colleague won’t leave me alone after my former employee died, lunches with a strictly kosher employee, and more

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

1. My colleague won’t leave me alone after my former employee died

I have been employed at my company for three years, although I spent one summer in college interning for this organization. One year ago, I transitioned from a supervisory role to my current role in a different department and more collaborative team. We all report to a single manager, Flitwick. One of my new peers, Myrtle, was my supervisor during my internship and still considers herself my mentor. We are both women and have similar cultural backgrounds, but she often polices my tone and dismisses any concerns I present to her. None of my other coworkers have complained about my communication or attitude. Myrtle and I have the same title, although she has been employed here for 12 years to my three. She tries to act as my supervisor, despite Flitwick telling us both that is not the case.

Myrtle crosses every boundary I attempt to draw. Naively, I confided in her when I first began working here, and she has weaponized that trust to make disparaging remarks about my medical needs and personal life. She behaves as if we are good friends and I do not feel I can disagree without creating a more volatile environment.

Recently, I received the horrific news that one of my former direct reports had died by suicide. This has become a high-profile local news story. A good friend in my previous department gave me a heads-up after his supervisor personally alerted their department. I am struggling to process my complex emotions about it.

A few days after the news broke, Myrtle sent me a late-night LinkedIn message and a personal text with links to the news story and the word “Wow.” I simply did not have words and did not respond. A week later, she sent another text asking if I had received the article. Feeling trapped, I assured her I had received the article. She has continued to text me about this. I am ignoring these disruptive messages as best I can. As a note, she never worked with my former department and to my knowledge never spoke to any of my reports.

I am dreading my next meeting with Myrtle. I know she will want to discuss details I have that she doesn’t. I fear snapping at her, but I strongly feel this is one crossed boundary too many. Writing this out makes me feel so sick and I want to cry. I don’t feel I can ask Flitwick for support, as he is spread thin already due to other staffing issues and revenue concerns. What else can I do? Should I have said something else? Am I just being overly sensitive?

You’re not being overly sensitive. Myrtle is being insensitive in her text barrage, in treating someone’s death like salacious gossip, and in not picking up on your cues that you’re not interested in talking about it with her.

The next time she texts you about this, reply with this: “I’m very upset about this and would prefer not to discuss it or receive texts about it. Thanks for understanding.” If she brings it up again when you meet, say, “Like I said in my text, this isn’t something I want to talk about” and then immediately change the subject to something work-related.

At some point I hope you’ll address the bigger issues with Myrtle too; you don’t need to let her continually violate boundaries or push you into a closer relationship than you want just because you’re afraid of her volatility. It’s hard to advise on that without more details, but here are some posts that could help (1, 2, 3) — and please know this is the kind of thing a good manager would want to hear about too, even if he’s busy with other things.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Team lunches with a strictly kosher employee

My team used to go for lunches periodically (everyone paying for their own); it was only a few times a year, but it was nice to have that treat together somewhere other than our office. A few years ago, an employee joined our team who keeps strictly kosher (separate dishes for dairy vs. meat, so kosher restaurants only).

As there aren’t any kosher restaurants within feasible lunch-getting distance (45 minutes each way instead of the usual 5-10), and we don’t want to leave her out, we haven’t gone for any team lunches since she joined. I know we could do a takeout lunch (while she brought her own), but eating cold-ish food in our conference room hasn’t proved enjoyable enough to warrant the hassle, and while we do (kosher) packaged breakfast pastries instead sometimes for birthdays now, none of us are really breakfast pastry people so we’re all fairly sick of that. I know it will be a little while before the pandemic eases enough for this not to be a moot point, but it would be nice to have these outings together again. Do you or the readers have any suggestions?

First and foremost, ask your coworker if she has ideas because she might have a suggestion you haven’t considered.

But here are all the options I can think of: (a) have food delivered so your coworker can bring her own, (b) occasionally make the longer drive to a kosher restaurant (given the distance that’s not practical as a regular thing, but maybe for a special occasion?), (c) look into any kosher caterers in the area who could deliver to your office, or (d) choose something non-food-related to do instead, like bowling or board games. (On that last point, isn’t it weird how all our norms for “group activity where we can talk to each other” take place over food? It’s actually pretty hard to find something a diverse group would like that doesn’t center around food. I mean, there’s stuff like bowling or board games — clearly my only two non-food ideas — but we are really, really conditioned to socialize with food.)

3. I was asked to make my manager feel better about my resignation

I spent years under a grandboss who was vindictive, disempowering, overly critical (yet resistant to any criticism towards themselves), and just plain cruel. I stuck it out for a while because my direct supervisor at the time was supportive and an overall very kind person. When they ultimately left (due to our boss), I was put under another supervisor who turned out to be petty, insecure, a terrible listener (I would almost daily need to have “per my last email” discussions with them), and what I suspected to be a closet misogynist who hated any perceived slight against their authority.

As you can imagine, I was miserable so I started job searching. Flash forward a few months to where I landed a new, wonderful job, and couldn’t wait to hand in my resignation. Overall I was able to leave on relatively good terms, but something about my exit interview struck me as a little odd: I was asked by my grandboss to reassure my supervisor I wasn’t leaving on their account.

Before I had gotten the job offer, my supervisor and I had actually started to have some improvements in our communication. I acknowledged these changes when I discussed my departure, and told them I appreciated their effort. But I left the truth of the matter unsaid: they (and my grandboss) were the reason I was leaving in the first place. And no matter how much I appreciated the changes, the emotional damage had already been done and I never wanted to work with either one of them again.

Should I have been more honest? I can’t help but feel skeezy for having to make my supervisor feel better for something I would consider them to be the catalyst for. (This is also the second exit interview where I feel like I’ve chickened out on giving more honest answer for my reason for leaving.)

You weren’t obligated to be more honest about your reasons for leaving if you didn’t want to. You get to decide how much you disclose when you leave, and it’s very reasonable to decide (a) there’s no point in having an uncomfortable conversation when you’re on your way out the door anyway, (b) you don’t want to say anything that could affect your reference, and (c) if they wanted feedback on your experience, they should have done the work earlier to make you feel comfortable providing it (and even then you still wouldn’t be obligated to give it).

As a general rule, you are never obligated to disclose more in an exit interview than you want to. You are not a paid retention consultant for your company, and you don’t need to jeopardize the clean getaway you’re in the process of making.

It’s odd that your grandboss asked you to tell your supervisor you weren’t leaving because of them. I could maybe see that in a few very specific situations — like if your grandboss knew with confidence that you were leaving for a different reason but had reason to think the supervisor would wrongly blame themselves — but that wasn’t the case here. You shouldn’t be asked to manage your supervisor’s feelings around your resignation. If your grandboss wanted to manage your supervisor’s feelings, your grandboss is welcome to do that themselves.

4. Should I leave my job of six weeks for a much better offer?

I hold a PhD, but was just hired into an administrative position. The job description only required an associate’s degree and does not pay well. My goal in taking this role was to get my foot in the door for the company and learn new skills and software to position me for a more advanced role. I value having a positive work environment and my coworkers and boss are wonderful and have been supportive thus far. Prior to accepting this position, I interviewed for a role in a different company that required a PhD and did not hear back for four weeks (consistent with what they told me to expect). I have a good chance of getting that job. If I were to get it, would it be a bad idea to leave my admin job after only six weeks? I am afraid of burning bridges and gaining a bad reputation, but I also do not want to regret skipping out on an opportunity that could advance my career and pay $30K more.

You need to do what’s best for you, and it doesn’t make sense to stay in a low-paying job that isn’t the work you want to be doing if you’re offered a higher-paying job doing work you’d prefer.

Of course, this is exactly why many people don’t like to hire overqualified* candidates — they assume the person will leave when something better comes along, because indeed they often do. That’s not on your shoulders to solve, and you certainly don’t need to turn down a better job because of it. It’s just a thing to be aware of.

You will probably burn this bridge, in that the company is unlikely to consider applications from you in the future. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the other job, though! You still need to do what’s best for you. (And really, anyone hearing about it is likely to understand why you did. You just can’t expect the company that just hired you and invested in training you to be thrilled about it.)

* “Overqualified” may or may not be the right word there. More education doesn’t automatically make you overqualified since different jobs require different skills. I’m using it as shorthand.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. When should I mention I have a chronic health condition with occasional flare-ups?

I’m planning to leave my current job in the next year to go back to school. I’ll mostly be working part-time while in school and full-time during the summers. When should I tell future employers about my chronic health condition? I’m on medication and it rarely interferes with working, but a few times a year, it’ll flare up and I’ll have to unexpectedly take time off. So far, I’ve been able to take standard sick days to cover those occasions.

The flares usually only last one day, and I’m back at work and doing fine the following day. I don’t like telling employers before I’m hired or even early in my time at work, because I’m worried they’ll discriminate against me or otherwise think of me as less reliable. But I also know that having to urgently call out sick one day and then seeming fine and with no symptoms the next can seem suspicious to people, and I don’t want people to think I’m lying about being sick. Is it best practice to tell a manager shortly after I’m hired? Is it fine to not tell anyone higher up than me at all? Does it make a difference if it’s part-time versus full-time work? I’m fairly young, still in my 20s, if it makes a difference, though I’ve been working full-time for a few years now and my current manager both knows about my health condition and that I’m a reliable, solid employee.

Having to take a sick day a few times a year isn’t something you should need to give a heads-up about. That is well within the range of typical sick day usage. And being recovered by the next day won’t seem weird; that too is a pretty typical pattern that shouldn’t raise any eyebrows.

If you ever do get the sense your manager is concerned or if you have a year with more flare-ups than usual, you could address it at that point (“I have a chronic health condition that’s usually well managed but occasionally flares up”) but otherwise for both full-time and part-times work you can handle this exactly like you would with the occasional migraine or fever or stomach bug — meaning just take the days as you need them.

{ 500 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi all. Please take LW #2 at her word that her coworker cannot eat anywhere but kosher restaurants.

    I explained this further down but am copying it here as well: Some people who are kosher will not eat anywhere that doesn’t keep separate dishes for milk and meat (meaning that they keep two entirely separate sets of dishes and never allow dairy on one and never allow meat on the other). They also might need the kitchen to follow kosher-specific cleaning practices. So for someone who strictly follows those rules, it’s not an option to eat in non-kosher restaurants at all, even if they prepare an otherwise kosher meal.

    I want to take the LW at her word that the employee will only eat in kosher restaurants. (This excludes eating at coffeeshops, vegan restaurants, etc. too.) Thank you.

  2. The teapots are on fire*

    #1, I’d give her even less information. “Yes, it’s so sad. Honestly, the last thing I want to do is discuss it with anyone. I’ve got to get back to work now!” Followed, as needed, by, “I really don’t want to talk about that at all,” and then, “As I said before, I really don’t want to talk about that at all.” If you have to get to “I wasn’t kidding…” then it’s time to ask your boss how they suggest you “handle” her persistent questions when you’ve asked her to stop.

    1. identifying remarks removed*

      Yes – if the LW says it’s upsettting for her I can see this making her coworker discuss it even more just to get a reaction out of the LW. Say you prefer to respect the family’s privacy and not gossip about such a sad event.

      1. Greige*

        I really like this. Gossiping about a tragedy is inappropriate in any case, even if you’re not talking to someone who feels a personal connection.

      2. animaniactoo*

        I agree, I could not disagree more strongly with saying “I’m very upset about this” because in *Myrtle’s* hands, that’s just more fuel for her fire. She will not take that as a cue to shut down the conversation. She is far more likely to then gossip far and wide about LW’s being so upset, and checking in with them to “see if they’re doing okay”, etc. and so on.

        Giving her a polite wall “It is sad. I don’t want to talk about it.” “I don’t want to disrespect them/the family by talking about it, particularly with people who didn’t know them well”

        Possible Myrtle is continuing to push now because LW didn’t “thank” her for bringing it to their attention, but in that case, the response is “I understand you’re looking out for me/bringing it to my attention, but I don’t want to discuss it further. I’m sure you understand, thanks.” Assume the “understanding” that will stop the conversation and close it out with a thanks for that even if she hasn’t demonstrated it yet. And then if she pushes again, it’s “Sorry, I thought I was clear about this. I prefer not to talk about it.”

        1. timeforlunch*

          Came here to say the same thing. “I’m very upset,” tells Myrtle about a personal emotional state, which she will take as yet another opening. “This is a terrible tragedy and I prefer not to discuss it,” tells Myrtle that LW1 takes it seriously and isn’t going there with Myrtle, whether it’s about gossip or about Myrtle patronizing and care-taking LW1 (the latter of which I think is more likely to be her MO, given her track record.)

      3. OP #1*

        Ooh, I like this one a lot about reorienting on the family. “Family” is the end all, be all for Myrtle and that could get me some space.

        It’s just been genuinely hard to find the right words from the middle of this. Thank you all for your comments (and thank you Alison for your scripts!)

        1. The teapots are on fire*

          And if she doesn’t behave at that point, let your manager help you. You don’t have to fold yourself into an origami bird finding the exact concept she’ll connect with. Set a reasonable boundary and once you’ve been clear and fair, don’t put up with nonsense!

      1. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. Be firm and non-committal. Yes, they died and it was tragic. About those reports…? Tell Myrtle nothing about anything that doesn’t relate to work.

        I think that even if Flitwick is busy, this is something to bring to their attention since they manage both OP and Myrtle and OP has not been successful in getting Myrtle to back off on their own.

    2. IndustriousLabRat*

      Yup. It’s interesting to note how much the advice for dealing with this gossipy colloeague is going to overlap with the advice for dealing with the one from the letter earlier in the week re: the colleague who wants to insist that the LW was being abused. The behaviour at issue is so similar: A gossipy coworker with little no no respect for boundaries, with strong undertones of drama/attention-seeking.

      1. timeforlunch*

        Yes, and the attention-seeking is about being helpfully superior to someone who doesn’t need or want that help.

    3. Sara without an H*

      This. These are good suggestions, although I suspect that with someone as clueless as Myrtle it will take several applications before she notices.

      A couple of other suggestions for OP#1:
      1. Put Myrtle on what Captain Awkward calls a low information diet. This woman can’t be trusted with personal information, so OP#1 needs to cut off her supply.
      2. Type “gray rock method” into any good search engine. The idea is to be boring and unresponsive to Myrtle’s attempts to engage OP#1, so that she eventually gets bored and finds another target.
      3. And yes, I do think OP#1 should brief Flitwick the Supervisor. I like your suggestion that she ask for “advice” on how to handle Myrtle’s intrusiveness. But Flitwick needs to know about this, especially if Myrtle escalates going forward.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I’d also add to this since I wasn’t entirely clear, but if you’re still meeting with Myrtle in a mentor capacity stop. This is not a good mentor relationship and your boss has been clear she doesn’t have authority over you. There are lots of great scripts for ending things with a mentor but in general a nice quick “I really appreciate the time and advice you’ve offered as I was learning. I’ve just gotten so busy and need to focus on work so we should discontinue meeting.”

  3. Bob*

    “we are really, really conditioned to socialize with food”
    I would bet this was born of necessity and convenience, we eat three times a day, and there is always more work to be done, so work hard, play hard and food + socializing is two birds with one stone.
    And food helps build relationships, by helping to alleviate hunger communally.

