When unemployment is at 9.7% in the United States, it may seem insensitive to criticize a 1st World Problem like "Poor Office Etiquette," but the reality is... folks in Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers suits have given me more trouble than rowdy 6th graders and rude restaurant guests. (I've also been a teacher and server.) I did an extremely unscientific poll on Facebook and Twitter, and it's clear... this is a problem across America. Maybe you, YES YOU, are doing something extremely annoying, and you don't even realize that your incessant tapping of your pen is analogous to Chinese Water Torture. I'm here to help. Below are some common complaints and solutions:
1. Theft. Quite a few folks mentioned "office thieves" or people that "borrow" things from your unsecured desk. For example, I like to keep an arsenal of items like tuppeware, paper plates, plasticware, and napkins in my drawers, and while I like to eat... something tells me, I didn't go through 150 plates in 3 weeks by myself. Eventually, I printed a note, complete with skull and crossbones requesting people not to remove items without my permission. This did NOTHING to deter theft. I even heard one of my colleagues say, "Get a napkin from Crystal's drawer."
Stealing is taking something without someone's permission. There's no room to assume, "oh Carefree Cindy* won't mind if I use her stapler" or "Diabetic Dan* doesn't need that ice cream as much as I do." I know someone who experienced temporary loss of finger movement because someone took her heater.
Solution: Treat people's office space like you would their home and don't trespass without permission. And if you really need it, and you know Prepared Pamela* has a box of forks, find a way to let Pam know you borrowed one, and refresh her supply next week.
2. Sensory Hostage. You may have never heard this term before. That's because I just made it up. We have to go to work, which means while there, we're forced to smell what's there, hear what's there, and see what's there. I call taking advantage of this forced interaction, sensory hostage.
Smell Hostage: I've never had chitterlings, but I know I don't like them. Why? Because I've smelled them. Where? Most recently, in my office. The funny thing about cubicles is, they don't block smells. Your international palette is certainly impressive, but more often than not, its disturbing.
Solution: If your office doesn't provide a space specifically for eating that is separate from work areas, save foods notorious for their potentially offensive fumes like tuna, heavy onion and garlic, fish, chitterlings, and eye-watering curry for your home.
Hearing Hostage: Right now, I'm a big fan of Glee's Christmas Album, Merry Chrismas II You, Lady Killer and DooWops and Hooligans. But, I don't know that everyone else wants to hear it. I also can't say I'm too fond of hearing everyone's personal drama, gossip, love affairs, and such at work. It's just weird to learn that the lady who doles out the paychecks likes to swing on the weekends.
Solution: Use headphones when necessary, or play music at a level where only you can hear it. If whatever you're talking about has the potential to be harmful, inappropriate, or questionable in taste, keep it to yourself. Most importantly know your audience. It's natural to exchange a joke, chat, or small talk about sports. However, if you haven't established a relationship with the folks you're talking to, or you notice them biting their knuckles in uncomfortableness, drop it.
3. State Farm Colleagues. You know the slogan, "Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There." Except... my poll revealed this is how many of you feel about your colleagues... consistently peeping over your shoulder, talking to you but staring at your computer screen, sneaking up behind you while you're at your desk, or engaging in loud, distracting conversations, right next to you. Some are even brassy enough to jump in your conversation or lounge around in your doorway with inane details about their cat and his diarrhea. Similar to sensory hostage, State Farm Colleagues represents space hostage. If you're that guy/gal doing this, you don't know how many people who would have a truly blessed Christmas if you stopped.
Solution: Limit visits to other offices to under a minute, and if you notice that you're consistently visiting other people, but they're never visiting you, it means they're not appreciative of your light banter. Avoid looking at someone's computer unless they invite you to.
There's no way I could cover everything in a post and expect you to read it... after all, it's A Word or Three, not A Word or Fifty... (Not funny? Sorry.) But quickly, a few other items that were mentioned are: email forwards, particularly of the chain variety; "Stupid Staff Meetings"; loud eating; popping popcorn (I'm guilty) and gum; yelling across the office; nonstop complaining; personal calls; retrieving other people's items from the printer; "coming to my office with mail and saying 'Do you want this now or should I just leave it in your mailbox?'; lazy people that cling to you to because of a shared ethnicity; drinking the last cup of coffee, and tattle-tellers.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of individuals
**Special thanks to Twitter folks @DiamondDee_, @primotennis, @jantastik, @Mercii_Me and Facebook friends, Somer, Krystal, Katherine, Hype, Robin, Najiy, Gina, Saranah, and Tamara for your contributions!
Anything else I left out? Are you guilty of these offenses? Can you relate? Share a story or other thoughts.