Recently I broke our office kettle, and one of the department heads has spread the news turning me into a laughing stock. From time to time I encounter her in a meeting or update on my visa. I knew when I go around people would be asking me

Oh, you broke the kettle? Don't do that or don't you know not to boil milk in it?

and it has started already. What should I do in response? Given she is a department head, I cannot go and ask her "why, instead of helping me, did you let everyone know?". How do I deal with this situation?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Further sarcastic comments otherwise not addressing the point of comments (see the box text before typing) will be deleted.
    – enderland
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 14:43
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    Are you asking how to deal with department head (implied by your imaginary question to them) or how to deal with the people laughing?
    – user13655
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 14:44
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    I can't imagine how you can expect people to not make fun of you for boiling milk in a kettle. You can think about why people found it so funny (consider asking friends and family what they think; to keep it impartial tell them a story about how someone did it at work. See what they say) and just move on with your life.
    – bye
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 8:27
  • Just join them in laughing... Create a t-shirt with the print "kettle killer" or "I boiled milk in a kettle and all I got was this T-shirt". BTW there was an interesting discussion on CSX on why it is a bad idea: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/84310/… Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 11:15
  • @UweZiegenhagen yes, that discussion took place after this/
    – user15704
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 11:16

8 Answers 8


What? This kettle doesn't make latte? What kind of place is this... ?!?!?

You just have to accept it in good humour, there's not much else you can do really.

If you take this well without taking too much offense, things will be easier.

It's an English thing to be self-deprecating anyway, so it's ok to include yourself in the joke if it's kept light-hearted.

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    Self-depreciating - Us Brits tend to be self-critical of ourselves.
    – user44108
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 10:29
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    It's more commonly referred to as self-deprecating.
    – Appulus
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 11:07
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    I think it's important to point out that the key part in "self-deprecation" is the "self". It's not very nice to do it to other people.
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 11:14
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    Somehow, people who occasionally use self-deprecating humor are well liked. So you would end up being endearing to people when you joke about it. Just ensure you don't go too far with the jokes which hurts your self-respect. You should try this @Nofel
    – Anu7
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 5:00
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    Re:"It's rather toxic..." The thing that is far more toxic are the people telling others how that can't do this and that because someone's feelings might get hurt. What a joy to spend 30% of your life at work and you can't have fun with coworkers while you are there any longer because making the attempt to have fun is far too risky. You never know what will hurt someone's feelings.
    – Dunk
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 23:42

If you cannot beat them, join them.

Join in. Make jokes about it yourself. Next time someone mentions it, say something like:

Oh by the way, anybody need the kettle today? I planned on trying chili con carne this time. Ok, just kidding. The kettle is safe for now.

There is really no way to hurt you by making jokes about you, when you do it first. They will either laugh with you (not about you) or they will become bored and just let the topic die.

Showing that you can admit and laugh about your own mistakes goes a long way to improving a relationship of any kind, professional relationships included.

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    Not sure how seriously it needs to be taken. A new kettle on Amazon is about the price of a McDonald's meal with drink. Time spent buying a new one probably costs more than buying a new one.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 13:44
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    Yup, all the fun of picking on someone about something is the fact that it bothers them. When you start picking on yourself about it, that takes all the fun out of it for others and they'll stop pretty quickly. For example, I often make jokes about the weather wrecking my hair today - I'm a guy, and I'm bald. Trust me, everyone else laughs (as do I), and nobody else ever makes a comment about it.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Sep 11, 2017 at 20:44
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    Great answer, but don’t overdo it. If you constantly bring up your own mishap this can get very awkward because it will start being a very transparent defence mechanism and scream insecurity. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 16:52
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    @KonradRudolph perhaps you have an answer better than this one? Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 17:26
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    @nvoigt: the price of a kettle for a person is that cheap, but a company obviously needs an enterprise-level kettle with built-in JVM and bluetooth pairing, all the proper named licenses, maintenance contract & fire inspection code checks. Ya can't just go buy one and use it, that would be way too simple.
    – Konerak
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 6:37

Own it. Decorate your cubicle with pictures of kettles. order some "kettle corn" and bring it into the office.

Do a charity raffle with the prize being a kettle. Make this your own. People won't bother to tease you about something you are making light of. Have them laughing with you and they won't be laughing at you.

Have fun with it, be creative. If you do this right, you'll turn this into something that people think of you affectionately instead of with mockery.

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    i like this "Own it. Decorate your cubicle with pictures of kettles. order some "kettle corn" and bring it into the office." .. once you do this i'm sure no one would ever bring it up.
    – Anu7
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 4:56
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    Make a "Kettle Terminator" poster. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:52
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    Uh, no. As mentioned under nvoigt’s answer (suggesting a less extreme version of this), overdoing this screams insecurity and can become incredibly awkward. This overdoes it, and then some. In addition, different people have different ability to pull this off without coming on too strong. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 16:53
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    @RichardU sorry but I agree with Konrad Rudolph, this is definitely overdoing it. I would feel sorry for the OP if they actually did what you suggest Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 20:12
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    also agree with @KonradRudolph, it's a neat idea but I strongly suspect someone who has to ask what to do will not be able to pull this sort of thing off without coming off as extremely awkward.
    – user541686
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 20:42

First, I hope you've intimated to the concerned department of the broken kettle.

