Picture this: It’s an average work day and I’m greeting in the morning by an upbeat all-office email from my boss. “In celebration of the company’s 10 year anniversary and a job well done by all we will be providing free breakfast and afternoon treats this Friday! Come hungry!” Awesome! Free food! What could possibly be wrong with that?
Friday comes around, greeted by growling bellies and my eager co-workers. The set up? Eggs, potatoes, pancakes, sausage, bagels and cream cheese. I had anticipated the lack of vegan options but I was hopeful that there would at least be a fruit bowl. But nope. I headed back to my desk and whipped out my backup pack of seaweed snack.
I would’ve been fine with it too but my boss decided to come and chat with me at my desk. Not about the food or anything just trying to be friendly I guess. At which point my co-worker who sits next to me looks at my seaweed snacks and goes “are you not getting breakfast?” and I politely replied that there are not many vegan options. She looks directly at my boss who immediately replies “there are bagels!” Mind you there are no vegan cream cheese’s or even jelly for that matter. “Is she supposed to eat a dry ass bagel? You know there should really be some vegan and vegetarian options here.” To which my boss just walked into his office and my co-worker went on her merry way to enjoy the free breakfast.
Fast forward a couple of hours later and apparently either the eggs or the pancakes were not sitting well with most people and almost everyone who ate them had stomach issues. The moral? Don’t eat free office food with co-workers you know don’t wash their hands. Just kidding. Kind of. But seriously. Would it have been so hard to ask for a side order of Toffutti and a fruit bowl? A lot of people are lactose intolerant and many people enjoy fruit. Why must I be subjected to a plate of dry bagels and burnt potatoes when I am supposed to also be rewarded for a job well done?
Sadly this isn’t the first time I’ve been at a job where management has been tone-deaf to the pleas of their employees dietary restrictions. I was working in a company where my team and I were hitting every goal, surpassing all expectations and making a huge impression. Our boss would by us food all the time to celebrate a job well done. Unfortunately our boss would only stick to the food he enjoyed even if we didn’t like it. Case-in-point our months long Popeye’s battle.
This was before I was vegan so the fact that the meal was meat based didn’t bother me at the time but the problem was that it just didn’t sit too well in my stomach. And I wasn’t the only one. After the fourth or fifth Popeye’s lunch a couple of my co-workers started vocalizing the wish for change. They too were experiencing the drawbacks of the greasy fried chicken meal.
To fix this, my boss finally conceded and said for our next mandatory lunch meeting he would order pizza. He asked everyone if there were any specific toppings and for the most part everyone agreed that plain cheese would be best. Tell me why we all walked into this meeting and he bought every pizza known to man except plain cheese. I’m not kidding you this man bought a Philly cheese steak pizza but not a plain cheese pie. When confronted about it he stated there was a special at the pizza parlor if you got all specialty pizza’s. Suffice to say not all the pizza was eaten that day and people were very upset.
Having food at work shouldn’t be the reward. It’s nice don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked at places that range from free meals, to stocked pantries, to just a coffee machine, and all the way down to your lucky if the water machine is working. But it’s part of the environment. Being rewarded with food is forcing your employees to be thankful for something they have no say in but can actually impact them. Sometimes people are on diets and the boss brings in donuts. Now that person is faced with eating a donut to be properly rewarded or sticking to their diet and not being rewarded at all.
Look, I get it. You cannot always please everyone but to provide an option for everyone on your team shouldn’t be an olympic sport. If you are sending an email for free lunch your employees are going to show up expecting to be fed. You don’t get a medal for providing plain bread. What’s worse is that because this is a congratulatory gift or a reward for a job well done it’s in poor taste that not everyone is considered and accounted for. I’m vegan so I don’t deserve to be rewarded? My co-workers who don’t eat pork have to just suck it because the only pizza you decided to buy was sausage? You’re lactose intolerant? Here is some lettuce and tomatoes with no dressing; enjoy! I really hope you’re not allergic to anything because we were lazy and didn’t bother to check ahead of time. Lucky for you our medical insurance won’t even cover that hospital trip. Have fun!
Here is a list of alternate ways you can reward employees for all their hard work and determination.
- Give us a free PTO day.
- Let us leave an hour early on a Friday and actually pay us for it. (none of that clock out when you leave bullshit.)
- Give us a $5 gift card to a lunch spot nearby so we can pick our own food. (I have a Panera right next door. This won’t pay for my whole meal but at least it’s something.) Or a Starbucks or something.
- Give us an extended lunch break.
- Let us work from home.
- Put $5 extra into our 401K. (This is not a lot but if this was done instead of all those pizza parties it’ll add up.)
- Margarita Friday! (with virgin options for those who can’t/don’t drink). Or better yet, bring in a bartender around 4 o’clock on a Friday and let us finish work with drinks we actually like.
- Let us come to work in sweatpants.
- Pay us a bonus.
- GIVE US A RAISE!
Free food is great! It’s a mood booster and a real treat when done correctly but showing up to the office party and not being able to partake is a mood killer. It makes you as an employee feel overlooked and underappreciated. Whether the restriction be a personal choice, a dietary restriction, or even a religious obligation, it should not be absurd for you to expect to have options at a work function. I hope that offices try to be more thoughtful at least when planning these reward meals and that I remember to replace my handy-dandy peanut butter jar for days when I am not accounted for at all (which is almost always).
Have you ever faced a lack of food options at a work function or have you ever not liked the options provided?