allergic coworker’s food demands, office-borrowing etiquette, and more

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

1. My allergic colleague has food demands I can’t meet

One of my job responsibilities is planning and ordering catering for all of my office’s meetings, trainings, gatherings, and the annual regional corporate holiday party. I’ve taken account of everyone’s dietary restrictions, and I make sure that the restaurants or catering companies always adhere to these specifications and restrictions, whether they are ethical, religious, or allergy. I send a menu out to those with restrictions and make sure that they feel they have enough to eat and are taken care of adequately. Most of them respond quickly with any changes they might need and thank me for looking out for them. I feel it’s my job to look out for these things, but always appreciate some appreciation!

One person (Chandler) does the exact opposite. Chandler’s dietary restriction is a severe allergy. Most recently, I asked him to look through the menu for an upcoming event, pick which item he wanted, and I’d ask catering to make it differently to take care of his needs. He refused. Instead, he asked me to just change the menu completely so that he wouldn’t have to eat a separate thing. The change I was asking them to make was as simple as “Please use brown rice instead of white rice,” but the change he was asking me to make was more like serving beef stew instead of salmon.

This has been an ongoing struggle. I order sandwiches for everyone, and have Chandler’s made separately and wrapped separately to avoid cross contamination, and he makes a face and complains that it is separate! I’ve clarified and confirmed exactly the extent of the issue, so I don’t think I am going overboard here. I get that nobody wants to feel separate or left out, but I’m at a loss here of what I could be doing differently to accommodate him. I don’t have any restrictions, personally, so I’m trying to put myself in someone else’e shoes here. I don’t understand what I could be doing differently to better accommodate Chandler without somehow offending him. Do you or the readers have any insight for this?

It sounds like you’re doing everything you should do, and Chandler is being unreasonable. It’s completely appropriate for Chandler to ask you to order him food that he can eat, but it’s not reasonable for him to insist on changing what everyone else is eating too, as long as there aren’t contamination issues. And it sounds like when you take steps to ensure there won’t be contamination issues, he complains about that.

You could certainly try saying something like, “I’m happy to order you what you need. I’m also happy to let you order your meals directly and have it billed to us, if it’s easier for you do that. Of course, I have a lot of different people’s needs to meet, so I can’t change what everyone is eating to what we’re ordering for you, but is there something else you’re hoping I’d be able to do?”

But unless there’s some key detail we’re missing here, it sounds like you’re handling this well, and you shouldn’t take his complaints as a sign that you’re being negligent.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Our annual fundraiser is based around a senior executive’s kid

I work for a large company with multiple locations all within an hour of each other. The board of directors and C-suite are very good at connecting with each location routinely and frequently. For several years we have worked with a national charity that grants kids who have been seriously ill or injured trips and adventures of a lifetime. Each location fundraises for a specific kid and makes it a bit of a fun competition to see who can raise the most money. This year, one week before we kicked off our fundraising campaign, the charity informed us our kid was the child of one of the C-level execs. The child is in remission from cancer. The charity thought it was awesome to “bring home” this connection. Instead, most location managers were turned off at the thought of working so hard to raise a few thousand dollars from hourly employees to effectively give it to a C-level that makes 10 times our income. My location manager was the only one to initially speak up and share her concerns. By the end of the workday, we had “postponed” the fundraising at our location. As of now, no other locations chose to fundraise for this particular child/family.

Do you think my manager made the right move in pulling out of this fundraising? She and I spoke in depth about this and I told her that I personally would not be comfortable donating to C-level’s family but would also feel pressured to do so, or to encourage others to do so, to make sure our location had good numbers. If we looked stingy compared to other locations, we would have to be concerned with how the C-suite interprets that. It seemed like a no-win situation. Were there other options or ways we could have responded?

I can sort of see where they were coming from originally — they figured that charity that feels personal also feels more meaningful and motivating, and the trip is going to the kid and not her parent — but the optics were bad. Asking hourly employees to work hard to raise a few thousand dollars for the family of someone who earns that amount in way less time than they do doesn’t look great. It also raises all the same issues that come up every other time money is being collected for a higher-up — the power dynamics mean that people feel inappropriately pressured to donate, worry that not donating may have professional repercussions for them, etc. A better way to do it would have been for your company to fundraise for a different kid working with the charity, and perhaps for your exec to speak firsthand about the good work for the organization is doing and how meaningful it is to his family.

If it’s an option to instead fundraise for a kid unconnected to your company or for the charity in general, you might suggest that.

3. Etiquette when people borrow my office

So I work in one of those not-so-delightful open plans, where most employees get low walled cubes. But a few people in management have offices, including me. My office is glass walled and in the middle of the open plan.

I am very frequently in meetings away from my office. Several times a week, I come back to my office to find one or more people using it. I don’t mind this at all. (Yes, I’d like my office back, but sometimes it isn’t urgent. Like I just want to get settled and check email.) Because we don’t have many private spaces, I think it’s totally fine for someone to come in and make a call or get in some quiet time. All of the managers here allow this except the C-suite level.

But what’s the etiquette here? I don’t want to chase someone out if they’re on a call (particularly a personal call, since again, there are very few places to call your doctor or spouse, for example), or if there’s a small group of people having a meeting. But it also feels awkward to stand around outside my own door and wait (plus, they can see me, so they usually scramble to leave, thinking I’m about to kick them out).

If you don’t want them to scramble to leave, I think you’ve got to say that explicitly — since otherwise their scramble is actually the polite thing for them to do. If you want your office back but it’s not urgent, try saying something like, “Let me give you a few minutes to wrap up — I’ll come back in five minutes.” (Or 10 minutes or however much time you’re willing to give them.) And then really do go somewhere else for that time, since if you’re standing by the door, that’s going to read as pressure for them to vacate right now.

(And of course, when you do need your office back right away, it’s okay to say that too.)

4. My new boss knows I’m job searching because I interviewed for a job with her

About six months ago, I applied for a job and made it to the final round in which I interviewed with my potential teammates. I didn’t receive an offer but would have accepted if I had.

For the past few months, my company has been searching to fill the vacant role of my manager and I have been involved in the hiring process and interviewed several candidates. I received a request to hold an interview and recognized the name as someone I had interviewed with months ago. I walked into the interview, and she immediately asked if I had interviewed for the position as she recognized me. We had a good rapport and she asked me if I was still searching. I told her not as aggressively as I was before, as my old manager wasn’t a good fit here (she was asked to leave) and there are a lot of changes on the horizon and I am waiting to see if they come through. This wasn’t a total lie, but in my opinion there’s about a 1% chance of these changes coming anytime soon. After the interview, I was nervous I was a little too honest with her about the state of the department and our team.

Last week, she accepted the position. I’m feeling in an odd place. It feels awkward that she knows I’m not very happy here. I’m partially excited and scared that she will want to have a frank conversation about it. Or accidentally slip to someone that I was searching at some point. Quite frankly, I’ve been unhappy here for a while and I’m not even sure I want to stay in this industry. My current grandboss/temp manager is aware that I’m not thrilled but I think she attributes it to being understaffed, and I don’t believe she thinks I am job searching. So how do I navigate this going forward? Just have a conversation with her? Ignore it?

Ooooh, that’s awkward. I’d wait a few weeks for her to get settled into the new job and for you to start forming a relationship with her that’s based around your current work. Then, at some point, you could consider saying to her, “I feel a little odd about how we first met, and I wanted to let you know that while I was looking around six months ago when I interviewed with you, I’m not actively looking now that Jane has moved on.” It’s going to be plausible that you were looking because of your former, now-fired manager.

That might not be 100% true, but you are not obligated to tell your current employer that you’re planning to leave, and doing it can be to your detriment. (You can be pushed out earlier, have your name put on layoff lists because they figure you’re leaving anyway, etc.) You’re in a weird situation through no fault of your own, and you’re allowed to protect yourself here. Also, “not actively looking” doesn’t mean “would never accept an interview for the right job.”

5. Was this LinkedIn message presumptuous?

I’ve been in my current position at a large, global company for a little over a year now — long enough to understand the culture at my office and to witness hiring practices firsthand. This is my second job out of college, with the first being in customer service, so it’s an entry-level position.

I recently received a message through LinkedIn from someone I do not know, but who graduated this summer from my alma mater. He had applied for a job in my department, but it’s the mid-level job which requires a minimum of four years experience in similar positions. He requested that I put him in contact with the hiring manager.

I feel uncomfortable with this for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I do not know him, nor do I know who the manager is (my department is very large with multiple hiring managers), nor would I be comfortable giving out that person’s contact information to a stranger on LinkedIn. Additionally, I feel that it was very presumptuous for this guy to contact me out of nowhere to ask a favor like that. Thirdly, hiring in my company is handled exclusively through our HR department and the hiring manager wouldn’t be pleased to be talking to a candidate prior to his being screened by HR. And finally, it’s incredibly doubtful that he’ll get the position anyway due to the experience requirement.

My questions to you are whether it was appropriate for him to contact me and ask me for this information, and whether I should write back and explain the position requirements and hiring procedures here. Maybe I’m just not social media savvy enough to know what’s appropriate on LinkedIn or not?

People do use LinkedIn to contact people from their alma maters or who are connected to someone else in their network (or with some other type of connection) to try to get an in for job openings, but it’s particularly unsavvy to reach out to a stranger and just ask to be connected to the hiring manager! More commonly, the request would be to talk to you about the job or the company … and then, after you got to know him a bit, possibly to pass his materials along. But an out-of-the-blue request from a stranger to connect him with the hiring manager is pretty presumptuous, and that doesn’t change just because you went to the same school.

It’s completely okay for you to write back and say any of what you said here — that they’re looking for people with at least four years of experience, or that your company prefers people to go through HR first, or you can’t pass along candidates you don’t know, or any of the rest of it.

{ 679 comments… read them below }

  1. pcake*

    LR#1 – I has a relative with severe, life-threatening allergies. She wouldn’t eat food prepared by a caterer, restaurant or friend who is handling the foods she was allergic to (strawberries and shellfish), because if they made a minor mistake, she would at very least have ended up in the hospital. I have a more minor but still problematical food allergy, and I can tell you that these mistakes definitely do happen. A caterer might not bother to change gloves after handing someone a food or may forget and use a knife that was used in the allergy causing food. It’s safer if no one is eating the allergy food.

    Honestly in your co-worker’s position, I opt to bring my own food. I’ve ended up very sick from people not being careful, and I know they didn’t mean any harm, but I have ended up in the hospital once and in truly agonizing pain with massive itching a few others. The way I see it, why should they have to be that careful when I can make my own stuff? I don’t expect everyone to have to eat only the foods I can eat, though.

    1. Chloe*

      I think this is a legitimate concern, but making everyone in your office skip the thing he is allergic to doesn’t mean it’s not being prepared for someone else at that catering facility and there’s still a risk of cross-contamination. It just seems like a weird and ineffective way to go about it if a severe allergy is the issue.

      1. valentine*

        OP1: Tell Chandler, “Yes, it’s separate. So you don’t die.” Chandler is unreal. If his issue is he doesn’t want anyone else to know, making a fuss is defeating his purpose. If you haven’t already, be clear his options are to pass or to follow your instructions. You’re doing great with this. Letting him order on his own (which is even more different/separate) will just make a lot more work for you, as it’s more likely to cause confusion and error.

        1. Avasarala*

          +1 I understand not wanting to be singled out, but it sounds like Chandler isn’t the only one with special dietary needs. Maybe pointing this out will help?

          If not I’d probably say in frustration, “Chandler, everyone is having brown rice, or a variant thereof as their diets permit. So you can either have brown rice like everyone else and it will make you sick, or you can have white rice and not die. Or you can arrange your own lunch from now on. Those are your options. Which would you like to choose?”

          1. AnnaBananna*

            + 1

            Honestly, Chandler is being a spoiled douche canoe – and I say this as someone with several (non IGE) allergies myself. Is it because he’s being asked by other participants why he gets special food and so he’s embarrassed/awkward? What is the reasoning? I would seek to understand a bit more. Then, if it just sounds like he’s being obtuse, explain how a Kosher person would be in the same situation: they’d have their own different meal, totally separate, and likely extremely happy for it.

            Maybe he’s not really allergic? I really don’t understand his position.

        2. Maggie*

          +1 to commenting it’s separate so you don’t die and moving on! I understand pcake’s comment entirely. My big sister went to the ER in near anaphylactic shock from eating a catering company chocolate chip cookie that she didn’t know had been sitting on top of a peanut butter cookie. Likewise, there are some restaurants/situations she won’t take a chance on at all. If Chandler’s food allergy isn’t so severe he doesn’t actually need his food wrapped to ensure cross contamination, well good for him, but that’s no reason to stop doing it. That’s like complaining you got too many birthday presents. What a shame.

          1. SigneL*

            yes, I also have a life-threatening allergy. I bring my own food so I won’t die. It’s the only way I can be sure. People do make mistakes!

            1. Kimberly*

              I think he is being a spoiled brat. It sounds like several people have special orders.

              Another life-threatening allergy mine is peanuts. I have medical confirmation that I react to ingesting, and by touch. The doctors suspect that on at least 2 occasions I’ve reacted because peanut oil was being used in deep fryers and I breathed in particles. My rules
              1. Everyone knows. Introduce me as this is Kimberly she is deathly allergic to peanuts by touch. It makes it easier when I refuse to take the paper they are trying to hand me while eating chocolate. Yes, I get that it isn’t a Peanut butter chocolate bar but it still has a warning on it in most cases (teachers live on chocolate and caffeine.)

              2. No surprise catering – especially when we expect to be able to do lunch on our own. They surprised us with catering at a teacher inservice when people expect to have 1.5 – 2 hours for lunch on their own. (the restaurants in the small town have trouble handling the volume of all the teachers going out to lunch) The restaurant they used is famous for using peanut oil, lying about it, promoting hatred towards LGTBQ. If I had known I would have brown bagged it, I was threatened with a write up if I left, and the restaurant told them the oil was so pure there was no chance of a reaction. I got hold of a person of higher rank and got to go get something to eat.

              3. I’m allowed to brown bag it or leave if I don’t trust the caterer. I don’t care what they say my knowledge and opinion are what matters.

              4. Don’t yell at me when a very ethical company refuses the contract/order because you asked them to accommodate me, and they can’t. Their policy is to refuse to take jobs after being told a peanut allergic person is attending. (I warned the person arranging things this would happen. She didn’t yell at me but our boss did).

              5. I must have my own transportation when traveling. I don’t care about reimbursement or mileage the other people can have that I just want to stay alive. I’m not traveling with other people and not having a way to get food when they decide they are going to eat at X restaurant that has told me I can’t walk in their doors.

        3. Random Commenter*

          I have a colleague who is vegan. Our caterers offer a vegetarian option always, but they have been making a vegan one just for her so far, which has mostly been raw vegetable salads.

          Apparently she has developed IBS now and can’t eat that many vegetables. Planning a healthy vegan menu for someone with IBS is tricky at best. So now they still bring her the salads (legally they have to) but she’s been bringing her own food and she’s giving the salads to whoever wants them.

          I understand dietary restrictions are annoying for the people who have them and can leave them feeling left out of some social situations based around food. But at some point compromises need to be made from everyone. I think that OP is doing their best to be as accommodating as possible. Chandler should be as flexible and open as he can in return.

          1. Sally*

            And he’s NOT being left out. He’s getting food he can eat, and he’s having lunch with everyone else. I can’t eat wheat, and if someone knows this and doesn’t even try to accommodate me, I do feel left out. Sometimes I know it’s unreasonable of me to feel that way, but I can’t help how I feel. But how I feel is not anyone else’s problem, and I definitely don’t say anything to the other person. I always carry protein bars in case I need to eat, and there’s nothing for me, and I’m happily surprised when people make the effort to make or buy something I can eat. It means a lot to me.

            1. Emily K*

              Fellow wheat allergy here, and yes, this exactly. First thing my nutritionist told me after the result came back, ABC: Always Be Carrying (snacks).

              I usually prefer to just go along and make do because it’s not a life-threatening allergy where I have to worry about contamination, so it’s not really that hard to avoid with a little effort. I mean, I don’t want to eat side dishes every meal of my life, but if I’m with a group and they want to go somewhere that is really pasta/bread focused, I really don’t mind just getting some mashed potatoes and steamed veggies or fries and a milkshake for that one meal. I’ve always got protein bars, cashews, dark chocolate, and/or other fortifying snacks in my purse to supplement whatever a particular restaurant’s menu limited me to, which liberates me to just enjoy the outing for its social aspects the same way a person without allergies can, and view the food I’m eating as incidental to the social event without worrying about whether I’m going to be hungry or perturbed by inadequate options.

            2. Kimberly*

              If they don’t try to make sure you can eat the main meal, they are in the wrong. I don’t care if I can’t eat desert and that is what usually happens. If I can’t eat the main meal I get ticked off, especially if no effort has been made.

          2. OP1*

            thank you for your comment and compliment!

            I try to let everyone feel included know that i’m trying to best accommodate them without making them feel like its an issue.

            1. Sarah P*

              You are doing a great job. Most people with food allergies would be very grateful for your efforts. Chandler just has a chip on his shoulder for some reason.

            2. Secretary*

              OP1 sounds like you’re doing awesome.
              Can we remember for a second that Chandler is getting a free meal? Like, how about a THANK YOU instead of I-Don’t-Like-That-My-Food-Looks-Different? You’re going above and beyond so he can eat with everyone else!
              If he’s just someone who complains, keep doing what you’re doing. He can bring his own food.

              I was the only vegan in an office that would order us lunch. I brought snacks anyway just to be safe. Once or twice they ordered something I couldn’t eat… I’m not entitled to free food, it’s a gift so I just told them I appreciated the effort and to please not worry about it, I brought back up food.

          3. Michaela Westen*

            Being vegan isn’t a food allergy, it’s a choice. People can choose not to be vegan. People can’t choose not to have allergies.
            I have several food allergies as well as a very sensitive stomach and I always bring my own food. It took a few years to get in a routine where I cook lunch and dinner meals three nights a week, and make my own bread with a quickbread recipe and a bread machine, and figure out sauces and spreads.
            I agree Chandler is being unreal and he should at least appreciate OP’s efforts! If he’s not used to cooking for himself it might take him a while to get there, but meanwhile he should try to be nice.

            1. Eat no bacon*

              Don’t make assumptions about vegans or vegetarians. While many Vegans/Vegetarians are vegans/vegetarians out of choice some are due to other allergy, health, or religious reasons. Fun Fact many Vegetarias/Vegans who consume meat accidentally become violently ill. It depends on how long they’ve been one and how much they have eliminated animal products. I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years. One seemingly innocent chocolate chip cooking had me throwing up for 2 hours, due to unknown bacon. It’s not an emotional response, my body can no longer process meat.

                1. AKchic*

                  Sometimes a person will add a little bacon grease for flavor (substituted for a little of the butter).
                  Or, the occasional bacon crumble can fall in (hey, bacon crumbles go places when you do chocolate-covered bacon).

                  It’s not bad, though. For those who can tolerate animal products.

                2. Elaine*

                  For a while, chocolate and bacon was the next big thing. I admit I’ve never tried it; the sound of the combination makes me want to gag. Many people do like it, though.

              1. Nox*

                My mother is medically vegetarian due to a removed gallbladder. She can’t consume animal fat of any kind – its awful when she gets lumped into the vegans by choice mentality because she’s had to deal with contamination from skeptics who feel she’s full of poo.

          4. pcake*

            Pizza with no cheese, pasta with no cheese, baked potato with margarine are all very easy vegan options. So is brown rice with sweet and sour sauce, and a lot of places have vegan veggie burgers these days. For that matter, some bread is vegan, and if she has IBS, there may be a whole wheat vegan bread option.

            1. Random Commenter*

              Oh I know that there are plenty of foods she CAN eat! But I don’t think our caterers are really prepared to make a whole separate custom-made menu (for the vegan option they’ve been mostly taking the sides from regular options, or picking out the cheese from vegetarian options).

              I don’t really like it either that they can’t provide a menu for her but I think she was gracious about it.

            2. AnonEMoose*

              Pasta isn’t necessarily vegan – a lot of it is made with eggs. Noodles made of vegetables (zucchini’s pretty popular for that, I think) would work in most cases, though, I think, although I’m not an expert, and not vegan.

          5. Not Rebee*

            Honestly, as someone with food allergies that are tricky (though not serious to the point of hospitalization) I would be so grateful if someone at my company went through the care that OP seems to be going through for Chandler. I work for a company that has, in the year and a half I’ve been working here, doubled in size and while originally the people who ordered our catered meals were mostly aware of my allergies, it’s switched so many times that now I know the orderers have no idea. The company orders a GF option and a vegetarian option always, out of habit, but otherwise doesn’t keep specific track of allergies or other dietary needs. I consider all catered food to work like a potluck situation – treat each thing with suspicion if you have to and if you can’t eat anything there, bring (or order) something for yourself that will work without making everyone else do backflips for you. Just handle it quietly for yourself however you have to and be done with it.

          6. AnnaBananna*

            Oh wow, I can’t even imagine her poor system trying to get sustenance while her body fights her. That’s like my worst nightmare. If she can still eat nuts, lentils, etc, then she might be okay but at some point she’ll need to move to at least ovo lacto if she wants to maintain any sort of healthy weight. that poor poor lady. I don’t envy her at all.

        4. MatKnifeNinja*

          As someone with anaphylaxis to shrimp, and recently could start eating egg, soy and fish again by doing an in office food challenge in a hospital setting (with a crash cart three feet from me), saying, “Yes it’s separate you won’t die.”, is rage inducing. Don’t be sarcastic about death. Especially since I almost died twice from someone elses carelessness.

          I’ve almost died in a restaurant setting because people don’t get anaphylactic reactions are no joke. I was put on a ventilator twice, because the waitstaff through pulling off the shrimp and sending the salad back is no big deal.

          I tell you all this, because who the heck knows why Chandler is so over the top with this. Near death experiences makes you uber controlling.

          Fair is where you get cotton candy. Life is not fair. I get Chandler wanting to micromanage and not stand out. (Guessing that’s what he means). Yeah, in elementary school everyone bent over backward to include you, but that only goes so far in adult life. Sometimes it is what it is and you buck up and deal.

          For me, who carts 4 Epi pens around, I would probably either bring my food if I felt like there was no way I could do a work around.
          I do eat out, but I really look over the menu and pick something with the least screw-up-ability.

          OP #1 you’ve went beyond what is expected in my book. You are trying. I don’t know how old Chandler is. If he’s in his early 20s, he may have grown up where home and outside venues did do a big overhaul of a menu to include him when he was little because of his allergies. That sets up some unrealistic expectations.

          OP#1 Putting the sandwich with everyone elses makes it a cross contamination risk. So having Chandler’s sandwich wrapped and separated would be okay by me.

          I’d offer Chandler these options

          *Don’t change your planned menu*

          Pick something that is safe and acceptable for you to eat, and the caters will (depending how much Chandler trust them) will prepare it separate. (Fair is where you get cotton candy moment)

          Feel free to pick from another restaurant, and we will glad get it delivered.

          Bring your own food, and we’ll pick up the tab on that.

          Honestly, that’s all you can do.

          Chandler needs to realize he’s not 5 anymore, with people happy to eat Dum Dum suckers, Otter Pops and rock candy because he can’t eat cookies. Listen, if you were catering a sushi lunch, I’d ask to have something else brought in.

          This is more than I’m gonna die eating shrimp/pad thai/hummus. Sounds like Chandler was never taught how to manage is food allergies without being demanding. Sometimes you can’t revamp a menu, and that shouldn’t be Chandler’s default setting.

          1. Lalaroo*

            The comment was actually “Yes it’s separate SO you won’t die” – I don’t see that as being sarcastic, rather as being frustrated that trying to take it seriously is getting heavy sighs from the person whose health you’re trying to take care with.

            1. AnnaBananna*

              It is sarcastic…but I also think it’s *just* obvious enough for Chandler to understand. So, yah. Sarcasm it is.

          2. Myrin*

            I think you misread valentine. She’s saying “Yes, it’s separate. So you don’t die.”, as in “Yes, your food is put in a separate container so that we can ensure that you don’t actually die from cross-contamination (why do I have to explain this to you?!)”.

            1. MattKnifeNinja*


              As a person with anaphylaxis, whenever a sentence has the word die in relationship with food being proved, it’s the polite please move on, I’m done. That was the same, “We won’t let you die.” conversation I had with the wait staff who pulled the shrimp off my salad, and watched me crumble the floor during dinner rush.

              Obviously tone and body language is 90% of the “so you won’t die” part of the response. I can’t see that on the web. It can come across as helpful clarification, or a way to get the person out of your hair.

              When people have used it on me (for a lot less than what Chandler’s asking for), it’s a passive aggressive way of saying shut up and move on.

              I throw this out. The word “die”, unless you are talking to an allergist about your issues, is usually used as a bait/bully /shut up and get off my back. That’s my experience.

              If I took the comment wrong, it’s because of 30 years of people using it to shut down the conversation. I’ve never had it used as a positive.

              1. Myrin*

                That sounds really stressful and unpleasant, I’m so sorry! I gotta say, I’m basically sure that you misread valentine solely because I had actually wanted to make that exact same point (although worded a little differently) but then didn’t because I think valentine said it perfectly, but I can totally see how it would get your heckles up immediately. We’re all shaped in our reactions by past experiences, after all!

              2. Anna*

                You didn’t take it wrong, though, you misunderstood the entire point of the comment. You have very serious food allergies and that is a truly difficult thing to deal with, but you’re being a bit unfair to valentine.

              3. PersonalJeebus*

                Non-allergy sufferer here, and I totally agree with you about this language, for what it’s worth! I would never say to someone “Your food is separate so that you won’t die” precisely because it’s going to come across as “shut up and go away, I’m doing you a favor by even caring” whether I want it to sound that way or not. Also, maybe the way their food is being separated is actually wrong, and they’re trying to tell me they WILL die from it! The allergy sufferer is better qualified than I am to judge the possible health consequences of how their food is being prepared.

                When dealing with an allergy sufferer who is making life hard for others by asking everyone to adhere to the same restrictions, the thing to focus on is that social behavior (restricting/policing others).

                So the thing to do here is explain to Chandler that OP can’t do what he’s asking because they need to accommodate others’ needs and preferences as well as his, so let’s figure out what he’s really hoping to achieve and see if there’s an alternate solution. Maybe there isn’t one, in which case they can only say, “I’m sorry, but there’s no perfect solution here, so let’s focus on our realistic options. My priority is your health and safety.” (A nicer way of saying the priority is *not* to inconvenience everyone to protect his feelings.)

              4. Lissa*

                Have you considered when you feel “I’m done” about a topic to the point that you feel you can’t take a step back and reread what’s being said, it might be best to not respond right away? Nobody is saying shut up and move on, and if you “hear” that even when it isn’t being said, that’s too bad, but it isn’t the fault of the person posting.

              5. justcourt*

                That’s not how the word’s being used in this context. LW is taking employee’s food allergies seriously and is implementing procedures to protect the employee beyond what the employee wants because she (I’m assuming LW is a woman) takes the allergies seriously.

                Similar statements may have been made to you in the past to brush off your concerns, but Valentine’s comment is clearly and unambiguously not advocating that LW brush off the employee’s allergies, and purposefully misconstruing Valentine’s words is not helpful.

    2. Yvette*

      “I don’t expect everyone to have to eat only the foods I can eat, though.” That is because you are reasonable, practical and understanding. You realize that you are the “odd man out” (my apologies, I can’t think of another way of putting it) and you don’t expect everyone to conform to the (necessarily) extreme measures you must take.

      The OP has to deal with dozens of people and their dietary restrictions. Your allergy is such that even the slightest cross-contamination will trigger it. The OP makes no mention of that being the issue here, according to her it is a matter of him not wanting to be “different”. I think Alison is right, the OP is doing everything she can.

      One of the few instances I can think of where the dietary restriction needs to dictate the location is for someone who keeps strictly Kosher. A truly Kosher meal is only Kosher if it is prepared in a Kosher kitchen. I can make a meal that fits the bill so to speak (no pork, not mixing meat and dairy etc.) but it still won’t be Kosher.

      1. Observer*

        You are correct about Kosher. But I still wouldn’t expect everyone to have a kosher meal. I would be perfectly happy to have sealed meal packages from a Kosher caterer (assuming the food was decent…) My point being that when your needs are distinctly different from everyone else’s it’s not really reasonable to ask expect everyone else to change to meet your needs even if it does make you a bit different.

        The only caveat to this is if people make a big deal out of it.

        1. Yvette*

          Oh exactly, I was not speaking of instances where a caterer or two is providing food at a hall, or bringing in food to the office, I was thinking more along the lines of when a function (group lunch etc.) is held in a restaurant. I don’t think there are too many restaurants that will allow someone to bring in outside food.
          And you also sound reasonable, practical, and understanding.

          1. WS*

            Restaurants are often quite understanding about this, honestly! My cousin has a life-threatening food allergy so he just takes his own food everywhere. When the situation has been explained (and he’s with a group who are ordering in the regular way) everyone has been really kind and helpful. I’m sure it would be different if a large group was bringing in their own food, but we’ve very rarely had a problem with just him doing it.

            1. gmg22*

              That usually works, emphasis on usually. I have a relative with severe IBS who doesn’t like to take her chances with tap water (or ice) at restaurants, so she brings her own bottle of water or can of soda. This is almost always fine because they see she is ordering food (and of course again, she has to get fairly specific about ordering, basically “chicken with no sauce or scrambled eggs with no dairy” type stuff). But at one restaurant the management pitched a complete fit about her bringing her own drink in, to the point where she and her husband were asked to leave. O_o

              1. Sarah P*

                That’s the dumbest thing ever, especially since she has no obligation to order anything but free water anyway!

              2. Hills to Die on*

                Wow – I had to look up the tap water thing. I had no idea that count contribute to IBS. Yikes.

