my coworker doesn’t want me to have a communal candy dish because of temptation

A reader writes:

I keep a candy dish on my desk – have done so for years. It’s communal. I often fill it. Others contribute. It sits alongside some Aleeve and Tums that are also communal. Lots of people express happiness that it is there. Many people say they enjoy the candy. It can go long stretches being empty. The last few weeks it’s been filled with chocolate kisses.

Twice in the last week I have come in to find the candy dish removed from my desk and placed in one of my desk drawers. Last time it was placed in there empty. This time it still had a few remaining pieces of candy in it.

Annoyed, I removed it from the drawer and placed it back on my desk where others can access it. I said, out loud (it’s an open floor plan, you can easily be heard), that people needed to stop removing things from my desk and hiding them in my drawer.

One coworker then turned and joked, “That’s for fat people like me.” And I responded, being sure to remove any hint of jest from my voice, “Seriously, it’s not okay to keep removing things from my desk.”

At that point, another coworker who sits two desks over, walks over and says, “I moved it because you weren’t here and I’m trying to not eat unhealthy things and I can’t when I can see it.” To which I responded that it wasn’t okay to keep removing things off of someone else’s desk — that they’re not just there for me, that they’re for the community and I would appreciate if she stopped removing my candy dish from my desk.

She then said that she couldn’t refrain from eating unhealthy things and that seeing them made her want to eat them and therefore she needed to hide them. And that if they were out while I was at my desk, she would leave them because I may want to eat them, but if I wasn’t at my desk (and I do go stretches without being at my desk for a few days) that she needed them hidden and would continue to remove them.

I said that was unacceptable, and that it just wasn’t okay to go moving things around on someone else’s desk. And furthermore, you can’t remove all temptation. She can’t just move the vending machine or the snack store in the building. To which she responded, “Well, if they’re for the community, how about I just throw them all away instead when you leave them out.” To which I said, “I think you should reconsider going onto someone else’s desk and removing items intended for the community, including throwing them away.” And she said, “I think you should reconsider keeping them out.” Then she sat back down.

I will concede that perhaps I was quick to get annoyed that someone kept removing/moving things on my desk. But it’s my desk and it felt like a bit of an invasion to have someone moving items around — it’s the opening the desk drawer part that I think actually bothered me (even though there is nothing secret or of value inside).

Second, given some extenuating circumstances, I would be willing to be cooperative about displaying food items. For example, if you just developed a peanut allergy, I would refrain from including peanut M&Ms anymore since they would be a temptation for someone dealing with a serious health issue.

In a previous complaint about the candy, she brought nuts and filled the dish with nuts. I — a person who doesn’t like nuts — was happy to have the dish to host nuts for a period of time.

But it just strikes me — and this where I might be wrong so please tell me if so — that one person’s inability to deal with temptation doesn’t justify denying everyone access to my candy dish or that someone should feel free to move things on my desk as they please. They’re not presenting any harm. They don’t smell (which is a problem with another coworkers desk). This strikes me as a not my problem, your problem, situation that I shouldn’t be expected to accommodate. And escalating to threaten to throw my candy away seems childish and petty, and makes me want to make clear to her that such action would be out of line.

Am I being unreasonable by demanding that my candy dish be left alone on my desk? Or am I being unreasonable by insisting my coworker continue to work two desks over from a bowl of candy of which she could partake? Should I say something to her making clear it’s not okay to throw my candy away? Would I just escalate further if go buy more candy and ensure it’s never empty?

Some people might think this is a lot of words to devote to a small problem, but I think it touches on big issues in interesting ways: how we coexist in a shared space where we’re captive audiences to other people and their stuff, what we can and can’t ask of people sharing that space with us, and what battles are worth fighting with colleagues, even when we’re right.

And to be clear, you are in the right. It’s perfectly okay for you to put communal candy out on your desk, just like it would be okay to leave baked goods in the kitchen with a “please help yourself” note or, as you noted, for your company to stock vending machines with snacks for whoever wants them. Not everyone will want your candy, or those baked goods, or the offerings in the vending machine, and the solution is for them to pass those items by, not to insist on removing them from their sight and depriving others of them.

That said, I suspect you might have responded differently to your coworker’s request if she had made it in a different way. What if she had come to you and said, “I’m sorry to ask this because I know a lot of people enjoy the communal candy, but I’m really trying to avoid temptation right now and for some reason that candy dish breaks my will power like nothing else. Would you be open to keeping it in your drawer instead, and letting people know they can go in there to get candy if they want it? Or moving it to the kitchen, so it’s not right in my line of sight all day?” You still might have been a little annoyed, and it’s still a bit high-maintenance, but I bet you would have been way more sympathetic to her — and more inclined to work with her to come up with a solution.

So your coworker is in the wrong in two ways here: first, in thinking she can insist you not have a communal candy dish and second, in the way she’s handling it.

But it doesn’t necessarily follow that because she’s wrong and you’re right, you should dig in your heels. This is work and you need to get along with people, and entering a battle with her over candy may not be the wisest course — and in particular, may look like a questionable way to spend energy to other people who happen to witness it.

One different option is to say to your coworker, “I’m sorry it’s tough to see it! But so many other people enjoy it that I don’t want to get rid of it entirely. How about I block it from your view by putting it behind these hanging folders in the corner of my desk instead, so you’d have to go out of your way to see it?”

If that doesn’t work … well, you don’t have to do anything more to accommodate her. But it sounds like she’s going to keep putting it in your desk, or possibly outright throw away the candy, so the smartest move (that avoids you getting sucked into a massive battle over candy) might be to just start keeping it in your drawer instead, and let people know that’s where it is. (And I know you said you felt weird about her opening your drawer, but you’ll probably feel differently if you establish that as the candy drawer.) Or you can stop bringing in candy and when people ask, you can let them know that you had to stop because of Jane.

But don’t escalate by increasing how much candy you’re buying — that’s entering into a battle you don’t want to be in at work. You want people to see you as “our awesome graphic designer” (or whatever), not as “the person so invested in providing candy at work that she went to war with a coworker over it.”

You can be right, and still not be in a situation where it’s worth fighting.

{ 1,350 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, the question here is not simply “is the coworker right or wrong?” (I believe she’s wrong, as I wrote above.) It’s “what is the best way for the OP to navigate this, given that she needs to have reasonably harmonious relationships at work and presumably also cares about how she’s perceived by others at work, including her manager?”

    Someone can be wrong, and it can still be the wrong move to dig your heels in when dealing with them. Being right isn’t the only thing that matters in this scenario.

    1. YNot*

      The OP could also ask the coworker what candies she finds most tempting and try to steer clear of those. If kisses are the thing she finds the hardest to resist try to limit those and buy other candies. At least then the coworker will feel OP is being somewhat sensitive to the issue.

      1. Lily B*

        This is a great idea. Although there’s a chance OP could then get stuck buying Werther’s original or something no one is temted by.

        1. Common Welsh Green*

          If anyone has a problem with Werthers, I’ll be happy to take them off your hands. Purely as a public service, of course ;)

          1. J*

            Yeah, that literally is my favorite candy and I had to stop buying them because I sometimes ate enought to induce a stomach ache!

            So who knows, maybe she hates kitkats and whoopers and snickers, etc…

            1. Avalon Angel*

              The sugar-free ones are good, too (I’m a diabetic).

              In fact…is that a solution that could work here? Putting sugar-free candy in the dish? Given how many of us are diabetics, putting sugar-free candy out both lessens the temptation for the Unhealthy Eater and maybe gives a little happiness to people who may not want to broadcast their diagnosis but would enjoy getting some guilt-free candy every now and again. They are more expensive, however, so I would suggest the LW use them when on those 2-3 days away from the desk.

              In case you were wondering which ones are good (apart from the Werther’s), I personally love the Russell Stover products (especially the coconut, toffee, and pecan delights), and the sugar-free Jolly Ranchers are good, too. But avoid gummy bears and mints, as they can have an unpleasant laxative effect if you overindulge.

        2. SteamedBuns*

          Werthers (both hard and chewy) are my weakness. I can clear out a bag like it’s nothing.

          Also love Imperial Hearts so February is always rough for me when I near the candy aisle in a store; I’ll eat handfuls of them until I am crying from the cinamonny-heat.

          I’m glad coworkers around me fill their communal dishes with reeses, kitkats, and snickers. Those are easy for me to avoid.

      2. Anony123*

        This is similar to what I was going to suggest. I used to keep a dish filled with candy that I didn’t like so that I wasn’t tempted to eat them but others were excited about them.

      3. Retired Accountant*

        That’s good. If it were me, I could ask the OP to put out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Not only would I not eat them, I would not eat anything else from the dish because it would have peanut butter smell on it. (I still shudder about jelly that was invectified with peanut butter by my siblings.)

        1. TardyTardis*

          Putting anything out with peanuts in it could be questionable, though you’d think anyone with a peanut problem would steer clear.

      4. NB*

        This is what I used to do when I had a candy dish on my desk. I don’t like starlight mints, so that’s what I kept in the dish–generous and non-tempting for me.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      It reminds me of the idea that a pedestrian has the right of way but being in the right doesn’t mean that they should just walk across the street without looking. Being right doesn’t mean they won’t get hit by a car in that situation. There’s just more to it than that, and there’s way more to this situation than OP being right or wrong.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I agree. I had a coworker who was really weird about where they sat in the conference room during meetings. They always wanted to sit in the same spot/chair, they would even go so far as to move people’s stuff over if they had not sat down yet and take the spot. A lot of us rolled our eyes at this coworker about this. In the beginning I was really tempted to purposely sit in “their spot” to prove the point they couldn’t reserve a spot, but I knew that if I did that I would look even more petty.

          1. anon to praise the ducks*

            But it depends why they like that spot. Reasons I’ve encountered:

            I have preferred spots because it’s part of my anxiety management strategy – every small thing I CAN control really helps me manage my out of all proportion terror about everything on bad days.

            A colleague has a chronic neck problem. They have a very limited range of preferred seats – indeed will find a reason to leave a meeting when they don’t get their preferred seat – from which they can without too much pain see the screen, meeting leader, rest of the table etc.

            Students who have sight/hearing issues will often also be really defensive about their preferred seats; it matters to them.

            One colleague was like this when pregnant – she got very stressed about needing to run to the bathroom a lot and managed that partly by identifying the seat(s) in meeting rooms which allowed the most discrete exit route (shortest walk, least need to squeeze past other chairs, near the quieter door, whatever).

            When people do weird things, I find it’s much nicer to assume they have a reason that makes sense to them and that they feel awkward about sharing, and just add it to my list of “people are all unique” observations.

            If there was a whoopie cushion on “my” chair on a bad anxiety day I may not be able to come back to work for a week. I feel sick with adrenaline rush and humiliation just thinking about it. It would be funny – even to me – in about 10 years time, or for the audience. But it would feel very cruel in the moment…

            1. Pandop*

              Yes, and I inadvertenty got a bad seat in a meeting the other day, as once the cloud cleared, the sun was hitting the back of my glasses (I had my back to a window) – and I will avoid sitting on that side of that meeting room again if can help it. I also get irritated by the pressure to move down to the front in large presentations. I am long sighted, if I sit at the back I can see the screen without my glasses. Nearer the front I am too close to see it without, and either too far away to see it with my glasses on, or have to tilt my head back uncomfortably to see the whole screen through my glasses, rather than over/under them.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree with your approach and generally try to take that outlook. But for some reason this particular time the way they went about saying something like “this is my seat, I always want to sit here, so no one else should sit here.” and moving people’s stuff irked me. The particular coworker has since alluded to potential anxiety and other mental health issues that I think might play a part in the choice of seat.

      2. Marthooh*

        In my state, at least, nobody actually has the right of way; it’s just that in certain circumstances, one person is obliged to yield the right of way to someone else. But nobody is allowed to intentionally drive in a way that endangers others; for instance, if a pedestrian dawdles in a crosswalk until the light turns, cross traffic still doesn’t have the right to knock them down.

        I’m not sure exactly how this applies to the candy dish sitch, except that the point of traffic laws is to avoid traffic jams and injuries, not to prove who’s right.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          I think that’s how the concept of the right of way works in general.

          At least I don’t know of any jurisdictions (not being a lawyer probably helps with that, by the way) where anyone is allowed to intentionally drive in a way that endangers others.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            On streets and roads, yes. Interestingly, in maritime navigation rules, while one vessel will be obliged to yield, i.e. change course or speed to avoid a collision, the other vessel with the right of way, called the “stand on” vessel, will be obliged to maintain their current course and speed. So one vessel not only does have the right of way, that right comes with an obligation.

            Navigation rules can be pretty complex when there are no signs, roads, or markings.

    3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

      Allison – please feel free to remove if this is too political–I’m not trying to make a political point.

      This reminds me of the incident during the Obama campaign where Obama didn’t want to wear an American flag pin. Cable news and his opponents got really up-in-arms about something that seemed pretty trivial and wasn’t actually impacting them. Obama’s response (eventually) was just to wear the pin. He didn’t really want to, and felt his rivals were being ridiculous, but it was much easier to just go with the flow and give in, given that it was something relatively low-stakes. In fact, he did a lot of reputational damage by not giving in sooner. Digging in your heels over these kinds of relatively trivial issues is just not always the right move when you have bigger goals like overall office harmony to achieve.

        1. in the air*

          This really was a surprisingly big thing during the campaign. If you do a google search for Obama flag pin, a Politifact article from 2008 should come up that explains the whole thing.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I can imagine this. You have to remember to move the pin, the back occasionally falls off, you like sleek lines and neutral colors and feel like the pin is garish. Then people complain and complain about the pin, so you wear it and just glare as you put it on every day. “Stupid pin, I hate this pin”.

        3. Sacred Ground*

          I remember that kerfuffle. I agreed with him, that nobody should be obligated to display flags, certainly no civilian should be obligated to wear any kind of insignia, and a coerced display of patriotism is both false and counter to American ideals of freedom. I really, really despise the idea that showing a flag means one loves their country MORE than someone who doesn’t. Its led to all kinds of actually disrespectful
          and over-the-top displays: worn, dirty, tattered flags flying on cars, or people wearing the flag as a shirt. His surrender on that small issue was understandable but disappointing. I guess a presidential campaign isn’t the right context for a debate on that.

    4. ReluctantManager*

      Being kind and not right is so difficult for me that I made it one of my wedding vows, and it’s the hardest one by far! Because I am petty and this showdown happened in a loud, open space, I would stop having the candy dish and say nothing. Let her colleagues be mad at her for ruining a good thing. It wouldn’t be with kindness in my heart–it would be with the understanding that other people will draw their own conclusions.

      And then I would get a jack-in-the-box or glitter bomb and put it in the desk drawer. (In fact, you could continue with the candy dish and put a glitter bomb in your desk drawer.)

      And BTW, OP–I have to congratulate you. You didn’t attack her (in your conversation or your letter), and you stuck with your reasonable boundaries over and over. “That may be, but it is not acceptable to go into my desk or destroy my property.” “I understand that you feel that way, but this is my desk, and I need you not to throw away my things or open my desk drawers.”

    5. Jeanine*

      OH no no no no no no. Time to stop with the “it’s not ok” bit and just flat out tell the person to leave things on YOUR desk alone. Period. No one has the right to move things on other’s desks, ever.

      1. ReluctantManager*

        I understand that may not work for you, but my experience is that assertively but not aggressively reiterating makes the other person wear themselves out on their own unreasonableness.

      2. ReluctantManager*

        And of course people have the “right” to move things on others’ desks in some situations. This is obviously not one of them.

      3. Traffic_Spiral*

        Heh. Personally, I’d go “Oh, so we get to throw each other’s stuff out now?” Then I’d walk over to her desk, and , keeping eye contact the whole time, pick up something personal of hers and throw it in the trash. Then I’d say “I don’t like ugly things where I can see them. You really should reconsider having this out.”

        Bonus points if it’s a picture of her family.

        Okay, so I wouldn’t actually do that. But I’d want to.

        1. GreenDoor*

          Actually I think if you said the first line in a pointed tone you might make the point that, no, professional adults don’t just go around throwing out each other’s things.

        2. Putting tbe Fun in Dysfuntional*

          “Bonus points if it’s a picture of her family.”

          I laughed so hard at this!

      4. elizabeth frantes*

        I agree. She has no right to touch and move things on your desk. Her emotional problems are not and should not be OP’s problem. And yes, this is worth fighting about, what’s next? Will she demand further accommodations for her lack of will power? We live in a society where junk food is everywhere and she needs to take responsibility for herself and her own behavior.

        I suspect this coworkers has more issues than her lack of willpower, this sounds like some sort of passive aggressive power struggle.

        She could always take the stairs, take a walk during lunch, lots of ways to work of a piece of candy.

    6. Ellen N.*

      I disagree with the view that the coworker is wrong, although I believe the coworker should have talked to the original poster instead of hiding the candy dish.

      The original poster minimizes struggles with unhealty food. He/she stated that if allergies were a consideration he/she would be willing to put the candy dish in a drawer. There is plenty of evidence that sugar creates cravings. The original poster must have a poor sense of smell to assert that candy doesn’t smell. The comparison to vending machines demonstrates a misunderstanding of the issue. Plenty of people have advocated for the junk food in vending machines to be replaced with healthy food.

      Many people struggle with healthy eating, weight and temptation. If the candy dish was a bottle of bourbon, would your answer be the same?

      I bake all the time. When I worked in an office I used to bring baked goods in often. If anyone had told me that I was inadvertently sabotaging their attempts at healthy eating I would have stopped.

      1. AgathaFan*

        I would just like to point out that OP said (s)he would stop stocking peanut M&M’s if someone developed a peanut allergy- she did not say she would then put the candy in her drawer.

        As to your comparison of bourbon to a communal candy dish: reasonable people don’t bring a communal bottle of alcohol to work. Candy dishes are apparently pretty normal in US offices. So I don’t think that is a fair, or even good, comparison. It does not strengthen your point at all.

        And the coworker isn’t advocating for healthy food/snacks. (S)he is going to another person’s desk and REMOVING things from it and PUTTING it somewhere else. That is unacceptable and a bit of a boundary violation.

        1. Ellen N.*

          In some fields it’s common to have alcohol at work. I know a journalist and an academic who keep bourbon in their desks.

          When I worked in finance the occasional cocktail party at work was permitted. Also, clients often send bottles of alcohol as gifts. These gifts were often imbibed communally at work. A far greater percentage of the population struggles with unhealthy eating than with alcohol addiction.

          1. AgathaFan*

            Gifts aren’t relevant here.

            Also, is the bourbon communal? Because if not, it is not relevant to this discussion.

            1. Elizabeth*

              Agatha, you seem disinclined toward flexible use of imperfect analogies as a mode of reasoning, but I found Ellen’s argument interesting.

              1. Anna*

                That’s because imperfect analogies tend to require large leaps of faith to see the connection. But sure, let’s go with the alcohol analogy. Literally yesterday there was a question from someone about a work whisky tasting they wanted to avoid because they are an alcoholic. Almost universally the advice was sometimes drinking and work overlap and as long as the drinking isn’t the focus, people should attend the events and participate in other activities. But, as in that case, it is alcohol focused, then it’s on the person to mention they don’t drink (without saying why because MYOB) and would it be okay to not attend. So, going from there, can we agree a communal candy dish is not being done AT the coworker and it’s really on them to participate in work that doesn’t involve eating the candy?

      2. Been There, Done That*

        Now, that’s just not nice or professional…tee hee…but it is brilliant.

        I’m going to be ashamed of myself for the whole weekend.

      3. Sunshine*

        I have struggled with my weight in the past and I completely disagree. My weight and health are my problem. There was a letter about alcohol the other day. Even if you are an addict, which is far more dangerous to your health than over-eating, you have to accept that alcohol exists in the world and other people are going to consume it. And the pre-emptory, rude way the co-worker is behaving is enough reason to push back imo.

      4. Lizzzo*

        I’m a recovering alcoholic. My coworker 3 desks down has a bottle of scotch on their desk as I type this, in my life of sight. We also have wine in the kitchen. I do not think it would be reasonable for me to ask to hide any of this alcohol.

        The truth is, people who are avoiding unhealthy food or alcohol or smoking cigarettes or whatever else MUST come up with a plan that does not involve cooperation from anyone else, except members of your own household *temporarily* (I asked my husband to stop buying alcohol for 1 month only at the beginning of my sobriety). Otherwise the plan is simply not sustainable. If your plan requires you modifying every environment to avoid “temptation” it’s not a workable plan, for you or anyone around you.

        1. GreenDoor*

          I came to say what Lizzzo said. Trying to recover from addition of any kind – or even just strong temptation – has to come from within. If the addict/over-consumer isn’t working to get to the root of what compels them to give in to addictive behavior (stress, grief, anxiety, etc) then no amount of removing temptation will help.

          It is not on adults to babysit the temptations and compulsions of other adults. It’s also an adults to, you know, have an actual conversation with other adults about this kind of stuff rather than arbitrarily hiding or throwing away things that don’t belong to them.

          1. Kat in VA*

            I am, unfortunately, an inveterate smoker. Were I to once again try to quit my nasty habit, I know every smoker in my company and where they keep their cigarettes. We all run out occasionally, and all of us have helped each other out with, “Ya, grab one from the pack, it’s in the second drawer” or whatever.

            It’s not on them to move their smokes out of their pockets / desk drawers / wherever I know they’re at to keep me from grabbing one. It’s on ME to not grab one.

      5. LiveAndLetDie*

        There is plenty of candy out there that comes individually wrapped and which you cannot smell until it has been opened, I think that the OP is fine in saying that candy having a smell is not a major concern. I doubt they’re stocking the stinky stuff for a communal bowl.

        That said, I think the OP’s in the right, here. If people who are struggling with healthy eating and temptation don’t learn the self-control required to pass by a candy bowl without partaking, they need to work harder on their goals and not expect others to bend over backwards to eliminate the temptation. Being able to live with temptation is what makes a goal like that sustainable long-term.

    7. staceyizme*

      The problem is that the candy dish has sucked up too much energy. However, the fundamental issue is less about collaboration and successful co-dwelling and more about a desk, and the reasonable expectation of non-interference with one’s possessions. The candy dish should disappear, for a time at least. When it reappears, it should be stocked with some healthy and some tasty items. Those who want healthy can “go there”. But I’d push back on someone asserting some sort of “right” to a candy-free zone. She’s essentially saying that her executive function isn’t up to the task of navigating a miniature Kit-kat. Okay. But the “eemover” has waaay to much time on her hands. Does she also insist on only healthy option ‘s for team lunches/ pot-lucks? No. Her actions are weird, hostile and petty.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Finding it too easy to succumb to goodies, I can sympathize w/ coworker. I’m extremely challenged by candy dishes, doughnut boxes, etc. But my behavior is MY responsibility. You don’t blame the boutique for putting sweaters and skirts and jewelry in the window if the sight makes you lose control of your credit card. That’s not a perfect analogy because the purpose of the shoe store is to sell the shoes, but it’s not the purpose of the workplace to provide free candy.

        It would be nice to put the candy dish someplace less visible and help the coworker out, but come on already. Going through someone’s desk and moving their things is just wrong. That struck a sour note with me because I’ve experienced it at my job, and I didn’t like it one bit.

    8. Traffic_Spiral*

      “Someone can be wrong, and it can still be the wrong move to dig your heels in when dealing with them.”

      This is very true. However, there is a larger, more basic issue of Not Taking Other People’s Stuff at work here. Regardless of the reason, that’s a pretty large boundary violation, and I’d say that needs to be shut down right now before this lady starts thinking she can just waltz around changing other people’s desks whenever it bothers her internal sense of feng shui.

      I’d be pretty line-in-the-sand about it “the things on my desk are mine, and you do not touch them. They. Are. Not. Yours. You can talk to me if you have a problem, but if you try this again, I’m talking to the manager.”

    9. Safsaf*

      This reminds of a time at my previous work place where I used to bring baked goods fairly regularly and some coworkers decided they would like to contribute as well so that I am not bearing ‘the burden’ ( i never forced anyone, and i enjoy baking) anyways it was decided we would call it “Cake Monday” because mondays are hard and it would be something to look forward to and most people do their baking on the weekend. Then certain coworkers complained to the manager that it should be moved to a different day as they wanted to start their week off healthy. I know I was offended since I was doing this voluntarily and I was not about to inconvenience myself and bake during the week. So I just stopped doing it and eventually no one did it and it ruined it for everyone.

    10. Database Developer Dude*

      There’s another, larger question here. At what price do you continue to try to maintain a harmonious relationship when the other person is clearly, objectively in the wrong, and doubles down? This leaves one open to abuse by co-workers.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          That’s not an answer. I’m going to leave it here, though, because of other comments both pro and con, I’m clearly seeing that this is not going to be resolved.

    11. Jess*

      Allison, you’re an angel for this advice because I would have told them to put a gigantic fruit basket in front of the candy dish and then they’d be in a really weird battle of the wills which I can only imagine would end in a food fight and dismissal

  2. JamieS*

    In school we learn the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth. Unfortunately, OP’s coworker never learned it doesn’t revolve around them either.

      1. A Penguin of Harmony*

        I don’t think I’ve ever run into someone else who uses “Sofa King” before. Internet high five!

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Aaaaaaaaand now I’ve spent time looking for a comment by Sofa King, to which MommyMD was responding.

          I feel old.

    1. Important Moi*

      I’ve read the replies below. It appears we are on the minority. I am surprised at how many feel that LW is under some sort of obligation.

      Where is the line?

      1. Roscoe*

        I know. I’m shocked that people are framing OP as having no compassion, like its her responsibility to handle someone else’s lack of self control.

        1. TootsNYC*

          compassion and responsibility are on different scales.
          In fact, compassion is almost the opposite of responsibility.

        2. CurlywhirlyCanuck*

          I totally agree. In fact I would go one further, and suggest that the coworker’s diet is doomed to failure if she doesn’t realize that she is capable and strong enough to resist temptation. I say this as someone who is in a perpetual struggle to not eat All The Things, but who still has to do social things like go to coffee, and eat at holidays. One possible modification that MIGHT help the coworker is to add some sugar free hard candies or suckers, that can provide a lot of reward for very little caloric expenditure. It would be a nice gesture of support, without rewarding the behaviour of someone who stepped over boundaries.

          1. Elle*

            The addition of SF candy would be a good one, I think. Gotta be careful with that, though, because a lot of SF candy is sweetened with malitol, which wreaks absolute havoc on the digestive system (read the Amazon reviews for the sugar-free Haribo bears if you’re curious, yikes!).

            1. MM*

              I still burst out laughing just at the MEMORY of those reviews! The first time I read through them I laughed so hard I almost suffocated.

              1. Flash Bristow*

                I had no idea so looked it up. First clue: Google very quickly auto-completed from harib…. to Haribo bears review.

                I click on the link to Amazon. Second clue: over 250 reviews! Where to start, which to choose…?

                3rd clue came at the beginning of the reviews themselves:
                “Read reviews that mention:
                sugar free / gummy bears / gummi bears / nothing happened / bowel movements / side effects / taste good / year old / like the real / next day / next morning / half the bag / couple hours / bad boys”


                Don’t think I need to read the reviews after all; it’s probably funnier in my head working out which keywords go together to make a story! (Oh, if only primary school English lessons’d had that kind of entertaining content!)