    1. Sami*

      So true. I had never realized this, or even given much thought to it before becoming a teacher. My first year of teaching our team (middle school team, 4 teachers, approximately 180 students) we paid for the cafeteria/kitchen to make our whole team a Thanksgiving dinner. The teachers circulated amongst the tables. We all really did notice a difference in the positive bonds between students and between students and teachers.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        And people can be wary of new things.
        But the best lunch I ever had was dropping into a little cafeteria w/kosher vegetarian food — and I’m a carnivore! It just all tasted so fresh and satisfying! So I suggest people be open to new food and see this as an opportunity.

    2. Analyst Editor*

      Yeah, it would be much weirder to socialize without food, don’t you think? It’s not really weird at all, no weirder than anything else that goes on in this crazy world of ours, like the mere fact that life can even exist at all.

      1. Can Man*

        I wouldn’t find it weird, though I didn’t realize how linked food and socializing were until probably around age 20. For me a social meal was either a consequence of the timing of the get-together or there was something special about the particular food that made it not just getting sustenance (e.g. cake is paired with birthdays and is less common when you’re not celebrating, and cookouts are a convenient way to be outdoors). I only realized that the link was stronger than just “happening to eat at a social gathering” when people at college acted shocked that I would go to sit down restaurants alone just because that’s what I wanted to eat.

    3. Zelda*

      It goes back much further than the custom of three meals a day. The whole reason society exists at all is because we eat better when we work together to obtain food. Eating together is primal.

    4. traffic_spiral*

      Yup. Fun fact, the word “companion” actually is an old latin word for “someone you share bread with.” Eating together is one of the most primal bonding instincts our lizard brains have. Also it’s pretty universal – not everyone likes bowling or board games, but everyone eats.

      1. Crowley*

        How bizarre, one of my friends shared that about the weird companion yesterday and I’d never heard it before!

      2. AcademiaNut*

        It is a very primal thing. And cultural restrictions and rules about eating play into that. Historically, groups with very stringent rules around eating would tend not to mix with people outside their group – food restrictions helped keep a group cohesive. Other cultures have rules about who within the culture can eat together (men and women eating separately, for example).

        In modern society we have people from different cultures eating together, plus we have a rise in food allergies/intolerances, plus we have an increase in lifestyle based dietary choices. Figuring out how to balance all of that with the desire to share food in a group is still very much a work in progress, as we see by posts like this. I do think that shared meals, particularly in work or school settings, will become less common an activity, for purely logistical reasons.

        1. Antilles*

          I do think that shared meals, particularly in work or school settings, will become less common an activity, for purely logistical reasons.
          I don’t know if shared meals will become less common. People just put such an emphasis on food, often without even actively thinking about it, that I don’t see that changing. It’s a bonding experience that is ingrained enough in both our culture and our evolved monkey brains that I don’t see it changing.
          I think what *will* change is simply that restaurants and caterers will put more of an emphasis on providing options to cover the broad spread of food preferences. In fact, this is already happening with things like allergies and gluten-free. Fifteen years ago, most people hadn’t even heard of gluten-free diets or celiac disease; now virtually every restaurant offers a gluten-free option.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I so agree. We have really gone overboard with how important food is to socialize and we will have to redefine that. While I understand the roots of it happened I think that we have allowed it to escalate too much. We will have to go back to having actual lunch breaks where people eat their food, perhaps in small groups or on their own. Eating while working is really not the best for digestion or health. In a similar vein, people can feel pressured to eat when they would prefer not to OR do not need food atm.
          Allergies/intolerances are on the rise and just my perspective, I think this will continue to get worse as more and more people have to limit the variety of foods they eat. And some folks suffer sensitivities so high that even being near particular foods causes emergencies for them.

          We are improving a bit. I remember years ago being a friend’s house and refusing a particular food. I was polite about it. My friend blew– “It’s rude to turn down people’s offers of food.” Uh actually, no, it’s rude to keep offering after someone has simply said, “No, thanks.” I am not willing to eat any old thing and spend the next three days in bed just to protect someone’s feelings.

          For the most part, I have found that meetings involving food actually could have been summarized in an email. We all could have done some real work that same time period and went home on time instead.

          1. LunaLena*

            ‘“It’s rude to turn down people’s offers of food.” Uh actually, no, it’s rude to keep offering after someone has simply said, “No, thanks.”’

            I think this goes both ways, depending on the circumstances. In Asian cultures, for example, it’s rude to accept food after a single offer, because it looks greedy. You’re supposed to decline at least twice (this shows that the giver genuinely wants to give you the food; if they don’t offer three times then they were just offering to be polite), and on the third time, you can accept or decline and it will be taken as your sincere response. It’s been over 20 years since I moved back to the US and I still struggle with saying “yes” the first time; I had to force myself to remember it after years of reflexively saying “no” and then going hungry because the second and third offer never came. And I will continually offer at least two or three times after someone says no because I want to be sure they’re not just saying no to be polite. I can’t help it! I feel like I’m being rude or an ungracious host if I don’t. Though to be fair I’m not upset if the offers are declined either.

            Also, not sure how widespread of a cultural thing this is, but when I lived in Korea I was absolutely taught that it’s rude to turn down people’s sincere offers of food (i.e., the ones where people offer three times or flatout give it to you). Even if you don’t want it, even if it makes you sick, you take it. Because turning them down is saying that their food is not good enough for you. Remember the scene in Temple of Doom, when they’re in the little village and the villagers serve Indy and his party bugs for dinner? Willie doesn’t want to eat it and thinks she’s being nice by saying they don’t have to give away their best food to her, and Indy says something like “you’re insulting them, and you’re embarrassing me.” It’s the same concept. I was taught that, if someone gives you something you don’t want or can’t eat, you accept it with a smile and thanks to show that you appreciate the spirit of the gift, and either make a show of eating a little or quietly hide it away to be discarded unobtrusively later.

            I am not saying that this is the right way to do things, or that everyone should do it that way. I’m just saying that there is not always a universal “this is rude” standard. I mean, I totally agree that if you cannot eat it for medical reasons people shouldn’t continually force food on you and then tell you that you’re rude for not accepting (and believe me, I understand this one – I have to turn down food all the time because I’m diabetic, and I constantly get “oh come on, it’s just one meal/but it’s Thanksgiving/etc.” Restaurant servers trying to upsell me are the worst about this; I have a “I’m diabetic” tattoo partially for this reason). I’m just saying that it would be nice if everyone could be a little more understanding of each other and not just jump to conclusions like “you aren’t doing things my way, therefore you are rude.”

        3. TootsNYC*

          And cultural restrictions and rules about eating play into that. Historically, groups with very stringent rules around eating would tend not to mix with people outside their group – food restrictions helped keep a group cohesive.
          My pastor often points out that Christianity is one of the few religions that has no rules about eating. His point is that this is intentional, to include all peoples.
          (even “no meat on Friday” is a late institution, is specific to one branch)

          1. Enn Pee*

            Toots – not to be a pedant, but Eastern Orthodox Christians have basically always had dietary restrictions during our fasting times. These are not so much rules as a discipline/tool we keep, but we are essentially vegan half the year (most Wednesdays/Fridays, and during the four major fast periods of the year).

        4. lunch*

          I don’t think shared meals will become less common; I think people will just default to “bring your own meal” type settings. Pre-pandemic, my immediate coworkers and I ate lunch together almost every day, and almost all of us ate food we brought from home. That doesn’t need to change.

      3. Antilles*

        And frankly, even when you’re doing bowling or board games or card games or whatever, food and drink is *still* a near-universal part of it. Over the course of my life, I’ve been to hundreds of different social events of these sorts and I legitimately can’t remember a single time that there people weren’t at least snacking on something.
        It’s just so much a part of the human experience that it’s something we legitimately don’t even think about.

      4. Ronin*

        Yes! It comes from “cum” (“with”) and “panis” (“bread”). I never thought of it, and I’m Italian!

    5. Willis*

      And it’s something that fits within work hours. Bowling or a board games would mean after-work time, which some people may be opposed to. Unless OP could swing an afternoon off for her team during the work day.

      My thought for lunch was…is there a park nearby with picnic tables? The team could have lunch there (either everyone pack a lunch or some people grab takeout on the way if they want) for a change of scenery without being in a restaurant.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        You could do card games at lunch. A euchre tournament in the lunch room once a month, everyone brings their own food?

        1. LTL*

          Yeah, an extended lunch with a game seems like an option if OP’s team isn’t doing this very often.

      2. turquoisecow*

        My old department used to do a monthly birthday celebration for all the people who had birthdays that month. It was optional but during work hours and the VP would use it as an opportunity to share any important news with us. Two or three people would volunteer to bring in snacks or desserts – sometimes baked goods, sometimes store bought, usually some fruit. Some people would only eat a little and some people wouldn’t eat anything.

        We’d also have a game, usually a trivia type thing with different tables competing against each other. People usually had fun and the people who didn’t want to eat were usually left alone (at least that I saw – sometimes someone would make a note and the would say “oh I had a large lunch” and they’d be left alone) but they could still participate in the games. And sometimes people would eat and leave before the game started because they had work to do or just not show and that was fine.

        Maybe OP could do something similar where there’s food available but the focus of the gathering isn’t entirely food? People could have snacks if they wanted or not and skip the whole thing if they wanted. If there’s a game or discussion or something that would mean people who aren’t eating or who are eating different foods than the rest of the group wouldn’t feel as singled out.

      3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Picnic was my first thought, too. Nothing elaborate, just bring your own food and other necessities. And maybe a few things to share like raw veggies or fruit.

    6. allathian*

      Yeah, this is one reason why I have absolutely zero need to see my friends or family in person. I love to socialize over food or coffee, and with Covid restrictions in place, seeing them masked up is just not the same. So I’d rather skip meeting them at all and settle for long phone calls, the occasional video call, and texting.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Totally agree with that, would rather talk to my mom on zoom and see her face, but she doesn’t get that.

      2. lunch*

        I’ve met a friend in the park for coffee. We walk together, masks on, and coffees in hand. Then find benches and sit down 6 ft apart, then unmask, then drink our coffees.

    7. MK*

      Not only everyone eats, but also everyone has to eat, so socializing over it actually makes sense. I don’t get why Alison calls it weird, when in the same sentence admits that it is hard to find another activity that everyone likes. And, yes, there are people with food restrictions for whom food-centered activities can be a hassle, but frankly I would prefer to drive 45 minutes to a restaurant my colleague can eat at that replace convivial meals with bowling or board games.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I think it’s ‘weird’ because it’s something that’s so culturally ingrained that you normally don’t think about it, until you’re confronted it by it and then it’s ‘wow, it really is all about food/sharing a meal’.

        For example, I was in a situation once with a friend where we ‘had’ to have a full meal after we had just recently eaten. We’re both from different cultures, but cultures where food hospitality is very important. We both effectively came to the same solution without discussing it because that understanding of how important food is is such a big part of us but also we also discussed how weird it was that we both agreed without thinking about what we needed to do to be ‘polite’.

      2. PT*

        Right, but driving 45 minutes really means an hour each way (packing up, loading the cars, finding parking) and then an 90 minutes-2 hours to wait for a table, eat, pay the bill. So you’ve spent 3.5-4 of a workday eating lunch. That just won’t work for a lot of workplaces.

      3. Malarkey01*

        And one of the big reasons why meals and socializing go hand in hand is because you are simply sitting and not distracted by other activities (other than chewing). There’s no other thing to do but talk. Other activities are just that, active. So the point isn’t let’s all have a friendly chit chat but let’s do this structured thing.

        Sitting on a park bench/swing and taking a walk together or the only other thing I can think of where the point is actually to talk and catch up with each other without distraction.

      4. Botanist*

        I think it might be more if you look at it from the other way- not that people gather over meals, but that if people are gathering, there must be food. You can’t attend a conference without a range of foods being shoved at you, even if it’s not meal time. A group of friends gathering for a game night almost invariably have snacks, even though they are meeting after dinner. It’s not that we tend to socialize around meals so much as that we don’t know how to socialize without food.

      5. Roci*

        I agree, it’s not any weirder than say, enjoying sunshine or feeling better after a lot of sleep. Food is one of the things that everybody needs regularly, and many social animals obtain and consume food together. It is one of the most natural things in the world.

        1. jolene*

          And it also gives people something else to focus on, something to do with their hands, an extra conversational topic, all things that relax people and help them loosen up and relax. I also find it bizarre that socialising over food is being called “weird”.

    8. Caroline Bowman*

      Removed — “religion is a choice” isn’t a debate we need to have here and it’s taking us way off-topic. (Removed a whole thead on it.) – Alison

      1. Lyssa*

        If she’s bringing her own food, why couldn’t she bring her own dishes as well? I think Caroline’s suggestion is a really good one, as long as they politely ask ahead if it’s OK, and are sure to be extra-nice and leave a good tip.

        1. Amy*

          We have a few members of our team who keep kosher to varying degrees.
          One colleague does bring his own stuff to a restaurant sometimes, including utensils. (We go to kosher / halal ones about 50% of the time)

          I’m sure at some restaurants it would be a problem. But we’ve always been in large groups, with maybe 10 people eating the restaurant food and one person with his own lunch. When he’s explained it’s to keep kosher, I’ve never seen pushback. We always tip as though he ordered a meal.

          1. LTL*

            This is a good idea, and OP could call the restaurant ahead of time to give them a heads up.

          2. Spreadsheets and Books*

            I’ve worked on a team with a member who kept strict kosher, and we did this often. The department assistant would vet restaurants that permitted outside food and utensils (many did under these circumstances) and we’d only go to those places.

            This was in NYC, however, where many people are familiar with the restrictions around keeping kosher. Smaller areas without as pronounced of a Jewish population may see more pushback. That said, it never hurts to ask (after confirming that this is an acceptable alternative with the employee in question, of course).

          3. clogerati*

            I work in hospitality and just want to add to this that it should absolutely be cleared with the restaurant ahead of time. A lot of areas have strict health codes that would not allow this, or maybe even the restaurant’s insurance might not. I’ve worked at one place that allowed outside food, but you had to sign a liability form and others where they don’t care as long as you’re discreet.

        2. kt*

          I have been at events where this is done — the strictly kosher meal is catered in, plastic-wrapped with silverware. The venues I’ve been at have been accommodating.

      2. LTL*

        So I will admit, my gut reaction reading the letter was “it’s unfair that the whole team has to give up on lunches for on colleague.”

        But I’m also a minority who knows what it’s like to feel on the outside, so I know dang better than that. And it seems that society is finally starting to pick up on the importance of inclusivity too.

        The issue with not being able to participate in activities due to your religion or [insert principles that are important to you but not reflected in the majority] is that there’s an implicit message of not belonging. Of course, no one is saying that and no one intends to convey that message. But it’s impossible not to, intentions aside. Minorities always have to live with “you’re different,” it plays out in so many subtle ways in our lives. A significant part of inclusivity is that instead of saying “if this person who’s different would be the same as everyone else, then they wouldn’t have to deal with the difficulties” from “if this person’s background was reflected in the majority culture, then they wouldn’t have to deal with difficulties.” It’s very easy to forget, or not even realize, that the society around you is catered to you when it’s always been catered to you and it’s your normal. Minorities do not have this privilege. They never will. Which underscores why inclusivity is so important.

