I have a coworker who keeps on asking me for small favours that he can do by himself.

For example, I entered our break room to drop off my lunch when, after seeing me, he will ask me if I can close the window and turn off the electric fan because he's about to leave. He then ends up staying for another half hour. He does this almost every time.

As another example, he keeps on asking me to return things he borrowed from our coworker's table, which he can do by himself. I don't mind doing this occasionally but it's becoming a pattern. I am busy with my own work and schedule so interrupting me for things that he can do by himself doesn't seem right.

I've heard that he does this to everyone, interrupting my coworkers as well. It seems to me that this guy is not a bully he's just unaware that he keeps inconveniencing others out of laziness. Overall, he is a nice guy. We've addressed his behaviour, in the moment, before but it seems that after a while he reverts to his old pattern.

How do I deal with this without offending him?

  • 1
    "Sorry, I'm late for a meeting."
    – Mike
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 7:14
  • 2
    Why do you want to do this without offending him? In case of the fan, you look him up and down and say "you have two legs and two hands, what stops your from closing the window and turning down the fan" (obviously after checking that he indeed has two legs and two hands, otherwise the outcome will be embarrassing for you).
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 9:30
  • @gnasher729 he is my personal friend before we become a coworker, actually I didn't know that he has this attitude until I become his coworker. And to clarify, he is overall nice it seems that he is not sensitive enough to know that he keeps on asking trivial favours to all of his coworkers. Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 10:24

3 Answers 3


If their temperament permits it, people will get offended even if you speak to them in the most professional, unbiased tone. Just get the point across: If he asks you to do something unreasonable, say "I'm busy, you will have to return it." A reasonable person might even connect the dots eventually: "Oh no! Have I been offending him this entire time by making these requests?"

In this case you'd have nothing to explain; you are coworkers, not superior/subordinate. He will task you as many times as you permit him. But I think the way to avoid offending him if it's within your best interest that way is to be frank, direct, and don't allow it to boil over into frustration for yourself.

This is for everything but the rest area. If you open something, or turn something on, it's your responsibility to shut it down and so forth. That's just common courtesy, and it should go unsaid. If he doesn't do it, people such as supervisors will catch on.

  • By the way, regarding the rest area it seems that he will intentionally wait for me just to ask me to close the door. Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 1:00
  • If you're just stepping in for 30 seconds to do something trivial, I think it's poor form to ask the person who will be there the least amount of time to do the honor of cleaning up after someone else. You're busy, you aren't staying, just state those facts and get back to work. By not helping him you're basically saying "I'm not the person to ask for this help." You don't have to justify why it's normal to clean up after yourself.
    – CKM
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 1:08
  • Better yet I rephrased that last line.
    – CKM
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 1:09
  • What I mean is I just put my lunch there then leave, it will take about 2-5 seconds only because I don't like to stay there. The moment that I open the door he will ask me to do this and that. Is it still reasonable? Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 1:12
  • 1
    It's not reasonable, he can finish everything he starts unless there are circumstances that you find it's acceptable to help him.
    – CKM
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 1:15

My remedy would be to say.

'Do it yourself'

After a while they get the picture, if not, then that's their problem, not yours. I don't mind helping someone out once in a while, but not constantly, and not for small things. But I also don't care much about offending people who are annoying me. It just saves time to put them in their place early on.


Offending coworkers is something we should really stop bothering about that much. You should be polite but there must be a line this person should not cross. From that moment on you must stand your ground.

Here is something interesting about work environment politeness, Why Work Is Lonely by Gianpiero Petriglieri. I really changed my point of view after that article.

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