I don’t want the office candy dish on my desk

A reader writes:

I’m four weeks into a new job as executive assistant to the Office of Trustees at a major university. I am enjoying everything about it except for that fact that I inherited a desk with a candy dish – something that doesn’t fit with how I view myself as an employee and a professional (you come to my desk for business, not treats).

I’m not in a busy “front desk reception” situation and there isn’t much foot traffic near me. Two supervisors in the office do occasionally dip into the candy on their way past my desk. Do you think it would look strange or offensive if I relocate the candy dish to a small table across the hallway from where I sit?

Perhaps it’s a small concern, but I want to make the right impression without compromising my work values.

Nope, you can do that, and you’re probably over-thinking whether anyone will notice or think much of it.

If you are asked about it though, you want to have a response that isn’t about not seeing yourself as the office candy purveyor (not that I’m assuming you’d say that otherwise). I’d say something like, “It was too much temptation having candy in front of me all day.”

But for what it’s worth, some people do find advantages to having a candy dish out — it can make you seem more approachable if people tend to find you intimidating, and it can bring you into contact with people you might not have much interaction with otherwise (or not much informal interaction).

There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to want it too — you don’t like interruptions, you despise sugary treats, or, yes, that you don’t want to be known as “the admin with candy” rather than “the admin who’s super competent.”

But in general, a candy dish is just a candy dish and you shouldn’t have qualms about relocating it if you want to.

{ 76 comments… read them below }

      1. Jessa*

        Exactly, I’d say “oh putting it on the table means I have to get up to get a piece. Cuts my consumption by an awful lot.”

  1. Lindsay the Temp*

    OMG! THIS! +1000!

    I have been a temp for the same org for about 2 months with no end in sight. I love my job, and the people in my office, but I inherited the candy drawer from the previous temp who is a retiree of the same organization. She was temping, left for knee surgery, and has since come back part time. In addition to the department candy drawer, every drawer and overhead compartment in my cubicle is still full of her breakfast cereal (and accompanying bowl and spoon), snack crackers, empty diet coke bottles, instructions on how to perform tasks that I have no part of, and literal garbage.

    Because she is part time and I am full time, they have let me keep the cubicle, and she kind of moves around daily because there isn’t really room for her. She never comes by to get anything, so she clearly doesn’t need any of it, but I feel bad (not to mention presumptuous of my perma-temp position) asking her to get it out of my way! It is now clearly my work space, and I’d like to bring in some of my own personal items (not to mention have somewhere to put my work)!

    She was in another office space for a couple of weeks (at 2.5 days per week) and had THOSE drawers completely full by the time a new manager moved in! Who needs so much crap!?!

    1. Anonymous*

      If nothing else you should throw out the garbage. It shouldn’t be foisted on you, and you don’t want to attract vermin to your cubicle.

    2. Ruffingit*

      I think you can get rid of her stuff without qualms at this point. Your workspace is your space, however temporary that may end up being. Throw out the stuff that is literal garbage (I’m assuming candy wrappers and the like) and then box up the stuff that belongs to her that you are not using. You can then either offer her the box or just store it under your desk if possible if you want to do so. But, given that she has a habit of filling office spaces with a bunch of junk, I think you’re within your rights to remove it and move on.

      1. Jamie*

        Absolutely. Toss the trash (you sit there, others will assume it’s yours) and box up the rest for her. She can take it toss it – you shouldn’t have to store it.

        And the point up thread is important – vermin is an issue in many places, open cereal boxes would be a huge problem.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Put in all in a big box. Put the box somewhere (by her desk or in break room?) and politely tell her that you believe she may still want a few of her things and you didn’t want to throw them out without asking her first.
      Then it’s hers to deal with.

  2. Anonymous*

    “doesn’t fit with how I view myself as an employee and a professional (you come to my desk for business, not treats).”

    OP, you’re definitely over-thinking this. Plenty of professional people that I’ve met have candy dishes. And honestly, being busy at work when your supervisors stop by to grab a few treats might actually convey that air of professionalism you’re looking for.

