So I have a water bottle in my office and to fill it every time is a tiring business. I need to walk to a different floor than I sit and then I need to wait till other people fill their bottles. Then after filling it, I need to come back to my office.

Here is a colleague of mine who sits next door and comes to my room now and then for discussion. He is a good person and I don't have any other complaint about him. I, in fact, like to discuss with him. But whenever he comes, he would drink almost all the water from my water bottle without asking me! Now, I have two problems with this. First is obvious. As I said already, it is a tiring business to refill the bottle every time. This guy doesn't carry his own bottle and relies on mine (and probably of others') bottle(s). Second, I find it strange that he doesn't ask me whether it is fine to use my water.

I want to convey these two things to him somehow. But it may look too insulting to stop someone from drinking a water(!). What can I do?

  • 24
    Is this - (A) he puts his germy mouth on your water bottle and drinks from it, or (B) he uses up the water in your bottle by pouring it out into his cup? Not polite, either way, but the former is a bit more extreme on the thoughtless scale. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 16:49
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    Don’t write answers in comments. It bypasses our quality measures by not having voting (both up and down) available on comments, as well as having other problems detailed on meta. Comments are for clarifying and improving the question; please don’t use them for other purposes. Several comment answers have already been deleted, please don't add to them. If you have an answer, write one using the answer section below.
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 18:20
  • hitting on you?
    – BCLC
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 10:22

10 Answers 10


If hygiene isn't your concern (ie: he doesn't touch his lips to your bottle), then you can ask him to refill it.

Could you possibly refill it when you're done? or
Do you mind refilling it?

This means that he's the one to go through the mission, not you, and he'll think twice about doing it again because it's a lot of work.

Additionally, sometimes people like to track their water intake each day. If you are using your water bottle to track your intake, you could ask him to not drink because it messes with your ability to keep track. (Naturally, if you don't care about this, then that's fine. I know that some people do.)

Or, you can just say, "I'd rather you didn't do that." You don't always have to give a reason. If he asks why, you can just say you prefer it if other people didn't take your food/drinks without asking.

  • 7
    To the "asking to refill" part: You can do this jokingly -> Haha no way man, I just spent 30 minutes filling that bottle. You better refill it for me! smile. If he doesn't do it, you can try getting increasingly serious from then on.
    – Deruijter
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 9:56
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    Why ask if he would possibly refill or does he mind? Tell him he drinks it=he refills it. His answer will most likely not be what you want to hear!
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 20:47
  • @Tim because that's how I would phrase it. That said, I'm sure the op would phrase it as they feel, especially since it's highly likely that they aren't even speaking English to their coworker.
    – user6818
    Commented Jan 20, 2018 at 7:49

Have you tried just putting the bottle out of their reach whenever they enter the room?

If you are not leaving your chair, take the water bottle off your desk and put it in the ground next to your feet.
If you intend to get up while talking with them, just put the bottle under your desk (which I assume would be behind you while you're standing and talking).

By putting the bottle inside your close personal space, you're reclaiming the bottle, making it clear that you do not want it to be touched by anyone that is not, well... you.

Even if your colleague is oblivious to that obvious cue, in order to grab the water bottle, your colleague would still have to invade your personal space and even privacy by going behind your desk and reaching under it / next to your feet: something that for 99% of people would be a really awkward scenario and certainly not something to do without excusing themselves / giving a really good reason first.

If they say anything or ask why you are taking the bottle away, then you can explain to them what you just said to us.

  • 1
    Taking someone's food/water without asking for it is already awkward enough, but well, hopefully even for that guy there are some awkwardness limits
    – user3406
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 10:58

I know this answer is extremely obvious but...

You should really just tell him to stop.

I know that you want to be amicable to the guy, and that you want to maintain a decent working relationship with him, but your other solutions pose equal problems in measure:

  • Asking him to refill the bottle after drinking from it could be just as rude as asking him to stop - if not moreso depending on your business culture.
  • Hiding it from him may send the wrong message - that you would hide something you don't want him to see.
  • Changing your water-drinking habits may be more 'polite', but it puts an uncomfortable strain on you, and sets up future expectations for you to adjust your own work situation to his comfort.

Asking him, politely but firmly, to not drink from your water bottle is a reasonable thing to do, and it establishes that you are firm with boundaries at work, but fair and honest with your co-workers.

That, and it's not really impolite - unless you happen to be working in constant oppressive conditions where denying your co-worker the nearest water supply could put his health at risk.


You can drink from your bottle by touching bottle with your mouth (it is called jootha in India) and not the way it is usually drunk in India by raising the bottle little up and pouring water into mouth. And when this person picks up your bottle to drink water you can tell him its "jootha". OP's question has tag india so his/her coworker will know what jootha means and will not drink from your bottle. I tried this in my office and now nobody drinks from my bottle. Mostly people in India avoid drinking water from a jootha bottle.

