how can I stop a greedy coworker from taking all the candy from my candy jar?

A reader writes:

How can I keep a rude coworker from taking copious amounts of candy from a candy jar? He almost singlehandedly empties my candy dish in a few days if I bring in delicious candy.

He comes in and makes small talk multiple times a day as an excuse to grab candy. We pretend-insult each other all the time, so it is very difficult for me to convey the fact that I am being serious about anything. I have made half-serious jokes to him multiple times about him eating all my candy, but nothing actually changes. The other problem is, he is stubborn and really does lack the social grace that would keep an ordinary person from constantly taking candy.

I used to be nice about it, but lately I am just annoyed at the lack of social grace.

Yeah, it sounds like the frequent pretend-insulting thing is getting in your way here, because it makes it more likely that he’ll take anything you say about this as a joke.

If that weren’t the case, this would actually be a lot easier to address. You could say, “Hey, Bob, I keep this candy here for everyone, but you love it so much that I’m having to refill it every few days. I’m going to buy you a bag of Kit-Kats, and in exchange, I’m going to limit you to one candy a day from this dish.”

And actually, that’s probably the way to go with him anyway, because really, what else are you going to do? So I’d start there, and if he still thinks you’re joking, the next time he tries to devour all your candy, say, “Hey, I was serious the other day — unless you want to start buying 10 bucks worth of candy every week to fill this jar up.”

Of course, you could also remove the jar for a while, but then everyone would suffer the Wrath of No Candy, and that would be a terrible thing.

{ 227 comments… read them below }

  1. Cat*

    I’m actually surprised the OP only has one co-worker who does this. Fake small talk to get at people’s candy jars is SOP in my office.

  2. Tara N.*

    Or…”Bob” is using the candy as an excuse to small-talk with OP. ;-) Jim & Pam from The Office, anyone?

  3. Lisa*

    We have a candy drawer and a candy fund to contribute with a list that you can ask for specific candy. Put the money jar and the list next to the candy, and just hand it to him matter of fact-like and say ‘it’s getting super expensive to supply this, and people keep asking to get specific candy. Please contribute to the candy fund weekly, and list any candy that you prefer me to buy in the next batch”. Do this to everyone tho.

    1. Jessa*

      This. If you’re supplying it, it’s time to ask those who take advantage to pay for some of it.

      1. Lisa*

        We call the money jar, the candy monster and decorated it with fake teeth. Everyone contributes for the most part, but we do specifically ask for money when we go in a group after big candy days like after Halloween and Easter to get all the discounts. We could end up with $50 but buy $200 worth of candy after halloween. Usually only last til mid-December, but its a great thing to go over to the drawer at 3pm every day.

  4. Zahra*

    Also, when you tell your coworker to stop eating so much of your candy, use your “I mean business” face. No smile. A serious face will show that it is not a joke, and that you expect him to actually listen and not steal so much candy.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Chocolate is chocolate, at least in my experience… I would say get smarties for the crappy candy, but the people in my office LOVE those.

        Starlight mints. Can’t go wrong. Nobody *hates* them, but nobody feels inclined to have 18 a day, either.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            LOL, I guess those two statements were not as disconnected in writing as they were in my head! Imagine a line break between those two thoughts.

          2. Anoners*

            I think you might be Canadian. American Smarties and Canadian Smarties are two totally different things. I was shocked when I had American Smarties for the first time. If you are American and come to Canada, try them out! (also, ketchup chips!).

            1. Mephyle*

              To be specific:
              American Smarties = Canadian Rockets
              Canadian Smarties = like M&M’s but better

            2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              Oh! I wasn’t being made fun of after all! That’s good to know. I’m american, I had no idea canadians had a delicious chocolate version of smarties. The american ones are just weird sugar disks… thus it is inexplicable to me why everyone in my office just loves them.

                1. Emily K*

                  For real. I used to use them to bribe kids into obeying me when I was not much more than a kid myself. They are small enough they still aren’t THAT much sugar, they don’t get stuck in braces, nobody’s allergic to them, they don’t make a mess. All we really want is sugar, just give it to us!

                2. Gwen*

                  They’re nothing like valentine heart candy. American Smarties are tangy and they crush into powder delightfully between the teeth. Valentine hearts are harder and taste blander.

                  I’ve noticed there’s a lot of Japanese and Korean candy similar to American smarties, so we’re not the only ones who appreciate its attributes. :)

              1. Portia de Belmont*

                Canada has the best chocolate in North America. Friends of mine have been known to cross the border just to stock up. Once a border guard asked the purpose of their visit, and “chocolate run” was an acceptable (and amusing) reason for entry. It’s far less sweet than most American chocolate. I think it’s pretty close to UK chocolate. Their tea is better as well.

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  Of course Canada’s tea is better — the stuff they sell here is floor sweepings from the tea bagged and sold elsewhere. But, most of us don’t realize that tea isn’t supposed to be nasty.

              2. Elizabeth*

                When I was a little kid I loved to pretend that Smarties were my “medicine.” My mom took a pill every day for a minor medical condition, and I wanted to be like her!

        1. Arbynka*

          “What did you have for breakfast ?”
          “Smarties cereal”
          “OMG, I did not know smarties made cereal”
          “They don’t. It’s just smarties in bowl with milk”

          1. jmkenrick*

            Fellow Smarties lover chiming in. Me and my Dad actually used to argue over them when me and my sisters brought in our Halloween candy haul.

        1. Ex Mrs Addams*

          +1. Boiled sweets, or chewy toffees – anything that takes a long time to eat really works well

        2. OP*

          Then you have to sit there and deal with listening to the sucking and slurping noises if someone sits there and talks to you while eating one. Shudder.

    1. JustMe*

      This is a good point. If you got something really obviously different and/or boring–I’m thinking a total 180, like celery sticks–you may not even have to raise the issue. You coworker would probably do it for you. :) At which point, you could either say, “Well I’m thinking about trying healthier snacks” or you could just be honest.

