coworker stockpiling smelly clothes in office that isn’t his, and other boundary issues

A reader writes:

We recently switched buildings to be closer to important people in our job we need to interact with on a regular basis. In our group, we work a guy, “Ted,” who has a multitude of problems which never get addressed, but that’s another story. In our old building, he initially had to share his office with someone who left shortly after for a new opportunity. This left him, much to rest of our chagrin, as a brand new employee with a nice big office, complete with windows and two computers, one of which he used to watch sports. He also changed in that office. He used to come into work dressed for the day, but then he began stockpiling his (unwashed) clothes in his office, which smelled absolutely terrible. He would (and still) shows up to work looking like he’s barely showered and wearing tattered, ratty clothes you’d save for painting a house. No one ever said anything since he was in there alone, which irked all of us but figured it wasn’t something to gripe about and that management would speak with him.

Fast forward. Now we’re in this new building and we (4 other people) share an open office with him now. There are also two large offices in the same space, and he has basically taken one of these offices and made it his own. He locks himself in there to do work, despite the fact we have stored extra things in there we cannot fit at our own desks (the space is considerably smaller then where we were) and has spread his things all over the place in there so that it is unusable to the rest of us. Worst of all, he has brought his clothes changing habit here as well. This is extremely uncomfortable for the rest of us in the office, especially because we are all women. The office is starting to smell, and he has tons of button downs, pants, and scrubs that he hoards in there and we have never seen him take home to wash. We moved over here in July. He will also spend a fair portion of his day dressed in his ratty clothing (think really old jean shorts and a ripped t-shirt) and sometimes even walks around barefoot. Our entire suite is livid that he basically gets away with this while we all have to wear business casual and then on Fridays, we get to wear jeans, but we are still presentable. Never anything like he shows up in.

This has been brought to our manager and the director level (both also women) and nothing has changed. We all feel like Ted gets this unwarranted free pass for his behavior (which also includes being rude, inconsiderate, and very condescending to women, and also has no respect for other people’s space, i.e. leaving his junk on other’s people’s desks, answering their phones, and using their computers). We feel like despite our concerns, absolutely NO boundaries have been set with him. We are at a loss about what to do next. Do you have any suggestions?

Well, I am on a farm with horses, sheep, and goats — who also smell, but in a more delightful way — so I am going to write this very quickly so that I can go do farm-type things. But hopefully others who aren’t sidetracked by goats will chime in with additional advice.

Look, you need to talk to this guy. Be straightforward:  “Ted, that office is for everyone’s use. When you use that office as your own, the rest of us don’t have access to it and we need to.  Please move your things out of there. And stop locking yourself in there, so that everyone can use it.”

You might need to repeat this multiple times. Just do it. Don’t worry about being a nag; this guy probably isn’t going to respond without repeated nagging, so resign yourself to the fact that there’s no way around that.

If he’s totally resistant to that, though, then several of you should speak with your boss:  “We’ve talked to Ted several times about moving his things out of that room and ensuring the rest of us have access to it. He’s not being responsive, so could you please handle this? Thanks.”  If they don’t act, you go back and say, “This is disrupting our work and impacting our productivity. How can we resolve this?”  (Your boss sounds like a wimp who can’t assert herself, and the only way to get wimps to act is to make it more uncomfortable for them not to act. So you probably need to keep pushing — preferably as a group so that she doesn’t start to see one of you as a troublemaker in an otherwise harmonious team. )

And on the boundaries issues, you need to be straightforward there too:  “Ted, please don’t leave your things on my desk.”  “Ted, please don’t answer my phone or use my computer.”  “Ted, please put your shoes on. People don’t want to see your feet in a workplace.”

On some of the other stuff, like what he wears, you probably need to let it go. It’s not impacting you and it’s really up to your manager to do something about. If she chooses not to, you’re better off ignoring it and not letting it get to you.

