my coworker’s husband gets annoyed when our meetings run over

A reader writes:

I work with a coworker, Jane, whose husband, Fergus, also works at the same company. Fergus works on the production side of the building, which means his schedule is very rigid — work 7-12, lunch 12-1, then work 1-4. Jane works with me, on the business side of the company.

Jane and Fergus eat lunch together every day at 12 in the break room. Fergus comes by Jane’s desk to get her for lunch at that time. The problem is, on the business side we don’t have a rigid lunch schedule. No one takes a lunch — I’m lucky if I get to eat, and if I do it is at my desk. We are always on deadlines and in and out of meetings, and sometimes things come up. Very frequently, I’ll be working with Jane at her desk when 12:01 hits and Fergus comes strolling up. If we are still actively working on something, he gets visibly annoyed and glares at me until the meeting is finished. Jane never says anything, but stares blankly at me and seems uninterested in the topic once her husband appears. I feel pressured to abruptly end our work and adjourn our meeting, which is very frustrating.

I’ve tried saying “Hi Fergus, we are almost done,” but that doesn’t cut it. I want to add, “and Jane will meet you in the break room in a few minutes” but that is overstepping and weird. Jane is not my direct report but she is junior to me and I manage many of her projects. I’ve mentioned it to her manager, who agrees it’s thoroughly annoying but won’t say anything because she is also uncomfortable doing so.

My opinion is that when work needs to get done work needs to get done. Fergus can eat by himself for 30 minutes and Jane will still get to see him for 30 minutes, which is still longer than everyone else on the team is taking. I’m not trying to deny anyone their lunch break, but it’s just frustrating when we are in the middle of the project and I have to immediately stop working because her husband has appeared.

I predict your advice will be “yes, annoying, but just stop scheduling meetings with Jane before lunch so you don’t have to deal with it.” Am I being overly sensitive?

Nah, that’s annoying. It’s especially annoying that Jane goes blank once her husband appears and no longer engages with the thing you’re meeting with her about. That’s not cool.

If it’s relatively easy for you to stop scheduling meetings with Jane around that time, then sure, that’s the easiest solution.

But really, there’s no reason you can’t be super straightforward with both of them about this, because this is weird.

So, the next time Fergus does this, see what happens if you just matter-of-factly say to him: “Hey, we’re still meeting and I think we’ll be another 10 minutes.” If he doesn’t take the cue and leave, then say, “We need more time. Can you come back later?”

If you were junior to Jane, this would be overstepping, but you’re senior to her and you’re managing some of her projects. It’s fine to say this. You’re allowed to assert some control over who’s hovering around your meetings, and to speak up if someone is glaring at you and looking annoyed.

And really, you’d be doing Jane a big favor if you said something to her about her own behavior too. For example: “Hey, I’ve noticed that when Fergus comes by to meet you for lunch, you tend to check out of what we’re talking about, even if we’re not done yet. I know it’s a pain not to be able to reliably plan when you’ll be free for lunch, but that’s the way our workflow works … and when we’re in the middle of something, it gets a lot less efficient if you’re not engaging once Fergus shows up.”

(Part of me wonders if Jane doesn’t want Fergus hanging around any more than you do, and whether she’d welcome you asserting boundaries with him so that she doesn’t have to, but who knows.)

And Jane’s manager is doing her no favors by not saying anything about this just because she feels awkward about it. Prioritizing a rigidly timed lunch with her husband every single day in a job where rigid lunch times don’t work isn’t going to be good for Jane’s reputation over time … and it’s impacting the ability of her colleagues to get what they need from her. Her manager should speak up, both for Jane’s sake and for other people’s.

If nothing else, if Jane is committed to this daily lunch, someone should at least coach her to handle it more professionally — as in “I can talk for 10 minutes, but I’m heading out for lunch after that.” That sounds like it still wouldn’t be in sync with how your department works, but it would be a hell of a lot better than letting her husband hang around glowering at people while she becomes unresponsive until she’s released.

{ 538 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Malibu Stacey

    I wonder what Jane does when her husband shows up but she’s just not at a good stopping point or on a call she can’t end.

    Reply
    1. AMG

      I’m guessing she drops everything for lunch.

      This is t about Jane’s lunch; you’re at work at it’s about your project. You do what you need to in order to get your work done. You may also want to tell Jane at the start, ‘We may not wrap up at exactly 12; you should probably let Fergus know so that you can meet him in the lunch room when we are done.’ Then sit there and wait for her to IM or email him.

      Or, schedule the meeting in a conference room ‘so we won’t be interrupted.’ And Ferguson won’t know where to stand and glare.

      I would also insist that Ferguson leave, that you get responses from Jane, and you stay until you get what you need from the meeting. It is NOT Fergus’s time, despite what he apparently believes.

      Reply
    2. Kathleen Adams

      The adjective “creepy” is one that’s wildly overused, IMO, but this is…well, just a bit creepy. Just a *bit*. Why hasn’t Jane explained the ways of the business-office world to Fergus? And even if she’s reluctant to bring it up for some reason, why hasn’t Fergus talked to Jane about this “problem”? Why doesn’t he understand this perfectly ordinary problem – or, more probably, why does he *refuse* to understand this perfectly ordinary problem? Why doesn’t Jane perceive this really obvious problem as a problem? What’s the deal with repeating this little drama where he stands there sulking or glowering or whatever until he gets his way? Over *lunch*, for cryin’ out loud. Why why why?

      That’s what I’d want to know if I were the OP, but then, I have probably a little more than normal share of curiosity about How People Operate whereas the OP just wants to get the job done. So I think the idea (suggested by others) of the OP simply telling Fergus that they’ll be X minutes and that it would better if he wait in the break room is a pretty good one. If the situation still doesn’t resolve itself, somebody is going to have to talk to a supervisor, and a supervisor (however reluctantly) is going to have to do something.

      Because it really is a bit creepy.

      Reply
      1. Triangle Pose

        It’s really just so inappropriate for Fergus to hover and glare.

        Moreover, I think Jane is behaving badly too. Not as inappropriate but still unacceptable to just glaze over and disengage in a work meeting.

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        1. Kathleen Adams

          Right or wrong, it makes me wonder just how much under his thumb she is. It’s not fair, I realize, but if I were the OP and this happened more than once, that’s what I’d wonder.

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          1. eplawyer

            I think this is it. HE has the rigid lunch schedule and insists on having it with his wife. Why? So he can make sure she is not lunching with someone else? To check on her during the day? A non-controlling person who maybe just needs a little help on the social graces would not stand and glare. Fergus is mad someone is encroaching with HIS time with HIS wife.

            Remember the boyfriend who wrote in because the boss kept her out late? She wasn’t around for HIS phone call to check in. The boyfriend was all irate. Well this is what the boyfriend would become if that person married him.

            Reply
            1. Morning Glory

              Well, I think it’s also possible he doesn’t understand the norm of the business side of the company and thinks the 1 hour lunch time is (or should be) standard across the board. In that case, I could see this as him being protective of his wife because he thinks she’s being taken advantage of.

              It would be up to Jane to set him straight, but who knows, maybe she’s inexperienced enough where she’s not sure if she’s being taken advantage of, herself. Fergus is clearly behaving in the wrong here on a professional level, but not in a way that screams controlling to me. Just in a way that screams completely not in touch with white collar professional norms.

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              1. pescadero

                “I could see this as him being protective of his wife because he thinks she’s being taken advantage of. ”

                I think it’s quite possible she IS being taken advantage of.

                Is Jane salaried or hourly? Because that has a large bearing on whether she is being taken advantage of.

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                1. Morning Glory

                  I don’t know, I don’t think it does matter.

                  My first job out of college, I was a paralegal – non-exempt. On court days twice a week, I had no lunch until 4-5pm, some days no lunch at all. As long as I was recording the hours I was working and not logging a lunch if I missed one, there was no issue of me being taken advantage of.

                  Also, there’s a big gulf between a 60 minute lunch exactly at 12pm every day, and no lunch at all – the 30 minute lunch OP was suggesting seems really fair to me.

                2. Faith

                  This is actually a very common situation for many finance/accounting roles. You have specific deadlines that you have to meet, and work as long as necessary to meet those deadlines. Yes, sometimes that means working through lunch (or even dinner), or eating at your desk. But that also means that during the times that are not as busy, you are able to come in later, or leave early, or take a 1.5 hour lunch, etc. I would only consider myself taken advantage of if I was expected to work long hours when necessary, but wasn’t given any flexibility in return.

                3. Czhorat

                  It is SO role-dependent. I’ve been in roles at which lunch time can come later, depending on the status of current deliverables.

                  His behavior does seem at least uncomfortable to me. That paired with Jane’s reaction at the very least raises an eyebrow.

              2. The OG Anonsie

                Yeah, maybe he has another issue here, but an equally probable explanation is that he’s used to the rigid blue collar side and thinks the LW is being a huge ass by digging into the designated lunch hour. It would be pretty normal to be met with hovering and hint-hint-eyes in a lot of settings if you were cutting into lunch.

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                1. Artemesia

                  I think the OP needs to take care of it. Or talk to Jane and let her know that she needs to explain to Fergus that her lunch hour is not like his and he needs to not come up to pick her up for lunch; she will come as soon as she gets off, that working at this time is normal. If that doesn’t fix it in a day or two then the OP needs to say “Fergus. We don’t have a fixed lunch hour and Jane will often not be able to get off for lunch at 12. I need you to meet her in the lunch room and not in our offices; I am sure Jane will join you when she can.”

              3. myswtghst

                This was my thought as well. When my husband and I worked at the same company for a year, we were in a similar situation, and I had to make it clear to him that while it was nice when we could hang out during his 30-minute lunch break, my lunch break was whenever there was a clear spot on my calendar, so it didn’t always align.

                Especially if this is a situation where Jane is new(er) to the world of being salaried and the culture of lunch at your desk when you can fit it in, so she doesn’t know how hard to push back on Fergus or the OP, I can see it being to everyone’s benefit for the OP to speak up in a polite but firm way to Jane.

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                1. Noobtastic

                  I remember one super-busy day when I actually went for lunch shortly after 3, got an early-bird dinner special, and then went back to work to finish my shift at 5. Because there was something big happening between 10 and 3, and I had to be on-hand, dealing with it, with nary a break, that whole time.

                  But, being hourly, and not allowed to have overtime, once the busy time was done, I took my lunch. I suppose I could have stayed until 4, and just left early, but by then, I was REALLY ready for some food.

                  Also, I’ve had plenty of times when I ate at my desk, and plenty of times when I literally had to stop eating my lunch and rush to take care of something for someone, and then resume my lunch later, or eat at my desk, and talk to my boss about overtime, or knocking off early another day, to stay within the 40 hour limit.

                  In other words, I only got to have a regularly scheduled lunch about once a week, on average. This was the norm in our office, and if I had a Fergus, I would explain to him that this was my norm, not his, and he’d just have to be happy to see me when I was available, and otherwise, stay out of my way.

                  I think the fact that I wouldn’t put up with this sort of thing is one reason I’m still single. I’d never marry the Fergus, in the first place.

            2. Anonymoose

              We don’t know if he gets jealous, we don’t know if either of them have a medical condition that requires eating in a timely manner, and we don’t know who is under a thumb. It’s irrelevant, and a totally wild speculation. What is relevant is coaching Jane to speak up: either to OP that she must leave on the dot at 12pm for whatever reason (like perhaps she gets sick if she doesn’t eat, and her husband is tired of her not sticking up for her health condition – see? I totally made that up and it’s still irrelevant), or to her husband to wait in line like everybody else. It’s her behavior that can be managed/is relevant, no other expectations should be considered.

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            3. Honeybee

              Well, there’s no evidence in the letter that says that Fergus is insisting that Jane have lunch with him every day. It could very well be that they both really enjoy having lunch every day, and Fergus’s frustration simply comes from the delay in the start of his lunch time. Still not cool for him to stand and glower, but qualitatively different from insisting.

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          2. MoinMoin

            I thought of that a little too, and even swapping the genders it seems a pretty reasonable jump that the Fergus role is being a little controlling.
            But it also reminds me of an article from Bullish on working a white collar job when you grow up blue collar and not understanding all of the unspoken rules that can come with different types of jobs, and from Fergus’ (and maybe Jane’s, depending on her background) position he may just be frustrated that Jane is “owed” her lunch hour and OP is impeding this. I think this is a more reasonable place to start trying to unpack the issue as the former can be a little more needlessly accusatory.

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            1. PollyQ

              Hmm, that’s a good thought. Fergus’s behavior makes (a tiny little bit of) sense if he thinks that Jane’s being screwed out of something that’s rightfully hers. Still a poor way for him to deal with the situation, obviously.

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            2. A.

              Coming from that background, this was my initial thought as well – maybe Fergus sees it as trying to protect the lunch hour that is rightfully Jane’s, and she could be in on it dependent on her own background. You just can’t know what goes on between them.

              The OP says no one takes a lunch hour on the business side, but Jane clearly does. Maybe she’s classified in a position that is entitled to a lunch break and feels the OP is always interfering and trying to make her work through lunch and this is how she (poorly) handles it.

              Honestly we just don’t know, so I’d treat it like Jane has a standing meeting at noon every day and try to meet with her at other times if possible.

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              1. Triangle Pose

                But she doesn’t have a standing meeting every day at noon – she has a personal lunch and prefers that it happens from noon-1pm. If business needs conflict with this, Jane should plan around her work responsibilities.

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                1. Anna

                  I can see that being the case if it didn’t happen often, but the OP makes it sound like it is coming up often. Sure, they’re a business office and more flexible, but that doesn’t mean Jane wouldn’t rather take a regular lunch. For all the OP knows, Jane is really hungry by noon and is disengaged so she can eat something as quickly as possible.

            3. TC

              I used to have that “I’m owed a lunchbreak” mentality, because where my parents worked, that’s how things were. It took me awhile to get over it and see the benefits in flexibility. I still could never convince my parents that finishing work at exactly 5pm wasn’t something I could do and to stop making 5:30pm dinner plans, but you can’t win them all. :)

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          3. Uzumaki Naruto

            That’s what I suspect, too. She doesn’t want to or can’t stand up to him.

            The other possibility is that she really wants her lunch time and is using him as cover, but that strikes me as less likely.

            I guess it’s theoretically possible that they just are totally clueless (both of them), but that’s super unlikely.

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            1. PattS

              Very controlling. Has the outward appearance of a domineering, possibly abusive, relationship. I only say that because I’ve been in one that from the outside did not seem controlling or abusive. It was little things like this that were hints that no one picked up on until too much damage was done.

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          4. NLMC

            That is exactly what I was thinking while reading this. Especially if she shuts down when he comes over, is she just trying to avoid a fight later?

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        2. BeenThere

          It makes me wonder if maybe Fergus takes it out on Jane if she’s late, even/especially if it’s beyond her control. It seems like it could be an indication of some extremely controlling behavior in their relationship if he expects her to drop her *work* while *at work* to be with him when it works for him.

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          1. anonymouse

            I don’t think there’s anything in this letter to indicate that. I know people on this site tend to jump towards the worst possible situation first, but someone’s behavior doesn’t always indicate an abusive or controlling relationship and there’s absolutely no way to tell from the letter if Jane is being abused or not just because she loses interest in work when lunchtime rolls around and her husband shows up.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Yeah, I wondered about this as I was answering the letter, but ultimately I decided it’s just one of many possibilities that could explain this, and it’s equally likely that Jane just is being weird and unprofessional. And the advice is the same no matter what’s causing it.

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            2. Kathleen Adams

              I think we can, at least, all agree that it’s weird and unprofessional – whatever the reason. I’m not personally saying that I think Fergus is being controlling – he certainly could be, but of course there are other possible explanations. But if I were in the OP’s shoes, that’s what I’d think. It’s a natural thing to think, so I wouldn’t say that’s really “jumping to conclusions.”

              But the person who really needs to address this is Jane, and if Jane won’t address it, the supervisor needs to, both because it’s her job, dang it, and because it would be a kindness for Jane’s to be brought to realize that this is a bad idea and why it’s a bad idea. Making one’s coworkers uncomfortable just for doing their jobs isn’t going to work out well for either Jane or Fergus, and surely she doesn’t want that.

              Reply
            3. NotAnotherManager!

              I would agree with this. I see it more as a white collar/blue collar divide than an indicator of abuse.

              One of the biggest sources of disagreement my husband and I have had over sharing childcare work is that he has a job that has specific hours, and I do not. He didn’t (and possibly doesn’t still) understand why I can’t leave work at my “scheduled end time” because he is locked into a schedule (and more so since he does school drop-off/pickup). He told his boss yesterday that he couldn’t do something because it was 10 minutes before he had to sign off, so he really doesn’t understand that that’s not an option in my job. If the world goes to hell five minutes before “quitting time”, I still have to deal with it, just like I had to handle an urgent issue Saturday night before we could watch our movie. I have a senior management level position and am well-compensated for my poor work/life balance; he’s a worker bee who is not allowed to incur OT.

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              1. I'm a tailor's apprentice.

                THIS!!! My husband works in a field where he works 8 hours without a break, eats with the clients, and if crap happens at the end of the day he’s forced to stay until the situation is taken care of. We share a car. I have often waited for him to come pick me up or sat in a parked car outside of his workplace cursing him, his job, and the fact that my time was being wasted on his job. That’s likely where Fergus is coming from. He gets an hour for lunch and waiting for Jane chips away at that hour.

                Also… there is nothing wrong with wanting to eat with your spouse/partner/S.O. every day. I choose my hubby to do stuff with over other people all the time. Not because I am controlled or in an abusive relationship. I just like him best. I can sit and talk about nothing with him, have a serious conversation, or not talk at all. Sometimes we literally just sit on the couch, not speaking, but sending funny memes to one another for hours. We don’t know Jane and Fergus. Let’s not make assumptions

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                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  I don’t mean to be a busybody, but it sounds like you should control the car then, no? (i.e., if your schedule is more routine, why not let you be the primary carpool driver?)

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I’ll be honest, Jane going “blank” was the part that read as controlling/abusive to me. That’s weird and creepy. I’m not saying it’s what’s happening, but I think it’s valuable for OP to consider this from a DV-perspective as well as a regular managing perspective because it could materially change how OP handles addressing it.

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              1. Anonymoose

                Maybe she’s just embarassed that he’s standing there. I would be. I would want to tell my husband to back off, but then it would embarass HIM in front of my coworkers and cause gossip. So blanking up could be her equivalent of ‘oh god, please just hurry this up’.

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                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  Of course that could be an explanation. Again, I’m not saying it’s DV—I’m just saying that it certainly would fit within a DV narrative, and it would probably be better for OP to have that in mind (i.e., that there’s a possibility but not a certainty that there’s an underlying dynamic) when formulating how to approach Jane.

              2. AthenaC

                Yes – to me that’s the type of dissociating from reality that happens when you’re between a rock and a hard place (for example, you know what your professional obligations are but your husband is …. aggressively not understanding, no matter how many times you explain).

                And notice – it’s not “Jane goes blank at 12:00 on the dot.” It’s “once her husband appears.”

                Is there any way to talk to Fergus’s supervisor? After all, Fergus is the one whose behavior is inappropriate. Any solution that goes through Jane is basically forcing Jane to take responsibility for another person that she can’t and shouldn’t have to control. If the root of the issue is a work culture clash (rather than something more sinister), having the message come to Fergus through official channels might be the thing that gets him to take it seriously.

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              3. Blossom

                I read that as Jane thinking “It’s lunch time now. She can see that it’s lunch time. She knows I meet my husband here every day at 12pm, and that he’s here now. When is she going to wrap this up? Is it over yet? Is it over yet? Is it over yet? I’m hungry.”

                And this is pretty much how I feel when a meeting is overrunning into my personal time. Now, I work in an office where it’s understood that lunch breaks should be taken, and I will even block it into my calendar if my diary is filling up fast, just to make sure that I get time for a break and to eat – which is important for many reasons, not least health and productivity.

                I get that Jane doesn’t work in that kind of environment, and that she hasn’t explicitly said to her colleagues that 12-1 is her lunch hour – she definitely needs to be more assertive about that instead of just taking it as assumed. I also think it’s normal to be flexible, if there’s an exceptional reason to skip lunch. However, I don’t think she is doing anything terribly wrong in scheduling a regular lunch break, other than not being assertive about her needs and wishes. I don’t know what their line of work is, but (assuming that it’s a given that everyone will/should/may be taking a lunch break at some point in the day), couldn’t it even be an asset to know that hers are so predictable? It really does make me feel stressed just thinking about the idea of having to be “on call” 24/7, not knowing when a meeting might end, even when you’re hungry.

                I also think Fergus is a red herring here. It doesn’t matter whether she truly loves their daily scheduled lunches, or whether she goes along with them just to please him. Whatever her motivation, she is choosing to take these lunches and it should be dealt with as just that, her choice.

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                1. AthenaC

                  Oh those are some good thoughts – so maybe the best approach is this: if Jane otherwise gets her work done, then she should be coached to speak up and make her lunch hour as A Thing that people plan around, in the same way Lucinda comes in at 9:30 on Wednesdays because she has yoga or Wakeen’s dog gets groomed every other Thursday at 4:30 pm. If Jane is fairly junior, she may not feel comfortable setting boundaries around her priorities the way someone higher up would, so that would be an empowering thing for her to learn.

                2. Turtle Candle

                  Well, Fergus isn’t entirely a red herring–he “gets visibly annoyed and glares at me until the meeting is finished.” That is a problem all by itself, independent of the lunch issue. Even if the lunch issue is really a genuine problem, having Fergus show up to passive-aggressively hover and sulk and glower is a very real problem, not just a decoy problem. (And it’s one that can have surprisingly far-reaching effects. I worked somewhere years back where and employee would come and hover and grumble like a small stormcloud near another worker’s desk that happened to be near mine, and though I had nothing at all to do with the conflict involved–I had nothing to do with either of their teams–it made things deeply unpleasant. We all spent the time he was pulling the stare-and-glare routine with our shoulders up around our ears.)

                  Yes, you could presumably solve the passive-aggressive glaring problem by letting Jane do whatever she wants for lunch, but that doesn’t strike me as good management either. It signals to the rest of the office that the way to get what you want is to be unpleasant until someone gives in.

                3. Blossom

                  (reply to Turtle Candle) – I’d expect that, once Jane has had the conversations she needs to have, the glowering would cease to exist. Either she would have agreed with her manager that she could have a regular lunch hour, or (perhaps depending on the outcome of that discussion) made it clear to Fergus that the nature of her work doesn’t allow these daily lunch dates. If he’s still showing up and glaring after that, then yes, there’s a problem. However, until then, I see the root cause as a communication issue, and I’d want to address that first before cracking down on the symptoms.

                4. Turtle Candle

                  Well, that’s certainly possible; I just don’t necessarily expect that level of resonableness from someone whose response to something they dislike in the workplace is ‘stand in another department’s office space and glare at another employee who is your wife’s superior.’ I would actually be surprised if a weirdness of that level cleared itself up on its own.

                5. Blossom

                  Hmm. I think I’m imagining a less pointed glare than you might be imagining. I’m picturing Fergus feeling impatient and a little indignant, waiting for his wife and her colleague to wrap things up since it is now “lunch time”, not looking particularly smiley. I’m not picturing a very pointed, punitive glare directed specifically at the OP – though who knows, perhaps this is exactly what is happening. Perhaps I’m erring towards a more generous interpretation because I’ve been told I was “frowning” or “looking angry” when actually I was just focusing or daydreaming. I don’t think this is uncommon.

                6. AthenaC

                  “I just don’t necessarily expect that level of resonableness from someone whose response to something they dislike in the workplace is ‘stand in another department’s office space and glare at another employee who is your wife’s superior.’”

                  @Turtle Candle – yes, right here. You put into words why I wouldn’t expect many of these responses to be effective – the ones that assume that Jane “just needs to talk to Fergus.”

                  It’s a tricky line to straddle, trying to stick to workplace management issues when there’s possibly some iffy marital dynamics at the root of it.

                7. NOT letter writer

                  @Blossom–sure, that’s possible; I’m just taking the LW at their word re: “visibly annoyed” and “glares,” as we generally do here. If we’re going to take them literally about the comments about how much lunch time is taken on average, I’m not sure there’s any reason not to take them equally literally about the behavior they actually wrote in about.

                  If this person is standing around with a mild look on their face and is not at all annoyed or glare-y, then sure, okay, maybe it’s a problem that will solve itself. But assuming that is assuming that we know more than the LW about the situation about which they are writing.

                8. Turtle Candle

                  Oops, that was me, on a different computer where apparently I had to clarify that I was not the LW some weeks ago….

              4. Czhorat

                Yes. IN a normal relationship Jane should be the one to say “Sorry, sugargoat, I need ten minutes to wrap this up. It’s been a tempestuous week here.”

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              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Domestic violence doesn’t require physical assault to be violent, and it’s not helpful to dismiss people’s concerns about abusive behavior by framing the issue in this way.

