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About breakfast at work

(658 Posts)
WishingILivedOnAnIsland Wed 10-Jul-19 09:22:13

Every day without fail one of our senior administrators comes in on time, gets herself settled, then spends 10 minutes in the kitchen constructing a complicated bowlful of breakfast. She takes the bowl to her desk and slowly eats in the open plan office until around 9:30am. She then signals the start of her work day by returning her bowl to the kitchen. Anyone who approaches her regarding work prior to The Bowl’s Return is met with a withering look and an ‘excuse me I am eating my breakfast’ as though they’ve walked into her own kitchen out of hours and demanded a favour.

I’m her manager and I’m starting to get complaints. Both about her commandeering an additional 30 odd minutes break, and also about the tart rebuke she gives anyone who dares interrupt her morning ritual.

Here’s the thing- I don’t really care that she does this as in every other way she is a sensational employee. She is a proud set-in-her-ways kind of person and wont respond well to negative feedback. It would be a disaster if she quit and we had to replace her with a mediocre employee whose only advantage is that they eat their breakfast at home.

So AIBU to let this breakfast nonsense play on? My colleagues seem to think so and are salty with me for my inaction thus far.

TheHandsOfNeilBuchanan Wed 10-Jul-19 09:45:40

You know if she's that excellent and efficient, I'd let it continue to some extent. I bet others sirens time during the day chatting to others, using their phones, smoking. I would say to her 'jeanette you know I have no issue with you eating breakfast here every day, I do need you to be available to staff while you do it though. I know this won't be an issue given how great you are at multi tasking, I just need everyone off to a flying start.'. Be aware though', if there are people who take long lunches, sneak off early, mess about on their phones and you don't do anything about them either, she will bring this up and rightly so.

Whisky2014 Wed 10-Jul-19 09:47:16


NiceLegsShameAboutTheFace Wed 10-Jul-19 09:48:23

Im going to be snippy, I cant stand managers who cant actually manage, they leave disaffected staff in their wake.

The OP sounds like she absolutely can mange. She's recognised the potential pitfalls of not handling this situation correctly. If managing were just a case of pointing out the rule book, then anybody could do it.

Now to answer the question. I would perhaps continue to allow her to have her breakfast. However I'd explain that, as her breakfast does coincide with working hours, that she needs to be receptive to questions during that time.

WhatsInAName19 Wed 10-Jul-19 09:48:47

It would be a disaster if she quit and we had to replace her with a mediocre employee whose only advantage is that they eat their breakfast at home

But the problem isn't only the long breakfast. It's the effect on the morale of the rest of the team, and I think you're underestimating how big this effect could be. You are also undermining yourself as a manager because you look weak for failing to address the issue. You are also making it very difficult for yourself if you ever need to discipline another employee for time keeping or similar.

You have two options really. You either need to have a conversation with this employee about having her breakfast at home and ensuring she is at her desk at 9am, ready to field enquiries from colleagues in a professional manner, or you need to properly give her the additional 30 mins a day by changing her start time to 9:30am and making sure that she understands this doesn't mean breakfast from 9:30-10:00. As long as she is at her desk and ready to work on time, it doesn't matter what hours are in her contract. That's between her and her employer. Or I suppose the third option is to continue as things are where the situation is not being managed and ill feeling is festering among the other employees.

summerofladybird Wed 10-Jul-19 09:49:40

For that half an hour she's not pulling her weight and she's upsetting the rest of your team. YABU if you don't address this.

WishingILivedOnAnIsland Wed 10-Jul-19 09:49:50

@monielove That's exactly the can of worms I'll be opening.

My view for the whole team is that as long as people do their jobs, I don't dictate how or when they should do it.

If she was just late every day I doubt anyone would have noticed.

Also I work in an industry that's notorious for some fairly outrageous work behaviour. It's hard for me to get excited about breakfast.

NiceLegsShameAboutTheFace Wed 10-Jul-19 09:50:06

You're a poor manager.

Completely disagree.

Yep, let's just lay the law down and risk losing a good member of staff. How does that benefit the organisation? The team?

Whisky2014 Wed 10-Jul-19 09:50:13

If you let herhave her breakfast regime you need to tell her she needs to accommodate people asking her work related stuff without being a twat.

ShatnersWig Wed 10-Jul-19 09:52:03

If she was just late every day I doubt anyone would have noticed

Fuck off would they not have noticed. I repeat, you're a poor manager.

My view for the whole team is that as long as people do their jobs, I don't dictate how or when they should do it.

In which case, tell ALL your staff they are welcome to spend the first 30 minutes of their shift eating breakfast and refusing to do work.

Ponoka7 Wed 10-Jul-19 09:52:20

Well you've really put her on a pedestal.

Best get her insured, if she dies or gets sick, your business is going to collapse.

So there's two pf you not doing your jobs properly.

Monitor the, other Staff. If she is being paid for time she isn't working then they are entitled to that as well.

Unless you are the owner, then you get to decide how to waste the business's wage budget.

