office lunch event is out of control, I hate video interviews, and more

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

1. Office lunch event is out of control

Once a month, my mother and her coworkers coordinate a potluck to celebrate birthdays and other special events. “Potluck” is the terminology my mother uses, although it does not sound like a typical potluck to me. These lunches have been going on for at least two years, and are definitely expected by the employees. The potluck is pretty extravagant. Each person is given a three-course meal that is catered from a local restaurant. In theory, if every employee contributes $10, this would cover the cost of food, drinks, plates, and cutlery. The company does not contribute any money, nor is there a company budget for this. These potlucks are 100% funded personally by employees.

Here’s where the problems comes in. Not every employee contributes money to the potluck, but every employee takes the food that is offered. I would say there are about 5-10 people who contribute financially, but there are about 40-50 employees who are eating. My mother’s contribution has swelled to $60, and one of her friends is contributing $100 to make up for the lack of funding from other coworkers. Even more annoying is that some employees who do not contribute financially will bring tupperware to the potluck so that they can bring food home to share with relatives or save for a later date.

These potlucks have caused resentment and stress for my mother. She is now getting into monthly disagreements with coworkers who she feels should not take food if they did not pay for it.

I’ve told my mother that she should opt out from the potluck, or even try to cancel it due to the lack of equal funding. However, she thinks it’s a better idea to create a list of those who do financially contribute to the potluck, and only allow those who paid to take food. I told her she has no authority to enforce that plan, but she’s all gung ho about it. Any advice you can offer would be great!

Yeah, these aren’t potlucks! Potlucks, by definition, are where everyone brings a dish to contribute. These are catered meals!

In any case, the current situation is obviously ridiculous. Your mom and the other coworkers who are contributing have four options: (1) They can continue paying up to $100 each (!) to buy meals for people who aren’t contributing anything at all. This seems absurd, and there are better uses for their charitable dollars. (2) They can decide this clearly isn’t working and cancel it. (3) They can opt out individually and decide it’s not their problem if their colleagues want to subsidize moochers’ meals, but they’re not going to do it themselves. Presumably this will then make the subsidizers’ shares rise even higher, which might prompt them to take similar action themselves, but who knows. (4) They can change this to a “lunch club” where anyone who’s interested in participating pays $X (the cost of their full share) to join in the meal, and anyone who doesn’t pay isn’t part of that month’s lunch.

#4 seems pretty reasonable to me. You said that you don’t think they’d have the authority to keep out people who didn’t pay, but this is a pretty common set-up in offices — “we’re ordering delivery, if you want in you can place an order and pay the cost of what you’re getting.” This is more of a prix fixe menu, but the concept is the same. They’d announce the change ahead of time, saying they’re switching to a new format and the cost is $X for anyone who wants to eat, and then if nine people sign up, they’d order nine meals only, with money paid in advance, and if someone else tries to take food, they’d say, “We only ordered nine meals and you didn’t sign up or pay for one, but you’re welcome to purchase one next month.”

2. I hate video interviews

As a professional consultant for well over a decade, I’ve had a lot of practice interviewing, and I’m pretty comfortable with in-person interviews. I’ve become weary of the contract life for many reasons and I am looking for a remote position once my current gig wraps next month; I’d love the flexibility and I have worked with remote teams as well as onsite. I used to get my remote contracts via phone interviews, but now everyone wants to see me on video calls.

I hate these for so many reasons. I am not a youTube star, I am an average-looking person (senior in my industry) but on video calls every physical flaw is enhanced. I just don’t have a face for video. Despite using all of the makeup and lighting tricks, I really do not represent well. Too much makeup makes me look clownish and I am awkward in front of the camera, which was never part of my job before. I’m painfully aware of every under eye bag and physical flaw in a way I don’t seem to be in normal life.

And I don’t represent well verbally, either. The lapses in camera time, the inability to read body language (which I am great at in person) and even seeing the interviewers engage in side chat conversations throws me off. I had an afternoon of Hangouts interviews recently with two different companies and despite my best preparations in advance neither went well (one included my dog breaking out of her kennel to come over and audibly snort and fart in the background).

Understandably, I haven’t been getting callbacks for second interviews, which is depressing because I usually get the job on in-person interviews. I am massively self-conscious on these calls and that is throwing off my presentation confidence. I’ll never know. But I’d love any suggestions you might have to make this a less painful process.

I hate video too, so I sympathize. I also think the best thing you can do to come across better on video is to decide you don’t give a crap. I know that’s much easier said than done, but as video calls grow in ubiquity, people are increasingly used to seeing “normal” looking people on them, rather than polished and glowy YouTube stars, and they’re very unlikely to be thinking unflattering things about your appearance. They’re probably not thinking a ton about your appearance at all. They’re much more likely to notice if you seem unconfident or nervous, or if something is weird about the video itself (like dark lighting or you not being centered correctly).

So the best thing you can do is to try to rewire your brain to aggressively not care about how you look or the weirdnesses of video (like the lag time, etc.). I say “aggressively” because what I’m recommending is throwing yourself wholeheartedly into deciding you are not going to give a F. In other words, instead of trying to inch toward being comfortable with video, embrace the the idea of Not Giving a Single Crap. (This might even mean things like making yourself start FaceTiming with friends, etc. The more you can de-sensitive yourself, the better.)

I know this might sound like hard advice to take, or like it’s in the category of “if I could do that, I would have already done it.” But I really do believe it’s surprisingly effective. (Other opinions welcome in the comments.)

3. My boss apologizes too much

I’m work part-time at a small nonprofit as an administrator. I’m the youngest and most junior person on the team.

My question involves my direct supervisor, who often (correctly!) delegates work to me but always couches his requests in an apology. Think multiple emails a day saying “So sorry to burden you with this” and “This is an annoying request but …” as well as apologizing to me in person. For the most part, the things I’m being asked to do fall under my job description. Occasionally, he’ll ask me to help with something that isn’t technically my responsibility, but is something I am more familiar with than he is, especially IT. Again, I don’t mind helping with things like this, but it’s tiring to having to keep reassuring him I’m okay to do it.

Whenever any other colleagues pass work to me, they do so in a much more condensed way that’s still polite, like, “Hi X, could you please file the report by Tuesday, thanks.” I much prefer this method, as I don’t feel I need to reassure them that I don’t resent them and can just get on with the report.

Could you help with some scripts for this? I’ve tried saying “Honestly, it’s fine, that’s my job!” in a cheerful manner, but it isn’t sinking in.

It may not sink in. You can try language like that, or like “Truly, no need to apologize, I’m happy to do it,” but over-apologizing can be a deep-rooted habit that takes real effort to overcome. It’s either a sort of verbal tic or it reflects a real insecurity about his role; either way, it’s probably not something you can prompt him to stop without making a bigger deal out of it than you have standing to do.

If you were his manager, you could talk to him about working on it, but since he’s your boss, you’ll likely need to write it off an annoying quirk he has.

At most, you could try something like, “I’ve noticed you often apologize when you give me work. I want to make sure you know there’s no need for that. It’s my job, and I’m happy to do the work you send me — and even on the rare occasions that it’s not strictly my job, I’m still glad to help out and it’s never a burden.” But you can only say that once without seeming like you’re inappropriately coaching him, and if it doesn’t work (and there’s a good chance it won’t), then just take it as a lesson in not over-apologizing yourself if you’re ever in his shoes.

4. My boss is sending work emails to my personal email on my days off

Is it appropriate for my office manager to send work-related emails regarding errors I have made to my personal email address on my days off? While I appreciate her feedback, none of the emails she sends me are urgent and can be sent to my work email and I will be more than happy to address them on my next scheduled work day.

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask her to stop. You can say, “You’ve been sending work emails to my personal email address on my days off. Would you mind removing that address from your email program so things don’t get sent there? I want to keep everything work-related in my work account so I don’t miss it when I’m back at work.”

If she says she’s doing it specifically so you’ll see it and answer before you’re back at work, you can say, “I really prefer to keep my personal account separate. I don’t think anything you’ve sent there has been time sensitive, so I’d appreciate if you’d stick with the work address.” You could even add, “Otherwise there’s too much chance I’ll miss something important.” And if you really want to mess with her plan: “I sometimes go long stretches without checking that address, so there’s no guarantee I’ll see anything you send there.” (Or, of course, you could instead just explain that you’d like your days off to remain days off, but it sounds like she might be more responsive to the other option.)

5. Can I turn down a summer internship but then apply for a fall one?

I am a graduate student, and people in my program often do full-time internships during the summer and part-time externships during the school semester.

I recently received an offer for a summer internship from an exciting company (Stark), but turned it down in favor of a different company (Lannister). I’m excited to work with Lannister this summer, but I’m still very impressed with Stark! I would love to work for them in the future.

Would it be inappropriate to apply for a fall/spring externship at Stark? If it would be appropriate, does the fact that I’ve previously turned down an offer hurt my chances of acceptance?

It’s not inappropriate at all, but rather than just reapplying, talk to whoever gave you the offer for the summer and ask if you could accept it for the fall or spring instead. (Ideally do this before you decline their offer, if it’s not too late for that.) They might tell you that you’d need to reapply, in which case you can, but since they’ve already screened you and made you an offer, they might be perfectly happy to just defer you to a different semester.

And no, it shouldn’t hurt your chances that you’re turning them down for the summer; you’re saying you’re still very interested in working for them, but the timing isn’t working out for the initial offer.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. Beth

    #1: If this has been going on for a while, there’s a good chance that at least some of your mom’s coworkers don’t realize it’s entirely coming out of their coworkers’ pockets. Some might think the company funds it. Lots probably have never really thought about where it comes from; they just know that it always happens, they’ve always been welcome to join in and eat, and no one ever stops them from taking leftovers home. Inertia builds up behind long-running routines/traditions like this, and people don’t always stop to think through the impact once they’re used to something.

    If your mom wants to change that, she needs to change the whole routine. Either the potluck gets cancelled and a new buy-in-only event gets started, OR the monthly celebration gets downsized to something the people willing to contribute to it can reasonably fund (still not fair per se, but if it’s important to the contributors to do something everyone’s invited to, that’s probably the option). If your mom doesn’t have the power to completely change it like that, then her only option is whether/how much she contributes; she should do what makes sense for her, decline any requests for more with “Sorry, that’s not in my budget this month,” and let whoever is in charge decide what to do from there.

    1. AcademiaNut

      I wrote some stuff and then noticed on rereading that 5-10 out of 40-50 employees are paying for their monthly catered dinner! This is not sustainable, and it’s not a case of a few people needing to be spoken to. So I do think that burning it down and rebuilding is the only way to go. Stop it completely for a few months, and if (when) people complain, say that it got too expensive for the organizers to do, and then start up something that is significantly different than the old method.

      I suggest getting a couple of cakes and having cake and coffee instead of the meal. That, or make it a pay your own way lunch out somewhere.

      1. Nita

        I was going to suggest the same thing! The 5-10 people who are contributing can go to a restaurant away from the office instead of having the food brought to the office.

        My husband’s old job had a monthly birthday thing that worked while it was a small celebration for those interested, and imploded for the exact reasons above once it became an all-department event. His new job has a birthday club where they go out to eat – seems to be working OK. My office does cookies or cupcakes at our monthly staff meeting – it’s company-funded, but I imagine it would not cost that much per person if the employees were paying instead.

      2. valentine

        These are not poor, ignorant woobies, especially when it’s called a potluck, yet they’re contributing nothing. From past food letters, we know people are this godawful (See: the guy who put ten (10!) pizzas in his car and the boss who specifically wanted to steal his sole employee’s lunch daily (including breaking into her locked lunchbox?)), but the presentation (buffet?) and the excessively nonconfrontational overpaying are playing into the thieves’ Tupperware. This is like repeatedly going to a restaurant and not wanting to make a scene when Kathlington refuses to pay and also when they next insist on joining. I can’t think why they didn’t have a members’ list from day one, but option 4 should help collapse this weird assault. You could go so far as to have the restaurant put each person’s name on their bag (or have it delivered to Mom, who doles it out to the proper people), but, because so many people are happy to nakedly steal (doubly or more for the Tupperwarers), someone (the $100 person?) may still surrender their food to avoid a righteous argument.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          This is like repeatedly going to a restaurant and not wanting to make a scene when Kathlington refuses to pay and also when they next insist on joining.

          Actually, when I read that the OP thinks her mother has no authority to enforce who takes the food, my first thought is that these mooches are, in essence, stealing other peoples’ lunches! They’re not taking them out of the break room fridge, but I think it’s even worse than that, because they’re doing it right in front of them!
          I think they need at least a month’s break, and to change locations. If any of the participants have an office with a door, no matter how cramped, I think having it there would make it much easier (sociologically speaking) to say that it’s by invitation only. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s an individually controlled space rather than a communally shared space.

          1. Armchair Analyst

            This reminds me of that scene in Kindergarten Cop. Your mom is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

        2. Forrest

          >>From past food letters, we know people are this godawful

          One or two people are this godawful, but 30-45? Either there’s a massive poor communication about how this works and who is funding it, or LW’s mom works at a terrible company with terrible people and should probably start looking for a new job!

          1. a1

            Everybody thinks they’re the only one. “it’s not that big a deal if I (or a couple) don’t pay this month”and just don’t think beyond that. I don’t know that it’s a coordinated effort between the 40 or so that aren’t paying. And then when the food keeps happening it’s easy to think “it really isn’t a big deal for *me* not to pay, apparently everyone else is.”

            1. Lance

              Basically this, yes.

              Though I’m big-time side-eyeing the people that are taking things home with them. Those people would be at the top of my list to cut off entirely from the events and be very, crystal clear that they’re not welcome to any food until they start paying a fair share.

              1. BatmansRobyn

                Meh, for what it’s worth my office often has big catered lunches like this (for the whole group) and we’re definitely encouraged to take “as much as you want” home–most recently I actually had coworkers trying to convince me to take MULTIPLE PIZZAS HOME with me at the end of the day and wouldn’t stop pushing it until I explained that I had to run errands after work and didn’t want food sitting in my car for the next six hours.

                If this has been going on for “at least two years,” food shows up, people eat, and historically people have also taken leftovers home, it’s reasonable to assume that wires have been crossed with who’s paying for these meals, especially if they’re regularly ordering so much that there’s enough for people to be taking leftovers at all.

                1. Perse's Mom

                  This happens occasionally in our office for specific events, but even in that situation, it’s a case of leftovers being taken ONLY when food is transitioned officially into “leftovers” when its moved from the event-area to the communal breakroom.

                  People bringing tupperware to OP’s mom’s lunches could be waiting… but may also be helping themselves to leftovers before they’re actually leftovers.

            2. Karen from Finance

              Yes, the “it’s fine if everyone else is doing it” effect is strong. Also, people tend to assume that if it really were that wrong, an authority would have intervened, so it must be fine.

            3. Forrest

              That’s exactly what I mean by poor communication, though—that’s 30-40 people not realising that their lunch is being subsidised by a small number of people.

        3. Annette

          Very extreme response. Why assume malice or idiocy. Everyone still has to work together. If my coworker (mom in this scenario) reacted like this I would think – avoid this loon at all costs!

        4. RabbitRabbit

          If it’s a potluck but no one is actually bringing home-cooked dishes or providing a list of who brings what, then of course there’s room to not understand how it’s actually being run.

          1. Anna

            It’s potluck in name only and people are fully aware that it isn’t actually the standard definition of a potluck. If they didn’t pitch in and are eating lunch, they can’t claim ignorance.

      3. Asenath

        I agree with the pay-your-own lunch idea. We have a very small coffee-break snack (usually cake) we pay for out of our $4/month social fund, but when we have an office meal, we vote on a restaurant, those interested attend, and pay their own way. That works very well – although there was a ruckus when someone cancelled at the last minute and none of us knew that that particular restaurant charged anyway. But we all contributed to the cost. We also have (and have had) larger events including the larger organization, but generally participants buy tickets to participate. Even then, the event that morphed from a potluck to a catered lunch eventually died off entirely because it was too much thankless work for the organizers. No way people who don’t contribute should be eating the food.

      4. pleaset

        Yeah. I was reading it and thought the whole thing was sooo stupid – not just on the part of the moochers but the mother and others ‘victims.’ I can see getting screwed like that once, but coming back for more? No.

        Just end it. And restart it if people want it, with better ground rules.

        1. Paperdill

          I think that’s a bit unkind. These things don’t happen over night – they develop over time. It’s likely that many months ago, a few people forgot to contribute their $10, and others kindly covered for them. As time passed, some staff turned over, and the Chinese whispers that go on in offices conveyed incorrect messages about the whole set up, the situation developed into what we have now. I am in agreement that Mom and Co. need to get assertive and pull the plug on this, however.

          1. Falling Diphthong

            It’s really a fascinating little bit of sociology–people don’t know where the food comes from on the third Thursday of the month, but it seems to have something to do with the great never-ending purple box of file folders in the supply cabinet. Bettina claims the banquet is her doing and people should give her $10, but they’ve seen through that scam–people who don’t give Bettina $10 still get food.

          2. CoveredInBees

            What the heck is a “Chinese whisper” and how does this differ from normal whispers, chatter, scuttlebutt, or any other term like these?

            1. Falling Diphthong

              It’s another name for the children’s game of telephone, where you pass a message around a circle in whispers. Note there’s a rule about not nitpicking word choice.

                1. Susana

                  I never heard that phrase, either and find it odd, to say the least, that it’s connected to a nationality. We always played “the telephone game.” Same thing – see how much a phrase changes as t’s whispered among the group.

              1. Dragoning

                I’d never heard this phrase before either, and even after hearing the origin, it…sounds kinda racist? I think this term should be retired.

              2. Database Developer Dude

                I think when we’re attributing a certain characteristic to an entire race of people, questioning that is not nitpicking.

              3. pleaset

                I think it’s worth nitpicking racist or racist-sounding language. Though really critiquing that is not nitpicking.

                In this case, whoever, I think CIB was actually just asking, not critiquing.

                1. Ms Cappuccino

                  In France we call it “Arabic telephone”. I have never realised it could be perceived as racist but you’re right.

                2. Rebecca1

                  It’s the British name for the children’s game that Americans call “telephone.” I don’t like it either, and think they should change the name, but we can’t expect them to just say “telephone game” when the only name they’ve ever heard for it is “Chinese whispers.”

            1. londonedit

              It’s a name for a children’s game in the UK, and a fairly common phrase here for when a message becomes garbled after too many repetitions. I don’t think anyone in this country would ascribe any sort of racist intent to it.

              1. Dust Bunny

                Isn’t it basically saying something is whispered until it’s garbled bey0nd comprehensibility? The fact that one is used to it and has never *consciously* used it in a racist context doesn’t mean it’s not racist.

