updates: I secretly moved people’s desks two inches, coworker keeps stealing our snacks, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. I secretly moved people’s desks two inches over and they freaked out

Your feedback was very good to hear for my mental health, and to help me better recognize when I am given an unreasonable task.

I wrote originally that my team was pressuring me to sit with them but didn’t actually provide a desk on the floor, how all my attempts to solve the situation were shut down, and how everybody got very angry at me when I tried to move each desk a tiny amount to create some room.

They sort of did have a seat for me, but that seat was rather… illegal? Highly unreasonable? Horribly uncomfortable? I would have been in the hallway, everybody on the floor would have to squeeze by me to get to their seats (and everybody wanting to go to a conference room), everybody would see my screen all the time, and I am pretty sure it was blocking a fire exit. I didn’t agree to take that seat, especially with much more reasonable options a tiny bit further away.

This is also what I learned about the seating situation:-

– Nominally seats were assigned, but this was not enforced in the slightest.

– Any change in desk positioning or assignment had to go through office admin, sometimes office design (who were working with an architect and interior designer to keep a vision for the space and would protest people wanting to add shelves or cabinets), and IT (some seats were attached to immovable and inflexible cable outlets, and monitors were tightly assigned). Each of these had veto power and would have to be convinced separately.

– The people longest in the office have staked out their favorite spots (corners, windows) and were fiercely defending them. Apparently there have been some issues regarding desk spacing before.

– Newer people (like me) were constantly shuffled around to improve teams seating together, which was very difficult with half the company refusing to move desks.

– My team pretty much bamboozled their way onto the floor. Initially taking only a few seats, with permission, they then moved their other people in one by one and spread out from there, overfilled the place, and then wanted the people already sitting there to give up parts of their original desk space.

Nobody told me about any of this, and the people urging me to find a desk place were content letting me fruitlessly work towards that goal and take the accusations, and didn’t mention in the later fallout that they “encouraged” me to find solutions.

Finding/arranging a seat was totally not my job, and I shouldn’t have taken on that burden to begin with (thanks, Alison!).

I ultimately stayed on another floor (where there was room for like six more people directly next to me) and a month later Covid happened and the situation “resolved” itself anyway.

2. We need to tell our remote employees they can’t take care of young kids while they’re working

We learned that our HR department was working on an organization-wide policy, so we held off on one of our own. What they came up with was very vague and essentially just said that “dependent care should not interfere with performing work duties.” While this was initially a let-down, it’s actually worked out okay. We did some level-setting with existing staff and have made sure new staff understand that being able to have kids at home is not a perk of the job. In practice, unless we can hear kids in the background of calls or meetings or someone is excusing their underperformance with conflicting childcare duties, it’s a non-issue. At this point a seem to have a good understanding at all levels of staff that a school-age child popping into the background before you shoo them away is no big deal, but disappearing for long periods of time to wrangle a toddler or have them on your lap for an entire training is not okay. We also aren’t militant about it; we notice and address patterns instead of one-offs. This feels reasonable to me, and it seems to feel reasonable to the rest of the team too.

3. Coworker we don’t know keeps taking the snacks we bring in (#2 at the link)

I have an update on the coworker who kept stealing our morning tea.

Once people started returning to work post-Covid, our morning teas came back and unsurprisingly, so did the morning tea stealer! Like clockwork he would rock up for a morning tea that he was not invited to.

By that point it was basically a recurring joke in my area that everyone became a little obsessed with, and people would message our work chat, “I saw the food stealer around our kitchen!”

With that in mind, one of my coworkers ended up confronting him in probably not quite the method Alison envisaged. When he came looking for our food, my coworker said cheerfully, “This is our branch’s morning tea!”

And he replied, “lucky you” and walked away.

I’m not sure if it was the optimal way to handle it, but he hasn’t been seen around our food since.

4. My company wants to micromanage internal goodbye emails

I’m the person who wrote in asking about an office policy that departing employees’ farewell messages had to be approved by admin. It was part of a sudden culture shift at a small nonprofit that had been friendly and relaxed prior to new administration coming in.

The week that my answer was posted, I and five other staff were let go in a restructuring. Remaining staff tell me that the administration refused to disclose which positions were cut… in a staff of 40 people. It wasn’t hard for anyone to figure out.