  5. belle*

    This is funny because I LOVE candy and I used to raid the admins bowl at my last job. I ended up buying her 2 bags of candy, then went on a no candy diet for a while to help me resist the temptation. At my current job, I hit up her bowl once every few days even though she has crappy (and I’m sure, expired) candy.

    1. Anonymous*

      I know. I have a very hard time not abusing the candy bowl and always worry my coworkers who “host” them are counting. For one particularly hard hit candy bowl, I used to bring in bags from time to time. Really, I wish people wouldn’t put them out, but I recognize that my lack of self control is not their issue.

        1. Gwen*

          Agreed. I don’t understand why people put out candy that looks like it’s to be shared, then get upset about others eating it. I only put out candy that I don’t want to eat all by myself, and then I don’t mind if people pig out on it. If it’s candy I want for myself, I keep it in a drawer.

          1. Bea W*

            Here – we want people to enjoy it. What we don’t want is one or two people who never contribute to eat ALL of the candy so that no one else gets to enjoy it. That defeats the purpose of putting a bowl out for many people to share. It’s also incredibly rude.

  6. AB*

    I have a candy jar that I keep at my desk specifically so people will come and chit chat with me. But, I work in communications and it’s a good way for me to keep communications in the back of their minds.
    That being said, I do have a couple co-workers who are candy hogs. One of them was fishing all of one type of candy out, and was then giving it to the boss because he wanted to brown nose. I too tend to be jovial and jokey, but when the person came to raid my candy jar, I told them to knock it off. When they pretended I was joking, I said, “I’m serious, other people like that candy and if you want a bag of it, give me $5 and I’ll get you a bag but do not take it all out of my candy jar”.

    1. AB*

      Aack, now I have to find another nickname — I’ve been using AB for a long time but didn’t write that :-).

          1. AB*

            It wasn’t intentional stealing… I didn’t see anyone else posting with AB. While I like not having to go through all the hullabaloo of registering a name, there is the problem of unintentional duplications

  7. Ann Furthermore*

    I was thinking this could be about me, because during October I was raiding someone’s candy dish pretty regularly. My stress level was (still is) sky high and I was going in search of chocolate.

    However, I did buy her a replacement bag to make up for hoovering down so much of her stash.

    1. TychaBrahe*

      $20 each payday to the keeper of the candy dish.

      Plus the occasional bag of candy so she isn’t always the one getting it.

  8. Kdizzle*

    Hrm… I feel your pain. This is also true for me, but unfortunately the candy nabber is my boss. He takes the candy I purchase and then fills the bowl in his office with it. I tried to buy gross candy, but no matter what, he says, “that’s my favorite!” And takes 10 pieces.

    I tried to joke that for every piece he takes, he must supply me with one minute of positive feedback regarding my job performance. He just laughed.

    I think I’ll just have to suck it up as the cost of sucking up.

        1. Kara*

          In most work places, if you have to purchase work-related materials out of your own pocket, you fill out an expense report to receive reimbursement for the cost. So like, if you picked up some printer paper for the office when you were out on a personal shopping trip and paid for it with personal funds, your office would should reimburse you the cost of that paper since it wasn’t for personal use. In order to do that, they need to know how much it cost, thus the expense report (and receipt – some offices require a receipt attached).

  9. Ann O'Nemity*

    This issue is (one reason) why I got rid of my candy jar.

    I was dealing with two candy hogs: my old boss and a co-worker who I barely knew. Both of these guys would come into my office, *maybe* say hello, grab a big handful of candy, and leave without a thank you. On occasion, I would walk into my office and find one of them raiding the candy jar in my absence. I tried talking to them, but they never heeded my requests to take just one, or to stop entering my office for candy in my absence. Finally, I just gave up and took the candy jar home.

    1. Jennifer*

      I’m with you on this: no more candy jar and tell this guy that he’s cleaning you out so bad you can’t keep it up any more.

      Or alternately, keep the candy jar locked in a drawer and only pull it out privately for others when he’s not around….but I dunno on the politeness of that one.

  10. Green*

    I think AAM is a little off here. You can’t really joke with the guy about this and get him to back off/take polite hints, so it would require a direct statement (which to many people comes off as insulting or confrontational, although I’m all for direct communications).

    So I prioritize the issues that I need to have direct conversations about. Personally, I’d quit worrying about it and just buy mor candy, leave it empty for a few days, or (if he’s becoming distracting/you can’t afford the candy) just not have a candy dish.

    For me, it’s just not anything to risk hurting someone’s feelings over, make them feel awkward or unwelcome, or appear to that coworker (or any others he may tell) be overly (and weirdly) possessive of my inexpensive candy that I set out in a gesture of good will. If you’re going to stock a candy bowl, you should scorekeeping.

    1. OP*

      I get this, but then again, he is being pretty selfish to take so much. Why doesn’t he offer to stock the candy dish himself more often? If he did, it wouldn’t bother me if he took a lot. Maybe he needs to be called out for his behavior. (this is easier said than done…)

      1. TL*

        Yeah. You can also say something like, “Bob, I know the candy’s always available on the honor system, but I really would prefer you and everyone else take no more than 1 or 2 pieces a day. Thanks.”

      2. Green*

        Yeah, it probably is just him being rude. But this is one of the coworker conflict situations in which it is better to do perform a mental exercise: attribute to him the most sympathetic reasons for taking extra candy. Because ultimately, it’s just not very important.

        It is much easier to control your reaction to him than to try to control his behavior. It’s a relatively minor infraction, and you apparently have a cordial relationship with him. If it’s not patently offensive or interfering with your work or impacting your health and safety, then I’d just let it go.