                1. Dragoning

                  Just because white people don’t think something is racist doesn’t mean it’s not racist, unfortunately.

          3. pancakes

            I don’t know what “Chinese whispers” are supposed to be but the sentence would make sense with just “whispers” there.

            1. linger

              The phrase “Chinese whispers” is not racist. It’s not referring to Chinese people at all. It is based on the fact that tonal languages (such as Chinese) lose the tonal distinctions (and therefore some distinctions between words) when whispered, thereby making the message more likely to be garbled. End of story.

              1. pleaset

                Wikipedia has a different explanation that makes it seem pretty racist. Worth noting that in French a version of the phase is “Téléphone arabe.”

                Seems pretty clear that a part of these terms is othering. And frankly even if it’s all about the tonality of Chinese language (clever explanation BTW), the impact is othering. Pretty racist.

      5. snowglobe

        I really agree with the suggestion to burn it down and wait a few months before starting up with a different format. If you try to change things in one month, it will be a lot harder to convince everyone that, nope, this is just for people that paid. Wait a few months, then start a whole new ‘lunch club’.

      6. MCMonkeyBean

        Yeah, we used to have a monthly “cake day” but it turned into a quarterly day. There was a sign up sheet and we took turns signing up to bring in cake. About 8 people at a time would sign up to bring something in and you pay like $20 for a cake once and then you’re done for the year and get to enjoy the cake everyone else brings. Usually at least one person chose to bring in something else like a fruit or veggie tray as a healthier option for those that wouldn’t want to partake, but I was all about the cake lol.

    2. Armchair Expert

      I thought this, but LW says that her mother is “getting into monthly disagreements with coworkers who she feels should not take food if they did not pay for it” which sounds like she is, at every catered lunch, straight-up telling people that they haven’t paid for their meal and should do. I don’t know what those people are saying in return, of course, but the whole thing sounds so uncomfortable and awkward and ridiculous that I’m not even sure how inertia can still be in play.

      (Not to mention, if 50 people are showing up and only 10 have paid, is LW’s mom marching around to 40 people in turn to berate them? So fun! Such morale!)

      1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

        Right. Also, everyone is giving advice about the dinner as if the person reading is in a position to take it themselves.

        Honestly? You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. My advice to the OP is to say that if she isn’t happy she should stop paying for the dinners, and then change the subject.

        1. Dot Warner

          Yeah, this sounds like a less-extreme version of the OP from a year or so ago whose coworker kept guilt-tripping everybody when they didn’t appreciate her enough for bringing in unrequested snacks or doing other unnecessary favors for people. OP didn’t have the authority to tell Coworker not to bring things in, but they could suggest to Coworker that doing these things upset her and maybe she should stop.

      2. Beth

        I envisioned OP’s mom getting into email spats with individual coworkers taking excessive amounts of food without even paying for one person’s worth, rather her yelling at the entire group every month. It’s possible that she’s been louder/more public than that and everyone has explicitly been told, but I don’t think that’s a given here.

        Now, should people be aware that food costs money and someone is funding this? Do they probably see emails or a sign-up sheet or something going around looking for contributions? Should they be able to put 2 and 2 together to get 4? Yes, of course. But passive ignorance is often easier to forgive than active maliciousness, so when it comes to others’ behavior that I can’t make them change, I tend to assume they’re well-intentioned for the sake of my own ability to continue to treat them civilly and professionally. I think that’s true for a lot of people

        1. Armchair Expert

          Email spats makes sense! I do agree about the passive ignorance, in general – especially since non-paying is far more common than paying, so in fact it’s the norm to eat for free in this situation. I was seeing it as in-person spats, which are much harder to ignore (one assumes that people should only need to be told once), but email could explain how she’s confronting people and people are ignorant of the problem at the same time.

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

            I’m wondering if it’s true passive ignorance, or genuine ignorance. What has staff turnover been like? If you have, say, 5-6 of the 40-50 people who are new, and are following the crowd, having been invited by someone else who is also comparatively new, they have no basis for knowing a) the source of the food and b) the source of the ire following it.
            I’m picturing a letter from AAM from the point of view of someone on the receiving end:
            “Dear Alison, we have monthly meals, but some of our colleagues are being dictatorial about it and claiming they’re paying for the whole thing!”

            Is it worth a “reminder” email before blanket cancellation? What immediately springs to mind is the analogy of the monkeys with the ladder, banana and hosepipe.
            I’d be mortified if I’d been innocently invited to a meal I had no idea I was supposed to contribute to – let’s face it, the norm is that the company funds company meals.

            1. BethRA

              I was thinking along the lines of “people may not know” as well – but OP says her mom is getting into “monthly arguments” with people about the food they’re taking. So maybe some don’t know, but that suggests that most do and are just taking advantage.

      3. Tallulah in the Sky

        I read it also like Beth, she’s not arguing with them about the food, but her resentment makes her argue with coworkers about other things (which isn’t good).

        And if your mother can’t change anything herself, she could go to the organizers to tell she’s not going to be able to contribute like before, that she’ll only pitch in X$. Even suggest that since so many people can’t pay for the elaborate lunch, it might be better to downsize it. Maybe talk to the coworker who pays 100$ to do the same (and others if she knows them and knows it bothers them too).

      4. Kettles

        If they are aware, it’s weirder that there are 40 people in the office who think it’s ok to steal other people’s food.

        1. Tuxedo Cat

          Yeah… I might be reading too much into this but that many people who are okay with that seems to suggest there might be some other bigger problem.

          1. Kettles

            My first thought was that they *must* think the company is paying… but surely they’re being asked for subs? I’m baffled at this many people being moochers.

      5. Psyche

        The fact that she is already getting into disagreements suggests she should just stop paying for it. Next time it comes up, she can decline to give any money and not take any food. Eventually, the whole thing will collapse and she can try to rebuild.

        The only other thing I could think of is switch from a buffet to individual meals. People who pay get a meal ordered for them that is then labeled with their name. It is much easier to guard those 10 meals than it is to prevent people from taking a scoop of something when they are actually ordering enough food for people who didn’t pay to eat (and take leftovers).

        1. pleaset

          ” Next time it comes up, she can decline to give any money and not take any food. ”

          This.

          And I wouldn’t even go. Let it collapse without being there.

      6. TootsNYC

        exactly–Mom has been making a fuss. There’s no way people don’t know by now.

        If I were a manager of ANYone in that office, I would want to know. And I would be putting a stop to it.
        We’d either find the budget, or it would just end.
        I might say “let’s do a TRUE potluck,” but I wouldn’t trust that all these moochers–who certainly know NOW if they didn’t before–would actually bring any food.

        So it would end. For three months, there would be NO lunch.
        Then after three months, maybe I’d suggest we have an Official BYO Lunch and We’ll Eat Together event, with a longer lunch break to go along with it (as long as you’re in the conference room to socialize).

      7. Fight The Tupperware OP1

        You are correct. At every lunch my mother tries to ward off people who have not paid but fails due to the vast amount of people involved. She can easily tell Joe to beat it, but can’t tell the head of the department that. Then Joe comes back saying “Well Mr. Executive got some food…”

        It’s just exhausting for her to act as a club security guard every month.

        1. valentine

          She can tell the head of the department that. And it shouldn’t be set up buffet-style because it’s not a buffet; every paying person gets three particular things. The poor $100 person ended up suffering like when Milton doesn’t get any cake in that horrid Office Space scene, which haunts me, as does the fact that Louisa May Alcott’s parents, who were bad at math and manners, apparently, made her give all her third-birthday cake to their guests.

        2. Armchair Expert

          So Joe is told to beat it, knows he hasn’t paid and that it’s not a company-sponsored lunch, and then comes back saying “I haven’t paid for this, but I want some anyway”?

          That’s…quite the culture your mom has there.

          I mean the advice is still the same: stop paying for it. This is why her workmates can’t have nice free things.

    3. Liane

      Am I the only one wondering how and when these employees are getting any of their actual jobs done? They are spending a LOT of work time on one or more of the following:
      *Planning, ordering, setup, & cleanup for 3 course meals
      *Eating &/or hoarding 3 course lunches, which probably last longer than the typical 30-60 minute lunch break
      *Payers arguing with non-payers (& griping among payers)–whether in person or not
      *Trying to ignore Banquet Drama

      1. Doreen

        I’m not exactly sure what’s meant by 3 course meal, but at $10 a person ,I’m pretty sure it’s not a starter, main course and dessert. It sounds more like a main dish , side dish and a drink- which can easily fit into a normal lunch break

        1. TootsNYC

          even a starter, main course and dessert can fit in a lunch period when it’s buffet style. At restaurants, the three-course thing takes so long because you have to sit around and wait on the server.

    4. SamIAm

      In our area, we can all order online from the same restaurant and then pick it up or have it delivered. Maybe Mom should start sending ppl a link and they can order/pay for their own “potluck.”

    5. Seeking Second Childhood

      I think you’re right — the company’s getting the credit for a monthly party. If the company can’t pay for it, the least painful way may be for the participants to start going to the restaurant instead of having the restaurant cater it.
      The ones who have been paying get invited. Everyone else gets to ask afterwards and told that they can buy in for future events – the company never paid for this and the individuals can’t cover it any longer.
      I’ve seen similar with something as simple as a department microwave that co-workers picked up for the office….it became seen a company resource. But since it wasn’t a company resource, we were the only ones cleaning it. Signs helped but there was still a spectacular spaghetti sauce incident. I got the manager to take it into her office — and we had weeks of hurt feelings from people I didn’t even recognize.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        The numbers are so far off on this (40/50 think the food just appears and they shouldn’t pay), I wonder if the message got garbled at some point and they think the people asking for donations want to get the nicer plastic cutlery or a second choice of appetizer, on top of the three course (salad, lasagna, brownie) meal they believe the company provides. And they believe they are holding the line against making it fancier at their own expense.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.

        This. OP writes that her mom doesn’t have the authority to put up a list. And I think this is because OP is taking her mother’s description as a”company thank you/birthday” lunch as the purpose. That may be, but it’s not the reality. As Alison explains, it’s a lunch club, funded by individuals. Participation is open to all, but that means participate, not show up.
        I think a lot of people will be shocked to find out that the people paying are not just throwing in to “look good,” “kiss butt” or simply to get better (“preferred”) options.

        1. TootsNYC

          If the mom doesn’t have the authority, then a manager must have that authority.
          And the manager needs to be informed quite clearly about the severity of the problem.

          A decent manager wouldn’t allow this to go on.

          1. Fight The Tupperware OP1

            My mother has two people who are senior to her in her office. One is one of the Tupperware Jerks. The other does not wish to get involved in personal matters, which he deems this to be.

        2. Fight The Tupperware OP1

          Yes, it’s my belief that since these events are to celebrate public things – like birthdays or fourth of July, whatever – that my mother can’t dictate who can be excluded. I was actually surprised at Alison’s response.

          1. nonegiven

            She needs to get together with her equal co-workers (that aren’t tupperware jerks) and the person paying the $100 and work out a big change. Somebody is ordering the food and forking over the money. They need to stop.

          2. Doreen

            They aren’t being excluded if they are offered an opportunity to pay/participate , with partipation contingent on payment and choose not to pay.

      3. Lucy

        re #1, the fact that it’s linked to birthdays suggests that there could be additional upset. If the last event in this style is April, and Celestine’s birthday is in May, she may feel slighted, particularly if she’s one of the few who puts in her $10 and even more particularly if she is the $100 contributor.

        If it had been “only” a general monthly get-together then the timing of cessation or change would be less sensitive. BUT I think it risks falling into “my workplace used to celebrate birthdays with a lavish hot buffet, but stopped just in time to miss my 40th” territory.

        Which is not to say that change isn’t needed; only that the communication may need to include that factor.

    6. mcr-red

      My company used to do catered by the company meals a couple of times a year. Then they decided to do a monthly potluck where people could bring a dish but if you didn’t, you had to contribute $5 toward the meat and cheese tray. Which was fine except – 1. potluck organizer only enforced the $5 rule for certain departments, 2. the grand boss really didn’t want this to be an optional thing and didn’t like it when an entire department except the bosses decided to go spend their $5 at McDonald’s instead, 3. the company saw this as a reward or a perk – one in which you had to make food for or spend $5 on. It quickly became a potluck that only two departments participated in and in a fit, the grand boss canceled the whole thing. They went back to the catered meal a couple times a year, and dipped their toe back into the potluck thing, but this time told people to make side dishes to go along with the catered by the company meat and cheese tray.

      1. valentine

        This is so gross and petty, when a company-sponsored tray might’ve fostered good feeling. I wouldn’t even pay $5 for peace and quiet.

    7. BadWolf

      In addition to some who thinking the company is paying, there may be some that have converted to “I’ll pay once in awhile” since that model seems to be working. Many people are terrible about remembering how often the contribute when it’s not consistent. Someone misses one week, then two weeks, then pays once a month and suddenly they haven’t paid since last summer.

  2. Aphrodite

    OP #1, if there are only 5-10 employees who contribute to this monthly event, why not change the event? You could have a small celebratory group, and that way your mother and others would be much less hassled and celebrate the birthdays and other events only of each other. (And if others say they want to join in, decline. If they are not one of those who contribute each and every time, they won’t start.)

    1. Tallulah in the Sky

      To me this is a bad idea, you’re excluding people from an event which is supposed to be for everybody, this will bring in more tensions. The best would be to downsize those monthly lunches to a reasonable price everybody can pay. Or only do cake. Those who are able to and still want those monthly pricey lunches can do them, but as a fun thing (plus, in a group of 5-10 people, do you have something to celebrate every month ?).

      1. valentine

        It’s only for those who pay, and I can see where they want the $10 meal/plate/cutlery, not a $5 dessert/fruit/yogurt.

      2. Falling Diphthong

        It’s already $10 for a catered three-course meal–that’s a lot cheaper than most places I can think of. People who won’t put in $10 for that are not likely to put in $5 for cake. (Not even to raise the specter of “I don’t want a pile of white flour and sugar; I want real food with protein and vegetables.”)

        They’re excluding people from an event because they aren’t willing to pay for it, which is how most events that people have to pay for work.

        1. Tallulah in the Sky

          Then I would go with the suggestion of other people, stop the celebration for a few months and start something new, like a club thing. Right now, this is linked to the company (even if the company doesn’t pay for it, it is a company-wide event), if you start excluding people (even for good reasons) it would not go over well, conflict will probably rise. So either change the event so that it works for everyone, or destroy it and build something else.

      3. Tuxedo Cat

        The thing is that people can opt out by not paying. When I think of exclusion, I think of people who aren’t invited to participate at all, even if they were willing to pay.

        I also don’t know how they can get lower than $10/person unless they order pizza.

    2. Willis

      Yeah or if they want to continue doing it as a celebration with the big group, make it into a “bring you own lunch” thing and then have a cake after. Someone would still have to buy the cake, but it would be waaaay less expensive than a $500+ catered lunch (!!!) and maybe they could devise some way to do a smaller ($5-$10) cake collection a couple times a year. It’s nice to do something to recognize birthdays, etc. but a 3 course catered meal funded by a handful of people is ridiculous. (To the point that I can’t really fathom why anyone is still organizing this…)

      1. Lena Clare

        We do something similar to this in work. Whoever had the last birthday (there’s 7 of us) coordinates a card for the next person.

        1. valentine

          It’s only funded by a handful of people because the rest don’t want to pay. If they wanted to pay for their own thing, they could do that. Why should the funders give up their three courses?

          1. Tallulah in the Sky

            It’s not just a matter of not wanting to pay, I wouldn’t be surprised if some can’t. I think we’re forgetting about this since some are bringing in tupperwares, which is outrageous. But without more information, there’s a real possibility that some of them don’t even know they should ship in more, and some who couldn’t even if they wanted to. So it would be kind to keep the spirit of this gathering but making it way less expensive so everyone can participate.

            Those who were willing/able to pay for those three course meals can still do it, but as a club / non-clique group. And if they want to sing happy birthday to someone during this meal, nothing is stopping them either.

            1. Tallulah in the Sky

              Just saw I misread the price. Still don’t understand how 10 bucks per head gets you a three course meal with enough leftovers to bring in tupperwares, but still, sorry.

              Still believe that if possible, downsize the event (like, just cake, and everyone pitches one dollar a month or ten dollars a year) and those who want to lunch together just do, just don’t frame it as a company event.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood

                I suspect “three course” just means appetizer, entree, and dessert.

                1. a1

                  Right, it could be as simple as salad, pizza and cookies. (Or chips, sandwiches, and cookies; or egg rolls, chow mien, and cookies).

              2. Kiki

                For catering, the price per head usually goes down as the number of heads goes up. It may be that this “deal” on food that they’re getting will only remain a deal if they order enough food for 40+ people. That may be part of the reason the organizers are reluctant to downsize the event. That also probably fuels some of the Tupperware crowd who see so much food for just the 5-15 people who actually paid and think it will be no big deal if they take some for later.

                1. Doreen

                  Yes, the price per head goes down , so that the total for 39 may becless than the total for 40. But it’s never such a big difference that it’s worthwhile to order for 40 when you need enough for 15

              3. LadyofLasers

                Oooo I like the yearly buy in; then people don’t have to remember to pay up once a month

              4. blackcat

                I am in a HCOL area and there’s a good mexican place that can do salads + taco bar for $9 a head if you have more than 40 people.
                (I think it’s like $12 for 10-20, $11 for 20-30, etc + delivery fee). So it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s somewhere with a lower COL where you could do salad + pasta + cake for $10/head.

              5. Fight The Tupperware OP1

                The ten dollars per person amounts to about $500 – $600. This is enough to get a large salad, or appetizer tray, a main dish, and a cake. The food is set up buffet style.

                Also most people who come with tupperware aren’t waiting to see if there’s leftovers. They’re normally first in line. My mom’s friend who pays $100 didn’t get food last time because of this behavior.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood

          A card yes! That’s what, $5 if you get the one that sings to you. $60/month would be reasonable if it were coming from the business itself.

        3. Falling Diphthong

          I think the smaller the group, the better these things work. Once you’re at 10 or so you’re going to have some resentments from those who think $10 is too expensive and those who think they should be doing $30 for a really good meal.

  3. Lady Phoenix

    LW 1:
    I would either cancel it or turn it to a club… but expect some major blowbavk. As we have observed from many, MANY stories… people lose their effin minds when the free flow suddenly stops.

    Although another thing to be careful of is the “lunch club” turning into the “clique club”.

