Tips on dealing with dirty and careless people at the office ?
October 20, 2008 10:13 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my 'professional' co-workers to stop leaving food in the refrigerator for months? And how, in general, prevent them from being so careless?

I am the office coordinator/receptionist... which translates into 'receiving complaints about the office'.

Our office has about 35-40 people in the office. Mostly male engineers.

We have one fridge in the kitchen (which I don't use and now cannot see how other people can use it) and currently I am receiving a lot of complaints about how the fridge smells horrible and there's food in there from several months ago.
A former employee got sick of it and cleaned it out but within a month there was already expired food.

Other issues people complain about are people leaving dirty dishes in the sink, spilling/dropping stuff and not picking it up, rifiling through the supply cabinets and dropping bins of supplies and leaving them on the floor, etc.

Anyone have any tips on controlling filthy people who think their wives are magically going to clean up after them here at work?

I mean, I know it can't be totally controlled... but just wondering if anyone had any tips or ideas.
posted by KogeLiz to Work & Money (46 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is a pandemic across the USA. The office coordinator here got OK from the HR director to put a notice on the fridge stating that every Friday anything that wasn't clearly marked and dated from that week would be mercilessly tossed. It worked for us.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:19 AM on October 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Yep, we have a written rule: "everything but unopened pop cans gets thrown away on Friday at 4:00."

Including tupperware, or even glass containers. Marking with dates didn't work for us (no one did it) so we trash everything.
posted by peep at 10:21 AM on October 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Our work fridge gets cleaned out every few weeks. One person is responsible for kitchen cleanliness (usually the newest hire), and she leaves a note on the fridge door for a couple of days before she cleans it, then she just tosses everything that's obviously not current. There's a hard and fast rule and you MUST do your dishes, but other than that, I think having someone who's responsible for tidying the kitchen every morning will go a long, long way. Do you have an intern or temp or someone who could do that? I hate to say it, but if you're the only admin person, it might fall on you. Not that it's your job, or that it should be, but someone's gotta do it...
posted by robinpME at 10:22 AM on October 20, 2008


What Burhanistan said. You need someone with a reasonable level of seniority and fearlessness to leave notices all over the kitchen in ALL CAPS and send emails every so often, telling people their food will be ditched and to fill the dishwasher and not be filthy children. Our office manager does this.
posted by jamesonandwater at 10:22 AM on October 20, 2008


Yeah, that's what we do - every other Friday, I think, the fridge gets cleaned out of all perishables. An email goes out on the Monday and Wednesday of that week, and whatever's left in the fridge that isn't mustard or jam or that kind of thing gets tossed. People learned pretty quickly.

The dishes-in-the-sink thing I can't help with; we have a dishwasher that is right next to the sink and people still leave dishes in the sink. I grumble loudly when I put things in the dishwasher. It doesn't change behavior, but it makes me feel better.
posted by rtha at 10:23 AM on October 20, 2008


We have the same deal with a kitchen cleanout every few weeks. We have an office gopher type person whose job it is. Note that mostly the stinky food is left in there not because people are genuinely trying to be lazy and uncaring, but they just forgot that they had put leftovers in the fridge.

As for the dirty dishes problem, if there is no suitable employee to do this task, then you could try putting everyone in the office on a rota. Or do you have a cleaning crew at night?
posted by Joh at 10:26 AM on October 20, 2008


I would enforce a similar rule for dishes. "If it's in the sink at 5:00, it's in the trash at 5:01."
posted by DWRoelands at 10:26 AM on October 20, 2008


At the last place I worked, we had a rotating schedule of kitchen cleaners. Every day, there was one person assigned to pick up any trash people had left (not take it out; we had a janitorial staff) and one person assigned to put dishes in the dishwasher. It took 10 minutes, tops.

At my current job, we have a cleaning staff that takes care of the trash left on tables every day, but like previous posters, everything in the fridge & freezer is thrown out once a week whether it's "good" or not. Our main problem is people stealing each other's food (REALLY! I mean, WTF??). We haven't solved that one yet.
posted by desjardins at 10:27 AM on October 20, 2008


If you have the kind of office where people "pitch in", put a sign up sheet on the fridge asking everyone to take a Friday. Each person's responsible for tossing unlabeled food on "their" Friday, and maybe giving the shelves a quick wipe down.

