≡ Menu


I have a coworker who recently showed me that she has no respect for the people she works with in the slightest.

The other day I was in search of my coffee mug. It was a gift from a friend, and a very large mug- I usually used it in lieu of a bowl for soup and oatmeal at work. I looked everywhere. I couldn’t find it. I asked around, no one had seen it.

However, I had an idea where it might have gone. One co-worker, Marie, at one point had put a sign up in the break room that any Tupperware or mugs left in the sink would be thrown away. Now, it should be noted that Marie is not a manager, or even anyone’s supervisor. She’s on the way low end of the totem pole, and had no authority or permission to do this. In fact, someone took down the sign, just a couple days later.

I asked my friend Jane if she’d seen my mug. “I think I saw it in the sink.. but you know, I saw Marie throwing away a few people’s mugs last week (not mine). I told her she couldn’t do that, and she just said,’Sure I can,’ and tossed them in the trash.”

Well I had certainly left my mug in the sink.. I’d forgotten about it, as I don’t go into the break room often. To be clear, these “dirty” mugs aren’t causing any one any issues (unless your insane), its not a huge epidemic, there aren’t 20 mugs/Tupperware bowls in the sink.. and they don’t smell. Usually people have their coffee, fill the mug with water and leave it in the sink and forget about it for a day or two. That’s what happened here. Usually if the mugs got left there for more than a day, someone would politely ask the owner to finish rinsing their mug, which would happen right away. No one is being a slob on purpose in this office, I’m happy to say.

So, to be sure, I asked the cleaning staff if she’d seen my mug in the trash.. she said yes, but figured it was there for a reason so she didn’t take it out. (Why would she? Digging through the trash isn’t her job, taking it out is. That’s totally understandable.)

So, Marie threw my mug away. I was livid. She felt that because a mug was sitting in the sink, presumably annoying her any time she walked into the room, she decided that she didn’t care if it was my property (and she KNEW it was mine, everyone did. I walked around with it all the time and it was very distinctive) and decided she had the right to toss it in the trash. What made me even more angry was that she’d lied to me when I’d asked her if she’d seen it.

So I thought I’d confront her about it. I walked up and, very politely, asked her if she’d thrown away my mug. She looked up at me with a smug expression and just said, “No.” then went back to not-working.

Now I was even more angry. If you’re going to do something like that, at least live up to it. But no, she has so little respect for me, that she sees no problem throwing away my possessions, and lying to my face about it. A mug is replaceable.. the real reason I was angry was the utter lack of respect she shows to everyone around her. I’ll admit, it was tempting to take her mug off her desk and throw it in the trash, but then I’d be just as bad as she is.

Despite the fact that I had no proof, I told my boss about it anyway. He was upset, but now it’s a moot point. That same day she told her supervisor she was quitting in two months. Also, a week later, I heard someone else lamenting their missing coffee mug.

It gets worse though. This week, since she’s leaving, she handed my co-worker Jane a stack of papers and told her their supervisor had said Jane had to do all of Marie’s work for the next two months, so she’d know how to do it once Marie was gone. But Marie would not be taking any of Jane’s job duties, like answering the phones, while Jane did this.

Jane checked with the supervisor, who confirmed her suspicions that Marie was exaggerating (Marie was only supposed to teach her the things she didn’t already know, which wasn’t much, and watch her as she did them..) and when Jane and the supervisor confronted Marie (politely and calmly) she launched into a huge fit that required getting our Director involved. He sided with Jane, and now Marie does nothing but sulk and say hateful things to Jane all day long, or at least in a hateful tone.

I feel bad that Jane has to sit right next to her, and I can’t wait for her to leave. She makes the whole office environment terrible to be in! 0609-11

Something causes me to wonder if there is a completely different side of this story.   It’s normal office culture to leave dirty coffee mugs in the break room kitchen sink?  The initial mental image I had was of a prime invitation to every insect and rodent pest and a bunch of lazy coffee/tea drinkers who couldn’t be bothered to take a few seconds to wash their mugs after using them thus leaving the chore to one of their co-workers with a slightly more refined sense of cleanliness.  (Here on Ehell, we typically to refer to behavior that expects others to do your job as “entitled”.)

Second, it is no one else’s responsibility to care for our precious possessions.   Valuable belongings, whether the value be monetary or sentimental, should be cared for by their owner with no expectation that others will perceive it as being something other than the common household item it is.    If it’s important to you, you take measures to make sure it is securely cared for.  In this case, the mug cleaned, dried and put away in a cabinet or taken back to your own office/desk for safekeeping.   My husband and I drilled into our kids from a young age that if something of theirs was particularly precious, it was their duty to care for it.   Toys thrown on the floor, left outside to get rained on and left in common areas to eventually succumb to being damaged, lost or used by other kids was solely their responsibility.  Did you really love that Tonka truck if you left it to rust for days on end by the wood pile?  Can you really say your dolls or model horses were irreplaceable if you left them on the stairway to be kicked around?  (Addendum:  And sometimes in the process of housecleaning, Mom or Dad threw away apparently discarded, abandoned items left for someone to trip over and ignored the whines of how allegedly dear it was to its owner.  End result are adult children who treat their possessions well.)

