Mind Your Own Lunch!
By Andrea Freedman
With the summer holidays and patio lunches nearly behind us, some people need a gentle reminder when it comes to office etiquette, specifically with respect to taking others’ lunches from the office fridge.
While many of us are accustomed to purchasing lunches every day during the work week, there are others whose routine includes bringing lunch to work from home. Unfortunately for those people, their efforts are often sabotaged by colleagues who make a habit of stealing food items from the office fridge.
Over the twenty something years that I worked in an office, I observed a common theme in the fridge thefts, the most popular item being yogurt, perhaps because of its small size and inconspicuousness.
The office yogurt thief thinks they are fooling everyone, however, sooner or later he or she will be found out and when that happens, he or she will lose the trust and respect of all of their colleagues, not to mention becoming the butt of private jokes and gossip.
There are some who may plead ignorance to workplace etiquette. A simple rule of thumb in regards to the office fridge is this: Make note of what you packed when preparing your lunch for that day. If your lunch did not include, let’s say, for example, a yogurt, and if you happen to see another yogurt in the office fridge, then that means that item was put there by and belongs to someone else.
Friends of mine have shared their experiences with me, having fallen victim themselves to mysterious food thefts from work. I will never forget the time a piece of cake was cut from a birthday cake that was being stored in the office fridge for the day, even though it bore a name on the box. The cake’s owner took it home to her family that night, only to gasp in horror when it was discovered that the cake had been tampered with.
On other occasions, other expensive items have been taken from the office fridge, regardless of the note that had been adorned to the front of the package, practically begging whoever might consider taking it to stop themselves, and that it was a necessary ingredient for a recipe.
Some people rationalize that everyone in an office is one big happy family, thereby giving one another an unwritten free pass to help themselves to the contents of the office fridge, much as they would do at home. The trouble is, when it is time for lunch at work, people count on eating what they brought to work with them. Some even might look forward to it, a good lunch adding a little something special to one’s day. It is extremely disappointing to open the fridge and find that possibly the best part of your lunch has long since disappeared.
Stealing, no matter how small the item is, is an infringement on the rights of others and yes, even something as seemingly insignificant as food counts. It is a sad day when people have to resort to keeping food hidden at their desks, possibly to curdle or become bacteria-ridden.
Trust and mutual respect go a long way in promoting goodwill in the workplace. So remember, the next time you are about to forget that you are at work and not at home, don’t help yourself to anything in your workplace fridge unless it has your name on it. Who knows, one of your co-workers just might ask you to join them for lunch.♦
Copyright © by Andrea Freedman 2014