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

I’m off for the holiday, so here’s an older post from the archives. This was originally published in 2019.

A reader writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{ 355 comments… read them below }

  1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    I’m not a huge fan of candy dishes, but I’m so sympathetic to OP here.

    Moving the candy bowl to a drawer just feels incredibly passive-aggressive and controlling. It really ups the ante of what would otherwise be a fairly small (IMO) request.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Yeah, I think the whole thing would be very different if the person had said, “would you mind moving that somewhere I can’t see it. It’s just too tempting for me.”

      But the person’s whole attitude seems to be “the whole office must conform for me.” It reminds me of this girl I was at school with who insisted I needed to move when we were choosing seats in the science lab because she and her friends wanted to sit together and the only place with three or four or whatever it was seats together was in the front row and she didn’t want to sit there. She seemed genuinely surprised when I said no.

      But I agree with Alison. Annoying as this person appears to be and annoying as I would find it to give in to them, it’s not really worth starting a battle over. I really like the suggestion of hiding it from the coworker’s view.

      1. Umami*

        It seems that she moved it when the OP wasn’t in the office, and also owned up to it while explaining why. I feel like the OP needlessly escalated the situation, which led to the back and forth (and everyone feeling increasingly annoyed!). I get that it was annoying to find the dish removed, but there was a more diplomatic way to handle it.

        1. What the what*

          I agree there was a better way to handle it. However, it does feel like a boundary violation for someone to go into your desk drawers.

          I am similarly tempted and really struggle with food addiction. I had recently thought about asking my coworkers if they’d keep their candy dishes on their desks because I wouldn’t cross that boundary (desks are personal space) and therefore the candy would be safe from me (or me from it haha). However, I didn’t feel comfortable asking them to do this because I don’t want them knowing something so personal about me and didn’t want them to not freely share their candy. So I went cold turkey and just let them know I wasn’t eating candy (as a way of reinforcing my decision). It worked for several months until Christmas. (And then….yummmy.)

          1. fidget spinner*

            I’ve realized lately that I’m weirdly territorial about my desk. My coworkers decided to have a meeting in my office one day with some outside representatives when I was out (no idea why they chose my office)… and my coworker was like “you had stuff on your desk that we had to put away!” Like, in this chiding tone. Well I didn’t know anyone would be in there, obviously! It’s not like it’s an office norm to clear the desk when you leave for the day because someone might use your office for a meeting.

            But yeah I felt so uncomfortable knowing they were opening drawers and putting stuff away. I didn’t say anything, so it was just an internal discomfort.

            1. Workerbee*

              I would have been tempted to respond, “You mean my work that I was doing in my own office, that I needed to keep out? That ‘stuff’?” in the same jocular-but-really-not tone. Which may not work with that coworker.

              Could you start locking your office? Even if it’s not the norm, a simple “Oops!” if someone takes you to task over it will befuddle them, and now you have your precedent.

              The above may be terrible advice. My sympathies to you for your unthinking colleagues.

            2. anonaccountant*

              FWIW, I don’t think that’s weirdly territorial! There’s a wide range of norms around personal spaces, stuff, and privacy. I’ve ended friendships because someone feels comfortable/entitled to randomly dig in my purse just to see what’s in there. That was normal at their house! My husband doesn’t go into my purse without asking, so I find that appalling. I’m definitely on the more private side, but being put off by someone going into your space and moving your things when you had no reason to expect that? Totally within the realm of acceptable feelings.

            3. Annie*

              I think you’re definitely allowed to feel territorial about your desk. People shouldn’t be messing with anything on your desk or in your drawers.

        2. Happy Camper*

          Yeah… the co-worker’s actions are wrong. But as someone who has family members who struggle with binge eating I do feel empathy. You should never touch someone else’s belongings. Ever. But if the coworker had come to OP with the script Alison provided I would give her grace. ED’s are real y’all and not reserved for skinny people.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      Yeah, the OP could try an opaque bowl, maybe? Then if the coworker still can’t deal, that’s CLEARLY her problem AND the OP would have already taken visible steps to be helpful so it’s not like anyone would find them unsympathetic!

      1. No Longer Working*

        I think the solution is a covered candy dish.

        And please, stick to individually wrapped candies like kisses for hygienic reasons.

        1. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

          Or she could ask LW to fill the candy dish with a type of candy she personally finds unappealing (or offer to fill it with said candy herself).

        2. Annie*

          I like the idea of the covered candy dish. The coworker can’t see the candy, so shouldn’t be tempted.
          I still would be irate that the coworker moved my candy dish, whether she just moved it around my desk or in my drawers. It’s not her property and she doesn’t have the permission to move it.

    3. Sharpie*

      Yeah, I think it was the whole passive-aggressiveness of how the coworker went about it that escalated things so far so fast. If there had been more of a request about it, as Alison said, the chances are that OP would have felt more willing to compromise and hide it or keep it in her drawer rather than in full view where it had always been.

      1. Dorothy Zpornak*

        Don’t see how it’s passive aggressive. The OP wasn’t in the office so it makes sense the coworker would reason, “It won’t bother her if I move it since she’s not even here.” She specifically said she didn’t mention it when OP was in the office since OP might have been using it and she wanted to accommodate OP— she wasn’t being passive aggressive, she was being thoughtful. And it also makes sense that she would reason, “It’s her property, so if I’m going to move it, I should put it in her desk.” Not saying she was right, but her intentions were clearly positive. It’s just a misunderstanding.
        OP, how about finding out what candy the coworker doesn’t like and putting that out. I have a terrible problem with grazing on candy, so I always make sure it’s dark chocolate or jelly beans or licorice or something else I think is gross (but other people like) out in our common space, so that way I’m not tempted.

        1. Dainerra*

          what makes it passive aggressive is that she told OP “I’m not tempted if you’re sitting at your desk because I just tell myself that maybe you’re eating it.”
          the flip side of that would be I just tell myself that XY or Z might be eating it so I’ll leave it alone. it also implies, if this were true, that she would not be able to resist invitation from grabbing a couple pieces of candy if OP got up to go to the bathroom or take a long lunch break.
          she’s being passive aggressive because she’s trying to frame it as a you problem and not a me problem. it’s your fault I’m tempted, not because you have candy in your desk but because you aren’t at your desk with the candy

          1. Willow Pillow*

            She’s saying that directly to LW, though – passive-aggressive would be complaining to other people but not addressing it with LW directly. It just seems aggressive.

        2. The Pidge*

          If she was truly being thoughtful, she would have taken the candy dish back out of the drawer when she was done working. Leaving it in the drawer for OP to find sends a message to OP, and since it’s done in a roundabout way without a conversation first, it comes across as passive-aggressive whether the coworker meant it to or not. I can’t say for sure whether the coworker intended it to serve as a message, but even if she didn’t her actions were pretty thoughtless about how they would appear to someone else. Also, moving someone else’s possessions without their permission in a way that they clearly didn’t intend and that creates work for them is not positive or thoughtful.

          The coworker may just be bluntly creating solutions and explaining them without any of the softening social niceties we tend to use in these situations – “Oh I moved your candy bowl, it was really tempting me and you were out of the office so I put it in the drawer because I’m trying not to eat as much candy and forgot about it, sorry about that, I didn’t mean anything by it” – because she’s used to being in situations where her concerns about eating are not accommodated whether she’s nice or not. Even if that’s so, her actions and attitudes are absolutely contributing to the confrontational atmosphere.

        3. Critical Rolls*

          Getting into other people’s things when they aren’t there is not “thoughtful.” Thoughtful would be having a direct conversation as a first resort. It’s also not thoughtful to cast OP as Guardian of the Candy so that the office only gets to enjoy it while OP is there to keep watch. You can debate whether it’s passive aggressive, but it’s a real overstep regardless.

        4. Annie*

          Thoughtful? No, thoughtful would have been to address it with the OP in the first place, as Alison mentions, not moving it and placing it in the OPs desk without talking to her about it.

    4. CommanderBanana*

      Also, is it really THAT hard to tell yourself that the dish isn’t yours, the contents isn’t yours, and to keep your hands off of it? I mean, I’ve definitely eaten stuff that I normally wouldn’t because it was there, like the coffee cake in the kitchen or whatever, but I think if someone had a candy dish, I could mentally classify it as Their Stuff and ignore it.

      1. BongoFury*

        Yes it can be.
        You’re implying this coworker is a weak person, which is a huge jump in assumptions. Not everyone’s brain is wired like yours.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          You’re reading an awful lot into my comment. If you’re physically incapable of not moving stuff on someone’s desk, you should probably rethink whether an office environment is the right fit for you.

    5. I Have RBF*


      I strongly disagree with Alison here – it is never your responsibility to control “temptations” for someone else. That’s a parent thing, not a coworker thing. Her trying to make you an accomplice in her performative temptation resistance and public dieting is out of bounds. It’s not your job to help her with her food choices.

      I feel the same way about companies who only buy “healthy” snacks (often soybeans and other allergens). Sorry, folks, I don’t eat kale chips and carob soybean bars, no matter how much you think they are “good for me”.

      She needs to handle her own temptations, and not by messing with stuff on your desk. What she is doing is childish – trying to impose her food issues on the rest of the office, by messing with your property. It’s not okay, and you should not have to change what you do just because she wants the worldworkplace to know she’s on a diet.

  2. Blue*

    Love this nuanced advice for a deceptively complicated situation. However, I wonder about this line: “Or you can stop bringing in candy and when people ask, you can let them know that you had to stop because of Jane.” That seems like a way more extreme escalation into drama than just sniping with Jane about the candy because now multiple people are going to be mad at Jane about candy…

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, it’s an option that lets you keep the appearance of high ground (“Jane told me she didn’t like having the candy dish around, so I got rid of it, and when people asked why, I told them — what’s wrong with that?”) but isn’t actually the way to keep the peace.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I guess not, but that getting rid of the candy (and possibly mentioning Jane if asked) is what I’d be tempted to do.

      1. MD945*

        This is a fascinating point. And one that I do not think is quite so cut and dried.

        I do understand what Blue is saying. Identifying Jane very well could create more drama. And as you say, this is probably not a fight worth having.

        However, drama already entered the building when Jane moved the candy without permission. Whether OP removes the candy or stops it altogether, there’s going to be a change and people are going to ask why. And it’s an open plan office. People are going to/have already figured it out.

        Plus it’s candy!!! People can get really upset over candy.

        Moreover, it’s important to recognize that removing the candy altogether is a completely reasonable response to this situation.

        To be honest, that’s probably what I would do. The conversation with OP’s co-worker creates the threat of future conflict around the candy. Jane threatened to throw the candy away! That’s pretty extreme. For me, that conflict alone would make me wonder why I should spend my own money and bother bringing the candy in at all. Sure, the drawer idea might solve things. But if I were faced with a co-worker who was willing to threaten to escalate things in this way … well, it would depend on the co-worker, but I’d have a hard time thinking that there was any way to get out of this except to stop the candy train.

        And that’s where things get interesting. If OP did stop the candy, what should she say if identifying Jane is too aggressive? Even if you say, “I stopped because there was too much hassle,” it’s an open plan office. People are going to put it together. There’s also the potential drama from the wrong person (like the person who made the “fat” comment) getting ID’d as the culprit.

        I don’t know the answer. But I do think that Jane has created the problem here. And while I agree that you don’t want to get into the type of escalation where you start ordering candy by the pallet, I’m also not sure whether it really is obviously bad to identify the cause (Jane) if you were to decide the candy was no longer worth it. I probably would not, but I’m also not clear about what a good alternative would be — at least not when I try to think through how upset co-workers might respond to any explanation

        1. Umami*

          I think it’s a bit unfair to say Jane created the problem. She admitted that she moved the dish when OP was out, and explained why. OP escalated the conversation by saying it wasn’t OK to do that, and the conversation went downhill from there. OP can decide on an alternative to having the candy on her desk because Jane brought up the issue, but if she decides to stop bringing candy, that is her choice, not Jane’s doing. The advice to take the high road and sincerely try to accommodate Jane will go much further than being passive aggressive about it. I get that feelings got involved, but that is the advice I would give.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

   isn’t okay to mess with other people’s stuff or open their desk drawers! Why is that escalating?

            1. Careen Lazarus*

              No it’s removing something from someone’s desk without permission. Everyone should go without because she’s a glutton? Some people would be very uncomfortable asking for it so having it out is a very friendly way to do it. Insisting you’re going to move it because you have no control is being selfish, entitled and self absorbed. She escalated this.

              1. Scarletb*

                I think, given that there are other people in the comments section here who have mentioned disordered eating experiences and will see this comment, ‘glutton’ is perhaps not the kindest framing in that context.

                1. Taylor*

                  This is a particularly amusing recommendation given the topic of being “required” to change something because someone else can’t manage their own emotions.

          2. I Have RBF*

            The OP did not “escalate”, Jane did when she moved her property into her desk without permission!!!!

            Jane caused the problem, Jane doubled down when asked about it and threatened to throw the candy away.

            The LW did nothing wrong. Jane wants everybody to be a participant in her diet theater and performative hiding of the candy so she won’t be “tempted”.

            Managing her temptations is her problem, not the LW’s. If Jane wanted help in managing her temptations, the productive way would have been to ask the LW ***first*** about putting the candy away when the LW wasn’t there, and then be willing to negotiate. But no, she had to unilaterally invade the LWs drawers to hide the candy from herself. Jane overstepped, then doubled down.

            IOTW, Jane forfeited her ability to ask for accommodation from the LW by stomping on the LW’s boundaries.

          3. Annie*

            OP is not escalating the problem, she’s telling Jane that she shouldn’t be moving anything on her desk without her permission. that’s just common sense for most people.

        2. Amy Ressel*

          it is never ok to touch things on someone else’s desk and putting them in the drawer is even worse. As for throwing the candy out I’d expect to be repaid for them and an apology for getting rid of my things. I’m a food and sugar addict following a 12 step program. There is plenty of junk food in my house and other places because that’s how the world works. I’ve never asked my husband to hide something or not but it. He can eat it just fine. I can’t, my responsibility to deal with it.

    2. tinaturner*

      What about a communal fruit bowl? Sharing fruit w/a cup of tea in the afternoon might be a nice change. Low-calorie too.

      1. Colette*

        Fruit is a lot higher maintenance – it’s perishable, and it’s also both heavier and bulkier than candy.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Someone would have to regularly check it for freshness, make sure it wasn’t attracting fruit flies, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love fruit, but it’s not the same level of practical as “get a bunch of shelf-stable candy and refill the bowl every few days”. I also don’t think we should pathologize candy – it’s fine to have a few Hershey kisses or whatever. Sugar isn’t the devil.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          All of this.

          I work in a library setting. We don’t even have houseplants. We definitely cannot have fruit sitting around because it can attract bugs. (We don’t have candy, either, but since it can be sealed we could if we wanted.)

      3. IAAL*

        Fruit isn’t necessarily low calorie, and it definitely is an invitation for fruit flies or other uninvited “guests.”

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah. Probably more /nutrients/ than sweets (so yeah, calories/sugar, but not empty ones), but still a big problem with any mess unless you’re at a catered event or potluck.

      4. Observer*

        What about a communal fruit bowl? Sharing fruit w/a cup of tea in the afternoon might be a nice change. Low-calorie too.

        Expensive, high maintenance and takes up much more space. And not necessarily low calorie.

      5. CheesePlease*

        Jane can put out a fruit bowl or nut bowl or rice cake bowl if she wants. If OP likes putting out candy, that is ok too.

      6. Dust Bunny*

        A whole piece of fruit doesn’t save you any calories over a couple of small pieces of candy, and it’s a lot more expense and maintenance. If the office wants to institute a snack fund, fine, but if it’s just a little candy out of petty cash or someone’s pocket, keeping a fruit stash is a bit much to ask.

      7. Rainy*


        Also, if you are in the Midwest or have coworkers of Midwestern origin, candy is fine–anything wrapped really–because “the last piece” just stays until it’s refilled and is no longer the last piece. Fruit? No, the untouchable “last piece” is *perishable*.

