the outraged notes littering offices everywhere

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from over a decade of writing a workplace advice column, it’s that people will do anything to avoid having an awkward conversation with their colleagues. Sometimes that means that they don’t bring up important topics at all, instead just letting problems go unaddressed while their frustration festers. Other times, it means they hint and sugarcoat rather than speaking directly. And in other cases … they decide to leave notes.

At Slate today, I wrote about the irritated — often outraged — notes littering offices everywhere … as well as the inverse relationship that appears to exist between the level of frustration emanating off the page and their effectiveness. You can read it here.

{ 184 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Nonymous*

    I’m mostly on Team Note. People, behave well and no notes will be needed. Unfortunately, that’s an impossible Ask.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The notes usually remove all context, such as “Is this request coming from an unreasonable person, or someone I respect?” and “How important is this person’s happiness to me doing my job?”

        Or “Did pranksters break into the office and leave these notes, in hopes of sowing chaos? Was one of them named Hardison?”

          1. Gumby*

            That sounds like a great episode that I would watch multiple times. But it might be too easy since any number of bad mid-level managers across the world have managed it single-handedly.

            1. Alisaurus*

              I mean, they kind of did that in “The Office Job” – although in the end, they didn’t actually steal the morale. XD

  2. Jane D.*

    I had a former colleague who once put a sign on our office fridge saying he had cleaned it out the prior week and there was stuff in containers ‘that would make a hyena puke.’ It was a bit over the top, but much more memorable than a generic sign telling people to clear out food regularly.

    1. Hills to Die on*

      lol – spat water out at my desk reading that. I will remember this for future use!

    2. SoloKid*

      I work in a lab and someone on slack said “the experiments somehow got out of the BSL2 and into the fridge” lol

  3. Peanut Hamper*

    I have worked in some truly bizarre places, and have never experienced anything like these examples. For which I am truly grateful.

    I’m always up for some Minions memes, though.

    1. Wintermute*

      Sadly, truly awful takes and disgusting politics memes on facebook that use the minions (why is it ALWAYS minions? what have they done to deserve that?) have basically hardwired an inherent dislike of the minion meme format into me…

  4. Caramel & Cheddar*

    The only time I don’t hate passive aggressive signs is if there’s a comically bad misspelling or some other error in them, which only makes them funnier.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I found a guy on Instagram who makes funny videos about these sorts of things and they are hilarious.

    2. periwinkle*

      While headed to a meeting in a hitherto-unexplored area of our building, I came across a cubicle area where there was evidently an issue with people not replacing the paper in the copier. Someone created a sign to that effect, with a demand that people be courteous.

      1. The area was absolutely plastered with these signs.
      2. Apparently paper needs to be added to the “copper.”
      3. The copier which inspired this impassioned rant was out of paper.

      Ah, welcome back to the office.

      1. Melissa*

        I love “copier”. For some reason these notes often have “unnecessary” “quotation marks.”

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          I guess it’s technically only a “copier” if it can actually make copies. And without paper, it can’t. So it’s really just a big “paperweight”.


      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        I am disappointed that the “copper” typo did not lead to at least one follow-up Ea-Nasir-themed note.

        1. Siren of Sleep*

          Print out of a low-resolution bar of copper along with a complaint about the quality.

    3. may spring rain*

      I once witnessed a co-worker put a really rude “Clean up!” (and that’s putting it politely) post-it on our office microwave as she was leaving work one day. She stomped out of the room, and slammed the door hard – except her purse strap was on her side of the door, while the purse part remained on the break room side of the door. So, she had the humiliation of suddenly being yanked back toward the door, pausing with a deer-in-headlights expression, and re-opening the door she’d just slammed just to get her whole purse. She walked away with her held held high.

      We all howled with laughter once she’d gotten far enough away. She wasn’t well-liked for a variety of good reasons, so her being robbed of her dignity in full view – by a door! – was particularly hilarious, and metaphorically deLISH!

      All because of a post-it….

    4. Lexi Vipond*

      I fondly remember a sign in a small hostel (otherwise quite sensible, since it was telling me something I couldn’t know until too late) warning that the water got hot very quickly and might scold me.

  5. Iridescent Periwinkle*

    The sad part is that there is genuine clutter and poor behavior (to put it mildly) that leads to the snarky notes.

  6. Girasol*

    It’s passive aggressive if a note to everyone replaces a conversation between one person and another. But when no one knows who it is leaving dirty dishes, letting stuff rot in the fridge, or peeing on the potty seat, a note seems like the best solution.

    1. Artemesia*

      People rude enough to leave a mess, take the last cup of coffee, pee on the seat etc are not the people who will welcome a face to face discussion by the person upset by this. It isn’t the ‘notes’ that are the problem. People would not be more responsible if they ‘only spoke to me about it.’ because inconsiderate people don’t like that pointed out.

    2. ScottishVix*

      I usually agree but I had an issue with my dad that conversation just wouldn’t fix. I live with my parents due to my disability and he has a complete inability to learn to knock before entering no matter how many times he was told or how many times I had to dive into my wardrobe shouting “I’m getting dressed!”. A “please knock and wait” sign worked for about three days. A picture of my elderly dog lying sleeping against the door with a “please knock to give me time to move” sign worked for the rest of her life.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Sounds like he was actually perfectly capable of learning, once he decided your reason was good enough to merit the effort! Who’da thunk?

    3. hohumdrum*

      Notes are fine, passive aggressive notes are not.

      “please wipe down sink after every use” = useful, helpful, clarifying info for most folks to follow.

      “STOP LEAVING THE SINK A MESS!!! YOUR MOTHER DOESN’T WORK HERE!!!!” = rude, unhelpful, not at all clarifying, no actual instructions to follow, and sexist (also confusing, at least to me- my mother doesn’t clean lol)

      I think it’s perfectly fine to put out the first note, and they should not all be lumped together as equivalent office experiences.

