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Sometimes I bring cakes to work, e.g. leftovers from birthday party to one of the family members.

Most coworkers are happy about it and eat them without a problem, however one employee doesn't want to eat the cake, however finds himself eating it anyway due to lack of self control.

Most of the times he's OK with it but recently he started to ask (nicely, so far) if I can avoid bringing cakes in the future, even though all others enjoy it.

Some details:

  • I bring cakes, in average, maybe once a month or two.
  • I am in good terms with the coworker for many years.
  • I do not socialize with the coworker outside work hours.
  • He is in a different position/team, i.e. not "above" me in role.

How should I handle this? Is there a way to keep everyone happy?

This isn't dupe of Is there an etiquette to bringing cake/cookies/etc. to the office? because it's not about company policy (boss is totally fine with cakes, and being very small, everyone see I brought it right away) and I also don't think it's dupe of How to make a diabetic coworker feel included when I bring in cake for coworkers?, because the coworker is not diabetic and his resistance to cakes isn't due to health issues.

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Feb 22 at 3:00
  • Does anyone else bring treats sometimes? – Brandin Feb 22 at 10:00
  • @Brandin yes, but less often than me. :) – Shadow Wizard Feb 22 at 18:04
  • Can you look in his calendar and find one day a month when he isnt at work, and bring the cakes then? – vikingsteve Feb 25 at 7:43
  • @vikingsteve not relevant, as the cake stays in office for several days. – Shadow Wizard Feb 25 at 13:14

19 Answers 19

305

It's true, you generally shouldn't let one person spoil it for everyone, but some have pointed out here that cake at their workplaces hangs around for a while, so this poor individual has to exercise self-control every single time he enters the kitchen.

If he already has a demanding job where he has to make a lot of tough decisions, it's quite possible that he's exhausted his willpower on his job by the time he enters the kitchen and finds that tempting cake.

So...keep him happy? Keep the the cake-lovers happy? Maybe there's a way to keep everyone happy!

Here are a few possibilities:

  • Don't keep the cake in the kitchen. Keep it at your desk, along with plates, forks, whatever. Send an e-mail to everyone inviting them to have a piece, but don't copy this colleague. If he comes near, glare or snarl at him until he leaves. ("NO CAKE FOR YOU!" Assuming he has a reasonable sense of humor.)
  • Take cake reservations based on who'll be there the next day and how big a piece they want (small, medium, large, or whatever divisions seem right to you). Bring exactly that much cake, cut it exactly that way, and put names on post-its or written on paper plates. Your colleague has no reservation and there isn't enough cake without him stealing someone else's.
  • Schedule cake time in a conference room or other place people don't wander by as they might with the kitchen. It's a fifteen-minute break to chat and eat cake, after which you go back to work. The cake-is-my-weakness colleague isn't invited.
  • Bring some healthy, filling snack in addition to the cake, so your colleague has an alternative, rather than having to choose between cake and nothing.

Of course, you could combine some of these: Have cake time, take cake reservations, and bring a healthy alternative.

  • 101
    These are excellent suggestions (+1). They all seem like more organizational effort than what OP is currently doing, and I don't think (s)he should feel obligated to do any of them; but if (s)he feels badly enough to be asking here, then maybe they're worth it? – ruakh Feb 21 at 19:13
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    This, plus check with the coworker to see if he is OK with people being aware of his problem and gently calling him out should he attempt to take any of the cake. Social compliance can go a long way towards getting him into good habits. I've done this with some people around me, as my current employers always seem to have treat food somewhere in the office, and four years of casual snacking has got me very unhealthy. – Julia Hayward Feb 21 at 21:59
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    Your first paragraph suggests an alternative that you don't mention: move it out of the kitchen after a short period of time. – jpmc26 Feb 22 at 4:53
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    These are really excellent ideas. It's also worth discussing them with the colleague so he's aware of your steps and how to now easily avoid cake. – Ister Feb 22 at 9:58
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    As another alternative - just cover the cake in the kitchen. Almost no effort required, and out of sight out of mind. – UKMonkey Feb 22 at 11:08
252

