1. Terri Martin

    I am a designer working for a large corporation and my desk is directly opposite a large printer room for the entire floor. There are standard color printers as well as large format printers that print up to 45″ wide. Numerous times a day people (usually in a panic because of a deadline) come to my desk and ask to borrow pens, scissors and staplers. And when I’m not at my desk these same items tend to end up in the printer room or just disappear entirely.

    I have moved all of my supplies into a closed box with the hope that since they are not visible people will be less likely to steal them. But I’d really like some advice on what to say to these panicked people when they ask to borrow something. I don’t feel like other people’s lack of preparedness should compel me to stop working. Whenever basic supplies are put in that room they inevitably get taken. I thought about creating a station at my desk with basic supplies so people wouldn’t have to repeatedly ask for mine, but if possible I’d rather prevent interaction entirely since it distracts from my job. I am at my wits end- please help!!

    P.S.- all of these basic supplies are well stocked in a closet about a 15 second walk away.

    • “The supply closet is right over there.”
      Then Forgetful Fred says, “But you’re right here and I’m in a hurry.”
      “I understand, but everyone else borrows the red Swingline, and last time it wasn’t returned. Sorry.”

      You may have to do this a few times before everyone remembers that the supply closet is where the supplies are kept, rather than your desk. Additionally, please keep your supplies hidden (as you’re already doing) so that it doesn’t look as if you’re simply being purposefully difficult.

    • Elizabeth

      I think Laura’s suggestions are good absent any other solution. However, this may put you into a confrontational or adversarial position when you may not want to be. In this case, I would favor structural solutions. Can your desk be moved? Can it be reoriented, so that the taller part of the cube wall faces the door to the print room? Is it better to address the issue at a time other than when a panicked person approaches you? Perhaps you could send out a mass email to your office that says something like this: “Dear Colleagues, Greetings from Terri, the woman who sits across from the print room. Having had my desk here for some time, I understand that printing can be an especially stressful activity, particularly in the face of deadlines. I empathize with this. However, I would ask that you please come to the print room prepared with the supplies you need, that you contact (IT Guy) if you encounter any difficulties, and that you visit the supply closet should you find yourself in need of these things. I don’t mind helping people individually, but because of my desk locations, I can sometimes receive numerous requests everyday for assistance and it’s become very distracting to my work. Further, I have had my own supplies disappear when I’m not around. Please take a moment to imagine how your day might change if you sat in this location. I sincerely appreciate your cooperation with this matter.”

      If you feel uncomfortable sending this around to everyone, you could easily adjust the language and bring it up to HR. Perhaps they could be the ones to send a note, or perhaps they could put up a sign. “Please do not disturb – supplies located at X closet.”

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