Kitchen courtesy should be an attribute that every employee must possess by practicing these top 10 kitchen rules in the office. Most offices have some space designated as an area for dining and are called various names such as lunchroom, kitchen, break room or cafeteria.  They can be equipped with just a toaster and coffee maker or can be well furnished with a number of microwaves, refrigerators, vending machines, tables and chairs and maybe even a dishwasher.  But whether you have a tiny kitchen space or a large cafeteria type room to enjoy your meals, you should always practice kitchen courtesy.

Normally, there will be postings and notes in the area to inform you of the kitchen rules in that office. If there are none, new employees can ask their human resources department or better yet, strike up a conversation with a new person in the lunch room for some tips. Depending on the office culture, you may even receive some funny or sarcastic general e-mails from a colleague about a lost lunch or snack.

 Some offices have a different group assigned weekly to do kitchen duty. Their job is to load and unload the dishwasher, clean out the refrigerator and maintain overall kitchen neatness.  If you are part of the weekly team, make sure to help out. However, this does not give you the license to forget the kitchen rules.

For those of you who have experienced some or all of these at one point or another, I thought it would be fun to nickname the various culprits who have forgotten their manners. Loosely in the style of David Letterman’s Late Night Show, here is my take on the Top Ten Rules of Kitchen Courtesy mashed with the Various Characters Not to Invite to Your Office Kitchen.

#10 – The Noisy Chimpanzee. Take your loud phone conversations or music outside.  The kitchen is not your private lounge. Nobody wants to be privy to your personal plans being discussed on the phone. And if you are listening to your iPod or MP3 player, keep the volume up to the level where only you can hear. Everyone is entitled to their break time and doesn’t need unnecessary noise.

#9 – The Social Bully. Bullies are not allowed. Do not reserve all the seats for your friends. Be considerate of others and make everyone feel welcome. Seating should be on a first come, first served basis. If you are not sure if a seat beside someone is taken, it does not hurt to ask. This can be an opportune time to know your colleague from another department a little better and maybe even get a taste something new if they want to share with you.

#8 – The Anti-Green Goat. Dispose of waste properly. Make sure to throw your trash in the garbage and if recycling is available, segregate cans and bottles from the paper materials. If you hold a small celebration or party in the room, try to use recyclable plates and cutlery and be kind to the environment.

#7 – The Messy Missy (or Mister). Keep the kitchen appliances clean. If your food splatters in the microwave, wipe it down. Don’t leave crumbs from your toasted bread to make a trail for ants to find. If you wash your utensils in the sink, do prevent getting the drain clogged by disposing of food remnants in the garbage.

#6 – The Diva. Share the responsibility for communal supplies.  Replenish the paper towel supply, creamer, sugar, coffee, etc. when you used up the last supply. Communal dishes, cutlery and glassware should be kept clean. Don’t leave your dirty dishes in the sink and similarly, unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher.  Clean and dirty dishes don’t mix in the dishwasher.  Offices don’t hire maids for you, so clean up after yourself!

#5 –The Mad Scientist. Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands before every meal. If you are suffering from a slight cold or cough, make sure that you don’t spread your germs. And don’t create a science experiment in the refrigerator by leaving your food for weeks to become mouldy. If you don’t want it or it is past its expiry date, throw it out.

#4 – The Fridge Hog. Share the refrigerator space. Don’t store your whole lunch bag in it. Just put in the container and label your food if possible. Don’t squash down their sandwich with your bag. If you have to move someone’s food to make space, be considerate and keep it close to its original spot.

#3 – The Smelly Skunk. Enjoy your meal but keep the smelly food at home. You don’t want to be on the list of most unpopular person in the office, do you? Heating up smoked fish in the microwave leaves a very strong smell that the next user would not appreciate. Keep your lunch healthy and simple.

#2 – The Scatterbrain Scarecrow.  If you heat up your food in the microwave, remember to take it out right away. Most especially if there are very few microwaves available. Some people, heat up their food, go back to their desks, answer a phone call and totally forget their lunch! Meanwhile, the line to that microwave is getting longer. The next person has the right to remove your lunch if you are not around.  But don't be too hasty and removing someone's lunch from the microwave or toaster before it is done.

#1 –The  Kitchen Bandit. Thou shalt not steal! Respect other people’s property including their food. How many times have I heard of someone’s lunch, yogurt, ice cream bar or can of pop missing from the fridge.  No matter how tempting the food is, please don’t take it if it is not yours. Generally, people are very nice and do like to share. You may get a chance to have a taste if you ask nicely. Thieves beware, the next meal you swipe might just be a decoy loaded with "undesirable and unmentionable" dressings the fed-up victim prepared specially for you to make you race to the washroom. 

Now go and enjoy your guilt free meal!