Eating on the job is just as fraught as workday drinking these days, judging from recent stories in blogland and the papers. This week, Serious Eats pondered the power of food to brighten a day at the office—and to turn people who aren’t invited to share it into green-eyed monsters. Some of the commenters share horror stories of their own about people who don’t pull their weight at office potlucks and folks who criticize others’ dining habits. As LizNYC writes,

I get snide comments when I bring in lunch I’ve made at home. Comments that betray some sort of jealousy that they’re on their way to buy something from the deli downstairs when I’m eating something that took me an extra 10 minutes to make that morning.

The New York Times also recently discussed the pitfalls of eating in-office (registration required), where coworkers—and, worse, bosses—often make assumptions about a person’s character based on what s/he eats (and, by extension, how thin s/he is). One headhunter put it in particularly disturbing terms:

When I’m interviewing someone and I see their bones protruding, I know it’s a good hire. They’re extremely disciplined.

Yikes. I’ve definitely worked in offices where food is a source of community and fun, but it seems that it only takes one or two negatrons to spoil the experience—people who comment loudly on others’ lunchtime choices (“So that’s how you stay so skinny!”), the boss who barely acknowledges an employee’s homemade cupcakes, dieters’ constant commentary about the glut of free food in the office. And then again, a perpetual glut of free food in the office is probably not the best thing for anyone’s health or productivity. Perhaps it’s simply inevitable that when people from very different backgrounds converge to try to make decisions about food, there’s going to be tension.

See more articles