        1. Green*

          I also prefer that people say “thank you” to me, but I am not going to out of my way to tell them that. Sometimes expressing your preferences is just really not as important as maintaining office relationships and not appearing petty.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that’s totally reasonable, but at the same time, if she’s going to resent basically buying Bob his own personal supply of candy every week and/or stop having a candy dish at all, I would think most people in Bob’s shoes would want to hear a clear, direct statement before causing either of those things. I know I would, if I were Bob.

          1. tesyaa*

            My strong feeling is that if you can’t afford to feed the candy hogs, don’t be a candyman. But if you want to remain the genial candyman, but send a message at the same time, leave the bowl empty for a few days. When someone comments, say that Bob snarfed it and you haven’t had a chance to refill. Hopefully Bob is listening or will hear it through the grapevine.

            1. belle*

              lol @ the image “Candyman” conjures up for me. I’m starting to think candy has no place on office desks.

            2. Colette*

              I’d be really upset if someone said something to others in the office before saying something to me, just in the hopes that it would get back to me.

              I also think it’s fine to point out to Bob that you don’t buy candy just for him, and that what he’s doing is not OK. I don’t think that the OP is obligated to buy enough for Bob, who consumes far more than the norm.

              1. tesyaa*

                I’d suggest only making the “Bob snarfed it” remark in the same jokey way Bob likes to communicate.

                1. fposte*

                  But that’s still really passive-aggressive–maybe even moreso, because the OP is genuinely annoyed with Bob and doesn’t think it’s funny. If you want Bob to know, don’t try to get other people to tell him–tell him yourself.

            3. Lindsay J*

              This is a lot more rude and likely to hurt Bob’s feelings than having a direct conversation about the problem is.

          2. Green*

            I don’t know that I’d attribute your personal preferences to Bob. People often THINK they’d like to be told if they are doing something awkward or inappropriate, but that’s not often how they feel upon receiving the news.

            We already know that Bob is perhaps a bit inconsiderate and potentially awkward. I’d just take Bob as he is–he eats all your candy–rather than trying to change Bob.

            FWIW, I picked this strategy up from a Harvard Business Review course on conflict resolution. I’m an attorney and was prone to unnecessary confrontation because I’m not particularly afraid of it and like being assertive. But this advice has made me a happier person and given me less stress and less conflict. I now focus confrontation on situations that are actually impacting the business or my ability to perform my function.

        3. tesyaa*

          Agree. It sounds like the guy really likes candy but is too cheap to buy his own.

          That being said, while candy is a welcoming, communication-inducing gesture, a lot of people are better off without it. Cute, manipulative toys on the desk perform the same function, without the calories.

      3. belle*

        OP if you’re going to have rules (that you haven’t shared with anyone) around keeping candy, and also keep track about who takes how much, you really should get rid of the bowl. You’re always going to run into 1 or 2 people who will over raid on occassion. I’d hate for you to get a nasty reputation over a candy bowl.

          1. Green*

            This also reminds me of the Jimmy Kimmel parents-eating-the-kids’-Halloween-candy YouTube sketches and the awesome over-reactions (tears, punching walls). OP, you should just pull a Liz Lemon, throw everything off a desk, and yell: “WHO ATE MY MAC AND CHEESE?”

        1. SL*

          Noticing that a single person takes most of the candy isn’t keeping track or having rules; it’s being awake.

        2. Gwen*


          I’m sure OP isn’t this way, but at my current job there’s a woman who keeps a candy dish, and she randomly blows up about it. She’ll say very loudly and passive-aggressively, to no one, “Wow — someone took all my Twix. Thanks a LOT, guys!”

          It makes her sound controlling and unhinged. I never eat her candy, and I try to avoid interacting with her unless necessary.

      4. Anonymous*

        I think if you feel you need to call someone out over this, you should probably get rid of the candy jar. That said, I solved my cash problem by adding a tip jar next to the candy jar. My coworkers took the hint and were generous, and I ended up making a small profit on the deal.

  11. MissDisplaced*

    What’s with all the candy dish controversy lately? LOL!
    Of course OP, you could simply not fill the dish and/or fill it with hard candies that aren’t as sought after and take longer to eat.

    P.S. Cough drops work too (hint hint).

  12. Ruffingit*

    I say a basic conversation is in order here as AAM suggests, letting Bob know he simply cannot continue to take the amount of candy he is taking unless he’s willing to pay for it. There’s also the subtle (but not at all subtle in reality) act of removing the candy jar to a drawer every time you see him coming. But personally, I’d go the more direct route of just being honest.

    1. tesyaa*

      He’s probably too cheap to buy his own candy, so asking him to pay is a joke. The other possibility is he has major self-control issues with regards to candy; he doesn’t want to buy his own because it’s admitting defeat, but when he sees the bowl of M&M’s, he literally cannot resist.

      1. belle*

        That’s how I am. I’m a sucker for those mini snickers and twix. Poor guy probably can’t resist the temptation!

        1. Eva R*

          This is me. I have overeating issues, especially when under stress and never buy my “trigger foods” anymore. I have issues with free pizza for the office and pot lucks as well, although mostly when there are leftovers sitting out that no one has taken. But I usually try to make a joke like “Bob has dark chocolate! Bob is a dangerous guy!” or “No, don’t come near me with the twix, you’ll never see them again!” that helps me be aware of what I’m doing and usually lets them know that I’m not taking or saying no to a food, but I appreciate the goodwill.

          I have had coworkers who would randomly hand out candy rather than having a dish to avoid this problem. It should never feel like an obligation to keep the candy dish stocked at all times.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Thing is though, if he’s unwilling to pay for it, he gets no more candy. She’s not asking him to pay, she’s telling him that his choices are paying or getting no more candy. If he doesn’t want to pay, he gets no candy. He’s being selfish and needs to be called on it.

      3. tcookson*

        Miss Manners says that people sometimes get in the unconscious habit of taking food offered regularly in the office for granted as an office amenity, rather than recognizing it as someone’s personal hospitality. People who have a little more social sensitivity, maybe not so much. But it sounds as if Bob is in the former category.

