my manager threatened to fire me or lower my pay if I don’t help clean the lunchroom

A reader writes:

I work in the IT department at a small company. There was a company policy enacted that all employees are required to clean the lunchroom when it’s their turn. Our lunchroom is shared by everyone, including our warehouse staff (they regularly make a mess and leave it behind.) A cleanup schedule was created and the decree was passed down to the staff without any discussion. I disagreed with the policy for a few reasons. I do not use the lunchroom. Because of that, I feel that I am being punished for other people’s actions. The biggest reason I disagree with the policy is because it doesn’t address the issue at hand: people not cleaning up after themselves.

I’ve really created a stir by disagreeing with the policy. My main point has been that as an IT tech, I shouldn’t be tasked with cleanup for other people’s messes. My stance on this issue has come to a head recently, and my manager has threatened to reduce my pay and even mentioned that my job could be at stake if I don’t take part.

Can they actually do that? What would recommend that I do?

Yeah, they can do that. They can make your job anything they want (assuming you don’t have a contract to the contrary, which most U.S. workers don’t). They can’t change your pay retroactively, but they can change it going forward.

Not that they should, though. Your argument is exactly right: You shouldn’t have to clean up other people’s messes when your job has nothing to do with keeping the office presentable.

My answer would be different if (a) you were using the lunchroom yourself, in which case it’s reasonable to ask you to be part of keeping it usable for everyone, or (b) you were in a junior role where keeping the office presentable was part of your responsibilities.

But neither of those appears to be true.

As for what to do now, your choices are basically to deal with it (and it’s probably not going to take up a significant amount of your time or happen very often, right?) or  go to your manager and explain your concern. If you do the latter, you could politely say something like, “I want to explain why I’ve asked to be omitted from the cleaning rotation. First, I don’t use the lunchroom at all, so I’m not contributing to any mess there. Second, I’d like to stay focused on the work that I’ve been hired to do. I’m absolutely willing to pitch in when needed, but having cleaning become part of my regular job here is really far afield from what I came on board to do. This isn’t about thinking I’m too good for it; it’s about wanting to stay focused on work that can’t be done outside of our department.”

If your manager is reasonable, that should be an effective argument, because this is really just about assigning staff resources sensibly. Specialized employees should stay focused on the tasks that only they can do well and which they’re paid to do. That’s why VPs don’t coordinate office supplies and IT staff don’t stuff envelopes. It’s a bad use of resources. It’s also not a great way to retain top performing senior employees, who want to spend their time on their actual work.

However, your manager probably isn’t particularly reasonable, given that she’s threatened to lower your pay or fire you over this. And if she holds firm, ultimately that’s her call to make. At that point, you’d need to decide if you still want the job, knowing that it now includes occasional lunchroom clean-up in addition to your other responsibilities.

{ 211 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    OP, I totally agree with you on the principle of it. But in reality – how much time are we actually talking here? If it’s, like, 10 minutes a week then I have to wonder if this principle is really worth battling over?

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I was wondering what “cleaning” actually entailed.

      The other point is that there really isn’t a policy that can make people clean up after themselves, no matter how much most of us would like one to exist for some spaces; any procedural change that could enforce that (kitchen cameras, PIPs for leaving dishes out) would involve a level of surveillance and micromanagement that good employees also wouldn’t tolerate.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      If these people are really nasty, I would have a problem with it. If I was forced to do it, I would protest by spending hours mopping up and washing out the microwave while playing music loudly.

    3. Adam*

      Yeah, this feels a bit weird to me. I totally get the perspective of “I’m not contributing to the mess, why do I need to help clean up?” I was like that in previous jobs where I didn’t even use the fridge or drink the office coffee! At most I would borrow a spoon and then wash it or put it in the dishwasher when I was done.

      In my current job we have a cleaning schedule where everyone from the lowest rung to the department director takes a week long turn of cleaning the kitchen at the end of each day, so on the rotating schedule everyone usually ends up doing it twice out of the whole year. At most it takes only 10 minutes as you wipe off the counter, rinse out the coffee pot, and start the dishwasher if it’s full.

      If you could get the director to remind everyone to rinse out their dishes and load their own into the dishwasher (we had that problem before and a couple stern emails put a stop to it), I don’t think this is something I’d want to get worked up over.

      1. barking*

        Adam, that is what we did when I worked in a small (under 50 people) office a while ago. Everyone, from the manager on down, took a turn and no one ever complained about it.

        1. oh hey*

          What about if the big boss doesn’t ever take his turn on the cleaning schedule? We’re having trouble “enforcing” this. It’s not a huge deal, but staff notice and are understandably a little annoyed by the imbalance.

      2. Tina*

        My new office had quite a bit of email drama about this exact topic recently, with people insisting they would clean equipment they used (like microwave) but not equipment they didn’t use (like fridge, or vice versa) and the office manager telling them they needed to clean all of the machines. She lost that battle.

        1. EG*

          No one cleaned the fridge downstairs in my office building. It was shared by the businesses in the building. Building owner removed the fridge because of the nastiness found inside by the building manager from “no one” using it and also never cleaning it.

    4. Anon Accountant*

      That’s what I’m wondering also. Is it a short amount of time or an extensive cleaning that’d take over an hour to clean up?

    5. Vicki*

      I doubt very much that it’s 10 minutes a week.

      “Our lunchroom is shared by everyone, including our warehouse staff (they regularly make a mess and leave it behind.) ”

      At a previous job, we had weekly lunches. People would pile plates in the sink in the breakroom. Eventually, someone would get tired of the mess and wash up the dishes.

      Not every lunch room has a dishwasher.

      The LW’s company needs to hire people who do this sort of cleanup professionally.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        so…take away the plates. If people need plates they can use paper ones. We don’t have a lunch room with a sink. We have a cafeteria where we can bring our food, but that’s it.

      2. Noah*

        If people leave plates, cups, storage containers, etc in the sink when it is my turn to clean the communal kitchen I throw them away. I will happily clean up the breakroom, but I’m not going to wash your dishes. Either wash them by Friday or I will and have thrown them away.

    6. Steve G*

      Time isn’t the issue, grossness level is. I often have to pick wet chunks of food out of the dish drain or wipe off rice and sauce bits in the microwave…or dried up milk stains near the coffee maker..all after other people…..I hate it and it is gross. Any structure that would solidify my position as the cleaner-upper of these nasty things would really make me mad!

  2. Rebecca Z*

    Alison, there’s typo in your response: “you could go to your manager and POLITELY say…”

  3. AndersonDarling*

    I was told to wash dishes at an old job. We had a dishwasher, but people would leave scuzzy, crusty dishes in the sink and I was supposed to wash them by hand if they didn’t put them in the dishwasher.
    I was told “we are all pitching in” but the other folks were “pitching in” by distributing faxes of filling soda in the guest fridge.
    I flat out said no. I said we should put up a sign and tell people to clean up their messes. A sign went up, problem went away. …and I found a new job.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      that’s so weird to me. I feel like this could easily be solved with:

      If your dishes are left in the sink, they will be thrown out.

      After a few days it stops, I guarantee.

      1. Adam*

        “If your dishes are left in the sink, they will be thrown out.”

        +1 to this, especially if the people bring their own dishes rather than using any the office may supply. If you can institute a practice of tossing dirty dishes that pile up in the sink after a certain period of time, if it starts eating into their wallet I imagine only the rudest of the bunch won’t learn to adjust their behavior.

      2. Bryan*

        I love the thrown out at end of the day rule. This is my thought about my current office fridge situation. It’s so full of junk nobody can keep their lunch in it. People will put a week’s worth of yogurt in there or keep ketchup in there for whenever they need it. Then they forget it’s there/ don’t eat it and don’t clean it up.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I posted below about managing the office fridge. That’s how I do it. Officially I can throw out anything that’s been there overnight, but the reality is that once I month I toss every last thing in the fridge/freezer. It helps a LOT.

          1. Bryan*

            Some staff clean every couple of weeks but it’s a communal fridge. If you want to keep a week’s worth of food get a personal fridge. I have to admit I’m a hardliner on the office fridge. If only I wasn’t entry-level. Maybe I’ll ask to be promoted to fridge manager.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              ours is communal too but once I started enforcing that I WILL throw things out it got much better.

            2. ella*

              I keep a week’s worth of food in our communal staff fridge, but I have special dispensation from the Rulers of Fridgedom. I commute by bike to work, and it’s just much much easier for me to transport a bunch of food to work at once in individual tupperwares, than it is to try and remember food every day. There’s also days when I don’t go to work first thing in the morning, and being able to store food at work means I don’t have to worry about my chicken sandwich sitting in my backpack, unrefrigerated, for 3 or 4 hours. But I put my name on all my food, and the Rulers of Fridgedom and I have agreed that if my stuff starts taking up too much space, they can tell me to remove it (or eat it).

        2. AnotherAlison*

          We have a last-Friday-of-the-month rule where the cleaning staff throws everything out – full ketchup bottles, unopened cans of pop, lunchboxes and tupperware. If it’s in the fridge after 5 on that day, it will be gone by the end of the night.

          It’s a little annoying if you’re out of town and forget to take home a brand new salad dressing on Tuesday, but ours was like yours, where the fridge wasn’t any more empty after lunch than it was before.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            We have the same thing. And the cleaning company at Exjob did it too. We all have plenty of warning–it goes out via company-wide email and a sign is put on the fridge (there are multiple break rooms, so they do it on a rotation basis).

            1. AnotherAlison*

              They had to nix the rotating at my company because people were just moving their stuff to another refrigerator on clean-out day.

          2. Jennifer*

            We do this, except for things that are unopened and not highly perishable–cans of Diet Coke, etc. they’re safe. Condiments like mustard or salad dressing have to be labelled with a start and end date of three months max once they’re opened. After the end date, or if they’re not labelled, they’re tossed. Perishable stuff like milk or larger yogurt containers that have been opened are tossed on cleaning day, no exceptions.

        3. FiveNine*

          We toss items out of the fridge on the last day of every month but in the half decade I’ve been here they haven’t done that with the freezer and it’s stuffed with things people forgot about years ago.

