Q: My colleague makes a big song and dance about training for his marathon. He gets to take longer lunch breaks and leaves work early so that he can run home. I know it's for charity but his running fervour and short hours are getting on my nerves. I don't know how much more I can take without strangling him with his trainer laces.
Jeremy Bullmore: Deeply irritating colleagues seem to be an almost inescapable part of office life. There are hummers and sniffers and snackers and prattlers; but, usually, by an almighty effort of will, it's possible to become immune to them. The alternative is to allow your mild irritation to escalate into a mind-squatting obsession that leaves you incapable of normal thought.
You may find it helpful to make a distinction between this colleagues's fervour for running and his time-keeping. Unless his long lunch breaks and early departures have a direct impact on your own workload, in which case you have every right to bring it up with him, his time-keeping is a matter for his manager - not you. You must be very careful not to let your exasperation with his marathon preparations infect all your other judgements about him.
The good news, presumably, is that some time soon he'll run his wretched marathon - and can then be expected to resume more normal service. Until then, grin and bear it.
Is he hoping that you'll sponsor him, I wonder? That will be a test of your saintliness.
Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office? is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.