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We have some shared resources at my workplace, namely:

  • the dishwasher
  • the coffee machine
  • the kitchen sink

and we have a policy on how to use them:

Dishwasher

  • If you have some dishes which need washing put them in the dishwasher
  • If the dishwasher is working don't open it, wash your stuff in the sink
  • If the dishwasher is full of clean cutlery either wash your stuff or empty the dishwasher then you can put your stuff in the dishwasher

The problem is that most of my colleagues adhere to this but there are some of them who just put their stuff in the sink without washing them, or put their dirty stuff in the dishwasher which is full of clean items.

The coffee machine has the same problem, although less severe: it sometimes needs filling with water, coffee, or emptying, but even if it displays what to do some people just ignore it so the next one to drink coffee has to do these.

My problem is that this behavior generates additional work and also contributes to friction between colleagues: sometimes people get annoyed, they talk about it all the time, but no solution emerged so far. In my opinion, this situation is a time sink and I'd like to figure out some solution which makes it go away.

What can I do?

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    @Whomever downvoted: care to explain? – Adam Arold Oct 15 '18 at 10:57
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    possibly a dupe of workplace.stackexchange.com/q/5980/647 – Rory Alsop Oct 15 '18 at 11:27
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    @AdamArold People will always be lazy and leave it for others to do, there's not really much you can do unless your management has something in place that says if you do such and such you will receive "x" – Twyxz Oct 15 '18 at 11:35
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    Not a direct answer, I know, but are these reasonably well-paid / highly-skilled workers? If so, it may well be more economical to employ a cleaner separately for a couple of hours per day, than to pay your workers $X/hr to do dishes (during which time, they are not, of course, doing their actual jobs). That would also solve the argument here. – Joe Stevens Oct 15 '18 at 13:18
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    Passive aggressive solution, the people that cleans it stop using it for a week – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 16 '18 at 0:43
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My problem is that this behavior generates additional work and also contributes to friction between colleagues: sometimes people get annoyed, they talk about it all the time, but no solution emerged so far. In my opinion, this situation is a time sink and I'd like to figure out some solution which makes it go away.

What can I do?

Designate one person each week of take care of the dishwasher, coffee machine, and sink. That person keeps them neat, empties the dishwasher, cleans them at the end of the day, etc.

Rotate this assignment weekly, so that everyone in the office takes a turn.

That should remove any friction.

I've seen this work very well in one (small) office where I worked. One of the slob employees even got the hint and started being far more tidy after taking a turn in the cleanup role.

For extra "points" make sure folks at the top set a great example by taking their turns as well. I've seen this be extremely effective in one company where I worked.

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  • Collateral damage I suppose. – Adam Arold Oct 15 '18 at 12:24
  • I'm in a rather large company and we have the scrum teams assigned each week. Every Thursday another team is up. It's up to the team to decide which person/persons get to clean up. A lot of the teams have turned it into treat day, where they'll bring cookies/chips on the same thursday to 'thank' the cleaner. (but everyone can eat). – Summer Oct 15 '18 at 12:30
  • In consideration of those who are really tidy and/or never use the office kitchen (and would thus mostly be cleaning up the messes of others), I'd suggest putting a few people on duty at the same time. – Dukeling Oct 15 '18 at 18:03
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    I don't drink coffee, and never have dishes to wash. Assuming I should be in the rotation, you'd better post very clear instructions on how to make coffee. – David Thornley Oct 15 '18 at 20:13
  • Well it seems that some people have trouble acquiring even the basic skills. – Adam Arold Oct 15 '18 at 20:29
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Expect that no matter how fair of a plan you seem to have, it will not be followed by a portion of the population. They will ignore all hints. They will ignore all signs. For mandatory chores they will find a way to be out of the office.

You need to continue to do your fair share and then as much as you are willing to do above that level.

One office I was in had a few employees who put their coffee cup in the sink on the way out the door each night and then found it clean and neatly put away when they showed up the next morning. This was so ingrained that the night before the movers arrived when we were to move to a new building, they placed their dirty cup in the sink before going home. They were then confused when it wasn't in the cupboard the next workday. The dirty mugs were found a week later. The movers packed everything. The people missing mugs blamed the other members of the office for not cleaning the mugs and packing them before the movers arrived.

I have seen well designed plans for coffee, dishwashers, sinks and the office trashcan fail because no matter what the plan was, or how it was communicated only 90% followed the new guidelines. It was always the same 90%

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  • "The people missing mugs blamed the other members of the office for not cleaning the mugs and packing them before the movers arrived" ROTFLMAO. Did they learn anything? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Oct 16 '18 at 6:49
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Put your policy onto a sign and stick it on the dishwasher. Best if this is done by a manager.

Just because there is a policy doesn't mean everyone is aware of it.

If it's still a problem with staff after the sign, a good manager would check. If they found some dirty dishes they'd be asking who the pig was who didn't do them with varying amounts of politeness depending on various factors.

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  • Unless, of course, the manager is one of the perpetrators. – Laconic Droid Oct 16 '18 at 0:50
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Some people are going to be slobs. Where I work, people are pretty neat, but there are lots of pretty blunt people who enforce via peer pressure. If you don't have that, I'd suggest making it impossible for people to "cheat":

  • Replace the coffepot with a Keurig machine. No longer need to make a fresh pot.
  • Get rid of or disable the dishwasher. People wash their own dishes in the sink. Eliminates the possibility of mixing dirty and clean dishes. Yes, the slobs will still not wash until they have to, but this way, once in a while, they'll have to. In particular, if they bring in lunch in a tupperware, they'll need to clean it themselves.
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