A reader writes:
I just started a new job a few weeks ago. I work in higher education (non-teaching). My position is unique, and my direct supervisor is not based at my location so I do not report directly to her on a daily basis. The director of teapot studies is in the same office as me, so generally everyone defers to him.
When I was shown my desk, I was informed by a coworker that the director is sensitive to smells, so he removed all the trash cans in the office. Some employees have gotten their trash cans back, but they are required to post a sign on the trash cans saying “I [insert name here] promise to never put food in this trash can.” The director can confiscate the trash cans at any time if he sees fit.
We all eat at our desks. I bring my lunch every day in Tupperware and immediately seal the containers after I am done eating and place them in my lunch box. Unfortunately, I am cursed with allergies and blow my nose frequently throughout the day. I would like to have a trash can for the tissues, but I find the excessive control of the bins to be humiliating and unprofessional.
What is your opinion on this situation? I’d like to know how to move forward and am considering bringing my own trash bin to the office and removing the trash every few days.
Humiliating and unprofessional, yes indeed.
If the director is sensitive to smells, it’s perfectly reasonable for him to talk to people, explain that, and ask them to be vigilant about not letting food sit in trash cans.
It is not reasonable for him to (a) confiscate other people’s trash cans or (b) force people to sign an oath.
He is a tool.
Bring in a trash can, and ignore the requirement to post the oath. If he insists, then it’s probably not the hill you want to die on.
You could pretend you think he’s joking since obviously that’s an absurd requirement, but he sounds pretty humorless so I assume that’ll just provide momentary satisfaction and then you’ll still need to sign and post the solemn vow. (Still, there’s something to be said for momentary satisfaction.)
Of course, your standing relative to his is relevant here. If you’re a peer or senior to him, you could simply say, “Oh, no, I’m not going to do that.” But if you’re not, then you’re back to this not being the hill to die on and you should probably just slap his weird oath on your trash can and move on.