my boss refused to send a dying coworker flowers, people keep stealing food for meetings, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My manager refused to send a dying coworker flowers

I work in a department that does project-based work for other departments in a large, successful company. I’m currently working on a project with another department, and I’m the only person from my lane on the project. A few weeks ago, I got word that the lead on the project from the other department (with whom I’ve worked closely from the start of the project, let’s call her Jane) was diagnosed with a serious illness. Earlier this week I got an update that her prognosis is bleak.

I reached out to my manager asking if I could send her flowers or a token from us in light of her diagnosis (Jane doesn’t work in my building, so it’s not like I can just walk by her desk and drop something off). My manager told her assistant to call me back, which was a very unusual move — normally my manager and I talk directly. The assistant told me that the cost wouldn’t be approved. I am APPALLED. Our company loves to emphasize teamwork and supporting one another in everything we do and touts workplace community as a key component of company culture. I thought this would be a no-brainer. We’re also a very profitable company — it’s not like we’re hurting for cash. I’ve seen this type of thing done before in our department and others, and I’m truly shocked and disappointed I was told no. Is there a professional way to push back or ask why the request was declined?

Does your manager know that Jane’s prognosis is bleak? If so, that’s really odd … unless there’s something you don’t know, like that they’ve already arranged to send her flowers or something similar (although if that were the case, I’d think the assistant would have mentioned that — although maybe that part didn’t get passed along to her).

The next time you’re talking with your manager, I’d bring it up again. You don’t want to sound like you’re just ignoring the no, but rather like you think you might have info she doesn’t have or vice versa. You could say something like, “Lucinda told me that she couldn’t okay sending flowers to Jane. I wanted to check with you to see if it’s because something else was already being planned for her. It sounds like her prognosis is really bad, so I want to make sure we do something to make sure she knows we’re thinking of her.”

2. People keep stealing food meant for meetings they’re not attending

We have a number of conference rooms in our large building that various departments book, and often order catered meals for the meetings they hold. Is there any way to avoid the problem of random employees helping themselves to food that wasn’t ordered for them? (I know, I know … some people apparently have no shame.)

This morning, the breakfast ordered for a group was consumed almost entirely before those actually attending the meeting arrived. My director is no help; he avoids all conflict and it usually falls to me, the senior admin, to manage. Before I take such drastic steps as sitting by the table with a yardstick to whack the offenders (I would love to do this, by the way, since the worst food thieves are well known) or locking the doors to the conference rooms, do you have any advice for me?

Sometimes shame works with this. Since you know who the worst offenders are, have you spoken directly with them and told them that they need to stop taking food that isn’t meant for them? If you haven’t, do that — and mention that the meeting organizer looked bad because all the food was gone. If you’ve already talked to them and it hasn’t worked, another option is to tell their bosses that there’s been a continuing problem with them stealing food and ask them to put a stop to it. (You need to know your office for this though. In some offices, their bosses would be annoyed with you for involving them. In other offices, they’d be annoyed with the food thieves for necessitating their involvement. And it might sound like like a petty thing, but really, these people are stealing something the company bought for a totally different use. It’s not that different than needing to say, “hey, Jane, your employee is using the company gas card to fill up his own car — please make sure he stops.”)

Otherwise, someone with some authority needs to tell people more generally that food for meeting is off-limits to non-attendees, and yes, locking the conference room doors isn’t a bad idea if that’s not impractical to do.

3. How can I best support a whistleblower?

I have an employee who was a whistleblower at her previous employment. She would not do a job because it was not safe and she did not want to be injured. As retaliation they told her she was being made rendundant. She made a complaint, and it happened that two days later the person doing the job (which was still in use and not redundant) perished in a workplace accident from the unsafe job.

She is now employed under my management. She has done all of things legally required as a result of the complaint and investigation and has completed answering the barrister’s questions. But she continues to be hounded and harassed by the family of the deceased, reporters, and others who have an interest in the case. The calls and visits to the premises are constant. She has never had social media (even before this) and the flat she lives in is inside a gate, so there is no harassment there, but it is known she works here, and as per the regulations of her profession she is listed on our website.

When she began her employment here, I made it clear to my other staff that they are not to bring up what happened or ask her about it. I let her know my door is always open, and at her first review she reported me to everyone has been “wonderful” and “welcoming.” But I know the harassment from others cannot be easy. We do not put the calls through if we know, and we have security remove anyone who does this. Two family members of the deceased and a reporter have been banned from our premises and have charges pending with the police.

How can I as her manager support her? She is a good employee and I know this cannot be easy.

It sounds like you’re doing all the right things! You’re being really supportive. Why not tell her that you really want to support her and ensure she feels safe and not harassed, and ask her if there’s anything else that would make her life or job easier? There might be something that you haven’t thought of, or that she’s hesitated to ask for, and explicitly opening the door for her to tell you about anything she’d need or would like could be a relief to you both. Or you might hear that she’s happy with what you’ve done and doesn’t feel the need for anything else!

4. Can I negotiate for more severance?

I’ve just learned that my company is moving to another city, and me and my job along with it, as long as I’m willing to relocate. I am not. My question is around severance and retention bonuses. I expect that both will be offered: is it ever appropriate to try to negotiate them upwards? I ask because I am a woman of a “certain age” and at a high level in my field, so finding another job is likely to take months, and it would help to be able to have a source of income when it’s needed.

You can try! Usually when companies agree to give more severance, it’s because there’s some incentive for them to do it — like that they’re concerned that you’ll sue over a real or perceived legal issue like discrimination (because in exchange for severance, they’ll have you sign a release of any legal claims), or because it will get you to agree to stay through a transition, or so forth. Sometimes too you can get it because they know they’ve acted badly, like if you just moved to their city two months ago to take the job and now they’re laying you off. If you don’t have anything like that to use as leverage, they may not be up for increasing the payments — but you can still certainly ask, because you never know.

5. My boss wants to back out of a big purchase he approved

I am in the marketing department at my company. As we are nearing the end of our fiscal year, I was instructed to quote out the marketing items that we will need for next year. My supervisor’s supervisor, Fergus, approved all the items I quoted out and instructed me to make the purchases within two weeks (I have this instruction in writing — he emailed it to me). I then told our vendor to move forward and send all the items to production. Now, a week later, Fergus has told me to cancel the order if I can because some other departments in the company purchased items without getting proper approval and we don’t have as much money left in the budget as they were counting on.

The problem is that these items have already been sent to production, and some of it has already been shipped to us. I’ve made this clear to Fergus, but he told me to talk to the vendor and cancel anything we can. I have talked to the vendor and one set of items was able to be canceled, but the rest cannot. I was in disbelief when Fergus told me to try and cancel the order, and I’m trying to be professional but I think I’m coming off a bit short with him. I am the face of our company to this vendor and they’ve consistently done great work for us. I don’t want to break their trust and at this point we really can’t cancel anything else — the remaining items have already been plastered with our logo. Did I do something wrong? Can I be held liable for this if the company goes over budget? Is there a way for me to tactfully push back to Fergus?

You didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re not going to be liable for going over budget. It doesn’t sound like Fergus has indicated he thinks you’ve done anything wrong; he’s just asked you to salvage whatever money from this order you can, if any. That’s not actually that weird or outrageous. Sometimes this stuff happens, and people try to fix it where they can. Sometimes it’s fixable and sometimes it isn’t, and it doesn’t sound like he’s pushing you to find a way to cancel it no matter what — he just wanted you to try and see if you could.

All you need to do is go back to him and let him know that you tried to cancel the order and were able to cancel some of it, but most of it had already been produced. You can also let the vendor know that you apologize for asking and appreciate them doing what they could. That’s really it! Fergus should take it from there.

{ 343 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, you’re going to have to lock or guard the food. At least that’s been my experience—really flagrant food thieves don’t desist, even after one-on-ones. (Follow Alison’s advice, anyway, but be prepared for draconian measures.)

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      This. If this were a first time, or a minor issue, or one person, or you had a boss willing to manage, you might avert this in the future. But you don’t. The only way to stop this under current circumstances is to lock the door. If the room being used can’t be locked then put the food in a room that can be locked and have the meeting attendees go in to get their food or arrange to move it to the meeting room only when the meeting starts or just before and guard it. It sucks, but this is the situation you have. Talking won’t matter unless it is the boss.

      Reply
      1. Mabel

        That this is an issue is sad. I can understand wanting to eat someone else’s food, but you just don’t do it.

        In my office, we had a problem of people taking food meant for meetings partly because the conference room is small, so they put the food just outside the room (the conference rooms have glass walls, so it was pretty nervy). We are allowed to take any leftovers once a meeting is over, but this was pretty clearly food that had not yet been touched by the attendees. So that wasn’t great, but the great thing is that all they had to do was put a note on the table indicating that the food was meant for the meeting only, and no one touched it until after the meeting attendees had all gotten food.

        Meals or snacks are not usually approved unless external people are attending or a team wants to spend their own budget for it. So folks really should know to leave it alone if it’s right outside the conference room, but at least the note seems to have solved this for now.

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        1. Amelia

          Most meetings I attend have a sign that says “Food Reserved for 9AM NorthEast Manager’s Strategy Meeting” or something. It seems to work. I think truly dedicated food thieves are rare. More often, you’re walking down the hallway, see a bagel and think “Oooh bagel. Sure!” and just don’t realize.

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          1. Hills to Die on

            I do think that’s the case in most places. After reading some of the comments in the ‘weirdest food stories’ post a while back, I’m starting to wonder how rare food thieves and people with some serious food issues really are.

            Reply
          2. AdAgencyChick

            Agree. At my agency, the admin who orders the food sends out emails saying “food outside X conference room is for Y client meeting, please do not take food until I send out another email saying that it’s OK,” and people leave the food alone. But if there are bagels out and an email hasn’t gone out, it’s a free-for-all.

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            1. Koko

              In our office we have a kitchen/cafeteria area, so the rule is that any food in the kitchen is up for grabs, and any food anywhere else is reserved. Food is delivered to the meeting rooms and then once the meeting is over, the admins cart the remaining food down to the kitchen and are usually kind enough to do a blast email if there’s quite a bit of leftovers to alert folks.

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          3. Beanie

            Every year for Science Fair we scrape together some of our meager funds to provide coffee and bagels for our judges (STEM professionals who show up at 7 am and give up a day to help the kiddos). Usually the food is set up in the hall outside of the judging room (near the exhibit area) with a sign like this and there are no issues. Even the broke and hungry college students heading to class have enough class to resist the urge to snag something (we do leave all extras for them).

            One year EA from another floor wandered through and loaded herself up despite someone pointing out the signs. The next year she came prepared w/ziplocs and snapped at the student volunteer who asked her to leave the food until judging was over. According to this EA, since she worked full time in this building and we were merely using their facilities no one could tell her what to do. I walked up at the very end of this exchange to see a stunned volunteer and the EA trotting away with literally platters of food. However before I could get involved, the President of the University, (who was one of our volunteer judges) walked up behind the both of us and apologized for her behavior as he’d seen the whole thing. Considering he was her great great great grand boss I think I see why we never saw her again :)

            Reply
            1. As Close As Breakfast

              Wow, just, wow. Sounds like the university president handled it really well though. I would have been tempted to go after her and chew her out right then and there if I were him. I mean really, some people just have no shame.

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          4. Specialk9

            Agreed. The ‘ooh’ decision is often made without much review by higher order thought. It can take a bit of that to parse between ‘it’s ok to eat food after the meeting’ and ‘not ok to eat food before meeting even starts’. So put something to jog people over into the thought mode, like someone posted, a sign saying who it’s reserved for.

            Reply
        2. Wicked Odd

          In a previous job, I had to explain to someone in the teapot department that food was ordered for meetings *only* when external people were coming in. They were under the impression that the coffee maker department next to the forward-facing meeting rooms was just spendy, and the person in question was on to their spendy ways. (This person was taking leftovers after the meeting, so the only issue was that they would go back to the teapot section and spread gossip.)

          Reply
        3. AKchic

          For some folks, signs aren’t even going to matter. And of course, it really depends on WHO the thieves are.
          Example: Let’s say one of the main culprits is one of the c-suite staff. How on earth is an administrative assistant or a low-level manager going to keep the VP or CFO, or Senior VP of Operations from snacking?
          And once that high-level big wig does it? Well, we all know how that goes. Someone sees High-n-Mighty Big Boss walking by with their little snack (on a plate, usually), then they assume that the rest of the food is up for grabs and then they help themselves too. Then others see the second wave and become the third wave, and so on and so forth.

          This is the time for all-staff emails, designated spots for “freebie food”, and signs, as well as locking the food and conference rooms up until “Show Time”.

          Reply
      1. Hills to Die on

        I’d be tempted to stand guard and do just that!