Generally you don't let one person spoil things for everyone else without good reason. If your boss and other colleagues have no issue then I'd just ignore the request. You're not responsible for other people's lack of self control.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Snow Feb 22 at 8:17
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    You might want to tell this to that specific coworker. As compromise, you could say you wont offer it to him directly – Martijn Feb 22 at 10:58
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    I agree with what you write. Though I find it more helpful to not think of "lack of self control" - it could as well be that the person has more self-control than everyone else in the room, but happens to have some combinations of hormons and chemicals which outperforms even that higher degree of self-control. It's easy and self-rewarding to state "I have self control", when in fact you simply don't like sweets. – phresnel Feb 25 at 11:09
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    @phresnel I just used the OP's terminology, quite possibly the guy has rock solid self-control but the voices in his head don't and force him to eat cake. – Kilisi Feb 25 at 11:12
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    @Killsi I feel like you are being very condescending here. I've long suffered with bulimia, but I would never explicitly say that to colleagues, preferring to use euphemisms like the one in the OP. – DoctorPenguin Feb 25 at 11:48
62

I’m sorry it’s tough to see it! But so many other people enjoy this, I would feel horrible depriving everyone else of cake. Instead, is there something that we could do to help you resist those treats?

Say this next time the topic comes up or the day before you bring back cake. Maybe placing the cake elsewhere, farther from that colleague could work? I'd also recommend reading this post from Ask a Manager, there are similarities with your situation. It's a communal candy dish, and the coworker was way less polite than yours, but it could be helpful (part of the above script comes from this post).

  • Nice idea, but about "placing the cake elsewhere" suggestion, see this other comment I wrote on a different answer. (TL;DR: can't really keep it away from him.) – Shadow Wizard Feb 21 at 16:06
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    It will be difficult for us to find a solution, we don't know your office, or your coworker. That's why I encourage you to ask them to be part of the solution, because only they know what works for them (and for your office). For example, if the cake is in a closed opaque, so not visible, would it be ok for them ? Or just knowing that cake is there is too much for them. Would having healthy snack just beside the cake halp ? Etc... – MlleMei Feb 21 at 16:09
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    @ShadowWizard Could the "somewhere else" just be in the fridge or on your desk? Even just having it in the fridge out of eyesight can be helpful. – David K Feb 21 at 17:02
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    +1 on this. Losing weight and maintaining weight loss is difficult, and minimizing exposure to foods like cake is a huge part of doing it successfully. This guy is being polite about it and trying to do the right thing. It's a kindness to try to help out. – Ben Barden Feb 21 at 17:06
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    @BenBarden It is an admirable kindness to try to accommodate the coworker in question, but if push comes to shove, "I want to prevent all people around me from eating cake" is ultimately not a reasonable request. Hopefully a compromise can be found. – GrandOpener Feb 26 at 16:32
31

I'm going to give an odd answer here, but perhaps also bring a couple pieces of fruit along with the cake so that your colleague can still participate in the experience without feeling guilty.

I know that this is going far out of the way to please someone. But it will likely bring joy to them and others.

  • 12
    Dangerous? That's an over exaggeration for this situation. A kind gesture is just a kind gesture. It carries no obligation nor hidden meaning. It's not complicated. One can always politely say "no" to further requests. – binarymax Feb 21 at 23:41
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    Not to sound insensitive, but I'm willing to bet he will still eat the cake even with some fruit next to it. He is still going to have the lack of self control to stop him chosing the cake. – ayrton clark Feb 22 at 9:26
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    That's actually not a bad idea, might be worth checking what fruit he likes. Thanks! – Shadow Wizard Feb 22 at 9:42
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I would suggest 'helping' him when you bring in a cake. If he's been politely or jokingly suggesting that you stop, then next time he reaches for a slice, politely or jokingly remind him he's not allowed to have any. If his self-control is lacking, perhaps your control will help him (and remind him that everyone else is ok with it.)

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    Have them sign a contract. $10 per offense. – Mazura Feb 22 at 4:49
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    @Mazura with funds going to charity if you want a positive incentive, a political party he disapproves of for a negative incentive. – Notts90 Feb 22 at 7:34
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    @Mazura lol, with funds going towards more Cake! – Kreezxil Feb 26 at 11:49
10

The other answers to this question all completely miss the point IMO. There's nothing to be gained from making a decision based on what you feel is "right" or "wrong" in this case. Weigh the pros and cons and do what you feel is in your best interest.

It's all fine and good to say "this person is overreacting" or "this person has an issue and I should look to cater to them" but it's completely subjective. You could just as easily make the case for either, as others have done.

What to consider:

  • How important to you is your relationship with this person?
  • What sort of positive impact does this action have on your relationships with your other coworkers?

In short, do you feel that the positive impact outweighs the potential negative impact of denying this person's request? Can you attempt to soften the blow by tactfully explaining to them why you're denying this request and can you accept the fact that this may not work?

Answer these questions, and act accordingly.

