Office Coach: Treat shared-desk policy as necessary evil

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Question: My problem is that people keep messing with my desk. When employees from outlying areas visit our office, they are told to use any empty cubicle. One day when I was out, someone used up all the tissues from my Kleenex box and completely filled the wastebasket with them. Another time, one of the visitors apparently took my favorite pen. I also find that people frequently change the settings on my computer. I placed a polite note on my monitor asking visitors to please restore the settings, but that had no effect.

I have no idea who these employees are, so I can’t talk with them directly. Although I don’t want to seem petty, I think their behavior is very rude. What should I do about this?

Answer: Almost everyone feels territorial about their office habitat, so I completely understand your reaction. Given your company’s shared-desk policy, however, I’m afraid you may need to adjust your thinking. Where you see “my desk” and “my computer,” management just sees available space and equipment.

While you may not be able to banish the intruders, you can still attempt to modify their behavior. To clearly indicate that this cubicle is occupied, put some photos or other personal touches in obvious places. When you plan to be away, stash all items which you wish to protect in a drawer. If your desk has a lock, use it.

Retain the reminder about your computer settings, but make it more specific. Since most people won’t remember what they changed, provide a detailed list of your preferences. Some visitors may ignore this request, but the considerate ones will comply.

Ultimately, though, the most helpful strategy is to make the mental shift from irritation to acceptance. There’s no point getting stressed out over something you can’t change.

Marie G. McIntyre, a workplace coach and author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics,” can eb reached at http://www.yourofficecoach.com



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