Steer Clear of Creepers: Navigating Awkward Office Situations

image source: http://duebymonday.com/tag/behavior/

image source: http://duebymonday.com/tag/behavior/

It was a Wednesday afternoon, 15 minutes before quitting time. I had just graduated high school seven days earlier and had started a summer job at a small newspaper. In the midst of packing up my bag to officially shut down for the day, the screaming started. Yells I never expected to hear in an office. The executive editor and senior writer were exchanging harsh words about not meeting the Wednesday printing press deadline. I was frozen at my desk in the back hallway. The exchange went on for almost 20 minutes. Once quiet was restored, I quickly snuck out the front, so thankful to be out of the office.

The next morning, while writing my first article, the senior editor came over and apologized for what I heard the previous day. She said it was the biggest argument the two of them had ever had. She said to expect an outburst between her and the executive editor once a month. Three days in and I hear a huge fight; is it really that bad here? I thanked her for the apology and warning but questioned the office dynamic.

Later that same day, the secretary came to the back to use the paper cutter and asked how things were going. She then brought up that if I ever see the accountant (who conveniently sits right by me) intently watching videos on his computer to alert her. He watches porn in the office. Woah! Hold on-I’m sitting right near a porn watcher?

For the second day in a row, I left the office with way too many questions about the atmosphere and lack of professionalism. I drove straight home and spoke with my mom about the porn-watching situation. My mother told me that I didn’t have to return to the office. I could quit and avoid the uncomfortable situation. Through tears, I told her that I was not about to forgo my dream internship, or what I pictured was a dream internship, because of a couple crazy people. She told me she would support my decision but recommended that I ask to be moved. There was no need to have me sitting in the hallway.

Friday morning on the drive to work, I went over in my head how I would ask to be moved. I told myself that unless I speak up, I would be on edge the rest of the summer, knowing the porn-watcher was too close for comfort. Upon arrival, I told the secretary I thought about yesterday and decided I was not comfortable being around a horny guy and asked if it was possible to be moved. Just then, the associate editor walked in and he immediately agreed that I shouldn’t be sitting back there. As a result, I was moved to an empty office up front.

Later in the day, the senior writer issued another apology, this time on behalf of the staff. She was sorry I had to witness a guy watching porn and that she also is uncomfortable around him. The executive editor apologized too, saying he was unaware of the situation but that it was taken care of. One week down, I left the office with so many uncertainties about company culture but I was hopeful the summer could only go up from there.

There were more arguments and more porn streamed but I just turned a blind eye. The experience I got from writing for a newspaper trumped the negatives. At the end of the summer, my mom asked me a very important question: Looking back, would I intern for the newspaper again? I quickly responded “no.” But then on second thought, I said “maybe.” I learned how to professionally deal with coworkers that I didn’t want to be around. I spoke up for myself when I saw inappropriate behavior. More importantly, I took advantage of interning for a newspaper and published many articles. By the end of the summer, I became the best intern they had ever had. I proved to myself that I can handle any situation and can only hope that I will never have to deal with a poor company culture again.

 This guest post was written by a Northeastern Student who wished to remain anonymous.  

 

Reply All? Please Don’t. And Other Email Etiquette Tips

image source: http://elitedaily.com/money/email-etiquette-for-gen-y/

Image Source: http://elitedaily.com/money/email-etiquette-for-gen-y/

This post was written by Emily Brown, a regular contributor to The Works and a graduate student in the College Student Development and Counseling program at Northeastern University. She is also a Career Development Intern

Email is often the principal form of communication in business settings.  As you begin co-op or your first post-grad job, keep in mind that how you present yourself via email can contribute to your overall reputation among coworkers. Keeping in mind some simple email etiquette can help ensure you build a positive reputation at the workplace both in person and online.

  • Use an appropriate level of formality – be more formal with higher level professionals, but also mirror others’ email style and address them with the same level (or higher) of formality with which they address you
  • Provide a clear subject line
  • Respond within 24-48 hours
  • Double check that the email is going to the correct person – Autofill isn’t always as helpful as it’s meant to be
  • Acknowledge receipt of emails even if it does not require a response – especially if someone is providing you with information you need
  • Be concise – emails should be short and to the point
  • Number your questions – if you’re asking multiple questions, the person on the receiving end is more likely to read and respond to them all if they’re clearly broken out
  • Include a signature – no one should have to search for your contact information
  • Don’t overuse the high priority function
  • Use “reply all” sparingly and only cc those who need the information
  • If you forward someone an email, include a brief personalized note explaining why
  • Remember, no email is private – once you hit send, you have no control over with whom the email is shared. This is particularly important if you are working for any type of government agency in Massachusetts, in which case email is considered public record.
Image Source: http://www.someecards.com/christmas-cards/email-coworkers-office-holiday-party-work-funny-ecard

Image Source: http://www.someecards.com/christmas-cards/email-coworkers-office-holiday-party-work-funny-ecard

While these are generally good rules of thumb, it is also important to be aware of the company culture. Some companies rely more heavily on email for in-office communication than others. If you see coworkers approaching one another with questions, you should probably do the same. To avoid guessing, ask your supervisor about communication preferences when you start the job. And even an in email culture, it’s probably best to use the phone for last minute schedule changes or cancellations.

Emily Brown is a Career Development intern and a graduate student in Northeastern’s College Student Development and Counseling Program. She is a lifelong Bostonian interested in the integration of social media into the professional realm.  Contact her at e.brown@neu.edu.