      3. Kelly O*

        I’ve done that.

        Or sent out something saying basically that I’m cleaning out the fridge on Friday at 4:00. Anything either out of date, not labeled with your name, or that appears to be a science experiment will be thrown out.

        It only takes one time, and people start paying attention.

      4. kd*

        I have personally thrown out a sink full of dishes after they sat for…2 weeks!
        I got tired of trying to wash my dishes around food encrusted smelly stuff. It was liberating.

      5. The Bookworm*

        That may not solve the problem. One place I worked some people left their trash etc. all over the lunchroom. Since it was half-eaten food and fast food wrappers – a threat of throwing dishes away wouldn’t work.

    2. short'n'stout*

      Did this sign have some kind of mind-control field built into it? Because in my experience, signs (polite, matter-of-fact, not passive-aggressive) in shared spaces get ignored just as much as the mess the users leave behind. I’d love to know how you got it to work so well :)

  4. Snarkus Ariellius*

    I’ve never understood the office-wide policy of clean up.  Like the OP, I don’t use the kitchen or the dishes.  I never have.  So that’s why I refuse to “help out” when the refrigerator is gross or the dishes need to be done.  I also don’t appreciate office-wide emails and finger wagging about it either, especially because I’m not in kindergarten anymore.

    A better policy would be to root out and identify the offenders, particularly repeat offenders.  Making it everyone else’s job just creates a hotbed of resentment.

    In my experience, a woman (always a woman!) will break down and do what needs to be done because no one else steps up.  And I hate seeing that.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I agree that it’s often a woman, and it bugs me too.

      I’m the fridge keeper in my office, mainly because nobody else would do it and someone had to. It’s really not that bad – I post the policies clearly that there is no overnight storage, and once a month everything gets tossed (with warning). It’s really not a big deal, but I hate that nobody else would do it so I had to step up.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Yeah, people always assume I’m going to clean up after them because I am female, an executive assistant and because I sit in a central location. It is not my responsibility AT ALL – we have a paid cleaning staff and I work for the big boss and am not a dept. admin. Some new kid came up to me recently and told me the microwave needed to be cleaned (I have never used it, not even once). My boss overheard and came out of his office with a napkin and handed it to the guy and told him to clean it up himself and to never ask me again. I loved my boss and am heartbroken that he left a few weeks ago. But I’m still never going to touch that microwave. And I’ve started throwing away items left in the sink for more than a couple of days. It’s the only way they’ll learn (I sound like my mom)!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        “Some new kid came up to me recently and told me the microwave needed to be cleaned ”


        Totally with you on throwing the dishes away. I wouldn’t even wait that long. Zero tolerance is really the only way to get the nasty people under control.

        1. Anon Accountant*

          A new hire approached a bookkeeper and told her the coffee pot was empty. She offered to show him how to make coffee. He said “it wasn’t his job to make coffee”. She said “then I guess you won’t be getting any coffee unless someone else makes it”.

          He learned how to make coffee and regularly puts a pot of coffee on if he takes the last of it. :)

          I love the idea of throwing away dishes that sat in the sink for days.

          1. De Minimis*

            My co-worker and I always try to be the ones to make the coffee, our boss makes it too weak!

            I am also sometimes enlisted to make extra pots of coffee for important meetings….I’ve never had an issue with it.

          2. Rose*

            What???? Whose job did he think it was? Director of snacking?

            I know that in some offices an admin or assistant will make a fresh pot of coffee each morning, but COME ON. The only time it’s acceptable to assume that someone else’s job description includes feeding you is if they are your nanny or waitress.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          He wasn’t! We had one young intern a few years ago who asked me to get him coffee – and when I politely schooled him, he was properly mortified and apologetic and came in the next day with a giant coffee for me. The microwave kid has a sense of entitlement the size of Texas. He is also stepping over his boss trying to get in good with the big boss. He just does not understand normal office culture.

          1. Shell*

            Out of curiosity, how did you politely school the teachable intern? I feel like any response I could make would be a variant on “Excuse you” which is neither polite nor professional.

            I tend towards dry/sardonic, but I’m sure it’s obvious. :)

            1. Lily in NYC*

              Oh, I wanted to rip him a new one but I decided to be nice because it was his first day. I simply told him that in most workplaces, assistants don’t go around fetching coffee for people, and if they do, it’s usually just for their boss. I then mentioned that I was not a dept. assistant and only work for one person and that my boss was the only one allowed to give me work (even though I am usually willing to help people when they need it). I’m glad I was nice because he felt really bad and was a nice guy; he just needed guidance.

              Another intern that summer actually sent me a list of 300 companies with an email that simply said “I need you to look up the addresses of these companies for me by the end of the day”. I wasn’t so nice to that one and told her that in reality, I can delegate work to her but not vice versa. And then I made sure to dump a really annoying project on her (with my boss’ permission – she was a total brat to everyone and is the only intern I can think of that got negative feedback from us).

      2. Calla*

        Those kind of bosses are so great – I’m sorry he left! My former boss (who also just recently left to my dismay) would find out about people in different departments asking me to do the most menial things that they should be taking care of themselves and nip that right in the bud too. (I swear, people just think “admin position” and think they can unload whatever they want, regardless of your actual level and who you’re actually supposed to support.)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Me too! His entire team is bereft without him – he worked his way up from a very junior position, so he really “got it”. Best manager I have ever had. I wish I could have gone with him but there was no way in hell I would work at the place he went. It’s sad that these type of managers are such a rarity.

        2. Jubilance*

          I’m the total opposite – I only go to our admin as a last resort and I’m always very apologetic when I do go. I always figure I’m making more work for them so I try to do things on my own until I absolutely can’t or I find it it’s something they are supposed to handle.

          1. Calla*

            That’s how one of the guys I actually DO support is. It’s not necessary but it’s super endearing! He’s always like “Calla, I’m SO sorry, but can you book this flight for me?” and I’m thinking, dude, it’s my job — but it’s nice that he’s not demanding of the littlest things!

          2. Ann Furthermore*

            I’m this way too. The department admin in my group will always help me out if I need something, but I keep the requests few and far between so I don’t use up my goodwill with her.

            I think once, I asked her to order me some office supplies that were not the standard-issue pens and post-it notes the next time she did an order, and it was no problem.

            She really helped me out last month when I had some people from another office coming in for a few days, and we needed 2 1/2 days in a conference room. Finding a conference room open for the whole day around here is as rare as a Sasquatch sighting, so I asked her if she could help me out and maybe find an empty office. She has more power in Outlook than I do, and she can see who has booked rooms, not just that they’re occupied. So she found 1 that was open for almost all the time we needed, and then found other rooms for the people who had already booked there. She is a lifesaver.

            But I hardly ever ask her to help me out, because she doesn’t work for me, technically. Nicest person in the world — she saw me on my way in for an early meeting this morning, and I didn’t have time to stop at my cube, and offered to take my lunch bag and leave it on my desk.

          3. Kelly O*

            On behalf of admins, we really appreciate when people don’t just default to “well the admin clearly has time for this.”

            I’ve had people act quite surprised when I let them know I can’t immediately go make more coffee for them, or get “the good pens” out of my stash or whatever.

      3. Gianna*

        My boss overheard and came out of his office with a napkin and handed it to the guy and told him to clean it up himself and to never ask me again.

        I love your boss too. That’s so incredibly awesome that he did that.

      4. pizzagrl*

        Hi Lily,

        Was wondering if you might be willing to give me some advice on being an EA. This wasn’t what I was hired for, but is what my job turned into and I’m not sure I’m so great at it or even really clear on what an EA is supposed to do.

        Thank you!

        1. Lily in NYC*

          pizzarl, since Alison doesn’t want this thread derailed, I’ll look for you in the Open Thread on Friday and will try to help you. I think I might be able to because I have none of the normal qualities that make for a good EA (like I’m not naturally organized and I am not very detailed oriented and I can be opinionated and make inappropriate jokes all the time). And I still manage to excel in my position.

    3. Lora*

      THIS. I used to spend, not even kidding, 10-20 hours/week cleaning up after guys who made half as much as me at my second job out of college. They had no education, only a couple of years experience doing something vaguely related, yet I had 4 years of experience and a college degree and had to clean the lab and clean up their messes and experiments, because I was The Girl. This was a cost saving only in the sense that it saved them a long, drawn-out going-out-of-business process instead of the quick “don’t understand basic economics, running the place based on our Gut Feelings” method of going bankrupt. So, you know, there’s that.

      Agree w/ everyone who says, just throw their stuff out. Had to clean out an entire office at ExJob because we were moving from a rented space to our new HQ, and there was much shouted commentary on the various things people had left or forgotten.
      The one and only time I’ve been glad of open offices.

    4. FiveNine*

      I can’t stand that the paper towels in the break room are ALWAYS on the last tiny towel when it’s time for my lunch. I change that thing almost every day, and i eat at wildly different times. I mean I cannot convey how rude I find it that no one else will do it

      1. Clever Name*

        I confess I don’t change the paper towels in our kitchen because I can’t figure out how to the darn roll off the holder!! :/

  5. Lily in NYC*

    This is ridiculous OP; I really feel for you. On your day in the rotation, I think you should hire a makeup artist to make it look like you have oozing sores all over your face and hands and then cheerfully announce that it’s your day to clean the kitchen. OK, you probably shouldn’t do it. But I wish you could.

  6. Kay*


    I think what may be happening here is a case of bad management of cleanliness issues for other people. This reeks of one of those “one person messed up, so we made a policy to punish everyone rather than talk to the one person that needs coaching”

    I don’t know that you could call your manager out on that, but it might be worth taking note if there are certain people who are always making a mess (you mentioned the warehouse staff, but there may be others as well).

    Sorry you’re having to deal with this; now you just have to decide if this is the hill you want to die on…

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, if there’s something that discomfits me a little in the letter, and I hope this isn’t a derail, it’s that the warehouse workers alone seem to be bearing the blame for the mess. And it’s possible it’s true, but I also wonder if some at the workplace might suspect them just because they’re blue-collar. Believe me, white-collar workers can make some epic messes.

