Office kitchen politics

State of play

Working in a team is a bit like the mother of all share houses.

You can’t afford a flat by yourself and while the camaraderie is great, your flatmates leave laundry in the washing machine, don’t do their household chores and play tragic music before breakfast.
You work because you need the money, and you might enjoy Friday stubbie club, but you also have to share physical space with people you wouldn’t necessarily get up front and personal with: 9 to 5.
Car parking, your work cubicle and the office kitchen are the sites of so much workplace stress they should be specifically recognised in the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995.
The office kitchen can turn good people crazy, and people who should know better, into slobs. That’s the power of anonymity. It’s not limited to chat sites and blogs. You can get away with all manner of inappropriate behaviour in the shared space that is the office kitchen.
‘HAA! I don’t have to clean up this mess! I don’t have to do anything I don’t want! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!’ It’s some kind of primal rebellion.
Yet office kitchen war continues to be waged against an unknown enemy.
A sign of the most recent kitchen meltdown
And it’s not even freakin’ news.

The rules of office kitchen etiquette have been described previously

The office equivalent of the Western front Anywhere tea and coffee is made and food can be prepared and eaten is contentious in the workplace.

We’re unlucky enough to have three: the kitchen proper; a lunch area on the ‘dark side’; and
a tea and coffee area on…well, on our side.
On any day at any of these sites, you can find one or more of the following:
  • Sandwich
    crumbs covering the bench top.
  • Tea, coffee and sugar canisters are, please select:
(A) Open
(B) Empty
(C) Contents spilled
(D) All of the above
  • Dirty dishes
  • Dirty wine glasses from Friday night’s Stubbie Club #notlimitedtoMonday
  • No milk, or a skerrick left left to avoid going down stairs to the shop.
Just one of the many signs in the kitchen office etiquette litany

It doesn’t stop there. Other challenges include:
  • unpacking and stacking the dishwasher (if in doubt, just add your dirty crockery to the clean load waiting patiently to be delivered to their cupboard home)
  • finding cutlery because it’s either hoarded in desk drawers or taken home to boost the domestic supply
  • removing the cheese ooze from a favourite toastie gracing the George Foreman grill
  • cleaning the explosion that was bolognaise/ tuna/ soup etc from the inside of the microwave
  • leaving dishes to soak in the sink for a few weeks because you are too busy to finish washing them or you want to make REALLY sure the food is soaked off
  • air drying your dishes because the effort to dry them and put them away is just too time consuming right now adding dirty dishes to the dishwasher full of clean dishes
  • abandoning dirty teaspoons on the sink for someone else to….
Eating other people’s lunch is not appropriate, even if it looks like your’s/looks better than your’s

There’s no justice – just us

Office kitchen politics have brought the most strategic and intelligent members of staff unstuck at some stage.
There was the famous episode when a delightful friend went a little nuts after her fork was pilfered. We’re not saying everyone on the floor was strip searched, but it was awkward.

There have been a plethora of signs – “If you use it, wash it up” “Don’t expect the kitchen fairies to clean up after you” “The next person found leaving their crap in the kitchen will be publicly humiliated” etc etc etc.

The latest office kitchen meltdown caused a almost nuclear reaction. The point being – it clearly is rocket science.
“If your opponent is of choleric temperament, seek to irritate them,” Sun Tzu 

“In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.” Sun Tzu

There is no simple solution but here are some things you can try. You can take the low road:

  • Lie in wait, ready to pounce, confront the perpetrator in action -‘Hey don’t put that empty milk carton back in the fridge! Get your sorry arse downstairs and get another!’#
  • Orchestrate a position where you are in charge of ordering tea and coffee supplies and hold them to ransom#.
  • Cover the kitchen in signs*.
  • Impose a kitchen cleaning roster*.
  • Collect a dossier of their crimes and use it against them????**

#Could be fun.
*Will not work.
**Okay, that’s just plain evil!

Or you can take the high road:

  • Buy coffee and lunch each day. Don’t go near the kitchen it’s a war zone!
  • Strategically place cleaning products around the kitchen to facilitate appropriate action. You want to see the potential good in people, then give them the tools to do the right thing.
  • Role model good kitchen behaviour, ‘Hey do you reckon the coffee needs refilling? Let me get that.’ Extending some kindness is not really going to hurt that much.
  • Take responsibility for yourself. Remember that other people aren’t you and don’t buy into how they approach office kitchen etiquette because it is as much their space as it is your space.

You can let it upset you or you can choose not to get involved. If you’re unfortunate enough to have more than one kitchen space, you’re fortunate enough to have another space to go make your cup of tea or heat your lunch.

And because you can’t win every war and there are some battles that are just not worth fight.

“Always forgive your enemies;
nothing annoys them so much.”

2 thoughts on “Office kitchen politics

  1. It doesn't matter if you have a big workplace or a small one the kitchen wars and worries will always be there. They also exist in any home with enough people. I hate a dirty kitchen and while I try to remind myself there are more important things to worry about I always fail – it pushes my irritation button immediately.

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