So, let’s be real, OP.  You didn’t love your mug.  You treated it like a common mug like everyone else’s and left it dirty, apparently repeatedly, in the break room sink.   Your value of it did not extend to keeping it clean and secure in your possession.   For all I know, Maria got tired of the general filth and poor hygiene her co-workers seemed to think was normal and started trashing the cockroach bait lurking in the sink that her fellow co-workers were contributing on a daily basis.  And since Maria’s motivation regarding the disposal of the dirty mugs is in question, the other areas of her behavior raised come into doubt as well.

{ 136 comments… add one }
  • Bint June 14, 2011, 6:07 am

    Nobody’s doing that well here. Even if Marie finds everyone else disgustingly dirty – and I find it astonishing an office can be that manky with the dirty cups! – that doesn’t mean she has any right to throw things away and lie about it. She tackled the problem in the stupidest way possible – putting up notices with no backing when she doesn’t hold any position of authority. Marie was a fool. She should have brought the problem to a senior’s attention. Why she did it the way she did it is irrelevant – she was in the wrong for binning the mug and lying about it.

    I also think that claiming other areas of her behaviour come into question is stretching it. Why should they? Again, she has lied to someone and acted to get what she wants in an unprofessional manner. Her motives don’t and can’t excuse that.

    I do have to say that leaving dirty cups overnight in an office is disgusting, and I’m not Miss Hygienic myself. I’ve never worked in an office where that was acceptable – we either had a cleaner or there was a rota.

  • kingshearte June 14, 2011, 6:08 am

    I have to agree with Admin here. Maybe a few mugs in the sink doesn’t bother you (or, apparently many other people where you work), but if they’re being left there for days at a time, it doesn’t exactly look nice, and for those who do want to wash their dishes right away, it doesn’t take all that much stuff sitting around in the sink to make using the sink difficult.

    This woman clearly has some issues, and probably should have acquired official permission for such an action, and certainly shouldn’t have lied about it, but yeah. If it truly mattered, you wouldn’t have left your mug sitting there for days.

  • beckstar June 14, 2011, 6:37 am

    “Usually people have their coffee, fill the mug with water and leave it in the sink and forget about it for a day or two”

    Ugh. Forget the etiquette breaches in this story and think about the hygiene issues…

  • lkb June 14, 2011, 6:45 am

    I second our illustrious admin. At every office I’ve worked in, there’s usually one saintly coworker who takes it upon herself to make sure the break-room fridge and sink are tidy — cleaning them out when needed and throwing out the ‘science projects’. Every time I’ve seen it done, there was at least a few days warning that this was going to happen, as was done in this post.
    While the later portion of the story does not cast Maria in the best light, I think she was justified in tossing out the mug. I know how things like this can escalate so I can’t comment on the rest. I think Maria’s probably just as glad to be leaving as the OP is to see her go.

  • Typo Tat June 14, 2011, 6:50 am

    I agree with admin. OP’s company culture is disgusting and unsanitary. Don’t want to wash your own mug? Keep it dirty on your own desk, NOT in the sink!

  • melissa June 14, 2011, 6:50 am

    I’m sorry Jeanne, but I must disagree with you on this one. While there is always two sides to a story in this case Maria had absolutely no right or authority to throw away someone’s personal property. If the mug bothered her so much should could have spoken to a director or manager, or human resources. Or she could have spoken to the OP about her mug being in the sink and how much it bothered her. On a side note I worked in a small department at a large university, and my co workers and I shared a very small common kitchen. It has a small fridge, a small microwave, a sink and an electric kettle. It was common that sometimes people wouldn’t rinse out and store their mugs after use, and in some cases they were filled with water and left in the sink for a day or two. This bothered the department secretary who made a point of asking people not to do this, and also put up a sign. Now, if someone left a dirty dish/mug in the sink for longer than a couple of days the secretary would then just dump out the water and place it in a sealed plastic storage box that was kept under the counter. People soon learned she meant business, and she didn’t cross any boundaries by throwing away personal property!

    • admin June 14, 2011, 7:23 am

      Placing dirty dishes under the sink in a sealed plastic storage box is a clever way to deal with the issue without perpetuating unsanitary conditions that could invite unwanted four or six legged guests. But that job still fell to someone out of necessity because other people were lazy, entitled slobs.

