18

Our office is an open space community and my desk is right beside the walking path (I don't know if it's called that way), where people are passing by all day long. Of course I placed some stuff at my desk such as bottle of water, a cup for a tea, notebook, phone, snack sometimes, pens and etc. And there is this coworker that whenever comes around my place, he keeps stealing something from me (jokingly of course), provoking me to chase him around in order to get back my stuff. It was funny the first 2-3-4 times, but now it's getting really annoying. I stopped paying him attention and told him couple of times (with a serious tone) to just return my stuff, but he doesn't seem to get the message and just keeps laughing and running away with my stuff. Eventually, at the end of the day he comes at my desk to return whatever he stole, but It is still not cool to not have my bottle or something else the whole day. I am stubborn and sometimes I have to go out and buy another thing to eat, because I don't want to deal with him and go "beg" for my own things. He doesn't seem to understand that I stopped playing this game long ago.

I don't know how to deal with this without insulting him or having bad feeling at the end. I'm even thinking of switching place with another coworker in order to eliminate the reason for him to pass by me. How can I get him to stop without complicating things further?

Update:

So it didn't go to the HR, but I shared my thoughts to the coworker next to me. When it happened again he told him to stop, because we are not here to play around, but to work. It was a little embarrassing but everything is okay since then :) We will see.

  • 5
    In which country? Do you thinks he tries to flirt with you? – Sascha Jun 9 '17 at 14:56
  • 9
    Yes, but if this is an obvious way of flirting with you , and it is in a country with a stricter culture regarding this, then it is a quick way to stop it. And actually the motivation matters in analyzing the situation. – Sascha Jun 9 '17 at 15:10
  • 4
    In highschool they called this plainly bullying. I guess he is just not mature yet. Just tell your (or his) supervisor that even you don't mind joking around your productivity is drasticly hindered by these actions. – Totumus Maximus Jun 9 '17 at 15:17
  • 8
    Who cares if he is trying to flirt, she has asked him to stop and he hasn't. It's now called harassment. Nyagolova, next time tell him you will speak to your supervisor if he doesn't return the item(s) immediately and STOP taking items from your desk. If you are in the US this is a serious offense and could lead to him losing his job. – Andieisme Jun 9 '17 at 15:22
  • 4
    "I'm sorry, but I insist that potential suitors buy me things, rather than take away things I already own." – HopelessN00b Jun 9 '17 at 20:08
36

I don't know how to deal with this without insulting him or having bad feeling at the end.

Well it sounds like you have a bad feeling about him already, so you just need to be direct and to the point about it. Go to him and tell him calmly but forcefully exactly what you want.

Bob, I'm taking my water bottle back. Please do not take my things again. I know you are joking around, but I do not find it funny anymore.

That should hopefully be good enough to get him to apologize and stop. If he doesn't seem like he's getting the hint, then say that you will go to management.

I really don't want to make a big deal out of this, but if it happens again I will be talking to Alice about it.

  • 6
    So it didn't go to the HR, but I shared my thoughts to the coworker next to me. When it happened again he told him to stop, because we are not here to play around, but to work. It was a little embarrassing but everything is okay since then :) We will see. – Nyagolova Jun 20 '17 at 7:10
7

He doesn't seem to understand that I stopped playing this game

You have stated multiple time that this behaviour is no longer tolerable by you. I would tell them one final time that if it does not stop that a complaint will be made to HR.

I don't know how to deal with this without insulting him or having bad feeling at the end.

He is being unprofessional and impacting your productivity. He is doing something wrong and if he can't understand that he needs to be dealt with by management. Unprofessional behaviour is unacceptable.

  • 8
    Before going to HR report it to your manager first and give them a chance to deal with it. But otherwise this. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 9 '17 at 16:07
  • 1
    It's going to be very hard to for you to function in a workplace if going to HR is always your first resort, on a long term basis. Maybe not from your perspective, but from your peers. Bad behavior should not be acceptable, but in order to avoid conflict and misunderstanding you should always try to approach the problem directly when appropriate, then contact your manager and then HR. – Jonast92 Jun 20 '17 at 13:02
4

Personally I would go directly to his boss and complain. You have asked him to stop and he did not. It is unprofessional behavior not a joke. He needs to have someone sit him down and tell him in no uncertain terms that this is unacceptable and that he needs to stop it immediately or his job is at risk.

Is he going to be happy with you about this. No. But he is making your work life miserable so frankly his feelings don't count here. In any workplace I have worked in, a person persisting in harassment would be fired if he continued to do it after being told not to. Note I didn't say this was necessarily sexual harassment even though you are two different sexes. It might or might not be, but harassing any co-workers of any sex after they have specifically told them to cut it out, is harassment and bullying and unacceptable. Most likely a person with such a misplaced sense of humor is annoying other colleagues as well. For his own career, he needs to learn that when someone says, "not funny", it no longer is.

  • 1
    Going to his boss is only likely to cause more problems unless that boss is also your boss... Give your boss a chance to solve your workplace problems before going around them. That is part of their job afterall – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 13 '17 at 15:19
1

It seems your coworker indulges in some rather childish behavior. In my experience, this gets resolved if you do similar things you would do with a child. In this case that would be: do not play the game. You say you stopped playing the game, but you will only really stop it if you stop being emotionally involved.

If he steals something, do not get up and chase him. Do not come to his desk to ask for it. Do not make it fun. Write him a short, concise and totally non-fun email stating: "I know you took my water bottle. I need to stay hydrated so do bring it back as soon as possible." If they do not bring it back quickly enough repeat the process once. "I told you I need to stay hydrated. You still have my water bottle. I need it now. This is not fun." If it keeps happening and they keep the items too long for your convenience (don't bring back your lunch before lunch time or your water bottle immediately), start adding little, unemotional warnings about having to mention it to you direct supervisor/HR if it stays that way. And do that.

  • Well, you have to be able to inform him you want your stuff back. I mean, if I don't ask for my water bottle I can't complain about only getting it back at the end of the day. The only other solution I see is not having anything you would need back earlier on the desk and just let them bring it back at the end of every day. But that sounds incredibly inconvenient. – skymningen Jun 12 '17 at 10:15
  • Of course, they know. They also know they shouldn't steal them in the first place. That has nothing to do with what they do. As OP stated, they do return the items at the end of the day if not prompted before, but I might not want to wait for my water bottle or lunch until the end of the day. – skymningen Jun 12 '17 at 11:01
0

I worked in a place where someone took stuff from my desk as a joke. After I placed a picture on my desk of my taekwondo master awarding me my latest black belt...that stopped. I have no idea why --innocent look--

-4

If you like to be nasty, depending on the work culture: The next time he passes by, say loudly with everybody hearing it "please keep your hands to yourself this time" (without specifying from what). Let's see how much fun it is for him to be pranked. When you are asked by you boss, explain the situation and apologize for a possible misunderstanding.

  • 4
    If she is trying not to insult him or make things worse, this is definitely not the right thing to do. – David K Jun 9 '17 at 15:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.