      1. LizB*

        I wondered about that too. Alison included the line “This isn’t about thinking I’m too good for it” in her script for the OP to use, and I think that’s important to include, because something about the OP’s letter did make me think that might be the case. No, you shouldn’t have to clean up other people’s messes “as an IT tech”… just like others shouldn’t have to clean up other people’s messes as the office manager, as the intern, or as any of the warehouse staff who weren’t responsible for the mess. The cleaning rotation is a bad idea because nobody, no matter where they fall on the hierarchy, should be taken away from their actual job duties to solve a problem that would cease to exist if everyone would just be responsible for their own dishes/trash/etc.

      2. Colette*

        Yeah, I also wondered how the OP was sure it was the warehouse workers if she wasn’t in the kitchen.

        I’ve worked in high tech for years, and I have seen many technical people act like they’ve never heard of cleaning.

        1. I T Guy (OP)*

          OP here.

          Sorry I’m a couple days late on reading all the responses. Thanks to everyone who responded! There were so many comments with different perspectives and ideas that I found extremely helpful.

          To clarify a few things:
          -It’s not a crazy big deal to clean up. Only about 15 minutes every couple of weeks. I probably should have said that up front.
          – For me it was less about the task and more about the way things were handled. I disagreed and offered valid reasons (not my mess, not a good use of my time, not addressing the real problem) and was immediately met with threats about my pay and employment. The response really threw me off so I reacted by digging in even further.
          – I mentioned “the warehouse guys” not to just single them out. Obviously, anyone/everyone can be messy. In my particular situation, the main culprits (a handful of warehouse staff) are not being dealt with directly.

          Thanks to all of your help, I’ve decided that I took it a little too far with my dissent. It’s not an ideal solution and I think it doesn’t address the real problem but it’s definitely not worth losing my job over. I’m just going to suck it up and clean when it’s my turn. Hopefully I can go about addressing the problem in other ways.

          The manager’s response still bothers me. I had hoped that differences in opinion would be handled better but that’s out of my control. I hope to have a conversation expressing that in the near future. Wish me luck!

  7. AB*

    I can see two sides of this coin. To the Op’s point, I would be super frustrated if I was suddenly tasked with helping to clean something that wasn’t my own mess unless it was specifically part of my job. On the other hand, management probably doesn’t know for sure who does and who doesn’t use the lunch room. If you allow one person to back out for this reason, you end up with a whole lot of “not me’s” on your hands and you still have a messy lunch room.

    The messiness essentially boils down to professional behavior. You expect everyone to come in to work and behave like an adult, which includes cleaning up after yourself. However, the reality is… there will always be clueless people who leave trash on tables and scuzzy dishes in the sink. So what is management to do, especially if it’s several people and not just one or if they don’t know who the specific perpetrators are? I imagine the OP’s manager had probably tried a couple different approaches and when nothing worked, went for this option. It both is and isn’t fair. The OP can either suck it up and realize this is a part of her office’s culture or she can start trying to find a new job, one with a cleaning service.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are options though. I’d close the lunchroom before requiring senior/specialized people who don’t use it to clean it. Or make it the job of whoever is otherwise in charge of dealing with keeping the office presentable (with a thanks-for-handling-this bonus if needed).

      1. Gilby*


        I think it would be pretty fun to see how many outraged people there would be if:

        “Due to the fact that the employees are unable to clean up after themselves : Not cleaning the microwave after your container exploded, leaving dirty dishes in the sink, messy/dirty tables, Managment has decided to close the break/lunch room”

        Boy oh boy you’d get a lot of responses… ” I DO clean up after myself…” “I don’t leave MY dishes”.

        Managment should take some pictures of what the room looks like on any given day ( when there are no people in it ) and then…. ” Here ya go…..this is what it looks like and why the lunch room is now closed”

        Cleaning up after others is not the answer. Making the people who are making the mess should suffer.

        Then if the staff gets mad and wants it kept open state to them clearly the cleaning rules of the lunch room.

        It would be interesting to see how many co-workers would get on each others back to make sure they clean up after themselves to make sure the lunchroom doesn’t get closed.

        1. Jamie*

          I’m really curious as to how big a company this is, and how big a lunch room we’re talking about.

          Ridiculous that it’s necessary, but it would be easier to have someone check the room periodically as people leave to go back to work. Call them back to wipe up their spilled whatever contemporaneously. There is some social shame involved to having people directly confront you about your mess. Shouldn’t take more than a day or two to have people police their own garbage.

          If dishes are the problem stop supplying company dish and flat ware and toss whatever is left lying around (after warning.) After losing a tupperware dish or 10 maybe people will remember to rinse out their stuff. If not it’s certainly easier to pitch a bowl then wash one.

      1. fposte*

        They didn’t pick the IT person, though; they just included the IT person among the rest of the employees, and the IT person is asking to be exempted.

      2. Elsajeni*

        But the IT person hasn’t been picked to be the cleaner — she’s just been included in the rotation along with everybody else. I agree that this is not a great way to handle the situation or a good use of the OP’s time, and it certainly sounds like her manager is being unreasonable about it, but it’s not like she’s being specially picked on or targeted here.

  8. Jubilance*

    Wow this office clearly has some bad management. Their answer to fixing the problem of certain staff leaving a mess in the lunch room is to decree that other stuff clean it regularly? What sense does that make? What’s next – being put on a schedule to clean the bathroom too?

  9. Nodumbunny*

    An older retired relative of mine was once teaching a couple of classes at a local shop specializing in her craft. The owner announced they all had to take turns cleaning the bathroom. Uh, no. At this point this relative was paying someone else to clean her house twice a month. She wasn’t about to clean the shop toilet.

  10. Lisa*

    My old boss use to say, I don’t pay you to do data entry. As in, I make too much money to do tasks that are meant for min wage staff.

    1. EG*

      Sometimes I wonder about this, when I get handed tasks that are easy enough for someone more junior to do. But if they want to pay me more to do the easy job occasionally, so be it. No complaints!

      1. Relosa*

        Haha, I feel the same way. My boss spent 5 labor hours on me getting his car detailed the other day. I just worked on stuff while I waited. Whatever, it’s his money he’s spending on my time…I’ll do it.

  11. MR*

    This is a typical situation where management doesn’t want to hold specific people responsible for their messes/problem…so it becomes everyone’s mess.

    So the question for the OP is, is this the hill you want to die on? However, I’d make the argument that your relationship is seriously damaged with your manager at this point, and the only way to solve things is for you to look at moving on to a new company.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I agree that if you’re at the point where you’re being threatened with being fired or having your pay lowered, things are really not good. It makes me wonder what the relationship was like before this and/or how valued the OP is. OP, care to provide more details?

      1. LBK*

        I also wonder if this is their policy for handling any kind of issues – one person messes up, the whole group gets penalized. Usually that type of management style isn’t relegated to one instance.

      2. some1*

        Well, the LW wrote that s/he “created a stir” about this, so I’m picturing behavior like outright refusal and telling other people how unfair it is. That’s never a good idea when you’ve been assigned something you don’t want to do at work. I doubt the boss would have made those threats if s/he’d gone to her with her or his concerns before creating a stir.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Really good point, some1. Sometimes if you keep your head down and your mouth shut ideas like this one just go away.
          It could be that OP decide this IS the hill to die on, and Boss decided to take her up on that.

    2. Jennifer*

      I agree with you, MR. Is this worth losing your job over, really? Sure, it sucks and is ridiculous, but it’s important enough to them for them to can you over. “Why did I get fired from my last job? I didn’t want to clean.” will probably get a response of “these days that’s not “can-do attitude”, everyone has to pitch in during budget cuts.”

  12. BadPlanning*

    I get you OP, where I work they’ve pushed an assortment of tasks that would normally be covered by support staff. We don’t have to clean the kitchen and bathroom yet, but we’ve had some similar things that eventually led to fruit flies and mouse traps and an adjustment of what gets cleaned and when.

    I don’t really have advice other than perhaps pointing out how much they are paying you and others to do something that custodial staff could do (this is numbers argument, not a “this is beneath me” — they are essentially paying for really expensive cleaners). Although perhaps the OP is a salaried exempt employee so their work has just has to get done no matter if they spent 2 hours cleaning the kitchen this week.

    1. BadPlanning*

      Additional thought — if everyone really does take a turn at cleaning, maybe the problem resolves itself. Once the messy people have to clean up their mess and other mess, they might be better at not making it or cleaning up immediately. Of course, this assumes that everyone really takes a turn and really does clean and has at least a little bit of self-awareness.

      It could also backfire when Wakeen knows that Zeus has kitchen duty next and “accidentally” spills all over everything. Ha! Take that Zeus!

      1. Kelly L.*

        Well, if Zeus would quit trying to hit on all the female employees, he wouldn’t annoy so many people! ;)

    2. KellyK*

      Although perhaps the OP is a salaried exempt employee so their work has just has to get done no matter if they spent 2 hours cleaning the kitchen this week.

      That’s probably it exactly. They may not be viewing it as paying too much for custodial work, but as getting custodial work for free in addition to IT work.

      In reality, they’re paying for it in lower morale, and potentially reduced effectiveness of the IT work. Salaried or not, those hours have to come from somewhere. Either they’re being taken away from IT tasks, or the OP is working longer hours than they otherwise would–which can definitely hurt their overall productivity.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s exactly what it is. They are getting free cleaning at the expense of salaried employee’s personal time.

        Unless everything else at this job was a unicorn riding a rainbow eating a cupcake I’d be looking for another one on principle.

        If I am inefficient with my time during the day and I have to work longer or stay later to make sure my work is done and done well, that’s on me. As long as everything is being done well and on schedule, I’m only hurting myself.

        But me wasting my own times is wildly different than an employer choosing to waste my time. No way would it be professionally tenable for me to spend one day longer than necessary in a company that expected me to wipe down tables.

        Not to mention that’s disgusting and I’d rather clean a bathroom than touch anyone’s left over food.

