my boss gets angry when I won’t share my food with her

I’m off for the holiday (but there’s something great coming later today!). Here’s a post that was originally published in 2016.

A reader writes:

My supervisor is obsessed with food!

It started when I first went on a diet. I would have my lunch box packed with all of my essentials for the day. I thought it was just her being friendly when she asked to taste certain foods when I sat down at my desk to eat. But then I noticed her asking for food pretty regularly — even food that’s not “shareable” like fish tacos, salad, or chicken wraps. This got to be expensive. I tried coming up with a system. I would offer her healthy snacks only or one meal (breakfast or lunch). Once I did that, she totally flipped on me — doing really childish things such as buying the rest of the office lunch but not me, telling coworkwers that I’m “greedy,” and offering everyone one in the room food but skipping me deliberately and obviously. That doesn’t bother me because they tend to eat unhealthy anyway. But I can still tell she’s bothered by my refusal to share something like my salmon.

There have been other changes too. She’s hot and cold with me now. Some days she’s happy-go-lucky with me. The next day she may go sit in another part of the building all day. But I’ve noticed that no matter her mood, she’ll still ask for my food and sometimes for seconds. The office just kind of knows that she’s into diets and weight. Name a diet and she’ll do it, no matter how restrictive — three-day grapefruit challenges, military diet, cabbage cleanse, etc. Sometimes she makes jokes about being broke and not having money for food. I feel like the rest of her treatment seems to be that she’s just a moody person in all of her interactions with people. But I’m not sure.

What do I do, if anything? I’m not a rude person, just not up to feeding another person every day during the week.

I’m thinking about just eating in my car. But that seems like a spectacle as well.

Something is wrong with your manager.

This would be really inappropriate from any coworker, but your manager doing it is downright bizarre. And it’s really pretty awful, given that power dynamics are of course going to make you feel more pressure to give up your food to her, whereas with a coworker you’d probably find it easier to give a firm no and stick to it.

You should do two things:

1. Stop giving her food. Stop trying these compromises like healthy snacks only or just one meal a day (!). Stop entirely, both because you shouldn’t have to be feeding her at all and because it’s going to be easier if you have one consistent message.

2. Address it with her. At some point that isn’t a meal time, sit down with her and say this: “I want to give you a heads-up that I need to stop sharing food with you. I need to cut back on how much I’m spending on food, and when I share it with you, I often end up without enough for myself. In the past when I haven’t wanted to share, you’ve said I was being greedy and seemed to feel it was a personal slight. I want to be really clear that it’s not — this is just about me being able to feed myself and not blow my budget.”

3. If she keeps asking you for food after that, hold firm. Say things like “Sorry, I only brought enough for me” or “I’m planning to eat all of this myself, but I got it at the cafe across the street if you want to get yourself some.”

All this said … something’s out of whack with your boss. What you’re describing isn’t normal behavior. A manager isn’t supposed to nurse petty grudges over your salmon. So assume that you haven’t seen the last of her loony behavior … but at least by cutting off her access to your food, you can hopefully be better-nourished when it happens.

{ 228 comments… read them below }

  1. otterbaby*

    Just when I think things can’t get any weirder…how do these people work their way up into supervisor/manager positions?!

      1. The Bimmer Guy*

        Or they *have* shown up, but the entire organization is so toxic that no one cares, or it’s even seen as a benefit. Small family businesses with blatant nepotism are fertile breeding grounds for this sort of behavior.

        I once worked as an office person at a car dealership that was exactly that. One of the most notable interactions was the time one of the sales managers ended up *cussing me out* because I had bought my car–and before I started working there–from another dealer that sells a whole different brand, and I refused to scrape that dealership’s badge and remove their plate frame off of my car, and to replace it with that of the dealership where I worked.

        1. JSPA*

          I think of plate frames as advertising, and changing them as 3 minutes, low-stakes. I can see why they might not want advertising for another dealer (all dealers are in competition, in some sense?) on their lot. (In the same way that if you work at Wendy’s, you can’t order in pizza for delivery to the store, even if it stands to reason you’re tired of the Wendy’s menu.)

          Or they might not love the implication that their people make enough to afford a beemer, or imply that a beemer might be more affordable than people think. “Make it look like you got it from us, secondhand”? Not nuts.

          But, “scrape the logo and pretend it’s not a beemer?” And give you grief for having it? That’s way off.

        2. Chashka*

          Yes, they were way off. I too think of plate frames as advertising and immediately remove the plate frame with the dealer’s name from my car upon arriving home with my new car. I suppose if I received supremely stellar service at the dealership or had some connection with them, I would keep it, but that’s never been the case for me. Plus, I have a plate frame I like and I use that.

            1. bluephone*

              I was today years old when I learned that people cared about license plate frames, one way or another

              1. LikesToSwear*

                Story about plate frames and dealership lacking clue…

                The dealership I started using after moving cross country was sold after several years. New ownership had a contest for the mechanics to replace old dealer frames with new ones (they were told not to replace “shiny” ones, mine were black). I noticed a few days later (they did *not* ask permission), and walked in and very politely went ballistic at their sales manager. My plate frames were from the dealership I originally bought the car from, in my hometown. It was my way of showing off my hometown. I don’t care how cheap they were, I did not give them permission to change them; so what they did was petty theft.

                They called the original dealership and had new (shiny) plate frames mailed to me (the originals has been trashed the day before I walked in), then replaced them when I brought them in.

              2. Just no!*

                I had an awesome license plate frame, then discovered the place I took my car for repairs had removed it (and discarded it) so they could replace it with an ugly-ass frame advertising their repair shop!

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Mine is a Doctor Who plate frame that says “Don’t Blink- the Angels have the car.” If anyone took it off I would feed them to the Vashta Nerada.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Scott Adams formalized it as The Dilbert Principle:

        “The most ineffective workers will be systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage — management.”

        Sadly, sometimes, the least damage is still considerable.

        1. Clisby*

          I remember – he compared it to the Peter Principle, where people are promoted to the level of their incompetence. Adams said something like, “But with the Peter Principle, you at least knew they had once been competent at something.”

        2. Let me clear my schedule for you*

          Yes I have a co-worker like that. She was hired entry level, couldn’t do the job and was promoted to management within 6 months. I waited 6 years to be promoted, even though I had prior supervisory experience. Guess you can’t be too good at your job if you want a promotion …

          1. Magenta Sky*

            A former roommate was in the first round of hiring for the TSA at LAX, waaaay back, as a baggage screener. There were several certifications one had to have to keep the job past the training period. Had. To. Have. One coworker failed the certification tests on every single one. So she was promoted to management, because managers didn’t have to be certified.