      I suspect there is more backstory to the drama in the OP’s office.

  • DGS June 14, 2011, 6:54 am

    No one wins in this submission. Quite frankly, this sounds like the worst office in the world to work in due to the slovenly and disgusting hygiene practices and unprofessional, passive-aggressive behavior of everyone employed there! It’s like “The Office” come to life, but not in a funny way. I completely agree with Admin – if your mug is so special and precious to you, then it is your responsibility to keep track of it and to wash it (how hard is it, and how long does it take to rinse out a coffee/soup/oatmeal mug? Two minutes, if that?), and leaving mugs in the sink for days is pretty gross. Not quite “I’m growing my own science experiment” gross, but gross. And while Marie does not come off appropriate, either, I do wonder if there’s another side to this story.

    I think HR should get involved and do some communication training with this group of co-workers so that the passive-aggression and the backstabbing discontinue, cleanliness ensues and peace reigns.

    This, btw, is exactly, why I keep my lunch in my desk and do not expect anyone to wash my utensils/cups/Tupperware at my office. We have a fridge and microwave in a common area, and while we do take turns cleaning them regularly, due to people’s divergent hygiene practices, they tend to get pretty disgusting. I’m a bit on the squeamish side, so I prefer to keep my lunch in my desk rather than putting it into the fridge or using the microwave, as you never know what it might look like week to week.

  • Vicky Lee June 14, 2011, 7:03 am

    Well, colour me crazy… because I get annoyed every time I see a dirty dishes in the sink. Fifteen people use the kitchen in my work area. There is one tiny sink and about 18 inches of counter space. Even if only two or three people leave their dishes to soak, the sink is pretty much useless. I think the letter writer is most definitely the ruder of the two.

  • yertle turtle June 14, 2011, 7:04 am

    I get your point, admin, but I think there’s a world of difference between allowing children to experience natural consequences and deliberately disposing of the property of another adult (and denying it). If the office norm is for mugs to be stored in shared space I think it’s reasonable to expect that colleagues won’t steal or damage them, no matter how annoyed they are, and no matter the value of the mug. I think Marie should have complained to a senior staffer or moved the mugs aside and carried on with her life.

  • padua June 14, 2011, 7:19 am

    i agree with admin. we’ve had the same issues at my work, and when the dishes get really piled up, the receptionist will let people know it’s either time to clean and clear out, or dishes will be disposed of. i don’t fault that system at all- if no one takes care of this unhygienic issue, it’s just going to keep getting worse. she should have gotten permission from the higher ups, but at the same time, it’s the only solution to a rather disgusting problem- unless someone else takes it on them to do dish duty. which wouldn’t be fair, in my opinion.

    do your own dishes and take care of your stuff, or you risk losing it- especially if it’s inviting roaches and other unsavory guests. i don’t think leaving an unwashed bowl of soup is much different than someone leaving a ham sandwich out for a few days.

  • Mojo June 14, 2011, 7:23 am

    Marie over-reacted, but she had a point. Leaving your mug in a communal sink is selfish, and yes, it does get in the way. It doesn’t matter if everyone does it, it’s still wrong.

    An untidy sink makes it harder for your colleagues to fill up the kettle or wash up their own cups, bowls and plates. I used to wash up the large sandwich platters we used for conferences, which meant first washing up all my colleagues dirty dishes, then my own. Eventually a manager stepped in, explained to the staff why this behaviour was not acceptable, how it was affecting their co-workers, and everyone stopped doing it. Fortunatley, nothing had to be thrown away.

    I’m sorry Marie is unhappy, and she shouldn’t be taking it out on Jane. But maybe the mug issue was just the final straw.

  • Harley Granny June 14, 2011, 7:25 am

    Sorry…I don’t agree with admin.
    No one has a right to dispose of another person’s property just because it annoys them.
    If it annoyed her so much and the cup was so distinctive that Marie knew well and good who it belonged to she should have set it on the OP desk….yup dirty and all. If she’s willing to touch it to throw it away then she can touch it to deliver it to a desk.

  • JS June 14, 2011, 7:34 am

    Yes, OP shouldn’t have left her dirty dishes in the sink for days (!) on end. But I must also disagree with admin. Marie is not OP’s mom. She does not have the right to dispose of others’ property just because it annoys her. If Marie wanted to address the situation appropriately, she could’ve brought the issue to the attention of her supervisor, who actually WOULD have the authority to take action. But, as admin herself has cautioned us repeatedly, another person’s rude behavior does not excuse your own.

  • Emmy June 14, 2011, 7:37 am

    I don’t blame Marie for feeling the way she did and being disgusted by the dirty dishes sitting in the sink. It seemed as if it was common for people to do this and just a few people leaving a mug in the sink for one or two days probably means there is at least a few dishes in the sink at all times. I can see why Marie found this unpleasant and annoying.

