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Office housekeeping responsibility

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Question: I work in an office with 19 other people and I am in charge of turning on the dishwasher each night before leaving.  To some, this translates to me also being in charge of cleaning up after everyone.

Often, there are dirty dishes in the sink or the counter, crumbs on the table, empty food containers left out, etc. ... and it's left for me to clean up.

Several memos have been distributed to the staff to remind them to take responsibility for their own housekeeping, but it has not been successful.  Any ideas?  I'm tired of being known as the office maid. My name is not Hazel!  -- Anonymous


People are not going to clean up after themselves if they do not have to. In our office, we rotate. There is a posted list as to who is to 'clean up' on which days, etc. It works well and this way no one is left doing it all the time.

What would happen if you didn't clean up the mess that was left? What do you think about posting the "kitchen procedures" prominently in the room to remind everyone of expectations? I agree that you don't want to make yourself appear uncooperative, but you also want to be respected and not taken advantage of. In addition to the procedures, list the consequences in as light-hearted manner as possible. For example, if one of the procedures is that everyone is responsible for placing their dishes in the dishwasher, state that only dishes placed in the dishwasher will be washed. Also mention wiping up the counters and tabletops as each person's responsibility. Over time, people should come to the realization that they must take care of themselves or it won't get done.

I had a similar situation. I was always the one who cleaned the microwave, the sink area and around the coffee machine. I finally posted a large note above the sink about NOT leaving dirty dishes and another above the microwave about cleaning up and being responsible.

I followed up with an email to everyone who used this area stating, "Enjoy the convenience of using this CLEAN microwave
and be a responsible adult, clean up your spills WHEN THEY HAPPEN. Don’t leave your mess for someone else."

I haven't had to clean up since that time.

In our department it is posted that any dishes left in the sink or not cleaned and put away will be placed in the trash. Since, we actually follow through we don't have a problem with dirty dishes in the sink. We also have a rotating roster that is changed weekly and that person is reponsible for cleaning up the microwave, the counters, tables and to check the frig for any dishes/foods that are not marked, and/or has a date more than a week old. These items are also trashed even if they are in tupperware. If someone does not follow through with their week then they have the honor of speaking with the Supervisor and a written reprimand for not following instructions are given.

I would distribute a final memo notifying the staff that the dishwasher will only be run at night if it is full. Reiterate that you will check the dishwasher before leaving each night but that if it is not full, you will not run a cycle. After a couple of days of a sink full of dishes, and no clean cups for coffee, folks will get the idea and start putting their own dishes in the dishwasher. Also, post a sign by the sink stating your dishwasher running policy too. Somtimes the visual reminder can help.

We have this similar problem also. We have left signs and sent all the emails imaginable. We currently also throw away undated food weekly and leave dirty dishes behind. None of it seems to work. But since we had girl scout money taken out of the lunch room the owner has installed a camera in this room. We had them throughout the public areas already. Now when someone leaves a mess, we rewind and address the person. We have only had to do this twice. It becomes embarassing to be 'caught on tape'!!

I've read over the comments you've received so far. The one I'm most in agreement is one similiar to how we handle things. Although we don't have a dishwasher, each person is responsible for cleaning up after themselves. If dishes are left in the sink (or food in the refrigerator), it is thrown away at the end of the week. The important part of this process is "following through with the threat" which we do.

The other suggestion that I agreed with (if you don't want to throw anything away) was from the person that said suggested NOT running the dishwasher until it is full. Like they said, after a couple of days of a sink full of dishes, and no clean cups for coffee, folks SHOULD get the idea and start putting their own dishes in the dishwasher.

I am in the same type of position as you. Although I'm the "Office Manager" - it's the bottom of the totem pole for being the person that usually cleans the office in general. Like you said, we're not maids, our name is not Hazel!

Good luck!

