That's when it's time to get anonymous. Sure, you can leave an etiquette book with the pertinent sections highlighted on your co-worker's chair. But buying a book costs money. And you might get caught.
Instead, the Web site NiceCritic.com, which already has had more than 100,000 visitors since launching in July, lets you send a prewritten anonymous message to an irksome co-worker. For example, "Please limit your conversations over the cubicle walls." Or "Please make use of a napkin more frequently."
"To me, a suggestion doesn't have to be a slap in the face," site creator Erik Riesenberg said. "It can be a nice whisper."
Riesenberg, a marketing director for a book publisher in New York, described the awkward encounter that gave him the idea to create a site that delivers embarrassing news delicately, as a crusty old butler might:
"I had gone out with some co-workers for drinks," he said, "and after the third round, one co-worker came up to me and said, 'You should really trim your nose hair.'"
After the initial shock wore off and he had time to self-reflect (in a mirror, no doubt), Riesenberg had to admit it: He appreciated the friendly tip.
Just ask Aaron Mentzer, a public relations manager in Orem, Utah, who worked with a younger woman who had a problem with "excessive touching and invasion of personal space."
"I'd be sitting in my cube or at a table in the break room, and she'd walk up and rest her hand on my shoulder," Mentzer said.
Flashing his wedding band did little to remedy the problem. So Mentzer took off the kid gloves and told his co-worker to keep her hands to herself because she was making him uncomfortable.
"She apologized and explained that she relied on touch for communication a lot because her father -- who she lived with still -- was sight-impaired," Mentzer said.
Not only did Mentzer obliterate the "touching issue," he managed to do so without offending his co-worker.
So the next time you're faced with a Chatty Chester who won't let you get your work done or a TMI Trisha who revels in sharing her latest tale of dermatological woe, forget subtle. Don't even worry about hurt feelings.
"Those people you have to be more direct with," said Jansen, the business consultant. "You have to say, 'I hope you don't mind if I seem abrupt, but I have to get back to work.'"
Or "I'm not interested in seeing your skin condition. Please don't ever show it to me again."
This work is the opinion of the columnist, and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller. Her books — "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube" and "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" (October 2008) — offer an irreverent take on the traditional career guide. More tips on career change, flex work and the freelance life can be found on her blog, Anti9to5Guide.com.