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Lunchtime Larceny

I have a new boss who is a bit of a dolt…nothing alarming about this. His minor annoyances include calling me “dude” or “bro”…he’s generally disrespectful, egotistical and rude.

We had an office luncheon a week ago to socialize before the holidays.  We decided to order-in rather than a potluck (to the last potluck he, instead of cooking, brought a $2 plastic box of cookies) and we selected Chinese.  I paid my $12 for my meal plus a generous tip.

At noon I was summoned to the lunchroom as the food had arrived.  I reviewed the two remaining boxes, and neither of them were mine.   Hmm, ok, well, my lunch didn’t arrive.  The woman who’d picked up the food assured me it was there….”D25”.   Immediately my new boss says, “D25…uh oh,” and he lifts the lid to show me the top says D25.   I can see that his fork is sticking out of the food, and that he’s eaten a good amount.  This means HIS meal is sitting on the table, and it’s contents in no way resemble my meal in color, ingredients, side orders etc.

“Ok, no problem” I said and I walked out and went back to my office.

A few minutes later there’s a knock at the door. “Hey dude, do you want to share the food, there’s plenty?”   Why would I want to share food that he’s been dipping his fork into!?

“No, thanks, I’m all set, enjoy it”.

He returns to the lunch room and announces to my coworkers, “He’s trying to make me feel bad for eating his lunch.  I offered to share with him, I don’t know what his problem is”.

Ok, so not only did he NOT pay me for my lunch that he ate, nor did he offer to replace it, and now he’s mocking me to my coworkers saying that I have a PROBLEM?  One by one my coworkers contacted me to let me know the boss said I have a problem because I didn’t want to share my lunch right out of his mouth.

Now he wants to order lunch again on Friday, I (un)politely ignored his email.  Knock at the door… “Dude, how about lunch Friday?”   He never offered to buy me lunch to compensate me for the lunch he literally stole from me.    I informed him that I was, “all set ordering lunches for awhile”,    to which he replies, “Come on, Bro, I’ll try not to eat your lunch this time..ha ha.”

So this socially crippled moron is now teasing me to my face about stealing a lunch from me.

The good thing is that now I’m identified as a “problem” I likely won’t be here too long…. 1224-14



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Anonymous January 12, 2015, 10:01 pm

    I don’t think the OP did anything wrong. As for “take the other box of food,” well, that’s not always an option. I’m vegan, and when I eat out, or order in, I order something specific, depending on the place–for example, my go-to order from Subway is a veggie sub with avocado, all the veggies, no cheese, and obviously vegan condiments like hot sauce or whatever. If I’m getting Pad Thai or Chinese food like in the OP’s story, it’ll be vegetables and either cashews or tofu for protein…..and so on, and so forth. So, if someone took my food, accidentally or not, then no, I couldn’t just take their BLT or chicken-fried rice or whatever, because I’m vegan. It’s not even entirely a “choice” at this point–since I stopped eating meat over a decade ago, and I cut out eggs and dairy about four years ago, my body rejects those things, so eating animal products actually makes me physically ill. However, in an effort not to look rude, or snobby, or like an “evangelical vegan,” I probably would have reacted similarly–“That’s okay, Boss,” and then a quick exit, either to my own office/work space, or out to pick up something else to eat. After that, I would have probably been embarrassed, and if Boss had tried to joke about it, I would have probably just brushed it off or changed the subject. Another thing–to those who are saying it’s “just twelve dollars,” I assume the boss makes more money than the OP, so “just twelve dollars” would be a bigger financial hit for the OP, especially since he just started at that job, so he might have been unemployed (or underemployed) for a long time before he began there. I was in a similar situation once, participating in a charity event shortly after starting a new job. I volunteered to donate, and asked how much everyone was giving, but the event organizer told me that she didn’t expect me to donate personally. She knew that I was probably strapped for cash, and didn’t want to make me feel badly over it.

    • Colleen January 13, 2015, 8:28 pm

      I own a sandwich shop and from time to time we get a call from an Admin who says they didn’t get the # Whatever in their order. Most of the time we’ve just made it and are confident we’ve made it. But I’ve also worked in the corporate world before and absolutely know that it’s entirely likely that some dolt took whatever sandwich was on top or looked good or possibly didn’t wasn’t even supposed to have one. I’ve explained that to my staff so they know that we are to just make a sandwich to replace it because chances are the Admin has no idea what happened and the poor person who is missing their # Whatever deserves to get the sandwich they wanted.

      • NostalgicGal January 21, 2015, 3:07 am

        Very good of you Colleen to make the sandwich replacement anyway!

  • Miss-E January 12, 2015, 10:23 pm

    I’m surprised so many people are glossing over the fact that the OP admits he “(un)politely ignored” an email and then refused to order food with his coworkers again. I am having a hard time reading that as anything but a sulky response.

    • Anonymous January 13, 2015, 11:07 am

      I still think the OP was okay. If Boss’ e-mail was important, and related to work, e.g., “Please ask Mr. Smith to e-mail you the photos of his injuries from the car accident, and then forward them to me,” then it would have been rude of the OP to ignore that, but “Do you want to do take-out on Friday?” is trivial, a lack of response could easily be passed off as the OP being busy with actual work, and some people would simply take a lack of “yes” response to mean “no,” and simply order for the people who’d responded in the affirmative. Besides, Boss should understand that, since he took OP’s food last week, maybe that’s why OP doesn’t want to order food this week. Also, saying no to something like this isn’t automatically rude–I mean, I probably wouldn’t want take-out two weeks in a row either, just for budget and health reasons, even if the first time ordering had gone smoothly.

