Q: Everyone in our eight-person office uses my desk, even though they all have desks of their own. They say that I have the fastest computer. While sitting there, they also go through my desk drawers, which seems disrespectful. I realize that I don't personally own this equipment, but as an administrative assistant, I have to be at my desk to work. I don't think my boss knows about this, because I've never told him. What should I do?
A: Your pushy colleagues are apparently hijacking your desk solely for their own convenience, so you have every right to reclaim your territory.
Start by telling your boss how these intrusions are creating a business problem. For example, you might explain that you're having trouble completing your work or that you are concerned about the security of confidential information. Next, ask your manager to help you resolve the issue. The quickest solution would be for him to simply direct everyone to use their own equipment and leave yours alone.
You might also request permission to password-protect your computer, so that no one else can log on. If co-workers continue to badger you for computer access, you must politely, but assertively, tell them to go away. For example: "I know that everyone likes using my computer, but I have work to do. Our manager said we should all use our own equipment, so I need to stick to that policy."
Once these intrusive people stop sitting at your desk, presumably they will also stop rummaging through the drawers. But if that problem persists, just tell them to quit, then lock up whenever you leave.
Working at bosses' home has downside
Q: I have worked in a home-based business for the past 10 years. The owners of this tiny company are a married couple, and our offices are on the lowest floor of their house. On the positive side, my schedule is flexible, and I don't need to spend money on a professional wardrobe. My bosses are good-hearted people who provide a decent salary and a 401(k) plan. The downside is being confined in the basement and having no contact with the public except by phone.
I am also privy to lots of details about the owners' personal life. My workday typically includes dealing with pets and children. I walk by the boss' underwear on the laundry room floor and often have to sit through family arguments.
I have seen many articles about running a home business, but none about the challenges of being employed by one. However, I don't really have a question. I just wanted to let you know what it's like to work in someone's house.
A: Your workplace is certainly more unusual than most, so thanks for sharing an interesting perspective. Since you've stuck it out for 10 years, I assume that the flexibility and relaxed atmosphere outweigh the daily hassles of pets, kids and dirty laundry.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics."