Manner Monday®: Prairie Dogging

This post was originally published on Expeditions in Etiquette. It was recently featured on Blogging4Jobs.

By Carey Sue Vega on August 26, 2013

Do you walk into someone’s office, or cubicle, unannounced and start chatting about work, or even just casually stop by to socialize? No matter the office environment, it seems when we need something, or just want to chat, it’s a matter of urgency and whatever our peers are working on at the time should take second priority.

Most of us have the need to socialize, whether it is for brainstorming or just taking a much-needed break. So often though, we don’t think about our colleagues and the impact it makes on them: ‘are we interrupting?’, ‘are they on a deadline and we’ve interrupted their thought patterns?’.

You may have seen notes posted in offices or break rooms reminding co-workers to ‘clean up after themselves’, or the notes posted in the cubicle areas reminding people of how to ‘respect each other and their working environment’. I think we all can be reminded from time to time to treat our co-workers with the same respect we wish to be treated.

Here are some time-tested tips to keep in mind for treating all working spaces (office, cubicle, reception desk, etc.) with respect, creating a more pleasant working environment for everyone:

  • If your colleague has their head buried, don’t interrupt. Come back later. When you do return, don’t immediately barge in with ‘I need’; ask if they finished their project. How can you help them?
  • Eye Contact and Body Language speak volumes. Did your co-worker make eye contact with you and does their body language say come on in? Or are they politely saying ‘not now’ by their lack of eye contact or body language. Less eye contact should mean fewer interruptions.
  • In office environments with cubicles, ‘prairie dogging’ has taken on a meaning of it’s own. Don’t pop up and peep over the top of your cubicle wall and continue to carry on a conversation with someone. Act as if the cubicle is an office with walls, and a ceiling, and treat it as such.

If you’re having problems in your office, ask your team to come up with a strategy or plan together to best meet the needs of everyone…when they have ownership in the process, they will more likely be onboard to respect the process!

How often do you deal with work place interruptions? Share your story in the comments section.

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