Those Leftovers Were Mine

by admin on October 18, 2012

A little background: At my company, we’ve had problems in the past with truly disgusting refrigerators. People would leave old, rotting food in there for months, and usually whoever got tired of the smell first would be the one to clean it. We recently moved to a brand new building, where we occupy two floors and have a fridge on each floor. Our office manager “Paula” instituted a new policy to help with the fridge cleaning: employee’s personal food would only be allowed on one floor, and the company-supplied coffee, creamers and snacks would be on the other floor. In addition, every Friday one team is assigned to throw away everything in the employee fridge, including condiments. If you want your stuff, you have to remove it and take it home over the weekend. A little harsh, but better than a fridge full of rotten food.

This policy worked fine for me until a recent injury. I was on crutches and couldn’t easily access the employee fridge, so I got permission to store my lunches in the Company Fridge, which is much closer to my desk. I’m now walking again, but I can’t go far without pain and limping, so I’m still keeping my lunch nearer to my desk.

Now to the incident in question: Every Friday, my team has a “Creative Workshop” meeting during our lunch hour where we review our work and bring brown-bag lunches. We’ve give up our lunch hour for this meeting for the past year, so the Creative Director decided to reward us with a catered lunch from a local BBQ joint. He brought in ribs, pulled pork, corn bread, baked beans, etc. and had our office manager “Paula” use her company expense account to pay for it. It was a very nice “thank-you” for all our hard work, and since we had leftovers, the Creative Director said we could take them home to share with our families. I packed up a to-go box, wrote my name on it and stowed it in the Company Fridge until quitting time.

When I went to retrieve it at the end of the day, it was gone. I asked Paula about it, and she said, “Why was it up here in the Company Fridge?” I told her, “I have permission to keep my food up here because of my injury.” She knew that already – several times during my injury she checked with me to be sure that the food in there belonged to me, not some other employee. Then she said, “I gave it away to another employee.”

I was shocked, and I just stared at her for a minute. “Why would you do that?” I asked.

She gave me an annoyed look and replied, “Why do you care, you didn’t pay for it!” in a nasty tone of voice.

I really didn’t know what to say to her, so I simply left. I’m truly angry about this, not just because I lost some delicious leftovers, but because she didn’t feel that A. I deserved to take them home and B. that I should be allowed to keep my food nearer to my desk after an injury. I’m hoping you and your readers can help me decide if my anger is justified. Did I really have a claim on the BBQ, or since it was purchased by the company, was Paula justified in giving it to someone else? Should I start keeping my lunch in the Employee Fridge now that I can walk?   0810-12

 

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

jen a. October 18, 2012 at 6:21 am

I find that when some people mess up instead of being apologetic they turn snappy, especially when they realize their actions upset someone else. They try to turn it into a disagreement, instead of a straightforward “I did wrong; I’m sorry for my actions” kind of thing. Is it possible that this was the case with Paula? I mean, I don’t get why she would just give away your food, especially if your name was on it. She participated in the free lunch, so she knew it was only there for a day. For that matter, who would take food home with someone else’s name on it?

Either way, I’d just let it go with Paula. Whatever her reasons, she was definitely handled herself badly. It’s her problem now. Too bad about the leftovers though. They sound delicious!

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Justin October 18, 2012 at 6:28 am

This is one of those situations in which you have to choose your battles. Yes, you have a right to be angry, but if it is a one time incident make a note of what happened with dates and details and let it go. The potential office conflict will cause a lot more headache than one days lost leftovers.

If the situation escalates into a pattern of behaviour or bullying then it is worth taking action.

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Margo October 18, 2012 at 6:28 am

I think it was reasonable to be annoyed. The Creative Director had given the left overs to you and the other particpants at the meeting. At that point, they became yours and were no different to any other food which belonged to you. I don’t see that it was Laura’s place to give it away to *anyone*.

even if she had forgotten or overlooked the fact that you had permission to use the compnay fridge, the fact that it had your name on would surely have been a clear sign that the food was not ‘general’ food which she could use or give away.

That said, unless she is generally unpleasant / unreasonable, I suspect that she may have ebcome defensive becasue she was embarraessed at having made a mistake – I can imagine a scenario where another employee asked if they could have the ‘food in the company fridge, left over from the meeting’ and she said yes, without checking it herself, or remembering that it might be yours. Unless she commonly does things like thsi I would let it go, and just mention to her if you have leftovers another time that you have some erpsonal food items in that fridge.

