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Bosses And Food…Somehow This Combination Never Seems To Work Well

This just happened today and I had to submit it. I’m still trying to retrieve my jaw from the floor.

My workplace hosted a charity morning tea. The idea is that everyone comes in with a plate of baked goodies, chats and makes a monetary donation to charity. The idea is that you pay to partake in the food. It’s pretty straight forward and most people have a good time.

The party got started early at 8am. At 8:15 one of the board members comes down with a plate. She stayed for ten minutes and then left (usually people stay for about 30 mins – hr to chat over a cup of tea). At 9:30am she sent down her PA to pick up a plate of food for a meeting that the board was holding. There was no request, the PA just came and took it with an “I’ve been sent down to pick up the food”.

The kicker was that the tea finished at 12, so it wasn’t even leftovers. The board member did give a donation, but take-away isn’t really part of the deal. We basically provided free catering for their meeting. I’m willing to let her PA off the hook – it was obvious she thought this was pre-arranged – but can we consign the board member to a nice spit deep in the fires of etiquette hell? 0525-17

{ 73 comments… add one }
  • Miss R March 12, 2018, 9:59 am

    who was in charge of this event? Was there no one in authority to say, “I’m sorry, the food is for the charity tea, not for the board meeting”?

    • Calli Arcale March 12, 2018, 3:35 pm

      That can be very awkward, depending on company dynamics. A board member likely would have outranked everyone at the tea. I could see people being afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.

  • JD March 12, 2018, 10:09 am

    I’d certainly be happy to assist in the roasting. How arrogant of the board member!

    • Marozia March 13, 2018, 4:46 am

      A pity a rotisserie wasn’t available at the event. I’m sure Miss Jeanne would’ve been happy to roast the boss herself.

  • AS March 12, 2018, 10:37 am

    Did the other board members also contribute to the baked goodies and donation, but didn’t get to attend the party, like the one board member you mentioned? In that case, I don’t think that it is awful to fix a plate and take it to the meeting. They were having their “tea-party” at the board meeting, as they were too busy to actually attend the morning tea.

    Also, wasn’t the morning tea supposed to have ended at 9:30 or so, and people gotten back to work even if there were some people hanging around?

    • Kate 2 March 12, 2018, 6:00 pm

      What do you mean “the morning tea”? This doesn’t sound like a formal English tea or anything like that, it sounds like and all-day pay to eat charity potluck.

    • OP March 12, 2018, 10:15 pm

      The tea went until 12pm. At our organisation people start at different times and we have a lot of casuals and part timers. It ran late so people could come in without needing to be in the office super early.

      And no. The other board members did not contribute to the tea, either monetarily or in baked goods.

  • mark March 12, 2018, 11:02 am

    This is likely a case of executive entitlement. Executives, particularly in large corporations, are use to lots of perks. They don’t even think about it often.

    • Semperviren March 13, 2018, 1:16 pm

      I agree. They are so accustomed to things like this being provided “on the company” it doesn’t even occur to them to ask or think about where it came from.

  • Abby March 12, 2018, 11:07 am

    Yeah, that was pretty rude. I saw something similar happen once. Our receptionist keeps a candy bowl on her desk. She fills it with candy that she buys herself. Sometimes people donate candy or money, but probably 90% of the candy costs is out of pocket for her. We have mortgage closings at our office, and one of the real estate agents on the transaction came in for the closing. (We have real estate agents, but this was an outside agent representing the seller and neither she nor the seller had any affiliation with our company). She grabs the candy bowl of the receptionist’s desk and brings it into the closing. She doesn’t even ASK, she just grabs it. Even if she didn’t realize that this was the receptionist’s personal candy bowl, I think it’s pretty awful to just walk into a company that you don’t work for and bring their treats into your meeting. Our receptionist was too taken aback to say anything.