            2. CurlywhirlyCanuck*

              As soon as I replied I remembered the glory of the sugar-free gummy bears review! Maybe add just a couple of suckers per day, just in case the follow up letter is that OP tried to kill her coworker with relentless diarrhea….

        3. Czhorat*

          I think that the OP has a very natural reaction to having their stuff moved and tampered with.

          I *also* agree that this isn’t the battle to fight. Removing the candy dish may feel like rewarding bad behavior, but it is the one way to end what is quickly becoming a senseless conflict.

          This kind of petty fighting is the sort of thing that makes going into work a miserable experience for everyone. Retreating is not only smart, it keeps your powder dry for the next – and likely bigger – fight. If OP won a righteous battle over the candy dish, then what happens when someone did something that really WAS egregious? It’s very easy to be perceived as always fighting. That’s a bad plac e to be.

          1. What?*

            OP is not responsible for this “senseless” fight. I would change nothing. If coworker proceeded to throw out candy or go in my desk, I would speak to my manager. It s not good to reward petty tyrants.

              1. WomanFromItaly*

                I might split the difference and start filling it with healthier snacks. Because OP is certainly in the right but as a person of dubious willpower in the face of chocolate I have some sympathy with not wanting to see it. But mostly I want to form a five-headed-dragon based coalition of evil with TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesInYourHouse

            1. Anne Elliott*

              But the next question is how your manager is going to feel about that. One of my personal philosophies for success in my own workplace is that I always want to be a solution for my boss and not a problem for my boss. So is your manager going to be all, “ALLOW ME to strike a blow against petty tyrants!!” Or is he or she going to be thinking (if not actually saying), “Jeezy Creezy, can’t these two so-called adults negotiate a effing candy dish?”

              The other thing for me, speaking now as a manager, is that if the candy dish creates distress, tension, or distraction in the work place FOR ANY REASON, then out it goes. I don’t give a rat’s butt if anyone has access to Kit Kats on demand, nor am I interested in considering whether the distress is defensible and justified, or irrational and ridiculous. So the first peep about conflict regarding something so wholly unrelated to the business, would mean that the problem is removed forevermore. For this reason, I think the OP’er would do well to consider how the issue is likely to play out if the manager has to become involved. Would I tell the overstepping coworker to keep her mitts of other people’s stuff and out of other people’s desks? Yes, I would. But I’d also tell the OP’er to take her candy dish home, and I would think less of both of them.

              1. Database Developer Dude*

                And if you would think less of *both* of them, Anne Elliott, then you’re setting up your reasonable report to get abused, by a co-worker who digs his or her heels in to their unreasonableness… If OP and the coworker can’t negotiate because the coworker isn’t WILLING to negotiate, what is OP supposed to do? Surrender? One individual person does not get to dictate conditions for an entire office.

                1. Anne Elliott*

                  I’m not sure I see the connection between “expecting two people to work out a minor problem” to “setting up an employee to be abused,” but I’m pretty sure that connection is not a straight line. It’s not as if the only two choices are “manager must mediate every single workplace conflict” and “manager tolerates abuse.” And with respect, I find this an oddly paternalistic position to take, that you would feel that your direct report — another adult — was incapable of avoiding or appropriately reporting actual abuse if he or she encountered it, and that your role was to prevent him or her from the potential of being abused by a coworker who, though disrespecting personal boundaries, has not done anything amounting to abuse thus far. To answer your question: If the coworker is not willing to negotiate, the OP is supposed to realize they can’t have a candy jar out because said coworker is a big honking selfish jerkface. So they internalize that opinion and deal with the coworker accordingly in the future, maintaining professionalism. And they put the candy jar away. You can’t make people be reasonable and you can’t make people be nice. The larger question is at what point their unreasonableness and meanness impacts your job performance in a real and meaningful way, such that you cannot negotiate or solve the problem and your manager needs to be involved. “Abuse” is absolutely that point. The candy dish is not. I realize your opinion differs, and that’s okay. But this is mine.

            2. Anita Brayke*

              Me too! I don’t reward the behaviour of control freaks or bullies. Coworker is presumably an adult, and should be able to control herself. Why must the OP be the one to change over the (frankly, pretty obviously) obnoxious coworker who thinks it’s their right to throw away or permanently change ANYthing on OP’s (her coworker!) desk.

          2. Genny*

            I definitely agree with your point, but I think in LW’s shoes, I’d still struggle with resentment (both at rewarding bad behavior and at intermittently taking away this thing I and the rest of the office likes). I’d find it tough to work with that woman without said resentment coming through. I don’t know what the solution to that is though.

          3. Been There, Done That*

            My mom used to stop squabbles and tiffs with “Maybe they started it, but you be the one to finish it.” In other words, stop this right now. It was hard if Sansa was the one to start something and Cersi was sticking up for herself. Petty is a good word in this case. Coworker was wrong to move LW’s things and interfere with their desk, but LW doesn’t need to get sucked into a widening tornado of drama over a candy dish. You need to preserve your own sanity.

            1. SeluciaMD*

              Well said. I think this is exactly what Allison is trying to convey – the “battle” here isn’t worth fighting and there are ways to preserve what you want (the candy dish) without it escalating things into a war.

              I think the OP was well within her rights to be upset about how her co-worker handled things, and I think the co-worker is being really unrealistic about how much she gets to control in her environment around this issue, but I think there’s a compromise here that can restore a bit of harmony. And that makes everyone’s lives at work better.

              Honestly? If this were happening at my office I wouldn’t care one bit about whether the candy dish stayed or went – but I’d get aggravated if it escalated into a battle of wills that ended up impacting the general vibe of the office in a negative way.

          4. aebhel*

            Same. If I was in her shoes and the coworker had just asked politely, I would have found it a little weird but I probably would have made an effort to work things out. Coworker shot herself in the foot by being aggressive and entitled.

            To be clear, I don’t think this is a hill that the OP needs to die on, but I don’t blame them at all for being annoyed.

        4. Seifer*

          Yeah, like. My roommate is on weight watchers right now. I am riding the fast metabolism train until it crashes, so I’m not on weight watchers. I’ve offered to pare down some of the junk food that I keep around the house, but he’s insisted that I not change any of my regular habits just for him because he’s the one on weight watchers, not me, and it’s his temptation to contend with. So I really don’t understand LW’s coworker here. You can’t expect the world to stop for you.

          1. PVR*

            I agree! I don’t eat gluten or shellfish and at times have cut calories and always find it odd when people apologize to me for eating bread or crab or dessert in front of me.

            1. Free now (and forever)*

              I’m gluten free and have no problems with people eating gluten in front of me. Eating a couple of bites of gluten will give me major joint pain for a couple of weeks, so I’m not tempted. But I also have a weight problem. Please don’t put chocolate in front of me all day. Studies have shown that we have a limited amount of willpower to exercise each day. Every time I look at that chocolate, I have to exercise that willpower to say no. Sometime around the 176th time that day, I could falter and give in. This is different from food left in the lunchroom, which is in view for a limited amount of time. It’s true that we’re all responsible for ourselves and I think that the person with the issue handled it wrong. I think a good compromise would simply be to place the bowl where’s it’s not visible to the person with the issue.

              1. Kat in VA*

                But the issue isn’t so much as “Hey, can you move that bowl where it’s less easy to see” but “I’m gonna move your stuff without your permission and/or threaten to throw it all out because I can’t control myself.”

                How does this person manage out in the world? Shutter every Au Bon Pain? Blow up every Starbucks because of their sugary coffee desserts? (mmm, sugary coffee desserts)

                My husband is a Type II diabetic who recently got out of the CCU due to bad luck with a DKA episode and poor management of diet (and, by extension, his diabetes). He hasn’t insisted that I toss every high carb thing in the house (to which the five kids here would revolt), nor has he demanded we all stay on his strict 20-carb-per-meal diet to which he ascribes.

                He sometimes will eat a somewhat altered or completely different meal than we are are having, but he’s not draconian enough to demand that ALL TEMPTATION BE REMOVED. That’s totally unrealistic and we are his *family*, not even his coworkers.

          2. Kat in VA*

            I love the “I’m riding the fast metabolism train until it crashes” comment and I’m gonna steal it!

            This is totally off-topic, but I’m surrounded by a lot of people who are very health-conscious, refer to certain foods as “bad” or eating not-healthy things as “being bad”, monitor every bite, or are constantly on cleanses or different diets (Lord, do I hate Whole 30)…and then there’s me, almost 50, who eats like a trash dumpster on fire rolling down a hill toward a cliff. I’m the repository for all the unwanted Potbelly cookies and leftover desserts and surprise french fries.

            My secret is I have a wildly fast metabolism, I’m an ex-athlete mesomorph, I don’t eat all that often, and I smoke a ton of cigarettes and drink a ton of caffeine to compensate. But the level of IT’S NOT FAIR, YOU’RE SO SKINNY and HOW CAN YOU EAT THAT CRAP AND BE THIN is deafening.

            Like, I get it that you get a vicarious thrill out of stuffing cookies down my throat, but could you not make me feel bad about it while you do it? Honestly this ain’t a humblebrag and I’m sure it’ll eventually catch up to me, but I’d like to be able to cram down a huge cookie that I’m HANDED without someone clucking disapprovingly – when they’re the one who gave it to me in the first place!

            /OT rant off

          3. LiveAndLetDie*

            I agree completely with your roommate, Seifer. Learning to deal with the temptation is part of making the change last long-term. If folks want to change their habits they have to actually confront the things that make them weak. Hiding them just means they won’t be able to stand strong when they are inevitably, eventually faced with the temptations.

        5. Sunshine*

          Compassion would be appropriate if the the co-worker had privately approached OP and asked politely. You aren’t entitled to compassion when you act the way co-worker is acting.

            1. Anne Elliott*

              Except that sometimes it is. People act in sub-optimal ways when they are under pressure or in distress, and to me it’s dangerous to use that as justification to withhold compassion that you would otherwise offer. You’ll be happier helping the drowning man who asks for a rescue that you will be helping the drowning man who imperiously demands one, but hopefully you’ll pull him out either way.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                Hm. A little late in replying, but I’d say one should differentiate “difficult” from “dickish.” “Difficult,” = sure, but “difficult” here is if she had asked LW to hide the the candy. It’s kinda a PITA, but yeah, I’d pull up the compassion and be like, “sure.” However, moving the dish without permission and then straight-up telling her “I’m going to keep moving it, even though you don’t want me to,” that’s Dickish. It’s incredibly entitled and boundary-violating. Dickish doesn’t get compassion; dickish gets shut down hard.

      2. Drew*

        To be clear, I don’t think OP has done anything wrong here. Unless her boss tells her otherwise, she’s totally within her rights to have a candy dish on her desk and Jane was totally wrong to remove it from her desk.

        I also think that now that OP she knows Jane is bothered enough by the candy to violate norms of decency (didn’t we all learn “don’t touch stuff that’s not yours” in kindergarten?), it is kind of her to include Jane in finding a solution that doesn’t deprive OP and her other coworkers of treats they enjoy. Getting hostile with Jane doesn’t do anything to solve the problem, nor does it improve the atmosphere in the office, and it seems silly to let something that was meant to bring people a small joy in their day turn into a big, unpleasant fight.

        Is that letting Jane “get away” with moving the dish? Maybe – but maybe you can fix the candy issue first and then address the larger issue with Jane of not moving stuff on other people’s desks once the small issue isn’t obscuring it.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            In my old office we had a lolly cupboard. It looked like an ordinary stationary cupboard, but it was full of chocolate bars. It definitely saved my concentration levels (and thus my productivity…) on multiple occasions.

          2. Been There, Done That*

            Cookie jars shaped like cartoon animals were popular at one place I worked. Half the place had a jar, and if it was out on the desk, you were welcome to look inside and help yourself, and the goodies weren’t visible if you just walked by.

          3. Flash Bristow*

            That’s exactly what I was thinking! Just checking to see if anyone else had suggested it before I posted. Yep, get an opaque jar and a lid. Maybe even a “sugar” jar (like you’d have with tea and coffee) if nobody has made one labelled “candy, please take one!”

        1. pony tailed wonder*

          I sort of wish that all of her co-workers would bring in their own community candy dish but it would only escalate the problem.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            If this were me it would take ALL of my self control to not put out the empty dish with a note in it reading “Jane has decreed none of us can have candy because she cannot control herself.” That or remove the dish and anytime anyone asked I would roll my eyes and tell them Jane made me get rid of it because she’s incapable of self control.

            I mean, I probably could stop myself from doing that. But at least a few people would get the story if they asked. I’m only human.

      3. MattKnifeNinja*

        As a fellow fat person, my eyes spun so far back I can see the back of my skull.

        The coworker needs to own her issue and not fob it off on everyone else to keep her safe. Back track with your therapist how to deescalate your emotions on triggers. No therapist would suggest you hiding stuff at work that isn’t yours. Go to OA and get a sponsor to text. Press an ice cube in your wrist when the trigger hits. Learn square breathing. Walk to the bathroom and wait 60 seconds. Hiding a candy jar that isn’t yours isn’t a coping skill.

        OP tell the coworker you’ll use an opaque candy dish with a lid. You’ll keep it on your desk while you are there, and move it to a hidey hole drawer when you leave. Leave a note that where the dish so others can get a quick treat. Like “Hey! Went to 2nd drawer on the left.”

        I work with a person who wanted all snacks banned from the lunch room due to will power issues. Don’t be surprised if the candy gets tossed. Mine started throwing out food even after concessions were made.

        You have a right to have a dish on your table. For peace in the office, I would do what I suggest. You don’t mind helping her out, but your not willing to cotton ball her universe.

        I have food triggers. Salty stuff. It’s on me to get a grip. I get the coworker’s problem, but hiding stuff that isn’t yours solves nothing

        1. What?*

          I’m fat. I do not expect the world to arrange edible things around my weaknesses. It’s arrogant and insensitive to everyone else.

          1. Blerpborp*

            Also a fatty and I can’t blame a communal candy bowl for it. It’s interesting to me because in a very well meaning way thoughtful people have started to really examine how their behavior may affect someone else’s comfort and/or mental health and that is obviously excellent and should make for a more inclusive workforce but sometimes people get it twisted and expect a level adaptation to their personal comfort levels that far exceeds what is appropriate such as insisting that a candy bowl can’t be in their line of sight.

            1. Sabina*

              My problem is not food but coffee: I love it! And, I can no longer drink it…it gives me heart palpitations (even decaf) and gastritis. Sometimes I can’t resist temptation and I’m miserable for a few hours afterwards. However, I would never, NEVER, expect an office to be coffee-free, or take the communal coffee pot and hide it, or dump out coffee prepared for the group. LW’s co-worker is completely out of line and this IS a hill I would die on if I was in her position.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                I can’t drink coffee. The first and only time I drank a tiny amount (half a cup) resulted in three hours of dry heaves followed by vomiting. I’m used to people looking at me like a three-eyed mutant or pitying me for this. I’m actually grateful for this, because it saves me from spending money on overpriced caloric froo-froo drinks (and endless waiting in line for same).

        2. No Mas Pantalones*

          I’m a fat too. I don’t expect people to hide their desserts in restaurants because they may tempt me to get one. Screw this coworker. I would confront her openly. “If you want to eat healthy, you’re going to have to learn self control. Consider this your first lesson. You move it again, I’m going up-chain.”

      4. Mrs. Wednesday*

        Oh I have an answer for that one: The line is a “boundary” and the crossing guard’s name is Consent.

        The person who’s invading another person’s space because they want something — in this case, to get rid of candy — is saying, “Your consent doesn’t matter because I can’t control myself when I’m tempted by something.”

        Sound familiar? It’s how harassers think.

        I agree the LW, as part of a shared work space, has the responsibility to, for example, talk with the group if a problem has come up. Negotiate.

        But that has nothing to do with this situation because having a coworker claim they can’t help what they put their hands on is a WHOLE other thing.

        1. Jennifer*

          Very extreme take. Now this woman is a potential sexual harasser? This candy we’re talking about here. Candy.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            If she can’t leave candy alone, what’s the difference between that and someone saying I couldn’t help myself from touching your hair, stealing your stuff, etc.?

                1. Jennifer*

                  Ask any survivor if they feel that what happened to them is the same as having a Hershey’s kiss taken off their desk.

              1. Carrie*

                There’s a difference, yes, but it’s one of degree, not kind. In both cases, it boils down to Person A wanting something that involves Person B’s stuff, and not being willing to take no for an answer. “I want to ____ your ____, and I don’t care that you don’t want ____.”

                “I want to remove your candy dish from your desk, and I don’t care that you don’t want your stuff being moved.”
                “I want to touch your hair, and I don’t care that you don’t want random people to touch you.”

            1. This conversation makes me sad*

              As someone with an eating disorder who would have a really hard time with a bowl of candy in my sight all day long at work…… I would say the answer is “a lot”.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                Yeah, it’s an eating disorder today, but it’ll be some other problem tomorrow. The issue is that she thinks her problems somehow mean the basic rules of personal property don’t belong to her.

          2. Siaynoq*

            Why are you conflating consent with only sexual harassment? There are all kinds of harassment that can occur without them being sexual in nature.

            1. Jennifer*

              Using the terms consent and harassment gives a certain implication. Let’s be real here. Anytime someone says or does something that is annoying it’s not harassment. That hurts victims of real harassment.

          3. aebhel*

            Who said anything about sexual harassment? OP’s coworker has boundary issues, that much is clear.

        2. Jasnah*

          This is an extreme escalation. LW agreeing to move the candy is not the same as agreeing to let her body be violated, and coworker moving the candy on someone’s desk is not the same as sexual assault.

          If we interpret this broadly then literally anything can be harassment.

      5. Hills to Die on*

        ooh, I am not even scrolling down. People need to stop thinking that others are responsible for their feelings. You can’t hide from the world so it’s a skill the coworker will have to learn anyway. Silliness.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          Also, I’d freaking put a giant candy dispenser – a big heavy one that dispenses jelly beans one handfull at a time, then I’d super-superglue it onto my desktop. Shit would get real if people thought they could throw out my things and remove them from my personal space. grr….

      6. Zombeyonce*

        My comment are likely some of the ones you’re talking about, however, I don’t feel that OP is under any sort of obligation. It’s more about how the OP wants to be perceived and what’s worth it in this situation. Do they really want to let this turn into some sort of office feud where coworkers end up taking sides and a toxic workplace is created over a stupid candy bowl?

        That’s exactly where this is going, when all it would take to diffuse the situation is to move a candy bowl once in a while. OP may win the battle but they’ve started a war in the process. If I had two employees fighting over a candy bowl, I wouldn’t care which was correct but I’d be livid because they’d be acting like children, and I employ adults. There’s an easy fix here and a candy bowl is not worth such drama. OP can be the bigger person with no actual effects to their work life. They still have candy; their coworkers still have candy when they’re in the office.

        The line is where employees start behaving like children and this situation is just about there.

        1. A bee*

          Really? You’d be livid at both, even one when staff member explained that another had gone onto her desk, moved her private possessions more than once without permission, and hadn’t expressed remorse or agreed not to do it again? You’d just hear ‘candy bowl’ and equally condemn both workers? With respect, that’s appealing management.

          1. Zombeyonce*

            I’d be livid that a situation so trivial and so easily fixed was causing such big problems between 2 adults and likely causing the rest of the office to get involved with such ridiculous behavior. I’d definitely have some thing to say to the coworker for starting it, but they’d both be in the wrong if it escalated the way OP’s situation appears to be heading.

            1. aebhel*

              I guess my problem with this is that when one person is behaving in a clearly unreasonable way, the onus always ends up on the other person to smooth things over–especially when it’s a petty issue. It’s trivial and easily fixable, so the person who is not being a weird boundary-crossing jerk about something really minor is responsible for fixing it, and the person who is being a weird, boundary-crossing jerk gets validated in their behavior.

              Like I said, I don’t think this is a hill for the LW to die on, but my solution would be to get rid of the candy dish entirely and, if anyone asks, tell them why. That’s not making a big deal out of it unless LW’s coworker wants to make a big deal out of it, but I draw the line at bending over backwards to graciously accommodate people who can’t behave like civil adults.

              1. Kat in VA*

                Yes, there’s a lot of “be the better person” in this one. It’s hard to be the better person when the initial argument is someone acting like an unreasonable jackass.

            2. Traffic_Spiral*

              Then you’re a pretty crap boss. When you have one person being reasonable, and one person being unreasonable, you should side with the reasonable person and tell the unreasonable person to knock that shit off – not tell the reasonable person to bend over and take it because you can’t be bothered to do your job and oversee your people.

              1. Anne Elliott*

                I think it’s interesting that your level of emotional investment in a discussion of what must be for you a purely hypothetical scenario, would lead you to call someone you presumably don’t even know “a pretty crap boss” who “can’t be bothered to do [their] job.” The level of frothing outrage this question has caused is remarkable.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                The point is that they’d both be being unreasonable at that point; the OP would have lost the high ground.

                Don’t call people here who you don’t know “crap bosses,” please.

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  I’m thinking a better way to address this is to address the actions. In the comments above, I laid out how I felt Anne Elliot, had she been the manager of ‘OP’ and ‘Jane’, was setting up OP to be abused by ‘Jane’. I didn’t call Anne Elliot a name.

        2. Emily K*

          Yes. This is exactly the situation the adage “be the bigger person” was coined for. For those times when you understand it’s better to just. let. it. go.

          Another perspective – if anyone here is a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of the pretty brilliant things about Larry’s character is that he’s almost always, technically speaking, in the right. He has a very strict sense of what the rules of society are and he can’t bear to let someone else get away with bending or breaking them. But he ends up alienating everyone around him and causing himself all kinds of trouble because he can never. let. anything. go.

          There’s one episode where his take-out order gets picked up by someone else who eats a shrimp or two from his shrimp fried rice before taking it back to the restaurant. It’s someone Larry needs to work with to get his new television project off the ground. Larry knows how many shrimp there should have been, he knows this other guy ate it, but the other guy won’t admit it. And instead of just letting it go, Larry keeps bringing it up, trying to get the guy to admit it, and eventually the television deal falls apart – over two shrimp.

          Was he right? Absolutely. Was it worth blowing up an important business relationship over? Most people who aren’t fictionalized Larry David would say no. Just let the man get away with stealing two shrimp, it’d be better in the long run.

        3. Sunshine*

          Only the co-worker is behaving like a child. You don’t throw away other people’s things because they are tempting.

        4. JS*

          100% agree with you.
          It’s not a big issue at all. It’s one thing to steal or throw away items on someone else’s desk but removing something distracting when the person isn’t even there shouldn’t be a big deal at all.

        1. BethRA*

          It means that while coworker was wrong to hide the stupid thing (several times) and should have tried talking to the OP, digging your heels in about how doing something as simple as moving the candy dish out of sight would somehow be robbing everyone around them of job might be overstating it’s importance a bit. Which seems to be happening a lot in the comments.

      1. JamieS*

        The candy dish is an inanimate object and is thus incapable of sentient behavior such as behaving as though it’s the center of the universe.

    2. Zennish*

      This. IMHO, it’s basically saying “Can you please sanitize the environment for me so I don’t have to manage my own thoughts, actions and emotions?”

      I am kind of worried by how increasingly acceptable this sort of request seems to otherwise reasonable people.

      1. Maggie*

        Zennish, UGH yes. Learn to cope with the world. (Spoken as a lifetime Weight Watchers member who has been to meetings where the entire topic was “how to get self control to face the communal candy dish at work”!)

      2. Name Required*

        Yes. Judging from this comments section, unless you see past Jane’s incredibly rude and thoughtless behavior to the crux of her struggle and choose to amend your behavior without thought to your own needs or pleasure, you are disgustingly lacking in empathy or compassion. It seems you need to be kind to everyone but yourself.

        Stay strong, OP. I would totally die on this hill, because it certainly isn’t about a damn candy dish … it’s about people treating you however they want without consequence. Not on my watch.

        1. R.D.*

          Would you really want to be known at work as the person who got into a fight about the candy dish?

          Jane sounds like a complete ass, but I would not want to be anywhere near this train wreck.

          When people remember the Great Candy Dish Fight of 2018 they are not going to remember that Jane went into your desk. They will only remember that Jane and OP had a massive fight about a candy dish. OP gets painted with the same brush as Jane. That’s not good.

          I wouldn’t frame this as giving in to a tantrum or condoning best behavior because Jane is not a toddler and OP is not her parent. It isn’t OPs job to teach Jane to be reasonable, mature, and half self control.

          OP needs to focus on what is best for OP, and despite the fact that Jane shouldn’t be rifling through her desk, what’s best for OP is probably not to get into a huge public fight about a candy dish at work.

          1. Jennifer*

            Whether or not removing the candy dish is “rewarding bad behavior” or not should not be the OP’s concern. Her concern should be peace in the workplace. And you’re absolutely right that most people at work probably went home to friends and spouses and said that two people got into a fight about a candy bowl. No one cared who was “right.”

          2. aebhel*

            I don’t really see how ignoring Jane’s unreasonable behavior is getting into a huge public fight, though. If OP is perfectly pleasant and leaves the candy dish out and Jane starts throwing candy out or acting like a huge weirdo about it, that’s on Jane.

            …I mean, I’d just get rid of it, because I object to spending money on treats that are just going to go in the garbage, but that’s me.

            1. Strawmeatloaf*

              Yeah I’m not understanding these thoughts. If anything, it would be candy-dish-remover worker who would be the one getting into the fight. Why would people think candy-dish worker would be getting into a fight? Remover is the one who decided it needed to be something. LW was dragged into it.

              I really don’t agree with other people saying “oh you should substitute it for healthy snacks!” unless Remover is paying for those healthy snacks. Candy is a whole lot cheaper than… I don’t even know what would be considered a healthy snack that would last that long. Apples? Oranges? Bananas? Those are more expensive than a bag of candy and I wouldn’t want to be spending more of my “fun” money for just one person.

              I would either say if LW has to concede to “I have no self control” coworker, then either move it out of the line of sight or get rid of it completely and spend some of that extra money on stuff the LW wants for themselves.

              1. aebhel*

                Also, apples and bananas aren’t exactly shelf-stable. Fruit flies seem like they’d be a lot more disruptive to the office than a candy dish!

            2. R.D.*

              The thing is, OP isn’t ignoring Jane’s behavior. She’s calling it out.

              Which is a completely legitimate thing to do when people are acting like jerks.

              From the letter:
              Am I being unreasonable by demanding that my candy dish be left alone on my desk? No

              Or am I being unreasonable by insisting my coworker continue to work two desks over from a bowl of candy of which she could partake? No

              Should I say something to her making clear it’s not okay to throw my candy away? You already did. Saying it again, after the fact is escalating the situation into a fight that I would not want to be in.

              Would I just escalate further if go buy more candy and ensure it’s never empty? That depends. I you proposing that you just put out candy, that she will then throw away? What is your end game? To get her to stop? You cannot do that without escalating, and you probably can’t do that even if you escalate. To keep a constant supply of candy in a dish on your desk? I suppose if you just keep buying candy and replacing it when she throws it out, then sure, that can be done with out escalating, but it seems like you would be spending a lot of money on candy just to have it thrown in the trash.

