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I am the only software developer in a company and I have my own private office. This is relatively rare (but not unique) in this company for a non-manager.

I have discovered that they are going to remove the internal walls of my office and they will be moving my work station. I found this out in passing from the receptionist.

I spoke to my boss (a senior manager) and he said it was the managing director's decision and he hasn't seen the plans yet.

Today my boss and one of his colleagues were discussing the work outside of my office. He never even addressed me.

I am used to being consulted in discussions about my workspace. That doesn't mean I always get my own way but every company I have worked in has told us about the changes in advance, asked our opinions, and kept us informed. That has not happened here and it offends me. Should I approach my boss and politely tell him how I feel about this?


Update: I went to see my manager about it and he was quite reassuring. I tried to have an open mind and not be confrontational told him I don't expect to have a private office but I don't want to be put in a distracting environment. It appears that he is a major decision maker in the office redesign process. He tells me that it might not involve me at all, but if it does he will make sure that the environment that I am put in will be no worse than my existing one.

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Personally I would just be straight forward with it. "I'm not comfortable with these changes." If they ignore your concerns then that really says it all, doesn't it? More likely, they value you as an employee and will make an effort to make it up to you in another way. Always say something. Don't be a doormat. – UpAllNight Jan 22 at 15:28
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@UpAllNight I haven't actually been told what the changes are in any detail yet, so I can't really say that. I suppose the answer is to ask them what they are planning. It seems things are progressing now and he might actually know. – user46015 Jan 22 at 15:54
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As long as they don't take away your red stapler, you're OK – DVK Jan 22 at 17:25
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@DVK what if they plan on moving his workspace into a fireproof room... and THEN take his red stapler? :O – Patrice Jan 22 at 18:17
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WARNING: They are planning to fire you. – Jasmine Jan 22 at 18:21
up vote 49 down vote accepted

You'll get through life a lot happier if you don't default to words like "offended" and "challenge" in the workplace. There's a strong sense of entitlement in your post and I would take care not to have that shine through when you "politely tell your boss how you feel."

You got a private office which is certainly a nice perk but one that might now disappear. Rather than feeling resentful, just ask your manager what his plans are and if it's possible to preserve that perk. Stay neutral and matter-of-fact and avoid appearing angry, insulted or disappointed.

As a non-manager you don't have any real input to give in floorplan changes and it's perfectly normal to be out of the loop while things are still being decided. It's also normal that your boss wouldn't interrupt his conversation just because you happen to pass by. In this case, it sounds like you weren't even passing by but listening in on the conversation outside your office, so why would your boss feel the need to suddenly include you?

The decisions-by-committee approach that you describe is frankly an indication of bad or non-existent management.

To clarify that last point: good management is about knowing when you can and should request input from your team and when you should make decisions regardless of what your team thinks. Requesting input on every little thing without ever taking that input into consideration or when the decision has already been made is a good way to foster apathy and lose credibility. The opposite, trying to juggle everyone's opinion on every issue, is a good way to achieve management gridlock and paralyse a team with groupthink.

The reason I brought this up was because the OP apparently expected to be consulted on an issue that was unrelated to his (one-man) team, has no real impact on his work, and where he probably can't contribute meaningful input. What would he be expected to say other than "I'd rather keep my office."? I wanted to point out that the OP should adjust his expectations instead of feeling slighted.

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I would strongly disagree that being moved from a private office has no work impact. – Jack Aidley Jan 24 at 10:50
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I went to see my manager about it and he was quite reassuring. I tried to have an open mind and not be confrontational told him I don't expect to have a private office but I don't want to be put in a distracting environment. It appears that he is a major decision maker in the office redesign process. He tells me that it might not involve me at all, but if it does he will make sure that the environment that I am put in will be no worse than my existing one. – user46015 Jan 25 at 10:15
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@user46015 Sounds like you handled it well and you've got a good manager. Thanks for the update (I've copied it to your question.) – Lilienthal Jan 25 at 11:03

Should I approach my boss and politely tell him how I feel about this?