    • Kay_L March 12, 2018, 4:01 pm

      The real estate agent is a client. So, it’s not like there is no affiliation. It doesn’t make it ok for her to just grab something like that and move it somewhere else, but it’s not like it’s a stranger walking in off the street.

      While agents may not pay the actual fees, they do play a huge role in recommending outside services to their clients.

      Perhaps its not a good idea for the receptionist to be underwriting the cost of something like this. It’s not really her “personal candy bowl” if it’s set out for anyone walking by to take a piece. Others are going to view it as part of the office, like the water cooler, or a pen, etc.

      It still doesn’t excuse someone just taking it like that and moving it. But, it’s far from someone taking someone’s personal items to use as their own.

      • Abby March 13, 2018, 6:20 am

        The real estate agent was not our client. Our client was the person buying the property. The seller came to sign papers. The real estate agent that took the candy was the seller’s agent. She didn’t even need to be there, but if she didn’t come she’d have to get her check in the mail and she wanted it right away.

      • Abby March 13, 2018, 6:24 am

        Also, it *is* her candy bowl. She’s being generous providing candy for people, and they are free to take candy. They are not free to take the bowl with them. Banks and grocery stores set out jars of lollipops all the time, but I don’t think they expect someone to grab the whole jar and walk off with it!

        • staceyizme March 13, 2018, 4:24 pm

          I think you’re right. But- I wouldn’t be as shocked now as I once might have been to hear that someone dumped the contents into their purse or shopping bag and made of with the whole kit and kaboodle after hearing some of the anecdotes posted on this site.

          • NostalgicGal March 14, 2018, 12:19 am

            A small BBQ place in another town, well renowned for their excellent food and their homemade saltwater taffy. Someone I was friends with, would want to eat there then empty the ‘samples’/have a “mint” bow at the register. One day she got really grabby, they refilled the bowl because she’d grabbed fast where they didn’t see and then cleaned it out in front of them saying they were so good. At this moment I guessed she’d taken about a pound (they had a few packaged pounds you could buy for $9 a pound for comparison). She was seriously old and they apparently didn’t want a confrontation. So I took a $10 and snuck it around the register to the other side, one of the three now at the register counter seen it and I escorted her out… she’d been hoping they’d bring more out. She was driving that day so I didn’t say anything else, but I was appalled to be with her. I also made sure if we stopped in that town to shop again to steer her from stopping in there…

  • Kay_L March 12, 2018, 11:31 am

    I don’t understand why the people who were hosting the charity tea didn’t tell the PA–I’m sorry but that’s not possible.

    Just because someone wants to run roughshod over other people doesn’t mean you have to let them–even if they are a “boss.”

    • Rinme March 14, 2018, 2:39 am

      Because she is the boss, and this is the workplace. That person who would “sabotage” the board meeting, might have faced dire consequences.

      Also, we have no idea of the company’s imvolvement in the organization/sponsoring of the event. It might be that the board member did have an arrangement with someone or had other good reasons to feel entitled to the food.

  • dippy March 12, 2018, 11:32 am

    At the last place I worked, the workers got the leftovers from the board meetings, not the other way around!

    I guess someone will have to explain to whoever arranged the event why no one wants to participate next time!

  • TeamBhakta March 12, 2018, 12:06 pm

    Unfortunately, how this could be fixed depends on how much power the board member wields & their position on the totem pole. Your safest option would be to send out a memo before the next charity event saying “Each person will receive a ticket to present for 1 plate of food (scones, scrambled eggs, fruit + choice of coffee or juice). Seconds will be available, on a first come-first serve basis, after everyone has had a chance to go through the line the first time. Leftovers will be distributed after the end of the tea at 12 PM, on a first come-first serve basis in Break Room 4.”

    • Marther March 15, 2018, 9:34 pm

      No, don’t insult everyone else for one person’s greed! If the board member can’t be confronted, just shrug it off – don’t let her arrogant behavior behavior ruin a good event.

