my coworkers all stopped going to lunch with me

A reader writes:

I started working in this company four months ago. At my previous job, I had a very bad office climate with a horrible boss so I appreciated the relaxed climate here. Also, at this new company I am acquainted with quite a few people because we went to college together, so I expected a more friendly environment.

When I first started to work here, everyone was friendly and my colleagues from school invited me every day to go to lunch breaks with them. I am quite a friendly person so I enjoyed this socializing very much.

Fast forward four months. People from my office are still nice, but we never go anywhere together during lunch time. At one point, they told me they are used to going individually and use that time to do some errands or just unwind.

I am left with one coworker who is still willing to go to lunch together. My coworkers from college don’t even contact us anymore. If we make a suggestion to go somewhere together, they make some excuse and go alone.

I am quite confused by this change in behavior. At first I thought I did something wrong but I really don’t know what. And they really go all individually, so it’s not like they are only avoiding me. But still, I can’t shake this feeling of being isolated and rejected, and to be honest sometimes I feel really lonely, especially during lunch time. I would like to make more friends at work but nobody seems to be interested in socializing and I don’t want to seem desperate.

One of these colleagues was actually a good friend of mine and she also doesn’t call anymore and we are only like three offices apart. When I asked her once about this “lunch policy,” she told me that’s the way it’s done here and that she prefers to do some errands also.

What do you think I should do? Am I overreacting?

I think it’s normal to wonder what happened when there’s a sudden change in behavior and people who used to socialize with you aren’t doing it anymore. So no, I don’t think you’re overreacting to feel a bit stung by it.

There are a few possibilities here:

1. What they’re saying could be the entirety of the situation. It’s possible that they’ve always been a “go to lunch on your own” kind of group and they changed that temporarily when you started your job there in order to welcome you and be friendly — but now they want to get back to their usual way of doing things.

2. Something might have made them not want to have lunches together anymore. There are a ton of things that could have caused this — everything from one person drinking too many margaritas at lunch and making everyone uncomfortable, to someone never paying her own way and sticking the rest of the group with the bill, to one person being far pickier about where to eat than the rest of them wanted to be, to just realizing that you’ve all grown apart since school and they don’t feel the same bond they used to feel.

3. They might have started to feel that the group lunches were out of sync with the rest of the office’s culture. It might have started to feel cliquey to them or others.

4. Or, yes, it could be personal. It’s possible that something happened that made them feel they don’t click with you as well as they were hoping for, or maybe you don’t realize that you said something horribly offensive about someone’s dog or kid or shirt or work ethic. Who knows.

How are things aside from lunch? If they seem to chit-chat with each other at work but never with you, that points to it being something more personal. On the other hand, if they continue to be warm and friendly with you when you encounter them and it’s just the lunches that have stopped, it might be one of the other explanations.

I’d watch how people are with each other in the office generally, and then compare that to how they are with you (allowing for the fact that you haven’t been there long, so you can’t expect the same connections people have after working together for years). It might just be that this office isn’t as social as you thought it was originally. Or maybe you’ll realize that people connect in different ways than over lunch and you can put some effort into those connections. Or yes, you might realize that something went wrong with your relationships with this group. If it’s the latter, I think you could ask the person you were formerly closest to — not focusing on lunch, but on the relationships in general.

But the lunch thing — I’d try to let that go. It’s really, really common for offices to have a “lunch on your own” culture, and that in and of itself isn’t something to take personally.

{ 177 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Anonymous Poster

    My coworkers are great, and I still go to lunch on my own because I enjoy the alone-time to turn off my brain for a little while. I just value the alone time, though I love hanging out and chatting with my coworkers sometimes.

    I’ve seen this same thing happen, and it was Alison’s option #1 happening. There wasn’t anything wrong, either!

    I’d err on the side of giving the benefit of the doubt, and continue on.

    Reply
    1. OB

      Same! Alone time at lunch to recharge is SO important to me that I’ve gone as far as explicitly (and politely!) saying no, you can’t come with me; or sure, you can sit with me as long as you’re cool with me ignoring you while I read. It’s nothing personal, just that my needs for lunchtime might be different than someone else’s. Unless they give you some other indication that things aren’t okay, OP, I would take their explanations at face value.

      Reply
    2. SophieChotek

      Of course I don’t have all the details, and AAM’s other suggestions to consider are definitely worthwhile. But my first though was #1, especially since the OP said that, “And they really go all individually, so it’s not like they are only avoiding me.” Provided they are friendly, etc. and just not wanting to do lunch, I can definitely see it as a “let’s welcome OP to our office” but not wanting to do it all the time–just at the beginning to be welcoming and help the OP get to know people a bit more.

      (When I was training at another office for my work, 2-3 coworkers always went to lunch with me, but I could tell the culture was to eat by themselves or run errands, so they were giving up their personal down time to show me around. In retrospect I appreciate it more than I did at the time.)

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        This. I’m thinking the OP is just an extrovert in an office that has more introverts. Nothing wrong with that so long as you don’t expect people to change.

        Reply
        1. Koko

          Yes, this is probably true. When she talked about feeling lonely it struck me that I wouldn’t know what advice to give if I were Alison, because to me loneliness is sort of an “n/a” when it comes to work. It’s not that I’m lonely or not lonely, it’s that I’m working, which is neither lonely nor not lonely. It’s just work.

          No matter how much affection I have for my coworkers–and for some of them that I’ve worked alongside for years, there’s a great deal of affection there–I am also 100% not interested in being friends with them, for so many reasons. It means that stress in my work life is less likely to contaminate my personal life, giving me a non-work place I can escape to that is difficult to achieve if your friends are also your coworkers.

          And conversely, if my personal life is thrown into chaos or upheaval, I want work to be a place I can escape from that, because it’s totally separate from my personal life. A place where I won’t have to talk about my problems, and everyone will treat me normally, because they have no idea that there are even any problems in my personal life. It gives me 40 hours a week when I can more or less pretend I don’t have problems.

          Reply
          1. Annonymouse

            That struck me too and reminded me of my father.

            He very much has the mentality of “everyone together, all the time.”

            No room for individual time or activity and it was exhausting. No matter how hard any of us tried to explain that everyone is different and some of us need alone time, that it’s not a reflection on how we felt about him or family, just that is how we were.

            For OP the take aways I offer you are these:

            Just because people don’t lunch with you everyday doesn’t mean they don’t like you.

            People have their own uses for the lunch break and if they are still being friendly the rest of the time then it’s not you, it’s them being introverted.

            Don’t let having lunch with people everyday be the highlight, make time to grab coffee instead.

            Find your own errands to run or your own “by yourself” ritual so you are less dependent on others to fill that time.

            Also be mindful that your need for social interaction all lunch, every lunch can be quite taxing for both you and your companions.

            Reply
          2. Jen S. 2.0

            Agree with this. Work isn’t necessarily a place to resolve loneliness or find friends. You certainly may, and you may luck into an office with a more social atmosphere or a social group of coworkers, but it’s not your colleagues’ responsibility to be your social group, at lunch or otherwise. Conversely, even when I’ve had work friends, we haven’t always eaten lunch together, either out or brown-bagged. (Also, a LOT of people do not have the financial or caloric budget to eat lunch out every day.)

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        2. Liz T

          I’m an extrovert and I still wouldn’t want to have lunch with my coworkers every day. I already see them all day, every day! A coffee run once or twice a week, sure, but lunch every day (or even every week, honestly) sounds exhausting.

          Reply
    3. paul

      Yep. About 2x a week if the weather’s good I stop at the Subway near the office, drive to the park, and have myself a picnic on one of the benches.

      Best days of the week by far. No screens, no chores, nothing but some pretty birds and squirrels and a sandwich.

      Reply
      1. Whats In A Name

        I used to do this at my last job. This reminds me that i need to start doing it again. something about getting OUT that is refreshing.

        Reply
    4. Koko

      I was in a long-term serious relationship with a coworker for a couple of years, and we had lunch together no more often than once a week – often less if we were particularly busy. It wasn’t about not liking each other, it was about only having a limited amount of time in the day.

      When I eat alone it’s a rather quick affair, never a sit-down restaurant, and I have time to make phone calls, run errands, do some Amazon shopping, or even work through part of my lunch. If I had taken a leisurely hour to lunch with my boyfriend every day I would have either had to do that stuff in the evening when I’m exhausted, or try to squeeze it into spare minutes here and there during the day if it had to be done during business hours, or in the case of work I’d be spending the rest of my day that much more frantic and rushed to meet a deadline because I spent an hour outside the office faffing around when I could have been working over my salad at my desk.

      Reply
    5. Laura

      I agree with many of the comments here, option 1 being most likely.

      Aside from that, there are few things the LW could do:
      – Make a point to reach out to colleagues in other departments to introduce yourself and grab lunch/coffee with them. Look for ways that you can help eachother.
      – Reach out to people in your industry for the same.
      – Come up with lunch routines that you find rewarding and recharging that doesn’t require the presence of your colleagues.
      – Get lunch with friends
      – Grab drinks/coffee after work with peers or friends
      – Fill your life with activies that replenish you and give you the opportunity to meet and befriend other people (think running club, book club, art/craft classes, Meetups, etc)
      – Look for ways to bring value to your peers by being super competent and thoughtful
      – Figure out why you feel the need to have lunch with your work friends often? That seems like a good thing to pursue either on your own or with a therapist.

      I could probably write more, but I need to eat my lunch (alone).

      Reply
      1. OP

        Thank you! I met colleagues from other departments but they also prefer to do their own thing during the break… I guess it’s the company thing… Or maybe the fact that we are so close to the city center so it gives a lot of opportunities to do something.
        I have many friends outside the work but none of them works close and I see them often after work so I don’t feel lonely in general…
        Actually, couple of people from my company suggested we do something after work like go get a beer, watch a movie etc. but, as much as they like to do their own thing during the break, I like my time after work to do mine… And once I leave work I prefer to leave all the work-related stuff behind. I don’t know does that makes any sense.
        So in fact I’m not looking for real life friends at work, I am just looking for somebody I could have a casual conversation with and maybe feel like a part of a group.

        Reply
        1. Coffee

          At my workplace, we do shared coffee runs. Perhaps finding coffee buddies would be more in keeping with the office culture and values you’d have more luck?

