Should I Quit This Dirty, Cramped Workplace?

A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about working in a dirty and cramped workplace

Question:

I joined a new office in January of this year, but I am finding it very difficult to continue here. It is a windowless office and I sit at a cramped desk with huge electronic equipment on one side and a colleague sitting so close that whenever I move my hand it touches her arm. To add to it, the office is dirty and dimly lit, strewn with piles of documents, the ceiling is low, the toilet stinks and the corridor is strewn with bird droppings. In fact, things are so bad here that it is forbidden to bring clients to this office.

This kind of office environment is depressing me to the point that I don’t even feel able to go to office. Once there, I cannot concentrate on my job and keep falling asleep. I have tried talking to my colleagues but they are not too bothered. I am going to quit this hell hole but should I talk to my boss about it? Or is it better to keep silent? I am sure he is aware of the working conditions here. Please help.

Answer:

Hello and thank you for sharing your concerns. What a terrible place your workplace must be! It is not healthy and will continue to have a negative effect on how you feel physically, emotionally and mentally. I’m glad you’re quitting. But, before you do, consider taking some photos to document the things you mentioned. It will forever remind you of how much better your new job is! In addition, you may need those photos someday, if you are ever questioned about why you left.

I see that you are outside of the United States, so I don’t know what the laws may be there about workplace conditions, but that is something to check on.

If you and others have been told to not take clients there and your boss knows what the conditions are like, asking to have things improved is probably not going to help—and nothing will add to the space. If you talk to your boss before you’re ready to quit, you may encounter unpleasant reactions. I don’t know if you need or want a reference from your boss, but it seems to me the best way to handle it is to quit at some point–when you think you can afford to do it–and  write a letter you can give to your boss when you tell him you are quitting (or send him an email with your message that you quit) explaining why. Having it in writing will keep you from having to make a speech about it and maybe seeing it in writing will have some effect.

If you think writing such a letter or making a statement about conditions, will make your boss angry to the point that he won’t give you a needed reference, you may have to just leave and let the others deal with it. There is no way to know what their living spaces are like, what their personal hygiene standards are like or how little chance they have of getting another job. You have higher standards than they do—and a desire for a better life and future. You need to find a job that provides a decent work environment and I’m confident that almost anything will be an improvement.

Best wishes to you with all of this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how you handle the situation.

Tina Rowe
Ask the Workplace Doctors

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Follow-up:

Hello, and thank you for the very nice, very positive and supportive reply. You have helped me lots more than I could ever hope for. Since you were interested in how things develop, let me give you a short update. I put my papers down about quitting, citing personal issues, but they did not want to let me go. They have allowed me to work from home for the next 2 months. They also said (without me asking) they have plans to shift to another building at some eventual date but nothing is set in stone yet. I have agreed to their proposal, keeping in mind the current economy. Meanwhile I plan to keep looking. Thank you!