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Louisa October 18, 2012 at 6:46 am

Well it was rude of her, but you know what? It’s just some leftovers. I’d be mildly irked then move on. Your last paragraph seems a bit full of angst for the magnitude of the issue. A bit like Ross’ sandwich on Friends!

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Rob aka Mediancat October 18, 2012 at 7:03 am

If you have permission to use the company fridge and walking to the other one is still hard on you, then no, you shouldn’t have to use the Employee Fridge.

And once you were given the food to take home, it’s yours. So Paula had no right to give away your food. That’s effectively theft.

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The Elf October 18, 2012 at 7:24 am

Oh man, the office fridge. The no-man’s-land of office etiquette and office politics. This is why I keep an insulated lunch bag at my desk. I have given up on the office fridge.

Yeah, Paula shouldn’t have given it away. She knew your situation, you had your name on it, and you were directly given permission to take leftovers home.

But it’s not worth fighting about it. It really, really isn’t. As for the long-term solution, it depends on whether you feel up to taking the stairs to get your lunch. If you do, it would be best to use the other fridge like everyone else. If it is still too painful, stick to your guns about using the company fridge until you feel better.

It’s stuff like this – the office Dictators, the food-stealers, and the mystery odors that had me just keep my lunch at my desk. I use small containers to bring single servings of condiments or milk to work, and toss everything else in the insulated bag with a frozen gel pack. The whole thing doesn’t take up that much room in my back-pack, and it’s survived the long commute via motorcycle and public transportation without leaks.

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hakayama October 18, 2012 at 7:46 am

BEWARE OF PAULA!
The “Great Leftovers Incident” says EVERYTHING about Paula. How you solve your lunch storage problem, at best, is a distant second to Paula’s miasmic persona.
I think you should be glad for the small cost of finding out what Paula is all about.
There are wonderful lunch bags I’ve seen youngsters use. They are padded with insulating material, have wonderful compartments for everything, including the frozen briquette. The sizes vary a bit, but they fit in a deep drawer or under an old-fashioned desk.

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egl October 18, 2012 at 7:55 am

Since Paula did know about your situation and your name was on the box, you have a right to be angry, or at least seriously annoyed. And no, as long as you have a sound medical reason to keep using that fridge, I don”t think you should have to move back yet.

I suspect Paula has decided that you’ve had this privilege long enough and decided to take the passive-aggressive route to try to move your food back to the employee fridge. She’s probably wanted to do this for a while, my guess would be since you got off crutches. It being food she provided, rather than something you brought, was probably all the excuse she needed.

I’d recommend having a discussion with whoever was responsible for giving you permission in the first place, because I can see her doing this again if your company gains another employee who also needs this accommodation, but who lacks obvious signs of a physical disability.

I also have to wonder about any employee who’d take a box of leftovers with someone else’s name on it, given to them by a third party with a different name. (Actually, I suspect the other employee is Paula herself or a garbage can.)

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sv October 18, 2012 at 7:59 am

I don’t think Paula gave it to another employee – she either ate it or packed it up to go. I’d be pretty angry, no matter who paid for it. It was a thank you for YOU, wasn’t it? And a gift, once given, cannot be recalled, right?

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Powers October 18, 2012 at 8:01 am

Did Paula get any leftovers? She sounds bitter.

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missminute October 18, 2012 at 8:01 am

Clearly she was wrong to give away your food. I can’t imagine what on earth possessed her to do so. Perhaps she mistook the food for left overs which belonged to no-one and simply responded poorly when she was embarrassed by being caught? I have to assume she forgot you kept your food there. Perhaps she mistook it for someone else’s – clearly she had made that mistake before and had to check – and threw it away out of anger? It seems she doesn’t like anyone using that fridge.

To abate your anger I would send her a quick email and explain that you were very hurt by her actions. Hopefully she will apologise once she has had a moment to think over her actions.

I would say that yes, it’s time to switch fridges.