      2. Susan Ivanova*

        Also up-and-sideways. It’s really hard to fire a government employee. It’s really easy to give them glowing recs when they want to get a promotion to a new job in another location. And that’s why we moved every two years when I was a kid.

    1. Antilles*

      It’s because in most companies, the way you move up to be a supervisor/manager is by succeeding at a slightly different job with slightly different skills – e.g., the sales manager got that role by being great at sales to customers, the best engineer got promoted to group manager, etc. And while the skills are important, there’s a bunch of other new skills that become even more important.
      Good companies recognize this disparity and address it in various ways. Provide management training specifically to fill in the gaps, close oversight of new managers, watching turnover and other indicators, etc. BUT plenty of companies don’t really pay enough attention to this disparity and end up with managers (hopefully) figuring it out on the fly.

    2. lemon*

      In addition to the great answers here, I think part of getting promoted is being able to self-promote and work the political aspects of the org. I think a lot of toxic people have the gift of manipulation, which makes them good at the self-promotion and politics angle (similar to the whole corporate psychopath hypothesis).

    3. tamarack & fireweed*

      If people are liable to develop these sorts of control behaviors it can happen, or at least become apparent, at any time. It’s not necessarily a problem earlier, or maybe it’s something that can be considered a minor quirk.

      1. Just no!*

        I agree it can also become apparent at any time from people who aren’t managers, as we learned from the “Cheap Ass Rolls” letter.

        1. Whimsical Gadfly*

          And I think a lot of the early stages falls into the “can’t you take a joke” sort of things where the person who complains is a humorless (insert activist type) making a mountain out of a molehill. And people know that. Maybe subconsciously, but they know it. So they don’t report it/mention it.

          I’d want to be complaining/talking to her about being bombarded by all the diet culture issues, let alone food. And would at least hesitate because I have been down that road/seen others do it.

      1. Cait*

        Me too! Alison’s script is perfect but would only work if you’re talking to a reasonable person… which the manager clearly isn’t. I want to know how this lady reacts to being told she can’t eat her coworker’s food anymore. Somehow this just seems like the most bizarre power play ever. “If I can convince Brenda to give me her salmon (and even come back for seconds!) that means I have complete control!”. But seriously… this lady must have some serious mental issues.

    4. bryeny*

      People like OP’s manager are just self-aware enough to know not to exhibit their crazy behavior in front of their bosses. So as far as the bosses probably know, OP’s manager is a rational, reasonable person. Abusers are good at this form of self-preservation too.

  2. Alex*

    I think I might just pretend that she’s joking.

    “Hey, send half of that salmon over here”

    “Haha! I know, it looks delicious doesn’t it? Yum!” And just…pretend it was a joke rather than an actual request.

    I’m also curious if she does this to others–why is she singling you out? If she just does it to you, does it happen in front of other people? If you just casually don’t hand over your food and she escalates her demands…that would look really weird to normal people. What do other people think of this?

    In any case, you’ve got a bizarre, poorly behaving person on your hands and there’s probably not a whole lot you can do to stop her bizarre behavior. It’s not you, it’s her!

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      My guess is the LW was the only person to point outthe broken stair; everyone else probably just feeds her out of fear of reprisal, placating unreasonable people to smooth things over is unfortunately common.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        Could also be because she’s obsessed with diets and LW is trying to eat healthy, or LW has better or more interesting food. Or those combined with a weird boundary-stomping power dynamic.

    2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      Speculation: the OP said it started when she went on a diet. She brings in delicious, healthy food, and seems to be on a even keel regarding food, body image, and weight loss. (She’s not talking about how this food issue is screwing her up – which is notable.) Some people are in such a mentally unhealthy place (not surprising, given the utter insanity of body standards in our society) that seeing someone who is emotionally healthy about food and diets is the psychological equivalent of being jabbed with a red-hot poker. They think their own misery surrounding food, diets, and body image is normal; to them, the OP is abnormal for contentedly munching on her fish tacos.

      Advice based on speculation: completely disengage. Show no emotion whatsoever. If she escalates, which she will, double down on being a grey rock. If you can manage it, ask her in a completely unemotional way why she’s behaving like this.

      And then look for another job, because she’s nuts.

        1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

          You say it like I’ve never met people who think I’m being healthy “at” them or have so convinced themselves that body dysmorphia is normal that they can’t understand people who aren’t obsessed.

      1. Middle Aged Lady*

        I think you may be on to something. It started with the healthier eating. I have had coworkers who freaked out when they found out I was a vegetarian. Like I was doing it to be superior, or I would die without meat, or I was such a problem at meal-ordering time; can’t you just eat a hot dog? Or that I was insulting their own folkways by not eating the fried chicken they made for the company picnic. It was insane! But not to the level of this OP.

        1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

          Yep. “You’re doing this AT me” is definitely a thing with some people. You’re being healthy at me, you’re being pregnant at me, you’re being vegetarian at me, you got engaged at me, you paid off your mortgage at me.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          You see this a lot with alcohol as well. It’s like a personal affront if you don’t join them in a drink. I usually don’t because I drive myself, but I still get that.

    3. Nanani*

      Laughing it off like it can’t be serious might have been a good tactic the first time, but the patern is already in place and breaking it will probably require something more intense.

      1. June*

        The first time I would have said “you’re asking for my lunch food” in a confused tone. I’m like Joey. Joey doesn’t share food.

      2. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

        Yeah, if you’re trying to compromise on the issue by only providing boss *one meal a day*, you’re in way too deep for it to be this easy to fix.

    4. Uncle Boner*

      No. Just no.

      Easier than direct confrontation? Sure.

      Effective? No.

      Things like this need handled head-on. The advice of the columnist is spot on. Also … HR?

  3. Anhaga*

    This is one of the weirdest food-related ones. It doesn’t quite hit the “food thief claims my spicy food was poisoned” level, but it’s pretty close. What is *up* with people who always want someone else’s food, anyways?

    1. Heidi*

      Maybe her new diet is that she can only eat food that she forages from other people or that food she takes from other people’s meals don’t count. The OP doesn’t mention if there’s other dysfunction with the manager, but I’m having a tough time imagining that she’s a great boss outside of this one really rude and unprofessional quirk. I hope the OP figured a way out of this.

