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Kitchen Duty

By Andy Warren,

Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is away on sabbatical.

The client I work with now has a rotating schedule where each team has kitchen duty about once a quarter. The work consists of cleaning the counters, loading and unloading the dishwasher and in general just straightening up. It takes two people as much as ten minutes to do it all. That means each member of a team does it one day or two at most for a given quarter. When I say kitchen it’s more a break room – counters and tables, sink, dishwasher, etc.

Think about that for a minute. Would you, if asked (or required), assist in cleaning the kitchen, or a similar ‘not your job’ kind of task?

Part of that answer probably depends on the time required and the scheduling. Tasks that can be done during a normal day are less annoying than tasks that require coming in early or staying late, especially if you are a salaried employee. Another part is probably about the reasonableness of the task, though reasonable isn’t always easy to define! Part is why – is it cheapness, a task that requires certain skills or knowledge you have, or just getting through a difficult financial time?

All things being equal, I’d rather not clean the kitchen. Certainly the company could pay the night time cleaning team to do it or pay an employee to do it. It wouldn’t cost a lot, but it would cost something. Would it make my life better? It would, to the tune of about 40 minutes a year.

We talked about it over lunch recently and one of the complaints was that not everyone follows the kitchen rules – putting dishes in the sink instead of in the dishwasher. One view was they would rather not have the kitchen than have to clean it and another was to change to paper plates and forget about the dishwasher. No one was really excited about kitchen duty.

I’ve thought about it and I think some of it is the ‘not my job’ which I get, and part resents having to deal with peers that don’t play by the rules. I’ve worked in places that had the kitchen cleaned and ones that didn’t, either way the kitchen area never seemed dirty or out of control. It feels like there is some value in having the people that use it feel some responsibility for taking care of it, but I wonder if that isn’t more than offset by the annoyance at having to do it?

Writing this I’m reminded of a friend that said once that he would clean bathrooms if he could make the same money because he worked for a salary. Logical, but a view unlike my own – I like doing some things and not others, for no real good reason! I’m also thinking that maybe kitchen duty just seems awfully close to kitchen patrol (KP), something I did for a day or three back in the day and never enjoyed that one bit!

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