      8. e271828*

        We tried that at a place I worked and we got fruit flies, squashy fruit (fruit left at room temperature is not happy, pretty quickly), and a lot of fruit waste.

        Individually wrapped candy and snacks are better, unless you have a fridge and someone with the time to monitor and maintain the communal supply.

      9. Quoth the Raven*

        You know, sometimes I really just want a small piece of candy or chocolate, and not a whole apple (which I can’t bite into because my front teeth are veneers) or a whole banana.

        1. Tin Cormorant*

          I don’t buy bananas unless I’m specifically intending to use them to make bread, because I *never* want to eat an entire banana. Maybe a few slices on my cereal, but what do I do with the rest of it?

          1. allathian*

            Banana slices actually freeze very well. Slice a couple bananas, freeze them on a non-stick tray, and pack the frozen banana slices so that you get one serving in each bag, put them back in the freezer.

            You can also use bananas to make non-dairy ice cream. I haven’t tried to make it myself, but a vegan friend made some once and it was delicious.

    3. Hills to Die on*

      tldr: I like this solution – letting people know why, keeping healthy treats on the desk and good candy in the drawer.

      As someone who is a recovering alcoholic, and who is trying to eat zero sugar…I have an M&M dispenser on my desk. It makes people happy, I bond with my coworkers, and it’s cute. I don’t eat from it myself though.

      If Coworker wants to make herself a problem and be the reason why We Can’t Have Candy, then let her. OP would not be doing anything wrong to state the facts, and coworker did it to herself.

      Put out a bowl with single-serve bags of pretzels or almonds and a big, brightly colored cheery sign that says Candy is in the Desk Drawer Here —>> Help Yourself! And have the best damn variety of chocolate and caramels anyone could ask for.
      I wouldn’t even be sorry about it.

      1. GythaOgden*

        A lot of wedding supply places and craft stores sell sugared almonds/dragees in bulk. They’re tough on the teeth, but the nut brings a lot more to the table than just sugar and might keep people occupied for longer finishing one.

        And I’m impressed by your ability to keep M&Ms out for everyone else but you. That’s no mean feat and you should be proud of how far you’ve come with the alcoholism as well.

  3. gingerbread*

    I’m a way healthier person now that I WFH and don’t have to avoid all the free junk food at work. This kind of thing always tripped me up really badly as well, especially when I worked as receptionist and the communal candy bowl was on MY desk.

    1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

      That was one thing that didn’t matter when I went to WFH because the bag of M&M’s that I used to keep in my desk at the office just migrated to my desk at home. I have to keep sweets out of sight so I have to go looking for them if I’m really craving them.

      The thing that did help working from home was instead of looking for snacks from the vending machine, I now can go pick up fruit from my kitchen. Much better option.

    2. Michelle*

      When I was teaching, I had a “prize box” with little toys, stickers and candy. of course the candy was the most popular, especially when I was teaching kids who were a little bit older, to the point that you’d get kids digging through a box full of toys and stickers searching for the last piece of candy. candy. So of course I always had to keep candy on hand, and I never could keep *my* hands out of it.

    3. ypsi*

      I so agree with you! After Covid, we had to return to the office for 3 days a week and I have learned to control my urges for junk food a bit better, but I understand Jane’s request to remove the candy dish (while I strongly disagree with her removing the dish herself and putting it into the OP’s drawer).

      While we worked from the office full time, I developed a taste for Coke Zero and it was really hard for me to not go to the vending machine and buy one. (Fortunately, I am also very frugal and I think my frugality saved me from buying more than one can a day). In addition, I also found out that Coke Zero worked like a charm when I had a headache – I would drink Coke Zero and I didn’t need to swallow Advil. I guess I should write a thank you letter to Coca-Cola because the moment they changed Coke Zero to its new version (can’t remember what it’s called these days … “No Sugar”?) it altered its taste and I don’t like it anymore.

    4. Gretta Swathmore*

      Me too. I wouldn’t remove a candy dish, but I hated all the free junk food every which way in the office. Donuts, candy, bagels, pizza, so many delicious things I can’t resist. Was such a distraction during the work day.

    5. zuzu*

      When I was a baby lawyer, I had a candy dish I kept on a filing cabinet in view of my door, to encourage people to come in and talk to me (it was on the filing cabinet instead of my desk so *I* wouldn’t be snacking on it all day). The saddest thing was when one of the partners ate ALL the chocolate-covered oyster crackers I’d gotten from one of the paralegals’ kid’s fundraisers over the weekend.

      Those things were so, so good. And I have never, ever seen them for sale anywhere else.

    6. Ce R*

      I feel this. The coworker is out of line touching personal items on her coworkers desk, AND…

      The availability of junk food at works entirely makes the difference in my head of whether I “get to come to work” or “have to come to work.” It’s the difference between being gratefully employed in a job I like, I’m good at, and fairly compensated me….and being trapped in a space where I feel utterly miserable, disappointment with myself constantly, and want nothing more to escape so I can get away from this f*cking monkey on my back.

      This lady has done herself no favors; but i empathize with her disordered relationship to food, and the work constraints that trap her in close proximity to something she’s no doubt spent countless hours trying to reign in. I myself have spent two decades of therapy, 12 step programs, neuro feedback, medication, the list goes on. I can just about manage to neither fall into my anorexia or binge swings…until I’m trapped in a space with food that just irritates all the old wounds.

      So yeah. You don’t have to run your life around this woman. And you can make it clear that she has damaged her professional and personal relationship with you! She has! But maybe also consider putting the candy behind the folders or in the kitchen or heck, in the drawer. You don’t have anything to lose by it

    7. Mim*

      Oh god, yes, the year I worked a front desk position where I was also the keeper of the candy — it was really rough. There was one type of candy we kept in stock, in particular, that I had an incredibly difficult time resisting.

    8. sugar's siren song*

      I WFH now. This letter makes me shudder, remembering how much emotional energy I used to expend to try to resist candy and donuts and whatnot, and how ashamed I was when I’d fail to resist and eat far more than anyone else.

    9. I Have RBF*

      I WFH, and I have, within my line of sight, a bowl of chocolates. I sometimes grab one.

      One of my roomies is an ex-alcoholic. I do not have to remove all booze from my house. The only reason I don’t have it out is that I never do, I don’t want the bottles to get broken by the cats.

      Then again, I’m the person who quit smoking by deciding one day that I wasn’t going to smoke any more.

      Expecting other people to mystically know how to accommodate your weaknesses without you saying something, but instead messing with their property on their desk is the height of entitlement, IMO.

  4. Butterfly Counter*

    The main thing I disagree with Allison here is putting the candy in the drawer. If it’s always in the drawer, I’d just get rid of it because it would be too much effort to reach in to grab it every time someone asked (and I’m sure it would feel like too much to ask of someone). It’s much less conspicuous to have people do a drive-by yoink of a mini-Snickers than need to have a conversation. And I would be less pressed about someone going into my drawer once than the WHOLE OFFICE always going into my drawer when I’m not there.

    I agree that putting up some binders to block this person’s view would be best. Or maybe ask them which candy they hate and primarily stock that (and/or some other healthy options) for a while.

    1. TeaCoziesRUs*

      I get what you’re saying and think an effective compromise might be that when OP is in the office it’s out – Jane said herself that she didn’t mind it out when OP is there. Then if OP is gone it can be in the top drawer, or another convenient spot for an easy yoink. :)

      1. Umami*

        Yes, that was my thought. Jane moved it when OP was out of the office, so OP could very easily just put it in her desk when she is going to be out. Jane’s solution wasn’t great, but it wasn’t … terrible or invasive.

        1. Wren123*

          I disagree. What if OP had medicine in her desk (which would be totally normal) for a condition that she didn’t want people to know about in the office? Most open offices have so little privacy; it really helps to respect the small amount people are granted. Jane is making her impulse control issues everyone else’s problem.

          1. Annie*

            Exactly. This is Jane’s problem, not the OPs problem. The OP should be allowed to have a candy dish on her desk without Jane’s own lack of self-control forcing her to hide the candy.

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        Yeah, maybe the candy dish only needs to be out when OP is around. No need for anyone to go rifling through OP’s drawer if that makes OP uncomfortable. It’s not a life or death situation if the dish just isn’t out sometimes. (It does sound like other people contribute, so as an alternative, maybe they can host the dish sometimes or always)

        I agree that OP doesn’t need to turn this into a war, but for what it’s worth, I don’t like people touching my stuff and I do think I would’ve gotten similarly heated hearing Jane threatening to just throw out everything.

    2. ariel*

      We have a small random coffee table in an office main area that holds candy in a drawer – it’s kind of amazing that having it out of sight makes a big difference for me in eating mindlessly vs wanting a piece of candy so going to get it. It would be a bit of work-around to find a communal/not private drawer for treats, but it can be done (and I have found it helpful).

    3. Lime green Pacer*

      Or put it in an opaque container with an opaque lid. Really, anything that makes it less visible and just a teeny bit harder to get at. Plus, it will be less attractive to pests. (I’m currently dealing with mice in my house—they went straight for the Christmas chocolates.)

    4. MigraineMonth*

      I like the idea of letting the coworker suggest some candies she doesn’t like. As someone else who eats things in sight (but not things out of sight), that would work well for me.

  5. Yup*

    Having a communal candy dish in my office used to help so much with my social anxiety. People would pass by to have a piece and chat a little (if my door was open, of course) and some would come by and refill it, which was extra special. It really did help to have a “thing” in the office which helped me ease into social situations that I’m normally awkward in. So I do get the issue with temptation, but sometimes a candy bowl is more than a candy bowl, so it feels like multiple personal issues may be at play at the same time.

    1. Wired Wolf*

      In college, for Halloween sophomore year I put a bucket of candy outside my door. I forgot to take it in and after the second week I noticed that not only did the candy continue to disappear, some people were actually leaving money under the bucket! I kept the bucket out and bought some new bags using the “donations”. Very quickly it turned into a dorm-wide thing, every time I was going to do a candy run I would put a ‘poll’ on my door so the floor could vote on what I’d buy next (write-ins were encouraged). Occasionally a new type of candy would spontaneously appear. That helped loads with my social anxiety (“omg people like this and want to participate!”)!

      Suddenly in senior year a good friend down the hall decided that I was an “insecure attention wh-re” for doing something fun. Oh well….sounds like she was the insecure one for whining that I was doing something popular.

      1. Katydid*

        That sounds like a fun tradition! Wonder if anyone from the lower 3 classes carried it on after you graduated?

        I’m sorry one of your friends got judgmental about it.

  6. Bast*

    Old Job had a communal candy jar that at various times was full (especially after the post holiday candy sales) and at times had nothing. We also had people in the office who regularly were on diets, or trying to cut back. As someone who was in the “trying to cut back” category, I never once thought to tell the owner of the jar (who happened to be Big Boss) to take the jar away. I just walked by it. Sometimes, I did cave and take a piece after a receiving a really crappy email from a nasty client or opposing counsel, but that was on me. Sometimes someone would bring a box of doughnuts in or we’d get a cake for someone’s birthday. At the end of the day, it was my choice whether or not I chose to eat the items, and how much I ate. I never once thought to demand that the food cease or be hidden from me, or THREATEN TO THROW THE CANDY AWAY. That’s over the top. Yes, her attitude when asking matters as Alison pointed out, but I just can’t even imagine having the gall to ask for this in the first place.

    1. Skoobles*

      I think asking for it to be hidden is within the bounds of reason, honestly.

      For me, the most effective way to maintain any sort of diet, whether it’s in the long-term or even the short-term of “I don’t want to get full before dinner”, is to eliminate access to snacks/bad food. I don’t really ever consciously want to snack, but I do grab free food when it’s available, or an Oreo when there’s a sleeve in the kitchen and I’m walking by, or whatever, and that sort of thing adds up. Obviously, I can fully control what’s in my house and not control what’s in other people’s offices (especially with your example being the boss), but at the same time if somebody skipped the passive aggression and just asked it to be moved where they can’t see it unless they are actively trying to visit, that’s a reasonably small imposition that might be a big help for them.

      1. Bast*

        I agree that tone matters here, and if the coworker had asked a little nicely, as Alison had mentioned, the response may have been a little more charitable. That being said, where do you draw the line between boundaries and policing the office? If someone wants to find temptation, they will. If it’s not candy, it’s someone bringing doughnuts, or having a pizza Friday, or someone orders takeaway and it smells really good so then you have to order some yourself. You can’t reasonably ban anything that might be a temptation. I understand it being easier to not have it if it isn’t there, but at some point there’s a certain amount of willpower you need to have in order to say “not today.” It can be VERY difficult, especially after a rough day, but it’s necessary because we can’t possibly avoid all temptations at all times, and we are the only ones responsible for what we eat. My issue is mostly that I can’t see trying to control something like a candy jar when I have a choice to just keep walking. It’s like demanding someone take down a picture of their dog on their desk because I hate dogs and don’t want to look at it. (I really don’t).

        That being said, I agree with Pastor Petty Labelle that having to open and close a drawer all day long can end up as more of a distraction.

        On another hand, as I was typing this, I wonder if there are any candies that the Coworker can’t stand that she may be able to place in the bowl. KitKats and mini Snickers were tempting to me. Smarties and lollipops were never tempting. Maybe there’s a slight compromise to be reached as far as stuff the Tempted Coworker may not like, but others will still like it. Everyone wins.

        1. Dog momma*

          I really don’t think its going to help if she’s asks co worker about candy she doesn’t like. That’s feeding the misbehavior.. no pun intended.
          What if she says NONE?

    2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      This. Coworker is presumably and adult. She needs to exercise her self-control, not tell the rest of the office what they can and can’t have on their desks because of her lack of self-control.

      Now can it be moved somewhere its less of a temptation – sure. But in the drawer, no. Either OP will be having to open the drawer for people or people will be regularly opening the drawer while she is sitting there working. Way more of a distraction that the candy bowl on the desk.

      I also get OP’s feelings about moving things on the desk. Yes its the company’s desk. But people arrange things on their desk that works for them. Moving things messes with that. It comes under the heading, unless you have a work related reason to move things on someone’s desk (i.e. I needed the Prendergrast File and it was on your desk so I moved some things to find it), you don’t touch it. We have little enough private space in the office, don’t invade someone else’s.

      1. Bast*

        Even when someone says something like, “There’s gum in the top drawer of my desk, feel free to take some if/when you want it” “I keep the extra staples in the top right cabinet in my office if you run out” I always feel awkward and like I’m doing something wrong by digging around in someone else’s stuff, even with express permission. Maybe this is just a me thing.

        I also agree that if people keep asking for candy it gets to be a distraction, and might end up with someone saying no more candy bowl because it’s too distracting.

      2. StarTrek Nutcase*

        I’m obviously less evolved than AAM cause I wouldn’t change a thing and really get into Jane’s face if she did as threatened. I’m over trying to accommodate every little feeling or trigger of coworkers – peanut allergy, sure; candy dish, nope. I’ve ignore religious comments, speaker phone nutjobs,, explicit descriptions of childbirth, obsession with a football team, etc. – and wouldn’t expect my coworkers to STFU though I wish they would. People need to stop expecting others to make changes to suit their preferences, and basically grow the f*ck up.

        1. allathian*

          I sort of agree with you, and sort of don’t… Eating disorders are a real thing and more people than you’d guess have to deal with them as best they can on a daily basis. Wanting to avoid ED triggers at work is a bit more than a preference.

          The coworker I share an office with has a communal candy bowl, and one reason why I don’t go to the office more often than I do is that I want to avoid the temptation. We generally don’t have candy at home during the week even if we eat it at the weekend, so avoiding it while WFH is very easy, and even when I go to the office I wouldn’t dream of asking my coworker to stop bringing in candy or making it available to others. That said, I don’t have an ED diagnosis like Jane.