  • Michelle March 12, 2018, 1:00 pm

    That is…greedy. It’s hard to react in the moment, but it would have been wonderful if someone could have told the PA “I’m sorry, there must have been a misunderstanding. This food is for the charity tea and it doesn’t end until noon. Everyone will have to wait until then to see if there are leftovers”. Unfortunately, that would put the PA in an awkward position- she has to tell the board member/boss that the food wasn’t for the board meeting- but it would communicate the clear message that charity events should not be used to cater board meetings! If they needed food for the board meeting, that is a business expense that should be covered by the business, not a event intended to help the less fortunate. Most companies have company credit card/expense accounts that could cover the food bill for the board meeting!

  • Karen L March 12, 2018, 1:53 pm

    OMG, I hate these “social” events where everyone in the workplace is “expected” to provide both the hospitality AND the monetary donations. If a company wants to host a charity event, let the company provide the hospitality. OR the company can just donate some amount themselves.

    Were the men in the company ALSO expected to bake goodies? Are the people struggling to keep both parents in assisted living facilities also expected to bake goodies and donate money? Or are they shunned from the social activity because they cannot do either?

    Leave me out of it, please.

    • Josie James March 12, 2018, 4:23 pm


    • Anonymous March 12, 2018, 6:32 pm

      I agree–if you’re having a potluck, you ask people to provide food contributions, OR money, but not both. I’m vegan, so I don’t generally do potlucks, so this is one of those times when I’d be relieved to have that as an excuse……because, even if I wasn’t, I still wouldn’t want to participate in something like this.

    • OP March 12, 2018, 10:18 pm

      It wasn’t a compulsory event. No one was forced to take part.

    • Bea March 12, 2018, 10:22 pm

      My partner is a male and he cooks/bakes his own dishes for potlucks or similar events. It’s gross to automatically assume that men aren’t expected to provide for these things as well. Geez, how tacky to assume the worst.

      I do agree that nobody should be expected to donate or participate. Around here nobody takes an inventory of who brought what, so nobody is hawk eyeing to make sure that the people who didn’t donate had any goodies.

      • Kate Musso March 13, 2018, 10:46 am

        While it is tacky to assume the worst, I just came from a wedding in western Pennsylvania where it is customary for a cookie table, and all of my girl cousins and aunts were asked to bake cookies and none of my boy cousins or uncles were. This is still the norm in most places

        • Bea March 14, 2018, 4:05 pm

          Ah Western PA, yeah that’s unsurprising.

      • cleosia March 15, 2018, 12:38 pm

        The department I was in at one of my previous companies did a Christmas cake bake for the department (it was a small group). My husband, who didn’t work there, provided the delicious Swiss Roll cake. It disappeared rather quickly!

    • dippy March 13, 2018, 9:50 am

      Mr Dippy made a large pot of “Olive Garden” Zuppa Toscano last night to take to a work pot luck tomorrow. If it were me? I’d contribute the paper goods or money. LOL

    • mark March 13, 2018, 6:31 pm

      I’ve made items for potlucks and what not. I’m in IT, and given the gender ratios in your typical IT, you will starve if you depend on the department females to bring all the goodies, also many of the males actually are quite excellent cooks.

  • Jc March 12, 2018, 2:20 pm

    I don’t understand this. You clearly state, “you pay money to partake in the food”, which is what the board member did. Once you’ve donated, you can do what you want with the cake you’ve ‘bought’

    It’s a donation to charity, with cake thrown in, not a entry fee to be stuck in a room for 1 hour unless you specifically tell people that. Workplace coffee mornings and the good will of management will end very quickly if you start dictating that staff can’t go and do the work they are being paid to do.

    If the board member had come back down at 10.30, got a large plate of food and hung around for an hour, you’d have no problem. The only difference is she got her PA to get it. As long as a reasonable donation was given to cover what was taken, then I can’t see the issue.

