what’s up with people not eating lunch, asking about salary before agreeing to an interview, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. What’s up with people not eating lunch?

I’ve worked at my (tiny) company for over 10 years, and a pretty small company for a few years before that, so my sample size is small but it occurred to me that I’ve had a lot of coworkers who never eat lunch. They either don’t take lunch breaks, or subsist off of some kind of liquid diet. At my old job, the coworker I shared my space with almost made me believe she was a robot or alien pretending to be human, using how much she *talked* about food as a cover, but she spent her entire lunch going for a walk and never eating.

And then when I see people talk about using your lunch break to exercise or run errands, I always wonder … but when do they eat? I get hypoglycemic and don’t do well with skipping meals, but it doesn’t seem like you should need a medical condition to justify eating lunch. In fact, now that I think of it, is this something I should be asking about the company culture if go looking for a new job?

Well, first, are you sure people aren’t eating lunch? Some people prefer to eat at their desks while they work, and unless you’re observing them closely all the time, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that’s what they’re doing. And people who use their lunch breaks to run errands are often picking up a sandwich or something at the same time and eating it then, or eating it at their desk later in the day. Some people might go for a walk during lunch and eat an apple and a granola bar (or whatever) while they’re working. In other words, you’re probably seeing less of the picture than you realize. But it’s also true that some people just aren’t big lunch eaters.

I would not ask about how lunch works when you’re interviewing for a new job; it’s likely to come across as overly focused on lunch rather than work. In general, you can assume you’ll be allowed to eat.

2. Asking about salary in an email, before you agree to an interview

I’ve been looking for a new job for a while now. I’m not all that desperate, and I want to know the salary range of jobs as soon as I can — unless a real fun opportunity comes along. My job apparently pays better than most and I like my benefits a lot. I’ve rejected one offer, been passed on one job, came real close on a third, and passed on interviewing for a fourth job because they gave me a salary range in the phone screener that was WAY below what I could accept.

But I have a new interview. I’ve already done an assignment for this job (that took 2–3 hours to complete) and now they’d like to meet. But all my communication has been via email. In their initial email they said this was a multi-step process. If we were ever on the phone, I’d ask them to give me a range. But email seems so impersonal. I don’t want to give them the wrong impression. Is this something I can ask via email? How would you frame it? Or do I just suck it up and go to the interview?

You know, conventions are really changing on this. Ten years ago, it was much more frowned upon to ask about salary at early stages of a process (which is obviously ridiculous because people work for money but tons of interviewers would clutch their pearls if a candidate asked about salary early on). But it’s become much more common these days. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t old-school hiring managers out there who find it off-putting because there are — but it’s a lot less risky to do it than it used to be.

In your case, they’ve given you a good opening to do it because they mentioned they have a multi-step process. You can email something like, “I’d love to set up a time to talk! You mentioned this is a multi-step process, which I appreciate, but I wonder if I can ask before we get too far — can you give me a sense of the salary range for this job? I want to respect your time, so figured we should make sure we’re in the same general ballpark.”

That said, if you’e the one bringing up salary, you’ve got to be prepared for them to ask you what you’re looking for too, because some companies will respond to this with, “If you can give me a sense of what you’re looking for, I can tell you if we’re in the same ballpark.”

3. Laughing to yourself while listening to a podcast

I work in close quarters with two junior associates in their first office jobs who sometimes listen to podcasts while they work. I’m not opposed to them listening, and sometimes do myself when a task leans menial. But it strikes me as very odd and distracting when I hear them chuckling audibly or failing to stifle giggles! And maybe an indication that they’re not as focused as they should be? I’m not great at multitasking myself and couldn’t listen to a podcast and write an email at the same time, but others might be better than this. I’ll admit that it bothers me more on a personal level with the associate who I think is less strong overall.

I’m senior to them but not their supervisor, though if ever got too distracting to my work I’d be comfortable asking to them to try harder to stifle. Just curious for a second opinion to help me determine if I’m just being a grumpy goose.

If it’s just occasional, let it go; you do not want to be the person trying to stamp out sounds of joy in your office. But if it’s really frequent, that can be distracting and seems almost … performative? (Someone who’s frequently laughing to themselves in a quiet room can make you wonder if you’re supposed to respond in some way.)

About whether they can really multi-task — it depends on what work they’re doing. If they’re doing something like data entry or something else that doesn’t require a ton of thought, it’s not at all implausible that they’re able to do that extremely well while still listening to a podcast. Absent any information indicating they’re doing poor work, I’d assume the podcasts aren’t interfering.

4. Why do advice columnists suggest asking for feedback after job rejections?

I am currently hiring for a direct report. I interviewed a particular candidate and decided I didn’t want to move forward with her — I didn’t think we meshed well at all. I wrote the candidate a very gracious email saying that we would not be moving forward with her candidacy, and she wrote back to ask if there was something she could improve. This is very awkward, because saying “your personality annoyed me” isn’t really something she can fix.

I’ve noticed that advice columns suggest that candidates ask their interviewers for feedback if the candidate gets rejected for the job. My question is … why? It just creates a very awkward situation for the interviewer. If I had feedback for the candidate that was not overly personal, I probably would have communicated that in the rejection email (for example, “we thought you were very strong but are looking for someone with more experience in the field”). Thoughts?

Most employers don’t proactively offer feedback to candidates they’re rejecting and just send a rejection form letter. But some interviewers are willing to offer feedback if it’s requested, and so that’s why people like me suggest asking for it (if you got to at least the interview stage). It’s absolutely true that there are times when the feedback would be too awkward to give, or would take too long, and the idea isn’t that you’ll do it anyway in those cases. But there are lots of times when the answer isn’t awkward, is relatively easy to convey, and is quite helpful to the candidate. (There are of course some employers who will never give feedback as a matter of policy, and some interviewers who can’t be bothered — but there are plenty who do.)

5. How to put comedy on a resume

I’m a professional in a fairly traditional field (suits and heels on the regular) and I’m polishing up my resume for a job search. Since the last time I job hunted, I started taking improv comedy classes, got pretty good at it, have done some shows, been invited to a few prestigious local showcases, etc., but fundamentally it’s a fun hobby I do once or twice a week.

Apparently, everybody puts this on their resume! Half of my beginner class had been enrolled by their companies to help them improve their public speaking skills. But how do I put something like this on a resume? I do feel like it would enhance my resume, especially moving into more public-facing positions, but I’m not sure how to do it in a non-weird way.

Yep, this is a thing people put on their resumes. It can signal that you’re comfortable speaking off the cuff in front of a crowd, and that you probably have at least some skills at keeping a group of people engaged. (I mean, not always, of course; there are some really terrible comics. But it’s promising.)

Anyway, you can put it in a Community Involvement section if you have one. Some people have an Affiliations section and include it there. I don’t think “hobbies” sections generally add much value, but in your particular circumstances, it could and so that’s another possible place to put it.

{ 439 comments… read them below }

  1. WS*

    #1 I’ve never been a lunch person! That’s just how my body seemed to work from about the age of 12 or so. I’d take some lunch to school, but I generally wouldn’t eat it until about 4:30pm on the bus (my day started at 7:30am and I got home about 5pm due to a long rural bus trip), but since then I often just wait until dinner. Some people prefer not to have breakfast but I wouldn’t be able to cope with that!

    1. anon today and tomorrow*

      I’m one of those no breakfast people! So sometimes I’ll go until 1 without eating because I’m not hungry until then. The days I do eat breakfast, I tend not to eat lunch until very late in the day, sometimes skipping it in favor of an early dinner instead. That’s just how my body works!

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        Another no breakfast person here! Also, in my case, if I do have it and it is a large one, it tends to make my stomach feel upset — I don’t know why — so I usually only have some yoghurt or something along those lines.

        1. CastIrony*

          Another circumstantial breakfast eater here! I learned that if I don’t have plenty of time to use the restroom before I have to leave for work in the morning, my… digestive system protests if I eat anything bigger than a packet of fruit snacks, and my new job says that nerves don’t help when I work a morning shift, either.

      2. Antilles*

        I’m exactly the same – I’ve never really been big on eating breakfast and if I do, I’ll usually skip lunch. I just don’t really eat that much food, I guess.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          That’s how I am! I have either breakfast or lunch but I don’t need both in the same day. Since I have a very short lunch break and minimal kitchen facilities I’d rather spend it going for a walk, getting coffee, or something else more enjoyable than eating a cold soggy sandwich.

        2. AnnaBananna*

          Yep. I’m a little bird eater too. I usually don’t eat until 2 and then it’s a peice a fruit, maaaaybe some yogurt. I mostly eat at night.

          About the hypoglycemia, I used to be hypoglycemic since childhood and can still get that way if I’m eating regularly (even with super healthy food). I don’t understand it myself. But my body doesn’t react like that if I only eat within the hours of 2-6pm. I really don’t get it, but it works for my body now. I stumbled upon it by accident when I did a weekend cleanse and realized how little my body reacted to the quasi starvation. Tweaked things around and voila! No more hypo symptoms. Obvi, ymmv…

      3. PizzaDog*

        I’m the same way. And then when I get a headache around 1:30-2 I realise that ‘oh right, all I’ve had today is a cup of coffee.’

      4. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        No breakfast person here. I have a travel mug of coffee with me when I leave the house, and that’s usually the only thing I eat until around 1pm. I have to be up for several hours before I’m hungry enough to eat.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#1, my prefer approach is to graze. I would rather snack all day on small meals than to portion out lunch, breakfast, etc. If I do eat a traditional lunch, I like to go on a walk and eat outside. I suspect there’s more food consumption than it seems.

      1. Introvert girl*

        I eat my sandwiches behind the computer and use my lunchbreak to walk my dog (I live close to my office). This works for me. Everyone is different. Just do what works for you and don’t mind others so much. Sometimes coworkers join me on my walk. They call it a mental break from work :)

      2. Amber Rose*

        I’m allowed to eat a single apple per day. I find it very hard to eat tart/acidic foods, so I will chew slowly on that single apple from morning until lunch, at which point I don’t eat lunch because I’ve been eating an apple.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          This gets my food-issue senses up. Do you find it hard to eat acidic foods because they give you heartburn or other bothersome symptoms? Do they burn your tongue and mouth? That’s an indication you’ve had too much acid already (based on my experience with this).
          If so, you could just stop. There’s no law you have to eat acidic foods. I can’t tolerate acidic foods at all, and I get along all right.
          Why are you allowed to eat an apple per day? Again, there’s no law you have to eat apples. You could eat something less acidic like pears or sweet potatoes or carrots…

        2. Not feeling it today*

          Yuk, that apple has to be brown and nasty by time you are done with it, apples turn fast. I find your use of the term “allowed” interesting.

          1. CMart*

            Ha, same thoughts. Amber Rose can eat what/when/why they want, but my thought was “I’m allowed to eat as many apples a day as I guess I can afford, which theoretically is a lot of apples, and I eat none because I hate them. Why suffer through an apple?”

    3. MK*

      Also, it varies with people’s schedules and eating habits. My regular hours are 7-3 and in my culture lunch happens after 2p.m.. Eating anything other than a snack at work wouldn’t make sense.

      1. Best cat in the world*

        I work 12 hour shifts with 2 mandatory breaks, which are supposed to be within a certain period of the shift (doesn’t always work like but most of the time it’s ok). I got really confused the other day when I was on a shift where they don’t get lunch breaks, just enough downtime usually to fit it in around calls, I couldn’t work out why I was hungry at half 10 in the morning. Until I realised that I’d had breakfast at 5 and I was actually in my usual ‘lunch time and then it made perfect sense. People’s schedules definitely have an effect on when they eat.

      2. Christine Dutton*

        Regarding Question #2: It is illegal to ask about salary history in Massachusetts.

        1. Clisby*

          #2 doesn’t say anything about asking for salary history. Asking a candidate the salary range she’s looking for isn’t the same thing.

    4. Jen S. 2.0*

      I suspect the lunch habits are individual, not office-culture dependent.

      A LOT of people skip meals to save calories.

      Others eat a huge breakfast and then are fine until evening on just water or coffee or whatever. Others snack here and there and seldom eat a full meal, and/ or seldom eat a full meal at work. Others are on meds or similar that suppress their appetite. Others eat something, but way earlier or later than you think. Others just aren’t hungry midday. Others eat one meal a day and it’s not lunch.

      This goes the other way, too — a lot of people don’t eat breakfast and lunch is their first meal. Others are ravenous at 1245 and can’t go without a good meal then. Others’ only meal of the day is lunch. Others eat a huge lunch and just grab an apple or bowl of cereal for dinner.

      However it happens, others’ eating habits don’t need to dictate yours. If you’re ready for lunch at 1230, eat!

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        This. It’s very individual.

        I’m very rarely actually hungry. I eat to stay alive. I tend to only have coffee and water in the mornings…sometimes a cheese snack…rather like half of one (like string cheese) or a handfull of nuts if I’m feeling a little peckish. More than that in the morning though wont work. I cant even make myself swallow it. Rarely, very rarely I’m actually hungry and I can choke down like half a bagel or a slice of toast.

        I don’t “do” lunch particularly but if I’m hungry, or because I know I need to/should eat something I might grab a salad or a wrap or something from the deli. I also tend to do errands, catch up on personal stuff during the lunch period.

        1. Blue*

          I definitely get hungry (I even get headaches if I don’t eat), but I get full quickly so I don’t consume very much at a time. I could easily live off two meals a day if they were timed correctly, so I don’t think what the OP describing is all that weird. I’ve spent many a lunch hour eating a light lunch in 10-15 minutes and then taking a walk.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I suspect the lunch habits are individual, not office-culture dependent.

        This. And since the office must legally give you a mid-shift break–during which you can eat, take a walk, cruise Facebook, etc–it would be weird to ask in the interview about what people do on their lunch breaks. Like you’re already planning your meals.

        1. aja*

          Legal requirements for breaks varies widely from state to state in the US. Mine doesn’t require paid or unpaid breaks of any type for people over the age of 16. Most employers do give them, but not because of legal requirements.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        And intermittent fasting is growing in popularity. I don’t eat breakfast or lunch – I get all of my calories in a 4-hour eating window in the evening. My coworkers make comments about it being weird, but I don’t care at all. I have never felt better and have not gotten even a cold in the two years I’ve been eating this way (I used to get sick all of the time). They like to eat lunch at 11:00 am, which I think is early, so we tease each other about our eating habits and it all works out (we all get along – the teasing is just silly banter).

      4. catwoman2965*

        Agreed. I personally NEVER miss lunch or any meal, but I also know people who don’t eat lunch at all, or have something small, that would never fill ME up. I used to work with someone who ate an apple and yogurt for lunch.

        My boss too; you can set your clock by him, its actually kind of funny. He brings the same thing every day, eats at the same time every day, brings the same snacks, every day, and eats those at the same time as well.

    5. Zip Silver*

      I’m a lunch and breakfast skipper. I use intermittent fasting to manage my weight, and my first meal of the day is after I get home from work (excluding my morning coffee)

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Ugh, sorry zip, I wrote basically the same thing before seeing your comment. Sounds like we eat very similarly.

    6. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      I’ve found that if I eat too much at work it upsets my stomach and makes it difficult to work (physical labour is hard when you feel ill!). I started eating very light during the day and it helps a lot. I’m also attempting to do the intermittent fasting thing so I try to avoid eating as much as possible.

      1. Psyche*

        I’m the opposite. If I don’t eat every two hours I start to shake. Since my job requires fine motor skills, I eat a lot of snacks.

        1. Solana*

          Same here. I always eat two rice cakes with peanut butter for breakfast. (Crunchy or creamy, and different flavors of rice cakes. Don’t recommend cheddar cakes with peanut butter, though- nasty.) I get to work really early and have a piece of cheese and water, get changed into my scrubs, then have a meat stick and cup of tea. At my first break, another meat stick and piece of fruit. Then lunch. I also keep a bag of almonds in my locker if I start getting shaky. (Lots of medical issues, and my heart rate goes up and blood sugar goes down if it’s a stressful day.)

      2. Emily S*

        Yesterday I went to lunch with a friend to celebrate my birthday, so I splurged and got sweet potato fries and a milkshake with my lunch.

        Normally I don’t eat breakfast at all and have a Greek yogurt with fruit for lunch and then don’t eat again til I’m home from work.

        After the fiesta of carbs I ate yesterday I was practically falling asleep sitting up at my desk!

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We’re all different. I’m up a creek in modern American meal schedules because I can’t eat much first thing in the morning but need something in a few hours. And I like to eat an early dinner so I don’t go to bed right after a big meal.
      I figure my body was designed for my ancestors’ world: wake up, eat a crust left from yesterday, then start hunting & gathering & cooking so there’s something to eat by midmorning. Repeat for midafternoon meal and then it’s time to make & repair tools in front of the fire before sleep. (I’d also have been getting up to put more wood on the fire in the middle of the night. Today we call that insomnia.)

      1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

        Re:your last bit — historically people slept in two chunks with an hour-ish of wakefulness in between. Sounds like further confirmation for ya!

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Second sleep! I think I was meant to live before artificial lighting, because I sleep in two chunks every night. Not on purpose. I hate it.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            When I was young if I wanted to sleep I just laid down regardless of what time it was, what needed to be done, etc.
            Doing this taught me if I sleep in the evening, then get up and do things like washing dishes, then go to bed and sleep ~5 hours, I feel like crap the next day.
            Sounds like the opposite of you.
            Now I have to use discipline to get all my before-bed stuff done and go to bed properly. I miss the old days when I didn’t think about such things. :)

      2. CMart*

        I’ve found if I eat first thing in the morning (5:30am for me) than I’m STARVING by 9am, which then only tides me over until a later lunch etc… If I don’t eat then I’m often actually good until lunch.

        So now I just pack a breakfast to eat at the office whenever I might get hungry. So I’ll have breakfast/snack around 10 or 11 at my desk and then eat the lunch I packed around 3ish.

    8. Bagpuss*

      I’m another who struggles with breakfast. I can’t eat anything, without feeling nauseous, until I have been awake and moving for at least an hour, preferably and hour and a half.
      Unfortunately I am also prone to fainting if I skip breakfast altogether…

      I find that although I eat pretty much exactly the same things for breakfast evey day, and tend to have very consistent levels of activity through the morning, there are huge variations in when I get hungry and how hungry I get, later in the day.
      Sometimes I end up eating lunch at 11 because that’s whn I’m hungry, and other days I’ll suddenly notice it’s 22 and I haven’t taken my lunch break!

      1. catwoman2965*

        This is me as well. While i NEED my coffee ASAP, breakfast waits utnil I’m at work. i just can’t eat first thing. My mom, however, can. she gets up, comes out into the kitchen, and immediately has her breakfast. i need to wait a bit though.

      2. AKchic*

        I feel this.
        My grandma must eat the moment her eyes open. My goodness, don’t you dare try to delay that breakfast. You are *starving* her by making her wait! She is a very routine woman. Eyes open, bathroom, food. No deviations unless you want a guilt trip to outdo all guilt trips.

        My mother used to be the same way, until she hit a certain age, and then she waited until she got to work and then would eat (or would make a “big breakfast” for her husband on the weekends).