  13. Green*

    *sorry for the barely literate response. DON’T scorekeep if you keep a candy bowl. And fix all the other stuff too. :)

  14. Brett*

    One of my coworkers actually buys me candy as thanks for some of the tasks I help her with; I share this candy with everyone else because I am only at that job site one day a week, but….

    Turns out one of the supervisors from another unit was going into my workspace on the days I was not there and taking large amounts of candy. I didn’t notice, but my coworker who bought me the candy did and started getting mad about it.

    Solution: I put the candy in my desk and told everyone in our unit about it. Since the supervisor is from another unit, she has no idea where the candy is anymore (but everyone else knows it is okay to open my drawer and grab some candy).

    1. Ruffingit*

      One of the SUPERVISORS was doing that?? How crappy and rude. She can, presumably, afford her own candy.

  15. Malissa*

    “Bob nobody is going to complain about how much candy you take if occasionally buy some. hint hint”

  16. LizNYC*

    This makes me thankful, once again, that we have an office candy dish with candy supplied by the company. And no one monitoring (great for those days when just one or two pieces won’t do!)

    1. tcookson*

      Me, too. I buy our office candy with my company credit card, but I don’t keep it around all the time; I’m seasonal, moody, and responsive to periods of high stress. So I’ll put it out at Halloween, Valentine’s Day, when the mood strikes me, and during periods when everyone is so busy and stressed that we need chocolate just to survive. People eat it copiously during the holidays and high-stress times, but that’s what I put it there for!

      I realize that it’s easier not to care how quickly it disappears when I’m not the one who paid for it (and when I’m not pressuring myself to keep it perpetually stocked).

    2. AnonK*

      No kidding. I have always had company supplied candy or candy that was community funded and in a breakroom. I had no idea that candy monitoring was a thing.

      I don’t want to undervalue the OP’s concern, but if someone taking too much candy is the biggest problem you face daily, you are living the dream.

      1. FreeThinkerTX*

        “I don’t want to undervalue the OP’s concern, but if someone taking too much candy is the biggest problem you face daily, you are living the dream.”

        I *hate* dismissive statements like this. Just because a person has ONE problem they’d like help on doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY problem they have in their life. And attempting to invalidate someone’s experience by comparing it to world hunger, or death, or abuse, or just a nebulous unnamed “bigger problem” is petty and not at all helpful.

  17. CupcakeGirl*

    I had a candy jar at my first professional job (ad agency). It was a great way for me to meet people/appear approachable. I used to buy a couple of bags a week and it was all good for awhile. Then it got to the point where certain people were making a sweep down the hallways, dipping into everyone’s offices, grabbing a piece or two or three and going into the next office. It got to be too expensive on my (pitiful) salary, so I stopped.

    I know it’s been posted on here before, but another reason I stopped was because I wanted to be seen as less “motherly” and more professional.

    At the current company, I’d probably get kicked out of the office for bringing anything unhealthy, so no candy jar here either (it’s a healthcare company). Probably better for my waistline though, haha.

    1. Joey*

      How is candy motherly? Did you slave over the stove making it or what?

      Don’t tell me that women tend to have candy more than men because I just wouldn’t believe that at face value.

      1. tesyaa*

        It’s like Mom is always there with what you need when you need it. Dad doesn’t carry a purse and can’t always meet your demands, but Mom can.

        1. tesyaa*

          Note that my son recently asked me if I had his favorite brand of toothpaste in my purse. Surprisingly, I didn’t. (I don’t actually carry toothpaste, but he seemed to assume that I carry everything).

        2. Waerloga*


          Is there no Tilley pants or briefcase for Dad?

          I’m the one feeding the department. I’ll occasionally stock the cupboard located in the co-ops area with chocolate bars/teas/granola bars as well as bandages and other things.

          Most important things are that everybody knows that the cupboard is open to all, and that no one is keeping track of who’s going into it.

          I also supply them with Easter treats, ice cream bars, and other things. Hopefully they won’t go into my cupboard as that’s currently the holding zone for Christmas goodies.

          Office mothers come in both genders… And it’s my receptionist cousin who has the open candy bowl… Maybe it a familial trait.

          Take care


      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think candy itself is motherly, but the concern as a woman is putting yourself in the role of the office food provider, which is connected concerns about the way women in offices were traditionally viewed — as the ones who would get everyone coffee, clean up their dishes, and bring in cupcakes.

        1. Joey*

          If anything is motherly its slapping me on the hand and reminding me that its impolite to take more than one or two.

          1. Green*

            +1. It’s really not a co-worker’s role to correct another’s minor breaches of etiquette, if it’s not impacting your ability to get your work done.

            1. FreeThinkerTX*

              Actually, if I’m the one buying, then I get to make the rules. If you want endless candy for the one guy who consistently cleans out the bowl, then set up your own jar. Problem solved.

        2. Waerloga*

          It’s me who takes out all the waste baskets as I have the lowest level of messiness (and the latest working hours) It just makes sense (to me) that they get placed out side the door for the night cleaning staff to take away,

          Take care


  18. The Editor*

    Not sure if this has been addressed elsewhere, but….


    Seriously though, this could have described me. And the thing is that I’m a compulsive eater when I’m stressed (a lot around here), and I just go for the easy stuff. I actually spoke with the local candy jar person once and asked her to please, please, please stock that jar with things I wouldn’t like so that I wouldn’t do it any more. She complied, problem solved. Oh, and I also made sure to bring in candy or leave money from time to time.

    I guess I have to wonder if this candy thief is my kind of guy: stressed, compulsive, knows he’s taking too much, can’t quite stop.

    Oh, and one other thing that our candy person did was she made it a rule that she only filled up once every X days. She slowly increased the time from 3 to 4 to 5 and so on. Now, she fills up about once a month with candy I can’t stand. It’s been a nice win-win, and we’re actually better friends for it.