              1. aebhel*

                Sorry, I was referring to the individual I was replying to, not the OP. I think that OP SHOULD probably ignore the unreasonable behavior, and my response would probably be to quit doing the candy entirely.

          3. Name Required*

            I wouldn’t be known at work as the person who got into a fight about the candy dish, because I wouldn’t escalate the way OP has nor would I act the way Alison is suggesting.

            This is prime grey rock territory — leave the candy dish out, keep filling it up, don’t confront OP, and give limited, calm responses when confronted by OP. But the answer isn’t “just do whatever Jane demands.”

            There’s two parts of this conversation, regardless of Alison’s attempt to corral: 1) How should OP react in a way that benefits them the most? The answer to which is entirely dependent on the results OP is going for. 2) Is it moral or ethical to leave the candy dish out or not respond to Jane’s plea, because she is clearly struggling with some sort of disordered eating or impulse control issue that is negatively effecting her life? I disagree strongly with the people who think it is unsympathetic to respond to Jane’s delivery versus her message. You don’t have to be kind to assholes just because they are struggling; we’re all struggling.

            1. R.D.*

              “I wouldn’t be known at work as the person who got into a fight about the candy dish, because I wouldn’t escalate the way OP.”

              This is my point.

        2. Marthooh*

          Yes it IS about a damn candy dish. It’s also about the OP insisting on their right to act just as idiotically as Jane. This is the hill you want to die on? I just sprained both my eyeballs, I rolled ’em so hard.

          1. Name Required*

            I have no idea where this false dichotomy of “OP behaves exactly like Jane” or “OP does exactly what Jane asks” popped up, but it’s ridiculous. There are other options on the table; you just might not be able to see them with all the self-righteous eye-rolling.

          2. Anna*

            OP hasn’t acted idiotically, though…? They were forthright and insisted Jane not touch the stuff on their desk and that’s about it. Now they’re wondering if it needs to go any further.

            1. elizabeth frantes*

              Exactly. Cow-worker had NO business touching anything on OP’s desk. There is NO justification for her conduct, and this is this issue, not a candy dish. I am so tired of “I don’t like it so you can’t have it” mentality that has so corroded our society. This is NOT about the candy, it’s a person who has serious control issues and has to learn boundaries. Believe me, this is just an opening salvo on a person who feels that her feelings are so important that she doesn’t have to obey basic manners. You do NOT mess with other people’s stuff. Ever. I’d go so far as disciplinary action, including termination. I don’t want to work with someone who goes through other people’s desks. Who knows what else she’ll be removing next? Or what demands she will make? “No more desserts in the break room, no more real sugar at the coffee machine” etc

          3. Eirene*

            So you’re cool with me moving your coat because I have a problem with credit cards and I can’t sit there and look at it all day without wanting to spend money on one of my own?

            1. Sabina*

              Or maybe I can remove the pictures of your kids from your desk ’cause they make me sad because I can’t have kids? Or your dog’s picture scares me so it’s going in the trash?

      3. MJ*

        “Can you please sanitize the environment for me so I don’t have to manage my own thoughts, actions and emotions?”

        “Make this place a safe place according to my eating habits.” Not going to work.

      4. Sunshine*

        Yes. Like when an OP wrote in about that poor woman who took biscuits around. I recall the commenters calling her an evil, mentally ill harpy who was trying to sabotage her co-workers diets. This letter is the flipside of this. Only for some reason, people seem to be landing on the other side.

    3. RUKidding*


      “I moved it because you weren’t here and I’m trying to not eat unhealthy things and I can’t when I can see it.”

      OP: “That’s your hangup, not mine. Deal with it.”

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I think OP should only say that if they want to sound like a asshole to half the office. Often you have to work civilly with people of varying levels of boorishness to preserve a good reputation, and being snarky in this situation would not make it better, it would just make OP look bad.

    4. Annie*

      These comments are so ableist. Really disturbed by the ignorant and cruel attitude towards eating disorders.

      The OP isn’t even there, she admits she’s away for days at a time. Not a big deal to shift something to a different part of the desk in order to avoid triggering a mental health issue.

      1. Siaynoq*

        As someone with an eating disorder, I found coworker’s actions to be insanely out of line. Why? Because instead of communicating and ASKING and trying to work towards a compromise, she invaded someone else’s space and moved their stuff without consent.

        It has nothing to do with the candy dish.

        1. SteamedBuns*

          Yes. This is the issue I see as well.

          Rather than being the bigger person and speaking with OP before violating her privacy and touching her personal possessions, coworker acted childish and put her grubby hands on someone else property.

          I have an office, which I lock when I leave. My boss doesn’t work on Fridays. Sometimes she’ll stay after I leave on Thursdays and enter my office with her key to leave me a note or a to do list. She NEVER goes through my drawers or even any papers I leave out on my desk without first calling me to ask if it’s okay. That’s my boss. I would be so disturbed if I ever neglected to lock my office and an employee went in, even if just to grab a pen or a Clorox wipe…even if just to grab an M&M I keep in bowl on my desk.

          Also, even if OP starts keeping the candy in her drawer, or even on her desk in an opaque and hinged container….does coworker not think that once others are made aware that their stopping at OP’s desk, opening the drawer or the candy container won’t trigger those same temptations? The only reason the drawer seems like a viable solution now is probably because the other employees don’t know that the candy is in the drawer and still up for grabs.

          Coworker should have politely asked OP if she could remove the dish, if she could place it elsewhere, or if she could fill it with healthier or at the very least less tempting snacks.

          I had a coworker who didn’t like the smell of the hand sanitizer I used. He politely came to me and asked that I use a different scent or scent-free kinds. I happily obliged. Had he just sneaked into my office and thrown the hand sanitizer away without telling me that he did it or why he did it without provocation, my reaction probably would’ve been much different.

        2. Anon for today*

          She may not be in a place yet where she’s able to do that (ask), or she may have been going through a particularly bad stretch. I would consider it in the context of candy-mover’s other behaviors (is she generally reasonable?)

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Even if she’s not comfortable disclosing that she has an eating disorder, she could have just said, “I’m trying to eat healthy, and I’m finding that having free candy out in the workplace is too tempting. Would you mind putting it away/moving it to the kitchen/some other option that doesn’t involve taking someone else’s stuff?”

        3. JS*

          It’s not that serious. She has a right to be annoyed sure, but not mad over something so trivial where you would have to dig in your heels and no compromises could be made.

  3. restingbutchface*

    I love the response to this one. Someone once told me that I needed to spend more time doing the right thing and less time trying to be right – hurt at the time but now it’s something I think of you every time I have a situation that presses my buttons.

    That doesn’t mean you can’t vent away from your coworker though and for the record, my eye is twitching at the idea of someone touching your stuff and then arguing about it. So yes, you are so in the right. But Allison’s advice of doing the right thing is perfect.

    (Still twitching. SO RUDE)

    1. Dragoning*

      Yes. Sometimes I know I’m right, but pushing the issue just doesn’t have any value and simply stresses me out. It’s not worth it.

    2. fposte*

      Yes, this is a beautiful response that deals with the complexities of this issue. It’s not as simple as wrong and right–we’re all trying to get along with each other here.

      1. What?*

        Yeah, it is. Going into other people’s desk is wrong. I’m not giving in to a boundary-less, pushy, argumentative person just so we can have fake harmony. What a way to make an office monster. I’m surprised that the commentariat is so passive about this. This is no different than if we were kids at the lunch table and the fat kid said I can’t bring cookies because they want to eat them. Huh? I’m fat, BTW.

        1. restingbutchface*

          Well, I think the difference in your analogy is that we aren’t kids. I don’t disagree, it is wrong but the OP can’t force change on her co-worker so what does the OP do next?

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think the coworker’s behavior is totally out of line, but I also agree with fposte. I think offering to move it to the kitchen or out of the coworker’s line of sight are reasonable accommodations to make out of a desire to all get along.

          I personally wouldn’t be ok with putting it in a drawer and telling people to feel free to go into my drawer. (There is nothing private in any of my drawers, but it would still feel invasive to me.) And honestly, I’d react the same way OP did because the idea that a grown-ass adult would burden everyone else because they cannot control themselves—absent a medical condition—gets on a very specific nerve of mine. But I do think that at least trying to find a compromise is more reasonable.

          That said, if no compromise is possible and coworker starts throwing things out, I would likely retrench. I’m not saying that’s the most mature or peacemaking way to behave, but once someone start throwing away other people’s things (especially on their desk!), all bets are off for me.

          1. Stormfeather*

            Yeah, this is about where I would be on it. I wouldn’t want to put it in a drawer and have people rummaging around in my desk, but I’d maybe put it behind something so there are things in the way between the coworker’s desk and mine, to break the line-of-sight, and at least stake out a LITTLE of the high ground.

            But yeah, it’s still all on Jane to have enough freaking self-control to not constantly eat candy. I mean, if a little kid tried to use the excuse “it was there and I just COULDN’T HELP IT and ate some anyway” when they were told not to eat candy, they’d get in trouble for it. A grown, working adult should be expected to have a little more self-control than a little kid.

            (And FFS it’s not the end of the world if she DOES slip and eat a piece of candy now and then. We’re not talking about huge slices of cheesecake or something, or something that someone is actually allergic to. Eesh.)

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              Actually, it’s up to an alcoholic to control themselves as well. If someone has liqour, they don’t ned to hide it away because X is an alcoholic.

            2. Yorick*

              The coworker didn’t say she had an eating disorder, and we can’t diagnose her with one over the internet

            3. Traffic_Spiral*

              “Would you say all those things to an alcoholic?”

              If the alcoholic went around throwing OTHER people’s booze away? Yes. Yes, there’d be a similar conversation of “your problem does not entitle you to other people’s things.”

            4. Strawmeatloaf*

              Yes? Unless a drink is literally being shoved into their hands or they’re pinned somehow and it’s forced down their throat, then yes, alcoholics do have to use their own self-control to stop it.

              There are examples of people having dry weddings, but usually more than one person in their family is an alcoholic. Most people don’t have dry weddings to accommodate one person.

              And as said above, we don’t know if this person has an ED, only that they’re most likely trying to diet and perhaps aren’t that good at it.

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            Speaking of medical conditions, OP’s candy dish could be a lifesaver for a diabetic client or contractor. It’s an outside chance, sure, but it could be a pushback OP could use for putting the candy dish on her desk. If the issue is that coworker can see it, it could go in an opaque container labeled ‘candy’ or something.

            I agree that I probably wouldn’t have reacted much more charitably in the moment either, bad as that is. But an opaque/hidden candy dish would be enough of an olive branch to hopefully salvage the situation (and if it doesn’t, OP’s coworker is truly being an asshat.)

            1. aebhel*

              It’s not really that much of an outside chance. I work with the public and I can think of half a dozen times over the last couple of years that having juice or soda in the fridge (or, on one occasion, blueberry muffins) has been really useful for a diabetic patron.

              1. Kat in VA*

                Also this. Last night, the husband (who’s still adjusting to a new regimen of insulin) had a very low carb dinner and crashed. Things got very weird, very fast – and when I say “things”, I mean HE got very weird, very fast. He wasn’t making sense, he was being combative as hell, and his sugars, when he finally gave in and tested, were at 64 (diabetics know what that means).

                I gave him the only thing I had on hand at the moment, which was my Red Bull. Poured it down his throat and told him give it five minutes, just relax, stop freaking out, sit down. I didn’t want to risk the time it took to head downstairs and scavenge up juice or whatever because he was behaving so irrationally. Having a quick candy fix for him at work could be invaluable (in this case, it happened to be my Red Bull).

                It’s a slim chance a crashing diabetic would need a fast glucose bump in the office, but it’s also a slim bolstering counter against THERE SHALL BE NO CANDY NEAR ME EVER argument…if we’re going to slip into ridiculous counterarguments at this point.

        3. B*

          I think “slippery slope” arguments only come into play if there is a pattern of ecalating behavior, not one issue. It can be OK to indulge one low stakes thing for the sake of peace; but yeah if there’s a next time it’s “i will throw your (fresh, that day) lunch out of the fridge” or “now remove all vending machines” etc it can be time to dig in

        4. Mellow*

          >I’m not giving in to a boundary-less, pushy, argumentative person just so we can have fake harmony. What a way to make an office monster. I’m surprised that the commentariat is so passive about this.

          Precisely. Good call, What?

        5. SomeDude*

          That’s the biggest hang-up for me. If coworker had asked nicely that would be one thing but the fact she has demonstrated she is willing to violate a personal workspace makes me a little concerned. I know people will call this a slippery slope but how far will the office need to go to manage the coworker’s impulses? If Bobby heats up some left over pizza will that be too tempting?

        6. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s not at all what happened in the exchange you’re referencing. In that exchange, you took issue with the idea that any individual person might decide entirely on their own to change what they were eating to be sensitive to a coworker. (And you were pretty aggressive to people during that exchange as well.)

      2. Lissa*

        Yeah – I am one who had an instinctive GRR reaction to what the coworker did – so out of line! But – what benefit would digging in one’s heels have here, really? I absolutely think the coworker was super out of line but I think it’s worth asking for what one would want here – to see her punished/reprimanded? I mean, that might be reasonable. But getting into a candy dish war over this seems like it’s gonna be really unhelpful overall.

        When I’m in this situation I go to my partner or a friend and am basically like “please tell me I’m right” and then I baks in my own rightness for awhile, which helps when I know the other person is never, sadly, going to suddenly change their ways and acknowledge my correct opinion. Darn.

        1. fposte*

          That’s not her priority, anyway. That’s not the same thing as it not mattering to her.

          And even if they’re not trying to get along with you, if you let that lead you into who can get along with each other the least and she-started-it, that’s not a good direction anywhere, especially not in a workplace.

    3. MRM*

      Once I was telling my brother about a fight with my boyfriend in which I was totally completely right and he asked me “would you rather be right or be happy?” And now I think about that all the time.

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        It’s something I struggle with too. My husband and I get into really heated arguments sometimes about the stupidest little minor things. (I think the last one was about how game cartridges back in the 16-bit era used to be measured in megaBITS where today they would never use that to measure storage space because it was confusing to consumers.)

        I know I’m right but I don’t have the in-depth evidence to back up my claims and after a while I just have to say “You know what, this is a stupid thing to argue about. I’m sorry I ever let it get this far. Let’s go do something fun instead.”

      2. MM*

        Our family version of this is, “Do you want to complain, or do you want dressing on your salad?” Comes from a time my grandpa was being ornery in a restaurant.

      3. Busy*

        I tell this to my son who has opposition defiance disorder. He always answers that he wants to be right no matter the misery. And then I get mad because that is the wrong answer because I always like to be right too! (BTW he gets it and does tone it down when necessary, except when the ODD rears its ugly head.)

        With that said, I think it is okay This One Time to let this go. That does not mean forget it. This woman has, whether we think it is petty or not (and let’s be honest, boundary crossers always start with the petty stuff), has done something that no reasonable person would do unless they wanted conflict. That is plain and simple. What OP can do is take any of the compromises mentioned here, but add in a heaping caveat to the woman who did this that OP didn’t find it okay and will have to escalate it in the future if the woman does something similar again. That is setting a boundary. I think that is the thing Alison is missing from her advice above and why people are bristling about “giving in”.

        Offer the compromise AND set the boundary.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I say this to my sister (and to my clients) all the time. Sometimes being right matters less than being happy, especially when being happy doesn’t require you to cross any personal boundaries/lines.

      5. Strawmeatloaf*

        Well that would depend. If you know you’re right, but you’re BF is insisting you’re wrong in every situation, then I would definitely be looking at that. I don’t understand how someone could be happy in that situation. I could never be happy always being “wrong” for the sake of pleasing my SO so that they could feel better about themselves.

        I’m sure that’s not your relationship but I would watch out.

    4. Memyselfandi*

      I am so grateful for those comments that make me rethink my behavior. As you say, hurts at the time, but so valuable in the long-run.

    5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      One suggestion – maybe she could get a candy jar? Something that is not see through? That way people who want candy can open it to see what is inside, and someone who wants to avoid candy can just not look in the jar. I agree coworker is being super high maintenance and going around everything wrong.

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        I really like this solution. It looks like you’re being nice and accomodating, and people will back you up on that, but you also haven’t lost anything except the $15 on a ceramic jar.

    6. EPLawyer*

      This where I HEAVILY disagree with Alison. It’s a candy dish, not a anything obscene or not work appropriate. One way everyone gets along in a shared space is NOT TO TOUCH OTHER PEOPLE’S DESKS.

      I’m sorry but at the point she threatened to keep moving things, she crossed the line. She crossed the line into alert the manager when she threatened to destroy my property (throw away the candy). You know how you learn to resist tempatation? You grow the hell up.

      I would tell the co-worker in no uncertain terms to not touch anything on my desk. If she did it again, I would tell the boss. Yeah it’s petty. But it is also boundary crossing.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The problem is that while the OP is in the right, going to war with a coworker over candy is going to make her look bad. It’s not worth it. (And this is not boss-worthy.)

        1. Essess*

          I have to respectfully disagree. When a coworker says they will start destroying your belongings on your desk if you don’t do what they say, it’s manager-time.

          1. Thursday*

            Sure, a manager might deal with it. But wasting their time on this will also make them see OP as someone who can’t even deal with co-workers over minor grievances, and had to escalate a fight about CANDY. Managers aren’t kindergarten teachers.

              1. Thursday*

                There are so many issues on this blog that boil down to basic interpersonal skills, and it makes me wonder how people get so far without having any.

              2. Wing Leader*

                Yeah, I think Alison is right. Manager COULD step in and resolve an issue like this, but it isn’t going to look great if she has to do that. This is the kind of minor thing that should be resolved without the need for a manager.

                That said, I also think the coworker is out of line and needs to back off. She needs to learn self-control and to realize that she can’t remove every temptation. However, I’m not sure how far OP should push this. I like the suggestion of getting a candy jar where the candy is still available but unseen. If coworker can’t agree to that, she’s definitely being the unreasonable one.

                1. Blerpborp*

                  If I were the supervisor and they came to me about this issue -even if it was just OP insisting on her right to a public candy dish- I would be so annoyed that they were behaving childishly and now I have to deal with something so absurd. I know some people think opening a desk drawer was a deep violation but the OP said nothing personal or valuable was in there, obviously the intent was just to have a place to hide the stupid candy jar and unless she started poking around desks on a regular basis it doesn’t rise to boss involvement level to me.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Absolutely co-signed. As Czhorat notes, this is not a hill to die on, and OP risks making themselves look immature (even though I think the coworker is in the wrong) if they escalate the candy war to a manager.

            1. Kitty*

              So Jane just gets to bully and manipulate people into doing what she wants? When you give in to a boundary pusher over a small thing, they learn that they can escalate it to bigger things. I suspect this question would get a completely different answer if it were sent to the Queen of boundaries, Captain Awkward.

              People keep saying “why fight over candy”, it’s not about candy, it’s about violation of personal space and property.

              1. Marthooh*

                When Jane escalates to the next thing is when OP can go to the boss about it. At that point, she looks like the reasonable one who tried to keep the peace.

                1. Lucky Jazz Cosmos*

                  ^^^This is key – lose the battle but win the ‘war’.

                  Demonstrate that you’re the sensible, professional person but accommodating Jane’s OTT request – I like the suggestion from someone above of using an opaque container. You’re respecting Jane’s request while also trying to keep the treats going for everyone else! If it’s ends there, it’s all good. But if she escalates, go to the boss and (sensibly, professionally) highlight how ridiculous Jane’s demands are. Does that mean no one can eat cheese sandwiches at this workplace if there are vegan / gluten-intolerant employees?

                  I’m a (fat, hungry) person I’d stop with the candy jar but then passive-aggressively make the effort to eat delicious and amazing diet-violating things at my desk at every opportunity. >:D

              2. Jasnah*

                “it’s not about candy, it’s about violation of personal space and property.”
                The thing is, there is also the question of scale.

                If someone pokes me in the shoulder, and I punch them in the face, my response is pretty out of line with the level of offense. My personal space was violated, but that doesn’t give me carte blanche to do anything I see fit, just because I was harmed once in any way.

                At the point that this becomes not about the candy, but about the “principle” of the thing, I would say both people have lost sight of the issue and need to calm down.

              3. Been There, Done That*

                This makes me wonder where the boss person is in all this, if they’re involved at all (maybe they’re taking the high road and opting out of the playground candy war), because my office has a Monster who holds sway because she’s the boss’s favorite and anyone who speaks up about her horrible behavior gets slapped down, accused of being a whiner, or blamed themselves for causing problems for the poor little Monster.

              4. Annie*

                EDs can be fatal.

                Jane is doing what is essential to manage her own wellbeing.

                Can’t believe people really think Jane should potentially endanger her own life because apparently shifting something a few inches on a desk (belonging to a person who doesn’t even work there much and abandons her personal property for days at a time) is “bullying” “vile” “rude” and the hundred other slur terms thrown at this woman.

                1. Gadget Hackwrench*

                  EDs can indeed be fatal, however everyone making this argument is missing two things: Firstly, Jane has not claimed to have an ED, merely a problem resisting sweets, which many people who don’t have ED also have difficulty with, and Secondly, if she needs the candy moved as an accommodation for her illness, then she needs to state that formally to her boss, rather than go messing with other people’s things without asking.

                2. aebhel*

                  You are internet diagnosing a stranger based on a second-hand account of her hiding a candy dish. If Jane’s life is genuinely in danger because of the presence of candy in her vicinity, then it’s on her to go through the appropriate channels to request accommodations, not to go through her coworker’s desk and threaten to throw out candy from a communal dish and generally behave like a giant boundary-crossing weirdo about it, which is what she’s done.

                3. CarolynM*

                  “Jane is doing what is essential to manage her own wellbeing.”

                  No she isn’t – she is demanding other people manage her well-being for her. If she does have an ED and is in mortal peril as you have internet-diagnosed her, she should be working with professionals who can give her the tools and support she needs, not threatening to throw away OP’s property. Jane is out of line.

                4. Actual Doctor*

                  Stop. Seriously. Right now. Stop diagnosing strangers, and stop doing it in order to push shame-on-all-of-you whataboutisms. Knock. It. Off.

                  Nobody is ‘abandoning’ their personal property when they are away from their desk for any stretch of time; to think otherwise is beyond absurd. My officemates know better than to use my headphones or keyboard in my absence.

                  You are also more or less stating that Jane’s life is in constant danger: how does she survive walking down the street past open air restaurants? Bakeries? If she has roommates, does she force them to only eat what she may safely ingest? Do you see how far down this preposterous rabbithole of yours can go? Again, stop.

                5. Kat in VA*

                  As a recovered(ing) bulimic turned anorexic, I disagree with you, Annie. I never made my demons other people’s problems. They were my demons to manage, not theirs. It wasn’t on them if I gobbled up ten pieces of candy and had to purge, or had to fight the candy since I hadn’t eaten in two days straight. My demons, not their demons. It’s not on coworkers to manage my illness, it’s on me.

          2. Public Sector Manager*

            “I’m going to start destroying belongings on your desk unless you sign this fraudulent reimbursement request” = manager time.

            “I destroyed stuff on your desk because I’m petty” = manager time.

            “There is no compromise in CANDY WARS! Arrrrrrgh!” = not even close to manager time.

            Both the OP and coworker would look way out of touch and I’d be wondering whether they had enough work to do if they escalated that kind of issue.

              1. Tiny Soprano*

                Yeah, I could be wrong, but the way I read the letter was that the co-worker had thrown the candy in the bin before putting the bowl in OP’s drawer. It’s a small distinction, but I’d be much more annoyed if someone threw out my lollies than if they had just put the full bowl in a drawer.

                1. Claire*

                  I’d assumed that the co-worker had put the bowl in the drawer after eating all the candy, which is kind of an illustration of what she was talking about, to be honest.

                2. Yorick*

                  At first I assumed it was empty and she put it away anyway (which I didn’t get), because OP said sometimes it will be empty for a while. But Claire might be right that she ate it first.

              2. Yorick*

                But it isn’t at all, because nothing was destroyed, it was moved from on top of the desk to a drawer.

              3. Not a Morning Person*

                Throwing out candy is a boundary violation, but not to the extent that it seems many people are arguing. I would be really annoyed and irritated by the coworker and the way she handled this situation, but I believe that no matter how much I was irritated that I wouldn’t go to the extent of making things worse by asking everyone else to bring in a candy dish or some other equally mean-spirited behavior. I might ponder that and some other over the top revenge fantasies, but that would be as far as it went. Let it go and use it in your memoir.

          3. Courageous cat*

            “Destroying your belongings” is such an overblown way of looking at it though, come on. There’s a difference between throwing away candy and, like, vandalizing someones files – I’m sorry, but there just is. There are nuances involved here as in every situation.

        2. Czhorat*

          Yeah. We often talk here about hills on which to die.

          The candy dish is not a hill on which to die. TO be perfectly honest, I’d put it away in a drawer if it bothered the coworker that much.

          1. cx*

            Evidence that a MH disorder is in play here, please? Or do you just like to catastrophise instead of making actual arguments?

          2. Blerpborp*

            I just have a drawer full of candy (and other snacks) for myself and I never have to worry about anyone else being bothered by it! The other day a coworker was leaving but knew I didn’t feel well and he told me all the places he stashes snacks in his office in case I wanted any and I’m like damn, I’ve never been so generous sharing my work snack locations! Not being a sharer has protected me from getting into candy bowl war and I am grateful for that.

        3. Mrs. Wednesday*

          I’m afraid I just don’t agree. The OP could say, in front of everyone, “Look, this is not about candy at this point. I can’t just let it go when my coworker tells me they can’t control where they put their hands because of temptation. Are you going to respect my boundaries from now on?”

          This isn’t war. It’s communication.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            We can agree to disagree, but if I’m a coworker or manager watching that, I’m going to think, “Pick your battles. It’s candy. You could put it in a drawer, problem solved.”

            1. What?*

              The problem is not solved, because someone threatened to throw away another person’s property. It’s not about the candy, but appropriate office behavior. It’s managerial blindness to overlook this.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I mean, I might talk to the coworker about that. I’m still going to think less of the other person too for picking their battles poorly. It’s candy. I promise you that manager has better things to be spending her time on, and is going to think both of these two do as well.

                1. AnnaB*

                  The thing is, LW shouldn’t have to ‘pick her battle’. It isn’t her battle to pick. In fact, she actually has no battle. She’s living her working life and minding her own business. The coworker needs to pick her own battle with self-control. Since it’s an open office, LW should stand up and loudly ask if anyone has an issue with her having the communal candy dish out and available. If the majority of people answer “No” – that should be end of it.

                2. Jennifer*

                  @Anna B If the OP worked with me and stood up and loudly asked if anyone had a problem with the candy dish being out, after the little snit with the other coworker, I’d just sigh loudly and roll my eyes. This is elementary school-level petty. I’d imagine some of the other coworkers are already starting to get annoyed. None of this is worth one peppermint or Werther’s Original a day.

              2. Hills to Die on*

                It’s absolutely nobody’s perogative to throw another person’s things away, no matter what it is. But especially when it’s someone in a snit about not being able to control themselves around candy to the point that they throw away others’ belongings. One person is absolutely wrong, and the other is in a grey area at best. You have to consider whose behavior is truly worse.