        My grandpa didn’t eat until lunch time. We used to joke that it was because he was usually hung-over (the man was an alcoholic), but that was only part of the problem. He never did like eating breakfast.

        My kids were “food as soon as their feet hit the floor” only if the cereal was amazing. Otherwise, they could wait. One kid can’t eat in the morning due to hormonal imbalances, so he has to take a bunch of medication and wait until it kicks in, try some crackers or toast, maybe some more medicine, then he can eat. Me, there are days I don’t eat until dinner. Some days I binge-eat (depending on my medication interactions). Once in a while, I don’t eat until 10pm (again, medications or sometimes depression). I try to make sure I eat by noon though.

    9. Daisy the Doodle*

      I work at sit down job and my lunch breaks are my only time in what usually ends up being a 10 hour day that I can get up. So I like to go for a quick run or walk to move my body. I also am a recovering from Obesity and it took me so long to find out what that my body is better suited for small snacks while I’m sitting for so long. Co-workers often ask if I ever eat because they don’t notice the black and white lunch bag on my desk all day every day in the office. In a typical day I pack a small bag of nuts, a bag of berries, cucumbers and tuna salad, turkey ham and cheese rollup, and peanut butter and apple slices. So throughout the day I eat all of this just not in one setting and never during my lunch break. My cube mate drinks shakeology for lunch every day because its easier than fighting the small office kitchen hoarders that take the 30 minutes to heat all of their lunch and leave a trail of mess behind them.

    10. wittyrepartee*

      I like to eat really late lunches. Like, 2-3 PM. Eating around noon means breaking up my best productivity time.

    11. pleaset*

      To OP1 -I skip lunch about once every two weeks just due to being busy and preferring to be able to leave 15 or 20 minutes earlier. And then I usually have dinner right when I get home. So it’s only about 10 hours without food.

      That’s not a big deal for me. And there are lots of people who go far longer each day without eating intentionally (such as in intermittent fasting where people only eat during a six- or eight-hour window each day).

      And at the same time, many people at my job think I skip lunch completely since I eat quickly when I do. For example, sometimes I’ll just have a pastry I buy outside for lunch and eat it while walking back to the office.

    12. Kathleen_A*

      I can understand why the OP is concerned, though. I am not hypoglycemic or anything like that, but if I skip lunch, I am not a happy person. For that matter, always having to eat at my desk would also ensure that I was not a happy person. I don’t mind it now and then, of course, but I would not want to work somewhere where always skipping lunch or always trying to eat a sandwich with one hand and checking email with another is the Done Thing. And there truly are places where that is the Done Thing.

      And I’d *hate* that. I think Alison might be underestimating how much of a problem this might be at some workplaces. Being able to take a real break, either to eat or to just get away from your desk, can be just as much of a quality of life thing as the ability most days to go home at a set time.

      So while I agree it’s not something you can really ask about, it’s something I would definitely want to know about. I’m not sure how you’d even check it, unless your interview happened to be right around lunch time or you knew someone who worked there. Tricky!

      1. Emily S*

        I usually eat at my desk, but 90% of the time I’m shopping on Amazon or checking my bank account or reading AAM. If you weren’t looking at my monitor to see what I was doing, you might get the impression that I’m working through lunch if you saw me eating at my desk every day. It’s very rare that I’m actually working on work stuff the whole day without stopping for a good length break, but it’s equally rare for me to want to take my breaks away from the computer because I use it for so much more than just work stuff.

      2. Powercycle*

        Some workplaces do have an unspoken work-through-lunch culture. (Or at least appear to be working.) That isn’t necessarily a good thing IMO.

    13. Rebecca in Dallas*

      That’s how my husband is, he eats breakfast (nothing big, usually toast or a bagel) and then usually not again until dinner. He always says that if he could get all of his nutrients and calories from a pill, he would. I’m totally the opposite, I like three square meals a day.

    14. Dwight*

      I work out at lunch, and have a protein shake immediately after. I’ll usually get hungry for actual food an hour or two after, and I’ll just eat at my desk while working then.
      If I don’t work out, I’ll be hungry like normal at lunch, and still just eat at my desk, but I relax and don’t work.

    15. peachie*

      I’m glad it’s not just me! I often just don’t feel like having lunch at work. I’m also not great at taking breaks — I feel like I lose so much productivity/time transitioning to and from them — but I’ve tried to make it really clear to my new office-mate that I’m not the norm and it’s definitely not expected.

    16. Another worker bee*

      What is everyone’s secret? I am the exact opposite of everyone on this thread – need to eat breakfast, lunch, and a substantial afternoon snack or else I am losing my mind. There are a few exceptions (sick, taking painkillers, eat a huge meal prior for whatever reason) but man, weight management would be so much easier if hunger/low blood sugar wasn’t an issue!

    17. Not-So-Mean-Girl*

      #1 – I usually eat a large meal before going to work and after, although I work short part-time shifts so I’m not going more than 6 hours or so between meals. I’ve had coworkers in the past who thought I had an eating disorder because of this – even though I am no where near skinny.

    18. Anoncorporate*

      I skip breakfast and am starving by lunch, so I always eat lunch or a breakfast/lunch.

  2. anon today and tomorrow*

    #1: I eat my lunch really quickly, almost always at my desk but sometimes in the kitchen. Usually I’m done in 5 to 10 minutes. Unless you were paying attention to me for the entire day, it’s likely you’d miss when I’m eating. If I stay at my desk, I use that time to just mentally relax by reading on my computer or browsing social media, so I’m taking my lunch break despite the fact that it doesn’t look like I am.

    When I used to run during my lunch break, I’d usually pack something I could eat after my workout that didn’t need to be warmed up. So I would finish eating by the time I got back to the office.

    This could be the case with your coworkers. They’re probably eating. You’re just most likely not aware of when they are. I don’t think it’s anything you need to focus on, and it’d be a little weird if you did bring it up in an interview.

    1. T3k*

      Same, I wolf down my lunch in 15 mins if it’s leftovers (10 if it’s something like cheese, meat, and crackers) and usually eat at my desk if it’s allowed. To top it off, I’ve made arrangements with previous jobs that allowed flexible schedules to let me work through lunch so I’ll snack at my desk during the day. I just don’t like having long lunches.
      It’s also why I keep trying to get my current job to give me 30 min. lunches instead of an hour (they fix it then 3 weeks later schedules me back to an hour, grrrr)

    2. Alton*

      Same here. I’m non-exempt and have an hour lunch break, but I bring pretty simple lunches like light sandwiches that I can eat in 5-10 minutes. I use the rest of the time to run errands or go off and read somewhere.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I normally bring lunch from home, but it is fairly light, usually a sandwich and fruit, and only takes me 10 munutes max. to eat.
      I often then go out for a short walk or to run errands, so it would be eay to miss the fact that I’ve eaten.

      I’ve only ever worked in one office where it was the norm for eveyone to sit in the break room at the same time and eat lunch, and there were only4 of us!

    4. Rintintin*

      People always miss when I’m eating, too! I have a chronic illness and I’ve been on a liquid/soft food diet for over a year now. My desire to avoid questions about my meals, combined with an inherent dislike of people watching me eat, means I usually go out of my way to eat when I’m alone.

      Often that means I drive to the plaza or mall near my work and walk while I drink my smoothie/protein shake/liquid of the day, so I get to feel “unobserved” as I eat and also get to stretch after sitting all morning. In general, I only need about ten minutes to eat.

      Great points!

  3. Bryeny*

    #1: You can probably get away a question or two about the social and logistical aspects of lunch:
    “Do people go out for lunch much, or do they mostly eat at their desks?”
    “Are there good lunch places around here, or should I plan to bring my lunch?”
    “How’s the cafeteria? What are its hours?”
    The answers might tell you something — but I guess it’s not too likely they’ll admit to spending every lunch hour photosynthesizing in the parking lot, even if they do.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would not ask those in an interview. Questions in an interview are supposed to help you decide whether you want to take the job. These will sound like you’re prioritizing the wrong things, or you’re not clear on what the time is for.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—all of those questions would frighten me during an interview. Those are things I’d expect someone to ask on their first day at work, not during a job interview.

        It would be like spending an inordinate amount of time asking about holidays during an interview. It makes it sound like you care more about holidays (or in this case, lunch) than about the core responsibilities and functions of the job.

        1. Proxima Centauri*

          These feel like conversations if someone is walking you from one interview to the next. I’d probably stick with the cafeteria or restaurant one. To me, I wouldn’t read it as more than hallway small talk.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          Because of my food issues, I would need an answer to this question before my first day:
          Is there a microwave where I can heat up my lunch?

          I have to bring my lunch because my combination of allergies and sensitive stomach make it difficult to eat in restaurants. A culture where everyone is expected to eat the cafeteria food or go out to restaurants wouldn’t work for me.

        3. Dah Dah*

          Could I maybe challenge your thinking on this? It’s not an either-or situation. People can be concerned both about lunch culture (or how PTO works or any other seemingly small work related issues) and the core responsibilities/function of a job. Just because a small quality of life issue (like cafeteria hours) would be a deal breaker does not automatically mean that the person doesn’t care about anything else.

          For me – I can have the ideal set of day-to-day responsibilities and love the actual work that I do, but if I feel like I’m chained to my desk because taking a lunch break is so heavily frowned upon I am going to be miserable and that job would be a poor fit for me overall.

          I get that how and when these things are brought up in relation to one another could be indicative of priority level – eg: it would be concerning if a candidate asked 5 or 6 detailed questions right off the bat about lunch culture and then asked one or two generic questions about the actual role. Overall though, I think we’d all be better off (candidates can make better decisions and hiring managers will have better success in procuring a good fit) if we generally encouraged candidates to be open and honest about their concerns or deal breakers, whatever they may be, and not assume that just because a candidate cares about A, they don’t care about B. Maybe they care about both!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The issue is that in a typical interview, you’ll have time to ask maybe 5-7 questions (could be more in a later stage interview). Spending one of those asking about lunch is going to look really off in terms of prioritization.

            1. Dah Dah*

              Sure, in each round, but if you do 2-3 rounds, wouldn’t it be acceptable to devote a question or two questions to something that would be a deal breaker? How else would you suggest a candidate find out about something like this? Speaking to someone at the company outside of the interview process would be ideal, but that’s just not feasible sometimes.

              I do get this in terms of prioritization. Candidates need to be careful not to appear to care more about lunch than responsibilities. I mostly take issue with the line of thinking that if a candidate asks about lunch then they do not care about responsibilities. I also think it’s a very bad idea to encourage job seekers to wait until their first day to address something that would be a serious concern for them – that’s setting everyone up for frustration.

            2. Karak*

              I like to ask “what will a typical workday schedule look like” and that gets my lunch/breaks covered. Same as “what kind of benefits do you offer?” covers insurance and PTO and if they offer flextime.

              And I know you work at higher levels than I do. But I have had jobs where I was not given lunches or breaks for my shifts. I genuinely care about whether I will be permitted to eat. It’s legal in several states and professions to discourage or prohibit eating.

              Same with PTO. If you haven’t been on vacation for years, or you’ve been fired for being sick two days in a row, PTO matters a lot.

      2. Jennifer Juniper*

        OP1, please stop snooping into your coworkers’ dietary habits. That is weird and inappropriate.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            OP, I apologize for misreading your letter. Alison, I apologize for violating your rules. Thank you for your kindness in calling me out. I regret my behavior.

          2. pleaset*

            Noting this without comment:
            “the coworker I shared my space with almost made me believe she was a robot or alien pretending to be human, using how much she *talked* about food as a cover, but she spent her entire lunch going for a walk and never eating”

            1. Michaela Westen*

              It sounds like someone who was maybe trying to diet or lose weight and self-conscious about eating, or eating where others could see her. I hope she’ll be okay!

            2. Not feeling it today*

              Yeah, this is a little bit too much attention to what coworker is doing. Not quite snooping, but over-observing?

        1. CastIrony*

          Actually, I’d appreciate it if I knew how people ate at a new job. Because I didn’t see the person I was helping eat when I worked at my current place when I started, I got the idea that I wasn’t supposed to eat at all, even though most did, but they were doing something else. At least it was a three-hour shift, and because my food situation is good at home, I just ate there.

          For me, I want to know because I don’t want to seem weak or eat while everyone is busy or something like that and be out of step with my culture. Besides, OP has a good reason to worry- they have to deal with hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can turn horrible if they don’t eat!

          Does asking about lunch because of a medical condition make it okay to ask about in an interview? Perhaps when they get an offer?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Definitely not during an interview. During an offer if you need an accommodation — but it’s really unlikely that you’ll need a special accommodation in order to be able to eat lunch, so generally you’d just raise it once you’d started the job if it turned out you needed to.

        2. caryatis*

          I don’t think OP meant it badly. They seem to be laboring under the misconception that people need to eat three meals a day, and if they don’t eat three meals, they’re somehow suffering. So yeah, the ultimate answer is to butt out. Some people eat 10 times a day and some people eat once. As long as you’re getting enough calories to stay healthy, and not enough to become overweight, you’re doing food right.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            And avoid blood sugar ups and downs – they can be a problem for non-hypoglycemics too.

      3. TechWorker*

        I get this but there is a big culture difference between say, my office, where people regularly go to the gym or go out to restaurants at lunch, and places my friend works where anything other than a quick sandwich at your desk is frowned upon because you’re expected to be super busy all day every day.

        That might really be more of a ‘how flexible are they on hours’ question but that’s really hard to tell from the outside. I also cant think of an appropriate way to ask in an interview but would not want to start a job with a company of the latter type if I could avoid it! That does make a big difference to your daily routine.

        (I once turned down a job offer partly cos they gave me 20minutes for lunch on the interview day and I spent 15 of that finding and queuing at their canteen. Not the best impression.)

        1. Kathleen_A*

          That would be my concern as well. I don’t like skipping lunch – but what I dislike even more is the idea that I might be expected to work without a real break (to eat, walk, run errands, whatever) in the middle of the day. I would *hate* that, and I don’t want to work anywhere where that’s expected. I agree that you can’t really ask about it in an interview, but I think it’s just as important of a work-life balance thing as, for example, how late a person is expected to work in the evening.

          So if you can’t ask about it in an interview, when/how can you ask it?

          1. Someone Else*

            It’s tricky because with reasonable people, they’re going to think “of course there’s a lunch break” and wonder why you’d be so focused on that and maybe think your priorities are out of whack, but with unreasonable people who might actual prevent you from taking a normal lunch would react unreasonably. So in the latter it’s a bullet dodged but in the former it might be talking yourself out of the job. If you’re coming from a place where you’d had to be glued to the desk you could potentially bring it up in some sort of work-life balance discussion, or even just bring up what kind of work-life balance you’re going for and hopefully the opening gets you the info you need. But it seems like in this particular situation being direction is probably a lose-lose.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              Ah, I think you’re on to something. Most of the people replying to this post are reasonable people, and most have apparently worked primarily with people who were reasonable – or at least reasonable enough that they didn’t expect everyone to work through their lunchtime nearly every day.

              And of course for reasonable people, the answer to a question such as, “Will I be able to take a lunch break?” would be “Um, yeah. Of course. Why would you think that even needed to be asked? What an odd person.”

              Meanwhile, there are those of us who have worked for people who were *wildly* unreasonable about lunch breaks. Here’s an actual quote from one of my actual supervisors, talking to a coworker who was, through no fault of her own, extremely overworked: “If you didn’t take lunch breaks, you would have no problem keeping up.” Apparently the answer to being overworked was to, you know, routinely work more.

              Anyway, those of us who have had wildly unreasonable supervisors are thinking, “Having a break in the middle of the day most days – for eating or working out or knitting or whatEVER – is important, dang it. It’s not just a frivolous question about whether I’ll be able to have a leisurely 3-martini lunch every day. It’s not about that at alllll.” Because having the freedom to take a break in the middle of the day is important for many people, even if your idea of lunch is a packet of almonds and a handful of dried cranberries.

              1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

                I’ve worked places where bathroom access isn’t a given, and for my future jobs, having the ability to go roughly when I need to is really important to me. I get that sometimes you do have to wait because that’s life, but I’d rather not sit three hours crossing my legs hoping the place clears out so I can lock up and run to the bathroom.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        What I’d be interested in knowing is whether the existence of lunch break is respected. How would you get at that? I’ve worked at a place where I couldn’t get away from work-related questions & discussions unless I went off-site. There was no downtime from the moment I stepped foot in the door — So help me I bet if I was eating spaghetti & meatballs while juggling flaming torches, someone would have asked me to review & sign paperwork.

        1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

          My spouse had that at her last job and I have had it too. Unless major emergency, don’t bug people on their unpaid breaks about work.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Off topic, but: Love your user name! Love Night Vale! I just discovered it a month or so ago, and I’ve now listed to all 140-some episodes.

        2. Kathleen_A*

          Exactly. If you can’t ask about the office’s culture re. lunchtime during the interview – and I agree that it would be odd – when and how can you ask? Some people are acting like it’s not a big thing – like it’s just about “When can I consume some calories?” – but it’s about a lot more than that. And anyone who’s ever worked someplace where the expectation was that you’d just work, work, work with the minimum of interruptions knows that it’s not really about lunch. It’s about having the freedom to take a break in the middle of the day.

        3. TiffanyAching*

          This is something I deal with at my current job. I typically bring my lunch and prefer to eat at my desk rather than the freezing-cold break room, while most of my coworkers either don’t take a lunch break or leave the office to do so. Even if I have my door closed, food and book out, and am clearly not working, I’ll get taps on the door from coworkers. It’s usually nothing urgent, but happens nearly every day, sometimes multiple times in one lunch period.

          It’s even become a bit of a joke with one coworker, who has impeccable timing and always seems to need something right as I’ve taken a bite. Luckily, we otherwise have a good working relationship and that’s just the culture in this office, that unless you’re working on a pressing deadline, it’s generally ok to poke your head in for a question.

          1. Mellow*

            >Even if I have my door closed, food and book out, and am clearly not working, I’ll get taps on the door from coworkers.


            Same here, and I have never understood that behavior from my coworkers, especially since I put a gigantic – and I mean huge and on fuscia-colored paper “Lunch break – back at [1:00, 2:00, etc.]” – sign prominently on my office door when I decide to eat my lunch there. (An exception I make is my boss and upper leadership, given the elevated nature of their responsibilities; or desperate students in need of last-minute help [I am a universty librarian]).

            Meanwhile, when I see my coworkers or my bosses in their offices with their doors shut, whether food is involved or not, if it can wait – and it always can – I make a note, mentally or literally, to return later, or I’ll send an email.

            As such, I wonder about people who can’t respect a closed door, especially on things that by anyone’s standard can wait (tap tap tap – *puts down sandwich, takes off headphones, slips on shoes, hurriedly chews, opens door*: “Do you know if so-and-so is going on vacation at the end of the month?” *sigh – Seriosuly?*). It’s a little too cozy for me, like when a coworker or two refers to our department as “family.” Erm – I like you well enough and all, but – family? Nope.

            Boundaries, people.