        1. Anon Accountant*

          I love the unicorn riding a rainbow while eating a cupcake. I’ll have to remember that one.

        2. Artemesia*

          By the time they are threatening to fire you over this, it is also probably too late to save the situation. IT tends to be in fair demand; if I were the OP I would find another job. And next time, I would not ’cause a stir’ if I were tasked with something I didn’t want to do, I would deal with it privately with the manager.

          I have had jobs where I had to do all manner of scut work but that was as a teenager working my way through college. No way as a professional I was going to clean bathrooms or kitchens as part of my job (although I occasionally cleaned up someone’s mess or cleaned out a refrigerator — but never as a regular thing I was willing to be responsible for)

  13. NavyLT*

    While it’s annoying to clean up after other people, it’s not management’s job to track who uses the lunch room. It can also be pretty tough to track down who’s leaving food encrusted dishes in the sink. On the other hand, if the lunch room is dirty on Wednesday, and on Wednesday it’s a particular person’s job to clean it, then the boss knows who didn’t clean up. If it’s just a general “everyone’s responsible for keeping the lunch room clean,” ultimately no one is actually responsible, and it won’t get done.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s true, but it overlooks bigger issues, like whether highly paid and/or specialized people’s time should be spent on cleaning up after others.

      1. Kelly O*

        I’ve done the rotation thing a couple of times.

        At one company, it was literally everyone. CEO on down, and you could very easily find him in the kitchen around 2:00 every day during his week straightening up. I will say that company was easy, because most people picked up after themselves anyway, and it was just taking turns wiping down the table and making sure the microwave wasn’t gunked up every day. (And most people there wiped up after themselves, so it was kind of a non-issue.) He did restock drinks if he saw them low, but again, it was a great office and everyone did that, so it wasn’t bad.

        The other place was a bit more challenging, but it was basically everyone below a director level, including supervisors/managers. And we had groups responsible by the week, so it wasn’t just a person, but a group of people. They were responsible for deciding who did what and whether to do it daily or for the week. There was more grumbling there, but there were more people involved, and with a few notable exceptions people kept things picked up so it was made out in people’s heads to be worse than it was, really.

        At Old Job it just sort of fell to me when I was the receptionist/admin, and it stayed with me when I moved to another assistant role. It wasn’t too bad, but at some point it did start to suck that I was stuck cleaning up other people’s messes all the time.

        Here? Y’all do not even want to see the “break area” – I don’t go down there or use it unless it’s completely unavoidable. I clean it up from time to time, but mainly it’s a selfish “I’m not putting my Lean Cuisine in that awful microwave” sort of thing.

        1. Shell*

          This makes me so grateful for my bosses. I have three of them, and sometimes they do accumulate coffee cups or for a day or two and then dump them all in the sink together to soak, but Boss 1 has made it clear that it’s not my job to wash their dishes (even though I’m the admin so it very well could be if they wanted to). Sometimes I do it anyway, but I don’t have to; if I don’t, the bosses usually drift by after the dishes soak for a day or two and wash it themselves.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          TBH, if I worked somewhere where the CEO was cleaning the kitchen, I’d get the hell out of there as soon as possible. If the company can’t afford janitorial services, perhaps the CEO should get out of the business of running companies. . .or get his buns out on the street and start making some deals happen.

          I see how it’s a nice gesture, and I come from the perspective of a $10 billion company, not the local carpet and tile warehouse or something small-scale like that. But even at the small company level, the CEO shouldn’t be doing this.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            (Now, as Shell above mentioned cleaning up after themselves, heck yeah, everyone can rinse out their own mug, but the CEO shouldn’t be doing everyone’s dishes.)

          2. LBK*

            Agreed – I would sure as hell hope my CEO has better things to do than scrub someone’s coffee mug.

          3. Anon 1*

            I think you misconstrue cleaning for laziness (or some other work place sin). My own mother is very high up at a large research university. She works like mad, is known all over the community for her great reputation, and is a compulsive clean freak. She’ll go into the break down and wipe it down from time to time. Don’t be mistaken, its not that she doesn’t have better things to do, its that she’s been at work since 6am and has accomplished more by noon than most people accomplish all week. Her compulsive nature to have things perfect (including the break room on occasion) is what makes her a fantastic employee. Some people just can’t stand a mess, but it doesn’t make them a bad CEO.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              What? No. I don’t think it has anything to do with laziness, but rather bad management practices. It’s a CEO who thinks he’s doing the right thing, but is not seeing the bigger picture. It’s tactical thinking vs. strategic thinking.

              I think you are making a leap to say your mom cleans the breakroom, so CEOs cleaning the breakroom are simply a sign of CEOs who like things to be tidy and are also very efficient. Warren Buffet does a lot of things personally that wouldn’t make sense to implement as good management practices.

              1. Sanonymous*

                There is another way to look at this. No one is firing on all cylinders 24/7 – it’s entirely possible that doing tasks like these can be helpful in the big picture. I like helping out with our fridge, but that’s partially because there is a start/finish, which is not something that I usually run into in my position. It doesn’t affect my workflow, and I think it helps me to take a short jump out of my regular job.

              2. Anon 1*

                I’m not saying that cleaning the break room makes someone a good CEO. I just think it seems a bit simplistic to say that seeing a CEO (or other higher up ) cleaning makes them a bad leader (or makes their company a bad company to work for). This is not to say it should be a company wide policy for VPs and above to start cleaning. I’ve just known a lot of good leaders who had odd quirks, but were still fantastic at their job (and big picture thinkers). I think we’ve all heard how Jimmy Carter managed the tennis court schedule during the first few months of his precedency (although his leadership as a president is debatable).

          4. Jennifer*

            I, on the other hand, would be impressed that for once there’s a CEO out there who’s not so high and mighty.

            I’m also assuming it’s a small company here, though.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I worked for a smaller company where the owner’s wife cleaned the bathroom. She never, ever asked an employee to do it. I found that impressive.

              Looking back on it, she probably chose this task as being within reason for her (Other jobs were required strength and a willingness to get clothes dirty) and she probably felt it was time away from the desk.
              Added bonus the bathroom was cleaned to her standards.

              But they both were working owners. That is they way they went at the business.

          5. Artemesia*

            I have known bosses who micromanaged piddly stuff (the management parallel of cleaning the break room) but didn’t do the rainmaking that was critical. My last division director followed a director who had brought in tens of millions in business; when she came in, instead of stepping up to the new job, she piddled around doing the kind of stuff she had done before and meddling in everyone else’s job. She facilitated about 20% of the new business her predecessor had managed during her first year.

            I want a CEO who can do the stuff only a first rate CEO can do and in many businesses that is rain making first and foremost — it is certainly not wiping out the microwave.

          6. Kuangning*

            Bob Young (of Lulu and Red Hat) used to tell everybody that his title at Lulu was “coffee mug washer” — and he actually would, and did, wash dishes. He saw it as part of hiring great people and then making sure they had what they needed to *be* great. It also made him approachable. It didn’t mean he’d take on all the janitorial duties himself or anything so silly; he had work to do. But that work included spending a little time chipping in in a space where all the employees congregated, in a way that let him know exactly what was going on from day to day.

      2. NavyLT*

        Oh, I completely agree that it’s far from the best use of their time. Cleaning up after other adults isn’t really the best use of anyone’s time–but at least having things on a rotating schedule means that the people who are making the mess will sometimes be cleaning up after themselves. Now, I would (do, actually) task junior people to clean up precisely because it’s a better use of resources, but if company policy is that everyone pitches in, it doesn’t make sense to start making exceptions, since everyone who doesn’t want to clean the kitchen, which is probably a lot of people, can find an excuse. As others have said, I don’t think this is the hill for OP to die on.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          It doesn’t make sense to make exceptions, but it does make sense to rewrite a better policy. : )

        2. Jamie*

          I don’t understand why people who don’t use it ever wouldn’t be exempt.

          I grab a soda from the kitchen a couple of times a week – so when I see it’s low I refill the soda. In all the years I’ve worked here I’ve never used the microwave, not one time, nor have I ever used one of the company dishes or left anything in the sink to go in the dishwasher. On the rare occasion I use them I wash my own things immediately and put them in my bag to go home.

          I have also never, not one time, eaten in the kitchen. Why would I be in the pool of people expected to wipe it down?

          If you have to have a meeting to resolve issues about the current parking situation and who is parking where would you require attendance of those who don’t drive ever? To me it’s the same thing, if it’s really never and not just infrequently then why are they being involved in something that has zero to do with them?

          1. fposte*

            My guess is that some people who “never” use it mean “except to get coffee” or “except to leave their sandwich in the fridge” or “except over the summer,” and it’s difficult to sort out the people who couldn’t find the kitchen with a map from those.

            1. Jamie*

              Yeah, I was using the word literally because for me when I say never it really is.

              But it’s a slippery slope if they actually mean infrequent.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              I think the point about the warehouse staff in the original question really makes this a different situation than what many of us encounter in our daily office work. In my first job, staff was divided into four groups: warehouse, big dirty press production area 1, smaller cleaner production area 2, and office. The office people mostly used the kitchen to put their lunches in the fridge or get a Coke from the machine. They would eat lunch at their desks. Warehouse and production people would eat in the lunchroom, so they would leave crumbs, trash, spills, etc. that the other staff “using” the lunchroom did not leave behind. Not because they were blue collar vs. white collar, but because they actually ate in the lunchroom and others didn’t. (FWIW, I worked in production area 2. I am very fastidious, so I wasn’t leaving messes behind, but I wouldn’t expect someone from the front office to come wipe down the tables after our scheduled break time. It would have been our group’s job to clean. Fortunately we had a janitor.)

          2. Shell*

            Although I agree with you in principle, I bet it’s because it’s harder to track kitchen usage than a parking pass. Parking passes are issued and tracked in a database somewhere, so it’s easy to verify who’s driving in and needs to be included in a parking dispute. The kitchen probably doesn’t have keycards to track who’s using the appliances.

            And while the honour system is supposed to work and people should be honest about these things…well, if everyone was that responsible then there’d be no kitchen issue to begin with because people would clean up after themselves.

