Interruptions at Work

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,

My cubicle happens to be right next to the copier room.  I am asked all the time to make copies or to fix a paper jam.  I’m happy to help, but this isn’t part of my job description.  What do I do? 

Dear “Rob Schneider,” (SNL reference… “makin’ copies…”)

Ahhh… the rumblings and beeping noises of the copy machine!   

It’s one thing to help a co-worker in a jam (…  a “paper jam” in this case), but to constantly be asked to repair the machine, help load paper, and troubleshoot as if you’re the resident technician is too much.  My advice is to hang a sign near the trusty machine (or even on the outer wall of your cubicle) that says, “For help with the copy machine, please contact ______” and leave the name of someone in Facilities (or whatever department applies). 

If the problem gets really out of hand, you could address the issue with your boss and ask to be moved.  Seems a little extreme, but it may solve the problem… and you may score a better cubicle space or even an office out of the deal!

Readers! Please post your comments, or share any fun / interesting “copy machine” stories you may have.  We’d love to hear from you, but please…  keep it clean!


10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tgibbs21
    Jul 05, 2011 @ 11:18:29

    Tell them that this is not your job and that you will show them how to fix it when something goes wrong they can call this number.


  2. m. capriola
    Jun 20, 2011 @ 06:17:53

    It’s nice to be able to help out, but the best way could be to show the co-worker how to fix it themselves for the next time. Remember: Give a man a match and you keep him warm for a minute; set him on fire and you keep him warm the rest of his life.

    Another option is to say, “I’ll be glad to help/ take a look at it/ fix it as soon as I finish this project I’m working on and meet my deadline.” They may then go to someone else.


  3. Robin
    Jun 15, 2011 @ 19:21:41

    I have been in this situation and find myself in a similar state in my current position. The problem isn’t that you don’t want to help…you don’t want to be the “fix it” person for any and all to use and abuse to get out of doing it themselves. Proximity does not mean ownership!
    If someone is close to the bathrooms They wouldn’t be expected to fix leaks, overflows, drips, TP or paper towel replenishment, office services, housekeeping or maintenance would be called to take care of the problem. All that our “Rob” is asking is for the same to be done for the copier issues. I believe it is a fair request to be taken off the call list!
    My solution was to post instructions at the machines for “un-jambing, changing paper size, clearing other common issues, and the service phone number with contact information and copier info required by the provider. This has worked in the past and I hope it works for me in my new position!


  4. gerson delgado
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 17:17:54

    if it is your responsibility to fix the printer can not touch it, because it violates the security policy of the IT department, you are wasting your time on an activity that does not belong and could get him out of work for dealing with matters not paid for it. could only talk to your supervisor about the issue and if allowed could do something, so any problem would be the boss.


  5. Tammy Gibbs
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 17:16:17

    I would ask to be moved and tell them that I do not mind but don’t think I will do this all the time. I have my own job to do.


  6. Kimberly
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 14:20:19

    I think that sometimes co-workers take advantage of people that they work with. I am sure that the people asking this person to do their bidding all the time are lazy. How long have they been employed there and no how to fix copiers themselves and to put in a work order to have it repaired. Come on use a little common sense.


  7. Eddie
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 13:01:27

    Dear Rob;

    Why don’t you post a sign outside your cubical….

    “There will be a fee for copying anything you request @ a $1.00 per sheet!

    Then they will get the message!

    Have fun….



  8. Nancy Jo Perdue
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 09:49:17


    In the last place I worked, the supervisor came to me one morning and asked if I had problems with the copy machine the previous afternoon. I said, “No.”

    He said, “It isn’t working now. I can’t figure out what’s wrong. Can you come look and then call to get someone out to repair it.?”

    I followed him into the copy room to see what the machine was doing. I instantly noticed he didn’t realize the machine was turned off.

    Nancy Jo Perdue


  9. Angela
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 08:33:52

    Ever heard of TEAMWORK? You were hired to work. What is the problem with helping a co-worker? Have you taken the time to show your co-worker how to fix the problems she is having with the copier? I would not hire a person that could not be a team player or one that states, “That is not my job.” I expect more from an employee.


  10. James Phillips
    Jun 14, 2011 @ 08:27:49

    Anita, I’ve had this type of thing happen in the past myself, and I think you were spot on with your response. Something too that I’ve found useful as well is to maybe politely say, I’ll help you out and show you what I do, so that way when it happens, you can try to fix it. Sometimes it’s a matter of people not being shown the procedure involved.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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