    I never hang around at coffee mornings, I get a couple of pieces of cake, pay my money, maybe say hello to someone I haven’t seen for a while, then head back to my desk to get on with work, as do most other staff. I wouldn’t go at all if part of the deal if that I have to stay for an hour in order to fit in with ridiculous expectations.

    • AS March 12, 2018, 3:27 pm


      It seems that the “entry fee” is not only to bring something to share and to contribute to the charity, but also to stick around, and not get back to work! I’m not sure that the reaction would have been the same if someone had fixed a plate for, say for eg., colleagues in their cubicle, who were too busy to socialize, but had contributed both money and food. (Of course, I don’t know if the other board members contributed too, but we know that at least one of them surely did, as the OP says so).

      I was also wondering if the board member sent the PA because she thought that the social was over, and the PA could pick up some left-overs lest they go waste, (and probably also save the office some money from getting snacks). After all, it had been 1.5 hrs since the start of the event!

    • Sarahdoll March 12, 2018, 3:31 pm

      I agree, 100%.

    • Calli Arcale March 12, 2018, 3:38 pm

      That’s a good point. And since the PA just went to get a plate, was it really “catering the board meeting” or just what the board member herself would have eaten anyway?

    • Michelle March 12, 2018, 3:46 pm

      If you are having a board meeting that requires food, that should be an expense the company covers vs. taking food from a charity event. Honestly, I think 1 person is going to eat much less food than an entire group of people.

    • Abby March 12, 2018, 4:15 pm

      I think the issue is you make a donation, and take *a* serving of the goodies. Sounds like the PA loaded up the plate for enough food for everyone at the board meeting, which could have been a high number of people. Unless the board member made a very large donation, this seems to go against the spirit of the charity tea.

    • LadyV March 12, 2018, 4:51 pm

      You definitely don’t understand the situation. The issue is not that the board member didn’t stay for very long – I’m sure everyone understood she was busy and couldn’t stay for long. The issue is that the board member sent her PA down to get enough food to feed AN ENTIRE BOARD MEETING. That’s probably at least 5 or 6 people, and could be as many as a dozen. I doubt Board Member donated enough to cover that amount of food – not to mention that she shortchanged people who came to the tea later.

    • Kate 2 March 12, 2018, 6:02 pm

      The issue is that she “double dipped”. She came down, paid ONCE, ate quickly. Then she sent her PA down to get food for EVERYONE in the meeting WITHOUT paying again.

      This isn’t an “all you can eat buffet”. And polite people don’t have to be told that it is rude to take more than their fair share without paying extra.

    • Jelaza March 12, 2018, 6:23 pm

      I read it as the PA was sent down to pack up enough food for everyone at the board meeting, rather than just the one board member who had made the donation. Which is on the same entitlement level as someone making one donation and packing up enough to take home to their family.

      If the other board members want some goodies, they can come down and make their donations for it.

    • AsItIs March 12, 2018, 8:59 pm

      We don’t know the amount of the donation, but given that the OP wrote in, we can be safe to assume it was in line with what others gave, or were asked to give. Making a normal donation for the cake – fine. Making a normal donation and taking cake for multiple others – not fine.

      But I think you take issue at the event being held in the first place. Not the OP’s issue at all.

      • Jc March 14, 2018, 7:36 am

        If that’s directed at me, I don’t have an issue with the event being held. There was one at work last week, and my colleague very kindly put a couple of pieces of cake to one side for me as I was in a meeting. (seems like that’s an etiquette issue according to OP)

        My issue is that the OP states that the board member makes a donation and takes cake, but then complains that take away isn’t part of the deal. The fact it’s a PA sent to get the cake for a team meeting is misdirection. The etiquette issue according to OP is taking away cake from a 3 hour+ social event in work time.

        The board member paid for cake and can do what she wants with it. Ideally, you wouldn’t come back for more without giving an extra donation, especially if it’s pay XX per piece of cake/cookie/whatever (not stated), but that’s not what the OP said.