              3. WS*

                Yes, emphasis on “usually”! I remember once when I was a teenager, a restaurant where our families went for lunch had a new manager and they threw a fit because a thirteen-year-old (the age my cousin was) MUST eat off the adult menu and MAY NOT bring their own food. Even after the allergy situation was explained, this guy was pop-eyed with anger and said we had to order an extra meal anyway so we all left, meaning they missed out on a 15-person lunch reservation! It was highly memorable and not in a good way!

            2. Michaela Westen*

              I’ve also brought my own snacks to a restaurant and never had a problem. I’m always with people who are ordering, otherwise I wouldn’t be there.

              1. PhyllisB*

                This was not a food allergy situation, but my SILs, kids, and I went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch, and one of my nieces, (being an extremely picky eater) got McDonald’s for her meal, bringing it in the paper bag. Not only was there no argument from the restaurant, when she went to wash her hands, the servers put it all very attractively on a plate, and even poured her beverage into a glass. She was appreciative and embarrassed at the same time.

          2. Antilles*

            Most restaurants are actually completely fine with a person bringing in outside food IF there’s a clear reason for it like Kosher or severe allergy. The menu clearly says “no outside food”, but it’s really targeted at people who are just trying to save a few bucks by bringing in their own drinks or appetizers – not someone who has a legitimate reason.
            If you just explain it to your server, they just nod, give a sympathetic ‘apology’ for the fact they can’t accommodate you, offer you a drink, and ask if you need them to bring you a plate/silverware/etc to make it easier.

            1. MattKnifeNinja*

              I’ve been really lucky. There have been places that will plate my brought from home food, so I’m not sitting there eating out of glass storage bowl. (weddings/business meals venues)

              It’s wonderful when they do it. Those places get a snail mail thank you card from me.

        2. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

          I had a client at a group lunch and they needed a Kosher meal which I was able to arrange along with various other dietary restrictions within that group of clients. Less than an hour before the meeting the client calls me and asks if the meal is Kosher, I said yes, then she asked “was it blessed by a Rabbi?”. I then learned there are apparently various degrees of Kosher. At that point I informed the client that it was not (didn’t know it needed to be) but that she was welcome to bring her own lunch. She never showed up…

          1. Nonsensical*

            There are certain levels of hescher. I would ask in the future what they mean by kosher because depending on the denomination they belong to that can mean different things.

            1. MattKnifeNinja*

              Kosher certification wars are always fun. Try planning a wedding, where people ask what rabbi certified the venue, and which certifications does the food possess.

              My friend planning her Kosher weddingsaid it was a nightmare.

              Kosher is worse for guessing than vegan.

              It can mean I don’t cheeseburgers to Glatt Kosher ($$$$), with the alchohol and wine having to have certain certifications.

              My one friend won’t use any product with a OU (Orthodox Union) symbol. Just depends what standards their community keeps.

              1. Former Employee*

                How strange. As far as I am aware, the people who are the most Orthodox look for the OU symbol. The only thing higher is Glatt Kosher for meat and Cholov Yisroel for dairy. While Glatt Kosher seems to be pretty easy to find, if you require Cholov Yisroel for dairy, you are likely to be fairly limited in brands and choices.

                1. Observer*

                  Nope. It’s a whole lot more complicated than that. And while the OU is very reliable (if they say that they require X, you can be pretty sure that that’s what’s happening), there are many areas where their requirements are either lower or different (which is not the same as lower) than other certifying agencies.

          2. Holly*

            I find this really odd. Someone requesting Kosher food knows exactly the kind of places they would accept food from (even blessed by a Rabbi could mean something totally different to two observant Jews) – the blessing/overseeing is something handled by the restaurant/caterer not the person ordering??

          3. Oaktree*

            I’m not sure your client was… well, I’m not sure how to put it, but any Jew who really keeps kosher knows that kashrut has nothing to go with food being “blessed by a rabbi” or by anyone else. Kosher food requires only the following:

            – It was prepared in a kosher kitchen or food production facility
            – The kitchen has to have a hechsher (certification); usually packaged food will state this with a special symbol
            – The hechsher is provided by a mashgiach (kashrut checker)

            Blessing don’t figure into it at all.

            To be perfectly honest, I suspect that this client is under the impression that kosher food is “better” or healthier in some way (it’s not necessarily) and was trying to get something special. Even if someone only eats chalav yisrael or glatt kosher (stricter options), they wouldn’t ask about a rabbi.

            1. Blue_eyes*

              This. Someone who was very observant about keeping kosher might ask what organization/person certified the food as kosher to decide if it was a hechsher they trusted.

              But not “was it blessed by a rabbi?”. That’s a common misconception that many non-Jews have about what makes food kosher.

              1. Holly*

                I glossed over that fact that the blessed by a rabbi part was not 100% accurate, but it definitely stood out that it would be a question to be asked (as opposed to something the observant individual would let OP know in advance).

      2. kilika*

        As somebody who works in a non-Kosher environment who keeps Kosher: they provide me with separate food, and I am grateful that they take the time to actually do that, because it’s absolutely not something I take for granted.
        I would be over the moon if it were possible to have the entire meal catered Kosher, but I also understand reality. There aren’t the facilities for it, so I remain happily eating what I can actually eat, and I’m happy that they bother feeding me at all.
        I can empathize with Chandler in that it can kind of suck to always be singled out when eating, but anything more is unrealistic. I think Chandler needs some perspective here.

        1. Susie Q*

          It’s also insanely expensive. In my extended family, we have a mix of those who keep Kosher and those who don’t. When my husband and I got married, we considered doing all kosher dinner but it was insanely expensive. The cost per head was at least double the cost of a regular non kosher meal. So we ended up just ordering kosher meals for those who keep Kosher.

          1. MattKnifeNinja*

            In my area, my Glatt Kosher meat wedding meals with “appropriately certified” wines, is easily 2/3 more per plate.

          1. Robin*

            She’s just saying it would be nice (though unrealistic) to have it so she could eat the entire meal and all the various options available (ex. if it’s buffet style and/or if there are choices of appetizers, mains, desserts) rather than having a separate, predetermined plate. It’s not that she cares what other people eat.

          2. TychaBrahe*

            For the same reason that when I invite vegetarians for a festival meal there is a vegetarian main to go alongside the meat main, and all the side dishes are vegetarian.

        2. Emily K*

          Ah, yes, it reminds me of my father’s words of wisdom whenever I would complain as a kid that something wasn’t fair: No, it’s not. But who ever told you life was going to be fair?

          Sometimes things are harder for some of us than for others, and that’s not fair. But that doesn’t mean other people have an obligation to make it fair somehow. Sometimes life just isn’t fair, and it’s nobody’s fault, and it still sucks, and you just have to live with it.

          1. PersonalJeebus*

            If Chandler feels it’s unfair that he has to eat separate food from everyone else, I wish he’d try to remember that “everyone else” has *something* unfair or unjust in their own lives.

        3. Clay on My Apron*

          I’ve only had one experience where the person organising the food for our office function made a thing of ordering a kosher meal for me. She said she’d have to speak to our manager and find out whether she’d approve it. I was pretty annoyed at the time. In retrospect I think she was just scared of the manager.

          I actually prefer to just bring my own food, mostly. A couple of times my company has ordered a kosher meal for me, and although I let them know that it needs to be vegetarian as well, they often get that wrong. Then I have a very expensive meal that I can’t eat.

          I do feel uncomfortable about my food costing way more than everyone else’s; I would be even more uncomfortable if they ordered kosher food for everyone (it’s expensive and limits people’s choices).

          It’s just so much simpler to pack something from home or pick up a nice salad or sushi platter on my way to the office.

      3. OP1*

        We have someone who “follows a Kosher diet” (that’s how it was explained to me). Basically, no meat with dairy at the same meal, no pork, no shellfish. Usually she will just eat vegetarian to take the guesswork out of what might have some sort of dairy or pork in it. She’s mentioned before that she doesn’t feel awkward for being different because adhering to her religious beliefs is more important to her

        1. Turtle Candle*

          There are also differences between people when it comes to this kind of thing. My grandfather in law actually preferred for it to be obvious that he was following another, stricter set of dietary laws, because it made it clear to everyone that he was of a specific people. Others prefer to not be noticed in that way. So it’s complex.

    3. TooOldForThisNonsense*

      It sounds as though there are two things at play here. “Chandler” is entitled to receive — and you are required to provide — food which is safe for him to eat. However, that doesn’t also imply that he is entitled to/ that you are required to change everything else (unless there are isdues of cross-contamination).

      As others have sensibly pointed out, above, some diet restrictions are contradictory/ mutually exclusive, and there are also issues of cost, availability and hygiene (i.e. certain things which can practically be served fresh to one or two people, but not to be left out, unrefrigerated, for general “grazing” by many people), which caterers must consider.

      1. Washi*

        Exactly. And with a variety of contradictory dietary restrictions and allergies, there will always be someone who needs a special, separate meal. Chandler is basically demanding that it never be him.

        I would have to guess that this is one of Chandler’s first jobs with catered meals because it sounds like he doesn’t understand how good he has it. As a vegetarian who has been to lunches where the only thing I could eat was plain rice, or an iceberg lettuce salad containing approximately 3 calories, I would be thrilled to have my own tasty sandwich separately wrapped so no one would take it because they thought it looked better than the meat option!

        1. Sally*

          I laughed out loud at your last sentence! I feel the same way about gluten free options. Don’t eat those unless you have to because I can’t eat anything else! :-)

          1. Jules K*

            +1! I especially hate when people take a slice of the gluten free pizza “just to try it.” Trust me, I have been “trying it” and other GF options for seven years now–it’s not as good, but it’s all I’ve got! Don’t steal it!

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              YES. Being veg, I nearly stabbed someone with chopsticks when eating with my inlaws and they all wanted to pass dishes around at a Chinese restaurant so they could each take a helping of everyone else’s, which would have left me with a bite of mine and nothing else.

              1. Hills to Die on*

                I am so like that too, except I am not vegetarian. I just want to eat my food that I ordered. I always pick the most unique dishes that I know my family won’t like so that I can have it to myself.

                Did you get to have your entire meal? I hope you did!

              2. PersonalJeebus*

                Off topic, but OMG combining food cultures/table manners from different families, *facepalm*. Don’t get me started about the time I brought my white American salad-loving parents to stay with my in-laws in Asia.

                You have my blessing to hoard your dish of choice. Or tell them to order a duplicate for sharing, ’cause “this one’s MINE.”

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          I had one work luncheon where they neglected to make a vegetarian dish and the kitchen provided me a plate of half-cooked chunks of various vegetables. It was crazy.

          We had someone at work who’d been coming to work meetings for years and usually bypassing the lunch; we thought she was just watching what she ate, being very physically fit. Turns out she’s lactose intolerant and even seeing it on her food makes her grossed out. The first time we ordered her a salad without cheese or creamy dressing (harder than you’d think), she was obviously moved and expressed her thanks for thinking of her in particular.

          1. Sophie before she was cool*

            One time I was at a work event with no vegetarian dish. The kitchen told me they could make “grits with asparagus and succotash”. I said that sounded great. Twenty minutes later, well after everyone else had started eating, I got a bowl of succotash. Twenty minutes after that, three baby carrots. Twenty minutes after that, a small dish of unseasoned, unbuttered grits. It was… not great.

          2. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

            At my mother’s wedding reception in the 2000’s, I was a vegetarian and didn’t eat cheese unless it was free of animal rennet. They ordered a veggie option for me, specifying “no cheese,” but it was pretty much a heaping mound of mozzarella. I wouldn’t have said anything, but I was famished, and hadn’t thought to bring a snack. They tossed one of the salads into some pasta. I pointed out that I hadn’t eaten the salad because it came pre-tossed in Parmesan vinaigrette, and just raided the bread basket, at that point.

            People who go out of their way to make sure others’ dietary restrictions are accommodated get a special place in heaven, in my book.

        3. Overeducated*

          Indeed – I’m only about 90% vegetarian so it’s not a restriction/commitment for me, but it drives me crazy that the “default” for any sandwich platter is piles of meat, instead of a mix. If the idea of having ham, turkey, and roast beef is that meat eaters can pick their favorite option, why is it so hard to believe they might also like vegetables? (No, I won’t steal one of the three hummus or roast veggie wraps, but I will envy them as I eat my mound of turkey.)

          1. Crooked Bird*

            Right?? Vegetables are delicious and good for you. A vegetable-less meal is way worse than a meatless one (and I love meat!)

          2. Elizabeth West*

            This, and a lot of it is processed meat, which even if you’re not vegetarian, is NOT good for you.

            *She says, noshing on a beef summer sausage, help me please I’m addicted*

          3. Anna*

            I learned at a meeting I had catered that I needed to tell this particular caterer to not put the vegetarian sandwiches on the same plate as the meat sandwiches and way down under all the meat choices. I mean…Really? I try to make sure people are accommodated, but it didn’t even occur to me to have to make that request.

        4. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          Yes, I always tell organizers to please just make 20% of the order vegetarian. Lots of people would just prefer a non-meat option, even if they aren’t vegetarian and aren’t thinking that they are taking the only option available to someone else. Somehow an organizer thinks, I’ll order 5 pepperoni pizzas and 1 veggie pizza because I know A Rex is vegetarian–then the first 10 people to get lunch take one slice of each, and by the time I get there there’s only pepperoni left! I’ve been left hungry at a lot of work lunches this way.

        5. Turtle Candle*

          Though I do think it’s often wise to give people warnings. In every omnivorous group I’ve been a part of, we’d almost always order at least one veggie pizza—or vegetable dish at a Chinese takeout place—because we like veggies as much as meat, even though everyone in the group also ate meat. So when picking from a pizza buffet or a takeout spread it’s not necessarily obvious that non-meaty entrees are only for vegetarians. A note of “please give the vegetarians first crack at X, Y, and Z” would have worked well, however.

      2. OP1*

        I think i would have even been more open to rearranging the menu if the option to rearrange it to was …better.

        The alternative would be akin to serving Bologna instead of Steaks at a major corporate event. This might have been the key factor alison mentioned, but I can’t do that (honestly my boss would be upset about it). And I really feel like there would have still been some sort of cross contamination from carelessness on anyones part.
        I think part of serving food separately or labeled separately is to indicate to those who don’t have these sensitivities to be conscientious about cross contamination.

        1. Amber T*

          If he has more unusual restrictions (ie, he can’t just throw one label on it like ‘Kosher’ or ‘gluten free’ or ‘vegetarian,’), he might be getting bugged by other people with he “what are you allergic to?” or “why can’t you eat that?” or “can you reeeally not eat that?” kinds of questions from other people. Which is NOT your issue and it sounds like you’re handling everything appropriately, and he’s also being unreasonable with his requests. But, if he’s being a pain because he feels like he’s being called out, maybe someone in management can remind people to mind their own business when it comes to food?

          1. PersonalJeebus*

            Great suggestion! Maybe Chandler actually has no problem in theory with the way OP is handling things, but in reality people at work functions are ruining it for him.

            A blanket “don’t comment on your coworkers’ food choices or dietary restrictions” policy could go a long way toward fixing this, if our suspicions are correct.

      3. Emily K*

        Yes, if you want to see the saddest group of lunch eaters you’ve ever seen, find the table of vegans and people with wheat allergy who have been served a single vegan, wheat-free option. Those raw vegan spring rolls wrapped in rice paper with a side of potato chips are equal opportunity misery-bringers.

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          My boss is vegan and gluten free.

          We stopped using the in house caterers for meetings she attends after the time they interpreted ‘one meal vegan and gluten free’ as one vegan meal and one gluten free meal. This was actually a relief all around, as they did the saddest wraps you have ever seen.

        2. ChimericalOne*

          Exactly! My husband (vegan) always tells folks, “I love the hell out of some gluten!” Bread is one thing he usually can eat (at a place with otherwise skimpy options) that’s delicious. Forcing him to go gluten-free to get vegan food is awful. (And gluten-free folks generally love meat & feel the same way about it!)

          1. Anna*

            My best friend stopped eating vegetarian when she was diagnosed with Celiac because the gluten-free vegetarian options were thin on the ground and she was constantly anemic.

        3. Michaela Westen*

          That’s one of the reasons I bring my lunch! I get *so* hungry and having nothing but those little spring rolls would just make it worse!

        4. Salamander*

          My doctor has prescribed a strict low FODMAP diet for me. It is a hell that I would wish on no one, but I do it. I just bring my own food and hope that others are getting some enjoyment.

        5. Blue_eyes*

          Totally. My husband and I eat pescatarian (we keep Kosher, but eat dairy and fish at non-kosher restaurants). At all the weddings we’ve been to recently there’s been a single meal that is vegan (often gluten-free) and also serves as the kosher option. It’s disappointing for us since we LOVE cheese and can eat fish to always be eating a vegan meal.

      4. pcake*

        The problem with saying they’re required to provide food that is safe for him to eat is it may not be even though they believe it is. Unless the OP is fixing the food with her own hands, she doesn’t know if someone put a tomato (as an example) on a sandwich, then realized the order said no tomatoes and pulled it off. 999 times that works, but the 1000th time when the person was very allergic to tomatoes, it could put them in the hospital or kill them.

        And that, folks, is why I simply bring my food to certain kinds of functions. If any office or restaurant doesn’t like it, they can ask me to leave, but that’s never happened.

        Btw, Disneyland’s restaurants are usually very careful about cross contamination. If you order special items and tell them it’s due to allergy, the chef for that restaurant personally makes it and keeps it away from the other food.

        1. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

          Good to know on Disneyland. Thanks! (I don’t personally have dietary restrictions that bad, but I just passed this on to a member of my extended family, and I swear his text message indicates he’s dancing in his seat.)

        2. not really a lurker anymore*

          Walt Disney World screwed up 3 meals for my spouse, in the 5 days we were there in 2014. He’s gluten and dairy intolerant not actual allergic. One meal took damn near an hour to get out to us; he opted to not send it back again to try to get it right. He got first shot at the platter and picked around the dairy. There was even a flag in the food saying “dairy allergy” I do not have fond memories of WDW from that trip as there were multiple other screw-ups by the park. Sadly, the kids want to go back although one kid could be persuaded to do Universal for Harry Potter instead.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            In my experience, hospitals – yes, hospitals – yes, hospitals- are the worst about diet stuff. Tell them you’re a vegetarian with a tomato intolerance, get chicken and/or tomatoes, and you won’t be able to find anyone who’ll replace it. That’s if they remember to feed you at all…

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I always thought the jokes about hospital food were just exaggeration, until I was in the hospital.

              “Oh yeah, sweet potatoes!”
              *marks on menu*
              *gets three tiny cubes of overcooked, brown potato in the middle of a vast empty plate* -_-

              1. JessaB*

                I am allergic to mustard, I was in hospital after a hemiplegic migraine which is basically a kind of stroke that doesn’t leave lesions on the brain. I was lucky, I was able to communicate and self advocate and my memory was *not* impaired that time, when I got a plate of food that had one of those little mayo packets on it by Kraft the company who puts mustard flour in their mayo.

                I had the head dietitian in my room with the nursing supervisor and nearly threw the tray at them asking was there anything unlabelled on it that might kill me?

                Hospitals are AWFUL with food.

            2. iglwif*


              A while back I spent a lot of time in hospitals, and my big plate for every single lunch and supper contained the following items:
              1. a heap of chickpeas
              2. a heap of cottage cheese
              3. three crosswise slices of bell pepper (usually 2 green, 1 red)
              4. a much smaller heap of sliced pitted black olives, the kind you put on pizza

              And, okay, that does cover all 4 food groups? And I was mostly too nauseated from the chemo to eat anyway? But WOW did I start to dread the appearance of meals after a while.

            3. Amy Farrah Fowler*

              OMG, so true! I was in the hospital several years ago because I had jaw surgery. The doctor had left a list of all kinds of things I could have – smoothies, etc. but the hospital did nothing with this information and the only thing I ate/drank were melted popsicles from the nurse’s station. The doctor actually sent me home from the hospital earlier than he intended because my parents were taking better care of me than the hospital was.

            4. Beaded Librarian*

              That makes me sad having worked in a hospital kitchen for seven years. Admittedly I was more aggressively careful than some of my other coworkers but overall if an allergy was listed we were EXTREMELY careful about both cross contamination and the ingredients list.

              That actually caused a small problem at one point as we were informed the patient had a beef allergy and he wanted a hot dog I believe it was. Normally we call and let them know the issue but he had indicated he wanted to other option for dinner instead of either of the dinner options so we swapped it out and figured we’d call to figure out dinner later. We were informed that he was fine as long as it wasn’t large amounts of beef and the patient wasn’t happy. Although thankfully the nursing staff understood and appreciated the fact we were on top of things.

          2. Aitch Arr*

            I went with my parents, son, and partner in 2017 and WDW was amazing with my mom’s allergies. She’s allergic to all things seafood/fish and chicken.

            At Tusker House, the chef actually came out and gave her a ‘tour’ of the buffet, going over the ingredients of each item. At Hollywood & Vine, they had an allergy guide handout that went over whether items in the buffet were gluten-free, dairy-free, shellfish/seafood-free, etc. If she wanted to talk to the chef, she could have; same at the Moroccan restaurant.

            I’ll note that I indicated a food allergy when I made the reservations in advance on Disney’s site.

    4. Mystery Bookworm*

      It sounds like this isn’t Chandler’s concern though. He’s willing to eat foods prepared by the caterer, he would just prefer that everyone have the same meal he’s eating?

      Which hardly eliminates the cross-contamination issue. After all, even if a restaurant is only preparing beef stew for one company’s catering order, they could still be making shellfish stew for a different one.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That’s what I got out of it. He doesn’t want to be “different.” To avoid that he wants to force everyone to eat what he can eat. Which might not be possible given THEIR allergies and dietary restrictions.

        It’s kinda like the office where no one was allowed to be asymmetrical to accomodate the one person’s mental health issue. The whole world is not going to change for you. Can everyone help out? Sure. Can they make it easier for you? Sure. Can they avoid stigmatizing someone’s accomodation? Sure. But not everyone is going to do what you can do.

        1. Czhorat*

          Not wanting to be singled out is not, in and of itself, unreasonable. The comments focusing on this rather than “Yeah, Chandler is terrible” are probably closer to understanding, in my opinion.

          For most people, a work lunch involves showing up, grabbing ones food, and eating. For Chandler, it’s: schedule a meeting with the OP; peruse a menu. Decide on a meal. Show up and find your separately wrapped, separately labelled meal.

          It’s plausible that the desire to please can be backfiring in that giving Chandler the option of selecting a meal creates more perceived effort for him and emphasizes the difference.

          1. sunny-dee*

            “Schedule a meeting / menu / decision” makes it sound a lot more complicated than “read and respond to an email.” He’s not suffering or being singled out. He’s being ACCOMMODATED, and he’s the one making it a huge issue.

            Not wanting to be singled out is totally unreasonable if, you know, you need to be singled out. There are other people with other dietary restrictions that are being treated with respect and are responding with respect. Chandler is acting self-centered and entitled.

          2. WakeRed*

            As someone with a food allergy, I agree with sunny dee. I am grateful with my colleagues go out of their way to accommodate my issues but wouldn’t ask them to change their eating habits just because I can’t eat X. When we can all eat together, even if I brown bag, it’s a delight! (as long as we don’t linger too long on talking about what I can’t eat and why…)

          3. MsChanandlerBong*

            Well, I feel for him, but that’s life. Some people have it harder than others. It sucks, it’s not fair, and it’s a pain in the butt. I’ve been dealing with a similar issue for 31 years. Making everyone else miserable isn’t going to suddenly cure my problem or make it any better that I have to go through constant hassles. The OP is going out of her way to make sure he has something he can eat without aggravating his symptoms, and he’s complaining about it.

            1. Courageous cat*

              Yep. Sorry but many (most? nearly all?) people are disadvantaged in one way or another. That is just an aspect of being a live human being. I feel for these issues in particular, but he’s being somewhat childish.

          4. Avasarala*

            Dude, we get that being singled out sucks. But it’s impossible to assure people their needs are being accommodated and their food isn’t contaminated *while also* making them feel included by wrapping their food in the same packaging and labeling as everyone else.

            This is like going to a restaurant in a non-English-speaking country and asking for the English menu, then complaining that the English menu doesn’t look like the other menus. Well, you can either read the menu that you can read, or you can stare blankly at the other menu and take your chances.

            No one else with dietary restrictions is having this issue, which makes me think the issue is Chandler’s unreasonable expectations, not OP making him do a ton of legwork to get his food.

        2. Beehoppy*

          One of my best friends is “lactose intolerant” and I put that in quotes because she frequently makes exceptions for things she really wants to eat, but always complains when others don’t offer options to her liking. Her first Thanksgiving with her new in-laws, MIL (a LOVELY woman) offered to make her famous triple cream mashed potatoes. My friend mentioned her lactose issues, MIL offered to make TWO sets of taters-with and without dairy. Friend complained that she felt “singled out” and basically wanted everyone to eat the crap diary free taters.

          1. Nonsensical*

            To be fair, people can have degrees of lactose intolerant. I have a friend that could tolerate small amounts of cheese pizza or consciously sometimes chose to eat things with milk in it knowing she would suffer for it later.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              IME this is a process… I used to eat candy even though it contained my (non-life-threatening) allergens. Over a few years I ate it less often until I reached a point where I was tired of getting sick from it, and stopped.

            2. MsChanandlerBong*

              That sounds like my husband. He can eat hard cheeses, but he cannot drink milk or eat soft cheeses, ice cream, and so forth.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                My mom can’t eat ice cream but had no problems with gelato – not sure why, but that might be an option?

                1. Sorrischian*

                  I can’t say for certain, but gelato is usually made with milk only instead of a mixture of milk and cream like most other ice cream – cream’s got more fats and proteins and such than milk does, it probably has more lactose as well, so that might explain it.

              2. Mary (in PA)*

                Hey, my co-worker has the same issue! I have never heard of anyone else with this particular restriction. (She deals with it by being mostly vegan.)

              3. Anna*

                I have a friend with that same sort of lactose intolerance. My sister, on the other hand, cannot have anything dairy or dairy-adjacent. Not even butter.

          2. fieldpoppy*

            I am also lactose sensitive and know exactly what triggers me (cream, heated lattes, creamy cheeses) and what doesn’t (lower fat cheese like mozzarella, butter). I look completely inconsistent from the outside but it’s actually a system that I’ve figured out through trial and gut-wrenching error.

        1. Life is good*

          Yeah, sounds like there are other issues at play here. OP1 is doing all they can to ensure his needs are met without making it a big deal for everyone else. Sometimes, the issue isn’t really what people say it is.

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          Very likely not. If you were somehow able to meet his ridiculous expectations, he’d immediately find something else to bitch about. He’d simply move the target and complain that you can’t hit it. Again. Forever.

          1. Observer*

            In that case, just keep a log of what you are doing to accommodate his food needs. When he decides to make a stink about the “discrimination” whoever has to deal with it will be very happy to have it. People like that generally don’t have a lot of good will built up.

          2. AsItIs*

            Cut him off so to speak. “This want we can do you for. If it doesn’t work for you, then you need to consider bringing your own food in. Many people require accommodations and we are not going to make everyone else eat the same as you.”

        3. PhyllisB*

          Yeah. What got me was when they had sandwiches and he complained because his was “separate.” I can understand not wanting to make a big deal of it, and if the person serving the food was loudly saying “HERE’S YOUR SANDWICH, CHANDLER. WE HAD IT SPECIALLY SET ASIDE FOR YOU!!” That would make anybody cringe. But if everyone was serving themselves and his was wrapped and set a way from the others to avoid cross contamination, and all he had to do was just go pick it up, I mean, really?

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        If anything there would be a lot more room for cross-contamination if the whole company was eating what he wanted than if they told the caterer that X meal is for someone with a severe allergy to Y. If warned ahead of time caterers can take extreme caution with one or two meals to make sure they don’t touch the allergy inducing thing. They are not going to do that with a meal for dozens of people, and you are not going to convince them that you have a dozens of people that are allergic to Y, you will just sound weird and out of touch. So his meal will be a lot safer for him if it is separate.

      3. matcha123*

        This was how it came off to me, too. The problem for him is that EVERYONE is not eating the same thing as him.
        I mean, I get it. If everyone’s eating the same thing, it’s easy to have a ‘regular’ meeting. You can go back for seconds with coworkers, you don’t have to worry about whether they came in contact with something that might kill you, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s really something he can request?

      4. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

        Yeah, I’m going with Chandler’s a PITA. If I were the OP, I’d continue with what they are doing, giving him the menu and having him choose, and putting a definitive “No” to the request that they change the rest of the meals.

        I like the suggestion upthread to clearly lay out the choices.
        Chandler, here’s the catering menu. Please choose one of the following options:
        1. Choose what meal you would like me to order for you
        2. Decline the meal if you are going to bring your own
        3. Eat the meal that I have chosen for everyone else which is PB&J, Shrimp Salad, and Strawberry Shortcake
        Please turn in your response by Tuesday or I will assume you’ve chose option #2.
        Thank you,

    5. Mommy MD*

      Your attitude is great. I suffer hives and expect no one to cater to me. Chandler is not the center of the world.

    6. EddieSherbert*

      This was my thought as well – I babysat a kid growing up who was SEVERELY allergic to peanuts. Like, you can’t sit at the same table as him if you are eating a peanut butter cookie and then you have to thoroughly wash your hands and mouth before interacting with him.

      Maybe his allergy is that extreme? But I also feel like he would mention that and explain it’s not a “being left out” thing.

    7. CatLady*

      I created a log in just to comment on LW#1. I have life threatening allergies as well. And I wanted to commend LW#1 on making such an effort for him to eat safely. I would love to get this accommodation. And in fact one of my bosses was in charge of specific events and I always got to eat. There’s another events person that acts like my allergy is a choice and says they can’t make special orders. So that’s not awesome.

