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I'm currently on a full stack developer internship at a software consulting company. I'm in my second month, and have experienced the weirdest culture shock. I have done an internship term before, at a startup where the culture was much more welcoming.

The first, is cups. People there are obsessed with their cups. Cleaners come in every night after work, and collect all dirty dishes, wash them, then put all the cups in the drawer in the common kitchen. Some of the cups have letters on them, representative of an employee's first name. In my second week on the job, I didn't know the significance of the cup, so I just randomly took one from the drawer, about to pour hot water in for tea. The apparent owner of the cup starting whining about how I was taking her cup to use. Taken aback, I gave the cup back to her and took an un-lettered one from the cabinet. Apparently, I'm not the only one who has make this mistake. It happens time and time again, and people are just completely obsessed with their cups. Every time someone talks about "their cup", I internally face-palm and feel like I have time travelled back into the drama days of high school.

And the second, is kitchen etiquette. After bringing my own cup to work (and leaving it at my desk at all times), I often go to the kitchen to get water from the kettle. One time, I poured my cup of water and left a cup or so of water remaining for the next person. As I was walking out, a colleague called me out for not leaving enough water in the kettle (she wanted me to refill the kettle until the water line was visible) with the audacity to say "We value respect here." I was also taken aback by this, so I just filled the kettle and walked away. There was no mention of this during my orientation.

Third, I feel like whenever I ask for assistance, I don't get a positive response. For instance, our development environment requires setup on the client side using VM boxes. Every morning during standup, I mention I'm blocked by how slow the VM is (think of slow XP in the old days where you can duplicate window top bars). For the new developer that joined a week before me, after they complained for 1 week, the boss went through the process of issuing them a clean, new instance. For me, I've been mentioning this at daily standup on and off for the past month, and the most the boss tells me is, turn it on and off again. It's frustrating because I want to be able to do my job and it's incredibly hard to do so.

Not all the people who work there are obsessed with water levels and cups. Some are really nice and have helped me get to know other nicer people, and are genuinely curious about my own interests. But the negativity leaves a bitter reminder.

Does anyone have any recommendations on how to deal with this kind of culture?

closed as off-topic by gnat, David K, sf02, JazzmanJim, solarflare Mar 6 at 22:30

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    Just do your work to the best of your ability and don't obsess over your coworker's quirks with cups and kettle water. – sf02 Mar 6 at 14:17
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    Regarding the kettle: did you pour in the water and started the boiling process or did somebody else? If I started boiling water for my tea and someone else took it, I would expect that person to at least fill it up to that level again and turn it on, so that when I come back I have hot water the way I prepared it. – nvoigt Mar 6 at 14:18
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    Hi @user9914912, I made a major edit to your question to focus it and hopefully make it more on-topic. The first two parts, about the kettle and cups, were really coming off as more of a rant with no addressable goal. Your third question is a good one, and different enough that it should be separated from the other two. I hope that the edited question will be able to help you. I recommend making a separate post asking about the kitchen etiquette. If you're not happy with these changes, you are welcome to edit the question more yourself. – David K Mar 6 at 14:26
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    Does the boss actually know that what he/she suggested didn't work in fixing your VM? – user34587 Mar 6 at 14:28
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    This question so badly needs this to help with office etiquette youtu.be/ww86iaucd2A – UnhandledExcepSean Mar 6 at 19:32
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The first, is cups. People there are obsessed with their cups. Cleaners come in every night after work, and collect all dirty dishes, wash them, then put all the cups in the drawer in the common kitchen. Some of the cups have letters on them, representative of an employee's first name. In my second week on the job, I didn't know the significance of the cup, so I just randomly took one from the drawer, about to pour hot water in for tea. The apparent owner of the cup starting whining about how I was taking her cup to use. Taken aback, I gave the cup back to her and took an un-lettered one from the cabinet. Apparently, I'm not the only one who has make this mistake. It happens time and time again, and people are just completely obsessed with their cups. Every time someone talks about "their cup", I internally face-palm and feel like I have time travelled back into the drama days of high school.

It happens - your co-workers do sound a little intense about it but applying a little common sense and courtesy goes a long way. Lettered cups are a pretty good sign that it might just be someone's personal cup, had you asked your co-worker "Are there any company cups or am I okay to use any?" the whole incident would never have happened. And you were "taken aback" that someone might complain when you grab their cup just as they were about to use it?

As I was walking out, a colleague called me out for not leaving enough water in the kettle (she wanted me to refill the kettle until the water line was visible) with the audacity to say "We value respect here." I was also taken aback by this, so I just filled the kettle and walked away.

Well, yeah - you've just used the water in the kettle, it's pretty reasonable to expect you to put some back in for the next person. Otherwise you're basically that person who uses the last of the milk and puts the empty bottle back in the fridge, or leaves a shared vehicle with fumes in the tank - please don't be that person!

There was no mention of this during my orientation.

Probably because an orientation isn't expected to provide a basic grounding in common courtesy. I imagine it didn't mention things like flushing the toilet after you were done either?

