49

I work in a small startup of 10 people in a house converted to an office that's spread across 3 floors. I am friendly with all coworkers including people from another startup that's sharing the space.

I love shopping for my needs online. E-commerce has tremendously improved to the point that there is nothing I'd have to step out for these days and find it all on Amazon. From t-shirts to my hamster's food to gifts for my parents - I order it all online and have it delivered to workplace because that's where I am there all through the week. Note that in Bangalore, you cannot schedule deliveries.

My coworkers who am friendly with often jibe at my deliveries. At first I tried to reason by telling what the package was and justifying how much I needed it. Then their constant jibes with every package is getting to my patience. How is it any of their business to question my buying habits or purchases?

Deliveries are picked up at the door by our office manager. It doesn't bother anyone in any other way. Then why do they bother me with questions? I'm starting to feel guilty and scared to spend my own money. I'm starting to feel harassed because every time I want to place an order I feel ashamed.

Edit: After reading all the answers, I am clarifying the following:

1. You should not shop on the company's time.

I shop on my own time. I simply schedule my deliveries to my workplace.

2. My boss's take:

My boss is OK with scheduling personal deliveries to workplace. He himself orders a lot of things online - but obviously nobody questions him. He doesn't make fun of me, and sometimes asks what I got. He often opens his own packages in front of everyone in order to show us what he got. The packages he doesn't open in front of us nobody bugs him about.

3. Meaning of "taking jibes" and "making fun":

The only other female co-worker I have is friendly with me (and vice versa) but she is not a online buyer, and hence finds it absurd that I do. Her constant commenting every time a package arrives is feeding a stereotype that I am a shopaholic, which the others have picked up on. I don't think it's anyone else's business to figure out whether I am a shopaholic or not.

4. Deliveries:

Another team is situated on the ground floor and it is they who receive packages by indicating the delivery man to leave it on the table. The office manager will then send an internal communication to allow her to receive and post (if any packages) through her as she thinks it saves us a trip.

5. Are they opening your packages?

No, they are not.

6. Are they making fun of the things you are buying, that you buy everything online, or that you have everything delivered to work?

They are making fun of my buying habits. Even though the Bangalore is known to be a hub for delivery startups, the idea of having of ordering so many things online is alien to a lot of people. Hence there is always some excitement when one receives package (which to me sounds a bit childish). Why should they get excited over someone else's package? Do they implicitly think it's some shiny toy that the person receiving will flaunt around?

7. Do I open these packages in front of others?

No, I take the box and keep it with me quietly. Yet, the fact that I received a box attracts attention.

UPDATE

After more than 3 years of leaving that workspace, I'd like to update that am still a very much an online shopper. At my current workplace, when I worked in a smaller team, I was still asked strange questions like "how much do you buy" and such. I moved to a bigger team now and don't get asked that as the trend of buying online is more prevalent among others too. But I also do not get any deliveries to office, I get them delivered to my home where I have a dedicated space for my deliveries and all the regular delivery folks know where to deliver my items.

Now, when people are being nosy about my shopping, I answer them with silence or at best a sly smile and continue doing my work. Ignoring people is an option that has worked for me.

12 Answers 12

11

Be weird and own it, or conform

It sounds to me like:

  • you really love online shopping and don't really want to quit it
  • you realize it's not the norm yet among most of your coworkers, so you're not "normal" in how you get these packages
  • you're generally being discreet, and not really doing anything that would invite commentary, but you are getting commentary because your behavior stands out
  • there's no concern on your part or the company's that frequent package delivery is a drain on company resources. In particular, your boss is cool with it and generally supportive, so there's not a big risk of a problem with your performance appraisals.

I've been in this situation in the US about similar issues. In fact, as a person who lived alone and who wanted to get specialty items that required delivery, I did the same, back when no one was getting deliveries and I got my fair share of curiosity from the mail office in a company that was big enough that none of my day to day coworkers noticed. I've also been intentionally quirky in other ways and gotten my fair share of teasing.

