the surprising agony of office coffee culture — Ask a Manager

here are the 10 best questions to ask your job interviewer — Ask a Manager

I have been the person to post a sign on the coffee machine that could have been interpreted as passive-aggressive. So: big tech company, two mini-kitchens in each building, ginormous scary espresso machine, and an industrial coffee maker. In my first building, there were no coffee problems that I was aware of. Not so in the building that my team moved to a few years on!

As with many places, the unwritten rule is that if you drink the last of the pot, you start the new one. But nobody’s going to hang around once they’ve started the industrial size coffee machine going, that takes quite a bit of time and unless you have other things to do in the kitchen, you just start it up and then grab your cup and waltz off, trusting that the next person through who needs coffee will set the airpot in the rack and get their cup. But I kept coming into the kitchen to find a peculiar situation. Airpots all in a row in their rack just fine. But there was always a paper plate stuck in the bottom of the coffee maker, catching the drip. Why was it dripping? Because the soggy filter full of coffee grounds was still in the pot. Nobody had thrown it out.

That was the point where I made a little sign, neatly printed on the computer, with a little hand-drawn illustration, and laminated it to the machine with packing tape so it would look maybe a little less unofficial. Problem solved, right?

Now instead of the paper plate under the dripping coffee filter, there was a tidy pile of paper plates in the corner of the counter. One paper plate under the expended filter, another paper plate over the top like a shell, and subsequent coffee grounds stacked on top of that, contained in the same fashion. All very tidy, but — !!!

I finally traced the problem down to the janitorial schedule. Ideally the bins in that kitchen would have been emptied around 11 am, taking care of the breakfast and mid-morning trash before the lunch rush. Instead it was only emptied after lunch. I wrote a note to Facilities, and after there was consistently enough room in the compost and trash, the coffee grounds stopped stacking up.

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