explaining a restricted diet at work, I got stuck working all the holidays, and more

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

1. Explaining a restricted diet at work

I have been diagnosed with IBS and my doctor recommended that I follow a low FODMAP diet. This diet is very restrictive and makes eating out very difficult (among many other things, I can’t eat onions, garlic, lactose, wheat, honey and some fruits, and vegetables right now). It’s meant to be temporary. After a few weeks, you’re supposed to start reintroducing foods one at a time to see which ones are causing symptoms. During this reintroduction phase, you’re still supposed to follow the diet except for the one food that you’re testing, so the whole thing can take a few months.

My company provides lunch as a perk and no one in my office brings lunch from home. I’ve been eating alone at my desk so that I don’t get questions, but that’s going to get lonely fast. I don’t want to talk about my IBS at work and I also don’t think anyone is going to believe that I just prefer something like egg salad on rice cakes over work provided lunch. What’s the best way to approach this with coworkers?

“I’m on a restricted diet for a couple of months —it’s very boring and I’d give anything to talk about something else to distract me from these rice cakes! What’s going on with your (subject change)?”

Alternately, if you’re comfortable giving a little more information, you can say, “I’m trying to isolate what’s making me feel sick, so I’m eating a very bland diet for a while while we test.” If that invites follow-up questions, you can shut them down at that point with, “Oh, I don’t want to bore people with my diet! Tell me about (subject change)!” For anyone who doesn’t get the hint after that: “I don’t like to talk about it at work. But it’s nothing to worry about!” (An alternate version of that is, “I don’t like to even think about it at work! But it’s nothing to worry about!”)

2. I got stuck working the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years

I’ve been at my job for seven months now, and my coworkers and I all work remotely. The job requires morning coverage and two workers (out of four of us), so if you are scheduled for morning work you have to switch days with a coworker or you can’t take the morning off. When my boss sent out the most recent schedule, I was scheduled to work the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, effectively blocking me from taking PTO during the holidays unless I can get someone to switch with me. I’m trying to take some afternoons off, but it’s not really a holiday if you still have to get up early (though we do get the actual holidays off).

Jane is scheduled to work mornings with me during Thanksgiving and Christmas and we have discussed how this is unfair/unfortunate this is for us, but the policy is for us to work out scheduling between ourselves and let our boss know of any changes, so either we work those weeks or we have to ask our two coworkers to work those weeks. We had a scheduling call to see if anyone wanted to swap shifts and no one would swap with me, so I realize that I’m stuck for this year, but I want to try and avoid this in the future. Especially as the newest member of the team, it’s demoralizing to get the short end of the stick even though I realize that everyone wants off this time of year. I did point out the disparity to my boss, who was apologetic and said she hadn’t noticed when making the schedule. I figured that was the case and I’m not mad at my boss or coworkers, just frustrated with the situation.

I’m newer to the professional world and want to be professional, collaborative, and kind to my coworkers, but I also need to advocate for myself and use my PTO. Is there a good way for me to remind my boss of these scheduling issues before they become a problem next year? I don’t want to seem like I can’t let go of this, but I really don’t want to work EVERY winter holiday again.

It wasn’t cool to schedule you for all three holidays. It’s true that sometimes highly desired dates are awarded by seniority, but that shouldn’t mean you don’t get any of the three. Frankly, I think there was room (and may still be room) for you to ask your boss if she can correct this since it sounds like she hadn’t intended to do it.

But regardless, next fall you can certainly say something like, “I wanted to remind you that last year I ended up working the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, so I’m hoping you can ensure I have at least two of them off this year.” (And talk to her early — like at least a month before the schedule for Thanksgiving goes out.)

3. My coworker is in trouble for driving me to the ER

I got sick at work the other day. I had an elevated heart rate and low blood pressure due to an attack of SVT (supraventricular tachycardia.) I have been evaluated by a cardiologist in the past and, although it looks and feels scary, it is not in any way life threatening. They wanted to call an ambulance but I didn’t want the spectacle of that, so a coworker volunteered to drive me to a nearby ER. I was successfully treated and released later that day. My coworker stayed until she was sure I was okay, so she was gone from work for about two hours.

She is now in trouble for giving me a ride to the hospital and may be formally disciplined. They insist she violated policy, although we have never seen this policy before. She was told I put them at risk of a lawsuit, which I don’t understand. Missing a few hours of work wasn’t the problem, but giving me a ride was. Can a workplace prohibit you from giving someone a ride to the hospital?

They can, but penalizing someone for helping a coworker who was having a medical crisis is pretty awful for morale — especially when they’d apparently never addressed how they do want these situations handled.

They’d be far better off explaining to your coworker and everyone else how they want these situations handled in the future, and then (a) accepting that this is on them for not having done that previously and (b) realizing that having employees who care about each other is not something you punish unless you want a really disgruntled and disengaged workforce.

4. Receptionist threw out my food

Our receptionist maintains the office refrigerators by disposing of unmarked food on Fridays. Each Thursday we receive an email reminding us that food must be marked with a name and “Save” or it will be disposed of Friday afternoon. Each Friday around 4, we receive another email telling us that she is going into the fridge right then. The fridges are always fairly empty so I think this is overkill, but it’s none of my business as I only use the fridges once or twice a week.

Last week I cooked a lunch for myself and brought it in to work on Wednesday. It had been in the fridge for three hours when I went looking for it and found it missing. I asked some coworkers and they said the receptionist had thrown away a lot of their food. I had to dig in the trash for my glass food storage containers and I wasn’t the only one doing it.

I emailed HR and they said they spoke to the receptionist and she explained she threw them out for being unmarked, and that she would communicate this more going forward. They ended the email suggesting that I use masking tape and a marker, as if the problem is that I don’t know how to mark my food.

I’m still really angry. It took me a long time to cook that lunch and there was no warning whatsoever. It’s not that she forgot to tell us it was Friday, it’s that she decided it would happen two days early, in the morning, secretly. Frankly, I’m an adult, she’s not my superior, and I shouldn’t have to dig in the garbage at work. It’s insulting.

The receptionist is generally pretty rude and pretty much does what she sees fit, so this really set me off. Management doesn’t interfere with what she does, partly because she does work hard and do a lot for the department, but partly because she has such an attitude. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill here? If not, how does one respond when HR doesn’t seem to want to take action against her?

No, that’s annoying and rude.

The person to talk to is her manager, not HR — although if they allow her to be chronically rude, I don’t have much hope for them actually managing her.

Have you tried talking to the receptionist herself? You have plenty of standing to say, “You threw out a meal that I spent a long time cooking, with no warning and days earlier than you normally clean the fridge. What happened?”

But also … given that this receptionist apparently gets to run roughshod over your office and no one will intervene, the most effective solution is probably to just start marking all your food, knowing that otherwise the fridge isn’t safe from a random, unscheduled attack of overzealousness.

5. Holiday gift exchanges

I’m a senior level employee at a small organization (under 20 employees). Every year as part of the company holiday party, we’ve done a white elephant gift exchange. No one has to participate, but most years everyone does.

This year, the company is switching it up and instead of doing a white elephant gift exchange, they are doing a secret buddy gift exchange, so you are buying a gift for a specific person. The idea of having an employee at a lower seniority level (and possibly someone who reports to me) buying a gift for me makes me incredibly uncomfortable, in a way the white elephant gift exchange never did (since it was just buying a gift, and not for a particular person). Should I opt to decline this year and explain why? Or am I overthinking this and perhaps the rule about the direction gifts should flow doesn’t apply here?

I think you’re fine participating if you want to. The “gifts shouldn’t flow upward” rule is designed to prevent people from feeling pressure to buy their manager a gift — but this is an organized exchange where everyone gets a gift for one assigned person. It’s a different thing. (But do make sure people are opting into participating, rather than being pressured to join in if they’d rather not, and that there’s a fairly low dollar limit.)

{ 435 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonyNurse*

    #3: There’s also the insane cost of ambulance service (at least in the US), and insurance companies’ propensity to declare uses deemed non-emergent to be non-reimbursable. Since you knew you did not require that level of care, taking an ambulance may have resulted in thousands of dollars in charges. And, again if you’re in the US, your insurance is likely through your job, they should be thanking you.

    So long as your coworker was off the clock and the incident wasn’t work related, they should be thanking the both of you. There’s no liability for not using an ambulance.

    1. KR*

      This is what I was thinking. There’s also the matter that if a person is conscious and alert and specifically requests an ambulance NOT to be called, it’s not really a good move to call one anyway. I think the OP should be the one to go to her management, explain that she’s never encountered a policy like they’re explaining and that she had a good handle on the situation and it was not urgent enough for an ambulance. Then say that they won’t ask a coworker for a ride in the future but will take a taxi, and could her workplace please just let the coworker off with a warning. I think it will sound better coming from the OP esp as they know their medical condition the best.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Taking a taxi while dealing with a somewhat serious medical condition doesn’t sound that safe to me.

        1. Quill*

          Depends on how serious and what the condition is. Heart attack? You need the paramedics that come with the ambulance, probably. Broken Wrist? If you can’t see bone sticking out you’re probably good to take a taxi, ideally with someone whose decision making isn’t affected by extreme pain keeping you company / opening doors.

          True story: my brother broke his arm in gym class when we were kids, the gym teacher splinted it with a pair of nat geo magazines and a roll of masking tape, and then my brother waited in the office for my mom to come to drive him to the hospital. The doctors were impressed by the construction of the splint.

      2. Mama Bear*

        It sounds like the policy mysteriously appeared and the coworkers weren’t aware of it. This should just be a warning or notice, if anything. Sometimes you just need a driver (like if you have a bad migraine) and an ambulance would be overkill. I’d much rather go with a coworker I trust than an Uber or Lyft I might feel sketchy about.

    2. D'Arcy*

      There is, however, potential liability if an on the clock employee provides transportation, doubly so if the employee uses their own personal vehicle without having previously made arrangements for the vehicle to be covered under the company’s commercial insurance etc.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Kinda/not really.

        My understanding is if you’re not doing work for your employer or are on a paid break, you can do whatever you want with your time and vehicle. Since timecards are legally allowed to be corrected for accuracy, the employer is within their rights to clock an employee out retroactively if they weren’t doing work; I don’t mean if the employee was slacking, I mean like leaving the building to go on a break without clocking out.

        The only way the employer would potentially be liable is if the employee who drove made a statement to the effect that they drove their coworker to the ER as part of their work duties when they got a speeding ticket/were involved in a traffic accident/mowed down a pedestrian/rear-ended a police car/whatever the employer is worried about happening.

        (One of my coworkers forgot to clock out for lunch and was convinced he was going to get some kind of sweet payday after he totalled another car in the parking lot and messed up his back. HR—and then a judge, because “HR isn’t a lawyer, what do they know?”— both explained to him why he was wrong.)

    3. CmdrShepard4ever*

      But the coworker was on the clock. They left for two hours in the middle of the day.

      Had there been a crash, it could potentially raise some legal responsibility issues. Would any injury be covered as workers comp, is the company responsible etc…?

      I do think the company is going overboard, but the worry is understandable.

      1. MK*

        Then the problem is with the law. If someone tried to claim a company is liable because one of their employees left work to give a ride to the hospital to another employee, who agreed to this, and something bad happened, they would get laughed out of court.

        I can see a case possibly being made if the company refused to call an ambulance and ordered the employee to drive their coworker to the hospital, or if the ill employee was not able to communicate and the company decided on their own to have them driven to the hospital in a car instead of an ambulance, or something similar.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            This isn’t accurate. Workers comp doesn’t just cover something because you forgot to clock out before leaving work to do something not work related.

            If the ride to the ER had been requested by a manager or if a manager didn’t clarify that it would be non-work time if a manager was looped in before they left, that would be a grey area at best.

        1. Myrin*

          That’s exactly my problem with the company’s reasoning – I kept wondering where exactly this “risk of a lawsuit” would come into play and was surprised to see commenters actually corroborate this line of thought – but I’m thinking this might be our non-US perspective, MK.
          (A very quick and in no way comprehensive session of googling suggests that for a worker’s comp claim to hold water here, you’d need one of the situations you describe in your second paragraph or the driving itself would need to be actual part of the job, i. e. two electricians on their way to a customer, one suddenly showing OP’s symptoms, and the other deciding to take a detour to the hosptial instead.)

          1. Colette*

            To me it’s not so much the lawsuit, it’s that it’s possible that the OP could have gotten worse en route to the hospital, and the coworker didn’t have the resources to deal with it. The OP could have died to save the cost of calling the ambulance.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              So the OP’s supposed to take on the extremely significant expense of calling an ambulance they don’t feel they need, on the off chance that their well-known condition, which a medical professional has advised them isn’t life-threatening, might potentially get so much worse so abruptly that their ride can’t handle it?

              That’s pretty absurd.

              1. Colette*

                Cardiac events do, in fact, get worse abruptly.

                The OP could decline the ambulance ride and leave on her own – but if I were the employer, I would in no way support having a coworker drive someone with what appears to be a serious condition, even if the person with the condition wanted it that way. If you take a first aid course, one of the symptoms of a heart attack is denial. People are poor at deciding how serious heart conditions are.

                1. Aurion*

                  True, but unless the OP is unconscious, OP makes the call. OP did not give consent to call the ambulance. The company management could persuade OP to let them call an ambulance, but they can’t override OP’s wishes so long as OP is cognizant.

                  If OP suddenly got worse and someone around them had to make the executive decision, there is no effective difference a coworker could make between “call an ambulance to Workplace” vs “pull over and call an ambulance to the car that’s somewhere between Workplace and Hospital”.

                2. Aurion*

                  In the strictest sense, yes, someone else can call the ambulance without OP’s consent. Who’s gonna pay for the ambulance? OP didn’t consent and certainly would not pay for it. And if OP didn’t consent to the ambulance they’ll very likely refuse treatment from the ambulance paramedics, making the whole thing a waste of money and time.

                3. Colette*

                  In some locations, you are legally obligated to assist someone having a medical issue to the extent that you are able. Even where it’s not the law, there is a moral obligation to help someone in distress. That can easily be interpreted as “you must call 911 when someone’s heart is misbehaving”.

                  Who pays for the ambulance is not your problem; nor is getting the person having the issue to cooperate with the paramedics. The patient can refuse treatment as long as they are conscious; that is between them and the paramedics.

                  You’re assuming that the person having the issue would refuse treatment; it’s equally likely that they will go unconscious or otherwise get worse before the ambulance gets there – and a few minutes can make a big difference. (How long can you provide CPR? Do you know where the nearest defibrillator is? How would you feel about watching someone die because you took them at their word that they were OK?)

                  In this case, the OP did need medical treatment for a heart issue. There is no way I (as the employer) would be OK with a coworker driving her to the hospital in that situation.

                4. Aurion*

                  If the patient is unconscious, I as a bystander would use my own best judgement, which would be to call an ambulance…but that would be because the patient is not cognizant and aware enough to refuse and I know nothing about their medical history. OP in this case was cognizant, aware of their own medical history, their cardiologist advised them that their case specifically was not life-threatening, and OP was clearly turning down an ambulance. If I were OP’s colleague I would feel very uncomfortable overriding their own clearly stated wishes and saddling them with an unnecessary and very expensive bill unless I clearly see the symptoms getting worse or they fall unconscious.

                  I would also be very worried for OP, and try to persuade them to go on an ambulance! But if OP were of clear enough mind to staunchly refuse, no, I would not feel comfortable overriding that.

                  If management wants to pay for said ambulance ride as a matter of policy, then I might see your point. But they clearly don’t seem to be offering to do so here.

                5. Colette*

                  You don’t have to override the OP’s decision not to go on an ambulance, or try to persuade her to do so.

                  But calling medical help to deal with a situation that you are not qualified to deal with is a reasonable thing to do, and there is no good reason to not call. If the OP doesn’t want to go with the paramedics, she doesn’t have to – she can stay at work if the company allows her to, or leave on her own.

                  But there’s no way I would give her a ride in that situation. The risk (to her and to me) is too high.

                6. Zephyrus*

                  If someone forcibly called me an ambulance that -I- would be expected to pay for, AGAINST my will, I would do everything in my power to find out how to make THEM pay for it. You don’t saddle me with thousands of dollars of debt so you have a cool story for Facebook of how you “saved a life” and now you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

                  I work minimum wage. Saddling me with that kind of debt would actually be WORSE than just letting my medical issue take its course. That’s ESPECIALLY true if I tell you it absolutely IS NOT an emergency.

                  Call me an Uber/Lyft or remind me to do so myself. Don’t ruin me financially for your own Feelz.

              2. Half-Caf Latte*

                wrote a book about this much further downthread, but the problem with SVT is that there’s no guarantee that it will forevermore be benign, and, more to the point, the OP is in fact sick enough to require emergency treatment.

                It’s reasonable for the employer to say – we don’t want to be associated with the liability of this whole situation. If the OP doesn’t have coverage for ambulance transportation, I’m very sympathetic to that, and would encourage them to raise this with the employer.

                And, “might potentially get so much worse so abruptly that their ride can’t handle it” with SVT means – no more pulse, heart isn’t effectively pumping blood, as opposed to: vomits 3x all over interior because GI bug is really really bad.

                1. Mommy. MD*

                  Also having an ambulance show up is not where the major expense is. It’s in the transport. People decline transport all the time and sign (or EMS staff witnesses and signs) an AMA. Against medical advice. It’s then up to the person refusing to get themselves private transportation. Ride services can refuse hospital transport. I think OP put colleague in a no-win situation. I hope this person keeps their job.

        2. Fikly*

          The law being a problem doesn’t mean something will be thrown out of court. It usually means the opposite of that, because the law is still the law, and thus enforced.

          1. MK*

            Eh, I said a claim like that would be dismissed in my country because the law is different here, not because the law is problematic.

    4. Mommy. MD*

      I can see liability. Coworker is technically supposed to be on the clock. It’s the middle of the work day. OP has an emergent cardiac event which requires emergency room intervention. Also states low blood pressure which can cause syncope/fainting. Coworker opts to transport this cardiac emergency in private auto while mid day at work. There’s a scenario there for liability. Was a Manager consulted? Liability is in the eyes of the justice system and a case could potentially be made. I do think it should be just a verbal warning and nothing more.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I doubt the coworker was trained to determine the severity of the OP’s issue. Cardiac events are serious things, and it is not recommended to drive someone who may be having a heart attack to the hospital. What if they get worse en route?

        Now, the employer is not handling the situation well, but “you must call an ambulance if you suspect heart problems” is not an unreasonable policy.