      That said, Chandler is being an idiot. It is separate so he doesn’t DIE. The caterers have to separate it so it doesn’t get mixed up. He is being ridiculous. He likely doesn’t like that he feels different. And I get it, it sucks but you know what? I’d rather have a separate meal than none at all. In face most meetings I take my own food. And if not, I call the caterer myself to see if what work has ordered is safe. Sometimes it is sometimes it isn’t. I usually only call ahead for special occasions to see if I can participate or not.

      I ALWAYS have a safe backup lunch in the fridge just in case. Sometimes you get to the restaurant and they look at you like you have three heads despite discussing your allergy before you get there. When you get that look you DO NOT EAT. Because it’s not safe. Just get a drink and eat when you get back.

      I would never ask the workplace to stop ordering something for everyone else just because I was allergic. So weird. The only exception is if they used like peanut dust or something like that and it gets everywhere, then I’d likely say I’m skipping the meeting because xyz instead of asking them to skip the order. Same deal with certain people with shellfish allergies they can swell up if it’s being cooked right there. But it doesn’t sound like this is the case with your employee.

      Either way, I’d address it by saying that the reason it is separate is because you don’t want him to have an allergic reaction. That should be good enough.

  2. sacados*

    To be honest, if Chandler continues to be this uncooperative, I would be strongly tempted to take it a step further and have a talk with Chandler’s manager (or ask my manager to speak with his) about the situation and get some backup for pushing him to change his behavior.

    1. JulieCanCan*

      Totally agree!!

      Chandler sounds like a major PIA and I’d be so tempted, after the various b.s. he’s pulled with you, to tell him what I think.

      You’re being very accommodating and patient with him and I bet most folks in your organization would think he’s wayyyy out of bounds with his demands. While I sympathize with people who suffer food allergies (my cousin is severely allergic to any nut and nut oil and has had some truly frightening experiences from cross-contamination), Chandler appears to be unrealistic and is taking advantage of your kindness. He needs to be brought back to planet earth.

      1. Amelia Pond*

        I sympathize too. My mom is allergic to cheese, and how people react to that has made me paranoid about it, ever since I was a kid. I actually worry more than she does. But many people don’t really believe it, because she’s not allergic to diary too. Something about the cheese (the bacteria?) changed it. Somewhat oddly, she’s not allergic to things like Cheetos. But people have interrogated her over it and tried to slip it into food she eats. (She’s hives and throat swelling closed allergic.) THAT hasn’t happened since I was a kid, because I went ballistic on that person. And I was a very well behaved child, so they were very surprised by my outburst. My mom doesn’t like to make a fuss about it, but I’ve made sure at gatherings that people know and that restaurants know. She’ll tell the servers she’s allergic, just not how allergic. I’ve always had over anxiety about my mom dying, but I think it’s a valid reaction to people trying to trick her!

          1. Anon Accountant*

            Apparently they don’t. I’ve had a food allergy tested by a relative to prove to me I wanted to be “special and difficult”. It’s not a big deal to say “that dessert has walnuts in it” and I avoid it.

            There’s stories of grandparents or other relatives who gave a good allergic child food they’re allergic to so the parents could “see they didn’t have an allergy”.

              1. Vemasi*

                The one I know of (reddit-famous) was legally never permitted to see her grandchild again, and had charges brought against her. She had been making cookies containing two severe allergens for months and freezing them, waiting for her “chance” to sneak them to the kid while her mother was taking a nap.

                1. Faith*

                  The worst one, IMO, is about the grandmother that actually killed her granddaughter because she put coconut oil in her hair overnight to prove her point that the girl wasn’t allergic to it. That story just broke my heart.

              2. Anon Accountant*

                Nope. Just made a big speech about how food allergies are “over diagnosed”. So I don’t go anywhere she is anymore because she destroyed my trust.

            1. King Friday XIII*

              I used to date someone who tried to surprise a nut-allergic friend with honey nut cheerios. One of many reasons I’m glad that person is my ex.

          2. blackcat*

            A friend of a friend had a parent intentionally give their kid their allergen. They did indeed try to press charges. The cops laughed at them.
            So, no, I don’t think people could go to prison for this.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Oooh, that makes me so angry. It’s like that maddening Carolyn Hax article. Even if she WAS lying (and why would she?) it’s really not anyone’s place to firugre that out.

        2. LadyPhoenix*

          My guess for Cheetos is that the processing probably “kills off” all th bateria. A lot of people with fruit-based allergies will have no issue eating fruit products because a lot of the allergens are cooked off—so to speak.

            1. Isabel Kunkle*

              This. I have at least one acquaintance with a peanut allergy who has no problem with most commercial brands of peanut butter: great for him, a touch unsettling for those who like their food to contain the actual ingredient. Me, I grew up eating Cheetos and Starburst, so, eh.

              1. Mike C.*

                It does contain the “actual ingredient”, just not the specific enzyme that sets off their immune system. There’s nothing “unsettling” about this at all.

          1. lawyer*

            Yup. I have oral allergy syndrome, which means I have an allergic reaction to raw walnuts and raw apples (and during certain times of year, also raw strawberries, carrots, and stone fruit). Most forms of processing – cooking, fermentation, pasteurization – sufficiently alter the chemical makeup of the food that I don’t react to them.

            I still can’t stomach walnuts (my worst food) because I associate the smell with getting sick, but still being able to have apple turnovers is delightful.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              My SIL is allergic to raw tomatoes but not cooked ones. I’m mildly allergic to oranges, but I don’t know if I can eat them cooked, I guess because one rarely cooks oranges. Neither of us is life-threateningly allergic, though, just annoyingly. Hives and gastric distress, respectively.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                The man who taught me about non-IgE allergies is allergic to cooked tomatoes but not raw ones. :)

            2. PlainJane*

              So that’s what it’s called! I had this issue for about 15 years–it developed spontaneously while I was pregnant and went away just as spontaneously when my son was in high school. Human bodies are weird.

            3. Ophelia*

              Yep! This happens to me with Kiwi (it makes my mouth itch/swell), but I don’t get a systemic reaction to it. I don’t really LIKE juice that contains kiwi, but I’ve had it, and had no reaction, I assume because it was pasteurized, and the heat denatured whatever bothers me.

            4. Weyrwoman*

              Oh my gods. I was curious so I looked up OAS, and I just…you just solved a long-standing question for me! I have hayfever, and thus a decent number of allergic reactions to pollen. And apparently *that’s* why I’m allergic to all kinds of peppers! I’ve been trying to figure out my pepper allergy since forever!

            5. Elizabeth West*

              Hmm, interesting. I have the opposite, where if I eat some foods, I’m fine orally but then I have a stomachache. Broccoli in particular. I have to avoid it completely (sadly, because I used to love broccoli with cheese sauce).

              Bananas and avocados do it too if I eat a whole one, though I don’t have a latex allergy. No problem with plantains, but I guess that’s because they’re cooked.

            6. PhyllisB*

              Reading all these allergy comments make me wonder about something but have never known who to ask: my son gets extreme distress when he eats almonds. Not an allergic reaction exactly, just extreme digestive discomfort. Does anyone know why this is? Obviously I don’t fix foods with almonds, but the reason I ask is in case there are other foods botanically related I should be careful about. Ex: I have read that people who can’t eat avocados should also avoid bananas.

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            And for fresh fruit, processing/cooking it can alter the allergen enough to fix the issue.

            Not quite an allergy, but many people (including me) get a skin reaction to fresh butternut squash, especially if slightly underripe, from the sap. Cooking it destroys the effect.

          3. Aleta*

            Yeah, that’s a thing. I’m allergic to vinegar, and can actually eat small amounts of some sauces/cooking with vinegar if it’s been cooked, and the more processed whatever it is the more of it I can eat. So, I can eat regular amounts of Heinz ketchup, but only very very small amounts of Fancy Homemade Ketchup.

          4. Risha*

            Yep. Eat more than two grapes and I’ll be sick to my stomach and my throat will be starting to itch. But I have absolutely no issues eating raisins or drinking wine.

        3. Chameleon*

          Allergies are caused by our immune system recognizing something as foreign–but it recognizes it by the *shape* of the thing on a molecular level. There is a lot of stuff added (a protein called rennin, and often bacteria) and the processing can actually change the shape of a lot of the proteins found in the milk (which is why it solidifies).

          So it is totally feasible for someone to be allergic to cheese but not milk. Similarly, there are people who can’t drink milk but can eat yogurt. Just because something is made of something else doesn’t mean your body knows that!

          (This is not to convince you–you are obviously not questioning. This is in case someone is wondering how that is possible.)

          1. JustaCPA*

            Yep. Milk has ALWAYS made me nauseous but I can eat cheese and ice cream (and cooked cream/milk lilke in soups etc is fine)

            1. JaneB*

              And I have a friend who can eat cooked cheese – e.g. on pizza – but gets multiple-days-in-the-bathroom sick if she eats uncooked cheese.

              Bodies are weird.

            2. fieldpoppy*

              Yup. I can put cold milk in coffee or cereal but a latte with heated milk makes me sick for days.

        4. Red 5*

          And see, this is a thing where if somebody told me I’d just think “huh, you know I bet it might be some cheeses and not others but man, it would take forever to actually figure that out and how would you even try without so much risk it wouldn’t be worth it? Yeah, definitely best to just lay off all the cheese in her situation. Human bodies are so weird…” and move on with my life. Like, okay, it’s not the dairy, there’s plenty of ingredients and things going on with cheese. It’s not just “I left milk sitting here and today it’s cheese.”

          People are so annoying how they think they’re experts in allergies and it’s just so stupid. Especially food allergies, where there’s so much less known about them than people think. And I just can’t even fathom trying to trick someone into eating something at all (even if they just said they didn’t like it/want it). The pushiness around food in our culture drives me up the wall.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            IME there’s a general disrespect in our culture that includes a lot of controlling behavior, and this is an *especially* toxic example of it.
            What it comes down to is disrespect. If someone says they or their child is allergic to a food, that needs to be respected! Even if they’re wrong about that, they’ll figure it out in time.
            I diagnosed my own food allergies because doctors did *not*. The medical establishment is way behind in diagnosing, let alone treating, the type of allergies we’re discussing here. So people have to figure it out for themselves and that should be respected!!! Grrrrrrr……

          2. Crooked Bird*

            One time I did leave milk sitting & the next day it was yogurt, though… :)

            It was surprisingly good yogurt too. Yes, I ate it.

          3. Jojo*

            This is not even about allergies, but I have gestational diabetes and have just discovered this pushiness! People at my office are pushing food at me ALL. THE. TIME. because they are worried about my weight gain (or lack thereof), worried about the baby not getting what he needs. One lady straight up tried to give me coffee cake, because it had cinnamon on it, and cinnamon is a “good sugar”. Fruit spikes my blood sugar so I avoid it, and that distresses 2 of my coworkers to no end. People are weird, and I have started just saying, “I know exactly what I’m doing, thanks.”

      2. kitryan*

        I agree with the sentiment, but be careful. OP 1, read your workplace and line up any support you might need with your boss/manager if you want to push back on things.
        I had a friend who had gotten to BEC stage with a coworker with dietary restrictions (kosher in this case) and when that person- call him Fergus- told her that the food she’d ordered wasn’t sufficiently kosher she snapped at him in an email. She’d asked another person in the office who also kept kosher for a restaurant recommendation and the place he’d picked wasn’t sufficiently strict for Fergus. She felt the goalposts were constantly being moved for pleasing Fergus, who was generally curt and demanding.
        Fergus took it to her boss and the incident was a key factor in her being basically fired. She had way less status and clout than Fergus, which she should have realized. If she’d gone to her boss instead of writing the email, Fergus would likely have been told to behave better to her and a policy set up for handling the special meal requests that would have been easier for her.

        1. Carlee*

          There are actually different levels of ‘kosherness’ for lack of a better word – and different degrees of kosherness required at different times of the year. Depending on your level of religiousness, ‘acceptably kosher’ for Julie may not be ‘acceptably kosher’ to Bob.

          For example, kosher for Passover is WHOLE other, stricter level of kosherness — ‘regular’ kosher food is NOT kosher for Passover. Like, kosher diet Coke is NOT kosher-for-passover diet Coke. Plus, some folks consider rice to be kosher for Passover, while others don’t. All of which is legit.

          There are also an infinite number of ways to accidentally render kosher food non-kosher — for example, breaking the seal on prepared meal, serving the meal on a non-kosher plate, serving kosher meat on a kosher-for-dairy plate, putting kosher meat and kosher cheese on the same plate, etc.

          OP #1’s case is quite different than that of your fired friend. Your fired friend may have considered Fergus ridiculous, but Fergus was actually, legitimately a different level/type of kosher than the restaurant selected.

          1. kitryan*

            I’m well aware that there are different ways to keep kosher. That’s why I said that she hadn’t picked a restaurant that complied with Fergus’s level of observance (as a fact, not an opinion).
            However, my example was, more generally, a situation where not showing sufficient ‘respect’ to a dietary restriction got someone in seriously hot water. That’s the relevant element. Chandler’s demands may have some sort of reason behind it, but even if it doesn’t, it’s still risky to push back without the support of one’s boss, as the OP would then come off as the rude and demanding one. Just tell Chandler that he has to ‘deal with it’ or any other flippant response and suddenly it’s OP who’s the unsympathetic one.
            My coworker made an unintentional error, Fergus really couldn’t eat the food that was ordered-however, if either one of them had been more diplomatic about that, my coworker might not have gotten into hot water.
            In my example, Fergus had a point, though he was a jackass about expressing it. As far as we *know* Chandler is just being hard to please. But both situations require a bit of tact- that’s the through line. OP may get much better results if she’s clear on her position and knows she has the support of her manager in pushing back (of course, depending on specific workplace dynamics).

            1. Carlee*

              An alternative perspective is that your colleague *assumed* kosher was one-size-fits all, assumed the kosher restaurant she found met Fergus’s dietary needs, assumed Fergus was being a dick and complained to her manager WITHOUT having actually spoken to Fergus to ascertain that the kosher food she found *did* meet his dietary needs.

              Your former colleague was obnoxious for literally no good reason, obnoxious in the abscence of information she could and SHOULD have acquired from Fergus.

              That’s a fire-able offence, particularly if combined with other incidents of exercising poor judgement.

              OP#1’s situation is 100% not the same!

              1. kitryan*

                It’s kind of weird that you know better than I do what happened at my workplace, even though it happened right next to me.
                It’s almost like you’ve made up a bunch of stuff out of whole cloth and decided it’s true, so you could explain Judaism to a Jewish person.

              2. kitryan*

                BTW, all of your ‘alternative perspective’ is factually incorrect and mostly contradicts the information already given in my comment. Enjoy your comment section fanficcing.

    2. Parenthetically*

      I would be strongly tempted to have a very long and hearty belly laugh in Chandler’s face the next time he griped about being provided with food he is able to eat, on someone else’s dime because no one else is being forced to eat the same thing he’s eating.

      Chandler: Ugh, my food is DIFFERENT, it makes me STAND OUT, why can’t EVERYONE eat what I’m eating wah wah wah
      Me: *gales of laughter* Oh, get a grip, Chandler, you get to eat that and not die, be a little grateful! *wiping tears, walking away still chortling*

      1. Amber T*

        I think that’s a little mean. No doubt he’s a pain in the ass (as OP confirmed above), but to laugh at someone because they have allergies that makes them stand out? This feels like breaking your back to stoop to his level.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Uh, sorry, where was I saying to laugh at him because of his allergies? I was clearly saying I’d laugh at him because he’s being an entitled brat, and complaining that OP’s bending over backwards to accommodate his allergies isn’t enough for him. That’s… ridiculous.

      2. Michaela Westen*

        I think the most satisfying response would be, “Ok, you can bring your lunch.”

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, is it impossible to accommodate Chandler’s allergy when ordering for the group? For example, I often have to order food for omnivores and vegans. I usually pick restaurants that provide food that would work for both populations instead of creating a separately wrapped standalone meal for our resident vegans. I do the same thing when someone has a nut or other food allergy.

    I wonder if Chandler’s problem is that he feels like the accommodation segregates and stigmatizes him. (I’m not saying that’s what’s happening, just trying to posit what would make me suggest someone change their entire catering menu). Although it sounds like you’re doing everything right, OP, it may be worth revisiting changing the frame for integrating that allergy into the main catering menu.

    1. SignalLost*

      That seems reasonable, except that OP indicates that there are multiple food restrictions in play, across a spectrum of reasons. If Chandler is allergic to shellfish, let’s say, is it actually reasonable to require practicing Catholics to eat roast beef during Lent so Chandler doesn’t feel picked on by having his own lunch that meets his dietary needs and is identified as his own lunch? Because that seems to be the issue, that his lunch is one of several that is separate from the “main” lunch.

    2. Artemesia*

      So you make everyone eat vegan? If I am eating at a vegan person’s home or wedding I expect that. But for work meals especially if they occur fairly often, I don’t feel that I should have to eat someone else’s highly restrictive diet. For me it is compounded by the fact that given my own digestive issues, vegan foods are fairly likely to make me sick or feel bad — nothing life threatening but not stuff my stomach and gut are happy with.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        No. I order a variety of food that includes copious vegan options that are stored and plated separately from the meet options. We haven’t had any cross-contamination or other problems as a result.

        1. MuseumChick*

          But it sounds like that is what the OP is doing, to the best of her ability, with multiple food allergies and restrictions at play. It’s not as simple as “Some people in this office eat meat and some don’t.” It sounds more like “Ok, we have two people with celiac, one vegan, one who keeps kosher, three people with peanut allergies, one person allergic to shell fish, and a pescetarian.”

          The OP says: “I’ve taken account of everyone’s dietary restrictions, and I make sure that the restaurants or catering companies always adhere to these specifications and restrictions, whether they are ethical, religious, or allergy. I send a menu out to those with restrictions and make sure that they feel they have enough to eat and are taken care of adequately.”

          Chandler is being unreasonable and not taking into account other people’s allergies and dietary restrictions.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Yes – sometimes there are so many overlapping food restrictions that no restaurant can meet all of them. Try finding a place that is strict kosher but also egg/dairy/nut free but also accommodates gluten-free vegans. I make sure everyone gets a good meal, but sometimes they have to eat food from a different place. People will only tolerate the “kosher bowls ‘o unseasoned quinoa” restaurant for so many meals before they rebel.

        2. fposte*

          I’m with Museum Chick–I think this is what the OP is currently doing, and what Chandler wants is for everybody to eat the same thing he does. Which I suspect would be impossible to achieve anyway, given that there are so many other people there with dietary requirements.

          I mean, I can see that maybe Chandler had a long childhood history of being singled out on the field trip bus about how he’ll get his very different lunch or staring at an empty plate while everybody else dived in until somebody remembered to hunt down his food. But the grouping isn’t Chandler/everybody else. It’s this restriction/this restriction/this restriction/this restriction and *maybe* a no restrictions group (you don’t have to have dietary restrictions to prefer no shellfish, for instance). There is no O negative meal for a large group like that; all Chandler would be achieving is making other people with different dietary restrictions feel more left out.

          1. PersonalJeebus*

            I love the concept of the “O negative meal.” The blood type analogy is pretty apt (I say as a non-scientist) because even within a given type, there are lots of subtypes–just as within the “no dietary restrictions” group, there will still be people who loathe certain foods.

            The best way to serve everybody is to provide variety and safety, and let them deal with the emotional part. Just feed them, yo.

        3. Annie Moose*

          How is “copious vegan options that are stored and plated separately from the meat options”, which apparently is good, different from “creating a separately wrapped standalone meal for our resident vegans”, which in your first post you suggested was not good?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            The difference is in presenting the food as part of an integrated meal as opposed to presenting food as contaminated or segregated. It’s the difference between putting both options on the same table versus putting one option in a separate, wrapped area far away from all other communal food.

            OP may be doing everything possible for Chandler, and it seems like Chandler is asking OP to manage his feelings in a way that is not appropriate. I’m just trying to think through low-hanging fruit options for OP that may ameliorate the Chandler complaints. It may be that OP has already picked all of that fruit, and they certainly sound extremely thoughtful and conscientious. It may be that the only option at this point is to have someone higher up the management chain tell Chandler to knock it off with the complaints.

            1. Someone Else*

              For me and my allergies and restrictions though, the being on the same table is often a major problem. Something that was fine gets contaminated by coworkers who pick up one pair of tongs and touch everything with it. I guess I just don’t relate to Chandler very well because contamination is a major concern to me. So I’d much rather be isolated and able to eat, than blended in with the crowd and no longer sure if my food is actually safe. Maybe his issue isn’t as severe but it’s just a bit incomprehensible to me.

        1. Sophie before she was cool*

          Cut that out. It’s super mean to laugh at someone’s food intolerances. Lots of people are allergic to various vegetables.

        2. whingedrinking*

          Yes. (I mean, not me personally, but it is possible.) Apart from allergies, there are also situations where a person’s gut just can’t handle large amounts of fibre or certain complex carbohydrates.

    3. Chloe*

      I love this as a concept. But I’ve come across too many omnivores who behave as though eating a single vegan meal will actually kill them and would never be game to do it myself.

      1. Artemesia*

        Onions make me sick for two days. I have eaten in many a vegan restaurant or home where every dish is laden with leeks or onions or shallots or chives — because those things taste good and are a common way to make foods like beans, greens, various veggie casseroles etc taste better. I bet there are plenty of people with dietary issues that make the typical vegan menu problematic. Gluten is the other obvious one since one of the major proteins in vegan cuisine is gluten like seiten.

        1. Chloe*

          I definitely don’t mean that people should eat things that make them sick. I just mean the ‘I must have meat/dairy/gluten/etc with every meal’ approach is an interesting one.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No, I assume she’s talking about people who have no dietary restrictions but are simply put out by the idea of one meal with no meat or dairy. They’re out there. Let’s move on so this doesn’t derail the conversation.

            2. Chloe*

              I don’t think this is the place to have a discussion about the nutritional requirements of a human being, but I don’t think forcing gluten/dairy/meat on people who are allergic, intolerant, or have a strong urge not to consume these things will make them more functional, unless feeling gross/being sick/cramping/etc is on their list of KPIs.

          1. Observer*

            But that’s not what’s at play here. What is at play is the assumption that “vegan” is a choice that’s a good default. It’s not. And from what the OP says, what Chandler can eat won’t make a good choice for a number of people, aside from the fact that it’s not really reasonable to expect the entire group to limit themselves to the foods that some people with specific food issues can eat.

            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

              Yeah, there’s nothing about vegan that automatically means allergy free (though it might cover many cultural and religious restrictions). Vegan is often brought up as if it covers everything.

              1. Al who is that Al*

                Yes I am so sick of telling restaurants I have a dairy allergy and then been given some vegan, coeliac (spelling?), gluten-free, taste-free, food-free crap on a plate. I was at a Hilton hotel a couple of months back. Lunch was a smorgasboard of tasty treats several of which were obviously non-dairy like Chicken Salsa skewers. I waited the obligatory 15 minutes for my separate plate to be brought out…. One slice of tomato, a piece of iceberg lettuce, a small slice of avocado (yuk), a slice of ordinary white bread. Does crap white bread even count as Vegan ?

                Needless to say, words were said…

                1. Mary*

                  My partner had this in a bistro in France, where she’d have been perfectly happy with an omelette and chips, but someone mentioned the dreaded V word so they were like, “say no more! Here is our lettuce-and-tomato-with-no-dressing special!”

                2. Artemesia*

                  When we have dinner parties for largish groups that include vegetarians we just make sure the side dishes are substantial and make good mains for vegetarians e.g. a bean casserole of some sort, perhaps a rice based dish, a hearty fruit salad perhaps with goat cheese, good breads etc etc so the only difference is that the veggies don’t take the meat course. When there are vegans I will often buy dishes that are specifically vegan but substantial again and let the vegans know which dishes on the table are vegan. This way people don’t have to make a fuss about their diet because their food is also everyone else’s food and in abundance. But people who are not vegan are not restricted to vegan food.

                3. Mike C.*

                  This is why a lot of folks grimace when being told “we’re going to have a vegan/gluten free/etc” meal. Oh cool, a plate of unseasoned quinoa! Yet you go down the street to a nice Indian place or Halal place or whatever and can get really good food that still meets those requirements.

                4. Essess*

                  @Mary (it wouldn’t let me nest a reply directly under Mary’s reply)…. you mention that your partner would have been happy with an omelette but ended up with a salad. Many/most vegetarians won’t eat eggs so many restaurants will not include that as a possible vegetarian meal unless you specifically let them know you eat eggs.

                5. ChimericalOne*

                  @Essess Lact0-ovo vegetarians are the most common type of vegetarian in the Western world. So it’s not accurate (in the West, at least — I’m not sure about the East) to say that “most” vegetarians don’t eat eggs. Most vegetarians don’t eat meat. Most vegetarians do, however, eat other animal products such as milk, eggs, and honey. Vegetarians who don’t eat meat *or* other animal products generally self-describe as vegan.

                6. Rana*

                  Yup. I still remember this one conference banquet – for an environmentally topical organization, no less – where you paid $30 a head for your meal and the vegetarian option was….

                  A plate of plain, unseasoned, steamed vegetables. Like, bag o’ frozen veggies vegetables. They didn’t even bother making it look nice!

              2. ValkyrAmy*

                Yes! I am horrifically allergic to fungi. Mushrooms, truffles, even some blue cheeses. I also live in an area of the country where we have been having so many festivals to celebrate chanterelle harvests and other nonsense. Mushrooms are such a filler food, and this time of year are in most restaurant specials. Vegan/vegetarian options are more often than not full of shrooms. I cannot consistently eat a veg diet because I get hives, difficultly breathing, nausea, and itchy tongue/throat.

                I am an expert at being annoying at restaurants regarding my allergy, especially after an acquaintance of mine who was a line cook at a local bar told me that whenever he got an “allergy” note on an order, he made sure to add a bit of that allergen because he knew they were faking and just didn’t like that food.

                I am delighted when my allergy is accommodated, but I never count on it because it is seriously a pain in the ass. (On our first meal in together, my now-fiance served me dinner that had mushrooms as the last ingredient in the chicken broth he’d purchased. The evening did not end as romantically as it could’ve.)

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  “whenever he got an “allergy” note on an order, he made sure to add a bit of that allergen because he knew they were faking and just didn’t like that food. ”
                  So, when is his murder trial?

                2. Quoth the Raven*

                  I’m very allergic to all kinds of sprouts (soybean, alfalfa, etc.) — like you, I have difficulty breathing, nausea, vomit, itchy tongue and throat (that feels swollen; I feel like there’s something stuck in it). A lot of places use sprouts in salads/sandwiches that are vegetarian/vegan, sometimes unlisted as an ingredient, and while I haven’t had any issues with cross contamination from utensils and pots/pans, it’s a whole other beast to have them on my food. It’s not anything I can easily pick out, either, or eat around (as I found out with some ramen recently).

                  And I must also comment, when is the murder trial? Jesus,

              3. Michaela Westen*

                Vegan would absolutely not work for me. I need meat, turkey and chicken to function. I think many non-vegans feel this way.
                I’m allergic/sensitive to dairy, soy, and eggs. I can’t eat onions and garlic because they upset my stomach. So do beans. You can see why I bring my meals!

            2. Dust Bunny*

              Vegan can be tricky if you have blood sugar issues and aren’t already well-practiced in managing them on a vegan diet, or if the vegan meal provided isn’t built to accommodate it. A lot of plant proteins are too carb-y and/or not protein-dense enough.

              1. S*

                ok but literally nobody is saying “eat a meal that will make you sick.” I imagine the original comment has to do with the fact that many vegans have encountered multiple people who balk at the idea of eating anything labeled vegan, even though I’m sure many of them have eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or spaghetti and tomato sauce, both of which are vegan. Obviously, if you’re allergic to peanuts, nobody should make you eat pb&J.

            3. Leave other people along*

              I have friends who are on a keto diet because they have cardiac issues, and their diet has mitigated those issues according to their cardiologist and the testing they undergo. At this point, they actively get sick if they go off the keto diet even for one meal. Their keto diet has to be carefully balanced and that means everything they eat.
              Other people’s keto diets may not be as strict, but that doesn’t mean my friends might not get sick if their diet was screwed up. They can eat out, carefully. They can’t eat presents of cookies or bread, and they can’t eat vegan or vegetarian or they’ll get sick.

            4. Seespotbitejane*

              It’s also occasionally an issue that when you put everything on the same table, omnivores who like the special options will eat it without considering that they need to leave enough for the people who *need* that food. When I was in college we had one station in the cafeteria that served vegetarian/vegan food and the manager in charge of it was really thoughtful about making sure those options had variety and flavor. Every year for Passover that station served latkes and applesauce and it was hugely popular with lines out the door. Sometimes the result was that the very small population of students who actually observed Passover were left with basically nothing in the cafeteria to eat once the station sold out.

              I’ve seen that play out at work too where the office gets 5 meat pizzas, one cheese pizza, and one veggie with a gluten free crust. Somebody goes down the line and takes a slice of pepperoni, a slice of cheese, and a slice of gluten free veggie.

              I see the value in putting all the food on one table with appropriate labeling but only if you’re sure that there’s truly enough of a spread for everyone.

              1. Old Biddy*

                This. At my former job, the cafeteria had to kept the vegetarian entrees in the back. Anyone could go get one, but this cut down on the people who took it as a side dish because it was there.

        2. Tau*

          My aunt has fructose malabsorption and eats gluten-free. I’m not actually sure what’s left to eat if you add vegan on top of that.

          There’s all sorts of dietary restrictions that can be at play for all sorts of reasons, a lot of which don’t play nicely together. Although trying to get a meal everyone can eat is obviously the ideal, OP’s approach is perfectly valid.

