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Smart Advice – July 21, 2009

Corner Office Curmudgeon

“A crusty, irascible, cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas”

Life at work is never easy. We are often confronted with situations we don’t know how to handle. Each month, this retired senior Honolulu executive offers his take on how to handle the challenges and foibles of office life.

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What do you do if a coworker always helps him/herself to the shared office snacks but never contributes anything to replenish the inventory? Should we put the treats under lock and key or is this person entitled to the free pupus since they’re out there for everyone’s enjoyment?

Embarrass him. Smack her hand the next time she takes something. Ask, in a loud voice, when he’s going to contribute. There’s no need to put up with this kind of boorish behavior. Rudeness in the closed environment of an office can’t be tolerated. Surely there’s one among you who’ll take on the task of putting an end to it.

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Is there a way to respectfully decline an invitation to lunch by an acquaintance of the opposite sex if you suspect the outing is not business related?

“Thanks, but I have a standing date with my spouse,” might do the trick. Or, you can always fall back on, “Thanks, but you know I’m gay, don’t you?” That, of course, may cause talk. The easiest thing is to simply say, “I’m sorry, but I have other plans.” Do that a couple of times and you won’t get any more invitations. To anything.

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One of our middle managers recently wrote a “nuclear” memo for the top boss that ripped virtually everyone in the office in brutal terms. Unfortunately for him, he left a copy in the copy machine that was picked up by someone else and is now firmly lodged in the coconut wireless. This is painful. How do we approach him? What should we do about this private memo that is now very public?

Why do you need to? Just post a copy on the bulletin board and replace it every time he rips it down. Make sure everyone knows what a rat he is and that he’s not to be trusted. Give him the silent treatment. The boss, assuming he has any sense at all, should soon understand that this ain’t the guy to have doing assessments — unless he’s right, of course.

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One of my coworkers is a major brown-noser, if you know what I mean. He’s always throwing people under the bus to make himself look good in front of the boss and takes credit for things he had no part in. Should I cut him out or just let him hang himself?

How devious are you? Can you set a trap so that he’ll end up with egg all over his face? Or would it backfire? A better way to deal with it might be for others to do written reports on the progress or completion of projects outlining the truth about who does what. Or, if you’re bigger than he is, you could take him aside and threaten him with severe physical pain.

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I have a reputation for a messy desk. My feeling is my job is to produce results, not keep a tidy work area for others to appreciate. I know I produce results. Does my boss have a right to make me keep my work area pristine?

You bet your job your boss has that right. It’s her office, not yours, and if she wants clean desks, shape up. These days, when jobs are hard to find, you really should avoid challenging her authority. Tidy your workspace, grovel a little and be thankful you’ve got a job. Remember the Golden Rule: He Who Has the Gold Rules.

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Have a question for the Curmudgeon? E-mail curmudgeon@hawaiibusiness.com or mail it to Curmudgeon, c/o Hawaii Business, 1000 Bishop St., Suite 405, Honolulu, HI 96813. Don’t be shy, he’s heard and seen it all. Your anonymity will be protected.

Corner Office Curmudgeon

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