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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.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Wink-n-Smile June 14, 2011, 10:33 am

    Soaking oatmeal – Yes, oatmeal is a pain to clean, unless you soak the dish. But it doesn’t need to be soaked for long. Five minutes will do it. I usually put my bowl in to soak, go to the bathroom, and then come back to wash out the bowl, which then comes clean easily. It’s annoying for all of five minutes, and then it’s gone.

    Do I forget sometimes? Yes. Am I grabbed by someone who needs something urgently, and I don’t have the chance to go back and wash it immediately? Yes. In that case, I get to it as soon as I can. It’s my responsibility to set myself reminders (Cell phones are useful that way, with notes and alarms), and be considerate of my coworkers.

    It’s my coworkers responsibility to be understanding when I occasionally slip. My office sees the occassional dish forgotten, but it’s rare, as most people are trying to keep things contained, as well. They may leave dirty dishes at their desks, but rarely at the sink.

    I like the sealed plastic bin under the counter idea. It keeps the place tidy, without detroying anyone’s property.

  • gramma dishes June 14, 2011, 10:42 am

    It doesn’t matter whether she “warned” them or not! No point in warning someone that you’ll do something that you have no moral or legal right to do.

    This situation could have been handled in numerous appropriate ways, but if someone took it upon themselves to decide to dispose of MY property I’d personally consider it nothing short of what it was. Theft.

    Marie may have had a very valid point, but she overstepped the boundaries of common decency. And then she lied about it. And then she lied about something else totally unrelated to the mug incident. I think the company will be happier and much better off without her presence.

  • karma June 14, 2011, 10:45 am

    “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.”

    What, that warning was not clear enough for the bright, shining stars at your office to understand?

    A sharpie-printed, taped-up sign works wonders at our school. Our sign reads that stuff will be tossed every Friday no exceptions, and it is our responsibility to anticipate it. I don’t know who put the sign up—another flunkie, a custodian, the UPS guy—who knows! It doesn’t matter: a posted warning is a posted warning, and only a FOOL would ignore it because they don’t agree with it.

    At the end of the day, you DON’T actually know that Marie threw your cup away. It could have been someone else who doesn’t like you, and saw a perfect opportunity to toss your mug what with the new sign up and all.

  • Ashley June 14, 2011, 10:54 am

    No one really wins here unfortunately. Marie loses points for putting up signs and throwing away things when she had no permission to do so (And then lying about it…). And the whole office including OP loses points for not realizing that eventually someone might get annoyed enough with the gross mug situation to start throwing things away.

  • Hemi Halliwell June 14, 2011, 11:09 am

    We have this same problem in our office. Our Director asked me to make a sign similiar to the one Marie made and to post it in the break room directly over the sink. Our sign, however, says that anything in the sink after 5:00 pm that day will be thrown away and it does happen on occasion. It takes maybe a minute or 2 to wash, rinse, dry and put away dishes. Also, the office is told when housekeeping is going to clean out the refrigerator each month and you would not believe the amount of old/stinky/rotted food is thrown away because people can not take 2 minutes at the end of their day to make sure they remove their unused/unwanted/old food.
    As Admin mentions, this issue causes pests. I work in a museum enviroment; if pests are drawn to the dirty dishes, they will eventually get to the collection and cause irreparable damage. Also, who wants to work in a pest-infested enviroment?
    I understand that the OP was upset about her mug but, as Admin mentions, she should have taken better care of it if it was that near and dear to her heart.

  • Lisa June 14, 2011, 11:33 am

    So the OP knew that Marie was throwing away people’s dirty mugs but decided to leave hers in the sink anyhow. Then she got a supervisor involved in the dispute over the dirty mug. The whole thing sounds like too much childish drama over nothing and could have been easily avoided.

  • lnelson1218` June 14, 2011, 11:49 am

    I haven’t read the rest of the comments, so if I am repeating, please forgive me.

    Marie should not have thrown out the mug. BUT, the OP should not have left a dirty mug in the sink. Granted I don’t know what the company culture is. Unless you have an assigned/hired dishwasher have a little courtesy for your fellow worker and clean up after yourself. I’ve been stuck doing other’s people’s dishes because I was low man on the totem poll and other couldn’t not have been bothered to clean up their own dishes. Regardless of how much time you spend in the office. It is not your home.

    Two wrongs do not make a right in this story.