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    +1 for channeling Ayn Rand – Retired Codger Feb 22 at 19:09
  • @RichardU lol it's not my answer to everything, but in the case of whether or not to bring cake to work... – aw04 Feb 22 at 19:12
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Cut the cake into parts equal to the number of people who will be eating it, individually wrap it and put their names on it. For him you can bring him a little toy to play with, or something he wouldn't mind eating without guilt.

Edited with the following on Feb 26,'19

Suggested toys: Tomagatchi, Fidget Spinner, Slinky (multicolored), Foam Dart Gun.

Possible food alternatives: Jerky or Jerqee (the latter is vegan), a veggie tray with dips.

I'm kind of getting the vibe this guy is diabetic.

  • Or just a very, very small slice? Nice idea (+1). Welcome aboard :-) – Mawg Feb 22 at 7:38
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    Toy for a 45 years old man? What you suggest? ;) Anyway, usually there's much more cake than we can eat in one day (all employees combined) so also less relevant. – Shadow Wizard Feb 23 at 14:33
  • @ShadowWizard can't you split it in half and bring separately or something? – Dan M. Feb 25 at 10:01
  • @Dan you mean bring small amount of cake every day, instead the whole cake? – Shadow Wizard Feb 25 at 13:09
  • @ShadowWizard yes. Basically so it would be immediately consumed on the launch break or similar and wouldn't be sitting there alone in the kitchen tempting. – Dan M. Feb 25 at 13:23
6

Ask your co-worker if it would be ok if he would just not be invited to cake sharing. From any point of view they are denying enjoyment to everyone because they cannot control themselves.

It's like forbidding people to ride a bike to work because they know how fun it is but they don't want to pedal.

So you need to explain that this exclusion should only be for them not for anyone else. So you will divide cake in such way there will no for him but others could enjoy it.

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    Perhaps it's more like asking someone else not to ride a bike to work as you feel guilty for not exercising... – Solar Mike Feb 21 at 15:56
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    What it's like is: someone WHO IS TRYING NOT TO EAT JUNK has STATED to you NOT to bring junk to the workplace. That's what it's "like". – Fattie Feb 21 at 16:00
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    That's a problem, there's no "cake sharing" event, the cake is out on the main "kitchen" table or in the fridge of the work place, and anyone can just take from it. – Shadow Wizard Feb 21 at 16:04
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    @Fattie Then you don't eat. You can't make people responsible for your own bad decision and inability to control yourself. I try to not eat carbs so it's mean I. TRY. TO. NOT. EAT. CARBS. I'm not writing a petition to stop selling candy bars at gas station. I am responsible for my actions. – SZCZERZO KŁY Feb 21 at 16:12
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    @ShadowWizard - would it be reasonable to change that? It might be worth discussing alternative cake distribution strategies with your colleague (like giving everyone a piece but not them, or taking it home after 1 day). You might not be able to find an acceptable strategy but at least you spent some time engaging with the problem to try and help your colleague. – P. Hopkinson Feb 21 at 16:27
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Eating disorders are real things, and it's not like your co-worker is being a jerk about it.

Perhaps a compromise - divide the cake at home into a fair number of pieces and place it in an opaque plastic container (think Tupperware, etc). Put it in the fridge/on the counter as appropriate for the food.

Email everyone except your co-worker with the problem saying that slices are there for people and to serve themselves, but please don't leave the container out in the open staring people in the face. Say it's for cleanliness reasons or something.

Leaving the cake out of sight and not making a big announcement about it will probably help your co-worker not feel obligated to engage in eating in a social manner, and not slip up when they walk into the staff room for an unrelated reason and see the cake just lying there, waiting to be eaten.

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    This is going to a notable amount of extra effort just to try to pander to this one guy, and it may or may not work. I'm all for trying to make his life a bit easier, but this suggestion seems a bit excessive. – Ben Barden Feb 21 at 22:26
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    It's excessive to put cake in a container rather than leaving it in plain sight? – Adonalsium Feb 22 at 13:41
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    My daughter has an eating disorder. Changing the environment does not make the disorder go away, Plus specifically excluding the coworker from emails could make it look like the CW was being excluded for unkind reasons. – Retired Codger Feb 22 at 19:20
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    @RichardU the asker wanted to be excluded... – Adonalsium Feb 22 at 19:50
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    @Adonalsium The PAPER TRAILL looks bad. – Retired Codger Feb 22 at 20:13
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It's a nice gesture, but it's pretty frequent.

Consider other people who haven't approached you will probably also appreciate having to make a conscious decision about whether they want some (versus impulse).

Luckily, it's cake - take "orders" first thing in the morning, and portion out the cake exactly between the number of people who request it. If the pieces are too large, make them a reasonable size and pack away or throw out the rest.

