coworker misuses the office snack budget, manager eavesdrops through thin walls, and more

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

1. My coworker uses the office snack budget on expensive snacks only she likes

I work on a pretty small team with only three people in the office on a regular basis. We have about six other people who come in once a week or less. Our office admin is in charge of ordering snacks for the office, and she has very specific food tastes. Since I’ve worked here, I’ve tolerated the fact that she buys things that only she eats. Think expensive organic vegan yogurt, kombucha, dried figs, etc. She has been asked to buy more mainstream snacks like Cheetos and Coke multiple times, but she flat out refuses in a very judgmental way. Multiple people have complained to me about it. I’m a big snacker, but I just buy snacks with my own money and typically leave them out for everyone to share. I’m non-confrontational by nature, so I prefer not to fight about things that seem petty to me.

I’ve recently been promoted to office lead, which means that I control our office’s pretty meager discretionary budget. When I looked at the budget and expenses from the previous year, she went way over our budget. She literally buys $60 bags of dried fruit for herself! I feel I have a responsibility to rein in her spending (and honestly I think what she’s been doing borders on unethical). I also see an opportunity to improve office morale by making sure that there are things that everyone eats. I think she’s used to me being a doormat and is a pretty combative person when she feels attacked. How can I approach this with her in a constructive way?

Note that I’m not her supervisor. I would say I’m above her in a largely symbolic way as office lead, but I do manage the office budget and am responsible for office morale.

Wow, that’s some audacity. The snack budget presumably isn’t “to provide Jane with the snacks she wants,” but “to provide the office with snacks.” This wouldn’t be okay even if all Jane’s snacks were inexpensive ones, but the fact that they’re pricey on top of being only enjoyed by her makes it even more ridiculous.

Luckily, yes, since you now manage the discretionary budget and that includes the snacks, you have the standing to tackle this (and should). However, since Jane responded badly when approached about this before, I strongly recommend looping in her manager before you do anything. You could just issue a decree that you’re changing the snack process, but it’s likely to go a lot more smoothly if you first make Jane’s manager aware of the problem and that you’re expecting resistance from Jane and get them onboard in making it clear that the kombucha and fig train is ending.

If you can, try to include something Jane likes in the new regime, as long as it’s not more expensive than what the rest of the office gets. If necessary, ask her for suggestions of what would work for her within a budget of $X/month. $X should be her portion of the snack budget (so $X divided by the number of people the budget needs to serve), not the entire thing.

2. Thin office walls and an eavesdropping manager

The walls in our office are very thin, and I share a wall with my manager. She can hear every meeting that I have and any and all phone calls.

She has felt the need to critique things that have occurred in my meetings that do not involve her that she has listened to through the wall. My role is very autonomous and she doesn’t have the typical managerial role and is not a mentor. While I accept any and all advice and criticism, I find it odd that she sits in her office and listens and, for the most part, doesn’t hear the entire story or is involved with the program I am working on. I try and schedule meetings now when she is out or when I am working remotely to avoid the eavesdropping. I do feel the need to say that her former employees have all asked to be under another manager because of these types of behaviors.

If everyone else is getting moved out from under her because of her behavior … is that an option for you too?

But if it’s not, or if you have reasons for wanting to stay where you are, would you be comfortable addressing it directly? For example: “I always welcome feedback, but it’s tough to have phone calls knowing that you’re listening and only hearing my side of the conversation and forming impressions based on that. Obviously I want to know if you overhear me saying something wrong, or if you’ve heard a pattern that concerns you, but assuming you agree that my work and my judgment are generally good, I’m asking to be trusted to manage my meetings and phone calls without that kind of constant observation. It’s hard to do good work otherwise.” You could also ask point-blank: “Is there something about my work that’s making you feel you need to supervise my meetings in this way?” … and then assuming she doesn’t indicate there is, “It’s tough to do good work and exercise the autonomy my job requires when you’re managing my meetings so closely.”

Also, would a white noise machine make it harder for her to hear you? It might be worth trying one.

I can hear everything my staff says — should I pretend I don’t?

3. “Anything else we can think of” in job descriptions

As I am looking for work and weeding through hundreds of job listings, I keep seeing the phrase “and anything else we can think of” when listing duties expected of the prospective employee.

It always raises my hackles when I see “and anything else we can think of” tacked on to a long list of what they expect of their employee, but wanted to know what a professional thought of the phrase. Maybe I’m overreacting?

Yeah, I don’t like it; it comes across as “we will pile more and more work upon you, whether it’s logically within your role or not.” However, that’s not necessarily what it means; often it’s just someone using more casual wording in place of the old standby, “other duties as assigned.” But it’s sloppy language that doesn’t consider how it sounds from the candidate’s perspective.

4. I left my old job years ago but my old boss still asks for my help

About 12 years ago, I landed my first job, where Mandy, the manager, was incredibly supportive and taught me a lot. When the office software was upgraded, I received training on the new system and was tasked with teaching other employees. Every year, the software requires an initial setup to function properly.

Three years after leaving that job, Mandy reached out to me, asking for help with the software configuration since those who knew how to do it were no longer working there. I went back, set everything up, and trained a new employee.

The following year, Mandy contacted me again with the same issue, as the employee I had trained had left. I went back, trained Mandy, and provided step-by-step notes on the process.

The next year, Mandy mentioned losing the notes. Once again, I visited and created a detailed document outlining the steps (and I’ve been sending this email every year explaining the process). Despite this, Mandy asks me to handle the configuration every year.

I no longer remember the training details; I simply follow the saved instructions. Although it only takes two days to set up, I feel uneasy about declining, but I no longer wish to bear this responsibility. It’s not about money or time; I just don’t want the annual responsibility of configuring this software. Is there a way to communicate this without sounding ungrateful?

Oh my goodness, you could have refused the very first request! It’s absurd to ask someone to do this three years after leaving a job — let alone every year after that! Is Mandy paying you for this work, or have you been doing it out of the kindness of your heart? Because if you were going to do it, you should have been paid for it.

But you absolutely can and should put a stop to it now. Say this: “I’m not going to be available to do it anymore, but here’s the document that outlines the steps to follow and anyone should be able to take this over.” If you’re more comfortable giving a reason, say your schedule no longer allows it (that doesn’t need to be true — and you don’t need to supply a reason anyway). If she pushes or asks for just one more year, hold firm: “I’m really not available to do it anymore.”

Also, you don’t need to show gratitude to a great boss by continuing to work for them after you’re gone! You show gratitude by doing a good job while you’re there, and maybe telling them in words what you appreciate about the relationship and staying on good terms afterward. The latter means things like if they ask whether you know any good candidates for job X, you might refer them someone from your network; it doesn’t mean you continue to do the job you resigned from! It’s not ungrateful to assume your resignation means you don’t work there anymore, period.

5. Explaining a firing to a recruiter

I know you sometimes share good examples of cover letters, but I had something a little different … a script I’ve written addressing the fact that five years ago, I was fired from my job, and lots of people from that job now work for a company a recruiter wants to put me forward for (it’s a pretty small industry). I very much wrote this with my “what would Alison say” hat on, so I hope you approve! Here it is:

“I wanted to be up-front, as lots of my former colleagues from X now work at Y, that my job there ended with me being let go. There were lots of timing factors around this, including a major and sudden bereavement in my family, company issues which have since become pretty public, but I also have had a chance to reflect, own and improve on the things in that job that I wasn’t suited to, and didn’t realize until it was too late how to fix them. In the five years since, the issues I had at that job have been a major focus of my personal and professional development, and I’m pretty proud that people who know and work with me now say those things are strengths of mine. It has not affected my references, but in case anyone that worked with me at X is working on recruitment for this role, I didn’t want it to seem like I was withholding that aspect of my tenure there.”

Yes, this is great! It explains why you’re raising it (lots of former colleagues work at the company the recruiter would be putting you forward to, so it might come up and you don’t want the recruiter to be blindsided), it’s straightforward about what happened, it’s not defensive, and it affirms that you’ve done the work to fix those issues, while stressing that others agree with that. Well done.

{ 535 comments… read them below }

      1. Jolene*

        I came here hoping for a list of most absurd snack selections.
        At my old job, there were only two snacks: cheese-its or starbursts. Big tubs, bought over and over for years. But, only ever those two.

        1. Garblesnark*

          i was once in charge of snack procurement at an office where everyone loved refrigerated airheads.

          it never really sounded to me like the most delicious way to lose a dental filling, but our team morale was directly tied to how many airheads were in the fridge.

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        When I had a snack budget and discretion, it turned out that the “healthy” chips were the least popular by an order of magnitude, enough that I wound up dropping them to reduce the amount of chip wastage. There were zero complaints. (I did get some quibbling over the power bar selection but our vendor just didn’t have the range that some of the people wanted.)

        My manager said that I spoiled my site, but since I was coming in under budget I took that as a compliment. ;)

      3. Tall one*

        Each to their own tastes. I don’t see the appeal in either Cheetos or dried figs. If my employer only offered deep fried snacks and sugary drinks for free I would be as bummed as you are over kombucha.

        OP should keep the focus on the over budget part of the issue, not fight the judgyness with their own bias. And make sure that the selection is interesting for everyone.
        My employer offers coffee, tea, water and fruit for free, and there is a vending machine for pop and other snacks. I have never heard anyone complain.

        1. Sloanicota*

          It actually is super hard to buy office snacks that will please everybody, which is why most of the offices I’ve worked in … don’t stock snacks. They stock coffee and herbal tea and people are welcome to water.

          1. gmg22*

            But there is a middle ground between kombucha and Cheetos, right? An office I worked in supplied snacks: fruit, yogurt, pretzels and microwave popcorn, along with the requisite coffee and tea. Anything else had to be a special request to the office manager and she would see if it would fit into the budget. Always seemed to me that it worked fine and everyone was happy with (and ate) the snacks.

            1. A person*

              Agree there should be a middle ground. Popchips and skinny pop are popular in my office. That said… we don’t turn down Cheetos and potato chips either… the protein bars are not popular… fruit is hit or miss.

              We also stock coffee (and creamer), tea, water, a couple random flavors of angry water, and 1 or two diet and regular soda options (like Coke and Mnt Dew). No one complained until our admin started trying to stock monster energy drinks cuz she saw someone drink one one day. That got stopped by her manager pretty quickly… but otherwise we are pretty chill with this options. In the summer we also occasionally get popsicles which are popular.

          2. MelMc*

            I was once in charge of purchasing the general supplies at my previous job. Started out normal, with only coffee, sugar, and dried creamer. Then someone went on a diet and it was coffee, sugar, sugar substitute, and creamer. Then someone asked for tea. Then flavored tea. Until one day you’re questioning why you’re buying instant hot chocolate with mini marshmallows and instant hot chocolate with no marshmallows but also a bag of full-sized marshmallows because of the marshmallow war in the office and the whole system crashes down.

          3. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Used to work at a place that paid for Dunkin Donuts every other weekday out of petty cash, and we were on a rotating schedule to pick them up on our way to work. My boss finally asked me if I liked donuts, and I answered ‘Not really.’ He gently suggested that I drop off the schedule, because no one liked the donuts I brought in.

            I didn’t know you could ask for 2 dozen assorted donuts, and chose what I thought people would like. Apparently, I made really poor choices.

            1. Dek*

              I’m really wondering just what kind of donuts would be considered “poor choices” in an office, because it seems to me that every time there’s an assortment, they all get gone eventually over here.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              This is kind of hilarious and I’m so curious what donuts you brought. If the donut shop stocks them they can’t be *that* unpopular surely?

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                In our office, cake donuts were not very popular, and that’s what I asked for. Plain, cinnamon sugar, peanut or coconut covered, blueberry, stuff like that.

                Turns out my colleagues loved Boston Creme Pie and jelly donuts, and all the frosted and glazed donuts. Crullers and Long Johns, too.

                If you don’t care for donuts, they’re all the same. Boy, was I wrong.

                1. Candy Morningstar*

                  Oh yeah, no one ever eats the cake donuts. Or the powdered ones that don’t have a filling.

                2. Michelle Smith*

                  I like the ones you selected better. Nothing grosser to me than a filled donut. They would have hated my pickup days too haha.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  Cake donuts are my jam and cinnamon sugar is my very favorite. I try not to eat any donuts unless that one is included — if it is, I’ll fight people for it.

                  I love Dunkin’s Boston Creme donut. Unfortunately, there is a Dunkin steps from my office (who am I kidding; there’s one here on every street corner!) and it’s very very tempting. One Friday there was barely anyone in here and I decided I wanted some so I went down and got a dozen various and shared them out with the lucky peeps who bothered to come in, lol.

        2. Harried HR*

          Our Health Insurance carrier has an annual wellness budget which we submit receipts for the snacks we buy and get reimbursed. So the criteria is “heathier options” baked chips, fruit bars, popcorn chips, trail mix, breakfast bars, water (sparkling & still). These snacks get eaten because we make sure there’s a variety and the company gets reimbursed so zero cost (Win:Win)

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I actually prefer baked chips. Not for the health reasons. I just like the texture. (They’re often crunchier than fried.)

            But I have never worked anywhere that supplied regular snacks.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Same, and they don’t leave your fingers as greasy.

              And I agree that there is a lot of ground that can be covered between Cheetos and soy yogurt.

          2. Artemesia*

            I laugh at the thought that ‘fruit bars’ or most breakfast bars or trail mixes are healthy choices. Granola bars are generally as healthy as candy bars. Of course if an insurance carrier were willing to finance the sweets budget, why not, but it is a bit of a joke.

            1. KayDeeAye*

              I thought about that, too! Healthiness-wise, there isn’t a big difference between a granola bar and an oatmeal cookie, but the oatmeal cookie tastes better (unless it’s contaminated with raisins, but then I don’t like granola bars with raisins, either. But I digress.)

              1. Autofill Contact*

                You know, I’ve come around to raisins in cookies (as long as I am fully aware before biting that the raisins will be there) but raisins in granola bars is something I can’t get on board with. I don’t know why it’s different, but it is.

            2. Presea*

              Different people have different health needs. A granola bar can be good for blood sugar issues. Plus it can be a bit of a “gateway snack” for people who are trying to introduce healthier foods into their diet and want to take baby steps. I can totally see the health insurance’s logic.

              1. Lydia*

                Except insurance companies aren’t thinking like that. They’re thinking of perception. Granola bars are perceived as healthier, so they are covered.

            3. morethantired*

              The natural fiber content in granola bars and nutritional value is better than that of candy bars. It’s pretentious to act like sugar content is the sole factor of whether or not something is “healthier.”

              1. Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood*

                Exactly. The sugar doesn’t cancel out the fiber and antioxidants present in the oats and other whole grains, dried fruit, etc.

            4. Katie A*

              That really depends on the granola bar. Sure, maybe they aren’t the healthiest snack, but a lot of the ones available these days are better in terms of, for example, added sugar than a straight up candy bar. The ones I had as a kid (Nature Valley) have more sugar than some newer brands, though. I compared to a Snickers and it’s about half as much added sugar for one package, so it is better if less sugar is your goal. Almost the same amount of protein, though. Snickers has a gram more, actually, depending where you look.

              I’m confused by the comment on trail mix, though. Nuts and dried fruit are relatively healthy, so a mix of the two is also relatively healthy. I think the idea is also that something like that with protein in it will be more satiating than something that is just sugar like candy or just carbs and fat like chips.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                If you’re trying to cut back on added sugar specifically, trail mixes can be all over the map. The ones with chocolate chips are obvious, but also watch out for dried cranberries (which need a ton of sugar to be palatable) and yogurt-covered anything.

                Then again, I’ve had more luck with commercial trail mixes than commercial granola. I love granola, but I can’t find a single one without a ton of added sugar.

                1. FSU*

                  I’m in the U.S. Amazon has quite a few options for sugar free granola. My local grocery store carries one brand (I forget which) that uses dried, powdered dates in place of sugar. It tastes just as good as regular granola.

            5. saskia*

              As someone who has eaten maaaaany candy bars and a smaller but still fair number of granola bars in my life… this is not generally true. Also, it’s pretty off-topic.

            6. Nicole Maria*

              I know any comment that starts with “actually” or “technically” is inherently annoying, however, technically no food is ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’.

              By definition that term only applies to living things, although I understand when people say a food is healthy they mean it’s health-promoting, but that’s still weird to say because no single food has that much impact on your health and besides that health is so variable. There are a lot of situations where a granola bar, or even a candy bar, would be the healthiest option for someone.

            7. shedubba*

              Granola bars and candy bars are similar in sugar content, that is true, but there are other factors in whether a food meets your nutritional needs, like fiber, protein, micronutrients, and situational needs like hypoglycemia or diabetic blood sugar issues. Not to mention the fact that granola bars vary widely in the type and quality of ingredients, and any blanket statement about them is bound to be inaccurate in many cases. Reducing a food’s nutritional value to only its sugar content and ignoring the other nutrition it may or may not contain is short-sighted at best, and verging on orthorexia at worst.

            8. goddessoftransitory*

              Heh, this reminds me of Roger on American Dad: “Did you get the Sun Chips? They’re healthier for you than regular chips…OH! No they are NOT!”

        3. MK*

          The over-budget isn’t the only issue though, and the judgyness isn’t what OP objects to, it’s her using it as a pretext for not doing her job properly. Frankly, I would view this behaviour as dishonest; she is using the office snack budget solely for herself.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yes, it’s the “snacks only for me” that’s an issue (and the over-budget).
            One time we had a guy at my office tell the dude who re-filled the soda machine that “we” wanted a lot of Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper. (This was at least partly a joke.)

            So suddenly the soda machine had THREE buttons dedicated to this very specific soda that actually only this one guy liked, and were down two other sodas, so we would run out of everything else long before the dude would come back to re-fill.
            And then that one guy quit.

            (It took *months* before anyone was able to catch the soda machine guy again to correct the flavors, and then he helpfully put all the expired Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper cans in the compost bin.)

          2. Princess Sparklepony*

            I worked at a place with small departments and fairly generous snack budgets. All VPs had office fridges. One of the assistants would buy a flat of cranberry juice and then take it home. Absolutely dishonest. Finally she was told not to do it. But no repercussions, she seemed to know where bodies were buried.

        4. HonorBox*

          The budget thing is key, yes. But I think there’s room for “Jane went far over budget and only ordered things that she enjoyed.” It isn’t about the food Jane’s picking, but rather the fact that she wasn’t willing to consider anyone else’s preferences.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yes, the conversation to be had for “Jane went way overbudget with the snacks” and “Jane went way overbudget with the snacks AND was only buying things that she enjoyed” are different. One is a fairly straightforward “You have to keep on budget” conversation. The other involves talking to her about buying a selection for everyone and she doesn’t get to just have things for herself.

              1. Arts Akimbo*

                This seems like the simplest solution! I wonder if it’s being considered, and if not, why not.

        5. Happy meal with extra happy*

          I find it pretty judgy to act like OP specifically giving an example of Cheetos means that the only snacks OP would buy are Cheetos and that OP is biased against people who don’t like Cheetos.

