Starbucks. But before I started working solo, I was an editor at two magazine offices and I had great cubicle colleagues -- creative, kind people who broke up the day. Of course, not all of us are so lucky.

Do you have a cube-mate from hell? Here's how to neutralize him or her before you lose your sanity -- and in the process, perhaps your job.

1. The Interrupter If you want to be efficient at work, your worst enemy is someone who thinks 9 to 5 is social hour, according to Al Pittampalli, author of Read This Before Our Next Meeting. "The Interrupter incessantly engages you every 15 minutes for work-related or non-work related chit chat. Unfortunately, most of us do our best work during long stretches of uninterrupted time," says Pittampalli.
The Solution: Try tuning them out: "Wearing headphones sends a subtle signal, and your cube-mate is far less likely to try to chat with you," says Pittampalli. Not working? Politely tell your next-door neighbor that you're slammed, need to focus, and would appreciate it if he or she would email you important messages, so you can give them your undivided attention. "Creating an e-mail relationship with your cube-mate means you can both respond on your own time!" suggests Pitampalli.

2. The Gum Smacker Gum-chewing ranks high on many pet peeve lists, says Michael Crom, Executive Vice President of Dale Carnegie Training. "When a cubicle-mate smacks their gum, it is not only annoying but it is also extremely unprofessional. The snapping, smacking, popping, and chomping can cause unwanted tension amongst co-workers, especially if they are sitting very close," says Crom.
The Solution: Offer your cube-dweller a mint and hope he takes the hint. Or, simply ask him to stop -- but do it in a pleasant way. "A good way to bring it up might be as easy as saying it as a joke to gauge how they will react," says Crom.

3. The Exhibitionist A LinkedIn survey released today found that 62 percent of American women were bothered by "clothing that's too revealing for the workplace." (Interestingly, only 29 percent of men shared that concern.)
The Solution: Crom says that for sensitive issues like this, taking your cube-mate out to coffee can make conversation easier. If that doesn't work or seem appropriate, talk to your supervisor. And with all of these issues, you have one last resort -- asking for a new desk assignment.

Do you have a horrible cubicle-mate? How are you dealing with it? Please sign in below and share.
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Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
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  • Amy Levin-Epstein On Twitter»

    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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