      • Goldie January 13, 2015, 2:06 pm

        Yes, that’s pretty much how it works at all places I’ve seen. Someone sends a mass email out asking who wants to order food, and if you want to be in on the order, you reply. If not, you do not reply so as not to clog everyone’s work inboxes. (We did have a coworker at one place who’d reply with something like, “Not this week, my old lady hasn’t given me enough spending cash”, but he was a very weird exception, not a rule.) As for OP opting out, that’s not a mandatory meeting – it is not even a mandatory lunch. He could’ve opted out for any reason (for example, because he’d already packed a lunch), or no reason at all – that doesn’t make him sulky.

    • Vrinda January 13, 2015, 1:31 pm

      The OP doesn’t have to take up any such offer if he doesn’t want to, and given the boss’s attempts at making light of the situation, no further offers of going out to lunch can make up for that behavior. The OP didn’t like him to start with, so why would he take any offer from him? He paid for that food the boss ate. As for not ordering food with his co-workers again, that is his choice. Why should he spend $12 every time, when there’s a chance someone might eat his meal again?

    • KenderJ January 13, 2015, 6:28 pm

      I agree with Anonymous that the OP’S did nothing wrong in not responding to a non-work related email. There is no law, etiquette or otherwise, that states you must participate in social gatherings with coworkers. It is perfectly acceptable for the OP’S to choose not to participate, and he doesn’t have to give any reasons why. It is not “sulking” or “passive aggressive” to opt out. Given what the OP’S has written, I would also opt out of future social gatherings with boss.

  • Skaramouche January 12, 2015, 10:31 pm

    Much of this comment thread confuses me :P. How did we get into the analysis of whether OP’s behaviour was rude and/or passive aggressive and/or introverted and/or constructive? As far as I can see, (s)he wasn’t asking for advice. Yes, the OP could have behaved differently to make this situation more comfortable for the boss or to come out smelling like roses but I didn’t think that was the issue at hand. Regardless of how OP behaved (I don’t think it was bad but to each, his/her own), the boss was a boor. “Uh oh” and “want to share the food, there’s plenty (even though it really doesn’t belong to me and DOES belong to you)” does not constitute an apology. It doesn’t matter if a mistake was made or whether boss dearest did it on purpose, OP was owed an apology and an offer of reimbursement. While we are on that topic, it is obvious that the OP *could* have asked point blank if he/she wanted the money that badly but once again, that is not the point. The point is, boss is an idiot 😛 Not asking does not make OP passive aggressive.

    • B January 13, 2015, 4:08 am

      Not asking does not make the OP passive aggressive.

      Deliberately ignoring the boss’ emails because of what happened, on the other hand, most certainly is.

      In every single submission to this site, posters analyse the OP’s behaviour as well as the person being complained about, so I cannot see why you are so surprised.

      • Anonymous January 13, 2015, 11:56 pm

        Okay, the OP didn’t “deliberately ignore the boss’ e-mails,” he deliberately ignored ONE e-mail, about ordering food, after he’d taken the OP’s food the last time they’d ordered in, and then laughed it off. I have a feeling that the boss was deliberately trying to upset the OP by pushing the matter after he didn’t write back, because he believed that the OP was being unreasonable, and laughed about him to everyone else in the office. So, I have a feeling that the OP ignored that message, because he didn’t want to repeat the previous week’s events. If he’d said no, then the boss would probably tease him again, and if he’d said yes, then he’d run the risk of having his food taken again. I think etiquette makes allowances for differing preferences, within reason, and not wanting take-out is definitely “within reason.”

      • Skaramouche January 14, 2015, 4:16 pm

        Yes, fair enough. BUT, at the point when I wrote my comment, most others who suggested that the OP should change completely ignored the boss’s impropriety and gave ways in which OP could have mitigated the situation. This would have made sense if the OP had asked for advice. My only point was that regardless of what OP could have/should have done, the boss was completely rude. The only explanation for not acknowledging this and suggesting improvements to OP’s behaviour would be that these commenters think that the boss’s behaviour left nothing wanting and this is very perplexing to me.

        Re: passive agressive behaviour, I disagree there too. OP decided the situation was unpleasant and decided to stay out of it. What’s wrong with that? I doubt that the email said OP: how about lunch on Friday? It was likely directed to a group and as OP did not want to participate, a positive response was not forthcoming. I guess there is room for different interpretations here but replying to such an email with a flavour of: “i’m not participating until you offer to reimburse me” is childish and stating the obvious. Participating regardless of the trouble caused the previous time is probably more trouble than it’s worth. I agree that OP is the losing party here through refusal to participate but if he/she doesn’t care much about that, I don’t see the problem from an etiquette standpoint.

        • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 12:05 am

          I agree. Also, how many times do people say “Don’t feed the trolls,” or “Don’t engage with the crazy” around here? The OP didn’t want to engage with the crazy, so he didn’t. The rules shouldn’t change just because it happened at work. The OP still does his job, and he’s still polite to everyone; he just isn’t going to participate in any more social events with the boss, because Boss already cheaped out on a potluck (assuming the two-dollar cookies weren’t a last-minute substitute contribution because of Stewmageddon or whatever), and then, when the people at the office ordered Chinese food together, her took the OP’s food and painted the OP as the bad guy. In regular life, etiquette allows for self-preservation, but whenever you throw the word “workplace” in there, people start throwing out advice that’s positively doormattish, and basically translates to “Put up with the bad behaviour, forever, or find another job.” Unfortunately, the difference stops there. In regular life, rude people continue to be rude because they get away with it, and the same applies at work. Also, I just had another thought. If Boss is really as boorish as OP paints him to be (and I’ll believe it), then I have a feeling that OP isn’t his first target. I have a feeling that at least one other person joined in the mocking of the OP, either because they were a previous target of Boss’, and they were relieved that the heat was off of them, or they were afraid of becoming a future target of Boss’, and they wanted to keep the heat off of them. Of course, these social dynamics seem to belong more in grade six than in an office full of adults, but it’s a similar power structure. Boss is at the top, because he’s the boss/owns the company/been there the longest/whatever, just like Mean Girl is at the top of the grade six social hierarchy, because she has an iPhone 6, or a fashionable wardrobe, or she hit puberty early and looks like she’s 20, or she’s incredibly co-ordinated and she can do five cartwheels in a row–it’s usually some reason that seems arbitrary and insignificant to adults, but it’s the Holy Grail to middle-schoolers, and they wouldn’t question the popular kids any more than some adults would question their bosses. The only difference is, it’s much easier to dethrone a popular kid than it is to call out a rude boss.

