Make nice with your office neighbors

Office buildings tend to be more like condominiums than your standard, single-family suburban homes in that the workspace is often divided into small parts and shared by many different families or in this case, businesses.

Even well-established companies often lease plots of cubicle space to smaller companies, which often become their annoying neighbors. So, it is not uncommon for employees of a chiropractic practice to work in close proximity to magazine editors, or bankers right next to the geniuses behind the commercially successful Bumpit hair accessory.

Even though you run into these quasi-familiar strangers in the line at the cafeteria, the designated smoking area and the parking lot on a daily basis, you rarely exchange pleasantries. And thus, interactions with these folks are often strained and unpleasant.

In my office building, there were several other small companies working under the same roof — Barnes and Noble and Wells Fargo corporate offices; a smaller up-and-coming law firm and a biosciences company.

Trying to “make nice” with these people can be difficult, especially when it seems like they’re going out of their way to make you angry. Take, for instance, one slightly older, considerably overweight Wells Fargo employee. She worked upstairs, yet made frequent trips downstairs to my law firm’s neck of the woods for the sole purpose of using our bathrooms.

Now there’s no official building ordinance governing which employees can use which restroom facilities. But when the hefty woman, clad head-to-toe in stretchy fabrics, waddled into our restroom, it sure made me wish someone had thought to regulate this type of behavior.

Lacking the tact to wait for the other ladies to exit the bathroom, she would start taking care of her “business” in a way that only someone who overindulged in Chanos would. The stench combined with the sound effects, only heightened by the bathroom acoustics, sent my co-workers heading for the halls.

But it wasn’t always the other in-office employees that made for these truly unpleasant interactions. One Larry the Cable Guy doppelgänger would come into the office on occasion to perform a double-duty: routine maintenance on the firm’s copy machines and routine ogling of the attractive young secretaries. The trouble with Larry the Copy Guy was that his unsolicited leering and unsavory comments were nearly impossible to avoid because he did all of his work in the copy room — arguably the most high-traffic area of the office.

Unaware he was in the office one summer’s day, I sauntered into the copy room to hole-punch some documents as a favor to a paralegal. As soon as I caught a glimpse of that unmistakable farmer’s tan, I hightailed it out of there, but not before he caught a glimpse of me too.

Not one to waste an opportunity to make sexual advances, he asked me if I would be so kind as to help him find that pretty, blonde secretary he nicknamed “Miss Smiley” on a past visit. (Weeks earlier he had been seen staring at her blouse as he speculated on the number of boyfriends a healthy girl like herself might have.) Though I knew exactly whom he was referring to, I did my best to prevent the sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen and fled the scene.

But regardless of how annoying or disgusting these people may be, we’re obligated to respect them just enough to treat them cordially. As much as you may want to pour a cup of scalding hot coffee on Jim from AT&T’s receding hairline or give Connie from reception a paper cut for every grammatically incorrect email she CCs you on, you have to hold back and hold it together.

If you can find even the slightest bit of humor in it all and shrug it off with a smile, surviving the workweek won’t be so unbearable after all. And by doing so, you’ll give your company the best damn reputation in the building.

In the case of agitated v. easygoing, it is the judgment of this column that you should be sentenced to a life in the unemployment line should you hate, rather than appreciate, the outlandish interactions with your office neighbors.

Kelsey Borresen is a junior majoring in print journalism. Her column, “Laugh-Idavit,” runs Mondays.