Q: I have a cubicle that’s essentially in a hallway. Just behind my desk are two doors with a lot of traffic, including a break room. When I first started, I tried to be sociable with everyone when they came over — usually on their coffee break. With all the traffic, however, I found I was getting nothing done, so I now ignore everything that goes on behind me, unless someone specifically calls my name. This allows me to get my work done, but I feel that I’m being perceived as unfriendly or cold. Any suggestions?
A: The rudeness here is really on the part of people who assume that, just because your desk happens to be right there, you should be conversing with them rather than getting your work done. You’re already doing what I would recommend. I would also advise you not to take your breaks at your desk. Instead, get up and join your co-workers, even if they’re only a few feet away. Chatting in the break room will dispel the image that you’re cold or unfriendly, while also reinforcing the idea that your desk area is for working. Finally, I’d suggest two additional steps: First, examine your work area to see if it might be possible to move your desk to a more private location, or at least rearrange your setup for more privacy. Then go to your boss, explain how difficult things are in your current situation, and offer your alternatives.