someone keeps rearranging my desk, did my manager give me the finger, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I share a desk with the night shift and someone keeps rearranging my stuff

Recently, we had a huge increase in our workload. As a solution, my employer has hired more people and added a second shift of work at night. We do not have enough desks to accommodate the sudden influx of employees, and the night shift people share the day shift people’s desks.

I keep a few personal items in/on my desk, such as hand sanitizer, an extra bottle of water, mints, and a spare phone charger. For the past week, my entire desk has been rearranged. Being the type A I am, it drives me up the wall. Today was the last straw. I keep my phone charger plugged in oftentimes because the plug is hard to reach behind the computers. It was unplugged and thrown on the floor when I came in this morning. I am sick of people touching my stuff and not taking care of it. Am I overreacting? Is there anything I can do or say to resolve this?

When you’re sharing desks, things are going to get rearranged — there’s no real way around that. To the person working the night shift, that’s their work space — not someone else’s space that they’re borrowing, but their space. I know that’s hard to accept when it was your space first, but the reality is, now it belongs to both of you. (After all, if you were on the night shift, wouldn’t you hate feeling like you were just a guest in someone else’s space?)

If it’s going to drive you crazy to see items rearranged, I’d suggest keeping them in a drawer. It might even be worth working out an arrangement where you each get assigned a drawer, so you each have some space that’s just yours.

I agree that unplugging your phone charger and tossing it on the floor was less than polite, but just talk to the person about it — explain you like to keep it plugged in because it’s hard to reach the plug, and ask if they mind keeping it there when they’re using the desk in the evening.

Overall, just talk to the other person, acknowledge it’s tough to share space, and see what kind of system you can work out that will keep you both happy.

2. I’m part-time and my full-time coworkers expect I can cover for them whenever they’re out

I’m the only part-time worker in an office of six people, and I am consistently being asked to come in early and stay late when full-time workers are absent. My boss knows that I want to be full-time, but I’ve been told the budget doesn’t allow it, but then I’m asked to work extra hours. We all work flex-hours, which means when there’s a holiday, we revert back to regular, five-day work week hours. People seem to take it for granted that, when they take time off during these weeks, I will cover for them.

Is it fair for my boss to hold it against me, when I decline to change my hours? She told me that she was “giving” me extra hours and that she would be “accommodating” me by not offering these extra hours to me. I’m confused by her reaction. I told her I’m available to help out in emergencies, but allowing others to take vacation and depending on me to cover, is unfair. What do you think?

Your boss assumes that because you want to be full-time, you’ll be glad to take any extra hours that you can get. She’s not thinking about the fact that until you’re full-time, you might have other plans for those hours and you’re not just sitting around hoping that she’ll fill them for you at the last minute.

Say this to your boss: “I’m happy to help out in emergencies, but because my schedule is part-time, I often make other commitments for the days I’m not scheduled to work. That means that I can’t always fill in when people want me to, especially if there’s not a lot of advance notice. Again, I’m glad to help cover when I can, but I want to make sure that people know not to count on it as a certainty and that I may have other commitments.”

If your boss has an issue with you having a life outside of work when she’s only willing to guarantee part-time hours, well, she’s delusional and irrational and there’s not much you can do about that. But I’d start with the above first.

3. Did my manager give me the finger?

I work in a culture that I find rather repressive, but I refuse to be repressed so I sometimes say things other people don’t like. I get that, but I am willing to have a conversation and negotiate, and I can handle disagreement or “no” responses. I think I present myself that way, but I tend to get indirect statements. (“I am not the one quashing your proposal – it’s the higher-ups.”)

Recently I proposed something that my boss wasn’t keen on, but she gave me the go-ahead to develop my idea anyway. While she was doing this, she used her middle finger to adjust her glasses. I haven’t seen her do this before, so my instinct is that she was sending me a negative message despite trying to appear positive. I really don’t want to waste time developing an idea that’s going to get smacked down behind my back. Am I making too much of the finger?


It’s highly, highly unlikely that your manager was giving you the finger while trying to disguise it. That’s not really what professional adults do in offices, let alone to someone who they manage.

4. Should I give thank-you gifts to my references?

When someone gives you a job reference, would it be nice to send them a small thank you gift in the $10-15 range such as a Starbucks gift card or bottle of wine? Or would a thank-you card suffice? References could potentially be contacted a few times, and sometimes they need to fill out a written form. So this process isn’t totally painless and I wanted to show my appreciation. These are my own references that I know, so it’s not as “gimmicky” as sending a gift to a hiring manager. Would a small gift be a nice gesture, or overdoing it?

Overdoing it. Giving references to past employees is just a normal part of being a manager, and gifts come uncomfortably close to implying a quid pro quo.

The best way to show your appreciation to references is to (a) thank you them (in a call, email, or note) and (b) keep them posted on the outcome of your search. People who give you glowing references usually like hearing whether you ended up getting the job or not.

5. I’m anxious about telling my manager I’m applying for an internal opening

I’m a recent graduate working for a fairly small organization. We currently have an opening, one that absolutely needs to be filled in the very near future. I am involved in the hiring process and will interact directly with the new hire.

After a recent meeting, two of my colleagues involved in the process told me that I would a great fit for the position and that they wished they could hire me. One of them even suggested speaking to my boss about it. I was very flattered by their comments but didn’t know whether I should take them seriously. I did share that I was interested in the position, but that I’d also need time to think about it.

I’ve since learned that the offer was made in earnest, and it’s very much something I’d like to pursue. The position would come with a significant raise, additional project management responsibility, opportunities to interact with those in more senior positions, and would really help differentiate me when I go to apply for other positions. There are only two catches: 1) it’s a term position, which I’ve made my peace with; 2) my current supervisor will most likely be angry, and I would still have to work very closely with him/her. Ordinarily, s/he is a fairly accommodating boss, but s/he is also very passionate, and I can’t imagine him/her taking it very well.

I’m at a complete loss about how to proceed. I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with my supervisor, but I also want to give him/her a heads up if possible. Jobs are few and far between in my field, and I’m almost positive that another such opportunity won’t come around for me in my current position. Do you have any advice for how to proceed?

How long have you been in your current position? If it hasn’t been long, your manager will be understandably annoyed but will get over it (and if she doesn’t, that’s on her, not on you — because a reasonable manager would). If it’s been a year or more, your manager shouldn’t even have initial annoyance. Either way, don’t give your manager this much power over your career decisions. If she has an issue with it, that’s about her own craziness, not a reflection of you doing anything wrong.

As for how to proceed, go talk to your manager. Explain that you were approached about this position, you’re excited about it because of ___, and you want to be transparent with her that you’re going to throw your hat in the ring for it.

{ 166 comments… read them below }

  1. Sandy*

    For number four, I gave each of my references a small gift card when I finally got a job in my field after graduating university. At that point, in my view, they had gone above and beyond with continued references, between grad school applications, jobs that asked for references and never used them, forms, and genuine references- probably between 40 and 50 in the end.

    And then I gave them a break from being references for a few years! (Probably the best gift…)

    I wouldn’t give gifts as a matter of course.

