my manager bombards me with email, coworker takes too much food at meetings, and more

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

1. My manager sends me a barrage of emails within minutes of each other

My manager will send me multiple emails on the same item and it’s driving me insane! If she has questions on a project, she will send three separate emails with a different question in each email. These emails are within minutes of each other and it’s overwhelming. She works remotely, so it’s not like she can walk over to our workspace to ask these questions. These questions typically involve digging on my end (we’re an insurance agency with commercial clients and she does all our quoting, so it’s info we usually have to turn around and get from clients) so it’s helpful to have this in an email to refer to but one email is preferable. How do I get her to stop doing this?

You may not be able to. This may be her work style (and she probably thinks she’s only got the one question and then realizes soon after that she has more). It’s annoying, but sometimes you’ve got to adjust to your manager’s working style. In part that’s the power dynamic inherent in the relationship, but in part it’s also because her time is literally worth more to your company — and if she’s busy and this makes life easier for her, you might be the one who has to do the adjusting.

That said, because you’re having to seek answers from clients, you could point out that aspect of it to her by saying something like, “I’ve noticed that you’ll sometimes send multiple emails with questions about one client. Would it be possible to try to get those all in one email? Otherwise it means that I’m sometimes contacting the client several different times, and I get the sense they’d prefer to be able to answer everything all at once.”

But one way to make this easier on yourself would be to simply expect the string of emails — and therefore to wait a few minutes to see what else comes in before you start tackling an email from her, so that you have more of a chance of having everything she’s going to send on that topic all together. You said these emails come within minutes of each other, so it might help to just wait 30 minutes before you start working on them.

2. Coworker takes too much food at meetings

This is a fairly petty question, and I understand that the answer might just be for me to ignore the issue, but I wanted to check in. I have a coworker who is pretty young (early 20s) who, when food such as bagels or muffins are brought into a meeting, has been known to grab four to five of them. When another coworker brought it up, the Eater actually got kind of offended and said he always waits until everyone has had a serving.

The thing is (beyond the fact that it’s kind of astounding one person could eat four to five bagels in one sitting), if no one else is going back for seconds and one person is going back for fourths, it looks kind of unprofessional. Many people have noticed this behavior and expressed that they feel it’s inappropriate. Plus, if all the food isn’t eaten in a meeting, it’s not thrown away, it’s put out in a shared space for the rest of the office to enjoy.

Do I just look the other way on this one? I’m not his boss so it’s not really my responsibility to bring it up to him, but I also feel like it’s not important enough to warrant bringing up to our boss.

Yeah, this one isn’t yours to address. You’re right that it’s going to look weird — like his priority in the meeting is chowing down to the greatest extent possible — but if you’re not his boss or otherwise in his chain of command, it’s not really your problem to solve.

3. Can I manage employees when I’m not their manager?

I work for a tiny (five-person) company that offers both client work and retail. I functionally run the retail operation and am the most senior employee aside from the two founders, who are entirely focused on the client work. Our newest two hires split their time between the two. Because of this, they don’t technically report to me, although they know to come to me with any questions about products or what needs to be done when they’re not working with clients.

Recently, I’ve noticed that they’re behaving unprofessionally, to say the least — gossiping in earshot of clients, frequently on their phones, and generally being unproductive when they’re on shifts together. With only five people on our team, we really can’t afford to have anyone sitting idle and there’s always something they could be doing. When I spoke to our head boss about this, she told me that I should absolutely say something to them when I notice this behavior and that she will also have a conversation with them about expectations and job duties.

Since I’m not their manager in a technical sense, how should I phrase this when talking to them? We work closely and I can’t imagine it will go over well if I couch everything with “Catelyn said you need to be doing X” or otherwise act like I’m snitching on them. And where is the line between senior and supervisor on a team this small?

If you’re running the retail operation and they spend part of their time there, you absolutely have standing to give them direction. You don’t need to say “Catelyn said…” and in fact doing that would probably undermine you. Just give them the direction you want to give them, whether it’s “hey, you actually shouldn’t be on your phone when you’re doing X” or “can you do Y for me?” or “please don’t gossip in front of customers” or whatever it might be. If that doesn’t work and they continue the problematic behavior, or if they do what you ask but have crappy attitudes, at that point that’s a more serious and their boss needs to step in … but it’s perfectly reasonable to just be matter-of-fact about giving them direction. I think you’re getting caught up the fact that you’re not their manager, but you’re senior to them and they’re working in the area that you run. You’ve got the standing to ask for what you need.

4. Talking about mental health issues at work

Is it ever not a terrible idea to talk about mental health issues at work?

I’ve lived with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember and have, as a result, gotten very good at hiding it in my professional life. The last few months have been rough, though, and I’m not doing well. Medically speaking, I’m handling it — I have new doctors and am looking into new treatment, and I’m hopeful. But for the first time, my depression is affecting my work. A lot. I’ve always been a high performer, but right now I’m lucky if I get two hours of actual work done a day. Plus I have wild mood swings, I’m constantly irritable, and I have no energy. I’ve basically done a complete 180 in the past six months. I think I am reaching a point where I need to say something, because even though I’m starting new treatment, there is no instant fix here (plus, I’m likely going to need more flexibility and time off for doctor visits while I sort this all out). But should I keep it to a vague “I’ve been having some health issues”? I know even the best people can have unconscious bias towards mental illness, but I feel like if I don’t give a more concrete reason for my performance issues, people won’t take it as seriously.

I’ve been in my current workplace for five years. I work with good people who care about their employees. The company itself tries very hard to be progressive towards things like mental health. But I can’t shake this feeling that if I tell people at work about my depression, I’ll never receive another promotion or development opportunity again. What’s the best option here?

Some managers are great with mental health issues, others are decidedly not, and still others seem supportive in the moment but then have weird biases that come out later. You won’t always know which one you’re dealing with, unfortunately.

But you actually can handle this just like any other medical condition — meaning that you don’t need to give details about it! It’s enough to simply say, “I want to let you know that I’m dealing with a medical condition that has really been wearing me out lately. I’m working with my doctor on a treatment plan, but there’s not likely to be an instant fix, and I wanted to mention it to you so that you have context in case you notice me seeming off.” That’s the same language I’d tell you to use for lots of other medical conditions, and there’s no reason you have to disclose something additional just because this involves mental health.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Should we not discuss job candidates with coworkers?

I work in a small department in a medium-sized nonprofit organization. I am not currently a manager but have a decade of prior managerial experience which included quite a bit of hiring, and I serve in a kind of senior advisory role to my supervisor on this and other issues.

We’ve been trying to fill an open position in our department. Turnover is very low here, so though I’ve been here for several years, this is the first time I’ve been intimately involved in a hiring process. During our in-person interviews, I ran into an issue that really surprised me.

When the hiring manager, Jane, asked me for feedback after meeting with a candidate, I said I had not had a chance to compare notes with others in our office yet, but that I had XYZ feelings about the candidate. Jane was furious to hear that we had discussed the candidates amongst ourselves at all — like really intensely bothered. She felt this poisoned the well and kept people from forming their own opinions. This was extra strange to me because not only were most of these group interviews, but in my past organizations it was actually common for the hiring manager to schedule meeting time for everyone involved in the interviews to talk about each candidate as a group. By comparing notes in this way, we actually steered our VP away from making a very bad hire once; there were some red flags from a candidate that only started to make sense when we discussed our interviews together.

I was not a ringleader on “comparing notes” during this process, but didn’t think it strange at all to be involved in discussions with other coworkers about what we thought of each candidate. Obviously now that I know Jane dislikes this, I haven’t done it again and have discouraged others from doing so as well. But she did not tell us beforehand that this was her expectation.

Is this normal? Was I doing it wrong all this time? Jane is generally a good manager and a reasonable person, so the intensity of her response to this really took me aback.

The intensity of her reaction is a little surprising, but the practice itself isn’t uncommon. Sometimes when people talk amongst themselves, they end up altering their opinions to better fit the group’s or an opinion leader’s — and there can be real value in getting people’s input before that happens. That doesn’t mean that there should never be group discussions about candidates, but initially getting people’s thoughts before they’ve had a chance to be influenced by others can make a lot of sense. (This is also why when managers are soliciting input on candidates from their staff, it’s smart for them not to share their own opinions first. There’s too much chance of people being influenced by the boss’s opinion when offering their own.)

{ 522 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I don’t think this makes him look unprofessional. It just sounds like a significant divergence in expectations around what office manners look like for the specific culture of your office. For example, at my last job, it would be fine for someone to take seconds or thirds so long as everyone had had an opportunity to have one serving. Or you could ask if folks minded if you took more than one extra. I’m not saying his behavior is reasonable or mannerly, but just that etiquette and expectations can vary.

    But ultimately, as Alison notes, this is not your monkey.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      He also is a meeting participant. That gives him priority over anyone that would get the leftovers. The snacks are for the participants.

      1. Snark*

        In that case, then, take the leftovers. But if you’re eating 4-5 bagels in a typical meeting, that means you’re more or less continuously at some point in the process of obtaining, preparing, and consuming a bagel for most of that meeting, and that’s pretty far out of the norm.

        1. Roscoe*

          Do people really think you can’t eat something and pay attention in a meeting at the same time?

        2. Academic Addie*

          I wouldn’t like that. In my workplace, it’s typical for people to get food, sit down, and eat it. The start of a meeting with food might be a little loose to enable that. But once you’re in to the content, I’ve seen colleagues tell other colleagues to knock it off if they’re getting up too much and wandering in front of a projector or preparing noisy food, like opening multiple little baggies of chips.

          1. Luna*

            Yes, exactly- it’s one thing to get up once to refill your coffee or grab a bottle of water, but you should take the food you want at the beginning. If there are leftovers people usually grab more on their way out the door, not continuously throughout the meeting. It’s distracting and makes the guy look like he isn’t paying attention to what’s being discussed or presented.

          2. AKchic*

            Exactly. Depending on the length of the meeting, how many people are present (the age and general health of the attendees), and how many people are presenting information, natural breaks may occur so you can get up and take bathroom breaks and refill cups/plates. (Can you tell I’ve sat in on a *lot* of those kinds of meetings?)

            However, if someone is overloading a plate, carrying multiple plates, or getting up when it isn’t a natural breaking point and causing some kind of distraction; it would be polite for the supervisor to mention it to this person that what he is doing is a distraction and maybe not the most politic thing to do.
            And yeah, I get it: Some 20somethings are hungry and still have fun metabolisms. Some 20somethings are still on shoestring budgets and that meal may be what they get for the day. The key is to not draw attention to it because others may gossip unkindly about it or consider this coworker a charity case (or outside vendors, clients, etc. may consider your company not paying him enough and wonder what else your agency is skimping on).

          3. JS*

            I’m sorry but if you offer food in a meeting you need to expect people to eat their full of it. You also need to expect people to get up and need to use the bathroom from eating and drinking said food. Don’t offer little baggies of chips if you don’t want to deal with the sound of bag opening or someone who crunches too loud. Same with cans of soda for the fizz/pop sound. Get a caterer to serve food or order meals for certain portions if you dont want people getting up or getting seconds.

            You shouldn’t shame or put any standard on how much a person should be consuming and when especially when they aren’t taking food away from others on an open buffet.

            1. shep*

              There’s a woman in my office who surreptitiously sneaks tupperware containers into the place where the food is kept (conference room, break room, etc.) when she thinks no one’s looking to take TONS home to her family. Usually an email will go out along the lines of, “Please help yourself to the potluck leftovers in the break room!” I guess she feels like she can because of the email? It doesn’t bother me personally, but on principle it does irritate me quite a bit. I’ve taken an extra item or two once or twice, but hogging the lot seems overly opportunistic.

              1. JS*

                Its a bit different if they are not apart of the potluck themselves. Same as if the coworker werent in the meetings but taking alot of food.

                If she is clearing out the lot as soon as the email goes out without anyone else getting any then it is indeed annoying on principle. But maybe she figures this is OK because she has seen the food go to waste previously? In your shoes if you aren’t being bothered since you dont really take much else, and no else appears to be either then I wouldnt be annoyed since she is saving food from going to waste. She should be waiting a good amount of time or at least make the rounds asking before packing up everything even if she knows people will just wave her off. Sneaking I think makes it look more wrong and makes her seem guilty of something even though the email said “help yourself”

        3. Engineer Girl*

          Movement wasn’t mentioned in the letter. We also have no idea how long the meeting was. If it was a long meeting he could be getting food at breaks.

        4. Duffman*

          If you don’t want people eating in a meeting, then don’t serve food in the meeting.

    2. CJH*

      I think that its fine having seconds or thirds so long as the other participants get their fill as well, it’s the *optics* of this that are problematic. It may appear to others that this person is more interested in food than the meeting itself, whether or not that’s true.
      My work has an “if we meet, we eat” policy and always has lots of leftovers, but the SOP is to take one serving for the meeting itself and then we can descend like piranhas after the meeting.

    3. JamieS*

      For me it depends on how he’s doing it. If he’s getting them one, maybe two, at a time that doesn’t strike me as unprofessional but it’d look odd to me if I saw a coworker grab an armful of bagels in one trip. The issue isn’t really whether it’s unprofessional in general but that it’s considered unprofessional in OP’s office and the eater became argumentive when given guidance on something that’s fairly office dependent and not something someone would necessarily know without either being told or having a deep understanding of that office’s culture.

      Regardless not OP’s problem.

      1. Anon for now*

        I agree. Taking them one at a time, if it doesn’t disturb the meeting seems fine to me. If he took one then went back and grabbed three more, that would be a little off putting. It also depends on how many leftovers there are. If he keeps eating until everything is gone, then he could be blocking others from getting seconds if they want them but were waiting until the end of the meeting to avoid interrupting. However, if everyone in the meeting is getting enough food and there are still some leftovers after he has had a fourth serving then I don’t see the problem.

      2. Luna*

        I disagree that no one would know this in advance, or that it’s office dependent. The guy isn’t going back for seconds, he’s eating 4-5 bagels in one sitting. That’s highly unusual behavior in most offices, and in most workplaces that would stand out, and not in a good way. Add on the fact that he also became really defensive even after getting guidance and his behavior is even more unprofessional.

        1. JS*

          But the author mentioned him going back for fourths. I agree the language is a bit unclear but since OP mentioned the coworker said he waits until everyone has had some that he isnt grabbing them all at once but at minimum making two trips.

          I would get defensive too if someone questioned my eating habits. Its hard for me to stomach one bagel (and I live in NYC lol) let alone 4-5 so I would be a bit wowed by it but its none of my business how much or how little anyone eats. This is especially true if the issue is “optics” based and not based on anything really concrete or consequential. Like if coworker is taking all the food from other people (none left after he eats 4-5 even if no one has gone back up during the meeting since they could go at the end). Or if coworker is getting up and being disruptive while getting extra food.

          1. Arjay*

            The difference for me is that this is communal food. If he wants to bring in a 6 pack of bagels every day, more power to him. But when dealing with communal food that you aren’t paying for, I think moderation is required.

            1. JS*

              Why so the food can go to waste? Moderation is different to everyone so its silly judging what people eat when its provided to for you. Also they are paying for it in a sense with their time. Whole reason for offering breakfast or lunch is for meetings that overlap these hours. You would expect someone to eat less than they normally do and be hungry because today they had a meeting?

              The same people who look at him oddly for this surely would as well if everyone was eating bagels yet he brought in a full waffle, eggs, bacon, and potato spread and ate it in the meeting. Which is honestly more weird and distracting to bring your own food when food is being provided when you dont have dietary restrictions.

              1. TrainerGirl*

                I worked in an office previously that got bagels every Wednesday. There would always be extras in case a meeting was being held (a lot of folks in other locations liked having their meetings in our office, because we had a Starbucks-grade coffee machine, free soda dispenser, and an office manager that ordered amazing food for lunches. There were (almost always) leftover bagels the following day. If someone grabbed 4-5 bagels on Day 1, I’m sure a lot of folks would have been peeved. Having a bagel (or even 2) each day wouldn’t be noticed, but loading up, especially if no one else has done so, it’s pretty poor optics.

          2. NorthernSoutherner*

            OP and others in the meeting seem to have formed a negative opinion of the guy scarfing bagels and muffins. Whether justified or not — as some have said, the food is there, he should be able to eat it, etc. — his behavior is not going over well. As a longtime manager myself, I would think twice about someone who doesn’t seem to care about how his behavior is being perceived.

            1. JS*

              I’m a manager too and I don’t care how people perceive things if they shouldn’t be forming assumptions on it in the first place. It’s food. He’s not taking any from anyone who is entitled to it (in the meeting) just eating more than people think he should. If an employee brought this up to me my concerns would be a) if we are stocking enough food and b) to tell them not to bring up to me what people eat again. This is especially true if everyone gets opportunity for their fill and its all going to waste after anyway.

      3. Kathleen_A*

        The organization I work for traditionally offers an afternoon cookie break during all-day meetings, particularly when those meetings include our many volunteers. The cookies are usually very good and perfectly enormous – basically the equivalent of 3 regular cookies. There was one guy who at every single cookie break would jump up at the first possible instant and grab an towering stack of 8-10 of the extra large chocolate chip cookies (his favorite). “I’m getting these for other people,” he’d always say as he carried his teetering tower of cookies back to his place. But what everybody would always think is “No, Jack, you’re getting extras so that you and your wife will have plenty for snacks during your drive home.”

        But hey, he was a volunteer, so we let it slide and just snickered quietly to ourselves. I bet other volunteers who were fond of chocolate chip cookies were not quite as amused, though.

        1. AsItIs*

          Worked with someone like that, except he would have taken all the chocolate chip cookies so no one could get any!

          1. Kathleen_A*

            LOL, yeah, if Jack coulda, he woulda. But these are really large meetings (200+ people), so a lot of gigantic cookies are provided, and not even Jack could tote 50 or more giant chocolate chip cookies back to his seat on one of those little paper dessert plates. I was always a little surprised that he didn’t bring a large Ziplock bag with him to the cookie line, but apparently that was too obviously greedy even for Jack.

    4. Kiwi*

      If no-one had told him to restrain himself, I’d think it might be kind of OP to mention something. But seeing as someone already did and he didn’t take it well, then yeah, not her monkey.

      1. Washi*

        Exactly. He has been told. He did not respond well and has continued doing it. Regardless of his motivations, I’m not sure what OP telling him again would accomplish!

    5. Diamond*

      I had a mental image of him grabbing five cupcakes at once and hoarding them, which would be pretty weird. But on a second read it sounds like he’s only grabbing one at a time, which is way less weird/noticeable and it wouldn’t bother me as long as other people are having their fill too. The food is for the people in the meeting, and he’s in the meeting, so whatever!

    6. Quake Johnson*

      Seconds or thirds, fine. But it sounds like he’s taking fourths or fifths, which is a bit much. Constantly getting up to go eat more when no one else is would look a bit unprofessional, imo.

    7. On Fire*

      I’m really surprised in all the comments below that nobody has mentioned food insecurity. A reader wrote some time ago that they were living on food from the office break room because they couldn’t afford to buy food, and other situations have ended up being the result of someone’s only/main food options being at work. Isn’t that a possibility here? I think, at least, that both we and OP should look at this with compassion for a potentially insecure coworker, rather than being Judgey McJudgerson because someone eats outside “the norm.”

      (Note that this isn’t directed at PCBH but at the general vibe of the comments throughout.)

      1. CityMouse*

        If he was taking them for later. I could believe this. But the binging behavior sounds more like someone with an eating disorder than food insecurity. That kind of eating pattern will.leave you feeling sick and hungry later especially on something carby like a bagel or muffin.

          1. CityMouse*

            Either way, though a referral to an employee assistance program might be appropriate so he could get real help. Someone who is food insecure and relying only on office snacks like bagels is going to end up sick. If he is food insecure he needs help getting real meals.

            1. Snark*

              Good gravy, if taking him aside and telling him the optics are weird is off the table, this REALLY is off the table. Unless you have hard evidence that points really strongly at food insecurity, this would be an agonizingly weird and awkward conversation for someone to try to have with him. And in any case, hard nope on OP being the one to do it.

              But really, c’mon. The chances are overwhelmingly in favor of him just being a bit of a boor, because boors are more common than salaried professions with food insecurity issues, and the fact that this is the first handle a lot of you are grabbing for is…..incredibly perplexing to me.

              1. Specialk9*

                A boor, food insecurity, eating disorder, or a young man – my brothers were bottomless pits, to a level that was awesome and awful, when they were teens to early 20s. I’ve heard enough other people mention this same thing to think it’s a fairly common thing.

                1. Formerly Arlington*

                  My 15 year old son would easily inhale those 5 bagels if I didn’t tell him it was impolite to do this. And I don’t think it’s “polite” to eat 5 servings of food provided for a group. If it’s an eating disorder or food insecurity, that’s unfortunate, but it’s still not behavior that is “appropriate.” That being said–while I’d correct my son if I saw him do this, I would not say anything to a colleague.

                2. Kat in VA*

                  Can confirm with “young man” – my son is 20, his best friend who lives with us is 21. They can easily demolish a large pizza – each – in one sitting. It’s absolutely astonishing.

                  Rounding that out, my 15 year old daughter can also polish off an amazingly enormous amount of food in one sitting, as well.

                3. AKchic*

                  Can confirm that “young men” between the ages of 13-25, depending on metabolism, will easily destroy a large pizza per person and still go sniffing around for “afters” and “seconds” because they are still “staaaaarving”.

                  Three teenager boys with growth spurts is brutal on my food budget. Especially when their friends come over. Thanks to Alaskan food prices, my monthly food budget can run $1000/mo depending on what I buy/keep stocked.

                4. TardyTardis*

                  When I was in high school, I’d come home from riding my bike or some kind of athletics, fry up a pan of potatoes in butter, eat them, and then be hungry for supper. Those days are long, long gone, and probably just as well. :)

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                boors are more common than salaried professions with food insecurity issues

                I think your opinion is very naive. There are more than 40 million Americans dealing with food insecurity and someone working a full time job (which may or may not be ‘salaried’) could absolutely be one of them, especially if they are young and dealing with student loan debt.

                1. Snark*

                  I’ll thank you to not be condescending to me! It’s hardly naive to point out that boors are significantly more common that food-insecure people, who in any case tend to be overrepresented by demographics this guy isn’t apparently a part of. And sorry, but even at some fraction of 40 million, “young, male, unaware of norms outside college” is still a bigger slice of the demographic pie.

                2. Snark*

                  Don’t get me wrong! You may very well be correct. But young, college-educated men in salaried jobs in urban areas are not well represented among that 40 million, and so the assumption doesn’t follow, at least for me.