        1. GGC*

          Yes, exactly! I agree that the company is not handling it well. Instead of leading with possible lawsuit they should be emphasizing possible coworker death.

          I will take it a step further and say that “you must call an ambulance if you suspect heart problems” is the the absolute bare minimum of policies.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            But the OP has stated they did not want an ambulance called, and ambulances are f**king expensive if insurance declines to cover them. Is the company prepared to pay the cost of people getting unwanted ambulance rides if they implement such a policy?

          2. EPLawyer*

            So company policy overrides the patient wishes? Yeah no. The company does not get to make medical decisions for an alert person.

            While anyone can file a lawsuit for anything, I think the risk here is pretty low. The company waaaay over reacted to the situation. I wouldn’t even “warn” the co-worker since that is pretty serious. I would make sure it really is policy and not just someone saying it is to justify overreacting, then educate everyone on what best practices are when a co-worker is not feeling well.

            1. Colette*

              A bystander absolutely should call an ambulance if they suspect someone is having a cardiac event. If the person is conscious, they can decline treatment when the ambulance arrives.

              1. EPLawyer*

                If soeone called an ambulance when I clearly stated I did not need one I would be angry. yes you can decline care but it’s a hassle and you might get charged anyway.

                What happened to listen to people who know their own bodies? This person is under the care of a doctor who told them that is not serious. Believe them.

                1. Colette*

                  I’d rather you be angry than dead. And since the OP did go to the hospital, it was obviously not something she could handle without medical attention. If she needs medical attention for a cardiac event, calling an ambulance is a reasonable response because if it goes wrong, it’s going to be more than an untrained coworker can handle alone. And low blood pressure can cause fainting – if the OP had fainted halfway to the car, what would the coworker have done?

                  (If it were, say, a broken arm, sure, put her in your car.)

                2. DogWithMemoryProblems*

                  Ignoring the terrifyingly dystopian consideration of the cost of an ambulance.

                  People can be incredibly stupid about things. Pain tolerance and adrenaline can play a major role in that stupidity.

                  I got hit by a car, got up, insisted I was fine to all and sundry and that I knew my own body and no, I really did not need an ambulance and walked off.

                  I was not, in fact, fine.

                  If someone had not listened to me, called an ambulance and insisted that I stick around to be seen by the ambulance then they would have been absolutely in the right and I probably would have been better off in the long term. Irritated as heck in the short term, probably, but definitely better off in the long term.

            2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              Yes, this was the rule at my work (for us and patrons.) An ambulance was to be called. If the person was deemed well enough to refuse consent for care, they could tell that to the EMTs when they arrive, and fill out the appropriate forms saying they declined care.

              And I empathize with LW1, my insurance only covers emergency room treatment if it is life-threatening. So if you think you’re having a heart attack but it turns out you’re not, it’s not covered.

              1. Lime green Pacer*

                “my insurance only covers emergency room treatment if it is life-threatening”

                Yikes. All my sympathy for being in this incredibly difficult position!

              2. doreen*

                You might want to check – insurance companies in the US must must cover any emergency visit that results from symptoms that a “prudent layperson” could reasonably expect to result in a serious adverse health event. It doesn’t depend on the diagnosis, but the symptoms.

                1. Queen Anon*

                  Is that a legal requirement? My insurance at my previous place of employment absolutely did not cover any ER treatment, which is why I’m paying out of my own pocket the $3300 it cost a year ago to let me know I had a kidney stone. You could think you were having a heart attack or a stroke but it didn’t matter – they did not cover ER treatment.

                2. Half-Caf Latte*

                  It was made federal law with the ACA for most people, most states also have protections, but insurers, some in particular, are known to be crappy about it.

                  I can’t imagine employer-based insurance can entirely deny emergency care, unless it’s some sort of grandfathered plan but even then unlikely, although if it was a HDHP that cost could be right.


              3. MK*

                So basically a bystander makes the call that you need an ambulance and you get to pay for it? That’s frankly bizzarre.

                1. Malarkey01*

                  No- you are not charged for an ambulance if you refuse treatment. You will be quickly evaluated to make sure you can consent and sign some forms.

              4. bleh*

                “I’d rather you be angry than dead” coupled with assuming they know better is the problem with some health care professionals. Autonomy overrides beneficence for me. I’d rather be dead than you deny my wishes about my body.

                1. Colette*

                  Having an ambulance on site has nothing to do with your body. They can’t treat you without your consent, but having them there is not a call you get to make.

                2. SimplyTheBest*

                  @Colette, OP had already said she didn’t want the ambulance. Why are you going to waste their time calling them out there for someone who’s already declined those services? Don’t take them to the hospital if you don’t want, but don’t act like you’re doing the right thing and others aren’t.

                  And I’m with bleh. Our working relationship would be tanked if you’d ignored my express wishes about my medical treatment for a condition I was well aware of and was dealing with under medical supervision. No way I’d see you as any way reasonable or safe to be around.

              5. Mommy. MD*

                I think that may not be accurate. You need to check this. Symptoms of an emergency are almost universally covered. People do misuse the ED vastly bit true emergency symptoms, even if something is ruled out, are generally covered.

              6. Quill*

                Wait, what the everloving duck?

                I have pretty shitty insurance right now and even though it’s catastrophic only, I’m pretty sure it would cover a non life threatening emergency room visit, like a concussion…

            3. Emily K*

              Right, is the theory here that OP is going to be the one filing a lawsuit? Alleging that her employer… allowed a co-worker to do what OP requested the co-worker do? I really can’t imagine that scenario playing out – once OP makes a choice she can’t turn around and hold the company legally responsible for her own choice.

    5. GGC*

      Early intervention is the difference between life and death for things like heart/breathing problems, stroke or severe allergic reaction.

      I would seriously question the judgement of an employee who drove a coworker experiencing heart symptoms in their car instead of calling an ambulance. We would have a serious and formal talk with clear directions on what to do next time.

      I work at a nonprofit that does mostly children’s programming and has many elderly volunteers and board members, so our policy might be more intense than a standard office.

      1. Antilles*

        I would seriously question the judgement of an employee who drove a coworker experiencing heart symptoms in their car instead of calling an ambulance.
        Except the OP *already knew* that it wasn’t a life-threatening issue because a medical professional had already diagnosed it as a known issue. Comparing it to an elderly volunteer having a stroke or a child having a severe allergic reaction isn’t a relevant analogy.

        1. MMD*

          Not accurate. It’s a serious cardiac condition needing to be treated almost always with a cardiac drug that virtually stops the heart for a second to break the abnormal rhythm. OP seems to have downplayed it to coworker and in her letter. She also had hypotension which can cause loss of consciousness. It’s serious.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Can we take the OP at their word that they knew their medical condition and what their doctor advised them about it?

        1. Bri*

          I have a very similar condition (POTS) and anyone under this umbrella lives in fear of an ambulance being called. Heart attack symptoms are not unusual for me and I cant go to the hospital every time. I have heard the theory that you should always call a ambulance because something could happen in the car and the family could sue you but it sounds like the Op may have passed out which is as normal for someone with Tachycardia as a nosebleed is for other people. ( They sell shirts that say “Brb dont call 911#pots)

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I’ve got a bracelet charm with that on it! It’s on my medical bracelet which says about the same thing but in medical.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Why would you have a serious and formal talk? What would the “clear directions” entail? If someone declines to call an ambulance and declines care, you cannot force them to get that care by calling an ambulance. It’s going to waste resources and prevent someone who’s actually having a heart attack from receiving necessary services. In that circumstance, I can’t see why anyone would question the judgment of another employee who insists that that person get their symptoms checked out. If the difference is between (1) refusing treatment and an ambulance, or (2) accepting treatment conditional on not calling an ambulance, I think most people would try to convince their coworker to go with option 2.

        If someone says they are not having a heart attack and that they know they are not having a heart attack and that they would decline an ambulance if called, why should another employee be penalized for ensuring the first employee receives medical care?

        1. Malarkey01*

          Declining an ambulance is one thing, but then driving a coworker to the hospital creates a problem. If an employee says no I don’t need an ambulance that’s fine but then they cannot ask another person on the clock to drive them to the hospital.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      There’s definitely legal liability at play, but the bigger problem is the company’s policy and its approach to how it’s trying to manage that liability. If they are truly worried about people driving one another to the hospital (cue my side-eye) for **legal reasons**, then they should, at a minimum, offer to call an employee a cab or other ride service. It’s not reasonable to leave someone in a state of medical distress because of the fear that those employees will be hit by a vehicle or have some other accident on their way to or from the hospital. And although this was a non-emergency situation for OP, there’s no way others (or even OP) could have known that OP was not experiencing a life-threatening cardiac event.

      If they’re going to have such a draconian policy, it needs to be clearly and openly communicated to employees before something like this happens. It sounds like the policy is not easily found anywhere, which suggests it was never appropriately communicated before or during OP’s non-emergency emergency. But in general, the employer should take a hard look at their policy and determine whether the rare but possible risk of a worker’s comp claim (or auto accident claim) outweighs the cost of discouraging an employee from seeking immediate medical care when that care is necessary.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Honestly I don’t think their concern is so much that they’ll be a car accident, it’s that the ill person will die in route. If someone is having a medical emergency at work and a company employee on the clock drives them and things turn serious, the coworker won’t have the resources to treat ill worker and then the company can be on the hook for her death. Yes it’s stupid, but it’s not a friend driving her, it’s an employee on the clock.

      2. LJay*

        As someone who drove for Uber, please do not call a rideshare instead of an ambulance.

        I do not have the capacity to provide emergency care. I do not have the capacity to transfer this person from my vehicle to the emergency room if she is unable to walk when we get there. I have no idea what to do if she passes out (which it sounds like she did or was at risk of). If she dies in my car I absolutely do not know what to do.

        I do know that I am making less than minimum wage when I’m driving, generally, and that neither my own car insurance or Uber’s will be eager to cover the situation if she dies in my car and I get sued by the family.

        If there were someone else riding with her to the hospital I would feel better about doing the transport assuming they could make medical decisions/shove her onto a gurney/communicate to ER staff what was wrong/make the decision to terminate the ride and call an ambulance instead, etc, if she were to become incapacitated.

        I’d also feel better about it if it were a situation like this and not one where someone was bleeding from a head wound or something that would then mean I would need to professionally clean my car which Uber generally would not compensate well enough to get done correctly.

        If OP wants to refuse an ambulance and is able to continue working, that’s great. If she wants to refuse an ambulance and is able to get herself to medical attention by herself, great. If she has an emergency contact that can pick her up and bring her to medical care, that’s great.

        I don’t think calling a rideshare driver is fair for anyone involved, and it is not any less risky for anyone involved (except for maybe the company’s own liability) than the coworker giving the ride.

        (And I say this as someone whose boyfriend was stuck with a huge ambulance bill when he was involuntarily transported to the hospital by ambulance when he was passed out. It sucks he had to pay it. But I would in no way have expected a random stranger to pick him up off the street to transport him to the hospital instead.)

        Uber drivers are doing it to drive people back and forth to the airport and to the grocery store and stuff, we’re not equipped to provide medical transport and shouldn’t be used that way as part of a work policy.

        1. Avasarala*

          Yeah seriously WTF at “don’t call an ambulance, call an Uber.”

          If you are debating between the two, call a GD ambulance.
          Do not put that stress and responsibility on a stranger driving their own car, they are not medically trained and not medical transport!

          I know ambulances in the US are expensive but it’s simply dystopian to substitute private ride-share services for specialized medical transport.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            If I know my condition is not life threatening, I’m not spending thousands of dollars for an ambulance. Anyone who gets in an uber can have a medical emergency.

            1. Yorick*

              Yeah, if you know your condition, then you know whether you can make it to the hospital without paramedic assistance on the way. So I think you can decide for yourself whether a taxi or uber or friend’s car is appropriate.

              My grandfather once drove himself to the ER while he was having a heart attack (I think it wasn’t his first one). I definitely wouldn’t recommend that, but apparently he could tell that he was ok for a bit.

      3. Crystal*

        It probably is that while an employee is at work or on work time (travelling between work sites for example), the employer may be liable for any legal ramifications. So by two employees taking it upon themselves to deal with this medical condition on their own, this is probably where the problem is and the employer is trying to avoid this sort of thing By giving the formal warning. In this situation the sick employee should have volunteered to leave work saying they are feeling unwell. They leave and it’s up to them if they go to hospital or their local medical centre on their own merit. The employee that drove should stay out of it and not have volunteered this during work time at all.

    7. DJ*

      The situation shouldn’t be disciplining the worker but clarifying how the company wants those situations handled. But given some have mentioned high medical bills resulting from calling an ambulance and the company isn’t the one that has to pay the bill it shouldn’t include an automatic call an ambulance action

    8. dakota5176*

      Hi – I’m the op for number three and the price of the ambulance was part of my concern(US). It also seemed like an over reaction especially since the hospital wasn’t far and I knew what the problem was. I never passed out although I did feel a little lightheaded making driving myself a bad idea. We did have the permission of a middle manager type who knew what we were doing, but senior management ending up disagreeing with them when they heard, which makes it all the more odd. I had suggested calling my husband but it would have taken him awhile to get there and so everyone was against that idea. Although they say there is a policy against it no one has ever found it. They often seem to handle things in a strange way designed to demoralize the workforce. The ER sent me home with instructions to see a cardiologist and he prescribed me a “rescue pill” that I can carry around with me and will cure an attack. This seems like the perfect solution to me. However I think what I have learned from this situation is should I ever have a problem again I should handle it on my own and not tell anyone. I did give my coworker a thank you gift. I wasn’t sure what was “proper” but I thought she deserved something for helping me.

      1. Quill*

        OP: Not gonna give you direct medical advice, because I am SO unqualified, but the idea of not telling anyone strikes me as a bad one from a logistics standpoint.

        If you have an episode at work and are confident that the pill will solve it quickly (via experience, not just how the doctor says it should work,) then yes, but if your next episode, before you’re able to test the pill’s effectiveness on you, occurs at work you absolutely should notify a coworker (maybe not the same one who drove you to the hospital) that you have medication for your condition now and ask them to keep an eye on you while it takes effect.

    9. Bananarama*

      My employer (a US-based Fortune 500 company) requires employees who are seriously ill or injured at work/on the clock to be transported to the hospital via ambulance for legal liability reasons. The company’s worker’s comp policy pays for the ambulance, regardless of whether the injury or illness is found to be work-related.

      A colleague cut himself on the job last year. He was alert, oriented, and capable of driving himself a mile and a half to the ER, but security and our EH&S manager insisted on calling an ambulance. A coworker drove his car over to the hospital and after being sutured up, he drove himself back to work and finished his day. Worker’s comp did indeed pay 100% of the ambulance charges.

      1. ...*

        Well if the company is paying that’s a whole other story. Most people do not want a 5k ambulance ride and to be charged $400 for tylenol and that is what going to the ER will get you. So you might ask well skip the 5k ambulance ride

    10. TootsNYC*

      At an old job, a freelancer clonked herself on the stairs to the newly opened High Line and opened up a gash in her forehead on the way back to the office from lunch.

      When HR heard about it, the HR director came down and was insisting that she be taken to the ER in an ambulance.

      I’ve never seen such rapid hysteria in a person.
      She had no insurance, or if she did it had a very high deductible, and paying for it would wipe out everything she’d earned in months.

      I remember being furious at the HR’s insistence. “It’s policy.” Like, eff that!
      I think we all managed to “object” the HR lady right off the floor.

      I suppose concussion was a possibility, but it was so unlikely.

      1. TootsNYC*

        and our HR person didn’t tell us it would be covered by a company policy. Her being a freelancer, it might not be.

  2. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #3 – consider getting an insulated lunchbox and some icepacks and just keeping your lunch at your desk. I got into the habit when I worked somewhere that didn’t have fridges available, and have found that I can avoid a ton of annoyances by opting out of the office fridge. No worries that someone will steal my lunch – it’s in my desk drawer.

      1. No Time to Toss Lunches*

        My biggest concern is that she seems to throw out the meals before lunch even happens, before people actually get to eat! If she would only start her rampages in the afternoon, you could take your lunch bag out of the fridge all together. What a nuisance…

        1. Stormfeather*

          No kidding, and especially that she tosses it out WITH THE CONTAINERS. I mean even if you want to do surprise throwing crap out before lunch on a Wednesday, you don’t just take a freaking glass container and toss it out wholesale.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            In this situation, sure, I agree with you. However- having been the one responsible for cleaning the (smelly AF) communal fridge – if warning was posted reasonably in advance and you knew the consequence, I have no problems with someone who pitches the whole container. Plenty of times I’ve found containers with obvious mold/rotten food inside. No way am I emptying and washing that for you.

            1. Krabby*

              Hard agree! You just can’t spend time washing that crap out. It’s not your job and it just encourages people to keep leaving stuff for you to clean up. The issue is that there was an established schedule for people to work around and this receptionist broke it.

              Our kitchen actually works under the rule that if your lunches aren’t labelled with your name and the date they went in, they can be thrown out at /any/ time. But, we also have signs all over the kitchen making this explicit and a roll of masking tape and a sharpie to make it easy to label. That way our receptionists can clean it out whenever they have spare time.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              The problem, in this case, was really the details. It sounds like there was no labeling policy, the purge happened well before lunch, and it took place on a day when there was not supposed to be any disposal happening. And then on top of all that, there were no warnings or notices provided or posted for the off-schedule purge.

              Although people disagree on tossing containers, I think it’s generally known that there’s a non-zero chance your containers will be thrown out if you fail to adhere to the labeling and disposal schedule for the communal fridge. (Especially if whatever mold, etc., has begun to grow into the container itself… ewwww.)

              1. Mama Bear*

                We don’t throw out glass. One, it can injure someone if it breaks in the trash and two, it’s easily cleaned. All takeout containers are fair game.

                I’m with OP here – that was overkill. OP should talk to the receptionist’s manager. Tossing things 2 days early might have been due to a holiday or something, but people still need a chance to, well, EAT.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              Yes, that’s how it was done at Exjob. They treated us like adults — hence, it’s on you to remember to grab your containers before the cleaning crew did the fridges. They can’t be arsed to clean out your Tupperware. Nobody has time for that.

              That said, it doesn’t sound like the receptionist gave adequate warning this time, so I’d definitely mention it to someone and ask that if fridge cleaning is happening outside posted times, to please make sure they’re more vigilant about letting someone know. I would also mention her being rude about it. I don’t think OP has any say about the container pitching, however.