    • iwadasn January 13, 2015, 9:35 pm

      If someone doesn’t want their story being commented on, they shouldn’t submit their story to a website built around commenting on people’s stories.

  • Rebecca January 13, 2015, 12:00 am

    What I would have done? “Oh, looks like you grabbed mine by mistake. How about if I just eat yours instead, then?”

    Unless the one belonging to the boss was something I truly couldn’t eat or disliked.

    • K January 24, 2015, 5:03 pm

      And you’re assuming that wasn’t the case, but it quite possibly was. Anyhow, if I’d had my appetite whetted for something and paid for THAT THING, I shouldn’t just have to say, “Oh, I guess I’ll take this thing I didn’t order and don’t want.”

  • AS January 13, 2015, 9:06 am

    I still don’t understand why the OP couldn’t just point out that he/she didn’t want to eat out of a box where the fork has been double dipped. It is gross, and unhygienic.

    As someone pointed out earlier, you could have pointed out that the food probably got mixed up, and exchanged the food with your boss if he hasn’t already dug into his own box too – assuming that you can eat what he had ordered; I hate meat, and no matter how hard I have tried, I just cannot enjoy beef or pork that my friends relish; so I understand how someone might not be able to eat what someone else ordered.

    Just let it go this time, and point out that you do not enjoy eating food that someone else has eaten, and hope the episode will not repeat. Why would you alienate yourself from the rest of your colleagues for a boss who has no social grace? It is a punishment that you don’t deserve.

    • AlyInSebby January 13, 2015, 11:45 pm



      This boss is a passive aggressive jerk and this is gas-lighting.

      I work hard for my $ and for $12.00 for a lunch that I ordered specifically Dish 3, Dish 5 and Dish 6,-No I don’t want someone else’s food, if I wanted that I would’ve have ordered that- yes you will reimburse me because that’s what grown ups at work do when they erroneously (for what ever reason) eat another person’s food.

      And no, I will probably never order in with the gang again because I don’t like how they do it.

      And NO! I’m not replying to your ridiculous email you goon and you know why I am not replying.

      If you haven’t already read it another great advice blog especially for the workplace is askamanger.org

      • AS January 14, 2015, 8:20 am

        @AlyInSebby – In my comment, I didn’t claim anything that you wrote in your reply. I do agree that the boss is a total jerk. I never said that OP has to reply to any of the emails. Or that he/she is not entitled to the lunch that they ordered.

        But what I am saying is that there is a possibility that the others in the group do not know what actually happened. So, there is no harm done letting them know what happened, when they ask. Keeping quite about what happened is only going to hurt the OP in long run by him being alienated from the co-workers (unless the coworkers are just as bad as the boss, in which case, it is indeed a lost cause).

        Given that the boss does not really seem to repent, if I were OP, I’d have told the boss directly that (when asked; which apparently the boss did ask OP to join) “you ate up my food and didn’t even offer to pay; I am not going to join the group in another lunch that I am paying for my food”. If the boss says that he tried to give OP the other half that he hadn’t eaten, he/she can always say that they don’t want to eat food that has been double dipped. Pointing out bad manners may not produce any result, but you never know when a person might be embarrassed enough to realize that they are not being “cool” or something, but actually boors.

      • Goldie January 14, 2015, 9:14 am

        I’m glad you used the word gaslighting, because that’s exactly what the boss is doing.

        I found the other blog; but it’s askamanager.org. I’ll definitely check it out, thank you for the info!

  • Goldie January 13, 2015, 10:28 am

    I want to add to the many comments from people who are puzzled by “it’s just twelve dollars”. First off, it’s $12 plus “a generous tip”, the total being, I will guess, $15-16. Second, $15-16 is a LOT to spend on a lunch, let alone on a lunch you didn’t get to eat. No wonder OP is not willing to repeat the experience.

    I pack my own lunches 99.9% of the time. Sometimes we do go to a team lunch and yes it comes up to $10-15 and I’m afraid I would not be able to do that every day, or every week even. I mean, I wouldn’t go broke and lose my house, I just think it’s a waste of $40-60/month. I’d like to be able to say it’s small change, but it isn’t.

    • AlyInSebby January 13, 2015, 11:49 pm


      I should have read farther before I posted.

      😀 You were much more polite and spot on about the costs/expense.

    • Skaramouche January 14, 2015, 4:24 pm

      +1. Also, the point might not be $12. The point is that OP ordered a meal he didn’t get and there was no remediation forthcoming. On reading the story, I didn’t feel that he was whining or asking for advice. It’s simply a story about a boor and I continue to be surprised that there is a way to disagree with that statement.

  • Ai January 13, 2015, 11:02 am

    There are some suggestions for what the OP could’ve done that I think a just a bit ridiculous: I don’t think taking someone else’s meal, thus doing the same thing as the boss would be best option, especially if the rest of the meals contained something that the OP couldn’t eat (also, I think people should eat what they paid for). Also, I’m not sure how much morale I would have during a teambuilding luncheon watching everyone else eat while I went without. I guess I don’t see how the OP could’ve acted differently other than actually telling the boss, “I’d like to be reimbursed for the lunch I ordered.” I don’t see why he should make nice (other than to continue working at the place. The OP doesn’t sound like he’d rather stay there and I wouldn’t either).