    1. Sue*

      OP for #4 here. Wow, 40-50?! I can definitely see how it would be a nice gesture to get them something after all that!! In my case, I like Alison’s advice that giving references is just a part of being a manager. I was giving gifts as a matter of course, although something made me reflect upon it this time. I skew towards overdoing/overthinking things, so I am glad I found AAM and this community!

      1. Cassie*

        Some students give my boss (a professor) gifts for writing them recommendation letters to get into grad school – it’s really unnecessary and he usually passes the gifts on to me anyway (not that I mind!). Writing rec letters is part of his job as a professor/mentor and a nice email afterwards would express gratitude but not have that awkwardness of my boss telling the student not to bring gifts in the future. He’s just trying to tell them it’s not necessary but I always feel a little bad for the students.

        1. Jules*

          Cookies/baked goods probably is not over the top, a 150 dollars fountain pen maybe. Or he would even refuse the cookies?

  2. KarenT*


    Alison’s calm and rational advice is spot on, but as someone who suffers from OCD and is a fellow Type A, I’d be pretty damn ragey in your situation.

    1. Purple Dragon*

      This came up years ago in our company. The person who had the desk during one shift ended up going to the manager of the department about her desk being used and re-arranged by others. The manager told her that it wasn’t “her” desk, it was the companies, and if they wanted a desk sharing arrangement then that’s what would happen. It was probably an over the top reaction by the manager but it’s always stuck with me. It’s not my desk, my chair etc, it’s the companies.

      Maybe reframing it like that in your mind will make the situation a little less stressful ?

      I’m also wondering if the person didn’t “throw” the charger on the ground but had it on the desk as they’d used the power-point for something else and it was knocked off onto the floor ? Maybe I’m just giving the benefit of the doubt as I can’t imagine anyone in a professional setting doing that on purpose. Maybe something to consider ?

      1. Sarahnova*

        Yes, I’m presuming the night-shift person needed the power socket at some point and so unplugged the charger, and the charger then got knocked off the desk to the ground. Most people don’t pull awkwardly-placed things out solely for the pleasure of throwing them around. OP, I feel you, but Alison is right.

      2. MK*

        That was my thought too, that the person who shares the desk needed to use the plug and put the charger somewhere and then it fell. Or that they tried to plug it back and didn’t plug it securely. Also, it’s probably not a case of the coworker rearranging the stuff, it’s of them putting them away so they can work.

        I have to say that the OP’s expectation that she is entitled to hog the plug for her charge, as well as a good portion of desk space for her personal items, sounds unreasonable to me. Is her coworker really expected to do their work navigating around her sanitised and bottle of water, tripping over the charger’s cable? Or put everything like the OP wants it at the end of their shift, as though they were the OP’s PA? And if the plug is in an inconvenient place, guess what, unplugging the charger, then tplug in what they need, then unplug it and then plug the charger back is much more of a hassle than it is for the OP to put the charger away after she finishes.

        1. RobM*

          It is of course quite possible these days that the night shift worker also has a charger they need to plug in. If there’s only one plug then _of course_ they’re going to have to unplug the one that’s already there.

          1. Chinook*

            It may not even be a charger that the other employee needs to plug in but another work related device (like a laptop) and the charger got thrown out of frustrated at having to spend time every day plugging and unplugging it and not having the privilege of being able to leave the work related item plugged in. I have had to share space with a group that thought the space was theirs and repeatedly refused to put their stuff away so others could use it (it was used as a children’s play area one day a week and I used it as a meeting space on another). When you don’t have the ability to talk to the other user of a shared space, the urge to be passive aggressive is strong.

          2. Treena Kravm*

            And if it’s hard to reach, I can definitely imagine someone tossing the charger before plugging in their own device because they’re in an awkward position.

      3. Ellie A.*

        It might be easier on everyone if the OP buys a power strip with multiple plugs in it. They could plug it in to the hard-to-reach spot and then hopefully move the power strip to someplace a little more accessible (on the edge of the desktop, maybe, or just on the floor in an easier-to-reach spot), making it easier to plug and unplug the phone charger. That way she could unplug it and put it in a desk drawer at the end of the day without undue trouble.

        Alternately, the OP could leave the phone charger plugged in to the power strip, and the night shift worker would still have outlets available to plug in his/her devices. Everybody wins.

        1. Decimus*

          I agree with this. Power strips are surprisingly inexpensive, particularly if you just want a few extra prongs. This way the charger can be left plugged in without reducing the working space for the next person.

        2. Kelly O*

          I like this idea. Just put in a power strip and leave a note for the night person – “Thought it would be easier for both of us than crawling under the desk every day!”

          And honestly I’m picky about “my” stuff, but when you share space you sort of have to become okay with that. When I shared a desk, we each had a drawer for “our” stuff – mainly things like hand sanitizer, a granola bar or two, coffee or tea, that sort of thing.

          I’ve worked in *ahem* interesting situations where I basically kept a bag with everything I needed for the day, and just packed up and unpacked every day. I’m doing that now since the company is closing. It’s just easier than having to worry about where things go and getting all upset about things being missing.

        3. themmases*

          This is a good idea, but it seems like the employer should buy a power strip if there aren’t enough outlets in the office, not the OP.

        4. stellanor*

          I think in this situation I’d invest in a little box or basket I could keep my personal items in. And an extension cord or small power strip so I could have power points ON instead of UNDER the desk. I have a bunch of little power strips from back when I lived in an outlet-deficient dormitory built in the 60s. I’ve been dragging them from apartment to apartment for 10 years because they’re so useful.

    2. Mike*

      If you are actually OCD (vs the “omg I’m so OCD” people) then wouldn’t that fall under the ADA and something that the company should make reasonable accommodations for?

      1. Observer*

        What the others said. Also, allowing her to not share her desk might nor be considered a “reasonable accommodation” under the circumstances.

  3. Grand Mouse*

    #1- If it helps you keep your sanity, assume it was not intentional. Likely they unplugged it to plug in something else and accidentally knocked the charger off the desk, instead of consciously treating your stuff like crap. Yes, I can see how it would bother you, but re-framing it helps me back down from getting angry over feeling wronged.

    1. Rebecca*

      I’ve done this to my own things on my desk by accidentally getting things caught with my purse or other things I’m grabbing on my way out the door. Ditto knocking over cups, etc. Not intentional at all.

    2. Raine*

      Or tried to plug it back in after the shift, but, as OP said, went down on the ground and found it to be incredibly awkward and difficult and left the charger on the ground near the outlet.

    3. Grey*

      Right. Perhaps they have their own phone charger that they take home every day? Do they need to unplug yours so they can use their own? If they’re not leaving personal items on the desk, they might be annoyed that you’re not showing them the same respect.

    4. AnotherHRPro*

      “assume it was not intentional” – Words to live by! So often we interpret other’s behavior as actions against us instead of assuming the best of intentions. OP, you are responding to someone “using your space” and “touching your stuff”. It might help if you assume that the night shift person is simply trying to work around your things that are on their desk and in their way.

      I think the desk drawer for all personal items and a power strip are great solutions to the current inconveniences, but chances are if you are sharing a space something else will some up in the future. If it does, I would try to remember that this is no longer your desk and that the night person isn’t doing this to bug you, but is simply trying to work in this shared space environment.

