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Kitchen disasters: Do they push admins over the edge?

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Question: “I work in a very small office where I am receptionist, administrative assistant, office & kitchen manager and supplies procurement manager. I order lunches, make dinner reservations, coordinate office functions and parties, pick up, handle and distribute mail. I help the accounting department and administer to all who need help. I am fine doing all these tasksbut I hate going into the kitchen to find it a mess! People spill coffee and milk all over the counters, leave bread and cookie crumbs on the counter and on the floor …  what do I do?” — Carol

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Ruth Nichols November 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm

You shouldn’t need to get an “attitude” to get people to clean up. There should be clear kitchen guidelines. It sounds like the G’s kitchenette suffers from anarchic irresponsibility. Bring it up in a meeting. You may not want to be the one who takes on the kitchen but there at least should be rules.


G November 11, 2013 at 10:48 am

We have a small kitchenette by our office that is used mostly by 6 people, however others stop in to borrow the frig or sink or leave stuff there to grab at the end of the day. It’s never really been said who gets to watch over it but it is very annoying when grown adults leave dishes piled up for days on end and stuff in the frig too. I’ve thought about a sign but figured I’d offend the wrong person. Maybe some day they will all grow up and take care of their stuff.


Mary M. Mazzaraco November 8, 2013 at 10:32 am

In reading the replies, I agree the job description is that of Kitchen Manager. The job description does not include cleaning up after co-workers. All the cute signs, threats to throw things away or request to clean up will do no good until the offenders stop leaving the mess. As the kitchen manager, she should talk with the offenders, in a non-threatening manner, asking the offender to clean up after themselves when they leave the mess if possible. If not and the mess is identified as being made by Mr/Ms. Slob, personally and privately ask Mr/Ms. Slob to return to breakroom to clean their mess. It is not up to other her or other staff to clean up after the slobs. As far as their own homes go, you may not want to see them, as I am sure unless they have a maid, servant, or slave the mess stays were it is made.


Jackqueline Hargreaves November 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm

I agree with Diane, it was being left up to me so I started a similar program that Diane was speaking about it works a treat and we have this sign over the sink “when your mother starts working here then you can leave your dishes”


Diane November 4, 2013 at 10:47 am

Your job title says “kitchen MANAGER” not kitched cleaner. I would guess that means making sure there are supplies, that the microwave and refrigerator are working properly, water bottles are ordered for a water cooler if you have one… Manager does not mean ‘cleaning staff’. Use your title as manager to set up a cleaning schedule. Tell folks if they don’t clean up after themselves everyones’ name goes into a hat on Friday and a person is picked to clean the next week. That’s your perogative as the “kitchen manager”. The fact that working adults don’t clean up after themselves is just silly… believe me I know it happens, I see it myself. Take your job description seriously and MANAGE not clean, that kitchen.


Ruth Nichols November 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm

We have a small office of less than 30 employees. People are expected to clean up after themselves. We don’t have a dishwasher but do have cupboards full of dishes and supplies. Within the last year our dish drainer “disappeared” and people are expected to wash, dry, and put away their own dishes, which, amazingly works quite well. If someone is caught leaving things soaking in the sink, general disapproval seems to work to dissuade them. There is a schedule with two people a month on duty. Duty requires them to wash the used towels when necessary, clean the refrigerator at the end of the month, and do a thorough wipe down. An e-mail is sent out ahead of cleaning day to remind people to label or remove items from the fridge. This works beautifully, with the appropriately illustrated reminder above the sink that “the Kitchen Fairies are busy doing important work at the Capitol. Do your own Dishes!”


Sherry November 1, 2013 at 12:13 pm

You may be the official kitchen manager but that does not give anyone a license to be a slob; people should have more common sense and respect to wipe up the crumbs when they are finished making a sandwich etc. Our company has a monthly employee state-of-the-business meeting (we are a smaller company of appx 24 people) and the CEO himself actually addresses these issues when they get out of hand. If your management does not want to get involved I would personally address everyone and ask them to step up to the plate so you can spend more of your valuable time working instead of cleaning the kitchen. When you are cleaning the kitchen you are not doing the type of work that contributes to the bottom line (which ultimately affects everyone’s bonus)!


Donna November 1, 2013 at 10:08 am

I would say if that is part of your job title & description, then it is your responsibility to keep it clean. Just schedule time at the end of each day to clean it. Our “break room” is only used by the guys out in the plant, so I don’t mess with it. We do have a cleaning person who sort of cleans it once a week. There is one other woman who works here & the mess bothers her. I figure if she has a problem with it, she can deal with it. And she does sometimes, cleaning & pitching things. However, I have a small refrigerator in my office upstairs that everyone in the upstairs offices uses. Awhile back it was smelling really bad. I finally found the culprit, a bag with a leftover pizza slice that had turned black, way in the back of the frig. So I sent out an email & posted a note on the frig door saying anything left in there at the end of the day on Fridays would be thrown out. I had some comments at first (I came across very strong in the email, which is what I wanted). I was nice about it though, and before I threw anything out, I would walk around to whoever was still there asking if it was theirs & letting them know I was throwing it out. So they knew I meant business. After a few times of throwing away someone’s dishes, or taking them home with me, they are now keeping it clean.


Donna November 1, 2013 at 9:02 am

Post a sign in the kitchen “Please clean up after yourself” or “Please treat this kitchen as you would treat your own, and kindly clean up after yourself”


Ceekay November 1, 2013 at 8:59 am

I work for a small company – 25 people. One of the tech staff (a woman – surprise, surprise) took it on herself to clean the 2 fridges once a month. She send out an email warning that she’ll be throwing out food, containers, etc. that aren’t marked and she gives each fridge a quick wipe down. Everyone else is responsible for whatever spills they make, food they drop, etc. on a daily basis. We also have a cleaning company that comes in and part of their job is to wipe out the microwave, scrub the counters, and do the floors. Would your boss be willing to pay someone to do that once a week?


