do I need to make coffee for coworkers when I don’t drink it, interviewing for the same job that rejected me previously, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. Do I need to make coffee and tea for coworkers when I don’t drink it myself?

I have a question about the politics of office coffee-making. In short, am I obliged to make hot drinks for colleagues?

I don’t like tea or coffee so I have never drunk either. Therefore, it wouldn’t occur to me to stick the kettle on at work and ask if anyone wants a brew because it’s not a habit I ever got in to. Until recently, I was alone working on a college campus so I am used to just sorting out my own food and drink. However, I have recently been seconded into an office-based environment where food and drink is a lot more political. On my first day, a colleague asked me to go and stick the kettle on. I made her a cup of tea and when she asked why I didn’t have one for myself, I politely explained that I don’t drink hot beverages. She apologized and hasn’t asked me again.

Recently, however, a different colleague has started making rude comments about me not making her tea when I’m in the kitchen. Again, I politely explained to her that I don’t drink hot beverages, but she told me that even though I don’t drink them, I should still make them for her. I think this is utterly ridiculous — surely making each other a brew is a favor among tea/coffee drinkers rather than an obligation for every member of the team? After all, you wouldn’t expect a teetotaler to go into a pub and buy you a round. My attitude is that because I don’t drink beverages made by others, there is no social contract for me to reciprocate. We are all peers. Am I the one being unreasonable here?

Nope. There are some jobs where making coffee and tea is part of the role, but if you’re all peers, that’s not the case here. Your coworker is being weird. I’d just keep cheerfully telling her, “Sorry, I don’t drink it — I can’t help!” or even “I don”t drink it so I have no idea how to make it.”

(That said, based on some of your wording — and your British spelling, which I standardized for publication — it sounds like you’re in the UK or somewhere else that is not the U.S., so it’s possible that you have a tea-making culture that I can’t speak to. You’d want to adapt for your own culture.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Interviewing for the same job that rejected me a few months ago

In April of this year, I had a job interview with my “dream job.” After lots of preparation, I went to the interview that I thought I crushed. I was wrong. The position was offered to someone else and the hiring manager was gracious enough to give me a personal call to let me know they’d gone in a different direction. Now I am being contacted by a recruiter for the same position at the same company with the same hiring manager! I still want this job but I am terrified to show up for an interview with someone who already rejected me. And it wasn’t that long ago! How do I approach this?

You’re looking at this wrong! Interviews aren’t pass/fail, where if you do well you’ll get the job. Employers often have multiple excellent candidates and if they only have one slot to fill, that means those other excellent candidates are going to be rejected. It’s very possible that you did crush the interview, just as you thought — but someone else was just a better match with what they needed (or was already a known quantity to them, or clicked better with the cranky director who signs off on all hires, or who knows what). There’s no reason to feel like you did poorly!

All that said, do make sure the recruiter knows that you’ve interviewed there previously. If they did decide last time that you weren’t right for some reason (and not just second place), it’s better to find that out now before you go in for the interview. But it’s very possible that they’ll be delighted to talk with you again.

One complicating factor here: Recruiters often won’t put forward candidates who have already been in touch with the company because their contracts often say they won’t get commission on those candidates (since they didn’t “find” them). So it might be that you need to approach the company yourself and going through the recruiter will cause a mess. The best thing to do is to ask the recruiter about the situation. If she says she can’t present you to the company since they already interviewed you, try to find out whether that means the company has said they don’t want to interview you again — or whether it just means her contract won’t let her do it. If it’s the latter, you could email the person who interviewed you last time, say you saw the role was open again, and ask if it makes sense for you to throw your hat in the ring again.

3. Coworker chews his lunch really loudly

I just started a new job, thanks to your advice and also working with a career coach. I am loving my new position, but wanted to find out if you had any ideas on how to resolve a small problem. My coworker who sits right next to me chews his lunch REALLY LOUDLY at his desk. I am a person who is perhaps slightly more sensitive to mouth sounds than normal. I put on headphones to block out the noise, but is there a way to address this that won’t make me look like a psychopath?

Unfortunately, no. If it’s okay for people to eat at their desks and you’re more sensitive to chewing sounds than others, headphones are the way to go.

If this were something like really loud gum popping or chewing on ice, there would be more room to say something like, “I’m sorry to ask, but the sound of ice being chewed is like nails on a blackboard to me — could I ask you to try not to in the office?” But you can’t really ask someone not to eat at their own desk, and this is unfortunately the way he chews.

4. Our internal applicants don’t know what we do

I manage a small team and have a vacancy for the first time in many years. My office is around 50 people and we have five internal applicants. After viewing the resumes, cover letters, and initial interviews, it’s clear that these internal applicants don’t have a good understanding of what the job is or what our team does. I don’t believe it’s an issue with the job description itself, as external applicants have answered questions in more totality. All internal applicants have been in the office for several years and have had varying levels of interactions with our team. Their answers focused singularly on one part of the job (querying the database), which is only about 20% of the job, or indicated they could help us with something that we don’t actually have control over (development on our database).

Our team’s role is to be the functional link between our internal teams and our developers. These developers work at another location and do not interact with our office except with us. We do a lot of requirements gathering, troubleshooting, business process improvement etc. We are not developers or technical people. Sometimes there is the sense that we aren’t releasing enough new features, but this is often outside of our control because of top-down initiatives that take priority or the limited resources we have in our development team. These things are communicated at manager level meetings, but I don’t know if the managers of other teams send this information further down the chain. Based on answers of the applicants, my guess would be no.

If this had come up in a way that wasn’t related to a hiring search, I would address it with those managers or the person themselves in a natural way. But I feel apprehensive to do it because of how I learned of it. The managers of these applicants do know they have applied. Is there an expectation of privacy about their application process and answers? Should I address it with the applicants themselves or more generally with the other managers? Should I do both? Am I overthinking this and it isn’t something to be addressed at all?

I suspect that because your team are the only people who interact with the developers — and all messaging in either direction goes through you — some people on other teams in your office have fallen into thinking of you as the developers. That’s not terribly surprising in this set-up!

The question for you is: How much does it matter that people in your office understand the details of how this is set-up? If it’s a problem, you can definitely address it — but I’d do it more widely than with just these five applicants or their managers. Assume you got a window into a problem that’s more widespread than just these five people, and address it more broadly.

You can also of course address it directly with your internal applicants as part of your interview conversations — just a “just so you know, this is the set-up” — and you don’t need to dance around that or go through their manager. That’s just part of making sure they have accurate information about the job you’re discussing. But it sounds like there’s a wider issue here to fix as well (if you determine it’s a problem).

To answer your broader question about whether it’s ever okay to share something that came up in an internal applicant’s interview with their manager … it depends on the context and the manager’s need to know. In general, you want to handle interviews with discretion. If an internal applicant told you she really wanted to move from data entry to graphic design, that’s not something you need to share with her manager. But if she told you she hates clients and has been routinely giving them wrong info for the thrill of it, yeah, you’d pass that along to her manager, framed as “this came up in our interview and I thought you needed to know about it.” With your situation, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I noticed when I was talking to Jane that she didn’t realize what our team does and it made me wonder if it’s something we should clarify with all the llama groomers.” That wouldn’t be about getting them in trouble; it’s just saying, “Hmmm, maybe this is a team-wide thing we need to fix.” (But again, I think this is broader than that.)

{ 582 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve had to remove a bunch of off-topic comments on this post. Please stay focused on advice to the letter writers (and not accounts of your own beverage preferences, complaints about coworkers who eat/cough/otherwise make noise, etc.). Thank you.

    1. Michaela Westen*

      I’m just now getting to this post, but I want to say I really appreciate your patience with my occasional unintentional derails. Thank you! :)

    2. lilsheba*

      OK I think tea, at least here in the US is an individual responsibility. Here there is no kettle, you just get hot water out of the coffee machine, or you can microwave it if you prefer. Now for coffee, only people who drink coffee should have to make coffee. Like if you empty the pot/thermos/whatever, MAKE SOME MORE! Otherwise not your concern.

  2. KWu*

    The stance of the rude colleague in #1 is so bizarre to me. The social contract is based on “oh if I’m already making it for myself, it’s not a big deal to offer to make a bit more for someone else” so if you aren’t already doing it, why is there an expectation there?? Maybe it’s an offshoot of, “oh while I’m getting up to get something for myself, can I get you anything too?” but once you explain that you’d have to go out of your way to make a hot drink, I don’t get why someone would persist. What an odd thing to be offended by.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I would be tempted to look her in the eye and tell her she is “being very silly – there is no obligation to make tea for others when you abstain yourself”
      This level of rudeness deserves blunt clarification.

      1. valentine*

        The second colleague is bizarrely entitled. It doesn’t seem like the new person has to serve everyone unbidden while no one ever asks them, though it does seem no one asks, or they’d have learned OP1 doesn’t partake.

        Also: Why didn’t the first colleague stick the kettle on? How much time does this all take? If there are three other people, you might learn everyone’s preference, but how many times a day do they expect OP1 to ask about tea flavor/milk/sugar/cream/coffee/just hot water with lemon? I recall a comment here about rolling the tea cart round, which makes more sense.

        1. londonedit*

          The idea of a tea trolley is quite a quaint one! It’s the sort of thing you might associate with British offices of the 1970s. Back then, companies would actually employ people (let’s face it, women) who a couple of times a day would wheel around a tea trolley with cups, milk, sugar, spoons and big vats of tea. Not many companies have the money or inclination to do that anymore! I’d be interested to hear whether anyone still works in a company with a tea trolley!

          To answer the question about time, in most reasonable offices, not much time at all. People use making a round of tea as a nice little way to step away from their desk for five minutes, and you only offer to make tea for people in your immediate vicinity, so it’s not like you’re lining up 20 different cups. Apart from a couple of potential outliers most people will be having standard ‘builder’s tea’ with milk and possibly sugar, so the orders don’t get particularly complicated.

          However, if the OP’s first colleague wanted to put the kettle on, she should have put the damn kettle on. Actually asking your colleague to make you a cup of tea – with the exception of very junior staff where it’s in their job description – is absolutely Not Done in any reasonable British workplace and would be considered quite rude.

          1. Lucy Preston*

            We have an overseas office in an area between the Near East and Far East. They don’t have a tea trolley in the office, but they do have local tea cart vendors in close proximity to the office.

          2. MerelyMe*

            I’m in the US, in health care education. We don’t have a tea trolley, but we do have teatime every day at 3:00, with a tea urn (and cups, milk, and sugar) and cookies of varying sorts (one sort per day; Oreos go in about two minutes, and there are always lots of leftover Fig Newtons). Every year when we do the graduation survey, one of the things the students don’t want changed is teatime.

            1. Helena*

              Oh the tea lady with the trolley o the train still exists! No urn, just a catering flask of hot water and coffee, and a selection of snacks. And often as not it’s a man. But still with a trolley going up and down the carriages.

          3. Topcat*

            They still have “teaboys” in the Middle East.

            (Also speaking as a Brit) there’s no way anyone would expect a colleague to make them tea if that colleague wasn’t having a hot drink themselves. I can only suppose the woman has mistaken OP’s role, and considers her to be some sort of junior dogsbody who is there as a kind of office maid.

        2. EPLawyer*

          How does the LW even know CW #2 wants a cuppa? Just because you are in the kitchen doesn’t mean you know someone wants a beverage right then. What if the person was just there and has a hot tea already sitting on their desk?

          I think this is more office politics and CW #2 is trying to play some power game with LW. It’s not about the tea, its making sure LW knows who is in charge — even if they are peers.

          1. LW*

            Hi, I’m the originial poster, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right I think! I’ve since realised that its not so much about the actual issue (tea/coffee) as a power game. I’m quite happy to share my toast/ice lollies/ biscuits etc with all my colleagues but I maintain she is being ridiculous. And like you say how was I supposed to know she wanted coffee right then? Luckily my secondment should finish at the end of this month so I can go back to my lone working arrangement. Every time I say anything or offer any comments/suggestions this colleague jumps down my throat and shouts me down, basically ‘shut up and get back in your box.’ I won’t be sorry to see the back of her.

            1. AKchic*

              Ah. She wanted an underling or a personal assistant and was hoping to dragoon you into that role. It didn’t work and now she’s taking it out on you.
              Can you say something to a supervisor or HR? Not exactly complain, but maybe a “look, this happened, this is what’s happened since and I’m ignoring it because this is a temporary work assignment, but I’d like it noted in case someone else complains of similar in the future from her”?

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Yep, I think you’re right about wanting an assistant. It’s such a pushy demand that I wouldn’t be able to respond to her with a raised eyebrow and a pointed smile saying ‘well, aren’t you just a bundle of fun’. I might even say ‘well, bless your little entitled heart’, but only during PMS. heh

            2. Fiberpunk*

              Ah, so maybe she feels threatened by you in other ways and tea is just one of the outlets she’s using to show it.

              I’m glad you’re out of there soon!

            3. Elizabeth West*

              What a rude nasty person. I curse her with an excruciatingly itchy bum in every important meeting from now until the end of time. Or maybe she already has one and that’s why she’s so unpleasant!

            4. Kraziekat*

              I wouldn’t recommend putting something bad in, like salt instead of sugar, but make her tea one time, and make it REEEEEEAALY badly. I’m not much of a coffee drinker after my homemade coffee, but I had a coworker who nagged me into making coffee at work. So I did it one time, and I put two scoops for a full coffee carafe (about 10 cups). Let’s just say the kindest thing that was called was coffee flavored water. Never got asked again.

            5. Richard Hershberger*

              This is a splendid opportunity for creative incompetence. This is a controversial tactic, but I think it is appropriate when being dragooned into stuff that is irrelevant to your actual job and which don’t really matter. So make Rude Colleague that cup of tea. Make her four cups spread out over the course of the day. And make them the most god awful tea you can manage. Too strong or too weak are the low hanging fruit here. Be creative with additives! Keep it non-toxic. We are all professionals here, after all, but make it vile. And smile sweetly every time.

          2. Emily K*

            I don’t get what makes the Tea Commander so special compared to everyone else in the office? Either she’s suggesting that LW should make tea for everyone in the office every time she goes to the kitchen, apropos nothing else, or she’s lost the plot and thinks she’s a mobster extorting the locals for their protection money.

        3. Kix*

          This is what my peers and I did in my previous position — whoever arrived at work first made the coffee, and whoever drank the last cup either made a fresh pot if people wanted more or washed the coffee pot in preparation for the next day’s pot. We also took turns bringing in coffee/supplies since we’re a government agency and cannot use public funds for this purpose. It worked well and no one felt overburdened.

          I’m in different department where not many people are coffee drinkers, so we just take care of our own needs. I’m OK with that as well. It’s not up to others to manage my daily beverage needs.

          1. Clorinda*

            Same, but nobody expects the non-coffee-drinkers or those who bring coffee from outside to deal with the communal pot. I opted out of the communal pot because it’s just light brown water; since I’ve been using my two-cup French press at my desk, I haven’t touched the communal pot and nobody cares.
            Long story short, a cheerful ‘I don’t drink tea, you don’t want whatever I might make’ in passing as you move briskly to your work should cover it.

            1. Mama Bear*

              We have an office Keurig in each kitchen. People are expected to refill the water, but not make coffee for coworkers. I think the LW’s coworker is ridiculous to treat her peer like a barista. I also wonder if this coworker thinks LW is not a peer in other ways.

            2. Aurion*

              “You don’t want whatever I might make” is right on. I don’t drink coffee and so I’ve never been asked to make it…until a few months ago when my boss was running late to a meeting, saw me in the kitchen, and asked me to quickly make some.

              It was, to put delicately, very strong (no, I didn’t do it on purpose, I just had no idea how much was an appropriate amount of water). Very, very, strong. I’m not sure if anyone ended up drinking it or just dumped the battery acid into the sink.

              1. nonegiven*

                I had to wing coffee once in the 70s, I was 17. I’d never done it before. I had no idea. I counted Styrofoam cups of water into the pot and counted the same number of heaping little plastic spoons of coffee into the basket. I’d never heard of filters and turned out they didn’t have any. I figured they’d either teach me how to make coffee or never ask me again. God, everyone bragged on my coffee, best coffee they’d ever tasted. OMG, did I screw up.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I would usually make a pot at Exjob if I noticed they were running on empty, though I rarely drank it, but sometimes I did. It was pretty egalitarian; almost everyone who drank it at all would do it. I was a tea drinker myself and did it to be nice, since we didn’t have a kettle and I would often hog the hot water spigot.

            Mostly I took nearly empty pots off the burner (!!!do not leave them on the burner!!!) and put them in the sink to avoid the dreaded burned coffee dregs smell. We had cleaners in at night but you were expected to pick up after yourself.

        4. LW*

          LW here – there is such an odd sense of entitlement in this office. I genuinely don’t understand this colleagues mindset. Her and her sidekick have also been known to throw tantrums if colleagues dont share their own personal meals with them.

          1. AKchic*

            Oh my.

            Miss Manners has some wonderfully bland phrasing that would make it quite clear that their behavior is absolutely abhorrent and not at all appropriate for the workplace, let alone coming from grown adults in general.

          2. ToS*

            Congrats on identifying a source of dysfunction in the office.

            I was going to suggest that the insistent one was trying to offload the responsibility to you. It seems like this is a pecking order move to create or support dysfunction.
            Gather information on the sly about context. Is the person the Office Darling due to some relationship? Perhaps a variation of the Office Mean Girl with all of the related politics? It may turn up that they are No Big Deal and this is a bunch of puffery. Do what you can to maintain good boundaries, which includes not taking on their Tea Drama. You’ve got enough on your plate as a new employee.

          3. KoiFeeder*

            Well, that’s horrifying. I’d ask what about people who have to pre-medicate their meals, but I suspect they’d just act as though it’s more important that they get peoples’ personal food than it is that someone get their medicine.

          4. Michaela Westen*

            Don’t share meals with them? Oh H*ll no!
            As a person with allergies who mostly can’t eat food I don’t bring with me, I would *not* be ok with this! If I give them my food (which I wouldn’t, I would escalate even if I got in trouble), what am I supposed to eat???
            These aren’t coworkers, they’re schoolyard bullies. Are they also stealing lunch money and stuffing people in lockers?

          5. Alica*

            Fellow non tea/coffee/hot drink person here! I have a colleague who thinks I should make rounds far more often than I do – I basically subscribe to the school of thought of “I already have the job of buying the office supplies including tea etc, do you want me to drink it for you too?”. I will occasionally make a round if I feel like being nice, or my boss asks me if the kettle is broken (which he will only do if they are busy. It is not a daily job requirement). I do frequently wonder if she would do this if I was a bloke.

          6. Emily K*

            We had a letter here a while back where an employee was disciplined for bringing in their own normal food because it was spicy and the person who stole their lunch complained to the boss that it was too spicy. If I recall, there was a super depressing update where it turned out the LW had ended up getting fired? Or maybe they left the job another way but were still treated like aggressor by management up until they left.

            1. D'Arcy*

              They were “fired” because the HR person was the thief’s girlfriend. Fortunately, the OP lawyered up and the actual CEO set things right as soon as he got back and found out what had happened — both the thief and HR lady were fired, and the OP was rehired with a substantial raise.

          7. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            Oh my. Are they aware that they are the ones being inappropriate and selfish by expecting this, and not the other way around? They are truly odd. I’m glad you won’t have to tolerate them much longer.

          8. Boobookitty*

            Is it possible they were led to believe by someone that your job while there would include being an office assistant?

        5. Helena*

          I assume the first colleague was doing a task together with the OP, and offered to finish up while OP made tea, with the intention that she’d have finished by the time the kettle had boiled, and then they could both have a break together.

          If they were working independently and she just asked OP to make her some tea, yep that is weird. But it sounded more like an invitation. Making tea is not generally seen as onerous (you just flick a switch and wait for the kettle to boil), so the colleague may well have thought she was doing OP a favour by taking on the harder task (completing the job on her own).

          I’ve done that plenty of times – offered to finish clearing up after a procedure, or go and speak to a patient, or whatever, while my colleague makes us all a tea. I’m taking a task off them and giving them an opportunity for a bit of a mental break, and the price is a cup of tea.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My suggested reply: “Tea-drinkers tell me, the person who pours the last hot water is the person who should refill the kettle. Likewise the last cup of coffee.”

        1. The Other Dawn*

          And that’s how it has worked in every company in which I’ve worked. Makes sense to me!

        2. ClashRunner*

          Is that not the universal rule? We have a little sign above our community coffeepot. Before noon, make a fresh pot. After noon, turn the heating element off and wash out the pot.

              1. Emily K*

                Or putting the new role of toilet paper onto the holder instead of just setting it on top of the nearest thing to the toilet.

        3. Case of the Mondays*

          Before my office got an automated coffee system, the unofficial rule was first one into the office made a pot of coffee so it was available when everyone else came in. This was done whether one was having coffee themselves or not. It was in part to make sure it was available to clients too. It didn’t matter where you were on the office hierarchy. If you were first in, you started the pot.

          1. Elizabeth Proctor*

            It seems very bizarre to ask someone who doesn’t drink coffee to make it, if making it isn’t part of their job (like it might be fore someone like a receptionist). I literally have to google “how to make coffee” to know how much coffee to put in, so…

            1. Artemesia*

              I think most people now have a system that uses a filter pack of coffee; I agree that if one actually has to measure the coffee etc, it is riskier.

            2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

              Given that the coffee was for clients, too, it’s not that odd. It’s more part of daily office prep like rolling up the blinds. But in a situation like that, I’ve usually seen coffee- making instructions hanging by the machine.
              Coffee drinkers need instructions, too. An industrial coffee pot is a different beast than a Mr. Coffee. And if you use a French press or a pour- over its stranger still.

            3. Case of the Mondays*

              I also don’t drink coffee. We had one of those restaurant style pots so you just put a whole bag of grounds in the top (pre-portioned) and a pot of water, return the pot, press start. I agree that it was odd but I figured I’d mention it since it was relevant to the question.

              At my house, I offered a guest coffee and then realized I had no idea how to make it. We had a good laugh and he made it himself.

              1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

                Yeah, I’m with you. Absolutely no clue how to make coffee, and while I do offer guests in my home a beverage, that beverage is never coffee because we just don’t have any.

                I think it’s pretty risky to ask (nay, demand) that someone who may not know your tastes should make you a hot beverage.

                OP – I think you could get out of this pretty quickly by doing a very poor job of making hot beverages. (This is how my father has been banned from doing laundry by my mother. Not sure exactly what he did before I was born, but he was banned from ever touching the laundry machines again)

              2. Turquoisecow*

                We have a keurig (that we use for things other than coffee, on occasion) and keep a few coffee pods on hand, especially when expecting guests, as neither of us drinks coffee. It’s more versatile than a coffee maker that would get used twice a year.

              3. Not Rebee*

                At that point I would be impressed that you even own a coffee maker! I don’t drink coffee, and don’t own anything to make coffee so guests are SOL if they come over and want some. My girlfriend has brought over some of her machines (one is a more traditional style coffee pot and the other is a Nespresso) so she can have coffee if she wants it, and I have learned to use the Nespresso (and previously, a Keurig) but if someone wanted just a regular cup of coffee from the other one I wouldn’t have a clue what to do.

            4. AKchic*

              I have actually created step-by-step color image guides to help people operate the big coffee machine in my last position. I was the only one who knew how to use it, and that wasn’t convenient for anyone if I was out of the office doing something or on leave in general. People figured it out. The size of the machine is what intimidated most of them.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      The social contract is based on “oh if I’m already making it for myself, it’s not a big deal to offer to make a bit more for someone else”

      And to take it a step forward, you make enough for a group and leave the pot so anyone who wants some can get it themselves. You are not obligated to pour and serve anybody if you’re not a personal assistant/admin/executive assistant that has “makes hot beverages” in your job description.

      1. Yvette*

        This. And as far as “… a colleague asked me to go and stick the kettle on. I made her a cup of tea…” If someone asked me to go and stick the kettle on, I would do just that, I would fill the kettle and put it on to boil and then people can get their own tea. Or is “stick the kettle on” a colloquialism for “bring me a cup of tea”?

        1. HollyGen*

          Certainly in my experience, as a Brit, “stick the kettle on” implies the whole process of making a cup of tea, and the asker would add a clarifier if they only wanted the kettle on “Could you stick the kettle on and I’ll make us a cuppa once I’ve finished this task”

          1. Nessun*

            As a Scot living in Canada, I will always make sure the kettle is full and ready to use, but I would never make anyone else a cuppa unless they were a client who’d requested it specifically from me and knew what they were getting into. Otherwise, there’s too much chance for “too strong/too weak/wrong flavor/needs milk”…we’re adults. Be courteous about shared facilities, and make your own drink.

        2. LW*

          OP here – yeah I think in our office ‘stick the kettle on’ does indeed mean ‘make tea.’ I think she did actually ask me to make tea so I did it just to avoid a fuss as I was new. I’m absolutely astounded by the sense of entitlement and nerve in this office. People will call you out for the most ridiculous things like not sharing your meals with them.

    3. Booksalot*

      It is really weird. LW’s colleague is not asking for a sharing of chores, but for a waitress.

      1. Artemesia*

        as in laugh and ‘yeah right I am the office waitress’ or ‘your maid’ as if it is the silliest thing in the world and they are joking. This person is trying to see how high they can make you jump and laughter is the right response.

        1. Autumnheart*

          “*laugh* This is an teapot insurance office, not Starbucks! Have a good morning!” Then you walk off.

        2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

          +1 That’s where I’d land without even thinking about it. I’d probably throw in a few giggly My Lady’s as well just to drive home how silly the demand is.