                3. BuffaLove*

                  Food insecure or not, eating five bagels in a meeting is so far outside of professional norms that it’s going to come off VERY strangely. It would be a kindness for someone (his manager?) to point that out and suggest he take leftovers after the meeting instead.

                4. tusky*

                  Snark, I don’t think pointing out that your opinion is misguided is condescending. I think it’s reasonable to question your assumption that food insecurity in the professional world is relatively rare. You didn’t offer any evidence to back up this assertion, and the idea that people with full-time jobs must not be poor is a tenacious myth. (Also, “salaried” does not necessarily equal high-paid, especially in areas where the cost of living is very high.)

                5. Snark*

                  Tusky, I was informed that I was “naive,” which is not the case. Food insecurity overwhelmingly falls on people under the poverty line, minorities, single parents with children, and the elderly, per USDA. Single men represent only 14.8% of food insecure households, and that’s all income levels. Given that we’re only talking about 40 million people, or 12% of US households, if we’re assuming he’s food insecure, you’re assuming he’s a minority of a minority. And I will never find that as reasonable as assuming that a young man just out of college is a little unaware of professional norms and has some boorish habits, which I’m comfortably assuming is a solid majority of that age and gender group even though I don’t have a USDA site to back it up.

                  Could be be food insecure? Yes! But he’s probably not, and it’s not even a decent chance he is. In the absence of anything actively suggesting he falls into any of those groups, I will make the vastly more reasonable assumption that he’s just kind of rude.

                6. tusky*

                  Snark, that’s fair; the explanation of your assumptions helps. I still think your initial comment came across as a little naive, because you strongly suggested he couldn’t possibly be food insecure, without offering much to support that. 12% of US households is a minority, but that’s still a little over 1 in 10, so it’s not rare (and I don’t know that we can safely assume most recent college grads in the workforce have openly boorish habits).

                7. RUKiddingMe*

                  Especially dependent on the area in which they live as well. Many, many, many people earning salaries that most Americans would see as super high, obscene even who are living in places like Silicon Valley can’t afford a crappy little studio apartment. Seriously people there are renting a spot on the couch in the living room for like $1000.00/month

                  Food insecurity is real. Obscenely high cost of living is real. “High” salaries that don’t let one afford both a place to live and food to eat are real.

              3. Valprehension*

                While salaried professionals who are *currently* food insecure may be uncommon, (probably not as much as you think, given the way student debt is affecting people these days), salaried professionals with a history of food insecurity, which can absolutely lead to lifelong weirdness around food, and exactly this kind of eat-it-while-it’s-there behaviour, are definitely more common than you’re accounting for.

            2. Bea*

              No. You “thinking” someone may have a problem isn’t enough to try to refer them to an assistance program. I would lose my mind if someone assumed I needed assistance just because of something like this.

              Many people don’t want to admit to something and others just don’t want you butting in. Unless you are a manager, who has a standing to say “hey, one per person only, okay.” and then you have someone come clean to you that they have a food issue, either ED or insecurity, then you need to steer clear.

              Assuming and overstepping will get you in deep crap in a lot of HR situations. It’s just like how you don’t go “oh I see you’re disabled, let me talk to you about accommodations.” before they even say something regarding them.

                1. Courageous cat*

                  Snark, FWIW I 1000% agree with you in the thread above. It drives me batty how quick people are to place the blame of someone’s bad behavior on something pretty uncommon or unlikely (such as a specific mental illness/food insecurity/etc). It always seems like it’s an attempt to find a way to not have to put the blame on the person themselves – maybe because it makes it easier to understand why they would do it?

                  As my aunt has said to me: rare things are rare. It’s frequently smarter to focus on the possibilities that are most likely, which is: people do weird/dumb/rude things because people can be weird/dumb/rude. And it’s strange to jump to leap over that to jump to the next conclusion that they are somehow suffering or lacking, and *that’s* what’s causing it.

                  I think this is also very much an Occam’s Razor thing too.

              1. Usted es una Sin Vergüenza*

                Well said. Some are too quick to jump to wrong conclusions and then try to inappropriately diagnose.

            3. tusky*

              I get that you want to be helpful, but your assumption that this eating behavior is indicative of a problem is just that: an assumption. Even if you knew for certain that he is food insecure, you couldn’t reliably conclude that eating a bunch of office bagels will make him sick. Every body is unique. Regardless, there’s no good or appropriate way to comment on someone’s eating unless the eater has explicitly solicited your input. (And if he is food insecure, I’d say the chances are good that he doesn’t need your help finding ways to feed himself.)

              1. Decima Dewey*

                He says that he waits until everyone has had a serving. OP notes that he often has four or five at a time. So why is everyone else at the meeting only entitled to one serving while he gets four or five?

                1. tusky*

                  I’m not quite sure how this connects to my point, but I don’t any evidence that he is the only one entitled to multiple servings, or that the supply of bagels is so limited.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Y’all seem to have missed the ‘early 20s male’ part. He’s *probably* still in that male adolescence stage where he’s always hungry. No need to pathologize it.

          OP should leave it alone. Not her monkey.

          1. schnauzerfan*

            Yeah. I have nephews in the 20-24 range. OMG if you lingered near the bagels you yourself might get eaten. My one nephew, who ate the school provided lunch always bought two lunches and carried snacks to eat on the bus when he was in high school. He was tall, lean and athletic and you just couldn’t fill him up. Now at 24 he’s slowed down some, but still…

          2. Rebecca in Dallas*

            Exactly what I was thinking, most guys that age are just hungry all the time! Heck, I’m female and could put away a whole Chipotle burrito in one sitting when I was 20. And if he’s on a pretty tight budget (like most people new to the work world), he’s probably like “Ooh, good bagels! I better get one of each flavor!”

              1. Rebecca in Dallas*

                Haha, I mean I could still probably eat a whole one now but I’d have to lay down right afterwards.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              So true. From the age of about 9 until my mid-20s, I was totally a bottomless pit. My best friend’s mom would order me an entire large pizza for myself when we had sleepovers, and I would demolish it solo.

          3. essEss*

            Agreed. I work in an office with a lot of young 20-something males. Almost all of them will inhale any free food available. Many of my younger coworkers are living with roommates and have tight budgets so they take advantage of saving any money they can plus they are still at the age of having high metabolisms and big appetites so any food waved in front of them get scarfed up .

        2. GradNowLawyerLataer*

          I don’t think eating so many at once rules out food insecurity. When you’re coming from a place of scarcity, you take what you can get, when you can get it — you can’t pass up calories no matter how carby they may be. I’m not saying that he is definitely food insecure, but I’m saying the amount he’s eating doesn’t make it true or not.

        3. Anna*

          In my work I’ve seen food insecurity present itself as “get it while it’s there, whether you eat it or not.” It’s a just in case way of thinking. They believe they may want them and want to make sure they have the food in case they are still hungry. They aren’t hoarding; they’re just making sure they have what they might need. If they are full and still have a lot of leftovers, they throw out the leftovers. In other words, food insecurity presents itself differently depending on the circumstance and no matter what, it doesn’t really change the advice given here.

          (Side note: I just heard Alison’s podcast ad on Stuff You Missed in History Class and her voice is NOT AT ALL what I expected. :)

        4. JS*

          I’m like really surprised people are jumping to conclusions assuming eating disorders and the man doesn’t have food at home. My male friend 28 years old is 150 soaking wet tall and lanky. The man could eat 2 extra large pizzas to himself and 30 minutes later ask what we are getting for dessert. Hes recently started weightlifting to put on more pounds and his trainer said he needs to drink two gallons of milk a day. His protein shake in the mornings is more calories than I eat in a day. There are people who have different eating habits that arent unhealthy that arent considered the norm. We could all do to be more kind to others.

          (sidenote he is the BEST to go out an eat with new places cause we order a shit ton of food and I get to try everything as I am super indecisive and the food doesnt go to waste since he eats it all).

        1. Snark*

          Your first thought? Why? I’m honestly completely confused by this. You think that’s more likely than, say, being kind of a boor?

          My first thought was “oh, recent college grad? Got a little too used to raiding the conference rooms for free food.”

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I’m a bit perplexed by this. I’ve said in the past that I’m strongly an Occam’s razor kind of person and don’t like mental gymnastics; the easiest explanation for his behaviour is that he likes food and doesn’t quite have the understanding around office-appropriate handling of it yet and as such follows up his thought of “I want to eat five muffins” with going up and getting five muffins.

            1. Luna*

              Yes, exactly. The bigger concern is the way he reacted when someone tried to correct him, but that’s not the OP’s problem to handle.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            My first thought was “recent college grad? Probably drowning in student loan debt and barely making a living wage.”

          3. tusky*

            But isn’t a college student looking for free food most likely (a) hungry and (b) on a limited income? The simplest explanation is that someone eating 5 bagels is just hungry for 5 bagels, saying nothing about their overall food security. But, a recent college grad is more likely (as compared to other workers in the same office) to be burdened by the combination of student loan debt and entry-level salary, so food insecurity is a reasonable possibility. Frankly, I think it least likely that he’s a “boor”, since that connotes a degree of vulgarity and incivility that I’d not expect to find in the average worker.

        2. GradNowLawyerLataer*

          Exactly! This was my first thought too. It’s an interesting divide — which people jump to “boor” and which people jump to “food insecurity.” I’m in my early 20s though, so maybe that’s why I thought of that first.

        3. General Ginger*

          Same. Add to that, he’s a guy in his 20s — he’s probably at the tail end of that “starving all the time” phase.

        1. StaceyRain*

          Mine, too.

          When I was in my early 20s and looking for work, I remember donating blood just so I could get a free donut and orange juice. It was the only food I had for two days.

        2. Fiennes*

          I thought of this. It didn’t strike me as the likeliest scenario, but it is possible. Still, absent significant other evidence, OP shouldn’t assume that. The most probable explanation is that he’s a young male person still requiring a lot of calories a day, and so he’s hungry a lot, and hey, look! Muffins!

      2. Haligolightly*

        Absolutely this. There are a dismaying number of fully-employed persons who experience food insecurity, if only occasionally. Maybe his grocery money is feeding his kids breakfast and supper, after they get free lunch at school. Maybe he’s single and paying an exorbitant amount of medical bills.

        The kindest thing, always, is to refrain from policing the food habits of others, as long as they’re not negatively affecting the rest of the team. It sounds here like the only effect it’s having is on the LW’s determination of “fairness” which is the LW’s issue to resolve inside their head.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          OP mentioned he’s in his early 20s, so my guess is crushing student debt. Even if he’s not food insecure per se, he might see this as a way to save money on lunches.

      3. Snark*

        This is erring on the side of being excessively sensitive to hypothetical issues. Yes, we have seen letters about that, because Alison gives workplace advice, frequently in exceptional or out of the norm situations, but this is kind of a “not everyone can eat sandwiches” objection, reversed.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I agree with this. I’m honestly never really sure what we try to accomplish with all the mind-bending that is going on here sometimes. I mean, I guess I get it kinda, like, it’s supposed to elicit sympathy and make people not take too narrow a view on something. But usually, I’m not reeeally seeing the benefit of that, since it’s mostly not about an OP’s feelings but about a more or less objective situation.

          In this particular case, yes, OP is clearly astounded by someone eating what she perceives as a lot, but she also doesn’t seem to view it as overly important, just something that she notices and finds strange in the moment but not much beyond that. But outside of the OP, there’s the whole situation around the food where in this office, no one else even goes back for seconds, and “many people” have noticed the behaviour and express in some way that they find it inappropriate and unprofessional, so much so that at least one person even approached coworker about it. Whether the OP now stands convinced that the coworker secretly faces food insecurity has no bearing on this reality whatsoever, so I’m not quite sure why we must speculate on this so passionately.

          1. Specialk9*

            I find that I’m much kinder to someone who is / might be struggling, than to someone I perceive as breaking rules. One of the strategies of breaking oneself out of being a rule-follower who is judgemental of rule-breakers, is to reframe. Maybe they don’t know that rule, maybe they have a hidden issue, etc. It’s a way to quell the inner finger-wagging Nana, because that’s not a good way to be. (Not sure why other people do it, but that’s the inner flaw I’m always fighting.)

            1. Anon for now*

              I have found the same thing. It is easier to not be judgmental when realizing there may be a good reason for the behavior. Sometimes it still needs to be corrected, but sometimes not. In this case, if he were grabbing all the food before others had a chance then it would need to be corrected. Since that is not happening, realizing that he may actually need the food could help the OP let this go.

              1. Snark*

                I think ultimately it’s going to be more productive – if more difficult – to grapple with “whatever the reason, this is not my problem to solve” than to come up with the most sympathetic conceivable scenario for a given behavior.

                1. NextStop*

                  It might be easier to let go if OP considers that there might be a sympathetic reason behind the action.

                  For me, it’s easier to, say, let go of my anger at being cut off in traffic if I think, “Maybe they’re having a medical emergency and are heading to the hospital.”

            2. Myrin*

              Oh, I definitely agree, that’s totally something I do as well if I don’t want to endlessly steam about something. But that’s exactly the point I tried to make with my second paragraph – apart from the fact that OP doesn’t seem overly finger-wagging at coworker anyway (just mildly “hm, this is weird”), it really doesn’t change the situation if she’s thinking of him in a kinder way or not.

              (Although if she finds that it does peeve her more than she previously thought, it might be a worthwhile way to reframe this since, if she follows Alison’s advice, she won’t be able to anything about it regardless. But if she stays at the level of noticing this while it’s happening and thinking “oh my”, I don’t really think she needs to mentally find a sufficiently pitiable reason for his behaviour.)

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Spotted the folks who have never been food insecure/on the verge of poverty.

            1. Myrin*

              You know what, I’m not easily offended but I’m going to take offence to that – I’ve talked here extensively before about my family living quite a bit below my country’s poverty line (yes, not on the verge of it, but below it).
              And yes, that is present tense, as in, something that I’m living with right now.
              I also regularly talk about working two physically exhausting part-time jobs so that I can afford my share of the rent and food, both things that help me write my dissertation when I’m not at work which will hopefully help me help my family get to a better place in about two years.

              I don’t really like the dismissive “gotcha” of your response here – and I’m surprised because I usually like your comments! – and I’m frankly tired of the old “oh, if only you had experience with X, you’d definitely come to the same conclusion as I”. No. No, I know exactly what you’re talking about, but I’m still thinking differently about the whole situation. There’s really no need to address me personally in such a hurtful manner just because I’m disagreeing and to so cynically speak like you know my life.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I’m going to ask everyone commenting on today’s post to stop chastising each other, and this seems like as good a place as any. It’s getting exhausting. Thank you.

                2. Myrin*

                  I mean, she posted in reply to my comment, so it stands to reason that she was talking about/to me. (Although I’m admittedly still not seeing where that actually came from – I only mentioned food insecurity in my very last sentence, so I was surprised to get such a response to my fairly general comment.)

                  Alison, I apologise for losing my cool there. I was quite taken aback by being so snarkily spoken to (by another regular who I’ve never had a problem with no less!) but I’m seeing now that it might have been better to just not engage at all.

            2. Snark*

              Whether Myrin, or anyone else, has been food secure is perfectly irrelevant to the issue at hand, and I agree with their response to you. Your personal experience may make you more sympathetic to an unlikely but possible explanation, but don’t use it as a cudgel.

            3. Holt It Right There*

              Wow. What an ugly, unkind thing to say. Just because they disagree with you? How ignorant!

              1. Lissa*

                Quite a few people seem to think “if someone else doesn’t have the exact same emotional reaction or the same strength of reaction, they must never have experienced a related problem.” I don’t get this at all. There are plenty of people who have experienced food insecurity, discrimination, violence, bullying and still disagree on how to deal with those issues, or whether it’s likely in a particular situation, or whether it should be taken into account.

          3. Snark*

            I think it’s a combination of a) genuine desire to psych oneself and others out of being judgmental, b) performative openmindedness, and c) advice column fanfic.

              1. soon 2b former fed*

                Forum fanfic period. Folks forget about Occams Razor. Love the (accurate) fanfic reference, although it is wearying.

              1. JS*

                I think the key to being a decent human being though is to not have the need for a “good reason” in order to make allowances for others. This is especially true when what they are doing is so inconsequential to anything slightly resembling significance (assuming coworker isnt disrupting meeting while getting food nor taking food away from others in the meeting).

            1. JS*

              Snark, I’ve seen your posts now over the past few days and they just keep getting better and better. “Advice column fanfic” I am DEAD.

            2. smoke tree*

              I think the advice column fanfic is a pretty good description, actually. Advice column letters are interesting in that you get a very narrow window of information, often about very strange behaviour, which invites a lot of speculation. I always find it kind of fascinating how much people dig into their own assumptions and start to invent details that aren’t in the letter or become totally convinced that their interpretation is the only one that can possibly be correct.

            3. tusky*

              I love the idea of “advice column fanfic.” I have strong feels about “performative openmindedness”–mostly that I don’t know how to meaningfully distinguish that from actual open-mindedness in the context of a written conversation, but also that it sometimes feels like a way to dismiss people without actually addressing their substantive concerns.

          4. JS*

            But in what context have they noticed is what I think is important. Notice because he interrupts meetings? Because he takes 4-5ths before meeting is over stopping everyone else who wanted seconds from getting some but maybe didnt want to grab it immediately? Because he takes 4-5ths of the BEST selection leaving none of the good stuff for others?

            OR are they noticing because they are busy bodies? Or they wanted to hoard food for later? Or they arent people in the meeting but know the meeting has food and expects to get some because thats what they are accustomed to? Or are judging his eating habits based on them perceiving it as too much?

            People noticing and confronting still doesn’t mean coworker is in the wrong and people aren’t acting out of line. We just dont know enough about it.

      4. Willow Sunstar*

        Yes, this thought had occurred to me. I am on a tight budget myself, but make it a point to eat healthy at work because of our culture’s issues with women and appearance. Still if there are vendor samples on the free shelf and they aren’t totally unhealthy, I would get a couple when no one was looking. But only then.

      5. I'd Rather not Say*

        Years ago, there was an older man at our company who used to bring little baggies and take extras of meeting food. I believe he may have been raised during the Depression.

    8. the search for understanding*

      Sometimes, my priority in a meeting IS chowing down to the greatest extent possible. It depends on the meeting!

    9. StellaBella*

      I currently am in an environment where quite a few folks I work with come from impoverished (sort of – not dire but lower pay ranges for work) backgrounds, and none of us turn down or waste food – all of us are hyper aware that some of us have been very, very poor in the past and thus, when food is on offer all of it is eaten. Leftovers don’t really exist here, and food waste is a big deal, so it does not happen. Just my two cents, and I think especially if the teammate is younger, he may not have the same level of understanding of manners and culture in the place of work, but he may also be hungry, actually.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The first thing that came to mind for me was a long-ago internship where one young guy at lunch always had a tray of food that could have fed several people. He was thin, looked like at athlete, but with the triple overdrive metabolism of some teenage boys. My husband described that period as being at least slightly hungry all the time, except for half an hour after Thanksgiving dinner. Yet we now have a teenage boy who doesn’t eat like this, so clearly it’s variable.

        So I picture someone in these meetings eating five bagels because he’s hungry. I mean, I couldn’t eat five bagels. So someone else doing so is out of the norm, but not in the sense that they are doing something I exert self-control to prevent myself from doing.

        So we have:
        • High metabolism –> not your monkey
        • Food insecure –> not your monkey
        • Eating disorder –> really not your monkey

        Just ignore the bagels.

    10. Trout 'Waver*

      I disagree. 4-5 bagels is a lot of bagels. I guess if the meeting was 4 hours, that’d be kinda OK. But I’d be questioning his focus.

      1. LQ*

        I think the length of meeting matters too. 5 bagels in an hour means every 10 minutes getting up and getting a bagel. It will seem like nearly constant eating (even if you’re chowing through them in a minute). And at that point it feels much more like “are we boring you” or “did you just come here to eat”? Which yeah both might be true, but being a professional means acting interested or like you’re there for reasons other than shoveling food in your face, or addressing the problem directly (“I don’t think we need these meetings, weekly emails instead, it is so decided”).

        If the meeting is an all day or at least half day it’s not nearly so much because then getting up to move every hour or so seems much more normal than every 10 minutes.

    11. Cat Herder*

      OP stated this person is young. May not realize that while you CAN take five bagels, you really shouldn’t, especially if the meeting is not over yet — if only because then you become “that guy who’s so rude and takes all the bagels.” If that’s the case, it would be a kindness to pull The Eater aside and explain this.
      Or there’s shaming — Shout: Hide the bagels, here comes The Eater! (don’t do this, but it would feel so gooooood to do it!)

      1. Guy Incognito*

        I feel bad for you that shaming this young man behind his back would feel good for you.

        1. fatanon*

          I don’t understand comments like this. In an effort to persuade people to be kind toward others, you reply in a snarky, off-putting unkind way? I see so much more of this here than what it was the past, and it really makes me not want to stick around.

      2. Snark*

        Yeah, this is where I’m leaning – at least, as the older, mid-career professional, you might not have the standing to manage him….but maybe you could do the “helpful advice” thing, like a “hey, you might not realize this, but it comes off pretty oddly when you take 5 bagels at a meeting, and people do notice and talk about it. Mm? Yes, I know you wait for everyone to get some, but it’s far enough out of the norm here that it draws negative attention and makes people wonder where your focus is.”

        1. Snark*

          Now, admittedly, this gets OP nothing and could result in the Eater thinking she’s a busybody, but….

        2. Jenny*

          There’s also the aspect that this kind of behavior basically means you’re not sharing with people not in the meeting.

          In my office, at least, leftovers are first offered to our office/administrative staff. Like most offices, our office/administrative staff man desks and so don’t come to a ton of meetings, but they are the glue that keeps the office together. Also, in most offices, people in those roles don’t get paid as much because of unfairness.

          If someone was doing this in my office, I would literally take an extra muffin so I could offer one to my my admin, because, let’s face it, eating 5 bagels so there are no leftovers for other office staff is really boorish. It’s not uncommon to split muffins or bagels in my office, so literally 10 other people could have that food.

          1. Specialk9*

            That might actually be the one way to make the point without shaming him. “Oh hey Jane, could you put aside 5 bagels for the admins? I know they look forward to the post meeting leftovers. I know Wakeen really likes the chocolate ones so grab one for him.” It’s a heads up on the office norm, and that the idea of everyone getting their fair share extends beyond the people in that room at that moment, without putting him on the spot.

