Q. Several of my co-workers are complete slobs and their offices look like a bomb just went off. I believe an organized workspace is critical...

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Q. Several of my co-workers are complete slobs and their offices look like a bomb just went off. I believe an organized workspace is critical to productivity. Aren’t my co-workers undermining their effectiveness by refusing to tidy up?

A. Nope. The manner in which we keep our office has to do with how we handle anxiety. There are people like you (and me) who think cleanliness is next to godliness. Then there is the other camp, the ones who feel a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.

If co-workers find clutter comforting, you’ll only alienate them by preaching the gospel of order. People really can and do produce high-quality work with completely opposite styles of organizing their workspace.

The only exception would be if your co-workers’ mess prevents you from doing your job. I want to be clear that being annoyed at your co-workers is not proof they are to be blamed for stalling your effectiveness.

When we’re frustrated at ways in which our co-workers are different, we’re responsible for learning tolerance if the difference is only affecting our attitude.

I’m not suggesting we have to feel thrilled when we notice differences due to gender, race, religion or politics. But, we’re not entitled to force everyone to see the world through our eyes or suffer a campaign to change their minds.

If your co-workers’ mess is actually making it impossible to get to your filing cabinet, answer your phone or use office equipment, you’ll need to have a chat. However, make sure you stick to describing the problem you’re having completing your work. Forget about saving them from their sloppy habits.

One of the most difficult challenges and the most valuable opportunities in the workplace is maintaining your efficiency even when co-workers annoy you.

If we end up constantly campaigning to convert everyone to our religion, our sexual orientation and our ethnic culture, we sabotage our own productivity. By developing tolerance, we can focus on getting our work done rather than making everyone our clone.

The last word(s)

Q. I’m a tax accountant who just met with a new client. He thinks the first few meetings should be free. How should I handle him?

A. Simply say, “You are the customer and have a right to interview accountants who give free advice. I do not.” Then let him decide.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube