Originally Published: June 17, 2018 6 a.m.
Dear Annie: I am not a fan at all of potlucks at work. First of all, I think it is rude to ask employees who have worked all day to bring food into work the next day. Secondly, I am concerned about the food that some people bring to work. Is it old? Has it been prepared in a hygienic environment? I feel that companies should have food delivered to their employees and not burden the employees with buying food, preparing food and dragging large slow cookers and trays of food into work. When the potluck circumstances arise, I think it would be best for employees to share the expense and have the food delivered. I am hoping others in the workplace see this and realize that a lot of people do not want to be burdened with the potluck ordeal. Could it be that I am just not a team player? Please advise. -- Potlucked Out
Dear Potlucked Out: There’s a simple social contract for potlucks: Bring food if you want to eat; don’t eat if you don’t bring food. They’re optional by definition, so next time, opt out. You might find that a few of your co-workers follow suit. You probably aren’t the only one who doesn’t enjoy going home after a long day at the office only to do more work in the kitchen.
If management gives you any grief about not participating, pitch your idea of organizing a group takeout order from a nearby restaurant so you can all bond over a shared meal without the additional labor. Sometimes being a good team player means suggesting some changes to the playbook.
Dear Annie: I was a victim of office bullying for years. An older woman felt the need to always comment about my hair (if it was still damp, I got to hear about it) and makeup (how I didn’t wear enough of it), sometimes even in front of other employees. She took turns talking negatively about each employee. It was draining, as I was stuck in the office with her. (I had nowhere to run for years.) Others wouldn’t even stick up for me or themselves; they would end up just leaving the company. I wish I had stood up for myself, because this woman made my workdays -- which made up such a big part of my life -- so long and terrible. Now I work with positive people who don’t make daily digs or repeated negative comments, and it is great.
I guess the question I have is, Can I get over this? Why was this allowed for so long? Aren’t there laws against harassment in the workplace? I am sure others have had this experience. I hope no one else allows it for as long as I did. -- Harassed for Years
Dear Harassed for Years: Harassment, verbal or otherwise, should be documented and reported, in writing, to management and human resources. If bullying is based on discriminatory grounds (such as sex, race or disability), you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (https://www.eeoc.gov).
It’s in companies’ best interest to weed out toxic behavior in the workplace. As the Harvard Business Review reported, a 2015 study from Harvard Business School found that “avoiding a toxic employee can save a company more than twice as much as bringing on a star performer. ... Specifically, avoiding a toxic worker was worth about $12,500 in turnover costs, but even the top 1 percent of superstar employees only added about $5,300 to the bottom line.”
If thoughts about past harassment persist, you might consider seeking counseling. A counselor could help you talk through your experience and unpack any emotional baggage this office bully saddled you with.
“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book -- featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.