Lazy pigs? Why always the same people are on dishwasher duty

Lazy pigs? Why always the same people are on dishwasher duty

Mrs. Holmes is a dapper lady in her fifties. She is a receptionist in a big company in Leipzig, each day well-groomed and cheerful. She is courteous, amiable, and gentle. She is also the one who picks up after all the others.

The coffee grounds container is the office’s tooth paste tube

Mrs. Holmes empties the coffee grounds container, wipes crumbs from the conference table, restocks toilet paper, puts paper in the copy machine, and loads and unloads the dish washer. It’s not that this is her job; she does it, because no one else will. She does it and nurses the whole pigsty – day in, day out.
Unfortunately those she quietly and politely cleans up after are not, let’s say, overflowing with gratefulness. Mrs. Holmes is taken for granted. Especially men of a more mature age secretly believe in cleaning elves. At home, dirty socks magically disappear from the floor. Why shouldn’t that be just as true for empty coffee mugs, crumbs, and stains on the office desk?
Apparently message still has to get around that office communities – just like shared flats, marriages, and friendships – work better when everyone takes part in the dirty work. It seems that as group size increases asocial behavior flourishes. Women’s rights activists can hop across as high a flame as they want. Let them tear their hair out! In the 21st century it’s still the woman who unloads the dishwasher. But why is that?


In the business, communication structures change. Openness, transparency, and growing dynamics of interconnectedness gain ground. Modifications of corporate culture earn change managers and business consultants lush profits. But subcultural structures are stuck in the Stone Age and the dirty workload remains in one place: on Mrs. Holmes’ back. What is the value of corporate culture when a pleasant working atmosphere spares the unloved duties?
But let’s raise the game: Unjust task allocation may be annoying, but other misdemeanor costs German companies more than a good working climate. Cohorts of business health managers deal with lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits, and especially hygiene that leaves a lot to be desired. Not only is that super-disgusting, it also spreads germs. According to the newspaper ZEIT, a mere 30% of men and only 64% of women wash their hands after going to the bathroom…

Change must be fun

Team trainings, admonitions and memos have been futile. Should we really keep hoping that asocial behavior can change? In a relationship, where only two people have to get along, years of discussions do nothing for the lid of the toothpaste tube. How can a workforce of 30, 50, or 100 people and their perseverance tendencies even be approached? Doesn’t growing anonymity naturally increase the percentage of crumb-trail-leavers and dirty-dish-pile-ignorers?
Volkswagen believes that fun can change human behavior for the better. The “fun theory award” supports projects that transform our lives in a fun way. So staircases are turned into pianos and the number of people taking the stairs in the subway increases by 63%. Or garbage cans emit sounds and suddenly the world around them becomes sparkling clean. The Berlin-based consulting company Eurocres already considers “active office” in the planning phase: They installed a water trench with jump counter at the Sparkasse branch Rhein-Nahe to motivate movements new to office work.
Every app, every online game nowadays subtly uses gamification to create fun-oriented rewards. Why not enforce washing hands by olfactory stimulation through expensive soap scents? An erotically whispered ‘Thank you’ from an unloaded dishwasher or a joyful squealing noise from the copier after refilling toner might prompt a man or two to lend a hand.
I think deep down most pigs can be conditioned with a wink – and maybe Mrs. Holmes can get home earlier.

31.07.2015 in