      5. RandomU...*

        So I wouldn’t do this, mostly because it’s not a big deal either way. But it seems to me that if someone finds lunch a deal breaker for a job, they could slip the question into a broader ‘culture’ question in an interview. It doesn’t guarantee an answer, but it might lead to some insight.

        “Can you give some examples or descriptions of the culture or employee interactions here at Acme Co? Are employees generally social inside or outside of working hours, have lunch together or after work happy hours or does everyone generally do their own thing.”

        I would find this question pretty standard and it wouldn’t seem totally out of place in the latter stages of an interview process.

      6. CanCan*

        Maybe these can be asked if there are any post/pre-interview conversations, – e.g. if one of the interviewers is taking you down a long corridor to/from the interview room, or if you and one of the interviewers are waiting for someone else to join you. The sort of places you’d chat about weather/sports/etc.

    2. Purple Teacher*

      I read OPs inquiry as more to the culture then a lunch question. I read it as “is the culture in this workplace where people work through lunches or do people gather together and socialize.” That would be a question that could be asked during an interview I think to gain insight into culture.

      1. Same.*

        I can see both sides here with question #1, it really speaks to the work culture. But asking about the cafeteria or restaurants feels really inappropriate for an interview.

      2. Mookie*

        I would and I have asked similar work culture questions in latter stages of the hiring process, when I’m interviewing/being interviewed by peers. But only when the context is appropriate and there’s an obvious opening to ask. This is probably field-specific, though (my role and related ones involves physical labor, on-site work, a penchant for highly social breaks and extended tailgate meetings, etc).

    3. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

      This sounds like the bullies in the Simpsons asking Ned Flanders what his, errrr. policy on….. errrrr…. lunch is when he becomes Principal of Springfield Elementary.

    4. Yorick*

      Those are definitely questions you can ask on your first day (or in the conversation about the logistics of your first day, like what time to arrive).

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Yes, but…it’s a little late then to find out that you’ve landed in a place where people are expected to work straight through the day, taking only 5 minutes at noon to gobble a granola bar or to eat a sandwich while answering emails or looking over a spreadsheet. The OP is specifically asking about lunch, the meal. But I think this is really a bigger question about lunch, a.k.a. that break in the middle of the day that people can use to eat or walk or read or whatever.

        As I’ve mentioned above, I agree that you can’t really ask about this in the interview because it sounds frivolous and silly. But it’s actually not frivolous to want to work somewhere that routinely gives employees a break in the middle of the day. So if you can’t ask about it in the interview, how can you find out about this particular aspect of office culture?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          There are a ton of things you’d want to know about before starting a job, like if the manager tracks bathroom breaks, or the boss will ask you to donate your liver, or that they handle extreme bird phobias badly. But it’s very unlikely that any of these should be in the top, say, 20 questions you ask about (and for the jobs you want, the reasonable ones, it’s going to come across very weirdly to ask). There’s no foolproof way to ferret out every possible way that a workplace might be wildly out of sync with reasonable norms. All you can do is to get a good feel for the culture in general and do the due diligence you should do on any job.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            I understand all that – I really do. (And the bird phobia example is, I admit, hilarious, thought the specific letter that mentioned it was not.) But I truly do think, Alison, that you might be underestimating what a problem this might be – and you’re using humor to divert me, dang it!

            A place where the boss asks you to donate your liver is, I hope and pray, very uncommon. But it’s not particularly uncommon to find a workplace where the norm is: “We all demonstrate how dedicated we are by working through lunch almost every day. Why don’t you?” And I’d bet a fair amount of money that some of those places nonetheless like to yammer on about how much they value work-life balance, too.

            I don’t know what percentage of potential employers have that attitude, but I’m quite sure its considerably higher than either the bird phobia or donated liver issues. So some tactics to try to suss that out ahead of time without sounding like a loon to more reasonable employers would be very helpful, at least to me, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              No, I get it — and I shouldn’t have used humorous examples because I think they detracted from my point, which is that of all the many, many things that could be deal-breakers (some of them very common — micromanagement, lack of management, combative culture, unrealistic expectations, heavy drinking bro culture, etc. etc. etc.), I’m skeptical that lunch norms are really going to be in the top, say, three priorities for most people. Lots and lots of things matter and important, and you can’t ask about even half of them in an interview. I don’t think lunch belongs on that list, compared to other really crucial things. (I’m not saying lunch doesn’t matter. I’m not saying lunch can’t be a reflection of other issues. I’m saying there are just too many more things that are bigger.)

  4. JamieS*

    #3 unless they’re being overly distracting, as opposed to an occasional minor annoyance, just let it go. You can’t base what others can or can’t do based on your own abilities.

    Also someone genuinely laughing is not performative.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP may also want to consider listening to ambient or white noise. It would minimize the distraction from overhearing stifled laughter. And without the interruptions, OP may feel less grumpy toward the two podcast listeners.

    2. Mookie*

      Also someone genuinely laughing is not performative.

      Sure, that’s sort of a given, but I get why Alison brought it up because it’s A Thing and a really annoying one that is difficult to address, either because the behavior has become ingrained or because somebody addressing it is, in fact, the end-goal of the performance, so doing so can feed the behavior if there’s no other serious consequence. And unilaterally imposing serious consequences is not generally within the purview of a peer or non-supervisor. For me, it’s far worse than stage whisper conversations because those aren’t inherently designed to elicit attention, consciously or otherwise.

      I’ve never had luck with the performative giggler. I’ve seen others try to tackle it head on, and they simply denied they were doing any such thing and everyone else appeared to regard mild complaints about it as petty.

      1. JamieS*

        It’s A Thing if you’re someone who thinks other people’s actions are almost always for you as opposed to someone just living their life.

        1. agmat*

          …but it really is A Thing that some people do. Sometimes people are performative, it’s truly a part of human nature.

          1. Washi*

            It is a thing, but it’s usually accompanied by glancing. I’ve worked with people where in a quiet environment, they would laugh very loudly or say vague things like “oh my goodness” or “I can’t believe it” and then glance over at me as they do it to see if I’ll engage. It’s super annoying – I’d rather they just tell me whatever it is they want to say than playing this game.

            But I wouldn’t say anything about it- I can’t think of any way to do it that wouldn’t come across as grinchy and churlish.

            1. CMart*

              I’m a performative laugh-er/exclaimer at home with my husband. It’s my way of indicating “I just read something funny or preposterous and am inviting you to ask me about it if you so choose.”

              Sometimes he cares about finding out what I though was funny. Most of the time he just ignores me because I have a really stupid sense of humor and a baby with some cheese on its face will not be funny to him. For us, that is fine.

              Performative reactions are a thing. And they can be really annoying if they’re not an understood part of a social dynamic.

            2. Rumbakalao*

              If you’ve never experienced this and don’t believe it’s a thing, honestly you’re lucky and you’re not missing out. It is really annoying. The best thing you can really do is to ignore them. You hear the laughter or the gasp and you avoid eye contact. If they’re trying to communicate something they can just use their words and tell you.

          2. JamieS*

            Basically everything is a thing some people do. That doesn’t mean it’s a plausible scenario that should be thrown out as likely.

        2. Mookie*

          No, it happens, there are people who do it, it’s obvious when they do it, and it’s annoying when they do it at you.

    3. Anononon*

      It can still be super annoying, though. A woman I used to work with would listen to comedians, and she’d laugh so loudly. Ugh, so annoying. She would also sometimes sing to herself, but she would only know like one sentence of a song, so she’d repeat that like ten times.

      1. Rumbakalao*

        Oh my god I feel this. When I left my last horribly dysfunctional job, one of the top three things I was relieved to be leaving behind was the coworker who sat behind me a mere 8 feet away. He would often have Youtube videos or Netflix or audio recordings up in the background and laughing to himself for hours. Sometimes he’d listen to music and hum along. Our supervisors didn’t care. It was grating.

        Please please please to people who work in an office- be more self aware about your effect on your work environment and the coworkers around you! (Unfortunately I’m doubtful that these 2 particular coworkers have that capability)

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      You should not argue back at the podcast in your headphones. The occasional quiet laugh should be fine.

      And it doesn’t matter if (given headphone thing) and (given task) wouldn’t mesh for you–not everyone’s brain is wired the same way. For example, I could have NPR on while doing anything mathematical. Anything with words, though, and unless its quiet wordless music it’s distracting.

    5. Sapphire*

      I’m one of those people that listens to podcasts at work, and while I usually try to keep it down, sometimes I’m struck by a funny joke or anecdote and have to stifle my giggles. It’s not something I’m trying to do, sometimes it just happens.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Same. Or, more likely because I listen to a lot of true crime podcasts, I’ll find myself gaping in shock at something I just heard and then realize what I’m doing and hope no one saw me doing my best fish impersonation.

    6. LQ*

      Strong agree. I genuinely think I’m funny and I don’t care that I’m the only one who does so when I make a funny in joke to myself I’m going to laugh about it. It’s not a performance, it’s not because I care about what other people think, it’s because I don’t.
      If someone laughs is the worst part of your day, that’s a damn good day.

      Do the same thing as other things when people are existing and it bothers you, put on headphones. If it’s interfering with your work like you’re making calls to people who have recently deceased family then you can ask to tone it down. But seriously? No laughing at work? It’s not this person is saying offensive jokes aloud and then laughing at them. It’s just someone chuckling to themselves.

      1. Rumbakalao*

        I don’t think anyone is arguing that the workplace should be a joy-free zone. And if you really don’t care about you coworkers then none of this matters.

        There have been letters about people bringing in squeaky toys, talking way too loudly on the phone, and playing irritating music without headphones. If you’re acting like the audience in a comedy show while at your desk, it’s distracting. A giggle or two, or three is fine. Roaring laughter or constant giggling is annoying. That’s just common courtesy required for coexisting in a space with other people.

    7. hbc*

      Agreed, and I would say that the number of people who are genuinely laughing dwarfs those who are laughing for attention, especially in this situation. I mean, I’ve seen people laugh excessively as a way to say “I get the joke, I’m totally in on this” or to show off that they’re having fun, but laughing at a podcast on (I’m assuming) headphones at work? What’s the point?

    8. Log Lady*

      Like others are saying, yeah, laughing can absolutely be performative. Just yesterday I was at a comedy show where the majority of the audience and myself would chuckle at most jokes, but the man behind me scream-laughed at even the lamest joke. It was so blatantly for attention. In OP’s case, it’s totally plausible that if these guys are constantly laughing or making comments about their podcast, they’re doing so for attention/to be engaged with by the OP.

      1. JamieS*

        No, that’s how you interpreted it. You have no idea if that was their intent or not. They could just be obnoxious laughers who are easily amused or drunk and a loud drunk. Regardless someone over laughing at a comedy show isn’t comparable to someone laughing at work while listening to a podcast

  5. JessaB*

    I would also put the comedy thing in the cover letter, if you don’t feel like it fits properly in the resume. I know I took classes in improv with Second City and it gave me a lot of skills in speaking off the cuff, and being able to talk in front of audiences, which is a bigger skill than people realise, a lot of people don’t just become good at that by osmosis.

    1. DaisyPedaler*

      Curious why this line of thinking doesn’t apply to including leading (DMing) a Dungeons & Dragons group, per Alison’s advice a couple weeks ago.

      1. Drew*

        Standup comedy is still seen as a more socially acceptable hobby than D&D. I am not endorsing this view, but it’s definitely true.

      2. TL -*

        I imagine partially by convention, partially because it’s a class/classes, and partially because public speaking is a soft skill that a lot of people don’t have/are scared of – it’s pretty easy to find someone willing and halfway decent at organizing group stuff, but even finding someone willing to do public speaking can be hard.

        1. Blue*

          The point that public speaking unnerves a lot of people is a good one – I think you’re right that it could make a difference here. I will say that I wouldn’t really care about improv classes alone because the fact that someone’s taken classes doesn’t suggest they’re any good. But if the showcases she’s participated in are by-invitation-only, I’d consider that to be an external acknowledgement of her skills in that area, and that would be of interest.

        1. WakeUp!*

          This is a weirdly combative response! It’s not like anyone is citing extensive data (and really, has anyone seen either of these on a resume? It’s all hypothetical). Alison is talking about her gut response so…yeah, it’s a fair question.

      3. Green great dragon*

        For a non D&D player, the comedy does seem to demonstrate some skills as Alison points out, while I don’t know what skills the D&D eg showed that, say, arranging to meet friends for dinner wouldn’t.

        (There may be many great skills! But I don’t know. )

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Yeah, this is my thought too. Until you’ve played or run D&D, you don’t really know how many skills it builds (which is a lot!) but comedy is a form of performance and improvisation that people immediately understand in our culture.

          1. Autumnheart*

            It doesn’t matter how many “skills” one develops running a D&D game. It’s not relevant job experience. It’s equivalent to trying to list one’s stay-at-home parenting skills as job experience, which, as we all know, is not something people should do.

            Comedy is slightly more applicable because that’s something people get paid to do. Fair or not, that’s usually the line where a hobby becomes professional experience. If an organization invites you to perform, yes. If you’re just a regular on open mike nights at the local coffee shop, then no.

            1. nonymous*

              I’d argue that there are D&D scenarios that definitely cross the line into the professional. I actually know someone has been employed by Wizards to write supplements and adventures for D&D. His entry into his current position was by freelancing for niche magazines while employed in a completely different field. Those stories are few and far between, but I could see organizing large (successful) tournaments being directly transferable to event planning.

              1. ello mate*

                It might be, but I think mentioning Dungeons and Dragons in a cover letter or resume would show that you don’t have much social awareness and it simply Shouldn’t Be Done and whether the reasoning behind that is something you agree with or not, its not going to help. I once had a candidate who included a full page about his BMX experience complete with photos. It showed a lot of different skills! But it was inappropriate regardless.

              2. Autumnheart*

                Unless one is actually getting paid to write D&D material, then playing D&D is not a marketable skill that belongs in a resume.

                I make a mean chocolate chip cookie, and my coworkers like it whenever I bring baked goods into the office, but that doesn’t make me a chef, and I wouldn’t try to put “baking for coworkers” on my resume while applying for culinary jobs.

                1. MsChanandlerBong*

                  Heck, why not? Last week, I had an applicant send me a resume that listed “dancing to relieve boredom” as one of his hobbies.

        2. Daisy*

          I *have* done quite a bit of role playing, and I don’t know what transferable skills they think it shows either. Creating a story isn’t useful for most jobs. Apart from that it’s just ‘getting 5 people to my house at the same time’.

          1. Mookie*

            Same. I tend to think it attracts skills and predispositions, perhaps indirectly refines some, but any such work-friendly skills can be enhanced by many other means. Stand-up does what it says on the tin. Ditto very clever heckling, though that’s less marketable pour quoi.

          2. JSPA*

            Working out the timing and intensity of a process… mentally pre- planning a multi – branched “what if” scenario… handling interpersonal conflicts or difficult personalities… selling a story… leaving people feeling like they’ve been dealt with fairly, even if their own personal outcome wasn’t successful… a really good DM has all that. Problem is, not every DM is excellent. And there’s no metric to distinguish. “My friends love my DM-ing” doesn’t mean any of that.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Running a pen&paper game well (ie invisibly to your players) requires keeping huge numbers of rules for statistics and math calculations in your head at one time. Big overlap with roles from software development to accounting, as far as I can tell.
              The problem really is the metrics. Even though you and your players know you’re juggling distinct stats & rules for 35 “non-player characters” while still juggling 10 player characters, it’s hard to show that to anyone else.
              In many ways, doing standup comedy is right up there with Toastmaster’s for public speaking.

          3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Right? I’ve been playing and running both tabletop and LARP games for (Jesus god) 20 years, and while I have found that my work experience made me better at administrating my games, it never went the other way ’round.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I run an online rpg and it involves a ton of administrative/managerial type tasks and I still don’t reference it in my resume or cover letter. I’ve occasionally used one example from it in an interview, carefully couching it as moderating an online writing group, but it’s not my go to.

        3. PB*

          I’ve watched my husband participate in various D&D games over the years. Since D&D tends to be a long term, ongoing commitment, organizing a game and keeping it running is serious business. Most games fall apart after a few months, if not sooner. On top of that, D&D involves a lot of planning, resource management, and math.

          However, I think there’s a difference in stakes. While keeping a D&D game going takes a lot of effort, if it falls apart, it falls apart. Sometimes, a participant passes out on their couch and forgets to show up. For a D&D game, you’ve annoyed your friends. If you do that with your paying job, there are real consequences.

          Improv kind of falls in the middle. If you’re participating in a showcase, you have a specific time to show up, people who are there to see you, people depending on you, etc. It’s not paid, but it is more public than D&D with your five friends.

      4. anonagain*

        I don’t know anything about Dungeons & Dragons, but the points raised so far seem plausible.

        I do know that many improv theaters/schools (including Second City) provide corporate training, there are loads of books and articles about the business benefits of improv training, and so on. The OP even said that half of the beginner improv class was there at their employer’s behest.

        So perhaps that’s an important difference: the OP doesn’t have to make a business case for improv comedy from scratch. If employers pay for people to go to these classes, the OP’s involvement in improv may seem relevant to them in a way that many other hobbies wouldn’t. (I’m guessing if the OP were doing improvisational jazz piano that wouldn’t be relevant.)

        1. Public Sector Manager*

          When I was doing Improv in my single days, my classes were just like OP’s classes–half of the people were sent there by their employers. And these weren’t small employers either. They included Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies.

          And the thing with Improv is, if you’re really bad at it and continue to do it in public or even a small group of friends, that shows a lot of moxie and nerve to continue with it. But with D&D, if you’re a terrible DM, the game will likely fall apart. Or people will put up with it like in my office. There is a DM who my coworkers say is one of the worst DM’s they have ever had. But they keep letting him do it because they enjoy the camaraderie and there are so few players in our office.

      5. Liane*

        As others have said, many non-RPGers don’t get what skills it takes &/or have misconceptions about people who play RPGs.
        Also not everyone learns the same skills from being a DM or GM*. I GM Stars Wars for my group, and they will tell you Off the Cuff isn’t one of my strengths; those are writing, planning ahead/organizing and a bit of acting.

        *equals DM in many non-fantasy games.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I think many RPGers overestimate the usefulness of their gaming experience in other contexts. This is like listening to people who play Call of Duty trying to compare themselves to actual combat veterans.

      6. EtherIther*

        Ultimately leading a D and D group with your friends has no outside accountability. (It isn’t a class, there’s no proof you’re actually decent at it) It’s the equivalent of any activity with your friends, and not resume appropriate.

        I suspect if you were taking DM classes (I realize this isn’t a thing, but perhaps it should be…) you could put them on your resume in a way that actually makes it clear what of going on, as lots of people aren’t familiar with the d and d process.

        1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          Or if you were hired to DM or otherwise had a role with it where there were verifiable standards of how well you’re doing.

