Food and Office Bonding

Via e-mail today at 12:11 p.m.
J writes:

We’ve got a lot of new people starting at the office today, which of course means a lot of food because you can’t say “welcome to your new job” without a cupcake or a cola, I figure. It’s just part of the culture. When someone comes to your house you offer them something to drink unless you’re socially inept, so in a world where the lines between work and not-work are increasingly blurred, and where we spend conscious time at the office than we do at home, it follows that when someone comes to our office we’d offer them something to eat.

I have always marveled at the popularity of office food. People who work in offices are obviously employed, but we attack community office food as if we were homeless victims of starvation.

There’s an interesting sociology going on here…particularly for those involved in employee retention.

Food is a good measure of how close your relationship is. First dates are often done at restaurants where someone else is responsible for the food. As we get closer to a person, we invite them to eat at our house. If you want to know who your best friend is, ask yourself how comfortable you’d be with them coming over to your house, opening your refrigerator and fixing a sandwich. If you’re fine with that, you’re very close.

In the office, food forms an interesting social bond that creates an artificial closeness. Leaving a job for another job often becomes more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve spoken with several people who are looking to make a switch from one job to another, but can’t make the leap for some subconscious reason they can’t quite articulate.

I remind them—a job is not a marriage; your co-workers are not your family. You haven’t made a lifetime commitment. It’s blindingly obvious, but like most blindingly obvious points only gets recalled after a reminder.

I suspect people feel this bond because, well, they’ve had a lot of cake in the conference room.

But I’m just speculating.


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