I’d been looking forward to snacking on my sliced persimmons all morning. This slightly sweet orange fruit native to South Korea (where my mom was born) is difficult to find in American grocery stores. In fact, the juicy pieces stored in a sandwich bag in my office fridge were picked from the trees my mother planted in her backyard in Georgia.
I worked for another local publication back then. After editing a particularly rough story, I decided it was time to reward myself. When I peered into the refrigerator, though, I didn’t find my persimmons where I’d left them. I searched for a few minutes around the kitchen before discovering my fruit in the trash can.
Angry, I returned to my desk and sent out an email to the entire staff of 12 or so employees. I don’t remember what I wrote at the time, but I do recall hoping someone would at least apologize for such egregious behavior. “How dare they throw away my precious persimmons,” I thought. “My mother grew these tokens of love for me.”
Later, a colleague whispered the name of the culprit. The offender, a woman I wasn’t particularly close with, thought they were rotten, she said.
No — they were ripe and perfect. I fumed silently in my cubicle the rest of the day.
We’ve all dealt with workplace problems at some point in our careers. Even in Charlotte, with all of its progressiveness and shiny new development, there’s still probably somebody in your office who thinks microwaving fish in the break room is OK.
For content strategist Erin Tracy-Blackwood, the biggest offense is when people play their music out loud.
“Music taste is too personal, and chances are someone hates your choices,” she said. “Once, I had a boss that implemented ‘Taylor Swift Tuesdays’ and I hated my life every Tuesday. Called in sick a couple times just to work from home and avoid it. I had another coworker who used to blast Aerosmith and Southern Rock.”
Another common grievance is when employees don’t clean up after themselves. “When someone sends emails about not leaving spills on counters or wiping boogers on the bathroom walls, you know it’s gotten bad,” said Jeff Hahne, a digital content editor. (Full disclosure: Hahne and I used to work together, though not at the aforementioned workplace.)
Writer and creative director Dani Brockington (who used to live in Charlotte but has since moved) said dogs in the office has always been a huge pet peeve of hers. “It’s such a thing, but I have allergies,” she said. Not to mention “a dog barking and yapping in the office is distracting [and] I gotta worry about my phone charger getting chewed up.”
How to deal?
For many common workplace annoyances — such as the dreaded “let’s have a meeting” when the topic could clearly be covered in an email — it’s best to maintain your composure, be respectful and talk to the offending person directly, said Pariss Michelle Coleman, a local certified corporate etiquette consultant.
“One of the first things people do is go on the defense if you go over their heads to a supervisor or [human resources],” Coleman said. “A simple conversation will hopefully lead to a resolution.”
There are some exceptions, of course. If you’re like Dani and feel like a dog-friendly office environment is too distracting, it may be worth raising the issue with your supervisor.
“Every office is different, and some offices do allow dogs to be there,” Coleman said. “But no one should have to be in a work environment and have their allergies acting up because of a dog. It’s not fair to them. Also, if it’s a distraction, then that’s something that needs to be handled with HR as well.”
After sharing with Coleman my persimmon story, she said that navigating cultural differences as well as microaggressions can be some of the hardest things to deal with on the job.
According to the Women in The Workplace 2018 survey, a majority of women say they deal with microaggressions — everyday, sometimes openly hostile racist or sexist comments — at work. Black women in particular were more likely than other women to have their judgments questioned in areas they were experts in.
A good thing to remember is that your office is not necessarily a safe space, Coleman said.
If a person makes an unwelcome comment about your culture or remarks on an event in the news you found triggering, it’s best to avoid engaging in those conversations if possible, she said. “There’s nothing we can do about people of different cultures not understanding or being able to respect or appreciate different cultures,” Coleman said. “If there’s someone who just doesn’t get it or doesn’t want to learn, there’s really nothing we can do about it.”
And Coleman’s take on the day my colleague threw out my persimmons?
“That was completely wrong,” she responded. “She had no right to take something that wasn’t hers out of the refrigerator.”
What are your biggest office pet peeves? Let us know in the comments.