      1. Observer*

        Well, the way the manager is dealing with the situation is surely dysfunctional across many areas. This is not just a food issue. And that’s one of the reasons why I said then that the OP should go to HR. This is seriously problematic behavior, that any sensible and competent HR department should want to deal with ASAP.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          And if HR doesn’t handle it, that’s pretty conclusive evidence that the entire company is toxic, and that it’s time to join the Great Resignation. There’s a lot of other jobs out there.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Letter is from 2016, I have to hope OP long ago escaped!
            (And OP if you see this give us an update!)

      2. JSPA*

        Or she throws away all her “evil” food or food from “failed” diets (the quotation marks are standing in for so very much anger and side-eye at those concepts), she may indeed be out of money. I suspect we’ve all known people who don’t have tons of money, yet regularly buy and then throw away tobacco products (or whatever) when they quit, un-quit, quit again. But even if boss has a health issue that’s goading her into this behavior, she’s still a crap boss for sponging off her people.

        1. Meep*

          I suppose that is true that she could just be bad with money. My former Toxic Manager once complained to me about how her ex-husband wouldn’t pay for a hospital bill for their daughter and called him cheap. Same for the fact that he wasn’t paying the mortgage. She had a job and could’ve paid these bills. She would just rather blow it all on expensive clothing for herself. And by that, I mean $1,000s on purse covers. But it was her ex’s fault that they lost the house and went to collections for a $750 medical bill.

        2. Just no!*

          Ugh, my ex would buy expensive bottles of tequila and pour them down the drain, then repeat it the next week.

      3. Meep*

        I think the fact that she said she “cannot afford food” is the key. It could be that the manager is being grossly underpaid, but I doubt it. I suspect it is more that she is entitled and thinks that since OP has enough money to pay for all this delicious food that it must mean that OP is being overpaid so she is just taking her money back.

        1. Anonymous4*

          Or maybe the Scrounging Boss spends all her money on clothes, or gambling, or supporting a no-good lazy BF who insists on being given a hot car, or who knows what.

          But I think that since Scrounging Boss acts like a child — feeling entitled to take what she wants no matter who owns it, and pouting and striking back when refused — that SB’s boss needs to know about that. In what ways is she putting the company at risk? That sort of behavior surely doesn’t stop at demanding an employee’s lunch.

      4. Anhaga*

        You put it this one, it sounds like one of those weird challenges us gamers choose to take on sometimes, like the Stardew Valley one where you try to avoid buying anything from the stores that sell the seeds, instead only growing what you forage. Fun in games, but not for real life!

    2. LunaLena*

      I dunno, between this and the boss who would search his employees’ desks and lunch boxes to steal food (I seem to remember there was an update in which all the employees ended up buying lock boxes for their food, and the boss thought this was hilarious but continued to try), it’s a toss-up to me which boss is the weirdest about food. I would really, really love it if one of those people or someone who has done something similar in the past wrote in, because I truly cannot fathom this mentality at all and I just want to understand the thought process that goes into this.

      1. Anonymous4*

        I think the guy whose employees had to lock up their food saw it all as a huge game. “They want to keep me from eating their food, but I won’t be foiled! I’ll find a way! Ha ha!”

    3. Jack*

      Calories you haven’t bought don’t count!
      It must be some crazy thought like that. People stealing other people’s food, or demolishing a buffet before anyone has a chance to eat, or pestering coworkers to give them food…

    4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I know, right? I hate that! Some people don’t want something until they see you eating it and then they want some. I find it very intrusive. In college, I once drove-thru McDonald’s to get myself some dinner and got an extra order of french fries for my roommates because I knew they would want some. A couple of them got offended that I did that instead of just giving them some of mine. Even though I got them their own, so there was even more for them. WTF? Bottom line: Mina doesn’t share food! :)

      1. Anonymous4*

        They didn’t want fries — they wanted YOUR fries!

        Maybe they thought that eating fries that weren’t theirs, didn’t have any calories? Or maybe they just liked the expression on your face as your fries disappeared down their gullets.

    5. Mockingjay*

      A lot of people can’t or don’t like to cook, or prefer to be “served.”

      Boss probably looks at OP as her own “Mrs. Pattmore.” Delicious food on demand from the staff.

    6. Berkeleyfarm*

      A lot of them don’t think office food/cadged food counts on whatever regime they’re “on”. The whole diet-culture “deprivation” thing does weird things to a lot of people’s brains.

      Some people, of course, are food insecure but a lot of those folks are generally good at covering tracks because they don’t actually want to be found out.

  4. Wintermute*

    I think this is really good advice. But I’d like to bolster it with a little practical preparation.

    You already mentioned the idea of “being rude”– You might feel rude. You might feel very rude if they keep pushing. That’s because most people respect boundaries. In a world of boundary-respecting people who treat each other reasonably being overly prickly about or insistent on boundaries is rude. But this is NOT a boundary-respecting person and you are not dealing with reasonable treatment!

    If it gets awkward, if you feel rude, it’s not you making that situation. They are creating the rudeness by attempting to steamroll a very reasonable and benign limit. You are not initiating rudeness you’re just doing a return-to-sender.

    Learn to love the bounce, embrace the bounce, there’s no awkwardness here that is your own creation. You are simply refusing to sooth away and diminish your own boundaries until they feel reasonable asking for the unreasonable. Anything that comes of that is their creation, not yours.

      1. Jack Bruce*

        Yes! I started to do this with my controlling mean girl boss and just look at her neutrally after she implied something… and she’d just look at me confused, and walk away.

    1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      “In a world of boundary-respecting people who treat each other reasonably being overly prickly about or insistent on boundaries is rude.”

      Not being sarcastic: that’s wisdom for the ages.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Amen! Yes, people who don’t respect boundaries get ‘offended’ by yours to get their way. Don’t fall for it.

  5. Hills to Die On*

    She reminds me of a little kid.
    I would seriously start hiding my food in a cold tote in my car and only eating it there or somewhere else where she couldn’t find me.
    People are so weird about food sometimes.

    1. PT*

      Cold totes only work in cool weather in cars. If it’s warm where you are, or you’re at a lower latitude and there’s a good bit of sun, your car will heat up to unsafe temperatures really quickly.

    2. Antilles*

      Given how generally weird the boss seems to be about food, I feel like that’s probably where the outcome eventually landed – Alison’s advice is reasonable enough but my read of the letter makes me think the boss would continue the weirdness and passive-aggressive ‘punishments’ even if OP holds firm.
      The comedy sitcom solution would be to stop eating tasty fish tacos and instead start eating like, dog food flavored protein shakes to quickly train the boss that “ye gods OP’s lunch is disgusting, never ask again”.