        Presumably you’re saying that being kosher is the colleague’s choice because religion is a choice? Please consider how often a Christian (or a culturally Christian atheist or agnostic) needs to ask themselves, “should I change my religion to make my life easier?”

        1. Dahlia*

          No one’s asking them to give up their lunches! That’s such an unkind thing to put on this poor coworker who’s just existing while kosher and suddenly it’s their fault there’s no more lunches even though they didn’t ask for that???

          1. Don P.*

            (A day late) — and it sounds like that employee doesn’t even know there used to be lunches, because the lunches ended when they arrived!

    9. EventPlannerGal*

      It’s much older than that, so much so that to describe it as “conditioning” is kind of silly. Humans gather and bond over food. The ways that we do that are some of the most deeply ingrained parts of most cultures.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        (As in, it’s much older than the 3-meals-a-day/work norms thing. People gather to socialise over food under all sorts of circumstances – it’s super interesting!)

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes food is a key part of hospitality and culture and acceptance.

        For example when my company (in the before times) used to send me to the Balkans for meetings, there was a huge emphasis on eating together and sharing (figurative and sometimes literally) bread and salt. Once we’d shared food the mood of the discussions almost always improved. It was as though the sharing of food had put us onto the same level and brought us together.

      3. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Considering the stereotype of the Chinese/Italian/Jewish/Mexican/midwestern grandma who feeds you whenever you visit, I feel pretty safe in saying that food is a pan-cultural bond. Those cultures didn’t inherit it from a shared past or learn it from close proximity. They are widely different cultures from across the globe.

        Any culture I know anything about involves bonding over food. There might be some that don’t, but I feel pretty safe in saying this is a humanity thing, not a cultural thing.

        Plus, everybody’s got to eat.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I am not sure why companies need to have employees bond together, especially through food. I understand friends and family sharing a meal. That makes sense. But thinking about companies using food to get their workforce to “bond together” feels a little icky to me.

        1. Elizabeth I*

          I’m curious, why does bonding over food feel “icky” to you?

          When teams bond together – develop a sense of being a “team” together and build shared context/culture/meaning/memories together, they are happier, perform better, are more engaged, etc etc. It makes it a better place to work. It’s a way of building trust and good relationships with your coworkers. All those are good things.

          Team building matters because we are not identical cogs in a machine, we are individual people – and recognizing, appreciating, and respecting the unique individuals you work with makes for a better team and better environment.

          And eating together is one of the most basic, primal ways to be together as humans and form a sense of community. As long as everyone is included and welcomed (respecting people’s religious and dietary needs, etc), it can be a great, low-key way to do team building.

        2. Anon Lawyer*

          Yeah, no. It’s not “icky” to try to have a convivial relationship with people you spend 40 hours a week with. Eating a meal together is not some special intimate thing reserved for friends and family.

        3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          I’m retired now, but most of my good friends are people I worked with. Some of us had lunch together every day, and were part of a larger group that occasionally went out to lunch. None of it was “forced” by our employer; what a bizarre notion!

          1. lunch*

            It’s not bizarre at all. I voluntarily eat with my coworkers at my current job. But my previous employer forced us to eat together, and if we didn’t participate, it counted against us during our formal reviews.

        4. lunch*

          Companies need to have employees bond together so that they come to see their coworkers “like family”. Then they’ll voluntarily work more/put in more hours, prioritize work over their real family and their non-work commitments, and dedicate themselves to the company out of a loyalty that is one-sided.

    10. doreen*

      We’re so conditioned to socialize with food that I can even imagine a bowling or board-game session to socialize that doesn’t involve food. Serious bowling is different, but whenever I’ve done bowling/board games/playing cards as a social event, there was always food involved.

    11. BubbleTea*

      I don’t want to get all “not everyone can have sandwiches” because I don’t think this is actually a reason why food based socialising should not happen, but I have known two different people for whom it was fraught. One had a severe eating disorder and actively avoided eating with people or being around people who were eating, which was a bit of a surprise to me at first because I’d never considered it before. The other genuinely didn’t eat, at all, and recieved nutrition intravenously. They didn’t mind being around others eating, but it was very frustrating and upsetting for them when people (often restaurant staff) wouldn’t accept that they weren’t eating. They would have loved to have been able to ear! I think they carried a little card with medical language on it to fend off really aggressive waiters, and they always made sure to order drinks.

      Getting to know both people did make me reconsider whether food based activities are always a good idea, or whether there’s a way to lessen the pressure. Food plus other activity is good as it means it’s a bit less noticeable if someone isn’t eating.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I know it’s rare, and we’re in a pandemic, but this is why I don’t do any kind of food eating/restaurant thing with my staff. I’ll happily fork out for THEM to do it but I haven’t eaten food in front of another person in over 10 years.
        If I need to accomodate someone’s allergies for food at work I’ll ask what they need. If I need to accomodate someone’s religious beliefs I’ll ask what they need. Then it’s just a question of sorting the variables out.

        1. Anon for this*

          I’m not sure how your comment is supposed to be taken, but I have a severe eating disorder and haven’t eaten in front of another person in almost 4 years. If you’re struggling with that too, I’m so sorry. EDs are awful to deal with. I’m getting treatment, but it’s a struggle. I’m open to talk if you need to.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            No worries mate. I nearly died from anorexia in my teens but I’m generally…okay except under stress. Sincere thanks for the help though, it’s a weird ‘quirk’ my family and friends just accept about me now.

          2. Cactus*

            I also had this problem for years. I avoided eating in front of people as much as possible, planned my whole life around the workarounds for this, and when I couldn’t avoid it I had so many mental rules about what foods were and were not “safe.” And I got sick. A lot. I don’t know how I got past this. But during those years I would frequently find myself RELIEVED when there was no food to mess with my careful, calculated equilibrium.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think you draw out a good point here about repetitive questioning. We have made some progress with alcohol, we (society) are slowly but surely learning, when a person politely says, “no thanks” to an alcoholic beverage, we are learning to stop asking after the first time.
        We need to go down a similar road with food. If a person says, “no thanks” that should be enough right there. They should not have to offer explanations and they should not be subjected to repeated offers. This is a fellow adult not a helpless child.

      3. Anax*

        Also not to be “sandwiching”, but another potential perspective – I’m autistic, can’t read facial expressions, and can’t understand what anyone is saying if there’s multiple conversations happening at once. At a work potluck or a restaurant, I’m functionally almost deaf; all I can do is lipread, which is imperfect and takes a lot of concentration and intense staring, so I usually end up just reading on my phone. I feel antisocial, but I can’t understand anything!

        I think that what would work well for me are low-key brownbag lunches or potlucks, where everyone watches a TV show together, or suggests Youtube videos to watch, or another quiet cosocial activity where there’s only one audio stream at a time.

        I wonder if this is also an issue for Deaf and vision-impaired folks, for instance; I imagine that there are a number of folks for whom a casual party with many conversations happening at once might be difficult, even without the food angle. A focused activity helps me a lot – it usually means that there’s only one person talking at a time – and I wonder if that might be helpful for others in a similar situation.

        All the more reason to have options and consider your own group’s needs, of course!

        1. lunch*

          I also can’t understand what anyone is saying if multiple conversations are happening at the same time. I also lipread. But in a group situation, like you described, I can’t really keep up, or it’s awkward, so I end up just “spacing out”. No one notices unless they’re trying to ask me a question and I don’t understand.

    12. Cat Tree*

      A few years ago I had a severe health issue for almost a year, where I literally couldn’t eat *anything* without being in pain after. That made me realize how much everything revolves around food. I was trying to date at the time, and there’s really not much you can do without food. Every article I found was focused on saving money rather than actually avoiding food, so it was always suggestions like “have a picnic with food you make yourself” or “just get coffee instead of paying for a full restaurant meal”.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Likewise for me. Certain foods trigger discomforts. I do not do well in most restaurants. I can remember going to holiday parties at work. We had to use our own cars to get to the establishment. We used to joke about asking for gas reimbursement. One time we went to an ethnic restaurant, since I was totally unfamiliar with the food I had no idea what to eat or avoid. I downed my own lunch in the car on the way over. And I sat there for over an hour listening to a group of people, who did not want to be there, struggle to try to find something to talk about. We talked about the boss’ surgeries and sex life. It was made very clear that we were The B Group and it was made very clear that we were the lesser preferred employees.

        As the years went on, I would get knots in my stomach in anticipation of this “outing”.
        The whole thing drover a bigger wedge into an already tense environment.

      2. LabTechNoMore*

        Same here every time I fast for Ramadan. Either I kind of just tag along and hope it isn’t too awkward for everyone else that they’re eating and I’m not (It’s nbd for me, but no one ever seems to really believe that), or accept that I will be seeing a looot less of my friends that month.

    13. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      And really, socializing at work more or less has to revolve around food, because the only available times are lunch break (when everybody’s hungry) or after work (when everybody’s hungry).

    14. Dust Bunny*

      Also, it’s something you tend to do sitting down, or at least not running around. It’s hard to actually socialize over sporty activities like bowling because of the noise and activity, and games, etc., require concentration (and are a matter of taste. I haaaaate most board games) on the game itself. You can eat finger sandwiches and talk about hobbies at the same time.

    15. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, everyone needs to eat so we might as well turn this necessary task into a fun event!

      Especially if they are looking for during-work-time activities. But if this was something they previously only did a few times a year then they could probably skip out of work early occasionally to do some team bonding.

      (And by “skip out” I mean go enjoy a planned activity with the boss or at least with the approval of the boss, not actually suggesting they play hooky of course lol)

    16. yala*

      It’s really kind of hit home this year, since restaurants are very OUT, just how much seeing my family and friends generally revolved around food.

    17. Umiel12*

      ℎ , ’ ℎ “ ℎ ℎ ℎ” ?
      I don’t think it’s weird at all. It seems fairly natural to me, and I don’t feel like too much emphasis is placed on it. Everyone eats, and it’s a pleasant activity for a lot, if not most, people. It’s unfortunate that not everyone can partake equally. In this situation, I think the team should make a strong effort to include the kosher co-worker. It does feel bad to be the one to get left out of every team activity. I agree with the advice to ask the co-worker for input. I have had several co-workers who had various eating restrictions who actually preferred to be left out. However, if she indicates that she would like to be included, they should find a way to include her.

      1. Umiel12*

        That gobbledygook at the top of my post was supposed to say, “On that last point, isn’t it weird how all our norms for ‘group activity where we can talk to each other’ take place over food?” I’m not sure what I did wrong. Oh well.

    18. TootsNYC*

      my father, who taught speech communication, English, media, and theater, always said:
      The two best ways to get to know someone are to work with them or to eat with them.

    19. Momma Bear*

      Ask the kosher coworker for options. I’m sure they have a workaround for public eating in your area by this point.

      Also, IMO, don’t think of it as all or nothing. For a lot of people, dietary restrictions for them are just that – for them. So you can bring a cake, but have a gluten free brownie for the coworker who can’t otherwise eat the cake. Or if you go out somewhere and someone is vegan, make sure there are good menu options for that person. In this instance, maybe keep the pastries on hand for the kosher coworker, but still have the cake for the birthday person. Go full on pastry/kosher when it is your kosher coworker’s birthday.

      Find out if the coworker’s restrictions mean “no non-kosher restaurants” or if Chinese food is OK or there are vegetarian options that the person would be comfortable with. But, really, brainstorm with this person. Let them tell you what would work. They may just always bring their own food and be OK with it. It feels like this conversation hasn’t been really had and it should be.

      1. SD*

        Chinese is my go-to for lactose free food. It’s amazing how many restaurants have only 1-3 items on the entire menu that don’t have cheese or cream, etc., even the salads.

      2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        One of my work friends ate Kosher, but I guess not full-on, like separate plates, utensils, and cookware. Anyway, when we got Chinese carryout food, the rest of us would each hope it was our turn for the crab rangoons she couldn’t eat but always have away. Win-win!

    20. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Food is a very important socialisation tool. A friend of mine had PPD very bad and was admitted to a mother-and-baby unit for a while. She said that the psychiatrists used to film the mothers 24/7 to get an idea of how they were interacting with their babies. After a while they decided not to bother except for when the mother was feeding the baby, because mealtimes told them everything they needed to know. A mother who engaged with her baby while feeding her, might not engage much at other times, but the engagement during the feed was a more important bonding moment than changing the baby’s nappy. Mothers who did not engage with the baby during the feed did not engage at any other time either.

      This also explains the pressure on young mothers to let others give the occasional bottle: giving the baby a bath or carrying her in a sling for a walk in the park does not appeal to us the same way even if it’s totally possible to bond doing those things. Similarly, zoos will post feeding times which are always the most popular times. Crowds are always happy to see animals rewarded with edible treats during shows too.

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Off topic, but still – being filmed 24/7 would not contribute to my mental health (or that of anyone else, I suspect!) I can think of no better way to induce paranoia than to be confined in an electronic panopticon all day and all night. Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion…

    21. The Engineer*

      Also interesting that we do a ‘team building’ activity on our ‘own time’ during lunch instead of the employer’s time.

  4. green beans*

    #2. I like “would underutilize a significant portion of their skillset” instead of “overqualified” – but if you have a PhD, they had to know this was a risk when they hired you.

    1. MK*

      I think Alison’s point was that most companies don’t want to take the risk, and often don’t, to the frustration of over qualified job candidates. Yes, they knew it was a risk, and they probably won’t be angry with the OP about leaving, but they aren’t hiring her in the future either.

      1. Forrest*

        Possibly, but it might equally be that it’s a quick job to train and they’re OK with people holding it for a short time. I started temping right after my PhD, they offered me a contract, I stayed just under six months, then I got another job offer and they were happy for me. They always knew it would be a short term job for me and we’re fine with that as long as I did good work whilst I was there.

        1. Zombie Cow*

          Yay! Glad it worked out. I am in the same boat and doing the best job I can, I don’t plan on staying long but wanted post-grad experience in that field.

    2. Kaiko*

      Also, just because someone has a PhD doesn’t mean that they’re qualified (aka trained and experienced) in a role. There are plenty of mid-level jobs, including admin, where folks can’t just jump in because they have high-level-degrees.

      1. Mantis Toboggan, MD*

        Yes. I have a PhD and would not perform very well in an admin job. I can work on big projects that take a lot of focus and time, but I’m a sinking ship when it comes to juggling small tasks, being responsive to requests, getting back on track after distractions, etc.

        1. Zombie Cow*

          Agreed, totally different skillsets I have come to learn. I actually prefer the Admin job because I have to multitask. I am looking for a client-based job so I can use my PhD to do just that.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Still not necessarily true. My dad has a Ph.D. in geology but if he took a job as a veterinary assistant (an underpaid job that can be done without a college degree) he would have basically none of the skillset needed for it, despite having a whole lot of education.

      1. The Other Victoria*

        But he would have a whole, advanced, highly technical, skillset that he would not get to use in the role, and unless he specifically addressed why he was interested in working as a vet assistant in his interview/cover letter in a way that is compelling enough to the person doing the hiring, there could still be the assumption that, if presented with the opportunity for a PhD level Geology job, he would leave. So Allison’s point holds.

    4. I edit everything*

      Which is why Alison specified that she was using the word as shorthand. Because “overqualified” is way shorter than “having a skillset that would be significantly underutilized.”

