Q: "I have to share an office with a very messy colleague. We are like Felix and Oscar in 'The Odd Couple.' My area is neat and organized, but 'Oscar’s' side of the room is completely covered with piles and piles of paper. As a result, he frequently misplaces information and fails to meet deadlines.
"Many other co-workers have told Oscar that he should clean up his space, but he ignores their advice. This unsightly mess is so embarrassing that I have stopped bringing clients into the office. I recently purchased a small divider to separate our areas, but that doesn't solve the problem. I can’t move out, so how do I cope?" Felix
A: You seem to be living with an office hoarder. These compulsive folks have a hard time discarding anything, so the paper piles proliferate until they consume every bit of available space. But here’s my question: Where is your boss in this equation?
If many people are complaining, then Oscar’s untidiness has reached the level of a performance problem. Since performance issues should be addressed by the supervisor, your first step is to be sure your boss knows about the business problems created by Oscar’s messy habits.
Should your manager refuse to intervene, you and your colleagues might consider staging a group intervention. Explain to Oscar how his sloppiness is affecting others, then tell him that if the chaos continues, you will have to advise your manager whenever information is missing or a client meeting has to be relocated.
If these strategies fail to produce results, then all you can do is protect your turf. You have created a clear boundary by installing the divider, so when Oscar’s clutter starts oozing into your territory, simply shove it back where it belongs.
Are you irritating your colleagues? You might be if you do any of these 15 things: Quick Quiz: Do You Annoy Your Co-Workers?