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When I eat snacks on my desk, I sometimes end up sharing my snack with my colleagues. I know it's good to share sometimes but every time they see a snack on my desk, they'll beg me to share it with them. It's very frustrating that because of this I cannot have my snack. In my company there is no policy about bringing foods to our desk. When I tell them to buy their own snack they seem to get upset about it.

How can I handle this situation? What can I do to make them avoid begging me for snacks?

(Updated Note: I'm a very busy person which is why I usually don't take breaks at the pantry. I usually eat my snacks at my desk.)

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  • Use a very closed off body language and growl at anyone that come close. In all seriousness you opened the door, you now need to untrain your co workers. Only bring enough snacks for one person at a time.
    – Snowlockk
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 8:49
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    Heh, do not re-post this, especially not at your desk, but the best thing you should have done at the beginning was not to feed the pigeons. This being said, you just have to continue denying their request until they stop. Or buy two of the same snacks (but this will dig yourself an even deeper hole than the one you are in now). (Cont'd.) Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 8:49
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    All about facial expressions and body language. You shouldn't need to use words. Silence is a beautiful thing. It forces the other person to hear the things they're saying. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 8:59
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    By the way, I see your updated note in response to other people's answers, but I'd like to propose that maybe you re-consider the value of a break, especially if you're such a very, very busy person. What's the point of an illustrious career if you karoshi. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 9:35
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    Do other people eat at their desks too? If so, do they share? What's the norm in your particular workplace, in other words? (In mine, people eat snacks at their desks all the time and nobody expects people to share, but we do share things by leaving them out in the lunch room.) Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 16:15

6 Answers 6

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Sometimes I ended up sharing my snack with my colleagues

This is where the "problem" started. As mentioned from the comments they probably became accustomed to you sharing snacks with them. Going from sharing to not sharing creates tension cause you haven't given a "good" reason why you would stop sharing.

I don't think you can avoid this irritation from your colleges during some time. They need to "learn" that they will not be giving snacks (Think of them like how a dog behaves).

In the end they will learn, but will be annoyed untill then.

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If you don't want to share, don't bring your snacks to your desk. It's that simple. In most cultures it's bad manners to eat in front of others without offering them some anyway.

If this is to hard for you, just refuse. I'm a smoker and people ask me for smokes all the time, I just say no.

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    In other cultures it's wrong to presume the person wants to share. I'd be pissed off if someone kept begging for my food.
    – rath
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 10:53
  • Not sure the eating at desk part is related. The guy will probably follow him to the break room begging for food. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 11:47
  • @rath yes, that is most cultures as well, but just because someone else is breaking unspoken cultural norms, doesn't mean you have to.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 12:25
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    agreed, it's the old admonition back from school days. "I hope you brought enough for everyone" When you are eating outside of a cafeteria or break room, you are being rude. Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 13:26
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If there is a break-out room, eat your snacks in there. Hopefully your colleagues won't follow you in. This has the added benefit of getting you away from your computer.

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    But the busier you are the more you need to actually take the break. It is proven science that people are more productive when they take actual breaks away from the desks and don't work long hours. That is how companies were persuaded to give breaks to begin with. It is counterproductive to routinely eat at your desk.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 18:53
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You can retrain them using both words and behavior.

Words: when they ask for a snack, it's perfectly fine to explain to them that you can't afford to feed them this time or didn't bring extra. If you want, you can say that if they bring snacks to share with you, you'll bring some to share with them next time. And sometimes, when you do bring extra, announce that you have some to share. That way, they'll come when you invite them, and not every time you have food. You're still sharing, but on your terms.

Behavior: when you bring out a snack, only have enough for you. If you have 3 cheese sticks, for instance, only bring out one at a time. You need to have a bite out of the only item you are snacking on, which makes it more awkward to share. And more awkward to ask. At least for a while, don't bring snacks that are easy to share: eat the apple whole, not cut up; skip the chips until they are re-trained.

It is ok to set boundaries, and it's ok to politely tell others what they are!

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  • The second part of this answer should be done first. After doing this for a while, the person wanting free food will hopefully have given up.
    – user45269
    Commented Feb 23, 2017 at 23:09
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    Something like "We should have snack rounds because currently i'm the only one buying!"
    – MildCorma
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 14:51
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I can't comment on @Bojje 's good answer, so here's a tip: the problem is that this habit of sharing is already established, and getting back from there is proving to be quite complicated if you don't want to seem agressive towards your coworkers. Since it has become "normal" for them that you share, it would most likely be hard for them to understand why you would start saying no all of a sudden. (Did they do something wrong?)

One solution might be to create two different types of snacking:

  • Sometimes, bring enough snacks to share with your colleagues, and be the one to offer. "Hey guys, I brought cookies, does anyone want one?"
  • The rest of the time, bring smaller portions (making it obvious that it's a one-person-snack). If someone asks, politely say that you need the snack and don't have enough to share. "Sorry, I only have the one cookie and I really need the energy to get through this day!" This won't come out as shutting your colleagues down, since you also sometimes offer snacks spontaneously.

And if you want to stop giving out snacks at all, just slowly reduce the frequency of sharing snacks until you stop completely!

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We have an unused desk in our office area where we can place snacks that can be shared by anyone. People contribute whenever they want to by bringing in cakes/biscuits/whatever and placing them there for the team to share.

This says quite plainly that anything on peoples personal desks are their own property.

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