Roommate/Co-worker issues
November 13, 2006 9:08 AM   Subscribe

I got my roommate a job working with me and I feel he is not being a respectful coworker. Other employees are complaining about him to me. He refuses to change.

I have been working at the same office for the past four years and it's a good place for me for now. We have a lot of extra work so I hooked up my jobless roommate/good friend. It is a very casual office of 6 people. I love him to death as a friend, but he is managing to do things at work that drive me and others up the wall, such as: leaving the office an absolute MESS (as if this were a college dorm room...) with food, papers and garbage left all over the place; he takes off his shoes and socks and walks around barefoot; leaves dirty dishes in the sink; chews on/loses my pens and breaks my letter openers and staplers; messes with my computer wires when I'm not here so that my speakers/printer/cable aren't plugged in; downloads games onto my work computer; etc. I feel like he's not at all grateful for the hook up and every time I try to talk to him like a normal person about the problems, he either yeses me to death or just refuses to address anything. This has been going on for a few months!

I think he is totally overstepping his bounds, even for a casual office like this. I have received several complaints from other co-workers about how he walks around barefoot and leaves the place a mess. We don't work with those people but we do share a space with them, and they generally choose to go through me versus talking to him directly. I think he should act more professional in general but he refuses to change or even talk about it. It's not only annoying but I feel like he has no respect for my suggestions or appreciation for the opportunity (I didn't have to offer him this position and I kind of feel like I should have given it to someone else.)

To sum: incredibly unprofessional, won't change, and I feel like he is taking advantage of me since we're friends.

What can I do?
posted by infinityjinx to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you weren't straight with him when you hired him in the first place about how much this job actually means to you. Well, now's the time to fix that.

Whether he just hasn't been there long enough to care, or he has no idea what the value of the job (or, more to the point, your having gotten him this job) is, or whether he's just never learned to give a damn about his work situation before in the first place, is frankly immaterial.

Sit him down and explain to him that his apathy is fine when it's just him, but now he's dragging your reputation down, and that is where you draw the line. Do this sooner than later.

It doesn't sound like this will end with him staying in this job, but at least you can say you made sure he was under no illusions about the nature of the favor you did for him.
posted by chicobangs at 9:15 AM on November 13, 2006

What chicobangs said, except also point out that you will be telling people to take all further complaints to his manager. Then tell them to go to the manager and distance yourself from him at work. This won't be easy. But you have to protect your own position and professional reputation.
posted by acoutu at 9:18 AM on November 13, 2006

Are you his boss, or his co-worker?

If you're his co-worker, it's not your role to do anything more than the gentle guidance you've already given him. It's his boss's problem. Your job now is to try to shore up your own position and not become known as "the guy who got us to hire that jerk."

If you're his boss, you have tools at your disposal beyond making suggestions and "talking to him like a normal person," and you should use them. It's likely to cost you the friendship, which is why you shouldn't hire friends unless you're extremely confident they won't embarass you like he is.
posted by bac at 9:24 AM on November 13, 2006

Talk to the boss of the office in private. Tell the boss that it's okay to fire your friend, that he annoys you too. Figure out how to fire your friend. Fire him. (If you're his boss, have the talk with yourself, then fire him.)

99% chance that your "friend" then blames you for the firing, stops paying his half of the rent (he doesn't have any money for the rent because YOU LET HIM DOWN, MAN, IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT that he doesn't have a job), etc.

So, you're probably going to also have to figure out how to evict him from your apartment (or how you can leave ASAP).

Life lesson learned: avoid having irresponsible people as roommates. If you ignore that advice, at least don't get them a job working with you. Going out drinking with irresponsible people = fine, getting them hired = not fine.
posted by jellicle at 9:27 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

Are you your roommate's immediate boss? If not, your coworkers should not be approaching you about their issues with this guy. Being his "in" at the company does not mean you're responsible for his behavior on the job. Your coworkers should be addressing the troublesome coworker directly, or going to his boss if that doesn't help.

