Why Does HR Always Bring the Cupcakes?

cupcakesWork is communal. Without a doubt what I miss the most of “working for the man” in a corporate setting are the everyday interactions; chatting at the coffee pot or grabbing a co-worker to head out to lunch. I miss simple conversations in the lady’s room, team birthday parties, and holiday potluck luncheons.

Huh. Most of that stuff revolves around food doesn’t it? Well hopefully not the potty breaks.

Oh how I love a gathering with cake and punch or a crock pot filled with queso dip where everyone enjoys the camaraderie. Bill from the IT Infrastructure Team doesn’t seem quite so creepy when he’s chowing down with you over a platter of cold cuts and cheese, does he?

But when the festivities have ended, who cleans up? Does Bill pitch in? What about Steve the Director of Purchasing? Does he grab Tyler the A/P Rep and get busy with a sponge and a bottle of dishwashing liquid? Or is it Gwen from Sales, Bev from Customer Service and Karen the VP of Marketing who roll up their sleeves and tackle the mess?

This recent article in the NY Times, Madam C.E.O., Get Me a Coffee, discusses how women are often the employees who do the “office housework.” This goes well beyond packing away the office silverware after a party. As the article points out: “Someone has to take notes, serve on committees and plan meetings — and just as happens with housework at home, that someone is usually a woman. Joan C. Williams, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, finds that professional women in business, law and science are still expected to bring cupcakes, answer phones, and take notes. These activities don’t just use valuable time; they also cause women to miss opportunities. The person taking diligent notes in the meeting almost never makes the killer point.”

This, I swear to you, applies to just about everyone I know who works in human resources.

And I think it’s because, deep down, we care. We can’t distance ourselves from thinking about the work environment/culture/employment experience in all its manifestations so we end up being “mommy” – or “daddy.” Most of us grew up with a mother or some other nurturing parental figure and became quite accustomed as children to being cared for to some degree. We associate that, male or female, with a nurturing quality. So when the nice HR lady brings cupcakes or makes a point of keeping a candy dish on her desk it’s sort of paying that forward, isn’t it?

It does make me wonder about the achievement of gender equality in the workplace though; if we continue to do these things it will be expected that we continue to do them…in perpetuity.

It’s nice to want to help people; it’s a wonderful human quality and, quite frankly, society could benefit from having more people with this mindset. If you make a KILLER tiramisu and want to bring it for every damn celebration in the office, I say go for it. Cook up your award-winning brisket or make that always-requested kale-pomegranate salad for the next pot luck.

Be yourself. Rock your awesome self.

Just make sure old Bill from the IT Infrastructure team stays to help you clean up.


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