  7. The Rural Juror*

    At my office, we have 2 large communal refrigerators. On has a little pouch hung from a suction cup hook with post its and a marker so you can label your leftovers before going into the fridges.

    Someone kept writing snarky notes on the post its about minor grievances. Someone else had the bright idea to crowd them out by doing a fun activity instead. One day a flyer appeared with instructions to write a sentence on a note the continues a story from the one before. Over the course of a week, we ended up with a random, hilarious storyline about an employee that kept getting distracted on the way to work and doing everything but actually going to work. The post its trailed across on fridge and onto the other and filled up both until the story had to end because we were out of room.

    It was fun to see what folks came up with! We also have done some rounds of “Some Good News.” And the snarky notes never returned!

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      An exquisite corpse! I love it!

      I hope somebody grabbed some photos of it! That sounds like a lot of fun.

    2. NotBatman*

      I love those kinds of signs! A coworker always has something similar written in dry-erase marker on the frosted glass of her door. The most recent one was asking everyone to write down what extremely minor superpower they would have if they could. The one before that asked people to draw the most cloud-shaped cloud they could.

  8. Amber Rose*

    Years ago, our then-CEO went on vacation and left a note on his office door that said something like, “Work hard, I am always watching.”

    Someone retaliated by gluing googly eyes to everything in his office.

    It would be funny except that manager was dead serious about his note. He’s the one who lectured for calling in sick too many times because I used all my sick days (6) one year.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Ha! I have a shockingly similar story about a CEO of a bank where I worked when I was 20 and very confident. He wrote, “I’m always watching” on a note on his door just like you described and I wrote, “CREEP” in red letters. Last note I ever saw from him. He never confronted me.

  9. Rainbow*

    Man, when I worked in an untidy and often dirty lab environment (we are scientists. Cleanliness is often necessary. To those of us who care), I would have posted crazed notes everywhere if I’d have thought it would have made a difference.

      1. LabSnep*

        In our lab we communicate our grievances with printed out memes.

        After having to retrieve something FOUR TIMES on my night shift that could have been done during the day, I put up a:

        “And this is where the Llama combs are” “IF THERE WERE ANY” meme sheet that remains there to this day.

        Does it work all the time? Nah. Does it make me laugh when the sign is there and there are no Llama combs, yeah. But it DID reduce the empty shelf problem for all but the worst of the culprits.

  10. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

    I think I wrote about this before but at an old job they changed cleaning companies, so someone was only coming in once a week at most. And they didn’t leave any extra soap for the dispensers. having over 100 people on one floor with one bathroom (1 male 1 female) and mostly women, the bathroom quickly ran out of soap. After about a week someone wrote a note and stuck it to the soap dispenser saying something like “I’m having an existential crisis. I feel so empty inside.” I wish I took a picture!

    1. NeedRain47*

      oof, at my prior job leaving notes for cleaning people (even perfectly plain, polite ones like “please fill soap dispenser thanks” was NOT ALLOWED. Communication through approved channels only please!

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

        Well, since we had asked several times about soap, and we were completely out, I can see why it was left. If I remember correctly I think we waited over 2 weeks for soap. And for some reason the cleaning company would not leave extra soap with the building admin. People kept adding water trying to make the little bit left last. It was one of those counter pumps that hold the soap under the sink. So you couldn’t tell if there was soap in it or not unless you pulled it out. I think someone got so frustrated every time they went to the bathroom and went to get soap to find nothing. It was also really gross. We had only that bathroom and no access to the other floors. Even the break rooms were out of soap.

        1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

          Also, it was not done AT the cleaning crew. It was not their fault our company decided to cut costs and would only pay for someone to come every 2 weeks or whatever it was. People were just trying to make light of the situation. I’m glad I got out of there before covid!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          When this happened at my old work, people would bring in soap dispensers. Only they always brought those highly scented, chemical-smelling ones that aggravated my eczema. Ugh.

          1. Ima Therapist*

            I worked at a place where I brought in soap because they too ran out of it and didn’t replace it for days/weeks at a time. After someone stole the entire bottle (culprit eventually found out), I started carrying my own personal soap back and forth. This is why we can’t have nice things.

    2. Elitist Semicolon*

      One of my former co-workers left a broken bit of video equipment on IT’s desk with a note saying “please help me; I’m broken” and I definitely took a picture of that one. Same, little video camera. Same.

  11. Shiba Dad*

    Several years ago I came across an argument between two trades made via notes. They left the notes written on a wall in Sharpie.

    They were arguing about whose responsibility it was to deal with an enclosure for a light bulb that had water in it. This was located inside of a piece of equipment on the building’s roof.

    There were a total of four notes, IIRC.

  12. Julia*

    We had notes in the ladies restroom for staff. One of the stalls needs to be flushed twice. Attempts at fixing it have proved unsuccessful so far. So notes were put up to make sure you flush twice. No issue. Then there was a plumbing issue that the plumber said was due to feminine hygiene products. So a note went up to remind everyone to use the metal bins in each stall. No issue. Then someone was peeing on the floor. A note went up and chaos ensued. Multiple sticky notes taped to each other, an entire email written by a department director. Someone edited the director’s email and I thought there was going to be violence. She ripped it off the wall, marched into the cube farm and screeched about being corrected and then ripped the email to shreds.

    Later that day, all the notes had been removed and one very professional sign was put up that said “Please help keep the septic system in working order. Please make sure your flush, use the feminine hygiene receptacles and clean up any accidents”. A Swiffer mop thing was placed in a prominent place in the restroom.

    1. Elle*

      I worked in an office that was mostly women and our bathroom was disgusting. Same issues as you and worse. The office manager would leave notes and send emails with pictures of the mess! Those visual reminders were disgusting and did nothing to solve the issue. It was like multiple people hated working there and took their anger out by messing up the bathroom.

