A few years ago I began a new job. One of my coworkers, we’ll call him ‘Jim,’ was a nice man who took me under his wing right away. I was around the same age as Jim’s daughter and he felt the need to protect me and show me all the ropes at work.
I have an enormous sweet tooth and spend my extra money on gourmet chocolates like some people might budget money for their hobby or going to sporting events. I seek out special bakeries, order custom goodies online and have even taken themed vacations for chocolate connoisseurs. I work hard for my special treats.
One day I was in a rush for work and I didn’t have time to pack my afternoon cupcake treat, so I grabbed the whole box of four. Oh, I’m sorry, did I only say cupcake? I meant delectable, dark chocolate fudge ganache filled extra moist cupcakes with whipped buttercream icing and French chocolate shave sprinkles that I had waited in line at the bakery an hour to get because they were a one-time special recipe I had been looking forward to for months. I had a planned date with each cupcake over the next few days and was so very excited about every ounce of that gourmet chocolate!
The box was sitting on my desk. I was about to dive into dessert paradise and munch on one of the cupcakes when Jim walked up with the look of a hungry puppy.
“Boy, do those look good,” he says as I made a futile effort to hide the box under some paper.
I hadn’t intended to share these and I wasn’t flaunting the cupcakes around the office, but since Jim was so helpful to me and was staring at the cupcakes like he was about to dive mouth-first into the whole box, I decided to offer him one.
He said he’d love one. As I carefully wrapped the little baked piece of heaven in some napkins and handed it over, its moist chocolate gleaming and sparkling in the florescent office lights, my heart aching a little to see it go but happy it was going to a good and deserving person, Jim said
“Thanks, my dear wife will just love this!”
I had never met Jim’s dear wife, and I’m sure she was a nice lady, but at that moment it took quite a bit of restraint for me not to fly through the air and ninja kick the cupcake right out of her husband’s hand.
The special treat was for him! Not for someone I’ve never met!
It was obvious by Jim’s skip in his step as he walked away with my treasure that he had been blind to his statement making my jaw hit the floor so hard it bounced.
Jim was the obliviously happy and ridiculously wholesome type who only sees the good in people. Think Brady Bunch character with an extra helping of positive thinking and honesty. He was also the type to be mortified if he did something that might upset someone, so there was nothing I could have said at the time without making him feel terrible.
A few weeks later, forgetting the pervious re-direction of my generosity, I offered Jim a piece of the small cake a coworker had surprised me with for my birthday. It was made from scratch and was magically delicious. I did not search Jim out to share the cake. I had intended to take the last piece home with me. It was more like Jim walked in the room and kept staring with giant puppy eyes at the remaining piece of delicious sugar and coco powder mixed into birthday joy. He accepted my offer, only to produce a Tupperware container and plop the little confection into it. He mentioned something about keeping it fresh for the dear wife.
It wasn’t long after this second ‘beg’ and switch that it became clear there was a long standing pattern of Jim spiriting away sweets from the office out to The Dear Wife.
One of the more memorable stories involves a large tray of gourmet chocolate truffles leftover from a catered meeting. My boss and I couldn’t wait to finish our afternoon call so we could try the sweets everyone had raved about. We finally get to the break room. The tray is gone. As we mourn the loss for being too late, another employee walks by and lets us know there was still plenty left; Jim had just gone to his car with it. Not just one or two truffles, oh no, The Dear Wife gets the WHOLE tray!
But wait! There’s more! My boss explained to Jim she was upset because she didn’t get to try the truffles as well as that it was inappropriate for an entire tray of office-funded leftovers to be taken to an outside person without permission. Jim felt really bad and had The Dear Wife bake some cookies for the office to make up for it. They were….. The WORST. Cookies(hard to call them that)… EVER. Of ALL TIME! It wasn’t just me; everyone who tried them spit them out in the trash. How could Jim take all these amazing treats home to a woman who couldn’t possibly have a single taste bud???!!!!!
Funny side story- Jim was excited to go tell The Dear Wife how much we loved her cookies, so he started asking. They really were bad enough that we couldn’t even lie, but no one had the heart to tell Jim. Cue the most hilarious sitcom-esque afternoon of people pretending their phone was vibrating, suddenly realizing they were late for meetings and diving behind file cabinets as Jim walked by….
Back to the baked goods-The incident with the truffle tray didn’t seem to sink into Jim’s head. Every catered meeting, every office party, every employee who happened to walk by with an extra treat in their hand: if there were sweets offered, out came Jim’s little sandwich bags and Tupperware container(s). Giving sweets to Jim was like donating to one charity only to find said charity is sending your money to a different organization that you know nothing about.
I understand everyone occasionally takes home their share of office sponsored treats to give to the spouse or the children, but with Jim it was an epidemic.
Jim was on the TMI side of sharing, so there was no health or mental reason he didn’t eat the sweets offered to him (people did ask). He said he made a choice to avoid the sweets he loved because he’d rather save the calories to use on a good steak dinner. He stated that he gave The Dear Wife any sweets he received to keep him “out of the doghouse.”
Our office was never lacking in healthy alternatives. Any office party or catered meeting always had lots of healthy items I know Jim enjoyed. But he would fill up on fruits and veggies and then, without fail, wonder over to the cake or cookies tray and grab a share or more for The Dear Wife.
I understand the concept of “once you give a gift you can’t dictate what is done with it,” but these sweets and treats were not gifts given specifically to Jim to do with as he pleased. Often, it was an office party with a cake paid for by employee pitch-in for the enjoyment of all coworkers. However, a large majority of the time it was as described in my first story, with Jim hanging around in a way that gave you no choice but to either offer him a share of your personal dessert or to just continue to rudely eat in front of him.
When you caved in to the stares and offered to share your dessert, Jim usually said “Oh, I’ll take it to The Dear Wife…” before you handed it over, which in theory gave you an out to say, “Well, in that case you can’t have it, I purchased this for people in the office only.”
I tried that once and poor Jim just looked so upset and embarrassed I felt bad for the rest of the month. Also, there were usually clients or other coworkers around who were unaware of Jim’s sugar smuggle racket, so you couldn’t exactly deny Jim what you had already offered without looking like a jerk.
What Jim was doing drove me and several coworkers berzerk, but we couldn’t think of an exact “rule” he was breaking, etiquette or business-wise. Should his behavior have just been accepted?
A supervisor did once tell Jim he shouldn’t take anything he wasn’t going to eat himself as this wasn’t a take-out bar, but Jim, in a surprising retreat from his usual sweetly naïve rule-following ways, said something along the lines of “well, it would be gone if I ate it, so let’s just pretend I did.” 0312-12
Regarding those four “little baked pieces of heaven” cupcakes you purchased, my suggestion is that you simply ignored the obvious drooling and silent begging by Jim and beandipped him by redirecting the conversation away from his focus on your cupcakes. His comment, “Oh, those look good,” was an opening gambit, a hook with bait on it, to see if you would bite and offer him a cupcake. There is nothing rude in ignoring the bait. Just because someone compliments us about something we happen to own does not mean we are obligated to offer all or part of it to them. For all Jim knew, those cupcakes were to be a gift for another person and he had no right to presume his drooling would be rewarded.
As for Jim’s penchant for taking office goodies home, in my opinion, what he does with his share is his business, particularly if the treat was paid for by each employee pitching in to pay for it. If he wants to take his share of the treat he helped pay for home to eat later or share with the wifey, so what? However, what Jim does with more than his share as an employee is a matter for management to curtail.