    The OP is acting sullen…probably because he is being treated without respect. The only one who looks terrible here is the belittling, unprofessional, lunch-stealing boss. The one who said “Oops” then jokingly offered to share the leftovers (gross), instead of being apologetic and immediately offer to reimburse the meal or make it up to the OP. The one who turned it into a joke as soon as he could. The one who complained about the OP to the other employees during a teambuilding luncheon that the boss himself arranged. Wow, nice leadership skills.

  • WillyNilly January 13, 2015, 11:51 am

    I live in NY and have relatives in CA. On three occasions over the years, while the relatives were visiting the east coast we had occasion to order Chinese. My relative Sue, ordered something and I ordered lo mein, my standard order. When the food arrived we each took our food, me taking the container with the thin, spaghetti-like noodles and julienne cut veggies. Sue could not find her dish and said the one remaining unclaimed food was not what she ordered. It was a wide flat noodle in a gravy like brown sauce. She held it up and said “this looks like lo mein, who got lo mein?” She then saw my food and said it was hers.
    After much discussion we decided NY and CA have different definitions of “lo mein” but everyone did agree my order was lo mein in NY and the other dish was what she ordered. She sulked even though I shared.
    Next visit I remembered this incident and brought it up while ordering “Sue, remember if you want the thin, spaghetti-like noodles, that’s lo mein.” She got annoyed with me, still clearly bitter and still thinking I was wrong. So we ordered a large pork lo mein and a small shrimp whatever-she-called-it. Sure enough the large with pork was the skinny noodles and the small with shrimp was the fat noodles. Sue still sulked and muttered that lo mein was a fat noodle and her name was the skinny noodle. The third visit we just ordered lo mein and just got skinny noodles. Subsequent visits Chinese food is simply not ordered because it just sets a negative tone for the rest of the day.

    A few years back I read an Internet thread where someone from another state complained in NY people put milk & sugar in black coffee, how rude and frustrating was that, etc. NYers assured her no black coffee has nothing in it but coffee. She insisted she was given a to-go order of 4 coffees with milk and sugar and when she complained the counter person claimed it’s what she gad ordered. Well after some sussing it turns out she had ordered “regular” coffee. Suddenly all the NYers changed their tune “well yeah, *regular* is milk and sugar! If you want black you have to specify that.”

    My point is sometimes people cam think they legimately ordered one thing when in fact they did not. It is totally possible the boss did not remember or even know the number if his lunch choice but simply had an idea of what it looked like in his mind and made an honest mistake in taking the OP’s lunch.

    • KenderJ January 13, 2015, 4:11 pm

      I can sort of see your point, except the person who picked up the food seemed to know who ordered what so the boss could have asked.

      I also think “Sue” might be a little confused. I live in NV and travel to San Francisco fairly regularly and I love Chinese food. Everywhere I have ever eaten Chinese food, lo mein is of spaghetti like noodles with juliene vegies and maybe some bits of meat.

      • hakayama January 15, 2015, 9:46 am

        The geographical variations on “Ch.” food do not have to occur over truly great distances. In the past, I’ve found that the NYC versions of a dish are quite different from what’s cooked in the Catskills.
        During a recent visit in the Queens China Town, I came across an interesting restaurant menu. It listed different food groupings, one of them being “American Chinese dishes”.
        As for the authenticity of that restaurant, suffice to say that no euphemisms were used for such items as “out West” are called “Rocky Mountain oysters”. Just the typical plain, direct approach.

        • KenderJ January 20, 2015, 1:56 am

          So do they really call them “fried bull’s testicles” on the menu? That’s kinda cool. I agree that different restaurants may have slight variations in preparation, but that lo mein in the west is very similar to the described lo mein in the east.

  • MollyMonster January 13, 2015, 3:27 pm

    After reading the comments, I am still on the side of the OP. Boss is a jerk. Who goes to a teambuilding lunch and just grabs whatever? I also would be upset at the organizer who had a list and apparently let boss just pick whatever he wanted. The top was clearly marked, Boss knew immediately that his meal said D25 on the top so he can clearly read, so why wasn’t he able to pick out the lunch he ordered? To be kind, maybe he forgot he ordered sweet and sour pork and thought he had gotten the beef and broccoli since that is his usual and just grabbed it. He still should have offered restitution since OP didn’t eat Boss’ meal and was going to be without (while Boss had two meals).

    Now this was a one-time thing so I do advocate letting it go but I also recommend discussing with the next organizer of food that you’d like to make sure you get what you ordered and not have it poached next time (of course, said in a nice, polite way). Suggest that a check list be instituted so everyone gets the correct meal instead of requiring everyone to recall exactly what they ordered.

    I can’t abide stealing food and that is what Boss did. Maybe it was unintentional but the failure to offer adequate compensation sure doesn’t reflect well on him. OP is allowed to be upset at someone who is such a Boron that he doesn’t understand why his theft (and subsequent immature whinging and jokes) has not won him a new friend. I doubt he’ll be in management long if these are examples of his skills.

  • iwadasn January 13, 2015, 9:37 pm

    It seems like the boss just made a mistake and is trying to make up for it. In my opinion, ignoring his emails and refusing to interact socially with anyone in the office is ruder than what the boss did.

    • Goldie January 14, 2015, 9:18 am

      I did not see this: “and refusing to interact socially with anyone in the office” anywhere in OP’s email. That never happened.

      Besides, if OP refused to interact socially with anyone in the office, then how on earth do his coworkers manage to contact him one by one to tell him what the boss is saying behind his back?

      • iwadasn January 15, 2015, 4:46 pm

        He hides in his office, refuses to ever eat lunch with his coworkers again, and has now been identified as not being a team player. That sure sounds like an overreaction to me, and if OP doesn’t improve his social skills, he won’t last long in any office setting. There are times to hold a grudge and times to just let something go, and this is an instance of the latter.