          That said, I do think that Jane went about things in the wrong way. Asking for the bowl to be kept out of her line of sight would have been acceptable, but moving it without the LW’s consent and threatening to throw away the candy isn’t.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Yeah. This is a REALLY simple thing to do, it makes a relationship with your colleague much better and is really not a hill to die on. By giving Jane just this little bit of grace, you leverage orders of magnitude more of goodwill and collegiate relationships at work and you avoid a really nasty stand-off. It’s quite bizarre how these things stem from something so trivial and movable as a candy jar when a human relationship is at stake.

            How many times have we talked here about workplaces being more sensitive to our needs? We can’t seriously do that unless we’re prepared to be slightly inconvenienced because of someone else’s needs. Next time you need a favour from Jane, she would be within her rights to tell you to talk to the hand, and this is really not the issue to wreck a working relationship over.

      3. CommanderBanana*

        Agree – I’m surprised at the number of commenters who seem to think that it’s someone else’s responsibility. If this is an accommodation that Jane needs because of a medical condition, she can do that, but deciding that everyone else needs to adjust their behavior because she can’t stop touching stuff on someone else’s desk? Jane’s not 3.

  7. Squirrel Nutkin (the teach, not the admin)*

    As someone who struggles with the kind of thing the complainer does — when I see something yummy, I get obsessed with having way the heck too much of it, when healthwise, that is a BAD idea — I can see why this is hard for them. On the other hand, I’d be livid like LW if someone kept opening my desk drawers too.

    The “hide it behind some folders” advice is good. If I don’t see the yummy food, I’m far less obsessive. I’d also note that studies have shown (*waves hands wildly in direction of vague memory*) that if candy is in an opaque jar with a lid on it on someone’s desk, people (including the person at the desk) eat a lot less of it, even though they all know what’s in the jar. That might be an elegant solution, and it would mean that the complainer wouldn’t have to avert their eyes as they pass around the file folders.

    I also struggle with not accidentally doing this to others — I maintain a small advertising space for a program (not by my own office) that I want to be welcoming, and I do have candy there. I try not to make it too bingeable. Like, I’ll do a lot of single-wrapped hard candies that last a long time (I am trying to source some everlasting gobstoppers) or lollipops. I don’t do chocolates or caramels much because those are the sorts of things that I will always overdo on, and I’m sure others do as well. I’m not surprised that this issue started after there was a bunch of chocolate in the communal bowl.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, back when I had a candy dish, I only stocked hard candy because it takes a while to eat and I wouldn’t eat more tehan one.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        This is precisely why we only buy hard candy to sit out during training. When we were buying chocolate, people would make a lunch out of the candy that was intended for a piece or two to help with concentration or as a nice treat in the long classroom day. People now get excited to see what I call “grandma candy” because they’ve not had a rootbeer barrel or butterscotch disc in ages.

    2. Certaintroublemaker*

      I had this same problem with co-workers! The desk for the position was next to mine and two people who filled that position at different times were “I keep a candy bowl out to draw people in to meet and chat with them” types. And the corner they kept the bowl in was closest to me and where I had to pass by to get in and out of my seat.

      It actually worked for me when the bowl was moved farther down the desk with other things blocking it from my sight and/or if they weren’t bingeable candies.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree that an opaque jar seems like a nice compromise (though OP shouldn’t have to buy a new jar, but if they want they could offer that they would use one if Jane brought one in)

      1. Umami*

        I was going to suggest this! Have Jane be involved in the solution. It’s a great opportunity to show each other that their last conversation didn’t represent their best selves, but they can collaborate on a solution.

    4. Friday Person*

      Just a note that the opaque candy bowl study came from a researcher/group that’s had a dozen+ studies retracted amid academic misconduct allegations (news article in reply comment).

      That said, suggesting an opaque bowl in an effort to show willingness to compromise still might not be a terrible idea from an office politics standpoint!

  8. ITooLoveCandyTooMuch*

    I think a compromise can be found – what about putting the candy dish out a few days a week instead of everyday and putting it out of sight when not in the office?

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, putting it out of sight when you’re not in the office definitely seemed like a good compromise to me, and I’m not sure why that didn’t occur to LW.

      My first read of this was that I’m baffled why anyone would be this invested in having sweets on your desk, but there are a few comments from people saying why they do it and why it’s important to them. But none of them seem like they’re an argument for having it when you’re not there. and “the candy bowl is here when I’m here, and not when I’m not” sounds like a good solution that would work for both.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        As long as the coworker is understanding as the LW retrains herself over time. When I first got a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, it took me a few weeks to consistently remember to turn them off at the end of the day. Similarly, it might take the LW a while to add this to her end-of-the-day routine. If I were her, I’d be concerned that if I ever messed up and forgot, the coworker would totally blow up at me for it (e.g. “you’re doing this to spite me”, etc.).

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’m baffled why anyone would be this invested.
        This letter is my go-to example of how there will be a very serious issue which gets a couple hundred comments, and then a coworker moves a candy dish and the passions are roused! Like with Oxford commas.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Bikeshed theory. That is, the smaller and more trivial the issue, such as the placement of a bikeshed in a new campus, will attract more attention and discussion than the more substantial parts of the build. I have already been in one or two meetings like this, where the detailed stuff gets people more agitated than the stuff we were actually meeting about.

          It’s such a little and trivial thing to do for the sake of goodwill with a colleague that it’s really wild how many people here want to try to fight this out. I get that the drawer is more of an issue (although I’ve never seen my work drawers as private, because they’re not on my property or in my own furniture) but really? we ask so much of other people in terms of respect for our own needs, that when someone else asks us to respect their wishes in a way that is totally inconsequential to anything else we need to honour that request. It seems a bit selfish in a way — if we want others to treat our needs with respect, then we’ve also got to give a little in return sometimes to achieve that good working relationship with someone else.

      3. Parakeet*

        Honestly I think “because people like the candy” is a fine reason to want to keep the candy bowl. I wouldn’t want a coworker to try to stop me doing a benign thing that brings a little pleasure to other people’s days.

        But then, I would be livid if someone said that they hid the candy “for [the benefit of] the fat people like me.” I am fat and absolutely do not want other people projecting their own self-control issues onto all fat people, or for anyone to imply that I need to be protected from candy and shouldn’t get to see or take it if I want it. I’m sure this irritation is coloring my feelings.

        1. allathian*

          I’m also fat, or rather obese, and the implication that all fat people have ED or at the very least struggle with disordered eating doesn’t sit well with me.

    2. constant_craving*

      The problem I see with that is that the candy dish is contributed to by many people in the office. If lots of people are contributing, then it really shouldn’t go away just because LW isn’t there.

  9. BW*

    I’m of two minds on this.

    1. It’s a great social thing. It gives you a chance to chat, or get to know people without actually talking about work.

    2. But, I’m also one of those people with no will power, and I hated my cube mate’s candy dish, because I couldn’t stay away from it.

    I vote for putting it in your desk drawer with a sign saying, “Candy in the drawer. Help yourself!”

    1. Observer*

      I vote for putting it in your desk drawer with a sign saying, “Candy in the drawer. Help yourself!”

      That winds up being a bit of an imposition for the OP, though. Because when they are actually sitting there, no one is going to open the drawer, which means that either they won’t really have access, or the OP is going to get interrupted all the time.

      A covered dish / something block the view makes a lot more sense.

  10. Please buy me candy*

    Or what about a covered dish for the candy? That way people who want candy can see if there is some, but it’s not in her eyeline.

    1. Parcae*

      I agree, a covered dish would be a great practical solution. It keeps the candy accessible but removes the temptation caused by something tasty catching your eye. (Despite the co-worker’s rudeness here, I’m sympathetic to the fundamental problem. There’s a reason all the junk food in my home is stored in a dedicated box so I won’t see it when I’m rummaging through the cupboard for something else.)

    2. DannyG*

      I wonder if another candy lover with a desk not easily seen would adopt the dish? OP can still supply but it wouldn’t be as tempting.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this is what I would do. Sometimes just having to lift the lid is a small, but sufficient, deterrent, even if the dish is clear.

    4. Ms. Murchison*

      I love the idea of a covered candy dish (or jar). I was just looking at some gorgeous tea canisters this weekend. Something like that would be a nice desk decoration and keep it out of eye sight.

  11. Anonymous for this one*

    What if you add a sign that says “Candy for everyone except Jane”? ;)

    My boyfriend is a Jane. He’s forever complaining about co-workers bringing sweets to the lab because he’ll eat them all day. I have so far dissuaded him from asking his co-workers to stop bringing treats. I get that some people have poor impulse control and that food addiction is a thing, but in the grand scheme of things, someone eating a brownie that they feel they “shouldn’t” have eaten is probably still better than stirring up workplace drama over it.

    1. LikesToSwear*

      This. I would absolutely do this. I am also a candy jar on my desk person. Mainly because I occasionally want a small treat for myself, but I am also perfectly happy to share. And no, it’s NOT okay to just put it in my drawer so it’s out of sight. Stay the heck out of my personal space!

      It is absolutely not okay to expect OP to manage Jane’s temptation issues. Or are we now going to say that it’s okay to tell women what clothes to wear to not be distracting? Yes, it’s an extreme analogy, but ultimately, they are the same issue. It is the responsibility of the person with the issue to control themselves.

    2. GythaOgden*

      That’s just needlessly antagonistic. OP needs to work with Jane, not against her, and being rude here really wouldn’t be conducive to, say, Jane doing something for you in the future to help you out.

      Also, we complain endlessly here about annoying things our colleagues do and if we ever want any capital whatsoever to deal with their annoying habits, we need to give a bit when they ask us for something ridiculously small like this sort of thing. Practice what you preach, AAM.

  12. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    I like this response. So often, we focus on what is just without asking what is kind. This situation offers an opportunity for kindness that can go a long way in cultivating peace in the office.

    When I need to stop doing X, it helps if I have a healthier behavior, Y, to replace it with. Might it help if, instead of removing the candy dish, the LW added one more thing, maybe sugarless gum or squares of paper and origami instructions so there’s some small treat “Jane” can enjoy?

    1. Workerbee*

      That just puts even more onus on LW to manage a coworker’s responses and feelings for them. If Jane already is incapable of keeping her fingers out of the candy bowl on someone else’s desk, then Jane could just bypass the for-her alternatives and continue complaining about temptation.

  13. hereforthecomments*

    You could ask co-worker what kind of candy she doesn’t like and put that kind out. It’s easy for me to avoid office temptation because I don’t like milk chocolate. I keep my own stash of dark chocolate for emergencies, but if I bring candy for the office, it’s milk chocolate.

    1. Panicked*

      I’m in HR and I have always had a candy dish on my desk because it promotes traffic to my office from people that otherwise wouldn’t touch base with me often. I purposefully stock things that I know certain people like, especially if I know they are having a difficult time. They stop by to grab a treat and it often leads to a conversation that is helpful for them, for me, or for both of us! I would have a very difficult time getting rid of it altogether because it is so useful in what I do.

      That being said, I’m celiac with a *very* persistent sweet tooth and very little self-control. My candy bowl is filled with wheat/gluten-filled things I can’t have. My co-workers can still enjoy it and I still get to have that connection with them. It’s not a solution for OP, but it works for me.

    2. ErinW*

      That’s always worked for me with Halloween candy. If I buy mini Snickers, they are gone (into my belly) before Oct 31. If I buy Nerds or Sour Patch Kids or Skittles (candies I don’t like), they can sit until they are needed.

    3. Busy Middle Manager*

      Agreed. Or, hot take, put out something she likes! I don’t think OP fully grasped the concept of communal anything in a work environment. It’s supposed to please the majority of people. If someone complains about it, they may or may not represent a silent cohort of your coworkers, and shouldn’t just be brushed off.

      When we were in office, this is why my job switched to healthy snacks like popcorn, trail mix, nuts, bananas, with chocolate shoved way down and back in a drawer.

    4. CommanderBanana*

      Same. I don’t like chocolate, so my candy jar is all chocolate. If it was something like Skittles or gummy bears I would eat it.

  14. Dances with Code*

    As someone who needs to avoid sugar for health reasons (and whose romantic partner is diabetic and also needs to work on avoiding temptation), I would strongly prefer not to have a communal candy dish in office spaces. In some sense that’s a me problem, in that it’s my health that is affected, but peer pressure, visibility, and norms can make it a continuing battle of willpower.

    I do agree that just moving the candy dish without discussion on someone else’s desk out of sight is entirely the wrong way to address such a need though.

    1. LB33*

      Curious what you mean by peer pressure in this case.. I doubt any colleagues care whether or not you eat candy?

      1. Starbuck*

        Yes unless someone is passing the bowl around or expects you to stop by their desk promptly every morning on arrival to receive your candy allotment – I promise no one is going to notice or care if you aren’t eating any.

    2. Maggie*

      Not sure why your partners diabetes has anything to do with a candy dish at somewhere they don’t even work?

    3. kalli*

      One place I used to work expected me to buy the lollies for the candy bowl because I couldn’t eat them so buying them was my ‘contribution’ (well, and they liked this one brand that was only at the pharmacy and I was always at the pharmacy because I needed medication to get through the day there). I didn’t get reimbursed, of course.

      I always just assume that they stopped having the candy bowl when I left.

    4. And thanks for the coffee*

      We should take the commenter at their word. They worry about peer pressure even if others think there is no reason to feel that way. Their partner’s diabetes, albeit not related to what happens at work, makes this person very aware of reasons where snacks and sweets can be problem. They have already recognized it is their problem.

      Some of the comments seem unkind or judgmental.

  15. Lacey*

    I have a family member who struggles with things like visible candy, so I’m sympathetic to the coworker’s problem, but not the way they handled it.

    The obvious first step was to talk with the OP about it and see what could be done.
    To keep moving someone’s stuff without permission or explanation is obnoxious.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      And being so self-righteous about it. Well I’m just going to keep doing it even though you clearly stated you don’t like people moving things on your desk. I might even escalate to throwing the candy away that people spent their own money on. Because I must be accomodated and no one else matters.

      That’s what irks me. It’s so self-centered.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        It is self-centered, and self-righteous, I agree. And it also puts Jane in the position of “She’s why we can’t have nice things,” which is one of the top five ways of making yourself disliked by your coworkers. (Remember how if we had a teacher who favored group punishments, we all hated the one kid who got our privileges taken away?)

        I get how it’s tempting to have candy around. And I agree with so many other commenters, if Jane really, truly, could not resist the candy dish, she could have been nice about her request, and acknowledged the LW as having good intentions: “Hey, Fergus, it’s so nice of you to have a candy dish for everyone. We all love it. In fact, I love it just a little TOO much – do you think you could somehow put it out of my line of sight? I appreciate it!”

        I know that sounds like osculating posterior, but, you really do catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Nobody likes vinegar. Only use if absolutely necessary; otherwise, use that sweet treat honey.

  16. Nea*

    You know how people bring leftover Halloween candy to the office and leave it out? One year, one of the execs threw it all out and left a note basically saying “People around here are too fat anyway.”

    When the higher ups were through with him, he had to email an apology to the entire office and refill the bowl.

    I get the temptation,I really do; I struggle with the open candy dishes in the next office over. But threatening to throw it all out? Them’s fighting words. The person with a problem is always welcome to fill the dish themself with whatever isn’t an issue for them.

    1. MsM*

      That’s it? I’d have put him on birthday cake-buying duty for the rest of his tenure at the company, assuming he’d be sticking around more than a month.

    2. Anita stop being trampled on*

      Exactly this! If someone had demanded that I not keep a candy dish and then threatened to throw away MY PERSONAL things, we’d be in a whole ‘nother territory! I would give pretty much everyone pretty much anything, but if you’re mean or nasty or (as in this case) incredibly toddler-like about your request, you can bet your sweet patootie that it’ll be a cold day in hell before you get what you want.

  17. pally*

    I do sympathize with the co-worker struggling with temptation. But not to the extent that it is acceptable to touch items on the OP’s desk.