You could, would it have an effect? Unlikely.

Sounds like the plans are probably part of something bigger if the MD is driving it.

I am used to being consulted

Does the MD consult you on other decisions he makes?

Sounds like what you got was a bit of a perk, but now it's going. It may seem unfair, but I'm sure it's nothing personal.

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I can understand not being consulted, but it doesn't sound like the OP was even notified. Even just a "Hey, there's going to be some renovations coming, so be prepared for your office to change." – David K Jan 22 at 12:38
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@DavidK - Because the plans have not been concreted. Therefore, there is nothing definite to communicate to employees who will surely have a lot of questions. The OP is reacting to a rumor and is complaining about not being involved in decision making that is not his purview.. – Prinz Jan 22 at 14:27
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"You could but would it have an effect? Unlikely." That's a really defeatist attitude. I can't imagine just lying down and accepting something that will adversely affect me on a daily basis. – UpAllNight Jan 22 at 15:30
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@Prinz That's exactly why the OP should say something now. Saying something when the plans are set in stone is pointless. Saying something now could potentially change the plans. – UpAllNight Jan 22 at 15:34
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@djechlin Yeah good point, "Obey your superiors without question" is a far better truism. – UpAllNight Jan 22 at 15:37

You've learned something, which is that your boss (and especially the MD) don't care for your opinion about the effects of your environment on your work. Furthermore, the fact they didn't bother telling you this was in the works either means that they don't care about the effects of uncertainty on your work, or that they do care, but believe the effects to be minimal.

Since you feel affronted, it's fairly likely that they're mistaken in your case, but perhaps most of their employees in their experience wouldn't be bothered about it.

The upvotes for Lilienthal's answer should strongly indicate to you that these ideas aren't unusual. However, it hasn't been unusual in your experience, since in the past you've worked with people who have chosen to consult you about your environment. So, if you can, figure what it is about this job that resulted in you, unusually for you, working for people who have a bit less respect for you in this area.

Does this company, in general, show less interest in each employee? Is it expanding rapidly and simply cannot maintain individual offices (check: are managers losing their offices at the same time)? Have you leaned towards very employee-friendly companies in the past? Do this lot pay more and expect employees to grit their teeth and take the money? In past companies, did you (for whatever reason) made a stronger reputation for yourself as someone worth consulting?

If you can get some idea why this employer has surprised you, then firstly, it will hopefully make you feel less offended (which isn't an emotion likely to be any help to you if it lasts long), and secondly, it will help you to figure out what the problem is, whether you want to raise it with your managers, and if so, what exactly you should raise. What you shouldn't do is to go to your manager feeling that you're owed an explanation as to why this company is different from what you're used to.

On the other hand, if they genuinely thought it didn't matter whether you work in an office or not, but you can make a persuasive case that it does matter, then you might be able to change their minds, or at least get them to realise that it's worth asking you, the only developer in the company, about issues of developer working environments. So it might help all around if you go to them and they give you an explanation, but basic people-handling skills suggest that, regardless of how polite you are, you'll do a lot less well "telling them how you feel" than "asking them what's happening and how it helps".

Fundamentally, though, everyone knows that noise and distractions really harm programmers' productivity (measured in terms of how long it takes them to complete a piece of programming work to a good standard). But most employers nevertheless don't prioritise these things because they have priorities other than programmer productivity that they need to balance. Low cost and lots of informal communication are the two main benefits cited for putting everybody in one gigantic echoing hall*, and if that's the workplace your managing director wants to run then that's what'll happen. It's annoying when your boss doesn't properly tell you about a done deal that directly affects you and your work, but it's usually possible to get over it.