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                1. AthenaC

                  There are definitely things that look bad from the outside, but I also think there’s a strong possibility that it’s a work culture clash and Fergus sees himself as “protective.”

                  Sample size of one, but it’s my story – it took years for it to finally sink in to my husband that my white-collar job was nothing like the blue-collar jobs he had before quitting to become a SAHD. During those years I got more than my share of earfuls about “they can’t do that to you” and “you need to push back and say no!” and things about Illinois non-exempt employee labor law that he knew (while we were in Alaska and I was definitely an exempt employee). He’s not controlling or abusive, but he is stubborn, and if he were in Fergus’s shoes, this is the type of thing he would have done.

                  So that’s why my vote is to have the messaging come through Fergus’s chain of command rather than try to force Jane to control Fergus.

          2. Kenji

            I’m torn on this one without more context – could definitely be a warning sign of some controlling behavior, could also just be an awkward dude who doesn’t realize how he’s coming off.

            Either way, totally inappropriate – definitely in need of someone senior to politely, firmly call it out.

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      2. Dust Bunny

        Does Fergus have a manager? Maybe hearing it from somebody senior to him, in his own department, would help.

        Also: Point out that most people don’t get to eat lunch with their SO’s at work AT ALL, so it would be better not to get too invested in this particular privilege.

        Reply
        1. Whats In A Name

          I get the idea of what you are trying to say, but I don’t think using the fact that Jane and Fergus get to eat together at all when most couple don’t get to is really the way to solve this particular issue. If someone told me I should privledged to choose who I get to eat lunch with I would be pretty pissed and probably not really inclined to fix the issue. If it’s approached from a professional standpoint I would be much more inclined to cooperate. Just me, though.

          Reply
      3. Noobtastic

        I get the creepy feeling that Fergus is the “take it out on the wife” type of guy, and Jane is afraid of him.

        Maybe not, but that’s just the vibe I’m getting from this.

        Reply
  2. Katie the Fed

    I wonder too if it might be worth Jane’s manager having a chat with Fergus’s manager to alert her to the issue as well. This is bizarre and unprofessional behavior for him too.

    Reply
    1. EddieSherbert

      I think it’s more of a Jane’s manager to Jane. The husband’s manager doesn’t technically (??) have a work-related issue to address… Fergus is on lunch and can spend the time how he wants (with reasonable restrictions).

      Plus, if I was Fergus, I’d be a bit annoyed that I’m hearing this from my manager and not my wife (and if I was Jane and my manager did not talk to me, but Fergus’ talked to him about this, I’m be VERY upset).

      Reply
      1. EddieSherbert

        In my mind, he could be anyone coming for lunch with her from anywhere (not just another department), and it’d be a problem that she needs to resolve because it impacts her work :)

        Reply
        1. Whats In A Name

          Thats where my head is as well. The real issue is the issue it’s having on Jane’s work and he’s technically off the clock. I’d be on board with all 4 of them sitting down over Fergus and his boss having a discussion over Fergus’ behavior on his lunch break.

          Reply
      2. AnotherAlison

        Maybe. . .my first job was in a production facility. Random production people from the floor were not supposed to go up to the business offices. If he wasn’t Jane’s husband, it would probably be frowned on that he’s there. It sounds like their facility is more lax, but I think Jane should meet him in the breakroom if she can, and otherwise, he should go ahead and eat his lunch as planned. No reason for him to come up to her desk.

        Reply
      3. Lance

        I would agree there; unless something further happens, this sounds like an issue for OP/Jane’s manager to resolve with Jane, then for her to resolve with Fergus. If he starts making an issue of it after that point, it would be more than fair to go to his manager.

        Reply
      4. Katie the Fed

        I’m looking at it from the perspective of professional development and coaching though. Fergus isn’t doing his own image any favors acting like this – it’s probably something he needs to be coached on.

        It’s Jane’s manager’s issue primarily, but he’s also an employee of the company and I think his manager should get a heads up.

        Reply
        1. Triangle Pose

          Do you see any reason why OP can’t just remind him in the moment? OP is senior to Jane and Fergus is just another employee from the other side of the company. As a more senior person, I would have no problem just saying to Fergus in the moment “Hey Fergus, we’re meeting here so we need to focus. Please wait in the breakroom or come back when Jane lets you know we’re finished here.” And if he tries it again next time. “Fergus – remember what I said last time? We’re in a meeting. Going forward, please wait in the breakroom or come back when Jane lets you know we’re finished here.”

          Reply
          1. Sparrow

            If OP is senior to Jane but not actually over her, I think there’s a good chance this would go over very poorly. Regardless of Fergus’s motivations (thinking he’s being protective of something she’s owed, being generally out of touch, controlling her, etc), I feel like someone who already feels comfortable hovering grumpily will not agreeably accept direction from his wife’s coworker. And that is more an issue with his professionalism than OP’s actions, but nonetheless, I think it’s more likely to escalate the situation than anything else.

            Reply
      5. Rusty Shackelford

        I think it’s more of a Jane’s manager to Jane.

        I agree. The real problem here is not that Fergus is annoyed. The real problem is how Jane is handling it. But since Fergus is disrupting meetings, I think it would be appropriate for Jane’s manager to ask that he be told not to do that by his own manager.

        Reply
      6. AthenaC

        I’m willing to bet Fergus has already heard all this from Jane, and he has insisted that “they can’t treat you like that” no matter how many times she explains. So she’s done having that particular argument with him.

        It took years for it to finally sink in to my husband that my white-collar job was NOTHING like the blue-collar jobs he had before quitting to become a SAHD. During those years I got more than my share of earfuls about “they can’t do that to you” and “you need to push back and say no!” and things about Illinois non-exempt employee labor law that he knew (while we were in Alaska and I was definitely an exempt employee). He’s not controlling or abusive, but he is stubborn, and if he were in Fergus’s shoes, this is the type of thing he would have done.

        So my vote is to have someone in Fergus’s chain of command have a chat with him and see how that goes.

        Reply
    2. Morning Glory

      Yeah, this is really weird. I wonder if the fact that he works for the same company means the husband is expecting to be treated as Jane’s colleague and not her husband in terms of consideration to schedule.

      Like, he sees this as equally rude as if he had a meeting with Jane that the OP was eating into (which, in his side of the company it sounds like, would be more serious than on the business side) instead of a personal lunch.

      If that’s the case, and he’s filled with professional indignation when this happens, then a reset in how he’s viewing the issue from his manager could go a long way.

      Reply
      1. Triangle Pose

        Yep, but this is a personal lunch, not a colleague meeting so Fergus should not be afforded the same consideration. It’s pretty off for him to think otherwise. I agree he needs coaching and some enlightenment on this, it makes him look very bad.

        Reply
        1. Morning Glory

          Oh for sure, I didn’t mean to imply he did.

          It’s the only thing I can think of that would make him act that way, but that doesn’t mean he’s right to be doing it.

          Reply
          1. Triangle Pose

            I was agreeing with your comment! Re-reading it I realize my comment was unclear. But yes, he needs a re-set because he clearly has indignation about this.

            Reply
    3. Stranger than fiction

      Yeah, perhaps he doesn’t need to be picking her up at her desk and should jus be meeting her in the break room. Seems like a logical solution.

      Reply
  3. PK

    I had a tough time transitioning from a rigid scheduled lunch to a ‘take lunch when you can’. I occasionally still get annoyed but it’s the nature of the job. Stuff comes up that can’t wait an hour. Much like the advice, I see nothing wrong with telling someone that they can’t hover around a meeting that doesn’t include them. Good luck!

    Reply
  4. LisaLee

    I realize this isn’t what the OP asked, but what’s up with not getting a lunch? If they’re working 8-hour days, isn’t that illegal? Surely a big part of this problem is that none of them are getting real lunch breaks, and if they just started having lunches (like they should be entitled to) then the issue with Jane would go away?

    Reply
    1. blanche devereaux

      Came here to say the same thing – OP mentioned she’s lucky if she even GETS to eat. Outside of the Jane/Fergus debacle, I am not okay with employees feeling so pressured by deadlines that they are routinely skipping meals. Everyone should get an hour to eat/recharge unless what you’re doing is literally the difference between life and death. What can’t wait an hour?

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Sometimes it’s personal preference; I can take a whole hour off if I want to, but usually I’d prefer to eat quickly or take a working lunch so I can leave earlier. An hour not working usually means staying later to get everything done that I need to do for the day.

        Reply
      2. Temperance

        FWIW, I don’t generally want to recharge during the workday, I want to burn through as much as possible so I can leave on time or earlier. I hated how my previous job made us clock out for an hour for lunch.

        Reply
        1. SpaceySteph

          I am all about the working lunch, and it’s nice to have the option. But to blanche’s point, choosing to work through lunch and being so busy you can’t even take enough time to stuff some food in your mouth are not the same thing. If the OP really feels like there isn’t enough time in her day to scarf down a sandwich, then that is a problem.

          Reply
      3. Elizabeth West

        It depends on what state you’re in; here, employers aren’t required to give you a lunch break. At Exjob, I chose not to take it so I could come in a little later and leave a little earlier to beat the traffic. I just ate at my desk and worked if I had something to do. If not, I read AAM (!) and answered emails as they came in.

        Reply
        1. SophieChotek

          +1. Like many have said, I would prefer to leave earlier/be done earlier and just take a 5 minute break to go head something up in the microwave, etc. (And read AAM if it’s a slower day…)

          Reply
        2. Anxa

          At ex-job, we did not have to take an hour. Most days I only worked 6 hours, so a lunch wasn’t really necessary (although as someone who doesn’t eat breakfast often would be nice to have).

          Some semesters I worked 7 or 8. I was asked when I started if I’d prefer a designated lunch hour. I chose not to. I brought things like hardboiled eggs, cheese sticks, avocados, and other high density quick calorie slams to work. Then I got paid for all the hours AND I could eat if there was a break in the workload.

          Had I been required to take a lunch that would have reduced my paycheck and made it harder to eat, not easier, because groceries were one of my only variable costs I could cut from. Demand wouldn’t pick up on the early or late ends of those shifts, so there wasn’t any just moving the hours around.

          It was one of those times having looser labor restrictions in one area made my life as a low-income worker easier.

          Reply
        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Yes, and it depends on whether you’re exempt or non-exempt. I don’t have a clear sense of which is accurate for Jane, but it sounds like she may be non-exempt.

          Reply
      4. KarenD

        Eh, you kind of hit a pet peeve of mine … there are plenty of stops between “It just doesn’t matter” and “It’s a matter of life and death.”

        There are times when, as a professional, the demands of my job clearly dictate working through lunch (or schlepping lunch to my desk where it might sit for a few hours) though I’m pretty sure nobody has ever gotten anywhere near death because I didn’t. Sometimes I find myself at a point where stopping means losing some of the progress I’ve made, or losing the attention of someone I need to wrap up a task.

        And OP isn’t even asking that Jane skip lunch – only that Jane needs to respect other people’s time and the workplace culture and stay engaged when her engagement is needed.`

        Reply
        1. blanche devereaux

          I agree there are plenty of stops and apologies for hitting a pet peeve. As mentioned, my comment was not even addressing the Jane issue, but the workplace culture where it seems expected that people skip meals. I understand that needs to happen sometimes and I’ve certainly done it before, but if it were on a regular basis it would probably concern me. Also, I live in California and I’ve been yelled at for skipping lunch b/c CA law requires it.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            That’s because you’re non-exempt. There’s no requirement that exempt employees get lunch. It really is a whole different mindset on lunch breaks.

            Reply
            1. Turtle Candle

              Yep. I’m non-exempt; my husband is exempt. I am required to take 30 minutes (and permitted to take up to an hour), unpaid, due to state law (and they do enforce that–working through lunch is Not To Be Done for people in my role, because it could get the company in legal trouble). He is permitted to take up to an hour (and he doesn’t have to clock out for it)… but he often chooses not to if he has a lot to do and would rather get it done earlier and clock out earlier. Since he isn’t legally required one, being exempt, they don’t care if he takes an hour or takes ten minutes or just works straight through, as long as work gets done.

              Now, because we are in a situation where we can take lunch together, he’ll often take the half hour or hour when I do so we can eat together. But he doesn’t have to, and sometimes when work is piling up he’ll decide he’d rather have that hour free at the end of the day instead, so I eat on my own on those days.

              Reply
            2. Zombii

              There’s rarely a legal requirement that non-exempt employees get lunch either, it varies by state (there’s no federal law at all), and states are all over the place on it. The only requirement is that non-exempt employees have to be paid for all hours worked.

              I have worked in two different states for companies that had management and HR freaking out about the legal requirement for a lunch break, when the state law didn’t require a lunch break. I’m fine with company policy being whatever, but it annoys the hell out of me for employers to be like “You can’t! Because ILLEGAL!” when there is no such law. (Although both times they were nationwide companies and I think policy was based on California law, just to avoid confusion.)

              Reply
        2. LisaLee

          I get your point, but I’m wondering if this company has a culture of “you’re not adequately dedicated if you regularly take a non-working lunch” that is exacerbating what would otherwise be a minor problem. If there’s *never* a good time for Jane to take a lunch, then Jane can’t really plan a time to eat.

          Reply
          1. Princess Carolyn

            I have the same concern about the culture. Sure, it’s not realistic to to expect to drop everything at noon every day. And sure, lots of white collar/exempt workers prefer to eat at their desks or skip lunch to leave early (though that wouldn’t work in my own office unless you were anticipating staying past 5). But feeling like you can’t routinely take a lunch break – or, in OP’s case, fostering resentment for those who do routinely take a lunch break – is a problem.

            That doesn’t make Alison’s advice any less useful, but it definitely stood out to me as A Thing.

            Reply
            1. Anon13

              This stood out to me, as well. Many here are telling personal stories about why they prefer not to take lunch, but it seems those people are thinking too much about their preferences and not about the letter. The letter writer makes it seem like it’s a part of their work culture to not take a lunch, not that it’s simply something she prefers. She uses phrases like, “no one takes lunch” and,”I’m lucky if I get to eat.” What Fergus is doing is inappropriate, but it seems like, with the work culture, there’s no good time for Jane to take a lunch. Many people can not go 8+ hours without eating and it shouldn’t be expected of those who don’t choose it.

              Reply
            2. Observer

              I’m so glad I’m not the only one noticing this. It’s one thing to not have a rigid lunch time. It’s another to not have one at all *most days*. And that’s what the OP seems to be implying here.

              Reply
          2. Cafe au Lait

            This is very much the sense I got while reading the OP’s letter and her comments. I don’t think Jane’s the problem. I think the company culture is to blame. When work meetings regularly extend an hour and a half over, and workers are “passionate about the job” and the OP suggests that Jane is unusual is taking an hour lunch, it’s not the worker, it’s the culture.

            I get it; I work in a library. There’s always another patron at the front desk. Or something came back that needs a repair. Or a book was improperly cataloged and now there’s missing information. Or the book bin is overflowing. I’ve had to set boundaries and tell my colleagues that I will address _____ in a minute, when I’m done with X, or that I won’t be able to get to ___ today. Even today, my boss asked me to do a two minute task as I was sitting down for lunch. I refused. I’ve given away so much time over the years in two, three or five minute increments. I am a team player, but I will no longer be the team player with the rumbly stomach trying to get “one more thing” done.

            Reply
      5. HRtripp

        I happen to agree with you. She is most likely living in a state where she is allotted a lunch break or else there would be a different complaint being discussed. I also happen to think the first step in correcting the situation would be to speak with Jane and not Fergus. Jane needs to speak to her husband in regards to her work schedule to help him understand that her schedule is not as rigid as his and she won’t always be free exactly at 12. On the other hand, if you happen to learn that eating lunch with her husband everyday is important to Jane then you should make an effort to find a stopping point by noon.

        Reply
      6. LK

        I work in law. LOTS of things can’t wait an hour. If someone is in court imminently or at that time and they need something NOW….. if a large transaction is funding to a 3pm deadline and there’s still 4 hours worth of work to finalize at 11am…..this isn’t that crazy, so long as they’re being compensated for the hours they work…. it’s not ideal but it’s not horrible.

        Reply
        1. Triangle Pose

          YES! Nail on the head. I am in law also and even though I’m in-house now and have less fire drills and client emergencies than when I was at the law firm, there are still important things that mean I can’t just unilaterally block off 12-1pm every work day. It’s pretty out of touch in my field to expect that you can do that. It’s really not unreasonable and I want to push back on the idea this expectation 12-1pm every day is sacred personal time that an employee should get to eat her lunch and every office that doesn’t provide that is horrible.

          Reply
          1. KellyK

            That’s fair. Lots of things can’t wait an hour, or need to be wrapped up right at 12. Lots of jobs don’t allow you to disappear for an hour during the workday, but require you to be there and available while you eat.

            I do think blanche devereaux is right that any organization where you’re regularly going without lunch entirely is a crappy one unless the situation is literally life and death. Being able to let something sit for an hour while you take a leisurely lunch break isn’t a given, but a few minutes to heat up leftovers or grab a sandwich should be.

            Reply
            1. Triangle Pose

              I agree with you that any organization where everyone is “regularly going without lunch entirely is a crappy one” but my reading of OP’s comment that she’s lucky if she gets to eat is that it’s an offhand remark meant to illustrate a busy work culture and not that she and everyone else are so busy they physically can’t put food into their mouths sometime during the work day. Clearly that’s not the case because Jane is in fact eating a lunch from 12-1 every day right now. If OP comes back and says that was literal, then I can agree that there is a bigger problem. I just don’t see it from the letter and I think it’s a bit of a red herring here and causing some folks to get off topic from the issue OP is writing in about. The problem is Fergus and Jane’s behavior. Both of them need a level-set converation and to change their behavior.

              Reply
              1. Anon13

                I don’t think OP’s comment was an offhand remark – she later mentions that a daily half hour break is, “still longer than anyone else on the team is taking.” According to the letter, Jane seems to be the only one eating lunch each day.

                Reply
                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  I think everyone else is likely exempt and eating at their desks, based on OP’s description. That’s not necessarily unlawful in many states. Designated lunch breaks tend to be an issue for non-exempt employees (and are often more heavily regulated), but the same isn’t true for most exempt positions.

          2. Anon13

            I don’t think anyone (except Jane and Fergus) has expressed the expectation that a regular lunch time, at the same time every day, is something that employees need and that offices that don’t provide that are horrible. Which comments gave you that impression?

            Reply
        2. KarenD

          I’m not in law, but my industry is very much the same. There are hard deadlines to hit, and consequences.

          Plus, there are times I’m just running on rails and everything is falling into place and all those other cliches about things going really, really well in the moment. If getting up means losing the thread of something I’m writing, or shutting down a phone conversation that is bearing unexpected fruit … Heck no I won’t go!

          Reply
        3. NotAnotherManager!

          Yes, legal is not well-known for its established, rigid schedules. We are super clear about that in interviews and pay commensurate with what’s required. If you have strong feelings about your schedule in any way, it’s probably not for you (absent firms that do residential real estate closing or other routine work).

          I usually run out, grab lunch, and eat at my desk, but that’s any time between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. based on what’s going on that day. I rarely leave the office for a full hour, and I’m mobile email-tethered anyway. Staff that ends up working through lunch is paid OT for their lost lunch. We also reimburse for meals and transportation home for people who end up staying more than an hour and a half past their end-time and bring in food for large teams driving towards a deadline.

          Reply
        4. Turtle Candle

          It’s an interesting coincidence that this discussion is happening on the same day that a huge chunk of Amazon’s AWS servers are down, causing widespread issues on apparently-unrelated sites like Netflix and Expedia. I have friends who work at Amazon (and who like it there, contrary to stereotype) who are like, “Yeah, it’s ‘run down to the caf for a sandwich and run back up’ day until we fix this….”

          Reply
        5. Delta Delta

          Yep. Sometimes lunch doesn’t happen because child services took an infant and we need an emergency dependency hearing NOW and then as long as I’m there, I might as well cover a bail hearing for an armed robbery. That’s how it goes for some lawyers some days, and then we feel like we’re going to wither away and thank heavens we keep emergency trail mix in the glove box of the car.

          Car snacks: saving lawyers since cars were invented.

          Reply
      7. Stranger than fiction

        In my experience, it’s not that uncommon with exempt coworkers. They eat at their desk, or take a break later in the day, or whatever, depending where they’re at with deadlines.

        Reply
      8. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude

        Ha, I’d say ESPECIALLY if what you’re doing is literally the difference between life and death! :)

        Reply
    2. LBK

      It varies by state. There’s no federal laws about lunch breaks, and IIRC in many states the laws that do exist only apply to non-exempt employees, which it doesn’t sound like the OP is.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Yup. Most workers in the U.S. aren’t entitled to lunch breaks. (I would also say that a whole hour is longer than the norm.)

        Reply
        1. KarenD

          It would drive me nuts if I were required to take an hour. Granted, there are times (like today) when I’m far ahead enough to go “off campus” for a more leisurely lunch. But on a daily basis, I bring my lunch and 20-30 minutes is more than adequate (especially since my lunch buddy and I have been eating together so long we speak in a strange kind of shorthand that lets us get all our workplace griping over quickly …. I say “That thing!” and he says “Yeah, sucks!” and we both feel immensely better. :D )

          Reply
        2. JessaB

          Yeh the only workers that I know for sure are entitled to certain breaks (CA and other state rules notwithstanding) are minors. To the best of my knowledge every state has rules (not including farms or family businesses) that regulate how many hours a minor can work without a break and how many total hours a day. This is obviously not the case here.

          Reply
            1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

              I grew up and had my first jobs in CA, so I’m never sure which rules are across the board and which only existed because I was in CA :)

              Reply
              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Usually CA is one of the more worker-friendly and worker-protective states. So when in doubt, assume that if there’s no law requiring lunch for salaried workers in CA, then there probably isn’t a law to that effect in any other state/territory, either :)

                Reply
          1. KellyK

            I think the general assumption is that exempt employees (who are properly classified) have enough discretion in what they do when to be able to grab food at some point during the day. It’s not necessarily an *accurate* assumption, but it might be the rationale. Or just a general idea that exempt employees need fewer protections.

            I do think providing the ability to eat at least once during an eight-hour shift and twice during a twelve-hour shift is pretty much the bare minimum, and wish that it were legally mandated, even if it was 10-15 minutes and a place on the premises where you’re allowed to eat (since not every company lets people eat at their desks).

            Reply
          2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

            And…at my last job, I was told that the expectation was that we worked 9 hour days with no lunch. My work week was 45 hours.

            Reply
      2. AMG

        I never take lunch–I’m just used to grabbing something and eating at my desk or during meetings.,I don’t even think about it.

        Reply
        1. AVP

          Same, the 3-4 times I’ve tried to go out for lunch I’ve been more stressed about all the emails piling up and anxious to just get through them so I can go home at a reasonable time.

          Reply
        2. Anon13

          Well, you’re not “taking a lunch” in the being gone for an hour sense, but I think most people would consider leaving to grab something “taking lunch.” YMMV, though. And you are eating – the LW mentions that many days, she doesn’t eat.

          Reply
          1. AMG

            True–I guess a better way to say it is ‘not taking a formal lunch break.’ I do eat lunch, I take ~10 minutes to get my food, etc.

            Reply
      3. Cordelia Naismith

        Yes. In my state, exempt employees aren’t required to take a lunch. Non-exempt employees, on the other hand, are required to.

        Reply
    3. Brandy

      We don’t take lunches in our office and get to leave an hour earlier. But we have the option of lunching. And we get our 2 15 minute breaks.

      Reply
    4. Temperance

      I actually don’t think it would go away, though. The issue is that Fergus expects Jane’s job to operate like his, and in many professional jobs, you can’t just walk away from your work to eat a sandwich when you want to. There’s a big cultural difference between many blue collar and many white collar jobs, where in a blue collar job you’re punching a clock and only work while at work, whereas in the while collar world, that’s just not as feasible.

      Reply
      1. Triangle Pose

        This, exactly. I think OP was just saying most days she doesn’t get to eat lunch to illustrate that in many professional jobs you can’t just walk awat from your work and eat lunch. Especially not exactly at 12:00pm every day. Some people prefer to eat at their desks and burn through work, some people would rather recharge at home and leave earlier than break up their concentration and eat in the middle of the day. That’s not unreasonable.

        Reply
        1. seejay

          Yep, that’s pretty much how my office operates. I *can* leave for lunch around noon if I want, and sometimes I do (and it can be anywhere between 11:30 and 12:45 when I take off for lunch and I’ll come back within 20 minutes to 1.5 hours) and lunch can range from eating at my desk to eating on the patio to eating at a restaurant. It all depends on how I’m feeling, my workload at my desk, and if I prefer to get home early enough for recharging there.