            4. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

              Hard agree. But you don’t get to decide that Wednesday is Friday.

              Oh, wait. Is your office in Narnia?

            5. Stormfeather*

              Oh, I can also see throwing out, say, tupperware with the Mystery Meal of 2017. But this sounds like it was glass containers (more expensive, more durable, etc.), and had at MOST been in there 4 1/2 days (2 1/2 days max if no one is in on the weekends), even aside from the receptionist doing a surprise cleanout two days early, before lunch. So yeah, even if for some reason she really had to clean out the food (spoilers: she didn’t, really), she should have been willing to dump what was in there and leave the dishes sit out.

          2. EmKay*

            Having been responsible to clean out the fridge in my previous job, where people would forget their containers for weeks and even months, you bet your sweet bippy I threw them straight in the trash (being very careful not to disturb the lid because I don’t want to smell the godawful mess they contained).

          3. BasicWitch*

            This detail is what makes me think it’s more of a power-trip than anything. I agree with the advice to approach the receptionist directly (and also their supervisor) about this behavior. Maybe if she’s *actually* confronted politely and directly about her behavior she’ll back off.

          4. Quill*

            Yeah, I’d be PISSED if someone chucked my pyrex into a garbage can some time wednesday morning – even if it’s whole it may no longer be microwave safe, not to mention my lunch won’t be edible…

    1. BLT*

      Agreed! I do this, but mostly because I am lazy and don’t like walking back and forth to the work kitchen :)

      My insulated lunchbox is from Costco and comes with a good quality ice pack. Great sale price too!

    2. Rexish*

      I would just have permanently written name and save to the lunch box. Regardless if it’s wednesday or friday. These types of people have such a negative effect on the environment.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        My concern would be, especially if you complain about the receptionist, that your lunch would get “oops” tossed even if labeled. Potentially with the label ripped off and destroyed for plausible deniability. Better to get it away from her if possible.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Their existing policy is silly anyway because “save” tells you nothing of its age. What I usually see with these policies are name and date it was put in the fridge. That was the policy is anything older than X days or something.

        1. Rexish*

          I 100% agree that the current policy is flawed. I would just play the game until something can be done. The receptionist is not doing it because she wants the fridge to be clean. There is no logic behind it. Probably it will stop when she or op leaves.

          1. Zephyrus*

            I’d figure out which lunch was the receptionist’s and “Oops!” it a few times, but I work in an industry that doesn’t treat us like children through hand-holding and micromanaging our food, thankfully.

    3. Tisiphone*

      I might have to do that. I work nights and the cleanout period is most of my shift on cleanout day. There is a sign on each refrigerator and it says that everything will be tossed during cleanout – between 5pm and 10pm. It’s winter, so I can hide my food in the car.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      When I worked with a receptionist like this (ran roughshod, was incredibly rude, refused to exercise basic sense in her administration/maintenance of the office fridge), I finally ended up buying a small fridge for my cube (shared with a few others). I know that sounds silly, but insulated coolers and lunchboxes don’t always accommodate what I’ve put together, but the mini-fridge felt like a justifiable use of personal passive-aggression.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I know several people who have done it. In one case, iirc, the person had to take meds throughout the day that had to be refrigerated. An office fridge would be a terrible place for that. So they got their own mini-fridge. There’s nothing in the office handbook that says you cannot.

    5. Aggretsuko*

      Never trust an office fridge! I would never leave my lunch in there! There are cooling bags you can get, coolers, just…don’t trust the office fridge!

      Also, this is why I categorically refuse to throw out anyone’s food when I am supposed to clean the fridge (about twice a year). I do not want to play the stupid game of “marked or not” when someone put the Lean Cuisine in there without their name two hours ago. Gawd.

    6. Junior Assistant Peon*

      A former employer of mine had a good system. Signs were posted warning of a fridge cleanout, then after lunch on a Friday, all containers were removed and placed on a table rather than thrown out. You had the rest of the day to claim your stuff.

      1. Clisby*

        I don’t understand the system the LW seems to be describing, where if you label and date your food it isn’t thrown out. EW! Seems to me like food left in the refrigerator by late Friday afternoon should be pitched, no questions asked – and the container with it. I can see making an exception for condiments, or maybe those shelf-stable milks for coffee – but for the rest? Throw it out, if the owner doesn’t claim it.

        1. Joielle*

          At my work stuff isn’t thrown out if it has the proper date on it… which leads to people just crossing out the previous week’s date and putting on the current week’s date forever. Someone once prospectively labelled an entire drawer with a month’s worth of dates. (It was technically within the letter of the rule, I guess, but was SUPER rude and nearly caused a mutiny. He grudgingly stopped doing it after that.)

        2. Yorick*

          What? What if you didn’t finish your lunch on Friday? They just throw away your container before you can take it when leave for the day? If it’s labeled (espeically with a date), they shouldn’t throw it out.

    7. Alexandra Lynch*

      That was what we did for Boyfriend and Girlfriend. Lunch box has two compartments, so the things that are room temp can stay with the utensils, packaged wet-wipe, and cotton towel that is for draping over your clothes while you eat. He also kept a heated lunch box at work; he just put his lunch in there and plugged it in around nine, and at noon he had perfectly heated food, no standing in line for the microwave.

      We did that because he’s had weight-loss surgery and so he’s got to eat the proper food for him, on time. He may not be able to find safe food at work/near work.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Kind of late to the party, but this is what I came here to say. That’s what I’ve been doing.

      It is absolutely ridiculous that the receptionist threw the food out 1) on an off day when no one expects her to throw the food out, 2) without warning, but more importantly 3) before lunch! What the heck?! Isn’t that what an office fridge is for; storing our lunch?

    1. T Bone 91*

      When I see posts like this it reminds me I’m grateful to have my own office and that we are allowed to have small, dorm sized refrigerators.
      I’m grateful I can avoid the office food wars that plague so many workplaces.

      1. Ariaflame*

        The energy efficiency and conservation part of me winces at this. Instead of one more efficient device there are multiple less efficient (and the little ones tend to be very inefficient) ones chewing up energy and contributing to the pollution of the atmosphere.

  3. NeonFireworks*

    #1: Oh, I understand this one! I’m also on the low FODMAP diet, permanently – plus I have several additional allergies and the audacity to be a vegetarian. The number of people in my office who want to talk to me for 10-15 minutes about what I can safely eat is staggering, and I’m simply not that interested in the subject. I often get around it by saying, “Not a lot. But being this careful means I’ve been feeling awesome! How about you – how are you doing?”

    1. Lena Clare*

      Yes, it’s astonishing that people get very invested in another woman’s dietary habits, isn’t it? I don’t wish to make this political, but I can’t say I’ve ever noticed it happening to a man.

      I suppose they think they’re being ‘helpful’, but it’s exhausting to explain over and over again “Jan, you’re not my doctor, I’ve got this and I don’t want to discuss it with you!”

        1. Lena Clare*

          I meant political in the sense of the thinking and motivations of a particular group of people, and in the sense of how feelings about it can be divisive and fraught, but I take your meaning. It *is* sexist.

      1. Maladyvaccine*

        Sorry but the office fridge is ALWAYS a lawless place to leave food. I can’t imagine why anyone would think this was a safe place! Better to leave your lunch in the middle of a busy airport and see if its still there 4 hours later.

        No rules can be enforced and all sense of civilised behaviour disintegrates when coworkers are at the fridge door.

        It is The Purge. Everyone feels entitled to do whatever the heck they want. Throw away someone else’s food? Or steal a tasty lunch? Grow a variety of moulds in a cup? Experiment with old milk? Peruse a carefully curated museum collection of vintage condiments? Learn how it feels to put your finger in a stranger’s pot of hummus? Need somewhere to store 453 bottles of cheap catering red wine? Got a large uncovered plate with a lump of fish on it that needs permanent home? Want to chill your socks on a hot day? Looking for somewhere to hide your colleague’s bike helmet? Need to chill something that appears to be a gallon of urine? All acceptable.

        I don’t approve of any of this behaviour but it is TRUTH.

          1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

            It wasn’t a gallon of urine. It was just one sample in a collection jar and then wrapped in plastic but still…

        1. Pantsuit Eleanor Shellstrop*

          This is the tea. I would sooner starve than eat anything, including my own lunch, that comes out of the office fridge.

          I feel the same way about office dishes. Do you like mugs that have been left in the sink to grow bacteria for 5 weeks, rinsed under cold water for 1.5 seconds with no soap, dried with an old paper towel, and sneezed on? Then have I got some dishes for you!

        2. Quill*

          I’m terrified of all your past workplaces now.

          Worst that’s ever happened to me with an office fridge was that a colleague and I who had leftovers from a welcome luncheon both took the wrong pasta home and ate it without noticing. (Helped that it was, essentially, two different preparations of pasta in red sauce…)

      2. Anon today*

        Oh, it happens to men, too. At a recent event, 3 people (1 man, 2 women) spent much of dinner berating a man for being vegetarian. Vegetarian man said he was doing it temporarily for medical reasons, and then the harassing man started trying to give him medical advice. Veg man finally looked at him and said, “I’m sorry, who are you?” — clearly indicating “you’re not my doctor, so chill.” Harassing man became so angry he threatened to punch Veg Man. (Yes, there was alcohol involved.)

        1. Myrin*

          I can’t decide if Veg Man’s response is funnier if he indeed didn’t know Harassing Man or if he did too.
          (The situation sucks, of course, but the response was on point.)

          1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

            Bacon FTW! Indeed. ;-)
            I do not understand why people are bothered by other peoples food choices.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m trying to wrap my mind around being so upset (and drunk/impaired?) that someone is a vegetarian that they’d threaten to punch them.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            It wasn’t the difference in diet, it was the fact that Veg Man was refusing to recognize Carnivore Guy’s Inherent Masculinity That Gives Him Credibility In All Things, Even Things He Doesn’t Actually Know Anything About.™

            These sorts of men are so fragile and they’re too emotional to reason with, I don’t know why they think they belong in the workplace. (So distracting!)

        3. whingedrinking*

          I remember reading a wedding story online where the father of the bride objected to having a vegetarian option at the reception. Note that word “option” – he didn’t have to eat it. He just, for some reason, had a moral issue with the idea that anyone anywhere would eat a single meal without any meat in it.

        4. Elemeno P.*

          My fiance and I are both pescatarian. Nobody cares at my work (beyond making sure I can eat something), but the people at his work are constantly ribbing him. Masculinity is so fragile sometimes.

    2. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      I’m allergic to dairy. I’m not as careful as I should be, but I still understand the struggle. (my symptoms are very annoying but not life-threatening. Just life interrupting. Also finding it hard to figure out how much dairy I can eat per day/week/month without a reaction.)

      BTW, I checked this out for someone else, who loves garlic/onions and went fodmap, and leeks taste like one of them but are considered low fodmap.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Infused oils with no flesh of the onions/garlic left in and no water content, are also low fodmap, too. Handy for cooking options.

        And turnips have a nice strong taste in the same general family, and can sometimes be used in place of the onions/garlic. However, shredding turnips is a pain.

    3. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      My job is the only place I’ve EVER worked where people get into, like totally INTO what they eat and can and can’t eat and what other people eat and can and can’t eat. It’s way way beyond “Joe’s a vegetarian, so be sure the holiday lunch has vegetarian protein choices” or “Remember Jane’s gluten intolerant when we order the meeting refreshments.” I get that some people are into cooking and recipes, but I don’t need to hear every detail about what’s in your fridge and lunchbox. It’s enough to make me run for the Velveeta and Wonder Bread.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        A million years ago when I was in grad school there was someone in the PhD program who was gluten-free.

        This was way before anybody jumped on the “gluten-free “bandwagon. She wasn’t celiac as far as she knew, she just knew that she felt better with gluten free and food.

        We have meetings where we would basically take over a conference room at the library for hours to kind of work with each other/off of each other etc. It was a great experience working with so many brilliant people. Everyone benefitted.

        Sometimes (often? LOL) we’d order pizza. There was one place, and only one that would offer a crust that was not made out a wheat. Pretty sure the owner *was* celiac so she was kinda aware of others’ possibly struggling…even wayback then.

        While this colleague was perfectly fine with just picking off the toppings we would always order one of the pizzas with the “not made with wheat” crust.

        It really wasn’t that hard to be considerate. All in all though, we didn’t really discuss her diet as it wasn’t our business.

        It was just part of what was happening in our lives that time — we had a colleague that didn’t eat gluten.

    4. Bree*

      That’s the one thing I would add to Alison’s script – a reference to medical restrictions or working with a doctor. I know it could open the door to questions about the condition but I also think it shuts down a line of advice/comparison/criticism that could happen if the restrictions were seen as the LW’s choice.

      1. Crocheted familiar*

        In my experience, mentioning medical advice and doctors would definitely not shut down the advice/criticism about food and would just expand it to include medical advice too. Mentioning you’re working with a doctor just seems to make it open season on advice-giving. I think making your comments about food as bland and boring as possible is the way to go here – mentioning doctors and medical advice just adds intrigue, which is the exact thing you don’t want when you don’t want to talk about something in-depth over and over again.

        1. EPLawyer*

          The minute you mention doctor, you start hearing about what THEIR doctor said or their second cousin’s best friend’s old roomate’s boyfriend’s doctor said. Or what they read on the internet. Or whatever.

          Just “nope, I’m just having rice cakes and egg salad today, so about that new design for teapots do you really think it will work putting the spout on the same side as the handle?”

          1. Pantsuit Eleanor Shellstrop*

            And then, when they keep pressing you for details, you pretend they said something normal and cheerfully end the conversation, like so:

            Person Trying to Eat: Nope, I’m just having rice cakes and egg salad today, so about that new design for teapots do you really think it will work putting the spout on the same side as the handle?

            Rude Person: But my AUNT and the INTERNET and do you have DIARRHEA have you even tried APPLE CIDER VINEGAR from an MLM?

            Person Trying to Eat: I see! Thanks for sharing. Well, I’m going to go talk to someone else about teapots now!

          2. Quill*

            Or you get someone who recommends you their crystal healer / MLM aromatherapist neighbor / dubiously qualified aesthetician friend because doctors are “just in it to make money” (Like a crystal healer isn’t???) and you have to write in to AAM about that.

        2. Ann Onny Muss*

          Yeah, I know too many people who would instantly become medical experts and tell you what you should do instead. “Doctors don’t know anything. Have you tried…?”

          1. Retired Accountant*

            A friend of mine has a lingering orthopedic problem, which I recently asked her about. She said there was no change, no one had any answers, etc. I said “I’m sorry, and I can’t think of anything else intelligent to say.” She said she appreciated that, and she had heard enough about what doctors to see and treatments to try.

        3. Krabby*

          I am doing this right now, and basically every person is like, “Did you know if you go to a Naturopath…” or “My Naturopath says…”

          Like, thanks but no thanks? I’m halfway through a diet that I know will work to help me figure out my stomach issues and you want me to go do a test with unproven results? I’m the one suffering, why are you arguing about this with me?

      2. AKchic*

        It doesn’t. It just opens up *more* avenues for them to share their “expert” opinions.

        My grandmother refuses to believe that doctors know more than the ladies in her church. The ladies that might have graduated, or at least attended high school 40+ years ago, have absolutely no medical training, but treat their ailments with prayer, half a Tylenol, and the occasional essential oil (because they saw it on tv, or because their neighbor told them all about the healing properties and sells it to them for a good price). The height of her medical expertise is whatever her actual doctor tells her (and she half-hears and misinterprets for her own benefit), the commercials she sees on tv, or daytime soap operas.
        The woman has literally called me at work to tell me I should be taking both Valtrex and Viagra for my chronic pain/spine condition because she saw them on television. And if that doesn’t work, church lady K swears by lavender oil because it “calms her nerves” and it will cure me right up (I need fusion surgery, among other things).

        Some people refuse to understand any kind of boundaries or propriety. It’s best to Grey Rock early and often, especially with semi-strangers. Your coworkers have no need to know your health issues or why you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s their poor manners for pushing.

        1. Jaid*

          I’m trying to wrap my head around using Viagra for a spine condition.

          Yeah, no, it’s still boggling.

          1. Wintermute*

            the ‘operative effect’ of that drug is actually a side effect. It was being investigated for blood pressure uses, when the vast majority of their male sample contingent reported a rather alarming side effect and thus was born the most profitable medication of the 20th century.

            But it’s still used for its intended purpose, off-label, especially in people that don’t tolerate anything that would interfere with their endocrine system but still need their blood pressure lowered.

            How that’s supposed to work for pain, not sure, but I could see off-label use (maybe its use is as an adjunct to anti-inflammatories, on the theory that reducing vasoconstriction response will lessen the severity of inflammation and spasms?)

            Then again since they were also talking about an anti-viral as well it’s equally likely they got confused.

          2. Quill*

            No, I get it, it was originally manufactured for something else, but enabling participation in the Duck Club is more profitable.

    5. Undercover Bagel*

      Wow yeah do I totally get this one. I too am an IBS sufferer, and in my office my coworkers love to alternate between going out and eating food that I could never touch, and going on food-restrictive diets (no hate on this, sometimes though popular diets tend to mark one food type as the Evil One, and when people get into this they love to tell you how that food you eat and they don’t currently eat is Going To Kill You). I think I get at least one passive aggressive comment a day about what I’m eating and it gets very tiring. Best of luck to you.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        Oh, me too. My IBS has decided that cruciferous vegetables and legumes are of Satan. You know, all the nice healthy veggies we’re supposed to eat all the time? Yeah. (sigh) So I get told I need more vegetables. I’ll eat more vegetables when they don’t trigger an IBS attack. Simple.

    6. C Average*

      When I’ve been in situations where I kept getting the same questions repeatedly (when I was in a walking boot after bunion surgery, when I had to wear a name tag with my unusual first name on it, when word got out that I was getting a divorce), I wrote up a brief, rather funny FAQ and carried copies of it in my pocket.

      “Wow, what’d you do to your foot?” “Eh, I’m tired of talking about it, but here’s an FAQ I wrote up!”

      It amused me and silenced others, and maybe someone actually learned a little about bunion surgery.

      I am known for being a snarky weirdo, and I acknowledge this approach might not work for a normal person.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I’m the one weirdo who would thank you, ask for the FAQ, and read it. Then I’d ask you if you needed anything so I could save you unnecessary walking.

    7. snoopythedog*

      #1. I feel ya. I did the FODMAP elimination diet and now just work to avoid my trigger food groups. The FODMAP diet is really hard for people to understand since they don’t ‘see’ the different between the groups since they are at a molecular level. My FIL still says “I don’t understand how these foods you can’t eat are related” ….well yeah, it’s a molecular/structural level, not at a good group or family level.