        3. Temperance*

          For me, it’s the bell peppers/peppers in general that flood vegan food. I have an unpleasant reaction to them, and I notice that when food leans heavily towards vegetarian/vegan, it’s full of them, so then I can’t eat anything.

    4. MassMatt*

      I dislike the idea that, barring extreme health risks, everyone has to eat according to the most restrictive diet in the group. Not everyone signed up for a vegetarian/vegan/nut free/gluten free life. Where does this end? “Jane’s vegan, so you’re eating tofu”?

      1. TL -*

        Yup. And food is important and complicated – tastes, preferences, cultural – going with the most restrictive diet will often make things more expensive and less enjoyable for the majority of people who are eating.

        I enjoy lots of incidentally vegan and vegetarian foods but nothing makes me as happy as Texan brisket and if food was always served for the most restrictive diet/combination of diets when there was a good, cheap BBQ option, I’d get pretty frustrated that the perk wasn’t actually enjoyable.

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        You misread PCBH. She is not suggesting everyone eat restrictive. She is suggesting that if OP has not already they consider ordering from places that have a variety of food that meets the groups needs.

        There is a wide chasm between Chandler with allergies eats the special green package of tofu stir fry from other place and everyone else eats BBQ from Rick’s and everyone is eating from Accessible Kitchen with their being various options for the different diets.

        PCBH is asking op to look into option 2 if she can.

        1. epi*

          It sounded to me like that is what the OP is already doing though. She picks caterers that can accommodate everyone, gives people a chance to look at the menu in case the main meal won’t work for them, and communicates to the restaurant that they need to be especially careful that x servings of that dish not contain an allergen. Just putting out a buffet might create cross contamination issues, and depending how restrictive or mutually exclusive people’s needs are, it may not make financial or logistical sense.

          Also, it doesn’t guarantee that the people with real restrictions get fed. I have been to many restaurants where the vegetarian option is better than the main meal and lots of people who don’t actually need it want to try it. That’s great, but only if you are sure the vegetarians got their food. To do that, you’re often right back to asking people about their needs and serving accordingly.

        2. Parenthetically*

          Yeah, I think this is what OP is already doing, and Chandler has decided to bitch about it because he’s… I dunno… embarrassed to have to eat something different than everyone else or something?

          1. Decima Dewey*

            If Chandler feels singled out now, imagine how he’d feel when coworkers discover he’s the reason they couldn’t have the caterer’s delicious grilled salmon dish and had to eat canned beef stew instead.

    5. Julia*

      To be honest, I’m kind of confused what Chandler’s goal is. Personally, as a vegetarian (who doesn’t die when there is hidden meat or fish in my food, not that I don’t hate it) in a culture where that’s extremely rare, I get that having food that looks different can be uncomfortable because people question you about it. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, though, as a lot of people apparently have different restrictions or preferences, if I read OP1 correctly. In that case – and in any case, actually – I’d be thrilled to receive a meal I can eat.
      If Chandler is worried about cross-contamination, like people above suggested, that’s probably a different issue, but as others have said, gluten-free (for example) and other diets don’t often mix (I tried vegan and gluten-free for a bit once, it was really tough) and everyone should have the same chance to eat within their diet. (Of course if Chandler was deadly allergic to peanuts to the point of peanut particles in the air, peanuts should be banned.)
      Maybe I’ve been made to feel like a nuisance for my vegetarianism for too long, but it sounds like Chandler either has a really good deal and doesn’t appreciate it, or he’s actually worried about something else like cross-contamination and is terrible at explaining himself. I wonder if OP could ask him about that.

      1. Anonny*

        Agreed- OP says that they’ve clarified and confirmed the extent of the issue, so Chandler really sounds less like a child who needs a completely peanut free classroom for safety reasons and more like the kid who’s whining because other kids are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch and it’s not fair that he can’t have the same thing.

        Fellow vegetarian among carnivores here, and based on the letter I do think he doesn’t appreciate how good he has it. For years I’ve packed PB&Js to work on days when I knew the provided lunch options would be either turkey or ham, a couple months ago someone handed me a veggie sub with my name on it and I felt like I had finally Arrived.

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          Yeah, my spouse’s company is finally making sure my husband has a gluten free option when they order food. He’s dairy free too but it’s intolerances not allergies. He’s more concerned about the gluten than the dairy because he gets sicker from accidental gluten ingestion. He recently got a reminder about it at work, it took him days for his system to get back to normal. It was bratwurst cooked in beer. The gluten from the beer triggered him.

          He also keeps a couple of those shelf stable quinoa bowls in a desk drawer, so he’s got food if something go awry in the ordering.

      2. mark132*

        I think he honestly wants his food to look the same as everyone else inclusive of packaging. I think he is sick of being special. Kids who spend their whole grade and secondary school careers sitting at the allergy table at lunch get sick of being special. (My nephew “loved” being special for his bad allergy). Of course I don’t know this is the case. Of course wanting a getting aren’t the same thing.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah—I suspect he feels singled out in a way that makes him uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean OP has to accommodate the fact that he feels that way, but maybe there are other strategies for passing him food he can handle (e.g., letting him grab and plate his food before everyone else arrives) that are low-cost and low-effort.

          1. Fulana del Tal*

            That’s just too much. If he has an issues he needs to sort that out on his own and let the OP do her job. He has food he can eat and not die/severe reaction, he doesn’t need anything else.

            1. JulieCanCan*

              Exactly! Perfectly stated. Yes it sucks to be Chandler but don’t punish others or resent those who can eat things you can’t.

              If Chandler is upset with his lot in life he should speak with someone about that. But work provides free food and is bending over backwards to help him find something he wants and can actually eat. Some companies I’ve worked for would email managers saying “We’re having a meeting during our lunch hour, make sure to get your food (that you supply yourself) ahead of time and have it ready to bring into the conference room by 12:30. No stragglers.”

              I’d be so psyched to have a restaurant meal delivered and paid for by my employer, I can’t imagine complaining about it.

              1. Backroads*

                Just Friday I was at a training. No, food was not provided. It was not at our normal workplace, and I fear not all of us were clever enough to stop and grab a bite. Fortunately, the local had an onsite cafe, so I grabbed a sandwich and brought it back to the training. Coworker mentioned nice, that she wish she had thought ahead as she was starving. I offered her half the sandwich, only to be kindly reminded she had severe food allergies.

                Though she assured me all was well, I still felt really dumb eating that sandwich.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  Accommodating Chandler isn’t punishing others, but Chandler apparently wants EVERYONE to have to eat what he’s eating, and his attitude seems extremely punitive to me — “If I can’t have (thing I’m allergic to), NOBODY should be able to, dammit!”

                2. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I just want to say, as someone with multiple food allergies who has a little sympathy for Chandler’s feelings (obviously I do not think he’s handling it well at all, and it’s not OP’s problem to manage)–I really appreciate how thoughtful you’ve been in this thread. You focused on what Chandler’s issue is, acknowledged that the root of his feelings is perfectly human and not unreasonable, and suggested a few easy ways the OP might be able to ameliorate his concerns without making much effort, while recognizing that the OP is already being very thoughtful about the whole thing and that Chandler is not. As always, I appreciate having your comments here.

            2. Parenthetically*

              Yeah, it’s REALLY not OP’s job to manage Chandler’s complicated emotions around his dietary restrictions. I’m sure it’s difficult to have them, but he is a grown-ass adult and he needs to be the one learning how to handle his sh*t, not expecting his coworkers to do his emotional labor for him. OP isn’t Chandler’s mom, and Chandler isn’t a 7-year-old at the allergy table in the school lunchroom.

          2. TL -*

            Honestly, grabbing special or specific food is just part of the deal with food allergies and there’s no way to hide them – food is a major part of our lives and quirks get noticed. The OP is already putting in a lot of effort to accommodate everyone, which is awesome. She doesn’t need to manage Chandler’s feelings around his diet as well.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Just yesterday I was eating my little snack at a party and friends asked, “what are you eating?”
              The difference is I love talking about food allergies, meds, the medical establishment, pharma companies… and enjoy lively conversation with my friends. I’m an ambassador for understanding and treating allergies and an activist for getting the medical establishment up to speed.
              BTW, if some random line cook told me he was deliberately feeding customers things they’re allergic to… he’d be lucky if I didn’t beat him up…

          3. HannaSpanna*

            I don’t think he is being singled out though. There are others OP’s ordering for that have separate meals. It sounds like OP is being very thoughtful of all possible food issues, and reacting accordingly.
            He is a bit special as his food request is serious medical rather than intolerance/religious/social, so OP is treating it specially. It’s odd then that he’s complaining about it being special.
            I would hope that we could fond a script (too expensive, too conplicated with other food restrictions etc) that OP could say to shut Chandler down.

          4. MattKnifeNinja*

            If it’s “I’m tired if feeling singled out.”, that’s on Chandler. OP is there to feed him, not work on his self esteem issues.

            Listen, I get Chandler. It blows chunks everyone will be eating yummy holiday baked goods, and me and my niece won’t. We are anaphylactic to tree nuts. People forget the chocolate torte crust was dusted with pecan meal. It’s too zoo-y of an season to have the Spanish Inquisition about the desserts. So it’s fruit, and binge on home made baked goodies later.

            At end of it, you make the situation as miserable as you want. Chandler has options, and for whatever reason isn’t seeing them as a positive. At least OP #1 is trying.

        2. Avasarala*

          But on the other hand, his food also needs to be clearly signaled/labelled so he knows it’s his and others don’t eat it. If everyone’s getting burritos and his is packaged like everyone else’s, what happens when someone eats it by accident? I get that it sucks to be different but this is life, man. This is like complaining that you have to use a fork instead of chopsticks at a Chinese restaurant, when you’re the one who can’t use chopsticks. OP is bearing the brunt of his unreasonable frustrations, IMO.

          1. Julia*

            Not sure about blaming Chandler here, but I do wonder about the others in the situation. Since OP1 mentions multiple people with restrictions, we can probably assume that improperly labelled food is a problem for not just Chandler, but for some of his colleagues as well.

            1. Someone Else*

              It sounds like there are multiple people with various restrictions, and presumably all their special meals are separate and labeled, but only Chandler is complaining about his separateness.

                1. Aveline*

                  Or, if the group is small enough, everyone’s food can be labeled.

                  A lot of this depends entirely on whether we are talking 20 people or 200

                2. Someone Else*

                  I wasn’t suggesting it would? My point was moreso even if Chandler’s angle is “I’m being singled out”, he is not. He’s one of 12 people who all have their own special needs literally catered to. The group of “special food” seems actually kind of large (although I don’t know the size of the total group so maybe not proportionally). So yes, the labeling and individual wrapping is necessary, but it’s not a situation where he and he alone is being isolated. He’s not being reasonable.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          But people cope with that, because the alternative is death or hospitalization. (Having packed a lot of peanut free lunches because my kids had friends who were allergic.) Just say “Yeah, I’m allergic to shellfish so they make sure mine wasn’t made next to the shrimp stock” and move on.

        4. Dr. Pepper*

          It does suck, but after a certain point you just have to get over it and accept that you ARE singled out. It’s not fair, but it is what it is. Chandler sounds like a child here.

        5. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Chandler is an adult and apparently hasn’t heard or embraced that life isn’t fair.

          I think I’m feeling uncharitable this morning, but he’s the type of person who makes things hard for the rest of those with allergies or dietary restrictions. Because I can guarantee there’s someone he works with (or has now read this thread) that thinks… All those special snowflake people who want the world to bend to their needs.

          I don’t think this is the case for most people with allergies or dietary restrictions, but there’s enough of them in the world that give the rest a bad name. Yes, Mr.I can’t eat pork because of religious reasons but then complain loudly when my omelet is missing bacon. Or Ms. I don’t like the taste of onions so I tell everyone I’m allergic so that I don’t get them in my meal. I think the OP needs to tell Chandler to pick a meal and get lost.

          1. MattKnifeNinja*

            People are surprised when they find out about my food allergies because I really really really really don’t want them to be the center point of the meal.

            I was traveling with folks and they decided to stop at the national seafood restaurant chain known for their cheddar biscuits. I broke out in a sweat. Shellfish and fish anaphylaxis oh my! Cross contamination nightmare. I was STARVING.

            I went to the kitchen and told them my tale of woe. I didn’t want to *be the issue*, and have everyone talk about my allergies.

            The cook had me watch as he hand washed all the utensils he was going to use. And my plate and utensil He cooked up a stir fry of veggies and plain noodles. The wait staff brought my dish out with everyone else.

            I went outside and sobbed just to release the stress before everyone got up to travel further. Also the food was good.

            I never go to that lengths for a meal, but this was semi-business. I didn’t know the people that well.

            Chandler needs more coping skills than everyone eats the same as him.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              It’s a shame you felt you had to hide your allergies. What would have happened if you let them know you can’t eat at a seafood restaurant? Would they have been equally happy with barbecue or Italian?
              I don’t think all that stress should have been required of you. *Internet hugs!*

            2. mark132*

              FWIW, if I were your coworker, I would have prefered to know and gone elsewhere. There aren’t ANY cheddar biscuits worth one of my coworkers.

      3. Former Producer*

        As a vegan, I never expect people (outside of my immediate family) to accommodate my dietary restrictions. My office sometimes does catered lunches/potlucks/restaurant meals, and if they happen to have a vegan option, great! If not, I already planned to bring my own food to work. I know it’s different than having a food allergy in that being vegan is my choice, but I try my best not to feel left out when people don’t take my restrictions into account. I agree with you that Chandler doesn’t seem to appreciate the effort OP is putting into making sure he has something safe he can eat.

    6. Greg M.*

      reading the replies to this comment I think people need to reread what Princess wrote.
      ” I usually pick restaurants that provide food that would work for both populations”
      does not mean everyone automatically eats vegan, it means that she chooses places that have vegan and nonvegan options.

      1. Julia*

        Yes, but OP1’s office seems to have more than two populations. It seems like Chandler isn’t necessarily vegan (or just vegan), OP1 talks about a serious allergy. I don’t know a lot of restaurants that serve good meat, vegan stuff, AND gluten-free or whatever meals.

        1. OP1*

          i have 1 vegan, 1 kosher, and chandlers allergy. It’s tough but i’ve narrowed down a list of places everyone can order from successfully.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Thank you for clarifying for me. That’s exactly what I was saying—I order non-vegan and vegan options from restaurants with experience in dealing with food allergies, etc., as they often are more careful about cross-contamination and plating. The most common example is Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, where you can easily satisfy a large swath of food restrictions. It makes the vegans feel less singled out without requiring everyone to follow a diet that they may view as restrictive.

        1. Myrin*

          I don’t see anything in the letter suggesting that this isn’t already happening, though, especially since OP sounds very conscientious around this issue.
          Additionally, since this isn’t only about Chandler but about various people with very different kinds of restrictions (OP mentions “ethical, religious, or allergy” as things she encounters), I don’t know that you can find restaurants or caterers providing accommodations to all of these from the get-go the way you could with something relatively simple such as vegan and non-vegan (like Julia says, that’s only two populations vs. at least five in OP’s office); it sounds like with such a variety of restrictions, something would have to be specifically prepared in any case.

          1. TL -*

            Yup. And I’d much rather someone special ordered from a sushi shop I knew was safe than played the allergy roulette at different restaurants for every work event.

            Chandler obviously feels differently, but it’s a reasonable decision to make – order what you know is safe.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Yeah, I think the issue commenters are having is that it’s not really clear how what PCBH is suggesting is different from what OP describes.

          3. Calculator*

            They didnt say that wasnt happening in the letter. They just gave their own experience. Dont understand why there’s pushback on that.

            1. Myrin*

              There’s pushback because PCBH started her comment with “is it impossible to accommodate Chandler’s allergy when ordering for the group?” and elaborated on that with examples of her own workplace when, judging from OP’s letter, it is not impossible and in fact, that’s exactly what OP has been doing all along.
              Why would PCBH suggest a course of action if she believed OP was already behaving exactly like she suggested?

        2. Punk rock PA*

          That would be awful for me, as I’m allergic to feta cheese and curry. Usually the just the cross contamination with sheep/goat’s milk is enough to send me to the emergency room. But I know what my allergies are, know that they’re unusal, and don’t expect my work to accommodate them.

    7. Backroads*

      An all-encompassing restaurant that will safely/ethically handle the dietary needs of Chandler and Ross and Monica and Rachel would certainly be ideal, don’t get me wrong.

      But I fear the OP has looked for it. It’s likely a unicorn where the effort of the search isn’t worth the results.

      1. Genny*

        And then even if she were to find such a unicorn, how many lunches would it take until people get bored with the same thing over and over again?

    8. Psyche*

      It depends on what he is asking for I think. If he wants to be able to eat everything being provided, that is obviously unreasonable. However, if he is asking for one option out of several to meet his dietary needs (and cross contamination is not an issue) then it might be something that could easily be accommodated.

      1. sunny-dee*

        The OP says he’s asking for everyone to eat the same thing as him. She’s offering him multiple options for the meal and is asking to make sure he’s okay with it.

    9. Dust Bunny*

      My SIL is a vegetarian with allergies to some fruits (raw tomatoes, mostly). My mother is a diabetic who needs to watch her cholesterol because of some medications she takes. It’s really hard to accommodate both because Mom needs protein but most plant proteins are too carb-y, and she can’t eat a lot of dairy; egg whites and chicken breast are her staples). SIL mostly eats carbs, cheese, and vegetables. I can eat almost anything but I don’t function well without some carbohydrates, so if the paleo people have their say I will be hungry and cranky all afternoon.

      And that’s just two people. The more people you have, the more people have food allergies, dietary restrictions, etc., that need to be balanced.

    10. Essess*

      I wondered if he constantly has to defend the fact that he has a different meal and gets questioned by others in the meeting every time. That would get exhausting to have to defend your meal choice every time, and having to explain personal dietary restrictions which are really no one else’s business. This would also start putting the employee into the situation of “pervasive harassment” due to his condition which starts making his work environment fall under a “hostile work environment” situation. Also, is he having an issue where other’s at the meeting decides his food looks better and they take part (or all) of it so he ends up running the risk of not getting to eat.

      1. Scarlet*

        Yeah, but none of that is OP’s problem. If Chandler doesn’t have enough of a spine to get people to butt out of his food, he should go to his manager, not to the person who’s handling the catering. Like other commenters have mentioned, it’s about adults coworkers, not schoolchildren.

        1. MattKnifeNinja*

          When I get an uber pushy person who wants to make my food allergies a cross examination, I look over there shoulder for about three breathes saying nothing, then say, “I’m going to get something to drink. Nice meeting/talking to you.”

          The only person who needs to know the unvarnished truth is my allergist. As an adult, I don’t have to prove an answer to every questioned asked.

  4. Perse's Mom*

    #2 – If I’m reading that correctly, it sounds like only the LW’s location has elected not to fundraise this year due to the conflict of interest. The other locations did NOT pick the exec’s kid, so their fundraising is still happening.

    1. valentine*

      I read it as all the locations are fundraising for the same kid. It’d be gross to celebrate that location’s A kid is set, while kids B-E didn’t fare as well. OP2: I hope the kid and parent consented to the charity sharing their personal business with all of your colleagues. The more I think about this, the worse it is. Only C-suite raising money would be flaunting, but rank-and-file giving money when they probably need donations themselves is ugly. Why doesn’t the company just sponsor a kid?

      1. Perse's Mom*

        Ah, I was interpreting “each location fundraises for a specific kid” as those kids each being different.

      2. SaeniaKite*

        I read it the same way as Perse’s Mom, that each location has a different kid. As OP says it makes it a competition. And when I read that I just accepted it but you’re right, it is a bit gross. I imagine the charity grants the wishes regardless of who raises more? At least I hope so!!

        1. Genny*

          I think that’s how it works. Let’s say kids A, B, and C all have trips costing $3,000. Location A raises $3,300, location B $2,800, and Location C $2,500. Location A “wins”, the kids all still go on their $3,000 trips, and the charity allocates $400 from a different donation stream to fund all the trips. I think the idea of having a specific child you’re “donating to” is to get people more invested, not that each child only gets the money their location raised. All the money raised probably just goes into a general pot of donations.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            Agreed. I’m pretty sure the other office fundraisers are for other kids & are still happenings.

        2. Lioness*

          I don’t think so. I read it as they all fundraise for one kid as “most location managers were turned off at the idea”, but that LW’s manager was the first one to say anything so by the “end of the workday” they had postponed. And as of now, other locations also refused.

      3. OP2*

        OP2 here. Sorry for lack of clarification. One kid for the company, with each location competing to donate largest amount. This includes our clients, too, as we have the fundraising public in our offices. Any money raised in excess of the kid’s specific wish is donated to the charity for other wishes.

        So the one kid for the whole company will be one of the boss’ kids. Not a good visual when our clients see this as well.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, could you use a little sign when you’re out of office? Kind of like the ones that say “will be back at [TIME]”? If folks have an expectation of when you’ll next need your office, it may help them plan better when they use it while you’re gone…

    1. Seal*

      That’s what I was thinking. Or if you know your meeting schedule for the week, perhaps you could post it on your door so people will know when you’ll be out of the office and for how long.

    2. Khlovia*

      Or even, when it’s all ad hoc and OP can’t predict their schedule very far in advance, hold up a sign against the outside of the office window: “Stay put! I’ll be back in 30 min.” Or “Hand me out my laptop and I’m good for a couple of hours.” Or “You’re fine; I’ll knock when I need the office back.”

    3. Bagpuss*

      YEs, I wondered about how predictable your meetings are and whether there is a calendar system in the office where you could mark down when you are going to be out, and your office available.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        We do this for our CEO’s office – the rest of us hotdesk but she has her own office, and when she’s not here quite often people use it for small meetings, private phone calls etc. Her PA has access to her diary and can tell people if/when she’ll be in, but this is also quite easily something that could, say, be included on an Outlook calendar which the whole office has access to.

    4. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Yeah I had the same thought. Maybe a dry erase board on the outside of the door – you could write “At meeting 2-3 pm”. If your schedule is fairly predictable as far as how long meetings last.

      1. Positive Reframer*

        Its a glass office, OP could just use a dry erase marker there :)

        Fully seconding this if meetings are relatively predictable.

    5. WakeRed*

      We have an office whiteboard so when folks are out for a few hours of a few weeks, we’ll see it and know when they get back! It’s also on their calendars but the white board is a nice visual reminder.

    6. Oxford Comma*

      That’s a really great idea. They have small white boards that are around the size of am 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper that I believe are designed to go on doors. Something like that perhaps?

  6. MassMatt*

    #1 Your coworker seems to want everyone to eat according to whatever his particular dietary restriction is so as not to be “separate”, which is not reasonable. It sounds as though you are putting in a lot of work to try to accommodate a variety of restrictions (a big hassle, I am sure), he is being a jerk. If his separate sandwich or whatever is not to his liking he can eat what everyone else is eating, or order his own food, or bring food from home.

    1. JamieS*

      Yeah, he’s either being unreasonable or others are making him feel awkward for having a separate meal (asking prying questions, commenting on it, etc.) so he’s trying to avoid it. If it’s the latter that needs to be addressed and nipped in the bud possibly by someone other than OP. If it’s the former then this is just a case of accepting it’s impossible to please everyone.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        My feeling is if he didn’t like having separate food because people made a big deal about it, he would have said that. Since it sounds like there’s multiple allergies and preferences that the OP takes into account, it doesn’t sound like the type of environment where people would be like “what are YOU eating? what is THAT?? why aren’t you eating this delicious crab salad???” Perhaps it is, though. If so, that is indeed a problem and should be dealt with accordingly. If not, Chandler is being a child and he needs to suck it up and deal.

        1. JamieS*

          Yeah that’s what I’d think too but since I started reading AAM I’ve realized people often don’t say when they’re being bothered. I agree it isn’t very likely though.

  7. Emelle*

    LW1, I have a kid with several life threatening food allergies, and I am trying to look at it from another perspective other that admiration for you trying to keep this guy alive. This is the stuff that keeps me up at night thinking about my kid’s future.

    My kid occasionally gets twisted up about having different food (usually when doughnuts are involved) but she understands why she has different food. She’s also under 10, so she is learning how to negotiate this on her own (and has been since she was 2). But mostly her upset is that she just feels excluded from something. So I am torn here on telling you that this adult might feel the same as my kid- just utterly exhausted by the constant vigilance and the percieved exclusion. This is his issue, but I completely understand where he is coming from. Part of me says to throw him a bone occasionally and if his allergies can be accommodated and no one without restrictions really notice, go for it. But another part of me wants to tell this guy that “another human is being compassionate about your allergy! See this! Work with her, man! We need more people like her in the world!!”
    (Thank you for looking out for this dude and accommodating him. It means a lot to me and I don’t know him or you.)

    1. Artemesia*

      Good point. I have a close friend whose grandson is celliac and they do Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners gluten free so he can participate without separation which is a lovely thing to do.

      My daughter has a serious medical issue as a young child which required a very low fat diet which made birthday parties, school trips and dinners out difficult for her. One of my strategies was to find foods she could have that were better than rather than worse than what most of the rest of us were eating. For several years there she dined on fancy shrimp cocktails; she loved them and they are usually gorgeous served in a tall glass and looking like a special treat. She still remembers those days and how difficult it all was in general but how she loved that she could have this special treat. Luckily she outgrew her problem but we had about 6 years of highly restricted diet for her. If separate is necessary, it is really important to make the separate thing also a good choice — rather than the vegetarian stuck eating a side salad at the feast.

      1. Yvette*

        But it doesn’t sound as though the food being ordered for Chandler was “lesser” or “worse”, just different. The OP provides him with the same menu as everyone and asks him to pick something and specify the tweaks needed, the OP used the example of brown rice vs white.

      2. Flash Bristow*

        I had a problem with that on trips when other people realised the veggie food is prepared individually; the rest is done en mass and is at a lower standard.

        I’ve now learnt to claim my veggie meal as soon as there’s even a tiny whisper about food; I’m sick of getting there to find that someone else decided it looked better so they’re a veggie that day, and now I get no lunch! This has happened on trips, flights and at events where every time I’ve specifically reserved in advance (and on the flight, I’d already had to take medication that needed food to go with it…)

        So be careful when making the allergic person’s food “nicer” than the other meals, and make sure it has a name attached to it so nobody can say “oh, I’m going to have the x meal please” as if they own it.

        Yes, everyone *should* be responsible adults, but… I don’t need to finish that sentence, do I?

        1. Al who is that Al*

          Or the “special” meal is terrible, I did post this above already – but I did get a plate with a slice of tomato, a piece of iceberg lettuce, a small slice of avocado (yuk) and a slice of ordinary white bread at a Hilton hotel for lunch (and everyone else’s looked gorgeous – b*stards!)

          1. Bunny Girl*

            I remember I was working on a film out in a smaller town with one restaurant. The director called to order food and asked if they could accommodate a vegetarian. They said of course! I got a quarter of a head of iceburg lettuce, and like three slices of tomato. Come on guys. LoL

        2. kilika*

          Ugh, this. I’ve seen plenty of times where people go to town on the smaller amounts of ‘special’ food just because it looks good.
          And while it’s true that often the vegetarian option will be less appetizing, I’ve had at least once where I was on a trip and provided with extremely nice salads and fruit that had some of the other attendees eyeing my plate. I’m glad it was served to me directly, and not up for grabs!

          1. londonedit*

            If I’m ever bringing vegetarian food to a barbecue, I make sure I bring a LOT of it. Far too many times I’ve been in the minority as a vegetarian among meat-eaters in that sort of situation. Usually the host will have been nice enough to provide things like salads and halloumi and grilled veggies along with the meat options, but then all the meat-eaters decide that the halloumi and grilled veg look like they’d make excellent side dishes for their burgers, and the vegetarians are left scrambling to get a share of the bits they can eat. Which is fine, but I think if you’re hosting something where there will be vegetarians and meat-eaters, you need to assume that the meat-eaters will want to eat the veggie stuff too, rather than just making enough for a few vegetarians.

            1. BookishMiss*

              Real life example: My wedding was catered bbq, and I Made Sure I had enough vegetarian and vegan food, plus gluten free for my mom (hooray anaphylaxis). I gave the caterer a list of the vegan and vegetarian guests ahead of time and said “you can tell anyone else No.”
              Well. Mom, whom I’d already accommodated, threw a tantrum that there weren’t veggies for her. She said that the vegetarian/vegan crowd should have to bring a PBJ like she always does, and that she should get a veggie option, too.
              I told her she was welcome to bring carrots, but that I was choosing to accommodate all my guests, including her. That approach might not work with a co-worker, but being firmly reminded that she was in fact being fully accommodated, and other people had other restrictions, brought her back to reasonable behavior.

              1. Alton*

                I once had to eat green beans and potatoes at a wedding (where I’d been helping out since early that morning, so I was tired and hungry) because even though we had to indicate on our RSVPs what entree we wanted, someone managed to convince the catering staff to give them my food.

                1. Brisvegan*

                  I feel for you!

                  My BIL’s daughter asked for dietary information with wedding RSVP’s. I’d been vegan for over 10 years, which they knew very well (about to be relevant!). I still politely wrote ‘vegan’ on the RSVP dietary option line, because that’s what any polite vegan guest should do.

                  Got to the wedding and no vegan option had been ordered. Thank goodness, one of the servers was someone I was slightly acquainted with. She asked if I had stopped being vegan, because there was no vegan option ordered and none of the sides were vegan (but a bunch of other special diets were being accommodated). When she heard I was still vegan, she flew into the kitchen and arranged a meal for me. She apologised it wasn’t up to the usual standard.

                  That particular family of in-laws had a history of being aggressively anti-vegan (eg every salad suddenly needed extra cheese after I went vegan and they had several times invited us to their place for meals and then made a point of telling me there would be nothing for me to eat). I strongly suspect they had deliberately decided I should not be catered for. I’m glad I divorced my ex and never have to face his hostile family again.

