Do or Don’t? Baking for the office

One of my friends recently posted a picture of these delicious cookies and because the power of suggestion works like a charm on my sweet tooth, I made them yesterday afternoon. As I rolled the dough in my hands and made a mental list of who will be on the receiving end of this gigantic batch of cookies, I had a twinge of sadness, because I was one of those people who brought cookies to the office.

When I was first starting out, I read in a career guide book for young women that if you wanted to be taken seriously, avoid bringing baked goods to work.

I would like to think that in a more progressive working environment, where company culture has evolved, bringing cookies in wouldn’t be any different than a co-worker offering to pick up coffee, or people who bring in vegetables from their over-abundant garden. It’s a thoughtful gesture that is meant to bring people together, not create a social stigma. It’s sharing. I don’t think baking cookies makes me any less of a feminist just like being a mother shouldn’t make me any less qualified for a job I’m a candidate for.

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That said, I recognize that perception can be reality, especially at an office where the competition is fierce, superiority rules, and labels extend far beyond the office supply cabinet.

If you work in a staunch corporate setting where men hold more leadership positions and women are still working to overcome traditional gender stereotypes, this argument against bringing baked goods is reasonable. If I was constantly being asked to complete menial tasks, bringing cookies could reinforce that administrative, motherly persona, and if that was my situation, I would probably choose not to.

I’ve been thinking about this in the context of raising two girls; what advice I might give Harper and Elliot today. I would tell them, be aware of perceptions, but do what makes you happy… so long there is no real detriment to your career. Agh, you see how I struggle with this?

I asked Jim what he thought, and he said, “Don’t do it. It’s a sad truth but there is more risk than reward. You bake for your friends, not your co-workers.”

This Forbes article talks about Twitter’s Katie Jacobs Stanton, VP of Global Media, and how she was described in a profile for Vogue as having “brought in enough home-baked goodies for the whole floor.” Not exclusive to women, I think anytime a senior leader shares something personal – be it cookies, stories, or vacation photos – they bring a sense of camaraderie and can strike down any associated stereotypes, creating a more warm (and potentially delicious) work environment for everyone.

Ultimately, I think the answer to this question entirely depends on your company culture and where you are at in your career.

What do you think? Do you you bake for your office?

6 thoughts on “Do or Don’t? Baking for the office

  1. Fascinating discussion and thought process. I can see both sides so much!

    Either way, I hope I’m part of your “office” now because those cookies look AMAZING…and I promise to see you as a renaissance woman rather than Susie Homemaker!

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  2. I just made a pie for our Thanksgiving pot luck at work. While it was encouraged that everyone bring something, not everyone did, and rarely was it homemade. The stigma hit me as I offered up a slice to some colleagues and the high-level women in corner offices weren’t participating. But I couldn’t help myself, as an over-eager people-pleaser, I cut a slice for each of them and delivered it. Perhaps their perception of me has changed? I’m not sure.

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    1. Your co-workers are the luckiest people around. They get you AND pie. I think having a sister and a husband who are both chefs puts you in a different category than the rest of us, too.

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