          2. Roscoe*

            I don’t know. To me, if you are in the meeting, then you get the food, and frankly as much as you’d like. The people not in the meeting have no standing or claim to the food purchased for that meeting. Yes, it is nice to do it. But I don’t think that people have to do that for admins. Admins are doing their job by manning the phones.

            To be clear, I’m all about sharing food and leaving the leftovers out. But my point is, if I’m in a meeting, and there is pizza, I’m not going to eat less pizza so someone who wasn’t in the meeting (and probably could’ve gone out and got their own lunch while I was stuck) can have some.

            1. LCL*

              Here the technical people make at least double what the admins do. It is considered good manners to make sure the admins get a chance at some of the food, as their support is what allowed the meetings to happen.

              1. Roscoe*

                So let them get some first, or while everyone else is getting food. Like I have no problem with them getting food. But the idea that you HAVE to save some for them just seems odd. Like order enough so they can actually have their own, or look at it as being nice to offer them the leftovers, or just order them their own meal in general. But don’t shame someone because they didn’t get their fill so the admins can have some. They are called leftovers for a reason.

          3. Let's Talk About Splett*

            I’m an admin, & the convention has always been that the admin(s) who orders/sets it up helps herself to a serving as kind of a thank you for doing the task.

            1. bonkerballs*

              Not trying to be snarky, just offering my own experience – I’m also an admin, and the thanks I get for doing my job and ordering/setting up food for an event I’m not apart of is the paycheck I receive.

          4. Perse's Mom*

            It’s basically the same here. Meeting leftovers go to the breakroom and people are notified to go help themselves – and the catering usually results in enough leftovers to feed at least a dozen people. It would likely go over quite badly if people realized one meeting participant was gorging themselves and therefore there were no more meeting leftovers.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I would agree if everyone had discussed it between themselves but not yet with him. Someone has already raised it with him, though, so he’s aware it might strike someone as strange and still does it. While waiting until everyone has a chance for some food–no leftovers for accounting just strikes me as accounting’s bad luck, sometimes all the food gets eaten in the meeting. Unless OP is The Mentor Whose Opinion He Really Respects, I don’t think it would make a difference to hear another “I don’t want more bagels, but it looks weird that you do” heads-up.

          1. Snark*

            That said….as Jenny notes, the bagels may generally be shared with admins or other folks who aren’t typically at these meetings, and it’s generally desirable for an office to avoid giving a perk to one arbitrary group while another doesn’t get the opportunity, all things more or less equal.

            1. Photographer*

              But it’s a perk to not have to sit in boring meetings, so it all comes out in the wash.

            2. Anon for now*

              Honestly though, in that case his manager should say something. A coworker really does not have the standing to institute a new rule on food in meetings. The point of the food is to be a perk for those in the meeting. It isn’t arbitrary.

            3. Let's Talk About Splett*

              And maybe one of the employees not in the meeting hopes for/counts on leftovers because *they* are food insecure.

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        It sounds like someone has brought it up already, and the guy was defensive. Maybe the person who brought it up was rude, maybe they weren’t, but the guy seems to know and hasn’t changed his behavior.

        That said, it seems like this is odd and possibly rude (YMMV on that) but it also sounds like no one is going without.

        1. Specialk9*

          Sometimes people don’t realize how much unspoken rules vary from place to place, and between sub-cultures. Especially if one hasn’t traveled a lot, it can be hard to know that these things are incredibly flexible, as opposed to etched in stone. So he could have gotten mad because he’s complying with his underwritten rule, and thinks the other person is a jerk, because *everyone knows* that the rule is X, so you must be a bad person.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            I don’t see what traveling has to do with this. If he hasn’t worked at many places, that’s fair to that he might not know that old office functions differently from the current.

            Regardless, he knows and he has chosen to continue his behavior. If the OP were this guy’s friend or she were affected, maybe it would be okay to bring it up. Given his reaction to someone else and it seems like no one is that affected, it doesn’t seem worth it to me.

    12. JJJJShabado*

      There are 2 potential issues in here: Is he taking so much food that people are not getting enough food and is he constantly getting up during the meeting and that is distracting. Everything else here is irrelevant noise. It should be Occam’s Razor here. He’s eating 5 bagels because he wants to eat 5 bagels.

      He is making sure that everyone is getting some to start (as a fellow guy who eats quite a bit of work supplied food, this is a given for me and should be a given). If the act of getting multiple bagels disrupts, (he has to walk by the speaker, the act of potentially buttering a bagel takes time and disrupts, etc). I think there’s grounds there to talk. However, if he just walks to the bag and grabs a bagel and returns to his seat, this shouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        I agree. Keep the focus on any actual effects not the optics. In the end the responsibility lies with the op not to let her focus be broken or to be disrupted in the meeting by needless offense.

        And he is trying to be considerate of others, he isn’t the guy who is showing up before the meeting even starts with Tupperware.

        1. the gold digger*

          A couple came to my friends’ Thanksgiving one year with Tupperware, which in itself is not bad, but – they put food in the Tupperware at the beginning of the meal. As in, they scooped food into the Tupperware before the food was leftovers – while it was still, “This is the meal we as friends are sharing.”

          They have not been invited back.

          1. Artemesia*

            Actually it is in itself quite bad unless it is the norm of the group or they had been invited to do so. I only once had a similar situation and a guest started to wrap up the ham bone so she could make soup with it. I just told her — yes, the reason we get a ham with a bone is so we can make soup with it, so that bone is already committed to soup here.

          2. Iris Eyes*

            The only reason that could be ok is if someone who was planning to attend couldn’t attend because the were incapacitated or something. Like Bob couldn’t come and join us because he has viral pneumonia or got hit by a bus so Saul is going to take him a plate for later.

          3. LCL*

            One thing I have learned from reading this blog, and from wasting time on the internet, is that some people lose their minds when it comes to free food. Sometimes they grew up poor, sometimes they are poor now, sometimes they are overwhelmed by the idea of free food, and sometimes they are just cheap. And sometimes they are so young their body is still in the eat all you can grab mode. When I was bagel guy’s age I would often eat an entire small pizza by myself, and I was skinny.

            I probably wouldn’t say anything to 5 bagel guy, unless he worked for me. And even then, it would be a talk about norms and customs not actual consumption. I would ask the organizer to bring a half dozen more bagels for the group next time.

            1. smoke tree*

              What really gets to me is how much of the food stealing is just a straight up power play. I think of the food stealers that have been chronicled in AAM so far, the vast majority have been better paid than those they stole from and often in positions of power.

              I know that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have financial problems, but it does seem consistent with my experience of human behaviour. People who are really hard up usually don’t want to draw attention to it with these kind of shameless antics. It’s usually not really about the food, it’s a dominance display.

            2. bonkerballs*

              When I was in my early twenties, I was part of a year long national service/volunteer program. Within the program we had to complete little mini volunteer projects throughout the year – nothing scheduled just a certain number of hours of volunteering that we completed on our own time. Let me tell you, if the project did not involve free food at some point, we would not be doing it.

        2. Washi*

          >Keep the focus on any actual effects not the optics.

          I think this is a good rule of thumb in general when giving feedback as a peer. There are times when giving someone a hint about the optics of something can be a kindness, but it’s so easy for that to backfire that you have to tread very carefully. And you can only do it once. This guy has already been told by someone else that taking 5 bagels isn’t a good look and has continued doing it, so the OP really isn’t in a good position to say anything.

      2. Kyrielle*

        It also depends on whether he’s considerate in his choice of seat – I remember a meeting room with seats around a central table and a counter along a wall – people along one side of the table could stand, take a single step to the counter, grab something, and sit back down. It may not be very disruptive to grab the next one.

        Or it might be really disruptive. In which case the disruption is more the problem.

        (And who knows, maybe he brings the bagel and a butter packet to his seat. Or maybe he eats them plain, as I do when I have bagels.)

    13. Nita*

      Maybe he’s just that hungry for some reason! High metabolism, vegetarian, just trying to save on buying food because of high expenses on housing and/or health insurance… I have a ridiculous metabolism and someone putting away four bagels in a long meeting doesn’t sound that odd to me. I also always have to think of how much I’m spending eating out, because I can bring a big lunch from home, go through it by 11:30, and be so hungry I’m seeing stars by 3 PM. And eating out costs so much here – the greasy/not healthy options run around $5, and a small but nutritious lunch is at least $10. It does add up, so you bet I eat a lot in meetings!

      And another co-worker already brought this up, so it’s not like he’s not aware that others are noticing. His eating a lot isn’t hurting anyone, so just stop counting his bagels and leave it alone.

      1. Julia*

        Why does being vegetarian equal hungry? I’m guessing if bagels were the only meat-less food, sure, but if not I don’t see the connection?

        1. Nita*

          I’m not sure, but this is what I see in meetings – my vegetarian co-workers seem to be a lot hungrier and can easily eat all meeting long. The food usually doesn’t have a lot of protein options that aren’t meat, so it’s probably not as filling for them.

      2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        I think this is the best comment on this subject so far.

        Who cares how many bagels the guy eats and why? Everyone at the meeting seems to be getting some according to the OP. There is no mention of disruption during the meetings.

        Common rule of office meeting food etiquette says that those at the function take precedence then those who aren’t. In other words common bagel heirarchy states;

        1. Everyone in the meeting gets 1 during initial serving (or firsts)
        2. After everyone has had the opportunity, then seconds may be initiated- I’ve never known of any polite limits imposed on the amount taken during the seconds round.
        3. Anything left over after the meeting is distributed to non attendees by the person who organized or paid for the food.
        3A. Any food not consumed by the locusts should be left in case someone else at some indeterminate time may want to partake or until everyone forgets about it and it’s a moldery mess forgotten and abandoned on a counter or in the community fridge.
        4. All food taken by attendees should be consumed at the event/meeting; only exception is if it 1 of the firsts to be consumed by the takee at a later time more convenient.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Re. seconds, I’m not sure I agree. Maybe I and others I know err on the side of caution, but we try to make sure that there is something to go around. I wouldn’t take all the potato salad in a second serving in case someone else might want a second serving too and just didn’t finish as quickly as I did.

          This is assuming that there is a lot of food remaining.

    14. What's with today, today?*

      At our office, we have a 23-year-old employee, just out of college, that we know makes far less than the rest of us. We’re always encouraging him to take the leftovers home(he does, gladly).

    15. Secretary*

      I feel bad for this guy because it’s a manners issue. I so get it, when there’s food in a group my anxiety goes through the roof because I am that person that would want a fourth or fifth bagel, but would be anxiously looking around the room trying to figure out if it’s appropriate.

    16. Safetykats*

      I’m wondering who provides the snacks. In my office sometimes snacks are provided by the manager, but often they are provided by the meeting lead. If that’s me, I would get very tired of seeing one person help themselves to a disproportionately large share. Of course, the easiest solution in this case is just to put out one bagel for example for each person, and leave it at that. That will mean that only the first people get a good selection – because that’s the main reason I think people buy extra – not so that one person can have 6.

  2. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – Ask your manager if she can forward the previous email with the new question at the top. If there’s a third question then forward the email with the other two in it.

    That keeps all the questions together and gives you a history.

    1. JamieS*

      I’m wondering if OP’s manager is the same way and is sending separate emails on purpose because it helps her keep track when everything is in a separate email.

      1. Alianora*

        Yeah, I’ll do that sometimes because it’s much easier to refer back to things if there’s a clear, relevant subject line. However, I usually have a lot of questions/things to discuss with my manager, and rather than pepper her with questions throughout the day I save them up to discuss all at once.

      2. SophieChotek*

        Yes my thought also. Not that what I’ve read elsewhere is necessarily good advice, but I’ve read that sometimes it’s better not to put tons of questions in 1 email as the person who needs to answer may lose track.

        On the other hand, I can see why several separate emails about 1 client/issue can be annoying also

      3. OneQataTime*

        Just chiming in that this is how I function as well. Of course, I don’t send my e-mail rapid-fire. Usually one at a time, with clear subjects, and covering only one topic.

        Honestly I was taught this was the professional approach, precisely because it keeps things from getting lost in the flurry of words. Think about these roundup threads: most people respond to one topic/one scenario at a time, and/or create separate threads for each topic, rather than writing all of their responses in one comment.

    2. Polyhymnia O'Keefe*

      I sometimes do this, and a big part of it is that because my emails are threaded, in my mind/inbox, they’re more akin to just being additional comments in a chat thread than separate messages. I don’t do it intentionally, but if I think of something new (after gmail’s “undo send” has timed out), I just add it to the thread.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Or, wait 30 minutes, copy-paste all the questions into the last email, and respond to them all in one go.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, I had a design internship once where the client would send me a flurry of single-line emails with edits over the course of an hour or two. I learned to wait until the stream died down, then handle it all at once.

        I did ask her eventually if she could try to condense her comments into a single daily email since it became hard to keep track of what she wanted, which improved it a little but she would still often think of something additional after she’d already sent her main email (and as someone who has a tendency to post follow up comments to his own comments here with additional thoughts, I can certainly appreciate that).

    4. MissGirl*

      Honestly, I don’t think she’s going to get any traction on this. This is the way the manager works.

      I had one manager who could only answer one question per email. I could number the questions, put them in bullet points, only have the questions without anything else but she’d still only answer one.

      I let go of my frustration and sent multiple emails. Sometimes managers have a lot going on and are rushed.

      1. Teapot librarian*

        I had not-a-manager (not in my reporting line at all, but supports my team in a critical way) who was the same way. Subject line of the email: “three issues for follow up.” Text of the email: “I have three things I need your help with: 1. ___, 2. ___, 3. ___.” Her response? Just to the first. “Thanks so much, but can I also get a response to the other two questions?” “What are they?” After responding with a copy-and-paste FROM THE SAME EMAIL, she responded that she doesn’t read long emails. It was three freaking questions about supply orders, not War and Peace! Sigh.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I am SO appreciating my coworkers who take the time to go through my bullet points about an issue and throw in a quick response to each one. (The person who didn’t do this is exactly the person I feared would say “Top line: there can’t be a problem because I already signed off on this version, so I’m ignoring all these carefully laid out paragraphs about the problem.”)

        2. Turquoisecow*

          I had so. many. people do this. It was incredibly frustrating. One guy would answer a single question and then reply with “THANKS!!!” as though all our collective problems were taken care of (even though there were six more serious problems in the email he didn’t answer.) bullet points, numbers, nothing worked. These people could not be bothered to read their emails.

          Didn’t go both ways, though.

        3. smoke tree*

          I love the people who actually answer every question, but I’ve come to learn they are in the minority. In my first internship, I was praised pretty extensively by my boss for actually reading and responding to the whole of every email he sent. At the time I found that confusing, but not anymore.

      2. irene adler*

        My manager is the same way. One topic or question per email. Any more than that gets ignored.
        I’ve tried to draw attention to the additional questions/ topics. No success (“Oh! Didn’t see it”).

        1. MattKnifeNinja*

          My current boss does this also.

          More than one topic, the second part gets ignored. He HATES reading long emails. People have battled with him on this, and it doesn’t change.

          I just wait, let them pile up, and wack at them an hour later.

      3. Chinook*

        “I had one manager who could only answer one question per email. I could number the questions, put them in bullet points, only have the questions without anything else but she’d still only answer one”

        I had a boss like that too. He actually pointed out that that, not only was that how he worked (he noted it as a flaw), but when he answered his emails on the go on his phone, he had limited screen space and often only saw the first question. He then requested that I only send one question at a time.

        Having worked like that, I actually learned to prefer it as an email style as it is clear which question is being answered (especially since I would use different subject lines for each question, usually “Response required: Question”) and meant that my emails would get a quicker response from other people because they could see that it only required them to answer one question and be done with the email rather than answering a list.

        But, as I am not a boss but an assistant, I also recognize that I need to adapt to my bosses’ work styles if I want to get work done, which is why I agree with Allison that the OP ‘s boss probably won’t change and that the OP needs to embrace this quirk.

    5. Papidoc*

      I wonder if OP #1 might be part of the problem…I had an administrative assistant years ago who I simply could not get to read (or maybe remember) an entire list of questions, even 3-4, in a single email message. She would invariably answer the first one or two, and I would hear nothing about the others. When I would ask her, she would say she didn’t know about it. I would point out the list of questions, she would apologize, but then it kept happening. Even talking with her about the ongoing problem didn’t help. Eventually (though not just for this issue) she retired. For several years, though, I simply got in the habit of sending multiple emails with a single question in each, and that (mostly) took care of the problem.

    6. Bets Counts*

      I used to be OP #1’s manager, but I knew it was amazingly annoying for my colleagues/staff/supervisors/clients to receive multiple emails about the same topic. I don’t know what it was about hitting ‘send’ that made me think of something else that I needed to add to the message. I finally set up a 5 minute send delay on outgoing messages so I could just open them up and add whatever additional content I needed.

  3. TootsNYC*

    2. Coworker takes too much food at meetings

    I think the OP can provide feedback as a peer. “George, I wanted to let you know something I’m hearing. You know how you take several bagels during the meetings? It does get commented on sometimes, and I worry that it’s affecting your professional image. I felt like I owed it to you to let you know.”

    1. Artemesia*

      You don’t want to be that co-worker. There is nothing in it for the OP here except to look prissy, control freaky and meddlesome. Yes she is right. The guy is being piggish if he is really taking 4 or 5 of something like this. But it is not her problem and really really not hers to say anything about and doing so does not enhance her standing in any way and probably hurts it.

      1. namelesscommentator*

        This exactly. I’d be distracted, and frankly, somewhere between annoyed and disgusted, by somebody bingeing on five bagels during a meeting (that speaks to my own relationship with food more than anything), but I also wouldn’t be the non-manager to make an issue of it.

      2. Snark*

        I think you’re probably right, but as someone whose insticts have led him astray professionally early in his career, if I was coming off piggish and distracted in a meeting, I’d have appreciated a clue-in. Not sure where this one falls.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          If it’s an issue, his direct supervisor should be the one to address it, not a random coworker.

          1. OhNo*

            I agree. As someone who has also gone astray once or twice, it would be nice to be clued in by a manager. Having a coworker pull me aside to mention it – especially if they cite unnamed “others” who also share their opinion – would be a little too reminiscent of mean girls mindgames to sit well with me.

            Best to let this one lie unless it escalates to a level where his manager does need to intervene, or unless he asks for feedback or guidance about office norms.

        2. Anon for now*

          That already happened though. Someone said something and he got very defensive. At this point, if it is a real issue his manager needs to say something, not another coworker.

        3. Artemesia*

          Someone already gave him this feedback and he was defensive. I am sure not throwing myself into that at that point.

      1. Murphy*

        I don’t think OP should do that, but talking to him about it directly is pretty far from passive aggressive.

        1. Mike C.*

          The form of “I don’t like that you’re doing xyz but I’m going to pretend that a bunch of other people have a problem with it and pretend to just be a friend coming to you with helpful advice” is a self-serving lie.

          Is that better?

          1. Murphy*

            OP says Many people have noticed this behavior and expressed that they feel it’s inappropriate. so it’s not a lie.

            1. smoke tree*

              It’s not a lie, but it’s also not a very kind or helpful approach. It’s just one step up from an anonymous note–now he knows people are talking about him, but he doesn’t know who or what they’re saying. It’s not a great feeling and it’s likely to make him more defensive. Honestly I don’t think it’s the LW’s responsibility to get involved and I don’t think anything she says is likely to get through anyway.

            2. soon 2b former fed*

              It is so unhelpful to be on the receiving end of this cowardly backbiting.

        1. Fiennes*

          “*I* am fine with this thing, but others might not be, and maybe they think bad things about you!” when the speaker is actually not at all fine with the thing? Pretty much textbook passive-aggression.

          The same statement from someone who (a) has standing to address it and (b) honestly doesn’t care? Not passive-aggressive.

      2. LQ*

        I mean I don’t know that the OP should do it, but how is it passive aggressive. “Hey champ, ya hungry” or “no breakfast today huh?” would be passive aggressive. But that’s pretty clear and direct.

          1. OhNo*

            It’s not, though? At least based on the letter, everything in that script is 100% true. OP is hearing about it from other people, based on the comments it does seem to be affecting how he is perceived, and OP does feel some obligation to let him know.

            Nowhere in the script does TootsNYC suggest that the OP say it doesn’t bother them, or misrepresent anything that the OP included in their letter.

            1. Delphine*

              Unless the other people have approached OP and asked her to talk to the bagel eater, I’d say it’s passive aggressive. I certainly wouldn’t appreciate someone speaking on my behalf in that why unless it was with my knowledge.

        1. boo bot*

          To me, it sounds passive-aggressive because while the statement, “This is affecting your professional image,” may be direct, the speaker is not taking responsibility for it.

          If I were going to try to say something to the guy – which I wouldn’t, I’m strongly on team Mind Your Own Bagels – I would frame it as, “Hey, I’ve noticed that you sometimes take more than the appointed share of bagels, and it can come across like you’re not paying attention in the meeting/it can be distracting when you get up over and over/it’s a violation of the Secret Unwritten Unlaw and Cthulu will appear at the next shareholder meeting to eat the CEO if you do it three more times.”

          … Like I said, I wouldn’t address it. But the way to avoid the passive-aggressive thing is to speak for oneself, and not speak on behalf of an anonymous group.

        2. smoke tree*

          I don’t think it’s passive aggressive, per se, but it is kind of disingenuous to pretend to just be helpfully passing along information rather than owning that you’re bothered by it yourself.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      We don’t know how others are commenting on it, nor do we know how many.

      The only people that have standing are the meeting organizer and the coworkers manager.

      The OP makes it sound like the coworker is taking food away from the others in the office. He isn’t, because non-meeting participants have zero rights to meeting food. The coworker is not taking their share.

      The OP also comments on how much coworker eats. That’s inappropriate too, although I know several active 20 year olds that could put away amazing amounts of food. That’s just their metabolism.

      If OP is really upset she could approach the meeting organizer. But it’s going to make her look really petty.

      1. CityMouse*

        I actually can’t imagine how anyone chews quickly enough to eat that much within a meeting, as bagels are not something that is easy to eat quickly. It makes me think he is more focused on eating than the metting. Also, if the guy is getting up to grab food 4 times during a meeting, that can be disruptive.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It depends on the meeting. Reviews can take a few hours. He could be getting an initial 1-2 bagels then getting a second set during break.

          1. CityMouse*

            True, but that doesn’t seem to be the case based on the LW’s comments about it.being “astounding”. My guess is this is a shorter meeting.

          2. Snark*

            The norm, I think, is 30-90 minutes, and I think 4-5 bagels in that timeframe would be really noticeable.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              The norm varies by industry. In aerospace meetings can take days during a review. And those are the only meetings where food gets provided – the short meetings get no food.