        3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          My workplace keeps a list with names and allergies, vegan, GF, no pork etc. noted for anyone who has a dietary requirement. It helps to keep the carnivores away from the veggie options. “Don, you’re not on the vegetarian list, please leave that dish for the vegetarians”. Sometimes it’s like grade school policing but it works.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          One of the weirder catering theories is that if 10% of conference attendees are vegetarian, then they need 10 veggie meals and 90 meat meals. Lots of omnivores eat some meals vegetarian–especially if traveling and so working more to get vegetables.

          1. Annie Moose*

            This always seems to happen with pizzas–there will always be, like, one cheese pizza, one pepperoni pizza, and one pizza loaded with delectable vegetables. Now, I eat meat, but pepperoni pizza is pretty boring! When you’ve got an option of having incredibly boring pizza with meat or very interesting pizza with vegetables, I’d prefer the veggies every time.

            1. MassMatt*

              Interesting, in my experience the pepperoni pizza is always among the first to go, and the leftovers are almost always the sad plain/cheese slices, and sometimes the vegetable.

          2. Red 5*

            Yeah, that math wouldn’t work out in so many situations, but I see them use it all the time.

            I’ve eaten vegetarian options even though I’m an omnivore mostly because I have some health issues that restrict my food in random ways and sometimes the meat option is likely to make me sick. Or I don’t know what’s in it and I’d rather play it safe because salads have never made me sick.

            Plus sometimes vegetables are just delicious. Just give people more vegetables.

            1. Positive Reframer*

              +1 to more veggies, we all need them.

              If possible I thinks its always great to opt for a meat-on-the-side type situation when doing cafeteria style catering.

            2. Jennifer Thneed*

              Yeah, I’m apparently a freak because I eat meat and ALSO eat meals that have no meat. And I’ve had coworkers confused to see me eat meat because once they saw me eat tofu. “Eats vegetables” doesn’t mean “is vegetarian”.

          3. Temperance*

            That does drive me bonkers, too. I am an omnivore, but I generally don’t prefer meat. I like and will eat turkey or chicken, but I don’t eat any other kind of meat sandwich.

            I would love to know why caterers seem to make meat plates 25% turkey, 50% ham, and 25% roast beef. I think I’ve made a permanent enemy out of my office’s caterer by reminding them not to include much ham with my lunch orders.

          4. ValkyrAmy*

            I almost never eat vegetarian or vegan because my severe food allergy is a stable in veg cooking. Of course, I would also be the PITA who would need to pick my own food and ask a lot of prep questions off any catered menu. I almost always feel better just providing my own food but am grateful when I can be accommodated.

            PS – When I am Queen of the World, fugus will be labeled a non-edible, truffles will no longer be a fancy delicacy, and blue cheeses will be cordoned off and only available in September.

            1. kitryan*

              I just don’t understand why mushrooms are a ‘vegetable’ on menus. I’m being a bit whiny but, really, they’re not, and it makes me sound way pickier than I actually am when I ask about everything that may have some random ‘vegetables’ in it, whether there are mushrooms.
              I just really hate them but I can’t do what you can do if you hate salmon or something and just not order things that have salmon, because they just throw mushrooms in along with ‘seasonal vegetables’ or ‘vegetable tempura’ or ‘stir fried vegetables’. I imagine it’s like that with alliums. They’re just in stuff without being mentioned as part of the listed description of the dish.
              I have stopped my dad from telling restaurants that I’m allergic. I won’t get sick if they use the same cutting board, I just think they’re icky and don’t want to eat them or pick them out of my food.
              Whine over.

          5. Ktelzbeth*

            I’m just back from a conference where they did things half right. The special meals were guarded for those who had requested them (yay!), but my gluten free, vegetarian meal was a green salad (boo!) every day. One day it did have a token very small scattering of almonds.

        5. MissMia*

          This happened at a training event I went to. We were asked before hand if anyone needed a vegetarian or vegan meal, but they failed to mention that the regular meal was a braised pork dish. This caused a problem when there ended up being more people at the event that couldn’t eat pork for religious reasons, and I can’t eat pork for medical reasons. When we had asked what the lunch was going to be, we had been told that it wasn’t known. It was a mess and there were people who had specifically asked for the veg option that didn’t get it as there were tons of on the spot requests for the veg meal and the catering staff was just putting plates down on request. Since my issue is more because my body doesn’t metabolize certain fats properly, I just ate the pork.

        6. Artemesia*

          I was on a cruise in Russia last year where this sort of thing happened. I cannot eat onion which is a drag because it is so basic to most cuisines and one of the group I usually ate with was vegetarian. I remember this one restaurant in Petersburg that the group went to where she was served this gorgeous thing that looked kind of like a sushi roll but elegant and vegetarian, I was served a quarter roast chicken because the meal was some sort of hideous mystery meat patty with onions already in the meat. There we were with our very good lunches surrounded by people with these kind of terrible lunches.

          And we all know it happens with pizza where those who order pepperoni when asked their preference then hoover up the cheese pizza bought for the vegetarians.

          Special orders need to be kept separate for this reason unless vegetarian options are very plentiful.

        7. Elemeno P.*

          This happened on a flight I was on recently. Everyone ordered all the vegetarian options before they got to my row, so I didn’t get food. :(

        8. Essess*

          I try to be considerate of this. When I am at a work luncheon and I see they have only one veggie pizza or a small stack of veggie sandwiches (like burrata/tomato), even though those veggie items frequently look better than the main item I skip them until everyone else has had a chance to eat so that any vegetarians have a chance at them first.

        9. Brisvegan*

          I’ve had someone at a conference take the meal with my name prominently written on it ‘because it looked good’!

          (All the special dietary restrictions meals had names on them.)

    2. MassMatt*

      But Chandler is an adult, he should not be acting like a 10 year old.

      If his dietary restrictions are significant, chances are people will notice if the entire menu revolves around it.

      Lots of people (in the world and in the LW’s office) have of dietary restrictions, ranging from strong preferences to religion/ethics to “If I eat ______, I will die”. Chandler seems to be the only one wanting to make it other people’s problem.

      1. Avasarala*

        This! If he feels bad about his food being singled out *per his own request* then how long do you think before the loneliness drives him to eat a lethal PB&J? I don’t think he’s going to make it to old age with this attitude.

      2. Emelle*

        Oh, he is being childish about it, no doubt. I just empathize with him because it is my life, but I also don’t think he has the perspective to see what a *huge* service is being done for him by LW1. (I don’t think this is on LW1 to fix though. I think Chandler needs to fix it with his allergist.) My suggestion about accommodating his allergy was with the caveat that no one would notice. Think tomato allergy vs a wheat allergy. People are going to notice if they suddenly have different bread vs no tomatoes on their sandwiches one time a month.
        Food allergies suck and humans do a lot of things around food. And it is hard to feel “different” at any age.

        1. Dr. Pepper*

          It’s hard to feel different but you get used to it. You find things you CAN be included in, and you dive into those. You learn to own being different. You learn to work around your issues in ways that enrich your life, not detract from it. Yes, sometimes it sucks. No, the world at large will probably not understand. And the world at large will definitely NOT take care of you and thus you must take care of yourself. Looked at from a certain angle, being different is excellent training for being independent and emotionally resilient. These things aren’t easy, but you gain perspective that many people will never have.

          It sounds like Chandler here focuses on the wrong thing. Yes, he’s different, but why, really is that so bad? Naturally the downsides are numerous, but you can’t just magically change food allergies, so why make yourself miserable by wallowing in that fact? If there was, say, a special appreciation lunch for Chandler, I could see him wanting a menu based on his food restrictions, but events for the entire office? Sorry, buddy, I know it sucks but you’re not the only one with dietary needs here. You can either pout about it or accept it.

        2. Parenthetically*

          I mean, I agree with all this, I just think OP is working really hard already to provide Chandler with options that are suitable for him, and he’s asking her to work even harder to manage his emotions on top of everything… and I just won’t get on board with that.

      3. Mystery Bookworm*

        Exactly. And if she were to accomodate Chandler’s allergies in the way he seems to be requesting, it would be reasonable for the others to request that too.

        And in a large enough office, you could quickly run out of options.

      4. Tallulah in the Sky*

        This a 100% !

        I sympathize with Chandler, I’m a vegetarian and have had moments where I’m sick and tired of having no option of what to eat, I have to make do with the only vegetarian meal (and I choose this, it must be worse when you had no say in the matter). But that doesn’t give you the right to make everybody else eat like you, and certainly not at work.

      5. blackcat*

        I am a grown up with a strawberry allergy. This is not a big deal, but it means that desserts at restaurants are hard. Generally the entire dessert prep area is contaminated if they use strawberries on everything.
        Do I get a pang of jealousy if I’m with a group where everyone is eating dessert? Yes.
        Do I suck it up like a grownup? Also yes.

    3. Lilo*

      The other thing is that dietary restricted food can often be more expensive. I have a close friend with celiac. She understands it is super expensive to buy a whole gluten free cake, so while we will do that fot her birthday, for other birthdays, we get an alternate dessert or a couple gluten free cupcakes for her. As ling as you lay attention to cross contamination it is fine for her (she herself will serve gluten-containing products at parties but explain how to avoid cross contamination).

      1. BookishMiss*

        Yep. My mom’s been gluten free for decades, and she’s a wicked good GF baker because of it. It still blows her mind when people get her GF desserts at get togethers.

      2. TL -*

        Not to mention that making things with different ingredients often makes them taste different and have different textures. My mom makes green bean casserole with almonds and it’s really good – I can’t eat almonds, so she just puts a portions without aside for me. I don’t want everyone else to miss out on a family tradition just because I can’t. (Same with our rolls – gf rolls aren’t that great compared to Hawaiian Kings!)

    4. Boo Hoo*

      Ya but Fergus isn’t ten, although the is acting like it. “But Jane got salmon and i didn’t because I’ll die boo Hoo”. He is old enough to be an adult about this.

    5. MLB*

      It’s understandable for a 10 year old to feel excluded in this situation. But he’s an adult, and he’s not being excluded. She’s accommodating his needs while ordering for the group. He’s being included in the group activity, and it’s completely unreasonable to expect everyone in the group to adhere to his allergy restrictions. LW also stated that there are others in the group with certain restrictions as well, so it’s not realistic either. I’m sure it’s difficult to eat out when you have food restrictions, but when someone is going the extra mile to make sure you get what you need, you either accept what’s being done for you, or don’t participate – you don’t get to to dictate what she does for the whole group.

    6. MsSolo*

      I wonder if something has brought this up now for Chandler. Is the allergy relatively recent, so he’s struggling with the same exhaustion as Emelle’s kiddo? Has someone been helping themself to his food because they thought it looked nicer? Has he had to have the “no, really, I am allergic” one too many times with colleagues trying to police his diet?

      I think before coming back to handler with a flat no, I’d dig a little deeper, in case there’s something else going on (something that he might be better off handling with his manager). And where you can provide mass catering that covers his allergy without singling him out, or other allergy sufferers, then why not?

      1. Temperance*

        It doesn’t sound like any of those are the issue here, although I can see that you’re trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

  8. Newlymadehobo*

    Wow! OP5 sounds entitled as hell! There’s few business’s who would open their doors to such attitude. I hope he comes to realize it sooner than later.

    1. Julia*

      I think (hope) you mean the person who wrote to OP5, because I don’t detect any sense of entitlement in OP5 themselves.

    2. JamieS*

      That’s a bit of a harsh read. Sounded to me more like very poor execution of common career advice. He’s probably been told to reach out to his extended network when job searching but wasn’t taught how to do so and lacks the experience to know how to do so appropriately.

      Course now that I say that this guy is probably going to show up to OP’s office demanding to speak to the hiring manager while carrying a diorama of his resume.

    3. Random Commenter*

      I think this is one of those cases that Alison sometimes talks about, of taking “gumption” advice too much to heart.

    4. Mockingjay*

      What the applicant did is not that unusual. Their college probably gave them that advice. I’ve posted about this before.

      Long story short, early in my career I got a job with one of the largest employers in the region. My alma mater was also in the same area. They (still don’t know how they got my info, probably from one of my fellow alumni) started giving my name to recent graduates. I was being contacted constantly for referrals. I finally called the alumni office and requested that they not give out my name. I was a new, very junior employee myself with barely 2 years of experience and had no clout whatsoever to get someone else a job. I could only refer them to apply with HR like everyone else.

      I don’t think it’s entitlement. Job hunting is hard and as we see in this blog daily, these skills aren’t really taught well or at all. I’d simply redirect the applicant and tell them I have no input in the hiring process for this job.

      1. Amber T*

        Yep, my college does this. I just went to an alumni thing and they told us they specifically tell seniors/new grads to reach out to alumni on LinkedIn to make connections and to “talk about the industry” (ie, is you company hiring and if so please hire me).

        LinkedIn also calls out this feature, doesn’t it? I see on random job postings that to job is for Teapots, Inc., and 3 fellow alumni from my college currently work there (whether or not I’m connected to them).

  9. Celeste*

    LW#1, I think Chandler doesn’t feel normal, doesn’t like it, and is taking it out on you. You have been perfectly accommodating to his dietary needs, but I don’t think you have to accommodate his emotional desire to have all of the food be what he can eat. That’s how life is at home. When you go out in the world, you don’t get to have total control. I don’t know if that scares him or angers him, but those emotions are his job to work through, not yours.

    1. Observer*

      It’s not even how life is at home.

      I’ve had significant dietary restrictions for years. With several other people in the household, it simply wasn’t reasonable to subject everyone to all of those restrictions. Now, my husband has his set of restrictions. So we now juggle my food, his food, and everyone else’s. I take advantage of overlap as much as I can, but still we both know that there are some things in the house that each of us can’t eat. Such is life.

  10. Jenny Depp*

    As someone with Celiac, it’s really important to me that my food be gluten-free. I have stopped apologizing for needing an accommodation for a medical condition – though I did apologize for a long time. Is it stigmatizing/a hassle? Sure. Is that the reality of my life? You bet. Put on your big-person pants and worry about something that matters. I do make a point of thanking the people responsible for my being able to eat, though. It seems like this is one of those situations where the co-worker thinks more people are paying attention to him than they actually are.

  11. Flash Bristow*

    OP #3 – could you not just leave a sign on your office door saying “back at Xpm”?

    That way people know if they’re ok to use the space, but also they have a feel for when they need to be out again. If you show up at five past X, they ought to be ready to leave or at least expecting it.

    1. Flash Bristow*

      Sorry just saw that the lovely Princess has already made a similar suggestion. Well, just shows it’s clearly a good idea!

  12. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – OK, I get that OP and co make a lot less than the C-suite.
    But OP and co also aren’t dealing with big medical bills. And believe me, cancer always has some biggies, especially if a surgery is involved. There’s also family leave (unpaid). And if the exec is high enough (a key employee) they may not be covered under FMLA.
    I guess that’s what is bothering me. You’re making value judgements on who is or is not “worthy” based solely on estimated salary. It’s got a “stick it to the man” kind of feel to it. And that makes it feel off. Perhaps that is why you are questioning yourself?
    This isn’t a gift as much as a consolation prize for losing the cancer lottery.
    How deserving is deserving enough?

    I do agree with the optics of the power dynamics though. That’s what makes it wrong.

    1. Fulana del Tal*

      Usually when I see this charities they are for children from families who couldn’t afford this trips/experiences. If a charity had picked a child from a wealthy family I wouldn’t contribute. Rich and poor families are dealing with huge medical bills. It’s not that the child didn’t deserve it but there are a lot children where the only chance of ever going to Disney/Universal studios is from these charities.

      1. namelesscommentator*

        A lot of these trips include perks that can’t typically be bought, per my understanding … Things like fastpasses at Disney or a phone call from a celeb. So I get why there’s no income eligibility, and why the family would accept such a trip even though they are likely able to easily pay for it.

        I do hope, however, that families with means donate back the cost. I know that when my has been disbursed charitable funds we’ve always tried to pay back the contribution .. This includes small stuff like t-shirts for sports teams, and big stuff like a red cross debit card when our house had just burned down. (sorry, college financial aid package, LOL to being able to afford that). This seems to be the norm among my friend group, so I hope it’s fairly universal.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          You’d hope but this often does not happen.

          I know several rich minorities who won all expense paid SAT/LSAT/MCAT study sessions designed to increase accessibility.

          None of them paid the program back. They could have easily afforded the test prep but, frequently, the mentality among the rich is why spend my money when I can spend someone else’s?

            1. Autumnheart*

              It’s also how you become and stay poor. Because other people divert your labor and wages to their own personal benefit.

            2. WhoKnows*

              This is how obscenely rich/famous people stay rich. They often don’t pay for much. Whether it’s free perks for being famous or having whatever project you’re currently working on foot the bill, they are able to get away with paying for very little out of pocket.

            3. Engineer Girl*


              Some people get rich in spite of giving huge chunks of money away. Maybe they made just the right investment. Maybe they’re talented enough for a super high paying job. Maybe they are super frugal and live a student lifestyle (for a time) while they save up.

              And that’s the thing. You can’t look at someone or their job and know their financial situation. You can’t judge their charitable giving either.

      2. Nita*

        Exactly. I don’t really understand why an executive’s family would even enter themselves as a potential recipient (maybe someone else did it for them…) Cancer is awful for anyone, and medical costs can be big for anyone. However, I’m sure there are other families who are in the same situation, except they’re much worse off financially and actually need the charity’s help.

      3. Smarty Boots*

        Not true, if it is the very big charity that everyone knows about.

        We could very well have purchased the cool jumbo lego set my son received from this charity. The point was not that we couldn’t afford it. The point was that my son had gone through a dreadful medical treatment and this was a kind way to make him feel better.

        The issue in th OP’s situation is less the parent’s ability to pay, and more that they are fundraising for the boss — it’s the power dynamics that are problematic, I think, less than the money.

    2. Avasarala*

      I mean, no one is determining who is “worthy” of having cancer. But surely there are some other children who aren’t fortunate enough to have C-suite parents to support them. Not every C-suite has money and leave to throw at medical bills but they are much more likely to be able to make something work, including setting up generous leave policies at their own company so they can take leave for their kid. I would feel awful for the kid but personally if I had the choice, I would prefer my charity donations go to the kids with cancer whose parents are at the bottom of the hierarchy, who also might not have money/paid leave, and once we get them covered we can help out kids of C-suite parents. To me, charity is about helping the people who need it *most*, not about helping everyone equally.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        The charity chose the child for the company. That’s an important point.

        If the c-suite parent was a key employee they wouldn’t be covered under FMLA. They could lose their job by taking leave. It’s dependent on the company.

        We would all like to donate to the family that needs the most help. But that’s not who was chosen by the charity. Do you then boycott the charity? In the OPs case the answer is yes.

        1. MK*

          The charity screwed up. They should have known this was problematic; in any case, they should have suggested a different kid once someone point out the issue.

          Also, while I don’t think boycott is the correct term, refusing to donate to or fundraise for a charity because you don’t approve of the way they allocate their funds is pretty reasonable.

        2. Avasarala*

          Agreed with MK. The charity made a mistake in choosing the exec’s kid and OP’s location is perfectly reasonable in choosing not to participate because of this decision. If I was planning to donate to a charity and it turned out they didn’t help the family that needs it the most, it would make sense to decide not to donate.

          Also I am sure there is some exemplary case where someone was recently bumped up to C-suite level at a smaller company where salaries aren’t so inflated, and their hands are tied by bureaucracy and they can’t use FMLA, so actually they are truly in need. But in the majority of cases, people at the C-suite have been at high-level positions for years and receiving salaries accordingly (in OP’s case, 10x her income!). And usually the CEO can go to HR and say, “Hey our family leave policies suck, write a new one” and HR would do it. So, I’m sorry, maybe it’s my radical leanings, but I’m just not that sympathetic to C-suites and high earners needing charity. There are too many worthy causes for me to argue that OP should donate their hard-earned cash to people richer than they are.

          1. Backroads*

            This. I have all the sympathy in the world for the kid and his family and there’s a good chance this is relative hardship on the family finances.

            But the stated situation just doesn’t seem right.

            We have a kid with a chronic illness that thankfully we can manage in the salaries of a teacher and a security officer. We go to our clinics and assure the social work on staff we are not yet in need of this and that assistance.

            I’d feel weird to unnecessarily take advantage.

        3. Phoenix Programmer*

          Except if OPs company is a big doner they may have felt obligated to choose a company child when they saw him despite the high salary. We really don’t know.

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        Yes this! One of the C-Suite spouses has cancer. Suddenly our plan was changes to a higher coverage one that is twice as expensive to employees. Disability, critical illness, and hospital indemity insurance was added and leave was extended.

        The C-Suite has opportunities others don’t.

        1. Yay commenting on AAM!*

          That is frustrating, but you could glass-half-full it: Thankfully, someone in the C-suite has seen firsthand how rough it is to have a serious illness, and now the company has changed their policies to help people at all levels battling serious illness.

    3. namelesscommentator*

      Huh. I didn’t see any value judgements of who was “worthy” or not in the letter. I don’t think anyone is begrudging this kid, or their family, a nice trip after any ordeal involving cancer. They just don’t want to be pressured into “gifting up,” which this feels like for obvious reasons.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I dunno that it IS a truly charitable act. It’s still ‘giving to charity,’ yes, but when you’re giving because you’re worried about the impact it’ll have on your job if you DON’T give… that’s not a charitable act in spirit.

          1. WhoKnows*


            All children deserve help, but when someone puts you in a position where you may feel like your job is threatened if you don’t donate money (that the company pays you) right back to the the child of a company executive…the lines are blurred.

          2. OP2*

            This was the concern – that employees would no longer feel called to a charitable or selfless act but instead feel like if they didn’t contribute, it would somehow be held against them.

            If there are 5 locations and 4 raise over $1000 and one only raises $500, don’t you think that one would feel nervous? That the assumption would be the people who work there don’t care enough? And when it is made that personal by having the boss’ kid as the target, that one location looks stingy. That was the concern. It had nothing to do with the child or the exec personally.

      1. Ren*

        I agree generally — but in practical terms, how on earth are the parents of a child with cancer not to take this as a personal rejection by the company’s employees? It’s inherently an awful statement to them and must be painful. I’d probably want to immediately leave (but probably couldn’t because, you know, my child has cancer and needs the health insurance) and would have a very hard time finding any goodwill toward the company ever again. It’s not the parents’ fault the charity did this, and they are basically being ostracized/demonized at a time when they just wanted to make their child with cancer feel special. I don’t know what the answer is, but this is not the route I would have chosen. It feels very vindictive and alienating, and like the company ought not to do any charity work at all if the upshot is to bring pain and misery into the lives of the people the charities would help.

        1. Nita*

          That is true. I think the charity goofed big time in creating this situation. To anyone else, this is just a child in need of help (think a GoFundMe appeal with no info on the family’s background), but they just had to ask this company’s employees, who are going to feel pressured to donate to someone who, in their eyes, would be fine without the charity. But if their reservations weren’t communicated clearly, it can feel like a personal rejection to the child’s family.

          What a mess. It would be best if the charity stepped in to resolve it – instead of putting the decision on management in OP’s office, they should announce that they’re switching recipients to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

          1. WhoKnows*

            I agree – the charity should be stepping in here and swapping kids with another unrelated company. Surely other companies not related to this executive/child do this kind of fundraising work. This way the children don’t suffer because of office politics.

        2. Roscoe*

          Yeah, these are my thoughts. Like it seems that this isn’t “donate to support medical costs” its “lets give this kid who went through a horrible ordeal a nice experience”. And then the staff is basically giving them the finger because they dare to make more money. Its a bad situation all around.

          1. nonymous*

            I’m not reading as declining to participate because the parents make too much money, I’m reading it as the staff taking collective action because they are concerned that the amount (or choice to participate) by any one individual will take on political meaning.

            So if staff members A/B/C give $0/$50/$100 respectively, because that’s their budget, does person C get first dibs on high profile assignments? Will the team as a whole be seen as “better than” other teams because their $$ are directed to an internal recipient?

          2. DreamingInPurple*

            I don’t think it’s giving the finger over money, it’s that there is inherently a difference between “please give to this random child out of the goodness of your heart, knowing there are no repercussions for not giving” and “please give to this child of a company leader, now wondering whether there will be repercussions if you don’t give enough”. The charity may have been intending to do something good (or, more cynically, aware that people would feel pressure and therefore be likely to donate more), but regardless of their intentions, creating this conflict of interest in the first place was seriously unethical of them.

        3. CM*

          The C-suite officer showed terrible judgment by allowing this. If she takes it as a personal rejection, she’s compounding the terrible judgment.

          Or, maybe she hesitated because she thought about how employees making much less money than hers might feel pressured to donate some of their hard-earned money to benefit her family, but was talked into it. In which case she would see the locations’ non-participation as evidence that this was a bad idea, and ask the charity to choose another child instead.

        4. PlainJane*

          This. The charity should never have assigned this child to this company, but now that they have, the message employees are sending by refusing to participate is terrible. They shouldn’t give more than they would normally, but giving nothing is bound to be hurtful to a family that is already in terrible pain and shows a huge lack of compassion.

        5. OP2*

          Luckily, they were not told in advance. After my manager brought up her concerns and the other locations grew hesitant as well, the charity asked the C level exec what his opinion would be if this was the direction they were to go (which they clearly should have done BEFORE they made the decision and doubled down on it). He stated very specifically that he would not be comfortable accepting money from his employees in this manner. He did not want to open his family up to fiscal judgment.

          1. DreamingInPurple*

            Wow, that is awful. The type of decisions that the people running this charity have made are why we can’t have nice things, because if this goes poorly I wouldn’t be surprised if your company decides to stop working with the charity altogether. If the exec himself is against it, why is the charity refusing to back down? I hope that they do and that this can be resolved; it sounds like a bad situation all around.

      2. boo bot*

        I read it the same way as namelesscommentator – it’s not a question of judging whether the CEO’s kid deserves to be helped (although I’m 100% willing to believe that cancer could bankrupt even millionaires.) The problem is that dedicating their charitable contributions to THIS kid creates a conflict of interest – people will feel pressured to donate more than they can afford because of the CEO’s position. It’s a far less-horrifying version of the kidney boss: organ donation is good, people need organs, maybe some of the people at the office will donate one in (or after) their lifetime. But when your boss asks you for your kidney – it’s awkward.

        The charity is presumably committed to helping the CEO’s kid regardless, it’s just a question of where the money comes from. It should come from somewhere else, and these people should help a kid who’s not related to their boss.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think OP is making their judgment under the “gifting up” rule (i.e., don’t gift up). No one deserves cancer, and treatment can be extremely expensive. But these programs exist to help people who are in economically strained circumstances, and it’s reasonable to assume that folks with C-suite employment may also have larger paychecks that allow them to weather the economic costs of cancer. It’s not that children who come from families with greater financial means are worthy or unworthy; it’s that it’s exploitative to ask adults who make less money to subsidize opportunities for people with greater means.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I guess I don’t see this as gifting. I see it as benevolence. It is a medical thing. Just like FMLA is different than other types of leave.

        1. namelesscommentator*

          But don’t we all make decisions on who is worthy of our “benevolence” every day? I donate to the IRC and PIH almost exclusively, because I believe in the work they do and how they do it, and they make improvements to the world that I see as my philanthropic priorities. I don’t donate to lots of organizations that do great work in great ways, because they aren’t my priorities.

          But when it’s the exec’s kid, low level employees are not free to make those kinds of decisions without considerable power dynamics at play.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            As I stated above, the power dynamics are the real issue. That’s separate from benevolence.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                OP is complaining about the salary difference. That’s different than perceived pressure to give (which wasn’t mentioned at all).

                1. namelesscommentator*

                  It’s right there in the final paragraph. “I told her that I personally would not be comfortable donating to C-level’s family but would also feel pressured to do so.”

                  I’m also curious as to where LW was complaining about the salary difference. Acknowledging it, and its role in whether you’d feel comfortable donating, is not complaining.

                2. OP2*

                  I don’t think I complained. I stated the difference in salaries as it is relevant to the decision-making process. I have no doubt he works hard and earns that salary. He has a doctorate and years of knowledge and experience that I don’t have, so I expect him to be compensated for his greater number of hours at a substantially higher rate than me, a simple two-year associate’s degree holder.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think it’s benevolence when it’s tied to a specific child, and that child is the child of a C-suite executive. The charity essentially converted what was a benevolent or altruistic effort (fundraising for this charity) into a specific gift to a specific child, which is why it’s triggering the “gifting up” rule and making OP and their coworkers uncomfortable.

          It’s unfortunate, because I suspect had the charity done the same thing but not disclosed that fundraising was earmarked for the exec’s child, it would have likely been another successful fundraising effort.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        While it’s not really “gifting” up, the situation is more or less the same. People who make less money are being encouraged to give money to a family who makes more money than they do. Possibly a lot more. That sucks. It feels exploitative and inconsiderate. And then you can slap on “guilty” too because the kid has cancer, which is always terrible no matter who it happens to. You *should* want to help kids with cancer. But when you know for a fact that the kid in question has high level executives for parents, who presumably make a hell of a lot more money than you do, well, you wonder how much they really need it and who else could use it. The charity really screwed up here. If the kid was the child of, say, someone in the lower tiers of the company, that probably would have felt much better to everyone.

    5. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Another important point is that if a charity helps people with certain diseases, it will also include rich people. Another child could also come from a rich family that could pay for the child’s dream trip themselves as well, in spite of the medical bills. If you specifically want to help people who don’t have enough money, you have to choose a charity that helps poor people. (Personally I don’t like the idea of donating to people who make more money than I do, so I choose charities that help poor people rather than, for example, sick people.)

      1. MK*

        I think most people take it for granted that need does play a significant part in being eligible for charitable benefits, and the charities’ promotion often implies that it is so. If a similar charity in my country states “we want to make it possible for people with X disease to visit Y”, then I would assume that it’s for people who couldn’t have afforded it on their own. As opposed to fundraising for a facility, say, whenof course all people with the size will use it.