    But at the same time, if you don’t want it there (I would eat it all for SURE), just move it. Just like AAM said, a great excuse is that you don’t want it within reach.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t leap from “candy” to “non-professional” unless you’re deliberately stocking overtly children’s candy like Kinder Eggs or Ring Pops or something. (In which case, I will come by your desk and be your new best friend.)

      But I think if it’s a standard candy bowl filled with wrapped hard candies (and not something disgusting like Chicken Bones or Bit-o-honey), nobody will think twice about either having it, or moving it. It’s candy.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        In the US Kinder Eggs would also label you as a rebel or an outlaw, since they’re illegal here. If you’re caught with them in Customs they’ll be confiscated…the FDA considers them to be a choking hazard.

        I only know this because my company has an office in Germany, and I go there a few times a year. You always know who the Americans are in the grocery store are…the ones with nothing but beer and chocolate in their shopping carts.

        1. fposte*

          Did you hear that there’s a FDA-compliant Kinder Egg-esque US product as of this year? Apparently it’s not nearly as good, though.

          1. Kaz*

            I bought some – it’s a plastic egg covered in chocolate. The chocolate is okay but not as good as a Kinder Egg. The toys aren’t as cool, but also don’t have tiny parts.

        2. Michele*

          I just brought back about 50 Kinder Eggs and customs didn’t bat an eye. This included a big Advent Calendar.

        3. anonymous*

          Well, more accurately, the FDA flatly forbids food items to have non-food items embedded in them. Kinder Eggs just didn’t get an exemption from the rule.

      2. Windchime*

        Diet Coke Addict, are you my long-lost twin? Because not only do I drink a ton of diet Coke, but I also hate Chicken Bones and Bit-o-Honey!

    2. Khushnood Viccaji*

      I agree with @Anonymous here… your professional reputation will be determined by how well you do your job over a period of time – say, at least 3 – 6 months.
      So thinking about this as a factor in how you are perceived, four weeks into the job, may be overkill.
      Also, I liked (and agree with) Alison’s comment about how having a candy-dish on your table could actually make you more approachable.

      I used to work as an IT contractor at an engineering firm a few years ago. I used to keep multi-coloured hard-boiled mini-sweets in my desk. Within no time, I became the go-to guy not just for IT-related issues.
      Even some of the senior managers would drop by after lunch and say, “Hey, can I have a couple of the orange sweets ?”.

      In hindsight, I realized how much easier it was for me to get along with most people, and make my work life far more enjoyable, simply because I kept a packet of sweets at my desk ! :-)

    3. Melissa*

      Perhaps she read it – I know I read this in “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.” The author writes that women are often stereotyped as providers and a candy dish on their desk furthers that stereotype, and she believes this encourages people to come by your desk for sweet treats and a quick friendly chat rather than about important things.

      1. Khushnood Viccaji*

        Hmmm, yes, this might be a reason for her thinking that somehow keeping a candy-dish on her desk would reinforce such a stereotype.

        However, imho, since she is an executive assistant to the Office of Trustees, this candy-dish might in fact be a good way to break the ice with people in the office or visitors who may be there for meetings.
        I mean it could probably *help* her in settling down in her job, if people felt comfortable coming to her desk even if it’s not work-related.

  3. Jamie*

    Not a fan of food on my desk, but for my weird misophonic reasons and nothing else. I don’t like the sound of wrappers and smacking makes me want to hurt co-workers I truly like.

    A weird holiday nightmare version of this…if I were a Grimm this would be my own holiday tale, but true.

    Once upon a time when I worked the front desk in a castle of a evil King received from a vendor was a huge tin of unshelled pistachio nuts. This tin was the size of a hubcap (did they have hubcaps once upon a time? No matter…)

    The evil king placed it on the royal reception desk inches for where the imprisoned princess worked (that would be me.). All day people coming by and opening and closing the scraping metal and sticking hands directly into shared food. But the princess could live with that because metal isn’t that bad and germs are their problem.

    Until one day two horrible things befell the princess that still horrify her and make her shudder lo these many years later..

