How do I be a better coworker?
April 26, 2015 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I wrote a note at work that read, "Someone threw away my pizza that was labeled and in the fridge for less than a day. I was expecting to have that for dinner. That sucked. Please don't do that." Now there's drama. I know I handled this badly but I don't know what to do.

I didn't know who threw away the food when I wrote the note, and I didn't sign it and I'm not sure why. I realize now this comes across as very passive aggressive. But I was hungry and had just assured my coworker (to whom half the food belonged, and whose name was on the box) that our food was in there before discovering that someone had thrown it out.

This morning I come in to find Alice in a bad mood. She has responded to the note with one addressed to my coworker saying she will buy him a new dinner. I fess up to writing the note, saying that if I had known who had done it I would just have tried talking to them. She says, "It was a shitty, shitty note, and not signing it was cowardly, and it made my day bad. I shouldn't have thrown out your pizza, but it was in the fridge where other things go and I needed the space." (Other things do go there, but there were other people's personal foods that have been in that spot for longer that didn't get thrown away.)

So now Alice is mad at me. What can I do to smooth over this situation, and how do I avoid doing this again?
posted by Night_owl to Human Relations (39 answers total)
What? Throwing your pizza out was passive aggressive and shitty. Don't feel bad. She could have moved it. What kind of a sadistic arsehole throws out food that's not old without warning?

Ignore her, she's being badly behaved because (hopefully) SHE'S embarrassed.
posted by taff at 11:34 AM on April 26, 2015 [115 favorites]

Move on. Alice is blowing it way out of proportion. Seriously, who tells a coworker that their note is "shitty shitty" and cowardly and blames you for making their day bad?! That's absurd.

Just ignore and move on.

In the future, label your food with your name, "please don't throw out!" and a smiley face and obey the 24 hour rule.
posted by phunniemee at 11:35 AM on April 26, 2015 [18 favorites]

Removing 'that sucked' from your original note and signing it would likely have helped. Also, not putting an entire pizza box in a shared fridge. If you need to store leftover pizza, put it in a ziploc bag or something. It'll stay fresher and take up way less space.

Other than that, I wouldn't do much. I mean, she's pissed off at you because she threw out your pizza. It's not really your thing to smooth over.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:36 AM on April 26, 2015 [8 favorites]

You are not in the wrong here. The note was fine. Your co-worker, who did a shitty thing, is trying to put the blame on you. Ignore.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:36 AM on April 26, 2015 [23 favorites]

You should've signed the note, but she was in the wrong and is being a defensive baby about it instead of apologizing like an adult.
posted by Anonymous at 11:36 AM on April 26, 2015

1. Sign your notes in the future.
2. Maybe date your food.
3. Ignore Alice, who's being a drama queen because she's embarrassed. Alice is the worst. Move on.
posted by MeghanC at 11:37 AM on April 26, 2015 [31 favorites]

She knows she did something wrong but doesn't care all that much. She knows you, being a generally good person, will feel bad if she accuses you of something, so she turned it around on you.
posted by deanc at 11:37 AM on April 26, 2015 [12 favorites]

Best answer: The problem was in not signing the note when your coworker's name was on the box, not in writing the note at all.
posted by corb at 11:38 AM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Least said, soonest mended.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:38 AM on April 26, 2015 [21 favorites]

She threw out food that wasn't her's because she "needed the room." Then, your note made her have some bad feels? No. She did something really rotten and now wants to shift herself into the victim slot. Don't fall for it. And, sign your notes going forward.
posted by quince at 11:38 AM on April 26, 2015 [34 favorites]

Best answer: She threw away your pizza (without talking to you) because she needed the space for her food, but you and only you are being shitty here? Um, no. Fuck that noise. You should give precisely zero fucks about this situation, and she is being shitty in at least an equal (and really, a greater) amount.

However, your goal is to smooth this situation over, not to be right. Because of that, I would not confront her or call her on her BS. You've already told her you wrote the note and explained yourself and apologized during that conversation, right? I would just say nothing. The easiest way to smooth over trivial shit is to just let time wash it away.

I mean, if Alice is a total crazypants, maybe just saying nothing further won't smooth this over. But then the question is, how do you deal with a crazypants coworker, not how do you smooth over the pizza and note situation.

