We have a small shared kitchen space in our office. Lately someone has been leaving dirty dishes in the sink. We have a sign posted saying that everyone should take care of their own dishes and not leave them in the sink overnight. Unfortunately someone has been ignoring that common courtesy and not cleaning up after themselves. Our policy (stated on the sign) is that the dishes will be thrown out if left in the sink overnight. Apparently that has been done several times lately and dirty dishes continue to show up. The manager of another department that also uses that sink came to me and said they believe that one of my direct reports is the person responsible and asked me to handle the situation. One of their direct reports who sits in an office with a view of the sink reported to the manager who they think is the responsibile person. 

My question is: what is a good way to handle this situation given that I have not personally seen this person leaving dishes in the sink?

mrreliable's picture

I'd recommend listening to the podcast about feedback.

Posting signs that say "If you leave the dishes in the sink overnight they will be thrown away" is as passive aggressive as you can get. Signs saying to clean up your dishes are fine, but signs scolding people are not.

We had exactly the same situation in our office. I sat down with the person suspected of the dirty deeds. I asked the person if those were his dirty dishes, actual one-on-one communication. The person confessed, and apologized for not being better about cleaning up after himself. I did the management feedback thing, told him it's aggravating for everyone else who cleans up after themselves, and he acknowledged the problem and promised to do better. I told him how much I appreciated his great work and how lucky I felt that this extremely minor issue was the worst thing I had to deal with that day, and I appreciated him promising to take care of it. Then we just sat and shot the breeze for a few minutes. It's amazing how quickly the problem was solved.

I would suggest finding out who is the dirty dish meister and having a discussion with them yesterday. It can't be terribly difficult to identify the offender. Leaving notes and fostering an environment where one employee snitches on another is just not necessary.