My Office Desk Has Been Taken Over

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about invasion of work space: I did not receive any communication about this and feel that the men of my workplace feel they can just take over these workstations anytime they want. How can I let them know how wrong this is without jeopardizing my professionalism and my perks on my job?

I have an office space where I store some of my materials and I use periodically as a place to go when I need to. Most of the time I don’t need them anymore. I came to work one day and was told that my stuff from that space had been thrown out. I went to check on it and was horribly shocked to see that indeed all my stuff at the desk was gone. I found some of my books in boxes in another part of the very large area, but not all of my stuff.

All my files that were on my desk, including some raw data that I recently set there, had been thrown out and were unretreivable. Today when I came to work, someone else’s stuff was at my desk. I did not receive any communication about this and feel that the men of my workplace feel they can just take over these workstations anytime they want. How can I let them know how wrong this is without jeopardizing my professionalism and my perks on my job?

Signed, Trespassed and Bypassed

Dear Trespassed and Bypassed:

You are upset and rightly so. This short story raises questions. Is your workplace like the wild west where those who can ride into and across others’ ranches? Who’s in charge where you work? Who assigned work space? What is your job description? Does anyone know you and what you do to make your workplace successful? And most importantly, what is your workplace trying to accomplish?

From what you write, I assume that you have desks in two different work areas; one in which you are most of the time and another somewhere else that is more or less now a storage place. If so, to which desk are you referring when you said, “Today when I came to work, someone else’s stuff was at my desk”? Or do you just have one desk to which you sometimes go?

You see I don’t know what is the correct picture? Whatever is the desk situation, you need to learn what you must tolerate and make clear what hurts your effectiveness; such as destruction of personal “stuff” and “raw data”. In short the rules of what is acceptable and unacceptable are not clear to you and to those “men” you say who “feel they can just take over these workstations anytime they want.”

You have some options:

1. Raise hell. Let those with whom you work know you are upset and that you’ve had data lost. Controlled anger is sometimes required to right wrongs and surface rules of respect for coworkers’ property and space.

2. Request an investigation of what occurred and who disposed of your stuff. Meet with your boss to describe what has happened and present her/him a brief written statement, such as you wrote us, requesting that your personal stuff and raw data be returned and that you don’t have someone else’s stuff piled on your desk.

3. At a staff meeting, voice your concern for working cooperatively and productively and explicitly express how you were “horribly shocked to see that indeed all my stuff at the desk was gone” and that you someone dumped “someone else’s stuff was at my desk.” Use this dismay as an impetus to engage your work group to collaboratively spell out the do and don’t rules of communication and handling of coworkers’ materials. Rules and policy follow from those who are upset enough to insist that things must change.

Don’t complain to your friends and family. Don’t gossip about it with a coworker who will listen. Rather take your anger to those who trespassed and bypassed and to those who can do something about it. Don’t allow this to sour or fester. Maintain a sense of humor alongside determination to work harmoniously and productively. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of saying that learning to work together is an ongoing process that has rewards if; if you work at it.

William Gorden