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Each Friday one person from my 16-man team brings bread and morning-cakes for the rest of the team. We then take a 30-45 minute meeting where we eat and talk.

There are no offical rules to what you have to bring, there is only a schedule, so you know when it is your turn. The Un-Official rule is to buy a piece of bread for each person, and a morning cake for sharing.

But it varies a lot about what people bring. Most people buy two big morning cakes, some butter and some cold meats for the bread. Some also buy high quality bread.

However, a few really go cheap. For example, a co-worker buys the cheapest bread and cake, and nothing besides. In comparison, most people probably spend 4-5 times as much. The price is approx: cheap meal = 8 dollars to expensive = 35-45 dollars.

Ideally, I would like some clear cut rules about what to bring. However, I've only worked here a year, and im not sure if people will think this is a good idea, or if im frankly just being to touchy.

Question:

  • Should I just also go cheap?
  • Should I just follow the mean, and consider it the cost of doing business?
  • Or I should put some effort to make everyone bring the same?

One can leave the bread-rotation, but it would have some social costs, which is probably not worth it.

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    It's because these kinds of dilemmas that doing something like this (forcing staff to buy food periodically for everyone) is not a good idea IMO. There may be people who are on a tight budget, for instance, and the expense which may be trivial to some may be in very bad taste to them. Add to that the whole social awkwardness thing when you're rated according to what you bring. Not the best team building exercise. – Gigi Jun 6 '14 at 9:12
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    Make both yourself. Cupcakes can be baked from scratch in about 20 mins, and iced in another 10. Bread takes more planning due to letting the dough rise but is still only 15 mins actual work. You could make cakes and bread for 16 people for about £5 worth of ingredients, and people will appreciate the effort. – Matt Jun 6 '14 at 9:20
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    @Matt - Bread is extremely cheap to make. Basically flour and yeast. You make a very good suggestion. The money you save can be used to bring in the little extras. – Donald Jun 6 '14 at 12:31
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    I am lucky to live in NYC and within walking distance of a Chinese bakery - They charge 1/2 to 1/3 of what say a German bakery would charge. Many more choices and much more bang for the buck :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 6 '14 at 12:34
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    @gnasher729 That sounds pretty condescending calling people who don't eat the food that you consider 'good' to be ignorant and in need of education. – jmorc Jun 6 '14 at 19:04
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I'll ask you two questions:

  1. How do you feel about the people who are "cheap"?
  2. How do you want people to feel about you?

There is a cost of doing business. When someone is retiring, you might have to chip in for a leaving present. When someone is sick, you might have to buy a "get well soon" card. When you're going out for a team event, you might have to buy a round of drinks.

These sorts of things can be tricky to navigate - especially when there are no formal rules. You're expected to take part in a social contract - and hope that you receive reciprocal benefits (a card on your birthday etc.)

Making formal rules is likely to upset some people - "I can't afford to spend that much!" or "Why should I pay so much when Jo pays so little?"

My advice? 15 weeks out of 16 you get a free breakfast - so what's the harm in buying for the team 1 week out of 16?

In summary -

  • If you're new - stick to the average.
  • If you're the boss - or particularly senior - spend more.
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    +1 (with a small caveat - the quote "My advice? 15 weeks out of 16 you get a free breakfast - so what's the harm in buying for the team 1 week out of 16?" only works if everyone WANTS the breakfast. Some people prefer to have breakfast with their families/have different schedules to others. Some people don't eat breakfast at all. Some people don't like eating in large groups and feel socially awkward. You cannot assume all 16 people have the same opinion of the "mandated activity") – Mike Jun 6 '14 at 9:58
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    @Mike As long as most people are happy with the food I bring, I am not going to worry about what every single person is doing what for breakfast. I am not compelling people to eat. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 6 '14 at 12:30
  • @Mike This tradition is going on for a year and people are actually spending money on it. So I think it is safe to assume that people like this process. Most if not all. – Amit Dec 2 '19 at 21:51
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Is it really that big of a problem? There can be many reasons that determine how much money someone spends that aren't some sort of nepharious plot to scam the Friday morning breakfast. There are some cheaper pastries that I prefer over some very expensive ones.