          Falling asleep at a desk is far less dangerous than falling asleep at a machine in a blue collar job at least. ^_^

          Reply
      2. Bwmn

        I would also add that this cultural difference around lunch can often be exacerbated by the fact that in many desk jobs – there can be a high number of people who eat breakfast at work. Whether it’s bringing breakfast in or picking it up by the office, the reality of having some people in the office having their breakfast at work around 9 (or even 10) while others are eating breakfast before work easily creates a range of when people want lunch. As a workforce, there isn’t always the rigidity around break/lunch times – and so people’s eating schedules will have far greater fluctuation around personal preference.

        Work flow issues are one, but even in the most low key professional work environment where lunch times aren’t that rigid – you can easily see people having lunch as early as 11:30 or as late as 2:30 based on how they set their own schedules. Additionally, even if I prefer to typically eat at 12:30 – being set with a meeting that interrupts that preference isn’t unusual or out of the norm.

        Reply
        1. SusanIvanova

          Or later. I’m a software developer, where coming in to work at 11 or 12 is pretty common, and our peak productive time is in the afternoon. I’ve turned down many noon lunches with “but I just had breakfast!”, and then grabbed a snack or sandwich around 3 or 4 rather than take any significant time when I’d gotten into the flow.

          Reply
      3. CrazyEngineerGirl

        This! We have the same split at my company. The blue collar workers on a very set schedule with rigid breaks and lunch, and the white collar office workers with more fluid schedules due to work flow. Even the non-exempt hourly office workers take their breaks “around” certain times. What I’ve noticed, at this company anyway, is that the workers with the rigid set schedules often don’t get the unscheduled type of workday. This seems especially true if they’ve only ever known the rigid type of schedule. I continuously am met with lack of understanding or shock when they hear that I (an exempt salaried employee) don’t take official breaks, or didn’t stop for lunch other than eating at my desk, or didn’t have time to run out and get something until 2:30. So maybe Fergus, and even Jane, are just totally out of touch with this style of work and honestly don’t get that lunch doesn’t start for Jane at 12 on the dot? Maybe Fergus is huffy because he’s approaching it with the mindset that the OP is working Jane into her lunch break?

        Reply
        1. Bwmn

          I also have to wonder if his huffiness is that the OP is cutting into *his* lunch break. That the more time he has to spend standing there and waiting is time that he is not “on break”.

          Most of my exempt work life I’ve only had the occasional “super busy day, lunch just slipped by”, but even in those environments the notion of being off at noon on the nose for lunch would be hard if not impossible. Not to mention, if you had a phone call or meeting that was supposed to end at noon (or 12:30) and it happened to go over by 10-15 minutes – while it’s not ideal, it also wouldn’t be seen as a massive inconvenience. Now if someone said “I have another commitment at noon, and have a tight exit” – that is understood – but if that hard exit was found out to be a personal lunch….it would begin to cost professional capital that could ultimately be detrimental for a more junior employee.

          Reply
          1. Dust Bunny

            I assume you meant *his perception*, because the OP is not cutting into his lunch break. He’s cutting into his own lunch break by being unwilling to just go eat without his wife. This would all be solved if he’d stop acting like a child.

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            1. Bwmn

              Yes, CrazyEngineerGirl mentioned that Fergus’ huffiness might stem from the OP was cutting into Jane’s time – so my thinking was more the idea that Fergus sees all of this as cutting into his time.

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            2. MillersSpring

              Yes. Why does Fergus have to escort Jane to the lunch room? Why can’t she meet him there whenever she gets away and they eat together for however much overlap until 1:00?

              Reply
        2. Temperance

          Yep. I come from a blue collar family and married into one, and they just straight up refuse to believe that our jobs are not 9 – 5 and that we don’t have scheduled breaks. On the other side, I find it strange to hear adults complain about not getting a 15-minute paid break. My husband’s grandmother gave me endless grief this weekend because I was trying to get some work done from my phone, because it’s “rude to take your phone out at the table”.

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            I mean, she’s not wrong—it is rude to take your phone out at the table. :)

            But lawyers almost always have to have their phones handy for last-minute “emergencies,” which requires having their phone available and in their line of sight, even if they don’t intend to use it while they’re at the table (I use scare quotes to differentiate from something like a medical emergency). What are we supposed to do if our client is in jail, or being held at an airport, or on the brink of losing their kids? I’ve tried explaining that it’s similar to doctors who have their beepers with them when they’re on call, but it doesn’t go over so well, probably because very few corporate legal emergencies rise to the level of a life-or-death emergency and because doctors at least get non-call days, which lawyers do not.

            Reply
      4. pescadero

        Problem is – in my experience the “culture difference” is mostly “Our culture is to under staff and work folks to death”.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Eh, lots of white collar jobs have workflows where you can’t reliably take lunch at the same time every day but are far from working people to death. There are lots of commenters here explaining their jobs are that way.

          Reply
          1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For

            My current job is this way.

            We get an hour, it just might not be between 11 am and 1 pm. The other day we had a lunch meeting, so at 3 pm when I was feeling that afternoon slump, I took an hour to go run. Other days when I know I can’t eat lunch, I come in late or leave early.

            Reply
          2. pescadero

            I disagree.

            Lots of white collar jobs CHOOSE to have workflows where you can’t reliably take lunch at the same time every day.

            It is, in all cases, a business/management DECISION. It is not something inherent in any industry. It is a choice by management.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              It is very often a choice by the people doing those jobs. It certainly has been for me (without outside pressure, just due to what I judged made sense for the work I was doing), and other commenters are reporting similar things for them.

              I think there’s a real divide on this one between people who have had jobs that worked that way and people who haven’t and thus can’t relate to it.

              Reply
              1. pescadero

                I’ve spent almost 30 years working salaried/exempt jobs in the Computer/Electrical Engineering world – and IME, there are very few places that have a culture of most folks not taking breaks and don’t have “outside pressure” (either direct, indirectly through “company culture”, or just peer pressure) involved.

                There are places that are flexible and folks choose whether or not to take lunches… but those places don’t have folks making comments like:

                ” No one takes a lunch — I’m lucky if I get to eat, and if I do it is at my desk. ”

                That statement speaks to a culture.

                Reply
            2. Jessie the First (or second)

              No, you simply cannot declare that it is “in all cases” a business decision that is not inherent to any industry. Declaring it does not make it so. I work in law, and used to work in litigation, and my firm had zero to do with how long motion hearings went, or whether a judge would decide to push onward to a later lunch.

              I am in business law and not in litigation, and sure, you can argue it is my firm’s choice to allow people to have to be flexible with their lunches. And it is a choice – in the sense that we can choose to lose clients over it. Believe me, being rigid with clients in the legal industry = losing clients.

              Reply
              1. Jessie the First (or second)

                My kingdom for an edit button!

                To clarify, I mean: now that I am in business law and not litigation, it’s a choice but a poor one, as insisting to clients that we take lunch at certain times is a quick way to lose clients.

                Reply
          3. Temperance

            Yes. I often have meetings at lunchtime, so I’m technically working, but I can leave early if we’re quiet and I come in when I want to. I prefer the flexibility to my boss deciding that I MUST take an hour lunch and not work during it.

            Reply
      5. Observer

        It’s far easier to understand and accept “You can’t take lunch whenever you want” than “You can’t take lunch every day” which is what the expectation seems to be.

        Of course, if that’s the expectation, then Jane’s supervisor needs to make it clear, and Jane either needs to figure out how to make that work or find a new job.

        In short, I agree with Alison’s advice, because even though it seems that there is a significant issue with the workplace, Jane is not handling the situation in a way that is remotely reasonable. And, Jane’s supervisor should talk to her and, at the very least, get her to stop with this behavior.

        Reply
    5. Kyrielle

      It depends very much on the state and job! But especially, being entitled to a lunch break approximately in the middle of your work day does *not* mean being entitled to a lunch break specifically from 12-1 or any other set time.

      If I was working on a priority one center down call when lunch rolled around at my last job…I didn’t even eat lunch at my desk. I didn’t have time to get it until the call ended. (If the call didn’t end in about two hours, I’d get someone else to take over somewhere in there if I could, long enough to go retrieve my food at least…but I still needed to finish it out.)

      In my state, workers exempt from overtime are not affected by the meal break laws. It’s very possible, given the descriptions of their jobs, that Fergus is non-exempt while Jane is exempt…and if they were in my state or one like it, Jane wouldn’t be entitled to a lunch break, let alone one at an exact time.

      (To be clear, I’d consider any employer completely denying their employee food the whole time to be ridiculous. But eating as you work is sometimes a Thing, and honestly, one I’m fine with.)

      Reply
      1. LBK

        But especially, being entitled to a lunch break approximately in the middle of your work day does *not* mean being entitled to a lunch break specifically from 12-1 or any other set time.

        Also a good point. I live in MA, a state that has break laws, and while it’s mandated that they occur within a certain period within the shift (to ensure that it’s an actual break in your day and not, for instance, the last 30 minutes of an 8 hour shift) they don’t entitle you to take your break at a specific time.

        Reply
      2. Turtle Candle

        Right. At my company it’s made very clear that everyone gets an hourlong lunch break if they want it (if they’re non-exempt, they have to take at least 30 minutes due to state laws; if they’re exempt, they don’t have to take anything–but they’re still entitled to it). However, there’s no promise that you’ll get it at a specific time. Most of the year, people can take their hour whenever they want, unless they’re in a job that specifically requires coverage (phone support, the receptionist), but there are times when you just can’t, and when the lunch break might be unpredictable. Maintenance on hosted software, for instance, where every minute of downtime counts (and costs), and so we juggle peoples’ lunches around to ensure that some qualified people are available to deal with issues at all times during the maintenance period. Or a few times of year that are unusually meetings-heavy, when people need to be flexible to ensure that we can find a time when everyone can be in the same room. Or if there’s a blocker issue that’s holding up a per-announced release. Like that.

        It helps that the company is really flexible in other ways, when they can be. But there are times when work needs make a fixed lunchtime impossible, and those times, there’s less flexibility. I figure the fact that I can take off at 2pm on a Friday if I want most weeks makes up for the fact that I might get a weird lunchtime some other weeks because I’m needed in meetings at specific times.

        “Getting a real lunch break” is not the same as “being able to ring off for lunch at precisely the same time every day.”

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    6. Abby

      My guess is that Jane is exempt and lunch hours aren’t strictly enforced– and her hours in general are much more flexible than Fergus’.

      Reply
    7. Amy

      Yeah I was surprised that Alison didn’t mention that at all. There are days when I’m busy and can’t take lunch but if my entire department couldn’t take lunch everyday that’s an issue.

      Reply
    8. L.

      ALSO came here to say this! Maybe Jane is acting this way because she resents not being able to take a lunch at ANY time, not because she fundamentally misunderstands how the business side works.

      Reply
        1. L.

          You’re right, I phrased this badly. There’s two issues as I see it – first, Jane needs to understand that you can’t have a set lunch hour in her line of work, and she needs to ensure that her husband understands this and stops making her coworkers feel pressured or uncomfortable.

          BUT, the OP’s attitude toward taking a lunch break is troubling to me too – that nobody does it, ever, except Jane, tells me that Jane may very well feel the pressure to conform and resent it. If nobody’s willing to talk to her about this, I can see how she’d ‘defend’ a break this way, which is not appropriate, but probably seems like her only option. I work through lunch all the time, and eat lunch at my desk even when I’m not working, but my boss has NEVER made me feel like I couldn’t step out if I needed to buy lunch or take a break to reorganize my thoughts while eating. I guess I just got the impression from OP that these kinds of breaks were not really encouraged or allowed.

          Reply
          1. Anon13

            I got the same impression. It’s likely Jane feels pressure to not take a lunch at all, if none of her coworkers take one.

            Reply
            1. RKB

              She may have vented to Fergus about it and he may have been glaring because of his perception of the situation. Which doesn’t make it okay, obviously.

              Reply
      1. rubyrose

        And she has told Fergus to show up at her desk every day and act in the manner he is, to ensure she gets the one hour lunch she wants.

        Reply
        1. Jesmlet

          Yes, that was my thought too. My guess is she probably complains to her husband at home about no one ever taking a lunch and feeling like she should be able to and they decided that he would come over every day and stand there creepily until OP relents. Sounds like something old passive-aggressive me would do.

          I work 9 hour days with a 1 hour lunch break. That’s written into my offer packet and I’ll be damned if I don’t get to take that every day if I want to. Of course most days I skip lunch or eat at my desk, but if I wanted to use it fully every day, I’d be pretty pissed if someone was pressuring me not to. The “no one takes lunch” culture sounds too much like “we’re understaffed and overworked” culture to me. It’s unrealistic to expect to take lunch at the same time every day but having so many people skip it creates peer pressure for those who don’t want to skip it.

          Reply
        2. Turtle Candle

          Right. It’s possible that Fergus is being controlling, but it’s also possible that this was her idea. I was once a student employee at a library, and one of my coworkers would often arrange to have her boyfriend show up and stand awkwardly around staring at us until we’d tell her to go ahead and go early (because we were teenagers and Making It Awkward felt like death–easier to just cover for her for fifteen or twenty minutes than to Be Awkward). I know she was doing it on purpose because I overheard her telling someone exactly that–that she’d found a great way to get off work early, because “they can’t expect me to stay if someone is obviously waiting for me.”

          (Thankfully, the manager actually went out and told her boyfriend that he could of course use the library normally whenever he liked, but that he couldn’t stand around the desk staring at us because it made both us and other patrons uncomfortable, and then he told her that it was unacceptable and that she was expected to work her full shift like everyone else. Which was a pretty good lesson for me to learn at that age.)

          Reply
    9. S-Mart

      Even if you’re entitled to a lunch (varies I think, but I don’t really know), you’re not generally entitled to a lunch *right now*. I’m a big believer in taking the breaks I need/have been agreed to with my company, and prefer to have the lunch break by noon – but I’m not leaving in the middle of a meeting that’s running over to do that. I’ll just adjust my break from 12-1 to 12:30-1:30, or whatever time works when I get away. Conversely, a lot of times the production group does have a rigid lunch break – and that makes sense for how those groups work.

      Jane and Fergus are going to have to learn at some point that their breaks aren’t guaranteed to align. Surely they’re used to this from times when they didn’t both work at the same company. I certainly understand the desire to eat together, but there’s no obligation on the company’s part to ensure that happens every day.

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq

        I don’t know of any states that require lunches at exact times (i.e. you must take a lunch after four hours of work), more that most states have set ranges in which breaks must be given, and companies set policies around those ranges. My state requires all employers provide time for a meal for non-exempt employees who work eight or more consecutive hours, and if the time provided is less than 20 minutes it must be paid. As a result, almost all employers require a half hour unpaid lunch. You also must have time to use the restroom within each four hour consecutive block, which is usually codified as a fifteen-minute paid break. So *technically* an unpaid lunch isn’t required by law, but practically most employers require it.

        Reply
        1. I'm a tailor's apprentice.

          My company doesn’t have a set time but requires that everyone have taken their lunch no later than 2pm local time. I work on the east coast and our team stretches across the country so it’s reasonable to expect that if you take your lunch at 2pm on the east coast, you’ll be done by 3pm, which is when the West coast will likely start their noon hour lunches. Most of the East coast team leaves by 6pm which would mean that if someone took a 2pm lunch on the West Coast, they’d be back in the office as some of the staff would be leaving.

          Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I can’t think of a state that requires lunch be taken at a specific time, but California does specify how early/late a non-exempt worker can take lunch during their shift (I think it’s between hours 4 and 6 of an 8-hour workday?). But as tailor’s apprentice noted, companies sometimes impose policies about when non-exempt employees take lunch for coverage reasons, even if state law does not.

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    10. Leatherwings

      Like a few others, this doesn’t strike me as unusual at all. I have to eat or else I get cranky, but I find ways to do it at my desk while working. If it’s a particularly busy week I try to bring things that I don’t have to prepare like pre-sliced veggies with hummus or something. If I end up having to go out, I take 15 minutes to run across the street to a fast place and bring it back. I rarely take a formal lunch break and nor do most of my coworkers.

      Reply
    11. AndersonDarling

      Yep, I know it wasn’t the question being asked, but I was getting the same conflicting vibe. “No one takes a lunch- I’m lucky if I get to eat”…Jane wants a lunch and is pushing back. She is using her husband as a method to force the OP to let her go take a break.
      If the department is really so busy that no one takes lunches, then Fergus’ coming by isn’t the problem. Jane needs to be told that she is expected to work through the day with no scheduled breaks because her job demands it.

      Reply
      1. AvonLady Barksdale

        To put it slightly differently… if Jane is using Fergus to push back on not getting a lunch, then, in my opinion, she’s going about it the wrong way. I have some minor blood sugar issues, and it’s on me to say, “Hey, can we take a break so I can grab a quick snack?” I don’t see anything wrong with insisting on time to eat every day (not necessarily an hour-long lunch break, just a few minutes to grab a sandwich and not worry about getting mustard everywhere), but if that’s what Jane wants, then she needs to speak up for herself and ask for it.

        No matter what, the rigidity is a problem. I don’t have a formal lunch break, never have, and while I’ve had periods of time where I could get my lunch at the same time every day, I have to be prepared to adjust. Last week I didn’t get to eat until 2pm because a meeting ran over. Good for me? Not really, but I certainly rolled with it. If Fergus gets all worked up over 12:05 vs. 12:01, when he presumably sees his wife every day, then I have no sympathy.

        Reply
      2. Tuckerman

        I was thinking along those lines. Although it could also be that at one point Jane had been complaining to her husband that sometimes she doesn’t even get to eat, and so his solution was to meet her each day to make sure she gets a break.

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        1. KarenD

          which is really not appropriate. I think the headline Allison put on this one really nails the central issue: Here’s a husband trying to micromanage his wife’s work experience. That doesn’t really fly in 2017.

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          1. Jesmlet

            Let’s not assume that Jane has no hand in this. For all we know, she’s asked him to do this because it seems to be effective. It could be a wife using her husband to manage her work experience. Not appropriate anyway, but we shouldn’t project a controlling relationship without more clear indicators of one.

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            1. Tuckerman

              I guess I didn’t think of it as controlling. Inappropriate, yes. But lots of inappropriate behavior doesn’t cross the line into controlling territory.

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      3. pescadero

        “If the department is really so busy that no one takes lunches, then Fergus’ coming by isn’t the problem. Jane needs to be told that she is expected to work through the day with no scheduled breaks because her job demands it.”

        No – management needs to adequately staff so that no ones job demands regularly working through the day with no lunch.

        Reply
      4. Turtle Candle

        Well, having another employee come by and glare is still a problem, even if this workplace has a dysfunctional culture around lunchtimes. Even if they’re in the wrong (which we don’t know–it depends so much on the industry, on scheduling, on the overall culture of workplace flexibility), coming by and glowering at people is a bad way to solve it.

        Reply
    12. NK

      In most exempt positions with a decent amount of autonomy, there’s no real concept of “getting” a lunch. I’ve never had a manager looking over my shoulder to tell me when to go (or not go) to lunch. Most days I eat at my desk by choice because I bring in my lunch. Other days I run out quickly to grab something, and very occasionally I take a 90 minute lunch out with a colleague or friend. Sometimes I eat as early as 11:30, sometimes as late as 2pm depending on what I have going on at work. This is fairly common in many jobs.

      Reply
      1. LisaLee

        I get that (that’s how it works at my job) but it sounds like the expectation is workers do not have a time to eat at all.

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        1. SusanIvanova

          I read “take a lunch” as shorthand for “take a lunch hour” – exactly one hour, away from the job – instead of the casual “today it’s 15 minutes, tomorrow we’ll all go out and it might be 90” that I’m used to as an exempt software engineer.

          Reply
    13. bunniferous

      I worked at a florist. We NEVER clocked out to eat. They would let us eat anywhere but if a call came in or a customer walked in, we had to put down our sandwich and take care of things. This for a ten hour shift! Thankfully towards the end I switched to part time but still…..now I work real estate and somehow still wind up stopping for lunch around 2 or so….

      Reply
      1. KarenD

        I can imagine that in real estate, you almost never take lunch at noon … because everyone else takes lunch at noon, and so that’s when they want their real-estate agent available to them!

        A friend of mine had to break this to some employees in her salon. Clients come in on their lunch breaks.

        Reply
      2. Dust Bunny

        I used to work for a veterinarian and, on weekends (our short days) we never clocked out, either, because we were slammed. Our boss bought sandwich stuff, chips, vegetable plate, and you ate one bite at a time.

        Reply
    14. Savannnah

      Best of both worlds: My company automatically takes half an hour off our our clocked time for lunch as exempt employees but no one is ever guaranteed the time to take an actual lunch (nor are we ever actually off the clock)

      Reply
    15. Snargulfuss

      Yep I came here to say pretty much what everyone else is saying: Jane’s rigid adherence to her lunch schedule is a problem but the OP’s multiple mentions of most people not even taking lunch is equally problematic. In my first professional job, I really appreciated it when my boss would notice that I hadn’t taken lunch and encourage me to spend some time away from my desk. It was a small non-profit and the other employees almost always ate at their desks, so I was really grateful that I was reassured that it was okay to spend an hour outside.

      These days I often eat at my desk – especially in the winter where there’s no comfortable place to sit and eat without going outside – but when the weather is nice I use my lunch hour religiously.

      Reply
      1. MWKate

        Yes – I do think it’s an issue when the culture is that people regularly do not have the opportunity to take lunch. There’s a difference between being crunched on a project and working through it sometimes, or choosing not to take one so you can leave earlier, if you never have time to have lunch though – without the perks of leaving early I feel like that could really burn people out.

        Reply
      2. Triangle Pose

        I disagree that it’s equally problematic. Many professional jobs don’t let you leave your work on hold for an hour to eat lunch, and especially not at exactly 12-1pm every work day. OP saying she’s lucky to get to eat seems like an offhand remark that to me indicates she eats at her desk a lot, or gets busy that she forgets to eat, not that she physically cannot eat a single thing the entire work day because she is that busy.

        Fergus is behaving completely inappropriately by hovering and glaring, Jane is behaving badly by glazing over and disengaging. These things are worse than an office culture where people may have to work in the lunchtime hours and are expected to eat at times other than 12-1 or eat while they work or snack throughout the day.

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      3. the_scientist

        My current company (over 1,000 employees) actually forbids meetings between 12 and 1 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to “protect” their lunch time. In practice, people use this time in different ways- some work straight through and leave early, sometimes you need it to catch up on email or whatever, some people go to the gym, some go for a walk, some run errands, etc. Not everyone will actually use this time for their lunch, and plenty of people end up eating at their desk, around meetings. There are company-sanctioned walking and running groups in the spring, summer and fall, and a skating group in the winter. I think it’s problematic if employees here do not have *any* downtime, certainly, but I also think the expectation that Jane is able to take a full hour lunch beginning at exactly 12:00 every day is reasonable either. If Jane wants some time to eat (which is completely, 100% reasonable IMO) she needs to stand up for herself, not co-opt her husband into helping her.

        Reply
    16. Lily in NYC

      I don’t think legality comes into it unless she’s non-exempt. I can’t remember the last time I actually took a lunch break!

      Reply
    17. LC

      There’s a big difference between not getting a lunch and not choosing when to have your lunch. It sounds like OP works in an environment like many salaried environments, where you grab lunch when there’s a lull.

      My job is very reasonable w/r/t how I spend my time, but there’s still an expectation that within the lunch range (say, 12-2), I won’t run out if I’m on a deadline or in the middle of a big project. Since my work is client based, there often are deadlines that mean I can’t run out until 1:30 or need to grab something before 12:45, and I think those kinds of restrictions generally come with the territory.

      That’s not to say that if I had a friend in town for the day, I couldn’t take a full, preplanned hour. But a rigid 12-1 daily lunch schedule wouldn’t fly in many salaried environments, even very reasonable ones, and Jane should explain that to her husband.

      Reply
    1. Adlib

      That’s a good point. I’d be tempted to try having meetings with Jane in a closed door office if it was near lunch just to see what would happen, if anything.

      Reply
    2. Spoonie

      I have visions of it being like a child pressing her face to the glass. Or the look I get from my dogs when I leave for the day. Just…exponentially grumpier and far less adorable.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        That was totally my imagination, too. Or perhaps they’re meeting in an open space where someone can loom from behind a cubicle. But I imagined face-to-glass in the creepiest way possible

        Reply
    3. A.

      But it’s not a sit down meeting in a conference room. The OP is working with Jane at Jane’s desk. Maybe to Fergus (and possibly Jane) he is not interrupting a meeting; the OP is sitting at Jane’s desk trying to make her do work and preventing her from going on her lunch break that she takes at the same time each day.

      If Jane isn’t actually entitled to take lunch breaks when she wants to take them, her manager should inform her that she needs to make other arrangements with Fergus.

      Reply
      1. E

        Exactly, Jane’s manager needs to explain the problem to Jane, who then is responsible for ensuring she is available during her work schedule. Then if Fergus continues to interrupt the business meetings between Jane and her manager, Jane would need to be written up because she is responsible for her job duties and keeping to her work schedule.

