Oikophobia — When the Fear Is Real

There are people who have an immense fear of appliances. This disorder, called oikophobia, often comes from childhood memories associated with appliances. So, if you have a coworker who turns pale when you bring up garbage disposals, maybe they are also clinically unable to load the dishwasher. You can still broach the conversation or ask HR too. I imagine the conversation going something like this:

You: So, Brad, I was, um, wondering, have you ever heard of oikophobia?

Brad: What?

You: You know, it’s the irrational fear of appliances...like dishwashers. I mean, maybe something happened when you were a kid. Did your brother lock you in the dishwasher?

Brad: I don't have a brother.


You: OK, maybe an older sister?


Brad: Only child.


You: So, Brad, the point is, maybe it's time to talk to someone about it. The dishwasher is not a scary place. You'll feel better.


Brad: What are you talking about?

You: Brad, please don't leave your dirty dishes in the sink, in the conference room or under your desk. It's gross. There are lots of takeout places, maybe try that.

Brad: You've changed my whole life.


How to Handle the Dishwasher Dilemma for Non-Oikophobic Coworkers



Here are some effective strategies that may help dishwasher-challenged coworkers.


Ant Farm Approach

Consider setting up a roster of voluntary kitchen duty. Make it known that those who do not sign up should plan on keeping their mess to themselves. Depending on the number of employees, everyone may have to take a turn every couple of weeks or longer.

Whoever has kitchen duty can wipe down the counters and tables and load and unload the dishwasher at the end of the day. Once employees know their coworkers have to clean up after them, they may be less inclined to leave their coffee mugs with rings and plates with globs of food sitting around.

Reward Good Behavior

At work, employees have a lot of pressure. So, make kitchen duty fun. Allow employees to self-police by creating a star board. Every time someone loads the dishwasher, turns it on or unloads it, they can add a star!

Sound silly? It is. But maybe everyone could use a little more silliness these days. Additionally, you may just walk into the breakroom one day to find the most unexpected people cleaning the coffee maker or wiping down the tables.

 Make sure they get their stars recorded. Depending on how far you want to take it, you can add rewards tied to the stars — like not being the most hated person in the office.

Speak Up

If you witness Gross Greg or Dirty Diane lick a spoon and leave it on the counter, it's time to get proactive. There Mama isn't around to help them out, so it's all up to you. What do you say? Well, you may not want to say what you're thinking. (This is why we call you Gross Greg!)

A gentle reminder should get the point across. You can even make a joke about it.

"Are you saving that for later?"

"Hey, that dishwasher works great!"

Then, there is the direct approach.

"Are you going to leave that there?"

Launching a cleanliness campaign benefits everyone in the office. All joking aside, it's more important now than ever. So, post signs, put out emails, and do whatever is necessary to let employees know that lumpy oatmeal and crusty coffee cups left in the sink are not acceptable.

sink full of dirty dishes


Why Do People Leave Dirty Dishes in the Sink?


This perhaps can best be answered by psychologists or overworked mothers. However, here are a few reasons that office coworkers may leave their dishes lying around:

They are genuinely too busy to clean out their dish. Suggest disposable containers to make everyone's life easier.

They are just too lazy to be bothered and nobody has complained, so... It's time to start complaining.

Their hands are broken. OK, maybe this guy deserves a break.

They have oikophobia. Have Brad give them the number of his therapist and a couple of take-out menus.

Most people didn't grow up with a personal maid and weren't raised by wolves, so it's hard to be patient with coworkers who bring their bad habits to work with them. If necessary, call a meeting to explain to EVERYONE that there are no magic dishwasher elves coming to clean up overnight. Also, cleaning up after employees' meals is not the job of the janitorial staff.


 We would love to hear from you on this. Why do you think people leave their used plates, bowls and utensils just lying around?


How To Load the Office Dishwasher


If Kitchen Duty and public humiliation don't guilt the lazy bees in the office to clean up their mess, it's time to get serious. Consider adding a training module on proper kitchen etiquette and how to use the dishwasher. Maybe people genuinely don't know how (yeah, right!)


Explain That the Dishwasher Is Their Friend


The dishwasher is not scary. Technology is awesome. There are no gremlins waiting to bite off the fingers of good corporate citizens. In fact, the dishwasher has tiny elves that scour and rinse every dish. Here are some tips to post in the break room or kitchen to initiate the uninformed.

Place spoons and forks handle down. They may get dizzy but will emerge clean and fully ready to feed you lunch. Glasses, mugs, and cups go face down on the outside edge of the top rack. You can place a pink cup in the corner before you close up. This is very important for dishwasher elf morale. (Elves like pink.)

Plates go on the bottom, facing away from one another. Plates are territorial, so if you put them in facing one another, you could end up with chips and cracks — dishes fight dirty!

Pots and serving bowls from the potluck lay face down on the bottom rack. The elves like to bang on them from the inside while cleaning them, which is more musical and less destructive than it sounds.

Separate spoons, which are highly social animals that nest when left to their own devices. (This is why you run out of forks and knives before you run out of spoons.)


Pro Tips on Dishwasher Wrangling


Avoid crowding dishes together. There's no bonus for cramming every dirty dish into the same load. In fact, it makes the elves angry and they may not bother to scrub the dishes.

Bowls tuck neatly into the top rack facing outward. No one knows why it's so, but the elves are quite offended by backward-facing bowls. Mix up the order for optimal results, alternating smaller and larger bowls. This makes it easier for the elf teams, which always consist of one short and one tall elf. 

Pro bonus Tip: Rinse agent not only prevents streaky glasses — it's great for the elves' complexion.

Place plastics face down on the top rack, so the heating element doesn't turn them into blobs that melt all over your dishwasher.

After the dishwasher runs, open the door to allow the plates to cool off and to ensure the wet elves get a chance to dry out.

man showing thumbs up for loading dishwasher correctly


Last Resort Options


So, most of the Messy Marvins in the office are now rinsing out their dishes and taking their turn at kitchen duty, Brad is ordering takeout and seeing a therapist and all is harmonious, except for...THAT. ONE. PERSON.

You know the one. They don't DO dishes and you are violating their rights by forcing them to clean up after others. Let the elves do it!

This is the same person who always comes to meetings late, hands in assignments haphazardly, and is perpetually on the verge of quitting (please, just do it!). They take two donuts when you haven't had even one, and you suspect they are also the Lunch Thief.

So, what do you do? If you're the boss, consider placing cameras in the lunchroom. That way, you can catch the Lunch Thief and let That Person know that you are watching. What are the odds that they will change their ways? Eh, about 50-50...but there's only so much you can do without firing them. Hmm...

If you have tips and tricks that you would like to share, we would love to hear all about it. Join the cause and let's cure dirty dish-itis and dishwasher phobia one Brad at a time.

 Apologies if your name is Brad, but names were changed to protect the innocent. Lazy Bees....you know who you are....please put your dirty dishes in the (not scary) dishwasher.