Tag Archives: workplace etiquette

Workplace Etiquette: The Trailer Office

I’ve been relocated at work from the grimy old cubicle I used to occupy on the second floor of our building out to a trailer. They’re finishing up our office building renovation, and accommodating all the personnel that had to move meant that my group ended up in the Trailer Office.

Grimy old cube. That I actually miss.

Grimy old cube. That I actually miss.

The Trailer Office is really two trailers, mashed together. In what seems to me an entirely illogical decision, management set the trailers up with the front of the second trailer facing the back of the first trailer. The two trailers are identical, though, so this particular placement means that the only windows in the back trailer are only about a foot from the front trailer and let in almost no light. The “front doors” of the back trailer have been marked off with caution tape and a sign from some clever previous occupant about Platform Nine and Three Quarters. (Except unlike Platform Nine and Three Quarters, these doors actually go nowhere and are in no way enchanting or magical.) Communicating doorways were engineered between the two trailers to either side of the back trailer’s actual doors.

005The trailer is filled with cubicles that look a lot like the one I left behind, except older. They are missing parts and the inimitable “cubicle cloth” is fraying and trailing threads in certain places. Drawers don’t stay open because (although I’m sure they tried their very hardest and best) the floor isn’t level. And as my group got stuck in the back trailer, there is no natural light.

Also, the trailer has no running water and no bathroom. Management rented two “deluxe” port-a-potties (an oxymoron if ever I’ve written one), one for men and one for women. They’re considered deluxe because they have sinks and “flushing” toilets. When the port-a-potties get pumped out, the trailer fills with the smell of sulfur and excrement. Supposedly the pump-out is supposed to happen on weekends but the last time it was a Monday morning.

I’m told that mice are a problem out here. Spiders also randomly drop into our cubicles. When it rains really hard, the rain drumming on the steel girder that sits between the two trailers is quite loud – and if it rains very hard for enough time, the water pooling on the steel girder starts to leak in through the Doors to Nowhere.

I knew that working in the trailer was going to be absolutely terrible and had been dreading it since we were told we would be coming out here: no ability to wash your hands, unless you use the port-a-potty (you have to go outside to get there, and as long as you’re outside, I maintain it’s just as easy to walk into the building). I’ve stocked my desk with Wet Ones and Clorox wipes.

But far and away the worst thing of all about the trailer – which I was not anticipating — is the lack of white noise. And my coworkers (who, don’t get me wrong, are great people) are a talkative bunch, much of the time just to themselves as they think something through. One in particular recently had a nearly day-long self-monologue which ended with, “Okay, it’s time to go home.” They’re nice people. But their contribution to my difficulty focusing is driving me batty.

As another coworker said to me, “I have yet to find a way to be productive in this environment.”


Workplace Etiquette: Noise Tolerance

037Noise tolerance is not my strong suit, which may actually be an understatement. I come by it honestly, in my family. Many a night I can recall being almost blissfully asleep, when my sister would suddenly awaken me by hissing my name or hitting me, sometimes with pillows, because the sound of my breathing was annoying her and keeping her from sleeping. (I have allergies.)

I’ve written before about my new cubicle neighbor, the one who’s on a job rotation. Well, ever since he became my neighbor, my limited noise tolerance has been pushed to the brink of breaking. Truth. For evidence I include below an excerpt of an actual instant message conversation I had with my sister:


That was in October of last year, around the time of the garbage saga, and suffice it to say, things haven’t gotten better. My workdays since then have been a long, seemingly unending loop of that scriiiiiiitch-scriiiiiitch-scriiiiiiiiitch noise that some mice’s scroll wheels make when used. It’s loud enough to be audible when I have headphones in and a decent, hearing-preserving volume set on my iPod.

But since I was told by multiple other coworkers that I really couldn’t say anything to the new guy without being unforgivably rude, I bore up in the face of this adversity and persevered. There are countless annoying habits I have, I would tell myself; I don’t like it when people use my garbage, for one, and I type with feeling. But there’s just something about that scriiiiiiiiitching noise that makes me want to run screaming through the hallways, you know?

Once I had even plotted with another coworker about secretly replacing the mouse when the new coworker was away from his desk, only to discover that he was using a model that was non-standard for our company and would clearly notice the difference.

And then today happened.