        Reply
  5. Kitkat

    If you don’t jump in to defuse some of the awkwardness, what does Jane do? Like does she tell Fergus she will be another 10 minutes or does she tell you she needs to wrap up the meeting right then? That might give you a better sense of the dynamics, and whether she feels pressured by Fergus to have lunch at exactly 12 (which is my guess, since he comes to get her – why don’t they just meet in the break room?) of if she really does see this lunch time as a big priority, even at the expense of her reputation.

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      Apparently she just stares blankly at the OP and loses interest in whatever she’s doing… and that is a HUGE problem. I would feel bad for Jane if she told her husband to hold on and he just didn’t listen, but the OP implies that Jane is on board with the drop-everything-and-eat-now schedule. That’s not cool.

      Reply
    2. Leatherwings

      It sounds like she just kind of sits there and disengages. Which is so awkward I can barely bear to imagine it. All of the discomfort. I do wonder if she does it because she feels pressured though and doesn’t know how to handle it. Either way, someone needs to say something to her and Fergus.

      Reply
      1. Allie

        Yeah, this is just bad. Staring and losing interest is rude. If she needed a small snack due to a medical condition that is one thing, but it just appears to be she feels she can decide she is off the clock in a middle of a meeting and not owe any attention. That is not okay. Even in retail and if you are on a set break (I had rigid, computer timed breaks in retail myself) that wouldn’t be an excuse to be rude.

        Reply
      2. Marcela

        Being there, but between my mom and then boyfriend, you just disconnect because you are not really in agreement with any side, but don’t feel like you can do anything about it. If you push against one side, then the consequences are big and we _really_ don’t want that.

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      3. Kitkat

        I guess I was imagining it like the OP continues to speak while Jane just goes blank, and what would happen if OP stopped upon noticing Fergus hovering and glaring and looked to Jane. I think Marcella might be right that Jane doesn’t want to “take sides,” but that kind of thing doesn’t apply at work the way it might if your mom and boyfriend were having an argument. OP does not have an argument or anything to do with Fergus, and Jane’s passivity is kind of passing the buck to OP and making it seem like it’s their job to wrap up the meeting, etc. As the OP, I would resent the heck out of this and want to pass the buck right back!

        Reply
        1. Marcela

          Oh, I’m not saying that’s right. I’m just saying that perhaps Jane does know that Fergus is out of line, but feels she can’t say anything to him, and at the same time, feels it’s not appropiate to formally request that her meetings stop at 12 sharp. And then, what to do? Wrongly, she decides to do something in the middle. My explanation is not condoning her actions, just adding an extra point of view which avoids putting Jane in the position of “somebody who pushes on purpose in weird and indirect ways”.

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        2. Marcela

          Hehehe, I’m again guilty of expressing myself badly. I wasn’t saying my mom and boyfriend had an argument; the problem was they wanted me to do opposite things, and well, I wanted to do the thing my boyfriend wanted, but had to play along with my strict mom. If I did not do what my mom wanted, hell would come. If I did not do what my boyfriend wanted, he would be hurt and alone (for my mom pretended I could not have a boyfriend, just a -one- husband. My question was, how do I get a husband without boyfriends? She used to interfere and interrupt as much as she could).

          Reply
  6. KR

    It’s also an issue that her husband is GLARING at you for sharing to finish the conversation with Jane. At that point if it’s really pronounced I would probably call it out like, “Excuse me, are you aware you’re glaring at me? It’s really distracting. We’re finishing up a meeting and will be done in about 5 minutes.” OP could also beg confidentiality if they work with sensitive information that Husband may not be privy to or a discussion you would rather have in private. Finally, does your department have a waiting area you can direct him to? Perhaps you could set up a chair a good distance away from Jane’s desk but not so close he notices the brush off and invite him to wait there. I do think something needs to be said to Jane by you or a manager. If it’s you I think it should be less of a “don’t do this thing” and more like “this is very off-putting and annoying and not in sync with how our department runs and it makes you look bad”. Her manager can be the one to tell her to not do it, period.

    Reply
      1. EddieSherbert

        “Excuse me, are you aware you’re glaring at me? It’s really distracting. We’re finishing up a meeting and will be done in about 5 minutes.”

        I love, love this script but also 110% understand if that’s outside OP’s comfort zone to say to someone.

        (AKA I wish I was daring enough to say this!)

        Reply
        1. bunniferous

          If the OP can resist the feeling of pressure and just proceed, at some point Fergus may actually catch a clue. I would as a courtesy tell him how much time I expected to be but then I would expect Jane to engage with task at hand. But truthfully I think Jane needs to be spoken to-since Fergus is problem one and her lack of focus is problem two.

          Reply
    1. Triangle Pose

      Agreed. OP and even Alison are handling this with gentler hands than I would.

      I would do all of the below:
      -have close door meetings so Fergus is not in my face
      -say to Jane in the moment “Jane, am I losing you here? We need to get through this.”
      -say to Fergus in the moment “Fergus, I’m in a meeting with Jane and we need to finish up, it would be great if you could coordinate lunch when Jane frees up but we need to focus here so please don’t hover.”

      Reply
        1. Triangle Pose

          Yep, you’re right. I’d schedule a conference room of if it’s trule and COMPLETELY open office (yuck!), I’d address head on. “We’re having a meeting here Fergus, you can wait [in the break room] or Jane can come back later.” and if Jane disengages I’d say “Jane, I need you to focus here. We need to get through this.”

          Reply
  7. Allie

    So so much nope here. When at work, job relationship is primary, not spousal relationship. Fergus has no standing whatsoever to assert annoyance over when her lunch break is, he is not her supervisor or manager. Working with a spouse is tricky and pulling stunts like this is just annoying and unprofessional. Shut. It. Down.

    Reply
    1. AW

      I really want to know if Jane is disengaging because she also wants to take a break and is using that and her husband to make that happen or if she’s disengaging because she’s mortified by her husband’s behavior.

      Reply
  8. Zencat

    I work closely in this exact type of situation with my coworker. Her husband does not have a strict set schedule but an absolute inability to be flexible, or tolerate a millisecond longer at work. If my coworker is talking to her boss at 2:59 on the dot when he shows up to leave he will give her about 1-2 minutes before standing beside them before interrupting and asking “okay should I just wait in the car?”. It can be an issue sometimes because the nature of our job is absolutely inflexible if something is going wrong – because If something is going wrong it is impacting thousands of people at home our company and is unavoidably noticed. I’ve had after work appointments before that I’ve had to miss or be late for so that she can leave… and doesn’t have something like a dr’s appointment. It can be frustrating when people completely “Check out”. It’s her too wanting to leave but her husband will linger and he gets upset if not immediately updated if any schedule change. Hate it!!!

    Reply
    1. AMG

      It would be good if someone says that he should always assume he should wait in the car if he sees that his wife is in the middle if something.

      Reply
    2. Triangle Pose

      I would not cover for your coworker in this situation and bring it up with you boss. “Jane’s leaving at exactly X time every day is interrupting my work. I’ve had to miss other work appointments before so she can leave. How should we handle this so my other work is not left behind?” Don’t bring up the husband (which is annoying, but not for your boss to handle unless it rises beyond what you’ve described here) and instead bring up the effects on your work.

      Reply
  9. LBK

    Next time I’d start with the usual “Hi Fergus, we’ll be done in a few minutes,” then stop your conversation with Jane completely and just stare down Fergus with a pleasant smile until he walks away. If he doesn’t walk away, you can follow up with, “Sorry, did you need something? Like I said, Jane will meet up with you in a few minutes as soon as we’re done.” Again, said with a smile, not confrontationally. And then you just stare silently until he gets uncomfortable and leaves.

    Right now you’re giving him leeway to lurk around by continuing your meeting with Jane while he’s there. If you make it clear that 1) Jane is not dismissed until you’ve finished your meeting, and 2) your meeting will not end until he leaves, he’ll eventually learn that his hanging around glaring only makes Jane later to their planned lunch. Right now his pressure tactic is probably working because I imagine you’re cutting your meetings at least a little short so you don’t have to deal with him creeping around. Flip your behavior so that he’s punished rather than rewarded for that tactic and it’ll go away.

    I am also curious if Jane’s asked him to do this (or at least hasn’t discouraged him from doing it) because she doesn’t like meetings running over but she doesn’t feel comfortable bringing it up.

    Reply
    1. Turtle Candle

      Yeah, I was wondering if it would be possible for the LW to say something like, “Hi Fergus, did you need something?” and then pretty much regardless of what he says, the followup is, “Okay, well, Jane and I are discussing this project and it’s a distraction to have other people watching while we do, so please wait for her in the break room. We’ll be done in a few minutes.” (Note that the latter is a statement, not a question.) It can be said pleasantly, with a smile, and still be pretty firm.

      A lot of this discussion has gotten off into the weeds of the merits and flaws of different ways of handling lunchtimes, but even if this place has a terrible way of doing lunches (which it might or might not–impossible to tell from this level of detail), it’s still not appropriate to have someone hang around glaring. (Or even just hang around.) And that might be something that you can address directly, in the moment.

      Reply
    2. Observer

      The other piece of this is addressing Jane. If she goes blank, you might want to say to her in the moment “Jane, we need to finish this. Please answer the question / indicate if you understood what you next step is / whatever.”

      Reply
  10. Zzz

    I actually might understand where Jane is coming from here… maybe she is frustrated about the culture of skipping lunch or eating a rushed lunch at your desk, and Fergus is coming by at her request to make sure she is able to get away and eat her lunch. I had a job where we didn’t get to break for lunch ever and it almost killed me. Now, I block out half an hour every day in my calendar for lunch so that no one will try to schedule a meeting with me that overlaps with my lunchtime. Obviously I’ll make exceptions, but generally I take this time for myself.

    If I were Jane’s manager, I would just have a conversation with her about what’s going on, and if it is that she feels very strongly about taking lunch every day (as a part of enforcing some work/life balance) then suggest that she block this time out on her calendar so others will know not to schedule meetings with her at this time.

    Reply
    1. LBK

      Yeah, I mentioned something similar in my comment. I think the issue is that a) if that is Jane’s concern, she’s chosen a really passive aggressive way to handle it, and b) for some jobs it’s just not a reasonable option to have a hard cutoff for lunch. I used to have a recurring lunch blocked off on my calendar so I could meet up with a friend in another department, but I’d say at least once a week one of us would either be late or would have to cancel, because when you’re not doing shifted work sometimes it doesn’t make sense to drop everything and go eat right at 12.

      I think she can certainly aim to always take lunch at 12, but the nature of her work and Fergus’ work aren’t the same. This almost sounds like a relationship issue, where she needs to be able to communicate to him that she’ll get there when she gets there and he just has to sit tight.

      Reply
    2. Myrin

      If that’s the case, she is going about it the wrong way, though. If she feels pressured to not take lunch or like she can’t get away from her desk, it’s on her to bring that up. Or rather, if she’s entitled to an hour-long break, she can just leave and have lunch somewhere else, Fergus or not; if she feels like she can’t leave without an outside “force” there, so to speak, then, again, it’s on her to hold firm.

      Also, the problem in the OP really doesn’t seem to be that OP would like Jane to never ever take a lunch break; it seems like it’s totally fine for her to take an hour to eat. The problem is that Fergus basically demands Jane join him right this instant, everything else be damned. It shouldn’t make a difference for Jane whether she takes her break from 12:00 to 1:00 or from 12:15 to 1:15.

      Reply
    3. Triangle Pose

      Even if that’s true, Jane is going about this in the wrong way. She can bring it up with OP or discuss with others in the office to push back as a group but she cannot commandeer 12-1pm by using her husband to glare at someone senior to her. If it were Jane writing in we could all give her advice on how to handle an office that requires skipping lunch.

      Really though, many professional jobs are like this and don’t allow people to take a sacred 12-1pm personal time for lunch. She can eat at her desk, she can eat a little earlier or later or eat small snacks.

      Reply
    4. Alienor

      I’m also a proponent of blocking off time for lunch. If someone comes to me and says “Hey, I see you’re blocked at 12, but that’s the only time X can meet about [some urgent project],” then of course I’ll accept the meeting and eat earlier or later. But I’ve found a lot of people just don’t pay attention to when they’re scheduling meetings for, especially if they’re in a different time zone, and having an actual block on the calendar (doesn’t have to be a whole hour) helps head some of that off.

      Reply
    5. LCL

      Yeah, I think Jane is using her lunches with Fergus to push back against her department’s culture.
      ‘ Jane will still get to see him for 30 minutes, which is still longer than everyone else on the team is taking’
      is the heart of the problem. WTF is up with white collar jobs where you aren’t ever expected to take a lunch?! If this is typical of white collar jobs in the US, that is a terrible break down of conditions for all workers. My workgroup deals with stuff that can be life or death, we don’t schedule lunches but are expected to take them as time allows. Sometimes lunch is at 8:30 in the morning, sometimes at 5:50 in the evening, but it is expected you take it.

      Jane’s manager needs to sit down and have a talk with her about lunch and the company’s expectations around lunch. I would tell Jane that she will get her half hour, but the time will change as business needs allow. Hopefully that will cause the group to do some rethinking about the work til you drop policy. Jane’s manager also needs to talk to the production manager and fine tune the rules about production people in the management offices and vice versa. I’m leaning towards telling Fergus he has to stay in the lobby and can’t wait at Jane’s desk, but this might not work with your company culture.

      Reply
    6. Bwmn

      Wanting to take a lunch every day and wanting to take a lunch at a very rigid time every day are two very different conversations for different work places.

      Where I am now, the office is pretty relaxed and lots of people are able to truly take a lunch hour (we’re also located in a downtown environment where there are lots of external places to get food that can expand the time). However, if someone schedules a meeting from 11-12 and it goes until 12:05-12:15 – if someone were to get very antsy regarding “It’s my lunch time and I need to leave”, that would not be the norm. Particularly if it was understood that the reason for being antsy was a personal regular lunch commitment. This is just about different office norms as much as it is about taking a lunch or not.

      Reply
  11. Mb13

    Personally I’ll utilize the magical aincent technique called closing the door. If you can have the meeting in a office with a door and husband comes around some of the senior staffers (such as say op) can get up and say “sorry meeting is going to run longer” and then close the door

    Reply
      1. Edith

        And having an office in a culture where closing the door isn’t frowned upon. At my office we’re expected to be available and closing your office door is for emergencies only.

        Reply
    1. Leatherwings

      Obviously if this is an option OP should utilize it, but there are plenty of scenarios in which this doesn’t work, including in my last office which was all open space except a few small rooms for one on one conversations and my current office which has glass doors/walls everywhere.

      Reply
  12. neverjaunty

    If it’s really the norm that people rarely get to eat lunch except for sometimes getting to squeeze in lunch at their desks, and it’s routine to hold meetings that cut into lunch breaks, your business has bugger problems than Fergus.

    Reply
    1. Hannah

      Right, if you removed the wrinkle that the employee’s husband comes over and instigates the start of her lunch period, because that makes it weird… it doesn’t seem that unreasonable for a person to want to have a well defined lunch hour? I’m not a lunch hour type person, I’d rather finish my work and go home as soon as possible but if someone wants a real lunch break and then they finish their work after it, it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

      Reply
      1. Triangle Pose

        It depends on the field. If by “a well defined lunch hour” you mean a full hour at exactly the same time every single work day that you get to wall off as personal time to eat your lunch then I’d say that’s unreasonable. In my work it would be out of touch to expect that you can have lunch with your SO at 12-1pm every single work day. I handle many things that can’t finish up at 12 and resume at 1pm.

        Reply
      2. Edith

        There’s a really big difference between expecting to get a lunch break and expecting that lunch break to happen at the same time everyday. For some jobs stopping at the same time each day and finishing your work after is perfectly reasonable, but that doesn’t make it the case across the board.

        Reply
      3. fposte

        It actually is out of the norm in many to most exempt jobs to have a standing lunch hour, so I think it would be unreasonable to insist on one in such a workplace.

        Reply
        1. Princess Carolyn

          Every exempt job I’ve had came with the expectation that, generally, we would all be unavailable between noon and 1 p.m. If we planned to take a lunch earlier or later (or longer) than that, we’d let somebody know. If we planned to skip lunch, we’d probably keep that to ourselves so we could get more work done. Not that we dropped everything at exactly noon, but it’s a bit presumptuous to assume your co-workers will consistently be available during the standard lunch hour.

          Reply
          1. Edith

            “It’s a bit presumptuous to assume your co-workers will consistently be available during the standard lunch hour.”

            Fposte wasn’t suggesting anything of the sort. The point isn’t that everyone should be constantly available all day, but that in a lot of exempt work environments there simply isn’t a standard lunch hour.

            At my office everybody gets an hour for lunch and work permitting you take it whenever you want. One of my coworkers takes 11-12. Another floats around depending on what he’s doing that day. I eat when I’m hungry. Of course it’s not universal, but having a rigid lunch hour in an office setting is far less common.

            Reply
            1. Megan

              Even beyond that, if I had a rigid lunch hour, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that the start time for it flexes by 5-10 minutes any given day. Many people don’t have work that can wait at the drop of a hat.

              Reply
    2. Triangle Pose

      My office is like this and we don’t have bigger problems. We are all exempt salaried and handle many matters that don’t allow a rigid 1 hour break at the exact same time every day. Many professional jobs don’t let you leave your work on hold for an hour to eat lunch, and employees have the option of eating at their desk or snacking earlier or later than 12-1pm. OP saying she’s lucky to get to eat seems like an offhand remark that to me indicates she eats at her desk a lot, or gets busy that she forgets to eat, not that she physically cannot eat a single thing the entire work day because she is that busy. If what your reading of the letter is true and every single person is so busy that they cannot take a minute to physically put food in their mouths during the entire work day, I’d agree with you, but OP’s letter doesn’t say that to me.

      Fergus is behaving completely inappropriately by hovering and glaring, Jane is behaving badly by glazing over and disengaging. To me, this behavior is a big problem. It’s not a big problem to have an office culture where people may have to work in the lunchtime hours and are expected to eat at times other than 12-1pm or eat while they work or snack throughout the day. I’ve always worked in this type of office culture and I think many people do and thrive in it.

      Reply
        1. Triangle Pose

          I think some folks are reading OP’s remark that she’s “lucky if she gets to eat” way to literally here. I really think it’s an offhand remark meant to illustrate a busy culture.

          Reply
          1. Jessie the First (or second)

            Though I have to say, I have heard plenty of people say that in my working career, and they usually do mean they never get a lunch break (and the people who say it have always been people who are not great at managing their time and are quite vocal about not taking breaks, which put pressure on others to also not take breaks – not good!). OP might mean this literally – that she does not take lunch breaks and feels too busy to take them. Or it could be a vague expression that just means she is very busy. I’d love to know which, because my thinking on this situation would be *very* different if OP literally meant she does not ever take lunch breaks.

            Reply
            1. Triangle Pose

              Some people never take lunch breaks. I am one of those who prefer not to eat lunch or break my conceptration or flow of getting things done through out the work day and leave early or on time and go home to spend all my personal time. Even if she means it literally there nothing wrong with that and it doesn’t mean OP’s workplace is horrible. If the office is such that everyone manages there own time that’s fine for Jane to take an hour for lunch as long as her work gets done – she just can’t commandeer 12-1pm every single work day (and she definitely can’t glaze over and disengage during work meetings) if business needs conflict with that.

              Reply
              1. Jessie the First (or second)

                I eat at my desk, so I didn’t mean to suggest that it is horrible for someone to never take a lunch break; I was trying to speak more to the problem of a culture where one (senior) person’s free choice becomes what everyone feels they have to do, whether they like it or not.

                But OP updated below that your read is right anyway; OP doesn’t take breaks, but people can and do take lunch; they just need to be flexible about when and for how long.

                Reply
          2. oranges & lemons

            That’s interesting, I took the OP literally on that line! Maybe because it’s not too far from the reality at my office.

            Reply
          3. Observer

            Not in the context of ALSO pointing out that 30 minutes is more than most people take.

            I do think that Jane’s manager needs to intervene, and the the OP needs to deal with it in the moment. But I think there really is another issue that is showing up here.

            Reply
    3. Angelinha

      I could easily see a letter from the Jane in this situation saying “My coworker keeps scheduling meetings that go until 12 but every time she wants to go 10-15 minutes over!” Of course sometimes it’s not realistic to be able to take a lunch exactly at 12, but if you’re counting on it and think your meeting is going to end at 12, and then it doesn’t, that can get pretty frustrating.

      At this point it does seem like Jane probably should have gotten used to these meetings going over, for better or worse, and just told Fergus it stinks but when she’s meeting with so-and-so before lunch she’ll just have to meet up with him whenever she can get away.

      Reply
  13. BadPlanning

    There are so many interesting possibilities here. Is Fergus a control freak that he needs to come and bring his wife to lunch? Does he not understand the difference in their pay types and thinks he is saving her from having her lunch time stolen? Is Jane angry that she doesn’t get to leave for lunch at noon and told Fergus to come and get her so she can escape? Do they have additional jobs and lunch time is the only time they see each other so they are fanatical to defend it? Is Fergus afraid of the microwave and can’t eat unless Jane heats up their meal? Does Jane feel unsafe walking to the lunchroom by herself?

    Reply
    1. LBK

      I agree – I’m kind of fascinated by what could be going on here since there’s so many possible dynamics. Unfortunately I don’t think it changes how the OP should handle the situation so there isn’t really a good reason for her to probe into it beyond satisfying my curiosity.

      Reply
      1. BadPlanning

        Oh yeah, I agree — even if one of these things is a reason, they should be addressed differently that grumpy glaring.

        Reply
    2. CanuckDoughnut

      I was wondering about the first one – does Jane not feel comfortable telling Fergus that she can’t stop a meeting in order to have lunch with him? Does she shut down so that he doesn’t get upset at her engaging in a meeting and thereby prolonging it?

      Reply
    3. Parenthetically

      Yes! I’ll admit that my brain went immediately to red flags for abuse, but indeed, strange and interesting possibilities abound in this one.

      Reply
    1. Pretend Scientist

      Yeah, this whole thing just smacks of junior high or high school, with your boyfriend/girlfriend waiting impatiently outside of class. Grow up, Fergus. And Jane, for that matter. Recognize that your jobs and schedules are different, ffs.

      Reply
  14. Nathaniel

    I would invite Fergus to a meeting with HR and state explicitly that he needs to stop interrupting business meetings. If they can’t keep their marriage from interfering in these processes, fire them both.

    Reply
    1. Antilles

      No. This is actually a really bad idea for OP.
      First, OP doesn’t manage Jane or Fergus. She has no real authority to do this.
      Secondly, that’s going to come off as way too harsh for Jane and Fergus since it doesn’t seem like anybody has tried the simple direct approach of asking him to wait yet. So it’s going to engender a lot of anger towards OP from Jane and Fergus because they’re (rightly) going to see this as coming out of nowhere.
      Third and most important, this would completely backfire on OP. Based on the situation described, the production side operates on a firm and rigid timeline for their employees. Having worked similar jobs in the past, I can assure you that the norm is that interfering with your lunch hour is Just Not Done. And it certainly isn’t something that’s done by an outsider. Even though Fergus is actually in the wrong here, approaching it like this is going to make his manager and chain of command back their guy over “some bureaucratic suit who doesn’t understand production” (their words, though possibly with more profanity).

      Reply
  15. MuseumChick

    I would address this directly with Jane first, then if it continues, with Fergus when he shows up the next time you are meeting with Jane, and then if that doesn’t work, address it with Jane’s manager.

    “Jane, I’ve notices when Fergus comes to get you for lunch and we are still in the middle of something it seems to take your attention off the matter at hand. I know it can be annoying to be delayed for lunch but I really need your full attention until our meetings are complete.”

    “Hi Fergus, Jane and I will be a few more minuets. I know you like to get lunch together at this time but when we are in a meeting it cannot be stopped until we’ve covered everything.” If he glares as you, address it directly as others have said. If you see Jane checking out address it in the moment, “Jane, I really need your full attention for this.”

    Now, there is another part of this I wanted to address…does anyone else get the vibe that Jane is in an abusive relationship (I’m thinking more mental/emotional abusive). This just seems like really controlling behavior.

    Reply
    1. Emmie

      Yes, but I felt like I could be jumping to conclusions. It appears to be pretty controlling behavior. I might ask Jane if she sees a problem with him approaching her desk / lunch like this, and if there’s anything preventing her from addressing it with her husband.

      Reply
    2. Mb13

      Absolutely yes. Also I’m getting a huge helping of sexist I own my wife and she comes with me how dare you keep my property busy. But if op wanted it’s worth talking to hr about weather or not they have a policy about abusive relationships especially if both spouses are working in the same company.

      Reply
    3. Emmie

      She also may not be in tune to the differences between office plant culture and plant floor culture. Perhaps OP could explain the different demands and that could be an ah-ha moment for Jane.

