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Send your questions and concerns to Dr. Marie McIntyre. Marie has more than 20 years experience in coaching, human resources, and management.  She writes the syndicated column “Your Office Coach”, which appears in more than 70 newspapers nationwide. Marie has authored two books and serves as a workplace expert for the National Institute of Business Management.  (Due to high volume, not all questions can be answered, but Marie will respond to as many as possible. Your question may be reprinted online or in the newspaper column unless you request otherwise.)

Coaching Q&A

The Great Trash Bag Power Struggle

In our office, everyone takes turns with the kitchen duties, including the owner of the business. However, we recently got a new coworker who refuses to do his tasks correctly.

Whenever someone takes out the garbage, that person is supposed to put a new bag in the trash can, but this guy never replaces the bag. I tried to teach him about this nicely, but it didn’t do any good.

Finally, after asking him numerous times, I got so fed up that I left the garbage container in his chair, hoping he would get the message. He was quite upset about this, but he’s still not replacing the bag.

I feel that he is being very inconsiderate to our group. What else can I do?

Marie’s Answer

By turning a relatively minor transgression into World War III, you have insured that your annoying colleague will never do what you want. The two of you are engaged in a classic power struggle, and he’s not going to let you win.

Since you’re not the boss, you lack the authority to order bag replacement. And any further escalation of the conflict will just make you appear obsessive. So what choices do you have now?

One possibility is to rally other irritated employees and stage a trash bag intervention with your lazy coworker. Complaining to the owner is another option, although that might make you seem like a tattletale.

Or perhaps you could try a more creative solution. Publicly post rotation assignments for trash duty, with your helpful owner scheduled immediately after the slacker. If there’s no bag in the can when the boss goes to take out the garbage, this problem could be solved very quickly.

NOTE: Questions on this page have been edited for length, grammar, and confidentiality.  All material on this website is copyrighted to Marie G. McIntyre.  All rights reserved.

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Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D.

Marie McIntyre has more than twenty years’ experience in career coaching and organizational development. She has held management positions in both business and government, including Director of Human Resources in a Fortune 500 company.

Marie writes the weekly syndicated advice column, “Your Office Coach”, which appears in newspapers throughout the U.S. & Canada.  She also writes a monthly Career Commentary for CNBC.com and serves as a workplace expert for Business Management Daily.  Marie conducts webinars on a variety of topics related to leadership development and career success.

As a consultant, Marie has assisted a wide variety of organizations, including Cisco, The Home Depot, Tyson Foods, the Federal Reserve, AT&T, Walgreens, Macy’s, and Habitat for Humanity. She has experience in working with business, government, and non-profit groups.

Marie is the author of two books, “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics” &“The Management Team Handbook”.  She is frequently quoted in business publications, including Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.