      I like Alison’s script here, especially the part where she has you switch the conversation.

      1. Kyrielle*

        My doctor told me, when she had me start on it, that it would only “make sense” to me if I was a food chemist, because it had to do with specific types *and amounts* of different sorts of carbs.

        I promptly quoted her whenever I needed to, to get other people to let the weirdness alone. (Not something I trotted out unless it came up mostly, but at that point I could just laughingly agree with them and quote her.)

    8. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’m guessing these people may be worried that they might accidentally feed you something you can’t eat. That’s my motive for questioning people about their diet.

      1. Tina*

        Same. And even then, I’ll only ask people questions about their eating habits if a) there’s a better-than-even chance I’m going to be responsible for feeding them and b) I haven’t been able to notice a sufficiently obvious pattern in what I’ve seen them eating already. (e.g. a friend has multiple allergens and sensitivities, so I asked her for a list the first time she came over for movie night, and just kept a copy for future reference.)

    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I have food allergies (not as extensive as you’ve noted), and it’s amazing how invested people become.

      For OP, I would tweak Alison’s script to say, “Oh, I’m on an elimination diet to try to identify what’s making me sick.” There seems to be general awareness that elimination diets can take months and are super restrictive. But also, totally ok to ignore people on this and just say you’re doing a food reset or something.

    10. Remember Neopets?*

      A little late, but to OP #1 and NeonFireworks, ME TOOOOO. I’m very lucky that my office is so full of vegans, vegetarians, people with celiacs and nut allergies, that another person with food restrictions didn’t really stand out.

      Before I did Low FODMAP I was convinced that I was lactose intolerant but after the reintroduction phases lactose was the only category that I didn’t have a problem with! The poor dietitian I was working with was baffled.

      Good luck to both of you in this holiday season!!!

  4. On a pale mouse*

    #4: I suspect with this kind of person, you’re probably at risk from an unscheduled act of overzealousness no matter how many labels you use.

    I hope these labels also have to have dates. Otherwise, anyplace I’ve ever worked, and probably every place in the entire history of office fridges ever, something will get marked “save” and then remain there in perpetuity or until it evolves into something able to walk away under its own power. Or until someone declares a full-on fridge decontamination where everything not removed by Fridge Day gets discarded. Which, honestly, most office fridges really need a couple of times a year no matter the normal cleaning protocol.

    1. Anononon*

      Yes, once a month, my office throws out anything without a name or a written date within XX days of the fridge clean out. And they specifically say they don’t go by expiration date.

      1. valentine*

        you’re probably at risk from an unscheduled act of overzealousness no matter how many labels you use.
        Yes. I expect further escalations from her, like doing it on a Monday next time, then saying she didn’t see the labels, then removing the labels. I think she’s not overzealous, but resentful.

        I think OP would’ve said if anyone was turning the fridge into a mold farm and the low use of the fridge means the receptionist can chill, but doesn’t want to.

        1. On a pale mouse*

          Oh, I agree, I wasn’t suggesting that was the receptionist’s issue in this case, just that dates seem like a good idea.

        2. darsynia*

          Yep, I would be taking a photograph of my lunch every day and keeping it in the cloud. Oh, there was no label? Then how come I have a picture of the label I put on it this morning??

      2. New Job So Much Better*

        Once a month our office cleaners throw out EVERYTHING in the 3 fridges. Lunchboxes, condiments, whatever is in there. And it’s so nice to have clean fridges for a week or so.

        1. Quill*

          There’s a barrel of mustard hanging out in my home fridge that may or may not have been purchased for the fourth of july…

    2. Ginar369*

      I’d be really pissed about the container. The OP said she used a glass one. Those aren’t cheap. Get an insulated bag and some freezer packs and keep your lunch at your desk. In a drawer or in the foot well.

  5. Julia*

    Op #1–I’ve actually been exactly in your shoes! Honestly for me it wasn’t that big of a deal. I have one coworker who I constantly talk food with (both of us really enjoy baking/cooking). She’s the only one who noticed and I gave her my most lengthy explanation: “Oh yeah, my doctor is having me eliminate stuff to help us find out what makes my stomach hurt. I’m trying out several new recipes now. How have you used x before?”

    Other than that, I found when I vaguely referred to it as an “elimination diet from my doctor”, people were just fine helping me find stuff to accommodate what I could eat and didn’t ask me anything more.

    Btw, get yourself some garlic infused oil. It’s low fodmap! I also recommend Kate Scarlata’s recipes—I think she has a cookbook now. My favorite and made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on flavor!

    1. Kitty*

      Yes garlic and onion infused oils are safe! I don’t know if you can get Cobram brand oils in the US, but they are Monash University certified low fodmap. Also, if you live near an Indian grocer, try asking them for ‘hing’ (also known as ‘asafoetida’). It’s a seasoning that gives an ‘onion-y’ flavour and is low fodmap. :-)

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        LW#1: Just make sure you cook it – it has a significant sulfurous aroma but that mellows on cooking. Try barely ‘toasting’ it in a dry pan then add the other ingredients.

        1. Jaid*

          You’re not kidding. I have to avoid the premade condiments and make my own, because hing is added to everything.

    2. HONK*

      Honestly I found garlic flower to be a much better low-FODMAP substitute than garlic infused oil! The oil was always very annoying to me, especially if I’m making a soup or something and normally wouldn’t use oil. I can’t believe I only found out about this after 1 year following that diet.

      It’s super easy to find where I live, it’s a sort of fermented green paste sold in small glass jars. Bonus: it somehow doesn’t make your breath smell, despite smelling and tasting pretty much exactly like garlic.

      1. Crooked Bird*

        Garlic flower? Forgive my perhaps obvious question, but… is it made from the flowers of garlic?
        I wonder how eating the flowers of garlic directly would be, or whether it’s important that it be fermented….
        (Gardener here, I grow my own garlic.)

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yes! Garlic flowers have a milder taste than the cloves themselves. I don’t think you have to ferment them if you can get them fresh, but I don’t actually know for sure.

        2. Alas rainy today*

          Sorry for the drift. Have you tried growing sand leek (Allium scorodoprasum or Allium scorodoprasum)? The flower/fruit is edible though not as flavored as the bulb

        3. HONK*

          Yes it’s exactly that! It’s the flower of the garlic plant. It doesn’t contain fructans, which is what you wanna avoid on the low-FODMAP diet, but it has plenty of taste. I’ve never had them fresh but I bet they’re great.

      2. Kitty*

        Ooooh, interesting, I had never heard of this! I will have to see if I can get it in Australia. Do you live in the US? Is it sold at ordinary supermarkets there, or speciality grocers?

    3. Lindsay*

      Yeah I recently did low fodmap and there’s more options than you think – you definitely don’t have to eat rice cakes and egg salad the whole time. Unless you want to. I really enjoyed some products from the Eat Simple brand for snacks (like soft granola bars), but be sure to check the ingredients. I found some decent gluten-free bagels too that you can keep in your freezer. And now I eat a lot of mustard as a condiment because I ate a lot while I was low fodmap.

      1. Lindsay*

        The brand is called Enjoy Life, not Eat Simple. Sorry my brain made up a brand name. Also there is a low fodmap salad dressing brand called Fody.

    4. Roseanne Roseannadanna*

      That’s easy, just tell the next person who asks, “I’m nausous. I’m constipated, my cheeks swell, my gums are bleeding, my sinuses are clogged, I got heart burn, and I got gas.”

      And if they complain be all “watcha tryin’ to do, kill me”?

  6. Bilateralrope*

    Maybe rephrase how you talk about your food when you complain. Your complaint isnt that the receptionist threw out your food. Your complaint is that she stole it. What she did with it after stealing it is unimportant (though I am curious if she ate any).

    Then ask how you should go about getting compensated for this theft, either from your employer or thos receptionist.

      1. Ariaflame*

        The throwing out of the containers, not cheap plastic but actual containers is an issue. If she wanted to do it on a different day than usual then a warning should have been issued.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          A huge issue! I’m surprised this is the first I’ve seen about it. A glass container in the trash??? I’m pissed on so many levels here. (I mean maybe it’s really stupid for me to be thinking of recycling protocol when it’s someone’s personal property they wanted to *keep*, but it just seems like layers of insult/destructiveness to put a perfectly good *glass* container in the trash.)

        2. Andream*

          At my previous job the gal who cleaned the fridge would stack containers on the table or counter after throwing away the food.

      2. BRR*

        I also think this is extreme and would make the lw look out of touch. I think it would make it hard to take the lw seriously.

      3. Bilateralrope*

        How it any different to when a coworker takes your food from the fridge and eats it ?

        In both cases, you’re either going without that meal or having to pay for it to be replaced.

        Sure, nothing is likely to happen this time. But if these unscheduled fridge cleanouts keep happening, having an itemized list showing the total cost could change the managers mind.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s different because people have different perceptions of, and feelings toward, inappropriately throwing out food v. taking someone else’s food to consume it. They’re not both theft, and it’s not super helpful to OP to try to frame fridge cleanout as a form of theft.

          For better or for worse, those of us who use communal fridges accept the risk that if we violate the communal fridge policies, our food and containers may be thrown out. The communal fridge is a perk/privilege, not something we’re all entitled to have or use. In this case, OP was penalized when they’d not violated any policy, which is why what happened is so problematic.

      4. Fikly*

        If I had just had $30 stolen out of my wallet at work, I’d call it theft. This person lost around that much out of the fridge. What’s the difference?

        1. Jojo*

          Well employers generally don’t accept liability for loss or theft of personal property. But this already is going into extreme response territory, as others have said.

          1. Fikly*

            I wouldn’t want the employer to compensate me, I’d want the employer to enforce a consequence against the person who tossed my property without warning.

            Is there actually a policy that states she can toss things in the fridge? Is this part of her job?

            If there is a policy, and she’s ignoring it, well then, there’s a problem.

            If there isn’t a policy, there needs to be one.

            If this isn’t part of her job, that’s a big problem.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Keeping office fridges clean often is part of a receptionists job, yes, either officially or de facto. It sounds like this person typically does give plenty of warning and has a pretty clear system, but obviously didn’t follow it on this occasion. That is a problem (nobody should be digging in the trash for their containers), but getting all “THERE MUST BE CONSEQUENCES” is going to look like overkill. Alison’s script is fine.

              1. Fikly*

                Well, a consequence can be a warning, or whatever. The point is not to ignore it completely, because then it will happen again, and again.

                This person is not doing this accidentally.

        2. Malarkey01*

          Your analogy doesn’t really work because the lunch wasn’t taken out of her purse but out of a communal work area. If you put $30 in an office folder and filed it and it got thrown out in a file drawer reorg it would not be theft.

          1. Sleve McDichael*

            OP says containers, plural, so presumably it was Wednesday, Thursday and Friday’s lunches. Good quality fresh ingredients for 3 meals plus the cost of a short notice replacement on Wednesday could easily add up to $30 in some cities.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed. Taking what will look like a minor issue to others and casting it in extreme terms usually does not help win an office argument or obtain oversight. OP needs to isolate what they want the outcome to be and then craft an approach that helps them obtain that outcome. They are not going to win the day by trying to convince other people that the receptionist “stole” OP’s lunch when she threw it away.

        Using the language of stealing/theft is going to make OP look unreasonable and histrionic, when OP’s concern is totally legitimate on its own. OP can easily explain that the lack of notice, lack of communication re: container labeling, and throwing away valued food storage containers (glass!) was unreasonable, unwarranted, inappropriate and super disrespectful. The facts on their own are bad enough that OP doesn’t have to reframe them to convey the severity.

    1. Approval is optional*

      Seems more than a bit over the top, and highly unlikely to do much for the LW’s reputation in the office.
      Given the receptionist has always given 2 ‘reminders’ in the past (which is at least one more than adults should need in my view) I would treat this as a mix-up. Genuine curiosity about whether the day and time for cleaning has changed, and a ‘oh good, thought I’d got it wrong’ if it hasn’t, would be my advice.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        #4–Not at all an okay thing, especially tossing out dishes, and the people in the office have plenty of grounds to complain. However, I’d throw in the *possibility* that the receptionist carried out muddled instructions from someone else. (I’ve seen that kind of thing happen more than once and the staff member left holding the bag alone when everyone starts hollering.) The receptionist always followed a regular pattern before. On the topic of she’s “generally pretty rude and pretty much does what she sees fit,” in my experience people often have that view of “support staff” who aren’t being obsequious enough or aren’t letting everyone in the place tell them what their job is supposed to be. Not saying that’s the case here, but that sounded a bit personal.

        #3–Your employers sound like first-class jerks, and negligent, too, if they have a policy about something as serious as illness at work and don’t bother to tell their workers about it. A while back somebody got hurt in our office (different from your situation because it was a workplace injury). It wasn’t major but did require medical attention. The boss was out (but reachable by phone or text). Coworker Daphne announced she was taking Jim to the doctor and they just left. Shortly after, Jim called in bitching that his doctor’s office wouldn’t treat him and where was he supposed to go. He was pissed and blowing up on the phone, but nobody knew who to call or what to tell him. Turned out the co. had a contracted clinic for workplace injuries. Then the boss came in and it was a flurry of phone calls to HR in another city to find out what to do. But it was all about Jim getting treated, and I don’t believe Daphne got in any trouble. Now the information is posted all over the office.

        1. Fikly*

          A lot of doctors just will not do workers comp, because it’s such a pain on the paperwork end. Most people don’t know this until they deal with it personally.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            No. They just have to follow procedure so they can bill workers comp. They don’t just deny services because they don’t like it unless they don’t accept insurance at all.

            1. Phil*

              I was hurt on the job-knee requiring surgery-and it wasn’t any problem. NO problem with the docs, disability or anything. Workers Comp took care of everything seamlessly.

        2. Colette*

          If you clean the office fridge, tossing out the dishes is a reasonable thing to do – otherwise you have to choose between having a bunch of dishes full of rotting food sitting on the counter or cleaning them yourself, and if you clean them, you teach people they can get their dishes back and you will do the dirty work of cleaning them.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            yes! I agree. If the container was that important to you, you wouldn’t have let the food go off in it.

            1. yala*

              I mean. They didn’t?

              If the receptionist usually cleans out the fridge on Fridays and she chucked stuff on a Wednesday, she knew it couldn’t have been in there longer than 3 days.

              Throwing out a glass container just feels malicious. Tho I know at least one person who probably would without malice, because she generally Doesn’t Get Things, and so follows instructions to the letter. But for real, those aren’t cheap.

          2. Rainy*

            Yup. I am the person who cleans the fridge for my office weekly (not assigned, I am professional staff, but someone has to do it or by the end of the month nothing will fit because of all the containers with 2 bites of last week’s lunch, takeout containers with half a burrito, baggies of wizened baby carrots etc), and I try to save the good containers (glass, sturdy plastic etc) but that A) means that I have to actually open them, which sometimes I do not want to because what’s inside is developing a complex civilization and B) means I have to take them down the hall to the only kitchen on our floor and wash them, and sometimes I quite simply do not want to.

            Also, because I do actually manage to save more containers from repulsive moldy gross food, now we have another problem, which is that the containers are starting to proliferate in the office because nobody looks for them unless they run out at home.

            1. Jennifer Juniper*

              Maybe donate them to the Salvation Army or the local soup kitchen? Of course, a company-wide notice by e-mail and proper signage with a clearly specified date would be required.

              1. Rainy*

                Yeah, I use transit, and I am not going to lug a giant container of containers to the nearest thrift store monthly on my own damn time. People can get their containers or they will be recycled/tossed. Frankly, the only reason I became the person who does the fridge is because my office is closest and when it smells, it stinks up my office.

          3. Sacred Ground*

            If you say you’re cleaning the fridge on Friday after lunch, fine. If you say that but instead toss everything on Wednesday before lunch, no, not fine at all.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I think that’s needlessly aggressive and will make the OP look much worse than just presenting the situation as is. Demanding compensation from your employer for a thrown-out lunch is going to look bizarrely petty.

      1. kittymommy*

        Yup. Introducing the word “stole” is going to create a much more hostile situation than necessary. Whether it is or is not correct usage in this situation is irrelevant, by using it (with all the connotations it brings to mind), resolving the situation is going to be hampered.

  7. Pez*

    #4 Is it possible the receptionist was not early but rather was late? If she hadn’t done the previous week clean and hadn’t thought through the ramifications of a midweek clean?

    1. valentine*

      People only care when she trashes their stuff and no one’s managing her properly, so, if that were the case, waiting two days would’ve made more sense.

      I don’t see a need for labeling. The stuff did not walk itself into the fridge.

      1. Colette*

        The issue is that requiring labeling (with a date) makes sure that the stuff in the fridge is actively required, and wasn’t left there by someone who moved to a new job 3 weeks ago.

      2. LQ*

        I think the assumption that people only care when she trashes their stuff is not really true. People would also care if there isn’t enough room in the fridge for their food because there are 10 butter dishes in there. People would also care if the fridge started to smell up the whole place. People would also care if someone got sick because someone else had forgotten something and it had contaminated other food.

        That’s why you need labeling. That’s why fridge wars are a thing. If everyone was always perfectly clean, had an immaculate memory, never got distracted, and never got fired you’d be golden. But here in the real world someone’s got to clean the fridge and it’s a really shitty job.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          It isn’t happening… because the receptionist is making sure that it doesn’t, by regularly cleaning out the fridge. The way she did it on this occasion was obviously not okay, but assuming that your average office can self-police fridge cleanliness without someone taking the task on and doing regular clearouts is really optimistic.

      3. Rainy*

        It didn’t walk in, and it’s also not going to walk back out. Unlabeled stuff never gets removed because the person who brought it can never be sure if it’s their thing or someone else’s thing.

        1. Quill*

          I can always identify my food because, to be honest, I have some pretty distinctive containers. (None of them match either: yay hand me downs and thrifting!) Glass containers are probably rare enough (and usually pricey enough) that the people who brought them can identify them.

          A lonely lean cuisine? Yeah, that’s gonna stay there forever.

    2. Spero*

      I would think perhaps it was done early due to Thanksgiving? If they were off Thurs and Friday maybe the receptionist thought Wednesday was the Friday of the week.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It makes no difference. If she sends out emails or there are signs warning people that the fridge will be cleaned out on Friday at a specific time, then it should be cleaned out on Friday at that specific time, period, end of story.

