Each week, Inc. staff writer Nadine Heintz (Miss Management) will help you tackle office etiquette problems both big and small.


Dear Miss Management,

I work in an office building where each floor has control of its own thermostat. Several people on my floor are constantly complaining that they are cold, while several others of us are always too warm. I dress in layers to try to combat this problem, but there are only so many layers that you can remove before your wardrobe becomes unprofessional! In the winter I can open my window to let some cool air in (until the draft becomes too much to deal with), but in the summer time it's unbearable. The people who complain that they are cold each have space heaters in their offices year round, but rather than turn them on, they often just adjust the thermostat that controls the temperature for the floor. Is there a temperature that is commonly considered a reasonable temperature for an office building? I would like to suggest that we set the thermostat to this temperature and leave it there, but don't know what temperature to suggest.

Sweltering in Pittsburgh


Dear SIP,

Take solace in the fact that I've had similar problems at every office I've ever worked in, and have spent a lot of time pondering the office temperature conundrum. In the summer, it's freezing. In the winter, it's like a tropical rain forest. Some offices have been worse than others, but all have been less than ideal. I think a big part of the problem is that it's difficult to regulate temperatures in large office buildings (and apartments, for that matter). Heating systems in older buildings seem to be a mere step above coal burning stoves. Chances are good that your company isn't about to pony up for an updated system. Luckily, there are some ways to deal with the problem. At my last job, the office manager was the only person allowed to touch the thermostat. At the time, it seemed a bit dictatorial. But now I see the wisdom in that edict. Ask one fair-minded person in your office (probably your boss or office manager) to take charge of the controls. Place a note by the thermostat asking people to consult with the boss before changing the temperature. Hopefully, whoever is in charge will keep the thermostat firmly planted in the middle range...68 to 70 degrees should be sufficient. Inevitably, the people who are always cold will opt to turn on their space heaters rather than pester the boss. As for overheaters like you, keep wearing layers and cracking the windows when needed. Of course, during the summer months, use a desk fan. Now get back to work!

Have a dilemma for Miss Management? Send her an e-mail and check back here Tuesdays for the answer.