  • Louise June 14, 2011, 11:52 am

    Marie had no right to throw the mugs away. They weren’t her property to dispose of and she hadn’t the authority in the office to make that call. I think that makes her wrong. She was wrong to lie about it; and if all that other stuff about her is true, she doesn’t sound like a gem.

    But the OP knew Marie was throwing out mugs. When she realized hers was missing, she “had an idea where it might have gone.” Sounds to me like she knew Marie was chucking mugs and left hers lying around anyway. So I agree with the admin that the OP couldn’t have valued her mug that much if she left it lying around knowing someone was throwing out mugs. Whether or not Marie is authorized to do that is irrelevant; she is doing it. If I know my co-worker is, rightly or wrongly, trashing all the widgets in the office, I don’t leave my widget lying about. Even though I think Marie was wrong to chuck the mugs, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the OP.

    I really wish the OP had stuck to the mug story and left out the other stuff about Marie. You don’t like her. We get it.

  • lnelson1218` June 14, 2011, 12:08 pm

    After reading the comments, another point.

    I have been the person stuck cleaning out the fridges. (oh sometimes the joys of being HR)Things/food was getting out of hand at one office. while it was claimed the the fridges were cleaned out on a regular basis, they really weren’t. All people had to do was stick a note on their milk, saying “don’t throw out” and it wouldn’t be.

    Of course there were employees who were good about taking their stuff home and regularing using what they brought in. I am guilty of getting about a yogurt for too long, so I can’t throw stones.

    Back to the clean out. Finally and HR Coordinator and I decided to take the reigns and clean EVERYTHING out. We put notices on all the fridges. Sent out regular emails including a last minute warning. So people had three days worth of warning that at 5 pm on Friday the fridges were to be emptied.

    The HR Coordinator and I decided that as long as whatever was in the tuperware wasn’t growing mold, we would emptied it and put the tuperare into the dish washer. Any take out containers would simply be trashed. Old yogurts, jams, etc. We found a few things that had experiation dates from the previous year.

    The only things that did not get tossed were a few bottles of soda that I knew belonged to the COO ( and I knew that he regularly drank and restocked them) and one of the accountant begged me not to toss her newly bought milk (since I knew she used and replaced regularly, I let it go) and a bottle of ketup I knew everyone was actually using which was less than a few weeks old.

    Let me tell you how surprised people were that we actually went through with the clean out. I have no doubts that there were complaints. But believe me, the next time I said that I was going to clean out the fridge, it started off a lot emptier.

  • Loubear June 14, 2011, 12:18 pm

    This woman needs to get a life (and, apparently, a new mug).

  • Brenda June 14, 2011, 12:32 pm

    This was theft, plain and simple. Marie had no right to do what she did, no matter the situation. If there was a problem with mugs being left in the sink, then Marie should have approached the supervisor, as it was the supervisor’s right to set guidelines for the staff and the use of the kitchen.

    Now, if the mug was sitting in the sink and was broken, that would be different. The owner took the risk of leaving it in the sink.

  • Pam B June 14, 2011, 12:34 pm

    Honestly, Ifeel that if you are that worried about a couple of dirty mugs in the sink, then you are worrying about the wrong things in life!! At our office, things do get left in the sink and a variety of different people will take the time to wash them when they have a minute. Not a big deal. Life is too short to “sweat the small stuff”. As for someone throwing away someone elses mug, that is very immature.

  • Kitty Lizard June 14, 2011, 12:48 pm

    At a law firm I worked in we had a Marie. Her unofficial title was the Office Witch. She was a legal assistant, but she was always going through the break room throwing out stuff, seemingly at random.
    She and her husband were saving to buy a house, so they went to the partners and talked them into letting her and her husband clean the office. Every Friday they would go through the fridge in the break room
    and clean it out. I mean, everything. Even if it was a 3/4 full bottle of salad dressing you were saving
    for the next week and it had your name on it. Coffee mugs she felt were “inappropriate” for a law office.
    Half full tubs of butter with your name on it. Pop tarts. The final straw came when a senior partner (a woman) left a Tiffany china coffee mug on the Office Witch’s desk in her cubicle when she had to go back to her office to take a phone call. The Office Witch became incensed that someone had done this, took
    the mug, went out to the parking lot, and smashed it to smithereens . (Can you spell borderline
    personality disorder? When the partner came back to retrieve her mug, she asked the Office Witch
    where it was and was told, curtly, that it had become one with the parking lot. Office Witch’s next
    stop was the unemployment office, to the vast relief of the entire support staff.