Sadly - I find that if I'm going to be unusual in how I behave, then I have to be willing to accept some degree of harmless teasing and intense curiosity. I find that:

  • If I don't get visibly annoyed or embarrassed, it starts to get boring for everyone who is mocking me and they usually give up out of disinterest.
  • Sometimes the trends catch up - 15 years ago, deliveries to the office were strange in the US and it was also hard to have a delivery to the home that didn't require a signature. Now it's much easier to get or schedule home deliveries and many more people do it - you may just be able to wait for Bangalore to catch up.
  • You can try explaining that there's an office benefit - you're getting the deliveries so you don't have to take the time later to go to a local shop and buy them, so everyone else is slacking by not doing the same.
  • In particular, it may be worth disclosing what you bought when you bought basic and boring supplies - like groceries, cleaning supplies or other everyday items. Everyone buys this stuff, it's not like you have a crazy shopping addiction, and it's fair that if you bought groceries and household cleaner and you're getting teased, you can tease back that you certainly hope you coworkers have also bought household cleaners or their homes must be very dirty!!!
  • It may be that since the boss is often showing what he bought, and it's generally cool, fun, luxury stuff that they all assume that you are buying similarly fun stuff, and showing that your deliveries are often mundane will cause the curiosity to cease.

That said - you still may end up being "that person who gets everything delivered" and it's true - you are the unusual person. If it will continue to bug you because you want to be private, then you have to consider whether the ease of delivery is worth the value of your privacy - one way or the other, getting stuff delivered to the office is exposing the fact that you get stuff delivered to your coworkers.

44

Note: Edits made in light of OP update.

I'll be blunt: you made a mistake by trying to justify your behavior. You're an adult who may choose to spend your money in any way you like.

There's really two aspects to this situation.

1. (I still maintain that) Shopping Is Not a Work Activity

I understand that there's certain circumstances which require you to receive your packages at work. As long as that's OK with your boss it should be fine.

However, the deliveries in and of themselves may be seen as a special event by the people around you, so saying that they don't "bother anyone in any other way" may only be true from your own biased perspective. You think that them being "excited" or in any way bothered by your deliveries is "childish", but again, that's your perspective.

After reading about how your boss also gets deliveries maybe ask yourself this: is your boss perceived as having quite a bit of money, or ordering very fancy things online? If so, then your colleagues may be equating your own shopping with his. You may only be getting toilet paper, yet they may be imagining fancy electronics, or designer brand clothing. Have you considered this aspect?

As a general reference for other people: you should not open personal packages at work, or fuss over what you've received. Simply put the package under your desk, or in a closet until quitting time, and don't attract attention to your delivery.

2. Dealing With It


Old

Separate your private life from your work life as much as possible.

  • Don't spend time shopping online at work (even if it's on a private device during lunch time), where these guys can see you.
  • Don't talk about your online purchases with them. You may mention that you bought something, but don't necessarily mention that you did so online.
  • Try to simply disregard their teasing - it shouldn't be bothering you that much in the first place. Simply diffuse the situation by changing the subject.

Note: If they pick up your packages, try to open them, or go through your things then it becomes an entirely different issue. In that case immediately contact your manager and involve office HR. This sort of thing cannot be tolerated in any way, shape, or form.


Edit in light of update:

First of all, I would like to say that I honestly think that jealousy or envy are playing a role in the way that your co-workers are behaving toward you.

In your situation I would seek to understand their perception - even if you don't agree with it, or think them childish. How else are you going to know how to handle them?

Second, why is it that these comments bother you so much? You order a lot of things online: maybe you're not a shopaholic, but acknowledge that to an outsider (to your personal life and needs) you may well appear to be one. Maybe join in on the joke:

-You're such a shopaholic!
-Yea, I totally am. Oh well, silly me!"

Alternatively, if you just can't live with the situation, try talking to the main instigator in private and ask them to stop.

Involving the manager would probably only come across as immature.

Frankly, after reading the updates, I'm not sure why it took an entire forum of people discussing the situation to reach this solution.

29

Let's put this situation into perspective.

  • A package being received has been traditionally seen as something special, so usually people's gut reaction is to be curious and ask what it is.
  • Your coworkers are trying to have fun with you, but in many cases like this they don't realize how annoying it is.
  • At my work the boss has stated that if we want to receive personal packages here there's nothing wrong with that, just to keep in mind that people might accidentally open it because they were expecting a package as well.

So with that being said I think you should try to be a little bit less sensitive about people asking in general. Really this isn't any different from being a police officer. Everywhere that man/woman walks people look at them with curiosity, they wear a gun, a special uniform etc. They have to accept and deal with it.