Speaking of which, stop being livid; that will do you no good. This guy is a clueless buffoon who smells bad and apparently has few social skills. He’s not worth being angry over; if anything, I recommend seeing him as a source of amusement.

Okay, back to the goats. Anyone else want to chime in?

You can read an update to this post here.

{ 58 comments… read them below }

  1. ImpassionedPlatypi*

    I’m sorry, I’m distracted by the fact that you’re interacting with goats… why are you interacting with goats? Not that interacting with goats is a bad thing, it is in fact quite awesome and I am jealous.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m here and it’s amazing:
      http://sweetwaterfarmbb.com/

      The best goat of all was rescued when he was a baby from some awful person who kept him chained up all day, and was brought here and bottle-fed and nursed back to health, and now is really affectionate with humans. He also is best friends with an enormous horse, and he hangs with sheep and other goats as well. All of the animals are strangely friendly; I feel like Dr. Doolittle.

      1. Jennifer*

        OMG. I am so jealous!

        My BF and I go away every year to a B&B for our anniversary. I’m going to have to recommend this place to him.

        Nice! I hope you enjoy your stay there.

        Plus: Goats! SQUEEEE!

  2. Katy O*

    Wow! I have to agree that it sounds like your boss is a spineless wimp. Either that, or this guy knows someone higher up & is deemed untouchable. Maybe he’s a plant, like on Undercover Boss, to see how you all react to coworkers like this. You should address it head on…nicely…and escalate as needed. If that doesn’t work, I would look for a new job. :)

    1. Elizabeth*

      Yes – I think the thing worth being livid about is not “Ted” but the managers who aren’t effectively managing him, or at least are giving the impression to other employees that they’re not managing him.

  3. fposte*

    Dammit. I wanted to be first, so I could respond to:

    “Does anyone else want to chime in?”

    with

    “Na-a-a-ah.”

    1. fposte*

      They still need to handle it better, though, if so, because it’s impacting the rest of the office negatively without their having any reason for it.

      1. Anonymous*

        I agree, but perhaps they are dancing around it because they are intimidated by any implications with the ADA.

        1. fposte*

          Then they don’t understand the ADA. Even if there was some bizarre reason why they decided reasonable accommodation meant allowing somebody to store smelly clothes in the office, there’s no legal reason why they couldn’t inform the office that they’ve decided to allow Ted to do so.

          But from what the OP says, this isn’t a management accommodation, this is something he’s decided to do and management has passively accepted. And even if he does have a disability, even if they do know about it, they still have to manage the office, and they’re not doing that.

          1. Natalie*

            I wonder if they are aware that Ted has a disability and, because of that, don’t bring up any of his bizarre behavior.

    2. Lina Souid*

      As a psychology major that is the first thing that came to mind. A lot of the symptoms are there: poor hygiene, maybe homeless and doesn’t have access to a washing machine or shower, anti-social…

      1. Jennifer*

        THIS.

        It also may be that management is clueless and does not understand that these behaviors are symptomatic, so may know nothing about him having a mental illness.

  4. kristen*

    I have to say that I’d be sorely tempted to stop dressing business casual every day (think jeans on Wednesday, not tattered old t-shirt). If no one said anything to me, like they apparently haven’t to Ted, great! If someone did say something, I’d probably say that I was confused, based on the way some other people in the office dressed I thought it was okay. Can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

    Actually, now that I think about it… I’ve done this before. An entire department in my (jeans only on Fridays, business casual) company decided that wearing tube tops and mini jean skirts was okay. The attitude eventually crept out to everyone else (including me, when I decided that denim trousers were not much less dressy than regular trousers). The bosses got sick of it and put their foot down.

    Not saying this is the best or most professional advice, just a comment on what I, personally, might do in the event that the Ted problem never got addressed by the higher-ups.

  5. Lola*

    Simply b/c we do not see an outcome or the outcome that we want as a result of complaints etc… Does not mean processes are occurring without our knowledge to remediate these issues.