I’m now at a higher-paying job in a different sector.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

        1. JustaTech*

          We hid our shelves in the basement until the renovation was complete and the architects had left (and we were confident that the person who chose the aesthetics wasn’t going to come down and look at us), and then re-installed them.
          So there are two ugly pine bookcases on the wall, where there could have been nice matching white ones if only they’d listened when we said we need bookshelves, not file cabinets.

      1. Polaris*

        I regressed to architecture school and rolled my eyes so hard that they clunked at the base of my skull.

      2. Antilles*

        Yes, the all-important “vision for the space”, so the zero outsiders who ever visit are suitably impressed.

        1. JustaTech*

          Exactly. Any visitors we’d ever have wouldn’t see our shelves, but they will see the poorly-crafted and socially-questionable piece of art from a vendor that could have stayed in the basement, but no, we have to put this thing on display in case the vendor visits (the vendor has never visited in 15 years, they ain’t coming).

          (I’m not sure “socially-questionable” is the best way to describe this thing that is knock-off Native American art.)

      3. M*

        Kinda funny that “person sitting in the hall blocking the fire exit” was not as offensive to their vision as *shelves*. If they are so concerned about the design you’d think LW would have been able to get them to go to bat!

        1. Polaris*

          That’s just it. There are a lot of designers who are hung up on the “vision” and NOT the reality of things like the “people who actually have to use the space”.

          1. Be Gneiss*

            I feel like this is very much in parallel of the engineers who design cars so that you have to open up the cowling around the wheel to put in a new headlight bulb.

          2. Galadriel's Garden*

            Honestly, that’s just project design in a nutshell. I’m working with a product team at the moment who has a specific vision for how this new initiative will work in the market – but the way they want it to work is *not* the way it will end up working via our distribution partners, no matter how hard we wish upon a star it will. The number of times I’ve proposed solutions that will make things, you know, not crash and burn and been told “well, that’s not in the spirit of this initiative”…like. Fine. Do you want to cling to your vision, or do you want things to actually work? You can’t have it both ways. At this point I don’t really care which road you take, but let’s all just take a selfie next to this big ol’ basket of red flags I delivered unto you before you try to throw me under the bus later, yeah?

          3. Elizabeth West*

            This reminds me of the time filling vending machines was a big part of my job and Coke brought us a new one. Sales and a few engineers (all young-ish dudes) came along. They were psyched about how much more soda the thing would hold. Until I, a mere woman in an apron, pointed out that stacking can dispensers in front of each other could make it hard to service, as buyer preferences were highly variable and whoever kept up the machine would have to take extra time to empty the front dispenser to reach and refill the back one. They were pretty snippy that I found a flaw in their design.

      4. Ellis Bell*

        I don’t suppose visions take into account people being comfortable, productive and welcoming.

          1. JustaTech*

            Years ago my in-laws lived in a small, very affluent community that had an Art Committee. (This was not an HOA.)
            At one point the fire department said “the trees on this street need to be trimmed so we can get the fire trucks down it” and the art committee said “no”.
            The fire department wasn’t asking to have the trees removed, or hacked down to nubbins, just trimmed. But the Art Committee (who’s members lived on the street in question in their very expensive houses) decided the aesthetics of the trees was more important than not letting their houses burn down. In a place with a serious wildfire problem.

            The Art Committee won.

    1. Frickityfrack*

      I would’ve run out of patience after about 30 minutes of that nonsense and definitely gotten myself in trouble by saying, “Are you people effing kidding me??” to the room at large or something. OP handled it much better than that by even attempting to figure something out, but basically everyone in a management position who allowed things to get to that point should be ashamed.

      1. ferrina*

        I would have ended up chatting with the office manager, IT and all of the other crucial people, commiserating, getting all the gossip then suddenly ending up with an incredible understanding of the organization…..and still no desk.

      2. This_is_Todays_Name*

        I am 100% with you. In every place I’ve worked, prior to now being 100% remote, the office manager….MANAGED THE OFFICE, which included assigning cubes, hotel desks, and offices. The fact that this one just basically said, “No, figure it out” makes me so angry on the LWs behalf. Now that we work from home, I as the OM assigned my hubby the smaller office across the hall and gave myself the one with 2 windows and a view :)

      3. La Triviata*

        In my bad job years ago, they had the interior design people lay out the cubicles and where the furniture would go. My cube was intended to be set up with the desk mostly blocking its entrance; I’d have had to either squeeze by or climb over it to get in and out. (I came up with a more or less usable layout, although the design people weren’t happy.)