                1. Jennifer*

                  It reminds me of when I was a kid and my brother and I would have a petty argument and our mom would tell us to work it out ourselves. Maybe one person was slightly more wrong than the other but at the end of the day it wasn’t a big deal and we didn’t need to tattle on each other to resolve it. Fighting over a candy dish is childish.

                2. Sloan Kittering*

                  But if I’m a manager, even if one is worse, I’m going to think they’re both being childish and silly, and it’s not going to reflect at all well on OP either. There was an easy way to end this and instead they dug in on something that is not work related and escalated the situation unnecessarily.

                3. Mk*

                  It is shocking to me how so many people on here have no compassion “has no control” “ can’t resist temptation” etc. I used to think how you think but being addicted to food is a disease like being addicted alcohol. Would you spew this none sense to someone who was an alcoholic? Or a hoarder? Yikes. Candy is crap for you and this country loves to put sugar in everything which gets many people hooked because what it does to your brain. Have some compassion for people! I think what the coworker did was out of line and she should have talked to the LW first, but the way you are talking about the coworker is why so many people treat obese people a certain way and why these issues aren’t addressed in America. There’s a reason we are one of the most obese countries in the world and until we have compassion and deal with the crux of the problems it will continue.

                4. Wing Leader*

                  Wait, wait, wait. What kind of candy are we talking about here? Is it like Jolly Ranchers and peppermints (blech), or more like mini Snickers, Mr. Goodbars, and M&Ms? That seems like vital information and it’s going to color my opinion on this matter. Just kidding. (sort of)

                5. Hills to Die on*

                  MK, I am a recovering alcoholic of 27 years and the answer is still the same. It’s probably why I came to this conclusion on the candy thing. I take responsibility for myself and I do not expect the world to change to suit my dysfunction. I change myself and let the world do what it needs to do.

                  The OP isn’t fighting over a candy dish. She is standing up for herself because a person is throwing away her things and taking person items out of a personal space because they cannot control their own behavior. Very screwy, very dysfunctional.

                6. CarolynM*

                  @Hills to Die On

                  Maybe that is why I so strongly agree with you – Al-Anon was a lifeline to me and I learned a lot about how my best-hearted intentions in helping the addict in my life were really fixing/managing/enabling and were actually harmful. I had to learn that their addiction was none of my business and to keep my own side of the street clean. The only thing I can hope to control is my own behaviour and it is not on others to change theirs or the environment to suit me.

                  Honestly, in terms of addiction and recovery, hiding the candy dish is not helping Jane. Jane needs to make her peace with the fact that there is candy in the world and the choices she makes regarding what she eats are on her.

                  Congratulations on your sobriety!

              3. Courageous cat*

                I think the problem is that you’re equating all “property” as equal here. Throwing away someone’s candy vs throwing away someone’s office equipment or files is just not the same thing. It sounds like it is on paper, but it’s just not. It’s still shitty and dumb, but it’s CANDY.

            2. Mrs. Wednesday*

              I get where you’re coming from, truly. Part of it, no doubt, is office culture. I’ve always had to supervise people in, for lack of better term, touchy-feely orgs. That’s likely why I immediately slotted this as a boundary/consent conflict, which, yeah, I know sounds like overkill and not helpful.

              But here’s the thing: As a manager, I’d much rather help resolve this situation than dismiss it as trivial specifically because it’s a low-stakes example of a big-deal problem (candy, harassment/consent). Dealing with it — establishing that negotiation is good, not respecting boundaries is bad — shows everybody that you will. shut. stuff. down. when necessary. Helping prevent high-stakes versions of the conflict, like your office’s guy who tells you somebody’s clothing made him grope her.

              Anyhoo. YMMV.

              1. Hills to Die on*

                “Dealing with it — establishing that negotiation is good, not respecting boundaries is bad — shows everybody that you will. shut. stuff. down. when necessary.”


              2. Kitty*

                YUUUUUP. If my manager dismissed me as “petty” over a smaller boundary violation, I would not trust her with a bigger problem in the future.

        4. What?*

          I don’t think it will. I don’t think it’s going to war to enforce boundaries. This coworker seems arrogant and entitled. What else will they want to control that is not theirs? OP may be doing everyone a favor by sticking to her guns on this.

          I would love to see a follow-up.

        5. JamieS*

          The big issue isn’t the candy, it’s the coworker opening OP’s desk and messing with their property. Framing it as just a “war over candy” is trivializing a major breach.

            1. Hills to Die on*

              Maybe….I would see it as a war over whether Jane should be throwing away people’s things and re-arranging their desks. I’m not sure I’d be alone on that.

              1. R.D.*

                maybe… if you knew. Most people who aren’t in the immediate vicinity of the initial confrontation aren’t going to pick up on the details. Or care about them, for that matter.

                1. Hills to Die on*

                  Take a quick look around the comments. You can make a pretty good assumption on where things will fall.

                2. MRM*

                  Are we reading the same comments? Many many people have reiterated this isn’t the hill to die on. Not everyone or maybe even most people but enough that you’d defiantly look bad. The coworker is also going to be pedaling their own side of the story.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                Yeah, I’m not happy about that part myself. And personally I don’t care if someone goes through my desk. But rearranging my things or throwing my things away is Not Good.
                Since OP does not want anyone in her desk, then OP can draw that boundary line. “Next time you need to open my desk for something, you need to ask first. I don’t rummage through your desk and I expected to be treated the same way in return.” Many times the logic of the statement, “I don’t do X because I expect X in return” hits people right between the eyes. “Oh yeah. That’s right.”

            2. Courageous cat*

              I agree, I’m sorry, but people are human and candy is different from other things one might keep on one’s desk.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            The problem is that most people are not going to see this as a major breach. They’re going to see it as a war on candy (or on snacks), even if the underlying transgression is a bigger issue.

            This is analogous, in my opinion, to the chorus of people who tell OPs to call the police on a coworker for assault, when the “assault” is extremely problematic and wrong but not necessarily police-worthy (e.g., pushpins on someone’s chair, or the tickling episode). It escalates the problem in a way that blows back on OP, and then OP loses the high ground in the fight (and likely loses the fight itself).

            1. Mk*

              I must have missed the comments telling the LW to call the police!

              I direct/ manage over 100 people and if anyone on the team called the police over this situation I would seriously challenge their judgement and probably let them go or closely monitor them.

              What the coworker did was wrong, but this LW should talk with the coworker and try to come up with a compromise as it will show them as the bigger person. I think digging in your heels will just make you look petty and again probably make your coworkers question your judgement.

              And as a manager if I was brought into this I would probably say no candy dish since the sugar high also has a crash which I have found negatively impacts work product. If you want candy bring it in for yourself and keep it in your desk.

              You are two adults, start acting like it!!

            2. JamieS*

              Really? Go ask your coworkers if they’d consider a coworker going through their things and moving them around a breach and report back how many say no. Quite frankly anyone who thinks the issue here is the candy would be displaying an extraordinary lack of intellect.

              1. Jasnah*

                “anyone who thinks the issue here is the candy would be displaying an extraordinary lack of intellect”
                This is pretty insulting and not warranted.

                Some people are blowing this up into an issue of principle, and some people are focusing on the level of scale (this is over a jar of candy!). Both are relevant so there’s no need to insult people just because they don’t agree with you.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                The comments indicate that a pretty wide swathe of people with intellect get the bigger issue but still believe escalation will appear disproportionate in light of the specific conduct and context. You feel strongly otherwise. Imo, it seems like people with intellect can fairly disagree. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

              3. Yorick*

                If someone took something that I display on my desk and put it in a drawer, I would find it super annoying, but I would not at all consider it a massive breach and throw around words like consent, nor would I think a manager who didn’t want to deal with this petty disagreement would allow sexual harassment.

        6. Lanon*

          Taking candy without permission is theft. I would expect the coworker to be summarily fired the second time this happened after a final warning.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            It’s communal candy. Taking the entire bowl would be greedy and obnoxious, and here is clearly not in the spirit of the communal candy dish, but once you put something out for everyone to share, firing someone for taking it is ludicrously overkill.

        7. Beth*

          I’m not sure that I agree this isn’t boss-worthy. It might not be yet–but if the coworker continues to mess around with OP’s desk, or starts throwing out OP’s candy as they threatened to, I don’t think it would be that out of line for OP to tell their manager something like “(Coworker) keeps moving stuff from my desk and has thrown out some of my things. I’ve told her to stop but she has refused to listen to me. Do you have any advice on what I can try next?” Those aren’t acceptable behaviors, and the fact that OP lets others have candy from their dish doesn’t change that.

        8. elizabeth frantes*

          The problem is not the candy dish. the problem is a person who feels that it’s acceptable to go through another’s person’s desk and touch her personal property. I am surprised you can’t see that. Unless you think it’s OK to rummage through other people’s desk and move their property around? I wouldn’t want to work in such an environment. The problem is a worker who feels entitled to just do what she wants, without even the courtesy of asking first. THAT is the problem.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      There was a guy who returned on Top Chef after going to an anger management class between seasons, and he was an incredible advertisement for whatever program it was. A huge shift from “I am RIGHT about this” to “… okay, this is not worth expending energy to defend.”

      1. CynicallySweet*

        I loved that season! And would get so mad when another contestant tried to make him turn into the person he was before!!!

    8. Just Elle*

      Yes. My dad’s favorite line growing up was “you’re right, but you aren’t correct”
      (aka, technically you’re in the right here, but no one likes an inflexible know it all)

      Don’t get me wrong, I’d be supremely annoyed with candy hiding coworker. But its not a hill to die on.

    9. JessaBee*

      Playing off this idea, OP I would ask that you consider the optics to the rest of your coworkers if you continue to engage with Jane over the candy dish. To be clear, I’m not disputing that her going into your desk was a violation and I think Alison and the rest of the commentators have come up with some really great, workable solutions.

      But, and this is purely my personal view so please take or disregard as you choose, if I had been sitting in the cube farm when this exchange took place it probably would have lowered my opinion of both of you. That’s why, if you do decide to remove the dish altogether, I’d really stress you not take Alison’s advice to essentially blame it on Jane. If I were one of the bystander co-workers it would make me think that both of you were behaving very petty.

      All of this to circle back rbf’s wonderful advice to do the right thing, something I freely admit to struggling with myself. Good luck, OP! If you do find the magic pill to letting go of people who have crossed or vexed you, please let me know. I’m still looking for myself.

      1. Thursday*

        “if I had been sitting in the cube farm when this exchange took place it probably would have lowered my opinion of both of you.”


        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, I would scanning my desk to see what Cohort might move or toss out.

          I have lost six sizes myself, it would strike me that the candy dish next to her is NOT the problem. I had to build coping tools for driving past McDonalds and walking past the cookie aisle, etc. It was a journey for me. And most certainly, it was my own private journey and not any one else’s.

          Poor eating habits can erode willpower in some people. Lack of proper nutrition weakens the mind AND the body. I told myself that I did this to me. It was a devastating sentence and an empowering sentence all in the same stroke.

    10. BlackLodge*

      I think to myself, do I want to be on my high horse or do I want to move forward? Having the moral high ground feels good but it doesn’t do much for progress.

  4. A D Collins*

    Since seeing the candy seems to be the problem, put it in an opaque container and let everyone know this is the new candy “dish”

      1. valentine*

        She hid the empty dish, though. (Unless someone went in the drawer and took the candy from it.)

        1. Rachel*

          I think it’s more likely that the coworker ate all the candy from the dish before hiding it. Weird to hide an empty dish, but quite possibly she hid the dish while it was still full, but knowing the dish was there, she kept going into the drawer to grab candy until it was all gone. I think coworker just wants the dish gone altogether.

          1. Yvette*

            From the post:
            “Twice in the last week I have come in to find the candy dish removed from my desk and placed in one of my desk drawers. Last time it was placed in there empty. This time it still had a few remaining pieces of candy in it.”
            I also had the thought that it was the coworker who “emptied” it?

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            Oh, I’d read it as coworker binning the candy, but your point makes a lot more sense as a contributor to her reaction!

          3. Pommette!*

            This was my assumption as well.

            It would also explain (but not justify) the coworkers aggressive and emotionally charged approach to what could have been more productively framed as a request for a favour. Realizing that you emptied the communal candy bowl (again!), and feeling that you won’t be able not to do it (again!) as soon as its refilled would bring up some pretty complicated and unpleasant emotions.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        My daughter STILL remembers the M&M dispenser on a coworker’s desk from when she was a toddler and we would go into my work to pick stuff up.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          I just put that in my wish list, I love it. And maybe not for candy, it could be good for my kiddo to corral her earrings in the bathroom.

    1. LCL*

      I like this solution. I think you should also remove it when you will be gone for a few days. Explain the temporary removals as ‘I only want to provide this when I am around to make sure the dish is clean and ready.’

      FWIW, when Costco first opened near our office, we discovered the bulk size jars of wrapped candy. Someone brought one in with a suggested contribution cup, and we were in candy heaven. Until one day the jar was empty and the manager told us not to bring in bulk candy any more, because he couldn’t help himself. There was a bit of grumbling, but we complied with the order.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        And the instant that manager said that would be the instant I opened up my resume on the job boards. That manager probably expected compliance with the unreasonable demand *because* he was the manager. That’s not a place I want to work.

        1. Eukomos*

          It’s an obnoxious demand, but unreasonable seems like a stretch. And you’d really quit over that? C’mon, that’s a “bitch about the manager in the break room for a few days” level issue, not a “summarily quit” level issue, unless the manager has been unreasonable in other ways and this is part of a pattern. We don’t have a god-given right to put candy on our desks.

    2. Sara, A Lurker*

      I think this is a good idea, possibly better than the one I came to suggest, which was a transparent container with clasps on the lid. We have a mouse problem in my building and we are not permitted to keep candy in open containers and ESPECIALLY not in our desk drawers. We can keep them in overhead cabinets if they are in locking or clasping containers.

      LW has a coworker problem, not a mouse problem or even a candy problem, but since the coworker says that the LW’s presence helps dissuade her from taking the candy, I wondered if the extra step of having to noisily open the container might have a similar effect.

    3. Shannon*

      I like this. I think the OP can even approach the coworker and kindly and directly say “I want to discuss what happened the other day and find a compromise. While I appreciate that you’re trying to avoid sweets, not everyone in the office is, but I understand the constant sight of the candy can be an impulse control issue. So, my compromise is to put this in an opaque box. You won’t see the candy inside, can pretend it’s holding office supplies, and keep walking by it. However, with this, I’d like to say that I do not find it acceptable that you removed items from my desk and put it in my drawer, not do I find it acceptable that you were willing to throw away items on my desk. Please understand that I expect you to respect my personal property and in the future if there is a problem with my workspace, please speak to me before you move my desk around.”

      1. CynicallySweet*

        +1,000,000! I think the communication is really important too! If the manager ends up having to get involved having had this conversation will do a lot to help the OP save face!

        1. Catalina*

          This right here is the solution that makes the most sense to me. It’s okay to compromise, but it is not okay to continually violate boundaries by removing things from someone else’s desk AFTER they’ve asked for that boundary and then threaten to throw things away. That’s the part that cannot be ignored when dealing with this. It’s not about choosing the candy dish as a hill to die on but a boundary issue that should be discussed.

      2. Canadian Public Servant*

        Shannon, I think you’ve hit on exactly the right script.

        I am wicked stubborn and a wee bit self-righteous, and would be SO TEMPTED to dig in hard, and in an overly dramatic manner (supergluing the dish to a cinder block and tying it to my desk, making a point of noisily unwrapping and enjoying candy in front of the co-worker, giving every other colleague a candy dish and giant bag of candy, etc.) But I am also an adult, and in a leadership position, and while just giving in would make me steam and seethe and be continually BEC with regards to the co-worker because she bullied me and “won”, I could see myself having the conversation that comes from your script, and hopefully finding a satisfactory resolution as a result.

          1. Siaynoq*

            I am sorry for your loss, but you have gotten tremendously out of line with your comments. Sociopath, really?

            Having the desire to dig in and then not doing it is exactly what she’s saying here.

            It has nothing to do with the candy dish.

          2. Canadian Public Servant*

            Annie: your assumption that the co-worker has an eating disorder and her life is endangered by the visible presence of the candy dish is supported by exactly no facts.

            But were the local rehab centre to start marching into liquor stores and smashing alcohol bottles on the floor because clients found it tempting that alcohol existed, sure, maybe I’d consider drinking in front of it. I find the co-worker example much more similar to my reaction to the old men who parade with graphic photos in front of the reproductive health clinic in my city, in which I usually take a few minutes to stop and cheerfully and loudly share some pro-choice chants.

    4. TheBurgermeister*

      I like this idea, but would that be enough? She hid an empty dish which is leading me, and I know it’s an assumption, that the sight of the dish itself is the problem and not what’s in it? Sure she can’t SEE the candy but she knows the purpose of the dish.

      1. Ananas*

        Every bit helps. Bariatric specialist Yonni Freedhoff has a similar suggestion for dining out: when you feel full, cover anything that remains on your plate with your napkin. It is easier to resist things when they are not right in your face. Similarly, someone else’s suggestion of a jar with latches makes it that little bit harder to get a candy than just reaching in. It might not be enough for OP’s coworker (I have to hide my leftover Christmas chocolate in the bottom of my chest freezer, and some days that still isn’t good enough) but at least OP will have visibly tried to help.

        1. TheBurgermeister*

          Makes sense, if we don’t know what her trigger is physical effort, even minor, requires some thinking and realization.

  5. AdAgencyChick*

    I feel like everybody in this post needs a little empathy.

    OP’s coworker should not have moved the stuff without asking first. Coworker ought to have said something like, “Can I please ask that you not have these out in the open? It’s really hard for me to resist a trigger like that, and I’m really trying to watch what I eat.” Coworker should realize that she’s asking OP to forgo something OP has a right to do, and therefore approach politely and in terms of asking a favor, rather than just fixing things to suit herself.

    But I think OP should empathize a bit with how hard of a struggle it is, even with people whose eating is far from disordered, to resist certain triggers. We all have our “red-light” foods — the ones for which a habit is so strongly ingrained that seeing them means eating them without thinking about it, or that it is nearly impossible to eat just one of. I know if a coworker kept a bag of tortilla chips out, I would actively avoid that person’s desk because I just…don’t…have…self-control with those things.

    Maybe a covered, opaque jar might be enough of a “welcome to treats!” for those who like them, and a visual barrier for those who don’t want them?

    1. female peter gibbons*

      I agree, it’s not just triggers, it’s weight control in general. Yes, some people can eat candy all day every day and not gain weight. Some of us are constantly struggling 24/7 and haven’t let ourselves eat a piece of candy in a decade.

      1. Snark*

        No question! That’s real and hard and it’s a cross to bear. But it’s really not on anybody else to manage that for you. You avoid the bowl of tortilla chips or candy or whatever, you don’t steal it or demand it be removed from everyone’s presence on your behalf.

        1. fposte*

          I think the OP’s co-worker is definitely approaching it as if it were on others to manage, and that’s wrong. But that doesn’t mean it’s optimal to reject any mitigation either–it doesn’t have to be your obligation for you to be helpful.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Yeah, I think the coworker is out of line, but OP’s response is not optimal, especially if your goal is peaceful coexistence rather than the right to wear the TOTALLY RIGHT beer hat this week.

          2. Allison*

            Right. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to say “hey, I’m having trouble resisting this, is it possible to make it a little less visible?” OP is free to refuse, or try to find a solution, but there shouldn’t be any harm in asking.

            In fact, I’d rather people ask “can these be kept somewhere else?” than comment on how tempting it is every time they see it. I got so tired of the constant “ohhhh I want to, but I can’t! oh maybe I can be bad just this once, no one judge me okay” comments when I worked at my old cube which always had snacks outside of it – that I did NOT put there, mind you! When people acted like taking a donut would be sooooo bad and sooooo shameful and would make them soooooo fat, how do you think I felt for also having a donut?

            1. Greyjoyous*

              Except that OP isn’t free to refuse, because if she does then her coworker will hide or destroy her possessions.

              1. Catalina*

                This! The coworker crossed the line, and I think that’s the part that the OP is going to have to talk to her about. It’s not the candy dish; it’s the boundary violation and threat if they don’t comply with the cowoeker’s wishes.

            2. Blerpborp*

              I am sure OP would have more sympathy for Jane if Jane had approached the situation differently. And perhaps Jane just didn’t think putting the bowl away was that big a deal (there seems to be a pretty big divide here on how big a violation opening another person’s desk drawer/throwing a way a little candy is…some see it is a huge deal and others see it as rather minor.) If Jane came to the OP and said “these little candies make me over eat and it sucks for me could you conceal them in some way” then a solution could have been found before it became Candy Bowl War. But ultimately, Jane is asking for a favor and despite all the comments about how bad sugar is for people and how ED is very serious (both true, of course) a communal candy bowl is such a common part of US office culture that it’s going to be a difficult road to hoe expecting the office to change for them unless they learn a much less passive aggressive (verging on regular ol’ aggressive) way to ask for this accommodation.

            1. Parenthetically*

              Knock it off, please. Anti-candy moralizing is boring, and I got enough of it in bad videos in elementary school. Adults are allowed to choose what to eat.

              1. Grace*

                Of course they are, no one is arguing for making candy illegal. I would just like it not being constantly in plain view, every day, while people are working.

                1. Shannon*

                  The idea that OP is worsening coworkers health is not correct. The individuals taking candy are. They have choice. They don’t have to eat the candy. As a sugar addict would I prefer losing office candy dishes? YES. But, that problem is on me, not my coworkers who don’t have a sugar addiction/binge eating history.

                2. Cassie*

                  And I’d like not to have to work with sanctimonious moralising jerks trying to dictate what I eat. I’m sure your colleagues would too!

    2. MLB*

      It’s not OP’s problem that her co-worker has no willpower. I’ve struggled with weight all of my life, and have a huge sweet tooth. I would never have the audacity to insist that someone remove something from their desk because I can’t control myself. Is it difficult? Of course, but that’s life. It’s your responsibility to figure out ways to avoid the temptations in your life. It’s nobody else’s fault that I’m overweight, and it’s up to me – and ONLY me – to figure out how to fix it.

      1. MP*

        I don’t think I would have the audacity to ask someone to remove a candy jar either. I just wanted to say as someone who also struggles with her weight, and also feels VERY ALONE in solving this – I feel you. I’ll be thinking about you and hoping for your success!

      2. LKW*

        Another overweight person seconding this. This is my problem. It’s my struggle, no one else’s. When there is a communal snack drawer or candy dish, I have asked that certain types of candy not be purchased because they are harder to resist (damn you tiny square Snickers!). But if someone forgets and buys Snickers, I don’t get angry. I may get a little nauseous and sticky from eating too many, but I don’t get angry (ok, maybe a little angry with myself).

      3. AnotherAlison*

        Here’s the thing that’s weird to me. . .and I am a candy indulger. How is the fact that it’s not YOUR candy not somehow controlling your urge to over-indulge?

        There are community candy dishes within 20 ft of me. I just consider them NOT communal. Pretend you were not offered any candy and don’t help yourself. I might go to the vending machine and give into temptation, but I’m not going to eat 8 of my coworker’s candies in a day. I would consider that rude. (Not that I don’t see others here doing exactly that, but I think didn’t your mom tell you to not be greedy?)

        1. Allison*

          I’m a candy indulger as well, but a very shy one, which I think helps. Especially if the dish is on someone’s desk, it would be rude to just go and take a candy without at least saying “hi,” and that alone can be a deterrent, but regardless of where it is, I know someone is bound to notice if I take an excessive amount. And some people loooove to playfully schold young ladies like me for taking candy, like we’re little children who aught not to have any candy lest mommy and daddy say it’s okay!

      4. AdAgencyChick*

        I am a formerly obese person who stays in shape through a variety of elaborate coping mechanisms.

        A huge part of the “willpower” that has gotten me from 208 lbs. to 145 lbs. over the years is identifying certain trigger foods and doing everything I can not to be around those foods, or at least not to see them.

        So, although I would never do what OP’s coworker did and go straight to taking something off of a colleague’s desk, I very likely would ask someone “can you hide those from me while we’re having this meeting?”, ask that person to meet away from her office, or offer to buy an opaque jar.

        1. Fern*

          I wonder if the problem of the candy dish is that people stand around unwrapping candy, talking, laughing, saying how nice it is. This would add to the temptation too. I don’t agree with many posts on this forum. I would ditch the candy dish or keep it in a drawer. There’s is no need for it since there’s so many options everywhere to purchase candy and obesity rates are climbing dangerously. I think trying to be healthy should be supported.

          1. Elspeth*

            Nothing wrong with eating healthy, however, the coworkers can make their own choices whether to eat the candy or not.

            I think the best way is, as others have said, to get an opaque lidded container for the candy. Certainly, no one should just be removing items from the desk. I really don’t understand why the coworker couldn’t have just asked OP if she could either put the candy in the desk drawer or otherwise hide it.

        2. Not that into candy*

          We have a candy dish that is kept at the front desk. It’s paid for by work. Like you, I would never ever think to ask them to remove that because *I* can’t resist the candy.

          Also, wouldn’t seeing the same candy over and over make you tired of it anyways? We always buy the same candy over and over!

          1. alienor*

            It would me! There’s a vending machine in my office that’s had the same continually restocked options for 3+ years. I never buy anything from it anymore because at this point I’ve had all the Red Vines and peanut M&Ms I ever want to have.

          2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            Maybe this is part of coworker’s problem- OP says they buy different things every time!

        3. What?*

          Coworker should buy the opaque jar since she is the one with the problem. And the moralizing about adult consumption of candy? Ugh.

      5. BethRA*

        And it wasn’t anyone else’s problem when I was on crutches and had trouble navigating doors to offices/buildings/etc. But, dang, it sure was appreciated when people decided to help me, anyway.

        Coworker was absolutely out of line to move the dish rather than talk to the OP, but it’s not like moving the dish is going to cost the OP anything, either.

          1. BethRA*

            Not as much as you’d think.

            Regardless, if you know someone is struggling, why would you be unwilling to take a simple step like moving the candy out of the person’s line of sight?

            1. Quake Johnson*

              Because they aren’t entitled to my help. If they want my help, they can earn it by being nice to me, not rearranging my desk on the sly.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Trigger foods and weight loss are not always about a lack of willpower or self-control. It’s harmful to frame it this way.

      6. Grace*

        People are wired to be weak around junk food. You can’t fault them for that. Junk food is engineered to be addictive and hard to resist.

        1. Tehmorp*

          Glad you mentioned this.

          I’m see a lot of comments about “complete lack of willpower”, but everything I know about willpower suggests that we are probably at our willpower-weakest at work because we have to use willpower to stay on task throughout the day. More so now than ever because *everything* is engineered to be addictive and hard to resist.

          I don’t quite understand why people are so willing to accept companies influencing our behavior by specifically designing unhealthy things to be hard to resist, and yet so unwilling to accept that maybe we should design our systems to influence us in healthy directions instead.

          1. Pommette!*


            Resisting candy does not require the same amount of willpower for all. For some, it requires a lot of willpower not to eat the whole jar. Exerting that kind of willpower is exhausting. Feeling guilty over your struggles with willpower is exhausting and demoralizing. For some people, seeing a candy jar all day is going to mean thinking about the candy jar all day.

