Lucky enough to still have a break room at work? Break rooms can be a boon if you want to nosh or socialize at the office. But they can also bring out the less-than-appetizing side of many people.
A recent survey by staffing firm OfficeTeam asked employees about the break-room behavior they found most annoying – and, occasionally, disgusting. The results are below.
Sloppy Joe: People who make a mess for others to clean up ranked highest on the list of break-room offenders. They’re the ones who leave melted muck in the microwave and coffee grounds on the counter. Every office has one. Most have several.
Few confess to their crimes of neglect. But Brenda R, an office assistant in Tulsa, recognizes herself as a Sloppy Joe. “I’m a slob at home, and it drives my roommates crazy. How can I be a neatnik in the office with all the work I have to do? I try, but sometimes people give me grief.”
Sticky Fingers: Stealing a co-worker’s food was the second-most annoying behavior in the survey. There’s nothing like dreaming of that scrumptious homemade dish you’re going to heat up for lunch only to find that it’s gone AWOL when you open the fridge.
Linda Poirier is senior sales coordinator for a high-tech company full of engineers, scientists, and other highly educated employees. Her break room is notorious for workers taking other people’s food and drink from the refrigerator, even if it’s labeled, she says. She’d had plenty of food items stolen during her tenure, but a recent one topped them all:
I was scheduled for a colonoscopy one afternoon, and put a bottle of the laxative you have to drink beforehand in the fridge. Clearly labeled – NOT WATER. DO NOT DRINK. THIS IS MEDICINE. Someone took it.
I made a public announcement on the intercom ‘I will be waiting just outside the bathrooms to see who spends hours in there today, because what you took was not a bottle of water, it was a very, very, very strong laxative. Enjoy!’To be fair, sometimes a heist is unintentional. Paula Estes, communications director of an upscale stationary company, was home writing out her grocery list using a pad and pen she had removed from the junk drawer. “I was shocked to discover that the pen had a handwritten note securely taped to its length: ‘DO NOT REMOVE FROM BREAK ROOM.’
I’d never seen that pen, so I was not the one to steal it (least I don’t think I was). But every time I use it I think of how annoyed someone must have been to find it missing after taking the time to affix the note.
Oldy Moldy: Companies like to see growth in their companies — not in their refrigerators. But most office refrigerators are home to at least one or two would-be science experiments. Old, expired, spoiled foods sprouting molds of various textures and colors came in third on the list of annoyances.
Who cleans these furry, smelly wonders out eventually? Usually an employee who can’t stand it any more. Meet marketing manager Taylor V., who cleaned the company fridge many times in her previous job. “The first time it smelled so bad that one of the girls working on it with me threw up…It’s amazing to me that as grown adults, people let these things happen.”
The Stinker: Last but not least (at least in the olfactory department) of the break room grievances is the person who cooks or eats smelly food. Tuna is such a commonly abhorred workplace food that one department store manager says she wishes she could ask prospective employees if they eat tuna for lunch. “Especially warmed tuna dishes. It would be a deal buster,” she says. “Or anyone who burns microwave popcorn.”
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