      2. Quake Johnson*

        I’d be tempted to bring her the tea, then say “Okay, now where are my donuts? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T BRING ANY? Just because you weren’t planning on eating donuts this morning doesn’t mean you don’t bring any for me.”

        Not that anyone should do this for real, but I’d be tempted.

        1. AKchic*

          Psh. Now I want donuts (I say as I’m eating bacon at my desk). Who can I bug to go get me donuts…?

            1. AKchic*

              I ate it all. If you want any of it, you’re going to have to wait a bit… lol!

              Next time, you’re going to have to actually be here in person for me to share.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I wonder if the person is trying to pull rank, put OP in their place, or if there’s a pre-existing culture of the newest person making tea/coffee (because it’s assumed that person partakes in either/both).

      I’ve certainly been in offices where the first person in, if they drink coffee, makes coffee for everyone. And I’ve been in offices where coffee-making is part of a person’s duties. But I have never worked anywhere where coffee-making is not in one’s duties, but a non-coffee-drinker still had to make a pot for everyone. Perhaps there’s more context we don’t know, but the coworker sounds so bizarrely rude and entitled.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, also: If the coworker continues to make these bizarre demands, I recommend deploying the same bland, pitying smile I would give any adult who is behaving badly (it’s the “oh, how sad that you never grew out of toddler tantrums” look). Make silent eye contact while holding the bland smile for 3-5 seconds, and then just turn and walk away.

        1. Mimi*

          Depending on the setup, LW#1 might also be able to comply, but do so so badly as to avoid being tagged for the task in future. (Assuming that they don’t mind sacrificing their tea-making reputation.)

          My first thought upon reading the letter was a story an ex-coworker told me about going to a cafe where the server was new and didn’t know how to make tea. It was looseleaf (and maybe green tea, to boot), and the cafe had those little sieves that sit inside the cup, and the server assumed that if the sieve was that big, that was how much tea you were supposed to use. In short, the tea was made with 20 or 30 times as much tea as I would use for that size of cup, and my coworker told me this story to explain why she was bouncing off the walls and incapable of sitting still.

          I suspect that this office has tea bags, not looseleaf, but it would still be possible to put in multiple teabags (perhaps even multiple kinds of tea), or use water that’s only lukewarm. If questioned, one could feign total ignorance of the ways of tea.

          I’m not saying that this is the best solution — perhaps not even a good one. But it’s an option.

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            I did that at my old job – I was an avid coffee drinker so I didn’t necessarily mind being asked if I could help make a new pot, but I noticed that my coworker who asked passed 5+ other coffee drinkers who had been there longer than I had (all male) to come ask me (younger, female). So I made the weakest pot of coffee I could and proudly told them when it was done. I got a few weeks of jokes about “No wonder you always need a few cups to get started in the morning!” but was never asked to make coffee again.

        2. LW*

          OP here – ooh thats a good one! Yeah its like their parents never taught them how to behave properly so they still act like children.

      2. Weegie*

        No, it’s just a British thing. Most offices I’ve worked in have a culture of getting ’rounds’ of tea – if you get up to make a cup for yourself you’re expected to ask others if they want one too, and there’s an informal (usually) system of turn-taking. In this instance, the aggressive colleague in question will have got all bent out of shape by what appears to be the LW ‘refusing’ to take her turn. Seriously, not joining in can be taken very badly in some places, i.e., dysfunctional, gossipy, bitchy ones.

        But usually what happens when a newbie joins the office is that others offer to get *them* a drink, and this is the opportunity to say ‘I don’t drink hot drinks, thanks’ or ‘I like the exercise of walking to the kitchen, so I’ll get my own, thanks’, or whatever, and then they’ll leave you alone. I must say I’ve never experienced anyone directly asking me to bring them a drink, so my guess is that this office is one of the more dysfunctional ones in terms of interpersonal relationships.

        1. Ange*

          I’ve worked in one British office where, despite not drinking tea or coffee, I was pressured into doing rounds for tea. But that was pressure from the whole team, not just one person.

          1. Loubelou*

            You’ve explained this really well.

            I would add that the only time I’ve been expected to do tea rounds even if I wasn’t having any myself was when I was the office receptionist/admin/everything else, and getting tea for everyone was an unofficial part of the job description. I knew that everyone few hours I had to ask around to see who wanted tea and go and make it for everyone.

            It is slightly possible that CW2 thinks the LW has this kind of role. Slightly. Perhaps her predecessor used to do it and everyone got used to it. If there is a chance this is the case it would be worth checking with your manager and saying ‘CW2 keeps expecting me to get tea for everyone, is this part of my job?’ Either your boss will laugh and say you had more important things to be doing, (giving you the standing to then pass this on to your colleague, as they seem like the kind of person who needs to hear it from a superior rather than a peer) or they’ll tell you that yes, actually this is an unwritten but expected part of the role.

            1. Artemesia*

              On the other hand it is always risky to ask as the boss may decide on the spot ‘hey she is willing to be our drudge, so yeah, let’s get her to do this.’ This is the same risk when you use this indirect approach when a male peer expects you to be his secretary. Ask and the answer may be yes, even if it would not have been before. So it is safer to say ‘I wanted to give you a heads up that Fergus keeps putting his work on my desk and expecting me to do it; I am swamped with my own stuff, so I am passing it back to him.’ Ask if you are supposed to do it and the boss may find it easier to say yes.

              1. OhNo*

                Even if it’s not a solid “yes, this is your job”, you’re more likely to get a waffling reply of, “well, you know, if you have the time… good for team-building… build relationships… team spirit… etc.”

                Safer by far to decline it altogether. Unlike job-adjacent tasks, this is something that doesn’t require borrowing a boss’ authority to turn down.

        2. Blue Anne*

          Eh, yeah. This is a much more expected crappy office politics thing in the UK than in the USA. When I worked in Scotland I definitely knew how everyone in the office took their tea and coffee. But I drank coffee myself. This is weird and crappy. This person is out of line.

        3. Blunt Bunny*

          It depends I am British and in my current office there is a automated tea and coffee dispenser outside the office. That said there is about 20 people in my office I only ask the people directly connected to my desk which is 4 of us. I’m previous offices/companies where we had kettles and also dispenser further down the corridor it was help your self. It takes no more than 2 mins to boil if full so it’s not really that inconvenient and people often use it as an excuse to wander around and get away from work for a few minutes.
          If you don’t have hot drinks then you shouldn’t have to make them for other people.

          If you want to get on there good side partaking in the bringing cake on birthday, travels etc will go along way.

        4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Serious question: How do you carry all these cups of tea? It seems trying to balance more than 2 cups of tea would be dangerous because people might trip or spill hot water everywhere.

          1. londonedit*

            Trays! Or people offer to come and help. Making tea is basically an excuse to get away from your desk for five minutes.

          2. Else*

            I actually have co-opted my work mail box to do things like this even though I’m not one tiny bit British because I like both tea/coffee and my colleagues – I often offer to bring them one if I’m making my own. I am in fact the reason why we have a shared electric kettle – this isn’t as common in US offices as coffee pots, UK folks. I’m glad it’s not an actual obligation, though! Sometimes there just isn’t time, especially if more than one wants coffee from the Keurig instead of tea.

        5. LW*

          Hi Weegie – Yeah I think this office is very disfunctional, a few individuals act like spoiled children. I very politely made told everyone early on that I don’t drink hot beveridges and no one else had an issue with it.

      3. just trying to help*

        2 great stories about communal coffee. Years ago, a coworker and I received promotional coffee mugs from a vendor. They were nice and we decided to use them the next day. We found out they were also large and between the 2 of us, we drained a 12 cup coffee pot. Too much coffee all at once and instantly having to make another pot. Those mugs now hold pencils.
        2nd story – over the years, makers get donated, carafes break, etc. we mixed and matched as we saw fit in this office. I walk in one day to see a waterfall of coffee running over the pot, down the sides of the credenza. The boss decided to fill the 12 cup maker with water from a gallon plastic jug. The carafe was 10 cups. Hilarity ensued.

        1. Emily K*

          The pot being nominally 12 “cups” is a joke to me. I love alone so I only make enough to fill up my 16oz commuter mug each morning… which is 2 8oz cups going by imperial measurement, but 4 “cups” doubt by the coffee pot because apparently in some quaint olden days people drank coffee from tiny 4oz teacups. You won’t catch me calling 4oz a cup – I’ll tell anyone who asks that I drink 2 cups of coffee a day even if the coffee pot is silly enough to call it 4.

      4. LW*

        OP here – from other comments she has made I think she is trying to put me in my place. Since I wrote the letter, other issues have occurred which I have reported to management.

          1. LW*

            Made a series of snide comments over a number of weeks about how I’m lazy (I’m overweight) whenever I have done something differently to how she would do it or I wouldn’t jump when she clicked her fingers.

            1. Trogdor the Burninator*

              CLICKED her FINGERS? Wow. Now we get the full picture. Thank you for *ahem* spilling the tea. Sorry you have to deal with this mean girl!

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      Fellow non-coffee drinker. This is just downright weird. Unless it’s part of their job description, it would never remotely occur to me to expect someone to make me coffee or tea at work, let alone to be put out that they didn’t. Sure, it makes sense to make a whole pot of coffee to share if you are having a cup, but this? I do not get it.

      The best I could do would be to look oddly at the person while tilting my head and knitting my brows together in a very puzzled manner, pause just a wee bit too long to make it awkward, and say, “I … actually wasn’t making any coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker.”

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m a drinker of both tea and coffee and *I* think this is weird! The first person who wants a cup of coffee makes the coffee, and makes enough for others (since it’s easier to make a pot than just a cup, anyway). But if you don’t drink coffee . . . why on earth would you be the one to make it?

        I’ve worked places where making coffee was an explicit part of opening duties, but otherwise, if you don’t drink it, you don’t make it.

    6. Shax*

      I once worked in a UK call centre where team members would take turns to get hot drinks for the whole department at once, but that was because we couldn’t just all get up at once and leave the phones unmanned. But this doesn’t sound like that.

      If anything it sounds like a member of the team testing what the new starter will put up with. Either just tell them no, or just passively-aggressively make them really bad drinks for your own amusement. (e.g. “I put half a sugar in because I can’t remember if you take sugar or not”, stir the tea with a coffee spoon and vice versa)

      1. CoffeeforLife*

        Hahahahaha! This has to be the most British passive aggressive thing. I’m pretty sure most US offices don’t have coffee AND tea spoons nor would we notice/care.

        Also, I love that this is a thing.

        1. Selkiie*

          It’s more a case of stirring the tea with a spoon you already used for coffee, thereby contaminating it. ;)

          In my experience, teamaking for the team is usually more a social break than anything else. One or two people will go make the drinks, have a bit of a blether and a break while doing it, then get back to work.

      2. Works in IT*

        Oh, yesssss.

        If you steep most black teas longer than three minutes, they end up tasting hideously strong and bitter. Demanding
        Coworker will be incredibly displeased if you make them a cup of over steeped black tea, and will probably stop asking you for tea.

        1. Else*

          I’ve heard that UK tastes generally run to what I think of as weak tea, too – it would be easy to mess that up and blame it on your lack of tea drinking experience.

          1. londonedit*

            Weak tea? A preference for weak/milky tea will lead to endless mocking among British people. I don’t know anyone who drinks their tea any lighter than a rich caramel colour.

            1. OhNo*

              Well, there’s an option if passive-aggressive is the chosen tactic. Just bring the irritating coworker a cup of extremely milky tea (or even just a cup of milk). If they’re insulted, just play it off with, “Sorry, I don’t know how to make tea, since I don’t drink it!”

              1. Works in IT*

                I’d suggest my method of producing throat burningly powerful chai (it bites you when you drink it!) but considering I get it from leaving a clove heavy blend steeping over night until it’s basically just essence of clove, that’s not really good for “accidental” unpalatably strong tea.

    7. Blossom*

      I actually wonder if the colleague was kind of joking, not being entirely serious. I’m in the UK and can’t imagine any normal person seriously expecting that.

      1. Newington*

        I’m in the UK and can’t imagine anyone not drinking tea.

        I’ve worked in some pretty petty offices so I can imagine someone expecting the non-tea-drinker to do a round. What I can’t imagine is them actually saying that. Surely this can be dealt with with a passive-aggressive sidelong glare and, if it’s necessary to go to extremes, a pointed cough?

        1. Blossom*

          Ha. I don’t drink it (only herbal). Where I’ve worked, people will tend to politely ask others if they want one if they’re making themselves one, but I’ve worked with several people who, tea drinkers or not, don’t like the whole ritual and politely decline and just discreetly get their own, and it’s never been an issue. Glad I’ve missed out on some very petty and tedious tea “cultures”!

        2. Claribel*

          Hahahaha the ‘pointed cough’ is only to be deployed in the most dire of circumstances!

        3. only acting normal*

          I don’t drink tea, only coffee. My mother thinks this is positively unbritish of me. Apparently I *make* a lovely cup of tea, but I wouldn’t know, never tasted it.
          I *do not* enter into the tea round shenanigans because I only have coffee at breakfast and lunch – one colleague tried to shame me into it, but I am shameless. :)

        4. Ada Doom*

          Not the pointed cough! It’s enough to leave someone in a paralysis of re-analysis of all previous social interactions and hiding in the toilet. All other coworkers will be forced by reflected embarrassment into simply staring at their screens and pretending nothing has happened for the next week!

        5. Grace*

          I’ve worked in some pretty petty offices so I can imagine someone expecting the non-tea-drinker to do a round.

          Why would you expect someone to interrupt their work when they are busy to fetch tea for others that they themselves will not drink? Those who benefit from the interruption should take turns doing it, but why should someone who will never be on the receiving end of the favor?

      2. dramallama*

        My brain went there too– when I was in the UK (as an American) I got caught off-guard several times by a tone I thought was sarcasm but wasn’t, or vice-versa. I could totally understand if the tea-demanding coworker was embarrassed and trying to play it off as a joke, one which didn’t land and made things worse.

      3. Fish Called Oneda*

        I am American but have worked about half my career in the City of London for three different financial firms. At no time has there ever been a designated person who makes tea/coffee for the entire office.

        (The only slight exception is that our receptionist will bring drinks to meetings in conference rooms, but this is not the whole office.)

    8. Everdene*

      As a British no hot drinks drinker (v unusual) this is definitely a thing and I have had to make assertive stands that no, I will not ‘take my turn’ at the tea round because I am not part of it. It is however a normal thing and people at all levels will participate. There are names on a chart with preferances and people have favourite mugs. You have to state explicitly *why* you are not making hot drinks but also never, ever accept one or you will be seen as not pulling your weight.

      To show I’m not just selfish/obstinate/rude I make a point of saying stuff like ‘I’m getting a water/files from the basement/something out the way do you need anything?’

      1. Five after Midnight*

        I can attest that, yes, there are tea rounds, and yes, it’s normal and all participate, and yes, there are tea/coffee charts near the beverage station. BUT, it is reciprocal, so you’re either in or out. In my case, I was on a completely different tea/coffee schedule then everyone else in my office – it was grudgingly accepted that I normally did not participate, although I would occasionally make a round if my own schedule got thrown off and was on-time with the rest of the office (but I would still not accept others making beverages for me).
        And, yes, in OP#1’s situation I would go with a passive-aggressive purposeful messing up the drink: too much milk, not enough milk, over-sugared, no sugar, very weak, 2 teabags in one cup, whatever – passive-aggressiveness is SO British – it drove me nuts, and most of the time I had no clue what I did wrong to deserve being on the receiving end of it.

        1. On Fire*

          In my case, it wouldn’t even be passive-aggression. I’ve made coffee maybe three times in my life, and it was undrinkable. So now I can honestly say, “oh, you don’t want me to make it; I make awful coffee.” (Not so helpful when it’s prepackaged, like for large commercial machines, or when there are directions taped up: X scoops, Y water, but it usually works.)

          1. Red 5*

            I’m at the same level on the coffee and probably would mess up tea in their eyes too. I can’t have caffeine for medical reasons, and I was never a fan of either beverage so other than a basic “I know you use some hot water and stick a tea bag in it or something?” I don’t really know how it works. And the tea drinkers I’ve known have been very picky and specific about how they want it done.

            I’m happy to hit a button on an automated machine if I’m walking that way and somebody says “hey can you turn on the coffee pot?” when it’s already set up, the same way I’d throw away a Starbucks cup if I’m walking by the trash can or something. But actually going through the process of making someone else’s drink? I can’t think of a single co-worker I’d do that for, especially because I just don’t know how to do it and the only motivation to learn would be so people could take advantage.

          2. ClashRunner*

            President Truman’s wife once said that if you never learn how to do a chore, you’ll never be asked to do that chore. In her case, it was milking cows. For me, it’s making coffee.

        2. NYWeasel*

          At one office I worked at, there were definitely expectations that the hot drinks consumers would each take turns getting drinks for everyone, but I never saw anyone bullied for not getting drinks—even those that maybe had a cuppa at 11am, but didn’t want one at 2. You just had to offer to get them in proportion to how often you drank a beverage.

          In our company’s current London office, there’s no expectations that anyone would go get drinks for everyone.

          I have to say, in the first office I really found myself drinking waaaaay more coffee than I usually would, simply bc ppl were always offering to get it.

      2. PossiblyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

        If your office is organised enough to have a chart and favourite mugs, is it also the case that the office provides the tea/coffee/sugar/milk supplies as well? Do they go as far as providing the (at least where I used to work) FIVE different types of milk, in enough volume to ensure none run out? Because at pretty much every office I’ve worked at that has a tea/coffee club, the milk is provided by the members, who *pay in* (about 10p a week depending on the number in the club). If you don’t pay in, you aren’t part of the tea/coffee making round and all expectations (on both sides) are removed.
        (Yes, if you took your coffee black you still had to pay in to subsidise the soya milk purchase, but it was like a membership subscription)

        Obviously, this applies to larger office environments, so if OP1 only has two coworkers (one who has accepted her choice and one who is just *rude*), perhaps the best approach is just to ignore Rude Coworker’s demands for a brew (“Uh, I’m not in the middle of making a brew?”) Said questioningly to convey the “that’s an odd thing to ask me to do” nature of her request. Obviously, if you’re in the kitchen and next to the kettle, it’s not a great deal of effort to flick the switch, or if you’re having a Cup-a-soup, ensure there’s enough extra water for a cuppa as well, but those are just basic niceties.

        1. Blue Anne*

          That’s so wild. I was an auditor in Scotland. Every office I ever worked at or visited provided coffee, tea, sugar and probably artificial sweetener, and milk for their employees.

          1. Possibly Enough Detail to be Identified?*

            The tea, coffee, sugar and sweeteners were all company provided – it’s just the wide varieties of milk that couldn’t be reasonably catered for. Strangely enough, there never seems to have been much concern over decaff / earl grey / filter / instant and all the different teas and coffees, but milk was a deal breaker!
            (I’ve overheard heated discussions between someone who accidentally used semi-skimmed instead of skimmed! Yikes, we didn’t dare get on the wrong side of Jane for the rest of *that* day!)

            Possibly this was just because milk made it easier to have a comparatively cheap subscription “fee” for being part of the Brew round. At 10p a week, it meant that there was little to no pressure to take part, and there was (nearly) always a colleague who would spot you some change if you forgot.

      3. smoke tree*

        I wish this tea camaraderie also existed in Canada. I’m often the only tea drinker in the office, and it’s a lonely existence.

    9. Obelia*

      I’m British and live in the UK, and we have a mix of tea & coffee drinkers/non-drinkers at work.

      At least in my office,
      we wouldn’t ever expect a non-tea/coffee drinker to make hot drinks for anyone else;
      people who want cafetière coffee normally make that for themselves – we don’t expect anyone to offer anything other than instant. Then again I work in Yorkshire, and London might be different :)
      it wouldn’t be huge deal even if someone just made themselves a hot drink (though offices will vary on that one); and
      the idea of a co-worker (as opposed to a horrible boss) *demanding that you get them a hot drink* makes me want to go and have a lie down.

      1. Agent Diane*

        Agreed! I’ve worked in heaps of offices around the UK and the tea/coffee routines vary in each* but I have never had a peer demand I make them a drink. If it continues, OP1, I’d try a Paddington stare, a head tilt and a “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Or, next time she’s going to the kitchen, ask her to refil your water bottle, knock together some lunch etc.

        *footnote for Americans. In one building alone we had one team who ran a rota for an elevenses, a “tea club” that simply provided milk but did not make drinks, and a subset who would go on a coffee run every day (and order bacon butties on fridays). Plus the one-on-one “I’m going to Pret/Starbucks/Nero – can I get you anything?” friendship offers. We never had a “You! New person! Get in the kitchen and make me a tea!”.

        1. Nessun*

          And a lovely hot cuppa to go with it…

          Throw in a comfy chair and a book, actually – it’s Friday and I’m so done with work.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          MMM bacon butties. I don’t eat bacon anymore but I make an exception when I visit the UK. I miss Pret and Nero too. :(

          I love the idea of giving her the Paddington hard stare.

      2. Anonomoose*

        Londoner here: I’ve not been on the receiving end of strong tea round culture, but I’m baffled by anyone saying anything. There should be years of passive aggression before they’re willing to talk to you about it

        1. londonedit*

          Londoner here too, and there are definitely tea rounds, but in my experience it’s very informal and no one would ever say anything to someone who didn’t join in! If you don’t drink tea/coffee, you’re not expected to make it.

          The way it’s always worked in my experience is that if someone decides they fancy a hot drink, they’ll get up and say to anyone in the vicinity ‘Anyone want a drink?’ There’s no set ‘tea round’ (US readers: we don’t all stop for tea at a certain time of day; tea is consumed on an ad hoc basis). I don’t drink tea, and I have one cup of coffee in the morning which I bring in myself, so whenever I start a new job I make a point of saying that I never really drink hot drinks, so don’t worry about asking me if I’d like one, and apologies for the fact that I’m unlikely to make anyone else a hot drink. It’s never been an issue. Of course, if I do for some reason fancy a herbal tea or I’m getting myself hot water for a miso soup or something, I’ll offer to make a round of hot drinks (despite not drinking tea or coffee I am British so I know how to make a decent cup of tea!)

          Totally agree with Anonomoose that I’d expect months of passive-aggressive huffing rather than anyone directly confronting someone who seemingly never contributed ‘their share’ of the teamaking.

        2. Mongrel*

          Surrey\London ex-office worker (now WFH) and just re-iterating,
          You only make hot drinks for your peers (and generally one level above) as part of an unofficial reciprocal agreement. If you never partake then you’re not included in the agreement.
          It’s very similar to ‘the round’ at the pub.
          And I believe the correct response is passive-aggressive deafness or mumbled “Have your legs\hands fallen off?”

          1. London Calling*

            *And I believe the correct response is passive-aggressive deafness or mumbled “Have your legs\hands fallen off?”*

            Or BIG smile, head tilt, and the enquiry as to what your last slave died of?

              1. AKchic*

                Substitute in “did someone free your last house elf?”

                Because yeah… asking about a person’s slaves is openly hostile. Asking about their fictional character slaves is less so, but gives the same direct pointedness.

      3. Former call centre worker*

        Another UK-based person chiming in: yes, this is weird, and Alison’s answer stands. However as another commenter has said, it’s so weird that I do wonder if it was a joke.

        I’d be tempted to reply to hot drink requests with “Oh, no thank you” as though they were offering you something, as if they aren’t joking I think that would put them in the uncomfortable position of having to explain that they were telling you to do something, not offering, which may make them realise how rude they were being.

        1. Samwise*

          Hahaha, or as a friend liked to do, give a giant smile and say very quickly as they walked by, “wellf**youverymuch!”

        2. Anonym*

          This also works on strangers asking personal questions or for phone numbers! It’s either confusing or uncomfortable for them, and you get to be “nice.”

          1. facepalm*

            Yes, I do this exact thing when cashiers ask for my zip code, email, or phone number. A bright, cheerful, “Oh, no thanks!”

      4. RUKiddingMe*

        The whole idea of needing to (expected to) make drinks for everyone else, from a preferences chart no less when all I want is to get caffeinated makes *me* need a lie down.

        1. londonedit*

          It’s…just a nice and normal part of everyday life! Unless you work somewhere Extremely Weird and Not Normal with Particularly Odd Tea Rituals, it’s just part of life in Britain. No one is forcing anyone to make tea, no one is standing over you with the preferences chart yelling at you to get it right, and no one will *really* mind if you make their tea slightly weaker or stronger than they’d prefer it in an ideal world. It’s literally just doing a nice thing for your immediate colleagues, making two or three extra cups of tea while you’re already making one yourself, and it’s no more taxing than saying ‘John, tea? You’re milk and no sugar, right?’ I can’t imagine not at least offering if I’m going to be making a hot drink myself.

          1. Been There*

            That would be seen as really awkward and out of touch here, maybe because Americans place such a high value on being self-sufficient.

            That said, what would the expectation be for someone who was American if they were working in the UK? This isn’t something any American would be comfortable doing / aware of culturally. Would someone explain it, or would the American be exempt?

            1. londonedit*

              I love how culturally deep this goes. In Britain you don’t help yourself to something without offering it to other people as well. Just as you don’t take the last piece of something without doing the whole ‘Anyone want this last piece of cake?’ ritual (where the understanding is that the person who does the offering clearly actually wants the last piece of cake, and it would be rude for you to then take the last piece of cake, but they have to ask and you have to politely decline in order to then allow them to have the last piece of cake without reproach). Of course, in most reasonable offices you can absolutely just make yourself a quick cup of tea occasionally and no one will mind, but in most places the polite/usually done thing is to at least offer to make everyone in the immediate vicinity a drink too.