Theresa Kasel October 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm

If “kitchen manager” is really part of your title, then cleaning the kitchen is part of your daily responsibility. You will need to set aside some time every day to clean the kitchen. My suggestion is that you close up shop for the day about 15-30 minutes before it’s time for you to leave for the day — this would include turning off your computer. Spend that last 15-30 minutes cleaning the kitchen.

When your manager needs you to do actual work and you aren’t available because you are cleaning the kitchen area, you can then suggest to your manager that cleaning the kitchen should not be your responsibility alone. Have a plan for how the work will be divided among the staff — different departments in charge each week or month. (I’m going to assume your manager isn’t going to be happy you aren’t available to do actual work.”

I usually clean out our company refrigerator once a month on the last day of the month. I send a note out the day before and then clean it out around 3:00. any unmarked containers become mine (if I like them) or garbage.

I would also keep something like Clorox or Lysol wipes sitting around so it is quick and easy for people to wipe surfaces down.

Signs are pointless — everyone ignores them. Unless, of course, you want publicity on the “Passive/Agressive Notes” blog.


Felicia October 31, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I’ve done just about all of the things that people have suggested and after several years decided to just walk away. I used to be the one that was constantly aggravated when coming into our conference room and seeing all the water and spills on the counter, crumbs all over, the microwave looked like something exploded in it and the electric tea kettle left on all night – just burn us down, why don’t you?!! Of course there was nothing I could possibly do about the burned popcorn smell which permeated the entire office and outside hallway — After I found myself cleaning out the moldy, stinking refrigerator, one too many times, I decided enough was enough. I just simply walked away and never looked back.


Jackie October 31, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I cleaned the kitchen area including the refrigerator and microwave.
I threw out everything old from food to mags and newspapers. I posted a large sign on the bulletin board stating “YOUR MOTHER IS NOT HERE. CLEAN UP AFTER YOURSELF” and added a smiley face . A monthly calendar is placed on the frig with one employee’s name listed on every Friday. On that day before leaving for the day, that person cleans out the frig and performs general cleaning and straightening in the breakroom. Believe me, people do not like their belongings messed with. I am proud to say, we saw a HUGE improvement !!


Eliza October 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm

If you have a position description that states you are responsible for cleaning or upkeep in the office kitchen, then it is probably a part of your position and others probably see it that way, too. However, if it isn’t stated directly you are to clean the kitchen then I’d request clarification on the expectations from my supervisor. You never know, they may think you do it as a courtesy and do not realize it bothers you. I can bet others who leave the mess probably assume ‘it’s your job’ so they’re even less likely to take care of their own stuff. I like to try to have admins shift their thinking about ‘taking care’ of people. Presumably, everyone in the office is an adult and can probably take care of their own mess and shouldn’t need someone to do it for them. While not intentional, it kind of solidifies your role as subordinate and that role could stick with you and prevent you from being seen in a different capacity. Be ever wary of the ‘den mother’ role.


Lisa October 31, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I don’t think your small office would appreciate any signs or e-mails since you were hired as the kitchen manager. Since it’s your job to keep the kitchen organized, make sure that the counter is cleaned once in the morning and right before you go home. If the crumbs and spills are left there all day, people will start cleaning up after themselves. If you are constantly cleaning in there, people will just take advantage of it. You can also leave an extra roll of paper towels and cleaner on the counter in case someone says that they couldn’t clean because the roller “ran out of paper”.


Rita October 31, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I agree with the humorous approach. We have a lunchroom with refrigerators and microwaves, some vending machines and two sinks. Someone is always leaving the room in a mess. We tried cute-sey signs (Your mother doesn’t work here. Please clean up after yourself.), but still the messes are there.
After years of fighting this, management finally simply assigned each department a month of “cleaning” responsibilities. Since there aren’t 12 departments, each unit ends up cleaning up the breakroom probably two months out of the year. Each unit goes in on Friday afternoon, scrubs down all the tables, puts all the old newspapers in the recycle bin, neatly stacks the magazines on the corner table, and cleans the sinks and microwaves. Someone in the unit takes the used dish cloths and hand towels home and washes them, bringing them back on Monday. On the last Friday of the month, the supervisor of that department sends out a notice that anything left in the refrigerators after 3pm, that is unlabeled (with a staff person’s name), will be tossed out. Then each fridge is thoroughly scrubbed and old left-overs thrown away. This caused quite a stir the first couple of times (my favorite dish was thrown away ! ! or I was planning on taking that home for dinner ! !), but after a while, folks got the idea. It was up to management to ensure that the room was cleaned up at least once a week. Some folks still leave a mess, but peer pressure has worked to some extent. It’s never as bad as it used to get. And the nice part is that no one person or team has to do all the cleaning. It’s shared by all. I’ve even seen our Area Director in there taking a turn.


Robin October 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I placed a sign over our breakroom sink that has a picture of a button and reads “Push here for maid service.” If that doesn’t work, please clean up after yourself.” It works most of the time but not always. I like Jennifer’s idea about a humorous email to all involved.


Teresa October 31, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Post a message that reads “Your mother does not work here, please clean up after yourself. Thank you!”


Jennifer October 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Time for an email to the office staff! Keep it light and funny if possible. I have a small kitchen right outside my office where folks leave their lunch dishes, coffee cups, etc. The dining hall is in another building. Periodically I will send out an email to everyone and remind them that we do not have a little person that lives in the sink that magically does their dishes and carries them to the dining hall. You can tailor your email around Mr. Clean or some other commercial figure. It works…13 years and going strong with a staff of almost 300 people.


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