Today during lunch, my boss, who sits several cubicles away from myself and my new coworker, suddenly said, “That’s it!” and walked out to address us. To my newish coworker, he said, “I am getting you a new mouse this weekend.”

Whereupon I kind of lost it and may have said, “I’m so glad someone said something” while choking back tears of relief*.

* This is an exaggeration intended to heighten the comedic impact of this story. But I really did say that.

Workplace Etiquette: The Ongoing Garbage Saga

I have a new cubicle-neighbor at work. He’s participating in a job rotation, where you take over someone’s job responsibilities for a specified period of time, cross-training that promotes the company’s ability to function if, as my boss is fond of saying, you get hit by a bus tomorrow. So he’s not really a new employee, but he’s new to our area and, crucially, new to our floor. He used to work on the fifth floor.

The fifth floor has recently been renovated, gets great light (it’s high enough to be above the insidious shadows), and has multiple kitchen facilities (at least three that I know of). The second floor I like to refer to as the ghetto, not least because it is apparently rarely vacuumed, I am almost always cold, and the cubicles are so old that places on the partitions that are frequently touched are visibly grimy. Also, the entire second floor, comprised primarily of finance and IT personnel, must share a single narrow kitchen facility, the navigation of which, at lunchtime, becomes a Twister-like exercise in avoiding touching your coworkers. (We also have to provide our own dish soap.)

This last week, the “new guy” was getting a bit of training from the person who had his job before him when the subject of his garbage can came up, and he said, “Yeah, no one has been emptying my garbage.”

We all turned around and looked at each other. Heads popped up above partitions. He was somewhat mercilessly grilled about the fifth floor garbage situation as we explained how things work (or don’t, depending on your point of view) on the second floor.

Apparently, if you work on the fifth floor, your garbage gets emptied for you. Every day. And I’m just not sure what to say to that.

I consulted the office 8-ball; clearly it also was at a loss for words.

Workplace Etiquette: The Garbage Bandit

Someone used my garbage bin at work today.

Not my disposable cup. My candy wrappers, though.

I have to confess to feeling slightly violated when I saw someone else’s disposable cup left in my trash.

Let me explain. In my small cubicle, to reach the garbage, you actually have to walk inside and kind of look around a bit. Then you see it, half-hidden away between my paper-shred box and boxes of stuff that haven’t been disturbed in the three and a half years I’ve been with my current employer, left by some previous tenants of my windowless box (and which I am afraid to investigate due to the likely presence of lethal dust bunnies or, worse, spiders or other vermin). Suffice it to say that use of my garbage bin entails more than just a stroll past my cube and a casual flick of the wrist.

Maybe I’m bothered because my employer’s janitorial services do not extend to the emptying of employees’ trash bins. We empty them ourselves. This was quite a surprise to me, coming from the high-stress industry of banking, where the janitorial service emptied our trash regularly. I remember they even once or twice threw out a plastic bottle I had left on my desk planning to reuse. When I started working at my current employer, I may have even had to ask someone why no one was emptying my trash bin. So by using my trash bin at work, instead of one of the communal ones the janitorial staff actually does deal with, or even better, his or her own garbage bin, this Garbage Bandit of mine effectively contrives to avoid having to take out his or her own trash.

Happily, it would appear that nothing else in the (I assure you, very organized) chaos of paper piles and stacked-up sticky notes occupying the majority of my desk surface was disturbed. But still. Maybe I have an introvert’s characteristic horror of too much being discoverable about me through my trash. Maybe other introverts will agree with me, that use of someone else’s trash bin (when there are several communal trash bins within an easy distance of my desk) constitutes a violation of workplace etiquette. Or maybe it isn’t because I’m an introvert that I feel this way, but rather because I’ve watched too much television where going through someone’s trash is a relatively common occurrence. Most likely, I harbor a secret shame about the quantity of candy wrappers that accrue in a typical workweek.

Because it might be cathartic to come clean about my garbage (no pun intended), what you will likely find if you go through my trash:

  • candy wrappers
  • used paper
  • sticky notes full of scribbling
  • lots of napkins
  • occasional receipts
  • empty cups of yogurt
  • candy wrappers that I tried to hide under other paper

You’ll note the absence of disposable cups, unless the Garbage Bandit strikes again.