    1. Beatrice

      Yeah…I worked in an office a few years ago where food was frequently catered in for customers, with the leftovers being made available to employees after customers had left. There was a huge crackdown eventually, after unauthorized employees started raiding the food before customers had been served, and after a couple of entitled employees tried to steer the type of food ordered to suit their tastes, and tell her to order more so there’s be more leftovers. People are unbelievable.

          1. Media Monkey

            in my experience the better paid people can be the worst (am pretty sure some of the letters in the past bear this out – bosses stealing lunches and senior people helping themselves to free food first).

            1. Falling Diphthong

              Yeah, anecdotally it’s usually the senior veep who is mowing people down so he can fill his tupperware with lasagna before the minions eat it all.

          2. Valeyard

            It happens in my company and we are well-paid (10%+ above market rate). The worst offenders here are earning well in excess of $200,000 annually. It’s not about being unable to afford food.

          3. Tallulah in the Sky

            Plus, being well paid doesn’t mean you can afford it. I have a good salary but my live in boyfriend has been out of work for a year and a half and has gone back to school to help in his job search, I don’t have money for monthly three course meals (and I would feel bad being excluded on this basis). People with kids, taking care of their parents, having health issues… What you’re paid isn’t a good indicator of what you can afford.

            1. valentine

              It’s nothing to do with how people handle their finances. I’m wondering if people paid more also hoard and/or steal more food at work.

              1. Liane

                Anecdotally, yes. Alison has done 1 or 2 Workplace Food open threads. These have yielded several “higher-up/s stole food” tales. Plus there have been individual posts, like the boss stealing his employee’s lunches that a couple commenters mentioned. This was even more awful than it sounds, since the employee had known dietary restrictions and there were no places to buy another meal she could eat, even if she had money that day.

              2. Aveline

                I have only ever had my lunches stolen by people who were at the top.

                I briefly worked for a company where the founder and CEO stole my Diet Coke and cut veggies every day.

                Dude was worth 50 million.

                When I complained to the office manager, she informed me “he’s like that” and implied if it was that much of a hardship to me I could submit a form for reimbursement. WTF?

                1. General Ginger

                  It was easier for the company to reimburse you than to do literally ANYTHING ELSE? Heck, they could have just bought the CEO his own cut veggies and Diet Coke.

                2. Essess

                  I would have submitted the reimbursements. This way there is a paper trail of the theft of your property and you get your money back (though that isn’t much consolation when you want your actual food at the time). I had a slightly similar issue that somehow the vending machine on our floor was always populated with expired soda pop. Even after it was freshly refilled, all the soda pop that they loaded into it was expired. I made complaint after complaint because Mountain Dew becomes even more syrupy-sweet after it passes the expiration date so it was really bad and I was drinking it because I needed the caffeine for my 14-20 hour shifts that I was working. I got to the point where I would buy a soda pop, and carry it to the security desk and give them the expired can and fill out the reimbursement slip. I would do this many times a day for several days until the machine was empty (since every soda was expired). After about a month, they finally started forcing the vending company to put unexpired product in the machine.

              3. Aveline

                I’d also like to add that, in my life, I’ve been on almost all rungs of the American social ladder except the very bottom/permanently homeless and the very top. The times I’ve been toward the top was when I got more free stuff.

                The wealthier one is more free stuff one gets. So even if you aren’t entitled going in, it’s pretty easy for some people to get there.

                1. Manders

                  Yes, I think this is a good point. When I was first starting my career in crappy low-paying jobs, every “company meal” was a mandatory potluck or came with some sort of strings attached, so I’d think twice before eating food left out in the break room. Now I’m at a place where the office kitchen’s stocked with goodies and I’m never expected to pay, so if I see food on the counter in the break room it’s safe to assume it’s up for grabs.

                  The people who *know* others are paying and refuse to contribute are being jerks. But some of these employees who are taking food may just think the regular monthly schedule and the fact that this is in the break room means the company is paying for the meals.

              4. JJ Bittenbinder

                I’m fairly certain that you’re only going to get anecdotes in response to your question. I don’t think there are any studies about which workplaces have fewer people who lose their damn minds over catered lunch.

                See also the fact that there’s not to my knowledge ever been a commenter who admits to bringing in a Tupperware to grab three servings of food.

              5. SheLooksFamiliar

                This is only my personal experience: not all but many of the worst offenders of free food clawbacks were the highest paid people in the department. Executive team members, too.

                I don’t know why free food causes so many people to lose their manners, but it does.

          4. Cheryl

            I don’t think it’s only poor people who take food like that. I think it’s people who think “Yay! Free food! I have to get my share!” Or SOMETHING, I can’t really wrap my mind around it. We’ve often had events in which the food is laid out in one of a couple large common areas, like at some conferences, and it’s often there while the participants are still in the smaller rooms doing their sessions. I’ve done my share of Food Guard Duty – it’s astonishing how many people will, seeing tables of food clearly intended for participants in the event announced by the nearby banner, help themselves. And not all of these people are poor. Even the poorer people probably don’t need to act on “oh, they’ll never miss one sandwich. And maybe one of those lovely cookies” to avoid starvation – but really, I don’t think they’re any more likely to take “just one, it’ll never be missed” than the very well-paid people who also pass by.

              1. Librarianna

                In the book “Free Food for Millionaires” by Min Jin Lee, there is a scene where an investment bank has a buffet lunch and one of the lower level employees comments that it’s always the rich people who take the most free food.

          5. Perpal

            There may be some correlation (ie, college students vs professionals; I was much more into free food as a college student, now I find I’m trying to avoid calories and they keep being offered) but the rudeness and craziness is IMHO it’s own thing and not directly related to need

            1. BelleMorte

              I second the college student thing. I had a small conference set up in a university and the food service was immediately outside of the conference hall in an alcove, clearly marked with out conference materials, signs etc. A stream of students went through and in under 3 minutes (I know the timing because I stepped inside the room briefly) stole 200 people’s worth of food and drinks. When I caught them I caught a few of them stuffing 5-10 drink bottles into their backpacks. Their excuse was they thought it was free for them, because they are students, then they walked off without putting back the drinks, even after I told them it wasn’t for them!

              I was more annoyed at the service staff that we were PAYING to set up the food and serve it let them do this.

              1. wittyrepartee

                As a grad student I once ate a slice of cake from an unattended (but already sliced) hallway cake on my way to class. I proudly announced this to the class I had been going to, and the teacher pointed out that eating abandoned cake wasn’t a totally normal thing to do.

                We also had a listserve at the uni that told us when and where food would become available after talks ended.

                In other words, the university probably should have been paying us more, because we were more than a little food insecure.

          6. Me

            I’m not aware of studies on food entitlement at work based on pay per se. But there have been studies on charitable giving that showing lower income are more generous than higher income. I see that kind of concept as being tangentially related perhaps.

            1. Perpal

              If it’s the study I’m thinking of, “more generous” depends on how you define it; ie, gross amount or percent net worth. The one I remember had wealthier people giving more total/gross, but relative to income, less. I kind of thought it was a little biased to label one measure “more generous” than the other.

          7. TootsNYC

            well, the Bagel Man discovered, with his honor system, that there is more theft of bagels on the high-paying floors. (google “bagel man” and Freakonomics)

      1. wittyrepartee

        Any Googlers here? You guys always have hilarious stories. Like, “the people who still moan about how they stopped serving lobster when the company got big”.

    2. Jennifer

      I don’t think it would turn into a clique. They would just be ordering takeout, which anyone can do. If a core group of people start doing it, nothing is preventing another person from starting their own group since it’s not an official company thing. Or ordering their own food alone.

  4. Artemesia

    IMHO the only way to deal with #1 is to cancel it. Wait 3 mos and then a group can do a lunch club or whatever, but you have to be a bit of a chump to keep forking over $100 a month to feed people who don’t contribute. And it wouldn’t hurt to just send out an email: only 10 of us have been contributing to the monthly fund for the meals and we just can’t afford to pay to feed 50 people a month so starting in April, this will close unless others want to pick it up and run it.

    1. I Took A Mint

      I think this is the best solution because once you cancel it entirely, people will be mad, but they will probably understand once you explain that it was funded by 5-10 coworkers, not the company itself, and was becoming too burdensome. Then, when you restart it as a lunch club, it will feel like an upgrade from zero instead of a downgrade from free-three-course-meal.

    2. Rach

      I would talk to a manager and have them email everyone to save the potluck and if there are little to no takers then cancel it. Staff may genuinely be unaware that it is being privately funded. That woman that is paying an extra $100 needs to stop pronto. I would suggest that the mum organise a monthly luncheon group instead at a local restaurant where they accept separate bills. No need to pay for anyone else, do the dishes or clean-up. Since it is only up to 10 paying for potluck anyway they could easily book a table for the monthly lunch, and to hell with the office potluck.

      1. LadyofLasers

        Yeah this seems to be the best path forward. That’s absurd that a few people are funding it for everyone! Maybe OP’s mother/manager could send out that email, and say explicitly if less than 80% of people don’t chip in actual money a week before the event, the event gets canceled and everyone gets their money back.

        If most of the office can’t afford that, they have no business throwing these parties monthly anyway.

      2. BelleMorte

        They need to be extremely explicit in the email.

        Lunch club is $10/person paid in advance to X. You will receive a ticket after you pay, which must be presented at the door. If you do not pay, you do not have permission to help yourself. Leftovers can only be collected after X-o’clock (end of lunch period?), and are only available to those who have paid.

        The lunch club is NOT being funded by company money, and is 100% funded by participants.

        Abuse of this event will result in cancellation of further “potlucks”.

    3. AnotherAlison

      This was my thought, too. I don’t think you can immediately transition. The clean break and absence of “free” meals is necessary. OP’s mom and the other funders could go offsite for lunch if they want some camaraderie in the intervening months.

      (This reminds me of little league baseball snacks. Some parents kept upping the game, so instead of a juice box, it gradually became a full size gatorade, energy bar, and an orange for everyone. Cheap people like me objected and eventually supplying snacks for the team was cut off and everyone just brought the snack for their own kid. I don’t mind buying 15 juice boxes, but I do mind buying 15 – $5 snacks. The people who “upped the game” were the poorest people on the team, interestingly enough.)

      1. Artemesia

        The need to cram food into kids at every opportunity is a bizzarro phenomenon that has grown dramatically over the last 3 generations. I know groups now that provide a snack before the game, at half time and after the game and the kids expect to be gomming down food and drink constantly in any organizational meeting. I find it totally weird and don’t doubt that part of the issue with kids ballooning weight is the emphasis on constant snacking coupled with reduced recess and PE and outdoor play.

    4. Genny

      Agreed on cancelling it for now. If/when they decide to revive it, they need to do something to make it an opt-in kind of thing (getting money up front, individual lunches, separate bills at a restaurant – whatever makes it clear that only people handing over money receive food).

    5. Emmie

      OP’s mom may never take her suggestions. At that point, OP needs to distance herself from the conflict. “Yes, mom. You’re right that this is wrong. I need you to stop talking to me about this because …” It’s okay to pull yourself out of the circus if she is complaining without action. I hope her mom takes these very good suggestions from AAM and fellow posters.

      1. Fight The Tupperware OP1

        My mom was excited at the idea of asking for Alison, and the rest of the AAM community’s advice. So I think it’s safe to say she’s open to suggestions.

    6. Someone Else

      Yeah, exactly. Normally the all staff email when 1-3 people are doing something bad is not a good way to handle, but in this case where it seems like 90% offenders, it seems like it’s time for an all staff email reminding people the way this not-potluck-Potluck works: you’re supposed to pay X and if you don’t please don’t partake; others have been subsidizing and it’s not cool, and we’re also not ordering enough extra for you to take home. We’ll announce if there are leftovers up for grabs. Yada yada. Basically make one across the board attempt to get everyone on the same page. Some may be horrified because they thought company was paying and will either opt out or start paying. Some may complain that what’s the point of company lunch if you have to pay. Others will already have known that’s exactly what was happening and will still try to not pay and take some. But it’ll eliminate the ambiguity over if people are being jerks vs ignorant (cuz right now it’s likely a mix).
      Then it’ll either get better or implode.

  5. mark132

    @lw4, just start marking the emails as spam. You’ll never see them again. And if she asks tell her you never saw them. I’m my case I don’t check my personal email ago that frequently. I could go 3-4 days occasionally without checking it.

    1. CastIrony

      I don’t even look at my more formal e-mail that often! Thanks for the reminder; I’m looking right now!

      1. valentine

        just start marking the emails as spam
        Ha! This is great.

        I was going to say filter the domain to delete or autoreply “You have reached an unmonitored mailbox.” For the current email, wait more than a month, forward it to work, and reply saying please use work email only. And create a burnable email that does(n’t?) forward/filter to your main personal email, if you’re going to keep giving it to colleagues.

    2. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

      Do not do this. Marking emails as spam affects a company’s general standing with ISPs and if you do it enough times your company’s emails could start going to spam in general.

      1. Tom

        If LW has requested the boss to stop doing this already – and gets ignored.
        Then – to be blunt – to hell with the companies standing. It`s a personal (as in private) email – and unless employer pays LW to be ‘always available’ (which, lets be honest, this does kind of suggest) – then the use of personal email should not be allowed.

        After repeated requests to stop doing that – the mails stop being work related, and start being spam – and should be addressed as such. Want good standing with ISP? Do not spam people. It is THAT simple.

        1. snowglobe

          I don’t think this is necessarily fair to the company, when it’s just one person sending the emails and which doesn’t seem to have been approved by senior management. It could also cause problems with the company’s clients, if they don’t see legitimate email that they need to see. Saying “to hell with the company’s standing” kind of ignores that the company is the source of LW’s income; they probably don’t want to cause problems in that vein.

          1. Tom

            Okay – then before doing that – go over boss to next grandboss and explain the problem.
            If that gets ignored to – then mark as spam.

            On the side – it doesn`t really work that fast -otherwise spam would be a much smaller issue than it actually is.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood

              No spam-filter required — just forward anything from her to your work account. Answer from there on Monday.

              1. Karen from Finance

                I don’t think it really solves the problem, though. It’s A solution, but not a complete one.

                Employee’s personal inbox still has the work emails, and she’s still getting these emails there on her days off. It’s just that now they are in two accounts. And now they are showing up in her work email with herself as the recepient, which can make specific emails harder to find at a glance. It can also mess up her searches if she uses the “from: [boss]” way of quickly finding emails.

                Overall, though it’s a good partial solution, it’s best in my opinion to find the way to make the boss stop, and just send the emails to her work adress so that the employee can check that address when she wants to in her time off, as is appropiate.

                1. The Cosmic Avenger

                  Most email systems allow you to delete the message after forwarding, as I mention below.

                2. Karen from Finance

                  I get that part, but that doesn’t solve the issue that she’s still getting them. Or any of the other issues I pointed out.

                3. pentamom

                  If you set up an automatic forward, you never get them, never see them. I think it will also retain the “from boss” even as a forward.

      2. Curly sue

        How does this work? If I tap the little fire icon next to an email in Thunderbird to send an email to my junk folder, is it sending something back to the server to alert my ISP? I assumed that setting was entirely contained to my computer.

        1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

          Yes it is. Someone else may be able to explain better but basically if enough people mark a company’s comms as spam it will be blacklisted and start going there automatically.

          1. boop the first

            On one hand, this is totally true! I get a lot of legit emails in my spam folder and I assume this is how it happens.

            On the other hand, companies just don’t seem to care about people like they used to. Does anyone really feel like we owe them anything?

            1. Colette

              They provide the OP with a paycheck – and if she wants to continue to receive one, she can’t take actions that will harm the company. Getting the domain marked as spam counts.

    3. Asenath

      I had unwanted emails to my personal account for quite a while. I started off mildly – forwarding the offending email to my work account, and responding from there with a civil request to use my work email address in the future. This worked for most people. I also tried to get the address off work email lists, which was less successful probably because there were so many of them, with personal ones and global ones and so on. Finally, with the last holdouts, I blocked my work ISP – emails are deleted unseen with a message asking the sender to resend their email to asenath@work.com. Peace at last! I think in recent years only one person (that I know of) both used my personal email address and didn’t see the message for an email that was important enough for me to go looking for.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger

      Eh, that might sound satisfying, but I would set up a filter to forward them to my work email and then delete them. That accomplishes what the OP wants without the slightly passive-aggressive part. Which, IMO, is fairly well-deserved, as using someone’s personal email address for work absent a specific request from them is much like calling them on their personal cell phone or home phone about work (when, obviously, they’re off work).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        Great minds think alike.
        Forwarding it to work means that OP will see their boss’s emails on Monday morning to respond from the office. OP should tell their manager once that they’re only checking email a couple of times a month when e-bills come through, and don’t even have the home email app on their phone anymore. Polite *AND* left alone at home… at least until the boss starts texting instead.

        1. Psyche

          Exactly this. Boss never gets a response except from the company email. Either they get the message and start sending it there, or they don’t but the filter takes care of the problem.

  6. J. Eldredge

    #4. Employee could insert a “rule” in her personal email account settings that automatically forwards to her business account any emails received from her boss.

    1. zaracat

      That doesn’t really solve the problem of her boss expecting her to see them and deal with them, though.

      1. RUKiddingMe

        This. Plus why should she have to take the time to even make the rule? It’s her *personal* email and Boss should not be sending stuff there, full stop.

        1. valentine

          But she gave Boss (or someone) her personal email. If you don’t want to be contacted, resist every which way you can.

          1. Kristine

            My (new, annoying) boss found out my cell phone number by pulling my resume from my file and used it to start texting me on weekends. If OP put her personal email on her resume when she applied (a very normal thing to do) then boss would have access to that info.

              1. Washi

                This makes no sense. People should use “burnable info” on their resumes when they apply to jobs just so that their bosses can’t possibly contact them outside of work? This is the boss’s fault for emailing her non-urgent things after hours, not the OP’s for giving out her real email!

                1. Psyche

                  Exactly. If you used your personal email to apply for a job (which is very common) that does not give the company blanket permission to use it after hiring you.

                2. RUKiddingMe

                  Agree. Unless it’s a job agreed to ahead of time that requires that kind if accessibility, Boss is overstepping.

              2. Phoenix Wright

                She gave them the info because every workplace asks for your contact details when you start working there. She never authorized them to contact her through those channels for work reasons. Expecting employees to give fake/burnable info is unrealistic.

                1. valentine

                  People are going to do whatever they want and your boss can just order you to use personal email for work and to read and reply to email on your days off. I’m assuming you don’t want to quit or to be fired over that, so I’m focusing on the piece that’s under your gainfully employed power. Why rely on overstepping people to stop?

              3. Karen from Finance

                Just because you gave someone some information for one reason, does not entitle them to use it however they want.