    Some thoughts:
    Can the candy tray be changed over to an opaque container (with or without a lid)?

    Or can the candy offerings include something low calorie? Although I don’t think there’s anything low calorie in the candy department that doesn’t include xylitol in the ingredient list (which some folks don’t care for). Probably not feasible to include some fresh fruit as that takes up a lot of room and goes bad quickly.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      What about dried fruit? They are generally very sweet, but last a long time without going bad.

      The weird person would suggest dried mangos with chili powder on them. (good eating)

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Dried fruit is delicious, but the natural sugar in it is concentrated – it loses water when it’s dried, but it doesn’t lose its natural sugar. Dried fruit is very sweet because it has so much sugar concentrated in a small space – think how much smaller a dried apricot is than a fresh one. So that really wouldn’t be a solution to Jane’s inability/refusal to resist temptation; she’d still be getting the sugar!

        1. pally*

          Personally, I’d be all over the dried fruit option.

          As pointed out by Marzipan Shepherdess, the sugar -especially in concentrated form- may be objectionable by the co-worker. Worth asking about it before discarding the idea.

      2. Observer*

        They can go bad a lot faster than you expect. Dried fruit also tends to be a lot more expensive that candy. Lastly, dried fruit is generally a bad idea for anyone dealing with weight / food issues. They are very concentrated and high in sugar. And that’s if you are getting fruit that is not sugar / honey / syrup dipped, which is extremely common.

        And that’s on top of the fact that it’s a lot harder to find dried fruit that’s has individually wrapped pieces (which tend to be even MORE expensive) and open dried fruit is a major invitation to pests.

        It is absolutely not something you can put out and leave for days at a time.

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      Russell Stover makes several varieties of candy that are sweetened with stevia, a natural sweetener that is safe for diabetes and has no calories.

    3. Maggie*

      I mean mini candies themselves aren’t super high calorie if you only eat a few…. But I guess therein lies the problem

  18. Angie S.*

    Currently, I’m dealing with an issue at work where a coworker makes an announcement to everyone about the food that she brings to work that she intends to share with her coworkers. She even goes to everyone’s desk to make sure that we all know about the food that she brings in, and she would not take my “no, I don’t want your food” as the answer.
    If the LW is not forcing her food to others, I don’t see it as a problem. I think the complainer should have taken the issuer to the manager if they see it as a “problem” – and that is if the problem has to do with the smell of the candy or the candy may result in some allergic reaction.

    1. Observer*

      She even goes to everyone’s desk to make sure that we all know about the food that she brings in, and she would not take my “no, I don’t want your food” as the answer.

      Now, THAT is obnoxious. Someone in authority should tell her to knock it off.

      and that is if the problem has to do with the smell of the candy or the candy may result in some allergic reaction.

      I don’t think we get to tell people how “real” their problem is. The issue here is not that Jane did not have a “legitimate” problem. But her way of handling it and her expectation that everyone else needs to take care of it for her. That’s just not viable.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      I had that with a previous colleague. She put Girl Scout cookies on the communal table in the break room, and came around with a sleeve of Thin Mints and required me to take one. I said no and she pushed. I told her how (truly) they make me binge-eat because I cannot stop at one. She told me I was being rude to refuse a gift. I took it and said I would save it for later, and she walked off smirking. I threw it in the garbage after she left.

      A previous office I worked in had a bunch of women participating in a weight-loss competition (ugh) with a cash pool and payout depending on how many pounds lost/what percent of your goal weight lost/something like that. One woman (who was married to one of the bosses) regularly brought in lots of baked goods for the break room and not-so-jokingly-said she was doing it to sabotage the others.

      1. Nea*

        She told me I was being rude to refuse a gift.

        Miss Manners would have a few things to say about her complaining about other people being rude when she was the one who started the rudeness.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Right? And it wasn’t even homemade, it was a Thin Mint. I was one of the newest people in the office and she had a ton of seniority, so I was nervous about pushing back on her as it was.

          I had a lot of problems with dealing with sweets at the time, to the point where I couldn’t even save a cookie ‘for later’ from a catered lunch because my brain would be screaming at me to eat the cookie, and I would usually either throw it away or gobble it down. I’m hugely better about them now; most sweets are barely appealing typically. But Thin Mints remain a binge-eating weakness where I will try to eat the whole sleeve or box if they’re around me, once I start.

          (I had another coworker who made the most amazing baked goods with serious amounts of time and effort, and very much a food-is-love attitude. I hated making her sad every time I turned down her goodies; she by contrast tried hard to be gracious about refusals but I could tell this effort meant a lot to her. We got together about a year ago and I did take – and eat – the little mini-cake she offered.)

      2. allathian*

        Ugh, I’m so sorry. She was out of line, but couldn’t you have offered the thin mint to someone else in the office before throwing it away? Throwing away perfectly edible food provokes a visceral reaction in me. Admittedly it’s my problem, but food waste in general is an issue we need to improve on.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          She was offering them to everyone and had boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the break room. No one in my office would/should want a cookie that I touched with my bare hands.

          Food waste is a problem, but my body is not worth treating like a garbage can alternative. I do my best to turn down food before it even gets to me and to make better choices. Throwing away that single cookie was so helpful for me.

          1. Observer*

            but my body is not worth treating like a garbage can alternative.

            Thank you for saying that! I get SOOO annoyed at people act as though not eating everything on your plate / you were handed etc. is some crime. I don’t care what your background is – my father survived literal starvation (nearly died of malnutrition) yet he always insisted that it better to throw OUT food rather than to “throw it in” (ie to eat food just because you don’t want it to go to the garbage.)

        2. jeyne*

          food waste is definitely a problem, but as someone with some dysfunction in my relationship with food, feeling stress and guilt about not finishing every last bite or cookie just leads to more dysfunction and me not eating at all. my forcing down food i don’t want doesn’t actually help anyone else.

    3. Cheesy*

      We’ve got a very communal food culture at my current job. There’s birthday treats, holiday treats, someone’s spouse works for a snack distributer and brings in bags of can’t sell but still good treats. Plus, there are a lot of rentable meeting spots near us and people will leave us leftover food so they don’t have to haul it away. Last week, our cafeteria had a last second catering cancel and brought in a big tray of cookies. Today is someone’s milestone anniversary and they brought in a full lunch spread. On top of all that we have multiple communal candy dishes plus a kitchenette full of snacks that are ostensibly for our clients but more than a few sneak a bit. It seems like there’s always someone stopping by my desk to remind me of food or offer me food and some of them can get fairly insistent.

      I’ve learned to deflect pretty well, although there is one candy dish close to me with a favorite treat that usually succeeds a few times a day.

    4. Yeah...*

      Why not take the conversation to its logical end? Just ask her what exactly is going to happen is you say no? You get called rude?

      Clearly, I am “unkind” and anti-social.

    5. theletter*

      Oh I had an intern like that! It took more than a few tough conversations to get her to knock it off. She was eventually laid off.

  19. the candy claw*

    I know this letter is old but I have headed off this very scenario by putting candy in a desktop claw machine. It doesn’t take real coins and you can operate it in mute mode so it doesn’t make noise. It’s supportive of folks who can’t resist grabbing a piece of candy every time they walk past and also a fun enrichment activity for people who want to play. Folks have a great time with it but no one has ever lingered more than 2 rounds trying to get candy (the rounds are 60 seconds).

    Well, employees’ kids have definitely spent longer but not during times when I’m trying to work.

    1. CheesePlease*

      does anyone actually get candy out of it?? because the claw machines at the arcade always suck haha

      1. the candy claw*

        They do!! Some candies are a lot easier than others, though. Hershey’s kisses are next to impossible but anything sealed with little plastic edges for it to grab is fairly easy. Like skittles, kit kats, etc

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      This is a great idea.

      There is a candy claw machine at the pizza place near a relative’s–you are guaranteed candy, the game goes until the candy falls through the chute. A bowl of candy on the counter where you could pick the exact piece you want for 25 cents doesn’t have anywhere near the lure of dropping that quarter in and trying to score two–even three!–pieces with one grab.

      Memorably on one occasion the adult in charge of the small boys gave them each a quarter and sent them off, unaware that one of the boys had been given $10 by his mom in case we went out to eat, and the boys had a supremely excellent time.

    1. Velawciraptor*

      You think someone losing their livelihood for moving a bowl of candy is a reasonable solution? Someone’s income and access to medical care should be cut off for moving a bowl? That would be swatting at a fly with a bazooka.

      I think the complaining co-worker is being ridiculous, but this escalates the situation beyond all reason. It’s unnecessary, unkind, and would likely have serious negative ramifications for the letter writer (management questioning their judgment for blowing up something so minor in this way, co-workers no longer trusting them because they escalated a situation in such a way, difficulty working with the co-worker when the attempt to have them fired doesn’t result in that, etc.).

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      It’s these proportionate and practical responses to trivial workplace conflicts that I read AAM for!

    3. Antilles*


      Jane isn’t getting “fired for theft” over this. First off, it’s not clear that she even stole anything, she may have vaguely threatened to do so but it doesn’t seem like it’s happened yet. But even if the time the bowl was empty in OP’s drawer was because Jane dumped out the candy, most reasonable managers would just give Jane a mild verbal “don’t do that” reprimand and leave it at that.

      I’ll also just note that for OP, I suspect a lot of managers would also be mildly annoyed at OP for elevating this. Even though Jane was being ridiculous and probably shouldn’t have moved the bowl, it’s still a bit “wait really? really???” that two professional adults are in a major argument over $5 worth of Jolly Ranchers in a candy bowl.

      1. mreasy*

        I think there’s a typo in your last sentence, you said “$5 worth of Jolly Ranchers in a candy bowl” instead of “$5 worth of Jolly Ranchers in a candy bowl (unless they are Fruit Punch Jolly Ranchers in which case no punishment is too severe)”.

      2. Emily Byrd Starr*

        Yes, give her a verbal reprimand and let her know in no uncertain terms that she will be fired if she does it again.

  20. Geek5508*

    CW lost the high moral ground when she went through OP’s desk without permission, AND threatened to throw the candy out

  21. Falling Diphthong*

    I wonder if Hidden Brain has done an episode on things that do and don’t work for avoiding the communal candy dish?

    Like the suggestions that for some people, moving the dish from one end of the desk to another made a big difference–it was just one small bit harder to grab something, and that was enough to interrupt the habit.

    I wonder if the opaque covered dish would lead to embarrassment, since you are announcing to any bystanders that you are on a Mission To Obtain Candy, rather than accidentally happening across a rogue Snickers bar on your way to the copier. If the goal were to lure people over to your table to talk to you or read your display, then I would say the candy absolutely must be visible–both type (do I even like this candy?) and amount (I wouldn’t be taking the last one, right?).

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      Right, this part is so interesting! My immediate thought was: “Oh, no, I’d never open up a closed drawer to get candy!” Not even if it had a sign on it saying, “Candy here, feel free to take some.” There’s no logical reason for it, but it would feel like going to real effort for a treat, which my brain says is forbidden. While snatching up a quick mini-Snickers that’s out in the open–that’s fine.

      Brains are weird. Now I want the OP to move the candy jar to a drawer permanently and report back on whether the candy lasts a lot longer.

  22. LB33*

    Your coworker is being ridiculous, but AAM’s advice is perfect – don’t get sucked in to a drawn out battle over candy. Even if you’re in the right, people will only remember that you were arguing over something petty.

    1. Maggie*

      It costs something everyone else in the office enjoys here. Sorry but the co worker is supremely immature for moving the stuff without asking or having a conversation. Maybe the co worker should have compassion to the value OP places on their personal items. Also part of being an adult is being able to deal with things like seeing candy. It’s not the OPs fault that the coworker needs therapy for their food issues. With this logic we couldn’t even talk about work at work because what if someone’s having a stress breakdown from work!

      1. GythaOgden*

        If people want candy they should bring their own tbh. Then they can eat as much or as little as they want and everyone is happier.

        1. al*

          Others are bringing their own, it’s just going in the LW’s candy dish. They’re bringing their own, and sharing it with their coworkers with a congenial spirit; see the 4th sentence of the letter.

  23. Lizzay*

    This feels like a situation where everyone kind of sucks. LW, why dig your heels in on this? Get a covered bowl, and/or put it away when you’re not there. CW, work on your will power & don’t go into peoples’ desks.
    If people stopped needing to be ‘right’ and were just a bit more empathetic, wouldn’t that make the workplace and the world a bit better for everyone?

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      I don’t think the LW sucks. I think she is reacting mostly to the sort of controlling aspect of the coworker’s behaviour. I think many people would be inclined to dig their heels in if told “you must put the candy in a drawer because I don’t have the willpower to resist it otherwise.”

      I suspect the LW would have reacted differently had the coworker come to her and said, “would you might putting the candy bowl out of sight? I’m trying to eat more healthily and I find it very tempting seeing the bowl there” but when somebody takes something and moves it into one of your desks without permission and then proceeds to act like you are being unreasonable for having had it out in the first place and as if you should have known how they felt about it, it sort of makes you feel as if they are scolding you and as if doing what they ask is akin to admitting they were right all along and that they are an authority over you and you should be a good little child and do as they say.

      Now, from the outside, it’s easy to see that the most mature thing to do is to be the one to compromise, but when you are in a situation where somebody behaves badly and then acts like they are the authority figure scolding you, it’s hard not to feel that giving in is an admission of that. And I think a lot of people instinctively dislike to reward demanding behaviour, perhaps because at some level, we worry it will encourage it in the future, that the coworker will decide she can continue making demands of the LW.

      But yeah, I agree that a covered bowl sounds like a good compromise.

    2. Cicely*

      Sure, but I don’t see empathy as the point. To me, this a co-worker problem, because carry the logic to its fullest extent, and eventually, everyone has to organize themselves around the co-worker. For example, what if LW wishes to eat a bunch of chocolates for lunch in the shared breakroom but can’t because co-worker? What if an office cake becomes off limits because co-worker?

      And so on.

  24. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    Jane is WAYYY out of line in trying to police LW’s candy dish, but how about this: LW, would you be open to buying sugar-free candy? There are a LOT of different varieties of them now, and, while they’re not without their own issues (the sweetener used in most of them must be consumed in moderation because it can be a laxative), they’re not as calorie-filled as “regular” candy. And Jane could take a piece or two without loading up on sugar! Win-win and no candy dish wars.

    1. AnonORama*

      If you want to switch it out for sugar-free sometimes that’s cool, but make sure you display the label. Some people can handle a fair amount of sugar alcohols, others not so much. (Not the recommended way to lose 10lbs — ask me how I know!)

      1. Maggie*

        Yeah that would certainly keep me out of the candy lol, it gives me a migraine not to mention the severe digestive distress lol. Did we all learn nothing from the infamous Amazon sugar free gummy bear review?!

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      As I mentioned in another comment, stevia is a natural sweetener that is used as a substitute for sugar. It’s safe for diabetes and has no calories. Russell Stover uses stevia in sugar free versions of several different varieties of their candy.

      1. Violet*

        Someone else’s lack of self-control is not OP’s problem at all. The fact that coworker is attempting to outsource her self-control to OP (and thus negating the ‘self’ part) is wild!

    3. allathian*

      Maybe not, but sugar free candy isn’t the panacea people often think it is. Sure, it has fewer calories than sugar, but that doesn’t make it necessarily “healthier”. Even natural alternatives like stevia can provoke nausea in people who are sensitive to sugar alcohols. Xylitol (made from birch sap) is a well-known laxative, although if your digestive system can handle small amounts, I recommend chewing on a piece of 100% xylitol-sweetened gum for a few minutes after lunch because it helps prevent caries by neutralizing the bacterial acid attack on exposure to carbohydrates that ultimately causes caries.

  25. Going Against the Flow*

    What the Jane did was wrong. You do not touch other people’s things.