        • Anonymous January 16, 2015, 9:33 am

          OP didn’t say he’d never eat lunch with his co-workers again; he just said he’d never ORDER lunch with his co-workers again. That doesn’t preclude him from bringing his own food and still sitting and eating with everyone else. Besides, OP hardly reacted at all. He let the whole thing go, for that time, because he didn’t want to cause a problem, and he was probably embarrassed for his boss. Boss was the one who blew the issue out of proportion by mocking OP to other co-workers. How is that “poor social skills” and “not being a team player” on the OP’s part? Boss is the one with the poor social skills, and he turned the “team” against the OP for something that HE (Boss) had done. Maybe OP won’t last long in that office (although I doubt it, because he has his own office with a door, so he’s probably in a senior position, and therefore harder to replace), but if I were OP, I wouldn’t WANT to last long in that office. I mean, if ordering take-out can cause this many problems, I’d hate to be around on the day that something goes wrong with something work-related. Since the take-out incident, Boss has labelled OP as a scapegoat, so he’s probably going to get blamed for other things that go wrong around the office.

          • Goldie January 16, 2015, 10:11 am

            ” I mean, if ordering take-out can cause this many problems, I’d hate to be around on the day that something goes wrong with something work-related. ”

            My money is, OP will work late to fix it, then get into more trouble for skipping the happy hour that night, lol

        • Goldie January 16, 2015, 10:02 am

          He doesn’t hide in his office. He WORKS in his office. You know, that thing that he gets paid for, that contributes to the company’s bottom line? Unless “daily small talk with coworkers” is in his job description, OP is doing everything right.

          “he won’t last long in any office setting”

          I cannot even explain how much I disagree. My 25 years of work experience do not support this at all. People get a LOT farther in their careers by getting their job done than they ever would by acting like they’re their coworkers’ BFF and the office is one great 40-hours-a week party.

          I really REALLY do not like oversocializing at work. I’ve never seen anything good come of it. Worst case scenario, workplace becomes cliquish, there’s always someone sleeping with someone else and getting preferential treatment because of this, people get put on probation based on hearsay and gossip that is being spread about them behind their back. I honestly think that nine times out of ten when someone gets fired, it’s because of the workplace social network gone out of control. If you chat with everyone all day, you’re bound to say the wrong thing to the wrong person; or say something that’ll be taken incorrectly, passed around as gossip, and blown out of proportion. Best case scenario, nothing gets done, and the few people who are actually doing the work while everyone else is busy chatting and lunching, are being labeled poor team players. Utterly ridiculous.

          I am really, really bothered by a huge number of posts on this thread indicating that people can be labeled as bad team players and essentially bad workers, for not doing things on work time that are not work-related.

          FTR, I’ve never been let go from my job (yet, knock on wood – we all know what at-will employment is like), never been labeled a problem, never been labeled a bad team player. AFAIK I’ve had a reputation of someone who gets things done. And I didn’t ever have to buddy up to my coworkers to get there. Like I said, my and my friends’ work experience does not support this idea at all, that you have to spend your day doing social things with your coworkers if you want to get anywhere at work. I believe that there are environments like this, I just wouldn’t want to work there, and never have.

  • hakayama January 13, 2015, 10:06 pm

    Dear OP: Last night, after reading the first 36 comments, I concluded that the commenters have indeed a higher than average number of lovely charitable and imaginative individuals. Now, after 110 more comments, my opinion is the same, with one additional description of some “advisers”: lack of experience in the work force, bosses, people, the real world…
    Depending on the nature of your job, you might not have the option of a lateral move I had chosen to get out of the sphere of influence of a nasty piece of work of a direct supervisor who, of course, in the eyes of his own boss could do no wrong since they were in the same union.

    The “boss” doesn’t give a hoot about the people. His lunch thing happened only because somewhere, somehow he may have heard that he’s supposed to do that. Otherwise, he wouldn’t even get those cheap cookies.
    Some commenters seem to be good at projecting, throwing in words like “stomping” and “pouting” because perhaps that’s what they fear they would do themselves.
    You did not stomp away. As I see it, you left the scene to minimize the possibility of further unpleasantness. Some folks don’t even think in terms of hypoglycemia … If it were me counting on that lunch and did not get it as scheduled, I just might get wobbly and woozy, if not worse. Emergency rations are a must at a desk, but then that creep would be raiding them too if he knew about them. I imagine that a small backpack might work.
    Your $2 cookie TOAD seems to be rolled together with a malicious offensive dirty monkey. (Yes, I intensely dislike monkeys as they remind me of some humans…) He will never learn to act in a civil and civilized manner, and he is not trying to be “good”. He is not a diamond in the rough, but more like a big coprolite. And there is no way of polishing ____.
    He did not take your lunch by mistake. No _____ way! He just picked what he would have liked but found too costly. And he would have rather slashed his wrists than reimbursed you for that lunch.

    There’s no way to have a private “talk” with that misplaced character*. Come to think of it, there is no way to have much in the way of any talks with your coworkers who showed themselves to be a bunch of spineless wimps.
    It will take you some deliberate cogitation to arrive at the best stance to adopt and behavior to follow in this unenviable situation. But, hey, if it’s a job that you can leave at the workplace, you still win.

    Confusion to the enemy! Best wishes.
    * In some situations, during a chat with the “Boss Man”, a wrench might fall on his foot, or a live wire could brush his arm… Is yours a civil service or a unionized place?