      7. drpuma*

        Based on how the letter writer describes their improv achievements, if I were a hiring manager I’d be impressed by their progress as observed by experts in the field and the fact that they’ve been invited to showcases. Simply taking an improv class in itself I personally wouldn’t be very impressed by, unless there was some additional context of “I took this class to stretch myself and gain X skill” (public speaking, creativity, etc). Personally I would equate D&D on a resume to something like regular participation in a pickup soccer game or league: Sure, it shows a level of commitment and there is some organization and interpersonal dynamics that need to be navigated, but ultimately the motivation and consequences are essentially intrinsic much more than external. Being invited to an improv showcase, by comparison, means the organizers think the letter writer is good enough and enough of a draw that their participation will help them sell tickets. That’s a big difference to me.

    2. Exponential Vee*

      I’ve done this and it’s worked well – put a paragraph in my cover letter with various examples of when I’ve used my communication skills at work, and finished it off with a reference to ‘my years of improvised comedy classes clearly paying off’. I think this a good approach because it puts the focus on my on-the-job performance rather than how great I am at object work…

      I also published an article on using improv to develop my communication skills in a publication related to my field which I list on my CV and I always get asked about it at interview.

    3. Bostonian*

      Nice! It helps when the place that you took improv classes is well-known and has some cache to it :-)

    4. OP5*

      I think, having read Alison’s advice and everyone’s comments, I will include it in the community involvement section of my resume; the place I do it is pretty well-known regionally (both for corporate training and for fun comedy shows), and my resume is really heavy on serious stuff, and I have plenty of impressive management experience and academic credentials. I think it may be a little bit humanizing, like I’m not just a personality-less work robot, and I don’t think it will undermine my more serious achievements. It’s easy enough to delete if I’m applying for something where I don’t think it’s relevant or the employer would be turned off by it, but since I’m looking at more public-facing roles with a lot of public speaking or small-group speaking, I think it’s fairly directly on-point.

      I’m relieved to know it actually is a thing people put on their resumes! I’ve never had a “fun” activity before that was resume-appropriate! (Plus my other hobbies tend towards “reading a lot” so not really resume material!)

      1. AKchic*

        I put my volunteering as an actor and tech director for our local renaissance fair in my community involvement portion of my resume. I use a lot of the same office skills behind the scenes that people wouldn’t necessarily consider important, plus the actual improv/acting, customer service/front-facing work, the media and help advertising (in costume at promotional events, I’m a walking billboard, emissary/liaison and “face”), managerial work, etc. Sure… it is also great conversational piece, should anyone truly get stuck. Granted, the majority of my applications lately have been for volunteer positions with boards and community panels.

  6. Drew*

    I envy people who can listen to podcasts or audiobooks while they work. So much of what I do is verbal and I have learned that I can’t deal with verbal input and verbal output at the same time, to the degree that if I’m trying to read something and someone is just talking in the vicinity (much less talking to me) I have a very hard time focusing.

    Music is usually OK, although if it’s music with lyrics I have to be comfortable ignoring those. (I have a lot of “my favorites” playlists where the lyrics are really part of the music to me by now, so I lean on those a lot. Also classical, soundtracks and instrumentals.)

    Don’t know if this is helpful to the OP or not, but maybe it’s a generational thing; younger people may be more comfortable with multiple data streams than we olds are.

    1. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, I can only be doing one verbal thing at a time. So I couldn’t listen to a podcast and write an email at the same time (or if I did, I wouldn’t be able to follow the podcast), but it’s not about how much thought it takes — it’s the *kind* of thought.

    2. Birch*

      It really depends on the person, too. A lot of people can’t mix modalities, but some are the opposite–music captures my attention much more than podcasts and I’m far less productive listening to most music. I think OP could consider that laughing occasionally is similar to people who move a little to music they’re listening to in terms of distraction.

    3. Mookie*

      I’m good with music-soaked and -enriched maths, schematics, and writing and reading foreign languages, but in writing and speaking English, mostly not, as well. And navigating is also out. My radio needs to be turned down in order for me to “hear” the next street sign or fork in the road.

    4. Doug Judy*

      I couldn’t listen to a podcast or an audiobook and be very productive or accurate, but a lady next to me can. I’m kinda jealous of that because while working I have to stick to instrumental music. Although I’ve recently discovered a playlist of a string quartet playing the best of Dr Dre, so it’s not all bad, lol.

        1. LimeRoos*

          It might be Vitamin String Quartet – they have a ton of music out there with covers of everything from Britney Spears to Rush to Lord of the Rings to Barenaked Ladies. I made a playlist of them for my wedding – processional was Storybook Love from The Princess Bride, after ceremony was Concerning Hobbits followed by Still Alive from Portal (just for an idea of the sheer mass of arrangements they do. Amazon Music has tons of their music.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Someone put their cover of NIN “Closer” on my wedding reception playlist. I don’t remember if I knew at the time, but I had forgotten by the time it came up. But I looked around, and everyone in my generation was smirking and my 75 year old grandmother thought it was just a lovely song.

          2. Ali G*

            We used them at our wedding too – for the pre-ceremony mingling and cocktail hour. The best was when one of our friends stopped mid-sentence and was like “Is that GNR?? I Used to Love Her??”

    5. The Original K.*

      I can’t do music with lyrics when I work because I tend to catch myself singing along (I have a good voice but still, inappropriate at work!). My friend is the same way – her husband is a big music-head and will play music in their home all the time but if she’s working, the rule is that it has to be wordless music.

      I do sometimes listen to podcasts when working and I have caught myself snickering, but no one has ever said it bothered them. (Also I have an office now so it matters less.)

    6. Delta Delta*

      Same here. I can’t do a verbal thing and listen to another verbal thing at the same time. I listen to a lot of classical and jazz. I also listen to music in languages I don’t speak, because I find I’m less likely to focus on the words I am hearing. I can’t tell you how many papers I wrote in college to the Buena Vista Social Club soundtrack. You’d think I’d have learned more Spanish that way (and honestly, I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t).

    7. Guacamole Bob*

      I can’t listen to music with lyrics when I’m trying to read or write something that takes concentration, but if I’m deep into spreadsheets or mapping software or a graphics program, lyrics are totally fine. What people can listen to for different kinds of work is very individual!

    8. Apologies*

      To offer up another perspective, I have a hard time listening to music at work and I prefer podcasts. I think it’s because I’ve taken instrument lessons for nearly my whole life and have been trained to focus really hard on the technical parts of music, so the way I digest it is different than most people. If I hear a really cool bass line or harmony that I enjoy, I can’t help but zone out and get lost in the music. Podcasts are better for me because it’s easier to tune in and out as I see fit with my work. Plus, a constant stream of talking is less distracting for me than a coworker on a phone call, where there are longer silences between the talking.

    9. Autumnheart*

      I work with both graphics and copy, and I can listen to podcasts during the graphical portion of my job, but not during the copy portion. Too much conflict in my language center.

  7. Zombeyonce*

    #5: Let me know if this is too off-topic, but what about other major hobbies that also may contribute important skills? I host a very research-intensive podcast and taught myself audio editing (including creating an editing guide that 100+ other podcasters use to edit) and always think it might be worth including in a resume. Alternately, so many people have podcasts so it might seem meaningless. I wonder if it falls in the same camp as improv or not.

    1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      This might be something that would be more appropriate for a cover letter where you can elaborate on the work, rigor, and self-efficacy of your podcast work and how that can translate into your work (example: doing an independent work with an eye for accuracy and detail). If you have some relevant hard numbers and data (such as how many subscribers you have, whether you’ve been paid for advertising, etc.) that could go on a resume, but most hobbyist podcasters I know don’t bring in enough of that to warrant resume space.

    2. JAR*

      The editing guide sounds worth mentioning to me. Also if you have a lot of listeners, or one or two particularly well known ones, or if you earn a lot in advertising. Of course, it depends on whether the skills developed could be useful in your main job.

    3. Karen from Finance*

      Similar doubt. I’ve been taking professional makeup classes on the side, but I do work in financial analysis and controllership. I’m thinking of two ways it would be connected to my job: caring about visual presentation, and a creative thinking-outisde-the-box type of mind that I think sets me apart.

      But I don’t think most recruiters would see the relevance so I’ve kept it out and mentioned it in interviews if prompted, where I can explain how these relate. Should I put it in?

      Cover letters aren’t a practice in my area for my career.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      IMHO it would be extremely relevant for positions as varied as technical writing, training, teaching, journalism, and broadcasting. You need to get the details right, make it interesting, and handle the technical side– AND you have a portfolio online.

    5. ArtK*

      In my current search, I was encouraged to add a section that covered some personal projects that were directly relevant to what I was applying for. In part, this is because I’m in the middle of changing specialties and I don’t have a lot of experience in the new specialty. This showed some dedication to learning the new area.

    6. elemenohp*

      It depends on the jobs you’re applying for. If you’re applying for journalism, marketing, content creation roles, it’s relevant. But if you’re applying for other roles, probably not something to include.

      I’ve published a tiny book of poetry and have performed at local readings in the area. I’ve included this on my resume when applying to literary-focused jobs, but left it off when applying to less literary fields (for example, marketing). Just because I know people who aren’t familiar with poetry tend to think of it as “roses are red, violets are blue” sentimental fluff, so they aren’t going to see it as an accomplishment– they see it as a silly hobby.

      I think it would be similar for podcasting. Some fields are more likely to recognize it as hard work, whereas others will just see it as a weird hobby. Adjust strategy accordingly.

  8. morganology*

    OP#1: please stay on your own plate and mind your own business re: other co-workers’ eating habits.

    1. morganology*

      Additionally, if you’ve spent 10+ years working at places where people don’t eat in front of you, maybe examine the conversations you have with colleagues about food/diet/eating habits. It’s a very personal thing, and maybe people don’t eat in front of you because they don’t want to be policed about what they are (not) eating. There are far better ways to occupy your time at your job of 10+ years than to worry about something that is 100% none of your business.

      1. CastIrony*

        That may be true, but OP is trying to find out if it’s something they should be worried about. For me, it’s because they’re nervous about being out-of-step and doing something wrong, like eating and taking a break when everyone else is so busy that they never get to, which would make OP look like a low performer by comparison!

        “I don’t see people eating while I do, so am I doing something wrong and out-of-sync by doing so? But on the other hand, if I don’t get the chance to eat, I risk my blood sugars going too low!”

        1. Jenny*

          Agreed. People are being very unfair to LW. There are definitely offices that are toxic and treat any break, including a lunch one, as a weakness. Heck, there was a restaurant I worked at as a teen where I never, ever got allowed my food break on time and would get dizzy and feel awful. I also had trouble getting my breaks at a lab job where you had to leave to eat but eere judged for leaving your nench for long.

          I would hate working in an environment where I was treated as less dedicated for eating, based on those experiences. Lunch can be bonding time too do a non lunch eating office can mean one where coworkers don’t end up as friendly.

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

            You are making a whole lot of assumptions when nothing in the letter indicates that she’s being made to feel that she can’t take a lunch break. I can’t understand why she’s so overly concerned about what everyone does for lunch. It’s honestly none of her business.

            1. ChachkisGalore*

              Jenny’s not making any assumptions about the LWs current office. They were just saying that it’s understandable to be curious about lunch culture (whether or not the LW’s is the norm and about what they’d be getting into at a potential job) because there are places with toxic lunch/break cultures.

              1. Jenny*

                Exactly. OP mentions below their office is a few people, so hard to extrapolate a pattern. But a larger org where no one takes lunch? I would see that as a symptom of a potential issue and indicative of a place that demands these performative self sacrifices from employees.

            2. Vemasi*

              I think the distinction to keep in mind here is where the concern falls, and the scope. For instance, look at LW 3: they are concerned about the behavior of two specific people, and wondering if their concern over them is justified, and Alison’s advice is that it is not something the LW should concern themselves about unless it interferes substantially with their work (essentially a “mind your own business,” but not in a rude way because the LW was perfectly polite about it).

              LW 1, on the other hand, is more concerned with a trend they observe, not with policing the specific behavior of specific individuals. LW does mention specific people, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are doing it good-naturedly, even the “robot.” And LW 1 has worked there for 10 years before writing in to make this observation. They are not trying to police anyone’s behavior, they are concerned for themselves, or even just curious about other people. Do we expect people to never look at their co-workers or notice the things they do? No. Do we expect them to “stay in their lane” even when writing to an anonymous advice column? At most we would only expect that in their behavior towards their coworkers, and there is no evidence LW 1 is interrogating or calling out the people they work with.

              1. Vemasi*

                My point being, I don’t think either LW should be called out, I think both their questions are perfectly fine. But I don’t get why LW 1 is getting called out for an innocuous question, while another question that is easier to interpret as nosy is not.

            3. Spencer Hastings*

              “I can’t understand why she’s so overly concerned about what everyone does for lunch.”

              Because she’s observing what the norms are in order to determine what’s OK for *her* to do? I think when she says that she has hypoglycemia, but you shouldn’t need a medical condition to justify eating lunch, that gets at what she’s thinking.

        2. Doug Judy*

          Exactly this. At HorribleJob, no one took a lunch break, ever. They all didn’t eat or ate at their desks. If dares to take 30 to take a walk, run a quick errand or just have a freaking break, I was seen as not working as hard as everyone else. Side note: they really weren’t working hard, they spent a lot of time on IM and had poor time management.

          New job a lot of people do eat at their desks but we are encouraged to leave our desk for at least 30 minutes each day, and pretty much everyone does. Most people use the fitness room or use the nature trail next to the office. But if you wanted to sit in the break room and actually eat lunch there, no one would think poorly of you at all.

          I don’t blame OP for asking.

        3. Earthwalker*

          This. At Old Company, I was told that “most employees” preferred to work through their lunch hour. “Most employees” preferred to work 10+ hours a day, to check email all weekend, to come into the office when they were sick, and to save up or cash out vacation days instead of taking vacation. In other words, there was an unwritten office policy to be glued to one’s chair for as many hours as possible. While some employees probably really don’t like taking lunch – and their eating habits should be no business of anyone else – when most employees don’t take lunch, it hints strongly at a workplace culture matter.

        1. LCL*

          There…have been letters to this blog specifically, discussing a work culture where people are pressured to not take breaks, or to take breaks but have them at their desk and eat at their desk, or regarding a coworker who is skipping lunch to leave early, or regarding someone who has a physical need to eat every couple hours and is getting static about it. Many many letters. I understand why OP1 would be concerned.
          And for those of you who don’t understand why, it’s personal example time. My mom is such a person who believes that stopping for lunch or a meal when you are doing a job is an unnecessary distraction. She would get hungry, and would eat when the work is done, but she would always complain about taking meal breaks. Many of the disagreements I had with her (pre boy craziness) were around meals. There are a lot of people like my mom out there, and some are managers.

      2. JSPA*

        This is an extremely punitive and strong response. Understanding that food IS a hot- button topic for some people, I still find it deeply bizarre that anyone would get called out for asking if the classic, standard, near – universal presumption of three meals a day is no longer a thing. (Even before there were any other protections in the workplace, the lunchpail was standard working-man equipment.)

      3. ello mate*

        There’s literally no evidence or indication that she is policing other peoples habits. Sometimes people wonder things about the world around them.

    2. Tyche*

      I’m sorry but I find your comment quite rude.
      There’s nothing in the letter implying that OP1 is policing or commenting her colleagues’ behaviour, she is simply noticing a pattern and she’s asking for clarification based on others experience.
      Sincerely I find quite disheartening that every time some LW notice something at work there’s a comment about “minding your own business”: I’m not a mindless mule, I’m bound to notice things at work, with colleagues, in my neighborhood, with my friends. I think it’s normal to ask questions, and it’s not a way to judge people or to police their habits.

      1. anon*

        Yup! I’m a really curious person, especially around things relating to medicine or culture. I know that my questions are either a) prying and very inappropriate or b) fine, but people just want to eat (or not eat) their lunch in peace and not have to answer the same question for the millionth time, so I hit the internet, which is exactly what OP1 did. There’s no reason to assume that just because she’s worried that what’s normal for her is unusual in the wider workplace culture she’s being pushy and unpleasant to her colleagues.

        Case in point: Yesterday’s discussion of tichels. The Jewish community in my small city is proportionally small so I had no experience with this. I went down a really interesting google rabbit hole and was happy to have the chance to learn about something I hadn’t experienced.

      2. Wharton*

        It was definitely an overreaction to this particular letter, but I do understand the frustration behind it. If you have a food disorder or any severe dietary restrictions, even innocent questions about your eating habits often turn into wormholes of advice and judgement. Just as what you eat should be off the table for debate in a typical business situation, when and if you eat should be too. They’ve successfully made it to adulthood without starving, so don’t worry about them and do what works for you.

        P.S. I agree that it’s absolutely fine to be curious, but asking questions doesn’t necessarily follow that. Depends on your workplace and relationship with the non-eater.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yes! LW is specifically *not* asking her colleagues about their eating habits, and is instead coming here to ask – so what on earth is there to be frustrated about with LW? It’s not reasonable to be annoyed at LW for simply noticing what happens in her workplace and wondering, privately and then anonymously here online, about it.

        1. CMart*

          Well, and no one is asking random coworkers about their eating habits! The OP observed a pattern (“I never see anyone eating lunch”) and then had nagging questions about their own perception/experience (“but having a midday meal is normal right? Is it not normal?? Should I ask an interviewer about workplace lunch culture, since I do actually eat lunch at lunchtime?”)

          Going to a wide audience like the AAM comment section is a great way to satisfy that curiosity. People who don’t mind talking about their eating habits will happily do so, as we see.

      3. Jennifer*

        I agree. I find myself sometimes noticing what other people are doing and comparing myself to see if I’m “normal.” That’s how this struck me. Maybe not the best use of my time but I understand it.

    3. Overeducated*

      Wow. Last year i moved from a workplace where most of my department ate lunch together most days to one where we very rarely do, and frankly it’s lonelier and takes much longer to get to know people. I know everyone eating together is not everyone’s cup of tea, which is fine, but seeing it as an issue of “minding your business” assumes the worst of people who may just legitimately like more social culture.

      1. Wharton*

        It’s fine to enjoy eating together–maybe you could organize an informal weekly group lunch in the break room and see if anyone shows? It’s just that it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, for a variety of reasons. It’s not that they don’t like socializing necessarily (although some may not). They might just not like eating in front of people they don’t know all that well, especially given all the curiosity and questioning it clearly engenders.

  9. Budgie Lover*

    For #3: once I shared an office with one other intern who would occasionally react loudly with surprise/frustration/awe to what she happened to be reading on her computer. It was weird. Like I’d be plugging away on something and suddenly hear “Oh shiiiiii…” with zero context.

    1. Overeducated*

      My spouse does this while doing housework, I’m always like “WHAT’S WRONG?!”

      1. Karen from Finance*

        Hehe. I do this, makes my partner panic each time.

        In my case when it’s at home, specially if doing chores or smth, it’s from my anxiety. Intrusive thoughts.

        If I do it at work it’s usually because someone is being hard to deal with on some email chain.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Now I’m wondering if you were in my department 8-10 years ago because I’d hear that from over the wall many a time. Often the response would be “What happened this time?” because the software was a bit flak on antique PCs…

  10. Kc89*

    Ugh I used to work with a podcast listener who in addition to laughing loudly to herself in a quiet room she would also add in plenty of “STOP IT” “NO” “OH JESUS”

    1. SAS*

      Sounds like a My Dad Wrote a Porno listener!