    Communication: It makes the world go ’round!

    1. Anonymous*

      Agreed! I recently went through a longish period of low sleep, and a natural bodily response to insufficient sleep is to eat more to make up the energy difference. I was the worst candy hog for a while :( But I did buy contributions (and not cheap ones either!) to replenish the jar too, so that I wasn’t just costing my coworker money.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I’m a savory snack lover, and I am completely powerless around doritos, fritos, chips of any kind really. I’m glad it’s not common to stock those because I couldn’t control myself. Especially with my job as stressful as it is – I would stress eat my way to a heart attack. Boo :(

    3. MissDisplaced*

      That’s what I suggest. Hard candy types (takes a while to eat) or mints or maybe even cough drops. Not as popular for sure.

      And if you brought in candy or donated money for a re-stock I don’t consider you a thief.

    4. Stryker*

      But you bothered to replace it, so it makes you better than Bob.

      I’ve been considering getting a candy jar for my new desk. I love chocolate and need a pick-me-up every once in a while, plus I’m trying to meet people. Do you think I could do this and not seem “motherly”? (I’m a woman, hence why I’m asking. Trying to balance caring & social with not-nosy/unprofessional.)

  19. abby*

    Maybe someone has suggest this already, but how about just getting rid of the candy jar? If you need candy, keep a small stash for yourself in your drawer. But why the need to supply the office?

    1. Kara*

      Some people like to have a candy dish on their desk because it makes them seem more personable and inviting, and it is also an attempt to increase communication in their office. Its not about a personal candy stash. I doubt most people put a candy bowl on their desk because they want their entire office monitoring their candy eating habits. It’s there to share.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      For me, it’s because my predecessor had the basket on his desk, and I had rather liked eating the candy when I wasn’t responsible for it, so I carry on the tradition!

  20. Mimi*

    I did have a candy dish on my desk, long ago. The weirdest phenomenon would be when people would walk up to my desk, take a candy (or three), and walk away. That was it. No hello, no thanks…….they’d just appear, grab candy, and leave.

    It creeped me out.

    1. Jubilance*

      I always feel bad when I go grab a piece of candy from my coworker without staying to chat- she keeps it on her desk, in her cube. But she’s said many times that she doesn’t care if people come in to get candy and don’t say hi or stay to chat; sometimes she’s concentrating on something and doesn’t even look away from her computer. I don’t know how she does it, just someone walking past my cube can catch my eye, but apparently she can really focus.

      1. Cat*

        We have someone who actively gets annoyed when people talk to her while taking candy from her jar. It’s a little over the top, but it does show there are preferences all over the spectrum.

  21. some1*

    I worked with a candy (and everything) thief who would just go in your desk drawers to get candy or your personal snacks or lunch. He would even take newspapers and magazines off people’s desks & from the break room and bring them into the bathroom with him.

    When I stopped bringing in candy because I’d go through a bag a day (of fun size chocolate bars) mostly due to him, he actually told on me to management, as if I’d stopped meeting deadlines. (I brought in candy totally of my own volition and paid for it myself.)

    1. Arbynka*

      Let me get this straight. He actually went and complained to management because you stopped bringing candy ? Holy smoke.

      1. Jessa*

        He may have thought, however that management was PAYING for it. And therefore the sum of her duties was to either get it (because that was convenient) or to put it out.

        It may not have occurred to him that it was her personal candy that she paid for.

      1. some1*

        He was one of those people who had no social skills or shame whatsoever, and he treated everyone badly. Management never did much about it because he had the really specific knowledge required for his position, plus it was an Old Boy’s Club. I wasn’t privy to exactly how Management responded to him about that specific incident, but I do know they’d usually just kind of humor him and change the subject. He was eventually laid off.

  22. Anonymous*

    It is possible that your co-worker doesn’t know that this is your personal candy jar. If you talk to him about the candy issue, it might help to make that clear to him, so that he understands that this is something you are doing personally out of your own money.

    I have always assumed that most public candy jars are paid for by the company as a perk to employees, or to make visitors/customers feel welcome. Like coffee. If I find out that it is someone’s personal stash of candy (or coffee or whatever), then I don’t just help myself to it.

    If it’s the company’s candy, provided as a perk, than I won’t hesitate to pig out if I feel like it, and I expect the company to only put it out at whatever rate they feel is a reasonable expenditure.

    If that doesn’t help, then you may just have to face the facts: your candy jar is not having the desired effect on co-workers, so you will have to change your scheme to something you find acceptable or get rid of it.

    1. OP*

      Oh, he’s well aware it’s my candy dish and I buy all the candy. It is sitting in my office. That’s why, in truth, he is being kind of rude. He knows it too, and just doesn’t care. I don’t obsessively count, but I sit here all day, so I can’t help but notice when somebody takes way more than their fair share.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        He might legitimately have a self-control problem around sugar. It sounds silly but some people have serious sugar addictions and lose control around it.

  23. PoohBear McGriddles*

    I like the idea of only refilling it every X days. But make it random. That way, Bob will never know if he’s going to find it stocked or not.

    1. Rana*

      Though then the phenomenon of intermittent reinforcement might aggravate the problem. ;)

      I had a thought – is there a way to use a different container – say, something narrow with a lid – that discourages easy access to the candy? That way people can still take a piece, but it’s harder to do the grab-a-fistful thing, and may force them to be more aware of each instance of candy-snarfing.

      1. Rana*

        Ah, I see Nutella beat me to this idea, downthread. :)

        (Does anyone remember the Aesop’s fable about the stork and the fox inviting each other to dinner?)

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I love that they stock it with candy from their state. Wonder if it’s ever been filled with those Squirrel Nut Zipper things. Yum!

  24. just laura*

    Is it possible that these candy hogs just see this as free candy and don’t stop to consider that someone is making the effort of buying, displaying, and restocking it? They all seem rather obtuse.