  1. Lance*

    For #3… sounds like a pretty good way to handle it to me, just straightforwardly saying, in effect, ‘this isn’t yours’.

    Still, what a jerk. May he stay away from your morning tea and all from now on.

    1. Heidi*

      Agreed. I’m not really seeing what was not optimal about the way it was handled. Perhaps the OP’s branch was hoping that the tea stealer would stop on his own without anyone having to say anything. Anyway, I’m glad the problem was solved.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        If they’re British, and I think I recall that they are, that phrasing would have been considered abrupt bordering on unforgivably rude. Very effective, but very Not Done.

        1. Contrast*

          I didn’t think it was much different from the phrasing suggested in the original answer. Would those have also been rude?

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            The first one, it might depend on the tone, but it’s definitely phrased on the “not done” side of things because it’s extremely straightforward; the second, no, because it places the blame on the OP. It’s fine to tell someone off as long as you take responsibility for the issue.

        2. Rainbow*

          I’m British, and I would never say this. But, I would be heckin’ impressed if I saw someone else say it, to be honest.

        3. Zombeyonce*

          This makes me think that people in England would really dislike me since I can be pretty direct. I don’t think anyone would call me rude, but maybe that’s just on this side of the pond.

          1. Mongrel*

            We have lots of direct people here, we just get a lot more tongue-clucking going on in the background when it does happen.

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            As a Brit, I will gently tell you that calling you rude to your face would be far too rude! You’d hear about it in a very roundabout way if at all. Someone’s nose might just twitch very slightly in reaction to your unforgiveable faux pas.

        4. Sarah*

          From the use of “rock up” I thought they might be in New Zealand. That’s a very Kiwi phrase and morning tea is a biiiiiiig deal (that is, a shared morning tea where there’s food as a treat, not just the habit of drinking tea in the morning).

        5. SarahKay*

          I’m British and that sounds perfectly reasonable to me, given the cheerful tone that OP2 said was used.

      2. LW3 updater*

        I think in my mind, Alison’s recommended responses were a bit less blunt, and took a position of assuming he didn’t know he wasn’t meant to take the food. Whereas my coworker, while cheerful, was much less forgiving.

    2. Distracted Librarian*

      Yep, and the problem likely could have been eliminated a lot sooner if someone had politely told the guy no the first time he took something. Granted, the guy should have known better, but still: communication usually helps.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Thank you, I’ll be laughing for a good while over this. It perfectly encapsulates the English brand of awkwardness.

      1. LW3 updater*

        LW3 yes it would have been solved if we had said something earlier. But 1) it took a while for us to cotton on what was happening and 2) the behaviour seemed so bizarre and out of the norm that nobody quite knew what to say. While i understand Alison assuming that maybe he genuinely didn’t know, to be frank nobody in our team ever thought he was genuinely confused.

        I don’t think my original letter quite captured just how bizarre it was. He didn’t pop up every now and then, he would routinely be seen in our kitchen at around 10.30 am or 3 pm just in case there was morning tea out. And when he moved floors, he followed us. We think he would just go from floor to floor scoping out morning teas to take.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Ahhh…..to use the terms my local in office friends would use – “he was a free-floating mooch” constantly on the prowl for free food.

          Those types just throw all of us raised with manners off our responding and stopping it game. Don’t feel bad for being stunned.

  2. Goldenrod*

    OP #1: Your situation is a perfect example of how Covid’s impact on the work place (aka remote work) solved so many problems.

    All those fights about space, seating, open plan workspaces, chairs – not to mention kitchen cleaning duty, food or supplies gone missing, overly chatting and distracting co-workers, lighting and odor issues….ALL instantly resolved once remote work became an option. Hallelujah.

    1. Observer*

      What I really want to know is what OTHER dysfunction was going on there, though. Because what the OP describes is a lot. And this kind of stupidity is not helped by wfh.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, OP, I really need to know if a) you’re still with the company, b) they’ve gone back to the office, and c) the break has made everyone less territorial, because this might be one of the least satisfying “resolutions” I’ve read.

        1. Quill*

          I wonder if they’re still at least partially remote and this has made people able to shuffle better?