  5. jm*

    WRT dining with the coworker who keeps kosher, asking her is an excellent option. I have an Orthodox Jewish friend with whom I’ve dined out on several occasions, and he has a highly practiced set of requests he makes that allow him to eat with me even in non-kosher-compliant restaurants, so: it’s a thing!

    1. Artemesia*

      I too had a colleague for years who knew how to cope in most restaurants by being able to give the staff instructions on how to prepare certain foods so that he could eat them with us. I remember for example a preparation of fish in foil that essentially meat it was prepared in a ‘pan’ not contaminated with non -kosher foods.

      I’d talk to her about the fact that you want to have group lunches out and of course include her and if she has any idea how that could be managed. It might even be possible that a restaurant that is not kosher would allow one kosher meal to be carried in in order to have a group eat there and be paying customers.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The issue is that people have varying degrees of strictness. Some people who are kosher will not eat anywhere that doesn’t keep separate dishes for milk and meat (meaning that they keep two entirely separate sets of dishes and never allow dairy on one and never allow meat on the other). They also might need the kitchen to follow kosher-specific cleaning practices. So for someone who strictly follows those rules, it’s not an option to eat in non-kosher restaurants at all, even if they prepare an otherwise kosher meal.

      (There are also lots of kosher Jews who are not this strict! But if the coworker is saying she can’t eat in non-kosher restaurants, I’d take her at her word.)

      1. Yvette*

        “The issue is that people have varying degrees of strictness.” Exactly. I could prepare a meal that followed all the Kosher dietary restrictions, (no meat with dairy etc.) and it would still not be Kosher by those who keep strict Kosher because my kitchen is not Kosher. Please make sure you consult your employee for restaurant/caterer choices because not all places are up to strict standards. As my Orthodox coworker once said about a place “Well, they can spell Kosher”.

      2. PollyQ*

        In addition to needing a restaurant to follow the strict rules, colleague may also only be able to eat in a place that has been certified kosher by a rabbi.

        1. Silly goose*

          Yes. This. Because it isn’t kosher if it isn’t COMPLETELY kosher. Anyone who is saying they can’t eat at a non-kosher restaurant is I’m the realm of it really has to be kosher certified… Meaning there is a person or agency that is responsible for the kosher status of everything there.

          You can’t just clean the area and utensils, put together a salad, and call it good.

        2. Super Duper*

          Minor point but kosher supervision can be done by any trained adult who is an observant Jew – it does not have to be a rabbi! A man or a woman can act as a “mashgiach,” which is a person who monitors to make sure restaurants are following the rules set by the certifying agency. (Kosher restaurants often have an employee who works in the kitchen or behind the counter and is also the mashgiach, so they don’t have to pay a separate person.)

      3. Tomer C*

        Some Kosher restaurants offer shrink wrapped food with disposable plates and cutlery for this situation (usually for catering events). Most restaurants would be fine with that as part of a larger group.

      4. Saraquill*

        Another matter is kosher rules varying between say, Askenazi and Sephardic people. I’ve seen unpleasant things arise from these differences.

        1. Saraquill*

          Edited to clarify I’m referring to “my heritage’s kosher is the One True Way and everyone else is wrong.” This mindset gets ugly if the speaker is white passing and passing judgement on Black or Asian traditions.

          1. NoviceManagerGuy*

            Being a jerk about other people’s traditions is most problematic from privileged people but is unacceptable from anybody.

      5. Drtheliz*

        There’s also a Thing of “has to be prepared with Kashrut in mind, specifically” that has a fancy term that I can’t remember. I found it when looking up the general Kashrut concerns for a visit to Japan in 2017 (meat and shellfish, fwiw).

      6. Smithy*

        I think because people have such varying degrees of observance, I think that makes it most imperative reason to open a conversation with the coworker.

        I used to work in Israel, and while there are certainly guidelines that can be found either by faith community or the Rabbinate, the realities from person to person can fluctuate wildly. Additionally – while there are realities around food, different dynamics can also factor for drinks. Again, for some people – ordering a closed can/bottle of kosher beer/wine works, even if the bar isn’t kosher. So it may be that happy hour out of the office provides more options.

        All of this to say is that it’s worth having the conversation. I went on a week long work trip with a rabbi who kept kosher in a country without a lot of kashrut accommodations. I wouldn’t assume that someone else would do it the same way that he did, but he had approaches that worked for him.

      7. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Thanks for posting this. I have planned work meals for lots of people who keep kosher or halal. With both, there are levels of strictness. Sometimes it’s as easy as “let’s make sure we have a second entree option at the banquet besides the lobster.” Sometimes it is “if we are going to have a pizza party, we need to send a courier to that one exact restaurant in Brooklyn that Jim’s rabbi has okayed.”

        Fortunately, there are a lot of good options where I live, even for the very strictest dietary law, but it’s not as easy as “go to a vegetarian place.” Even eating a packed lunch in the the employee breakroom can be tricky for people, especially during Passover.

    3. Bilateralrope*

      Finding out exactly what rules she follows could also let the letter writer think up other options.

      For example, would vegetarian or vegan places work ?

      1. anonymous non-kosher jew*

        A vegan place would work for some people who keep kosher because all of the food served would be pareve. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some very observant Jews still wouldn’t eat at a non-kosher vegan restaurant because they don’t keep kosher for passover, and therefore their kitchen is not kosher enough to eat from the other 51 weeks of the year. Or some other rule that has nothing to do with either milk or meat. And as vegetarian who lived in the South, not everywhere has vegan/vegetarian restaurants! But if there are vegan restaurants near the LW, it wouldn’t hurt to ask their teammate, just don’t assume.

        1. LDF*

          Some reasons a vegan restaurant might not be good enough for an observant Jew: Insects in produce, non-kosher vinegar, certain foods not prepared by Jews. There are other reasons too. If the coworker says she can only eat at Kosher restaurants we should trust that she knows what she’s talking about. They really only work for someone who goes as far as avoiding the big stuff like meat-with-dairy, shellfish, and pork. Which is lots of people, but certainly not the strictest end of the scale.

          1. BubbleTea*

            Out of interest, how do people who keep strict Kosher manage to avoid insects in produce? As a vegan, Iam intrigued! I’ve always simply accepted that none of my food will ever be 100% animal free.

            1. Silly goose*

              There are Jews who won’t eat certain vegetables that are very difficult to check (e.g. broccoli). However, you can Google things like ‘kosher check spinach” and get lots of information.

              Many families have light boxes (like used fo x-rays) and put leafy vegetables against it to see bugs. There’s also various rule sets to follow to bulk check (like if this batch is clear of bugs, we can assume the rest is too), but I am NOT versed in that.

              There are alert systems you can join that let you know things like “avoid X fruit because the thrips are really bad this year”.

              You get pretty good at identifing tiny bugs.

              Frankly, to be strictly kosher you basically need a PhD level of interest and study into food and such. I only buy pre-checked leafy greens (except for Passover when I just can’t) because it is just So Much sometimes :)

        2. CoveredInBees*

          The not keeping Passover thing would only apply if the restaurant was owned by Jews as Jewish law doesn’t apply to non Jews. That’s simply not a thing and in fact many Jews rely on selling chametz items to non-Jews during pesach to avoid food waste.

          Even if it was, there’s a certain period of waiting after Passover until it is assumed none of the food served was acquired or cooked during Passover. Which is the concern. So perhaps if there was a vegan restaurant owned by Jews, but without kosher certification, that didn’t keep pesach, that hypothetical might apply. But my word is that incredibly unlikely.

        3. JSPA*

          Vegan places were the go-to when we had an orthodox officemate (more observant, in many ways, than most conservative jews). Yes, this will differ from person to person and sub-sect to sub-sect!

          But this was someone who did the two sets of dishes, hair covering, mikveh…not my “chinese food for Christmas” people.

          It’s at least something that the coworker might reasonably be asked about, or asked if her rabbi has ruled on the acceptability of that option.

          Note that, “this dish I cooked for the potluck is a vegan recipe, but I cooked it in my regular non-kosher pots” or even “stored it in my regular non-kosher fridge” is not the same thing. But some vegan restaurants are just as hard-core “no animal products touch our pots and dishes” as any Kosher restaurant.

          There are a variety of other issues that can render a restaurant or food non-kosher by almost any “official” inspection standard, though individual people may vary on how closely they choose to look. These include insects or slugs in food (indeed an issue, in that many vegan restaurants are also organic / macrobiotic, which means it requires a lot more attention and awareness to avoid all insect presence).

          There are also vegan raw materials produced in places that also produce non vegan food and “may contain traces of.”

          Finally, there are issues render a restaurant non-kosher in the eyes of a specific subcultures or permitting authorities. some of them having to do with the people doing the cooking, rather than the food itself (such as pat Yisrael vs pat Palter goods). Or, high on the list of “things one can’t enquire about,” there’s still a sometimes-observed ethiopian jewish prohibition on menstruating women cooking… which is to say, it’s way more complicated than “dishes.”

          Some vegan restaurants do bother to get certified as kosher (and/or halal, which has an overlapping but not identical list of requirements) if that happens to make economic sense in their area. But Kosher certification can be very expensive (and different Jewish groups don’t even automatically accept each other’s certification). That said, if there’s a good vegan restaurant you’d all happily go to, offering to help cover their dietary law certifications (if they’re interested) might be an avenue to explore?

      2. YRH*

        I lived in a city without kosher restaurants. My friend who keeps very strict kosher is willing to eat at a vegan/vegetarian Indian restaurant (I forget which one it was) and at one ice cream place (and neither in the month following Passover). The best thing to do is talk to the employee. Catering might work well. Or if there are good grocery store options, that could be another option.

    4. traffic_spiral*

      Yup. She’s the one that does it, so she’s gonna be the expert on how to make it work.

    5. Tara*

      Would a vegan restaurant work? Then there’s no meat or dairy so it should be fine. Obviously dependent on if there’s one in the area, but it probably wouldn’t advertise as kosher so may be missed by OP’s initial searches?

      1. Silly goose*

        No. Vegan restaurants are not inherently kosher. It’s not actually just about meat and dairy. There are strict rules pertaining to vegetables too… They have to be checked for bugs by a qualified individual (and seeing as I’m about to spend a few hours checking romaine lettuce for our seder, I’ll tell you it isn’t trivial)

    6. Blackcat*

      Also, when I was in a similar position, I asked to pick up kosher foods at the grocery store and bring paper plates. Was fruit, cheese and crackers less than what others ate? Yes, but I live in a place where it is easy to grab kosher foods in the store, and paper plates fit my colleague’s requirements.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Kosher professional here! I will echo the advice to just ask because, as many have pointed out, observance varies so much that we internet strangers can only hazard a guess at what might work for your employee. Personally, I am always happy to bring my own food from home and tag along to a non-kosher restaurant and explain to the restaurant that I have dietary restrictions so I can only eat my food (with my utensils etc.). Would it be nicer to enjoy a hot dish? Maybe. But this compromise allows me to fulfill my obligations spiritually and professionally. (Note that in some situations certain people may decline to eat in a non-kosher restaurant to prevent anyone from incorrectly assuming, based on their presence, that the restaurant is indeed kosher. This is most pertinent for a restaurant that is “kosher style,” such as Nathan’s, and not for a clearly non-kosher restaurant where a kosher consumer can get a plain cup of coffee, such as McDonald’s. But I digress!

        I also want to add that gestures to include the kosher employee can go a long way. At a past job they ordered pizza for the whole team from a kosher pizzeria at great expense. They definitely didn’t need to do that but my coworkers were curious to see how it compared and I appreciated the thought. After that, my bosses invited me to order delivery or pickup from any nearby (reasonably priced) kosher eatery. If you’re doing some kind of catered employee appreciation event just make sure you also have something nice for the kosher worker. Good luck!

        1. Super Duper*

          This!!! Please don’t guess or assume – go straight to the source! Kosher observance is complicated and not well-understood (it is much, much more than keeping meat and dairy separate), so people with very kind intentions can end up putting kosher-observant colleagues in an uncomfortable position. I am totally fine with going to a restaurant and drinking a Coke while everyone else enjoys a meal – I’m used to it, and that’s life! What’s awkward is when someone tries to accommodate me, and then I have to turn down what they’ve offered because it’s still not kosher. Bring this discussion to the colleague, be open and flexible, and go from there.

        2. Another Kosher keeper :)*

          Agree completely with this comment and want to add that the kosher-keeping colleague will likely have ideas about how to participate in a group lunch, if they want to–and some people just might not want to join in a group lunch (Kosher or not). I know that I would feel horrible if I knew that the rest of the team was missing out on a group activity because of my own practices. When my team went out to lunch pre-covid I would usually tag along for the benefit of outside-the-office conversation and eat a lunch I brought from home at my desk either before or after. Some colleagues had thought it would be awkward for me to go to a restaurant and not order anything, but I’m used to it (and it isn’t awkward).

    7. Masquerade*

      I strongly agree! I have celiac disease, and its frustrating when well-meaning people don’t listen to me when I say I’m 100% great bringing my own food. Not many people are well versed in “gluten free” vs “gluten free and safe for celiacs” and I feel guilty and snobby when they get it wrong and I can’t eat it. She knows the most about her specific restriction, just ask her!

      1. Artemesia*

        Such a good point. I remember my husband laboring to produce an elaborate vegan dish for our son’s girlfriend and then she wouldn’t eat it because he had used honey instead of agave — not realizing that strict vegans don’t use honey.

        When someone has a complicated dietary need whether medical or religious, it is often best that they bring their own meal that is safe for them. In this case, ask her if catering a kosher meal to the restaurant or some other adjustment would work since there is no kosher restaurant nearby. (in my experience hotels that do conferences usually have frozen meals for various dietary restrictions including kosher than can be provided on request). Ask her. ‘We want to make sure you can be included and need advise on ways we might do that.’

        Be aware too if she is very resistant to exploring options that she may just not want to do these food based get togethers with ‘different food’ and use this as an excuse to not participate.

      2. Silly goose*

        We are strict kosher and have a celiac family member (and another who is vegetarian)… I totally get where you are coming from.

        Had somebody check all the ingredients and make a cake or brownies or something in a disposable pan… But using their non-kosher oven. Sort of the Kosher equivalent when someone goes “it’s fine for Joe Celiac, I used spelt” (spelt contains gluten, for those who don’t know).

    8. Pwyll*

      I also had a colleague who keeps strictly kosher. She actually called up a few restaurants in the area and asked how comfortable they’d be if she brought in a party of 6 but she packed her own lunch. We found a really lovely restaurant that was perfectly fine with that (well, after the first visit, anyway. The first visit included a ton of them trying to find something for her, and she politely told them she couldn’t until their manager intervened to put an end to it. Since then, they just ask her to give them a head’s up in advance so they can make sure the waiters are aware of the accommodation). Selling 5 meals and a free glass of water is better than selling no meals at all, after all.

      I wouldn’t necessarily do that without speaking to her, first.