      And on a side note to the OP, you may think it’s overkill for the receptionist to do this at all, but when it’s not done the office fridge becomes a science experiment.

      1. Mae*

        Exactly. If adults would remove/take home their food containers, no one would have to clean the fridge out. I completely understand the OP being upset about glass containers being thrown out and she should say something to the receptionist.

  8. nnn*

    For #5, I’d lean towards not participating. Even if the employee doesn’t feel pressure to buy you a gift because they simply drew your name, they could feel pressure about buying you a gift – feel they have to impress you or whatever. And then there’s potential appearance issues if their gift ends up being memorably good or memorably bad, and soon afterwards you’re in a position to either reward or discipline them.

    If giving gifts makes you happy, you could get something nominal for everyone on the team, or for the team as a whole (big box of fancy chocolates?), or for just your direct reports. And if you’re indifferent or ambivalent to giving gifts, nothing is lost by opting out.

    1. empsk*

      For our work secret santa we all participate, but along with our names that get drawn we also not down a couple of likes and dislikes. That way I can write down “socks, chocolate, coffee” and the person who gets me doesn’t have to stress about what to get their boss. And it goes without saying, make sure your likes are easily purchasable and under whatever the spend limit is

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      My first Christmas in a big law firm, wet behind the ears and earning bout tree fiddy a week, I pulled one of the three senior partners out of the hat for Secret Santa. I didn’t know a thing about him outside his professional life, unsurprisingly.

      Fortunately it was a token/jokey gift exchange with a low limit (equivalent to under $10 today) so it was standard to give chocolates or similar – I think I gave some fancy chutney. But if it had been a “proper gift” I would really have struggled to give something appropriate to a boss who probably earned ten times my salary.

      This is why I want to reiterate Alison’s last point for that answer, re: “fairly low dollar amount” because although $10 for some people can be a tight squeeze, it is more findable than $50 or $100.

      Yesterday we learned that spouse’s NewJob has an option in their Secret Santa to forego half or all of the £10-limit gift in favour of a Greggs giftcard (Greggs is a low-cost chain selling hot drinks, savoury pastries, donuts, etc), to be given to a local homeless charity for distribution. That gave me a very festive feeling.

      1. Calo*

        I really wish offices would stop with the secret Santas. The gifts if cheap are no good and if good are not cheap.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          I’ve found the opposite; our limit is $15 and there’s a lot you can do with it, especially if you do any sort of handmade item. When someone isn’t sure, they default to chocolate, which also works.

        2. yala*

          I like our annual “Dirty Santa” (which is funny, because my family used to do it, and I HAAAATED it in those circumstances). Generally the gifts are cheap but fun, and the whole pageantry of “stealing” makes it a goofy, fun time with low-cost stakes because no one is going to REALLY get that bent out of shape over someone stealing their five-dollar candle or what-have-you (compared to my family, where we did it with DVDs, and I still remember my aunt specifically stealing one that I got purely because I was excited about it when I opened it. She didn’t actually wanted and wasn’t interested in the movie, but it was fun to “pick on” anyone who got excited I guess).

    3. OP #5 here*

      Thanks. I ended up opting not to participate, because I didn’t want anyone to feel the stress of finding me the Right Gift and worrying how I’d personally like the gift.

      I do always buy my team and admins at our office their own gifts (usually a small coffee shop gift card or movie tickets) and write a note how much I enjoy working with them. I’ll continue doing that, and not participate in the official gift exchange.

  9. On a pale mouse*

    #2: If my math is right, then there are six holiday slots (3 holidays x 2 people) to be covered by four employees. That means two people will have to do two, and two will only have to do one, in the fairest possible distribution. If you want to bring seniority into it, the two most senior can be the ones who only work one holiday. If you want to consider that New Year’s is maybe a little less desirable time off, you could make it that the ones who have to work two holidays can do New Year’s as one of them rather than having to do both Christmas and Thanksgiving.

    (So I’m not sure Jane has been treated terribly unfairly, although I can agree with unfortunate. Two people are going to have to work two of the holidays. That’s just how it goes when you take a job with coverage requirements.)

    Also, again, if my math is right, LW is working three, Jane is working two, therefore one of the other employees isn’t working any. So perhaps a good manager’s approach here is to go to that employee and say, hey, Fergus, I mistakenly didn’t schedule you for any of the holiday weeks, and I need to correct that. Which one do you want to work?

    1. D'Arcy*

      Your math is correct. Six holiday slots divided as fairly as possible is two employees working two holidays and two employees working one holiday; when desirability of holidays is added to the mix, no one should have to work both Christmas and Thanksgiving.

      Jane is stuck working on *both* of the more desirable holidays, in addition to poor OP who is working all three. This means one of the other two workers only has to work New Year’s, while the other gets the entire holiday season off — this is literally the second most selfish distribution possible, behind “Jane also has to work all three, so the two senior employees both get the whole hols off”.

    2. Randomity*

      Op says they do get the actual holidays off, so I don’t think it’s as simple as that. I’m hoping they chime in with the details because I don’t understand how this works.

      1. valentine*

        Having to work the rest of the week means they can’t take the week off and having to work the day after a holiday makes the holiday more of a countdown than a proper day off. Using PTO for Monday and Christmas Eve, having Christmas Day off, but having to work Thursday morning could have you traveling Christmas Day.

        I would ask the manager to correct it and, if they say it’s not fair to Fergus because *sadface* they have already made plans, say it’s even more unfair to you. And ask for a rota that doesn’t consider seniority because waiting around for people to quit or die will sour you on the job.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          There’s a note about morning coverage, which I assume means early mornings physically in the office. Working the day before a holiday but being able to go early or take the afternoon off does at least allow for travel TO, if not travel home again.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            They all work remotely. No one has to be in an office, they just have to be awake and working.

            1. Beachlover*

              I work remotely, and in fact I am “on the clock” right now. My coworker requested this week off, and since there are only two of us, I have to cover his work also, He is also getting Christmas week off. To be fair, we worked it out because I took extended vacation in August. But, I can work from anywhere in the country. Last year for Christmas week, I traveled from California to AZ, took my Laptop and phone with me, and worked from my sister-in-laws house. OP indicates they have only been at this job for 7 months. So they have no reference for how busy it will be during the holidays. Also, it may be that these holiday vacations are scheduled early in the year, and since they are the last hire, they unfortunately get the short end of the bargain. Next year may be different.

        2. Randomity*

          From what they said though I don’t think it’s weekday cover, I think it’s possibly a shift pattern where weekends have to be covered too, which would complicate things a bit, which is why I’m hoping they chime in.

        3. OP2*

          You’re right, the issue is that being scheduled for morning work means I can’t take full days off during any holiday week, which limits travel plans. I also have to work in a place where I can make confidential calls, so that also affects where I stay.
          We work Monday-Friday, but you’re responsible for the data that comes in from the previous Friday-Sunday as well, so you have to either work on the weekend to get it done or start VERY early on Monday. Same for the holidays, I either had to put in a few hours on Thanksgiving or start extra early today to go through 2 days work of data. Also as someone who will never be a morning person, it’s harder to enjoy my holiday knowing that I have an early start the next day.

          1. Randomity*

            I’m sympathetic. I feel you’re getting quite harsh treatment here.
            I think this year you might need to accept it and move on, but DEFINITELY bring it up next year well in advance of the rota being finalised.

            1. valentine*

              as someone who will never be a morning person
              Can you switch to evenings or to a job that lets you work a later shift?

    3. Library Lost*

      i think I’m having a hard time being sympathetic with this one because a holiday week not a holiday. I always work Wednesday nights, which means I’m always missing out on prime pie baking because I can’t take Wednesday nights off unless I can get someone to switch with me. I have made peace with that.
      I also manage a Saturday rotation, and sometimss the calendar gods hate a particular person and half of their “every 8th Saturday”s end up on a potential three day weekend. We don’t adjust for that, because trying to spare Jane from working the Saturday before Christmas and President’s day means that Joe is now going to have to work MLK day week and his birthday, and Kate has Mother’s Day and Easter and suddenly it’s not an 8 week rotation anymore. Now I’m just assigning people days based on how they might feels about them.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yeah, this one really confuses me. I get that it sucks to have to wake up early after a holiday, but sometimes it has to happen. Maybe this is a situation where they have to have a special set-up so traveling is difficult? I work remotely and will be working from my vacation the Monday before Christmas, which means up early and I have to be at my computer most of the day, but that also means I don’t have to take PTO and I get to work from the beach. My partner has to work three days that week.

        If it’s just mornings that are critical, I would totally handle the mornings and take the afternoon off.

        1. Beth*

          Yes, I was finding this one hard to sympathize with. “as the newest member of the team, it’s demoralizing to get the short end of the stick” — time to work on one’s inner fortitude, because every stick has a short end. The real world is not inherently fair, and the business world is even less so; many of us work very hard to make it as fair as we can, but we’re pushing back on entropy.

          “it’s not really a holiday if you still have to get up early” — perhaps the OP is in the wrong job. I’m not a morning person either, but the business world does not really care whether I am or not. I’ve come to terms with this.

          1. NYWeasel*

            Yeah, I worked a job where people with 19+ years couldn’t get any major holidays off bc they were allocated based on seniority, and there were a ton of people with 20+ years.

            Frankly, it’s not a given that every job will give off holidays or the days around them, nor is it a given that if some employees can be off that these days will be allocated evenly across everyone on the team. And while I get that it sucks as the newest member to get nothing, imagine how much more it sucks when you’ve worked there for 20 years and can’t count on taking time off bc it might get handed to someone who’s been there less than a year.

            That said, you can always seek out jobs where there’s no mandatory staffing needed on holidays, and then you can take whatever you want off. I worked for about 4 years at the place where I couldn’t get time off and we ended up making new traditions and meeting a family we’ve grown close to, bc they’d take in my spouse and kid when I was at work. And then when that became unbearable, I found a different job where there are no restrictions on how I use my vacation time.

      2. Fikly*

        The issue, I think, is not whether everyone outside of the company views this as special time. The issue is that this is three weeks of desired time off for the employees in question, and it’s being distributed unfairly.

      3. BasicWitch*

        Fairness is contextual. I’ve worked jobs where I’ve had to work holidays and all the days around them. I’ve also had jobs where I’ve had all of Xmas week off. It really comes down to how everyone else in your specific workplace is being treated, not how it compares across industries.

        It sounds like OP’s boss *did* realize they made the schedule lopsided, so gently reminding them next year is all that needs to happen to correct the matter going forward. OP isn’t wrong to be a bit miffed, but to take it personally or hold a grudge over it would be unhelpful.

      4. Daisy-dog*

        LW isn’t looking to be given those days freely, but rather to be able to schedule PTO on those days. It’s desirable time and for any number of reasons (having children home from school, having far-away family in town, needing decompression time after being with family, or just because) LW would like to have a chance to take time off without bargaining with co-workers.

    4. not neurotypical*

      OP says that they ARE getting ALL of the actual holidays off, is complaining about not getting ADDITIONAL days off during the weeks surrounding those holidays. After only 7 months on the job. I don’t see any cause to complain at all.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Days around the holiday are important too. That is when stuff gets done. It is not fair and hurts morale, if one person has to work ALL the holidays. The OP is not complaining about having to work the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. She can’t take anytime off at the holidays at all, except the holiday itself. All because she happens to be the newest person. That is not a good system. You know how you get a lot of turnover? By making people stressed about holiday plans and spending tie with their family because you can’t come up with a simple rotation of the major holidays.

        How hard it is to say “If you worked Thanksgiving week, you get at least some of the week at Christmas off?”

        1. Gremlin*

          That’s unfortunate, but at least there’s a possibility to fix this next year for OP. My boss is a big believer in seniority, and being the least senior person on our team, I will always have to work Thanksgiving week, and the two weeks surrounding Christmas. It’s not fair, but it is what it is.

        2. BasicWitch*

          This. Treating people unequally doesn’t help morale. Sure, incentivize retention by offering some perks to folks who’ve put in years of effort, but realize that everyone has family obligations and a need for R&R. At this point in my life, I have the privilege to be choosy about where I work. I would not stay long enough with an employer who structured things this way to gain seniority anyways.

    5. Galahad*

      I keep thinking about the senior employee that worked all of the holidays for years before the company started to hire more than 2-3 for the role….

      I really don’t get why this is a problem. It is very common to have the newest third of a staff pool have to cover most of the annual holidays.

      LW still gets the DAY OF off. Christmas day, Thanksgiving Day, New Years…plus can take the afternoon off the day before. And gets paid, and gets to take all of their vacation at other times of the year.. Why is this so horrible?

      1. BasicWitch*

        It isn’t horrible by itself, no. It’s just unfair. You could say that’s just how it goes, but if unfairness is built in than I think OP is justified in pushing back.

      2. Taura*

        Yes… which means LW can’t travel, can’t participate in evening events that will likely run late, and could be catching it from family members who don’t understand the schedule. I’ve worked that schedule before, and it was awful. Besides, “getting to” use their vacation the rest of the year doesn’t seem likely to work out either, if they’re handling vacation requests by seniority.

  10. HR Jedi*

    #3, I agree that it’s overkill to punish someone for giving a ride to the hospital, but your employer is correct that it could put them at risk.
    Had something happened to you in transit for which having paramedics transporting would have mitigated, that opens your employer up to a lawsuit from you. Worse, had your coworker gotten onto a car accident, this could have also been perceived as a work related trip (even if you and your coworker “clocked out”, because it could still be considered doing something on behalf of the employer), and made them responsible.
    Your employer most likely has a policy on at work illnesses and injuries (that is mostly intended for workers’ compensation issues, but would still apply here) that states that if someone is not capable of transporting him/herself, to call emergency services.
    I have had this happen at a worksite I oversaw. My solution was to directly let people involved know the policy with a “please never do it again” verbal warning and then add to our annual training on what to do in emergencies a reminder on expectations when coworkers have a medical emergency at work.

    1. Rexish*

      I really wouldn’t want to support using emergency transportation services if it’s not necessary. They may also refuse to come. I don’t mean in OP’s case, but there are tons of reasons people need to go to ER but doesn’t need emergency transportation. I can understand the liability but also if giving a ride to a hospital is forbitten then taxi/uber etc. could be added to the policy.

      1. Fikly*

        Employer can’t forbid getting a taxi once an employee leaves work. Their control ends at the building door if the employee leaves sick and is now off the clock.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I read Rexish’s comment the other way – that a policy should say to the effect of “if you need to leave for urgent medical attention, you should travel by ambulance or taxi only and not by private car” so that ambulances aren’t the only option but getting a ride from a coworker is expressly excluded.

          Do we think this employer would have been ok with coworker accompanying LW in the ambulance or taxi? I understand that it isn’t the time off cited, but the driving, so riding along shouldn’t be an issue.

          1. Colette*

            A taxi driver is no more equipped to deal with a medical emergency than the coworker is. If I were the employer, I wouldn’t agree to that policy.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              The point is insurance in an accident: the cab driver would be covered by their own insurance, whereas a coworker might make a claim against the employer.

              1. Colette*

                The OP (or her family) could still make a claim against the employer if she died because she followed their instructions.

            2. doreen*

              The employer should simply stay out of the “how does the person get to the hospital ” issue and stick to a policy regarding driving coworkers in your personal vehicle during work hours because that’s really where the company might have a problem. It’s not because the employee who chose not to call an ambulance might have a worse outcome because there weren’t EMT’s involved in the transport * – the problem is when Sharon gets into a car accident and gets hurt when she’s driving Phil to the hospital. Is it a workers comp case? Maybe- it’s certainly going to be if she used the employer’s vehicle, or if the company asked her to drive him. If she decides on her own to drive him using her own vehicle , it’s less clear – but that also means it’s not clear that it’s not a workers comp case.

              * There might be a problem if the employer refuse to allow the employee to call an ambulance, but that’s not what happened here.

              1. Colette*

                Implementing that policy would also mean employees couldn’t carpool to go to lunch, or to an off-site meeting, or go buy supplies for a work event.

                1. doreen*

                  Carpool to lunch would be fine- that’s outside of work hours, as would be carpooling to and from work. And I did mean to say for “non-work related” reasons because the company is on the hook for WC in your other two examples regardless of the mode of transportation.

                2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                  Spouse’s OldJob had a rule that you couldn’t use your own vehicle for anything work related besides your normal commute. Offsite meeting? Hire car. Going to the airport? Taxi. It seemed like a ridiculous rule and the expenses were high, but it was a big enough company that I bet it was in response to this kind of situation.

          2. Jennifer Juniper*

            My old job was at an office park in The Middle of Nowhere, Small Town. Waiting for a taxi typically took two hours. That policy could be fatal in the wrong location…

            1. Rexish*

              I don’t think anyone is suggesting getting a taxi if ambulance is needed. It’s just an additional means of transportation if colleague is absolutely off limits and ambulance is not necessary.

              1. Koala dreams*

                Those kind of small places with no taxis within hours of driving often also don’t have ambulances nearby. Hopefully the policy would take into account local situations.

      2. Mommy. MD*

        SVT is an emergency cardiac situation requiring intervention. EMS will always come. Often times EMS will treat patient with a cardiac drug prior to transport. I’d possibly drive a friend or relative to the ED if it were close, but not a coworker. I’d encourage them to go by ambulance. There is definite liability for employer. I’d never privately transport anyone feeling faint or with very low blood pressure.

        1. anon24*

          Thank you. I don’t know why everyone on here is always “EMS won’t come for X”. Dont call if you don’t need us but when in doubt don’t hesitate. You call 911, we’re coming. And we aren’t just “ambulance drivers”, we can treat medical conditions. If someone has SVT a paramedic can try to break it with vagal maneuvers, cardiac drugs, or even cardioversion if it’s needed and at the very least they can start IV fluids for the hypotension.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            I do understand this. I’ve been a workplace first responder in four different states. 911 dispatch center, and local police/fire/ems departments have really different policies, based on where you live. I’ve lived places where even the most mundane request had to go through 911. I’ve lived places where 911 would tell you tough luck for something most people would regard as serious. I’ve lived places where 911 dispatchers are engaging and helpful, and I’ve lived places where 911 dispatchers are surly and hostile. (Like the time I got yelled at for calling from a landline, as was company policy due to the address verification differences between landlines and cellphones.)

        2. Rexish*

          I did mention that I wasn’t talking about the letter writer. Yes, if you have anything heart related or unsure you should call. The people at the end of the line are very helpful and skilled. They will evaluate if ambulance is needed (as they should). Therefore they may say that ambulance is not needed (as they should). EMT’s are definitely professionals and important part of the medical chain. I was just in general saying that there are a lot of things that require going to the ER or to get checked out that doesn’t need ambulance.

