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Sweets turned sour

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Question: I believe I have a unique problem. I'm the IT support assistant in the company I work for; I support the VP and eight managers. I report directly to the VP.

Every now and again, an associate brings in goodies (donuts, cake, candy, etc.) for the department and sends out an e-mail to the department inviting us to have whatever is brought in. Last week, one of the managers brought in donuts. I went to get a donut and, when I got to his workstation, he was having a verbal meeting with an associate from another department, and she asked me to get one for her. I handed her a donut and went back to my workstation.

The manager came over to me and, in the presence of the associate from the other department, proceeded to let me know that I had no right to give a donut to her, as they were not mine to give. I thought he was joking, so I was smiling and taking it for a joke! He proceeded to tell me that this was not a joke, and I was rude to give away something that was not mine to give.

The associate handed me the donut and said she would not take it, so I took it back to the manager's cubicle and told him that she no longer wanted the donut. I went back to my desk and sent the manager an e-mail saying I was sorry to take his donut but I didn’t appreciate his talking down to me by telling me I was "rude" and that, in the future, he should choose his words. I also told him that it wasn’t the culture of the IT department for people to be stingy with food and that I didn’t believe in my wildest dreams that he would be offended.

He responded that I knew that I was wrong and was hiding behind e-mails, that I should speak with him and that the problem with me is that I like to give away things that are not mine to give. (I am not guilty of that, and so that hurts.) He also told me that, if I responded, he would not read my e-mail because we both believe we should have the last word.

I am saddened by this whole thing, and I feel silly even talking about it with other people in the department, because I don’t want to be labeled as being disgruntled or disruptive. I told my boss (who is the manager's boss, too), and he says that I should drop it or I should sit the manager down and tell him how things operate in the department.

I feel uncomfortable around that manager now, and the hurtful thing is, I used to like him. I'm the person responsible for planning all the "fun" things in the department, and I really feel like something is missing now. I don’t feel like being a fun person, anymore, and with the holidays coming up, we usually have events like "pot luck" and gift exchanges, etc. Now, I feel like it’s such a chore!

What should I do?  -- Anonymous


First of all, do not let this person take away your spirit of fun. HE has the problem not you. Unfortunately, you are stuck working with him, but that doesn't mean that you have to like him or be friends with him. It sounds like he was being very petty and immature. You have to choose how you will react to the situation. It can make you miserable or you can let it go and choose not to let it affect you. Hopefully, at some point he will realize how rediculously he reacted. What a shame that he felt that a donut was worth so much trouble. Sometimes we just have to chalk it up to having a bad day (him not you). This too shall pass. Hope you do not let this get the best of you.

OMG .. what a jerk. I'm sorry but where I work, people treat people with respect. And over a donut???

I guess what I would do (and I have done this before) is schedule a meeting with the manager, apologize (AGAIN) for offering a donut to the outsider, and vow to never do it again. Then I would say "with that being said, I would appreciate it if you would not speak to me the way you did, particularly in front of other people. I am an adult and a professional, and do not appreciate your tone of reprimanding me like a mere child, especially over a donut. Please do not do that again. Thank you." And walk away. Even if he tries to get the last word, keep smiing, because YOU HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING WRONG!! I've done that before and did not get fired. Besides, that manager is not your direct boss, so I wouldn't worry. *LOL* What is truly unfortunate is that your VP won't back you.

Respect and dignity is more important than a manager's need to play a power card. There are some people who just need to feel more important than others by treating them with disrespect. I don't play that way, and it inexcusable.

I would bet that you aren't the first person he's been rude to. Although there is no excuse to his rudeness, I would bed that other people in your department feel the same as you.

I also would stop talking to that manager on personal issues anymore. Just do your work, and that's all he gets. OK, so there are a few people where I work who aren't very nice. But with the exception of work related issues, they don't exist to me. I don't tell them my happy stories, and I don't ask them how their weekends went. I just walk pass them, because I don't want to give them a chance of being a jerk to me.

I don't blame you for not wanting to do fun stuff either. But try to remember that there are other people in the department who respect you and appreciate what you do. Don't penalize them from your friendliness, creativity, and fun, just because there's one jerk.

