Dear Urban Diplomat: The co-worker I share a hot desk with is a total slob

I’ve tried to bring it up with him politely, but nothing has changed. Is it time to go over his head?

By Urban Diplomat| Illustrations by Salini Perera
Dear Urban Diplomat: The co-worker I share a hot desk with is a total slob

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Dear Urban Diplomat, My office has been operating on a hybrid model since things opened up. To save money, the company rented a smaller space, wherein half of us work two days a week while the other half work remotely and vice versa. Here’s the thing: my deskmate always leaves things in total disarray—mug rings, fruit peels, crumpled pieces of paper. I’ve mentioned this to him politely, but nothing has changed. Should I just go over his head? —Disorderly Conduct, Baby Point

We all deserve workplace feng shui, so seek it out. Exactly how you do that depends on your company’s office layout and policies. Ask around for an open desk. If there isn’t one, you might consider requesting a desk swap, but that would be a rather dirty trick to play on whoever gets stuck with the slob in your stead. Ultimately, you are within your rights to ask HR to intervene, as your current situation is not conducive to productivity. Our personal lives are messy enough—it’s best to keep work life as pristine as possible.

Dear Urban Diplomat, A good friend of mine is an emerging TikTok influencer who plugs various brands. For my birthday, she suggested that we get matching friendship bracelets (her treat) at a downtown shop. When we got there, she handed me her phone and asked me to film her trying on a bracelet. She then haggled with the shop proprietor off camera and ended up getting both bracelets for free. She knows I don’t like freebies, and now every time I look at my bracelet, I want to cut the thing off. What to do? —Burst My Bauble, Bloorcourt

Before you fetch the bolt cutters, remember that your friend approached you with good intentions. That said, she does receive swag for a living, which can breed a sense of entitlement in the best of us. Assuming you know her well, the nature of the bracelet barter should not have been a surprise. Your friend is who she is, and unless you want to unfriend her IRL, you have to accept the gift for what it was: a thoughtful, if not particularly costly, gesture.

Dear Urban Diplomat, Last month, I had to leave town on business, so I asked my cousin to stay at my place and look after my dog. I told him he could use my car to take Fritz to a fancy new park. The problem is that he whacked my mirror trying to get out of my condo’s garage, and now I’m left with a $350 bill. Is it wrong for me to ask him to go halfsies? —Moving Violation, Liberty Village

You asked your cousin to care for your dog so that you wouldn’t have to pay for a kennel. And now, because of the accident, you’ll likely have to pay more than if you had just boarded Fritz in the first place. It’s unfortunate, but it’s on you. Your cousin didn’t ask for your car—you told him to take it in service of the pet that he was nice enough to care for. I think you know where I’m going with this: if he makes an unsolicited offer to chip in (and he should), it’s fine to accept, but it’s not okay to ask.

Dear Urban Diplomat, Recently, one of my old high school friends and her toddler flew in from Calgary for a Mirvish show and stayed at my place. I asked what she was doing on her one free night, and she told me she had dinner plans with another high school acquaintance of ours. She didn’t invite me, so I slyly mentioned that I could watch her kid, thinking she would insist that I join. But, instead, she took me up on the offer. Now I feel used, and I don’t ever want to invite her back. Thoughts? —Host Hostage, Financial District


As a guest, your friend should have prioritized you for her free evening. Still, the onus is not entirely on her. You put out an offer expecting a different outcome. Your friend didn’t use you; she took you at face value. This is what happens when you choose passive aggression over straight talk. If you expect people to interpret subtle suggestions in your favour, you will often be left disappointed. The key takeaway: you only get what you want when you ask for it loud and clear.

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