Getting a Grip – The Withdrawn Co-Worker

Getting a Grip - Personal workplace advice from Handshake 2.0 Dear Getting a Grip:  I work in a small office and a co-worker consistently leaves food in the refrigerator until it spoils, refuses to empty his trash, will not answer the office phone if the receptionist is with a customer, and, frankly, takes part in nothing we do – including celebrations. He does his job very well and is valuable to the company. He is not unpleasant, but rarely engages in casual conversation. Is there a problem here? If so, what can/should we do about it?

Dear Daily Routine:  During a discussion of the cover of a New Yorker magazine – featuring a perfectly yoga-fashion-clad woman, perfectly cross-legged to achieve perfect enlightenment, her eyes cut viciously to the insect buzzing around her head – a colleague said, “There’s always a fly.”

Whether during meditation practice or when discovering one’s lunch is slimed by a co-worker’s rotting container beside it, there’s “always a fly,” some occurrence that interferes with our plans, vision, even dreams.  Sure, we can try a flyswatter on this fly – have a meeting with the “will not” guy, share expectations, ask for alterations in behavior.  He probably won’t change, but he may.  But the new hire will constantly leave the paper tray empty on the photocopier.  There’s always a fly.

Getting a Grip: How people live their lives, even in our proximity, is beyond our control.  We can make requests, but ultimately they choose.  In the workplace, our co-workers or employees may do good work, but won’t always do what we want in the ways we want them to.  That’s just the buzzing of the human condition.


Need to start “Getting a Grip” on a personal problem at work?  Need workplace advice?  E-mail your question to [email protected].

Getting a Grip, a workplace advice column for Handshake 2.0, is written by Anne Giles ClellandGetting a Grip regrets that not all questions can be answered, personal replies are not possible, and questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.


Getting a Grip appears monthly in Valley Business FRONT.  A version of this column appeared in the October 2009 issue.

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