        6. Antilles*

          I don’t think you need to keep focused on the budget.
          The fact that multiple people have directly asked for Cheetos and Coke and “Jane has flat out refused” is extremely relevant to the situation. Jane only buying stuff that she likes rather than a variety for everybody would be a problem even if she’d stayed 100% within budget.
          The purpose of the office snacks budget isn’t to be Jane’s personal grocery shopping, it’s to provide snacks for the office. She’s refusing to do that, even before you get to the fact she’s over-spending.

          1. My Useless 2 Cents*

            Agree. I think the low stakes “snacks” is making this seem pettier than it is. If Jane only bought the sparkly purple pens she likes and refused to buy the standard blue and black pens that everyone else preferred, would it change the issue? Or if Jane spent the office budget every year upgrading her desk (new chair, new computer, new monitor, etc.) while denying to buy anyone else what they request.

            The issue is not that she is going over budget (though that is something to talk about), the issue is that Jane is using company funds to buy herself things that are supposed to be communal; and that, to me, is on the razors edge of embezzlement.

            1. Just Another Cog*

              Plus, sounds like Jane is ornery and not a great team player. OP says she is combative. Wonder if that’s with anything she is asked to do that she doesn’t agree with? Maybe there are bigger issues with her than just her selfish snack purchases. I hate crappy co-workers.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            All of this.

            She’s just straight-up refusing to do something she’s been asked to do, that is not illegal/unethical. That’s the problem.

          3. fhqwhgads*

            Focusing on the budget is relevant and appropriate because OP has been put in charge of said budget. Sure, it’d still be a problem if Jane were staying in budget but still only buying stuff for herself, but then it’s Jane’s manager’s purview. The reason it’s OP’s purview is the being in charge of that budget. Hence approaching from the budget angle first, and adding in the other problem is the more logical way to go, rather than focusing on the other problem alone.

          4. I want cheesy poofs!!!*

            I think that the office should simply stop buying snacks, and let people buy their own. You will never please everyone. Cheetos are indeed very unhealthy.

            1. Antilles*

              With only 6 people, you absolutely CAN please everyone; that’s a small enough group that it’s totally viable to just say “hey everybody write down 1-2 snacks you’d like us to buy” and then just do that.

              Why would it matter that Cheetos are unhealthy? Nobody’s forcing Jane to eat them, she can just have her kombucha snack while Bob has Cheetos.

        7. sparkle emoji*

          But Jane is the one bringing in the judgyness. If the snack budget is meant for the whole office and several people have asked for Cheetos and Coke, Jane should add those to the office snack offerings, at least occasionally. Jane’s refusal to buy things she considers “bad” or “unhealthy” is part of the problem. The snack selector needs to be factoring in requests and budget, not their personal preferences.

        8. Observer*

          not fight the judgyness with their own bias.

          Except that it’s not the OO’s bias at play here – it’s the specific requests of the staff. Now, if the OP were to say “From now on we’re only getting snacks that I like and it’s ok because we are under budget” I would agree with you.

          But the OA was out of line, even if she had been within budget because she was the only one who liked this stuff.

        9. Irish Teacher.*

          I got the impression that those were just examples and that the actually items both that the admin orders and the ones suggested might be different. I took it as she was just ordering very specific items that nobody else in the office liked and cheetos and cola were just examples of more popular items rather than the only alternative.

        10. Knope Knope Knope*

          Yeah I was surprised to see Cheetos and Coke referred to as mainstream. I would definitely think there’s a middle ground that’s getting missed here. Cheese sticks? Crackers? Bottled water? I’m not super “healthy” by any stretch but this seemed like an example of two extreme ends of the spectrum.

          1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            I’d be super annoyed if a snack budget got spent on bottled water, generating a huge amount of waste just so people don’t have to take ten seconds to refill a reusable bottle.

          2. penny dreadful analyzer*

            I’m surprised to see anyone be surprised to see Coke referred to as “mainstream.” You may or may not personally drink it, but it’s the most recognizable brand in the world and has been for several decades. It made $45 billion in sales in 2023. It doesn’t get much more mainstream than that.

        11. Elle by the sea*

          Our office (mainly the HR – they are the ones curating snacks) decided that they will keep only healthy snacks. Similar to the ones Janes has. No one objected that much, though everyone would like a few Kinder chocolates to come back in the selection.

          1. JustaTech*

            I could see if there was some push for “healthier” (or even “less messy”) snacks that the buyer might choose Cheese-its over Cheetos (or goldfish) because they’re the same general category of “crunchy, salty, cheese-flavored”.

            Dried figs won’t fill the desire for crunchy/salty, just like pretzels won’t fill the desire for sweet/chewy.

        12. I want cheesy poofs!!!*

          The office is allowed to decide it wants to offer healthy snacks, as opposed to ultra-processed foods like Cheetos, which we know are very bad from a health standpoint. Unfortunately, employers do shoulder much of the burden of health care costs.

          Workers who want Cheetos are free to buy them in their own.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            The office in this letter has not decided to offer healthy snacks, Jane alone has decided to use the snack budget meant for the office to buy snacks only she likes, which also happen to be considered healthy. If the office wants healthy snacks that’s fine, but it would still require buying a variety of things that many employees like, not just Jane. You seem very hung up on the fact that the examples of foods LW used are foods you consider “unhealthy” but that’s missing the point. The issue is that Jane has gone rogue and used the morale-boosting snack budget as her personal kombucha fund, and is combative to people asking for other options.

            1. Dramatic Intent To Flounce*

              And I wouldn’t be surprised if there are snacks people would like that ARE healthy – simply more mainstream than vegan yogurt and kombucha. Given Jane’s been refusing to buy other things /and no one else eats them,/ it seems like she’s only buying snacks to her VERY specific tastes with no room for compromises like fresh fruit or healthier chip alternatives. (For that matter, the fact that she’s overspending to buy SPECIFICALLY expensive brands seems relevant. There are plenty of dried fruit options that aren’t $60 a bag!)

            2. goddessoftransitory*

              This. It all stops with Jane. She’s commandeered the snack budget, flat out refused to order things her coworkers who are also entitled to snacks under that budget requested, AND went over budget.

              Frankly, at this point I would consider that theft. She’s shopping for herself with company funds.

          2. Nicole Maria*

            “Cheetos, which we know are very bad from a health standpoint”

            Not really, no single food really has the power to make or break someone’s health. If you only eat cheetos that would be very bad from a health standpoint but so would eating only apples.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            “The office” did not decide that. One person just did it, and when told to do to otherwise, refused.

          4. aebhel*

            Sure, but it’s not ‘the office’ that’s doing this, it’s Jane, specifically. It doesn’t sound like anyone senior has directed her to do this; she’s decided of her own volition to be the office nutrition coach so she can buy herself $60 bags of dried fruit on the company budget.

      4. CB212*

        Lolololol. That said, I’ve worked in a lot of free-snack startup offices and I’d be shocked to see, and never have seen, Cheetos. Inviting that orange dust onto (and into) every company computer? That feels like a very specific ‘no thanks’ – and will save the IT team some money in keyboard replacements.

        But you can get a lot of mileage and a lot of smiles out of a goldfish dispenser or similar lower-mess cheezy snack.

        1. Observer*

          So, if that were issue she would have offered something like that. *And* she would have purchased coke.

          I think we all get that sometimes specific things people want can’t be purchased for some reason. But that’s different from what this OA was doing.

        2. DisgruntledPelican*

          We have cheetos available in my office and in the six and a half years I’ve worked here, not a single person has needed their keyboard replaced because of them. Probably because we’re adults who know how to use napkins.

        3. confession time*

          Not only did my prior employer have Cheetos, they had Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and I 100% ate them at my desk (with a wet paper towel on hand) at least once a week.

    1. John Smith*

      I’d say downright audaciousy and selfish – my blood presaure monitor nearly exploded while reading that letter. And to complain and be judgemental….what an absolute whopper.

        1. Testing*

          That would probably be … interesting. Especially the aftermath. And I don’t mean the interpersonal one.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, does the wifi reach the toilet stalls, too? That’s where I’d be if I ate more than one or two figs…

              1. Cedrus Libani*

                Do you bite your fig at me, sir? I do bite my fig, Jane. Do you bite your fig at me, sir? (Is the law of our side if I say Aye? No.) No, Jane, I do not bite my fig at you, Jane, but I bite my fig, Jane.

          2. LifeBeforeCorona*

            No no, like the Johnny Cash song, one piece at a time. A fig a day. And I do like Fig Newtons. Still, it goes against the spirit of office snacks to limit the snacks to one person’s preference.

            1. Testing*

              I see! Well, that’d be pretty healthy for you. But she might beat you to it if you’re only eating one a day.

              She’d also be perfectly in her right to say to OP that other colleagues also eat them… so you’d be stuck with them. Again, a healthy choice.

        2. Uk girl*

          I am in the UK and I am trying to imagine how big that bag would be. My guess is about 5 pounds at least.

          1. anononon*

            Sixty dollars is about £45, which would buy you about 3.5kg of dried figs from UK online supermarket Ocado, in smaller packs. Bulk-buying from a wholesaler might get even more.

            1. bamcheeks*

              I have just looked that up and it’s not NEARLY as many dried figs as I was hoping for. No wonder I don’t buy them.

              Sidenote: I don’t get why dried fruit isn’t cheaper! My kids love dried pineapple and it’s way more expensive than tinned or even fresh, when surely it’s massively cheaper to transport. :(

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I happen to like figs. So yeah, I would stand in front of her desk and pop one in my mouth ever so often. What is she going to do, complain I am eating the snacks meant for the entire office?

          1. Hannah Lee*

            If I were the LW 2 months ago, before the change in responsibilities, I would stand there, put a half dozen on a napkin and say “I’m going to deliver one to everyone!” and then walk away (and put them in a container in my lunch bag)
            And then do it again the next day, without explanation)
            And then do it again the next day and the next and the next
            And then take them home and turn them into some fig snack (like homemade fig newtons or something you’d think everyone else would enjoy too) and bring those treats to the office “Surprise!”
            Just to mess with her

            But now that OP has standing to manage that snack budget? Absolutely loop in this person’s manager to what’s been happening, let them know things need to change and make it so going forward, the snack choices have a) stay within the allocated budget and b) reflect the snack preferences of ALL employees, not just the person doing the ordering.

      1. Mongrel*

        my blood presaure monitor nearly exploded while reading that letter

        Well obviously you need to cut back on the unhealthy snacks /jk

      2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Hooo, it’s your fortunate experience! In one of my earliest jobs there was a vegetarian who would carp about my lunch if she even walked in the room “Ew, I can’t believe you’re eating a dead animal”. She was my first experience of this.

        Then a few years later, a friend converted and he was unstoppably obnoxious. He hounded his wife to the point she had a little mantra to stop herself from buying cheese: “Cheese is death, cheese is death, cheese is death.” I am no longer friends with him, though that was a side reason.

        I’ve not experienced it since then, and I agree most veg people are chill, but those 2 were so awful I will never forget it. I have never experienced the “angry omnivore” IRL, only online.

      3. Bad Wolf*

        I attended a kind of brainstorming meeting with a bunch of independent contractors. The organizer asked everyone to contribute to the meeting snacks because we were going to be there for several hours. And because she was vegan, she requested the snacks to be vegan so that “everyone can eat them.” Well, seems like noone else was vegan because, in a pinch, the only snack we all could think of was grapes. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE including the vegan organizer, brought grapes. We had easily 20lbs of grapes to snack on, and nothing else.
        It’s not that omnivores refuse to eat vegan/vegetarian food. They resent having their options limited so that “everyone can eat them.”

    2. Not A Girl Boss*

      I cannot tell a lie… I selfishly volunteered to take over the ‘buying coffee station supplies’ job no one wanted, for the sole purpose of being able to sneak in decaf hazelnut K-cups…

      But I also polled the office on what THEY wanted to see, and a few people were very pleased that stevia packets made the new list of options. But I had to break the news that single serve oatmilk creamers don’t exist in our price point.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Oatmilk lasts a LONG time though, so you could get the jugs (hopefully at a decent price)! We used to at OldJob and we didn’t have to buy it as often because it lasted.

        1. Lora*

          *stares at empty 1l oatmilk package that was full an hour ago, stares at camera*

          Till you office gains an oatmilk lover who doesn’t care about tea or coffee.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        I wrangle the coffee supplies in our off, and why yes I did hand pick some items, that’s the perk of being the person who manages it (peppermint tea and a particular decaf coffee) But those got phased in a couple of months after we restarted the free coffee/tea station which had been stopped in 2020 due to COVID. And other people are enjoying them now too.

        The first things to show up were regular the coffee packs, green tea, black tea and hot chocolate along with sugar and half & half creamers. Because those are the things that the majority of people enjoy and wanted.

      3. ferrina*

        This is how to do it. If it’s a volunteer role, you get to pick one reasonably priced thing that is your favorite. That’s the bonus for adding work for yourself. The rest need to reflect the needs of the office.

        If it’s part of your job description, you need to reflect the needs of the office. Same as you would for office supplies or anything else. No bonus things, and definitely not the whole budget (just….what the what?!)

      4. MigraineMonth*

        Ah, that reminds me of when a new hire stood up at an all-hands staff meeting (approx 8,000 people) to say our company was racist against Asians because we stocked cow milk in all the breakroom fridges but not soy milk.

        (We did have free soy milk in the main snack area, and you were welcome to take a carton back to your breakroom; they’d just stopped stocking it in all breakrooms because they had to keep throwing it out unopened.)

        1. sparkle emoji*

          Not to derail, but the assertion that soy milk is a beverage just for Asian people feels way more racist. Weird.

            1. AnonForThis*

              I believe this is what the new hire meant. It was certainly a very strong stance to take during her first month at the company, though.

      1. Artemesia*

        yup if I were the boss and had to monitor and referee snack whining and hoarding and the snack wars, I’d cut snacks and let people bring their own. But then I have never worked in an office that provided them

    3. Starlike*

      I think that the level of overspending on items she knows are only for herself is worthy of that responsibility being reassigned immediately. If we’re talking $60 bags of fruit regularly as one of many items over potentially years, and a stated budget that’s being overshot, I think at least ethically it approaches small-scale embezzlement.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Yup. She should lose this responsibility ASAP. Call up her manager and say that she overspent last year and was rude about requests so X is going to do the snack shopping from now on instead. I think that being in charge of the budget should at least get you leverage to take a task away from someone who went over budget. Trying to fight her on a wider range of snacks and lower cost is just not worth it. This is why she can’t have nice things.

        1. Trice*

          She should still have to do the work (and no one else should be assigned the extra task). But if she doesn’t fix her shopping list she should have to get sign-off in advance of the purchase.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yes, I think she needs 1-a sit down explaining that she both has to keep within the budget and that she is REQUIRED to take everyone’s asks into account (not necessarily buying cheetos every time, but the reasonable requests have to be in rotation), and 2-for at least 6-8 cycles of ordering she needs a sign-off from someone (OP, since she’s in charge of the budget?) before she orders. If she doesn’t get that, she will experience a consequence of some sort, which OP/her direct boss have worked out and presented to her before. And they’ll be keeping an eye and checking in with staff to make sure things aren’t being ignored just because Jane doesn’t want them.

    4. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

      I was expecting some really unusual snacks, like those Chinese spicy gluten nuggets, or squid jerky, or tamarind candy, or curry-flavored potato chips. Figs and yogurt is pretty boring next to that. And much less tasty.

      1. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

        Ooooo tamarind candy! I’d buy that. But my whole office would eat it.

      2. Dinwar*

        That can work. For a while my office had a thing where we brought in really weird snacks for people to try–camel jerky, jalapeno chips, dried seaweed (this is the South, there are still people who look at me odd for saying I like sushi), bitter melon, a whole variety of things. One guy went to Hawaii and brought back some fun stuff, another person went to Europe and brought back some chip flavors we don’t get in the States. But we bought it on our own dime, and there was the expectation that “Weird food at break time” was a whole thing at the office. We had a fifteen minute argument about how to properly use a French Press and everyone treated it as perfectly normal, because it was for us. And enjoying the snack was secondary to enjoying the experience of trying a huge variety of snacks.

        Now we’ve moved on to weird home brews. Spicy meads, meads aged in bourbon barrels (the small 1-gallon ones), tea wine…. I’m making coffee wine as soon as this batch of wine gets bottled. Not enjoyed at work, of course!

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Oh, that reminds me – the last company I worked at, near Boston, one of my co-workers was from Texas. She took a vacation back home in Texas one year and came back with a massive amount of beef jerky, from different makers, in different styles.

          It was all good, some I liked better than others, but there were a couple that I absolutely loved. I totally kick myself to this day that I did not write down the names of those particular ones, because occasionally I’ll get a craving for jerky, and THAT jerky would be awesome. (it was beefy, not too salty, not sweet, not overly greasy, not powdery/too try, one had a little kick, another had ginger/garlic thing going on, and some were just straight forward beef jerky)

          There are so many different jerky types on the market, and some that I really don’t like, and you can’t usually tell from a package or ingredients how it’s going to be, plus it’s so expensive, so usually I just go without. (if it was $3-4 a pack, I’d try different ones from time to time, but aside from a few grocery store brands I know I don’t like, it all seems to be $7-10 a pack. I’d splurge for one I’d like, but that’s a lot when I don’t know if I’m going to like it)

    5. Momma Bear*

      Since LW’s new role gives them control over the snack budget, I’d tell her supervisor that I’m changing the way ordering snacks is handled. It needs to be brought back in line and that includes having more transparency into the items ordered – for example, the $60 bags of fruit that few people enjoy.

      You could poll the staff to see what people want and then from there make a list that is more balanced and fair. We use a spreadsheet for office supplies and miscellaneous purchasing for our particular needs. It’s transparent who requests what (everyone can add) and if there’s any question, the buyer comes back to you via email if they need more information to get it approved. Sometimes we need to justify the brand, vendor, or timeframe. Now, you don’t want a fight over one person’s choices, but some transparency might help rein her in. Or not. But I think any way LW does it needs to remove her blank check. Order up to the allotted amount and that’s that for the week/month.

      I’ve had offices with snacks and drinks and offices without. If I didn’t like the offerings, I did as LW did and bought my own to keep at my desk/labeled in the fridge. Or if we ran out, we did without. It’s a nice to have but if people abuse it, it will be a nice to have HAD.

    6. OMG, Bees!*

      Honestly, sometimes I feel bad taking free food from friends who cannot eat that food due to their allergies. Spending an entire office snack budget on herself? Riot!

  1. Pink Sprite*

    OP#2: How annoying! And rudely intrusive.
    My recommendation would be to get a fan instead of a white noise machine. The latter might look too obvious to your manager, whereas a fan should look more natural/normal. I use one even in the winter, not pointing at me, but just because I find rooms get too stuffy.

