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January 23, 2013 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Advice sought on solving a workplace dispute between several departments

I work for the "Acme" company. Acme has 3 websites, all of which work out of the same building. I work as web developer for website A, which also has a separate marketing and editorial departments, also housed in the building. Publication B and C also have separate marketing departments, but as you can imagine, there's a lot of crossover in work.

About a year ago, the developers of website A were forced to move into an open area with the developers from website B and C. We protested that, saying it was an extreme distraction to go from our own private office to an open area with other developers and sales people from the other two websites, but not our own. Our protests were ignored and we were politely told that upper management wanted things this way and that they were sure we'd adjust in time.

Fast forward a year.

The editorial department of publication A chooses to move from a closed door office in the back of the building, to an open room near the front, a room that has also a door that leads to the parking lot outside. Previously that room was empty for years and people used the door to quickly exist and enter the building. There is a main front entrance, but it's another 50 feet away from this side door and involves navigating a bit of an office maze.

Now that the editorial department from website A has moved into said room, they're demanding that everyone in the building stop using the door to exit or enter the building. The room is long, say about 100 feet. Their desks are 30-40 feet from the door from the door. People enter the room through a small hallway that's 20 feet from the door, so it's not as through we're walking directly through their office, just about 10-20 feet from their desks for a fews seconds a day. There are about 7-8 people that use said door, most are developers who only use it to come in during the morning, maybe go to lunch and then leave in the evening.

Everyone has ignored their demands for the 3 weeks they've been in the office, because hey we're a generally small staff and it's easier to reach your car through that side door.

Yesterday, a senior manager in the building sent out an email reminding everyone to use the main front door, in order to avoid interrupting and distracting the editorial department of website A.

A lot of people are angry about this, particularly the developers I work with, who were forced to move to an open office and have to regularly deal with distractions as we code. Yet this other department seems to be getting its way and being heard, when other departments in the building aren't. It's seems very unfair, irrational and a prima donna move, as the rest of us have to deal with distractions in an open office.

Tomorrow in our bi-monthly staff meeting. The issue is going to come. What's the most productive way of bringing up the unfair situation to senior management and/or addressing the issue in the bi-monthly staff meeting, which everyone in the building attends?

People are incensed at this unfair treatment and the rationale that they and seemingly they alone need to avoid distractions. Yet they'll regularly come and distract us developers to fix html or other code they've screwed up when posting to the website. Ideally the rest of us would like to keep using the side door as we see fit. What's the best way to go about that?
posted by sock, the puppet to Work & Money (6 answers total)
 
If you REALLY want to formally complain about this (and I honestly suggest you don't) then you should focus on you and your team's ability to do their work without distraction and don't even mention the door issue with this other department.

Do not be the person who stands up and says, "No, I refuse to walk the extra 50' to the front door instead of bothering a whole team of people every morning and evening." Just deal with it because, I'll be honest, your post just sounds whiny to me about this issue.

Of course other people may say other things, I've been in charge of so many office moves at this point that I have no patience for whining about having to walk a little bit farther to get to something. I have heard it all already and I can name every person who did it too, that is how I remember those people.
posted by magnetsphere at 4:28 PM on January 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


The issue of the dev team being in the open space is sort of a non-starter. It happened a while ago and it sucks but it wasn't the editorial team's fault. Any improvement or change there should be brought up independently of this other issue with the door. Otherwise, it just sounds sort of petty. Different departments are valued and treated differently in most workspaces, it just sort of is. One option may be to ask that sales (which in any place I've been in tends to be more disruptive because they're usually on the phone more or in-and-out all day long) be moved to its own closed off space, instead of asking for 1/3 of the web dev team to move.

On the thing with the door it seems like the editorial team needs to either suck it up and understand they're in there with a door (which I'm assuming is also convenient for them as well?) or ask that the door be permanently locked/walled off so no one uses it and they, along with everyone else, goes through a different space.
posted by marylynn at 4:39 PM on January 23, 2013


So there are multiple things that are annoying you, it seems
1. someone randomly, for no good reason, has asked you to walk an extra couple hundred feet to get to your car. Their justification is that the noise is bothering them, which doesn't sound good enough to you because
2. You were randomly, for no good reason, moved from a nice quiet office environment to a noisy open environment.
and 3. the same people come in and unexpectedly distract you specifically while you are working

Random possibility: is the editorial group's old closed room space now empty? Can your website A team move into that space? If so, you'd presumably be even further from your car, but I bet that wouldn't stop you.

Specific solution to this new issue: If there is a whole twenty foot empty space at the end of the room that people walk through, can they put up temporary walls that turn that into a kind of corridor, so people can still walk through without being as annoying to them?

If you want to bring this up at the staff meeting, I would try and frame it as "This issue of the doors and noise has really made me think about the levels of noise and distraction that are ok for people to work under. Can we do a general assessment of our workplace practices and see if there are some changes that could be made to reduce everyone's problems with noise and distraction?" Then you can try and get the habit of people randomly visiting your desk brought up, and whether the open plan office is really working for everyone, and so on, without making it sound like it's all about that extra 12 seconds walk.
posted by jacalata at 4:49 PM on January 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can see why everyone's miffed, but really, refusing to respect their wishes is sort of like saying "well our space is crappy, so yours should suck too" It doesn't end up making anyone happy. I would suggest that you guys agree to not use their door, but at the same time, put forth some requests of your own that they then could follow to make your work area more liveable as well. Like, "ok, we will not use your door, but at the same time, could you try not to interrupt us by asking us to fix things - send an e-mail and we'll come help you when we have a free moment" That way you both get a better work enviroment.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:54 PM on January 23, 2013


Two wrongs don't make a right. Just because you have distractions does not mean a different group should suck it up too when there is an alternative. By the way, "fair" does not mean the same.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:29 PM on January 23, 2013


Random possibility: is the editorial group's old closed room space now empty?

Yes.

Can your website A team move into that space? If so, you'd presumably be even further from your car, but I bet that wouldn't stop you.

We would love that solution and have asked for it, but that has flatly been denied, because "developers need to be in their current area".

Further note. The space editorial moved into was one we asked for about six months ago, since it was an empty room. We were flatly denied for reasons given above.

Specific solution to this new issue: If there is a whole twenty foot empty space at the end of the room that people walk through, can they put up temporary walls that turn that into a kind of corridor, so people can still walk through without being as annoying to them?

That has been suggested, but since the room has a window, editorial doesn't want to do that, since the partitions would block their view of the window.
posted by sock, the puppet at 5:03 AM on January 24, 2013


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