  13. New Senior Mgr*

    At a call center two decades ago: “Ladies, please try to limit the amount of toilet paper you use. It’s getting out of hand.”

    Yeah, something was getting out of hand alright. Lack of common sense.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      I would have used so much toilet paper…

      There’s a Calvin and Hobbes comic where C&H are sticking the end of the TP in the toilet and flushing to watch it go WHIZZ off the roll and down the drain. It doesn’t work on my toilets at home (of course I tried it) but I’d have looked at the work toilets and thought “challenge accepted”.

      1. Thank God (or something) I no longer work there*

        This just gave me a mental picture of my first two trips to London as a college student in 1980 and 82. The restrooms in the free museums all had toilet paper where each sheet was stamped “Property of the British Government”. It was like rough tissue paper. I took some home as a souvenir both trips and lost it both times. By the next trip they’d switched to “normal” toilet paper so sadly no samples!

        1. londonedit*

          1980s/90s British school loo paper used to be pink and scratchy and completely non-absorbent. I have no idea if it’s improved since, but I hope so!

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Mid 90s comprehensive girl here; I totally agree on the lack of absorbency of the toilet paper. It had the shiny, hard consistency of greaseproof paper if I remember correctly. We should have put our own signs; “The toilet paper is purely decorative and not to be trusted to absorb moisture. Do please be careful not to wick your wee towards yourself or the floor”.

    2. Wintermute*

      the biggest problem is places that sweat how much toilet paper is getting used are ALSO usually the same places that get the cheapest paper known to mankind, which just causes people to use more in order to avoid an awkward paper malfunction.

      It’s the law of ply and demand.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Go stand in the corner and think about what you did, and don’t come out until you’re sorry ;D

          1. Juicebox Hero*

            Great Scott, have you people no shame?!? You know how puns can really Tork some people up! Kimberly and Clark particularly – they’ll make a huge stink from Georgia to the Pacific!

            (Personally, I have no shame.)

    3. Aggretsuko*

      This is probably the same sort of person who leaves “Please don’t take more than one toilet seat cover.” Lady, nobody’s taking two because they made a decision! Either the dang thing ripped or fell in the first time!

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Ten to one they’ve compared usage with the men’s room without applying critical thinking skills as to why there would be a difference. No one thinks it’s fun to use lots of toilet paper!

  14. morethantired*

    One of the things I do not miss about working in an office is the whole “don’t leave dishes in the sink” thing. At one office I was in, I used to eat oatmeal every morning out of a coffee mug. If you eat oatmeal you know that as soon as you’re done, the oatmeal is a dried, sticky mess in the cup that needs to soak for 15 minutes before you can clean it out for it to be an easy clean. I was very prompt about only leaving the mug in the sink for 15 minutes and then washing it out, but the “don’t leave dishes in the sink” people would ALWAYS use my mug as an example of dishes left in the sink. “Every morning, I see a mug sitting in there!” I tried to explain many times that I wasn’t abandoning it, just leaving it to soak and that I never left it more than 30 minutes because I knew people were upset by seeing a mug in the sink. It finally got so ridiculous that I just started letting the mug soak on my desk rather than in the sink.
    I totally understand leaving notes or making comments if you’re stuck washing people’s dishes or when things are left all day or longer. But the number of people who seem to just not be able to tolerate any dish in the sink ever was shocking.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Actually, I’ve found that cleaning such mugs, and burnt saucepans, etc. IMMEDIATELY is in fact much easier. Soaking is for when you don’t feel like doing it straight away.

      1. Vio*

        It depends, some things really do clean better straight away but some things really do need soaking. And if you eat slow enough that some of it dries at the bottom then soaking for a few minutes is a massive help. With non-stick pans it’s practically essential, since too hard a scrub can remove the non-stick coating.
        Also it’s often best to let hot pans cool naturally a little before washing instead of putting them immediately in water since a sudden change in temperature can damage them.

        That being said, many people do leave pots for far, far longer than they need to soak and/or cool. But even if you do go back to it quickly, by being there it can encourage others to leave pots as well. That’s the problem with shared spaces, it only takes one person misusing them to make everybody miserable.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          And stuff like flour or oatmeal “cooks” to the container with hot water. Start with cold first to rinse out, then use hot/warm water.

    2. Melissa*

      I would be so grossed out to see a mug with an oatmeal-and-water sludge sitting in the sink. I don’t care how long it was there before I arrived— 5 minutes or 5 hours.

      1. morethantired*

        It’s really not. Do you never soak dishes at home? What exactly are all you people doing who *never* soak a dish?

    3. Essess*

      Interesting because I’ve found that it’s much easier to clean my oatmeal mug if I do it immediately after eating while it’s still warm and then the food bits wipe out pretty well with a paper towel then a quick wash with soap. It’s really gross to keep working around someone else’s “15-minute” soak of floating food particles in a mug in the sink. Trying to use the sink ends up splashing the user with the gross food water in the mug. That’s a communal sink that should always be available for coworkers to use so there shouldn’t ever be dishes piled in it. Everyone should be able to use a clear sink.

      If you need to soak, at your desk is really the only appropriate place. Personally, if I didn’t have a chance to wash it out right away, I stuck it in a plastic bag and took it home to soak and wash and bring back the next day instead of subjecting coworkers to the view of a gross food-water sludge pool.

      1. morethantired*

        This is absurd. First, oatmeal sticks on hard unless you’re eating directly over the sink.

        “gross food water”
        It’s freaking a couple bits of oatmeal.

        “Everyone should be able to use a clear sink.”
        It’s not a pile. It’s a single mug.
        If the sink can never have anything in it, then there just shouldn’t be a sink. Soaking dishes is why sinks are basins and not just a faucet and shallow drain.