If it were me, I'd respond to complaints from coworkers by saying, "Yeah, that has been bugging me too. I tried mentioning it to him, but I don't think he took me seriously. Maybe you could say something to him about it too." Perhaps your friend will get the message if he hears it from someone who is categorized in his mind as a coworker instead of as a friend.

All that said, if you actually are his boss, you're going to have to lay down the law. Make it clear that, although he's your friend outside the office, your responsibility at work is to maintain an acceptable working environment for everyone. In this case it means getting him to fix his behavior.
posted by vytae at 9:31 AM on November 13, 2006

I am guessing that your friend is a slob in your apartment as well.
There are many things one should never do for a friend.
1. Never loan them money
2. Never, ever co-sign any agreement.
3. Never clean up after them
4. Never get a friend a job working directly with you.

How did he pay his part of the rent if he was not working? I think you are being taken advantage of and it will do your career no good at all.
posted by JayRwv at 9:35 AM on November 13, 2006 [2 favorites]

I feel like he's not at all grateful for the hook up and every time I try to talk to him like a normal person about the problems, he either yeses me to death or just refuses to address anything.

You're right. He's not. So stop talking to him "like a normal person" i.e. like a considerate, rational person who can take other peoples' needs into account, who can think of someone besides him/herself. That's a normal person. What you're dealing with here is an immature, inconsiderate person who bases his behavior on what he thinks he can get away with. So let him know that he can't get away with it. Let some of the anger show -- not enough to make you lose control -- but let him know that his behavior is making you angry.

"Hey, [so-and-so] when I said this was a casual office, I guess I should have clarified that a little bit. "Casual" means that you don't have to wear a tie and don't have to address everyone as Mister or Mrs. It doesn't mean you can share your toejam with everyone around you. That's nasty and unprofessional."

"[So-and-so], we really need to talk. Your behavior at the office is unprofessional. [Cite examples] It's making me look bad and it's endangering my job too. If you keep this routine up, you will eventually get fired and there's not a damn thing I can do to help you."

Sure, the tone is harsh. Maybe harshness is what the OP needs to get this guy's attention.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:50 AM on November 13, 2006

A friend would not take advantage of you in this manner. All the above advice is sound. It would be wise to encourage your co-oworkers to take their complaints to management and your friend.

So long as he shares your office, he jeaprodizes your employment, or at least your comfort level there. The yes attack and the blanket denials mean that such disregard for those around him is a long held habit. He does this only to get folks off his back just a little while longer.

If you wish to resolve this between the two of you, then you're gonna have to be pretty stern. You're gonna have to start the conversation over every time he slips into any of these behaviors, as they indicate he is no longer listening. This will likely end with him moving out of your apartment. This might not be a bad thing.
posted by EatTheWeek at 10:45 AM on November 13, 2006

You treated him like a friend in hiring him. That's your personal relationship. You now work with him so it's a professional relationship. He's not being professional. Stop thinking that you're still in a personal relationship and treat him like any other coworker or employee. Cite him, write him up, and if he doesn't smarten up, fire his ass.

If one of my employees walked around barefoot after being asked not to, he'd be out on his ear. I don't care if he's my friend, coworker, or my mother.
posted by dobbs at 10:51 AM on November 13, 2006

I second what everyone else here has said. He's taking advantage of you. Give him the boot.

But I also want to point out that you may want to consider removing the personal identifying information from your profile, just in case your coworker/friend/roommate stumbles across it.

Unless, of course, you want them to.
posted by googly at 11:01 AM on November 13, 2006

There seems to be a whole lot more to this question than what the poster explicitly says. Like, in a six person office where one person is clearly creating a shitty work environment, why is no one doing anything about it? I wonder if anyone is the boss of your company, really.

And what is your home life like? You say this guy is a disrespectful slob at work- does he treat you the same way at home? If so, why are you putting up with his behavior there?

