Avoiding office problems when moocher's at work

WORKING WOMAN

January 30, 1994|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

They "borrow" your stapler without asking, lose your telephone messages and routinely ask for "just a few dollars" to tide them over until payday.

They spend 20 minutes in the bathroom when 10 minutes would do, and under a smoke screen of heavy traffic, disabled cars and jammed parking lots, manage to shave 30 minutes off most working days.

When the work piles up, they're home with the flu. When everyone else has to work late, they have to leave early.

And while they manage to look terrifically busy all the time, rushing from one task to the next and babbling incessantly about how pressured, harassed and stressed out they are, the product of all this sound and fury is most often sloppy and/or incomplete.

Not that this is ever their fault. If they miss a deadline, it's because it was unfair and unrealistic in the first place. If the boss finally draws the line, he or she is an ogre. If their co-workers object to their slipshod performance, it's because the whole world is against them.

They're the office moochers, those folks who never quite pull their fair share of the load, who think rules are made to be broken, who believe they deserve just a little more consideration, a little more leeway, a little more . . . well, privilege, than the rest of us.

If you work with one of these warts, here are seven ways to reduce your chances of (a) succumbing to the urge to push him or her off a cliff; (b) becoming so personally involved that your own performance deteriorates; or (c) getting down to his or her level by retaliating in (hugely tempting) petty ways that really aren't worthy of you:

* Take time right now to formulate clear-cut and well-defineboundaries about which behaviors you will -- and will not -- tolerate from this person. Write them down!

* Practice defending these boundaries, using short, declarative sentences that start with the word "I," as in: "I don't want you to borrow my things anymore without asking," and, "From now on, I want you to save this sort of personal chit-chat for after-work hours," and, "No, I can't cover for you tonight."

* Resolve to maintain an objective, professional manner when dealing with this person -- no matter how much you yearn to tell him or her at the top of your lungs what a worthless, dishonest, lazy, selfish, spoiled pig he or she is.

If your better judgment isn't enough to stop you from giving in to this urge, the image of having to apologize while he or she looks bewildered and aggrieved by your sudden "attack" probably will be.

* Resist the urge to "fix" or reform this person. You can't makhim or her see the light, either -- or even see reason. No one can change another person's attitude, habits or behavior except that person, and it's neither your responsibility nor your right to try.

* Keep your relationship with an office moocher on a strictly-business basis, or start now to return it to this status if you've already crossed the line.

The only thing worse than having to deal with a moocher is having to deal with one who's a supposed friend, and moochers don't understand what real friendship is all about, anyway. They're far too grasping and manipulative, self-centered and selfish, spoiled, lazy and arrogant.

* Deal with this person's behavior only if it directly affects your ability to do your job. Learn to say, "This is not my problem!" and, "This has nothing to do with me!" when you observe him or her victimizing other co-workers, wasting company time, etc., because it isn't your problem; it's the company's.

* Don't give a moocher more power over your life than he or she already has. Don't spend one minute more than you have to thinking or talking about him or her. Just get on with your work -- with your life -- knowing that people like this never fool all of the people all of the time for long.

Meanwhile, he or she has to live with him- or herself -- surely the worst punishment of all.

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