In the future, don't leave anonymous notes. That's really easy. Also, put your pizza in a ziplock instead of the box. Done.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:43 AM on April 26, 2015 [14 favorites]

I concur. Ignore.

Next time you write your name on a pizza box, do it this way:

"Save pizza for ANDREA
Exp. date Thurs 4/23"
posted by valannc at 11:45 AM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: FWIW: There is nothing wrong with posting an unsigned note to an unknown person.
posted by valannc at 11:49 AM on April 26, 2015 [60 favorites]

Notes written while unexpectedly hungry are always phrased poorly, but that sounds considerably better than similar notes I've seen. (I've NEVER seen them signed.) Blaming the person whose food you threw away for writing a note while unexpectedly hungry is worse than writing the note. It's kind of rich that apparently she knew it was labeled, but didn't ask or even put it on the counter. That said, in your place I'd apologize to the person whose name was on the pizza, since you put them in a crummy position by not signing it, and let any offers of dinner payment etc go.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:53 AM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Cheer up, the good people at want you to know it could always be worse. Much worse.
posted by Little Dawn at 11:54 AM on April 26, 2015 [9 favorites]

Nobody did anything "wrong" here. It's a limited resource, people sometimes don't use it with full consideration for others (you are all busy and dealing with not enough information, labeling and signing and dating every single thing -- which would avoid this kind of problem -- is too cumbersome, so stuff will just happen sometimes). It makes sense that toes will be squashed occasionally.

So, you can be sorry for making your co-worker feel bad, and express your sincere desire that she feel like the good person she is all the time. She can be sorry for throwing out your pizza and express her sincere desire that you and your friend always be well-fed and happy. As long as you all know that you have sincere respect and trust for each other, you can move on and not let this damage your relationships.

The real problem could come if any of you feel that the others don't _care_ about you. As long as you are treating each other as humans and trust that this is mutual, it should be fine.
posted by amtho at 12:08 PM on April 26, 2015

I realize now this comes across as very passive aggressive.

Huh? How is it passive-aggressive? Why isn't this the opposite of passive-aggressive? You directly said what you meant.

She says, "It was a shitty, shitty note, and not signing it was cowardly, and it made my day bad. I shouldn't have thrown out your pizza, but it was in the fridge where other things go and I needed the space." ... So now Alice is mad at me. What can I do to smooth over this situation, and how do I avoid doing this again?

She is being absolutely ridiculous. I wouldn't try to do anything about it, since she apparently can't be reasoned with. You shouldn't try to avoid doing this again, since you handled it appropriately.
posted by John Cohen at 1:11 PM on April 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

Oh, and while it would have been fine to sign it, there's no law saying that you have to sign a note asking people who use a communal kitchen to exercise basic courtesy and not destroy other people's food.
posted by John Cohen at 1:12 PM on April 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

If she keeps giving you shit, look her straight in the eye and say, "Your anger and embarrassment has NOTHING to do with me. Stop trying to turn me into the bad guy."
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:19 PM on April 26, 2015 [10 favorites]

Use the following internal mantra every time it gets awkward "People who throw out pizza are the worst."

But pragmatically buy some Tupperware to keep at work and put your leftover pizza in it. People usually won't throw out food sealed in reusable containers and you will take up less space and not stink up the fridge. Good plastic seals make for good fridge neighbors.
posted by srboisvert at 1:36 PM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Next time you write a note, put Alice's name on it. Something like ALICE DON'T FUCKING TOUCH THIS. Just, you know, so she can't accuse you of being passive-aggressive again.

Okay, joking aside: the note wasn't such a good thing to do, but throwing away the pizza was much worse. Let her dumb accusations slide off you like the back of a duck.
posted by destructive cactus at 2:04 PM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

So, instead of speaking with the person whose name was on the pizza, pizza-chucker went ahead and chucked the pizza. And then got mad because they were called on it. Unreasonable people are unreasonable. I'd just not engage the situation any further and in the future I'd label food with name/expiry as suggested above. You've done nothing wrong here.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:46 PM on April 26, 2015 [9 favorites]

Maybe I'm reading this wrong but it sounds like you and a friend split a pizza at lunch, intending the leftovers to be used for dinner. If that's the case, then ignore everyone telling you to get a ziploc, because it's nutty to bring your own bag to put pizza in, when the restaurant gives you a box. Your note was totally fine, and Alice is mad because she's embarrassed that she fucked up. It sounds like she was being spiteful and expected to get away with it. Now that she got caught, she's trying to turn this around onto you. Don't let her make you feel bad! Moving forward, I'd act like nothing happened. She can stew and get over it.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:59 PM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you make any attempt to smooth things over with Alice, you will be enabling Alice. Please do not enable Alice.