        1. S*

          In which case I suppose it is possible that even though the c-suite parent makes more money than everybody else in the company, that they still don’t make enough to pay for cancer treatment.

    6. Kate*

      I wouldn’t have put it quite the way you did, but I basically agree.

      Just because the parent is a C-suite exec doesn’t mean they have the ability to handle a mountain of medical bills. They may also be ineligible for some/all of the income-based relief programs (rightly so!)

      It’s up to the OP whether they are comfortable donating or not, but I don’t think the company’s decision was automatically a bad one.

      1. WS*

        I do think the decision is a bad one, not because of the parent’s income, but because of the conflict of interest. I would be very uncomfortable being asked to make a regular fund raiser be for one of my bosses’ kids precisely because they are my boss’s kid. So yes, this kid should get their trip supported, but not by this group of people.

        1. Lance*

          Yeah, that’s the big thing for me here: it’s a conflict of interest, in (effective) favor of someone higher-up in OP’s own company, so of course, as OP says, this is going to create not so reasonable pressure. I don’t begrudge the charity picking this particular child, but I don’t think it’s a good choice for OP’s own company to donate to.

          1. Blue*

            Your last sentence sums up my feelings on this. I’m absolutely not begrudging the kid this opportunity or criticizing the charity for selecting them. But having the exec’s company fundraise for them definitely raises enough issues that it was a misguided choice. Let someone else’s donations go toward this family and assign this company a different kid.

        2. Reba*

          I agree. Interestingly, I think I would be comfortable donating *in general* to this charity, knowing Exec’s child would benefit from their work/the big pool of money that they raise. I would be uncomfortable donating exclusively for Exec’s child. (And this is coming from a person whose charitable giving is almost all direct cash to individuals who need it.) Maybe this is just optics without substantial difference, but it makes sense to me!

          I understand why the charity organizes things around individual recipients, to make it a more compelling ask narrative/more personal connection for potential donors. Like fundraisers where you “adopt” a school, classroom, or endangered animal (no offense intended with this comparison). But someone over there really should have anticipated the issue this would create for underlings at OP’s company!

          1. Smithy*

            I do think that this matters significantly. There is a certainly a fundraising model where if the person knows they are helping a specific person or family they are more inclined to give – the whole “$X a month give ABC clean water for their family for the whole year”. It’s certainly a model with its own traditions of success – and very different from giving to the Make-a-Wish foundation (or similar) directly.

            I genuinely have no clue if Make-a-Wish has any income restrictions to participate – but the call to support them holistically is very different than trying to get someone to directly connect to a specific ill child. I power imbalance is just wildly uncomfortable and had the call been “X org has supported C-suite’s family during this tough time so let’s give back to them” – that’s also very different than feeling asked to directly support or gift up to the C suites family.

            1. Reba*

              Yeah, I think there could have been a call or charity selected that was related to the Exec’s family’s story, or that recognized a charity that helped them, and that would be enough distance for me. I’m reminded of someone I internet-know who went through an illness and their friends and fans organized blood donation drives in many places, contributing to the supply of donated blood/fluids that benefited the ill person, even though of course none of it went directly to them.

              (I know blood donation is its own wild world and do not think that work based blood drives are the answer! Just an example of a supportive donation drive that is inspired by a person you want to support, but still distanced from them.)

            2. NonprofNYC*

              I’ve worked for an organization that did these kinds of trips, and we had no consideration of income. That was in part because, as others have noted, there was usually a celebrity meet & greet or other VIP treatment that the family couldn’t just buy. Families who could afford to give back generally did.

              The company’s and the nonprofit’s leaders should have known better. A testimonial from the c-suiter would have been great to explain why the organization is worthy of support. Asking employees to send the executive’s kid on a trip is not great.

        3. GingerHR*

          Absolutely agree, and to be honest, in this situation would have expected the exec to graciously refuse on those grounds. Regardless of their actual financial circumstance, I’d expect them to be aware of the likely perception and act accordingly.

    7. Roscoe*

      I totally agree here. I mean, do these people also donate to hurricane victims with the caveat that only the poor people whose homes are destroyed get help, and not the more well off people?

      I totally agree it seems like a lot of people have the “screw you, you are rich attitude”, which I could almost kind of understand, if we weren’t talking about a kid with cancer here.

      1. Avasarala*

        If there was a charity that claimed to rebuild homes for hurricane victims, and they were rebuilding mansions and vacation homes when there were poor people who were still in temporary housing, then absolutely I would not donate. I don’t see what is wrong with deciding to donate only to those who are less wealthy than me. Yes it sucks that the kid has cancer, but rich people can absorb the financial burden better than poor people. This is the difference between equality and equity–great visual representation linked in my name.

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      I disagree. Part of giving is stewardship. You try to have the most impact with your gifts. Giving money to someone with no money is more impactful than giving money to someone with a lot of money, all else being equal. And resources are always scarce.

    9. Gazebo Slayer*

      I would be very surprised if there aren’t lower-level, lower-paid employees who aren’t in a position of power who have equal or greater medical bills and a lot less ability to cover them. This is a slap in the face to them – in addition to being a huge conflict of interest. NOPE.

      1. DaffyDuck*

        Yes, this. Also, folks who know how to apply/communicate well/develop good visuals/etc. have a much higher chance of being selected. There is also a lot of local and family culture around applying to charities, many people who could really use the $$ may not apply/ask.

      1. Thursday Next*

        IME having Medicaid—even in combination with private insurance—is no guarantee of not having to pay any medical expenses. There are things Medicaid doesn’t cover, or doesn’t cover quickly enough (especially in the case of durable medical goods, I’ve found).

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        You should not assume no huge bills, because I promise you it is not as clear cut as this.

        Only certain types of cancer qualify for SSI (which leads to automatic Medicaid). For other types, most states have long waiting lists for disability- or illness-based Medicaid (vs income-based Medicaid, for which there is not a waiting list). And by waiting list, I mean thousands of people on the list, years-long type of waiting list. So someone might qualify for Medicaid, but not actually get it for years. Only a precious few states have no waiting list.

        So, medical bills.

        1. Temperance*

          In my state, certain diagnoses in children lead to automatic Medicaid eligibility. Not SSI, and there is no waiting list for kids who need access to services. I’d be very surprised if my state was somehow a leader in this.

          That being said, this isn’t to help with bills, but with a fun trip. A bunch of employees who don’t make much money chipping in to send a VIP and his family on a fancy vacation that they likely couldn’t afford isn’t a good look.

    10. AnotherAlison*

      Honestly, #2 really rubbed me the wrong way. This is a child with cancer. Would it be a better scenario to help a kid whose parents didn’t have the means to take care of them? Maybe, but I don’t think it reflects well on the OP’s location that they wouldn’t want to help out one of their own whose child has been adversely affected by cancer.

      We had an up-and-comer whose young child had cancer about 10 years ago. We raised funds for him through our own initiatives (not via another org), and everyone jumped at the chance to support him. While he was not a C-level executive, he was in a role that paid more than many of the positions here and we have great insurance, and he is in the executive development program. It just kind of makes my head explode that the OP’s coworkers didn’t raise funds for this kid. How do you think the kid felt?

      1. Autumnheart*

        All the more reason not to put your employees in that position. If a C-level executive feels personally rejected that their employees didn’t want to donate to their kid’s cancer fund, then how does that executive react? Punish the employees? That’s exactly the conflict of interest that the C-level is obligated to avoid.

        The C-level is more than welcome to apply for charitable giving for their child’s illness, and more than able to NOT involve their own company in that effort. They should not be making their own reports responsible for their child’s illness.

      2. fposte*

        I’d hope the kid wasn’t promised anything in the first place.

        Some of this may reflect different approaches to charity (I’m not crazy about this charity on the whole as a workplace choice to begin with), but why should OP and her co-workers feel more obliged to raise funds for this kid to get a massive treat than another kid? There are undoubtedly people in that donor group who themselves have family with cancer or are related to kids with serious illnesses, and to have to spend your limited paycheck on the big boss’s kid’s adventure trip rather than on your own family’s stuff would suck.

      3. Nita*

        I’m sure that part of the issue here is that the donation is not, in any way, for medical needs. It’s for the trip of a lifetime for a child who’s in remission. Whatever gets donated is just not going to go to medical bills. And while I get that it’s a big deal emotionally to the child, and to the family… it’s not a need. A poorer family that has dealt with cancer may not even have this option on the table, because the parents’ vacation time has been eaten by medical appointments and their jobs are in danger. This is not a drive for donations to save the child’s life. This is, in the end, a luxury.

      4. Temperance*

        This is not supporting a child with cancer or choosing not to help “one of their own”. This is choosing not to give your own funds to send a C-suite level executive and his family on a fancy vacation, which they could easily afford on their own. Much moreso than a regular working person.

        1. Scarlet*

          This. If everyone had enough money to live decently and healthcare was free for all, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But in the current world, I think fundraising should be mainly directed towards people who are actually having financial difficulties. I find it rather shocking that people would raise funds for a kid’s holidays when their parents could easily afford it, while there are so many people who end up bankrupt because of health expenses.

          1. fposte*

            To be fair, we don’t know if the parents can easily afford it or not–being in the C-suite doesn’t mean your kid’s cancer hasn’t bankrupted you.

            There are a lot of different approaches to charity–some people prefer domestic, some people prefer people to animals or vice versa–and personalization is a huge draw (hence the “sponsor a child who will write to you” approach). So I can understand why this one appeals to many people and makes for an easy corporate thing to support. But I think that there are already enough issues about how employers handle charity drives that adding the layer where it’s funding something the employees probably can’t afford to enjoy is a really bad plan whether you know the kid or not. It’s not the OP’s question, but I think it’s the source of the problem here.

            1. Scarlet*

              Well yes, that was my point. I’m not saying that family was not impacted at all by their child’s illness, but it’s safe to assume they managed better than other families who didn’t make that kind of money to start with. It’s really problematic to ask people who are poorer than you to donate money to your family, but obviously the hierarchical aspect makes it much worse.

              1. fposte*

                I’m agreeing with part of your statement and disagreeing with other parts. I think even if healthcare were free for all we’d be having this discussion, because it’s still asking you to donate so your boss’s kid can go to Disneyland. I would be more forgiving if it was to pay medical costs. (I still might be against it, but it would be a lot closer call.)

                1. Scarlet*

                  Oh ok, I see what you mean. You’re right, even if healthcare was free, it would still be a bad idea because of the hierarchy involved (I still think it would be a bit less egregious though – but in any case, we don’t live in that world).

      5. EddieSherbert*

        The kid is in REMISSION from cancer, meaning they do not currently have cancer and it may or may not ever come back. Which is AWESOME! Because that means they beat it and that is totally worth celebrating!!! But that definitely adds to the feeling of “we’re just funding a trip for this well-paid Executive’s family.”

        1. Engineer Girl*

          You clearly don’t understand what remission is. It is NOT cured. It simply means that the cancer indicators have gone away – for now. They may reappear in a few months or in a few years.

          So the wolf circling your house went into the woods. Did it leave? Or is it merely hiding behind the bush?

          1. EddieSherbert*

            I did not say cured. It could be partial remission (they still have it) or it could be full remission (no evidence of disease AKA NED). Either way, people tend to feel less “obligated” to help than if they currently have cancer.

            There were kinder ways to say you think I’m wrong, but since I evidently have to “prove” myself – my brother dealt with 4 bouts of leukemia spread out over 12 years before dying at 23. I know what remission is.

            1. Engineer Girl*

              You stated “meaning they do not currently have cancer“.
              Remission means that there’s no detectable indicators, not that they don’t have cancer.

              1. DreamingInPurple*

                A lack of detectable indicators isn’t a confirmation that they don’t have cancer, but a lack of detectable indicators wouldn’t be a confirmation that a person who was never diagnosed with cancer didn’t have it either…

          2. MassMatt*

            Eddie said “it (cancer) may or may not ever come back” in the first sentence. That is a pretty accurate summary. Saying “you clearly don’t know what remission is” was off base.

    11. Artemesia*

      I get the point. One of the most common causes of bankruptcy is a catastrophic diagnosis even when the people have health insurance since the co-pays of most US policies are large and a percentage of say a million dollars worth of treatment that family must pay can be in the 100s of thousands of dollars.

      BUT it is really tone deaf to expect minimum wage or low wage employees to give money so the child of the executive can have a vacation; many of them probably can’t afford family vacations. This child may deserve the trip and the family may in fact be a bit strapped with the costs of treatment, but the fancy vacation should not be bought by low paid subordinates of the well paid executive.

    12. Lady Blerd*

      I’d also add is that in spite of what we think the C-suite is making, they could be saddled with medical bills because of the child’s treatments. I once had a colleague who’s salary I knew had to be in the 100K$ annually plus other bonuses so I didn’t understand why he was driving a Micra type car. Then he told us about his wife’s life threatening medical issue that required him to seek medical help and family assistance beyond what our public health insurance provided. They also had four kids. So he was probably spending all of his money on his family.

      Unless the C-Suite has a glaring lifestyle that suggests he has a lot of expendable cash, I wouldn’t assume that they could afford that trip on his own if they wanted to.

      1. Scarlet*

        But they still earn a lot more money than their employees who are expected to raise funds for them, which is why it’s so problematic.
        That colleague of yours had to scale down, but he could afford to. A lot of people can’t.

      2. RS*

        I have worked for an organization like this one, and would like to add a few thoughts:

        -It is extremely unlikely that the monies raised are going directly to any one child. It is far more likely that all of the funds are going directly to the charity which supports these experiences for kids in general. I’m not sure how this has been “sold” to the employees, but it’s a very common fundraising tactic to choose a kid to be the “face” of the charity, because people tend to donate more when they feel like they’re donating to a specific kid rather than to kids in general.

        -Typically, there are no income restrictions on special experiences for kids with chronic/serious illnesses. What the charity provides is not simply a trip– but rather special elements of an experience that money can’t necessarily buy, like a trip to Disneyland that might also involve meeting a celebrity, going to a special/exclusive restaurant, etc. These are things the charity can provide through its connections.

        1. Roscoe*

          I kind of got that impression too, that its more like “Your gift will help Johnny and kids like him meet Kevin Hart and the Rock on the set of Jumanji 2” or something to that affect. I personally don’t think its nearly as egregious as many people think. I mean, is the employer literally tracking who gives how much? No fundraiser I’ve ever done has done that. I’m honestly shocked how strongly people feel about this situation and how wrong it is.

          Its as you said though, this kid is probably going to get this experience one way or another, but now there may be fewer wishes granted because this company is decided they don’t want to be a part of it because he isn’t poor enough

    13. OP2*

      *waves* Hi, everyone. Busy day today so even though I saw this post last night, I didn’t get to respond until now.

      Thank you for your comments and insight. There may be one tidbit that clarifies a few thoughts: the C-level exec did NOT know his child was selected as the face of the fundraising season. The charity made the decision and presented it in a meeting to the 7 location/site managers. My manager openly asked a multitude of questions about how the decision was reached and what the thought process was before sharing her concerns. Last year we had a difficult time fundraising for this charity and suspected that the local chapter of this national charity was either bankrupt or poorly managed, because they all but announced that they expected us to fundraiser and single-handedly cover all the trips they wanted to cover. So we had a poor taste in our mouths from this interaction and decision-making last year. Having this happen simply confirmed that we needed to part ways from the charity.

      On a happier note, our location decided that rather than choose a cash-donation only fundraiser, we would look for something that would allow those with a tight budget to give what they can. We selected a local no-kill animal rescue shelter and accepted not only cash donations but also donations of supplies and blankets. The other locations decided to join with us and we still had our competition to see who could raise the most. :) We also volunteered to be a donation drop-off location in the local area for Go Gold for Childhood Cancer drive for supplies for kids in the local children’s hospital.

  13. Tau*

    OP#3 – just wanted to say that when I started reading this letter, I was expecting a complaint about people using your office when you weren’t in and was surprised it went the opposite way! Kudos to you for being very understanding of the realities of working in an open office and the need for privacy.

    1. y*

      I too, was more expecting a complaint of people using the office but not leaving it as they found it, adjusting the chair, leaving a mess, walking off with office supplies, etc., but I agree, it is a nice change. And the OP sounds like someone easy to work with.

  14. Salmon*

    Lol at this person thinking that’s an open office plan. That is heaven compared to what goes on in ~creative industries

    1. Someone Else*

      What the OP described is a mostly open office plan, with some enclosed offices, and she acknowledged she had one. It’s the people using her office while she’s gone who otherwise work in the ‘open’ part. It’s fairly common in my experience for the higher ups to have actual offices and the other 90% of the company is in an open plan.

      1. Elfie*

        I think Salmon was saying that an office as described,with cubes, doesn’t sound like an open office plan, where you may even be sharing a desk with other people, and no walls. I’d love to work in a cube – it would be much more private than an open office, which I’ve worked in my entire working life. It totally sucks, and was not how I envisaged working life back in the 80s when I was at school!!

        1. Random Commenter*

          I think it’s supposed to be like one of these “cubes” that only reach like 8 inches above the desktop, mounted on large desks that people share. So it IS an open floor plan, you are always seeing everyone, the only thing the cubes cover is the stuff (paper and notebooks mostly). I think it counts.

        2. Nonsensical*

          My work is converting to an open floor plan – we don’t even have ‘cubes’. We have glass door offices and desks smushed next to each other. Reminds me of grade school. In other buildings that have been renovated, there is still somewhat a cube function where you’re not literally sitting next to your cubemate side by side.

        3. Someone Else*

          Oh, I guess we use that term differently then. I’ve always heard “open office” to mean “no permanent walls” and there may or may not be cubicles (that can be reconfigured at a moment’s notice). “No permanently assigned desk” to me is hotdesking, which often is paired with open offices, but they’re not the same thing. I’ve not heard before that the presence of cube-type temporary walls makes it not an “open” office.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            The thing is that even 8-inch high walls give you someplace to pin up your calendar, etc. Those are just cubes where the walls are too low. You still get your 6×8 or 8×8 amount of floor space. What I’ve seen called open offices is when there’s rows and rows of plain tables (sometimes they are the kind that adjust heights) set end to end, so it’s like working together at a conference table only it’s a huge room with tons of conference tables. I’ve worked in more than one of these places where desks are absolutely assigned, but they aren’t actually desks.

  15. mark132*

    At LW1, I think the problem is you are worrying about it too much. As long as you make sure there are adequate safe options available for Chandler, you’ve done your job, and the only question remains how sympathetic to be to Chandler when you inform him of this.

    Honestly it’s not even your job to make sure he doesn’t order food he isn’t supposed to eat. If he wants to order a dozen peanut butter filled donuts when he has a peanut allergy and celiacs. That’s his problem.

    1. OP1*

      Thank you for the insight! I am trying to take the extra step to ask them specifically what they want to avoid their comments later when there is an audience present. I handed him a menu and asked him to pick what he wants me to have made for him and that I need to know by tomorrow. If I don’t hear anything back before then, oh well. I think my biggest concern was if I was being sympathetic to their needs enough, but it seems like I’m not being ignorant or insensitive.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        I think you’re going above and beyond what most people would consider adequate. Which is awesome! I wish there were more people like you. Ultimately it’s up to Chandler what he eats or doesn’t eat, and it’s also up to him how he feels about it. You’re doing great, and you don’t have to manage his diet or feelings for him.

      2. Oof*

        I think Alison’s title really summed it up – you’re doing great with his needs, but he makes it difficult with demands. :-)

      3. Nonsensical*

        I would stop worrying about what Chandler thinks.

        Just tell him his options: he can pick something and you’ll order it, if he doesn’t respond, you assume he is eating what everyone else is eating. I would also tack on that due to the complexity of managing everyone’s dietary needs, you simply cannot adjust the menu for one person.

        I get why some people think it would be nice to change the menu once to accommodate Chandler, but honestly as someone who has multiple accommodations at work, I don’t expect people to bend for me. I know I have to accommodate to them. It is just the way life is and I don’t think OP1 should have to bend over backwards in the workplace to accommodate one person. I get how Chandler feels but it is so much unnecessary work on the OP1 that it is simply not feasible.

  16. Observer*

    #1, The one thing I would be on the look out for is if people are making comments or a fuss about his food. If that’s the case, it needs to be dealt with. Otherwise, you’re gold.

  17. Khlovia*

    For #1: You seem to be doing everything humanly possible to accommodate Chandler as well as everyone else. However, it is really not humanly possible to ensure perfect safety for a person with severe allergies. As pcake points out, allowing Chandler to control the entire menu for your particular group would not even deliver the desired result. Chandler would need to be allowed to control the entire menu for everybody who eats at that restaurant on the day of your event, and possibly the day before. This is obviously ridiculous. Point that out to him.

    Also ridiculous is that Chandler’s needs should be held paramount over everyone else’s needs. What if his foods endanger someone else? Maybe he doesn’t care, but you are required to. Point that out to him.

    The obvious solution, if his allergies are that severe, is, as pcake also said, to bring in his own food and utensils. A mild annoyance, to be sure, but less so than a trip to the ER. Point that out to him. Also point out to the restaurant, if they object to someone bringing in outside food, that permitting that in this case will be a much smaller hassle than allergy-proofing the entire kitchen for the occasion.

    What he is really jibbing at is being perceived, or his food being perceived, as separate, as different. The truth is that nobody will notice for more than five nanoseconds, nor care, at all, ever, for even one nanosecond. The five seconds of imaginary negative perception he is objecting to will seem as a royal promenade with minions scattering rose-petals before his feet compared to the genuine, sustained exasperation his colleagues will feel towards him when they find out that their own choices were removed in order to accommodate him. (And they will inevitably figure it out.) Point that out too.

    1. Khlovia*

      “The truth is that nobody will notice for more than five nanoseconds, nor care, at all, ever, for even one nanosecond.”

      After reading through some of the newer comments, I am reminded that this is not always the case. I would never dream of remarking on somebody else’s food, other than along the lines of “Ooo, that looks yummy; I wish I’d ordered that instead!” (The correct response to any such remark being “Nyaah nyaah!”)

      But (a) it doesn’t sound as though that is what is going on in Chandler’s case, at least in part because apparently there are several people in OP’s group with assorted dietary issues to be accommodated; commenting on other people’s food would get boring pretty quickly. And (b) if that is what is happening here, OP or a manager needs to address that, specifically; not force everybody to eat like Chandler.

      The legal language is “REASONABLE accommodations”. You might want to point that out to Chandler, too, OP#1.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’m with you on all of this.
        I honestly can’t quite wrap my head around Chandler’s problem – OP says “I order sandwiches for everyone, and have Chandler’s made separately and wrapped separately to avoid cross contamination, and he makes a face and complains that it is separate!”. I’m imagining this as all the sandwiches arriving in one box lying next to each other, with Chandler’s being wrapped in an extra protective layer, which is really, really not a big deal; even if it comes in an extra box, well, I doubt a lot of people care about that one sandwich that is in another box, since they’re probably keen on looking for their own sandwich (and, like you say, if that’s not the case, any rudeness by coworkers would need to be addresses separately).
        And really, do you want a sandwich that looks like everyone else’s or do you want to be able to breath?

        1. doreen*

          I’m wondering if the OP is perhaps ordering six foot sandwiches for everyone and then has Chandler’s made and wrapped separately. Because if the OP is ordering individual sandwiches for each person, then they would all be wrapped separately . (But ordering separate sandwiches for each person would probably be a pain for the OP )

          1. Myrin*

            Thanks for clarifying, OP! That’s basically exactly what I imagined in my second scenario, so I can safely stand by my assumption that people really aren’t going to care about that one random separate container.

            Do you have any sense of what his motivation behind all of this is? Because the only thing I – and from what I’ve seen basically everyone else in this comment section – can come up with is that he thinks his separate-ness will somehow bring negative attention to him, but do you think that’s it? And if so, does he have reason to believe that (e. g. he has been ridiculed in the past by your coworkers)? And is it really at all likely that people will notice and/or care?

            1. OP1*

              absolutely nobody ever makes any sort of negative comment teasing chandler about their food, except Chandler. Nobody cares except to make sure that chandler has something they can eat. Which he always does, so nobody talks about it, really.

              1. mark132*

                Based off of what you’re saying here, you and Chandler’s coworkers are handling the situation very professionally. Well done.

          2. Akcipitrokulo*

            That’s what we do for gluten-free and vegans in our office – one thing occurs with that, and that it may be that people without allergies are snaffling his stuff if it’s laid out buffet-style so he doesn’t get enough? (We had that issue! and had to make a clear “hands off” policy and enforce it.)

          3. FaintlyMacabre*

            I wonder if he’s unhappy that other people get the possibility of seconds, while he gets the one sandwich and that’s it?

            Still doesn’t negate his PITA-ness, but I’m curious.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        Yup, some people do indeed notice and feel compelled to comment. It’s incredibly tiresome, especially because they are often 100% sure they are the VERY FIRST PERSON to ever say anything about what you’re eating. But these are usually also the people who feel compelled to say something whenever they notice anything. Most people will be far too busy getting and eating their own food to care at all about yours.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I can sympathise with not wanting to be seen as different. I’m sure it’s infinitely frustrating and exhausting. But in truth, if there’s something you can’t do that most of the people around you can, then the truth is that you are different. There isn’t, or shouldn’t be, any kind of value judgement there although I know that in reality there is. It sucks, but it’s reality.

  18. Not A Manager*

    LW#2 – Don’t these charities means-test at all? Tbh, I sometimes give to these types of fundraisers under the assumption that I’m helping to provide an opportunity that wouldn’t otherwise be available to a suffering child. I’d be just as peeved to give to a C suite exec as you are, even if they weren’t in my own personal organization.

    1. Wish Granter*

      I worked for Make-A-Wish for awhile and household income was never a factor. The wish was going to the child, not the family – and even very wealthy families are bogged down in medical bills. We believed that every child deserves their wish, no matter their background – and it was often more about doing all the planning and taking all the stress out of the situation for the family. Also most wish families end up giving back to the organization down the road, so it all comes full circle.

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Make a wish isn’t means tested – for a bunch of reasons.

      One, sometimes wishes are things that seem ordinary but aren’t, because of the specifics of the illness (like the family I know whose daughter was so sick, in order to travel she would need to travel with a nurse, and in special equipment, and couldn’t stay in a regular hotel – I don’t know how much money the family made, but few people could afford a trip with all those considerations piled on).

      And sometimes the wishes are not money intensive but are unique and simply can’t be done without help. (I.e., meeting a celebrity).

      And sometimes someone isn’t poor if you look just at salary, but when you add in the MASSIVE costs of supporting disabling, life-limiting or terminal illness, the salary doesn’t tell the whole story. (When was the last time you had to spend $60k on a car – wheelchair vans aren’t cheap! Or a few thousand on ramps, or by a lift for the front door of the house, or redo part of the house so your kid can reach the bathroom). I mean, sadly, I speak from experience when I say a family can look like they must be comfortable if you look at salary alone, but the costs involved in caring for medically fragile kids is enormous. So it’s possible for a family with a decent, or even really good, salary to be struggling.

      But all that said, if your goal is to help people below a certain salary level, then you have to dig into details. Some nonprofits don’t focus on salary.

    3. Asenath*

      It depends on the charity, as mentioned elsewhere. And depending on the illness, the extra costs can be astronomical – probably even for someone on a high salary, although I admit that isn’t the first thing you think about when you hear someone who earns a lot has a child eligible for a certain charity. The office charity thing exists in my office, but is very low-key and I get no comment at all when I don’t donate and pick my own charities.

    4. pleaset*

      C-suite can mean a lot of different things in terms of salary.

      And in the US at least, cancer can be financially destructive even to people at earning in the top 10% of income.

      1. Artemesia*

        Say you have to pay 20% of covered medical care AFTER paying whatever the policy deductible is — so maybe it adds up to 25%. And drugs are often covered at 50% if they are top tier drugs. A million dollar treatment, which is not unusual for cancer might cost the family 200 to 300 thousand with insurance. Plenty of people are impoverished while ‘covered’ with health insurance when something really bad comes at them.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        But if it’s financially devastating to someone in the top 10%, imagine being someone at this company making 10x less and having similar medical bills. Imagine how devastating that would be.

  19. Airy*

    OP1, my sister has an uncommon food intolerance, fructose malabsorption (although I see another mention of it upthread, so hey, comrade!) and she feels awkward about being the one who always has to speak up when ordering food about what ingredients she needs to avoid (finding meals without onions or garlic is a mission, because they are obviously delicious and only really voluntarily shunned by certain Indian religious groups such as the Hare Krishnas). She really appreciates it when I discreetly but clearly do that part for her. You are doing that part for Chandler. Unless there’s some other factor we’re all unaware of, he’s being kind of a wiener about this.

    1. Julia*

      Onions and garlics are actually shunned by buddhist cuisine in Japan/Taiwan as well. I frequent a restaurant where a Taiwanese lady cooks according to those rules, which are also no meat (eggs are okay for her, not sure about everyone who follows this). Not sure if that helps your sister at all, but if she can find somewhere with shoujin ryouri, she should try it, it can be really good!

      1. Airy*

        I do cook a variety of Japanese food including some shoujin ryouri recipes, but there are still quite a few of those that don’t work for her because of other ingredients with a high concentration of fructose, such as snow peas, cabbage and mushrooms. It’s always a game of “How many ingredients can I leave out before this stops being a recipe?” I do still find plenty of things I can cook for her (carrot kinpira, broccoli ohitashi, spinach goma-ae) but it’s always disappointing to read a recipe that sounds great until I hit the deal-killing ingredient which is crucial to the whole vibe of the thing.