      3. Anon 1*

        I can understand AAM’s point about having highly paid/specialized people doing the clean up….but this just doesn’t seem like a big deal. Almost every office I have worked in has had a similar policy, and in every one of those offices directors, VPs, admins all cleaned (including myself, who never uses the office kitchen). To be fair the clean up schedule was only once a month, so it wasn’t a huge imposition on the staff. This meant that maybe once a year, sometimes two, you would have to clean.

        I think this is just part of working for a small company. I’ve been a highly specialized employee in a small company, but because it was small that meant you ended up doing all sorts of things you would have support staff for in a larger office. Maybe it isn’t fair, and maybe it isn’t a good use of time, but it definitely isn’t worth losing a job over, particularly when so many offices have similar policies.

      4. Not-IT*

        He is not asked to do it every day, more like twice a year or something. and how do you know he is highly specialized and paid? not everyone in IT makes big bucks :) but I would drop it, it is highly annoying but actually take up so little of your time, OP, you are probably best off leaving it and just cleaning the tables when it is your turn. it won’t kill you, promise.

      5. Observer*

        Sure. But, it’s also not a good idea for the LW to school management on how to manage. Notice that she (he?) most strongly objects to the clean up rotation because it doesn’t deal with the problem the way she thinks it should be handled.

  14. OriginalYup*

    My office has a rotating schedule for kitchen cleanup, primarily because the building’s professional cleaning crew only come in once a week. We’re a small company, and everyone (including executives) takes turns by having a week where they’re responsible for the general state of the kitchen and break area. It takes about 15 min per day. It’s not my favorite thing, and it certainly has nothing to do with the work I was hired to do, but it is what it is.

    OP, it sounds like this has become a real sticking point between you and your boss. I can understand your position, especially because of the way the policy came down — sort of as a mass punishment, rather than as a less-than-ideal solution to an office problem. As others have said, it’s really up to you if this the battle in which you’re going to stick your neck all the way out. If you happen to decide that you don’t want to push it anymore, one way to reframe your thinking is to consider this your gift to your coworkers. I don’t drink coffee but I clean the coffee pot thoroughly on my rotation with the mindset that others will benefit from the trouble I took and my efforts made someone else’s morning a little better. (Not saying you have to adopt this mindset, just presenting an option if you decide on this path.)

  15. BCW*

    OP, you sound like you are being more difficult than it being bad management. I mean, how much time are we really talking about here? I get the principle of the thing, but it just seems like if EVERYONE in the office is in the rotation, then its not a big deal. I’m sure in general there is a wide spectrum of how much its used. Some use it a ton, others very rarely. Unless you want to measure time spent in there and proportionally assign people (which is just not realistic) this seems like a pretty fair way to do it. I get that you don’t say you use it, but I’m guessing you actually do go in there for things now and then. Now, I don’t agree with the management threatening your job over it, but to me its just one of those things that you sometimes have to do that you don’t want to.

  16. AnotherAlison*

    I’m curious about whose responsibility it was to clean the kitchen before this new policy went into effect. Was there just one resentful person who took on the job and finally had enough (and rightly so!)? Was there cleaning staff and the company decided they couldn’t afford it?

    In general, I don’t agree with it being “everyone’s job.” I think people who treat the kitchen like it’s their own personal pigpen should be spoken to, but someone else should be responsible for the light cleaning of the kitchen. I’d take the most junior warehouse role and update the job description to include regular housekeeping duties. I think it’s a little different if it’s a really small office with a couple dentists or insurance agents, but a business that’s big enough to have IT staff and a warehouse is big enough to pay someone to clean as part of their job.

  17. Us, Too*

    I think I need to understand how much time commitment this is. If we’re talking 2 minutes/week to wipe off the counters and rinse out the coffee pots, OP is probably picking the wrong hill to die on here. If OP is being asked to scrub the floor with a toothbrush, clean the surface of every appliance, etc for 10 hrs/week, that’s very different.

  18. CanadianWriter*

    Why don’t they hire a part time cleaner?

    Or just throw out everybody’s dirty dishes and teach them a lesson.

    1. Andrea*

      That’s what I’m thinking, too—can’t they just get a cleaning service to come in once a week or so and clean the lunchroom? That couldn’t possibly cost that much. Don’t they already have a cleaning crew coming in to vacuum and dust and empty trash and clean the bathrooms? Every office I’ve worked in had that.

      I hate this “everyone’s responsible for doing this particular task” crap. At one job, it was “everyone’s” responsibility to answer the phones. Guess what, no one did it and the damn phones rang all the time. That was a government job! They should have had someone hired to answer those phones and to help the citizens who called in needing help. But no. The phones just rang all the time. The only ones you could actually hear were the three main phones in the middle of the cube farm: Everyone muted the ringers at their own desk phones.

      1. OhNo*

        Having a cleaner come in seems like a good idea at first, but it depends on the people you already have working there and how they act.

        I worked at a place where there were designated cleaners who came around every day to wipe up the kitchen. Guess what happened? Everyone who, before, was just making normal messes was suddenly leaving puddles of soup and piles of coffee debris EVERYWHERE because “the cleaners will get it”. If you have people that are already making big messes because they assume someone else will clean it up, hiring a cleaner could end up making the problem even worse.

        And yes, the cleaners might come in every day or every week – but that still means the messes are sitting there until the next time the come to clean. That job ended up with an even dirtier kitchen after they hired a cleaner than they had before!

    2. MJ*

      If it’s a large company, they should have cleaners. But cleaning services are surprisingly expensive. We have cleaners coming in twice a week to do bathrooms, kitchens, vacuuming and trash for a 15000 square foot facility and it costs us $325 per week – $17,000 per year. That’s hard on a small outfit, though I will say they do a great job! No company is going to send you a cleaner for an hour – there’s no profit in it for them because of travel time. Minimum cleaning is usually 2 hours times 2 cleaners (so 4 hours).

  19. Addiez*

    Atypically, I don’t agree with this answer. My office has a rotating policy that generally ends up being running then emptying the dishwasher, with each team responsible for a few days. I think it’s really nice that everyone participates. Yes, the CFO has an office and eats in it, but I think it’s nice culturally to all be part of a team.

    1. Student*

      It’s a waste of money. You are paying the janitor a CEO’s salary for 15 minutes whenever the CEO comes up on cleaning rotation.

      If you want to feel the team camaraderie at work, I am sure there are better ways to do it than standing alone in the kitchen wiping off counters and emptying the dishwasher.

  20. The Wall of Creativity*

    Surely you must know who in the office is most guilty of leaving the kitchen in a mess?

    In which case, wait until it’s their day to clean up. Then poop in the sink.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was thinking along those lines. When it is “their” clean up day, everyone drops their lunch on the floor and leaves it.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Oh my god, I almost fell out of my chair when I read this. Please come work in my office!

    3. LBK*


      We used to have a running joke at one of my jobs where if we didn’t properly collect our rags/towels for the company that did our laundry to pick up, they were going to poop in our sink. The image was always disgustingly hilarious.

  21. Biff*

    I used to clean up the break room at my company and it’s not that bad unless someone is regularly leaving the remains of their exploded lunch in the microwave (yeah, that happened). Plenty of smaller IT companies don’t have janitorial staff that does kitchen duty….. it’s normal and I think the guy should get over it.

    1. Student*

      Plenty of smaller IT companies could hire a cleaning service to come in once per day – and it would be a better deal than paying their IT workers to clean.

      Plenty of smaller IT companies have receptionists, paid interns, or junior members of IT who could perform this job every day and minimize the cost to the rest of the corporation.

      1. Biff*

        There wasn’t money for cleaning persons or a receptionist and we had no interns. If we wanted a clean breakroom, it was up to us.

  22. araminty*

    My last workplace didn’t have any janitorial staff – the professional staff were responsible for everything, from taking out trash to cleaning floors to scrubbing toilets. I really disliked this, and asked the boss what was up – to me, it seemed a false economy to have $30/hr workers (seething mad and doing a sloppy job) do these tasks, instead of a minimum wage janitor. She said it was a cost-cutting measure! Ridiculous!

    1. Anonymous Analyst*

      I knew some engineers at General Motors that were there during the bankruptcy filing. They had to empty their own trash.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I would be fine with having to empty my own trash – because it’s MY mess and I created it. But someone else’s trash? Nope. But I do think a bankruptcy situation is a lot different than just regular cheapness.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      This sounds a lot like my job (before the company was bought out thankfully). Accountants (public acctg firm) were expected to clean- empty the trash, clean up the kitchen, vaccum, and clean up the restroom. It was a small place – 5 people total but it sucked.

      It was awful- have a meeting in the AM and be dressed in business casual clothes and have to clean the restroom in the PM. Ours was also a cost cutting measure but it was also a morale cutting measure.

    3. MJ*

      She may be right, depending on the size of your company, the size of your facility, and the nature of your business. We are just shifting from janitorial staff to a mix of staff and cleaning service. Both are very expensive. Cleaning services usually have hourly minimums – usually 2 hours X 2 cleaners to make it worth their while due to travel times and transportation expense. We have cleaners coming twice a week, and it costs about $350 each week ($18k per year).

      The alternative is having a custodian. You have the custodial wage PLUS benefits PLUS figuring out what to do when they are out sick or on vacation PLUS the cost of managing them. In my experience, they take up a LOT of management time, which comes off the plate of someone who has a lot of other things they should be focusing on. It’s expensive. They don’t tend to stick around as long as other employees (let’s face it, they work alone doing a job no one else wants to do), which means you have to devote HR time to exits and the hiring process.

      Cleaning is a cost of business that business owners do have to figure in, but dedicated cleaners for a small company are sometimes out of reach. Asking existing staff to do a bit here and there sometimes IS more cost-effective.

  23. Sunflower*

    I feel like every office deals with this. Every time I turn around there is another note on the microwave telling people to clean up after themselves and it never happens.