Seems to me that there's more than one curb this fellow needs to be kicked to.
posted by mkultra at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2006

If you really want to give him another chance and not let him be fired immediately, ask his boss (I am going with the idea that your office is casual enough that you can request this of his boss) to have a chat with him and tell your friend "I was going to fire you because of [all the reasons you listed], but infinityjinx has spoken up for you. So I am going to give you a probationary period of [one week?] for you to clean up your act. If any [of the things you listed above] are still occurring next week you will be fired. Its your choice."

But honestly a few months is much too long for this to have gone on.
posted by iurodivii at 1:13 PM on November 13, 2006

I inclined to be a slob, take off my shoes, and generally have pain-in-the-ass tendencies at work. I fight it, but my natural reaction is to feel that everybody else should get over themselves. Yeah, I know. I work hard to restrain myself. But anyway I can feel your roommate.

You don't want to tell him that it isn't cool, people don't like it, etc. People like him (and me) think that the rest of the world would benefit from lightening up, and that he (and I) are here to help with that. So you want to concentrate on the practical -- tell him that he is going to get fired if he keeps it up, and people are so pissed at him that they probably question your judgment in a way that could affect your promotions etc. He will be incredulous, and think it is ridiculous. You agree it is ridiculous, but it is true, and if he is your friend he will either quit or get it together.

Special mention is needed for the downloading of games onto the work computer -- that is in a different category altogether. It is definitely a firing offense at most places, and not very ethical either -- they are paying him to work.
posted by Methylviolet at 1:42 PM on November 13, 2006

Unless you are his boss, if anyone comes to you with complaints, I would second the suggestion to say something like "Yeah, I can see that he's being thoughtless, you probably should discuss that with him or his boss."

By allowing the other people in the office to complain to you about his behaviour, you seem to be taking responsibility for him. This isn't your responsibility.
posted by girlgeeknz at 12:22 AM on November 19, 2006

As the co-worker in this situation, a few things I'd like to chime in on (Oh my. AskMeFi drama!).

One, we just had a somewhat heated discussion, but I agree to a few things I sort of felt I was doing, but other people felt I wasn't. I tend to sort of not always pay attention to the small stuff, so when someone else was freaking out that my milk went bad, I had no idea I even had milk.

Two, the co-workers who had complained about my behaviors I had very little interaction with. I say "Hi" to them, maybe I'll see them as I walk past their office. Once or twice, I've gotten lunch for them, but generally if I see them for more than a minute in a day, it's a lot. Additionally, these co-workers have a habit of making mountains from molehills.

Third, none of these complaints ever came down from our boss. As I said, the office relationship is slightly odd. I don't really see my other co-workers that often and out paths, work-wise, rarely cross. My boss, on the other hand, often hangs around just to shoot the shit. He's never once said a word to me and often warns me if someone important is going to come into the building so that I can get my shoes on.

I think part of my problem was that none of these complaints ever came to me first hand. I always felt like it was coming from someone else who wouldn't address me directly. Further, none of it addressed the quality of work I was doing.

I think there's a very strong sense of everyone being a victim in this situation, where no one feels satisfied even though everyone feels perfectly justified.

I'm a very live and let live kind of guy, so long as my living isn't interrupting anyone else's and vice-versa. In this case, I felt like people were going out of their way to make a case for a problem that didn't exist. At any rate, and however dysfunctional that may or may not be, I've agreed to a number of things that should smooth out the sailing

There are a lot of "I think"s in here, and that's a large part of the problem. I'm someone who has a substantial problem making a change unless that change seems justified. Also, I'm completely and utterly unhappy in this kind of work situation and I think that's not helping, either. I'm someone who likes to be given a job and left alone to accomplish that task in whatever way I see fit. This kind of oversight really irks me and I need to just shut up and put up, sometimes.

But thanks, guys. Sometimes I need to see the situation from outside and even when I don't agree, maybe it's just better to put my shoes on and soldier through the day.
posted by GilloD at 4:42 PM on November 19, 2006

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