          Reply
  2. Amadeo

    Heh, the constant lunches together at the start would have stressed me out to no end both as the new person and as part of the welcoming group. I am friendly enough with my coworkers and would be happy to take the new person to lunch once or twice as a welcome gesture (and in fact my current supervisor and coworker did on my first day here) but after that I would really, really prefer to go back to lunching alone.

    From my point of view, it’s probably not anything you did during these gatherings, especially since it appears that you’re not being left out – everybody else is actually doing the loner thing and not specifically excluding you. My lunch break to me is not time to socialize with my coworkers, I can look up and have a conversation with two of them right at this moment without getting up. My lunch break is time to catch up on reading, play a game on my iPad, eat something and spend an hour catching my breath/doing ‘me’ things before returning to finish the last 4 hours of the day. It’s not personal, and I don’t mind occasionally grabbing lunch with the group, but having to do it on a constant/regular basis wouldn’t really be good for me.

    Reply
    1. Ol' Crow

      I’m with you – my lunch hour is my time to walk my dog, run errands, or simply read my book and have no external stimulation. For an introvert, sharing lunch is external stimulation. I will go to lunch with others from time to time only to be polite. I’ll be honest, I hate those lunches – not that I would let that show.

      Reply
  3. Lily in NYC

    I really think it’s option #1! This is pretty common when we have a new team member – we go to lunch often during the first few weeks – but then once they are settled in, it’s back to normal. I usually just eat at my desk, but on the rare days I take a real break, I use it to recharge by myself and go read a book in private while I eat. But it doesn’t mean I like the new coworker any less!

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I suspect the same. I’ve worked at places where everyone eats lunch together every day, and places where no one does.

      It’s really common to take a colleague out to lunch when they start, but to revert to the underlying culture after 1-2 weeks (honestly, sometimes after 1-2 days!). I like the suggestion about OP asking their colleagues to go grab coffee, or OP could ask them to accompany OP on a walk down to grab lunch to-go (that way they don’t have to commit to spending their full break, but you still get social interaction). But I would definitely try not to take it personally until proven otherwise.

      OP, are you friends with, or do you interact with, any of your coworkers outside of work? I ask because you seem particularly hurt by your college friends disappearing. I’m wondering if there might be a blending of roles (e.g., college colleague v. coworker) that’s making that separation feel especially lonely/difficult.

      Reply
      1. the gold digger

        asking their colleagues to go grab coffee

        Coffee is the perfect solution because it gives me a chance to chat with someone without sacrificing my lunch gym time.

        My old boss never wanted to get coffee. I would want to walk across the street and grab a cup, but when I would ask him to go with me, he would say, “I don’t drink coffee.”

        One day, I finally said, “Sheldon! IT’S NOT ABOUT THE COFFEE! It’s about spending ten minutes with someone chatting and strengthening relationships!”

        My current boss walks over to our area every morning, waving his coffee cup at my two co-workers and me. We always walk down to the break room together to get coffee or tea or just to walk together.

        Reply
    2. Amber Rose

      Me too. Most people here bring their lunches or run errands during the lunch hour. We’re right near the biggest mall in the city, and I like to wander over there and window shop since I don’t really eat lunch.

      Reply
      1. Midge

        Meanwhile I’ve had a snack and a half and I’m still not sure I can make it to lunch an hour and a half from now. >_<

        Reply
        1. Koko

          You may be beholden to a schedule not of your own keeping, but I personally eat lunch at about 11:30 am.

          I remember being a kid wondering why McDonald’s wouldn’t serve breakfast past 11 and thinking, “Who wants a hamburger at eleven-thirty in the MORNING??”

          And then I became an adult who wakes up at 5 AM, so by 11 “in the morning” I’ve been awake for 6 hours – that’s more than 1/3 of my waking hours, so damn right I am ready for lunch by then!

          My tummy was a lot happier once I stopped trying to hold out to some idea I had for some reason that lunch couldn’t happen til after noon, preferably 1 or later. I rarely have a hard time waiting from finishing lunch around noon to making dinner at 6 when I get home, but worst-case scenario it’s a small snack or treat around 4 to get me through the end of the day. If you can pick your own lunch time, you might find it’s easier to eat lunch early in your workday instead of smack in the middle of it.

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          1. The Rat-Catcher

            The freedom to choose my own lunch break (most of the time) has been wonderful! Not having to stop mid-work-groove, going earlier if I’m bored to tears at my desk or if I have a crowded afternoon (today), arranging for appointments.

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          2. Allison

            Oh yeah, I often eat at 11, and people sometimes give me a hard time for it. “Lunch already?” Yes, it’s my lunchtime, back off.

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            1. Lala

              And I get the opposite–I tend to eat lunch around 2pm. It’s easier for me to get more work done (interruptions make my work so much slower, and there’s a lot fewer of those if I’m working while other people are out to lunch), plus coffee usually keeps me full until then. So I get a lot of “you’re only just now having lunch?”

              And oh my lord, I would hate going out for lunch every day, and I’m friends with several of my coworkers. It’s nothing against them, it’s just I really need that time to recharge.

              Reply
              1. Workaholic

                At former company we’d fight over being latest to take lunch. Because that means less time between lunch and going home, and somehow made the day feel shorter.
                Which made me think – most places I’ve worked require a staggered lunch break. You can’t have everybody out of office the same time every day. And even if possible to make it work once in a while – urgent calls come in, meetings, buried in a project and lose track of time.

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          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Same. I wake up super early, and even with breakfast, I’m usually hungry by 11/11:30.

            Reply
    3. Natalie

      Yes, this happened at my current office when I was new – basically any time 2+ people were going to lunch they would invite me, since I was new. It’s just part of the way people here welcome new people.

      I personally found it exhausting because I get exhausted by socializing with people I don’t know well, so as the invitations tapered off I was happy to just let them go, and start declining. But if I was more of a social butterfly I can see how I might have felt a bit miffed.

      Reply
    4. Midge

      Since these are old college friends, I think it’s pretty likely that they spent more time than they typically would having lunch with you as a way of catching up and welcoming you to the office. Once your being there became more routine, they probably went back to their old habits.

      Also, they may have felt that it looked kind of cliquey to have a regular lunch group in the office made up of just alums from your school. (That’s how I’m interpreting the way OP describes it.) If that’s the case, you could argue that they could have made an effort to be more inclusive. But I think shutting it down is the best way to avoid looking like you’re excluding others.

      Reply
      1. N

        Agreed. It sounds like they wanted to catch up and make OP feel included, but it’s more typical for everyone to have lunch alone.

        For what it’s worth, I think I’ve only had lunch with coworkers three times in two years at my current job. It’s just the way many offices work.

        Reply
    5. shep

      Yes, I bolt my lunch during a break and go to the gym during my actual lunch hour. Also I can’t afford to go out to eat every day, so even if I weren’t able to go to the gym, I’d still forgo a meal out with coworkers. Not because I expressly don’t want to socialize with my coworkers (although I do need time to myself to recharge, and I like a solitary lunch), but because I’d rather put my spare cash toward other things.

      Reply
      1. Ol' Crow

        yes a hundred times to not wanting to spend money eating out! Even $5 a day (and where can you really do that?) is $100 a month. At least in my area, you are going to pay at the cheapest $10 and more likely $15 per lunch.

        Reply
        1. Mona Lisa

          I’m continually grateful that my first job had no food options available within walking distance, which meant that, if I didn’t want to bring my lunch or forgot it, I had to pay ~$15 just to get a sandwich delivered. It instilled in me the habit of packing a lunch every day instead of having the fallback of being able to buy something out. I honestly dislike when co-workers want me to go out to lunch with them and spend money now!

          Reply
          1. Ol' Crow

            I’m the same. It might just be $5-10, but I know exactly where I would have put it whether a different purchase or socking away for a rainy day.

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          2. Allison

            Same here, my last job was in the middle of nowhere, so if I didn’t take a lunch I either had to order something or take my chances in the cafeteria downstairs, and it wasn’t good . . . Now I’m in the city, but most places near me are sit-down establishments and pricey salad/sandwich joints, so that alone discourages me from going out for food that often. But it is nice to know that if I don’t have the energy to prep a lunch the night before, I *can* treat myself to a lunch, I just can’t make a habit of it.

            Reply
        2. BF50

          +1 My first reaction reading the letter was that it was just super expensive, especially if she’s relatively young.

          Early in my career I could not afford to go to lunch every day. That was a big driver in the debt I racked up my first year out of college. Being young and, frankly, stupid, I didn’t do a budget and didn’t realize that I was buying lunches out that I could not afford.

          My company has a (subsidized) in house cafe, so I can actually buy a nice lunch for $5 every day. I consider it one of the benefits of being mid career that I’m able to afford to buy myself lunch daily. Even then, I still spend $625 more a year more on lunch at the cafe than I did when I brown bagged it at my last job.

          Yes, I did the actual math before I decided I could afford it. I paid a couple grand learning that lesson 10+ years ago. I’m not about to repeat it now.

          Reply
    6. BRR

      I think so too since they’re all going to lunch individually. It doesn’t sound unfriendly, just not what the LW was hoping for. I’m extremely biased on the subject because I got burned by someone I worked with at the time but I think it’s best to keep a separation between your work and personal life which in this case I’m including feelings. I have been in the same situation as the LW and felt the same but from an outside perspective it’s easier to say it’s not rejection. They just want lunch alone.

      Reply
    7. Alienor

      Same at my office. I’m definitely a “lunch alone” person, but when we have someone new, I’ll go with the group a couple of times at the beginning to be polite, then peel off and go back to my solitary ways. It’s no reflection on them at all – I rarely even eat lunch with coworkers I consider close friends.

      Reply
  4. LiveAndLetDie

    LW, my officemates sometimes do lunch together, but at the end of the day we all have jobs to do–you mentioned that were going daily to begin with, so it honestly could be as simple as “people felt they were spending too much time on lunches.”

    Reply
      1. Lemon Zinger

        Yes! Most of my coworkers eat out every lunch. That’s not in my budget, so I don’t go with them.

        Reply
    1. Just J.

      +1

      My lunch hour is usually non-existent as I find that I cannot get “geared up” again after an hour break. I find that 15 minutes to eat, stretch, and breathe are perfect for me.

