Archive for January 12, 2010

Putting the Tea into Local Authority

January 12, 2010

Would you steal a car?  Would you steal a wallet?  Would you steal a movie?  So says the anti-pirate rant at the beginning of every recent DVD release, encouraging the public to not steal things (the irony being that this message probably wouldn’t be seen on pirate DVDs anyway).

I want to add something to that list – Would you steal a cup of tea?  Yes, I know it’s petty (and this blog is of course anything but petty) but we used to have a tea club here.  Every month the whole team would chip in £2 to the tea club, with this fund being used to buy tea, coffee, sugar, milk and biscuits.  If you didn’t drink tea or coffee you usually ate some of the biscuits, so overall it worked out to be a good deal for everyone.

Then the person who chased people for this money left the team, and donations started slipping.  More and more people started crying that they didn’t drink tea, or that they bought theirs from the shop, or that the were cheapskates, or that their dog ate their homework.  People stopped paying, but whenever a round of tea was offered guess which hands shot straight up.

Milk disappeared quicker than my plums after a dip in the north sea, biscuits became a luxury on par with caviar and praise from your superior and one of the few communal things disappeared from the team.

Yes, it’s a minor thing to do and yes, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.  If I want a cup of tea I’ll still make one, and I’ll probably still make the offer to my colleagues.  But it’s just one more chip in the wall that is team spirit and identity.

I found out recently that a team not too far from where we sit has a rota, where every Friday one of them is tasked with bringing in snacks and treats for the entire team, which are then grazed upon for the rest of the day.  When it’s your turn yes, it’s a little bit of money to spend, but for the other seven or eight weeks you are able to munch on others offerings, so it balances out in the end.

There is no thought to “is this fair”, “is this sustainable” or “what about those whoa re wheat, lactose, nut and vodka intolerant” – they just get on with it.  Because they all make the effort everyone feels good when it’s their turn, and in a small way it helps to bind that team together.  Others actually want to be a part of that little group and they are happy to share – overall, everyone’s a winner.

In our own team this would have to go through several layers of management approval, need at least two business cases, a PID, risk assessment, equalities impact assessment, registration form, several health and safety briefings, food hygiene training and regular monitoring to ensure all adopted procedures were being followed.

Why can’t we just go back to the old days and bring back the informal tea club?  What is so hard for our team to grasp about chipping in a couple of quid at the start of the month to bring a little bit of joy and happiness to the lives of their colleagues?  As was said in one of the few good Guy Ritchie films: “the entire British Empire was built on cups of tea, and if you think I’m going to war without one then you are seriously mistaken.”  If it’s good enough for Queen Victoria and her Empire, surely it’s good enough for our little corner of the Council?