This could work for dishes, too, if the task is to load the dishwasher. I think it would be pretty unreasonable to make everyone hand wash each other's dishes, though.
posted by juliplease at 10:28 AM on October 20, 2008


Can you call an all-staff meeting and remind people not to be asshats? Because some of this stuff, like not picking up things they've dropped, is just idiotic.

Rules for the Office Fridge:

1) Label your food with your name and the date when you put it into the fridge. If it is a condiment or other long-term storage item (salad dressing, canned soda, frozen TV dinners, etc.), you may write "LONG-TERM," but you must still date it.

2) Throw away your own items when they get old, and take your tupperware home when you're done with it

3) The fridge will be cleaned out every Friday. Fridge cleaning rotates on a schedule, and you must either clean on your day or con someone else into cleaning for you, or else you lose the privilege of using the fridge for the next month (i.e., your items are automatically tossed if anyone sees them).

4) If your item is unlabeled, or if the label indicates that it is more than a week old, or if it is a long-term item more than 6 months old, it goes into the garbage. We don't care if it was your grandmother's casserole dish; if you wanted it, you should have labeled it or taken it home.

Rules for the Office Sink:
1) If your dishes are in the sink at 5pm, they will be thrown away.
posted by decathecting at 10:32 AM on October 20, 2008


Nthing the responses above. Your office needs a regular process for cleaning the kitchen. People don't always do this for themselves (not that they're slobby or mean ... sometimes you just get wrapped up in working and let things slide).

Suggestions from my experience:

- Assign a pair of people to do the cleanup (so it's not just all on one person's head, and so that the responsibility rotates)
- Randomly pick these people and post the assignments in full view far in advance (so that people can swap days if they need to)
- These people clean the kitchen: microwave, sink, countertops, etc.
- They also clean out the fridge, sending email in advance to everyone ("it's fridge cleaning day! If your food does not have a label it's going in the bin")
- They could pitch old scary things from the fridge on cleaning day or put all of the scary/unclaimed things on one shelf and remind people to claim them (then pitch them several days later)
posted by cadge at 10:35 AM on October 20, 2008


I'm a 'male 'ngineer'. As much as I love signs being posted by people who think they're my mom, there IS a reasonable solution to this problem:

If it bothers you, clean it up. If not, let it go.

Your priorities are clearly in the minority. Find a way for you to work around the situation, rather than attempting to control others.

Note: this advice has fallen on deaf ears for the last two decades. It has led to signs, rules, tantrums and all manner of lectures. Nobody has ever been able to force their will on the others for more than a short period of time. Perhaps this can be a learning opportunity for you. Perhaps not.
posted by stubby phillips at 10:42 AM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


'male engineer', even.
posted by stubby phillips at 10:42 AM on October 20, 2008


What peep said goes for our company, too.
Every Friday, like clockwork, irregardless of any circumstances, everything gets thrown out. Tupperwear, silverwear, unopened cans and boxes, EVERYTHING.
It only took a week or two before those things (the fridges) became spotless and not a freakin' mold festival.
posted by willmize at 10:43 AM on October 20, 2008


Another suggestion, if you think the cleanup dishwasher rota won't work, just remove all proper plates, cups etc from the kitchen and replace them with paper cups and plates. Not very environmentally friendly, but no need for anyone to load the dishwasher anymore. Reserve for last resort if your people really can't be turned around on the cleanup issue.

