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Weird behaviour of colleague / food related

Roselina

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Feb 1, 2020
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For once not related to jewellery. But something has been bothering me for a while and I wanted to ask for your opinions. I supervise a team and one of my employees / colleagues shows quite a strange behaviour. He is "feeding" me. I don't know how else to put it. He keeps bringing and serving me food. Here a dessert, there a soup, here a drink, there whatever. He does this ALL THE TIME (at least twice a week I have some food I don't want on my table). I keep telling him that he should not do this. He ignores it and keeps bringing stuff. I then put it away and don't eat it (I want to decide for myself, what I want to eat for God's sake). It's rather awkward and it is starting to getting on my nerves. For example I can't say "oh, I'm hungry" without risking him serving me a bowl of whatever. I know of no-one who ever had something similar happen to them. What IS this behaviour?!
 
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junebug17

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Strange, especially since you've already told him not to do it. Maybe you need to be more forceful, to the point of showing annoyance? Or maybe when he brings you the food you can tell him right away you don't want it and for him to take it away. Sounds like he didn't really get the message.
 

lissyflo

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Whether the cause is misdirected deference towards you as boss (admittedly in a slightly odd manner) or an attempt to somehow exert control, on a purely practical level it’s wasteful if you don’t want the food. Could you tackle it using that argument as a non-personal (and therefore less confrontational) initial chat? It definitely needs tackling though, I’d say. I’d find it creepy and anxiety-inducing.
 

Niffler75

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@Roselina Crikey! :shock: Yes, bring it up and be polite but firm! There's one thing bringing a treat in for your colleagues as a team once a week but that is, well, a bit creepy!
 

asscherisme

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I think you need to be more firm and tell him that the food he is bringing you makes you uncomfortable and is being wasted. I agree it is creepy and odd. That would make me uncomfortable. He clearly has no boundaries because you have expressed this makes you uncomfortable but he keeps doing it. I would refuse it. Can you go to HR for suggestions?
 

Roselina

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Thank you for all your thoughts. Yes, it starts to get creepy. I really don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I agree that I need to react firmer, if I want him to stop. Unfortunately no HR, I’m alone in this.
 

jaysonsmom

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For once not related to jewellery. But something has been bothering me for a while and I wanted to ask for your opinions. I supervise a team and one of my employees / colleagues shows quite a strange behaviour. He is "feeding" me. I don't know how else to put it. He keeps bringing and serving me food. Here a dessert, there a soup, here a drink, there whatever. He does this ALL THE TIME (at least twice a week I have some food I don't want on my table). I keep telling him that he should not do this. He ignores it and keeps bringing stuff. I then put it away and don't eat it (I want to decide for myself, what I want to eat for God's sake). It's rather awkward and it is starting to getting on my nerves. For example I can't say "oh, I'm hungry" without risking him serving me a bowl of whatever. I know of no-one who ever had something similar happen to them. What IS this behaviour?!
I have had similar experience with 2 younger guys in the office, I don't find it creepy at all, in fact I find it rather funny. It started with one guy in his late 20's who has a fiancee and other family in Taiwan who always sends him treats. He found out I'm part Taiwanese, so always leaves little Taiwanese treats on my desk because he knows that a) I will know what it is, and b) I'd probably like the treat. Another guy in his early 30's (Japanese american) found out that the first guy does this an the fact that I'm also part Japanese, so he started leaving me cute Japanese treats all the time. It became kind of a joke in the office, like they were competing for my affection. I make it very clear to both that I'm happily married by telling them thank you, I'm taking it home to share with my hubby and kids! The first guy's fiancee finally moved to the US, and he is happily married, but he still brings me goodies once in a while. The second guy has since moved to another company. I took their behavior as flattering, that they thought of me as someone who could a) afford to eat these treats, and b) I'm an approachable management figure.
 

marymm

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In terms of the workplace hierarchy, is the person bringing you food at your same level, or above or below?

Unless the person is a higher-up, next time he brought over food to me, I would tell him "Please do not put that on my desk. I've told you repeatedly to stop bringing food to me." If he puts it on the desk, I'd pick it up and drop it in the trash in the common area or if none by his desk. Repeat as necessary. Trash the entire item, including dish and utensils. If he puts it on your desk while you are not there, dispose of it in the trash. Start documenting the occurrences. If he doesn't stop, I would regard it as unacceptable work behavior that interrupts your productivity and pass it up the chain.
 

seaurchin

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It's possible the guy is just a little socially awkward but it could also definitely be a passive-aggressive power play. Regardless, he doesn't have the right to make you uncomfortable by ignoring your wishes.

You've already told him to stop. He may think he can get by with ignoring your directive since, after all, he is "just being nice." But it is actually not nice at all to continue doing something that someone has told you they don't like. Especially when they are your boss and/or it's a man to woman situation.

If he gets by with it, it could be a first step to worse - either work related, a way of establishing that he doesn't need to do what the boss (you) says.

Or even the kind of pushing into your boundaries feeler that a sex offender might send out.

Either way, I think you should take it seriously. I'd speak to him about it right away, short, firm and unapologetically. "I said I don't like you to bring me food and drink. I meant it. So don't do it any more." Then walk away. Or wait until he does it again, then say, "Haven't we already talked about this? Don't bring me any food or drink. I don't like it. I mean it." And put it on his desk, without smiling.

Then be ready for your next step if he does it yet again after all that. It may be writing him up for " unwanted, repeated, overly familiar behavior." Or taking it to HR. You might also tell him ahead of time that this will be your next step if he does it again.

