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I work in an open plan office space, where we sit in teams, placed in table island of about 8 tables per island.

My hobby is baking and I often have leftovers that I would like to bring with me to work because it's better they get eaten than thrown away. However, it's not nearly enough to feed my 40 other colleagues in the room, let alone the 200 people in the total company.

With birthdays etc it's common you buy (small) treats for the 40 people in the room, but what if I want to bring my leftover cake/cookies and just place them in the middle of our island?

Will people think I'm rude for not sharing or not making enough for everyone? I won't stop other colleagues from taking a piece, but it's not enough to feed everyone.

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    First come first serve? (little sign, without advertisement)? – Captain Emacs May 16 '17 at 10:54
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    Maybe go around your island and individually offer your treats to your immediate colleagues, and just keep any remaining for yourself? If some distant colleague you never / rarely speak to otherwise moans that you've not brought enough for everyone, it's your colleague that's the jerk, not you. – user34587 May 16 '17 at 10:56
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    @CaptainEmacs you should have posted that as the answer, because it is essentially. ;-) – Mister Positive May 16 '17 at 13:13
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    Closely related, but perhaps not a duplicate: How to deal with random people taking away our food from semi-shared common rooms? – Masked Man May 16 '17 at 14:35
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    I strongly suggest you consider your position and reputation in the office before bringing in food regularly. Like it or not baking is a stereotypically female activity and can negatively affect people's impression of you in some situations such as when you're new to the job or if you're in a workplace culture where women struggle to be taken seriously. You want to be known as the person "who aced the X account" or "the go-to for all things Y", not "the one who brings in cake every week". More here. – Lilienthal May 17 '17 at 10:09
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what if I want to bring my leftover cake/cookies and just place them in the middle of our island?

Will people think I'm rude for not sharing or not making enough for everyone? I won't stop other colleagues from taking a piece, but it's not enough to feed everyone.

It not an unreasonable thing to do, but it depends on the culture of your workplace.

In some workplace cultures not sharing with everyone would be considered rude. ("Did you bring enough for everyone?" might be asked).

If you placed food in the middle, would other "islands" feel free to help themselves? If so, then your tactics may not be effective.

In many shops, the norm is to place the food in a common area such as a kitchen, and let people help themselves. You can give your team an edge by sending them an email that food is there so that they can be "first in line" to get some.

If you truly want to make sure each member of your island gets some, then divide the food into pieces, put it on plates, and either hand it to each of them or put one plate on the chair of each worker in your island. If there is still some left over, that could go elsewhere.

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    I used to do the bake&bring thing and usually I would take out the boxes near my seat, then tell my colleagues "I'm going to put these in the kitchen now; anyone want one before I go?" to give them a heads up. It ensures your direct colleagues get a chance to take one without sounding like you're not willing to share with others. – Erik May 16 '17 at 11:20
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    I would recommend against putting food on anyone's desk (never mind chair, which can lead to an uncomfortable mess) unless you're close enough to each person to know their dietary restrictions along with any possible dietary improvements they're currently trying to make in their life (which probably won't be true unless you're as close as or closer than close friends). This is significantly worse than them needing to actively say no, they need to actually do something with the unwanted food you gave them. There could very well be some minor resentment for putting them in that position. – Dukeling May 16 '17 at 14:23
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    At least in my office, food for our team is put on a table in our team's area. While some of the support staff will come over (and we generally don't mind, because they do work for us) it's generally assumed that it's for us. When we're done with it, or if we want to provide for the entire office, we'll put food on the kitchen bar -- it's assumed that anything there is free-for-all. Similarly, if one of the other teams has food in their area, it's assumed that it's theirs and we generally leave it alone unless explicitly invited. – Doktor J May 16 '17 at 20:23
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    +1 @Dukeling. Another example is someone might be fasting for religious or medical reasons or whatever and you might have no idea. – Mehrdad May 17 '17 at 6:25
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    @IsmaelMiguel: I think that was just the point - in some cultures, bringing nothing more than "leftovers" may be considered rather rude than acceptable. It extends to any kinds of gifts - some cultures are simply relaxed about a "first come, first serve" approach and the possibility that it's just a small thing and some recipients might not get anything, while in other cultures, some people getting nothing, or also some people getting more than others is considered a kind of a failure by the gift-giver. – O. R. Mapper May 18 '17 at 9:35
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"No reasonable person is coming to work with the expectation to be fed."