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AMC October 18, 2012 at 8:01 am

I think Paula was out of line. The Creative Director told the team they could take home leftovers. You clearly labeled yours and stored it in the fridge, which you already had permission to do. Paula was aware of this and still took it upon herself to give away leftovers that you clearly had plans for. Maybe she was jealous that you were treated to a nice BBQ dinner, or maybe she feels resentful that you have special permission to use the company fridge. It was pretty snarky on her part, but not worth making a big deal about it. If you are physically able to walk down to the employee fridge now, I would say it’s time to start storing your food there, lest Paula give it away or toss it out again.

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Sarah Paige October 18, 2012 at 8:18 am

Paula was wrong to give your leftovers away. Was she upset because she was not asked to have lunch with your team or take home some of the leftovers? Why does she care, she did not pay for it, either, the *company expense account* did!

If you had permission to use the company fridge, Paula needs to get over herself!I would double check with whoever you get permission from, to make sure that it is ok for you to continue to do this until you are fully recovered. If approved, I would tell Paula that I have permission to use the fridge until that time and I would appreciate it if she would not give my leftovers away.

I think she was mad because she thought you should use the employee fridge, even though you are still limping and in pain. Not being invited to eat with your team or told to get some leftovers could also be the reason, although I think she may be a bit too full of her imaginary “power” as office manager.

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Rachel October 18, 2012 at 8:21 am

Paula likely wasn’t thinking and gave them away, then when op pointed it out Paula got defensive and flipped since she’s probably the kind of person who takes herself too seriously.

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Lacey October 18, 2012 at 8:49 am

This story makes me really glad I don’t work in an office anymore. I agree that this may seem like a little thing, but is reflective of Paula’s personality. I have never known an office manager who wasn’t on a huge power trip, actually. I think Paula’s actions were passive-aggressive, and her mention of “why is it in the company fridge” says to me that yes, she is either a) jealous of your “privilege” of keeping food in a different place than the others (man, I hate offices), or b) clings to whatever power she has so much that she feels it’s her duty to enforce the fridge rules now that she feels you can walk again. Either way, she’s a petty, power-tripping, bored office lady. I wouldn’t take it any further, but I would only speak to her when absolutely necessary and make it pretty clear that she is to do the same.

Also? “I gave it away to another employee?” No evidence, of course, but I think *she* took your leftovers.

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--Lia October 18, 2012 at 8:50 am

“I really didn’t know what to say to her, so I simply left.”

You did the right thing under the circumstances. It’s best not to say anything when one is angry. For the future, if you could think of it in time, the right thing to say is “I’ll let this go, but for the future, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t touch anything of mine. It’s not yours to give away.” You could even say this to her now.

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Roslyn October 18, 2012 at 8:57 am

Hhhmmmm, what stood out to me in the story, other than someone using “power” just because they have some, is that Paula paid for the lunch from her company expense account. Did she have to give up something else to make the way for this expense? Makes you wonder. Maybe that’s why she was snarky about “you didn’t pay for it” business.

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Goldie October 18, 2012 at 9:01 am

I don’t even go near the office fridge. Insulated lunch bags & ice packs, if necessary.

Paula sounds like she knew she’d messed up, but wouldn’t admit it. All the more reason to avoid communal fridges.

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Cat October 18, 2012 at 9:03 am

I am not as nice as most of the responders. To me, Paula is a thief. It does not matter how you obtained the food, as long as you did it legally. Once it is in your possession, it is yours. To take it and eat it herself or to give it to someone else is stealing. I would not want a personal relationship with her.
That said, I had the same problem at my work place. Women would make a mess in the fridge and refuse to clean it. I simply began to take a small cooler with my food in it. If the issue of the cleaning came up, I reminded all concerned parties that I never used the refrigerator.
If you have to continue to use the refrigerator, I might be tempted to include a note inside my food container. “Please do not take this. It does not belong to you. Stealing is wrong.” It would be seen only by the thief. Sometimes people need a reminder about ethics in the work place.

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Spuck October 18, 2012 at 9:12 am

I say continue to use the upstairs refrigerator. You are in pain and you have the permission of your superiors to use it. As for the food itself, since it started out as food the company ordered, it is going to devolve into a he said, she said situation. I’d say let the incident pass, but keep a note of it incase you have problems with Paula in the future. At the very least if there is another incident you have proof/history of her bad attitude.

