In my office, we take dinnerware-related tasks in weekly turns that consist of getting dirty dishes and cutlery around the office, stuffing them in the dishwasher and organising them in cupboards, making sure nothing comes out dirty (and keeping that in the dishwasher, if it happens). We're 20-somethings in the office, so the dishwasher is turned on almost daily.

There's a rule, though, that might collide with the dishwasher duties. We're told to hand wash our stuff if the dishwasher is running. Well, this rule has been interpreted in the way that "you must never leave a dish in the sink" by some people. I confess, I've left from time to time a dried mug or a really dirty dish in the sink, with soap and water, to make it easier for the dishwasher to remove the stains, only when the dishwasher was not working and with dirty stuff. Even during my turn.

I've found dishes in the sink during my turn, and I simply put them in the washer, no complaints, and never found it being a terrible part of a task you decide to take or not (so, basically you have the option to hand wash all your stuff and skip kitchen turns, or use the dishwasher and take turns).

At some point in the past, a colleague (let's call him John) emailed the whole office (bosses included) mentioning heavy stuff like "Stop leaving dirty dishes in the sink, you PIGS", bold being mine, but capital letters are John's. The reason was that, during John's turn, somebody left some dishes in the sink. He wrote things like "I don't need to wash your disgusting stuff" or "This is not a student's flat, behave like grown ups". You know, all these sentences are pretty offensive.

This specific email has been put back to life lately by one of my bosses (so she endorses the email), quoting that same problem (dishes in the sink), but politely saying we should make a collective effort to keep the kitchen clean, even out of one's turn. That's okay. However, many others started going mad and quoting John's email, threatening the rest they'd go on a crusade to chase anyone leaving stuff in the sink.

I've left dishes there at least twice not during my turn, and those swears offend me, as I left them on purpose, to ease the person in turn's job. I'd have said something, but I'm afraid I get confronted, considered a troublemaker or even retaliated in one way or another (we caught an intern leaving coffee bags and he had to remove the bags of the whole office for a day). Since one of the boss also supports this, I'm only missing the other boss, who laughed at me when I told him I did it from time to time.

What can anyone do, in a pressing situation like this?

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    Those sentences are pretty condescending, but they fall well short of being offensive. I think you need to have your scales checked. – Wesley Long Sep 29 '16 at 16:21
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    "I left them on purpose, to ease the person in turn's job" how does leaving more stuff to clean "ease" their job? also if you're getting offended by multiple people being annoyed that they have to clean up your mess, then i think it's you who is mis-interpreting the rule. – RyanIG Sep 29 '16 at 16:23
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    Honestly, if you were making me choose between a soggy dish with spaghetti in it vs a dried used dish with spaghetti in it, I'll take the plate and just throw it out. Why would I clean up after someone else's mess? – Nelson Sep 29 '16 at 16:28
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    You say "has been interpreted by some people". Well, these emails confirm that the community accepts that interpretation, and perhaps goes further. Just accept that your previous interpretation of the rules did not align with the community, and adjust your behavior to what you now understand, which is "don't leave dirty dishes in the sink". – Peter Sep 29 '16 at 17:32
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    "What can anyone do, in a pressing situation like this?" Stop being a pig and act like a grownup? – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Sep 29 '16 at 17:36

Language like this, while quite understandable, can lead to unnecessary hostility in the workplace - which is exactly what you describe in this part of your question:

However, many others started going mad and quoting John's email, threatening the rest they'd go on a crusade to chase anyone leaving stuff in the sink.

The problem with such language is that insulting an undefined people allows it to cross some boundaries

"Stop leaving dirty dishes in the sink, you PIGS",

There's 2 problems with that:

  1. I bet if someone caught Peter leaving something in the sink, they most likely wouldn't dare to say "Peter stop leaving dirty dishes in the sink, you PIG"
  2. The anonymous PIGS might be less anonymous to the rumor mill, which is occasionally better at blaming the innocent than it is at catching the guilty.

That said, the dishes are a problem, and it's understandable that a fellow coworker with some pent up anger explodes at something like this. It would be a different story if a boss called all of their employees PIGS.

Now, so far I've pretty much only addressed the comments. To address your question:

In a private meeting, tell one of your bosses, or HR, that you agree that the dishes are an issue, but that to you personally the hostility surrounding the issue is a bigger problem, so you'd appreciate if the higher ups wouldn't add fuel to the fire, and instead try to resolve the issue in a more civil manner.

Focus on the issue of the hostility you feel, not on blame.

  • Peter, thanks for your suggestion. HR hasn't said anything in the email chain, one boss started the conversation, and I talked to the other one and mocked at me for doing so, saying something like "I'll see it from behind the gate", so I'm only left with the CEO. And well, the email was sent in the past by a colleague, but it was quoted and used by a boss. Taking words like those is no good. – Korcholis Sep 30 '16 at 7:40
  • "Pigs" can also be a term of endearment. Or it could be in the plural exactly so that the perp isn't singled out. Now what happens in the rumor mill... stays in the rumor mill. – rath Sep 30 '16 at 9:10
  • @Korcholis I'd suggest HR instead of the CEO, because in theory HR is better trained at handling such issues than the CEO is (in practice it varies a lot by company). By asking for a 5-10 minute one-on-one meeting, instead of raising the issue in an ad hoc coffee machine chat, you send the signal that you're serious, which lessens the chance of being mocked. – Peter - Unban Robert Harvey Sep 30 '16 at 13:43

In the words of Kilisi, "Suck it up".

There is nothing foul or obscene in those messages, but cleaning up after people who behave like pigs is. If you clean your dishes right away, you don't need to leave them to soak.

Clean up after yourself, and those notes won't apply to you and you won't need to be offended.

  • Richard, people has been tagged troublemaker for much less than calling those things in the air. I wonder what might happen if one of the bosses did this and felt he was called pig, or having disgusting stuff. But yeah, I assume I'll do that, and shout at the future pigs, like everyone else. That will be much easier – Korcholis Sep 30 '16 at 7:24
  • @Korcholis Good for you. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Sep 21 '17 at 16:14

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