bringing snacks for your coworkers when you’re new on the job

A reader writes:

People like to nibble at work, especially if it’s free food. What do you think of newbies bringing in nibbles in order to curry good feelings? Yes, it’s sucking up, but is it okay?

I once brought in coffee candies that the boss couldn’t keep their fingers away from when I was working in a small store. But for a more professional office environment, is it okay to curry favor in the fashion?

There’s nothing wrong with bringing in food for the office when you’re new. But I wouldn’t do it in order to “curry favor.” The way you make a good impression on your new coworkers is by being warm and pleasant, interested in the work and what they do, not being rude/annoying/arrogant, and doing a good job yourself. If you don’t do those things, no amount of brownies or candy will change that. And if you do, no brownies or candy will be necessary.

That said, if you’re having trouble meeting people in your new office, I could see bringing something in after a month or so and letting people know to stop by your office if they’d like some. But I’d do that to meet people, not to ingratiate yourself with them — and not right off the bat.

{ 53 comments… read them below }

  1. 7*

    If you do, wait and see what the food culture is. After getting to know people at my new office, I now know that some are on diets, have restrictions etc. and they generally do not like sweets. How embarrassing would it be to bring in brownies and they sat there all day!

    I enquired with one lady that I hit it off early with. She wound up telling me everything I needed to know about the office food habits.

    1. Seal*

      +1. Our staff offices were relocated recently to a more public area, which necessitated a change in our “food culture” (i.e. we have to be careful about what gets brought in and where it gets eaten). One staff member in particular has had a hard time adjusting to our new food policies and is constantly questioning what we can and cannot do. At this point, all it would take to set her off would be for someone new to innocently bring in a box of cookies. Make sure you know your office stance on food in the office BEFORE you bring stuff in.

      1. the gold digger*

        Sigh. I work with people who shudder at the sight of sweets. One of them is rather vocal in her denunciation of them and food rewards in general. (But very nice otherwise.)

        Thank goodness we have two new people who like food. I finally have some company.

        1. mel*

          We have a few people at work who are almost always dieting. So when a manager requests we make up some cookies for everyone, ooohh boy here comes the weight-loss whining!

          As someone who has zero self-control around food, I understand the frustration of that inner battle of resisting treats (boss level: over 9000), but I have to wonder if some people walk around thinking they are the only person who matters and everyone else is just a mindless standee who couldn’t process thought let alone enjoy a damn cookie now and then!

          1. SerfinUSA*

            I have to wonder if some people walk around thinking they are the only person who matters and everyone else is just a mindless standee who couldn’t process thought

            Did you just sneak a peek at my workplace??

    2. Jessa*

      This totally, especially important to find out for instance if your office is mainly nut free because someone has a huge allergy, and it’s okay to eat at your desk but not to put out in the break room.

  2. Fesapo*

    When I worked in Japan, this practice was commonplace — and not just for new hires. The rationale was simply showing one’s appreciation to the rest of the staff, especially when one is returning from a holiday or even a business trip, which could be viewed as an imposition on others who may have had to work harder to make up for your absence. It worked more in the fashion of “it’s the thought that counts” than currying favour by bringing in something well thought out.

    I think depending on one’s work environment, it’s a sound gesture — not to be overdone, of course, but done with genuine and sincere goodwill toward the people you work with.

    1. Grace*

      I cook and bake as a hobby. Every Thursday night I would make a coffee cake for Friday morning (Blueberry Buttermilk, Apple Spice, etc.). Morale went up. One Friday when I was out sick, they missed me and my coffee cakes so much, I found a beautiful orchid plant on my desk on Monday morning! (You reap what you sow!)

  3. Ann*

    Yes, wait to see what the food culture is. We have a very health conscious department and everybody gets really annoyed when treats are brought in. While I understand that it is up to each individual to not eat things they don’t want, you would line up shots of tequila in front of an alcoholic, would you?

    1. Ash*

      It’s hardly fair to compare an alcoholic (someone with a disease) to a group of people who simply don’t like sweets.

  4. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog*

    I find sweets irresistible – and it just makes me fat. I take office candy, but I’m not happy with the person who brings it in. I just can’t pass the candy tray when I’m stressed out, but I hate the constant temptation and the weight I put on as a result of easy office snacks. I don’t share my body image and self control problems with my coworkers, they’re my issues. But bringing in candy doesn’t actually “curry favor” with me. It annoys me, and derails my efforts to eat well.

    1. Natalie*

      It seems unfair to me to be annoyed at someone for offering you food or even just making it available, when you freely acknowledge that the issue is your own and not theirs. You’re essentially making them responsible for your actions.