      Plus this lets me leave the office earlier at the end of the day.

      All of this combined means that I hate going out for hour long lunches!

      Reply
      1. Just J.

        One other thought as well, my office has no lunch choices within walking distance and just a few within a 10 minute drive. So when you add in a commute to lunch, we usually can’t make it out to lunch and back within an hour!

        Reply
    2. OP

      It could be this. We are also allowed to go home earlier if we don’t use our lunch time so maybe they just want to go home. And most of my colleagues are making much less money than me, way below average salary so it could be that too. Even though when I said ‘lunch’ I actually meant anything that involved socializing during a break.

      Reply
  5. MuseumChick

    I work in a very “each-lunch-at-your-desk” heavy company. I don’t mind but I do have fond memories from other jobs where going to lunch as a group was the norm.

    I think #1 is the most likely here given what you’ve described in your letter.

    Reply
  6. Cambridge Comma

    OP, what if you ask your college friends to go for a coffee once in a while? Many people need to get stuff done on their lunchbreak, but they can spare 10 minutes.
    Do you have any acquaintances outside the company who are close enough at lunchtime that you can go out for lunch with them once in a while?

    Reply
    1. Green Goose

      I think this is a good suggestion. I am an extroverted person so I like having lunch with my coworkers but I recognize that not everyone considers chatting with their coworkers “free time”. On my old team, all the women were really close and we all ate lunch together everyday which I loved but on the new team they have a table set up which is out in the open which people can eat at if they are feeling more social or they can go off/eat at their desk if they are busy. I highly prefer working in a place where people are more social because of my personality. I once worked somewhere for about six months where my coworkers did not socialize outside of working time, as soon as lunchtime or leaving time started they would be heads down out the door. They wouldn’t even chat on the way to our cars, so if I was leaving at the exact same time as someone else they would start walking really fast/slow. It felt so unfriendly. And I hated that.

      Coffee is good because you can catch up with your college friends but it won’t be requiring them to give up their entire lunch break that they have become accustomed to using for errands or alone time.

      Reply
    2. OP

      I ask them every once in a while and they say yes but never make an effort to ask me so I kind of gave up as I don’t want to push them.
      I don’t have anyone working that close unfortunately :(

      Reply
  7. Queen of the File

    We used to go for lunches more often as coworkers, until things got really busy around work and we found we needed the time alone. In our case it wasn’t a personality issue. There just wasn’t slack time during the day anymore to relax or even make a personal call, so the 30 minutes at lunch became necessary for the “life” part of work-life balance.

    Reply
  8. MsSolo

    Oh god, eating lunch together every day would kill me. I need that time to myself to recharge, even if I’m eating lunch in the office. I like a group lunch maybe once a month but anything more than that and that afternoon is basically a loss for me, productivity-wise. Plus, big group lunches always take ages, and sometimes you’d just rather get on with your work (or save up the flexi time to take an afternoon off instead). Honestly, I think it’s probably #1, maybe with a side order of “how come she’s got time/energy/focus to do group lunches so often” sneaking in there.

    How often are you proposing group lunch activities? They may be saying no so often because you’re asking so often – if you proposed a once a month regular lunch date they might be more receptive.

    Reply
    1. Sugar of lead

      I agree. I had this internship where a coworker shared her lunch break with me every day at first. We ate outside and talked shop, but then we stopped after a few days because socializing is exhausting for both of us. We still took our lunch together sometimes, usually when there was something important we had to talk about. The best way to socialize is occasionally, IMO.

      Reply
    2. Bess

      Yeah, I love my current coworkers, and we will go out in a big group every once in a while, or have lunch once or twice with a new person, but constant group lunches would be my personal nightmare. I need time to shut down my brain, time to read, time to be quiet.

      At a previous job two or three other coworkers ate together a lot, and invited me at first. It was nice once or twice, but I honestly wanted to read and be by myself over lunch…plus, we just didn’t have too much in common. I ended up never going with them because I felt the expectation was to go every day, and I constantly worried they thought I was being unfriendly or had a dislike for them.

      Reply
  9. Venus Supreme

    OP, I am practically you. About four months into this job I essentially lost all my lunch buddies. The office culture here is extremely clique-y, which is something I haven’t experienced since high school. One colleague here (same age as me) has the mean-girl mentality of making her group of friends exclusive, which is a notion I don’t entertain. I made friends with another person who goes to lunch solo (and who shares the same attitude with me about the office cliques here), and we’ll go out to a nice restaurant every other week. Overall it sucks though because, like you, I’m naturally very friendly and I’d love to chat with everyone to make the work day go faster. And it sucks when I ask people if they want to grab a bite with me, they say no, then I bump into a couple of them at the deli.

    I feel you- it IS terribly isolating and it’s made my anxiety worse because I can’t help but think it’s my fault. I don’t have solid advice but I want to let you know you’re not the only one who feels this way.

    Reply
    1. JB (not in Houston)

      It doesn’t sound like the OP’s situation is quite the same as yours, though, because they aren’t going out together and leaving her behind. Your situation is unfortunate, and I hope you’re able to move into another situation where people are more professional and kind. But it does sound different from the OP’s situation.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yes, agreed. I think there’s a material difference between a cliquey workplace and a workplace where folks are used to doing their own thing at lunch (and seem to be doing just that). It sounds like OP’s coworkers really are solo lunch takers, as opposed to actively lying to OP. Both can feel isolating, but being cliquey and low-key lying to someone is much worse than simply preferring a solo lunch.

        I’m truly sorry, though, Venus, that your officemates are being exclusive in this petty way. :(

        Reply
        1. Venus Supreme

          You’re both right; mine and OP’s situations are different. And I know my office culture is pretty unique. I’m still young and new-ish to office jobs/office norms, but this is the first place where colleagues live together, bring their personal drama to the office, etc. and AAM has taught me that this… is problematic.

          Reply
          1. Sibley

            Having a cliquey office is actually a problem, and you’re seeing the reason why. My first job out of college, I found out that mgmt was concerned that one group was being cliquey, because I was specifically (and discretely) asked if they invited me to join them. Along with various others. In that case, they WERE inviting other people, but the other people just weren’t interested in going out to lunch. Eventually it settled down that every one in a while there’d be a huge group going out, and then smaller groups (the diehards) going out much more often.

            You don’t want to make people feel excluded, because then they will be excluded and it’s bad for the company.

            Reply
  10. Drewby

    This situation mirrors exactly what I’m experiencing with my coworkers. When I started, it seemed like weekly “family lunches” on Fridays were the norm and I quite enjoyed them. In the 2 1/2 years I’ve been here, the lunches have become less frequent. As I started to think about why, I came up with several reasons (e.g., team turnover in our particular location, no one really suggesting it anymore, fluctuations in workload preventing people from going, etc).

    Another factor may be that we are allowed to work remotely one day per week, but not simultaneously. I ruled out taking it personally because if everyone decided to go to lunch on the day I worked from home, then I would have a reason to think it was because of me but that’s not the case for me.

    I concluded that the tradition had to take a backseat in favor of people needing to get work done or to get errands done during their break. I’m more of the latter since I’m now a father of an infant that requires a lot of attention so I use my break to get things done that I normally don’t have the time for. However, my team will still occasionally have our group lunches and after-work outings to maintain the social aspect.

    If group lunches are truly important to you, don’t be afraid to speak up to your team and ask, “Hey, does anybody feel like doing lunch today?” If they don’t, then it is what it is.

    Reply
  11. Sabine the Very Mean

    The friend not calling or going out anymore–honestly, that’s how I behave when I’ve been smothered. Or when I realize someone just became clingy. I’m not saying that’s what happened but it’s worth considering.

    Reply
    1. Fishy Lady

      Me too—I think Alison’s reply to the OP’s concerns are really generous, and that the OP should consider why they feel like it’s so important to have lunch in a group every day, or why they’re so dependent on their work friends for social interactions. It’s not a fair expectation for your co-workers to be social with you at work, whether they’re your friends outside of work or not. So if you’re constantly popping up at their desk/in their inbox/on their phones asking if they want to do something with you, it can feel really overwhelming and frustrating, even if they like you (sometimes, especially if they like you, because it can feel like they’re disappointing you constantly). It’s your job to pick up on the hints and stop asking so much, or you risk really doing damage to the relationship.

      Reply
      1. Sabine the Very Mean

        Yep, my personal clinger would watch to see when I went to the kitchen to fill up my Brita filter and ask if she could go with me. I started hiding it so she couldn’t see the water levels and suggest–several times a day–that we walk together the 30 feet to the kitchen to fill it. She’s the reason I now have headphones in all.the.time and am rarely listening to anything.

        Reply
        1. Fishy Lady

          Ugh!! Mine listens to whether I’m typing and then comes into my office whenever it’s quiet (I AM READING) to start a conversation with me. It is so beyond frustrating and makes me feel like I have zero personal time or space. He is a perfectly competent and nice co-worker, but I want to be left alone at work.

          Reply
  12. The IT Manager

    Look at culture, but bringing lunch from home is generally cheaper and healthier so it could be that people were just being extra friendly your first month and altering their normal patterns to make you feel welcome. That could especially be the case if you’re a go out to lunch with the group everyday. I personally usually saved going out to lunch with the group for Fridays or special occasions.

    I would not take it personally. I would take their reasons at face value.

    Also work isn’t college. It’s important to be professional and friendly, but not necessarily friends with your co-workers. Some people don’t want to be real friends with people from work because it could make things awkward and possibly appear that there’s favoritism. People being professional but slightly stand-offish (not socially friendly) is normal for work and not a personal slight. If you’re looking for closer friends, work is not the best place to look (even though it is where you spend most of your time)

    Reply
    1. beanie beans

      Yep Yep Yep Yep. I like my coworkers and I’m close with a couple of them, your last paragraph is what I was going to come over and write (less eloquently for sure).

      I do lunch with coworkers I’m friendly with about once a month. Even then it sometimes feels like a slight on my time that I need to be mentally away from the work environment, which includes people I like.

      Reply
    2. Bess

      This is a really good point, too. I don’t typically seek close friends in a work environment–the times I have, it was in a really dysfunctional environment and having a few closer work buddies was a way to survive and stay in reality.