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    This is a really good answer, and should be given consideration on how to proceed. Since this is an Indian culture, it is best to fit yourself into their norms. They are assuming all drinkers from that bottle do not put mouth to it. It isn't very far from the water fountain concept in the US. Drinkers are expected to not touch lips to the water fountain, and everyone extends trust to each other in following that social standard. It is not only appropriate, but really necessary, for the OP to inform the others the bottle is "jootha". Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 14:56
  • @ThomasCarlisle, I'm not sure what you're trying to clarify here. Are you in agreement with Rolen? This sounds like a good solution to me.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 22:02
  • Yes, absolutely in agreement. Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 22:42
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    He doesn't care if it is jootha. He doesn't touch the bottle using his lips in either case.
    – Peaceful
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 9:44
  • @Peaceful but he should care that you did use your lips. In other words, if they aren't willing to kiss the person who touched the "jootha" bottle they shouldn't drink from it even if they don't touch it with their own lips. It's a mix of intimacy and hygiene. For example, The only people I would drink after are my wife and children and not even then if someone is sick. Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 19:50

You've already had some great answers, but I think an option is missing: "Hide the bottle" is good, but doesn't avoid that he asks for it. Unless you'll stand your ground, you'll have to let him drink from it again (now when he asks so politely), resulting in you needing to refill it anyway.

What I'd do is this: Buy a second bottle, fill it with water and hide that. Leave the old bottle where you usually keep it, but leave it empty. If your friend ask, tell him you forgot to fill it. Maybe even ask him in a friendly way to do it for you, since he drinks from it a lot.

The reason it is the new bottle that should be hidden and not the old, is only that he should not be aware that something has changed. If he recognizes the empty bottle as new, he might ask for the old one.

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    What's the benefit of pretending that nothing changed? Wouldn't it be better for the colleague to know (or at least be able to guess) that their behaviour is inappropriate (to prevent future similar incidents with OP or others)?
    – NotThatGuy
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 14:14
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    @NotThatGuy, I don't want people - and especially not people whom I like - having to guess why something is changed. The idea is just to take away the possibility to drink my water. If I want to make it clear I don't want him to drink from my bottle, I'd tell him. But my way of solving small problems like this is, don't make something out of it, just make the setup so it can't happen. Many things go easier that way. Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 8:26

So many other people hinting at passive-aggressive or unfriendly options: Hide the bottle, keep an empty one visible, call him rude, tell him to stop, etc.

Here's an option I haven't seen put forward yet:

Be nice, add another bottle/jug and simply fill up two bottles on your trip.

You've gone that far - and do so normally... what's the extra effort required to fill two bottles? How much would a second container cost? A couple dollars at most?

With the second water bottle/container available...

I've noticed you using my water bottle before. I've added a second one. Please use it in the future and, if you are so inclined, help me fill it/them on occasion.

There is so much negativity in the world... add some positivity.

Personal example: I have a terminal sweet tooth and I like variety. I personally keep a large choice of candy and snacks at my desk. I let others nearby (and some not-so-nearby) help themselves. Freely. I've never had anyone "abuse" the situation (noticeably) and I leave a jar for "donations" - dollar here. Dollar there. (I have other reasons for doing this - buying in bulk and not buying at the local stores saves money - in addition to being a "Good Neighbor")

I'm happier when I feed that sweet tooth of mine... those around me are happier. Good ice breaker. Makes everyone's day better.

Addendum: Ask management to add another water cooler/fountain nearby. Happy workers = productive workers.

  • Suppose you could only buy 2 candies at a time and then a guy comes and finishes them before you could have them for yourself or others. Then you need to go to the shop 5 times a day from your office. What would you do?
    – Peaceful
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 10:07
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    @Peaceful If it was only 2... I probably wouldn't share. But on the same token... if I bought only 2, it would cost me more. I get the "bulk" items from Costco/Sams Club/etc. For example, why buy a soda from the machine downstairs for .75c... when I can buy them in a 30 pack for .25c per? Why buy a pastry downstairs for $2.50... when I can buy a box of pastries for $1.00 per? If I then share my stuff - making my day better not just because of my sweet tooth... but because I make other peoples day better... I can give half my stuff away and still spend less than if I spent my money locally
    – WernerCD
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 13:25
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    The key is prior planning... which is why I mentioned possibly getting a bigger container - not just a bottle, but maybe a jug. If you are walking a mile to get a glass of water... why not walk a mile and get a 2 gallon jug? I'm going to buy snacks... why not buy a LOT of snacks? The effort (for water) and money (for snacks) is going to get spent. A little extra spent now (bigger containers)... save you a trip later (if water is left in second container)... or save you a trip if someone else fill the jug...
    – WernerCD
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 13:27
  • I don't understand in what sense this provides a solution to my problem. So use a bigger jug and get more tired.
    – Peaceful
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 9:45
  • @Peaceful Problem: Someone is drinking your water from your single container. Solution: Another container and more water. Your cup doesn't get touched by anyone else and others get helped. Seriously though... how much more tired are you going to get carrying 2 gallons? You have your personal container and you help those around you at the expense of... not much effort. And you can ask the person (or others, if more join) to help keep it full. It's a win-win in my opinion.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Jan 18, 2018 at 10:25