          1. JSPA*

            The answer is, “no,” either way, though. If the goal (remember, this is an old letter, when the job market was consistently tight!) is not to get fired, making the “no” completely un-arguable is a win.

    3. CatPerson*

      Yes, but the problem with that is that no one should have to do that. They should have the right to eat lunch without having to fend off the boss.

      1. londonedit*

        Yeah, this is the ‘missing stair’ solution – everyone has to go and eat somewhere else, sit in their car, buy a cool bag, start buying lunch at a cafe or whatever, and the boss doesn’t have to do anything about their bizarre behaviour.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          But that can be true when the missing stair has more power than you do, and you have decided that you can’t afford to abandon this group. (Like, literally you don’t have enough in savings to quit without something new lined up.)

    4. Magenta Sky*

      Hiding your food is playing the game, and perpetuates the problem.

      The only two actual solutions are to either call her out on what is, basically, wage theft, or find a new job.

      1. Hills to Die On*

        It absolutely is. But if someone can’t move on for whatever reason, I would be worried about retaliatory behavior. Manager has no problem punishing her. It’s a crappy position to be in. If OP could move on, I hope they did because Manager would probably get even one way or another.

        1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          I also hope OP moved on. This manager was nutty. You can’t always reason with nutty.

    5. Forrest*

      I live with someone exactly like this. You can’t eat anything without her demanding to try it, and wanting some of her own. Doesn’t matter if she’s already had her own dinner, if she sees you eating something she’ll start asking for the same thing. She’ll literally pick it off your plate if you don’t give it to her.

      But she’s 4.

        1. Darsynia*

          That worked for 2/3 of my children! Naturally the one named after a spice is like ‘ooh, gimme.’ It figures!

          As for our Letter Writer, I’d just encourage them that it’s only natural to adjust our behavior based on new calculations and variables. If you’d accept someone who developed migraines to change their lunchtime behavior so that they ate a time with fewer people in the breakroom, and would think that’s a normal adjustment, then it’s okay to decide that you’ve reached the end of your ability to share food with your boss. There’s no hypocrisy, consent is allowed to be withdrawn, and the fact that it’ll be a difficult situation doesn’t mean it’s a *bad decision* on your part. That’s something that many of us struggle with, and I wanted to highlight. Difficulty =/= wrongness.

      1. Salymander*

        I had a housemate like this. He was not four years old. More like 24 years old. He was not a dog or cat. If he were, I would have been more forgiving. He was just a grown man who was too lazy to cook his own food. I had to lean over my food like a vulture and whack his hand with a spoon when he tried to swipe my food. He never took ingredients, just finished cooked food. He told me that his mom had always cooked for him, and he thought I wouldn’t mind because I am so nice.

        I’m not that nice.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Are you female? If so, I’d bet money that’s the real reason he thought you’d be happy to cook for him.

          He sounds like one of those men who assumes all women will be glad to do things for him, whether it’s making him food or sewing a button his shirt. I wouldn’t be surprised if his mom was the type who waited on her “menfolk” hand and foot, so that’s his idea of normal. *gag*

    6. anonymous73*

      The solution is not to hide from the boss. The solution is to set boundaries and hold firm to those boundaries. OP’s manager is WAY out of line to even ask to have some of OP’s food and it is 100% NOT rude to say no. I would never even think to ask someone else for a taste of their food, especially if they were a colleague. A close friend sure, but definitely not a colleague. And if asked, it would be a hard no from me.

  6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I’d probably start getting a little forceful after she’d asked for my food again – ‘if you like this so much you can buy it yourself/get ingredients at (insert shop here)’.

    1. LunaLena*

      Yeah, seriously. “Oh it’s actually really easy to make, here’s the recipe so you can make it ~yourself~!”

      1. Amaranth*

        The trick is to respond to Manager with the total awareness that everyone knows she is being ridiculous. Just a calm ‘no, I don’t have extra’ and continue eating. The power dynamic was messing up LW I think, plus maybe an initial sympathy for someone who ‘forgot’ their food and might go hungry. I’d even point out – in front of people – that I can’t afford to feed the whole office. With a smile, maybe, but I’d make the conversations rather public. I wonder if LW ever asked around to find out if this was happening to other employees.

        1. LunaLena*

          I dunno, I personally know some people who are this ridiculous and entitled, and when you point it out they just think you’re making a big deal out of nothing and get angry that you humiliated them in front of other people (especially if it’s other people they expect respect from, like employees). And then they retaliate openly and shamelessly, just like this boss did. Doing it with a smile does exactly nothing, they just think you’re mocking them on top of everything else.

          I can totally understand the OP’s frustration in dealing with this, especially since it could easily lead to the boss picking on them and searching for an excuse to fire them. With some people, literally nothing you do will please them except capitulating to their whims, but sometimes you can mitigate it a bit by making them think they’re getting *something* and therefore “winning,” even if it’s something that costs minimum effort like a recipe or the name of a shop. But even that often doesn’t work, and I sincerely hope the OP was able to get out of there with their sanity intact. A happy update would be a huge bonus!

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            I’ve had superiors who had similar power trips. The only way to quash it was to go over their head. HR and their boss, both. And make it clear it’s not a one-time incident; it’s a pattern of repeated behavior, including retaliation against you for not giving her your personal property. So you have good reason to fear she’d retaliate against you for reporting this, too.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Back when I was a smoker I’d have this one person in the office always bum cigs off me ‘can I have one? Just one?’ and given that I was a chain smoking whatnot back then I had plenty of cigs. But one day I really got tired of this and just said ‘look, there’s a shop down the road, buy your own’.

        Apparently she only ‘needed’ one a day so there was ‘no point buying quantities I’m not going to use’.

        She didn’t get any more of my cigs though.

    1. Rainbow Carebear*

      I’m so intrigued about what might have happened! Did Crazy Boss lose it when OP told her no? Did HR have to get involved? It’s like an episode of The Office that was pre-empted before we could see the end!

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I had a boss who liked to do things like buy lunch for everyone except the 1-2 people she was mad at.

        Spoiler alert: I quit that job because my weird petty vindictive manager was ruining my mental health.

        It’s a really, really weird, petty, childish power move.

        1. Generic Name*

          I would say it’s even below childish. It’s animalistic. Like the “pack leaders” eat first while everyone else gets the scraps. Just no.

          1. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

            I don’t think so, but I’m pretty sure that year had both Sneaking Into An Employee’s Chemotherapy To Ask Them Questions Boss and “I Need You All To See If You’re Compatible Liver Donors For My Brother” Boss. The competition was, regrettably, stacked. *Checks* Yeah, that was 2016.

