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Ask Savvy: I Don't Want to Share My Office With a Co-Worker

Ask Savvy: I Don't Want to Share My Office With a Co-Worker

Dear Savvy,

A few months ago I was asked by one of the company's directors if I would be willing to share my office with my direct co-worker/teammate and I declined and said I did not feel comfortable with it. My company complied with my request, and I shared with another person.

The situation has come up again, but this time my boss will be asking. Our team is small: boss, me, teammate. My reasons for not wanting to share an office with my teammate are personal — she is horribly messy, she smells funny, and overall she is not overly friendly. I am not the only person in our company who has noticed all of these things. I tolerate her as a teammate, but that's about it, and I don't feel comfortable at all sharing my personal space with her.

How do I tell my boss that I am not comfortable with this without making it seem like I am not a team player? I don't feel I should have to work in conditions that I'm not comfortable with. Any advice?


Savvy says: Work is one of those places where personal space is inevitably compromised — like a college dorm, except you get to leave at the end of each day. See my tips for handling your dilemma when you


Be aware of the way you criticize your co-worker when talking to your boss. Pointing out that she isn't "overly friendly" won't convince your boss that you and this person are a bad match — you don't have to be best friends. Instead of saying that she "smells funny," you can suggest that she has questionable personal hygiene, but this is a really sensitive issue, so you better be confident in your accusation.

You'll have the most success by asking your boss if you can work together to find another solution. Go into the meeting with your own ideas to show your boss you've thought this through; that's evidence of how important it is that you don't end up sharing an office with this person. Along with your alternate solutions, go into the meeting with handful of reasons why this work arrangement would negatively affect not only your work environment but your performance as well.

If there's simply no other way to pair you up with someone else or find you a desk somewhere else in the office, you might just have to deal with it for now. Try to make the best of this potential situation by making your own area as pleasant as possible — and by giving this co-worker a chance. Give her the benefit of the doubt, and if she fails to live up to good co-worker standards, revisit the issue with your boss after a reasonable chunk of time.

Have a question for me? Ask away by posting your questions in my Ask Savvy group.

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
dani17731 dani17731 7 years
In response to anonymous and OHmeetsBK, this is not being immature; it's working in an uncomfortable environment, which in my field (education) is a direct violation of our district's policy. In order to be successful, you must be at your best. As a person who is extremely sensitive to odors, I could never work with someone who smells. How can I give my all to my students if the heat is at 95? When do I get to use the restroom if I have 4 classes in a row? You may say these are situations that I need to "just get over", but as far as the original question goes, how can she work at her full potential when she is personally uncomfortable?
sweetpeabrina sweetpeabrina 7 years
I feel your pain. I'm in a similar situation - it's very easy to be extremely possessive over your space. However, you have to remember that the office doesn't belong to you, it belongs to the company. Think about how you would feel if the situation was reversed. You would want the person in the office to welcome you so I think that you should do the same. Good luck!
OHmeetsBK OHmeetsBK 7 years
I'm sorry, but I really think you need to grow up on this one. These are really immature complaints.
mek123 mek123 7 years
I, too can't believe that you were asked not told who you would be sharing an office with. There is not a lot you can do except make the best out of the situation. You can try the suggestion of approaching your boss with other ideas but wouldn't hold out too much hope.
Zivanod Zivanod 7 years
I agree with Savvy. There isn't much you can do with work arrangements and it is nice they ask instead of tell but unless alternate arrangements can be made, you may have to work with this person closely. Recently my boss decided to rearrange our seating situation "for fun." No one thought it was fun and there was a lot of grumbling but unfortunately we all now sit in different locations and even near people we dislike. All I do is turn up my iPod and ignore them.
skigurl skigurl 7 years
agree, unless you can present a better solution to your boss, you have to say yes...i can't believe they're actually asking, not telling
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