I Just Work Here

Yes, it is a jungle out there: Email and gorilla warfare

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Primate co-workers

Sometimes the office is more like a jungle than it is a place of work. (Loungepark, Getty Images / March 30, 2012)

The good news is you can learn to assert some dominance.

Hanmer said it's not good enough to tell someone not to improperly invade your space.

"You have to give them a reason. You can't just say, 'Don't sit on my desk.' You need to say something like, 'Please don't sit on my desk because it really upsets me, and if I'm upset, I'm not able to get my work done.' Say why it doesn't work, what you'd like them to do about it, and what the consequences are. Then you're making it very clear."

Hanmer said a client is dealing with a similar problem. Co-workers keep popping into her cubicle, asking questions, chatting and being generally disruptive.

Hanmer's advice was to tell each problem person individually: "This doesn't work. If you have questions, I need you to come into this space only during certain hours."

"So she has given them some restrictions," Hanmer said. "She also changed the position of her desk so she can make direct eye contact with anyone coming in. Now she can see them straight away and give some body language that says, 'Not now. Not appropriate.'"

Most of us need a space of our own, whether it's at home or at work. It provides a bit of comfort and security amid all the nuttiness we face.

"The more comfortable you can feel in your own environment, the more productive and happy you're going to be," Hanmer said. "It can either excite you or deplete you."

So don't let the big-butted apes get away with making you uncomfortable in your own workspace. Stand up and beat your chest a little.

And if that doesn't work, there are always thumbtacks. I think deep down most apes would approve.

Talk to Rex: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at ijustworkhere@tribune.com and like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere.
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