                1. TootsNYC

                  nobody is saying that it does.

                  But if that conversation doesn’t work, the OP is not powerless.

                  Nobody should rob me of stuff from my house. I still lock my doors.

            1. Kat

              @Kristine OMG that’s horrible! Have you been able to get your boss to stop texting you? I’d be so tempted to just mute notifications and then delete the whole thread without reading it and then play dumb about not getting the texts just to mess with a boss that so brazenly violated normal social etiquette.

        2. Dragoning

          “Should not” is great in theory, but rarely practical in solving problems, unfortunately. Resisting the obvious solutions because you “shouldn’t have to” doesn’t really get anywhere.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood

        Reply on Monday “I’m not checking my home account much anymore, so I’m forwarding these here to answer when I’m back at the office. I’d hate to not see something from you.”

      3. Hey Karma, Over here.

        OP should look into labor laws. If the office manager is her boss, it seems to me that OP is an hourly or salaried/non exempt employee. (If not, I’d bet dollars to donuts she’s mis-categorized, but I digress). Talk to office manager about billing for the time spent on these emails. You wouldn’t want the company to get in trouble, and since the conversations are via email, there is an audit trail.

      4. TootsNYC

        except if she says, “Boss, I’m not going to see those emails in my personal email, just FYI. I don’t check it often enough,” then boss can’t expect her to deal with them on her days off.

        And she deals with them when she’s back at work.

        She could also perhaps set up a rule that always replies to her boss, “This email was forwarded to WorkEmail.”

    2. Misquoted

      I don’t understand why someone would assume that I’m looking at personal email in the first place. If I’m on PTO or have a day off, I may not check personal email either.

      1. RUKiddingMe

        Back when I worked for other people, if I was not at work, I was not at work…period. I never took a job requiring me to be accessible on my off time and made sure people were well aware that I was not available nor would I come in on my day off. That’s my time, they rented me for X hours per week, they didn’t own me.

        I know not everyone (or most people really I guess) can take a hard line line that, and that’s a pretty privileged stance, but I didn’t care.

        Of course jobs were a lot easier to come by back in the dark ages and we didn’t have the ability of 24/7 access really. No intetnet, email, cell phones. We had pagers, but I wasn’t a doctor so I saw no need to have one…¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        People being able to not stress over work is a huge deal to me. Personal time is sacrosanct.

        /rant

        1. Kat

          I like this attitude so much. I had a retail job in my early 20s and I only got one full weekend off per month, which my manager knew I used to visit my long distance bf. He once called my cell on Saturday and I knew it was to ask me to work on Sunday even though I didn’t have a car and it wouldn’t be easy for me to get back in time. So I just ignored the call. I was like “Screw it. I’m not at work and I have zero obligation to answer my phone. He gave me the schedule for the week and I made plans. It’s not my fault if someone else can’t show up for their shift”.

  7. CastIrony

    I feel for OP #3’s boss because I am like them. Like Allison said, it’s really deep rooted.
    For me, it’s because I’m anxious, and because I work in food and customer service, I read a post I read online once and learned that even though something that happens is not my fault, it is, so I apologize and try to fix it as best I can.

    On a better note, I started student managing a couple of years ago, and while I am not the best at it, I have a checklist that helps me delegate so much. It’s easy to say, “Look at the list, and if you don’t know how to do it, I’m happy to train you”.

    1. valentine

      I would find the boss exhausting and infuriating. If the task is something I enjoy, Downton Downer’s gone and sullied it. Also: If everything is a bother and requires preamble, what is this person’s ideal? What does he think or wish would be happening? We all signed on knowing our business doesn’t involve a bouncy castle or floating in inflatable unicorns, so making unpacking the new silverware sound like the DashCon ball pit or Fyre Fest is confusing, at best.

    2. Lucy

      The trouble is the implication: “sorry I’m having to ask you to do this thing” implies the thing is awful, which is kind of offensive if it’s LW’s everyday job because it shows the boss thinks it’s a shitty job.

      “I’m sorry to have to ask you at such short notice” or “I’m sorry that you’re stuck with this awkward client” or “I’m sorry to ask you when it’s not your job but Sansa is away” are all different from “ugh llama herding sorry” when you’re addressing the llama herder.

    3. Joielle

      I’m not sure what post you read online that made you believe everything that happens is your fault, but that’s both untrue and a recipe for disaster. Even in customer service, there’s a big difference between “I’m sorry that happened” and “I’m personally sorry for a problem I caused.” And, neither of those apply at all to an interaction with someone you manage – you don’t need to be sorry in any sense for asking them to do something they’re responsible for.

      I, too, have diagnosed and medicated anxiety, but over-apologizing makes you seem weak and unsure of yourself – neither of which are qualities someone wants in a manager. What I do instead is thank the person and acknowledge their work – e.g. “Can you send me the Jones numbers by noon? Thanks, I know this is last minute.” or “I know the llama pens were particularly dirty tonight, thanks for dealing with that.”

  8. Kate

    OP2, if you can, try to turn off the feature where you see yourself speaking (that little window in the corner)

    It goes a long way to cutting down on the self-consciousness.

    1. Willis

      Came here to say this! I’d do a practice with a friend so you could make sure your lighting, background, etc. is good, and then turn off or hide the video of you speaking for your actual interview. I get so distracted seeing myself on video chats so I sympathize!

      1. Qwerty

        +1 on the post-it trick! Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the time, what others actually see is fuzzier than what your computer shows you, because of buffering with live streaming. So it can also help to think that you’re getting a bit of a “glamor shot” treatment thanks to internet speeds.
        Also, I don’t know if this is part of the awkwardness that you deal with, but breaking “eye contact” to look down at notes can still be okay if you call it out – just like it’s be ok to refer to notes if you are in person, coming prepared is a good sign! But since it’ll look like you’re looking down or away from the camera, you may just want to mention that’s what you’re doing.

        1. TootsNYC

          one thing about the post-it is the I think it might let you see if you fall out of range, bcs you can see around the edges. That’s the only thing that might make me choose it instead of turning off my ability to see myself.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz

        I second the practice sessions, and especially do a few of them so that maybe you become inured to seeing yourself in the video chats, but also to these suggestions of hiding the selfie image in the corner.

        The annoying thing about video chats vs. phone calls is that you still have to dress up as if you were going to a real interview instead of doing them in your normal WFH outfits, hairstyle, non-makeup, etc. But perhaps treating them more like an in-person interview will also help you overcome your self-consciousness, since you say that you are less self-conscious in person (which I am as well, so I totally hear you!).

        And I agree with what Allison said about how the interviewers are probably not as focused on your appearance as you think they are. If they are worth their salt they are likely focused on what you are saying and how confident you appear. It might help to think about that as well.

        As a musician, when I used to get nervous before solo performances (mostly in my school days) I used to think to myself, m=”My friends and family did not come here to listen to me screw up, they came to hear me play beautiful music.” It helped a lot to think that. Perhaps you could think, “These interviewers didn’t call me to see me be self-conscious, they called to hear about what I have to offer their organization and whether we’d be a mutual fit.” Then maybe you can focus on the substance of the call rather than the weirdness of video chat.

        1. TootsNYC

          I guess I’m weird, but I would never expect anyone I was interviewing to wear makeup or do anything fancy with their hair (comb it, of course). I don’t, and I’ve never paid attention, particularly to whether they did. Even in person, but probably especially at home.
          OK, I’d expect a guy to have a deliberate-looking facial-hair situation (like, are you a “stubble is cool” person, or did you just not shave yet?).

          And if I were interviewing someone for a work-from-home position, I’d expect them to wear a decent top (tidy-looking polo or open-neck button-down for a guy; the same or a blouse-style T-shirt for a woman), and some kind of pants.

          1. TootsNYC

            I also would never think less of someone because of their dog. Or their kid.
            I might think less of them based on how they handle it (if they yelled, or if their kid was rude*), but the mere interruption wouldn’t take away from a strong candidate.

            *you have to be a little older before you qualify as “rude”; most 2yo’s don’t earn that label, and lots of 4yo’s don’t either.

    2. NotThatCompany

      I hide the teleconference window when I’m video chatting. Typically I’m taking notes in another window anyway, sometimes in another tab.

      I’ve full on embraced this MUST NOT CARE attitude that Allison recommends. Do I still care? Yes. But I’m my worst critic and the rest of the world doesn’t think as badly of me and my looks as I do. So I ignore that it’s a video call and move on.

    3. MissGirl

      I also like to prop up my laptop on a stack of books so I’m looking straight ahead rather than down. Saves the chin issues and makes it feel more like a conversation. Remember, most people don’t like to be on video, including the other candidates interviewing.

    4. Knotty Ferret

      When it comes to pets, I had to borrow space in the apartment business center or get a room at the library. The ferret and cat just get noisy if they can’t freely hop in front of my monitor.. which isn’t good for interviews.

    5. jbdesign

      I came here to say the exact same thing! I’ve gotten so distracted by seeing myself out of the corner of my eye. Before any video chat I artificially raise my laptop so I am looking straight ahead or up into the camera, check lighting, face, etc, and then HIDE the window that shows myself. So much better. I also mention right away that I am taking notes, which relaxes me by reducing the need for constant eye contact. I’ve also had house phones ring, children screaming, and dogs barking—mostly forgiven—I try to joke about the mishaps but they can throw you. (Remember the TV Skype interview where his child comes into his office to ask Dad something? It happens to all of us.)

    6. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister

      I came here to say just that! It’s so easy to get distracted by your own (mirror image) face, and can totally throw you off your game.

    7. Jady

      I’ve heard the tip of making a smiley face sticker (or something equivalent) right by the camera so it gives you a point to focus and make ‘eye contact’ with the camera.

      1. Alanna

        I work in an industry where video interviews are the norm – especially as I am currently interviewing for remote work! Interviewers are definitely used to the fact that you are at home and everyone deals with stuff. They’re not judging you.

        I have my pet rats and guinea pigs in my office, but I can close the door to keep the cats and dog out (and close another door to keep them downstairs so no one can hear them). I feed the guinea pigs extra beforehand so they’re more likely to be quiet, but they’re also a little bit of my personal “brand” and most people who’ve met me or even glanced at my social media know about them, so I just mention them at the beginning so it’s not a thing! Most interviewers are curious and want to know more. Things like that can really take the pressure off. Saying something like “i do hope my cat doesn’t interrupt us!” will give you something to chat about and laugh over. 95% of interviewers will then tell me about their pets. And I’ve had plenty of interviewers who were also remote workers get interrupted by their pets/kids/spouse, too. And remember, if there is a sudden ruckus, you can always say “excuse me just a second” and mute your audio or video, and then come back and say “i’m so sorry, my dog was barking.” I’ve had the doorbell ring during an interview and asked if they minded if i ran down to answer it – they know most people are at home and that changes things a bit. Plus, if you’re going to work remotely, it gives them a sense of how you’ll handle these things on calls with coworkers and clients, as they’ll surely come up.

        As far as looks – prepare like you would for any interview – so that you feel attractive and confident, but don’t stress about it! I have done dozens and dozens of video interviews, so they get easier with experience, just like in-person interviews.

        1. Rebecca1

          I do video interviews. I really, really do NOT judge anyone’s appearance beyond noting whether the shirt has foul or inappropriate language on it, and making sure that the candidate is wearing pants (or at least successfully hiding pantslessness from me). Honestly, a lot of the time after my first glance and greeting, I am not even looking at the Skype window because I’m focused on typing up notes.

  9. JessaB

    I agree on the luncheon thing. I have a feeling that most people have no idea that only a few are paying. I don’t think just changing it to let only the people who pay eat would work right away, you’d have to be turning people back and some of the group might miss one or two and then you have an argument. I’m on team stop it for a couple of months and then go back with the club idea.

    We had a birthday club where I used to work years ago. Everyone who wanted to be in it put in x a month and it went into a special account at the credit union on site. Each month in our case a certain amount came out for a card and a small gift, and we did an actual potluck, whilst the account funded the papergoods and drinks. That might work for your group.

    1. Goya de la Mancha

      “She is now getting into monthly disagreements with coworkers who she feels should not take food if they did not pay for it.”

      Depending on who these disagreements are with, some of them could be very aware of who is paying and trying to take advantage – which is just an asshole move IMO.

      1. Mrs. H. Kenway

        Yeah, it’s not a matter of her being petty and “feeling like” people who didn’t pay shouldn’t take food. It’s a matter of her being absolutely right that people who didn’t pay should not take food, and if they know a few co-workers are paying for it and they’re still taking it, they’re thieves. I’d be reporting those people to their managers, frankly (AFTER the thieves have been told the situation, of course, and are still taking food without paying).

    2. PizzaDog

      I don’t know if I quite agree with this… if most people don’t know that only a few are paying, why are they eating? They know that they didn’t contribute.

      But yes, I’m definitely on team stop it and continue later with only the paying employees partaking.

  10. PollyQ

    OP3: My mom is an over-apologizer, which has left me with little patience for anyone else who does it. One strategy for you to try is to simply ignore the apologies and stop performing the emotional labor of re-assuring your boss. It’s possible that if you simply say, “sure, no problem” and quit giving him the positive feedback of reassurance, he’ll stop seeking it from you.

    1. antidisestablishmentarianism

      I am an over-apologizer, and I do it MOST often out of a genuine place of “I’m so sorry for being this annoying interruption in your day”, but also do it as the “social lubricant” someone aptly named it, above. This is a great method for BOTH of those, IMHO, because, as an over-apologizer, I never knew I was thus creating a burden on someone else until I read these replies today! And that’s the last thing I want to do, is again burden someone who I’m already feeling like I’m annoying. So by being matter-of-fact and ignoring it, really, you’re allowing the conversation to simply flow from there. However! I would love to have known my over-apologizing was such a burden on the people I’ve been doing it to, so I will actively step up my self-awareness of it to cut back. Thanks for the insight!

      1. TootsNYC

        right–when you take the step of soothing an over-apologizers, you are ALSO telling them thatthey are RIGHT to think of it as an imposition.
        If you’re matter-of-fact, then you are treating it like the appropriate thing it is.

        OP3 and others: Model for them how the interaction ought to be regarded.

    2. Garland not Andrews

      I totally agree. React as if the boss just said, “Please have the sales spreadsheet for March on my desk by Wednesday.”
      Easy reply, “Sure thing, March sales spreadsheet on your desk by Wednesday. Will do.”
      That way you give no weight to the apology, but also leave the door open for discussion of the task. I also find this repeating back solidifies the task in my mind so I don’t forget.

  11. LilyP

    LW #2 – If you aren’t doing this already, most video call platforms have options to hide the mini “self view” window, and I think that might help with the self-consciousness. You can do an initial check to make sure your face is visible and centered and then turn it off, or just learn how to arrange your laptop so you’re visible and leave it off for good.

    Also, try wearing the amount/style of makeup that makes you *feel* most comfortable, or what you’d wear to an in-person job interview, without worrying so much about looking flawless on camera. Truly, “confident and professional with visible wrinkles/blemishes” is almost always going to be more impressive than “perfectly smooth skin but awkward and visibly uncomfortable” (and it sounds like more makeup isn’t even making you look the way you’d like to anyway!)

    And remember, people who do these interviews probably do a lot and are almost certainly used to all the ways video is unflattering to everyone. Good luck out there!

    1. Colette

      And they’re probably not judging how great you look – they just want to get an idea of what you look like.

      If you’re looking for remote work, you may also need to participate in video calls on a somewhat regular basis. People like to be able to put a face to the name.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Yeah, I imagine the video aspect is so they get some body language and facial expression cues, not to judge how well you fit the office decor.

        1. Lance

          I am actually fairly curious on this point, since OP is saying they can’t read body language on the video interviews. Is it the buffering? The video quality? Is something distracting them from it? Because I’d think it would be perfectly doable, as you say, but I’m wondering why it wouldn’t be the case for the OP.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            With a video interview you might only get a chest-up view of the other person, which means you can’t see their hands. And people are less likely to move normally (lean forward when they’re interested, lean back when they’re not, or when they feel you’ve answered the question sufficiently and can move on).

          2. Emily K

            She did mention a time lapse, which suggests maybe a faster internet connection or more RAM on her computer would help. I am 50% remote with a geographically distributed team so I take multiple video calls a day, and I don’t experience any lag. My laptop is a new model Latitude with plenty of RAM, but my home internet connection is 100 Mbps FIOS – so it’s fast, but it’s several speed tiers below FIOS’s top-speed 1 gig offering, and I have other bandwidth users in my home while I’m working. If LW’s internet connection is reasonably high-speed and they’re experiencing lag, I’d look into upgrading their video card or RAM.

      1. BethDH

        That’s a really helpful overview — good to have all the recommendations in one place. I hadn’t thought about sitting further from the screen than you would for typing. I know I tend to sit in the same position as I do for working on my computer and that probably adds to both the self-consciousness and the difficulty with body language.

    2. Emily K

      I was coming here to say the same thing about hiding the view of yourself – nobody who isn’t a professional actor needs the pressure of watching themselves on video in real-time!

      If the v-con software doesn’t allow you to hide the window, a well-placed sticky note can work in a pinch.

  12. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

    #3 Another thing you can try is to ignore the apology altogether but be really pleasant and enthusiastic in your reply. For example:

    Got it! I’ll have that with you by end of play
    Ok great – I’ll get started on that now
    Thanks, I’ll get this to you as soon as I can

    So you’re being really nice, but not directly reacting to the apology.

    I did wonder if this person is new to supervising?

    1. WS

      Yes, I worked with an apologising boss and it’s easiest just to be cheerful, do your job and ignore the apologies. As the boss in question got less anxious directing me, she apologised a lot less.

      1. Sally

        Yes! My ex used to do this. She had never had an assistant before and didn’t know how to relate to the situation. Having been an assistant, I told her that being apologetic when asking someone to do their job is just annoying. It’s much better to be matter of fact and polite (say “please” and “thank you”) ane let everyone go about their day.

    2. AnotherAlison

      I’m going to agree with this partly and disagree partly. Yes, be pleasant and enthusiastic and clear that this is part of your job and you don’t mind doing it.

      BUT!

      Be cautious and aware of your long-term work under this manager and how your career is evolving. I had a previous position that was an analyst, but I reported to the SVP of sales. He always presented his requests as, “Hey, can you do me a favor? Hate to ask, but. . .” It was a chore for him, but something I liked to do and my job. My career under him was a dead end. I’ve been a lot more successful working for people who do what I do, just a level ahead of me.

      (Anecdotally, my mother also does a version of this. “You’re going to Minnesota next week? Ugh. I hate that you have to travel so much.” Again, it’s my job, and they pay me fairly to do this.)