  7. tessa*

    I hope the OP got a different job with normal workplace issues.

    Also: this person rose to the level of boss how…?

  8. Glomarization, Esq.*

    I think that having the LW say it’s not in her budget just opens the door for the supervisor to give her a hard time about not handling her finances properly. If it were me, I’d get really close to “‘no’ is a complete sentence” and say something like, “Oh, no thanks, not today.” It’s a little bit of a non-sequitur to a demand that LW share her food, but the demand in itself is weird.

    1. Esmeralda*

      LOL.. Had a friend in grad school who’d smile at people like this, and say, without a trace of hostility or irony: “F** you very much!”

      It always took a couple of seconds before the recipient really heard it.

    2. anonymous73*

      This. Since OP has been giving her food in the past, I’d go with “I’m not going to do that anymore.” No reasons, no excuses. Just no.

  9. NYWeasel*

    The only additional advice I’d give to what Alison has suggested here is that you should be prepared that a boss who ignores this many boundaries will likely want to review your personal budget with you to prove that you can continue to feed her. There’s some good advice in the archives here about how to shut down that line of dialogue.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t get into my budget issues at all with the supervisor. A person who’s already up in my business about my food habits is likely to get all up in my business about my personal budget, too.

    2. Batgirl*

      I think if that were to happen, that’s a great opening for suggesting you see if there’s any room in the business budget for food, seeing as how the boss thinks food is so cheap. “Well we can’t go into my private and personal budget because…it’s private and personal! However if there’s a business budget for food, I’ll happily call some local businesses about bringing some lunch over: either just for you, or enough for sharing if that’s what you want”.

  10. Doodle Brain*

    She’s not just obsessed with diets, this is 100% disordered eating. Her relationship with food is very unhealthy and if I had to hazard a guess (without playing psychologist and diagnosing) because the food is yours, it doesn’t count towards whatever her issue of choice is or it’s okay because she is eating with you. That would also play into ordering food for everyone. All you can do is create a firm boundary for yourself.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Because the food is yours, it doesn’t count.
      Yeah, that’s where my mind went for an underlying reason behind wanting to take OP’s food. Unfortunately I can’t think of any practical advice to get a regular coworker to stop thinking this way, much less the boss.

    2. Junebug*

      That’s what I think too. She’s at the level of an addict trying to score a fix that she’s depriving herself.

    3. Unhinged*

      This was my thought as well! She’s probably moody because she’s hungry from these diets that are literally starving her. But it also absolutely does not absolve her of her behavior.

    4. Butterfly Counter*


      I wonder if this could be then mitigated by OP telling her boss how many calories are in her lunch.

      “This portion is 400 calories, FYI. I used real butter. A LOT of butter.”

      I don’t know if I could do this, myself because I know the full impact of how eating disorders can have on people. I hate disordered eating so much. From everything I’ve experienced with it, ED can make perfectly nice, wonderful people unrecognizable.

      1. Batgirl*

        Nah, I’m familiar with some people who have the thought processes Doodle brain describes and the rules are basically: “Be “good” when you’re buying your own food and caring for yourself, otherwise you’re greedy and selfish. However you’re not just allowed, but encouraged to be “bad” when partaking in social eating, which is not selfish because it’s a bonding experience. In fact if you fail to be bad, you are a) rude and b) a buzzkill.
        People who subscribe to these rules are not really doing the math, and they’re beyond hungry. If they didn’t food-socialise at work they would have to wait for a party in order to be able to eat basic food groups like fats and carbs.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        No, if someone is dealing with disordered eating (however badly) you should not feed into it with the idea that they should avoid food because it has too many calories, contains “bad” ingredients etc. She should avoid OPs food because it’s not her food. The boss’s behaviour is ridiculous and OP should push back but the idea of using someone’s disordered eating against them like this is pretty cruel.

      3. Batgirl*

        My experience with this type of thinking is that the rules are: 1) If you’re feeding yourself, or choosing food, you have to be “good” or you’re greedy and a “bad” person, and 2) If it’s a social situation it’s okay, and if you don’t partake you’re a buzzkill and not bonding over food, which is the only acceptable way to enjoy food. People who do this aren’t actually counting calories, or if they do they are only counting in certain situations. It’s certainly disordered thinking but it exists outside disorders in a wider cultural sense. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve been told to “go on, live a little, don’t be a party pooper” when our own food preferences are supposed to take a back seat to the group enjoyment; the reason being it’s the only time some people in the group will allow themselves to enjoy food because everyone has temporarily suspended food labelling and judgement. It’s fucked up.

    5. English Teacher*

      My thought exactly. And if OP is the only one bringing in healthy, home cooked meals, the boss probably feels even more strongly that taking food from her is “not cheating.” I would absolutely not address this fact with her, but sometimes understanding a person’s reason behind crazy behavior makes it easier to deal with/ignore.

    6. JSPA*

      It’s not uncommon, but we still don’t diagnose people here. Plus,

      1. There’s no solution specific to this possibility, that I can think of.

      2. People can suffer from that problem and still not demand food from the people they manage.

      3. Does she do it to the boss, customers, random strangers? No? Then she has some level of control over how and when she expresses that need…and she chooses her victims on the basis of unequal power.

      As with every antisocial urge that is driven by deep and complex needs (there are plenty!) We can have sympathy or pity for why boss might have that specific urge–and still deplore her actions. As a human, she may be complex and hurting. As a manager, she sucks.

  11. the cat's ass*

    This is awfully weird. There’s something wrong with OP’s boundary-stomping manager. Stop feeding her!

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, there’s no world in which it is acceptable for your boss to ask to taste your food, let alone multiple demands. So bizarre.

  12. E.D.*

    Agree that “budget” won’t be a good enough excuse for this unhinged manager. “I only brought enough for myself” and “no” are probably the only things that could work. And I would expect more childish behavior as a result until someone at a higher level is made aware of the situation.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I’d say “no” is the only thing that might work. “Only enough for myself” could be twisted, and this manager’s food related demands are already bananacrackers or bat guano (on the scale of “is this normal?”).

      Still need to locate my jaw, its on the floor somewhere.

    2. ArtK*

      I agree as well. One big problem with people like this is that *any* excuse turns into a negotiation. A reasonable person would accept “not in my budget,” but an unreasonable one will simply try to work past that objection and you find yourself in a defensive retreat, trying to come up with a reason that will work. None will work.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        Sorry, I only cook for myself, and potlucks. If you’d like to organize an office potluck, I’d be happy to sign up, though! Let me know if that becomes a possibility! I look forward seeing what we all bring!
        All said with a sunny smile, and loud enough for neighbors to hear.

