The Ungiving Box

Once upon a time (at a company definitely not the one I’m working at now) there was an administrative assistant who thought that the group she worked in was not giving enough. So one holiday season she set up a “giving box” in the lobby, and put a sign on it saying that the box was for donations of toys. The idea was that you would buy a new toy, put it in the box, and the box would be sent to some place with lots of kids who didn’t have toys.

Whatever her perception, this group was already pretty full “about up to here” with giving requests.  So several days went by, and when she checked there were no toys in the box. So she sent email to the department, she had managers remind their employees about the box, and she put up flyers in the hallways and in the break rooms. Meetings in the group typically began with a written agenda on a whiteboard, and soon the toy box was discussed first in nearly every meeting.

A week went by. No toys. Soon everyone was being inundated with memos, stickies left on monitors, and random button-holings about the toy box. And there was resentment.

Indeed, at the end of two weeks, the box contained a single toy: A rubber chicken.

“She’s really upset,” said one manager, drying a tear from an eye.


A year went by, and the admin tried again, this time with a gaudier box, and even more publicity and pushyness.

I heard the next part from that manager: At the end of two weeks, the box contained the very same rubber chicken (which had apparently not been donated to a kid who didn’t have a toy, and had been liberated from the group’s storage room), and nothing else.

I do not know what happened after that.

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7 Responses to The Ungiving Box

  1. Kaishaku says:

    Great story.

  2. Adamantyr says:

    Indeed. I really dislike it when people harass you about “giving” and “volunteer” work…

    Here’s a good one: My brother’s mother-in-law this year had a radical idea for Christmas. Instead of giving each other gifts, everyone would pool their gift money to give a cow or goat to some deserving family in an impoverished third-world country.

    The bad part was she assumed everyone was on board with this, which so far, no one is. The rest of the family has no intention of NOT giving gifts. They’d be happy to gift her money to do what she wants with, but not having any gifts is just out of the question.

    And as my brother remarked, if he’s going to be giving a cow or goat to somebody, he’d want to inspect it first.

  3. Aris says:

    Thank you – I needed a good laugh. I can see morale was sky high at that company 🙂

  4. Miguel Farah says:

    We have an woman like that at work, only she actively demands that we “help out” whatever she’s decided to do, and she won’t accept a negative answer, even if it’s “I’ve already spent my extra money in another charitable cause.”

    The worst part? She’s one of the middle management bosses, so people under her are forced to part with their money, or else anger her… two weeks before the anual review.

    I once told her point blank (thankfully she’s never been my boss) that her “forced charity” campaigns were morally wrong, and I would refuse to participate as long as she kept them up… she complained to my boss that I was selfish and a “non-team worker”. Thankfully, my boss didn’t care either way…

  5. ashleigh says:

    Miguel – such a person is a bully, and depending on what country you are in her behaviour might be illegal.

  6. Miguel Farah says:

    ashleigh: I know… but around here, the word “charity” is almost sacred. Attacking a forced campaign like that is seen as attacking the charity itself. It would take a lot of effort to prevail against it – I haven’t done it because, as I mentioned, she’s not my boss.

  7. Joshua Kifer says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve cried from laughing so hard.

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