I will say that my experience has matched yours. Staff often aren't asked what office arrangements they want, but they're still told in advance what kind of changes are coming. I'd like to say that normal human beings will tell their staff when there's an office reorganisation being planned, and will present the information in an ordered way at some point, certainly before the stage where they're loudly discussing the works in the corridor. However, again, see how many votes for Lilienthal's answer: our idea of normal might not be normal after all. In particular the enthusiasm for the view that your office environment has no impact on your work really does surprise me.


* I exaggerate. Slightly.

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Step one: Calm down. Saying this "offends" you and asking if you should "challenge" your boss about it sounds like you are making way too much of this.

I've had a number of times in my career when I had a private office, and then the company moved someone else in or moved me in with someone else. I've never had them tear the walls down on me, but same idea. This happens all the time. There is no reason to believe it is some kind of personal attack on you. Usually it just means that they've hired more people and need to put them somewhere.

I wouldn't expect to be "consulted" on such a thing. Presumably you would say that you want to keep your private office. Do they need to ask? If management believes that for whatever reason this is no longer possible, oh well. Are you, as a software developer, really "used to being consulted" on building renovations? I'm a software developer and I've never had a say in such things. Once I was told I could select the furniture for my office and given a catalog ... but then my picks were ignored and they gave me something else. (Well, now I have a private office and I can select my own furniture and carpeting and whatever I want. But that's because I work from home and anything I get I have to pay for myself.)

It would have been appropriate to INFORM you, rather than letting you hear it as practically office gossip. I think that was inconsiderate of your boss. But then maybe he only found out a sort time before you heard it from the receptionist. Or maybe he was reluctant to tell you because he knew you would be unhappy. (Bad management style, but it happens.) Etc. If this is an isolated incident and he's generally a good manager, I wouldn't worry about it. If it's part of a larger pattern of inconsiderate behavior, that's something to deal with.

Has the company been hiring new employees? It may be they just don't have enough room to let you have a private office any more. Or maybe they've decided that a more "open floor plan" would allow more flexibility or provide some other benefits.

Frankly, there's probably nothing you can do about it. You can complain to your boss or your boss's boss or the president of the company, but it's unlikely that they'll change building renovation plans to satisfy one employee. If you think it's that big a deal you could quit, but I'd call that way over-reacting. Unless when you were hired you were promised that you would always have a private office, I don't think you have much real grounds for complaint. You got a nice little free perk for a while, now it's run out. Too bad.

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Such rearrangement may constitute significant worsening of working conditions which is an unilateral change of your work agreement.

They might be giving you a reason to terminate your contract at their fault. Which usually entitles you to at least all the benefits as if they were firing you (eg. severance pay).

As usual - consult your lawyer, but don't reveal this knowledge until you can make most out of it.

/edit: To clarify: what I meant was to consult a lawyer, that is to learn what the options are from someone who's words carry some weight. Because it's quite possible that there aren't any except learning to live with it or quitting. By no means I meant filing an actual lawsuit. That would be absurd, given that nothing had happened so far.

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I wasn't the downvoter, but this isn't a big enough offense for a lawyer. It's a nickel and dime minor offense. The lawyer will tell them to come back later when they have something substantial, like sexual harassment or evidence of embezzling from the managers. – Eric Leschinski Jan 22 at 15:59
    