        Was the OP the organiser? Were they watching (and seemingly judging) everyone to see how much they donated to the cause?
        Had the board member discussed it with someone who had agreed to a plate being sent to the board meeting?

  • shoegal March 12, 2018, 2:39 pm

    I’m intrigued by this event. You “pay” to partake in the food – and I suppose the workplace is providing what – the tea? I think “hosting” is a little bit of a stretch here. Everybody is bringing the food and giving a donation in order to eat it and drink some tea??? I have to wonder what the price is for this – or do you give what you want? The company allows everyone to enjoy the tea but this thing doesn’t sound as if it has any rules as to how long a person stays and it doesn’t end till noon!!!! Allowing the employees to sit around drinking tea for charity on the company time is really something. Some company’s couldn’t suffer the loss in productivity. I can imagine some people might just sit around for a couple of hours. I’m not sure what the company gets out of this?

    Bosses are usually notoriously cheap. There might have been leftovers by the time the event ended and this person might have given a large cash donation in order to cover the extra food she’d be taking but this is all hard to know. She should have just separated the food for both events. In fact, since she provided some baked goods for the tea in the first place, why couldn’t she have made extra for her meeting? It would be really wasteful to just throw out all the uneaten food from the tea – but she took it before the event ended and perhaps there wasn’t any leftovers?

    • Calli Arcale March 12, 2018, 3:39 pm

      I’m picturing something that’s “come and go as your schedule permits”, and that’s why it lasts to noon. I have a hard time seeing how successful that would likely be, though, as it would encourage exactly this sort of behavior (pay the fee, bring some food, later come back to get some food, then go eat at your desk).

    • Tan March 13, 2018, 8:29 am

      “I’m not sure what the company gets out of this?” Not only does it promote a team atmosphere and make people feel like they are not just “working for the machine”, which has a great long term productivity and staff retention benefits, many regularity standards actually ask companies for their impact on the community as part of their certification. In other words it helps the company stay accredited /certified. Additionally press releases on companies charity work can boost public image and increase sales. There are a lot of benefits, quite simply a little bit of charity work really pays back.

  • Mrssaint March 12, 2018, 3:21 pm

    I’m not sure of the problem, if she paid a donation why couldn’t she get a plate of food?

    • admin March 13, 2018, 4:26 am

      Because she paid for ONE plate of food and then sent her PA down to get enough for all the board members.

  • Wild Irish Rose March 12, 2018, 3:24 pm

    We have a department full of self-entitled idiots who raid parties and gatherings for food all the freakin’ time. Or rather, they DID. Until we had a Bosses’ Day observance on our floor, and the staff members on our floor brought food for sharing amongst us and with our bosses, all of which was put in the kitchen on our floor (there is a kitchen on every floor in our building). Members of the offending department showed up and heaped food on plates and went back to their area.

    I went to them and explained (rather angrily, I’m afraid) that just because there is food out on a given floor or in a particular department, unless you have received an actual invitation to partake, that food is there for an event and not just up for grabs. They apologized and I haven’t seen them do it since. Sometimes you just have to tell people what’s what or they never get the point.

  • Ginny March 12, 2018, 3:37 pm

    in a company I used to work for, our admin staff used to trade off bringing in treats that we shared among the three of us — but there was one senior executive who would always happen to come by mid-afternoon and say “oh, brownies! (or cookies, or chips or whatever)” and just help himself…. I finally got exasperated and asked him “Don, why don’t YOU ever bring in potato chips?” — he just looked puzzled and said “well, I WOULD if I HAD them….” My supervisor told him very patiently… “You see, Don… you have to BUY them… none of us were BORN with potato chips…” We all got a good laugh about that, but still, he never changed his behavior or contributed anything…. some people are just like that…

    • Devin March 13, 2018, 11:37 am

      I would stop the afternoon shared treats for a few days and see if the missing treats is noticed by the mooch. If he had the gall to say something, that would be a good time for everyone to mention that the treats have to be purchased and it was getting too expensive since some staff seemed to think it was free for all. Or start preportioning the treats so each contributor gets an equal share in an individual plate or bowl. That way the mooch would have to take a treat off someone’s plate they are eating off of. I dare say he doesn’t have that much ego.