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Abby October 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

I don’t see how it could have been a mistake- others have pointed out that maybe another employee asked Paula if they could have the leftover box, and Paula, not realizing who it belonged to, said okay, and then was embarrassed. I don’t think that’s the case because who would ask Paula if they could have a leftover box with someone else’s name clearly on it? Plus Paula knows that any food in the fridge could potentially be OP’s- we know this because she has checked before.

I think EGL must be right- this was probably Paula’s way of getting OP to stop using that fridge. I disagree though, that this is a battle worth fighting. It was snotty of Paula to be so rude after giving your food away (and it was rude to give it away in the first place) but you don’t want to be *that* employee that complains about not getting your company paid for leftovers.

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Princess Buttercup October 18, 2012 at 10:03 am

I wouldn’t be surprised if the “another employee” was Paula herself. If she wasn’t in on eating the meal she might have felt some was owed to her for helping getting it. Then when she got busted she got defensive.

Personally, the rest of the time that I needed to use that fridge I would have written on my food; “This food belongs to x and no one else and was placed here today’s date.” Then there is no confusion.

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livvy17 October 18, 2012 at 10:14 am

I agree with the first commentor – lots of people turn snappy rather than apologizing. Yes, Paula was wrong to take OP’s food.

Only possible explanation that I can think of that would make it ever so slightly more reasonable is if Paula gave the leftovers to an employee who was supposed to be at the lunch meeting, but couldn’t make it on time. Then, at least, it could be seen as giving that employee “their share” of the lunch, even if it was rudely taken from another employee.

I agree you should, as soon as it’s not medically impossible, use the employee fridge. It’s likely that if your injury is not readily apparent, you’re already drawing criticism from other employees for being able to use the company fridge, when they have to use the other. (I’m not saying it’s fair, it’s just reality). I also agree with the practical and realistic approach others have stated – don’t make an issue of it, as it will just make you look petty, and possibly even make Paula look like the “good guy” for keeping you from “hoarding” food when another employee was “deprived”. Believe me, if you push it, she will probably spin it just like that. If you drop it, she might even apologize in time. (though I wouldn’t hold my breath.)

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DGS October 18, 2012 at 10:19 am

Paula sounds like loads of snarky fun, doesn’t she? I’d let it go, though, since it was just some (albeit yummy) leftovers. And like other posters have suggested, I might splurge on an insulated lunch bag…avoiding office politices related to fridges isn’t such a bad idea for a more functional work environment. On an another note, I hope your injury is on the mend!

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cocacola35 October 18, 2012 at 10:37 am

I think Lacey is correct- this “Paula” is on a power trip and doesn’t like anyone breaking her rules, despite the circumstances. It’s very petty (and sometimes downright mean)when people act like this just to make themselves feel important. I don’t think she made a mistake here- she knew you had permission to use the company fridge and your name was on the leftovers. When confronted she didn’t even apologize, just got defensive. She may have even been jealous that not only are you “breaking” her rules, but also you got a free meal.

Paula has definitely shown you her true personality here, and it’s not very pleasant. I would try to steer clear of her from now on. She’s playing a petty power game with you and do you really want to get into this every day? You have a right to be mad, but since this is the first incident I think you should document it and let it go. As for storing lunches, I’d put it in the employee fridge from now on. It just wouldn’t be worth it to me to deal with this person, especially if she decided to toss out my lunch one day instead of leftovers.

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LAURA October 18, 2012 at 10:45 am

@ Louisa Oh, but Ross’ sandwich had the “moist-maker”! LOL

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barbarian October 18, 2012 at 10:51 am

Generally, office managers are going to look after their own interests, when they’re in a one-on-one situation with employees, even if being snappy is not company policy.

Catered lunches for small employee groups are landmines, when the rest of the office is not included for some reason. Vendors bring in food for the professional group who works long hours and it is put away until mealtime. Once the admin staff sees the food arrive, they will pester the professional staff about the food even though they work regular hours with no overtime. Some people feel entitled to any perk that comes into the office and will use the five finger discount system.

Use the office fridge until your injury is healed or else bring an insulated lunch container to avoid the fridge period. Then if you get any more special leftovers, just put them in the container out of reach of snarky coworkers.

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Calliope October 18, 2012 at 10:53 am

I totally disagree with missminute that the OP should write Paula an email telling her that she’s hurt. If Paula were a friend instead of a coworker, then sure. But this is an office, and this incident should not be made into a bigger issue than it is. Can you imagine if this escalated and the boss had to get involved in a conflict over leftovers? How embarrassing for everyone.