        I am so happy to not work in an office after seeing these replies. You all need to figure out the difference between what’s your own personal issue to deal with and what’s an actual problem.

        1. SpreadsheetMinion*

          “Soaking dishes is why sinks are basins and not just a faucet and shallow drain.”
          I constantly had the issue when trying to rinse out my one-cup coffee maker that there was crockery in the bottom of the sink. So either I have to move it out of the sink (and then back again?), or that mug you left there for 15 minutes now has my coffee grounds in it.

          Soaking dishes at home is completely different as you have made the decision not to use that sink for rinsing/cleaning other items until you clean the soaking items – and may well have another option for disposing of kitchen waste liquids.

          1. morethantired*

            No one at my office was rinsing out a one-cup coffee maker. It’s interesting to me that, given the content of my post, commenters here must know the situation at my office went on for some time before I got fed up and started soaking the mug in my office.

            The only reason anyone could ever give me as to why me soaking the mug was a problem was “I think it looks gross, personally.” Which, I’m sorry, that’s just not a good reason as to why I couldn’t use a sink to a dish, as sinks are meant to be used.

    4. Ranon*

      Dishes breed. I learned this after being roommates with someone who was a true sink zero person. Sink zero, no one ever left dishes in the sink. One dish in the sink, ten dishes in the sink. In an office setting I’m fully team sink zero.

      My current office is totally proof of this theory, once one mug goes in the sink no one checks to see if the dishwasher is full and the next thing you know there are six mugs in the sink next to an empty dishwasher.

      1. morethantired*

        That was not the case in my office. The only reason anyone could ever give me as to why me soaking the mug was a problem was “I think it looks gross, personally.” Which, I’m sorry, that’s just not a good reason as to why I couldn’t use a sink to a dish, as sinks are meant to be used.

  15. Shanderson*

    We skipped right over passive straight to aggressive after needing to get a plumber in. Our tech who made it openly shared that it was posted to the fridge and invited people to go check it out. Popped it in a link to share if that’s allowed! (we all found this quite funny – we were made about the plumber but there’s only 14 of us and it seems to be taken in the spirit it was intended…

    1. Vio*

      Apparently in the US many sinks have a waste disposal built into them? Far too many people seem to believe this applies to every sink, everywhere.

      1. JustaTech*

        When our building was renovated they pre-emptively put up signs saying that there isn’t a disposal in the sink (there hadn’t been one before, but I guess they wanted to be sure we knew it hadn’t been added).

        1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

          I had to put up a similar sign once, in my role as Official Sign Poster. The trouble about a workplace that mostly contains the type of people who program computers and like doing it, is that sometimes we need to have explained the reasoning behind things that seem like arbitrary decisions (like not having a garbage disposal in the sink). So when management asked me to put up a sign, I went and had a talk with building maintenance before composing it.

          The sign went like: “No Food In Sink. Due to the vagaries of high-rise plumbing, there is no garbage disposal. Please scrape all food scraps etc into the appropriate bin.” I 3-d modeled the illustrative macaroni and cheese myself, but used a pre-made sink drain image.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Illustrative macaroni is a wonderful turn of phrase and a user name waiting to happen.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        This was a constant problem in the dorm kitchens when I was in college. People who grew up in houses with garbage disposals in their kitchen sinks had absolutely no idea what to do with random wet food bits in our non-disposal-equipped dorm kitchen sinks (and occasionally our definitely-not-disposal-equipped hallway drinking fountains, which felt less excusable by ignorance rather than laziness). They’d remove the sink strainer because it was “getting in the way” of them dumping leftover ramen down the drain…

  16. Ollie*

    My biggest pet peeve when I worked in an office was that someone felt the need to use those toilet seat liners and then would not flush or dispose of them. Everytime I found that I mentally composed a note that said – I don’t want to touch where your butt has been. I never did leave it but why would someone do that?

  17. Charles*

    I read a book once called “I Lick my Cheese” about notes left by roommates, some of which I saw replicated in the workplace. I always find them amusing.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      One of the professors in my old department used to put a sticker of Mr. Yuk (which I remember from when I was a kid) on his lunches and also, just to be double sure, would add “POISON” in huge sharpie lettering.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Mr. Yuk!! I bet he was best friends with the little singing pills who wanted us all to know that this is serious and they could make us delirious.

    2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Especially when someone takes a huge bite out of the cheese and adds “so do I” to the note.

  18. Juicebox Hero*

    I was guilty of doing this earlier this year, due to a (now fired) coworker who never did her own work but liked to botch everyone else’s up. During January, I have to close out the previous year so I can’t accept any payments at all, until the new billing cycle starts in February. Taking a payment in that gap would result in a world of trouble, mostly for me, so I care deeply about this rule being followed!

    My other coworkers won’t touch my stuff at all except for my deputy, who knows the rules. But I just knew that Not Yet Fired Coworker was liable to take something and blow it off with “I didn’t know / I was just helping / What difference does it make?”

    It was taking her so long to get fired that we believed she must have had pictures of our dungeon boss in a compromising position with a nude space alien, so on top of the incompetence everyone was tiptoeing around her for fear of pissing off her “protector”. So I put up a sign:

    “Dear Everyone:

    Do NOT take any payments of any kind for any reason until further notice or I swear I will hunt you down. Seriously. I know where to find you :)”

    Fortunately (?) my office is so dysfunctional that this was treated as just more of my grouchy good humor. And the sign came down just as soon as the employee was fired.

  19. NeedRain47*

    People. Grown adults already know they’re supposed to clean up after themselves (or insert other standard task.) If they’re choosing not to, your note isn’t gonna help.

    1. Reality Check*

      That’s what I always say! And other times I think sometimes people who are normally not like this just forget/get distracted/whatever. Stuff happens.