Shes behaving appalling towards the other Staff members. Why should they take her attitude and withering looks?

verticality Wed 10-Jul-19 09:54:02

I would do this in a very gentle way. Call her into the office and say "I can't emphasise enough how happy I am with your work generally - you're doing an excellent job. I do have one small clarification, however. It's fine for you to eat breakfast at work, really not a problem. but are you counting the time you take to prepare and eat as part of your working hours? If so, I need you to be responsive to other people's enquiries/requests while you eat. If you're not, then it's fine to tell them to come back when you are finished".

bingbongnoise Wed 10-Jul-19 09:54:26


Sorry but I have to echo the post at 9.29 by @ShatnersWig ... You are a poor manager. I am sure you're a nice person, but you sound a bit wet and weak as a manager. No way in HELL should this be going on, and frankly, you sound scared of this woman.

Sounds to me like SHE should be manager, as she seems to have everyone under her control.

BIWI Wed 10-Jul-19 09:54:29

If she's doing a good job otherwise, I would be wary of starting to insist she works certain hours.

However, this bit jumped out at me:

She is a proud set-in-her-ways kind of person and wont respond well to negative feedback.

She needs to learn that she has to respond to negative feedback! And, which is probably more to the point, you need to be aware that you can't avoid giving negative feedback.

Wixi Wed 10-Jul-19 09:55:02

This happened in the last place I worked, but it soon escalated to 30% of the staff eating their breakfast, at their desk, after their start time. In the end HR, at the prompting of the CEO, said that you can have breakfast at work, not at your desk (no eating at desk rule already in place), but you MUST be at your desk and ready to start work at your allotted start time. By doing it that way, it was not personal to any one person, but a reminder to ALL.

Chocmallows Wed 10-Jul-19 09:55:20

Have you had coaching training?
This involves open and useful questioning with a goal in mind.

At her next 1.1, I would say lightly "aside from the work, can you tell me about your work breakfasts?"

If she is defensive add "I have noticed them and just want to understand your feelings about breakfast in work"
She will justify as must think this is ok for some reason. You need to know why an otherwise hard worker is taking the piss in the morning.

I expect she works harder all day and this is her rebellion against other issues others taking the piss

Whisky2014 Wed 10-Jul-19 09:56:14

How does it take 30 mins to eat breakfast?!

CloserIAm2Fine Wed 10-Jul-19 09:57:29

But the team is justifiably annoyed that one member is not only having an extra paid 30 minute break every day and being rude to them.

So yes you’re a poor manager for putting one person above everyone else. It sounds like you want to avoid an awkward conversation with this woman so are trying to justify why she’s so brilliant she can do whatever she likes.

Nothing wrong with eating breakfast at work in most office jobs, but it should be either before you start or something that can be done while working.

ShatnersWig Wed 10-Jul-19 09:58:00

NiceLegs That's the team that is pissed off that one member of staff is permitted to spend 30 minutes of her paid day eating and refusing to do work?

Of course it's poor management to ignore complaints from other members of staff! The OP even admits she is rude to members of staff for approaching her ABOUT WORK DURING WORK HOURS (at least the first 30 minutes). The OP also says this person doesn't respond well to negative feedback as if she's afraid of saying anything to her.

That's poor management.

Whisky2014 Wed 10-Jul-19 09:58:22

If you get 8 weeks holiday a year she is using 105 hours to have breakfast on a year. That's 3 days based on a 37.5 working week.

Alsohuman Wed 10-Jul-19 09:58:34

@NiceLegsShameAboutTheFace is spot on. As a manager, my concern was with people’s performance not issues like timekeeping.

The issue here is that her performance appears to be faultless in the time she’s spending at her desk. If she’s meeting all her objectives to a high standard and dealing competently with her workload, what does it matter if she’s doing that in 30 minutes a day less?

I might ask her to eat breakfast at her desk to make it a little less obvious.

lmusic87 Wed 10-Jul-19 09:59:19

I think she's really pushing it.

Instead of challenging the breakfast, I would ask her about being rude to people who are 'interrupting her'.

Halloumimuffin Wed 10-Jul-19 09:59:37

I see the situation you're in but you have a greater responsibility to be fair to the rest of your team than appeasing one person who is not abiding by simple rules and being rude. You have to give negative feedback even to employees who don't like it. Reiterate her working hours and let her know she is considered available during these times, and 'breakfast' isn't an excuse not to assist others.

ScreamingValenta Wed 10-Jul-19 10:01:43

At her next 1.1, I would say lightly "aside from the work, can you tell me about your work breakfasts?"

To which I'd respond, in her position, 'Yes. I usually have cornflakes with some fruit, but now and again I have All-Bran with a piece of toast.'

I wouldn't advise the OP to dance around the issue by employing one of the cringeworthy 'coaching techniques' that are bandied round as the answer to everything - just to have an honest and straightforward conversation with her employee.

DarlingNikita Wed 10-Jul-19 10:03:24

I agree with verticality. It's not really about the eating per se, it's about her being rude to people approaching her while she eats.

And this She is a proud set-in-her-ways kind of person and wont respond well to negative feedback. Being set in your ways and unable to respond to feedback is nothing to be proud of. You need to toughen up and she needs to be able to take feedback, positive or otherwise.

ShatnersWig Wed 10-Jul-19 10:03:54

alsohuman Yes, as a manager your concern is people's performance. People's is plural. Her performance at her desk is NOT faultless, because she is rude to other members of staff who approach her to discuss WORK. During WORKING HOURS. That is upsetting other staff and no doubt affecting THEIR performance.

I say that as a manager myself.

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