  4. V*

    #1 – it’s definitely annoying to have your setup rearranged, especially if it used to be only your space, and now someone else is “invading” it. If you can get a locked drawer and just keep everything in there, I’d go for that. If you can’t get a locked drawer, then I would probably get a box (possibly locking) to set in one of the drawers or on the desk and store everything in there.

    For the cell charger, they may need to unplug it to plug theirs in, and then accidentally knocked it off the desk. Could you get a short (maybe 2′) extension cord so that you can just pack up your cell charger at the end of the day?

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      +1 to locking things up. I have a 24×7 staff that needs to share desks. I am OCD myself, so I felt bad for my staff having to share workspace. The idea of someone else touching my keyboard, headset, and other high touch items gives me the heebie jeebies. I installed a small locker unit and everyone gets a locker now. When people end their shift, they put in the locker their stuff they don’t want touched. If this really bothers the OP, they should inquire if accommodations can be made to store their belongings every night.

      1. fposte*

        I feel like there’s a modern O. Henry story waiting to happen here, wherein the OP bonds with a colleague who also has desk sharing problems: the colleague is frustrated that the other-shifter leaves stuff on her desk and personal chargers in her power outlet that she has to clear away every day just to get her work done. And then they realize they’re sharing the same desk.

        And that’s basically what’s happening, OP. You’re the same problem for somebody else–so might as well bond over it and work through it.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          How much do I love that you worked O. Henry into an AAM post?

          So very, very, very much.

  5. Amber*

    #1 It’s hard to tell how this is written but it sounds like maybe they need to charge their phone as well and maybe you are filling the only plug? Like some others have said it’s probably an oversight on their part so try to find a solution.

    A. Buy an extension cord or splitter (or see if your company can provide one if there aren’t enough plugs)
    B. Don’t charge your phone at work
    C. Accept that you both are sharing the 1 plug and talk to them about it to come to an arrangement (maybe see if they can plug yours back in when they are done), then tape the other end of yours somewhere out of the way under the desk so it’s easy to reach when you get into work.
    D. See if there is a way to make the plug easier to reach such as moving your computer if that’s in the way of it.

    1. Michele*

      can you use one of the USB ports on your computer to charge your phone? I have an IPhone and the cord that attaches to the thing that plugs into the wall can be detached. I just plug my phone into the computer during the day so I don’t have to crawl on the floor to get to the outlet.

      1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        I was coming to say the same thing. MUCH easier way to charge, IMO. Almost all smart phones can charge via USB, so it’s something the OP might look into. I also keep all my cords (headphones, USB, and a wall plug) in an old glasses case, which would be good for the OP since it can be easily put back in a purse/drawer for the night shift.

        1. Judy*

          Except the USB ports on most computers aren’t meant to charge devices just to power them. I used to use my computer to charge, until one day I waited too long, and it got into a cycle of getting enough power to turn on, then resetting for low battery and repeating. Not to mention it took 2-3 times as long to charge.

          1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

            Hmm, mine recharges fine on my laptop, as long as the laptop’s plugged in. Never had a problem with it.

            1. stellanor*

              A lot of newer laptops now have one or more overpowered USB ports (1-2 amps instead of the 0.5 amp standard) for running external DVD drives and powering phones/tablets. This isn’t common in desktops though. I believe the USB3 standard requires that the ports provide up to 1 amp, but that’s no help if your computer is old.

              Most phones will charge very slowly from a regular USB port, but some phones will refuse.

          2. Chinook*

            Judy, you’re right. If you have an older computer with a port that is USB 1.0, it may not charge correctly or fully (and, let’s face it, desktop computers aren’t always the newest hardware because all we really want is it to work without crashign). The 2.0 ports and onward allow for proper charging.

          3. Observer*

            That’s not correct. It does take longer to charge, but it absolutely does charge properly. If your phone is in that kind of loop, either your battery is shot or you have a problem with the phone itself. There are USB ports that won’t charge, but that is generally only true on items like laptops or tablets, not on desktops

            1. Judy*

              It charged fine for many months. But one day it was just at the brink of shutting down when I plugged it in, and it repeated the cycle of low battery shutdown, have enough power to start up, startup vibrate, then low battery shutdown at least 4 times. I then borrowed a power supply from someone and charged it, and bought my own power supply that night, I didn’t have one that I left at work before then.

              It was a timing thing, just not quite enough charge rate to make up for the power on cycle, I’d assume.

      2. L Veen*

        At my workplace, plugging your phone or any personal device into the USB port will get you a curt email from IT instructing you to unplug it ASAP for security reasons.

        1. Heather*

          You should be able to get a charging-only cable that doesn’t have the capacity to actually connect the phone as a USB device.

            1. stellanor*

              Yeah, but you can actually get a USB cable that doesn’t have the pins for data wired. Just the pins for power.

    2. OP No. 1*

      Thinking about it I am more annoyed that I have to share my space now than them touching my stuff. I am extremely left brained and habitual and new things (such as suddenly having to share my space) don’t bid well with my brain. I think I am still adjusting to this.

      1. themmases*

        This would bug me too. I actually just came in to find my computer off today, and I do *not* share my desk– my name is on the half wall! It’s easy to be gracious and make room for a new office mate that you’ll meet and consider a coworker, it’s much harder when someone you might not meet will just be using your same space.

        I think it’s normal and probably good for morale to be able to have some personal things in and around your desk. It’s depressing to feel like you’re forever hoteling at a place you spend all day, and I’ve only done it at jobs where I knew I wouldn’t be there for that long. If it were me, I would try getting a tray or desk organizer where I can move my things out of the way for the next person at the end of the day, but still have my own personality and familiar things there for me when I come back in the morning. I personally wouldn’t want to go straight to the locked drawer idea others have floated because I wouldn’t want to imply that this person is deliberately going through my things when it sounds more like you are just a little in each other’s way.

  6. Amber*

    #3 I use my middle finger to adjust my glasses all the time, most of the time I don’t notice it and for whatever reason that’s just what’s comfortable for me, don’t read anything into it.

    1. Kathlynn*

      Me too. Though I’ve had more then one person (and they don’t wear glasses) assume I’m giving the finger. It’s comfortable for me because my middle finger is the longest. I barely have to move the rest out of the way.

    2. jordanjay29*

      I was coming here to mention this. I don’t want to dissect the gesture, but I wouldn’t imagine that a casual glasses adjustment means much even if it was done with a middle finger.

      I’ve actually had someone flip me off with a middle-finger-adjusting-glasses move. It was very slow and deliberate, making sure I knew the gesture was an insult. This was not in a professional environment, but I imagine if someone wanted to insult you in this manner, you’d know. You wouldn’t need to write to AAM to figure it out.

    3. Apple22over7*

      I used to do the same, but a friend thought the same as OP3 and figured I was insulting her rather than just adjusting my glasses. Since then, I still use my middle finger to actually push the glasses up the nose, but I don’t curl the other 3 fingers so it looks like my whole hand is doing the pushing. Much less chance of others taking offense that way.