      But in healthier environments, I typically try to keep a reasonable buffer. I’m friendly and pretty open about my life on a surface level…but I just don’t fully trust friendship dynamics not to mess with workplace dynamics in some way, and I don’t like having to side one way or the other when conflict arises based on a personal friendship. This is part of the way I extricate myself from office gossip and the microdrama inevitable even in really healthy groups.

      Reply
    3. Alton

      Yes, and it might be more challenging to make that distinction if the OP was friendly with these people in college. I think it’s understandable to enter a situation like this thinking of the people as friends first and colleagues second, but work can be a different dynamic.

      Reply
    4. Mallory Janis Ian

      My coworkers and I eat lunch together every day, for the most part. If we’ve brought our lunches, we eat in the faculty/staff lounge or just at our desks and visit and chat while we eat. If one person hasn’t brought lunch and the others have, the one person will go to one of the places nearby and bring something back and join the others back at the office. This has been our office culture for the two years I’ve been here, and it was the culture before I arrived.

      However, now our lunch group is going to fall apart because one coworker is an unpleasant jackass to be around. If he isn’t invited to lunches anymore, he would be the only one left out while everyone else has lunch together. So we’ve decided to just not have group lunches anymore to avoid awkward cliquishness. There are four of us (me, jackass, other coworker in our department, and coworker’s personal friend who was recently hired in another department). So now, coworker and her friend will probably lunch together often, but my direct report is out because he is a jackass, and I’m out because he’s out.

      I still have lunch once a week with a friend from my old job on campus, but she’s nine-month faculty, so she’ll be gone for the summer soon. I guess I’ll just spend my lunches reading AAM and trying not to succumb too frequently to the temptations of online shopping.

      Reply
        1. Mallory Janis Ian

          Yeah, he’s on probation and I don’t think he’s going to make it. He has 32 days left on a 45-day period and I just don’t think he has it in him to abide by the requirements. Our HR says he gets the full 45 days, though. If it were up to me, I’d just cut it short right now and tell him it’s not working out.

          Reply
  13. always in email jail

    I agree with Alison that it’s probably not a huge deal or anything you did wrong. I love to socialize but I would hate to have a “let’s lunch together all the time” office culture. Maybe everyone started it when you were new, and then realized how much money they were spending every day going out to lunch? I personally prefer not to spend my money that way, and would rather eat a sandwich at my desk and get out of work on time than go spend money out to lunch and have to stay late because I have work to do. It’s nothing personal to my coworkers, those are just my financial/personal priorities.

    Reply
    1. Banana Sandwich

      +1000 I like going to lunch every so often but definitely not a regular thing. Something OP might want to keep in mind is that some people need to recharge during lunch to make it through the rest of the day. Interacting with people during work hours is exhausting enough without adding my lunch hour to it on a regular basis as well.

      Reply
    2. Salyan

      I agree. I will add, that if the OP starts (or keeps) ‘pushing’ to have lunches together when no one else wants them, people may begin to actively avoid her.

      Reply
    3. Malibu Stacey

      And when it’s actually not affordable, sometimes that can be embarrassing to admit for people.

      Reply
      1. always in email jail

        YES! I’ve been in that boat before which is why, as a supervisor, I try very hard to not promote the “let’s all go out to lunch every day” culture. It’s not great to put people in the position of choosing between buying groceries and worrying that they’ll miss out on work bonding/info at lunch.

        Reply
  14. ZTwo

    I think there are two separate things at play here, the lunch and your coworker who was a good friend but now seems less like one. I agree with the advice for the first one, so I’m going to address the second. (I’m assuming that by “was a good friend” you mean in college and not until recently but I think this applies regardless).

    I have found that sometimes being in close proximity with friends make you less liable to hang out with them. For example, I lived with a good (but not necessarily close) friend from college for five years. We were good roommates, but definitely hung out less after living with each other than we might have if we just lived in the same city. I think when we see people a lot our brains can sometimes count that as socialization, even if we didn’t actually hang out. It’s possible that your friend isn’t rejecting you so much as thinking “well I see her all the time in the office now” or has even just moved you to the “work” bucket in her head.

    If you want to keep the friendship going, I recommend specific plans that don’t involve the office at all, like “do you want to get [drinks at this new bar/see a movie/go to this restaurant] after work on [date]?” Don’t make the date or location vague or else it’s easy to put off, just make sure it’s after and outside of work.

    Reply
  15. MMDD

    I’m leaning toward option #1 here too. I actually work in the same building as my husband and we still do separate lunches. He goes with work friends, I usually go on my own. I adore my husband beyond all measure and really enjoy my coworkers (we hang out outside of work), but I need that break in the day to just take a breath and relax. Our office is very stressful and I know my limits enough to know I need that quick 30 minutes to myself to recharge for the afternoon despite being an outgoing person 90% of the time. I can see how it would be hard to not take such an abrupt change personally but I don’t think you should, barring the exceptions Alison mentioned.

    Reply
  16. DuendeReal

    #1 happened to me. Started a new job at a no-group-lunch place and took a little while to realize that was the case. No one ever goes to lunch together here. Sometimes I miss the socializing, but I like that it forces me to pack a healthy and cheap lunch more often!

    Reply
  17. M

    Before my closest work friend lost her job recently, she was the only one I liked going to lunch with. And we still only went once every 2-3 weeks because it was expensive, it was always longer than my normal lunch, and it made me extra tired, because I do use that time to recharge. I especially hate group lunches. Those are basically a meeting.

    I normally grab a sandwich or salad from the cafe at work and just mess around on my phone. Facebook, advice columns, Reddits about a game or tv show…and then my half hour is done and I go back to my desk.

    Reply
  18. Sensual Shirt Sleeve

    I agree with Alison. It sounds like when you first joined they made a big effort to welcome you and catch up, but this was a special effort. Like, “Oh wow, it’s Lucinda! I haven’t seen you since Teapot College!” and after a few weeks, people gradually returned to the norm of individual lunches, time alone, errands, working lunches etc.

    I need a little alone time at lunch and would be more exhausted afterwards if I spent it chatting with colleagues every day. I’d actually find the chatter more tiring than my job. It sounds like OP is the opposite and finds company relaxing, but other people do not feel the same. Even I like you, I will still find it extremely tiring to chat for an hour!

    I’d suggest a weekly or monthly group lunch to keep up the social side. Then people who need the lunch break to do errands or chill out alone have time the other days, and you can all stay friendly at work.

    Reply
  19. my two cents

    When I first started at NewJob, everyone kept inviting me out and I felt semi-pressured to oblige (and spend) in the name of comradery . But I’d much prefer to spend about 80% of my lunch hours running errands, grocery shopping (stashing stuff in our giant work fridge/freezer til later), or I’ll just go wandering around TjMaxx/Ross’s/Goodwill just to get away from my desk for an hour. We have group lunches in the office (14 of us here) about 1-2 times a month, and sometimes I’ll go grab food with a couple of coworkers. But for the most part, we all sort of do our own thing.

    Reply
  20. fposte

    This is making me think about how a good workplace culture looks different to different people. I think the change you’re asking about makes things harder, OP, because it raises the possibility that you did something. But it’s sounding a little to me like even if it’s Alison’s #1–that’s how this workplace is–that’s something you may find disappointing. Some possibilities are: a regularly scheduled catchup lunch with somebody every month, a walk to get coffee with somebody–or more scheduled check-ins with your non-work friends to get you that social charge.

    Reply
  21. Mona Lisa

    My mind immediately went to the first situation Alison described when I was reading this letter. I can easily see the office–particularly the college friends–gathering around the LW to welcome her to the company and help her get to know people. Now that she’s more integrated into the culture, they’re able to transition back into their typical schedules, but the LW has no frame of reference for what “normal” is at this office.

    LW, if you’re really looking to connect with your co-workers over lunch, I’d suggest setting up a standing monthly/bi-weekly lunch date. This way the lunches aren’t occurring so frequently that your co-workers can’t get their errands/re-charging done, but you still have the opportunity to touch base with them occasionally. I will admit that I am definitely in the “eat my leftovers alone while watching Jane the Virgin at my computer” lunch club, but if my co-worker wants to eat together and gives me enough notice, I will typically humor her with a lunch out once a month or so. It doesn’t sound like your co-workers will be up for eating out/together every day, but if you can adjust your expectations and take initiative, you’ll probably get some of the lunchtime socialization you’re craving.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      another suggestion for the standing monthly lunch–make it a brown-bagger in the conference room.

      You could also set up some sort of standing lunch w/someone who doesn’t work with you–I did that once w/ someone I liked from another department (2nd Wed. of every month, or the Thursday right after if Wed. blew up for some reason), and it was fun.

      Reply
      1. Mona Lisa

        Oh, yes! Bonus points if it’s a brown bag. My co-worker buys most of her lunches out, and once a month is the absolute most I could be convinced to pay for my own. I preferred the time where we stayed at the office though and ate all of the leftover catering from an even the day before. (She’d planned for us to go out, and I suggested we stay behind instead.)

        Reply
  22. Simplytea

    Can you do one-on-one lunches? Try to initiate them! Maybe all in the group is a bit too much, or you have a complainer that no one likes talking to. :) Good luck! Keep fighting!

    Reply
    1. Natalie

      Or one-on-one lunches with people you don’t work with – friends that work in the same area, professional contacts you want to build a relationship with, your spouse/partner or a relative, etc. You don’t have to schedule one every day or anything, but I bet you could find someone every week or two and that would be something to look forward to.

      Reply
  23. Archie Goodwin

    I don’t think it’s anything you’ve done, honestly – doesn’t sound like it.

    For what it’s worth, I’m another of those who likes lunching on my own. I only go out once a week, and I’ll usually take a book (or purchase a copy of TIME), to have something to read while I eat. I don’t mind social lunches – my company does them once in a while, and they’re fun – but honestly it’s usually easier for me to eat at my desk and use that break for something else, be it an errand, a walk, or something different. That’s just the way it shakes out at the office – I’m not being anti-social, especially (I hope.) Just trying to get a bit more done with the hours I have in my day.

    Reply
  24. Jessesgirl72

    I can grab my lunch from McDonald’s or eat my sandwich from home at the park when I’m on my own, but if I’m out with coworkers, it’s always someplace sit down and more expensive. It also takes longer, and has to be taken at a set time, instead of whenever I get free from whatever I’m working on. So starting out that way to make the new person feel welcome is one thing, but it’s not sustainable for me over the long run.

