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Coffee Etiquette at Work

1 Jul 2019
Karen Kerr

Coffee etiquette

Let's be frank - office etiquette is, by a large margin, the most complicated and fraught human dynamic any adult is likely to face. Much of this comes down to two things; tea and coffee. 

To Brew or Not To Brew?

In an ideal world you would be allowed to make a cup of tea or coffee for yourself without the inexorable social pressure of having to make one for everyone, or, indeed, having one made for you. If you're the one making the drinks you're burdened with remembering everyone's orders, carrying their mugs to the kitchen, making the beverages flawlessly and then ferrying aforementioned mugs back to their rightful owners. If you're on the receiving end of a tea run you have to live with the uncertainty of what's going to be inflicted upon you. Will this be the right drink? The right strength? Will the maker's standards of food preparaton hygeine match your own? It's anxiety all the way through the supply chain.

However, we don't live in an ideal world and entering a room with a freshly made beverage, without the  obligatory offer of making everyone one, is tantamount to treason. That may be an unfair analogy as treason can sometimes be justified.

Your Options

So, where does that leave us? You have a few options:

  • Give up tea and coffee. You can tell people you're detoxing and avoid the situation altogether. This has an added benefit that people are very unlikely to ask you any follow up questions. The sacrifice is, of course, that you won't have any tea or coffee at work, but is that a price you're willing to pay to avoid trying to carry multiple mugs of scalding hot liquid across the office as they burn off your fingerprints?
  • Accept your fate. At the heart of accepting your fate is understanding that you're doing a nice thing for other people; sometimes the offer of a cup of tea can turn a bad day into a tolerable one for someone. Yes, it means you'll have an encyclopaedic knowledge of  people's drink preferences and may result in third degree burns, but that's a small sacrifice to potentially make someone's day.
  • Go rogue. This is where you remove yourself from the beverage-making round system, but occasionally offer to make a round as a gesture of goodwill. You'd become the embodiment of chaotic good - you don't accept drinks and nobody knows when you're going to make one, but when you do they're delighted. 

Whatever approach you decide to take, it's important to remember that you'll never make everyone happy. There are, perhaps, worse feelings than handing someone a coffee you lovingly made for them and knowing from their rictus grin and joyless gaze and strained "that's great, thanks" that you have failed in your mission and have to watch them magic up an unrelated excuse to go to the kitchen to fix your faux-pas, but I can't think of them right now. You can't let that get to you. You need to be comfortable knowing that you did your best and some people are just too difficult to please. 

The Real Benefits of Brewing

In all seriousness, you're not really providing refreshment when you offer to make teas and coffees. It's a libation for the common good; a sacrifice at the alter of team playing to demonstrate your awareness of other people's needs and feelings.  The fact that you're providing some kind of caffeinated beverage is just an added bonus. Social cohesion is essential to any effective team and simple gestures such as learning the way people enjoy their drinks and offering to make them can make all the difference to how a group of people function and coexist. Even if you don't want to get involved in the rigmarole of making drinks for everyone, it's worth bearning in mind that small gestures go a long way - think about whether there's anything else you could do to make your workplace a happier and friendlier place. 

If you feel like you'd like to join a friendlier workplace, or you're looking to hire someone that would fit perfectly in your team, just get in touch and we'll find the ideal consultant for you to speak to.

Author

Karen Kerr
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