      Count me into the crowd that can’t work well listening to a podcast and I have to monitor my judgements about how focused such workers can be (I know you’re out there!) so those kind of responses indicating someone is heavily engaged in the podcast rather than it just being background noise while they were focusing on their work would really get under my skin. Not being in a supervisory role though, I would keep my feelings to myself.

      1. Media Monkey*

        haha. that’s what i was thinking! i was on the train listening to MDWAP and properly snorted with laughter. the guy sitting opposite me held up his phone and he was listening to it too #pornoday

      2. Blue*

        I literally cannot listen to MDWAP in public because I know I react like this and don’t want to subject other people to it! On the train home, I listen to things less likely to make me react viscerally and save this for while I’m doing housework, etc. (Coloring book + MDWAP + a beer + my back patio was a favorite ritual when episodes were airing during the summer.)

        1. Crivens!*

          I listen to about 70 podcasts regularly, but definitely have a few (MDWAP, My Brother, My Brother, and Me, and The Dollop) that I have to save for when I can laugh properly (and sometimes cry properly, in the case of The Adventure Zone!)

          1. Envy Adams*

            Just here to say I also cry every time I listen to the final episode of TAZ Balance!!! And I have to try really hard not to fully laugh out loud when I’m listening to MBMBaM at work.

            1. Crivens!*

              Griffin became an amazing storyteller over that first season! I’m sure I’ll cry this season too.

              And I learned my MBMBAM lesson early: I was listening from the beginning, but the first episode I listened to at work was The Garfield Monstrosity. I was laughing so hard I was crying and had to step outside for a few minutes to recover.

          2. Blue*

            Most episodes of The Dollop I can handle with acceptable amounts of quiet giggling! I nearly cried laughing when I went to one of their live shows, though :)

      3. Karen from Finance*

        In defense of focused podcast listeners…

        I honestly work better when listening to podcasts or video essays on YouTube because others my mind wanders anyway and I get distracted easily. Because keeping focus on one thing is almost impossible to me, I can control the second place where my mind will drift.

        I do see what you’re saying though, but some of us are just wired that way.

        1. Murphy*

          This. I need the background noise (but I do turn them off if I really need to focus hard)

      4. OP3*

        Ha yes! You got to the crux. It bothers me because it indicates they’re fully engaged in the podcast. And unfortunately even though the work is sometimes the type that only requires data entry level brain power, the output often has typos and small mistakes, so it reeeeally brings out my inner snooty librarian.

        FWIW, when I was doing a data entry job I found MDWAP wayy too funny to listen to at the office.

        1. Margaret*

          FWIW, I listen to podcasts all the time at work to drown out sounds that trigger my misophonia (chewing, sniffling, etc) and what most often makes me laugh about them is when I’ve been focusing so much on work that I stop paying attention, only to tune back in and realize that I’ve ‘come back’ halfway through a ridiculous conversation.

          Obviously if your person is routinely inattentive, you should address that on it’s own merit and maybe suggest that they can’t handle multitasking, but there are definitely people out there who can have podcasts on and still remain highly focused on work product. The stuff I do is significantly more complicated than data entry, but I balance it out buy just playing slightly dumb podcasts that I don’t actually have to pay much attention to, or just pressing pause when something requires absolute focus- which it wouldn’t be easy for my coworkers to see that I’d done, since I leave my headphones in.

        2. LGC*

          Try being the boss and being a Belinker.

          (I have to ban myself from listening until I’m on the train home. And preferably not in the quiet car.)

  11. Liz*

    OP #1, I think lunch habits can sometimes be indicative of an organization’s culture or work styles, so I can see why you’d be curious and want to ask about that in an interview. For instance, I worked for one company where no one took lunch because they were too busy putting out fires all day and no one had time. That would’ve been good to know! I also worked on a team where all 4 interviewers for the role – no exaggeration – asked if I would be willing to eat lunch with them every day because they did everything together as a team. I should’ve known it was a cult.

    I agree that asking about lunch during an interview would be kind of weird, but I think it’s totally fair to ask about the work culture, work/life balance, and how the office socializes (or doesn’t) to get a feel for the culture you’d be joining. You might not get details about lunch, but you’ll get some telling info that will help you make an educated guess about how things work in the company.

    1. Teapot Painter*

      THIS. I will never forget my first job…I asked when I get lunch. The response: “Eat when you can.” This translated to many many lunches in my car, eating while driving from point A to point B. Actually sitting down to eat lunch was rare. It was horrible.

      Now I have a job where I can take an hour! And everyone cooks in a full kitchen. It’s fantastic!

    2. I eat lunch everyday*

      Lunch-eating habits can definitely reflective of the work culture, although I understand how asking specifically about it during an interview could be misconstrued as “not focusing on the right stuff”.
      My workplace has this weird focus on “people being busy”, and we somehow celebrate people who don’t take lunches because they are too busy. It annoys me to the greatest degree, because ~those people~ tend to talk a lot about how they don’t have time to eat lunch (maybe they could have saved us those comments, and grabbed a granola bar during that same time).
      I refuse to take part in this and have to endure the backhanded compliments about how “it must be so nice to be in a position where I can take lunch”. Major eyerolls.

    3. Delphine*

      Yep, my friend is currently working a new job where nobody eats lunch. They all work instead and there’s a lot of work for some people, but also a culture of looking super busy all the time. So when she’s not busy and wants to eat lunch, she doesn’t feel like she can because no one else does…

  12. Jenny*

    I wonder if OP1 works for a tech company. I have read a few articles recently about trends to intermitten fastimg and meal replacement being common at these really intense silicon valley companies and wonder if it is that kind of thing.

    Fwiw, I understand why LW is concerned, if a “no lunch” culture can be indicative of an intense environment where workers are expected to skip normal breaks.

    1. TechWorker*

      Lol ‘huel’ is taking over my office. I wouldn’t say we’re ‘really intense’ but we are tech – and some people just like the convenience of not having to spend time over lunch…

      1. Jenny*

        The one that gets me us soylent. Given the movie it is named after…

        My office does have a particularly good cafeteria so I do get to enjoy a quesadilla, for instance, instead of seeing it as an inconvenience.

        1. Anonysand*

          Right? I can’t get over Soylent, and my spouse, who has Crohn’s, absolutely loves the stuff. I laugh every time he brings it home from the store! As for food habits, he’d rather drink a nutrition supplement for lunch like Soylent or Ensure and have a handful of small snacks throughout the day instead (fruit snacks, nuts, a cheese stick, etc). If you didn’t know him, you would definitely assume he was too busy to eat and not interested in taking full breaks. Meanwhile, I have to eat every 4-5 hours or else I get hangry, and I love food/big meals. Different strokes for different folks.

        2. Liane*

          Jenny, I was afraid I was the only one who was wondering “WTH did they name a food supplement THAT?!? Ewwww” Also wondering when MGM’s legal team disappeared, or maybe just went to sleep.

    2. Mookie*

      Agree that this could be culture and compatibility. (And by extension even a deal-breaker for some. As someone who is simultaneously sloppy but for the precise details that concern me and also a control freak, I found out early that working alongside optimizers, minimalists, and/or dilettante disrupters spelled doom for my nerves, and I’m certain they felt the same. Rumply harrumphers are my people, which is disappointing to realize but easy to accept if you’re lazy, which I am.)

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think whether or not people can stop for a real 30 or 60 minute break midday could be a hill on which you decide you’re willing to die. Just phrase it along the lines “I do best if I can take a mental break midday over lunch and truly disengage from work, rather than eat a sandwich while I read a spreadsheet; is that routine or frowned on?”

        You shouldn’t focus on what people do with themselves during that break.

        And sadly, no, you can’t ask “Is there a group of pleasant people who will want to be my lunch buddies?” Even if that really would be a heavy factor in whether you want to work there.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          Yeah. I have young children, and lunch is the only Me Time I get all day, which I can spend however I want. Once someone wrote in here about how their whole (small) company ate lunch together daily, and I was surprised how mild the comments were. “Goodness, that wouldn’t be my cup of tea.” I can put up with all kinds of nonsense at work, but I would have quit that job with no notice.

          LW1, I like to exercise or work on volunteer stuff on my break. I also have a Thing about people commenting on my food, so I will go pretty far out of my way to avoid that. I do eat, I just pack something and go in a small conference room that isn’t booked.

          Maybe you could ask what a typical day is like, or what the culture is like, or how they like being in whatever part of town they’re in.

    3. Alton*

      Yeah, culture-wise, I think “do people take breaks?” is often the more relevant than “do people eat?” People might not appear to eat for a variety of reasons–because they prefer light snacks, because they eat quickly, because they’re doing intermittent fasting, etc. But whether people take defined breaks where they’re off the clock (literally or figuratively) can be a major factor in the office culture or the type of job it is.

      (Whether people are more inclined to eat privately vs. having lunch together can also be a culture thing.)

  13. LeBean*

    OP #1, some people are just different about how they get their meals. I have a medical condition that affects my eating habits as well; mine means I have to graze throughout the day as my body funnels through food/energy quick. The perks of being at a department where virtually everyone eats at their desk or wants to discuss where they went to lunch. Still, I have a boss that goes out for walks and lunches while, on occasion, I’ve gotten meals to eat at the office while grocery shopping on my actual lunch break.

    Overall, though, don’t bring it up in an interview unless the conversation flows there perhaps naturally. When interviewing for my current position I did receive an outline of what to expect for a lunch break. That might be fine to ask about (I did go from working in medical where eating at your desk was a huge no-no to data entry where it was shrugged off). But that topic might not flow where you want and it’s alright to let it go. Just assume that, like how some people are able to operate on less sleep where some people need more, people have different eating habits. Also, sometimes, it might be that you just missed food at their desk or something else like that. Lord knows I would never be able to tell if it wasn’t for an open office space with a bunch of loud eaters.

  14. CM*

    #4 — I can think of times when I’ve been rejected from a job and I had a pretty good idea why and other times when it was just a mystery. And during the mystery times, I wished there had been a graceful way to find out what general category the rejection fell under — didn’t think it was a personality fit; didn’t think I had the right skill set; thought I seemed good but someone else seemed better; etc. I didn’t want that intel so that I could argue; I just wanted it so I could have a clue about whether there was something I was doing poorly in the interview — like maybe not explaining my skill set well enough, or whatever. However, I’m aware that a lot of people do seize that kind of feedback as an opportunity to argue, and I’m not sure I would want to tell somebody the reason I rejected them, either.

    So, I don’t really know what the answer is. I just kind of wish it were standard practice to give people some form of feedback. Like, not an evaluation of their interviewing skills, just a clue about why you decided to pass.

    FWIW, I used to work at a magazine where the general policy was to give a one or two sentence explanation of why we decided to pass on something unless the person had been super hostile in their previous interactions with us. It took a lot of effort to write those two sentences and figure out a way to say things diplomatically, but most people appreciated it.

    1. PBJnocrusts*

      I was told today that I don’t have enough experience (8 years). but they checked my references. ?

      1. Bagpuss*

        Maybe there was a specifc area of experince they felt wasn’t ideal, or perhaps they had a different candidate late in the process, who had more experience?

      2. Powercycle*

        Years ago I was told that for an entry level tech support position. The job listed listed minimum 1-2 years of tech support experience in a Microsoft Windows environment. I had 5 years experience. Had they told me they hired someone else with better qualifications, I’d have been OK with that (wouldn’t have been the first time early in my career I got passed over) but being told I was unqualified for doing the same job I was already doing at a similar employer was BS.

    2. Blunt Bunny*

      Yes for things that are subjective it is quite difficult. But in this case the OP could maybe say they didn’t think their management style would be compatible with their personality? I think some honesty that they had the right experience they were looking for but another candidates apperead to be a better fit for the team. I think if you say something positive and honest it can be reassuring, as I personally find applying for jobs soul crushing there can be a lot of feeling of not being good enough.

      1. Exhausted Trope*

        I’ve asked for feedback after interviewing but have only gotten it once which is a pity. I’m open to constructive criticism as a path to improvement.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I had someone apply for a job by emailing me a cover letter years ago. They had a foreign Llama Trainer certification and wanted us to sponsor their J-1 summer work visa, because their teacher/program rep/whatever had told them my company sponsors them.

      It was so weird, I emailed them back and said, “Oh I’m sorry for the mixup, but we don’t participate in the J-1 program. I know a lot of theme parks and the US National Park Service do, however, so that might be a good place to try next. Good luck!”

      They kept emailing me. “My teacher said your company accepts visas. You have to. My teacher said so. It’s the rules.”

      I now do not “help” anyone.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        That person sounds like a lot of my work clientele. Refusing to take no for an answer.

    4. Myrna M*

      This LW ticked me off – he just seemed unsympathetic, and to have been coming from that superior vantage point of having a job and never having had to struggle for a job. People are just trying to find work and trying to figure out how they can get to that better place. They’re not trying to create more work for you.

  15. OP1*

    It looks like I’ve been misunderstood already – I’m neither snooping or commenting on other people’s food. My tiny company is literally three people in an open office so it’s impossible not to be aware of what everyone else is doing. It was actually a coworker who made a comment to me about not eating the other day that set my mind running and I decided to write in. (Now I’m just embarrassed to see my run-on thoughts in print!)

    The previous job coworker I mentioned did make a point of saying she never ate lunch (and if she was really eating while out on those walks then that was none of my business.) We had a shared long desk doing the same job so again completely in each other’s business whether we wanted to be or not.

    1. Stella70*

      No, you’re fine to ask! Isn’t that why we’re all here? (Maybe those cranky ones just have low blood sugar and need a cookie or something….). :)

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      Thank you so much for providing some context here. I apologize for misunderstanding you. Of course you’d know everything about your co-workers in that small of an office without snooping.

      1. CMart*

        I still don’t think it’s unreasonable to notice what the people around you are doing when you work with them 260 days a year! It’s not “snooping” when you’re in a cube farm of 200 people to notice Joe, who walks by your cube on the way to his multiple times a day, is often carrying a Starbucks cup, to the point where you then might think “that’s Joe in Marketing, he likes Starbucks”. Or that your cube neighbor seems to ALWAYS be at their desk, and if you think about it, you never smell food or notice storage containers on their desk when you walk by and wonder if/when they eat and whimsically ponder if they are a robot since they sure talk about food a lot when you guys chit chat.

    3. Czhorat*

      The question is really fine.

      I’ll add that so long as you have a lunch break it’s no big deal to use it to eat lunch, even if others don’t. You’re probably overthinking this just a bit.

    4. Traveling Teacher*

      Hey OP–I got the sense from your letter that you were just worried about fitting in, not policing other people. It’s hard when you have to eat a lot of food, especially if you work in an office with coworkers who remark on how much you eat or talk extensively about what they don’t eat. Even if it’s not “about” you, it can feel like passive-aggressive criticism.

      Like, one year, my Monday/Thursday elementary school’s core staff of 10 consisted entirely of people with very…unique…eating habits, such as a coworker who would only eat two apples and a large glass of water every day. Not strange in and of itself, but she would also eat the entire apple–core, seeds and all–to prevent food waste and would get very judgmental if I had a sandwich purchased/packaged from the grocery store instead of bringing my own. Or another colleague who only ate a can of beans every day, plus endless cups of coffee, and would go on and on about her diet regimens and weight loss schemes. And another colleague who thought that leftovers were the only acceptable lunch food. I did not enjoy eating in this lunch room, but it was the only place we were authorized to eat.

      But, unfortunately, you just can’t know this kind of stuff til you’re hired!

      1. facepalm*

        Wading through all the comments was worth it just for the gem of the person who ate the apple core to reduce food waste. Sorry you had to deal with that person, but so glad I was able to read about her!

        1. Envy Adams*

          I knew someone as a teenager who always ate the apple core! Not even to reduce waste I don’t think, she just…ate it. Some people eat the tops off strawberries too, although I think that’s a little more common.
          I did see someone on twitter say they eat the skin from a kiwi! They just bite into it like an apple.

          1. Emi.*

            *waves* I do all these things! For me it’s less about food waste as an ethical thing and more just “here’s some food in my hand, guess I’ll eat it,” as well as not having to get up and find a trash can.

          2. Moonbeam Malone*

            Kiwis taste way better with the skin in my opinion! The skin has some tartness to balance out the mild, watery sweetness of the fruit. Also, fiber! (Totally recommend trying it at least once if the texture thing doesn’t bug you.)

          3. I eat lunch everyday*

            Oh man do I have stories for you then! I went to kindergarten in Germany (parents were expats) and there it was the norm for kids 5 years old to eat the whole apple, everything but the stem. I hated it because I refused to eat the core, but then the teacher would know it was me and shame me in front of the other kids for not eating the core…
            and at a previous job I had a coworker who would make a big show of eating the skin of the kiwi, and then he would cough his way through swallowing the hairy skin, it was a disgusting spectacle to listen to. I think of him every time I peel my kiwis. (sounds like a euphemism… ha!)

      2. Clorinda*

        I do NOT want to share an office with the person who lives on beans and coffee. No, no, no.

        1. Traveling Teacher*

          Ha, we all had our own classrooms–poor kids, more like! I have absolutely no idea how she survived on teacher bathroom breaks (aka no bathroom breaks…)

    5. Jenny*

      Unfortunately, people can get weirdly defensive about any food letter, which I think indicates that people in general can be touchy about food (which makes sense given the high prevalence of food/eating issues). The takeaway I guess is that talking about food in the workplace can be a minefield and be careful?

      But there was nothing objectionable in your letter.

      1. SAS*

        Agreed, I thought there was nothing wrong with the pitch of the letter, but as someone with odd eating habits due to a medical condition, I was cringing to imagine the LW ever bringing it up in the office (which it doesn’t seem she has)- please don’t comment on people’s eating habits!

    6. londonedit*

      I read it as you being curious about why you’d encountered so many people who don’t seem to eat at lunchtime, rather than any sort of snooping! So don’t worry.

      Personally, I need to eat at fairly regular intervals. I try to eat healthily and to stick to a particular calorie limit per day, but I still need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and maybe a snack or two in between depending on what I’m doing that day. I also like to get out of the office at lunchtime, so I’ll leave at 1pm and go for a walk, go to the shops, pick up any bits and pieces of shopping that I might need, etc. As part of that I’ll pick up a sandwich, which I then take back to eat at my desk. But other people in my office do different things – some people eat their lunch in a local park if the weather is nice, or eat earlier or later than others.

      I did once work with a woman who legitimately would forget to have lunch, and that always baffled me because I need to eat so regularly! She’d often get to 3pm and say ‘Oh! I haven’t even had any lunch yet!’…and then she’d often just carry on working for another half an hour, seemingly oblivious to the need to eat. She wasn’t dieting or anything, and she was a perfectly average size, she just wasn’t that interested in food in general. Whereas I’m all about what I’m going to have for my next meal!

      1. Bagpuss*

        I don’t forget to eat but I find that when I get hungry canvary quite a lot. I also ocassionally have a situation where I can’t eat (e.g. bcuase I am in court) and find that while I will feel hungry at thtim, if I don’t eat I stop feeling hungry after about 1 1/2 – 2 hours so at that point might forget to eat a ‘catch up’ meal.