Regardless of if it's bringing you unwanted food or anything else, his message to you is that your "no" does not mean "no" and that is worrisome.
 
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1ofakind

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Does he bring food only to you or to others as well? It is odd that if you've told him you don't want it that he continues to bring it.
But I don't find it odd in general.
My DD loves to bake and often brings in treats (and even crock pots full of food) for co-workers but she leaves it for them to help themselves either in a community area or at her desk where they can stop by and get some.



ETA...the crock pot thing started in grad school when she knew she would be on campus all day and night. She would leave the crock pot in her desk and just bag up the dinner ingredients, toss it all in at work in the morning and have a dinner ready in the evening. Her coworkers loved her cooking so she would let them know when she was planning a crock pot dinner so if they were still at work they could also have some. Sometimes people planned to work late those days just so they could all have dinner in the office, lol.
 
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PintoBean

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How many people are in your office? My suggestion is to thank them for the treat, inform them that you'll be sharing it with the team, put it in the common area, and send a group email that so and so was kind enough to share with everyone this treat, and to help yourself to it in the common area.
 

Bron357

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Speak to him directly and plainly.
Why are you bringing me food or drinks that I haven’t asked for?
Why are you not listening to me when Ive told you to stop?
His answers should give some direction as the next steps to take.
If he is just trying to be nice and to earn your favour he needs to know, point blank, that his behaviour is inappropriate and unwelcome.
”You must stop bringing me food and drinks I dont want or need”.
if he is “strange“ and is unable to realise his behaviour is inappropriate and modify it he may need to be moved to a different dept or let go from the company. You don’t need that sort of intense and inappropriate behaviour added to your other work stresses.
 

Bayek

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Is he from a foreign country and this is more acceptable there? otherwise its time for the talk about boundaries.
 

qubitasaurus

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Is he Asian or Indian? If he is coming from Taiwan, some parts of south east asia such as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, India or some parts of China then this may be normal (well not exactly normal but within the spectrum of how people communicate appreciation for others).

If possible suggest he brings foods that are more suitbale for the group and should be kept in the kitchen where others can also enjoy. Not on your desk. Suggest right at the moment is not a good time though! As you dont want anyone to get sick.
 

1ofakind

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if he is “strange“ and is unable to realise his behaviour is inappropriate and modify it he may need to be moved to a different dept or let go from the company.


Sometimes 'strange' may mean autistic...not able to recognize inappropriate behavior even when given verbal cues...especially if those cues are wrapped in polite, socially acceptable courteousness. In such a case a different approach may be needed, along with tolerance and understanding from coworkers and employer....just as one would extend for any physical disability.
I would hope we are beyond the days of just firing people because they don't quite fit in like the rest of us.

Not at all assuming that this person is autistic....just wanted to address it as possibility given the above quote.
 

Daisys and Diamonds

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im sorry
i think its kinda sweet

but then im not in the situation
i often brought lollies (sweets) for one of my co-workes
he was married, it was nothing like that
but he worked really hard and was always helpful and deserved treats.
i also brought beer for another of my male workmates every now and then

some of the ladies cream buns
id be buying my lunch and think oh Angala might like a raspberry bun today
 

monarch64

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There is a feeder/gainer fetish. Not saying that’s what’s happening with your colleague but it was the first thing that came to my mind. I’d do everything I could to discourage or put a stop to his behavior.
 

Roselina

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Thank you all for your replies. It is not a cultural thing. It’s mostly him and me in the office, sometimes someone else as well - others work at different places in-house. But we do have a kitchen where we all can meet. The food he serves are not little treats that could be shared, but rather bowl of soups, one portion desserts, etc. He might be socially awkward, but good at heart and he does excellent work. I do want to keep him in the team. Thank you for your inputs. Best to talk again and make myself clear(er).
 

OoohShiny

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Being conflict-averse myself, lol, I would probably leave it on the table untouched until he noticed it later, to see if he got the hint.

That could be seen as rude, though, if it is a cultural thing!

Perhaps you could thank him for his generosity but suggest having a 'Friday Food' thing? Then he could bring in something and you could bring in something, and you could exchange or share. Or perhaps he'd like to bring in something new to show you just on his own?

That way, it's less of a rebuttal if it is a cultural thing, while also giving you more control if it is a creepy weirdo thing :razz: lol


The totally paranoid in me says 'roofie-alert' or 'slow, long-term poisoning nutcase' :shock: but it sounds like he is just a nice guy rather than someone with a hidden agenda, so don't stress about my worst case scenario fears! :lol:
 

junebug17

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@Rosalina, I understand the awkwardness of this...after reading your last post it's sounds like he's just trying to be nice. I can see how you wouldn't want to hurt his feelings. I sounded a little harsh in my first post lol. But if it's really bothering you the only thing I can think of is to have a talk with him and make it clear you'd rather get your own food.

eta - I just saw @Jsand's response, she's on to something! You could just tell him you're uncomfortable with him doing it because of covid.
 

LisaRN

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I personally have a hard time with people who won't take no thank you for an answer. The first time I might think they are being nice, but if they insist I see them as controlling. No thank you means no thank you.
 

AGBF

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I absolutely loved jaysonsmom's response.
 

seaurchin

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She's said she told him repeatedly to stop. Understandably, his continuing to do it anyway makes her uncomfortable. That IS valid.

There's no good reason to assume that this weird, red flag behavior is harmless. We actually don't know that at all.

Much better to cut it off firmly, preferably with superiors being kept in the loop.

Good luck with it, Roselina. Please trust your own instincts and let us know how it goes.
 
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