            The OP’s coworker framed her request poorly, and I fully understand why the OP bristled at it!

            But in the end, we know that small environmental modification can work to support or undermine people’s willpower. It would be easy, and kind, for the OP to make small changes (e.g. opaque jar with lid; moving jar to a different office) that would make her colleague’s day-to-day a lot more pleasant.

        2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          And there was some new line of thinking not too long ago that basically said that nobody actually had willpower- people had different things they just couldn’t resist, and the only way to manage something that you couldn’t resist was to not have it near you. I don’t think coworker was right in how they approached it, but I have a lot of sympathy for them.

      7. MLB*

        Who said she had an eating disorder? You’re making assumptions here, and there’s really no need to scream about it.

    3. Murphy*

      I think OP would have been more inclined to empathize if their co-worker had just talked to them about it instead of immediately messing with their stuff.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Yes, exactly. Asking if they would move the dish to another part of the desk (or inside) is totally different than the co-irker doing it themselves.

      2. myswtghst*

        I think this is true, and I think, in the interest of minimizing conflict at work, it might be a good exercise for the OP to think about what they would have done if the coworker had approached them in a less obnoxious way. That might give OP some good ideas on how to proceed, with the satisfaction that they are both right and the bigger person in this scenario.

      3. Lissa*

        I think this is two different issues, yeah. There’s the anger at the coworker for moving OP’s stuff, totally justified. Plus question of whether it’s a good move to indulge the coworker and move the dish, or insist on keeping it out. I think that a lot of commenters here have the view of “well, the coworker behaved super inappropriately, so I’m going to refuse to help them out” which I totally get on an emotional level but I don’t think is really productive long-term.

        IMO, separate the issues. If OP would like to talk to management about the coworker moving their stuff, that could be done. But I think it should be separate with whether OP is willing to work out a solution with the dish. Again I tooootally get the “screw you too” reaction but at work it seems like it’s better to not do that. (if this were not work I’d totally be leaving the dish out though.)

    4. EMW*

      Seconding getting a covered jar. I’m torn between whether I would tell the coworker or just replace the dish with a jar.

      I personally can’t resist candy that’s out in the open. I just make a point to never use anyone’s communal candy dish – in my mind it’s their candy not to share. But if you put candy in front of me during a conference, I always ask my neighbors if they want any before moving it out of my reach. I will just eat the entire thing due to boredom.

      1. TheBurgermeister*

        I pointed this out above but the coworker did hide an empty dish. Without knowing how it became empty we don’t know how effective the covered dish would be. If she had eaten the candy THEN hid the dish it may be helpful to do so, but if she hid a dish that was already empty it may not be all that effective. She may not be able to see the candy, but she knows what the dish is for.

    5. Zip Silver*

      Yeah I feel for the coworker. I lost over 80lbs 7 years ago and I *still* have problems with temptation. I can’t keep snacks in the house or I’d go right back to where I was, my wife has her own hidey hole for snacks.

      I agree with the commenter a few posts up, OP. Get an opaque candy dish with a lid, you keep the candy out, and you’re helping your coworker out.

        1. Zip Silver*

          The coworker didn’t write in to AAM, so we aren’t giving the coworker advice now, are we?

    6. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with using an opaque jar if possible. I struggle all the time with communal candy, treats, etc. at work and I hate it, but it’s on ME to control myself; it’s no one else’s responsibility but my own. It definitely helps when there’s a bag or jar or whatever and I can’t see what’s in it.

    7. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I agree with this.

      The coworker definitely handled this in a really bad way, as Alison pointed out, in multiple dimensions — she was rude, demanding, and messed with someone else’s desk, that’s all incredibly uncool! At the same time, I do have some empathy for her.

      I struggled with an eating disorder for a long time, one that carried a lot of food hoarding tendencies, and free access food sitting out at work was one of my absolute worst triggers — not coincidentally, there was a time in my life when communal food at work was how I survived. The habits that got me through a difficult year took more like five or six years to subsequently break.

      A huge dimension of food problems, whether they rise to the level of an eating disorder or not, is shame — and shame can make people act out in really unfortunate and self-destructive ways.

    8. Engineer Girl*

      The issue isn’t about the candy. It’s about violating boundaries.
      – Jane couldn’t be bothered to have the discussion
      – Jane decided on her own to move candy that belonged to another (who cares what OP thinks!!)
      – Jane went into OPs desk
      – Jane doubled down and refused to look at compromise.

      Then there’s the issue of the person that thought OP was talking about her.

      Your office is filled with passive agressive children.

      That said, doubling down under these conditions makes OP look bad. Because passive aggressive people will gossip and complain behind her back and make themselves into the pooooor victim.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Violating boundaries is the exact phrase I came to use.

        This is a petty power struggle by Jane. Unfortunately, for the sake of office harmony, the OP is going to have to give in with some sort of compromise. Never mind the dish was there for years before it became an issue. Never mind that the small sweet pleasure enjoyed by many will be reduced or eliminated due to one.

        I guarantee Jane will take this ‘victory’ as proof that she is ‘right.’ And having won this battle, she’ll be looking to win another.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Agreed. The fact that the item that’s being moved around is candy is pretty trivial; the issue is that the coworker can’t or hasn’t dealt with the candy in a reasonable, professional matter and now it’s turned into a Thing.

        FWIW, however this might affect my answer, I do have an eating disorder that is still ongoing. I empathise deeply with the coworker. My personal view of this is that there are many things in my office that I don’t like or wish weren’t there, including communal food, but I don’t have the right to just go and remove them if they belong to someone else.

      3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Absolutely. We can get distracted by the types of jars and candy, but my desk is my personal zone.

        Moving and removing objects is not OK unless previously authorized. Just common courtesy in shared space.

        Perhaps a small candy-dish free respite, and then return as if there’s clean slate and possibly a new snackies strategy, after a casual poll of your co-workers about what would be pleasant for everyone involved. (Like maybe stocking mostly things Jane hates.) Pretend that there are no winners.

      4. myswtghst*

        Agreed. It makes sense for OP to be the bigger person here and find a solution, but I also would not think poorly of the OP if they decide to also have some (polite and measured) words with Jane about respecting personal space and asking next time.

    9. CupcakeCounter*

      While I like the idea of the opaque jar something tells me the coworker is still going to have an issue with it. She knows what is in the jar even though she can’t see the actual contents.
      I could also just be incredibly pessimistic

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        The same would apply to a candy drawer in the desk, though. She was fine with the candy being hidden in there even though she knew it was there, so a decorative jar on the desktop might accomplish the same thing?

        1. Yorick*

          I think she’s hoping that a candy drawer will be used less and the candy dish will eventually die out.

    10. AnonyMouse*

      Yep. The coworker was 100% out of line but I think the OP may have let the removal of the candy dish color her reaction a bit disproportionately. A lot of people have lifelong struggles w food and weight, and a lot of those struggles are very emotional and deep-rooted. OP would do well to separate the incident itself from the coworker’s struggles w such trigger food. 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

      1. Observer*

        Except that until this point, the OP has actually NOT done anything wrong. Keeping candy on her desk is NOT wrong.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          Exactly. L’m amazed at how many people are ok with a grown adult throwing a tantrum, moving other people’s stuff, threatening destruction and the’re all “Poor Jane.”

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          I assume it’s wrapped candy. Keeping snacks at your desk (usually in a drawer, but those are hardly vermin-proof) is almost ubiquitous everywhere I’ve worked.

    11. Observer*

      I don’t think it’s necessarily a lack of empathy. It’s more that the empathy is more for the LW than the coworker.

      I have great sympathy for the coworker as someone who is struggling to lose weight. But her behavior and attitude is waaaay out of line. I think that it’s important to acknowledge that.

      Having said that I fully agree with everyone who said that the OP should most definitely not go to war over this, and should try to obscure the candy to some extent.

      1. Crivens!*

        This post is awful and fatphobic.

        I also urge you to Google orthorexia.

        Candy in moderation is not harmful.

        1. Grace*

          Fatphobic I’m not. And candy in moderation becomes a challenge when you have access to it daily at work. Eating candy several times a week is not moderation and it will ruin your teeth.

          1. Crivens!*

            I eat some form of dessert every day and have a clean bill of health from both my doctor and dentist. Your fear of candy is irrational.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Fatphobic you are, actually. It’s like homophobia or any other -ism – if people who are in the group affected tell you you’re doing something harmful, you don’t have any standing to just say “Nuh uh!” and expect that to help your case any.

            I mean, have you considered just…like…not policing other people’s food choices and letting them handle their own diets like adults?

            1. Grace*

              I have nothing against fat people. I don’t want to police anyone’s behavior. But what I would like to see is us making changes to the environment that make it easier for people to make healthy choices (candy is not healthy in any way whatsoever, it’s bad for your teeth and your skin and your heart). This doesn’t mean policing individual people’s choices, it means making healthy choices easier.

              I have a lot of compassion for fat people who have temptations all around them and the system is rigged against them.

              1. Crivens!*

                This is fatphobic. Feeling pity for people because they have a different body type than you isn’t kind, either.

                And again, candy is fine in moderation. Your attitude towards it is unhealthy.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Wow, I almost don’t know where to start with this one.

        I guess I’ll start with, no, Americans are not “too fat”. Secondly, fat does not equal unhealthy – do some looking into the “health at every size” movement and the actual science that shows it’s far more effective than weight-loss programs have ever been, if your actual goal is people being healthy.

        All of that, though, I could have rolled my eyes and ignored. Not like you’re the first person I’ve heard doing this in my life. Not even the first this week.

        But you literally finish by implying to the OP that she’s a *bad person* because she’s providing candy instead of snacks YOU personally approve of? And trying to make it some kind of moral obligation? No. That’s where you crossed the line. This entire comment is deeply unkind to a lot of people, but that ending is very personally unkind to the OP. Not okay.

        1. Grace*

          Yes, Americans are one of the leading nations when it comes to obesity and that’s a problem.

          It’s not about what I personally approve of, candy is objectively not healthy.

          1. The PhD Is Purely Decorative*

            I think what people are trying to communicate is that while many things can be perceived as not optimally healthy (e.g., reading AAM when a fully abled person could instead spend that time running), each of us is capable of managing our own health. Please trust us to do so.
            p.s. I love fruits and vegetables, too! :)

          2. Sugarplum Fatty*

            Nothing is “objectively” not healthy. People are different. Bodies are different.

            I’m sorry you have drunk the Kool-aid (oh, sorry, does that have too much sugar for your delicate constitution? It’s OK, it’s just a metaphor, don’t run to your overworked dentist), but your fatphobic crap is awful, horrible and completely ignorant. You need to do some actual learning and not just buy into what the media tells you, sweetie (sorry, is that too sugary? Honey? Guess you’d find that bad too. Oh well!)

    12. Free Meerkats*

      While I agree with AAM’s advice here, this falls under “Your triggers aren’t my problem.”

      I think EPLawyer had it right. Grow up. This is the mindset of a toddler – if it’s there I must eat it.

      1. Jadelyn*

        Agreed. While I have sympathy for folks struggling with that urge (which, by the way, is often caused by restrictive dieting and moralizing of food choices, and the best way to unlearn that impulse is to, counterintuitively, give in to it until you’ve recalibrated your sense of food desires to something healthier), getting past that is a lot of You Work that nobody else can or should be responsible for.

  6. Owler*

    It sounds like she has more of an issue when it’s unguarded, and you say it’s not unusual for you to be out of the office a bit. Why not have it out when you’re there, but also try to put it away when you leave? You still get the joy of sharing, but she gets some time without the temptation?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think this is a good compromise. Now, the coworker hiding my dish instead of politely discussing the situation would *really* get my hackles up, and I wouldn’t be inclined at all to compromise with her, nor do I think the LW *needs* to. But when you’re in a forced-sharing-of-space situation, it’s often in your best interest to compromise even when you have the right of way, so to speak. I also think the opaque dish is a good idea.

    2. Snark*

      I mean, that would be nice, and if she’d led with that it would have been great, but she didn’t.

      1. fposte*

        Sure, but the fact that she didn’t lead with that doesn’t remove it as a possibility. It’s not a privilege that she’s lost. This is where the Carolyn Hax “put down your dukes” advice fits–what would you do if this wasn’t a fight? Why not try that now?

        1. Snark*

          I mean, that’d be the low-conflict way to go. But I do think there’s a certain amount of consideration and collegiality one forfeits when one takes such a confrontational approach. It’s not really on OP to do anything. Coworker is totally free to suggest a compromise.

          1. fposte*

            I’m just rejecting the whole “on” construction; I think it’s a framing that hurts everybody. What would be good to do? What would be useful to do? What would get the best outcome?

              1. fposte*


                If I were the OP, here’s what I think I’d do. I’d sleep on it for a few days to let my indignation ebb a little, and then I’d approach the co-worker. “I understand having the candy out is difficult for you. What I’ve done is move it to this side of my desk so my monitor is between you and the dish, and switched to an opaque dish [assuming that’s helpful or doable]. That seems like a good balance so that you don’t see it but it’s still available for the people who enjoy it in the office; I hope that helps.” I wouldn’t go into what I can’t or won’t do; just outline the steps I’ve taken and move on.

                1. Snark*

                  I think we’re basically on the same page, but I’d be a little clearer about boundaries. “Hey, I moved the candy jar so it’s behind my stuffed llama. I hope that’s an okay compromise between you and those of us who like the candy jar to be available, but please don’t take it on yourself to move it or stash it in my desk drawer, because that’s not okay with me.”

                2. myswtghst*

                  Yes to everything you’ve said in this comment thread. It can be satisfying to pat oneself on the back about how right we are, but it’s rarely helpful in moving forward with the situation. I really like this framing of “here’s what I’ve done” as a statement of fact, rather than an invitation for suggestions.

                3. Jules the 3rd*

                  +1 Though I think you may have to repeat the boundary of ‘if that’s not enough, come talk to me. Don’t touch my stuff on my desk, I find that very offensive.’

          2. Dragoning*

            Sure, but Coworker didn’t write in and we can’t give coworker suggestions. We can only advise OP, and “They should do it” doesn’t get us anywhere in resolving the problem.

        2. Someone Else*

          My concern in this scenario would be if OP forgets, she’s still going to end up with a coworker touching her stuff, which I would be very very annoyed by. So now OP has to remember every time she gets up for work reasons to do this not-work thing to keep the coworker pacified. If she forgets because she’s busy or needed to go somewhere quickly, will the coworker get all grumpy and “we agreed you do X” and it escalates again? The whole thing is already SO confrontational, and I get it, being right is not the thing that will necessarily be best for the situation but I’m really not down with the notion that it’s now OP’s responsibility to save coworker from temptation.

          1. Yorick*

            I don’t think she needs to move it every time she gets up – that’d be too much. But she could move it when she leaves for the day.

    3. kittymommy*

      I think this becomes tricky when other people are contributing to it as well, as the LW says they sometimes do. Then you may have a bunch of colleagues in and out of the desk.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        This. Bob or Mary may stop by once a day, or every Wednesday at 2:30 and take a piece of candy. So if OP is out, nobody can have candy. Because one person doesn’t want to see it.
        If they were to tell OP that not having candy messed with their schedule, we’d say “buy your own.”
        I swear the first letter I read on this site was a man who wanted to contact his wife’s coworker and tell her to get rid of the candy dish because it tempted his wife. Was that here?

        1. Qwerty123*

          OP says the candy dish sometimes remains empty for a while and no one is upset by that. So I don’t think hiding it would cause issues from that perspective.

          I agree that by promising to hide it, OP would leave herself exposed to vetching about “you said you’d put it away and didn’t on Tuesday” and that would be annoying.

    4. MLB*

      I mean that would work, but I’m not always going to remember when I’m rushing to a meeting to put the temptation away. The bigger issue to me is the co-worker putting the dish in her desk. She’s violating some major boundaries here.

    5. LKW*

      If she puts it away -doesn’t that mean everyone else is denied the candy? That doesn’t sound like a compromise.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Does anyone really NEED to have people smile at them? Or wear clothing that isn’t purely utilitarian? Or eat anything besides the exact macros to precisely meet their nutritional needs? Beep boop!

          Her coworkers all (but one) like the candy dish and express appreciation for it.

          1. Grace*

            Yes, positive social interaction is a need, candy is not. There’s a lot of delicious food that’s not candy.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Yes, Food Police, we get it. No fun allowed. Veggies only. Not sure why this seems to be your hill, but it’s really not contributing to the conversation.

              1. Grace*

                Removed. Grace, I’ve asked you to stop and now I’m putting your comments on moderation. – Alison

            2. Parenthetically*

              I eat so many delicious things that aren’t candy. AND ALSO CANDY.

              Sweet treats have been around since people first discovered that those Ouch Bugs made something REALLY TASTY in their weird Ouch Houses. Give up this crusade.

            3. Snark*

              I don’t believe this conversation is moved forward by your personal views on candy consumption, so let’s move on, shall we.

    1. Parenthetically*

      This is also my immediate impulse, particularly as someone who has spent a good portion learning to tune into my body’s signals and cues and break free from the diet-culture mindset. Here’s the science, from the studies I’ve read: food restriction doesn’t solve the “problem,” in fact it exacerbates it and creates a situation exactly like the one OP is in, because it creates a scarcity/hoarding cycle that’s laden with guilt. Radical permission is the solution, because it breaks that cycle.

      My kinder take though is that, unfortunately, OP can’t magically zap that into her coworker’s head, and a lifelong habit of restricting (and then bingeing on) some foods as naughty or bad or too tempting can’t be broken overnight. So I’d make the effort to keep it out of her line of sight, but not hide it or put it away, because I reject the whole assertion that sweets are “bad” and have to be hidden. There’s concessions to a very understandable unhealthy mindset, and then there’s enabling straight-up disordered though processes. I’ll do the former, but not the latter.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on binge-eating disorder and intuitive eating and everything in your first paragraph is spot on.

        If there was a reasonable ask to keep the dish out of her line of sight, I’d happily comply with that. But coworker’s attitude here is a big problem and she’s expecting other people to manage her issues.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I think Snark is absolutely right in his comments below. And ultimately I agree with you! And had a pretty pissy response ready to fire up that I redacted.

          I’m just thinking about a) having compassion on someone who’s still trapped in that restriction/diet-culture mindset, and b) ensuring that my actions in this situation would be productive to a healthy working relationship going forward. I suggested some wording below to put the ball in the coworker’s court about coming up with a solution.

      2. CheeseNurse*

        That’s great that works for you, but it doesn’t work for everyone. I am not as easily distracted as OP’s co-worker by candy, but I’ve learned that if I eat sweets (especially baked goods) it can trigger weeks of binge eating. I am happier, and without cravings and disordered eating, if I forgo them. So for me the mentally and physically healthy choice is food restriction.

      3. Jadelyn*

        Beautifully said. And I’d add that it can take literal years of “radical permission” – love that phrase, btw – before your sense of food desires gets reset to a healthy baseline. It took probably three or four years of improvement to get where I am now, with the ability to base my food choices solely on “what do I actually want and need right now?” instead of feeling “tempted” by things.

        My coworkers literally marvel that I can keep candy sitting on my desk for weeks without eating it. I’ve tried to explain that it’s because I refuse to moralize the candy as “good” or “bad”, I see the candy as entirely morally neutral, which removes the entire “temptation” aspect of it. “Aren’t you tempted?” Well, no. There’s nothing to tempt me, because there’s nothing stopping me. If I want the candy, I’ll eat it. If I’m not experiencing a genuine desire for candy at the moment, there’s no reason to eat it, so I don’t.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Yep, I’m about 6 months into an intuitive eating/anti-diet/anti-restriction journey and it’s really a hard mindset shift, but worth it, to confront food when I have radical permission to eat whatever I want, and however much I want of it. I have ice cream in my fridge that’s been there for days untouched. It hasn’t sounded good, so I haven’t had it. I love how you phrase it — I’m not tempted, because there’s nothing stopping me. I’m still working on getting to that same place with chips… ;)

          1. Jadelyn*

            You’ll get there! It just takes time, and patience with yourself. Wishing you the best with your journey! :)

        2. PlainJane*

          This is such a wonderfully healthy approach. I’m getting better at this as I get older. If I want it, I eat it, but I also try to invest in my health, because I want to age well so I can keep doing active things I enjoy. When I frame my eating as a kind thing I do for myself (whether it’s eating veggies to nourish my body or candy just because I want to), I find I don’t obsess about food. Food is neither good nor bad, and I can eat what I want.

      4. aNameGoesHere*

        I read this and immediately felt a huge amount of empathy for this coworker. She’s not acting reasonably, but I can really see why she wouldn’t be, given the scenario. That’s not an excuse, but it does inform how I’d want to respond. I don’t think of her as “a fat person without self control trying to remove things for everyone because she can’t handle it”– I see “Someone in a calorie deficit, trying to stay in that, even in the face of her self preservation instincts which tell her to eat this food, and when her self-preservation wins, she feels intense shame about it.”

        I also suspect that what she’s been doing is eating the whole bowl, or near it, and feeling ashamed and hiding it because of that. So the bowl was probably found while her emotions were still running very high. None of this is an excuse, but it might be useful to know. Addressing something in the moment is normally a good strategy, and one you should generally follow, but I think it may have gotten a poorer outcome than a more delayed response would have gotten. I also suspect that if this happens again– or if the bowl disappears or anything like that where it MAY have been thrown away or it MAY have been eaten– would probably best be addressed later, after the emotions have had a chance to die down.

    2. MRM*

      This comment is neither helpful nor kind nor insightful. Obviously it’s not, but the problem still needs to be solved.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I don’t think there is unanimous agreement here that the problem needs to be solved *by the OP*. I mean, it would be nice and helpful of the OP to be part of the solution, but the OP is not really the one with the problem.

        1. MRM*

          OP is very much the one with the problem, to the point that OP wrote into an advice column for help dealing with said problem. You will encounter people who are not reasonable or polite your whole life, and you’ll have to deal with them in a reasonable and polite way. Telling OP that they’re in the right isn’t helpful. They still need to deal with the situation. Trying to find a solution while maintaining boundaries (ie don’t touch my s%#*) will make life easier for everyone. Retaliating with pettiness will damage your own reputation, especially given that everyone will be hearing two sides of the story. It absolutely doesn’t matter that Coworker started it or is at fault. Saying that over and over solves nothing.

          1. Jasnah*

            I totally agree with this. We can sit here and debate how much the coworker was wrong, but ultimately OP has to decide “well I don’t like how she asked, but I understand what she wants. How can I get what I want while upsetting the fewest people?”

          2. Just Employed Here*

            AFAIU, there is only one person in the office (out of many coworkers) who has problem with the candy dish. The OP does have a problem, but that problem is having an unreasonable coworker.

            It’s usually not particularly helpful to be “reasonable and polite” when peers are making unreasonable demands. The OP doesn’t have to reward that behaviour.

            I don’t know where you got “retaliating with pettiness” from, but I’m certainly not advocating that, either. Standing your ground, which can certainly be done politely, is not retaliation.

    3. Zombeyonce*

      This is a really non-compassionate response. While I agree that this is not OP’s problem, blaming people for “lack of willpower” isn’t quite fair. It’s mostly agreed that people have a limit to the amount of willpower available each day (studies have put it better, but you get what I’m saying). If someone is trying to lose weight and candy is a really hard thing to resist, she’s using up that amount of willpower every single time she has to walk by OP’s desk. She may not be able to avoid the desk and if she’s trying to lose weight, she’s having to make these willpower decisions probably a hundred times each day.

      It’s telling that the coworker mentioned that it was easier to not take the candy when OP is at the desk because it’s a social construct to not just help yourself to all the candy in a dish when someone is there to observe, but when no one is around and the candy is there, the amount of willpower needed to not do that is much higher and bingeing is much harder to avoid.

      The coworker didn’t do a good job asking nicely for this, but OP would be doing a huge kindness to this person if they just put the dish in their desk when they were going to be away for a period of time. OP can be both right and kind in this situation with one small change.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Look, I’m over 100 pounds overweight thanks to a binge eating disorder. It’s still not anyone else’s problem but my own to deal with temptations.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          I don’t see how that means it wouldn’t be kind for OP to put the dish away when they leave the office. It would take them literally 5 seconds max to be a more compassionate human and engender good will with a coworker while also making them look nice to the rest of the office. There are only benefits for OP here.

          1. VelociraptorAttack*

            Based on what I’ve seen happen around communal candy dishes, there may very well just be annoyance amongst the rest of the office that the candy jar is now hidden away while OP isn’t there.

      2. MLB*

        But it’s true. Why is it the OP’s job to remove all temptations for others? That’s not realistic at all, nor should it be the expectation.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          Of course it’s not their job, but a teeny tiny effort on their part would make someone else’s life easier. It’s like letting someone merge in front of you on the highway. It may get you to work .4 seconds later, but it’s kind and could make a much bigger difference to the other person. Isn’t that what we want for ourselves, to have an easier life? Why not do something incredibly small to give that to other people?

          1. Aurion*

            You are a much nicer person than me (I say that in all sincerity). I would’ve been inclined to compromise and help, but soon as the coworker doubled down and threatened to rifle through OP’s desk and throw away the candy, my helpfulness vanished.

            It is a small kindness, perhaps. But my interest in doing such kindnesses vapourize when it is demanded from me with the coworker’s attitude.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Once someone gets aggressive and demanding about a thing, it’s no longer kindness, it’s capitulation, and in my experience it trains the person to expect you to capitulate on other things.

              1. Spencer Hastings*


                “I didn’t do that just because you told me to” is a sentence I have had occasion to utter many times in my life (but have only rarely been brave enough to say it outright).

          2. coffee cup*

            I totally agree. It doesn’t have to be someone’s ‘job’ for them to help another person by doing it. Even just making a small adjustment to improve someone else’s day.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I disagree. She’s not asking for help. She’s demanding to be catered to. There’s a big, big difference there.

              1. Anon for today*

                You don’t really know that without knowing if she’s otherwise reasonable. This may be a particularly difficult subject for her.

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          I think to me, the crux is that it’s not OP’s job nor responsibility to bring candy, either. It’s an extra, optional thing she’s doing voluntarily, presumably because she hopes it will make people happy. Now she knows it’s making at least one person extremely unhappy, it seems reasonable to stop doing it or change how she’s going about it.

          1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

            99 people are happy, one isn’t and threw a tantrum. Ignore that one.

      3. Cube Ninja*

        Any sympathy I had diminished substantially at the point the coworker threatened to throw out the candy. She was directly asked not to move things from OP’s desk without asking, escalated to indicate she could continue to do so despite that request, and threatened to throw out the candy after that. I don’t think we need to make excuses for the coworker being a bit unreasonable.

        With that said, I agree wholeheartedly it’s probably best to be both right and kind. Drop the thing in a drawer, cover, whatever, or just stop with the candy altogether if alternate arrangements don’t work.

    4. Ginger*


      I’m having a really hard time here trying to understand, let alone, empathize with the coworker. She’s an adult, leave the darn dish alone.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I definitely empathize with the coworker (though not the way she responded to OP). I love sweets and constantly crave them and seeing sweets I like in an open candy dish is incredibly difficult for me to turn down. I’m always relieved when people put candy I don’t like in those dishes so the temptation is removed. I wouldn’t blame the person for having the dish, but it’s not fair to pretend that it’s easy for the dieting coworker to ignore the dish.