    4. Mister Pickle*

      This reminds me of Seinfeld S06E03 “The Pledge Drive”. Coincidentally, this is also the episode where Elaine’s boss eats a Snickers bar with a knife and fork.

      I had a boss years ago who a) was an ass and b) had a habit of pulling a “Columbo”: he’d drop by, say something, leave, and then poke his head in the door seconds later “Oh, one more thing …”

      He stopped by once, to tell me something obnoxious, and left, and I reflexively made an ancient and mystical sign to where he had been standing. But in the heat of the moment, I forgot about his patented Columbo move! And sure enough, he steps back and there I am flipping him off to his face.

      No entertaining resolution, alas. He laughed, I was embarrassed.

    5. Kelly L.*

      Yeah. I wonder if it’s because it’s the longest finger, so using it makes you less likely to smudge your lenses with one of the other fingers, than if you used a different one?

      I actually did meet someone once who claimed he would rest his middle finger on his cheek to subtly flip off whoever he was listening to, but he was an odd duck. :D

    6. Diet Coke Addict*

      I use my middle finger (or my ring finger) to pretty much touch my face for any reason–smooth a hair away, move something out of my eye, touch my glasses, flick something away, whatever. It’s comfortable, it’s the longest finger, it’s more sensitive than my index finger, and it’s less likely to have inkstains on it.

      Here’s a true story. In high school I worked a lot of tech theatre, and once I was standing on a stage listening to notes or something when an eyelash fell into my eye, and I used my middle finger to try to rub it out. Another girl standing there freaked out and started yelling at me for flipping everybody off and wouldn’t believe my story of “Really, this is the finger that I use!” and forever after I was branded as That Girl Who Flips People Off.

      Trust me: if I had been trying to flip someone off, they’d have known it.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think that’s the commonest finger to use for all those reasons. It’s awkward to rotate your wrist to use the shorter index finger and keep the middle finger out of the way.

      2. Emily*

        Yes, I was taught at a young age to use my middle finger to apply makeup because it’s the most sensitive and dexterous finger. And I also use it for my glasses because as others have said, you just have to cock it slightly inward and all your other fingers are safely out of the way so you don’t accidentally put a smudge on the lenses.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Our pastor does that when he’s preaching. To emphasize something, he’ll hit his notes on the pulpit with his middle finger. It’s just his habit — I’m pretty sure he’s not flipping off his entire congregation.

      2. ECH*

        Haha … when I was a kid I used to point with my middle finger just to prove there was nothing wrong with doing it. My poor mom must have been so embarrassed! Now I am wiser to the cultural connotations.

  7. Sarahnova*

    OP #3, to me it honestly sounds less like you work in a “repressive” work environment and more like you are not very good at reading interpersonal signals, given how much you seem to be reading into almost-certainly-innocent gestures. You also seem to be developing a bit of a persecution complex, judging by the language you used – “get smacked down behind my back”, “I refuse to be repressed”. Ideas get canned; it’s the nature of work, and a higher-up is not doing something behind your back when they tell your manager that your idea is not workable or not to be taken forward. I would suggest you take a step back and think about whether you’re thinking about things confrontationally when you don’t need to be.

    1. Amy*

      This was my question. My friends at work have noticed the repression, so it’s not just me. In meetings, nobody ever asks questions. Nobody. Ever. There is a real reluctance to make changes, yet we are told to be innovative. People are afraid to stick their necks out for fear of being punished. Some people are praised lavishly while others are ignored. My boss in general is rather negative and cynical and I am trying to stay positive despite all these things.

      1. Sarahnova*

        OK; in that case it definitely sounds like there are some problems with the work culture and environment. However, I still seriously, seriously doubt your boss is sending you messages via the middle finger, and I am worried that you are taking the environment slightly more personally than will end up being helpful for you. The issues you describe are pretty common, and are best called out as neutrally and constructively as possible. The environment probably isn’t going to change radically, though, so it may not be a fit for you, longer term.

      2. Nobody*

        It looks like a challenging work culture, but if you want to stay with that company, you’re going to have to play their game. Your wording when you said that you “refuse to be repressed” makes it look like you have a combative attitude. I know you’re trying to do the right thing, but you won’t win any points by constantly arguing with your superiors in an environment where pushback isn’t welcome.

        I doubt your manager was purposely giving you the finger (and that would be quite unprofessional), but does it really matter? You said yourself that your manager has already made it clear that she’s not keen on your idea, so by continuing to push for it, you’re already risking having it shot down in the end. The way you described it, I almost wonder if your manager agreed to let you pursue your idea just because she was tired of arguing with you about it.

        The way I see it, you have a couple of options: (1) work hard on developing your idea and try to win your manager over, or (2) ask your manager, “I know you said to go ahead with developing this idea, but you seem pretty skeptical. Before I put a lot of time into this, can you tell me if you’re open to using my idea, or have you already decided to go in a different direction?”

      3. LBK*

        I don’t want to discount your own reading of your workplace experience, but I’m not totally convinced it’s as bad as you say. People don’t ask questions in meetings – why not? That in itself is not a repressive culture, that’s people making their own decision not to speak. How are people “punished” when they stick their necks out, and what are you considering sticking your neck out?

        I have to admit I’m a little wary of anyone who takes pride in being counter-culture in their office. Maybe I’ve just worked with too many who thought they were “counter-culture” and willing to speak up about the “truth” who were really just problem employees with a skewed sense of what the purpose and focus of a company is.

        1. LBK*

          Also, some people are going to be praised lavishly while others are ignored, assuming some people are deserving of praise and others aren’t. That’s kinda how work performance goes, so unless you’re on a team full of equally stellar people then praise is probably going to be uneven.

        2. Anon for this*

          I see some of this where I’m at. No one brings up concerns or issues because either (a) you’re “volunteered” to be on a team to resolve that issue or (b) four months later your question shows up on your review as part of your attitude problem.

          1. LBK*

            (a) doesn’t strike me as weird at all. It actually sounds ideal to me. If you bring up an issue, you should WANT to be part of the resolution. It’s more frustrating to me when I voice a concern, management and others go off into a huddle, and then a month later come back with a solution that doesn’t at all address my original issue.

            (b) is definitely bad, though. Most of the time asking questions should be a positive, not a negative.

    2. Elysian*

      I agree. OP #3’s wording makes me think that she believes that she’s the type of person who people would give the middle finger to. Whether or not the gesture that the manager was making was ‘giving the finger,’ I think OP #3 needs to work on both her internal and external attitude.

  8. Kathlynn*

    On number two. I’ve had more then one manager say things like “if they want more hours, then they should come in when I ask”. Which I understand in part. But it also puts great pressure on the employee. Especially since this work place doesn’t reward good behavior in any way (it took 5 years to get a 25c raise.). It’s hard enough to have a life outside of work, when I sleep or work all day. Let alone be available to cover every shift, when the favor isn’t returned.

    1. OhNo*

      Yeah, while I can understand why bosses might think that way, that attitude bugs the crap out of me. I have a boss now that used to email or call me every week looking for coverage for empty shifts. I finally broke her of the habit by telling her exactly when I would be available for additional shifts (which is only one day a week), and telling her that at all other times, I am either at one of my other jobs or in class, and I won’t be able to take off either to come and work for her.