        It’s crazy that people need to be told not to take meeting food. When I worked at a place that ordered food a lot, everyone in the building knew it was for a meeting and not free. I just think many people aren’t bad per se, but inherently selfish. Unfortunately.

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        1. Jadelyn

          It’s great if you can get your office to agree to a (spoken or unspoken) “communal food spot”. My office does that – food left in the center of the biggest table in the kitchen area is fair game, everywhere else it’s assumed to be reserved for something in particular and you leave it alone. If you want to eat something later, don’t leave it on that table; if you find food other than on that one table, don’t eat it. I’ve worked at other places that had “designated communal food” places too, and it really helped to have that “code” of whether something was available to take and eat or not based on its physical location.

          On the other hand, I worked somewhere that the training department had a separate fridge that they used to put food for the next day’s training classes (classes for customers, not internal employee trainings), it was well known that that was the Training Fridge, and they *still* wound up having to install a freaking lock on it because people kept taking stuff out of the training fridge no matter how many times they were told not to. So…even having designated “do not touch” spots doesn’t always work, lol.

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          1. MusicWithRocksInIt

            We had a communal food spot at my old work. One time there was a ton of fried chicken left over from a meeting – at least 30 pieces, and one coworker packed up the whole lot of it and took it to his car. He just decided he was going to take it all home, despite the fact that most people had not had a shot at it yet. Some people are just do not care.

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          2. Former Ops Manager

            In a previous organization, we had a separate “for special purposes fridge”, but they also provided a whole bunch of really amazing snack options in the kitchen for employees. It was always available and restalked twice a week. Employees never had to take food that didn’t belong to them because there was so much food that did belong to them. This isn’t a solution for every company, but it was a great one for them.

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          3. Elizabeth West

            We had one table where communal food went at Exjob (on our floor). Anything left there was considered fair game. It worked pretty well, except for the lunch thief, who was finally deterred by a security camera in the break room. Most people did NOT scarper with all the food for themselves.

            I once brought a red velvet cake to a potluck and had plenty left, so I left it on that table overnight with a big note on top that the cleaning people were welcome to help themselves. I didn’t want to take it home because I would eat it, haha. They did take quite a bit and I didn’t have to subject myself to the temptation.

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      2. Diane Berg

        Oh, I so want to….and I am privy to people’s pay rates, so I know my worst offenders make very adequate livings, to say the least. One guy went through the buffet line at a hot breakfast we had set up and took a plate (which is fine) PLUS and ENTIRE PLATE PILED HIGH WITH BACON before others had a chance. Even public shame has no effect, so I have made the executive decision to lock the doors of the room where the food is set out. I appreciate the responses here because I was sure I was the crazy one here. We also have a “free for all” table in the breakroom/kitchen where leftovers go. Sadly this does not stop the gluttons among us. The only good thing is, I have retirement plans in place and and I won’t ever have to deal with this anymore. I’m not even going to address the other food-related issues, like people coming to me to complain about the potato salad (my stock response is now “Your concern has been duly noted”. Boom.

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    2. Daeranilen

      I can only speak from dorm-living experience, but I have to agree: Food thieves generally don’t have shame and will not desist.

      In one of the dorms I lived in, all food had to be stored in a shared public space. Food theft was rampant. Worse, one of our residents had severe celiac disease. Food theft was a serious money and health issue for her, because even if only some of her food got eaten, the risk of contamination often meant she had to throw the rest out. But because our college had no way to catch the perpetrators, all they could do was periodically call us to group meetings and ineffectually lay on the guilt. The food thieves realized there were never going to be real consequences and just. Kept going.

      So, yeah. Start locking up that food.

      Reply
      1. snarkarina

        We do a lot of meetings as well–many with outside experts. One particularly flagrant food thief actually KEPT. HIS. NAME. TAG. from a previous meeting he’d attended as staff and would wear it to trawl the food lines. (This continued even after we changed our logo . . .)

        But, wait, it gets better.

        He was also notorious for reaching into the pans of things like lasagna WITH. HIS. BARE. HANDS. and just scarfing it down right there.

        Reply
          1. snarkarina

            There’ve been a few conversations with both him and his supervisor, yes. But the fact that it happened at all is just what blows my mind. He now stays away from the meetings area, but can be spotted laying in wait for the leftovers to be brought to our communal kitchen, which makes me wonder when he has time to get his work done . . . but he’s not in my department, so I don’t worry about it.

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            1. Murphy

              Nothing wrong with laying in wait for leftovers…

              (I am super guilty of this. But I wait til they’re in the kitchen, and I never use my bare hands!! [ew!])

              Reply
        1. Specialk9

          Wait, is this the guy who reached into big bowls of fruit salad or pasta salad with his bare hands? Or is there another horrible person like this out there?!

          Reply
          1. snarkarina

            I have never seen him doing that, but now I’m wondering if it’s possible that in my org of 1000+ more than one of us read AAM, because I sincerely wouldn’t put it past him.

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      2. Anony

        I think it is rare for people to be that brazen. In my experience most people do not think of themselves a a “food thief” if they grab something from the food set out for a meeting. They just assume that they must have ordered plenty and the bagel or muffin won’t be missed. For that type of food thief, saying something to them actually does make them stop (or at least wait until the meeting participants had first go at the food).

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      3. MerelyMe

        On the other side of that coin, if you have something you want to get rid of, leave it where grad students can get at it. I’ve worked for two different university doctoral programs, and have had to hover over breakfasts that haven’t been eaten by the intended recipients yet.

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        1. Specialk9

          In the teacher staff room we had something similar. Someone put out a bowl of biodegradable packing peanuts – which do look remarkably like cheesy puff snacks – and they were gone in minutes. It became a huge running joke.

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        2. Else

          Absolutely – we regularly order too much food for a group where half of the attendees might get called away suddenly for medical emergencies, and I never feel any guilt about it because I know I can just deliver the leftovers to the students’ common area and watch it magically disappear.

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      4. Elemeno P.

        I remember a birthday cake in college (ice cream cake, specifically!) that was very mistreated in the dorm freezer. My guests and I had a slice each and put it away, and the next morning, it was gone. They didn’t even eat it all; there were huge chunks of frosting in the trash can. I was so mad.

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        1. copy run start

          You just reminded me of something from high school. A friend received an ice cream cake for their birthday from another friend, and (somehow) it made it to lunch period. I remember this poor cake getting unboxed at this table with maybe 10-15 hungry teenagers surrounding it… The initial assault with the cafeteria sporks proved ineffective, so we resorted to hands. It was gone in minutes.

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    3. anon scientist

      Yep, you’re going to have to lock it up. Even people in the meeting aren’t always respectful. I once ordered lunch and then also an afternoon snack for people in a meeting I was running. I put the afternoon snack food to the side with a note saying please do not take any – it’s for the afternoon break. They still started eating it! I had to take it to a different room and lock it up. There’s something about food at work that brings out the worst in people.

      Reply
    4. I Herd the Cats

      I’m fascinated by this. We have a constantly rotating slate of meetings, most of them providing some sort of food — full breakfast, snacks, lunch. The food is set up outside the room, and neither conference room is in a place where it’s easily monitored by staff. And yet — nobody steals.

      And these people like to eat. I guarantee you that the *second* I send out the office email that, yes, the food is now up for grabs, the eerie sound you here is the stampede of almost everyone in the office sprinting down the hall to serve themselves *very quietly* because they’re outside a conference room, after all.

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        Office culture is a fascinating microcosm of broader culture, in the way that norms evolve, people pick up on the norms, and then they treat those norms like they were carved on slabs of granite on Mount Ararat.

        A slight change in the makeup of the population, someone starts grabbing an early croissant, people start thinking “Oooh, Pat has a croissant, that means the croissants are up for grabs…” and chaos.

        Reply
      2. Anonygoose

        Maybe OP’s office doesn’t allow them to eat leftovers – I think (most) people are more respectful and patient if they know they eventually will get some food, as seems to be the case in your office.

        Reply
        1. Purplesaurus

          My workplace does this. Any leftovers are placed in the break room and fair game to all, and there are always leftovers.

          Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I think it really depends on the industry and office culture. Ironically, in my experience people with greater means (e.g., BigLaw firms, academic faculty) are more likely to engage in brazen food thievery than folks with less means. I never saw food thievery when I worked in legal aid offices. I think the really brazen, not following directions stuff comes from a culture of entitlement.

        [Caveat: Of course, I realize there are folks who may be in high-paying positions still experiencing economic distress. But generally speaking, what I’ve seen is folks with greater institutional power taking advantage of that power to take food they know is not for them.]

        Reply
        1. JB (not in Houston)

          Oh, absolutely. Where I work, there are two attorneys in particular who will stop people carrying food trays into meeting rooms to take cookies or pastries before they get to the meeting. The support staff never do stuff like this. These same two attorneys used to ask for treats from the cookies or brownies or other treats I sometimes bring specifically for the legal secretaries, and of course they’d ask one of the secretaries, not me, if it was ok because the secretary would feel uncomfortable saying no. Now if I bring cookies for the secretaries, I put them in bags and give them to the secretaries individually so that they can hide them if they want, and nobody knows they have them. And while there are plenty of attorneys here whose finances I know nothing about, I know these two well enough to know they aren’t taking the food because they can’t afford to feed themselves. They just feel entitled to any food they see and want.

          Reply
        2. I Herd the Cats

          Totally agree. It is a culture of entitlement, and I used to have to order extra food at Old Job (although they wouldn’t take all of the food!) I work at a nonprofit, salaries aren’t amazing…. and people are generally pretty respectful of each other.

          Another example: with all the leftovers there’s an unwritten rule that you don’t take it home, except for the interns and grad students, who are thrilled to have regular, free food.

          Reply
    5. Pine cones huddle

      Dude. Legit once 2 guys in my office at an ENTIRE sandwich platter meant for more than dozen people. They were known food thieves and the food was already hidden from them in an effort to protect it. Literally there were 16 sandwiches and wraps on it. That’s 8 each. They even ate the vegan ones! And these guys KNEW it was for a board meeting. It’s been years and the incident has become a bit of a legend. It was unbelievable. Some people are just complete turds.

      Reply
      1. Pine cones huddle

        Oh — they were caught red handed together standing over the food trays stuffing it into their faces. The food was decimated. I believe the admin was in such shock and out of utter frustration (because it had been happening for a long time) she lost it and started shrieking at them.
        These were also fully grown men who had been working for a long time. So not recent grads who didn’t know better. One of the guys was director level.

        Reply
        1. This Daydreamer

          I think I would have been shrieking, too. Did they learn their lesson after that train wreck of a scene or did you have to go full Fort Knox? What a pair of jerks.

          Reply
          1. Pine cones huddle

            The director left not long after and I think without his accomplice and with the public shaming the other guy got it together. But honestly the fact that they were able to eat all that food just the 2 of them was fascinatingly impressive. They had been notorious food thieves and the admin had found a successful hiding place from them for a while. This had been the first incident in a coupe of months and it was almost like they had something to prove.

            Reply
            1. Not Yet Looking

              You keep hearing these stories, and you start to understand why in the old days, people would lose hands over this stuff.

              Reply
          1. AKchic

            “Hi, your lunches are inside these two… you’ll have to do some digging if you want them; or eat these two instead.”

            Reply
    6. TootsNYC

      Yeah, if these people are going into a conference room, where a breakfast meeting has been set up (so…the time on the clock ought to tell you that this is food that hasn’t been served yet), you’re going to need to lock it.

      You could try putting a sign on the table or the door, etc.
      But I vote for locking it.

      (the sign might be more effective if it says “any leftovers will be available at 10:30am” or something)

      Reply
    7. Julia the Survivor

      In our office we wait till the meeting is over and share the leftover food. But we’re all decent people. :p

      Reply
    8. BarkusOrlyus

      This is so wild to me. The level of entitlement involved with this type of behavior is stunning. I have only ever worked in small offices with fairly reasonable folks, so these kinds of stories (and how common they apparently are) spin my head around.

      Reply
  2. Overwhelmed

    OP2 –
    I think a stern letter helps, considering you are dealing with (I hope) adults. In my office, usually the person who organises the conference would announce after the meeting is done and the VIPs have eaten then the office workers can take the left overs. Maybe with a system set up like this the people would be more patient if they know they WILL get food, just not right this hour

    Reply
  3. Artemesia

    I think the issue in letter one may be that the budget for flowers should be with Jane’s department and not another department. One would assume that her own department is doing something. Cards or other non costly gestures from those who work with her on the project team are certainly in order.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      This has totally surprised me. Do people really send cards when someone is super unwell? What do they say? I’ve never thought to do that. I think I would prefer a care package of some kind or some hot meals.

      Reply
      1. Sparkly Librarian

        “We’re thinking of you” is usually the gist of it. Avoiding “get well soon” when it’s known that that might not be a likely outcome.