    Despite Marie finding the dirty dishes in the sink annoying, and rightfully so, her way of going about trying to solve the problem was wrong. She should have complained to HR or a supervisor instead of appointing herself Kitchen Queen and throwing away other people’s property. It has been said many times that retaliatory rudeness is unacceptable and that’s exactly how Marie behaved. It was also very childish not to own up to her actions when somebody confronted her about them.

  • SHOEGAL June 14, 2011, 7:52 am

    I actually do think that leaving dirty dishes in the office sink is normal office behavior. There are about 50 people working in my office – it is not uncommon to leave dishes in the sink “soaking” even though we have a dishwasher in our kitchen area. I agree – not sanitary – and unsightly but it is like having room mates who don’t share your level of cleanliness. Personally – I keep my mug in my office and anything else I want to keep so I agree that the OP should have made an effort to keep her mug safe if it meant so much to her.

    I don’t agree, however, with throwing other people’s property away. It is just vindictive and wasteful. I also don’t agree with just handing yourself the authority to do so. I also thought the complaints about Marie went on a little too long. The OP obviously didn’t like Marie – I get it.

  • aka Cat June 14, 2011, 7:52 am

    Maybe the sink in the OP’s breakroom is huge, but the one here isn’t.

    Just one mug in the sink makes it nearly impossible to refill the filtered pitchers many of us keep at our desks. Two mugs, and rinsing your own (to dry and take back to your desk) turns into a fun game of “accidentally dip your knuckles into someone else’s mug”. (Eww.) Three mugs, and there’s no more room to simply dump the water out of your own mug without having it spill into one or more of the mugs sitting there.

    It’s even tackier to throw out someone else’s property, but I can see how Marie would have been tempted.

  • Chocobo June 14, 2011, 8:09 am

    Etiquette problems abound in this story. Sounds like the office culture permits dirty dishes, so the correct course of action should have been to go to the people with authority to change that culture and establish a office-wide protocol everyone understands. Marie doesn’t have the right to throw away other people’s things, and quite honestly she handled this whole situation very poorly. Was throwing out other people’s property really worth what she got in the end? I ask myself that all the time at work — is it really worth creating a whole lot of drama just because they forgot to put the paper in the fax machine again? The answer is pretty much always no.

    However, I agree that if the mug was so special the OP should have taken care of it better.

  • chelee74 June 14, 2011, 8:27 am

    I agree with Harley Granny. “No one has a right to dispose of another person’s property just because it annoys them. … If she’s willing to touch it to throw it away then she can touch it to deliver it to a desk.” I also really like the storage box under the sink idea. I mean, really, where does she get off?

    While I understand the need for a clean sink, I also understand the need for soaking a mug. Oatmeal can get stuck and take either 5 minutes to scrape off immediately or 10 seconds to rinse if it’s been soaked. So the OP forgot. How is this a mortal sin to you neat freaks? A gentle reminder would have been nice, particularly since the entire office knew exactly who to notify about this particular mug. I wouldn’t have been annoyed at an email saying “Friendly Reminder! Please remove your big mug from the sink! KTHXBAI” I’d have responded “Ooh! Thanks for the reminder! I’ll go rescue it before the breakroom police get it!” It’s not that the OP didn’t value her mug (MOM, calm yourself, it’s a MUG, and it’s in the SINK. It’s not in the middle of conference room table where a client might see it). I’m very happy for the OP that this woman is leaving the company. None of us work there so none of us readers know the culture. Sounds like it wasn’t generally a nasty, dirty, inconsiderate place and that no one got all uppity and tossed out other people’s property before this woman appeared. Her smug attitude after doing the deed would’ve sent me directly to etiquette hell without passing GO! or collecting $200.

  • Just Laura June 14, 2011, 8:27 am

    I don’t like that Marie threw away the cups and then lied about it. Destruction of property is wrong.

    However, in what office is leaving dirty dishes in the sink acceptable? I’ve worked for corporate offices, museum offices, mom-and-pop firms, and (currently) in a university office. NEVER have dishes been left in a sink more than an hour, even after an office party. It takes only a few seconds to rinse a coffee/tea mug. If I brought my lunch in Tupperware and can’t wash it immediately, I leave it next to my purse (lid on) to take home to clean at the end of the day. I would not subject a coworker to MY mess if I can help it.

  • Rattus June 14, 2011, 8:28 am

    My current office is part of an enormous global concern, so we have people who come in and take care of the dishes a few times a day. However, our fridge policy resembles the fridge and sink policy of every other office I’ve ever worked in. If it is in the fridge or sink after a certain amount of time. it goes in the garbage. Maria may be problematic in certain areas, but I certainly can’t fault her for wishing to maintain a sanitary kitchen.