  6. AKchic*

    With Letter 1, I think that it’s okay to be blunt yet passive aggressive. “I’ve tried to avoid people who knew I was close with [Name] but seemingly didn’t have any connection themselves. They keep trying to fish for details and it is so gauche, classless, tactless, and disturbingly macabre. All for the sake of a morsel of gossip. I’m glad you’re not like that and will respect my boundaries by letting me subtly ignore the changes and just try to keep to my routine as much as possible” and give a tight lipped smile.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      That’s much too long a script, and while Myrtle is being really inappropriate about this I don’t think it’s reasonable to imply that only people who knew the late coworker more personally are allowed to be affected by this. Death affects everyone in different ways and it can be upsetting even to people who barely knew the person, especially in these circumstances.

      1. nonegiven*

        “It’s really disrespectful to gossip about something like this, so surely you will understand when I decline to.”

    2. IndustriousLabRat*

      +1 I’m chuckling at the thought of LW delivering Gossipy Myrtle that lengthy gem without breaking eye contact (or even blinking), nor taking a breath. Bonus for over-the-reading-glasses, one-eyebrow-raised.

      Not that one could *really* get away with that level of tongue-lashing in the workplace, but you KNOW that is the script playing internally, while externally saying the bland version; “it’s far too personal to talk about with a colleague. I’d request that this not be brought up again, thanks”.

  7. anonymous non-kosher jew*

    #2 a coffee shop might be an option. A place that sells breakfast sandwiches with meat in them would be a no-go, but the employee might be okay if there is a coffee shop that’s just beverages and pastries, even if they’re not strictly certified kosher. (I know you said the team isn’t super into pastries, but a latte and a midday change of scenery still sounds nicer than a packaged pastry in the breakroom to me?) Everyone who keeps kosher has slightly different interpretations of what is and isn’t okay, so definitely ask–some people who keep kosher would be fine with a coffee shop while others definitely would not be.

    1. HM*

      #2 Some people who keep Kosher might be comfortable with a fully-vegetarian or fully-vegan place, which depending on your area might be easier to find than a Kosher certified restaurant. But of course it will depend on the person!

  8. Rafflesia Reaper*

    LW #5, I’m legally disabled and returned to the workforce two years ago. I have good days and bad days. What I’ve learned is that the company who treats you like crap because you need an accommodation was probably going to treat you like crap anyway.

    With Company A, I started my first day with “I have XYZ requirements for my work station” and got a little side-eye, and then I spent 8 months watching my coworkers slog in with fevers because they would be fired otherwise. Needing two days off for a health complication that could have killed me was a Real Hassle for the company. They fired me, thank heavens.

    Company B, where I work now, my boss treats me like a human. She doesn’t care what accommodations I need as long as work gets completed and gave me a day to slack off when my kitten died unexpectedly.

    Working with a chronic illness is a mixed bag, so good luck!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      —-What I’ve learned is that the company who treats you like crap because you need an accommodation was probably going to treat you like crap anyway——

      I need to make a cross stitch pattern of this. Brilliant and true.

      (20 years as of last month of being disabled and the two firms who treated my health flareups and accommodations as kindly and efficiently as possible will have my respect forever. Heck, if they offered me a job below my current salary I’d go back)

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I had to leave early one day because of a health flareup and I was treated like a traitor to the cause. It was the only time in 4 years. Wakeem on the other hand who regularly called in sick because it was Monday got a shrug. I’d buy that cross stitch.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Hope the boss doesn’t notice me using Excel to design these patterns in my lunch break :p

        2. lailaaaaah*

          Yep. If I made a slipup- “oh, that’s her ADHD, she’s bad at this.” If a colleague who was known for shoddy work but had no disabilities slipped up- “it’s okay! Just give him another chance, he’ll be fine.”

  9. Leda*

    Re:#2 I’m having a hard time articulating this, but I think it’s a bad idea to ask a colleague from a minority culture to do extra work to accommodate the ignorance of outsiders. Going out to a group activity is not her idea. It’s not her problem to solve.

    Plus, I’m sure some of her colleagues already resent her for being the reason the group meals ended. If she knows about the meals, she’s probably aware of that dynamic. If she doesn’t know, how would LW#2 explain why they want her input?

    It’s just such an awkward position to put her in. I’m probably having such a viscerally negative reaction to this advice because this behavior reminds me of how people sometimes regard me, even though my situation is very different from that of LW2’s colleague.

    I’m black, but it’s not my responsibility to be an unpaid educator about black culture. People need to do their own research. Or pay me a consulting fee! I’m also a vegetarian; in reality being a vegetarian is different from keeping kosher because I can eat anywhere. But in practice, people sometimes spontaneously decide my restaurant choices are as limited as those of LW2’s colleague. So they ask me to suggest a restaurant or otherwise plan an outing I did not even suggest. But they can do their own research! Call around!

    Surely LW2 can also do their own research and leave their colleague out of the idea generation stage of planning. There have got to be other people who keep a strict kosher diet. (It’s a good idea to run the ideas by her once they’re already thought out, but that’s true for every member of the team when choosing a new group activity.)

      1. Mid*

        Ehh, maybe, but like has been explained above, there are a lot of different interpretations of kosher and how strict their requirements are. I have two friends who keep kosher. One doesn’t care as long as meat and dairy aren’t in the same food, one will only eat at kosher certified or vegan restaurants and follows even more strict interpretations during holidays.

        Asking someone “what can we do to best accommodate you?” Isn’t the same as asking them to explain the entire cultural significance of their diet.

        Think of all the stories on this site alone that are about people *trying* to be accommodating and end up accidentally being uncomfortable. Assuming someone’s needs for them, when asking them is a valid option, isn’t helpful. The OP should do some basic research, which it sounds like they have. They know where the kosher places are, and know the distance/travel time. They’ve been doing different team-bonding foods to make sure the Kosher colleague is fully included in the activity. And they’re writing in to ask for suggestions on how to support and include this person without making them feel bad.

        1. traffic_spiral*

          Yeah, while there’s a lot of situations where “do your own homework and figure it out” is a valid policy, there’s 2 important factors here.

          1.) like you said, there’s way too many variations of kosher and only the employee knows the exact version she’s following. Other than a 20-Questions-type game of “how about this place? No? How about this place? Still no?” LW won’t be able to suss it out.

          2.) In this situation the employee has most likely already *done* the “mental labor” (not really emotional labor, I’d say, but it’s definitely work) of figuring out what restaurants she can eat at, because she eats outside of work as well. So it’s actually way less stressful for her to go “here’s a list of the places I eat at” than to play that 20-Questions game with LW.

          1. Fried Eggs*

            I think there’s a middle ground here. The OP shouldn’t go to their colleague and say “please come up with a list of activities we can do.”

            However, I think it would be reasonable to say something like: “Here’s a list of ideas I came up with for group activities. I didn’t include restaurants to be on the safe side with your dietary restrictions. But I wanted to check whether you had any ideas for meal-centric group activities I hadn’t considered.”

            This makes it really easy for the person to offer suggestions if they have them or just say “Thanks for considering that. I think the non-food ideas would work best.”

            1. Bagpuss*

              I like that approach. It leaves it open to her to say she’d be OK with there sometimes being a trip to a restaurant if they would allow her to bring her own food and utensils (if that works for her) but doesn’t put her under pressure to agree to that.

              You could include in the non-restaurant options things like all bringing your own food and eating together in a local park (weather permitting) as well, so you can still have food-based choices.

              1. IndustriousLabRat*

                I absolutely love the idea of a pack-it-yourself picnic. The company could provide cold drinks and a fruit basket or something, but heck yeah to everyone bringing whatever the heck they like to eat outdoors! My old boss at my first lab used to surprise us with Lab Hike Day; usually the first nice week of Spring, and the most glorious, crisp, colorful week of fall foliage season (Western Mass). He’d announce on a Friday that Monday we should bring a bag lunch and sneakers, and we’d go for a nice lazy walk along the river to somewhere picnicky and only sorta talk about work. We LOVED it.

            2. LTL*

              Yes, this is how I interpreted Alison’s answer. Don’t put her in charge, just ask if she has any ideas. If she doesn’t, that’s fine.

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          As a vegetarian, I agree there are so many variations with what a person can & can’t eat that sometimes just asking them (one, simple conversation about where she could have lunch, etc.) can cut down on any missteps or confusion.

          The employee is under no obligation to explain the details of kosher rules or her particular practice of Judaism, though.

        3. Emi*

          For my wedding we got a kosher meal for one of the groomsmen and I just asked him whether he wanted it kept in a separate cooler vs my non-kosher fridge. That’s not something I can just “look up” because I don’t know what level/form of kosher he personally keeps.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Yes! If you educate yourself on the basics, you know the right questions to ask.

            Also, PSA for those who do so, please stop asking vegetarians if they eat fish. The term “pescatarian” is common enough now that those who eat fish but no other meat generally use it. (Jumps off soapbox.)

            1. Emi*

              (I did thankfully ask my husband-to-be about how to acquire kosher ice cubes before I asked the groomsman in question.)

              1. Super Duper*

                That made me laugh! But really, it was very kind of you to accommodate the groomsman and be so thoughtful. To answer the other commenter, no, kosher ice cubes are not a thing. Water is kosher without supervision or certification (even bottled water!).

    1. Limepink*

      This is harsh to OP. Expecting other groups to know detailed information about religious practices that are not mainstream, and also -vary by the individual- to come up with solutions to be inclusive is counter-intuitive. It’s a diversity committee of all white men figuring out how to promote POC. Besides the detailed religious restrictions, once again, every person is different in how they observe.

      Also, as the individual in question you know what you’re comfortable with, what you will compromise on or places you already are happy to go.

      Lastly, I feel it puts more pressure on the kosher coworker of these people do “research” by (asking other Jewish people? Google? ) and then present her with a Yay Happy Solution and if it doesn’t fit her lifestyle she needs to turn it down which can read as ungrateful.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      I see your point. However there is a bit of a wrinkle. Different people have different levels of strictness about what they would accept as kosher enough for them.

      Plus there is the possibility that other people have dietary restrictions, including new reasons for existing staff like starting a new medication. So instead of asking this coworker specifically, maybe send out an email to everyone asking for information about their dietary restrictions as the LW is investigating the feasibility of restarting the team lunches. Add in some assurances about keeping the responses confidential if that might help and you’ve done the best you can to avoid sticking a spotlight on this coworker.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, this whole thing is making me think of people with allergies and the like. It probably won’t do you any good to try to rules lawyer or weasel around or try to go “But there’s this vegan coffeeshop!” about it. They absolutely can’t or won’t and trying to get around it isn’t going to work. When I’m out with food-allergic friends, they have to basically be put in charge of the dining experience, i.e. pick the restaurant, because only they can figure out what won’t kill them. Since it sounds like there’s no kosher restaurants in the area, having non-shared-food experiences is probably the easiest thing to do.

      2. Willis*

        Re: your second paragraph, I worked somewhere that at one point had a little non-anonymous survey for us each to fill out about favorite local restaurant, favorite candy, favorite bday treat, etc. There were non-food questions too, basically getting at what you’d like for small recognition/rewards. The OP could do something like that to find alternatives to the breakfast-pastry-for-birthdays approach, and better tailor those to each employee. It doesn’t get around the group lunch thing if there’s no nearby restaurant kosher employee can eat at, but it may come up with some different ideas for recognizing special days.

        1. introverted af*

          I really like this a lot – we did something similar for our department secret santa to make sure you got what people wanted. This takes the guesswork out of it, and also opens up the possibility that other people in the office who were maybe just ok with going out to dinner could speak up about recognition they would enjoy more.

    3. Leda*

      Still thinking about thissnd figured out what I’m trying to articulate. What bugs me is that she’s being singled out because of a cultural difference. If LW2 wants to solicit ideas, ask the whole team. Don’t lay a disproportionate amount of responsibility on her shoulders.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The team can’t give good suggestions because they don’t know the specifics of the restrictions. (The same thing is happening here in this comment section; we’re getting lots of suggestions for things that won’t work if the employee is on the strict end of observance.) The employee may be fine widely sharing the details of her religious practice so that other people can make suggestions but she shouldn’t have to, and she also might prefer to simply explain what would work for her.

        This isn’t “let’s make Jane do the labor of teaching us all how to be less racist.” It’s “Jane has very specific restrictions that we don’t know all the details of, so let’s ask what would work for her rather than guessing.”

        1. AcademiaNut*

          In a case like this, it’s more like accommodating a serious food allergy than learning cultural sensitivity. There’s so much variation in level of restrictions that is easier and safer to ask the person affected by it what will work for them than to play guessing games. Plus, even with team sourced ideas, you’d still have to run them by the coworker to be approved, and have them need to explain why the vegan restauraunt/coffee shop/bakery etc. isn’t acceptable.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            Exactly what I said above, this is like food allergies. The person with the allergy has to take the lead because others probably can’t figure it out enough for them not to kill them.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Agreed. I’ve got a very rare and severe food allergy (to decaff) and that does mean I have to be upfront about what and where I can or cannot go.

              (Sadly there are a lot of coffee places round here that think it’s funny to give someone decaff when they didn’t ask for it. There’s 2 coffee shops I trust. If a work meeting required going to a coffee shop I’d either suggest my trusted ones or not go at all)

                1. Nanani*

                  There are stories of people doing that with diet/non-diet soda (often pairs with toxic ideas about weight). People with blood sugar issues or allergies to specific sweetners can and do get very sick as a result of this fuckery.

                2. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  Sadly I’ve even had (former) friends and coworkers who think they’re actually helping by sneakily removing caffeine from my drinks.

                3. Inquiring minds want to know*

                  How on earth does one remove caffeine from a drink once it’s made? As part of the manufacturing/roasting process, sure, but how do friends remove caffeine from your drinks? Do you mean they stealthily swap caffeinated drinks for decaf?

            2. UKDancer*

              Definitely, I’ve worked with people with varying religious and allergy related food requirements. How people interpret kosher can vary widely. I’ve one Jewish colleague who interprets it as “no pork or shellfish” and another who lives by a much more detailed set of requirements. It’s not as simple as a dietary restriction like “no tomatoes.”

              I don’t know what individual rules people apply so I think it’s quite in order to ask them to help find the place or solution that works for them. I mean I only know one possibly appropriate place anywhere near my office and I wouldn’t have a clue if it’s actually kosher or whether it just serves traditional Jewish food.

              1. cncx*

                yup, i worked for two people who kept kosher in wildly different ways, one was just not into mixing pork or shellfish and milk and meat, and another was of the kosher plates and kitchens variety.

                My muslim friends are similar in the variety of how they keep halal, there are some who will eat anything non pork, there are some who also are strict about kitchens, utensils.

                There are a million different ways to keep kosher or halal and I think this is why AAM is like let’s ask OP’s coworker what works.

                Also fwiw i have a friend with a garlic allergy who can eat about a clove’s worth, in a fondue or a tomato sauce but can’t eat anything where the main flavor is garlic. So sometimes food allergies are up for interpretation too but only the person can tell you.

              2. PT*

                Yes, I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and the degree of observance to kosher varied wildly from “my house has two dishwashers and I only eat at Kosher restaurants so I will pack a lunch if I come over to study” to “It’s OK to eat bacon in restaurants but not at home as long as you don’t tell my Bubbe.”

                Today is the first time I am hearing about bugs on produce being un-kosher! There is always new stuff to learn.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Reminds me of the time I had 2 visitors from Israel. I asked them what they wanted for lunch and they said that nobody knew them so what they really wanted was a fry up because they couldn’t do that in Tel Aviv without grandma seeing. So we went to the great greasy spoon I knew about and they both had a full English breakfast.