    As for Management who are perceived as ‘not doing anything’… Consistent, concise, documented concerns from the Team as a whole enables them to have evidence to be able to act.

    Complaining about issues means nothing unless you can correlate it to the functioning of the team and getting the work done, things meaningful to a Manager that gets their buy-in to investigate the situation further. (That said, not making excuses for ineffective management).

    Managers aren’t babysitters. They hire staff with the expectations that they have the ability to navigate somewhat skillfully through conflict management and negotiation with team members. Boundaries are created with consistent and transparent feedback that addresses a behaviour in the moment and all members of a team own 50% of the responsibility for endorsing good boundaries in a genuine and transparent way.

    What can you do? For example:

    Create the space to give feedback, invite transparency & come from a kind place.

    “Ted. My safety and your safety is really important to me. I want to share that I understand and feel that the shared office space is sometimes a tight fit for all of us. But because there are now 5 of us in this office it is not ok:
    – to use someone else’s computer/desk/phone at any time unless they have given your permission. Flu/cold season (at least here in Canada!) is coming up–using other ppl’s phones/keyboards increases risk of transmission of bacteria/germs.
    – It is not ok for the team to store clothing or personal belongings at the office unless in a locker.
    – For reasons of health & safety & transmissible infections (Athletes foot) , it is not ok to go without footware in the office.
    – It is not ok if the entire team does not have easy access to the shared space.

    Depending on your office/manager: Take some initiative and send out a memo to those you share the office room with, that the space is getting cluttered and that you’re going to take 15 minutes on friday to de-clutter the office space. Anything that is not claimed or on a person’s desk or is work-related will be put be in a box for garbage.

    He will find alternative places to store his things if there is the concern of it being removed/thrown out or he will be forced to keep it in his designated space.

    O, and follow through consistently with your word. If you are going to i.e. throw out anything that is not work related. Do it. If he needs it bad enough just say:

    “I apologize. I sent the memo out on Monday and I assumed that because it was still cluttering the office it was intended to be thrown out.”

    Good luck!

    1. Dawn*

      “Depending on your office/manager: Take some initiative and send out a memo to those you share the office room with, that the space is getting cluttered and that you’re going to take 15 minutes on friday to de-clutter the office space. Anything that is not claimed or on a person’s desk or is work-related will be put be in a box for garbage.”

      I very much like this idea. :) Although, a part of me would prefer to take all those dirty clothes and dump them on top of his car in the parking lot. Maybe hang his dirty underwear from the antenna (if he has one). All while wearing thick gloves, of course.

      1. Katie*

        Except it’s kind of passive-aggressive. If everyone knows the problem is Ted–including Ted–then deal with Ted.

    2. Anon*

      Safety and documentation? Gimme an effin break!!

      Just tell the guy he’s nasty, no one appreciates it and you wouldnt care he’s nasty except you have to smell and see the hot mess all freaking day long. And the work day is already long enough without his filth.

    3. gary*

      What kind of computer security do you have, or should I ask *not have*? Lock your computer if you are not sitting in front of it.

      That problem is now solved.

  6. Jamie*

    He locks himself in the other office – and this is where you all store work related things?

    Get the most passive-aggressive person out of your group to “need” something every 5-7 minutes all day. Getting up to unlock the door often enough could do the trick.

    I’m just asking here, but why are you so anxious to get him out of there and back in the open office? Personally if someone stinky and shoeless was in my office I’d be thrilled if they sequestered themselves.

    Is it because you need him for work and he’s unavailable? Or is everyone upset because he unofficially grabbed his own office? If it’s the former – that’s something to address. If it’s the latter, does territory really matter? Management will end his squatters rights when they need the office. When you said that it was to your (collective) chagrin that a new employee was left with a large office to himself before moving it makes me wonder if this isn’t more about not wanting him to have his own office and less about the need to access it for work purposes.