    • Anonymous January 14, 2015, 5:19 pm

      Two-dollar cookies aren’t inherently bad (the dollar stores in my area have some really good off-brand cookies for only one dollar per pack), and not everyone has the time or ability to cook. However, given Boss’ overall demeanour, and actions, I’d have to go with “Occam’s Razor” in this situation; i.e., the simplest explanation is probably the correct one. So, Boss probably bought cheap cookies for the office potluck, because he couldn’t be bothered with finding some way to provide something better. The same contribution, from a nicer person (and even more so if it’s an underling who doesn’t make much money) would probably be much more welcome. In my experience with communal food events, it’s been customary for the boss/teacher/event organizer/person in charge to provide a substantial part of the meal, like, say, pizza, or hot dogs and hamburgers if it’s a barbecue, while everyone else brings drinks, side dishes, paper plates and napkins, and other smaller items. It is still possible that Boss planned on a more substantial contribution, but something went wrong. For example, it COULD have happened that Boss made stew, but then put the pot on top of his car for a moment while he put his briefcase in the passenger seat, and then accidentally got in and drove off with the pot still on top of the car, sending stew flying everywhere, and it was all he could do to clean up the mess and pick up a package of cookies at the last minute, before work. However, the catch is, even if it really happened, nobody’s going to believe Boss if he hasn’t invested the time and effort into forming positive relationships with his co-workers. Instead, they’d go to Occam’s Razor, and think “Boss is just a jerk.” If he’d been nice and polite to people, and contributed more substantially at previous events he’d organized, then everyone might just laugh it off as “Stewmageddon” or whatever. If Boss is new, and this potluck is the first event he’s organized at that office, then some people might give him the benefit of the doubt, and some might not. Still others might reserve judgement on Boss until they get to know him. My point is, it doesn’t really matter much what people do on special occasions, but rather, how they behave, and relate to others, on a regular basis.

      P.S., My hypothetical “Stewmageddon” scenario isn’t that far-fetched. It happened to my mom once, although fortunately, it was just a cup of coffee that she left on top of her car before driving off, rather than a pot of stew. Unfortunately, the coffee was in her favourite hand-painted crocus mug, which ended up in shards all over the driveway.

      • hakayama January 15, 2015, 8:07 am

        @Anonymous: It’s very charitable of you to think in terms of “Stewmageddon”, but that’s not likely the case in the $2 cookie situation. If it had been so, the beast would have trumpeted all about it, so the OP would have no need to even mention it.
        So, no matter what, by now the OP is faced with TWO food related instances that are indicators of a person’s nature. And it’s not a nice image.
        My “Sainted Mother” /stage directions: to be said in a high pitched voice/ had a very sage bit of advice: “Don’t touch the poop so it doesn’t stink.”
        In OP’s case, if change of jobs/department is not possible, the less contact with the Toad-Monkey Beast Boss, the better.

        • Anonymous January 15, 2015, 11:02 pm

          No, Hakayama, you misunderstood me. I said, “Boss was probably being cheap and lazy, and while Stewmageddon or some similar incident could have happened, it probably didn’t.” As for Boss trumpeting about such an incident if it had happened, I just assumed he wouldn’t, because, for all the bragging he’d get to do about making stew (or whatever), he’d also have to admit that he’d made a mistake that ruined it (like putting the stew pot on top of his car and driving off–bonus bonehead points if it was a Crock-Pot), so the two things would cancel each other out. In any case, bringing store-bought cookies to a potluck isn’t NEARLY as bad as taking someone else’s food, eating from it, and then offering to “share” the leftovers. I once brought a big bucket of store-brand chocolate ice cream to a potluck (pre-vegan), because I was living in a university residence where the only cooking facilities were in the R.A.’s apartments, and there were a lot of us (it was for my women’s group), and I didn’t have a lot of money–I think it was something like five dollars for four litres of ice cream. All in all, it wasn’t a very thoughtful contribution, because I didn’t bring disposable bowls and spoons to go with it (it was at someone’s house, but if we’d all had ice cream, it would have dirtied half of her and her roommates’ dishes), but all I can say is, I just wasn’t thinking, and the ice cream never made it out of the host member’s freezer, so I learned my lesson. However, I didn’t get shunned by the group over that, because I’d been nice to everyone, I’d shown up on time for meetings and volunteer commitments, and all in all, I’d made enough deposits in my Relationship Bank Account with my fellow members, that one thoughtless potluck contribution didn’t leave me overdrawn.

          • hakayama January 20, 2015, 10:28 am

            @Anonymous, Ah… but one word was missing in my commentary: “possibility”. 😉 Otherwise I’m right there with you.
            On ice cream “wicked situations”, a woman told a group how she just HAD TO HAVE some of the ice cream she’d just purchased in the supermarket. It was a sizable container and she had no spoon or any other usable utensil. In desperation, she resorted to using her credit card to scoop out the frozen treat.

          • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 12:19 am

            @Hakayama–That’s actually kind of unsanitary, because a credit card lives inside a person’s wallet, which probably never gets washed. It gets handled by tons of people, with varying levels of personal hygiene, and it slides through card scanning machines and into ATM slots, which probably don’t get washed either. Using a credit card as a spoon in a bucket of ice cream that’s meant to be shared (as was the one I bought for my university women’s group potluck) would have contaminated the entire bucket of ice cream for everyone. Nobody wanted to do that, so the ice cream went in the potluck host’s freezer, and I don’t know if it was ever eaten, because the potluck was at the end of the university year. Looking back, if I had it to do again, I would have at least included a box of cones with the ice cream. That way, the host would just need an ice cream scoop or a large spoon to serve everyone, and we wouldn’t have had any dirty bowls to wash.

  • Nicolek January 14, 2015, 3:07 pm

    The boss was in the wrong but…. This is your boss, you really wanna alienate him?

    • Goldie January 14, 2015, 5:42 pm

      Yeah, he does sound like the kind of guy that would give a bad performance review over something like this. Then again, he sounds like the kind of guy who might give a bad review no matter what, just because he was in a bad mood on the day of, or whatever. I wouldn’t alienate him, but I wouldn’t jump through hoops trying to get on his good side either – he might not even have a good side. I’d just be professional – that’s the best one can do under these circumstances.

      I have lived through many many supervisors, CIOs, and CEOs. It’s a very political world with little job security. OTOH, OP mentions an office with a door, which to me says he’s probably been at this job for a while and holds a senior position. Even if the boss is insane enough to let go of a good employee over a box of Chinese takeout, OP will probably have no problem finding work elsewhere.

