When it comes to any component of the office work that is capable of providing a peek into the interoffice dynamic, the office refrigerator serves as a near-perfect microcosm of the inner workings within the business environment, between coworkers. The contents at any given time that are stored within the break room refrigerator provide to the eyes of all a highly illuminating clear window into the soul of the company machine.
Anyone opening the fridge door could probably make a fairly accurate description of each individual employee and maybe even how they feel about their coworkers just by looking at what items they brought to be work consumables, the way they are packed and even exactly where their stuff is stored in the fridge.
The Emotional Connection We Have With Our Food
Food is food, right? And while it might appear that what goes on within the activity that occurs from the average “to and from” of the office refrigerator contents couldn’t be less significant, in actuality, the converse is what holds true. When it comes to food, it is virtually hitting on a highly personalized topic that can often be so complex and intensely wrought with emotions that only the most brazen and self-centered workers among us would ever dare to cross the line.
The invisible line remains unseen, however, it is every bit as dangerous to cross as if it were a fully visible, circular-wound length of razored fencing that is cascaded along with the parameters surrounding each item. You can do a lot of things to your coworkers, mess with their belongings in office play, prank them and tease them, but don’t you dare mess with the carefully packed or purchased package that has their name on it and was purposefully placed on the shelf in the break room fridge.
There Can be Humor in Crossing the Line
There is a popular TV comedy show that recently aired a segment where the show’s pranksters infiltrated a buffet-style restaurant. You know the kind: where diners move from station to station, serving themselves from their different choices among salads, pieces of bread, veggies, meats, soups, and desserts.
The premise was to “punk” several unwitting diners who were in the process of placing their selections onto plates and plates onto supporting trays. So, here this dude would be, leaving one station and heading off for the next, food-laden tray securely held by both hands. A regular prankster of the show would pretend to be engaged in doing the same thing, with his own tray and plate, etc.
The intended prank or joke was focused on producing various reactions from the “prank-ees,” and it worked. So a prankster would edge up beside a prank-ee and casually reach over and grab one or more items from the already-served plate of the prank-ee, taking this food and either immediately consuming it or putting the food onto their own plate. They might, at the same time say something like, “Oh goodie!!! My favorite!” The responses ranged from absolute shock to defensiveness and outright anger. And it worked–and it was truly funny and entertaining.
What the TV show did not include in the episode where the possible number of reactions that were just too highly charged for television. And it’s also quite possible that some of these playful interactions produced such ire in some prank-ees that the choice to omit them from the show was made in order to avoid litigation. Whether Your Motive Arises From Humor or Hunger, Don’t Risk Playing With.
The Food of Your Coworkers
The TV show has a lot of safeguards in place to avoid inadvertently stirring a hornet’s nest that could wind up being disastrous for you, but all you have is your good standing within the company and among your coworkers. The last thing you want or need is to make your work environment tense or passively hostile by anything other than placing your foods, drinks, and medicines into the fridge and retrieving them later.
What does this mean? It means that, as curious as you are, you should never cross the line by even lifting the lid or slightly peeling open the containers and packages that other people have in order to see just what they are eating. There is something homey-feeling about a fridge, and everybody has memories of coming home from college on weekends or holiday visits.
The first thing they did was to head for the fridge. And regardless of what they found and what it might have been intended for, they would all but decimate all consumables within the fridge at the home of their parents. Who knows, maybe the office refrigerator emits at times a certain element of a home fridge’s hospitality, but any such impression should quickly be squelched and forever banished from thought. So it’s really simple: If you didn’t bring it, Don’t Touch it.”
Why the GoIden Rule Doesn’t Always Work Here
It’s of utmost importance that you regard the office refrigerator for exactly what it is: a cold spot at work that you can freely use to save money, keep true to your diet, make another meal of last night’s scrumptious Veal Marsala or whatever reason prompts you to make it and take it with you. And even if you are the type who doesn’t mind if someone else looks at, tastes or eats a share of your food, don’t assume that your coworkers feel the same way.
Food Safety and the Office Refrigerator
A communal fridge typically gets dirtier quicker and can occasionally contain foods that have spoiled. Any signs of mold or unpleasant odors should be dealt with quickly, for the health of everyone. Make a schedule where everyone who uses the fridge, whether only once in a while or day-in, day-out, is given a rotational “turn” at maintaining a clean office fridge. It really is the duty of everyone who uses it, and no one should be saddled with the responsibility of keeping it clean–unless there is a stipend attached to this duty.
Whenever something you brought spills, is knocked over or otherwise makes a mess in the fridge, clean it up. If everyone did this, cleaning would be needed less frequently and it would be less work. Take a minute to label everything you place in the fridge with your name and the date you are storing it. This way, if you happen to forget something, your coworkers won’t have to wonder about whether or not to throw it out. And make sure to promptly take all your food containers home where you can wash them.
Do not leave them in the fridge or kitchen area. And if you store condiments in the company fridge, expect them to be shared or don’t bring them in the first place. Now, in terms of space, you need to confine the amount of space your food takes up to a moderate volume. Don’t be a fridge hog.
Remember, this is a shared refrigerator, it’s not your home fridge.