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Spuck October 18, 2012 at 11:07 am

In response to Livvy’s comment about other employee’s criticism about the fridge.

They. Do. Not. Matter.

If you have a disability that isn’t obvious it is not other people’s to police, nag, or comment about that person and their accommodations. Anyone who nags a person about something like a temporary office accommodation or even a handicap placard is rude. There is no excuse.

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Jane October 18, 2012 at 11:31 am

Yea, I’d be ticked too. Though it isn’t worth getting in trouble over or saying anything to Paula – it’s not that big of a deal in the long run. You did the best thing by just leaving.

I have to wonder if it wasn’t some type of mistake by Paula – if another employee asked about the food and she said “sure, take it!,” without even knowing it belonged to the OP. On that note though – what about the person who took it? Did they not see the name?

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Stacey Frith-Smith October 18, 2012 at 11:32 am

Paula might have felt that since her expense account paid for the lunch she should have first choice of any leftover food. Yours was accessible and she cannibalized it. That she was “made” to pay for a meal might not have gone over well with her, in part because expense accounts are sometimes reimbursed in arrears.

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Cora October 18, 2012 at 11:36 am

Don’t email Paula. It will balloon into such aggro that you don’t need. Buy yourself one of these as a get-well gift and let it go.

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Kristin October 18, 2012 at 11:40 am

I wondered where our old power-trippy office manager went after she was fired! Looks like she ended up at your place.

I think Paula had a delicious BBQ dinner at home that night. She knew what she was doing.

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Elle October 18, 2012 at 11:59 am

It’s so easy to get territorial about food and . . . . well, territory. Your territoriality about your food is slamming headfirst into Paula’s territoriality regarding the office fridge. Neither is an entirely unreasonable stance. No, Paula should not have given away your food, and she should not have gotten so snarky about it. And you were not in the wrong at all.

But I think this is one of those situations where it is better to disengage than it is to stand your ground. Don’t hurt yourself trying to use the “proper” fridge of course. But personally I’d be looking into an insulated bag or food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated as a long term solution.

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badkitty October 18, 2012 at 11:59 am

Sounds to me like this was Paula’s passive-aggressive way of telling you that if you’re walking again you shouldn’t be using the company fridge anymore. Clearly, others don’t share her opinion, or she would have been able to say as much to your face. Just know that putting your name on something apparently isn’t enough to keep it safe, and try an insulated lunchbox from now on.

While we’re condemning Paula to e-hell, let’s send along the person who accepted a box with someone else’s name on it. Who does that?

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KA October 18, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Paula is exhibiting a classic Office Power Flex. “Check me out, I am the office manager, see what I can do.” I have worked with people like this before – not office managers, but people who have to exert their will over every silly situation to remind people that they are important/relevant. It’s annoying, but taking the issue further isn’t worth OP’s time. If you have been given permission to keep your food in the fridge then continue to do so. I too would be annoyed about the missing leftovers but there’s really no way to fix/compensate for the situation, and seeing you upset is exactly what Paula probably wants (“See how upset she is? It was a mistake. Waaaah.”)

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Shannon October 18, 2012 at 12:24 pm

I agree with everyone who tells the OP to stand down. Bringing this up, for any reason, makes you look like the petty office crank who is making a federal case about losing out on some company-sponsored free food. (No matter how calm and polite you are, you’re going to wind up branded as the office crank. It is going to hurt your career. Trust.)

Yes, it’s annoying that she gave your food away, whether by mistake or not, but professionalism requires rising above the things that annoy us. Let it go, and keep your stuff in a cooler or other fridge from now on.

And speaking of office food-related annoyances, I have a coworker who brings in a week’s worth of food (salad fixings, usually) at once, plus a 2-liter of cola, and uses the kitchen to make himself lunch each day. We have one fridge for 70 people, and it strikes me as a bit greedy in terms of space. Plus, dude, it’s not your house! Bring what you need for the day. But am I going to say anything? Heck no. Why? Because nobody wants to be the petty office crank.