I agree totally. I just can't imagine a "manager" being so petty over a donut. What is this world coming to. I would continue to be polite to him but be on guard. Sometimes people hold grudges that can come to you later on. Just continue to be yourself and don't show any animosity toward him. Next time pass the donuts by and say "oh, no thanks, I'm watching my figure" or something to that effect. Hang in there. Sometimes people are having a bad day and just jump at the first person they see. I know. It has happened to me by my manager and for nothing I did. I was just the first person he saw. And I'm still at the same job!

I would suggest scheduling a time to speak with this person formally... have a neutral party present. It sounds as though he is being very petty but he may have a completely different perspective and think you have some sort of problem. (My personal opinion is that if he didn't want her to have a donut he should have spoken up when she asked for it, instead he wanted you to be rude to her and tell her no.) Communication is the best way to solve the problem. By no means should you let this get you down or let it take the fun out of the holidays.

In the future, I would never take a donut from him -- who knows where it has been?

How embarrasing for both the associate and you. How long has this manager worked with you all? Since your boss wants you to handle this situation then I would suggest either speak to him directly with another present or send him an email (yes, an email) and make sure you cc the VP on it so he is aware of what is going on. I would also put a read receipt requested and in the Subject line I would put VP suggestion. Let this person know that you spoke to the VP and he suggested that I let you know how the IT department works when someone brings in goodies. I would keep it matter of fact and to the point. My personal opinion is if he did not want someone to have one of his donuts then he should have said something when she asked for one better yet, he should not have sent out a notice that donuts were avaialbe. He sounds as if he is on some type of power play escpecially if he sent you an email stating he would not read it if you did. What a baby

Did I write this? I have an identical situation going on where I am working. I find it sad that some people have so many friends that they can treat them how ever they want to. You have tried to resolve the situation and the manager obviously isn't mature enough to end the conflict. Let him stew in his own juices. You are the bigger person.

This sounds like a control issue to me. The only thing I see that could have been done differently and still make a difference is that the Manager could have taken you aside privately instead of publicly to tell you how he felt. It's only a doughnut. Let it go and continue on like nothing has happened. As I like to tell people..."Kill'em with kindness". Good luck!!

Ok..I'm going to take the counterpoint on this. What if their are 12 people in your department - and the manager only bought 12 donuts? By offering a donut to someone else who was not included in that 12, you put the manager in a position whereby he *may* have to say to someone, "I'm sorry. There's none left." Managers sometimes do not have any control over what they can do to show appreciation to their staff members. Thus, goodies of this type are just a small display of their appreciation.

With that said, this manager was 100% wrong in the way he handled the situation. What he should have said to you was what I just outlined above. (Maybe you can put the above on his desk to read?) So, you have 2 choices: you can either continue to drag this out and cause more grief for yourself, or let it go.

Why would you even consider not doing any "fun" things for everyone else because of this one incident? You would then be punishing everyone because of the ignorance of one manager. This becomes a lose/lose for everyone.

Your manager knows what happened and it's not going to affect your job. The "donut" manager knows he was probably wrong in his approach (although h*ll will freeze over before he admits that). So, keeping your relationship with him strictly professional will send a louder message to him than anything else. Plus, if he sees you move beyond the situation, YOU will be the better person. In the long run, he'll look like a fool, and you'll be the shining star (because of all the other great things you do).

As the phrase goes, "don't let the turkeys get you down." Good luck!

You obviously have the backing of the majority here. You were right to feel the way you did. He was unprofessional and wrong wrong wrong.

I know how you must be hurting. He might as well have slapped you, correct? If no more than a couple days have passed, see him personally with someone from HR as a witness. If more time than that has passed, breathe in, breathe out, and move on. He's a jerk who likes to abuse others by belittling them. Chalk it up to a lesson learned. Avoid him, as I'm sure you are already. Good luck.

Who is the grown-up, him or you? He acted as a non-professional, not you. I had a situation a number of years ago where a supervisor yelled at me (and I was not in the wrong) in front of the rest of the office. After the outburst, I went to the supervisor's manager & told him that I would never allow somebody to speak to me in that manner ever again, and if there was something I needed to know, it was to be done in a private setting. Guess what: it never happened again, so you know what to do. And if you had a good time planning the "fun" activities, don't let the jerk spoil that experience for you.

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