How to Decline Colleague Lunch Offers

lunch with colleagues istock

‘Let’s do lunch’.

Occasionally, when at work, these three words have the capability to put an abrupt end to an otherwise pleasant or productive day...

While the team lunch does provide a prime bonding opportunity and a little bit of work day escapism, there are many reasons why you may want, or simply have to decline the offer on more than one occasion - this can make things particularly awkward and even lead to colleagues branding you an ‘outsider’.

Declining such an offer in a professional manner does often seem like an extremely daunting task, so I have broken it into two main categories of rejection to give you a little bit of help…

The team

In most professions, we work in a particular department and each department comprises of different teams who all work together to achieve an overall goal - there’s no getting away from that. Obviously, in order to function as a team you need to talk and communicate on an almost daily basis to get the work done, but for one reason or another (whether personal, professional or financial), you may not always want to go out for weekly lunch with them. So how do you say no without coming across cold, difficult or anti-social?

The first part of the answer is that you should go out with them at least once in a while as you will end up missing out on an important part of your team’s experience.

The second part is...never tell a bold faced lie about why you can’t make it as you’ll get found out eventually and it will reflect negatively on you - something you really don’t want in the workplace. Here are a couple of tips on how to decline the team lunch invitation…

  • If you must say no for financial reasons, simply state that you are currently saving for something significant at the moment and don’t have the budget to head out every week but you will definitely join them when you can. This is honest, you don’t have delve into a huge amount of detail and your team will be comforted by the fact that you do intend to hang out with them when you can.
  • If you really aren’t comfortable going out with the whole team on a regular basis, it is possible to decline by letting them know ’how grateful you are for the invite, but...’ By being incredibly polite and showing your appreciation straight off the bat, you are able to diffuse any negative judgement immediately, allowing you to be honest as to why you are unable to make the occasion. Again, just make sure that you follow this up with, ’ will come out for the next celebration lunch’ (promotion, birthday etc.) and make sure you attend to keep up appearances and maintain relationships.

The boss

The boss. The immediate boss. The big boss. Any boss! If you are invited to lunch by a senior member of staff, it usually means business - and a real chance to express your ideas and get noticed. But, if you are caught off guard, don’t feel prepared and want to duck out, saying no to lunch with your boss can prove particularly tricky.

In all honesty, you shouldn’t make a habit of turning down the lunch invitation of a boss as attending can be genuinely beneficial, however, if you don’t feel quite ready to do lunch on that particular day, the best thing to do is express your utmost gratitude for the invitation, politely state that you are snowed under and most importantly, ask to arrange an alternative lunch date at a time that’s suitable for them. This shows a real commitment to your job while demonstrating your consideration and willingness to make an extra-curricular effort.

It’s never a good idea to completely alienate yourself from your colleagues because, as well as making the working day dull, it can seriously hinder your chances of career progression. But, if you do need to skip a few lunches from time to time, the above tips will definitely come in handy.

Whatever you do for lunch - just make sure you eat something! 

Have you got any tips or tricks that you have used for getting out of work lunches? Your thoughts and comments blew please…