A lot of us work in cube farms. We are surrounded by other co-workers, and we have very little privacy. Every conversation is heard, and every person coming and going to see you at your cubicle is subject to the scrutiny of your neighboring cube farmers.
I am not sure if Emily Post planned for this type of work environment or not, but I haven’t really seen any formal rules about how to conduct oneself when surrounded by neighboring workers. There is one I would like to add to the list, if it is not already written down.
Please, do not whisper while speaking to a visitor, and please do not whisper on the phone. Much like a fart, it is best to excuse oneself politely and leave the room to have a conversation that you don’t want others to overhear.
Whispering is often just a harmless activity between friends, but at work, it can lead your co-workers to believe any of several things:
1. You have something you’re not sharing
2. You don’t feel the people around you are entitled to hear what you are saying
3. You may be gossiping about others within earshot
4. You don’t have the courtesy to take a private conversation to a private place
5. You indicate that the person receiving the whisper is somehow more worthy of hearing what is being said
I read on a fellow blogger’s post today (Leadership Freak) that we should use the “In The Room” rule when talking about others. The rule states that you should not say anything about a person that you would not feel comfortable saying if they were in the room with you. If you are whispering, you may be breaking that rule.
You may also be discussing your herpes test results with your friend, or telling someone that your sister has been locked up again…but whether these conversations are in person or over the phone, they really need to be taken out of the cubicle and into a more private environment. Just like a fart.
When I have a whisper-worthy statement to make, I usually say to my co-worker “I need a cup of tea, would you like to join me?” If it is on the phone, I tell the person that I need to call them back from my cellular phone and take the conversation outside. That shows respect for the people I work with, and prevents people from feeling that I have a low opinion of them.