    As for the friend, it could be that seeing your every day has let her see that the two of you don’t have as much in common anymore, or enough to sustain you for the kind of relationship where you’re together every single day. It’s not necessarily personal- it’s just the people mature and grow apart away from the microcosm that is college.

    You have a lunch buddy OP, which is pretty good, to my mind, but I think you need to look into hobby groups or the usual other ways to get your social fulfillment taken care of outside of the workplace.

    Reply
  25. Jen

    The lunch dance can be so hard at an office.

    At a past job when I first started there were two other girls my age. We started eating lunch together in the break room. At first it was lovely and fun. Then I started to realize I didn’t really like one of the other girls. She was negative all the time and she always wanted to talk about work. Then the other girl started trying to lose weight and it was all she’d talk about. If I ate a salad, she accused me of being anorexic. If I ate McDonalds she’d accuse me of throwing it up afterwards. So I started to only go every so often. Then I stopped going. Then they started to give me shit for not going and then I became odd girl out in our team. I wish I’d never started getting lunch with them.

    Here, when I started I got lunch all the time with one co-worker. Then my spouse lost his job. Money is tight. I started packing my lunch. It was nice to decompress in my office or run errands during that break. So that wasn’t personal, I just needed a bit of a break from work.

    Sometimes the office lunch is just a little too much togetherness.

    Reply
  26. Geneva

    Don’t take it personally OP! I avoid going to lunch with my coworkers – not because I dislike them – but because I’m an introvert. Breaks on my own give me time to recharge so I’m not as anxious and drained during the afternoon.

    Reply
  27. Amy

    I’m also betting it’s #1. I can’t imagine getting lunch with my coworkers every day!! I often work through lunch (bad, I know, but I’m in a salaried ‘work until it’s done’ job rather than something with set hours, and I’d rather go home half an hour earlier than take a half hour for lunch most days). If I take a break at all, its going to be because I have a specific thing I need the time for–not just to chitchat with coworkers. I’ve made the occasional exception for things like showing a new coworker around, but that’s the exception, not the rule.

    Reply
  28. Fabulous

    I don’t know about your coworkers, but I really prefer to eat by myself. One of my favorite things to do on lunch is to read, which is impossible when lunching in a group! Regardless of what I do on lunch, I also like to have the flexibility to change it up when I need to. When you’re constantly allowing others to dictate your lunch schedule, it gets very draining and one can easily become frustrated with the situation. It’s probably the case, as Alison and others have said, that they all gathered together to welcome you for a few weeks but then needed to get back to their regular, flexible lunch programs. Let them do what they need to do, but it’s still alright to reach out once a week or something to see if they want to join you!

    Reply
  29. WhirlwindMonk

    Putting in another vote for “Probably #1”. I know that if a past friend/acquaintance started at my company, I’d be happy to have lunch with them for a little while to catch up and fill them in on the workplace and company, but eventually I’m going to want to go back to usually having lunch on my own. For me, it’s not so much about being alone as it is that between my church responsibilities, the community choir I’m in, and a baby due in less than two months, lunch is one of the few times I actually get to work on my video game backlog!

    Reply
  30. Allison

    “At one point, they told me they are used to going individually and use that time to do some errands or just unwind.”

    I’d take this at face value. The occasional group or team lunch outing is nice, but I like my lunch time to be my time, where I can heat up some yummy homemade food and binge read threads here or on Reddit for a little while, maybe go for a walk, or run an errand if needed. I try to limit going out for lunch to once a week, maybe twice at most (but only one sit-down lunch, tops), but it costs so much money, and I like my healthy chicken, brown rice, and veggie lunches.

    Reply
  31. Amber Rose

    Lord knows I literally could not afford to go out to lunch with coworkers more than once a month. Does your workplace have generally average incomes (which pay the bills but not necessarily for restaurant food every day) or are you in an area with a high cost of living?

    Have you tried bringing a lunch and seeing if anyone else brings a lunch and wants to just hang out?

    Reply
    1. Anxa

      My SO and I have a fund in our budget for goodbye lunches, drinks, and other work lunch type expensives that tend to cluster around transition times for his coworkers. Even then, if we go over that budget because there was a visiting scholar, an exiting coworker, and a happy hour in on month that means we’re stretching meals for a week to make up.

      I know we’re particularly not-rich, but I imagine that even with a pay pump we’d be monitoring that kind of spending pretty carefully.

      Reply
  32. Natalie

    A variation on #1: I actually enjoy going to lunch with my co-workers… but not every day. I don’t have enough to say to literally anyone for 45 minutes every single day of the week except my dog, and that’s pretty much variations on “who’s a good boy?” Even my spouse and I spend a lot of time reading separately on the same couch. So they may be a group that likes to get lunch together, but only once a week or two or three. You might find more interest in occasional lunches if you aren’t asking every day.

    Since you like to eat with someone, can you arrange lunches with other people? Maybe you have friends or relatives that work in the same area, or other professional contacts you want to maintain relationships with. Maybe there’s a X Career or Y Demographic networking group near you. Maybe your professional association does “lunch and learn” stuff. Even if you are eating by yourself one or two days a week, you can probably find enough lunch time activities so you don’t feel lonely.

    Reply
    1. Kate

      I agree! I call a family member once a week, and our lives are so routine and humdrum it is extremely difficult to find much to say! I read another book, I saw a movie, work was work, what did you have for dinner, etc. I can’t imagine trying to come up with something new every day of the week. Unless you can delve in deep about books or movies or art or something, I can’t imagine what you could discuss with coworkers at a daily lunch.

      Reply
  33. Sunshine on a cloudy day

    I would really try not to take it personally – it sound like #1 to me.

    You can maybe try to work in a sort of rotation of one on one lunches. I’m a total solo luncher, but don’t mind grabbing lunch with a co-worker once a month or so (with a bit of advanced notice). I would wait a couple of weeks before asking anyone, just so that they get the idea that this won’t be a constant thing, and then ask one co-worker if they’d be up for lunch next week (I’d suggest recommending something affordable or even suggesting that you just eat home-brought lunches together – if that’s something that you do/are aware that they do). The next week, try a different co-worker. You might get a couple of people who don’t mind lunching with you every once in awhile (once a month each, say), and if you have enough of them it provides you with a decent amount of social lunches.

    Reply
  34. Seal

    Try not to jump to conclusions OP. At my first FT job, I became very good friends with my immediate coworker and eventually we went to lunch together almost every day. In fact, that’s what we became known for (aside from being good at our jobs!). A few years later, she got married and moved out of state. By that point, I was coaching HS arts programs as a second job, so I was surrounded by people at least 12 hours a day upwards of 7 days a week. Much as I missed my friend and our lunches together, it was a relief to be able to have some time to myself at lunchtime.

    But then we hired one of our PT staff members to take over my friend’s job. For reasons known only to her, she assumed that she and I would be good friends right off the bat and would go to lunch together every day. She apparently didn’t realize that my friendship with her predecessor grew over time and that a close friendship wasn’t something she automatically inherited along with the job. After a few incredibly awkward lunches, including one that she invited herself along to after I explicitly told her I had other plans, I wound up having to sneak out of the office every day just to get some time to myself. This lead to hard feelings on everyone’s part and things spiraled downward from there. To this day, I’m leery of having lunch with my coworkers on anything more than a rare occasion.

    Reply
  35. The Tin Man

    Ah, the coworker lunch dilemma. For OP, I think Alison is on point here. My first thought was option 1 that she presented – they changed up their lunch routine to be welcoming, and now they are back to their normal habits. And do try to reconsider the need to make friends at work. Being friendLY of course, but I am reluctant to become out-of-work friends with colleagues. This may be partly driven by one coworker at a previous job who had zero sense of boundaries and assumed that just because she talked to someone about personal things (sometimes against their will) doesn’t make them friends.

    Reply
  36. AvonLady Barksdale

    At my current job, the senior staff goes out to lunch several times a week. I’m included in that. I like it, but after my second week I started to beg off a few times– it gets expensive and caloric! (I lost 20 pounds before I started this job, and it’s a miracle I only gained 5 back.) In addition to that, I like the camaraderie, but I also like the downtime. Even when I’m not busy, I look forward to lunch time as time when I can sit back and no one bothers me (we have a very respectful lunch culture– if I’m eating, someone will take that as a signal to come back later unless I say it’s ok) and I can take a few minutes to re-charge. So I’ll echo what everyone else says and bet it’s not you at all!

    Reply
  37. Kaybee

    OP, add me to the chorus thinking it’s #1. We are very much an “eat individually” kind of office at my work, but make a point of taking new people out to lunch the first few weeks on the job while they’re settling in. This helps them get to know us in a more relaxed setting, as well as introduce them to the lunch spots in what for many is a new city, or a new part of the city. But to be honest, it’s always a relief for me to go back to eating lunch by myself. I’m an introvert and as others have mentioned above, I use that time to recharge. I also like to run errands at lunch, as I’m often tired at the end of the day (and some businesses are closed). I also like to take a walk to get some exercise/sun/clear my head, and that’s something I prefer to do solo so I can walk at my pace (slow enough to not get sweaty in my work clothes, but faster than tourists) and so I can get away from the office a bit. My wanting to take lunch by myself is not an indictment of anyone in my office at all; it’s simply my one chunk of free time during the day.

    Reply
  38. The Tin Man

    Coworker lunch fun, argh. At my previous office job, my first out of college, I was invited out to lunch with coworkers a couple times when I started. I barely said a word the whole time. At first I felt awkward and bad about this, but only later did I realize that they also made no effort to include me in their conversations about shared experiences or people that they know. I know I would invite someone new out to lunch then barely try to talk to them.

    Also this job had a “no food at your desk” policy so it was go out or go to the cafeteria. I didn’t mind the policy so much but it was hard on the days when I just didn’t feel like talking to anyone. Those days I would go out for a burrito.

    Reply
  39. Katie the Fed

    OP, here’s the real problem: “But still, I can’t shake this feeling of being isolated and rejected, and to be honest sometimes I feel really lonely, especially during lunch time”

    If you’re new to your career, this definitely takes some getting used to. But your coworkers aren’t your friends. They can be friendly, but they’re rarely going to be your close friends. Even when they are, that takes some time to develop, and work situations can easily impact work friendships (like if one of you gets promoted, etc).

