I currently work in a room with two others. The room is a little cramped and my coworker got a new table six weeks ago. The table came in parts and was self-assembled. Once assembled he failed to make use of the new table, prefering his old one. The new one mostly just took up space. He also failed to get rid of the packaging cardboard that came with it. Today when I arrived at work I found he had finally switched tables and placed the old one in my corner instead of keeping it in his own, limiting my space. What further infuriates me is that he has not even managed to dispose of the cardboard packaging yet, tucking it instead in my corner between the old table and the wall. The local recycling points is outside, one floor down at the side of the building and he has access to it. The coworker has so far ignored two requests to at least take out the cardboard. It feels like the space alloted to me in the company is the others' garbage dump. How should I act in this situation?

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    Do you not have cleaning/maintenance staff that tidies up periodically? Are there no policies for disposal of such trash? Feel free to move the old table out of your area, if people are redecorating without consulting office mates.
    – Voxwoman
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 12:22
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    – gnat
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 13:03
  • maybe you could send him an email ?
    – AndersK
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 13:44
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    I don't know how this could possibly be a problem. Tell him to remove it. And while he's doing it, take your space back for good measure.
    – Alec
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 14:00
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    Have you considered just saying to him "hey, can you please pick up your trash over here"? Presumably you're both adults; neither of you should need the Internet's help in dealing with this basic human interaction. If you say nothing, nothing gets fixed; this isn't a complex issue and you shouldn't need to have other people involved.
    – alroc
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 15:06

5 Answers 5


Assertive communication usually works better than being submissive or escalating.

In this situation, I would have walked up to him and said:

Would you be handing over the cardboard boxes to the recycling point today?

This is different from you doing it yourself or bringing in big brother (Boss) to bash him up. By doing this, you are gently nudging him to act while also letting him save face. Most people would take the hint, respond with, "yeah, sure, I will do it today", and then do it.

If he agrees but doesn't actually do it, you ask him again next day, perhaps a bit more firmly.

It is never a good idea to escalate trivial issues to the boss. Regardless of who was right or wrong, your manager would see both of you as being immature. Such perceptions contribute to your career progress. Typical scenario could be:

Boss's boss: Hey, I hear Steinin has been doing a great job. Do you think we should consider him for a leadership role?
Boss: Uhm, well, I don't know about that one. We probably have to give him more time. The other day he complained to me about some cardboard boxes left at his desk.

As for the table though, I don't know if it could be "recycled" in the same way as cardboard boxes, and if the desk belongs to your company, neither you nor your colleague should dispose it on your own. On that one, it is okay to ask your Boss what to do.

Boss, there's an old desk in our room, which we no longer have any use for. Could we move it out somewhere to reduce the clutter?

Notice how this is better than, "Boss, my coworker got a new desk, but he isn't getting rid of the old one. What should I do?"

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    When I left for the weekend I made a firm but polite final request for my coworker to remove the stuff. When I came to the office this morning, the garbage was gone.
    – Steinin
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 7:09

I would remove the cardboard from between the old table and wall in your area and place it on his desk bringing the issue to the forefront.

I'm assuming the requests have been polite? Verbal/written? If he has chosen to ignore these and if he isn't your superior/manager, then I would simply place them on his desk forcing him to move them

  • Two verbal polite requests within two hours. If I remember correctly this is the second time this stuff has been placed in my corner. The first time I believe happened some weeks ago and I did then return the cardboard back to his corner. And now it's back.
    – Steinin
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 10:06
  • In this case, I would just ask "why do you keep putting the cardboard here? WHy can't you take it down to the recycling area?" - the key is to get the issue out in the open.
    – Mike
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 10:48
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    I would even go as far as putting a post-it note on the refuse, saying something to the affect of "Please take care of your own flotsam". Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 13:15
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    I like this answer because it doesn't include getting the boss involved at all. Minor thing like this should be able to be resolved without a superior. It's not unreasonable to put it back on his desk leaving him to deal with it. It is, after all, his garbage.
    – Ronnie W
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 17:17

There are two options.

  1. Escalate the problem to your next common superior. This might force your coworker to remove their garbage, but it will reduce both yours and your coworkers standing with your superior, as they now have the impression that you both lack the social skills to solve your conflicts yourself. Your coworker will be more careful with infringing your rights in the future, but might now hold a grudge against you.
  2. Remove it yourself. That way you avoid a conflict with your superior and your coworker, but your coworker might now believe that they can get away with ignoring reasonable but inconvenient requests from you.
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    I'd send the coworker a friendly, clear and concise email asking him to clean it ip, mentioning the offending items exactly. If that goes nowhere after a few days, hand the issue over to your boss but don't whine about it, simply forward the mail to your boss, tell him you've made several verbal requests before that email, that this did not solve the issue, and that you would prefer to focus your energy on your work rather than solving this issue. Your standing might take a hit, but not as badly as your coworker's will since he can't even clean up after himself after multiple civil requests...
    – Cronax
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 13:27
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    Option 2 is bad in the long haul. Then this workers attitude will simply be "whatever... someone else will clean up" regarding leaving stuff around. Firmly talking to your colleague to know what you expect in your office space is much better than either of the two suggested options IMO. BUT if that doesn't work then use option 1 escalation.
    – Brandin
    Commented Feb 27, 2015 at 14:07

As Philipp said, escalating to your superior risks getting your supervisor to regard both of you more negatively. So that's not an optimal choice. And removing the garbage runs the risk of your coworker learning that dumping crap on you is a viable way of getting rid of it without trouble for himself, so that's also not an optimal choice.

Instead, I'd go for a cooperative solution that still doesn't mean you get used as a garbage man:

When your coworker and you are both in the office, say "How about we get this stuff out of here. I'll grab that thing and you take the other." Make sure he does grab the other thing, then go with him to throw them away.

You'll have shown him that you don't accept working in a dump; you'll have done so without being either confrontational or passive-agressive about it, and if anyone notices, they'll see that you're being helpful but not being used as a janitor. Plus you'll have a clean office.


I was in a similar situation in the past. My team accumulates a lot of furniture and other pieces of "space occupying hardware" that is usually dumped near my desk. I work on a mezzanine floor and since it is difficult to move them downstairs, my team mates and other people in the company found it convenient.

One fine day, someone decided to leave furniture that had sharp edges blocking where I sit. I had to navigate around the desk when I arrived in the morning. My team has a mailing list and I decided to send a polite email saying that while I don't mind the furniture being near my desk, it has sharp edges and blocking access to other furniture. I asked for help to find a new home for the same. We had a meeting and immediately discarded it. My manager also mailed the concerned asking not to dump stuff in my area(This was happening for a while when I sent that email).

People stopped treating my workspace like a warehouse. I think you have to discuss this with your team mates and manager to resolve it. It is important that you are comfortable within your workspace.

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