Coworkers can be a real headache, especially when they call Human Resources (HR) on you.
But what will happen to you at the HR’s office if what happened isn’t your fault?
One woman recently wondered about this in the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit after dealing with one such coworker.
And, as Redditor Rough_Bike_2252 explained, it was all a misunderstanding about food.
But even so, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she might expect trouble.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for ‘tricking’ my coworker into eating MSG?”
The OP had a coworker who was a picky eater.
“I have a co-worker ‘Trish’ who is really into eating ‘authentic’ cuisines from other countries and not wanting to eat the ‘fake’ stuff (e.g. she refuses to eat Dominos because according to her, Italians would never eat such a thing).”
“She also claims she has an MSG allergy.”
“There’s a Chinese restaurant close by, but we haven’t catered from them since she made a large spectacle of stomach pains and headaches when we ordered from them over a year ago. She’d ordered a separate dish of plain steamed veggies and meat, but claimed there must’ve been cross-contamination and demanded that we not cater from them again.”
The OP’s coworker also had strong opinions about “cultural” foods.
“Whenever someone gets Chinese takeout, she loudly talks about how it’s fake Americanized Chinese food and that the MSG would give us cancer.”
“She frequently mentions how much she misses the ‘real’ Chinese food she had when she went to China (once, like a decade ago).”
“She often comments on my food (I’m Chinese) which I cook from home, saying things like, ‘wow that smells so good; you can tell it’s authentic and doesn’t have preservatives and isn’t catered to White people like the food from that restaurant’ (she’s White).”
“I mostly ignore this.”
“And honestly, I wouldn’t even call my food ‘authentic’ Chinese food. It’s just stir fry with sauce generally.”
Their relationship turned problematic after the OP brought food in for her team members.
“Last week, I volunteered to bring in food for my team of six people (to clarify, Trish is NOT part of this team), since I know they like the food I make.”
“I do cook with MSG sometimes. It’s definitely not something all Chinese people do, but my family does it with certain dishes, because it makes things delicious.”
“There were some leftovers, which someone put in the fridge after the meeting, with a note saying anyone could take some. I didn’t really think about it, since this is normal.”
“Well, apparently Trish had some of the food I made.”
“At the end of the day, she came by my desk and commented on how delicious my ‘real’ Chinese food was.”
“She claimed she could tell I made it without preservatives or MSG because she would normally get sick within minutes if she accidentally had MSG. She also claimed it tasted just like the food she ate when she was in Beijing (I’m not even from Beijing).”
“After she went on for a few minutes, I just told her that there was actually MSG added to some of the dishes I made.”
“But it was good to know her allergy was cured now, since I wouldn’t want her to get sick.”
The OP’s coworker did not receive that news well.
“She freaked out, and suddenly claimed she had a huge headache and felt like she was going to throw up.”
“She yelled at me for not telling her I put MSG in the food (I didn’t realize she would eat it, since she normally doesn’t eat the communal food and it was intended for my team members, not her).”
“She went to HR because I supposedly tricked her into eating something I knew she couldn’t eat, and now I have a meeting with HR next week (Idk [I don’t know] how this is going to go).”
“In all honesty, maybe I was kind of hoping to peg down her anti-MSG crusade, but if she had asked, I would’ve told her what the ingredients were.”
“AITA for not [telling her]?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some said MSG allergies do not exist (or are exceedingly rare).
“MSG allergies do not exist (and most, but not all, MSG sensitivities are basically psychosomatic), nor does MSG have any dangerous negative side effects.”
“These things have been shown in many studies, and [some discuss how] the whole ‘MSG allergy’ thing originated as an anti-Asian racist myth.” – 21027
“Whenever people online and in real life say the food never taste same when they try to cook ‘authentic’ Asian food…you know they didn’t use MSG.”
“My ex used to pretend he was allergic to MSG and he ‘got sick, and felt an allergy attack’ after eating my mom’s food and blamed the MSG. I informed him there was zero MSG because my mom watches too much Dr. Oz and I’m sure he still claims he’s allergic.” – NenetheNinja
“Yeah, also the fact that she’s so obsessed with this concept of ‘authentic’.”
“Like there is such a thing as hybrid cuisines—look at what we know as Texmex. This cuisine is a fusion of Mexican and American food.”
“It’s equally authentic to the culture it represents (Chicano culture), but just because she doesn’t see that side of it doesn’t negate that fact…” – kitt-cat
Others focused on the HR concerns and made recommendations for the meeting.
“You should go into that meeting with HR and talk about how racially insensitive your coworker has been and that she’s creating a hostile environment for you by constantly talking about authentic Chinese food.” – Old_Thrashbag
“Modern problems require modern solutions! Explain the story about it being team food and not for her.”
“Then turn the tables and go on and on about how she makes you uncomfortable by constantly only talking to you about authentic food and her allergies and claim the differences in different food types and how she’s been generalizing and demeaning your culture with all of her crass assumptions. NTA” – madnessinimagination
“Depending on how comfortable OP is with this kind of confrontation, it seems like a great way to tell the coworker that her vocal stereotypes and generalizations about China (and attributing it all, right and wrong, to her culture) is hurtful/offensive/misinformed/reduces OP.”
“If she wants to connect over culture then she should be letting OP educate her on MSG and the food she makes, not dictating it to OP, instead.” – lexarexasaurus
Some agreed and said Trish’s behaviors were blatantly racist.
“‘Ugly Delicious’ has a good episode on msg, it is in a bunch of things (Doritos for example) but people only complain about Asian food.”
“Your coworker is racist and exoticizing you. You did nothing wrong and have 100% the right to feel upset or offended by what she has said.” – Phalaphone
“THIS. The only person I’ve ever known that had an actual MSG sensitivity avoided all kinds of random things, mostly packaged foods (including Doritos).”
“[They were] very well informed about the racist history of anti-MSG fear-mongering—because how could you not be, if you truly do have an allergy that you’ve had to spend time learning about??”
“This coworker is simply racist and has been fetishizing OP.” – rynvincible
“I would definitely bring up this angle with HR and make sure they know that she was perpetuating anti-Asian myths of Chinese food being unhealthy or bad, which is offensive to you, as a Chinese person.”
“If she tries to claim you tried to poison her, at least make sure they’re well aware of her casual racism first.” – auspostery
A few also pointed out that Trish is responsible for catering to her allergy, not the OP.
“And also if she has a food sensitivity why would she eat random communal food without asking the person who cooked it what ingredients it had. You didn’t give her the food, she ate it” – Careless_Mango
“This is what to say to HR. You didn’t sit on her chest and force MSG down her throat. She’s the one with the ‘allergy’ so it’s her responsibility to ask what’s in food before eating it.” – therapy_works
“This. Definitely NTA. She has created a hostile environment for everyone. It’s time to bring this up.”
“And most importantly pertaining to the situation, OP didn’t trick anyone. The food was for OP’s team and not even directed for the co-worker to eat. If she ate it, it was her own choice, not OP’s pushing.”
“I can’t believe how this even has an HR meeting schedule. Like what in the world, this woman ate food from the fridge not intended for her and is mad that it has ingredients she has lied made her sick.”
“She’s mad because you blew her cover that she’s just crazy and controlling and created a whole lie to have people go along with her.” – JKaldran
Most of us have at least one food or beverage that leaves us feeling at least a little unsettled.
But the fact this coworker only complains about Chinese food? And only after the OP admitted to MSG being used?
According to this sub, that seems a tad suspicious.