    2. Remote Work, Remote Viewing*

      All those fights about space, seating, open plan workspaces, chairs – not to mention kitchen cleaning duty, food or supplies gone missing, overly chatting and distracting co-workers, lighting and odor issues….ALL instantly resolved once remote work became an option. Hallelujah.

      All of those things definitely outweigh the difficulty of taking important strategic decisions over Zoom while constantly reminding the entire working group, “Buford, you’re on mute.”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Or it’s close cousin in my office, “Buford please mute if you aren’t talking. Your background is very loud.”

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          or its OTHER cousin: “Buford you need change your virtual background screen — psychedelic purple & yellow plaid is too loud.”

          (*Loud in the other sense of the word… I couldn’t resist given the thread.)

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            If it came with skulls my Buford would love it.

            His background noise is the weird musical live child of death metal and psychedelic 70’s anthems. Blasted at a volume that will raise the dead. It is a very acquired taste that I have no desire to acquire.

        2. JustaTech*

          My baby was recently given a play laptop (not by me) and one of the little songs it sings is about how “Froggy didn’t go on mute and we can hear him snore!”

          (On the one hand, the songs are all cute and minimally irritating and it has an off button, on the other hand the implied “work meetings for babies” is a bit dystopian.)

  3. Bookworm*

    #4: While it sounds like your old job sucks, I’m glad you’re in a higher paying job now. I missed your original letter, but I was also part of an organization that did that. I’m not sure how wide-spread it was (because as far as I know, only one colleague had this, and I’m not sure if it was a short-lived thing or if he was specifically cited…) and it was just another sign to leave.

    I think it really says something about either the people YOU (hiring organization, not you LW), hire or YOUR management style but that’s just me.

    1. LW4*

      yeah my advice to others would be that if your administration is suddenly afraid of what staff have to say and puts everything behind multiple layers of approval, prepare an exit strategy.
      and this part is hearsay, so I didn’t include it in the note, but a receptionist I trust overheard Head Boss throw a tantrum after an outgoing program manager sent an unapproved goodbye email and CCed the board of directors.

      1. ferrina*

        These kind of policy changes usually indicate that you are scaling. Sometimes it’s that you are scaling up and need a clearer policy across the increasing number of people; sometimes it’s that you are scaling down and need to do risk management.

        Refusing to say what jobs were cut in a 40-person org is just insulting.

        1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          During Covid, my company did some furloughs but didn’t tell anyone except for IT and the employees’ managers who was leaving. So, you found out your coworker wasn’t working there anymore by 1) getting a bounce back email when trying to get info or 2) noticing that they weren’t on the email list anymore (which not a lot of people knew how to access, I just was slightly more savvy). When pressed about this, the president claimed he thought that management would tell their employees who had been let go- which was fine per department, but management in other departments that communicated with each other didn’t, so…..

        2. Anon for this one*

          I worked somewhere that would keep stuff like that a secret. For example I applied for an internal position and received it but I wasn’t allowed to be notified I received it. There were lots of incidents of information being kept from people that needed it to complete their jobs.

  4. Falling Diphthong*

    I love how 1 is like “I discovered I was a pawn in an ongoing war to seize control of the entire 6th floor” and then 2 is like “it turned out the people I work with are reasonable.”

    1. Antilles*

      Yeah, I was reading #2 and thinking that sounds like pretty much the perfect implementation because they’re focusing on the work impact/results and recognizing that sometimes life happens.

      1. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

        Yes! Also, daycare and summer camp availability still aren’t where they were and parents are still scrambling. Our summer plans had to change (in April) and we were incredibly hard-pressed to find anything that was more than 3 hours a day (the local rec center and sports camps) or less than $10k for 8 weeks (yes, regular day camp).

      2. Artemesia*

        The problem with a case by case is that it can so easily be unequally enforced. No one should be having toddlers at home or babies without day care. It should be enforced across the organization. No one can properly do a job and provide all day care of a small child. School kids — different situation.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          If disruptions are happening regularly, sure. But people have kids, pets, things happen occasionally and if someone’s kid or dog makes some noise on a call once a month, not a big issue IMO.

          1. Littorally*

            Well, right, but Artemesia’s point is that handling things on a case by case basis does raise the risk that those cases will be handled in ways that show favoritism or discrimination. “Disruptions happening regularly” isn’t a solid metric, and has the potential for abuse if there isn’t a shared understanding of what constitutes a disruption or what “regularly” really means in practice.