Oh one more, put up a fake security camera pointed at the kitchen area, and one of those warning stickers with a picture of an eye on it. I think this was discussed elsewhere on mefi in the past, but apparently at the vague idea that they might be being watched on a security camera, people suddenly clean up their behaviour. It's a mean move, but it might be fun to try it out for a week and see if it makes a difference :D
posted by Joh at 10:46 AM on October 20, 2008



I'm a 'male 'ngineer'. As much as I love signs being posted by people who think they're my mom, there IS a reasonable solution to this problem:


Yes, remove the 'frig from the kitchen.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:49 AM on October 20, 2008


Rotating schedule seems like one of the best options because it makes cleanliness into everyone's problem. If you know that you will have to take a turn at the cleaning, you're less likely to be a pig yourself, because that will quite likely come back to haunt you.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm with the "just throw it out" crowd. Friday at 5:00pm, anything remotely perishable goes in the garbage. Every day at 5:00pm, dirty dishes get tossed.

Stubby is right, you can't legislate common courtesy, but you can make it clear that you consider food left in the fridge over the weekend and dishes left overnight to be abandoned and deal with them accordingly.
posted by indyz at 10:52 AM on October 20, 2008


Looks like there are lots of solutions suggested for the food issue, for the supply cabinet - move it near you / behind you and lock it so that you have to act as the gatekeeper. It can be a bit of a pain, but if they have to get a key from you every single time to open/close the cabinet, the fact they have to re-lock it after might encourage them to be a bit more careful?
posted by perpetualstroll at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2008


Steal their food. They'll care about it a lot more if they have to be protective of it.
posted by valadil at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Similar solution at my job--stuff still in the fridge after closing on Friday winds up in the trash. Period. I'm not sure who does it, but at my last job, it did fall to the person who it bothered. It didn't take long for people to notice.

You might also send an automated email reminder half an hour before closing on Fridays to remind people who legitimately forget, as well as posting the notice on the fridge itself.

If all else fails, could you get a small dorm fridge for your office/area, and use it for your stuff only? My boss does this--her food doesn't get stolen and her fridge doesn't smell icky.

The supply closet thing is a separate issue--clearly, there are some entitled people in your office, and their supervisors need to figure out a way to address these issues with the offendors directly.
posted by purplecurlygirl at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2008


Any food that is unlabeled should be considered fair game to be eaten or discarded by anyone. If your coworker wants to have that burrito later, he'd better label it. And when it grows fur, you'll know who's reponsible.
posted by reeddavid at 11:07 AM on October 20, 2008


You can't. And you can't have a clean break room without either forcing the cleaning task off on an employee or paying a maid service.

When our lunchroom got this bad, the office manager threw everything in it away and locked it so no-one could use it. About a month later, it was reopened and about three months later, it was disgusting again.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:08 AM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyone have any tips on controlling filthy people who think their wives are magically going to clean up after them here at work?

they don't think that, they just don't think it's their responsibility to clean up a place that isn't theirs. if the employer provides facilities, the employer has the duty to keep them sanitary. one employee needs to be assigned the task of cleaning said fridge on a regular basis just like it would be with the restroom. cleaning personal might be a good choice. print a large sign reading ALL ITEMS IN HERE WILL BE DISCARDED EVERY FRIDAY and do just that combined with a good scrubbing. it'll take two weeks and then everyone will have gotten it. don't forget the freezer.

you cannot fault employees for using the facilities and not cleaning them when that is not part of their job description. of course things will get dirty when numerous people use them. all it takes is for one person to drop a single crumb and given enough such instances you have a massive mess within two hours. that is what crowds do and that is why the employees in restaurants and cafes have to clean all the time. hang out at starbucks for an hour if you don't believe me how destructive crowds can be.

I understand your frustration but I would be very careful about griping and moaning too loudly about this. doing so will lead you to be ostracized by this group as the germ nazi even though you have reason to be miffed. tread lightly, be diplomatic. don't ambush people in the kitchen. it's easy to fall into that role but with every person you antagonize you lose job security. imagine people leaving the company because "the office coordinator is such an..." that won't happen more than twice before you get called in for a meeting.
posted by krautland at 11:12 AM on October 20, 2008


Nthing the "thrown out every Friday" rule or variant thereof, and the "thrown out every day" rule for dishes left in the sink. Get a few people together, march over to HR or the boss, and volunteer this solution. Anyplace I've ever worked, the throwing out and cleaning up has been assigned to the cleaning crew that swoops in overnight.

stubby phillips is part of the problem, not part of the solution, ignore.
posted by beagle at 11:23 AM on October 20, 2008


Throwing things out works extremely well, but if you cannot outsource the task to an overnight cleaning crew then you must take care to be absolutely ruthless and punctual. Any flexibility/variability, and people will try to game the system. Then you're just setting yourself up for horrible intra-office politics.

