Smokin’ in the Boys Room



Dear Dharma,

I know you sometimes give work related advice, and this is both work and personal.

I work in a large office, in a kind of open concept bullpen area.  There are about a dozen of us in our section, all in our little cubbies, very “Office Space”.  The issue is with one of my friends.

Due to downsizing and cutbacks, our group has lost 4 people with no drop in workload, so the rest of us are super busy.  We still get our coffee breaks and lunch break, but most people routinely take less than the maximum, and eat at our desks, like that.

My friend is one of the few smokers in the office, and he always takes the full break time, to get outside for a puff, and usually extends the breaks 5 or 10 minutes.  He will also take several “smoke breaks” during the day, no matter how much work we have on the go.  Over a week, it adds up to a couple hours that he takes off.

Is there any way to talk to him about this without being the time card police?  I am not his boss, but it is starting to tick me off that he is basically offloading 2 hours a week of work onto the rest of the team.  He is not the only smoker in the company, so I can’t believe I am the only one who is annoyed by this.

Boys in the Smokin’ Room

Dear Boys,

Yup, yup, there’s always at least one to be found in every group.  And it doesn’t need to be the smoker.  It can be the perpetually late one, the “my cat looked at me weird this morning” one, the “I could only a get a dentist appointment at 2pm on Friday, no point in coming back” one…

And no, there is no way for you to address this head on that will end well.  As you said, you’re not his boss and “managing” people falls squarely into the job description of, well, managers.

You have two choices, as far as Dharma can see… you either bring this up with management and hope they address it, or you find a way to cope and turn away from it.

Because you know the saying, right?  You can’t change the behavior of others, only your own – and right now you are letting another person’s behaviour that’s not even directly aimed at you contribute to how you feel at work – ticked off and annoyed.

Look, adulting can be hard.  Getting up and going to work every day can be tiresome at best, and having this aggravating factor play out day after day sure doesn’t make it any better.

And with that, I’m completely in favour of you taking it up a pay grade.  You just need a Plan B in case nothing changes, is all I’m saying… and that’s to not let it get under your skin.

Maybe try to find a way to make it funny.  Share a conspiratorial wink with another co-worker every time it happens, make a funny face.  Place bets on how many times it will happen in a day.

Basically, change the inner dialogue. Instead of “Grrr, look at him leaving again. Grrr, why do we have to pick up his slack, grr, grr, GRRRRR!” try something like, “Whoot, it’s the 6th time today – one more and I’m in the money!”

You can do that, right?  And if not, well, here’s a little bit more ammo for when you talk to the boss…



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