Politics of Work Lunch

Dear DW,
I prefer to eat lunch at my desk or step out for a quick walk. But my co-workers go out together for lunch at least three days a week. Am I rude for not joining them?
Signed, Microwave Queen

Dear Queen,
You’re not being rude, but your co-workers may well perceive you that way. And that you’ve raised the question suggests that you feel uncomfortable with the situation.

A bit of compromise may be in order.

“Although lunch can be an important time for personal restoration through time alone or taking a walk, it’s also vital to have good relationships with co-workers,” says career counselor Toni Littlestone of WorkVision in Albany, California. “A person who is never with the group at lunch misses out on informal bonding and can come across as aloof and standoffish.”

Why not split the difference and join the group once a week or so? This way, you can be friendly, learn more about each person in the group, keep up with the flow of informal connection, and—more important—hear about what’s going on behind the scenes at work. After all, a lot gets talked about at those lunches!

If you’re worried about getting drawn into office gossip, you might think ahead about how to respond if the conversation takes a turn you’re not comfortable with. Sometimes a shake of the head and a simple “I’m not going there!” are all you need.

In addition to joining your co-workers to eat out, you might consider asking some of them to come along on your lunchtime walks. You’ll get points for being friendly and still get a bit of exercise.

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