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5 Causes of Small Office Arguments and How to Deal with them

Updated on September 25, 2012

No one, and I mean no one, wants to deal with a noisy co-worker, a bumbling secretary, or a mean HR manager; however, these are certain types of people you can't ignore especially when you work at a busy office. Aside from conflicting personalities and bad attitudes, some of the worst office arguments are caused by little, stationary things like coffee machines, thermostats and a set of computer speakers. If you find yourself in the crosshairs of an annoying office co-employee, here's how you can keep the argument from getting bigger and turning into full-scale war.

1. "Who drank all the coffee?"

Who knew that the innocent coffee machine could put an entire office into disarray?

Many people rely on the coffee machine and the sweet caffeine it produces for everyone's consumption. It is believed that some of the world's heaviest coffee drinkers are those who work in offices for 8 continuous hours a day, so it's no surprise how people could be so dependent on a single coffee machine.

And yet, your office's love for coffee could be the root cause of a few office skirmishes. According to a recent news report, an office row was caused by a minor understanding over the coffee machine and if it has happened in one office, it can happen anywhere!

One of many office worker's pet peeve is to run out of coffee and if you've managed to drink the last half liter of coffee from the coffee machine, get ready to be berated. If you hear a confused and annoyed co-worker asking the classic question of "WHO DRANK ALL THE COFFEE?", prepare yourself for a good recant.

How to solve the problem...

First off, don't finish all the coffee, but when you do, be conscientious enough to refill the coffee machine. It's the only way you can avoid such conflict.

However, if you are caught in the act of running away and not refilling the coffee, offer to refill the coffee machine and quickly and quietly, return to your seat. People will forget about the issue as soon as everyone sees that there is coffee in the pitcher.

2. "Who put Decaf in the coffee machine?"

Not a lot of people like Decaf but some people do. If you find yourself in an office room with anti-Decaf employees and pro-Decaf employees, the best thing you should do is to find out what the majority likes. In short, if more people in your workplace can't stand Decaf, then don't put Decaf into the coffee machine!

How to solve the problem...

Can't stand Decaf while everyone else in your office does? The most logical solution to this is to bring your own coffee. In a busy office with only one coffee machine, the worst thing you can do is to deprive the majority of their own coffee preference.

Pro-tip: Use a coffee mug with a lid to store your own coffee so you won't have to rely on the office coffee machine.

Also asking your co-workers in the office if they would prefer Decaf over the usual kind of coffee will also help you identify the anti- and pro-Decaf drinkers around you. If the number of people who prefer Decaf are not so far behind those who don't like Decaf, perhaps, you could compromise with the non-Decaf drinkers and ask them if they would consider having Decaf in the coffee machine for at least a day.

Better yet, strike a deal with them and set up "Decaf days" wherein, on certain days of the week, Decaf, instead of regular coffee, will be served.

3. "Who ate my lunch?"

Magically disappearing lunches are some of the biggest mysteries in every office. Apparently, in a room full of professionals, some people just can't keep their hands off of other people's lunch.

When someone steals your lunch in a room full of mature people, you are dealing with a serious case of theft. Theft can have different degrees and angles, and stolen lunch falls under petty theft.

But it doesn't really matter whether it's petty theft or grand theft. Stealing, in general, is wrong.

How to solve this problem...

Are you a victim of stolen lunches?

There are a few things you can do without having to argue with anyone face to face. First, secure your lunch container. Do you put your lunch in a brown paper bag that's easy to tear open? Or do you put your lunch in a secure plastic container? Always make sure to put your lunch in containers that are difficult to pry open. Make sure your lunch container is labeled so people will know instantly who owns it. If your co-workers find it in the hands (or mouth) of someone else (other than yourself), then it will be easier to identify the thief.

Proper labeling and proper locking will protect your lunch.

Another logical solution to not being a stolen lunch victim is to put your lunch in your own refrigerator or on your own desk. Never leave it where people can easily go in and grab it-- the office refrigerator, being one of them.

4. "Sshhh... keep it down!"

The worst kind of noise is and will always be office noise. Working in an environment that is loud and messy will set you off course and will make you lose concentration on the task at hand. Other side-effects of noisy environments may lead to:

  • Low Productivity
  • Low Concentration
  • Added Stress
  • Lack of Inspiration and Creativity,
  • and Loss of Sleep, among other side-effects

One effective way to stopping office noise is to soundproof your office; or if this does not seem to arrest the noise issues, you may need to move to another office.

How to Solve this Problem...

There are two things you can do to control the noise in your office: use white noise machines or work while wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

Option #1: Wear noise-cancelling earphones

Noise-cancelling headphones are as effective as sound masking systems, but having something around your head 8 hours a day at work can be a bit annoying. Wearing headphones on will also limit your movement around the office... and not to mention, look out of place with your corporate attire!

Option #2: Using White Noise Machines for your Office

Many people nowadays turn to white noise machines to block unwanted noise from their office. White noise machines emit a special kind of low frequency noise which keeps your brain from picking up disturbing sounds and thereby allowing you to focus on something else. White noise machines are known to block whispers, chit-chatter, clicking of one's heels on their floors, and may even protect you from tinnitus.

5. "Don't touch the thermostat!"

The thermostat just might be one of the most common causes of workplace arguments. The sudden change in temperature can set some people off and if you're not watchful, you could cause a major office issue just by adjusting the thermostat without asking everyone else in the office, first.

How to Solve this Problem...

First off, always ask before moving things around the office. Generally, people will not like it if someone makes changes around the office without their knowing. Be conscious and always find out what other people think before making a decision. Always involve people in any of your office place decision, unless if you're the owner or the manager of the office! Otherwise, make sure people agree with what you plan to do around the office.

In other words, don't be an office tyrant!

How do you Solve your Workplace Woes?

There are plenty of other causes of workplace arguments. Why don't you tell us about your worst workplace experience in the comments below and what you did to solve it?

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