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2browneyes4 October 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Regarding office fridge policies, I work in a building with 11 floors and a fridge (or two) for each floor. On our floor, the policy is that what is not gone by 3:00 every Friday afternoon goes in the trash. Period. The administrative manager on our floor sends out a reminder between 1:30 and 2:00, and at 3:00 she cleans out the fridge and throws away everything, including your nice new tupperware or whatever else it is that you treasure. It has been effective. I had been guilty of leaving things in there before the new policy since I don’t normally bring my lunch, but I might buy some strawberries or something from a traveling farmer’s market, and eat a few then refrigerate the rest, then I’d forget. Weeks later that bag of rotten strawberries would be disgusting. So the new policy works.

I was previously in a similar workplace where the evening cleaning contractors were instructed to empty the fridge every Friday night. One Friday a nightshift coworker had bought 2 quarts of buttermilk, opened one quart, and stashed them in the fridge. Of course, the cleaning lady threw them out on Friday evening. The coworker made such a big stink about it and kept demanding to management that they make the cleaning company force the cleaning lady to reimburse her!! I thought she was petty since (1) the 2 quarts together could not have cost much (although you never know someone’s financial situation); and (2) she knew what the rules were. She argued her case to anyone who would listen for weeks that since at least one quart was unopened, the cleaning lady should not have thrown out the buttermilk. I avoided her after that drama.

Another grating issue is coworkers stealing food from fridges. I have seen where a group of coworkers chips in for 4 pizzas, eat 2 pizzas at lunchtime and stash the other 2 in the office fridge. When they return to the fridge after hours (we were working a lot of overtime), they found that someone had eaten all the pepperoni or other topping off the pizza. Gross!!

On another occasion, I had to leave an office pot-luck lunch early. My coworker was famous for her cakes, and she saved me a piece of her coconut cake that had not been cut before I left. When I went to retrieve it later, it was clear that someone had taken a swipe (with finger indentations and everything) out of the cake. Maddening!!

Also, at that same employer, on Fridays I would bring in ice cream served in cups from a popular nearby ice creamery for myself and my coworker since we held down the fort by ourselves on Friday evenings. I would always eat mine immediately while we worked (how piggy of me) and he put his in the security office’s fridge (with their permission since food stealing was a problem) to save it until he took his break. More than once it was gone when he took his break. We both strongly suspected someone from a neighboring department whose eyes would light up everytime he saw us with ice cream. We fantasized about putting powdered laxative in the ice cream (we would have never actually done it though), and at one point the suspect was in a bad accident that required him to wear a neck brace and walk on crutches. The thought of him stealing the ice cream and then trying to hurry to the men’s room on crutches made us laugh for hours!!

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Helen October 18, 2012 at 12:35 pm

You did pay for the leftovers. You gave up your lunch hours for a year, and time is money. The leftovers were meant to repay you for that — Paula giving them away is theft.

I may sound harsh, but in most states, employers are not allowed to take away your lunch break, and having you work through it without additional compensation is generally not okay. Your catered lunch (and leftovers) were small compensation for it, which this woman took from you.

I agree that this is a pick your battle situation, and that perhaps Paula is being passive aggressive about your injuries. Still, I would document this, because she may be attempting to undermine an accommodation your employer has made for you. If this behavior continues, you need to be able to go to HR about it.

You should not have to go through physical pain to sate this woman’s perverse power trips.

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Cat Too October 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm

“Dear Paula,

I was very taken aback by your question of why I cared and choose to leave rather than continue. However, having had time to think about your legitimate question, here is my answer: I care because I was told that I could have this. Once I was, I had an expectation that it was mine whether I paid for it or not and took care to label it so. It was given to me, a gift that became mine, and not communal property to be given away. In future, even if I did not pay for it, please respect that it is mine.

Sincerely,

Me”

No need to even get into the idea that she decided HER judgment superceded the judgment of the CD whose choice it was to gift it to you among the other employees, and how dismissive that is to the both of you. Just define it – whether you paid for it or not, it was given to you (or you were allowed to have it, either way), and thus it IS yours. You have a right to expect that your things will remain yours.

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Claire October 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Gosh, what a mountain out of a molehill (of leftovers).