          I actually think that the whole liability and insurance thing should not exist and common sense should be used. Unfortunately insurance policies don’t agree.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If they refuse to come that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.

        I’ve never seen anyone denied emergency response though. They still dispatch and if deemed not life threatening will encourage you to get your own transportationb instead but it’s to save you money not their time.

        They’re first responders who do not allow a dispatcher or just the info they get over the phone to make life or death decisions. That’s malpractice and negligence to not even set eyes on a patient.

        1. Rexish*

          I’m not saying they refuse to come when it’s emergency. I was just commenting on the policy of unless you get there yourself, call an ambulance. I personally think it shouldn’t exist but if it has to and colleague is out of the question then they should accept also alternatives such as taxi/uber/friend etc. I personally think that ambulances shouldn’t be used if they are not necessary. And if they are called just due to policy then they should refuse. In op’s case it would have been appropriate to call one. And you should call when you are unsure.

          My doctor recently called me at work ande told md to go to the emergency room. I work at the hospital so I walked there. I dont drive to work and ambulance would have been an overstatement. So if I worked somewhere else I would have had to call an ambulance or would public transportation have been ok?

          EMT’s ate wonderful and amazing colleagues. The people at the end of the phone are also wonderful. They do hard and important work. I was just challenging a policy (that I don’t think should exist)

    2. Piper payer*

      This is a fine policy, – but on the condition that the company always pays for the ambulance.

      If you don’t you should – and I’d be astounded if you can’t insure for it.

  11. Nell’s Bells*

    #4, so she threw out your glass container? What the heck?

    She’s throwing out your belongings as well as your food. It isn’t a “just label it” situation.

    1. D'Arcy*

      I would argue that it’s not unfair to throw out reusable containers with everything else if they’re being left in the fridge past an announced cleanup date. It’s *kinder* to empty them out and rinse or wash them, but when you have some coworkers who just *leave them forever*, sometimes without even bothering with a name or date label. . . yeah, no.

      What’s unfair here is that the receptionist is basically doing unannounced cleanups whenever they please, which means they’re throwing away food and containers that *aren’t* reasonably considered abandoned.

      1. TechWorker*

        It’s incredibly wasteful to bin the containers – I get that it might get to the point where it gets binned if not collected but to start by binning something clearly meant to be reused is not ok.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Especially if it has been there no longer than five days. I can understand an argument for throwing away an entire container that has been there for months and now has multiple unknown biological cultures in it, but not something new.

          That said, there’s an argument for a sort of holding situation where the fridge will be emptied on to the worktop at say 3pm (past the vast, vast majority of lunchtimes) and anything still there at 5pm will go into the trash. If someone is taking remaining leftovers home, or whatever, they have that grace period to do something about it.

        2. Magenta*

          I have found containers in our office fridge that are basically just full of mould, I throw them out, I am not emptying and washing them, if people cared about their containers then they wouldn’t have let them get in that state!

        3. RabbitRabbit*

          Our office has a rotating fridge-cleaning calendar, so you get a few times a year where you have to do it. I’ll empty out mold-farm containers in the garbage but then put the lid right back on. If the owner wants their container that badly, they can take it home and do the cleaning.

        4. Anonymous at a University*

          Our department’s admin assistant has had to do this because people have left plastic or glass containers in the fridge for well over a year and protested when she sent out e-mails to get them to be taken home. She used to try opening them, but after the point when she vomited more than once from the smell, she started just throwing them away. People can get off their lazy butts and remove the containers if they’re so precious and special to them.

        5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Why should there be exceptions? I guarantee if I forget once and lose a reusable container, I won’t forget again. People leave stuff in the fridge that become science experiments. If one person is responsible for keeping the fridge clean, it shouldn’t fall to them to distinguish between containers.

        1. Clisby*

          Sure – but she could put them in a box and tell people that when she leaves the office on Friday afternoons, everything in the box is dumped in the trash.

          1. Colette*

            Or the people who have left them in the fridge could remove them when warned?

            The issue in this case was that the receptionist cleaned the fridge without warning on a day it is not usually cleaned – and as a result, people lost food and containers they needed – but throwing out the containers (while wasteful) is often the best option.

          2. Malarkey01*

            How many times do these people need to be told to take their containers? A) people should just clean up after themselves so the receptionist doesn’t even need to warn them b) if incapable of a they get an email warning them to get their containers before they are disposed c) they should get another email that their stuff is now in a box?? Why would someone who couldn’t be bothered to get something out of the fridge suddenly sort through a box of containers (which now out of the fridge will really start to smell?

            (Only responding to the container issue, it’s sucks the date was moved up)

          3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            Then you’ll have a box of empty containers taking up space on the counter or on a table and it will sit there indefinitely.

    2. Blunt Bunny*

      It’s also dangerous if the glass broke the people emptying the bin wouldn’t expect to find glass in the bin and could cut themselves. This would have been a stop card at my company and a site wide email would have been sent round telling people where to properly dispose of glass.

      We have communal fridges and there’s a sign that at 4pm Friday anything that’s past it’s date will be thrown. So if there was a milk bottle in there and it had a date for Tuesday it would still be there the following week. We have never had a problem with the fridge I would be pissed if someone threw out my food I usually make about 4 days worth as well. If I was the receptionist I would leave anything in personal container and email Monday afternoon if it still there and send a picture of the fridge when it’s especially disgusting. Emptying the fridge is fine but I’m not scraping and washing my colleagues for them.

    3. Anon Here*

      Right. She’s doing it unannounced and not in response to a problem, so it’s theft. OP should find out how much that kind of container typically costs and share that with whomever she can report this to.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Nooooo it will make you look unhinged if you ask to be reimbursed for $5 for a leftover container in a communal fridge, especially if you call in theft.

  12. Anblick*

    LW1: this is definitely dependent on a certain personality type and all but I have a really touchy stomach and I’m reallllly outgoing and noisy hahha! so in the past when I’ve been cutting out food types like that, reducing alcohol, etc. I say something like “well I DEFFFFFFFFFINITELY could give you more details about why I’m not doing x food group right now but I’m not even sure my doctor wanted to hear about it, much less you!! TRUST ME, IT WAS NOT GREAT. HAHAHA LIKE.” My workplace is super casual and like I said, I’m vvvvvvvery outgoing, but that gives the general idea without having to go into any specifics, MOST people will just sympathize and laugh with you and be like oh man that suuucks and drop it! and for me it’s been a huge relief to not have to tell polite fibs or dance around dietary stuff or whatever if it’s a big part of the culture (or family–Thanksgiving being right now, one of my actual biggest instances was actually based around the rocket poops I got from a traditional Norwegian dish my in-laws make and like none of their other cooking RUINS ME but after I figured it out, I was like WELP THAT ONE IS IT SORRY CANNOT DO and they were like oh dang!! carry on!! and it was all ok!)

    1. Spooncake*

      I’m neither outgoing nor loud but I do like to diffuse weird situations with humour so I take the same approach. Like OP1 I had to do the low FODMAP exclusion diet due to IBS, and now I can’t eat wheat (amongst other things, but that’s the big one). People insist on being nosy and personal about it and “Hoo boy trust me you do NOT want to know the details behind this one” seems to get the message across without having to share sensitive (or gross) info.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I’d be weird, but that’s because I’d get anxious and start worrying that I can no longer bring the offending food to the office for fear of triggering your ailment by its being in the air. Once I’m told I can bring the offending food, I’d be fine.

  13. Don’t get salty*

    For LW#2: I really hate the idea of assigning holidays based strictly on seniority. Being the most recent hire, until they choose to hire someone new, you’ll never have an opportunity to take holidays off with this system because everyone else in the office will always have worked longer.

    Your boss does seem to acknowledge that she possibly made a mistake, but might be relying on the fact that you are new to avoid treating it as urgent and disrupting senior employees. A more careful boss probably would have noticed scheduling one employee for every major holiday in a season, and would have rescheduled without prompting (or at least discussed it with you).

    It’s better that you address this now, as you have planned, than to wait next year when this might have slipped your boss’ mind. In addition, there might be other reasons you’re not privy to for why your boss decided to have you slated for all the holidays.

    1. Squidhead*

      I work in healthcare (24/7/365 institution). All employees in my title are required to work one of the 3 major winter holidays and are required to receive one as a paid holiday. Some (lower seniority) employees will work 2 holidays, but no one will work all 3. Yes, it’s probably going to be a few years until a new person gets their top pick, but at least they’ll get something. (We also do get holiday pay for holidays worked.)

      1. OP2*

        I don’t think this was a seniority thing, as far as I know it was just a careless mistake and I was unlucky. Since there are currently only 4 of us working mornings, the boss just continues that pattern on a monthly basis, which is why I kind of understand why it happened. My boss and I have talked about ways to prevent this from happening next year, and I’m hopeful I can get out of more holidays next year because of this!

        1. Tisiphone*

          Oh good! I’m glad it was an oopsie on the part of your boss and not like what happened in a previous job of mine.

          I once had worked tech support where my location suddenly pushed all the M-F day people to nights and weekends and required mandatory overtime. We were also scheduled to work every holiday as if holidays were ordinary days. The other location offloaded holidays, nights, and weekends to our location. We were told on a Thursday that it would start the following Monday. Want a three-day weekend? Hahahahahahaha! That’s only for the other location.

          My co-workers and I ended up working Xmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. All of them. Tech support never closes.

          Cue the mass exodus. It was the one job I almost walked away from with no notice. As it happened, I found another job and felt generous giving them the same notice they gave me for my shift change.

          1. Tan*

            Tisisphone- I know someone who worked at a call centre that had a similar experience. The manager made a point to have exit interviews (not company policy) just so he could ask people “why are you leaving” and write “the stupid new shift pattern” x100. I have no idea if this ever made the executives rethink the change
            OP2 I’m glad it is just a random pattern thing as it means (if nothing happens) some years you will get all 3 off.
            My first impression was not one of seniority but of a bad /simple holiday planning i.e. the system when you book everything ASAP as soon as a new holiday calendar is issued- in this case it means that 1 coworker takes all 3 off, next only has to work 1 so takes new years off, then the other 2 are stuck with the raw deal.

            1. Tisiphone*

              Call centers are horrible! People who enjoy taking calls from people are to be treasured, not treated like kindergarteners.

              My current job is great. We do have holiday coverage, but it’s been purely volunteer only and we’ve had the volunteers.

  14. Green great dragon*

    For the gift giving, as long as it’s secret there shouldn’t be much pressure. Do you trust it will stay secret?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Every secret Santa I’ve ever been in is only secret until gift giving event. The original “big reveal.”

      1. Green great dragon*

        Oh! Ours are always secret (to the extent name labels are provided so there’s no clue from the handwriting).

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        Agreed – I’ve never been a part of a secret santa where there wasn’t a reveal at the end.

    2. EPLawyer*

      You get a name. I’m pretty sure you can check a staff directory to find out who your name really is.

      It’s going to be obvious it’s a boss. I would be worried too. Opt out might be the best option. With a mention of how this looks to the higher ups.

  15. cncx*

    re OP 1, i was also on low fodmap for really bad reflux and used exactly the script AAM said.
    FWIW it’s been a few years now and i can eat everything except cauliflower, pears and raw onions, so it’s really worth it. Also when my tummy hurts i go back to no fodmap for a week or so to reset, it’s been great.

  16. Meg*

    Gift exchange:

    My dept is doing one and it irks me because I look like the humbug if I don’t participate. Because I push back on a lot of stuff like this, I decided I would not say anything and just do it. But they always agree on a $30 minimum–which is ridiculous! I spend less on my family budget ($20 a person max). I suggested a $15 max and they scoffed. Like, what are you expecting?

    Then I am told we are not allowed to give gift cards because it’s like giving a wad of cash. Oh—so you I can completely waste my money on something the person might not even want??? It’s BS.

    Then they complain we aren’t paid enough.

    1. Ann Onny Muss*

      $30 MINIMUM? For coworkers? Agreed that’s ridiculous. $10-15 maximum seems more appropriate for a work gift exchange.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I cosign those capitals.

        MINIMUM?! A minimum spend limit is almost always gross at the best of times. Also, a >$30 wrong gift is much wronger than a <$15 gift.

        1. Meg*

          I was being gracious and suggested a $20 min, even. They were like, “NO!”

          They think I am cheap. I know all of their salaries (we’ve discussed) and we all earn around 40k. You cannot complain about the pay than call me cheap for wanting a smaller spending limit.

        2. doreen*

          I despise gift exchanges, for the same reason I don’t think all minimum spend limits are gross. The last one was involved in was completely voluntary and had a $10 minimum for people who were making at least $60K per year. It ended because it became too hard to keep track of who would not be allowed to participate due to their refusal to contribute an appropriate gift. It’s possibly that a particular limit is too high- but considering that I’ve seen people give some loose baseball cards or a $2.00 soap dispenser in a $10 minimum exchange, I’m kind of afraid of what would happen with no minimum.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            In which case the minimum limit is gross because it results from frankly antisocial behaviour.


          2. Antilles*

            In your case, I think the minimum dollar limit is just a red herring: The issue isn’t that people aren’t spending enough money, it’s that they’re zero-efforting it.
            Honestly, I think the correct answer might just be to lean into it and decide to do a zero-dollar gift exchange: No spending money, no buying something new, just look around your house and give away something that you own which you don’t really want/need any more – a couple books you’re never reading again, a housewarming gift that you got which doesn’t actually match your furniture, a painting you made that you didn’t love how it turned out, a stack of old baseball cards, etc.

            1. Jennifer Juniper*

              I’d love a gift of books! I may or may not have told someone “I love you” because she introduced me to Spider Robinson’s books.

            2. Elitist Semicolon*

              My office does an extended gift exchange game for which folks sometimes bring things they don’t want anymore as a gag. This usually results in a fair number of us trying to hide that stuff in dark recesses of the office, since we don’t want to have to dispose of a box of 42 unused 3M 5-1/4” floppy disks any more than the contributor does. It is…not always fun.

      2. LizB*

        +1000. That’s absurd for a work exchange. My annual exchange with my siblings has a $20 MAXIMUM, and that’s for actual loved ones.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m a semi extravagant gift giver but $30 is 1. Random AF 2. These are grown ass adults who shouldn’t need anything so acting like they need to have a higher than trinket/novelty amount is tacky AF.

      Humbug it up. These people are bratty.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Semi extravagant meaning I spend $50 without thinking about it. But I also haven’t made 40k in many years and have no kids.

        And no money/giftcards lol I have 7 kids and 6 get cash or cards. I’m their favorite quasi auntie, bless the hearts of those who don’t like it. My dad’s a devil to buy for. He’s getting cash. My money. My rules.

    3. Ange*

      That’s interesting. When I’ve done these in the UK it’s always been a £5 or £10 MAXIMUM. Which seems much fairer all round – everyone spends a similar amount.

    4. Quill*

      Oh no, $30 is supposed to be a MAXIMUM. Even in the family secret santa if you spend much more than $30 someone will go off on you. (This does lead to a lot of $25 board games though.)

      For a work event, you need a much lower maximum anyhow.

  17. Byron*

    #4. It may not be the right approach, but I’d have gone full postal there on that receptionist. I’d have marched up to her and said ‘I spent a lot of time cooking that food, why did you throw it out early when you always throw food out on Fridays?’

    I have absolutely no time at all for these kind of people, but I tend to be a bit bolshie anyway.

    1. Rainy*

      Perhaps LW#4 should take over cleaning out the office fridge if they object so much.

      Perhaps you should as well, for your office! Then it will be done the way you like it.

      1. L*

        No one needs to take over the receptionists duties just because she’s doing them badly and actually in this case offensively inconsiderate and rude. ‘The way you like’ aka the way where you don’t throw away people’s belongings with no notice.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I mean, that’s a reasonable question to ask so I’m not sure why you would feel the need to “go postal” in doing so. You could just ask it in a calm way.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        Right? As soon as you “go postal” or start calling it theft (like a few other commenters have suggested), you lose all your high ground and become the person who made a scene over lunch.

  18. DoomCarrot*

    For LW 3:

    It’s ridiculous, but you’re not alone. I was once written up and threatened with firing for saving a drowning man’s life.

    Years ago, I was working as a park ranger, when a visitor ran up to me to say there was a man in the lake. My co-worker went to the main building to call emergency services (no mobile reception) and I, as the trained first-aider, sprinted around the lake with the woman to where there was, indeed, a man drowning, unconscious face down in the water. Trying to drown himself deliberately, it turned out – the other lady and I dragged him out and got him into the recovery position on the shore, but he regained consciousness and tried to get back in the lake to finish the job. We ended up having to sit on him until the police arrived.

    My co-worker and I were both written up because as a result, the main gate was closed 7 minutes late and the toilet paper was refilled. I was threatened with termination by my manager (overruled by head office once I got the union involved) because a) I hadn’t done a formal course on deep-water rescue, which I was finally sent on about ten months later and b) I had left my workplace, because that was the forestry commission’s bit of lakeshore and technically no longer inside “our” part of the park.

    I mean, I wasn’t expecting a medal, but firing? Can you imagine the fallout from the newspaper headline “park rangers stand by idly while man commits suicide in front of school group”?

    1. Myrin*

      That was absolutely amazing of you – I can’t imagine the state someone’s mind has to be in to not acknowledge or at least recognise that!

    2. Ann Onny Muss*

      Gotta make sure that toilet paper gets refilled. Priorities, ya’ know? (I’m glad you didn’t get fired, but WTF is wrong with your management? I also hope the suicidal man got help.)

      1. DoomCarrot*

        Ah, yes, insert missing [not].

        He did get help – we got a thank-you cake from his family later. Which our supervisor took to his office and ate by himself while claiming to be busy with paperwork, but that’s a story for another day…

    3. Fikly*

      I’ve seen similar things happen when employees intervene to prevent shootings. It’s insanity.

      Plus the companies usually parade the employee around for the PR, then a few months later quietly fire them.

      1. doreen*

        I haven’t seen it when employees attempt to prevent shootings- but I have seen it when employees attempt to resist robberies. And whether I agree with it or not, the reason is to encourage employees to just turn over the money which is probably safer than resisting.

      2. Observer*

        That’s different. It’s often poorly handled, but the specifics of most of these policies is to keep people from getting shot. If a guy with a gun comes in, give them the money / hide! Do NOT try to be a hero, because that’s the most likely scenario for someone to get killed.