    However, I think threatening to fire you or reduce your pay speaks volumes about the office. It’s one thing to ask someone to do this, it’s another to threaten losing your job over this. I mean, the fact that your manager is willing to lose employees over cleaning up a common area blows my mind.

      1. Observer*

        To me it sounds like the LW is the one being difficult. Remember – this is not her manager’s policy, on the one hand. On the other, it really is not her business whether the bosses are being good managers.

        The ONLY thing that would have been reasonable for her to bring up would have been “I never use the room, so I’m certainly not contributing to the problem, and I’d like to use my time for the things you are paying me for, rather than this.” But, ultimately, it’s management’s call. And when a person flat out refuses to do something that their supervisor tells them to, that’s a huge red flag – especially when it’s because “I think it’s a bad policy.” What other policy is she going to refuse to abide by?

        1. Kuangning*

          You know, I would say that the people being managed have a vested interest in whether or not their managers are managing well; they’re the ones dealing with the fallout from management mistakes. Your manager’s manager doesn’t care if your manager is bad at managing unless it creates problems for *her*. The team *below* the manager are the ones having to adjust to everything the manager does. If it’s not their business, whose business is it?

        2. Megan*

          Super late, but I agree. If an employee presented this arguement to me, it might go over for a hot minute, but the next time I saw them doing something that wasn’t strictly related to their work duties, I’d be reminding them about “the things (I) am paying them for”.

    1. Joey*

      Its hard to say without knowing what lead up to that, if anything. There are always going to be times when you disagree with a task that’s given to you. But you still have to do it. An it would be reasonable to say that refusing to do it could lead to some serious consequences

      Obviously I’m not agreeing that its a smart use of resources. But once you’ve made your disagreement known you can’t expect that that’s justification to refuse to do it without consequences.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, but would you as a manager threaten to dock someone’s pay over this? I assume you’d say something like, “I hear you, but this is how we’re going to do it. I’m not going to waive the requirement for you, so this IS part of your job now” and then the person could decide if they wanted to stay in the job or not. I don’t think you’d start talking about reducing their pay, etc.

        1. Joey*

          Yeah idea of threatening to reduce pay had about as much forethought as the cleaning requirement. I was talking more about the threat of being fired.

          1. LBK*

            I think it’s about phrasing – “If you don’t do this I will fire you” vs. Alison’s wording of “This is a requirement of the job now, decide if you can move forward in the position knowing that you will have to do this.” One is laying out terms rationally, the other is a threat.

            1. Joey*

              It’s equally plausible that what the op heard isn’t what was actually said. There’s just no way to know without a verbatim account of the conversation.

        2. Sanonymous*

          If the employee had previous issues, then this could be a “last straw” measure. If the OP and his manager have a poor history, that could also affect why both parties got worked up.

    2. Biff*

      I had a boss that went straight to threatening to fire people all the time. I’m thinking it might be one of those trigger happy bosses.

  24. KellyK*

    I think a rotating cleaning schedule can work as long as the amount of cleaning is really minimal and there are enough people to spread out the work. Ideally, you would have a junior person whose job that is, but if the people who it *should* fall to are busy, it might be better to impose on everyone a little bit than to, say, let the phones go unanswered while the receptionist cleans the kitchen.

    If it’s 20 minutes every few weeks to wipe down surfaces and run the dishwasher, that’s not a huge imposition. If, on the other hand, you’re spending an hour a week scraping crud off the microwave, mopping floors, and hand-washing dishes, that’s a problem productivity-wise.

    OP, if I were in your shoes, the main question I’d ask myself is, is this a big enough chunk of my time that I won’t be able to get everything else done that I need to accomplish, without working unreasonable hours or otherwise screwing up my schedule? If it’s not, it’s probably best if you let it go (and start using the lunch room if that makes you feel any better). If it is, you should be able to point out how it’s a problem from a productivity standpoint.

    Especially since you’re in IT, the one thing I would ask about either way is what happens when a work emergency or a major crunch crops up on your day to clean the kitchen? Can you just let it slide if something urgent comes up, or are you expected to find someone to trade with or do it anyway?

    1. hamster*

      I think actually this is unreasonable. In my own home i pay for someone to wipe the surfaces and do the dishes. ( When me & my husband were sloppy doing/not doing this) it became unmanageable. I actually never worked for a place that couldn’t afford at least a cleaning person.
      One of the offices I worked had like 10 people ( and two were the owners) . We did clean our individual dishes and coffecups ( we were a startup in a flat) but once a week someone did come to do a general clean up.
      In the other bigger companies I worked/work, there would be a mess at the end of the day . We have cleaning services.
      I don’t think it’s beneath me, and I would do it.( i did clean my dishes etc) but it seems unnecessary to me and I would look for other jobs if i were in OP’s firm and had the opportunity. It’s not that it’s beneath me, i just don’t like it and i would try to find a job where cleaning the kitchen is not my duty.

  25. B*

    I can see so many issues on this one from all sides of the coin. For me it would boil down to the type of cleaning I am being asked to do. At one job they decided to have everyone take turns cleaning the bathroom including a thorough scrubbing of the toilet every night. (that was the icing on the many layers of cake for me)

    Is it, hey can you help put the dishes in the dishwasher? Or is it clean off all of the dishes, mop the floor, clean up the messy counters, etc? To me those are two very different scenarios. One I just do and the other, nope sorry wasn’t hired to do janitorial services.

    1. Andrea*

      That is insane. I don’t even clean the bathrooms at home! I have a cleaning service come in for that heavy-duty stuff.

  26. Rebecca*

    I think this brings up a bigger issue. People are not treating their work environment with respect. Leaving dishes in the sink (I wish we had a kitchen sink – we have to use the bathroom sink, and it’s gross), not wiping up spills, leaving the microwave a mess, etc – you have to wonder what their homes look like.

    Yesterday I went into a stall in the ladies room, and the toilet paper roll was down to the last sheet, with 2 full rolls on the back of the toilet. I just replaced it, but thought badly of the person who was there before me.

    I always clean up after myself, and others, but that’s how I was raised – leave the place better than when you found it.

    The OP has to make a decision. Either do a quick clean up, especially if the other IT people are assigned, too, or find another job.

  27. C Average*

    I’m gonna throw another point of view in here.

    I’m what could be considered an office kitchen power user. Because I run-commute to work during the week, I typically make a trip to the office on the weekend to drop off breakfast and lunch fixings for the week (nothing elaborate, usually oatmeal and fruit and leftovers in Tupperware containers). I eat my food from the office kitchen all week, washing the dishes as I dirty them and collecting them in a reusable bag in the file cabinet by my desk to take home at the end of the week. I also French-press my coffee in there every morning.

    There are very few supplies on hand for maintaining kitchen cleanliness. The expectation is that we’ll keep the kitchen tidy and our things washed, but the truth is that there really aren’t any tools for doing this. There’s a bottle of cheap dishwashing liquid, dishwasher detergent, and paper towels. There’s room enough in the two fridges for plenty of food, there’s a toaster, there are two coffee pots and a Keurig machine, there are two microwaves, but there are almost no useful cleanup supplies. We do have a janitorial staff that comes in after hours, so it never gets truly nasty, but it’s challenging to maintain neatness throughout the day without some basic tools.

    I’ve actually brought a container of disposable surface wipes and a bottle of surface cleaner from home to clean up after myself when I’ve done something messy like make my French press. (No matter how careful I am, there are always grounds that get scattered on the counter.)

    If a company’s leadership really wants to empower the staff to clean as they go, give them the means to do so! Dishwashing liquid, surface cleaner, and something beyond paper towels to wipe down surfaces should be provided. If it’s easy to clean up after yourself as you go, there won’t be so much need for massive cleanup efforts, and basic expectations about cleanup will be easier to enforce.

    1. CA Anon*

      You should try and Aeropress instead of the French press. Much better coffee and so much easier to clean up after! (Also, the way it makes concentrated coffee makes it easier to have great iced coffee at a moment’s notice.)

      1. C Average*

        Picked one up this afternoon! I am such a sucker for anything that represents even a marginal improvement in my morning coffee. Priorities . . .

  28. Lora*

    I fall squarely into the “hire it done by professionals” camp. I know many people who find cleaning meditative and useful in that they get a chance to disengage their brains and relax for a few minutes, but seriously, just hire it done.

    -Most people where I work get paid a LOT more than cleaning staff. It’s more efficient to hire it done.
    -If someone thinks that crusty soup bowls in the sink and coffee grounds on the counter top are a fine way to live, they are not likely to have sufficient cleaning skills to bring the kitchen up to common standards of hygiene anyway.
    -I hate nagging people.
    -Had to clean an office we had rented so we could move into our new HQ digs. The smells. Oh, god, the smells. And the…other smells…and the furry things…ugh…Not doing that again. Ever. I have cleaned basements 6″ deep in raw sewage from a broken sewer line, and it was less repulsive than that office.

  29. EM*

    I worked in a small office previously where we were all on a rotating weekly cleaning schedule except for the owner (he was exempt). It annoyed me a little, mainly because the owner was the only male in the office and I think he felt like, as women, we should be the ones to clean. There were 5 of us that rotated, so it was about once a month that it was your “cleaning week.”

    I would have had a real issue if it involved cleaning the bathroom and things like that, but our duties included: vacuuming the entire office at the end of the week, taking out everyone’s office trash, making sure the coffeepot was empty & rinsed at the end of each day, and running & unloading the dishwasher.

    It wasn’t so bad, but sometimes it was a little inconvenient if you were really busy on a day of your cleaning week.

    1. Jamie*

      The dishwasher and coffeepot thing I can see (if people who didn’t drink coffee or use the dishes were exempt) – vacuuming everything? No way – and why can’t people take out their own trash?

      The vacuuming and taking out others people’s trash takes this from cooperatively rotating things we all use to actual cleaning service tasks.

      1. EM*

        I suppose you are right. They did not inform me of this situation during the interview process (and I didn’t think to ask about cleaning duties, I had never worked somewhere that had a similar set-up!) — after I was hired and started, they were just kind of like, “Oh hey, so we all rotate cleaning duties here, this is what they are, and now you’re on the schedule.” I was a little taken aback, but didn’t know what to say.