        1. valentine*

          It doesn’t matter if it’s easy to ignore the dish. Why doesn’t this fall under “Mind your business and ignore it”? She’s not trying to get the vending machines removed, but this dish is such a bridge too far, she’s threatened to steal/trash her colleagues’ candy (and hide the empty dish again, I guess).

    5. Kitty*

      Yup. She’s asking OP to take on a bunch of emotional labour to manage her feelings about food, and in a really rude way. You can have empathy for someone’s situation and still not take on their emotional labour.

      Remember the LW who was on the other side of this, with a huge snack spread for all in the communal area, and they were recovering from an eating disorder? Even they recognised that it wasn’t others’ responsibility to change the company culture to suit them, so they looked for other solutions like changing desks.

      I’m also concerned that giving in to these kind of passive aggressive demands will set a precedent that she can get her way with this rude behaviour and it will continue or escalate.

      That said, probably the easiest solution would be to leave the dish in the kitchen. Still easily accessible to all, without the discomfort for OP of people going through their drawers. If co-worker isn’t satisfied with that it’s time to stop trying to accommodate her because she’s being super unreasonable.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        I agree; the fact that Coworker started with “hide someone else’s property” instead of “talk to the OP”, combined with the solipsism of her demands, would make me worried that giving in to her request might provoke some other kind of power tripping or boundary violating. It’s an oddly childish sequence of events, so would getting rid of the dish lead to even more unreasonable behavior?

      2. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        So you’re ok with people going through your drawers and tossing your stuff?

      3. aebhel*

        …she hid it in a drawer and then threatened to throw it away if it was left out again. That’s a lot more than moving it a couple of inches.

    6. Not A Manager*

      Assuming that this is a person who is generally well-socialized, imagine how much distress this candy must cause her in order for her to act this way. This is a grown woman making threats, violating boundaries and generally having a tantrum. Again, unless she’s a horrible person and this is her MO, the candy MUST be a super big deal to her.

      My guess is that she is binge eating the candy when OP isn’t around, and it makes her feel shame and anger at herself, and that leads to her blaming the OP and acting inappropriately to her. I do think the OP can find some room in herself to empathize with her co-worker’s distress.

      Whatever the compromise turns out to be, “not my circus, not my monkeys” is a very harsh response.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        I don’t see it as harsh at all. Co worker messed around with LW’s desk, threatened her property and never once asked. Jane can grow up. I might start buying more candy and leaving a camera on the desk.

        1. MHP*

          Where’s your evidence of mental illness in this letter? Or are you just assuming that anyone this demanding and rude is mentally ill? Because THAT’s alarming!

          1. aebhel*

            You can tell when someone is mentally ill because they’re acting like a jerk! That’s not ableist at all!

  7. Temperance*

    I would lock the desk drawers so she can’t do it again. If she does, I would then get rid of it altogether and tell people it’s because of Jane’s complaints.

    1. Over candy?*

      Alienating an entire group of people over candy. As rude as the complaining is, being this aggressive is petty and not a great way to act at work.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, what was OP’s purpose in putting out the candy? It was probably to create a pleasant atmosphere and give her coworkers a treat. Instigating World War Four is probably the opposite of that …

      2. Temperance*

        I mean, it would just be that one person who is going out of her way to make LW miserable and is fighting with her. People who appreciate and enjoy the candy are going to be annoyed, so it’s fine for LW to direct people to fob their annoyance at the source of the problem.

        1. ket*

          You’re right…

          …and at the same time, “Take your complaints to Jane! She’s why we can’t have candy!” or even a prettied-up version sounds petty and unprofessional. That’s fine if that’s the effect the OP is after, but it sounded like she was interested in other options.

      3. Les G*

        This. OP won’t be in the right for much longer if she startd escalating and stooping to the coworker’s level.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          OP would not be stooping to coworkers level. She has every right to lock her drawers when away – I 100% would be doing that if I found out anyone had been in my drawers. It is not on OP or any other employee to manage Jane’s eating.
          Eliminate the candy aspect and you have one employee getting into another employee’s desk. Most people would automatically start locking their drawer.
          Jane’s threat to throw away the candy that other people have purchased is the unreasonable action. It is not Jane’s right to dispose of other people’s property simply because she cannot help herself eating it.

          1. Tin Cormorant*

            Probably different workplace norms, but everywhere I’ve ever worked that had locking desk drawers, it was 100% expected that you’d always have them locked when away from day 1 of starting the job there. Just like you’d lock your computer when away so nobody could come look at your files. Seriously, people would play pranks on anyone who forgot (stuff like changing your desktop background to feature a popular teen idol), and they learned in short order.

            1. Colette*

              I’ve always had locking desk drawers and that has never been the expectation for me unless I had something valuable/sensitive in the drawers. I currently have 4 sets of locking drawers/cabinets and lock one.

      4. aebhel*

        But it’s not LW’s responsibility to bring in candy? I’d get rid of it, too. It just seems like it’s become a massive unnecessary headache. If other people in the office want to have a communal candy dish, they can figure out a way to work around Jane. I would just wash my hands of the whole issue.

        1. elizabeth frantes*

          It would appear only one person has a problem with the candy, due to her personal inability to control herself. And feels it’s acceptable to go through another worker’s desk. She is the problem, she created the conflict, and backing down will only encourage her behavior. Move the candy to the break room? She’ll still be unable to control herself. This is not some ADA issue, it’s a woman who is a jerk, likes to be large and in charge and is probably an office thief.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      I’d be more inclined to epoxy the dish to the top of the desk. Or maybe a different dish, with a combination lock, and tell everyone but here the combination.

      But the company may object to the permanent alteration of the desk.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I used double-sided tape when I finally located my always-disappearing-calculator. That cured that problem. After that I always had my calculator. However, my desk was old and it was in an environment where it was expected that the desk would get some bumps and scratches. Context is everything here.

        I do think in OP’s case this would be a less preferred reply to the problem. It would have OP operating on a similar level as the cohort. OP can insist that coworker use her words for communication and not take actions herself in lieu of using words.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      This was the part of the advice I didn’t agree with. It doesn’t solve anything to explicitly name Jane as the source of the non-problem, and it can cause bad feelings where none are really warranted. Communal candy is great (to at least some of us) but if it’s not provided by the company, it’s not like people are losing a company perk over this.

      I totally don’t agree with Jane’s methods, she was being a real jerk about this. But the solution should not involve saying explicitly “Jane was a jerk about this, therefore no more totally optional candy.”

      1. Temperance*

        If Jane could find a workable solution that didn’t involve going into LW’s desk, sure, I’d agree. If the candy has to go, though, I don’t think LW should take the blame when people ask what happened.

        1. aebhel*

          Yeah, I don’t the LW should proactively name and shame, but if people get upset about it I don’t think it makes sense for them to take the hit, either.

      2. fposte*

        Yeah, that seems like being deliberately punitive. The publicness of the dish moving is an easy reason, and if you just say “That whole dish removal thing was weird, and it turns out some people aren’t comfortable with the candy” it’s clear it’s not because of cheaping out.

        And I think if Jane is this much of a pill about candy, it’s not likely her co-workers have found her to be an angel in every other respect.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Right on. I wondered what else this cohort is doing.

          OP, is this the first time you have bumped heads with this person or is this part of a larger story? If it is part of a larger story, then focus on solid issues that can be addressed such as substandard work or missed deadlines. Many times OPs will say, “I really like this person, I am so upset that we argued. We work well together. [etc]” I don’t see any hint of this in your letter.

          It’s not lost on me that YOU wrote in and she did NOT. You are looking for that peaceful co-existence (big picture focus) and she is looking in your desk drawer (me-me-me focus). IF (big IF because this may not apply) this is part of a larger pattern and she is impacting your work then that is the focus point to use.

    4. LiveAndLetDie*

      Honestly I agree. OP has every right to throw in the towel on the candy dish altogether now that Jane has made it such a pain in the rear. If Jane’s going to keep touching OP’s stuff and even throwing the candy in the garbage (?!) rather than accepting that it’s not her right to go messing with things on OP’s desk no matter how much she dislikes them being there, I think OP no longer having a shared bowl is a reasonable way to solve the problem.

      I also think it’s totally fair of OP to be honest if asked about it and say that Jane caused a headache and a half about it so she gave it up altogether. Insisting that OP just take it on the chin to save Jane’s feelings is a bridge too far. I think in an office where folks are social enough that OP has a well-liked candy drawer, it’s highly likely everyone already knows Jane’s being an asshole about it.

  8. female peter gibbons*

    I see that there is an article linked “the psychology of the candy dish”. I guess I have to read it. I’ll never understand why the workplace MUST be associated with sweets. I think it’s awful, personally. It’s always sugar, sweets, baked goods, unhealthy things. It’s never like, “Enjoy this bowl of carrots” or “I left out some kale for people to eat”. I’m not a vegetarian, I just think it’s weird that people think workplace should equal there should always be sugar nearby. Like can’t people go 9-5 without sweets? On Saturday and Sunday we do it all the time – I hope. I personally would never, ever, ever, ever let myself be around sweets, so I sympathize with the coworker. I wouldn’t have approached it like the coworker did, but I can’t help but empathize.

    It reminds me of that old Ellen standup bit where she said a movie is only two hours – why do people stock up on popcorn and hot dogs like they’re crossing the Sahara desert? It’s two hours. It’s weird that people have associated workplace = sweets and movie = popcorn. There’s no need to actually eat popcorn during a movie. LOL. (Not that I mind that people do it. That’s fine. I don’t, personally. I watched like 200 movies last year.)

      1. valentine*

        I’m going without privacy 9-5+commute and tolerating all manner of insult from the human noise on my frequency. Sugar sweetens the deal.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Yeah I’m on the opposite end of the scale from coworker in that I’m an underweight person with a stupidly fast metabolism. My old manager was weirdly thingy about ducking out to get a snack or bringing my own snacks to eat at the desk, so any and all sugary work snacks, birthday cakes, lolly cupboards, etc were crucial to me not having a blood sugar crash and literally falling asleep on the phone. It’s a case of YMMV.

    1. Temperance*

      Popcorn is delicious, though? It’s really not that deep.

      I also really don’t understand the entire point of your comment here other than to shame people for eating sugar. GASP PEOPLE SOMETIMES EAT CAKE ON THE WEEKENDS.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            I am a vegetarian, and I also love popcorn and candy! And kale! I’m confused now…

      1. female peter gibbons*

        The entire point of my comment is the questioning and amusement of how the workplace became associated with sweets. I thought i made that really clear.

        1. female peter gibbons*

          no intent to shame whatsoever. if i say i didn’t intend to, i hope that people will be kind enough to believe it.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Yeah but intent =/= actually having something. Intent isn’t even half the battle. If you say something racist (obviously not comparable situation but the structuring is similar) but didn’t intend to, does it really make that much of a difference? You still said something racist and it was still fucked up, right?

            My point being is that I’m sick of the “didn’t intend to” argument as a way to completely negate personal responsibility. Ok I’m done.

        2. Sled dog mama*

          In the case of my work place itis associated with sugar because our clients bring in sweets like no one in the history of the world has ever thought of it.
          Tip for anyone who wants to thank a doctors office: those cookies will last weeks and go stale (especially at the holidays) but some fruit might last half an hour and will be GONE!

        3. Seacalliope*

          The thing is, it’s not associated with candy. You are starting from a premise that people have some preconception that needs to be dismantled for them to be happier and healthier. But work doesn’t equal candy. These people, as adults, chose to have it in their workplace and they don’t need saving from their “bad” habits.

    2. JKP*

      I think it’s similar to why coffee is always associated with work. It’s a way to self-medicate your energy levels. I don’t like coffee or pop or anything that has caffeine it in, so a little sugar rush is how I get an energy boost the same as someone would pour themselves a cup of coffee.

      Also, at work it’s easier to have just a little sugar and get that fix, to bring in cookies and just have one and share the rest, whereas at home you end up eating all the cookies because no one else is finishing them off.

      1. female peter gibbons*

        That’s a thoughtful response and well appreciated. I certainly need caffeine in the morning. I’ve tested it, tried going without coffee and couldn’t bear it. I have it black, before Temperance comes here and says something to me. LOL

    3. Nobby Nobbs*

      I just typed and deleted three nasty responses to this comment, so I’m going to ask whether someone smarter and less emotional about food than me can explain why it’s so upsetting. Because this food-shaming attitude is really upsetting.

      1. Temperance*

        I’m neither, but this comment made me pretty angry, so you aren’t alone. Monitoring what other adults eat and their habits is a jerky thing to do when it has literally no impact on your life. You aren’t better than anyone else because you snack on kale or whatever, and it’s fine if other adults aren’t health nuts.

        I feel like buying an eating an entire box of Peanut Butter Sandwiches on (gasp) Saturday and Sunday just because of this comment.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I feel that feel. Someone telling me SUGAR IS BAD makes me want to eat handfuls of Skittles and chug a coke while making super awkward, intense eye contact with them.

          I like kale. I like broccoli. I like cake. I like chips. I like kombucha. I like Coke. None of those preferences is moral in any way.

            1. female peter gibbons*

              I think that you are confusing me saying sugar is bad for me = sugar is bad for anyone else…….

              1. IndoorCat*

                You literally wrote, “I just think it’s weird that people think workplace should equal there should always be sugar nearby.” And, ” I think it’s awful, personally. It’s always sugar, sweets, baked goods, unhealthy things.”

                So, all the judgement words you used (“weird,” “awful,” “unhealthy”) are really ignorant and insulting. It’d be different if you said, “I prefer if there wasn’t sugar nearby” or “baked good are unhealthy for people trying to lose weight.” But you just made sweeping judgements of a whole swath of people just based on your own personal preference. So, right, people are going to push back on that.

                1. I don’t know why you think it’s weird. I think it’s normal. Work can sometimes be unpleasant; dessert makes people happy, and it tastes good, so why not? There are few things in the world that make someone’s day more pleasant that are also easy to do. Food is one of them.

                2. Awful? Really? Violence is awful. Disrespecting or demeaning people is awful. This is…a small happy-making thing that just happens to not make you, personally, happy.

                3. Everyone’s health needs are different. I personally need to consume a lot of calories per day (around 3000) to maintain a normal weight, due to a health condition (damage to my small intestine). Other people need to eat a small snack every hour or so for blood sugar reasons. Some people have celiac disease and can’t eat gluten at all, which means they can wind up on an a low-carb diet unintentionally, and they need to make up the short-term energy loss with sugar.

                I don’t mean to harp on you too intensely. I just think it’s important to unpack things to put more understanding in the world. I know I have said things out of ignorance before; it happens to everyone. So, hopefully in the future, we can all speak from a place of understanding, and try not to pass on ignorance by accident.

      2. LCL*

        I don’t see it as food shaming. FPG includes that they would never let themselves be around sweets and sympathized with the coworker. My only objection to the post is it sounds exactly like something my mother would say, but that’s my problem. Some people are just that way about food-work/leisure is for work/leisure and home is for eating, and stopping whatever you are doing whether fun or work to eat is weird and unnecessary. That’s not my attitude, but I never considered it shaming when my mother said it.

            1. Temperance*

              What would you call the remark about how you “hope” people don’t eat sugar on weekends, then?

              1. female peter gibbons*

                I just hope that humans have the capacity to go 8 hours without eating candy, and I’m wondering if most have tested that capacity, instead of mindlessly eating stuff at work, simply because it’s there and it’s offered. I find the tradition weird enough to question. We don’t NEED sweets at work, we don’t NEED popcorn at the movies, we don’t NEED dessert after dinner, they’re just common traditions.

                1. Colette*

                  People don’t need to watch movies, or TV, and some have never tested their capacity to go without. People don’t need to drive, or smoke, or drink.

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  Sorry, fpg, I was kinda sympathetic because I understand the urge to anthropologically view our environment, but the emotional descriptors you attached to food here made me go, ‘nope, that’s food shaming.’ If it helps you understand the reaction, here’s the specific things that hit me:

                  “hope” humans can go 8 hrs without eating candy

                  If you’re just exploring the tradition, you might use phrases more like ‘I’ve seen people go 8 hrs without candy’ and ‘regularly’ or ‘enthusiastically’ instead of ‘mindlessly’.

                3. Parenthetically*

                  Great Aunt Mildred announcing to whoever is listening, “Oh, I hope adults can get through this whole family gathering without drinking! I think it’s awful to be surrounded by beer all the time. Can’t adults just go without?” isn’t saying she thinks beer is ok for others but not for her, she’s saying there’s something bad or wrong or icky or unpleasant or un-self-controlled or your-preferred-negative-descriptor-here about beer and she sees it as a sign of maturity not to.

                  You are doing the same.

                4. female peter gibbons*

                  I’ve definitely questioned my need to drive! So much so that i do not own a car. I mean that’s why there’s walking and public transportation in general. Just because some things aren’t questioned often doesn’t mean we never question anything. Personal opinion. And I’ve never smoked so surely, there are people who question it out there.

                5. Kms1025*

                  We just WANT those things…and that’s perfectly ok. Just like you apparently do NOT want them…that’s ok too. Just NOT OK to tell someone else what they should want.

      3. MP*

        Hi Nobby Nobbs, I’ll give it a shot. Imagine that a significant amount of your value to society is tied up in how thin you are (what social groups you can be in, what mates you can attract, even what jobs you can get), and now imagine that millions of years of evolution has structured your body to survive in famine situations, and then on top of that all, throw in a food industry and culture that tries to maximize your calories, and well . . . So you don’t need to jump on her for making a simple request to start disassociating food and random non-food events like work and movies. She’s not food shaming, she is just bringing up a valid point. I think our newly sedentary culture needs to reimagine certain food traditions for our current situation.

        1. No food police*

          Oh piss off. Id rather be happy and eat skittles now and then instead of miserable, surviving off only spinach.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        I had the same reaction as you… But! An awful lot of the nicest kinds of candy have gelatine in them. That’s where I draw the line, personally: I eat it without reading the fine print, although I never eat actual meat. So sue me! :-p

        1. female peter gibbons*

          Sigh. I was just clarifying that I’m not one, because my two suggestions of healthy food happened to be vegetables. Not stating that they do or do not like candy. THat is it.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            But omnivores eat vegetables, too. (Although I did know one who only ate tomatoes, and only because they reminded him of ketchup.)

          2. Free Meerkats*

            Since you seem to be in an anthropological mindset, conduct an experiment. Set out a bowl of candy next to a bowl of kale and carrots and a bowl of assorted fruit. Monitor which gets eaten from most.

            I’m looking forward to the paper.

            These two sentences made your entire post food shaming, “I think it’s awful, personally. It’s always sugar, sweets, baked goods, unhealthy things.”

            1. female peter gibbons*

              I think a lot of things about the workplace are unhealthy. Another one is the idea that people should sit at a computer for 7-10 hours. Lack of breaks is another. Lack of physical mobility. Lack of fresh air. So, it’s funny that baked goods, desserts, and sugar are often piled onto that.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I worked one place where we were not allowed to have water. You had to get a doctor’s note for…. water. And these things here cover the physical aspects of a job, we haven’t even started on the psychological aspects.

    4. CaliCali*

      It’s because they’re cheap, non-perishable, conveniently sized for snacking, and often individually wrapped so you can grab them from a bowl. I don’t think this is some sort of Pavlovian workplace conditioning; people just like snacks, and those are the easiest sorts of snacks to buy and keep at an office.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        YES! This precisely. For meetings I have brought in large fruit trays, which were well received, as well as veggie trays, which went largely uneaten. I’ve even tried small individual bags of pretzels and trail mix, which I know aren’t the best for you, but aren’t as bad as some snacks. The overwhelming response was “where’s the freakin’ sugar?” The fact is that most items that are healthy for you, are not in convenient packaging and don’t stay good for very long.

      2. fposte*

        It’s also that high fat and high carb consumption are much more satisfying–we’re evolutionarily optimized to like that shizz.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        My employer just put into place a ‘free snack variety bar’. It’s got salted nuts in a tall dispenser, peanut mnms (ditto), 3 kinds of chips, apples and bananas (in small baskets). The bananas (mostly) get eaten but any not eaten have to be tossed every three days; the apples are being eaten less. The mnms go *fast*, the nuts less so.

        The dispensers look… not cheap – I’d guess they spent $100 or so on the set up, not including ongoing costs. Individually wrapped non-perishables in a bowl is way easier, especially if it’s being done by an individual like OP, not the company.

        Whatever the source / structure, the 3pm snack break helps my mental focus a lot.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Plus fresh fruit can be expensive and offices are notorious for cheapskatery. I tried to see if we could get the fruit bowls re-filled more often at work because people LOVED them and would ambush the fruit delivery man to secure the coveted mandarins before they even got to the bowls. But my manager noped it because it was ‘too expensive.’ Seriously. Everyone in that office would’ve been super happy to get more fruit. But one cheapskate is all it takes…

      4. SarahTheEntwife*

        And even baked goods, while perishable, usually hold up better than produce. I love fresh fruit, but chances are a work-provided fruit bowl would be full of red delicious apples and sad crunchy oranges.

    5. Ashley*

      Parts of my desk job can be so mind-numbingly boring and knowing that I can go to my coworker’s desk and pick up a little treat can make a not so fun situation just a little bit more tolerable. I think as long as there’s isn’t a parade of cakes and cookies coming through the office every day, there’s nothing wrong with having a little treat to make the day a bit better.

    6. Alfonzo Mango*

      I love candy. It’s delicious. Life is short, work is awful, I will continue to enjoy this cherry Valentine’s tootsie pop I brought in for the team.

    7. Sarah N*

      Dude, if you don’t want it, don’t eat it! And yes, I do eat sweets on the weekend too, sorry/not sorry.

      1. Dankar*

        I think I eat MORE sweets on the weekend! Sunday is for baking and no one can convince me otherwise.

    8. Alfonzo Mango*

      Consider the fact that humans are mammals that enjoy sweet foods and eating together is a communal way to build positive relationships. Both evolutionary traits that have helped us reach this point today.

        1. probably not great advice for most*

          Very true, but our body responds to fruit and vegetables differently than processed white sugar.

        2. Just Employed Here*

          Well… then it really has to be lots of tons of carrots, to be honest. Carrots don’t have a lot of sugar in them compared to M&M’s. And it takes a lot longer and more chewing to wolf down x amount of sugar in the form of carrots than in the form of candy…

              1. Parenthetically*

                I reject that categorization too, because it moralizes food. Food is food. Eat what you like and what makes you feel good (and that is available to you and that you can afford and prepare).

                Guilt, shame, fear, and ostracism are unhealthy too.

                1. kittymommy*

                  This like a million times. I don’t want to get too much into this thread, but I had to pop in and thank you for this comment.

        3. ElspethGC*

          I mean, I know someone who had to have a full root canal situation because of eating too many grapes. Yeah, they have a *lot* of sugar.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Grapes are not carrots… There’s a pretty big difference nutritionally. Which I’m sure you know already, but which is also why it’s not a good argument for the claim “carrots contain tons of sugar”.

    9. Parenthetically*

      “I personally would never, ever, ever, ever let myself be around sweets” wow, how do you go to the grocery store, there’s like a whole aisle of just sugar *eyeroll*

      Food is food, and orthorexia is just as disordered as anorexia and bulimia. Eat what you want and what makes you feel good. I had spinach, chickpeas, spiced chicken, and an Almond Joy for lunch. I don’t put any of those things into moral categories because food does not have a moral component to it.

        1. Parenthetically*

          Ha! :D

          I actually agree that there IS a moral component to how food is grown/raised/sourced but a) not everyone is able to consider that in how they choose food, and b) the food itself is just food.

    10. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I read the article. The results show that more people take more candy more often when the desk owner is away. When the person is there, the candy taker feels a need to say hi, or thanks, or some empty version of “I shouldn’t be doing this/I’m so bad, hee hee.” And people typically won’t go into a private office for it, much less open a candy drawer.

    11. your favorite person*

      I have a huge sweet tooth. It’s my guilty pleasure. I don’t drink much, but I understand why people do, and often at social events. You asking this very patronizing question would be like me saying, “I don’t see why everyone has to drink at a superbowl party. Why can’t you just drink water?!”

    12. Delphine*

      People…like to eat food. There’s nothing mysterious about it. Lots of people *will* munch on carrots or apples or oranges. My office has a fruit basket. We also have donuts and bagels and whatever other treats people decide to bring in. We have a cabinet full of granola.

      The workplace isn’t associated with sweets anywhere but in your own head. It’s associated with the availability of food to help you keep your energy up while you spend the majority of your day there.

    13. Crivens!*

      There is nothing wrong with people eating and enjoying candy. I urge you to reconsider thinking of food as having some sort of moral value, because that makes you part of the problem here.

    14. RebeccaNoraBunch*

      First of all, this comment feels very shame-y to people who may on occasion enjoy sugar. Not cool.

      However, to talk about why: I’m a sales trainer at a tech company, which means I have people in a gray-walled windowless classroom for 8 hours a day for 2-3 weeks at a time learning about complex technology and sales techniques. When I first became a trainer, a more experienced sales trainer told me to bring in two things: something to keep their hands busy (Play-Dough, fidget spinners, slinkies, etc) and sugar.

      I’ve been at my company for a year now. Every new class (every 3 weeks) I go to Target and by bags of candy and have a huge bowl of it in the training room. Very often, I ask the trainees for input and I get what they like/ask for. Every single time, they are delighted and the little sugar rush helps them get through the day. It’s often a bonding experience with the class telling me what they want and enjoying each others’ candy preferences. Also, former students know I have candy and they pop in for some, say hi to the newbies, and give them some advice now that they’ve “graduated” and are on the sales floor. Every single class, people profusely thank me for getting candy and say it really helps keep them engaged.

      Meanwhile, I personally am trying to eat healthier and often bring in snacks like raw veggies, sliced apples, berries, etc. I don’t believe in eating in front of other people without offering, so in the afternoons I sometimes will munch on my healthy snacks and offer them to others. Only about 3 times has anyone ever taken me up on a cucumber slice over a Reese’s miniature. They won’t be in training forever, and our company allows them to work out at lunch. I don’t get the sanctimony over a little bit of sugar. It’s really helped everyone I’ve ever brought through training. (And every once in awhile I have 1-2 pieces of candy too!)

    15. probably not great advice for most*

      On this… “I just think it’s weird that people think workplace should equal there should always be sugar nearby.”

      Yup. Perhaps I’ve been too influenced by Gary Taubes The Case Against Sugar. It’s like keeping a jar of free cigarettes on your desk. Workplaces should not shame anyone for their eating habits or even make eating habits a topic of discussion, but would it be so bad if the new norm was not putting substances on offer that are known to cause health serious problems?

      I like the idea of an opaque box as a compromise for this situation but to frame this more broadly we as a society have to question our ceaseless celebration of an inflammation agent that is known to cause and accelerate many diseases.

      1. Crivens!*

        Except sugar is fine in moderation and cigarettes are not. This is orthorexia. Sugar is not poison.

        1. probably not great advice for most*

          Sugar is fine in moderation is actually a subject of some scientific debate right now.