              1. Future Homesteader*

                We in the US tend to do the “last piece of cake” thing, and generally in offices with a coffee pot one is expected to refill it (although I have yet to work in an office where everyone abides by that).

                But yeah, our tea culture (at work, at least) is very insular, and we generally have much less in the way of tea accouterments. I have plenty of fellow tea-drinking colleagues, but we all make our own (from sad lukewarm water from the water cooler, not kettles…which is why I prefer to brew mine at home and bring it in when I have time, because ick).

                Also, this whole thread is killing me, thank you to our English/British/UK contingent for this extremely enlightening and amusing commentary!

                1. Nessun*

                  I had to fight for a kettle at our old office, and it drove me nuts. Can’t count how many times I heard “can’t you just use the water spigot from the coffee machine” or “can’t you just use the microwave” *SHUDDER* No, heathen, you don’t use microwave water for tea…well, not if you care about the taste…(yes, personal opinion, and also Hill I Will Die On).

                1. londonedit*

                  I mean, it totally sounds exhausting when you type it all out in explanation. It really isn’t when it’s part of the culture you were brought up in. Wouldn’t occur to me not to ask if people want a cup of tea if I’m making one, and it wouldn’t occur to me to take the last roast potato without doing the Last Roast Potato ritual as described above.

              2. Clorinda*

                My husband is from Wisconsin and will not ever eat or drink the last bit of ANYTHING, and our children have acquired the habit, which means that once a week I have to go through the fridge and throw away all the tiny bits and pieces, or fling everything into a cup of broth, call it soup, and eat it myself. He can’t even bring himself to take the last half-pickle from a jar!

              3. TootsNYC*

                America has some of that “last slice” thing, and also the “did you bring enough to share with everyone?”

                But there are also places where, even though you are physically next to one another, you are not “under the same roof,” so to speak.

                So if you have a snack at your desk, you aren’t expected to have brought enough for everyone, for example.

                And taking the last donut sitting out in the breakroom at work isn’t the same as taking the last donut at home.

                1. ClashRunner*

                  I’d rather someone take the last donut then do that “I can’t take the last one, oh let me cut it into halves…or quarters” song and dance. Commit to the donut!

            2. ptork66*

              As an American in the UK, no one explained it, I just picked it up from noticing others doing it and started doing it myself (I do drink tea and coffee these days). When in Rome… :) If I didn’t drink hot drinks, I get the feeling I would have been exempt, as it’s just something nice you ask when you get up to make your own drink.

            3. Helena*

              “Would the American be exempt?”

              Definitely, we all know Americans can’t make tea, because we’ve all been served tea in America that consisted of a teabag on the side of a glass of tepid water. Nobody would risk being served up that and then having to drink it politely!

              Seriously, anybody who doesn’t drink tea is exempted, regardless of nationality. It’s OP’s coworker who is the weird one here.

      5. (Former) HR Expat*

        American who worked in Lancashire for several years and saw the rota happen all the time. But it was usually among individual teams (in a fairly large office). We never expected the new person to do the rota if they weren’t getting the beverage. There were a couple people who liked doing it, so they tended to make the coffee/tea more often. And they always offered to get mine, but I declined because it was my chance to get up from my desk/office. There was never an issue with that.

    10. Ron McDon*

      There is indeed a very strange culture around tea making in some UK offices!

      It is ‘accepted’ in these *Strange Places* that:
      – the newest hire will make their colleagues a cup of tea as one of their first duties – unless they’re a director etc I suppose, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was expected even then.
      – you will all take it in turns to make drinks for each other, with the most junior/newest hire expected to do more than their fair share. Much passive aggressive grumbling ensues if you’re not appearing to pull your weight.
      – it often doesn’t matter if you drink tea/coffee yourself, you are still expected to offer to make drinks for your colleagues.
      – people get very invested in everyone ‘taking turns’ and very annoyed at any dissenters.

      Where I work now is not a *Strange Place* (although we’ve had issues around the buying of milk/providing treats recently), and I ask my colleagues if I’m making myself a drink/getting some water, but there’s no expectations or rotas.

      The British obsession around tea/coffee making, hierarchy and passive aggressiveness really knows no bounds is some workplaces.

      OP should certainly not be expected to make their colleagues a drink regularly (as they are not reciprocating), but I would offer every now and again just to ‘show willing’ – e.g. if I’m going to the kitchen to refill my water bottle, or boiling the kettle for a Cup-a-Soup etc. Like Alison said, it’s a ‘know your workplace’ thing, and this sounds like a workplace where this sort of nonsense matters.

      1. misspiggy*

        You nailed it. Having worked in a couple of these Strange Places, I found people never had enough work to keep them occupied and would search for tiny grievances to worry at. Usually there was plenty of work to be done, but actually doing it would be losing some bizarre war of attrition with management.

      2. Doubleblankie*

        I think it is a ‘know your workplace’ thing but as one colleague apologised straight away if I was the OP I would be careful not to let the irritating colleague needle me – sounds like it could be a bit of a power play. Just an ‘I don’t like tea so I don’t know how to make it’ should be fine? Or asking the colleague to make her a drink frequently or something equally passive aggressive.

      3. SuperAdmin*

        My previous (London and Cambridge) offices have been very much a “I’m putting the kettle on, anyone want anything?” culture – wave a mug in your team’s direction (and it’s almost always just your immediate team/handful of people in your vicinity), and then go fill up the kettle. People who indicated they want a drink then follow you to the kitchen, gossip is traded whilst people make their own tea/coffee with the boiled water, and then back to our desks we go.

        OP, you could perhaps get in the habit of filling and boiling the kettle, and then when you return to your desk pre-empt any snark by letting them know the kettle is boiled if they want anything.

        My new office is a *Strange Place* in that people silently go and make their own drink, with no eye contact made with anyone else in the office. But that’s symptomatic of bigger issues…

        1. Steve*

          I’m from a different country than the US and UK, where our culture is similar. We don’t make tea for each other, however we do fill up the kettle and put it on to boil (the kettles which automatically turn off are wonderful for this). Years ago I got very pissed off at a colleague who would fill up his cup with ‘my’ hot water (I had put some on to boil) as for some reason he never left quite enough for me (he had a big mug and it was a small kettle) and he never refilled it. He seemed to take note of when I left to put on the kettle, and ensured he took advantage. After a week of this, I solved the problem by staying with the kettle until it boiled. Now, even if I’m not thirsty, if I am in the area of the kettle mid-morning or -afternoon then I will ensure it is filled and set to boil.

          For me, ‘put the kettle on’ is only to make hot water available to others, which takes a few seconds. I realise that the OP shouldn’t feel obligated to even make that effort, but it would take little time while building good-will.

          I don’t drink coffee, so if someone asked me to make it I would do an awful job of it due to inexperience, and they would hopefully never ask me again. Very passive-aggressive, but it would seem the appropriate response given that the request was passive-aggressive!

        2. TootsNYC*

          however, since the OP doesn’t drink tea and doesn’t need hot water, I would suggest that she not even do that.

    11. Quinalla*

      I am American, so maybe there is some British culture thing at play here, but I’d still push back. I do not drink coffee and have always pushed back if anyone tried to get me to make it, especially as a woman in STEM, because yeah… I usually go with the “Oh I don’t drink coffee, so I have no idea how to make it!” And seriously, coffee makers are weird so this is a pretty good explanation! Tea is a little harder as boiling water in a tea kettle is pretty hard to mess up, but still, I’d just keep pushing back, “Remember, I don’t drink tea.” Especially since the one coworker was fine with it when you explained, I don’t think this is a universal thing at this job.

      Also, as a tea drinker living in coffee-culture America, I’m quite jealous that you have a kettle. I’m lucky I have a spigot on the coffee maker I can get hot water :) My last place it was the microwave or no tea. At least I have my kettle at home.

      1. Samwise*

        The reason to push back is not that Miss Snippy asked OP to make her a cup of tea, but rather because of *how* she asked, or rather demanded. I don’t drink from our office coffee pot [shudders — too terrible! and it’s caffeinated, I have to drink decaf], but I’ll gladly pour a cup for a colleague who asks nicely and somewhat apologetically.

      2. Beancounter Eric*

        Yank tea drinker here…..current office has a kettle, but in past jobs, I’d bring a small kettle for my desk.

        Hot water from the spigot isn’t hot enough to make a proper cup of tea, per the Royal Society of Chemistry(…and George Orwell (London Evening Standard, 12 January 1946)

        And on the subject of the question posed – colleague strikes me a a bit much – If one was emptying the coffee pot or the kettle, I’d expect them to refill/make a new pot….but expecting them to bring back a cup of tea just because they went to the break room….no.

    12. RoadsLady*

      I worked at a school where there was no coffee maker. Then one day there was, the school having used some funds to get what they said was a nice machine (not a hot drinks drinker myself so I wouldn’t know). Some policies were started of the friendly sort, like donating coffee/tea/cocoa, filling it up, starting pots, etc.

      I completely avoided even making cocoa because I feared I would find myself in the position of being the last one and needing to figure out how it worked.

      I’m grateful it wasn’t so strong a culture. I don’t think I could have fetched anyone anything.

    13. TootsNYC*

      yeah, even if you DID drink tea, why are you required to make to for someone else just because you’re in the kitchen?

      I can see that perhaps the making of tea is bothersome enough that it’s a big bonus to have people make several cups at once from an efficiency POV.

      Like, if you have an electric kettle that has a minimum amount of water, once the water’s hot, it would be sensible to say, “Anybody else want tea? the water’s boiling now,” since the work of making 4 cups of tea instead of 1 is so small an increase.


      1. Annonnomouse*

        In which case it’s also reasonable that any takers get up out their chairs, carry their own mug to the kitchen, use the water to make their own tea and carry it back to their own desk.

        1. TootsNYC*

          well, if the cups are already there in the kitchen, I can see the water-boiler tossing a teabag in, adding water, and bringing it back–in which case, I think you’re limited to 2 other people.

          1. Tea Jenny*

            Most offices I’ve worked in have a tea tray, so unless someone has a disability that precludes it 5-6 mugs is very doable (and team bonding and normal) – but insisting a non kettle beverage consumer gets in the tea is rude and peculiar.

      2. IT Squirrel*

        You can think of it as a way of building good feelings with your immediate colleagues, if you are going anyway then making a few cups of tea/coffee for them will make them think positively of you. It’s sort of on the level of doing other little favours like picking up a print out for someone if you’re going to the printer anyway etc.

        I think the biggest group I’ve seen here is about 5 or 6 mugs, but that team have a good rota going so they take it in turns to get away from the desk and make tea. My little team are only 3 hot drink drinkers so it doesn’t take long really for a bit of good will. The two who don’t drink hot drinks are exempted from making it :)

        Tea is a serious business you know(!)

    14. LCH*

      maybe because i’m american so i just don’t get it. every time you enter the kitchen, you are to magically know who in the office wants tea right then? i mean.. what if you go into the kitchen 5 times a day? that’s 5 cups of tea? how does this system work?

      1. Buzz*

        You… ask? You want to go and get a drink, so you stand up from your desk and ask the people near you if they fancy a drink. Then you make the drinks and bring them back.

        The other people who drink tea/coffee will take turns, so you probably only do this once a day or every other day.

    15. MommyMD*

      Why in the heck is coworker expected to be waited on? Bizarre and entitled. I’d look quizzical and say nothing. Go on my way.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1…unless you’re an assistant of some sort, making tea or coffee for a coworker is super weird around here.

    If you’re going to a shop, offering to pick up a beverage for others is normal enough. But “why did you go to the kitchen and not bring me anything” outside of family or if your hosting guests is absurd!

    Are you youngest in the office by chance? They seem like they’re expecting to be treated like your mom or elders instead of peers to me :(

    1. Marzipan*

      In British offices it’s very normal for whoever’s making a cup of tea to make one for everyone else as well.

      I’m a British person who doesn’t really drink tea or coffee, in which respect I am something of an outlier. It’s unusual enough that people do take a little while to get used to the idea, but I generally just explain to colleagues not to worry about making me drinks as I’ll sort my own and stay out of the communal drinks round. Once people get that, they’ve never expected me to make them drinks, and I do think the colleague is being weird here.

      #1, I would personally be extremely tempted, next time your colleague demands tea, to make her a truly appalling brew – water not boiling, and at the opposite end of the strength/weakness and milkiness/non-milkiness axis to whatever she likes, with whatever amount of sugar I know she doesn’t want. And then deliver it to her with a great flourish of cheerfulness. But then, I am quite petty.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        But…but how do you know how everyone in particular takes their tea?

        Maybe it’s the American’ness over here and coffee drinker in me but nobody fixes their drinks the same way. If it’s not to my taste it’s undrinkable and a waste.

        Argh tea makes me frown so hard and it’s clearly been washed out of my family genes over the years. I know zero tea drinkers!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s true that tea preferences are variable, but as Marzipan notes, there are some methods of fouling tea that will make the majority of tea drinkers very unhappy. For example, an overly weak tea is disappointing, while an over-brewed pot will often be so bitter that it’s undrinkable. Those forms of fouling are gross, regardless of how much milk or sugar you may take in your tea. A lukewarm or cold glass will not only taste grossly tepid, but the tea also won’t steep properly. And ime, for routine tea drinkers, there is nothing more disappointing than a poorly prepared cup of tea.

          The tea-prep pettiness is vast!

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I’m loopy and totally can’t excuse myself for missing the last half of Marzipan’s comment. Which is absolutely up my ally as well.

            Enjoy your stank tea, Carol! I would just dunk the bag until the water was tinted brown.

            1. La Dame Va se Fâcher*

              I’m trying not to laugh too conspicuously at “Enjoy your stank tea, Carol!” I will find excuses to say that.

          2. Avasarala*

            Yeah, everyone has a preference, but there’s a middle circle in the middle of all these venn diagrams of preference where most people will be decently satisfied. Everyone takes their coffee differently but if someone went and got you Starbucks with a little milk and sugar, most people would probably say thanks and drink it.

            Not that OP needs to try to guess anyone’s preference, but in my experience with (non-British-heritage) tea drinking, the receiver should just smile and say thank you and take a polite sip. It would be rude to critique a favor, like looking a gift horse in the mouth.

            1. Shad*

              Slight diversion—I’m not sure what Starbucks does to it, since their home brew is perfectly adequate, but at least for me, buying straight coffee at Starbucks would be a lovely way to passive aggressively tell me you never want to get me anything—it’s absolutely atrocious and tastes completely burned. (Of course, if someone was making a Starbucks run I can order and it’ll just be a pickup).
              Another way to ruin it might be to use the wrong teabags or put in two totally different ones, assuming a variety are available. One particularly nasty blend I’ve been subjected to was a bag of mint green tea with a bag of peach tea. Absolutely horrible, and an accident in that case.

              1. Else*

                Right?! It’s always scorched tasting. The only thing that makes it nice is to get one of their candy-coffees, which you only want to do maybe twice annually for health reasons.

            2. doreen*

              I’m sure most people would say thanks for the Starbucks – but I’m not so sure how many would drink more than a sip of it and I’m certain plenty of them won’t be satisfied. The people who use no milk and/or no sugar certainly won’t be satisfied and most likely won’t drink it

            3. TootsNYC*

              It would be rude to critique a favor, like looking a gift horse in the mouth.

              but is it a gift horse if you demanded it?


        2. Marzipan*

          I have, and I say this with the utmost seriousness, worked in offices where there is a chart up detailing everyone’s preferences.

          And you do sort of pick it up. Even I have an idea of which coworker likes it really weak, which kind of milk my boss uses, and so on.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Omg. I would grab my stapler and burn the building down on my way out. That sounds like actual hell. I’m not a barista. I would work at a coffee shop if I was not an office.

            1. Shax*

              In my British experience, when it’s done as part of a functioning team, it’s not a chore, it’s part of the bonding, along with the fake argument about how thirsty you are and who’s turn it is to go and get them.

              Knowing someone’s tea/coffee preferences is probably the closest thing British people have to that thing where French people switch from “vous” to “tu”.

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                That’s fair enough. Being brought up in the culture would probably make it less painful to think about as well.

                I don’t even make my partner’s coffee or my parents. They don’t make mine.

                I bond with my coworkers by waiting next to them for the coffee station or water cooler.

                1. Busy*

                  Well I think in the US too, we have that whole “the womens make the drinks for the mens” thing going on too. And then the power playing “you are new/young/less worthy than the rest of us, so go make the coffee”. So, it is definitely a cultural thing in that event – getting each other drinks is culturally very different!

                2. RUKiddingMe*


                  + on the sexism issues surrounding getting coffee/drinks/food in US culture.

                  That’s absolutely a thing and women need to push back hard against those assumptions that for dome reason are still happening in 2019.

                3. Busy*


                  I know and I am glad I know this now about British Culture, because if ever I have to work in Britain, I know this isn’t a power play or blatant sexism. Haha I am sure they would be so confused as Brits as to why I bristled so much on this.

                4. bonkerballs*

                  Yeah, I think that’s the thing that sticks out for me too. I totally hear all the British commenters saying it’s a team bonding thing, but preference is so varied and personal that the idea of even making my significant other’s drink is weird to me. I’ll boil enough water for the both of us, maybe pull out his mug. But that’s as far as it goes. Anything beyond that is an overstep.

              2. Agent Diane*

                +1 on the vous/tu analogy! When I can remember someone else’s preference and they can’t remember mine, I am unreasonably annoyed because I’ve clearly invested more in you than you have in me.

              3. londonedit*

                Shax, absolutely. In my office there’s a colour chart with everyone’s tea preferences, but really, the easiest thing to do is just to ask people how they take their tea until you learn everyone’s preference. It’s not like whoever’s making the tea is doing it for 20 different people; you don’t have to go round the entire company. People make tea for little groups – if you fancy a cuppa then you ask people in your general area if they’d like one too. So it’s pretty straightforward to pick up that Emma has an Earl Grey in the morning, Jane has milk and one sugar, and Joe has skimmed milk and no sugar.

                Tea is a British way of showing togetherness and affection – the first thing anyone does if someone’s having a personal crisis is offer to make them a cup of tea. I don’t even drink tea but if I’m visiting my family I know that if my dad comes in from his workshop he’ll inevitably say yes to a cup of tea, so I’ll happily offer to make a tea round as a nice little thing to do for the people I love.

                1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Proudly partly English ancestry here… and I’d skew the works because I change it off depending on time of day, meals, and whether or not it’s Friday.
                  Why? Well, no cream in my cup on Fridays…not since the Friday I left it on my desk and picked it up by mistake on Monday. BRR.

                2. londonedit*

                  I mean, people do change their preferences, but that’s just a matter of someone saying ‘Oh, yes please – actually, could I have an Earl Grey with a splash of milk?’ This might provoke a response along the lines of ‘Ooh, living on the edge!!’ if your usual tea order is straight-up milk and one sugar, but it’s no big deal. I get the feeling people are imagining having to go around the office with a clipboard taking notes on 30 people’s tea orders, but that’s not how it is! It’s a casual making three or four extra cups thing while you’re already making your own tea, and it’s not hugely difficult to remember ‘two with milk no sugar, one Earl Grey with a splash, one with milk and two sugars’.

                3. pleaset*

                  “it’s not hugely difficult to remember ‘two with milk no sugar, one Earl Grey with a splash, one with milk and two sugars’.”

                  I could do that. But I wouldn’t want to – I’ve got other things to put mental attention onto most work days, even just walking around.

                4. Shax*

                  We would pair off to get the tea round, a Post-It note went round for everyone to write down what they wanted and during the ten minute walk to and from the canteen we’d discuss work problems and swap ideas on how to fix customer issues.

                  On my trips to our equivalent call centre in America I always found it amazing how these informal but productive sessions seem to be scorned because they don’t *look* as productive as “bums on seats”

              4. Doubleblankie*

                I had a particularly boring job where I loved any excuse to make tea – more fun than the actual work and very acceptable behaviour in the office. It is kind of a bonding thing, and you get to chat a lot etc. Maybe a bit like a smoking break in other countries? I work in the international office of a UK university now and not many colleagues like tea – I do kind of miss the ritual sharing of it all!

                1. MatKnifeNinja*

                  My UK friend just told me, the best way to burn time is. making the tea.

                  He’d dump the electric kettle once to burn up more time at work.

                  His lab also had a chart with everyone’s preferences and it was colored (?) to show how much milk to put in.

                  He also said the person who could make everyone’s cup of tea and not screw it up had the most secure job in the office.

                  Bonus round, everyone had a regular ceramic mug. You had to remember who’s mug was who’s.

          2. Amey*

            I agree, in my British office this is totally a thing – we don’t have a chart but we do know each other’s preferences. To be honest, people who are really picky about the way they like their tea prepared will tend to opt out of the tea round and make their own. But most people will be happy to have a cup of tea that is not quite to their preference than (*shudder*) no tea at all! And really, you are expected to offer if you’re going to the kitchen to get your own cup. British tea-making culture is 100% a thing.

            1. londonedit*

              Yep. You’ll always have one person who’ll say ‘Oh, don’t worry about me – mine’s too complicated!’ and that’s totally fine.

              I always find this subject endlessly fascinating in terms of culture – I can’t imagine wanting to make a drink for myself and not asking whether anyone else would like one while I’m at it. Whether it’s at home or at work! There’s no way I’d just saunter into the kitchen, make myself a hot drink, and not ask family/friends/colleagues if they’d like one too. Especially a partner or family member!

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                I think the issue is that OP1 is *NEVER* going to the kitchen for a hot drink.
                I wonder if OP1 would consider a compromise: “I’m going for a piece of fruit. Want me to top off the electric kettle while I’m in there?”
                Adding water to a teakettle and pressing start…that’s about as much as I’d ask a non-participant to do for me, and the social lubricant might be enough mollify the aggressive cow-orker.

                1. londonedit*

                  I very, very rarely have a hot drink, and that means I’m not expected to participate in hot drink making. Anytime someone in my office goes to the kitchen, they ask me if I want anything out of politeness, but I just say no thank you and it’s fine. If I did want something, once in a blue moon, they’d happily make it for me and that wouldn’t mean I was automatically ‘on the tea rota’ for the day – it’s so rare that it wouldn’t cause an issue. And, conversely, on the rare occasions that I do make a hot drink for myself, I’ll happily make drinks for everyone else too.

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                Family, friends, partner…IOW at home is one thing, at work is quite another.

                I think the vast majority of Americans would absolutely offer to family/friends at home, but at work…unless we’re particularly close or maybe share an office with one…maaayyybbbeee two others, it’s much less likely we’d offer.

                Also…there’s a whole bunch of types that would never take their turn/offer and we don’t have the same peer pressure/shaming ammunition to use because of it *not* being part of the culture to do rounds.

          3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Co-signed. I have previously been responsible for maintaining the list.

        3. Akcipitrokulo*

          You learn :) or ask each time…. but yeah, it’s pretty standard to offer to make for everyone if you make for yourself. But if you don’t, then it’s so not expected.

        4. EventPlannerGal*

          Because office tea is usually pretty bad anyway so no-one expects perfection. It’s not like people are going around like “Jane wants a weak roobois, Fergus is having a green tea with manuka honey, Wakeen takes loose-leaf Assam” or whatever. There’s usually a gigantic bag of PG Tips in the kitchen for communal use and the options are pretty much milk and sugar, milk and two sugars, sugar but no milk or milk but no sugar. So long as it contains tea and is some colour between tan and chocolate, it’s probably fine.

          1. Katie*

            Who do you know that likes chocolate coloured tea?! Ha!

            I worked in an office where we had taps that gave out boiling water, so you didn’t need to put the kettle on, and as such no one ever asked me to make a cuppa. We did have milk clubs but not in my team.

            The list of tea preferences is a sacred ritual in some of my volunteering circles. We’ll go away for a week long camp and someone will write the list of names and then you all fill in your preferences – you’re allowed a tea and a coffee (instant only) option. If you have someone coming to visit for more than a single cuppa then you add them to the list. Being on the tea list is how people know they’re part of the team! Sometimes we have a volunteer who doesn’t do hot drinks and they get put down for a diluting juice or a water so they can still be included in the tea run!!

            1. Ron McDon*

              I hate the taste of milk, so I have my tea the colour of chocolate :)

              It’s too bitter wothout milk, but I hate milky tea!

            2. Mary*

              My sister-in-law (Irish, not British, but Irish people are Even Moreso about tea.) Two teabags for a normal cup of tea, three if she wants it strong.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                A friend’s midwestern relatives make their coffee so weak that friend refers to it as “Nebraska Tea”.
                I’ll just show myself out now…

        5. Louisa*

          Just speaking for my own office experiences, there haven’t usually been that many options. We just have standard “builders” tea, or instant coffee. Milk is assumed. The only thing we usually ask about is sugar. A couple of people have soya or almond milk but we learned who they are. Over the weeks you learn how your colleagues prefer their drinks and making drinks for one another is a normal part of team work and bonding. If you are the one person in the office who never does a tea run, it might be noticed, but I would consider it a petty thing to pass comment.

          1. Snow*

            It’s really rare to get any other kind in british offices in my experience, we have kettles or hot water points not coffee pots/machines , occasionally someone will bring in a cafeteire but they don’t tend to be communal.

            1. Shad*

              Pour over! Heck, you can put coffee in a filter bag and steep it like tea! (They sell larger fillable filter bags for use with loose leaf tea). If I really wanted coffee and didn’t have access to a machine, I’d be more than willing to prep one of those workarounds.
              Of course, I don’t, and it’s easier to just use a teabag if I don’t want to deal with the coffee machine or don’t have one.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I’d just have to get my own desk sized Keurig.