        The office was built in such a way that it had a foyer/entrance upon first walking in and a conference room in the front, but then everyone had their own “private” office (though you could never close your door, so it wasn’t really private) — so with the vacuuming, you were cleaning your own office as well as everyone else’s and then the common areas (conference room, filing room).

        I suppose you could look at it as you get your office vacuumed during your colleague’s scheduled weeks, and then you do the same for them on your week. It was definitely a strange office environment — this cleaning process was one of the more normal aspects!

        1. majigail*

          We have cleaning people but they don’t vacuum regularly or dust or do windows (they mop, do bathrooms and take the trash). It wouldn’t even occur to me to mention to someone in the interview that occasionally they’re going to have to wipe down their desk and vacuum their office.

        2. Megan*

          I had a similar situation when I moved into a boarding house. I maintained my room and cleaned up after myself in the bathroom, but we were all on a rotating chore chart for common areas, regardless of use. I was a bit put-off that it wasn’t in the lease OR discussed during the showing, but in the end it didn’t seem unreasonable, so I did it.

          What DID cheese me off is that the building’s secretary would check up to make sure it was done well enough, and if it wasn’t, we were charged $7.25 – enough to cover one hour of her wages so that SHE would do it. It was like…. just charge me an extra 30 bucks a month and deal with your cost of business yourself, please.

  30. Grey*

    So, in other words… “If you don’t start cleaning the lunchroom, we’ll start paying you what a janitor makes.”


  31. BCW*

    This reminds me of something going on at my office now. I am the newest person, and someone started a few weeks before me. When we started until about a month ago, we had a chore wheel. Essentially just the 2 people who that day were supposed to empty the garbage, wipe down the counter, and load/unload the dishwasher. Nothing too big. Instead of just adding the 2 of us, one of the women decided (unilaterally) to just get rid of it and decide that “When things need to be done, someone should just do it”. I told her that would never work, especially with an office that is evenly split between guys and girls. Essentially, its the “I don’t want you to take out the garbage, I want you to want to take out the garbage” argument that happens when men and women share a space. All of the women basically said that the men just needed to take more initiative, yada yada yada. Well now its happening that the same 3 women are mad because they feel like they are stuck doing it all the time. The reason being is that the guys in our office have a higher threshold for when things need to be done than the women. Some women want no dishes in the sink, while most of us guys are fine with it being half full, then just loading it and running it at the end of the day. Basically exactly what I said would happen has happened. But with the chore wheel, at least someone could be held accountable. Now no one is accountable, and it just falls on whoever gets the most annoyed. I’m all for the rotation.

    1. Jamie*

      If you know this then you don’t need the chore wheel to be reinstated, just do your share as if it were assigned to you.

      And I really need someone to explain the dishwasher thing to me.

      During the day a dishwasher should be empty and ready to accept the dirty dishes. When Bob is done with lunch he rinses his plate and immediately puts it in the dishwasher. Jane, and Tom do likewise. At the end of the day someone tosses in a tablet and hits start.

      The only thing that would need rotation, if any, would be the emptying of it in the morning.

      Why would there ever be dishes in the sink?

      And a sink half full of dishes likely smells because the odds that everyone is neatly rinsing their plates but them leaving them there are small. And then loading the dishwasher later is gross because someone probably has to rinse and scrape. But even so, stuff will have hardened and you’ll have issues with things not getting as clean.

      I’m not being snarky at all – I don’t get the loading the dishwasher thing because it makes more sense to load it as the dishes are used – it’s cleaner and more efficient.

      But if you know a sink full of dishes bothers some people at work (as it should, it’s not a home) then no one should need an official assignment or chore wheel to maintain basic standards.

      1. BCW*

        Here is the issue, because its not assigned, people don’t always remember to run it at the end of the day. In turn, its gets run sometime in the morning the next day, so any dishes used at that point are in the sink. Then someone has to empty it and load the dirty ones.

        I get your point, but when there are 10 people who could do it, no one does it for a variety of reasons. Dont have time, don’t want to, whatever. Again, I think leaving the wheel would have made more sense because you knew that you’d be responsible, and you couldn’t just assume someone else will do it.

      2. Tinker*

        Thing is, there’s a snowball effect.

        Say the dishwasher is close to full. So Bob looks at it and thinks “ooh, it’s 4, I’d better not start it yet because there’s still a little room” and Jane is oblivious and Susan sees it and goes “huh, maybe someone should go and start that, I don’t know” and Randy puts his coffee cup in and figures eh, he’s not actually impeded from putting his cup in, and then eventually everyone leaves thinking either that the dishwasher does not need running yet or that “someone” will do it.

        Come in next morning, dishwasher is full. Bob has to go to a meeting, so he puts his coffee cup in the sink, Jane sees that the dishwasher is full but thinks “ooo, I don’t want to come off as the office maid” so passes on it, Randy starts the dishwasher but still needs to put snack dish somewhere so it goes in the sink (filled with water, naturally, because he is a dread dish-soaker), then the dishwasher ends and Susan sees a pile of dishes in the sink to which she adds her water glass because what’s one more, right? Now there’s one load of clean dishes in the dishwasher and one load of dirty dishes in the sink, so even when the dishwasher is loaded next time it just catches up, it doesn’t actually free up any space for dirty dishes. So folks put more dishes in the sink, et cetera.

        And so it goes. Folks don’t necessarily agree on what the “basic standards” are and a lot of people who do are at times willing to admit exceptions, and distributed responsibility maintains the hope for many people that the next person will do it. The result seems to end up at least kind of subpar, even assuming that there aren’t any actual slobs around.

      3. Artemesia*

        My husband has always done his share of parenting, household chores, cooking etc etc but somehow the concept of when you finish a dish stick it in the dishwasher instead of the sink eludes him. He loads the dishwasher when I cook (and vice versa) but during the day, the dang things end up on counter of sink.

        Having a rotation is the only way to make sure the women are not the office hausfrauen.

  32. Mints*

    Slightly off topic, but I’m curious, since people are suggesting “throw their dishes away,” do most offices provide dishes? I thought people usually bring tubberware type things daily, and offices provide disposable utensils. But if you’re bringing your own tubberware, why would you leave it dirty in the sink? Everyone would know who’s it was

    I guess I don’t know what dishes norms are

    1. Jamie*

      We have a cabinet full of dishes, glasses, cups and a drawer full of flatware for people to use.

      Most people eat off of their own Tupperware brought from home, but a few do use the company dishes for their meals here. We also have paper plates and those are used more often.

      I have seen people leave a dish in the sink, but they don’t often do it twice. Not that anything bad happens, but you’re spoken to about how we do things here. Ditto leaving crumbs on the counter or cleaning spills. It’s so not a big deal to clean up after one’s self it amazed me that it’s still an issue. We don’t have any policies, or draconian rules, or signs reminding people their mom doesn’t work here…it’s just a culture thing and if you have certain standards new people come in and adopt them.

      No one wants to be the only one leaving a trail of mess.

      I can see how that would be a lot harder in a larger office – we’re dealing with about 20 people in the front office – the shop has their own lunch room.

      1. hamster*

        I do not like to eat from plastic. So even if i buy a pre-pacaged salad/something, or bring some tupperware from home. I like to eat it in a dish. With a non-plastic fork, if possible. At my old office, they only had disposable plates/spoons etc. But the cleaning services would clean any tupperware in the sink. But i would be to ashamed to leave it there . I brought it back and cleaned it home (in my personal dishwasher) Here, we have real dishes and fork and a dishwasher and some cleaning services

      2. Mints*

        Yeah, this is what I think sounds normal. I’ve never worked in a huge messy place though. Actually, no, summer camp was very very messy, but everyone (staff and kids) ate out their own lunchboxes. And after lunch, I made my kids pick up five pieces of trash each before letting them back on the play ground. Maybe this needs to be implemented: wash one dish before you’re allowed to get paid (just kidding!)

    2. Jennifer*

      We just have a random assortment of coffee cups, and no dishwasher. I brought a place serving of dishes and silverware for myself. I just wash them in the sink and put them back in my desk. I take them home a few times a year and run them through my own dishwasher. If I’m feeling generous, I take the office coffee cups and dish drainer too.

  33. Ed*

    We had a rotating schedule of volunteers at a previous job. Like OP, I never used the break room other than for coffee and I always wiped down the coffee station whether I made the mess or not. We had about 35 administrative staff and I was the only male who volunteered other than the president. Being an older single guy, cleaning is not a new thing to me. Honestly, it was worth it for the good will it bought with my co-workers. Either way, it was never a big deal. You do a quick wipe down and refill the sugar packets, coffee creamer, etc. On Friday you would wipe out the microwave which isn’t a big deal if you stick a bowl of water in for 5 minutes while you clean.

    In my experience, the ones who make the biggest messes never volunteer. It makes sense if you think about it. They already think they are too good to clean up after themselves so why would they volunteer to clean up after others? What made it better for us was the break room was only used by our section of the building. People are more likely to clean up after themselves if they work beside the person that will have to clean up whatever mess they leave.

    My current office has a Keurig but you need to supply your own k-cups. It’s obviously more expensive (and of course, better coffee) than the free stuff they supply but nothing gives me more pleasure than walking into the break room, seeing 4 empty or near-empty coffee pots and not even thinking about making coffee. Previously, if I got 3 cups of coffee, I had to make 3 pots of coffee because it is always empty. Now, there are usually multiple people waiting for coffee to brew while I pop in my k-cup and promptly exit the room. It’s a small price to pay to not be someone elese’s mother.

  34. Allison*

    It’s unfortunate that the company has to enact a schedule just to make sure the darn room gets clean. It’s like being the roommate that ends up doing everyone’s dishes because they can’t stay on top of their own messes. But it’s really the only viable way, other than hiring someone to clean the lunch room. You can’t monitor who is and isn’t cleaning up their own messes.