            Potential isn’t certainty, of course, but case by case standards do need extra monitoring and caution to ensure that cases of equal severity are handled in the same way. On a slippery slope, it’s best to walk cautiously; don’t assume you’ll definitely fall, but also don’t assume there’s no danger at all and you can charge ahead like you’re on solid flat ground.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              I don’t see where they’re handling it on a case by case basis, though? Just that they’re flexible if it’s a one-off situation and only raise an issue if it becomes a pattern. That’s a reasonable (and fair) approach.

        2. Lexie*

          Saying that toddlers or babies can’t be in the house at all is a bit extreme. Someone might choose to keep their child at home with care being provided by a co-parent, family member, nanny, etc. To me that seems perfectly reasonable if they have a work area where there will be minimal interruptions and the care provider understands they are to function just as they would if the parent worked outside of the home.

          1. Jacqueline*

            This. We homeschool, so my kids are all home all the time. My husband works from home, but he has childcare: me, his SAHM wife. But kids can be loud, so…?

        3. Antilles*

          Where are you getting that they’re letting people having babies without day care all day? That’s not mentioned anywhere in the post.
          The case by case basis mentioned by OP is as follows:
          We also aren’t militant about it; we notice and address patterns instead of one-offs.
          This seems totally fair to me. Employees are humans, life happens, and nobody is 100% all the time. I think it’s generally a very good thing for companies to use this sort of reasonable discretion and rather than a hardcore militant The Rules Say X.

        4. Boof*

          I understand what you are saying, but being overly rigid in the name of trying to eliminate bias isn’t good either (and I frankly doubt it’d be effective). I think the general guideline sounds good, but if someone’s actually being called to task over the policy it’s worth double checking if it is indeed being evenly enforced. Sounds like so far it’s not actually been an issue though.

        5. Julia K.*

          I agree, home is the normal place for babies and toddlers to be.

          The median age in America at which children start to be out of the home full-time is…

          …5 years old.

          It’s reasonable to ask remote workers to ensure that someone else is watching the kids, to invest in soundproofing, etc.

          It’s not reasonable to imply that homes should be cleansed of children in order to facilitate remote work.

    2. Melicious*

      It can be really hard to write policy that’s clear enough to have weight when enforcing it, yet flexible enough that common sense and reasonable exceptions can be used when enforcing. Which it sounds like is happening as intended! If the policy was stated more rigidly, surely you’d have employees with their kids in daycare getting angry when they see a school-aged child pop onto a zoom call for a minute, even if it’s not a regular occurrence or causing a problem.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The policy at my job states that you need someone else to be responsible for providing care to all dependents* in your house.

        In practice, the managers track for who is always make their metrics and who is missing them. Then they dig into the reasons why they aren’t able to get the workload accomplished.

        *They went dependents because some parents who are older need just as much care assistance as a toddler. The feeling was it’s not fair to hold a toddler parent to a different standard from Joe who is caring for an elderly parent, or Sandy who is taking care of her disabled spouse.

    3. Cat Tree*

      For places that have reasonable policies that are reasonably enforced, why would they ever write in about it to an advice page? Also, we would get bored reading about those.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      We only hear about normalcy breaking out in spades because it’s an update. If your office is like this all the time, then you don’t write to Alison.

  5. Colette*

    #1 reminds me of my first post-university job. We were in cubicles, with 4 per group. Two in each group were by the windows, the others were by the hall. The window seats were highly prized, so when someone left, one of my colleagues wanted the window seat. He was “next in line” for one, so he asked, and was told no. The floor space people didn’t want to move him because that Cost Money.

    So he moved all of his stuff to the window seat (which was next door to the desk he already had), and moved the phone cord under the wall. All was well.

    And then a year later, he called them and said “my phone cord goes under the wall, is it supposed to be like that?” and they fixed it.

    1. Colette*

      Note: we worked at a telecom supplier. If we’d had access to the switch, any one of us could have moved his phone line.

    2. Contrast*

      omg, brilliant!

      At a previous employer, a coworker brought in her own cordless phone, plugged the base in at her assigned cube, and moved herself, the handset, and the rest of her stuff to the cube she wanted.

    3. WellRed*

      My god, if someone sliding into a new desk costs that much money (doubtful) then the company has bigger problems. Kudos to that guy for seeing through he BS.