    2. LCL*

      …I have to be that person and speak up. Some of us find onions repulsive and allergenic. The issue with onions is that many commercial places won’t put them on the list of ingredients. I don’t know why. I have why, both angrily and politely, and the response is usually a blank stare, followed by, oh, I guess that is an ingredient, we should list it.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      Airy, you probably know this already? but the FODMAP dietary guidelines might be helpful to your sister, because they’re about avoiding a specific kind of food sugar. My MIL uses it and she really misses onions, but is overall much happier. (I put a link in my user name. It’s to the page of the researcher who developed a fructose malabsorption diet, and then joined the team that developed the FODMAP guidelines.)

    4. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      Hey now… as a Hare Krishna, I do not shun onions and garlic, because they are very tasty.

      Technically, there are some Ayurvedic diets that do not allow for root vegetables or anything grown in the dirt like onion or garlic.

  20. frida*

    As someone with a severe allergy, I do understand (to some degree) Chandler’s balking at separate food. Not defending it at all, but it can get very frustrating to have to explain your allergy every time you’re eating something different, and sometimes that invites unsolicited opinions from folks who know nothing about allergies (i.e. “what if you just ate it and then gave yourself your EpiPen after?”). But the LW is clearly putting in effort to include him and he should be appreciative. It would be a dream for me to work with someone like LW—at my last job, the office refused to accommodate me at all because it was “too hard.” My boss introduced me to executives as “Frida who doesn’t eat anything.” Chandler has a much better situation.

    1. galatea*

      that’s how i feel about it — more than once on my old team, everyone (~15 people) got food from a restaurant where it wasn’t safe for me to eat anything, and we’d all eat lunch together while i sat there with something clearly from a different restaurant. it gets exhausting to field questions about it every time, especially since it’s never a simple answer, it always become “how allergic are you?” and “when is the last time you went to the hospital?” or, sometimes, outright aggression over my food “choices” (“just a little won’t hurt you!” or snide comments about how i’m too good to eat $food item or must be on a diet)

      …but also — having someone actively looking out for you is so nice, and i’ve always had to fend for myself with this sort of thing; i wouldn’t worry about it too much, OP.

      1. Al who is that Al*

        My parents still don’t really believe me, they still think it’s a middle-class trendy thing I’ve invented. I still get my dad pouring full-cream milk into my tea which I then pour down the sink and make my own while he stares at me surprised and says “Have you still got that then ?” – “Yes, dad its an allergy, its doesn’t magically disappear”

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Some allergies do magically disappear, though. So it may be worth getting periodically tested by a trained medical professional if you have the kind that can disappear over time. For the record, I have no idea if dairy allergy is on that list.

          1. Grapey*

            Or it may be worth not caring about it if you’ve conditioned yourself to not like the food you can’t eat. I know someone with a not-super-severe dairy allergy and he always reminds people “no, it’s not lactose intolerance” and “no, I wouldn’t eat it even if I could since I’ve weaned myself off the taste of cheese to begin with”

            1. whingedrinking*

              People will often say to me like, “You can’t eat peanuts [due to a non-life-threatening allergy]?! Oh, how is your life even worth living?” Which…I don’t have fond childhood memories of eating PB&J, or Grandma’s nut cookies, or whatever, and I associate the taste with needing to go spit this thing out RIGHT NOW before my mouth starts to swell and itch. Between the lack of nostalgia and the negative conditioning, I don’t think of peanuts as glorious yet forbidden manna; they literally taste like poison to me.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Adults can spontaneously acquire and lose allergies also. But you’re right that it’s more common in children.

              1. Sally*

                When we were in our mid-20s, my brother and I both became allergic to bananas and melon (inside of my mouth swelling upon eating them), which was not a surprise because our mom is allergic to them. But then a couple of years later, it seemed to go away for both of us, and now we can eat those things, but I tend to stay away from melon because I still randomly get swelling sometimes. I don’t know if that makes it a sensitivity, rather than an allergy (or if that even matters), but it was weird.

                1. doreen*

                  It might be oral allergy syndrome, where people with pollen allergies have oral reactions to certain uncooked fruits and vegetables (there are actually charts . It’s more common in adults than children and there are charts that will tell you which pollen allergies are associated with particular fruits/vegetables – for example, if you are allergic to ragweed pollen , you might react to bananas, melons, zucchini and cucumber.

              2. Artemesia*

                My granddaughter whose face as a toddler would turn bright red rash with the slightest egg exposure like a piece of fruit touching an omelet outgrew it, and my elderly father developed a dairy allergy in his 70s after a lifetime of drinking milk, having milkshakes, eating cheese etc when he was being given lots of Insure. Allergies can be weird.

                1. Cedarthea*

                  We had a child at camp who came with a stated egg allergy, I was not able to verify severity as there was a language barrier with the parents. On the Thursday of the week at camp I was just looking at the Perogies box and went screeching out of the kitchen, as there was egg listed on the ingredient list, to check on the child. He was fine, at had eaten a half-dozen perogies and had been eating all sort of egg (in the form of ranch dressing) through the week.

                  I’m so glad he grew out of it and we had a big chat with the kitchen about that for the safety of the rest of the campers.

                2. Engineer Girl*

                  It could also be additives. My dad had problems with eggs, but never reacted to the skin test. One day his doctor tried something different and Dad reacted immediately.
                  Dad wasn’t allergic to eggs. Dad was allergic to the antibiotics they fed the chickens.

                  Also it’s a total exposure thing. You may eat something for years and then your immune system decides it’s a problem. Boom. You’re now allergic.

            2. Flash Bristow*

              I used to be allergic to rosemary. Such that touching my face after stroking a dog that had walked past a bush… made my face go red and swell up. Eating food that had previously had a small rosemary piece garnishing it, and had it dug out all around rather than re-made, would burn my throat. And so on.

              Somehow, many years later (15-20?) I am now able to eat food with rosemary oil or leaves in it. I don’t particularly enjoy them, but it no longer causes agony.

              No, I don’t understand it either! And I realise my one anecdote does not equal data. But I’m not complaining!

          2. Queen Anon*

            I was allergic to dairy (specifically anything made with cow’s milk) as an infant and toddler but by the time I was in grade school, that allergy had disappeared and hasn’t returned. So it’s a thing.

          3. I’m actually a squid*

            My food intolerance “disappeared” when I stopped interacting with my parents. Turns out I have a stress-aggravated gluten sensitivity.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          My mother didn’t bother reading labels and got pissy when I wouldn’t eat anything with tomatoes in it – she’d swear up and down that the rice mix had no tomato even after I told her it was the second ingredient. Until the night she made something I didn’t realize had tomatoes and I threw up in her flowerbed right in front of her.

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      It’s frustrating explaining anything that’s different or perceived as “weird”. This is why I very often don’t. After the first cursory “I’m allergic to X” or whatever, invasive questions get either “why do you need to know?” or simply a raised eyebrow and silence. I’ll just blink at them until they’re finished being stupid. Because that’s really what it is; people being stupid. Food allergies are not an unheard of thing in this day and age and google exists so why should I have to explain myself? Whip out your phone and look it up and let me eat in peace.

  21. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – you nred to accomodate allergies (and other issues)… and you are doing that!

    You’re offering a range and confirming with people beforehand that they’re OK, and making changes to their meals if necessary. That’s perfectly fair.

    It might be worth letting your boss know the situation and copy them in on emails so they know you are fulfilling your part if he ever complains.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      (This is of course, with caveat that it’s a preference not to be percieved as separate, not an issue with airborne allergens. Which could make asking for everyone to have a not-seafood dish (changing to beef from salmon in example) completely reasonable and something to be accomodated.)

      1. Observer*

        Firstly, it’s pretty clear that his complaint is about being different.

        Airborne allergies are a pain, but it’s not always so simple to accommodate that either. On the other hand, most of the time it’s actually not necessary to totally ban whatever it is. (I’m speaking from experience with a child with life threatening reactions to his allergens, which can be airborne.)

  22. Amelia Pond*

    I’m majorly side-eyeing the guy from LW#1. His issue isn’t even worrying about cross contamination, it’s just that it’s separate. This seems like being difficult for the sake of being difficult.

    LW#2 This is something that would really, really bother me too. Those programs are generally aimed at kids whose parents are not well off. I was actually signed up for one by a well intentioned friend of the family, but I declined it because I was 17 and felt really embarrassed about it. (I really did WANT something- a computer, because being sick meant I was always stuck at home, so a computer would have connected me to people. All we had was an old work computer from 1999, so it was… well, basically a brick. But I felt like I would be taking something away from a sick little kid by accepting, and who wants to do that!)

    1. jcarnall*

      I think that’s a shame, though I get why you felt you had to say no.

      It sounds like a computer would have been useful and appropriate support for you because of your illness, and there doesn’t seem any reason why you shouldn’t have got that support, as a minor child with an illness, even though you weren’t a little kid any more.

    2. Roscoe*

      They aren’t necessarily aimed at kids whose parents are well off. Some are, some aren’t. As someone mentioned earlier, Make A Wish doesn’t factor income in at all, which is really good in my opinion. A kid with cancer isn’t any less deserving of a dying wish (or even just a great experience) because he comes from a rich family than a kid that comes from a poorer family. I have a great friend who battled cancer as a teenager. His parents weren’t rich, but not poor either. He got to have his wish granted.

      I feel like once you put “need” into it, it becomes like student aid in America. My parents made too much money (on paper at least) for me to really get any student aid, but they also couldn’t afford to pay for my college, so I had to take out loans. I would hate to start saying the same thing about kids with life threatening diseases. “Sorry, on paper, your parents make too much for us to send you to Disney Wolrd”, even though they have 4 other kids, and depleted their savings pay for medical treatment.

    3. MLB*

      Regardless of what a person makes, you can’t make assumptions about their life. You shouldn’t deny a child a wish because their family makes a lot of money. It’s about the child getting something that makes them happy so they can forget about being sick for a while. My problem with the situation is that it’s a conflict of interest. They should be fundraising for someone unrelated to the company.

  23. MK*

    Frankly, OP3, you are being overly nice about this and possibly on your way to creating a problem for yourself. People who borrow your office SHOULD vacate it when you return, same as they should wrap up their call to their doctor/spouse or their meeting. It’s good to say so if you have no urgent business to do, so that they won’t trip over themselves scrambling for the exit, but don’t encourage an attitude that anyone who happens to be in your office gets dibs and can keep you out at their convenience, especially since it doesn’t sound as if you have somewhere to go till they finish.

  24. Al who is that Al*

    #1 I have food allergies and Chandler does sound like he’s being a over-entitled arse. Is he seriously suggesting everyone change their food to what he likes so he won’t feel left out ? To have someone who organises the food to make an effort is lovely and appreciated, but that’s anyone should have to do. It’s something he has to live with the rest of his life like the rest of us so get used to the inconvenience because it’s not going away.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      Yes, it does sound like Chandler is using OP1’s conscieciousness against her because he resents being different. I think Alison’s scripts are useful as it puts the onus back on Chandler if the way OP arranges meal options doesn’t suit him.

    2. NYWeasel*

      OP#1 deserves huge kudos for taking these various and competing dietary challenges so seriously, and yes, Chandler is being an ass about it.

      I have a lactose intolerance that is somewhat convoluted and can seem inconsistent if I don’t spend ten minutes explaining it to you. I often feel sad/frustrated/upset by the constraints I have to follow, but I ALWAYS appreciate anyone who makes an effort to accommodate my needs. I’d much rather have a separately wrapped lunch that I was able to input on than some of the ways my needs have been “addressed”. More than once I’ve found myself at some conference center in the middle of nowhere existing off of dinner rolls and iceberg lettuce because they tried to lump me in with the vegan or fish crowds but chose some ingredient that I absolutely can’t stand. Or worse, the conference where EVERY dish had a cream sauce on it. (Even in my dairy days, I would have wanted some variety to choose from!)

      Don’t let Chandler’s complaints discourage you! You are doing the right thing, and I would be super happy to attend an event you arranged the food at!

  25. Zip Silver*

    #2 – I always skip out on rolling out the yearly fundraiser at my office. It feels cold-hearted to ask my hourly employees to donate to the company’s tax break while I’ve got certain employees in a certain ops department on food stamps and other public assistance.

  26. FD*

    #5- I’m suspicious this person just got some poor advice. In my opinion, it would be a kindness to gently respond. Maybe something like, “Thanks for reaching out! I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that, as passing on someone’s name directly is usually reserved for people you know and can vouch for. I know there’s a lot of advice out there that suggests asking alumni to pass on your name, but it’s not actually something most people are going to be willing to do.”

    If you were willing, I might throw the person a bone and add something like, “However, I would be willing to hop on a quick 20 minute call about our industry, if you have any questions. If that interests you, you can send me a list of 3-5 questions* you’re interested in discussing and we’ll schedule a time.”

    *I like to use this when doing informational interviews, because it puts the onus on the requester to prove they’re serious by doing a small amount of prep work before the meeting is scheduled. On the flip side, when I’ve requested informational interviews, I always do this in advance and send them to the person I’m meeting if requested.

  27. Kiwi*

    To be honest, I’m startled by the negativity towards Chandler in a lot of these comments.

    I’m a vegetarian, and as a few people have pointed out, eating the same as everyone else gives a nice sense of inclusion. You can chatter about the food, you can try different things and compare them, and you don’t have to answer questions about your food or wonder if everyone thinks you feel superior. OP1, it doesn’t sound like it’s feasible to give Chandler what he wants, but I’d be sympathetic while explaining that instead of being all “you self-entitled glassbowl”.

    If you ever do a meal where Chandler could be considered a guest of honor, it’d be kind to serve food he can eat as the majority food on offer. (And the same probably holds for everyone else with dietary restrictions).

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Chandler wants OP1 to prioritize his dietary needs over everybody else’s.

      And in a sufficiently large group you will have dietary needs that are mutually exclusive.

      The amount of vegetarian food I can eat safely is limited to dairy, eggs, and a few vegetables.

      There are slightly more things where I can eat a tiny amount as long as I’m in a well ventilated space afterwards.

      The rest, though? Makes my GI tract explode and I’ll be camped out in the loo for the next 8-12 hours.

    2. Tallulah in the Sky*

      I’m a vegetarian too, and I don’t like Chandler’s attitude. I understand and sympathise with feeling left out, but how he acts is jus not okay. It’s not his feelings everyone has a problem with, but his behaviour. Because he doesn’t want to feel different, he demands that all food served to everyone is made to his liking, thinking only about himself.

      And your workplace is not the place to have that battle. Their only obligation is providing food he can eat, which they do (unlike many others). He should be appreciative of that. And turn to his friends and family to have a whole buffet where he can eat.

    3. Myrin*

      As far as inclusion goes, it’s not like everyone else is eating the same thing and Chandler is the lone outlier, though. OP mentions several very different restrictions she accommodates and I doubt that even those without restrictions all eat the literal same thing.
      (To say nothing of Chandler’s demands that the whole menue be changed to his liking!)

      1. Gen*

        It doesn’t even look like he wants the actual allergen changing though, he wants a whole different dish that’s not specifically related to his allergy. It sounds like he’s asking for one of several menu options to be changed entirely. If there’s a variety on the menu then t’s not likely everyone will be eating the same thing anyway because there are multiple things to pick from, he’d just have one ingredient changed in his thing that others are eating. So instead of “I’ll have the salmon with brown rice instead of white” he’s saying “no one can have the salmon because I want beef”. Which might then mean the pescatarians and non-red-meat staff lose their fish option. If you gave into one person removing an entire item from the menu you can have other people demanding the same which leads to chaos.

    4. White Wine Spritzer*

      The OP gives the example of ordering sandwiches and his being wrapped separately. It’s not like they are all getting very different things and he’s being excluded. They’re all just eating a sandwich. Chandler is being an ass.

      “it’d be kind to serve food he can eat as the majority food on offer” Even if Chandler is the only person with those particular restrictions, and other attendees have other restrictions which limit their diet? So the other guests don’t get fed and Chandler gets to eat everything. Sounds like a GREAT party! /s

    5. Al who is that Al*

      Sorry Knitting Cat Lady, I can’t eat dairy, so looks like we’re on the eggs only which will mean I’ll be the one needing a well-ventilated space !
      Joking apart, it’s the entitled prioritising that is annoying everyone Kiwi, most of us with food allergies just get along with it, as KCL says sometimes peoples needs are mutually exclusive.
      For instance I’m certainly not, at Yule, going to stop anyone eating Blue Stilton just because I’d be pretty poorly myself, inclusivity be damned ! Pig out and have fun, I’ve going to eat all the Roquefort and anyone who argues gets a fork in the nose.

    6. Susie Q*

      This is work not ceremonial celebration of Chandler. Chandler complains too much, this is how catered work events get canceled.

    7. TL -*

      No, count me out – I don’t generally want everyone to be eating what I eat. Food is meant to be enjoyed and while I can cook delicious food I can eat, it takes time and practice and a certain amount of artfulness to serve a meal that nobody feels is ‘lacking’. Which I’m generally not going to get from catered food. That’s alright!

      It’s honestly pretty annoying when people try to convince me that gluten free pizza is ‘just as good’ as regular pizza, which is what almost every ‘inclusive’ meal devolves into. It’s not, and that’s okay! My pizza just needs to be enjoyable and not get me sick; it doesn’t have to be as good as regular pizza. But you should be able to enjoy your regular pizza while I eat my doesn’t-get-me-sick pizza.

      1. Julia*

        Especially since with pizza, you can’t even tell at first glance, so people wouldn’t be singled out by others looking at their plate and seeing they’re gluten-free. Plus, gluten-free is great if you need it, but not particularly healthy if you don’t.

      2. Teacake*

        Count me out too thanks. You’re not doing great things for vegetarians with this post! Some of us are happy to get our ‘sense of inclusion’ in other ways!

    8. jcarnall*

      I get that too – I love it when there’s a catering-buffet that’s all-vegetarian, or an entire menu of choices that’s only vegetarian.

      But, unless I’m eating out with only or majority vegetarians, I don’t expect other people to limit their diets for me. It’s nice if they want to, either because they like the food or because they want to make me feel included, but I don’t expect to be able to control what other people eat, just like I don’t expect other people to try to control what I eat.

      1. Julia*

        These days, I’m just happy when a) there’s something I can actually eat and b) no one makes a snide comment about my vegetarianism.
        Not saying that means Chandler has to put up with everyone “when I was your age, we walked ten mils uphill in the snow for our vegetarian meals!”) but it seems like he a) gets a nice meal and b) a lot of his colleagues also eat special meals.

    9. Teacake*

      Your comment makes no sense to me as I’ve rarely experienced everyone eating the same or cared whether or not they do. I’ve lived in houses where some people are vegetarian and some aren’t, and some have allergies to things the others eat. I’ve eaten with people of different faiths who need different food. Or with medical conditions. At work we have quite a few vegetarians. I don’t think it’s a reasonable or normal expectation for everyone to eat the same and I don’t understand why you would notice or care.

    10. MLB*

      So if you had a ton of allergies and/or restrictions, and ate only lettuce, would you expect everyone else to only eat lettuce when you ordered out? Because that’s what Chandler is expecting. Sure my example is an extremely exaggerated version, but can’t you see how ridiculous it is? Not to mention, LW states that there are others with restrictions, and she’s accommodating ALL of them. Chandler is acting like a toddler.

    11. Observer*

      I think it’s worth noting that some of the most negative people are ones with fairly serious food restrictions of their own.

      That nice sense of inclusion is nice. We get it! But, asking everyone to eat what he can is simply not reasonable, ESPECIALLY since he’s not the only one with restrictions and some of these restrictions are mutually exclusive. nd now he’s being uncooperative about it.

      Yes, he deserves the negativity.

  28. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1: It’s simply impossible to fulfill everyone’s dietary needs in one dish.

    E.g. veganism and Crohn’s disease (or other GI issues) are mutually exclusive.

    The only thing left would be water and rocks. I think we can agree that this wouldn’t make for a good meal…

    Chandler doesn’t want his meal to stand out. Because he doesn’t want to be ‘different’.

    Tough shit, dude.

    I have noticeable work space accommodations (no fluorescent tubes over my desks, LED desk lamp, electrically height adjustable desk). Being different from others is no big deal!

  29. Tallulah in the Sky*

    OP1 : I love you. I wish I had someone like you at my old job, where they loved to create get togethers, but always forgot I was a vegetarian. It sucked. And I didn’t complain half as much as Chandler.

    1. Bluebell*

      I had a boss who couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t eat the chicken quesadillas as a vegetarian! My colleagues from those days still laugh about that.

      1. OP1*

        LOL my boss doesn’t believe me that vegetarians dont eat fish. He absolutely insists that vegetarians eat fish and that “pescetarians” is a word that doesnt exist.

        1. a good mouse*

          My vegetarian mom who is incredibly allergic to fish would definitely have issues with him!

    2. Kyrielle*

      The “you have to work on Saturday, but we are bringing in lunch for everyone at least” days at my old job were always, ALWAYS pizza.

      Among my restrictions, I’m severely lactose-intolerant. Another coworker had a milk protein allergy.

      One time, after several discussions of this, they ordered a big thing of salad also (enough that people not avoiding the pizza could also have some).

      But…they didn’t make sure it came without cheese. *facepalm*

  30. BRR*

    #3 my office has a similar set up and two things that have helped are being able to see their calendar and when the person has meetings and isn’t in their office we assume that’s the time we can use it. Were also able to book their office like any conference room (we only do that on days when they’re out becuae if not they’d have to end up booking all the time they’re in their office).

  31. Harper the Other One*

    OP1: I think maybe you should try sitting down with Chandler when food is not immediately in the offing and say, completely non-judgementally, “you’ve had concerns about the way your food is being prepared but I’m confused because we’re trying to go to lengths to make sure your allergy is accommodated. Could you explain exactly what the concern is?”

    Then, plan to have a couple of scripts available, including one that’s quite firm (for if he’s complaining on principal, so you can make it clear that things with the orders will not change) but several that are more gentle (a reassuring one if it turns out he’s actually stressed out about food contamination after a bad experience, maybe one to address what to do if his coworkers are giving him a hard time about the separate food, etc.) And honestly, be prepared to have a super apologetic one if you find out that one of the meals he ate at work gave him a reaction because protocols weren’t followed.

    I think if you have this discussion separate from the food being imminently under his nose, it will serve two purposes. For one, you may find out exactly what the heck is going on. But for another, you can document the discussion which makes it easier for you to talk to Chandler’s manager if he is being unreasonable.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I hope it helps! If nothing else, if it doesn’t, you can then easily take t to management showing you’ve made every effort to resolve it directly.

    1. Temperance*

      I don’t think he’s worth all this extra effort. He is whining because he doesn’t want special food, he wants everyone to follow his diet.

      1. Observer*

        You are probably right. But it’s worth doing anyway. On the one hand, there MIGHT be something else going on, and this is not a lot of effort to find out. On the other hand a (documented) conversation where the situation is laid out for Chandler and he acts like a whiny child is going to make it a lot easier for the OP to push back with him and any higher ups that Chandler complains to.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          That’s exactly what I was thinking. Best-case scenario, it’s resolved; worst-case scenario, you have clear proof he’s being unreasonable.

      2. beckysuz*

        I agree. He’s being ridiculous. I have both celiac and several food allergies. I understand that my health will never be as important to others as it is to me, and as such I try to pack my own food for work. It is always nice when someone makes an effort to have food I can eat, but it doesn’t always happen, because my diet is confusing and very specific. I made peace with that long ago. It’s childish and bizarre to try to insist that everyone should be on the same diet as him at work. And frankly unappreciative to the OP who’s clearly trying very hard to be accommodating. And it makes the rest of us look bad honestly. Most people that I know with food allergies just try to make the best of things with minimal fuss and drawing attention to it. Of course there are always people that want to comment on it but I don’t let that bother me. I keep my answers short and hope that my brevity and matter of factness will stop the conversation quickly.

    2. sb51*

      I was looking to see if someone had said this — there might be something else going on. Maybe a specific co-worker is being inappropriately nasty about his food choices! (Especially if it’s his manager/someone higher up than him and he’s hesitant to escalate it.) Or someone at a previous job was nasty about it and he’s sensitive to it, and a conversation will fix this.

      Maybe there’s something that can be done to make it less obvious that his food is different.

      Or maybe he’s just an ass, but that’s been covered enough by other commenters.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        I was wondering that too. As a lot of the commenters are saying, there are plenty of people who will insist that you’re not really allergic, insist that you should try it, say “that’s just a fad,” be nasty about it, etc. And perhaps that’s what’s really going on? Maybe Chandler thinks that if everyone has the same food that he can eat, he’ll sidestep this?

        In any case, this seems like a necessary step to resolve the situation.

      2. Scarlet*

        But wouldn’t it make more sense to take this to whoever’s being nasty though? Or to his manager if this doesn’t work, instead of being a PITA to the nice person who’s trying to make sure there’s food according to everyone’s specifications?

  32. cncx*

    re OP1, i used to work with someone once who had religious reasons for not wanting to have a separate dish
    (i don’t want to get into it, but basically he wanted everyone to eat what he was able to eat and did not want to eat with people who were eating stuff he couldnt eat) when the menu couldn’t be changed for him, he took it upon himself to simply not eat with us and the political/social ramifications that came with it.

    i won’t drag chandler hard, but at some point he needs to take responsibility for himself. I have some food allergies (another fructose malabsorption person here AND i prefer vegetarian so i’m really hard to order for, too, because of the onions and garlic etc) and i work with our meal person, offer to bring my own, gave her a list of what i can eat from the major places near work, and so on. i agree with people that it feels weird to be different and field questions, but sometimes you have to meet people halfway or own why you won’t.

    1. Flash Bristow*

      “sometimes you have to meet people halfway or own why you won’t”

      Hear hear!

      We all know Chandler is being difficult, but that sentence is an excellent summary.

  33. SigneL*

    I’ve dealt with a life-threatening allergy for 50 years (long before they were more common). It’s almost impossible to trust food prepared, say, by a restaurant. For example, they may not know what kind of “vegetable” oil they use. Yes, it’s difficult being different, and sometimes there are people who “don’t believe in allergies.” But I know that bringing my own food has saved my life on at least one occasion.

  34. Bookworm*

    Re: Open office–first thing, thanks for letting people use your space. As someone who is now working in an open office set up with a somewhat similar layout, it’s appreciated for both privacy and for peace and quiet!

    I think Alison has it right. One other thing you could work out, depending on your office, would be to ask someone who has visibility to let you now when so and so has left. Sometimes it’s super awkward because when I’m involved in a call or really need privacy I may not see the actual occupant come in or can’t interrupt my convo to find a new space, etc. But the office uses chat tools and so I’ve let people know that the occupant is back if the person doesn’t notice for a heads up and vice versa.

    Again, that can be awkward and may depend on your office setup, how well you know the other people in the office, etc. but that could be another option, too.

    1. Qwerty123*

      If you know when you’ll be back, you could leave a sign saying when you’ll return and hinting that it’s free to use until then.

  35. Roscoe*

    #2 Is really hard for me. While I understand that the optics aren’t great, this is still a kid that is in remission from cancer and went through some rough times. And it would be one thing if the fundraiser for for the family, but it seems that the money IS going to the charity (unless I misread) and they will be using what you guys raise to provide an experience for the kid. You just don’t like that the kid happens to be an executives kid. It seems kind of petty to me for everyone to refuse it on principal. Its almost like saying that because the kid’s parents are well off, that he doesn’t deserve this. I know that isn’t exactly what you are saying, but its kind of how it comes off. Do you guys have a vetting process that is usually used when you fundraise for this organization for who the money will go to, or do you trust them to make good decisions with the money? Would you mind if it was another son of a rich person in the area? What if it was the executives nephew and not his son?

    I mean, I understand having principals. But I think this is VERY different from collecting money from a boss’ gift or something. I say look at what you are doing for the kid, not who his parents are.

    1. Elspeth*

      Yeah, but it is important to note that those lower on the totem pole may feel pressured to give in order to keep their jobs. I think that’s why people are not on board with the idea of “gifting up”…

    2. Genny*

      I doubt they’re actually raising money for this particular kid. It sounds like one of those things where the charity puts a human face on the campaign so people donate more. Those donations then all get funneled into one giant donation pool from which various trips are funded.

      If CEO’s kid’s trip costs $3,000 and the company raises $4,000, the kid doesn’t get an extra-nice vacation. Conversely, if the company raises $2,000 the kid’s trip doesn’t get downgraded. Once the program has accepted you’re application, you’re going to get the trip one way or the other, even if it’s a lean year for donations and that means less applications are accepted in the future. I don’t think OP’s office not donating means the kid doesn’t get the trip at all.

      The problem is that because the charity is using CEO’s kids face to humanize the fundraising drive at this one office, people are in the awkward position of what appears to be gifting up. While the employees are technically donating to the charity, it still feels like they’re being asked to fund a vacation for CEO.

  36. Ruby*

    OP1: I want to commend you for making sure in advance that everyone will be able to eat! My mom was at a conference recently, and they served chicken Caesar salad for lunch. Her vegan coworker got the same salad, minus the chicken, dressing, and Parmesan—so basically a plate of lettuce and croutons. And this wasn’t a starter salad, it was the entire meal!

    To me, it doesn’t sound like Chandler is worried about cross-contamination. If he was, I would almost be able to see his point—but even in that case, the correct response would be to ask if his meal could come from a different vendor, rather than suggesting changing the entire menu. Plus, as others have said, it’s possible that his proposed menu wouldn’t work for other dietary restrictions.

  37. jcarnall*

    OP1: I worked with a chap once who reminds me of Chandler. He said he was allergic to all seasonings so all meals for him had to be extremely plain.

    (This always sounded weird to me, but I don’t argue with other people’s allergies.)

    He really was committed to plain food – the one time he organised the catering for an event we were doing, the food provided was cold salmon and white baguettes, with a few quiches for the vegetarians. (I am vegetarian, and ended up having to nip out for a sandwich, because of course everyone who didn’t like fish had gone for the quiches, and it’s unseemly to have the organisation’s staff taking the last slice.)