      Framing it as “I have important commitments when I’m not here, which I cannot and will not drop just to cover for someone” helps, as does being very clear on when you would be available to cover (whether it’s certain days, or certain times). Then, every time they call you to cover when you’ve said you’re not available, let them know. “As I mentioned before, I have previous commitments today, so I’m not available. If you’d like, I can come in on X day, though.” And if you ever make an exception for an emergency, make it VERY clear that it is an exception. Tell your boss if you had to cancel something to be there, and point out that you are only there because you understand it is a dire situation and you want to help out.

      Hopefully the boss will get the message pretty quickly. It took my boss a month or two to get used to my schedule, but she’s pretty good about it now.

    2. VintageLydia USA*

      I had a boss who scheduled me for every. single. holiday. after I complained about the lack of raises. I mean, the extra money was nice but occasionally I wanted to see my family, too! Easter was the worst because everyone thought we were closed and we had almost no customers to fill the time. I’m surprised we would make enough to keep the lights on, let alone pay double time (and double time and a half for full timers) for all the employees working that day.

  9. Apollo Warbucks*

    #1 I understand why you feel it is your space but it is also a working area for another employee of the firm and you never know but them having to work around your stuff might well be a source of frustration for them. If you’re sharing a desk then I think all your items (both personal and work related) should be cleared away at the end of the day and your co-worker should do the same and leave you with a clear desk to come into every morning. Do you have a cupboard of set of draws that you can share between you so there is somewhere to store your stuff?

  10. jordanjay29*

    If I were the night shift worker in #1, I probably would clear away the day shift person’s hand sanitizer, water bottle and mints off my desk. I like a clean workspace, and having someone else’s clutter would distract me.

    The drawer suggestion from others seems like a way to go. If there’s no drawers, consider moving the items to a small portion of the desk, or providing a small organizer on top/under the desk for personal items.

    1. LBK*

      Yeah, having someone else’s stuff on the desk I was trying to use would be really distracting. I am a habitual knoller so it would be hard to not rearrange it if it weren’t already set up at pleasing angles.

    2. Artemesia*

      If I were night shift guy I would have brought in a shoe box or other small box and just clear the desk on arrival; depending on my mood, I would put the stuff back or not. It makes most sense for personal items for each shift to go into the person’s designated drawer or box. I shouldn’t have to work around your tissue box, family pictures, water, lotion etc. And I really really shouldn’t have to fiddle with your charger when I need to use the plug. The fact that the OP doesn’t understand that hogging the plug is annoying is astounding to me. The obvious solution to that is a power strip so everyone has easier access to the plug or a small extension cord.

      I should arrive at MY workspace for the evening shift to find a clean empty desk; it is presumptuous for day worker to think that they own the desk and everyone else should just pound sand.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes! My first thought while reading #1 was to think of the other employee’s POV. I can just imagine them writing their own letter to AAM:

      Dear AAM,
      I work the night shift and have been assigned to share a desk. The person who uses this desk during the day insists on leaving their stuff all over the desk and hogs the outlets with their chargers. I’m tired of having to start my shift by cleaning and moving these items so that I actually have room to work. I feel so unwelcome here! Last night I was so annoyed that I just threw their charger on the floor. Why does the day shift person think they own this desk?!

      1. OP No. 1*

        The thing is, I am not the only person who keeps personal possessions on their desk. These new night shifters are coming into an existing culture where our things have been allowed in our cubicles. It just annoys me that someone is so bold to disrupt this

        1. Sarahnova*

          But they have as much right to put THEIR personal things on their desk as you do. At night, “your” desk is “their” desk (or, as others have pointed out, the desk was never yours in the first place – it’s the company’s, and you are assigned to use it during the day is all). They’re not “being bold” or “disrupting”, they’re doing their job. Yes, when you weren’t sharing it, it was fine to leave your stuff overnight – but things have changed, and you have to change your habits now. Don’t put this on the perfectly innocent person you share space with.

          1. OP No. 1*

            Every single person I’ve asked in real life would be REALLY REALLY annoyed too. I guess it’s just y’all’s personality types, but the people who are like me would get annoyed too. It’s the principle of taking care of people’s stuff that is not yours in the first place. It IS rude to ramshackle through someone’s stuff and leave it on the freaking floor.

            1. Kathryn T.*

              Switch it around — how would you feel if the night shift guy left all his stuff out and you had to start every shift by spending 10-15 minutes tidying it all away before your desk felt like “yours”?

              1. Chinook*

                “Switch it around — how would you feel if the night shift guy left all his stuff out and you had to start every shift by spending 10-15 minutes tidying it all away before your desk felt like “yours”?”

                I am gong through this right now with a couple groups I volunteer with. I have to be there 15 minutes ahead of time so I can clean up after other groups so my space can be useable (think putting away toys and putting up tables and hunting for the charis I brought down to store in the room). Because I know the space is used by various group, I always tear down the room to basic “meeting room” set-up because that is what the room is. Unfortunately, because no one else does it, I never get to have the ease of starting the meeting without moving furniture and toys.

                In my mind, your desk is the same way. You have been told by TPTB that your working conditions have changed and you will now be using a shared desk space. Common courtesy would mean that you leave it in workable conditions for the other person and they should do the same (which it sounds like they are doing because they are not leaving their stuff on the desk). Instead, what you are doing is extending their work day and/or decreasing the amount of working time available to them by forcing them to move your stuff in order to get their job done and then move it back so as not to disrupt you. Essentially, you are requiring TPTB to pay her to move items that have nothing to do with your job and are impeding hers and you are angry because she is not doing it right. Now, if the bosses are okay with paying her to do this, maybe you can leave a photo of how you want it to look upon yoru return?

            2. Nerdling*

              It’s not terribly polite to know you have a shared work environment now and refuse to make accommodations of your own to welcome the new night shift, either, so I don’t think that playing the “rude” card works very well in your favor here. This is the environment now. You’re going to have to learn to live with it, and it sounds like that means making some compromises, because it’s not *your* desk, it’s your desk *and* the night shift worker’s desk. I mean, technically, it’s your company’s desk and you just get to use it, but I think that can get a bit pedantic.

            3. Bee*

              We all have the same “personality type” that makes us disagree with you?

              Maybe we’re all just working off the same couple of paragraphs of information.

              1. Sarahnova*

                Indeed. And that you are “horrible with change” is neither the company’s problem nor the night-shift worker’s. Change is frequent and inevitable. I understand your annoyance – we’re all entitled to our irrational feelings – but I think you need to get it in hand and start managing it, and not investing in resentment against either your company or the night-shifter. You are not being asked to do anything unreasonable.

            4. Dmented Kitty*

              I understand it’s hard for a Type A person when these changes are happening in your workplace, but saying the new occupant is being rude by “throwing” your charger on the floor is very territorial of your office space. There are a lot of causes your charger may end up on the floor, and while I would be mildly annoyed if I find my charger on the floor — until that happens again I wouldn’t think it’s deliberate.