        Wouldn’t you include a card with the care package?

        Reply
        1. The Supreme Troll

          I think a card is normal and perfectly reasonable. Your second sentence here, though, is super important to the situation that Jane is going through (which is unfortunate, and would be thrilled if it turned out to be wrong).

          Reply
        2. Ramona Flowers

          Actually, I’m not sure I would. A heartfelt note, yes. But I have yet to see a greetings card that I would feel comfortable sending to the person I know who is dying of cancer.

          Reply
          1. Sparkly Librarian

            Well, the note would be the important part. But it sounds like maybe you’re thinking of writing it on stationery? I always write mine in cards. Usually they’re blank inside with plenty of room.

            I’m trying to remember what I wrote to my favorite aunt the week before she went into surgery for her enormous brain tumor. She had about even chances of pulling through and not making it (thankfully, she recovered beautifully and has no lasting damage today). I really think it was just the underlying “I love you (substitute “care about you” for the colleague) and am thinking of you during this difficult time” that was important.

            Reply
            1. Falling Diphthong

              I am a fan of the blank card. (That you write in, I mean.)

              Providing more actually seems tricky, unless you know the person and family well enough to be reasonably certain you’ve hit on something they would find comforting or useful.

              Reply
          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I think it’s ok to use blank cards? I have lots of random pretty ones that are blank, and they seem to work fine in lieu of a typical greeting card. You just write a thoughtful note and broach visiting the colleague in the hospital if it’s ok with the colleague and their loved ones.

            Reply
              1. TootsNYC

                It’s not even really that–so very many people think “a card” = “a present.”

                I know only a handful of people who think that “a card” = “stationery.”

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  That’s what I’m saying, though–Ramona is saying that she’d think a nice note, rather than a premade card, is the thing to send, and I’m saying that people don’t even have anything to write nice notes on these days.

            1. Blue Anne

              Ohhhh, I love these! It’s like the “mother’s day” and “father’s day” cards which can be sent to loved ones to congratulate them for raising their own damn selves.

              Reply
          3. Lady Jay

            I only ever use blank cards, for illness but also birthday, holiday, etc. The messages on printed ones are far too syrupy.

            Blank cards have a pretty picture on front and space to write kind thoughts.

            Reply
          4. HannahS

            Really? I’ve seen a lot of cards that are generally softly lit pictures of flowers or trees or watercolours of rivers with things like, “We’re keeping you in our thoughts” or, “Thinking of you in this difficult time” written in/on them. While some are in the sympathy section (so, for a grieving family member) I’ve also seen them in the get-well-soon section, presumably for people who won’t get well.

            Reply
      2. Bea

        There are cards for every situation. It’s usually more welcome to send a note than a care package. Depending on the illness who knows if she can eat or what she can eat or so on. The point is to say “we care about you and are thinking of you.” not necessarily do anything when often a terminal illness means that there is nothing to do but grieve together.

        Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          There really aren’t cards for every situation. Though ‘cancer alternative greeting cards’ is worth a Google.

          I think the point here is that there’s not really any one objectively right thing to do or send. And I do think it’s important to ensure any gesture is for the recipient and not because you are trying to manage your own feelings (not implying this is the case for the LW).

          Reply
          1. Claire (Scotland)

            There are tons of blank cards you can write your own message in, or ones that just say “Thinking of You”.

            Sending a card in a situation like this is very, very normal. Not obligatory, of course, but certainly not unusual. It’s the first thing I’d think to do. Care packages and food are nice ideas, but often not actually as helpful as the giver thinks they’ll be.

            Reply
            1. JulieBulie

              And usually the card is signed by everyone in the office. If there’s room, each person might add a thought or two as well.

              Reply
          2. Gen

            Someone did actually bring out a range of cards for cancer sufferers, called ’empathy cards’ by Emily McDowell. More for friends and family IMO rather than work as you probably won’t know the persons tastes that well. Having designed for greeting cards companies the ones that get real estate space in high street card shops tend to be super generic, but there’s an amazing wealth of niche ones online.

            Reply
        2. Temperance

          I would much rather a care package than a note. When I was in the hospital, I very much enjoyed all of the snacks and copies of “People”. I’m not a feelings person, though, so YMMV.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I agree with this. The best thing people brought me when I was in the hospital (outside of visiting) were books, crossword puzzles, and access to Netflix.

            Reply
          2. Perse's Mom

            I’m not much of a feelings person either, but I’d still rather have the card. Care packages are difficult to personalize unless you really know someone (my boss would totally include DVDs of shows I have no interest in watching and minty teas I would never drink*), and I’m really not sure what would go into a generic care package.

            *I would also have a hard time feigning gratitude for being gifted things that are useless to me.

            Reply
      3. Knitting Cat Lady

        I was in hospital for a long stretch this year for mental health reasons. I got a card signed by both my supervisors and my grandboss and some chocolates, delivered by work friend when we met up for lunch when I was on weekend release.

        It was along the lines of ‘thinking of you and take all the time you need to get better’.

        We often do cards like this where I work.

        One time a colleague destroyed just about every tendon falling of his bike. Another colleague slipped a disc. Another one had a stroke and moved into early retirement.

        It’s a work place culture thing.

        Reply
      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        At a prior job, I became pen pals with a coworker’s mother who had terminal cancer. She was sick for 2 years before passing. The whole office sent her seasonal cards and her fave flowers (with cards each time) on her birthday. We did the same for a colleague whose wife had an aggressive form of cancer. She ended up on a liquid diet, so we made a “cookbook” of favorite smoothie recipes for her. We also all donated our leave to him so he could drive 1y+ hours each week so he could accompany her to treatment (she was participating in an experimental study).

        This really depends on the culture of your office, though. We just had a colleague pass from cancer, recently, and the response during her long decline was individualized and sporadic. It’s one of the things I’ve been most upset with my employer about—it would have taken very little for them to do just a bit more, and the little bit more would have been huge for our colleague’s emotional well-being.

        Reply
      5. nonegiven

        My husband got a minor procedure and they sent a fruit basket. All he wanted was a ride home.

        I had cancer treatment, including 2 surgeries, and I got nothing. He left me in pre-op alone when the doctors came in to talk. After an hour I wheeled my IV pole out in the waiting room, with my ass flapping in the breeze and screamed at him that he was useless. I never asked him for support again. I never attended a radiation treatment without my mother or sister. Sister had to drive 2 hours.

        He bitched at me for buying ready made stuff for the holidays and having to cook his own dinner when I was in city an hour away for radiation treatment. I just said, I ate a can of Vienna sausage and peanut better crackers for breakfast and Burger king for lunch,I guess I don’t get dinner, either

        Are all guys clueless? They don’t care if they go alone as long as they get picked up when they call. I need someone there with me all the time. I need someone to stand up and call bullshit when I can’t. I need someone to go out and find someone when the IV makes a puddle of blood on the floor. I don’t trust medical people when I’m alone. Now DH is on the same list.

        Reply
        1. Wingdings

          Maybe you need treatment to get rid of your husband rather than the cancer! All guys are definitely not like this.

          Reply
          1. Nita

            Totally agree. That’s not a guy thing, that’s an “I don’t care” thing or an “I’m a few cards short of a full deck” thing.

            Reply
        2. Julia

          My husband can definitely be extremely clueless, but when I tell him what he need, he does it. I’m so sorry your husband isn’t supportive.

          Reply
        3. Hills to Die on

          I’m so sorry you have that experience. It’s not okay at all. To answer your question (I assume it’s not rhetorical), no all guys are not that clueless. At all.
          You deserve to be treated better than that and I hope your husband has stellar qualities in other areas to compensate for this.

          Reply
        4. Temperance

          Honestly, no. It’s a different situation. I’m extremely independent, too, and don’t want/need someone with me 24/7. However, Booth was with me pretty much the entire time I was in the hospital last year, and had to bring me to the ER and whatnot when I sprained my ankle, on his own accord.

          This is super OT, but you deserve better. He must have other amazing qualities for you to see beyond his laziness and selfishness. Or maybe therapy would help you see how you should be treated. :-/

          Reply
        5. Adlib

          No, they aren’t all clueless, but there are a good number of them who are. Your situation sounds like a friend of mine who may as well be raising 3 kids (2 under the age of 5, and 1 somewhere around age 35). He acts like a perpetual teenager and doesn’t help her at all unless he gets something out of it.

          I am thinking of you and hope you get the support you need from the rest of your family like your mother and sister.

          Reply
        6. Purple Jello

          My guy is clueless with medical stuff, but if I tell him exactly what I want then he will do it. The problem is that I cannot anticipate every eventuality, and he seems to have some sort of mental block on medical issues. He freezes up and is afraid to do anything. Avoidance was his default reaction to everything from broken bones to the sniffles. It’s better, but still not ideal.

          Regarding cooking, it’s taken 30+ years, but he’ll now cook a meal if I’m not home but have left everything out for him with instructions.

          Reply
        7. RabbitRabbit

          Google “emotional labor.” Many men are socialized to be crappy at these sort of tasks but will figure it out if asked/nudged. Your husband, however, is crap at it.

          You deserve better treatment.

          Reply
        8. a different Vicki

          No, they aren’t all. But some of the ones who are get away with it because some women think “are all guys like this?” and “he’s a guy, they’re all like that” rather than “if he’s like this, I’m better off without him.”

          There are people, of various genders, who don’t want company when they’re sick or at the doctor (the person I know who feels this most strongly is a heterosexual woman). But that’s different from your husband expecting you to wait on him when you’re sick and he’s well.

          Reply
        9. Bea

          WHAT?! My heart hurts that you have such a hurtful uncaring sack for a husband. That is not normal. My dad went with me for a day surgery and tended to me when I smacked my head fainting a few years ago. My boyfriend checks in on me and does whatever needs to be when I’m not well. My brother lost his mind with worry and went out of his way when my dad was in cancer treatments. My mother’s brother came to sit with us when he had his major eight hour surgery. Your husband is not the norm and I’m sad that you didn’t know men are not just emotionless blobs that take up space in our lives. You deserve so much better.

          Reply
        10. No Parking or Waiting

          No, not all guys are like this. I don’t even like my best friend’s husband, really, really don’t! but he stays with her every time she’d been in the hospital. It was never a question. Once they had kids, I stay home with them and he goes with her. Heck, one time I even brought HIM a change of clothes at the hospital when she had to stay another day.

          Reply
        11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Wow, I am so sorry you’ve had to go through these experiences. As others have noted, and fwiw, this is NOT a normal thing for guys to do. Not even generationally. You deserve much much better.

          Reply
        12. samgarden

          Your husband sucks, and isn’t going to change. I’m sorry.

          For contrast, my husband dotes on me when I have any medical issue, from period pain to a sore back to a hangover to a broken nail. He will go to the ends of the earth for me. This is normal, and expected. I would do, and have done, the same for him.
          Let me lay this out clearly for you: your husband is abusive, and you need to leave. You deserve far better. I hope you can realise this, and I wish you all the very best with whatever you choose to do. x

          Reply
      6. Bookworm

        For what it’s worth, the people I’ve known who’ve fallen seriously ill have expressed a lot of comfort in receiving cards.

        Obviously, there are going to be exceptions to this, but often illness can make people feel isolated from the outside world and a tangible (and re-readable) reminder that they’re not forgotten can be really uplifting. Especially with an illness like cancer, where there’s a decent chance they won’t be able to avail themselves of hot meals or treats.

        Reply
        1. MicheleNYC

          Cards are usually a safe bet. I had a friend many years ago that had cancer & during Chemo no flowers were allowed in his room. Any that came were donated to people who didn’t get visitors or the elderly. Maybe even a nice journal type book. When my friend was too ill for visitors his parents put the book on a table outside his door so we could write messages that they read to him when he woke up.

          Reply
          1. Ten

            Aww, that’s a lovely idea. It made me think: instead if OP getting a greeting card (or a few if there are a lot of people who would sign), maybe passing around a journal that each person can write in would be better. It makes a better keepsake and people have more space to write if they want it.

            Reply
          2. TootsNYC

            When my dad was in the hospital, there simply wouldn’t have been room for flowers.

            He was at the U of Iowa hospitals, where there’s also a great pediatric hospital. And I thought, “They should start a fund-raising initiative where you can ‘buy’ a ‘bouquet’ (i.e., you make a donation, and the kids who are in the hospital volunteer to draw a picture of a bouquet, with a message, to be hung on the wall in the person’s room. You could even probably pin them to the privacy curtain, at least one end of it.

            Reply
        2. the gold digger

          they’re not forgotten

          My dad had been teaching at the DOD school on Sicily only four months when he was diagnosed with cancer and had to return to the US.

