Many times there are more pitfalls in the break room than the boardroom. Missing lunches, phantom dishes in the sink, and the forgotten leftovers are a few of roadblocks faced daily. The fact is, proper break room etiquette is essential to office cohesion and harmony.
Respect Personal Property
It’s amazing that the issue has to be addressed in the context of a place of business where adults work, but workplace theft is an epidemic, especially in the break room. Do not take food or use china or utensils that do not belong to you. Do not even remove food that you suspect is past its expiration date from the refrigerator if it’s not yours. If you steal from one of your coworkers and they find out, your relationship will be irreparably harmed. If your employer provides coffee but asks that you pay for it on an honor system, pay for it. Your boss may be making an unwise decision by asking his employees to pay for the coffee, but opting not to pay when others do may cause your coworkers to lose respect for you.
Clean up after Yourself
Your place of business is not your mother’s home. There’s nobody at work who delights in cleaning up after you. After you finish your snack or meal, make sure to clean off the table, throw all your trash away, and wash any communal dishes or utensils that you used. If you finish off a pot of coffee, make another.
There’s a Reason for the Name
The break room is called the break room because it’s where employees take a break. Don’t use the break room as a place to socialize with clients or eat with them. It’s likely to make your coworkers uncomfortable and give the clients an unprofessional view of your business. If you need to speak to a coworker who’s in the break room about business, try to wait until they’ve finished their snack, meal, or beverage and have exited the break room before you accost them. They deserve a few minutes of peace during their break or lunch time.
If You’re the Boss
It may be useful for you to go in the break room and mingle with your employees from time to time if you’re the boss. Less formal time together could lead to better mutual understanding and respect.
New York Magazine
The Ins and Outs of Office Etiquette
A to Z Guide to Manners and Etiquette
The Office Break Room – Why Breakrooms Are Important