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My team is about to move office from an open plan area to shared two-person rooms (old university halls of residence, not ideal). I get on well with everyone in the team except one person and I know they'll drive me mad if we end up sharing a room; they're unproductive, lazy and very annoying. That aside the question is...

How can I diplomatically phrase to my boss that I don't want to be sharing a room with that person when we move?

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Are you the only one who would be "driven mad" sharing a room with this individual, or is someone on the team going to be disappointed regardless? –  pdr Nov 12 '12 at 13:14
    
More than likely said individual would prove annoying for just about anyone I fear. –  Rob Nov 12 '12 at 13:15
    
Are you happy with essentially saying to your boss, "I know someone's going to have to suffer this, but I don't want it to be me."? –  pdr Nov 12 '12 at 13:17
    
If I wish to retain my sanity and do my job, then yes. Other people will be able to deal with them better, it won't stop said individual being annoying however. –  Rob Nov 12 '12 at 13:38
    
Headphones and an iPod are great tools. Just pretend you can't hear him. –  Stephen Nov 13 '12 at 0:27
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6 Answers

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I agree with Oded's answer and would like to add one important step. If you tell your boss "I would like to share a room with Agnes, Bill or Charlie because ...", his/her immediate reply may easily be "OK, but would they like to share a room with you?" It may also turn out that (s)he has different room setup in mind, and/or that some of the aforementioned has already discussed the topic with your boss before you...

So you may optimize your chances by discussing the issue with your favourite teammates already before turning to your boss. This way you can ensure that you only mention names who haven't yet committed themselves and specifically agree to share a room with you.

You might even be able to allocate the whole team this way, in a way that is acceptable to everyone involved, which would further strengthen your case. Of course, this would only work with a boss who is not a control freak :-)

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This answer is going to be the most workable with the boss I think, they're not that proactive and a little "help" will stand me in good favour rather than hoping it all goes away! –  Rob Nov 14 '12 at 13:39
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You can phrase it positively in terms of who you do want to share with.

Ask you boss if you can be assigned the same room with some of the people you do want to work with. Give a few different names so the boss has a choice between people you do want to share with.

If you can add a good business reason for any of these persons (different skill sets, mentoring and knowledge exchange are good reasons), the likelier is a positive outcome for you.

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Depends on whether you actually want to put in any effort to tolerating the person. Like oded said, you could simply ask anyone of your buddies upfront if they'd be ok if you paired up there and then and take that pairing to your boss

I'd really like to work in the same space as this person and he's cool with it too. Can we get a room?

On the other hand, you might want to think long term. You won't always have the luxury of picking with whom you're stuck. If there's any possibility of giving this person another shot/opening channels of dialogue, I'd advise it.

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I think you have to put yourself in your boss's position here. They may be aware of tensions around this person. They may have already decided that you would not be able to handle it as well as others. They may have decided the opposite, that you, above anyone, would survive the situation.

But, whatever their thoughts, you are putting them on the spot by raising the issue. You are essentially telling them how to do your job. You are also telling your boss that you're willing to throw your teammates under a bus to get your own way. No matter how you see it, that's how your boss will see it.

If your boss is unaware of any tension, you might get away with putting a positive spin on this, as others have suggested. But you are going to need to get a colleague onside and to do so (particularly if you try to work on two of them) might create a Prisoner's Dilemma for them.

And, if your boss is aware, and is undecided as to who they're putting in the room with this person, they will see through any positive spin you put on it and will know that you're working in your own interests, against your teammates'. You may be flagging yourself as the most expendable person on the team by showing yourself to be untrustworthy.

Personally, I would wait and see. This might not be an issue that needs dealing with. And, if it does, then I would suggest waiting until there is a problem and then raising it directly, with evidence.