      1. NeedRain47*

        One-off stuff does happen, but there’s also usually one or two chronic offenders who lack common courtesy.

      2. Sophia Brooks*

        This is always my thing with the notes. Also with people who fret about throwing always someone’s moldy food container. I promise you that person has just forgotten it. I promise you the person either does not care or had a weird moment. I have had some BAD period accidents due to medical conditionss and approaching my building supervisor to have the carpet or chair cleaned was majorly embarrassing. In the bathroom it was a little easier to clean myself, but I can sort of see just running away.

    1. drinking Mello Yello*

      And of course my thumb hit “Submit” before I could fix the autocorrection of “Yello” :/

  20. English Rose*

    There’s a wonderful Twitter account called @SoVeryBritish.

    They recently posted the following, which I loved:
    “Friendly reminder”, “gentle reminder”, “quick reminder”, “polite reminder”, “kind reminder”… there is no reminder that isn’t dripping with fury.

    Applies to notes as well.

    1. NeedRain47*

      OMG the “friendly reminder” I got one day at work when I forgot to put my parking pass in the window…. it says things “we have your car on camera and if we see it again we will tow it” but phrased more threateningly. So friendly!

    2. Artemesia*

      There is no one who doesn’t see red with ‘gentle reminder’ — there is never anything gentle about this — it is condescending and overbearing and nasty all at once. The reminder without that ‘gentle’ is generally well received.

      1. Vio*

        Just a gentle reminder that although you are entirely correct, somebody will probably disagree with you. Also some daft person may make a self demonstrating reply.

      2. English Rose*

        It’s like those condescending bossy emails that rant on and then end up with “Best wishes” or “Kind regards” or similar.

      3. Charlotte Lucas*

        And a lot of the time, it’s the first time anyone’s heard about whatever they’re supposedly being reminded about.

        1. Francie Foxglove*

          “Second notice? That’s funny — I don’t remember getting the first notice.”
          “The *ticket* is the first notice!”

  21. One little comment*

    I always laugh at the signs in women’s (also men’s?) public restrooms that say “Do not flush feminine products, paper towels, or diapers down the toilet.” I’m always thinking: Do the people who put these signs up picture someone about to drop a DIAPER in the toilet seeing the sign and thinking “Oh my gosh! What?!?! You’re not supposed to do this? I never knew that!”

    1. NotARealManager*

      My grandpa was a plumber and yeah, people regularly flush all kinds of things down toilets.

      The feminine products one I sympathize with the most because when I was approaching puberty most of the books on the topic I read suggested flushing tampons so I imagine many people still do it without a thought.

      1. JustaTech*

        Really? I guess that explains why all of the pamphlets I was given in the “your changing body” class were very explicit that you must never, ever flush a tampon.
        In college they were even more explicit: no tampons, no condoms.

        I guess I thought everyone had been told that? It actually gives me a lot more sympathy for the people who do flush those things, if they’d been told at one point that it was fine.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I think it’s generational. When I was in my teens and twenties the tampon boxes said the products were “flushable,” and in some cases advertised that _these_ tampons, unlike some other brands, had flushable applicators as well.

          I suspect there are women who started flushing tampons because their mothers or older sisters told them to, even after the boxes stopped advertising “flushable.”

        2. amoeba*

          Yup, the first tampons I ever used were left over in our bathroom from before my mom started menopause (so I guess the 90s) and they said on the actual box to just flush them down the toilet! So I did that for quite a few years…

        3. fairy twinkletoes*

          Right. I started using tampons at a time when the box *specifically* said it was allowed. If the boxes stopped saying that, I never knew, because I was loyal to the brand, and never read the box again. Are you not meant to flush tampons these days?

        4. Charlotte Lucas*

          When the pandemic started, many areas had to clarify that sanitary wipes are not supposed to be flushed, no matter what the package says.

        5. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It may be a change in tampon materials. It may be because pipes on a gentle slope do not clear well with low-flow toilets. It may be plumbers & building managers telling their real-world observations to lawyers. It may be fatbergs.

          But it’s been don’t flush for decades.

      2. Lizcase*

        yup. that’s what I was taught in school and what was on the instructions when I was in high school.
        I didn’t realize it was an issue till long after I stopped using tampons.

        note: we had a septic system and 4 girls + my mom. I don’t remember there ever being a plumbing issue because of tampons being flushed.

      3. Betty*

        I know this happens a lot, and plumbers aren’t making it up, but it was hilarious when a plumber who was fixing a clog at my parents’ house said “feminine products” were to blame. At that point, my mom’s hysterectomy had happened about 30 years prior, so I don’t think it was actually feminine products that time!

        1. Life Day*

          “a plumber who was fixing a clog at my parents’ house said “feminine products” were to blame. At that point, my mom’s hysterectomy had happened about 30 years prior”

          It’s not that I think plumbers invented some nefarious anti-tampon-flush movement. It’s that I think plumbers (and others) ASSUME that tampons are to blame without considering other causes. I think there are deep-seated cultural narratives behind this assumption and behind the reminders not to flush them, as well.

    2. Vio*

      Yes we also have those signs in our men’s toilets. Yes it has happened. Yes it still happens sometimes despite the signs. We once had somebody try to flush one of the signs down the toilet. The cleaner who found it said she’d have been more angry if it hadn’t given her a good laugh.

    3. Modesty poncho*

      someone did this in my apartment building once and it let to waste water bubbling up into my sink….I threw those dishes out

    4. ggg*

      A local restaurant has a sign saying this along with the info: “Fine $50-$200.”

      What governs the amount of the fine? Who enforces it? How would they find you? So many questions.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        As far as the amount of the fine, I’m guessing it’s based on past plumber calls…

    5. Alisaurus*

      One of my old jobs had a horror story about someone flushing a whole bowl of watermelon chunks…

      1. Quill*

        My college dorm had one person try to flush an entire pizza. My floor thankfully never found the culprit, because we were NOT pleased with her.