    1. OrangeCup*

      I had a bad boss once, and a colleague told me that when the company was smaller and the department used to sit all in a row in cubicles, she used to listen into their phone calls and critique everything after as well, down to word choice. She also used to critique our emails. And these were seasoned professionals who had all been working for 10 or more years and did not need this level of micromanagement. Don’t you just love how the corporate response is always move the employees away and not get rid of the bad manager?

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        During college winter breaks I worked a bunch of temp jobs, mostly as front desk receptionists. I had a job once for about two days where the person who trained me (training: answer phone, transfer call to appropriate employee extension) sat at the desk next to me and every time I took more than half a second to transfer the call (because I had to, you know, look up the extension since I didn’t have it memorized), she would ask who they were calling for and then tell me the extension. It drove me absolutely bananas. I can’t imagine having to deal with that level of micromanaging for more than two days. (My almost-retired grandboss is a micromanager but not even she is that bad.)

      2. Jezebella*

        This just reminded me of a certain art and design university where the chancellor and her flying monkeys would go to classes, video them, and then call in professors for a line-by-line critique of the entire hour. Unsurprisingly, they are always, and I mean ALWAYS, hiring.

      3. AKchic*

        I had a junior colleague who worked in the cubicle across from me in a job a decade back. Anytime she thought I was taking too long on MY phone calls, she would complain to our boss. My job frequently had me on the phone to various agencies, and since I’d been with the company for a long time, and had spent my entire life living in the city, I knew a lot of people and would spend a few minutes chatting (i.e., “greasing the wheels” or “socially lubricating the situation”). Sometimes a friendly demeanor and getting to know an attorney at the DA’s office was more important than being quick in that line of work. Inevitably, my boss would come back and tell me my 90 second call could be 30 seconds, but guess who got documentation faster and niceties from the offices? Me, not my junior colleague.
        My junior colleague and direct boss were exactly why I left that job after 8 years. I couldn’t stand the junior wanting to be my unofficial manager, or my boss letting her do it so she didn’t have to do her own job (let alone the gossip and drama for such little pay). They were furious I left for more than double the pay (I wasn’t quiet about the salary bump).

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Putting on podcasts works because the conversations get muddled and it’s hard to hear one over the other.

      1. Kella*

        Can you carry on a phone call with a podcast going on in the background???? That sounds like a cognitive nightmare to me.

    3. Catwhisperer*

      +1 to using a fan as it’s easier to attribute to needing for other reasons than a white noise machine. If your manager is so out of touch that she sees nothing wrong with eavesdropping and admitting to it, I can see her having a negative reaction to you using something specifically designed to cut noise.

      Also if you want to be really petty you can do what I did to a college roommate and lean a box fan against your shared wall. It’ll sound normal to you but the vibrations will carry through her wall and make it extra noisy on her side.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yeah I was thinking something that would actually vibrate on the wall would be perfect in discouraging the glass on the wall approach. If she is listening that much, she may well be. using an assist.

        1. Dr. Vibrissae*

          Not necessarily. I worked in an office with cinder block walls, but drop ceilings (so the space above all the offices was connected). On one side, my desk and the neighboring desk shared a wall. If I cared to, I could hear literally every word of her side of any phone conversation as long as she was speaking at a normal volume. I assumed she could also hear me and tried to act accordingly (to avoid being rude, because my job involved dictating reports).

          1. JustaTech*

            My office was like this (until they renovated and now everyone can hear everything) – we couldn’t particularly hear the folks next to us, but the person two offices down came through crystal-clear. Which was awkward because she took a lot of calls on speakerphone about somewhat-confidential stuff.

            It was very hard to explain that yes, we were two offices away, and no, the people between couldn’t hear, but we could. (We weren’t asking for her to do anything differently with her calls, we just wanted her to know that if it was sensitive that she might want to use the headset.)

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          If it’s like the conference room walls at my office, no assist is needed to hear every word said at normal volume in the next room. I’ve had people who call into a meeting say “what was that” to something said by the person *two rooms over.*

      2. ferrina*

        This is all really good points. I love the plausible deniability of a fan (“what, the fan? No, of course I wasn’t trying to stop you from eavesdropping and critiquing me based on incomplete information! I was just increasing air circulation! It’s good for my sinuses!”

    4. ZingBat*

      Another option would be a little indoor fountain– they’re decorative and pretty normal to have in an office, but the sound also makes it harder to overhear conversations. If her manager asks, she could say that she has it to drown out the sounds of other people’s conversations through the thin walls, so she can focus on her own work.

    5. All het up about it*

      Another option is an air filter. I’ve used one in office since a “Big #-0” birthday trip got tainted by Covid I picked up at the office before we left. It definitely has a white noise machine element to it!

      1. PiousWaffle*

        Seconding air filter/air purifier! My husband grabbed a bunch during COVID and they really are basically white noise machines with added air-cleaning. We’ve also used them during thunderstorms to drown out the thunder noise for our pets (Hopefully this doesn’t go against commenting rules but) they tend to go on sale on Amazon a lot, especially during Prime days, and he’s always been able to buy them there less than full price!

  2. They Don’t Make Sunday*

    While this is not a solution to the problem (and I absolutely agree with Alison’s advice to LW1), if I worked in that office, I would get a big kick out of decimating Jane’s fancy snack stash and feigning ignorance about it. Like, “Yeah? I ate the snacks you bought FOR EVERYONE, so?”

    1. JSPA*

      I wonder… is there any chance she thought the snack budget was for her? And, getting requests rather than demands for other purchases, thought people were asking a favor???

      Almost certainly not.

      But… coming at it as, “we think there has been a long-standing misunderstanding, and here is how we will be handling it” allows for some face-saving.

      However, LW1, if Jane literally feels that she CANNOT order certain snacks for whatever reason (philosophical, triggering) or is otherwise good enough to keep, but this is her ISSUE that she will fight you on (or persecute her replacement over), you probably have to get the task moved away from her.

      I guess one could make buying snacks a rotating burden for all who want to opt in, and give them $X to do so.

      1. Santiago*

        I feel like most adults probably know that the office snack budget is not a Personal Treat from their corporate overlords, but what do I know? Maybe she is physically incapable (?) of doing she doesn’t want to do, as an adult, such as buying snacks to reflect multiple individuals taste.

        Her loosing the privilege of ordering snacks makes sense to me though.

        1. JSPA*

          Yeah, it’s a barely plausible polite fiction, to rechannel / divert / oppose without directly opposing Jane’s barely plausible impolite actions.

          It gives her (almost) nothing to push back against, unless she wants to officially register that she has been knowingly disobeying (not to mention stealing). It also puts the focus on the less legally-problematic of the problem, while dealing with both parts, going forward.

          Plus, who knows… it’s possible that at some point someone in the power structure did, vaguely or explicitly, tell her to “get what she wants,” or say that it’s ok to spend “a bit extra” for “healthy food.”

          (I’ve found there’s really no limit on people hearing what they want to hear. Not everyone, all the time. But always some people, some of the time.)

          1. Observer*

            It also puts the focus on the less legally-problematic of the problem, while dealing with both parts, going forward.

            What on earth could be legally problematic about requiring her to buy snacks that the office likes?

            Please let’s not get into some sort of fan-fic where she actually has some sort of mental health issue that makes it impossible for her to buy any snacks but these or that she has some religious belief that only shows up as a prohibition on buying any other snacks but the ones she has been choosing. (And if either thing were in play, it would have 100% been on her to bring it up.)

            1. JSPA*

              She spent money not in the snack budget, i.e. from some other budget, on snacks. For herself. That’s either theft or cruising close to theft.

              Theft is a crime.

              If you don’t want her gone, don’t accuse her of being a thief.

              Rather, very obviously sidestep the “Not only did you waste the whole snack account on your snacks, you stole money from some other account to buy [your] snacks” part of the problem.

              (Or, y’know, just fire her for it.)

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I don’t think that is face-saving at all, I think it’s kind of the opposite to tell her you think she misunderstood the situation so badly! There’s no reason to pussyfoot around it. “You’re spending too much money on snacks and you’re not buying the things we have asked you to buy.”

        2. münchner kindl*

          Well, if we want to extend grace, some companies have a budget for office snacks at all because it is a treat for the employees (and some companies don’t have official snacks at all because they have other treats/ perks for the employees).

          And there is, if you squint enough, a kind of development from “I feel triggered/ dislike unhealthy foods, so I will buy dried fruit for all (which is also better for employee health, which company wants!)” to “nobody else is eating the dried fruit, why are these people making bad choices about unhealthy diet” to “their problem if they don’t eat healthy dried fruit, *I* like it” and so Jane buys snacks for the whole office but is the only one who eats it but it’s not her “fault”.

          1. Dog momma*

            How does one feel “triggered ” by unhealthy food? I make it a point to try to eat healthier but there are times that I dont. And don’t really care or monitor the eating habits of others…

            1. bamcheeks*

              I don’t know if it’s “feel triggered” so much, but there are lots of people who would prefer not to have lots of snacks like sweets, biscuits and crisps too convenient because they’re much more likely to end up eating way more than they want. That’s how I shop at home, and if I was asked my personal preferences at work I’d say I’d rather NOT have lots of snacks available. Obviously in an office you go with what the majority wants or what management wants, but it sounds like nobody has told Jane that.

              1. Yup*

                I hadn’t thought of that. But yeah, personally I do not like keeping unhealthy snacks handy as it’s just too easy to mindlessly eat junk food—which is fine on occasion for me, but not great if every day. No judgment to people who do, but I guess this could be seen as problematic for some coworkers? The solution isn’t $60 figs though. Sounds like this company needs to get a better feel for what employees need.

              2. Phryne*

                This. I don’t care what others decide to eat, but I would really not like to have unhealthy food constantly within reach at work. I don’t buy them at home except for an occasional weekend treat, and I do not really need my employer to buy them for me.
                But if snacks are being bought, it should obviously not be just dried figs. Are they even that healthy anyway? I thought most dried fruit has a lot of sugar… I’d personally prefer fresh fruit, bananas or apples, something you can easily eat when you get peckish.

                1. Silver Robin*

                  A dried apple is going to have as much sugar as a fresh apple, the only thing that left was water. It will taste sweeter because the sugar is more concentrated now.

                  Some brands do add sugar, but it depends on the brand.

                  Fruit is basically all sugar, plus some bits of fiber and vitamins. Remember, they are meant to be enticing to eat so seeds get dispersed. Sugar is far and away the biggest nutritional punch fruit has.

                2. Phryne*

                  @Silver Robin
                  Yes I know, but the sugar will be more concentrated, so the same weight amount of dried fruit will have more sugar, so if you eat the same amount to make your stomach feel the same amount full, you will have consumed more sugar. Also, depending on the fruit, fresh fruit generally contains more vitamins as they don’t really keep well after the fruit is plucked. So overall fresh fruit is considered more healthy, or at least dried fruit is not necessarily a healthy snack.
                  But my whole fresh fruit preference is just more for taste.

                3. Happy meal with extra happy*

                  Having a selection of fresh fruit available in a small office seems like a perfect opportunity for a fruit fly infestation. Also, if you don’t want any unhealthy food available, are you taking the position that none should be, even if the majority of the office wants that?

                4. Charlotte Lucas*

                  Some dried fruit is high in iron. I like dried fruit, but it isn’t my go-to snack for the most part. But fresh fruit can spoil, so dried or fruit cups probably make the best choice for an office.

                  But if you’re getting something for everyone, you should have variety and take everyone’s taste into account.

                5. Phryne*

                  @ happy meal my comment literally starts with ‘I don’t care what others decide to eat’. But as this is a forum where people discuss things I gave my personal opinion on something. Hope you recover from that reach.

                  Also, my office has fresh fruit, a whole crate per week, and it is all gone long before it can go bad, but if it was not, someone in the office might have to take a bare minimum of responsibility and throw it out before it starts to rot. Shocking, I know, but there it is.

                6. Happy meal with extra happy*

                  But then your comment continues with “but I don’t want them within reach of me.” And that’s what would happen if the company provided those snacks. So, it’s not a reach in the slightest to ask you to clarify your two conflicting statements.

                  How many people are routinely in your office? I’m gonna make the assumption that it’s more than half a dozen.

                7. bamcheeks*

                  Happy meal, she was agreeing with me, and my comment also says, “I’d prefer not to have snacks available, but that’s just my personal preference and I recognise I don’t get to decide for everyone”. It’s completely possible to have a personal preference and also recognise that you don’t have everything according to your personal preference when you’re in a shared space! This is a weird thing to get caught up on.

              3. LifeBeforeCorona*

                It harks back to an earlier letter from someone who wanted the candy bowl removed from the office because it was too tempting for them to see it all the time.

              4. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

                Yeah, triggered is the wrong word but the most psychologically plausible path I can see for this situation developing is that at some point Jane either decided or was told that part of the snack-buying task was making sure healthy snacks were more readily available, and she took the idea and ran waaaaaaaaaay out in left field with it. If that’s the case, gradually walking her back by asking, not for Cheetos and coke but for seltzer water and pita chips or something could work… but giving someone else the task is much simpler and faster, so that would only be useful if for some reason the task can’t be taken away from Jane.

            2. sb51*

              Trigger is often used for eating disorders in a slightly different sense than the trauma response (or its pop culture misunderstood version). But it’s unlikely to be relevant here.

              1. sparkle emoji*

                Also, even if Jane does have an eating disorder that makes her unable to buy food that others want, it doesn’t mean the status quo can continue. If she can’t handle office snack selection without being paternalistic and rude towards requests, she doesn’t get to keep her fig fiefdom.

            3. I'm just here for the cats!*

              People who have weird eating habits and/or disordered eating. How many times have we seen letters about people who have had someone comment on their eating. I have a feeling that this is one of those people.

            4. Sleepy Office Worker*

              Some people just love to make their problems everyone’s problems, especially around food, I’ve found.

              I have a friend who brought in donuts to her company over the holidays (right before Christmas). She simply left them in the break room and let everyone know they were there if they felt like having one. The next week, she was running to the coffee shop and asked if anyone wanted a drink while she was there. One person went WILD on her, saying she better not bring any donuts back because it would ruin her diet and make her fat, and that she was a horrible person for bringing in the donuts last week.

              I understand that sometimes the allure of sweets is too tempting, but wow, it made my friend feel bad for doing something nice that everyone else appreciated.

          2. anon diabetic*

            Keep in mind that dried fruit is not a “healthy” snack for everyone. Maybe Jane needs to be reminded of that?

            Either way, she needs this duty gently removed from her, asap, because she’s definitely taking advantage.

          3. Artemesia*

            Dried fruit is pretty much all sugar and very unhealthy in quantity for anyone with blood sugar issues and eating a lot of it is healthwise like eating a lot of candy bars.

            1. Double A*

              This is ridiculously untrue about it being equivalent to candy bars. I just read that only 7 percent of Americans get enough fiber and BS like this is probably why.

              (People with blood sugar issues need to follow their doctor’s advice and personal needs obviously).

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          Oh definitely the way to handle it is to take the ordering away from her. OP even has the excuse of well now that I am lead and in charge of the budget it just makes sense for me to do it. Which is non confrontational. But if Jane really pushes, I would point out that she went way over budget so she can’t do it anymore because it has to be kept within the budget.

          And there is a lot of middle ground between figs and cheetos.

          1. Professor Plum*

            I’d say leave placing the order as Jane’s task, but take away the decision making about what to order. Here’s the list of snacks to keep in stock, or to order each month.

            1. Trice*

              Yes — I would be frustrated if Jane’s misbehaviour meant I had to take on a new task. It’s small but I would really hate doing it, and the possibility of showing her that weaponized incompetence will work in this office makes it even worse.

              1. New Jack Karyn*

                I don’t think the weaponized incompetence thing will be in play. She likes ordering the snacks, because she gets what she wants. Taking that chore away will not be a reward for her.

            2. Artemesia*

              If the ordering is left to her, this is what I would do. decide on what is to be stocked and have her stock that list. Anyone who wants something specific can bring their own, but the office will provide: yogurts, peanuts (if allergies are not an issue in the office), some sort of carbs i.e. particular cookies or chips or crackers, and maybe apples and oranges which both are pretty counter stable for a few days. And coffee and tea. And call it a day.

              And someone this abusive of their authority does not need to have their face saved.

            3. Office Lobster DJ*

              If Jane keeps the task, maybe that could be approached as “Hmmmmmmm, no one seems to be eating the office snacks, Jane. Let’s take a survey and come up with a few constants for the “To Order” list.”

              Then any further discussion can be made into a matter of giving the people what they want, rather than arguing with Jane over the rightness of any particular type of snack.

            4. Observer*

              I’d say leave placing the order as Jane’s task, but take away the decision making about what to order. Here’s the list of snacks to keep in stock, or to order each month.

              Yes. Because while she can’t be trusted with the authority, it’s not a great idea to give the *work* to someone else.

            5. Neptune*

              100%, this is the way to go. Honestly, people get SO WEIRD about free office food – some kind of universal constant, I think. Absolutely do not get dragged down the rabbit hole of surveying the office or rotating the snack choices or whatever, unless you are prepared to make this a Major Task. Make a list, give it to her and tell her that this is what she needs to order X times per month, or keep stocked to X level. If it’s possible to set up an auto-order or save a regular basket at whatever company you order from, do that. This should not be a task that takes up a significant amount of anybody’s time unless you let it.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                Brains have trouble doing value assessments on something that’s free (would I buy this for $.05? no, but it’s FREE), and the animal brain is hardwired to seek food (preferably high-calorie). I’m convinced that is why so many otherwise-rational people lose their minds over office food. I am absolutely one of them.

          2. AngryOctopus*

            This seems to be a duty of Jane’s job though. I don’t think making someone else do it is the answer. I think having a “come to the grocery store” talk with her about budgets, the fact that she’s ordering for the whole office, and failure to take the preceding two points into account will negatively reflect on her job performance will be the first step. Then some oversight before she’s allowed to order. Hopefully she’ll do it (even if she doesn’t like it. But she doesn’t have to like it. She needs to do her job).

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        My head canon is that she was the one person routinely in the office during covid, and that the focus on only snacks Jane likes started then. But having gained that ground she is loath to give it up.

      3. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I agree that the task shouldn’t sit with Jane, but it is unclear from the letter who asked her to buy other snacks and if anyone above her in the hierarchy has actually *told* her to buy other snacks. If no one has told her, it would probably be a kindness for her boss to say, “Jane, you need to buy snacks that people other than yourself will eat. The budget is for everyone, not your own personal use. And you need to buy snacks regardless of your feelings about them. Do you think you can do that going forward?” If the boss is prepared to fire Jane over the issue, the boss should absolutely add, “If you can’t stick to these requirements, we will have to let you go.” Then give her one more chance and if she still refuses to do what she’s told, then you part ways with her. An office admin is not such a hard position to fill and unless Jane is completely stellar and amazing at everything else she does,* there’s no reason to keep her on if she’s being such a jerk about making sure everyone can eat what she buys.

        * Is there anyone here on AAM who thinks this is the case? If so, welcome, you must be new here!

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          If she is otherwise good at her job I think it would be odd to fire her over this rather than just assign snack duty to someone else.