              Either way, it’s going to be hard, but try to cope with the situation rather than be aggressive towards it. They have as much right to the space as you do at this point. The drawer or a multi-socket power cord would help solve the charger situation for both of you, for the sake of both of your sanity.

            5. fposte*

              OP, I’d be annoyed too, because I don’t like to share, I don’t like to tidy, and I don’t like to change. But being annoyed isn’t the same thing as being wronged. So I’d get over it.

              The desk and outlet aren’t yours; they belong to somebody else half the time. You’ve been leaving your personal stuff on somebody else’s desk and your charger in somebody else’s outlet. If they left their stuff on the desk in the morning and their personal items plugged into outlets that you needed to work, wouldn’t you move them?

              I understand it used to be that it was only yours, but I don’t think you’ve accepted the fact that you don’t have priority on that space, and the other person there isn’t a guest any more than you are.

            6. catsAreCool*

              I’d be annoyed if someone moved my stuff around, but then I’d probably start keeping it in a drawer so they couldn’t.

          2. Jules*

            In a work place before which uses common table (since some employees are mobile and should only have landing pads), the common rule is to leave the desk with nothing. You’d get locker assigned if you want to put stuff in but when you leave, that table better be in it’s original condition. Bring a box to put all your stuff in it and dump everything into the box at the end of the day and shove it in a drawer. That way no one touches your stuff. You have a charger but people have different phones/mobile devices. Some have iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys and they all have different plugs. What if the dude wants to use the plug to charge his device which doesn’t use your same plug?

            PS: This is not valid if it’s at your home and with a spouse. Where I plug in my hair dryer better be there when I get back. My SO knows better.

        2. Nerdling*

          The existing culture does not account for the fact that people share desks. That means there will have to be changes made on both your side and the side of the night shift people.

          1. LawBee*

            Yep. There’s blending in with the existing culture, and then there are times when the existing culture will have to change. This is one of those times.

  11. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


    I have a couple of opinions to get out of the way on this one.

    Sure, it’s terrific for both budget and staffing to have an “Insta Employee” whose hours you can ramp up and ramp down based on the need of the moment. There are environments where this approach works (for management): retail, fast food, restaurant, factory. It’s not a coincidence that these are also high turnover environments.

    In an office environment, the way I’ve seen it work is when structured to mutual benefit. We have a couple of mothers who requested to return to work on a part time schedule. We set up an arrangement where they work 3 days a week and then ramp up to 5 during two busy periods. They will also help out otherwise by switching their days or adding an extra during other times when we ask nicely. That’s a bit of a pain for them because they have to rearrange childcare but they help us because we help them.

    The presumption of the employer in #2 irritates me because that’s not how you treat people that you consider to be valuable to your company + having staffing in place to cover for vacations and sick days of others is part of the cost of doing business. These are given events; budget for them.

    I think what #2 should do is take all of the hours she wants, stop being irritated by the rudeness because it’s apparently a given there, and use the rest of the time to find another job.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      And now I am distracted from starting my work day, imagining this magical land where this was this reservoir of trained employees I could just schedule at will based on anticipation of work that week.

      Hell, forget that! DAILY, schedule them daily! Busy afternoon? Beep beep, please report to work in 3o minutes.

      Endlessly on standby. My numbers would be gorgeous!

      1. Chinook*

        And now I am distracted from starting my work day, imagining this magical land where this was this reservoir of trained employees I could just schedule at will based on anticipation of work that week.

        Hell, forget that! DAILY, schedule them daily! Busy afternoon? Beep beep, please report to work in 3o minutes.”

        Sounds exactly like my job as a substitute teacher. If I was lucky, I would get a day or two’s notice but most mornings I woke up and waited to see if I got called in to work. The shortest notice I ever got was “we want you now” and I pointed out I needed a few minutes to look professional and drive there. The unpredictability of both schedule and finances is why I wasn’t willing to do this anymore when there were no more full-time jobs and became an office worker.

      2. V*

        Our PMs live in that magical land, where they can triple the engineering staff workload and new, experienced engineers willing to work for 50% of the prevailing wage materialize from thin air.

        Never mind that it takes 1-3 months just to get a new hire access to our labs, and 6 months before the good ones can work independently.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          Are your PMs engineers too? Because this sounds like an “engineer’s quote” (“what it would cost to do the job in heaven”).

      3. Nervous accountant*

        I had a job like that, in an office, as admin assistant. But I never had a solid schedule ever, I’d be called to show up at 5 am (which meant leaving home at 2-3) and I would work anywhere from 3 to 12 hours on a given day. Or I’d be called in to work but on my way there would be told no need for me to come in. I had the option to say no but how much option does a person who’s desperate to work get.

    2. misspiggy*

      It does sound like the manager in #2 thinks they are budgeting for vacations etc., by giving the OP extra hours when cover is needed. However, crucially the manager didn’t clarify whether this was what the OP wanted – possibly because the manager is clueless, or because they didn’t want reality to interfere with this nice little solution.

      Because the OP has been providing this cover, it may look like the OP is happy with the arrangement. So the OP may have to do some very clear explaining, and start refusing extra hours when they are offered.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        You said it better about budgeting.

        What I meant was, if you need full time availability, you need to budget for a full time position.

      2. Raine*

        Right, but it takes a special kind of manager who assumes a part-time employee is just there — doesn’t have another job to make ends meet, for example, or child care needs to be covered, and can just come in at the snap of her fingers instead of with a tiny bit of notice.

        1. JB*

          This exactly. Like when her shift is over, she just goes back into her box and stays there until she’s needed for her next shift.

    3. Kat M*

      I am the insta-employee! Deliberately part-time in a role I’m a bit overqualified for so that I can focus on my writing. I can (and regularly do) fill in for people two and three levels senior to me. But when they start giving me too many hours, I make sure to remind them that the handbook says they’ll need to start paying me benefits if I work over 30 hours a week for two pay periods in a row. That usually suffices to get them to back off on the extra work. ;)

  12. OP No. 1*

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I was having a ridiculously irrational day where my anxiety was acting up, thus making me an insane, crazy Type A while I wrote that (my schedule was all thrown off because my trainee didn’t show up for work, thus I was off). I should be more PO’d if they were rummaging through my drawer but they’re not so I’ll just keep my stuff in there from now on.

    1. Mister Pickle*

      It’s funny, I had something similar happen to me back in like 3rd grade: for several days some other class came in and used our classroom and desks, I don’t remember where my class went. But natch, I came back and all of my stuff was either gone or messed up. I found things on the floor at the back of the room … I was very upset.

      It may not have been “my” desk, but still … I’m also reminded of professional line cooks and their mise en place … according to Anthony Bourdain, you simply don’t fuck with someone’s “miz”.

      1. jhhj*

        They did that too in my elementary school! It really was MY desk, each class had their own room, but there were after-school programs there (it was a parochial school, so kids who went to secular schools would sometimes attend those) and the kids thought it was fun to screw around with the stuff in the desks.

        Which I know because I eventually ended up in high school with one of those kids and we were friends.

        But I think eventually there were a lot of actual-student complaints and they came down harder on the after-school kids.