          And how do we become moderate when sugar is everywhere? It’s present in surprising quantities in many foods that we don’t even think of as sweet (ketchup, BBQ sauce, mayo, chips, crackers, salad dressing, spiced nuts).

          One take on this topic that I have read (in articles and books written by scientists and journalists who research science) is that large food companies have long added more sugar than necessary to all sorts of snack foods because they understand its addictive properties and want the consumer to be addicted (you can see why I made the tobacco analogy). We get trapped by our cravings and when we need to cut back due to a health problem, we find it very difficult to do so.

          I blame neoliberalism.

          1. fposte*

            I can’t tell if that last sentence is satire or not. If it’s a very dry sense of humor, try soaking it in a little sugar syrup :-).

            Sugar is added to stuff because it’s legal and it makes it sell better. I’m old enough to remember when the same was true of oat bran. Making people want more is marketing’s raison d’etre. Yes, our physiologies respond differently to different foods, but wanting more ≠ addiction.

          2. Parenthetically*

            Sugar is “addictive” in the same way that pleasure of all kinds — hanging out with friends, sex, a baby’s laughter — is “addictive.” All those things light up our pleasure centers (like cocaine and heroin) because of course they do. The recent Westwater/Fletcher/Ziauddeen survey of research and literature on the subject concludes that there’s no reason to believe sugar is uniquely addictive, any more than playing with your dog or hugging your kid are addictive. The research that shows sugar has addictive properties is done on stressed-out lab rats with limited access to sugar — of course they’re going to binge on quick-acting, tasty energy sources.

            Sugar “addiction” IS like smoking, though, in that some people seem to “get addicted to” (or rather, have compulsive behaviors around) the actions of eating, and it’s addressed like other behavioral compulsions.

            1. probably not great advice for most*

              “Sugar “addiction” IS like smoking, though, in that some people seem to “get addicted to” (or rather, have compulsive behaviors around) the actions of eating, and it’s addressed like other behavioral compulsions.”

              That’s exactly what I was getting at. If the behavior is repetitive and unwanted and a great deal of stress is expended on making moves to terminate the unwanted behavior without much movement forward, you could say it’s addictive.

              I am not someone who can quote research on this, but your gut microflora rearranges itself over time if you eat a sugary, high carb diet. This can create a feeling of physical dependence. People report headaches, irritability, and all sorts of physical symptoms when they terminate sugar from their diets (not so with the kid hugging), so that can be considered another dimension.

              1. CynicallySweet*

                I haven’t commented on this much but I’m gonna here. People have negative side effects when chemicals – ex dopamine and oxytocin – that are normally provided get deprived. Meaning if you hug your kid every day and then one day don’t you will have the same negative side effects. The brain doesn’t differentiate the sources, it just wants its fix.

                While I do find the language and time of the og comment problematic I don’t think it was coming from a mean spirited place, which I think is more important than some commenters are giving credit for… I am learning a lot tho. Shout out to Paranthetically for that!

          3. The PhD Is Purely Decorative*

            “Sugar is fine in moderation is actually a subject of some scientific debate right now.”

            No. No, it’s not a subject of scientific debate. At least, respected biomedical scientists don’t debate this. A few crackpots do, but they just want to sell books and Solve The World’s Problems With One Answer.

        1. probably not great advice for most*

          Haha. I think nutritional science is extremely complicated and therefore it’s hard to definitively *know* anything, but I’m glad that his ideas are out there for us to consider.

    16. Gumby*

      Ignoring the fact that fruit and vegetables and full on salads *do* show up in our work kitchen, part of the reason is that when you make food at home and bring it to work part of what you are sharing is your effort. Throwing a handful of baby carrots into a bowl is not making something in any reasonable sense. It also is not providing a treat – something special that people might not otherwise get for themselves. And… those salads in our kitchen last at most a few hours before being wilted and gross whereas individually wrapped candy lasts significantly longer.

      Some live performance venues near me have started allowing drinks into the theater which I just do not get. I can definitely live through 3 hours of ballet w/o drinking wine from a sippy cup. I guess I can see the flip-side, but as someone who had half a bag of popcorn poured down my back at the last sporting event I attended, I would prefer to skip the beverages inside the seating area of the opera house.

      1. Temperance*

        So for me, I like and enjoy wine, so getting to like and enjoy wine while doing something else I enjoy (the ballet) is part of it. Do I need wine? Of course not. Do I like and enjoy it? Yes, so I’m going to drink it.

      2. Vermonter*

        It’s an accessibility issue. Some people can go three hours without a drink, some can’t. This way, someone who needs to stay hydrated, keep electrolytes balanced, etc. can enjoy it instead of getting up, bothering everyone, and missing part of the show.

        1. Gumby*

          Water bottles with lids have always been allowed. I dare say if you absolutely needed a sports drink to balance electrolytes and could not take care of it during intermission, an accommodation would have been made requiring only a short conversation with patron services.

          Since the new policy applies only to drinks purchased at the concession stand (mostly coffee and wine) it is pretty blatantly coming from a profit motive. Which, again, is up to the venue. But it was in no way, in the 2 venues at which I usher, an accessibility issue.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        Uh, if someone at my job threw some baby carrots into a bowl and brought them in to share, I would most DEFINITELY consider it a treat, even if I could do it for myself….

      1. female peter gibbons*

        thanks for the one of the very few positive replies! I have no idea how people took this so wrong and like i have some crazy evil malicious intent. I actually LOVE sugar, sweets, and incidentally i’m a big drinker too! I never meant to judge anyone or shame anyone geez. I just don’t allow myself to be around sweets personally so it’s weird that the place that I go to 9-5 everyday always has baked goods , desserts, sweets, and treats nearby.

        Somehow this turned into I’m some kind of fascist because I don’t get it?

        1. Rocky*

          You literally wrote “I’ll never understand why the workplace MUST be associated with sweets. I think it’s awful, personally.” You think it’s awful, personally. That’s the judging, right there in black and white.

      1. probably not great advice for most*

        Nope. I do not enjoy a bowl of carrots all that much, but I enjoy knowing that the joint inflammation issues that I was experiencing have lessened since I gave up sugar. I can also say that palates recalibrate when you commit to excluding certain foods for health reasons so it’s not so bad. I jog with my dog pain-free and his smile (he really does smile) is reward enough for me.

        I’m also genuinely excited to see where nutritional research is going next. If I can increase the chance that I will be a sharp as a tack 80 year-old by eating carefully, I’m going to give it a shot.

        I promise, though, I also support not discussing food at work so that NO ONE feels shamed or judged. It works both ways. Healthy eaters are often framed as “no fun,” “judgmental,” “rigid,” and “anti-celebration.” I have a chronic illness that I never discuss at work. I feel 100x better if I manage my diet so having someone roll their eyes/comment on my “boring” salad and smoothie is tiresome.

        1. Parenthetically*

          I don’t judge anyone for anything they eat, because my food choices are my own and no one else’s, and vice versa. I DO judge people for framing what they eat as “healthy/unhealthy” vs. “this is what I’ve found works best for my body/other foods work less well for my body (with a side note of recognizing that being able to find, purchase, prepare, and eat whole, unprocessed foods is a product of lots of kinds of privilege)”

          1. probably not great advice for most*

            “I DO judge people for framing what they eat as ‘healthy/unhealthy’ vs. “this is what I’ve found works best for my body/other foods work less well for my body”

            That’s a really good point and important framing.

            I honestly loathe discussing food choices at work so I have never had this conversation aloud with coworkers, thank goodness. When speaking to someone in person, I would never want to set up a healthy/unhealthy paradigm based around what works for me. But I don’t think it’s entirely relative either. For most, organic spinach is healthier than a Snickers bar because of vitamin content, how it interacts with our intestinal flora and so on…

            “…with a side note of recognizing that being able to find, purchase, prepare, and eat whole, unprocessed foods is a product of lots of kinds of privilege”

            Agree so strongly with this point. But that gets back to my ask that workplaces make the commitment to put out less processed, slightly more expensive foods for snacking like fruits and veggies.

            1. Parenthetically*

              There are SO MANY factors that go into why I might choose a Snickers over a bowl of organic spinach, and hundreds of other factors that go into why other people might choose the Snickers too — in which that Snickers might be a healthier choice than the spinach (salicylate or histamine intolerances, kidney stones, spinach makes them vomit but the Snickers stays down and they’re on chemo or pregnant, etc.), and that’s not even mentioning the fact that we need calories to survive and living on the cusp of poverty is exhausting and sometimes you just really DO need the snickers because you lack the mental energy to try to find the “best” option at the convenience store. So many factors, in fact, that I think classing foods in that way goes beyond useless and into harmful.

              1. probably not great advice for most*

                I absolutely understand that it’s all relative and that daily choices are driven by many factors including how much $ we have in our pockets on a given day/our energy level/what is available in our neighborhoods/what works for our bodies. We don’t need to interrogate people on individual choices.

                But I’ll still argue that we should collectively lobby for better grocery stores and veggie markets in low-income areas (which means we have to categorize/prioritize what’s needed somewhat). My vote would be for increasing the availability and affordability of produce.

                1. Parenthetically*

                  And I would disagree with none of that. I think all the energy that people pour into heaping scorn on people for their food choices would be far better used in lobbying for food access.

        2. processed sugar blues*

          I am with you on sugar. I also have a chronic illness that I am able to manage by following a few food guidelines that, to me, are well worth the effort.

          One extra bonus I observed, as a menopausal woman, is the direct correlation between processed sugar consumption and hot flashes. Significant reduction of hot flashes and the ability to sleep through the night are well worth removing most processed sugar from my diet. When I choose to indulge, it’s planned and I know to expect a poor night’s sleep and a few days of frequent and intense hot flashes. But it’s my choice.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Personally if someone offered me a bowl of fresh home-grown carrots at work I would probably cry with joy. They’re pretty g-dang good. And fresh peas! So nice! And Tim Tams! Maybe I just like food in general though…..

      2. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

        Carrots, not especially–but I’d have been one of the three people who chose a cucumber slice over a Reese’s miniature. That’s not virtue, that’s actual preference; I like some candy, and I like some vegetables (roast sweet potatoes are inconvenient for snacking at work, though).

        But my preference for cucumber or cherry tomatoes over either raw carrots or some candy shouldn’t determine what other people eat.

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        I love carrots! But I also love my coworkers and they don’t want to hear me eating carrots at my desk all day ;-)

        1. probably not great advice for most*

          That’s an Ask a Manager letter I would like to read (my coworker’s carrot munching is too loud!)

    17. Koala dreams*

      The movie thing is easy – cinemas get a lot of money by selling snacks. Sure, people can do without, I went to a movie showing with no snack bar just the other day, and it went fine (only a few people brought in snacks from outside). It’s easier for the cinema to stock candy compared to fruits and vegetables, which would need more food prep and more work from the employees.

      The workplace thing I don’t know, in my experience workplace snacks can be sweet, salty or fruit/vegetables. I’m not sure the sweet snacks are more popular than the other snacks. In my experience fruit is quite popular.

      1. female peter gibbons*

        Yes, theatres make the majority of their money on concessions. I was a movie theatre manager for 3 years. I am not a huge popcorn fan, but obviously, I’ve seen enough in my life to understand that others are.

    18. Kelly L.*

      When people get large amounts of food at the movie theater, that’s usually dinner. Movies are often closer to 3 hours long these days, and you sometimes don’t want to eat before the movie because what if service is slow and you miss the beginning of the movie, but you also don’t want to eat dinner at 10:30pm, so you eat at the movies.

    19. Tin Cormorant*

      Candy lasts pretty much indefinitely as long as it’s wrapped, so you can easily buy a bag and leave it in a little bowl on your desk. Fresh vegetables have a very limited shelf life, especially after being prepared in a way that makes them tasty to snack on, so if you’re just kinda… leaving them out there at room temperature for people to take, they’re going to get gross pretty quick and lead to lots of food waste. I’m not sure why this comparison is even a thing.

      The second issue is size. It’s hard for me to think of a non-candy shelf-stable snack that comes in similarly small packaging that it would work well in a small bowl that would take up minimum desk space. Maybe those little oranges you can buy in bags? That’s about the biggest I would put in a bowl like that. If it were my desk, I’d probably have a bowl of individually-wrapped teabags of a bunch of different flavors, but that’s just because I drink so much tea! It’s not really a snack though.

    20. EventPlannerGal*

      At my workplace, whenever we have visitors in for more than an hour or two we put out a bowl of mixed fruit (red and green apples, oranges, bananas) and a plate of cookies for them. Both get consumed pretty quickly, and we often have to tell the staff to stop eating all the fruit before the visitors get anything. So if both are available, my anecdata is that people will happily eat either fruit/veggies or candy.

      However, this works because there is a person whose job duties include ordering the snacks, keeping track of what’s in date, filling up the bowls and so on, which is something you obviously have to do with much greater regularity with perishable things like fruit. The cookies are ordered 20 packs at a time and will keep for months if unopened. So in terms of what things are easiest to provide for an office, most people will go with the candy because it’s just easier. It’s not really a mystery or a terrible addiction to sugar.

    21. Grace*

      Yep, that’s really unhealthy, especially now that we know just how bad sugar is for you, it does more than make you fat. Before Christmas, my office was full of junk food and high calorie food and some of it just appeared without any notice. It was terrible. Thankfully, several people jokingly complained to the boss that there’s too much unhealthy food and now it’s all gone. Life is so much better now, I can enjoy my fruit snacks and there’s no chocolate or popcorn temptation. My weight loss efforts are finally working.

      1. Sugar Sugar*

        I am so sorry for you. Your life experiences have done you a grave disservice in teaching you these appaling, unhealthy, outdated foolish messages about weight, health and diet. It must be so unpleasant and unhappy to try to live like that. You deserved better.

        You need to stop inflicting this crap on others though. You are becoming part of the problem!

    22. Jadelyn*

      It’s a self-soothing mechanism, I think. Most people would rather be at home than at work. Having treats available makes being somewhere you don’t want to be more palatable. Plus humans are genuinely not meant to focus their energy and attention on one thing for 8 hours at a stretch, and resort to artificial boosts to energy and focus like sugar.

      1. smoke tree*

        I believe that in Britain, factory workers used to be provided tea and sugar because it was a cheap way to give them enough energy that they could work long hours without passing out from exhaustion. I remember discussing this in an ecology class years ago but I can’t remember the source. I think the reason contemporary office workers drink a lot of coffee and eat a lot of sweets are probably similar, although now self-administered.

    23. ARCH*

      “I personally would never, ever, ever, ever let myself be around sweets, so I sympathize with the coworker.”

      I’m confused about this statement. Unless you never leave your home, you cannot control whether you are around sweets or not, because you are not entitled to control other people’s behavior.

      the idea that someone can choose to “never, ever, ever, ever let myself be around sweets” is exactly what makes the coworker’s behavior problematic. Its just entirely unreasonable.

    24. biobotb*

      It’s funny how worked up you are at the thought of people doing two enjoyable things at once (popcorn + movie). Why is it somehow morally superior to only do one enjoyable thing at a time?

      1. female peter gibbons*

        I didn’t even act the tiniest bit worked up, and I never once mentioned issues of morality.

        My exact words were: “There’s no need to actually eat popcorn during a movie. LOL. (Not that I mind that people do it. That’s fine. I don’t, personally.)”

        That sounds worked up to you?

    25. aebhel*

      People like snacks? I don’t know, this seems like a weirdly catastrophic approach. The fact that there are brownies in the break-room doesn’t obligate me to eat them, but it is nice when I forget to bring lunch.

    26. Sue*

      I think it’s boredom a lot. I eat things at work that I would never even think to buy for myself. I don’t even like donuts that much, but I’ll eat them at work sometimes.

  9. Anne Bonny*

    Ask her if there’s a candy she doesn’t like. Stock that for a couple of weeks. Hopefully, the temptation will be lower if she hates the offering.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      That’s a really good thought! Maybe you can ask, as a peace offering, if there’s something you can keep that won’t be tempting. Nuts worked, right? (When my roommate couldn’t keep herself from snacking on my food, I made the switch to all licorice and grapefruit snacks for a while, and it worked like a charm :)

    2. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

      This is a great point. I was also wondering if maybe this co-worker just really loves Hersey’s Kisses or something. Because the candy dish doesn’t sound like it’s a new addition — it’s something OP has been doing all along. So why is the co-worker only just getting worked up about it now?

      I keep a candy dish on my desk, too, and I try to keep it stocked with candy I don’t particularly like, because if my favorites are in there, I will eat candy all. Day. Long. But if it’s candy I don’t like, I just ignore it and forget it’s there half the time.

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        I like using a candy dish to get rid of all the stuff from variety packs that I don’t like. I sort out all the ones I really like and put them on a high shelf in my pantry in case of cravings, then put all the rest of the stuff I don’t really care about in the dish for other people.

    3. league.*

      This, THIS is a terrific idea. Remove the temptation for just the person who’s complaining about it. Lovely compromise.

    4. CoveredInBees*

      That was my thought as well. Although I don’t have much of a sweet tooth to begin with, you would have to pay me to eat candies with whole peanuts in them. Peanut M&Ms, snickers, paydays, etc do nothing for me and I wonder if she has things she can more easily skip by.

    5. Colette*

      Back in the day when I had a candy dish, I exclusively stocked hard candies because they are enjoyable, but they take time – you’re not going to eat 10 of them. Something like that might also work.

    6. JM*

      That reminds me of something I did to stop myself from snacking – in college I majored in Elementary Education, and after graduating I worked as a substitute teacher for a while (I’m now in a different field). As part of my “kit” of supplies/activities/time-fillers that I used as a sub, I had a bag of candy that could be used for rewards or as part of a game. I generally try to eat healthy, but have a hard time resisting candy that’s right in front of me. So, I used only tootsie rolls and other chewy candy, which I couldn’t eat because I had braces at the time. It worked great!

    7. myswtghst*

      Oh, I like this idea. It allows OP to acknowledge the issue (and maybe even ask Jane to please not meddle with things on her desk/go into her desk drawers) but also to offer a compromise.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Ha, yes. Fill a bowl with Skittles and Starburst and I will avoid it. Fill it with chocolate or Werther’s Originals and I will be in your face every day. (OK, not every day. I play “I will not be tempted” games with myself.)

    9. CynicallySweet*

      This! It’s actually something I do. I have a candy dish at my desk (it was a way to get people to come over and talk to me when I was new), but I know I don’t have a ton of self control, so I purposely stock it with candy I’m not a big fan of!

  10. KHB*

    This is a theme I see come up in letters here all the time: how expressing yourself in a flawed way can detract from a perfectly valid point. For example, someone writes in saying that their coworker is trying to push them to do something differently, but they’re doing it in an obnoxious or annoying way, so the question becomes all about “Why does my obnoxious/annoying coworker think she gets to tell me what to do?” when maybe it really should be “Do I actually need to be doing this thing differently?”

    Yes, OP, you’re right that you coworker should not have moved things on your desk. But now that she’s gotten her actual concern out in the open, it’s not really about that anymore. And now that you know her actual concern, the kind thing for you to do would be to find a different place to keep the candy bowl where it’s not in her line of sight all day – whether that’s a designated candy drawer in your desk, a corner of your desk that’s behind some file folders, someone else’s desk, the break room, or wherever.

    1. Snark*

      But it’s not a perfectly valid point. OP does not need to be involved in managing this person’s temptation to eat candy.

      I like french fries. Just crave the crap out of them. I have only to walk across the street and I can get them, hot and crispy, for less than a dollar. Nobody needs to hide the fries, or bar me from entering the cafeteria, or otherwise do anything to manage my currently very strong temptation to go get a clamshell full of them and go to town.

      1. KHB*

        Good for you. But OP’s coworker is not you, and her relationship to candy is not the same as your relationship to french fries.

        I guess I don’t see why you wouldn’t look for a solution that’s acceptable to all parties here, assuming that one exists.

        1. Snark*

          I think Coworker should definitely do so! But I don’t think it’s on OP to proactively come up with the compromise, because it’s not her temptation to manage.

          1. KHB*

            And if Coworker had been the one to write in, that would be good advice for her, but she wasn’t. “The solution to your problem is for other people to be different” is not really actionable advice.

            I don’t think OP is obligated to help Coworker manage her temptation, but I do, as I said, think it would be a kind thing to do, if can be done with minimal inconvenience to everyone else. And performing that kindness gives her all the more leverage to say, “OK, I’ve done this thing for you, and in exchange I need to ask you to agree to never, ever go poking around in my desk again.”

            1. Snark*

              That’s a fair point re: the leverage, but my point for OP is, she actually doesn’t need to feel obligated or expected to do anything but be open to a reasonable compromise here.

              1. ket*

                I think we all agree OP doesn’t need to, isn’t obligated to.

                The question is how she *wants* to behave. There is a range of choices, and it’s worth being able to consider them all without the rush of righteous anger that comes along with arguments and power struggles. That’s what AAM is for.

            2. Ellie*

              The thing is, poking around in someone’s desk without permission is a violation of boundaries and personal space. Not doing that should be the baseline for any normal adult, not something granted “in exchange” for something. It’s dangerous to allow cessation of inappropriate behaviour to be seen as a concession or something the person is able to grant you or negotiate with.

          2. MRM*

            I mean in an ideal everything is fair world, no. But in the world we live in we sometimes have to deal with things that aren’t our fault. Continuing to fight publicly with a coworker about something trivial doesn’t serve anyone and doesn’t look good. Saying “she started it” won’t make it look better. This isn’t a hill to die on, so OP needs to resolve it. Which is why she wrote in for advice. “You’re right she’s wrong” isn’t helpful advice. Why keep repeating it?

            1. Snark*

              Because that’s not what I’m saying. My advice is, be open to a reasonable compromise, but this is not your problem to solve or your compromise to come up with. That is actionable and reasonable. It’s not particularly proactive in making everything better for the coworker, but guess what? It doesn’t need to be.

        2. AnyoneAnywhere*

          I really agree with KHB. I don’t think that people get, sometimes, how complicated people’s relationship with food can be. Maybe the reason that she was so aggressive about it was because she is dealing with an eating disorder/ food addiction that is triggered by candy. I know people think those are conditions of “willpower,” but it seriously is more complicated than that. Try to be compassionate, too. It’s not like having a candy dish is a God-given right or a human rights violation if it is removed.

      2. Ampersand*

        But what if, instead of being across the street, the fries were right outside your office, and they were free for the taking, and you had to walk by them every time you went to the copy machine, or the bathroom, or to ask someone a question, and every time you passed by, there was an internal struggle you had to fight, and every time you lost that battle, you then felt a little bit bad about that? Yes, it’s still your battle to fight, of course, but it seems that the person with fries on their desk could feel a bit of compassion.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I mean, unless my coworker has a deep fryer under their desk, I have no issues at all with resisting cold soggy fries.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          And that job is called hospitality. Fries EVERYWHERE. Leftover arancini balls and crispy pork belly! Sliced raw radish that didn’t make it into the salad! (God I really was a hobbit in a previous life…)

      3. Annie*

        You liking french fries =/= a person with a potentially life threatening eating disorder.

        (I’m not saying Jane definitely does have an ED but all the comments suggesting that EDs are just a case of poor will power are really shockingly ableist. It’s an illness!!)

        1. Yorick*

          You have said all over that this is an eating disorder, and you need to understand that some people overeat without having an eating disorder. People without eating disorders might also feel entitled to do whatever they want with other people’s stuff.

        2. sourgold*

          It is an illness. I should know — I live with it. Every day of my life. It’s an enormous, awful burden and I struggle with it constantly.

          You know what I don’t do? Tell people they’re not allowed to have snacks in my line of sight. Or put moral values on specific foods — in fact the entire focus of my ongoing recovery is in dissociating food from notions of good or evil. Or try to force my disorder on anybody else.

          No one here is saying that EDs are a case of poor willpower; they’re saying that OP’s coworker has no right to project their own issues on everyone else. Could a compromise be reached? Sure! But there is nothing to indicate that Jane’s life is threatened by an ED, and I sure would appreciate it if you stopped using people like me to push whatever point you’re trying to make.

        3. Snark*

          You’re way off base assuming this is an eating disorder. That’s my point. We have no idea if this is an ED or if this is just like me with fries. It could be, it most likely is not. And it really doesn’t matter either way.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I agree, I think OP is a little fixated on the violation of someone opening one of her drawers and/or moving her property, and that’s distracting her here. While I agree that it’s not cool to do that, I think it also varies by office culture and personal feelings about private spaces at work, and it’s not worth creating a war to get an apology over. It sounds like there are some reasonable compromises available but this Privacy issue is holding OP back from seeing them.

      1. Jasnah*

        I agree. I know it varies by workplace, but in most of my offices, my boss/coworkers are allowed to go through my desk if they need something. My office at work is not truly private. If they went through my purse or my pockets, that would be different.

        For example, if OP left the candy/food in or on her desk and it rotted, and coworker threw it out, I think that would be an acceptable reason to touch her stuff.

        So while I agree that in this instance, the coworker crossed a line, to me this is the perfect opportunity to “what would Michelle Obama do” and “go high” even as others go low.

    3. INeedANap*

      I agree that the co-worker’s real concern, now being in the open, deserves consideration. But I disagree that it’s not about moving things on OP’s desk anymore.

      Going on to OP’s desk, removing an item, opening a drawer to hide said item – and doing it multiple times – is a really inappropriate boundary violation. Not only, she doubled down on her right to interfere with OP’s personal items and workspace.

      So I think that is something that still needs to be handled, no matter what happens with the candy dish. The way that this person felt free to rearrange, and rummage around in, OP’s workspace is it’s own issue, separate from how the candy dish is handled.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Oh, I don’t know about this. There are many offices I’ve worked where it’s not considered that your desk is really your inviolable personal space – definitely your employer doesn’t hold that you have reasonable expectation of privacy. I’ve had bosses go through my drawers to find files, etc., or coworkers who dig through my stuff to find a pen or white out or whatever. I sympathize that OP doesn’t like the feeling and I think it’d be fair to bring it up, but I don’t think it’s such a universal violation of rules that it completely precludes OP from trying to be reasonable on the issue of the candy jar.

        1. INeedANap*

          Oh I definitely think OP should be reasonable about the candy jar – I see that as a separate issue from the desk thing. I just don’t think she should completely dismiss the desk thing either.

          I think the big difference between the violation vs. non-violation part (to me, anyways) is the reason. Looking for a file, or grabbing a pen, those feel like legitimate reasons to pop into someone’s desk. But hiding someone’s personal belongings feels like a very non-legitimate reason to be in a desk.

          Like, if you’re grabbing a pen, go for it. But if you’re rummaging in there without a good reason, then I see that as the violation part.

          Add that to the fact that the co-worker wasn’t going for “work” property (like a file or a pen) but for personal property, and that’s why to me this seems like it’s own separate issue to address.

        2. TootsNYC*

          if you’re out of the office all day today and tomorrow, and your phone is set to ring really loudly, would a colleague be OK to go and turn the volume down so it doesn’t disturb them?

          If your colleagues throw a shrieking monkey around the office, and it annoys you, is it OK for you to take it and hide it? or break it?

