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Feasting with the Masses

January 28, 2011

Ah yes – food and work.  I’ve had some thoughts about it before.  The act of sharing food can be a bonding experience for people at work.  And it was nice to revisit this topic when thinking about next week’s Carnival of HR which will be hosted by the marvelous EvilHRLady Suzanne Lucas.

So bring on the cookies and cakes; pile high the break room table until it’s groaning under the weight of the boxes of doughnuts, bags of chips and homemade fudge.  But be warned that there’s a dark side to food at the office.  An unsavory underbelly of despair and sadness.  To wit, times when food and co-workers don’t mix:

  • The office pot luck where the self-professed “amateur baker,” not known for the cleanest cubicle, trustworthy personal grooming habits or most appropriate bathroom behavior brings a batch of homemade bon bons and insists upon personally handing one to each attendee.  With his hands.
  • The business lunch with THE BOSS.  When THE BOSS has a nice, leafy green piece of lettuce affixed to his central incisor.
  • The fancy-schmancy corporate dinner/awards banquet when a lovely piece of fowl is served with an enticing creamy aromatic sauce on top.  A sauce that contains shellfish.  Yet no one is aware of this fact, least of all the employee with a severe allergy whose neck immediately swells when she takes a bit of the delectable sauce.
  • The department or office lunch-outing when phones are forwarded, lights are switched off, and everyone travels down the street to the local Applebee’s  for several hours to partake in the 2 for $20 deal.  Well, everyone that is except for the Receptionist who no one thought to invite because, well, SOMEONE has to stay and keep the office open.  Plus she won’t really mind… will she?
  • The friendly lunch with a new coworker who seemed like a polite, well-mannered, decent chap sitting down the aisle from you in his cubicle.  But apparently, his mama never taught him any manners because the food moves from plate to gullet in an open-mouthed orgiastic frenzy of mastication that is truly a wonder to behold.  Like an accident on the side of the road from which one cannot avert one’s eyes.  Yeah – just like that.
  • The company picnic, planned and executed by the HR Assistant and HR Rep, when there are torrential rainstorms the day before, and the picnic grounds are flooded. Which means that instead of the expected attendance of 500 frolicking employees, guests and children, there is a rather dismal turnout of 150 people.  This, unfortunately, results in the HR Staff having to make an emergency run to the nearest grocery store to purchase every available roll of aluminum foil and every single plastic food storage container so they can pack up the leftover ribs and spit-roasted chickens in order to take them to their homes for the weekend.  And then bring all these containers, along with the vats and vats of potato salad, cole slaw, brownies and dinner rolls TO THE OFFICE on Monday because the CEO wants the employees to be fed the picnic food that they could have eaten in the mud along with the dedicated and die-hard employees who actually showed up at the damn picnic.  Unfortunately, the beer was in kegs and the beer distributor didn’t allow the party-planners HR staff to load the kegs in their cars to take home as consolation prizes.  Damn beer man.

Food is fun.  Food is even better when shared with people.  But sometimes it’s good to just say no to dining with co-workers.  The scars to one’s psyche can last for years.

And I’ve told you before that HR people shouldn’t have to plan picnics.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2011 8:39 am

    “Orgiastic frenzy of mastication”

    Best. Line. Ever!

    • Gene permalink
      February 3, 2011 10:42 am

      Oh, you worked with Bubba too? I always counted my fingers after lunching with him and I’m sure I saw a napkin disappear in his gullet once.

  2. January 28, 2011 10:04 am

    I kinda liked “Damn beer man.”

  3. January 28, 2011 3:46 pm

    Some of the fondest memories of my former co-workers were those occasional days when we’d forward the phones (no we didn’t leave the receptionist behind THANK GOODNESS)and just eat, gab and not think about the stress of our jobs. But I sure hope I didn’t have any lettuce in my teeth!!

  4. February 2, 2011 5:21 pm

    except for the Receptionist who no one thought to invite

    Which was why my office in Austin would hire a temp out of the Party Fund that three of my fellow sales reps and I bankrolled with a portion of our quarterly bonus. Of course the receptionist has to be invited.

  5. Rebecca permalink
    February 2, 2011 6:24 pm

    Yeah, that receptionist getting left behind is annoying. One place I worked allow the entire department to put phones on forward for meetings once a month, but not for an appreciation lunch once a year – we had to split in two groups and go on 2 separate days. Hello? Really?

  6. February 2, 2011 6:43 pm

    Once, the plant manager where I worked got a call to meet the Region VP for breakfast the next morning. We never heard from him again.
    It took years before the term “meeting for breakfast” could be said without striking fear into the hearts of many.
    HRi

  7. February 9, 2011 7:14 pm

    Hi, Robin – – –

    Thanks for this great take on food-related issues. I enjoyed it … and cringed, too, at a few points that hit a little too close to home — like leaving the receptionist out and the co-worker with poor table manners. I once had a highly educated and otherwise highly-cultured colleague with tons of corporate experience who at lunch would regularly scoop the ice from her glass with her hands and chew on it (loudly), much to the chagrin of our SVP-HR. Differences are what make the world go ’round, right?!?

    ** Post script: I once reported to a Division President who flew half-way across the country to fire a branch manager. She invited him to lunch and gave him the news before the entrees came. My, that was an awkward rest-of-the-lunch, I’m sure!

    Thanks again for a funny and real “take.”

    Michael Brisciana

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