  • Twik June 14, 2011, 8:32 am

    Wow! What a clash of cultures!

    I’m absent-minded enough to forget to clean a mug occasionally. However, if you have a sentimental attachment to a mug, it’s your own responsibility to keep it under your control.

    Both sides were in the wrong here. The LW for carelessness and slovenliness, and the co-worker for taking on herself something that should have been dealt with by management.

  • LBC June 14, 2011, 8:33 am

    I think that the OP sounds like a whiny brat but, mostly, I have to side with her. We don’t know the what the break room looks like or how much space there is. My office frequently leaves mugs soaking in the sink because our office mugs are white and get stained–there is still plenty of room in the sink to maneuver the teakettle and wash your hands. The mugs are rinsed first so they’re not full of food residue; they just have brown rings from coffee or tea.

    Marie was out of line–the proper procedure would have been to go to the boss and see if this was a problem with the office and housekeeping staff. If it wasn’t, she should have minded her own business and left other peoples’ things alone.

    Mostly, though, I see abysmal communication. The higher-ups should have told Marie in no uncertain terms that this was not her prerogative, and followed through with her if she acted anyway. Maybe a new mug policy needed to be instituted, but it wasn’t Marie’s place to be a one-woman, self-appointed, enforcement committee.

    As far as kids: My mother never threw our stuff out. Dumped it in our beds, yes, but never threw it out. Had she done so, my brother and I would have pounced on every item she left in an inappropriate place–because even parents are bound to slip eventually–and thrown it away. Don’t be surprised when they learn the lessons you teach them.

  • Asharah June 14, 2011, 8:34 am

    If Marie thought she was in the right to be throwing out the coffee mugs, why would she lie to the OP when confronted about it? Because she was in the wrong AND SHE KNEW SHE WAS IN THE WRONG!

  • Redneck Gravy June 14, 2011, 8:40 am

    I disagree with admin here. Throwing someone else’s property away is wrong.

    If cups full of dirty water bother you so much, dump the water out and leave them upside down in the sink or in a dishpan so the sink is still useable.

    There are going to be people everywhere that fill their cups with water and leave them in a sink. I don’t think dirty water is going to attract many rodents. If the dishes are so dirty they might attract rodents, wash them yourself or put them in a ziplock and leave them by the sink.

    No, I don’t think you ought to have wash co-workers dishes but if it bothers you that much get HR to set the policy. Someone just assigning themself the duty is inappropriate.

    We would have science projects growing in the refrigerator at my office, someone (with management ‘s permission) would post a sign up a week in advance warning that the fridge was going to be cleaned on Friday and to please remove your dirty dishes or they would be tossed. It was mostly butter bowls anyway and if it was Tupperware or more expensive storage dishes they would be washed and stored by the sink. We took turns cleaning the kitchen.

    Geez, it’s not that hard to get along.

  • --Lia June 14, 2011, 8:47 am

    Consensus rule is my idea of hell. If there’s someone in charge making the rules, I might not like them, but at least I can decide what I’m going to do about it. I wouldn’t like working in a place where the break room had dirty dishes in it, but I could decide not to have coffee there. On the other side, I might not like a rule that said personal property would be thrown away for small infractions, but I could decide which mug to bring to work knowing what the rule was. The problem that I can see here is that no one is in charge. So Marie stepped in. She overstepped in. In her eyes, she was trying to fill a leadership vacuum, and she got it wrong. (Throwing away mugs is likely over the long run to result in people replacing them and leaving the replacements in the sink.) For all we know, she did talk to a supervisor, and the supervisor decided it was too trivial to deal with. The next thing we know, she’s got the whole office nattering about her.

    Similarly, I suspect that the supervisor is at least partly at fault because of the way the training was done when Marie gave her notice. Training new employees is a skill unto itself. Somehow there’s an assumption that because a job is low level, it’s easy. Well, maybe yes, maybe no. And if you know how to do a job, that doesn’t mean you know how to teach someone else to do it. I’ve had coworkers think they were teaching me by having me in the room and chatting about something else. Or they’d answer every direct question with “it’s easy” and never told me what I needed to know. (This especially gets to me with computer cash registers. You can watch someone push a bunch of buttons very quickly without ever understanding which buttons you’re supposed to push when it’s your turn.) The supervisor did a botch job when she told Marie to train Jane by watching her. Marie might be lazy, but she might also have been genuinely confused as to how she was supposed to do the training. My verdict is that the management gets at least half the blame.

  • Virg June 14, 2011, 8:56 am

    I won’t comment on Marie throwing out dirty dishes because it’s certainly possible that they were disgusting enough to discard. But, she stepped entirely off the high road when she lied about it. I can find exactly no circumstances that allow one to lie about one’s actions that’s acceptable in this discussion. Considering that she was also caught out by her supervisor lying about the workload that she was to pass on to Jane, she’s all done in my book. If I was her supervisor I’d have simply told her not to finish out her time at the office, because a dishonest and disgruntled worker is downright dangerous to have around.


