Background: We have a break room including a kitchen at my place of employment, where most (about 25 of 30 employees) are scheduled to care for the kitchen on a daily rotating wheel. Some of my co-workers mess the kitchen up on a regular basis and ignore the agreed upon etiquette and when it was my turn I often got upset and felt disrespected because of this. I went to the HR - manager and had me removed from the wheel in exchange of me just cleaning up after myself. (I was essentially only using the coffee machine, the maintenance of which is explicitly not part of the kitchen duty). Now we got a new HR manager and she immediately put me back on it again. I talked to her also and she had me removed again, but the new HR lady was much less understanding.
Also necessary background: I am working as software developer and management knows, that i am not content for quite some time now and might start looking. We have discussed this in detail and we are working on solutions on how to shape my personal development, but nothing concrete was established.
Current situation: Fast forward a week and my line manager asks me timidly to just do the kitchen chores again. I decline and he informs me that top management (!) has decided, that my home office privileges would be revoked. Upon my question of who exactly made that decision (so maybe I could talk to him directly) he said it was management decision, so all three decided that way.
My problem: I really don't care that much about the kitchen chores, that i would chose to not being able to work from the comfort of my home once a week. I am just much more baffled that top management would: a) even care about it b) think that this course of action is a good idea given my circumstance For me this reeks like some kind of power play. Maybe new HR lady thinks she needs to establish her dominance? I am not quitting because I generally like what I do and my direct collegues are gems to be around, but seeing such a toxic understanding of the employer - employee relationship from the former doesn't shine a positive light on the whole situation. Edit: J. Doe summarized my problem very well in the comments:"In the end, it's not about cleaning, but about pride and power"
Finally my question: Is there a tactful way of approaching top-level management about the topic without needlessly escalating this trivial matter further?
And maybe a bonus question: Assume I ultimately decide to do kitchen chores again to not lose my home-office day: Is there a way to go about it without losing face and implicitly admitting to HR lady and top management that they have the power to use any gained privileges beyond what is specified in my contract to pressure me into getting whatever they want from me?
"Try talking to people messing up the kitchen." -> Have you ever tried changing a person? :D I did. It seemed like it made it worse (can't say if intentional or not though. I suspect they really don't give a single fuck.)
"What's your problem? Just do it like everyone does it." -> Especially after trying to get the messy people to change their behaviour, makes it so that whenever they leave their filth after I cleaned everything, I feel extremely disrespected and it upsets me for the rest of the day. I have accepted that I can neither change them nor me, so I chose to avoid the situation, which I think is the most healthy approach.
"TheWorkplace special: Just quit your job." -> Come on - let's at least try to make it work.
Some more non-essential background:
In my country the employer cannot force an employee to do anything radically different than what they are employed for.
There is no system as to why the other five people are exempt from kitchen chores and others aren't.
Home office is one day a week - established since covid, not in place since I started and optional for everybody (if feasible).
Even though I am working as SW developer, I am also hugely involved in most other technical parts of the business and have regular client interactions which I get extremely good feedback on. We have one other senior dev and two new part time hires, that don't have a formal coding background (hard to find..). Those two are much more work for us, than they are productive at the moment. In the past years pretty much every other SW dev either quit or changed positions inside the company (partly because the code base is VERY bad and some core parts are holy cows personally coded by the CEO 20 years ago, which are not to be touched). What I mean to say is, I am not easily replaceable and think to know my worth. Top management should know this too...
The solution to not being on the kitchen chore wheel was, that everything from the kitchen that I use, I would clean immediately and put it away. That way I was not putting any more workload onto the current assignee and it worked for over a year without problems.
Update I didn't get a direct answer here - mainly because all of you focused on the kitchen thing even though my problem was with they way upper management reacted. And looking back that might have been entirely my fault, because I put too much emphasis on the kitchen. Therefore I chose to take an approach, that completely ignores everything to do with it and sent an email to the CEO/CTO (direct manager of my line manager), with the intention to highlight my objection of using unrelated privileges as leverage:
Dear Mr. [CEO Bossman],
I am very open to arguments about my performance in relation to remote work (like perfomance metrics or availability) and why I in particular need to be in the office 100% of the time.
On the other hand, I believe that using home office as leverage against employees, is a sign of a toxic understanding of workplace relations. Of course, if the decision is final, I will accept it.
The CEO was quite bewildered by the E-Mail and replied he had no idea what this was about. Showed that interaction to line manager, so home office is back to business as usual. Now I guess I will have to have some talks to untangle the rest of this mess (did HR lady make the management decision up? Did my line manager misunderstand what he heard from her? Did another management team member go over the head of the CEO? Did my CEO lie and is just playing dumb now?). Also I don't know if this would have worked out, if it was truly his decision, but at least then I would have known more about the methods he might use to pressure me in the future.