By that token, anything that is given as a freebie would be appreciated by a reasonable person. If providing goodies for just your cubicle-mates makes you happy, then do that. If anyone balks, then you're probably not dealing with a reasonable person, and you can't spend your days worrying about them.

You could bring cookies, and someone will be on a gluten-free diet. You could bring banana pudding, and someone else is allergic to bananas. You can't satisfy everyone; satisfy yourself.

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    I often bring left-over/experimental/random baking to the office, and there are people with dietary issues (by choice, such as vegetarians, or by medical issues, such as allergies & other intolerances). A reasonable person for which this will be an issue for will ask before taking some or just not take the risk. If I know that something is definitely animal/dairy/gluten/other free then I usually leave a note to say so, or if I send an email include the detail in there which makes it easier for them, but that isn't necessary. – David Spillett May 16 '17 at 15:15
  • The general exception is alcohol. If there is any chance it is present, even in the smallest quantities because you think most/all of it will have "baked off", make sure you mention it for the sake of drivers or others with safety and/or legal requirements around that. – David Spillett May 16 '17 at 15:17
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    @DavidSpillett Oh no, there are lots more exceptions. That's why many foods now get specifically labelled if they're processed in a place that handles nuts or shellfish. The nuts and shellfish may be more deadly than alcohol. – Xavier J May 16 '17 at 15:26
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    I was thinking of alcohol more from a legal perspective than a dietary one. Someone with a known allergy will avoid or ask. Someone with no such problems may take something without asking, then later be subject to a random breath test. There are not many environments where that is likely to be a problem though. – David Spillett May 16 '17 at 16:17
  • @DavidSpillett the quantities of alcohol used are such that it's very rare to have a significant amount per portion even if none bakes off -- and the cook would know about it if they'd put half a bottle of brandy in an unbaked tray of rocky roads. The legal/safety aspect is only true in extreme cases (e.g. pilots). However I agree that you should be clear, but for those who have made a decision on religious or other reasons to avoid alcohol. – Chris H May 17 '17 at 8:37
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When you are on the same team, you likely have regular team meetings. Serve the cake during such meetings.

  • Not all teams have regular meetings, specially in places where they can be behind a closed door. For example, I don't have many work meetings (I wish I had more but well), and they tend to be in a common area. Bringing cake (or whatever) to the meeting (in my case) would be very innapropriate, since it would be me munching through it all alone (my boss isn't fan of cakes). For such, @JoeStrazzere's answer might be better. If you have a private place to have meetings with your team, go ahead. – Ismael Miguel May 16 '17 at 13:39
  • One could always reserve an office with a door and send out a meeting invite: "Free food" – Wayne Werner May 17 '17 at 16:24
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Instead of "officially" restricting your gift to your own team you could simply place it on your island when most of your team is there. This would give them the opportunity to take from it first while not explicitly excluding the rest of the office. In my experience free food disappears rather quickly in an office setting so I think you worry for nothing.

As long as it's clear that you haven't baked FOR your team but are simply bringing in leftovers there shouldn't be any expectations of bringing in enough for everyone...

  • "As long as it's clear that you haven't baked FOR your team but are simply bringing in leftovers there shouldn't be any expectations of bringing in enough for everyone..." - +1 for stressing that as this seems to be OP's main concern. – CompuChip May 17 '17 at 9:22
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At my company we kinda have an unwritten policy for exactly this.

Usually when people wants to bring cake or another snack to celebrate, they invite their team to a cake meeting in the kitchen, which usually is just 5-10 min of eating cake in the kitchen, while small-talking. - Only some people get an invite for this in their calendar/orally. But after such meetings the leftovers would be for everyone else to take, but too bad if there is nothing left.

Also there is not any weird feelings for 'randoms' to join a such cake meeting.

  • Just a suggestion

I know your situation is more 'everyday', but I think I would just put the cake in the kitchen, and go tell everyone at the table.

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In my office (60 people, open-plan) there is a neutral place where people have taken to placing sweets and biscuits (candy and cookies) which are freely available to anyone passing by. There is no restriction and no invitation although I guess there is an implied agreement that, if you eat, you also bring.

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I worked one place (a UK bank) where this was common. There was a very large open plan office with several hundred people. You'd often see sweets, cakes, etc. that were brought for a team, with a note "for xyz team only". No-one took the notes as being rude and they seemed to be respected without active enforcement.

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