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Your cube can kill your career

By Laura Morsch
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( -- Chances are good that you'll spend a large portion of your career in a three-walled workspace. Cubicle farms are the norm in today's offices, and working in close quarters with your colleagues can be great for teamwork and fostering good workplace camaraderie.

But if you're not careful, your cubicle could bring down your career. To ensure that happens, follow these 10 steps:

1. Don't censor your decorations

You spend a lot of time in your cube, so it makes sense to give your walls a little personality. But be careful. It's sweet to hang up a picture of you and your husband from your honeymoon. But when the picture is of you wearing a string bikini and downing a tequila shot, your co-workers might start to view you differently. Don't hang anything you wouldn't want the CEO to see.

2. Conduct all your calls on speakerphone

Your call might be important, but the entire office doesn't need (or want) to hear every word of it. If you absolutely must use speakerphone, take the call in an empty office or conference room. And don't forget to shut the door.

3. Use your cube walls to sound off on political issues

Regardless of your views, political issues are best kept out of the office. A cubicle plastered with campaign posters can be distracting or make others uncomfortable, and you never know if your extremely liberal views could be putting off the conservative boss. It's better to save your campaigning for after hours.

4. Use your shelves for your teddy bear collection

Cute as they may be, filling your cube with kitschy decorations can make you appear juvenile and undermine your credibility.

5. Eat lots of tuna at your desk

If you frequently eat lunch in your cube, be conscious or others who might be extremely sensitive to the smell of your food. If you're going to eat notoriously smelly foods (think broccoli, tuna or popcorn), take them to a break room.

6. Loudly discuss confidential matters

Cubicles, unfortunately, don't allow very much privacy, so you need to use extreme caution when discussing private or confidential matters. Your best bet is to hold these discussions in an empty conference room.

7. Don't bother cleaning up after yourself

A messy, grimy desk makes you appear disorganized, slows your productivity and could even get you sick. Invest in some cleaning wipes and set aside an hour or so a week to straighten up.

8. Spend loads of time surfing the Internet

Remember: Your cube only has three walls, and that means any nosy person who peeks into your space can see what's on your screen. If your boss sees you taking online quizzes all day, you could be headed for a pink slip.

9. Keep your cell phone ringer on high and vibrate

Your co-workers do not appreciate being interrupted every 10 minutes by the Batman theme song, nor do they like being startled by the sound of your phone buzzing against the desktop. Turn your phone on mute, or better yet, turn it off during work hours.

10. Come to work sick

You may think you're being a team player when you come to the office with a cold or a stomachache. But when everyone in your row comes down with bronchitis because they can't avoid your hacking, you won't be anyone's favorite employee.

© Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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