How to Stop Food Fights In The Office

February 4, 2015

How to Stop Food Fights In The Office

It’s a long time since I’ve worked in a traditional ‘office’ – but if there’s one thing that still haunts me, it’s the problem of The Office Fridge.

Whenever you have a shared fridge, there are three specific problems that raise their ugly heads more than once a week – and they can cause real issues for your staff if you don’t deal with them.

So here they are, and here’s my advice on how to deal with them:

1. The Mouldy Bag at the Back
Once, I forgot to eat my lunch. I was so busy working that I just kinda carried on while everybody else raced to the chip shop or pulled out their pack-ups from the fridge.

Now, the next day, I ate my lunch as normal. And the day after that. My old lunch got forgotten and sat at the back of the shared fridge doing very little with itself. Until about 3 weeks later, when somebody opened the fridge and wrinkled their nose.

I was too embarrassed to admit it was me, and nobody else wanted to touch it… so it stayed there, day after day, going mouldier by the minute.

Somebody eventually complained to HR, and a brave young lady turned up with a pair of latex gloves to remove the offending item. To this day, nobody knows it was my sandwich – I’ll take that secret to the grave.

But there’s one easy way of tackling this, from a team management or HR perspective: Have a weekly fridge clear out.

As long as your staff know that on Friday at 18:00 (or whenever you decide to do it), the fridge will be completely emptied and anything left in there thrown away, then everybody knows the risks of using the fridge, and there’ll be no mouldy cheese sandwich left sitting at the back.

2. The Office Lunch Thief
It’s a real shame to admit this, but The Office Lunch Thief does exist. Not every office has one, and some fridges are completely safe from sticky fingers (no pun intended). But I remember my old workplace had one, and it caused some real contention between colleagues.

Pretty much every day, an item or two would go missing – a chocolate bar here, a sandwich there. And nobody knew who was doing it.

Nobody ever actually found out, either (although looking back, I wish the thief had taken my mouldy cheese sandwich). But what stopped it, was a simple sign. The sign read:

“Do not take food from this fridge unless it is yours.”

That was all. And it really did work!

Maybe the thief realised things were getting too hot at this particular fridge… or maybe, until the sign went up, he or she had actually assumed the fridge really was an office free-for-all – a kind of employee perk, if you will.

But whatever it was, sometimes all we need is a little reminder that we should respect other people’s belongings, and we’re one step closer to fridge harmony at work.

3. The Big Bag Mix-Up
Not everybody brings their lunch in a different container – sometimes, more than one person will wrap their sandwich in a brown paper bag and just throw it into the fridge.

What makes this worse, is when they forget what they actually put into that bag, and then reach for the other person’s by mistake.

This only ever happened a couple of times in my memory, but let me tell you it didn’t feel good trading my ham and cheese sandwich for somebody else’s fish pickle sandwiches – yes, I went hungry that day.

The simple solution for this is to ask your employees to label their lunches with a little name sticker. Sure, it might remind you of being back at school. But at least everybody knows that they’re biting into their own sandwich and are not getting a surprise mouthful of pickled herring.

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