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Small Business Digest



The Lowdown on Annoying Break-Room Behaviors and How to Curb Them

Rob Hosking

Leaving a trail of bread crumbs in the kitchen is no way to make friends at work,

One thing to do is not leave a mess for others to clean up in commonly used break room.

This and other suggestions were surfaced by am OfficeTeam survey that suggests there are actions employees can take to win friends at work and make them better corporate citizens.

For instance, forty-four percent of workers interviewed said the most annoying break-room behavior is leaving a mess for others to clean up.

Stealing a co-worker’s food, while clearly evil, came in a distant second, at 19% of the response, followed closely by leaving expired or spoiled items in the refrigerator, at 18%.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam and conducted by an independent research firm.  It was based on telephone interviews with 432 workers 18 years of age or older and employed in an office environment.

Workers were asked, “In your opinion, which of the following is the most annoying workplace break-room behavior?” Their responses:

Making a mess for others to clean up - 44%
Stealing a co-worker's food - 19%
Leaving expired/spoiled food in the refrigerator - 18%
Eating [and probably preparing] smelly food - 5%
Nothing annoying or no break room - 7%
Other or don't know - 7%

[Newsletter editor's note:  Perhaps some of the responders who said they could find nothing annoying in a company break room were among the workers leaving a mess.]
“Many people believe their actions in the break room go unnoticed, but subtle behaviors can send a message about an individual’s consideration for others,” said OfficeTeam Executive Director Robert Hosking. “Leaving messes in a common area will have colleagues wondering whether you’re just as careless in other aspects of the job.”

OfficeTeam offers five tips for minding your manners in the lunchroom:

  1. Mother was right. If one spills something in the microwave or on the counter, wipe it up. It’s also common courtesy to refill what one empties in the kitchen, such as the coffee pot or napkin dispenser.
  2. Spare the air. One may love the smell of one's famous “seafood surprise,” but neighbors might not share one's enthusiasm. Avoid bringing extremely pungent foods to the office that could offend colleagues’ olfactory senses.
  3. Stake one's claim. Label food with one's name and the date.This will ward off break-room bandits and make it obvious when the item should be thrown away.
  4. Get the hint. Schedule alerts on one's calendar as reminders to take home or toss out leftovers or groceries from the refrigerator. This will free up storage space for co-workers.
  5. Do a little dirty work. Clean up around the break room even if someone else created the mess.By simply picking up a piece of trash or wiping a table, one will set an example for others to follow and create a more pleasant and potentially safer environment for colleagues. If one sees an ongoing issue with break-room etiquette, consider asking management to set out a staff policy or reinforce the rules of conduct.

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