@EricLeschinski It's not civil law nor criminal law. It's work law (at least where I live). That's why I said that what he can win is the "being fired" benefits ( eg. 3 months salary in my case). (As a second thought: you can't change any contract unilaterally without giving the other side reason to break it and blame you, so actually civil law may apply here) – Agent_L Jan 22 at 16:03
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I doubt many people, especially a sole developer in a small company, actually have a work contract that specifies that they have a private office. Unless such a contract actually existed, this seems like really bad advice. Involving a lawyer is (usually) expensive and will burn bridges with management. OP didn't say where they're located, but most places don't have laws that entitle you to a private office absent a contract specifying such (and, frankly, any such law would be rather absurd... the company owns the building, not you.) – reirab Jan 22 at 16:13
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@reirab He did had an office and now he'll lose it. I don't really know if that can be pulled - hence I recommend the lawyer. I especially warned him to not burn bridges and don't reveal what he learned from the lawyer. Maybe I wasn't clear, but what I meant was to consult the lawyer, that is to learn what the options are. By no means I meant filing a lawsuit, which, I agree, would be absurd. – Agent_L Jan 22 at 16:39
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Wow, this sounds like a huge over-reaction to me. Labor laws vary between countries, I'm not an expert on the law in my own country, never mind others, but unless you have a contract that says you'll have a private office, I can't imagine how you would have a legal basis for any sort of lawsuit or regulatory violation. And lawyers are expensive. Would something like this really be worth the cost of hiring a lawyer? – Jay Jan 23 at 5:37

You've got a card carrying member of the dark Triad as a boss. In my experience, challenging these people always ends in a worse situation for myself. I haven't been able to find a flaw in the armor of those windmills.

The Manager is treating you as an asset; return the favor by treating them as an asset: demand a 5 percent raise this month or you're gone. The only game that members of the dark triad understand are 1: Money now, and 2: power now. Words that do not contain either of these are as meaningless as the wind blowing outside.

So you have to make a choice: do you want to fight his slimy behavior or try to smooth it over? He couldn't care less, as he's calculated your response and his response two or three steps ahead. As I said at the beginning, I've not yet found a way to win these wars. It's his job to make your life miserable to improve your output. That's how he justifies the fact that he makes twice as much money as you do. Either you get your mud boots on and go play in the mud with him and risk termination of both him and you (I've done this), or sit and take it (this is usually what I do). I do not envy your position. The job market seems to be saturated with these dark triad managers.

By the gut feel of it, they were giving you a perk, and now they are ripping it from you because they think you're getting too comfy. They are turning up the heat underneath your seat because frankly they can. So you have to respond in kind and turn up the heat under their seats in a game of chicken and who blinks first, or you do the smart thing and you power down, lower your output, justifying their response, and start looking for a job. Frankly, they couldn't care less which you do. It's no skin off their back, they will just hire someone else.

Shakespeare said it best: "egads man, the game is afoot."

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I did not downvote you, but I think you should consider that the OP is reacting to a rumor about plans that have not even been concreted and is angry because he is not involved in the bigger planning, which is outside of his job duties. – Prinz Jan 22 at 15:32
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This is an amazingly cynical view of the world. I'm glad to say it is not grounded in reality where I'm from. – Thomas Bowen Jan 22 at 15:32
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Often times office bullies will push this line of thinking, where a victim taking BS from above expresses discontent from being treated as a cross between a tool and used toilet paper, and the bully manager response is: "oh jeez is the little baby crying?" stop being so cynical! As reverberated in even this comment section. No the little baby isn't crying, and no the little baby isn't just being overly sensitive and cynical. The worker has taken an offense, and he's deciding whether to fight or flight, I say fight. Ask for a beefy raise this month. – Eric Leschinski Jan 22 at 15:38
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This entire answer hinges upon the very first sentence, the validity of which has not been adequately demonstrated. Either that or your advice to go money now or else, when you have no evidence the OP can successfully pull such a move (most likely he won't), could've earned a -1 from me. Yes I know the OP is probably not stupid enough to do it but still – rath Jan 22 at 18:28
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The most up-voted answer on the other end of the spectrum which after it's all said and done, boils down to: "stop crying, baby, and forget about it, they own you" doesn't seem right either. It's the same advice I got when I was in middle school after the bullies ganged up on me to hit me when the teacher's head was turned, the overworked substitute teacher basically says: "Stop crying, baby, and forget about it". The only thing that makes it ok here is that the employee is not being forced to take it, only coerced to take it, and he gets money in exchange for the hassle. – Eric Leschinski Jan 22 at 23:38

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