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"if your boss is aware, and is undecided as to who they're putting in the room with this person, you may be flagging yourself as the most expendable person on the team by showing yourself to be untrustworthy." - I don't quite follow your reasoning here. Would you please elaborate? –  Péter Török Nov 12 '12 at 14:54
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> I would wait and see. ========== Imho, it could be the worst way to deal with the problem; if boss is unaware of the situation, waiting until the decision is made might lead you to situation when you will have to share the room with that person (just because you have failed to speak up) –  Steve V Nov 12 '12 at 14:54
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@SteveV: Yes. Someone has to share a room with this person. No one is going to be happy about it. I clarified that upfront. Better to go to your boss when there is a demonstrable problem and ask him to solve it, than predict a problem that is going to happen regardless of the solution. –  pdr Nov 12 '12 at 15:32
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Being on the same team does not mean you have to like each other or even always have the back of each other. At least in the work place. Besides you don't even have to mention the annoying/any other negative comment. If your boss asks about the annoying person you could simply say that wouldn't be ideal because of personality conflicts. Which happens to be totally true. And also is a fact of life that managers have to deal with, it's in their job description. –  ryan Nov 12 '12 at 16:29
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@pdr What? No, the exact opposite in-fact. Its the butt covering for slackers that lead to exactly the situation that is described in the OP. As Peter Torok said - if everyone on the team feels this guy is annoying then he doesn't belong on the team - he's a resource cost on the entire team, not an asset. And the most likely reason he is still on the team.... No one has spoken up to the boss about it, cause they feel they have to have his back, despite the negative drain on their productivity. –  ryan Nov 12 '12 at 18:26
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Thinking error #1: you're going to be paired with this person

Reality #1: You haven't been assigned rooms yet, so right now you're negative goal-setting, i.e., concentrating on the goal you don't want instead of the goal you do want.

Thinking error #2: "I know they'll drive me mad if we end up sharing a room"

Reality #2: You don't have control over most things in your life, except how you react to them. It is certainly possible for you to not be driven mad by this person, isn't it?

Consider this a lesson the universe is giving you the opportunity to practice: how to have a professional relationship with someone with whom you have negative impressions/interactions. Believe me, you WILL end up working with people who rub you the wrong way throughout your career. Are you going to get worked up with each of them every time?

Note also, this: "they're unproductive, lazy"

That is your perception and not necessarily reality. The fact is that most perceptions are wrong most of the time because we aren't seeing the whole picture. We can't see in this person's head. We don't know what they do when they're out of our eyesight. We don't know how they interact with the boss (unless we were in the room, listening to their conversations and reading the emails over this person's shoulder).

Here are your choices:

  • Fight them,
  • Ignore them and surpress your disappointment/consternation (until you get a heart attack or go postal),
  • Take yourself out of the situation (transfer/quit), or
  • Learn how to coexist with them
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There are plenty of opportunities in life to practice tollerance and dealing with the frailties of others, but when it comes to doing my job, I fight to remove obstacles that may prevent it and see no reason to risk it because I may find a new friend. –  JeffO Nov 12 '12 at 20:33
    
@JeffO No worries! –  BryanH Nov 12 '12 at 22:57
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How you want to manage this depends largely on your boss, as well as your role.

I'd suggest that it is very hard to raise this with a manager without it coming across as sounding unprofessional, or as if you want to have special treatment - mainly because you have only given personal and not professional reasons for your preference.

A good manager would know the team personality types, working styles and functional relationships, and would act accordingly. By preempting this, before a floor plan is displayed for comment, it could be taken by the manager as a challenge to their decision making or leadership.

However, if this is a stay/go choice for you, then I would suggest that finding positive professional reasons why you need to share with someone else is the best outcome. This could include the need to strengthen a particular functional relationship in the team, linked job functions or a training/mentoring opportunity. Essentially you need to create a win-win for your manager, where having you share with person XX will significantly improve the business.

Any other approach is likely to get a "well, its not ideal, and no-one is happy about it, least of all me. But, could you please give this a try it for 3 months and we'll review" response.

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