If anything gets tossed, it all gets tossed. No matter who it belongs to, no matter how expensive it looks.

...executing this with ruthless efficiency requires buy-in from someone in power, and a brief period of "fair warning" to all involved. Don't spring it on them on Thursday, for example. Give them a week to get used to the idea.
posted by aramaic at 11:44 AM on October 20, 2008


I don't understand why companies generally pay someone to clean some common areas but not others. It's as if they thrive on the drama it causes. So many of the answers above involving schedules and notes and throwing away things whether they're good or bad will increase the level of drama in the workplace. If you have 35-40 employees why doesn't one of them clean the place? How hard is this really?

Why was it important to tell us it's male engineers anyway?

Throwing away good stuff like reusable containers and leftovers that someone means to eat Monday is just stupid and vindictive. "Getting a few people together" and having them "marching" around demanding this and that from their bosses makes a workplace suck. It's childish and overly-dramatic. (beagle is part of the problem, not part of the solution, ignore.)
posted by fritley at 11:52 AM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Throwing away good stuff like reusable containers and leftovers that someone means to eat Monday is just stupid and vindictive.

There's a saying I'm fond of: Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by carelessness. There's a lot of easy corollaries to this, and you should mind this one: don't call the most effective and simple solution vindictive just because it disadvantages some people.

In 20 years in the workforce I've never seen any solution other than "X time at Y day, everything gets tossed" work, even in situations where someone was assigned to spend notable time policing things. Well, other than simply stopping providing any services for employees.

Asking for a workplace that is clean and pleasant isn't childish or dramatic. It's certainly possible to do the asking in a childish and dramatic way, just as it's possible to respond that way to the people doing the asking. However a calm and reasoned statement to everyone that there's an ongoing problem with old food and this is the solution can work just fine.

Anyone who takes issue with the basic rules regarding using the communal fridge can get themselves a small soft-sided cooler and lug ice packs back and forth. You can soften the blow by saying that any re-usable container in the fridge with a name on it will be brought to the person. If they don't care enough to put a piece of masking tape on something OR remove it from the fridge then what more can you do?
posted by phearlez at 12:21 PM on October 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


you cannot fault employees for using the facilities and not cleaning them when that is not part of their job description

Sure you can. There is no maid in an office building. Nor is there a wife, mother, butler, housekeeper or dish drone. It's every wo/man for his/herself and everyone knows that, they're just being irresponsible and selfish because there are no consequences to their behavior. No one is bringing it up in divisional meetings, no one notes it during your annual review. (Of course, the people who are most likely to notice it and/or receive complaints about it are the low people on the totem pole, like support staff like KogeLiz.)

You're an adult. You know how it goes. You use dishes/cutlery, you wash them. You spill sugar by the coffeemaker, you wipe it up. (Similarly, if you drain the coffee carafe, you take two minutes to start a new pot brewing.) If you put something in the fridge, you don't leave it in there to grow a penicillin colony. No one should have to tell well educated adults these things, and it's pathetic that people are making excuses that being a decent, cooperative adult isn't in their job description so they won't do it.

KogeLiz, put up a sign. Tell people that they must be responsible for their own things or they will be trashed. Follow up. Get the office manager or facilities people on board. Make sure other support staffers aren't cleaning up after their people and letting them out of their obligations. Ride herd on them like children, since they're determined to act that way.