    3. TootsNYC

      This was going to be my suggestion–just ignore the apologies. I wouldn’t even worry about making a point of being enthusiastic in your response, because that’s just another way of reassuring them.
      Do the “make a speech to my boss” bit, so you’re on record, and then just ignore the apologies and respond the exact way you would have.

      (Sort of like the advice to #1/video chat: Stop caring so much.)

  13. Jimming

    #2 – Could you get out of your home office to some type of co-working space with a private office or reserve a conference room in a library? That would prevent things like your dog from being a distraction, and might even have faster internet, better lighting, etc than your home office set-up.

    I’m on video a lot since I work from home and my tip for lighting is to make sure it’s in front of you, not behind you. Test your camera before the call so you know you are well-lit and centered in the screen, then (like others have said) turn off video of yourself if it’s distracting.

    Also maybe look for companies that have a majority of remote workers so you don’t feel singled out as the only one on video while everyone else is in the same conference room and having side-conversations. Good luck!

    1. Tau

      Also maybe look for companies that have a majority of remote workers so you don’t feel singled out as the only one on video while everyone else is in the same conference room and having side-conversations.

      This seems a bit of an extreme step to take because of an interview – especially because a company with lots of remote workers will most likely mean that she’ll have to do lots of video calls as part of her day-to-day job. Which would work for desensitisation, admittedly, but may still not be to OP’s taste.

      1. Jimming

        I didn’t mean only look for those type of jobs, just suggesting another possibility.

    2. Liane

      For the dog, perhaps OP can relocate the kennel to another room farther away from the home office for interviews?
      Advises the woman who adores her very spoiled Lab, who has the run of the house. Said Lab can nevertheless still deal with being put into the farthest bedroom for an hour, so he doesn’t annoy a repair tech or something.

      1. Jamie G

        Obviously different, but my cat likewise goes wherever she wants – but when we had pest control people over, she was perfectly fine locked in a bathroom in the basement for a few hours (with a “Don’t open! Cat inside!” sign on the door, just in case). I agree that putting the kennel in another room, farther away from the office and with the door closed, could be a good step to take.

        1. TootsNYC

          I had a cat that considered herself to be a “watch cat,” and she threatened the cleaning lady. So I shut her in the bathroom with food, water, litter box, and an open window when the cleaning lady came. She was fine. (The cleaning lady was worried, how would that bathroom get cleaned? I’d do it; that’s my “cost” for having a territorial cat.)

          The cleaning lady felt SO BAD for the poor little kitty! (Um, lady, she tried to attack you? and she has a window; she’ll be fine until I get home at 7pm.) So right before she left, she’d open the bathroom door.

          But honestly, pets will survive.

      2. Erin W

        Or–and this is not always an option–but she could be lighthearted about the interruption. I did a phone interview at home once and my dog started barking, and I was just like, “Sorry, the mailman has just made an appearance and my dog is voicing her displeasure,” and then the interviewer and I had five minutes of dog chat before getting back down to business. I got that job. A well-timed joke about the dog fart (OK, LOL) could have been a plus, not a minus. Especially since they didn’t have the be in the room for it. (Dog people know what I’m talking about.)

  14. FeatheredOne

    #3 – If apologizing is just a verbal tic or an ingrained habit, your boss might not be looking for any reassurance from you at all. I’d just pleasantly reply as if your boss had phrased the request as “hi, please file this by Tuesday, thanks!”.

    1. Tallulah in the Sky

      Same thing I was going to suggest. Reframe it in your head as a quirk of your boss, and that you don’t need to reassure him. Who knows, maybe if you respond to him in a very matter of fact way, he’ll take a hint and start to apologize less (don’t count on it though, just give yourself a little peace of mind and think of this as your boss’s issue, you’re not responsible for it).

      1. boo bot

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing – it’s probably a habit of expression rather than an actual apology, and you can probably just ignore it.

        It’s like the old interview trick: don’t respond to the question they asked, respond to the question you wanted them to ask.

  15. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

    #2 Is if possible that you’re not inherently bad at video interviews but you’re so convinced you are that it’s coming across? I strongly suspect the issue is your lack of confidence during these, rather than any inherent inability to be good at them. If you’re convinced you won’t present well, that’s going to have a self-sabotaging effect.

    You seem to be telling yourself a story about what good means, and how you can’t do it. Other people don’t come across like YouTube stars on video. Try to change the record. Tell yourself that video interviews are annoying but you’re great at interviews (because you are when you interview in-person) and you’re going to ace this too. Remind yourself of all the reasons why you’re a great fit for the position.

    Try to think about what employers want in a video interview. They want to feel like you’re interested in the role and can do it. You can give them that!

    1. Tau

      This is where my thought went to. I’d frankly expect most interviewers not to care too much about details of external appearance like bags under the eyes or the like – but they’ll definitely notice if you seem awkward and uncertain of yourself. Same with the dog – sure, it wasn’t great, but most reasonable people will understand that unforeseen interruptions can happen and you did what you could to keep her out of things. However, in order for that to work you have to have the confidence to address and get past the interruption – “so sorry about that, looks like my dog is training to be Houdini – do you mind if I quickly return her to her kennel?” If it really throws you out of your stride, again, people are going to notice. Especially if you don’t say anything about it.

      I love Alison’s advice here, and also Penelope’s glasses’ advice about rephrasing it. There’s a lot of psychology that goes into this stuff, and it sure sounds like your current narrative is not doing you any favours.

      1. I Took A Mint

        Agreed, I’m genuinely confused by the idea that interviewers will (1)notice (2)care about (3)penalize/mark you down for your appearance in a video interview, where they wouldn’t in an in-person interview. Honestly, if you’re great in person, I would expect you to be even better in a video interview as opposed to just phone/paper. Your facial expressions and energy come across almost as well as in person. It’s normal to be camera-shy but it doesn’t sound like you’re recording a video, just speaking to someone on a screen. So I encourage OP to think of this as a tool that gives you a leg up, as opposed to knocking you down.

        1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

          I get the OP’s concern. I’m not ugly per se in real life, but I photograph HORRIBLY. I don’t wear makeup so there’s no tricks I can use in that regard. On the one or two occasions I’ve had to interview via video, I’ve just hidden the window that shows the view of me and then just proceeded as if it were face to face. That helped though it still wasn’t the world’s most comfortable experience.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Even if you don’t wear makeup, you can position the camera and lighting to eliminate or reduce some issues. Bags under your eyes, for example, which the OP listed as a concern, can be minimized by making sure your camera isn’t lower than eye level, and using diffused light instead of harsh, direct light (i.e., near a window with a sheer curtain, instead of under your task lighting).

          2. I Took A Mint

            But…my whole point is that interviewing is not just about how you look in a photograph. It’s about how you speak, are you animated, are you thoughtful… The fact that pretending it’s face to face made it better just proves that it’s all about your self-perception, not how you objectively look. Plus if you think you come across well in person then video chat should be preferable to email/phone because you can more easily express your whole self.

    2. BRR

      Yeah I’m worried it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think the LW should get over it like Alison recommends (Which is not the most helpful advice) and think of it as helping you. Video interviews are more like in-person interviews than phone interviews so I hope you see this as working in your favor. And while I know it’s easy to focus on your own physical features, people on the interviewer side are not dissecting your face this way. It’s the same as you’re not noticing your interviewer’s face. In addition to video calling friends, I think it would help to record yourself saying, really anything. It takes some practice but if you focus on looking at your camera, hopefully you will be able to ignore the image of you (but it sounds like it would help to hide that or cover it with a post it).

    3. Washi

      Yeah, I really think the OP needs to do some video chatting with friends to get used to the idea that you’re just having a conversation via computer, not shooting a fancy video. There are some tips that help, like making sure your light source is behind your monitor, not behind you and what kind of makeup looks good, but I feel like the biggest obstacle is the OP associating cameras with being a YouTube star.

      I have been on both sides of this, and when I video interview people, I expect there to be a few awkward hiccups! Sometimes there are time lags, or you need to adjust the angle of the monitor, etc. It would have made me laugh if someone’s dog had escaped and made a cameo appearance. I suspect that you look absolutely fine on camera, and just like everyone at some point needs to learn to talk on the telephone, you’ll need to get through a period of getting used to talking over video chat.

    4. BethDH

      I’ve also done enough of these now that I’ve found some things I like better about video interviews! I get nervous about them in many of the ways the OP mentions, but they also have perks (some of these things only apply in comparison to phone interviews, or in comparison to in-person).
      My personal list includes:
      *video interviews get rid of some of that awkward time before an on-site interview where you’re waiting in front of people, or that time afterward when you need to maintain composure while you are leaving
      *I can have notes that are formatted in a more helpful way or that include things I wouldn’t want the interviewer to see (reminders of names, visual cues, big arrows, the basic stuff I would be embarrassed to forget and embarrassed to have them see I need). I use a small inclined book rest to make sure they stay angled away from the screen
      *If there are multiple people interviewing you, it’s a lot easier to keep track of who is speaking than it is on a conference call
      *While I still do full interview attire for an interview, things I would be self-conscious about in person are somewhat less obvious on a screen (like wearing a jacket and pants where the blacks had faded ever-so-slightly differently)
      *I don’t feel self-conscious about being short when we’re not in the same room!

      1. Washi

        Ooh, I like this idea of reframing and thinking about things that are good about video interviews! I would also, specifically regarding things that are better about video than telephone:
        -If you aren’t sure how to answer a question, you don’t have to make verbal noises indicating you are thinking, the way you would to avoid dead silence on a phone call
        -You can gesture with your hands and nod along and smile
        – You have both of your hands free for writing
        -Some of the people you’re talking to will be more comfortable on video than on the phone, so you may have a better experience just because they are better interviewers that way

  16. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

    #4 I feel like everyone is burying the lede here. Your boss sends you emails when you make errors and even does this to your personal email on your days off? I’m guessing this probably isn’t the only blemish on an otherwise pleasant working experience, so I’m wondering what else is wrong. If you stop reading the emails is that going to make things even worse in other ways? Is it possible that what you actually need is a new job or a different supervisor?

    1. Armchair Expert

      I agree with this. It sounds either very micromanaging, or as if you’re actually underperforming and your boss is at the end of her tether. To be clear, in the latter case she still should be addressing that with you personally and not following you around the internet making critiques, but it’s the only other thing I can think of.

      I have got the occasional ‘thanks for this [piece of work], but FYI usually we do it like this’ email in my life, but if I was getting regular emails listing my errors even at work I’d be feeling very anxious about it.

    2. Beth

      This was my thought too. OP, why does your boss even have your personal email address? Is the problem really that they’re emailing you off-hours, or is it that they actually expect you to be reading these emails and thinking about work even when you’re off the clock?

      If the problem really is the emails and they’re a perfect boss otherwise, then ask them to send the emails to your work email instead; they’re reasonable, so they’ll likely do it. If they don’t for some reason, set up a forwarding rule so the emails get automatically marked read in your personal email and forwarded to your work email so you can deal with them there.

      But I suspect that the actual problem is really that your boss wants you to be thinking about work, handling work emails, etc. even while you’re off. If that’s the case, the emails are a red herring; if it weren’t emails, it would be phone calls, texts, knocking on your door, comments on performance reviews about you not being dedicated enough, leaving notes on a grave, etc. Overstepping bosses always seem to find a way to express their unreasonable expectations. If this is the case, you can ask them to back off, but be prepared for them to refuse or to simply switch methods.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        I’m not that surprised at a boss having a personal email address. It usually happens during the initial interview phases, and sometimes that’s the email address that populates and people either don’t realize it or forget to change it. I still get invitations for work parties sent to my personal email address from our head of operations, despite my heads-up and request that she change it. (To her credit, I don’t think she even thinks about it because she sends out maybe two of those invitations a year and every other email goes to my work address.)

        Mind you, I’m not excusing this practice because I think it’s REALLY annoying. A co-worker at my last job ignored every single request to stick to my work email address. I expect most people to either realize their mistakes or apologize and fix them after said mistakes are brought to their attention. That’s usually what happens.

        I think this situation is different, because it sounds like the boss is deliberately sending things to the personal address on the weekends, and it’s a whole bag of WTF, but the simple fact that the boss has the address sounds pretty normal to me.

      2. TootsNYC

        why does your boss even have your personal email address?

        I ended up with my direct reports’ personal emails when they had to email me about being out, and they didn’t have access to their work email from home.

        Then it was just in the system, and sometimes it would auto-populate.

        Having it was useful, because if *I* needed to be out on Monday unexpectedly, or late, or something, I could email them at home and there was a chance they’d see it.
        I didn’t purposely abuse it (though sometimes that auto-populate thing would get me, until I figured out how to tamp it down), but I had it for legit reasons.

        Also, for some of them, I had their home email in my address book leftover from when I was interviewing them.

    3. MK

      Eh, OPs write to AAM to have specific questions answered. It’s one thing for people to address other things in the letter too, and another to speculate about whatever else might be wrong eith no prompting.

      And I don’t find it all thar odd that OP’s boss might be generally ok, but have an unreasonable expectation that she will be in touch even on days off; it’s pretty common and expected in some fields.

      1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

        Be in touch? Sure. Field emails about errors? Not so much.

        Yes, people send specific questions but sometimes it’s worth pointing out that this feels like part of a bigger problem.

    4. Xav

      Staying on topic and answering the question that was actually asked is not “burying the lede”.

      1. Penelope Garcia’s glasses

        I meant that everyone was focusing on managing the emails and not on what they were about.

      2. Engineer Girl

        That’s a matter for discussion. The symptom is emails. But they are not the source of the problem. They are caused by a manager noting errors.
        Don’t solve the symptom. Solve the problem.

    5. HannaSpanna

      Side note but honestly didn’t know that America uses burying the lede instead of burying the lead, and just had to do a bit of googling to understand why. (Answer, random theories but no one is completely sure.)

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Thanks. I knew “lede” was newsroom lingo for the important takeaway from an article, but not the source.

      2. Clisby

        And, post-linotype, “lead” just referred to spacing between lines. So, if the person laying out the paper found that an article was a line or two short of the allotted space, they’d put in a command to “lead out” the article to fit; i.e., slightly increase the spacing between lines.

    6. Triplestep

      I don’t think everyone is burying the lede – the lede is right there, and people are choosing to give tech advice.

      I also noticed that the body of the letter does not say the Office Manager is actually LW#4’s boss. Don’t know if Alison will chime in here, but sometimes headlines get changed to things not submitted by LWs.

      If this is a co-worker bent on pointing out LW#4’s errors on her days off, then this is a problem that should get brought to management. If the Office Manager is, in fact, LW#4’s actual boss, then yes – what needs to be addressed is her style of giving feedback about errors.

      I won’t say this has nothing to do with inappropriate use of personal e-mail, but it’s not the main problem.

    7. Psyche

      I think we don’t really have enough information to say whether or not is a bigger problem. If these mistakes are things that need to be corrected, then it makes sense to email the OP about them. The only problem is the address being used. Since she hasn’t yet pushed back, we don’t know if there is a larger problem.

  17. I Heart JavaScript

    One thing about video interviews–a lot of people hunk they look “better” (more like themselves) when presented with a mirror image, because that’s how we typically see ourselves (in the mirror). Some video conferencing software will allow you to mirror your own feed, which ends up looking/feeling more natural to some people. Give it a shot! I know it really helped me.

    1. Glitsy Gus

      It’s funny you say that! I came to realize I was all tripped out because it was set to show me the mirrored image and I was super distracted by everything being backwards. I flipped it to be “normal” and I was far less distracted and tripped up.

      So, yeah, try setting it up the opposite of whatever you have, that may help a bit.

  18. Sir Freelancelot

    OP2, I’m curious about why do you think people will expect you to see a YouTube star during a video call. They only expect to see a competent person with a normal level of physical apparence – and with this I mean not appearing wearing a frog hat or a t-shirt with an inappropriate sentence. I do sympathize about barking dogs or Internet being slow, but that is a common occurence that a reasonable employee knows can happen! You’re giving too much power to the “video factor”. Dress like you would for a traditional interview, maybe hire a pet sitter that can take your puppy for a brief walk, find a room in your house where Internet is at its best, focus on your speech and the fact you’re a competent employee, and good luck!

    1. Katie's Cryin'

      Yes, really. Be happy that you’re able to benefit from a technology that can save you the couple hours of driving around and waiting that you’d have to do for an in-person interview.

  19. Tallulah in the Sky

    OP#1 : I’m kinda surprised that no one mentions that if it’s a lunch meant for everybody, than the price should be reasonable. It’s probably not in everyone’s budget to contribute to a”mandatory” three course meal every month (I know it wouldn’t be in mine). And I say “mandatory” because technically, they could opt out, but then those lunches would only be to celebrate those wealthy enough to participate, which would suck. What’s happening is unfair to your mother and the ones who pay, but it’s also unfair for those who couldn’t pay.

    So what I would advice your mom : send an e-mail to everyone informing them the “potluck” was becoming too expensive for the organizers and it will have to be downsized. Set a maximum cap on how much people can chip in (like 10$) to avoid some people paying way more and growing resentful, and people who can’t don’t have to. Or do a real potluck. Or order lunch at a reasonably priced place where people can order what they want and they only pay what they order (also, no left-overs here). If some of the coworkers (who payed) liked their monthly three-course lunches, they can still do it, but those would be normal lunches and not tied to an event meant for “everyone” (although I would wait a couple of months to let the new normal sink in).

    1. Armchair Expert

      “In theory, if every employee contributes $10, this would cover the cost of food, drinks, plates, and cutlery”.

      1. Excel Slayer

        It does seem that they’re ordering enough food for everyone regardless of how many people can/will pay or not though – so it does seem that there should be some form of agreement to participate rather than ‘We’ve ordered food for you, where’s your $10?’

        1. valentine

          If the cost is the problem, the thieves have options other than stealing, like asking the company to pay. Why would you insist to Mom that you’re going to steal the food (especially including takeaway) instead of doing literally anything else?

          I don’t understand the responses calling for other food at the same price. Maybe cake is one of the courses? But if I pay for three courses, it’s because that’s what I want, not a cake (that’s probably melting and overly touched,) or anything else.

          1. Excel Slayer

            Ok, yes, people shouldn’t be helping themselves if they haven’t paid in. BUT I think they shouldn’t be ordering stuff for people who haven’t paid in, or at least even agreed they want food. I bet, for example, there’s at least one person who never eats the food and never pays everything, but is included in the total food that needs to be ordered and is in that theoretical $10pp figure.

            1. quirkypants

              But did you also real the part where some of the folks who are not paying are also taking food home with them in tupperware containers? This is not normal.