      1. Ash*

        I agree. Either you make yourself have the self-control or you don’t have it and you give in. It is literally no one else’s fault but your own. If you had a vending machine at work, would it be the vending company’s fault for putting it there and making you put your money in to get a candy bar? What if you were addicted to caffeine? Would your company be responsible because they allowed people to have a coffee club and there were coffee makes in the break room? Where does your responsbility to yourself begin?

        I’m not saying this to be mean, but simply pointing out your incredibly flawed reasoning. And I say this as a person who also struggles with self-control issues and weight. It is no one’s fault but your own for your weight loss or your weight gain.

      2. Ally*

        I agree with Kay. The OP asked a question about bringing food in to curry good feelings. As far as sweets and candies goes, it would NOT bring good feelings if it was done on a regular basis (say once a week or once a month) in my office.
        There are a number of diabetics in my office along with a lot of health conscious people on the journey of weight loss. To say that someone bringing in sweets annoys me is not blaming others for my actions. I know and I’m sure Kay knows that you are responsible for your own weight gain or loss. We’re just honestly saying how we would feel – since the OP is asking about creating good feelings.

        1. Natalie*

          You’re obviously welcome to feel whatever you feel. But Kay specifically said “I’m not happy with the person who brings it in”. Not fair, IMO.

      3. H. Vane*

        Agreed. This is precisely why I no longer bring candy or snacks for sharing to work. I had one or two coworkers who would loudy and constantly tell me how I was destroying their diets by having a candy bowl on my desk. I got sick of them blaming their control problems on to me, and I just stopped bringing stuff.

    2. tcookson*

      I’m pretty much a sucker for sweets, too. I love them and have never understood what people mean when they say something is “too sweet” — what?! something can be too delicious and good?? I’ve been dieting since January, and have slowly lost about 17 pounds since then, and my big triumph this week at work was that there have been frosted cupcakes, Milano cookies, and gingerbread man cookies in the office every day this week, and I have not eaten a single bite! I wouldn’t have been able to say that until just recently, but it just feels good to know that it’s my own personal victory (just like all the times I succumbed was my own personal weakness). Usually when people have brought stuff like that in, I feel a mix of delight (to see the items) and grumpy (that I now have to have an internal battle with myself over the items) . . .

  5. Katie the Fed*

    OP, if you’re a woman, I’d especially steer clear of this at the start. I say this as a woman who works in a very male field – you want to make sure people think of you as a competent colleague, not the den mother. I love to bake and be generous too, but people need to respect you on your own merits. Once you’ve established yourself, then sure, bring in treats occasionally.

    1. A Bug!*

      This is a good point. You want to be aware of your workplace reputation and how you are affecting it. It’s an unfortunate reality that certain activities affect women’s workplace reputations in a different way than they’d affect men’s (and vice versa, of course, but that discussion is best saved for an Open Thread if at all), and bringing in “goodies”, especially if they’re baked goods, is one of those things that can cause others to take you less seriously in a professional respect.

      So, the bottom line is basically the same as others’ – take some time to get a good feel for the office culture, whether or not the goodies would be welcome, and how bringing goodies in might affect the impression you give others professionally.

      (And if you do, might I suggest a bowl of fruit? Oranges, apples, bananas, pears? They’re convenient and “tidy”, self-contained, and are a little more friendly to a lot of the more common restricted diets – gluten-free, vegan, etc – and they taste really good, too!)

      1. Katie the Fed*

        oh yeah, that’s a good idea on the fruit. I always keep clementines in a fruit bowl on my desk in the winter and apples in the fall, and tell my team to help themselves. They love it.

        1. Chinook*

          What – no oranges in winter? Up here, if you bring in mandarin in December you are guaranteed to hear someone squeal “Christmas oranges!”

        2. tcookson*

          Love the clementine idea! One of my co-workers keeps a bowl of the little, tiny grape tomatoes in a bowl on her desk during the summer . . . she gets them from the farmers market and they are SO good!

    2. the gold digger*

      Yes! I find myself torn between wanting to get water for the vendors who drove 100 miles to give us a presentation and not wanting to be “the mom” for our meetings.

      My boss seems oblivious. I finally had to say something after the third lunchtime meeting we had with them. The first two, I just suffered and got a nasty migraine because I waited too long to eat. Then the other co-worker who likes to eat and I casually mentioned to our boss that maybe we could order in sandwiches for the third lunchtime meeting. He looked startled – as if it had never occurred to him that people might want to eat at lunchtime – and then said sure.

