5 causes of office squabbles


Shove a bunch of workers into an open space and watch them argue about the temperature of the air conditioner, noise levels and who said what about whom. And then there’s the odd person who pees in the pot plants...

Aircon temperature

Question:I work in a big office for about 10 or 12 ppl. There is one big central aircon in this office. I would like to know what temperatures are safe...What temperature do you recommend?

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Expert answer:Too warm a temperature will affect most employees’ concentration and productivity. Aircons are blamed for a multitude of sins - dry eyes, headaches, sinus etc. It can be seen as an artificial environment. There are laid down max and min working environments. You are well within them. Best to attend your safety meeting and try and address the issues.


Question: I am sharing an office with a woman lights up her cigarettes in the office before walking outside and during lunch she closes our office door and smokes in the office... The directors just let her get away with it. Is there anything I can do? Anyone I can contact? We don’t have an HR department, I am working in an attorneys firm. Thank you.

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Expert answer: Ask for an urgent meeting with the senior partner. They are contravening legislation and infringing your rights. What is happening is absolutely unacceptable! You can enlist the assistance of the local health authority or an Occupational / Workplace Medicine Expert ( Doctor). Fight for your legal rights!

Peeing in the plants

Question: Please advise on the health risks of 'urinated' plants in the office environment. I have received a complaint about staff members who have been urinating in the plants after hours. I need to know what are the health risks involved as this will be part of their disciplinary hearing. Whilst the plants have now been removed, it apparently has been going on for some time already.

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Expert answer: All body fluids are potential vectors for disease. In this case it is terrible hygiene habits but there should be no risk to others unless they decided to put fingers into the potplant shortly after the incident or unusually decided to satisfy their hunger by delving into the potplant.

Open-plan noise

Question: I don’t mind working in a small space, what I do mind is that I need to hear everyone’s phone conversations etc. I do work that calls for extreme focus and concentration - now I sometimes just go out for 5 mins to make an important phone call ‘cause it’s too noisy... Will it be overstepping the line raising my concerns about this to my boss?? Am I gonna sound selfish and do I want too much?

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Expert answer: Is it just you and the other folks who have become so overcrowded, or has everyonein the company been squashed up like this ? And doesn't the boss recognise that this must impact badly on your productivity, and probably also on their’s? Sad when offices get planned by quack ‘space planners’ who I'll bet have never themselves ever actually worked in an office, and haven't the faintest idea of what anyone actually needs.

Difficult colleagues

Question: I have a co-worker that I have to deal with on a daily basis as we are in the same department. She thinks she is my boss and I have to answer to her for everything. Sshe keeps breaking me down and talks to me like I am a child. I thought of going to my boss and telling him that I can’t work with her anymore and ask him to move me to another position within the company. What can and should my boss do about this situation?

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Expert answer: You must do something to correct this situation. This is unhealthy, both physically and mentally. Is there no HR department? You should write down an accurate record of all the incidents and communication to support your side of the story. Do not leave this unresolved - this will be unacceptable. You have all the right to request a review of the situation and ask for redress if warranted.

Read more about office health

SA slack on workplace safety

Germs lurk in office kitchens

Ask our workplace health expert a question.

(Compiled by Adele Hamilton, Health24, June 2012) 

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