              1. Excel Slayer

                Yes I did, and I’d like to say it isn’t normal but I’ve seen it happen.

                I’m saying, as someone who organises events et at work where people have to pay, that you have to get their explicit buy in (and money) first. There’s no point providing something and then asking for the money afterwards because a) you’ll never get it, b) some people will say they never agreed to pay you, even if they were explicitly told, and c) some people will not actually want to attend or pay and there’s zero point in organising and place or ordering food (AND paying out of your own pocket) for someone who hasn’t said they want you to, because you will never see that money again.

                I’m not disagreeing that people are being terrible. But a lot of people are hideous around work events anyway, especially when it comes to paying up. She can let go of at least some of the stress here if there needs to be an explicit buy in (preferably with money up front), so she’s not ordering and paying for stuff that people don’t actually want.

      2. Tallulah in the Sky

        Ah, sorry, I misread. I thought it was just drinks, plates and cutlery. Well, than, just buy cake and goodbye lunch. I do wonder how they get all this (three course meal, drinks, etc) for only 10 dollars ! With leftovers !

        Anyway, all my comments are worthless now, sorry everyone !

        1. valentine

          I doubt there are leftovers. The Tupperware brigade doesn’t tend to wait for everyone to get at least one serving. More likely, not everyone is having the three courses.

          1. Fight The Tupperware OP1

            You’re correct! Not everyone gets to eat cause of the Tupperware Jerks.

            Also the $500 – $600 covers the costs of a little buffet that has an appetizer / salad, a main dish, and desert, plus cutlery.

    2. TL -

      It’s $10 once a month, which is a reasonable cost for a restaurant lunch. I suspect if the numbers go down, the price will go up, which is part of the reason mom is resisting.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise

      LW1:

      1. Mom is better off canceling these events – she’s bearing a lot of cost and aggravation that has nothing to do with work. If anything, from her company’s POV, she’s spending significant work time on non-work.

      2. I’m not sure this is a great idea anyway even if you could make everyone pay. I’m particular about what I eat, I have potlucks, and I don’t eat cake. A work “tax” like this on something I don’t want would annoy me. I certainly wouldn’t free load off others but this just isn’t a good idea. Go out to lunch if you want but let people celebrate birthdays etc with their friends and family.

      3. LW should try not to become overinvested in her *mom’s* work problems. This happens all the time with my spouse. Spouse “complain complain” Me “suggestion” Spouse “I’m going to do [other thing].”

      Just tell your mom you’re sorry she’s frustrated but you’ve told her your thoughts already and change the subject. You don’t have the power to fix things for her.

      1. valentine

        A work “tax” like this on something I don’t want would annoy me.
        You could just not participate? Why does it hurt you if 10 people want to have a catered meal and don’t punish you for not joining?

        1. Falling Diphthong

          Is there no punishment? There’s often social punishment against those who ruin everyone’s fun by not participating in the group bonding thing.

          Not even getting into the people who get marked down for bad team spirit on their yearly review because they didn’t want to pay for the boss’s idea of a fun Saturday bonding over expensive sports.

          1. JB (not in Houston)

            That’s the case in some places, sure, but there’s nothing in the letter to indicate it happens here.

            1. Fight The Tupperware OP1

              Yeah I agree with JB. I think you’re reaching a little bit Falling. It’s just a lunch. No one’s reviews are on the line, I hope.

          2. TootsNYC

            if I were picky (and I have to be, since I have celiac), I’d just bring my own food and sit with them all. That’s what I do!

            (though my bosses are really good about getting GF food, since there are 3 of us who can’t eat gluten for one reason or another)

        2. londonedit

          I read it as Cheesesteak being concerned that everyone would be made to pay, regardless of whether they actually participated in the lunches or not. Then it would be a ‘work tax’.

        3. Genny

          I think it becomes a work tax when your participation is figured into the average cost per person (and then people get snippy about you not wanting to participate), which it sounds like this is kind of happening here. LW’s mom is assuming all 60ish people will participate and thus ordering the food accordingly. It’s currently an opt-out system, and it doesn’t sound like there’s a good way to actually opt out.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood

        Re: #2 No matter what OP&her mom call it, it’s not a potluck – it’s a catered lunch prepared by a local restaurant.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood

          Honestly the way it’s going now, it’s almsot more of a POTLATCH than a potluck.

      3. Fight The Tupperware OP1

        It’s just one letter to AAM. I’m not “overinvested”. It’s a silly situation my mom is dealing with at work that I find comical, and wanted to know what Alison thought.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood

      OP where’s your mother’s boss in all this?
      Because one way to get this cut off without your mother taking blowback is for management to “become aware that employees are funding company events” and send a cancellation email. Or better yet to declare a $30/month budget for a small monthly cake that will be available on the first Monday of the month — first pieces to go to employees with birthdays that month.

      1. Fight The Tupperware OP1

        Her boss doesn’t want to get involved in “personal” matters, and his boss is one of the Tupperware Jerks.

  20. Kisses

    LW2, I just have to say that your dog farting is giving me the giggles.
    Aside from that, I know you stated that if you wear too much makeup you feel you look clownish, but it’s something I do for video streaming. I call it “theater makeup” since its caked on a bit like when I did drama. It looks terrible close up, and in the mirror, but it translates to a nicer look on camera. Also, have a light behind your monitor that isn’t bright enough to blind you, but any light on the skin I’ve noticed hides my flaws better and I have the same issues as you (under eye bags and blemishes)

    1. SamIAm

      Thanks for this. I do a lot of meetings via VTC and will use these tips. I am confident in who I am, but as a woman of a certain age I still want to look good!

    2. PizzaDog

      In addition to the light, I would also suggest to turn the brightness down on your monitor so that you’re less blue. The more flattering lighting will do wonders for your confidence.

      1. Pennalynn Lott

        I had a video interview a couple of weeks ago and I draped tan/beige Spanx shapewear over my *very* bright LED lamps to warm up the color. It also helped because every time I looked away from the camera to think about a question or to search for a word, I started laughing internally at the silliness of my underwear hanging just off camera, which translated to a more smiley, warm, open me. :-)

    3. TootsNYC

      If you laughed at your dog farting, I would probably give you six extra points in the “pro” column.

  21. Jules the First

    OP3 – is it possible that this is the first time your boss has had someone to delegate these types of tasks to?

    Many years ago I was my boss’ very first deputy and he was super self-conscious about it, partly because he’d never had anyone to delegate this type of stuff to (he had direct reports, but all technical people so he was delegating technical “fun” stuff along with the boring crap), and partly because none of his peers had a deputy (so he felt like he was slacking when he asked me to do something that was my job but was also something his peers did for themselves). He used to apologise a lot.

    I finally said something along the lines of “hey, you know that I enjoy picking this stuff up, right? I get a buzz out of getting the details exactly right and I know you hate doing this stuff and it’s a waste of your time – since otherwise you could be doing X which is technical, something you’re really good at, and not something I can ever do.” I would just ignore the apologies and they will eventually stop…but I hear you on how annoying it is!

  22. M&M

    #2 I can relate so much on this. Lately I have been getting invited to video interviews where you answer to a scripted question while looking yourself on the camera. It is so awkward. However, the last one I did was via an app that had the option to hide the monitor and just look the text of the question you were supposed to answer. Can you look into something like that? Does anyone know if that is an option on more mainstream apps?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      If you look at yourself onscreen in videochat, your image isn’t “looking at” the interviewer. Find the camera on your setup and look at that.

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        Maybe even put a post-it note below it, with an arrow, to help you stay focused on it. (Or am I the only one who needs that kind of reminder?)

        1. TootsNYC

          draw little eyes on the sticky part of a sticky note, and cut them out, then stick them on the monitor surrounding the camera.

  23. Iron Chef Boyardee

    #1:

    “Once a month, my mother and her coworkers coordinate a potluck to celebrate birthdays and other special events. […] The company does not contribute any money, nor is there a company budget for this. These potlucks are 100% funded personally by employees.”

    Is this an official company event, or is this something a few employees decided to do on their own and it snowballed to the extent that it is what it is now?

    If it’s not an official company event, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be shut down, and the people who have been contributing to it re-evaluate the setup and just make it so that only those who do contribute get to participate.

    If the freeloaders don’t like being shut out of the new system, but they still refuse to contribute, that’s their problem, not your mother’s.

    (And if this is an official company event, why are the employees paying for it out of their own pockets in the first place?)

    “[My mother] thinks it’s a better idea to create a list of those who do financially contribute to the potluck, and only allow those who paid to take food. I told her she has no authority to enforce that plan”

    If this is, in fact, not an official company event but something that your mother and her coworkers decided to do on their own, why do you say she doesn’t have the authority to enforce her plan?

    1. valentine

      why do you say she doesn’t have the authority to enforce her plan
      How are you going to stop Tupperware Tuppence from grabbing all they want and won’t pay for? Mom is arguing monthly; the thieving continues apace.

      1. 2horseygirls

        Let’s be honest – Mom’s relaying of what she believes is arguing and what is really happening might cover a broad spectrum. Our perception of our parents “laying down the law” is from a completely different perspective, and involves a completely different dynamic, than their role as an employee in their job.

        I am absolutely boggled as to how it has gotten so out of control. Did no one say something when the first person who did not pay ate anyway? It is hard to go from one person “forgetting” their money to 40-50 chowing down for free in one month’s time …

        I would shut it down immediately. When asked, a perfectly pleasant reply of “Well, gosh, Karen, this was a contribution-funded event for employees only. Somehow, it just became a free-for-all woth people taking food home, and the other paying participants and I are unable to financially continue buying lunch for the entire office every month. If you would like to be added to the paying contributor list, I will make a note in case we get enough interest to make it financially feasible to do it again in the future.”

        Direct, to the point, and offering a solution.

        As far as people losing their minds at the end of free food – if your mom died tomorrow, it would stop anyway (unless the other nine particpants decided to shoulder her share and continue on). And how many of those people who happily ate the food she paid for would bother to notice that there was one less person at the monthly lunch, much less sign the condolence card, chip in for flowers, or come to her wake?

      2. Lynca

        Best answer: Mom should just take the tupperware from the people’s hands and punt it like a football.

        Reasonable Answer: If it’s for only 10 people? Enforcing her plan is probably fairly easy because she’s not having to guard an entire smorgasbord. It’s also privately funded. Unless the company steps in and tells them to stop (which is possible) it’s entirely up to them to deal with the issues that arise.

        But valid options would include getting meals individually portioned, setting up ground rules for participation, and not having food set out in a central public location to distribute.

        Honestly if they drop the ‘potluck’ moniker and specifically call it out as lunch they paid for and had delivered for them, that’s probably going to change the optics quite a bit. They keep calling it a potluck which reads that there’s not a heavy financial contribution and it’s open to all. If they like to occasionally order lunch- people are going to be a lot more understanding that there is a specific financial contribution to be made in order to partake.

        1. valentine

          Mom should just take the tupperware from the people’s hands and punt it like a football.
          Starting with the department head will really set the tone.

    2. HannaSpanna

      This is a good point. If it was organised by work, Mom would not have authority, but as it is organised by a small group of them, they totally has the authority to enforce or shut it down. Issue is enforcing is creating too much drama at the mo, so rethinking the plan is needed.
      (As it sounds like mum appreciates these meals, putting it on pause and restarting with stronger boundaries in place – like food arriving in individual portions to stop the food vampires.)

    3. TootsNYC

      I told her she has no authority to enforce that plan”

      She would too have authority to enforce this plan!
      I think you’re off the mark here.

    4. Fight The Tupperware OP1

      It’s not a company event, it is purely organized and funded by the employees. It has snowballed over the years.

      I didn’t feel she had the authority to enforce a list cause these lunches are to celebrate public things – like birthdays, and holidays. It just seemed a little cold to me to exclude people from something like that, whether they paid or not. Plus some of the offenders are senior to her, how is she suppose to police them?

      1. Mr. Shark

        Since it’s only organized and funded by the employees, it is not a public thing (as in, it’s not for everyone). It sounds like the real problem is the amount of food that is being ordered and the buffet style. Your mom and those organizing this event should just order enough for the people who paid. We have birthday celebrations in our office, and normally there is an e-mail before-hand that asks for contributions for cake/snacks from those people who know the person whose birthday it is. There are other people that end up showing up for the cake, but largely it is covered by those who are “invited” because they are friends of the person who is celebrating their birthday.
        I like the idea of having only the food ordered for those who are paying and then having the individual lunches labeled.
        I agree that sending out an e-mail letting people know that the current celebration luncheon is unsustainable because not enough people are contributing is the way to go. Your mom and the person who put in $100 should lead any charge on that, since they are the ones bearing the brunt of the financial cost.

      2. MJ

        The people organizing the lunch are the ones celebrating the birthday or holiday – between them. Why do they think that they have to celebrate the birthday or holiday with the entire company? A “public event” doesn’t have to be celebrated publicly. Joe in Accounting doesn’t need the 5-10 people in A/C Services to pay to “publicly” celebrate his birthday. If it HAS to be “public”, then the company pays.

        The organizers need to grow spines and take back the lunch and make it private.

        The mentality of the organizers is mind boggling.

  24. staceyizme

    There’s always a question of how to handle non-payers at these events. “Don’t pay, don’t eat” sounds fair for food that’s ordered in. Your mom is entitled to not subsidize by a factor of six. But- it also sounds like it has become a negative distraction. It might be better to dissolve the old event and reconvene a monthly lunch later, in a smaller format with clear rules. That break disallows others from participating under the guise of “it’s always been okay to take food before…”. As a “new” lunch club, your rules, your way.

  25. MommyMD

    If Mom wants to keep the lunches going an announcement and a written announcement at the beginning of the food line: Everyone who takes a plate, pays. Set the dollar amount.

    1. EPLawyer

      Trust me, the tupperware brigade will rules lawyer that one. I brought my own plate I don’t have to pay.

      We always hear “maybe they can’t afford to pay.” “Maybe they are food insecure.” Not 40-50 people in one office. Nope, they are moochers. Pure and simple.

      I don’t know how it got started that the small group subsidized the larger group but its time to stop it. Very simply state, due to the cost of the event, we 6 cannot afford to buy lunch for the whole office on a monthly basis. Therefore we are ending the monthly birthday lunches. Period. Full stop.

      But, LW, this is NOT your problem. Not your monkeys, not your circus. If your mom wants to keep complaining about it, politiely tell her you have given her your options and you wish to speak to of something else. Because it sounds like your mom wants to complain rather than just stop forking over $60 a month.

      1. Dragoning

        It could be 40-50 people in one office being food insecure of the company doesn’t pay well enough, or maybe is a nonprofit or something similar.

        But frankly, it doesn’t really matter why they keep taking all the food. They need to stop.

        1. valentine

          That many people could well be food-insecure, but food-insecure people are the least likely to steal. See: OP who was living on actually free work cupcakes. The 10-pizza guy was not freezing them to put food on his family. Even people who crowdfund will ask for the bare minimum, not, say, double rent so they have a month of breathing room and hope of catching up. They simply don’t (and possibly can’t) hoard.

      2. MJ

        And the Tupperware brigade will be the first in line to “get their fair share” – which apparently means those paying for the food don’t actually get to eat it.

  26. in a fog

    OP #2, I once did a major video interview for a job I eventually got while sitting on my couch (with my computer on one of those lap desks) because I knew I’d be comfortable and wouldn’t fidget. Would it be a good idea to try out different locations that might help you relax?

    Of course, this only works if you’re using a laptop…

  27. 867-5309

    OP2, I second many of the comments above and want to add three more ideas:

    I was self conscious about my face during video conferences and started wearing readers/glasses. It was a little thing but it made me feel better about how I looked on screen and thought if took away from the “negatives” about how my face looked in the video.

    Also, I wear black when video conferencing. Go with black, navy or gray. There are shades of the latter that work for almost all complexion types, if black and navy don’t work for you. I then didn’t feel that I was trying to come up with the “perfect” top to wear since something bright in person might be distracting via video.

    Lastly, I have two dogs and they always seem to bark at the worst times when I’m on a call or video. I usually make a joke that they, “agree with my answers” or something similar and then let it go. However, could you let your dog outside or put her in the bathroom? Someplace that muffles the sound? Alternatively, if the pup tends to bark when in a cage, I just wouldn’t put the dog in a cage and then sit at the table and elevate your laptop or screen with a book or something so the dog isn’t in view.

    Good luck!

    1. JLB

      Interesting – one of my key complaints about video is the light reflection on the lenses of my glasses – making my image awkward. I’ve purchased anti-glare glasses, experimented with lighting, read tips – mostly to no avail. The most effective option is to tilt the glasses, lifting the earpiece but hiding it my hair. Works to cut the reflection, but is super awkward to maintain.

  28. QueenB

    I hate people like the co-workers in Letter 1. They are essentially stealing, and they know it deep down, but they choose to be ignorant of that fact so they can carry on, hoping that social convention will prevent any consequences for them. I’d tell your mother to stop paying, and stop going, and try to convince her paying co-workers to do the same. Then the thieves will be out of luck.

    1. idi01

      Not many people know “deep down” that they are stealing. They have a myriad of excuses “I have kids and can’t afford it, but he is a bachelor”; “I bought ice-cream for everyone last month”; “I come to work earlier and leave later than she does”; “Her family is well off”; “I remember paying more than Jeanette a few months ago”; etc. etc.

      We are all masters of lying to ourselves.

  29. Cheesesteak in Paradise

    LW1

    Personally I think these events are just a bad idea altogether.

    1. It’s spending a significant amount of work time on non-work
    2. Does it really raise morale? At least the 5-10 contributors now have worse morale and are getting into spats with coworkers
    3. Some people lack the money or desire to participate – I don’t eat cake personally and am particular about what I do eat, I hate potlucks because I don’t want to get up early to cook something and I don’t want to eat a lunch that consists of Doritos and mystery cheese dip either
    4. Not everyone wants their birthday or whatever made a public thing
    5. Are these meals “friendly” for everyone – allergens, vegetarians etc or do they only work for some people?

    If a couple coworkers want to go out to eat occasionally, fine. But these events are inherently problematic. It’s a lot of risks (points 2-5) above and from the company’s point of view all that is a distraction from, you know, doing your work.

    1. valentine

      Non-participation not only wouldn’t be a problem, but is probably ideal.

      There’s no need for the majority to rule, especially when they are now, by thieving.

      You don’t know that the company doesn’t love this.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise

        I agree people shouldn’t thieve free lunch off their coworkers. I think I already said that?

        The problem is they are ordering for the WHOLE department and then complaining about individuals overpaying and others not paying. It’s the same principle as being forced to contribute to the department water or coffee club – what if you don’t want to?