      4. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        I think it might be a matter of she likes her food, and thinks if other people try it they’ll love it too.
        I love kombucha but for snacks I need something salty, not just fruit…

      5. Observer*

        But… coming at it as, “we think there has been a long-standing misunderstanding, and here is how we will be handling it” allows for some face-saving.

        I’m usually a fan of face saving, but here I think it would be a mistake. Her behavior is bad and there needs to be absolute clarity on what is and is not acceptable. And she needs to know that her boss knows what she’s done. Because she has not been doing her job *and* she’s been going over budget. This is someone who needs to be watched.

    2. Hexiva*

      I’m not sure if this would work, because my read on Jane is that she thinks everyone SHOULD be eating her fancy snack stash. I’m sure she enjoys having it all to herself, but it seems like she’s also judging people for their lack of interest in the snacks. So eating them might only encourage her.

      I think it would be a good idea to have one fruit/veggie option on hand anyway; it makes space for people who prefer that, it’s lactose-free (for people who can’t have lactose) and, at the risk of TMI, it can be a real boon if you realize your digestion is not going to have a good day but you’re stuck at work.

      1. Jackalope*

        Yeah, having *some* fresh fruit around (or veggies but often they’re harder to keep in a way that maintains their freshness) would be good. And I’d also recommend some sort of trail mix or something so you can have a less junk food snack for those who want it, along with the Cheetos and Coke. But it’s really easy to buy both kinds of snacks – nuts/fruits/veggies AND chips/candy/soda.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          This. OldJob had a variety. Fresh fruit. Yogurt cups. Cheese. Snack mixes. Cups of hummus and veggies. Veggie straw snacks. Chips. Fritos. Nuts. Sparking water. Flavored still water (like Hint). Tea/coffee/water had always been there, and they had milk and oatmilk in the fridge. A very nice variety, and if you had requests the office manager would take them into account. She wouldn’t necessarily order something every time, but she would rotate the salty snacks so you’d see what you wanted come around.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      There’s only three people in the office, right? So instead of giving the budget to Jane and letting her buy stuff, why not divide it evenly amongst the three and let them each buy what they want?

      1. Katie A*

        Yeah, there’s three people there regularly, and about six others who come in once a week. It seems like what would make the most sense is buying things the three actively like, and then make sure there’s something the other six are okay with/would eat if they were hungry.

        I know the advice says “try” to include something Jane will eat, but given that Jane is either a third or about a tenth of the people whoever go into the office (depending on which group she’s in), the LW should definitely make sure there’s something Jane will eat, if the LW starts deciding what gets purchased. If Jane is part of the three who are there every day, then the LW should make sure there’s something Jane will actively like, unless she claims she’ll only eat expensive things that no one else is willing to eat.

      2. singularity*

        I think part of the problem with this is that Jane has already proven that she will go vastly over budget to get what she specifically wants, so budgets aren’t really a thing to her. She buys what she personally wants regardless of the cost, and really, it’s completely unreasonable for her to spend $60 on a bag of dried figs that only she will eat.

      3. AngryOctopus*

        This doesn’t make sense. 1-asking multiple people to order is going to get complicated when someone forgets, or places a second order, and suddenly you’re getting many deliveries. 2-Jane has demonstrated that she DGAF about the budget, so she’s going to keep going over while buying things for herself. 3-splitting this would also say that you know that Jane isn’t good at her job duty (which is to buy snacks for the WHOLE office), but you can’t be bothered to require her to do said job duty, so you’re foisting some of it off on others. Jane needs to do her job and stick to the budget, bottom line.

      4. Observer*

        why not divide it evenly amongst the three and let them each buy what they want?

        Besides what others have said, that winds up being a lot of extra work for whoever pays the bills (whether it’s writing a check for an open account, issuing a payment for each order, or reconciling the CC account.) You’ve basically tripled the number of transactions. And while they are all small numbers it doesn’t make it easier to handle.

  3. katertot*

    Maybe this is overly influenced by years of reading AAM, but is anyone else anticipating the fig-eater to react in an absolute bonkers way? No one with that much audacity and goop-esque taste in snacks is gonna react well to losing the this expensive, ill-gotten perk. I’m preemptively excited about an update (but if I’m right in my prediction, truly sorry for LW1.)

    1. JSPA*

      That’s my expectation as well. And that she’s been telling friends, ” The job sucks, but at least nobody says boo when I buy the food I want.”

      Note that this is not an argument for letting her hijack the snack budget. But if she’s in any way skilled or difficult to replace… and if snacks have been filling in for a raise that she could command by going elsewhere… something will have to change, if they want to keep her.

      Or she may be minimally competent and kind of a nightmare, in which case having her rage-quit in figs (or cheetos) would be a long-term win.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I have trouble believing that she’s an otherwise stellar and irreplaceable employee whose only drawback is minor embezzlement.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      My guess is that she will retreat to a fort constructed solely out of pillows and expensive snacks, lobbing over-ripe figs at anyone who dares to try and dislodge her.

      But seriously, if I worked with someone this clueless, I would, as a last resort, try to re-assign the snack purchasing duties.

    3. Madame Arcati*

      “I can’t believe somebody is buying CHEAP ASS CHIPS! It’s so disrespectful to me!”

        1. Abundant Shrimp*

          This is one of the few times when Guacamole Bob would save the day and become the office hero.

          1. All het up about it*

            OMG – So I had never read the Guacamole Bob story, though familiar with it as part of the site lore. I never realized there was an update, let alone such a GLORIOUS one. Totally made my morning, thank you for sharing it.

    4. The Meat Embezzler*

      I’m assuming we’ll hear in an update (if we’re so lucky!) that Jane’s reasoning is because she’s very underpaid relative to the market. In typical AAM commentor logic, the AAM comment section will now side with Jane and chastise the OP LW for having the audacity of not paying Jane competitively. Furthermore, they will criticize the OP LW as a bad person who does not deserve ANY snacks and they should be so lucky that Jane is at least providing something. They will then blame OP LW for making Jane actually come into the office as there is a good chance that Jane’s job could be done remotely.

      1. Distracted Procrastinator*

        They are absolutely not. But I don’t remember seeing that Jane is trying to eat Keto. She’d be bringing in vegetables, jerky, nuts and cheese if she was.

    5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Oh she will. She will. Someone who knows the budget is for the whole office, went way over budget and sneers at any suggestions, with a history of being combative, is not going to take it well having her private snack budget removed.

  4. nonee*

    Jane (letter 1) is acting so boorishly that I can’t imagine she will respond gracefully to what she sees as her personal work snack budget being withdrawn. Can’t wait for an update to this one!

    1. For the Love of Snacks!*

      Ditto! Absolutely want an update about her reaction AND about the first time Non Approved snacks are brought in.

    2. Mister_L*

      Something that occured to me: If Jane is the only one who likes / eats those snacks, how do we know she isn’t taking them back home?

      1. Allonge*

        At this stage that particular aspect would not bother me that much – the one thing that could make this worse is ‘she buys all the snacks she likes and they get thrown out because they expire before consumed‘.

        But, yeah, Jane should not be managing this kind of money ever.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I am a petty, petty person who likes to bake. I would 100% take the figs home and make homemade fig Newtons to share with my coworkers.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Management needs to take a hard line on this. Effectively she is diverting $60 of company money at a time to her personal funds. She should not be allowed anywhere near things that involve purchasing on behalf of the company for a long time.

      1. Testing*

        Above someone called this “the privilege” of ordering snacks, which I find weird. I doubt anyone else will particularly want to take one this privilege.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s one of those things that half the office won’t touch, but a few people would LOVE to do because even if they’re not taking it as far as Jane it means they can definitely make sure there are salt and vinegar hula-hoops and peanut Tracker bars. There are ways of making sure your favourites are there whilst still staying within the bounds of normal office snacks with broad appeal!

          * full disclosure, I would eat ALL of Jane’s figs before she got a look-in. The kombucha and vegan yoghurt doesn’t appeal but the figs, omg yes.

          1. Madame Arcati*

            Yes, see also Alison’s open questions about abusing a tiny amount of power!

            Also bamcheeks not judging but….warning sign for the office loo after you’ve indulged in copious dried figs…? ;-)

          2. Testing*

            It’s a very low-level task that is usually only ever delegated to women. Of course, as the office manager, it is not at all inappropriate that it should land on her plate (hah!). But I assume most people have higher priorities at work than making sure other adults are pumped up on sugar and salt at the employer’s expense.

            Yes, I’m side-eyeing this office and many others I’ve read about here as being overly invested in unhealthy snacks. I get wanting to *treat* your staff, but is this really what is required to make them feel well cared for? I’ve worked in offices where the only thing offered was coffee, some where actually nothing is offered, some that offered healthier snacks, some where you had occasional unhealthy snacks, but I’ve never seen an endless flow of Cheetos and Coke.

            1. JustaTech*

              An office can do both “healthy” and “junk” snacks, even on a budget.

              My husband works in Big Tech where they stock an impressive array of snacks. Drinks range from Coke to bottled coffees to every kind of milk you’ve ever heard of to (at one time) a keg of kombucha. There are chips and crackers and granola bars and fruit and candy and gum, and every month there is a rotating candy (last time I was in it was peppermint balls).

              Every year when the interns start the snack area looks like a plague of locusts came by, but after a few weeks the novelty wears off and folks stop eating just for the novelty of it.

              So: it would be really nice if the office could provide a balance of snacks that folks want and let them choose what kind of crunchy salty snack or sweet chewy snack they want today. There’s room for pretty much everything in a balanced diet, even Cheetos.

          3. Also-ADHD*

            Dried figs are basically candy — they’re quite sweet and I think more people would like them than are imagining here. My husband loves dates and figs as snacks, and he’s not a health nut. We just had them one time and it caught on with him—they are quite pricey and don’t keep that long , so would not be a good office snack for a variety of reasons. But they’re really neither a “healthy” food nor that bizarre in actual taste if you have them. Of course, that doesn’t change the issue—they are not what everyone wants to snack on AND a huge budgetary issue, and the snack budget is being misused. But I’m a little surprised people here are jumping on figs as healthy or gross.

            1. amoeba*

              Yeah, I mean, if people aren’t eating the food she’s buying, that’s a problem. If she’s going over budget, that’s also a problem. But the amount of commentary painting her choices as bizarre are also surprising to me – I’d honestly be more surprised by seeing employer-provided Cheetos and Coke in my office! Maybe that’s just because snacks provided by the employer are generally really rare hereabouts and if there are any, it’s most likely fruit.

              But it might be the best alternative to strike the snack budget altogether and use the money for something else that everybody would also like – I don’t know, a monthly Starbucks run or a new coffee machine or a pizza party or whatever?

            2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

              The cloying sweetness is WHY I don’t like dried fruit very much. Give me fresh figs any day. (Which are extremely fragile and perishable and thus a terrible candidate for an office snack). I don’t think people are as clueless as you want to believe. People can like different things!

            3. Mister_L*

              Just looked it up, dried figs seem to be about 60 % sugar. They aren’t basically candy, at least where I live I would say they just are candy that pretends not to be.

            4. Artemesia*

              This. Dates and figs are candy. Dried fruit is sugar. And very high concentrations of sugar. There is nothing particularly healthy about it except adding a bit of fiber to the diet. But the rest is concentrated sugar.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          If she’s only buying things she’ll eat(using company funds for her expensive snack preferences), she’s turned it into a privilege.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          If it meant I got snacks I wanted I’d gladly take it on. And I bet Jane would fight me for it in an effort to avoid losing her luxury health food “allowance”.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, I actually can’t believe that this has been happening long enough for people to complain that they’re not getting the snacks they want but management isn’t doing anything about it. Has anyone actually complained to management about it? If they have and mgt hasn’t done anything, it’s not really a Jane problem, it’s a mgt problem. But if no one has alerted mgt to the issue, that would be the first step, I should think. And OP is in a unique position to address it with mgt since OP is now in charge of budgeting. Sounds like mgt is located elsewhere and I bet the folks at OP’s location probably don’t think snack choice is something worth complaining about to mgt, but the budget issue certainly is.

        Jane is so flagrantly disregarding the snack needs of the office even after being asked not to (and going over budget, too!) that I can’t believe she still has a job there. It’s actually alarming that she has any purchasing power at all when it’s obvious that she can’t be trusted with it. I hope this is the only purchase she has control over because if not, I’d be looking elsewhere in the budget to see what else she might be buying against company wishes.

        I would definitely suggest that someone else be in charge of buying snacks. If the company insists that that task stays with the office manager, then I’d suggest the office manager be someone else (i.e., fire Jane). I know OP isn’t in charge of hiring/firing, but I think it’s actually OP’s responsibility to clue whoever is in charge of that to what Jane has been doing.

        1. bamcheeks*

          “massively over budget” when it’s a tiny budget to start with is actually pretty unlikely to get noticed, though. I once moved into a job where I managed a £20k budget, and when I went into my predecessor’s files I discovered she’d spent £60k the previous year. Neither my manager nor the department accountant had noticed: it was really my manager’s job to notice, but most of the budgets she was managing were more like £500k-£5m, so this one didn’t get much attention. The department accountant was responsible for several tens of millions, and I can’t remember what she said her threshold for materiality was, but it was probably at least £50k and maybe as much as £100k.

          Jane’s overspend is probably a few hundred dollars: it would cost more that than to fire her and re-hire, so it’d be a very short-sighted decision to fire someone for going over budget without at least telling them NOT to go over budget. (It would be different if she had clearly embezzled or stolen that amount of money, but “not sticking to budget and buying snacks you prefer” is not actively dishonest.)

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I mentioned in another thread that whoever is in charge of her should definitely tell her that this has to stop, because it’s not clear if she’s been told this yet. And I do get your point that since this is a tiny budget maybe the higher ups don’t care. But it’s also a budget for something extremely concrete; buying snacks is not like completing a five- or seven-figure project. If she’s going over budget it’s because she’s buying really expensive snacks, not because the project took months longer than projected or whatever other reason big projects go over budget.

            With my usual AAM cynicism I highly suspect that she’s not the most stellar of office admins for other reasons than just this one. This is irrelevant to the OP’s question, of course, but what is relevant is that OP probably should flag this particular situation for the higher-ups so that they can get a bigger picture of how well Jane is doing her job.

      3. Emmie*

        I came here to say this. He is misappropriating a budget item. It should be a friable offense. I doubt she’ll be fired over this. Companies usually see this as a low stakes issue. But this is a very serious issue that speaks to her ability to manage budgets and her soft skills with other coworkers.

        1. I want cheesy poofs!!!*

          Companies see this as a low-stakes issue…because it is.

          Firing people and onboarding new ones is not a cost-free exercise, you know. It is not something you do because “OMG Jane ordered dried figs for snacks!”

          1. Emmie*

            I know.

            It’s not an issue about purchasing figs for snacks. It is the judgement around taking the money, purchasing exclusively personal items, and failing to use the money for its intended purpose.

            Nevertheless, absent other serious issues, I hope they explain the seriousness of the situation and remove her access to funds. In my view, it is more serious than purchasing figs.

  5. VintageVlyGirl*

    The “anything else we can think of” sounds a lot like the “other duties as assigned” category that was part of the job description at my first City job. It was at the library, and usually involved a mop, a bucket and a puddle of suspicious origins.

    1. Katie Impact*

      I read that as “puddle of suspicious organs” at first, which would have been even worse.

    2. allathian*

      Oh god, this reminds me of the time I had to clean a toilet at the fast-food restaurant I worked at as a student. Normally we just had to ensure that there was enough TP and hand towels while the cleaning was handled by another company, but I’ll never forget the one Friday night near closing time (midnight), when a really drunk guy staggered in, vomited, exploded from the rear end all over the stall completely missing the bowl, and staggered out again. The stench was indescribable and drove away all of our remaining customers. I cleaned the worst of it and the shift manager called the franchise holder/big boss and made sure I got triple pay for the time I spent cleaning. The only PPE I had was rubber gloves. I appreciated the hazard pay but I found another job that wasn’t food service not long afterwards. It was an outgoing call center with its own problems, but at least I didn’t have to deal with literal crap anymore.

      1. Baby Yoda*

        I think hubby and I walked into that restaurant that night, the entire lobby was gagging. Left and never returned — that’s what smell can do to you.

    3. Czhorat*

      It does, but to my ear “other duties as assigned” sounds professional in tone, while “anything else we can think of” does not.

      I may be reading too much into this, but to me this sends a potential message about the office culture. Not a good one or bad one, but one that’s more laid back and less buttoned up.

      I personal think it’s at least a yellow flag to not be a touch more formal in things like job postings, but that’s my bias.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I agree. The “other duties” implies that the job description doesn’t include everything you might end up working on, but that what is assigned should somewhat align with what’s listed. The other wording makes me feel like you might randomly be assigned tasks completely outside of your training/skillet/experience/pay grade. (That can happen in the other one, too, but pushback can be possible.)

        1. Saturday*

          Exactly. It’s “other things not explicitly stated in the job description” vs “we’re going to actively work to think up other tasks to dump on you.”

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I somehow see this as leading to a PM (or some other kind of seasoned professional – basically anyone not responsible for actual fleet vehicle maintenance) ending up having to wash the CEOs car. Because someone “thought of it.”

          2. BlondSpiders*

            Perhaps? In my first recruiting coordinator role, one of my tasks was to audit all currently posted job descriptions to ensure they included “other duties as assigned.” It was included because so many of the techs refused to do tasks that weren’t specifically called out in their job description. It was also a way to more easily terminate for insubordination.
            So now I’m wary when I see that in a JD, although it’s more likely to be in an entry or near entry level role. You’re not likely to see it in a Sr Software Dev job description.

        2. RegBarclay*

          Agreed. I’ve had what felt like random duties assigned (like answering another department’s emails for them for nearly a year, another time we all had to work the customer support phone line for two weeks to help out) but it at least was motivated by a real business need at the time and it was something we could do with a little training. “Anything else we can think of” does sound like they’ll be dumping duties on you up to and including babysitting their kids/washing their car/operating power tools untrained.

    4. Lucy P*

      I thought that “whatever else is needed” was limited to small businesses.

      As admins, we’ve have to clean up blood (someone bumped their head on a storage rack), clean up water from a broken water heater. Our male admin had to plunge the toilet in the men’s room when someone else clogged in.

      Our computer techs double as handymen…changing fuses in HVAC systems, fixing leaky waterlines on the fridge.

      Some of our engineering staff even has hung or removed drywall if the office got damaged.

      1. Your Mate in Oz*

        I dunno, the big corporations I’ve worked for have all had managers down at the local level who inevitably end up doing weird stuff. From “the office is flooding, everyone grab a server” to “does anyone have time to go to the supermarket and buy milk” type requests.

        As a computer programmer I have done unofficial tech support more times than I can count. But I’ve also moved offices, provided bicycle-related support, been the spider relocation professional (huntsman spiders are harmless but big), dog sat for a friend of my boss (paid!), all sorts of random stuff oevr my 30-ish year career.

