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Summon willpower to resist candy and forming office cliques

Use willpower to resist candy and forming office cliques

Q: I work in a relatively small office, and one co-worker keeps a large supply of candy on hand. Typically she has a container at her desk and people can help themselves. However, several times a year she fills an enormous basket with candy and places it along a common walkway — which everyone passes many times a day. I know you're thinking: And the problem is . . . ?

The basket appears after several of us commit to follow a diet. It has happened often enough through the years for us to draw a correlation. We know the simple answer is not to take any candy, however it has begun to grate on our nerves that "Patty" is doing this deliberately. Can we ask her to remove the basket? Should we go to our supervisor? Should we just get a life?

Candy Philanthropist or Saboteur?

A: Option 3 is calling to me, like a basket of bonbons.

It's easy to advocate just talking to Patty, especially when going over her head is your next solution in line. But there's no point in hurting her feelings (or renewing her dedication to sabotage) when there's an easy fourth option — one that doesn't involve Patty-control, but self-control instead.

Skip the candy, duh, of course. But more important: Put the group-dieting idea out of its misery for good.

For one thing, it clearly isn't working. People maintaining healthy weights don't launch group diets with such frequency that behavior patterns emerge — as in, "often enough through the years for us to draw a correlation."

Then there's the matter of exclusion. Whenever "several of us" launch a group diet, the remaining colleagues become witnesses to, without opportunity to participate in, a public bonding moment. That is the whole point of a group diet, after all — to support each other toward a common goal. But your office also has a common goal of getting a job done, a goal that cliquishness undermines.

A large office might be able to absorb any number of social subgroups, but in small offices, exclusivity is a morale buster far more serious than some inanimate basket of candy. Simple answer: Summon the willpower to resist clusters of both the social and caramel kind.

Good friends are honest with each other about their feelings

Q: I have an old friend who's in a very busy time of her life. I've been having some rough times and could have used the support of a good friend in recent months, but she's always been too busy. While she has legitimate demands on her time, I haven't seen her in more than four months, and we live less than four blocks apart.

Now she wants to reconnect. Am I wrong to expect some sort of apology for her lack of commitment to our friendship?

D.C.

A: To expect one, yes. To ask for one, no.

If you wait to see if she says the right thing, then you're basically setting her up (and you would be the one owing her an apology).

If instead you tell her what you're upset about and why, then you'll have been a good friend to her, by being honest. Her response will tell you whether she's a good friend to you. She may be not only apologetic, but also grateful for the chance to do better by you.

Summon willpower to resist candy and forming office cliques 11/25/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:24am]

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