        That’s why I think these things should be either inclusive (allergen, diet, etc) and paid by the employer as a perk or foregone.

        Personally I’d rather have more salary and get my own lunch.

        None of this applies to coworkers eating together on their breaks… but what LW describes is well beyond that.

        1. valentine

          They’re not ordering for the whole department, though they are ordering at least 15 meals more. I don’t see where anyone is forced. If you were in this office, you could just not pay and not go and be happy. (You could choose to be annoyed it’s happening, but why trouble yourself?)

          If you don’t want to pay for stuff you don’t use and it really is a condition of employment, you pay or you find a job where it isn’t.

    2. Anononon

      They’re in no way inherently problematic. I think the fact that you wouldn’t like them is coloring your view. Most of your points are just assumptions.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood

      re: 3 I keep harping on this because the vocabulary made me twitch. OP says “potluck” but it’s not — it’s being catered by a local business.

    4. Cheesesteak in Paradise

      I do think it’s problematic. It’s kindergarten rules – it either works for everybody or less than half the people.

      Would you want to be one of a couple people not participating because you kept kosher or were broke? And having to explain that to all your coworkers? Why does the whole office’s need to eat cake together outweigh those factors?

      I don’t care if people want to eat together. Like go out for lunch if you want… But when you make it a DEPARTMENT WIDE thing that people have to have REASONS to not participate, that’s a problem. Why is that so hard to see?

      1. Old and don’t care

        I would bring my own lunch and sit down and eat with the group if I wanted to, with a bland explanation of why. There are no victims here.

      2. YYY

        Because we’re…not in Kindergarten? The fact that you want to use “kindergarten rules” in an adult office is odd to me. Dietary restrictions should be accommodated for sure. But just because you personally dislike cake doesn’t mean everyone else needs to go without

  30. Loot

    #1:

    Perhaps your mother could send out a company/department-wide email with a “the way we’re doing the monthly lunch is not sustainable because of cost, so I would like to propose one of these alternatives to replace the current way (and then list Alison’s suggestions, or suggestions she herself would prefer).”

    That way people get to weigh in on how they’d like to do it, maybe they have a better idea that will work much better, or maybe the majority agree that while *free* food is nice, it’s not so nice that they’re willing to actually pay for it and would rather go without than having to pay.

    Because as it is now, the lunch is going to end up stopping sooner or later. More and more of the remaining contributors are going to get fed up with the high cost and bow out (increasing the financal pressure on the remaining ones, making it more likely that they’ll bow out too), or her constant arguing with her coworkers is going to end up with someone in charge putting their foot down because of the disruptions.

    Does she have a plan for what to do if her constantly fighting with her coworkers about who gets to take food or not ends up with her having a meeting with her manager about her conflict handling/resolution skills?

    1. valentine

      a meeting with her manager about her conflict handling/resolution skills
      This is rich and I would totally expect to face that while also not being able to get away with stealing food.

    2. Kettles

      How about a meeting for the people who think it’s ok to steal from their co-workers?

    3. TootsNYC

      Another option to list in there is to sell tickets. If you don’t have a ticket, you don’t eat. The organizers can decide whether they’re willing to try to sell tickets at the beginning of the food line, or whether they want to collect all the money before they order.

      But it’s another way to administer the mom’s “not let people take food who didn’t pay” idea–and yes, she does too have the authority to do that. Or, maybe she and the other people paying the money–she’d need their buy-in as well, but I bet she’d get it.

      1. valentine

        If they do this, they should issue tickets at the time of payment. They’re not ordering for everyone, and doing so would be worse. No one should have to pay for anyone else or end up not reimbursed.

    4. Fight The Tupperware OP1

      Ha! God speed to the manager who tries to scold my mother about this situation.
      She’s not a meek or quiet person. She’s never held her tongue a day in her life. It’s the reason why she’s the one out of the contributors who’s trying to get the other coworkers to pay up.

      1. MJ

        It’s not working. “Free food” and “not hurting thieves’ feelings” are winning.

        The 5-10 people need to stop doing it, and they want to have a celebration between them over lunch they keep it among themselves.

  31. Kahlessa

    I had an overly apologetic boss. When she apologized for giving me work I responded with a wide-eye innocent look, “Am I getting paid for this?”

    She laughed and said, “Of course!”

    I blew out a sigh of relief and said, “Oh, no worries then.” She started apologizing much less.

  32. SamIAm

    #1 – Even with real pot lucks (where co-workers are supposed to bring food) we have this issue. About 15 ppl bring food and about 30 eat it. Since there is always enough, I’ve decided it’s not worth a fight, but no way I would kick in $60-$100 a month so others could eat.

    #2 – Thanks, now I feel like I have to adjust my office lighting for every VTC! (LOL)

  33. Kettles

    LW1 – Cancel the potlucks. The ones who contribute can go out for lunch together.

    It’s possible they think the company is funding it, except that I’m sure your mother would have been asking them for contributions. The ones taking food they are not paying for are thieves. She shouldn’t tolerate it any longer.

    I predict a lot of whining. There are people who genuinely financially struggle and can’t afford things. There are also people who were the mooching roommate in college and never quite grew out of it – the people who will help themselves then whine that it’s “Only a little bit of food / shampoo / milk / beer,” without seeming to comprehend that ‘little bits’ add up and still cost money. I suspect her co-workers are in the latter bracket – people who are genuinely hard up typically avoid events rather than mooching.

    1. TootsNYC

      I would bet that people who whine a lot are actually not the ones who genuinely financially struggle.

      (and even if it doesn’t cost money, that low-level college-roommate mooching is just incredibly disrespectful)

      1. Kettles

        I think people who were genuinely struggling would be more likely to just avoid events like this.

        It is disrespectful. I think it’s generally either people who are extremely entitled or people who are very comfortable – think the kind of person who blithely suggests going halves when they’ve had steak and alcohol and you’ve carefully gone for the pasta and a coke. Not maliciously – it just almost doesn’t seem to occur that other people can’t afford to sub them.

  34. Birch

    LW 1, why bother ordering the catering at all? Is there a reason the food is brought to the workplace instead of just going to the local restaurant in person? Seems like as this isn’t actually a potluck, and it’s to celebrate, wouldn’t it be nicer and solve the payment issues if they just went out to the actual restaurant?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood

      I’m wondering two things….first, a tray of lasagna is probably cheaper than that many people ordering individual servings of lasagna. Second, there might be concerns about getting back promptly. (My office is 2 miles from the nearest restaurant with a freight rail line in between, so I’ve been caught late here.)

      1. Old and don’t care

        Yes, and large groups of people at restaurants usually don’t go quickly. Certainly much faster to have it delivered.

        1. TootsNYC

          plus, the point is “office camaraderie,” so having it AT the office makes it ABOUT the office in ways that having it at the restaurant would not.

  35. RecentAAMfan

    #1 reminds me of “Thidwick the Bighearted Moose” by Dr. Suess. Even as a kid I found it irritating that he wouldn’t stand up for himself and refuse to be taken advantage of.

  36. Overeducated

    LW #2 – my addition to all the good advice here is that this is something where practice (by yourself on camera or with a friend) will help you get more comfortable just by getting used to it.

    Also, don’t worry that you’re a normal looking person – focus on being an experienced professional worth a lot more than your looks! If anyone judges you on bags under your eyes and not your skills, they are actually being inappropriate. You may still feel self conscious but if you give yourself a pep talk beforehand you may be able to project a confidence you don’t feel.

  37. Lurking Tom

    LW #4: I had a situation like this once upon a time. What I did was set up a GMail filter on my personal account that took any email from my work domain, forwarded it to my work address, then deleted it. So anything they sent to my personal address ended up in my work inbox and never showed up in my personal one. My bosses never said anything about my delay in answering. Not sure if this is an option for you, but I found it to be a nice workaround.

  38. Amy

    I had a twist on a video interview recently where the interviewer was driving while interviewing me.

    The camera must have been mounted on the dash and he would alternate between looking at me and driving. I felt very uncomfortable and it was clear his attentions were divided.

    Additionally, it was a role for which I was expecting a bit of wooing. I’m a senior sales person with 15 years experience in my market.
    This was a 2 year old company, trying to break into this market and desperately in need of senior sales people.

    I probably wouldn’t have taken the job anyway (I was recruited) but the video interviewing while driving approach really sealed the deal.

  39. Akcipitrokulo

    OP2 – some reassurance from the other side of the video call setup? We seriously don’t pay attention that much.

    We use video conferencing a lot. And when we first started using it, I think everyone was a bit self-conscious – but as it goes on, you realise that everyone is used to seeing people on a video feed, and we all KNOW what it looks like, and really, really, don’t bat an eyelid at the issues you’re describing. It’s part of the deal with a video conference, and no-body is going to judge on that basis. It’s standard.

  40. Kiki

    LW 1: I think it’s time to end the lunch tradition. Unless communication has been really unclear about how these lunches are funded, the coworkers have expressed through their actions that they will not pay for lunch. Maybe, as some commenters have mentioned above, you can replace it with a cheaper alternative like cake? But I would not pay for that out of pocket— I’d see if it could be a company expense.

    It does seem unusual that the majority of the office has decided not to pay for food. I wonder if it’s possible that some people aren’t contributing because they genuinely aren’t eating but all the food is being eaten because the Tupperware crowd comes through?

  41. Batgirl

    A paid for ‘Pot Luck’ for everyone sounds like an organisational nightmare that could only possibly work for a max of four people who know each other really well.
    Do these people get to choose the food they’ve paid for, or is that the pot luck element? I wouldn’t cough up that money in advance without knowing what for.
    So then the whole department gets called over for a celebration and I might see something gluten free I can eat.
    Now I wouldn’t help myself to free food, but lots of people who opted out may be getting urged to by others: “There’s lots of food! You can eat that! Be sociable!”
    If however they are genuine moochers you should know that and not trust their participation style to go well with something like a potluck (that isn’t a pot luck).
    Its crackers.

    1. valentine

      I think it’s more:
      ~email: “The May celebration is on the 10th. Menu: carrots/sandwich (variations)/cake slice. Pay Kylenthia $10 by April 30.”
      ~max of 10 people: pay
      ~Mom/$100: order 15 extra meals
      ~May 10th: food inexplicably set out buffet style instead of plated per payer when they are there to receive it
      ~50 people descend
      ~the department head is The Worst

  42. Meredith Brooks

    I loathe video chat. I find that i keep looking at myself and never like what I see. On my phone, I’ll usually put a finger over the little box in the corner so I can prevent myself from looking at me. On a computer, you could use a post-it. Leave a small section so you can make sure the top of your head is where it should be.

  43. Triplestep

    LW#1, you’re getting a lot of great advice here, but I think the first thing you need to recognize is that your mother is getting something out of this. I’m not sure what that is – it could be any number of things – but she gets something out of co-hosting these meals and I think your first course of action is to help her figure out what that is. No tactics for ending this are going to work unless she figures out what she is getting from this and stops seeing herself as the victim of this lunch program’s success.

    1. Kettles

      Oh for goodness sake. She is the victim, of a bunch of freeloading coworkers. Is this how moochers sleep at night? They tell themselves their victims secretly want to be taken advantage of? Because this is some shady nonsense.

      1. Triplestep

        I didn’t think this needed to be spelled out, but there are plenty of people who get something out of being responsible for a task others would want nothing to do with. We know nothing of the mother here – we don’t even know that she’s asked LW#1 for advice, or that she wants to change anything. The only thing we do know is that she wants to keep organizing these lunches, and her daughter has identified the inherent problems.

        You’ve never worked with a person who “complained” about having to do something that actually made them feel important and valued? We’ve all worked with that person!

        1. Kettles

          Of course we’ve all worked with that person. That person is not LW’s mom. LW’s mom is involved with what should be a simple and equable office event. She probably wants to keep organising the lunches because she likes them, and it’s fun to hang out with the co-workers who aren’t thieves.

          The issue is not that LWM is a pathological enabler, it’s that her colleagues are terrible people. Yes, she should cancel the lunches. No, she is not at fault and we shouldn’t engage in victim blaming.

      2. Colette

        That’s not what Triplestep is saying. The OP’s mom might feel trapped because she’s been doing this so long, or she might feel like she’s taking care of people, or she might feel like she’s being generous. And, for example, if she feels like she’s being a good host by putting on the lunch, stopping could mean she feels like she’s not being a good host. Her motivation matters, because understanding it will help her feel better about stopping.

        1. Kettles

          Triplestep didn’t talk about motivation. Triplestep specifically said that LWM needs to “stops seeing herself as the victim”. That’s specific language with a specific meaning.

          1. Triplestep

            Have you really never heard the expression “victim of its own success”? (or “her own” or “his own”?) Google it. It has nothing to do with “victim blaming” for Pete’s sake!

          2. Triplestep

            And for what it’s worth, I said Mom is “getting something out of this”. That means “motivation.”

            Apparently I DID need to spell this all out!

      3. TootsNYC

        I agree with Triplestep in terms of OP#1 helping her mom.

        The mom has been getting something out of it, and she’s going through the transition to the other side. So digging into that, and identifying why she’s not getting what she used to, will help her set it down and walk away. Because she’s been signing up–so why?

        But I also agree with Kettle–this IS how many moochers sleep at night. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t need to issue a reciprocal dinner invitation–she LIKES having these parties, I’m doing her a favor by showing up.” (It’s why I disapprove of HOSTS’ saying to their guests, “Thank you for coming.” That’s a shopkeeper’s phrase. Guests aren’t doing you some favor by coming into your home and eating your food and absorbing all the energy you spent creating the party.)

        And it’s why moochers so frequently hint, instead of asking outright. Because then they can say, “He offered, if he didn’t want to give me X, he wouldn’t have offered.”

        1. Kettles

          Yes, or outright ask, ignore all the power differences, and say “They could have said no!”

          I was thinking of the student worker whose supervisor kept asking for small personal favours.

          Mom is probably still involved because people *used* to pay their way. It’s likely crept up and she’s a bit baffled at the current situation.

          1. Fight The Tupperware OP1

            I think you’re right. My mom doesn’t mind chipping in an extra 10 here or there. But suddenly she’s realized it’s now $60, and she’s wondering how that happened.

      1. Batgirl

        Yeah but I have to wonder if ‘it’ is a nostalgia that’s no longer relevant. It used to work. Now it does not.

        1. fposte

          Oh, this is a really good point. I was wondering if it used to be an actual potluck and morphed, too; there may have been a lot of morphing along the way that makes it hard to accept what is instead of what used to be.

    2. Lance

      ‘No tactics for ending this are going to work unless she figures out what she is getting from this’

      On that point, I don’t necessarily agree. Sure, I think it will be hard involved for anyone to end the event… but I think ending the event, as it is, is exactly what’s needed. Cut off the current hardships, on the premise that she can look for what she was getting out of it in the interim (perhaps even with more clarity, now that she’d have a chance to get a more detached view of it), and come up with different ways to get it, that don’t come with the current hardships (at least, ideally; there’s not going to be any ‘perfect’ solution).

      On the point of ‘success’, though… certainly, it’s successful in getting people good food, and bringing them together for monthly lunches, but everything else sounds like it’s something of a failure, which is just as worth looking at.

      1. TootsNYC

        she might not need to figure out all of her motivations–but she needs to really see that she’s no longer getting anything good out of it.

        And maybe the fastest way to recognize that is to recognize what her hopes were, so she can see clearly that they’re not happening. Or, they are, but that’s not worth the price anymore.

  44. Samwise

    #3. Your boss is not going to stop despite anything you may say or do.

    Stop reassuring your boss. You are wasting your breath. Just say, “thanks!” or “I’ll get on that right away!” or whatever you would say if there were no apology.

    Ignore. The. Apology.

    You have my permission to scream in frustration once you get home!

  45. Kat

    #1 Food at work for some reason makes employees feel entitled, so any ideas that your mother has if she is not the management will not go over well. So changes only work if your mother stops contributing more than $10, at that point they have to change the amount of food ordered or opts out all together. I vote for the second as that just stops the crazy. Any other option even if she is telling people they cant eat will not have the same outcome due to the amount of food on display.

    1. Fergus

      if management is not payong management has no say. People who pay have a say. If I buy a pizza at work with my co-worker management doesn’t get to say all my co-workers must get a slice too

      1. Kat

        I would agree if they were just buying enough food for the 10 participating. If she(they) are still buying the food for everyone (enough for 50) without management intervention its not going to go over well. They have to either stop ordering so much, or stop the ordering. Its logistics if you have 40 people that are used to coming to get lunch and you have the lunch for all of them its not going to be easy to stop that.

        It would be more like If you and a co-worker buy 50 pizzas and put them in the communal room where up until today they had been getting free pizza its going to be hard to get the people to not eat the 49 other pizzas.

  46. Response to LW1

    Someone is ordering the food and paying the caterer for it, and that person is the best person to change the way this is done. Would it make more sense to hold off on ordering until/unless the money has been collected from everyone? That way, if you don’t raise enough, you can just cancel the event, saying, “We couldn’t raise the money; people must not be that interested in the lunch.” There’s probably a mix of attitudes, including people who can’t afford it, people who don’t really care about the lunch enough to pay but also feel pressured to go since everyone else is, and of course people who will take food and not care who is footing the bill. I’ve decided not to participate in office potlucks in the past, only to be told that I should definitely go and that no one will care that I didn’t bring anything.

    1. EnfysNest

      This exactly. Why on earth are they ordering the food before the money has been collected? Collect money – $10 from each person who chooses to get involved, and then purchase what you can for the money that you have and the number of people who contributed. If that means that this week is a Sandwich tray and box of soda instead of a 3-course meal (assuming they’re getting a discount because of the large size of their current orders that will go away when they shrink size), then that’s how this month works out. At the very least, that leaves fewer leftover that people *can* take. They should not still be ordering for 50 people and then just expecting the money to magically get covered by *someone* after the fact. The money needs to be collected up front.

      1. Michelle

        I agree. Collect the money before and only order for those who pay. If the OP wanted to send around an FYI email- something about the lunches not being paid for by the company, if you want to eat, you need to pay- would be reasonable but not necessary. The advice offered by Lunch Lady below is brilliant.

  47. Ms Chanadalar Bong

    OP #2 – everything that Allison is saying is 100% true, including the part about it being really hard to do. But I did find an interim solution that has really helped me alleviate some of my own anxieties about this exact situation.

    I have some serious body/self-esteem issues that make being on camera/video insanely difficult for me. The last time I had a video interview, I ended up having a panic attack after I used the test feature. And my very sweet partner looked at me, looked at the screen, ran to his office and got a post-it. He put it over the small box where you see your own feed, and it helped me a lot. I could focus on the person I was talking to, and not on that stupid corner box with my face in it.

