8

Vandalism is a strong word, but I cannot think of a better one.

I work in an office of approximately 100 engineers, where a majority of which come from one of two prominent universities. These universities are considered "rivals" and there is often light-hearted banter on the subject generally all around. I have a large magnet representing my alma-matter's logo on the outside of my cubicle facing a frequently used walkway. Almost every morning for the past three months (since I've had this cubicle), the magnet has been moved to the opposite side of my cube wall. Several times, the logo of the other university has been taped up in its place. The first time it happened, me and my nearby coworkers laughed about it, now its getting a bit less amusing. I have no idea who does this.

This is not a big deal. I don't really care, but it is slightly frustrating that it happens with such regularity and anonymity. If someone wants me to limit the scope of my university pride, I will happily do so, but I need to be explicitly told this. This is really a minor annoyance and distraction, not worthy of management attention.

How do I get a minor annoyance to stop without blowing things out of proportion (ie going to management or having a witch-hunt)?

Some actions I've considered:

  1. Asking everybody: Makes me look paranoid, overly sensitive, and just takes a lot of time
  2. Putting up a sign: Makes me look paranoid, overly sensitive, AND passive-aggressive
  3. Talking to a supervisor: Makes me look overly sensitive and wastes his time
  4. Getting other coworker to covertly investigate: Avoids making me look bad (potentially), but distracts other people from their jobs
45

To some people the outside of your cubical facing a frequently used walkway is public space.
If you just leave it inside where the 'vandal' is putting it, that should probably end the problem.

  • 13
    In many companies, you are allowed to display whatever you want inside your own office (barring offensiveness) but may not display anything in public corridors without explicit permission from management. There are some good legal reasons for this. Take the friendly hint you are being given, and stop fighting this before you get yourself in trouble. – keshlam Apr 15 '16 at 20:34
28

Some might argue (and I believe they have a point), that you are the perpetrator, not the victim. When you put your magnet "on the outside of my cubicle facing a frequently used walkway", it could come across as you shoving your university in their face.

When someone has something in their cubicle that is potentially annoying, that is my problem to deal with when I visit their cubicle. When that same thing is outside their cubicle, especially in frequently used space, that is their problem. We should respect everyone's feelings in this common space.

If something personal you place outside your cubicle seems to be bothering your co-workers, you should probably bring it back into your cubicle so they aren't motivated to remove it themselves.

  • 1
    I believe it is an answer -- essentially the same as @paparazi's. Posting the magnet outside is obviously being seen by someone as either unprovocative or against site policy (there are legal reasons why posting in public corridors is generally allowed only with management's approval). The OP should probably take the hint rather than continuing to fight this battle. – keshlam Apr 15 '16 at 20:31
  • I have added a suggested resolution for OP at the end of the answer, is that better? – cdkMoose Apr 15 '16 at 21:20
  • More perpetrator and victim (IMHO). In the NBA it would be a double T. Trash talk induced a push. – paparazzo Apr 17 '16 at 16:29
6

The answer is to either let it go, or to put up a sign/message underneath the magnet so only the perpetrator will see it, which avoids all of the concerns you raised regarding the sign.

The message could be something like: "If you see this message someone removed the item covering it, which isn't a nice thing to do. If you're bothered by the item and would like me to remove the item myself, do what any respectful and mature person would do and talk to me."

0

This is an interesting question. Occasional lighthearted pranks often build camraderie. In the past, I have seen pranks like co-op students filling the cubicle of the beloved IT guy with balloons (8' X 10' X 6' high). The IT guy was touched, and we all had a good laugh. But I have also seen pranks like pulling out USB cables from computers, removing mouse batteries, and the like, which have no value in building camraderie but annoy the victim as he searches to fix the problem. And I have seen people repeat the same prank over and over, which is also disruptive without building camraderie.

If a prank is done once, recovery is swift, then it can build camraderie. If it happens often, and looks more like sabotage than building camraderie, your co-workers have problems respecting personal boundaries, and that must end.

Describe the prank to your manager, describe how much work it took to fix, tell her how you feel about it, and wait for her reaction. If she responds in a way which is good for you and not unreasonable for the pranksters you have done well. If not, you need to think deeply if you want to work in a place where there is little respect for personal boundaries and no opposition from management.

  • 4
    I'm not sure the manager will respond the way you think she will. Unlike USB cables and mouse batteries, the magnet-outside-the-cubicle brings no business value and the OP can't argue that his work is being disrupted. The fact that the magnet is arguably in a public space makes "little respect for personal boundaries" a stretch. – jcm Apr 17 '16 at 14:02
  • Good point. However, a magnet outside a cubicle wall could easily be argued as public or private. And it is the perspective of the complainant which matters. If he doesn't like how those pranks make him feel, he has every right to that feeling, and every reason to want them to stop. And his peers have a right to feel slighted if the magnet is in a public space. Management has to decide whether or not to compel offending people to change their behaviour, and compelled people have to decide whether they can accept that, or the status quo. – Jay Godse Apr 17 '16 at 14:16
-1

I have a few ideas.

Follow @paparazzi's advice (move the magnet inside your cubicle).

Round up some fellow alumni to join in and put magnets on the outsides of their cubicles.

Try to acquire magnets from all the universities in the group and put them all on the outside of your cubicle.

Tape the magnet to your cubicle. Or otherwise secure it. If you're putting it on the metal edge of your cubicle wall, run twine or string over it and secure with pushpins. Or, you're an engineer--think up some fun solution!

  • 4
    I don't think escalate is best direction. – paparazzo Apr 15 '16 at 18:58
  • The outside-of-cubicle is problematic, but I read the situation as a quasi-bullying one. If there was a professional reason to not have the magnet there, his boss or the person moving the magnet should tell him so. The fact that a replacement U logo is sometimes put in its place means it's not a professional issue. Standing up to the behavior may keep it from getting worse. – mkennedy Apr 16 '16 at 16:50
  • -1, I agree with @Paparazzi's comment about this potentially escalating the problem. – Marion Apr 17 '16 at 7:57

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