        Also, working as a bicycle mechanic I got everything from “do you think I should get a bust reduction” to “should I sell my motorbike since I keep crashing it” as well as the obvious puncture rfepairs on prams and wheelchairs. Plus one “it’s an electric wheelchair, you fix electric bikes, it’s the same thing” (no. No it is not).

  6. Vancouver*

    Major applause for OP5. That’s clear, concise, and strikes a balance between explaining but not excusing or over-sharing. This seems like a great piece of information to give the hiring manager to help inform their decision making.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        I have a burning curiosity what your thought process is – could you elaborate what impression OP would convey to you?

        1. Seashell*

          Say nothing and let the chips fall where they may? Only bring up the firing when a relevant question is asked in the interview?

          This just seems like TMI for a cover letter to me.

          1. Sloanicota*

            So my understanding is that this is NOT actually in OP’s cover letter, because if it is, I agree with you. A cover letter is a sales document, so I wouldn’t dedicate this much space to something that doesn’t promote why you’d be a great fit for the job – but I *believe* OP is calling this a script, meaning what they would say either in writing or out loud in response to a question about this situation. If you were fired from the place you’re applying it’s going to come up so I understand why OP wants to approach it head on, but I hope this is not actually in their cover letter as written.

            1. OP5*

              Hi! Yep, to clarify, I did not put this in my cover letter. When I sent my cover letter to the recruiter I put this in the body of the email, with the cover letter attached. I might have approached it differently if I were communicating directly with the hiring manager but because I had the recruiter as a go between – who wouldn’t need to use it if it didn’t come up – this seemed like the right format.

              1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                Oh even better. So the recruiter can address if necessary, but no one needs to know if it doesn’t come up.

                Small industry, you know people are there from your old job, this is exactly the right way to go. You don’t want to get to the finalist stage (rooting for you here) and then lose it because someone from old job spoke up and you weren’t given a chance to explain how you are different now. Obviously, if there weren’t people there, the advice would be different. But we have had enough letters here about I now this applicant from back when should I say something, that being proactive is the right call.

              2. Venus*

                That’s what I thought you’d done – it might have been vague in what was posted here but it was how I read the situation. You sent it to the recruiter and the info is to be shared as needed.

          2. Observer*

            Say nothing and let the chips fall where they may?

            Sure, if you want to take that risk. But I can’t see why it’s such a big deal of someone doesn’t want to take that risk.

            Only bring up the firing when a relevant question is asked in the interview?

            Except that based on what the OP says, they could get knocked out of the running if they don’t address it up front.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I think I would want to trim it down a bit. I have no problem with the wording or sentiment, and I just think people are going to skim a big block of text like that. But OP does sound mature and thoughtful to me.

        1. Saturday*

          I’m always surprised when people say they wouldn’t read, “a big block of text like that.” It takes less than a minute – it just doesn’t seem like a big burden to me.

        2. Dahlia*

          I would find it strange if you asked for an explanation about something and then refused to read it because it was too long.

      3. Grumpy Kitty*

        Me too. It was 5 years ago? Does it really need to be addressed in so much detail? Is anyone really asking?

          1. Moi!*

            Someone yesterday (?) posted how everyone still talks about a guy’s cat who once showed its anus on a Covid lockdown Zoom, and how they were over his poor child and cat lockdown management.

            Sometimes everyone communally decides to be an asshole together. (Pun not intended but I’m leaving it.)

        1. Saturday*

          They probably won’t be proactively asking about it, but they’re likely to be asked, “Did you know this person when you worked at Company?”

        2. Observer*

          It was 5 years ago? Does it really need to be addressed in so much detail? Is anyone really asking?

          Yes. Because what winds up happening is that a person gets asked “Hey, do you know Joe Smith who worked at XYZ corp?” and the person says “Yeah, he’s the guy who got fired for Blah, Blah.” The fact that it’s 5 years ago is not going to be enough to make it not a big deal, unless it was something really small to start with.

          Real world example. We had a staff person who was nice, but did not get along at all with their manager. Now, manager was a problem, but this person did not handle things at all well. Then one day Staff person effectively went out in (in their mind) a blaze of glory. They basically told their boss that THEY were better that Boss because THEY have a degree and implied that Boss is just an uneducated peon who lucked into a managerial job (not really the case).

          Years later I got a call for a reference, and there was no way I could be truthful and be of benefit to them unless they had already addressed the elephant in the room and said that they had significantly grown since then.

        3. Liz the Terrible*

          I really feel like Allison doesn’t address issues of bad references very well or often enough. Take the poster who has gone back multiple times to update software for their old boss. Couldn’t one of the huge reasons people do such things be that they’re worried a former boss will get upset with them and then therefore no longer be a good reference? It’s not hard to believe that many people are that petty. Given all the letters Allison receives related to absolutely terrible managers and bosses, how is dealing with bad references not addressed–aside from the advice to call the terrible former manager/boss and try to talk them out of their bad behavior (hardly likely to work given that the former manager/boss is, you know, pretty terrible) or to somehow explain in some part of the application process that they know there’s negative talk about them at a former job (i.e., hand the prospective new job what Allison has herself discussed as being a red flag for hiring managers)?

          1. fhqwhgads*

            But the LW described that person as a previusly great boss. Why should someone be afraid of a formerly great boss (except not so great in continuing to ask you to do stuff when you don’t work there anymore…) suddenly going all bad reference because you refused to continue to do work for not working there anymore?
            A known jerk boss sure. But OP knows whether they’re dealing with a seemed-like-a-normal-human or known-a-hole and can act accordingly. Are people sometimes surprised? Sure but can’t tiptoe forever.

        4. JustaTech*

          I mean, I have a list of people that we won’t ever hire back to our department (they might also be on the official “Do Not Hire” list, I don’t know) for things they did ~10 years ago – those things were egregious (but not illegal) and we would need to be desperate and see a *lot* of growth from those people before we would consider them.

          At the same time, I wouldn’t go out of my way to mention it to other departments.

  7. FanciestCat*

    It’s always nice to see people actually make use of their cover letters. I used to sort resumes for a previous employer a long time ago, one of the cover letters that has stuck with me was someone who used it to explain a criminal conviction that would have come up in a background check. They very eloquently explained what they had learned from the experience and why it would not be a problem for the company. Later on, I saw their name in our employee directory, they’d been hired.

    1. Vaguely Saunters*

      You just reminded me of a very dear old friend (now passed on), who decades ago, was arrested and charged with criminal property damage when she lived and was protesting at Greenham Women’s Peace Camp. This was the 1980s.
      The damage was spray painting peace symbols on the chain link fence.

      From what I recall, it was kind of a I am Spartacus moment for the group of women being mobbed and arrested at that gate.

      Anyway, in later years she did have to declare it for some jobs. But always told those employers that this behaviour not be a problem in their jobs…unless they were planning to install a nuclear reactor at the premises. As she was now living in New Zealand- she never lost a job opportunity because of it.

      She also had a helluva time getting covered for house insurance though. Those companies have less sense of humour or flex in their exclusion criteria.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I grew up near Menwith Hill US base and know a few people with arrests and convictions for chaining themselves to the fence there. I’m not sure how much it was a problem for them getting work

        There’s one lady (Lindis Percy) who still in her 80s goes protesting there. I’m sure the police curse every time they have to come out. Nicking an octogenarian grandmother probably feels very silly.

        1. Venus*

          Years ago when I went to protests I used to love the Raging Grannies. They dressed up to stand out, and I always felt as though things were likely to stay peaceful if they were there.
          Link in reply.

          1. Venus*

            “We are out in the streets promoting peace, justice, social and economic equality through song and humour.”

            “Let us be clear about the Grannies. We are totally non-violent, believe in only peaceful protest (with lots of laughter), work for the ‘many not the few’ (motto of the old Mechanics’ Institute) and see our work as the spreading green branches of a great tree, rising up to provide shelter and nourishment for those who will come after us.”

            “Grannies always check their facts before acting, discarding rumours, conspiracy theories and the agendas of others. They wait patiently till the whole picture is clear before hitting the street with their pointed, original and devastating songs, written by any old gran who feels inspired.”

  8. Tio*

    LW4 – For the love of god please stop doing this work! I could see maybe doing this once as a favor to a professional you really enjoyed (and by favor I mean you should have still gotten paid, which I hope you did but have a sinking feeling you didn’t, the favor is fitting a one off job into your schedule). But anything after that should have been a no. At best, reforward the document you made and give them a good luck like Alison said. But if you don’t do it, then worst that happens is they have to hire someone else to come in and do it.

    I think a lot of people in positions like this (maybe not you, but I see it a lot) think “But if I don’t do it, they’ll never figure it out! I NEED to help!” But you know what? People figure it out. Give them the gift of learning and growing by not having you as an option.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      But if I don’t do it, they’ll never figure it out! I NEED to help!”

      So much this. OP, if you moved across the country, she’d find a way. And if she didn’t, and the whole department was eliminated because Mandy couldn’t be bothered to learn and to teach by herself, because she was counting on an ex employee (!!!) well, she would deserve it.

      Does the company know about this? Is it an official outsourced role? Because they can hire someone else if it’s funded.
      Is it just her little quirk that she won’t learn this herself and sneaks you in to do it? Because, she really can do it herself.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Does the company know about this? Yeah former employee coming in and reconfiguring the software every year is kinda a scary thought. I’m sure OP is completely trustworthy. But what if the next person they turn is not?

        Also, OP I say this a lot — its a business transaction. You worked there in exchange for a paycheck. While you worked there, you owed them your best work possible and they owed you a paycheck. That’s it. Once you left, that transaction ended. You owed them nothing more after that, other than obviously being professional about your time there (but that’s more about your reputation than what you owe them). Gratitude is nowhere in this. You owe your current job your best work possible — which includes not taking time off to help your old job fix a known problem several years after you left.

      2. Caliente Papillon*

        I don’t why but imagining a whole division being shut down because of someone not wanting to learn something has me cracking up! Welp, MANDY wouldn’t learn X so we’re shutting down Accounting! All other teams proceed as normal!

      3. Gumby*

        Agreed. Also there is almost certainly documentation provided by the software company on how to do the annual configuration.

        I worked for a company that used The Worst Accounting Software to Ever Software ^TM and the same person had been doing year-end close for over a decade. She left. The next close took us much longer than would be ideal but we figured it out. Mostly from the help docs in the software. Also, while their software was terrible they did have decent tech support. But what we didn’t do was ask the former employee to come back and do it for us.

      4. LW4*

        That’s exactly my thought. The software in question is awful and outdated, requiring many fields to be filled in a specific order, but it doesn’t demand any specific knowledge other than carefully reading the software documentation. However, anyone starting out will take much longer than me to get it done.

        I get paid for doing the setup. It’s a small family business, so everyone’s used to me going every year to do the setup. Mandy even covers the round trip, as I no longer live in the same state.

        But now, my life is in a different situation, and I don’t want to make the trip or have access or be responsible for so much company data when I no longer work there.

        The comments indicate that I won’t be a horrible person for saying no, so I’m going to try to stand my ground.

        1. Annabelle*

          “Mandy even covers the round trip, as I no longer live in the same state.

          But now, my life is in a different situation, and I don’t want to make the trip or have access or be responsible for so much company data when I no longer work there.”

          Is Mandy a blood relative and/or someone who saved your life? Did she donate a kidney to you? Does she have blackmail material on you? Like, really bad blackmail material?? Is she paying you powerball amounts of money to do this? Is she more mobbed up than the Corleones?

          Because those are the only reasons I can think of for why this is still going on.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          I’d stick with being really busy and not able to make the trip. Don’t get into explanations beyond that, just keep repeating it and reference them to your carefully written documentation.

          And yeah, you’re going to have to be firm, or you’ll hit retirement and still be making the round trip every year to make your ex boss’s life a little bit easier.

    2. WellRed*

      I was thinking it was a year or so (bad enough) but she’s been gone from the company several years now! Cut the strings!

      1. Zweisatz*

        Especially as the documentation is already there. There’s no reason to handhold someone through the process when everything that’s standing between them and success is reading a document.

    3. Doug*

      Dear Mandy,

      Based on previous years, this task takes about 2 days. My day rate is [pick a number then double it] to perform this task. How would you like me to submit this invoice?

      1. JustaTech*

        Many years ago we had only one employee who knew how to operate a very large/expensive/complicated instrument we only used every couple of years. He left for a new career, and only then did everyone discover that everyone else he’d trained on that instrument had also left, and there was no way to train anyone before he left because this thing required months of prep.
        So when we needed to run it we hired him back at consultant rates (at a time of his convenience) and made sure that training was included.
        The only reason we hired him back rather than get a trainer from the manufacturer was that the manufacturer wasn’t sending out trainers for that instrument anymore.

        So, OP, make sure you’re charging enough!

    4. Constance Lloyd*

      I had a coworker who was incapable of figuring things out in her own. If she hadn’t encountered the exact same situation before, down to all the same irrelevant details, she shut down. For SIX MONTHS after I left, she continued to text me 2 or 3 time a week to answer questions for her.

      Before I left I created process documents, saved them to a central folder, and emailed her the documents as attachments along with instructions to find them in the folders. At first, I would tell her which document to look at to find the answer. After a month, I started making her wait a full 24 hours before I simply said, “This information is in the documents I left behind. If you still have questions, ask Manager.” She stopped asking me and was eventually asked to resign, as her performance dropped significantly. Turns out she was only regarded as a Rock Star because I held her hand so much while I was there.

      LW, you cannot be responsible for the success or failure of a company you blunter work for!

  9. Gemma*

    #2 cork is excellent for soundproofing. You could install a bulletin board on your common wall and maybe some plants. Between that an a white noise machine and I bet your problem would be solved.

    1. Cazaril*

      The bulletin board has good plausible deniability! If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, or the office will, there are also various types of decorative acoustic panels. A good argument for office funding is that you’re uncomfortable hearing what’s going on in your boss’s office. I was once across a wall from the HR director, who had a carrying voice. I let him know that if the topic of the meeting was “firing Cazaril”, he might want to hold it in another room. Some sound proofing appeared in his office.

      1. GladImNotThereAnymore*

        My first cube at my current company was right outside the head sales guy’s office. He liked to leave his door open, and wasn’t the quietest of speakers on the phone. Don’t think I overheard anything truly confidential, but as a new employee it was helpful to hear lots of the nitty gritty of how the company worked.

  10. Carrie Oakie*

    I’m gonna need an update on #1. As someone who used to order supplies in a few different companies, it was always amusing to see who thought their requests were most important and who was just happy to get some snacks at all! I had someone once ask me to order a $60 pen and a $2000 monitor, and then be mad that I said I’d have to clear that with the boss. The audacity!

  11. LifeBeforeCorona*

    The snack admin needs to be removed from that job now. Buying expensive snacks that only she enjoys and going over the budget is more than reason enough. You can also do a survey and ask the other workers what kinds of snacks they prefer (with a price point) and purchase those. As a snacker your co-workers will thank you.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      “Jane, the task of ordering snacks for the office involves a) obtaining a range of snacks to cover everyone’s (within reason) tastes and dietary needs, and b) staying within budget. It does not involve c) policing or even commenting on what others (wish to) eat. I need you to comply with a) and b), and refrain from c), starting right now. Can you do that?”

      Honestly it should be obvious (but once again AAM shows us that it isn’t) that offering snacks like fruit or cereal bars or gluten free crackers doesn’t rule out offering full fat Coke and Frazzles. It’s a lower-stakes effort towards inclusivity!

      1. BethRA*

        Yup. We have a snack subscription that delivers “healthier” as well as allergen-friendly options, and we also order boxes of snack-sized Doritos, Lays, and various oddly-colored items. It’s really not that hard.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        How exactly? Trying to implement hard spending limits by category is going to be a tedious exercise that will almost certainly cost more than the snack budget overrun. At some level you have to trust that the person you give spending authority to will use it responsibly and reconsider them in that role if they don’t.

  12. Free Meerkats*

    For #2, hang a really heavy tapestry on that wall. “Hey, it’s just an art piece that I like.” The cloth and space behind it will really muffle the sound through the wall without the in-your-face noise machine.

    Maybe put in a work order to have another layer of drywall put on that wall because you “can hear your manager in private meetings about things you shouldn’t know about.” Send that to someone above your boss.

    If you do decide on a noise machine (personally, I’d go for brown noise over white) or fan, put it right next to the wall. There are fans that have remote controls, so you can turn it up when you’re having a phone call or meeting and keep it on low or off other times.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Oohh – that sparked an idea – start commenting on the manager’s meetings. (I jest. Still – tempting….)

    2. Never the Twain*

      I’m not so sure about the white noise solution. The interference affects anyone close to it, less so someone further away, and think they’re aimed more at frustrating a bug placed in the room. Think of being in a bathroom with an extractor fan -it’s almost impossible to hear someone outside speaking to you, but they can hear you perfectly. I think for it to be effective in drowning out your conversation for someone next door it would have to be so loud as to be intolerable for anyone in the room with it.
      Another solution – though this is straying into ‘one weird trick’ territory – relies on the fact that the best mask for any sound is the sound itself. So, record yourself reading something – anything, The Gettysburg Address, Under Milk Wood, I dunno – place a speaker close to the shared wall and directed towards it, and set it up to play quietly whenever you have a conversation. You’ll need to be able to take a good deal of side-eye from anyone having an in-person meeting though, I suspect. Maybe the large wall-rug is the way to go.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I think there are specific sound-dampening white noise machines – my department has one and in my cube it sounds like a slight whoosh, but if you’re more than a few feet away from someone it just makes the voices sound like murmuring. Our cubes are grouped tightly in fours so immediate neighbours can still hear one another, but in the actual offices I don’t think you’d be able to decipher anything.

      2. someone who is very glad about not overhearing Confessions or being overheard*

        I don’t think you’re right about noise machines being more obstructive to the people in the room and for the purpose of bug frustration. I’ve encountered noise machines in multiple different places blocking noise from being heard outside of the room just fine. The closer the noise machine is to the noise source, the better it is at interfering with eavesdropping/overhearing.

      3. Prof*

        For what it’s worth, I hate white noise machines, the sound they make really bothers me. So your mileage may vary…and if someone used one in my hearing at work, I’d have to ask them to turn it off/wear headphones. It’s way more distracting to me than music…

      4. dot*

        They definitely make white noise machines for this exact purposes – all the mangers in my office are provided with them as we often deal with sensitive materials and the walls are thin. You can definitely hear the machines when they’re on and they’re slightly annoying, but they do the trick of hiding the private conversations without being “so loud as to be intolerable for anyone in the room with it.”

    3. Ellis Bell*

      This person isn’t her manager, and is affecting her work – I don’t know why OP’s actual manager can’t intervene here.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Ah I got confused by “doesn’t have the typical managerial role and is not a mentor”, but I get it all now.

