In July 2011, amid belt-tightening all across Wall Street, something truly heinous happened at Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS). It was an act of transgression against employees so cutting, deep, and unforgivable, that the victims felt they had to reach out to the press to tell their story. We speak, naturally, of the day Goldman, without notice or warning, replaced the regular sized (8oz) cups in the pantry with "tiny little cups" (5oz).
"Last week the cappuccino machine wasn't filling my cup [all the way] and I was wondering why," went the report from the inside. "Now, I know the machine is filling [for] the tiny cups!"
Ultimately, the staff decided it wasn't going to the offense lying down, and after "many employees complained" (and some defiantly doubled up on cups), the older, larger cups returned. And while the whole affair might have struck some as immature or silly on the part of the cup victims, what they probably didn't realize at the time was that taking away 3 ounces of cappuccino or fun-size bags of chips or granola bars is LITERALLY THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO TO A PERSON.
The cost of shedding free snacks goes beyond lost productivity. An office that once had snacks puts itself at risk by eliminating the perk. "These small perks, they may be small in dollar amount, but they can be highly symbolic," said Chamberlain. "They have this image as a gift; pulling it away can have a psychological effect that far outstrips the dollar amount." Snacks, like many perks, exist to boost "employee engagement," HR jargon for an employee's emotional investment in their job...Employees accustomed to the perk can feel burned if it's taken away. At one Aon Hewitt client, for example, taking away free lunch "greatly demotivated the staff," according to Oehler. At another company, Aon Hewitt found that completely taking away free food would have caused such a big deterioration in engagement that the cost savings couldn't be justified. "Even though it might not be a lot of money," Oehler said, "the question is, are you getting the ROI [return on investment] on snacks?"
Cut bonuses if you have to, but keep your mitts off those snacks.