Advice column: how do I tackle my roommate's offputting habits?
Dear Ash,

There has recently been a change in the structure of our department, resulting in my having to share a room with a new colleague. Although I have a good rapport with my colleague, he does have some offputting habits. He tends to pick his nose at times, and is very untidy and I often have to step over piles of his files that he chooses to store on the floor. I have tried to hint that he needs to be more considerate of my needs, but he seems to just laugh this off. I don’t want to hurt his feelings but I am starting to get fed up of the situation.

Ash replies:

This is clearly a case of a person that lacks any self-awareness. Your colleague seems oblivious that his behaviour could be causing any issues for you, and is frankly acting selfishly. On a positive note, he seems to be very comfortable in your company as he is essentially treating the shared office space as an extension of his own home!

Subtlety has clearly not worked and you will need to have a proper chat with your colleague in order to make your position clear, as otherwise your resentment will only continue to brew and you risk having a heated argument once you finally lose your patience.

I would suggest that you go to coffee or lunch with him in order to raise your concerns within informal and relaxed surroundings. Make clear that although you feel comfortable sharing the office space, it is important to set some boundaries. You could even suggest that he could also help to establish some boundaries for you both, by confirming what irks him when sharing a room with a colleague. This way he may feel less defensive about the situation. You could also hint that other more senior colleagues may disapprove of the state of the room, as he may take more notice if the same message is likely to come from management.

It may take a little time for any significant improvement to be visible, but it is important for you to keep highlighting the importance of the issue. With the growing move towards open-plan offices, colleagues will need to be more conscious of their surroundings and to be considerate of the needs of others. You are not being unreasonable by asking for some consideration – I’m sure if you were to start behaving in a similar way to him, he would not be quite so accommodating.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162, or by email: KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk

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