                I can not do instant coffee. It’s an abomination… an unholy atrocity and disgrace…

                Why yes, I am from Seattle, why do you ask?

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              I now feel compelled to fly to the UK and go from office to office dropping off instant tea…

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Coffee bags on the other hand are a godsend. (Had them for camping, and it saved our sanity when we lost power for 6 days after Hurricane Irene.)

          3. Else*

            It’s useful for cooking – that’s what makes red velvet cake taste like that. Other than that…

          4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Every office I’ve worked in has had a filter or pod coffee machine. Sometimes both. Some people drink instant anyway ‍♀️

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’m another UK person and agree that while making tea / coffee for others is very common, it’s normally reciprocal, so someone who doesn’t do hot drinks would not be expected to participate.

        I wonder whether colleague 1 asked LW to put the kettle on as a result of a misunderstanding, rather than as a power play, given that they apologised and didn’t do it again? I could see it happening if they saw OP getting up and assumed that they were going to make a drink, or (more passive aggressively) if they noticed LW hadn’t offered but hadn’t noticed they hadn’t been drinking hot drinks either.

        Colleague 2 was just weird and rude.

        (on the ‘how do you know what people like’ question, one of my co-workers has a mug which says on it how she likes her tea – e.g. “Jane likes her tea strong, with a dash of milk and no sugar'” which I think is a greast idea for an office mug, especially if you have the kind of office where you are expected to make tea for everyone – ours isn’t like that, it’s more a case of smaller ’rounds’ of people who share a room or have adjoining rooms)

      3. Fish Called Oneda*

        In British offices it’s very normal for whoever’s making a cup of tea to make one for everyone else as well.

        I have worked about 8 years in the UK (plus countless business trips there from the US and the Gulf) and have never, ever encountered this outside of the context of a receptionist bringing coffee into meetings. The only thing I can think of is that it might be industry-specific (I am in investment management).

    2. Avasarala*

      Going to a shop to pick up a beverage is a good way to think of it. Or to take OP’s example of buying a round of drinks, I would say if you are at a pub you can certainly buy a round for your friends, even if you are personally drinking orange juice not beer. But no one would expect you to go buy them a beer if you weren’t at the pub but, say, at the park. It removes all illusion of “by the way” or reciprocity.

      I think it would be very considerate and polite for OP to put the kettle on when she happens to be in the kitchen if her office has frequent tea drinkers (even though she doesn’t drink it, because it’s an easy way to build goodwill in this office where it’s clearly an Issue). I think her responsibility lessens if she would have to be the one to watch the kettle if it turns out no one wants any (especially if it’s a stove instead of an electric kettle that turns off automatically). I think her responsibility certainly lessens if there aren’t many/frequent drinkers, and drops to zero at times when she is not already in the kitchen.

      1. Jeny*

        Just had to say that in the UK there would be absolutely zero chance that it would be a stove kettle!

        I think of all the differences between the UK and the USA our hot beverages might be the biggest divide.

        In the UK we’d never make a communal pot of coffee, it would almost always be instant and every single home and office would have an electric kettle and milk, no cream.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Definitely not a stove kettle! Are they even a thing outside of going camping or having a power cut any more? I think out health & safety guy would have a fit!

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Removed. Please stay on-topic. I’m going to need to put repeat offenders on permanent moderation otherwise.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              I think that must depend on the model — my kettle boils water thoroughly and quickly (I don’t know how it compares to average British electric kettles, but it’s substantially faster than stovetop).

              1. Tigger*

                My electric kettle boils water in about a minute and its great! My friend from England has the same model as me after hers fried after she plugged it into a converter.

              2. Pippa*

                (Out of besting) Tigger, can you please say what kettle this is? I’ve been unable to find an American kettle that will boil water that quickly (which I thought was just the inevitable problem of 110 rather than 220v electricity)

              3. Tigger*

                I was just a standard model on amazon for like $40 ish. I don’t use the full capacity, I only boil what I use so that’s probably why it’s so quick

              4. Else*

                Same! Every model I’ve had has been faster than the stove-top and the same or faster than the microwave.

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              Maybe. It was something I either heard or read a *while* ago. I don’t have an electric kettle so I have no idea of the veracity. Slower though may be the actual issue…

        2. Avasarala*

          I live in a tea-drinking country in Asia :) We usually have an electric kettle pot and fancy ones keep it warm and cheap ones don’t. But almost all stop heating automatically once the water has boiled. So in my office, I could fill the kettle and forget about it with no consequences, but on the off chance OP’s kettle doesn’t have this safety feature (or it would be the equivalent of turning on a gas stove and walking away).

          Basically if OP could heat water for anyone who wants it, then walk away and forget about it, that’s not much work and would be a nice gesture. But if OP would be obligated to turn it off afterwards, it’s a bigger deal, especially for someone not even going to drink it.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            I’m starting to think we had that whole revolution thing because the founders were tired of remembering everyone’s tea preferences…

          2. Busy*

            I always felt like the Tea Party was the ultimate petty act. Like, they could have just boycotted tea. They didn’t have to commandeer a ship and theatrically throw all the tea in the harbor. But at the same time, I love every part of it haha!

      2. Can I retire yet?*

        Quite possible there isn’t an actual kettle — offices I have worked in here in the UK don’t have them but hot water geysers, because the expectation is that everyone will drink tea (possibly coffee) made by the individual cup, not a pot.

        My co-workers have a range of tea styles from brickies’ cuppa to green tea infused for a specific amount of time. I use loose tea or coffee I ground that morning and brought in and make in a cafetiere (French Press) – so I make my own, as it is too fiddly and I am too picky. However, I make for them if I am making one. Its a team bonding sort of thing and also means making a drink is a bit more of a break — but less frequently if its shared.

        As an American who has lived in the UK for nearly 40 years, I would say its one of those social rituals that bind our British workforces together. Doesn’t mean OP1 needs to join in, as pleasantly explaining your own requirements / habits can be a respectful way of being part of the ritual. So I say multiple times a day ‘oh, my drink it too complicated for me to explain but thanks very much for asking’, and that’s fine. (I would feel like I had been sent to Coventry if no one ever asked.)

  4. CmdrShepard4ever*

    Op #1 I sort of understand your pain. In my office we have a keurig that has a tank that need to be manually filled with water. Since I am the first one in the office I need to fill it to make a cup of coffee. By the end of the day after a few people have made cups of coffee it is empty or low, but usually by the afternoon no one else is having/making coffee so no one else fills it. The next day the cycle repeats.

    I have just told myself that I am now the de facto coffee tank refiller.

    I agree with Alison it does not seem like you need to make your coworker tea/coffee everyday. But as a gesture of good will, I would maybe consider occasionally putting the kettle when you are in kitchen.

      1. JSPA*

        It’s doing one’s share of prep and cleaning. In some spaces, everyone does their own. In others, everyone does a “fair share.” Either one can work fine (or not) depending whether people strive to do just a tad extra or just the minimum (or slightly less).

        In the name of keeping everyone in the mood of doing slightly more than their share– which makes life so much more pleasant then the alternative–if it’s an electric kettle that shuts itself off, I’d say, “oh, I’m not there long enough to make tea, but I’ll flip the kettle on so it’s hot and ready when you’re ready to go get yourself a cuppa.” Maybe you’ll have to fill, more likely it’s a 1- second press with your forefinger. That’s reasonable effort to expend on coworker happiness.

        I’d also try to be aware if there’s some reason that she can’t easily and comfortably get it herself. Or if she asks it as a special favor, try asking her for equivalent favors in return. Mutual beneficience can be a happy and valuable thing.

        1. valentine*

          In the name of keeping everyone in the mood of doing slightly more than their share
          But what extra are they doing that OP1 is enjoying? It currently reads like a one-way street, especially since the first colleague apologized and hasn’t asked again.

          1. JSPA*

            OP comes from a “DIY” mindset, so it may not have occurred to her that she can also ask favors, though. (Can’t call a street “one way” just because so far, cars have only driven by in one direction.)

            “I don’t want anything from you, so don’t ask anything of me” is certainly logically consistent. It’s certainly “acceptable.” It’s scrupulously fair, it’s unassailable. But it’s not the only way not to be taken advantage of.

            Seems to me, OP could try making some small “asks” herself, and thereby figure out thereby whether she’s now a node in a web of cheerful interdependence, or whether she’s being hazed, picked on, and/or used as free labor by someone selfish, lazy and entitled.

            Now, there are some people with no interest (or no “spoons”) for these sorts of fabric-of-the-social-contract interactions. If OP’s one of them, then by all means, she can and should opt out. But other people will find work and coworkers much more pleasant if they dare to meet “asks” with equivalent “asks.”

            I’ve noticed that guys often build social networks like this. Women are in a bind in that we sometimes have to fight hard not to be the “coffee girl” when our job description is “data analyst.” And that holds whether the asker is male or female. But the give-and-take of mutual passing requests can build actual social capital. So it seems a shame to block it as a matter of course.

        2. Allison*

          I generally agree with this sentiment, especially in shared living situations, things do work better when everyone’s willing to do just a little more than their share – clean other people’s dishes once in a while, tidy up the living room even when it’s not “their mess,” etc. but if we’re only talking about making hot drinks, OP doesn’t partake at all, so they don’t have *a* share of the work to do. Unless this is an office where other cleaning and general maintenance duties are also shared, and the OP is, for example, putting the kettle on for others but doesn’t always have to wash her own dishes, that would be one thing. But we shouldn’t assume that’s the case here and tell OP to have a better attitude about the whole thing.

    1. dealing with dragons*

      This has been killing me at my job – it’s not a keurig but those pump type cisterns. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to get a cup and it’s empty. It’s literally like five seconds to make a new pot – the coffee machines are hooked into the water line and the coffee is in pre-measured packets. Then hit a button and walk away. There’s gotta be a hundred people on my floor.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If I didn’t put sugar or pods out, they’d all suffer a great caffeine drought that would shrivel up their souls! I’ve been out sick or at meetings to come back a few days later to “we’re out of coffee, I’m wilting away! I had to go to Starbucks” “Dude it’s in this cupboard though.” “Oh is it?!”

        I do it out of habit and since I do drink coffee. If I didn’t, whoops they would seriously just crawl their butts over to Starbucks and pay for it. That’s on them though.

        1. dealing with dragons*

          My previous employer had one of those “oh no the coffee is out, what do I do?” sarcastic flow charts. I’m thinking I need that here lol

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Everything is labeled! Someone went label maker happy far before my time lol. Nobody reads.

            If you’re a Simpson’s fan, you may know the Thanksgiving episode where Bart can’t get the can opener to work for the cranberry sauce and sings “It’s broken! Mom! It’s broken!” Until she does it herself. I work with a lot of Bart’s ;) Only it’s “it’s empty! B! It’s empty!”

            I like them and they’re nice but very much not problem solvers you could say. So I just do it. I’m paid more than most and believe me, going that extra second is noticed and cherished so it works out in my case.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Filling a reservoir or making a communal pot for consumption is certainty more in line with what’s expected if you’re the first ones in. That’s for sure.

      I draw the line at pouring a cup and taking it to someone regularly though unless we’re buddies or I’m your assistant.

      Like I would grab a cup for someone chained to their desk who asked nicely of course. “I can’t leave my desk, phones won’t stop! Would you please grab me coffee next time you go in the kitchen?!” Done! “Why didn’t you know I wanted a cup of tea! The nerve!” Get it yourself, Carol!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Exactly. And if someone’s pitching in on helping me with a dilemma or a deadline, I’ll go get them their coffee!

    3. Jaid*

      Apparently, you need to use cold water when filling the Keurig, so my co-worker will go to get ice for the Brita pitcher, then fill it with water. She doesn’t drink coffee right away, so I usually end up being the one to fill the tank. We share the task with others of refilling the pitcher and then emptying it and putting stuff away before we leave.
      If it’s a matter of pressing a button to turn on a machine, that’s one thing. But making a whole cuppa? Get outta here!

      1. JSPA*

        it doesn’t need to be iced–It needs to not be hot. “Cold” in this context only means “from the cold tap.” Not even sure if it’s about back presure, wear-and-tear on the elements, risk-to-user of splash-back, or not drinking the nasty water from the hot water heater (seriously, don’t ever do this, unless you have point-of-use water heating).

        1. Jaid*

          I know, but we have other people using the Brita just for the ice water.

          Meh, it makes her happy and she’s the one who bought it in for the unit to use.

          Though she finally barred one lady from using it, because she caught the lady pouring already brewed water BACK into the Keurig…because the water wasn’t deemed hot enough. Whisky Tango Foxtrot. And this lady… well, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have eaten in her kitchen, y’know?

    4. Zephy*

      Careful, don’t become the Keeper of the Sacred Knowledge of How to Fill the Coffeemaker.

      Back in undergrad, the department secretary was apparently the Keeper of the Sacred Knowledge of How the Mr. Coffee Works, and the one time she was out sick in the morning, the professors in the department–people with doctorates–were utterly at a loss. More than one of them came into the office, saw the empty coffeemaker, and just looked dismayed. It’s not like the coffeemaking supplies were kept under lock and key in an undisclosed location, the Folgers was right there and it was a standard 12-cup drip coffeemaker.

    5. Observer*

      Sorry, this is two totally different things. You’re not going to fill the tank if you are not doing to drink coffee that morning.Which is to say, you are not doing this only for the office, you are being a decent person and putting enough water in for others when you are ALREADY putting in water for yourself. Here, you are telling someone that they actually should consider that they need to go out of their way to randomly do something that is not their job and which has nothing to do with them.

      Also, unless this is an electrical kettle with an automatic shut off, you can’t just put on a kettle and walk away.

      1. Buzz*

        The LW should absolutely not have to make tea for people if she doesn’t drink tea – the hot drink rounds are amongst the people who are having a drink.

        But if this is the UK, as assumed, then it is definitely and electric kettle that automatically shuts off. I don’t know what the alternative would be – a kettle on a hob? Those are massively outdated in homes, and would never exist in an office. So she would just have to fill up the kettle and flip it on (though shouldn’t have to! Her coworker is out of line).

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I agree it is not quite the same, I do get use out of it as well. My point was that it is rare that the last person to use up the water will fill up the reservoir. I almost always drink coffee, but even when I don’t I still fill it up.

        I agree OP does not have to full on make coffee/tea for people. I was assuming that in an office setting they do not have an actual stove top and it was some kind of electric kettle that you just fill with water, flip a switch, and forget it. I was just saying that if might be a nice gesture of goodwill to turn the kettle on once a month or so and let people know there will be hot water for coffee/tea and let them go make their own. Similar to how people/I might bring donuts and or coffee in for the office every once in a while. It is certainly not my job, I could just grab donuts/coffee for myself, but doing nice things for coworkers every once in a while I think does create a better environment.

  5. Kyle*

    #4, about 18 months ago I had to manage two temps for some menial office work (think filing and data entry). They both approached me privately at different times saying they really liked the company and would like a regular full-time position here.

    Then one day I was around the corner and I overheard them having an argument/discussion about what we did as a company and they both were 100% completely wrong, but felt confident enough about what they thought to argue about it with the other one. And they both went through the same seven day training program that permanent new hires go through.

    Yeah, I get they were coming in to help out with some temp work and not applying to be CEO, but not a great look to ask for a job then be totally clueless. And indignant about it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My last job… the fricking owners straight told me that they didn’t know the workflow or what exactly anyone did but told me I was hired to manage all of it.

      It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out because I’m a lurker who learns but watching, listening and reverse engineering the end results. Also it was horrifyingly simple in the end just tedious and detailed.

      But holy moly was that a crazy AF thing to hear (not shocking they were awful business owners and failed quickly, despite having purchased a totally set up and functional established company).

      At least they were temps indeed, thank goodness for that decent excuse!

    2. IL JimP*

      how sure are you that the permanent hires know what you do any better than they do? It may be worth revisiting the training you do in week 1 or add some follow on training afterwards about it. Most people will focus on what their job is more than what the company actually does in their initial training in my experience.

    3. Nansi Alexander*

      I winced over “menial office work.” No such thing. If it’s done wrong, it isn’t menial – it is a potential problem at best.

  6. Jimming*

    Yes I hate chewing noises so much. My sympathies. Perhaps take your lunch break when they usually eat at their desk, or schedule a meeting for that time? I’d do something to try to move away from them while they’re chewing loudly.

    1. valentine*

      I’d do something to try to move away from them while they’re chewing loudly.
      I’d ask whether they can stick to a schedule them to chew more quietly. If no, I’d ask to be moved because I’d rather be judged for that than to hurt myself with massive headphones people take personally. Offices should have the option of vinyl record shop listening booths.

      1. Marketing Queen*

        I’m assuming that, like me, OP #3 has misophonia. It’s not that we’re just “sensitive” to more noise than others; it’s that it literally creates a flight-or-fight response when we hear triggering sounds (mouth noises are often big triggers for those with miso), causing uncontrollable anxiety, rage, fear, etc. And while some people probably don’t realize how noisy they’re being, most don’t care. A common response (and I say common based on anecdotal evidence from many miso-sufferers) is for people to start making even more noises they know annoy you. In short, many people are a-holes and don’t take miso seriously. Which just makes things even worse for those who are already suffering. So really, the only option would be to wear headphones or not be around when the co-worker is eating at his desk. While it can be possible to get accommodations for miso with a dr’s note, it’s not yet a recognized disorder, so not many doctors have heard of it, and it isn’t officially covered by ADA. While Allison’s advice about ice-chewing and the like is good in theory, in reality, most people who chew ice and snap/pop their gum know it’s annoying, don’t care, and will do it even more once they know it bothers you.

        1. Snark*

          Most people don’t realize how noisy they’re being because most people are actually not being particularly noisy, are not being noisy at you, and are making the very defensible assumption that their normal everyday noise-making is not going to make someone flip into uncontrollable anxiety, rage, and fear.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yeah, I am sympathetic, but the thing is, noises that set off people with misophonia are the kind of thing that is genuinely pretty difficult to ask people to curtail. I have known people with misophonia who genuinely expected allergy sufferers to go into the hallway every five minutes if they were sniffly/needed to blow their nose, and I have a very good friend who cannot handle the sound of anyone swallowing anything, including water, coffee, and their own saliva. (Close-mouthed, imperceptible-to-anyone-else swallowing. She uses headphones rather than expect people to go out into the hallway to drink their water or coffee or to clear their throat.)

            I get that it’s a real problem, but the unfortunate truth of the entire world is that people can do things that are genuinely distressing to you that are unreasonable to ask other people to curtail. Sensitivity to something does not always entail the right–or even the ability–to tell others to stop it. Bodies make noises. It just happens. And coping mechanisms are more useful than sustained rage at coworkers.

        2. AKchic*

          Marketing Queen – I feel you so much on this. I have misophonia too. At my last job, I sat next to the noisiest eater outside of my little sister (I’m not even going to start on *that* topic).
          Everyone in the building knew about this person’s eating habits. They thought of themselves as an ad-hoc dietician and created some weird diet plan to lose weight (in the 3 years we sat next to each other, not a pound was lost, I know, because they raged about it, much like everything else, frequently). Everything from slurping scrambled eggs (that were made in the microwave down the hall) that people passing down the hall could hear (with our door closed) every morning, to slurping their 2x daily soup, their noodles, the chomping, crunching, and lip smacking of various wet snacks (everything was wet, I don’t know why), the gulping of a gallon of water a day… they also made other sounds. Some days it sounded like they were trying to make love to their meals and snacks. Various moans, groans, grunts, a few snorts… and because they ate 6 times a day in our shared office, I couldn’t be gone all the time. HR was on the other side of the wall from us and *they* could hear it too.

          Between my direct supervisor (another issue) and that coworker, the choice to leave was an easy one.

          1. Snark*

            Is part of misophonia being intensely condescending, judgmental, and dismissive towards people who trigger it? I’m genuinely curious, because this is like the third or fourth post from a self-idenified misophoniac in this thread that would make the loud chewer they’re talking about either start crying or want to knock their block off.

            1. AKchic*

              Honestly? It is *that* grating on us that we get BEC over it. In normal settings, we recognize that it’s irrational. For some people (such as my extremely loud former coworker, or my little sister who can make mashed potatoes seem like the noisiest food in the world and should eat at a trough) it’s something else entirely.
              We *know* it’s us and out reactions. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot we can do other than remove ourselves from the situation as much as possible, or put on headphones, or try to avoid people eating. Hearing the same sounds that make you anxious, angry, or unaccountably scared multiple times a day will make a person judgmental, condescending and dismissive of the people who are unnecessarily doing it. It’s a heightened anxiety, and your body responds to that stress accordingly, regardless of how much you try to rationalize it away. The rest, we do our damnedest to remember that the problem isn’t with the other people (except for movies. All movie sound effects involving eating and drinking are just evil).

              1. Turtle Candle*

                Is there no treatment of misophonia that can help–no anxiety medication that takes the edge off, no exposure therapy that lessens it, no nothing? Because it seems like given the wide range of noises that people say set them off (chewing, drinking, swallowing, sucking on cough drops, audible breathing, sniffling, coughing, yawning, scratching, sighing, typing loudly on a keyboard, tapping fingers on a desk, talking in a way that is high pitched/nasal/has vocal fry/involves throat clicking/involves throat clearing), it feels like there is something to be explored there beyond ‘expect everyone around me to be silent’ or ‘get to a BEC point with all my coworkers.’

                I’m actually quite serious: is this something treatable?

                1. Laura*

                  Turtle candle there are no medications and no prevent therapies yet. There is some beginning research into CBT. Some people find white noise to be helpful. Some people wear noise cancelling ear buds. But right now that’s about it.

              2. Batman*

                I feel like most people aren’t unnecessarily doing it though. I think noises that bother people with misophonia or usually not noises that other people would even notice. So they’re just chewing like normal and it’s really frustrating to be asked to change something that’s totally normal and isn’t even noticed by the vast majority of people.

        3. PrgrmMgr*

          I’ve had two people in my life (my mother and my spouse) who’ve told me countless times “Stop chewing with your mouth open” , and when I highlight that I don’t think my mouth is open, they respond “I can hear you, so your mouth must be open”. I have no clue how I can eat quieter, and the only other table manners comments I’ve gotten from others have been about Amercian vs Continental norms, so I feel relatively confident that nobody has to see partially chewed food in my mouth when dining with me and I have reasonably good table manners (maybe nobody would say anything, but knowing my circle I think someone would speak up). Anyways, all of this is to say asking someone to eat more quietly may be a pretty frustrating request that the offender may not be able to address.

    2. JessaB*

      I do think if it hasn’t been brought up and you’re on cordial terms with the fellow worker, it’s okay to bring it up once in a “I dunno if you realise you’re kinda loud,” way. If they change great, if they don’t, you have to find a different way to deal. But a single polite mention that doesn’t sound like you’re beating them up about it, they might not realise how loud they are. I am hearing impaired, I walk into a new job and I make it really clear, “Look if I’m loud tell me to pipe down I cannot self regulate. Seriously.” and I keep an eye out for expressions on faces that say “Oh she’s at it again,” and try really hard to modulate.

      Oh and I’m one of those people that drive others nuts, from a long history of a childhood spent in hospitals with stomach things and being given nothing but ice chips and IVs for days sometimes, I am an ice chewer like crazy. And sometimes I don’t even realise I’m doing it. Most of the time I am not drinking stuff with ice for dental reasons, but if I forget, it’s like tell me already if I’m sending you up a wall. Don’t be a jerk about it but most people with habits (ice chewing, gum popping, whatever,) are pretty cool with an occasional “hey quit that.”

      I guess tl;dr is presume they’re nice and they don’t mean to send you up a wall and be nice back and maybe they can change it for you.

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Ehhh – Please don’t schedule a regular meeting at lunch time, that will be really annoying to other people who are required to be in that meeting.

      1. valentine*

        Please don’t schedule a regular meeting at lunch time
        They may not share loud dude’s lunchtime.

    4. JSPA*

      How often do they eat? Seems like OP could time their own lunch concurrently, and either drown out the neighbor’s chewing with their own (unless they eat soft foods so as not to hear their own chewing) or go elsewhere to eat. Wearing headphones during one’s own food break is also going to land better, as the assumption will be, “hey, this is how I unwind during my lunch break.”

    5. Hush42*

      This. I have a lot more flexibility in my job than in a lot of companies but I started going to the gym on lunch for this very reason. In April a co-worker and I starting sharing an office. We’ve worked together for a couple of years but apparently I never sat close enough for my to hear him chewing before. He’s so loud and it drives me crazy and I can’t focus. I don’t like to buy lunch so I started going to the Gym on lunch to get away from his chewing and then eating the lunch I bring while I work later on in the day. If it’s possible, take your lunch break whenever he takes his and take it someplace else.

  7. Asta*

    #1 Brit here. Alison seems to have missed the memo about high tea, and how it’s a standard item on performance reviews.

    Just kidding. If you don’t drink hot drinks there is no obligation to do a tea round, end of. Your colleague is either really rude or using sarcasm that’s getting lost on you.

    It’s true that we make and drink a lot of hot drinks. I remember on an open thread conversation about British offices, person A mentioned endless cups of tea, person B chastised them for stereotyping and a bunch of us has to explain that, no, that just really is a thing. But it’s unheard of to be expected to make a round of hot drinks if you don’t drink them. That’s not a thing.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      All of this. The British office culture around hot drinks is absolutely A Thing but in all reasonable workplaces you can simply say “I don’t drink hot drinks” and you are excused. First colleague did exactly what I’d have expected; second colleague is bonkers (though I’ll set out a related anecdote in a comment).