    What I find confusing when reading this website (in the manner that I process information) is that some concepts do not seem to apply in different situations. In this case sounds like intent vs impact. The LW clearly wants to provide a bit of joy and kindness by brining in candy and for many people in the office it does that. On the other hand, it clearly is having a very negative impact on Jane and she asked you to stop (very, very poorly asked). Now that you know it bothers Jane and is making her life harder, why would LW intentionally continue to do that?

    You are inflicting that temptation on Jane if the desk set-up means it is often in her line of sight or she has to pass by it multiple times a day. It can lead to decision fatigue. It is exhausting to 20 times to internally say “I do not need this delicious piece of chocolate that that provides an instant endorphin hit that will be calming and make me happier while I deal with this work stress.”

    If your goal is truly just to provide communal candy why not just put it somewhere else in the office so that Jane doesn’t have to see it all the time.

    1. Observer*

      and she asked you to stop (very, very poorly asked).

      Well, the thing is that she did *not* ask. Her *first* step was a stealth overstep. And her second step was a demand accompanied by insults and a threat to unilaterally impose that demand. That is not only out of line, but it absolutely sets up a situation where even otherwise reasonable people are just not going to cooperate.

      . Now that you know it bothers Jane and is making her life harder, why would LW intentionally continue to do that?

      Because it does bring pleasure to others. And the OP reasonably does not believe that they should be forced to deny themselves and others some small pleasure by someone who is not willing to honor basic boundaries and courtesy.

      If your goal is truly just to provide communal candy why not just put it somewhere else in the office so that Jane doesn’t have to see it all the time.

      That’s a potentially reasonable solution, and it’s something that came up in the original discussion as well. And had the CW approached the whole discussion in a reasonable way, it’s quite possible that a solution like this would have been worked out. And if not, the letter the OP would have written would have looked very, very different – more of an exploration of competing needs vs “How do I respond to this unreasonable and obnoxious coworker.”

      1. Hendry*

        True, but those solutions should still be on the table. Just because the coworker is acting unreasonable you can still take the high road which is usually advisable when it involves something minor like this

      2. Going Against the Flow*

        This is where I am tripped up. If Jane were nicer would you be telling the OP that it’s not nice to purposefully inflict distress on an officemate just so a few people can have a “small pleasure”. I’m generally of the opinion if someone asks you to stop because it is causing them that you should probably stop. Jane has no choice but to see the candy during the day so I would think you’d treat it like any other office decoration and if your office mate said it disturbs them you take it down even though you and others like it and you don’t think it should cause that reaction. That is empathy that you believe people when they say that is how they feel.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          But the OP isn’t purposefuly inflicting distress on a coworker. They are simply sharing candy with their coworkers. Yes, that may distress the coworker (or it may not; there is no suggestion of any distress here, just that the coworker doesn’t want to be tempted to eat unhealthy food) but it isn’t purposeful.

          And no, even if Jane were nicer, I wouldn’t think the OP was doing anything that was “not nice.” I would think it would be kind, if possible, to put the candy dish out of her line of sight and I think the same thing now, even though the coworker quite frankly acted in a very controlling manner, but that is different from saying that it is not nice not to or that the OP is purposefully inflicting distress on the coworker. She almost certainly isn’t.

          Intent versus impact is a complicated one and you can’t really 100% come down on one side or the other. If you only work on impact, then you end up with situations like the one somebody wrote in about once where a boss was making people line up male-female or something like that in order to avoid triggering somebody’s PTSD. On the other hand, looking only at intent would mean excusing pretty appalling behaviour, especially stuff like has appeared in other letters here where people try to force others to do what they consider to be healthy.

          It is a balancing act and it’s not just “if somebody says anything bothers them in the slightest way, the other person should immediately stop, even if that is likely to bother numerous other people or else they are purposefully inflicting distress on them.”

          In this case, one person says there is a chance they might break their diet if the food is left out. Other people presumably want it to be left out because they like the food. There is no reason to assume either group will experience distress or be harmed in any way if they don’t get their way. Her poor behaviour is the only indication that she might be distressed and that could just as easily be caused by her being a demanding person.

          As far as I can see, she didn’t say it causes her distress or that it disturbs her. She just said she wants to avoid eating sweets and can’t if they are there; therefore she needs to remove them. It’s very possible that this is just a matter of her finding it easier to stick to her diet when there aren’t sweets available. I mean it is possible there is more to it, but there is nothing to suggest there is. Many people complain about sweets in the workplace when they are trying to diet. It doesn’t mean the sweets cause them distress, just that they might be tempted to take one.

          1. GythaOgden*

            She’s not doing it purposefully, but then I wasn’t annoying my perpetually-cold colleague when I wanted the fan on full blast intentionally, but she felt the cold to the sort of inordinate degree that I feel the heat. So we found a compromise that worked for both of us and bingo, the relationship improved enormously.

            Sometimes we have to modify our behaviour to help others out even when we’re not doing anything intentional. That’s just how communal living works, and this is a really petty situation for the sort of reaction it’s provoking — //especially// because every other post is ‘colleague is doing X that annoys me, can I ask her to stop?’ and most people would say their needs need to be honoured by other people.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      This is where I’m at – for whatever reason, having this candy dish out when OP isn’t there is making this woman’s day a little bit shittier, every day. She didn’t handle it well, but resolving this does not have to be a big deal.

    3. Thalia Spillane*

      Well, the thing is that while “intent vs impact” is absolutely a real thing and something to keep in mind, it doesn’t change the fact that there are some things you can ask for that are simply not reasonable to expect. For example, if a guy wants to date me and I do not want to date him then it is true that while I didn’t intend to hurt him by turning him down, he probably does feel hurt and I will probably keep that in mind and try to turn him down gently. But it doesn’t mean that I am obligated to date him in order to spare him pain or that he is entitled to demand something from me because I unintentionally caused him pain. It is important to keep the effect of our actions in mind, but intent vs impact is not carte blanche to demand that no one ever does anything you don’t want them to.

      In case of this letter, not only do you have to consider the other people in this workplace and what they want to happen, but in the end, while it might be nice of the OP to hide the candy dish, Jane ultimately doesn’t have the right to demand it and the OP and other commenters are right that there will likely be many other situations where Jane has to face the fact that she can only control so much.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think in a lot of cases, adults tempted to use the phrase “inflicted this temptation on me” should step back, reconsider, and exert the self-control that is supposed to mark this life stage. (For example, the next letter, in which an employee is upset that some people in the office wear short skirts which will inflict temptation on people.)

      A very valid approach to food is “X is always available to me,” which is in contrast to the idea that X is so so bad, and if you have one X well that’s it, you need to now eat a carton of X and swear that tomorrow you will really double down on your X-free diet, and so on. Whereas if you’re a pastry chef with unlimited access to buttercream, you’re not inclined to go wild when some buttercream appears and you could potentially eat it.

      1. Going Against the Flow*

        I can’t recall all of the exact studies but many people trying to change their diets are dealing with a lot more than just “self-control”.

        It is easier to make a singular good choice (ordering at a restaurant, going grocery shopping) than having to make the same choice over and over again throughout the day. I wish I had time to look up the studies but I know it’s been proven that if you put a bowl of candy/fruit out on the counter more people will eat it than if they know it is available in the refrigerator.

        I also think asking for the candy to be out of sight is reasonable as no one is saying ban candy or even don’t have a candy jar. Seems an easy compromise.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’m not opposed to moving the candy jar. (Though when you’re an asshole about how you ask, the odds of compliance drop like a stone, as Observer notes.)

          But for some people having the candy out, right there, where they don’t need to grab a piece now because they can easily have one later, or tomorrow, is the key to making “good choices.” And setting up the rule “candy is so so bad, you’re so so bad if you eat it” is not moving in a good direction for them. (I am opposed to framing particular foods as good or bad, and think doing so leads to a lot of bingeing patterns.)

      2. Emily Byrd Starr*

        Agreed. I’m on a diet myself right now, and while it’s tempting to eat the free candy that’s left out at work, I’m able to control myself. Jane needs to learn to do the same thing. When she’s hungry, she doesn’t just go into a restaurant and steal food off of others’ plates, at least I sure hope she doesn’t. She needs to show the same restraint at the office, or else deal with the consequences of being unhealthy and possibly overweight.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      There are entire fields of study around absolutism (no harm acceptable) vs utilitarianism (greatest good on the balance). Those are terrible summaries, by the way. But one of the recurring topics here is, to what extent is it reasonable to ask your workplace to conform to your preferences? The “math” is hideously complicated. Is it a preference, or a need? How controllable is exposure? What’s an unavoidable level of exposure, and would the +/- of this instance really matter? If you have an office group of 10, and 9 people like having the candy bowl out, the situation isn’t just down to how Jane wants things. It isn’t that concepts don’t apply across situations, it’s that there are multiple factors in each situation, so a single factor might weigh heavily in one situation but be outweighed in the next.

      In this case, Jane has done herself a real disservice, because by acting unreasonably, she has put her desire in an unreasonable light of trying to over-control her environment without regard for boundaries or the preferences of others, AND triggered a hostile reaction to a major overstep.

  26. latetotheparty*

    The office candy jar was on my desk at my last job. I simply bought candy that I don’t like so *I* wouldn’t be tempted. I didn’t want to give up the candy jar because I got to know my coworkers who were half my age.

  27. Angstrom*

    If I were a candy dish provider, having folks go into one of my desk drawers when I was working at the desk would be uncomfortable. I like the suggestions to hide it in a Fortress Of File Folders or Bailiwick Of Binders.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      No update as far as I can tell. The letter writer did comment twice on the original post with the name “OP”. Link to the first comment to follow.

  28. English Rose*

    This letter and the responses are so interesting to me.
    When I read the letter I was really annoyed with OP because they appeared to be making such a childish big deal out of a candy dish. Just put the candy dish in the kitchen or something.
    But then reading some of the responses, especially that from @Yup “It really did help to have a “thing” in the office which helped me ease into social situations that I’m normally awkward in.” I realised there’s more to it than that.

    1. Busy Middle Manager*

      Actually these takes are even more confusing, they are all written to make it sound like you HAVE to use candy for this purpose, as if it’s some trade off you have to make. Like there aren’t popcorn packets or dried fruits or packets of nuts or crackers you can put there

      1. Colette*

        Candy is relatively cheap, popular, and individually packaged. If the goal is to draw people in without spending massive amounts of money, candy is a good choice. Yes, there are other foods available – so what? Anyone who doesn’t want to eat the candy can supply something else.

  29. Productivity Pigeon*

    I’m sorry for the coworker who’s obviously dealing with a lot of food related feelings.

    But insisting on taking the entire thing away, something that obviously brings a lot of people, is not the right way to handle those feelings.
    The other coworkers are not eating candy “at” the coworker, they’re not out to provoke the coworker.

  30. Lucy*

    As a person with food issues, I’m sympathetic if it really causes her stress but you can’t expect the world to conform to you. I hate diet/weight talk at work, but I don’t tell my colleagues to stop having those conversations – as long as no one expands them to comment on me or my weight. I imagine her own weight-focus, if a huge topic of conversation for her, would really stress me out, frankly. It would really bother me to have someone yelling across the room that sweets were too toxic even to be visible in the office. I’m sorry for her insecurities, and she can do as she likes with her own nutrition but others have just as many emotional reasons *not* to be exposed to food negativity as she has to not be exposed to what she perceives as negative foods.

    1. Lucy*

      P.S. That “if it’s for the community, I’ll just throw it away” line so tells on itself. Like, yes Margaret, you *are* part of the community, but no, Margaret, you are not the *whole* community. A community has other people in it, whose wants and needs also count.

      (I can’t remember if coworker was named in this, so I just went with “Margaret”, since I don’t actually know any Margarets irl.)

      1. Emily*

        Exactly! The fact that Jane feels like she has the right to dictate this to everyone is ridiculous and needs to be shut down.

    2. Busy Middle Manager*

      This is missing the huge cultural element. Sometimes you miss it if you live in a coastal higher income area like I now do, where alot of your coworkers will be into healthy living and there are healthy food choices near the office.

      In much of the country, you’re having huge amounts of extremely unhealthy stuff shoved in your face day in, day out, and it becomes alot of emotional labor and often a logistical nightmare to deal with. People get insulted if you turn stuff down, they keep offering you stuff repeatedly and it comes annoying, they out tempting stuff within eye sight and you end up stress eating in a moment of weakness and feel horrible afterwards. In alot of places, the office food choice is always something high carb, high sugar, low nutrition. If you bring in something healthy, everyone comments on it. It gets old, real quick! I have to eat gluten free and have explained to the same people what feels like a hundred times that I can’t eat their cookies, cake, desserts, pizza. Then they ask if you want a very breaded chicken patty on a roll. Dealing with this every day, I can see someone snapping when they then see another temptation in the form of a candy bowl

      There is also the cultural/interpersonal aspect of people minimizing something when it’s right in front of them. Sort of like my “you can’t have a wheat allergy, I never saw you sick” (that’s because I don’t eat wheat!). Or a “I know you’re dieting but my cake won’t hurt your diet” type stuff

      1. Lucy*

        I’m sorry, I just don’t agree. It’s true I don’t have any skin in the game about commercial advertising of snacks – feel free to be mad at fast food businesses etc. And I’m sure it’s very likely that where those foods are more often advertised, people are more likely to eat foods with a high fat or carb content. Which still doesn’t make those people wrong or the snacks “bad”.

        Chocolate and baked goods are delicious. If people choose not to eat them, or can’t eat them, that’s fine. (I think lots of meats are delicious but I choose to be vegetarian. People make their choices.) But you don’t get to ban other people from eating or displaying them, whether you’re in a minority or a majority, as a “healthy living” advocate. (Many of whom have the most unhealthy attitudes towards food and nutrition that I have ever heard.)

        Of course, no one should be shoving food into anyone’s face, or getting offended if it’s turned down – but no one is describing that situation. The candy is just there. If you are so overpowered by the view of candy that you completely lose it and can’t cope, I would suggest that there is a larger problem there – and it’s with the person who snaps, not the person providing the sweets. (Uncharitably, I would suggest that said snapping person may need to eat a flipping chocolate bar and chill out, because their diet is not my problem… But I suppose that’s an assumption too. But whatever the problem is, it’s theirs, not mine.)

        I think a lot of people taking these stances tend to have underlying assumptions about “good” and “bad” people, and “good” and “bad” foods. There are ethical issues around the sourcing/farming/production of certain foods, but the nutritional content of food is an ethical neutral. All the pain and stress and unhappiness surrounding food is caused by society not by fat or carbs. (I started off by saying “food is an ethical neutral” but it’s more complicated than that. What I really mean is, there’s nothing ethically wrong with fat!)

      2. Lucy*

        P.S. It’s not at all like dismissing a gluten allergy/intolerance. No one should force food on anyone (I suppose maybe medical professionals occasionally?). But saying, “the presence/existence of this food does not require you to eat it, and others will enjoy it”, is not the same as saying, “your allergy isn’t real”. Of course, if there’s an allergy at play, like a severe nut allergy, which makes the presence of food actually dangerous to someone, that must always be accommodated. But the presence of a baked good in the room is not “dangerous” to Sandra’s choice of lifestyle.

      3. Observer*

        Absolutely none of this is relevant to the issue (even without the additional comments that the OP posted).

        No one was “shoving” anything into Jane’s face, much less getting into her space or making comments about her food choices.

        This was not Jane pushing back on having unhealthy food shoveled onto her desk, It was her trying to impose her particular issue on everyone else.

    3. Off on a tangent*

      I have food issues as well. While suport is always welcome, it’s still not co-workers’ job to monitor them. When it comes to bringing in food to the office, check allergies, check religious restrictions, sure.

      Having a candy dish on the desk is not leading someone into temptation. No matter what someone is trying to cut out eating, they’re going to encounter that food or similar in the wild.

  31. Unfashionably direct*

    Many years ago I was frustrated in my dieting plans by company provision of snacks! I played detective as I realised many people had commented similarly that they would also prefer to avoid temptation. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, whilst most people also didn’t want piles of cupcakes in the kitchen, our very sensible, serious boss and company owner absolutely did want unlimited access to cupcakes!