    Sir Asshat, to whom the princess reported, grabbed a handful and stood behind her as she typed spinning his disjointed words into gold, and put nut after nut in his mouth slurping the salt off the shells, biting them open, spitting them into his hand only to place the cast off shells…covered in saliva and arrogance, upon the beautiful princesses neat and tidy desk. Once he had completed his oversight of micromanaging, he left to annoy one of this other minions leaving this filthy pile of mouth garbage on her desk.

    Fortunately the princess knew the location of latex gloves and paper towels and cleaned the area….but all the Clorox wipes in the kingdom couldn’t wash away her shame.

    Later that day Sir Dirtyfingernails came upon the princesses desk in his never ending quest to evade his own part of the kingdom where they might expect him to work. Although our heroine rarely ventures into the enchanted marketing forest from whence he hailed, everyone in all the land knew his reputation for dubious hygiene, filthy hands, and being the most malodorous of all the kings men.

    It is important to note that before settling upon the reception area he came directly from Ye Olde Men’s Room and the clearly visible layer of dirt on his hands indicated that the sink and soap went unused.

    He helped himself to handful after handful of these communal nuts that must have been in a tin made by a mighty wizard as seemed to be bottomless. He consumed this sustenance leaning on the desk of the process, desperately trying to complete her taks so she could leave the tower for the day. His sucking and slurping was such that it put Sir Asshat to shame, it was loud and moist…it was a noise to burn the soul of all who heard it. Like Sir Asshat he left the remains of his conquest on the desk…three times the abomination that had been there before. And then, again without visiting the royal restroom or even using a kingdom provided hand wipe, he went into the supply closet touching all manner of things.

    This left the princess with an aversion to pistachios, an intensified fear of shared office supplies, and the impetus to resign shortly thereafter.

    So, totally long and weird story short…I wouldn’t have a candy dish on my desk either.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I am thoroughly grossed out by this just hearing of it, I cannot imagine having it actually happen. YUCK! What is it with people who refuse to do basic things like wash their hands? OK, I admit that I don’t wash my hands as much as I should sometimes, but you will never see me with a layer of dirt on them nor will I dip into a communal dish without first washing my hands. UGH.

      1. Windchime*

        I wouldn’t dip into a communial dish such as this, for sure. And you know those cabinets in the grocery store where you can just slide open the glass door and get an unwrapped bagel or donut? I saw a child open the door and touch them all…one by one….many years ago. So yeah, I don’t buy anything from that case, either.

        1. The gold digger*

          I must be the least squeamish person in the world. Even when my roommate told me he had spit in the manjar (aka dulce de leche), I just scraped off the top layer and then proceeded to eat. I guess I’m an addict.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            I am this way too. There are very few things that I won’t eat off of very few floors. I justify it as not being wasteful… Starving children in the third world would eat off my office carpet, right?

    2. Meghan*

      My workplace has a semi-regular customer who we’ve nicknamed “Doctor Crazy” for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is that he once came in chewing on what appeared to be a small piece of pine tree. After talking at me for a really long time about things I didn’t want to know about, he removed the pine tree from his mouth, placed it on the counter in front of me, and left.

      My workplace doesn’t stock latex gloves and Clorox wipes :(

      1. Sourire*

        I sometimes really wish this website had a like button (or, more appropriate in this case, love button).

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Jamie, I think we all see what your next career move is going to be.

      “Move over Aesop’s Fables. We now have Jamie’s Fables For The Workplace. A must read for people venturing out into the workforce for the first time, as well as established, career-minded individuals. On sale now, at bookstores and online…”

    4. Chinook*

      Jamie, here is a small plastic container of marshmellows to be used as a communal candy dish as a reward for surviving that.

      1. Jamie*

        Marshmallows are the worlds most perfect office food. What they lack in nutrition they make up for in blessed silence.