      2. Pescadero*

        That sounds like me…. no dieting, normal weight (actually a bit low)…

        I’ve been known to forget to eat not just for a single meal, but for an entire day. Wake up the next morning hungry and suddenly realize “Wow, I never ate a meal yesterday”.

    7. Asenath*

      I thought it was a fair question! Nothing snoopy about it. It made me think a bit about my office – most of us take lunch 1-2 and bring food from home; I’ve gotten in the habit of taking early lunch (usually starting around 11:00 or 11:30) and am normally famished by then, since I also get an early start. However, if I exercise on my lunch break, I’m not usually hungry afterwards, although I don’t think my co-workers think I don’t eat at all because I eat more heartily than they do at other times. I’m probably the only one who really needs the standard 3 meals a day – unless I get a lot of exercise at lunch, which means I’ll not eat then, but have a big dinner at home after work.

      One of the oddest things I noticed – in a friend, not a co-worker – was a habit of eating nothing but cottage cheese and fruit for long periods of time. I think it was intended as a weight-control method. I would have gone crazy out of sheer boredom on a diet like that.

      1. Clisby*

        I would too, but one of my brothers used to eat exactly the same dinner every night. When I told him it seemed like that would get pretty old, he pointed out (accurately, based on my experience) that plenty of people eat the same thing for breakfast every morning.

    8. Mookie*

      I didn’t find the question or its tone off putting, but at a stretch my guess is people may be responding to “cover,” which is sometimes used as a dogwhistle to indicate the speaker is trying to suggest, without much evidence but a gut feeling and some cultural conditioning, that there’s an eating disorder at play. Talking a lot about food, of course, isn’t a sign of any such thing, and is often the easiest theme on which to build wholesome small-talk (provided there’s no policing happening).

      1. Mookie*

        Also, glad to hear you’re not literally being asked to “justify” your own eating at work, as that would be awful!

      2. Jaybeetee*

        I didn’t realize that “cover” used in that sense was a dogwhistle (and my guess is OP might not have been aware either). Interesting. I know Alison’s rules indicate “not nitpicking wording” of a letter, and every now and then commenters do seem to pick up on a specific word or phrase and extrapolate from it.

        I would also guess that people who have atypical eating/break/lunch habits have likely been scrutinized at work before over it, so might be especially defensive at the idea of someone observing/commenting on when people eat or take breaks. But contextually, OP seems to be asking more about office culture because she’s noticing *a lot* of people behaving in a similar way – not nitpicking an individual’s habits.

        1. Mookie*

          I didn’t get the sense she was nitpicking, either. And if a lot of people (relative to the admittedly small sample sizes of her workplaces) are doing something and it makes you feel out of place, extrapolating that this is a “cover” seems self-defeating because it turns benign behavior (somebody talks about food but never eats in your presence or on her daily walks) into a mystery in need of a solution, which sounds anxiety-inducing for the LW. (Also, cover for what?) It’s just a different strokes kind of deal, as the wide range of eating habits shared by the commentariat here demonstrate, plus some overthinking.

      3. Mia*

        Yeah, the “cover” thing stood out to me as well. I’m in recovery from an eating disorder and have some unrelated dietary restrictions, so I’ve heard that language used a lot in the dogwhistle-y way you describe. I totally get being curious about norms around breaks and things in that realm, but the notion that food talk is a cover for issues or something is uh, not great.

    9. Smia*

      In the grand scheme of weight loss, I figure that workday lunches are a “meh” meal that I can easily skip or eat something small/mediocre and be fine till dinner. I don’t really need the 3 meals a day, I noticed I was just doing it out of habit, and that I’m perfectly fine with a protein packed breakfast, small snack like almonds once or twice during the day, and a good meal at home.

      Maybe some of your coworkers are doing the same.

    10. Kat*

      The thing is your asking for opinions on personal preference on eating habits. Eating habits are highly sensitive for large populations of people and so the feedback is going to reflect that. In the end your only going to get opinions and everyone’s personal preference, and their experience because that is all we can give you about lunch. If you work for a larger company you will work with more people and they will have different lunch habits. This is on the same level as a few days ago asking if a braid was professional it pure opinion based on what the person responding believes/thinks.

    11. Tobias Funke*

      No, you’re fine. The responses have been strange. Performatively not eating and humble bragging about not needing food like what immediately happened in the comments is weird and inappropriate.

    12. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I agree with everyone above who said your question is fine– this is something I would wonder about too! I don’t think you’re all up in anyone’s business. I do think the people in your office aren’t hugely abnormal, but it doesn’t mean you need to do the same.

      I said something in yesterday’s thread about the boss/neighbor and how people should enter new situations with their eyes and ears open so they get a feel for the culture. I think that’s what you’re doing, trying to get a feel for whether this is something you should be doing because that’s what’s part of your office culture and whether it’s typical.

    13. TiffanyAching*

      OP1, I’ve also had this question! Several of my coworkers seem to eat sporadically throughout the workday, or not at all, and I’ve definitely wondered about it. Like you, it’s a combination of a small office and my coworkers saying things like “Oh I didn’t even eat lunch yesterday,” or “I can’t shake this headache, maybe it’s because I’ve only had 6 almonds and 3 cups of coffee today.”

      I also have hypoglycemia, so not eating for long stretches is just not possible and mid-day food is a necessity. But it can definitely feel odd to feel like you’re the only one eating, especially if any of your coworkers comment on it. So I totally get where you’re coming from.

    14. ello mate*

      What you asked was totally fine. I’ve wondered it before too. People would just not eat any breakfast or lunch at all and then leave at 7. What do you eat all day!? maybe they dont want to eat and okay thats none of my business. I also had a job where coworkers swore up and down they would NEVER poop at work. And I wondered about what went on in their mind/body when then had to poop and were at work. People wonder things about the world around them. Not everyone who is curious about why someone doesn’t eat is an evil food pushing devil who is constantly body shaming and judging their colleague while giving lectures about the virtues of activated almonds. Some people just have questions.

  16. Erin*

    #1 Where I work, an errand during lunch time means I eat at my desk before or after. It’s not exactly frowned upon, but shouldn’t happen every day, as eating at your desk is still seen as a semi-break. I bring my lunch from home most days and eat at my desk because it’s easier and more comfortable, but that’s a full-blown lunch break, with Netflix on my phone and news on my computer. If anyone walks in, I tell them I’ll get back to them later. Many of my colleagues do the same.

  17. Tom*

    OP #4 – sometimes it actually helps asking why you received a rejection.
    Point in case – my wife was looking for a new challenge, and threw her hat in the ring for an HR job.
    She got a standard ‘not fitting the profile’ rejection letter – but she considered that this would have been a mistake – as the jod ad looked written for her specifically.

    So, she mailed the hiring manager and requested in a friendly manner they explain where exactly the fit was incorrect, as based on their description she had thought she`d be an almost perfect fit.
    1 day later, she got a call – an appology and the explanation that they read a line wrong – and then didn`t read as they jumped to an incorrect conclusion.
    She did get invited to an in person interview – and ended up in the last 2 options, where the person that got the job had more experience in a similar role.

    So, yes, asking an explanation could actually benefit you. For my wife, not the job, but confirmation she wasn`t crazy after all :)

    1. ArtK*

      I recently had a similar situation. After a rejection, I asked the recruiter for some feedback and they gave me some very detailed information. The bonus was that the recruiter told me that if I wanted to be reconsidered, I could address those issues in a cover letter! I did and I’m waiting now for the coordinator to get back to me for a phone interview!

  18. Jenny*

    For #4, I think I hesitate about feedback as well because so many use it as an excuse to try to argue their rejection. It also is asking for tike, and if you interview a lot of people, you just can’t offer it a lot due to the time commitment.

    If you truly want feedback, ask nicely and be prepared to encounter tough criticism and examine yourself. But also, an interviewer isn’t obligated to do so, so understand you are asking a favor and proceed accordingly.

    1. Teapot PR consultant*

      From a hiring manager’s perspective, the problem with providing feedback to unsuccessful external candidates is that it’s a no-win situation. It chews up time and is likely to lead to arguments. The organisation cannot benefit, because it’s already passed on the candidate.

      In contrast, I’d always be willing to provide feedback to an internal candidate.

      1. PBJnocrusts*

        I’m curious as to why an internal candidate would get feedback but external would not? Is it to encourage the internal candidate ?

        1. Jenny*

          Plus you trust the internal candidate not to get aggressive, presumably. External candidates are an unknown. I once did a great interview with a guy we we’re all ready to hire. Then in his “any questions?” He started grilling us aggressively as to why he had not been hired for a position he applied for last year. He turned a yes into a no in a heartbeat.

        2. Washi*

          And I think you would especially want the internal candidate to feel like they’d been given a fair chance and considered carefully, because you wouldn’t want them to quit entirely after not getting the position.

      2. Myrna M*

        Ok. But responding doesn’t have to take that long, and it’s kind of a jerky move not to.

    2. Alice*

      I got a sense from the letter that OP4 feels obligated to provide some feedback, having been asked. You don’t have to if you don’t want to! There is no lasso of truth compelling you to answer or to answer completely.
      (Is that how the lasso of truth works?)
      I think that you should respond to the email, if someone got to the in-person interview stage, but it’s ok if that response is “we don’t have specific feedback; thanks for your time, and good luck.”

  19. thomas*

    Re OP#1, my lunch breaks are not counted toward my weekly target of 40 hours, so I would much rather sip a meal replacement drink while working and go home after 8 hours, instead of extending that to 8 and a half to include the lunch break.

    My boss doesn’t particularly care if I do it this way, since my team has odd hours anyway and none of us are client-facing. (And we are in tech, so it’s not that weird.)

    I make sure to take two fifteen-minute walk breaks to get away from my desk.

    All my team members eat lunch different ways and it works for us. Extending that to the whole company gets you even more different methods, once you account for lunch meetings. Not saying it can’t be a culture issue other places, but that it doesn’t really have to be. “How does your company do lunch?” would be met with a resounding “wat” from me at an interview because there’s no one way.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      That’s usually my normal. Our hours are 9-5 with one hour for lunch. Most people take an full hour away from their desk. But I hate that! Taking an hour makes me feel like I don’t want to come back, or I find it disjointed and interruptive. So I nibble at my desk and leave at 4:30 instead (if I can).

  20. Chuck*

    #3–I used to listen to comedy podcasts a lot at my student assistant job involving a lot of scanning documents + very basic image retouching. I was really self-conscious about making noise and if it got particularly funny I just paused until I could stop cry-laughing. (Or leave the office, a couple of times.)

    IMO treat it like any other noise disturbance. A burst of loud laughter in a quiet room is going to be distracting and I think it’s reasonable to ask people to try and keep their reactions down. Writing emails while listening to a podcast sounds difficult, if that is what your coworkers are doing? I always had to pause before actually writing/reading something. But I guess it’s their manager’s job to figure out if their work is being affected.

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      This is a really helpful comment. I have a really hard time disconnecting a noise from my curiosity about its source, so a chuckle gets my attention more than a cough. But I would remind myself that they’re pretty much the same in terms of noise and try to ignore the chuckle just as much as I would the cough, because what’s going on in somebody’s brain or lungs shouldn’t really be my business.

  21. Greyhound*

    I tend to eat lunch outside the office every day. There are no cafes or restaurants around so I usually just sit on the edge of the parking lot on a sunnny day or even in my car (though I usually drive a bit away so that’s not obvious). My job is a type where we don’t have physical desks so I can’t eat at my desk. There is a break room but as a huge introvert, those 30 minutes away from people are far more important for me to “recharge” than the food. I’ll stick around if something’s going on but otherwise I find break room chatter extremely draining. We don’t have wifi that staff can use on breaks and the times I’ve tried reading a book have earned me weird looks so physically leaving seems to be the only way to get out of the chatter. Most of my coworkers have probably only rarely actually seen me eating.

    1. Doctor Schmoctor*

      Same. I used to live very close to the office, so I went home for lunch. It was a welcome break from people. Now that I live further away, I can’t go home, but I still leave and go eat somewhere else. Lunch time feels like an excuse for people to pry into my private business. I like my space.

  22. TassieTiger*

    The lunch break question is one of these things that makes me feel I am never going to get out of food service. As not to stick person I have limited emotional energy I can spend things on. There is just no way I could go through the whole job seeking an interview process and hold off until I get an offer to figure out the lunch break culture. There’s just no way. I get a 15 minute break right now and if I wanted to Prioritize that and get half an hour to an hour and have that be part of the culture where I work, a bit less chaotic, that’s one of the things I have to know someone closer to the beginning of the process. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll get there one day.

    1. TassieTiger*

      I apologize I was using voice to text. That should be “artistic person” not “stick person”

    2. Colette*

      Most office jobs will have at least 30 minutes (often an hour) for lunch, which is why it would be an odd question to ask in an interview for that type of job. It’s also common for people to snack at their desk if they want to.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Here’s why I wish I could ask about lunch culture: I’m running into this a lot at my current agency, and have seen it before in the past, where people use skipping meals as a badge of honor. “OMG, it’s 3 PM and I’ve had back to back meetings all day so I haven’t had lunch!” “I’m working so hard there’s no time to eat!”

        I do like to eat, and as it happens I like to eat a meal, uninterrupted by coworkers, for at least 20 minutes between 12 and 1 PM. This often gets me dirty looks. What do you mean, you can’t come to my meeting? What do you mean, come back later? (this asked when I have food in my mouth) My favorite was the project manager who scheduled a meeting from 12-1:30, then gave my direct report a blank stare when direct report asked whether there would be food at the meeting. Apparently because this project manager was okay with not eating during that period, everyone else was supposed to be too.

        I wish I could screen out this kind of crap, or at least get less flak for establishing from the beginning that A Gal Likes to Eat.

        1. Tobias Funke*

          Yes! I can’t believe the people berating OP have never worked anywhere that eating or taking a break was considered high treason! Our culture is strange enough about food and who gets to eat it and who gets to enjoy it. It is even stranger when we combine the idea that eating and being a good employee are mutually exclusive.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I experienced that a lot when I worked adjacent to ad sales. People scheduled internal meetings between 12 and 1 all the time without food, and it was basically expected that no one would need to eat. What I found really odd was that when our salespeople went to see clients, there was always food. It didn’t matter what time the meeting was, there was always coffee, at least. My salespeople never ate it and I was rarely able to if I joined them because I was presenting. I used to carry almonds around or sneak snacks in the bathroom or put extra sugar in my coffee to avoid the uncomfortable gurgling.

          “I need to make some time for lunch” was not considered an acceptable reason to reschedule a meeting, nor was it considered ok to bring food to 12:30 meetings. I think it’s because of this that I never even think about lunch culture, I just assume that I will have to rely on those almonds for a while. Which is terrible, because I have low blood sugar and a condition that affects my iron levels so I’m supposed to eat. I also think I have a screwed up view of this because I’m overweight and worked in a division where the women were all very sleek and polished and looked like they went spinning every morning, so I always had this idea that certainly I should never be seen eating, but that’s a different thing altogether.

          Since I left that field, I always eat, especially at client meetings! My boss is presenting to one of our clients next week without me and I’m kind of pissed because that client ordered in THE BEST food when I went to see them two years ago and I was hoping to get more of it.

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            Ha, the one time we can be absolutely assured of eating well is when there’s a client meeting.

        3. Colette*

          The worst job I had for lunch was when I worked for an American company on the west coast, and also worked with a lot of people from Edinburgh. The only time all of our work hours overlapped was between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. my time – but even then I could eat at my desk during the meeting.

        4. Envy Adams*

          This reminds me of a job interview I once had! The interview itself was at around 5pm, and the interviewer was very upfront about the fact that even though the hours were technically 9-5, everyone stayed later than that to get all their work done. And she was right! Even the receptionist was still there even after I left. She also talked about never having time to eat lunch because she was always working, bearing in mind she was heavily pregnant at the time!
          I was very grateful she told me all of this because there was no way I would’ve coped, so I took myself out of the running right then. I’m now in a much less stressful job where nobody works through lunch, not even the managers.

  23. Bookworm*

    #2: Agree with Alison. It also may seem impersonal, but it is now more appropriate to ask because why should you spend time going to an interview if the pay is not what you’re looking for? As a job seeker on the other side, I’ve even had interviews cancelled because I told them I wanted to meet in person *before* discussing a salary range (I wanted more details, see the people/office in person and take that under consideration, etc. In this case the job posting did not specify applicants had to name a salary range just to be considered).

    If some interviewers feel they need to know the salary range up front, I don’t see why interviewees can’t ask the same (hence, some of the snarky responses of people saying interviewees should ask for the salary ranges of the current employees in the same position, etc.).

    #4: I can understand if you don’t want to give feedback, but as an interviewee who thought the process went well, it was a good meeting of minds, I really liked the place…there are times when I’m just utterly baffled if I don’t make it to the next round or I don’t get the job. It can be devastating and frustrating, especially if you took hours to prepare, did multiple interview rounds, etc. Sometimes I’ve gotten to the end, didn’t get it and was happy (bad fit) and sometimes some sort of feedback would have been useful, even if I didn’t really want the job in the end.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      I am now in government where salary is listed and public for each sort of position, but before that, especially in entry-level/retail/customer service type jobs (i.e. jobs that don’t normally pay well), some places seemed to be really into not posting the pay for an advertised position, and there was this sort of implication that you were being greedy or money-grubbing if you asked. Like you’re supposed to be applying to this call centre job for the love of the game, and not to pay your bills. That said, in the last 5 years or so I noticed more and more that most places would post pay info, or at least a range, in their job postings, which IMO is as it should be. There are *very* few people out there who truly love a certain type of work so much they don’t care what they’re being paid (or are in a position where they don’t have to care what they’re being paid).

    2. Katie the Fed*

      A few weeks after I started dating my n0w-husband, I very awkwardly asked something like “I’m not saying I’m focused on this or thinking of you like this, but I just want to know if you’re open to the idea of children in general, because we’re in our 30s and I don’t think it makes sense for either of us to waste our time on a relationship if it’s going to be fundamentally incompatible.”

      He laughed and responded (and went on to knock me up twice a few years later).

      I think of the salary question similarly – why waste anyone’s time if we’re never going to be on the same page here?

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        I had a very similar conversation with my now husband a few dates in. :) I work better under clear expectations/communications and assume that many other people do as well.

        Our HR won’t post salary ranges (it’s not common in our industry), but they discuss salary range in an initial screening call before moving people forward. They’re also fine with throwing the first numbers, and our interview guidelines prohibit asking about prior/current salaries even though it’s not illegal here (yet).

    3. Goya de la Mancha*

      It’s VERY frustrating when jobs don’t post a pay range. There is absolutely no point in wasting time for myself or the employer who has to sift through how many hundreds of resumes if your range can’t even cover my rock bottom price. I hope it becomes more common/accepted to keep those terms up front before going through all the work.

