I have an office etiquette question. I’m a lawyer in the public sector and we were recently told that we’re going to have to double people up in offices to make room for new staff. Our offices were made to be doubles, they’re long and narrow, so the person in the back half of the office gets a window (prime seating) while the front half doesn’t. I currently have the window half and was told I am getting an officemate. The person moving in has been an attorney for 15 plus years, but I have seniority at our current office because I started first. She is not happy about sharing an office and is further frustrated because she’ll be getting the windowless half of the office. I’m a brand new attorney; should I offer to switch sides?
Interesting question. I’m curious to see what the readers say, but here are my initial thoughts for why I’d be polite and welcoming to the new officemate, but would stay put near the window:
- She hasn’t asked you to switch, nor has she given any reasons why she might “need” the window. Your new office-mate sounds delightful — how nice of her to tell you that she is “not happy” about sharing an office and that she’s frustrated that she gets the windowless half. Instead of asking you outright to switch sides with her, she’s whining and hoping that you will pick up your entire office and move it away from the window. I’d stay put. There are valid reasons she could want the windowed side of the office — she suffers from seasonal affective disorder, she likes to have office plants, whatever. She hasn’t said any of those — it sounds to me like she’s trying to push reader K around.
- Reader K doesn’t need to apologize for the fact that she has seniority even though she’s younger. Reader K doesn’t say it in her email, but it sounds like the woman is also annoyed that even though she’s been a lawyer for longer, Reader K has seniority because she was hired first. I can see how that would be a bummer for her. But: the system is the system, and reader K should not feel like she needs to follow some other system because her new office mate is giving her attitude. I’d also be worried in this instance of this older attorney starting to treat K like her assistant, even if they’re the same level.
That said, reader K, you don’t want to work in an unpleasant office. So be nice. Be welcoming! Make a lunchdate! But hold your ground.
What do you think, ladies? Should reader K offer to give her new roomie the window? Do you see the same power struggles-to-come that I do, or am I imagining things?