      1. Contrast*

        It’s not that it’s such a huge expense, it’s that it *is* an expensive, and it’s a lot of hassle for some admin. It’s not just walking over to a new cube and plugging in your computer. It’s rerouting the phone numbers to ring at the new desk and updating the new location in places like the directory and maybe ordering new name plates and all that whatnot. It’s a cost, and even very large companies that can absorb it don’t like to incur it. That’s why my coworker took the approach she did in the story I shared–it’s relevant that both Colette and I mentioned the phone line. Phonelines are not trivial to reroute. If you are old enough to have had a landline, that charge to transfer your number was not just to make money. It was enough work on the part of the phone company to justify the charge.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, one more reason for using VoIP or, as my employer has done since 2005, eliminate landlines almost completely and issue everyone with a cellphone. In 2017, everyone got a smartphone and last year we got Teams both on the computer and the phone.

          For security reasons, we aren’t allowed to access company data on our own devices.

    4. Quill*

      I like him, but I am also a plant and would have been very interested in the window seat.

  6. Leandra*

    OP4: Some major law firms will boot an attorney who refuses their request that the attorney transfer to another office.

    At the firm I worked for, one person casually mentioned that as the reason in their farewell. I wondered how many other departing attorneys landed in the same boat, and we just never knew.

  7. Jennifer C.*

    RE – the person without a desk:
    I absolutely would have passive-aggressively just sat on the floor. :-D

      1. JustaTech*

        I have a friend who did something like this – worked under a table for a month – but as a way of being a good manager.
        Their building had had a small electrical fire, but they lost use of a whole floor for a month or so while everything got cleaned up. So there’s a sudden space crunch. So all the managers, who spent most of their time in meetings in conference rooms anyway, gave up their desks to the engineers who needed a stable place to sit and work.

        I don’t think my friend was *obligated* to sit under a desk but simply liked the opportunity to do something different.

  8. WellRed*

    Why am I not surprised that new management let go of several people shortly thereafter? Probably gonna remake the entire org bin their own image but woe to their poor employees.

  9. Kes*

    #1 I don’t know what it is with desks that can bring out the worst in people.

    At my first internship my department was running out of space so they put three of the interns, including me, in another room. But then our boss freaked out (told another coworker in that room to keep an eye on us, basically because he didn’t trust us when he couldn’t see us to micromanage, and got upset because he came by at one point and none of us were at our desks).

    So then they moved us back but one of the desks was a real desk and one was a random table at the end of a hallway (ie everyone walking up behind could see your screens) shoved in between the rest of the desks and the boss’s desk. Boss, being useless, failed to provide coherent direction on who would sit where, so we did a coin toss, which I lost, but multiple of my coworkers tried (and unfortunately, temporarily succeeded) to convince me to take the better desk anyway, basically because they didn’t like the other intern.

    Fortunately we talked it out and I apologized and agreed to take the shitty “desk” (boss was amazed at my conflict resolution skills… of being reasonable and having empathy and just talking things out and being willing to compromise).

    The only good thing out of that was that I got a story to use in future interviews for “tell me about a time when you had a disagreement with a coworker”, since normally just I get along reasonably well with my coworkers and try to avoid getting into disputes in the first place

    But yeah. The manipulation around who gets what desk can be ridiculous (admittedly this is especially true when the workplace is toxic anyway. Reasonable people still want good desks but actually have at least some limits in how far they’ll go to get them)

    1. JustaTech*

      Desks are weird, though when you realize most people spend more time at their desk than anywhere except in bed, it kind of makes sense.

      Years ago during our building renovation my coworker Betty decided that she didn’t want to sit by the other people on our team (our peer, me, and our boss) but rather wanted to sit at the other end of the room with folks from our partner team (if we do teapot handles they do teapot spouts). Uh, ok, sure? My feelings were a tiny bit hurt that she wanted to move 3 cube sets down, but hey, it’s not the middle school cafeteria, so OK.

      So Betty picks a new spot facing the bank of windows (her previous spot faced away from the windows). These windows have sheer shades, and across the street is another building that also has very large windows, so we often get a lot of reflection into the space on a sunny day. Betty gets all settled into her new desk only to discover that it is entirely too bright (Betty has eye issues so brightness is a real problem). So she closes the shades. But her new desk mate, Frank, loves the light, so he wants all the shades open.