  13. londonedit*

    Jane’s behaviour is exactly how we get into ‘this is why we can’t have nice things’ territory. Many companies would see the excessive spending on snacks and the fact that Jane is just buying the things she likes, and would say right, that’s it, snacks are gone, it’s too much hassle. I think the OP definitely needs to impress on Jane that the snack budget is a) $XX and no more, and b) she needs to buy a range of snacks that everyone in the office will enjoy. Maybe there could be an opportunity for everyone in the office to suggest or vote on their favourite snacks, and then those are the ones that are bought. No more giant bags of dried figs just for Jane.

    1. TPS reporter*

      my instinct was to say, this is too fraught let’s get rid of snacks. but you’re right, OP should try to set some reasonable procedures. if it goes off the rails though and snack debates are consuming OP, they may have to literally take snacks off the table. Instead, monthly give a small gift card to employees or a lunch where you can account for preferences.

    2. UKDancer*

      Yes. I’ve never worked anywhere that provided snacks but I know when people started getting really difficult and fussy in my last company about the type of post it note we got and Larry wanted these pens and Moe wanted those ones and Curly wanted an expensive highlighter and the budget got too large, the solution was that people no longer were given a choice about stationery.

      If it gets too complicated and too much fuss then I can see management deciding not to bother with providing snacks.

  14. Ms. Murchison*

    Wow, my whole body recoiled at the idea of replacing healthy snacks with “Coke and Cheetos.” (Non-dairy yogurt, dried fruit, and kombucha sounds pretty good to me, LW.)

    Even if she wasn’t going over budget (what the heck), the admin probably shouldn’t be ordering the snacks if she leans healthy and everyone else there wants junk food. Maybe as an intermediate step, LW1 can create separate budgets for healthy snacks & junk food. And make sure that the office admin isn’t doing any of the ordering since she can’t be trusted to follow her budget. Although… I can’t tell if LW1 is anti-healthy snacks or just anti-the-admin. If LW1 thinks that healthy snacks are a strange fetish limited to the admin and wants to shift the entire budget to junk food, then they probably shouldn’t be trusted with ordering either.

    1. WS*

      I think LW1 is neither anti-healthy snacks nor anti-the-admin, they’re anti-food-shaming and pro-buying-things-people-actually-want.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep, they’re anti Jane using the whole snack budget to buy things only she likes, and pro everyone getting to enjoy a snack now and then.

      2. Enoby*

        Yes, LW1 only specifically mentioned cheetos and coke because that’s what *their specific officemates* have requested. It’s not a blanket “snacks can only be the worst choice on the shelf and I will never ever buy a fruit”.

    2. Knitting Cat Lady*

      There is no such thing as healthy snacks or junk food.
      All food is just food.
      Have a balanced mix of things. But don’t fall for the over priced organic stuff. It’s not worth it.
      And for drinks, stick to plain sparkling water. People can add stuff they like to it if they want.

      Also, if you look at the nutrient profile of so called ‘healthy snacks’? It’s often the same as that of so called ‘junk food’.

      1. Phryne*

        ‘But don’t fall for the over priced organic stuff. It’s not worth it.’
        Organic is about the environment and animal welfare. I have seen remarks in the past that apparently it is not really regulated in the US, and maybe so, but in the EU the ‘BIO’ label means something about how it was produced, and it is relevant to me. If you don’t want to spend on that, that is your choice, but I personally do consider it worth it, especially for animal products like meat and diary.

        ‘foods and drinks produced by methods complying with the standards of organic farming. Standards vary worldwide, but organic farming features practices that cycle resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Organizations regulating organic products may restrict the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers in the farming methods used to produce such products. Organic foods are typically not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives’

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, especially for animal products there is indeed a huge difference here (although it does make sense to check the labels because some are much worse than others). But there are at least standard about the space per animal, how much/if they’re outside, etc. (Also, I’d assume for vegan yogurts, there might not be that much choice that *isn’t* organic? At least here there’s a huge overlap…)

          1. anywhere but here*

            Oreos are vegan. Something being free from animal products doesn’t mean that it is natural or organic, just that it doesn’t have animal products.

            1. amoeba*

              Ok, let me put it this way: a lot of meat/dairy replacements (like plant-based yogurt) are also organic where I live, because a significant portion of the target group is also interested in that. So you might not even find a non-dairy yogurt in the supermarket here that’s not from one of the organic brands – the standard ones are from the organic own brands. (Although that’s slowly changing as they become more common, so more different brands become available. But I’m general, the organic brands tend to be the first for any meat/dairy replacement here.)

              1. amoeba*

                Which I also see now that I wrote – “vegan yogurts and the like” wasn’t really meant to include Oreos.

          2. Hi, I'm a farmer*

            Animals cannot be organic. You don’t treat a steer with pesticide. Even if the animal is fed with organic grains, that has zero to do with animal welfare. That’s an entirely different label.

            1. Hi, I'm a livestock entomologist*

              Many animals are treated with pesticides to reduce ectoparasites. I know this, because my job is developing those products.

            2. amoeba*

              Not in the US – it’s the same label here, indeed (“bio”). It’s both for regulation of crop protection and better standards for animals.

              (Which actually bugs me a bit because sometimes you get really weird stuff – like homeopathy for cows as a recommendation – with those labels that I’d really rather not support. But well.)

            3. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

              Organic regulations currently include requirements for animal welfare, which will be expanded with the recent Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards final rule.

            4. YetAnotherAnalyst*

              If you’re a farmer in the US, here’s what the USDA has to say about it:

              “As for organic meat, the standards require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors, fed organic feed, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.”

              You can for sure quibble about whether or not the standards for the “organic” label actually improve animal welfare (if I manage my sheep such that they seldom need delousing or deworming or a hoof soak or antibiotics, great! But what happens when they do need it?). But there is an “organic” standard for livestock, and it’s at least nominally tied to both animal welfare and environmental concerns.

        2. Knitting Cat Lady*

          There’s organic stuff, which is fine, and then there’s over priced organic stuff.
          I’m in Germany, so we have very robust enforcement or organic standards, but i don’t see why I should buy a tiny bag of dried organic mango strips from for an exorbitant price when I can get the same stuff for a better value per unit from one of the long standing organic brands (like Rapunzel).
          Also, I wouldn’t buy organic produce in the US because of the lack of regulation. They’re allowed to use pesticides for organic produce that are completely banned in the EU.
          Personally, I think employers shouldn’t provide food at all because of all the dietary mine fields you can fall into.

          1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

            To clarify, while organics in the US can be sprayed with plenty of pesticides, is it still tightly regulated. In fact, “organic” is one of the few labels in the US that is actually regulated (unlike buzzwords such as clean, healthy, natural, etc.). It’s a stringent process. You can absolutely quibble with whether or not the regs are good, but they do exist.

            1. amoeba*

              Which also absolutely makes sense – if you regularly lose 90% of your crop because of a fungus, you don’t have a product you can sell. And options like copper salt aren’t “harmless” either. There is of course a lot of trouble with how pesticides are currently used! But the solution is not banning all of them completely. Humans have always used crop protection agents, without those, you simply don’t have a crop.

          2. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

            I don’t want to derail too heavily, but organics are regulated and yes, while some pesticide use is allowed, it’s way better than what’s used in conventional practices!

            As for price, crop insurance and crop subsidies are heavily tilted to large conventional farms. We’re all paying the price for conventional products.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        All food is just food.

        Thank you.

        Well do I remember the elementary school argument that some kids would bring things like cookies from home for snack, and so we needed the teachers to sell granola bars. Whose nutritional profile looks a whole lot like a cookie, but they have the word “granola” in the title.

      3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Healthy food comes from a market not a supermarket. You make it from scratch yourself. Or you buy brands that only use natural ingredients. A good rule of thumb is to say no more than five ingredients.
        For drinks, stick to tap water (checked every day here), natural wine and home-made beverages.
        The less plastic packaging the more likely the food is to be good quality.
        You are what you eat, so it’s best to avoid eating crap.
        An apple is a healthy snack, especially if it’s organic.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Um, can we not indirectly call people who like “junk” food “crap”? Geez.

          Repeat after me: food is not a moral decision.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Agreed! (And I say this as a vegetarian who made the decision to go veg based on my personal beliefs. But they are not better than others’ beliefs. They are different and right for me.)

          2. Wendy T*

            It is a moral decision when corporations like PepsiCo actively get people addicted to hyperprocessed food and sugary drinks. “All Food is Food” is simply not true anymore when Doritos have artificial chemicals solely to trick your brain into eating more.

            To stay on topic I still think office admin is wrong and needs to be told off.

            1. morethantired*

              The end consumer is not to blame. If you want to guilt someone over these practices, guilt legislators into regulating the industries. Judging people on food is not kind.

        2. Andromeda*

          Ah yes, I love my delicious all-natural arsenic chips.

          (Seriously, “natural” and fewer ingredients doesn’t equate to better for you. Which doesn’t mean you don’t need to eat your greens and moderate your consumption of crisps and cookies… but preservatives etc aren’t “crap”, they’re perfectly safe for you or they wouldn’t be deemed food-safe. In the UK I think we have different laws on what counts as organic and what pesticides can be used near food, so I can’t speak to that.)

        3. Dinwar*

          You have zero standing to dictate how others eat. None. At all. And if you’re buying snacks for the office, you have an obligation to give consideration to what others want. If you don’t like Cheetos, don’t eat them. But if 99% of the office wants chips and soda, but you insist on bringing in carrots and insisting everyone drinks water, you have failed at your job. Doesn’t matter if you think it’s better for them–that IS NOT your decision to make. Your job is to buy snacks for the office, NOT for you.

          The moralizing of eating is one of the reasons why these become such hot-button issues, and why so many people have eating disorders.

        4. sparkle emoji*

          You can choose to follow these rules in your personal life but I hope you’re not suggesting natural wine be added to the work snack options.

        5. Seashell*

          I can make a chocolate cake from scratch. Is that healthy?

          I drink tea with just hot water and a tea bag. Is that “crap”?

        6. Cyndi*

          If this is how you habitually talk to people about food, you may want to reexamine your idea that you’re someone “who never mentions let alone judges diet.”

        7. penny dreadful analyzer*

          This is a work blog. Do you really think alcohol is more appropriate and “healthier” as an office snack than a baked good with… what, a whole six ingredients?

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            Is it just me, or does the five ingredients or less thing seem kind of racist? And classist? At that point you’re ruling out basically anything with multiple spices and the entire “cook the whole meal as one dish” strategy. That’s whole cuisines cut off at the knees, right there.

        8. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          But the apple is not a healthy snack if bought from a supermarket? “Eat less heavily processed foods” is reasonable advice. “Apples, kale, and pinto beans magically become unhealthy if bought at a supermarket” is nonsensical.

      4. Jezebella*

        Ding ding ding. THIS.

        Well, except the water bit. People want tea and coffee and whatnot. There’s no need to be ascetic and only provide water.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Coffee/tea and water machines are often a little different, as they may be provided by the building management if they’re in a building that has many different tenants. Then management is responsible for restocking the coffee pods or whatever they are, and the tea supply, and it doesn’t fall to the tenant (unless they want and provide different coffee/tea). But yes, if the company is in charge of that too, then they should also make sure there is tea/coffee/hot water available.

      5. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

        Thank you! Personally, I would like something in between the two profiles. I know my ideal tastes are unusual (meat snacks, very spicy snacks, fish-based things). I’d be happy with pretzels, nuts, spicy chips, maybe cheese, and some kombucha would be great.

        1. Anony*

          My company has split the difference. There is free coffee and tea (including milk), free fruits and vegetables and free breakfast treats. They don’t really have to provide more sweet snacks than that because there’s a birthday or hello or goodbye cake ever other day, so you can get a wide variety of foods.
          Or you know, bringing your own is always an option.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I think the LW is just anti-somebody-spending-the-company-budget-on-treats-for-themself- and-nobody-else. It would be the exact same if the admin was the only one who ate cheetos and only ordered them.

      Given that it sounds like only one person wants the healthy snacks, I don’t see any need for a separate budget for them. That would be just a budget “to buy snacks for the admin.” I mean, I’m sure others on the staff might like some things that are generally healthy like fruit, but I don’t see why that should be a separate budget either.

      The issue here isn’t healthy versus unhealthy, especially since we don’t even know what the specific foods the admin likes are. They may well be “unhealthy” foods. I assume the LW was just giving examples of expensive foods that aren’t generally that popular.

      It’s not that healthy foods are a strange fetish particular to the admin as that the admin has very different food preferences from the rest of the office and is buying things only she likes. For all we know, she might be buying really expensive dark chocolates and the options other people wanted might have included fruit.

      1. londonedit*

        Exactly. I don’t think it’s helpful for people to fixate on the type of snacks Jane is buying – the point is, she’s buying things only she wants to eat, and she’s overspending, and those are both issues that it’s valid for the OP to push back on. It doesn’t matter whether Jane is buying vegan yogurt or cupcakes or dried figs or Snickers bars – if she’s in charge of snacks, then the snacks provided should appeal to a wide range of people. At the moment, that’s not happening, and I think Jane’s colleagues have every right to complain and ask for a better range of snacks that more people will want to eat.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        My idea of healthy snacks would be things like fresh fruit and vegetables. To add some protein we could have dips like hummus (cue the anti-bean healthy diet people) and peanut butter (cue the anti-fat healthy diet people) and whipped ricotta (cue the anti-dairy healthy diet people).

        Also someone is opposed to the fruit on the grounds that it has sugar, and the vegetables on the grounds that they are insufficiently fodmap or should be way more cabbage intensive or something.

        You’re not going to get a snack array that everyone agrees is both healthy and desirable, unless you’re aiming to please an audience of one. That’s why you go for an array, somewhat tailored to the tastes of the people eating the snacks. Even if Gwen won’t touch Cheetos and Howard dislikes nondairy yogurt.

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yes, my thought was what if she is buying payday candy bars when everyone else in the office has a nut allergy? It’s the same thing.

        Although the sneering when someone mentions other snacks does make it about the organic versus non-organic too.

    4. No name Username*

      LW1 isn’t making judgements about food choices for snacking. She simply wants it to be equal for the office so everyone gets an option.

    5. DisingenuousConcern*

      Hi Jane.
      Honestly the whole office has expressed these are not things they want to eat, and they’re wildly out of line with budget.
      I had weight loss surgery but I’m not mad that our work vending machine isn’t 100% protein shakes and quest bars. That’s a me issue, and it would be incredibly wild of me to decide that if I controlled the budget that would be all that was available. I also don’t drink, so I guess no work adjacent events can have alcohol. If the office culture was one of Whole Foods devotees this is the corporate office for Erewhon, ok. But clearly the majority is getting no snacks because of one person’s preferences and that’s not ok.

    6. bamcheeks*

      Maybe as an intermediate step, LW1 can create separate budgets for healthy snacks & junk food

      Honestly, I would kind of love to see someone try this, just so I could watch and laugh as they tried to find any sensible way of figuring out which was which.

      [spoiler: there isn’t one! Yes, typically An Apple is going to contain more nutrients than a packet of crisps, but once you get into long-life, shelf-stable food it’s going to get a lot murkier. Lentil crisps? Nut bars? Raw food bars with tons of sugar but it’s labelled “sweetened with apple juice”? Zero calorie fizzy drinks? lol.]

      1. Dinwar*

        “…but once you get into long-life, shelf-stable food it’s going to get a lot murkier.”

        Then you get to add keto and vegan and vegetarian and kosher and halal and……

        This is why I prefer how my office does it. Those of us who want to provide snacks buy our own. Don’t like pretzels? Fair enough–I do, and that means there’s more for me!

        1. Jezebella*

          The problem with fresh fruit and veg is that somebody at the bottom of the ladder has to clean out nasty old fruit and veg when no one eats it, and that can get kind of gross. And then of course who decides when an orange is too old to eat? We all have a different calibration there.

          1. bamcheeks*

            If that was happening regularly, I would just say reduce the order by 25% or whatever until it doesn’t happen any more. It seems kind of extreme as an argument against fruit!

            1. Dinwar*

              People in this comment section are insinuating that anyone who has a different diet then them are crap and garbage; someone presenting a logical and logistical argument against a food option, rather than moralizing and grandstanding, is, quite frankly, a breath of fresh air.

        2. Angstrom*

          Yup. Our office has an ongoing wellness program that includes information on healthy eating, so it seems reasonable that fresh fruit is provided free. For other snacks there’s a well-stocked vending machine.

    7. Constance Lloyd*

      LW’s previous suggestion was to offer a mix of snacks so everyone had something and the admin refused. LW never suggested eliminating healthy snacks in favor of coke and Cheetos exclusively.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      OP never said a word about “healthy” versus “unhealthy”; OP was simply talking about preferences. I honestly think it’s a terrible idea to segregate innocent foods into good/bad camps and label them as healthy/junk. Imagine if you were recovering from an eating disorder and worked in the kind of food-shame environment that labelled every snack you ate as either positive or negative! This is a situation were it’s healthier to say “oh I prefer dried fruits – I’m not into chocolate” rather than “I eat healthy foods and don’t eat junk”.

    9. Neptune*

      “Maybe as an intermediate step, LW1 can create separate budgets for healthy snacks & junk food. And make sure that the office admin isn’t doing any of the ordering since she can’t be trusted to follow her budget.”

      Honestly, if the solution to this involves yet another person having to take on management of multiple snack budgets and ordering of healthy vs unhealthy snack items then I would just scrap the damn snacks. A) This kind of stuff is within the normal scope of office admin duties, and if she can’t be trusted with it then that’s a problem that shouldn’t be resolved by giving it to someone else! It’s her job! and B) Is it seriously worth *anyone’s* time to put this much effort into office snacks? Most places don’t even have snacks available, and we’re not talking about a whole catering operation where you would expect a lot of thought to be put into nutrition/dietaries/variation, it’s a small subset of an already ‘meagre’ discretionary budget. If it can’t be resolved by ordering a few packs of XYZ and moving on then I’d just scrap it and use the budget on something else.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah, agreed.

        I also worry about things like dried fruit (and fresh fruit) being less appropriate for the grab-and-go style of snacking in an office breakroom. It’s easy to get single-serving minibags of chips or granola bars or something to leave on a table for people to take. Unless you’re getting your dried fruit in similar single-serving packaging it becomes a challenge to take, say, a handful of figs without contaminating the rest of them.

      2. Mockingjay*

        This whole thread is wildly out of scope. It’s a very small team; a budget exists for snacks; team members requested Cheetos and Coke; Jane refused to buy them and overspent the money on her personal snack tastes. OP1 very sensibly wants to buy snacks everyone on the small team likes, including Jane, and is wondering how to ensure Jane orders the requested items within budget when OP1 is not her direct manager.

        The issue is not how or whether to buy a range of snacks to fit every possible eating choice/lifestyle, or define what constitutes a healthy/nonhealthy snack, or whether snacks should be offered at all.

    10. Dinwar*

      “‘Although… I can’t tell if LW1 is anti-healthy snacks or just anti-the-admin.”

      Why does the LW have to be anti-anything? Framing it this way presents the LW in an extremely hostile light. A more generous way to present this would be, the LW is pro-consensus. Most people in the office don’t like the admin’s snacks, and advocating for the office is hardly anti-anything.

