Dear Annie: Our boss keeps helping himself to our coffee without chipping in

Dear Annie: I work in a small office with only four employees and one supervisor. Two of my colleagues and I are coffee drinkers. Instead of starting a coffee fund, we started taking turns bringing in a fresh container when we find the previous one is running low. This system has worked for us and has prevented any issues from arising.

What we do have an issue with is our supervisor helping himself to the coffee without ever offering to chip in for his share. This has been going on for almost a year, and the three of us are really getting fed up. It has gotten to the point where we will purposely get less coffee just so he won’t have a chance to get any. I realize this might be petty, but I don’t know how to make him understand that he is taking advantage. All we want is for him to contribute his fair share.

How can we approach this subject with him? What can we say to make him realize he is in the wrong?

-- The Fa”brew”lous Three

Dear Fa”brew”lous Three: The way you signed your letter indicates an exclusive club in which outsiders might not feel welcome. Now, since the troublemaker is your boss, the three of you have to make a decision: Is it worth it to upset your supervisor? If not, then decide in advance that the three of you will pay for him.

But if you really resent that -- because it is unfair -- then I would suggest putting a coffee plan for the office in writing and asking everyone who drinks coffee, including the supervisor, to participate. The plan should be impersonal: If three workers participate, the cost -- or responsibility for bringing a container -- will be so much, and if four people participate, the cost per person will be that much less. If he refuses to participate and continues to drink your coffee, then you can either tell him to cut it out or report his behavior to his boss.

The main thing is to keep it impersonal. Don’t attack him for being a mooch. Just lay out the numbers for everyone to see.

• • •

Dear Annie: My husband of almost 20 years died in a motorcycle accident. Since then, I was unintentionally reacquainted with my first kiss/boyfriend, “Fred.” We met again, literally, the same week my mom died. We both fell hard in love with each other.

After enduring numerous horrific drunken hurtful situations with Fred over a period of five years, who never told me he blacks out when he drinks alcohol, I am finding myself wondering how much of our five-year relationship he remembers. Does he remember it as I do? We live apart in our own houses.

He helps me a lot. He’s my mechanic, landscaper and handyman, and he’s also a friend. He knows that I’ve been dating and seeing other men the entire time we’ve been apart. Knowing that he experienced a traumatic head injury, do I dare try a relationship with him again? He doesn’t drink any longer. He said he has no apparent desire to. Do I give him another opportunity to make a life together?

-- Second Chances

Dear Second Chance: I’m very sorry that you suffered the loss of your husband. Fred sounds like he is trying. The fact that he does not drink anymore is huge and would change the dynamics of your relationship. However, without more specifics about this traumatic head injury, it if difficult to know how that could change your relationship. Are you ready to support him through any subsequent mental, emotional or physical traumas? If you love him, he loves you and you’re both going into this relationship with your eyes open, then go for it. If he starts drinking again or if you’re not on the same page, then it’s time to say goodbye to Fred.

Annie Lane

Annie Lane offers common-sense solutions to everyday problems. She's firm, funny and sympathetic, echoing the style of her biggest inspiration, Ann Landers. She lives outside Manhattan with her husband, two kids and two dogs. When not writing, she devotes her time to play dates and Play-Doh. Write her: