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My organization hit a big milestone, so I wanted to do a little something to celebrate. Because everybody is working remotely (due to this COVID craziness), I thought it would be fun to send lunch to everybody's house at the same time.

I sent out an e-mail looking for suggestions on favorite food places. Only one person responded with a pizza place that they said was the best pizza in town. I'm not a foodie and had never heard of this place, so I went ahead and ordered it.

It turns out that the pizza place suggestion was a joke. It was from a place called Chucky Cheese, which is a children's arcade that is not known for the best pizza. (I'd never heard of this place before).

What I thought would be a nice gesture ended up making a lot of people really mad, with some of them claiming I was mocking them and all of their overtime. I heard that one employee was so mad, he threw the pizza on the ground right in front of the delivery driver. Another said to his manager that "incidents like this make him want to quit".

I recognize that I probably screwed this up by not researching the suggested restaurant, but I also feel like people are overreacting here. Seeing as this is one of my first actions in my position, I want to smooth things over before things get worse. But I also want to make sure people still respect me. Is it best to deal with this situation by issuing a public apology? Or should I reach out in a one-on-one conversation with those who expressed being particularly upset?

Oh and by the way, 2 people did contact me with a heartfelt "thanks" and very seriously said this was the best pizza they ever had. Maybe the place was a joke by the person suggesting it, but a few people clearly did like it.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive May 12 at 13:01
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    Can you say who you are in this organisation? Are you some kind of boss? – guest May 24 at 18:35
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I recognize that I probably screwed this up by not researching the suggested restaurant

You asked your team for suggestions, got only a single response, and went for it without even looking at the style and tenor of the website? https://www.chuckecheese.com/

Yes. If you have no idea what Chuck e Cheese is, you should perhaps have someone else vet the free lunch possibilities. You may not have the right background for this task. (It doesn't take a "foodie" to do this.)

Is it best to deal with this situation by issuing a public apology?

Yes, apologize for your mistake.

Or should I reach out in a one-on-one conversation with those who expressed being particularly upset?

You should probably do that as well, so you can try to understand how you failed. But that doesn't replace the public apology.

When you are in a role for which you are very unqualified (your words), you need to be very careful. And you need to seek feedback wherever you can, as a path to rapid improvement.

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    to be fair, the Chuck E. Cheese website looks pretty similar to any other pizza website – aaaaa says reinstate Monica May 11 at 21:39
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    Google took me here: chuckecheese.com/delivery-to-go/delivery. Doesn't look particularly "kiddy" until you scroll down. I should have picked up on that, but I didn't. Again, I'm not a foody. I don't know the last time I've ordered a pizza. – Jamie F May 12 at 2:39
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    @JamieF Based on your description, it sounds like you fall far far short of being considered a "foodie", but I also think that's somewhat beside the point. IMO the skill that should have kept you from getting in this situation is researching, not eating. I'd imagine that, being in a relatively senior position, it's expected that you should be able to evaluate a supplier/vendor/consultant/etc., or realize that you're not capable of forming a proper evaluation, even if you're not personally familiar with the product they offer. – David Z May 12 at 6:59
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    @JoeStrazzere: Taking the initial page into account without scrolling down for more information, it looks like a pizza place that additionally tailors to parties. And it does not explicitly disambiguate "parties" to mean children's birthday parties over just any group of people. I'm not saying OP shouldn't have vetted more, but I do believe that just by opening the page and finding the order button on it, not enough information is displayed that should lead OP to realize they're on the wrong website. – Flater May 12 at 10:22
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    Being a foodie or not being one has absolutely nothing to do with ordering from this particular restaurant – Donald May 12 at 11:46
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So far you're only hearing third hand that people are unhappy and throwing pizzas on the ground.

Do nothing, take the compliments as sincere and reply perhaps a bit self deprecating, but apart from that don't acknowledge that there is a problem. The drama will go away on it's own. It makes no sense to lower yourself on third hand information.

Perhaps have a think if there is an underlying issue that may need to be addressed. This over-reaction is not a normal result of a free gift of food. It's a breach of good manners if nothing else. It's not like they weren't asked for input before you bought the food.

As a boss in my opinion it's best to brush these things off and learn to do better next time, but not to worry about minor mistakes you cannot go back and change. Apologising over something you did in good faith would be acknowledging the rudeness as well. I'd let the whole thing slide unless someone feels the need to be directly rude to me.

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    @JoeStrazzere "I heard that", "Another said to his manager" etc,.... no mention of a mangled pizza flying through the op's window or anything direct. As a boss in my opinion it's best to brush these things off and learn to do better next time, but not to worry about minor mistakes you cannot go back and change. Apologising over something you did in good faith would be acknowledging the rudeness as well. I'd let the whole thing slide unless someone feels the need to be directly rude to me. – Kilisi May 11 at 20:41
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    Apologising over something you did in good faith would be acknowledging the rudeness as well. Yeah, OP might want to at least find out from these managers whether or not the employees know/expected their complaints to get back to OP first. I can see an apology potentially backfiring if one of them decides their manager tattled on them to a higher up. – BSMP May 11 at 21:08
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    @Kilisi you might be missing the context that Chuck E Cheese isn't a restaurant, it's a an arcade for children that happens to serve pizza. It's not obscure over here, either, it's a huge national chain. This is like inviting someone for dinner and then revealing you've ordered in from a bowling alley... or worse, from Chuck E Cheese's. – Oso May 11 at 21:36
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    @Andy no I got that.... didn't make a difference to me, the op isn't a caterer, mistakes happen. You could send me half a loaf of bread and I wouldn't complain to anyone and would thank you for the thought. – Kilisi May 11 at 21:44
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    Feel free to send me a Happy Meal and I won't complain about it and you'll get a thank you. Even if I thought it was weird or malicious I wouldn't give anyone the satisfaction of watching me disregard normal manners over such a thing. Maybe it's a cultural thing, I can't understand why people would let others actions dictate their response for the most petty things. – Kilisi May 12 at 15:34
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For the record, I would find gift in question a bit insulting. I think it's a bit immature to throw a tantrum about it though.

