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Dear Wendy

Team lunches at work?

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by avatar Janelle 1 month ago.

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  • #697259 Reply
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    NoNameSue

    Hey all, first time poster here. I haven’t seen this discussed before and wanted some guidance.
    I started a new job about 4 months ago at a much smaller company than my fortune 200 office I was working at previously. There are 6 people in my department and about once a week they call for a team lunch to celebrate something or catch up on things that are happening, which I should add are never work related. I am a fit person, I count macros and pre plan my meals, most days I workout during lunch and typically need a break from the other people. Today we are going to catch up on our summer vacations… I’m just curious how terrible I will look if I continually say no to lunches or is it something I need to tag along to every time or some of the time?

    #697261 Reply
    Dear Wendy
    Dear Wendy
    Keymaster

    You meet once a week? That seems excessive. Every office has its own culture, and I don’t know what yours is or what the dynamic is among the six colleagues who meet up, but I might would go to today’s lunch and while you’re catching up with everyone over non work-related stuff, you could mention that you’ve decided, in an effort to maintain good health and practice effective time management, to use your lunch breaks to work out, clear your head, and run personal errands, but that it’s important to you that you also find time to connect with your co-workers, so you’ll make sure to be available for fill-in-the-blank (a lunch once a month? doing something fun outside of work, like bowling together every first friday of the month? Is there anything that sounds at all appealing that you can suggest? If not, maybe just make yourself available for lunch once a month and tell everyone to save the juicy stuff for that day).

    #697263 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    I think this is pretty normal. My current and former offices have team lunches every Friday (lunch is paid for by the company), and one of the client teams here goes to lunch together 2x a week. I would say go at least one out of four times, and the rest of the time you’re working out.

    #697265 Reply
    Copa
    Copa
    Participant

    A couple offices ago, a group of my co-workers ate lunch together every single day. I liked them, but didn’t really participate because I prefer to do my own thing. I like going out for walks when it’s nice outside, running errands, getting a quick work out in — whatever. It’s nice to have that time to yourself. In any case, nobody batted an eye at my behavior, but these weren’t team lunches. I don’t think you need to go every time, but I do think it’s a nice gesture and also think it’s good to join in sometimes to bond with everyone. (If the job with the daily lunchtime gatherings had limited it to a weekly thing, I likely would’ve joined way more often.) I’m not sure if this is your concern at all, but you can totally bring your own food to stay on track!

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by Copa Copa.
    #697271 Reply
    TaraMonster
    TaraMonster
    Participant

    Weekly team lunches are pretty common in startup culture. I know my boyfriend’s company (he’s a computer science engineer at a smallish startup) does this and they view it as team building, and while attendance is not necessarily required *every* single week (like if you have some kind of schedule conflict), it’s strongly encouraged. They even play board games when the week isn’t a super busy one. So it really depends on the culture at your company, but from your description it sounds like you really should participate at least some of the time, especially since you’re still a bit new.

    #697272 Reply
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    ele4phant

    Eh – it’s a lot, but it’s not excessive. Where I work now, we go in phases were we try to eat together every day in the breakroom. Not everyone is there everyday, but on any given day at least a handful of people get together to eat together. Although right now, we’re pretty slammed so there’s a lot of grabbing food and eating at your desk.

    I don’t think you need to feel obligated to eat with them every time, or to go and stay the entire time, but this is your office’s culture. If you obliviously opt out every time (or often), it will be noticed, and it will make you stand out.

    Theoretically, it shouldn’t impact how people perceive how you do your job, but sometimes these little things matter. If there’s a downturn and cuts need to be made, all else being equal, people who fit in might be kept in favor of those who never quite gelled.

    I’d say you should strive to go two thirds of the time. And stay for most of it, but if you need a bit of time to yourself, claim you have to get back to your desk/have a few personal errands you want to squeeze in. That’s going enough so it’s not obvious you are trying to avoid it, but still gives you some breathing room.

    As for what you are all eating – where is the food coming from? Do you order in? Do you go out? If there’s just six of you, I would think you could start throwing out suggestions of places you’d like to go once in a while. If you order in, just bring your own lunch (or just go to the lunch to hang out, don’t eat anything, then eat at your desk later) and don’t make a big deal of it.

    If this all seems like too much, assess whether you really are the right fit for this culture. I know it seems like a small thing, but team cohesion is important in the long run. If how they operate runs entirely counter to your personality, maybe eventually you should look to find a job somewhere that will be a more natural fit for you.

    #697275 Reply
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    Kate
    Keymaster

    Another reason to go is networking / insurance. The more people at your current company who like you and see you as a team player, the more people you’ll have that you can reach out to in the future when and if you’re looking for a new job. People move on all the time and if you stay in touch through LinkedIn or even Facebook, that’s an extremely valuable source of referrals. In my most recent job search, the most valuable leads that went somewhere were all from former co-workers. The job I have now, I found out about because a former co-worker reached out. It was never even listed. In fact, it didn’t exist until I interviewed for another role that also wasn’t listed, and my experience made them think of a new role they had a need for.

    #697274 Reply
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    ele4phant

    I do disagree with Wendy’s advice to make an announcement that you are going to go only X amount of the time because you have other priorities. I would find it super odd if a co-worker announced, unprompted, that they were going to spend less time doing team building stuff to focus on their own personal stuff.

    I mean, obviously it’s your right to use your break time however you want, but in a workplace that already has a pretty tight knit culture, it’s basically saying “I don’t match the culture here”. Which is not what you want.

    The goal should be to try to balance putting in enough face so that you can give the sense that you are a team player and that you fit into the existing culture, but also carve out enough time for yourself so you don’t go crazy.

    #697277 Reply
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    SpaceySteph

    Is working out or otherwise taking a break on 4 lunches out of 5 not enough? I hate when team building stuff is mandatory or “optional” (i.e. not technically required but really they are holding it against you) but that’s the reality in a lot of places. You’re still pretty new to start going against the culture. Once you are more senior and have proven yourself to be a good worker and aligned with the culture in other ways, then you can start phasing out to only every other time and then to once a month or something.

    Maybe you could bring your lunch instead of eating what they’re eating, at least some of the time, but skipping entirely seems like a bad idea.

    #697282 Reply
    Skyblossom
    Skyblossom
    Participant

    When you ask if you should tag along for lunch I’m assuming you mean that they go out for lunch. I’d see if you can make the lunch fit your diet. I’m prediabetic so when I go out I modify meals from what is listed on the menu to what I can eat. I don’t eat starchy foods so I substitute salad or the cooked vegetable of the day for pasta, rice or fries. I ask for a sandwich or burger with no bun which means I just get the filling. Can you look at the menu and find ways to make substitutions to make the meal meet your needs. Then figure out a different time to work out on that day each week.

    #697306 Reply
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    Janelle

    I usually would not encourage someone to “brag” or talk a lot about working out during lunch but I think if you make it clear that this is your norm it will become ingrained. That being said, are you open to a cheat day every two weeks or so? I always had my cheat days on fridays. I love working out on weekends while many people take them off so that was my day do attend these type of events. I wouldn’t really want to every week. I’d make a non obnoxious point of allowing people to see my eating and work out habits and going every now and then. It is important for team building in a very small office but at the same time I think that if you are a semi regular participant while at the same time setting your boundaries this can work. You could also go and simply order appropriately. I don’t even doubt this will motivate them to chose restaurants that accommodate your diet more. Heck I’ve even found this motivates people to get on board with me. We would be excited for our every couple week splurge. If you have a good attitude about it and accommodate on a semi regular basis I think you can make it work.

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