  • Stepmomster June 14, 2011, 1:33 pm

    This is just screaming for a post about acceptable office etiquette. I don’t disagree that the OP’s office sounds like a group of pigs, but there is something to be said for knowing where you rank in the grand scheme of things.

    I wouldn’t dream of causing office drama by throwing out someone’s mug, but I have watched the Secretary grumpily cleanse the refrigerator and creatively HIDE mugs until the person in question starts questing for them. They then get a great lecture on cleanliness and the fact their mother doesn’t work here. She also happens to be the head of Engineering’s Secretary, and you flout her will at your peril. I have also watched my boss take someone’s mug chilling in the communal ice bin and throw it in the trash and put a note inside the fridge stating “Your treasure has become my trash. Icebin is for Ice ONLY” with his name signed on the bottom. The perpetrator was really upset until someone pointed out whose initials were on the bottom of the note. The offender wisely let it drop.

    Had I started cleaning out the fridge, losing peoples mugs or generally becoming a busy body in the office, I can guarantee that I would be the person getting the lecture for being presumptive.

  • Erica June 14, 2011, 1:47 pm

    I’d like to start out by saying that I’m at the bottom of my company’s totem pole, so I already have issues with the OP. I unfortunately have the task of regularly sending out an email to my department stating that the kitchen area needs attention and that I’m about to start throwing things out.

    What I really want to say is that “Your mother doesn’t work here and I’m not your maid. Wash your dishes and throw out your old food before it becomes a science project.”

    Seriously, HOW difficult is it to clean your dishes right then? Don’t leave your messes out for someone else to see, let alone clean up!

  • Robyn June 14, 2011, 1:50 pm

    I work in a small office where people sometime leave their dishes in the sink to soak, No, I don’t like it, but to take stuff that is not mine is theft. OP was being rude for leaving her mug in the sink, but Marie is a thief, pure and simple. Marie had no authority to do what she did, she was told she had no authority to do it, but she did it anyway. If one of my employees did something I told them not to do, I would be upset too. The fact that Marie lied about the workload just settles it, Marie is toxic and I suspect that the workplace will be a much better place when she leaves.

  • Kat June 14, 2011, 2:24 pm

    There is (almost certainly) more backstory than we’re getting to EVERY story on this site. That doesn’t mean we can assume posters are distorting the truth.

    While I agree that leaving dirty dishes in the sink isn’t the best, the OP has stated that Marie didn’t have the authority to institute a throwing-your-stuff-away policy, and I believe that. The OP acknowledges the lack of cleanliness, but states that that’s the standard in the office, and I believe that too. So I say the fault lies with Marie.

  • LovleAnjel June 14, 2011, 2:59 pm

    In grad school another student & I became the fridge watchdogs. It started one semester when we noticed that anytime it was opened, you could smell it in the hall. We threw everything out & bleached the interior (no choice – anything in there smelled nasty, bad or not). From then on, once a semester we slapped on a sign to warn people when the clean-out was going to happen. If something was questionable, it was gone. We left the clearly still-good food in there. We never really heard complaints, aside from the “have you seen my cheese? I put it in here a few months ago and now I can’t find it” comments (invariably we heard these several weeks after the clean-out happened). We always answered honestly – if it had gone bad, it was in the trash.

  • ABF June 14, 2011, 3:03 pm

    When my husband worked at a school many years ago, he and other members of the staff encountered someone that makes Marie seem like a walk in the park. This guy never warned anyone. He just tossed whatever, whenever he wanted. It didn’t even have to be dirty. He was also notorious for going through peoples lunch bags in the refrigerator and would took whatever he wanted. He was a real piece of cake. But here’s the topper, he was the school guidance counselor!! Not the kind of person I want guiding my teenager.

  • ABF June 14, 2011, 3:08 pm

    Just noticed two errors in my posting. Sorry! I meant to say he was a piece of work, not a piece of cake. And in the sentence before that one, I should have omitted “would.” Please accept my apology for the errors.
    Thank you!