  • Pat March 12, 2018, 3:41 pm

    I don’t quite get this “tea.” Was the time employees took off for tea during what otherwise would have been work time? If the company was sponsoring the event by allowing paid “off” time for tea, I don’t think I’d be too upset if a board member took a plate up to share with the other board members while they were meeting.

    • Tan March 13, 2018, 8:23 am

      “If the company was sponsoring the event by allowing paid “off” time for tea” it is the company not the board who pay then. Taking food for giving people time off sounds a lot like a bribe… share holders should question this.

      • Pat March 13, 2018, 8:51 am

        The board meeting was for the benefit of the company. If the company was contributing toward the event by allowing paid time off to attend the “tea”, I wouldn’t begrudge the board a few goodies for their meeting.

        • Tan March 14, 2018, 4:02 am

          “If the company was contributing toward the event by allowing paid time off to attend the “tea”, I wouldn’t begrudge the board a few goodies for their meeting.” The board is not the company. … that’s the point no matter how high up these people are they are still employees. The owner or owners could claim they a due a few goodies but not fellow employees. They are abusing their position

  • staceyizme March 12, 2018, 5:19 pm

    I wouldn’t allow the theft to go without comment. At the least, you should have collected a fee for each board member equivalent to what the cost of an equivalent number of individual tickets would cost. However, a charity tea set up in this way is simply begging to be abused. The board may think itself quite tolerant and progressive in its mindset to tolerate this kind of activity on company time and may not feel that a quid pro quo of sweets to sustain those who are actively engaged in the business at hand is too much to ask. It isn’t quite fair, but it isn’t really as bad as it would be in a regular social setting. Perhaps it would be better to separate work and charity. That way, those who wish to donate either cash or cake can do so and those who wish to partake can all receive an equivalent bill. You can even collect funds in advance and prepare “coffee break plates” for pick-up prior to or after the workday. By removing the conflation of personal activities (eating and socializing) and work (board meeting or business activities), you’ll have less difficulty in retaining custody of your sanity and your salable items.

  • Skaramouche March 12, 2018, 5:22 pm

    A few things are unclear to me:

    Is the expectation that *everyone* brings in a plate of goodies AND makes a donation? I.e. is it impossible to participate if you don’t do both? If so, the expectation would be that you get a full plate of goodies in return for your original plate of goodies because everyone is bringing something and the money collected goes to charity. In that case, I don’t see what was wrong with what the board member did. Unless she took two plates (one plate when she came down and another later), she was just getting her plate of goodies, albeit belatedly.

    My guess is that the actual situation is thus: not everyone brings a plate a goodies…those who want to, do. Regardless of whether or not you brought in goodies, you make a donation if you want to partake. In this situation, I’d say the onus is on the individual to ensure that his/her donation is equal to the amount of goodies taken. Wouldn’t a $10 donation entitle you to more goodies than say a $1 donation? None of the surrounding facts are clear so it’s hard to say whether the board member was in the wrong. If there are no rules around how much donation equals how many goodies, is the assumption that each person grabs a couple of pieces regardless of the size of the donation? If this is the general understanding, then shame on the board member.