Everyone Else Who Has to Deal With Alice
posted by 4ster at 4:56 PM on April 26, 2015 [28 favorites]

The more I think about it, the more I find the throwing out the pizza incomprehensible. Is there any way she thought it was common and maybe ate the pizza and then got embarrassed about it? Because yeah otherwise throwing out a pizza same day is bizarre.
posted by corb at 5:24 PM on April 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

Here's what you do when there's no room in the fridge but some asshole has put an entire pizza box in it (with their name on it): you go ask that person if they can take up less space.

Here's what you do before throwing anything in the communal fridge that isn't yours away: put up a notice of your intentions and request that people remove excess/old items and identify current ones, wait 24 hours to make sure everyone got the message

Alice is crazy, not you. You should be more considerate of fridge space conservation, but that's not a food-forfeiting offense.

I would drop it with Alice and assume she won't do it again, but also be conscious of taking a reasonable amount of fridge space. Everyone has off days, she might have found the pizza box when she was especially frustrated about something else and acted impulsively, and now be embarrassed about it.
posted by ctmf at 6:20 PM on April 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Years ago I worked in an office where the break room fridge was ruthlessly ruled by a woman who had appointed herself to the task. She would clean it every Friday afternoon and the rule was that everything had to be labeled with your name and and expiration date. Otherwise, she reserved the right to toss it. Someone would always forget, and mostly she would show common sense and only toss stuff that was clearly old and gross. But sometimes she would get a wild hair and throw everything out that was unlabeled. I was usually a good little labeler, but of course, the one time I forgot was during a wild hair Friday. My little lunch bag full of obviously brand new food was thrown away, and my bag left in the middle of the room like a sacrifice. I didn't leave a note. Instead, after retiring to a bathroom stall to quietly go ballistic, I went to my boss, who went to her boss. I never got an apology from my office Alice (although the boss did apologize for her and gave her some clearer fridge guidelines), and I know why - she knows she got pissed and did something stupid. So I'm with masquesoporfavor - she knows this is on her, and her reaction to your note is a dead giveaway of this.

To be a good fridge sharer, label and date your food. But when it comes to Alice, she messed up, not you.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 8:56 PM on April 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Alice is in the wrong. You were fine, both the note, and your pizza storage method. It would have been simple for Alice to check with the person who's name was on the box if she needed some space. Anyone who throws out someone's labled, not-even-one-day-old -yet, food without asking is a serious bitch. She deserved a note (at the very least). So I'd just move on at this point, secure in the knowledge that the internet absolved you. You did no wrong.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:00 PM on April 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the reality check, everyone.

To clarify, the fridge wasn't a normal sized fridge, but a restaurant one (not a walk-in, but very tall and wide). There was certainly room for all the things in there to coexist with my box.
posted by Night_owl at 9:58 PM on April 26, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think Alice ate the pizza and that's why she is being so weird about it.
posted by Melsky at 11:21 PM on April 26, 2015 [11 favorites]

And do something about your eagerness to accept the "bad coworker" label right off the bat - you're not always the one at fault, so just stand where you are and figure it all out rather than backing away in the oh-god-I-screwed-up-again shuffle.

Alice owes you civility - and probably lunch, as well.
posted by aryma at 1:32 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I once had someone chew me out in a library because I saw some random books in a pile on a chair, gently set them aside, and sat in that chair to study. Apart from the books, there was no indication that anyone was there - no bookbag, not even a pencil. A few minutes later, a man arrived at the chair and proceeded to chew me out for taking his seat, concluding with telling me what I had done was unbelievably rude.

I felt horrible, and it wasn't until I told someone else about it and they responded with incredulity that I realized that at worst what I had done was made a small mistake.

My point is that in the moment the other person was so certain of me being in the wrong that it basically crowded out my ability to normally assess the situation.

