Thursday, November 21, 2013

Office cohabitation

Living with another person is difficult. Sharing your personal space with someone else presents with all sorts of challenges. Getting used to how the other person behaves and becoming comfortable with it is sometimes the hardest part of a relationship. In order for it to work people have to be willing to grow and change, but that is what you do to make cohabitation a happy and functional thing.

Sadly this is not true in an office environment. There are 50 people in the office trying to share the same small amount of common space, and yet no one ever seems to treat the area with any sort of concern or respect for the other people inhabiting the area. As if the whole cube farm environment were not uncomfortable enough, adding in the inconsiderate habits of dozens of people does not help any at all.

Thankfully my cube is mostly a sanctuary. Most people recognize those three grey walls as the borders of my personal private space. True it doesn't stop people who are visiting my cube from touching my stuff or sitting on my desk. I can at least take comfort in the fact that the bad behavior is only from people I invite into my space. I am not aware of strangers coming into my cube and pawing at things when I am not around.

The worst space in the office is the break room. The one place that is designated as a safe place to eat, relax, and gossip is also the place that people respect the least. It is the place where people seem to lose all scope of socially acceptable behavior. It is the one place that makes what I would assume are otherwise tidy people turn into absolute pigs.

Let us address the sink first. My break room, like many, has a large sink in it. This is used to wash personal dishes, clean produce, fill the coffee maker, and other such sink like activities (we have a filtered water dispenser for drinking water). Mostly the sink is a place where we clean things yet that shouldn't give people the ability to leave the sink filthy.

I just went in to get my morning cup of water and found that someone had dumped coffee grounds into the sink, the same way they do every morning. Seriously people? You couldn't have dumped the grounds in the trash can? You couldn't have turned on the water for the 20 seconds it would take to wash them down the drain? You had to leave a pile of stinking coffee grounds to fester in the sink for someone else to deal with?

Or perhaps we should move on to the afternoon in the life of the break room sink. This is when the used coffee grounds are replaced by bits of peoples lunches. The drain on the sink has one of those grates on it to prevent large bits of anything from going down it. Constantly the drain is full of bits of rice, pasta, meat, and other unidentifiable pieces of peoples lunches. By looking at the acquired glop in the drain it is obvious that the lunch dregs are from multiple peoples meals.

You have to notice that the food you are slopping into the sink is not going anywhere. You have to notice that the last person who did this had no better luck and your lunch actually has less of a chance to go through the tiny holes in the drain since another persons lunch is already blocking it.  I get that you don't want to clean up other peoples messes, but you are just adding to the problem and leaving it for the next person which is not cool.

I want to know if this is how these people behave at home. Would they just leave coffee grounds and leftover food sitting in the bottom of their sinks? I mean I know that I am very particular about how my kitchen gets cleaned, but that seems like a thing that people just wouldn't do. Why would anyone just leave that in their sink?

The sink is not the only demonstration of a lack of consideration. Let us not forget the counter tops with the puddles of old stale coffee lingering on it. People know that when they remove the large coffee jug from the coffee maker that the coffee will still drip down. There is a cup sitting there to catch the drippings that no one ever bothers to put back. The least you could do is put down a paper towel to help soak it up.

No one ever bothers to clean it up either. Yes we have a cleaning staff at the office, but they only come in the evenings. When you spill the coffee at 8 am that means that the coffee is going to sit there for 12 hours. It takes all of a minute to grab some paper towels and wipe up the spilled coffee. I should know, I am constantly cleaning up after other people and I don't even drink coffee.

We also have a Keurig in our office. While this is nice for preventing unsightly coffee spills and leftover coffee grounds in the sink, it is just as big an offender in this mess. No one ever removes their used pods from the machine. Any time I go to make myself some hot chocolate I come across a smelly used coffee pod. It takes an extra 10 seconds to pop out your empty pod. It is only polite to do so.

It is also only polite to refill the water reservoir when you empty it. Sure it is something the next person could do as easily as you could, but you are the one that used the last of the water. I don't know about you but I was raised that if you used the last of something you replaced it if you could. Take the extra minute and pour some water in the machine because you know how much it annoys you to come in and find that there is no water.

There are many other examples of how no one respects the break room or the other people who are going to use it. I could rant on and on about how annoying this behavior is, but it would do me absolutely no good. Any time you mention these grievances the responses you get are "Why should I clean up after other people" or "Well if no one else is going to do it why should I?" 

So just remember, while your office is a work space, you share it with other people. It might not feel like cohabitation, but it is. Give them, and the space, the same respect you would give to your own home and the people you share it with. It is a level of respect you owe other people and would want for yourself.

Otherwise with the way people act I would not be surprised if the office one day degraded into a Lord of the Flies scenario with the developers holding the coffee pot hostage and stoning people with k-cups. This is the way that people go mad, and we are mad enough here already.

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