Handling sticky workplace situations


Some guidelines to resolve common dilemmas with your colleagues

The noisy employee that decided to settle in the cubicle next to yours. The office gossiper that just won’t leave you alone. The worker that takes “taking-free-stuff-home” too far. In one way or another, we’ve all seen these individuals at some point in our careers (and in a shared office space environment such as the one from Jay Suites, where I’m based, encountering them is a lot more likely). Responding to their conduct, however, is a different issue altogether. While their behavior likely makes most of the world feel uncomfortable, hardly anyone ever alerts them that the way they’re acting is, um, inappropriate. In fact, most of us probably just ignored them altogether – but that only prolongs their act. So, the next time you encounter one of these (and I promise you will!) here’s practical advice on how to respond to some commonplace situations effectively but with, uh, discretion.

Scenario #1: the noisy neighbor

We can all deal with some distractions, and this is a given when working in a shared environment (Jay Suites has frosted glass doors at their Grand Central location which gives some privacy but definitely doesn’t block everything). However, nonstop noise can seriously impact your productivity. One way to handle an exceptionally loud employee is to mention overhearing their conversation or ask what they worked on that generated a strong noise “in the middle of the workday”. If they still don’t get the hint, gently knock on their door or cubicle wall, then pop-in and ask for a pen or Post-it note, noting that “I knocked on the door beforehand, but I guess you didn’t hear me.”

Scenario #2: “I live on office supplies”

There are so many Post-it notes, would anyone notice if there was just one less? The abundance of supplies makes taking some extremely tempting. Again, this is especially relevant in a shared office space workspace, where everything is often fully stocked and furnished. While an occasional pickup is probably harmless, consistently overtaking can draw the attention of superiors – and make everyone extremely uncomfortable. To let a fellow co-worker know that he crossed the red line, the next time you witness excessive nabbing say jokingly, “I can only imagine what it would look like if everyone took that many _____!”

Scenario #3: have you heard…?

Ah, the endless gossiper. When you have a difficult project, conversing with her may be a welcome distraction. But if you’re working to a tight deadline, this worker can prove quite bothersome. What to do? Direct the conversation towards work. Ask, “which projects are you working on? I have to deliver this report in an hour!” If she mentions not having any projects in the pipeline, praise her for being so lucky and express how much you wish your agenda were completely empty. After a few times, the message will surely shine through.

Scenario #4: younger and smarter

The “younger coworker promoted first” situation is particularly relevant in corporate environments. Although this can intensify rivalry, I recommend taking the opposite route and building a friendly relationship with the newly-promoted employee (yes, even if they are your junior). After all, any higher-up is a valuable connection, and a fresh one that was able to climb the ladder quickly is likely on a positive streak, making the friendship even more worthwhile. So congratulate your colleague, then offer to treat them to dinner – and in the process, pick their brain about how to emulate their success. It may even result in your own promotion!


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