          His 7th and 8th graders held several bake sales to raise the money to buy a yearbook, write notes in it, and send it to him. It was one of the most touching gifts he got. Everyone wants to be remembered and to know they matter.

          Reply
          1. Bookworm

            What a wonderful present! That must be so fun for him to read.

            When one of my friends did pass away, I know his parents held on to all the cards that were sent to him. I imagine it would be really meaningful to see what people wrote to their son.

            Reply
        3. alana

          When my mother was diagnosed with cancer (she’s 12 years into remission, thankfully), the notes meant so much to her that she started a note-writing habit for others’ milestones, good and bad. I remember who sent food, but for her it’s the notes that last.

          Reply
      7. BananaPants

        My company typically sends a floral arrangement when an employee is out due to birth/adoption of a child, when they’re on short term disability, and when they’re on bereavement leave (the admin assistants have a local florist on call for this, with standard arrangements for each purpose). The employee’s admin chooses an appropriate greeting card and sends out an all-org email inviting people to sign it if they wish. The card is brought to the florist and delivered along with the arrangement.

        Reply
      8. Elizabeth West

        At OldExjob, I did get flowers from the company when I had my gallbladder removed. We also sent sympathy cards when anybody lost a family member. Meals or a care package would have been nice–I was not incapacitated or non-ambulatory while recovering, but pain medication and general post-surgery fatigue wiped me out. It was hard to feed myself during that time and though my mum was with me the first night, she went home after because she had to work.

        Reply
    2. Observer

      I would hope that her department is doing something. But still, given that the OP’s department is working with them, it seems reasonable that that department should do something as well.

      Reply
    3. FlowersNeverBend

      Hi there, OP here. One of the reasons it shocked me was the our department has done this type of thing for people in other departments–for example, we sent a nice basket to someone in another department who was a partner on a project when we got wind they were having surgery. So I found it especially odd/off-putting that this request was denied.

      Reply
    4. Kimberly

      LW#1 Is it possible that your manager checked with Jane’s department and is handling this in the way Jane prefers. I was team leader for a grade, and have run interference for a teammate that was having health difficulties. For her work was a place she could be “normal” and have other things to think about.

      Reply
  4. Sami

    OP#3: It’s so good of you (smart too) to be supportive and protective of your new employee. Definitely talk to her but it sounds like you’re taking many of the right steps. Good luck to her!

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      +1. It’s fantastic that you’re being so supportive. I especially love how you’ve addressed this head-on and managed the situation with other employees. Some managers are too conflict-avoidant to lay out clear expectations like you did.

      If it was me, I think I’d be worried that my employer would come to think it was more hassle than it was worth, or that it was all they thought about with regards to me. So do make sure you’re giving her feedback on her work progress, and discussing things like personal development, so she knows you’re invested in her as an employee and this isn’t all you talk about. I’m sure you’re on top of this anyway. If you have an EAP you could make sure she also has the details of that.

      Reply
      1. chi type

        Yeah I was afraid for a minute there that the LW was going to say “she’s nice and all but this is killing business. How do we get rid of her?”
        So glad it wasn’t!!

        Reply
        1. No Parking or Waiting

          It did take a happy turn! Yes, LW you are doing everything you can (and caring much more than most employers would) BUT you can’t change other people. Those who lost a loved one are not going to stop trying to get your employee to join their cause. Her ex-employer is not going to say, hey, we’re being sued, but since ex-employee is gone, we aren’t going to involve/persuade her to tow our party line.
          You can only continue to support and protect your employee. You cannot make the situation go away.

          Reply
      2. Specialk9

        I was so struck by how lovely this manager is, as well. Many people would find a way to make this crappy situation worse for the employee, and instead you’re seeking ways to be even more decent. Kudos.

        Reply
    2. SystemsLady

      It stinks that the family of the deceased hasn’t aimed their ire at the right party.
      Good on OP for supporting her!

      Reply
        1. Basis

          I’m not positive they are angry with the letter writer, just that they have been harassing her. They may want additional information to support a legal case they’re creating, information The Whistleblower isn’t willing to/can’t give. Either way it’s pretty crummy of them, but they also lost someone to a workplace accident that it sounds like should have been prevented.

          Reply
          1. Helena

            People who are jerks don’t stop being jerks just because a loved one died. It is clear from the letter OP’s employee has done all the legal stuff and answered all the questions so it can’t be for a legal case.

            Reply
            1. Bookworm

              Well, if the family has a separate legal case going (like, if they’re suing the company for negligence, or whatever) that would probably be independent of the whistleblower’s legal obligations in regards to the complaint.

              Reply
                1. Bookworm

                  How terrible that they’re continuing to bother her. This must be an incredibly stressful situation for Whistleblower.

                  (And a tough one for you, too, OP3!)

            2. blackcat

              And people who are grieving can be extra unreasonable. For all we know, the family is calling up the employee to yell at her for not whistleblowing sooner or more forcefully.

              Reply
              1. Oranges

                This is what I was thinking. The thinking would be: you knew there was a problem! Why didn’t you protect our relative! Which she tried to do but management basically said no. Also it’s management’s responsibility to ensure worker safety but “management” is nebulous and whistleblower is RIGHT THERE.

                Reply
              2. Chameleon

                Or worse, for not doing the unsafe job herself, forcing their loved one to do it and die. Presumably they would have preferred the accident happen to the employee.

                Reply
              3. Danger: Gumption Ahead

                Or doing the whistleblowing and getting removed from the position, which resulted in their relative being in the unsafe job and dying. Maybe they think the whistleblower should have warned their relative or something? Not reasonable, but, as you said, grief often isn’t

                Reply
              4. Observer

                Either that or for whistleblowing and getting fired so that their relative got killed (instead of the employee.)

                Is that reasonable? Of course not. But, as you say, people can be VERY unreasonable.

                Reply
            3. No Parking or Waiting

              I think they are looking for her to support their civil suit. Oh, like Bookworm is describing, but yes. The American legal system separates the two. Criminal charges can be brought against the company and ex-employee can be compelled to testify. A civil suit is different. They can’t make ex-employee testify. But they’re trying.

              Reply
              1. Jessica

                Judging from the use of the words “barrister” and “flat”, I don’t think this is transpiring in the American legal system.

                Reply
            4. Ms. Annie

              The process of putting together a legal case is ongoing. She could have answered all of their questions just fine, then after they talked to her and someone else, they had more questions. That would be normal.

              The issue could be that after the lawyers got all of her answers, they told the family that the case wasn’t as slam dunk as the family thought it should be, and if the whistleblower had only said “this” then the case would be different. The family could be concerned that the company was paying her off and bugging her because of that. (Not saying the company is witness tampering or that the whistleblower is playing games. I am saying *if the family thinks*.)

              The reporter just wants a story.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                If they had more questions related to the case, it would be on the lawyer to ask – and you can be sure that a smart lawyer would handle it in a way that would not be construed as “harassment”.

                Reply
          2. Anony

            I also assumed that they were badgering her to help them with their legal case or to help them generate more PR by giving media interviews or something like that.

            Reply
        2. Ramona Flowers

          It’s illogical, isn’t it? But people aren’t logical. I think it’s perhaps less about shooting the messenger and more about needing to blame someone and her perhaps being an easier target because she is an individual and she had the audacity (NB this is sarcasm) to not die in the person’s place.

          They could be projecting their anger and grief onto the person who escaped with their life, or might feel she could have done more to stop it happening (which is clearly untrue) or she should have died instead (again clearly utterly untrue).

          People like to believe that the world is just and when it doesn’t work that way, they can try to make it so by blaming victims. Perhaps that’s what has happened here. Personally I think it’s a lousy way to honour the person who died, who probably wouldn’t want this done in their name.

          Reply
      1. Nita

        It sounds like maybe she refused to do the dangerous job, and then the person assigned to do it instead of her died. Still… it sounds like she tried to stop *anyone* from going into the situation, but wasn’t able to. It’s not her that caused their relative’s death. It’s the boss they should be harassing.

        Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      It is! I was ready for a turn to “But I didn’t expect this level of disruption” and instead it’s just concern over not being able to shield her from the crazy.

      You are doing the right thing, OP.

      Reply
    4. LBK

      Agreed – sounds like the OP is doing a great job controlling what she can control. I don’t think there’s anything she can do as a manager to help this employee with harassment she’s receiving outside of work. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask and it’s very thoughtful of you to do so, but unless there’s some unique circumstance (like asking for a private car service home at night because she’s being harassed as she’s leaving the office) I think you’ve done your duty.

      Reply
    5. Marthooh

      So many letters here are a variation on “My boss is an * — what can I do?” It’s refreshing to read one from a boss who’s doing the right thing. Thank you, OP#3 :)

      Reply
  5. Ramona Flowers

    #1 It’s hard hearing news like this but I do wonder how helpful flowers are to receive in any case, unless she’s in hospital where they’ll help brighten her room. They’re such a well-intentioned gift, but for some people it’s just one more thing to worry about (now I have to find a vase, water them, etc).

    It’s weird that your manager didn’t talk to you directly though.

    Reply
    1. Tiny Soprano

      It could also matter what kind of illness it is. For example, flowers are often not permitted on oncology wards simply because people with compromised immune systems can catch all kinds of nasty things (like fungal lung infections) from tiny microorganisms on the flowers. Maybe the hospital can advise what kind of gifts they’re allowed to send in, so that their kind gesture doesn’t end up being barred from the ward.

      You’d think if this is the case though, the manager would’ve been open about it and had another suggestion.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Good point!

        I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, and I have a passion for flowers. I stared at my pretty flowers when the morphine made me too groggy for anything else. I stared at my flowers as a bright spot in the room, and a visible sign of people caring about me.

        Reply
    2. Not Australian

      They don’t last long, either; when I was ill recently someone sent me a lovely flower arrangement, but because it was all short stems the poor thing was dead within the week and there was nothing I could do to save it. Without wanting to sound ungrateful, because it was a very kind thought (and the basket’s been useful!) an Amazon voucher would have been a better use of the money; I could have bought a book or something with it.

      Reply
      1. Emma UK

        I don’t like getting cut flowers because they die so quickly too. I would imagine for some people in such a situation it could be depressing.

        Reply
        1. Nanani

          This is a thing that varies a LOT with cultural background and personal history.

          I know people who prefer the cut-and-will-die-soon kind specifically for hospitals, because the idea is that the receiver will be out of the hospital by the time the flowers are wilted. A potted plant, on the other hand, says “I expect you to be in the hospital long enough to take care of this plant”.

          In this case, with a bleak prognosis, I’m not really sure which applies, but the point is: Flowers, their unspoken messages can be complex.

          Reply
    3. Miss Elaine e

      It’s not the flowers per se, but the thought they express: the patient is valued and respected by the giver. It’s a nice touch and can really help build rapport.
      On the other hand, it can be really disheartening to not receive any such token, especially (and I don’t know if this is the case in this situation) if other employees have received flowers in similar situations. OP, there is nothing stopping you from sending a note/card/small gift or visiting on your own.

      Reply
      1. SignalLost

        I would rather have flowers than no flowers. It is indeed the thought, and I find it preferable to think my colleagues care enough to make at least a typical gesture of thought than not.

        Reply
        1. Red 5

          Same. I’m not a huge fan of cut flowers (I want them sometimes but then I just buy them myself if I’m in the mood because it’s so rare) but I would rather get flowers than silence.

          Case in point, I’ve had two deaths in my family since I started working at my current job. After the first, I got a nice arrangement from work that I found really comforting. After the second…there was just a lot of awkward silence. A few individual co-workers got together and wrote out a card (both times actually) and it that meant the world to me, but I definitely noticed that the company itself (or whichever co-worker did the arrangement on behalf of the company) said nothing.

          To be fair, that was part of an overall silence I noticed the second time and there are some other reasons for that, but I just want to maybe convince some other readers that if you’re feeling like maybe something is awkward or you don’t know what to do, please just do _something_. A handwritten note on a scrap of paper would have been so much better than all the awkward shuffling and avoiding the subject that I was faced with.

          Reply
    4. Hills to Die on

      I can see where some people wouldn’t want flowers, but if the norm is send them and nobody did that for me, I’d probably be hurt. I agree that another conversation is in order because it doesn’t make sense to me.

      Reply
    5. Agent Diane

      Flowers are an outright no in our hospital.

      OP1: have you asked your colleague’s manager if they are sending something from her team? And if so, could you sign the card?

      Reply
      1. Broadcastlady

        You can’t have flowers In the entire hospital? Even Maternity? I loved getting flowers both after having my son, and during a week stay battling my Crohn’s disease. Our hospital even has a floral area in the gift shop.

        Reply
        1. Agent Diane

          Nope. The florist shop has been replaced with a small cafe. It’s possibly different in the hospice sections but I’ve been in post-natal, neo-natal ICU, adult ICU, trauma, thorasic, and orthopaedics. No flowers. Not on the wards, nor the side-rooms.