        2. Michaela*

          I’m a 30 something middle manager who has a nickname at work as the human garbage disposal. I would eat as much as this co-worker and have had five doughnuts and/or seven sausage rolls in one sitting. I’m also incredibly active and a size 2-4 (yes people hate me for this). I’ll even continue stuffing my face, while complaining about being full.

          Funnily enough I think my food habits have humanised me, where otherwise I project being unapproachable – I’m not, I just happen to be impeccably dressed and have resting bitch face. After people see me eat, they’ll joke to me about it, and I often get first dibs at leftovers.

          So leave the poor guy alone – ain’t nothing wrong with loving food.

          1. Birch*

            There’s also nothing wrong with personal grooming standards, but it’s still inappropriate to clip your toenails in a shared office. It’s not about loving food, or even about actually being hungry, it’s about the etiquette around it. OP says “When another coworker brought it up, the Eater actually got kind of offended and said he always waits until everyone has had a serving.” If the Eater is taking 4-5 servings after waiting for everyone to get one, that’s still rude. What if someone else wants a second bagel but now can’t because he’s taken 5? Or quite possibly others don’t want to be associated with his greedy attitude so they don’t take seconds at all. It would be perfectly fine for him to take 2 and then wait for the leftovers to be put out, or grab a few extra on his way out of the meeting once it’s over, demonstrating a little self control and sensitivity to the culture of the office. Frankly it’s pretty immature and unprofessional of him to get defensive about it once it was brought up as being distracting.

            1. Glomarization, Esq.*

              I think a simpler explanation is that Eater got offended because nobody wants to hear a co-worker needling them about how much food they’re eating. Unless Eater’s manager has a problem with it, it’s not co-worker’s business to worry about whether Eater is eating an “astounding” amount of food, or whether other co-workers feel like they’re not getting enough.

              I’m sticking with my suspicion that there’s a food insecurity issue with Eater’s household.

                1. ChaoticGood*

                  Absolutely untrue. It’s not at all a reach. No one has any information here about the employee’s food habits outside of work, the amount of exercise he does or doesn’t do (people who lift weights get intensely hungry), or anything else

                2. Snark*

                  Um. You’re telling me it’s not a reach to assume, in the absence of any reliable evidence, that someone is food insecure – a condition which is not actually all that common, particularly among educated, professional men? That is the very definition of a reach. I’m not going to play along with the angel’s advocate speculation here.

              1. Birch*

                Then maybe wait an hour till the meeting’s done so it’s not as distracting and noticeable? I really don’t understand the constant assumption that everyone with bad manners has food insecurity. Even if that were the case, wouldn’t it be far less embarrassing and more effective to actually seek resources for decent food than to very visibly hog all the bagels at the office meeting?! It makes zero sense.

            2. Anon for now*

              Grooming standards are far more universal. Policing what a coworker eats is out of line. If he were eating so much that others were not getting enough, then that should be stated. This would not be out of line in every office. If it is out of line at this office then his manager needs to be the one to say something. The coworker does not have the standing and it is immature and unprofessional to try to control his behavior without that standing.

          2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

            “So leave the poor guy alone – ain’t nothing wrong with loving food.”

            Totally agree. He’s eating at the event/meeting he’s not hoarding. He’s not stealing food from other people’s hands. There’s no indication that people at the meeting aren’t getting what they want. Who cares?!?

            1. NaoNao*

              Yeah I had an eye roll about that too. #humblebrag I can eat anything and I’m sooooo active I’m a size 2-4. O.K.

        3. Iris Eyes*

          The eating conversely could make him more focused. Kinda like a fidget spinner in your mouth. There are certain tasks where I’m more able to keep focused if I have some sort of munching food to go along with it.

        4. Bea*

          As someone with ED and a carb issue, no it’s not that hard and no it’s not that mind consuming.

          It’s rattling my mind why this even matters if everyone else is getting their share. This should only be mentioned if he’s wolfing things down without others having their fair chance.

          Just because others can’t stomach 4 bagels doesn’t mean anything. I’ve seen big eaters my entire life.

          1. Yorick*

            Well, if he takes 4 or 5, it’s unlikely that everyone else gets a fair share. How many things do we normally buy for a meeting? 1-2 per participant? Maybe rounded up to a dozen or some other number? If he takes 5, some people aren’t going to be able to have as many as they might like.

            1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

              The OP did not indicate in their letter that people at the meeting were getting shorted. In fact they specifically said that his doing this means they can’t leave the meeting leftovers out for non-participants.

              1. Yorick*

                The OP’s letter indicates that one person takes 5 of something, which (imo) suggests that others may not get as much as they’d like

                1. Engineer Girl*

                  The OP also mentioned that the food was put out later for non meeting participants. I suspect the root issue is that her non-meeting coworkers aren’t getting the food they want. Hence it has become a problem in her own mind. The fallacy of her thinking is that non-meeting participants have any right to leftovers.

        5. tusky*

          Depends on the bagels, I’d say. My favorite bagels I can hardly eat anymore because they’re such a jaw workout. Other bagels are basically toroidal sandwich bread.

      2. Cat Herder*

        I don’t think being at the meeting/not at the meeting has anything to do with “rights” to food. Clearly the tradition in the office is that meeting-food gets shared and probably this is seen as a nice perk by the rest of the office. That’s how our office works. There’s almost always a fair amount of food leftover. If someone were hogging all the bagels, word would get around as to why there so few left to share afterwards. (At our office, it’s cool to take home such leftovers at the end of the day — folks will ask, Hey does anyone else want these sandwiches? and then we’ll share them out.)

        1. Engineer Girl*

          “The company paid for it so I have rights to it.” That’s a huge fallacy you know.

          Each department gets a budget and meeting food comes out of that particular departments busget. One department does not have rights to another’s leftovers.

          Tradition has no standing here. The other coworkers are acting really entitled if they think they have equal rights to those bagels. They didn’t pay for them. Their department didn’t pay for them. Leaving the leftovers on the table is a gift not a right.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Non-meeting participants have zero rights to meeting food.

        This reminds me a bit of the anecdote about how the guy who used to bring in pretzels once a week retired and then there were no pretzels and WHERE ARE MY PRETZELS? People muttering “Yeah, usually after a Data Analysis meeting I can score a couple of old bagels, but not since they hired stupid Fergus who eats all the bagels.”

        It would be different if he dumped all the bagels not taken in the first round into his briefcase to take home, but if he’s eating them I don’t think “because he really is that hungry” is a stretch.

    3. TL -*

      That’s such an odd thing to say! Telling someone “Hey, everyone else is talking about you and I felt like you should know what they’re saying and how much they’re talking about you,” is never going to go over well and should be reserved for close friends or extreme social infractions/situations.

      At most, if you’re close and he’s okay with teasing, you could tease him about it a little, but taking a few extra bagels is not worth the kind of conversation that makes the OP look like a sh!tstirrer and leaves George feeling like a social pariah.

      1. Gen*

        If you knew this coworker really well you could maaaaybe get away with ‘dude, slow down or you’re going to be known as The Bagel Guy!’ But even that could go really wrong depending on the circumstances.

    4. Academic Addie*

      I think that’s a little passive-aggressive. But if I was being distracted by the behavior, like if he was sitting next to me and getting up every 5 minutes for more food, or getting crumbs in my stuff, or whatever, I’d address the behavior even if I wasn’t a manager.

      I think OP needs to decide what the problem with the behavior is. Is it that he’s getting too much? Is it that it’s distracting to have someone constantly getting up and down and goofing around with their food? Is she contributing more during meetings because he can’t represent their team because his mouth is always full? Because this sounds like not her issue, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t in the moment problems that are her issue.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Moving around and distracting others is a legitimate complaint OP can take to the manager. They have zero standing on the food issue.

        1. Academic Addie*

          I’m not sure they have no standing on the food issue. If you know five people will be arriving 15 minutes late, and he’s on serving five, I think it would be totally fine to say “Hey, man, could you wait up on another serving until everyone else gets here?”

          If it just bothers them, no standing for sure.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            But it’s already been stated he gets food after others do.

            The OP didn’t mention movement but did mention that non-meeting participants got less. It think that’s the real issue here. Some of her work buddies feel entitled to the food he’s eating, even though they are not at the meeting.

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      Nope! Been there done that. Had the PIP to prove it.

      In my case one coworker kept showing up late to meetings. I had worked with her before so I defended he to everyone. But I also let her know that staff was complaining about it to me. I really was just worried about her image but…I still got a PIP over it.

  4. FTW*

    For OP5, at my company does a few things to avoid ‘poisoning the well,’ but nothing that extreme.

    For example, when candidates interview with multiple people, we have to score them right after the interview and then turn those scores in. When we present comments on candidates in a group setting, less senior staff go first so as not to have their opinions clouded by more senior ranked colleagues.

    I think your boss might be well intentioned, but could execute differently.

    1. Snowglobe*

      I can see that the boss could reasonably want to be able to listen to these discussions. It really doesn’t help the manager if the team discusses the candidate without her, and then comes to her with their thoughts afterwards, when there may have been some convergence of thought going on.

      1. teclatrans*

        Yes, this is what occurred to me while reading. OP says that they did the coworker discussions in past jobs, but what they describe sounds like intentional debriefing meetings, which likely included the hiring manager. In this case, the hiring manager isn’t getting to hear any of the vague thoughts or concerns of the team, but instead is hearing the results of the conversations. HM’s response was out of proportion, but I am going to give her a bit of slack because she may have been distraught and reacting (which she shouldn’t do, but, I can sympathize/relate?).

    2. AnotherAlison*

      We have group meetings after interviews, and it operates more or less how yours does. The thing that concerns me is that as the OP mentioned, sometimes group interview discussions reveal red flags. We had a candidate that our asst. department head thought was great, and the rest of us were a solid “no” on. People ask different questions. The candidate tells different stories. I think you want to get everyone’s verbal feedback together. Circling rankings on a scorecard, like my company asks us to do, doesn’t reveal our true opinions.

      1. Bostonian*

        I am also a firm believer in group discussions for this very reason. I may have evidence from my interview to support a conclusion that a coworker came up with, but I hadn’t made that connection myself. Only when I hear a coworker say “I thought X”, does it click for me that “when Candidate said ‘Y’ to me, that fits in with X”

        I do think some feedback needs to be provided individually beforehand, though, to help combat the groupthink.

    3. OP5*

      In the past organizations I mentioned, we did also do those score sheets right after the interview – then once all finalists had been seen, we’d meet as a group to talk them through.

      Jane didn’t seem to have an issue with not being included in the discussions; she felt having them at all was highly problematic (“unprofessional” and “inappropriate”) and was angry that they had occurred. Her preference, as I learned, was for us to share our feedback confidentially and then literally never discuss it with anyone again in any context.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        The one reason I can see for Jane’s perspective is that there can be awkwardness when someone is hired, and some people didn’t recommend hiring them. We have someone like that in my department now. Actually, almost everyone at the roundtable said “no for this position, but we could see him as a fit for ‘x’ instead.” The grandboss said no to ‘x’ so my boss hired him for a position that does not fit him at all. (It’s also worth noting that my boss was moved out of his position. . .)

      2. Washi*

        I’ve found that people vary really widely in how much of hiring they will discuss with others. Some people feel treat every step as if it’s HIPAA-protected information and are horrified by any amount of sharing. Some people are very open about every step – just last week, the director of our department sent everyone the resume and cover letter of the top pick to fill a position for our department, which included her salary requirements. I was horrified by that, but clearly not everyone feels the same!

      3. Amber T*

        It can also be awkward when you know Fergus wasn’t Wakeen’s first choice, but his third, and does that give you some sort of weird political power above him now? (In a normal, functioning office – no, of course not, people have preferences all the time, all that matters is Wakeen treats Fergus professionally). But maybe Jane is concerned that some current employees might feel this way, or this has happened before in a past employer and this fear is carrying over.

      4. Gloucesterina*

        It also sounds like Jane needs to send a message to the group outlining her preferences for sharing feedback on job candidates so that they’re all in the loop.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I agree with Alison. I have only specifically outed my mental health to an employer once, and I deeply regret doing it. I think keeping things vague and referencing an ongoing/chronic medical issue that has “flared” up is the best route.

    I’d love if there were less stigmatization of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health conditions, but unfortunately I don’t think we (American society/workplaces) are there yet. The way mental health is discussed (in media, in entertainment, in policy) often focuses on mental illness as some otherwise normal-seeming person
    being a terrifying and terrible ticking time bomb. Even though that is not true in 99% of cases, I have found that even empathetic or well-intentioned folks often don’t get it, and their underlying bias/stigma affects whether they view a person with a mental health diagnosis as capable or incapable.

    So do what you need to take care of yourself during this period, be kind to yourself (it is super hard when you’re high-functioning and that functionality slips because of mental health), and keep things as vague as possible at work while being proactive about managing others’ expectations as you deal with things. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

    1. CJH*

      I had a similar experience when I disclosed my mental health issues at work. I was then not given a promotion along with my peers, and I feel that disclosing my mental health condition was a big factor in that.

      My current method of coping is that I tell employer that I have a chronic illness, it’s generally under control, but like all chronic illnesses can flare up at times. I have had one person try to ask about the exact nature of the illness, but I simply told her I don’t disclose that information in the workplace and it was dropped.

    2. Alianora*

      This is good advice. I have anxiety and am starting to suspect I could have (relatively mild) autism. Knowing this is good because it gives me a new way to look at things, but I’m pretty sure disclosing either of those conditions would result in people seeing me differently.

      1. I really want to hide, so anon*

        I have anxiety and IBS. (And ADHD, but that’s very well controlled without medication, so far.)

        I have asked for needed accommodations based on the IBS, and just said I have a “chronic condition that…may make me need a bathroom suddenly”. At that point, no one wants any more details, so as long as accommodations I’m asking for don’t seem odd relative to that, nothing need be said about the underlying trigger from the anxiety. (And really, if it didn’t trigger the IBS, I could deal with it! Ugh.)

    3. Mad Baggins*

      Honestly, best case scenario, OP’s manager is understanding and flexible, and the office rallies around OP and people feel comfortable using EAP and discussing mental health in general/taking personal days. You can achieve this without revealing your specific health issue though, and there are so many risks with okay- to worst-case scenarios (manager decides to have everyone go around and share about their mental health, OP is mysteriously not promoted or is fired, coworkers think OP’s mental health is fair game and start giving advice or asking questions, every mistake ever made by OP becomes “oh, OP has depression…”). I don’t know if I’d risk it if it wasn’t very necessary.

      1. smoke tree*

        Yeah, I think if your manager is reasonable and supportive, they won’t require (or want) you to disclose any more specifics than necessary. If it turns out that your manager isn’t reasonable, you’ll be glad you didn’t give them any more information.

    4. JV*

      I’d concur as well. My organisation is prima facie brilliant with mental health – we have bullying and harassment officers, mental health advocates and a policy which says that we treat people with mental health issues fairly and support them to get through the issues they’re coping with.

      So, when I had a serious depressive episode last year which was affecting my output I made sure I talked it through with my boss and his boss, and he and she both used it as a lever to accuse me of being lazy (and told me that I should be doing a different job), dinged me on my annual review for “taking up too much management time” and refused to offer any support or even refer me to the staff counselor or occupational health (in fairness when I suggested the counselor they said “well you can do that if you want” but when I suggested occupational health they told me there was no point in seeing them and that they wouldn’t pass my details along)

      Long story short, don’t give them any info they can to use against you.

      I’m really sorry you’re going through it – I hope (and pray) your new doctors and treatment regime will bring you back to an even keel.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        I was told all throughout high school that I needed to be open with people and explain when I was feeling depressed, because no one could help if they didn’t know. So, freshman year in college, I skipped a few classes and the professor called to ask if everything was ok (it was a small college and this was a freshman seminar designed to get us used to the college experience – no other professor has or would do the same).

        I opened up and told her that I was feeling more depressed, making it harder to get out of bed and make it to class. She was the opposite of understanding and told me the best way to deal with depression was by getting up and getting to class, not staying in bed, and also a bunch of talk about how this wouldn’t fly for the entirety of my college career and into the professional world (all things I obviously knew). Thankfully, she didn’t escalate or make a big deal about it, but I resolved from then on to never tell another professor about it.

        1. Empathetic, but critical*

          I deal with chronic depression, too, as part of bipolar and together with my BPD. So while everybody’s mental health struggles are their own, having had my own struggles, I do empathize – and believe me when I was a freshman in college and wearing sunglasses everywhere to cover up how swollen, red, and watery my eyes were from crying non-stop *for no reason* -, and at the same time I feel the need to interject. Please don’t misconstrue this as me just not “getting it”.

          “told me the best way to deal with depression was by getting up and getting to class, not staying in bed, and also a bunch of talk about how this wouldn’t fly for the entirety of my college career and into the professional world (all things I obviously knew). Thankfully, she didn’t escalate or make a big deal about it, but I resolved from then on to never tell another professor about it.”

          The best way to treat mental health problems is to seek help, not to hole up in bed and wallow (having gone through a major, prolonged depressive episode very recently myself – I KNOW IT IS HARD. I know it seems impossible, and you are in a haze, and you have no energy, and no will. But everybody – including my psych, including my therapist – who said that sleeping my days away was feeding the depression, *was absolutely flipping correct*). Your professor was NOT wrong that neglecting responsibilities and isolating yourself is a Bad Strategy to cope with depression, because in fact it worsens depressive symptoms. It does. Nevermind that it makes you appear unreliable and irresponsible if you can’t bother to send a message, “I am dealing with some health issues and will need to take a few days.”

          I don’t know what words she chose to use, and obviously “cheer up, get some exercise!” is not helpful advice, but as somebody who was charged with being your mentor, she was likely saying whatever she could, with good intentions, to try and motivate you to take control of your depression.

          As well, she was not wrong that this sort of dereliction of duty, without notice, won’t fly in college or throughout your career. I work in a fairly “accommodating” office and we still have limited amount of sick time and limited unpaid leave we can take, and we are absolutely expected to call in, and acquire doctor notes for prolonged medical leave. “Being unreliable is a symptom of my disease” is not acceptable. If people with ADD, or OCD, or OCPD, or more high-functioning forms of autism, or the increasingly popular “executive dysfunction,” and even people with varying degrees of intellectual disabilities, can learn to function with accountability in the context of society, then you can, too. You had a disease, not an excuse.

          While it is society’s responsibility to care for our most vulnerable, it is an individual’s responsibility to seek help and take positive action to make change. I honestly don’t know what exactly you expected your professor to do. Enable you? “Sure hon take your time, come back to class whenever you feel ready”? While that may be nice to hear, it’s not going to resolve your depression, nor teach you how to function in spite of it.

    5. mreasy*

      Agreed. I disclosed bipolar disorder (managed by meds) to explain a spate of absences and a rough patch, and afterwards, I believe my employers were using that as a reason to take me less seriously when I made a strong argument about anything. I wouldn’t do it.

    6. EvilQueenRegina*

      I know someone who disclosed hers at the application stage, having been given advice in the past that if she disclosed it, as long as she met the criteria she’d be guaranteed an interview on the ground of disability. A few months down the line she was redeployed and told it was because the managers had concerns about her ability to cope with that job.

    7. Cedar sage*

      I disclosed my PTSD and I deeply regret it. Nobody has overtly denied me opportunities, but it provides people a ready reason to write me off when they don’t like what I have to say– “oh, that’s just the PTSD talking.” It completely undermined my credibility and authority.

    8. Adjuncts Anonymous*

      I out-and-out lied about a recent absence due to depression and the insomnia therefrom. I said that I’d had nausea related to an earlier-disclosed gallbladder attack. My boss isn’t the happiest with me anyway, so I don’t want to rock the boat any further.

    9. LQ*

      I feel like there is much more general acceptance of “mental health” as a casual thing than as a real specific thing that needs a specific kind of support or accommodation.
      If you have sort of a general work stress people are quick to talk about mental health, or in case of something happening (like a death in the family, I had very recently) there is plenty of make sure you take care of yourself comments and an understanding that you won’t be as productive for a while, that you might need unexpected time off, etc.
      But as soon as it is “I have this specific mental health thing and it had a flare up and while I’m getting it under control but I might not be as productive for a while and I might need some unexpected time off.” That somehow is a huge problem and will create long term ripples.

      I’m on train don’t tell specifics.

      1. Washi*

        Totally agree. In my experience, you are most likely to get the accommodations you need, minus the judging/awkwardness/treating you like you are fragile, if you just say that it’s a health condition.

    10. Lora*

      Yeah, sadly I must agree. Have known many MANY veterans who didn’t disclose their status as a veteran if they didn’t have to, because they didn’t want employers to assume they had PTSD and would go berserk shooting up the workplace, sort of thing.

      Which is a shame, because military officers who were in combat get a lot of very specific, very excellent training in people management, AKA How To Not Get Fragged, as well as all the “making overly simplistic presentations that any fool can understand”, both of which are highly relevant skills….

    11. Jady*

      Agreed as well.

      I also have severe chronic depression (on meds), and have had it since childhood. I have never disclosed this to anyone I’ve worked with. The risks are just too high. People are unpredictable as well when it comes to their reactions, even if they mean well. There’s also the “oops” factor – say you’re talking to your boss and someone happens to eavesdrop on the conversation (like yesterday’s letter!), and next thing you know it’s gossip.

      Then you have the unconscious bias and “meaning well” coming back to bite you. Not getting a promotion because it would be too much for your frail self. Not getting a bonus because you’re now a flight risk. All of your absences are now assumed to be mental health related.

      I may be paranoid, but I haven’t regretted NOT telling anyone. But I’m also someone who would suggest never disclosing details of any kind of mental or physical health issues unless it’s completely unavoidable. If it’s unavoidable (like say chemo), you want to at least control the narrative.

      Everything I say about health-related stuff is “medical issue”, “medical procedure”, “medical condition”, etc. If anyone asks anything further: “It’s personal, I’d rather not discuss.”

    12. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’m only open to friends in my profession. In my field, while there are movements towards mental health openness, it’s been pretty clear that some people can be open and others cannot. A close friend of mine mentioned she was recently diagnosed and was getting help and doing better. One person, who is leading the movement on mental health openness and is quite vocal regarding their own difficulties, was really dismissive towards my friend.

      It’s a shame but it’s a sad reality for some people.

  6. Tad03102*

    OP#1 If you use Outlook try grouping by conversation. Hopefully your manager uses the same subject line and that keeps everything in the same place.

    OP#2 if your coming worker is young and on their own, maybe they get a little too excited about food to supplement their limited grocery budget.