      Reply
    4. DaBlonde

      Yes, the fact that the husband becomes visibly annoyed combined with the fact that Jane becomes unfocused and won’t address the delay with Fergus directly leads me to think that there are some control issues there.

      Reply
  16. Mena

    Fergus is only part of the problem; Jane is the other part of the problem. It is Jane that should be saying, “Head to lunch, Dear, I’ll catch up when I can.” Jane is making it the OP’s problem rather than set a boundary with her husband that her work schedule also needs to be respected. Perhaps, away from the moment, say to Jane “I realize that Fergus has a set lunch hour but that is rarely the case on the business side of the organization. Often it is more efficient for us to finish what we’re working on rather than breaking exactly at noon and then having to re-convene. Is it possible that Fergus goes to lunch and you join him in the lunch room when you free up?” (and really, Jane’s boss should be saying this to her)
    And is there anyway you can meet with Jane away from your desks … in a closed conference room? Actually entering through a closed door (read: interrupting) may help Fergus understand that he is, well, interrupting a meeting that isn’t yet finished.
    So, yeah Fergus is a problem, and Jane is a problem, and Jane’s boss is a problem here.

    Reply
    1. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

      But I can’t help but wonder what the situation is at home if Jane can’t/doesn’t say anything to her husband. I’ve worked with my husband at the same place and a) he would never jeopardize my job by doing something like this and b) we didn’t tell anyone we even knew each other so that we had our own personal reputations in the workplace. We don’t have the information to even assume the worst, but I really hope it’s not where my mind was going when I read the letter.

      I agree with Mena’s approach to start with Jane and not in the moment. From there, it would depend on the impact to the business whether I would take it back to the manager, or higher if the manager won’t deal with it.

      Reply
    2. Kelly White

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thinks it’s odd that Jane isn’t handling Fergus. I mean, if my DH (or even a co-worker) came by my desk for lunch, and I was with my boss, I would be the one saying either I’ll need to reschedule or I’ll meet you in 10 or whatever. I would think it was kind of an overreach if my boss said something to the person.

      Reply
      1. Mena

        Just to re-iterate, Jane’s boss needs to speak to Jane if her personal relationships in the office (with whomever) are interfering with the accomplishment of work. I didn’t suggest that Jane’s boss speak to Fergus.

        Reply
  17. Case of the Mondays

    I feel bad for Jane here. If you know she has lunch with her husband everyday at noon, stop encroaching on that time. She’s disengaging so the conversation ends faster. Is it really something you can’t table for an hour and start talking about again at 1? I get it though. It’s weird for exempt employees to take a true full lunch break. But, it shouldn’t be. Everyone deserves a break during the day.

    Reply
    1. Jessie the First (or second)

      But not everyone deserves a break at a specific time every day, down to the minute. That’s not cool.

      Reply
      1. Kathleen Adams

        Exactly. I think everyone does deserve a break in the middle of the day. But everybody does not deserve to clock out at exactly 12 hundred hours and clock back in at exactly 13 hundred hours. That’s just silly.

        Reply
      2. Anon too!

        I would argue that everything deserves a break.

        Isn’t the point of salary employees that we trust that they can and will manage their time and get their work done? If Jane feels that she can do her job while taking lunch at 12 every day, then why is that not worth respecting?

        I think that it would be much better for Jane to be more direct and say that they should finish their meeting later. But, I can’t villainize her for wanting to eat at the same time each day.

        Reply
        1. Here we go again

          Yes, but if Jane has a meeting that is going on longer than noon, she needs to understand that takes precedence over her leaving to have lunch with her husband. The problem is her attitude is implying that she isn’t managing her time.

          Reply
          1. Anon too!

            While, in general, I do agree with you, I would like to ask why? I see this sort of attitude often from people in the US and I must admit that I don’t understand it.

            I’m a salaried professional in an office. If I’m in a meeting that’s approaching 12, we wrap it up. Sometimes that means that we decide to meet again after lunch, or that we agree to finish by e-mail, and sometimes we go grab lunch together.

            I work with people who have a very set rhythm and I also work with people who don’t. We all tend to be respectful about the other person. It’s the same thing as not starting a long conversation with someone you know comes in at 6am and leaves early right before they generally leave. Once you know, you do better.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              It really depends on the type of work. There are some jobs where time sensitive work may pop up without warning and needs to be dealt with before you can break for lunch. A really easy example of this is communications work, if you’re dealing with high-profile clients, campaigns, or crises.

              Reply
              1. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

                I work with people in three time zones. All of my meetings are between 11 and 3 US East Coast time which means my lunch time is usually spent in meetings. But then I go home an hour or so before my Corporate office and the West Coast has to fend for itself for their last hour or so of normal operations. Every job has its schedule and time constraints. The issue here is not that Jane wants a lunch, but that she sticks to a schedule whether it works for her job or not. And that her husband insists on her eating lunch with him regardless of her job’s needs.

                Reply
              2. Gadfly

                And sometimes it is also a matter of dealing with co-workers who need to fit in the time they are working with you around the other things they need to get done. Not a ‘crisis’ exactly, but a matter of ‘this is when this works, and I can’t come back to your desk at 1pm’

                Reply
        2. Jessie the First (or second)

          “If Jane feels that she can do her job while taking lunch at 12 every day, then why is that not worth respecting”

          The person who is managing the project that Jane is working on clearly thinks that sometimes Jane needs to work a little past 12. Jane cannot unilaterally decide when she can drop work and go to lunch when she is working on a team of people. If Jane thinks that the work they do *never* should encroach on her lunch time, and that she ought to *always* take a noon break, then she needs to address that like a grown-up and use her words with her manager and the person managing the projects (OP).

          Reply
        3. Rat in the Sugar

          It sounds like this is getting in the way of her doing her job, though. It also sounds like her manager can’t actually trust her to manage her time properly since she thinks it’s okay to just check out of meetings she’s still in the middle and just let her eyes glaze over while others are still trying to work. You can’t just decide you don’t feel like doing your job just because the clock struck noon.

          Reply
          1. OP

            This is exactly the issue. If she was a great worker otherwise, that would be okay. It’s extremely frustrating when she says “I didn’t get to that today, it will have to be tomorrow”, when I know she came in at 9, took an hour lunch, and left at 5. I’m a fan of work-life balance, but we work in a damanding field and most of us are passionate about the business, and I was here until 8 pm last night and loved every minute of it. Is everyone like that? No. Is Jane like that? Definately not? But is it frustrating? Heck yes.

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              I’m wondering if this isn’t because Fergus’s schedule is so rigid. Do they drive to work together? I can see leaving at the same exact time for that reason, but the lunch thing is baffling me. Even if I were married to Captain America (SWOOON), I wouldn’t feel like I had to have lunch with him every single day without fail. Why doesn’t he want to go eat lunch with Bucky once in a while!?

              Reply
              1. LBK

                Yep, my mind went right to her carpooling to work with her husband and therefore being stuck on his schedule.

                I don’t know if this is within your purview, OP, but I think someone needs to be explicit with Jane that she’s expected to be in the office until the work is done, not just until her ride is ready to leave. That means that sometimes she may have to make other transportation arrangements if her husband isn’t willing to wait around until she’s done, and it also means he might have to eat lunch alone sometimes. They do different work with different hours, and it’s not feasible for her to run on his schedule because it’s more convenient for him.

                Reply
            2. AthenaC

              Oh I see – then my thoughts are there’s two parts to this:

              1) Address with Jane (through her manager, if necessary) that certain things have to be done today, or tomorrow, and if that means that she arrives earlier or leaves later, so be it. Micromanage for a bit if that’s what it takes. Regardless of what the dynamics are at home, Jane has to be the one to control when she arrives and leaves.

              2) Address Fergus’s disruptive behavior with him (through his manager, if necessary). If possible, empower Jane to tell Fergus that she can’t take lunch with him every day. Especially if her arrival and leaving times are inflexible (due to carpooling or whatever).

              You might find that Jane’s performance improves without the forced disruption of Fergus glaring at her whenever HE decides she needs to stop and have lunch with him.

              Reply
            3. Darren

              I’m sorry but it seems that you are projecting your own frustrations on the fact that you can’t just come in at 9 and leave at 5 on Jane who is able to do this.

              She isn’t passionate about the business, and doesn’t want to work there all hours of the day. This is however not a problem, nor a requirement of her being employed. She is employed to perform a role, she is either performing adequately (or better) in that role or she is not. Given you haven’t indicated she is on a PIP or is on the way to being fired I am assuming that her work is considered adequate? If that is the case as she is entitled to work a reasonable set of hours.

              I work in Software Engineering, I’ve worked 12 hour days 6 days a week at a previous job. I’m never going to do that again. I get more recognition and praise at my current work where I come in at 9, and leave at 5 (note there are people that work longer hours than I do, but I regularly score as high or higher on my evaluations). My work respects work/life balance and I’m quite glad about that when I read tales like this of people literally complaining because someone works a regular length day.

              Stop focusing on the hours. Focus on her work. If there is a problem with her work let her manager know. If her work is adequate leave her alone. Let her leave when she wants to leave, let her come in at a reasonable hour, let her have her lunch. You are an exempt employees this means as long as your work is done adequately you have flexibility in your hours. IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO TAKE THAT FLEXIBILITY THOUGH.

              Reply
              1. LBK

                You seem to be completely skipping over the fact that her hours are impacting her ability to get her work done. The OP explicitly says that working such a strict schedule means things are getting pushed off to the next day because she’s leaving right at 5 rather than staying to finish her work.

                I agree that if the work is getting done, then hours aren’t really important, but that first part has to actually be true for the second to apply. I don’t sense frustration on the OP’s part in terms of her having to work such long hours, just that Jane doesn’t seem to have grasped that she’s in a role where you don’t work a shift, you work until the work is done.

                It actually kinda feels like you’re the one doing the projecting here. It seems like you identify with Jane, but look at your own example: you didn’t just unilaterally decide you weren’t going to work your hours regardless of the culture of your company. You left. If Jane doesn’t want to work somewhere where 10 hour days are the norm, she should probably leave.

                Reply
                1. pescadero

                  “The OP explicitly says that working such a strict schedule means things are getting pushed off to the next day because she’s leaving right at 5 rather than staying to finish her work.”

                  If your exempt employees working 40 hours per week is REGULARLY not enough time to get the work done – you’re understaffed.

                  It’s one thing to have an occasional week where folks are working 40+ hours, but if it’s a regular thing… it’s an intentional management problem.

        4. a different Vicki

          That works better when it doesn’t jerk six other people’s schedules around. Jane feels that she can take lunch at noon every day, and wants to rearrange meetings to accommodate that. Meanwhile, Wakeen feels that he can do his job while taking breaks Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 11:45, so he can get to the gym for a spin class, and Ethelred’s psychiatrist wants to see him every day at 1:00, which means leaving at 12:45 and getting back at 2:15.

          When is this team going to hold its meetings? Even assuming there’s no business reason those meetings can’t be scheduled to start half an hour earlier, why does Jane’s desire to have her break at the exact time every day trump everyone else’s scheduling priorities?

          I can’t villainize her for wanting to eat at the same time every day, but it sounds as though she can either eat at the same time every day, or sometimes have lunch at noon sharp, but it may not be reasonable for her to expect to do both.

          I once had a job when I would occasionally meet my spouse for lunch on workdays: but it wasn’t a rigid “I get to go now.” Rather, I would occasionally head to my favorite Chinese restaurant, and call him and say “I’m aiming for Excellent Dumpling, would you like to meet me there in fifteen minutes?” More often than not, I wound up eating alone, because he wasn’t free then, or was already sitting at his desk with a sandwich, or just wasn’t in the mood for the walk.

          Reply
        5. Observer

          She may be able to finish the things SHE needs to do, that do not require working with other people, by taking a lunch at the exact same time every day. But, part of her job is to work with other people. And in those cases, that does change the dynamic around how rigidly you can schedule your lunch break.

          At minimum, as Alison said, if Jane really does need to take that break at that time she should be forthright about it. Block it out on her schedule and tell people up front that she needs to leave on the dot. *And* tell her husband to stop waiting for her and acting like a jerk.

          Reply
      3. Liane

        And even on the production side you don’t always get a strict set lunch break. I worked in production (yes, on the lines) where they had 7am-3pm,/3pm-10pm/10pm-7am shifts but on no shift was there a set time for lunch. Team leads were told roughly when they should start sending people on breaks/lunches–but it wasn’t “Shut down all the lines and everyone goes X-X:30 o’clock.” 1-2 people were “broke out” at a time & when they came back they took another person’s station. (It was also the same at quitting time. I didn’t get off at 3pm on the dot. I got off when a 2nd shift person was sent to my position, whether that was 2:55pm or 3: 25pm.)

        Reply
      4. HisGirlFriday

        This is what I came here to say. In my office, we have 2 FT hourly people, and 4 FT salaried people.

        The office manager (hourly) and the director of teapot education (salary) insist on going to lunch every day, together, promptly at noon. If one of them isn’t available, the other will get her coat and purse, and stand outside the office or cubicle of the other person, impatiently tapping a foot until the person is off the phone/done with e-mail/whatever. It’s gotten so bad that now neither of them will take any phone calls in the 15 minutes before their sacred lunch hour, lest they get caught up on the phone and are unable to leave promptly.

        My office culture is very good about breaks and people taking lunches, so it’s not like there is pressure on them NOT to take lunch, but there is the expectation (at least for the director) that you will acknowledge we are a small office, and that sometimes you may have to delay lunch by a few minutes to deal with a longer than normal phone call or an issue.

        Reply
    2. Myrin

      Of course everyone deserves a break during the day; I’m a huge proponent of taking time off and live in a country where that whole thing is taken very seriously, law-level and everything. But Jane doesn’t need to take her break right this instant when she’s actually in the middle of a conversation. It’s utterly unprofessional (not to mention rude) to disengage in the middle of a (senior) colleague having a business-related conversation with you just because your husband’s coming around the corner. OP is not “encroaching” on Jane’s lunch time because Jane doesn’t have a set lunch time and can just as well take her break fifteen minutes later.

      Reply
    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      Why does Jane’s lunch with her husband supersede her work? This isn’t a one-time thing, this is every day, and it’s a problem. If this were, say, a scheduled lunch with someone she never got to see, once in a while (even once a week!), then sure, no big deal. But every day? I believe everyone should take some time to eat during the day, but most jobs and businesses are set up so that doesn’t happen at exactly the same time every day. Fergus and Jane can’t wait 10 minutes? If they truly can’t, then they need to speak up. But there is a big difference between “can’t” and “won’t”.

      I don’t like the idea that lunching with one’s husband is time on which work shouldn’t encroach. I actually think it’s the opposite. During the workday, work is my priority and my partner should understand that. After all, I’ll see him later. It’s the standing lunch date that should be flexible, especially since it’s every day. What, she can’t come late to lunch one or two days a week? That sounds so odd to me, especially in an exempt position.

      Reply
      1. Parenthetically

        Yeah this. I’m on board with the general principle that work shouldn’t be a person’s number one priority all the time, but this is every single ding-dang day. I love working in the same building as my husband and we eat together most days, but I literally cannot imagine getting glarey or checking out over what amounts to 10 minutes’ delay. It’s just incredibly juvenile.

        Reply
      2. JessaB

        Also I think it would be way easier to take Jane being “must lunch at noon,” if she wasn’t also ending up with “won’t come in early, sorry can’t do that thing because must leave at 5.” There’s being flexible and not. And given the OP’s addendum to the story, it’s a bigger problem than lunch at noon. Jane is refusing to stay past 5 to finish anything or to come in any earlier than 9 to work on something. This is not a Fergus problem, this is a Jane problem.

        Reply
        1. Darren

          This sounds more like the OPs problem to me. If Jane isn’t getting the amount of work done she has to get done she should be put on a PIP and have it made clear to her what she needs to get done. If she can legitimately get done what she is actually expected to get done in a 9-5 work day with an hour for lunch why can’t she do that?

          The OP might like her to get the presentation done a day earlier but if she isn’t required to get it done by then it’s not a problem. I’m seeing someone that is sounding bitter that someone else is working regular hours while they work 3-4 extra hours a day and love it damn it. This other person should to.

          Jane might not be ambitious, might be happy just to do what she is expected to, not looking for promotion just not looking to do her work, and head home at a reasonable hour. Just because the OP wants Jane to be more gung-ho “I love this work”, doesn’t mean that is actually required for Jane to do her job and if it is then Jane’s manager should be telling her that so she can adjust her behaviour and expectations and if necessary self-select out of the role.

          Reply
    4. Triangle Pose

      No, this is really not how many professional jobs work. I have many things I handle that mean I cannot just take 12-1pm and make it sacred personal time every single work day. Clearly from OP, that’s not how her office works. Jane should NOT be disengaging while still in a work meeting with OP. In the event she’s in one of the states that mandate a lunch break, it’s rarely an entire hour and it definitely does not require that it’s 12-1pm.

      Also, many people don’t want to break their flow and concentration in the middle of the day and would rather leave earlier and recharge at home. It doesn’t have to be weird and some people prefer it.

      Reply
    5. MuseumChick

      In my line of work, no, often things cannot be tabled for an hour. If I demanded either explicitly or passively like this to have exactly one hour of lunch at the exactly same time every day it would be seen is very odd and give me a slightly reputation for being a bit difficult to work with. And, why should my co-works, boss, company revolve around my schedule for something like this? Yes, if you have to say take a medication at the exact same time everyday, I will be understanding. But just because you want to have lunch everyday with your significant other? No.

      I’m not saying Jane shouldn’t get a lunch, just that she shouldn’t exact everyone to plan their schedule around when she prefers to take lunch.

      Reply
    6. Temperance

      I just disagree with you here. If you’re in the middle of something, stopping just so she can eat at a planned time is kind of ridiculous, considering that it’s a daily occurrence.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Agreed. If you just need 5 or 10 minutes to wrap something up, it seems inefficient to table it for an hour, especially when the conflict is something non-urgent like lunch – just get it done then. Usually if I’m running over my time to finish something, it’s because I’m really in the thick of something complex and I don’t want to yank myself out and then waste time re-acquainting myself later. It’s not worth doing that just to get rid of Fergus lurking around.

        I think Fergus is getting antsy because he doesn’t have flexibility on his lunch break, so for him, standing around waiting for Jane means wasting part of his break. But there’s nothing stopping him from just going and having lunch by himself until Jane’s done. The more I ponder this, the more it seems less like a work issue and more like a relationship issue where Jane needs to set boundaries with Fergus about how her break works (assuming that she understands that the nature of her work means not always being able to take a strictly scheduled lunch).

        Reply
          1. AnonAnalyst

            Right? I mean, what does he do if Jane is out sick – just not eat lunch at all?

            It seems like the issue is that Fergus is annoyed that Jane’s meetings are conflicting with his break time and he feels like his break time is being taken away by work commitments. But they’re not HIS commitments! So I am not understanding why he can’t just go start eating by himself in the break room and Jane can come join him when she’s done.

            Reply
      2. pescadero

        Having meetings ending at noon that run over 10-15 minutes is kind of ridiculous, considering that it appears to be a regular occurrence.

        Reply
        1. Triangle Pose

          Maybe it’s not a scheduled meeting running over, maybe OP is just “meeting” with Jane to talk about something one on one and it can’t just come to a halt right at 12pm. Maybe another meeting ran over which pushed her availability to talk with Jane. There are many explanations for this that are not ridiculous.

          Reply
          1. pescadero

            Once in a while – that would be reasonable. But the OP said:

            “****Very frequently****, I’ll be working with Jane at her desk when 12:01 hits”

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              This is super normal in many jobs — it’s not scheduled meetings, it’s that stuff comes up and needs to be discussed quickly. Lots and lots of jobs work that way. Most jobs I’ve had work that way.

              Reply
              1. pescadero

                It’s super normal – largely because the power dynamic of employment has allowed the normalization of something that shouldn’t be.

                Age discrimination? Super normal in many jobs.
                Bad managers? Super normal in many jobs.
                Employees being asked to violate hour and wage laws? Super normal in many jobs.

                Being normal says nothing, at all, about whether the practice is right – or even legal.

                Reply
                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  That’s certainly true. It’s also true that in many jobs, people manage their own schedules and don’t have a regular lunch break at a rigid time, and it’s not exploitative. The fact that something can be abused in some work cultures doesn’t mean it’s abused in all of them.

                2. LBK

                  That’s a pretty big false equivalency – a meeting running long is hardly as egregious as discrimination or other violations of the law. And I also agree with Triangle Pose’s assessment that these may not be formal, scheduled meetings, but rather ad hoc conversations that don’t happen to coincide with a hard stopping point at 12pm. It’s not reasonable to expect everyone to hold off on talking to Jane in the time leading up to noon in fear that their conversation will run over Jane’s strict lunch deadline.

                  There are many crappy things that take place a lot in the workplace. An exempt employee not being able to drop everything and sprint off to the break room at 12pm on the dot doesn’t even register as far as I’m concerned – it’s not like she’s missing scheduled doctor’s appointments or not being able to catch her train home. She’s losing a small part of her lunch time with her husband. Is that really such a big deal? Most people don’t work with their spouses and get no time at lunch together, and yet they seem capable of handling it.

                3. Observer

                  That’s true. But, the idea that lunchtime isn’t going to be rigid because different people run on different schedules and sometimes need to discuss something fairly immediately around typical lunch time is hardly exploitative.

            2. Triangle Pose

              There is nothing odd about this happening very frequently. The professional working world does not come to a halt at 12:01pm and it’s unreasonable to expect that or say an employer is terrible for not doing that.

              Reply
    7. bleepbloop

      So, just to be clear, if someone calls you at 11:55, it’s noon and you have 5 more minutes of convo left, you’re really gonna hang up and say “let’s finish at 1”?

      Reply
      1. Cassie

        If I had an errand to run during lunch or somewhere to go, I might not answer the phone at 11:55 (or check the caller ID first). Many of our offices are “officially” closed from 12pm to 1pm, so if you choose to call at 11:55am, it’s a gamble whether the person will answer or not. If it’s close to noon and the need to make a call arises – I will usually wait until after lunch, unless it’s super urgent. I don’t want to put another employee in a position where they will have to delay going to lunch – I have no idea if their office has strict lunch times, whether they go to a lunchtime zumba class, or what.

        My mom worked at a governmental office and they were instructed not to answer phones after 11:55 if their lunch time was at noon. Lunch breaks were staggered, so phone coverage wasn’t an issue.

        Reply
    8. Observer

      Sorry, I don’t buy that. Yes, everyone should get a break. But, insisting on it being at the same time every day is often just not feasible. The OP did say that she’s considered not scheduling around that time, but it’s just not practical. And, I believe it.

      Reply
  18. Jessie the First (or second)

    I’m annoyed that the manager won’t say anything to Jane because it feels uncomfortable. A manager who avoids uncomfortable talks? Now that is a nightmare.

    OP, say something! Alison and some commenters have some fine scripts here you can use. You don’t manage Jane but you manage your work, so if this affects your work you get to say something. This would drive me *crazy*!

    Reply
    1. Triangle Pose

      Yes, I’d say SPEAK UP to the OP. Just because Fergus doesn’t report to OP doesn’t mean she can’t say something when he’s CLEARLY behaving inappropriately. Think about it this way, if some other employee were hovering around a meeting, you’d say something, right? Just because it’s Jane’s husband and he works at the company does not mean OP cannot speak up to him for behaving this way. I was getting all ragey at Fergus just imagining this happening once, let along repeatedly and having Jane, my junior employee glazing over when I’m having a meeting with her.

      Reply
    2. OP

      I’m 100% going to speak up. This question was kind of a check for me – I half-expected to be slaughtered for even suggesting someone miss part of lunch. But now I’m seeing I’m not crazy, being pretty reasonable, and am definately going to be more vocal!

      Reply
      1. Triangle Pose

        Yes OP, you are not being unreasonable – Fergus is being totally inappropriate for glaring and hovering and Jane should not be glazing over and disengaging. It looks like you work in an office where people manage their own lunch times and the work is busy enough that sometimes you and others in the office eat at their desks or forget to eat or eat later or earlier or snack throughout the day. That’s totally fine! You can do as much as you reasonably can to accomodate Jane’s lunchtime preference but her personal lunch time does not trump business needs. Jane and Fergus both need a level-set conversations and reminders if they slip up.

        If my read of your comment that you’re lucky if you get to eat is wrong and your entire office is really so busy that you can’t find a few minutes to physically eat sometime during the work day then I do think there is a greater workplace culture issue, but that’s still separate from Fergus and Jane’s bad beahvior. It doesn’t concern Fergus at all because he’s not even in your side of the business and he has a rigid lunch time window and if Jane and others in your office have an issue with the work culture, you can work with her and others to escalate and improve, but Jane glazing over and disengaging at 12pm on the dot is not the solution and not a reasonable demand.