          Reply
  6. Princess Cimorene

    #1 – That’s a really good script to use. I hope you’ll be able to get those flowers to her after all.

    #2 (Psst, Alison there is an extra “for” in the title) I think that you might actually have to lock the conference room!! This is an annoying thing about food that people do. I think you can talk to people (don’t send a general email, those get ignored!) but it really might come down to having to lock up after the spreads are set up. This is annoying and shouldn’t be this way but people are so weird and rude about food like this lol.

    Reply
  7. Wannabikkit

    #3 – I’m not sure why the deceased person’s family is harassing the OP’s employee. I would have thought they would be on board with the employee laying a complaint? Or have I completely misunderstood?

    Reply
    1. Not Australian

      From the outside it may look as if the whistleblower knew there was a problem and got out without doing anything to solve it.

      Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I suspect they’re independently suing and want to see what other information the whistleblower is willing to divulge to help their case. Or they’re blaming the whistleblower.

      Reply
      1. Nichelle

        The letter writer said the whistleblower has already done everything legally required of her and has answered all questions by lawyers already. So they can’t be harassing her about a lawsuit because she has already done her part in all that. If they were suing she would be called as a witness to answer all questions, but the letter writer says she’s answered everything.

        So it has to be blaming or something else.

        Reply
      2. Helena

        If that were the case, their lawyer would serve her with paperwork and according to OP she has already answered all questions and done everything required of her for the legal stuff.

        Whatever they are harassing her about, it has to be something else.

        Reply
      3. OP 3

        As indicated, she has completed all her legal obligations and has already answered the questions from the barrister’s family (more than once). They are blaming and harassing her.

        Reply
      4. OP 3

        Hit post too soon. She has already answered all questions from the barrister the family hired as I indicated in my letter. They are blaming her.

        Reply
        1. sunny-dee

          That is messed up. It may work differently in the UK than the US, but can you, as an organization, file a restraining order against them? She may not be able to (or may not want to), but I think you can stop harassment on your own property, phones, email, etc.

          Reply
        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead

          Not that it is logical, but I can see why they might think that. They might even think she should have warned their relative of the danger or something. Not fair to your employee at all

          Reply
        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          That is absolutely ridiculous—the target of their rage should be the company. Are they seriously blaming her for not dying in place of their loved one?

          Grief can do terrible things to people. I am so sorry for your employee. Are there harassment or other provisions that could be invoked to protect her?

          (I saw the note in your letter, but I forgot you aren’t in the U.S., where a person might be recalled multiple times for the same/related litigation.)

          Reply
    3. Thlayli

      Not sure – possibly they think she should have done her job and then she would be dead instead of their loved one – but that’s a pretty horrific reason to stalk someone.

      Reply
      1. Goya

        That was the first thought that popped into my head. Because my other thought is that all anger should be directed at the company who allowed such a task to be carried out in the first place.

        Reply
    4. WeevilWobble

      It may not mean that they think she was wrong. They may just be trying to get more info. And the Whistleblower may not be allowed to speak publicly while the case is pending.

      Reply
      1. Bookworm

        Which must be incredibly difficult for her. Can you imagine how hard it would be to turn away a grieving family?

        This is a really tough situation and I’m glad the whistleblower is working in a spot where she has the full support of her manager.

        Reply
      2. OP 3

        ?

        I don’t know how either of you (WeevilWobble and Bookworm) could have gotten that from my letter when nothing like that is indicated and actually the exact opposite is true. The case is NOT pending and all legal things have been concluded. It is NOT difficult for her to turn away the people who are harassing her.

        Reply
        1. JB (not in Houston)

          To be fair, your letter wasn’t completely clear on that front. You said, “She has done all of things legally required as a result of the complaint and investigation and has completed answering the barrister’s questions.” But that doesn’t say whose complaint or investigation (the company’s? the government agency in charge of safety? the family’s?) or whose barrister’s questions she was having to answer or in what context.

          I’m not nitpicking your word choices, as it’s not really possible to provide as much information as people need to get the full picture in the space of a question to Alison. I’m just saying that the wording left enough open that their reading of the situation wasn’t negated by the information provided, so their reading of it wasn’t totally unreasonable.

          Reply
        2. Legal Beagle

          I don’t think anyone was implying that she shouldn’t be turning away the family. I read it as an acknowledgment that she may feel guilty or conflicted about having to take a protective stance against a grieving family. Unfortunately it sounds like she is being put in a terrible position, despite doing all the right things.

          Reply
        3. Bookworm

          Sorry for the misunderstanding. What JB indicted is correct; I was speculating that perhaps the family wanted to instigate civil proceedings, which might require information-gathering, but wouldn’t necessarily fall under something that she was legally obliged to do. Clearly, we misinterpreted.

          I agree that she should turn away the people who are harassing her, but was only sympathizing that it sounds like it would be stressful to turn away a bereaved family – that’s not a situation anyone wants to be in. I’m glad to hear it’s not difficult for her.

          Reply
        4. Specialk9

          It sounds like you’re getting annoyed that we’re not reading your words, but they’re more ambiguous on our end than they likely seem to you.

          Your sentence “She has done all of the things legally required as a result of the comparing and investigation and has completed answering the barrister’s questions”s ounds like it’s only addressing one complaint + investigation. But, and again it may be because of different countries’ approaches, there could be multiple investigations and legal cases. In the US (and I’m not a lawyer), there could be the workplace investigation paid for by work and/or insurance; criminal trial; civil trial. Each with different lawyers (barristers). It sounded like you were addressing only one possibility, so we were guessing that just because she complied fully in one investigation didn’t mean the family wasn’t trying to set her into multiple other cases. Which is a very different scenario (‘can you fill out the forms and testify at these 10 dates’) from blaming her and possibly harming her.

          So we’re listening to you, but we don’t understand how your situation works and aren’t trying to be jerks.

          Reply
  8. Confused

    Many thumbs up to OP#3. The amount of support you’re providing the employee is exceptional but I agree with Alison, it doesn’t hurt to ask if anything else can be done.

    To be honest though, what is bizarre to me is why the family of the deceased are hounding the employee. I understand they are grieving but I can’t help but wonder why this employee is being hounded when she reported the unsafe job, was made redundant, made a complaint and then the deceased perished (my thoughts go out to this person’s family). So I can’t help but be confused why they’re hounding her.

    Reply
    1. Wannabikkit

      Exactly what I was thinking but expressed far more eloquently! (I had a busy day at work and now brain has shut down for the evening!)

      Reply
    2. Bea

      I cannot wrap my mind around it either. If anything the family should be able to use this has proof against the company for their loved ones death due to negligence and shut that hellhole down.

      Reply
    3. Malice Alice

      Perhaps they think that if the whistleblower had just done the job and not complained, they would have been the one who died and their family member would still be alive? Grief comes out in some odd ways which often don’t include logic.

      Reply
    4. Eliza

      The only possibility that comes to mind is that they’re thinking, “If only she hadn’t complained, she’d still have been doing the job when the accident happened and she’d have been the one who died instead of our child”. Which is incredibly short-sighted reasoning, but grief can mess people up.

      Reply
    5. TL -

      They could also be trying to get her to agree to a publicity campaign or lawsuit that she’s not comfortable with. That was what came to my mind, anyways.

      Reply
      1. Not Australian

        There will almost certainly be a lawsuit anyway, and the whistleblower is probably prohibited from making comments in public or having any contact with the family of the deceased worker.

        Reply
      2. Nichelle

        Letter writer for #3 said the whsitbleblower has already answered all the questions and completed everything legally required of her. So it can’t be for a lawsuit because she’s already answered questions from the lawyer’s and everyone involved.

        Reply
        1. MK

          That’s not accurate. The OP says

          “She has done all of things legally required as a result of the complaint and investigation and has completed answering the barrister’s questions”

          That sounds to me as if there was an investigation from the authorities and possibly also the appropriate prosecutor’s agency put together a criminal case against the company’s leadership. That would fall under “legally required”; in most jurisdictions, citizens are actually obligated to cooperate with the police/public prosecutors (tv series seem to suggest that is not always the case in the U.S., but the OP mentions a barrister, so I am guessing they are in the UK or other Commonwealth country).

          However, if the family of the deceased worker wants to sue the company for compensation, they will have to bring a suit of their own and the OP’s employee likely isn’t legally required to cooperate with them, or can limit their involvement. E.g., it’s possible the employee agreed to talk with the family’s barrister to answer questions, but isn’t willing to testify in court and they are trying to pressure her to agree to that.

          Reply
          1. WeevilWobble

            It’s also possible she’s been told not to speak with anyone until the investigation is over.

            So, all of these people keep contacting her and she can’t just speak to them and tell them what they want to hear.

            I don’t know the UK but that is common in the US. For instance, prosecutors will ask you not to divulge Grand Jury testimony until an indictment has been issued, for instance. Of a judge will issue a gag order.

            Reply
          2. OP 3

            Apologies for the confusion on your end. Nichelle is correct. As I had stated, she has answered all the questions from the barrister the family hired. The legal obligations have been met by her and all legal matters around this are concluded.

            Reply
            1. This Daydreamer

              Then what on earth do they want? I find it mind boggling that they are going after your employee, who clearly did nothing wrong. Hell, she faced retaliation for trying to fix the situation that killed their loved one!

              Reply
            2. Specialk9

              Ohhhh from the *family’s* barrister. Well then that’s just even more nuts, that she worked with *them* fully and are still harassing her.

              I’m still so fascinated by this, since in the US this would drag on for years, possibly over a decade, in multiple venues. Law enforcement and criminal trial, workers comp, insurance reviews and hearings, govt safety and health, and civil court.

              Reply
            1. MK

              That doesn’t work in the same way in all jurisdictions. In mine, only the public prosecutor can require you to testify and you face consequences if you don’t show up. Private claimants can summon you to testify too, but you can just ignore the summons with no penalty.

              In any case, it seems it’s not a case of them wanting anything, just harassment.

              Reply
    6. SignalLost

      Fortunately for all of us, it doesn’t matter why they’re hounding her. I appreciate the efforts of her current employer – kudos to you and your company, OP!

      Reply
    7. Temperance

      My guess is that they’re angry at LW’s employee for refusing to do the unsafe job, because if she had done the unsafe job, their family member would still be alive. It’s an ugly thought, but, well, they’re following this poor woman around.

      Reply
    8. Psychdoc

      It is not uncommon for grieving people to have feelings they direct towards the wrong person. In this case, it could be that they can’t get anything else from the company (and may be required to stay away), which leaves them only the whistleblower to go after/be mad at/blame. They may also struggle with feeling angry at the person who died, but that is too much cognitive dissonance for them, so they displace the anger onto the whistleblower. Now, this is not for a second said to excuse the behavior- the family may need some counseling to help them process their loss – it’s just to propose a possible thought process of the grieving.

      Reply
  9. Bea

    #5 I know why you’re stressing out but your vendor is not going to think poorly of you. Cancellations are typical in every business I’ve ever worked with. Especially since they’re seemingly someone you so business with frequently. The key is to ask and acknowledge that your request may not be doable.

    I’ve never held a cancelled order against a customer. I only start getting annoyed when it’s frequent or they flip out and demand something unreasonable.

    I’ve had bosses want me to return things as well which can be much harder to try to negotiate but in the end as a vendor it’s so typical.

    You won’t be held responsible. Your boss is trying to do damage control. Budgets are rarely so rigid that we expect them to be iron clad, not even a dollar wiggle room. Every business blows a budget at times, they are too fluid not to.

    Reply
    1. MK

      Frankly, the only thing off about this situation is the OP’s attitude. I find this line of thinking “I was in disbelief when Fergus told me to try and cancel the order…I am the face of our company to this vendor and they’ve consistently done great work for us… I don’t want to break their trust” pretty weird, in that the OP seems so focused in preserving their relationship with the vendor that they feel their company should act against its interests and go over budget.

      A canceled order is something that happens. If a vendor cannot accommodate this, they will tell you or charge a cancelation fee. Unless there more factors we don’t know about (like you made a commitment for ongoing orders and they purchased new equipment and hired more personel because of this), its not a breach of trust.

      Reply
      1. Bookworm

        It sounds like it’s part of OP’s job to maintain good relationships with their vendors, and that’s her priority. I think it’s understandable she’s frustrated that other departments mismanaged their funds and now she’s the one having to have tough conversations as a result.

        I agree it’s not an egregious request and it’s not a breach of trust – but when we get absorbed in the day-to-day details and purpose of our work, sometimes we need a reminder to step back and look at the bigger picture. That’s pretty common, IMO.

