A Cup of Tea

Choosing where to work can be difficult, and one thing I’ve noticed over the years is it’s the small things that seem insignificant at the beginning that give you a true flavour of a workplace.


The last contract I was on, the kettle broke within days of arriving. I’m British and, as such, genetically dependent on a steady stream of tea throughout the day to be able to produce any work at all. I asked the project manager to get us a new kettle. That, and several thousand pounds worth of various computer equipment and software my team needed to complete the project in the 7 week time frame we’d been given.

The kettle never arrived, nor did most of that equipment. I left for better things (like being able to get a cup of tea when I wanted) but that project continued for well over a year, with a much larger team than we started with but still no end in sight.

Maybe you’re of the same mind as the project managers of that debacle? “A kettle is not critical to completing the task” you think to yourself, and so you wouldn’t bother to get it. Experience tells me the opposite - if you’re not able to supply something as cheap, simple, and ubiquitous as a kettle then there’s no way you’re going to deliver a complex and expensive project, let alone what it says about your attitude towards the workers.

So next time you’re considering a workplace, whether you’re there already or just looking from the outside, take a look at some of the easy things and you may get a bigger clue as to how things really function there. And if you’re the project manager, get a kettle.

A friend from that project reminded me that one of the other engineers was burnt by that kettle! It made me wonder if “can I see your injury log” would be a useful question to ask at interview?

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