Andrew Bordwin

Q: A number of my coworkers sell cookie dough, seed packets, and other items to benefit their children’s schools. I’ve thought of doing the same, but I worry: Is it inappropriate to ask colleagues to give financial support to my kids’ endeavors?

A: It’s the rare parent who has never exhorted her coworkers to buy an overpriced candy bar or roll of wrapping paper. This is one of those behaviors in the category of “just about everybody does it.”

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason you should be the only Girl Scout/marching band/PTA mom who refuses to peddle her kid’s wares at work. (However, I will make an exception if your employer’s corporate policy prohibits such activities or if you’re the boss, since your staff may feel compelled to pay up to stay on your good side. They’ll consider it a bribe, even if you don’t.)

To avoid offending colleagues, opt for the soft sell. Don’t push your wares at every cubicle, hustling for sales as if you were hawking knives door-to-door. Instead, send a friendly e-mail announcing what you’re selling, and be sure to add a line that no response to your e-mail is required. Or discreetly display the product, along with a sign-up sheet or a money box, on your desk or in the break room. That way, coworkers who don’t want to buy will feel that they’re under no obligation to do so.

—Michelle Slatalla


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