    1. Just a Thought*

      For #2 that is what I was wondering too. Maybe there is a food insecurity issue. Also I wasn’t sure if he was actually eating them in the meeting or just taking them (to save and eat later). If he isn’t actually eating them in the meeting then my guess is he is supplementing his grocery budget with free food.

      One summer in college I worked at a coffee shop and we were allowed to take the expired baked goods home. I survived much of that summer on expired pastries.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I admit to having had the free office snacks and nothing else for lunch most days at an old job. I was the lowest-paid person in the office in an expensive metro, so I don’t feel too bad about it.

    1. Jady*

      I just want to mention to the general public who may read this article – everything in it sounds great and “well d’uh” but for people with severe chronic depression (such as myself), for many this is an impossibly tall order. My interpretation of the article is “suck it up and behave normally”.

      If this helps anyone, that’s great.

      But please be aware that this is not possible for some suffering depression.

      1. Chinook*

        Yup. certain types of depression and anxiety don’t lend themselves to “suck it up and behave normally.” I can do that 90% of the time (and for part of the day the other 10%) but there are other times when my body takes over in a flight/fight/freeze response and while I logically can’t explain why, I also can’t control it.

        Ex: I once freaked out while doing my normal kickboxing workout, something I had been doing for months and highly enjoy. It took 3 more episodes before I could pinpoint symptoms that meant it was going to happen and I should leave before it happens publicly. I can’t stop it, just recognize it (like an epileptic who has a dog who warns them before a seizure) and limit its public impact so that I can return the next day to workout without having to deal with well-meaning sympathy. If/when this happens at work, I know to explain it as a chronic condition with few details because I don’t want anyone else deciding for me what I can and can’t handle because it is not the situation triggering it but my brain chemistry.

        1. The Friendly Comp Manager*

          “…because it is not the situation triggering it but my brain chemistry.”

          Very well said! Even my own S/O can’t get off of the “why” question when I tell him I am having a bad anxiety day, or had a panic attack doing XYZ thing that I’ve done a million times before, or whatever. Asking why almost makes it worse for me, because then I feel horribly that I can’t explain it.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            …”because my brain hates me. But you love me, right? So you’ll help distract me from this instead of making me think about it more.”

  7. Don P.*

    On #5: the protocol in our company is, after the interviews are done, we gather and discuss the candidate. The first step is that everyone, at the same time, gives a thumb up, down, or sideways. With that as a starting point, we try to come to a consensus. And the idea here is definitely to get that “first reaction” from everyone. But if this is to be the protocol, it needs to explained to everyone — in OP#5’s case it sounds like the newest member of the evaluating team wasn’t filled in properly.

    1. CM*

      Yes, I can see benefits of either having people in the hiring group not talk to each other (to avoid influencing each other) or talk to each other (to share their impressions and give each other context). Either way, if you haven’t told the interviewers in advance, it’s weird to be furious when they don’t do what you want.

  8. kay*

    #OP2 I get that it might look weird but I don’t think it’s rude. The rest of the office certainly don’t get priority over someone actually in the meeting. Maybe he just has a high carb diet that requires a lot of calories

    1. plot device*


      The food is provided ostensibly for people to consume. As long as everyone gets to partake, why fuss about this? You get to manage what’s on your plate. Your co-worker gets to manage what’s on his.

  9. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    I don’t see anything remotely strange about a young man being hungry. To be sure, four or five bagels is rather impressive, but not extraordinarily so.

    If he’s early 20’s, he likely isn’t quite done filling out yet. He’s probably not all that experienced living on his own and feeding himself. He probably doesn’t have a lot of money. And, if we allow the gender stereotype, he might not be that good a cook. Google tells me an active young man of that age needs around 3000 calories a day.

    So yes, he’s hungry. Don’t begrudge him a few bagels, when everybody’s already had theirs.

    1. CityMouse*

      I used to be a student athlete and my coach would have been furious if I ate like this. 5 bagels, no cream cheese is 1500 calories, over 2000 with cream cheese, and bagels are pure carbs, no protein or vitamins. You’re gonna crash hard after eating like this.

      It isn’t really relevant, I think the act of eating that much over a meeting (bagels are chewy, can the guy really contribute doing that much chewing) or getting up multiple times is what is more disruptive. But there is no way this is healthy.

      1. Church Lady*

        Okay, coach!
        How about you do you, and leave everyone else alone?
        You’re not the boss, coach, Doctor, nutritionist to the entire world.
        Your anecdote isn’t evidence.

        1. CityMouse*

          You can literally google the nutritional value of bagels if you don’t believe me. 300 calories, no protein or vitamins. Unless you’re doing Michael Phelps in the Olympics levels of activity, this is not how you should eat.

          1. Susan Calvin*

            I’m trying to put this as nicely as I can, because I believe you genuinely care a lot about this (rather than ‘concern trolling’), but: Whether you’re correct about the calorie count or not is REALLY not the issue.

            The topic at hand is the coworker’s office appropriate behaviour, not health, and OP already has very little standing to concern herself with the former. The latter, she shouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole even if she was a manager. Because it’s neither her, nor your business.

            And (this is the part where I’m not talking about you, CityMouse, specifically – please read this as a general you) I want to stress that this isn’t off limits because society is somehow trying to sabotage your effort of saving all these unhealthy people from their own bad choices and protecting their delicate sensibilities – it’s because you have actually no idea about the coworker’s health. Sure, if he was eating something that was in imminent danger of putting him in the hospital, like those apricot seeds that are supposed to cure cancer but will give you cyanide poisoning if you eat more than 5 at a time, but BAGELS? Come on. Maybe his metabolism is just That Good. Maybe something’s wonky with his thyroid or blood sugar levels, maybe it’s food related psychological issues. Maybe he just doesn’t care, and really likes bagels, and his health still wouldn’t be any of your business.

            /end rant. Sorry, I have my own issues in that area.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            It still doesn’t mean that you or anyone else has a right to say anything to someone who makes those choices.

            1. CityMouse*

              This was more a comment on the poster’s young man comment (which is just plain incorrect) than the OP. What is more relevant is if his eating habits are preventing him from participating in meetings or vipating office norms that “the leftover muffins are for everyone so please leave some for Bob and Suzy the admins”.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                I think it’s still only your opinion vs the poster above being incorrect. My son is a 20 year old student athlete. He’s a pitcher. He doesn’t eat massive calories of bagels, but his trainer-prescribed diet has him eating things like pasta for dinner, and raisin bran with granola on top and whole milk (as well as the expected meat and protein shakes). His food choices would make any middle aged athlete like myself cringe. He is naturally a 5′-9″ 160 skinny guy, and has to work his azz off to be a 185 lb guy with any butt muscle and upper body at all, and he needs that muscle mass for pitching. When you gain weight for pitching, apparently you don’t worry about “lean gains”, because all those carbs definitely give him a little fat, but it doesn’t matter for what he’s doing. Regardless, he naturally lost weight back down to 170 when he couldn’t work out 4 hrs/day and spent the day eating. Anyway. That’s a lot of useless information, but my point is everyone has different needs and coworkers and internet posters can’t accurately assess anyone’s.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  The one bit of interesting diet research I’ve seen come out in the past decade was that individual people respond to food individually. So Fergus might have a blood sugar spike with a banana and hold steady for bread, while Wakeen had the opposite reaction.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            We don’t need to analyze our coworkers diets and comment on them. Neither “five bagels is all carbs!” nor “THAT doesn’t look vegan” nor whatever other health nugget one feels impelled to pass on.

            Other people in the meeting all get bagels, which should be the limit of anyone’s concerns about what he’s eating.

        2. Yorick*

          I’d think CityMouse were pretty out of line if he wanted to say this to the hungry coworker, but he’s actually responding to a post about how this is a healthy way for young men to eat. Let’s keep in mind the context when we respond to the comment. I think it’s a fair point.

          1. LCL*

            Because the issue is about food, which takes us beyond logic and into emotional territory. Once we start bringing emotion into it, us humans tend to get less logical and more combative.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Oh yeah.

              Especially, I have come to realize, for simple white-flour-white-sugar carbohydrates. No one gets this emotional about carrots.

        3. Pardon me while I butt in*

          I wrote this above, I am posting it again.

          …All that said, and at the risk of sounding hypocritical (since I firmly believe YOUR diet is YOUR problem and nobody else’s), I still feel the need to correct misconceptions about diet simply because there ARE so many and (in the US, and increasingly other Western nations) obesity is becoming the norm rather than the rare exception. Part of it is because people really don’t know what the average adult actually needs in terms of calories. FDA “Nutrition facts” are based on 2000-2500 calories a day, whereas the average American at the average level of activity requires 1600-2100.

          For example, a 6’0, 180 lb, 22-yr-old young man with “moderate” (14-22%) body fat and an office job requires 2200~ kcal per day to maintain. For him to require 3000 kcal a day to maintain, all other stats being the same, he would need to be 325 lbs.

          Of course, this doesn’t entitle others to comment on his diet. If he is not being disruptive, and if he is not preventing anybody *in the meeting* from getting theirs, then it is rude and frankly unproductive to obsess over what he puts into his body.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        OK, but it’s not your business, nor LW’s, to monitor what Eater eats and think about how chewy the bagels are.

        1. CityMouse*

          If he isn’t contributing to a meeting because he is constantly chewing, it is a problem. The point of meetings is not to eat, it is to participate in the meeting.

          1. Glomarization, Esq.*

            LW does not mention that Eater is failing to contribute to or participate in the meetings.

            1. Lefty*

              And if his participation in meetings IS a concern… it is also something that should be monitored/reviewed/commented upon by his manager (or maybe a meeting facilitator if the manager isn’t present). It doesn’t sound like OP needs to be involved and can rest easy knowing it’s not something they need to address.

            2. Falling Diphthong*

              And if it’s a problem, that’s a thing for his boss to point out. Or OP if she were his trusted mentor coworker to whom he goes for other advice. But she isn’t, so she can leave him his monkeys.

              My experience of meetings is that “Man, I wish more people would speak up” isn’t usually a thing. It happens–I recall the letter from the frustrated manager whose staff just sat silent–but usually “only comment when you have a relevant point, so we can get through all the things” is the norm.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            CityMouse, you’re trying to deflect, defend and justify your real, expressed concern (the healthiness of bagels) by extrapolating conditions that are not described in the letter. It’s not really constructive.

            The better response is taking a breath, accepting that the guy’s health is neither your nor OP’s business, and stopping. Maybe one final comment on ‘hunh, I wouldn’t make that choice but y’all are right, I don’t have enough info’

            For comparison, plain bagels are 250ish cal; Mr. Jules ran college track and ate 4K – 6K calories / day through his early 20s, including regular whole wheat bagels (and whole large pizzas), with 4 – 6% body fat. You don’t know if this guy is training for marathons, or is unhealthy. When you don’t know, don’t assume and don’t judge.

            1. Pardon me while I butt in*

              “For comparison, plain bagels are 250ish cal; Mr. Jules ran college track and ate 4K – 6K calories / day through his early 20s, including regular whole wheat bagels (and whole large pizzas), with 4 – 6% body fat. You don’t know if this guy is training for marathons, or is unhealthy. When you don’t know, don’t assume and don’t judge.”

              He absolutely did not. Nobody eats 6000 kcal a day and maintains their body fat below essential levels. Even Olympians – Michael Phelps’ notorious claim of 10,000 kcal a day at peak training was revealed to be an exaggeration. He would literally have to have been running a marathon a day to burn off that many calories AND maintain that body fat percentage – which is just barely above essential body fat for men, and is wildly unsustainable. The legendary Mo Farah – who runs 100 miles a week, and as most distance runners, is notoriously lean – does not eat 6000k cals/day. Even professional bodybuilders, whose goal is to gain mass, do not routinely or consistently eat 6000 kcals/day.

              Nobody in this thread understands metabolism, and anyway it is beside the point, but I can’t stand such gross and unapologetic misinformation about the human body.

          3. Not a Mere Device*

            That would be equally true if he were noshing through the meeting on raw vegetables dipped in hummus, or roast beef sandwiches, or some other food you would approve of more.

            “Don’t remotely diagnose people” is still good advice, and not just for mental health. However, it seems worth noting that there are medical reasons why some people need low-protein diets, and low-protein is likely to mean higher-carb (I note that you’re assuming think bagel+cream cheese, which adds fat, to be worse than bagels with nothing on them). None of us–nor this person’s coworkers–are his doctor or dietician, and we shouldn’t assume we know what’s best for him to eat, because we believe, or even know, what diet would be best for a hypothetical average man in his early 20s.

      3. Oryx*

        It doesn’t really matter whether or not you consider it healthy and focusing on that isn’t necessary for this particular discussion.

    2. Myrin*

      I can’t quite put my finger on why, but this comment reads somewhat strangely to me. It sounds… infantilising, maybe? Like “oh, boor bb, so hungry all day, can’t do anything about his biology”.

      Like, we’re talking about an adult. He can eat one bagel to quench any hunger he has and then eat a full meal afterwards. (Not to mention that “hunger” really isn’t the first thing I’d have jumped to here, anyway. See, I’m an eater. In any given group, I’m probably going to be the person who eats the most; I can eat way past other people’s limits without batting an eye. But that’s not because I’m extraordinarily hungry all the time. I just really like eating and enjoy food. I’ve met a few others who eat a lot and it’s the same for them (yes, we usually talk about our food intake; food in general makes for a good topic of conversation).)

      That doesn’t mean that OP should say something, but I really think your framing is misapplied here. Also, I really don’t think this is about “begrudging” the coworker anything; it’s about “many people” in OP’s organisation constantly noticing this and finding it unprofessional and inappropriate (and thus likely against company norms, too; I can imagine that there are companies that put a bigger emphasis on food where his behaviour would be totally within the norm).

      1. Quake Johnson*

        +1. He’s not 14. Men can plan out an appropriate meal schedule for themselves in their 20s.

        1. CityMouse*

          I have to wonder if a woman would get this same kind of comment. I don’t think so.

          1. Nita*

            If you mean Elspeth’s comment – possibly? I mean, a woman that age could also be hungry and not making a big salary. The meal planning thing, maybe not. But there are plenty of young men and women that cannot cook for the life of them when they’re just starting to live on their own. My grandma has some pretty crazy stories of the “dishes” she made when she was still learning. They’re a little hard to believe knowing what an amazing cook she became later, but… yeah… for a while she didn’t know her way around a pot of hot water and some noodles…

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              My daughter’s first summer in an apartment, cooking for themselves, they taught one of her roommates how to boil water. He’d never had to before.

              Also, I think they had 1 gallon of milk per teenaged male roommate per day.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                My son had 4 student athlete guys in his house last fall. At one point he sent a picture of 6 gallons of milk in the fridge, multiple jars of peanut butter on top, and 5 5-gallon buckets of protein powder stacked on the floor.

          2. Quake Johnson*

            If you meant my comment, then yes, I would also say grown women have the ability to consume food in a way that doesn’t make them seem like slaves to hunger.

            If you were referring to the first comment then I’d say you have an interesting point. I can’t imagine a young woman eating 5 bagels in a single meeting and people jumping to her defense like “Poor young thing is just too hungry, she just can’t control herself.”

            1. Michaela*

              My co-workers don’t seem to care. I’m usually one of the first people there when there are meeting leftovers. Another who will often beat me there is another 30 something smallish woman manager. Then the IT folk, one who is a woman in her twenties.

              Sure, I’m the butt of jokes for my food habits, however I still believe it’s benefited my career more than hindered, as a point of discussion. The food police may be horrified at my choices and volume, but it doesn’t change being good at my work.

      2. strawberries and raspberries*

        Yeah, and even if we were talking about kids, attitudes like this are a great way to promote really unhealthy gendered relationships with food. This really infuriates me.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Okay, but it’s still NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS what food choices another adult makes.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            Eh… If someone’s chewing their way through 5 bagels sitting next to me in a meeting, it kinda is. Just like if someone brings a bag of Sun Chips to a meeting.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              If someone brings food to a meeting where it is inappropriate to have food, then yes, someone should say something. Partaking of the provided food, as long as you’re ensuring you’re not taking seconds/thirds before everyone has had an opportunity to eat, is really not the same. The OP doesn’t indicate that he’s being disruptive or disengaged from the meeting.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                Out of curiosity, what is the threshold for bph* before it becomes weird and unprofessional? 10 bph? 20 bph? 50 bph?

                *bagels per hour

                1. Nita*

                  Incidentally, which bagels are they? The regular kind, or the mini-bagel kind? It just occurred to me that maybe they’re not even full-sized bagels, in which case I’m thinking 10 bph is the “reasonable” ceiling :)

            2. Someone On-Line*

              But everyone is eating bagels. The bagels are there for the meeting. If they don’t want the sound of chewing, they shouldn’t bring bagels.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                Presumably at some point everyone else has finished their bagel, though. In the contexts I’ve seen bagels provided for meetings, the point is to eat during the mingling/get-to-know you intro to the meeting, not for everyone to nosh their way through the entire meeting.

                1. Delphine*

                  I don’t know if putting an arbitrary time limit on eating during a meeting is useful. How do you deal with people who are just slow eaters? Is “he was eating after everyone else finished” really the rule we ought to be using to decide whether or not this is unprofessional?

          2. strawberries and raspberries*

            Um… I’m talking about the patronizing “he’s a young man, he’s not done filling out, he’s probably always hungry” trope. It really wouldn’t matter to me how much this guy or anyone else eats. The caps lock rage seems misplaced.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I referenced that trope to push back against ‘maybe he has an eating disorder and needs to get an EAP’.

              *Why* he’s doing it is None Of Our (or OP’s) business. There’s a huge range of ‘why’, from ‘normal adolescence life stage (which often extends to about age 25 for men)’ to ‘bad planning’ to ‘food insecurity’ to ‘eating disorder’. Neither we nor the OP have information or standing to address ‘Why’.

              OP could maybe say something in a friendly manner, but someone else has already done that. There’s no need to OP or us to get involved in this.

              As to gendered eating disorders: adolescents of both genders need and eat a lot. Male adolescence covers a different age range than female, usually 3ish years later than female. While society wants to repress this reality in women and excuse / be amused by it in male, and that can tie to eating disorders, the ‘male adolescents eat everything’ trope is based on reality. Instead of trying to fight against the application of that trope, wouldn’t it be more helpful to expand it? At 15 in a growth spurt, I out-ate my sister’s 20yo boyfriend (and everyone else) one tgiving. My family noted, talked about measuring my height at xmas, moved on. No shame, just recognizing a biological pattern.

              1. strawberries and raspberries*

                I mean, I also had a friend who was constantly told not to eat too much because she’d get fat, while they simultaneously praised her brother for his big appetite because he was “growing”. Fast forward to their young adulthood and she was recovering from anorexia and he was morbidly obese. Neither of them were healthy and their parents could not figure out why. Eating a lot is perfectly normal in adolescence/young adulthood for both genders. It would be great if everyone recognized it and didn’t add a value judgment, but unfortunately that’s not usually what happens.

                I really don’t care what anyone eats, but throughout my adolescence and adulthood, even at my thinnest, I’ve been shit-talked in public (both at work and in my personal life) for 1) eating pasta instead of a salad, 2) eating a sandwich instead of a salad, 3) eating two bagels instead of one, 4) eating fries instead of a salad with a sandwich, 5) eating sweet potatoes and bread together, 6) finishing someone’s chicken when they offered it, 7) I could keep going. If someone made a comment to my grown adult male coworker about the optics of eating five bagels at a meeting to the point that it became distracting and his response was, “I’m growing,” I probably wouldn’t say anything, but in my mind I would be like THE F*CK YOU ARE. (Especially if he thought that was going to be perceived as endearing.)

          3. Myrin*

            I’m pretty sure berries is addressing the tone/attitude of Elspeth’s comment, not the actual letter!

            1. CityMouse*

              We all are, but people are jumping down our throats. This guy is not a 13 year old boy. This whole “man needs to bulk up” comment is sexist and tiresome.

    3. BuffaLove*

      Look, I am ALL about free food where I can get it. I run a lot and eat a lot and could definitely put away five bagels if they were in front of me, but you just don’t do that in a professional setting. If there are plenty left over, then sure, he should be able to take a few after the meeting, before they get left out for the vultures. But really, I would find it odd and very distracting if someone was eating five bagels next to me in a meeting.

      I don’t think it’s necessarily OP’s job to address it, but it would be a kindness if someone did, since he probably still needs to learn some professional norms.

    4. Jady*

      Yeah this bugged me a bit. I’m a nearly mid-30s woman and I could put 5 bagels away with no problem.

      Doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, but unless he’s making a ruckus/mess while doing it, this being a problem would never cross my mind.

      1. Ambpersand*

        Honestly, same. I’m a female in my mid-twenties and I’ve always LOVED bagels. I’m not a marathoner, food insecure, or any other special circumstance and I could easily eat five bagels without much issue. And even more so, I would want to because that’s how much I love bread and carbs. Some people just eat more than others! Unless it’s causing a distraction, leave it alone and move on. And if it is causing a distraction? Address the distraction itself (chewing too loud, getting up too many times, making a mess, etc), but don’t criticize his eating habits just because you don’t like/understand it.

        1. Pardon me while I butt in*

          I have to wonder how y’all are defining bagels. In the NYC metro area, a bagel is like 4″ in diameter and T H I C C. Sometimes the hole in the middle is hardly even a hole.

          I work out A LOT and I eat A LOT, but the thought of stomaching 5 of *those* in the span of a meeting, well, my stomach just wouldn’t hold that volume. But maybe these are small bagels, like the mass-produced, preserved ones you buy in the bread aisle of the grocery store (vs. the fresh, daily made ones you buy at the bakery). Or maybe they are even mini-bagels/bagel-bites, in which case 5 of those would probably only amount to one full-sized New York-style bagel.

          Anyway it doesn’t matter why or how he’s eating this many (unless he is food insecure – in which case, shame on the employer for not providing a livable wage). If it’s not disruptive, it’s not the problem that the OP has made it out to be. And I have to admit I’m a bit suspicious of whether other coworkers are actually as concerned, or if that’s a deflection to try and distract from the inherent judgmentalness/concern trolling of the complaint in the first place.

    5. Oilpress*

      But it isn’t the job of his employer to feed him 3000 calories a day. That is an unreasonable amount of food to take from a meeting. Even if he had twice the average caloric demands, he would only need 2 bagels. He is being a glutton, and people notice that stuff…especially if he takes the best kinds of bagels and leaves the crappy ones for everyone else.

