Thursday, June 25, 2015

Break Room Etiquette- Has anyone seen my ketchup?

Dear Workplace Wonda,
Kitchen utensils and condiments have been disappearing from my office.   I recently purchased (with my own money) forks and spoons and this week they are gone. I also have, in the past, bought ketchup and salad dressing, and they magically disappears when I need them.  I have a new boss and don’t know how to talk to him about this.  Can you please help?

Signed, Buyers Beware

Dear Buyers Beware,

Is nothing sacred?  Missing items out of the workplace break room is as mysterious as the “missing sock.”  You buy a “pair” but always end up with a “single!”  Where do they all go?  Somewhere in the world is the match to over a zillion orphaned socks.  Can’t we put a chip in them like we do our dogs and have a national hot line where you can report lost and found socks?  Or better yet, have a singles cruise where lonely socks can mingle and find the perfect or nearly perfect match!  Seriously, if anyone has seen a single ASICS women’s intensity athletic sock (Style #:  ZKD2035) in purple and white, size large, please tell it to come home.   

Focus, Workplace Wonda!  

O.K., I’m back.  Back to you and your missing ketchup.  Whether it is not washing your dishes, cleaning up after yourself, or swiping co-workers forks, it all comes down to workplace etiquette.  Behavior in the workplace often mirrors behavior in the home.  Hmmm, that gets me thinking.  Mr. Workplace Wonda never puts his coffee mug in the dishwasher at home.  I wonder if he leaves his coffee mug out at work.  I must investigate!   My point is, we spend so much time at the office and with our co-workers, and we tend to throw workplace etiquette right out with the carton of creamer Sandy stole from Janet last week. 

Now, you’re not saying, but I’m assuming, these items you have purchased are stored in the community break room.  I’m also assuming they were purchased for your use only since you are upset they are missing.  In my office, unless it is someone’s lunch or drink or has their name on it, it is considered community property.  That is why one of my co-workers hides a tub of tasty treats in her office.   She so correctly has surmised that if she puts the tub of candy out in the community break room, in public view of “those who shall remain nameless,” they will be quickly devoured.    If this is an option for you with the nonperishable items, you might consider storing them in your office and bringing them out when needed.
Another option is to post break room rules.  For example, in my office, a certain employee was forced to post the following:  Please clean up after yourself.  * Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink.  * Dry them and put them away.  Our kitchen will look so much nicer.    Does this work?  Yes!  But, can I tell you a little secret?  When she has the day off or on vacation, I freely leave my coffee mug in the sink, unwashed, not put away!  I giggle and laugh, and state for the whole office to hear, “Free at last, oh God almighty, we are free at last!”   I kid.   If there were no rules, we would sink into savagery like the schoolboys in “Lord of the Flies.”

How to address with a new boss is simple.  Instead of complaining, introduce possible solutions and ask your boss to place break room rules on your next meeting agenda.  This way, it becomes on office discussion and everyone can become a part of the solution. 

The only other option is to do what Elsa did in the movie “Frozen.”  Let it go….Let it go…

Signed, Workplace Wonda




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