        Reply
      2. LW#5

        Part of the reason I wrote in was for a reality check. I am still pretty new to the workplace and have never encountered this situation before now. We signed a commitment when we placed the order and I didn’t want to leave the vendor in the lurch and possibly affect our relationship with them down the line. Especially when I had proper approval and other departments didn’t follow procedure and were the ones to affect the bottom line. I’m not saying my attitude is/was right or reasonable – just trying to explain.

        Reply
        1. Blue_eyes

          I understand where you’re coming from. It’s frustrating that you had to go back to a vendor and cancel and order when it was the fault of other departments who hadn’t followed proper purchase approval procedure. Sometimes you can do everything right and end up having to cover for people who messed up. As long as you’re nice about it and don’t do this often the vendor probably won’t be very upset.

          Reply
        2. MK

          I understand that you felt bad for cancelling the order, but there is no need to agonise like this. You did nothing wrong, but your boss asking you to see if it was possible to cancel the order wasn’t wrong either.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            Seconded. It’s not a ding on your professional reputation. Vendors know bosses can be fickle, and frankly they deal with people being far far more out-there than this. Just be polite, prompt, and upfront in your dealings with them, and they won’t think twice.

            Reply
    2. Nico m

      #5 if your financial year is the calendar year, and the items are useful, look at postponing the order, delivery, and invoice, so it comes out of next years budget.

      Reply
      1. CinnamonRoll

        Agreed. Postpone delivery until 2018 and pay out of 2018 budget, and if separate budgets between departments, get the other department who had surreptiously ordered similar items to cover half of the 2018 costs.

        Reply
    3. LW#5

      Thank you for your response (and thanks to Alison of course!). I’ve already spoken with the vendor several times now, and like you’ve all said, they took this well and were very understanding. We canceled the small portion of the order that had not yet been through production. My frustration mostly stemmed from the fact that I let Fergus know more than once that items had already been through production and shipped to us and he kept telling me to cancel when it was too late to do that. We still would’ve had to pay for the items per the agreement we signed when we placed the order. I felt like he wasn’t listening or didn’t believe me. That may not be a reasonable response, but it was what I was feeling at the time. Part of the reason I wrote in was because I was really unsure about whether this was normal, so I was looking for a reality check in a way. Which Alison and the commenters so far have given me. Thanks again!

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Did you get the sense that he was trying to get you to have them cancel the items they didn’t want to cancel? If he told you to cancel the order, you told him they wouldn’t be able to cancel everything and he seemed fine with that, then I think you’re in the clear. That is a normal thing that happens, especially when you’re ordering customized items, so unless you’re sensing otherwise I’d bet he honestly didn’t think twice about it because not being able to get your whole order refunded isn’t a big deal.

        It sounds like he’s just trying to recoup what he can and the rest is what it is; particularly since he went about things the right way, if anything he’s probably annoyed with the other departments that circumvented the process and put him in this position, not with you or the vendor.

        Reply
      2. Been there

        One thing to keep in mind, and it’s not always apparent, Fergus is most likely under a lot of pressure himself to get the order cancelled. If Fergus was short, although it didn’t sound like he was, it’s probably due to the fact that he’s being asked to be part of the fix to a problem he didn’t create. More than likely frustration in the situation and not you or the vendor. It is reasonable to go back to a vendor after receiving one response to ask again.

        I think you’ve probably worked this out, but you’ll be fine. You’ve done what Fergus has requested, you’re not going to suffer anything from the vendor, you will not be dangling out as the person who blew the budget, and all of this will soon be forgotten.

        Reply
      3. Bea

        Being new to this, I now grasp your worry much more! I’ve has over the top bosses who wanted things that weren’t doable and would pester about it and push. This is why a middle person is often a good choice here.

        You will become more accustomed to him over time and know those quirks.

        I always just preface things with “Bossman changed his mind, can you accommodate this??” and I’ve never ever had a vendor freak out.

        Despite agreements there is often wiggle room. Some will do you favors. Some will stick to their guns. But if you are kind and flexible with them most vendors bend over backwards to make the customer happy. Keep that in mind. You are the customer. They are there to supply you with things. It’s about mutual respect but DO NOT EVER let them get you into a blind loyalty spot either. Many will take advantage of a new purchaser if they sense it. Been there done that.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          100% agree with your last paragraph – it’s wise to be cognizant of this stuff because that’s how you build a good relationship where you *can* get exceptions sometimes. But definitely don’t let trying to build a good relationship get in the way of doing the right thing for your own employer overall in the long run.

          Reply
          1. Else

            Yeah – the best result is for both you and the vendor to get what you want, but you get there by both of you behaving forthrightly and looking after your own interests first. You must respect each other and deal honorably, but never forget that your priority is your company and theirs is their own company. Sometimes this means you get more or they get more for a specific deal in the interests of a longer term relationship, but it should never stay lopsided too long. If it does, as soon as you find another option, you’ll be gone, and vice versa – and they know that, too.

            Reply
        2. oranges & lemons

          I work a fair amount with freelance editors and designers, and it’s a similar situation–if you are able to be flexible and reasonable in your regular dealings with them, and sometimes do them a favour if they’re in a tight spot, then they will usually be understanding when things outside your control cause difficulties for them.

          Reply
      4. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        Another thing to keep in mind that if you do a lot of business with a vendor, sometimes they will let you do things (like cancel) even when the original agreement said you couldn’t past a certain point. I know you felt like you couldn’t ask, but if you approach in the right way, this is an ask that is reasonable when done very sparingly. And of course using an apologetic tone and being clear that you completely understand that they may not be able to do it. Fergus may have known that the vendor was more flexible on terms than how they were stated if he has worked there for a while and is familiar with the vendor.

        Reply
      5. Aurion

        I’m a purchaser, so let me tell you…this is so, so normal.

        Customer (internal or external) change their minds all the time, which means cancellations down the chain if the item is specially ordered. A completely custom-made item is often NCNR (nor cancellation no return) at time of order, and if there’s really nothing the vendor can do to cancel, they will remind you it’s NCNR and that’s that. Your boss (per request of others) is trying to salvage what he can, which means you’re trying to salvage what you can. That’s all.

        Be polite, be apologetic, cover your bases, and no one will blame you. At worst you’ll contribute to your vendor’s sales rep’s irritation for the day (but if he’s remotely professional he won’t let it show!), and I promise he doesn’t actually hold it against you unless you make it a sustained pattern. It’s business. And if he actually can’t do what you want (in this case, cancel) he will tell you.

        You’ll be okay!

        Reply
      6. Specialk9

        Sometimes managers want ~~magic magic magic~~ to fix things they can’t figure a way out of. Well, humans in general. But that’s often not doable. Good news you’re not on the hook or responsible.

        Reply
      7. Lady at Liberty

        LW, how custom were these items? Were they something the vendor can just toss on the shelf? Something with your logo printed/engraved/embossed? Something of a completely unique shape?

        Reply
  10. The Supreme Troll

    I think a card is normal and perfectly reasonable. Your second sentence here, though, is super important to the situation that Jane is going through (which is unfortunate, and would be thrilled if it turned out to be wrong).

    Reply
  11. Dan

    #2

    Call it what it is: Theft.

    Even at an office that allows using the printer for incidental personal use, I’d bet they’d frown on taking home unopened reams of paper. Or an entire laser cartridge. Perhaps even the whole printer! (Point being, there’s a line somewhere, and it’s not a terribly fine one.)

    Reply
    1. Runner

      About 2 weeks ago I brought in 2 dozen srore-bought cookies (in their containers) and put thrm in our fantastic food-sharing area, which also hold office supplies. I returned within five minutes for one myself, and someone had taken BOTH full-dozen cookies. Not one or tei as is the norm and unspoken understanding. It’s so stupid for me to have felt so deflated and in a way betrayed, but I did. Those were meant for everyone, including me! I’m dieting but wanted one cookie, they only came per dozen, and it was 2-for-1, perfect for sharing. It’s just so gross — who takes 2 dozen cookies from the common area?

      Reply
      1. Broadcastlady

        We have less than 10 employees, and co-worker does that(usually with donut holes). He’ll also come over to the desk and pickup some of what your eating (crackers, cookies, chips, etc). & eat it. I’ve grabbed his reaching hand to stop him before, and he just says “Why, Broadcastlady won’t share!” He just doesn’t care. He’s also 83, so at the point, there is no changing him.

        Reply
    2. JoJo

      For some bizarre reason, a lot of people don’t consider it theft if it involves food. I’ve had people grab food off my plate, then act offended when I complained, as if I was the one who was out of line.

      Reply
      1. swingbattabatta

        I had a coworker who was like that. I avoided going out to eat with her as much as possible – she’d be sitting there eating whatever she ordered, look over and say “oh that looks good, mind if i try some?” as she was reaching over with her fork and digging into my food. AHHHH.

        Reply
  12. Brazilian Guy

    #3 you are very kind of supporting him through this very difficult time. I believe you are doing your best and everything that needs to be done is done from your part. Hope God give your employee better days to come and that the next year be more merrier to him, you and all your team.

    Reply
    1. Merci Dee

      What a kind thought for the letter writer’s team! Thank you for sharing the holiday spirit with them, and with us! :)

      Reply
  13. kas

    1. I probably wouldn’t push the issue any further. It seems odd your manager would have her assistant contact you. I would speak to Jane’s department and ask if anything has been done yet and if not, I’d ask to be included. If you would like to send it from your own department, I’d send an email and ask if anyone wants to chip in. That’s only if you think your team would want to participate. At my office, if we have an injured/sick coworker, people usually go around asking anyone they know is close to/works with the person if they want to be included in whatever gift they’re sending.

    2. I hate these food stealing posts, only because I get upset reading them. Why would anyone think this is ok? They have no shame and they should be shamed.

    5. This is not as big of a deal as you’re making it out to be, it’s very common. People cancel supplier orders all the time. This is not something you’ve done often so requesting to cancel won’t look bad on you. You won’t be held liable for the items that cannot be cancelled, you have email proof of this request. Also definitely don’t push back on this, it’s a budget issue …

    Reply
  14. Traffic_Spiral

    For #2, I’d give the benefit of the doubt and assume that people might not quite understand that this isn’t “for everyone” food. I’d send a quick email of “hey Bob, you may not realize it, but when we get food for X, it’s meant for the people in the meeting. It’s fine if people help themselves to anything left over after the meeting, but we’re having situations where all the food is gone before it gets to the attendees we ordered the food for. These are people working through meal time and we need to feed them. Going forward, please don’t take food that’s supplied for meetings you’re not part of, unless the meeting’s over and the food’s been moved to the break room.”

    If any of them keep it up, talk to their boss about it. Thieves are the worst, and that includes food thieves.

    Reply
    1. KHB

      I was thinking something along these lines too. If the food thieves have never actually been told “no” (which may be the case since the director is so conflict avoidant), they might be figuring that nobody has a problem with what they’re doing, since they’ve been getting away with it for so long.

      I would have aimed for something a little sterner, though. Something like “The disappearance of food ordered for meetings is becoming a serious problem. Going forward, employees are strictly forbidden to take any food from (area). If there are any leftovers, they’ll be moved to (area), and you’re welcome to help yourself.”

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Traffic_Spiral’s point is to call out the food thieves directly – and phrasing it as “perhaps you didn’t know….” is a very Miss Manners way of implying that you know damn well they’re stealing, and you’re offering them the out of pretending they didn’t know better and won’t do it again.

        A general email to all employees, however stern, is something the food thieves can pretend doesn’t apply to them.

        Reply
        1. KHB

          A potential difficulty of calling out the offenders one on one is that you need to make sure you get them all – OP2 says that the worst offenders are well known, but maybe there are some others who don’t steal quite as often (or as openly) and have mostly escaped notice? If they hear through the grapevine that other people got scolded for taking food but they didn’t, they could also rationalize that to mean that the rule doesn’t apply to them.

          So what about doing both – a company-wide memo/email AND one-on-one chats with the worst offenders?

          Another benefit of the memo to everyone is that people who aren’t thieves might also appreciate some clarity on when it is OK to take leftovers. If my own workplace is anything to go by, there are plenty of people who would never take food that doesn’t belong to them, but who do enjoy some free food.

          Reply
    2. zapateria la bailarina

      the food is being kept in a conference room, which to me definitely shows that it’s not for the office at large. at least at my office anything in a conference room would be assumed to be for whatever meeting is being held (and large meetings are usually common knowledge in the office) and food out in a common area is for open consumption.

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn

        Yeah, if it’s in a conference, it’s pretty brazen of these people to go in and take food. To me, that’s a lot worse than grabbing a bagel that’s on a table outside the room. Still wrong, of course, but at least then it might be a little unclear as to whether it’s communal food or meant for the meeting.

        OP should talk to them once. If it happens again, lock the room if it’s possible and talk to their boss.