And bring it in a little less frequently.

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    I disagree that it's too frequent. Days and weeks at work can be quite long, so a coworker bringing in cake every 2 or 4w is quite well spaced tbh. Some people (possibly OP) actually ENJOY cooking too, I have a coworker who brings in cake and they get a huge thrill out of baking it, plus it means they don't need to eat it themselves, plus they make others happy. Everyone wins (except the coworker in OP's question) – Tas Feb 21 at 23:25
  • @Tas Just because you disagree doesn't mean you should downvote. Upvoted just because your downvote. – dan-klasson Feb 22 at 7:49
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    Downvoting because I disagree is literally the reason to downvote. Upvoting to offset a downvote is the wrong reason to vote. You should vote on the answers merits, not its score. If this answer was +100 would you have voted? Anyway you're free to vote how you want, but FYI I didn't downvote this answer, as I only disagreed with a portion of it. – Tas Feb 22 at 8:11
1
  1. What if you ask your boss to arrange kind of "self-control" training? Not for that single person, it could be good to make a group experience here. Surprisingly, that way you could help that person way more than just "not bringing the cake" (as he/she may have the same issue in other places and situations).
  2. Another option could be a gym - do you have one in your office? Or maybe your company can arrange that other way like compensation packet or corporate plan for any nearby-fitness facility?
  • 1
    Gym is a nice one, literally "gain some, lose some". :) – Shadow Wizard Feb 24 at 12:50
1

If you've ultimately decided to bring the cake anyway, you can:

  1. Tell the individual this is the case, you did consider their situation and do not discount it, but felt that not bringing cake for the reason given was unreasonable.
  2. Ask them whether there there are particular cakes or flavours they have an aversion to and make your selection accordingly.
  • #1 is a good tip, thanks. #2 less relevant, I don't choose the cakes I bring, it's usually leftovers from birthday parties, e.g. to my own kids. Who won't like anything else. – Shadow Wizard Feb 25 at 13:10
1

If you are both intelligent and reasonable people (and it sounds like you are), I suggest a negotiation. The matter is clearly important to both of you so set aside a reasonable time - say ten minutes. Maybe invite them for coffee.

Put the initial responsibility for finding a solution on your colleague.

Example

I've been thinking about what you said about bringing in cake. I do want to keep sharing the cake and I'd like to do it in a way that keeps everyone happy including you. What would be the easiest way for me to do this without putting temptation in your way?

You can then have a civilised discussion. If no resolution is reached then finish by saying,

Well look, I'll continue to bring in cake but I'll do my best to avoid tempting you. In the meantime, if you can think of another solution that works for everyone, please let me know.


Backup plan

Get a cake tin with a lock on it.

  • Thanks, this elaborates on idea given in several other answers and comments. – Shadow Wizard Feb 26 at 9:52
0

I think he is making this a lot bigger than it needs to be.

Eating cake is not a compulsory thing, so it's not like you are offering a pack of cigarettes to someone who is trying to quit smoking. If he really wants to, he surely can not eat the cake.

So, as far as a way to handle this, you should simply, but firmly say that all the others colleagues enjoy it, and that you won't spoil it for everyone. You can offer to deny him the cake if he asks for a slice, forcing him to abstain from it.

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    It is, in fact, almost exactly like offering a pack of cigarettes to someone who is trying to quit smoking. After all, if they really want to, they can surely turn down the cigarette. – Ben Barden Feb 21 at 16:58
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    @BenBarden, no, it is not. Most studies about sugar addiction conclude that there is little to none actual addiction. Saying it is the same thing as nicotine is just simply ignorant. – espindolaa Feb 21 at 17:29
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    @LucasEspindola no one said anything about "sugar addiction". What we're dealing with here isn't addiction, it's the body's fundamental craving for food... which can get to be pretty darn vicious for people who are deliberately feeding themselves less than their bodies want. "You're hungry. There is high-quality food right there. Eat." is pretty core-level evolutionary-drive stuff. – Ben Barden Feb 21 at 18:16
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    Decades of well-established and easily reproduce science have shown that nicotine is powerfully addictive. it's pointless to engage with anyone who claims it's not. – barbecue Feb 21 at 22:50
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    @LucasEspindola this review of available evidence says otherwise: "The reviewed evidence supports the theory that, in some circumstances, intermittent access to sugar can lead to behavior and neurochemical changes that resemble the effects of a substance of abuse. " – André Paramés Feb 22 at 13:44
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Consider whether the cake could be served in an opaque container like a tin, or cloche. Then those who need to force themselves to not have cake, can at least not see the cake. Even better if you put the tin in a cupboard.