    You should focus more on making friends outside of work. I think that’ll help with your feelings of rejection and loneliness.

    I personally love to have a half hour to myself at lunch. I sit at my desk and read AAM, and try to give strong hints to people who interrupt me. (one of my employees was just here and did not get that hint, sigh).

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I work in a place where several co-workers really are my close friends, but we still don’t do lunch together except when there’s a business thing–maybe a couple of times a year for one and once in living memory for the other.

      Reply
      1. Katie the Fed

        Yeah, I have some good friends here but they’re in different departments now. And like most of my friends, we physically hang out…not that often.

        Reply
      2. The OG Anonsie

        Some people are friends with their coworkers and some people regularly use work to socialize and make friends, for sure. But that’s not such a standard expectation that going somewhere people don’t socialize as much means you’re being excluded or rejected, even though that’s how it would feel to someone who is used to a more social group being the norm.

        This is funny timing because I’ve been trying to make new friends recently and when my boyfriend was telling some of our other friends about it, they were really confused and asked why I’m going out to places to meet people instead of starting at work.

        The suggestion makes me clench. I like keeping my biz super separate, to what may actually be kind of weird extremes (queue Futurama “and my wife doesn’t know I have a job, I keep my personal and professional lives separate”). The idea of trying to relax in my off time around people I then have to interact with at work is just stressful to me.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I totally agree–I was just responding to KtF’s comment that suggested to me work doesn’t contain any real friends. I think it absolutely can, but that’s not the same thing as offering daily lunchmates.

          Reply
          1. Katie the Fed

            You CAN be friends with your coworkers, but it takes some time. For OP right now, they’re not her friends, they’re coworkers. If a friendship develops in time, huzzah! But she needs to see them as coworkers for now, not friends.

            Reply
      3. Anon Anon

        Yeah. I’m very close to a couple of my co-workers. We socialize outside of work semi-regularly. And yet, we only ever go to lunch together when we are on business trips together.

        Reply
  40. animaniactoo

    OP, I’m wondering if you’re giving off a vibe of being too relaxed and wanting to be friends and friendly, while others are very concerned about being professional and not being seen as too relaxed and friendly.

    I suspect there’s a middle ground, but right now it seems the more you push for or are obvious about wanting more, the more they feel the need to retreat for their own professional career building purposes.

    Among things that happen in regards to friends and work is that most people want to be friendly(ish), but not really friends with their co-workers for a variety of very good reasons which means they put up boundaries around getting too close, and on the flip side of that people who are good friends sometimes find that working with that person means they now need distance from them because they see them all the time and it’s just a bit too much.

    I would try pulling back to acquaintance-level friendly with people in your office, still relaxed and friendly, just not in a frequent chitchat kind of way, and looking for friends outside the office who you might be able to meet up with for lunch, etc.

    Reply
  41. brightstar

    I think it’s most likely option 1, it’s just not part of the culture to go to lunch every day. Plus, as others have mentioned, that gets really expensive. Since everyone is using their lunch to run errands and the like, it seems like solo lunches are just part of the culture.

    That said, this is giving me flashbacks to a job I had seven years ago. I didn’t fit in, it was a terrible time for me personally and the job wasn’t working out (I eventually resigned without another job lined up). In a small group of five workers, four of the women would go to lunch without me. They would even have pot-lucks in the office and tell me I wasn’t allowed to participate. It was definite social ostracization and led to them refusing to help me perform my job duties. And management knew about them refusing to do their part on group tasks and did nothing about it.

    Reply
  42. Liz2

    Agreed on 1. Have you tried to get a lunch group together with your direct team once a month or quarter? These things tend to need planning ahead.

    Reply
  43. Bookworm

    As an introvert I’d hate group lunches. I’m very much a “eat lunch on my own” unless it’s someone’s birthday or it’s a goodbye or something special.

    I knew someone who was in a similar situation as to you. He admitted he had social anxiety and to help alleviate that he thought he’d be more pro-active by inviting co-workers to lunch. I think some of them accepted here and there but it got to the point where he was actually called in by HR and told to not invite people to lunch anymore. I don’t know the details but he said he felt really awkward about the whole thing since he wasn’t given an explanation as to what it was that bothered his co-workers. Maybe he was creepy (from my limited interaction he seemed nice and was open to correcting his behavior if it had been explained) or maybe as suggested by others it was not really part of the office culture and it was left to HR to tell him.

    I wouldn’t take it too seriously as Alison suggests but observe how others interact. Good luck!

    Reply
  44. Hey Karma, Over here.

    Our group used to lunch together, but then we got away from it. It was over years, not months, so it was an easier transition. But it’s hard when you feel lonely not to think it’s you. But it isn’t. You say that you know these people from college, so I think you are early in your career. Additionally, you are coming from a bad office environment, one where people were unpleasant, so you are hyper on guard for that.
    Tell yourself: This is a good place. These are fair people. The office culture is to use the time for myself. I am going to do that. I will pick a book I want to read and read it for 40 minutes. I will try new places to eat and go to them. I will pick my favorite place and go through the whole menu. I will see what errands I can complete at lunch and complete them. I will study a language (my personal choice. I met with a tutor). I will use the time to research group activities in my area and find something I want to do and sign up to do it.
    Be young, single and free to direct your own life. When free time is gone, it won’t be back till you’re retired!

    Reply
    1. OP

      Wow, this is a great advice! Thank you! :)
      At my previous job my colleagues actually weren’t that bad, just the boss so we all suffered because of him.

      Reply
      1. Aunt Margie at Work

        A bad boss does ruin it for everybody. It becomes the focus. Even when you support each other, it’s not good teamwork, it ends up a b***ch session that sucks you in deeper.
        I hope you find something fun to do. Good luck and enjoy!

        Reply
  45. Katie the Fed

    Another thought, OP – I would stop making this a Big Deal in your head. If one of my coworkers asked me about a “lunch policy” which was really that we all preferred to do our own things, I’d probably be a little exasperated. Let it go. You may develop some friendships organically, but I’d stop trying quite as hard, if that makes sense :)

    Reply
    1. Aunt Margie at Work

      I see your point here. It’s one thing to ask questions like can I eat my desk? Do people bring lunch, go out or do they go out, buy lunch and bring it back? Do they eat before/after and run errand in between?
      Specific questions about office culture and norms coming from a place of wanting to fit in are different than hinting around that you want group lunches or fishing for people to ask you what you want.
      I’m not saying that OP is doing that. I’m saying OP is on the cusp of doing that. Toeing the line between perky and pesky.

      Reply
  46. SometimesALurker

    I prefer lunch by myself to recharge, but I know people who are in your boat, OP, some of whom have plenty of friends outside of work but they get energy from being social, and so they crave more socializing during the workday. Once you’ve been there a few months longer and you’ve had a chance to suss out whether this would be a welcome thing at your organization, you might consider starting an office book club or crafting circle that meets every month or so at lunch — that way, you can spend some time with people at work who want to socialize, whether they are college friends or new people.

    Reply
  47. LibbyG

    I suppose another possible factor is the time of year. I’m in higher ed, and I’ve seen that the spontaneous collective lunch break reemerges like a crocus during the slower times only to disappear again during the more stressy times where individual breaks are more appreciated.

    I definitely agree with Alison and previous commenters that (1) it’s unlikely to be personal (but, hey, we should all reflect on how we interact) and (2) we’re best off looking for friendships outside of work.

    Reply
  48. Leslie Knope

    Hey OP! I think everyone has pretty clearly stated that #1 is the most likely scenario. I’d thought I’d share my own lunch time evolution and a few tips that I used to roll with the changes.

    When I started at my current company I was taken to lunch by my team. For the next few months I was always invited with different people to lunch. Now, looking back, I see they wanted to make sure I acclimated well as the demands of the job can be stressful. I made a great friend of one of my coworkers and we started doing lunch daily. After she left the company, I had no idea what to do! I was lonely and I missed the conversation and informal conversations about workplace norms.

    I went into efficiency mode and started trying to figure out how to make lunchtime meaningful once more. And, wow, how liberating! I started running errands, going on long walks, reading books, and even taking a nap in my car on occasion. I’d schedule an occasional lunch in advance with different people in the office and even started scheduling lunches with other young professionals I’d meet at conferences and networking events. Lunch time for me is now an awesome exercise in deciding what I want and what I need. On days I need to chat I’ll call up a friend or family member or even journal my thoughts. On days I need to decompress I’ll sit outside and listen to an audiobook.

    I’m a mix of introvert and extrovert so the balance between the two is awesome for me. If you really need that interaction, try to find someone else with your same personality at your office that you can share that time with! They’re more likely to value face-to-face conversation time if they also need that kind of interaction.

    If I contemplated these sorts of lunch times when I first started my job I think I’d assume I’d hate them. However, it’s turned into one of my favorite parts of the day.

    Reply
    1. Marillenbaum

      I…just….thank you. Thank you so much for sharing this! I also go back and forth about the level of social interaction that makes me most content, and this is such good advice about how to do that.

      Reply
  49. SleeplessKJ

    I always always always prefer lunch on my own. I may run errands or sit and read oe catnap in my car – but that’s MY time. It’s when I recharge and regroup. Once in awhile I’ll lunch with a co worker but for the most part that’s fine I NEED. If someone was pulling at me constantly to have lunch with them, I’d be very uncomfortable with that and might start avoiding thatbperson in general. So I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re being needy and relentless about the lunch thing that could carry over into your office relationships in general. IMO you need to back off and accept that lunchtime is not social time at your office. After a while go ahead and invite co-workers to lunch every once in awhile and I’m sure every once in awhile someone will take you up on it. But to me it’s not something to take personally.

    Reply
  50. That Would Be a Good Band Name

    In regards to the friend: I once worked with a very good friend (actually made a case for hiring her) and I found out that it wasn’t good for me. She was very social and could handle being in the office together all day – and I do mean together, our desks were about 2 feet apart – plus socializing outside of work. I could not. I was never getting any recharge time. My previously quiet work environment was now more like social time plus lunches together plus socializing outside of work. I completely pulled away for a while outside of work and it nearly ended the friendship. It wasn’t her fault, she hadn’t done anything wrong, but she just didn’t need the downtime and I couldn’t keep up. Since you mention being lonely at lunch, I’m assuming that you also like a large amount of social interaction that some people will find completely draining. I wouldn’t take it personally. She probably just needs some time to recharge.