      2. JAL*

        Third grade was a bad desk year for me too! Someone kept stealing stuff out of my desk and I had my babysitters club book in it for silent reading time and my this girl stole it. I caught her with it at the end of the year and the teacher believed her over me. It was ridiculous and 15 years later I am still peeved.

    2. the gold digger*

      I understand your frustration. When I was in the Peace Corps, I had my own desk but shared an office with a co-worker. The computer was in that office as well, so the three interns were in there a lot.

      The desk was mine, but that did not stop my co-worker and the interns from stacking all of their things on my desk. The interns I could sort of understand, but my co-worker? She had her own desk! But she would still plop her purse on my desk when she arrived in the morning.

      After I repeatedly asked them nicely not to put their stuff on my desk, I came in one day and swept everything on my desk to the floor. My co-workers accused me of being a Western imperialist hegemonist (is that a word?) something. Basically, I was too concerned with property rights. I informed them that it was my country and its idea of property rights that was funding our organization (with a grant from the Inter-American Foundation) so they might start to think about that.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        My co-workers accused me of being a Western imperialist hegemonist

        Frankly, I am jealous. I was once called a megalomaniac because of certain architectural and design decision I made. And I continue to be proud of that. Alas … I will never be a Western imperialist hegemonist …

    3. BadPlanning*

      Is the same person sharing your desk? Or is it just any random night shift person? If it’s the same person, is it possible for you to meet them? Or maybe leave a note saying, “Hey, Just wanted to let you know that I put my personal stuff in the drawer so it wouldn’t be in the way for your shift. To make it easier for us to use the outlet, I have my eye out for an extra power strip or extension cord. Welcome aboard!” I’m just thinking it might be easier knowing each other is a real person and not just that annoying faceless person that messes with the desk.

      1. OP No. 1*

        I honestly have no idea who it is. I have never seem this elusive person but thinking about it I think I am more annoyed that I suddenly have to share a desk than them touching my stuff. I am horrible with change and I’m used to having my own personal space at work.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          But remember, it’s not they who are making this change, it’s your management. So you have a choice: learn to live with it or find a different job. The job has changed, and hard as it is, you probably need to change with it, at least for a while.

          I sympathize, because I have a lot of personal stuff at work, and I make it feel like my space. But if my management changed that, I would need to adapt. By putting a face on this person, it will help you tolerate the change better. The other suggestions too (extension cord, drawer for personal items) will help make it more tolerable too. That doesn’t make it easy, but the change has happened. Understanding why you are annoyed and complaining about it won’t help as much as figuring out how to make it more tolerable.

          1. OP No. 1*

            I have at least 5 disabilities. I need my personal space no matter what. I’m working from home soon anyway, so I guess everyone gets their damn way including you all who hide behind the internet to make someone’s life feel miserable.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Whoa, what? That seems really unwarranted and out of the blue. You have strangers who are trying to give you advice because you asked for help. No one is being rude.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              If any of the disabilities mean that a reasonable accommodation would include not sharing a desk, then that is certainly worth taking to management. And certainly giving you no notice was uncool.

              Most of us are stuck with what management gives us*, the changes they decide on, and we either figure out how to work with it, or find someplace else to work (which isn’t so easy). And if you don’t get accommodation, you’re stuck in the same place, at least until the working from home comes about. But we weren’t trying to make you feel miserable, but rather suggesting some coping strategies that have worked for us, in the hopes that they might also work for you.

              *Not to imply that management decisions are always bad. I just found out that our management is giving us Christmas Eve as an additional holiday. I’ve already figured out how to work with that! :)

            3. Nobody*

              Nobody’s trying to make you feel miserable! This post is full of helpful comments from people trying to give you advice on how to deal with this change constructively.

              You know what will make your life feel miserable, though? Dwelling on how much it sucks to have to share your desk, instead of taking actions to cope with it. Why don’t you at least try some of the advice offered here and see if it helps you adjust to the new arrangements? I bet if you get into the habit of putting all your stuff away in a drawer (or perhaps just keeping everything in a basket that you can remove from the desk) at the end of the day, and plug in a power strip or extension cord for your charger, it won’t take long before you get used to it and don’t feel so miserable about it.

            4. Chinook*

              OP no. 1, no one is entering your personal space. Instead, another emp-loyee is doing the job she was hired to do and it sounds like she is doing it in a way that minimally impacts you (because you haven’t mentioned having to deal with her personal items). If your disabilities require everythign to be in the same spot (which I could see if you had vision problems and couldn’t find items any other way), then you need to point that out to your boss and the person sharing the space. But, if the issue is that you have difficulty not dealing with change, that is something you have to learn to deal with in the workforce.

              Have you talked to your boss about this? If not, bring it up but be prepared to hear that this is the new normal and, if you can’t deal with it, you are free to leave due to the new working conditions.

              I am sorry if I am one of the ones who sounds harsh, but as humans we have to share space with other humans on this planet and that involves compromise. It isn’t like she has eaten your favirourite sandwich or the last piece of fudgy choclate cake which can’t be replaced – she has tried her best to move your stuff back to where you left it more times than not. That makes it seem like the other person is trying to meet you more than half way and understands that this isn’t a fun change for you. What more can you ask for?

            5. Dmented Kitty*

              Oh wow, this turned ugly pretty quickly.

              OP#1, it’s frustrating — I like my space too, and it bugs me if people move my stuff around my desk every day and touch it (and god forbid anyone eats at the desk I occupy and who knows if they cleaned up their sticky mess enough). But if it keeps happening then I adjust over to a new habit (like keeping some of my stuff away from sticky fingers).

              At ExJob I know some people temporarily use my desk every once in a while (the overtime groups), and I know because my seat gets pushed every which way. It’s annoying but eh, I’m not living in my cube and I don’t intend to, so I as long as the place isn’t trashed by the morning I try to be fine with it. The charger thing is mildly annoying, but if it kept happening then that’s when I’d start to think it’s deliberate.

    4. LawBee*

      I’ll tell you this – I share a kitchen with someone else at home. We both travel a lot, and when we’re both home, she tends to do the cooking (out of her personal preference and my late working hours, whatever).

      Every time one of us is gone for more than a couple of days, the entire kitchen gets reorganized for the other person’s convenience. I do it, she does it, it’s maddening to dig through cabinets to find the pan I put there – but honestly, it’s also kind of funny. And at the end of the day we get fed, so – small beans.

      Sounds like you’ve got a plan for the personal items, and there’s been excellent suggestions for the charger – hopefully things will calm down for you soon!

  13. Wasted Donuts*

    #2 – I’m wondering how many extra hours is OP getting and how often? Is it pushing him/her up to full time or near to it on occasion? In that case then it needs to be brought up that OP is not getting the benefits of working full time but is expected to be available and sometimes to work the same hours as a full time employee. That is a problem.

  14. Ludo*

    For the OP in #3, I actually read something awhile back that discussed subconscious body language. One of the topics they discussed was something very similar (using a middle finger to adjust glasses vs the more typical pointer finger or whole hand) can be a sign of dislike without the boss even realizing they are doing it.