  13. Snapell*

    I had a manager once who would just casually come by and take food off our plates (we were permitted to eat at our desks), or shove her hand into the bag of almonds I was snacking from, etc. It was just alarming to me and especially gross because she was a heavy smoker – never certain her hands would have been clean. One time when her hand reached into my snack, I asked her loudly “did you want some of this?” She froze with a mortified look on her face, and it never happened again.

    1. Blue*

      Thanks for the reminder that, at least sometimes, returning awkward to sender is enough to stop a ridiculous behavior. I doubt it was enough for this LW’s manager but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

    2. Hills to Die On*

      See, that just amazes me. She has no qualms about being so overt in her behavior but getting called out once is enough to embarrass her and stop her forever. Do people think this is just not a big deal? I can need some explanations from time to time but wow – that is a stunning lack of social awareness.
      And it’s not like it’s a neurodivergent thing (I think). My son is autistic and would never do this. Not even within his own family.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think that’s just it–someone is socially unaware (even just in certain contexts), and if someone interrupts the behavior they realize. “… Oh. Oh, this is a thing I am not supposed to do. Amending office-wander program to not snatch snacks off Sally’s desk.”

        1. new*

          Who doesn’t know not to put their hand in other people’s food, without asking no less?

          I am diabetic and my food is carefully portioned. This boss would likely have been cursed out by me, and I would ask for a transfer. The absolute nerve.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t think it’s that she actually did not realize that it’s not OK. What she did not realize is that people are noticing and judging her even though she’s “the boss”. And even more shockingly (in her mind) being disrespectful enough to be willing to call her on it.

          It’s like the boss who are upset with the person who was too disrespectful (in their view) in how she explained that company needed to deal with her not having been paid for 2 months NOW.

    3. Not my real name*

      I once worked at a place where coworker #1 was casually eating from a pile of nuts on coworker #2’s plate of pie. Coworker #2 apparently didn’t realize it at first because she suddenly shouted loud enough for the entire office to hear, “I’ve been spitting those out as I was eating the pie!” Coworker #1 never ate anything from anyone again period.

        1. Not my real name*

          Seriously? That’s hilarious! That job predated Seinfeld, I wonder if there is some weird connection or if this is something that happens more frequently than I really want to think about. Ick!

  14. The Bimmer Guy*

    I think I would be pointedly and visibly annoyed if my boss tried to shake me down for my lunch. Wow. This person is far more patient than I.

  15. Jedi Sentinel Bird*

    What a strange situation to be in. Hopefully the letter writer is doing better with the situation. I would be concerned if this manager would stop the letter writer’s job progression or promotions because of the food gatekeeping. If there was an HR department or a boss above this boss ,I would try to communicate what is happening to have the issue in writing.

    “LW ,how dare you not give me your bologna sandwich to devour!!!!!! GRAAAH! No promotion for you!”-Strange food boss wrangler

  16. Drewby*

    This boss reminds me of my mother. To this day, she always has to have “just a bite” of my food. No matter what it is I’m eating. It’s like taking a piece of my soul each and every time.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Family members or a romantic partner are the only ones I could tolerate this behavior from. I routinely bring in homemade treats for coworkers. (Not currently allowed in my office.) But my lunch is my own. And if you try to take any of it, We Will Have Words.

      1. alienor*

        I can’t even imagine. I was taught growing up that asking for someone else’s food was one of the rudest things you could do, so I would probably expire from secondhand embarrassment if anyone requested a bite. I’m a notoriously slow/small eater (I eat plenty over the course of a day, just not a lot all at once), so I’ll often offer food to someone eating with me if I know I won’t finish what’s on my plate, but that’s my choice.

    2. Loulie*

      Same, I had a roommate who did this. She always wanted just one bite, and she only ever wanted the *first bite*–“oh that looks great, mind if I try it before you dig in?”. To me it was a clear power play, and it only stopped when I lost my temper, called out specifically that she wanted everyone else’s “first bite”, and told her to order her own, I was tired of being second on my own food. To her credit, she stopped immediately and never did it again (to me).

    3. UKDancer*

      I ended a promising new relationship with a chap on the third date because he kept stealing my food and wanting to eat what was on my plate. I asked him to stop doing that because I don’t like sharing food. He did not accept this and kept stealing my dim-sum from my plate. So I ended things after that as he obviously was not going to respect my barriers. I did not stab him with a chopstick although it was tempting.

      My food is my food and I don’t like sharing, tasting things from other people’s plates or someone trying to feed me.

    4. Run mad; don't faint*

      My mother in law would do that. And if you let her try one half of your sandwich you would only get one quarter back. My partner was adamant about telling her ‘no’, to her consternation. His sibling not so much and mom frequently asked for bites of their food. I really hope this letter writer was able to establish and maintain their boundaries. They should be able to enjoy their own food in peace.

      1. Anonymous4*

        That might work, if OP could afford it — until the boss started whining for OP to bring back something for her, and not reimburse OP for it.

        And it’s expensive to eat out every day, assuming there’s options within a reasonable distance. The cost really adds up quickly.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Very true, on all points.
          If the boss asked me to bring something back, I would ask for the cash up front, and promise to get the receipt with her change. That usually curbs moochers. And if they’re bold enough to ask for me to spot them this once, I say “Sorry, I can’t. But let me know if you have cash next time I go. Or you can order online, and I’ll pick it up for you while I’m there. Got to run!” And then dash.
          In fair weather, I might leave my lunch in the car, and drive away to the nearest park, to eat out of sight. Then it’s not a lie that I’m going out for lunch, but it doesn’t cost more.
          In weather too hot or cold for leaving my lunch in the car, I think I might bring a larger purse to hide my lunch.
          Assuming I wanted to avoid the confrontation, of course.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            I have run to a nearby grocery store and bought the cheapest thing I could from the deli and a bottled water. Although I also ate in the parking lot. Still, technically is “eating out” for the purposes of not eating at work.

    5. Manchmal*

      I dated a guy for a hot second who did something weird like this. He’d make us each identical grilled cheese sandwiches, but take a bit of mine before handing it to me. Why??? It was not a bonding, let’s share food thing (because he never offered me a bit of his). It was a weird power move.

      1. Anonymous4*

        That *is* gross!

        Did you ever insist that he give you the un-chomped grilled cheese because, since he took a bite out of one, that one was clearly his?