And ask for a raise for doing so, because it's not in your job description to do it, either.
posted by Dreama at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


One variant to the Toss It All On Fridays plan, if that's too direct for you, is something they did at my last workplace. Periodically they put out signs saying they had to defrost the fridges and to get all your stuff out by Friday. Maybe there was a real need and maybe that was their way of avoiding any conflict about the issue. So maybe your fridge could gradually or suddenly develop this... need to be defrosted.
posted by Askr at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2008


Hire cleaning staff and post a "everything is thrown out on Fridays" sign. Otherwise, you're succumbing to the notion that admin/reception is responsible for cleaning up after people. You're a professional and you shouldn't need to clean up after people. Although many people will say that people should share the facilities, it simply doesn't work that way. Many people have maid services at home or grew up with maid services. Many people live at home into their late 20s and have a parent (or cleaner) who tidies up. Others have roommates or SOs who clean up after them. And still other people figure it's not their problem. Then there's the problem of people who use other people's dishes and don't clean them. So, just assign cleaning staff the duty. They probably make less per hour than anyone else in the company, so it's the most effective use of resources, if people don't clean up after themselves. (And if they are spending that clean up time on work, it may still be the best situation).
posted by acoutu at 12:48 PM on October 20, 2008


If it bothers you, clean it up. If not, let it go.

Your priorities are clearly in the minority. Find a way for you to work around the situation, rather than attempting to control others.


Re-read the question. I do not use the fridge. It's about a dozen people that come to me complaining about it. My priorities are apparently not in the minority according to the answers/advice given. I am not attempting to control others. I am trying to control the stench, possible rats and insects. And I'm trying to come up with a solution for the employees who are frustrated.

Why was it important to tell us it's male engineers anyway?
I was giving a background on the people who work here. As in, I don't work in a call center with 18 year old kids. Therefore, advice given can be tailored to dealing with male professional (engineers) adults.


I understand your frustration but I would be very careful about griping and moaning too loudly about this. doing so will lead you to be ostracized by this group as the germ nazi even though you have reason to be miffed. tread lightly, be diplomatic. don't ambush people in the kitchen. it's easy to fall into that role but with every person you antagonize you lose job security. imagine people leaving the company because "the office coordinator is such an..." that won't happen more than twice before you get called in for a meeting.

Oh, I have actually never used the fridge and I've been in the kitchen about 5 times in two years. I don't moan too loudly at all. My point is that I have people coming to ME complaining... and I would like to put an end to it.

---

also:
-we do not have a dishwasher.
-I would guess about 1/4 of the office uses the fridge. A lot of people are out in the field for a day to months at a time... so a rotating schedule would be a pain in the ass. I believe everyone would get pissed (including myself) that they have to clean up rotting food despite never having used the fridge.

I think I'm going to have my manager bring it up at a meeting. And then I'll make some "friendly" reminders on the fridge/kitchen.
I doubt anyone here would give a shit enough to take their turn to clean.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:51 PM on October 20, 2008


Hire cleaning staff and post a "everything is thrown out on Fridays" sign. Otherwise, you're succumbing to the notion that admin/reception is responsible for cleaning up after people.
So, just assign cleaning staff the duty. They probably make less per hour than anyone else in the company, so it's the most effective use of resources, if people don't clean up after themselves.


Well, we have an office of 30-40 people (about 25 in the office all the time). We're on one floor of an office building. There is a cleaning guy that comes in and cleans the bathrooms and empties the trash for all the offices in the building. Cleaning our fridge and sink is not in the contract agreement and I am not sure if we can get building management to make a special request. hmm..
posted by KogeLiz at 1:18 PM on October 20, 2008


[a few comments removed - take back and forth snark to email please.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:27 PM on October 20, 2008



you cannot fault employees for using the facilities and not cleaning them when that is not part of their job description

What? wow. Maybe this is how these types of people think.
What do job descriptions have to do with anything?
It’s not in my job description to get on the elevator in the morning, but I don’t expect someone to carry me to my desk. It is in my job description to use an inside voice, but I do. It's not in my job description to flush the toilet either.
The only obligation an employer has is to allow you to leave the office for break, they don’t NEED to give you space for your break. Therefore it is nice to keep that space nice

Thanks for the insight, though. I am always curious to see other people see things and act the way they do. (in general)
posted by KogeLiz at 1:30 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's probably also illustrative to note this bit from an earlier (now deleted) comment:

Given the state of your refrigerator, however, I definitely think your priorities are in the minority.