                  Apparently eating bacon abroad didn’t count. I think it goes to show that it’s always best to ask people what they want and need, rather than assuming they need a particular thing.

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, this is the best comparison I’ve seen so far.

            In general I’m all for the person with the restrictions, whether due to allergies or religious observance, of being frank what does and doesn’t work for them. If other people have to do the work by guessing and offering suggestions, it’s only going to frustrate them when the person who keeps a strict diet keeps turning the suggestions down.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I don’t need to give my complete medical history to a company to ask for disability accomodations. I just need them to ask me what *would* work and we can have a discussion from there. It’s not an undue burden on me as a disabled person to be asked exactly what my restrictions are and what I need to deal with them.

        3. Littorally*

          Yeah, this.

          I have a dietary restriction, and the most uncomfortable thing for me is when “where/what can Littorally eat?” becomes a group activity. I’d much rather figure it out on my own and give someone my settled answer, or at most talk with one decision-maker about it.

      2. anonymous non-kosher jew*

        I get that you’re coming from a place of wanting to save Teammate from emotional labor, but tbh she’ll probably be happy you’re making an effort to include her. And unless LW is in an area with a large Orthodox community, the places Teammate can eat is likely very short and already committed to memory. The best way to support Teammate in a situation like this would be to shut down any complaints about needing to eat at a kosher restaurant should that arise.

        1. Willis*

          I agree with this. I’d also be careful in that conversation not to complain about eating takeout in the conference room. I get that it’s a step down from dining out, but I would really want to avoid anything that comes off like, we’ve been doing a crappier version of our usual group lunches to accommodate you.

          (And I guess to me, if group conference room lunches are what is going to work for everyone to participate, I’d rather do that than exclude someone. Going to a restaurant with coworkers a few times a year is not so thrilling that it’s such a loss to eat at work instead. Is this really a big deal, if there’s not a good solution?)

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I was wondering if group takeout in a local park during nice weather would be an option. Make it like a picnic, & you can still get the “break from the office” feeling.

      3. Smithy*

        In addition to what Alison and others have shared – religion, along with disability, also have a longer history of “workplace accommodations”.

        So no different than someone with a severe peanut allergy explaining what accommodations they need for a safe workplace, people from minority religious groups are often in a place with their employer to explain their needs for time off, prayer spaces, etc.

        It may also be possible that in addition to being kosher, this employee may also be celiac, sober, or 101 other individual realities. However, those conversations can all happen without asking the employee to explain why they keep kosher, what keeping kosher means to her faith, or anything like that.

    4. anonymous non-kosher jew*

      I am Jewish and familiar with kosher law and…do not attempt to ask a third party or do your own research on what this employee can and can’t eat. Everyone who keeps kosher has different interpretations of the rules, so asking a consultant or trying to do you’re own research on what’s okay for this particular coworker…well you’d have no way of knowing and could easily land on an option that the teammate wouldn’t be able to eat, and end up inadvertently excluding them. I would look at this more like accommodating an employee with a severe food allergy. The best thing to do is ask that person which restaurants are safe for them to eat at and pick from those options, and not just assume a restaurant is safe because you don’t see anything with peanuts on the menu when they may in fact be frying everything in peanut oil.

      You are correct in that the employee should not be expected to educate others in the workplace about Judaism. And I’m sorry you’ve had that incredibly unfair experience of being forced to be an unpaid cultural educator. But asking someone to let you know which restaurants they can eat at is not at all the same as them educating you on kashrut.

        1. Finland*

          Doubly agreed, the employee is not a goldfish or a hamster. Any questions about their dietary needs should go directly to them, just as you would ask someone who has food allergies, etc.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree – my parents worked on a cleaning team during their first year in the US, cleaning houses. Many of their clients were Jewish (which my family also is, but we are secular) and practicing, and kept some variation of kosher. From what I remember my parents telling me, the rules of how to clean a house so as not to contaminate it, varied from house to house and they were informed of each individual client’s rules before cleaning their house.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          My (Catholic) grandmother was a maid in Milwaukee and Chicago before she got married at 28 years old. (She had to leave school after 8th grade.)

          She wrote in her diaries – and my mom has quoted from those diaries in the book she wrote about my grandmother’s life – about working for Jewish families and being so careful in the kitchen – she didn’t want to do anything wrong.

          1. Ali + Nino*

            As a Jew who keeps kosher I appreciate this so much. At a former job where we used reusable dishes and utensils in the kitchen, I was given my own set. While I was out a nonJewish coworker accidentally touched my dishes and the next day apologized profusely because she thought I couldn’t use them anymore. Everything was totally fine and I just felt bad that she had been so worried!

    5. Analyst Editor*

      I strongly disagree with this. This is basic communication; and mind-reading and trying to come up with something without the input of the person whom it concerns puts them in an even more awkward situation.
      A good analogy is the expectations of knowing a language in a country. If you’re visiting, say, Mexico or France, it’s a reasonable expectation that tourists know some Spanish or French, because these languages are studied widely and international. If you’re visiting, say, Iceland, it would be less reasonable to expect visitors to know Icelandic.
      If your needs and preferences are such that are generally accessible and enough people will have seen that you should know a little, then yes. Like, figuring out a baseline of what is and isn’t vegetarian is not that hard. But if you’re a paleo-vegan with a gluten sensitivity, it’s on you to educate people about your very specific and rare needs.
      As Alison said up-thread, “Kosher” can be a range of “I don’t eat Pork” to “I can only eat things prepared in these very very exacting ways to these very very rigorous standards”. If 90% of Kosher keepers can get something from a vegan restaurant or get a Starbucks coffee, and this person can’t, it’s perfectly reasonable and best for everybody to ask them, because if they’re a normal person they’ll just tell you what they prefer and not make a thing about it.
      Because otherwise, everyone else will try to figure it out WITHOUT the employee, and when they make a mistake that offended employee will be back here writing to Alison, “my well-meaning co-workers decided to make me a Kosher option, but they messed it up and I feel bad because they spent money on it, and I couldn’t eat it; I wish they had just asked me.”

      1. Sunny*

        Yeah, this. I have a friend whose interpretation of kosher is literally “do not eat a calf boiled in its mother’s milk”, and as mentioned upthread, there’s people who won’t eat at any restaurant that has ever put a dairy product on a plate that also had meat on it. He wouldn’t claim to keep kosher in restaurant-selection conversations, because his particular issue is so unlikely to come up that it’s not worth mentioning, but that’s the sort of range you’re talking for “what is kosher”. This isn’t something you can just guess at. You really do need to ask about this person’s specific dietary needs.

    6. LDF*

      I am Jewish and in my experience, strictly observant Jews would 100% prefer to be asked because a lot of workarounds people think would work, don’t. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, I’d also be really annoyed if someone just assumed they should order me a bread-free catered meal during a meeting over Passover. Give me bread please. Kashrut is not something that outsiders can just figure out without input from the one person they want to accomodate.

      1. anonymous non-kosher jew*

        100% yes to your second sentence! I am Jewish, do not keep kosher and am a vegetarian for non-religious reasons. I was once at a conference where the coworker in charge of registering our team knew I was Jewish and they checked the box on my registration to request a kosher meal. It was a meat meal, so I couldn’t eat it. I know my coworker who registered us meant well and I ended up trading meals with someone, so despite it being awkward it worked out fine. But had my coworker just asked me instead of assuming, this situation could have been avoided!

    7. 'Tis Me*

      I think the difference is, most people agree on the definition of “vegetarian” (although some restaurants don’t seem to get most vegetarians don’t eat fish). “Strictly Kosher” is open to a great deal of debate, e.g. It’s almost Passover. Jews can’t eat foods containing 5 forbidden grains – wheat, oats, rye, barley or spelt – or other ones that have started to sprout/ferment before the holiday starts… Other than certified Kosher for Passover wine and cheese, or unleavened bread prepared to certain standards. Most Orthodox Jews will have a different set of kitchen and ovenware for Passover to avoid consuming microscopic traces of Kosher but non-Kosher for Passover foods. There is an Eastern/Western origins split on whether beans are acceptable or not. Because you’re supposed to e.g. check each grain of rice for sprouting, some Jews won’t eat rice at all. Some Jews won’t eat additional grains that weren’t around in the Middle East in biblical times because they feel it violates the spirit of things (buckwheat, maize, etc). You can’t exactly research where somebody’s maternal line originated from, or whether their family follows different rules, and which rabbinical interpretation they follow on a dozen different issues, without either some terrifyingly intrusive levels of stalking – or just asking them.

      While there are some (many) situations where “educate yourself and don’t place the burden of finding a solution on the person in the minority group” is excellent advice, this is more akin to saying “I know you’re a strict vegetarian, but would you be happy to eat at [buffet restaurant/steak place that also has a few veggie mains/a teppanyaki restaurant that may or may not have dedicated veggie griddle plates or do other dishes]?” i.e. Some research has already been done, and now it’s time to get the input of the person most affected.

      There are times when talking to people is the respectful, considerate approach, not shifting the burden of responsibility onto them.

      1. Zelda*

        A good level of “do your own research” here might be “look up the dates of Passover and other High Holidays before starting the conversation”, perhaps?

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Yes. And most electronic calendars have an option to show Jewish holidays, so no one even has to look them up.

          It can be worth checking how that holiday might affect someone’s plans. E.g. Tisha B’av is a very somber, 25 hour fast. However, it does not come with any prohibitions around work. So, if an employee observes it scheduling an important meeting that day would be fine, but maybe don’t throw them a surprise party that day.

          1. curly sue*

            And to remember that the holidays start at sundown, and some require more preparation than others. (Eating before sundown the night that Yom Kippur starts, because that’s the last chance you get for 25 hours.) So ‘the holiday is tomorrow’ doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will be available for an evening workshop today. *sighs in academic*

          2. yala*

            I mean, in general, I think I’d avoid scheduling an important meeting on the day of a fast, just because, well…most folks don’t exactly feel *great* after 12-25 hours without food.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        Even with vegetarianism, it gets complicated in a multi-cultural environment. I’ve been in numerous restaurants where the question “is it vegetarian” is answered with “no, it has onions”, because the dominant form of vegetarianism where I live is Buddhist vegetarian, with no animal products (although some eat dairy), and no onions/garlic/chives.

        My usual phrasing is “is there anything you can’t eat” when picking restaurants for a group or cooking for people.

        1. CherryJam*

          Yep, I’ve found that when I visit types of restaurants (Thai, Vietnamese for example) have asked if I eat eggs when I’ve requested something vegetarian – vegetarian certainly isn’t a clear cut definition. Though it does peeve me when people ask if I eat fish, I’d have thought (hoped?!) that one is clear.

          1. Quoth the Raven*

            Ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, flexitarian…

            A lot of the vegetarian places I know operate on the assumption that one eats dairy, for example, and a lot of people assume certain cuisines are vegetarian or vegan (like Mexican, where we use a lot of lard and chicken stock). And this is a diet that is often considered to be easy to accommodate for!

          2. turquoisecow*

            I wonder if the confusion about fish comes from the Catholic prohibitions around Lent. You’re not supposed to eat meat on Fridays, but fish is okay, so I assume some people think that means fish is not meat, and therefore ok for vegetarians.

            1. EchoGirl*

              Ironically, the same is actually true in Kosher rules — fish isn’t meat for the purpose of milk-and-meat rules.

          3. biobotb*

            Why would that one be clear? Plenty of people who consider themselves vegetarian eat fish, and plenty who consider themselves vegetarian don’t. Would you rather the restaurant just guessed?

      3. Marzipan*

        See, I was actually just sat there thinking that being vegetarian is an example of another thing that does vary from person to person. I would bet money that my version of being vegetarian varies a bit from Leda’s, for example.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I’ve a couple of friends who identify as vegetarian who eat fish but one of them doesn’t eat dairy. I’ve another friend who doesn’t eat red meat for health reasons but doesn’t call themselves vegetarian. People have very different ways of identifying themselves.

          I don’t eat shellfish. I went to a posh corporate dinner and asked for the starter that didn’t involve lobster. The organiser assumed from this that I was vegetarian and tried to serve me the veggie main course when I wanted the beef. In actuality I was quite happy with the beef, I just didn’t want the shellfish.

          I think it’s always better to be specific and phrase it in terms of what you eat rather than what you identify as. So say “I don’t eat meat, fish or meat products” rather than “I’m vegetarian.”

          1. BubbleTea*

            I describe myself as vegan, but currently I am eating eggs as I’m pregnant and was craving them. I only eat eggs that I’ve either bought myself or that came from hens I have met in person, raised by a friend I trust (sadly my main egg source has recently rehomed her chickens).

            I’m going to try to raise my baby vegan, assuming breastfeeding is successful, but he will also have eggs at first because that’s the advice for avoiding allergies, and I want him to be safe with egg-based vaccines (I don’t require my medication to be vegan, although I prefer for it to be vegetarian so I avoid gelatine capsules, for instance). None of that nuance would be included if anyone asked another vegan what my requirements were!

          2. Blackcat*

            “I’ve another friend who doesn’t eat red meat for health reasons but doesn’t call themselves vegetarian.”

            I don’t eat mammals or consume dairy for climate change reasons. I just say “no cows or pigs or other mammals, no dairy.” There is not one word that means what I need it to mean, so I specify. I also specify my allergies.

          3. Quoth the Raven*

            My version of vegetarian is that I don’t eat any animals proper, but eat dairy. I don’t eat eggs because I strongly dislike the smell (to the point that some ways of cooking them and even the pans used make me nauseous), but I’m okay if they’re used as an ingredient I can’t taste or smell (like in cakes, for example). And while I’d rather avoid it, if something has chicken stock or lard, I will eat it (it would be a pain to avoid a lot of food, being Mexican).

      4. hbc*

        And even if you’re dead-on right about the definition of vegetarian, you can still make it so you haven’t made the situation much better for the person with restrictions. I hate peppers, so when my “accommodation” is the one non-meat pizza slathered in peppers, I really wish someone had asked.

        1. EchoGirl*

          Seconding that. I’m mostly vegetarian and also have autism-related SPD, so I can’t eat a lot of typical vegetarian options (because they’re often dishes with various vegetables) without gagging. My husband, who keeps kosher, was once served fish, which he doesn’t eat, at an event because they knew to get a “kosher meal” but didn’t probe further. So yeah, on top of the particulars of their main dietary issue, you also don’t know what their other preferences are, if they have an allergy or sensitivity, etc.

          1. EchoGirl*

            Adding to this, I’ve also had to deal with the possibility recently that I might be allergic to coconut (it’s looking like we may be wrong about that, but I’ve had to think through it). A lot of vegan food uses coconut as a dairy substitute, so a vegan restaurant could actually be a bigger issue than a mainstream restaurant with a few non-meat options on the menu.

    8. EventPlannerGal*

      “Surely LW2 can also do their own research and leave their colleague out of the idea generation stage of planning. There have got to be other people who keep a strict kosher diet.”

      But how are these other people supposed to know exactly what OPs coworker can or can’t eat? If you mean actually asking other people who keep kosher, rather than googling resources or something, that actually strikes me as worse. That just means passing the labour of figuring this out onto some other random Jewish person who isn’t even involved in the situation – that really IS asking someone to be an educator.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes I mean you can know what wikipedia says “kosher” is but that doesn’t mean the OP’s co-worker agrees. Every Jewish person I’ve met seems to interpret it slightly differently depending on their personal perspective and beliefs. If I’m ordering catering for a work event, I’d much rather know what you can and can’t eat so I get it right, than guess and have you go hungry.