I also find it a horrible waste of company resources paying for multiple delivery fees (75 of them it seems...).

Buying pizza and drinks is actually great in an office environment as it allows the team to come together, and also lets you say a few words in front of everyone. It's also a good chance for senior leadership to pop in and thank the team as well.

It's more than just pizza. In fact, in usual circumstances, buying pizza and dumping it in the rec room is also borderline insulting. It smells of minimal effort tokenism.

If you believe you have made a mistake, you should send an email apologising to everyone for the mistake, reaffirm your appreciation for their hard work, and make a commitment to catch up properly once you are all back at the office.

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  • Agreed that catered food at work is meant to be more than just the food itself. I would've planned something more elaborate if it was in the office. But this was meant to be something fun since everybody is stuck at home. As far as the waste of company resources, this actually ended up costing way less than any catered meal at the office, even with 75 delivery fees. – Jamie F May 12 at 3:08
  • But yes - I know it was a mistake. Thanks for your honesty that you would find it insulting. I don't think I would have, so it's good to hear this feedback from an unbiased 3rd party. – Jamie F May 12 at 3:09
  • Don't forget that "allow the team to come together" might not be possible in the current COVID19 context in the OP's country – Caius Jard May 12 at 6:44
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    @CaiusJard Yeah, I'm not making any assumptions. I'm just pointing out that what works in the office environment is not the same as what can be accomplished by sending out pizzas to people's homes. – Gregory Currie May 12 at 6:48
  • @GregoryCurrie I remember eating and enjoying pizza in an office environment. Watch this video forbes.com/sites/suzannerowankelleher/2020/05/11/… and tell me if you think it will ever happen again. – emory May 13 at 18:08
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This is an excellent learning opportunity

I sent out an e-mail looking for suggestions on favorite food places.

Your job as manager is to communicate as clearly as possible. Did the email ask about "favorite places" or was it clear that you were planning to act on it? If it's a call for small talk about food they were ignoring it and rightfully so, the person with the joke suggestion probably tried to snap you out of it.

Only one person responded with a pizza place [...] called Chucky [sic] Cheese

If you did your part (clear communication) and still got this single suggestion then you have a problem, only one answer and even that one is a joke. If you are ESL/immigrant/remote they may be poking fun at that, but at this point just ignore it. At any rate they are demoralized (probably even more so after they got a pizza from a joint with a mouse mascot). Other than that they can learn a lesson to give you honest feedback when prompted. Your job as manager was choosing from what they like and you took their words at face value. Clear communication also involves telling them that you were going to order food to their places and asking for their feedback on food choices. If all of this checks you can tell them that you don't usually order food for yourself so you took the option that the vast majority of feedback supported and thank them for their responses.

If you didn't communicate clearly do apologize sincerely for your misjudgment of what a reward would be and consider yourself lucky if they don't drag you.

Additional lessons to take home:

  • Food is not an easy choice, always make sure you ask about dietary limitations, or even better have them pick the food items. If you order allergens or non-vegan food for a vegan or non-keto for someone on a keto diet they will take it as an offense.
  • People might feel conscious about you ordering food to their private properties. As manager why would you even know their private addresses, that info belongs to HR and probably no one else. This may be a minor thing in the US but e.g. under GDPR your company could be sued for a lot of money.
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    Would the downvoter care to explain? I upvoted because of GDPR and diets. Eating is not as easy as it should seem, and privacy even more so. While I think I would like the idea to have some food delivered to my home, sent by my boss, I would definitely like to be prepared for such a scenario. What if I just cooked my 5-star three-course menu and then a pizza delivery rings the bell, delivering tuna pizza (I hate tuna)? It's different having a set of different party pizzas at the office vs. someone chose my personal pizza, delivered to my home, without telling me upfront. – Jessica May 12 at 13:45
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    @Jessica Imagine a prosciutto pizza appearing out of the blue in the middle of Ramadan (23rd April till 23rd May this year) at the door of a Muslim. OP should be glad if they don't drag them to HR. – user3819867 May 12 at 15:30
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Is it best to deal with this situation by issuing a public apology? Or should I reach out in a one-on-one conversation with those who expressed being particularly upset?

If the only appreciation of these employees' overtime work was a pizza, then a public apology is in order and you need to work to ensure that these employees are properly compensated for their efforts. If these employees were given appropriate compensation for their overtime work in addition to the pizza then you do not need to issue a public apology.

As for the employees that complained, you should deal with them on a case by case basis provided that they directly reached out to you.

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    Thanks sf02. The org's milestone was just reached. I sent out an e-mail thanking everybody on the team and will congratulate everybody on the team in my next Town Hall. I'm unable to pay out any bonuses or make any promotions until October. – Jamie F May 11 at 21:53
  • @JamieF: Who exactly in the organisation are you? The boss? – guest May 12 at 13:27

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