    We used to go out for an all-staff meal at least once a year, and there are plenty of interesting restaurants near where we work, all of whom were willing to cater for a variety of diet issues (I’m vegetarian: a co-worker was coeliac: etc).

    But two or three years after this chap arrived, as he kept saying he could only eat plain food and even the smell of seasonings made him feel sick, we ended up going back year after year to a pizza restaurant which did gf-pizza. Not very interesting pizza either, but I didn’t hate the food so much as the noise: I have difficulty picking out voices in a noisy room, this restaurant was incredibly noisy, and so I’d sit through the all-staff meals in silence unable to hear what most of my colleagues were saying. The first year we went I just put up with it: the second year I wondered why we’d gone back, and when I asked I was told “It’s because we have to accommodate C’s diet, he can’t be in a room with people eating any kind of spicy food.” I noted that I couldn’t hear my colleagues talking in that restaurant, and the helpful, supportive response I got was “Oh, that’s a shame.”

    Third year I skipped the all-staff meal (same restaurant) and by the fourth year I’d left.

    1. lurker*

      Weird. (United States-style) pizza is generally not what I’d describe as “plain” or “unseasoned” (the tomato sauce pretty much always contains herbs and/or spices, and even if the group’s pizzas are meatless, the restaurant will smell strongly of pepperoni and other seasoned meats).

      1. lurker*

        Also reminds me a little of my dad, who isn’t allergic to anything (and doesn’t claim to be), but rejects pretty much all foods that are new (compared to his childhood of roast beef/potatoes/bread/occasional green beans or carrots) or “ethnic.” He will eat US-style pizza with pepperoni and/or ground beef (not veggies like mushrooms or bell peppers as those are too “weird”).

      2. ElspethGC*

        I suppose he could be having pizza bianca? Only cheese and toppings, no tomato base. On the other hand, I highly doubt there’s a pizza restaurant that serves nothing but pizza bianca.

      3. Yorick*

        I knew a woman who said she’d only eat a dish with few ingredients. For example, a hamburger has “bread” and “meat.” But “bread” is made up of many, many ingredients, but you can’t see them so I guess it’s ok?

        1. greenlily*

          I know a couple of folks who only eat dishes with very few ingredients, and yes, for one of them it’s literally that she gets queasy if there are too many flavors/textures for her to process. So, for her, a hamburger would be fine if it was just bread and meat and maybe a single slice of really bland cheese, but a fancy gourmet cheeseburger with bacon and “house special sauce” would be a no-go.

          I think the rest of the people I’m thinking of have issues regarding specific textures, as well. No mushy stuff, no sticky stuff, mushy stuff is fine but there can’t be anything crunchy in it (mac and cheese is fine, mac and cheese with a delicious breadcrumb topping is not), etc.

    2. WellRed*

      People that are super limited in food, for whatever reason, shouldn’t be menu planning for a group unless they are willing to be open minded and seek additional feedback. I would have gone for the quiche too, unless it was full of broccoli and then I would have had nothing.

      1. WellRed*

        Adding: We have a lovely considerate person here who does our planning, but she is a vegetarian who doesn’t really eat vegetables. So, we wind up with no vegetables or salads, but plenty of deep fried and greasy stuff. (I finally started bringing my own food to the Christmas party).

  38. Lynca*

    OP5- Gumption strikes again. I wouldn’t make any assumptions about their qualifications and just stick with “Hiring procedures don’t allow me to forward along information on candidates.” It’s the truth.

    I might be kind enough to point out that most people do not forward along people they don’t know to the hiring manager. Sharing an alma mater is not a professional relationship and that you are complete strangers. I don’t know how that would be received so unless I was really feeling generous, I wouldn’t necessarily volunteer to point out the faux pas made.

    1. Marthooh*

      A polite “no” is the most anyone owes to a job-seeker, even a fellow alumnus. Explaining how networking actually works would be a bonus, but if you want to do it, pointing him at this site is the easiest way.

    2. Michaela Westen*

      I would probably just ignore the message, unless you feel a responsibility to answer a fellow alum?
      I generally ignore connection requests from strangers.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I would also like to add that since it was via LinkedIn and since he asked you even though he doesn’t know you in real life, you probably could just ignore the request entirely. It’s quite likely that he sent out a lot of requests like this and wouldn’t notice if you didn’t respond. I think you can probably leave it alone and not worry about it.

      But of course if you want to respond, I’d definitely give him one or a few of the reasons you cited, because they are all good reasons to not forward along his request. I agree that you should not, especially since you do not actually know him.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I feel that the one thing I owe to fellow graduates from my alma mater is information.

      They can ASK all they want for things like introductions, etc.
      All I OWE them is information–and I do think I owe it to them. It’s just part of the responsibility that I feel to my college, and to the world in general. (I don’t think other alumni owe me that, but I do think it would be fair of me to ask it (for information); they can say no.)

      So I would respond by saying, “At my organization….”
      and “in general, in terms of etiquette, it’s not good form to ask for someone else’s contact information, nor is it okay for me to give out someone’s contact information without their express permission. This includes business contact info.”
      and “normally what happens is the person in your shoes asks that their info be passed along. However, in this case, I don’t feel comfortable passing information about you because it will be seen as an endorsement of you, and I don’t know you at all. My own reputation will ride on it, so I only extend that to people whose work I know well.”

    5. F as in Frank*

      I agree, I also would not make an assumption about their qualifications.
      I used to get this from people with whom I have loose social connections (e.g. husband’s childhood friend, cousin) when I worked at a large organization and assisted some of the hiring managers with interviews. My script was “unfortunately, our system does not allow me to forward resumes on. If you go to the website, there is a link to careers where even if there is not a current opening, you can submit your resume.” In my case they knew I was involved in hiring so I was able to assure them that there was not some backdoor to our process.

  39. Case of the Mondays*

    My roommate has a dairy allergy. Even a trace of milk or butter will make her physically ill. She also prefers to eat gluten-free foods. When she cooks for herself, she uses dairy substitutes (vegan margarines and cheeses, for example). She always tells servers she’s dairy allergic and that her food cannot be prepared or served with any butter, cows milk, or cheeses. This is very reasonable. I don’t have the same restrictions. However, having taken her to the ER once or twice when she had ingested dairy has driven home the importance of accommodating her allergy. Roommate has also had the experience of having food specifically meant for her at wedding receptions and at work parties eaten by others. (I don’t understand why a caterer or party planner can’t keep vegetarian or otherwise special meals off a buffet table and serve them to the people for whom they’re intended, but maybe that’s just me?)

    OP1 is doing an excellent job accommodating Chandler. OP1 needs to tell Chandler that she also needs to accommodate others with dietary restrictions and that not everyone else can (or has to) eat as he must.

  40. SigneL*

    A thought: If you have a life-threatening allergy, you ARE different, whether you want to feel different or not.

  41. Vixy*

    OP1 – Chandler is being a jerk. It sounds like he wants particular things, not just things accommodating his allergy. I have food allergies and if I’m mistrusting of the caterer or food I just don’t eat that and bring my own. As it is, it does sound like you are really trying to ensure that the vendor avoids cross-contamination, which for some allergy sufferers is a huge deal.

  42. caryatis*

    #2: This is a great illustration of how poorly thought-out this charity’s operations are. It’s not just a problem that you happen to know this particular kid is from a rich family: it indicates that the charity is doing nothing to ensure the kids that donations go to actually need them. I would stop supporting this charity entirely and give to one that helps the needy.

    1. Roscoe*

      So I’d argue that all of these organizations don’t necessarily aim to help “the needy”. Some, like Make a Wish, just want to provide experiences to kids with life threatening illnesses. Those may be rich kids or poor kids. If your wish is to meet The Rock, just because your parents make good money, doesn’t mean they can make that happen. This seems like one of those type of organizations.

      1. caryatis*

        You’re probably right! So we should steer clear of all of these organizations, and give to those that help truly needy causes.

        1. Roscoe*

          I mean, if that is YOUR choice, that is fine. But I don’t necessarily think its a bad thing to donate to them overall. They do great thing. A poor kid doesn’t deserve their wish granted any more than a rich kid, and I’m fine supporting an organization that just wants to make the kid happy, despite the parent’s situation. If you prefer more need based things, I’m sure there are plenty of orgs you can support instead.

  43. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, I’ve read through most of the comments and wanted to give you some scripts to use when he demands the entire menu be changed.

    “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.”

    “We have multi dietary needs to consider. Changing the entire menu to X would effect others ability to eat it.”

    “Would you prefer to bring your own mean and be reimbursed?”

    You can combine them all into something like:

    “You’ve indicated that you want the entire menu changed to only what you can eat. I want to be straightforward with you that such a change isn’t possible. We are accommodating multiple dietary needs and doing what you’ve asked would make it impossible for others with various restrictions to eat the meal. Now that you know that, is there anything else we can do to ensure you have what you need?”

  44. E*

    #1 – I’d be tempted to tell him that he only gets to choose the food he eats, not what everyone else eats. Simple and straightforward.

  45. Q*

    LW#1 – I have serious issues with gluten and dairy, and cannot come in contact with it at all. I have no expectations at work events because realistically no one can prepare the food the way I need it nor do I trust them. I bring my own food and simply eat it alongside everyone else. I’ve had to do this at restaurants, weddings, parties, you name it. I think the only other thing you can suggest using his go-to restaurant that he trusts that delivers.

  46. Marthooh*

    OP#4 — I don’t agree with Alison here.

    It sounds like you and the new boss have already had the conversation, and you told her that you’re not looking (very hard) now that the necessary changes are (lol maybe) being made. There’s really nothing else you can say. Giving her additional assurances won’t help if she feels suspicious, and may actually raise suspicions in her mind.

    Your other concern is that she may mention your job search to management, but there’s no way to control that. Bringing the subject up with her will make her more likely to talk about it, not less.

    tl;dr — let sleeping dogs lie.

    1. Lance*

      I agree with this; you’ve already given a believable reason to suggest that you’re not job searching any more, now that your stated ‘problem’ is gone; I don’t think this is worth bringing up again and keeping the thought in the air. And hey, if you already had a good rapport with her since the interview… maybe it’ll be easier to work there, in spite of the other remaining problems?

    2. TootsNYC*

      I have my fingers crossed that she won’t act on this information. It wouldn’t be completely ethical–at least, *I* wouldn’t think it was ethical to act in my new job on info I gathered as an insider at my old company.

  47. Boo Hoo*

    As someone who used to plan these types of meal, let me tell you, it is nearly impossible to begin with and some options end up costing a lot more. I have a budget, I don’t get to change it because Fergus wants everyone to eat what he eats. I can afford some special meals for dietary reasons but often cannot afford the whole group to be a more expensive dish. Also, never once, has ANYONE (and I have fed tens of thousands of people) give two craps. Fergus just wants to be difficult. I also have to provide people with food they will enjoy so they want to keep coming to these events. If I served every single person a single plate of steamed veggies in an attempt to make Fergus happy, my participation would go down therefore impacting the company.

    I booked meals for a week, hotels, transportation, etc all with everyone’s specific needs and desires in mind. It is TON of work. Fergus can suck it up! I am not spending more money and time for ONE person. He isn’t that special.

  48. Third username*

    Question 2 reminds me of a similar situation at my last job. A higher level employee’s child had cancer, and all of employees including low-paying, hourly employees held a fundraiser and raised thousands of dollars for the family. Well, the child went into remission (thank goodness). A couple of months later the mother (the higher level employee) bought a Maserati and parked it right out front of our shabby nonprofit office. It rubbed every person the wrong way. I’m sure she didn’t use the fundraising money to buy the car, but the optics were really bad.

    I agree you should give to the charity in general, but not the specific family. It really hurt our organizations morale and commoradery.

    1. Temperance*

      Ick. Of course she didn’t use the fundraising money to buy that expensive car, but the family clearly didn’t need donations if they could afford such extravagance. What a morale killer.

    2. yup*

      Did she want the money from the fundraiser, though? I think sometimes well-intentioned people start fundraisers without asking the recipient if they want/need the money. It’s possible that someone else started it and made this woman uncomfortable and she didn’t know how to handle not accepting the funds. Still not the best way for her to move forward given the circumstances, but it’s possible this was a situation that was too awkward for her to navigate.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        She could have easily thanked them for the show of support and said she was going to donate to families who didn’t have the resources to cover medical expenses, or the Ronald Mcdonald House, or research into her child’s disease.

        1. Third username*

          Yeah I choose to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she didn’t really know what to do, and I’m sure she didn’t use it on the car, but yikes talk about a lack of self-awareness. It was talked about for years after. I agree. She really should’ve said, “I appreciate the gesture. We’ve passed it along to other families in need” or something. Just accepting it and pulling up in that car stung to a lot of people who were struggling on our nonprofit salaries but gave anyway.

  49. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, the fact that it was someone known would have me more likely to donate, not less. I get the whole optics thing but we’re talking about cancer, not chipping on a Starbucks gift card for bosses day.

    1. Roscoe*

      Exactly. I’m shocked by how many people are saying they wouldn’t donate because its a C level exec. Hell, I’ve donated to things because it was a friend of a friend or something. I’d be more likely to donate to my CEOs kid than a random GoFundMe for someone I no personal connection to

    2. fposte*

      Though we’re not talking about paying medical bills; we’re talking about sending a kid to Disneyland or whatever, when you may not be able to afford to take your own kids there. Honestly, I think this charity as a whole is a dicey pick for the workplace because of that.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        Yeah i get that, and I’m sure there are plenty of better options…..Just seems like they didn’t have to completely opt out of the whole thing–that doesn’t really help anyone.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      The kid is also in remission – which is wonderful and 100% worthy of celebration! – but a lot of people misunderstand that as completely cured (which it technically is, but a certain amount of time has to pass before they’ll actually say that, since cancer often comes back). But, to me, that would add to the feeling of “we’re just funding a trip for this Executive.”

    4. ThankYouRoman*

      Yeah…me too. I’m certain it’s also why they chose to do it this way.

      I also am never going to assume because someone makes 10x my salary that massive medical bills and traveling for an ill child is no big deal.

      Part of make a wish isn’t about the financial assistance but the community effort to show love and support for a kid who’s been so sick. The kid sees everyone stepping up and will hopefully grow up to support similar charities as an adult because of how they changed his life etc.

      1. Arielle*

        A lot of people in the thread are also assuming that the kid’s wish is a trip to Disney or something else the parents could easily afford. A lot of times wishes are things that can’t be bought with money, like meeting John Cena or whoever.

        1. Temperance*

          Actually, in the letter, it says that this org raises funds for adventures and trips, and the money goes to sponsor that family. So no, it’s not about meeting John Cena.

  50. Goya de la Mancha*

    #1 – Honestly I question how severe Chandler’s allergy is if he’s pitching a fuss about his food being separate. None of my food allergies are life-threatening at this point, but I’m super appreciative of those who go out of their way to accommodate my needs!

    #2 – I think they are better of going for the “hitting home” aspect by using the exec’s kid as an example. Something along the lines of “your donations will help kids like Brandon Smith (son of our very own exec), experience a thrill of a life time!”

  51. Zillinith*

    LW #3 — when I was in a situation like this, I posted a copy of my schedule on my office door, so folks would know when I was going to be out of my office and for how long. This way, folks knew not to step into my office for a 30 min call if it looked like I was scheduled to be coming back in 5 minutes.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      That’s a great idea. Could also just help in general if the OP is in and out of their office a lot. For some reason I’m imagining one of those “Back in X minutes” signs.

  52. blink14*

    OP 1: I’m also in charge of handling a lot of catering for workshops that my department hosts. I work at a major university that has an on campus caterer, so I have a standard 4-6 sandwich and wrap choices that I order from (out of a much larger menu), usually half are vegetarian options. Because we cater mostly just for workshops, we get rotating groups of people and dietary restrictions are different per event.

    Our RSVP links have a dietary restrictions text box, and anyone who submits something besides vegetarian I contact personally to let them know if we can or cannot accommodate their request, and I ALWAYS suggest that they should feel free to bring their own lunch if need be. Our caterer cannot accommodate Kosher, Halal, or guarantee no gluten cross contamination. They have a small offering of vegan choices (besides salads) and can prepare items gluten free, but not in a gluten free space. Some people bring their own lunch, some opt for an alternative option. We’ve only had one case where we had a person demand that we provide a specific type of meal, which required ordering from an off campus location and cost about 3 times as much as the actual meal, due to delivery charges.

    With your situation, it sounds like both you and your catering partners have gone above and beyond to accommodate his allergy, and at this point I would likely bring up the issue with his manager (or yours). Also, to me, if I had a severe allergy, I would be so grateful to the person ordering and the catering company for preparing my meal and packaging it separately. Perhaps his allergy isn’t that bad (or does it even exist?), or he probably thinks that accommodating his allergy means everyone else has to, and that’s just not realistic (unless it’s one of those situations where the item just being near him causes a reaction, and it sounds like that’s not the case).

  53. Rivakonneva*

    For OP1– I’m a picky eater, and when we have a group lunch I check the menu ahead of time. If there isn’t anything I want on it I just bring my own food. I don’t make a big deal out of it, and I don’t insist that everyone eat my favorite items. Everyone gets what they like, and we’re all happy.

    You are going above and beyond by making sure there is something that Chandler can eat and likes. You are not being negligent. HE is being a toddler with his whining, and a pain in the tuchus. You deserve thanks and gratitude, while he deserves a time-out in the corner.

  54. boop the first*

    Hmm… I get that choosing one specific child for charity has the biggest visual effect and all, but doesn’t anyone worry about how they choose the child? What if it becomes exclusive? What if it becomes a long list of whoever they deem is “cute”, the same way that speaking panels end up full of people who all look the same and have the same privileged perspective? Does this gift come with suggestions that this one child every year is more “worthy” than other children? Kids are sensitive.
    I second the suggestion to maybe generalize the recipients of the fundraising a little bit.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Wow… there’s nothing to suggest from the LW that any sort of preferential treatment is happening for this charity, well except for the Executive’s kid. However, it seems on that deal that someone at the charity fancies themselves a marketing genius and thought it was a great way to earn extra money. (I disagree in this case because I’m sure the Executive feels very awkward over this whole thing).

      I get what you are saying, but it seems very off base.

    2. Colette*

      Any charity that helps specific people makes choices about priorities. This happens no matter whether it’s a Make-A-Wish type charity, a disaster relief organization, or a food bank. There’s no magic bank of infinite money, so they have to make choices, regardless of whether they use them in their fundraising efforts.

      If they didn’t promote the fundraising as “help this specific child”, they’d still prioritize, they just might have less money to do it with.

  55. CM*

    OP#4, I think you’re actually in an OK situation here. New boss recognized you, presumably as someone who had impressed her before. She asked how you’re feeling about the job now, which means she actually cares what you think. If she’s a decent boss, she won’t press you on whether you’re still searching, but she is aware that you’ve been unhappy for a while. So she may be thinking you’re a good person to give her the lowdown on issues that she can address, and she also may be thinking about what she can do to retain you. This may be an optimistic take on the situation, but I wanted to point out that there are potential positives here.

    Also, I would not proactively bring up the fact that you were job searching, or say anything about whether you’re likely to leave in the near future or ever. I think it sounds like protesting too much to say without prompting, “I want you to know that I’m no longer looking,” unless the context is that she’s such a stellar boss that you would never dream of leaving her and you want to say this to show your appreciation and loyalty, and you sincerely mean it.

  56. Yeah, no*

    Chandler is the reason people roll their eyes when I provide a separate meal to accommodate my child’s severe allergies. I’m not being difficult or dramatic, in fact I’d love to be able to take my son for a quick drive-through meal every now and then, but it’s simply not an option. Chandler is being an asshole.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      That was my thought too, maybe I said it too bluntly, I think my comment went into moderation. oops

  57. Nita*

    #1 – maybe Chandler has a big appetite! He might be miffed that he only gets the one sandwich that’s specially made for him, while others with no dietary restrictions have the option of taking second helpings. OP is in no way obligated to order him a bigger meal, but if that is an option, OP may want to ask if she should order two servings of whatever he eats, instead of on. That goes for others with dietary restrictions, too. I’m assuming that if they end up only taking one helping, someone else can take the other one.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Then he should say so. Like an adult.

      But nothing the OP reports suggests that that’s the problem–he apparently just doens’t like that he’s not eating what everyone else is eating (even though it sounds like not everyone else is eating the same thing, either).

      1. Parenthetically*

        Exactly this. If he’s annoyed that he isn’t getting enough food, he needs to use his words like a big boy and actually SAY that rather than sniping about how his food looks different than everyone else’s and why can’t you just order everyone MY thing GOSH.

    2. WellRed*

      Maybe, but at catered things, I feel like most people get on entree or sandwich or whatever, this isn’t a buffet or family style.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Well, if part of his problem is that he has a big appetite, he’s welcome to bring some snacks from home to supplement. OP is already going above and beyond to accommodate this PITA. She shouldn’t have to worry about his appetite as well.

  58. PookieLou*

    #1- Is Chandler upset about having to order something separate because they will feel different? I don’t think any reasonable person would care one bit that somebody orders something different due to a dietary restriction. I mean, maybe somebody might react like “You’re eating [different food] because you have an allergy? Oh, okay.” and then never think about it again. It’s completely inconsequential to everyone except Chandler and whoever is responsible for ordering food.

  59. Fergus*

    The person ordering the food is very accommodating, the employee, if he doesn’t like the food then he should go buy his own, no employer owes their employee a meal. Also a lot of companies don’t buy their employees squat and he’s complaining. I would say next time he is more then welcomed to bring his own.

  60. ..Kat..*

    LW 1: I have several foods that I cannot eat. I would be delighted to have someone like you that makes sure I had something that I could safely eat (when food is ordered in at work). I have always had to bring my own.

    Your coworker is being ridiculous. Ignore them.

  61. 90% Stubbornness By Weight*

    The last time I went back to the head office, my company had just switched to using one of those online services that will pick up from a variety of local restaurants for our catered meals. You get a credit of $X, you order by 10am, and the food shows up with your name on it. I thought they were doing it because the office manager just got fed up with people complaining about the caterer, but maybe it’s to accommodate diet.

    Now they complain because “You only told us the day before and again at 930 that we had to order by 10 and I didn’t get a lunch.”, so the poor OM can’t catch a break. It’s _free_ food people, and they’ve gone out of their way to make sure you can get WTF you want/need. Some people just have to find something to complain about.

  62. A tester, not a developer*

    Re. #2 – I would feel uncomfortable having a kid from any member of my team (higher or lower) being put forward as the department’s Make a Wish kid for the year. The parents are already going through a lot; I would think it would be uncomfortable having people coming up to you and being all “how ARE you?” or knowing that everyone is talking about your kid’s health issues when you’re not around.

    Also, the Make a Wish kid comes and gives a little speech/thanks everyone for donating/talks about their ‘wish’. My kid would be embarrassed as all heck to have to do that in front of my co-workers. he’d be fine doing it in front of people he knew he wouldn’t hear about or see again though.

    We’ve had some situations where someone has been seriously ill or passed away, and people have spontaneously set up donations to help out the person or the family. But those are always very low key, and private. And we’d never expect to hear anything from the family members that are being helped by the donation. In comparison, Make A Wish feels very… performative? You hear about the kid, their illness, their wish, and their hopes for the future. I get that some people really need that personal connection to want to donate, but I feel like the child (and their family) should be able to keep an arm’s length relationship from the donors.

  63. Kenneth*

    LW#1, Chandler’s attitude seems to boil down to “I have a food allergy, so no one can eat what I cannot.” He doesn’t like the fact his food has to be handled separately, and the only way to avoid that is if everyone eats only what is on his short list. As you and Alison appear to have already deduced. Which is extremely self-centered.

    And highly unreasonable to the point where there really is no arguing with it. You just don’t capitulate to it. You still make sure everything is handled appropriately so there are no issues, but what Chandler appears to seek is just beyond reasonable.

  64. Right Handed Puppeteer of Teapots*

    #1: I have a severe, life threatening allergy. It’s one of the ‘Big 10’ so it’s pretty easy to avoid, but when we have catered events at my job, I always just bring my own food. Sure, I could be like the guy here and make a fuss, but my problem is not everyone else’s problem.
    The only time it WAS a problem was when our company decided to have a dinner at a seafood restaurant. Since I’m allergic to shellfish, this was a big no-no because not just cross contamination, but proximity of lots of people eating shellfish. I asked to be excused from the event and my idiot manager told me “just take a Benedryl, it’s what my wife does.” I had to actually sit there and educate this man who’s in his 60s about the danger this event posed to me and Benedryl isn’t going to cut it with my allergy, but if he’d like to learn how to use an epipen, I’d show him. I was excused from the event and the next one was planned for a steakhouse.

    1. workingforaliving*

      My son also has a severe shellfish allergy–like you, life threatening–which we first discovered when we went to a Japanese restaurant when he was 3 and had to call an ambulance–he almost died just from breathing the smoke while they were cooking the shrimp on the hibachi! It can be really difficult in a restaurant setting. I’m glad you stood up for yourself.

  65. Former Retail Lifer*

    As someone with a pretty severe dairy allergy, I’d greatly appreciate OP#1. I usually have to opt out of lunches provided at work because no one ever thinks to ask.

  66. Sue Wilson*

    I would feel really shitty about a fundraiser to help a C-level’s child have a vacation at my job, when I pray I won’t get sick because I can’t afford the deductible to go to the doctor. Real shitty. Not to go all Marxist, but if you’re already valuing someone’s labor more, asking people whose labor you value less to expend both their labor and the product of their labor to your benefit is a choice. At least if a kid’s parent is not in the company you’re ignorant about the specifics of those dynamics.

    And frankly once the company asked…it’s potentially coercive, in a way a spontaneous meal train or PTO gifting is not.

  67. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    OP1: I think you are doing a great job! I’d go with the suggestion from “Harper the Other One” on the conversation.

    About the only other thing I might suggest is checking to see if Chandler would rather just order his meal from somewhere else (as Alison suggested). As a picky eater I don’t usually complain when I go to work meals, but I’ve been at restaurants on more than one occasion that didn’t really serve anything I wanted to eat (there was a running gag at one point when I just ordered ice cream). As a person, I can deal, but having the option to get things from elsewhere would be nice. And, I would have taken it in a heartbeat and been thrilled.

    Restaurant story–our office had one place they really liked that mainly catered to vegans/vegetarians. Their options for those seemed to be pretty good, but their meat options were not delicious and expensive. I tried a few things but after the 4th round at the place I gave up and just had ice cream. Very good stuff. LOL.

    Anyway, Chandler may just be a complainer, but it’s good to figure out exactly what’s going on so you can calibrate your response accordingly. Good luck! I’d love an update on this.

    1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      I don’t complain about the restaurants because:
      1) I know I’m picky and
      2) It’s much harder to accommodate people that have allergies/dietary restrictions/etc. than it is for me to find something to eat.

      So I suck it up and deal, and then snack later (if required).
      You do a great service, OP. Keep it up. :)

  68. anon anon*

    Chandler sounds like an a*hole. I’m vegan and our office manager never remembers about me. I asked her a few times about it, but she always “ends up forgetting”. I asked my boss about it, she talked to the OM, and since then nothing has changed. it’s to no avail. I just gave up on every being able to eat with my coworkers. My birthday is coming up and I’m jokingly thinking I won’t be able to eat my own cake that day (if they remember my birthday). HahahahelpmepleaseIhatethisplace.

  69. GalFriday*

    Regarding letter #2, they are not fundraising for that executive’s child directly, they are fundraising for the organization that has granted the child’s wish. It’s unfortunate that the personal story made it seem like the fundraising would benefit a specific child. I know the organization the letter writer is likely referring to and they grant wishes whether or not there is a fundraiser featuring the child to be granted a wish.

  70. iglwif*

    OP#1, I am vegetarian and have a bunch of weird food allergies (none of them are life-threatening, but almost all of them make me extremely uncomfortable), and I really, really appreciate people like you who go out of their way to make sure there’s something I can eat — and also to separate and identify it as such so that I know what I can eat and other people know to leave it for me!

    Unless Chandler’s issue is that he is literally so allergic to [whatever] that there is a legitimate danger from being in the same room with [whatever], you’re doing a great job and he’s being a jerk.

  71. Higher Ed Anonymous*

    I almost wonder if Chandler is making some kind of weird power play with these complaints, and will decide to complain about something else even if OP accommodates him by changing the entire menu (which I know she can’t do anyway). I don’t doubt his food allergy is real, but I have had colleagues with real allergies who nevertheless made weird demands in the name of settling a petty score against someone: declaring that one specific colleague could not bring in meals with meat because “looking at them makes me feel sick” while ignoring the fact that other colleagues brought meat, telling people they didn’t like who were on specialized diets that they couldn’t eat those diets outside the office because “that disrespects me as a [vegan/vegetarian/person with an allergy/person on a different specialized diet],” and, in one memorable case that luckily didn’t get far, trying to ban people from eating in a departmental meeting because just imagining people chewing food “triggers my misophonia.” In every single case, it came down to dislike of the person, and the very meek, mild colleague who agreed not to bring any more meat was being told the next week that she couldn’t bring any tomato soups, either, because the color REMINDED the obnoxious colleague of meat. It was always about grudges being pushed to the limit, not reasonable accommodations.

  72. AdminX2*

    OP2- is it possible to use an erasable marker to write on your glass what time you’ll be back when you leave? That might be all you need.

  73. workingforaliving*

    LW#1 this situation really set me off and I had to stop and think about why. I think it boils down to my opinion that Chandler is being rude and self absorbed. Lots of people have dietary issues–some quite severe– and the scenario you laid out would work just fine for 99% of them or they would bring their own food, as many who have posted here say they do. This person is using his food issues as permission to be rude and controlling. I suspect this is not the only area where this kind of behavior shows up.

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