Ask Annie

Is cubicle etiquette an oxymoron?

November 16, 2010: 11:05 AM ET

Actually, no (at least, not yet). A new book explains how to cope with rude colleagues, avoid e-mail wars, and more. Take our quiz to see how your office manners stack up.

Dear Annie: Am I the only one who wonders what ever happened to good manners? I'm not even that old (37), but it seems to me that people used to make more of an effort to be polite at work and practice certain basic courtesies. Now, it seems the workplace has gotten so casual that anything goes.

Here's an example: At my company, only the very top people have offices with doors. The rest of us, including middle management types like me, work in cubicles. But I frequently need to concentrate on something complicated or have a difficult conversation with someone, and it's hard to do either of those when people feel free to barge in at any moment without even a pretense of "knocking" first.

Most of the coworkers who do this are younger than I am, which leads me to think that plain old good manners are an endangered species. Do you agree?

Also, what do you think of people who use the "bcc." (blind copy) feature to secretly send emails loaded with "constructive criticism" to other people's bosses? Some of my direct reports seem to see nothing wrong with this, but I think it's dirty pool. --Seething in Seattle

Dear S.S.: It goes without saying that every generation (including the one preceding yours) tends to view the next as a horde of barbarians at the gates, but you might have a point.

"People's manners in general really are getting worse," says Vicky Oliver, author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions. "It's partly because of reality TV. Being obnoxious has become the new norm."

Read the full story here.


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About This Author
Anne Fisher
Anne Fisher
Contributor, Fortune

Anne Fisher has been writing "Ask Annie," a column on careers, for Fortune since 1996, helping readers navigate booms, recessions, changing industries, and changing ideas about what's appropriate in the workplace (and beyond). Anne is the author of two books, Wall Street Women (Knopf, 1990) and If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

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