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Etiquette Rules: Don’t be the Menace in the Office Kitchen

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An office kitchen can be one of the biggest workplace problems when people don’t observe basic etiquette guidelines. If you are among the lucky ones who happen to work for a company that offers an office kitchen for your convenience, you know what the challenges are.  

You go to put your sandwich in the refrigerator and someone else has already taken up the last bit of space with their five-course lunch. Perhaps you were desperate for your morning coffee, but when you tried to pour a cup, the pot was empty.  You may have a pretty good idea who the thoughtless person was so now that co-worker is on your eternal blacklist.

If you want to maintain good professional relationships with your coworkers, you need to be respectful of everyone who uses the office kitchen. Failure to show respect for all who share this space can easily create conflict among employees.

The best way to maintain harmony in the office kitchen is to establish rules and to make sure everyone is aware of what they are.

  1. Clean up after yourself. That’s a fairly simple concept. If you spill something, wipe it up. Don’t leave your crumbs, soiled napkin or styrofoam cup on the table. Throw your trash away. And never leave your dirty dishes in the sink.
  2. Brew more coffee. If you drank the last cup, make a new pot. If it’s five o’clock and everyone is headed out, rinse the pot and take the time to prepare the coffee maker so it is ready to go when the first person arrives in the morning.
  3. Respect the refrigerator real estate. Don’t take up more space than necessary. Only refrigerate what needs to kept cool. The rest of your lunch can be kept at your desk.
  4. Be conscious of strong odors. No one wants her lunch to taste like your last night’s fish. Steer clear of bringing food with smells that can leach and linger.
  5. Label your food. Write your name on your container so there is no doubt about whose lunch it is. That way, no one can say that he mistook your gourmet sandwich for his peanut butter and jelly.
  6. Package your food appropriately. Use airtight plastic containers. They stand the test of time better than plastic or paper.
  7. Remove your leftovers before they spoil. Just because you changed your mind and went out to lunch, doesn’t mean that you can deny ownership of that smelly blue food three weeks later.
  8. Leave appliances as you found them…or perhaps better. When you use the toaster or microwave, check it afterward and make sure you didn’t leave crumbs or splatters. Your coworkers won’t be happy if they have to clean up your mess before fixing their lunch.
  9. Let someone know when the kitchen supplies run low. If you see that the napkin dispenser is almost empty, either fill it or contact the appropriate person to replenish it. The same goes for straws, paper plates, plastic flatware, sugar, coffee creamer, and anything else that is consumable.
  10. If it’s not yours, don’t eat it. This shouldn’t have to be said, but there are folks who help themselves to other people’s food. If you didn’t bring it to the office, leave it.

The primary guideline for office kitchen etiquette is to be respectful of the space and your co-worker’s food and drink. Remember: your mother is not there to clean up after you, so do it yourself – and do everybody in the office a favor.


Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is on a mission to stamp out rudeness and poor manners in the workplace or wherever they exist. She is a an expert on business etiquette and professional conduct. Her southern charm and sense of humor make her a sought after speaker and trainer.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, she travels across the US and as far away as India and Dubai to work with universities, corporations, small businesses, associations and non-profit organizations.

Her topics range from flip-flops to forks.

Visit her website www.lydiaramsey.com for more information about her services and resources. If you prefer to talk, call her at 912-604-0080.