    I took my coworkers advice and made myself a rule to eat only the fruit except on Fridays where we allowed ourselves a treat. Boss was happy and felt generous and the provision of fresh fruit was appreciated. LW and other candy providers would do well to check the preferences of their colleagues before providing more candy, perhaps folks would really enjoy a mint imperial.

  32. Ms. Murchison*

    What if LW replaced the candy with those individually wrapped Sunsweet prunes? LOL. They’re sweet too and the individual wrapping addresses the fruit fly issue.

    But seriously – I agree with the covered container idea above. Get a decorative opaque jar and have a candy jar instead of an open dish.

  33. BecauseHigherEd*

    This is like the ongoing Keurig wars at my office. My department merged with another one and moved into a new building. My office had a Keurig. First day in the new office, I asked the office manager where I should put it, because we wanted to be able to share it with the whole office. He responded that the Keurig could not be publicly displayed because of the environmental impact of K-cups.

    He is correct–K-cups are bad for the environment–but my boss was up in arms that he would tell US what to do with OUR Keurig or to deem what was APPROPRIATE to display in the office. Another manager privately confessed to me that he’s always wanted an office Nespresso but fears the office manager wrath what would rain upon him if he were to bring one in. This all ensued about 18 months ago and I don’t think anyone is actually over it.

  34. MoreThanCandy*

    I am someone whose job depends on finding out stuff people conveniently forget to tell me about or don’t understand that I need to know. For decades now, one of the most effective strategies I’ve employed to discover this information is to put a candy bowl out on my desk. People stop by and they talk. This has been the difference between doing my job well and not doing it do well multiple times (I wish I could find a virtual equivalent). If someone did this to me I’d be beyond livid.

  35. occasionallygrinchy*

    My sympathies are more with the complainer than with OP, to be honest, though I agree that the complaining colleague handled it badly.

    I too struggle with the fact that people leave out cake, biscuits and sweets in my workplace. I get that it’s about hospitality, connection, kindness and generosity – but it’s rarely fruit, nuts and fresh stuff, it’s usually sugar-heavy or salt-heavy. As a practice, it promotes processed food because that is the kind of food that can be left out for days or weeks at a time in a dish on your desk. And that’s also the kind of food that is designed by its manufacturers to be maximally appealing and more-ish.

    It’s a massive trigger for the increasing number of people who are trying to hack their environments to help them to eat better. And for that reason, though I understand the generosity and friendliness that underlies it, I think it’s best avoided in the workplace.

    1. e271828*

      “Hack their environments to help them to eat better” is fine for home. It is not fine for a shared workplace filled with other people who may or may not be on board with the evangelist’s healthy environment hack.

      1. Allonge*


        Also, if one hack does not work, use another one – e.g. I usually manage not to eat things left out by saying to myself it’s not mine. It’s my responsibility to figure something out, and if all else fails, to ASK rather than demand others to change what they are doing.

      2. Lucy*

        Yep! And for whom the “healthy living” hack may be distinctly unhealthy! Not to dwell on the ED issue, but it is super bad for many people’s mental health to be in an environment where people keep seriously vilifying certain foods.

        Maybe I am dwelling on that issue a bit, because I think the problem of disordered eating (even if perhaps not clinical eating disorders) is being distinctly understated/ignored by many of the “healthy eating” advocates in the comments. I mean, these are also a personal responsibility to manage but it feels like it would be a simple and straightforward kindness to just not impose food policing on people who may have all kinds of emotional responses. If someone at work said something about this to me, I’d be drawing a really hard boundary about food language, as well as about people touching my stuff or going into my desk!

    2. Emily*

      No one is forcing you or Jane to eat the food your co-workers bring in. Also, if you want “fruit, nuts, or fresh stuff” to be brought in, then you can bring it in. I’ve done that before at my work. As another commenter said, we can only control our own actions. I would also encourage people (if they are not already familiar) to read about external locus of control versus internal locus of control. Jane’s attitude is very much displaying an external locus of control mindset.

    3. Lucy*

      When people say things like this it just makes me wonder how they treat their fat colleagues. If being thin and not eating candy or salt is/feels better or healthier to you, fantastic! You do you. But if your colleagues are/feel better or healthier being fat and snacking on candy occasionally – or even being thin and snacking on candy occasionally – what is your concern about that?

      Like, I’m happier in my life being child-free right now, but i don’t ban my colleagues from displaying pictures of their kids in case it makes me feel broody..! I’m responsible for my own life choices.

      1. Lucy*

        P.S. The word “trigger” is inappropriate here, though it does highlight how foot and weight have been pathologised. You’re not having flashbacks or damaging your mental health if you see a chocolate bar. You’re just wishing you could eat a chocolate bar. On the other hand, a person recovering from an eating disorder (for example, me, fifteen or so years ago) might well be triggered into some seriously damaging behaviour by a “thin means healthy” coworker talking about how toxic and bad a candy dish is.

        (And even then, despite an actual disorder and an actual diagnosis, that would most likely still be my cross to bear anyway. I’m not sure – I haven’t really thought that through – but my instinct is, part of my recovery was to manage those comments and attitudes without backsliding myself, rather than to control everyone around me…)

        1. amoeba*

          But there are literally people here in the comments who struggle with binge eating and for whom being in close proximity to visible candy all day would indeed be a trigger (in the original sense) of their own eating disorder.
          I’d say it’s entirely possible to find a compromise that works for everybody – don’t talk trash about the candy, but also don’t have it in plain sight all day. (Opaque container, finding a different place for it somewhere in the office, whatever).

          1. Lucy*

            I mean, that’s part of my comment about managing my own issues – I have to take responsibility for it, I can’t ban everyone around me from ever talking about their weight loss or their food restrictions. It doesn’t work – and your comment highlights exactly why. Because, if you put me, and someone with a binge eating disorder in the same workplace, those needs conflict. If you fully (to the extreme) indulged my mental health needs as far as my eating disorder goes, there’d be a work culture of constantly discussing delicious meals and food and cooking, validating delicious food choices as something positive which makes us happy and comfortable, and always bringing tons of delicious food so we can spend the work day sharing our snacks and cakes. If you fully indulged (to the extreme) someone with a different disorder, you’d hide all food, never eat in front of each other, never talk about food, especially in ways which make it sound tempting…

            The logical extremes of either are unfair, ridiculous and inappropriate for a workplace. Which leaves the onus on us, the people with the illnesses, to manage ourselves. And that means finding strategies for ourselves to tune out constant diet talk, or finding a strategy to keep the candy dish out of our eyeline, while allowing everyone else to do their own thing. Not totally changing everything and around us, to befit our conflicting mental health conditions. (You’d have to completely segregate the workplace..!)

            Now, if we’re not quite there yet, we absolutely can’t manage ourselves etc – it might be reasonable to quietly and politely approach someone and say something like, “look, I’m struggling with major issues with food at the moment and it would help if you’d… If you don’t mind..?” But that’s not what happened. And the person would still be within their rights to say no.

            1. amoeba*

              I mean, maybe I’m just lucky, but pretty much every workplace I’ve been in had neither (regular) diet talk nor prominently displayed candy around! Maybe it’s just that candy jars are less common where I’m from? That kind of setup would actually be pretty unusual here, so at least for me it’s nowhere near “banning all talk of food” or “not allowed to bring in cake for your birthday” territory…

              1. Lucy*

                My office has both. And I love my team, genuinely but yep, always biscuits or sweets, always in-depth diet discussion. Sometimes I put headphones in and say I just need to focus.

                1. Lucy*

                  Also, I feel like this is frequently a topic that people think only women obsess over. For good reason – most of the diet/food rubbish is directed at women, so mostly women do respond. But the worst offender at my work with diet talk is a man, and his metaphors for his own fat would be hilarious if they weren’t so mean. To himself, I mean. But there’s no acceptable (to him) response other than telling him he’s actually dead skinny. It’s so uncomfortable!

            2. Almond Macchiato*

              Sometimes I think the diet talk in the office or Office Weight Watchers in the name of Wellness does more damage than the proliferation of cupcakes.

              I have binge eating disorder and it’s my job to manage, it’s not for me to demand that everyone cater to me.

              The complainer is in the wrong here. They thought they had to right to manage someone’s personal property instead of making a request. I see control issues from the complainer–the OP noted the complainer was evangelizing her diet as well.

    4. Observer*

      trying to hack their environments to help them to eat better.

      And that gives them license to impose their personal hack on other people?

      For other people *this* is “hacking their environment” to be a bit more comfortable. Why is that less important that Jane’s “hack”.

      I think it’s best avoided in the workplace.

      Why? Why is one set of “hacks” automatically more important than another set of “hacks”? And considering how many hours people spend in their workplaces, even now, defaulting to keeping things meant to foster (to use your own words) “generosity and friendliness” in the workplace is a really deadening approach.

    5. PaulaMomOfTwo*

      I am also with the candy hater. At home I had strict rules for chips (my weakness), and my kids had to keep it in their rooms, ideally hidden.

      I know it sounds like a lot, but when a craving hit, it can be uncontrollable.

      If I had to deal with chips in the workplace on someone’s desk free… I would quickly gain 50 pounds. Whereas I can manage the temptation of the vending machine, and generally only visit once a day.

      People aren’t all built the same.

      If workplaces returned to offices instead of open office spaces, this would not be an issue. Also eliminates the shared hearing experience as well as the shared sights and distractions.

      I also see no real issue with her moving the dish into the OPs desk when OP is out. An office desk isn’t a personal desk (I mean, even what you visit on the internet is known to your employer), and it wouldn’t bother me if anyone looked in my desk. I keep sensitive papers locked up.

      So I agree candy hater could have handled it better, and should have been more communicative, but I am weirded out by all the outrage in the forum for what seems like a fairly reasonable ask. Candy could be placed elsewhere. Everyone could still enjoy it, and candy hater could focus on her work and not her cravings/guilt eating.

      1. Finn (they/them pronouns please)*

        Might be me, but in my opinion the coworker crossed a line. Saying “I’ll throw out your candy if you don’t handle it exactly the way I want” is too much. As is insisting on your solution without being willing to compromise (for example “it won’t contain chips, and will be moved to another location on the desk where it’s less visible, but it will stay and I’ll keep the candy in there even when I’m away because always removing it when I leave my desk can be a lot of work to do”).
        I 100% agree that you’d be right to ask someone to try to avoid to bring in chips, but I also think that it’d not be okay for you to throw out the chips (or threaten to do so), and putting them away after the person who brought them asked to not do that is a bit an unclear spot. Sure, it is technically your right to place them into the drawer probably, but if they don’t like it it’d be nice of you not to do that.
        In summary, I think it’d be the nice thing to do (I think the idiom would be “the higher ground”?) of the sweets owner to remove the sweets, and for you to find a way to deal that doesn’t involve moving them into the desk or throwing them away, and both would rightly be annoyed if the other kept doing that, and I think that throwing them away is not okay in any situation.

    6. basically functional*

      Comments like yours are a massive trigger for the increasing number of people who don’t want the “health” (in quotes because really, it’s about morality) police telling us what to eat or not eat. If I as a fat person have to smile politely while my coworkers moan about how disgusting they are for gaining 2 pounds over the holidays (how disgusting must they think I am for always weighing significantly more than that??), then people who want to restrict their diets can deal with the mere presence of candy no one is forcing on them.

  36. CLC*

    I don’t think it’s right to impose one’s diet culture, fatphobia, and otherwise unhealthy relationships with food on others. Putting the candy dish in the drawer is the same as food shaming the OP and everyone in the office who likes candy. I honestly think this is a pretty big issue and maybe the OP should have stood her ground. I realize this is an old letter but the principle still applies today.

    1. wickedtongue*

      You hit the nail on the head with this comment! The root of most of this anxiety about candy dishes comes from people putting their unhealthy relationships (and moral judgments) about food on other people. That alone would make it worthwhile to push back on this coworker. Add in the rude behavior and if I was in OP’s place, I would have been seething and unwilling to back down.

      1. Emily*

        wickedtongue: Yep! I totally understand the importance of picking battles, but I actually think this is a battle worth having, and actually I don’t think this should have to be a battle at all. A manager or someone else with authority needs to tell Jane in no uncertain terms to cut it out.

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      Jane was definitely in the wrong, but I don’t like how you refer to the desire to live healthier as “diet culture, fat phobia, and otherwise unhealthy relationships with food.” I personally don’t mind being a little overweight; however, I’m currently on a low carb, low calorie diet because I’m at risk for diabetes.

      1. Emily*

        Emily Byrd Starr: It is a “desire to live healthier” when it is something you are doing for yourself based on something like medical advice. However, it becomes “diet culture, fat phobia, and otherwise unhealthy relationships with food” when you try to inflict your personal choices/issues on others, which is exactly what Jane is doing.

      2. wickedtongue*

        As you point out in your own life, a healthy (or healthier) lifestyle is going to look different for every single person, and promoting your diet/lifestyle or imposing your restrictions on other people is a problem. It’s also worth saying that giving food a moral weight only creates shame.

        1. Parakeet*

          Yep. I have been advised by my doctors to eat more salt for medical reasons. My spouse has been similarly advised to eat less salt for medical reasons. Even though these are opposite, they’re both “living healthier.” My spouse doesn’t tell me to get rid of my beef jerky (something we both like the taste of) because makes going into the pantry too tempting. He just refrains from eating it.

      3. Observer*

        but I don’t like how you refer to the desire to live healthier as “diet culture, fat phobia, and otherwise unhealthy relationships with food.”

        Because Jane’s behavior and words went well beyond simply expressing a “desire to live healthier” She was rude, boundary crossing and judgemental as all get out.

    3. Lucy*

      Agree absolutely, as someone with food issues, it’s bizarre to me how many people are agreeing that candy is “bad” but not that imposing disordered ideas about food on your colleagues is bad.

    4. amoeba*

      Or, you know, the right not to have your own disordered eating constantly aggravated by the visible presence of the thing you’re addicted to?

      1. allathian*

        I agree with the visibility issue. In another comment, someone posted a link to the OP’s post in the original thread, and the OP agreed that using an opaque container would be a good first step.

        But the end result is that Jane is being unreasonable in attempting to control what other people eat at the office. This isn’t a severe peanut allergy where the mere presence of peanuts at the office in open containers can trigger anaphylaxis.

      2. Lucy*

        A bowl of communal candy is an every day item. It’s not avoidable. There may be one in your workplace, or at the Optician’s office, or on the counter at the barber’s. That’s the kind of trigger or temptation you just have to learn to manage yourself.

        I do find it hard to perceive this discussion as being in good faith, though. Binge eating disorder is real, and the challenges of it are real. I haven’t read the comments of those on this thread who’ve discussed it, but for those who are personally struggling with it, I have sympathy and would really try to accommodate them.

        At the same time, my experience has always been that many of those who bring it up in discussions like this – particularly when they don’t experience it themselves, and are talking in a general sense – are doing so because they want to maintain their view that “bad food is bad and unhealthy and everyone should feel bad for eating it”. And when people raise that this attitude is pervasive and disordered and damaging, they dismiss it, and use what they consider to be an opposing disorder as a straw man.

        Ultimately, positive messaging around food, rather than disordered, shaming messaging, is a long term good for everyone. Certainly, in the midst of a major disorder, which has already developed, accommodations may need to be made, but these are the rare accommodations that are actually not a universal good, and shouldn’t just be made as a matter of course. Hiding food (particularly “bad” food) and making it forbidden and taboo, is one of the roots of most disordered thinking around food. Openly enjoying and embracing the enjoyment of a variety of different delicious foods is an amazing way to decrease the chances of someone developing a disorder. So, yes, if someone explicitly tells you that they are really struggling with a disorder and asks if you can please make accommodations, that’s great, and you should try to help. But universally deciding to submit to a colleague’s messed up diet talk, in public, where it’s going to come across as an endorsement of their views, is not the way forward here.

