Proper office snacking etiquette

During a long day at the office, you need some tasty treats to help you keep up that energy. Here are ways to not annoy your colleagues when you reach for your snack.

Regardless of where you work, everyone has a rough time getting through a full day without completely feeling wiped out. So, we snack.

With the holiday season upon us, it seems like every day there is a large pile of tasty treats that flow into the office, begging to be eaten.

Sometimes office snack behavior can get out of control. So, before you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar, check out my top three Quick and Dirty Tips for workplace snack etiquette:

Tip 1: The communal snack area

Many offices have a designated snack area. Sometimes it’s in the kitchen, or in an empty cube no one is using, or even just a small bowl on the boss’s desk. Snack areas are the office version of tailgating. People bring in treats and next thing you know, it’s an all-out party.

“What about that 10 a.m. conference call?”

“Nah, who cares? JoAnn brought in homemade cupcakes!”

Remember, we are adults, not toddlers at a birthday party, and the office is a place of business, not Golden Corral on “All You Can Eat Tuesdays.”

But with snacks come wrappers or plates or napkins or utensils—in short, a lot of trash.

Apparently people forget their manners when it comes time to chow down. Some set up camp at that rogue desk housing the tasty snacks, leaving wrappers on the floor for the cleaning crew to deal with. It always shocks me when trash is left on tables or floors, especially when there is a trash can right in the area. If you take the last treat, please dispose of the wrapper, box, bag, or whatever.

Treats are fun, but you must maintain a level of professionalism. After all, you wouldn’t show up to a meeting with a giant Doritos stain across your shirt, right? So why would you sabotage your space by leaving a mess?

When you are snacking, be respectful of the office property and those around you. Use the trash can. Wipe up something you spilled (or knocked over), and please, by all means, do not leave food out to rot and grow mold.

Tip 2: The snack thief

Here’s a quick checklist to find out if you are an office snack thief:

1. Do you wait until no one is around to grab a snack?

2. Do you only eat and never contribute to the office snack stash?

3. Do you dash in and out of the office snack area because you don’t want to be seen taking seconds or thirds?

4. Have you hidden food in your cube and not shared it with your co-workers, even when everyone else shares with you?

Granted, some of us are guilty of one or two of these infractions. We’ve all skulked in for seconds or thirds. Everyone said they were done, so why not? Or maybe you were cheating on your diet and didn’t want to get caught with that extra piece of cake.

An office is a place of sharing, not hoarding. I’m not saying you must bring in a box of rare truffles from the South of France, but you should contribute a little, at least.

For example, a colleague opens her office to her entire group for coffee and treats, and I gladly partake. However, I’m always ready and willing to help maintain the stash. Be it a couple of bucks for refills or even just picking up a box of something tasty at the store while grocery shopping.

If you happen to be passing by an area of the office where you don’t work but the cookies are too delicious to skip, just ask. I doubt anyone will mind sharing. Maybe down the line, you will be offered snacks more often. However, make sure to return the favor.

Tip 3: Inappropriate snacks

You’re sitting at your desk and notice that a co-worker has sidled up to your desk and is offering you fresh pork rinds. Now, I’m with you that bacon is delicious, but at work?

Bottom line for office snacks: Know your co-workers’ tastes before bringing in a questionable snack. And yes, fried pork rinds are questionable.

You don’t want to stink up the place with your fancy organic energy bars made of rare spices that are so potent they clear not only your own sinuses but those of your co-workers down the hall. Or if you are snacking on something you know will give a co-worker the dry heaves, it’s best to keep that at home.

Stick to the basics or just ask before you bring something in that might be offensive to some noses.

Richie Frieman is a modern day renaissance man. He’s the host of the Modern Manners Guy podcast, an award-winning children’s book author, a serial entrepreneur, and the author of new book “Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career.” Follow Richie on Facebook and Twitter.

A version of this article first appeared on Quick and Dirty Tips.

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