    9. LifeBeforeCorona*

      This past year I’ve had people I know and a few strangers ask me “What Can Be Done” with reference to BLM. I have no idea. I’m just another middle-aged person trying to get through my day. If I had solutions, I would be running the world instead of knitting hats. Their intentions may be good but there are so many variables.

    10. 36Cupcakes*

      I’m a vegetarian and people guessing about what I’d rather eat than asking me has lead to some uncomfortable situations for both sides.

      With so many variables in the definition it’s hard to research on your own.

      Asking undue emotional labor to me in this situation would be asking them to explain Judaism, what Kosher is, why they are personally Kosher or to defend it in someway.

      In this case they want to know how best to accommodate it.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. When I ask someone “do you have any dietary requirements” I don’t need them to explain or justify themselves or give me a detailed rationale for their dietary choices and needs. I just need to know which set of menus or restaurants to pick from.

        It is important to me personally when I am organising an event with food that everyone can eat something and feel well fed.

    11. Greige*

      Food allergy here. Yes, it’s a PIA to find a place, especially when it’s EVERY time, and it would be so much easier to skip the meals, which is why I like Alison’s suggestion of non-food activities. (Also another reason WFH is so much easier.) But trusting others to find a place that works for you isn’t always a feasible option, and that sounds like the case here. I’d rather the organizer ask for options upfont than have to have tiresome conversations over and over as they inevitably chose places that don’t work for me. This situation sounds similar, because like other food restrictions, Kosher doesn’t look the same for everyone, and the most sensitive approach is to acknowledge that you don’t automatically know what will work for your colleague. If you ask and the answer is, “I can eat anywhere; you pick,” then that’s the answer, but it’s necessary to ask.

    12. Roscoe*

      I get what you are saying (trust me, I reccomended someone do some work before and people clearly disagreed), but in this case, this isn’t as easy as “just go to this place equidistant from that place” it is the team either has to drive 45 minutes each way, or they can’t go eat together. In that situation, when your “desires” are that much out of sync with everyone else, it probably is somewhat on you to figure it out.

      If (in normal times) I’m planning a group dinner with friends, I have no problem going to a place with great vegan options. But I’m also not going to do the work of researching that. The vegan(s) in the group are welcome to give me options though.

    13. Archaeopteryx*

      It’s not ignorance for coworkers who don’t keep kosher not to know the exact nuances of a) what kosher options are in their area and how well they would work for coworker, and b) what options coworker is and isn’t OK with in her specific practice of keeping kosher. This isn’t analogous to just saying “educate yourself!” about culturally insensitive terms or racial justice issues. People are not required to instantly have a detailed, encyclopedic knowledge of the ways of every religion and culture, just to be kind and open to learning about and accommodating them.

      1. Rayray*


        I’m Latter-day Saint (aka Mormon). We don’t drink coffee and I know it’s a very normal thing for anyone else, whether grabbing coffee from The break room, going on a date, going to the place down the street etc. If someone asked me to join them, I would just simply explain that I don’t drink coffee and if they pressed me on it, I would say it was a religious thing. I personally find it absolutely ridiculous to expect every person to just KNOW that I don’t drink coffee. It would be a short conversation and it would never occur to me that the other person was ignorant or that they were demanding me to educate them. It’s simply not reasonable to expect everyone to just know everything. We’re humans, not super robots retaining all knowledge of absolutely every detail of every single thing in the universe. We ask questions TO LEARN. We communicate to understand each other.

        1. JSPA*

          “Getting coffee” or a “coffee break” are both shorthand for, “short break to get liquid, in a place where coffee is an option.”

          They absolutely include the option of ordering (or making oneself) a cup of caffeine free herb tea (or a juice, or anything else in the fridge / on the menu).

          Coffee shops often have a wide range of herb tea options.

          If coffee shops strike you as a den of iniquity, or you don’t want to support them financially, or you don’t want to be seen entering one, then by all means, don’t go!

          But “what caffeine free herb teas do you have” is something baristas are 100% expecting to hear, from a significant percentage of their customers. Even regular caffeine drinkers also sometimes just want herb tea.

          1. Rayray*

            Oh for sure, I could easily grab a hot chocolate or lemonade. I was only trying to make a point that sometimes religious diet things are unusual and it’s not reasonable to expect someone to have all knowledge of that *before* they ask me to join them, and I would never be offended if they asked me to. I know I could either politely decline the invite or get something different.

          2. JB*

            This is a really condescending response.

            I also don’t drink coffee (or anything caffeinated) and let me tell you, it’s just not that simple. I get interrogated about it pretty regularly. Yes, if it’s a matter of just going to a coffee shop where people can order what they want – sure, it’s easy. But if drinks are getting expensed, immediately it’s a problem. (Tea or other alternative drinks always cost more than coffee.) If someone brings breakfast into the office, they’re bringing coffee and decaf and that’s it. Not that I expect them to bring something for me specifically – I mostly drink water anyway – but someone always has to loudly notice that I’m not drinking coffee and make a production about it.

    14. Rayray*

      For Pete’s sake, I don’t think the suggestion was to demand this person plan everything and teach a seminar on their beliefs. It was just to have a simple conversation about what the team could do to make sure this person is accommodated on these team outings. Sometimes humans actually do communicate with words. It may just be a very simple conversation of “Oh, no problem. I can pick up a lunch at x restaurant that I like” or “I can’t eat at any of the restaurants near by , but if we eat lunch here, I’ll have my own lunch to eat”

      1. TakeItDownANotch*

        This feels overly combative (i.e. “for pete’s sake), especially given the sheer volume of replies clearly already generated from the suggestion. While I agree with most of the commentariat that this is more analogous to asking someone with food allergies what they can eat, there is value in considering whether the approach to getting that information is placing an unfair burden on the person with the restriction.

    15. Knut*

      For background: I am kosher and have been to many workplace lunches. I disagree strongly with this response. It is not possible for someone who is not very familiar with how I specifically keep kosher to know what I would be comfortable with. I also don’t think it’s their job to try to guess what I would or would not be OK with. Like any other accommodation (allergies, or disability, or whatever) I think the best approach is to ask the coworker what she would like to do. I have found that nearly all restaurants are OK with me bringing my own food, or I can usually get a plain salad without dressing if I ask. It’s a little awkward, but I don’t think it’s reasonable for the team to not go to a team lunch because it’s a little awkward for me to bring my own food.

    16. TWW*

      Agreed. The problem here isn’t that they can’t access kosher food. It is that OP is obviously resentful, and it’s unfair to ask the kosher coworker to “solve” OP’s resentment.

      OP has already preemptively rejected one obvious solution: Order in a catered lunch. (Unacceptable! It won’t be hot enough! I can’t eat it in the conference room!)

      I get the feeling that whatever the coworker would suggest would be met with similar dismissiveness.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I also got an all or nothing vibe from the letter. I serve regular birthday cake for my kid. I ask the parents of children who keep kosher what *they* would like me to provide for *their* kids. Sometimes the kid abstains from cake. Sometimes they come with a tupperware of something from home. Sometimes I buy a prepackaged kosher alternative. I don’t stop making cakes, yet everyone is included.

    17. Temperance*

      Seconded. I think the best way to proceed would be for LW to do her research, and then present her kosher colleague with options to confirm what might work with her. That’s what I’ve done in the past for kosher colleagues, in addition to asking if they have favorite/preferred restaurants. (With the caveat that I’m in a major city, so accommodating folks is much easier.)

    18. TootsNYC*

      People need to do their own research.
      Given how individual a kosher restriction can be, this is only solvable with input from her.
      This is not asking as general “explain kosher and Jewishness to me.”
      This is, “Is there anything we could do in order to include you, specifically, in the group lunch more easily?”

    19. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      It seems to me that providing input is useful, since there seem to be as many ways of keeping kosher as there are Jews sometimes. I’m vegetarian and round here typical restaurants won’t serve veggie meals, so if I can provide input and get to eat at a place where I can have a decent meal, I’m only too glad to provide that input.

  10. Unpopular opinion*

    This will be an unpopular opinion ’round here, but I don’t think that the company in letter 1 should stop its tradition of occasional lunches because one person has dietary restrictions. And seriously, shrink-wrapped breakfast pastries in lieu of birthday cake? Ridiculous. There seems to be a principle here that *every* eating quirk (special diets, allergies, etc.) must *always* be accommodated, whereas I think outliers should do their share of the accommodating of the group, too.

    I would say that the company should occasionally lunch at the kosher restaurant and, when they eat elsewhere, should pay for whatever delivery service can deliver a kosher meal for this particular employee. But I don’t see why the entire company should abandon going to lunch occasionally. While we don’t want to the group to completely impose on the employee, nor should the employee impose on the group.

    1. Dan*

      I’m going to add my own unpopular opinion and say that I would very likely not dine at a restaurant that’s a 45 minute drive from my office. I have to bill for my time, and a 2.5 hour lunch where work is not discussed is a 2.5 hour lunch that I have to make up time for some other way. It’s the functional equivalent of making me stay late after work when I have other obligations.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Also in roles where there’s a need for phone coverage, that’s also an issue there. I know restaurants have been vetoed for lunches out where I work because the distance and time to get there would cause an issue with coverage.

    2. allathian*

      I agree with you. Although I’ll add the caveat that I’m far more likely to be sympathetic to a person with dietary restrictions when they’re caused by an allergy or other intolerance, which in serious cases can kill you or at least make you very sick, than mere religious or ethical dietary restrictions, whether you’re vegan or keep strict kosher. I’ll be frank, I’d probably resent it on some level, because you choose to be vegan or to keep kosher, but nobody chooses to be allergic.

      1. allathian*

        Everyone has the right to make their own lifestyle and other choices, which should be accommodated when possible. But outliers have to realize that others can and will resent them for their choices. You can mandate accommodations but you can’t force others to like them, so it’s also in the outliers’ best interests to be accommodating in return when possible.

        1. LDF*

          You’d resent someone for being vegan or kosher even if they made no demands of you whatsoever? The letter has no indication she has ever complained or asked for accomodations. It’s not her fault if her coworkers prefer her company to a cheeseburger’s company.

          1. Dan*

            Well… in this case it’s somewhat complicated. “Demand” is too strong of a word. However, I can assure you, that if my boss declared that “the team” is going to a restaurant 45 minutes from the office but attendance is “voluntary”, there’d be resentment somewhere. The thing is, everybody at my org has to invoice their time, and time spent on non-work activities isn’t billable. So, when the boss uses language like “voluntary”, that means we’re not getting paid. And in American culture, even when the boss “asks” you to do something, the boss is not “asking”, the boss is telling. So now I’m going to resent *somebody*, and we usually avoid resenting the people who can give us raises.

            Don’t get *me* wrong. I’d actually enjoy going to a Kosher restaurant, if not just for the experience of a different cultural norm. It’s just that work is work, and any unpaid activity with work people that occurs during work hours comes with the consideration of the time I will have to make up separately… and a 2.5 hour lunch is a big ask.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              The 1.5 hour drive is indeed a hurdle.
              I wonder if the team is big enough for that restaurant to cater a lunch.

              1. Bagpuss*

                I wondered about that. With a bigger team, they might be prepared to deliver even if they don’t normally deliver that far out ( of the team might be able to club together and get the food picked up.

                I imagine that them catering would be more of a problem as the work kitchen presumably isn’t Kosher

                I don’t know what it is like where OP is – here, because restaurants have had to close, a lot which never did take out or delivery before are looking at ways to do so, and might carry on after the restrictions ease, so getting food everyone can eat, delivered, may become easier.

            2. metadata minion*

              It sounds like this solution wouldn’t work well for your company since everything is in terms of billable hours, but that might not be the case at the LW’s! At my office, the norm is to count team lunches as a standard hour-long lunch break even if they run over.

            3. hbc*

              -A lot of American bosses (including this one) are driven crazy by employees who assume that a question isn’t a question.

              -I know some people misdirect anger and resentment, but if you’re *aware* that you’re misdirecting it, that’s a choice. A choice that’s less sympathetic than dietary restrictions.

              I am totally sympathetic to not wanting a 2.5 hour lunch regularly. “I’m mad at my coworker because my boss tried to accommodate her stated restrictions and I’m too timid to state my own preferences” is decidedly not sympathetic.

              1. Dan*

                “-A lot of American bosses (including this one) are driven crazy by employees who assume that a question isn’t a question.”

                I think we’re *all* to blame for this. We’ve abused the English language (or tried to soften directness) so much that we now use the word “ask” for an entire range of meaning… all the way from a mere question where “no” is an acceptable answer, to “you’ll written up for insubordination or fired for saying ‘no’ when the boss ‘asked'”

                I don’t know how to get the language back where “ask” means “ask”.

                And to your last point, I’m pretty good about blaming management for their bad decisions, and not my coworkers for the bad outcomes. But I may be in the minority — *plenty* of people write in for advice here, where it’s obvious they’re blaming their coworkers for the outcomes of bad management practices.

            4. JSPA*

              If you’d normally count an hour, this is an extra 1.5 hours per excursion.

              “A few times a year,” per the original question. So, let’s say, an extra 7.5 hours a year, if you go to every one of 5 “too distant” lunches.

              Is there no way you can recoup that work-day’s worth of time over 365 days? Even if you can’t, what price does one put on collegiality, in terms of both personal happiness and career development? One could very well choose to say, “collegiality is worth one day’s lost billing, per year.”

              1. Dan*

                I don’t know what “lost billing” means to people in other contexts, but for me a day of “lost billing” is one day of consumed PTO. Would I spend a day of PTO just to each lunch with my coworkers? Not something I’m chomping at the bit to do. I’d rather spend PTO doing things that don’t remind me of work, which is the whole point of PTO.

        2. Greige*

          Umm…. Yeah, people will resent you for having allergies, too. But that’s because people can be pretty terrible. It’s not exactly something we should aapire to or try to accommodate.

        3. Super Duper*

          I would urge you rethink this perspective. American Jews are a minority religion living in a majority Christian country, with anti-Semitism on the rise worldwide. As an observant Jew, I am the outlier who is *constantly* accommodating the majority. I actually don’t think the LW needs to drive 45 minutes to the kosher restaurant, but saying you would resent a colleague for keeping kosher is ignorant and sad.

          1. LTL*

            This!!! Minorities are accommodating all the time. It’s the default. There’s a reason why we talk about “how can we accommodate [minority]”.

            You’re resenting someone for having to deal with something on a rare occasion which that person has to deal with EVERY DAY.

        4. Slumber12*

          Wow. Do you realize that American society is completely wrapped up in catering to the majority? Why do you think the holiday schedule looks the way it does? Why do you think the work week looks the way it does? Our entire culture is designed to accommodate Christianity. Period. Yes, religion is a choice, but you’re effectively saying that those who choose not to be Christian should expect to be resented by others for that choice. It’s a truly appalling sentiment.

          1. nonegiven*

            I’m not really sure religion, or lack of it, is a choice. I can’t make myself believe something that would make my life easier, or I would have done it when I was younger.