  25. Anonymous*

    Inexperienced worker here. What are the rules for office candy jars? Does every employee need to contribute, even if you’re not much of a candy eater?

    1. tesyaa*

      Many different possibilities:

      1 – the case described, in which someone keeps candy on his or her personal desk in order to be approachable, likeable, or to encourage communication. Since this person is getting a benefit (people see him as a giver, approachable, etc), this person pays for his own candy.

      2 – people voluntarily bring in candy and leave it in a common area. Courtesy dictates that everyone who takes brings in from time to time. Yes, there will be abusers, but again, it’s usually voluntary. This often springs up spontaneously in offices where people like to socialize.

      3 – same as #2, but with a set schedule of who brings in candy. Again, there will be takers who don’t give. That’s the nature of the office, and really, of life.

      4 – company provides candy, or soda, or fruit at company expense. The goal is to provide a workplace perk, and possibly to keep people from running out to stores or vending machines when they need a snack.

      Any others?

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I would say that if you make regular stops at #1, you should contribute something periodically. Our IT guy has the candy dish and I’ll stop in once or twice a day for a piece or two and every couple of months, I’ll bring in a bag.

      2. Anon*

        Yes, 5- my boss leaves huge bags of candy at my desk that he wants me to put out (I am his EA). I appreciate the candy dish as much as the next person, but would rather not have it there– I eat it and constant interruptions, and I eat it. All. Day. Long. But he was hired as the guy who would bring change to the dept, has been of course seen as the bad guy because of it, and it is his attempt to soften his image and be seen as more approachable. I don’t know how well that’s working for him because it’s on my desk and unfortunately people think it’s mine–so I will frequently tell them to thank him–not me–to an occasional look of shock.

      3. The IT Manager*

        I am most familair with #1. I’m not aware of any of my previous organization buying candy, but it was the government so it probably wasn’t.

        That said, I agree with ExceptiontotheRule that it is kind/polite/nice to buy candy every so often if you eat from someone’s candy bowl.

    2. Jubilance*

      In my office we all chip in on the candy, either by buying some and delivering to the person with the candy jar, or giving money. I eat a few pieces a week and I try to bring in at least one bag a month.

  26. Joey*

    Oh god gimme a break! Rules for the candy dish? That’s like limiting people to half a cup of coffee from the community coffee pot. Either let people take what they want or don’t offer to share of you don’t have enough.

    1. esra*

      I don’t really get this. If you have say, twenty people in your office and bring in two dozen donuts and someone takes six, that person is a jerk. Not you for not supplying enough food for dbags.

      1. Joey*

        Sorry I didn’t realize the assumption was there’s only one for each employee and if you take more than one there won’t be enough to go around

        1. Esra*

          The assumption is that the candy is for everyone, and that someone paid for it, and you should respect that and only take a piece or two.

      2. Gwen*

        See, I would assume that if one person took six donuts, they were hungrier than everyone else. But, actually, I wouldn’t count how many my coworkers were taking to begin with.

        Then again, I come from a culture where it’s considered very rude to offer to provide food for a group (such as at a party), but to provide not enough food or just barely enough. So maybe I’m biased.

        1. Esra*

          There is always a threshold of too much though. An amount that one person can take that will be to the detriment of others. What I’m trying to get at is that most adults should understand this.

    2. Cat*

      Yeah, on reflection, I think I’m with you on this one – candy dishes should be pleasant; at the point where they’re causing stress and bad feeling, they’re no longer worth it.

      1. A Bug!*

        I don’t agree with Joey’s comment but I agree with the sentiment of yours – that if it’s causing stress to the OP, then it should go.

        But I don’t think it’s ridiculous for the OP to be a little bothered that her candy dish is being regularly emptied by one person, and to want to know how to fix it without getting rid of the dish or being weird about it.

        There may be a fine distinction to be made between “complimentary” and “free”, but it’s there. OP keeps a bowl of complimentary candy in her office – it’s there so that visitors can take one or two while they’re there to see OP. OP’s coworker is treating it as a bowl of free candy, there for the taking by whoever wants some for whatever reason. And it stops being fun to have a candy dish when it gets taken for granted like that.

    3. Mimi*

      It’s not a community candy dish. It’s OP’s own candy dish, sitting in her own office, that she leaves out for everyone.

      If you’re continually grabbing handfuls of candy out of your co-worker’s stash, then you need to go buy your own. C’mon.

      1. Green*

        This isn’t a discussion about what Bob should do though. It’s what OP should do given Bob’s behavior. Bob should certainly be considerate of others. But should OP point out that Bob is being inconsiderate… over a candy dish? That’s a different question.

  27. Betsy*

    I have a coworker who will walk a good 50 yards to a candy jar on our floor 5-6 times a day, take 8 candies, and then distribute them (without asking first) to everyone in our block of cubicles.

    It drives me nuts, because A) I feel really badly for the guy who actually stocks the candies and B) I feel like it gives our whole group a bad name.

    I asked him to please stop bringing me candies, and now he only gets 7 on a given trip. For a while, I tried to maintain a team candy dish so we weren’t constantly raiding this guy across the office, but I could literally sink $20 a week into it and still have it emptying out all the time.

    There are some people who will make it pretty much impossible to maintain a candy jar. My candy hog keeps saying, “I’ll restock it!” Every 3 weeks or so, he’ll bring in a little bag of peanut butter cups or something, but it does not even start to make up for what he consumes.

    I will share the thing that worked for me: I no longer stock candy. Instead, I stock fruit. Every week, I buy a box of clementines or a bag of apples, a big bunch of bananas, and some grapes or the like. Whatever’s on sale. I spend less per week than I did on the candy jar, it vanishes at a much slower rate, and people are way more appreciative.

