Moved Overnight

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about workspace being moved: I’m feeling caged. Do I bring this up with him? The space issue was already mentioned when he first brought up moving my workspace. Do I bring it up with my union? Is this a form of harassment or trying to frustrate me so I seek employment elsewhere?

I arrived this Monday morning to find my workspace had been moved. The boss had notified me of this pending move, but nothing was set in stone. My workstation has now been moved to a significantly smaller cubicle. I have lost 2 drawers, one cupboard, and went from a U-shaped desk to a single short counter. I am a permanent employee. He states the reason for this move is he is bringing in a few people for temporary/contract work. Why are they entitled to a bigger workspace, even if they’re just here for a short time? Even more so, I feel a complete lack of respect. He moved all my stuff. What says he didn’t go through everything? (Not that I keep personal information at work, but what if I did?) I don’t even know where I’ll keep all my files and binders; things I access regularly as part of my job. This new workspace is so tightly crammed against another, I need to move my chair when that person wants to access the desk drawers. I’ve never had an issue with small spaces before, but barely even being able to move my chair is a bit much, even for me. I’m feeling caged. Do I bring this up with him? The space issue was already mentioned when he first brought up moving my workspace. Do I bring it up with my union? Is this a form of harassment or trying to frustrate me so I seek employment elsewhere? (We’ve had tiffs in the past, because I refuse to lie for him, among other reasons.) I have been here 3 years, and this is the 4th time I am moved desks.

Signed, Displaced and Distressed

Dear Displaced and Distressed:

Space is both an organizational and a personal matter. The fact is that employers are cutting space in a similar way homeowners might build or buy a new house with smaller square footage. Space to an employee is her/his sense of place. Sometimes it is shared, but it is normal to mark one’s space with personal items as well as to arrange work items to be most functional. Your questions concern confronting your boss about when and how you have been moved and/or should you complain to your union. Obviously when your boss spoke to you about moving you before that was left hanging. You were warned, but didn’t know when and where.

Bosses must make decisions about space, equipment and assignments. Ideally they engage those involved and they come to a consensual agreement about where, what and when. But someone must make decisions, and that is up to the boss or some higher authority when employees’ work space is not mutually agreeable. Your issue of space is one of seniority. You’ve been there for three years and resent being moved to cramped quarters when temps are given better.

I imagine the union should and would have a say about this. So what should you do? Simmer, mumble, and grumble? No. Should you talk with the boss about how you feel and about how such a move frustrates your job? Yes. Moreover, should you say how you think it is unfair to put a permanent employee in less space than temps? Yes. And should you bring this up to the union? Yes. From a distance, it is easy to say No and Yes, but you must temper what and how you speak your mind in light of a personal boss-bossed history. Have you earned his respect by being responsible, productive and a cheerleader of your work group and of him? Most of all you need to make such a talk about the success of your workplace. If it doesn’t make money and the most economical use of space, you will not have a successful career there. This is not a time to blame or to cave in. Rather it’s a time to be seen as an understanding employee who wants what is fair space-wise. So my best to you as you make your case collaboratively seeking a re-examination of being moved.

This also is an opportunity to talk with him and enlist is support about your career; what you want to be doing next year and in five years. How decisions are made about your job is both a matter of substance and process. In this case the substance is less workspace and the process is who makes this decision and the degree in which you have been consulted and involved as to when, where and why.

Use this current upset as an opportunity to help your boss see there should be a better way of solving a space problem than by dictating how it is to be done. This distress is an opportunity to talk through and spell out problem-solving collaborative ways, if not for now at least for the future. Will you do that? It will depend on your ability to voice your distress coolly and firmly. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of saying that distress can be released by your commitment to add value by voicing it in a constructive way.

William Gorden