by admin on June 14, 2011

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.

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