This is, in my opinion, a false conclusion since it doesn't take very many people putting things in and not removing them to quickly overwhelm the majority. However the offenders and/or the inconvenienced on average aren't going to see things from the big picture. To them it's just one item they left there.

This is why any approach will work best when it's completely cold and impersonal and consistent. Making exceptions reinforces the "it's just one thing" feeling and makes it seem all the more punitive when enforcement DOES happen later.
posted by phearlez at 1:39 PM on October 20, 2008


If it bothers you, clean it up. If not, let it go.

I, too, am a male engineer. Perhaps I can help you understand why people consider this advice unhelpful.

So there I am in a hypothetical small office kitchen, and I've got a dirty plate which I want to wash. However, somebody has left some things in the sink, such that I can't fit my plate in to wash it. It's a small kitchen, with nowhere to put the stuff from the sink while I use the sink. There is no dishwasher.

Your advice, as I read it, is that I should clean someone else's dishes.

Am I misinterpreting your advice?
posted by Mike1024 at 1:50 PM on October 20, 2008


Skipping the discussion, what has worked in my experience for the fridge problem is this:
Two fridges. Anything that hasn't been moved from FRIDGE1 to FRIDGE2 by friday closing is tossed according to the rules above. Allows for peoples ketchup, butter and other long-term consumables to stay if they move them, but takes care of the stuff that noone takes responsibility for. Also, switching on a weekly basis means a quick wipe is enough to keep them clean. The cost is worth the lack of aggrivation and lost time to people bitching.
posted by Iteki at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2008


Your advice, as I read it, is that I should clean someone else's dishes.

Well, that's how it works in my office. Sometimes I wash/rinse dishes in the sink and put them in the dishwasher, sometimes someone else does it. If I had to do it every single time I'd get irritated and bitch about it (but that's just me), and/or throw the dishes out.

Fortunately, my office seems to have mostly been successful in building a culture of "be an adult and clean up after yourself, and sometimes after other people, too." Life isn't fair, and sometimes being an adult means doing something that isn't your "job."
posted by rtha at 2:13 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sadly, this has been an issue at every job I've had (and I've had several careers). We have had weekly kitchen duty (clean the coffee pot and the fridge). People were still messy. I have lost faith in people and believe that there will always be at least ONE person who refuses to be an adult and keep things tidy.

We emptied the fridge every week; people still leave a mess. Heck, they even put frozen smoothies IN THE FRIDGE and never reclaimed them! Then they'd get knocked over, spill all over, and I'd end up cleaning up sticky smoothie remains from the walls/shelves of the fridge.

When I was a manager, I would throw fits, post signs, threaten to lock the fridge and fill the sink with cement (no disposal, yet they dumped food in it). Neither kindness nor threats seem to work.

At my current job, leaving your exploded/spilled food in the microwave is also an issue (in addition to sink/fridge issues). Management even proposed disciplinary action as a consequence of leaving a mess.

In every case, we knew who the main culprit was. But aside from threatening to fire them (which I assume is illegal), nothing works. They simply don't care. No amount of confrontation (well, I never actually shouted at them) made them clean up the next time. They just leave it knowing someone else will have to use the sink/microwave/fridge before their next meal and will have to clean it up then.

Whoa...I'm fired up just thinking about it! Let me know if you find something that works!
posted by cherie72 at 2:26 PM on October 20, 2008


I worked at a company that assigned a weekly schedule to each department and made managers enforce it - so IT had to clean the break room/fridge every day at 3pm for a week, then the next week it was accounting, and so on. There are a lot of levels of re-enforcement with this system. I hated the interruption during our weeks, because IT was on call pretty much 24 hours a day and I didn't use the break room, so it irked me to be interrupted from work every afternoon for a week - but on the flip side, our break room was tidy and it was a shared responsibility. And when you have five people cleaning up, it takes ten minutes tops, if you're doing it consistently. And if accounting does a shit job during their week, their manager takes the flak for it, and they don't usually repeat it. That was effective. This went along with the "if it's in the fridge on Friday at 3pm it's getting tossed" method. Also effective.
posted by annathea at 2:55 PM on October 20, 2008


What? wow. Maybe this is how these types of people think.
What do job descriptions have to do with anything?
It’s not in my job description to get on the elevator in the morning, but I don’t expect someone to carry me to my desk.