    6. anonymous73*

      I call my best friend seagull. But she’s my best friend. But my boss? That would be a no. She has no right to ask, and OP has every right to shut it down.

  17. JelloStapler*

    What in God’s name is wrong with her????? Do you work at a daycare and somehow one of the kids got to be boss?

  18. ENFP in Texas*

    “Sometimes she makes jokes about being broke and not having money for food.”

    And she’s the OP’s *manager*, so presumably makes more than the OP.

    “Yeah, I hear ya. I’m broke too, since I’ve been feeding myself AND you all week…”

  19. Smilingswan*

    I’ve always wanted an update on this one. No matter how many times I read it, my mind is always blown.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The fact that we have an entire sub-genre of “Managers taking employees’ food that the employee paid for and brought in.”

  20. Doctor is In*

    This is a good example of a time when 20:20 hindsight would say, shut it down the second time she asked. Firmly. Don’t let it become an established thing that is harder to stop. Really feel for the OP!

  21. Amethystmoon*

    I hope the working from home trend has at least eliminated most, if not, all of these kinds of issues. I guess your roommate or significant other or cat/dog could try to steal your lunch, but that’s not something HR would be dealing with. :)

    1. Clisby*

      Not usually a victim-blamer, but if you wander off and leave your food at cat- or dog-level, you’re kind of asking for it.

      1. Pipe Organ Guy*

        Our oldest cat still loves to scavenge in the kitchen for something interesting. So when we fix a meal, we hide anything that might be interesting, and inform Her Tortitude that there’s nothing interesting.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Isn’t everything at cat-level though? When my grandcats lived with me, we quickly learned to keep the countertops and tabletops free of food. Then one night kitty learned to open cabinet doors, and I woke up in the morning to several different kinds of rice spilled all over my kitchen floor.

  22. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    A boss asked to taste their employee’s food. This is what happened to their job history.

  23. Anonymous4*

    Is there a grandboss that OP can go to, to ask for guidance on the situation? What about HR? This chronic begging and threatening is so not-normal that I’d really want guidance on how to respond. Or, at the very least, give them a head’s up that it’s happening and that I’m going to start refusing.

    I’ve shared food with coworkers before — I have a stash of things for when I neglect to grab my lunchbox on the way out — but I have never had a boss strong-arm and bully-rag me into handing over my lunch.

    1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Right! We typically share food with each other at my job, too, but it’s never expected. I’m one of those people who doesn’t eat all of a meal, so am fine with letting someone else eat what I don’t (never something I bite into!). But this boss is a person I would be annoyed by. Bish buy your own food!

  24. Meep*

    I really want to know what is up with the “cannot afford” guilt trip. That is the most fascinating part of this. Why does she think it is appropriate to tell OP she cannot afford food as a tactic? Is it because OP pointed out it is expensive? Is it because she was bad with her budget? Maybe because she just thinks gaslighting is the answer. I really want to know who else she has done this to.

    1. Lady Randolph's Turban*

      I’m curious, too, but does it matter why? The OP still can’t afford to share her food. Perhaps the solution is to put together a list of food banks, soup kitchens, and other community resources and give it to her the next time she asks for food. If she really needs it, perhaps it will be helpful. If she doesn’t, it may keep her from using a phony reason.

    2. Velocipastor*

      This struck me as odd too especially considering the hierarchy at play! Manager is complaining about finances to a subordinate who (presumably) makes even less money than she does

      1. Pennyworth*

        You never know how someone’s finances are playing out at home, but it is on her boss to manage her money without taking the OP’s food.

    3. anonymous73*

      That would have led me to respond with “How is that my problem to solve?” I don’t care if she’s my boss. Her behavior is way over the line and she needs to be put back in her place.

  25. KateM*

    *but at least by cutting off her access to your food, you can hopefully be better-nourished when it happens*
    Aw, I like this :) starving your manager to get an upper hand of her!

  26. Lady Randolph's Turban*

    When I was in college I had an unpaid internship at a non-profit in an expensive city. I rarely purchased ready-made food but tried to make my lunches interesting and healthy as well as inexpensive. One of my supervisors, only a couple of years out of college himself and probably not earning much, would rarely bring his own lunch. He would ALWAYS ask whomever was eating, “Can I have some of that?”

    At first I would give him some of my food but I finally grew tired of his taking part of my already tight food supply and of his rather childlike entitlement. At a group lunch (BYOF), he asked once again and I decided I had had it. I said, “No, this is my lunch. You never share your food.” There was an audible gasp among the rest of the staff and then some nervous laughter. He looked shocked. I don’t know what transpired when I was not around when he and others were eating lunch or after I left, but I never heard him ask for someone else’s food again.

  27. Creatively Designed*

    Is there any way that she believes this is company-purchased food? That’s the only way I can explain her cutting LW out of company-supplied meals. I can’t imagine anybody jumping to that conclusion when LW brings her lunch in a personal lunchbox, but it’s a thought.

  28. North Wind*

    This behavior is just so creepy, major heebie-jeebies here. I might try to kid myself that I was finding some comic “The Office” material and laugh it off, but it wouldn’t work for long and I’d have to gtfo.

  29. Typing All The Time*

    Please say no to her and get management involved. In a sense, she is harassing you. This is not okay.

  30. Stefanie*

    This is seriously almost as good as the “cheap a** rolls”! Just a reminder that literally anyone can find something to complain about, no matter how positive the situation. SIGH.

  31. The Rural Juror*

    I once worked for the owner of a small company who was bad about taking drinks from the fridge that weren’t his. For example, I had gone out of my way at lunch to stop at a in-n-out that had a local canned coffee I like. They had just stocked the fridge, so the can wasn’t very cold. I put it in the office fridge after returning with the plan to let it cool an hour or so then enjoy it. After an hour, it had disappeared. Later that day, my boss was like, “Hey! That coffee was good! Buy some on the company credit card next time and stock the fridge.”

    He always offered to let you buy more of what he took on the company’s dime. However, he never considered that he was stealing my time, effort, and what would have been my ability to enjoy a nice treat that afternoon.

    That was just the tip of the iceberg on his weird boundary-pushing. It was always little things, but they sure added up quick!!!

    1. Manchmal*

      Did you ever just say, “Uh, I bought that so I could drink it this afternoon. Can you please not take my personal drinks?” Or did you ever just label your stuff? This is so mind-blowing.

    2. Artemesia*

      I had the same experience — I bought bitter lemon — no one else was bringing that — but the top boss just would take mine. I did finally get the office to stock it along with other drinks.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I know it doesn’t make his behavior right, but least he did pay for it/buy more. Which anyone should do if by chance they eat or drink someone else’s stuff.