    Reply
  51. OnFire

    OP, I do sympathize, but I think you can see from the chorus of responses here that many people simply prefer to do their own thing at lunch. I’m one of those, as well. A coworker from one of our other buildings suggests lunch every time I see them. We go occasionally (once every month to six weeks), and although I enjoy it, it’s exhausting. In fact, I eat at my desk as often as possible, because even sitting in silence at the breakroom table with another employee isn’t the same as being by myself.
    A former colleague once complained to me that she felt very lonely because two of the team leads went to lunch together often, but didn’t invite her. (These were working lunches, and she wasn’t a team lead.) But often, lunches between coworkers DO involve/devolve into work discussions, rather than being a break from the workday.
    As others have said, don’t take it personally; just look for outside interests/friends for your lunch break.

    Reply
  52. Mel C

    As an introvert, I would HATE to have to have lunch with my coworkers. I like to talk to them and maybe, once in a blue moon, have lunch with them; but, every day? That’s a big nope. One: I’m a “packer,” I like to save money by bringing my own lunch from home. Two: I’m a reader, I like to NOT think about work during my lunch hour and escape a little bit. The OP seems like an extrovert, and I totally understand that she needs the camaraderie otherwise she feels lonely – and I’m really sorry that’s the case. I really do think that it has nothing to do with her, and it’s just that people want to be on their own and take a breather during lunch. Maybe, because she’s still relatively new, she’s not as bogged down with work as the rest of her colleagues? Or, at least, not yet…?

    Reply
    1. Jan Levinson

      I’m an extrovert, but I can so relate to your two points mentioned above! I too always bring my lunch to save money, and love to read over my lunch break. And, I enjoy that time very much! It’s nice to get really into a book and escape from any stresses of work.

      Reply
      1. Marillenbaum

        One thing I loved at my old job: I’m a knitter, and ended up getting a couple of other staffers into knitting as well. At lunch, we’d regularly take out our knitting together. Sometimes we’d talk, sometimes we wouldn’t (especially if someone was turning the heel of a sock), but it was a quiet presence sort of social time that was really nice.

        Reply
  53. Jan Levinson

    I’d bet money that #1 is the situation at hand, here. I really wouldn’t take it personally, OP!

    It would be very normal in my office for a few of us to eat lunch with the new person for a while, but go back to eating individually after the new person gets acclimated.

    As others have said, I too VERY much value spending my lunch hour flying solo. I’m outgoing, get along with my coworkers well, and casually chit chat during the day, but my lunch hour is “me” time. It’s my time to relax and recharge for the afternoon.

    Reply
  54. DCompliance

    I agree with Alison, that you have to look at how your co-workers treat you outside of lunch. Are they as warm to you as they are to each other?

    Reply
  55. Ours is the Fury

    I’d be so annoyed if my coworkers wanted to eat lunch at a restaurant every day. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and it’s my time. I usually go to the gym to grab a quick workout and eat at my desk when I get back. I like my coworkers, but I can’t afford to go out all the time. Nor do I want to make small talk with some of them over lunch.

    Reply
    1. Chocolate Teapot

      I get luncheon vouchers as part of my benefits, but even so, eating out every day soon gets expensive. It probably isn’t personal.

      Reply
  56. JuniorConsultant

    I wouldn’t like to eat with coworkers every day for many reasons. Because it’s boring, because it would cost me too much. Not to mention that I frequently have something to do during the time (even a quick job interview at times).

    The OP should be careful not to come across as needy. If someone proposed me going out for lunch too frequently, I would probably start avoiding that person.

    Reply
  57. Sue

    Our office has a break room where a few people eat every day but many go off on their own. I change into tennis shoes and go for a walk and call my Mom to check in. Exercise and daughter duty and a quick bite at my desk.

    Reply
  58. alter_ego

    My alone time at lunches is sacred to me. I haaaaaate when we have lunch and learns, since that means I don’t really get a break in the middle of the day. If a friend of mine got hired here, I might go to lunch with them for a while, but once I realized that they were expecting that to continue in perpetuity, I would back way way off.

    Reply
    1. Jan Levinson

      So, so agree about the lunch & learns! I always feel like I’m robbed of my lunch break. My boss gets really excited about having everyone together at the office for a meal, but I despise it!

      Reply
  59. The OG Anonsie

    I hate eating lunch with my coworkers. I just need like one part of the day where I’m not interacting with anyone, man.

    When you’re a solo lunch person it’s so hard to deal with the “I don’t want to eat lunch alone” coworkers sometimes because I can tell they feel really… I guess rejected and kind of insulted when you don’t want to eat with them even if you never eat with anyone. I’ve also worked in several places where people just assumed I would want to eat lunch with them and sat down with me and started talking, which is a real Scandinavian Nightmare for me.

    I think when you’re the type of person who settles naturally into wanting to socialize and not wanting to eat alone, it can be really hard to take people really really not wanting to eat with you a bit personally. I’m a really extroverted, talkative person, too, so a lot of people definitely seem to not believe me when I tell them it’s because I just always like to have lunch alone.

    Reply
  60. KDat

    This sounds more like a personal problem than a professional one. And its worth noting that many people prefer to keep work and friendships separate.

    The reason they gave seems reasonable and one that a lot of people can relate to. We’re all wired to different “needs” as far as socializing goes. You might just have to just take them at their word. Pushing further could come across a bit awkward/needy, especially if it really is just as they already said.

    But, if it really seems there is more to it than what they’ve already stated (and they’re not comfortable communicating that to you), some factors (in self awareness) to consider-
    Were the lunches dragging on too long and hampering productivity? Was it a situation of maybe talking too much or too loudly? Perhaps getting overly negative or venting about work in a way that might make people uncomfortable? Coming across at a different energy level (higher maintenance) than they were up to? Or are there other areas in your office performance that might be motivating them to distance a bit?

    If you can rule oit those alternate reasons, maybe they do just need the time to recharge. Lots of people go to lunch, solo, because they want to get in and get out and not be forced into something social during their midday brain break.

    Reply
  61. annuity

    I have the opposite experience! My team is really friendly and they all go out to get lunch together, coming back to eat in the break area. I do like my coworkers but prefer to have lunch by myself as I use the time to go for a walk after sitting down all day! (when I have time, that is) We have other activities where I get to hang out with my coworkers (a group of us go running every week, table tennis club, etc). So, I’ll echo the other commenters and say the reason here is most likely #1. However, I do sympathize with OP as isolation at work can be really demoralizing. How about getting to know your coworkers through other means, e.g. getting coffee, as others have said, or find out if anyone has a similar interest (book club / playing a sport).

    Reply
  62. Madame X

    I bring my lunch to work every day (except when I forget!), so daily lunch outings would not be ideal for me unless it was covered by my employer. Plus, it usually takes more time out of my day to go out and order lunch (even within walking distance) than to just heat up a meal I brought to work with me. I do enjoy eating my lunch with coworkers in our break area once in a while because I am a social/extroverted person and I am on a friendly basis with all my coworkers. However, most days I eat lunch alone because I have to catch up on work or handle some personal matters and the only time I might have to that is during my lunch break.
    Unless you have left out some key information about your relationships with your coworkers, it looks like option #1 is the most likely reason the daily group lunches have stopped.

    Reply
  63. Nervous Accountant

    Oooo, I went through a similar situation my first year. First few weeks were great but then slowly it felt like there was a sudden chilliness. In my case things were very different bc ppl were still going out with each other. Thankfully taht’s no longer the case and people are a lot nicer, but that doesnt’ sound like it’s the case for you. I understand that it can feel lonely or isolated but if it helps, know that it’s not personal!

    Reply
  64. Business Cat

    I’m about 3 months into my new job and I had a similar experience for the first month or so. There just happened to be several birthdays in my department at the time and a few celebratory events so there were a lot of group lunches and socializing that have tapered out a lot as we moved into our busy season (what a time to be new!). I started feeling very isolated because I’m not in the same part of the building as my team, and my coworkers on this side of the building either eat at their desks or run errands. We stopped having small-team meetings as well, and one of our contract workers resigned suddenly and was gone for two weeks before I even knew she had left!

    You just have to find other ways to get tapped into your work community. I’ve made an effort to take a few minutes to touch base with my boss when I’m feeling low or isolated and get a sense of perspective. I ask my teammates to lunch maybe once or twice a month and that seems to strike a good balance of socializing for me. If there’s an event that you could sign up for with your coworkers, get involved. Don’t be afraid to reach outside of your college circle and get friendly with your other coworkers, even if it feels awkward. I’m awful at small talk and usually feel like melting into the floor when I try to talk to a coworker about non-work things (I either can’t think of anything to say or overshare). BUT even the awkward conversations make you seem overall like an approachable kind of person and goes a long way towards making connections.

    All this to say I feel your pain, and hang in there!

    Reply
  65. BigSigh

    There was a split second where I though this was a coworker of mine. We DID all stop inviting him to lunches because we just don’t like him.

    Of course, a few of us feel bad so we mostly try to do our own thing because the idea of one big group not inviting specific people feels like a terrible thing to do. Also, the executives made a couple comments to middle mgmt (like me) that they didn’t like the whole office going out as a group because it didn’t allow for full coverage.

    So on one hand, there’s still a large group and if he speaks up and says “oh I love that place; can I come?” he is absolutely included. But at the same time, no one invites him. As bad as I feel, he is not someone I would ever voluntarily spend time with if I had a choice.

    Reply
    1. BigSigh

      Makes me wonder what the OP should/could do if it was something to take personally.

      For example, no one likes my coworker. What would be recommended for him? I’m sure it is horrible lonely and I hate that someone feels that way. No enough to suffer his presence though….

      Reply
      1. LQ

        I think that part of that is likely culture clash. If I knew it was directed at me personally?