  24. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I would love to listen to podcasts while working but that would leave me unable to work! Music is one thing, folks talking about topics I might actually want to listen to is another. I have several coworkers who are able to do this and I am fascinated they can do so. I would be there with my fingers on the keyboard unmoving, and listening.

    But as a previous manager to me pointed out when I flagged someone on his team was listening to talk shows all day, if the work gets done… /shrug.

  25. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – curious about why you seem to care so much about what others you work with do for lunch? There could be a multitude of reasons that you never see them eat, but why does it even matter? Unless they’re burning popcorn in the microwave, or heating up leftover fish, it really isn’t any of your business. And outside of asking what a work day consists of in terms of breaks, I wouldn’t bring it up in an interview.
    #3 – I think this falls under the category of “not your circus not your monkeys”. You say you’re not their supervisor, and being senior to them doesn’t really make much of a difference. Unless they are directly affecting your work, as in you can’t get you work done because they’re distracting you, or your work depends on their work and they’re slacking off, you need to let it go.

    1. CMart*

      #1 mostly just seemed curious, it didn’t seem to matter one way or another but it is a little odd to feel like no one but you ever eats food.

      But it also does kind of matter in an office culture kind of way, as a lot of people have described above. One of my old managers lives 5 minutes from the office and goes home every day to have lunch with her husband. She’d probably be much less happy if the “done thing” was to skip lunch entirely and just never eat during the day in order to hyper-focus on work.

  26. Doctor Schmoctor*

    #1 Different people are different. I know many people who don’t eat breakfast. I’m not a fan of supper. We’re different. There are more important things to worry about.

  27. MatKnifeNinja*

    I’ve never eat at work, or at most might have a granola bar if I’m really feeling loopy.

    I hate scarfing my food. We get 30 minutes for lunch. I’d rather read or do something else.

    Been intermittent fasting for 2 years. My fast time is 8 PM to 2 PM. So around 2 PM, I eat very light snack and some sort of juice.

    Not eating lunch also get me out of cleaning the crime scene known as the office microwave and kitchen. #WINNING

    Believe me, I eat. But not usually at work.

  28. Argh!*

    Re: humor in public speaking

    The Harvard Business Review recently published an article about this. Basically, humor helps men appear more approachable but it makes women seem less competent. Since humor is supposedly a sign of intelligence, that is a shame.

    1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Actually, I was once told, “Of course you’re intelligent, you have a sense of humour!” I am a woman, he was a man. I had never been told that before.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s interesting. I always use humor when I present as a way to make me seem more approachable and relaxed (I’m a woman who has a tendency to look angry when I concentrate). I’ll have to read this.

  29. Serial Snacker*

    I’ve worked at a few places where people seemed to not eat anything. There was a lady I worked with, that rarely left her desk at all. Maybe to use the restroom or get more coffee. I never saw her eat a thing in the 3 years I worked there. I think some people are just that way.

    I on the other hand am a serial snacker. I have a snack drawer at work. I need to take a lunch to break up my day, or I would go nuts.

    1. DataQueen*

      I remember a question here where the person offhandedly said “I’m lucky if I get a chance to eat”, and you would have thought he said “I hope I get to murder puppies.” People feel VERY strongly about lunch. But I’m like the person you’re describing – I don’t eat during the day. Maybe a cereal bar, but I sip on large iced coffees all day, and eat one large meal at night. People have their opinions, but i’m in great health and good shape and very active – my diet seems to work for me. But I like it this way – I’m very busy, I get my work done, I don’t need breaks (and i’ve been doing this for 10 years – i’m not at risk to burn out). But people feel verryyyy strongly. Some people are Lunch People and some people aren’t. And some jobs are Lunch Jobs and some aren’t. In my office, it would be weird to take an hour lunch every single day – most people eat at thier desks unless we have plans out of the office or decide to get delivery. That’s just how it is.

  30. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I have probably mentioned this before, but I worked for a guy who was VERY into breakfast. He liked breakfast foods, he liked going to his local breakfast place, he liked the camaraderie, he likes coffee – the whole shebang. Because of his overwhelming love of breakfast, he usually had an enormous breakfast that would fuel him throughout the day.

    Normally – who cares, right? Where this became a problem was when he couldn’t get himself to embrace the notion that not everyone eats the way he did, and that many people legitimately need to stop and eat in the middle of the day. He chastised some support staff and a couple interns for taking regular lunch breaks, reasoning that if he didn’t need breaks, neither did anyone else. (Also, I think there are laws about this, but when do laws stop bullies? Rarely.)

    I guess the point is that lots of people eat differently, and if you want to eat lunch then you should be able to.

  31. Karen from Finance*

    Re. OP#2, Lately I’ve been on a trend where recruiters will ask my salary expectation at the end of the phone interview, or by email when we are exchanging information. Usually I say my expectation and they’ll respond with what they are estimating for the role. I’ve had it happen that we matched, that they were offering more than I was asking (and they told me), and that they had a lower budget (and they asked if I would be open anyway).

    It’s fantastic, it saves everyone so much time. I really hope this becomes the norm in the future. I think the more often companies are honest are when people ask for less money than they were thinking, that will generate trust in prospective employees and the whole process will be a lot smoother for everyone. We need to have honest conversations about these things.

  32. Competent, I swear!*

    #4 : I would always ask for feedback, unless it was really obvious in the rejection (eg. I once had “ your interview was really strong, but ultimately we decided to go with an internal candidate with loads of business knowledge but no specialist knowledge, rather than you as the qualified specialist without the relevant business sector knowledge” – I felt that was enough) – because seeking feedback might help you succeed the next time around.

    Useful feedback I had, that I could then work hard to improve on the next time, included:
    • “you gave some great examples [competency-based] but focused far too much on the ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ – we were left with no clear demonstration of YOUR skills”
    • “you gave a weak answer to the question about [x] which we felt didn’t demonstrate anything about your understanding of our company and the specific challenges here, your answer was far too generic”
    • “while some of your answers were great, and demonstrated your skills and experience, a couple of times we asked you something you clearly hadn’t expected or prepared for, and you were unable to give a structured response that answered the question”

    That said, if the reason for rejection is “you were annoying” then I can understand your reticence! :)

  33. Allison*

    #1, I’ve worked in a couple offices where a lot of people were either too busy for lunch, or were so busy they didn’t get around to eating anything until 2PM, and people conflate either skipping lunch or eating late with working hard and being very important, and then I feel self-conscious for eating at 11AM because I worry people will notice and think I don’t work hard enough.

    1. Levy Tate*

      Sounds like here. No one takes an actual lunch break and I’m the freak because, on a rare occasion, I leave to grab some food rather than work and eat at my desk. I work an 8 1/2 hour day, but *gasp* why would I want to take any break?

  34. Tobias Funke*

    The answers to the lunch question kind of justify the asking of the question, no? It’s so incredibly frustrating as a therapist to work with people on having the confidence to recognize their own needs (LIKE REGULAR ACCESS TO FOOD?!?) and then have an office culture totally undermine that work. Needing food is not difficult, precious, a sign of not being dedicated, a sign of not caring about one’s body (!), or basically any kind of moral issue. It just means a person needs to eat and that’s okay.

  35. Hold My Cosmo*

    LW #5 I have not seen improv on a resume, but it is all over the place on LinkedIn. People post a LOT of photos of their troupes, how the concept is useful in business, etc. It seems to be trending very high right now, so I’d keep track of how prevalent it is (and whether that’s a plus or a minus in your field) when deciding whether to include it.

  36. Katie the Fed*

    #5 is so tricky, because with the personality issues, those are often the people least likely to really accept feedback, and the last thing you want as a hiring manager is to get into an argument about it. Also sometimes there’s really nothing they could have done to improve their candidacy except…not be who they are. And there’s no easy way to say that.

    I’m reminded of a time I was soliciting bids on a HUGE and very expensive landscaping project. I was close to picking one company but the guy was really bothering me personality wise. Then we had one meeting where he got worse and just started mansplaining things to me, condescending, and arguing with me (the customer) on what I wanted because he had such-and-such degrees and knew better. I told him thank you but I’d be moving forward with a different bid, and he sent me an email wanted to know why (and CCed his boss). I replied all that I felt like our personalities wouldn’t be a good fit and I was looking for a more collaborative process. He replied rather nastily telling me that his personality is great and gets many compliments on it and his clients all appreciate his ideas. Okily dokily, whatever you say!

  37. Amethystmoon*

    I eat lunch, but I normally eat a small amount of food for lunch (like a cup of soup, or stir fry). I do bring protein snacks to work. I don’t like eating large lunches because I have always felt judgy-mcjudgerson-judged for doing so. I’m pretty careful of what I bring to work to eat so the health-food police don’t comment.

  38. No Mercy Percy*

    #1 I’m definitely a no-lunch person. I eat breakfast, I eat dinner, and that’s enough for me. I actually find it annoying that my employer requires me to take at least a 30 minute lunch break. So I punch out for “lunch” for 20 minutes, where I pretty much just sit at my desk twiddling my thumbs. It’s apparently illegal in Illinois to not get a lunch break of at least 20 minutes, which also annoys me. I’d rather be working and getting things done.

    I realize I’m probably in the minority on this, but no-lunchers do exist.

  39. OP #2*

    Thanks for your input, Alison. I actually did send a very similar email. The person on the other end mentioned he couldn’t quantify it for me since another department decided on salaries. He turned the question on me just like you mentioned. I sent my range and he said we weren’t in the same ballpark, so I declined the interview. He was very gracious and I’m glad I didn’t waste anyone’s time (particularly mine). On to the next one.

    1. Karen from Finance*

      I think you did the right choices here, OP. Congratulations, and good luck on your search!

    2. DivineMissL*

      I’ve done the same thing. I’m well paid and compensated for my type of position and it is hard to find something else that would make it worth my while to leave. After one interview process where I bought a new suit and used up two vacation days to have 3 interviews BEFORE finding out that their range was $20k less than I was making, I found it saves time and aggravation to ask POLITELY for a range in advance. I had an interview request a few months ago; I asked what their salary range to make sure we were in the same page/so I didn’t waste their time, and they just calmly told me. I said I appreciated their candor, said it was below what I was currently making so I was withdrawing from consideration, thanked them and said I hoped that they would consider me for other positions in the future. What a relief!

      1. ragazza*

        This is helpful. I have a phone interview today for a position that may pay the same as what I make now, a little more, or a LOT less. It’s hard to tell (it’s the same job function as what I do but in a different industry). So this is a good response to have in my pocket if it’s really low.

  40. TootsNYC*

    Re: asking for feedback

    You don’t have to answer every question anybody asks you.

    You don’t have to tell the truth.

    You don’t have to tell the whole truth.

    You don’t have to say every thought that’s in your head, and you don’t have to say them in the meanest way possible.

    Is there any USABLE information that you would have for her? Probably not, right? So, reply back, “I don’t really have any useful feedback for you–best of luck in your search.”

    1. Important Moi*

      I agree with everything you’ve said.

      It seems odd to me that so many people feel so powerless regarding conversation or a question.

  41. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP #4: In your particular circumstance, yes, that’s uncomfortable. And, quite often, the feedback is super generic and ultimately unhelpful (“You’re great! We just found someone better”). However, if interviewers are willing to give it, sometimes feedback can provide really useful information. A friend of mine once got rejected for a job and I encouraged him to ask for feedback. He learned that the reason he was passed over was largely administrative and he was encouraged to re-apply, and he also learned that he could work on a few things to make a better impression upfront (he gets kind of nervous).

  42. AnOh*

    #1 I’m awful at eating lunch at work. I tend to prefer eating later (1-2pm) to avoid the kitchen lunch rush/waiting forever to use our single microwave but I also often get very caught up in my work (“I’ll just finish this ONE thing then go grab food”) and by the time I check the clock it’s 3 or 4pm. By then I’d rather just wait until I’m home and have a large dinner. I do snack often though if it’s a “no lunch” kind of day.

  43. Rainy days*

    Re feedback—I’ve given it in cases where the candidate turned out to not have a hard skill we were looking for, because it’s pretty objective. In an internship program I run, I occasionally give students or recent grads this feedback unsolicited bc I want them to think more carefully about listing that skill in the future. It can be worth asking.

  44. Theory of Eeveelution*

    LW1, I think the answer is reasonable EXCEPT for the final sentence. My company (pretty big, pretty well known) is so meetings-focused that many, many people have back-to-back meetings literally all day, including during their lunch hour. This is a known problem within the company that no one seems to be able to fix [insert intense eye roll]. So no, I don’t think you can expect every employer ever to allow you a lunch break.

    However, I think a reasonable question to ask during the interview process would be about company culture regarding meetings.

  45. TheRealJimShady*

    Ok, lunch question for the commentariat. How long does it take you to eat lunch?

    In my office, we generally all eat at our desks, and work while we eat. However, some people take up to THREE HOURS to finish their food! Not an exaggeration. It’s typically not something elaborate or messy, either–I mean they have a small salad, or a panini or wrap, or even something like pizza or chicken fingers, and it takes them three hours of picking at to eat. I tend to take between 15 – 30 minutes to eat–more if it’s something like soup or salad, that requires a little more deft handling, and less if it’s a sandwich, or something I can easily eat between emails.

    I have some food hangups of my own, so this definitely irritates me more than it should. But I think it’s really gross when someone has food out for hours at a time…even if it doesn’t smell or anything, I can’t help but think a meat and veggie panini CAN’T taste as good after a couple hours in a cold office, under fluorescent lights.

    1. Theory of Eeveelution*

      I think you should get over it!

      This blog has amazed me over the years. There are people who are “annoyed” at EVERYTHING. Your own life will be better if you learn to let these things go!

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        You should probably let go of your annoyance at people who are annoyed by things, your life will be better.

          1. TheRealJimShady*

            I don’t mention it or chastise them or anything! I just think…it HAS to be unsanitary, right? We aren’t in cubes, we have an open office and share long desks (like in a school science room, almost). I just think it’s disgusting that you would have food out for that long, uncovered, in an environment where there are 50+ people breathing, coughing, whatever, all over it.

            1. TootsNYC*

              you are ingesting those breathing and coughing germs just by BEING in the same space–it’s not less hygenic because it’s food.

              And the most common danger would be with protein, and even then, the practical danger isn’t that high.

              They don’t seem to be getting sick, do they?

              1. TheRealJimShady*

                Well…I mean, yeah, they are. lol. A LOT. Someone is ALWAYS sick in this office. The more you can do to minimize that the better

      2. Myrna M*

        @Theory – agreed. Such pettiness. How is it their business? How do they have an opinion on such a thing?!

    2. No Mercy Percy*

      It seems really strange to me to take that long! Of course, I chafe at having to take a lunch break and I never bring food to the office or eat at the office (I commented above with detail), so people may find my lunch habits just as equally strange.

      1. TootsNYC*

        If they’re eating at their desk while they’re working, of course they might get interrupted, and maybe even lose interest and then regain it (or eat the rest because they thinkthey should)

    3. No Mercy Percy*

      Follow up to say while I find it strange people would take that long, it wouldn’t annoy me the way it seems to annoy you.

    4. Karen from Finance*

      If I sit down to eat, I eat in 15-20 minutes. But if I’m eating while I’m doing something else, I’ll often mindlessly pick at it over the course of a few hours, yes. But that’s because food is not my main focus at that moment.

      I don’t get why it annoys you so much, though.

      1. A different username than usual*

        I don’t get why it’s so annoying either, but I’m a natural grazer myself. There are a good number of people out there who find it unnatural for some reason though – including an ex-partner of mine, who was so irked by it that I stopped dating anything other than three square meals around him because I was sick of hearing about how I’m a weirdo.

    5. LCL*

      I do find it very strange. In my current setting I don’t really see that, but I remember it from my school days and always thought it was bizarre.

    6. Thundercactus*

      The person i sit next to does this. It makes me really uncomfortable because i’m in recovery for an eating disorder, and I tended to “eat” really slowly when i was anorexic, so the food would get spoiled or old over the course of a day and I wouldn’t be tempted to eat it anymore. That may not be the case for op but I do agree that this behavior is gross

    7. Jennifer*

      It probably takes me about 10-15 minutes. I usually work at the same time but occasionally I’ll get out of the office. There’s a nice courtyard here and some other peaceful areas here I like to sneak off to.

    8. CheeryO*

      I have vague eating-related anxiety and tend to pick at my food over an hour or so. I eat pretty bland stuff – overnight oats, yogurt with fruit, sandwiches, salads, etc., so hopefully it doesn’t bother anyone. I really don’t care about germs, and I have a strong stomach anyway. Try not to let it bother you!

    9. Moonbeam Malone*

      Depends, but actual eating is usually probably 20-30 minutes. I used to be able to eat, and then take a half hour walk on my lunch hours at an old job. They put in new sidewalks near where I work now so I might be able to start doing that again when the weather is nice!

  46. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1 Just some food for thought on this one (Yeah, I did that).

    I’m actually really uneasy about you focusing on people and their eating habits. I didn’t eat in front of people for decades because of anxiety and eating disorders. I would eat in my car a lot during work hours specifically for privacy.

    Some people find it unsettling and unappetizing to eat around others. It’s just a thing. They’re still taking their breaks after all.

    I agree asking about these things in an interview is going to look odd and unfocused on the job itself. It most likely won’t go over well.

    1. No Mercy Percy*

      I appreciate your pun! I agree, people’s lunch habits are their own. You make a good point about people with anxiety and eating disorders. Unwanted attention on people’s lunch habits is right there next to unwanted comments on what they’re eating.

    2. Mia*

      100% agreed. I have a lot of food-related anxiety and it’s hard for me to eat in front of people I’m not close to. I’m certain it’s something people I’ve worked with for any length of time have picked up on, but I like to think they’re not especially focused on it.

  47. blink14*

    OP#1 – I wonder if you’re actually just picking up on the fact that a lot of the people you work with don’t take lunch breaks, and this translates to not eating lunch, along with people actually not eating lunch.

    I think the implications of not taking a lunch break are often underestimated, from a work culture perspective. I also think taking your lunch at your desk is underestimated in the negativity that can create. I take my lunch break every day, without fail, away from my desk (even if I’m just at another, empty desk) unless there is an event or meeting I have to attend (which in academia, means lunch if it’s at lunch time). I also have hypoglycemia, and lunch is my biggest trigger meal – if I don’t eat lunch by a certain time, I will not only be in a bad mood, but I’m also highly likely to start having low sugar problems.

    But I also take my break because it is part of the employee schedule and I need the mental break. A lot of people work through lunch every day, and that can create a culture where taking your lunch is seen as “bad” or “slacking”. In my opinion, at my job level and salary, working through lunch is really just losing money, because I am entitled to a one hour lunch break as stated in the employee policy. Do I sometimes not take the whole thing? Sure, but then I also don’t worry if I’m 15 minutes late or need to leave 15 minutes early some other time.

    Everybody has different needs and eating schedules – do what works best for you! In my last office area, I was one of maybe 5 people out about 40 who took their lunch break every day, away from their desk. And us doing that actually encouraged a few more people to do it by the time my office was moved to another building.