        1. Jen in RO*

          After years of hearing about marshmallows on TV, I asked a friend to mail me some. I was so disappointed! They taste of… nothing :-(

    5. Bex*

      At the tender age of 22, I became the technical typist for an engineering firm with 30 or so employees (back in the days of the hard drive-less IBM DisplayWriter with all its utilities and document files stored on 8″ floppy disks which I became ever so adept at flipping in and out of its two 8″ disk drives … in my mind’s eye, images of the movie “Cocktail” appear, except with large floppy disks instead of bar concoctions ;). My work station was in a large room shared by the copier and fax machine … along with a towering 5-pound tin of potato chips, refilled every couple of weeks by a local snack vendor delivery service, and funded by an employee pool. I wasn’t particularly happy nor particularly bothered about the large tin of chips sitting right next to my desk, although it did help me to become acquainted with my new co-workers much more quickly, as they visited the chip can for a quick snack (and yes, everyone put their hands into the huge can of potato chips … it was the mid ’80’s) – however, like Jamie’s experience, there was a visitor to the chip can who left a movie reel in my brain that replays to this very day! (a PhD’d chemE, no less! ;) I would usually try not let the visitors to the chip can 3 feet away distract me from my work, but on this particular day, I couldn’t help but notice that the hulking figure bent over the chip can was not moving away, and the crunching and smacking sounded strangely low, so I glanced over, only to see this co-worker crouched down, head over the chip can munching chips out of the palm of his hand hovering OVER the can of chips – you know, so that all the crumbs from his mouth and hand fell back into the can, I suppose, instead of onto our office carpet?

      I never again took so much as a nibble from any of the communal tins of salty snacks again! *chills running down spine* 8-D

  4. Cruciatus*

    I also hate the candy dish I inherited. There was still some candy left from the previous woman in my position, and I said to someone that once the candy runs out I’ll retire the dish. That faculty member then went to the store and bought this 5 pound bag of candy so now I feel obligated to put the candy out and that pisses me off even more! When he walks by, if there is no candy, he wants me to get it for him (he does ask nicely and isn’t a dick most of the time even though he gives me the Goddamned wrappers back to throw away even though there is a effing trash can near him!) As you can see, I am quite emotional towards this candy dish. It’s the only thing that makes me feel like “yup, you’re in a female-oriented job” even though I’m an AA and know this anyway. It’s the candy dish that makes me feel slightly “less than.”

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Wow talk about passive aggressive on the part of that faculty member! Can you move it to THEIR desk? Or maybe a side table?

      1. Jessica*

        doesn’t sound passive aggressive to me, just a matter of Cruciatus being unclear. I’m guessing the coworker thought “oh, Cruciatus doesn’t want to have to spend her own money on candy for the office so I will go ahead and be generous and buy it myself”. But yes, moving it to their desk sounds like a good idea– they might actually like having it there.

    2. Jamie*

      I know it’s a little thing time and effort wise, but the handing of wrappers would get under my skin. I totally see how that grates for you, but just remember how valuable your role is and some people are just thoughtless and it’s not a reflection on you.

      1. Rose*

        Totally. It has nothing to do with the time or effort. You don’t HAND OTHER PEOPLE YOUR TRASH TO GET RID OF. That’s not what admins are there to do. She is not your personal servant.

    3. Agnes*

      Wow, it sounds like it’s definitely time to “accidentally” drop and break the bowl. So sad, no more candy bowl!

  5. PEBCAK*

    I used to sit right next to the file cabinet where people would leave treats, and all day it was “who brought this?”, “does this have nuts in it,” etc. I asked people to leave stuff in the break room instead, and actually got a lecture from my manager on it. That was one of the worst feedback conversations I EVER had….

    “Can you help me understand why it is inappropriate to ask people to leave things in the break room?”
    “[manger above him] was upset about it.”
    “Okay, can you help me understand why?”
    “Uh…let’s move on.”

  6. Joey*

    Is it because a candy dish is associated with being a receptionist and dare someone think of you as one?

    1. tcookson*

      Maybe that’s it for OP, but in my office, different people have candy dishes, not just the admins. The budget officer always has Starlight mints, the communications director always has Hershey’s kisses (I make it a point to visit her every day!), and several other director-level people occasionally have some sort of candy on their desks.

