So, here's the scenario - I work in a small office of five people (including myself), but I work as part of a separate organization from the other four - I'm part of a national team and I'm the only person in my region, so even though I'm physically co-located with the other four people, I'm not officially part of their team. I do, however, work closely with them and there are projects where we partner.

In a few weeks the office is having an annual holiday lunch, and I've been told by the manager that he does this every year as a thank-you to his staff - they all go to a nice restaurant, and he picks up the tab. The manager has invited me to join the group, but has let me know that he isn't comfortable paying for my meal, as it's something special for his team. I'm totally fine with paying my own way, but I'm not sure what would be the most effective way to approach the meal. I see four options:

1) Talk with the manager in advance, and pay him for the rough cost of my meal and let him pay for the whole meal at once.

2) Get a separate check from the restaurant, and pay for it separately there.

3) Ask the manager to pay for my meal along with everybody else, and then reimburse him afterwards.

4) Approach the manager and ask him for his preference.

I want to maintain positive relations with everybody on the team, so what is the most effective course of action?

quietlife4me's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Option 1 and 3 may not be possible if he expenses this to the company. Or at least it could make it difficult as he may have to split checks within the expense management system.

A verbal "Thanks for inviting me to the holiday party, did you have a preference for how I should pay for my meal?"

gwenzel's picture

 I should clarify - the lunch is NOT something that will be expensed and reimbursed by the company. The manager receives a performance bonus each year. His way of sharing the bonus with his staff is to take them out for a high-end lunch. He's willing to extend the invitation to me to attend (which I appreciate) but not willing to pay the extra cost (which I understand).

Thanks for the suggestion to just approach him - sounds like a perfectly direct way to figure out what'll work best for everyone.

dickgent's picture

If someone contributes to my team.... and provides results for my team... and I receive a bonus based on those results....  I'm buyin' lunch for that person. Regardless of the reporting structure.  Anyway, any option you choose clearly confirms that you are not part of the team. I would politely decline the invitation, remarking 'that this seems like a really special event for you and your team and I would not want to detract from that.' As MH would say, say it with a sincere smile on your face.

It is only lunch.



Results  _MH


TheBuzz's picture

It is important to settle the matter in advance.  I agree with the direct approach.

A couple of additional thoughts. 

It is nice of him to invite you, so I'd go bigger on the "thanks" part. 

I'd start with "I really appreciate you including me on the holiday lunch.  I love that place (or I've always wanted to try it) and I'm looking forward to it.  I'm happy to be invited and think it is only fair that I pay for my own meal."  Then just ask directly how he would prefer to handle you paying for your meal - either separate checks or reimbursment afterwards. 

If he has a preference, then I'd agree to whatever he decides.  

My preference would be separate checks at the table.

If you agree to reimburse him later, order conservatively and expect to pay 1/6th of the overall bill for the group, including tax and tip.  (Yes, you will pay more than your share to cover someone else's lobster & filet mignon lunch.  Be okay with that.) 

Ask right after lunch for the total.  I'd pay in cash if possible.

[ BTW - Based on your explanation, I think the manager is wrong for inviting you and not "being comfortable" with paying for your meal.  However, assuming I both wanted to and could afford to go, I wouldn't let that keep me from attending the lunch.  Seems to me that you have more to lose in a small office by reinforcing that you aren't part of the team.  Who knows... one day you might be. ] 

gwenzel's picture

Thanks to everybody for their excellent advice! I met with the manager this morning, and have good news to share - it was entirely a miscommunication. He invited me to the lunch, and fully intends to pay for my meal along with everybody else's!  

So, all is good and I'm glad to have addressed the issue formally and in advance of the lunch. As Mark says, more communication is always better - it certainly helps to eliminate prior miscommunications!