My boss is retiring, and our office is dipping our toes back into communal meals and celebrations. The plan right now is to order lunch from a local restaurant and then to split the bill between everyone other than the boss. Because the food won’t be kosher, I don’t want to pay for everyone else’s lunch when I’ll have to bring my own food anyway. How can I tell my coworkers diplomatically that I won’t be paying the same as everyone else?
I feel like this question is such a sign of the return to normalcy and also belongs in the category of “things we didn’t actually miss during the past 16 months.” Welcome back to splitting bills, awkward office lunches and navigating social situations on the border between a little annoying and extremely aggravating.
You asked how to tell your coworkers, but I’d encourage you to consider a few other options first. One is just to pay for lunch. I know it feels unfair and not a good use of money, but you have a cost/benefit analysis to do between navigating kashrut and costs with your coworkers and just paying for something, and for a few extra dollars, it may be worthwhile to be seen as a team player.
If these kinds of lunches are likely to be frequent occurrences, I do understand not wanting to set a precedent, but for this first lunch, and for your boss’ retirement, you may just want to “eat” the costs as it were, even if you can’t eat the lunch.
Another option is to consider whether there’s a kosher restaurant that could cater lunch for everyone. Again, maybe this wouldn’t be possible for every lunch, but if it would be possible this time, you could all split the costs evenly, and you’d be able to enjoy it with everyone else. Along these lines, yet another option is to offer to bring dessert that you and everyone else can eat in exchange for not paying for a lunch you won’t be eating.
If none of these options feel workable to you, then you need to talk to (or email) the person coordinating lunch and say something along these lines: “Since the lunch for our boss won’t be kosher, I’m not going to be able to eat it. Please don’t include me in the food order. I will happily contribute to lunch for our boss, but I don’t want to be included in the rest of the individual lunch order or payment. Let me know how much I owe you for my portion of his meal. Thanks for organizing!”
Hopefully, any one of these approaches will show your willingness to participate in office celebrations but won’t leave you feeling uncomfortable, ostracized or financially put-upon. There’s no perfect solution, but if you can decide on an approach that works for you, you’ll be better set up to manage all of the future lunches that come your way.