  • karma June 14, 2011, 3:24 pm

    Out of curiosity for all you “authority” folks, how much authority does it take to say, “Wow. This is nasty. I think I’ll spearhead a new cleanliness standard.”
    When people take initiatives to clean up the parking lot, repaint the parking lot lines, or plant flowers in an unused space at the apartment home we call them “leaders” and “innovators”. When they do it with dirty kitchen stuff, they become meddlers and thieves.
    I also beg to differ with those who say that Marie was stealing or committed theft. Throwing away an object is neither of these. Thieving or stealing involves taking property and making it yours, maybe reselling it, or regifting it. I don’t see those actions in this story.

  • Sharon June 14, 2011, 3:44 pm

    I agree with karma. You said it very well.

  • Xtina June 14, 2011, 4:06 pm

    I will agree that Marie sounds like an awful and dishonest office-mate whom I would be very glad to boot out the door. She approached the office dish problem absolutely improperly (and we won’t even get into her lying–that is another rant entirely).

    However, if the mug was that valuable to the OP, he or she should have taken steps to make sure the mug was kept in his or her possession and not left in a common area where someone could get it, regardless of how lax the office policy might have been towards leaving one’s things in common areas.

    As an aside, I can’t completely disagree with Marie on dirty dishes left out. We had a big policy change recently at my office due to people doing that same thing–using a mug or dish and just leaving it, unwashed, in the sink or on the counter. No matter how dirty or not it may actually be, it can attract bugs and just gets in everyone’s way, and it is inconsiderate to leave things laying out like that. In my office, an e-mail was sent by a floor manager to those on the floor asking them to please take care of their own dishes because it was getting to be a problem, and if they did not, then we would be removing them on x date and time. Most people complied, but the upshot was that we ended up having name labels affixed to everyone’s dishes to catch the stragglers who wouldn’t cooperate–the shame factor solved the problem.

  • SS June 14, 2011, 4:33 pm

    Just a word of advice about the oatmeal and other things that need to soak…. Many offices have a coffee pot with a hot water dispenser. Just put a little dishsoap in your cup, and pour the hot water from the coffee dispenser into it. It only needs a few seconds to soften up, and you can clean your mug/bowl right then without grossing out your coworkers. It is unprofessional to force your coworkers to work around YOUR dirty dishes. Remember you (at least many of you) work in a professional setting, not your own house.

  • --Lia June 14, 2011, 4:57 pm

    “She’s on the way low end of the totem pole.” This says it all. Marie could work all day and rescue babies from burning buildings at night. People would complain that she should have taught the kids algebra while saving their lives. That’s the way it is with those on the low end. Nothing she did was going to be right. If she spoke to the supervisor, he would have told her her concern was trivial. It had to be trivial. She’s at the bottom of the totem pole, ergo, her concern is trivial. If she quietly washed everyone’s dishes as a favor, she would have been proving that she was getting paid too much for her clerical work. After all, she’s just the cleaner. It’s one of those sad facts, but after a clique mob decides you’re on the sh** list, there’s not much you can do. She put up a sign, but it was taken down. She shouldn’t have thrown away other people’s property, but she’s being called passive aggressive. If she’d sought to talk to people, she would have been a nag. This is why I say management is at least partly at fault. They left an issue that was bothering people for the people themselves to work out. In those situations, the winner is the one who’s willing to whine the longest.

    Here’s my prediction. Marie has left the company. Look around at the present employees. Look at the new hires. Give it a few months. One of them will emerge as the new put-upon. There always has to be one. You may be able to guess who it will be. There will be someone, no matter how helpful and hard-working, who will be chosen as the new person who never gets anything right. The clique mob will bully her until she quits. The bullying needn’t be overt. All they need to do is ignore her when she brings up a concern or go against her no matter what she says. Find fault with everything, or choose a few choice items to pick on. The next thing you know, she’ll be resorting to drastic means and not knowing why. When that happens, call her passive aggressive. Trust me. It works.

  • Lizajane June 14, 2011, 5:03 pm

    OT, sort of, but not. Our kitchenette is very small. Galley sized fridge. Then entire freezer is taken up by a container we keep full of ice that we get from another floor. Someone puts their frozen dinners (lunches) IN THE ICE CONTAINER. Drives me nuts and I think it’s dirty. I moved them out for awhile, but this persone would put one in there again. Finally, I laid a paper towel over the ice and then put the box on top of that. It stopped. I guess the person doing it didn’t stop to think of all the critters that possibly crawled over that box in shipping. Being frozen, maybe it wasn’t as bad as I imagined…but still. At the very least we’ve all seen dirt of one sort or another on frozen food containers. I guess I could have just thrown her lunches out.