        Reply
      2. Turtle Candle

        Definitely not being crazy. The thing that really stands out to me is the hover-and-glare maneuver; I’ve had people pull that in the past and it’s extremely distracting and sometimes intimidating. If I was another employee seated in the area, even if I never worked with Jane or Fergus, I’d be intensely grateful to you for saying something just because dealing with that on a regular basis would be really uncomfortable.

        Reply
      3. Gadfly

        You aren’t asking her to miss part of lunch–just to not have it at the time she would prefer. 12:05-1:05 is still an hour. It may suck that she can’t have it with her husband, but that doesn’t mean she is giving up time.

        Reply
      4. Helen

        You aren’t being unreasonable but “Jane gets a lunch, which is more than anyone else gets” really jumped out at me. I’ve worked in (professional) jobs with no real lunch break and the result was stress, eye strain, and anxiety – I was essentially glued to the phone and screen for 9-10 hours a day. Jane’s situation is unreasonable, but you should be enforcing lunch breaks.

        Reply
    3. pescadero

      Is there a possibility that Jane’s manager doesn’t really agree that it is a problem, and just feeds the OP the “uncomfortable” because she doesn’t want to just say “I as her manager don’t care”?

      Reply
  19. DCompliance

    I would address Fergus glaring at me directly with him. “Did you need something?” If he says “no”, I would say “your glaring at me is distracting”. If he says “yes, I am waiting for Jane”, I would turn it on Jane “Jane, you have somewhere you need to be?”

    That being said, I see major red flags about an entire department NEVER being able to take a lunch.

    Reply
  20. Rachael

    I wonder if she disengages and gets a blank look, not because she doesn’t want to be in the meeting anymore, but because she is worried that Fergus will be mad at her for every minute over she goes. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to deal with a husband who gets visibly upset every time a meetings go over into “lunchtime” in an environment where that is the norm. It would be a daily stressor for me. You may want to address it with her personally with a bit of compassion in case she is in a controlling situation. That way you can determine if what I wrote it correct or if it is actually the issue other commentators mentioned where she wants to have a normal lunch time.

    Reply
    1. Anon attorney

      Came here to say this. What the OP describes as disengagement could be rigid embarrassment or tension about Fergus. I’ve had that experience, where my SO was doing something in front of other people that I found deeply embarrassing and was so ashamed of being seen in that situation that I effectively went catatonic briefly.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous Lawyer

      I briefly dated someone until I figured out he was abusive. I am a very assertive, social person but on more than one occasion with this guy I *completely* blanked a conversation to get it to end, because when you deal with someone who is emotionally manipulative (1) if you say “honey I can’t leave right now” he will be mad, and come down on your for defying him, and/or for “embarrassing” him *(by pushing back against his authority to collect you immediately), and (2) if you say “I need to leave now, coworker, so that I can go have lunch with my husband” you will feel dumb because you *know* your job means you should say and you *know* your husband is being controlling, but if you say anything to either person you will be calling out the fact your husband is controlling you or inviting him to be mad at you. He may even get mad at you for saying something innocuous to end the meeting instead of just going, so even option (2) can get you in trouble with such a dude. And so you try to extricate yourself from the conversation instantaneously without saying a single word that will either get you in trouble with him or acknowledge your decision to not meet work norms to allow for his demands. I have thought “oh please stop talking so we can leave before he gets irrationally mad and you notice how not cool this is” while talking to close friends and could totally see that happening in a work place if (god forbid) I worked with this particular dude.

      Sure, he may not be an emotional abuser/controlling, but this hit me right in the gut as *exactly* what she would do if he was.

      Reply
  21. Bolt

    I have a such a big problem having the attitude that she’d be lucky to get any lunch time just because it has become the norm or others are willing to work through their lunches.

    For me I am in a similar workplace where lunch can get delayed – but only for client meetings or time sensitive work.

    My problem is that I get hunger pains around 12:10… yet my manager expects me to work without breaks sometimes until 2:00! Not only does it affect my health, but it is illegal. If I say anything I too get told that my boss doesn’t take her lunch break and neither does my coworker.

    A big help could be determining WHEN to stop a meeting for a lunch break when Fergus shows up – if it hasn’t stopped it seems clear that Jane WANTS to go for lunch with him at noon. It may be inconvenient on non-time sensitive issues, but Jane will probably come back full force instead of zoning out because you are delaying her lunch.

    I often have to tell my boss, “Can we look at this file after lunch? That will take at least 2 hours and I need to break in 30 minutes.” to avoid losing my entire lunch because of an inconvenient break.

    Reply
    1. Leatherwings

      Well there’s a high probability that it isn’t illegal in OPs state AND if Jane really needs to eat at that time then she needs to speak with her manager about it and figure out a plan rather than whatever she’s doing.

      And Jane checking out just because she wants lunch at that time isn’t reasonable for most exempt roles. If she gets hungry at exactly 12:00 but it isn’t always possible to eat then then she needs to have dried fruit at her desk or something at 11. This is what being exempt looks like, and it’s not really reasonable to expect roles like Jane’s to be able to conform to a strict lunch time.

      Reply
      1. Helen

        It’s not just about food though. It’s about mental and physical health. Unless you’re sorting out the Middle East, stitching a wound or saving someone from a burning building, you can probably take that lunch break.

        Reply
    2. MuseumChick

      I keep a small stash of hard candy at my desk for this reason. If I know my lunch (which usually happens anywhere between 11:30 – 2:00pm) is going to happen after 12:00, the hard candy tides me over.

      Again, everyone deserves a lunch, but in my line of work it’s expected that you plan your lunch in around your work, not plane your work around your lunch.

      Reply
    3. Stellaaaaa

      I believe (don’t quote me on this) that it’s illegal to have minors working for certain lengths of time without breaks, and this is where a lot of us get the idea that it’s illegal to not let us break for lunch 4 hours into the workday. Once you turn 18, those laws go away for the most part but no one tells you that.

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq

        Federal labor law does not require breaks but many states do, and some of those states have stricter rules specific to young workers. States also vary in their definition of “young worker.”

        Reply
        1. Leatherwings

          This typically (always?) applies only to non-exempt workers. And “young workers” are typically (always?) below the age of 18.

          Reply
          1. MegaMoose, Esq

            Yeah, I meant to specify non-exempt, I have no idea if or how state break laws work for exempt employees. However, your second assumption is incorrect (although I don’t know the breakdown by state and type of labor law off the top of my head): some states limit “young worker” rules to age 15 and younger, or have even more complicated divisions. California’s labor laws vary based on under 13, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18. Because California hates people to pass their bar.

            Reply
            1. MegaMoose, Esq

              Okay, federal law has some more specific age divisions too, but again, not with breaks. I need to stop splitting this hair eventually. Not having an edit function is a challenge for me.

              Reply
    4. Lily in NYC

      It’s up to us to adjust – keep something in your desk you can eat quickly to hold you over. People complain so much about not being treated as adults by their employees – well, it goes both ways! Good employees adapt to these types of things instead of expecting everything to be “fair”.

      Reply
      1. OP

        ^this, thank you! I also have one staffer who complains when they don’t get that hour to go OUT to eat, and that drives me nuts. That, my friend, is definately a privilege you cannot have every day. Have a back up plan.

        Reply
  22. Here we go again

    I think there are two issues: 1. Jane’s lack of professionalism and 2. Fergus’ lack of professionalism.

    I think Jane’s manager needs to be the first one to say “Hey, when you disengage like this because your husband is here, it is unprofessional. Our job requires XYZ and it isn’t always feasible for us to stop our meeting at exactly 12.”

    Fergus is also being unprofessional. Since he is in a different department, the OP or boss doesn’t have to directly address it, but it is totally fine for them to reach out to his manager and say “Hey, Fergus keeps interrupting our work and this isn’t okay.”

    Their relationship aside (which seems like may have some additional drama), this is totally unprofessional.

    Reply
    1. MuseumChick

      Totally agree. I think once the OP has address this issue with (in this order) Jane, Fergus, and Jane’s boss it’s totall reasonable to address it with Fergus’s boss if the behavior continues, “Fergus has been coming over to Jane’s desk every day to go to lunch. Sometimes this is fine, but he has been interrupting our work when Jane is in a meeting that runs late.”

      Reply
      1. Here we go again

        While the OP seems indifferent about lunch breaks, there is nothing to indicate she has an issue with Jane taking a lunch break. It is her needing to take it at noon on the minute every single day and her husband interfering with her work that is the problem.

        I have worked in offices where people just didn’t take proper breaks because there wasn’t a good place to. No real restaurants around and no good break room. It was a choice the employees made – not management. There are many reasons why the OP may choose not to take a lunch break. That’s not the issue here.

        Reply
        1. Helen

          She said in another comment that a person choosing to take a lunch could be held against them when it came to promotions, and in another, laughed at the idea that an employee wanted to go out of the office on her lunch break, and described that as a privilege not a right.

          Reply
          1. Here we go again

            I believe I know which comment you are referring to and I am not reading that the OP has an issue with someone taking a lunch break. If something unexpected comes up and someone chooses to eat and work at the same time, the OP will reward that accordingly. That’s not to say that Jane can’t take a lunch break later in the day, it just won’t happen at noon on the dot. I am not seeing anything in OP’s letter or comments to indicate she is penalizing anyone for taking breaks, rather that the tasks don’t always allow for a rigid schedule and she will reward those who are flexible.

            Reply
        2. Helen

          The other issue is that it may feed into why Fergus seems so OTT. Don’t get me wrong, his behaviour is completely inappropriate. But in his head, he may think he’s standing up for his wife / preventing her from being taken advantage of. Especially if he sees a culture where people eat at their desks or not at all.

          It’s also worth noting that people in manual jobs don’t get regular breaks due to altruism – it’s because people recognised that without breaks, a person’s energy and faculties declined. Mistakes went up and productivity went down. It’s the same for mental labour, we just don’t recognise it.

          Reply
          1. Here we go again

            But it isn’t Fergus’ place to stand up for her. She is a professional and her own person. He is doing her a disservice by behaving the way he is (which you seem to agree with). No one is questioning the breaks… People are questioning the need to take them at a schedule to the minute because she wants to go eat lunch with her husband. I fully agree that rest is good for you and makes you more productive, but that time may be at 1 p.m. one day and 3 p.m. another day. That isn’t always within a manager’s control.

            Reply
  23. Bend & Snap

    This seems like it would be easily solved by Jane meeting Fergus in the break room when she can. And Fergus can act like a grown up and eat by himself until Jane arrives, if they’re not able to communicate for some reason.

    Jane should be prioritizing her job over her lunch. It’s not reasonable to be off limits for an hour every day due to lunch plans with your spouse.

    I briefly managed someone who told me her boyfriend would be mad at me anytime she had to work late. It was so bizarre.

    Work is work. Home is home. I try not to schedule meetings during the lunch hour both because I hate them and I think it’s rude if there are other options, but when it’s busy, all bets are off.

    Reply
    1. Leatherwings

      Maybe, but it seems equally as plausible that she wants to eat lunch with him and gets super annoyed when meetings run over so that glazed over look is annoyance rather than fear.

      Reply
      1. Liane

        There are couples who believe they *have to* be together All. The. Time. Because, I don’t know, it shows that it is truly True Love?

        Now, my husband & I worked at the same place for a year or so, different shifts, but I doubt if we had been on the same schedule that we would have eaten together more than a few times. It just isn’t our style, plus where we worked, Front End–where I was–was less likely than Inventory–his job–to be able to go at the times on the schedule.

        Reply
        1. Bend & Snap

          I had a friend who lived with her boyfriend, worked with him, they commuted together, ate lunch together, ended up getting married…no way could I spend that much time with someone

          Reply
    2. Stellaaaaa

      Maybe? It sounds like he’s a bit of a hard-@ss. But I think Jane’s also annoyed that OP (seemingly) only ever schedules meetings with Jane at the one exact time that Jane has something else to do. There’s no indication here that OP is being passive-aggressive, but Jane might be perceiving it that was and I think OP should find a way to prove that isn’t the case.

      Reply
      1. Triangle Pose

        There’s nothing in the letter to indicate OP only every schedules meetings with Jane at this exact time. Work needs to get done and meetings happen and can run into the 12-1pm window. Jane’s personal lunch with her husband does not trump business needs. If Jane is perceiving passive-agressiveness, she’s not handling it well. As Alison advised, OP should have a level-set conversation with Jane.

        Reply
        1. OP

          Definately not TRYING to schedule things in this window, but stuff happens. And a lot of times, it’s a 10 am meeting that we thought would be 30 minutes that is still going because something is due and a lot more complicated than we thought. And trust me, I’m not enjoying it any more than Jane is….

          Reply
          1. pescadero

            10am meetings planned to be 30 minutes that are rolling over into a noon lunch?

            Yeah… that sounds like management and culture issues all over the place.

            Reply
              1. pescadero

                I’m taking her at her word. In fact – her words are what make the situation seem as awful as it is.

                She has stated –

                1) These are 10am meetings scheduled for 30 minutes.
                2) The meetings that cause issue last past noon (more than 4x longer than scheduled)
                3) It happens regularly – “Again, I’m not talking every day. 3 days a week, Jane can probably take her lunch with no problem.”

                So we’re talking meetings scheduled for 30 minutes going over 2 hours once or twice per week.

                Reply
                1. AthenaC

                  I don’t see anything in the letter about these being 10 am meetings scheduled for 30 minutes. What I see in the letter is “we are always in and out of meetings, and sometimes things come up.”

                2. Kitkat

                  …but that may just be the nature of the work. If something is going terribly wrong, we meet to fix it, and it takes us 2 hours instead of 30 minutes, how is that anyone’s fault?

                3. AthenaC

                  Oops I see now – disregard.

                  But I’m still sympathetic to “things come up and sometimes things are more complicated than they appear but they still have to be resolved now.” My job is like this and it’s one of the tradeoffs I chose.

                4. KR

                  Yes, but we don’t treat OPs like that here. We treat them with kindness and don’t criticize things they can’t change, like the culture or management of their workplace. As far as we know, this works for everyone in the office except Jane. Coming from an office where my lunch was all over the place, I can understand how a topic that you think will only take a couple of minutes turns out to be a lot longer. Sometimes you just can’t get to lunch on time. It happens to everyone.

                5. Observer

                  She didn’t say that all of these meetings are scheduled for 10:30 and running past 12:00. She’s saying that it’s all over the map including stuff that you really can’t plan for because when you think a meeting is going to take 30 minutes, 10:30 seems like plenty of time.

                  It could be that the OP is still bad at estimating how much time stuff is supposed to take, but I see no evidence of this, and really, weird and stupid stuff does happen.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)

              So yeah, that does concern me. Meetings go over their allotted time sometimes, sure. But “a lot of time”? And that much? OP, are there ways you can work on bringing meetings back under control?

              Reply
              1. OP

                We are actually pretty great with formal meetings – departmental meetings, all staffs, that kind of stuff. Unfortunately, the type of work Jane does is output based, and I manage that output. So if Jane needs to get a teapot distributor a list of chocolate teapots, I need to meet with her about what kind of teapots that vendor wants – to clarify that they actually only want dark chocolate sourced from South America. Then, she’ll get me the list back and I’ll realize that the teapot acquisition department, which is all out at a retreat today, didn’t distinguish between dark and milk chocolate on the latest shipment by mistake, so I need to help her dig through shipping orders to figure out which dates the dark chocolate ones were delivered on. Should have taken 20 minutes, took 2 hours. Not that that’s exactly what I did this afternoon, or anything… :)
                Basisally – stuff happens. Normal office stuff, and like once a week. Anyone’s job who goes off flawlessly every day and every week – well, send me an application!

                Reply
                1. Darren

                  Out of curiousity (since it is entirely unrelated to the original post) do you track when you get issues like this that burn up time unexpectedly?

                  I’ve worked at a couple of places where things like this would pop up, and it invariably turned out to be something that after we’d noticed it occurring enough times was actually worth investing the time or money in ensuring that it couldn’t happen again (i.e. those 2 hours added up over time to being a significant expense).

                  In your example it would be something like we’d scan the barcodes on the teapots going in and going out so we’d know exactly when the dark chocolate ones were delivered (and how many we have and where they are now).

                  If you don’t track it, it might be worth doing so, it’s only a few extra minutes (if that) and you’d be surprised at the patterns you notice once you start tracking where time gets spent that it really didn’t need to be spent.

                2. pescadero

                  Do you have some sort of continuous improvement plan in place? Are these sort of issues being tracked and processes put in place to avoid them in the future?

                  “Normal office stuff” doesn’t turn from 30 minute to 2+ hours, once or twice a week.

                  My job isn’t flawless – but if the same errors kept occurring, I’d expect management to be doing something to avoid the problem in the future.

    3. OP

      It’s (as far as I know) not a scary situation, but they are super co-dependent. They’ve had many different jobs at different companies, but ALWAYS worked together. For 30+ years. Which is something she’s told us socially, and yes, we are watching for the moment he quits the line, so we can plan for her possible (probable) departure.

      Reply
      1. Venus Supreme

        I could never, ever work with my significant other. I find that so weird! But whatever floats their boat… within reason.

        Reply
      2. AthenaC

        Now all I can think of is a couple I know where everything revolves around hiswork schedule. It really limited her career opportunities because “I have to spend time with my wife” and she couldn’t have a job shift more than a half hour or so different than his. Between him getting laid off and me yelling at him (he’s afraid of me) he backed off quite a bit; I don’t think he really realized how controlling he was being, but the fact remains that he was being controlling, and nothing his wife said or did could change it.

        Reply
  24. DevAssist

    I absolutely do not want to make any accusations, but Fergus’ behavior is also unsettling to me, as in he could perhaps have control issues? Other readers’ theories of Jane pushing back against the “no lunch/ lunch-when-you-can” culture make sense and could vary well be at play here, but if Fergus is highly agitated about it and is holding to an incredibly rigid schedule, perhaps it’s a talk he and Jane need to have. If I were the OP, I would feel very, very uncomfortable in this kind of situation. (Again, all this is just me thinking aloud- I do not want to make any accusations!)

    Reply
  25. NW Mossy

    Yeah, this just seems like Fergus hasn’t had the experience of working in an environment where breaks aren’t scheduled and adhered to rigidly. If he’s a current/former union guy, experience in having the timing/scope of breaks and meals governed by collective bargaining agreements could make the idea of “oh, just take your lunch whenever” seem really weird and off-putting.

    Ultimately, though, this is his issue. OP, it would be a kindness if you said to Jane, “When Fergus comes by right at 12 and interrupts us when we’re meeting, it’s distracting. I know you have standing lunch plans with him and I’ll accommodate that when I can, but in the future, I’m going to ask him if he can please wait in [location] for us to finish up rather than hanging around.”

    Reply
  26. Rumpus Time is Over

    I’m ignoring the OP’s comments about not taking a lunch. I can’t stand the attitude that it’s wrong to take a lunch. The real issue is the Husband.
    This is why most companies still have the draconian rules about couples working for the same company. I work in the front office of a manufacturing facility, and this would not be tolerated. Just because the Husband is on a his break doesn’t mean the wife is automatically on hers. (gah, I don’t know that I’d want to spend lunch with my husband every single day)
    The OP needs to tell Jane to tell her Husband to go to the lunch room and wait, and she will get there, when she gets there. If that doesn’t solve the issue, then I’d contact his Supervisor and have them tell the husband.

    Reply
    1. Robin Sparkles

      I completely agree with your first sentence. I’m a big believer that everyone should be entitled to a lunch break, no matter how busy. For me, taking a break increases productivity. I would feel so drained in the afternoon if I didn’t get a lunch break. Instead, I tend to come back reenergized after my lunch break!

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        My last job’s boss was really good at enforcing that we took our lunches and took them AWAY from our desks for that reason. But we still had to work around what was time sensitive.

        Reply
  27. Whats In A Name

    I want to add, “and Jane will meet you in the break room in a few minutes” but that is overstepping and weird.

    I actually think this is exactly what you need to do. Jane doesn’t ‘punch a clock’ in the same way Fergus does and needs to be more flexible as an expectation of her job.

    Now Fergus can eat by himself for 30 minutes and Jane will still get to see him for 30 minutes, which is still longer than everyone else on the team is taking. is a different issue. If she is getting her work done but still expected to skip lunch just because the rest of the department does I don’t know if I agree with that at all.

    For the record I get choosing to skip lunch for reasons people here have indicated, as most days I do the same short lunch/leave early shtick.

    Reply
  28. Always Anon

    Wow. My husband and I work for the same employer and have a similar difference in roles as Jane and Fergus – he’s non-exempt with a more rigid schedule and I’m exempt with expectations to be available to coworkers/boss throughout the day. I often don’t take lunch or take a short lunch at non-standard times. So we almost never plan to have lunch together.

    We do sometimes ride to work together and I’m sometimes (okay – usually) at least a few minutes late getting out the door. If my husband shows up to meet me at the end of the day and I’m alone at my desk finishing up something, he’ll sit and wait. If I’m in the middle of a meeting or conversation, he finds somewhere out of the way to wait for me. Depending on the situation, he’ll be sure I see him to know he’s there, but then makes himself scarce until the conversation or meeting has ended. If I know my work/meeting is going to run more than a few minutes late, I try to call or email him so he can find something else to do while he waits for me. We feel that’s the professional way to handle it.

    And really, I couldn’t imagine spending every lunch time with my spouse. Even when I’m able to take lunch at his usual lunch time, I find other things to do (have lunch with a coworker, read AAM, go for a walk). If we drive to work together, drive home together, and spend evenings and weekends together, let me have lunch time to myself. My husband seems to feel the same way, fortunately.

    This really should be Jane’s issue to address with Fergus – managing his expectations of her time. But she obviously hasn’t done that for whatever reason. There are some good suggestions in these comments, but it seems that suggesting that Fergus and Jane meet in the break room instead of at Jane’s desk would be the best solution. Keeping Fergus away from that workplace will eliminate interruptions to workflow or Jane shutting down when he arrives.

    Reply
  29. Stellaaaaa

    My personal take is that Fergus is a jerk (he’s gotten wayyyyyy too used to working at the same place as his wife – many of us spend more time with our coworkers than with our partners) but the business side of the company needs to hammer out its timing issues. Even if you can’t/don’t want to schedule firm lunch times, you need to allow people to eat during the middle chunk of the day if they want to. You also shouldn’t be holding regular meetings with Jane during a time when she has (passively or not) expressed she would like to be able to eat some food. Can you start a half hour earlier? Wait until she gets back? Is there honestly a reason why Jane or anyone in this department couldn’t take a lunch at noon if they chose? (Somewhere along the line, someone else is going to insist on taking a proper lunch so it’s worth thinking about whether there’s a reason or if it’s just the culture of your department) And is there really a business need to have meetings (what sounds like) multiple times a week? I’ve worked at places where the boss demanded individual meetings literally every single day and it was such a waste of time – the meetings were time sucks because we hadn’t done enough work in the past 24 hours to warrant a meeting.

    So yeah. Kick Fergus out of your meetings. Be mean to him if you have to. But don’t make Jane feel like she can’t schedule a permanent 12:15 lunch break and try to stop having meetings with her during the least ideal time of her workday.

    Reply
    1. MuseumChick

      This is really industry dependent I think. As I mentioned up thread, in my line of work often things need to handled right then and cannot be put off an hour for me to my lunch from 12:30-1:30pm as I would prefer. For example, when I worked at the Chocolate Teapot Museum I was in charge of handling all incoming objects to the museum (there is a some legal paper work involved when you donate something to a museum and it’s expected that you take some time to talk with the donor to help build a good relationship so in the future they feel comfortable donating to you in the future). So If a donor showed up at 12:15 with something to donate, then my lunch get’s pushed back, no two ways about it. If it didn’t I would develop a horrible reputation in the field. Another example from the Chocolate Teapot Museum, if my boss come to me with an object that we thought may fall under NAGPRA (a federal law related to native american cultural objects) I’m am going to look into right then, lunch be damned because I didn’t want us to be in any trouble with the federal government.

      Every deserves a break, a lunch, yes. But demanding an exact time and being inflexible about it seems really weird to me.

      Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        I mentioned this in another comment: I think it’s time for transparency on the OP’s part. I don’t think she’s being passive-aggressive, but I could see how Jane reads the situation that way. There’s only one time during the day that Jane would prefer not to have a meeting, and that’s exactly when OP schedules literally every meeting. OP needs to tell Jane the reasoning behind the timing and quantity of meetings, which IMO is a good thing to have out in the open anyway. Businesses always run more smoothly when the employees know the reasons behind the procedures. I think that it would be a good idea to fend off any resentment that Jane might be starting to build up. Necessity or not, Jane clearly does want to take a lunch and this meeting (again, why so many meetings that it’s becoming an issue? Not saying it’s weird, but I think Jane needs to be told why they’re necessary) is the only thing preventing that from happening. If I were reaching, I’d wonder if Jane is pushing the issue and waiting for someone to flat-out tell her that her department doesn’t get to take breaks, just to hear someone say it out loud. I think that’s why OP is stuck: the answer really is that the business department doesn’t get to take chunks of time as breaks, and that’s a hard/bad thing to admit to employees.