KogeLiz: I realize you are just being snide but I'll assume you are trying to understand this and will thus explain once again: this feels to the employees as if they are asked to do a task for the company. they do not see the mess as their own because they feel they individually only contributed a negligible amount to it, if at all. they do not think of this as cleaning up after themselves but cleaning for you. I suspect their own offices/cubicles look much cleaner, so they do in fact clean up when they do accept personal responsibility.

there is a lot of hostility in this thread and in OP. this is the stuff for endless drama. I'd love it if I were a filmmaker producing a documentary about this workplace but I'd loathe having to work there.

the only way to get along is to try to understand the motivations of the other side. my attempt was to explain just that. if you choose to not even try to empathize, you're setting yourself up for failure.

for the record: a department with thirty employees unwilling to hire a cleaning person to take care of a communal space once per week is just cheap and lacks proper management.
posted by krautland at 3:02 PM on October 20, 2008


Your advice, as I read it, is that I should clean someone else's dishes.

Am I misinterpreting your advice?


Slightly. In that situation, I suggest that you follow my advice: If it bothers you, sure, go ahead and do the dishes. It won't take long and you've effectively done everybody a favor. If it doesn't bother you, don't do the dishes. I do think you might want to use your engineering ingenuity to clean your own dish, but I'm not gonna get my panties in a twist if you pile it on the stack.

This is a much simpler problem than the fridge, though. If the stench bothers you so much that you DO decide to clean it up, there will be many food articles which constitute gray areas (no pun intended). For each of these, however, just rerun the algorithm: If it bothers you, clean it up, if not, let it go. If they don't stink or have hair, let 'em go. If they do, and it bothers you, clean it up.

The final advice that I neglected to add is this: If you can't do it cheerfully, don't do it at all.

In the case of the original Asker, it seems as if it's not her responsibility to clean up the fridge. She doesn't use the fridge, so it probably shouldn't bother her. On the other hand, people are complaining to her about the state of the fridge. She has two choices: If it bothers her, clean it up. If not, give that advice to the complainers: If it bothers you, clean it up. If not, let it go (stop complaining to me).
posted by stubby phillips at 3:08 PM on October 20, 2008


It's tough to be an admin because everyone expects you to have all the answers but they give you no power to effect any changes. I've had about 6 years of admin-experience with a variety of weirdo bosses and types of academics. My usual practice would be to reply, "Why are you complaining to me? I'm not a maid, and I don't even use the break room!" but it sounds like we have different styles.

So, answer two: I'd document complaints, then go to my boss and say, "Look, in the past month, 20 people have complained to me that the break room is dirty. How do you want me to respond to these complaints?" Then the onus is on your boss to come up with a way to get it fixed. If the answer ends up being a new cleaning regimen for you, then you have a chance to negotiate with your boss on what tasks are required for your job ("Well, boss, I'm happy to spend 4 hours a week cleaning if this is part of my job. Which of my other tasks will you reassign to other staff in order to make time for cleaning? Or shall I simply put in for 4 hours of overtime a week?"). You may also be directed to put up notes, or start a rotating cleaning schedule, or hire a maid. Whatever you do, though, the decision has the power of the boss behind it, so people will comply even though it's coming from you.
posted by holyrood at 4:13 PM on October 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


That was a great answer to the truly essential question.

You could get them to sign their complaints on a clipboard you keep on your desk. That would be fun. If they won't sign, they also won't come back.
posted by stubby phillips at 4:36 PM on October 20, 2008


Provide sharpies. Put up a sign that all food must be labeled with date & name or it will be tossed. If stuff gets smelly, notify the owner. Toss anything unlabeled as you please.

Not all of us leave at 5. Toss dishes 1st think in the morning.

In asmall way, it's the tragedy of the commons. People don't care for shared resources.
posted by theora55 at 7:01 PM on October 20, 2008


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