  • ellesee June 14, 2011, 5:03 pm

    There are bigger things to worry about than dirty mugs in the sink, and getting worked up over them is pathetic! OP stated that a gentle reminder and the mugs will be cleaned. Sounds like that is how their office culture works; let it be. Marie is the problem, not the OP.

    @ karma:
    “It doesn’t matter: a posted warning is a posted warning, and only a FOOL would ignore it because they don’t agree with it.”

    It does matter. Only a fool will believe every posted sign. Not everything is legit.

  • starstruck June 14, 2011, 5:04 pm

    I am sorry i will probably stand alone here but i don’t find what maria did to be all that terrible. no she shouldn’t have thrown out the mug, but honestly there are some people you can tell things to till your blue in the face but its only until you do something drastic that they get it. and then they look at you like your a terrible person for not putting up with their behavior. case in point. i had a room mate years ago who would leave her dirty under garments on the bath room floor and when we had company over it was really embarrassing. and i didn’t want to pick it up myself for obvious reason. (yuck) well one day after months of begging and begging , i scooped them up and tossed them out the bathroom window. she never left them there again. i could understand a shirt , but undergarments? gross

  • kudeebee June 14, 2011, 5:07 pm

    Marie had no right to put up the sign about throwing things away. She did not have the authority to do that. She should have gone to the boss and said something. Then boss could have put up a sign with his signature or sent out an email.

    Whether it is right or wrong to leave dirty dishes in the sink is a separate issue. However, Marie was wrong to throw away items that did not belong to her and then lie about it as well.

  • chechina June 14, 2011, 5:08 pm

    This reminds me of a neighbour I used to have whose home was beside a park and whose lawn was often the holding place for skipping ropes and balls and other dropped toys. He talked to the kids, he talked to the parents, he yelled at the kids. No results. Eventually the stuff would just…vanish from his yard. When asked, “Did you see my skipping rope?” he’d smirk and say, “No.” I remember incensed parents complaining to my mom, “He stole THAT and LIED about it!”, to which my mom would say, “Maybe now your child will learn to take care of her things.”

    I gotta side with my mom and with the Admin on this one. Kwitcherbellyachin’, OP.

  • Another Alice June 14, 2011, 5:27 pm

    Oh, thank GOODNESS Miss Jeanne has the same POV as me! I read this and rolled my eyes throughout. We actually had to employ the same, “At the end of the day, if it’s in the sink, it gets thrown out” policy at my job. It was totally revolting how lazy people were. I was actually one of the advocates of this position. In addition, my work place provided a big supply of dishes for everyone to use for lunch – I even told our boss she should just take them home for herself, since nobody ever washed them. To the point where, if someone’s break was a bit after a bigger crowd’s, they wouldn’t even have anything to eat with, as everything was dirty and in the sink. They they had to wash someone else’s first before using it. I suggested that maybe if 1.) Everyone brought in their own supplies, they’d be more keen to wash them so as to have them the next day, and 2.) Even more motivation would occur if said person’s belongings were to end up in the garbage.

    Keep in mind that, living alone, I’ll leave my dishes in the sink for as long as I please. I’m not even remotely a clean freak (as my mother would gladly attest to). However, that is my own residence where my actions do not affect anyone. But even I know to wash up when company is coming over, and a work place is where there is constant company. There’s just something about a relative stranger/acquaintance’s dirty dish in the sink for a day that is just rude to everyone around them. “I don’t have enough respect for my coworkers or my place of employment to clean up after myself.” No sympathy.

    And also, the argument of, “It’s not your property!” isn’t valid in a communal space. If it was YOUR property that you cared about, you’d keep it at your desk. Anything I have at work that I don’t want others to use is clearly labeled. I know it comes off a bit nutty, but guess what? Nobody touches it.

  • Another Alice June 14, 2011, 5:42 pm

    I also would like to add something to those saying Marie overstepped her position:

    Marie is also overstepping the duties of her job by having to wash other people’s dirty mugs, right? So, if everyone in the office was okay with someone else begrudgingly cleaning up after them like their mother, I can’t see how they can argue with her finding a much more effective way to take care of the problem. After all, they shirked all responsibility for keeping the kitchen tidy. Therefore, it falls to whoever DOES keep it nice, or care about it looking nice, to do so as they wish. If you felt bad at all about someone cleaning up solo, you would either 1.) Make sure your own belongings were out of the way and cleaning up after yourself so they wouldn’t have to, or 2.) Be grateful and then surrender to their methods. You can’t just laze about with someone taking care of you and then be upset when they do so effectively. Marie got fed up, and I don’t blame her. By doing nothing while she cleaned the kitchen, unasked, they gave her carte blanche. Maybe they’ll be more appreciative in the future.

