Lynne Curry: Clean freak co-worker tossed out my stuff

Lynne Curry

Q. After we hired "Diane," a clean freak, the rest of us got used to hearing employees howling from the break room, "Where'd my leftover salad go?" The rest of us would just smile, knowing Diane had tackled the refrigerator.

Like everyone else I found my desk drawers "cleaned" when I came back from Christmas vacation. Diane had left half of what had been in my drawers in a box on a side table with a label attached "had some free time, sorted things, and thought you may want to get rid of these."

I didn't say a thing, just dumped my stuff back in the drawers as they had been.

Last week I added an extra couple days of vacation to the long Memorial Day weekend. On Tuesday when returned, I found everything in my desk drawers organized with many things missing. I asked Diane, "Where's my stuff?" and she smiled brightly, saying "I knew you couldn't throw some of that stuff out so I did it for you." When I yelled, "Don't ever touch my stuff again," Diane burst into tears, sniffling," I thought you'd be pleased."

I later learned that my boss had asked Diane to sit at my work station so she could handle several customer projects that couldn't wait until I returned.

How do I keep this woman out of my stuff in the future? Don't tell me to ask the boss; he loves that Diane keeps the break room clean.


A. You and Diane were a storm waiting to happen. Diane thrives on neatness and cleanliness. She saw your work area as a project.

When you dumped your things back in to your drawers instead of saying, "Diane, please don't mess with my stuff," you left the situation open-ended.

How do you keep Diane from invading your drawers? Let her know you don't consider her organizing a blessing.

Meanwhile, look at the clutter you create. For example, those slightly used napkins you stuff back in your drawers "just in case" you spill your Coke -- they'd make anyone squeamish who sits at your desk. Most of us get so used to our own "stuff" we don't see it and need to be respectful of those who occasionally work at our desks.

Finally, Diane needs to realize when she's in your or others' personal work areas she doesn't have free rein and needs to give the rest of you right of refusal over what she tosses.

Q. I am a 19-year-old hourly employee making minimum wage. I work an eight-hour shift as a cashier and do not receive a break except to run to the bathroom. It is tough to stand on my feet all day without sitting down and I'm starving after an 8-hour shift.

Can you tell me about Alaska laws for work breaks? Friends have told me that for every 4 hours I work I should be getting a 15-minute break and the employees under 18 get a half-hour break.

I can't ask my employer about this because he'll think I'm a slacker who can't handle the job.


A. Alaskan employers must provide workers under 17 at least a 30-minute break if they work five or more consecutive hours. This break needs to occur after the first hour and a half of work and before the beginning of the last hour of work.

Outside of union or contractual agreements, Alaskan employers don't need to provide breaks to employees 18 years of age or more. If the employer does provide a break, it needs to pay its employees for the break time if it's 20 minutes or less. Alaskan employers that provide for lunch or mid-shift meal breaks don't need to pay for this beak time if it's longer than 20 minutes.



Dr. Lynne Curry is a management/employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send questions to Lynne at or follow her on Twitter @lynnecurry10.



Lynne Curry