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my coworker posts love notes from their companion throughout our shared workplace — Ask a Supervisor


A reader writes:

I work in an workplace the place everybody has a hybrid work schedule, partly as a result of our bodily workplace area doesn’t have sufficient workplace area for everybody to be within the workplace on the similar time. It’s extraordinarily clear that another person makes use of your workplace on the times that you simply’re working from house.

I exploit my coworker’s workplace two days every week. That they had that workplace area earlier than we needed to begin sharing area, adorned it, crammed it with their books/provides, and many others. so I’ve all the time handled it like “their” area — I don’t have any work or private gadgets there. They know that I exploit that area, as we’re usually in Zoom conferences the place I’m of their workplace area on their WFH days.

Recently, they’ve been bringing in and leaving plenty of little “love notes” from their companion, and I’m simply curious to get your ideas on this behavior. These are sticky notes all around the desk, pinned on bulletin boards, and many others.

The notes aren’t sexual, however they’re nonetheless clearly very private and detailed. Issues like, “To my [Pet Name], you’re probably the most beautiful, loveliest, kindest, good particular person I do know. You encourage me on a regular basis and I’m struck by your magnificence. I like you greater than you’ll ever know.” They’re general fairly benign, nevertheless it simply feels odd to me, like I’m getting a glimpse into part of my coworker’s life that I shouldn’t learn about (or, that if roles have been reversed, I wouldn’t need them to learn about).

It’s additionally value noting that we sometimes have in-person consumer conferences in these workplace areas.

Do you will have any ideas on this behavior? I’ve been in loads of shared workplace areas earlier than, and that is the primary time I’ve encountered such intensely private issues in a shared area.

Oooooh. Yeah, not acceptable for a shared workplace. Probably not that acceptable for an un-shared workplace both, a minimum of not on this amount, however the actual challenge is that your coworker is posting these throughout an area that can be yours.

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This isn’t simply “their” workplace anymore. It’s yours 40% of the time; you each must be treating it such as you share it equally. You in all probability haven’t been doing that as a result of it feels awkward to return into an area that’s already so clearly marked by another person and attempt to make it your individual … however whenever you’re utilizing it 40% of the time, you actually do have standing to think about it each of yours, not simply theirs.

It appears like there was already a little bit of an issue with the dynamic, the place your coworker was declining to acknowledge that the area is now shared (or a minimum of hasn’t gone out of their technique to say one thing like, “Hey, would you want me to clear off some cabinets in your stuff?”). However the very private love notes take that to a brand new stage, to the purpose that I’m nearly questioning if it’s a method of asserting extra possession over the area, though it’s extra possible that they’re merely oblivious to what it’s prefer to work in an area with another person’s extremely intimate love letters posted up throughout you.

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I like to recommend doing two issues: First, let your coworker know you have to “transfer in” a bit extra. Clarify you want area in your personal issues and ask them to filter out some cabinets and drawers for you. Be matter-of-fact about it, as if after all that is one thing you want and after all they’ll see that — as a result of when you dance round it and ask such as you’re requesting a particular favor, you’ll reinforce the concept that it’s their workplace and also you’re only a visitor. So for instance, you possibly can merely say, “Now that we’re sharing the workplace, may you filter out a few cabinets and drawers for me so I’ve area for my issues? Or I can deal with it in order for you, however I figured you would possibly favor to maneuver issues your self.”

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It’s attainable that your coworker would possibly care for the love letters as a part of that, if the request drives house that the area isn’t completely theirs.

However assuming the notes stay, then after step one is taken care of and also you’ve asserted extra declare to the area it’s affordable to say, “Would you thoughts if I put the notes from Bob within the prime desk drawer? They’re so private that I don’t really feel snug working with them proper in entrance of me all day.” Or you possibly can simply … go forward and put all of them within the drawer and ship an e mail letting them know you probably did. (You can additionally simply do that half with out making extra of a declare on the area typically, however you actually are entitled to some room for your self, love memos apart.)

I do fear that somebody who thought it was acceptable to do that in a shared area to start with gained’t be thrilled that you simply’re making these modifications … nevertheless it is a shared area, and in some unspecified time in the future they’re going to wish to return to phrases with that, until they’ll efficiently make a case to your boss for a personal workplace (The choice is that you simply go on appearing such as you’re a visitor within the workplace, however you shouldn’t have to try this.)