  28. DataMonkey*

    If it was me, I would probably just fill the candy jar once a week and when it was gone for the week – it was gone. Hopefully, this will also make you less annoyed with the guy who is taking all the candy because you are only going to see him doing this once or twice a week instead of daily.

  29. Anon*

    I am a huge candy thief and I found it helps me to keep a jar of candy at my desk. Somehow providing candy makes me less likely to take someone elses?

    As for the OP’s issue, I like to provide good but non-chocolate candy. People are thrilled with my fruity candy canes or caramel apple pops but they don’t feel the need to take multiple. Chocolate has a way of bringing out the worst in us all!

    1. tesyaa*

      Yes, I personally cannot eat just one or two hershey kisses. I need to eat about eight at a time. And go back for seconds. It’s easier to ban myself from chocolate entirely than to try to keep it to a modest amount. Just impossible.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I’m a fruity candy fiend. I can pass up chocolate with no problem but I want all the skittles and starburst. Nommmmm.

    3. belle*

      Your comment has me laughing! I would eat all the candy at my desk if I tried that. I have no control around chocolate!

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Yes. That’s what I’ve found. If you must have the candy dish, stock it with mints or hard candies. Cheaper, less sought after and takes longer to consume, but you still want it from time to time.

  30. Katie the Fed*

    I keep a giant bowl of clementines on my desk in the winter, and other fresh fruit in other seasons. It’s a nice snack for people who want to eat healthy (including me – I don’t need the temptation of candy around) and nobody overindulges :)

    1. Kara*

      I like this idea. A little expensive, perhaps, but if you’re buying in-season fruit and people are taking less of it, sounds like a great compromise to a bottomless candy bowl.

      1. Betsy*

        I find that people are a lot less likely to overindulge, probably because the fruit seems more “luxury.” I switched over to a fruit bowl from a candy bowl around 4 months ago, and it costs a lot less: I stock clementines, bananas, apples, grapes, pears — whatever is on sale. I stop in once a week, and it runs me $10-15 a week. People are also a LOT more likely to offer to chip in money or bring things to add — people will bring a bunch of bananas, some apples, or a bag of nuts to add in to the collection.

  31. Parfait*

    This whole discussion is reminding me of how impossible it was to build up a nicely stocked liquor cabinet when I was with my ex-husband, because he’d down whatever bottle I brought home in a day or two and I never got anywhere. So I stopped buying. A nice social amenity to offer to visitors was incompatible with his disease.

    Perhaps the addictive nature of the sugary treat is just too much for this person. I’d stop refilling the dish, and if he asks why, tell him.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Confession: I’m currently dipping into my secret candy stash that I had managed to avoid for *weeks*.

  32. holly*

    unless it was required of me, i’d get rid of the candy bowl. if it is required, you shouldn’t be paying for the candy. therefore it shouldn’t matter how much he takes.

    or you could be super passive aggressive and leave the bowl empty a few days after his clean out. when asked why no candy, say something about how you can only buy x amount of candy per month, and it’s already been all gobbled up.

  33. NutellaNutterson*

    Could you change the vessel so that it’s impossible to take a handful at once? (I’m reminded of the monkey trying to get the banana out of the box…)

    The “gumball” dispenser at work is really stingy, but no one wants to stand there and spin the thingy a dozen times, so you deal with getting maybe two peanut m&m’s. And if you want more, you buy your own damn bag like the employed adult you are.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, there’s an interesting idea. You could even use something simple like a cute narrow-necked jar that you have to tip every time you want something out of it. If you only want one, NBD. If you’re trying to get more, that’s a lot of hanging out and tipping. I’m a big fan of letting physical structure solve human behavior when possible.

  34. Anonymous*

    I’m a big candy hog, but I try to offset it by baking goodies all the time. It seems to work. I would definitely cut back if asked directly to do so.

  35. Hide your candy!*

    Put some kind of candy in there that he doesn’t like and keep your candy in a drawer or somewhere inaccessible to him. Or you could just get rid of the candy jar, put it in his office and say something like “since you ate most of this anyway, i’ll just let you have the jar in your office”

  36. Ly*

    I love candy. I eat too much of it. But I hate candy jars at work for the exact reason there are over 150 comments on this thread: this is work, why are we spending so much time focusing on candy?? Policing it, buying it, counting it, keeping track of who is eating too much, using it as bait to get people to talk to you, etc. I used to sit next to a co-worker who had a candy dish and she wasted so much time trying to reel people in that she blew at least an hour a day talking about that damn candy. Its work, not perpetual Halloween.

  37. Mimi*

    As soon as he walks into your office, just casually take the dish and put it into your drawer. When he says “Hey! Why are you hiding the candy?” (and he will) just reply, “Because you eat all of it.” Very matter-of-fact.

    Of course, he’ll try to make it a Big Deal, and tell everyone that you’re hoarding your candy, to embarrass you. But as long as you remain calm and matter-of-fact about it, he’ll be the one who looks ridiculous. It’s candy, for crying out loud. It’s not exactly a precious resource.

  38. Terri*

    My perverse imp would like to stock the candy dish with these:

    Read the reviews (gross but hilarious !). After a handful of these he’s guaranteed to never do this again.

    However, in reality I’d probably just remove the dish or tell him that every second week he needs to buy the candy for it.

    1. Betsy*

      Omg, those reviews are the greatest ever. I was literally laughing so hard my eyes are still streaming tears from it.

  39. TCA*

    Don’t fill the candy dish. Try to keep it at 10 pieces (or more if your office is big), and see if he takes less because there is less available.

  40. Chocolate Teapot*

    If a colleague has been travelling then they usually bring a box of chocolates or biscuits back which gets hoovered up by the rest of the office fairly quickly. The company provides a twice weekly stocked fruit basket.

  41. Sandrine*

    I like these kinds of questions, actually! Much better than the regular “is it legal OMG I can’t believe you just asked the question” anyways ;).

