Many years ago, I was employed at a large insurance company and had my very own cubicle. I can relate to the writer of this question.
Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett,
I work in a large office on a floor with approximately 100 other people. We work in our own little cubicle villages, but as you can imagine there is very little privacy. There is one co-worker who is ridiculously obnoxious to all of us around her. She listens to every conversation, both business and personal, and pokes her head over the wall and comments or advises without invitation. While I realize anything you say on the floor can be overheard, I find the fact that she makes no bones about letting us all know she knows what is going on and seems almost proud that she is an eavesdropper. So what do we do? I am writing not just for myself but for the group of us who are forced to sit near her.
Frustrated in Cubicle Purgatory
I preface my answer by acknowledging that this person may be lonely and just looking for something to talk about. Also, she might not even realize what she is doing is rude because of the expectation of no privacy on the floor. If she is one of these people and you will know it usually, I advise kindness. Just smile at her when she comments or thank her. Maybe even taking a break together and being friendly will help. Steer subjects to things other than work. The lonely and the clueless can generally be rehabilitated.
If you suspect that this is not the case with this person and you find she just enjoys feeling in charge and in control, when she starts to advise you about business, cut her off and say “Thank you, SoandSo, I have it covered.” If you all do this, I believe that this will stop.
If it is a personal conversation, again cut her off and pointedly say, “That was a private matter that I do not wish to discuss it with you.”
The problem with eavesdroppers is that they only hear one side of things and their advice (and the gossip that they pass) only applies to their one-sided listening. If this is truly bothersome and disruptive to work, I am sure that HR can call a meeting on the matter and address it as a department or company issue.
Best Work Wishes,
The Lady Hooper-Brackett