      I sometimes have candy, but I’m more irregular about it. When I don’t have it, I get a few disappointed comments from some faculty members and my boss the first day or so that I’m out of it, but they forget pretty soon. And then when I have candy again, it’s a freshly pleasant surprise to them all over again. I don’t pressure myself over the candy dish, though; when it’s full, it’s full, and when it’s empty, I put it away until I’m moved to provide the bounty once again.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I am the same way with my candy dish. I buy the stuff, and if I forget or it’s still 2 weeks till grocery day, I just pull the dish down, and people are fine until there is more candy. Though mine is the only candy dish in the office; I do like the idea of directors having it. Reminds me of a friend who, for their holiday party, all the Director level people at his com,pany would have their own table at the holiday for their own kinds of booze. So the Comm guy had a bunch of types of whiskey, and the gov relations had rum and mixers, and the directors all took a lot of pride in mixing drinks for their employees.

    2. Cruciatus*

      No, it has nothing to do with being a receptionist. It’s more that, because it has nothing to do with work, I don’t like the expectation that there will be candy. Like “where’s my candy, woman!?” And then when he hands me the wrappers back and can’t throw them away himself… I really think it’s more just a reaction to this guy than anything else. Most people are polite and thankful. But I still don’t like having to think about this stupid dish–but I still have 4 lbs of candy to get through.

  7. Amanda*

    Just move it to the table you mentioned and if asked, say it was distracting whenever someone came by your desk for some.


  8. MrsG*

    My problem with the candy dish is that people expect the candy-dish-desk-owner to purchase candy and keep it stocked out of their own paycheck. I’m not scrooge enough that I haven’t brought in brownies or allowed my boss to eat everything in my desk over the weekend or shared other snacks with my coworkers, but I’m not going to buy a bag of candy purposefully for everyone else to eat once a month. Especially when the large bags of fun sized candy cost almost my hourly wage.

    1. tcookson*

      For my candy dish, I’m allowed to use my university purchasing card to stock it. I’m the person who shops for coffee creamer, sugar, napkins, plates, etc. for the office, so occasionally I will also pick up some candy. But I’m not regular about it; mostly I do it around holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. or during times when the workload is particularly high and people are stressed. If we’re working on a stressful project, I put chocolate in there and keep it full until the stress is over.

  9. Jen in RO*

    I *want* to be the person with the candy dish, because my office is out of the way and I miss talking to people, but my attempts to lure people have failed so far :(
    (Except the one guy I bonded with over our love of Haribo.)

    [Also – “In June 2012 the potential fine per egg was quoted as US$2,500.” Kinder eggs are srs bsns!)

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      LOL you could always go for the Halloween trick to being the coolest house on the block… Full size candy bars.

      How bad is it that 1) my primary financial goalpost has *always* been to be the house that had the full-size candy bars, and that 2) I still haven’t done it yet?

  10. BCW*

    Wow, this seems a bit of an overreaction. Not because you don’t want the candy dish, but because of your “I want to be seen as professional” comment. Come on, if someone is going to think you aren’t professional, the lack of a candy dish at your desk won’t change that

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I think most of the time that is true. However, I can also see there being specific workplaces where one can tell that this specific issue is happening. So I think, like so many things, it just depends on where you work and how people respond to stuff. And certainly any employee, admin or not, *should* have the right to not have a candy dish on their desk. There’s always somewhere else to put that dish, it’s a super easy accommodation to make.

  11. josh*

    I had an job where there were cookies available all the time….it didn’t end well for me with an extra 1000 to 2000 calories a day.

  12. mel*

    Yeah, if I had a desk and that desk had a bowl of candy on it, that bowl would be hella empty by the end of the first day.

    Also, I am the type of person who needs a tidy, clear workspace in order to not feel all closed in, so a useless bowl taking up precious real estate would quickly drive me mad.

  13. Julie*

    I purposefully have a candy dish at my desk to entice people to stop by! I don’t really even like the candy, but I keep it filled with jolly ranchers and chocolate if it’s on sale, and there’s always someone popping a head into my little window-seat (no joke, I work in a small alcove in a cape-code style building) to say hi and get away from their desk for a minute. I personally enjoy being the desk that people stop at for a little treat and a stress-free moment! It makes me happy :)

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