    11. Jade*

      Agree about Coke and Cheetos. Graham crackers, wheat crackers, raisins, little fruit cups, string cheese make up our department employee snacks. I wouldn’t go from one extreme to the other.

      1. AMH*

        Unless it’s a company wide directive about what snacks to provide, I don’t think it’s appropriate to police people’s snacking to this level (nor, to be honest, do I think it’s fair to characterize coke and cheetos as an extreme. It’s just snack food. Provide a range of snack foods to account for a range of tastes).

        1. AMH*

          (sorry, to be clear, I think OP should do that as it sounds like that’s the expected goal of the snack budget; if the snacks you list work for your workplace that’s great and I wasn’t meaning to imply that should change).

      2. sparkle emoji*

        The goal of the snack budget isn’t to enforce a healthy diet on the office, it is to provide options that the employees will eat. If they want your list, that’s fine, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to force someone else’s idea of healthy on the whole office. Jane’s already been doing that and it’s an issue. There is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to a healthy diet. The primary concerns here should be what people want and what fits in the budget.

    12. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      There is no such thing as junk food. There is no such thing as healthy food. There is only food.

      If you have a full-body reaction to the mere words “coke and cheetos”, you need to divest from diet culture STAT. I heartily recommend the Burnt Toast newsletter and Maintenance Phase podcast.

    13. Critical Rolls*

      The letter just reads as though the admin has very *specific* tastes that happen to fall into the category of “things corporations tell you are healthy.” For all we know, she’d turn up her nose at an apple that wasn’t organic, while eating a turmeric-infused granola bar with the same nutritional profile as a Snickers. The important thing is that she’s the only one who wants to eat whatever she’s ordering (and overspending on). Also, office snacks may have perishability considerations that personal snacks don’t.

      I shouldn’t be surprised by the number of commenters who have chimed in with both what *they* want ordered, and their personal definition of what a healthy snack is, and how the LW is anti-healthy-food and that won’t serve the office. Irrelevant, speculation, unhelpful.

    14. Jennifer Strange*

      I feel like a few posters here have misunderstood the letter. The issue here isn’t that Jane is ordering healthy snacks; it’s that she is using the budget to only order snacks she likes. The LW is in no way suggesting they stop ordering things she likes and ONLY order Coke and Cheetos (two items thrown out as EXAMPLES of items), just that the items have a broader appeal. This isn’t “healthy” vs. “non-healthy”, it’s using company money meant to provide snacks to staff to provide snacks to all staff, not just one.

      And unless you work at this particular company, it doesn’t really matter if you like/dislike Coke and/or Cheetos. It’s not about you.

    15. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think the OP just used coke and Cheetos as an example of some things that people want, not that they are not also going to have healthy choices.

  15. Slartibartfast*

    For #2, I’d suggest a Dohm white noise machine. We keep them in our exam rooms, and they really cut down on voice transmission through walls. I think they have more of a noise cancelling feature than a regular fan would.

  16. bamcheeks*

    LW4, I am glad Mandy was a great manager and mentor, but please, do not ever emulate her “I’ll just ask this person who left a decade ago to do this work for me” style. That part you can firmly leave behind.

    1. Workerbee*

      Excellent point. Mandy failing to ensure every subsequent person in the same role did not provide documentation, and/or “losing” what LW had been sending – all the years, plus original?? – is not effective managing.

    2. TPS reporter*

      I would be mortified to ask this of a former employee. If I absolutely had to I would only ask once or twice and actually pay them for their time. and take no for an answer.

    3. CommanderBanana*

      Yeah, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that someone asking you to do work, for free, over and over again, for a DECADE, at a job that you left, is not actually a great manager!

  17. Katie from Scotland*

    Allison, I often wonder how you feel when people write in saying “I tried to imagine how you would say this” or similar. How does it feel to be (this corner of) the internet’s yard stick for Smart, Sane, Reasonable Human Behaviour? Is it weird or wonderful to think about being a little voice in so many people’s heads?

      1. Cyndi*

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the things I admire most about Allison is her ability to letter writers who are describing absolutely wild unbelievable behavior–especially when it’s their own!–and write a thoughtful empathetic response that begins with something like “Oh my goodness, you have to let this go.” If I was in her place I would get as far as “Your train is so far off the [CENSORED] rails it’s in orbit, have you tried having a juice box and a nap?” and then I’d be stumped.

        In seriousness my job does involve a fair bit of trying to be calm and empathetic to people who aren’t reacting rationally to their problems at all, so it really has been so helpful.

  18. Turingtested*

    LW 1, I’d keep the discussion focused on refusal to order snacks that everyone requests. If everyone else in the office wanted Coke and she insisted on Pepsi she wouldn’t be able to continue ordering food.

  19. Yup*

    I feel like we need a post about the damage that “non-confrontational” means in a work setting (let alone life in general). I have heard it all my life by people who mean “I don’t like to have big arguments” but whose behaviour actually results in them or the people they manage being taken advantage of or mistreated. There are ways to deal with situations like someone who is misusing funds while coworkers have 0 power to push back or expect change. It is so bad for morale and feeling heard, even if we’re talking Coke and chips.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      Yes – sometimes “non-confrontational” could be substituted for with “I have difficulty establishing boundaries and stating my wants/needs/preferences” and when that’s the case, it’s bad for that person…and if they are a manager, bad for anyone under them!

  20. Taco Tuesday*

    LW1, Coke and Cheetos are not necessarily snacks that everyone enjoys, especially as things to have around all the time. In my current office, the dried fruit would be more welcome. This is a good time to put out a survey for suggestions since you and the admin have such radically different snack preferences. Maybe spending the budget on a once-a-week treat would be an idea.

    1. DisingenuousConcern*

      Ok but clearly no one in the office is eating what the admin buys, and LW knows their office culture. ALSO people are eating snacks LW brings in, do yeah, they have a read on what people would rather be eating.

    2. SarahKay*

      Given that LW1 says “She has been asked to buy more mainstream snacks like Cheetos and Coke multiple times, but she flat out refuses in a very judgmental way. Multiple people have complained to me about it.” it sounds like in this office they would be popular purchases, though.

      1. Phryne*

        Asked by who though, and how often. Did OP stand next to Jane and tally? Because generally this means ‘the one time I was in hearing range’, or ‘the person on the desk next to me’. If someone had a snack out, I’d might take some one or twice, but if you ask me to vote in a poll between cheetos and bananas, I’d vote bananas.
        Maybe the office prefers coke and crisps, maybe just two loud people do. To make sure office morale is good, OP should do due diligence and ASK, not presume.

        1. Allonge*

          Frankly, if as a manager I had to negotiate more than one round of this to ensure that everyone gets exactly what they want, office-provided snacks as a whole might be cancelled.

          Nobody has time for this. The snack budget can go into whatever else the rest of the discretionary budget is spent on (one more takeout lunch? I don’t know) and everyone buys their own bleeping snacks.

          1. Phryne*

            Personally I don’t see why an employer would supply snacks, no. But if you are going to do that, it seems a pretty basic exercise to put a minimum effort to not move the problem from one snack only one person wants to another snack only one person wants. The fact that for the OP coke and cheetos are ‘normal’ snacks, two things I never consume and have no interest in ever consuming, gives me the impression the issue of what snacks are normal or not is not as black and white as many seem to think.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              This comment gives me the impression that you think OP has to come up with a snack selection that would satisfy this entire comment section, not just their small office of less than ten people.

              1. Critical Rolls*

                Yeah, we’re almost literally into “some people can’t have sandwiches” territory here.

              2. Allonge*


                Also, it’s very much ignoring the fact that as things stand now, the only one happy with the current snacks is Jane, and cheetos and Coke were brought up as examples of what else to buy.

                OP and their team would like some reasonable variety to what is being purchased (every member of the team as it is now should have one thing they like on the list, right?). Those who do not like cheetos and cola will also have something. Jane can have one of her favorites still. What she cannot have is full control, nor can she be openly judgmental.

              3. sparkle emoji*

                Seconding happy meals and critical rolls. We are asked to trust the LW and in this case, that means trusting they know what their small office wants for snacks.

              4. penny dreadful analyzer*

                That comment gave me the impression that Phryne thinks they are the yardstick by which Normal is measured, which they aren’t, any more than Jane is.

                As I mentioned in another comment above, Coke had $45 billion in sales in 2023. It’s one of, if not the, most recognizable brand names in the world, and has been for over half a century. You can like it or not, you can think it’s junk food or not, you can think an office ought to provide it or not, but one thing you cannot even remotely plausibly say about Coca freaking Cola is that it is niche.

                Cheetos is also the top-selling cheese snack. It outsells Cheez-Its by a factor of 10. I like Cheez-Its better myself, but I’m also not running around pretending that I’m perfectly normal in all my tastes and that if I don’t like something then surely it can’t be very popular.

        2. ecnaseener*

          How much more do you need to see than Multiple people have complained to me about it? Does LW need to submit detailed records for you to believe them?

          1. Jennifer Strange*

            Yes. Every LW must write out each detail of the situation, no matter how minute, so that we can deem them worthy or unworthy. But also not TOO much detail because then it seems like they’re adding in unnecessary pieces of the story in an effort to sway our opinion. Also, pics or it didn’t happen.

        3. HonorBox*

          Aren’t we supposed to trust the LW? Seems like we’re getting quite far afield when we’re saying what we’d prefer.

          LW used Coke and Cheetos as an example (mainstream snacks, like Coke and Cheetos) not as the end all be all for what the office will be getting for snacks.

          The LW doesn’t need us to be suggesting how to appropriately order snacks and how to poll their coworkers. They probably have a pretty good sense of what people would like (“several people have complained to me”) so let’s just leave it at that and not word police their examples.

          1. MsM*

            Yeah, I’ve worked at offices where figs probably would be more popular than Cheetos, but I didn’t need to poll my coworkers to figure out that health-consciousness was a big part of the culture there.

            1. I Have RBF*


              The point is to read the room, so to speak. If the culture is all vegan organic diet people, then get the vegan pseudo-yogurt, kale chips and celery sticks. If the culture is soda, Cheetos and M&Ms, get that. But one person buying stuff that they are the only one in the office who eats it is wrong. It would be just as wrong to buy only wheat based snacks in an office full of celiacs.

        4. AngryOctopus*

          But to do this, you ask people for what they would like. Then the admin either 1-orders it all every week if there is a lot of overlap or 2-sets a rotation and orders things in that rotation, so what people ask for shows up regularly. What’s happening now is Jane is just getting what she wants, refusing to order things others have asked for, and overspending. All of these things are her not doing her job. She needs to do her job. Two loud people who want coke and crisps should not be ignored just because nobody else has brought them up. They have preferences! The budget is for everyone!

        5. Observer*

          Because generally this means ‘the one time I was in hearing range’, or ‘the person on the desk next to me’.

          Considering that the OP has been buying snacks and people are eating them, this is just totally not likely.

          The OP also knows that no one is eating the snacks that Jane buys, despite the fact that she’s been over budget on a regular basis. So, yeah, it’s a reasonable assumption that the OP has a decent read on the office desires. And also, it’s reasonable to assume that if people have other requests they will actually speak up once they see that there is some openness to other snacks.

        6. penny dreadful analyzer*

          Two people who prefer the Coke and chips is still a full twice as many people as who want the vegan yogurt.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      The requests for Coke and Cheetos came from the other employees, not OP. But I agree a snack order form might prove informative.

  21. Angstrom*

    LW1 isn’t a food issue, it’s a fairness issue.
    It doesn’t matter what kind of food the admin is buying if it’s all things that nobody else wants.

  22. Grumpy Kitty*

    Can we get a statute of limitations on disclosing being fired from a job? I am so tired of job applications that ask if I was ever fired from a job. Yes, 15 years ago! Am I going to have to keep answering yes for the next 20 years of my working career? I particularly hate it when completing an online job application, and the answer is simply yes or no, and I’ve just spent an hour filling out this application only to realize that answering “yes” inevitably sorts my application straight into bin.

    1. Jezebella*


      I got fired from a part-time telemarketing job in 1988, while in college, for not meeting quota. I just answer no. I’m not getting into that nonsense, even though technically the answer is “yes.” Plus, ageism. No way am I admitting to how old I am in the beginning of a job application process.

    2. Some Dude*

      Just answer no. If it was that long ago, I’m sure they are not reaching out to them for that information. It’s not illegal to lie (except maybe for federal jobs and the like) on a job application or resume. Believe me, most places are not being entirely honest with their applicants either.

  23. English Rose*

    LW3 – I’ve never seen that particular wording on a job description but it is definitely offputting.
    We use a phrase around “Any other duties appropriate to the overall purpose of the role”.

  24. Dinwar*

    I understand that in theory “Anything else we can think of” should be merely a less-formal “And other duties assigned”, but the connotations are VERY different. “Other duties assigned” at least has an air of formality and thoughtfulness–no job listing or job description is going to include everything, and few people would want it to anyway (it would limit career growth and mobility within the organization, for example). But “Anything else we can think of” comes across as much more scattered and, to be blunt, predatory.

    It’s the difference between “We may occasionally need you to help outside your role” and “You’ll do whatever we tell you to do.” Technically both say the same thing, but if I saw the latter I’d head for the hills.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I agree. Although it’s probably accurately signalling, “we’re a fairly informal company without much bureaucracy or defined ways of doing things”, and some people will definitely want to opt in to that.

      1. Dinwar*

        That’s fair. It would be a good way to weed out people who want more structure and boundaries, so you only have to deal with people who have a higher-than-average potential to be a good fit with your organization.

        I’d be REALLY worried about boundaries, though. I’ve worked in groups that had little bureaucracy and few defined ways of doing things, and what ends up happening is that whoever steps up and takes on responsibility ends up taking on ALL the responsibility–including being blamed for things that other people did, even outside the person’s responsibility, and even when the person who stepped up isn’t there. Not having defined ways of doing things is great as long as it means you’re free to do what needs done; it’s not so great when it becomes, the boss gets to change how things should be done after the fact and blame you for it.

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Agreed. Most jobs are other duties as assigned. Is it nice to spell that out, I guess. Not everyone knows this. But anything else we can think of comes across as we don’t know what we are doing, we are understaffed and disorganized so we just pile job duties on whoever is convenient.

      Like the one from last week where the boss just assigned the operations manual to the letter writer. Way outside the person’s expertise, or desire to do.

    3. Lexi Vipond*

      If it was something like ‘other things we think of’ I would laugh and ask about it – it’s the ANYTHING we can think of that implies you’ll be landed with everything, even if they didn’t intend to mean it that way.

  25. urguncle*

    OP#2 I’m so sorry you’ve run into my former boss. The audacity to assume that you understand what’s going on from eavesdropping one side of a conversation you’re not invited to is wild.

    1. Workerbee*

      Reminds me of old (current?) talk show formats where one person is brought out, tells their side of the story, the crowd 100% believes it (cue cards prompting, no doubt), then when the other parry comes out, they are greeted with instant judgment before they can say one word. Bleargh.

  26. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    OP 1:

    When I looked at the budget and expenses from the previous year, she went way over our budget.

    Maybe weaponize that overspending to suspend office snacks for a while. (“We spent so much on last year’s office snacks that half of this year’s budget is already gone, so we’re not authorizing any more snacks until July.”) Then, in July, lay out a firm set of snack purchasing guidelines.

  27. Kyfangrrl*

    Is anyone else so invested in organic snack-gate that they cannot WAIT for the update?!! Because we all know it’s gonna be wild when she’s confronted. I have to wonder why no one else has addressed this with her sooner or if anyone was managing the budget prior. I hope her actual manager backs up OP & it was just an oversight (or lack thereof-)

    1. Jiminy Cricket*

      There will be meetings. There will be surveys. There will be working groups with subcommittees. There will be elaborate processes and reports. Someone will storm out in a huff. Someone will post a screed on Slack. This will be office lore for years.

      I cannot WAIT.

  28. Workerbee*

    #1 – I would love to know who had oversight / signoff on the admin’s ordering before you got stuck with it! This may be wildly different in other people’s experiences, but I’ve only known of structures where office admins, office managers (whatever equivalent-ish term) still had to submit reports at some point to somebody who wasn’t themselves. Not to mention a financial person.

    1. bamcheeks*

      That’s true everywhere I’ve worked too, but a snacks or stationery order for under £100 will only get the most cursory glance. If the complaints have never made it up to the HoD or whoever signs off, it wouldn’t surprise me if they just assume it’s all fine.

      1. Kaitlyn*

        Yeah, as I was reading the comments, it occured to me that having an order review process might curb some of these sneaky tendencies. (I initially thought “snack review process, but that felt like a tribunal for Cheetos, which is what was seems to be getting anyway). Pairing that with a request form and/or a quarterly survey about snack choices might force Jane’s hand a little. But yeah, someone should be overseeing this process.

  29. Eagle*

    I think Allison missed the breach of trust on LW1. Going over budget is a big deal! Especially for something meant as a perk. Then to only buy foods that she likes, instead of it being a perk, it’s a supplement to her weekly food bill. I don’t see how you could trust her on much of anything going forward and I think I would feel like I had to check up on the rest of her responsibilities going forward.

    I think LW1 should poll those employees who are in the office all week for their top 5 snacks and drinks. Compile that list for a top five and get feedback from the drop in enployees as to what they like on the list. Then LW should take over this job with a vendor and buy what the office likes. The secretary has lost all say in this process by only buying snacks for herself and by consistently going over budget.

    1. ??*

      I agree I would not let Jane be the snack lady. in my mind she has completely lost that privilege.i would send everyone an email saying that I will be ordering snacks for now on, and for everyone to send me a list of snacks they would like.
      It isn’t worth even fooling with Jane at this point.

  30. cnoocy*

    My one quibble with the advice on #1 is that the budget should be split by person-day rather than by person.

  31. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I think it would be interesting to ask Jane’s supervisor if the budget you’re now overseeing is set in stone. Maybe there’s flexibility because food costs go up. I’ve had to explain overspending in areas of a budget (power, gas) when a world event drastically changes the cost of things. And things always end up coming out in the wash. I’m not suggesting this to give Jane any sort of pass because what she’s been doing is both unethical and just mean to everyone else. I’m suggesting this because maybe the answer helps you as you make plans for what to order…and it is a kind way of pointing out that Jane FAR overspent what she was supposed to.

    I think the next step is the same either way. You can let Jane’s manager know that you and others have asked for other stuff in the past and Jane has refused. You’re open to ordering an item or two that she really likes, but you are planning to open things up so everyone else can enjoy

    You’ve successfully set the table so that Jane’s manager can respond appropriately if/when she gripes. And if she gripes and manager doesn’t shut it down… I’d hand that oversight right back.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Agreed. I always like updates from the LWs who write in with big, complex problems, but it’s resolution of these small but REALLY ANNOYING problems that can make office life a zillion times more pleasant.

