A reader writes:

My boss, who is a lawyer, is of the opinion that everything on my desk and in my office is his and game. It doesn’t matter if I bought it, brought it from home, or that I don’t need germs spread around the office — he believes he use and can touch EVERYTHING.

Due to COVID-19 (and, actually, even before that), I’ve asked him repeatedly not to use my desk and the things on it. He says he’ll stop but he doesn’t. I’ve found chewed pens, chewed food, and spilled drinks on my desk. It happens daily. This is a guy whose wife covers all of the furniture in their house because he is such a slob. It’s just gross.

He told me yesterday because his hands are dry and “because of arthritis,” he actually licks his hands so he can keep a grip on his pen (!!) . He puts work papers in his mouth, and they have bite marks on them. Ewww!

I have certain types of pens on my desk that I purchased and can inform the writing apart from his ink pen, and I have noticed he uses them (I sanitized them and everything else).

He has his own office and provides, so I’m not certain why he does this, besides my desk is cleaner than his. I’ve taken all my supplies off my desk and kept them in my car before so he won’t touch them, have left enormous notes on legal size file folders requesting that my desk not be used, covered my desk, closed my door — nothing works!

The majority of these habits are just that — habits. I’m not sure he can stop doing any of these things. He’s the owner so there’s absolutely no one over him or an HR to visit. Short of setting mouse traps, I’m unsure how to get the point across that these behaviours are gross and show a lack of respect for anybody else in the office. Any advice?

Ewww, your boss is gross.

I don & rsquo, although you & rsquo; re understandably looking for a way to get through to him;t think you&rsquo. This man is disgusting, you’ve talked to him and immediately asked him to stop multiple times, and it’s not making any difference. You may continue to talk about it, but it seems like it’s going to be a lot of breath.

It’s not that you harbor ’t landed on the one amazing script which will convince him or the one argument. It’s he doesn’t care.  And yes, it’s particularly unacceptable while there’s a virus that is highly infectious but he doesn’t care.

With no one there with any power over him, there’s no way to force him to comply with basic hygiene or common courtesy, no OSHA regulation you may cite, etc..

So, because you can’t rely upon him for a solution, I’d focus on what you can control on your side to block his access to your stuff. I would attempt to leave nothing in your desk.

* Keep your pens somewhere he can’t access, like your handbag.

* keep your supplies in there and Get a desk with a drawer.

* Place your stuff somewhere rsquo & he;s not very likely to look for it. Can you bring out a decorative box or book and store your items in there, figuring he won & rsquo; t think to open it? (Make it a boring book. Better yet, use a tampon box.)

* Purchase a file box that is locking or a lockbox. Get it reimbursed as an office cost. Don’t give him the code or key.

Obviously, these are all measures that will make things convenient for you. But they might be.

As soon as you’ve removed off your desk, you could also try leaving out something that’s specifically for him — like a holder of pens that you don’t care if he touches/chews/licks. If those are the only ones he sees, he’ll probably use those (and be less likely to go looking on your desk), and you may just consider them Bob’s Gross Pens.

That doesn’t address the chewed food (wtf?) Or the carbonated beverages. You might need to keep a massive supply of disinfectant around (again, the office should pay) and routinely wipe off your desk.

To be clear, it’s not okay or sensible that you must do this, but since you’re essentially working for an infant, this might be the only practical reaction. (But perhaps you can also inform him that you’ll want a raise to make these inconvenient measures worthwhile.)

And be thankful you’re not sharing a toilet with him.