      3. wickedtongue*

        There are other ways to manage disordered eating than “can’t see it, can’t be around it, must make everybody else in this community go without.” It’s not a viable strategy for life, and it’s up to the person who is dealing with it to find other ways to cope. Even just, “that candy’s not for me, it’s for the people who stop by to talk to LW and our department” is a better strategy.

        Also worth saying that in LW’s update in the original post, the candy bowl hider was a vegetarian who thought nobody should eat meat…so a person happy to try to impose their ideals about food on anyone else.

  37. Frodo*

    I am a teacher in an elementary school. Our PTO stocks the teacher’s lounge with everything from individual snack bags, to granola bars, to massive amounts of candy. None of this is healthy (the amount of sugar in granola bars is insane). Yet we would never tell the PTO to stop when it makes the majority of us happy. For those teachers who are dieting or simply don’t want to eat crap, they can only control their actions. That’s what we teach the kids, too.

    1. Emily*

      Frodo: “That’s what we teach the kids, too.”

      This is such a good point! I feel like sometimes we expect more of children’s behavior than we do of adults, which is just bizarre to me.

    2. PaulaMomOfTwo*

      Yes, but there is a big difference between the food being in a break room you don’t spend your day in, and the PTO leaving it all on your desk. Much harder to resist when you see it every minute of the day.

      I like what my group does, a snack cart rolls through once a week, well stocked with tons of options.

  38. Mmm.*

    As a person who has tried (and failed) at a billion diets….

    And someone who used to live with a food allergy (though thankfully not one of those that could cause issues by touch or smell)…

    And someone with disabilities that I could use as excuses to be demanding…

    The audacity of this coworker is astounding. This is very much a them-problem. I can’t imagine telling someone to stop doing something that made people happy and wasn’t hurting anyone. And I doubly can’t imagine touching their personal items, going into their desk, or threatening to throw item in the garbage.

    And honestly, the trashing would be theft.

    I’m all for petty revenge in this case.

  39. ChurchOrganistamongotherthings*

    What about putting wrapped mints (peppermints, Life Savers, Werthers, etc) in the candy dish?

  40. SusieQQ*

    I would be so against the suggestion of putting it in the drawer. Having a bowl of candy out on the desk is one thing. Inviting people to _help themselves to going into my desk_ would be completely out of the question. That is my private space. I’m a little surprised that’s being put forward as a serious suggestion here.

  41. sneezingseason*

    OP switching to an opaque covered candy dish seems like a simple solution. The other co-worker wouldn’t see the candy every time they walked past, but the candy would still be available to anyone who wanted some. The other co-worker could supply a nice container as an equal show of good will.

    1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

      This seems sensible. I also thought of putting them in small container or box that is labeled something else entirely (say, binder clips). But unfortunately, it all hinges on whether Jane’s knowledge of what the container contains (because word would get out) would trigger her. Jane needs to get help and adapt regardless.

  42. mreasy*

    The point of what is just vs. what is kind is well-taken here (and in SO MANY of these questions), but I still come down on OP’s side. The coworker acted like a jerk, but beyond that – it’s not really viable to just eliminate all temptations in one’s life in order to change one’s relationship with food. Easy for me to say, but if the coworker truly cannot walk by the candy dish without having some chocolate, and it makes them feel guilty/bad about themselves/etc., they (like most of us!) should be in therapy about this issue. Because avoiding yummy foods is impossible when you live in the world. If you have a binge eating disorder or other food issue, that is one thing, in which case your workplace should accommodate your ADA recognized disability. If you just don’t like how much you like candy, it’s really incumbent upon you to sort it out, simply because even if you win the candy bowl dispute, there will be another candy bowl. There will be on-sale Halloween or Valentine’s candy at CVS when you’re picking up your prescription. There will be a new artisanal donut place that opens up 4 blocks away from you (it happened to me!!!). Unless the coworker has a psychiatric or other medical issue, I cannot see the value in helping the coworker by ‘hiding’ the candy from all the other candy enjoyers as being equitable in any way.

  43. noahwynn*

    Haven’t made it through all the comments yet, but I feel like I would just get rid of the candy bowl. Falls into the “let them” philosophy for me. A candy bowl isn’t worth my emotional energy and although I’d be irritated, it isn’t worth the back and forth with a coworker for me. If someone asked, I would just say “I decided to not keep one out on my desk anymore” and change the topic. Some things are worth fighting for, but not a communal candy bowl, at least for me.

  44. Emily*

    Frankly, if I were Jane’s manager this is something I’d want to know about so I could tell her to stop messing with things on other people’s desks, and make it 100% clear to her that throwing the candy away would be 100% out of line and innapropriate. I’m so tired of the Janes “everything is about me” of the world.

  45. e271828*

    The coworker cannot outsource her food issues to her colleagues. It is not for them to manage her thoughts for her.

    I was a bit aghast that she filled the dish with nuts, by the way, presumably… loose mixed nuts? That were presumably acceptable to her? So she could keep her own nuts at her desk to snack on and avoid the candy dish, and her colleagues could be prevented from the unappetizing communal dish of food everyone’s hands have been in. Assuming no one has a nut allergy.

  46. Umami*

    What a great response from Alison! My rule of thumb is that if I ignore how someone said something and just pay attention to the why, it’s easier to make a reasoned response (ie, how can this be a win-win for all vs. who is right and who is wrong). If all she is really asking is for the candy to be out of sight, then how she asked doesn’t have to matter, IMO, if you would have done it if the request had been kinder or from someone I like and respect.

  47. Rumbledown*

    Much of the problem here is that Jane started by passive aggressively putting the bowl in someone else’s drawer and then yelling at them.

  48. Three Owls in a Trench Coat*

    I haven’t seen this pointed out yet, but touching/moving stuff on someone else’s desk feels like a theft/sabotage accusation waiting to happen. What else has been moved? Has anything been removed? Has anyone been in my purse? Has anything been tampered with? Was an item taken or just misplaced? Is this the correct document? Or has it been swapped? Paranoia in an office is extremely toxic.

  49. PerraFortunata*

    How about a lid or some sort of cover for the dish? Even a napkin or bandanna. That way it’s very accessible while the candy itself is out of view.

    Also, that whiny coworker is a bit of a baby

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

    My office has a designated “junk food file” where some of us donate snacks that are available to all. (Of course, we use a separate cabinet during Passover to avoid intermixing.) Those who want are welcome to take, while those who don’t want can just walk by.

  51. Introvert girl*

    Because it’s candy, lots of people think it’s no big deal. But what if it was someone’s baby’s picture that would disappear constantly because a coworker has fertility issues? It isn’t about candy, it’s about control and power, more than boundaries. It’s about a person that believes she may control other people’s eating habits because they can’t control their own. Because if you allow this, where does it end? What will happen when food starts disappearing form the communal fridge? I would say to the coworker: “I’m sorry you can’t control your eating habits but that doesn’t give you the right to control ours. You’ll need to deal with your issues in your own way. And I would escalate it to HR.

    1. MicroManagered*

      You can what-if anything into absurdity but it doesn’t prove a point. What if someone couldn’t stop themselves from stealing OP’s car?!

      HR is there to prevent the company from being sued. Escalating the candy dish thing would look ridiculous.

    2. Hendry*

      “Because it’s candy, lots of people think it’s no big deal”

      I agree with them! Address the hypotheticals if they happen, but in this case I agree with Alson’s original advice – offer to move the dish or hide it, but escalating this will only make OP look petty

  52. MicroManagered*

    Putting the candy in your drawer was a weird way to handle it… but if I’d witnessed this interaction, I think I’d be more on the candy-tempted coworker’s side than the OP. They both embarrassed themselves and I think there were better options to handle this situation on both sides.

    One of those options might be to ask the gal who can’t control the trigger on her candy dish claw if there’s candy that’s less tempting, and switch to that for a while. For example, I can walk past a bowl of waxy, gritty chocolate kisses all day long, but if they change to tiny peanut butter cups, I’m screwed!

  53. Office Drone*

    I’m a fat person who can’t live with chocolate for two full days… if it is my chocolate and I know it’s in the pantry calling my name.

    But if it’s *someone else’s* food, such as my roommate’s personal food, I’m amazingly capable of knowing the food doesn’t belong to me and therefore not being “tempted” at all.

    Coworker needs to tell herself, “That’s not my candy. That’s not my candy. That’s not my candy….” Lather, rinse, repeat.

    (And before anyone “corrects” me, I know it’s “communal” candy. But Coworker can still tell herself it belongs to OP, who has made it clear she owns the bowl and controls the candy in it.)

  54. Sister George Michael*

    (note: I am overweight and so was my co-worker)

    At a previous job, I ordered some (amazing!) fried chicken for lunch, and my co-worker complained about me getting something like that when he had just started a diet. But!! Can I never get fried chicken again??

    I didn’t have to worry about it, because Covid started in our area a few weeks later and I was able to order chicken to my home office.

  55. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    I wish there were an update.

    The world is full of temptation. I wish Jane would consider hypnosis and/or therapy.

    If Jane gets her way with this, where will it end? What happens if other coworkers buy candy or receive it on Valentine’s Day and offer to share it, and Jane can see it? Will Jane get to police what her coworkers have on their desks?

  56. Turtlewings*

    I’d be sorely tempted to solve the problem by telling Coworker she’s no longer welcome at the candy dish. She can’t possibly be tempted by it anymore, because she is specifically NOT ALLOWED to eat MY candy. Everyone else can, but not her. Problem solved. (As childishly as possible, perhaps, but she started it.)

  57. Somewhere in Texas*

    So, I have a candy bowl, but it is really small and I only refill when I am in the office. Since it’s small, people only get a few small pieces. I think it is a happy medium where it’s not hugely tempting, but just enough to give people the smile or boost they need.

  58. DreddPirate*

    I hate to be the voice of non-compromise here, but as far as I’m concerned, the co-worker is a bully and should be slapped down hard. Threatening to throw away OP’s personal belongings is an unacceptable escalation.

    1. Emily*

      I’m 100% with you. Compromise only works with reasonable people. Jane is not being reasonable. In the OP’s update in the comments of the original letter (which someone else in this comment section was kind enough to link to), OP said even “the bosses” had asked about the candy. In my opinion, this would have been the perfect opportunity for OP to tell them calmly and matter of factly what had occurred. OP also mentioned that Jane is a vegetarian who thinks everyone else should be too and talks about it a lot, so Jane is clearly a controlling “food police” type person who needs to be shut down.

  59. ThatOtherClare*

    Removed, please don’t do this here, it’s not helpful and it’s going to take us into a very off-topic debate. (And I promise you that many people with easy access to good health care still struggle with their weight.) – Alison

  60. lilsheba*

    The problem is you’re being too nice. Saying “it’s not ok” is NOT good enough. Tell her to STOP IT or you’re going to her boss, and if that doesn’t work then you are going to HR. Nothing pisses me off faster than someone touching MY things and moving them. I don’t care if it’s in the office and you don’t “own” that space it is STILL your stuff and needs to be left alone.

  61. Sunflower*

    I have the same issue as the coworker. If it’s there on our “snack table,” I will grab more than my fair share which led to worsening my bad health issues. My workplace love love love bringing in snacks.

    I would never dream of moving things though since it provides people with a little bit of relief in a stressful work place. I simply started to buy my own sugar-free candy, gum, and healthier forms of crunchy snacks. I still take special or rare treats but having my own snacks stop me from mindlessly grabbing common everyday sweets like Kisses.

    1. askalice*

      This is what I do – I added apricot delight, or nitty muesli bars, or just keep something similar in my desk so that when it is offered around I can make my own (adult) choices! I also made a few comments about how I am a clean eater and health kick, have a nutritionist at the moment, so that people know its important to me and to be a bit mindful.

  62. James*

    FWIW I hate, HATE, HHHHHAAAAATE communal candy dishes. I struggle with self control around sweets such that I simply refuse to keep them in the house and throw out instantaneously any gifts containing sweets. I wish people would think about candy jars the same way they’d think about putting out alcohol around someone in AA. Obviously not as destructive but it, for me, falls in the same category.

  63. Not Anish Kapoor*

    You should put a sign up that says, “This candy is not for Jane. By taking a piece of candy, you confirm that you are not Jane, and you are not taking a piece of candy on behalf of Jane. To the best of your knowledge, the candy will not make its way into the hands of Jane.”

  64. Jo-El*

    I have to disagree with Alison here. My desk and what I do with it are 100% taking it to the ground for. Don’t like my candy, don’t look.

  65. nnn*

    I really appreciate the nuance here of “You’re in the right, and also the best decision is to put the candy dish away.” Because sometimes, just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. And sometimes the internet loses sight of that fact.

    Often on AITA, I find myself thinking “Strictly speaking, you’re not the asshole in this situation, but you are an asshole generally.” And I think this situation could end up that way in the absence of tact.

  66. Sandra*

    All the folks commenting that Jane needs to learn some self control, stop being a glutton, and start exercising willpower? I wonder if you would have gone for those specific critiques if OP had a radio playing music and Jane had put that in OP’s desk. That would be the same offence, right? Touching OP’s things, invading OP’s private drawer.
    If your go-to comment for a fat person who does something wrong is about the behaviors that made them fat, rather than the actual offense, ask yourself why.

    1. Allonge*

      Huh? With the radio there is the issue of it being objectively distracting from work. And still the right move would be to ask OP to turn it off.

      FWIW, I am fat. Food is everywhere – my job to figure out how to not eat it if I need to not eat it.

  67. Cat*

    I’m really baffled by the number of supposed adults here who don’t have the willpower to NOT pick up a piece of candy just because it’s visible. yes, I’m fat. yes, I like candy and snacks. yes, I’ve survived an ED. This has nothing to do with fatphobia. In fact having a *Secret Hidden Candy Bowl* could be triggering for some OTHER person’s ED, no?

    I don’t see this as on par with a coworker who is bothered by an offensive image or loud sounds AT ALL. To me it sounds like what people say when a woman was wearing something revealing, about how she was “too tempting”. Or like if Jane said “Don’t leave your iphone out, because I really want one and I might just take yours”. It’s very weird and my sympathies would be with the LW. I hope it worked out for everyone involved back then.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I understand impulse control issues. I’ve had them my whole life. I have also spent my whole life (even before I was dx) knowing they were not anybody else’s responsibility to compensate for.

      I agree with Alison that if Jane had approached this as a favor, the whole thing would go differently. As it is, LW basically has 2 options – put the dish away or escalate to the manager.

      I can’t imagine a manager wanting to deal with this. It would probably wind up with the candy dish being banned anyway.

    2. Budgie Buddy*

      It’s weird for me too, but from the comments I guess a lot of people really do struggle with not eating food that’s visible.

      Whereas I reason that I’ll just end up feeling sick of I eat too much so it’s better only to take a little. When I was a kid I couldn’t think ahead to realize that, but I’m not a kid anymore.

      I’ve had ice cream sitting in the freezer for months because I just sort of get busy after dinner and feel too full to eat more anyway, so I don’t even eat the sweets I have even though I want to.

    3. al*

      FWIW, this has been me for some portion of my life at various times, and now it’s not me. I’d make a resolution about what to eat and how much, and I’d have the willingness, but I’d cave not too long into it. Nowadays, I’m straight up impervious to the urges that tug at my willpower, and I can’t point to anything particular as the cause of the change. But I’m the same person (rather, I’m one person who has lived a continuous life). People just people (verb).

  68. Gozer*

    I have a nearly 30 year battle with an eating disorder which, while I’m not starving myself these days, means I cannot eat in front of coworkers and any comments on my weight or what food I should or shouldn’t be eating can send me right back.

    And my coworker keeps the department biscuit tub on her desk. Since nobody is pressuring me to eat/not eat it I just code it as ‘pile of irrelevant’ in my brain and carry on. Same goes for peoples food.