I think a little more perspective on the situation might help. So far people have been advising to make the bottle less accessible or to even provide another one for him without acknowledging the inconvenience. Neither of those actually address the issue directly. The fact of the matter is that this coworker is costing you time and effort with zero reciprocity.

Any tactics like hiding the bottle, putting it out of reach, leaving it empty, etc are very passive-aggressive ways to deal with it. They don't actually directly address the problem. If you want the behavior to change for the better, you need to meet it head-on with something constructive. First things first: State the problem.

"Hey, every time you drain that bottle I have to [spend X amount of time and effort] refilling it so I can drink it."

Then you can offer a suggestion:

"Can you at least refill it for me when you do that?"

Or if you'd rather they just not touch it at all:

"Can you just bring your own bottle so we're not competing for water?"

Or if you're feeling generous, buy them their own bottle and say:

"Here, I got you your own so we don't have to fight over this one."

If you strike the right balance of tone so that you sound serious, but not over-dramatizing the situation, then there's no excuse for the coworker to continue the behavior. If they do, you just need to reinforce what you said a little more sternly:

"Hey I asked you not to do that, please [stop/refill it/whatever you chose]."

If you get push-back and need to escalate the complaint, go straight to "That's just not hygienic and it grosses me out" or "It's really annoying to have to go refill it every time" (or however you actually feel about it), and refuse to take any further discussion on the subject. There's nothing wrong with being firm about it, this is your personal space and valuable time, and your coworker isn't respecting it, so let them know you require some other solution.


I would argue that it's rude and unhygienic for him to drink from your personal water bottle. Which you can potentially avoid by placing your bottle out of sight.

If you're amenable, bring a cheap water bottle to work (Nestle or whatever you can pick up at a convenience/grocery store). The next time he reaches for your personal one, give him that one instead and tell him to keep it for refills. You can either bring up that is unhygienic, or that there's a bug going around the office and you'd rather not share, or tell a white lie by saying you're feeling under the weather and you don't find it hygienic to share.

Since he's drinking from your bottle, he doesn't appear to care about hygiene so he may joke or say that he's not sick or doesn't care if you're sick. Be firm and say you'd rather not risk it.

Edit: Arguably this is the passive way to approach or open the conversation. As I am not in OPs shoes, they are free to disregard in favour of a more direct approach offered by other users.

  • Is it unhygienic if he doesn't touch his lips to my bottle while drinking?
    – Peaceful
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 8:51
  • Multiple options were provided for the OP to decide. It's not uncommon for illnesses to pass around in the office. If they're in a cold climate, sickness tends to occur more as people will stay in and pass it around. Regardless of lips touching, illness can still be spread through the air. The OP does not have to continue with the illness story after the fact, but rather that is still unhygienic to share. It's really more for a conversation to be opened that the OP is also not willing to share. Also depends on which tactic OP wants to use; bluntly, subtly, politely, passively. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 16:27
  • See comment here: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/9202/…
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 3:46

Make it a gift to him. Make a big deal about how much he values your bottle and wish him the good health of it (make sure it is full). Then, get yourself a new one. If you want to keep your current bottle, buy him one just like it, perhaps in a different color. If he has any sense of shame, he will get the message. If he does not, then a direct but quiet conversation should help. If not, I would ask for mediation. Hiding a bottle will just inconvenience you more.


You can get rid of this guy's habit in two ways:

1. Hide your bottle ! : So every time he comes, if he need water he will have to ask you about the whereabouts of the bottle. In a way he is asking you for water(ie. Your second problem is taken care of). While giving him water convey indirectly with your facial expression that you are not quite comfortable with this.

2. Keep the bottle empty! : This can cause you a bit of inconvenience but it will work. Every time he comes to your office for discussion and finds the bottle empty, he will stop doing it.

  • 2
    Keeping the bottle empty pretty much destroys the purpose of having the bottle in the first place! - Makes more sense to hide the real bottle and leave an unappealing bottle in plain sight. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 12:36

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