      • Anonymous January 15, 2015, 2:36 pm

        Things aren’t entirely black and white, though. I mean, it’s possible to say “no” to ordering food again, but still be friendly and nice in general, by getting to know your co-workers, asking the about things that interest them, being helpful when people are stuck on something, or just pitching in with little things that need to be done, like taking out the garbage. When most people think of someone like that, they don’t think “bad employee,” they think “good employee who doesn’t do take-out.”

  • Margaret January 14, 2015, 10:10 pm

    If it were me, the next time the boss asked if I wanted to order a lunch, I probably would have and not handed over money on the assumption that the boss was paying for it this time.

  • Callalilly January 15, 2015, 3:10 pm

    The guy works for a clod.

    I’ve worked with clods, too.

    Here’s how you handle them: at every social invitation, you refuse to engage, but nicely. My standard refusal was, ‘Gosh, I’d love to, but (I’m busy doing, like, work; I’m allergic to food, all food; my cat just birthed a puppy rottweiler and I’m stressed out of my mind until I hear from the vet, etc.).

    Everyone, most likely human resources as well, knows the guy is a clod, and it’s fairly unlikely that not playing his game is going to have bad ramifications.

  • Anonymous January 16, 2015, 2:55 pm

    Another thing–it’s entirely possible to simply identify a problem area with someone, and use that information to guide your future actions, but not completely hate the person over it. So, OP could think, “Okay, Boss brought cheap cookies to the office potluck, then he ate the food I ordered, when we ordered Chinese food together. I won’t do any more food events with Boss.” T hat doesn’t mean he’s giving Boss the Cut Direct or anything; it just means he’s not going to do any more food events with him. I’m in a similar situation right now–I belong to a certain activity group that meets twice a week, at specific times, and the nature of Group Activity is such that people’s presence or absence, participation or lack thereof, affects the experience for everyone. A few months ago, the mother of a longtime childhood friend of mine joined. For simplicity, let’s call her Sally, and her daughter Susie. I met Susie in kindergarten, and we’ve been back in each others’ lives for the past few years, after drifting apart amicably in about mid-elementary school. In the course of reconnecting with Susie, I’ve also become friends with Sally, because we’re now both adults. Now, they’re both great friends when it comes to just free-form hanging out, but they just don’t do “schedules” well–they’re often late for plans we make, or they have to leave early, because they simply didn’t plan their time well. So, I never know when or if Sally is coming to Group Activity. If she does make it, she’s usually at least half an hour late, and usually, Susie texts me to tell me whether or not Sally is coming (Sally refuses to get a cell phone), after Activity has started……that is, if I don’t have to text Susie to ask. Sally also argues with Activity Leader quite a lot, and I’ve had to apologize to him, privately, for her actions. Despite all of this, I’m still friends with both Susie and Sally, but I’ve just accepted that Sally isn’t such a great friend when it comes to Group Activity. We all have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to individual skills, so the same is true of social/interpersonal skills as well. So, I’ve stopped getting upset with Sally over Group Activity, and I’ll hang out with her and Susie at their house instead. OP might just have to do the same thing with Boss, and say “no” to office potlucks, communal food ordering, etc., but “yes” to, say, joining the office bowling league, which has nothing to do with food.

    • Anonymous January 16, 2015, 2:58 pm

      I forgot to mention, even if the OP really does hate Boss, it might be politic for him to choose the “least objectionable method of co-worker bonding,” if his workplace culture is such that this is encouraged. This could mean actually doing things with them, or even just taking an interest in their lives, maybe buying the odd box of cookies from the co-worker who’s a parent of a Girl Scout, et cetera.

  • MPW1971 January 17, 2015, 5:39 pm

    After a bad encounter, no apology, no offer of compensation, I find it impossible to understand how the OP can be at fault for withdrawing quietly and no longer participating in such events. Even if he were to explicitly and politely decline, the clod of a boss simply doesn’t realize that he did anything wrong. Ordered lunches are not interchangeable, nor are they free. The first thing the boss should have said is “I’m sorry”, followed shortly be “How much did it cost”. Anything less is unforgivable.
    I have experienced every possible type of boorish behavior associated with the office pot luck. This included such events as …

    – highest-paid people in the company bring two bags of chips or a 12-pack of soda
    – people loading a container to take leftovers home even though everyone hasn’t eaten yet
    – high-functioning alcoholic bringing liquor, rudely chastising anyone who doesn’t imbibe (never mind that it’s lunch on a working day)
    – aspiring wine-maker brings horrible wine and insists everyone try it (and by “horrible” I mean that it reeked of yeast – it was not yet properly fermented)
    – people complain that others are bringing “unhealthy” food, yet flock to it because it is free
    – ass-kissing ambitious employee makes a last minute change – doesn’t bring the dish he has promised but brings something to impress the president – practically shoves it down his throat, but because it is so special, brings only enough for two people
    – nobody stays to clean up

    Being a close friend to someone with actual food allergies (shellfish) as deadly as a peanut allergy, it seems really and truly insulting and hurtful to take someone else’s food, and another altogether to take something that hasn’t been paid for – because for those who don’t have any dietary restrictions or preferences, it’s just natural to eat anything.

    Now I only eat lunch with “friends” and not “co-workers” – we go selectively and take turns paying on Fridays – wednesdays we get take-out and everyone pays their own. Occasionally people don’t have cash, but nobody ever weasels out or pays less than their share. My old boss stopped being invited to this group because he never had cash and was $42 in the hole before he paid up what he owed. Entitlement – that’s the root of all evil.