However, the constant interruption over the package is annoying, so let's address that.

My suggestion is to not be confrontational about it unless it is a last resort.

  • Consider asking the office manager to keep packages for you at the front and you will pickup at lunch/end of day because it's causing unnecessary interruptions with your coworkers
  • When people ask about the contents answer as if it's just a usual, nothing special occurrence "Just some stuff for around the house, I've always got a lot of items in the queue so I'm not sure what it is".

Again, it's important to realize that for some people this ordering of everything online is super foreign. I too order everything I can on Amazon and even subscribe to the recurring deliveries of toilet paper.

Ultimately I think your goal is to lesson the recurring interruptions and repeated questions about the contents of your package, so all you can do is not give the package any special attention and accept the environment that you're in.

  • 2
    I like your suggestion of leaving the package at the front desk. +1 – AndreiROM Dec 14 '15 at 18:10
  • @AndreiROM Thanks. I'd also like to add that previously when I didn't have enough to do I would ask my manager the same types of questions about other things and he'd answer generically and while still staring as his computer because he was working. If I prodded he would ignore me as if he didn't hear me because he was busy (or he was trying to send a message). Eventually I either got the message or I didn't like the feeling of being ignored so I stopped doing things that made me feel that way. Ultimately he was a very non confrontational guy so I think he handled it the best way one could. – The Muffin Man Dec 14 '15 at 18:16
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    I was going to add my own answer, also recommending the OP talks to the manager about putting aside packages for him to pick up later rather than interrupt everybody while working, but noticed you've already done so. The one other thing my answer contained was similar to your first two points. People are probably looking for a distraction, and a package coming in is a golden opportunity to distract oneself from "real" work. (even if it happens to be somewhat annoying for one party) A reliable, daily distraction is even better! – DoubleDouble Dec 14 '15 at 18:34
  • If you take the question at face value it is not causing any interruptions. "Deliveries are picked up at the door by our office manager. It doesn't bother anyone in any other way." "Jibe at my deliveries." – paparazzo Dec 14 '15 at 18:51
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    Recurring toilet paper? I like that. The OP should just tell them that every package is toilet paper for the cat. Or something absurd like that. – D_Bester Dec 15 '15 at 15:54
23

Don't feed the machine. If someone asks you what is in a box you ordered, simply reply that it is "stuff," and go back to what you were doing. If they ask what kind of stuff, say, "Stuff I need." Then go back to doing whatever you were doing. If they insist on continuing to ask, tell them you have work to do. If you don't play along with their game, the game will eventually end.

8

Encourage your co-workers to follow your example.

"Looks like you got another package."

"Yes, it's very convenient to have them delivered here. You should try it too!"

6

If they are merely saying things like:

Anklebiter, another delivery already?

That's the 8th one this week!

You must really be hooked on shopping.

Then I personally would try to not take it personally. They are making these jibes in a failed attempt to be social; kind of how a child will pester someone they like rather than be nice.

You have a few choices hopefully and they are as follows:

  1. Ask your manager if there is a suggested course of action.

  2. Do not react to their jibes. If you can ignore them stone-faced and they should stop within a week.

  3. Provide back-handed compliments (this is not for the faint-of-heart). Try these in response to the examples above:

You know it! It is fantastic to know that keeping track of package arrivals is so important to you during work hours.

I didn't know you could count to 8! Great job!

It was either this or drugs, I think I chose wisely.

  • 3
    I like the last of the witty responses! I will try them, thank you :) – anklebiter Dec 15 '15 at 5:08
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    @anklebiter You're welcome! I was glad to see the 7 updates to your question so that I could provide a sensible answer :). If you truly do go with my third suggestion, just make sure to be completely light-hearted. If you are questioning yourself for even one second as to whether or not they will take it the wrong way then it would certainly be wise to chose a different option. – MonkeyZeus Dec 15 '15 at 6:37
0

Most of the answers seem to deal with your colleagues. Quite frankly you cannot control your colleagues. If it is that bad that you can't handle it good naturedly. Then get your stuff delivered elsewhere or pick it up. Many workplaces I know would not allow a staff member to constantly get packages dropped off or spend time shopping online instead of working.

