Saturday, June 1, 2019

Leadership Pitfalls: Don't eat/take your subordinate's treats/food/etc

Do you have people at the office that have bowls of snacks or candies to share for the office?

It's a trap

This is not an intentional trap. This is not the intentions of the givers (unless it's me). But you will have people like me who witness those who take things.

The trap is not a single incident infraction. The problem is when you abuse the (unspoken) system... the peer judgment of others. The main problem starts when you take a larger portion of the goods.

Lack of Compassion

The goods are not free. Out of the goodness of the giver, they are sharing to help those around them. But when the taker starts to feel entitled, this just hits the wrong nerve in me.

For example, there is a lady who always keep a variety of sweets in her area. Several people enjoy the treats. But each day after she's gone, a group of people takes a noticeable amount of sweets from her desk. Because I am usually one of the last people out of the office, I notice this group.

Although she does not mind, this action by that group is just wrong to me. I have also heard the same from others. Some of them have also started to use more racial biases because of this.

So not only does this make it appear poorly for those who take too much, but it also also reflects poorly on whatever prejudicial group the observer makes.


I am one that occasionally leave sweets/snacks on my desk to share. As a person who has bought food to share and even though I am not poor, these foods are not cheap. 

Because I am further back in the office, I do not get as many visitors. I do regularly get a director who is very friendly with a colleague who sits next to me.

Although I am ok with those who take a treat each time they visit, his visits started to irk me when he said (somewhat playfully) that I need to restock my treats (when I haven't restocked for a while). Not only restock but a specific request of candy that I brought in once. I don't mind when someone at least at the same corporate level as me does this because they never do. Yes, that sounds odd but there is an unspoken understanding that these are treats, not entitlements.

I also know this director eats other's treats. And there are similar complaints from those people as I have in my mind. We are the bottom of the hierarchy. A director is 2-3 levels above us, so easily makes twice as much as us (which means he has the potential to save way more than double). Over 5 years, he has never given anything back... not even a thank you. 

If it were just me, I would just chalk it up to my bad luck. But for others, the very least he can do is do something nice (and something unselfish) in return. Even if we have poor directors (I work for a fortune 10 company so extremely unlikely), he could at the very least "promote" them in some ways. I do not even mean a professional promotion. A simple this is a great person, kind person, or if I even have to drudge the bottom of the barrel.... a very simple thank you. Or even, even lower.... at least do not criticize (like not enough plates, utensils, etc). 


Ultimately, there is nothing technically wrong with taking or even accepting treats. But because the visual is very subjective, this is just not worth the optics that this behavior projects for a manager or executive.

If anything, I even give back to those that share their kindness even if I do not take any or much. This does not have to be food or materials. I have assisted or aided in other ways, although food is the simplest way. 

People see, people judge, but they won't share their thoughts especially if you are in a leadership position. In my opinion, those who cannot even balance simple human compassion do not deserve my respect for there position. And if his peers cannot at least recognize this, I also have lowered respect for all of leadership.


Personal experience

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