Sunday, January 25, 2009


The office M&M’s

While I’m on silly stories, as in yesterday’s blog post, I should tell the one of a former colleague who used to keep a jar of M&M’s on her desk. Her well-publicized rules were two and simple:

  1. Feel free to stop by any time and have a handful.
  2. It’d be nice if people who partook would occasionally contribute to the stash.

I was often across the hall to talk about work, and would occasionally often snag a few. Sometimes I’d stop over just for a handful and a chat, which was part of the point of her having them there — to encourage a “get to know people” sort of morale. And, yes, once in a while I’d bring in a bag to refill the jar.

Others also stopped to chat and snack. Some did more of what you might call “drive-bys,” grabbing some candies without bothering to be social about it. No one else, though, ever brought contributions for the jar, though they all knew she asked for them.

Eventually, inevitably, she decided to let the jar empty. She asked me not to bring any refills, to see if others would do as it got more alarmingly empty. No one did.

It finally got down to one, lone disc at the bottom of the jar. No one would take the last one, and no one brought more.

And one day, with a sigh, my colleague ate the last one herself and took the jar home. And that was it for the office M&M’s.


Laurie said...

The tragedy of the common candy.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go further...

I see this as a metaphor of collaboration: there are people that produce things to be used and there are people that use them.

Sometimes, these people also contribute to the collectivity producing new knowledge, but the consumers are always the majority.

This great story show us all that we have to contribute in order to keep enjoying the goods in life.

Thanks for sharing.

Dr. Momentum said...

I really enjoyed this post. Not surprising, but a very interesting social story/observation.

lidija said...

You know what makes me sad. That I see this kind of behavior (culturally, generically, and specifically speaking) manifested at work but I didn't in, say, grad school. And it's not that we had more money back then. A difference in the feeling of the ownership of the workplace, relationships, of the culture, M&Ms...?