A reader submitted this question to Ask Unclutterer describing a concern at work:
I recently began a new job. My boss has been with this organization since the mid-1980s, and there is still paper lingering around from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. She is hesitant to discard anything. She currently has three workspaces in the office, plus additional boxes and cabinets around the space that are organized but seem like they should be discarded.
My coworkers have reported that she gets very upset when this topic is brought up. We will likely need some of this space in the future, and waiting for her retirement doesn’t seem like a proactive option. How might I address this with her in a productive manner?
Reader, it sounds like this situation is very aggravating to you. However, unless the clutter is causing a safety problem or seriously interfering with your productivity, I’d suggest you do absolutely nothing right now.
You’re new to the office, and your boss is known to be sensitive about this subject. It doesn’t sound like an issue you’d want to broach until you’ve been there awhile and have proven your value to your boss.
And even then, I’d urge caution. People have varying styles of organization and comfort levels with letting go of things, and trying to get your boss to change her ways might not be easy or appreciated. You may be treading into emotional territory that you know nothing about. Ignoring the situation isn’t being proactive, but this may not be your problem to solve.
However, you might find a way to have a discussion about the papers by using one of the following strategies, which could help keep the discussion less personal:
Address the organization’s record retention policy. Is there one? If not, should there be? Does the organization have an attorney who could explain why such a policy is useful and clarify which records need to be retained?
Address the space concerns. If more space is indeed needed in the future, should some of those records be stored offsite if she feels they must be retained? How much would that cost? Is it worth the cost?
Address your boss’s frustrations. Is there anything about the current situation that causes her distress? If so, you might make suggestions that focus on alleviating her issues.
Use outside experts. If an opportunity presents itself, you might suggest using an attorney (as noted above) or a professional organizer. An uninvolved third party with relevant expertise can often raise issues and make recommendations more effectively than someone within the organization.
Thank you, reader, for submitting your question to Unclutterer.
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