Musings, rants and questions about happiness at work.

The Chocolate Tin

At home I have a chocolate tin. It accommodates my obsession for buying every chocolate bar I see that I have yet to taste. I have reasonably strong preferences and usually go for dark chocolate but will buy milk or white, assuming it has been made with cocoa butter and not some random vegetable fat. I don’t actually eat that much chocolate, maybe a square or two a day, unless we are talking about Whittaker’s Dark Almond in which case I’ll go a whole row of that. However eating is the least fun thing about chocolate for me. I love telling stories about all the different chocolates and vicariously sharing the pleasure other people get from it.

So when I started a new job a couple of years ago I lasted a week before my pavlovian drooling at afternoon tea time inspired me to bring my backup tin to work. I couldn’t just sit there and eat chocolate in front of my work mates so figured I’d just put it on the communal table and see what happened.

At first they were shy and didn’t understand the rules (we are computer programmers, we love knowing the rules), but after a wee bit of encouragement they started eating chocolate. This is the only rule: go on, try a piece. Three years in I think we’ve only had a day or two where the tin has been empty. I buy a bit of chocolate, but the tin has a magnetic power of its own and attracts chocolate from plenty of other people in the office and all over the world. When people from other parts of the business stop by to chat it gives us something to talk about that isn’t as obscure or scary as technology. It gets a lot of us through the mid-afternoon slump, excuses a break from heavy thinking and is a crucial addition to any meeting.

This got me thinking about the brilliant people I work with and how they all have their own ways of bringing a little authentic piece of themselves to work. Some are more food focused - bake sales, restaurant recommendations, recipes. Others are activity-based, organising yoga classes, table tennis competitions and soccer tournaments. Some bring great travel advice, a wicked sense of humour or first class swearing. We’ve even had a team member buy a beer fridge and another who hand delivered fresh fruit on a weekly basis. None of this falls under any KPI or is aligned with the corporate vision or increases revenue. But they all make the place I work a delightful place to come every day and for me that has value.

What’s your chocolate tin?

13 Jun 2015