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How to deal with selfish colleagues…

Dear H2

I'm beginning to think that a number of my colleagues are only interested in themselves, and that they don't care at all about the needs of others. This may seem like a small example, but it matters a lot to me: we work in an open-plan, air-conditioned office, and I am one of a few people who seem to need real oxygen to breathe durung the day! Whenever I open a window to let some air in, someone else will invariably close it within a couple of minutes, without saying anything. This happens several times a day, and it's getting to the point where I feel like I may really lose my temper over it.

Am I being petty, or shouldn't people be a bit less selfish, and more courteous in a communial working area?


Dear A

You sound really frustrated! Although you say it may seem like a small example, the quality of your working environment is fundamental to your mental and physical well-being. Unfortunately, in many modern office buildings, things like light, heat and air are controlled centrally and so there are bound to be at least some people who have to compromise on their optimum comfort.

From what you say, it sounds like the issue hasn't really been discussed in the open, which is probably why you're feeling so frustrated. Do you know for sure that your colleagues are ignoring your needs? Or are they actually unaware of how important it is to you? Trying to maintain effective working relationships in which you never express your needs is like trying to ride a bike with no handles - you can pedal furiously and move forwards but you can never determine the direction. It is a common misconception that everyone else is a mind reader and will automatically know the needs of others. It is much more productive to declare your needs clearly and respectfully. We therefore suggest that you wait until you are in a positive and calm frame of mind, and then broach the subject face-to-face with everyone individually in your office.

We recommend that you clearly distinguish between facts, opinions and needs, and that you avoid any direct accusations or blame throwing - you may even find that there are more people than you think who feel the same way as you. By encouraging open debate, and a team problem-solving approach, you will hopefully come up with a practical solution that suits the majority.

Best of luck!

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