0

I am in the same scenario at my work and I have to watch what I eat carefully. It's hard to resist the cakes/sweets on the table as I make a coffee, but this is my responsibility not someone else's. I do not at all expect a co-worker to not eat cake or not leave some on the table for everyone just because I shouldn't have any. This is simply not fair.

Live and let live goes both ways, and I say that from being in the same scenario as your co-worker.

If the cake treats stop then everyone goes without and only one person gains.. well they don't even really gain anything. If the cake treats continue then people still get their sugary enjoyment, and it's only down to one person to have to apply self discipline. I don't mean that in a way of the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one, and I do feel sympathy, but they can go by shops on the way home, go in the supermarket and buy food, etc and they have to apply will power there too.

We all have to apply will power in all areas of life, paying bills, getting to work on time, what we eat etc. Don't others at your company also have to apply self discipline with regards the cakes? Maybe someone who normally eats the cake had a large meal the night before with desert and so need to say no to the cake.

While it's nice to assist others where we can I simply don't believe people should be put out in such scenarios just to cater for someone else's difficulty. We're talking about cakes, not a disability! E.g. someone struggling to get up the office stairs is grounds to have something done even when everyone else is fine. This scenario is just people eating cakes and I say again, live and let live goes both ways.


My advice is to go to them in a friendly manner and say that you feel empathy and understand, but don't feel it's fair for everyone to lose out on something that really is just a simple and basic event in life.

And perhaps ask them if there is an alternative that they eat as a treat that you can buy specifically for them when you bring in cake for others.

0

You can always wait for a day when your colleague is away (maybe he goes to an offsite meeting, or a conference) and bring the cakes then.

Once I worked with a colleague who hated Japanese food. The rest of us on the team, we loved it. And there was a great restaurant just down the street. So we waited until that one colleague had a day off (or a meeting, or whatever) and then we all ate Japanese.

You could do a similar thing without hurting his feelings or tempting him to eat cakes when he doesnt want to.

Maybe your email system has a calendar where you can see if people are available or not, or a vacation list, or something like that.

You can be smart about this and not hurt anyone's feelings.

0

Easy and logical solution: don't bring cakes at work.

Seriously, what you are doing is something which is completely unneded, unrequested and unrelated to your working environment, and as a result of that you are having issues with a colleague and even wasting your time and your health by searching a solution and posting on Internet asking advices to people. That's completely illogical, no?


Later edit, before downvotes start raining down

What if one of your colleagues decide to bring an audio device at work, but everyone likes the music but you?

What if all your colleagues decide that it's fine to have lunch at the desk, but you can stand the smell?

What about dog day? I mean, if bringing their dog at work make them happy, why should they care about your allergies? Come on, they are just dogs, why all the fuss?

What if anyone else does something completely unnecessary at work, and everyone likes it but you? Will you come here to ask how to stop them, or will you come here to ask how to improve yourself so to allow other people to don't care about you?

  • 4
    the examples listed are unrelated because they all impose themselves upon the person not wanting those things. Unless OP shoves cake in the faces of people...the situations are entirely different – NKCampbell Feb 25 at 22:56
  • @NKCampbell It's not unrelated. This person is sitting in an office with you. They are in a sense cornered and find it very hard to resist the temptation. So these are very relevant examples. – dan-klasson Feb 27 at 20:23
  • I had the same thoughts. I was kinda surprised how almost no one was understanding of this person's plight. Perhaps it is because I don't eat pastries and I don't understand the fascination with it. Incidentally I asked a friend who I was with when I first read this question what her opinion was. And she said the same thing as everyone else here did.I upvoted you btw. But I've got a feeling you'll get more downvotes. – dan-klasson Feb 27 at 20:25
-1

Are you sure he's not jokingly asking you to not bring the cake? It seems more likely that he is since it would be completely out of line if he were being serious. Next time he says it just confirm:

hah, you are joking right?

Personally I try to adhere to a low sugar diet so when one of my coworkers brings in doughnuts or similar I will usually make a comment similar to:

Why must you tempt me like this?!

But I am not seriously accusing them of anything and would never expect them not to bring such things.

Hopefully he will say it is just a joke and then you can either choose to accept that or let him know that the joke is getting old.

If he says he is being serious tell him it's a completely unreasonable request and you would appreciate it if he stopped making it.

  • Doesn't sound to me like he's joking. – AndyT Feb 25 at 16:34
  • @AndyT: are you also one of OP's coworkers? You can hear his tone when he speaks? – Jesse_b Feb 26 at 3:21

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