    My old job required all salaried employees to take an hour lunch, and you literally were not allowed to sit at your desk for that hour, which was fine by me. In this case, it was less about employee wellness and more about making sure people didn’t work through lunch and then expect to leave early.

    1. No Mercy Percy*

      I disagree with employers and states REQUIRING a break (as my employer and state both do). Employees should certainly be allowed to have breaks, but breaks shouldn’t be forced on people who don’t need or want them. Personally, I chafe at the requirement. I just sit at my desk doing nothing for the Illinois-mandated 20 minutes, then get back to work. The break does absolutely nothing for me.

      1. blink14*

        The policy, at least on a state level, is in force to make sure employees are guaranteed breaks (hourly employees in my state), as part of fair labor. Maybe think about the people who wouldn’t be getting breaks if it wasn’t state mandated – that’s not fair either.

        1. TootsNYC*

          yeah, I really think that sitting at your desk for an unwanted 20 minutes is a small sacrifice for you to make in order to keep other people from being exploited and abused.

          1. No Mercy Percy*

            I’m not saying “take away workers breaks” I’m saying “don’t make the breaks mandatory”. Employers would still be required to give breaks to employees who want them, they just wouldn’t have to force breaks on employees like me who don’t want them.

        2. No Mercy Percy*

          The state and employers could just mandate that employees have a break be available instead of mandating that employees take one whether they want it or not. That would still allow employees who want one to have one, and employees who want one but are denied a break would still have recourse under such a law.

          1. blink14*

            You’d go down a slippery slope on this one. In most (if not all?) states, the break time for hourly employees at least is tied to hours worked and you have to clock in and clock out. Most employers are not going to pay their employees for break time if they don’t take a break that’s mandatory to be offered, but not necessarily mandatory to be taken. This means someone could say hey I worked my 8 hours, skipped my break, now I’m leaving 30 minutes early. That doesn’t work for most businesses.

            Or an employee feels pressured to work those breaks, because they aren’t mandatory to take, and they don’t feel comfortable reporting it to the law. Or someone who is unfamiliar with the law doesn’t realize there’s recourse. Or someone passes out because they didn’t take their break, and now the employer is stuck with a worker’s comp claim. Or an employee really needs to take their break to eat lunch or use the restroom, and they can’t because their employer “offers” the breaks but doesn’t really.

            The breaks are mandatory by law for a variety of really good reasons.

          2. Typhoid Mary*

            which then places a target on the backs of anybody deciding to take a break. It automatically makes them look like they’re”working less” when they are just taking a break they’ve earned. Overworking is a badge of honor in our culture, so having your legally required breaks be “opt in” means you put the break-takers folks at a disadvantage.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m usually about “less” laws but I have to agree with the other comment above.

        The reason there are these asinine employment laws are due to scummy terrible bad employers who have to be made to treat employees like humans with needs.

        Your company is over the top requiring breaks but many strict HR advisory folks force feed fear to employers. They could possibly be sued and the case won if they allow employees the ability to choose.

        In then end most employment law assumes the company as the one with more capital and resources than the every day worker. Therefore it’s on them to enforce rules to ensure compliance.

        I’ve known really bad people who own business and this site is full of bad-boss-bad-company behaviors. They ruin it for everyone and are the poster child for “this is why we can’t have nice things”.

        1. No Mercy Percy*

          I’m not saying to repeal the law, just to change it. Those shitty employers denying people breaks would still be breaking the law even after the changes I think should be made.

      3. TootsNYC*

        maybe the break would do something for you if you did something with it.

        Seriously–try going for a walk for those 20 minutes. Give it a good two or three weeks before you decide whether you get anything out of it.

        1. No Mercy Percy*

          I’ve tried doing different things with it, it all feels like such an inefficient use of my time. I come to work to do work, and doing anything else feels wrong to me. That’s not to say it’s wrong, people’s time at work is between them and their manager and I don’t judge (I made a similar comment further down). I just feel that, for me personally, my time at work is best spent doing work.

    2. Jennifer*

      Yes, I have worked places where doing things like taking a lunch or leaving at the scheduled time made you look like a slacker. Very anxiety-inducing. My therapist chided me for not taking my allowed breaks and insisted I start. Made a world of difference.

      1. blink14*

        Huge difference! I have had people tell me they admire me for taking my lunch break -which is kind of sad. It’s your break! Use it if you want!

          1. blink14*

            YES! At every job I’ve had, I’ve made a point to take all of my vacation and personal time. It’s PAID time, take it.

      2. No Mercy Percy*

        I don’t understand people who judge other people for their schedules. As long as your schedule is approved by your manager and doesn’t impact anyone’s work negatively, it’s nobody else’s business. If you get a break and want to take it, great. Take it. If you get a break and don’t want it, also great. Don’t take it. Either way, it’s nobody else’s business and nobody should judge you for it.

  48. Coverage Associate*

    Having just attended mediation from 9 to 4 with no lunch break, I feel #1. I once went with a partner to client meetings from 11am to 9pm, and he didn’t even take a bathroom break. I have a weekly healthcare appointment at 1pm and it sometimes does cause wrinkles with the whole team’s work flows.

    My only advice is to always have snacks with protein handy and to try to remember people aren’t thinking about you as much as you think they are (which can be good if you don’t want to explain your healthcare, and bad if they think you can work with no breaks).

    1. Jennifer*

      Bathroom breaks are another thing. Of course, they can’t tell you you can’t leave to go to the bathroom, but I always feel weird getting up to leave during a four-hour meeting when it seems no one else needs a break. Luckily, I don’t have to go to meetings that long anymore.

  49. Cubicle 3*

    #3 I am a podcast, audio book, and music listener at work. I cannot speak for those you work with, but personally I would be lost at work without it. I work in a small area with another person who moans, groans, and seems to be the loudest typer in the world. This coupled with both of us being on and off the phones all day and the general office traffic can be very distracting and make it hard to get into “the zone” with work. With earbud in it provides constant varied noise for a distraction from the distractions. Whenever I need to write an email or something of that nature I use the pause button. It may look like I am still listening but nothing is playing. That may be the case with them as well.
    As a side note everything that I listen to is kinda fluffy. Young Adult books and podcasts like Guide to the Unknown and American Hysteria are great for this. Neither needs to be listened to in depth and still provides the noise and enjoyment that comes with each. As for the laughing I say let it go. If it is not hyena laughing I would think they should be fine.

    1. Jennifer*

      Same. Occasionally something is so funny I can’t stifle my laughter. I need my earbuds to maintain my sanity here. Unless they are doing it every five minutes, let it go.

  50. Polymer Phil*

    OP 5 – I have a friend who uses his stand-up comedy experience to make money on the side teaching SAT prep seminars. They have a canned curriculum, and the presenter really only needs strong public speaking skills.

    A stand-up comedian would probably also be a good fit for presenting those Fred Pryor business education seminars.

  51. Iris*

    OP#1, I’m hypoglycemic too and lunch would be a big deal at any future jobs. I’ve found that paleo and whole foods type diets keep me full longer but otherwise I would often get sick and nauseous if I skip a meal. But I can also drink a latte and be full from that and usually I would eat half of a meal or a little bit and eat the rest at home. I would get sick both if I skip a meal and if I eat a moderate/big amount at work. I’ve never worked at a place where it would be a big issue or where I was expected to go totally without lunch/a break for part-time hours. I wouldn’t last. I love reading the responses because I thought about when I can ask about it but I will stay quiet. I was leaning towards being quiet during interview too and if anyone would give me an issue after I start working, then bring up my hypoglycemia or try to survive on lattes and drinks mostly, which is what I would mostly do anyway.

  52. Jennifer*

    OP1 – I understand how you feel. Sometimes I feel weird about eating when it seems no one else is. A hang-up of mine. But as Alison said, some people eat while they are out running errands, or go out for lunch, or eat in their cars, etc. It sounds like your office isn’t one where everyone eats at their desk or gathers in the kitchen at the same time to eat, and that’s okay. Eating lunch every day is totally normal and I’m pretty sure most of your coworkers eat, they just don’t do it in front of you. I hope you have a nice day :)

  53. Checkert*

    OP3 I can sympathize. I have this strange yet pervasive pet peeve in the workplace: people giggling to themselves while listening to something. I know they are well within their rights and it’s unreasonable, but I will be hiding a serious side eye while putting on headphones to music (aka something that won’t make me laugh into the unending silence)
    OP4 I would be interested to see how you conduct your interviews to see if that ‘not meshing well’ was 100% subjective on your end. If the answers to questions didn’t lead you to that answer, I’m sure the candidate is even more confused as to why they didn’t get the job: because you decided you personally didn’t like them!

  54. Free Meerkats*

    Re: #5.

    When a former coworker and friend was interviewing for an engineering job at a large dam near Las Vegas, I was one of her references. When I got the call, I was asked how she was at speaking off the cuff to groups of the public. I said something like, “Well, she graduated from Clown College, so pretty good.” He responded, “She went to Clown College?!? That’s not on her resume.” and I said, “It’s not something normally seen on a resume for an engineering job.”

    She got the job and apparently he asked her about it when he called to offer the job. I hear she brought in red noses for everyone on Red Nose Day.

  55. Janie*

    OP 3, if you think my brain can’t come up with something utterly ridiculous that makes me laugh to myself, you’re underestimating it :P

    1. Janie*

      And OP1 – just keep your eyes on your own plate, tbh. You’re very likely to hit medical issues, which aren’t your business, or weird semi-dangerous diets which are boring and don’t “work” but people are obsessed with anyways and that’s just annoying.

  56. cactus lady*

    I have a question to piggyback off of #2 (if this is more appropriate for the Friday open thread please let me know!). I recently had lunch with a junior colleague who is in the process of making her first hire. She was venting because they had a really good candidate who bowed out because when she asked about salary, her boss refused to give it to her. We are in California so this is illegal, but junior colleague didn’t know that. Is this something I can bring up in any context? I am not her boss, and her boss does not manage me, but we work fairly close together. Thoughts?

    1. Coverage Associate*

      I am a bit confused. Who asked whom about salary? Your friend asked the applicant’s current boss?

      Anyway, depending on the friendship dynamics, I might send an article to the friend about the new law and a casual note, “this might explain what happened with that applicant.” If your friend is hiring, she needs to know the law.

      1. cactus lady*

        Sorry. The applicant asked the interview panel and the boss refused to give it to her. My junior colleague didn’t know this wasn’t legal. I’m wondering if I should say something to her boss – we are peers but I don’t work directly with her.

        1. Coverage Associate*

          If it’s at the boss level, not the friend level, I would not bring it up directly with the boss. If there’s any opportunity to suggest something for the whole company or office, take that opportunity. Like if you have any regular training or education requirements, you could suggest that everyone involved in hiring be offered training in recent changes to the law and best practices.

        2. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

          (First time posting, be gentle. :) )
          I thought it was illegal for the hiring party to ask about previous salary history, not that it was illegal for the applicant to ask about the salary of the job. Or am I misunderstanding?

          1. Someone Else*

            You’re misunderstanding. It’s not illegal for the applicant to ask. California law requires employers to provide the payscale for a job when an applicant asks. It is also illegal in California to ask applicant’s salary history. The illegal part here was the employer refusing the answer the applicant’s question.

  57. Eleanor Shellstrop*

    Re #3: Alison, you hit on something I’ve been trying to articulate for so long! There is this weird performative aspect to laughing at something you’re reading/watching/listening to when you’re doing it by yourself but are around others. It always bugged me but it was hard to say exactly why. I guess because it sort of feels like they’re indirectly asking you to comment or ask.

  58. AJK*

    #1, I almost never eat lunch at work, but that’s primarily because I’m on a medication that has an appetite suppressant effect, so at noon I’m almost never hungry. I keep a stash of non-perishable snacks in my desk just in case, but most days I never even dip into them. I absolutely *have* to eat breakfast and dinner but lunch is optional, so I often work through lunch or run errands over the lunch break. I hope I’m not making anyone uncomfortable by not eating, I’m just honestly not hungry. Before I was on this medication I was not a lunch-skipper, either, and I happen to have an alcove right next to the cubbyhole with our small office refrigerator, so I can’t help but notice when people stop by to grab things from the fridge. A co-worker across from me who usually runs errands over lunch brings medium size snacks for mid-morning and late-afternoon, she just eats at her desk because she prefers to space her meals out that way. Others snack throughout the day. It seems like everyone is a little different.

  59. KD*

    #1 – someone who talks about food all the time but doesn’t seem to eat is someone who is likely dieting. It’s very common to fantasize and think about food all the time but not allow yourself to eat. This isn’t judgement just an explanation, we all have to what we have to do to manage our weight in this junk food environment.

    And as others have mentioned, if you work for a startup or similar, it’s fashionable to do intermittent fasting or meal replacement shakes for efficiencies or the idea it boosts cognition and productivity. Very YMMV.

  60. Greg*

    Word of warning to those putting improv comedy on their resumes: Back in b-school, I had taken some improv classes so I listed that at the bottom of my resume. I walked into one interview and the woman said, “So you took improv, huh? Tell me a joke.”

    A joke immediately came to mind, but it was inappropriate for an interview setting. The next one I thought of was similarly NSFW, and another one was too long. So I sat there frozen for a second, and then she said, “OK, well I put you on the spot” and we continued with the interview.

    I didn’t get the job, and while I don’t imagine my brain freeze was the sole reason, it didn’t help. So if you are going to put it on there, make sure you can back it up. (The same goes for listing a language if you’re not fluent. You never know when an interviewer will turn out to have been born in that country and will start chattering away.)

      1. Greg*

        Naturally, five minutes after the interview was over, I thought of 20 jokes I could have used.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      As someone who does comedy (but doesn’t put it on their resume!), I’ve been in this situation before and usually just say, “Oohhhhh, yeah, that’s not actually how it works…” and then either change the subject or say a short pithy thing about the aspect of comedy we were talking about. For example if it comes up while talking about improv, I’ll say, “usually I’d be on stage with 2-3 other people, and we’d ask for a suggestion from the audience and then act out a funny scene that we came up with together on the fly, so we don’t really tell jokes per se.”

      I would say that like 99% of people who do comedy don’t tell jokes on the fly as their main comedy thing (even standups actually write and practice their material, and it’s usually not a list of one-liners), so it’s a weird ask regardless.

      Telling a famous joke from a movie literally everyone has seen might be enough to placate a true civilian, though, I guess?

  61. Jen*

    As someone with a past of disordered eating, letters like OP#1 grind my gears.

    It is none of your business. Just eat your salad and enjoy your lunch.

    1. Tea Leaves*

      Don’t be a jerk. The OP may have food insecurity, too. I do if I’m the only one taking my break and eating, and no one else is. I’d feel insecure. I’d question if I should take my break. Try to be more open-minded.

  62. Shawn*

    #3 reminds me of a friend….She once told us about the day she was at the office listening to music while wearing her headphones. Mind you, she is sitting in a quiet, cubicle area. She has gas and lets a few go until she remembers that the other people are NOT wearing headphones. I laugh every time I think about that story!

  63. EmmaBird*

    #3 – I always try my best to laugh very quietly or not at all when I’m listening to comedy podcasts but sometimes you just can’t help it! Depending on the type of work your coworkers are doing it’s likely not interfering at all. If anything it might be helping them keep focused– I know I need my headphones on at all times since I’m easily distracted by any kind of conversation. As a designer, it’s extremely easy to listen to podcasts when I’m in the “execute” phase of a project. I’ll pause them only for language-based tasks.

  64. Erin*

    #1 – My husband used to not eat or take lunch. He’s in a hectic work environment and is constantly on the phone and putting out fires. He doesn’t get a break or time to eat unless he physically leaves. Then, sometimes he’d come home starving and I’m like a need a minute here to make dinner eat freaking lunch!

    I told tell him it’s healthier for him to take a lunch break and he’ll be more productive for it and eventually he started listening to me.

    So yeah, A) Some people don’t take a break OR eat and B) I also agree with Alison that a lot of people eat at their desks (me) and you may just not be seeing that, so you can’t assume. I only get a 30 minute lunch break so if I’m running errands or something I want every minute of that time, and it saves some time to eat at my desk.

  65. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    #2 I had a wonderful secretary once who knew she would have to leave us at some point, because our company was relocating, but in the meantime she was quite happy. She was very explicit about about not wanting to consider any potential job that didn’t pay at least x. One day she came in late and explained that she had had an interview that seemed to be going well until she asked what the proposed salary was, and the guy named a figure that was a good bit below her minimum! She said to him, “Well, I’m sorry we wasted each other’s time.” I think I would have had a few more choice words. What is wrong with these people?? Do they think they and/or their job are so wonderful that people will forget how much money they need and they know they’re worth?? Honestly, my secretary could not have been more clear. And people feeling absolutely free to waste other people’s time is a huge pet peeve of mine.

  66. Anonymous*

    #1 I’m one of those weirdos who either goes for a walk on his lunch breaks (with my Kindle) or goes for a run (perks of having a shower at work). I can’t remember the last time I actually ate on my lunch break.

  67. cheluzal*

    2: Grrr…should be federal law every job must list a salary with its posting. So much wasted time would be eliminated.

  68. Anoncorporate*

    I normally eat lunch at my desk and use my lunch hour to take a walk. I find that taking a walk is a much more refreshing break than staring at my salad for an hour. But that varies on some days.

  69. where is your focus?*

    Seems weird how focused #1 is on other people’s meal habits. Why does it matter so much? Just because something isn’t what you would define as “normal” doesn’t make it a problem. Some people eat one meal a day. Some people eat on the go. This feels like something to let go

  70. Working Mom Having It All*

    Re #5, I think this heavily depends what city you live in and probably what field you work in.

    I also do comedy, but I live in Los Angeles and work in a corporate part of the entertainment industry. I leave my improv and sketch comedy activities off my resume despite actually having some fairly serious cred in that area (I’ve performed at one of the bigger comedy festivals in the US, I’m part of the main company at a well known comedy theater, etc), because in both my city and my field, everyone does stuff like this and it’s not seen as significant or special at all. It would be like putting “has a bus pass!” or “knows how to boil water!” on my resume.

    That said, yeah, if you live in Pittsburgh and work in Widget Design, where few people would be expected to have public speaking skills and improv is a relatively little known hobby, by all means, include it!

  71. HeSaidWhat?!*

    Re: #4 I asked a rejector once for feedback and he told me one of my previous supervisors had given me an incredibly poor reference (“shouldn’t even be in this profession”– from a health care provider who’s standards and techniques were the worst I had seen. Bad fit, mutual non-admiration situation). I thanked him for the information and thought, “hmmm, life is an intelligence test, how do I ace this question?” Fortunately that job had been short term, so it got compressed on my resume into a category called “various short-term temporary jobs”; appropriate for that profession, which I went on to excel in for more than another decade. So glad I got that feedback or I would never have known I was getting blind-sided.

  72. adam807*

    I have a theater background so it never occurred to me that this was weird, but actors’ resumes usually have a “special skills” section to include useful things that aren’t jobs like being able to do a British accent or roller skate. I see lots of admin resumes with “additional skills” or “additional experience” on them, which is a great place for improv, or any credentials that don’t fit elsewhere.

Comments are closed.