    (I’m saying this because I sincerely, sincerely doubt the OP saying that “If you told someone to wash their mug, they would right away.” Oh, please. Again, if they cared, they wouldn’t have done it to start with. It is not part of MY job to remind you to do something obvious.)

  • LilyG June 14, 2011, 7:12 pm

    I’ve never worked any place dishes weren’t done right away. Maybe it’s because most of us are nurses and know what can grow in the sink, but everyone in my current office does their dishes at once. Even the priests! (joke)

  • Cate June 14, 2011, 10:50 pm

    Yes, in some places it is VERY normal culture to leave coffee mugs in the sink, such as the law firm I work in.

  • Jayne June 14, 2011, 11:03 pm

    Both Marie and the OP are at fault in this story, in my mind.

    Marie had no authority to issue ultimatums regarding the mugs, let alone dispose of the offending items. Marie should have spoken to the owners of the mugs, saying in a super polite way that it was up to everyone to make sure the kitchen facilities were clean, uncluttered and pleasant for all the workers to use, and to continue to politely ‘encourage’ anyone who continued not to clean up after themselves to change their ways. And if that failed to work, to contact HR. She should NOT have disposed of anyone’s property unless it was utterly rancid and a health risk.

    The OP and her workmates should have cleaned up after themselves as they consumed their food and drink. I understand some things need to soak, but honestly, I can’t think of anything that requires soaking over being washed up as soon as the individual has finished with it combined with some elbow grease. I see the OP and her workmates as being disrespectful to each other, the business that has supplied them with the kitchen facility and to any cleaners that the business hires. I’d be repulsed if I walked into a communal kitchen and found a sinkful of abandoned, dirty mugs.

    So, OP, I’m sorry that you lost a mug you claim to love despite not taking care of it, but maybe you’ve learnt something.

  • David June 15, 2011, 12:13 am

    I accidentally hit ‘submit’ before I was ready to do so so my previous post makes absolutely no sense. I apologize to anyone that reads it.

    Unfortunately, I cannot agree with anyone advocating for Maria on this, because etiquette in a place of business has differences. Office policies, including the policies of the break room have to come down from the company itself, because the break room isn’t owned by the employees, it is owned by the company. No one non-supervisory employee can just create a random policy, post some signs and expect it to be enforced – and that employee would be overstepping their bounds to do so.

    I have worked at many companies, all of whom have had different dishwashing/refrigerator policies. At some, you were expected to wash your dishes as you use them, at others someone from the night shift was expected to load and start the dishwasher and every other shift was to rinse their dishes and put them in the sink . At another, dishwashing was scheduled once a day, with each shift responsible once every three days. Not every company has a coffee maker with a hot water dispenser, some companies don’t have coffee makers at all. All of those policies came from the people who are supposed to make the policies. The signs in the break room were clear and signed with the names of the people in charge. I didn’t just go in as low man on the totem pole, decide we were going to do things differently, change or post signs and then start throwing stuff away.

    Even if Maria was motivated by hygiene, which there is no proof she was, that does not excuse her throwing away someone else’s personal property. For example, purses are usually pretty filthy. The go on the car seat or floor, the bus seat or floor, hang on the chair with your coat over them, the counters at department stores, the baskets at grocery stores, all sorts of pretty germy places.

    If I went into work tomorrow and hung up a sign that all purses put on the tables or counters in the break room would get thrown away, I would rightly be looked at like a kook. I don’t own the building, I don’t own the business, I’m not anyone’s supervisor. I would rightly be ignored, except by my boss, who might mention some time off to get my head on straight. But I would be motivated by hygiene as well. It doesn’t make it right.

  • Sarah Peart June 15, 2011, 2:37 am

    There are enough comments so I will just add my vote to the clean as you go people! Even though I live alone I rinse my plates and cutlery after use. To save on water, soap and time I do a wash each evening but in the meantime I store the rinsed plates etc. in the oven. In this way the sink is clear should a visitor arrive!
    I use a microwave to make my oatmeal every day and have never soaked the plate. As soon as I am finished I rinse it and it slides off because it is still warm. My dad makes it in a saucepan, leaves the empty saucepan while he eats his oatmeal and then, yes it needs to be soaked. (We are talking of maybe 10 to 15 minutes but it is enough!!) Rinse anything immediately and there is no need to soak.