    • NostalgicGal January 20, 2015, 11:31 pm

      I agree on all of the above you said about the potluck stuff… seen it and more. Though on the first one, make it IF you’re lucky they brought that much. Usually it’s a 2 liter bottle of the 89c bargain store cheapo brand of soda… and the annals are full of where say a company cater or picnic and vegetarian or vegan food is put out and everyone that can eat anything takes it all, ends up dumping it after a bite, then often gets on the veggie’s case for not taking anything to eat…(because what they could eat was gone when they got there)

      IF I ordered food from a place, and didn’t get exactly what I’d ordered, with my allergies and restrictions, I would be SOL. Someone taking my food would be no easy to gloss over matter.

      • Goldie January 21, 2015, 5:32 pm

        To this point:

        “and the annals are full of where say a company cater or picnic and vegetarian or vegan food is put out and everyone that can eat anything takes it all, ends up dumping it after a bite, then often gets on the veggie’s case for not taking anything to eat…(because what they could eat was gone when they got there)”

        I was at a catered event this past weekend, where in the event invites/announcements it said “We ask that our vegetarian guests eat first”, which was enforced during the event. I thought it was a great way to handle this issue.

        • NostalgicGal January 22, 2015, 2:09 am

          I agree, that’s a great way to deal with it….

          Also heads off that someone obviously traded serving utensils in the food and ‘contaminated’ dish B with dish A…

          (I can’t have even the slightest trace of wheat anymore, period. I have to keep separate cooking stuff, serving stuff, and storage areas separate in my kitchen. I find I can’t trust a salad bar if someone has done this before I got there, using tongs or ladles across the thing, or dumping something into a container that I don’t know is in the bottom… I am medical not moral vegan, so a slight contamination of milk, egg, cheese, or meat is less of an issue than the wheat!)

  • eltf177 January 18, 2015, 5:49 am

    I’ve been following this thread with some interest and I too wonder why people think the OP is in the wrong in all this. Let’s look at all the faux pas…

    1) Boss steals and starts to eat OP’s lunch, which OP paid for
    2) When caught Boss offers the rest to OP, which quite naturally OP refuses to do
    3) Boss takes offense at this
    4) Boss does not offer to reimburse OP, buy OP another lunch or even apologize – causing OP to go hungry
    5) Boss later makes joke to OP about “not stealing his lunch again”but still doesn’t offer either compensation or apologies

    I will admit OP shouldn’t have ignored Boss’s e-mail about another lunch, instead just sent a short reply about this not happening. But it’s quite obvious Boss is both a boor and completely clueless. Yes, I think OP is burning their bridges here but as others have mentioned Boss would probably find fault in the OP in other ways; it just seems to be the sort of dynamic in this place. I personally would do my best to get out of here and wouldn’t bother with notice, this place sounds toxic. And it sounds like OP can’t go to HR or anyplace higher to complain anyway.

    And several people have said OP should have taken another lunch and said nothing. Doesn’t that just spread the misery further and make the OP just as bad as Boss? And what if the OP is allergic to the other food or just doesn’t like it? Taking someone else’s lunch does _not_ seem like any sort of solution…

    • NostalgicGal January 20, 2015, 11:35 pm

      And the two options offered earlier; that the Boss did order a cheapo lunch and grabbed a better lunch and scarfed of it fast expecting that whoever it belonged to would refuse it after it had been half eaten. (which is what the OP did)

      Or, the boss hadn’t ordered a meal at all and just took one. Some of the other actions the boss did do sort of back this one up.

      The organizer should have checked off the meals and handed them out; and should have checked number of bodies against number of meals there. That would have brought up whether or not the boss did grab a free lunch… and if not, that he’d grabbed the wrong lunch and SHOULD PAY FOR IT.

    • Anonymous January 21, 2015, 12:25 am

      If ignoring Boss’ e-mail was “burning bridges,” then, given the culture of the office, writing back and saying “no” to further communal food ordering would have probably had the same effect. If the OP had said “no” every time going forward, then the consequences probably would have happened more slowly than if he’d said “no, never again” the first time, but I have a feeling that Boss wasn’t going to accept any answer other than “yes.” Woe betide OP, the victim of theft, along with Vegan Vernon, Celiac Celia, Dia-Betty, Weight Watcher Waylon, and everyone else who dared to Just Say No to take-out.

      • NostalgicGal January 22, 2015, 2:21 am

        Love some of your names for those stuck with limited food choices, Anonymous.

        Or the decline about order-in that I have to do now, but. Willing to bring my own food and do join the meal anyways. So I didn’t order the Chinese/Pizza/Fried Chicken everyone else did. I can still join in. Yes I brought this from home, it’s what I can eat… and still join in in the group meal.

        (went a few nights ago with Club to a great restaurant that has excellent food but I can’t trust wheat contamination in kitchen so; I ordered a meal for my DH to-go (and wasn’t the only one that got to-go for a hubby), and brought my own in an insulated thermos bowl. After everyone was served I put mine on table and joined in, and by the time everyone else was done my bowl had lid on and was one more out of sight. I DID buy food from the restaurant, and I also ate a meal with my Club friends, so…)

        • MPW January 23, 2015, 12:09 pm

          When one of my co-workers mistakenly ate another co-worker’s lunch (their wives had packaged their lunch in identical grocery store bags), he offered compensation (taking the other guy out to lunch) but the other guy just chose his lunch instead. It was without malice and without a victim, but it could have turned out poorly.
          When I still participated in pot-luck lunches, the only dietary restriction I actively considered was one co-worker (and good friend) and his aversion to pork. I could not cater to every possible condition or preference – especially the more rare and vague ones out there. No one in that small office, fortunately, had the “immediately hazardous to life” type of nut allergy, so I was not concerned with making Pad Thai with peanuts. Being a food lover myself, I fully sympathize with those who have various dietary restrictions, but as it is a pot luck, I am trying to aim for a large audience. It would have been cruel and insulting if everyone somehow managed to include bacon or pork in each of their dishes, but I trusted this would not happen and that if I was, say, bringing in a home-baked pepperoni pizza, there would be plenty of other things that one co-worker could eat.

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