        Reply
      2. Big Fat Meanie

        Thanks for pointing out that detail! Part of me wonders if maybe they think (or convince themselves) the meeting is over already and those are leftovers that haven’t been moved to the kitchen yet, but . . . they probably know they’re stealing.

        Reply
      3. Tuxedo Cat

        People can be ridiculous about food. I’ve sat in conference rooms clearly labeled they are reserved for x meeting and random people I’ve never seen before will try to take a boxed lunch. Some brazen people even have tried multiple times.

        Reply
    3. eplawyer

      It’s in a conference room. I think it should be clear that it is for the meeting. You are not part of the meeting, you don’t touch.

      These people KNOW its for the meeting. They don’t care.

      I really like the yardstick idea.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Another vote for yardstick. If you get an actual three-footer, it’ll be long and floppy enough that you can wield it without risking a workers’ comp injury, so it’s perfectly practical.

        Reply
  15. SenatorMeathooks

    Conquences at oldjob for the food theft in OP #2 as depicted would result in an immediate firing or severe, SEVERE reprimand for those involved. Oldjob caters usually for VIPs of various origins, not the least of which are MDs and other industry names. Nip this in the bud, this is completely unacceptable. The only exception would be if for some reason it was incredibly unclear who the food was for and that it was reserved. Even then, it was the office standard to label freebies and NOT label catering as the assumption was unless it was absolutely clear it was for public consumption, it wasn’t to be touched. I don’t know how your office operates on things like this but it might be a good idea to implement something like that moving forward.

    Reply
    1. SignalLost

      Honestly, this kind of thing makes me want to put some figurative heads on pikes. If the food thieves’ managers have spines (and I’m sorry yours doesn’t, OP) these people should be individually spoken to once, then given more severe consequences sharpish. Including termination. Depending on the context of the meetings, this crap might be harming the org’s image.

      Mostly, I resent knowing that grown-ass adults have to be told not to steal food. I resented it in the food thread, and I resent it now.

      Reply
  16. Mirabel

    Per #2 – My take, from experience, is that in more offices than not (in my experience) people are used to seeing a lot of wasted catered food being thrown out after meetings. (Like with my old company, they’d provide huge spreads of muffins, bagels, etc., while most of us are dedicated low-carb eaters and gym fanatics.) Thus, people feel like: “Much of this stuff is going to end up in the rubbish, so there shouldn’t be any problem for me to take something (mitigating the waste.)” Why not frame an office-wide communication (or even just a sign posted by the food prior to the meeting time) to the staff saying: “All food items leftover after our catered meetings will be made available afterward in the office kitchen. Specify a time even, if that helps. Have a 10-12 meeting? Say that the leftover croissants or sandwiches or whatever will be available after 12:30. I think that should resolve the issue.

    Reply
    1. Interviewer

      This is what our company does with all leftover food. No one is supposed to be wandering around in the conference areas, let alone helping themselves to the food. Only people having meetings or helping with setup should be there. Any leftovers are put in the breakroom following the meetings. If it’s late, they get refrigerated and put out the next day. There’s always an email announcing it, too.

      You need someone from the top – or at least someone in charge of the conference center – telling everyone what the process is, and what expectations are around their behavior. I’d add in a little bit about the client expectations, maybe the impression you want them to have of the company’s brand or your hospitality. And then the outlined process needs to be consistently followed. If this announcement goes out, and then the conference center staff are routinely giving leftover boxed lunches to their BFFs, it’s going to turn into Lord of the Flies in a hurry.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Lord of the Flies, ha, yeah.

        I’ve been watching The Mist tv show, and one of the themes is how all people are 9 meals away from anarchy and murder. (As an aside, Target sells buckets of dehydrated food for camping or emergencies. More than 9 meals worth. Just don’t tell people you have them.)

        Reply
    2. Yomi

      Same with my company. People are told (often multiple times) that they can’t help themselves to food until an email goes out saying that they can, and the conference area is good about making sure that an email goes out when they are ready to let people have the leftovers.

      We still have theft, but it’s mitigated by having a system for letting people think they’ll have a shot at it eventually.

      Reply
  17. nonegiven

    “some other departments in the company purchased items without getting proper approval”

    That should be ‘other department’s’ problem.

    Reply
      1. Goya

        Hopefully the departments who went through without approval are given some sort of consequences though. Otherwise the other departments will always be cleaning up their mistakes and suffering their own budgets because of it.

        Reply
  18. Ruth

    I work in a public building with a population that is very fond of free things. If I have food for a meeting I put it on a cart (mine has 3 shelves & can hold a lot) and have it by me and take in in 5-10 minutes before the meeting and then I’m in the room. If it’s a huge spread that must be out sooner than yes, I lock the door. Needs must.

    Reply
  19. Akcipitrokulo

    OP3 – thanks for being so supportive to her! If you haven’t already, it’s also worth saying to her that you appreciate and admire what she did, and that if it ever becomes an issue at your work, you will back her 100%.

    Reply
  20. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

    People can become irrational when they lose a loved one, especially if it’s unexpected and preventable. A young adult died of a drug overdose in a local public restroom, and the family actively, publicly blamed the owner of the restroom for the death, as if they have facilities just so people can OD. They also have zero concern (only blame) for the employee who found them and tried to revive them. It’s sad.

    Reply
    1. Bobstinacy

      This is a common enough occurance in my city that all public bathrooms have their staff equipped with narcan/noxolone. Even with everyone carrying these things around like epi pens we’re still losing people at an alarming rate.

      Even with trained people on site it’s not guarantee that you can bring an OD back and keep them stable until paramedics arrive :/ I can’t imagine how bad the staff member already felt having someone die while they were working much less being blamed by the family.

      Reply
      1. Specialk9

        Oh my gosh. I read about the opioid epidemic, and even have a close family member in a tragic OD spiral… But the sheer scale of public restroom ODs that you describe is shocking.

        Reply
        1. Bobstinacy

          It’s beyond the bathrooms, I lost 7 people from my extended friends group this year because of it :/ all under 40, all from laced cocaine.

          I just checked the stats and they predict we’re going to exceed 1400 fentynal related deaths in my city alone.

          Reply
    2. Falling Diphthong

      That is so sad. And yet, a helpful reminder that “Your reaction to the death of your child is illogical” probably isn’t an effective thing to tell people, in terms of getting them to change their behavior.

      Reply
  21. Jolie

    My thought too!
    Could it be that the breakfast food was placed somewhere near where the “free for all leftovers from event” or “sharing this fruit bowl with anyone who wants it” food normally goes?

    Reply
  22. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors

    #2

    my mom was a nurse for decades then worked in office administration.

    She would say, “if you put out free food or cash in the nurses break room, the food will be gone first!”

    Working in an office was apparently similar…
    Locking up the room w the food before thw meeting time was/ is the only answer. The way she tells it is pretty funny.

    Reply
    1. Hills to Die on

      Yep. My mom was a nurse too and she taught me well. I’m going to the hospital this morning to see my husband who just had surgery, and I will be bringing donuts.
      When I had my daughter, I brought homemade cookies to all of the staff in delivery and recovery as well as the doctors’ office. Nurses loooove food.

      Reply
      1. Susanne

        Bring something healthy for goodness sakes. It’s not as considerate as you think to bring donuts (etc) for a bunch of often middle-aged women trying to stay healthy. I’m in a position where I call on nurses and they really find it hard to avoid middle age spread when there are so many goodies around. It’s well meaning, but thoughtless.

        Reply
        1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors

          No matter what food anyone brings in to treat anyone at an office – or nurses station – and no matter if it’s healthy or pizza or a “healthier choice” version, there’s always the possibility that someone can’t/won’t/don’t eat that for whatever reason.

          It’s the thank you that counts. Nurses will often offer or give the donuts away to the other workers on the floor that are leftover; they appreciate the maintenance workers as well as the medical staff.

          The thank you is also from a patient/client, not someone employed by the hopsital for an employee purpose.

          The thank you will still go around…

          And I’ve also brought in several dozen donuts, or several pizzas, or several cheese trays, amongst all sorts of other homemade breads/pies/whatever. Nurses like variety, but the quick n easy is the main thing. Not everyone eats donuts and no one that was unappreciated or offended said anything to me…because that would have been rude to look a gift horse in the mouth and would not exactly be a gracious response. (Those Midwestern manners die hard!) It’s what was easiest at the time to grab because I needed to spend time at the hospital, not at the grocery store worrying about what thank-you food to buy…and if the nurses didn’t want any, they didn’t eat any. Sorry I’m not going to take blame for “ruining” some grown person’s diet.

          Reply
          1. Tuxedo Cat

            I agree.

            Not to mention that it’s assumptive that the nurses will be middle aged women who are avoiding foods like donuts.

            Reply
        2. Bea

          Lol you have to be joking. Then you hear people looking at you like an idiot because who drops off a veggie tray and hummus as a thank you? Very few would do so in a kind manner.

          I had a vendor bring us a fruit tray instead of donuts. I was happy for any treats and put it out. Everyone scoffed at it. At the end of the day I was the only one who was happily munching away.

          Stop pushing your agenda on people. Lots of people like unhealthy food. Oh well.

          Reply
        3. OhBehave

          Calling Hills thoughtless was uncalled for. If health professionals can’t control themselves, then that’s on them. Eat the doughnut or not; it’s a choice.

          We often brought baked goods to the staff on our Aunt’s floor. They really appreciated the gesture.

          Reply
      2. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors

        Hills hope your hubs makes a full recovery.
        Somehow I lost my comment saying basically what you said – definitely agree that nurses love food as a thank-you. My family always makes sure they get something nice, and a decent amount of food to make a nice spread for them in the nurses break room. Food goes so much further than a card. Or cash apparently!

        Nurses are overworked and usually understaffed. They often barely have time for a break so something nice and easy to grab n chow in the break room can be heavensend. (Also pretty sure the cookies will go before the veg – they’re hard workers and need those carbs!)

        Reply
  23. NotThatMo

    #1 – Ask the admin! The issue may be entirely around approval, not not wanting to send flowers. There are usually fairly strict rules around buying flowers and such. There may just be some bureaucratic reason for not buying flowers, which could be that someone in times past went overboard on these types of gifts and now they are banned. At OldJob, only HR could send flowers for “life events.” They came from the florist with your department and co-workers as the senders, but there was someone in HR who coordinated and approved the requests and then made the orders. Apparently this was done so people in the same situation got the same quantity and quality of flowers. Your company may be so profitable because they don’t spend money on flowers and such.

    As for not telling you personally, your manager may just find it difficult to talk about death. They could be dealing with a recent death or something currently ongoing and don’t want an ongoing conversation about this. As a rule, if someone is avoidant on an issue like this, assume that pushing them further would not be kind.

    So, my advice as an admin is to just follow up and ask what the rules about sending flowers and other gifTs in this situation are, so that you don’t make requests for things that are out of company policy again.

    Reply
    1. AnonThisTime

      We are specifically banned from buying flowers for any occasion on our purchasing cards, so I agree that this may be what is happening. Perhaps other gifts that have gone around were of the “everyone gave $5” variety?

      Reply
    2. Persephone Mulberry

      Yep, this. My first thought is that there’s a wire crossed somewhere – if sending flowers for this type of situation is commonly done, it’s probably already been handled, and/or your request was interpreted as wanting the company to pay for additional flowers from you, personally, since you are the only one on your team working with the other person.

      Reply
  24. Jen

    #4- it might be worth your time to speak with an employment lawyer. I was laid off at 4 months pregnant. I hadn’t disclosed to my boss yet, but HR knew (I’d told HR a week earlier because I needed guidance on how to manage my announcement in light of 3 of my team members also on Mat leave), andoir CFO knew because of a budgeting question. The only reason my boss (the CEO) wasn’t told by me yet is because he cancelled our standing meeting for the week. So, I guarantee through the rapevine he knew.

    Anyway, I got 3 months added to my severance package and got my bonus paid in full after working with an employment lawyer. Cost me about $2k (I used a $$ one and live in a HCOL) but it got me about $60k in extra severance.

    Those jerks replaced a pregnant woman with a 6 year track record of outstanding work (promos and reviews support this) with a white male under 40 that was buddies with our CEO. You bet they paid fast. Lawyer said we could sue but we both agreed It was in My personal best interest not to.

    Reply
  25. Employment Lawyer

    1. My manager refused to send a dying coworker flowers
    Send them yourself. Or not.

    If you won’t send flowers unless you get the company to pay for it, it seems unfair to blame your boss.

    4. Can I negotiate for more severance?
    Yes. It may or may not work very well: large companies can be more inflexible because they need to maintain equality. If you have issues or complaints which strengthen your case, it might help. Ask an attorney.