  1. If she's not constantly bringing it up but its passed on like wildfire, just wait for it to die down. Every single topic that goes on in an office eventually dies down. Meanwhile you could add in a joke or two about it instead of taking it to your heart. People do much more catastrophic things in office than what you've done - right from breaking monitors to bringing down parts of false ceilings.

  2. But on the contrary if she's constantly demoralizing/mocking you, it would be better for you to talk to her first, citing that this topic of you breaking the kettle is kind of taking up more space in your head than required (intimating her that you're being disturbed by this fact). And then you could tell her that you've intimated the concerned department of the incident and that you now know it was a mistake boiling milk in it. She will mostly drop the talk if you directly talk to her.

  3. If she still doesn't stop talking about it or you're still deeply disturbed by it, go to a HR/head and lay out your concerns.

  • Only a problem if it goes on too long, at which point it's just someone being a twit. But, honestly, this is the sort of thing that ends up with people getting the permanent nickname of "The Milkman". You need a thick skin to work with humans. Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 7:28

We have all done things like this. I like to tell stories with some help at the end. So here is another one.

I sold my very large utility trailer, but chose to put the old tires back on since they were still good and use the new tires for something else. After a period I had not used the tires and decided to just give the tires away. I even offered to deliver them. I e-mailed using the @company e-mail list which was created to reach only the employees within our local corporate office. However, early that morning just before I arrived to type the e-mail, the @company e-mail list was changed to e-mail the entire company globally.

Soon I started receiving e-mails from places like Australia. Ooopppsss!

I have a sense of humor so I simply e-mailed back that I would need a couch to crash on when I get there.

And that is the point. We all goof-up from time to time. The key is to see the humor in life and use it to defuse the embarrassment somewhat. Sure it is embarrassing. Okay. So what? In your case, what is a kettle worth? Nothing really. Offer to replace it. Odds are, no one will take your money. You can offer bitcoins and ask for change back for example. Start at the top. Sure the department head maybe should not have said anything at all. It may be that they like you and just wanted to give you some jazz. Be that as it may, start there. Perhaps you needed a nap and nothing puts you to sleep faster than warm milk. Maybe even with Brandy. Maybe the department head will sing a lullaby to help. You can only ask.

Find the humor, use it, and all will be okay. Certainly they are not going to fire you. If they did, I would go to the unemployment office and give the reason that you simply wanted to warm your milk and being coffee drinkers they got upset that you were not hardcore enough. See where I am going?

This not enough to get upset about. Really. Would I lie to you?


Breaking of any thing is normal in my point of view. mostly people done it unconsciously ,without intentions. Making fun of such stupid things is also very common every where. People around us never think before speaking so I think that's not a big deal. What you can do is simply report your admin about the Broken kettle. If your organization have any allegation regarding this face them confidently but I don't think so it will happens. Because no one bother about it or you can say that no one take it seriously. Being a responsible person, own your mistake, take responsibility to fulfill penalty(If any), and when people ask you about it just tell them that you did pay for this and there is no issue at all. Don't hide what you have done.otherwise it will keeps you on your nerves.


In general, these jokes seem funnier when they bother the target. And, quite often, they are not meant maliciously. If you can genuinely ignore the joke, it will die away by itself.

Better still, if you can take it in good humor, it may cause people to like you more, and consider you a "good sport." In this case, they may continue to bring it up, but affectionately. If people sense it bothers you or embarrasses you, however, it is likely to hang around as a joke for a very long time, and any attempt to suppress it or bury it is almost certain to backfire. That is unfortunately how these things work.

Hopefully, considering that it might be a friendly gesture, rather than a hostile one, might help you react to it differently.

  • "If you can genuinely ignore the joke, it will die away by itself." I often hear people suggest "Just ignore it" as a solution, but personal experience has led me to doubt it's effectiveness.
    – Stevoisiak
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 19:10
  • @StevenVascellaro If you can really ignore it, it won't matter to you if and when it goes away --you won't even notice. But if you're visibly trying to ignore it, it might make it funnier to people... It's a bit ironic, it only goes away if you don't care if it goes away. :o Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 20:07

Normally I have observed that if people hate you they will avoid you, not make fun of you to your face. So the fact that they are joking with you opens you up to jokes both ways.

It sounds more like the department head was trying to make light of the situation.

Perhaps you could try making a joke back like, "May I borrow your car (or whatever you Brits call it, automobile?)."

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