      That said, it can be politically prudent to put the kettle on while you’re in the kitchen – not making the actual brews, but filling the kettle and setting it to start boiling. If you’re hanging around the kitchen (e.g. microwaving lunch or making toast) and notice that a communal pot of filter coffee is empty or nearly, you could replace it while you’re waiting. But all of that is extra courtesy and not actually required, and doesn’t apply if there’s a boiling water tap or similar.

      Non-Brits who are baffled by this performance might also be entertained by stories of communal biscuit tins (ie cookie jars) but I think that’s something for the open thread not this one!

      1. Glengarry*

        I seem to remember when I was living in the UK that a while ago there was a PSA-type of thing telling people to not fill their kettle to the top, but with just enough water to make their tea/coffee, as an energy saving practice. You would think that it was obvious that this would typically apply to a home environment where you might have a 6-8 cup kettle but were only making one or two cups, but I worked at an office where there would be a line of people in the kitchen every morning filling up the kettle with enough water for their cup, boiling it, pouring it into their cup and then letting the next person use the kettle… who would do the exact same thing. And then the next person, and the next person, and so on.

        I asked why they didn’t just fill the kettle to the top and let everyone fill up their cups at once, to be told “oh no, it wastes electricity doing it that way”. Sigh. I had to walk out of the kitchen before blood started pouring out of my nose and ears and eyes…

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          That’s really unusual – that said, the more common “fill the kettle regardless of how much you’re using” is TERRIBLE for the environment more generally so they were probably coming from a good place.

          1. JSPA*

            That must depend on usage, no? If it’s being used every 10 or 15 minutes, it’s probably more efficient to put a cozy over, when not in use, rather than boil small amounts from cold.

            Then there’s the question of ambient temperature and humidity. If you’d otherwise be running the heating more (or having nosebleeds from dry air), having a kettle on should be considered in that context. It’s like making bean dishes and stews and slow-braised veggies and baking bread in the winter, when the extra heat from the stove/oven/slow cooker means less heating of the whole house.

            1. Incantanto*

              So, this is the uk.
              Its never ever ever low enough/dry enough air that a kettle makes a difference.

              Also water for tea should be boiling, not kept warm in a cosy.

              1. Doubleblankie*

                Agreed – a lot of people are suggesting to put the kettle on as a courtesy but if someone did that for me, if I’d taken a call or something and not been there the very second the kettle boiled I would have to boil the water again (and I don’t think water’s as nice reboiled). So I wouldn’t do that if I were the OP, as some people in the UK would have been taught to make tea with (very) freshly boiled water.

                I mean it’s only an office tea, but this colleague doesn’t sound very easy to get on with anyway, I would just say ‘I don’t know how to make tea as I don’t drink it’ and leave it at that.

                1. Emma*

                  But it the kettle has been recently boiled, especially if you’re making a round and need a lot of water, that cuts the reboiling time from several minutes to a few seconds!

              2. JSPA*

                It reboils faster from “sitting hot” than from “freshly cold.” If you’re a purist, you perhaps don’t want reboiled water, though.

                Good point about the humidity; I’m used to winters that are so cold that the heating make the air bone dry, even if it’s (ice) mist outside.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        My very first experience of the world of work was unpaid work experience organised through school at age 15 (this is very common in the UK; is it elsewhere?) in an office with very formal hierarchy. At the end of my time there, a very senior person marched over to my desk and demanded to know why I hadn’t done a tea round in all my time there.

        The answer was, obviously, because I was 15 and at school so didn’t drink hot drinks really at all let alone all day long. But I was ceremonially dragged to the kitchen and taught exactly how to make EVERYONE a brew, as an unmissable part of learning about the British office.

        She was of course kidding about the outrage and pulling rank, not least because everyone there drank hot drinks and took their turn, but nobody in the building thought it remotely remarkable that a “workie” would need to learn.

        1. Katie*

          I had to make a round of coffee at my work experience placement on the first day. My dad had made me practise on the Sunday afternoon just so I’d know what to do! Unfortunately for my colleagues we’re one of those rare households with an Aga (stove that’s nearly always hot) with a kettle that just sat on it most of the time – and was also therefore always hot. So I made the coffee perfectly, except I’d just poured cold water out of the electric kettle because it hadn’t occurred to me that it wouldn’t be hot already!! The poor guys had to take the mugs back down and microwave them, and they never let me make another cup all week…

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I bet they still dine out on that story. And bless your wonderful dad for suitable work experience prep!

          2. londonedit*

            Ha ha! I grew up in a house with an Aga and when I went to university it took me forever to learn to remember to switch the oven off after I’d used it!

            My dad also taught me to make a proper cup of tea, even though I’ve never been a tea drinker. It’s an essential skill. He also taught me how to make an excellent gin and tonic, which is just as essential.

            1. Anonomoose*

              Now I’m intrigued: what makes an excellent gin and tonic vs an average one? I’ve always just sort of chucked a bunch of gin, ice and limes into a glass, then filled in any remaining gaps with tonic water

              1. londonedit*

                Nice lot of ice in the glass, squeeze of lemon or lime over the top and pop the lemon/lime slice in with the ice, larger-than-average measure of gin, tonic, done.

    2. Emma*

      Yup. Everyone in my (UK) team of five drinks tea or coffee and takes turns making it, but during Ramadan, when one of my colleagues is fasting, no-one expects her to keep making rounds of drinks. It’s something you do on the basis that “I fancy a cuppa, so probably other people do too” – if you’re drinking water from a bottle, or not drinking, or whatever, then it just doesn’t make sense!

  8. HigherEd on Toast*

    For #1, any chance that you can just say that you prefer not to make tea because you don’t do it well? I don’t drink coffee or tea either, and when people have asked me to make them some, I say (honestly) that I don’t know how to handle the coffeemaker- especially not the one in our department’s breakroom, which is fiendishly complicated. After I said that a few times, people gave up on asking me. Now I get to stand aside and watch the stupid wars over the coffeemaker and people arguing about the specialty coffees that they want to put in it + people arguing that they should be excused from deadlines/meetings/being polite to each other until they’ve had coffee. It’s insane, but at least it doesn’t directly involve me.

    1. TL -*

      I mean, a lot of people make tea by putting a tea bag in hot water, especially if it’s herbal tea. Coffee can be a whole thing, mostly because you make a whole bunch at once, but an acceptable tea is tea bag in hot water and hand mug to person.

      I would just stick with, “I’m sorry, I don’t drink tea or coffee so I don’t make it.” If they argue, I’d be really inclined to quizzically say, “I’m not a barista; I don’t mind doing small favors like grabbing pens if I’m already getting supplies from the closet but it’s not part of my job to make drinks for other people.” Potentially adding, “There’s a Starbucks down the road,” or “Sure, if you don’t mind making me a smoothie next time you’re in the kitchen.”

      Or just a very confused, “I’m sorry, what?” then a slow, “okay, I don’t make hot drinks. I’m going to go do X now.”

        1. Andrews*

          A bag in hot water is what almost all tea is in the UK – I’ve never seen any other kind of tea in an office (or even a chain cafe like Starbucks, Costa etc).

            1. MsSolo*

              Yes, a bag in hot water is what you get on trains! For black tea water must be at a rolling boil!

              (we’ve been forced to switch to one of those hot water taps in our office – kettles are banned – and I have so many opinions about having to drink lackluster tea. Not that it’s stopping me from being on my third cup of the day before 11am…)

              1. Nessun*

                Gaaaah this would kill me! Kettles are a requirement, otherwise…ugh such bad tea! (See my comment above about microwaving water for tea *shudder again*) I’d be so very upset about what’s arguably a small thing, not having water at a rolling boil. I once schooled a coworker for 10 minutes about why making tea from the water spigot was an emergency measure only – he actually went away, looked it up, and came back and validated my opinion (though at the time, I thought he might comment to my boss! “Nessun is rather…militant…about tea, had you noticed?”

          1. can'tremembermyusername*

            British here. I drink loose leaf tea a lot, often green or white tea from China or Darjeeling. In an infuser and a thermometer because you don’t put green or white tea in boiling water and as we have no kettle just a boiling water geyser I have to wait for the water to cool down a little bit.

            But I’m the weirdo and I’m in a large office of 70 people. I never make anyone make my tea though, because that would be unreasonable.

            I also drink “normal” British tea but not at work (largely because of the logistical annoyance of getting milk, keeping it in the fridge with 60 other cartons of milk, making sure it doesn’t go off, making sure I don’t use someone else’s by mistake. Replacing it before everything is thrown out of the fridge on friday afternoon). It’s less effort to drink tea that doesn’t need milk instead.

      1. Avasarala*

        I mean, coffee can also be made by pouring a packet into hot water, if it’s instant coffee.

        I find that people who argue about the “best” way to make coffee/tea are either “well actually” hipster purists who need to prove their superior expertise, or the kind of person who is so focused on efficiency (by their definition) that they end up wasting time and angering others. Or sometimes they’re the same person. You can usually find these people arguing for 20 min over which Excel shortcut is faster, then criticizing you for brute forcing it and finishing it in 3 min…

      2. HigherEd on Toast*

        Every time I have actually tried I get told I did it “wrong” no matter what procedure I was following, so at this point I’m not inclined to try no matter how easy it is. They can make their own special hazelnut coffee/tea with exactly this much water and nothing else/whatever it is.

    2. Mongrel*

      “For #1, any chance that you can just say that you prefer not to make tea because you don’t do it well?”
      I wouldn’t, some people will take it as an opportunity to ‘coach’ you how to make their tea\coffee especially as it’s a small training investment that means they have their own little tea monkey

  9. Startup HR*

    Op #1 – I’m an American in the UK. At one of my jobs where tea and coffee rounds were a thing, only the tea and coffee drinkers participated. Alison is right. Your coworker is being weird.

  10. Glengarry*

    Re. OP #1, I worked in London for nearly fifteen years and I can absolutely confirm that the tea/coffee making procedure can be very, very perilous. I worked in some offices where you just made your own beverage without having to ask your colleagues, but other offices had much more serious practices in place.

    At one place it was JUST NOT DONE to make your own tea or coffee. The problem was that there were 14 people in the office, so you could end up spending about 20-30 minutes in the kitchen as every person had a different preference. I kept making mistakes so I started setting out all the cups in a long line with a post it note in front of each one (“George – strong tea, 2 and a half sugars, very milky”, “Mary – weak coffee, no sugar, splash of milk”, etc.).

    I ended up giving up and just having a shop-bought coffee before I started in the morning, and foregoing hot beverages during the day. Although somewhat maddening, it saved my sanity in the end.

    Oh, and the important part – if you did not drink tea or coffee that day there was absolutely no expectation that you would have to make it for anyone else. That really is weird.

    1. Engineer Woman*

      OMG – that is just banana-crackers! Making several different cups of tea or hot beverage is just crazy! I love tea (very strong with milk and sugar) but would absolutely forgo just to not have to make it for everyone. That said, I would also not accept a colleague making me tea.

      1. Asta*

        Eh, most people just get to know how everyone takes it. I do a tea round for 8-10 people and it doesn’t take very long and gives me a break from my desk.

        1. Glengarry*

          Sure, if everyone sticks to the same drink each time, which about half of them did. The other half, though, didn’t really have a regular order and would decide at the time what they felt like drinking. I was only there for 9 months on a contract basis so I happily gave up drinking tea or coffee during that time, because it ended up driving me crazy.

    2. Approval is optional*

      If it was not done to make your own tea/coffee, how did any get made? Or do you mean only the junior most person made it?

      1. Glengarry*

        Sorry! Should have said “it was JUST NOT DONE to make your own tea or coffee without offering to make for everyone else as well”.

        1. Approval is optional*

          Ah, that makes sense. I’m beginning to think it’s an industry specific culture not to do it, given so many UK people have experienced it, and I never have.

            1. Approval is optional*

              In the UK I worked as a mathematician in an R&D area. It occurs to me though, that maybe it’s not so much industry specific or mathematician specific – we did tend to bunch at the ‘introverted’ end of the continuum!

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      That’s too much! half a dozen or so for people that sit next to you is a reasonable limit!

      Last place I worked actually tended to do the make your own… with a couple of small 2-3 people groups… and so much progress was made on unsticking projects with two people in the kitchen!

    4. Sour Mash*

      I work in an office in the UK. We always did “rounds” for hot drinks, but it got to a point where I was the only one doing it. Making 8 drinks 3+ times a day is time consuming. And everyone like it’s different – normal/fruit tea, coffee, sugar, sweetener, strong, weak… I started just making my own. People said the jokey “wheres mine? I’m gasping!” And I just said I was too busy to make everyone a drink. I eventually said I was sick of making rounds and no one else doing it. Most people make their own now. I’m kind of glad as I’m quite particular about how my coffee is made and all but one person made it the way I like it. The bosses’ coffee leaves a lot to be desired, I dont know what she does to it but its undrinkable. When she made around I suddenly got very busy and “forgot” to drink it. Saying that mine might have been undrinkable to other people too!

      1. Glengarry*

        Yeah, at least at the place I mentioned everyone was was scrupulously fair about whose turn it was, and it was quite organic – no reminding or “gentle” hints needed.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      I’d say that when you get to 3-4+ people the office NEEDS a communal tea or coffee pot.
      That’s pretty ridiculous to expect someone to make that many individual cups for people. I mean, at what point does it end? Work is not a restaurant!

      1. Katherine*

        There’s no “communal tea pot” in a British office. Most people don’t even have a teapot at home. At work you have an enormous sack of tea bags, one per mug, and a kettle. That’s going to be quicker for a handful of mugs than brewing a big pot anyway.

  11. Dootdoot*

    OP #3, I’ve got some nasty misophonia (tested high moderate/severe by an audiologist). I have white noise generators behind my ears that I can adjust depending on how loud my trigger sounds are and they make a WORLD of difference. My anxieties surrounding noise are just about gone and I even successfully ate lunch with coworkers open mouth chewing tortilla chips the other day. If you feel like this is an issue that follows you everywhere, I encourage you to seek out an audiologist who knows about Misophonia!

    As a temporary solution, I suggest wireless open back earbuds playing white/brown/etc noise covered by over ear headphones. Having two layers of sound is really helpful – maybe not for the long term health of your hearing, but staying sane is also healthy!

    1. Name Required*

      Oh, hey, I just posted a few comments down about my kid’s misophonia. Obviously I should’ve read all the comments first!

      My kid hasn’t tried the white noise generators yet, but over-ear headphones with active noise cancelling have made a world of difference. We can go out to restaurants now! We can be around people eating popcorn! They can sit next to people in morning classes at school who brought hot coffee! Technology is amazing.

      I still try to hide my mouth when I chew or yawn, though, because even just seeing the mouth movements can trigger a reaction sometimes if they start thinking about what it would sound like if they could hear it, but even that has gotten a lot better since we got the headphones.

      1. Marketing Queen*

        Thank you so much for being a sympathetic parent who doesn’t make your kid feel bad about his misophonia. There are too many who do, and we need support like yours.

    2. Snark*

      “tested high moderate/severe by an audiologist”

      What? An audiologist might be able to diagnose hyperacusis, but not misophonia, because there ARE no diagnostic criteria for misophonia.

      1. Dootdoot*

        My audiologist is also a miso specialist! There’s no definitive diagnosis test, but that’s where I rated in all the MAQ and similar rating systems. She’s the one who got me my aids, and I’m very lucky to have her.

  12. Approval is optional*

    # 1
    I’ve worked in the UK, NZ and Australia, and have been in the workforce for nearly 40 years now, and I have never come across an office culture that created the expectation that you would make a cup of tea/coffee for a coworker even if you were making one for yourself, let alone if you WERE’NT.
    Your coworker asking you to go and stick the kettle on doesn’t read to me as a way of asking for you to make her a cup of tea though (if those were the exact words used): a ‘go pop the kettle on’ isn’t an totally unknown ‘request’ as a prelude to everyone going and getting themselves a cup, and can be easily declined with a, ‘sorry, have to finish X’, or in your case, ‘I don’t drink hot drinks but I’ll turn it on for you when I go to fill my water bottle’. (Of course given your other coworker’s attitude, perhaps ‘stick the kettle on’ did mean ‘make me tea’!)
    So this is perhaps a different UK- English speaking country, (or an non-English speaking country), or it’s a weird outlier. Either way I’d go with the polite deflect as Alison suggested.

    As an aside, I’m wondering why you edit non-US spelling Alison. It seems as if it would just add more work to your already busy day. Of course, most would just pop up as a red underline, so each edit wouldn’t take much time – but cumulatively they would.

    1. Asta*

      “I have never come across an office culture that created the expectation that you would make a cup of tea/coffee for a coworker even if you were making one for yourself”

      It would be rude not to offer at least sometimes in every UK office I’ve ever worked in. There is usually an expectation that you will.

        1. Asta*

          No, but there would likely be a smaller number you’d ask – say the people sitting nearest to you. And generally people say no some of the time so you don’t end up making for everyone every time. Even the head of the team will make a round if he’s having a cup.

          Obviously everyone has different experiences, I just wanted to flag that this would be against expectations in many offices and that it’s unusual to hear of someone saying they haven’t come across this.

        2. Batgirl*

          Tea rounds are kept manageably small. Twenty people would probably split up into four tea round groups.

          1. londonedit*

            I work in a room with anything up to 12 people in it. If you’re making a cup of tea for yourself, when you get up to go to the kitchen you ask the room in general if anyone would like a hot drink. Given that there are usually around 8-10 people in the room, different people will get up to make a cup of tea at different times of the day, so you won’t always get the same people wanting a hot drink at the same time. Maybe 4 or 5 people will say yes at any given time, and a couple of extras might say ‘Oh, good idea, I’ll come and make my own’. If it looks like the tea round is getting unwieldy, someone will invariably offer to come and help.

            1. Batgirl*

              Yes we used to have someone pitch in when everyone in our eight person team wanted one. Also, a chart. The good thing about a big tea round is you’re getting constant cuppas delivered to your desk and your turn only comes round once a day, or every other day.

      1. Incantanto*

        Weirdly mine we all make them individually but meet for tea together a couple of times a day. So people normally stick their mugs on the countertop in the kitchen and the person at the front fills them up with water when the kettle boils.

      1. tamarack & fireweed*

        Even though this is likely in part cultural, Asta’s point is crucial: if you’re having one yourself.

        I guess it isn’t rare in British offices, especially in England, to consider “put on kettle” to be one of the minor office maintenance tasks that are shared between the co-workers in the office. Like, for example, putting a shared wastepaper basket / trash can out, re-filling the printer paper or the stapler, or even watering the aspidistra. (The last often gets stuck with the one person who cares about the poor plant not dying.) Overall, collegiality would require to keep an eye on these task, as long as they aren’t assigned to one person in particular by management, to be shared roughly fairly, but with most it happens naturally. Or it’s really too small a task to matter much.

        Now putting on the kettle, in times of electric kettles (and especially if you’re dealing with 230V electric circuits), is such a small and fast task that there is really no need to make a big deal out of sharing it. If Jimmy or Mary want tea, it takes less than 2 min to have hot water! It’s not like you have to go to the cellar, re-fill the coal chute, and hand-pump the water!

        So yes, I don’t think even for the UK (I worked in London for 5 years in an office), you’re remotely out of line. I’d maintain a cheerful air of surprise that your co-worker even expects it and keep repeating “oh, sorry, I thought you knew I don’t drink tea or coffee”.

        Also I agree with the suspicion that there’s some sort of power play going on. How often is this co-worker bringing over a cuppa for you?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      All the letters I publish here get copyedited for punctuation, style consistency (hello, serial comma), clarity, standardized spelling, etc. — as any publication should do! It doesn’t take much time at all, since I do it as I read them in preparation for writing an answer (and it would probably take more time not to do it, since it would bug me so much; I used to proofread as part of my job and can’t turn it off).

      1. tamarack & fireweed*

        TBH, as a European, it strikes me as problematic to transmogrify spelling that is correct in a major variety of English in something that is identified as a letter. (As opposed to, say, an op-ed in a publication that legitimately has a style guide for its authors, and hopefully a copy editor who enforces it.) Even though I usually choose AmE spelling (changed from 10 years or so ago, when my default was BrE), this would upset me enough not to want to write in.

        1. Purple Eyes*

          It’s really no different than an American newspaper using American English when quoting a British source. AAM is an American publication. The style guide may not as complicated at the NYT, but there is a style and it uses American English. Seems like a weird thing to get upset about.

          1. PB*

            This exactly. There isn’t an official AAM style guide, because sites with a single writer don’t need a style guide. I recently had to learn about Canadian spelling before submitting an article for a Canadian publication, and if any American spellings had crept in, they would have been changed by an editor. This is all pretty common.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, this is standard practice for every publication I know of — just as I would expect my American spelling to be altered if I were published in the UK (as in fact was the case with the British edition of my book, for example). I’m removing a long off-topic thread on this.

        2. Newington*

          I don’t think it’s objectionable. Calling it ‘standard’ is a mild irritant, though. (Even though I know Alison means the standard she uses for this blog.)

          1. Libby*

            Well, it is ‘standard’ for Americans, who make up the majority of readers of this site. I’m surprised at how often I see foreign readers complaining that this site is too American. It IS American ffs.

        3. pleaset*

          I’m an American and wrote a chapter of a book for a publisher based in Oxford, UK (not OUP BTW). They changed my spelling and I did not object in the least. I would have been surprised if they hadn’t.

        4. Booksalot*

          This is literally the entire point of style guides. There’s nothing “objectionable” about having a site standard of conformity. It has nothing to do with nationalism. You’re inventing outrage.

          My company’s literature and and communication uses the ASD-STE100 style guide, which is 382 pages of directives on what words can be used in what context. It’s a guide to English written by the Aerospace and Defense Industry of Europe. Per your view, we should reject this standard, because “who are Europeans to tell us how to speak American English”?

          With respect, your comment is woefully uninformed about the entire concept of publishing.

        5. ChimericalOne*

          What NerdyKris said. It’s absolutely normal across the globe to standardize spelling for the country you’re in and/or where your audience primarily is. The web might be worldwide, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with keeping local custom for your area on it.

      2. Anononon*

        Eh, there have been plenty of letters where it’s clear in some way that the OP isn’t American, based on word choice or something else. Also, in general, if someone writes into this blog, they’re going to get American-based advice because that’s what Alison knows. Sure, the comment section may have things to add based on the country, but most people don’t interact down here.

  13. Asta*

    #4 It’s really not fair to blame the applicants for this, let alone talk to their managers. I know a lot of people here will say it’s their fault, but – in my experience of being in a team whose function is widely misunderstood, and where people mistake us for an outside agency we actually just liaise with / support – chances are they are getting their misinformation from other people in the company, and/or they’re not getting enough correct information from your team. The fact that ALL of them are making these mistakes is telling – it’s just too much of a coincidence for it to be a failing on their part.

    So don’t raise it with their managers – and anyway their managers may have contributed to the situation / misconceptions. I would have a look at what internal comms you are doing. For example. Are you making good use of any internal channels like a team intranet page? Do you meet with people eg managers in your team meet with new managers in other teams to explain what you do or you go to other people’s team meetings or whatever makes sense in your company?

    1. OP4*

      I don’t actually blame the applicants too much. Why I entertained talking with the managers is because I suspect the misunderstanding is starting at their level. My concern was if I just addressed it with the applicants, it wouldn’t flow up enough to change the understanding.

      Unfortunately, we do not have internal communication channels like that. We have leadership meetings once or twice a month and a weekly all office email where updates go out. Often times, our work is rolled in with the updates of that specific team.

      If it’s a big release, we send a office wide email with details etc. but of course that doesn’t really focus on who did what, just what is ready.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Lots of people within the same company and even the same department have no idea what others jobs entail. It’s usually only necessary to explain it to those 5 people interested in the job, since it now involves them in a personal way!

        I had someone “train” me to do basic data entry into our internal system when I started. I’m well aware of accounting itself of course but this system is customized so I needed the “where is this function and how do I enter data?” Run down.

        The person who showed me was also backup for the old accountant for just posting received checks in the system so they’d be posted timely if they were out of office. Along with running statements.

        Literally all this person showed me. I appreciate it and totally liked the backup of course.

        Then they told me one day the actually “trained me to do my job” and I had to swallow my laughter. That’s .01% of my job. You didn’t train me and you are not now equipped to do books anywhere, ever. Maybe if you squint, you could find an AR position with that “experience” but don’t hold your breath.

        I didn’t say anything because it’s not important for them to know every single thing I do. I don’t just do basic data entry. Just like that person didn’t just answer phones even though it was a fraction of their job. (It’s my job to know jobs and care for job descriptions, so I know for the most part exactly what others are doing for that reason alone!)

        1. Avasarala*

          I have no idea what most of my coworkers do. I have a general idea, as in “Amos is our tech guy” and “Holden is in charge and has final say, but Naomi’s the one keeping everything running.” But if I were to apply to their job, I wouldn’t know more than the 20% that is visible on the surface from far away.

          Honestly, I don’t know how I would learn more or why I would need to beyond my own curiosity and ambition, unless I was supervising them or it otherwise intersected with my work in some way. If people are applying for your job and only know 20% of what you do, why not start off explaining what the 80% is in interviews, job descriptions, screenings, etc.?

          1. Eleanor Konik*

            I get the impression here that the problem is that the OP’s department is getting blamed for things that aren’t their fault that they have no control over, which is messing with the reputation of OP’s people and potentially OP themself.

            I think it’s fair to want to correct the record there.

          2. pleaset*

            It’s true that it’s hard to know from the outside what is happening within a organization, and even within the organization we can’t know everything about other groups operations/etc.

