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Protecting your acreage at work

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Q: "Everyone in our eight-person office uses my desk, even though they all have desks of their own. They say that I have the fastest computer. While sitting there, they also go through my desk drawers, which seems disrespectful.

"I realize that I don’t personally own this equipment, but as an administrative assistant, I have to be at my desk to work. I don’t think my boss knows about this, because I’ve never told him. What should I do?" Edged Out

A: Your pushy colleagues are apparently hijacking your desk solely for their own convenience, so you have every right to reclaim your territory. Start by telling your boss how these intrusions are creating a business problem. For example, you might explain that you’re having trouble completing your work or that you are concerned about the security of confidential information.

Next, ask your manager to help you resolve the issue. The quickest solution would be for him to simply direct everyone to use their own equipment and leave yours alone. You might also request permission to password-protect your computer, so that no one else can log on.

If co-workers continue to badger you for computer access, you must politely, but assertively, tell them to go away. For example: “I know that everyone likes using my computer, but I have work to do. Our manager said we should all use our own equipment, so I need to stick to that policy.”

Once these intrusive people stop sitting at your desk, presumably they will also stop rummaging through the drawers. But if that problem persists, just tell them to quit, then lock up whenever you leave.

Need to give feedback to some problematic co-workers? Here's how to do it: How to Talk about Tough Topics .

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