      2. Sister Michael*

        I don’t think there were any longer-term plumbing consequences (I would likely have known) but in college, I once flushed uneaten wontons down the toilet, so I guess I’m that person.

        What happened is this: my school paid for me to fly to another city for about a week to do research for my undergrad thesis, which meant that I had a stipend, a hotel room to myself, and was high on archival excitement. I also have a mild Chinese takeout habit, so that was what I ordered for dinner.

        What I got was the worst Chinese takeout I have ever eaten. It was just dreadful and I wound up slightly nauseous all the next day. I had wonton soup and couldn’t stomach the rest of the wontons and…. this is where my memory of the event is a little hazy. Exactly why I flushed them instead of walking the whole mess out to a dumpster, I could not tell you. Possibly I was not aware there was a dumpster available, although as an older adult I realize there must have been. But once I decided to flush the uneaten food, my logic was roughly: “toilets handle matter of a certain dimension, surely the wontons will be fine.”

        The wontons were not fine. They got stuck and the toilet was backing up. A normal person might have called housekeeping and admitted to doing something incredibly stupid, but the thing was, I had chatted with the maintenance guy while I checked in and he was So. Cute. I knew I had done something I would never truly be able to explain, and I could not bring myself to try to rationalize it to this very handsome man.

        Next, I researched the location of the nearest home goods stores, only to find that they would be closed before I could reach one and buy my own plunger. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I texted some friends to make fun of the situation and stuck my hand in there. The food was too far around the U-bend to reach, but it turns out that if you’re really desperate, you can use the back of your hand in roughly the same way you might use a plunger.

        After a couple of tries, I finally flushed my leftovers and washed my hands very, very thoroughly. The plumbing in the room worked fine the rest of the week, so I assume there was no further difficulty. It remains one of the least thought-out things I’ve ever done, however.

    6. Anon for this*

      You would think, but I was once on a plane where someone tried to dispose of a diaper in the rear toilet, which took it out of action for a five hour flight…

    7. Miss Anne*

      I don’t know how people who use cloth diapers get the poop off these days, but back when I was a baby (1960’s), you rinsed them in the toilet. Mom would grab the cleanest end, swish the rest in the toilet, then flush while still holding the diaper. If she were to lose her grip…..

    8. Formerly Ella Vader*

      When my youngest siblings were wearing cloth diapers at home and disposables when we travelled, – that would have been late 1960s, early 1970s – the instructions on the disposable-diapers package said that you could pull out the fluffy absorbent bits and flush them down the toilet. I don’t remember if the diapers with inherent plastic covering, so you didn’t have to put rubber pants on the baby, were available yet, or what the outside part was made of. Of course, my parents said “nope, we’re not doing that” and all the disposable diapers went into garbage bags to be thrown out intact. As for cloth diapers, my mum was once shaking one over a chemical toilet in a rented cabin and lost her grip. This led to my dad heading into the toilet room with a fishing rod and a grim look on his face, and all us kids peeking in with excitement or horror.

  22. Vio*

    It’s a pity Passive Aggressive Notes stopped updating (last post was 2016), that site was a goldmine of such wonderful pettiness.

  23. Nozenfordaddy*

    We have reusable pods for the coffee maker. They often get left in the machine so the next person to make a cup has to deal with a full/wet pod before you could make your own. As the person to make the first cup of coffee most days I often found one from the day before.
    Once day a nice little note with a plant growing out of a coffee pot on it appeared on the cabinet that basically says: please don’t leave pods in the machine.

    This did not fix the problem so a note was added to the staff meeting slide show. Not once, but every staff meeting for months.

    This still did not work. Much discussion was had about who was leaving the pods in the machine. General consensus was that it wasn’t me (my pods are distinctively mine and I always remove/clean them) but no one agreed on who it was. Our office lead warned everyone scorched earth tactics would be next.

    Which is how I often end up answering the question: where are the reusable pods? Spoiler, they are in the office leads desk. Seriously considering adding a new note.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      ** raises hand** I am the one in my office and at home that forgets to remove the pod from the kurig. I try my hardest but I get distracted.

    2. Glazed Donut*

      We had this in my communal Keurig – and I feel like there was a debate about removing a pod when it was piping hot vs leaving it for others to remove when it’s time. (Fwiw, I am on team ‘remove it so the next person’s hot water doesn’t taste as much like coffee residue if they’re just getting hot water for tea.)
      Maybe a clean “the responsibility falls to the person who put the pod in” would put an end to any confusion?

      1. Nozenfordaddy*

        Oh There’s no confusion. Its been pretty obviously stated that the responsibility is with the person with the person who put the pod in to take the pod out. But I also work with people who I am fairly sure have never put water in the Keurig either – if only because I refill it multiple times a day.

    3. Hush42*

      Several years ago, at my place of work, we had the same issue- someone would consistently leave their pods in the coffee maker rather than disposing of them. The thing is, at the time, we had a relatively small pool of people who actually drank coffee who would have used that machine. Of the people who drank coffee only a handful of them used the Keurig (we also had a drip coffee maker at the time). So my office mate, who was one of the handful of people who used it, figured out that it was one of the sales reps. Every time he found a used pod in the coffee maker he took it out and left it on the offenders desk… It still took longer than I expected for him to learn not to leave the used pod in the coffee maker.

  24. I edit everything*

    When I was a kid, I’d sometimes spend time at my parents’ work (both college professors in the same department), and their kitchen/lunch/lounge area had the “Your mother doesn’t work here” note. I took it as permission to not clean up after myself. Once. And then my mother corrected me.

