Cubicle Mentoring

Posted by: on May 23, 2011 | 2 Comments

Many companies have formal mentoring programs. These programs help employees find a mentor that can advise them on their career and provide some guidelines for both the employee and the mentor. Some people however do not think they have the skills or the time to be a mentor. The thought of participating in a formal mentoring program is too overwhelming.  So let’s put aside the formal mentoring program and talk about a way you can do informal mentoring.

Many of us work in a cubicle existence and actually cubicles are way more conducive to informal mentoring than being in an office. Come on now, don’t deny that you “accidentally” overhear  many of the conversations that goes on around you. It’s okay. For informal mentoring use the power of overheard conversations to your advantage. We all can’t be an expert in everything and my guess is you have knowledge about something your cube neighbors don’t have. Since you are listening in to their phone calls and cubicle conversations anyway, when you hear something that you know you can provide helpful information on, step up to the plate and offer your knowledge.  That’s what I call cubicle mentoring.


  1. Bill Kutik
    May 24, 2011

    Long before there were cubicles, Mike, there was the open seating plan of daily newspaper offices. Just rows of desks, and it was openly acknowledged that the purpose was to overhear your neighbors’ conversations so you could help them!

    “Hey, sounds like you need a source at the Department of Health. I know a guy there who loves to talk.”

    I’m not sure how much a step forward cubicles have been, but at least they give you vertical surfaces for hanging pictures and dart boards.

    But your point has historical roots and remains valid. Act on what you hear, don’t pretend you didn’t hear it! Did they promise you privacy in addition to a pay check?

    • Michael Krupa
      May 24, 2011

      Thanks for the comment. These days, hiring managers have forgotten to actually spell out some of the advantages of working in cubes so your historical perspective is great. I have mixed feelings about cubes. I think they do foster faster communication but the noise and interruptions in some environments may cancel out the benefits.

      I still know some companies who have rules that do not permit employees to hang anything on their cube walls.

      Since our electronic communications are being monitored at most companies these days, I would say we are not promised electronic or in person privacy anymore. Probably not an issue for today’s college hires as they can multitask unlike us old farts.