  6. fposte*

    Alternatively, I’m at a workplace where there’s a *ton* of workplace treats, as as a result this would blend in completely and have no effect on the way anybody saw you.

    In general, I’d hold off on this plan, because it’s transparent enough to make people a little uncomfortable. It’s a little weird to have somebody who doesn’t know you keep wanting to feed you, and it can be a bar to people’s getting to know your actual character and achievements. You don’t want to be “that cake lady” and never be “Your Actual Name.”

  7. Cat*

    I think an unobtrusive candy jar on your desk is the perfect way to entice people to come in and chat when you’re new without making a big thing of it.

  8. Christine*

    My husband and I own a local business that is very health conscious. If you’re thinking about bringing something in, try cutie oranges (clementines) in a small wicker-type basket. At community events we have a booth at, people LOVE this and are very popular with the kiddos, too. It’s better than candy or other calorie-laden snacks. Each cutie is about 35 calories. :)

  9. Liz in the City*

    When I started at my new place, I waited until there was an office party to bring in some shared treats. (I started a few weeks before Christmas.) It seemed a lot less forced than just randomly bringing in treats. Then again, my office has a party about once every three months, so it’s easy just to wait until the next one.

  10. Amanda H*

    I’m another one at the opposite end of the spectrum: I used to bring in treats fairly frequently (I enjoy baking) but have dropped off in the past year or so. Apparently there were comments about “Oh, Amanda hasn’t brought stuff in recently” when my boss “scavenged” for something in a different department.

    Nothing mentioned directly to me, however; and NO, I absolutely have no sense that my work is perceived, either positively or negatively, through a filter of whether I bring in treats.

    So just another comment to observe the office culture.

    1. Anonymous*

      A former coworkers loved to bake and when stressed would bake even more as a stress reliever, however she was also constantly on a (unneeded) diet, so she would bake something and bring it in to share with everyone. Even the person who didn’t like “sweets” would eat stuff she brought in. And her apple cake (as in chunks of apple in cake) was the best.

  11. Marie*

    Great advice, as usual, Alison.

    I recall the time I was training a new employee (a would-be peer) who was brand spankin’ new to the field but thought he knew EVERYTHING. He incessantly interrupted me when I was explaining procedures to him and got defensive when corrected. He just didn’t seem to understand that he was the trainee; wanted to tell me how to do the job (which I had been doing for years and at which I was very competent). He really was ill-suited for the position and was a bad hire, but unfortunately I wasn’t his manager and didn’t have any authority to let him go. And our jellyfish manager had blinders on.

    One day (after NewGuy been there a month or so; we were still training), apropos of nothing, he brought me a big bag of Cheetos. Not for our (small) office….just for me. I’m sure he was just trying to be nice (he was quite young), but it came across as weird and completely ingratiating. Cheetos are one of my favorite junk foods, but a truckload of them wouldn’t have compensated for his disregard of the training process and the constant push-back when I tried to help him learn the ropes.

    Don’t bring in food to “curry favor” because your co-workers will see right through it!

    1. Lydia Navarro*

      Oh no! This reminds me of my first job. The boss was very difficult, a micromanager, and a terrible trainer (am not saying you are of course) and would constantly question if I’d even studied accounting in school. He caused me to feel like a real moron and I would worry about being fired every Sunday night. Halfway through that job, I brought him a cake for his birthday. Youthful mistakes…I cringe to think of them now. He was definitely confused by my gesture. And I was fired 7 months later.

  12. Meg*

    I agree with the majority here. Regardless of your office’s food culture, don’t bring in food to curry favor. Just be a good employee. Also, everyone will see through it.

    You can bring ME food though. If you bring me food then you’re just being awesome :)

    1. jubileejones*

      I miss Jamie too. I thought I was being weird for noticing that she hadn’t posted any comments today.

      1. Chinook*

        I noticed Jamie missing too. I hope nothing went wrong with her servers at work (because I could see her sneaking a comment in if she had time)

  13. Elise*

    If you do bring food, don’t run around the office telling everyone and/or trying to foist it on your co-workers. I have food restrictions and it gets annoying with some pushy cow0rkers.

    “I brought cake” once isn’t so bad but “Did you get some cake?” or “Be sure to take some cake” is annoying. Especially when I am hounded about it more than once. Or worse, I’ve had co-workers actually try to hand me a piece or leave it on my desk. Makes it rather awkward to have to turn it down or throw it away.