    I take offence to the people who said “bosses are cheap” :D. We are not. There are these pesky things called “budgets” that we have to work with :P. They are not fun but they are a fact of life. In fact, I spend more money out-of-pocket now than when I didn’t have any reports. There are budgets for “employee appreciation” but there are never enough and the way I see it, it’s your job to appreciate your people. If it means you’re paying for a coffee here and there or treats for your team, that’s the way it is. Those things add up though and it’s somewhat offensive to do that AND be called cheap!!!!! 🙁

    Also, I’ve catered meetings or supplied team members with treats through these events but in that case, the rules were clear. People on the social committee or those who liked to bake would bring in plates of treats for a bake sale. I generally did bake something because I enjoy baking. Each person would be responsible for pricing their own plate of goodies. The social committee would then sell these treats at an agreed-upon time. Anyone who wished to could go and buy as many treats as they wanted at clearly marked prices. When a bake sale coincided with a meeting, I would 100% count on it as a way to cater my meeting. Why buy a box of doughnuts when I could benefit a charity and get a selection of homemade treats for the entire team to enjoy?

    • Michelle March 13, 2018, 8:56 am

      The issue is the board member did partake when she brought in her goodies, then sent her PA down to load up another plate of goodies for the board meeting. The OP clarified upthread that the other board members did not contribute goodies or a donation. So basically the original contributor “double-dipped” to provide food for the board meeting.

    • staceyizme March 13, 2018, 4:36 pm

      Bosses are no more prone to being cheap than any other class of person. They are, however, prone to making the privilege that generally accompanies their position felt in a way that most others would not dare to do. A more exalted position (board member) should carry an also increased impetus to being a good role model. That it does not do so in many cases is understandably human nature, but it is useless to speak of providing for meetings and running events more efficiently as a defense of bosses, since many folks who hold that position do indeed “send their PA” (secretary, team member or other subordinate) on less desirable errands. I note that the board member did not take a plate while she was there, but sent an intermediary. Cowardly, cheap and graceless. That does not apply to all bosses, at all! But in her case (and lamentably, in the case of many), it is unfortunately apt! Bosses can be kind, good mentors, supportive and collaborative. They can also be many other less desirable things and their position often allows them to exhibit these traits with impunity.

    • OP March 14, 2018, 2:21 am

      In an effort not to give too many details I’m afraid I’ve confused everyone with the charity “tea” concept. It’s supporting a large charity that runs every year which encourages groups to host their own morning tea. You DONT have to give BOTH a donation AND pay, there is no set cost per person. Obviously if enough people only donate then you will run out of food very quickly so most people will bring a plate and make a small donation. ($5-10 is probably the average) having someone come in and make themselves a giant plate for the meeting took a fairly big chunk of the goodies.

      Also, people in my office work odd hours. Some start at 9am, some 9:30 and a number of people might not start until 1pm. The long running time was to cater for everyone’s different needs. We have a moderately relaxed workplace in that no one will bat an eye if you take 15-20mins to attend the tea while you’re at work (we aren’t chained to our desks!).

  • Melissa Wilcox March 12, 2018, 7:32 pm

    I wonder if the PA was supposed to provide food for the meeting and forgot/dropped the ball, whatever. She may have scooped in and grabbed this stuff on her own. I wouldn’t be too hard on the board members without knowing more.

  • Aleko March 13, 2018, 3:16 am

    It sounds as though the boss is one of those people,who have a strictly ‘utilitarian’ approach to social behaviour: ‘I came with a contribution and stayed for a token period, I made a decent donation to cover the food I wanted, I sent my PA for it later, what’s the problem?’

    If she had made her own donation initially, then stood up after those 10 minutes and said ‘I can’t stay – board meeting – and my fellow board members couldn’t make it at all. They would love some of these cakes. Can I send my PA down later for a plateful for them to enjoy at the meeting? Cool. Here’s their donation for that’, I’m guessing everyone would have been perfectly happy (even if the total of the two donations amounted to exactly the same amount). It was only the being taken by surprise, and treated as a takeaway. that riled everyone.

    BTW, I think it extremely unfair of OP to consider that the PA needed letting off any hook at all. She was ordered to go for a plateful by her boss, it wasn’t her idea. And her saying she had come for “the food”, implies that she was under the impression that this was something her boss had arranged and that the organisers knew about.

    • NostalgicGal March 13, 2018, 1:02 pm

      I think this is the closest to what actually happened.