    6. Pardon me while I butt in*

      “Google tells me an active young man of that age needs around 3000 calories a day.”

      I think you don’t understand what “active” entails in this scenario. “Active” enough to require 3000 cals a day, regardless of age and gender, would require you to either have a job involving heavy manual labor for at least 6 hours a day, and/or you’d need to be at the gym daily, like it’s a part-time job.

      If you have an office job, you are sedentary, regardless of how much you walk around or if you get your 10,000 steps (i.e. maybe 200 calories burned) in.

      Personally I think – all due respect, but – Bagel Binge Betty is a bit of a busybody, and Hungry Jack can eat as much as he wants provided nobody (in the meeting) is going hungry. As somebody whose own diet is routinely picked apart by coworkers when it literally impacts nobody else, it is infuriating the degree to which people invite themselves to criticize somebody else’s diet.

      All that said, and at the risk of sounding hypocritical (since I firmly believe YOUR diet is YOUR problem and nobody else’s), I still feel the need to correct misconceptions about diet simply because there ARE so many and (in the US, and increasingly other Western nations) obesity is becoming the norm rather than the rare exception. Part of it is because people really don’t know what the average adult actually needs in terms of calories. FDA “Nutrition facts” are based on 2000-2500 calories a day, whereas the average American at the average level of activity requires 1600-2100.

      For example, a 6’0, 180 lb, 22-yr-old young man with “moderate” (14-22%) body fat and an office job requires 2200~ kcal per day to maintain. For him to require 3000 kcal a day to maintain, all other stats being the same, he would need to be 325 lbs.

      Of course, this doesn’t entitle others to comment on his diet. If he is not being disruptive, and if he is not preventing anybody *in the meeting* from getting theirs, then it is rude and frankly unproductive to obsess over what he puts into his body.

  10. Beth*

    OP4, as a fellow mental-illness-haver, I really think it’s almost never to your benefit to disclose that you’re struggling with mental health to an employer. Keep it vague–Alison’s script is great.

    I hear you on worrying about people taking it seriously, but too many people won’t take “I’m struggling with (insert mental illness here)” seriously either–or they’ll take it way too seriously and make unwarranted judgements due to their own prejudices. And anyways, plenty of people prefer to keep their medical details private, regardless of how serious it might be; that shouldn’t raise any major flags.

    Plus, you’ve worked there for five years! You have an established reputation already, and assuming it’s a reasonably good reputation, that wins you some wiggle room. People will give you some benefit of the doubt on this–if they notice a drop in your productivity, they’ll assume it dropped for a reason, and if you give them any reason at all (even a vague one), they’re more likely to wish you a quick recovery than push for more detail. Of course, this doesn’t apply if you already have a reputation for laziness or sloppy work, but it sounds like you were in good standing before this recent wave hit, so I think you can probably lean on it a bit.

    I wish you all the luck in the world with your treatment!

  11. Jenny D*

    OP1: I too prefer to have all questions in one email. But on many occasions, when I’ve sent an email with several questions in it, I’ve only gotten an answer to the first one (or, less frequent, only the last one). Is it possible that your boss has worked with people who were incapable of reading past the first question mark, and thus has learned to split questions up as the only way to get responses to all of them? If so, asking her to make it easier on you might work. She may be trying to make things easier for both of you and not realizing that for you it actually makes things harder.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      This was my thought as well. So many people don’t fully read emails and questions go unanswered or important points get missed. Other people like to have individual emails so that they can resolve each one as it’s finished and clear it from their inbox. If so, asking the manager might help – or if nothing else, you might be able to set something up so that all the emails are chained, rather than separate.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I agree. I suspect Manager has dealt with people in the past who answer only the first question and disregard the rest of the e-mail.

      Even with other lawyers, I tend to trim down my e-mails to one question per.

      1. Feline*

        I work with a manager who does this. Emails contain at least one question or action item at a time, often in reply to an existing email thread. She also has a tendency when a thought strikes her to open any email in her inbox that you previously sent her and reply to that rather than starting a new thread.

        With her, I think it’s a “asking before I forget” thing rather than worrying about your not answering all of her questions, since she will often have more than one question or action item piled into the avalanche of emails.

    3. Caaan Do!*

      That’s my top pet peeve at my work! It’s so painful to have to go back and forth with certain people sloooooowly extracting information I need bit by bit because they skim the original email, answer the first question and ignore the rest.

    4. BRR*

      Oh that’s an interesting point I hadn’t thought of. I use bullets to combat this but so many people seem to not be able to answer more than one or two questions at a time.

    5. eplawyer*

      Also if you are answering all of them, you either have to put your answers in the email by designating your answers in some way. I usually use a different color. Or you put it all at the top and the person has to match what you answered with what you ask.

      Sometimes, one question, one email is best.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        A different colour won’t help those of us who read their mail in plain text on their screen (I often read mine on my server in a non graphical environment). Same for those who say “my response in bold!”

        It also won’t work for my vision impaired friends who use a screen reader (ie a voice reader).

        Much better just to quote the original by preceding with > and then hit return and put your reply below.

        Not trying to tell you what to do – just to make you aware. People saying “my response is in blue” frustrate me, as that is meaningless to me :(

        Anyway just wanted to mention the access issues around this in case you didn’t know.

        1. Yvette*

          Thank you for pointing that out, I don’t know why that never occurred to me, because it makes total sense, but now that I know, I won’t do that.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I think it’s a ‘know your audience’ issue. I’m pretty aware of who among my co-workers is reading on a phone, on a non-graphical interface, or has it read.

            My team often deals with lists of questions and strongly prefers in-line answers over ‘> the email and respond separately,’ our convention is to put our responses on the line below the question, prefaced by our initials, like:
            1) question from Xavier Young
            Jt3: answer1
            XY: additional question / approval / other response

      2. Yorick*

        If they are numbered questions, you can just number your answers.

        Or write separate short paragraphs like “in response to your point about llamas, blah blah blah…”

      3. Marillenbaum*

        If I’m answering multiple questions in a single email, I usually say so in my subject line. For instance, “Cat Herd Demographics Responses (MULTIPLE)”.
        Within the email, I then format it so that each question has a separate line item for its response, so:
        1. Q1-3, average cat herd population increased by 7%.
        2. Tabbies remain the most common breed in every herd.
        3. Our contract on the existing herding spaces is valid until June 25; we need to renew by COB June 18 if we want to keep the space.

    6. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      That was my first thought as well. Even if I start the email with “I have 3 questions” and then number/bullet point them, I’m still lucky to get 2 of the three answered. At the very least, I would prefer that the person would acknowledge the question even if they don’t have an answer: “I’m not sure, I’ll have to get back to you on that.” Otherwise I have to delicately keep repeating the missing questions without sounding snippy.

  12. Wrennie*

    Re #2. The guy is in his early twenties; there’s a good chance he’s paying back student loans. These meetings may be the only real meal he gets that isn’t a budget meal like ramen or rice and beans. Let him eat. Maybe tell him if there’s leftovers AFTER the meeting, he’s free to help himself? It sounds like there’s more food than necessary anyways.

    1. Manchmal*

      I think this is a great suggestion. It is very unusual to eat 4-5 bagels in one sitting, and whether he has a “valid” reason for it (whether running 15 miles before work or food insecurity) seems besides the point. It’s outside of professional norms and will draw negative attention to himself (and possibly the company, if clients are there). If I were his manager, I’d ask him to limit himself to one or two, and then to feel free to help himself to more after the meeting.

    2. eplawyer*

      I’m paying back student loans and still would not take 4 or 5 bagels at one sitting.

      The kid is new to the workforce. He needs to learn the norms of the office — regardless of his personal situation. It will help him in the future. Unfortunately, as Alison noted, it’s not the LW’s place to say anything. This is one of those where you have to let it go.

    3. Temperance*

      Most of us have student loans, though. Most of us don’t binge on bagels in meetings, either.

  13. 653-CXK*

    OP#2: Whenever we had all-staff celebrations at OldJob, food control was a very, very big deal because people would come in, take tons of stuff, and then leave nothing for the people who came in later (due to meetings and other work). They then implemented a system where people would sit at a table, get called up for their initial serving, then sit down. Only after all the tables were called could we go up for seconds, and if there was enough food left, people would be scooping up take-home boxes (or in some cases, whole pizzas) to take home their loot.

    I would let things be. If his boss is seeing that he’s taking a lot more than he should and being inconsiderate about it, then he’ll talk to his charge.

  14. HyacinthB*

    Don’t be in a hurry to respond to every email as it comes in. If it’s urgent, your boss will (I hope) call. Not responding as emails come in is generally a good rule of thumb unless you’re in an industry where this isn’t the norm. I have found that if I sit back and wait, some emailed issues resolve themselves as others chime in.

    1. LQ*

      Totally agree on the wait. Trying to get your boss to change is sisyphean most of the time. But unless they are all super super urgent, 15 minutes or so goes a long way.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I was thinking that no lesson on AAM has been pounded in more thoroughly to me than DO NOT MESS WITH PEOPLE’S SIMPLE CARBOHYDRATES.

  15. Glomarization, Esq.*

    LW#3, if you don’t address the behavior in some way, then the founders may ask you why you didn’t, when they see the numbers from the retail side of the business go down.

  16. Caaan Do!*

    OP4, your letter really resonates with me. I’ve been recently-ish diagnosed with depression and anxiety and over the last few months have been trying varying dosages of SSRIs, which has meant several doctors appointments to see how treatment is going. I’m not usually someone who takes many sick days or has regular doctors appointments so I feel like it’s starting to become noticeable.

    My boss is super awesome, approachable and supportive (I felt like I could tell her straight away when my dad was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and she immediately said I could go home and take some time, and if I needed any more days off to deal with it she’d have my back), but even so I feel reluctant to disclose details of my diagnosis. I worry that she’ll think twice about giving me certain work for fear of making me anxious – she’d never hold back any development opportunities, but there’s a nagging doubt in the back of my mind that I’ll get treated differently even if it’s not on purpose.

    I saw upthread that a lot of people had negative repercussions after disclosing mental illness, has anyone here had a positive experience?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I have always been open about my mental health struggles and it has not had a negative impact on my professional life.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I have as well. I try very, very hard to normalize what having a mental illness looks like because others who are suffering in silence need to know they can get help.

        However, YMMV.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Same. I am open in all areas of my life because IDGAF what people think of me and if I can help someone else, it’s worth it.

          In fact, just yesterday, a former coworker reached out because she is getting ready to start medication and she’s nervous about it and wanted to ask me some questions. I was glad she did and that I was able to help assuage some of her concerns.

        2. Trout 'Waver*

          I’m open about it as well. But I’m lucky in that I’m in a position where I can be. I wish everyone could be in a similar position.

        3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Add me to the list. I’m very open about having depression and open about being active in anti-stigma campaigns (I even have a poster in my cube). So far there have been no repercussions BUT my illness has also been extraordinarily well controlled for years. YMMV

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      I have discussed my OCD with two managers – one who also had a diagnosed anxiety disorder, the other whose daughter has OCD that impacts her life more than my OCD impacts mine. We supported each other, it was ok. Did not affect my career, so far.

      We did not discuss this with any higher mgmt, because it’s not relevant to my work. Except for me asking co-workers to quit joking about how that unpleasant client must be unpleasant because they were the ‘1 in 5’ in the US with mental illness. They stopped, at least, and have treated me pretty normally since.

    3. Myrin*

      My sister has!

      She has PTSD, depression, and anxiety (and severe cases of the last two, at that!) and was an inpatient at the local hospital for the first three months of 2016. Her work was awesome about it – they kept her spot open for her so that she could return, everyone was really worried about her and sent her little gifts and cards, and she was even promoted shortly after coming back!

      That being said, I think most of it actually has to do with 1. people at her work not really understanding it, and 2. it not being particularly visible (and to a degree: 3. they were there and saw her decline “live”, it wasn’t something they only heard about after the fact).

      Both of these points intertwine, actually. My sister is an extremely good faker; she always seems very happy and up-beat, no matter how shitty she’s feeling. So while her coworkers all know in theory that she’s ill and even witnessed her having a panic attack twice or thrice, they don’t really understand it. They don’t quite make the connection that my sister always carries this with her, that she’s always depressed and always afraid of literally everything; they think it’s short intervals or phases or something. I think they’d be much more disturbed if they really understood the exact scope of what’s going on, although I don’t think that’d make them react negatively per se, I can just imagine that they’d maybe feel like they need to walk on eggshells around her or similar (so in that regard, it’s actually good that they don’t seem to fully grasp it, because they honestly don’t even think twice about treating her like everyone else).

      1. Chinook*

        I think the issue most people have with mental illness is the fact that it is chronic and easily hidden. Short interval illnesses and visible symptoms are both things that others can see are an issue and give sympathy too because we all have times when our bodies don’t behave like they are suppose to. Wrapping your head around something being chronic is much harder, especially because such symptoms are subtle and can become to be seen as just a part of someone’s personality instead of a medical problem. I liken my illness to Type 2 diabetes – once I get it under control, I am okay as long as I keep managing it or until my body adjusts so that I need to change the management. the difference is that I can’t take regular blood tests to see which chemical is out of balance in my body like a diabetic does.

    4. Never Nicky*

      Yes, currently having mental health problems which may or may not be related to my MS and my boss (the chief exec) is being very understanding and positive.

      I’ve explicitly been told that even though a couple of projects have … suffered, shall we say … the organisation doesn’t want to lose me, doesn’t want the job to be detrimental to my health, and that we can if necessary carve a new role for me so that I “can do the things you excel at” even if this means bringing forward recruitment plans.

      I do have eight years capital banked, but even so, it’s a relief.

    5. AMPG*

      I successfully pushed back against a manager who wanted to toss out a job candidate who was everyone else’s top choice because he thought she might be depressed. Really, she was just sort of low-key, and had an even keel that suited her very well to our line of work. I disclosed that I had been living with depression for my entire adult life, and told him he wasn’t in a position to assess the candidate’s mental health. It worked (we hired her and she was great), and I didn’t experience any repercussions from it.

      1. AMPG*

        However, I’ll note that I’m at a new job now, and while I like and trust my boss, I don’t think I would disclose mental health issues unless I needed to. For one thing, he’s a talker, and while I would trust his own reactions, I don’t trust him to keep the information confidential, and there are coworkers who I wouldn’t want knowing about it.

      2. Willow*

        Some people are naturally introverted and are not going to be very high key in an interview. I don’t think non-introverts realize just how much energy it takes to fake being extremely enthusiastic/excited/happy/etc. if you aren’t naturally that way.

    6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I’m really open about having depression, up to and including having an anti-mental health stigma poster on my cube that says I have depression at my past couple of jobs. Thus far there hasn’t been any blow back professionally and the positive of folks coming up to me and confiding in me about their own issues and appreciating how open I am.

      However, my depression has been well controlled for a while and responds amazingly to medication. It has been really easy for me to be open because the impact of my illness on my work/mtivation has only ever been apparent to me.

    7. SkyePilot*

      I deal with depression, anxiety, and ADD. I’m open with my team about the ADD and anxiety (since they have the most potential impact on my performance) and have had a great response. It especially helped that my boss’ daughter also has ADD and was diagnosed at a much younger age than I was. She has been able to give me genuinely good advice for coping with an open office plan, focusing on key tasks, and other things that come up.

      Definitely a “read the room” type of situation but it can be a very positive experience!

    8. Chinook*

      My last boss was supportive of my mental health issues, but I only came out to her after she mentioned her daughter going into a long-term unit for help with anorexia (so I knew she understood mental health as being complicated). It was great because she understood why I was taking off a bunch of time while I changed meds to worked from home later in the day when I called in sick. But, I wouldn’t have said anything beyond “chronic medical condition flaring up” if she hadn’t mentioned her ow n family issues in passing.

      In my current job, they mentioned one guy taking time off “because he is sad” and get the feeling that they aren’t as open minded to mental health issues here.

  17. Snubble*

    Your share of collective food isn’t based on how hungry you are, it’s based on how many people the food needs to serve. We have someone in my department who similarly hasn’t learned that lesson – sign up to group lunches, forget to bring his contribution, and then eat three times what anyone else does. And yes, he’s hungry, because he’s voluntarily restricting food the rest of the time, but he’s also being rude.
    It’s not leftovers until the meeting is over. You probably can’t do anything to change his behaviour, but Mr Hungry is at fault.

    1. Cordoba*

      There’s nothing in the letter that indicates that the other people in the meeting are not getting all the food they want. LW’s concerns seem to be based around taking multiple servings being vaguely “unprofessional” and the possibility of random nearby co-workers not having as much to vulture after the meeting ends.

      1. Birch*

        How does anyone know that other people are getting their fair share though? It’s a subtle thing, but if everyone else takes 1 bagel and he takes 5, and there are 10 people in the meeting and only 20 bagels to start out with, suddenly no one else can really take another because there isn’t an equal share of seconds for everyone else. So there’s leftovers, but depending on the office culture, people might not be willing to go take another because it’s not fair to everyone else. I have definitely been in this situation and I don’t think it’s a reach to say many people would not take seconds if there isn’t a full second “round” enough for everyone to have seconds. It’s such an insignificant thing, but I would definitely be miffed if everytime we had food one person felt entitled to a significant portion of the seconds. This is what the optics is about. Everyone else being polite and abiding by standards of sharing while one person abides by the “technicalities” of the rules. It’s disingenuous, which is probably why he was offended and got defensive when someone brought it up!

        1. Iris Eyes*

          So should people who don’t want seconds be forced to take seconds just so they get their “fair” share? What about all the people who would be grateful to split a bagel? In the end if people value their version of politeness over their desire for another bagel then that’s fine, that’s their choice but that doesn’t mean that others are even aware of the rules in their head let alone that they should abide by them.

          1. Birch*

            That’s an absurd reduction of what I said. I’m just pointing out that maybe he should wait either until others go for round 2 or till the end of the meeting before he snatches up handfuls, to actually make sure others get a fair chance at seconds. It’s not that big of a deal for him to slightly alter this behaviour.

            1. Iris Eyes*

              From the OPs letter though he isn’t loading his plate down with 4 or 5 bagels but over the course of the meeting is getting 4 or 5. It also doesn’t sound like he is waiting until everyone has one and then taking the rest. It sounds like he is just continuing to take and eat bagels throughout the meeting.

            2. Pardon me while I butt in*

              It’s no more absurd than the conclusion you jumped to, which relies on the premise that everybody wants two bagels in the first place (which is not substantiated), or the idea that people who DO want two bagels, would restrict themselves from getting seconds on the basis of optics/the idea that others – who may not even want seconds – haven’t gotten seconds.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I think I get what you’re saying, except I don’t think it’s necessarily just optics. It’s hard to say what’s happening, but he could accidentally be denying people seconds who actually want seconds. If there isn’t much time between everyone’s first serving and his second, for example. It’s also unclear if he’s taking the extra items all at once or going up each time for one. That can make a difference in whether people can actually get another bagel or muffin.

          This is just speculation, of course, but it could actually be an issue and one I’ve seen happen in social settings.

      2. Someone else*

        The thing that struck me about the letter, which I noticed one other person above commented on as well, is that the guy is making sure everyone has had one before he goes back for his fourths and fifths. I acknowledge it’s possible she didn’t mean it literally, but if the situation is, everyone goes for their first round, this guy takes 1-2, which is reasonable. Then as soon as he’s done either goes up for 3,4,5 at once, or even if it’s three additional trips, that doesn’t rule out maybe other people would’ve liked a second, but not as soon as he got to them. We also don’t have a sense of if there are usually leftovers, if there are still even with him doing this, how many people are in the room, etc. If it’s a 10 person meeting and one guy eats 5 that’s way disproportionate unless they very over-ordered. Whereas if what’s happening is everyone takes one, eats, the meeting continues, nobody seemsto be making any kind of move toward the food, he takes another, continue, still barely any action, and he takes another, repeat. That’d be different. In that case, I’d still be a bit concerned the guy might seem more focused on the food than the meeting, but would not be concerned about the whole “you’re on fifths and no one else got a chance at seconds”.

    2. CM*

      I think “Your share of collective food isn’t based on how hungry you are, it’s based on how many people the food needs to serve” is only true if food is limited. Here, it seems like they have more than enough. The food is there for the people at the meeting — there’s no obligation to provide leftovers for others. So everyone should eat as much as they feel they need to eat.

      I would feel differently if this guy were hoarding bagels for later, but it sounds like he’s just eating a lot! And, he’s waiting until everyone else has eaten before he takes extra portions, so he’s aware that the amount he eats is unusual and is being mindful of not taking food away from others at the meeting. To me, this is totally okay and it’s not the same as somebody who takes half the cake and leaves the rest to share among 20 other people. It’s not unprofessional to eat a lot.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        The food is there for the people at the meeting — there’s no obligation to provide leftovers for others.

        Perhaps not ‘obligation,’ but OP’s letter indicates it IS company culture to open leftovers to non-meeting attendees afterward. If there are no more leftovers because New Guy eats it all, that reflects poorly on him.

        1. Roscoe*

          I honestly just can’t see being upset. I was getting unexpected food from the department meeting (that I’m not a part of). Now they have a new person who eats more, and there aren’t more leftovers. How can I be upset about something I was never entitled to anyway? And why should I be mad at someone for eating for that was for the meeting he was in?

      2. smoke tree*

        I don’t think he’s objectively behaving badly, based on the description in the letter. But it does sound like he’s acting outside of the office culture and it’s drawing attention in a way that’s probably not ideal for him. It’s kind of on part with a dress code misstep.

    3. Roscoe*

      But even OP says one of the problems is that there aren’t leftovers for others not in the meeting. So that implies everyone there gets what they want, but there isn’t more for other random people in the office. To which I say, if they didn’t have to be in the meeting, they have no claim to the food.

  18. Oryx*

    #4, like so much else this is a “know your manager” kind of thing. At my current company, I have felt safe enough to be very open and honest about my mental health issues — even writing about them in a large publication — and have gotten nothing but support.

    But I would never have done that at my previous jobs because I know they would not have had such a supportive attitude about it.

    I know you said you’re getting help, which is awesome, but for you and anyone else who hasn’t read it, Captain Awkward #450 has been incredibly helpful to me when I’ve been in an episode and still need to show up.

  19. New Job So Much Better*

    #1 Some efficiency experts say to only address one item per email message, in order to get a quicker response.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Those efficiency experts must be fine with everyone hating their clients. Make a list, FFS.

    2. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I definitely do the single issue per email to my boss, because otherwise the exchange goes, “Are you OK with X? and also, what do you want to do about Y?” and the response is “Sounds good.” But if someone is sending me tasks, oh yeah, I want a list.