The difference between a problem and an opportunity is Attitude, and Attitude is the ultimate freedom. Where is the opportunity here. When we recieve service in a resturant do we not usually tip for the service. Most of us do. Although most waitress do not in fact understand what service really is, some at least have figured out at least enough to get some tips. Tipping can be taught and tipping can be motivating. The question of which came first...the chicken or the egg...may be paraphrased here. If the service of cleaning up is surly it must be, then if done with knowledge and understanding of the serviced it will, if appreciated result in a tip. The question then becomes; do I want to serve, and/or how do I communicate that a tip is important? If you don't want to serve, then just do your job, and turn on the dishwasher. That is your responsibility. You do not state that there is anything further. If you choose to serve (then you are a capitalist) then you need to communicate that a tip is in order, to keep your enthusiasm high. A tip jar may help. A note stating that money drives your enthusiasm may also be in order. If each person would put in a suggested amount of $1/week (or some nominal amount that would be within the guidelines that would motivate you to be thrilled with the opportunity to serve)this would turn this into an opportunity. You might also consider announcing to the group that they may want to bid for the position to serve. There may be other opportunities in this area. If you need more please let me know.

At my office, all non-management staff take turns having "kitchen duty." Each person is responsible for one week at a time, and the list is posted on the fridge. [Once an employee has been here for 10 years, they don't have to be on the list anymore - a nice perk for longevity!]

This acts a powerful motivator, as it makes people realize what a pain it is when people do not take care of their own dishes. Also, if someone shirks their "duty," people go out of their way to remind them. When you have that many people keeping an eye on things, it helps get things done, and the burden doesn't fall on any one invididual.

Hope this helps.

I somehow didn't get the notion that the query was addressed for advice on how to get paid and how much to clean up and its kind of offensive that someone chose to say that!

stop cleaning. period.

As I read it, your "job" is to turn on the dishwasher at the end of each day. My first suggestion is in the interest of energy and water conservation. Perhaps only turn it on when it is full, however often that might be.

My second suggestion is the only responsibility you have is to turn the dishwasher on. If there are dirty dishes in the sink, leave them there. If they've been told and there are signs clearly posted, it is not your job to make sure all the dirty dishes are in the dishwasher, only that the dishes in the dishwasher are washed.

Our office does not have a dishwasher and after reading this I am thinking that is a good thing.

I hope that helps!

You are an office professional, not a waitress. When you were hired I'm sure the job description did not include the word "housekeeper." A tip jar would be inappropriate and degrading to you, as I assume you are skilled and experienced in your field, and it would encourage people to continue their reliance on your generosity. The only person you should be responsible for cleaning up after is yourself. Stop cleaning, stop turning on the dishwasher. You are not the only person in your office with hands and feet that can walk to the kitchen and press a button. If your boss expects you to continue your kitchen service, then you have even more problems than whether or not you should have to clean. Good luck to you.

I agree with everyone else's comments that a rotating shift seems to be the best way to solve this problem. I work in a small office setting and EVERYONE rotates, even the president of our company loads the dishwasher for a weeks.

A lot of people here must work with some great people! I am\ an office manager with the same problem. I read this question in the printed newsleter, and the suggestions (which I have tried), so I had to come see what other suggestions were posted, We have no clean-up roster - I suggested it to management but that idea was rejected. We have no one person repsonsible - I suggested that to management and it was rejected. I have sent many many emails - no improvement. I posted signs - they were removed. I would throw away the cups when left in the sink, but then I would have to pay for even more styrofoam cups out of my office supply budget. I asked for cameras in the breakroom but was laughed at. I asked my boss, the president, to bring it up in staff meetings, but he ususally says it "jokingly". I have taken to simply leaving them in the sink unless I am in the mood to clean. One time, my boss went to the breakroom, saw a sinkful of dishes, and he put them in the dishwasher himself! He actually mentioned it seriously at the next staff meeting. STILL no improvement. I have simply decided that me caring was driving me crazy, and if no one else cares, well then neither do I.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Leon. April 23, 2010 at 12:00 pm

What we did in our company was if the items were left lying around on counter tops and in sinks, we just threw the dishes and such in the trash at the end of each everyday.
Staff members started to bring in there own dinnerware. This cut down on the problems.


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