    Food is everywhere and there is no good/evil food. Those of us walking the line on deciding what is best for us really do have to reframe the world around in our heads. But excepting allergies (don’t eat onion near me) it’s not on others.

    But, if it was getting this fraught in my team? I’d just purchase an opaque jar or shove it behind a couple of SQL manuals. Case closed.

  69. Dog momma*

    While we do have to get along with co workers, I wouldn’t want anyone going through my desk all.
    in fact offices I worked in gave you a key so you could lock your desk when you were away from it, like meetings, lunch and at the end of the day or whatever.
    I like the idea of an opaque jar as suggested above, but then what’s that co worker going to complain about next?

  70. anonchivist*

    Not to be That Guy, but what Jane is describing sounds like a Binge Eating Disorder and it can be debilitating. And difficult to treat like a normal health problem as so many mental health providers in the USA do not take insurance. Back when I used to work in an office there were days where like, if someone brought in baked goods, they’d be all I was able to think about for as long as they were there. I once ate an ungodly amount of [treat] because, as long as it was in the kitchen, it would be all I could think about. I’m talking intrusive thoughts level. I’d eat the [treat] just to make it stop, and then once it was gone, I’d feel shame and guilt. It’s really just horrible and while Jane’s potential ED isn’t OP’s problem, this may be much more than simple a question of “will power.”

    1. Gozer (she/her)*

      I have a very long running battle with an eating disorder as well – I do not eat in front of other people ever and really cannot eat sweets. Beyond that though it’s pretty under control. When I see others with snack food or any food really in the office I mentally recode it as ‘stack of paper’ or something else completely boring.

      Because I had to learn the very hard way that 1) all food has no moral value and 2) it’s really none of anybody’s business what I or others do or don’t eat. In my early 20s I probably might have gone on the rampage and demand people stop eating fast food or put sweets in my field of vision.

      That was a long time ago though. Some triggers I’m not okay with even now (being weighed is very bad) but the view of food I’ve had great success in just not looking. If this caused a problem in my current office I *might* ask the sweet jar be an opaque one. Reasonable accomodations for me at work are not harrassing me about not eating or making comments about my weight or ‘concerned’ talks. Asking that sweets be out of sight at all times isn’t reasonable.

    2. al*

      Wrangling a coworker’s ED (that LW definitely doesn’t even know for sure exists) is so, so, so beyond the scope of anything the LW can/should do as a coworker or even as an acquaintance that it’s not even funny. What LW and the other coworkers (and even Jane) need is a functional workplace. Given the situation, some improvements in congeniality wouldn’t hurt, either.

      1. anonchivist*

        I’m responding to the lack of empathy in the comments more than I am the letter. I’d hate to be some of your (general second person plural) coworkers. Yeah will power is great but it’s not very powerful when the only thing that can turn off the intrusive thoughts and let you (general second person) focus on your work is eating the dumb [food].

  71. NDDave*

    Jane said that when LW is at their desk, she can refrain from being tempted because LW might want to eat one.

    But it is a communal candy dish for everyone in the office. So why, when LW is not present, can she not tell herself that ‘someone might want to eat one’?

    It sounds to me like it is less that Jane is able to restrain herself because LW might want some candy and more that Jane knows that with LW physically present, she won’t be able to hide the candy dish without getting caught at it.

    An opaque dish is a good idea, but I would not be surprised at all if Jane came back with ‘I can still see the dish and know there is candy in it.’

  72. what's my name again*

    If I overheard this conversation, I would definitely think this coworker is a whack job. Please know your other coworkers most likely agree.

  73. watermelon fruitcake*

    I know the people here tend toward being sensitive and compassionate, and that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, in most situations, it is something I appreciate and value. But I nonetheless think there is a line where people must be held responsible for their own shortcomings – including poor impulse control in the presence of temptation. While it doesn’t “cost” the LW anything to remove the candy jar or even modify it to suit Jane, I am firmly on the side of “but she shouldn’t have to; this is Jane’s problem and Jane needs to handle it.” It is Jane’s responsibility, entirely, to monitor her diet, and if the situation were reversed – “I’ve noticed Jane eats too much candy, so I started hiding my candy dish when she’s around because I don’t want her to get fat” – people would realize that it is a boundary-crossing, paternalistic behavior. But because Jane is asking for it, asking for somebody to basically take the role of “Jane’s diet keeper,” adding a burden to LW to the presumed dissatisfaction of every other person who enjoys the candy dish, the generally accepted truth that Jane is a grown woman responsible for her own choices and actions has somehow gone out the window.

    All respect to vegans, but hypothetically, if Jane were vegan and asked LW to please stop eating animal products with her own lunch, I suspect we would largely agree there is a limit to how much your personal lifestyle choices can impose on those around you, and that request has crossed it. I’m not sure why the candy issue is being approached differently, I guess because it is low stakes. But the principle of it does not sit well with me. Jane is an adult. Adults are responsible for their own food choices. If she can walk out of the grocery store without a cart full of candy, she can look away from the candy dish at work.

  74. morethantired*

    I feel like life is full of candy dishes left out on desks and trying to go around hiding all of them so you won’t be tempted isn’t getting to the root of the problem. For me, I’d think about people with unwashed hands putting their fingers in the dish all day. Suddenly the candy wouldn’t be so tempting anymore. I used to have to do this with boxes of doughnuts in the break room. I would tell myself “someone could have touched all of these doughnuts before picking one.” or “if I take more than one doughnut that means someone else won’t get any.” And it would help keep me from eating several. Just my two cents as someone who is easily tempted by sweets.

  75. Manglement Survivor*

    I think OP has the right to be upset. Her desk is her assigned space and no one should be touching anything on it without her permission. It’s not her responsibility to remove things that might tempt others.
    If I was OP, I would consider using an opaque bowl, so you can’t see the candies through it. I’d consider putting a lid on the bowl. But that’s as far as I’d go. And if this employee went on my desk and moved the bowl into the drawer again, I would tell my boss.
    And all the bosses I’ve had over the last three years would’ve said “keep your hands off other peoples possessions that don’t belong to you.” because, you know, they don’t belong to you.

  76. UpstateDownstate*

    I have a wild solution to this one!

    How about you keep the candy in a container with a digital code or lock and only those with a password/combination can access the candy. You just don’t give this one coworker, or anyone else with a ‘temptation problem’ the code! LOL!!!!

  77. Emmy*

    As someone who has a communal candy dish, I have a different take. I’m an HR Director. One of the ways I find out about what’s happening around the office is to have people swing by and eat candy. It’s like the proverbial water cooler, but right where I can watch and listen. I’m amazed how many things I’m able to learn about the organization with inadvertent chatter from people with a mini-snickers in their hands.
    I guess that’s a long way to say that the candy dish makes me do my job better, so removing it is not an option. But also, I have started putting mints in there as a “healthier” alternative to chocolate.

  78. Tea Time*

    Here’s another take from the point of view of research psychology: A big reason behind the obesity epidemic, the rise in diabetes, etc., is that we’ve changed our environment so that highly palatable unhealthy foods are EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME. Being unable to resist is not a character flaw or a personal issue. We are wired to want that food because we are mammals.

    I guarantee that for every person who literally can’t stop themself, there are at least a dozen others in the office who are expending a lot of willpower all day long to not take that candy.

    Which leads to the question: Do we really need to have snacks available EVERYWHERE ALL THE TIME? I got tuned into this issue on another forum by someone who was so deathly allergic to peanuts that someone’s snickers bar across the room could trigger anaphalactic shock. They were questioning why we as a culture have decided that people have a “right” to be eating food all the time in all situations. This didn’t used to be true.

    It’s a different issue than this one, but it did make me re-think our culture around this. We need to ask why we’re assuming that it’s just an obvious “right” to keep a candy bowl. If this weren’t a thing, a lot of people would benefit, not just the people at the far end of the spectrum who can’t stop themselves.

  79. Scott G*

    I feel like many of the comments here are too unsympathetic to the coworker who struggles with having candy around. We are learning from the impact of these new weight loss drugs (Ozempic, Wegovy) that “willpower” is not a simple thing, and many users of these drugs report a constant and overwhelming stream of cognitive “food noise” that goes away when these drugs correct their hormone imbalances. These stories tell us that while walking by a candy jar without taking anything is easy for many people, and some effort for others, for some people it requires an overwhelming amount of constant mental effort, seemingly because of their biology. When people are overwhelmed they can behave impolitely, and I do think it was impolite to handle it this way, but I think she deserves some empathy for the struggle that led her to behave impolitely.

    To me it is helpful to look at this through the lens of addiction. If I kept an open bottle of whiskey on my desk (which would be acceptable in my work culture), and found a colleague had moved it out of sight because they are a recovering alcoholic and it was overwhelming to have that staring them down day after day, I like to think I would be sympathetic and find some other way to get social engagement, even if I had every right to keep the bottle out.

    1. blue rose*

      Lots of commenters are approaching this with the attitude that if the coworker had just
      asked first, they’d be a lot more amenable. But that’s not what happened. Jane snuck around until LW brought it up, then completely steamrolled over everyone else. In the best of times, that’s a difficult person to work with.

      1. Scott G*

        Agreed that would have been a better way to handle it, but also suggesting some empathy as to why Jane may not have handled things in the best possible way. The situation may have been much more difficult and stressful for her than it would be for others, and who knows what other stressors and circumstances may have been going on with her. Lots of people will not handle situations in the ideal way under circumstances which are difficult and stressful to them. My suggestion is just to be more empathetic to Jane, and that this may have been a much more stressful situation for her than for many readers.

        1. blue rose*

          I figure if we’re going to judge according people’s internal struggles, we may as well hold it against Jane that she doesn’t consider (or doesn’t appear to care) how difficult and stressful she’s making it to work at that office, and she should have more empathy for her coworkers, who find the candy dish makes work a more pleasant place to be. Why then are you only advocating for more empathy for Jane, and not her coworkers? That’s a rhetorical question, though, because I don’t find this kind of speculative benefit of the doubt useful to resolving the conflict. If someone’s really going through it, it’s still not okay to take it out on people totally unrelated to the stressors (which the coworkers are—Jane is particular about food itself, not people, presumably not just at work). And like I said, Jane’s “If all of you don’t live as I say to, maybe I’ll just throw your things in the trash” is not an attitude that lends itself to cooperation, making even compromise impossible because it’s so strict and absolute.

          1. Scott G*

            Empathy is not zero sum, we can have empathy for Jane, as well as her coworkers. Many comments here seem to show more empathy towards the OP and coworkers than towards Jane, and given what we’ve learned since 2019 about people’s different biological reactions to food, I think we can consider Jane’s actions in a new light. My suggestion is for readers to put yourself into Jane’s shoes and try and understand her reaction, rather than assuming the worst about her. Maybe a candy dish is not stressful for you, but was very stressful for her. Maybe you can imagine yourself in a situation that was stressful to you and might cause you to react in a very frustrated manner like Jane did. We can try to have empathy for someone even if we think they handled the situation poorly.

            1. blue rose*

              My point was that putting yourself in Jane’s shoes doesn’t help Jane’s coworkers. What does empathy for Jane mean in practice? One motivation can back multiple choices. Out of empathy for Jane…the LW and other coworkers acquiesce to everything she says, removing a small, simple joy previously enjoyed by many others. Or instead, they really dig into helping directly manage her food addiction with her, which is inappropriate and invasive coming from coworkers, and they (and we internet commenters) don’t even know if it is food addiction at play here. Or instead, they lobby her boss to move her workstation, so that she isn’t so close to the temptation and others can enjoy the candy dish, which is such a huge move that would impact her work, and for a tiny non-work-related reason. Maybe you’ll have to spell it out for me, but it’s itching at me that you’ve said a lot of “look at her like this” and no follow-up on what to do with that insight.

              Also, I never said a thing about how stressful a candy dish is or isn’t for me, I only noted that the LW and coworkers like it, which is directly from the text of the letter. I don’t have to work with the LW or Jane, but they have to work alongside each other. The feelings of the people actually in the situation (LW, Jane, coworkers) are the most relevant here.

              Look, given all your comments so far, I am very sure you do not mean it this way, but the way you endorse empathy for Jane reads to me like you’re validating her behavior. And in your last line, you explicitly say she handled the situation poorly, but your only recommendation is having empathy for her. But that’s so nebulously conceptual, and like I said earlier, can mean any number of things in practice. Jane handles a situation poorly, so now what does LW do to handle this new Jane’s-poor-behavior situation?

              For what it’s worth, given the LW’s update on the original post, I’m pretty sure if Jane was the hypothetical colleague in your first comment, she’d get on your case pressuring you to quit drinking entirely, not just at work. Most people don’t try to control the direction of their coworkers’ personal comport to that extent (it really does take a lot of gall to straight up say it out loud) even people who are struggling with alcohol or food or whatever it may be, but from the way the LW tells it, Jane really is that overreach-into-peoples’-personal-choices kind of person.

              1. Scott G*

                I am asking for the commenters to have empathy towards Jane, not offering any specific advice for the OP, who has presumably sorted this out between 2019 and now. I see lots of comments assuming the worst of Jane, assuming that because the commenter could easily deal with the situation Jane should be able to just as easily, and focusing on workplace norms and rules which may work for them but presumably do not work for Jane. The request in my post was to try and empathize, for example by imagining working in a workplace where the norms created an environment which is extremely distracting to you personally even though others may like it, as well as unhealthy (e.g. loud music, smoking, or whatever is hard on you). Maybe the outcome is the same but comments are kinder.

                1. blue rose*

                  The comment section is restricted by what moderation Alison enacts (pretty much whatever she happens to see and what is specifically flagged for her) but otherwise is going to respond to the letter. If you see something you think is uncalled for, you can flag it for moderation.

                  I also believe empathy is not zero sum, but that’s something that goes on in our hearts. What actions we take out in the world, where we can affect other people, matter greatly. In the LW’s situation, giving ground, as it were, to Jane would come at the expense of other people. People who Jane spends a lot of time with regularly, and whom she has ample opportunity to affect in a positive manner, but she does otherwise.

                  Some years ago, “kick the cat” ( was explained to me as it relates to family dynamics, but it’s also used as it relates to work. I think a lot of commenters here are responding to how Jane made her problem into other, totally uninvolved people’s problem. The metaphor as it was explained to me was expanded so that the man came home and passed his abuse through the entire household, until it gets to the cat, who kicks the fish, and the fish jumps out of the bowl. Reacting less-than-ideally to something—people do that sometimes. Jane did that. But her poor reaction negatively affected other people, and she publicly stated she had unabashed intent to continue negatively affecting others. As in kick-the-cat, Jane dumping her griefs on others is purely destructive. She said she would not stop, so it’s up to others to stop this destructive pressure. Even best case resolution, Jane caused imposition on others that she had the power not to.

                  Part of it is the caliber of audience that Alison has cultivated, but I do get the sense that AAM comment sections often feel like a safe place to assert that a wrong was done, and it was indeed a wrong and indeed should not have been done. So if you’ve been the metaphorical cat or the fish who got kicked, it’s cathartic to stand up against the “kick,” when the LW of the day got kicked. And hand-in-hand with that comes very little patience for the one who did the kicking.

  80. TooMuchOfAManager*

    So, I don’t think this is about the candy dish at all. It sounds like there are other dynamics in play here and the candy dish is one representation of those dynamics.

    Also, if someone touched things on my desk, they would need a business reason to do so. That’s the social contract we enter into when we share space.

  81. Me*

    I wouldn’t freak out if someone put something away in my desk. I realize it’s my space, but it’s also not really my own. It’s my company’s space. I have locks on my desk too – if I ever really wanted to control the situation. But this just seems dumb. Yes, Jane should have just had a normal convo. But OP started loudly complaining pretty quickly. And there was another coworker who also complained that it was challenging for “fat people.” If you aren’t even in the office most days, why do you really care? I would also suspect that nobody really cares that much about it either way! Like are others going to revolt if you just stop? Highly doubt it.

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