Mugs with Names and Public Shame


By: Maura Farver

Here at CAH, we have lovely perks including copious supplies of caffeine, a granola breakfast bar, and Friday happy hours. In our casual office space, it’s not unusual to take your food and drinks with you to your meeting or to a shared workspace. Unfortunately, it is also not unusual for people to forget to take their dirty dishes away with them after the meeting. The anonymity of a dirty communal mug or crusty plate leaves the caretakers among us to grumble, with no outlet for our frustration save posting a shaming picture to the CAH-wide Slack channel – but the forgetful offender probably won’t even remember it’s them that left the mess! What is an office(mate) to do?

Introduce personalized mugs for accountability and public shaming! Dan generously purchased a mug for each of our staff with our names on them. Now, if you leave your dirty mug behind, your peers can properly shame you with photos sent to the whole office with your name clearly printed on the delinquent tableware! And since all the old mugs have been taken out of circulation, you won’t be able to retrieve another beverage without finding and washing the mug with your name on it.


workplace behaviors


This approach is (not surprisingly) based on research, too! Peer pressure has been effective in other workplace behaviors, like getting physicians to wash their hands more [1], where it was found that “peer pressure techniques generated a change in organizational behavior that persisted beyond the removal of the incentive”. In a different study on voter turnout, Costas Panagopoulos [2] found “both the pride and shame treatments elevated voter turnout, but that the shame treatment did so more effectively.”

So, how is our little social experiment going a month in? Pretty well! Anecdotally, abandoned dirty dishes are much less common – and they’re always the anonymous kind, without a personal label. It appears that knowing the science behind it doesn’t seem to make us any less susceptible to the intervention.



[1] Gallani, Susanna. “Incentives Don’t Help People Change, but Peer Pressure Does.” Harvard Business Review. (2017)

[2]Panagopoulos, Costas. “Affect, Social Pressure and Prosocial Motivation: Field Experimental Evidence of the Mobilizing Effects of Pride, Shame and Publicizing Voting Behavior.”Political Behavior 32.3 (2010): 369-86. Web.