I would think about this carefully when it comes to other interactions with Alice. It's possible she does this a lot; exerting some kind of warped manners field that makes it difficult, in the moment, to realize that your behavior is okay and it is her reaction to it that is the problem.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:37 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

To be fair, any time someone finds a note critiquing their behavior for any reason, they probably WILL get mad and have it ruin their day a bit. (In my case, a guy whose motorcycle fell down in the vicinity of my car totally blamed me for hitting it. I did not, I swear, but it's not like I could prove it exactly beyond "hey, it was fine when I parked on Wednesday and I haven't moved the car since then and it looks like it fell down days later." He even complained to my apartment management, who rolled her eyes and told him not to park it on the street.) So writing notes....comes off like that no matter how you phrase it, I think. Everyone WILL get mad if you leave one, no question, and they somehow end up being kind of hard to defend against. So she got mad, and then she got double mad because you called her on her shit.

But otherwise, yeah, she's in the wrong and being a brat about this. I don't really know what you should do next time something like this happens, though, but any time anyone writes a note, they...well, go into that expecting anger and for the situation to escalate.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:39 AM on April 27, 2015

If the fridge was big, I am now 100% sure that she ate it. She may have figured the pizza had been ordered for some meeting and was fair game, and was then embarrassed about eating it once she realized it'd be noticed. But she definitely ate it, I'm betting.
posted by corb at 9:17 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

She's wrong. Her only move here was to apologize profusely. Even if she felt you were in the wrong and were taking up too much space, co-worker etiquette mandates that she say, "I'm sorry, I thought it was old and didn't realize!!"
posted by amaire at 12:21 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry, but this reminds me a little of "MY SANDWICH!".

On a serious note though, I totally agree with the other posters, in that you are not in any way in the wrong here, especially with the clarification that space was not an issue at all. Alice is being dramatic.
posted by meowf at 12:23 PM on April 27, 2015

I know I handled this badly Nope. You didn't. It's better to sign stuff, not signing it is not a felony offense, not even a misdemeanor. Your note was appropriate, not ass-hole-ish in any way. You sound like a nice person.

"It was a shitty, shitty note, and not signing it was cowardly, and it made my day bad. I shouldn't have thrown out your pizza, but it was in the fridge where other things go and I needed the space." Should read I wanted the space.

So now Alice is mad at me. What can I do to smooth over this situation, and how do I avoid doing this again. Alice sounds like a person who blames others when she does something dumb. Alice sounds like someone who gets her feelings knotted up easily, and pays little attention to the feelings of others.

1. It's a drag, but annoying stuff happens. Move on.
2. Is there an office manager? Many workplaces have a rule that All food must have name and date, and food will be tossed at the end of the week/ N days. It's a tiny tragedy of the commons - it's shared space and no one wants to take care of it.
3. At work, in life, wherever, don't let jerks con you into feeling bad about yourself. accept responsibility for things you actually screw up, and decline blame for things you didn't screw up. You didn't screw this up.
posted by theora55 at 6:40 PM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Alice is a lying bitch. Here's why. Exhibit A) She said you ruined her day by being cowardly and not signing your name, like having a name would have given her someone to talk to about it, but the pizza box HAD a name on it, your coworkers, she thought she knew whose it was and still didn't talk to them about it, before she threw it out or after when she saw the note, even when she assumed it was your coworker who wrote it.

Exhibit B) you've said that there was heaps of space in the fridge, more than enough for her own food and there was other, older food she could have thrown out but apparently decided to throw yours out instead. When there was lots of space for hers. Which leads me to think no food was thrown out at all. She spied your food, was too lazy to buy her own and just ate yours instead and covered it up by trying to tell you it was all your fault. Cowardly! Ruined her day? This lady is lying piece of work.

If she caught me in a particular mood, I would be tempted to show her the meaning of passive aggressive and take up an office collection for poor Alice who can't afford her own pizza and is forced to steal from her colleagues. Or tell her that stealing is a sackable offence. If I was in a mood - but really, it's not worth escalating this. Having said that, it's valuable information to know about Alice. She's not to be trusted...
posted by Jubey at 11:42 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I dunno, this seems like how real imperfect people act. They do something wrong, you catch them, they get annoyed at you even though they are at fault. You don't apologize or change your behavior because they are still in the wrong. But they aren't terrible people or anything. It's just life.
posted by smackfu at 6:39 AM on April 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

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