        3. Colette*

          I agree that a desk isn’t really private – but I also don’t think that coworkers should be rooting through it without a valid, work-related reason. It’s like if someone leaves their phone in the kitchen. It’s reasonable to check to see if you can figure out who it belongs to. It’s not reasonable to go through it and transfer their contacts to your phone, read their text messages, and send an email to a mutual colleague.

          1. TootsNYC*

            But setting a bowl in a drawer is just not that invasive–it’s not at all akin to transfering contacts or reading their text messages.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        This. I keep my purse, with my wallet, meds, car keys, etc in it, in a drawer in my desk. I would freak way out if I found out a coworker was going into my drawers while I was away.

        I would also start locking the drawers anytime I’m away from my desk; regardless of whether I’d choose to continue the candy dish tradition or not.

    4. Observer*

      I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. Because CW seems to have made it clear that she feels that it’s on the OP to manage her temptations and that she can enforce this expectation on the OP. So, while I do think that it would both kind and sensible for the OP to make some changes, it is not really just about the coworker sating a valid complaint in a bad way, part of her expectation really is NOT reasonable.

      1. KHB*

        I think this is actually an example of exactly what I was talking about. Your assessment of the situation is so overwhelmed by your perception that CW thinks she can tell OP what to do, that the central question – “Can we maybe find someplace to put the candy dish where people who want candy can get it, but people who don’t want to look at candy don’t have to look at it?” (which is a reasonable question, even if the answer turns out to be “no”) – is getting lost.

        1. Observer*

          I disagree that that is the central question. I think it is *A* question – and a reasonable one. But it is NOT the only one.

    5. Yorick*

      OP could find someone who seemed enthusiastic about the candy whose desk isn’t near Jane and ask if they can keep it on their desk. You could cheerfully say “people over by me are trying not to eat candy.”

  11. Snark*

    This notion that there is an onus on everyone around us to manage our persona baggage, idiosyncracies, and triggers is getting increasingly abrasive and annoying. I’m of course on board with avoiding obvious offenses, insults, and omissions, such as those against entire classes of people or which significant subsets of people may be reasonably assumed to be affected by. But if you can’t suppress your urge to graze out of a community candy jar, that’s your problem to manage yourself.

    1. Anonandon*

      I have to agree with you – especially when co-worker OPENED THE DESK DRAWER and put the candy inside. That is so not cool. I’m probably in the minority here, but I’d also be inclined to say “Your problem is your problem to manage, not mine. And by the way, go p*ss up a rope.” No one is forcing her to walk over to someone else’s desk and take some candy. I’m not feeling very adult-y today, I guess.

      1. IndoorCat*

        Yes. The desk-drawer thing crosses a line.

        I know there is wisdom in compromise. But, there is also wisdom in standing up for yourself and defending your boundaries. I keeping trying to figure out a way to say, in better words, “If you apologize to me for violating my desk space, offer a way to make it up to me, and promise to never open my desk drawers or move my stuff again, then I will forgive you / accept your apology. At which point, I’m open for talking about compromise.”

        The refusal to apologize and change her ways means, to me, that an offer to compromise is cowotwing to an insult and disrespect. Maybe that is a cultural viewpoint that isn’t mainstream. Still, to me, I will not consent to a compromise where I must sacrifice some of my self-respect for the good of group harmony. There is a lot I would be willing to sacrifice, but self-respect just isn’t one of those things.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      On the other hand, I think putting a file in front of the candy dish or something is a reasonable compromise in the Small Things That Will Make Other’s Lives Easier department. I don’t think there’s a moral onus, but if a coworker asked me for almost an minor compromise, I’d probably at least try in the spirit of working together – even if I thought the request was kind of silly or whatever.

      1. Snark*

        Sure! And if Coworker had led with that, it would have been a lot more reasonable. And Coworker can certainly request that now. But I don’t think the onus was on OP to proactively manage this, or that it is on her now.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Yes! The reasonable thing to do, in a collegial office, is to say something like, “I know it’s not your job to manage my candy consumption, but is there any way you could (put a file in front the the bowl/use a covered dish/not have Kisses because they are my favorite/some other reasonable idea)? I would really appreciate it!”

      3. Tiny Soprano*

        I think I should get a job at their office. I’m very good at helping people save themselves from food. Because I eat the food. Problem solved.

    3. I liked my name til someone took it*

      Agreed. This person’s lack of willpower to walk by the candy dish without noshing is not the LW’s problem.

    4. MLB*

      Thank you. I was trying to put my thoughts into words and it wasn’t coming out right, but this right here is spot on. A large majority of people these days think everything is someone else’s fault instead taking responsibility for themselves and their actions. It’s not Jane’s problem that I have a sweet tooth and lack of willpower when chocolate is laid out in front of me to eat. It’s my problem. This co-worker needs some boundaries set.

    5. MuseumChick*

      Yup. There is a find line between have a Sensitive and Supportive work environment and whatever the heck this co-worker is asking for.

    6. pleaset*

      Not “manage” but have some empathy to them, and help if we can. Is that really too much to ask?

      1. Parenthetically*

        You can have empathy while also saying, “Hey, you have to come up with a solution that isn’t to take the candy dish and hide it somewhere.”

      2. MLB*

        But why? She’s not dancing around the co-worker, candy dish in hand and singing about it’s contents. It’s on her desk. Which means co-worker has to get up to see the candy dish. It’s no different than putting leftover cake in the break room and letting everyone know it’s in there. I’m not dragging the lady by the hair and forcing her to eat the cake. It’s up to her to avoid the temptation.

      3. MuseumChick*

        Having empathy is a world away from what this co-worker is asking for. She doesn’t get to dictate what food others bring into the office just because she struggles with self control (as most of us do).

        She doesn’t get the violate her co-workers space. She doesn’t get to make unilateral decisions.

        What she does get to do is go to her the OP and say, “Hey, I have something awkward to ask you. I’ve been trying to get better with healthy eating. I’ve found that the candy dish is a huge temptation for me. It’s much worse when you are not at your desk. I know this is a strange thing to ask but could we place is X location when you are away from your desk? Or would you be open to stocking it with nuts or other healthy option instead?”

      4. Nervous Accountant*

        touching someone else’s property isn’t empathy?
        I’m finding it strange that it’s the OP’s responsibility to be kind and compassionate, and nothing about the person making the unreasonable demands.

      5. Ann O.*

        These things need to be two way flows. Other people in the office gets pleasure out of the candy dish, the co-worker is taking that away. She is placing her needs above everyone else’s, even though her self-control is really her own issue to manage.

        I also agree with IndoorCat that it does matter that the co-worker crossed a line and not only hasn’t apologized for it but said she’d do it again. I understand Alison’s point about not getting drawn into a war about it, but I’m pretty bristly at the idea that the reasonable person always ends up the one compromising or changing behavior.

        That said, I do think it’s worth seeing if there is a way to compromise that puts the onus back on the unreasonable co-worker (like perhaps having her desk moved to be out of sight of the candy dish).

    7. JKP*

      Totally agree! Also, this is more than just OP vs Coworkers preferences. It sounds like many other people in the office were enjoying the candy dish and bringing in candy to refill it, which is probably why OP left it out even when she wasn’t in the office. Basically the Coworker wants to deny all of those people the communal candy dish also. The Coworker needs to learn her own coping skills to deal with temptation and not expect everyone around her to remove temptation on her behalf.

    8. Les G*

      This coworker would have found a way to act unreasonably and center herself in any time period. Let’s not draw “kids these days with their trigger warnings”-type conclusions based on an edge case.

    9. Nervous Accountant*

      Thank you. I agree 100% with you and I don’t find this unkind or mean at all.
      Look I personally have my struggles, my issues. But I would never expect the world to cater to my issues….. my issues are mine to deal with.

      It’s one thing to be nice and go out of your way, but it shouldn’t turn into an expectation and that if you do NOT do it, you’re an unkind or nasty person and that’s kind of the vibe I’m getting here.

      You’re not an asshole if you dn’t bend over backwards for someone demanding you to manage their issues.

    10. Lynn Marie*

      But why is it on the co-worker to manage the OP’s emotional need to keep candy on her desk?

    11. Aurion*

      Thank you for putting my reaction into words. I freely admit I am very protective of my space and things, so my immediate reaction to the coworker’s boundary violation and doubling down was “oh, f*** off”. Is that mature? No. Is that resolving the problem? Also no. If Coworker had approached OP with “hey, can you do me a favour…” my reaction would be much more accommodating, but at this point Coworker has forfeited any proactive helpfulness OP might’ve been inclined to.

      My boss and coworkers can feel free to dig around my desk for work purposes. Candy dish ain’t it. I would’ve been very hard pressed to not retort “so, are your desk drawers open season now too?”

      After I’d calmed down a bit, I’d probably change the candy dish to something opaque and hide it behind a file folder…but if Coworker has a problem with that still, then she’s going out of her way to have a problem, and I’d escalate the desk-rummaging and attitude to management.

      1. Aurion*

        Okay, now that I’ve calmed down a bit from my immediate “OH HELL NO”

        I think the easiest way to do this would be to have the candy dish on someone else’s desk when OP is out. OP still enjoys the community aspect when they’re in. When OP is out, John a few desks over (who also enjoys the candy dish) can hold onto the dish. John gets the community aspect, OP isn’t missing out on the community aspect because they are literally not in the office, having the dish on someone else’s desk is enough to deter Coworker from eating the candy or otherwise violating OP’s desk. Add opaque containers as needed.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Does it matter that she didn’t “dig around” in the desk? She opened a drawer and set the bowl in it.

        1. Anxious*

          Someone breaks into your house and rearranges your furniture. Why are you calling the police if they didn’t steal anything?

    12. smoke tree*

      Sure, but on the other hand, I think the coworker’s mishandling of this situation is lending it a lot more righteous indignation than it really deserves. Her position is clearly ridiculous, but it’s sucking the LW into treating the whole thing as a referendum on personal responsibility and privacy, when at the end of the day, this is someone she barely knows and has to deal with every day. It’s not her responsibility to manage the coworker’s temptations, but it’s also not her responsibility to inspire the coworker to change her perspective, ridiculous as it is.

      1. Marthooh*

        “…the coworker’s mishandling of this situation is lending it a lot more righteous indignation than it really deserves.”

        Thank you for putting it so well. OP is completely in the right the candy-dish-in-the-drawer business, but she made the tactical mistake if letting Jane drag her into a dramatic showdown, and now they both look silly.

    13. Arya Snark*

      Exactly. As someone who could use to lose more than a few pounds, I empathize with Jane but I draw the line at being responsible for her inability to manage her own issues around someone else’s candy dish. I would never have one on my own desk because I would stock it with things I like and eat them to excess but it’s not up to me to dictate what someone else can or cannot put on their own desk. I had a work lunch recently scheduled by someone who knew I am dieting but I didn’t put the onus of finding an acceptable restaurant on her any more than I made her responsible for my choice to eat any of the amazing bread they put on the table.

  12. WellRed*

    I think the coworker is being ridiculous, and she had ZERO right to move your dish, etc etc. But, I also get sick of passing by tempting food stuffs all the time. Although a candy dish on somone’s desk wouldn’t bother me, constant cookies or what have you in communal areas might, so I sympathize a teeny bit with her.
    I’d file this under not a hill to die on.

    1. Hmmm*

      Not a hill to die was my exact thought. There are so many other battles to have in life, this is not one of them. I understand the LW’s knee-jerk reaction to the co-worker’s rude actions and statements, but now it needs to be let go. In a war over a candy dish there will be no winners. Especially if management needs to get involved.

  13. Home Based Worker FTW!*

    My husband and I like to use this phrase on each other, (mostly) in jest: Do you want to be right, or happy?

    Sometimes you just can’t have both.

      1. Drew*

        That’s why it’s a question, not a directive. You get to decide which is more important in the moment.

    1. KHB*

      Interesting that you bring this up. I have a close friend who long ago decided that he’d rather be right than happy, and occasionally he uses that to justify some oddly self-destructive behaviors. For example, he’ll declare that he just has a feeling that Goal X is not going to work out for him, then sabotage his own efforts to achieve Goal X, and declare victory, because he just knew that he wasn’t going to achieve Goal X.

      I’m seeing some of that in the replies here. Yes, you have the option of going scorched-earth on Coworker to punish her for her momentary lapse in judgement in opening your desk drawer. And you can even take it to the point of harming others (e.g., getting rid of the candy bowl and letting everyone know it’s all Coworker’s fault) in a grand display of “Look what you made me do!” Or you can choose not to do that.

      1. VelociraptorAttack*

        It’s not a momentary lapse in judgment though. It’s repeated and they have threatened to continue doing it.

        Why are we not applying concerns over going scorched earth on this to the coworker in question who doubled down on what they were doing and their right to do it?

        1. KHB*

          Because the coworker is not the one who wrote in asking for advice. The only person’s behavior that OP can directly control is her own.

          1. biobotb*

            Right? Does the LW want to dig her heels in, and have the coworker escalate as promised, or decide to give a little because it’s not worth being part of a candy war at work?

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              For this, I think OP should dig heels in. Because co worker has threatened to escalate and destroy.

              1. Jasnah*

                If I was a manager and OP came to me with “..and then she threatened to desTROY MY CANDY! Out of my pERSONAL DESK SPACE” I would think she lost her marbles. That’s like red-stapler-from-Office-Space levels of going ballistic over a tiny tiny thing.

                1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                  How about X told me she was going in and out of my desk, into my personal things, and threatened to destroy them? This isn’t about candy at all.

                2. Yorick*

                  But it is about candy. She isn’t going through OP’s stuff, she isn’t destroying anything. She’s moving a candy dish into a drawer. She did threaten to throw candy away, but hasn’t done it, and the threat was in the middle of a big argument so she might not even intend to do it.

                3. Jasnah*

                  If someone said “coworker was going through my things and threatened to destroy them” I would be concerned. Then when I found out it was about the communal candy dish, I’d be confused. Going through her things=her purse, her valuables, not a communal candy drawer. I agree the coworker overstepped and shouldn’t have moved anything or thrown it out but I don’t get why OP can’t roll her eyes and put the candy somewhere else or stop bringing it in. Candy is not worth fighting with coworkers over; if bringing it buys goodwill, then why is it wrong to remove it for the same reason? OP doesn’t need to “win” this.

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      That’s a valid thing to say in a partnership between two equals. The workplace is more, “Would you like to happy, or would you like to be employed?”

  14. Shutdown and Out*

    I too have struggled with the temptation of Office Candy Dishes. (Along with the temptations of vending machines and my current office’s self-service snack bar/store. AND with buying snacks or sandwiches on my breaks from a grocery store job.) My relationship to candy and other food at work is my problem. Dealing with my problem by puting away the office candy dish behind someone’s back is not the way to solve it. Neither is starting a war with a coworker.

  15. trying to slim down a bit!*

    I’m not the candy dish hater in this letter but I do hate the one that is in my office. It is on the desk right outside my office and I have to walk by it a dozen times each day. The person who owns the candy dish actually places it at the very far end of her reception space because she doesn’t want to have to look at temptation all day. It’s closer to me than it is to her. The thought has actually entered my mind to simply throw out the candy every morning since I’m the first one in, but I’ve so far refrained. A candy dish isn’t the same as a vending machine (I’d have to make an effort to find money and walk upstairs to the vending machine) or pastries in the kitchen (I can avoid the kitchen and never see them). But I walk by the candy dish throughout the day and so I have to have an idiotic internal battle with myself a dozen times each day. I can mostly refrain but I resent that I have to have an internal struggle each and every time. The Candy Dish person at my job is leaving soon and my only real input for the committee searching for the new person will be, “No candy dish!”

    1. valentine*

      As they’re reception, is it really that they’re a candy-dish person or that your colleagues, possibly including her supervisor or another higher-up, wants reception to have a candy dish? You’re focusing on the person when she’s not the enemy.

      1. MSK*

        I used to be that receptionist- I honestly didn’t even want to talk to my coworkers all day, but now I had no choice! Candy dish was not my decision hah

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Yes, to me it sounds like if she’s putting it far away from her, maybe she doesn’t want it but has been directed to have it there?

    2. MP*

      Exactly – that’s a lot of temptation management that she’s forcing on you. When it could just not exist at all if she removed the candy dish!

      1. TootsNYC*

        and interestingly, she’s managing her own temptation by making yours worse. She probably doesn’t know that, of course.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      So, um, have you ever talked to her about getting rid of it?

      If not, why not? This is a serious question, because I don’t understand enduring this level of frustration (putting ‘no candy dish’ as a job requirement?!) without a really good reason. If she looooovveed the candy, ok, but she’s put it far away too – that signals something other than love to me?

      Could she maybe do flowers instead? There’s some very nice silk flowers out there now…

    4. Anabella*

      strong recommendation: tell yourself you are never allowed candy from the dish. the argument is over. there is no internal struggle, because the answer is always no. it takes a couple of weeks, but eventually, you will stop caring, I promise.
      [source: stopped eating sugar, therefore, no cake at work ever. used to be eternally plagued with the homer simpson ‘eat the pudding eat the pudding eat the pudding’ voice, and now i don’t even think about it.]

  16. SallyF*

    There’s an interesting article about the social dynamics in play of the communal candy dish. I won’t post a link because I’m not sure it’s okay to do so (?) but it can be found by Googling “office candy dish” and it’s posted on

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s taken from the Washington Post article that’s quoted in the linked “You may also like” post.

        1. fposte*

          It really is, isn’t it? I would love to see some kind of sped up time-lapse overhead image of people’s behavior around the candy jar.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      I’d say since you told us what it is, post the link if you like.

      Unless, of course, someone complains because they can’t resist clicking on links, and someone else posted a NSFW link that got them in trouble at work (for the humor-impaired, that last was a joke)

  17. Bend & Snap*

    Well, now you have some good information about how your coworker collaborates/negotiates (or doesn’t).

    This kind of unreasonable behavior is something I usually file away because it usually becomes relevant later in a different way.

    I don’t think you should escalate. I do like the idea of only having the dish out when you’re in the office.

  18. HereKittyKitty*

    You could also welcome her to add a snack to the rotation since you say sometimes other people refill the dish. Maybe some healthy snacks can be added to the rotation? You mentioned nuts before- maybe that can be added every now and again to keep the peace?

    1. valentine*

      Coworker could keep her own dish of nuts and try focusing or filling up on that to help her ignore the candy dish.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            The recommendation is 1 oz nuts / day, because while the fat is unsaturated (and usually mono-unsaturated), it’s a lot, and recommendation-makers are still very focused on the overall number of calories. Nuts are more calories per oz than candy (fat = 9 cal/gram vs sugar / protein = 4 cal/gram), so people who are focused only on ‘calories per weight’ consider them ‘fattening’.

            The description ‘fattening’ is in question. People who eat 1 oz nuts/day do tend to have lower body fat %s than people who don’t, but there’s a lot of correlation options, with the most obvious being ‘nuts are expensive; body fat in the US decreases with income’. OTOH, some studies show fat triggers ghrelin production, causing your brain to feel satiated, and there’s a ton of fascinating research going on now with human gut flora (microbiomes). The fat/ghrelin and microbiome changes are hinting at possible causation routes, but nutrition and weight are much to complex for simple ‘healthy fats’ or ‘fattening’ descriptions.

            (no, I haven’t looked into why I can’t lose those 30 post-baby pounds, nope…)

  19. Alfonzo Mango*

    This would drive me crazy. I would stand firm and not allow my candy dish to be moved, and escalate it to her manager so she’s reminded not to move other people’s stuff. She needs to grow up a bit.

    And I don’t mean escalate like make a huge deal, but it’s worth a conversation.

    1. KP*

      What I find upsetting is that the coworker thinks it’s also reasonable TO THROW AWAY treats someond else has bought on the notion why not? It’s communal, so … that means it’s 100% hers to throw away?

      It’s such a sign of disrespect for a fellow coworker. I guess that in itself seems to me to be … hell, not grounds for firing but in some workplaces absolutely part of what goes into consideration regarding raises and promotions. I don’t know that I’d advise the OP any differently — Alison’s advice is probably the wisest, I could see how this could also backfire if OP doesn’t let it go. But I just wanted to put it out there because there are multiple aspects of the interaction that are so … wrong, I can understand why any normal person would be seething for far longer than such a situation deserves.

  20. kittymommy*

    This letter is a great example of sometimes it’s all in the delivery (aka, if you put some honey on it, it’ll gone down easier).

  21. Triplestep*

    This is the part that struck me:

    And that if they were out while I was at my desk, she would leave them because I may want to eat them, but if I wasn’t at my desk (and I do go stretches without being at my desk for a few days) that she needed them hidden and would continue to remove them.

    LW, I agree with you that she should not touch your stuff, and I agree with Alison that if she’d asked differently, you might have responded differently.

    But I think you should examine your motivation for having a candy dish on your desk for days at a time when you’re not there. Especially now that you know it bothers her. Arguably, she’s having to deal with it for more hours a week than you’re getting pleasure from sharing candy with the community. (Unless you’re thinking about candy-sharing when you are not there.) To me, this makes your response even more regrettable.

    1. Temperance*

      Other people in the office like and eat the candy, though, also presumably when LW isn’t at her desk.

        1. valentine*

          this makes your response even more regrettable
          I’m impressed by OP’s ability to respond well and in the moment, especially with the vending-machine comparison.

        2. Gadget Hackwrench*

          I think she mentioned it because you have it in there as a parenthetical, and the rest of the paragraph seems to be structured as if she were not thinking about sharing when she wasn’t there, when there’s a very high likelyhood that she is. People who put out candy dishes don’t expect other to only enjoy them when they’re around to see it. The “sharing when you aren’t there” is an implicit part of putting out a candy dish.

    2. Sarah N*

      I mean, let’s say 10 people in the office enjoy and like the candy dish (regardless of whether the OP is there at her desk or not). Why do all of those 10 people have to miss out on a little tradition that they all enjoy, just because one coworker is being a pain?

      1. Triplestep*

        I think point of the communal candy dish is being missed here. It’s pretty well accepted that office candy dishes bring people to the candy-sharer’s desk. The reasons someone might want the added traffic are varied, but there is little point in bringing people to your desk if you are not there!

        If her co-workers still want candy when she’s not there, let one of them be the keeper of the candy dish on those days. Problem solved.

        1. Alfonzo Mango*

          I disagree. The point of the candy dish is the candy. You don’t have to exchange pleasantries.

          1. valentine*

            let one of them be the keeper of the candy dish on those days
            That’s too much work. Why does one (astoundingly entitled) person get to cause multiple people to host and schedule the (sometimes empty!) candy dish?

        2. skunklet*

          Any place I’ve ever worked, the candy dish stays out while the candy dish inhabitant is not there – including where I am now.

        3. LizB*

          I’ve never even considered that the point of the candy dish would be to attract people to my desk. I see the point as… to make candy available? In case people sometimes want candy? And that might happen even if I’m not in the office.

        4. Dankar*

          Meh. Our admin keeps a candy dish on her desk. She told everyone in the building that the candy was always there if we wanted it, even if she was out. Since this is academia and EVERYONE has a master key, we let ourselves into her office if we’re working late or she’s on vacation. It’s definitely not about bringing people to her desk–we’re all there for the sugar, for better or worse.

        5. Gadget Hackwrench*

          I think you’re assuming facts not in evidence. It is FAR from universally accepted that the point of a candy dish is to get people to visit your desk.

  22. JeanB in NC*

    I literally asked a coworker just last week to not keep candy stocked in our offices, or to keep it on her desk so I didn’t see it most of the time. She was fine with it! But we are in an office with only three people. I don’t say no candy anywhere, just please not where I see it every time I walk in the door. But I do realize that’s my issue.

    1. Snark*

      And you asked nicely, offered a reasonable compromise, and weren’t passive-aggressive and boundary-crossing.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        Reading this column has really reduced my boundary-crossing, that’s for sure. I only wish it had been around when I was in my 20s b/c man, I did some stupid stuff!

    2. TheMonkey*

      And… you asked her rather than taking it upon yourself to move her stuff. Two entirely different situations, in my opinion.

      1. fposte*

        I’m going to hairsplit here :-). It’s actually a very similar situation; it’s the approach that made it go so differently. I think if the OP can get past her understandable annoyance at the approach and look at just the situation, that’ll simplify her response.

  23. Celeste*

    It isn’t just thin people who can have disordered eating issues. I think it may not have been easy for her to admit that she feels powerless around candy sitting out in the open to take. I think I would treat it like it’s a serious problem for her, and make it not so visible when you’re there, and put away when you’re not.

    FYI about your nut allergy example–people who are allergic to nuts are not tempted to eat them, because the reaction makes them truly ill. My daughter has only a sensitivity, and her lips and tongue will itch and swell up. With a true allergy, people go into anaphylactic shock and can’t breathe. Those people will need an EpiPen and a trip to Emergency.

    I agree with AAM that your focus needs to be on getting along so that any attention you get is for being a top performer.

    1. caryatis*

      It is a mental health issue. Food addiction and binge eating are incredibly common. OP should consider how her candy habit is contributing to others’ problems.

      1. Delphine*

        This seems…unnecessarily judgemental. Her “candy habit”? She has a bowl of candy at her desk–she’s well within her rights to eat whatever she likes and she doesn’t need to modify her diet because other people struggle with binge eating.

      2. CristinaMariaCalabrese (do the mambo like-a crazy)*

        Uh, no, it’s the exact opposite, in fact. I have a food addiction and suffer from BED, for which I take medicine and receive treatment. In therapy it is stressed how the onus is on NO ONE ELSE BUT ME to take responsibility for my thoughts and actions. Sure, my friends and family are thoughtful and helpful, but that is their choice. The world will never cater to me, and nor would I ask it to. I need to learn how to deal with my issues myself, and if I can’t, then that is my problem. It is my job to take my meds, go to therapy, and learn the techniques that allow me to healthily function in the world. The OP’s co-worker is approaching her issue in an immature and mentally unhealthy way, so I totally understand why the OP is so irritated.

        1. skunklet*

          I am a diagnosed COE and yes, I completely agree with you, it’s completely up to the coworker to manage whatever their issue is, not the OP.

      3. Observer*

        If you put in those terms, then you have it backwards. The OP is not the one responsible for CW’s problem. An the *demand* that OP makes changes means that CW hasn’t taken the most important first step in dealing with her problem, which is taking responsibility for it. It’s like OCD or Anxiety disorder. Any competent therapist will tell you that it’s not useful to give in to requests that come from these places because it just feeds the disorder.

    2. Master Bean Counter*

      The nut example is a instance of being more inclusive. She’s making it so more people can enjoy the perk, with out much inconvenience. Taking away the candy dish is quite the opposite of that.

      1. Celeste*

        “Second, given some extenuating circumstances, I would be willing to be cooperative about displaying food items. For example, if you just developed a peanut allergy, I would refrain from including peanut M&Ms anymore since they would be a temptation for someone dealing with a serious health issue.”

        This is what the OP thinks about nut allergy. I’m saying that’s a case of a person who mustn’t eat it, because bad things happen to them fast. In the case of Jane, she totally can eat the items, but she realizes that she shouldn’t. I know she did it badly, but she is asking for help.

        I can tell that the OP is upset that Jane took matters into her own hands by moving the bowl instead of asking, but from the general tone of the OP’s letter, I think she should ask herself if she really is someone who can be approached and asked for help. Some people just are not safe to ask because of how they will respond.