  32. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    1) In my mind, I’m picturing this boss as an actual food-stealing critter, like a raccoon or a seagull. That’s the only explanation I have for her bizarre behavior, and it paints a really cute picture in my head.
    2) I followed one of the related links and re-read the story about someone bringing bell peppers for potluck. 10/10 would enjoy fresh veggies for breakfast. Coworker should’ve thrown a few baby carrots in with the peppers and called it “breakfast veggie tray”, and no one would’ve batted an eye.

  33. cjbfan*

    My experience is that food is a trigger for all sorts of issues for almost all people. I’ve had coworkers and supervisors comment on me losing weight, was I eating enough, what’s in that (I almost always bring my own lunch), why won’t I go out for lunch with the group, why won’t I have a doughnut, why won’t I participate in events that are only about eating? Absolutely none of which has anything to do with my work and is no one’s business, and really should not even be a topic of conversation at work. For some reason, it makes other people feel better about their choices if they get a lot of others to participate. I have many reasons for what and how I eat, I don’t want to share them with people I barely know and hate that anyone is made to feel like they have to justify such things. I don’t know if the OP can use avoidance–it sounds like maybe not. I eat in my office and then take a walk for the rest of my lunch hour. This gets me away from anyone who wants to get nosy with my eating. When I didn’t have an office to myself, I have actually investigated the building I worked in and found a place to eat alone and then simply head outside, drop my lunch bag in my car and walk until time to go back in. Every place that I’ve worked, once I’ve established the “I walk on my lunch” routine, everyone leaves me alone.

    1. anonymous73*

      If that’s what you choose to do that’s cool, but hiding is not the solution. Boundaries need to be set with people who have their nose all up in your business.

  34. Cattlegirl*

    OP just has to firmly explain that her diet is based on portion control. “Sorry, this is exactly the portion I’m supposed to eat; if I gave you any, I would have to recalculate my fat grams and calories and macros for the WHOLE DAY. This diet is working and I don’t want to mess it up by going off-script.”

    If she persists: “My diet coach says to watch out for people who are trying to make me fail. You’re not trying to make me fail, are you?”
    Blame everything on the diet coach. No one needs to know you’re your own diet coach.

  35. silver hair*

    This year’s suggestions from me would be fake coughing, sneezing and obnoxious finger licking or (if necessary) food licking–with a generous willingness to share if the manager is still desperate for the food. Hmmm maybe even strategically placed hair in the food. I suspect covid may have taken care of this issue though.

  36. dd*

    This is why we don’t want to go back to the office. Blah blah blah … what about all the mentoring? These are our mentors.

  37. LMB*

    Manager may not have an eater disorder but it sounds like she gets into a LOT of disordered eating. It sounds like she is not bringing her own food to the office because she doesn’t want to eat, and when she obviously gets hungry because humans need food, she has no food.
    She may be targeting the LW because she considers her food “healthy” and “ok” to eat.

  38. KitCat*

    I worked with another manager who was fed on a regular basis by their employees. They didn’t ask for it but NEVER turned down when someone offered, never paid anyone when there was a group order and everyone else paid (I know this from personal experience), and of course never offered to buy lunch for anyone. I was amazed how many free lunches they got from their direct reports with zero reciprocity.

  39. Lycana*

    This letter haunted me ever since the first time I read it. I struggle enormously with where the line is between keeping healthy boundaries because I deserve to take proper care of myself, and being generous and kind because as a privileged person in many ways I can afford to be. Somebody trying to eat my lunch would be INCREDIBLY STRESSFUL for me in that way. I would NEVER DREAM of it being appropriate to insist on having some of someone else’s food, but this would set me off hard. I think because this is a boss who has power over me and can certainly find ways to be responsible for her own food, that would make it easier for me to draw the boundary. But under any other circumstances… that would be torture to someone of my personality.

  40. Cleo Not Patra*

    I know this is all moot as the letter writer is from 2016, but after orally setting a boundary with the boss, I would add a line about telling her that, “oh yeah I found this great recipe online let me send it to you after lunch so you could try it out. Or, I picked this is up from this nice deli let me sent you the link and what I ordered.” Every. Single. Time. Send the email after. Along the lines of, I noticed at snack/breakfast you were really interesting in having some of my sandwich/taco/whatever, so I thought I would send you the link/recipe so you can try some of it. As I mentioned I just don’t have the budget to share my food anymore, thank you so much for understanding. Keep it light and good natured. Bonus points if you can work into the email that the food deli is near by and delivers in case she’s interested in ordering food for the office again as you’ve noticed she’s done this before in the past. This will be a good way to track how many times she has asked you for food and have a record of it. So for example, I was pulled from this project, and it was after I had said no to her requests for food 7 times that week.

    1. anonymous73*

      That’s way too much work, and people who push boundaries like this do not respond to reasons and excuses. Just say no. Nothing else needed here.

  41. Quickbeam*

    An office I worked in for 10 years had an upper manager who would go through people’s desks looking for food. All the time. She worked on a different floor than I do. I was warned that this would not prevent her from taking my food. I brought my lunch and my husband drilled a hole in it to accommodate a lock.

    One day I came back from a meeting and found her in my office, looking through the drawers. She asked me why my lunch box was locked. I told her I kept my medication in it. It didn’t stop her but she never got any of my food.

    People are so weird about food.

  42. Eat My Squirrel*

    “What’s for lunch today?”
    “I’m actually trying this new thing called intermittent fasting. It’s supposed to be really good for your health and weight loss and stuff. I only eat one meal a day, for dinner at home. You should try it, I feel amazing!”
    Boss walks away in shock.
    OP, cackling to themselves silently, pops open the lid of their coffee travel mug and pulls out a sandwich.

  43. EJ*

    People are weird about food. I once witnessed a grown woman cry at the office because we ran out of ice cream sandwiches.

  44. River*

    What is wrong with this manager? LOL! It sounds like whatever diet she is following, she’s not getting the proper nutrition and it’s affecting her mental health. Perhaps it’s a cultural thing. In my culture, it’s fairly custom to share meals with others at the table if they want to try your meal but that’s home life, not the workplace.

    This reminds me of another post on here I read a year ago or so about the one boss that ate someone’s VERY spicy lunch and then got sick and then threatened to sue the employee for bringing that spicy meal in. I guess one could do the same if their boss continuously asks for food. Pack something that’s REALLY spicy just for the boss. Just a thought….

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