How many coffees should you make for your colleagues?

Author: Russell Smith
May 4, 2012

A few years ago, I was spending some time in America with my American family.  We were sat around in the sun in a garden eating burgers chatting about our work and work place etiquette.

Now if there’s one thing that’s true about Americans is that they really know how to work.  I’m not sure work/life balance has the same resonance there.  They work longer hours than us in the UK and they have less holiday.  It’s fairly obvious really when you think of where America is after only a couple of hundred years, the work ethic or American dream is hard-wired at birth.

Anyway, I got the feeling that work place etiquette was slightly different to ours in the UK when it was revealed that none of my family would make a cup of coffee for any of their colleagues.  All of them were in senior management or partners so it wasn’t like they had to make coffee BUT, all of them refused to make coffee – ever.  And it wasn’t like they all had a coffee machines, they didn’t, they saw it as a loss of face, as a reversal of the office hierarchy and something that, not just they didn’t want to do, but believed that it would be perceived badly by their bosses if they did.

I was fairly take aback by this and dismissed it as just Americans being, well, Americans.

Until I got back to the office and realised that my coffee-making had taken a dip.  Soon, I was never making a coffee for anybody.  Although, I was being made a coffee fairly regularly.  In my head, I justified my coffee production no-show by reminding myself that I was very busy and didn’t have time.  But surely there has to be enough time in the day to make a coffee for more than yourself?  And if there is, how many coffees should you make for your colleagues?

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