      3. Beatrice*

        I worked for a bank briefly, and one of our branches was robbed shortly before I started. The robber took the cash from the teller drawers, but then started to come behind the counter, and one of the tellers panicked and *threw a chair at him.* He then panicked and ran away.

        Everyone went through robbery training, and *not* resisting or attacking the robber was part of the training. But the teller wasn’t disciplined for throwing the chair, and her example was included in further trainings, with the footnote that it’s difficult to predict what we might individually do when presented with a real-life emergency like that, and the point of training was to give us a baseline for best practices so we didn’t have to wing it, but we wouldn’t be disciplined for having a different reaction out of instinct or panic. I liked that.

    4. Observer*

      You did the right thing and your manager was a total idiot (which is probably why HQ folded).

      But the situation the OP describes is very different. They had a coworker do something that wasn’t so safe when there was a much safer alternative that they didn’t want because of the “spectacle”.

      1. DoomCarrot*

        Oh, we were told the “safe” alternative would have been to just leave him until emergency services got there. I mean, he probably wouldn’t have survived, but it was safer. We were told we should have informed the lady that came to us for help that we don’t have the proper certification, and then go re-fill the loo roll.

        (I’m not in the US, but I get the impression that with the cost of ambulances there, this was the alternative to not going at all…)

        1. Observer*

          So? We all know that this guy would have drowned and that you were at no risk. The fact that your manager claimed otherwise doesn’t change anything. Except it makes him sound like even more of an idiot and a just all around terrible person.

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            So the situations were not as different as you claim. There was a “safer” option, but both DoomCarrot and OP’s coworker took the option that made the most sense to them at the time and got the person the help they needed to the anger of management.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          In some municipalities, EMS will not enter the water to perform a rescue. I used to lifeguard, and it varies from county to county even within a state. One city I lived in, lifeguards were told not to backboard suspected spinal victims because EMS preferred to do it themselves. In another city, lifeguards were told that EMS wouldn’t even help remove the victim from the water. So if you were alone and the victim was too heavy/dense (usually men who lift weights) for a single person to get out of the water, both you and the victim were out of luck.

    5. Lady Blerd*

      On the opposite end of ridiculous: a Canadian credit union forbids their employees to hand over their registers cash when being held up, a policy that has lead to employees getting hurt in the process. As far as I know, the policy is still in place. Ironically like many institutions, it has been been the victim of data theft of all their member’s information.

    6. Quill*

      “That’s not my lake”

      Do good samaritan laws cover repercussions from lifesaving assistance that don’t come from the person who was saved?

  19. Emily W*

    Re:#1 — Definitely bringing my own baggage to the situation here, but I would call it an “elimination diet” rather than “restricted diet”. The first pretty much tells you what it is in the name (but maybe you could say “oh, it’s to figure out some food allergies, nothing exciting” if people do ask further questions) where as I can absolutely see the latter inspiring some dumb comments about weight loss.

  20. Kitty*

    LW#1 as a fellow Fodmapper who is also vegan, I feel you! Eating out can be tough, especially in the elimination phase. Hopefully you’ll be able to isolate what’s causing the problem soon. There’s also an option of breath testing to more specifically isolate the culprit, if you haven’t already tried that. It’s not cheap, but if you can afford it or your insurance covers it, that can more quickly get to the bottom of this and tell you which of the fodmap sugars you react to. Less hassle than months of elimination diet. Good luck!

  21. Mommy. MD*

    I think the Company is wrong to penalize coworker. But it is not accurate to state SVT is a benign condition and it can indeed have serious complications. I’ve seen it. The heart is not receiving proper oxygenation. Company does not want to be liable for a coworker privately transporting an acute cardiac case to the emergency department during the work day. I wish you good health. I hope coworker just receives a warning and nothing worse.

    1. Mommy. MD*

      Also with very low blood pressure people can faint. If you lost consciousness in the car it would have been horrifying for coworker and she’d have to run into the ED to seek help. It’s way beyond her scope to care for you if a complication did happen. SVT does rise to the level of an emergency but I agree that ambulance service is rife with high costs and uncertainty of being covered.

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yeah, the fact that it’s SVT at first kind of muddied the waters for me, and I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of a lay person transporting them to the local ED.

      OP could have had several bouts of stable SVT that terminated with intervention, but there’s just no blanket “all SVT is benign always for me” that they can lean on. It’s widely recognized as an emergency rhythm requiring quick intervention. For lay reference – it’s one of the first rhythms we teach healthcare providers to recognize and it’s got it’s own treatment algorithm in the advanced cardiac life support (emergency resuscitation) guidelines.

      For people with recurring bouts of stable SVT, some cardiologists will recommend trying vagal manuevers at home, or prescribing pill-in-the-pocket therapy, where they take an anti-arrhythmic medication as soon as symptoms come on. But if those don’t work, we want to see you (in the ED!) and treat you.

      I get that the OP knows themself the best, and is probably leaving out a lot of details for brevity that would change the picture for us as spectators, but:

      1)I think the wording was callous and probably didn’t articulate their actual issue
      2) disciplinary action is probably an overractions
      3) I don’t expect the employer or the coworker to be able to accurately judge the risks to the OP here, and I think it’s not unreasonable to say we don’t want employees transporting others who are having heart or breathing problems to the ED.
      3a) what if someone else is having heart attack symptoms, but also doesn’t want an ambulance called (for spectacle, or cost, or whatever)? Does the employer want people making these sorts of calls for themselves? Not a good look if there’s a bad outcome.
      4) The fact that coworker stayed with OP for the treatment looks like perhaps it was more serious. “Jane was at the EMERGENCY ROOM with Wakeen for TWO HOURS” seems like – Wakeen needed her help for those full two hours/was perhaps underplaying how sick they were.

      Advice for the OP:
      – I don’t think you’ll get much traction unfortunately with the “it sounds serious but it really isn’t” line of reasoning. It’s reasonable for lay people to not want to mess with judging the severity of heart conditions that require emergent treatment in a hospital.
      – At best, you might be able to try ” I have a heart condition that occasionally requires medications that can only be given in a hospital. It comes on suddenly, and isn’t an emergency but I do need to treat it promptly. An ambulance isn’t necessary, and I wanted to plan ahead with you about how I would get to the hospital if it happens when I’m at work. Think about how you get there in your personal life, and if it’s a ride from a family member, think about how you would handle it if family member wasn’t around.
      – I sympathize with not wanting the spectacle of an ambulance when you believe yourself to be well enough to not require one, but now that you know their position on it, I don’t think you can ask a coworker for a ride. Are there options for taxi/other transport in your area?

      1. Observer*

        The fact that coworker stayed with OP for the treatment looks like perhaps it was more serious. “Jane was at the EMERGENCY ROOM with Wakeen for TWO HOURS” seems like – Wakeen needed her help for those full two hours/was perhaps underplaying how sick they were.

        Given how many Emergency Rooms work, though, two hours could be an indication that it actually was not that serious, hence being lower priority for the triage nurse.

        But, I agree with the rest.

        1. Half-Caf Latte*

          Fair point- I was looking at it more from the optics/work impact: if OP really was stable and just needed to wait to be seen, why couldn’t Jane come back to work?

          Also, I’ve never in my whole career met an ED triage nurse who would let someone in diagnosed SVT hang for 2 hours in triage, unmonitored.

    3. CrookedLily*

      Amen on SVT not being a benign condition… (Also not an imaginary one, thank you former cardiologist who I will never go back to!) But I do agree the company is completely in the wrong here.

  22. Mommy. MD*

    Maybe give Receptionist a yearly calendar for Christmas so she knows how to differentiate Wednesday from Friday.

    1. Quill*

      Sounds passive aggressive for secret santa, but the dude buying underwear will take the focus off you, at least.

  23. Kehsquared*

    When I was in university, I had a co-op job in a lab with a fairly large lunch fridge that tended to accumulate rotten leftovers. One day, someone took it upon themselves to dispose of all the rotten food. Fair enough. But she also threw out people’s dishes and leftovers from that day’s lunch, including my fellow co-op student’s container that held her $400 retainer.

    She didn’t realize this until the end of the day when she went to collect her lunch containers, so the garbage had already been removed and she was unable to retrieve her retainer. In addition to losing her leftovers and lunch containers, she was now on the hook for a new retainer on a student budget that wasn’t covered by insurance. She was furious.

    1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

      What in the world is a retainer doing in the fridge? If not eating, isn’t the retainer worn? Mine was–and never did I put it in the fridge.

      1. Taura*

        Some people need breaks from it or just forget to put it back in. It’s not best practice obviously, but it happened a lot with both my sister and my best friend.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            To slow bacterial growth, maybe? I would just brush it, personally, but maybe that was her thinking?

  24. UbiCaritas*

    #4 – you said you were not the only one searching through the trash for your lunch/container – could. you go as a group and talk to the receptionist and her manager?

  25. voyager1*

    Has their been or is there currently any employees who are always able to take off the holiday weeks?

    AAM mentions seniority in passing but I don’t think that is in play.

    The best outcome for this is people who work holiday weeks one year get first dibs on those weeks off the next year. Everywhere I have worked has done that, where coverage matters.

    1. voyager1*

      Oh one other thing, that your didn’t notice this is troubling. Managing the team is what a manager is paid to do. I would definitely keep an eye out for other “mistakes” like this.

      1. OP2*

        I don’t think seniority is at play here since the calendar is created by a repeating monthly pattern, I just got the short end of the stick this time (but since this is my first year here I wouldn’t really know). I’m definitely going to keep a closer eye out for issues in the future, and I plan on mentioning this year’s scheduling problem to my boss so I don’t have to deal with it again.

        1. Beatrice*

          If it’s the result of a scheduling pattern, then has it happened in prior years? Can you ask how it was handled then?

  26. MissDisplaced*

    #1 I hope you find the problem quickly and begin to feel better. I’ve had to do this as well, but I eliminated lactose first as I strongly suspected it was the culprit. IBS can be a real bitch, and I get not wanting to discuss it at work. I hope mentioning ‘restricted food diet or FODMAP’ will shut it down.

    #5 Gift Exchange
    I agree with you that drawing names makes what was a more generic fun activity more problematic.
    Like you, I worked at a smaller company were our party included the VP on down to admins and lab staff. Our white elephant gift swap was often a highlight of the luncheon as people vied to disguise the various (mostly boozy) gifts in creative wrappings and steal or steal back certain ones. As it was anonymous, all levels felt they could participate because you never knew who would end up with what. If you can, I’d suggest going back to the anonymous version.

  27. Kat in VA*

    The only reason I can say for talking to people about what they can/can not eat is that I do a lot of catering and I want to make sure that *everyone* has something to eat at an event.

    That and I have a snack bowl on my desk which currently caters to my non-restricted, keto, and gluten free folks. I want everyone to feel included and like they’ve been considered in the overall scheme of things.

    What I do not do, however, is hassle you about why you are /fill in the blank/ or attempt to tell you how to deal with / treat your particular situation. I’m not here to judge if you’re truly celiac or just gluten-free because it’s trendy (although the latter annoys me when they steal the GF pizza reserved for the two GF folks in the office). Some people use diet talk as an excuse to slide into lecturing rhetoric and I’m sure it’s irritating enough to be celiac / IBS / undiagnosed But Man I’m Miserable without having someone hector you about a decision made by you and your doctor.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Oooh, what snacks? It’s so hard to find allergen free things! Which reminds me, I need to pick up some more Simply 7 brand vegan jalapeno lentil chips. Mmmm, jalapeno.

  28. HONK*

    #1 I just wanted to send you all the love and solidarity I can muster. I started the low-FODMAP diet in November last year, so pretty much exactly one year ago, and it has tremendously improved my quality of life (that and psyllium capsule supplements – they made a HUGE difference for me). There are still many things that make me feel sick when I eat them (wheat, onions & garlic, beans & legumes and sweet fruit) but I’ve been able to reintroduce dairy and most vegetables. I’ve also just gotten a lot better at cooking low-FODMAP stuff – at first my food was so boring, I can’t tell you how many times I just ate chicken, rice and carrots in the first weeks. Now I make my own spaghetti sauce and bake all kinds of things.

    For eating out, here’s my advice while on the elimination phase (it gets a bit easier afterwards):
    -Sushi & poke bowls bars are amazing. At first my go-to whenever I wanted to grab lunch on the go was a couple cucumber makis and some salmon nigiris. You do have to ask if they use fructose in the rice seasoning though.
    -For a fast-food option, Subway does salads now. The tuna salad with mayo and the right veggies is low-FODMAP (the chicken breast is ok too but it does contain a little garlic, so maybe wait till after the elimination phase for that one). I also personally tolerate their gluten-free bread just fine but it’s not always available.
    -In other types of restaurants, you’ll have to have A Talk with the server every time and it’ll be annoying, but often it’ll work out ok. You can always call beforehand and have that conversation over the phone to make sure you have plenty of time to explain. Also while you don’t have to justify yourself in a restaurant, it does help to say that you’re on a special diet for medical reasons but (very important) it’s not allergies.

  29. Rainbow Roses*

    #4 I’ve had this happen and was steaming!
    Once they announced they were cleaning the fridge at 3pm. I went to get my food at 2:30 and they already cleaned it and all my frozen dinners were thrown out! If you say 3:00pm, you need to mean it! I demanded the money I spent and got it.
    The OP should confront HR and the receptionist and demand compensation. Nothing will change if there are no consequences!

  30. Amber Rose*

    #1, I did this at the beginning of the year. I told my coworkers that I was trying to figure out some possible food allergies or intolerances.

    Which is sort of true. It’s not an allergy exactly, but the result is the same: I have to be careful what I eat.

  31. Observer*

    She was told I put them at risk of a lawsuit, which I don’t understand. Missing a few hours of work wasn’t the problem, but giving me a ride was. Can a workplace prohibit you from giving someone a ride to the hospital?

    Not only CAN they, it’s often recommended. As you can see, the problem here is not that she tried to help you out – they don’t have an issue with that. The problem is that she triaged a situation that she didn’t have the knowledge to triage, and took actions that could have ended very, very badly.

    They wanted to call an ambulance but I didn’t want the spectacle of that,

    This is something that would most definitely raise huge red flags for any person who is assessing the risk that the situation presented. The minute people start talking about how they “don’t want to make a fuss” about their medical situation it totally reduces their credibility when they minimize the seriousness of the problem, because that’s often done to reduce the “fuss” or “spectacle.”

    Here is the thing that you need to realize – SVT actually IS life threatening. Yes, it’s rare and I believe that you are not at risk of cardiac arrest when you have an attack. But that’s easy for me to say – I have no skin in the game and if I’m wrong I’m not putting anyone at risk. At work, though, this could actually have real and significant consequences if I’m wrong.

    So, if you want to push back, you’re going to need to acknowledge the reality that your condition actually CAN be life threatening. The thing is that not only is it rare, but you have been evaluated by a cardiologist an in your case it’s not life threatening. Otherwise you come off as minimizing a problem that the company (rightfully) doesn’t want to take a risk on.

    1. Mommy. MD*

      I would not put a coworker in that position honestly. I hope it turns out well for all. Cardiac conditions and abnormal cardiac rhythms are no joke. Especially with plummeting blood pressure. Could go all ways of wrong. I hope Company just implements a clear policy and moves on.

  32. Mannheim Steamroller*


    The key is that your co-worker is being punished for violating an unwritten and secret policy. Her defense (and NLRB complaint, if applicable) should be based on the fact that nobody knew about that policy because management deliberately kept it secret (or invented it on the spot and applied it retroactively).

    Any rule or policy that is good enough to enforce should also be good enough to communicate to all employees.

    1. Observer*

      Firstly, I can’t see any violation of the law that the NLRB would address here. I agree that this is being poorly handled, but that doesn’t make it illegal.

      Secondly, you are going to lose a lot of credibility even anyone who needs to look at it if you go in with a claim that the employer “deliberately kept it secret.” There is zero evidence for that.

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        The “deliberately kept it a secret” part is obvious from the fact that it wasn’t communicated.

  33. Lives in a shoe*

    LW 4 I’m going to jump in here a minute for the receptionist. You stated that in the past she’s been meticulous about notifying people ahead of time (honestly grown adults shouldn’t need to be told to clean up after themselves once let alone twice). I’m wondering what the impetus was for the change. Although you state that the refrigerator is always “fairly empty”, I can easily envision a situation where one or more people came to her complaining about an odor or a lack of space and implying or even insisting not so pleasantly that it’s her “job” deal with it. I sympathize with the annoyance of digging your lunch out of the garbage, but did it occur to you to simply ask why she cleaned it out early? Are people marking their containers as “save” and then leaving them in there until they grow legs and walk away? Did she forget on Friday and then have to deal with a bunch of complaints? Why aren’t you marking and dating your containers on your own without being told? If you had, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been thrown away.

    FWIW a grown human operating in a professional capacity should NOT have to clean up after other presumably grown humans possessing all of their faculties. Maybe, the conversation you need to be having is with the other people in your office who can’t seem to adult on their own.

    Apparently, this whole situation is a weird, unknown hot-button for me.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I will join you on this! I don’t understand why so many people are jumping straight to dire consequences – if anything it sounds like the receptionist is usually overzealous about warning people (a set weekly time for the clear out plus TWO warning emails!) so my first assumption was that something has changed. Why not try to find out why before ~going postal?

      And when it comes to the fridges usually being empty – they’re probably empty because somebody (the receptionist) is meticulously cleaning them out once a week, which is a gross and thankless task that nobody wants to do. It’s like when people assume that their office is naturally clean and tidy and stocked with coffee and stationery – no, that’s someone’s job that you just don’t pay attention to until it doesn’t happen.

      (To be clear, she should not have thrown out OPs lunch with no warning! That’s very annoying and thoughtless! But after years of reception/admin work I am naturally suspicious of people who talk about support staff as “she’s so rude and mean and she’s not my superior, she can’t tell me what to do!”)

    2. Dreamcatcher*

      That’s a whole other discussion and even if the receptionist doesn’t want to continue handling this, the ‘professional’ and mature way to deal with it is to take it up with her manager. And if she forgot to do something that has always been her task and got complaints for that, is to other follow the schedule of that week carefully or make sure that the food she throws out isn’t new. Also, having to mark your food with name date and “save” is certainly something i haven’t seen happening in any of my jobs so far. If that’s the rule, fine, but considering that OP got her food thrown out two days before the announced time and date AND before lunch time of that date, why is she in the wrong for not marking her food?