  20. chimichanga*

    OP#4 My husband has Anxiety stemming from a physical differences from stroke he had in high school. We have a rule now that if someone at work is not also a friend at home( we go to dinner at their home, have met their non work friends or family at a non work setting, and have some stake in their non work life) they are the people that know my husbands issues. If our dog doesn’t know you, and our kids can’t remember what color your kitchen is then you don’t get to know those things. If you only know these people at work then they get to know your mental health bare minimum. If they are not invested in you outside of work dont give them the opportunity to harm your work investment. Work friends and facebook friends are just niceties we use for people we know, they are not real friends until they make the investment in all parts of your life.

  21. Cordoba*

    I eat what is apparently a tremendous amount for my body size/shape, to the point that people will often notice and make comments and jokes about it. I have always been this way, it appears to just be a result of my biology and is probably compounded by a high activity level. 4-5 bagels over the course of a 1-2 hour meeting is well within my normal range.

    My assumption is that (as long as everybody in the meeting who wants food gets it) portion selection is an individual choice that adults get to make and that unless the amount I eat is causing a discrete problem it’s nobody’s concern but my own. Please note that “people who were not part of the meeting will now have less to eat” is not actually a problem – those people have no claim to the food.

    I’d not respond well to my actual direct boss telling me that I should eat less. If a random colleague who isn’t even my manager tried to bring it up I’d regard them as an insufferable busybody and not be shy about telling them to mind their own effing business.

    1. drizzly mcgee*

      Please note that “people who were not part of the meeting will now have less to eat” is not actually a problem – those people have no claim to the food.

      Great comment!

        1. Cordoba*

          There are offices where people who aren’t in a meeting have an acknowledged claim to the food from that meeting, and it is regarded as a real problem if there are fewer leftovers available than they desire?

          1. Iris Eyes*

            If they really have a claim then why don’t they just get it to begin with? Leave the one platter of whatever in the common area or as they are setting up or whatever they get a bagel or whatever. IF the food is really for them why do they have to wait? If they have an actual claim to the food on par with the meeting attendees then they should get it fresh just like the meeting attendees.

          2. Bumblebee*

            We have a team of people in our office who help with logistical and physical set up for meetings, but don’t participate in them.

            I would see it as a problem if something changed so that we never had leftovers available after meetings, because it would mean this team, who had contributed to the meeting by helping with setup, would never get any of the perks. Not like, the end of the world kind of problem, but you can still acknowledge small things that feel unfair.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          There used to be a saying about “Leave some on your plate for Miss Manners” to remind that you had to indicate the food provided by your host was beyond plentiful by not eating it all. (Other cultures, doing this would have been insulting to the host.) It conjured up images of a mousy Victorian companion creeping around eating everyone’s leftover sliver of tea cake after the party.

          If you want to show appreciation for your admins, buy them their own bagels. So long as the food is being consumed in the meeting by meeting participants, not stuffed into pockets and briefcases for later, it’s fulfilling its purpose of feeding the people in the meeting. If people REALLY want leftovers then this could be solved by upping the bagel order per meeting by 5, in an office where it sounds like an actual bagel shortage isn’t a problem.

          1. MattKnifeNinja*

            Thank you.

            There is nothing worse than being presented with grubbed over donuts/bagels/pastries that have sat in a 4 hour meeting that 20 odd hands might of pawed over. Bonus round is the dugged through cream cheese or flavored butter.

            If you want to treat your admins like humans with self respect and dignity, parse out their share before the meeting.

        3. MLB*

          No, it really doesn’t. If people get their panties in a wad because they were expecting leftovers from a meeting that they weren’t involved in, that’s their issue and they need to get over it.

    2. August*

      Agreed! I have plenty of coworkers with weird quirks (walking around barefoot, painstakingly monitoring when/where meeting leftovers will be, switching from relatively casual to business professional clothes on a whim) who have chosen to keep doing these things even after they’ve been jokingly brought up by others. That’s their prerogative; they would rather do these things than fit perfectly into what some people think the office culture is!

      Someone’s already mentioned this to your coworker, and he’s decided that he’d rather have 5 bagels than fit into your idea of professionalism. Since his behavior isn’t actually taking anything away from anyone else, I’m firmly in the “mind your own business” camp.

  22. Roscoe*

    #2 Yes, this is extremely petty, and I don’t see why you care at all. I wouldn’t think anything of someone eating more than others. In fact, I applaud the person for NOT caring what others thought. In many of my past jobs I worked in predominantly female departments. As the only guy, I tended to eat more. But I was so self conscious about it. But if I’m hungry, why not? You saying you don’t know how that person can eat so much. Maybe they are marathon training or doing something else that speeds up metabolism and keeps them hungry. Is your expectation that they leave food just so others not in the meeting can get some? If that person has to be in the meeting, they are entitled to whatever food that is there, assuming they arent’ keeping anyone else from getting their share.

    #5 . Whenever I’ve been involved with group hiring, we all filled out a “comment” sheet with our impressions first, then met later. Then everyone would share what they had on their sheets, and then discuss. I think the casual nature you seem to be implying does do what Allison said. If someone was on the fence on a candidate, then one person really hated them, I could see that tilting the on the fence person. And you don’t want the final decision maker to now have 2 people who don’t like him when it was really just one, and one convinced by the other not to like them.

    1. OP5*

      In the past organizations I mentioned, we did also do those score sheets right after the interview – then once all finalists had been seen, we’d meet as a group to talk them through. It tended to be a little less “I hate/love this candidate” and more like one person would say, “I had some concerns about X” and someone else might say “oh when I met with her, she addressed that in this way that satisfied me.”

    2. AMPG*

      But wait – if one interviewer really dislikes a candidate, and the other is on the fence, then it’s best for the organization for them to compare notes so that the fence-sitting interviewer can clarify their thinking. “I don’t know” isn’t helpful feedback for the person in charge of hiring, and as a supervisor, I would probably weigh the opinionated interviewer’s feedback more heavily as a result.

      Also, you shouldn’t have people involved in the interviewing process who can’t come to their own thoughtful opinions and either defend them or change them as the situation warrants.

      1. Roscoe*

        But let that person who is on the fence say their reasoning for being on the fence. Like “well, I think their personality would fit in really well, but I wish they had more experience in X”. You don’t want someone else who didn’t like them to influence the person because of it.

        1. AMPG*

          Like I said above, people who will just change their opinion randomly based on one conversation aren’t useful in this process anyway. If I can see pros and cons to someone, and then I talk to someone else who convinces me that the cons outweigh the pros due to information I hadn’t considered, then I think the system is working the way it should. But if I hear them out and still go to the hiring manager to say, “Here are my pros and cons; Sally thinks the cons are more relevant but I still want to point out the pros,” then that’s also useful.

    3. JessicaTate*

      Re #2 – Roscoe has a good point. I have become extremely empathetic about this situation, and I encourage all of us to stop being so judgy about other people’s food consumption. My partner is also a guy in a female-dominated field, and at food-focused work events he is always feeling both judged (about how much food he eats) and hungry (because he’s not getting / taking enough). He’s 6’3″ and an athlete. So, when he has to go to a company luncheon with all of his petite, female co-workers, he literally has to bring another lunch from home that he can surreptitiously eat later. And if he’s at some conference / continental breakfast situation (where he can’t have “first breakfast” at home), he needs two bagels, minimum.

      It’s been eye-opening to me over the years. He regularly gets teased by waitstaff at restaurants about having cleaned his plate or “I’ve never seen anyone finish that before.” I get offended on his behalf. So, while I think 4 or 5 bagels is extreme, and I might raise an eyebrow to myself… I’ve just come to realize that it’s not hurting me or anyone else, so it’s a big ol’ “let it go.”

  23. Guy Incognito*

    OP 2, I’m kind of curious… what are you focusing on in the meetings if you have time to regulate how much each person is eating? Perhaps you should focus on the meeting instead of what everyone else is doing.

    1. Snark*

      This is unkind and unnecessary. One notices what other meeting attendees are doing, particularly if they’re getting up every 10-15 minutes, grabbing a bagel, cream cheesing it, and eating it. You would notice that too, even if it were the most compelling meeting you’d ever attended. Let’s not get weird about this one.

    2. Murphy*

      The whole point of OP’s question is that what he’s doing is noticeable (and by people other than OP) and not necessarily positively so. If it wasn’t noticeable, it wouldn’t be an issue.

  24. Workfromhome*

    #1 This is all good advice. I would agree that maybe this is the way the boss works and you wont entirely change it to something different. That said I think you can shape it and make it work better for you by the way you frame it.

    If you say (and there needs to be some truth to this which I assume there is): “Hey boss customers have expressed a preference not to be contacted multiple times. They would prefer to answer all our questions in one call or sitting. Since you often send multiple questions a few minutes apart would you prefer to send them all in one email so I only call the customer once or would it work better if I assume than when I receive one question there will be more ? That way I will wait say 30 minutes after your first email until I contact the customer. I want to be as responsive as possible to your questions ,ensure I do not miss anything and to the customer preferences. So which would work best? ” Its important to make the request about something besides your own preferences 9even if its legitimate to feel that way)
    Sometimes we assume we know what the boss wants. That we need to act on the questions as fast as we can when they come in. Maybe that doesn’t really matter and waiting 30 minutes for all the questions to come in doesn’t matter.

    There were some other good suggestions that would help this approach that wouldn’t require much effort from the boss such as keeping all the questions in one thread. So rather than creating a separate email for each question which is more time consuming once the first one is created boss could just reply to his own email and when the thread finally “stops” you can reply back to each question essentially in one email.

  25. MuseumChick*

    OP 2, it might be a kindness to have a short conversation with this employee about the optics of taking 4 -5 bagels. You could frame it as something like “This is one of those weird things in the working world/this office that has no logical bases but can still make a person *appear* unprofessional.” He might push back, but then at least you’ve tried to give him a lesson that many of us don’t get when we first enter the working world: some things don’t make sense but still have repercussions.

    We have an employee here who, after eating will take two full plates for food home. This isn’t a case of food insecurity, he’s just an eater and doesn’t seem to notice the raised eyebrows he gets for it. Again, there is nothing objectively wrong, but it’s just something out of the norm/not done here.

    1. Anon for now*

      I have a coworker who makes up a plate for his girlfriend. He gets there early to make sure that he can do that and we always run out of food. It wouldn’t bother me if he did it at the end, but let the meeting participants have theirs first!

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      Nope! Been there done that had the PIP to prove it.

      Seey comment above for details but if you are not the manager don’t say anything to the guy about the bagels.

    3. Willow*

      I think this is something the manager should do and only if several people complain about it, if it’s really that big of a problem.

  26. watersquirrel*

    OP1 – In my case I’m the underwriter, and I will get a sling of questions from brokers. It’s incredibly annoying. It seems like your boss just sends out email once she comes to a question instead of reviewing the whole file and then sending questions. UGH! What an inefficient way of working, but like Allison said, I don’t think you can do much about this. But I feel ya!

  27. E*

    #2 – I’m rather struck by the fact that in other instances of food monitoring coworkers, the comments tend toward telling them to mind their own business. Sure, this guy appears to be eating more than his share possibly. But I don’t think it’s the letter writer’s place to necessarily say anything. Maybe just take a moment to admit internally that it’s odd, but if it’s a problem that a manager will handle it. Otherwise, no need to comment on what other folks’ eat, whether it’s 5 bagels or salad or diet shakes. Not relevant to how well they do their job.

    1. Myrin*

      I actually think that here, too, the consensus is for OP to mind her own business (I’m seeing only one comment straying from that, although I might’ve missed something). People are just discussing among themselves how they would view coworker’s behaviour, not that OP should approach him or anything.

    2. lapgiraffe*

      The difference is a matter of timing, eating that much during a meeting is distracting compared to eating whatever you want at lunch or while you’re at your desk. The question isn’t whether to tell a coworker your personal thoughts on their diet, but rather whether to tell them it’s not the time and place and that they’re drawing attention to themselves and distracting others when the purpose of the time is to be focused on other things.

      There’s also a layer of socializing that goes back to kindergarten, “don’t take more than your fair share,” but even then it’s not about *what* the employee is eating, but rather how they are violating a social norm that, agree or not, seems to be de rigueur in this particular office.

      Now if the employee brought in a bag of bagels and ate them all at they’re desk and the writer was like “my coworker eats a million bagels a week and it bothers me” then yes, that’s a moment to say “not your business, let them have their bagels and get on with your day.”

    3. Shamy*

      I was actually sitting here thinking I clearly don’t pay enough attention to how much people eat, and if I notice, it doesn’t occur to me to care. And I’m a dietitian! Bad dietitian! But when I’m not on, I give it no thought, especially, if everyone else has gotten some and this person is just going back.

  28. Kix*

    I may sound a bit reactionary, and it’s likely because I work in a culture where colleagues seem to make it their life’s mission to be the food police/food monitor, but does it really matter how much this person is eating as long as he’s not depriving fellow attendees of their share of food? My experience is that some people don’t like to eat at meetings, and other like to eat a lot at meetings. As long as he’s not first in line gobbling everything in sight, I don’t find this troublesome unless there are larger concerns such as food insecurity or an eating disorder. Frankly, I’m happy when people enjoy the food. Please take as much as you want.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      I was thinking about this as not being a big deal, but I think more context is needed.

      The guy waits until everyone has had a serving, but is he waiting a reasonable time to make sure no one wants a second helping? Is his first serving (and subsequent servings) the same as everyone else’s? So he takes one bagel and everyone else takes one bagel. He doesn’t take three initially and everyone takes one.

      I’ve not seen these scenarios play out in an office but I have seen them play out at potlucks and what not. In any case, people need to specify why this is a problem (if it is). It looks kind of petty otherwise.

  29. Anonymous48*

    I work in an insurance agency with commercial insureds. This is a VERY typical example of producers’ styles. I’d recommend getting used to it and leaning to work around it.

    1. Anon OP*

      OP 1 here. This person is not a producer, just someone who handles quoting. To me it seems like they’re quoting with multiple carriers at once and sending a separate email for each company, which I get to some extent. Company A wanted this info, it’s in this email. Company B wanted different info which is now in a separate email. But a lot of companies want the same info and it’s frustrating to resend info that’s already has been provided.

      I’ve worked at other agencies and I’ve never received a barrage of emails like this. I could also understand the back and forth for new business but these are all remarkets.

      1. Kristy*

        I posted below. I’m a commercial insurance agent and part of my job is rating.

        Your rater is probably quoting multiple carriers at the same time, and each of those carriers may have questions. I wouldn’t sit on questions that need to be answered just to reduce your incoming mail.

        Why would you think that you would need less information on a remarket? Businesses change all the time. They start doing new projects, sales can go up or down, they aren’t doing some of their services anymore.

        To protect your E&O, you should be updating every policy every renewal.

        Also, it doesn’t matter how things worked at your old agencies, this is how this one works.

  30. watersquirrel*

    OP4: I suffer from bulimia, and I had to go out on medical leave for treatment. I did not disclose why. Unfortunately, the following year I had to go out again, but this time I told my manager, and it actually made things better! I was kind of surprised, but my schedule of dr appointments and the unknown nature of exactly when I would go out on leave and when I would return (as opposed to having surgery or something wtih a set date) made a lot more sense. I do still worry that it will affect his impression of me, but I can point to years of successfully working with this very condition and no one noticed anything amiss then….

  31. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    OP #1 – If you need a record of the question and its response from clients, can you set up some kind of tracking system, like a shared spreadsheet or OneNote or something like that? It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it would be a more central location to put questions with a timestamp that you can reference later.

    If your company has a policy about email being the only “official” tool for this type of work, then my suggestion would be to send all her emails to a folder instead of just hanging around in your main inbox, and work on them in groups. You could also just use an app like OneNote or a Word document to keep track of all of it for your own benefit, if that kind of thing helps you.

    1. Anon OP*

      Thanks for the suggestions! We have an agency database where we log all communications and correspondence. So once I get the info from the client, I log it and can refer to it later as needed. A lot of the info repeats from year to year but some of it changes and we need to get updates from the client. However, my manager doesn’t really utilize the database. I log all my correspondence with my manager so that’s not a problem but if my manager contacts another party and doesn’t log the info, I have no idea what transpired on their end.

      We don’t have a strict policy about email being the official tool but since my manager is asking for items that party A needs and I have to contact party B for it, it’s helpful for me and my colleagues to have it in writing to reference.

  32. ChemTech*

    #4 It may be a good idea to reach out to your manager about it as that will potentially kick in FMLA (at least in the US) job protections, especially if your health condition requires regular time off or affects your job performance.

  33. CM Gnilppink*

    LW#1: Ask your IT if they have licenses or would consider purchasing a tool like Chatter or Yammer. She can send real time comments in a space that has the chain of thoughts in one area, not 20+ emails.

  34. Allison*

    #2, as long as he waits for everyone to have some before going back for more, I don’t really see a problem with this. I mean, ideally he should pace himself between seconds and thirds and see who else might want seconds, and it is generally a good idea to eat in accordance with the rest of the room (especially when you’re new), but when it comes to food at work, people need to worry about themselves and not comment on what or how much others are eating. Food can be a really sensitive topic! Some people are food insecure (or have been in the past), some are dealing with disordered eating, some people just don’t like being told what to eat. I generally feel okay about myself, but any time someone tells me I should eat less, it makes me feel awful and can put me on the defensive, which has caused conversations about my diet to get really out of hand if I’m already having a bad day (“wow you’re rude, I was just trying to help!”).

    His manager, or maybe the leader of the meeting, could in theory speak with him privately about waiting a little longer between his third and fourth bagel to make sure others are able to get seconds and whatnot, but that’s it, as a peer you don’t have standing to advise him on food etiquette.

  35. Joielle*

    Regardless of what may or may not be going on with the bagel-eating coworker, it’s disgusting to chew your way through an entire meeting. Once other people have finished eating, the sound of their own chewing is no longer distracting them from the sound of your chewing. Even if the coworker is a quiet chewer, the people sitting next to him will be able to hear it, and anyone sitting across from him will be able to see it. I know I’d start to think of him as a gross boor.

  36. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    …tell me I’m not crazy, but someone actually commented on another Office Eater post with Letter 2, right? I’m not imagining this?

    (LW2, I’m not questioning you, I just feel like I’ve seen your exact situation before!)

    But anyway. Aside from being impressed that he has the ability to regularly house five bagels in a sitting (That’s…a lot of carbs), I do have to wonder if he’s eating outside of work. People can be surprisingly food insecure. Otherwise, he’s likely carrying over habits from college, where I think that behavior is less frowned upon.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t recall the comment, but simple carbs arouse a lot of passion–“Fergus is eating the potential leftover bagels! What will Bob do for afternoon snack?!!” seems to be a common human emotion.

      1. Roscoe*

        I know. That is just weird to me. Its like “Our marketing department had a lunch meeting, but what about Jane in accounting? She is waiting for those leftovers” . It just seems weird. Jane can have leftovers if there is stuff left over. IF there isn’t, Jane can get her own lunch

        1. tangerineRose*

          Maybe this is more about someone wanting a second bagel who can’t have one because Fergus grabbed 4-5 of them.

      2. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        I mean, a lot of people are concerned about equality! It’s not so much that Fergus is eating all the bagels per se, it’s that Fergus is eating so many more bagels than everyone else. And that might be what LW2 is reacting to.

        Also, I swear there was another post about a dude that basically crushed every office food thing and someone commented about their guy that routinely ate five bagels at meetings! I’ll have to look it up when I go on break.

        1. Anon for now*

          Equality isn’t always best though. If most people eat one and are full it doesn’t mean that one bagel will make everyone feel full. If there are enough and he needs four or five to feel full then it isn’t an issue. The issue comes if he is preventing others from getting enough. The goal should be equal outcome (i.e. everyone is full).

          1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

            I mean, you’re right. But also, people take note of unusual behavior and…like, a lot of people do moderate their consumption to the norms of the group. (That’s an entirely different discussion though!)

            Basically, I think it’s understandable that LW2 is reacting to Fergus eating five bagels in a sitting because he’s breaking a fairly common convention. But also, at the end of the day it’s not really important unless people are being deprived by his gluttony, which it doesn’t sound like they are (despite his best efforts, there are still leftovers!)

  37. MLB*

    #1 – do you use an instant messenger at work? We use Skype, and Outlook automatically saves conversations. If that’s the case for you, you could ask her to start sending these questions via IM. That way she can ask you questions as they come to her, you can give her a few minutes to get them all out (or answer them one at a time as she sends them) and all of it will be saved the same as an email. If that’s not an option, yes it’s a pain, but it’s something you have to learn to accept. And as others have said, give her 5-10 minutes so you have them all at one time before answering.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Came to suggest this. If there are lots of questions that could, were she not remote, be answered by stopping by your desk, then instant messenger seems a much better tool for this.

      1. Anon OP*

        These questions could not be answered in person were my manager not remote. A lot of these questions must be answered by our clients so I have to flip them to someone else so I don’t think IM would work for this reason.

  38. StressedButOkay*

    OP#2, I think AAM is right – the only people who could or should actually say anything is his direct supervisor. If it’s that much of a bother – and I’m talking meeting disruption, not staff getting irritated by the amount he’s eating – then a possible solution would be to order less food.

    When we run meetings, we get a headcount of the attendees to submit to admin and then they had on an imaginary 3-4 extra to that headcount to make sure there’s enough food to cover the attendees and possibly an extra person should they join at the last minute. Then the small amounts of leftovers are put in the kitchen for staff. We started doing that not because we were policing what people ate but because we have a ton of Friday meetings and we were wasting a lot of food by ordering far too much.

    But, again, this is a solution only if his supervisor is concerned and if it’s an actual disruption of the meeting. We all have had those coworkers who have habits that are a little mind boggling but that we leave alone at the end of the day.

  39. rageismycaffeine*

    OP4, I feel your pain so very much, as I’m struggling with similar things at the moment. If you are in the US, remember that mental illness is covered under the ADA, and it is something you can take FMLA for if need be. I found myself needing to use FMLA when I was transitioning from one medication to another late last year, and may be looking at doing so again this year with some of my ongoing struggles.

    In my case, I have been open and honest with managers about the nature of my issues, without detriment. However, I also had a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment that exacerbated those existing issues, and it’s possible that the perception of cancer as a “real” illness (where mental health is “not real” in too many people’s perceptions) helped to ameliorate any potential negative impact.

    Remember that if you need to file FMLA, the form your doctor fills out will only go to HR, and your boss has no need, or right, to know the details.

    I wish you all the best.