  • Amber June 14, 2011, 8:58 am

    We have about 50 or so people using our office sink. There used to be many, MANY dishes in it at the end of the day until the poor receptionist, whose job it is to keep the break room clean (and who had to wash all of these dishes every night before she left for her job to be complete), complained to HR. Now we have a giant sign to the effect of “There are no such thing as magic elves. Your co-worker’s job is not keeping your things clean. Leave tupperware in the fridge too long, or cups in the sink, and they WILL be tossed out.”

    Now the epedemic has been solved. Yay!

  • Lizajane June 14, 2011, 8:59 am

    Problem here is, that Marie didn’t have the authority to throw away anyone’s dishes. If she was brave enough to do that, she should have had the guts to take the dishes to the person’s desk and hand them to them..

    Better yet, let a manager handle it.

  • Jillybean June 14, 2011, 9:00 am

    I think this is my favorite part:

    “Usually if the mugs got left there for more than a day, someone would politely ask the owner to finish rinsing their mug, which would happen right away. No one is being a slob on purpose in this office, I’m happy to say.”

    Um – no, it doesn’t happen right away. It happens a couple days later after a coworker asks you to do what you should have done immediately to begin with. Anyone who leaves a dirty dish of any sort in a community sink is being a slob on purpose (you are intentionally cluttering up community space with your dirty dishes, that’s being a slob). I really have no sympathy for the OP. In my office, we have a no tolerance policy for this sort of thing, and yes, people’s things have been thrown away. Respect your things, respect your coworkers, and clean up after yourself. Immediately – not when it’s convenient to you. You are not at home, so stop acting like the kitchen/breakroom is your personal space.

  • Margaret June 14, 2011, 9:12 am

    I think Marie is the entitled one — unilaterally dictating the new office kitchen standard and unilaterally disposing of mugs. The story states that when Marie put up a sign, it was taken down. When she threw away mugs, she was told she can’t do that, and she did it anyway. When confronted about throwing away someone’s mug, she bold faced lied about it, so she knew her actions were inappropriate. Regardless of whether you agree with the OP’s office culture, it was not Marie’s place to do what she did. Seriously, there was no other option for her? Her supervisor? A staff meeting? A frosty word to the co-workers? Sounds to me like this issue was just a cover for her to go on a power trip and be malicious to her co-workers.

  • AS June 14, 2011, 9:14 am

    I think that throwing away the mugs is a bit too extreme a reaction. I like the putting it in sealed bags (like Melissa said) better – but you’ll have to find the bags and take the pains to put things and seal them. But I hate it too when people leave dirty dishes in the sink. In OP’s case, if she ate oats or soup in the bowl, I am sure it stuck to the side which means that the water would contain rotting pieces of soup or oats after 2 days. Eww! That is quite gross. And to imagine that there are about five more cups and mugs sitting in the sink in that way… I’d be pretty bothered by them too.
    In an egalitarian society, I think it might have been nice to respect Marie’s notice and not get snobbish about the fact that she is low ranked in the office hierarchy. Low ranked person does not mean that she is not a human and cannot express her wishes about anything including taking care of the hygiene of the common area that she is using too.
    Like the admin, I too feel that there is another side to this story.

    I don’t totally condone Marie’s actions; especially the fact that she is not being able to own up to her actions. If she threw away the mugs, particularly after telling people that she will do so, she should have accepted it and said that “I told you I’ll do that if it is left in the sink for several days”. At least, people would know that she means business. Also, if the story about her dumping all her work on Jane is true, that is a bad thing too. If the stories are true, I can see why other people in the office do not like her. But I don’t blame Marie for being bothered finding unwashed dishes all the time. It is one thing to forget it washing them once in a while. But people in your office seem to do it on a regular basis.

  • LonelyHound June 14, 2011, 9:21 am

    I agree with Harley Granny. Put it on her desk dirty and all. Heck, even put a note on it saying that leaving dirty mugs in the sink is rude to the next person who goes to use the sink. To throw out mugs without confronting the owners first is just as rude and childish. I think Marie could have handled it better. At my old office once there were three complaints (even if they were by the same person)about either dirty dishes or old food HR put up a sign that all “homeless” food, mugs and tupperware would be discarded the following Wednesday. The regular office staff never let anything stand in the sink or refridgerator again.

  • Erica June 14, 2011, 9:23 am

    I absolutely cannot imagine complaining to my boss that someone threw out my mug.