  25. Heffalump*

    Some years ago someone at OldJob left a note in the break area reminding people to wash/dry/put away their dishes after eating: “Dishes do not get clean by sitting.” Making a point by stating the obvious always adds another layer of obnoxiousness.

  26. Wintermute*

    I’d be curious to know if anyone has success stories. After all, sometimes information does need to be conveyed, and sometimes apparently people do need reminders.

    One success story is from my current employer, they put up signs with directions on how to clean our (rather fancy restaurant-grade) coffee and water machines and how to interpret the often absolutely baffling messages displayed on the screen (think “PC LOAD LETTER” but for coffee grounds).

    Turns out that folks weren’t not cleaning the machines out of spite or laziness, but out of a combination of not knowing how, fearing breaking an expensive and much-beloved piece of equipment, and being mystified and frightened by cryptic messages like “FILTER BF REQ FAIL”.

    now that we have posted instructions people regularly clean up after themselves and we have some outstanding coffee.

    1. JustaTech*

      I had a printer at work that needed to have 3-hole-punch paper, but of course you want to be sure the holes are on the correct side. People would get flustered about it and just not load new paper for fear of getting it wrong, so I spent 15 minutes one morning being sure it was loaded correctly and then put a little sign on the paper tray “Holes this side”.

      And then almost everyone loaded the paper correctly (the exceptions being the one coworker who just didn’t see the sign and the coworker who refused to do anything he considered “menial”).

      1. There's a G&T with my name on it*

        I did the same for our work printer back in 2008 – my post-it telling people which way up/round to put the headed paper is still there!

      2. Beth*

        Every printer at my office has a little note specifying which way to put letterhead in — and when we get a new printer, one of the first tasks is to find out which way letterhead goes and make a little note. The hard-to-see diagrams on the trays themselves aren’t visible enough, and aren’t always correct.

    2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      Posting instructions on my old workplace’s industrial drip coffee machines worked to a certain extent — people would remove the filters with the old grounds instead of letting them drip forever or until someone else started a pot.

      Paper plate clamshells with the expended grounds would stack up in the corner of the counter until I traced this problem to the janitorial trash schedule not aligning well with the kitchen’s busiest and most compost-generating times.

      Posting a No Food In Sink sign (with a brief explanation of why there was no garbage disposal) did work at another workplace.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      After a series of office plumbing issues due to flushed tampons, someone at our office put up signs proclaiming the old building has bad pipes that can’t flush much at one time.

      I think it helped because the warning was limited to THIS specific building for one specific reason. (Also a flowery enough design to be eye-catching and it was laminated.)

    4. Beth*

      I mentioned this elsewhere in the comments — at one of my previous workplaces, there was an admin whose desk was right next to the breakroom. Anything smelly that happened hit her first.

      She put up two notes. One was an anti-fish note on the microwave; I remember it started “No fish! No Fish! No Fish!” and went on to state how lingering the smell was.

      The other note was on the water cooler, which was one of the standard ones with the 5-gallon bottle and a tap underneath. The note was just above the drip tray, and read as follows:

      Do not pour anything in here!
      This is NOT a drain!

      I don’t know if it changed anyone else’s behaviour, but both notes worked on me. I sympathized with the admin, who was a very nice person and deserved better than the job she had (we were all horribly underpaid). I didn’t think either admonishment was out of line.

  27. Zarniwoop*

    “The terrible irony is that—despite their bountiful use of all caps, bolding, and underlining to grab attention—these passive-aggressive notes often don’t work! In fact, if anything, an inverse relationship appears to exist between emotion and effectiveness: The more anger that radiates from the page, the more likely the message is to be dismissed rather than change anyone’s behavior.”
    Or it could be selection bias.
    In an office full of reasonable people someone puts up a polite sign and behavior changes.
    In an office with slightly less reasonable people it doesn’t, they get a bit irritated and put up a harsher one, and the behavior changes.
    In an office full of jerks nothing works and if the note leaver doesn’t have the sense to give up they get crazy harsh, and it still doesn’t work.

  28. username required*

    I thought it was an urban legend as I’d never come across it before but I started a new temp job and walked into the kitchen and the first thing I saw was a huge note filling the entire microwave door “Do NOT microwave fish in here “! It did make me smile and think of AAM.

    1. Beth*

      At one of my old work places, there was an emphatic anti-fish note on the microwave — but I knew who had put it there (the office admin whose desk was right next to the break room and who had to smell ALL THE SMELLS), and I thought she was entirely in the right to make a strong statement.

      I do love the idea of including pictures of acceptable fish (Swedish fish, fish crackers) and unacceptable fish.

  29. Sophia Brooks*

    We have signs (ALL CAPS) at work on the little metal wastebaskets where you are supposed to put your used mentrual products. There is a laminated sign and a sticker. They say something like “THIS IS NOT A WASTEBASKET!!!!!!! DO NOT PLACE ANY GARBAGE HERE! TAKE A BROWN PAPER BAG, WRAP UP YOUR GARBAGE AND TAKE IT TO THE TRASH!!!!!!” I am really confused, because I thought they were in fact wastebaskets? I am 50. I feel like our cleaner has lost it.

    The other sign (this was a while ago) told us not to leave “tampons” or “boodily discharge”. I about lost it at the “boodily discharge”.

    1. Yoyoyo*

      I guess they mean it’s not a regular wastebasket and if people start throwing non-menstrual trash in there it will fill up too quickly. I’m confused though by the fact that you weren’t supposed to put tampons in them. Or was that sign about the toilet itself?

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        But the fact that you should wrap it up, implies to me that it is for used menstrual products. (I would wrap them up even with the dedicated containers.)

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I’ve seen that, too! Either one of them broke & nobody fixed it (I’ve seen them where putting trash in there would cause it to fall to the adjoining stall), it needs a key that someone lost, or the custodial staff just randomly decided that they will only empty one trash can per bathroom. But it feels weird to carry something like that out of the stall with you. (Especially if you’re already juggling a bag, etc.)

