Interoffice conflict can be a touchy issue to resolve, especially when the co-workers reside in the same cubicle neighborhood.
Q"I work at a federal agency and try to give the government a full day's worth every day, but this is sometimes difficult because of the 'Ladies Social Club' that gets together at least once per day in the cubicle next to mine, usually to talk about inane stuff like their favorite soap operas. They are almost always too loud for me to get much work done. I have complained to their supervisor, and he says that he must witness it to verify that some kind of action is necessary, so I must call him when they get loud (his office is in a different location). If I call him, he is often not in his office, or the women may have stopped before he gets around to coming over. What can I do?"
ASandra Crowe, a Rockville consultant on difficult workplace situations, said that because the gatherings have become a daily event, "he's done the right thing to call the supervisor. If he's not viewed as a person of authority, he shouldn't intervene. It would create antagonism. They'll get a little snippy with him and then talk behind his back."
But Crowe, who wrote a book called "Since Strangling Isn't an Option," said because the logistics of the office seem to have thwarted the supervisor in any effort to stop the daily confabs, the worker ought to ask "whether there is someone else the worker could call besides the supervisor to come in, a person of authority."
"It has to be someone the Ladies Social Club respects or has some fear of," Crowe said. "There has to be some repercussion for their getting together, for their behavior."
She said that if the women fail to heed a warning to stop the gatherings, "the next time it happens, [the company has to act] to change it, to put them in different cubicles, or put them on different floors. You have to reward the behavior you want to see recur and punish the behavior which you'd like to see stopped."
-- Kenneth Bredemeier
E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at email@example.com. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.