While I wanted to tell her to stop, Felicia is also my friend.I casually warned her that Drano is not meant to be used that way, and that she should be wearing gloves if she’s handling it at all.I also warned her that our building might not allow us to use Drano frequently, as many buildings in our area don’t want their pipes being damaged.
I am a junior staff member in an office of about 20 people.
I have a colleague, Felicia, who is also junior and a good friend.
Felicia is smart and a great colleague, and both of us are usually the first to arrive in the morning. (I insert quotations because I’m not really sure if she’s just kidding with the term, has actually been diagnosed, etc.) When she is stressed , she cleans the office kitchen, and people are very thankful that she willingly does so.
On one morning, I walked in to find Felicia wiping down the kitchen sink with Drano, using our communal sponge and her bare hands. I don’t know much about Drano, but I know it’s not intended to be used where people eat.
Since the incident, I have done some research to confirm that it’s actually very toxic and dangerous to human health. I know that might sound like an awfully serious turn from a letter about Drano, but people opt out of speaking all the time because they’re afraid of offending.
I don’t think she has the same understanding of what Drano is. Sometimes that’s no big deal, but other times it’s what lets pretty serious problems take root or continue.I think she was presuming that the stronger the chemicals, the better. So I hope you’ll resolve to speak up, whether it’s Drano or something bigger down the road.I know at least one person washed their coffee mug with the Drano-filled sponge. People would be horrified by this if they knew about it.A little before lunchtime, Felicia realized that she had forgotten to rinse it out, and ran over to the kitchen to do so. But I do not care to eat it or coat my mug with it. It’s actually the opposite — you haven’t made enough of a big deal about it. I’m going to give (office manager) a heads-up so she can make sure it’s taken care of.” (And frankly, I would have just thrown away the sponge myself.) That moment has passed, but you can still say something to her now.I haven’t told anyone else about this, partly because I don’t think Felicia will continue to wash the sink with Drano and partly because she is my friend. That’s what I think is really interesting about this letter — the way that our relationships with people sometimes make us soft-pedal really important messages to them. For example: “Hey, the other day when you were cleaning the sink with Drano — I did some research to make sure I wasn’t overreacting, and it is indeed dangerous to use Drano that way.However, I know at least a few colleagues are sensitive about chemicals and would be upset to hear about this. (More on that in a moment.) The fact that you’re friends with Felicia isn’t a reason not to tell her that she needs to cut this out. Someone used that sponge to clean a mug afterwards and could have gotten sick. ” If she pushes back, tell her that she can clean with Drano in her own house all she wants, but that if she’s going to insist on doing it at work, you’re going to give your office manager a heads up since you assume the office will not be okay with it. Now, on to the bigger implications that I alluded to above: Your letter has a lot of “she’s my friend” and “I don’t want to make her feel attacked.” But it’s really not attacking someone to speak up when they’re doing something dangerous to others. And there are going to be other situations in life and at work where a friend is doing or saying things that are harmful to other people — whether it’s sexual harassment or casual racism or trying to cover up a serious work mistake or safety issue, or whatever it might be — and you want to be prepared to be forthright when that kind of thing happens.