    • OP March 14, 2018, 6:25 am

      Funnily enough, when I wrote that she should be “let off the hook” I thought I was being kind in that I didn’t want commenters to condemn her for something that clearly wasn’t her idea

  • Agania March 13, 2018, 5:48 pm

    I’m wondering if this is an Australian OP. In Australia we have an annual national event called “Worlds Biggest Morning Tea” that is run by the Cancer Council of Australia. They nominate a date and on that day (or around it) groups and organisations get members to bring in munchies (either home made or store bought) and have a morning tea (or afternoon tea or supper). Everyone gives a gold coin donation ($1 or $2) and enjoys. Even if board member bought something in she shouldn’t have taken her share and sent the PA for more without making the gold coin donation. That’s just greedy. This is a fund raiser supporting people less fortunate. Some people just don’t get it.

    • OP March 14, 2018, 2:24 am


  • BagLady March 13, 2018, 7:27 pm

    I don’t feel equipped to consign the board member to Ehell without knowing all the facts:

    Was there a specific monetary amount set as a “suggested donation” for an individual to participate in the tea? Or was it a “pay whatever you can” situation? Was the amount of food a person got for his/her contribution restricted in any way? I can see one person paying $1, hanging out for an hour and consuming multiple goodies, while another gives $10 or $20, stays a few minutes and eats a single muffin.

    Do we know how much the board member contributed? It may very well be that her initial donation fit the unspoken adequate amount that entitled her to pile up a plate for her fellow board members. However, without there being a specific “suggested donation” amount in place, there is no way to restrict someone from taking a large quantity of food, whether it’s for her own consumption or to share, regardless of how much she contributed.

    She may have thought she was doing a good thing by (a) supporting the charity and (b) giving her fellow board members a treat. We don’t know if she did this in lieu of ordering in food for the board meeting, so I hesitate to call this “free catering.” I work with nonprofits, and there is not the expectation that food will be served at board meetings unless they run through a mealtime.

    Board member could have been clearer and more tactful about her intentions rather than sending a PA down “to get the food,” but without further info I can’t make the call that this was an egregious ehell violation.

    • Agania March 14, 2018, 5:41 pm

      Nope, not buying it. All Australians have heard of and know about “World’s Biggest Morning Tea” – see my comment above. It’s advertised on TV, in print and social media. It’s a big thing nationally. Board member knew exactly what she was doing. The correct thing would have been to send PA down with a fist full of gold coins from the other board members and bring back a plate.

  • Rinme March 14, 2018, 12:55 am

    I’m actually more bothered by the fact there was a charity event organized during work hours, towards which the employees are pressured to contribute food and money.

    • VA Lady March 14, 2018, 9:14 am

      The OP made it quite clear, in several posts in the comments, that employees were not forced to provide goodies or to participate. Employees were free to contribute goodies if they chose to do so, to give whatever donation they wanted if they attended, and to not attend or contribute at all, at their discretion.

      • Karen L March 16, 2018, 4:42 pm

        I’m sorry, but this is like saying that people can allow the CEO to fondle them or not, it’s their own choice. When you are in the workplace and the Boss is “suggesting” that people do something at their own discretion, is it really a “free choice”? If you don’t participate, are you labeled “Not A Team Player”?

        • Anony Mouse March 19, 2018, 4:54 pm

          ??? Are you really suggesting that a charity morning tea is comparable to sexual

          • Anony Mouse March 19, 2018, 4:54 pm

            *sexual assault?

  • cleosia March 15, 2018, 12:44 pm

    One company where my husband worked kept the office a little too warm so my husband bought a fan (his money) for his desk. It was an antique-looking fan and rather nice. A Vice President in the company tried walk off with the fan. You can bet my husband called him on it. The VP tried to say it belonged to the company but since my husband paid for it (and had the receipt to prove it), my husband’s supervisor backed him up and the fan has to be replaced. 🙂

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