      Thus begins a week of increasingly upset opening and closing of the shades, Betty coming and crying to me and asking me (!) to ask Frank to let the shades be closed until she finally gives up and moves back to her original desk.
      (Everyone, including Frank, warned her about the light, but she was sure we were wrong and she would love it.)

    2. Wilbur*

      I’m getting vibes of that meme of a guy trying to decide which button to push, “Give intern meaningful work” or “Make them use a cardboard box as a desk.”

  10. Waiting on the bus*

    #4 Oh gosh, we had something similar: we had massive layoffs, going from a staff of about 200 to maybe 40-50, tops. But management refused to give any information on who remained and we’d all been sent home to work remotely for about two months after the layoffs, and the ones who were left were forbidden from letting anyone know that we were still there, up to and including setting our status to offline in Teams.

    For TWO MONTHS we didn’t know who was still here. You had to write or call people and hope they still worked for the company. Whenever we connected with someone “new”, the first few minutes were spent going through the list of employees we had sussed out to still be with us just so we’d know. Since everyone was set to offline in Teams we didn’t know if the person we needed was online and working, away on break, on vacation, out sick or laid off. It was absolutely ridiculous.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      I baffled by this—what did they hope to achieve by not, say, updating the company directory…?

      1. Waiting on the bus*

        We never had a company directory or chart in the first place, actually! Because we wanted to remain “flexible”. Apparently knowing what employees work for the company and where would be inflexible.

        It was a good company overall, but sometimes they did very strange things. I would have even said that the layoffs had been handled great! Until all this nonsense came about.

      1. Waiting on the bus*

        We have no idea!

        At one point, about three weeks in, I tried to get my boss to tell me if people I work directly were still there. For most of those I already knew the status from talking to them or hearing about them from other coworkers.

        When he just made vague noises about understanding what a tough time it was but having to wait until the dust settles (three weeks in!), I started asking after every single coworker by name, one by one, and I still didn’t get any real answers. Remember, for most of those I already knew for certain what was going on. Some were still here most were laid off. The dust had very much settled! But still no concrete answer. And it wasn’t just my boss either, this noncommittal went all the way to the top.

        It was bizarre.

  11. McThrill*

    #1 – absolutely infuriating to go through life knowing that there’s adults who act like this.

  12. Zarniwoop*

    “working with an architect and interior designer to keep a vision for the space and would protest people wanting to add shelves or cabinets”
    I know some people who work in ergonomics/human factors/UX. When they say “That probably won a design award” they *don’t* mean it as a compliment.

  13. Armchair Analyst*

    for #4…. I worked at a small engineering firm. They did not send out emails informing of departures, for almost any reason. In addition, they had a policy of immediately firing people who gave 2 weeks notice, and escorting them off the property.

    A primary job responsibility I had was doing a safety training for new hires almost every 2 weeks. I was training 3 new surveyors and telling them that if they needed safety gear, they should contact their manager, Horatio. Of course they know Horatio, he hired them. I keep talking about Horatio, he’ll be their contact for this safety information or that equipment.

    Finally, one new hire says to me, I know Horatio hired us but this morning the head of human resources did our departmental training, she said Horatio isn’t working here anymore.

    I was mortified on behalf of my company.

    I never ever told or asked HR about it because clearly the entire organization was so poorly managed to let something like that happen. Less than 3 months later, I was suddenly fired by the head of HR.

    It all worked out. But still! Not saying a thing when people leave is so symbolic to me – no personal connection, no knowledge transfer, no organization, no acknowledgement of current employees feelings, no accountability.

  14. Angstrom*

    #4: I’ve never understood the fear of telling employees that a colleague has left. The information void is often filled with rumor and confusion.
    At previousjob, every departure got a prompt generic “X is no longer working at Llamamania. We thank them for their contributions and wish them well in their future endeavors.” There might have been a line or two about who would fill their role(s) in the short term.
    Is that really so hard?
    I do understand the need to keep the official message standard and bland for legal reasons, but silence is not helpful.

  15. Wilbur*

    From 2010-2018 I worked in a lab environment, and spent years fighting for space to run tests, inspect field failed parts, and store expensive fixtures and test parts while they slowly converted our lab space to office space. All because we don’t directly generate revenue. It’s a bit frustrating to think of all the time I had to spend shifting tubs around with a pallet jack for office space that’s now empty is a bit frustrating.

    PS, now that covid has happened, it’s not going back to lab space. Because that costs money. Which the folks in R&D/validation don’t generate.

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