    1. tcookson*

      This. Our office food culture is that if anyone brings food to share, they will just set it in the kitchen and people will be pleasantly surprised to find it there. It will spread by word of mouth, and it will probably get around who brought it. There is one person in our office though, that if she brings anything, just has to let everyone know that it’s there, that she is the one who brought it, and constantly check to see if everyone knows that it’s there, and just to be double-sure, that they know that it was she who brought it. Everyone is almost to the point where they’d rather that she just didn’t bring anything because she just seems so high maintenance about it — like she has to be praised above and beyond what anyone else would expect for doing the same.

  14. Alec*

    I think I would have to agree that ppl have to be responsible for their own weight or diet issues. Nobody can be the office’s parents.

    That being said has anyone had a prob with someone bring in fruit and it going bad? And if anything is brought in fruit would trump sweets?

    And finally I agree with waiting a few weeks and seeing what the culture is of that working place.

    1. Jessa*

      I agree people have to be responsible for themselves, but that also means the bringer doesn’t push stuff at people. Put it somewhere everyone can get to and don’t watch over everyone and comment on whether they do or do not take any.

  15. Gilbey*

    I agree with AAM. Do not bring in food to “curry” good feelings.
    Baking cookies or whatever and letting people know to stop by is fine. But not to ” bribe ” them to like you.

    As far as the whole food thing in general? ( not the OP’s question alone) , if an office flat out doesn’t eat cookies, or fruit or anything at all, one needs to follow that lead. If you know no one is going to eat it don’t bring it in.

    If your place is a food place ( fruit, veggies or sweets ) , then bring it in , offer it to the staff as a whole and who ever wants to eat it will. I agree not to put it on peoples desk. Let them come get it.

    Whomever is on a diet, or doesn’t want it for whatever reason, they are all adults and has to make choices on their own. I mean really, I go grocery shopping and I want those chocolate donuts and pastries but I pass them up ( most of the time ). It is my problem to control myself not anyone else’s. Not the stores fault for carrying it.

    The only thing I am conscience of is allergies. If I know someone has a peanut allergy for example I stay away from making stuff with peanuts.

  16. SweetMisery*

    The woman that everyone in the office hates the most (constantly not providing information, talking down to people, sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong…) LOVES to bring in food.

    We might eat it, but it doesn’t make us like you more…

  17. JessB*

    I love to bake, and often brings food into the office to share, but I don’t push it on people, and I do my best to be aware of people’s dietary restrictions – I make special gluten-free food for the two women in our office who are gluten intolerant, and avoid offering cake to people who have said they’re watching their weight.

    My co-workers joke with me about what they’re going to do when my contract finished, and even say that if I make something extra special, it could get renewed! It’s all fun and games though, and I don’t take it seriously.

    I don’t make food for others to get them to like me, I make food to share because I live on my own, and I know eating a whole cake isn’t good for me, and I think doing something like this makes the office a more cheerful, friendly place. It has certainly let me talk to and get to know a lot more people than my immediate co-workers.

    I do agree with what Alison and lot of others have said to the OP – wait for a while to suss out the food culture at your new office or even ask someone, and if you do bring in something to share, don’t do it to curry favour.

  18. Anonymous*

    Well, you can go the “candy dish on desk”route. It avoids any discomfort if someone doesn’t actually like what you bring. In fact, it’s self-selecting for people who like candy and want to chat.

    If that works you can bring brownies or something. But I have been in offices where that has seemed weird. Home made snacks are the most personal and therefore more socially risky. I recommend starting with something basic, shareable, etc. Even a large box of cookies from stop & shop is fine.

  19. Jen in RO*

    You’d be a star if you brought sweets in my office. We’ve got a couple hundred people and the culture here is that people bring sweets/pastries/sometimes fruit for their birthdays, leave it in the kitchen and send a mass email to everyone. (30 seconds after that, lots of people get up and head for the kitchen at a brisk pace.)

    In my small team, we just place the items on the desk and let the others know they can help themselves to anything. I don’t specifically bring stuff for them, but I like to nibble all the time and I bring extras in case my coworkers want some too.

    So, my point is: wait a while, see the culture, don’t force food on anyone. And ignore the people who think you are in charge of their diets, not them!

  20. Emilyslrzn*

    I love cooking, and am always bringing something to work for everyone to share. I’m a huge believer in snacking throughout the day to keep energy up, and once I found out whether my new company allows it or not, I love bringing stuff in. At my current position, I quickly found out that my co-workers aren’t big sweets fans, but are in moderation, so what I started doing is making the mini versions. I love baking in particular, so when I bring the smaller versions everyone is more likely to eat them!

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