Our annual employee picnic had always been a potluck.  Like most such events, everyone brought far more than they could eat so a lot of food remained at the end.  A ridiculous amount of leftovers, actually, so last year we made “assignments” as an attempt to cut down on what people brought.  Half the people brought desserts, the other half beverages, and the rest was catered.

As a result, what was left was a copious amount of desserts and beverages.  So this year, the event was 100% catered with no potluck dishes at all.

And it became ordinary.  There were no special treats that you heard about at work and wanted to try.  You didn’t learn about the favorite dish that your co-worker makes.  Your beverage choices were punch or water.  For dessert: cookies or brownies.  It became generic and even institutional.  

There is a trade off between not having to deal with the remaining food and having something become a special event.  Just as when people grumble about participating in the talent show at the annual meeting, but later acknowledge that it creates memorable bonding.  Pitching in a few bucks isn’t the same as walking in the charity fundraiser either.

Personal investment yields a high ROI in many intangible ways.  Easier is not always better.

— beth triplett

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