        Reply
        1. Triangle Pose

          This is too much hand-holding for Jane. She does not need to be explicitly told why meetings needs to happen, work needs to get done, sometimes it needs to get done between 12-1pm. That’s not unreasonable. Jane can’t wall off this specific hour every single work day for a personal lunch, that’s clearly not how the office works. I don’t see anything passive agressive about having meetings during the work day and nothing in the letter suggests OP is doing this to purposely spite Jane, if anything, OP has been too deferential to Jane’s inappropriate behavior during meetings (glazing over and disengaging) and Fergus’ totally inappropriate and agressive behavior (glaring and hovering).

          Reply
          1. Stellaaaaa

            My whole comment was about how I don’t believe OP is being passive-aggressive. I was deliberately careful with my language to convey this thought. However, that doesn’t mean that Jane isn’t perceiving things that way, and just because OP doesn’t legally or morally need to talk this out with Jane doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a good idea anyway.

            Reply
        2. Rusty Shackelford

          There’s only one time during the day that Jane would prefer not to have a meeting, and that’s exactly when OP schedules literally every meeting.

          I don’t get that from the letter. It sounds more like something comes up, and she’s at Jane’s desk talking about it/working on it, when the clock strikes noon.

          Reply
      2. Stellaaaaa

        Another thought: to be clear, OP hasn’t said that her department requires break time flexibility. She said that they never get breaks AT ALL, which isn’t the same thing that many people here – including you – are describing. That’s honestly the bigger problem here, and I’d hate to recast this whole thing as if it’s a problem being caused by Fergus, just because it’s easy to blame the person who’s being rude about it.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Since Jane does take a lunch every day, I read it as people being responsible for managing their own time, and lots of people, including the OP, choosing not to take time away for lunch … but that someone who wants to, like Jane, clearly can. That’s a different thing.

          Reply
          1. Rusty Shackelford

            She can take a lunch, but I’m still getting a judgy vibe from the OP about it. I still believe both Fergus and Jane are behaving inappropriately, but the OP might need to take a closer look at her actions and ask if it’s possible Fergus feels he has to defend his wife’s ability to take a break.

            Reply
              1. Rusty Shackelford

                Like I said, I agree they’re behaving inappropriately. But I also think it’s possible that comments like “no one takes a lunch here” and “she’ll get 30 minutes, which is still more than everyone else is taking” indicate that there could be some pressure, conscious or subconscious, to not take an actual lunch.

                Reply
            1. DCompliance

              I don’t think it is OP alone and really nothing justifies Fergus and Jane’s behavior. However, I have seen situations where because no one in the department takes a lunch, people feel like they can’t or they would be judged if they did. Again, no excuses for their behavior, but I felt the same red flags as you.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth West

                Well, if you’re in the middle of something, you might have to defer for a few minutes. Though I agree with someone upthread who pointed out that if 30-minute meetings are regularly running two hours over, then something ain’t working right.

                Reply
                1. PollyQ

                  True. At my last job, there was definitely a culture of starting and ending meetings on time. Of course, that was partly so that people, could get to the next hour’s meetings, but still.

                2. Observer

                  PollyQ, that makes sense. But the OP indicates that these are not status meetings, or even planning meetings but work meetings where things need to get done. It’s much harder to say “Let’s wind this down now.” When something needs to get done.

        2. MuseumChick

          My sense is (and I could be completely wrong) is that the people in this office eat fast, at their desk, and get back to work. I doubt there is an entire office of people literally not eating at all. Hopefully the OP will comment and clarify.

          My read on this is that Jane is out of step with her industry and/or office norms. By breaking this norms she’s coming off a certain way. Just as I would in my industry if I demanded lunch at the same time everyday.

          It’s such the norm in museums to have to be totally flexible that this “lunch rigidity” is a bit of a culture shock for me, lol.

          Reply
          1. Stellaaaaa

            I’d roll with the idea of people eating at their desks in bits and pieces if OP’s math didn’t indicate a 9-hour work day, with no mention of being able to leave early or having flexibility on butt-in-seat hours. Jane might very well be exempt, but if her department is categorized that way, I still see it as a problem that these exempt employees are routinely working 9 hours a day without the freedom to occasionally peace out from the office for two hours. I’m sure it’s legal to do things that way, but I still see it as a problem that needs to be addressed in ways that reach beyond “this is just how our industry works,” especially since Jane is starting to push back. If your industry works exempt employees 9 hours a day with no room to leave when they want, the industry norm needs to be challenged. In my eyes, that goes against the spirit of what it means to make a role exempt.

            Reply
        3. Triangle Pose

          I think you’re taking OP’s comment in the letter that she’s lucky to get to eat too literally. From the content of the letter and from the way general professional jobs work, it reads like an offhand remark that indicates she eats at her desk a lot, or gets busy that she forgets to eat, not that she physically cannot eat a single thing the entire work day because she is that busy. If your reading of the letter is true and every single person is so busy that they cannot take a minute to physically put food in their mouths during the entire work day, I’d agree with you, but OP’s letter just doesn’t say that to me.

          Reply
          1. OP

            Exactly. No one is locking me in my office. However, we are a small staff with a high pressure business and a lot of deadlines, and the majority of us are passionate about the work in a way that we want to continue working. I frequently look up at the clock and say “oh shoot, it’s 3 pm! I gotta find a yogurt or something!” But there are also fridays once a month that a few of us might go to a local restaurant and take a two hour lunch and enjoy ourselves. It’s about getting done what needs to get done and being flexible. And if you’d rather have exactly an hour break than meet a tough deadline, I DO take that into consideration when thinking about professional advancement. Again, I’m not talking every day. 3 days a week, Jane can probably take her lunch with no problem. 1 day, she might have to push it but still can take an hour, and 1 day, maybe only take 45 minutes. We ain’t monsters y’all :)

            Reply
            1. Jessie the First (or second)

              This sounds like a standard “really busy but trying to be reasonable” work environment! Jane and Fergus just refuse to be flexible about this for some reason, and I really hope you can be explicit with Jane that things need to change (and that she is actually receptive to hearing this).

              Reply
            2. MuseumChick

              OP, please let us know what happens after you address this with Jane (I’m really curious how she will respond to some of the suggested scripts suggested here).

              Reply
            3. Gadfly

              Sounds like working in the printing/advertising part of a newspaper. If something is going off the floor and something comes up, or if someone is with a client and needs office support NOW, it is what it is.

              Reply
            4. Helen

              “And if you’d rather have exactly an hour break than meet a tough deadline, I DO take that into consideration when thinking about professional advancement. ”

              So… skip lunch or lose out. OK then.

              Reply
              1. OP

                Absolutely not. Adherence to a lunch schedule would never be a sole factor in a review. But an emergency comes up that I could really use help with, and one person says “sorry, I want to go take my lunch break,” and someone else volunteers to bring their sandwich to my office and power through the project? I’m going to remember that, and appreciate it.

                Reply
                1. pescadero

                  …and this is why the requirements for declaring an employee exempt need to be much, much, much more stringent.

            5. Darren

              Have you considered the possibility that Jane doesn’t want professional advancement?

              Some people are happy working their 9-5 in the same job for 30 years and going home to spend time with their family.

              Not everyone but I’ve know quite a few people that could have excelled in their field that opted to do only the minimum.

              Reply
      3. pescadero

        “Every deserves a break, a lunch, yes. But demanding an exact time and being inflexible about it seems really weird to me.”

        As long as the employer doesn’t demand an exact and inflexible time for starting/ending the workday – it would seem really weird.

        …but if the employer expects flexibility from the employee in lunch scheduling, but refuses to give any flexibility to the employee, they’re a bad employer. Flex when it’s helpful to us, but not when it’s helpful to you is just taking advantage of employees.

        Reply
  30. boop the first

    Normally, I am one to board the “ew, a controlling man” bus, but this situation just seems overly dramatized to me.

    It’s not about Fergus, it’s about Jane. Yeah, some of you work in law and thus can’t just take a break, but Jane apparently doesn’t. Yeah, most of us would rather get the work done on time than sit around staring at a wall (I routinely skip my short paid breaks because I’d rather just keep working). But again, Jane is obviously different.

    Jane wants to take her breaks. She wants to rest and eat during her workday, and it’s painfully obvious that she wants to do this at the same time as Fergus. Fergus should probably stay out of his wife’s workspace. This is true.

    Maybe Jane’s coworkers should think “Ah Jane is unavailable in a few minutes” when they see the clock and just… deal with it? Every other department can put up “On Lunch” signs on their doors and cubicles, but Jane is a problem that needs to be dealt with? Can she not make her own decisions regarding her own fit and reputation? How does one actually work and eat at the same time? Are we really advocating for dehumanizing workers?

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      There are lots of jobs where you take lunch where it happens to fit in your day, and you can’t expect it will be at precisely the same time each day because the nature of the work is that things come up and need to be dealt with. That doesn’t mean you can never eat; it just means that in those jobs a rigidly scheduled lunch time isn’t realistic every day.

      Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        In this situation, OP has plainly said that no one in her department ever takes a lunch, even at varied times. I find the defenses of flexible lunch times strange, since that’s not what OP is talking about. She’s talking about a full department of people who almost never get to eat lunch at all.

        Reply
        1. Rusty Shackelford

          This is true, but it’s also possibly a red herring. It sounds like even if Jane were encouraged to take a lunch every day, Fergus would be an issue if that lunch didn’t start at noon on the dot. I say “possibly” because it’s also possible that Fergus knows or suspects Jane won’t be able to take a lunch at all unless he forces the issue, in which case I find his behavior more forgivable.

          Reply
        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Jane does take a lunch every day, so I read it as people are responsible for managing their own time, and lots of people, including the OP, choose not to take time away for lunch … but that someone who wants to, like Jane, apparently can. That’s a different thing.

          Reply
        3. Leatherwings

          The way OP framed it was that Jane often ends up needing to just take thirty minutes after the meeting so Fergus eats along for 30 minutes. Based on that and just personal experience working in these workplaces, it seems really really likely that Jane is able to fit in a lunch break most days, even if it’s slightly out of the norm to do it. But not at precisely noon, and not for a full hour.

          There’s a chance that interpretation is wrong, but I’m not sure either of us can say we’re definitively right about the lunch culture but I strongly suspect it’s not quite as rigid as you’re interpreting it.

          Reply
      2. Katie the Fed

        It would be way, way, WAY outside the norm where I work for people to have a standing lunch time every day. It’s just not possible with the fast-paced work we do.

        Reply
    2. Leatherwings

      There’s a huge huge difference between saying “your workday afternoon needs to be relatively flexible in terms of breaks and you won’t be able to eat at the same time everyday or take a full hour everyday” and dehumanizing employees. Huge. It sounds like Jane can rest and recharge and eat, but not on Fergus’ schedule for the full hour everyday. That’s reasonable.

      Reply
    3. Triangle Pose

      Many jobs other than law don’t allow you to wall off a full hour at the exact same time every work day as personal time to eat your lunch. Many employees in offices schedule eating their lunch to accomodate work – eat at your desk, eat earlier or later than 12-1pm block, snack through the workday. A lot of work can’t just be stopped on the strike of 12 and resume a 1pm – there are deadlines, consequences and good business reasons for this. It’s really not unreasonable.

      Reply
  31. Interviewer

    Has she mentioned needing food or medication at a certain time? Or maybe he needs it? Perhaps his overbearing behavior comes from a good intention.

    If my spouse stood at my desk, glaring at me to leave already, likely the apocalypse is on its way. However, barring that, I would let him know where he could go and when he could expect me, and I would not spend the rest of meeting disengaged. However, plenty of others do not have the same relationship with their spouses. Maybe she’s worried about him being angry with her for always being late to lunch, and it’s hard for her to focus at that point.

    If you can’t ban him from the business office or get her to set boundaries & expectations with him around her more fluid schedule, then the very least you could do is set meeting times that don’t interfere with lunch hours. Also, set clear deadlines and priorities with her on the workload she handles, and let her figure out how to juggle it around the noon hour.

    Reply
    1. Rumpus Time is Over

      If he is angry, that’s a marriage problem, not a work problem. And she should have told him a long time ago to wait for her in the lunch room, but obviously everyone has allowed him to get away with this. And I absolutely think that its ridiculous that the OP should re-schedule meetings around a production employee’s lunch schedule. This is really what it boils down to.

      Reply
      1. Interviewer

        OP stated she’s uncomfortable setting those boundaries with the husband, so if the employee is going to shut down, then the alternative is to avoid scheduling the meetings during her preferred lunch break. And really, let’s be honest, 12-1 is a really common time to take a lunch break.

        Reply
  32. Robin Sparkles

    Most spouses don’t even *work* together, yet this Fergus character gets angry when Jane isn’t available during his whole hour lunch hour, every day at work? Seems pretty absurd to me!

    Reply
    1. Stellaaaaa

      Fergus sounds like an annoying butt but (wut) I’m not willing to fully demonize him here. His wife works in a department where the coworkers (OP) freely admit that they almost never get to take a single break. That isn’t Fergus’ fault. He’s just there and being obnoxious when it happens.

      Reply
      1. Emilia Bedelia

        But…it is is fault that he’s being obnoxious. And there.

        Even if it the expectation is completely unreasonable, he shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. It’s not his problem to solve- it’s Jane’s. If Jane really has a problem with the lunch schedule, she should use her words, like the exempt professional she is, and talk to the OP or her own manager about working something out.

        Reply
      2. Brandy

        They might get a break but not a lunch. We eat all day but get our 15 minutes 2X a day when we want to. And the smokers smoke on their 15, I surf the net or read, etc…Everyone here prefers getting off early as 9/10ths of us have a long commute.

        Reply
  33. Mark in Cali

    I know I’m the minority on this blog, but I live for lunch. I enjoy my job but I enjoy lunch too. It really irritates me to hear OP’s comment “no one takes lunch.”

    Why would you not take lunch? Why? I just cannot understand. Unless you are a bodybuilder who eats 6-8 small meals a day, take a lunch.

    We talk so much on this blog about setting boundaries, limits, expectations but everyone seems to think it’s ok to be denied a half hour to an hour to eat lunch once a day.

    I know the post is more about her behavior when husband is waiting at the door, but honestly, a plea to the world: stop scheduling meetings over lunch. Don’t cut into lunch time.

    Reply
    1. MuseumChick

      In my industry that’s just not possible though. There are many industries like that. If I called up my friends at the Chocolate Teapot Museum or The International Strawberry Teapot Museum and told them “Hey, I have an idea, let’s no schedule lunch meetings and take a that hour to just eat lunch.” They would probably be on floor laughing or asking me if I was feeling ok.

      I live to eat, I really don’t enjoy anything as much as I enjoy eating. But in my line of work lunch takes a back seat to things that come up. I always eat lunch but there is not way for me to tell on any given day when I will be eating lunch 98% of the time it can fall anywhere between 11:30 – 2:00pm. Some days I take the full hour others I scarf something down in 20 minuets and get back to work.

      You have to know both your industry norms and office norms. It sounds like Jane is out of sync with those.

      Reply
      1. pescadero

        “In my industry that’s just not possible though. ”

        Of course it is.

        It may be more expensive, and require the company to hire more people to guarantee coverage – but there is no industry where it’s impossible to adequately staff so that your employees can have a regular scheduled lunch break.

        Reply
        1. MuseumChick

          I’m curious if you have worked or volunteered in a museum? Trust me, it’s not possible with how museum operate. Maybe the multi million dollar ones like the Met, but for 99% of them it’s not.

          Reply
          1. pescadero

            I’ve volunteered in a few museums over relatively long periods of time (6 months to a year)… and almost universally (like small family owned businesses) they’re run very poorly by people who don’t have the necessary management skills or business knowledge.

            Most non-profits are pretty horribly run in general and aren’t the kind of place (absent an interest in the mission) most folks would like to work given an alternative.

            Reply
              1. pescadero

                Nah – it’s just reality.

                MOST businesses of any size are poorly run by people who don’t have the necessary management skills or business knowledge. I’d argue 75%+.

                …and the numbers are MUCH higher in small family owned businesses and non-profits.

                I’d guess most non-profits would lose 2/3 of their employees if someone flicked a magic wand and made those employees cease caring about the mission and had it be “just a job”.

                Reply
                1. AD

                  You’re pulling these numbers out of your ass, and your broadly generalizing comments aren’t really helpful in this context. Can we drop it?

            1. Jessie the First (or second)

              “Most non-profits are pretty horribly run in general”

              That’s a weird generalization to make. Do you have any idea how many tax exempt organizations there are worldwide, of all different sizes and kinds? To say “most” are horribly run is just wildly inaccurate.

              Reply
              1. pescadero

                I’d say most businesses (profit or non-profit, small or large) are pretty poorly run, and longevity data supports that.

                The smaller and less profit oriented they are – the worse it generally is.

                Reply
                1. DataQueen

                  That is a fascinating number and much higher than I would have thought!
                  I kinda want to go to all of them now…

          2. Helen

            The fact that you can (as a non profit) utilise volunteers makes it even stranger that you can’t take a lunch break.

            Reply
            1. DataQueen

              Not necessarily – non-profit volunteers can sometimes be more difficult to manage than staff! From NDA issues, to the fact that many of them are donors so it’s difficult to correct behaviors, to insurance liability, to unpredictable scheduling, to needing to give them “meaningful” projects when you really just need filing done – volunteers are amazing, and we are so grateful to have them, and couldn’t function without them. And in some organizations, absolutely can be a replacement for staff. But in many orgs (mine included) they couldn’t be left unsupervised as coverage.

              Reply
        2. Gadfly

          It isn’t always coverage–I worked for a company that printed a few newspapers and handled their advertising. We could have had 30 people doing certain jobs instead of 5, and still it would come down to “who has been working on this and knows what is going on?” More coverage works on assembly lines or things like call centers where anyone can sub for anyone else. Not so much in a lot of other jobs. Sometimes expertise (formal or informal) is required that means a particular person needs to do it.

          Reply
    2. fposte

      But lunch time is at 11 for some people, 12 for others, and 1 for others. There’s no way to avoid scheduling meetings from 11 to 2.

      Reply
    3. the_scientist

      I agree, wholeheartedly. As I said above, my company specifically does not allow meetings to be scheduled between 12 and 1 p.m. for this reason. Of course, in practice it doesn’t *always* work perfectly. With external partners, you simply have to meet when they’re available, and meetings sometimes run long. But I agree that a work culture where you are almost never able to take 30 minutes to eat lunch-gasp!- away from your desk is extremely problematic. A lot of people prefer to eat while they work, to graze throughout the day, or to work through lunch to leave early- so be it, but at least they have the *option* of doing so. If you are so swamped on a daily basis that your entire apartment is struggling to find 30 minutes of break time throughout the day, that is a major problem. It doesn’t even have to be at the same time every day, but really, 30 minutes is *not* that much time for sometime to get away from the computer screen and eat their lunch in peace.

      Reply
    4. Bwmn

      While I get the push back around the OP’s no lunch – the concept of someone being free at noon on the dot every day in most exempt desk offices. On the very few times I’ve had a meeting scheduled from 12:30-2, I’m completely irked about needing to eat much earlier or later than I’d like – but a call/meeting running 15 minutes late and ending at 12:15? Wouldn’t register as cutting into lunch because if I took my lunch hour from 12-1 or 12:30-1:30 – no big deal.

      If Jane is expecting to have lunch from 12-1 every day, for most exempt offices that would be seen as rigid even if having an hour lunch break was standard.

      Reply
    5. Moonsaults

      I had an issue when I started where a person was angry when our HR simply reminded us to take our lunch by 1pm. Not a strict schedule because it’s an office with frequent phones happening. “Why can’t she just leave me alone!”

      I did have a chance to explain later that we have laws in this state and HR is trying to abide by them and be as flexible as possible. It was difficult for me to have to explain that meal periods are not optional unless there’s a contract involved.

      So i’m with you on the lunch party bus over here.

      Reply
    6. Triangle Pose

      I think you’re taking OP’s comment too literally. It reads to me like she often eats at her desk, gets too busy or has meetings and forgets to eat lunch. That isn’t insane.

      And on the other side of this – I would hate being forced to take a full lunch hour. I don’t want to break my concentration or flow of getting things done when I don’t get hungry in the middle of the day anyway. I want to get things accomplished and get home on time or early and recharge. It’s not a moral judgment either way, it’s just a personal decision. In general, during the work day, work and business needs trump the desire to have an hour of personal time to eat your lunch – Jane can eat at her desk, eat before her meeting or after her meeting is finished, snack throughout the day.

      Reply
      1. KR

        Yes. Not everyone lives for their meals. In my old job, I usually didn’t take my lunch hours until way later in the day when I knew most of my duties for the day were done – and I’m someone who loves food, can’t stand to be hungry, and loves to eat. And the thing is, if Jane is upset with her current arrangement she needs to find a job where she gets a reliable lunch hour every day. This is how her job is- sometimes she can’t take lunch every day at noon. If she doesn’t like it, maybe she should apply to her husband’s side of the building where they do get a lunch every day at the same time. I’m assuming here that OP can’t change her office culture and probably shouldn’t try to just to appease Jane’s husband.

        Reply
      2. Helen

        In reality though, if the boss isn’t taking lunch then her staff won’t either. Allison has literally written before about modelling healthy behaviour for staff, in terms of taking lunches / leave.

        Reply
    7. Princess Carolyn

      Maybe I just underestimated the number of industries/roles that can’t reliably take lunches, but I’m also surprised. I thought it was an unspoken rule that you shouldn’t schedule a noon meeting unless you’re providing food. Heck, if I had it my way, nobody would schedule meetings that end at noon or begin at 1, either. Similarly, a lot of people prefer to work late or work early, but I’m not going to take too kindly to a 6 p.m. meeting.

      Reply
      1. Jessie the First (or second)

        My colleagues don’t schedule meetings for noon (or 6. Or 5. Or even 4.) But we are a client-service based industry and firm, and so clients call and need us whenever they feel they have an emergency! If I have a mouthful of salad when they call, I swallow it quickly and answer the phone.

        Reply
        1. Helen

          Absolutely! But if that happened so frequently that lunch was a distant memory, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest the workplace had staffing issues.

          Reply
      2. MuseumChick

        It’s often happen to me where my boss will have this kind of day schedule: an out of office meeting in the morning, be on a phone conference at 1pm, have to edit the newsletter that afternoon to get to print by the next day, she may get a call from on of our major donors in the middle of all this that takes an hour, etc, etc, so the only time she and I had both have free is around the typical lunch hour to sit down and go over things. I work my lunch around that.

        Sometimes it just cannot be avoided. The expectation is that you roll with it and work your lunch in around your work. I think most people are more than capable of handling that.

        Reply
      3. DataQueen

        My hours are 10-7 or even 1030-8, because I end up in so many meetings that if I was here 9-5, I wouldn’t have much time to work independently, and my boss agrees. Everyone is so great about it, but once every few weeks I end up with a 9 am meeting and of course, I come in for it. I would never push back, because I’m the exception with the weird schedule. On the flip side, I would never expect anyone to show up to a 5 pm meeting, because those aren’t their hours either. But we are one of those eat-at-your-desk workplaces, so I wouldn’t think twice about a 12-1 meeting.

        Reply
    8. Browser

      I rarely take a lunch. Why? My day is generally slow. My work is in the middle of nowhere in a very industrial area so there’s nowhere to go and ‘unwind’. Taking a lunch would be adding another long break into a very long day, and frankly I’d rather go home early.

      Reply
  34. Viola Dace

    Jane is glazing over and disengaging either because she wants to go to lunch, or she’s afraid of Fergus. Like, she literally can’t concentrate because she knows that if she doesn’t move it when he appears there might be hell to pay. There must be a back story here that would shed some light on the whole situation. Who worked there first? Fergus or Jane? What has Jane’s previous career trajectory looked like? Is she ambitious and somewhat driven, or does she just want a job with a scheduled lunch break? So much we don’t know. Either way, Jane has a real problem with either her career or her husband.

    Reply
  35. Not A Morning Person

    I haven’t read all 200+ comments! So apologies if someone has already mentioned this. It sounds like a very typical hourly/non-exempt vs. exempt misunderstanding or conflict. There are non-exempt employees who because of the rules and laws around their work time, are very rigid in their views of how work works. They then apply those same rules to every job; it becomes hard for them to see that there is or can be flexibility because that’s not something they’ve had. So Fergus may be upset because his routine and his hour for lunch don’t match what his wife’s routine and hours are and he thinks her lunch schedule should be as rigidly applied as his. He may think Jane is being taken advantage of because she can’t just drop what she’s doing and leave right on the dot of 12 noon. That is a topic for another day and not necessarily something for OP to educate Fergus about, but OP should address the situation and expectation with both Fergus and Jane. To Fergus, “We’re working and Jane will be along when we’re done. Please allow us to finish what we’re working on. Thanks.” To Jane, before the next time… “Jane, it’s important that we finish what we’re discussing when we are meeting and the time runs into when you would be taking a break for lunch with Fergus during his regularly scheduled lunch. We can’t count on a regular and inflexible lunch time. Please let him know that when we are working, he should not come and wait around, effectively interrupting and delaying the completion of the work. Your schedule works differently from his and it would be a good idea to remind him that it is not a good idea for him to interrupt your work schedule just because his is so rigid.”
    I hope that’s worth considering.

