Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Office Kitchen

Before you accept a job offer, try to hang around the office kitchen for a few hours, ideally including lunch. That will really give you a sense of the company’s culture. You should know, for example, that companies that provide free food are really saying “Don’t ever go home.” Likewise, the free coffee that most companies provide serves a corporate purpose. My current employer provides two or three different types of coffee makers in each kitchen on each of seven floors, allowing rapid, high octane caffeine uptake.

Most companies have given up on coffee pots, instead going for single serving makers. They recognize that if they depended on civic minded employees to make fresh pots of coffee, the entire staff would disappear to the nearest Starbuck’s every hour or so. Of course, the single serving coffee makers just create more opportunities for employees to scent mark their territories with a sugary, milky puddle to get on the bottom of the next person’s cup.

Many office kitchens have a sign that reads “Your mother doesn’t work here. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink,” usually posted directly above a sink full of dirty dishes. One company I know actually has the cleaning staff wash and put away all the dishes. They also provide freshly baked cookies for all the employees, so I guess they’re going for the whole mom experience.

But the best occasions, of course, are when there are leftover lunches or desserts from meetings with customers. With some kind of extra-sensory perception, employees feel the approach of these leftovers and form a procession toward them. Hot dishes, sandwiches, salads and desserts are quickly dispatched, in spite of the unwritten Xeno’s paradox of etiquette: everyone takes half of whatever’s left, until the brownies or sheet cake are reduced to scattered crumbs.

Be very careful, though, of leftovers brought in from home. Sample them discretely, or you may end up having to compliment a fellow employee on the red velvet chipotle mock apple pie.

So be sure to examine that kitchen before accepting any job offers.