    For me the main issues would be shoelessness, changing at work, and using other people’s stuff. Changing at work is huge if you mean he’s actually stripping down where he can be seen by others. That’s something that should have brought down an immediate cease and desist.

    And this is why open office spaces are SUCH a bad idea so much of the time.

    1. jmkenrick*

      Do you mean an empty office space that someone can jump in and use? Or a floor plan in an office where desks out in the open and not confined to offices/cubicles? Because if it’s the latter, I have to disagree.

      My current job has an open floor plan w/o individual offices (even for department heads) and I think it allows for an environment that encourages friendly interaction and keeps things from getting too bureaucratic. At my old job, I had to knock on a closed office door to speak with my boss in person. It seemed to emphasis the hierarchy and made it harder for me to address small things. Now, I can just catch eyes with my supervisor if I need to communicate.

      I think this issue with Ted is managers who aren’t paying attention to how one employee can affect the office morale rather than the open office space. Based on her letter, it looks like he was affecting morale even before they switched to that arrangement – and really no office organization is going to work when the company doesn’t enforce their standards.

      1. Jamie*

        Agreed that the managers need to enforce standards, and they are handling this situation badly.

        As far as the open office goes, I think this boils down to fundamental differences in how people work best – and sometimes the job functions themselves.

        There are plenty of people like you who benefit from the open plan because it seems for you the friendly interaction is a positive thing. I’m the only IT in my company – if I had a server down, or code not compiling correctly, or any high priority fire to put out …let’s just say “friendly interaction” at best is an impediment and at worst causes me to bleed internally.

        I’m not saying I’m right, though. I’m a firm believer that when you’re job hunting you’re interviewing the company as much as they are you…and it’s not mentioned often but the physical work environment is something to consider. Whether one prefers seclusion or an open plan it should factor in whether or not it will be a good fit.

        1. jmkenrick*

          Good point. Actually, our IT department (there are four people) all sit in their own office, and they make a point of telling other departments to please e-mail requests rather than popping in.

          I work in marketing, which lends itself to lots of collaboration – so if we didn’t sit like this, we would have to perpetually call meetings.

  7. OP*

    OP here. Thanks for all your awesome responses! I shared with my coworkers and we will definitely try some of these suggestions. To answer a few questions – no he has no mental illness we are aware of other than extreme arrogance and stupidity.

    Jamie – it’s frustrating to us that he “claims” these spaces when he has been here less time than all of us, which we wouldn’t mind if he didn’t act so entitled to it. That is just a side annoyance. Since we moved into this office and space is a big issue, we use this office to store our extra things we could not fit into our spaces, so we do need to get in there quite frequently. In fact, when we first moved in, all of his things were strewn about (including crates he hadn’t unpacked) and he was basically living out of there until recently. We do need him in the open office, otherwise we wouldn’t care where he was, but it’s really awful when he hoards in there and then we do need to access our things because then it just smells like 3-day body in there mixed with dirty laundry. I’d rather have him out in the open to air himself then stink up an office we all need access to.

    1. Andrea*

      I have a co-worker with a similar issue. He’s a hoarder, and his office reflects that. He has also branched out to take up an entire storage room with boxes of his stuff.

    2. Jamie*

      I know why HR hates dealing with this stuff, no one wants to explain to another adult the concepts of a showering and laundry.

      Still though, I did chuckle at the thought of you wanting to air him out…but at the same time the fact that you are considering how to ventilate a co-worker so he doesn’t funk up the place? I do feel for you. Your management is really letting you down.

      Sometimes I read these stories and wonder who is hiring all these dysfunctional people when there are plenty of intelligent and capable people looking for work. I think if people want to be like this that’s fine, but they should do it at the interview. Show up for your interview reeking of BO, in raggy clothes, shoeless. For good measure borrow your bosses phone without asking and change clothes in a public place. Then you if you get hired there’s no surprises with them finding your behavior objectionable later.

      1. OP*

        He actually struck with this yesterday, except it wasn’t my bosses phone. He called me to ask a ridiculous question I could have easily answered today, using a coworkers PERSONAL cell phone…without her permission.