      I’m sorry but the receptionist isn’t in the right here not matter how we spin it and there are so many people out there who truly can’t afford to replace a single meal or a container, so I have no sympathy for her.

      1. Rainbow Roses*

        Exactly. The topic is not about cleaning up after grown ups. That’s the way it is in that office and until it changes, the receptionist had no right to throw away anything before Friday. You can’t change the rules willy nilly.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      While you have a very valid point, the issue here is that the receptionist cleaned out the fridge on an unscheduled day. I don’t think it’s necessary to send email reminders every week (I think a note on the front of the fridge is good enough with a specific day and time), and I have no problem with someone throwing out reusable containers or full bottles of soda/dressing/coffee creamer/etc. if they’re left at the end of the week, but she shouldn’t have cleaned out the fridge on a random day without warning.

  34. Jennifer Juniper*

    #3: Time to go to the media with this one! Nothing like a little bad publicity to make a company behave itself. Also, time to look for a job somewhere else. Your company is an asshole.

    #4: That receptionist can be loaned out to the office with the fridge clogged with tiny tubs of butter. And to offices where the fridge is full of nasty, gross, rotten food.

    1. HONK*

      Omg yes. Or the building with the too-many milk clubs, from the coffee wars post. Her powers would be put to good use there.

  35. On a pale mouse*

    I agree with you about how adults should behave, but just peruse the archives here or ask anyone who’s ever dealt with a shared office fridge, and you’ll realize that, collectively, people don’t behave that way. Draconian clean out policies are usually the only way to avoid the office fridge turning into a biohazard zone. (Though in this case the problem isn’t the policy, it’s the cleaning not being done according to the policy.)

  36. Gilmore67*

    #1 Restrictive diet
    “I also don’t think anyone is going to believe that I just prefer something like egg salad on rice cakes over work provided lunch. What’s the best way to approach this with coworkers?”

    OP, you are putting too much stock into what you think people will think and care regarding what you eat. Eat or don’t eat what you want. I mean, do you care about what others eat? Do you question them? I am sure you don’t.

    No one cares what others eat.

    I have no issues on what I eat at pot lucks and stuff like that. If someone asks a simple ” Oh I got everything I need here. I am good” Or depending on whom I am talking to a… “Sometimes my stomach isn’t happy” works fine. Or even “ Eh.. I am not a big eater” works just as well. Leave it at that and talk about whatever else.

    My co-workers and I am sure yours don’t care what other people are eating and after 5 mins after sitting down to eat will be happily chatting about whatever.

    I hope this works out for you and figure out the best foods for you !

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Unfortunately, many people do care what other people eat. You may not care, and I’m glad your coworkers don’t either, but this is one of those asymmetric things: That you and I don’t care what the OP and her coworkers eat, doesn’t mean that they don’t care what she eats, or wouldn’t care what I eat, if we worked together. Or possibly just happened to be in the same place–I’ve had a complete stranger approach me in a train station waiting room and tell me I shouldn’t be eating a slice of cheesecake.

      Sometimes it’s reasonable to ask people *not* to eat certain things near you–if they’re migraine triggers, or you’re seriously allergic to them, or you find certain smells nauseating. But while I agree that nobody except maybe my doctor, or a dietician if she referred me to one, *should* be criticizing me for not eating specific things, lots of people do.

      Yes, “it’s not their business, don’t worry about it, ask about their pet cat or the local sports team” is good advice, but I’m not going to start by telling LW that they’re imagining things.

      1. Gilmore67*

        Yes, I get that. That is when you, the OP, whoever needs STILL not care that that person is nosy and barging into your business. That is the point. Shut it down. ” Food choices are my own… end of conversation” , if they press it. And yes, you need to be firm. They don’t like it. Tough luck. They are the jerks for pressing it.

        I never said the OP was imagining anything. Not quite sure what you mean by that.

        The OP was asking how to handle it. It is up to the OP to stand strong and state whatever they want to in regards to food choices. If others question it, the OP needs to shut it down.

        The issue is not the food choices in itself anymore but others deciding they can question another person decisions for themselves.

        People can only be in charge of themselves. I am in charge standing up for myself. Same with the OP and everyone else out there. The minute you let others continue to question you about whatever, the harder it gets to shut it down.

        This blog talks all the time about standing up for yourself about salary and job duties, bad mangers and all that. This is no different. No ones business what you eat and why.

        If someone allow others to barge into your business that is on them.

        1. Gilmore67*

          “If someone allow others to barge into your business that is on them.”

          I mean, again, as I said, you can’t allow people to barge into your business. If you do and get mad that is on you for allowing it.

  37. boop the first*

    Marking lunches is the most impotent idea ever. How would anyone know when the bag was marked? It could have been marked “save” 3 weeks ago! If it was marked with a DATE, that might be a good habit for food-safety reasons, but it’s still a lousy system.

    If she’s gonna clean the fridge every week (bless her if she actually attends spills, because then this all might actually be worth it), it should be done after everyone is finished using it and has gone home with their leftovers. I wonder if someone left a spill in the fridge to crust over on Tuesday, because they figured someone else would clean it up? I can see someone rage-tossing after something like that. You shouldn’t need your receptionist to clean up after you guys.

  38. Elizabeth West*

    Cripes, can the office gift exchange just end already? I don’t care about getting presents from my workmates and the white elephant thing is just stupid.

    1. Coldbrewinacup*

      I second this!
      I HATE secret Santa! It ends up getting ugly, people get mad, feelings are hurt, and it’s just not worth it.

    2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I just wish my office would at least stop declaring specifically-themed exchanges. This year I at least had a month’s notice to find a [whatever], but one year a very specific theme was announced less than a week before the exchange, which was ridiculous.

      In this case, the themes are things like “let’s all exchange mittens this year” or “lets do a white elephant where we all give things with a sports theme to them”. It’s never something that would be expensive or hard to find, but it does tend to mean that I have to make a special trip to accumulate a whatever rather than being able to grab something from my existing stockpile of either small non-personal gifts or yardsale materials depending on the specifics of the exchange rules. (Themed white elephants are a great way to notice that you don’t have any of a specific kind of clutter in your life right now, so you need to go to the thrift store to accumulate some, and again later to drop some off.) This would probably annoy me less if I enjoyed shopping more.

      1. yala*

        Yeah, I’m a little bummed that this year the announcement for the office party said to bring Christmas ornaments for the dirty santa. Sort of…I dunno, kills a lot of the fun of seeing what’s in each package. Oh. Another ornament.

        (Nevermine it’s a bit useless for folks who don’t celebrate Christmas but still want to participate in one of the bigger Fun Social Events in the office. …or for folks like me living in an apartment, who only have a 2-foot fake tree that can’t fit many ornaments.)

  39. Alicia*

    #4, I bring my lunch and keep it with me in an insulated lunch box. My current office hasn’t had problems like these, but I’m anxious because I have a lot of food allergies and it’s difficult to eat in cafeterias and such.

  40. Amethystmoon*

    #4, ugh. Not everyone can afford to buy lunch in a cafeteria or restaurant just because they have a job. Just tossing someone’s food without warning has got to be at least as rude as stealing someone else’s lunch and eating it. Neither of those should be done, and yet in the US at least, it seems to be a thing that happens regularly.

    Can you bring a lunch that doesn’t need to be refrigerated and keep it at your desk? Yeah, that would probably mean buying something processed like canned soup, or bringing a sandwich and putting one of those ice packs in your lunch bag, but at least you wouldn’t have to worry about it being thrown away.

    1. Andream*

      I’m glad someone mentioned the cost. There are a lot of “Working Poor” where that food may have been her only meal, or the only food she had for lunch. Not everyone can afford to eat out.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Why should it be up to the receptionist to monitor the details of everyone’s lives before deciding to toss something from the fridge? No, she shouldn’t be doing this on a random Wednesday without warning, but there’s nothing wrong with it being done on a scheduled day and time. Maybe if people started treating the common shared areas at work with some respect, and not expecting other people to clean up after them, throwing away food left in a shared fridge wouldn’t be necessary.

  41. Anon Here*

    #4 – She’s being irrational, so this might not be limited to throwing out food. If I were OP, I would look up what similar containers sell for and add that to the cost of the ingredients for the food, then share that with management. “She threw out $X worth of my belongings without cause or warning. Fortunately, I was able to dig everything out of the trash, so I don’t need to be reimbursed. But this is a serious issue affecting everyone who uses that fridge.”

    And I would stop using the work fridge while she’s working there. Bring non-perishable lunches that you can keep hidden at your desk.

  42. LogicalOne*

    #2.) You probably got stiffed with working those days because you’re still relatively new to the job and to the company. In my experience, management will give newer staff tasks that others don’t want to do as well as give more experienced workers time off first before letting others do so. At my company, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in a position or how long you’ve worked there when it comes to requesting time off. If you’ve been at a company several years or longer and someone who has been there six months requests a day off before you do, they will get the day off first. Workplaces can really do whatever they want because seniority is not a law or anything within the legal scope. It’s just a morale thing they comply with because they want to keep you and not waste time/energy/resources on hiring new talent.

  43. Retail not Retail*

    One of my coworkers was like I should offer t drive sprained ankle to urgent care and I kept telling her no, they wouldn’t approve it. And they didn’t because it was an OJI! Her manager took her in a work vehicle.

    A few weeks ago our boss said clean the trailer including the fridge and we just didn’t because there was no warning or way to warn those who were off. He didn’t notice because we made that trailer sparkle, even more impressive because it was pouring all day.

  44. Dorothy*

    Dear person with IBS: this used to be me. I had severe constipation for years. I did Fodmap. By husband and I have recently done FMT, and I’ve been fine for over a year. But during those fifteen years- I would say I have food restrictions and I would bring my own stuff. For people who asked what happened to me if I ate X or Y, after about 10 years of deflection I started to say severe constipation. I decided maybe it was ok to push politeness. Good luck! It’s very stressful to suffer from IBS and I hope you get improvement from Fodmap! (It helped me while I was sick!)

  45. Three owls in a trench coat*

    #3 – I do see both sides of the issue here. Your co-worker was trying to help, but she also created a risk/liability by transporting you. It’s wrong for her to be penalized for violating a policy she didn’t know about. This sounds like it could be a good opportunity for your company to standardize their sick/injured at work policy and make sure all employees are aware of it.

    Something similar happened to me – I sprained my ankle pretty badly at work, and per our policy, my supervisor took me to the hospital. However, no one knew the policy had been updated and that employees were now supposed to be taken to a specific medical center instead of the hospital. Cue me returning to work only to have to turn right around and repeat the whole process. Even the second doctor asked “what the hell I was doing there” since I’d already had x-rays and gotten a brace that morning. But hey, everyone was made aware of the policy change as a result!

  46. I am OP #4*

    Hi, I wrote question #4. I hope it’s not too late. I read the comments and wanted to clarify a few things.

    1. Receptionist does a lot of good things for the office, but even some other team leads and supervisors will privately confess that they have no idea who she’s supposed to report to. There is no supervisor to go to because there’s no reception/office management supervisor. Her orders come from her.

    2. It turns out she threw our food away to make room for some soda for an impromptu celebration for an adjacent department. They have their own fridge, but we would have happily moved our things for her had she told us about it. Privately, I think she used the fact that they were unlabeled as an excuse to not have to delay her soda storage.

    3. I understand the purpose for disposing of unmarked food. That process is in place for longterm food storage like leftovers and toppings, not for lunches. The fridges are usually half empty, which is why I pointed out that I thought it was overkill. She went on vacation for two weeks last year and the fridges stayed half empty. We all govern ourselves pretty well, which isn’t to say her role isn’t necessary or helpful. In fact in retrospect I think referring to her as the “receptionist” implied that she only does a few things. Her role is often a keystone in the office. She just has priorities I don’t understand. She has one subordinate who handles the more basic tasks like answering the phone and maintaining mail and checking out guest badges and stuff, and the last one quit because Receptionist yelled at her for not making sure all the arm rests in an unused conference room were at the same height.

    4. I see now that my comment about Receptionist’s attitude sounds like sour grapes. That wasn’t my intention. This is the first time I have ever chosen to report something to HR and it is for this reason. If I have to ask her questions pertaining to her job like parking permits or something, she responds vaguely and then snaps at me when I ask for more clarification. (And everyone else I ask tells me to ask her.)

    She’s knowledgeable about her job and takes care of it well, it’s just that she operates in her own sphere of job roles and doesn’t try to be civil when that sphere intersects with ours.

    I’ve worked here for two years now and I have always tried to assume the best about her because I know firsthand how difficult it is managing tasks like that. When people said she threw their food out, I assumed it was because they ignored her warnings. When people said she had them clean a cubicle and then rolled her eyes and redid all their work, I assumed it was because they did a crappy job. I always read her emails (she mass emails the branch about stuff multiple times a day), I have always said hello to her when I saw her around the office, and I was the one who went out to get the card on her birthday. I have never tried to have a problem with her, but I guess it all blew up on me when she threw out my glassware.

    I consider her to be a hardworking colleague and I don’t know how she considers me, only that she is an office vigilante. She does what she sees as necessary and doesn’t appreciate feeling second guessed. You either die a hero or live long enough to aggravate your coworkers.

    It was literally in there for three hours. I come in at 8 and took my break at 11.

    Anyway, in her emails now she “clarifies” by making her sentences red and in bold. I bought a label maker. I will still be saying hello to her in the hallway. We all learned valuable lessons and grew as people.

    1. mf*

      She threw your lunch away after 3 hours to make room for soda for an office celebration?! Not cool. I would complain to HR and ask to be compensated for the glass container as well as for the food itself. (I’m guessing you had to buy lunch after she threw your food away.)

      I would also ask HR to create a written-in-stone fridge policy that all employees (including the receptionist) will be held to.

    2. Former Overzealous Admin*

      I definitely don’t want to defend this receptionist, because you’re in the right here, but having been in a position like this, boy do I relate to this overzealous receptionist. My title was office manager but the role was basically similar – deal with any and all things considered “admin,” including but not limited to: operations, “getting internet”, network administration, background checking for thousands of people, cyber security, vermin removal, supply ordering, cleaning the bathroom, being a plumber, fixing the printer, handling trash and recycling, dealing with expired title and tags for our company cars that had essentially been abandoned on the street because “no one could figure out how to renew it,” etc. I got to a point of burnout similar to that point in moving out of an apartment where you start throwing away perfectly good things because you just don’t have the energy to carry anything else down the stairs. We had this horrid, gigantic storage room that people used as a dumping grounds for pretty much anything you can imagine (work-related and not), and it was my job to clean and organize it. The room was packed hoarder-style with thousands of items that no one would admit to owning, but no one seemed to want thrown away. For instance, we did a camping event once a year, and every year 3 or 4 staff would bring in giant coolers to “lend” which they then threw into the storage room until next year, meaning we had more than 10 of these that everyone denied owning or having bought. We once found a brand new microwave, still in the box it was shipped it, that had been there for an unspecified number of years; the addressee had never worked for us. Once we discovered that one of our ‘clients’ had left a giant bag full of drug paraphernalia in there for about two years – and of course once I knew about it, it was a catastrophe and had to be gone within an hour, even though it had been sitting there for so long. I had almost no support, not even including the kind of support you’d expect, like a network administrator or internet service provider to guide me through our options and help me with setup, someone to explain what “laying fiber” meant and why it would be so horrible to do it, or like, a tech support person, somewhere, anywhere. So sometimes, if part of my job duties for that day included cleaning something, I just took a scorched earth approach because I was so sick of people’s personal crap being left EVERYWHERE in the space. We did have a designated fridge cleaning day and yes, sometimes I did it on a different day, and often I threw away people’s ‘nice’ tupperware… to be honest, if it was your great-grandmother’s gold-rimmed lenox china, it would have looked like a piece of trash off “Hoarders” to me. Not defending your receptionist for this, at all… but reading this reminded me to be so so grateful for where I am now!

  47. just trying to help*

    #4 – many years ago, I used to bring in really nice, high quality walnuts in a Gladware container and put them in the freezer with my name on the container. This made for a great snack in the afternoons. The lady in the office who took it upon herself to clean out the fridge decided that all food must go, and threw out my walnuts (expensive), but kept my Gladware container and returned it to me like she was doing me a big favor.

  48. CanuckCat*

    OP #1 – I would use Alison’s script for the second answer; a co-worker of mine just went through the same diet (she called it the ‘white diet’ jokingly, as in she was only allowed to eat usually white, very bland foods) while isolating particular spice(s) she was allergic to. No one thought much of it if they asked her to partake in something and she usually quite casually explained that she was on a restricted list of foods while she sorted out an allergy.

  49. TootsNYC*

    For Boss#5, who is uncomfortable with the gift thing:

    drop a lot of hints around the office about cheap things you’d really like. “Wow, I really miss my Rodarte / Starbucks thermal coffee cup; I loved that thing.” (It’s on eBay for various prices, including $10.)

    or “Sometimes I really wish I had some flavored syrups for my coffee, to change it up.”
    Or “Maybe I need my own stash of mini Snickers for times like this.”

    Then whoever gets your name will have some low-cost ideas that they know will make you happy. Or suggest a “suggestions questionnaire” for people to fill out, or for them to designate a couple of “gift idea resource people.”
    That will remove a lot of the “will my boss resent it if I give her a gift she doesn’t like?” problem.
    And you can control that all your gift ideas are inexpensive, non-extravagant in tone, etc.

    Beyond that, sometimes you just have to be one of the team (in a gift exchange like this), or accept that a subordinate might just feel strongly about giving you a gift.

  50. Wren*

    ha, that’s not the meaning of white elephant gift exchange that I know: to me, it’s an exchange of gifts you don’t want. my high school friend group does this after christmas, “dirty santa” style (draw a number and choose a gift in that order, but you may steal instead of choosing a mystery gift.)

  51. Curmudgeon in California*

    #4, I wonder if you have the nasty receptionist that I used to work with. She was rude to everyone, especially one of the nicest people in the office. She eventually got canned for her attitude and unwillingness to do the basic office supply ordering correctly. It took over six months.

  52. ET*

    LW #1 – I feel you! I did the exact same thing earlier this year. On the bright side, it’s been an absolute game changer! When I avoid my trigger foods, it’s smooth sailing. I also used language like Alison’s and got almost no follow up questions. The one time I did, I explained it was too complicated to get into -“I have to use an app just to keep track of what’s safe! Such a headache!” That plus a little laugh and a shrug nicely conveyed that I wasn’t going to get into details but wasn’t a grump about it. Good luck!

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