This isn’t really an etiquette breach as Paula was just doing what she thought was right at the time to ensure the leftovers didn’t get thrown out per policy, so the OP needs to just relax. Maybe Paula was a bit offish but we don’t know how the OP sounded to her (Personally, being English, if someone said “Why would you do that?” as opposed to “Why DID you do that?” I would take a different inference from each, the first has an implicit “something so stupid” tagged on the end in my opinion, the second is a less loaded enquiry!)

So to answer the OP’s questions in order
1) Did I really have a claim on the BBQ, or since it was purchased by the company, was Paula justified in giving it to someone else?

Not really, it was company food which was lying in a fridge due to be cleared out for the weekend. Yes, she was justified, given the circumstances. Company fridge = company food.

Should I start keeping my lunch in the Employee Fridge now that I can walk?

Yes. You are not a special snowflake.

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Angel October 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Am I the only one who thinks this is an extremely petty thing to be upset about? Yes, it would be nice if Paula hadn’t given away the OP’s leftovers. However, it happened. I can see being annoyed about it and then moving on. If the subject of leftovers would come up in conversation, I would probably even joke about the disappearing leftovers. But I for one would not use the company fridge or the employee fridge anymore. Have you ever heard of a product called Pack-It? It is a cooler that keeps food refrigerator fresh for up to 12 hours I believe. It looks just like a lunch bag. This way the issue of the company or employee fridge no longer comes up.

As far as writing Paula an email about the incident. Dear God, please don’t do that! Talk about overreacting!!

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essie October 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Ifind it interesting that Paula apparently never considered that you might have eaten from your to-go box AFTER you packed it and that it might not have been appropriate (from a food sanitation point) to give to someone else.

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Miss Raven October 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm

I agree with many of the previous comments.

1. There is nothing ambiguous about this situation. You both knew you had permission to use the fridge, the leftovers were effectively gifted to you and therefore became yours, they were labeled with your name. This was not an accident or mistake on Paula’s part. At best it was willfully inconsiderate and at worst, simply malicious for no apparent reason. You have every right to be upset.

2. It was “just some leftovers” and not the end of the world. To keep things rolling along in your office, you will need to move on from this particular incident.

Now, here is the problem as I see it: This particular incident, seemingly unimportant as it was, would not have happened if Paula had a modicum of respect for you as an employee or as a person. Maybe she has a problem with you in particular (who knows why?) or maybe she just has a chip on her shoulder.

Regardless, forgive this incident but don’t forget what kind of person it has revealed Paula to be. I think you can anticipate some trouble in the future, and I would document every perceived slight and negative exchange between you, just in case.

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MichelleP October 18, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I would be irritated, but agree with other posters that you should let it go. Paula is on a power trip and I would not get involved in it. I’ve worked under some “Paulas” and you don’t want to get on their bad side. As soon as you are able, switch to the other fridge for employees and avoid her.

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OP October 18, 2012 at 3:13 pm

OP here, thanks for the advice, everyone. The “incident” was about a month ago, and since it happened I’ve pretty much been following your collective advice. I’ve given Paula a wide berth and limited my interaction with her to polite nods and smiles. I decided against making any kind of complaint, either to her directly or to someone above her, because it would only make me seem like a whiny baby. :)

My injury is healing nicely and I’ve been keeping my lunch in the employee fridge for several weeks now. As a side note, one of our company VPs put his lunch leftovers in the company fridge and Paula threw them away, so it wasn’t personal! An insulated lunch bag might be in my future…

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Bint October 18, 2012 at 4:01 pm

“I have never known an office manager who wasn’t on a huge power trip, actually”

How unfortunate. Clearly you have never met me. I was an office manager for years and amazingly enough didn’t have time for this nonsense either, so do please spare us the lazy stereotypes. Paula is a cow regardless of her job.

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Kelly October 18, 2012 at 4:51 pm

We have your typical office fridge where there is rarely room, things disappear, never gets cleaned. Some of us solved this problem by buying our own mini fridges for our offices/cubicles. I know not everyone has this option but it’s a great way to remove your self from the drama of the dreaded office refrigerator.

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Lucky October 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Okay, everyone here is right: She shouldn’t have given away your food.

But Paula is also a little bit right: You didn’t pay for it, and you’d (I assume?) already eaten a meal out of it, so your position here is kind of weak. Let it go.

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Maggie October 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm

I’m with some other responders that it was a passive-aggressive move on Paula’s part, taking “ownership” of the food and the fridge.

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