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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Office Full of Goof Offs

Dear Sue: Why would upper management allow a lower boss to run her office like it was a frat house on a Saturday night? While a fraction of the people do the work, the others talk on the phone, come and go as they please, throw food at each other, shoot rubber bands, and carry on a conversation among themselves so loudly that other departments notice it.

When they actually work, the boss will wander by and say, "It's so quiet in here, are you all dead?" These people, who range in age from 25-50, get paid the same as those who actually work all of the time they are here.

Maybe I'm too serious, but I spent a lot of money for school and I do an excellent job and give 110 percent. I feel used and disrespected. If I complain, I become a trouble maker. I can't quit because of great pay and benefits, and I love the actual job. The boss never deals with opposition, so I just sit here like a fool. I am ready to scream! Help!

--Working hard

Sue Says: If your boss is aware of the situation but never says anything and makes jokes about the good behavior, then she obviously condones the frat house atmosphere. You love your job, yet can't stand the environment, but you've ruled out quitting or saying anything for fear of being labeled a troublemaker. Since you've eliminated most of your options, it's no wonder you are frustrated.

You need to talk to your boss, as well as your co-workers. Speak in terms of "I" rather than "You." Saying, "I can see you are having fun, but I need some help and am having a hard time working with all of the noise," is easier to take than, "You guys are driving me crazy with all your goofing around, and are taking advantage of me."

You say that you are ready to scream, so you need to do something: Doing nothing will bring you nothing.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

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