        1. anonn*

          Bring in the bill and file and expenses claim with management for the usage. If you have a contract then bill them whatever percentage of the contract price that represents.

          Desk phones is less worrying but still annoying. Personal phones is theft.

  8. Anonymous*

    I don’t know whether to laugh or seriousley think about this situation. Can u imagine finding someone’s dirty cloths at work EWWW… Maybe you should just buy a deodorant or some socks and put it on one of his many desks. hopefuly he gets it… or maybe not. Good luck with this, I really don’t have any recommendations, as I wouldn’t know what to do. Approaching someone about their higiene is never easy.

  9. Nichole*

    I’m normally very against anything that reeks of “stooping to their level” and all forms of passive aggressiveness, but I agree with Kristin. Based on the information provided, these people have waited long enough for management to handle this, so I would assume that the dress code is no longer in effect. I would also be more than willing to pitch anything Ted leaves in the office that doesn’t belong there. Changing at work is a weird idiosyncracy, but tolerable. Leaving the filthy clothes there until the office smells is intolerable. Apparently the management has made their decision, and they value Ted more than the other employees. My condolences. I would love to say that I would tell my manager and her manager every word of this loudly and often, but since you probably would have quit already if being jobless was an option, it sounds nicer in theory than in practice. But definitely run the gamut of the suggestions and feel free to wear jeans and at least be comfortable, because obviously dressing professionally is low priority where you work, OP. Mentally, I dare your boss to call you on it, because it would be way too easy to pass up the opportunity to call her on Ted’s preferential treatment in a way that comes across as perfectly sweet. Also, make any discussion of this about the behavior, not Ted personally, even though he sounds incorrigable. Don’t give up, and document everything for your CYA folder, because behavior as unbelievable as his gives you all a free pass for just about anything you do wrong-they can either put up and be accountable for not holding everyone to the same standards or shut up. (I am told that being a b***ch in a nice way is one of my strong areas, I’m a little proud of that. The wording I would suggest if forced to justify the new anything goes attitude is, “I’ve brought up my concerns and questions about appearance standards, office maintenance, and personal space several times, and your responses have led me to believe that these things are not important. *Insert several examples of you bringing it up and them doing nothing.* If that’s not correct, will you please make the policy clear so we can all start following it? Can I have it in writing? No? Then I’ll try…” Followed up by completely ignoring whatever they just told you to do.

  10. Bob G*

    I’d be interested to know what response the manager and the director gave when this was brought to their attention? Did they agree that there was a legitimate concern or did they simply listen without indicating their feelings? Did they say it would be addressed?

    I would follow up with the manager to just inquire if the issue has been addressed because it is still a problem for the rest of you. I also would downplay the fact that you are frustrated that he claimed the space and its not fair because he has been there less time. The fact that he has been there less time comes across more like jealousy then a legitimate business concern (I’m not saying you are jealous but the manager may be hearing it that way).

  11. FrauTech*

    I’d definitely start dressing more casually. Maybe even when your boss asks you to do something you could say something like, “well have you run that by Ted?” “No, why?” “Well I thought since he’s been in that office that means he’s been promoted.” But then that could backfire too, I’ve watched people “steal” empty offices and it actually benefitted them in the end. I’d almost suggest going in when he’s not there and throwing away all the gross dirty clothes. If it is a “shared” office and you’ve already addressed the issue with him. “oh I thought that was trash, didn’t we talk about that? it smelled horrible anyway”