    1. An HR person*

      All good things said here about the ADA and mental illness.

      Another thing to consider is seeking a workplace accommodation for your mental disability, if simply taking time off wouldn’t solve the problem for you. An accommodation request could look differently for everybody, but I’ll share my situation with you.

      I have Major Depressive Disorder, and often struggle with “getting moving” in the morning – physically getting out of bed, taking care of personal hygiene, preparing food, etc. However, my job can mostly (80% or so) be done remotely on my laptop, so I requested an accommodation for “occasional teleworking.” This has been a huge relief for me. On mornings where I struggle, I can simply roll over and grab my laptop and begin working without the drain of getting ready and commuting to work and being surrounded by co-workers. My request was a reasonable one and did not cause a hardship to my manager, team or clients I support, so it’s truly a win-win. And sometimes, after a few hours of getting my brain “warmed up” on my laptop, the depression fog clears and I feel up to going into the office for the latter half of the day. To me this was a better option than just taking FMLA leave.

      That being said, I did NOT disclose to my employer WHAT my medical condition/disability was. I simply expressed that I suffer from a disability that can affect my energy levels and ability to come into the office on time. With supporting paperwork from my doctor that was kept in confidence, the accommodation was granted without question. I wasn’t worried about the stigma of mental health, but I simply felt it was none of their dang business to know more than necessary to grant an accommodation.

      Consider other accommodation options that could best-fit your situation: a desk removed from large crowds of people, an office with a door to keep things quiet, working with headphones to play soft music, etc. Whatever you think may work for you, as long as it is reasonable by definition, most employers would be happy to work with you.

      Best of luck, and please take care.

      1. EJane*

        Oh god please share your ADA/accommodations wisdom with me.
        I dream of a job that allows this kind of flexibility. I’m 25, a temp (though consistently on 6mo-year assignments within the same hospital) and have MDD, GAD, and what’s starting to look like a panic disorder. I first got sick about seven or eight years ago. I know that requesting accommodations is a right, but as a temp? everything is more complicated.
        It’s made triply more complicated by the fact that my big “tell” at work is panic attacks. I can control them well enough that I can keep the screaming internal, but on the outside it looks like I’m totally shut down, which makes me look like a sullen child. I also fall into repetitive motions; it used to be rocking back and forth (THAT WENT OVER WELL IN PUBLIC) and now I just rub the back of my left hand–which would be fine if I wasn’t literally rubbing away the top layers of skin and giving myself second-degree friction burns.
        I currently have a really great one on the back of my wrist, which is still in the building-new-skin stage. It’s a good look.

        I cope with this outside of work by going everywhere with my service dog. He would come with me to previous dog-friendly assignments under the guise of him being a pet and not an aid, but I haven’t had him with me at work for about a year, and I’ve had multiple moments in the last couple of weeks where I’ve longed to have him around.

        On the bright side, I’m good in a pinch. (my attacks don’t set in until after the stressor is over. [?????]) I’m a fast learner, attentive, can operate independently, good at taking feedback, have consistently had really rave reviews from managers, and can hold my own.
        I just occasionally have to go curl up in a tight space and shake for an hour.

        How do I even begin approaching that? My brain is getting worse, not better–my doctor, bless her soul, ran out of ideas and has referred me to specialists, and I’m resorting to reiki and other less-scientific options–and taking my memory with it. I’m struggling, and all of this would be made easier if I had my service dog with me–but service dog. And admitting to mental illness.

        Wow, apparently I needed to vent. My apologies.

        1. An HR person*

          Hi EJane. Venting is great, isn’t it?!

          May I ask why you are choosing not to bring your service dog to work with you? This seems like a great solution for you, without needing to disclose the WHY behind him/her.

          Also, have you talked to your temp agency or reviewed their policies? You may have more support here than you realize.

          Shoot me an email if you’d like to chat. I’m no expert, but I’m in the middle of this whole mental-illness-at-work thing, and trying to take each day as it comes. I also work in HR, so I see (at a very high level) situations where employees take leaves of absence, take PTO, request accommodations, etc. on a very regular basis. It’s more normal and regular than people think, we just don’t “see” it (as it should be, for privacy!)

          1. EJane*

            I’m… well, I’m really concerned that it will undermine my credibility. I don’t see any other service dogs in the hospital–though I did some research, and read stories from, for instance, an internal medicine fellow who had a service dog for PTSD and received just astounding support from his work and the teaching hospital–and he mentioned a lot of research about dogs in hospitals, including (amusingly) the fact that dogs can, if they’re gowned up, be in ORs without causing a significant infection risk. So, as an admin, it wouldn’t be a plausible cause of hygiene concern…

            I’m sure this is tied to the stigma around mental illness–no one would look twice at a service dog for someone with a visible disability–but I’m really so very scared that I will be less valuable if I come with a service dog.

            He’s still in training, but he’s such a good, good boy, and he’s only a few months from passing the IAD PAT, or something similar.

  40. Jaybeetee*

    For #2, I also went to “food insecurity” of some kind, based on the guy’s age, and well, if he’s eating 5 bagels in a go, he’s probably hungry. I’ve never been to the point of missing meals, but in the past I have more or less lived on ramen and have gone to food banks. I wouldn’t be so obvious as to take 5 of something offered at work, but I certainly snuck out a few leftovers in my time. (I worked one three-month contract at a miserable job, but they kept the break room *very* well-stocked, to the point where you could easily eat breakfast, lunch, drinks and snacks from what they had there and no one would raise an eyebrow. Additionally, they were always having catered meetings so there were often extra goodies around as well. I joked that I saved a fortune on groceries during that time).

    Anyway, with that idea in mind, if his manager is *aware* of this and not saying anything, I don’t think it’s your place to say anything either. At most, I might suggest to him that if there are off-site/external meetings with food, that he slow his roll at those, because yeah, that could look bad.

  41. blink14*

    OP #2 – I’m at a large university and leftover food (or any food, really) is a seen as a big perk, verging on Hunger Games style as the vultures descend on leftovers. For more casual meetings/workshops with leftovers, it’s acceptable to bring in plastic containers to take an extra serving or two, AFTER the meeting is over. I regularly end up with an extra lunch or two after my departmental meetings. Leftovers are shared within and across departments, depending on who you’re located with. Each department is responsible for it’s own catering, so it’s encouraged for people to finish whatever food remains, because the department has paid for it. It’s unspoken that at more formal functions, taking leftovers is bad form.

    As long as everyone has gotten one serving, I don’t see the problem with going back for seconds. I do think taking more than a second serving during a meeting can be a bit rude. Stocking up on leftovers after can go both ways – anyone not attending the meeting isn’t really entitled to the leftovers, but taking a significant portion of what’s left can been seen as greedy and self centered. It’s a tough line, but I think your co-worker doesn’t have bad intentions, he just is probably truly hungry or maybe even short on money and views the extra food as a way to get through the day. Let his boss handle it, if they get complaints and/or find it unprofessional or tacky.

    However, if he takes all this food, and doesn’t eat it, THAT it something to have a problem with, I certainly would.

    1. Carrie*

      I work with a lot of recently graduated PhDs and this is a constant issue. They take the grad school free food perk and move it into the professional world and it just seems odd. The CEO actually had to send an email about not take leftovers from other department meetings and everyone could tell he was super annoyed to have to even address the issue.

      I think it would be a kindness to casually mention taking 4-5 bagels is weird.

      1. blink14*

        I came from the professional world to the academic world, and I definitely was thrown off the amount of free food around. Not that I’m complaining! But it is definitely a cultural thing in academia that may not translate well in other industries.

  42. Estraven*

    I am saddened to read all the comments from people who feel they cannot be open about mental illness at work. I am very lucky to work for a company that walks the walk as well as talks the talk about the importance of mental health, and that supports colleagues with anxiety, depression, bipolar etc and doesn’t discriminate when it comes to raises and promotions. A senior colleague, who has been hospitalised in the past, has given chats during our Wellness Weeks speaking frankly about her difficulties and what she finds works for her to manage them. And at a team meeting recently I had a very open and honest conversation with a senior manager about our respective mental health issues, and the impact on the way we work. It seems to me to be a really healthy approach.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is a very healthy approach and hopefully one that more companies will embrace in order to reduce the societal stigma against mental health issues.

  43. Borgney*

    OP #1 – I work the way your boss works. Inevitably when I send an email with multiple parts (1, 2, 3, 4) I get answers to 1 and 3 but 2 and 4 are ignored, or misread and the answers aren’t applicable. Or the answers come in 4 separate emails, that I then have to track because the emails have the same subject lines. She’s been burned multiple times sending emails the way you prefer, and to get her work done this is her approach.

    1. Snark*

      This is my guess. It’s frustrating to be on the other side of it, but I’ve had so many multi-issue emails that get answered with “yes” that I generally stick to one subject per email.

    2. CM*

      Yes, or sometimes people do this so they can look back later and quickly confirm that a particular issue has been handled without reading through a whole email thread.

      I get that this is annoying, but I really would not talk to the boss about this. I’d take Alison’s suggestion of waiting a bit before responding, so you give her time to send all her emails. Adjust to her approach and save the “hey boss, can you change the way you do things” conversation for issues that have a greater impact on you.

    3. MF*

      The best way I’ve found around this is to bullet point or number your questions. It prevents people from replying with a single answer (“Yes.”) or just responding to the first question.

  44. Anonforthis*

    If having food at an office meeting is causing this much angst, maybe stop having food? Seriously, if you’re not paying for the bagels and everyone is getting a bagel, yes, it’s kind of weird/annoying, but it’s really not that big of a deal.

    I had a former coworker who was nearly 7 feet tall and required about three times the amount of food one might consider a ‘normal’ serving. We all knew he ate more than anyone else, he would wait until other people got food first, and everyone knew to offer him their leftovers if they had half a sandwich or a bagel or fries left or whatever, and he would happily vacuum up whatever was left over.

  45. Troutwaxer*

    For OP1 I’ll note that I very quickly make a determination about how someone handles emails. Some of the people I work with can handle multiple issues in one email, while others can only answer a single question per email. Once I know someone’s style I email them in the appropriate fashion… I’m not sure this applies to you, but you might make sure that you’re addressing all the issues in a particular email.

  46. Bookworm*

    “I have a coworker who is pretty young (early 20s) who, when food such as bagels or muffins are brought into a meeting, has been known to grab four to five of them. ”

    A couple of possibilities here: Is the co-worker also in an entry-level/not exactly great position? It could be that he/she needs the extra food. The person could have an eating disorder. He/she might also be taking them to hand out to the homeless or someone less fortunate.

    I do get it, it’s annoying but unless it’s to the point where your colleague is taking so much that others don’t get one on the first go, it’s really for the supervisor to bring it up.

    1. ThatAspie*

      Also he could be on Risperdal or something. I remember, back when I was on Risperdal as a kid, one of the side effects was near-constant hunger. I could eat four or five breakfasts, plus snacks, and still need food. If I didn’t eat right at the first sign of hunger, I would throw up bile. It was terrible.

  47. lapgiraffe*

    #3 I’ve been in your shoes, and I agree it’s tricky. Even though you’re not an on paper manager, AAM is right that your seniority counts for something. I’d even say that you should act like the lead person on the floor, delegate tasks and give feedback and speak up if you see something unprofessional. It’s all about tone – keep it neutral and talk about it in we terms, almost like you’re verbalizing the to-do list including your own role. You’re keeping the train moving on schedule and your bosses have made clear that a job duty of yours is to model the behavior expected in this position.

    Having your boss’s support should boost your confidence, and don’t be afraid to follow up to make sure that conversation with the other employees about duties and expectations actually happened. Until these other employees complain about you being bossy but not their boss, just assume that you are more seasoned and your bosses expect you to pass down the knowledge and experience you’ve garnered.

    1. CM*

      Agreed! You do have authority over them even if you’re not their manager, and your boss has even confirmed this. You don’t have to say “Catelyn thinks…” when you’re giving them feedback on how to do their jobs.

  48. AMPG*

    OP #4: Just wanted to throw some sympathy your way. I’ve also dealt with depression for my entire adult life, although I haven’t always needed to be in active treatment, and lately between personal stresses and the general state of the world I feel like I just can’t cope at all. I’m generally a good worker, but only because I usually have enough slack in my workday that I can lose an hour or two freaking out over whatever the latest news is. But if I could focus all day I would get so much more done, and I hate it.

  49. Bob*

    OP4: I took a couple months of leave a few months back for mental illness. It started with just intermittent leave, but quickly turned into more and I had to take full-time leave and had to keep extending it. I ended up needing inpatient treatment and then daily outpatient treatment. I told my work at the beginning of it that I had a “chronic health condition” and was having a flare-up so may need to use FMLA for a short time. I had even told them that I didn’t think it would be a significant amount of time and that I would likely be able to maintain full-time work if I could have a flexible schedule. Knowing now what it turned into, I am so so glad that I didn’t disclose that it was mental health-related at the beginning. Needing to take a couple hours off here and there may be more accepted, but you never know if you’ll experience something more severe and that can have a very different response. Even with the amount of leave I’ve needed, I have noticed my supervisor being hesitant to assign me work out of a sense of protecting me from stress (and less so not knowing if I’ll need more leave – nothing time-sensitive which makes sense). Yes, it has been awkward with people being worried with the amount of leave I’ve needed, needing to be in the hospital (I disclosed to explain not being accessible, which I wouldn’t recommend), as well as losing a lot of weight due to lost appetite. My vague answers and the fact that it didn’t fit within the culture to be private about serious health conditions has been strange. The speculation of cancer or other serious and potentially terminal physical illnesses have made me tempted to quell rumors, but now it would be even riskier to disclose that all of this was due to mental health (nevermind that mental illness can be equally life-threatening). My work theoretically is amazing regarding mental health and has all kinds of policies and culture around it being okay, but there are only a couple people I know who have been open about anything other than situational depression or anxiety – it seems encouraged to talk about mental wellness and self-care, but actual mental illness is only talked about as a theoretical thing and the chances of it backfiring seem high. People treating you as fragile, discrediting your input, people overinterpreting every bad day or shift in mood, etc. – even if subconsciously – it’s not worth it.

  50. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#2…I agree with Alison…leave this alone. But your letter reminded me of something a good friend did while he worked in a public accounting as a CPA (not admin…he was well paid). He said that whenever food was brought in, he’d wait for everyone to get some, wait until the meeting was over, and ask if anyone wanted anything else and if they didn’t, he’d do something similar to your employee….take like a half dozen bagels. He would take them home and eat them over the next few days. His reason? He is EXTREMELY frugal….like to the point that he could retire right now (at age 35!) if he wanted. He is like a hair shy of those extreme couponing people on TV. He continues to live this way now in virtually every aspect of his life. Everyone who knows him jokes about it.

    I relay this story because it turns out that one of the partners at the firm witnessed him do this numerous times and had an issue with it, so much so, that he told my friend that he needed to knock it off. My friend reminded him that any unclaimed food was thrown away. This didn’t change the partner’s feelings about it. He felt that my friend was taking advantage. My friend left not too long after the partner finally confronted him, but things were certainly icy until he left. If a similar situation could occur at your workplace and it might offend someone, maybe you’d want to give the co-worker a heads up about the optics of what he’s doing.

    I would add that if he is not well compensated or known to be struggling financially, I’d consider that and not say a word to him out of fear of embarrassing him.

  51. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: I had a supervisor once who would send one question or suggestion per email, even if the ideas or questions were related, and it drove me nuts. I asked her to please organize her idea and send, maybe not one, but fewer emails so that I would be less likely to lose track of them as emails piled up. When she finally learned to do it, I didn’t have such a swamp of emails and she got better answers because things were less out of context and I was less likely to lose track of her questions. I suspect it also made her think through things more before she just typed off stream-of-consciousness emails.

    1. loslothluin*

      My biggest pet peeve with work emails is when I ask my boss “do you want _________ or ____________”, and his response is “yes.”

  52. Dust Bunny*

    Re: Bagels and muffins.

    This would not go over well at my workplace. Uneaten event food goes into the break room for the benefit of after-hours and weekend staff, who always miss out on parties/meetings/etc. Stuffing your purse would definitely earn you some side-eye. But I guess different offices do things differently.

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      He’s not stuffing his purse. He’s stuffing his stomach. Would four bagels down the hatch get the same side-eye at your workplace.

  53. loslothluin*

    My sister has a coworker (a nurse) that takes all the food when reps bring it to the office. Like, she will literally take all of it and hide it at her desk before anyone can get anything, and they have to go get it back. This coworker has also been known to dig half eaten pizza out of the garbage and eat it. My sister tried to schedule the food deliveries for when this woman isn’t there so they don’t have to worry about playing “hide and go seek” with the food.

    She also crapped on herself once and was running around in the back with no pants on and flashing all of the other workers. My sister said the office manager won’t do anything nor will any of the doctors.

    I’m still amazed she still has a job, tbh.

  54. Delphine*

    It’s hard to know without more information what the real problem is in Letter #2, because right now it just feels like people are trying to find polite ways to say that the bagel eater is greedy and therefore unprofessional. But if there are no portion rules laid out, you may eventually get a person who wants to eat more than one or two. Is that bad manners/a bit inconsiderate? Perhaps. Is it something for a manager or coworker to correct? Maybe not. Without more information on the kind of problems this is causing, whether it’s disruptive, and how it’s affecting the bagel eater’s reputation, it’s tough to say.

    We have weird hangups about food in this society, particularly when we think someone is eating too much, and I don’t think policing someone’s food choices/intake is useful. Correct the actual problematic behavior…just eating too much isn’t that.

    1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      But it’s this almost meta thing where the fact that we have hangups about it makes it a problem!

      It’s like…dramatically changing your appearance mid workday. Technically it should have no effect on your work but because you’re freaking the mundane, it becomes an issue.

      I kind of spun around on letter 2 because I’m kind of in personal agreement with LW2 in that it’s excessive (and having been a twenty-four year old guy not too long ago, that’s saying something), but also if he has the ability to absolutely wreck the bagel spread on a regular basis without causing other participants to be deprived and that makes him happy, he should live his truth. But also, it does sound like it’s affecting his reputation at least somewhat. People are pointing out his behavior is inappropriate.

      This is more of an advice situation than a reprimand situation, and it’s a little unfortunate that it is an issue. But he should know as nicely as possible that his ability to make carbs disappear into his mouth is not impressing a lot of people. And LW2 might not be able to do it, especially if he’s at BEC (and bagels and muffins and anything else remotely edible at meetings) stage with her.

    1. Louise*

      :( we’re sorry Alison. You’re an amazing online community manager, and I think sometimes we get carried away trying to be white knights defending its honor, and end up mussing everything up worse anyway.

  55. DevoKelsey*

    For OP #1, I had a similar issue with a co-worker at a former job. I worked in non-profit fundraising and would have to reconcile my records with our Finance Department at the end of every month. If we ran into a discrepancy, the bookkeeper I worked with would fire off an email each time, resulting in me having at least 5 emails when I returned to my computer. We worked out a system where she would have the email open the whole time and add those questions and concerns as we went along, so that she would only send my one email with all of her questions. I obviously had a little bit more control in the situation since we were both in the office, but maybe your boss could do something similar where she keeps an email or document open and records her questions and concerns and only sends it at the end of the day. This barring and emergency question, of course! I’m not sure if that strategy would work with her work style, but it’s something that I empathize with and realize how annoying and stressful it can be when someone is constantly interrupting your work flow due to several non-urgent queries.

  56. Kristy*


    I do this. I work in commercial insurance and part of my job is to help people quote.

    Usually when I’m sending someone lots of emails, its because I need a lot of information when I quote. This mostly happens with the people not used to quoting commercial.

    When we quote commercial insurance, we need to know a lot of information about the business. Are you sure that you are getting the correct information to your rater? Every business is different and sometimes I have follow up questions.

    So far, the only solution I’ve come up with is to have agents fill out ACORDs. You might still get some follow up questions, but the number will probably be reduced.

    1. Kristy*

      I should add, often I don’t know what information I’m missing until I start quoting. And I can’t get a complete quote without the information.

      I’ll also sometimes have to explain the business to my underwriters, who sometimes have more question, which I pass along to the agent.

  57. McWhadden*

    I don’t do what the employee in #1 does. But I will say when I email my boss several questions he often only answers some. I know if I sent them individually he’d be answer each but it would also annoy him (as he doesn’t consciously realize what he’s doing.) I am sure OP doesn’t do that but the employee may have started doing it this way because of someone who did.

  58. Kat*

    OP#1: I have actually heard of some people recommending that emails be kept short and concise, to the point where each email should only have one key message. Perhaps your manager feels that it’s keeping with that kind of advice to ask restrict each email to asking only one question.

    I have definitely had annoying experiences where I’ve asked 2-3 questions in an email, and the reply has included only responses to 1-2 of the questions. That makes me think my original email was too “scattered” in its focus, and the recipient could only concentrate on 1-2 key points. I’ve dealt with this by clearly numbering questions in emails where appropriate, but sometimes it isn’t always appropriate.

    If the numbering system resonates with you, you could try collecting all responses in an email and numbering them in chronological order of when they came through. Your manager might respond to that cue and start to include multiple numbered questions in her emails.

    The other explanation is that your manager’s email inbox is set up as her to-do list, so if she needs to action some information from an email, she can keep that flagged, but if an email includes multiple pieces of information, some of which require an action on her end and others which don’t, that confuses her. This may be why she sets it up so that each email contains only one piece of information. It’s not a great to-do list system but it’s not unheard of!

  59. Food Orderer for Meetings*

    I`ve been the one to order food for meetings. When ordering bagels for meetings it is planned on ONE bagel per person. The extra bagels are to account for unexpected attendees and to give everyone a choice. Also, there might be a few extra because of ordering a deal instead of per bagel. When bagels ste provided it is not inteded to be your breakfast meal if you are a bottomless pit. Your serving is one bagel. Few people would think twice about someone taking a second bagel occationally. Usually these meetings are during normal working hours or within an hour of them. If the serving of food is not enough for you eat before the meeting. I have had back to back meetings and use the leftover bagels from the first meeting for the second. This could really mess up the person who is in charge of the food. I know I would find out the number of attendees and order just enough plain bagels for the group. When asked why I would let them know the generosity of our emploeyer was being abused by a few.

  60. ThatAspie*

    On the bagel guy…we also don’t know the whole story. Perhaps he is on Risperdal. Maybe he can’t afford food at home. Or maybe he has Prader-Willi syndrome. Or perhaps binge-eating disorder. Maybe he can afford food for home, but can’t buy lunch out. Maybe he’s stashing some away secretly to share with someone. Who knows?

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