  • Girlysprite June 15, 2011, 2:48 am

    Marie handled it very wrong, though she may have had a valid point. I’ve been there myself – the person who notices how everyone leaves their dirty stuff in the sink, and how molds grow in the refrigirator. I have sent out several emails with funny stories of how complete new civilizations were growing in our kitchen. When the programmers claimed the new fridge that was brought and left their old one (still working but GROSS) for the testers, I kept hounding them until one finally caved and cleaned the thing. Ironically, that person never had used the fridge, but he felt kind of embaressed about the whole thing. I did give him a big bin of candy in return (reward good behavior too!). The boss heard of it and read the other programmers the riot act.

    The problem of dishes was really solved when I simply stopped cleaning and bought my own plate and mug (which I washed right after use). With no more clean dishes to use, the rest of the office suddenly made a dishes roster which worked!

    I also encountered the problem when living in dorms. I fixed it by throwing all the unclean dishes in a box and put it in the room of the offender. If you want dirty dishes, keep them where I can’t see them.

    However, throwing stuff away is NEVER the right solution. People will be so upset that they just won’t understand what drove you to do this in the first place. Hiding might work though, but I;m not sure what the etiquette has to say on that tactic.

  • Aunty Em June 15, 2011, 3:21 am

    Maybe Marie is a big pain but it really irks me when people use the office kitchen as if it is their home and leave their dirty dishes in the sink. Likewise, those that use the office refrigerator as anything more than temporary cold storage for the day. One office where I worked had a rotating schedule for employees to clean out the refrigerator. On my day, I sent out the usual email to everyone to remove their things on Friday and per normal, no one made any move to clean up their things. I spent zero time cleaning the refrigerator and no one noticed. Let the slobs who stuff the refrigerator with their old, moldy groceries clean it out. If it was my business, I wouldn’t have an employee refrigerator for anything except medical supplies.

  • PrincessSimmi June 15, 2011, 4:24 am

    I’m with Another Alice- I’m a slob. I found a dish in my sink that I had used on NYE and it was found still dirty in February. Yes, gross, but I’m the only person who lives here and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest (it was rinsed and I changed the water regularly- I just always seemed to get bored and miss that one dish when I washed up). At work I’m another story- a complete neat freak. My dirty dishes are on my desk until I wash them up and return them clean to my desk twice a day. My co-workers are another story- I sit between two girls- one constantly leaves dirty stuff on her desk for DAYS and the other is constantly encroaching onto my desk with jumbled piles of paper and tissues and plastic and pens and god knows what. Not only can I not move, it smells. I complain to the boss about once a week and she makes them clean it up. No big deal- they’re just scatterbrained. And they’re actually lovely people.

  • Mechtilde June 15, 2011, 4:47 am

    I’m a slob. I admit it. My table is covered with mugs and plates from yesterday, because I hven’t emptied and reloaded the dishwasher yet. I really ought to be doing that, instead of writing on this blog.

    But that’s in my own h0me.

    At work, I wash my mug, and keep it in my locker. I wish everyone else did.

    Frankly, Marie has my sympathies.

  • Edhla June 15, 2011, 4:58 am

    One side of me- the logical, calm side- says Marie should not have thrown out what was not hers.

    The other- more emotional- side of me is cheering her on. Like many posters here, I have worked in an office where the kitchen was chaos because nobody thought they needed to pick up after themselves or clean anything. This emotional side of me says someone so utterly lazy and disrespectful that they would leave a dirty mug in a communal sink should be forced to drink out of paper cups until they learn to act like a functional, hygienic adult.

    And seriously, like everyone else said: if the mug was so precious to the OP, they would not have left it dirty and dumped in the office sink for days on end like a piece of trash.

  • secretrebel June 15, 2011, 6:23 am

    Our break room has one of those signs and I commented to a colleague the other day that I don’t know anyone who works there who really would follow up on the threat and throw mugs out. But given that the sign is there, someone may be serious enough to really do it – so I wouldn’t leave a dirty mug in the sink if I cared for it.

    Marie sounds like a pain but the OP protests too much that *everyone* leaves their dirty dishes about.