            BUT if an internal applicant actually appears to know less (that is, having less correct understanding) than external applicants, that’s a problem of some sort. Maybe not a big deal, but it could be improved upon.

            1. a1*

              Exactly! And not only that, if people don’t even have the general idea of what your group does right, it impacts how they interact with you. And in the case of hiring, it impacts what people will apply for.

      2. anonagain*

        “We have leadership meetings once or twice a month and a weekly all office email where updates go out. Often times, our work is rolled in with the updates of that specific team.”

        This seems like it could cause or exacerbate exactly the kind of confusion you’re seeing.

      3. pleaset*

        “Why I entertained talking with the managers is because I suspect the misunderstanding is starting at their level. ”

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        Unfortunately, we do not have internal communication channels like that.

        That’s your problem right there. As other commenters have provided examples for, your co-workers from other departments, teams and units do not automatically know what it is your work actually consists in. You may want to think about and, as they say, socialize the idea to change that.

        If you’re not getting the right internal applicants — both because those who apply would only be good at a small portion of your job and those who would be suitable don’t know enough to apply — and therefore are setting aside the whole internal applicant pool, resentment is bound to follow. (Can you go out and pro-actively invite some internal co-workers to apply? Or do you, too, not know enough what it is THEY are currently doing?)

        In a happy organization, leadership ensures that there is room for getting to know each other’s roles. Sometimes such initiatives can be a little cheesy (monthly rotating posters about “The humans of Teapots, Ltd” or whatever), but you can’t help picking up some morsels of information that way that enhance cohesion.

      5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        There are always going to be some people who make assumptions about what another person’s job entails so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. Hire the best candidate for the job and forget the ones who have no clue. That said, here are a few ideas:

        1. If you have a company intranet make sure it has specific information about your team and what each person does and who to contact for certain tasks, or have a flow chart of how a project goes from idea to rollout. Include a FAQs or Facts section and be as transparent as you can about working with outside vendors vs. in-house ability.

        2. If HR does a general on-board session for all new hires (rather than leave it up to each hiring manager) make sure you include a blurb in their literature about what your team does… get in front of new people before they learn misinformation.

        3. Make sure that your people have scripts or guidelines on how they communicate so that they don’t give the impression they are doing the work, if in reality they are a liaison or project manager.

      6. Doubleblankie*

        I work in a team where we really needed more understanding of what we did, so we invited the whole organisation to a briefing session (repeated 4 times). It was good, but because attendance was obviously voluntary, we had a lot of attendees we already worked closely with, and some teams we wanted to attend didn’t come. A couple of people came and still didn’t really understand. Overall I think it was worthwhile though.

  14. Cat Wrangler*

    #1: I don’t drink coffee, but I’ve worked for companies where I as “the woman” was expected to make it for everyone else. They would get one warning: I don’t drink this, so I don’t know how much potting soil to put in the paper thingy.

    If they persisted, well, they’d been warned.

    (They’d get me with the tea thing, though. One call of “How long do I microwave the water for?” and I’d be out of my chair in a nanosecond.)

    1. valentine*

      One call of “How long do I microwave the water for?” and I’d be out of my chair in a nanosecond.

      I just adore “potting soil”.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Tea isn’t made with microwaved water. It ruins it. I suppose if kettle were broken and you didn’t have a pot to boil water in instead…. but nah. Would have to be a dire emergency to use microwaved water. (I believe it’s to do with the aeriation of the water.)

        1. Justme, the OG*

          So let them ruin their own tea and use microwaved water. I still don’t see why Cat Wrangler would have to get up to fix their mistake.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            I think their point was that if co-worker were making tea FOR THEM and co-worker made microwave water comment, then they would immediately fix their own :)

            Colleague: want tea?
            CW: yes please
            Colleague: how long to I micro the water?
            CW: imitation of the Flash to do her own

          2. New Jack Karyn*

            I think the point is that Cat Wrangler can’t stand to know about tea-making done *wrong*, so on her own, she’s jetting over to fix it. Not that they’re making her, or even truly expecting her to, just that it’s nails-on-a-chalkboard to her.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Britons don’t microwave water, er, ever. When we see USians do so (on tv, say) there’s a collective sharp intake of breath that makes the ravens fly, screaming, from the Tower.

        1. Carlie*

          But it’s boiled water. The manner of heating really doesn’t matter. I would guess no one could tell them apart in a blind taste test. I can see that it ruins the ritual, but it’s 212 degree water no matter how it got there.
          (That said, although I’m happy to microwave my cup, I just got a wave of “ugh” reading below about reboiling a kettle of water that was already boiled and cooled once,so to each their own.)

          1. Carlie*

            Argh, hit submit too soon. Was going on to say that regardless of preference, OP should be wary of making it badly or claiming not to know how, because coworker sounds like the type who would then insist on teaching them how to do it to their specifications. The only way to win is to refuse to play.

          2. Oxford Comma*

            It does make a difference. I don’t know the science behind it or if there’s science behind it, but (and I can’t believe I’m writing this), a couple of friends were arguing about it and we did do a blind taste test, because we are just that geeky and we could discern a difference. Maybe it depends on the microwave. But after that, I always use either an electric or traditional kettle for tea making.

            All of these suggestions for messing up the tea so you’re not asked to do it again seem very passive-aggressive. They also aren’t guaranteed good results. The second co-worker could very well start insisting that the OP do it again or do it right this time. I think the OP is better off going the direct route.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              I have heard that it’s the air ratio… and that you can fix it somewhat by pouring the water from mug to mug from a reasonable height… but that cools it down again…

            2. EH*

              I bet it’s related to the way that water can, when microwaved to boiling, literally explode if it’s inside too smooth a container (the way to prevent it, in theory, is to put a wood chopstick in it). Microwaves are strange.

          3. Else*

            It’s weird, but it does make a difference. I had always microwaved it, but I heard that and tried comparing it to the kettle, and the kettle is nicer and just as fast. I actually started to reheat stuff in the stove more often, too, after that. Even a toaster oven is better than a microwave if you can spare the time.

        2. Tom & Johnny*

          USian here guilty of microwaving my water just this morning.

          I always feel vaguely guilty and uncertain of myself when it do it. As if I might get caught.

    2. Alfonzo Mango*

      I hate that we have to play dumb to get out of things.

      I wish we could just say “that’s not my role”.

      1. Anonomoose*

        I enjoy it, and being British, have it down to an art form. If you tell one person it’s not your role, you have to tell everyone else. If, however, as a programmer, you “fix” the printer of the person asking you to do IT support so it makes their office look like a Jackson Pollock painting, word gets around.

  15. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. In very junior jobs in the UK, the expectation is often that the person will make the tea, alongside the other tasks such as envelope stuffing and filing. At an interview for a job as a new graduate, I was told I would be spending most time making the tea and coffee.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s pretty normal for junior assistants or receptionists in the US. I was an executive assistant for awhile and made coffee for the bosses or anyone who visited.

      But I also waded in mud to count inventory too during wet months. Making coffee was far less awful. Or filling out hand checks for 10-15 payables a week. Ah, my youth. How far we’ve come.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It was construction materials it was in mud because we kept everything outside. It was stuff wrapped in tarps and weather proofed materials, so we had no need for buildings to keep it in. It was a gigantic field of gravel essentially. Trucks came in and out all day. Doing deliveries and pick ups.

        I never used a typewriter in my career. I had to then enter the handchecks into the accounting software.

        The only old’ish school thing I did in my CD career was my first job involved initiating wire transfers. Calling the wire room at our bank and rattling off all the account info, SWIFT code and my authorization numbers to transmit for vendor payments. 35 wires a week at times. Then typing up the remittance advice to send the vendors. We had computers and printed checks.

        We got all our invoices via fax since our products were imported. We were just a wholesaler of goods. We printed checks for the few vendors state side.

        I used to have to go personally deposit the payroll tax checks at the bank and drop deposits before EFTPS and desktop scanners.

    2. Brit former intern*

      Agreed – when I was interning, I was expected to do the tea round and I think I would have been expected to do this even if I wasn’t a tea or coffee drinker (moot because I am).

      But I do think that practice is dying out. In fact, if I caught one of my colleagues telling an intern to do a tea run, I would judge them.

      Norm in every office I have worked in post interning has been you offer the people immediately around you a hot drink if you’re going to make one for yourself. Some people may offer if they are going to the kitchen to get water as well but, as it’s generally accepted putting the kettle on is a bigger task than just getting water, that’s usually considered above and beyond.

      So, unless you’re in a very junior position, colleague who told you you should make them a drink regardless is being weird (and, even if you are junior, I’m still judging them!!).

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yeah, this was my read of the situation. OP is either an admin or by far the most junior staff member, and as such it’s an unwritten job duty/part of general admin and housekeeping that they are expected to take care of.

      Something about the way the job was framed as “I used to be on campus but now I somehow find myself in an office” reads as someone very new to the working world who isn’t willing to admit to themselves that they are extremely junior, or unaware that office work comes with a kind of hierarchy that might not always be apparent.

  16. nnn*

    The devil on my shoulder suggests that you agree to make them tea, then ask them to make you something that you want but they aren’t eating/drinking.

  17. Emma*

    #1 I have always refused to make tea/coffee at work because I don’t drink it. When others would make drinks for the group no one would go to the shop to buy me bottled water or find a water fountain & refill my bottle, nor would I expect them to so why should everyone else get a drink apart from me? No one has ever had a problem with it, although in my last job in Occupational Health the Doctor expected me (the lowest paid member of staff) to contribute to the tea/coffee fund! She thought it was ok because I only worked 4 days so wasn’t expected to provide the full amount. The fact I did not use tea, coffee or milk went over her head repeatedly!!

    1. pleaset*

      “The fact I did not use tea, coffee or milk went over her head repeatedly”

      Did you tell her that, or did you just expect her to notice?

  18. Flash Bristow*

    OP1 – I totally get where you’re coming from! I don’t drink hot drinks myself (and am also a Brit, if that makes any odds) and when asked to make tea I’ve done my best, had it spat out by people who apparently like theirs made differently, and who have maybe thought my tea was a trick (it wasn’t! I just don’t know how people like tea!) But hey. I wasn’t asked to make tea again!

    I would neither do that deliberately nor as a troll, but if you genuinely aren’t a hot drink maker, fair play! Give it a go, then when it doesn’t work rather than encouraging others to coach you for howevermany occasions will occur, just point out that it’s not your thing. But that you’re happy to add their order when you get the diet coke from the machine, if they can give you the money up front?

    Honestly once people realised I really wasn’t trying to be funny, but genuinely had no tea making skill, they gave me a break. If you try earnestly to provide *some* kind of coffee, with a human version of a keen dog wagging their tail proud of their best effort and with love to share… well if that doesn’t work out, those receiving your efforts are pretty mean!

  19. Tina*

    If it ever comes up again, so make coffee or tea for them – but make sure, that it is so aweful, that you are the last one to ask in the future.

  20. Jo*

    OP1, I’m in the UK and as far as I know it’s not an expectation here that you make tea or coffee for anyone if you’re not making it yourself. I’m sure this could vary on a case by case basis though, e.g some offices may expect junior members of staff to make the tea. If this wasn’t the case with you and your coworker was just being presumptuous, I’d be inclined to tell them to make their own tea/coffee.

  21. Dan*


    ” it’s clear that these internal applicants don’t have a good understanding of what the job is or what our team does. I don’t believe it’s an issue with the job description itself”

    What’s the real issue? That you have candidates who don’t understand what the job is, or that you have internal people who don’t understand what you do? AAM uses different wording, but the distinction matters. If it’s about the job application, then you interview them one on one and get all y’all on the same page about what the job entails. If it’s about the rest of the company’s perception of what your team does, then you uplevel it internally.

    I work in a field where people are very loose with language. We use words internally that people have bastardized inappropriately, yet if we were to interview someone externally with a functioning background in what we do, they’d probably give better answers/demonstrate more competency than our internal folk. It’s to the point where when I work with junior staff, I tell them that when people use words “X” or “Y”, that they must specifically ask the speaker what they’re talking about, as “X” and “Y” are either misused or too narrowly defined. So I can very much see the situation where an external candidate could “get it” better than internal people. Would I go to their manager(s)? No. It’s a broader “training” issue that doesn’t warrant the individual attention that a “manager” conversation would invite.

    1. OP4*

      It is this:

      “If it’s about the rest of the company’s perception of what your team does, then you uplevel it internally.”

      As a team whose job is to deliver something to the rest of the teams in our office, if they don’t know what we are doing or what that entails loosely, it would explain the impression of disatisfaction I have gotten in various ways.

      Our office is looking into using more tools where managers could easily see what the other teams are working on. That could help some of this, but I think I want to address it broadly with managers before that. Not necessarily by saying “Chris gave this answer and it was wrong.” But more “I realized we could talk more about what we are working on for different teams and how our development resources are allotted towards those things.”

      1. IL JimP*

        Have you thought of organizing a kind of meet and greet workshop where all the function heads talk about what they do to the other teams? Could help and make everyone’s job a little better not just yours

        1. Else*

          I had the same thought! We did something like this where staff also took turns shadowing each other in different departments through various common aspects of their jobs. Some of them ended up cross-training to be able to act as back-ups on specific tasks or for specific relationships, but that obviously doesn’t make sense in every type of workplace.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        A few suggestions:
        1. I think you need to go on a one-time marketing blitz for your department if you’re allowed. Put out a email/newsletter and “introduce” what your team does, who’s the go-to person for which tasks, and update on what projects are on the table, etc.

        2. Update your company intranet with FAQs or facts page that corrects any misconceptions. The more automated and general the dissemination of information, I think the better it will be received. Sometimes correcting people, even if they are wildly off, comes off as hostile even when the tone is not.

        3. Does your HR do any on-boarding of new hires or is it all up to each manager? If so, try to add something to their packet of info about your department and what you do so you catch people before they get bad info.

        4. I think you should also talk to your people about how they represent the department and maybe create some basic scripts to use. They need to be aware of seeming to take credit (I don’t mean maliciously but I can’t think of a better way of saying that right now) for other people’s work — i.e. instead of saying “I/We have created this feature for you…” it should be “The developers at XYZ have created this…” “I am here to present/explain/liaise…” or “I’m here to gather feedback and I’ll pass this along to…” I know that my department had a bit of this issue with a marketing manager who would present our work without specifying that she is only the liaison and not the actual author/designer/photographer.

  22. Name Required*

    OP3, my kid has a sensory disability called misophonia, so they’re super ultra sensitive to chewing sounds and mouth noises in general, and they’ve found that wearing noise-cancelling headphones with just the noise-cancelling functionality turned on (no music or anything) really helps a lot with this kind of situation. They use their Bose QuietComfort 25 headphones every single day, and it works so well that they’re even okay around things like people eating popcorn, which quite literally used to reduce my kid to tears from the pain within less than a minute.

    Those specific headphones are expensive, though, so if you aren’t super sensitive to mouth noises in general even when they aren’t coming from your cubicle neighbor who chews like a slow jackhammer, then you can probably get away with something cheaper.

  23. Rexish*

    #1 When I worked in UK the “rule” in my office was that if you are getting a cuppa you fill the kettle full instead 0f one cup. Then everyone can make their own and re-boil it if necessary. If you wanted to be nice to your friend when you are making your tea, you’d ask them if they wanted one. You’d never go around asking if you were not making one for your self. I think this is purely a powermove.

    In my current office (not UK) we have alternating weeks between employees when you are “on call”. This basically meant that you have the office general phone, dishwashing duty, minutes of meeting and previously had to brew the coffee and tea. This person would put the kettles on at 9am and 1pm and fill the coffeemaker. Then others would come and pour a cup if they wanted. They later discovered that it’s easier that people do it themselves since you never know how many coffee drinkers are in the office at that moment.

    On a personal note, I’m in a relationship with a brit and I’m from northern europe. We have a bit of a cuppa issue. I sometimes go in the kitchen and make myself a tea and sandwich and then let him know the ingredients are out if he wants to make some. He finds this rude, he thinks that I should ask if he wants some and then make it for him. Not gonna happen. Growing up, in my house everyone would get their evening snack whenever they felt hungry. He does always ask and offer, but I find it more annoying than polite.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      On the relationship cuppa issue: I think it’s really a preference and you have to really KNOW that person. When I cook, I’ve learned to let my husband plate his own food because he’s picky and puts extra sauces on (and he takes FOREVER about doing it-I can eat my whole meal while he’s prepping his food and drink and it drives me nuts). For small things like coffee and cookies, we might make and give for each other.

      I think for the sake of your relationship, bringing him an occasional cuppa & biscuits might go a long way? Not that what you do currently is rude, but I mean, it is sort of a just a nice “extra” gesture sometimes.

  24. Archaeopteryx*

    Op1 it’s perfectly possible that your colleague doesn’t *believe* you don’t drink hot drinks and thinks you’re just trying to get out of taking your turn. I’ve worked with people whose reaction to “I don’t drink tea” was more appropriate to “I don’t breathe air” – and I do drink coffee! If this is the case then hopefully seeing you actually, you know, not drinking them will solve the problem…

    1. valentine*

      thinks you’re just trying to get out of taking your turn.
      If so, I’d expect OP1 would’ve also said they’ve told several people who offered they don’t do hot, but how can they get the word out so no one else bothers?

  25. Lobsterp0t*

    Ha ha ha. Oh man. I laughed at LW1’s coworker because she is so out of line here.

    It’s common in every office I ever worked in to offer to make a brew for everyone. But the only people who engage in this are the hot drink drinkers. No one finds it weird if you don’t. I only drink coffee (the real kind they don’t have at work) so I rarely offer, but every once in a while to be nice I’ll ask if anyone wants anything from the kitchen. I’ll occasionally accept a glass of water as well. But I work in a team where we are all often operating on the same rhythm / doing similar tasks. So it’s not the annoying interruption that it might be otherwise.

    BUT. If someone was doing what the coworker is doing, I would definitely not engage in it. Because doing so would validate their awful behaviour. No one in my team cares that half the team don’t involve themselves in it either. So although it’s part of the culture, it’s not the kind of thing you HAVE to engage with. I can’t imagine that a U.K. workplace where people insist on this is a very nice place to work. That person needs therapy, not caffeine.

    1. Lobsterp0t*

      Clarification – American living in U.K. for 11 years. I have worked in Wales, Scotland and London so I feel well placed to comment!

  26. Non-Tea-Drinking Brit (aka Social Pariah)*

    I’ve never related to a letter more than OP 1. OP I’ve had to make the choice between making a few rounds of tea (despite not being a hot beverage drinker) in order to keep the peace or to not participate and get constantly side eyed/ commented at about why I never make tea when everyone else does.

    I have taken the stance that if someone asks me directly and politely for a cup of tea when they’re busy I will make it to keep up good will but since, like you, it would never occur to me to get up and stick the kettle on people will just have to live with the idea that I’m never going to get up and make a round of drinks off my own back.

    4 years into my time with this company and it remains a… controversial decision but I’ve stuck to my guns and now people see it as more of a personality quirk than an issue but it does still come up!

    And for Americans reading this comment and the question yes tea making is that ingrained into British culture as a whole and (some) workplaces that your colleagues may be baffled by both the fact that you don’t drink tea and the fact that you never offer to put the kettle on regardless of whether you drink tea.

    1. valentine*

      get constantly side eyed/ commented at about why I never make tea when everyone else does.
      if someone asks me directly and politely for a cup of tea when they’re busy
      Have they not noticed no one ever makes you tea? It might be different if they reciprocated somehow, but this is so selfish and weird of them. I would expect to be laughed at and chastised for asking someone to make and serve me refreshment. It ain’t Downton.

  27. German Girl*

    #2 yes, contact the hiring manager directly and ask. Since it’s been a few month, the manager might have thought that all the good candidates from the last round would be taken anyway, so they skipped reaching out to you because they thought it’d be a waste of time, but would love to take you if you applied again.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      I second applying again. I have reached out to candidates we’ve interviewed in the past and let them know of a new opening, and have hired the person on the second go-round. As Allison said, sometimes you have multiple really good candidates and only one job to fill. I agree with German Girl in that I would be less likely to reach out the more time that had passed since the first interview. Good luck!

      1. Cath*

        I agree. This happened to me–didn’t get a spot in March, they had another opening in June and I got it.

    2. Venus*

      If the hiring manager had been supportive during the hiring process, then I would definitely reach out to them directly to ask if they would welcome my application.

  28. Oska*

    #1 – I’ve worked in the UK, but at a translation agency with at least 90% non-Brits, so I guess we cobbled together our own office culture out of all our national quirks. Hot drink habits were one of those things where we all stuck with our various strange, foreign habits, though. (I think every coffee/tea making implement on the planet that didn’t require an open fire was represented.) But I never heard anyone whinge about others not making them tea/coffee just because they were in the kitchen. You’d probably get a multinational “that’s bananas” vote from us.

    Also: “she told me that even though I don’t drink them, I should still make them for her”. Why her and her alone? You haven’t broken any rules, that person is trying to badger you into being her maid. Don’t fall for it.

  29. Expat Tea Maker*

    OP #1 – I also work in a British office, and I’m an expat! I didn’t drink tea or know the tea-making politics when I started. (now I do like a cuppa every now and then, but not every time someone makes a round). I honestly use any time I go into the kitchen (for my own glass of water, breakfast smoothie, lunch, etc) as an excuse to ask if anyone else wants anything just to be polite. Making tea is kind of a community gesture I’ve come to appreciate in the UK. It’s just nice to offer. But no one should make you feel rude for not doing it. That all being said, it’s also a good excuse to get up, have a little walk, and not look at your screen for a bit! A tea break is often a walk and some friendly chats, not just a beverage obligation.

    1. Expat Tea Maker*

      Adding that it just kind of seems to fit with general UK hospitality to do this. No one is trying to pull rank. My guess is that this coworker is an older (posh?) lady who just believes this is how things ‘have always been done.’ When you go to someone’s house in the UK they immediately offer to put the kettle on or make you a hot drink, and when anyone comes to yours you do the same (even if you don’t drink tea, you have it for visitors). Coworker probably just considers it ‘basic’ hospitality because of this.
      This isn’t as prevalent in America–where most times when visitors come over you immediately decide where you want to go OUT to eat/drink and then leave!

      1. londonedit*

        I hadn’t really considered this before, but I think you’re right, and it’s interesting to me that this isn’t the norm elsewhere! The first question any British person is asked when they arrive at a friend’s house, a job interview, a meeting, is ‘Can I get you a cup of tea? Coffee?’ (unless you’re arriving at a friend’s house after 6pm, in which case you’ll be offered a proper drink). I don’t drink tea but I have tea at home for when friends or family come over and I’d always offer a tea or coffee or some other kind of drink as soon as anyone came through the front door. Popping over to someone’s house for a cup of tea and a chat is an entire social event in itself. When we used to go and visit my grandparents, as soon as we arrived my grandmother would make tea and bring out a homemade cake and a plate of biscuits (cookies).

        1. Marzipan*

          I rarely have milk in the house but if I have anyone coming over – even just the plumber to fix the toilet, or whatever – I’ll make sure to get some in, so I can offer them a cup of tea.

          1. Batgirl*

            Yes you have to offer a plumber a cup of tea. I am now wondering if that’s not done elsewhere!

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              I…am pretty sure that’s not a thing in the US but I hope someone else chimes in in case I’ve been really rude to apartment maintenance folks! If it’s super hot out I’ll offer a cold drink but otherwise I usually just try to stay out of their hair.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                I’m in the US and don’t generally offer drinks to people who come by for a quick service or installation. I always have drinks for movers, but that’s a longer-term thing, of course.

                We just moved into an apartment building and I’ve had to call maintenance twice for little things. Our maintenance guy is very nice and polite but kind of awkward, like he doesn’t want to stay very long, and I think if I offered him a drink he would turn around and run.

                However… any time someone comes to my home for a social visit, they’re offered a drink. I don’t often have more than water, but I do offer coffee and tea (especially now that I finally have an electric kettle and it’s so easy, as the UK readers know!). That’s normal to me, we’re just more likely to offer water than tea here. Maybe it’s because so few of us have proper, quick-boiling electric kettles!

              2. Lyman Zerga*

                Agree with you, offering beverages to contractors and the like is not a thing in the US, unless they are doing something really laborious outside in the heat, in which case offering a glass of water is hospitable! My British MIL stays with us regularly here in the US and has offered “hot drinks” to numerous service people. They are universally deeply confused but in a polite way.

              3. Working Mom Having It All*

                I’ve offered water, a beer, soda, etc (maybe something like lemonade or iced tea if we happen to have it on hand) to maintenance people. Especially if it’s a hot day, and double especially if they’re doing difficult or time consuming work.

            2. nnn*

              Non-Brit here: what happens next? Does the plumber accept the cup of tea or does the social contract dictate offer and refusal?

              If the plumber accepts the tea, do you sit there and drink tea with the plumber and attempt to make small talk? (Or drink tea in silence?) Or does the plumber drink tea by themselves while you do your own thing?

              How long does this all take? As someone who isn’t able to drink hot beverages quickly and who struggles with small talk, this all seems kind of awkward to me…

              1. londonedit*

                It’s polite to offer, but no one minds if they decline. You absolutely don’t have to make small talk! The plumber gets on with the work, you make the cup of tea, the plumber drinks the tea while they’re working. You don’t literally sit down on the sofa with the plumber and enjoy a nice cup of tea together! Brits often drink tea while doing other things – it’s the same with the office teamaking. You don’t all go and sit somewhere and drink tea together, you have a cup of tea at your desk while you’re also working.

