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Out to lunch

Dear Office-Politics,

office politics cartoon by franke james

I am writing today to ask advice about how to handle an issue at the office where I work. We are a small CPA firm of about 8 employees. This particular issue is a problem year-round, but becomes particularly exaggerated at taxtime, where everyone deems themselves ‘the busiest person here today’.

It seems to involve mostly the women, (I am of the same breed, by the way.), but there is this pattern that has developed where certain women consider lunchtime a community event. It has gotten to the extent where if a person (such as myself, but it could be anyone), says they are leaving the building to eat and/or pick-up lunch, they are not only asked to, but expected to go around and inquire of everyone in the office if they want food picked up and brought back for them. At which time everyone places their very specific orders, i.e. “no tomato”, “extra dressing”, “if they don’t have ranch, make it 1000 island”, etc.,etc. My favorite is standing at the Subway sandwich counter ordering 4-5 sandwiches, trying to get the correct items on each sandwich, having the wrappers initialed so each person gets the correct sandwich, while the person behind me in line glares at me the whole time for taking so stinking long!

Then, there’s the handling of everyone’s money, making sure you get the food back before it’s cold, and all that stuff. I very sincerely don’t mind doing it once in awhile, but it’s a pain in the neck, even when I’m in the mood for it. Let’s just say it’s not exactly the best use of my ‘unpaid’ time to get away from the office.

I am the kind of person who sometimes likes to just get the heck outof the office and sit somewhere listening to the radio or whatever – and maybe I do want to get food for myself and bring it back to office to eat while I’m working (our boss doesn’t mind if we eat at our desks, but I try to be discreet with it.), but if I do that, then many of my co-workers are put-out because I didn’t “take their order”. Sometimes, they’ll wait until 1:30 or 2:00 to even mention their own lunches while they wait to see if I’m going to go somewhere, so they can place their orders to bring something back for them. I’ve tested it a few times, because I’m the type of person who can go all day without eating and it doesn’t bother me. I’ve seen them wait until 2:00 – 2:30 before one of them will come right out and ask me what I’m doing for lunch, so I’ll mention casually, “Oh, I’m skipping it today.” Then, they’ll all get up, go to the break room, pick out a menu and decide which one of the poor souls is going to have to go get lunch. Sometimes they’ll say, “wasn’t that rude and/or selfish of ‘so and so’ to go get lunch and not even offer to pick something up for us?” (By the way, I RARELY get in on having people pick-up something for me.)

Has the world gone mad?! Whatever happened to being an adult who fully expects to provide themselves with their own meals, complete with all the effort that goes into it?

I’ve been at this company for over 5 years, and early in the process I would say things like “I would, but I really just don’t feel like messing with all that today.” But, this didn’t even begin to slow down the whole thing. So, then I would makeup lies to cover the fact that I was picking up food, but I hate doing that.

I am considering sending out an inter-office e-mail suggesting that everyone be ‘on their own’ from now on, unless someone offers. I know that no matter how carefully it’s worded they’ll be upset with me, but do you have any suggestions as to how such an e-mail could be worded or other solutions?

Thank you.

Worn Out By Supposed Adults

franke james

Dear Worn Out By Supposed Adults,

I think you’re ‘right on’ in your assessment of why the ‘Please get me lunch, and don’t forget I like pickles, no mayo, and only tomatoes if they are fresh‘ phenomenon is happening. It all sounds like a giant pain in the neck. And I did laugh at your ‘tests’ that tried to out wait your coworkers. I think we all have experienced moments when we dodge unofficial ‘duties’ (like being the office gopher, putting the recycling out, emptying the trash, replacing the toilet paper, etc.) — and we’re so relieved when the other person takes care of it. (Phew. I got away with it this time….)

Since we can all see that it is an unpleasant fact of human nature to try to dump less favored activities onto others — who can’t or won’t speak up — my advice is to speak up! I think your idea of sending out an inter-office e-mail suggesting that everyone be ‘on their own’, unless someone offers is a great idea! You could also leave a little wiggle room in there and say, “Or we could set up a schedule. Suzie on Monday. Tracy on Tuesday, etc.”

Cheers and thanks for an entertaining letter. Don’t forget I take coffee with cream, no sugar please. Thanks for writing to www.officepolitics.com

Let me know your feedback.


Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Inventor, The Office-Politics Game

  1. 2 Answers to “Out to lunch”

  2. Feedback from “Worn Out By Supposed Adults”: How fun! The person in the cartoon looks just how I feel sometimes! I’m glad you all had some fun at my expense! Thanks for the advice. Haven’t made the leap in sending the e-mail yet, mainly because things are really tense around here for other reasons, so I’m going to wait until it calms down a little.

    This has been fun and helpful. Maybe I’ll dump other issues on you sometime. I swear this office belongs in a sitcom! Best Regards and Happy Holidays!

    By Letter Writer on Dec 7, 2006

  3. Too funny! While I am not as bad as the letter writer above (I pity her poor soul!), I am the gopher for one lady in my office. She uses crutches and has trouble walking to the many food trucks that are outside my workplace. So, for that reason, I don’t mind. HOWEVER, you could be passive agressive about it. Secretly deduct 35 cents or so from each person who you get food from. Times that by five and viola! you have a free cup of coffee the next day. The next morning, sit in your office chair, sip your coffee or tea (maybe add a donut or bagel or something) and say to yourself, “thanks for breakfast $%*!##@^!”.

    By Morty McNutt on Nov 27, 2007

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