Ask the Manners Guy: Introverts and Dirty Co-Workers

How do you — politely — ask your coworkers to wash their dishes? Let the Manners Guy help you out.

Stacks of dirty dishes in a sink

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No Party Animal

My good friend is having a birthday party, and, knowing her, there will be lots of people I don’t know. How do I politely decline? I am uncomfortable in crowds and hate small talk.

—Introverted in Illinois

If she’s a true friend, she will surely understand your inclination toward solitude. Tell her you’d rather celebrate her birthday in a low-key setting, like the two of you getting dinner or coffee and catching up. If you explain your qualms, she will certainly prioritize your comfort over her wish for an epic birthday bash.


The shared kitchen at my office is a disaster zone. I’m tired of picking up after my coworkers, so I put up a sign asking everyone to clean up after themselves. The sign was torn down. What am I supposed to do?

—Washing Up in Washington

It is aggravating to be the lone voice for tidiness in a sea of messy microwavers. You can’t be expected to clean up after your coworkers, but you can’t force them to do it themselves. Instead of shaming them with a passive-aggressive sign, inspire them by turning it into a group activity. Invite everyone to pitch in to clean every Friday. If you get no takers, it might be time to talk to management. If you are management, it might be time to hire a janitor.

The Manners Guy is a former bartender who knows his way around awkward social situations. Send your questions to [email protected].

This article is featured in the May/June 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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