  32. mlem*

    For #2 … I would hesitate to call it “eavesdropping” in many cases. My company violently embraced the “open floor plan”, and my supervisor was in theater in high school and university, which seems to have trained her voice to project clearly to an astonishing degree. It’s functionally impossible *not* to listen in on her side of calls, and she features clearly on calls the rest of us have despite the way headset microphones try to limit outside sounds. She and another coworker can sometimes be clearly heard through walls if they use an office or meeting room instead of staying out in the open. They’re good-natured about it; they cheerfully endure teasing and peanut-gallery contributions to their meetings.

    I don’t say this to blame LW2 in any way! This is just another vote for something like a white noise machine, in case they have one of those projects-REALLY-well voices. (It’s not always practical for everyone-else-in-an-office to resort to noise-canceling headphones.)

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      If your coworkers have made it clear that you can be heard from all over the office, it’s your responsibility to train your voice to NOT project, no matter how jovial everyone else seems to be about it.

    2. Antilles*

      I would call it eavesdropping because she’s commenting and involving herself in the conversation.
      Yes, office walls can be thin or some people can have loud voices or etc, but part of the deal with working in offices with shared walls is generally pretending not to overhear* and allowing everybody to maintain the polite fiction that people aren’t listening to every word you say.

  33. mango chiffon*

    I’m in an administrative role at my position and while I do not have purchasing authority, I manage the budgets for many teams. The fact that Jane’s snack purchases were going over the budget should be addressed immediately. I have had to have difficult conversations with director level people and VP level people (as a “lowly” admin) because a team I supported had gone WAY over their budget on travel and people were having $100 individual dinners with oysters and crab on the company budget during a research conference. Address the budget issue immediately with Jane’s manager and if she is going to continue purchasing snacks, she should need to have that approved before the purchase is made.

  34. Ex-prof*

    LW 1– Alison’s suggestion is the more peaceful one, but my inner demon of revenge is muttering “On the other hand, Jane has already HAD her share of the snack budget for many years to come.”

    1. HonorBox*

      Agree totally! On the one hand, peace is good. But Jane has been the sole beneficiary of the budget for quite awhile, and while it makes sense to get a couple items in each order that she might also like, I don’t think I’d carve out specific dollars for her. Or anyone, to be honest. Get a variety, including things that she might enjoy. Otherwise you’re going to end up with turf wars over snacks that people feel are theirs specifically. And no one wants to fight with HonorBox over my Famous Amos cookies. :)

    2. LJ*

      Dried fruit is practically like candy though. Did none of Jane’s coworkers (even begrudgingly) eat the snacks that were on offer? It’s hard to fathom a full office of people would rather go through the trouble of bringing in their own sugary snacks and fizzy drinks instead of eating the provided (still sugary!) sugary snacks and drinks

  35. Anoj*

    OP#2 – The job description for my position contains a section of the job which should be handled in a full-time capacity, and then also tacks on another job that should also be handled in a full-time capacity. Never mind that since I’ve been here, I’ve been tasked with taking on yet another responsibility that should be a full-time position. I am old school and have always risen to challenges, but they know they won’t find someone else to take this all on like I did.

    So glad I’m retiring and won’t be looking back.

  36. Phony Genius*

    On #1, if you’re also in charge of other budgetary items, the easiest way to handle the situation is to say that you’re overhauling all of the budgetary processes for items that you control. Hopefully, she won’t feel like she’s being targeted and less likely to become confrontational. Even if she does, you’ve taken away one of the arguments that she can use.

  37. Sneaky Squirrel*

    3. “Anything else we can think of” in job descriptions reads to me like a company that’s trying to be hip and edgy in the wrong way.

  38. el l*

    Of course the other one loves the arrangement. You do for them and they don’t have to pay for it. Or even give you extra consideration. Classic, and describes lots of situations.

    Mandy’s going to keep asking this until you tell her no. Focus less on the warmth, and more on making sure that she hears that this is a clear and final no.

    1. Dinwar*

      Then brace for impact. What I’ve seen happen is that Mandy will start out warm and bubbly and “Oh, just fit it in whenever you can!” or otherwise try to soften the no. When that doesn’t work the Mandys of the world become increasingly hostile, telling everyone how unreasonable you’re being. Eventually it becomes a whole drama storm.

      Someone setting boundaries is going to be treated as a personal attack by Mandy.

  39. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    OP1: ” I think she’s used to me being a doormat and is a pretty combative person when she feels attacked.” This is the problem – not the snack selection. OP1 now has the authority to institute a more reasonable snack policy, but is afraid of Jane’s anger if they do so. This is understandable – no one in their right mind ENJOYS being the target of a colleague’s rage! – but it’s something that OP1 will need to learn to handle while standing firm. If they don’t, Jane will continue to steamroll others with her “combative” behavior.

    I’d bet my next paycheck that this is one reason why Jane continues to go over budget buying expensive snacks for herself – she knows that no one in the office wants to anger her by speaking up and saying that they’d like other snack foods available for them! Jane is outrageously selfish and has figured out a way to hold the rest of the office hostage to her temper. OP1, it’s long past time for this to stop and you’re now in a position to stop it. Please use your newfound authority to do so; you’ll have the respect and appreciation of the rest of your team. Oh, and they’ll appreciate having a greater choice of snacks, too!

  40. Keymaster the absent*

    OP1: We literally just had a post about body shaming, now we get one about someone shaming others for their food choices. What a world.

    It’s not in any way okay for one person in an office to decide what’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for others to eat and to add ‘only ordering what I like and I refuse to order anything else’ to the mix is arrogance on a high level.

    So, first off, since she’s refused to change:

    Step 1: Take the budget off her or make it so her orders have to be approved before going out.
    Step 2: Since you have a general idea of what people in the office want order that and whatever you want plus stick some dried fruit along with it.
    Step 3: Keep an eye on her. I am not saying this will happen but there’s a high chance of her shaming anyone who eats anything she deems ‘bad’.

    No to food shaming in 2024.

  41. Observer**

    #1 – Snack budget.

    You *need* to change what is going on. And you need to loop the OA’s boos in. Because in addition to it being inappropriate of her to ignore what others want, she is going over budget. That’s a pretty big deal. Even assuming that she was buying things that people liked, this would be an issue. Either you would need to adjust the budget or her spending *has* to be cut back.

    And now that you are in charge of that budget, it’s your responsibility to make sure that #2 happens, because I doubt you have the authority to raise her budget, and it really does not sound like there is actually a good argument to bring up the chain to increase. And if this ever blows up, it’s going to blow up in your face as much as hers if you don’t take action.

    And that’s just on top of the fact that you have a responsibility to the rest of the staff here.

    1. Observer*

      Also, where has her manager been all this time? Sure, they probably could not have known that she’s going over budget. But how did they not realize that she’s refusing to consider what other people want?

      1. HonorBox*

        I was sort of wondering the same, but also wondered if this was such a small budget item that going over wasn’t getting to the level of concern it probably should have been, especially with all the information. For instance, did Jane get asked about it and just reply that things have gotten more expensive? Or was the budget $500 and she went over by $300 but an $800 expense line is nothing for an org with a huge budget?

        I think the larger thing that needs to be considered is that doing what she’s doing, it is basically theft. If purchaser leans a little toward things they prefer (Diet Coke versus Diet Pepsi) and they consume a little more of it, that’s nothing. But Jane’s been using that budget on herself and that’s not any different than using a company credit card to purchase yourself expensive headphones because you might want noise cancelling headphones at work sometime.

  42. Nancy*

    LW4: You no longer work at that company, so stop saying yes. Refusing to do so is not being ungrateful. Their inability to train someone else is not your problem. Their inability to read documents on their own is not your problem. In some industries, having a former coworker come back like this would be considered a security issue too.

    1. Angstrom*

      Yes. You are supporting their dysfunction. They’ll never fix their problem if you keep being a free crutch. Let it go.

  43. thelettermegan*

    for the snacks, there are companie ( Crafty Delivers, etc) that consolidate all office supply/food/drink/coffee ordering in one process. If OP were to look into that and find it to be more efficient and budget friendly, that might shift the snack-meister’s responsibilities back to general office management and resolve the issue without getting personal.

    1. Moi!*

      Heck Staples does that!

      My office gets normal snacks delivered from them, but they do frozen meals, fresh fruit, pasta, ice cream that I keep trying to get ordered. :D

  44. Just Curious*

    Re Q1 — can you ask for a staff vote for suggestions for preferred snacks? That, and being transparent about the budget for snacks should inform everyone and offset Jane’s preference for only what she wants.

  45. MuseumChick*

    LW 1, this situation fills me with a disproportionate rage I did not expect.

    I agree with Alison that you should loop Jane’s manager in. Maybe I’m harsh but this is how I would handle the conversation

    Me: “Jane, we need to discuss the snack budget. Looking over the numbers you’ve go over budget by X amount. We also have gotten a lot of feed back about the types of snacks people would like. Are you able to remain in budget and purchase snacks like X, Y and Z?”

    Then when she pushes back/has an attitude

    Me: “What I am hearing is that you are not willing to manage the snack budget as I just describe. If that is case then we will move responsibility to someone else.” Then follow through and do just that.

    All this said in a calm, neutral tone.

  46. The Other Sage*

    OP 1 – Entitled coworker misusing the snack budget. I wonder if there is something else going on with Jane. Are there other areas where she is being difficult?

    From a non-confrontational person to another, what has helped me in the past to deal with this kind of people is to remind myself that their feelings are their problem and not my responsibility. It is also worth looking at the image you have in your head about Jane. Do you see her like some kind of dragon who is going to eat you if you confront her for her misbehavior? To some people it helps to play with the image we have of other people. You can for example make her smaller, black-white, put a clown’s nose on her face, etc. If you do this, does your perception about her change? Maybe it helps you to see how fragile she really is, or how insecure.

    I hope that helps :)

  47. Dorothy Gale*

    #4: please, please, please tell me you billed them for this work. For contract work typically people charge 1.5 to 2x their hourly rate as an employee.

  48. Lola*

    Snack wars – sighs in nonprofit. I think the most I’ve ever been provided is coffee/tea, but I do enjoy the drama of other people’s stories!

    The only thing I can think of is that we had a donor who had some holding in a company that some version of those overly sweet cereal bars and he would bring buy boxes and boxes of them. They were AWFUL. But every once in awhile I’d be super hungry or had skipped breakfast and would resort to eating one of them. They were just sitting in the break room, mostly untouched.

  49. Hedgehug*

    #1 SNACK WARS. This is a completely acceptable hill to die on. Go to war with Jane. I already need an update, lol

  50. Nicole*

    I used to work with a judgey snack purchaser in an office of five! We had no admin, so she and I would take turns making a Kroger run every few months to stock up on snacks and drinks for the teeny office. We had a small list we’d pick up every time. She was very, very environmentally friendly. On one trip, she refused to buy K-cups because they are bad for the environment or Diet Coke because it was bad for you (we had one senior staffer who religiously drank it).

    Bizarrely, our CEO agreed to switch to ground coffee so she would feel comfortable drinking coffee with us. Weeks later, she clarified she did not drink coffee but wanted everyone to stop using the Keurig. I would understand that for a larger office but we only had two staff members brewing a pot of ground coffee every day. I can’t help but think that more grounds were wasted on the pots of coffee we over-prepared and then poured down the drain than the single K cups we used (maybe one a day each?). The staffer whose Diet Coke was not purchased that round still brought his own.

  51. JaneDough(not)*

    LW1, I suggest that you read “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty.” The language is a little dated (it’s from the 1970s), but the book is an assertiveness classic because the advice is good.

    SnackWoman is almost certainly going to push back, so if you’re really apprehensive, do some practice ahead of time with a relative or close friend. Think of your part of the conversation (the points you want to make) as a highway that you cannot leave — you must not be drawn off to the shoulder or to an exit that will take you to some other road altogether ( = not drawn off by her justifications, her denials, her belief that she can impose her diet on everyone else, her ethical concerns, whatever).

    “I hear your concerns, but the former system [not “your system” or “your way”] excluded a lot of employees, so from now on we’re doing it differently. You can order items worth $X every month; let me know what you want. Thanks.” Then keep repeating it when she lodges an objection.

    It’s called the broken-record technique. You might silly repeating it, but try it. Omit “the former system didn’t work for everyone” on the 2nd and subsequent repetitions — just “I hear your concerns. [Don’t insert “but” here.] This is how we’re doing it from now on. Please let me know your snack choices totaling no more than $X. Thanks.” At a certain point — maybe after 4 reps, depending on how it’s going — you turn it into, “I can’t be any clearer than I have been. Let me know what you want to order for you. Thanks.” And walk away.

    Remember that the goal is not to avoid making her mad (she will be) or to get her to see your point of view (she won’t). The goal is to say what you need to say and to not be pulled off into related-but-nonessential conversations. There are never any magic words to get one’s point across while not upsetting someone who holds a diametrically opposed viewpoint — never. Your goal is to be cordial and straightforward, to not to get drawn into extraneous convos, and to keep your cool (even if you have to go to a private space afterwards to soothe yourself). Good luck.

    1. Observer*

      Remember that the goal is not to avoid making her mad (she will be) or to get her to see your point of view (she won’t). The goal is to say what you need to say and to not be pulled off into related-but-nonessential conversations

      This is SO important! It’s also very freeing.

  52. Audiology Expert*

    FYI: White noise generators only work for the room the LISTENER is in. Not the talker. White noise is pretty high-frequency, whereas human speech spans a greater range and thus includes lower freqs. If the freq is high enough, it just reflects off the wall instead of the wall transmitting the vibrations through it to the other side. That’s why a voice heard through a wall is usually kind of “muffled”.

    In this situation, you’d have to put white noise generators in the boss’s office. Presumably that would require both that a higher-level manager require the direct boss to install them…and most likely it would need to be kind of a company-wide or department-wide edict that everyone with an office has to have white noise generators on the assumption that everyone’s walls are too thin.

    I’d be careful what you wish for, though. Some people can “tune out” white noise pretty easily from a conscious perspective but almost everyone will experience a subconscious form of “listener fatigue” from hearing those things all day long, and doubly so from trying to have conversations with the white noise in the background. It makes listening comprehension harder for your brain, so it requires more concentration, and eventually you just get mentally tired from doing that all the time. It’s not pleasant.

    1. Random Dice*

      The State Department folks I know have small radios pointed toward their windows, to vibrate the glass so conversations in the room couldn’t be remotely listened to.

      I have no idea if that old school technique still works for modern spy techniques.

  53. e271828*

    Seems like a waste of time to have someone individually handling snack stock-up. Poll around, put together a standing order, and have Amazon drop it off every week or whatever interval works. Reassess if suddenly you have a lot of leftover almond packets; tastes change. No perishables means the fridge isn’t collecting science experiments.

  54. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    OP4, I agree with the other commenters and Allison, this cannot continue. The best time to push back was the second year Mandy contacted you, the next best time is NOW. Yes, you created a detailed procedure and reminded her of that “every year” but this time you need to state politely but firmly that you are no longer available to help with the software configuration and that everything is in the procedure you’ve provided. You’ve created a rod for your own back because Mandy doesn’t need to use the procedure if you just keep giving in and helping her. She’s taking advantage of your gratitude and that needs to stop.

    I’m also flabbergasted that this has happened multiple times because it’s a security risk. You’re not a freelancer (at least, you don’t state this in your email) so she’s inviting someone from another company into the building and then giving them access to the company’s system and all that entails Of course, you wouldn’t take advantage of this, but there are definitely people out there who would! I suspect management doesn’t Mandy’s still contacting you about this, over 10 years after you left – unless Mandy IS management, which is a whole different problem…

  55. C.*

    I don’t think this is what’s happening here, nor does it excuse glomming the entire snack budget for herself (or casting judgment on others), but I would add that Jane might have an allergy or food restriction/sensitivity that prevents her from eating certain “typical” snacks. For example, she might not want Haribo gummy bears because she’s vegan or vegetarian and can’t eat gelatin. (Which is why I agree with Alison’s suggestion to see if you can still account for her tastes in updated food orders.)

  56. baby pterodactyl*

    Maybe this is my SoCal showing (?) but I’m completely surprised Jane’s snacks are so undesirable. At my company they’d be gone by the end of the day.

    1. Observer*

      Well, if everyone liked those snacks the OP would still have a problem, but it would be a different problem.

      Right now in the OP’s office only the OA likes those snacks and that’s at the heart of the problem. Just like it would be inappropriate for an OA to buy only stuff like Cheetos and coke in an office such as yours, her current pattern is inappropriate here.

  57. Raida*

    2. Thin office walls and an eavesdropping manager

    One of my mates had this issue – it’s common in offices as the “only real walls” are the edges of the large open rooms and a few pillars, the rest are “partition walls” – hollow.

    He got some baffling and put it on the wall. He laid it out at home, sprayed it from one angle with hues from dark blue up to kingfisher blue, then installed it at work (after confirming he could with facilities), and talked about how it’s both calming and focussing and he enjoys both his workspace and his work more with it in his office.

    In reality it was just bog standard foam acoustic panels. The combination of the baffling, absorption, and simply more wall did wonders for limiting the voices going through the walls

  58. Raida*

    1. I think the safe approach is to say “We’re going to have ‘healthy’ snacks and ‘unhealthy’ snacks (or whatever words you wanna use), and if the Cheetos are gone really fast you can eat a bloody apple or wait until they are restocked.”

    Split the budget evenly, everyone can make their own choices.

    1. Observer*

      Split the budget evenly, everyone can make their own choices.

      If there is a snack budget it should be based on what all of the staff want, not placing arbitrary caps on people based on one person (unless that person is the owner…)

  59. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

    We have kombucha at my workplace and the admin told me we go through 15 cases a week, for 200 people!

  60. Boss Scaggs*

    How about a Nathan’s Hot Dog type of contest where someone on the Cheetos side goes up against Jane, whoever can eat the most of their respective snacks gets control of the office snack ordering. Last person standing wins

  61. Religious Nutter*

    LW #2 – Thin walls are often resonant walls. If you attach a white noise generator to the wall itself and set it to a very low setting, it should vibrate the whole surface and stop it from transmitting sound. You could do this with any bluetooth speaker and a computer/phone if you want to go cheap. Dial in the volume just-so and it won’t be noticeable while also making you completely inaudible to people on the other side of the wall.

    Mind you, it’d take some tweaking. The wall can act like a giant drum, so start at a super low volume and crank it slowly up.

    Personally I’d test something like this when the eavesdropper is not around. Set my phone on my desk and have it play a youtube video at a speaking volume, then check to see if/where it can be heard.

  62. Me anonymouse*

    #2…the names of the guilty will not be stated to protect the innocent…me…but this is how i figured out all the malicious and lying misinformation of a set of coworkers against another awesome coworker who was just trying to do their job, and told them about it in real time during meetings. Malicious coworker on the other side of our shared wall would mute and chat on their cellphone speaker (and she was aloud in that know everything way) behind the meeting to other malicious actors, and righteous coworker would know have me IMing them in real time what was about to be said/done so they weren’t blindsided.

    It was the only bright spot during my year long trip through the 9th circle of the inferno.

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