    3. It’s Suzy now*

      Sometimes the bin is meant as a dispenser for little bags (like the dispensers in the dog park, or the sick bags on planes), and you’re supposed to put your stuff in the bag and throw it in the big garbage. But then they need to keep it stocked with the little bags!

      I sympathize with the cleaning people not wanting to pull a bunch of soggy wrapped up clumps out of the little metal bin, even with gloves on. Unlike the big garbage they usually aren’t lined with a plastic bin liner.

      1. Sophia*

        I sympathize too. But I have worked here 20 years and it wasn’t a bag dispenser until last year, when all the notes went up! I don’t even need it anymore! But I have never seen anything like it. It is clearly a little wastebasket where multiple tampons (wrapped up) go in one paper bag. I guess I would have written the note something like. “To protect our workers, please do not use this as a wastebasket. Please use the paper bags to dispose of individual items in the main trash receptacle”. The rage is not effective in getting people to comply. And it is a definite change in the same exact receptacle.

  30. Yossariana*

    Wow, these are those precious moments of human interaction you just miss out on by working remotely! /s

    I am so thankful to be able to continue to work from home. I’m thankful to this post for reminding me of that.

    1. I have RBF*


      I do not miss hurrying halfway across a large building to go to the bathroom, ass-gaskets left on and around the toilet, TP unrolled and strewn all over, smears on the seat, etc. I also don’t miss dealing with other people’s messes in the sink and microwave, being forced to listen to my coworkers babble about sportsball while I’m trying to work, or people who ignore headphones and tap you on the shoulder.

  31. Glazed Donut*

    I feel like the passive aggressive note is a slight step away from the passive aggressive company-wide email that addresses just one person. Honestly, I’m not sure which one is worse (or if either works!) since the culprit likely doesn’t care/feels misunderstood/doesn’t recognize it’s them.

  32. Zircon*

    Oh boy!! I’m right in the middle of a whole episode of this at the moment. Part of a membership organisation with an elected Board. Currently a lot of arguments. Constitution is bad!! One person has resigned: “I am resigning from [….] effective immediately.
    As one of the [….] it deeply saddens me to see the current situation. This charity was set up solely for [….]. Unfortunately some people have forgotten this in favour of their personal agendas and alliances. I have no desire to be involved with this.”

    BUT, both factions think this person is talking about the other faction!!! As someone who is trying to hear both sides, this sort of comment is waaaaay less than helpful.

    I am using a lot of the skills and scripts that I have learnt from AAM to navigate the mess!

  33. KYParalegal*

    At least my office’s “clean up after yourself, your mother doesn’t work here” is a nicely framed embroidered sampler, not an all-caps screed laminated and taped to the wall

  34. Quill*

    I have to confess to being the perpetrator of at least one note: BIOSAMPLE FREEZER NO FOOD ALLOWED.

    Apparently, the freezer literally being in the lab wasn’t a good enough clue.

    1. UrsulaD*

      The medication freezer in one of my departments was so jam packed with food I once found the insulin just sitting on a counter! I complained to the head nurse constantly but even after removing the food people would just put it back in the same fridge.

  35. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

    We had a note above the sink that said

    “Please do not pour your coffee grounds into the sink!
    Just like everything else that is
    they will clog the sink!!”

    That was about 8 years ago. From then on, every single time I have made coffee at home and poured them into my (garbage disposal) sink, I hear NOT LIQUID in all caps in my head.

    1. JanetM*

      Oddly, we have a note over one of the sinks advising us to not dump ice in the sink. This puzzles me, because ice melts and becomes water.

      1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        If the ice freezes together in a clump somewhere not all that far down, it would block the drain for however long it takes to melt. When I lived in Alaska, my dad cautioned us that we would need to put enough warm water down the drains to keep the pipes leading to the septic tank from freezing shut. So with a sink, you’d have to hope that the ice would melt before too much water went down and then started backing up.

  36. Miss Anne*

    I used to work for a large physician practice. We had 20 doctors – all but 2 were men, and about 200 employees – I don’t think there were more than 10 men.

    We had all the usual break room squabbles, but the best was one note about dishes in the sink.

    The sign started out “Put your dishes in the dishwasher. Your mother doesn’t work here.” Someone added to it “Yes, she does.” and listed all the employees of the proactive who did, indeed have their mothers working there. I think it was about 6 mother-daughter pairs.

  37. Overgrown Patio*

    We have a cute note on our postage machine that says “Please do not lean on me. I am sensitive and have sensors.”

    Every time I see it, I think, “same, postage machine. Same.”

  38. The Wizard Rincewind*

    My spouse used to work at a dance studio and cleaning up spilled coffee from the floor was the bane of his existence. He eventually made two over-the-top notes, complete with cheesy clip art, to inform people that drinks weren’t allowed. I remember one of them said, in all caps, “I’M COFFEE. I HATE EXERCISE. I HATE YOU. BRING ME INTO THE STUDIO AND I’LL MESS UP EVERYTHING”. People thought it was hilarious and spilling incidents became much less frequent.

  39. Facilities Squirrel*

    One of the daily blogs I frequented a few years ago was

  40. AnneC*

    I am definitely the dramatic note writer of our facility. A number of years ago, we had a microscope that needed a special kind of light bulb that was very sensitive to handling. E.g, when changing it out, you needed to use a tissue or gloves because skin oils could somehow weaken the bulb, which would then pose an explosion risk.

    The note I posted about this included the line, “FAILURE TO HEED THIS WARNING COULD RESULT IN BLEEDING EYEBALLS AND SCREAMING”. We don’t use that type of microscope light anymore, but I can say we never had any bleeding eyeballs when we did!

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