    Sure, once it’s become too stressful, it would be better to get rid of the jar… but I don’t understand how people can claim you should just let people “do what they want” . Ahem. This is *at work* in a *professional* and supposedly *adult* environment.

    As such, quite frankly, I wouldn’t expect to be able to take more than one or two at a time. I mean, to me, if it’s in an office, I default to “it’s not all for me” . If it’s home, it’s a whole another story!

  42. Elkay*

    Someone upthread mentioned a gumball machine. Could you get one of those and put the candy in that so there is effort and minimal reward.

  43. Anonymous*

    I have a tiny little candy dish. (It is actually a magnetic thing with a lid.) I got it when I started to get people to come to the frontish side of my cube rather than come up behind me. It has worked fantastically. (Especially since I explicitly tell them this.)
    I fill it maybe 2x per month or so. And I’d say one coworker or another will buy me a bag every other month. I haven’t really had any problems with candy hoarders. In part because it is a tiny dish. You can fit like 4-5 pieces in there. Part because you have to remove the lid to get at it. There is also a sad face that my director drew and put at the bottom that apparently makes no one want to take the last piece, so when I don’t want to refill it I just leave the one lone piece in there for however long. I also don’t worry if it is empty for a week or two.
    But it has been great to get people to come to the correct side of the desk (plus other magnetic toys to play with there helps too).

  44. bearing*

    One of the best things about this thread is that it quietly sets a standard of reciprocity and office etiquette:

    If you eat candy from a co-worker’s dish (and the company doesn’t supply the candy), refill the dish once in a while without being asked.

  45. Christine*

    How about placing a jar by the candy dish that says “candy donations”? I have been in your shoes so many times.

  46. Anonymous*

    Honestly, it sounds like he has an eating disorder. He probably struggles with it and is a lot more embarrassed about this than you are. Having that dish out isn’t being kind to him. Rather than leaving it out for people to see, maybe it would be kinder to keep it in your desk so people have to ask you (or you have to offer). Or better yet, don’t bring the stuff in.

    Seriously, the most stressful part of my job is the next department over always bakes things.

  47. Bea W*

    We had someone doing this to our group on off hours. If we left the bowl out over night, it would be near empty in the morning. It’s a 9-5 office building. The only people here would be a couple working security maybe, and cleaners. To find the bowl near empty every morning, when I was the last to leave and it would be mostly full was really odd and annoying as heck.

    I started putting the bowl away at the end of the day. Then after I took a long weekend, I noticed the bowl I had put away looked oddly low. So the next day, I took a count and rigged the cabinet so that if it had been opened, I would be able to tell.

    Someone was going into my cabinet on off hours and still taking the candy! I mean…WTF? Who goes into other people’s personal storage and takes things?! SERIOUSLY?!

    I did not have a key for the cabinet, and I immediately found out how to order a replacement, because at that point it’s not that someone is being greedy, it’s that someone I don’t know is going through my storage on off hours. That’s not okay, doubly not okay where I have company files.

    While I was waiting for a key, I moved the bowl to a cabinet I could lock, and I printed up a humorous sign redirecting the thief to the vending machines and left that in the unlocked cabinet.

    Seriously. WTF. Now if this person was paying for the candy in the jar, that would be okay. So maybe you can get this guy to kick in. Here when the bowl goes empty, it does not get automatically filled. People take turns buying candy. You could also ask for donations. Candy is not cheap. You could try putting less out, to make it last, but that doesn’t solve the problem of one person taking most of the candy. You could decide on a set amount for the week, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. When he comes back to an empty bowl, that’s the perfect segway to explain you can only afford to put out so much candy, and if people would like more, they are welcome to chip in either with money or with candy.

  48. Wren*

    If you’re ready to speak bluntly and it’s mostly a matter of Coworker taking the bluntness seriously, you could physically remove the candy jar from where he can reach it when he comes to talk to you.

    Basically, you tell him to change his behaviour and then see if he does. If he doesn’t and keeps coming by often and reaching for it every time, you say, “Hey, I was serious,” and pick up the jar and put it in a drawer. Repeat as needed. Pull out a single piece for him as a peace offering when you think he’s gone long enough without candy

  49. Melissa*

    I’d just nix the candy dish altogether and eliminate the drama. Placing candy out and up for grabs opens up a free-for-all. Most people know to take one or two, say hi and move on. Some don’t. IMO, shopping, stocking and maintaining the candy bowl and trying to regulate who gets to dig in it would require too much energy that could be better spent…..working?

  50. azvlr*

    When I was in the military stationed in Japan, I served briefly as the secretary for the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, basically like the CEO or VP of a company. I was required to keep a candy dish on my desk for the dignitaries who would frequently come to visit. The XO would breeze past my desk on the way to his office and regularly empty the candy dish. I was expected to keep it stocked out of my own money.
    One day I bought some candy from a Japanese grocery store that had sour powder on the outside that melted away to hard candy. But then. . .once the hard candy shell was dissolved, a sour powdery surprise awaited. We have similar candies in the US called Warheads, but the Japanese version was infinitely more sour. Add to that the fact that he could not read the wrapper. I just put those in the candy jar, alerted the CO and my fellow admins and waited for the fun to begin. His reaction was priceless and being able to knock him down a few notches without losing a stripe was better still. He ultimately decided it was a great joke, the candy jar stayed noticeably more stocked after that, and he even requested I keep some of those in the jar in hopes of paying the joke forward.

  51. gsa*

    Late to the thread, so no I did not read all 213 comments.

    Many moons ago I work with a woman that kept a candy jar at her desk. I don’t remember if the tip jar was there when I started working or if it appeared. I put money in the tip jar, based on my eating habits.
    This particular person was looking for contact, and that was fine. She was in accounts payable. Head down, data entry all day long, 60 hrs/wk. I got chocolate that I paid for and she got chit chat.

    This might be the earliest example of a win-win in my career.

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