    At my first job out of college they had teams take turns cleaning the shared kitchen, and there were a lot of teams so you didn’t have to do it often. Not fun, but not something I considered a great injustice either. I guess the logic is that if everyone uses the kitchen, everyone’s at least a little responsible for the mess and thus it’s reasonable to expect each person in the office to occasionally pitch in with the cleaning. However, I agree it’s unfair when someone who never uses something ends up having to clean it.

  35. Observer*

    I haven’t read all of the responses, so I don’t know if the LW has responded yet. But based on just the letter itself, I think it’s a bit unfair to say that the manager is probably unreasonable. This is a company policy, not one that was promulgated by the manager. So, the manager has a few choices – enforce the policy, cover for the employee, make other people in her department cover or get dinged by her manager.

    Without knowing why or how this decision was reached, it’s hard to know whether the idea was so totally off the wall or not. I do think, though, that some explanation might have been useful.

  36. Brett*

    I wouldn’t count on 10 minutes.
    We used to share our breakroom with staff you could consider “messy”. Even with a dishwasher, it took well over an hour to clean it every day.
    Might not apply to this company, since it is small, but there are almost always state and local health regulations that apply to company break rooms and conforming to those can be pretty time consuming. Being a large public employer, we get regularly inspected on them and really cannot miss a day. The little things, like sanitizing every table and wet mopping daily, get very time consuming.

    1. KellyK*

      If there are relevant health regulations about sanitizing and mopping, that’s when it’s *definitely* time to hire professionals.

      1. Brett*

        Assuming they even know that those regulations apply to their workplace common areas. I think most private employers should not have that problem (Missouri’s laws apply _only_ to public employers.) But the OSHA housekeeping regulation alone can lead to a complaint that leads to enforcement actions (“All places of employment shall be kept clean to the extent that the nature of the work allows.”)

  37. Lamington*

    I was working for a solo attorney and her mom was our janitor. The sweet old lady will clean the toilet, vaccum, take out the trash, wipe counters and clean the small fridge.

    On a non-profit, the office manager and I were in charge of cleaning lunches and dinners after board meetings, so gross. We will come to a stench of trash and half-eaten food in the meeting room table, not even in the trash can.

    1. Artemesia*

      I used to teach on weekends at a University; several times I would open up my classroom on a Friday evening for class to find that the department housed in that building had had a lunch meeting or party in the room and left the tables filthy and the trashcans overflowing with smelly garbage — with no janitor service scheduled till the next Monday.

      I had to go to the classroom early in the afternoon and inspect it and then insist that the department staff prepare the room for class or else my class or I got stuck with the mess and the stink. It was really horrible.

  38. Mike C.*

    So my grandfather ran a commercial/residential janitorial business, and my mother does residential. Anything from small mansions to machine shops to offices and the like. So suffice it to say, but I have years of hands on experience doing this sort of thing, and I never needed to find an after school job. With that in mind, the following:

    1. Screw any manager of mine thinks they’re going to make me do that again when it’s not part of my core job role. It’s one thing to clean up after myself, but I spent years doing that crap, being looked down upon by others and going to school to ensure I’d never have to do it again. I don’t like working with kids so I didn’t go into childcare, and I don’t want to clean up after others, so I’m not a janitor. That goes double if they’re adding it as salaried (unpaid) overtime.

    2. For the folks who do this work – you’re grossly underpaid, treated like crap and you make the world go round. I think you’re awesome and you contribute way more than you’re given credit for.

    3. JUST HIRE SOMEONE. I hear “Oh but my office is too small for that”, but if that’s really the case, how is it that a household isn’t too small to hire someone to come and clean? How much time are you spending in lost productivity making your IT specialists take care of this crap? Why can’t you just yell at the jerk who won’t clean up after themselves rather than cost everyone else their productivity?

    These are small businesses we’re talking about – they’re flexible, they can handle special requests and they’ll come in at odd hours if you want.

    1. University admin*

      +1 million! it’s really not a big job. I worked at a small business prior to Current Job and we had cleaning people come in 1x a week to do some basic stuff. I think it came out to like $300/month.

  39. MaggietheCat*

    As someone who is highly allergic to nuts and the admin. our office kitchen culture changed when I came on board. There was an existing cleaning crew that does the nightly housekeeping. Thankfully there were many things I was able to do like switch all (company provided) plates, cups, bowls and cutlery to disposable. HR really helped to reinforce the importance of everyone cleaning up after their meals immediately to limit the possibility of my coming in contact with nut residue. People have been really nice about it!

  40. janice*

    I’ve always found that people who say “I never use the fridge/break room/use the microwave” actually, on occasion, do. Sometimes they don’t count a yogurt in the fridge as “using” it. Or heating up water in the microwave for tea as using it.

    I’ve worked in places like all of the above … filthy fridges, no cleaning rotas, semi-enforced cleaning rotas, etc. I agree … if I saw the CEO cleaning the fridge I don’t know if I’d be cheered to see her/him pitching in or frightened that the company was about to go under. I do know that in every office I’ve worked at 1 person usually ends up doing it and resenting the heck out of it.

  41. Joolsey woolsey*

    When I worked in bars and fast food restaurants I was happy to help with clean up as it could reasonably be expected as part of the job but when I began working in an office I had to make it very clear to my boss that I do not do cleaning, I take my own coffee cup and put it in the dishwasher but if they wanted me to do cleaning then I would walk out right then. I don’t enjoy cleaning and I specifically went to work in offices because I didn’t want to be doing that kind of menial task.

  42. majigail*

    I agree with many above, I’ve never seen someone NEVER use the office kitchen. I’ve seen plenty of people who didn’t consider their coffee/ grabbing a fork/ using that can opener actually using the kitchen, but it is.

    That said, this is not a hill to die on. I would bet money that this policy dies out in a month or two once one or two people are on vacation on their day and then there’s a holiday and a staff retreat and this department has a huge project due tomorrow and can’t do their shift and no one follows up. I wouldn’t have objected in the first place, now they’re going to be watching to see if the OP does his turn or not!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is what I am thinking, too. As soon as the bosses have to take a turn or, heaven forbid, a special job is not being done because that person is cleaning the kitchen this policy is so done and gone.

      Yep, they will be watching OP and the boss to see who makes good on their threats. Some employees might even find this entertaining. (I’ve worked in places where something like this is almost a sporting event. yeah, toxic.)
      It’s interesting to read this discussion and the other discussion that was posted today….. So what do you do if your employees won’t by into the new policy for rotation for kitchen cleaning.

  43. Amber*

    Why not see if you can convince them to hire a cleaning person to come in regularly? Paying a cleaning person $15/hr or whatever is usually cheaper than taking time from salaried employees who don’t want to do it (and will probably only do the bare minimum).

  44. Peter Gibbons*

    We have a dirty fridge problem where I work and our manager recently asked for volunteers to clean the fridges out instead of the janitors having to always do it. Her logic was that “hundreds of people use those fridges so it’s not fair for only a handful of people to be responsible for them.” That is a reasonable statement…except it’s the janitors’ job to clean. Cleaning is, quite literally, their *only* job where I work, so why is it unreasonable to expect the janitors to regularly clean out the fridges? Everyone uses the bathrooms, too, but it’s not anyone else’s responsibility to clean those. This is not to say people shouldn’t clean up after themselves when they’re in the break room. In fact, I throw people’s stuff out all the time if it violates “the rules of the fridge” we have posted, and I’m the only one who wipes down tables.

    1. Relosa*

      This is my view on the fridge versus bathrooms and janitors:

      1) Fridges/kitchens are communal. It’s more of a social and break space. The point is to enjoy a moment away from your duties, relax, whatever. How often do you see the janitors in there laughing over coffee with your other cubemates?

      2) Bathrooms are a hygienic/bio-hazard issue. Kitchens can also become this, yes, but bodily functions are something we cannot avoid. They’re gross by nature, quite literally. Kitchens are gross by choice. People choosing not to empty out their bad food or wipe up spills. That is absolutely not a janitors’ job. Their job is to keep the building clean and hygienically safe, and move necessary waste out. Stale lunch isn’t part of that.

      1. Peter Gibbons*

        I can understand that, but perhaps I should have mentioned that it is the janitors’ responsibility where I work to clean the rest of the break room as well- sweeping the floors, emptying the trash, cleaning the microwaves- so I guess I feel like asking them to clean the fridges in the break room too isn’t asking them to go above and beyond; to me it sounds like exactly the kind of work that is expected of the position. Quite frankly I think the janitors get away with not doing a lot of their duties. For instance, they are supposed to empty the trash bins in all of the departments every day, but I’ve seen them walk right past us and not do it. We end up emptying the trash ourselves, which isn’t a big hassle, but it’s just, you know, *it’s their job and they’re not doing it.*

        Ha, as for a biohazard, you obviously haven’t seen the fridges where I work…

  45. Relosa*

    I agree that if the OP doesn’t use the lunchroom, then there is of course no responsibility for its cleanliness.

    However, and maybe it’s just my hospitality experience rearing its head…but generally speaking office cleanliness is always everyone’s responsibility. This doesn’t mean regular janitorial/deep cleaning stuff, but absolutely no one should ever be above cleaning, regardless whether it’s in their job description. We are habitually hygienic and clean critters, though in varying degrees. Taking pride and responsibility for your work surroundings demonstrates to others that you also take your work seriously. Not to mention that there is usually a blanket policy or line in the job descriptions that covers “Yes Really We Have to Mention This Because Duh, We’re Human” things like keeping yourself and your environment presentable.

  46. Tara T.*

    I agree with Mike C. (May 13, 2014, 3:19 pm). Even a small business should have a cleaning service to do the vacuuming and also wash coffee cups or other dishes left in the sink, and clean the sinks, run the dishwasher, or whatever needs to be done. Also, even a small business should be able to buy discounted bulk paper cups, paper plates, and so on. If they want to offer something fancier to guests, clients, or customers, they should offer free pens with the company name on them. And any coffee should be in Keurig so all that needs to be done is for each person to put in the plastic cup of whatever flavor they want, and make their own cup of coffee if they want one! Also, instead of the giant jugs of water – just buy bottled water. Workers, customers, guests, can have a bottle of water if they want one.

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