  • karma June 15, 2011, 6:55 am

    “It does matter. Only a fool will believe every posted sign. Not everything is legit.”

    Ma’am, we are talking about posted signs within a professional office—-not on telephone poles, grocery store corkboards, or street corners. (Granted, your logic would apply to stuff out in the world.)

  • Clair Seulement June 15, 2011, 8:12 am

    I find it incredibly hard to believe that a company would prefer to make a “dishwashing roster” rather then just require all of the people who somehow find the time, energy, and skill to eat off of a plate to follow up by washing that plate. I would be out the door with my resume in 30 seconds flat if I was told that I needed to put my hands on the saliva and proliferating bacteria of others who, for completely arbitrary reasons, didn’t have to be bothered with the same responsibility. NEITHER could I in good faith as a human being expect someone who is not a family memberclean my dishes (when I’m not at a restaurant.)

    My father used to tell us, when we claimed that we were “letting something soak,” that we were being lazy. I haven’t let anything “soak” since and I manage to get my dishes clean.

  • Sarah June 15, 2011, 8:48 am

    I also work in an office with a very small sink, and my colleagues also have a habit of leaving things in the sink for quite some time. Like the OP, I have a favourite mug – it’s my own mug, bought with my own money (the other office mugs are freebies from events), and I’m oddly territorial about it. Because I don’t want it to be used (let alone thrown away) by my colleagues; after use, I wash and dry my mug, then put it straight back on my desk ready to be used again later. It takes all of two seconds to do, and doesn’t require any special training, education or effort.

    I used to live in a shared house where dishes left in the sink were all removed to the outside loo. He was like a ninja – we’d put dishes in the sink and turn on the tap to fill it up, pop out of the room to grab a tea towel from the laundry rack and return to find an empty sink! The person who implemented that rule wasn’t so impressed when he got a girlfriend and started letting his dishes pile up while he hung out with her – we took a perverse delight in grabbing his dishes as quickly as we could and putting them in the most spider-infested corners of the outside loo! (Moral high ground? I don’t think so!)

  • lkb June 15, 2011, 9:00 am

    This whole issue reminds me of one past colleague of mine (the owner’s daughter so nothing could really be said). She was a slob and her office was terrible. She was on maternity leave and I had to use her computer and office for something (which I did with permission). I had to find paper or some other innocuous office equipment, opened a drawer and there was this huge bug crawling around — on a plate containing a piece of cake from a birthday weeks before!) Ewww! Somewhere along the line, I mentioned it to daddy dearest who laughed it off saying I was obviously a city kid or something of that nature (it was years ago). Whatever this bug was it wasn’t something found in a typical office setting.
    Turns out years later I found out that darling daughter was a druggie. Nice.

  • Enna June 15, 2011, 9:02 am

    I agree with the posters who think ettiqute breaches have been made on all sides. Admin, I agree it is rude and unpleasent to leave things for a couple of days before washing them up but at the same time the Co-Worker was wrong to throw the mugs away and then lie about what she did: the way she behaved was an overreaction. The OP said that if a colleague was reminded that they had to do the cup it would be done so why didn’t Marie bring it up with the manager or HR? Or ask people in the way of a gentle reminder to begin with but then getting more firm. Throwing a mug away should be the last resort after a verbal warning, written notice and if all else has failed.

  • Sarah June 15, 2011, 9:08 am

    I think it’s pretty gross to leave mugs lying around in the sink, but that doesn’t make Marie’s actions ok. If this behaviour was the norm in this office, she should have spoken to a superior, calmly discussed it with the rest of the staff or simply learned to deal with it. The common room at my high school often had mugs left in the sink, so I just didn’t usually make any hot drinks or snacks for myself, and I had a few disposable cups for those rare occasions when I needed one. If Marie really felt she was right in doing this – whether because she’d been given permission by a superior or just felt it was completely acceptable behaviour – then why would she have lied about it? Taking and disposing of someone’s property in a public place, if you don’t have permission or the authority to do so, is THEFT.

    Given that she’s also lied to a coworker so she won’t have to do her own work, I think Marie likes to make her own rules instead of following the ones that apply to everyone else.

  • Jilly June 15, 2011, 9:10 am

    @Lia – Your words ring so true it is frightening. Thank-you for this perspective. It’s amazing what people will do without realizing it, and cannot even place when the downward spiral/cycle of aggravation began.