    But the sad, sad truth here is your management is cowardly and will do nothing about this. Maybe the fact that Ted’s been camping out in offices has actually convinced them he’s senior to you (management will often forget how long people have really been there, what your experience and qualifications are). Therefore I’m not sure getting him to dress nicer and cleaner or getting his office cleaned up will really help you any. If he’s squatting territory, it’s probably better he smells and looks so unprofessional, you know it’ll make him unlucky to leap frog above you. But I think you just need to find a way to not let this bother you anymore. Nothing’s going to change. Maybe eventually he will screw up and get fired for some other reason (and that will only piss you off more, when it’s b/c he borrowed your boss’s cell phone without permission for instance instead of just a colleague’s). These kinds of situations happen in the workforce. The more you can try to pity him or have any sympathy for him as an individual, the less you’ll be angry about it. Try to focus your energies elsewhere, and if you can, interface less with him. Start cutting him out of your group’s work habits. Yes it’ll be annoying he’s not pulling his own weight, but if you don’t have to see him or talk to him it’ll probably make your day to day go much better.

  12. Rose*

    Well, I commend you for trying to deal with this situation like and adult and a professional. It sucks. If I were you, I would seriously unplug and just use the situation to your advantage. I totally agree with Alison that you have to make it more uncomfortable for management to say something than NOT say something. So here are some suggestions (and make sure to involve your coworkers so they also don’t hate you like they hate Ted):
    -Ship large items to the office and store them in inconvenient places.
    -Make smelly meals at your desk or in the kitchen (think curry).
    -Wear pajamas to work.
    -Buy some durian fruit at an Asian market and put it in Ted’s office on Friday, when he complains tell him it already stinks in there, so it seemed like a good place.
    -Bring a TV in to the main office and leave it playing all day.
    -Have an indoor barbecue.
    -Bring in your wet laundry and hang it on the sides of the cubicle to dry.
    -Bring pets to work.
    -Call India from Ted’s personal cell phone for an hour.
    -Bring in husband’s/son’s dirty underwear and just start leaving it all over the office, hanging on plants, light fixtures, etc.
    -Everyone wear your nastiest clothes to work and take a group picture (preferably with Ted) and but it up on the bulletin board
    -Take photos of Ted’s office and send it out to the whole company from an anonymous email AND computer (IP can be traced to your home PC) with the text “just imagine how it smells”.
    -Print this letter and answer and but it on the company bulletin board and/or send it to Ted and bosses.
    -Bring a couch off the street and leave it in the office.
    -Take a screenshot of the Hoarders website and leave it on Ted’s door.
    -Start sending out emails concerned about Ted’s “homeless” status, collect money for him, leave pamphlets for low-income services around the office.
    -When he’s out, bombard his office with Febreeze, aerosol air fresheners, and the plug in air-freshener.

    On a more serious note, set up a password on your computers and lock your cell phones so he can’t use them when you’re not around.

  13. Anon.*

    Is he related to one of the managers or owners?

    What type of business is this?.. any foot traffic/the public or meetings with outside people?

      1. Nichole*

        A hospital!?! No no, this can’t continue, and it makes me anxious to think that this is happening in a hospital somewhere. On the up side, at hospitals there’s almost always a board of directors or trustees. Forget my earlier borderline passive aggressive advice and become just plain aggressive by going up the chain of command until you get results. Stooping to his level even a little bit will hurt you more than him in this setting. I also like Kate’s advice below to contact the board of health. Piles of filthy clothes do not belong in the offices at a hospital, and any type of major dischord is sensed by patients and vendors in a big way. Plus, your reputation tends to follow you in this field, so if you end up leaving, you want to be squeaky clean (no pun intended). You may be labeled a troublemaker, though, so document document document. That way the evidence can speak for itself.

  14. Anonymous*

    A tip for dealing with smelly people which does work. Put a decent spray of perfume on your collar, so every you can just take a sniff whenever you need.

  15. Kate*

    Contact the Board of Health. Even if they find nothing wrong, it may embarrass management enough to address the problem. I would go so far as to document the mess and publish them. What’s the internet for?
    Why, yes, I DO have fantasies of not just burning my bridges, but nuking them….

