#32 Upset about office signs at new job / Withholds destroying relationships

DEAR ABBY: I recently transferred to a new office, and I have never seen so many people who are experts on what should or shouldn't be done. They post signs everywhere: "Do Not Move Coffeepot While Coffee Is Brewing," "Do Not Use This Door Except For Emergencies," "Do Not Throw This or That Into The Garbage," "Do Not Use This Ice Tray," etc.

I would never have the gall to put up a sign every time someone did something of which I disapproved. Am I wrong to be offended? I come everyday to find that something I have done is not right according to somebody else's rules, and a big sign has been posted saying, "Do Not Do This or That."

These people are not bosses. Why do they think they have the right to make up rules for everyone else to follow? SICK OF SIGNS, BIRMINGHAM, ALA.

DEAR SICK OF SIGNS: Don't be so quick to take offense. You are the newcomer in an office where the style of communication may not be yours, but it is the established style. If the signs are not posted specifically at your desk, don't take them personally, they are probably not intended only for you. They are meant to help the staff learn office procedure without confronting anyone directly and causing hurt feelings.ABBY

Gabby's Response:

Gabby’s Response:

Hi Sick: Nope, you're right to be offended; the sign-writers are mirroring your own communication model. I'm certain the self-righteous anger I experience in your letter gets communicated to your office-mates nonverbally. It is offensive to them. No doubt others are afraid to tell you what upsets them about you, verbally, to your face. Notice that you  have written to an advice columnist (a different kind of sign writing) instead of communicating your upsets verbally to the signer(s). You're being run by fear.

I'd look elsewhere for the source of your upset. Possibly it's about a personal relationship, or the job transfer, or some problems associated with the move. Maybe you weren't welcomed and briefed and given as thorough a tour as perhaps was done in your old office. It appears they failed to  assigned you an old-timer who, over tea, would have explained office protocols, policies and signage procedures etc., this welcoming mentor should have told you how to voice comments/suggestions safely, responsibly, without having to stuff upsets or resort to badmouthing as you have.

The signers also mirror your negativity. Another way to communicate is, "The Coffee Machine Works Better If You Wait Till It's Done Brewing," "To prevent the coffee machine from frying its circuitry . . ." "Please Use Other Doors Except For Emergencies," "Please Place Garbage In The Plastic Container," "Use The Other Ice Trays Please." etc.

Thanks for writing. Such thoughts withheld could bring about illness, accidents, poor performance, unconscious sabotage or you being permanently transferred. —Gabby

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Check back occasionally for minor edits (last edited 12/7/12)

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