        I’d try to spend some time and reflect, is everyone always an asshole (…then it might be me) or do I usually do ok but this group just seems to not like me (culture/interpersonal clash or heck they just already have someone who sort of fits the role that I usually fit in the group so it isn’t quite a great fit). Ideally I’d like to think that I (and everyone) takes time in their lives regularly to reevaluate and make sure they are coming across as the person they want to be. (You can be someone in your head but if no one knows that about you, doesn’t really matter. If I’m nice in my head but caustically sarcastic and people wince through their smiles and walk away? That’s not nice, that might be funny, but it’s not nice. If I think I’m hilarious and no one ever laughs then I need to work on my humor (that’s me!))

        But more honestly and more likely I’d say, maybe it’s just not a good culture (like work environment/work culture for that person). Sometimes that’s everyone else works silently and I like to chat. Sometimes it’s everyone goes out to eat and is really social and I want some peace. It can be a lot of things. But sometimes it really is just a cultural mismatch and that’s ok.

        Reply
  66. Noah

    It would be helpful to know how long these lunches went on before they shifted to solo lunches. The 4-month fast forward in the letter obfuscates this information. If it was only 1 or 2 weeks, the “culture” explanation, or perhaps a company policy of paying for lunches with new employees, is probably the right explanation.

    Reply
    1. OP

      Well, it was only in the beginning. We also had quite a few birthdays and celebrations at that time so there was that too.

      Reply
  67. OP

    Hello, OP here.
    Thank you all for your comments! I agree with you that the possibility #1 is the most likely.
    Sometimes I bump into these people I used to go to lunch with and they are nice but seem busy and they really do go alone on breaks. Most of them take their lunch from home and then during lunch hours go shopping or walking around the city (we work in the city center so there are plenty things to do).
    I mentioned that I’m left with one person still wanting to go to lunches/coffees… Well, I really took the hint from my classmates and don’t call them anymore because I don’t want to feel needy but she still does, even after they said no like a thousand times. So maybe it’s her.

    Also, I mentioned that one of my colleagues was my good friend. Yes, we were really good friends at one point but then kind of drifted apart even though we maintained contact. After I started working here, she seemed delighted that I’m here but now I don’t see her anymore. I didn’t mention that she told me she can’t go to activities that involve more than one person because she lost her hearing in one ear and she also has a tumor that nobody at work knows about. She was really high spirited and social butterfly when we first met but understandably, after everything that happened she became more reserved, quiet and even depressed. I guess in my mind I still saw her as she was when we first met. Also, she is really active on social networks and it seems strange that she is so reserved in daily life.

    Apart from that, this is not my first job and my other jobs had a different culture – people were more outgoing and extroverted (like me) so this was a big change. I admit I am really extroverted in an introverted field – I work in science institution where people are naturally more quiet.
    I guess my other jobs set my expectations about socializing too high! I have great friends from my previous jobs so I probably thought that would happen here also. I know that’s not what work is for and I do have many friends outside of work, I was just used to being in a group, I was never a loner. At my previous jobs nobody went to lunch alone and I think at those places people would consider something is wrong with him/her as nobody wants to spend their time with him. I guess I transferred that mentality here and don’t want to be that guy.
    I really don’t know why this is bothering me that much – probably because my own insecurities and anxiety.
    Last week I did an experiment and did things on my own – like went shopping, lunch and even a museum and it actually felt nice. I guess I’ll just have to find that introvert in me and stop worrying so much.

    Reply
    1. always in email jail

      I’m naturally an extrovert as well but, as many other people have stated, even with that in mind having solo lunch time is quite liberating. I put a cooler in my car and go grocery shopping on my lunch break, for example. or call an old friend to catch up if I feel like I need to chat. It’s really helped with my ability to turn off from work when I get home, too, because my personal life and work life can be separate. I highly encourage you to embrace it!!

      Reply
    2. LQ

      Looks like you are really taking the right approach with this. I think lunch meetups might be good for you too in addition to the rest, or happy hour things after work. Especially if you are still craving more social interaction.

      For your friend and that she’s really active on social networks but doesn’t like to go out because she lost her hearing? This is actually really simple, you don’t have to track multiple people and watch their lips and try to decipher things in online conversations, you can just read them. It’s SO much easier. The pacing, the not having to say (or not say) “Sorry, I missed that could you please repeat yourself.” for the bajillionth time. Engage online, or go out for coffee (at a quieter time) with her.

      Reply
    3. Kate

      I have minor hearing loss due to sinus/ear issues, not enough that I really need a hearing aid (which I probably couldn’t afford even with insurance, even if I had very bad hearing loss). I can tell people are speaking to me, but if they speak quickly or aren’t directly facing me, I often can’t understand what they are saying. It is incredibly depressing and embarrassing to ask people over and over again to slow down, face me when they are speaking to me, etc. I have gotten pretty good at guessing based on context, and luckily it doesn’t happen too often.

      I am not surprised your friend isn’t going out anymore. Besides the hearing loss, she may have low energy levels. She can post in her pajamas, in bed, and she can take as long as she wants to think up comments or type.

      Reply
      1. OP

        The same thing actually happened to my Mom also. She never liked the big crowds but after her hearing loss, she really goes out of her way to avoid it completely. And she is only comfortable with one on one talk in a quiet environment.

        Reply
    4. notquitebatman

      OP, I know the feeling. When I first started work it was strange not having friends about all the time. I would ring my parents or friends at lunch and had a quick chat. My manager suggested finding hobbies or interests that met at lunchtime, so look into that! Have you tried websites like MeetUp or young professional/work-related organisations or a hobby (gym, Toastmasters etc.) that meets at lunch? Even lunchtime talks or lectures. You’re in the city, so there must be some interesting things happening all the time! The other days you can get chores done, explore the new area or meet a friend (try finding a middle distance between both work places). It’s hard at first, but it gets better and you may even come to relish your free time!

      Reply
  68. Awkward Lunch

    Alison has made really good points here.

    I’ll add my experience too.

    We have some new coworkers in my office who I think also knew some people from school. And while my lunch group doesn’t go out of our way to avoid them, we don’t invite them out if we’re going out.

    The reason behind this is that these coworkers have a habit of making tone-deaf comments that are slipped into conversation in a way that’s hard to say anything about without seeming… rude. For example, a lot of racist stuff, but never something so blatant as just a standalone statement of not liking another race, so you’d have to wait for this person to finish their story about their plans from the past weekend or whatever otherwise innocuous thing – or interrupt them – and say, “Um, that’s kind of racist, I don’t really feel comfortable with that.” I would love to know a way to deal with this sort of thing. It’s tough. There have also been more blatant homophobic and transphobic comments, which I find easier to respond to because they’re just blurted out and I can address it right away because *that’s the thing this person is talking about*, but I still feel… not great about having lunch with them.

    I am fairly certain they think they are very forward thinking, too, because they are comparing themselves to the people they grew up with who, um, hold these views more strongly.

    But I doubt the OP is in this situation.

    Reply
    1. Elise

      Ugh, that’s awful. I’ve had to push back on a coworker that said to another coworker who is Chinese, “Well, I would think you would know all there is to know about fortune cookies.” It’s hard not to just stay silent, but I did feel that she needed to know that she was supported. I also stopped eating with the group not long after that. It was also just a bitching and moaning session.

      Bigoted comments aside, it can also be deadly boring to spend time with a group of people who went to college together. I have a friend who always wants all of her friends together when her college buds are in town and the “newer” friends end up spending the whole time listening to old college stories that are not interesting to anyone but the initial group. So for that reason, I usually decline more than just a quick meal with them.

      So it could also be that they’ve had enough reminiscing.

      Reply
  69. Elise

    I agree with the consensus that #1 is likely, but I’d also caution you not to push this or keep asking all the time. They may be worried that you are more concerned with the college gang being together again than work and want to separate themselves from that in the eyes of other colleagues.

    “I am left with one coworker who is still willing to go to lunch together. My coworkers from college don’t even contact us anymore. If we make a suggestion to go somewhere together, they make some excuse and go alone.”

    Also, in the part I quoted above, the use of the word “willing” sounds like you are the one always asking this person as well. I could be wrong there, but I’d be sure that they aren’t just being nice and wishing that they could be more open with you about not wanting to go out to lunch with you all the time. I’ve been in situations like this where I couldn’t figure out how to get out of something with a coworker or group of coworkers that I had intended to be an occasional thing. Don’t be the overly needy person at work.

    Reply
  70. Paula, with Two Kids

    I’ve been the lonely lunch girl at the last two jobs. It’s awful, I spent so many lunches eating fast food alone in my car crying. It just felt like Junior High all over again. Finally found a girl nearby who understood the need to socialize at lunch and it’s cheered me up so much. I hope OP finds someone similar!

    I try to tell myself it’s not personal, but it was hard walking by the lunchroom seeing so many coworkers eating together and enjoying each other’s company.

    OP, enjoy that one last coworker who wants to lunch with you. She is a true friend!

    Reply
    1. OP

      I’m glad I’m not the only one feeling this way! It really does feel like High School all over again lol
      It makes me feel better that my colleagues are not cliquey and that most of them are going alone but still – it would be nice to have someone I could talk to during the breaks!

      Reply
  71. Mallory

    Feeling “lonely” because you have some time alone to have lunch is kind of…a red flag, no? Maybe I just enjoy being alone, but if being alone even for short periods of time makes you feel lonely, I think you should possibly seek professional help.

    Reply
  72. CreationEdge

    Lunch at work can be a much needed break during the day. On top of that, when you need/want to get back to work may change day to day.

    When you have lunch together more often, I feel like people start talking about Work Stuff more and it feels like less of a break.

    So, I might be a person that’d decline lunch for those reasons.

    However, I know people have had success in offices I’ve worked by scheduling lunches in advance. Some relationships warrant just a monthly lunch, some are weekly. Currently, I know my team has a standing group lunch once a week and whomever is into that and available shows up. Sometimes it’s only 2-3 people, sometimes 6.

    The main thing is getting it on people’s calendars ahead of time, so they can plan for that day to be a different type of lunch.

    Reply
  73. TG

    I like my coworkers and like working with them, but I wouldn’t like having to eat lunch with them every day. I get peopled out very quickly and need that time to myself every day.

    Some of the people in my office travel together quite a bit and some of the travelers work closely together all day and then eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together every day. I tried but couldn’t handle that much togetherness Every. Single. Day. I actually told them that while I like them and enjoy working with them, I need my alone time and can’t meet them for breakfast and dinner. They’re fine with it.

    Reply

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