  16. Laura*

    Excuse me while I fly my passive-aggressive flag: Get there before he does in the morning and install yourself in the office he likes to lock himself in. Feel free to switch off with co-workers so one of you is always in there and he can’t get in to sequester himself…or get to the stuff he keeps in there. He will, eventually, get the point. Or, for the double-passive-aggressive whammy, management will tell all of you to stay out of there, which is fine with you and gets them to come down on him, which is what you wanted in the first place.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        How about just walking in, disturbing the space, starting to move stuff around, organize, throw stuff out, etc.? Complaining to your boss that he’s sleeping on the job? And have you told him directly that he needs to stop all these behaviors? Like, really directly?

      2. Jamie*

        I know this sounds crazy, but could he be homeless?

        Hygiene issues, dirty laundry, too many personal belongings at work…sleeping in office.

        I would think it could happen – someone gets kicked out of the house and has no where to go, so camping at work?

        This just has a feel of something really wrong – beyond usual creepy co-worker issues.

        1. Jennifer*

          @Jamie – That had been my first thought. Even more so when OP mentions that he’s sleeping there.

          @AAM – If he is homeless, how would that change how the OP handles this?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, for starters I think it would engender a lot more sympathy for the guy, which would change the way you’d approach it. And it would probably make sense for someone to talk with him about what kind of resources are available for help. (If the company is large, they might have an EAP that could do this; otherwise, hopefully a knowledgeable and kind person could step in.)

  17. Annr*

    Are you gov’t employees? I’m a contractor and it seems to me that most gov’t offices I’ve worked in have one if not more folks like this. Right now the halls of the office I’m in are lined with boxes from one who got moved into a smaller office and just couldn’t throw away all those all-so-important reports, that’ve now been sitting in boxes, unused for two years. I haven’t seen this in private-sector offices, but maybe it happens there too? Contractors move around a lot and people with that kind of need for stuff don’t last long.

    Since it doesn’t seem that anybody in the situation is likely to change I think you’d be best off taking common stuff out of the room he locks himself in and declaring it to be “his” room. It’s not a bit fair but at least you can shut the door and not have to look or put up with his stuff.

  18. Anonymous*

    Oh, sweet jezus. If the room and his clothing smells so bad in that office, you need to contact the building super (I’m assuming you rent) and inform them that it smells like something’s died in your spare office. They may bring a fumigator. You can have your office manager call, if you have one.

    If he leaves something on your desk, throw it out. Not just in your wastebasket, but actually out, to a trash bin outside your office, so he can’t fish it out again. If he asks, tell him that you don’t know what he’s talking about. You keep your desk clean, and clear clutter away regularly. You should also be able to password-protect your login at your workstation. If you can’t, IT needs to step in. I’m sure they’d be happy to help you out, it’s a simple fix to set user rights to require a login on a Windows computer.

    Every time he uses your personal items (like a cell phone), document it, and when your bill comes, invoice the company for the minutes.

    Of course your manager should be managing this. But she’s not. So you have to.

    1. Natalie*

      I’m with the building management, FWIW, and we’ve gotten these calls before. Our maintenance guy would most likely come to your office, determine the problem was Ted, tell the person who called him that the problem was Ted, and be irritated that your office has wasted his time.

  19. Cruella*

    With the help of your coworkers, clean out this workspace. Post a sign on the door that reads ” For Department Use Only” I like the idea someone posted above about each of you taking turns using the space.

    Box up Ted’s personal items and put them on his desk (the official one he was assigned in the open space, not the one he commandeered). A little sign that reads “This is Ted’s Desk” might help him remember where he sits.

    As for his laundry, gather it up and take it to the nearest cleaners or laundry service (but not one that you use personally). Take every last bit, socks and all. Let them know you are dropping it off for your friend Ted. Be sure to get a ticket. Then leave the ticket on his desk with a note: “Notice you were having a hard time with your laundry. You can pick it up here. You are welcomed” Do this every time he leaves his stinky laundry in the office. Eventually, after he’s paid to get all his clothes back, he will get the hint.

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