    It’s not an ideal solution (I’ve sought some professional help in search of a more permanent/healthy fix), but it was a small measure that helped my confidence a lot in my interview.

    1. LaDeeDa

      I didn’t see your comment before I posted, I suggested the same thing. I find that when I can see myself, I look at myself a lot, and then get fidgety- trying to find just the right angle. I do the test, to make sure I am visible and then put a post-it over the square so I can just talk.

  48. Marlene

    I’m not sure why some employers expect people to check and answer emails/texts/phone calls when they’re using sick time or are otherwise off work. My sick time, small enough as it is, is part of my compensation package. I shouldn’t have to work while using it or after hours when I’m not being paid.

    I’m not sure why it’s acceptable (legally and ethically) to require working off the clock or when using sick time.

    1. fposte

      In case it wasn’t rhetorical: for non-exempt employees, employers can only require very minimal responses before they’d be required to pay for the time employees are spending on work communication. For exempt employees, there is no “off the clock.”

      However, it’s fine for a boss to *send* questions and info when you’re not at work, since your boss may work different hours than you; it’s expecting a response that can be a problem. The office manager’s use of the OP’s personal email may be suggesting she wants a response, which she’s not entitled to, and it’s also using an email that isn’t appropriate for work. (I’m also not thinking the office manager is the OP’s boss, which further complicates the situation.)

      1. Triplestep

        Agree. I said this a little upthread … we don’t actually know that the Office Manager is the OP’s boss. This may actually be about a co-worker being being annoyed by OP’s errors (or perceived errors) and using her personal e-mail address to not-so-subtly berate her. If this is the case the advice would be different, and definitely not the tech advice about blocking e-mails so many have provided here.

    2. Jennifer Juniper

      Wouldn’t someone not be at their best if they’re sick? It doesn’t even make sense to expect employees to check their e-mail if they have a fever or are running to the toilet every five seconds or suffering a migraine.

  49. Lunch Lady (not the kind with the hairnet)

    To LW#1: An office I worked in years ago had this very same problem. As the office manager, I was also in charge of this; it started with cake the company provided, turned into a potluck, and then evolved into a catered meal where people were to contribute $$ once a month. Some of the “non payers” stemmed from ignorance (new people thought it was just ‘free’ that the company did) but most was just people being greedy. Ignorance could be educated; the greed continued. We had large numbers of employees do the same with their tupperware–eat their meal (they didn’t pay for) and then collect more at the end.

    How did we stop it? I stopped doing it. Cold Turkey. No warnings. When the day for the food rolled around (2nd Friday of the month), and people showed up at the usual place, there was none. So, after answering a few people face to face, I sent out an email:
    “The monthly lunch has become too much to handle and has been discontinued until further notice. The reasons being: 1. People who did not pay their $10 per meal were still showing up and eating, or their ‘friends’ were taking food to them. 2. The to-go containers were out of control and many people who did pay but were on a later lunch rotation were not able to eat. 3. Some people were being force to pay more than $10 to “cover” for those who were not paying. Since this is taking too much of my time to police and is just an unnecessary frustration, I am no longer organizing these meals. If anyone would like to take over, you may visit with me.
    Cake will still be available on the 2nd Friday of every month to celebrate birthdays.”

    Guess what?
    No one took over.

      1. valentine

        When the day for the food rolled around (2nd Friday of the month), and people showed up at the usual place, there was none.
        This is amazingly glorious.

    1. LaDeeDa

      I bet that felt good to tell the truth- “you were being jerks and I am not a babysitter” LOL! Good for you.

    2. Sara without an H

      Lunch Lady, I like your style.

      Looking at the situation from a manager’s viewpoint, I’d be concerned about the amount of effort being invested in a non-work activity. Sheet cake in the break room is manageable. A catered lunch for $40, not so much.

      So I’d probably put on my manager’s hat (the tall pointed one), mount my broomstick, and do what you did.

  50. drpuma

    OP2 – you mention makeup and lighting tricks, but have you tried putting your computer on a stack of (large, heavy) books? If you think about where your laptop sits on a table or desk relative to your face, the looking-up-from-below angle is flattering to pretty much nobody! Raising your computer can give you a more flattering camera angle and also makes the conversation feel more natural by putting the other person or people at eye level.

    1. Alfonzo Mango

      Also, always be looking at the camera, and not at the video of you on the screen. The camera is your eye contact with the people on the other end.

      1. TootsNYC

        draw a little face on a sticky note, punch a hole between the eyes, and stick it over the camera

    2. Jennifer Juniper

      It also keeps your interviewer from being treated to the insides of your nostrils! Nobody wants to see nose hair and snot.

  51. From That Guy

    Re: #2 Video Interviews
    Greetings. I sympathize with not liking video interviews. However, as an accomplished public speaker there is no substitute for practice, practice, practice or rehearse, rehearse, & rehearse. I Googled “Practice video interviews” (without quotes) and it generated quite a few sites for this. I am guessing some of them are freeware or such. Regarding Alison’s advice, do it so many times your are comfortable in your own skin so you come across that way. It does take time but it can be done. Don’t worry about tricks and techniques, just be genuine. Good luck!

  52. LaDeeDa

    Video Interview, I am 100% remote so I am used to video conferencing, we do it all the time in my company, it is part of our culture. I had to do as Alison said, and stopped caring. I am old, my face is no longer where it used to be! One thing you might try is taking a post-it and covering up the little square that has your face in it. I find I spend too much time looking at myself and readjusting or trying to get just the right angle… it helps me be more natural.

  53. The Man, Becky Lynch

    #3 Part of this is you need to learn to get over taking the “apologies” so seriously. To many it’s become the new “how are you?” where it’s not expected to be acknowledged as a question of any sincerity, it’s filler to seemingly be polite and to avoid sounding curt or demanding.

    My boss does it. One of our managers does it. And I’ve got a CSR who does it to, all came to us like that so it’s not even due to it being contagious around our office.

    And every employee does it to me when they need HR assistance. “I’m sorry, I need a copy of X.” and my response is to continue to say “no problem, I’ll get it for you”. Just like those who preface a conversation with “may I bother you right now?” my response is “absolutely, what’s up?”. I’ve already let everyone know that they’re never bothering, pestering or annoying me and so now that’s out there it’s just obvious they use it as a way to soften and sound respectful of my time and energies.

    Note that I work in a male dominated industry and they speak this way to each other too. So I’ve just learned it’s a thing and to detach your emotional response to try to get them to stop because you feel it’s too much.

  54. LaDeeDa

    I have a twist on the video interview– it was a recording. They gave me a login, a question appears on the screen and you record your response, you have 2 chances, and then it takes it. It is awful, it is unnatural, and there was no way I gave my best answers. When the recruiter called me I asked her if it saved time and if they found it effective? She was very vague and said they hadn’t been using it long… I told her I found it awkward and weird, and couldn’t see the benefit of it. If someone wants me to do it again, I won’t even bother, I will just turn down the “interview.”

    1. Penny Hartz

      I had a very similar experience. Read question, get a minute or two to formulate your answer, red light comes on, BIG COUNTDOWN CLOCK TICKING AWAY, time’s up, next question.

      It was terrible. And I’m of the “I’m interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing me” camp and I met no one, didn’t learn anything about the job besides what was in the job description when I applied, couldn’t temper/change/clarify/add to any of my answers, couldn’t see if they agreed with what I was saying or thought I was nuts.

      Did I mention it was terrible?

      1. LaDeeDa

        What I didn’t get is that I had already phone interviewed with the recruiter, then I had to do the video recording, then she had to review it, pass it on the hiring manager to review, then the recruiter called me to set up an in-person interview. How is that saving any time? What’s the point? I guess I can see if it is skipping the recruiter’s first phone interview– I guess, but doesn’t it take as much time to review the video as it does to call? I declined the in-person interview, none of it felt right, so I didn’t want to bother.

        1. Penny Hartz

          Yeah, that’s even weirder. This was my first contact with the company beyond submitted my cover letter and resume. I just got an email a few days later with a message of “Yey! We’d love to get to know you better, here’s a link and instruction, you’ve got one week to get it done.” From a do-not-reply-to-this-email address, of course. So I couldn’t even send my usually thank you email (or my feedback that this was a stupid exercise).

  55. Observer

    #3- Boss sounds like someone with imposter syndrome. From the OP’s pov it doesn’t really matter, of course.

    The point of my comment is for people who struggle with this themselves. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “If I apologize I’ll smooth things over with all of these people who really know I’m not worthy.” But, in reality, that’s not what’s happening. Instead people tend to react like the OP – it makes them nuts. So, if someone with imposter syndrome thinks that they really shouldn’t “waste” time and energy fixing a problem that affects “only” themselves, think again. Of course, you SHOULD work on the problem for your own sake. But, if you’re at a point where your mind is telling you that you shouldn’t focus on yourself for whatever reason, now you have a reason for working on it that’s outward focused.

  56. Observer

    #4 – are you exempt? If you are non-exempt, and your manager says that she specifically wants you to see it on your time off, ask her how she wants you to log your time. If you are generally in the office for a full 40 hours during the week, also ask her if you need approval for overtime. If she tells you not to log your time, tell her that this is illegal and the “we could get into a lot of trouble” (use the WE formation and use a collaborative tone. You don’t want to get adversarial at this point.)

  57. Martha

    Don’t you know that everyone on video calls is so worried about how *they* look to wonder about anyone else?

  58. Exhausted Trope

    LW2, I hate video interviews for all the reasons you listed. I’ve done several over the past ten years and I have never gotten a job offer from one. The latest one had me video interview through Hirevue on Friday, and I received a boilerplate rejection email the following Sunday morning at 6 am. I found the company’s speedy rejection bizarre.
    Sadly, I believe that video interviews are the future of recruiting. I think it’s also an easy way to discriminate, but I digress.
    I don’t have any other advice to give you, unfortunately. Practicing might help you perform better on camera as Alison said but I don’t have anything else.

  59. Sara without an H

    OP#3: I get that it’s annoying. It would annoy me. But it doesn’t really affect how you do your job, does it?

    This is learned behavior, and it’s hard to change even when the apologizer really wants to change. So chalk it up to a weird personal quirk, continue to be bright, cheerful, and professional, and ignore the apologies.

  60. Goya de la Mancha

    #3 – Does he actually seem remorseful when he asks these things? I wonder if it’s not just habit at this point and he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. Sort of like how you respond “thanks, you too” when someone tells you to enjoy your meal or the movie ;)

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      All my experience points to this being learned language from years growing up with teachers or parents who make you ask for everything. These adults teach you that everything is a question and how you’re probably imposing on their time.

    2. AnonLife2

      I know this is late. I think you’re spot on, if OP isn’t an admin. OP says the role is an “administrator,” which, in my business, means a salaried-level director or VP, but I know some admins who call themselves “administrators.” I couldn’t get a solid read on exactly what the OP is from the question.

      If OP is an admin – then I’ve seen this a thousand times, where the team the admin supports either consciously or subconsciously thinks the admin’s work isn’t meaningful, thus, they fall over themselves to apologize any time they ask the admin to do something. Another commenter near the top said it much better than I am. It’s one thing to apologize for asking for something late or for something that’s going to take time to do; it’s another thing to constantly apologize to someone being in a job and doing the job’s responsibilities.

  61. KR

    Video OP, if you have a nice camera you may have better luck configuring your digital camera to act as a webcam. You used to be able to do that – not sure if you can anymore. The quality on my laptops webcam is awful so I can see why it would not work for interviews.

  62. Jennifer

    Re: office lunches
    This is outrageous! If I were your mom I’d opt out altogether, but if she really wants to continue doing this, I’d go with the lunch club thing. One of my work pet peeves is grown adults behaving like children because they didn’t get a princess party on their bithriday at work. From strangers. Grow up.

  63. jbdesign

    #4 After talking to your boss about not emailing your home address, you might want to mention the possibility of a phone call if your boss really needs you for an emergency. This depends on their personality (lover of the phone or not), but in the 17 yrs I was at my last job, my boss called my personal number only 2x, and those were true emergencies. I find someone is a lot less likely to call you for a typo/small change than they are to write an email. But again, only you know if this would be a workable solution.

  64. OP #5

    Hello! I’m the letter writer for #5. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my question, Alison! It hadn’t even occurred to me that I could ask them if it would be possible to simply extend their offer to another semester.

    It’s been about two months since I turned down their initial offer, and due to some strangeness with course scheduling, I likely won’t know whether I’d be able to do an externship for another month or so. Given that timing, is it still appropriate for me to use the framework of extending the offer to another semester? Maybe it’s a moot point, since I would also offer to re-apply if they prefer.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ah! No, that changes it. In that case, I’d contact them and say, “I wasn’t able to accept your offer for the summer but I’d love to intern for you in the fall or spring. Is the best thing for me to do to go ahead and reapply formally?”

    2. TootsNYC

      I agree w/ Alison–that offer is now expired; there’s no “extending” it or even “moving” it.

      But you know you’re a strong candidate, so it would be reasonable to put your hat in the ring for next time.

  65. Save One Day at a Time

    #2 It might help to do practice interviews through video. There’s a way you can call yourself, try doing that, or having someone else call you, to get some practice in

  66. greenbeans

    #2 – HR at my company recently began requiring job applicants to answers to three questions. If it’s any consolation, our largely introverted team is very, very sympathetic about this situation, and we take into account how uncomfortable some people feel about this. I’m so glad I was hired before this was a requirement and wish our company would stop doing this.

    One word of advice though–try to avoid complaining about the video screen in your video screen. We’ve seen a few people open with complaints about having to do this (including one person who complained bitterly about it), and it’s not a great way to introduce yourself. Making the best of an awkward situation is a skill itself.

    1. Jennifer Juniper

      My sympathies! I have gone to great lengths to avoid being photographed, including:

      1. Ducking behind the tall people in the back of the group
      2. Batting away a selfie stick three times when someone tried to take a selfie with me.

      I’d rather go to the dentist to get a root canal than do a video interview!

  67. Checkert

    OP2: Tough love time. I, too, am a consultant, but part of my job means I’m available for ‘meetings’ even when I’m home and several clients prefer ‘face to face’ virtual meetings. I think Allison’s advice is spot on and would encourage you to truly consider whether you think these types of video calls will be a part of a remote job (it’s likely). If this is something you can’t find a way to get over, you may look for something that allows you to work remote part time and on campus the rest? Obviously, there’s no way for us to know for sure what’s going on during interviews that you’re not getting the callback but if the other commenters are to be believed (that they don’t notice what you look like) one can asusme something is coming across negatively otherwise. I just would encourage you to explore yourself and whether the convenience of remote work is actually a good fit for you.

  68. Mrs_helm

    #2 I saw amazing interview with Mandy Harvey, the singer/musician who lost her hearing but still performs, who was on America’s Got Talent. It really changed my viewpoint, and is similar to what aam is saying. Her first gig after going deaf, on the ride home she realized she could no longer do what she’d always done before – recount all the things that were wrong (pitchy notes, etc) because she hadn’t actually heard the performance herself. Instead she had to trust her preparation, and she had to trust her audience. In a way we all have to do that, because we don’t know what the other person is seeing (or not noticing) and by focusing on “problems” we aren’t focusing on the conversation/interviewer.
    This was a huge mindset change for me, as a singer/songwriter, and it made public performances more enjoyable! It has bled over into other parts of my life. If I feel like I prepared well and did my best, if people responded and I responded to them – then I trust it went as well as it could and don’t spend time/energy picking it apart.

  69. Anonymeece

    OP #2: As everyone else has said, interviewers really aren’t (or shouldn’t) be judging your appearance. Honestly! I’m more worried about how you answer the questions. As long as you’re presentable (hair combed, wearing a nice shirt, etc.), I’m not worried about what anyone looks like.

    Something to think about with the lag time and all that is that everyone hates them. I’ve run into no one who has said “I love video interviews!”. And as most of the interviewers have probably done it themselves, most do make allowances for technology problems, etc. It feels awkward because the format is, not because you are.

  70. Det. Charles Boyle

    For OP#1 – someone needs to send out an email laying out the costs and who should pay. I was involved in something similar — there’s a refillable water dispenser at work and only people who pay the monthly cost are supposed to be using the water. Well, as a new employee, I had no idea. I was using the water dispenser and no one said a word until a few months later. Once I found out I was supposed to pay, of course I joined the “pay plan” and ponied up. You can’t blame people if no one has told them how the system works. But someone does need to say something.

  71. DJ

    Perhaps scale back on the size of the monthly lunches as $10 is a lot for some. But yes take $$ in advance. Have meals out at a restaurant. Ideally where one orders and pays in advance individually. Many lunchtime restaurants are happy to take orders by say 10am and that enables the organiser to collect cash with the order. Perhaps have a cake for birthdays. Maybe a social club where all pay a set fee weekly or monthly.

  72. RWM

    OP #2: Along with Alison’s advice, I’d suggest fussing around on your own time to find ways to feel more comfortable on camera. I always put my laptop on books or a pillow so it’s closer to eye level which automatically makes me look better. If you have a laptop, you may also want to try different spots in your home (facing a window vs no natural lighting, for example) until you find a spot where you feel you look best. If you don’t have a laptop, it might still be worth it to play around a bit with your a desk lamp (or, honestly, bring a table lamp in from a different room) to see if positioning it differently (and/or using that instead of overhead lighting) makes you feel a bit more comfortable with your appearance on camera. PS If you don’t have a person to do a mock call with as you test this out, you can launch your computer’s web cam (so on a Mac, open Photo Booth or Face Time and your camera will come on) and you’ll be able to see yourself as you try different options.

  73. Anono-me

    Lw#1
    If your mom wants to keep the party going and is willing to spend a few dollars a year; instead of ordering food for 50, buy a $.50 card and a box of cookies or something. (Keep it under $10.00 and split the cost among the 10 who pay for everyone.

    If you Mom wants the party to continue with meal, the was food is ordered may need to change.

    The day before the party, have a sign up sheet and an envelope. $10.00 in the envelope and you are signed up. Order indivually plated meals based on the number of people who paid to sign up. Write the name of each listed/paid up person on the individual meal. Send an email to everyone on the list that their food is ready.

    Yes, ordering buffet style for 50 is typically less expensive than ordering individually plated meals fo 50. But ordering an individual meal for one is less than buffet style for 50.

  74. Mina, The Company Prom Queen

    OP#1: People who don’t contribute but eat as though they did is one of my pet peeves. They are just as bad as the person who brings a bag of chips while others bring a whole entree. Hate that! I like Alison’s Option #4.

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