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My company recently moved to a fancy new office space, whose aesthetic the bosses are very enamored with. Unfortunately, some elements of the space's function do not approach its aesthetic appeal: in addition to A/C that is mostly for show, the cube walls are only about 4.5 feet (~1.4 meters) high. Even better, my cube is located in a central aisle that people walk up and down all day... loudly... incessantly.

Because the walls are so low, everyone can and does stare in at me as they pass. Best of all, the cube is constructed such that I face a wall and the space behind me is completely open so I can't see anyone in that direction but everyone can see me. I have fairly severe social anxiety, and the constant human contact and attention, however momentary and incidental, is driving me up the wall. Given this, I expect my boss would be willing to re-locate me (there are tons of unoccupied cubes) except for the fact that my team is clustered together -- one of us moving would upset the gain in collaboration efficiency that was a major focus when the new space was being designed.

Is there anything I can do short of presenting my anxiety to HR as a 'special needs' case (I don't want to be the token 'special' guy)? How can I broach the subject with my bosses without sounding crazy?

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    Simple - Tell your boss your work is impacted by the amount of sound coming from all the people walking back and forth. This is the first step - you don't need to get HR involved at all. How can a boss not cater to that? By the way I love the comic! – JonH Nov 23 '15 at 20:50
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    Related: Adjusting to an “open” cubicle office layout – David K Nov 23 '15 at 21:28
  • People see you. That's different from looking at you, which in turn is digferent from staring at you. Unless you're especially interesting, I really doubt anyone is paying any attention as they pass by. I understand the social anxiety, but be aware that you are overreacting. – keshlam Nov 23 '15 at 22:05
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    Would it help you to get one of those computer monitor "rear-view" mirrors? – Chimera Nov 24 '15 at 1:42
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    I've hung mirrors up, just to keep from being startled if someone walked up to ask me a question. – Dan Shaffer Nov 24 '15 at 20:22
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Either move so you can sit sideways or if that's not possible. Just tell your boss that you're uncomfortable when your back is not against a wall or when you don't know what is behind you. I wouldn't escalate it more than that. It's really up to your manager to make sure you're comfortable.

Most reasonable managers will be ok with that I would think. I have much the same issue stemming from my time as a bouncer and never had a manager not come to some sort of compromise without making a big deal out of it.

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    I wonder if your managers might have been particularly willing to compromise because no-one wants to argue with an ex-bouncer... – user56reinstatemonica8 Nov 23 '15 at 22:31
  • @user568458 that is possible, however managers will usually do little things like that in the interests of having a happy team member. It's not a big issue to give the OP a cube facing the other way. Not worth making a 'thing' out of anyway, in my opinion. – Kilisi Nov 23 '15 at 22:55
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If working with your boss doesn't pan out, and I'm hoping that it actually does, look into a privacy screen cover. It won't help with the feeling people are looking, but at least you will have the comfort that they do not see your screen.

These are clear panels that when not looking directly at the screen will be blurred. Here is an example of what such a screen looks like.

I'll admit I didn't realize how expensive they were until I looked there. But it's an option.

  • One of my co-workers uses these; they're nice, but I'm not particularly concerned with people seeing my screen content. It's the fact that people can see me that rankles, for some reason. I'm like a cat in that way... maybe if I put up some plants and peered out from behind them I would feel better – CCJ Nov 23 '15 at 23:03

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