I have been out of the office on a three-day seminar and got back to find my chair has been replaced with a less comfortable one. I suspect a new colleague who started his job while I was away, whose cubicle is right across from mine, and every time I see him I feel cross. Should I get in early one morning and swap the chair over again? But what if it wasn’t him who was involved in this office larceny? Perhaps the cleaner may have removed my chair – unlikely but still possible. Should I confront him, or would that look petty? Or do I just put up with a chair that is uncomfortable and is not mine?
Research associate, male, 23
Your problem has provoked a storm of outrage on FT.com. Dozens of readers have called you a baby and a fool and are cross with you (and me) for wasting their time on such piffle. I am taking no notice, and I suggest you take none too.
Of course your problem is petty. But so is office life. Indeed, on the spectrum of petty things your chair is at the serious end of the range. You spend almost as much time in it as you do in your bed and to have it stolen is an outrage.
First, there is the problem of adjusting to another one: the chair I’m sitting on has an improbably large number of levers that work in unexpected ways. Then there is the primal attachment one feels to one’s chair. The three bears expressed this well: “Who’s been sitting in my chair?” they roared - and their chairs weren’t even stolen.
Furthermore, one’s chair is a home from home in the office, and to have it pinched when one’s back is turned does not feel nice.
So what to do? Chair theft is a mean trick, but is fine in retaliation. Indeed, as the chair belongs to neither of you, a state of anarchy prevails. He took your chair in a raid when you were away. You take it back in a raid when he is away.
If it turns out that he didn’t really take it, then never mind. He has had it for only a few days so may not notice. Don’t think of discussing it with him in a reasonable way, as this isn’t a reasonable matter.
Once you have the chair back you must make sure it doesn’t happen again. One of my colleagues reduces his risk of chair theft by making such a fuss that thieves steal other chairs for a quiet life. I don’t recommend this for you: at 23 you need to earn more stripes before becoming a chair hysteric.
My own approach has been developed unwittingly: I have spilt so much food on my chair that no one else wants it.