    That said, I wouldn’t think of it about this project but rather how you project yourself at work. I got a distinct “bully” sense from your letter. Maybe I am reading too much or projecting you into my personal work story. But everyone I’ve worked with that would have written something like “I refuse to be oppressed so sometimes I say things people don’t like” was a jerk and used that statement as an excuse to be rude and a bully in the workplace.

    So maybe you aren’t coming off as irrepressible but rather rude, and like a bully. You might want to think about it?

    1. Ludo*

      Side note: I just realized I used some form of the word “project” three times in as many sentences. Ugh. Somebody needs a thesaurus today!

    2. Bend & Snap*

      I agree. “I refuse to be repressed” is a variation of “This is just the way I am.” Those people are NEVER fun to work with or for, or to manage.

      So OP–have you thought about how this might affect how your ideas are received?

      1. Artemesia*


        This jumped out at me too. And I was the person who spoke truth to power in my last job so I was no shrinking violet. BUT I also was appreciated for the role because I knew when a decision had been made and when to back off. You can be assertive without being a PITA to work with and pushing and pushing when you are told they don’t want to use your idea is a good way to shut everyone’s ears to your next idea.

  15. soitgoes*

    I do think #1 needs to adjust his/her perspective a little bit. IMO it’s inappropriate to call dibs on an electrical outlet. You can’t leave personal stuff plugged in when you’re not there.

    #2’s manager might think that the OP’s desire to be full-time is motivated by money and that the extra hours are a gift. That’s obtuse, but it’s worth factoring into your decision about how to approach the issue. I do wonder about an office setup that has five full-time employees who are constantly taking so much time off, while there’s one part-timer who’s clearly capable of doing the same job, at least well enough to be called upon to cover.

    1. OP No. 1*

      Thinking about it I am more annoyed that I have to share my space now than them touching my stuff. I am extremely left brained and habitual and new things (such as suddenly having to share my space) don’t bid well with my brain. I think I am still adjusting to this.

      1. soitgoes*

        That’s fair. I’m finicky about people touching my stuff too. I often throw away the Bic pens that other people have used (especially if I know they don’t wash their hands in the bathroom) and pull new ones from the storage closet. But idk, if I saw an iphone charger plugged in by my communal desk, I probably wouldn’t think twice before plugging my own phone into it.

        1. OP No. 1*

          What bothers me most is no one alerted me that I would suddenly be sharing it. If I knew it was, of course I would have put my stuff away. It’s just annoying that no one told me.

          1. Episkey*

            I think that’s fair. I have a feeling you are misplacing your anger/annoyance and you are really upset with the leadership that made this decision (and failed to communicate it) rather than with the night shift employee who uses your desk.

            I think you’ve had good suggestions on how to manage the space/outlet issue and maybe just try to remember that the night shift employee isn’t really the one who is at fault here — I’m sure they would prefer to have their own space too!

          2. AnonAnalyst*

            This just sounds frustrating for everyone, so I can sympathize with you and with the night worker. Perhaps some of the suggestions upthread about having a designated drawer or space for your stuff would help? I know that suddenly having all of my stuff rearranged/moved would frustrate me, but maybe having that new measure of control and some space reserved for your use will help.

            But yeah, that’s horrible that no one made you aware. Again, bad both for you and for the new person. I can’t imagine how awkward and unwelcome I would feel in a new job if I got there and was sent to a desk where there was a bunch of someone else’s stuff and was expected to work around it (or worse, move it out of the way before I could even start). It’s really unfortunate that this wasn’t communicated to you ahead of time to prevent your irritation or confusion at having your stuff moved, and to prevent the related awkwardness for the new person sharing your desk.

          3. Dmented Kitty*

            Oooh I hate unannounced stuff too! That’s why I always would like a day’s notice if my husband’s planning dinner out with his friends, so at least I can plan on being alone for the night, even if I normally do jack shit. :P And I really get very anal about timing stuff to do over the weekends — my husband has insomnia and usually sleeps until late, and I’m all antsy wondering if we had any plans when he wakes up — are we doing yard work together, should I wait until he wakes or should I just start, etc…?

            That’s sucky for management but things like that happen…

          4. catsAreCool*

            Weird that no one told you that you’d be sharing it. Seems silly for a company to surprise its workers that way.

  16. L Veen*

    #3 – I often use my middle finger to push my glasses up because when I bring my hand up to my face, 99% of the time it’s my middle finger that falls on the bridge of my nose. It’s a completely innocent gesture.

    1. straws*

      I did this frequently enough that I started adjusting to use both my pointer and middle finger to adjust my glasses. My middle finger still does all the work, but my pointer finger keeps it company to avoid unintended offense!

  17. Elizabeth West*

    #1–This reminds me of something I read in a book about homicide detectives. I might have got some details wrong, but it was basically this:

    The day shift had to share a desk with the night people and one day shift detective was always bitching about how the night shift would mess up the desk. So the night cops took a styrofoam cup and cut the bottom out and filled it full of dots from the hole punch and left it on the desk.

    The day guy came in and saw the cup on the desk. He bitched and picked it up and *FLOOF!* Dots everywhere.

    He kept bitching about it, and they put another cup full of water on the desk. He got mad and picked that up and threw it away too.

    Then the next morning, he came in and there was a string from his desk to the light fixture, where a cup sat like the bucket in Stephen King’s Carrie. He guessed it was full of water, and he thought “HA! They’re not going to get me with that one.” So he climbed up on the chair and lifted the cup carefully off the light fixture.

    *FLOOF!* No bottom; dots everywhere.

    Cops are always taking the piss out of each other. :)

  18. Anonsie*


    In this case, is a nice card for the note still over the top? I feel like I never see anyone give pretty thank you cards anymore (unless it’s for a wedding gift or something).

      1. Anonsie*

        I’m big into thank you cards. I have a variety of them in a drawer at home, every time someone sends me a gift or does me a big favor I send them a card back. I even have a pack of tiny post-it sized note cards in my desk at work for the odd little gifts here and there that people bring back after vacations or around the holidays, since a full size card seems like overkill.

        But since this is generally not done so much anymore, I wonder if it is going to look weird.

  19. LawBee*

    Re: #1 (I think? the one about the shared desk)
    I think it would be good for Day Shift to consider that Night Shift is probably equally annoyed at the inherent inconvenience of desk sharing, and see what can be done to make life easier for both.

    Take the phone charger – would it be possible to use a short extension cord to make the outlet more accessible? If the outlet is so awkwardly placed that you can only get to one of the plugs, then Night Shift is probably irritated that Day Shift’s charger is left plugged in overnight when it’s clearly not being used.

    As far as the personal items (mints, etc) go, Day Shift can keep those items in her purse/his man bag (whatever the dudes call it), acknowledge that Night Shift also needs to use those desk drawers and deal with the rearrangement of stuff, or accept that a desk isn’t personal real estate and stop keeping personal items there at all. At the end of the day, the desk belongs to the employer. Moving around a thing of mints is small beans, tbh.

  20. Amy*

    re: #3 and repressive environment. I just had a long conversation with our newest hire, who has been here about 7 months. He told me he found the atmosphere repressive here – I didn’t prompt this at all. We were talking about something random. He has had the same problem getting approval for changes or projects.

    I think both of us feel validated now.

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