This question comes to us from Chloe in Manhattan.
Q. I’m not sure what I should do here. There is this guy at my office, and he’s always stealing food from out of the refrigerator. He has stolen my lunch more than once, and I know it’s him because I’ve walked into the kitchen and caught him. He steals other people’s lunches too. Many of us have caught him in our lunches. He also scavenges food, so if there’s anything in the kitchen that’s there for the whole team, he’ll sneak in and just take humungous portions of it and hoards it in his desk. He raids kitchens on other floors and brings back food to his desk and hides it inside drawers. It smells really bad near his work station. Like rotting food. And everyone notices it. And a few people have actually seen him eating food out of the garbage. He’s actually a really nice guy and I feel bad but I don’t know what to do, I don’t really feel comfortable confronting him, I don’t know him very well, but I’m starting to get annoyed! I’m afraid to bring my lunch to work! Help!
A. Hi Chloe,
First off thank you for your kind and compassionate question. You’re obviously correct in assuming that your co-worker has some sort of eating disorder and/or obsession with food. If you don’t know him and you don’t feel comfortable talking to him about that, you might want to head to your HR department and express your concern. They are trained to handle situations such as this and they may even be able to consult a PEO agency (you can find a list of these agencies at crazyegg.com). They will be able to handle the problem accordingly.
Your might also want to offer the HR some literature such as:
This is probably a very stressful situation for your co-worker and no doubt puts stress on everyone involved. I understand how people in your office are probably feeling confused, angry and disgusted. However, your co-worker is dealing with a very difficult disease and needs understanding and compassion to recover. This doesn’t mean that you’re in charge of fixing him. The only thing that you can do is help him get the help he needs by talking to someone who can help him. It’s also important that if you see him in your lunch again, that you set boundaries and tell him that it’s not okay for him to eat your lunch. This is not you being cruel, but it’s you taking care of yourself and defending your property. Often, for someone who is so entrenched in the behaviors, they are unable to pull themselves out without some kind of external stimuli to pull them out of that loop of compulsive behavior that they get stuck in.
I hope this helps.
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