Third, I feel like whenever I ask for assistance, I don't get a positive response. For instance, our development environment requires setup on the client side using VM boxes. Every morning during standup, I mention I'm blocked by how slow the VM is (think of slow XP in the old days where you can duplicate window top bars). For the new developer that joined a week before me, after they complained for 1 week, the boss went through the process of issuing them a clean, new instance. For me, I've been mentioning this at daily standup on and off for the past month, and the most the boss tells me is, turn it on and off again. It's frustrating because I want to be able to do my job and it's incredibly hard to do so.

That's annoying - but maybe it's time to get a bit more proactive, try demonstating to your manager/team lead just how slow it is. This is much more likely to be effective then just complaining in stand up day after day.

Does anyone have any recommendations on how to deal with this kind of culture?

You need to start by acknowledging that actually you're bringing a significant amount of "negativity" to the environment yourself. Be respectful of others even if you don't fully understand why something is important to them.

And if you empty the kettle.. just put some fresh water back in.

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    I never refill the kettle, and nobody else does. Maybe it's just a British thing. You want a tea? You put some water in, boil it and off you go... – spikey_richie Mar 6 at 15:37
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    @spikey_richie curiously I'm also British.. and everywhere I've worked leaving the kettle "dry" after you've used it would be considered bad form – motosubatsu Mar 6 at 15:39
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    Putting water in after you use it is not economical - how do you know how many cups will be required the next time of boiling? If you put enough for 1 cup in, and 3 people come along, they still need to put water in. If you put water in for 4 cups, and only one person comes along, you are wasting electricity. – Smock Mar 6 at 15:46
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    Seriously? Getting comments about refilling the kettle? Is the tap on the other side of the building or something? Sorry, but I don't see this as common courtesy or anything to do with respect. Sound like you're just working with a bunch of people who like to complain about the tiniest insignificant things! I feel for you, perhaps it's not to late to find another job? – Yury Mar 6 at 16:24
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    Well, from these comments, it appears that common courtesy is none too common. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Mar 6 at 17:25
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Let's break it down into three points:

  1. The cups: You already solved it by bringing your own cup. Let's leave at that.

  2. The kettle: Yes, if you use a common resource, it's your duty to ensure that the resource is available for others also. Unless there is a dedicated kitchen attendant who is charged with making up for the consumption, as a good gesture, you should compensate for the consumption. (not talking about material items, like tea bags etc, they are "provided").

  3. The Assistance:

    It's frustrating because I want to be able to do my job and it's incredibly hard to do so.

    Yes, it is problematic, but just complaining about it is not going to solve it. Collect logs about how it is actually slowing you down, not down the instances where you are held back by the slowness of the instance - and share that with your manager / boss in writing. Inform them that the "restart" does not solve the problem and present the proof. If they are half-sensible, they will take action. If not, you should better look for jobs outside - an organization which does not value it's employees time (and effort), is not worthwhile in the end.

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This is probably about power.

You and your co-workers are trapped in this world where they cannot control their environment, the slow VMs etc.

What can they control? Their cups and the little things around the office. So now this becomes the area where they exert their control.

This along with the reluctance to address the VM issue seems like this place is probably not a great work environment. You may want to consider moving along. A short term stint on a resume is really no concern unless you have 2 or 3 in a row in my opinion.

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On the third point; If you're attending daily stand-ups, then you're likely using Scrum. If you're using Scrum, you'll have a Scrum master. One of the most important roles of the Scrum master is to remove (or at the very least mitigate) impediments, so I would raise this as an impediment to your Scrum master. If they're not working with the relevant parts of your business to remove that impediment, they're not adding value to the team. If a member of the team starts asking why you're not hitting your estimates, and you're always taking longer to complete a piece of work, cite the lack of a decent development environment. If you have retrospectives after each sprint, bring it up in the retro.

Note - I added my contribution whilst points 1 and 2 were not present.

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    @Abigail I know, I'm a Scrum Alliance CSM. It is however acceptable to use capitals to emphasize something, but for the avoidance of doubt I have edited my contribution. – spikey_richie Mar 6 at 15:12
  • @spikey_richie it is better to emphasise with formatting rather than capitals - especially when considering accessibility. – HorusKol Mar 6 at 20:53
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Some people absolutely hate drinking from a cup that someone else has used. It happens. When it happens, a decent person will accommodate this, not call it "whining" as you did. What you did was rude. If I told you off for using my mug, and then I heard you call this "whining", I'd make you pay. I know people who'd make you pay just for using their mug.

The kettle problem: It is obvious that everyone using the kettle has to fill it. Some places you fill an empty kettle, then use it. Other places, you use the kettle, then fill it. You used it without filling it. Well, what you did was again rude.

Now I'll tell you a secret: People take notice. They notice when you don't get along with others. It is quite possible that the guy who got a new VM instance never used anyone else's mug, and always fills the kettle after using it. Your third problem may not be that people don't help you, but that people don't want to help you.

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