  • I had the same thought. If you don't want your coworkers commenting on your deliveries, don't get them at work. Amazon has lockers now where you can pick things up if your home isn't a good place to leave a package. – ColleenV Dec 14 '15 at 22:54
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    Wait, what? Are you saying, "Your workplace offers an unusual benefit, so if you take up that benefit it's on you when your colleagues make a big fuss about it"? This is how innovation is stamped out ;-) – Steve Jessop Dec 15 '15 at 9:07
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    @SteveJessop My workplace offers some benefits that I don't take advantage of because I personally don't want to deal with the side effects. My impression is that the OP is over-using this benefit and that's why they're getting teased. Not having everything you order shipped to work is the easiest solution. Use the benefit for more expensive shipments, and send the hamster food somewhere else. – ColleenV Dec 15 '15 at 14:05
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    In fact, it suddenly occurs to me that the real problem here could be that because the questioner is the only other one doing this, it makes him "too much like the boss". Admittedly, in a way that's incidental to any actual work, but perhaps his colleagues feel he should feel the difference between himself and the boss, in terms of their different reactions when the boss does it and when he does it. If there were two non-boss employees doing this, perhaps that perception would go. – Steve Jessop Dec 15 '15 at 14:13
  • 1
    @SteveJessop You make a really good point. There could also be some jealousy that the OP is able to afford so many packages. They may not be actually spending more than their peers, but the appearance is different. – ColleenV Dec 15 '15 at 14:37
0

When a joke has been developed within a group of colleagues or friends, then unless the 'joke' actually constitutes harassment or bullying , it's almost always better to go along with it. That doesn't mean that you personally have to feel like you are the butt of the joke - instead, think of it as something that enables you to have fun together with your colleagues.

Most importantly, make sure that you are seen as someone who is pulling their weight at the workplace. Make sure that there is no actual foundation in reality for any feelings of resentment on your colleagues' part, or feelings of guilt on yours.

If that's sorted, use the joke to make friends! A fun idea would be to receive many things one day - and for each of those things to actually be a small present for each of your colleagues (with something especially nice for your office manager) - or at least some unusual snack you could share around. The joking could also just be a starting point in any number of conversations that could help you get to know your colleagues better.

If some people are really going too far, don't be afraid to have a bit of fun at their expense, if you feel you have the comedy skills! It's hard to make up good jokes without knowledge of the context, but sometimes sending a gentle jibe back the other way is the best way of letting people know that you aren't enjoying the level of teasing you're getting.

-1

Your personal packages are delivered at work because you "love shopping for your needs online." You state a lot of personal benefits. I assume it also helps make you more productive, which is work-related but otherwise you are bringing personal matters into the workplace. You need to ask management for a policy. If there is a policy in place then if someone asks, you can state that you're following the policy and saving time by getting packages at at work. The co-worker teasing is a way for your co-workers to cope with the unusual and unsanctioned behavior.

First, by having packages delivered at work, it becomes a workplace matter. It takes your time at work, they are stored on work property and since you cannot schedule delivery outside regular work hours, arrivals interrupt your day as well as others. Regardless of how much you try to diminish or minimize these factors, you need a work policy to handle this otherwise there is no clear boundary between work topics and this topic.

Second, unusual habits become topics of conversation. If all your co-workers shared this habit, it would be mundane. Uncommon, high-frequency package arrivals will draw attention regardless of your efforts. Without everyone participating, having a policy helps sets expectations and generally will make package arrivals more boring.

Third, it is impossible for anyone but you to distinguish work packages from personal packages even if you don't get or expect work packages. This means handling the package, at least minimally, when it arrives. This interruption is work related because it happens at work.

Without management's support, a workplace does not support unusual personal habits well and especially without a clear benefit to the company.

To appropriately and directly handle this, you need to ask your boss/manager/start-up founder about having a policy to help you continue to be productive and be present at work as much as you can, and also minimize the disruption in the workplace when personal packages arrive. Management cannot stop the teasing, but they can make it less fun (that's what management is good at, after all!).

If you cannot get or do not want to risk asking for management support you should expect to endure teasing until your co-workers bore of teasing you about your unusual habit. You can encourage boredom in many ways: unresponsive behavior, minimizing the display of any excitement you might feel, minimizing any discussion about your shopping in general, minimizing the visual presence of any packages, minimizing or eliminating any time online shopping/delivery tracking/handling returns, etc.