  • A.J. June 14, 2011, 9:23 am

    I almost thought this was someone else writing about my office, except it was food containers left in the refrigerator. Yes, people kept forgetting to take home restaurant leftovers containers and some may have forgotten to take home lunch containers as well, I don’t know. The Marie of our office (I’ll call Mary here) took it upon herself to throw away everything in the refrigerator one afternoon. But what she forgot was there was an evening shift that also had just came in – and who had just put their lunches in there. And she threw out someone’s lunch container – which had just been brought in. They had a big fight about it in the office. Mary claimed she had seen it in there yesterday, and the coworker said of course she had – it was her lunch container that she brought to work everyday with her new lunch in it! After that, Mary was told she had to post signs warning everyone she was going to throw away what was in the refrigerator that was restaurant leftovers boxes and was told to leave people’s lunch containers alone.

    This was why I very rarely put anything in the refrigerator at work – I was never guaranteed it would be there when I returned. We also had someone that would steal other people’s lunches or snacks. Anytime I brought dessert back from a restaurant, I would always joke I was going to write threats on the outside of the box. Another co-worker would write “I have a cold and I already licked it” on the outside of her dessert boxes.

    Seriously, can people not leave other people’s stuff alone? I completely understand about germs and unsanitary conditions, but how about an office-wide POSTED policy? And how does Marie know that OP wasn’t taking home their mug at the end of their shift, washing it, and then bringing it back the next day and using it again to eat their soup out of? For all she knew, it was going to be cleaned and used again. Mary saw my coworker’s lunch container and assumed it had been left there all week because she saw it there everyday – not thinking that of course she saw it there everyday, my coworker was bringing it in everyday! If Marie came into my house and saw my favorite coffee mug sitting in the sink, she might assume I have left it there for days on end without cleaning it – not true, I just use it EVERY MORNING, wash it with the dinner dishes, then get up and USE IT AGAIN.

  • Erica June 14, 2011, 9:23 am

    Wait, WARNED she was going to throw out my mug, and then followed up on her promise to keep the office sanitary.

    And the boss was “upset”? Seriously?

  • Amanda Kate June 14, 2011, 9:23 am

    I agree that the poster could have been more careful with her possession, but that doesn’t excuse Marie for throwing out someone’s property. If dirty mugs were bothering her that much, she could have gone to a supervisor and complained about it.

  • Wendy June 14, 2011, 9:35 am

    While admin has a point that leaving dirty dishes in the sink is disgusting, OP has the bigger point…Marie decided she was better than even the managers and went well above her job description (unless it said “mom” in there somewhere). Throwing away mugs (and tupperware!) is wrong if it’s not yours. Speaking to the managers/supervisors is the right thing to do. It sounds to me like she had/has control issues.

    I work with less than sanitary co-workers. They spill coffee all over creation, never clean out their mugs, never clean up the sugar they spill, never lean out the coffee pot…you get the idea. I decided early on that I was not their mother. I clean my mug and utensils and keep them at my desk. I don’t clean up after them unless I have too. (When the ants are hanging out by the sugar container, for example.) Am I irritated? Yes. But I can control my end of things and if they don’t mind the mess, it’s their problem.

  • lkb June 14, 2011, 9:39 am

    One other thing I forgot to mention as far as the cleanliness issue: Some companies bring potential clients on a tour of the facility, sometimes stopping in the break room for a cuppa. I can see where, while it’s highly the sole issue, a sloppy break room — combined with other factors — can make a really dismal first impression.

  • Hal June 14, 2011, 9:41 am

    I know there are many workplaces where my/our solution won’t work but it does for us. We all keep our mugs and bowls in our desks or lockers. We take them to the coffee urn, pour and enjoy. Then we either rinse or wash and return the mug to our desk drawer. We all agree that any mugs left behind are thrown out at the end of every shift or at a specified and posted time every day. I sometimes have had to “save” my friends’ mugs myself. Anyway, we have a clean break area.

  • Cat June 14, 2011, 9:42 am

    Reminds me of the assistant principal who would hide anyone’s computer use card if they left it in the computer and not tell them he had it. Until I found, not only his computer use card still in the slot, but also his driver’s license in the computer scanner. I returned them to him, explaining that I saw no need to hide them from him. He rethought his policy and, in the future, simply returned the card to the owner, reminding them to keep them in a safe location.
    If we are all adults, let us try to behave as adults and to treat others as adults. If you are not my child or my spouse, your behavior is your problem, not mine.

  • ashley June 14, 2011, 9:42 am

    Am I the only one here who doesn’t find a couple of mugs left in the sink for a day or two all that bad? I know it’s unsanitary, but some of you are being quite dramatic about it as though you have lived in spotless kitchens all your lives xD I have to disagree with the “if you truly cared about your mug then you wouldn’t have left it there”. I think it’s rude in turn to make a statement of someone’s feelings toward something as though you know whats going on better than the OP. While I agree it’s disrespectful to leave a dirty mug in the sink, Maria’s reaction to it was way over the top and the OP should not have to worry such passive aggresiveness in her working environment.