    Reply
  36. Moonsaults

    I assume they’re both young and don’t understand the difference between their schedules or don’t like the difference, so they try to force it by having Fergus come to physically get her for lunch.

    I won’t go so far as to think it’s an abusive situation because I know a lot of people in production that cannot wrap their minds around unscheduled breaks. They only know what they are accustom to. You also may sense he’s lurking and glaring but he’s actually just an awkward guy who is suddenly in your space, so it feels very much like he’s angry about waiting.

    I’d go with the idea of “we can’t focus like this, please meet each other in the breakroom and don’t lurk in the office.”, lots of offices do not want other departments around, it upsets the dynamics and can be a privacy issue.

    Reply
  37. TheBeetsMotel

    Sounds like Fergus is so entrenched in the idea that Lunch Happens At Twelve that he takes it as a personal affront for himself or his wife to be “kept waiting”. Perhaps Jane hasn’t explained her office’s norms properly to Fergus, or perhaps she resents being “kept waiting” too and is secretly on Fergus’s side? Regardless, it’s a big fat NOPE on that behavior from Fergus. Call him out on it! “Fergus, I need you to allow us to finish this meeting in private; we’ll be wrapping up shortly”. Make it awkward for him if necessary; his behavior has earned it. (So much nonsense is tolerated in life on the back of “not wanting to make things awkward”).

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth West

      If he’s hourly, he might have to take lunch at that time. But it doesn’t excuse his being obnoxious. OP said upthread that they are somewhat co-dependent and always work at the same place.

      You’re right–it is nonsense. He’s a grown man who should be able to wait for his wife for a few minutes like a reasonable person.

      Reply
    2. AthenaC

      I wonder if changing the wording slightly to “I need Jane for a bit longer” instead of “we’re almost done” would more clearly communicate to Fergus that these ARE the norms that Jane is working with and Jane isn’t “making things up” or being inconsiderate or whatever.

      Reply
  38. RainyKeybord

    A conversation needs to be had with Jane, whose behavior your department has authority over. If Fergus is doing something wrong, it’s because Jane is allowing him to. I feel like a conversation with Fergus is an indication that Fergus is the decision maker in this situation, when in this scenario Jane as the employee in the division is the decision maker.

    I would have a conversation with Jane that goes something like this: “I know you cherish your lunch hour with your partner and I promise to respect that whenever possible. However there will occasionally be times when our meetings or work sessions may go over the intended time. When that happens, it’s not appropriate for Fergus to linger near us awaiting the work completion and I expect you will ask him to meet you downstairs/in the break room/out of line-of-sight as soon as you are free. Does this seem reasonable?” And then listen to her response. Assuming she feel’s it’s reasonable, you really do need to treat her lunch hour as a standing meeting and respect it whenever possible.

    When the time arises that you simply can’t let her go at the lunch hour, I would say, “It looks like we’re going to run over. Would you like to let Fergus know that you will have to meet him later?” and wait expectantly until she does so.

    Reply
    1. Cassie

      I think the OP has limited authority (if any) over Jane. The OP manages the projects that Jane works on, but Jane has a different manager. Given that the manager is unwilling to do anything (the OP mentioned bringing it up with the manager), there’s really not much that can be done. I’d suggest that once the OP realizes the meeting is going to run into lunch, to find a natural stopping point (if there is one) and resume after lunch.

      Reply
  39. MommyMD

    I agree husband is rigid and annoying and wife should not disengage. But taking a midday lunch break is not a sign of weakness or laziness or not being a good member of the team. In my state it’s the law.

    Reply
  40. Vaca

    This is Jane’s responsibility. I would say to Jane:

    “Jane, you do not have a fixed lunch hour. It is inappropriate for your husband or anyone else to interrupt a business meeting over lunch. Please ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

    Then, if it happens again:
    “Jane, I’ve explained this. If it happens again, I will report it to your manager and to HR.”

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      I don’t like the optics of making her responsible for her husband’s behavior.

      I think it would be far better to say something like “Jane, we can’t accommodate a lunch break at the same time every day. Can you please arrange to meet your husband in the break room instead of at your desk in case we have you working on something at that exact time?”

      Reply
      1. Rumpus Time is Over

        She isn’t responsible for her husband’s behavior, but she is responsible in making sure it doesn’t affect her job. So, the easiest step would be for her to address it before the “powers that be” get involved.

        Reply
        1. AthenaC

          It’s not an uncommon dynamic for the husbandly half of a marriage to ignore things that the wifely half attempts to address. Which presents practical difficulties in getting Fergus’s behavior to change by cracking down on Jane, in addition to all the other reasons that approach rubs me the wrong way.

          Reply
          1. RainyKeybord

            Interesting. But isn’t Jane responsible for not meeting expectations at her workplace? If my husband showed up at my office and stared strangely at other people, I would expect my manager to discuss it with me, rather than with him.

            If the power dynamic in my household is such that I have no control over his behavior, then I still think that’s my problem, not my employer’s problem. What am I missing?

            Reply
            1. Katie the Fed

              You’re missing that he’s also an employee there, so it’s completely appropriate to address his behavior too.

              Reply
            2. AthenaC

              It’s also not uncommon for people to have issues with unwanted people showing up at their workplace – solutions range from reception / security preventatively keeping them out, having security escort them out, involving the police if necessary.

              None of those would work here, though, because Fergus is also an employee and (I gather) authorized to be there. But the other edge of that sword is because Fergus is an employee, he has a change of command conveniently located within the same company. So to me the logical approach would be through Fergus’s manager, since it’s his behavior that’s a problem.

              Also, OP didn’t say anything to indicate that Jane isn’t meeting expectations at her workplace. So from the perspective of Jane’s behavior, there’s really nothing to address.

              Reply
              1. Vaca

                Glazing over during a meeting is not meeting expectations. If I am talking to you I expect you to be engaged. If you aren’t, it’s a problem.

                Reply
                1. AthenaC

                  But do you blame the person who’s glazing or do you blame the distraction that’s causing them to glaze? Generally it’s better for problem-solving purposes if you blame the cause rather than the symptom.

  41. Gadfly

    My last job sounds a bit like OP’s work. Problem is, if the Janes of that job just insisted on a fixed lunch then pretty soon we’d have Fergus’ boss over for a visit because not fixing x, y and z before going to lunch sometimes meant that the presses couldn’t roll when the Ferguses of that job got back from the lunch that was tightly fixed in order to get the presses started on time.

    Reply
  42. Observer

    I haven’t read all of the comments, but one thought occurred to me that no one seems to have thought about.

    The OP seems to think that Jane is expecting too much in expecting a whole hour lunch – in fact while she says that she’s not trying to deny anyone their lunch break, she seems to think that even 30 minutes is a real kindness that she really shouldn’t expect. She says that “Jane will still get to see him for 30 minutes, which is still longer than everyone else on the team is taking.

    I know that that’s a common attitude, but it’s really not any wonder that Jane and Fergus are not taking that too well. I’m not saying that either one is handling the situation well. But I can very well see why they are making this particular mistake. It’s on Jane’s supervisor to re-calibrate expectations here.

    And, by the way, if it’s really true that a 30 minute lunch is a rarity in your workplace, it’s probably a signal that workload and staffing levels could bear some examination.

    Reply
    1. MuseumChick

      The OP addressed this somewhere up thread. If I remember correctly she said in a typical week, Jane would be able to get the full hour no problem with her husband 3 out of the 5 days. But there are days where Jane will have to eat 15 minuets later or whatever.

      Reply
    2. Nonprofit Nancy

      I disagree, some workplaces just have this culture. In our office people don’t really take much of a lunch and if they do it’s running out for something quick. If projects are pressing, it would definitely be out of step for someone here to say, “whelp, guess that’s someone else’s problem, because I’m going to clock out for thirty minutes” or an hour or whatever. People work a reasonable 45-50 hour workweek (and are compensated fairly for that) but we don’t have lunch except in lower level hourly positions.

      Reply
      1. Helen

        Is a 50 hour week with no lunch breaks really regarded as reasonable where you live? That’s straight up illegal in the UK (for exempt workers too). And we still work longer hours than anyone else in Europe and have more health problems as a result.

        Reply
        1. OP

          At my company, 45-50 hours would be entirely reasonable for the majority of the staff. Sometimes not necessarily in the office – sometimes emails in the evening would bring you to that total, or a weekend evening client dinner, but that few extra hours is a choice. 70 hours a week would be a problem, 50 isn’t.

          Reply
    3. Helen

      I agree with you. If people feel they can’t take leave or a lunch break, they won’t, and will burn out.

      Reply
  43. Khal E Essi

    My god, I understand being busy and having to eat at your desk, but being so busy you can’t eat a meal during the day at all? Is everyone in that office just constantly hangry? Isn’t that wildly unhealthy?

    Reply
    1. Robin Sparkles

      Agreed. I can’t understand it. I take lunch at 12:30 every day, and am usually starving by 11:00. Haha. I wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of environment!

      Reply
  44. kms1025

    Agreeing with Observer. It seems to me to be a simple situation, Jane likes to take her lunch at 12, regardless of who she is taking it with. Why should meetings regularly be interfering with that? Worked in offices most of my professional life and people were always expected to schedule around each other’s breaks. There were always some who like to go at regular times and others who went, whenever. Really shouldn’t be such a big deal IMHO.

    Reply
    1. KM

      Me, too. In my office, everyone can take lunch whenever they want, but I generally consider noon hour a no-go anyway, because that’s when most people get hungry. It seems weird to me that they keep bugging Jane right at noon when they know that’s when she likes to eat.

      Reply
      1. Rumpus Time is Over

        They aren’t bugging her right at noon. The OP says that there are times where meetings will run over a bit.

        Reply
  45. Hmm...

    1) Speak with Jane and request that she ask her husband to wait for her in the lunchroom, rather than pick her up. If the LW does not have the authority to do this, or the LW does not meet with Jane on a near-daily basis, next time he interrupts, say: “You may want to go ahead to lunch since we’re going to be a while and I don’t want to cut into your time” maintaining eye contact and smile until he leaves. Or ask him to please wait “over there (point to empty chair on other side of room)” for 10 minutes while you wrap up. Repeat as necessary and re-engage Jane’s attention as needed.
    2) Unless Jane is slacking in other areas as well, respect that Jane is an adult who’s job permits her to set her lunch hour and this is the hour she’s chosen. Avoid impinging on Jane during this time unless something is actually urgent, important, or effects the LW’s work directly. Try to give Jane a head’s up when she will need to be flexible: “You may want to text your husband and tell him we have to take a late lunch today to get these reports in by 1 and can’t stop before then.” which will convey the expectation of continuing to work, while still acknowledging the inconvenience to Jane/Fergus.
    3) If the LW is friendly with Jane or in a mentor role, pull Jane aside and warn her if (and only if) other people in the office begin to mumble negatively about Jane being unavailable or impacting their projects/deadlines. Possibly suggest she have a set lunch once a week, remaining flexible the other days as a compromise.

    Reply
  46. MuseumChick

    This is way off topic but I feel like I have to say something. The AaM comment section has been getting increasingly aggressively lately and I find that really troubling. This this thread for example Allison has had to ask at least one poster to “please stop” and the poster disregard her.

    On two letter recently the comments have had to be closed because of behavior like this. Do we really want a third?

    Reply
    1. Stellaaaaa

      There’s a difference between aggression toward an OP and pointing out where the presumed norms of OP’s office aren’t the norms everywhere, or that it’s warranted to take a step back and look at the broader patterns within the situation. In this case, Jane wants to do something that many people here view as normal, even though it’s not normal in certain offices. It could be helpful to the OP to note that a stance of “no one here takes a defined lunch” and “we joke about being lucky if we get to eat at all” is perceived in a certain way, especially since other people in this company actually do get to enjoy a nice lunch break. Sometimes you just need to have your view of “normal” tweaked a bit.

      Another possibility is that Jane and Fergus are uniquely positioned to see certain pay disparities or to know about other discrepancies between departments. But in any case, the vantage point of “OP is 100% correct and Jane and Fergus need to change” isn’t accurate to my eye. Jane wants to take a scheduled lunch break and OP is stopping just shy of saying she’s not allowed to, with the only reasoning being “We just don’t do that here.” Maybe that should change. Maybe not. But why not talk about it? I’m not a fan of using tone-policing to shut down conversations that people happen to enjoy. No one here has attacked OP. We’ve criticized her office environment and department policies, but absolutely no one has attacked her. We all know she’s doing the best she can.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I asked someone upthread to please stop insisting that there are management and culture issues in the OP’s office, because the OP is saying that there aren’t and when she’s far better positioned than the rest of us to make that judgment. There are certainly letters where an OP might say that and be clearly blind to some obvious outrage, but this isn’t one of those; there are plenty of offices where what she described would be fine, and there’s no reason to insist that she’s wrong about that in this case.

        It makes for a really unpleasant experience for letter writers to have to defend themselves/their office/their situation against wrong assertions over and over. It’s fine to raise the question; it’s the insistence in the face of “no, it’s not like that” that I take issue with.

        Reply
        1. Darren

          I am actually somewhat regretting the harsher tone that some of my earlier posts have. I think partly it’s because this is a bit of a hot button issue. A lot of us have been in jobs in which we were treated poorly and a lot of that poor treatment manifested in things that resonated from the OPs initial message or subsequent posts.

          Things like not being able to take a lunch, or regularly working until 8pm, meetings running ridiculously overtime (even when people know you have somewhere to go), and all of these being taken into account as marks against you at performance evaluation (even if your actual output is at or above the standard level).

          It’s not that we see the OP as being wrong per se, it’s that we see these situations and because of what happened to us (and often the much better roles we are in now) our questions focus on the environment because we wonder if it is legitimately the same kind of environment we ourselves escaped. Some of the OPs posts make us lean even more toward that making it sound like she is actually really annoyed with the fact that Jane gets to work what to us are “normal” hours and is trying to take that away from Jane with no indication there is actually any output problems from Jane that indicate there is actually any problem.

          The fact the OP isn’t Jane’s manager and Jane’s manager isn’t doing anything makes us wonder whether there is a problem with the manager (like the OP thinks), or if Jane is legitimately doing adequately at her job and therefore doesn’t need to work extra hours, and she can have her lunch daily, and the manager is okay with that even if it means Jane might never get a promotion (which Jane herself might be happy with).

          Somewhat I wonder if there is a culture clash between those that “work to live” and those that “live to work” and Jane is the first (doing the minimum to earn her paycheck) and the OP is the later (loving her work and wanting to excel at it and baffled by the fact Jane doesn’t).

          Reply
          1. MuseumChick

            My primary issue is not so much that people have issues with the flexible lunch culture (though I was surprised by how strongly people feel about it since it’s 100% the norm in my industry, it has be interesting seeing the cultural difference) but rather, what I perceive as disrespect toward Alison from a small number of posters. Coupled with that increasingly aggressive tone in the comment section of letters recently I’m really troubled.

            I was also told by a poster that my entire industry is poorly managed, which I found very rude. I hope this trend doesn’t continue.

            Reply
            1. pescadero

              I apologize if you found that overly aggressive – but it’s absolutely my experience that most businesses in general are poorly managed, and that the smaller and less profit oriented they are, generally the worse things are.

              Being under capitalized is common, having no HR is common, having manager with zero management training is common, having your exempt employees working 50+ hours a week is common, employees being afraid to take all of their vacation time is common, etc.

              It’s just reality in the USA under our really biased labor laws.

              Reply
              1. AD

                Pescadero, what you referenced is not backed up by facts, statistics, or evidence.

                And as it sounds like is clear to you at this point, your assertion that all non-profit organizations are ill-managed rankled quite a few people here, so please let’s back off this subject.

                Reply
                1. pescadero

                  “Pescadero, what you referenced is not backed up by facts, statistics, or evidence.”

                  Somewhere between 70% and 80% of businesses go out of business within 10 years. (Small Business Administration).

                  60% of first time managers received zero management training (Business Insider).

                  69% of managers are often uneasy about communicating with employees (Harris Poll)

                  55% of US employees don’t use their vacation time, with the number one reason reported being fear of repercussions (Forbes).

                  35% of US employees get no sick time (Washington Post)

                  20% of low wage employees in the US suffer wage theft in the form of unpaid overtime or minimum wage violations (National Employment Law Project).

  47. Critter

    I think Fergus is being unreasonable at best and a jerk at worst. I’d lean on the supervisor; “it’s uncomfortable so I don’t want to deal with it”? No bueno.

    Reply
  48. Decima Dewey

    I work in civil service. We have to take a lunch hour every day (at least there has to be one indicated on the timesheet). There are rules about who can be off the floor at any given time. I’m not supposed to be off the floor if the branch manager is, the branch manager cannot be scheduled off the floor at the same time as the security guard. And HR has had to remind people that it’s not okay to go without a lunch hour and leave early.

    Reply
  49. Mr. T

    While I agree with the advice in this case, I have to say that, in general, when meetings run long it is very disrespectful to people’s time.

    One of our Project Manager’s CONSTANTLY runs over. She begins every meeting with “this shouldn’t take the full hour” and then 90 minutes later everyone is still there looking at their watches waiting to leave.

    The solution that worked for me is to schedule meetings back to back–even if the next meeting isn’t real . That way, I can say “sorry, we’re running long and I’ve got to get to my next meeting” and excuse myself.

    Reply
  50. Phyllis B

    About Jane and Fergus: I don’t what state this is in, but in my state if you work more than a five hour day, you are legally required to take a 30 minute unpaid lunch break. You can take an hour, but it has to be a minimum of 30 minutes. If this is the case where this takes place, I can understand why he thinks she should be able to leave for a defined lunch break. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think standing there and GLARING is the answer, but maybe this office needs to re-think the “lucky to get a lunch at all.” Maybe it can’t be always between the hours of 11 to 1, but it’s not good to not take a lunch break AT ALL. Perhaps the meetings with Jane could scheduled for after 1:00

    Reply
  51. Honoria Glossop

    Suprisingly high feeling on this thread (I’ve been lurking, I lurve Ask a Manager.) My own feelings are engaged, because I am currently in a non-exempt position where I usually end up working through my unpaid lunches. That’s just the culture. If you start bleating about Labor Law, you are not going to be an attractive hire when promotions come around, and of course there is no way in hell to prove that “not the best fit” is actually code for “made us nervous by mentioning legal violations.” It’s like Rashomon. I see Jane as someone who likes a regular lunchtime (much better for insulin regulation and health) and likes it with her husband. She doesn’t really enjoy cramming a sandwich in while looking over Teapot Requisitions, and perhaps it would not be impossible for the OP to respect this idiosyncracy and defer non-emergent meetings that might encroach on Jane’s scheduled lunch, which at least has the merit of being predictable.

    Where I work, we are assured by management that a Duty Free Lunch Break is absolutely our right. But that’s not operationalized in any way. The duties don’t go away, there is rarely anyone else qualified on call, and we are regularly pulled out from our unpaid lunch breaks– I did stress unpaid, didn’t I? I have made some fuss about it but nothing has changed, and I figure it’s not worth being seen as a troublemaker. If I could change the culture, I would. I’m a better and happier worker when I don’t have stress hormones interfering with digestion. So I’m sad when boundaries around lunch are seen as unprofessional/weird/demonstrating a limp work ethic.

    Reply
  52. Cassie

    I’m torn about this. On the one hand, my bosses let me handle my schedule however I want. I can take a half hour lunch (obligatory in CA) or an hour, I can take an early lunch or late lunch, etc. So I always thought it was no big deal to take lunch a couple of minutes later – just leave later, come back later. Who cares, right?

    Not everyone (even in an office setting) has that flexibility, though – in my office, it’s dependent on the supervisor. I have friends and family whose offices have regularly set staggered lunch times to ensure that there’s sufficient coverage in the office. I wouldn’t exactly like to *have* to take lunch at exactly 12pm, and be back at exactly 1pm, but there is something kind of nice about protecting that sacred lunch break at that specific time.

    I know the OP feels that the work needs to be wrapped up right then, and can be wrapped up within 5-10 minutes, but is it really necessary to do every time? Save it for urgent situations. Just think of 12pm as a hard stop and if possible, set aside time earlier in the morning so you don’t run in to the problem. If Jane isn’t meeting her deliverables, address that instead.

    Reply
  53. aa

    Some states have a law, complete with penalties, that lunch must be taken within 5 hours of your start time (if non-exempt). I am guessing the OP is not subject to that. Everyone else addressed the husband part of the question, but why is there not more interest in making sure most of your employees have some sort of lunch break most of the time? Not having lunch should be more an exception than the rule. Also, is lunch paid? That might impact my opinion on if employee should give it up.

    Reply
    1. aa

      Oh I read some more thread and see I missed this being addressed. But even missing lunch 2 out of 5 days is a lot. I will be quiet now.

      Reply
      1. nonegiven

        OP didn’t say Jane missed lunch 2 days out of 5, she said it went a few minutes late or didn’t line up perfectly with Fergus’s lunch time.

        Reply
  54. pescadero

    OP –

    One question that has been repeatedly referred to, but I don’t believe I’ve seen you answer –

    Is Jane exempt or non-exempt?

    Reply
  55. Eliza Jane

    I guess my feeling on this is that I don’t know if it’s the hill I’d choose to die on.

    I have a lot of meetings in my day, and when informal meetings are happening, I’ll often say at 11:59 or whatever, “We’ll need to pick this up in an hour, because I have a 12-o-clock I need to dial into.”

    You know that Jane likes to leave at exactly noon for lunch. If she had to leave at exactly noon for another meeting, presumably you’d find a way to deal with it for that hour, right? Go over a little earlier, or hold until after lunch, or whatever if might be.

    If these are scheduled meetings that routinely run over, I’d suggest looking at why — do you need to schedule more time for the meeting? Is there a way to streamline them?

    I’ll admit, this is a pet peeve of mine across the board. I hate being in a meeting at 2 minutes to the hour, knowing I have another meeting I need to sprint to, and having people be lax about time management. It ends up making me look bad for showing up late or ducking out before the meeting is over.

    I understand that in this case, she wants to stop exactly at noon for personal and not professional reasons, but I guess I don’t know if it’s worth making it a big deal.

    Reply
  56. Chleo

    Late to the party, but Jane’s behavior doesn’t irritate me as much as her husband’s does. Wherefore comes this entitlement, Fergus? Fergus doesn’t set your hours or assign your projects. Fergus doesn’t oversee Jane’s performance. You do. When you and Jane are discussing a project, you are in charge. That is your time to work. When Fergus comes in to lurk in the doorway, stop talking with Jane immediately, look into his eyes, and say, “Hi, Fergus! We’re still in a meeting.” And then wait. Make it crystal clear he’s not allowed to come into your office and control the tone and timing of your meeting. If/when he leaves, then you can continue the meeting, and don’t be afraid to call her out in the “blank”ness. No matter what her motivation is here, she’s sulking and she needs to stop. When we’re at work, we’re at work.

    And then, don’t wait for Jane’s boss to grow a pair. Because this is affecting your meetings, it’s within your scope to say to her, “Hey, I get that you and your husband like to have lunch at noon every day. But I’m sure you’ve noticed that’s not always in the cards. We’re all happy to let you go grab lunch with him, but it can’t always be at 12 on the dot, and I cannot have your husband interrupting our meetings anymore. From now on, if we’re having a meeting and it runs past 12, your husband has to wait for you in the break room.”

    This is a behavioral issue. Fergus could be super controlling, or he could just think you’re robbing his wife of her lunch hour, but the reality is that There Is No Lunch Hour and he’s not allowed to interrupt your workflow because he wants his lunchy. If Jane wants to designate noon as her explicit lunch hour, that’s on her to do; she can’t keep letting her husband try to nonverbally communicate “It’s time for Jane to have a sandwich!” at you. Like, nobody’s allowed to have a family member come in and start deciding when people’s breaks are. Why is Fergus being allowed to do this?

    At my job, you get a lunch hour, but you take it when there’s a reasonable break in work. You find a stopping point. We have one guy here who insists on somebody covering him so he can take his lunch at eleven-thirty on the dot no matter how much work we have piled up. It’s legal, and we all want him to eat and be healthy, but it’s thoughtless and irritating. If Jane’s capable of performing in this work culture, she needs to perform in this work culture. And if she’s not capable of it, she needs to communicate that. Full stop.

    Reply

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