                1. nnn*

                  LOL! Now I’m laughing at myself because for some bizarre reason my imagination could not stretch to encompass drinking a cup of tea while plumbing! I have no idea why – I drink tea while doing my own (desk) job all the time – but I just…couldn’t get there!

              2. Green great dragon*

                If the plumber accepts the mug (not cup) of tea they take it with them to the location of the plumbing need, and drink as they plumb.

            3. Pippa*

              Ha – so true. In the rural US, an unexpectedly-English service person turned up to do some work at our house, and my English spouse naturally offered him a cup of tea. He accepted with delight, saying ruefully that no one in America ever offered him tea when he was working – and that he was relieved to have a cuppa made by another Englishman, because he knew it would be drinkable :)

            4. no, the other Laura*

              No, not done elsewhere. In the US we might offer a cold glass of water or Gatorade if it’s very hot out, but most of the time the tradespeople have their own Gatorade if it’s hot and they’re working outdoors.

            5. Sandman*

              Oh my goodness, no, never. A cup of water if it’s hot outside, but that’s really it! I suppose if I were making something and they were in the same room I might offer, but that’s never come up.

            6. bonkerballs*

              Not really at all in the US. If it’s hot outside and someone is doing something particularly taxing, I’d probably offer cold water (or when I was living in the south, lemonade or sweet tea), but nothing that would involve waiting for water to boil.

  30. CountryLass*

    #1, I’m from the UK, and I don’t expect my colleagues who don’t drink tea or coffee to make me one! If I’m making a round, I will always ask them, as on occasion they will have one, maybe once a month. I’m not bothered about the fact they don’t make me one cup a month!

    But I did work with someone who felt it was unfair that I never made drinks when I cut caffeine out of my diet for a month and only drank water. So as she was senior to me, I ended up having to make lovely cups of tea (which I adore!) for everyone else whilst not drinking any myself…

  31. can'tremembermyusername*

    UK person here. In my experience the “rule” is generally if you are making yourself one you offer to make the whole office one (provided your office is a few people not like 80 people). My last company was a small one (5 people including the owners who were off site half the day) so whoever made the tea would make tea for everyone (or at least offer).

    I now work at a 3000 person company in an office of 70 people and we have one of those taps that automatically dispenses boiling water so no kettle is necessary, nor is waiting for it to boil and everyone makes their own tea, we don’t get tea or coffee provided (which most employers provide in the UK) as we work in the government so everyone has their own favourite brands they brought in themselves. Sometimes the director’s secretary makes him tea but that’s as far as it got.

    If this is a small office in the UK, general etiquette would probably dictate making everyone tea, or at least offering when OP makes their own. But that is contingent on OP making their own. OP1’s coworker is being rude. I don’t drink coffee so when I worked at the small company I never made anyone coffee (I probably wouldn’t make nice coffee anyway) but I did make tea as I love tea.

    Practical solution:OP1 could try making the tea once and make it as disgusting as possible (if coworker takes sugar put way too much or way too little in, if they like it darkish put way too much milk in, don’t let the teabag sit in the tea long enough pull it out after about 20 seconds so the tea is super weak etc). If coworker complains they could then try “sorry I don’t drink it so I don’t know how to make it”. I’m betting coworker won’t ask again.

  32. Jk*

    I am British. No, you don’t have to make this entitled woman a brew when you don’t drink them. Typically it’s a return favor and you’d go back and forth as colleagues if you all drink it – equal footing, all in this together. Someone might bring in the milk one day and someone else the next. She is bullying you and seeing what she can get away with.

    Tell her to bugger off and make it herself. That right there would be the universal British cultural response.

    There is no British work tea culture that implies you need to be the work skivvy. Tea is a drink amongst friends and everyone pitches in.

    1. Batgirl*

      The oddest part of the letter to me was that OP was told to put on the kettle on her first day without being offered a welcome cup of tea…I presume she would have told the first co-worker she doesn’t drink it if she were offered one first. At least that colleague apologised, but it did make me wonder about status and if her role is seen as a bit of a skivvy. That’s not really tea round culture.

  33. WonderIfMyBossReadsThisBlog*

    OP #3, I feel ya!
    My boss (whose desk is about 15 feet away from mine) every morning indulges in 10 minutes of extreme CRONCH CRONCH CRONCH vegie-munching of the very loudest, most uncouth and frankly stabby-making kind. But, um, he’s my boss and I just don’t get to tell him to quieten down (or ffs try eating with his mouth fully closed, like an adult). I’ve simply learned to remind myself it won’t take long – I put on some headphones and distract myself with something (anything, seriously, white noise or electronic music, watching my fave YouTube vid of baby goats in pyjamas or whatever else happy-making), step out and go to the mailbox, visit the loo, find a reason to hang in the file room for a few minutes, chat to a colleague.
    (I swear, he’s a good boss in many other ways. Even the best people have their … foibles.)

    1. Glengarry*

      An old colleague of mine used to eat very hard & brittle crisps all the time, and it would go: CRUUUUNCH!!! CRUNCH! Crunch! Crunch crunchcrunchcrunch *pause* CRUUUUNCH!!! CRUNCH! Crunch! Crunch crunchcrunchcrunch *pause* – rinse, lather, repeat. And it was actually the *pause* that irritated me the most, as I found myself completely tensing up in anticipation of the next CRUUUUNCH!!!

      1. WonderIfMyBossReadsThisBlog*

        Yep. I’m always waiting for that next bloody carrot. “Is he finished at last??? Uh…no…” Gah.

  34. Batgirl*

    OP1, if this were me, I might take the hint to do a small social gesture for the office; but not directly for your coworker, who is rude! Your coworker is so wildly out of line with British tea round culture (it’s supposed to be a community gesture of affection and a way of showing that you have remembered each other’s drinking preferences; not a barked order showing her clear obliviousness of your own preferences) that I am wondering if she’s either joking with you or if she’s fundamentally misunderstood you. I assume she thinks you are an at home tea/coffee drinker (some people don’t believe true hot caffeine ambivalence exists) and that you forgo it during the day because you can’t be bothered to make one for others at work. That would be a problem in a place where the tea round is taken slightly more seriously than others. Since it’s hot weather at the moment, bring in some choc ices or a communal bottle of coke for the office fridge. If you want to be really pointed about your preferences until she gets it you could bring in a tray of cakes and set up a tea tray where people could make their own (boil the kettle though, and possibly fill a tea pot) next to it. “I don’t make tea very often and don’t know how to do it well, but I felt like treating you all to some cake, and please help yourself to tea”. This would be a one off, ‘I’ve enjoyed my first month here so much’ or ‘I did too much baking’ or ‘Its my birthday’; make that clear. But if you get the sense she’s the ‘take an inch ask for a mile’ then I would not do anything and stick with just blandly refusing to take her bait.

    1. londonedit*

      Yes! I’ve been thinking about this and the only way I can see someone asking a colleague to put the kettle on being acceptable is if the OP was standing next to the kettle at the time, the colleague was clearly busy, and it was a situation like ‘Ooh, OP, you wouldn’t mind just sticking the kettle on quickly, would you? Really need a cup of tea but I’ve got to run this letter down to the post room! Back in a minute! Thanks!’ Actually asking a colleague to make you a cup of tea, and on their first day as well? Nope. Not unless they’re in a very junior position and it’s part of their job to make a round of tea first thing in the morning (this has been a thing in some places I’ve worked in; the most junior member of staff would make tea for the bosses when said bosses arrived in the morning).

      1. LW*

        OP1 here – Yeah I think some of the people I work with are quite rude. I will just be sitting there on the pc minding my own business and someone will bark out ‘Do you want to go and put the kettle on?’ to me. From next week my standardised response is going to be ‘Not really, no.’

    2. MissDisplaced*

      This seems really odd to me unless it’s an especially small office with close coworkers.
      At my current larger company, I would never do that, but I have worked for a small startup where food rituals were more of a ‘thing.’
      When I was at our European offices, I noticed that afternoon espresso breaks were a thing, but it seemed that everyone made their own (my was offered and made for me as I was a guest).

  35. Blue Eagle*

    OP1 This probably isn’t helpful for the OP, but I would be tempted to make the most awful tea (too weak, too strong, too hot, not hot enough, my own off-brand tea bag) thus further evidence that you aren’t at expert at tea making as you don’t drink it.

  36. The Rafters*

    Op 2, the hiring manager called you personally to let you know you didn’t get the job. Most won’t waste their time doing that, they simply send rejection letters. You must have impressed them the first time around. Go for it.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I agree but don’t go through the recruiter (Alison is right as usual, the recruiters I’ve worked with couldn’t submit me to any companies I’d applied to in the last 6 months or so) or apply via the online system right away – reach out to the hiring manager and get their thoughts.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      Yes, reach out to the hiring manager. I think if you were totally unqualified, the hiring manager wouldn’t have called you personally. That usually only happen because you were a good candidate, just not necessarily the best at that time. Best of luck to you this time around.

  37. Scout Finch*

    All it would take is for me to make coffee ONCE – and no one would ever ask me again (unless it was a restaurant-style brewer with the pre-measured packets). I am hopeless – ask my husband (yes – he makes his own coffee).

    I LOVE the smell of coffee. I just never started drinking it.

  38. LGC*

    So…I hate to say it, but LW3, could you consider going out of office when your coworker is going to town on a Jimmy John’s sandwich? Honestly, I work with a bunch of people who don’t have impeccable table manners, and that’s been my solution. (Also, our break room is like a noisy high school cafeteria and 1) I’m not supposed to eat at my desk and 2) if I did I would get interrupted constantly by people, so I try not to. So getting away is a godsend!)

    This is also a situation where if you DO address it, I think it’s better to frame it as you having the problem. (And I’d only address it if I was relatively close with him.)

    Also, noise. I can’t imagine he’s THAT loud that a discreet white noise machine can’t mitigate it.

  39. Laura*

    Poster#3. You sound like my daughter. Do you have misophonia? The average person had never heard of it and doesn’t realize how distressing certain sounds can be to people with misophonia. If you do you can explain what misophonia is to them. There are small”white noise” ear buds that some people find helpful.

    1. carrots and celery*

      I don’t think OP needs to explain it to their coworker. Eating is a normal part of life and bringing it up is only going to cause awkwardness on behalf of everyone. There’s absolutely no reason for the OP to bring it up here.

      1. Name Required*

        As someone related to a person with misophonia, I can 100% guarantee that you get a much different reaction from people when you say “you chew very loudly” vs “I have a sensory disability that makes me really sensitive to chewing noises” so it’s usually well worth saying. You can’t really say the former to your co-worker, but the latter is a reasonable accomodation for an actual disability, and most people treat it as such when they’re made aware of it.

        Of course, obviously OP3 shouldn’t say anything like that to anyone if they don’t actually have misophonia, but most people who have it have never even heard of it, so if this isn’t the only situation where these kinds of mouth sounds (chewing, yawning, lip smacking, etc.) make them miserable, then it might be worth looking into with an audiologist.

        1. carrots and celery*

          Sure, say it, but what is the coworker going to do? I understand some people can’t stand these types of noises, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask an entire office to avoid natural human noises because someone is sensitive to them. Chewing/yawning/etc. aren’t something you can really change (and I know people will butt in with their examples of how they taught someone to chew differently, but realistically, most people are not going to train themselves to chew differently and they shouldn’t have to).

          1. Snark*

            Exactly. People making normal, everyday, “making your way through the world in a meatbag”-type sounds should not be expected to stringently police their own chewing, crunching, yawning, tooth clicking, and other typical meatbag noises. If one self-identifies with this condition or something like it, that’s a tough hand to get dealt and I have sympathy, and I will do my best not to smack gum near you and otherwise show you as much basic courtesy as I can. But the entire world cannot be expected to work around compulsions and obsessions.

            1. Laura*

              It’s still worth having a conversation. The office mates might not realize that their normal activities are distressing to their coworker. (if the OP does indeed have misophonia). Coworkers might not be able to stop yawning etc. but it’s completely reasonable for people to eat food in the break room instead of at their desk. This is common practice in many workplaces for hygiene reasons. People are expected to eat nut-free lunches in certain scenarios, this is not that different.

  40. boredatwork*

    OP #2

    We had someone interview twice, for the same position. She was basically in second place the first time around and ended up getting the exact same job when the original #1 candidate turned out to not be a good fit. We are a lot of people’s “dream job” and it was a very easy second interview process.

    So far she’s doing pretty well and everyone’s happy she re-applied when the position came open again.

  41. Kesnit*


    I interviewed for my current job 3 times (same hiring manager) before I got the job. I have since found out why I was passed over the first two times – both were for candidates who had more experience than me. (One had been in our office several years prior, then went to another office and was trying to come back.) Since this was a job I really wanted, I just kept applying and it finally worked out.

  42. Claribel*

    The politics of the Great British Tea Round could fill multiple blogs in their own right.

  43. Cranky Neighbot*

    3. Seconding headphones. I used to have a cube neighbor who ate in an irritating fashion. Headphones were the only solution unless I wanted to be the Food Police, which I did not.

    On-ear headphones are more effective than earbuds for this.

    If your job gives you breaks or allows you to move around in the office, maybe you could go somewhere else while she’s eating.

  44. LQ*

    I work in a very similar role (and have moved between several different roles that are all mysteries to the folks we support). I’d guess you’re in something like a BA or PO role. If you are part of it is having that job described in a “hey this is a job that people in other companies have and this is what it means” way. (Like actually describe it as a BA and not a specialist or whatever your “this is a promotion” nomenclature is.)

    I’d also suggest if it is possible and if your company would be amenable to this rotate people through that role. This could be something where one of the spots on the team sort of rotates through internal folks who get it as a 6 month kind of position. It will help you spot people who are excellent at it, but it will also help spread the word of what you do and what it really is back through the organization. Mostly I’m suggesting because it sounds like you have similar struggles to what we have and are looking to hire internally. This has been really helpful. There’s not room for everyone on the team. And you have to be willing to realize that that last team spot likely won’t get a lot done for that role, but it will do good things for the organization as a whole and when you find someone who is an undiscovered gem it’s great.

    1. OP4*

      Yes, what you’re describing is pretty spot on.

      The rotation suggestion is an interesting one. I am going to give that more thought.

    2. Former BA Manager*

      BA roles are especially tough to recruit for internally. There can be a ton of cross-functional duties that are hard for non-BAs to understand… but so many think they understand more than they actually do. Additionally, if you look on the interwebs, many BA jobs are very data heavy – pulling reports, running queries, etc.. My suspicion is that the applicants are trying to get an answer on the internet about what a BA does, and uses that info as a data point for your open positions, thus the focus on specific items. I don’t know how to fix this, as I spent my years related to this kind of work explaining what it is my team ACTUALLY did.

      Try-outs can be useful, as mentioned above, if you are not customer facing. If these are only internal teams, and the stakes are low to start, a trial can really show if someone has what it takes… soft skills such as pulling details from ambiguous requirements, as an example. In my previous org we were customer facing. We assigned these transfers with no BA experience as ‘associate’ BAs who worked under a senior BA. The associate handled IS testing, shadowed on requirements sessions, worked on functional specs and design items that were reviewed by a senior, and were generally contributing with verification. The senior BA would show how it was done, and eventually the associate would be allowed to drive with oversight. Eventually there would be a promotion to BA if the results were adequate.

  45. Morning reader*

    So many questions about the tea rituals. When you say “put on the kettle” does that mean you have a stove in your office? If you turn on a burner, does that mean you have to stick around until the water boils and then turn it off? How do you make tea for other people? Are there tea bags (I have heard British people disdain tea bags,) if there are not tea bags, do you have to measure out leaves and put them in one of the ball thingies? If so do you have multiple ball thingies? Do people like their tea different strengths and is that accomplished by leaving the bag in longer or using more tea? Does everyone have their own cup or do you use disposable cups? If everyone has their own cup, how do you keep track of which is whose? How do the cups get back to the kitchen, does each person take theirs back or does the person getting the next round gather them up and wash them? How do you carry several cups around the office, are there trays? Do you all have a tray in your office that you carry back and forth or is there just one and the person who brought the tea carries it back to the kitchen right away? Are there different kinds of tea there or does everyone drink the same kind? Who pays for all this tea and the accompanying sugar etc?
    Lastly how much time does all this tea drinking and subsequent toilet visiting take up out of the day, and is it worth it for the caffeinated workers and social lubrication in the office? (My guess: yes!)
    So curious here. Never drink tea myself except when very ill and then it’s a non caffeine type and probably from a years old teabag.

    1. Fabulous*

      A British kettle is similar to an American percolator for coffee – it’s an electric appliance that boils water on the counter; no stove-top necessary. I’m not sure how the tea works in them, but I imagine there is a spot for the leaves same as there is a spot for the coffee in percolators.

      1. londonedit*

        No! A kettle just boils the water, then you pour said boiling water into a mug or teapot with tea bags waiting in it. The kettle does not actually make the tea itself!

    2. Amethystmoon*

      Why not just get a Keurig machine? They do have tea K-cups, and everyone can get their own flavors. That’s what my company does.

      1. londonedit*

        You can’t really get Keurig machines in the UK, for a start. We have pod-type machines for coffee, but no British person would make tea using anything other than boiling water (and this is key – hot water taps do not work and this is why British people die inside when they ask for a cup of tea in the USA and are presented with a cup of hot water and a tea bag on the side…) and decent tea bags (or occasionally loose leaf but generally not at work or for a standard quick cuppa).

      2. Pippa*

        At my US workplace we have a Keurig with pods that purport to be either “English breakfast” or “Earl Grey” tea. I tried one once and have never been so insulted in my life and am thinking of filing complaints relating to truth in labeling, health and safety, and possibly hate crimes.

    3. londonedit*

      It’s an electric kettle. Stovetop kettles are still in existence here, but very old-fashioned. Pretty much every British home and office has an electric kettle (and we find it very odd that many Americans think this is a strange concept!) Offices are starting to have boiling water taps instead of kettles, but it has to be boiling water or the tea will be awful!

      We absolutely use tea bags. The idea of British people all making loose leaf tea in teapots with little silver tea strainers and china cups is also very outdated. Of course many people prefer loose leaf tea, but 99% of the time the tea made here is in tea bags. However, it is vastly different from the tea bag tea you get in the USA. You can buy absolutely huge boxes of tea bags here – PG Tips, Tetley, Yorkshire Tea etc – and they just come loose in the box, they’re not individually packaged unless they’re a posh tea or a herbal tea.

      Cups – offices have a big supply of mugs for tea and coffee. Some people have preferences but mostly people just get what they’re given out of the cupboard. The person getting the next round of teas will probably gather up the cups – in our office we’re encouraged to rinse and reuse them throughout the day. There are indeed trays! Or someone will offer to come and help carry the mugs of tea.

      Most people will drink the standard ‘builder’s tea’, normal black tea, from the normal tea bags. However a lot of offices also provide different kinds of tea too, like Earl Grey or Assam or some herbal teas. Who pays depends on the organisation, but it’s normal for the company to foot the bill for at a bare minimum the tea bags, instant coffee, milk and sugar. Occasionally you’ll have a ‘tea fund’ where people will contribute money for tea supplies if the company doesn’t provide it.

      Tea drinking takes up a fair amount of time, but I think doing it in rounds makes it more efficient! As I said on another comment, I think Americans have this idea that British people stop working and sit around drinking tea at set times of the day, and that’s not the case! Someone needs a quick break, they offer to make tea, five minutes later they come back and distribute the teas, everyone drinks while they’re working. So it doesn’t really cut into work time! And I don’t think drinking tea makes a reasonably well-hydrated person go to the loo any more frequently than any other drink :)

      1. Sleepless*

        As an aside, my family spent a week in London last summer. Our flat had an electric kettle. I had heard of electric kettles, but I didn’t know what one was. Once we figured out how to use it, we loved it! We ordered one when we got home and we use it every day. And had to explain to visitors what the heck it was.

    4. Batgirl*

      The key to the British tea round is simplicity + v hot water. British (electric) kettles bring water to a rolling boil (which is the secret to a good cup of tea, not leaves or dunkers, and other shennanigans). Manners demand a simple drinks order. You might drink loose leaf earl grey and speciality cappucinos at home…not in the office, not in the round. At work, you will have a PG tips or Yorkshire Tea bag (which honestly most British people prefer to loose leaf unless they have a lot of time to let it steep) or a spoon of instant coffee (which no one likes without a lot of sugar and is considered wake up juice). You can have a herbal tea bag too, as essentially the offer of “Anyone want a brew?” = “What simple item would you like your boiling hot water dumped on”. You then stir the coffees, leave in any herbal tea bags, but you must remove the black tea bags because you’re British and you can quickly and efficiently stir clockwise, then counter, then squeeze and if you get dark caramel dribbling out of the bag as you lift and dispose then it’s drinkable. There will be one weirdo who drinks it stewed who will instruct you to “leave in the bag!”. You add sugar for those who want it by the teaspoon and enough milk to make it roughly the colour of a biscuit. Et voila. Even for ten people should take no longer than ten minutes and should be punctuated by piss taking: “Jane’s mug is more like a cereal bowl. She likes to get her moneys worth”.
      Decaffeinated tea? *faints*

      1. londonedit*


        I’m finding it so fascinating that people are imagining making a few cups of tea to be so involved, complicated and time-consuming that they’re unwilling to do it for their co-workers. It’s a little break from work, it’s pouring water into mugs and stirring a bit, and it greases the wheels of workplace harmony.

      2. nnn*

        Non-Brit here, wondering what happens next.

        You’re there in the break room with the 10 hot drinks you’ve just made in under 10 minutes. Do you then bring the cups out to the people? Do they come in and get the cups? Are you all in the break room hanging around to start with?

        1. Peacock*

          You put them on a tray and bring them out to the people you’ve made drinks for – rarely as many as ten as in most offices the drinks round is contained within your team or bank of desks. My work drinks round has 6 people.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Ooohhh, you serve them to each coworker? on a tray? OP, I have an idea. How clumsy are you? What are the odds of you accidentally tripping and dropping your tea mugs onto coworker#2 whilst delivering her tea to her desk? bonus points if you serve her first and drop the whole tray. (Do not actually do that, OP.)

        2. Batgirl*

          If there’s ten I expect one of the lazy sods to help me carry. Just like with a big drinks round in the pub.

        3. londonedit*

          And people drink their tea at their desks while they’re working. You don’t all troop off somewhere and sit and drink tea together.

        4. Batgirl*

          Oh and you bring it to people’s desk usually. A break from work and bit of chatter with desk mates is largely the point.

      3. Doubleblankie*

        ‘There will be one weirdo who drinks it stewed who will instruct you to “leave in the bag!”.’ Ugghhh. Actually that might be a good idea for the OP if they are leaning towards a passive aggressive solution. Just leave the teabag in and she’ll never ask you to make tea again.
        Although second thoughts she sounds like the type to moan about it and tell everyone in the office what you did for months afterwards. Maybe the direct approach would be best.

    5. Peacock*

      In addition to what’s already been said – most offices do provide mugs (usually with a company logo on) but in the vast majority of offices that I’ve worked in, people tend to bring their own mugs in, as a way to ensure no-one else uses it and I guess to inject a little personality into your workspace – my work mug has my initial on one side and a picture of an owl on the other (my initial is O). My colleague has a custom mug with a picture of ABBA on, which I am insanely envious of. . Generally: company provided mugs are used by visitors, occasional drinkers and new starters on their first day, everyone else brings their own mug in, (although I have heard of some companies that don’t let you bring your own mug).

    6. Morning reader*

      Thank you for all the replies. I am better informed (I now know what a kettle is) and have a much better idea of the “getting a round” culture in some offices. I was worried after posting my nosy questions that it might be judged off-topic. I am happy to learn that you all have tea bags and that those ball thingies are called strainers. And that Earl Grey is real. (When I picture “how to make tea” all I come up with is “Earl Grey, hot,” and then the replicator does the rest. I wonder if there are/will be/would be quibbles about how well the replicated stuff stacks up?)
      As for my sick time use of tea… the kinds I have (mostly left from previous housemates) are non-caffeine types like lemon zinger which I don’t think had caffeine to begin with. So they are not decaffeinated but maybe they are really “tea” by Brit standards either.

  46. CupcakeCounter*

    My office has multiple coffee pots and very clear instructions on HOW to make the coffee and WHEN to make the coffee. This burden is placed upon the coffee drinkers only. You no drinky, you no makey.
    However, I am in the US and based upon some of the comments by the UK posters above (which were fascinating to read!) the tea culture of your office might overrule the lack of social contract but the reaction of your first colleague (apology and never again ask you to make her a cuppa) indicates that you are correct in your lack of obligation to rude coworkers.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Ours is made on an as-needed basis. You want coffee, you go ahead and brew a pot of coffee. Fill your mug and leave and let your coworkers help themselves to the rest as they wish to. (I find myself making coffee at work very frequently, because I LOVE coffee!) You definitely do not hunt a coworker down and tell them to make coffee. Especially if they don’t drink it! (Also in the US)

  47. What the What*

    #3. I think using your headphones is a great idea. I know several people who DO NOT like the sound of chewing. It kind of bugs me too. In fact I pinned something to my “Funny” Pinterest page that says “If I can hear you chewing I’m fantasizing about killing you.” I could probably say that to my spouse who is a “loud everything”: chewing, eating, laughing, etc. But that probably wouldn’t be a good thing to say at work ;)

  48. CupcakeCounter*

    Sorry but I think the only time you can ask a coworker to eat differently or elsewhere is if you have a severe enough peanut allergy that having the particles in the air will cause you issues and they eat nothing but PB&J’s and trail mix (at which point they could only eat in the cafeteria and you would not use that room as a compromise).