  • Jay June 14, 2011, 9:42 am

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never seen a single bug of any kind in my office building. People don’t generally leave mugs around for a few days at a time, but there’s certainly food left out for public consumption, etc.

    In this case, it does sound like “office culture” (whether or not you think it’s a good idea) to leave mugs soaking in the sink. There were undoubtedly polite ways that the woman could’ve expressed her problem with that (e.g. making a “bugs” argument to HR or Maintenance people), but she chose the most antagonistic route she could… and then told obvious lies about it.

  • Clair Seulement June 14, 2011, 9:47 am

    Thank you, E-Hell Dame, for calling out the issue of leaving dirty mugs in the sink. I worked in an office where several people did this, and I could never understand it. First, whether one can smell it or not, you *are* effectively creating a bacteria culture. ALSO–*why* are you leaving the dishes in the sink to begin with? *Who* is supposed to be doing these dishes, apart from you? Why would you rather wash your mug *later*, after it has been steeping in the bacteria culture “for a couple of days”? Why should people using the sink have to contend with your belongings?

    It got so bad in my office that I put up a sign that said “Whose Mother Quit?” (Snarky, I know, but I was young and disgusted). It didn’t help. Where I work now, no one would think of doing this.

  • lkb June 14, 2011, 9:53 am

    ‘Marie is not a manager, or even anyone’s supervisor. She’s on the way low end of the totem pole, and had no authority or permission to do this. In fact, someone took down the sign, just a couple days later.

    I asked my friend Jane if she’d seen my mug. “I think I saw it in the sink.. but you know, I saw Marie throwing away a few people’s mugs last week (not mine). I told her she couldn’t do that, and she just said,’Sure I can,’ and tossed them in the trash.”

    We don’t know — perhaps Marie did have permission. It’s never a manager or supervisor who gets assigned kitchen duty. Maybe Marie got tired of the mess and asked the powers that be who told her to go ahead. We don’t know who took down the sign — perhaps just another employee. We just don’t know.

    I agree with a previous poster that it seems the OP and Marie just don’t get a long. Sad but true and it’s nice knowing things will be better in two months.

  • Alex June 14, 2011, 10:01 am

    I think leaving mugs in the sink in a common break room is bad taste, no matter how many people do it. Would that make me go to the extreme to throw them all away? No, Marie was totally out of line and wrong. So with the mug matter I feel you were both in bad taste (and again, no matter how many people do it). If you truly cared about your mug you would not be leaving it in the sink especially after you knew she was throwing people’s mugs away. You own your possessions and it is your responsibility to keep up with them.

    That said, she had no right to throw other people’s things away in an office environment. She could be upset about them but she did not have the right to throw them away. And now her treatment of Jane goes to show the extreme lack of character this lady has. You will all be better off with her out of the office.

  • livvy June 14, 2011, 10:05 am

    This is definitely a management issue – Management should tell employees what is expected of them, and follow through. In our office, we have a firm policy that every friday at 3, the fridge will be cleaned out – and anything not marked with name, “save” and recent date will be thrown away. I send an email reminder an hour before it happens. There is no whining. Employees can root around in the trash themselves if they miss the deadline. The key is that it’s authorized, well communicated and consistent, not a random act by an annoyed collegue.

    I too, would be VERY irritated by someone who left their mug in the sink (soak it at your own desk, if you must – the sink is a community resource), and I’m not “insane” as OP insists I must be for being bothered.

  • Sarah Jane June 14, 2011, 10:12 am

    Okay, did I miss something here? Does anyone KNOW whether Maria actually threw OP’s mug away (other than Maria herself?)

  • Alex June 14, 2011, 10:15 am

    I agree with admin. Leaving a bunch of mugs full of water in the sink is nasty. Does everyone else have to move your dirty stuff every time they fill up the kettle or water jug?

    And I would be embarrassed to complain to my boss about a coffee mug. I feel like we both have more important things to worry about.

  • Jillybean June 14, 2011, 10:16 am

    I also wanted to point out that the OP herself admits she has no proof that Marie was the one that threw her mug away. Marie might be the most vocal about it, but I doubt she’s the only one annoyed that some people think of the kitchen as their own private space and act like the maid will be by later to clean up after them, or think it’s ok to inconvenience others until they are ready to act like a mature adult and clean up after themselves. I wouldn’t be surprised if Marie threw out the mug, but then, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else on staff did it either.

  • Lizajane June 14, 2011, 10:28 am


    You are assuming that Marie was in a position to warn everyone and set the standards for the break room. She was not.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.