Anything beyond "good natured teasing" is really an HR issue, which involves a more specific question and a more involved response, at best.

-3

You are acting like a 4th grader and your friends are baiting and teasing you and you are taking the bait and sulking.

What will they do?

Bait and tease you more!

Options:

  • The easiest is to simply don't pay much attention and simply ignore their comments. Not ignore where you cry inside or ignore where you really act like you don't hear them... just let them say whatever and then smile or laugh along with them. Really who the hell cares what they think?

  • What you should really do? Don't buy a bunch of crap at work. Don't have it sent to your work. It could very well be that they are making fun of you more for doing something that you shouldn't be doing at work and are expressing that by making fun of the items - when it is really your immature actions.

Note: Just to clarify my answer which is the exact opposite of a comment expressed below. Your work is not your delivery service. You are costing your employer time and money. You are having an office manager do work when they might already have a busy schedule for directly business related things. The OP needs to get the packages delivered elsewhere. Period. It is OK to have a package delivered a couple times a year, this sounds like way out of those boundaries.

-4

Let me give you a psychological perspective. In organizational psychology there was a model that described how a group of people come to be a team. The stages of group dynamics go through Four stages under Tuckman:

Storming

Forming

Norming

Perfoming

At the outset of a group it's chaos. The storming stage is how the group deals with interpersonal conflict. The next stage is sub groups co-align into cohesive parts in forming. People work together in ways that work. Once there is productive group accomplishment, people tend to reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour that does / does not meet the group's needs through norming. The final phase is performing when the group has crystallized.

I am not doing justice to Tuckman's work but you get the idea.

You have inadvertently created a source of unity and division with behaviour that falls outside the forming/ norming expectations. Some people believe you are using their shared work time for personal business. Does it really matter how you justify that? It is a belief you are reinforcing through whatever you are doing. And remember we all rationalize when we describe what we did and have nowhere near as much mercy and understanding when we complain about other's actions.

You are a member of a small team - so there are few people to do the work. That is a challenge at the best of times and in these times it might be make or break.

What do you want? Do you want to be a productive member of a team or do you want to make an issue of an issue? Let's just cut through nonsense and get to a Trumpian oversimplification: do you want this to be a water cooler joke or a serious non-issue that distracts from performance?

Because whatever you do, and however much effort you take defending yourself you are not doing work - which tends to support the belief they have about you. Perception is what you are fighting with - spin?

From the size and detail in your post it looks like you are spending more time on complaining about an issue. Would you want to co-fund a co-worker that isn't focused on making everyone else money? Because that's what people do when they work together. They agree to invest in each other working for a common purpose.

Why not just be a good person doing good work, and they will respect you for your quirkiness rather than roll their eyes at your indignance?

-8

There is a point where politeness doesn't work anymore.

Whether your colleague knows it or not, his behaviour is affecting you negatively. That cannot be allowed, so you need to do something about it. Be prepared for the next time.

For example, if you buy a T-shirt and he tries to interrogate you, just ask back: "Why are you asking me about this T-shirt, can't you afford to buy a T-shirt yourself"? (Which is not polite, but that's the whole point). If he says he can afford it, which is most likely, you ask "Well, if you can afford it, why are you asking me about my T-shirt? Do I ask you how you spend your money? I don't, so don't ask me".

You may hurt his feelings that way. That's OK. It's better that his feelings are hurt than you feeling guilty and ashamed.

  • 14
    Replying to impoliteness with impoliteness usually escalates the situation – DJClayworth Dec 14 '15 at 16:13
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    When it's time to abandon politeness, the next step is frankness and brutal honesty, not sarcasm or condescension. – Lilienthal Dec 14 '15 at 16:13
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    I think this is a terrible approach. They may be bullying the OP, but it's all under the guise of "joking". To them that's all this might be. By becoming aggressive and making matters personal you only come across as the bad guy. The best thing to do is to simply defuse the situation. If you're witty you can try to get them back with smart-ass replies of your own. But this sort of outburst is career suicide. – AndreiROM Dec 14 '15 at 16:46

protected by mcknz Mar 13 at 21:58

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