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I really think your only option here are headphones. I don’t think there’s a polite way to ask someone to chew more quietly and not lose political capital.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I second this. I usually tune out loud chewers, but I had a few memorable cube-farm members. A guy comes to mind who had a coughing/hacking fit every day immediately after eating lunch that sounded like his entire insides had turned to phlegm and he was on a mission to cough it all up. And there was nothing I could do about it, other than hope to be moved to another desk or get another job. (The latter was what ended up happening. I remember crying tears of joy at the thought that, in another two weeks, I would never hear that guy again.) Because, like, what do you say? “Don’t be you?” The person probably cannot help it…

  49. MissDisplaced*

    #1 No, generally you would not be expected to make tea or coffee for everyone. However, in some offices with a communal coffee pot, it is a courtesy to ‘start a pot’ if it runs low, or ‘make the first pot’ in the morning if you come in early. But only if you actually drink the coffee.
    I don’t see this quite as often lately as most offices have moved to the single-serve type hot beverage machines.

    #3 Sorry, but loud eating isn’t something you can’t really control or complain about. Roll your eyes and ignore. Even if they’re chewing with their mouth open, they are sitting in their own desk space and you should ignore. Unless your office has rules prohibiting eating at desks, ignore.
    More of the pitfalls of open offices I’d guess.

    My workplace is moving to the dreaded open office and I have nightmares that EVERY SINGLE THING one does will be scrutinized and complained about as people are no longer facing a cubicle wall and have zero privacy or personal space. I can hear the refrains of “I don’t like the way Sansa blows her nose and reuses her tissues,” “Jon chews with his mouth open!” and “Arya makes weird faces all the time.” Open offices are such a horror shitshow.

    1. carrots and celery*

      I’ve actually found my open office cut down on the complaining. But we have a hot desking concept, so you can easily move to a new location or floor whenever you want. Now that I’m in this office environment, I would never go back to a cube farm. I like being able to move where I want, when I want if I happen to be sitting next to someone who isn’t a great table partner.

  50. Samwise*

    OP #1: I would not make tea or coffee for colleagues on the regular, and especially not for Miss Snippy. LOL, I’d be tempted to ask her to please get you a cup of ice water. Especially if you are young and female — do not fall into that trap.

    But you could now and then fill up the kettle and turn it on (it takes maybe two minutes), just as a thoughtful thing to do, and then cheerfully call out, Kettle’s on!

  51. Amethystmoon*

    #3 But what if they are eating something pungent at their desk? Are we supposed to sit and be forced to smell odors all day that we really shouldn’t have to? If I make something spicy, or even remotely strong-smelling, I go to the cafeteria and eat it there. Odors linger in small spaces.

    Also, I have worked in places where they had a policy of no food at desks, period.

    1. carrots and celery*

      What is pungent to one person isn’t to another. It also runs the risk of causing trouble if, as commonly happens, someone decides ethnic food is “pungent” and makes a stink, pun intended, about having to be around it.

    2. Cranky Neighbot*

      Unless you want to be a hall monitor about other people’s food, your options are probably:

      1. Learn to ignore it
      2. Find a way to move away from it

      Unfortunately, I don’t think you can really do anything else about it. I know it’s distracting. The guy who sits beside me buys strong-smelling food frequently. I get distracted because it smells good (lol) so I move away from it for a while.

      1. fposte*

        I think you can make a friendly compromise in some situations, if there’s a specific nameable food that only comes up occasionally. I wouldn’t ask while they were eating that food, because it’s a lot easier to plan for the future than to shift in the moment. But I think if you have an actual cafeteria it’s okay to say “Hey, sometimes you get the surstromming from the Norske Nook, and I find that scent to weirdly carry for a long time. Would you be willing to do lunch in the cafeteria the days when you get it?” And you have to be willing to accept a “No,” too.

      2. Amethystmoon*

        The problem though is that moving away isn’t always feasible especially if you have an assigned desk, you’re in an environment where if you’re not working at your desk, you’re chastised, and you’re not hungry to go take lunch yourself.

  52. Night Cheese*

    LW#2 – I interviewed for a job that I thought was a perfect fit for me, also thought I crushed the interview…and then they offered it to someone else. I was devastated. Fast forward a year later, and the position was listed again (the candidate they went with decided to move out of state to be closer to family). I applied again, was upfront about it in my cover letter, telling them that I was excited for another opportunity to talk to them. I brought in some examples of the kind of work I’d be doing. I studied this site religiously, and I got the job – it’s been [checks calendar] exactly 4 years since my start date!

    Best of luck to you! I hope it works out!

  53. Applesauced*

    #1 – are you the office manager or someone who “opens” the office at the beginning of the day? I could see putting the kettle on or making a pot of coffee falling in line with that kind of role; but if this is just Joe Schmo who sits next to you and thinks you should make him a cup or tea, HE’S the weird one.

  54. WellRed*

    OP 4, I wonder if you subconsciously feel your department is underappreciated in some way. I occasionally give in to the mental eye roll when someone is off-base as to what I do. But, as long as I can do my job and they can do theirs (I really have very little idea of, for example, everything the marketing person does) then that’s what matters. No need to “correct” them via their manager.

  55. Imaginary Number*

    OP #3: I totally get where you’re coming from. I have some very noisy eaters (slurpers) in my office and headphones aren’t an option (although earplugs are.) Alas, all you can do is politely mention it to them and move on. One thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of cultures (probably more than not) where chewing with your mouth open is considered totally normal.

  56. Spartan*

    I am curious if part of the responses you get are because people feel that those skill sets are something they need from your team. Finding things in the database or writing queries may be something that other departments wish you could assist them with and they are hoping this new position will address this “need”.
    I don’t think that precludes you from helping other teams understand your role or lack there of in development but if everyone thinks the job entails getting information from the database maybe there is an unfulfilled need there.

    1. OP4*

      Well part of the position is writing queries, so the applicant wasn’t incorrect. But it was the only part of the job they touched on in repeated questions and examples. All of us on the committee felt like that applicant thought we only write queries. But yes, that applicant’s team would definitely benefit from more queries.

      Funnily enough, we have a whole reporting team. They write queries and other reports for a majority of things. That’s why we are only 20%.

  57. Redhead in NY*

    #3 – I feel you OP. I was born completely deaf in my left ear and my right ear has super sonic hearing. I am also bothered by every type of mouth noise or repetitive noise, and notice random noises very easily. My boss, bless him, makes the worst mouth noises I have ever heard when speaking. Constant smacking noises and clicking noises. Really tests my patience! I have learned to accept them over time and because he is a great person, they don’t bother me as much. For the other noises around the office, I have amazing earbuds that I use. My husband is a sound designer and a headphone fanatic so I have been spoiled with great noise canceling earbuds. The brand is Hifiman, there are expensive ones and cheaper ones. I’ve had 2 pairs, both the $50 and $80 ones and they are FANTASTIC! They also come with different size ear buds so you can get the perfect fit.

  58. Paralegal Part Deux*

    #3, you have my deepest sympathies since food chewing is like nails down a chalkboard for me, too. I’ve found that removing myself from the situation helps (i.e leaving the office during lunch). That way, I don’t have to sit and listen to it while wanting crawl out of my skin. I’ve also used headphones to some degree of success – some of the loud chewers can be heard over my music.

    I’ve yet to find a polite way to say “You sound like a cow chewing cud. Please, for the love of god and all that’s holy, stop. it.” I especially want to say it to my boss that smacks on gum all. day. long.

    1. Snark*

      There is no polite way to say anything of the sort, because it’s an incredibly hostile and disproportionate response to a really typical behavior and sound.

      Nobody is chewing their lunch at you. Keep it in mind. I get that this is kind of a compulsive/obsessive behavior you can’t turn off, and I have sympathy for that, but being hostile to people for doing ordinary-ass stuff that’s not directed at you is a lot.

      1. Paralegal Part Deux*

        If you can’t eat like you have good manners, you need to be away from everyone else. Seriously, chewing with your mouth open is juvenile and disgusting.

  59. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#2: If I could offer one piece of advice to job hunters, it would be: Don’t take it personally if you don’t get the job.

    Part of the problem, I think, is the use of the verb “reject” for not getting a position you’ve applied for. Hiring managers rarely go through the list of applicants, saying “Ew! Gross! Get rid of this one!” until they eliminate all but the One Fortunate Candidate they mean to hire. Usually one or two candidates will stand out from the pack and managers pick the one that seems to be the strongest match on their criteria/clicked with members of the hiring committee/had prior experience or unique skills. Sometimes the reasons can be very subjective — going with your gut is bad hiring practice, but a lot of managers do it.

    The fact that the hiring manager contacted you personally indicates that you made a really good impression last time. So, review the AAM archives and go for it!

    1. Confused*

      I am actually wondering if LW2 works for my company! This EXACT thing happened to me last year – I applied, went through 2 interviews, and was called 3 months later to be personally told that I didn’t get the job, but that they loved me and hoped I’d be open to other opportunities. A year later, the recruiter reached out to me herself. 3 interviews and ZERO applications later, I got the job. Sometimes it’s just timing!

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Came to say this! Sometimes the interviewing team likes two candidates almost equally and it is hard to choose one, but they have to if there’s only one position. I can see them being excited about there being a new opening and then being finally able to hire OP too.

  60. Annonnomouse*

    This is why we threw all the tea in the ocean. OP, you aren’t required to make or deliver anyone else’s food or drink, unless you work as a receptionist or in a restaurant.

  61. Annonnomouse*

    I worked in a place for a while located in the US, but which included staff members from all over the world. Every afternoon, the cafeteria/catering staff would put out coffee, hot water jugs, variety of tea bags, sugar, milk, lemonade, and cookies. Come if you want, bring your own mug, take a break for a bit. Something similar – “Hey I’ll start the water, you grab the milk, and we’ll all meet in the kitchen?” – sounds waaaaay more friendly than this bizarre must-take-turns-serving-each-other ritual.

    1. fposte*

      I think if you’re used to the “Everybody handles a round” approach, that American individualism doesn’t seem particularly friendly, though. It’s just a question of what you’re used to.

      1. londonedit*

        fposte, you’re totally right. I’ve been baffled by the ‘why the heck should I take time to make someone else a drink’ comments popping up here, because in my culture that’s just what you do.

        Also, it’s not a bizarre taking-turns-at-serving-each-other ritual. Again, unless you happen to work in a weird environment, no one is actually keeping track of who’s made the tea. Tea rounds are not enforced by some workplace tea squad. It’s just viewed as the polite thing to offer to make tea for other people if you’re heading to the kettle anyway, and people use it as a little mini-break from their desk. Like gossiping at the water cooler, I guess.

        1. fposte*

          In our office there is a ritualistic “Can I get anything for you?” question to the others whenever you go out to pick up coffee. The answer is only “Yes” about a handful of times per year, but we enjoy the ritual.

        2. Annonnomouse*

          It’s not a break, though. Now I’m spending that time working as a waitress, which is not what I signed up for. If I say, “hey I’m gonna make tea/coffee” and a couple people get up and we all carry our own mugs and prepare our own options, then that’s a break. If they hand me their mugs and stay at their desks expecting me to serve them, that’s not a break.

          1. londonedit*

            I think there must just be a major cultural disconnect here. No one in Britain views making a couple of extra cups of tea as ‘working as a waitress’ or ‘serving’ their colleagues. And no one is just sitting at their desk waiting for someone to serve them tea. This is precisely why it’s a taking-turns sort of thing – not in any prescribed way, but the culture is that if you’re a tea drinker, you pitch in sometimes and make tea for your close colleagues. Which, of course, means that you also have nice cups of tea made for you. And it’s actually more efficient than everyone making their own – you’ve got one person making tea for themselves and four others every time, so everyone only has to make tea once during the day.

            It’s absolutely the same sort of thing as the notion of buying rounds in a pub. If there are four people, and they know that they’re all going to have four drinks, then it makes sense for one person to go to the bar each time. Of course you’ll have occasions where someone will leave early and won’t ‘get their round in’, but as long as they don’t make a habit of it no one will mind, and they will of course be expected to buy the first round on the next pub trip.

            It’s just…social interaction! It’s what you do. Nice little things that don’t really take a lot of effort but make everyone feel that little bit better. I’d hate to live in a culture where everyone was just looking after themselves and no one did anything for anyone else.

            1. Annonnomouse*

              I’d say some large amount of the disconnect comes from the fact that people are drinking five cups a day. I’m only going to the coffee pot once most days, occasionally twice. I pour my own cup and take it back to my desk when I want it.

          2. smoke tree*

            I mean, sometimes you make tea and talk to whoever else is in the kitchen, sometimes the tea is made for you. I’ve done similar things for my coworkers, although we don’t have the tea round culture here. Making tea is pretty relaxing, though–it’s not like you’re making a custom meal for each of your coworkers.

      2. Annonnomouse*

        I guess I would be considered rude. I want to make my own, the way I like it, when I want it. I don’t want to have to make a bunch of other drinks for other people just because I happen to want mine right now. I don’t want the responsibility of getting everyone else’s right, making a huge mess, breaking other people’s mugs, spilling stuff everywhere, remembering orders, etc etc etc…..

        I just want to make myself a coffee.

        1. Batgirl*

          You can do that in UK offices too! You simply wouldn’t join in the tea round or get any reciprocal drinks. Coffee drinkers often don’t like the generic cuppa of tea bag/instant coffee and they don’t need the several daily cups that tea drinkers have. So they’d have a solo caffetierre on their desk. It’s only rude to accept drinks from the round and then not do your share.

  62. Emilitron*

    For #3, I’d say it depends on how well you know this desk-neighbor, are they someone you work with and are friendly with. I was recently on a late-night project crunch with about 8 coworkers, eating a snack I’d brought (baby carrots) and one of the guys asked apologetically if I could pay more attention to how I was eating them, that he’s very sensitive to chewing noises. He (compromise proposed) said he could deal with the chewing, but the first bite snap was a bit much, so if I could minimize that particular noise that would help. I of course then put the veg down and moved on to the cookies… But his officemate mentioned “yeah, we’ve put a ban on eating chips in our office. I can have corn chips if I put them in my mouth and then chew them with my mouth closed” Obviously some of the team were already aware, but the vibe among the rest of us was mostly, “wow, I’m so glad you told me, I would hate to be irritating you constantly and not know it!” Had the potential to be awkward, but it was really not, mostly because we’re a team who likes each other.

    So I say, just tell them. I liked that he proposed a compromise, even though we didn’t really take him up on it, but it showed he didn’t think that eating crunchy things was unreasonable, so that helped.

    1. Name Required*

      A coworker asked you to pay more attention to the snappiness of your first bite of a baby carrot?! I feel pretty comfortable saying that this would be a ridiculous ask for most people. Your snack would have last 10 or 15 minutes, at most. I’m glad he was nice about it and that it worked for both of you that you didn’t feel put off, but I think example is an outlier.

  63. DataGirl*

    LW4, my first question is whether the job title/department title might be misleading internal applicants into thinking the job is other than it is? You said external applicants are getting it right so maybe this is not the case, just something to consider. My title is DBA but I don’t do any database administration (the job description was SUPER misleading about the actual job tasks) so I’m wondering if the word ‘database’ is anywhere in there and causing people to think it’s a technical job?

    As for talking to their managers, do you know that all the managers are aware they are applying for the job? In my company it is not common to tell your manager you are applying elsewhere in the company, and a manager being approached with ‘Bob applied for this job…’ could cause the applicant problems. Of course, we are a bit dysfunctional… In any case I wouldn’t talk to someone’s current manager without their permission.

  64. Confused*

    LW2 – this is how I got my current job. Rejected and then sped through the hiring process a year later. Rejections are not always a reflection on you!

  65. S*

    #3 I feel your pain, I sat near a woman (we were about 7 feet away) and she was constantly slurping, chewing, insert-all-and-every-noise-made-by-a-human-mouth ALL DAY. If she wasn’t slurping her lunch and loudly chewing with her mouth open, she was chomping on gum, sucking on hard candy, etc. I asked her a few times to please knock it off with the gum and chew less loudly, and she proceeded to be even more obnoxious. It drove me bat shit crazy, and I ended up buying noise canceling headphones which I had to wear all day to concentrate. I think some people just have no manners and were raised in a barnyard, or are just daft and will not change. If you can ask to move I would if that’s an option.

  66. Mat*

    LW1 – Easiest solution, make her tea but make sure she is watching and put the milk in first. She’ll never ask you again!

  67. Janie*

    OP #1, I’d be tempted to tell your coworker “Oh I won’t make hot drinks at all, that’s the devil’s temperature!”

  68. AWatson*

    LW#4 – I had a similar problem at old job; the department was back end support, if we did our jobs right most people barely knew we existed, if we made a mistake the weight of the higher ups would come down on us (hard!). I’d get a lot of internal applications from one specific department we supported and it made sense to hire from there, they had intimate knowledge of the front end and a move to our department was considered a step up. So I always began interviews with two questions: Why did you apply for a role in this Department? AND What do you think we do here OR What do you think you’re day to day responsibilities would be in this role?
    The answers I got gave me a pretty good idea of who at least tried to research before applying and find out what we do and who was applying not because they wanted the job but just to get out of their current department. And there were always a couple who applied because they thought working in my department would be “easier”, a few leading questions where I made the applicant give me their perception instead of feeding them info about the department really let me weed out those who were applying for the wrong reasons.

  69. Cat Meowmy Admin*

    Ahhhhhh yes…the office coffee politics.
    OP#1, I get it totally. (Understood that you have a UK culture about this topic, and I’m in the US.) As an Admin, IME – I’m comfortable offering to make coffee for my boss or clients. (Even for a coworker who is not a nice person.) At a former job that I loved, the old-school bosses would proudly say “the girl will make us coffee!” when they gathered with visitors for business meetings. Yes, I even brought it to the conference room on a serving tray. (Outside friends were aghast at this.) I didn’t mind one bit. Because they always did the right thing by me, always appreciated it, and did favors for me as well. Even my current boss, who says thank you and buys me lunch 90% of the time. (He can be “challenging” in many other ways.) HOWEVER – if it was ever “demanded” rather than politely requested, that’s a whole big difference. No matter where you live, that other coworker was extremely rude, OP. I don’t care how junior you might be, you deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy.

    1. WonderIfMyBossReadsThisBlog*

      “The girl”???? This is what I’m aghast at, not the coffee-making or serving…

  70. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 3, you have my sympathies. I also have problems with mouth sounds – tongue clicking, teeth sucking, gum cracking, and noisy eating. I’ve suffered through a few slurping, chomping co-workers and found headphones and ear buds work well. I listen to white noise or nature sounds, just loud enough to block out the worst slurping and chomping, but not so loud that I’m unaware of my surroundings. When the loud eaters stop eating, I slip off the device.

    In all the years I’ve done this, only one person caught on to me. She asked me directly but nicely if she was bothering me, and I decided to tell her yes. I stressed it was because I had a problem with noises, kind of an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ thing. It’s true, and also more kind. I have to give her credit and thanks, she really did make an effort to chew more quietly. And I made an effort to be more discreet in taking off my earbuds.

  71. BookLady*

    LW 2: This actually sounds exactly like the position my company is in. We had two exceptional candidates for a job in the spring, and one person just BARELY eked out the other due to previous experience with our larger umbrella company. But we just found out that another member of our team, with the same job title and responsibilities–just on different projects, is leaving. The hiring manager said, “Ooh, I wonder if [our runner-up] is still job hunting! They’d be great to bring on.” And asked HR to reach out to them. And after a few more interviews to confirm that everyone was still happy with them, the person is joining us in a few weeks!

  72. just trying to help*

    #1 – not tea, but coffee. Years ago, I worked in an office where we had a close out procedure to be followed by whomever was the last to leave the office for the evening. This included turning off the coffeemaker (this was in the days before auto shutoff timers). We had a particular individual in the office who did not drink coffee for religious reasons and was offended that he was asked to turn off the coffee maker. This was brought up in a staff meeting. The boss said it was part of the safety protocols. We had times when the coffee maker was left on, the coffee boiled away, only to leave us with a nasty pot of sludge, and a fire hazard. The employee would not relent. The boss finally declared loudly that if you left the pot on, the building would burn down! Silence ensued for several awkward moments. My wife and I joke about it to this day, 30 years later. If you leave an appliance on, the building will burn down.

    1. Chriama*

      I have to say, it sounds like that coworker might have needed a religious accommodation. If he feels he can’t interact with coffee paraphernalia, I don’t think it’s crazy for your company to figure out a workaround. The second-last person can turn off the machine, or someone can be specifically responsible for turning it off at 4/5/6pm and anyone staying later who wants coffee turns it on and off again by themselves.

      To be fair, I understand how aggravating it could be to have someone refuse to do a simple, seemingly innocuous task when the potential impact of not doing it is large. But I’m not up for mocking people’s religious beliefs when those beliefs aren’t harming anyone else. Inconvenience is not harm, and the expectation of conformity can edge very closely into “intolerance” territory.

  73. LW*

    Thank you for answering my question about the tea/coffe politics. Its so reassuring to know its not me being selfish or lazy. I am in the UK but I think the customs of the hot beveridge culture here is fairly similar. She has acted in a similar fashion in other situations so I think it is more about power play than the actual issue. She has decided she is the boss and she is putting me in my place. Luckily my secondment finishes at the end of this month, I can’t get wait to get back to my lone working!

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Are you… sure that she’s not the boss, or that she doesn’t vastly outrank you even if you don’t directly report to her?

      How are other coworkers about this sort of thing? Is she clearly out of line, or is everyone else in the office also acting as if you’re there in an entry level or extremely junior role and expected to do more admin?

      Also, what does your actual boss have to say about all of this?

      1. only acting normal*

        By the use of the term “secondment” I don’t picture LW as being in a very junior or admin position. In the UK I’ve only ever heard it used for someone brought in from another office or company for a temporary specialist or professional role. (By contrast an office admin role would almost certainly be a “temp”, not a “secondment”.)

  74. vanillacookies*

    #3’s best option is probably to have lunch at the same time as the coworker, but go somewhere else for that time; the breakroom or such.

  75. Lil Sebastian*

    #1 – I agree 100% with Alison. I work on a college campus in Canada, and it wouldn’t be an expectation in any of the departments I’ve worked in to make tea/coffee for others. The only exception was in a department where each person had “kitchen duty” for a week (it rotated) and during that week it was expected to start the coffee maker early in the morning and run the dishwasher at night.

    2. If you still want the job, definitely interview again! As a hiring manager I’ve been in a situation where I’ve had more than one great candidate who would be able to do the role. I’ve been impressed by candidates who interview again and clearly took the feedback I gave after their first interview.

  76. Working Mom Having It All*

    Re #1: because it was mentioned in the letter that OP used to be on a college campus and is now in an office for the first time — any chance OP is an admin? If so… yeah, the politics of office life usually dictate that making coffee for the whole office is under the purview of the admins. (Could be the receptionist, the office manager, someone’s executive assistant who is known throughout the office as The President Of Coffee, etc.) I learned how to make a pot of coffee before I ever actually drank coffee, because it was part of my job duties at my first office job out of college. It generally doesn’t matter what the admin in question likes, if they’re in the hot seat where coffee is concerned, then that’s how it is. That said, it’s pretty clear this letter comes from the UK, where tea is the hot beverage of choice. And since tea isn’t typically brewed by the pot the way drip coffee is, I have no idea if the same conventions hold sway in the US, where coffee drinking is a more communal thing. But if you are in an entry level or admin role, you may want to check in with your manager about the expectations re making hot caffeinated beverages.

    A lot of US offices have switched to a Kuerig or other one cup at a time system, in part to relieve the admins of constantly needing to monitor the damn coffee pot.

  77. BigRedGum*

    #1 your coworker is being weird. why would you be the designated hot drink maker? most my coworkers have their own coffee pots in their offices. i like Alison’s advice.

    #3 please never say anything. you will never have a good relationship with that person if you do. my former boss yelled at people for chewing too loudly. she didn’t last very long, but we never forgot that!

  78. Saucy Minx*

    It was I, in my innocent, literal way, who when the managing director of our 6-person staff plunged into the room asking “Does anyone want tea?” replied: ” Oh, thank you, Robert!”

    How could I, a colonial from Oregon, know that what he meant was “I want tea, & would like to have someone make it for me” ?

    My back was to the room, & until he had successfully picked up the kettle & departed to fill it, there was silence. As soon as the door shut behind him, my coworker expressed her shock & delight by telling me, w/ great admiration, that I was a cow.

  79. BC*

    Hi! I’m a Brit, and would like to weigh in on the tea situation. We have a similar set up in our office (also in HE as I suspect you might be!)- some of us drink tea (/hot drinks), some of us don’t. If you don’t drink hot drinks, you don’t need to make them for others! Making rounds is a reciprocal relationship.

    I could be wildly off here, but if your colleague is so put out by this, they’d probably be very particular about they take their tea/hot drink and you’d never be able to make it right (I once worked in an office where a lady would pour out her tea and remake it if you hadn’t made it to her very specific requirements – needless to say I stopped including her in the round).

    I hope this works itself out x

  80. DiscoCat*

    Oh yes, the Brits are weird when it comes to tea making… I was once scolded by my bf (now ex luckily) and his sister for not asking them if they wanted tea when I went to the kitchen to get a glass of water. Yeah…

    1. BC*

      Noooooo! If you’re going to get water you don’t offer to make tea! If they were that bothered, and lazy, they should have hollered for you to put the kettle on, but you’re under no obligation to make the tea!

Comments are closed.