Office Courtesy Series: Putting the Kibosh on Kitchen Cops

| March 15, 2017

Australian news organization the Herald Sun has a problem that many office workers can relate to: overzealous kitchen cops.

kitchen cops

A sign in kitchen. From the Herald Sun.

The mess that inspired these office workers to post no less than six homemade signs around the kitchen is certainly a problem, but the bigger issue may be this out-of-control signage.

There’s a sign instructing employees to put dishes in the dishwasher, a sign explain how to use the dishwasher (in several steps), and a sign asking that people not stack dishes on the counter. As evidenced by the image below, these signs—all six of them—have had little to no effect on kitchen cleanliness. In fact, dirty dishes are piled so high that they obscure some signs.

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The kitchen counter. From the Herald Sun.

Aside from creating an unpleasant, even hostile, work environment, messy kitchens can be dangerous. According to workplace safety expert Ennio Bianchi, quoted in the Herald Sun piece, workers could be injured due to knives sticking out from under a place or sharp objects falling on the ground. Messy kitchens can also pose a problem for food hygiene—does the mess stop at the sink, or extend to the refrigerator or stove?

That said, the Herald Sun employees who posted this article marveled at the excessive signage more than the kitchen mess. Perhaps, a kitchen sign makeover of sorts would help change their attitudes toward kitchen cops and kitchen cleanliness. As self-proclaimed experts in both signs and office courtesy, we have a few tips to get the job done, short of hiring a weekly cleaning crew:

1. Keep it simple. The signs in the Herald Sun office are cluttered. They feature small fonts and even different types of fonts. While bolding important words can be helpful, bolding too many words diminishes the impact they could have. An effective sign should not resemble an outline. Instead, stick to a few simple directives, print them clearly and at a size that allows the message to be understood at a glance.

2. Less is more. As with bolded words, excessive signage takes away from the message. In an office setting, coworkers are more likely to be annoyed by a multitude of orders than they are to follow them. Consider displaying one attention-grabbing sign for maximum impact.

3. Make it lighthearted. No one likes to be yelled at. The angry signs at the Herald Sun drew criticism for a number of things, but chief among them was the “scary” tone. Cutting down on the number of signs is the easiest way to make this kitchen situation less scary. Beyond this, signs should be direct but friendly. Think about injecting a bit of humor into the message. People are more likely to remember—and then follow—clever signs that make them smile.

At this office, a single humorous sign helps keep the kitchen relatively clean. But, perhaps, people in the sign business are simply more likely to heed the signs.

kitchen cops

The SmartSign kitchen is usually pretty clean. Do we have this sign to thank?

For signs like this one, visit


Category: Office courtesy

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