Some time ago I had a meeting in a large corporate office in Sydney. When I stepped into the kitchen to get a glass of water I saw a curious, handwritten sign next to a tap designed to provide boiling water.
"Tap broken," it read. "It can NOT be fixed."
I never found out who wrote that sign, or who decreed the task so difficult that even the most competent of plumbers would never find a solution. And as I didn't feel it appropriate to ask about problems with the amenities in my client's building, I could only wonder if a plumber, or even a building manager, had been called at all.
To this day I think about that tap: how did somebody break it so badly that it could not be fixed? How did the 50 or so staff members who used that particular kitchen go about making cups of tea? I pictured employees going up and down the stairs, carefully balancing their cups of boiling water, or perhaps even fetching an entire flask of the hot stuff to last them the entire day while they camped out at their desks on the floor of the impossible tap.
It still depresses me. If the smallest of office ambitions can NOT be achieved – fixing a broken tap – what hope is there for the more large-scale business dreams?
But really, what's with a tap that can NOT be fixed?
I suspect the matter fell into one of the below categories:
• Nobody wanted to take responsibility for fixing the tap.
• Everybody thought somebody else would take responsibility for fixing the tap.
• Somebody (a non-expert) attempted to fix the tap, got nowhere, so wrote a sign.
• The plumber, building manager and others had been called in and investigated the issue. It really was a tap that could not be fixed.
Somehow, I don't believe it was the final option.
Kitchen stalemates are all too common these days – especially in companies where resources are tight or staff numbers are just a little too low to warrant bringing in an office manager. However, it's rarely about a broken tap and more likely to centre on unwashed cups, Weet-Bix-encrusted bowls and a dangerous pile of curry-stained plates.
My advice is to push for management to buy a dishwasher and set up a kitchen schedule. Don't become the person who does the washing up – be the person who instigates how the washing up will be managed.
As for the tap that can NOT be fixed: make a call, bring in an expert, and send the bill to accounts.
Do you have something similar to the tap that "can NOT be fixed" in your office? What do you do about it?