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Question:  My department recently moved to a new building. Initially, everyone received a printout showing where our offices would be located. However, our boss decided to reconfigure the office assignments based on job responsibilities. I was given an office that was originally designated for “Judy.”  Judy seems offended by this change. I think she blames me for the decision, even though I had nothing to do with it. Now I’m starting to feel guilty.  How can I fix this? — Not My Fault

Marie's Answer: Change a company’s strategic direction, and employees won’t say a word. But rearrange offices, and all hell will break loose!  People take any change to their work spaces very personally.  Here are steps you can take that may help mend your relationship with Judy:

•    Tell your boss that there seems to be a misunderstanding about why he modified the office assignments, and then ask him to review his reasoning with everyone. Hearing a logical explanation may help to blunt your colleague’s emotional reaction.

•    Next, assure Judy that you never lobbied for this particular office. Reiterate your boss’s rationale for the change and indicate that you hope there are no hard feelings. 

•    After that, just let it go and give her time to recover from her disappointment. Unless Judy is extremely immature, she will eventually stop mourning her loss, and your relationship will get back on track. 

Whenever employees will be personally affected by a change, managers need to carefully plan the implementation process. For some Office Coach suggestions on change management, see How to Help People Accept Change.

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