Bring what you like and think others will like as well. Contribute to the team what you can and if money it tight, there are other ways to show your appreciation. I'd rather eat cheap bread from a kind and respectful person than expensive bakery items from a jerk.

When I host a party at my house, I do what I think is right for my guests. If they don't go to any trouble or expense when they invite me to their house, that's not my problem. I don't go through life keeping score.

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    Very sensible answer. I don’t say so much of the question. – Nicolas Barbulesco Jun 6 '14 at 19:43
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I agree with everyone who pointed out what a terrible idea this is because of the awkwardness it can lead to. But unfortunately, knowing it's a terrible idea won't make the problem go away.

So since you have to cope with this situation, what I'd do is this : bring what you'd bring if you were the first person to buy breakfast. Something you think will make everyone enjoy there meal, without being a problem for you money-wise.

As long as what you buy is not significantly different from everyone else, you'll be fine. Some people will spend a lot more, because they can and want to treat their colleagues or because they want to show off. Some people will spent less, because they have financial difficulties or because they're cheap. It's not your problem.

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  • What problem ? Some people bring cheap food, and some people bring expensive food. This is not a problem. There is a problem only in the eyes of Soccerman. See the very sensible answer by @JeffO. – Nicolas Barbulesco Jun 6 '14 at 19:46
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Unless you're leading the group, you don't have the authority to "make everyone bring the same."

You can try to get a consensus -- perhaps by speaking up and saying "Hey, I don't think I've ever heard official guidelines or expectations and I'm always nervous that I'm going to come across as a cheapskate; could someone clarify?" Folks may or may not be willing to nail things down more precisely.

If you can't achieve either of those, yes, the right answer is to go for at least the average... or, if you're just out of school and being paid significantly less than others, at least bring something that you do not consider "going cheap".

When I was in a (somewhat smaller) group that did this, we had a fairly standardized base order. If folks wanted to substitute good home-baked bread for the bagels, nobody would object. If folks wanted to add to the order, or provide coffee (which was normally bring-your-own), that was appreciated but not expected. The real goal of the exercise wasn't actually team-building (though it helped), but to bribe everyone into attending the weekly meeting.

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I will say despite the concerns of unnecessary pressures / social awkwardness this sort of thing can create I've always found this sort of thing very desirable (Breakfast rotations, potlucks, etc)

I think the only major difference I see is in your office what's brought in is very specific which is something I've never seen before. Where I've been it's whatever people want to bring in. We've had donuts, bagels, French toast, soufflé's, even home made breakfast casseroles.

It's not a forced thing but everyone gets involved (because buying breakfast once every two or three months and getting it free the rest of the time is a pretty good deal)

We keep it very informal which helps avoid any stress and it's the unspoken rule you don't complain about what others bring in. We have had people go on the cheap and that doesn't bother anyone really (Donuts are cheap, but still enjoyed) vs when someone prepares something or snags the soufflé's (Which are a huge pain to get more so than pricy), but typically those people just get an extra thank you.

Anyways... your best bet is to just choose something middle of the road unless you're feeling generous, but don't stress over it. I can't speak for other areas but here in central Florida within your office generally speaking being frugal isn't a big deal. (Now dealing with vendors, networking events, etc. expect to flout a little money, just the cost of business)

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IMHO, I will agree with the people who say this approach is a terrible way to foster team spirit.

If the meetings are useful and the actual act of getting together build team spirit/gets things out in the open that would not necessarily be the case in more formal meetings, then speak to HR about getting a budget assigned for it. Then it could be the turn of the person to go and collect the items that have already been ordered and paid for if you still wish to have some sort of shared responsibility aspect.

Otherwise, you may as well announce everyone has to go down the pub on a Friday lunchtime and here is the list of who will be buying the entire team drinks on which week! (slightly flippant comment I know, but the principle is the same)

Also, if someone decides to go "cheap" or doesn;t participate at all and then gets a bad review, what's to stop them saying to HR that they feel singled out for not participating in this "unofficial" activity? It is dodgy ground and the cons far outweigh the pros.

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