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Nosy Bosses, Loud Clothes, and the Office Outcast: Open Office Dilemmas

by Mary Isner / March 15, 2018

After listening to my friend complain about the woman in the workstation next to her wearing so many bangles that she could not think straight due to the constant jingling of the woman’s bracelets (for which I can only think of two potential solutions – talk to her about it or get a sound machine!), I thought it may be time for another friendly reminder from Miss Open Office Manners herself. Enjoy.

Helping an Open Office Outcast

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I have noticed the most odd situation in my open office. We have one coworker that, how do I say this nicely…no one likes very much. I guess every office has one, but the problem is that wherever he sits in the office, everyone else gathers on the opposite side of the room. Picture a large open space with one person by himself and the rest of the office huddled as far away from him as possible. Is there a way to get everyone to stop this? I think it is very rude and, I mean, he’s not that bad.

-- Am I the Only Nice Girl in This Place?

Dear Nice Girl: I agree with you. That is just plain bad open office etiquette. You are going to have to be an open office pioneer, if you will. You need to be the first one to sit near this open office outcast. You don’t even have to sit at the workstation next to him - one or two workstations down should suffice. Assuming others in your office don’t feel the same way about you J, I am sure some of your coworkers will join you in a day or two. Hope that works out for you!

Dealing with Open Office Micromanagers

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: My boss drives me crazy in our open office. He is constantly looking over my shoulder…can't we lock him back in an office?

-- A Little Privacy Please

Dear Privacy: That is quite the dilemma. While I understand your frustration, you have to deal with this situation delicately because, after all, this is your boss and I am assuming you would like to remain on good terms. The first approach I would recommend is to stop when you see him peering over your shoulder, smile, and say really nicely, “Is there something that you need my help with?” If the problem persists and you are unable to focus, I would recommend heading to a getaway booth. Hope that helps!

Dealing with the Flashy Coworker

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: There is a lady who works in my open office who wears sequins and bright neon clothes EVERY day. I appreciate that she wants to express her personal style but it is very distracting. We have windows in my open office and when the sun comes through, my eyes and monitor catch the reflection of her sparkles and neon, and oh my!

-- My Eyes!!!!

Dear Eyes: Maybe get your colleague a long, black cardigan for her birthday? Seriously, the next time her clothes are reflecting on the walls, you can either be direct and clue her in, or act clueless yourself and start asking if anyone knows what is causing the reflection because it is bothering your eyes and you cannot focus on your work. Hopefully once your coworker realizes she is causing the distraction, she will either put on that long black cardigan or not wear shiny things to the office. Otherwise, you will need to take the ultimate passive-aggressive approach of wearing sunglasses at your desk. J Hopefully that does the trick!

I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Feel free to let me know your open office etiquette pet peeves in the comments below. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and polite open office work environment! Never forget to mind your manners!

Tags: Open Office Design

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Mary Isner

Mary Isner

Mary has a master’s degree in public administration and has worked as a facility planning analyst for Fentress since 2003. In her free time, she enjoys baking, decorating, and spending time with her family.