    5. My boss wants to back out of a big purchase he approved
    This is a balance. On the one side you have Fergus, and your relationship with Fergus. On the other side you have the company’s money.

    You are not responsible for weighting the balance; your boss is. You may not be doing a very good job of pushing back against Fergus (judging from the tone of your post) and it sounds like your “this is unfair!” feelings are getting in the way of what your boss wants you to do. Don’t let that happen.

    Reply
    1. neverjaunty

      You’re reading a lot into #1. The OP is baffled because the boss seems to be avoiding her and because the refusal seems, to the OP, to be out of step with company culture. She didn’t ask “how can I finagle my company into buying flowers so I don’t have to?”

      Reply
      1. Red 5

        Yeah, I agree with the advice (to send flowers herself if the company won’t do it) but I don’t believe the intent of the OP is to get out of paying for them, but rather to send a statement that is coming from the company rather than an individual.

        And that distinction can matter a great deal when you’re the person on the receiving end.

        Reply
    2. Horrified

      #4 – agree. Definitely consult an Employment Attorney.

      I too am a woman of a certain age and seniority level. My smallish company was acquired by a group that was definitely not my cup of tea so I wanted out. I consulted a lawyer, who helped me craft a strategy (nothing sleezy, just a straightforward way to deal with the various ownership personalities) as well as a “script” on how to resign and ask for a sizable package at the same time.

      Seeing the employment lawyer was one of the best moves I’ve ever made. I was very happy with the package I received.

      Reply
  26. Susanne

    Op5 – do you think you are the first person in the world to cancel an order? It happens all the time in the real world. You’re making it way too personal about your relationship with the vendor. You tried to cancel, some portions had already been produced so those can’t be cancelled, so you cancelled what you could and told your boss. The end. I am really perplexed why this is bothering you so. The vendor needs to please you, not vice versa. As long as your interactions are polite and professional, there is simply nothing to be done here.

    Reply
  27. Cruciatus

    #2 hit close to home! I work at a university and this week is finals week for students. My department received money from an activity fun to have a finals breakfast for students. Just stuff they could take on the go or eat while studying (granola bars, bananas, water, coffee). At certain times of the day I sat near the food and the number of faculty who just strolled on in and took something was astounding. I find myself very annoyed by it all but everyone else was like “meh” so I didn’t make a stink. I just thought that seeing Finals Breakfast on the sign would have been enough to assume it was for students, not faculty. I would have also liked to whack them with a yardstick. (I was also annoyed by students who took 4 granola bars, 2 pieces of fruit, coffee AND water, but again, no one else was as annoyed by it as I was, so perhaps I’m just too much of a rule follower).

    Reply
    1. Koko

      Given that finals week is a pretty rough time for professors, too, but they have more disposable income, I wonder if you could put signs up saying “Students” and then set up a smaller table labeled as “Faculty” with a cash jar and ask them for 50c/snack or $1/drink. A lot of them would probably do it for the convenience and you’d earn some extra funds, and it would make it a lot harder for one of them to just blatantly take the clearly marked student food without telling them they can’t have it.

      Reply
      1. Koko

        Also, psychologically, the students will value the free food more once they associate it with the dollar value you’re asking faculty to pay for it! You could even do a cute sign that mirrors the price sign for faculty but says, “Drinks and snacks: Free! Good luck on finals, students!”

        Reply
  28. small jar of fireflies

    It’s very true that flowers are banned for immunocompromised patients. For some illnesses, it’s hard to know what to get.

    Visit if you can, OP. Remember the rule “comfort in, dump out” and don’t share how upset you are to see her suffering with her or her family — catch her up on any little things, tell her the team is thinking of her, ask about anything you can get her.

    Some rooms have little corkboards on the wall to pin up cards. See about bringing in a cute picture or something for the room. Keep the visit short to save her energy. Then go spend time with a friend.

    It sounds hard for everyone, OP.

    Reply
  29. boop the first

    2. Yeah, but isn’t this theft? I know that cashier’s (for example) are a dime a dozen, but when one I knew was caught stealing a candy bar or two, she was immediately fired. Since they’ve been informed that it’s wrong, how is this much different? Is someone’s work that unique and important that you’re willing to have actual thieves in the workplace?

    Reply
  30. ZSD

    #2 At my old work, they eventually solved this problem by covering the catered items with cellophane and putting signs on them that said, “DO NOT EAT.” This prevents anyone from mistakenly thinking it’s food intended for everyone, and someone would have to be pretty brazen to risk being seen picking up the cellophane and ignoring the sign.

    Reply
    1. SignalLost

      Anyone eating food they have not, with the specific food in front of them, not the food last week that came from the same room or the food last month from the same caterers, been invited to eat is stealing. It is theft, and it is not acceptable for grown adults to pretend otherwise, either to keep the food or to take it.

      Reply
    2. Nita

      I was about to suggest the same thing! Maybe it doesn’t look clear whether the food is for an upcoming meeting, or has been left over from a meeting that’s done, and set out for everyone. In that case the plastic and sign should do the trick.

      Now if the people who are eating all the food are aware it’s off limits… yes, you have to physically prevent them from eating it. It has to be set out right before the meeting, or kept in a locked room, or both.

      Reply
  31. CM

    OP #2: I would start with a sign on the table and, if you can manage it, an email reminding people that food is reserved for meeting attendees is not up for grabs unless it is in a communal area. (Also, it sounds like people are actually walking into conference rooms to steal food, but if that’s not the case, make sure that it’s clear when food is reserved and when it’s not.) If that doesn’t work, lock the door or have someone there to tell people that the food is reserved and they can’t take it. If even that doesn’t work, go for the yardstick.

    OP #4: I think it doesn’t hurt to ask. If I were you I would try to ask a trusted person at a similar level in your industry about what arguments you can use. Saying that you are at a senior level and it will take you a while to find a similar position is a good one, but it would be good to have a few more points that you can use to justify why you should get more money.

    OP #5: I totally get why you’re distressed about this. You did everything right, but other people messed up and now you’re being told to do things that negatively affect your company’s relationship with the vendor. It’s true that the vendor shouldn’t be overly upset about this and it’s just a cost of doing business… but it’s also true that these relationships are important, and trust needs to be kept up on both sides to keep them running smoothly. I would just thank the vendor for their cooperation and make an extra effort to be responsive to them in the near future (respond to email quickly, promptly pay invoice, etc.)

    Reply
  32. Nita

    OP #1 – the COST won’t be approved? There may be some crossed wires here, like Jane isn’t able to be around flowers for some reason. In any case, forget about involving your boss, and send something thoughtful yourself. Maybe not flowers, to be on the safe side.

    Reply
  33. Blue_eyes

    OP #4 – You’re best bet may be to offer to stay on until the transition is complete…for a large severance package. People are going to start looking for other jobs and jumping ship, so they will need people to stay on until the end. My dad did this recently when his office merged with another office halfway across the country. He stayed in his city and worked remotely until the transition was complete, visited the other office occasionally to train new hires, and then stayed on as a remote consultant for a while. Between the retention bonuses they gave him and the high consulting rate, he made almost 2 years’ salary in 1 year. He’d been planning to retire in less than 2 years when the merge was announced, so he didn’t really want to look for another full time job and the bonuses gave him a big cushion that let him semi-retire earlier than planned.

    Reply
  34. CanCan

    OP #1 – The company sending something would be a good gesture, and maybe they already are (just a different department). However, whether or not you initiated it, it’s still the company’s gesture, not yours. I’m sure the coworker would appreciate it even more if the gift came from the actual coworkers. Buy a card and send it around the office with an envelope for colletion for a gift. (No obligation to donate, obviously.) Flowers are nice, but you could also find out what would be useful to your coworker.

    Last year, the CEO’s admin (not my department) was sick, and everybody pitched in to buy some vouchers for a quick meal prep program (they assemble your home-made meals – not sure how it works, but it helps with food prep when you have a family to care for). The admin was very grateful to receive that. (We were kept updated on her condition and got a couple of cards from her, and then one from her family when she eventually passed away.)

    PS: I doubt that the employer itself sent anything. We’re government and there are strict rules on spending. (e.g. no free coffee)

    Reply
    1. Temperance

      Seriously one of the best gifts I received while I was in the hospital was some really nice, high-quality pasta from Philadelphia Pasta Company. It meant that I could easily make food when I got home, or Booth had something easy to put together, because it was way harder on him. I’m fortunate in that I recovered completely.

      Reply
  35. Former Ops Manager

    OP#4 In Canada, you would technically be able to make a claim for more severance under common law (rather than the small amount required under employment law) for being of a certain age and seniority (making it difficult for you to find work of a similar status in a short period of time). Many companies here are aware of this and will offer additional severance without it being brought through the legal system, but, in my last job, this wasn’t the case and a senior manager being laid off ended up with a much better severance just by mentioning the law in an email. I’m assuming you’re not Canadian but it maybe worth looking into whether there are similar provisions in your state?

    Reply
  36. STG

    It’s always been a source of frustration for me that some employees get away with stealing food (including others’ lunches). Not sure why it’s treated any differently than stealing anything else from a coworker/company.

    Reply
  37. JD

    LW5: The vendor you purchased from is not even going to flinch over cancelling some items from an order. You are in no way tarnishing your good name. Orders change all the time.

    Reply
  38. Holly

    #2 – at my company, when there are breakfast/lunch meetings going on for employees attending those meetings, the facilities staff has a “Breakfast is Closed” sign posted by the food to let everyone else know the food is off-limits. Only when the sign is taken down, everyone else can take whatever is left over. There are at least one or two people from facilities that stay to monitor the food, so I don’t know if you or someone else can do something like that. I’d recommend sending out an email re-iterating that the food is only for those attending the meeting and is off limits for everyone else until the sign has been taken down (or whatever you want to use to notify the other employees breakfast/lunch is up for grabs).

    Reply
  39. Xarcady

    #2. If there are known offenders, this is something that should be brought to the attention of their immediate supervisor. And then it should show up on their performance review as a negative until they stop this behavior.

    I’ve found that when the consequence is a poor performance review and/or a smaller raise, employees take notice and suddenly are capable of just about anything.

    Reply
    1. HannaSpanna

      Agree, although give them a talking to first, being very explicit, so they can’t protest they ‘didn’t know.’

      Reply
  40. TootsNYC

    Otherwise, someone with some authority needs to tell people more generally that food for meeting is off-limits to non-attendees,

    Nobody should EVER have to say this. It should be a given.

    As a boss, if I had a subordinate who was taking food from the conference room when it wasn’t their meeting, I’d be pretty stern about it. It would be a serious thing.

    And I wouldn’t be willing to listen to any “nobody told me” stuff. Nuh-uh.

    Reply
      1. nonymous

        I’ve gone to conferences where people skipped out of the last presentation before meals to take all the food meant for the rest of attendees. Hospitality staff complained that 4 attendees took 150 servings of guac!

        Reply
  41. ENFP in Texas

    Regarding the counter-surfers, closing the door and making the food inaccessible is pretty much the only way to stop them short of standing there and giving them the stink-eye. They KNOW the food isn’t theirs, they just don’t CARE, so signs aren’t likely to help. It’s the same mentality as folks who steal food from company refrigerators.

    Reply
  42. Faith

    OP#1 – some companies just don’t do “sympathy” type stuff for their employees. I work for an otherwise great company, but every time one of my coworkers experienced either serious illness or death in the family, the company did not do anything for them. We don’t even have a designated bereavement leave – you just have to take a vacation day. I will say though that every time something unfortunate like that happened to someone in my department, people would sign a sympathy card and pitch in some cash, and then someone would order flowers and have them sent to that person.

    Reply
  43. HannaSpanna

    #2 This may be sound silly, but would covering the food with a tablecloth or similar possibly help? An out of sight, out of mind type trick.
    It may take more gumption for someone to lift the cover to take the food, and of course, some people won’t be put off.
    (But agree that this shouldn’t even be an issue, people should not take the food, strong talks needed etc.)

    Reply
  44. KJDubreuil

    Unpopular comment here: It is up to the company to decide how to spend their money, not up to you. If the company doesn’t want to send flowers, organize cards, etc then that is their decision. If the OP wants flowers sent then the OP should send and pay for them. Not your money, not your choice.

    Reply
  45. Donna Freedman

    My department planned a going-away party for a colleague. It was just getting started — we were congratulating her and wishing her well — when someone from another department walked past the room, looked in and saw us. Without saying a word he walked in, lifted the aluminum foil from a covered platter, took some food and walked out.

    He had not been invited. But he saw food and thought he was entitled.

    He was a douche in other ways, too, but that one was pretty obnoxious.

    Reply
  46. Bungalow Ranchstyle

    Letter #1:
    Could be a HIPAA violation or a budget issue. Either way, send it from you personally and save the receipt as a job-related expense.

    Reply

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