            I don’t care any more, but I’m older and have no f*cks left to give.

          2. EmmaPoet*

            Exactly. Things close down for Easter Sunday* and Christmas, but I had to take personal leave in order to celebrate the Days of Awe.

            *It’s not a federal holiday, but a boatload of stuff shuts down- libraries close, etc.

      2. EBStarr*

        That’s a surprising statement. I mean, by that logic, are you okay with religious discrimination because the person chooses (?!?!) to be Jewish?

        I’m a vegetarian so not as surprised by the idea of people resenting vegetarians… For some reason it’s very common. If someone resents someone else for living in a way that feels ethical to them, then they’re probably not the right person to be friends with me anyway.

      3. Where have I heard that before?*

        So what other accommodations do you resent because you consider them to stem from lifestyle choices?

      4. Allegra*

        “mere religious or ethical dietary restrictions” <– I'm having a very hard time articulating why this phrasing seems so cruelly dismissive, but boy does it ever.

        Look, I actually typify your two categories here–I recently started keeping kosher to a lesser degree, and I have adult-onset food allergies. I get equal resentment from others for "ruining" traditions involving foods I used to be able to eat, involving both pork products (kosher), nuts (new allergies), or shellfish (both, lol). Both types of resentment are obvious and both make me feel like garbage. I'm not doing it for funsies. Scanning every food label and making mental calculus of "can I eat this" is exhausting and expensive whether I'm looking for hidden nuts or a hechsher.

        You are resenting people for "lifestyle choices" because you're only thinking about your own experience of their "choice" affects you. Consider the metric ton of negativity people "choosing" to be kosher receive for their religion in other ways. Consider how stressful and fraught every interaction becomes when you're trying to decide whether to disclose your religion and the accommodations you need because you KNOW people will think you're being the fun police or asking for free days off or ruining events for others. Then maybe think about why your fun matters more than person not having to worry about that, at least, in this one space.

        1. Lobsterp0t*

          Seriously this. It’s no fun to feel like your quite reasonable, human needs make you an automatic pain in society’s backside because of circumstances outside your control.

    3. LDN Layabout*

      Assuming that accommodations are only about one person is really short-sighted when you’re talking about establishing or having a good team culture though. And yes it’s important that it’s team vs. company here, because when it’s a smaller group that exclusion is much more visible not just to the employee in question but also to everyone else within the group.

      People notice how other people are treated and it will affect how they feel about the team in general.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, and it really does depend on how diverse the team is in other respects. But if everyone else is really into these lunches and someone comes in and they have to stop because of one person, they’re going to resent the outlier for sure, for “spoiling the fun” if nothing else. I really hope the OP can solve it in a way that promotes inclusivity and diversity in their team.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          But no one said they had to stop, they chose to stop because they didn’t want to exclude one person (and I’m choosing to believe the LW that it was a group ‘well it wouldn’t feel right’ vs. a manager going ‘no you can’t go without them’).

          That’s why the best solution is to talk to the person in question because they might be happy with a suggestion we haven’t come up with here or they might be perfectly happy getting a drink and eating afterwards or doing that every other outing and staying behind for the rest.

          But the blanket assumption that people will feel resentment towards the outlier ignores that her colleagues are the ones that didn’t want to exclude them in the first place.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Or they might say, “go without me, it doesn’t bother me; you can include me in X other way.”

        2. Dan*

          And sometimes, the particulars matter too, and it’s really not personal. I work in a suburban wasteland. Our campus has an onsite cafeteria that isn’t bad and is pretty cheap. There’s *one* restaurant/bar within walking distance, and a really big mall about a mile from the office. A mile doesn’t seem far, but the traffic patterns being what they are, that mile is 20 minutes each way. We only go to the mall for special occasions… like maybe twice a year. And the campus cafeteria isn’t bad, so even going to the watering hole behind the office is a “special event”.

          So for us, if the watering hole doesn’t cut it, and the mall doesn’t cut it, and we’re not allowed to opt out of a longer excursion (OP mentions 45 minutes each way), lots of people won’t be happy.

      2. BubbleTea*

        That person has chosen to use a manual wheelchair instead of a power chair, so I won’t accommodate their pushing speed on steep hills. This person chose to wear glasses instead of getting Lasik, I don’t care that the light is reflecting off the lenses in such a way that they can’t see. That person chose to get pregnant instead of adopting, I will fire them for going to antenatal appointments.

        Yeah, this logic is clearly acceptable /s

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Or as one ex-employer said to me: “You CHOSE to be fat and disabled, why should we feel bad about all our team events being physical activities?”

          (Religion, diet, physical abilities, allergies…etc. are not just ‘choices’ we can pick up and put down to suit others)

      3. LTL*

        Not only will it look bad to the allies on the team who care about diversity, it’ll most certainly play into how welcome other minorities feel as well. I’m Muslim and if I saw a Jewish colleague be excluded this way, my confidence in the team’s ability to be inclusive towards me would go down. Once upon a time, I would’ve silently suffered and maybe chastised myself for expecting to be treated like an equal, but I know better now (in large part thanks to AAM!). Inclusivity isn’t a privilege, it’s an expectation.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          I agree. I’m not a minority in any significant way but if my other team members were excluding someone who had religious or other personal reasons for not being able to eat more conventional meals because “it’s a choice” then my respect for and trust in that person would go way down. It’s not that different to excluding someone because of race or disability etc in my view.

        2. boo bot*

          “Inclusivity isn’t a privilege, it’s an expectation.”

          For real. I would not feel okay about working somewhere that excluded someone from group activities because of their religion! Because that’s really what this is about. I feel like there’s some blurring of the lines around “do we have to accommodate *every* food preference?” but this isn’t every food preference, this is a religious restriction that happens to be about food.

          So, I think we have to leave the food part out of it, even though that is the logistical issue at hand: this is about a team activity that is currently impossible for one member of the team to participate in, because of her religion. The OP has dealt with that by hitting pause on the activity until they can figure out a way to make sure she is included. That’s the appropriate way to handle this.

          1. Willis*

            Agree!! The point is not to visit a local restaurant, which I’d assume people could do any other day of the year if they want, it’s to have a camaraderie activity. Choosing to do something that one or more of the team can’t participate in (or have good reason not to participate in, if that phrasing makes people feel better) is the exact opposite of this.

    4. Caaan Do!*

      Allergies are not “quirks”. People die from them. A depressingly high number of people will disregard the allergic person and slip the thing they can’t eat into their food anyway, instead of having an ounce of compassion and respect for their needs. There is nothing in the letter indicating the kosher person has ‘completely imposed’ anything on the team and this is an extraordinarily dismissive comment.

      1. Hurrah*

        That’s right. I don’t eat at restaurants because most cooks define “gluten-free” in a way that does not, in fact, mean “absence of gluten”. I’ll have water instead (and worry about whether my glass was washed in a tub of beer).

        (Gluten don’t kill me, but celiac flares are no joke.)

        That said, while I wouldn’t consider accommodating a dietary restriction an imposition, I don’t feel the same about “Only food from restaurants where all the cooks observe a certain religion”. That gives me icky feelings of being made to support another person’s intolerant/discriminatory beliefs as well as being made to participate in a religion I’m no part of.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Why is it intolerant and discriminatory for someone to want to follow their own religious rules, but not for you to describe accommodating that person as “icky, intolerant and discriminatory”?

        2. UKDancer*

          I think it’s more “only food from restaurants where cooks observe certain rules / preparation methods.” These methods may be religiously required but they may also be rules such as “no meat products” in a vegetarian restaurant. When I was a hard up student I sometimes went to the Sikh temple for a meal because they would feed anyone who showed up a free vegetarian lunch. Not all of the volunteers working there were Sikhs but they’d all committed to preparing a certain type of food in a certain way.

          I don’t think you have to belong to the religion to prepare or eat the food. What you’re saying when you go to the restaurant is that you want to eat food of type x for whatever reason.

        3. Shoshona*

          Woah, you’re making a lot of assumptions here that aren’t grounded in any details in the letter. Keeping strict kosher does not mean that you subscribe to intolerant/discriminatory beliefs, and eating food prepared within another person’s religious tradition or prepared by people from another religious tradition doesn’t mean you’re participating in a religious tradition you’re not a part of! In fact, I would suggest that most people who are not part of the Christian cultural tradition would argue that our lives and calendars in the US are organized not according to secular approach to the world, but according to Christian norms. Traditional work weeks are Monday-Friday so that people can have Sunday off, and I have never ever been offered a day off for a major holiday while it’s matter-of-course that people will not have to work or study on Christmas. Just because these things are normalized to the point of being invisible doesn’t mean they’re neutral.

          The woman in the letter doesn’t seem to have asked for any sort of accommodation at all, and treating her as if she’s oppressing the rest of the team is profoundly intolerant. I keep kosher (to a lesser extent than she does, but I grew up in a household that kept separate dishes and cookware), and I’ve never given anyone a hard time about how they choose to eat—I just won’t eat if I’m not included, because sustaining religious and cultural ties to my ancestors and community is an important way for me to sustain our practices for future generations within and often-hostile US culture. Nevertheless, I have been regularly hassled by people around me about my dietary restrictions, shamed for sustaining “archaic” cultural norms, and mocked. There are many reasons to maintain cultural and religious traditions that don’t conflict with a progressive way of being in the world.

          1. Hurrah*

            I apologize for not being clear – I was speaking to accommodations in general, not to this woman’s specifically, who, as you say, did not ask for any.

            Above someone describes an interpretation of Kosher that means only eating food prepared by Jewish cooks. If someone was to say “I only eat food prepared by cooks who are members of [religion*], so at team lunches, that’s what you all need to do”, I wouldn’t consider that so much a dietary restriction as a “who should and shouldn’t we all associate with” restriction which makes me feel icky.

            *also applies to gender, sexuality, ability, origin, hair colour, circumference, economic status, etc.

            I think I’m responding more to a congolomeration of comments than to this actual situation – and I haven’t ever met someone who did what I described above, nor do I know of anyone who has.
            It’s probably also a moot point – someone who needs to eat meat from plates that have never touched dairy probably ends up with food at restaurants that have/apply a fairly restrictive interpretation of Kosher – so my reasoning is strictly theoretical, which makes it feel too disingenuous for me to continue on with it.

            Thank you for your reply.

        4. Lobsterp0t*

          Keeping kosher isn’t discriminatory…?

          Or intolerant.

          This is a weird and questionable take.

    5. Colette*

      It’s a thought situation. Years ago, a team adjacent to mine had someone who keep kosher who could only eat at one restaurant. They went to that restaurant for every lunch – which wasn’t enjoyable for the rest of that team. (I think the issue was one restaurant rather than kosher food).

      But team events need to be accessible to the team. Saying “just go somewhere else” isn’t OK, whether it’s an allergy, a physical limitation, or a religious obligation.

      (I’m assuming these are official team lunches; If it’s a less formal “hey, does anyone want to go out tomorrow”, then going other places occasionally is ok.)

      1. Ali + Nino*

        As someone who keeps kosher, I’d feel pretty awful if I knew that my coworkers were miserable going to this one restaurant all the time FOR ME. As I’ve explained in comments above, thought and gesture go a long way to helping someone feel included. Instead of only going to this one restaurant, let non-kosher employees decide on a non-kosher restaurant and allow the kosher employee to order food from a kosher caterer or restaurant.

    6. Antilles*

      At my last company, I worked with a colleague who held this level of strict kosher, a similarly long-distance drive, and the same concerns and this is effectively how we handled it too. In fact, the entire situation sounds so similar to ours that the letter could legitimately have been written by younger me.
      -We also had a monthly birthday celebration. We bought those same pre-wrapped pastries and always brought them out for her, but also had cake.
      -For catered meals (e.g., vendor lunches), we just ordered what we’d normally order and she’d bring in her own lunch. The options here were either to stop catering entirely and deprive the entire office of the catering or this.
      -For weekly lunches and minor team lunches, we’d go to nearby non-kosher restaurants and she’d bring her lunch. Again, we had no real option here, because the “30 minute drive” is actually a two-hour commitment when you consider herding cats beforehand and time at the restaurant itself, so it’s just not feasible to go to the one kosher restaurant on a regular basis.
      -For major team lunches, we’d go to the kosher restaurant.
      Overall, it seemed to work out decently enough.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, I know very little about keeping kosher and have no good advice for OP but I definitely wondered why they couldn’t have those pre-wrapped pastries AND also cake if that was what they preferred to eat usually. I assume if you keep those things separate and are probably using paper plates that have never touched any food at all before there would probably not be any issues there? (Though again I have 0 knowledge of keeping kosher so maybe there is still something I’m missing)

        ((The only thing I would add is that for some reason at literally every cake-based occasion (like baby showers or whatever) there would inevitably be a conversation where someone was like “oh my gosh, this cake is so good” and someone else would be like “of course, it’s from Costco.” My office was weirdly obsessed with Costco sheet cakes. All this just to say if you did have a cake and also other pastries available for those who can’t eat the cake, obviously you shouldn’t all stand around talking about how good the cake is.))

        1. EchoGirl*

          I’m left wondering why it has to be breakfast pastries instead of just getting a kosher cake/cupcakes. Even if they can’t find kosher things in the grocery store bakery section (which I kind of doubt, there’s more kosher baked goods out there than you would think), some of the mainstream prepackaged frozen cake brands are kosher (Sara Lee is often kosher, for one); even if that’s not good for the rest of the office (because too many people or flavors or whatever), they could still get a kosher cake so the coworker can partake and then have a non-kosher cake for people who don’t keep kosher, but that way the coworker gets to partake in cake too.

      2. Elizabeth Bennett*

        I worked for a small business, a Jewish family, who happened to have hired two Jews and two non-Jews. One of the family member kept strictly kosher, as in if it wasn’t a certified kosher restaurant, kosher pre-packaged food or from someone’s kitchen he trusted, he didn’t eat it. Sometimes we’d go to lunch at a non-kosher restaurant and he’d drink tea. Bringing his own lunch was a hassle to explain to restaurants, so he’d eat early or late, depending on his day. He was completely fine with it. We were fortunate to be within driving distance of two kosher restaurants, but eating between the two every time got too repetitive, particularly since one was south Indian cuisine, and too spicy for many employees.

        For New Year’s, this person (who was an excellent cook) would make his award-winning kosher chili for the office, and the rest of us would bring pre-packaged kosher chips, a veggie tray (with the dairy dip carefully set aside for anyone who wanted it), chives, and salsa. We’d also have shredded cheese and sour cream. They were not offended whatsoever if we dolloped sour cream on our chili, and they would have felt terrible if we were uncomfortable eating in a non-kosher manner with them present.

    7. Snow Globe*

      I can’t agree with this. If the primary purpose of the lunches is to foster teamwork, how can that be accomplished when one person can’t participate?

      1. Roscoe*

        I think the question really becomes whether these are “official” team lunches, or just casual things. I worked at a company a few years ago where every Friday, my team went to a nearby place for lunch. Our manager joined on occasion, but not often. There were a core group of us who went every week, and other people would come or not as they felt like. In that type of situation, I think its totally fine to not change it (at least not EVERY week) for one person. If this is like an official team outing, I think it becomes a bit different and there needs to be more of an effort made. So if it is official, maybe that means just catering instead.

    8. H2*

      Come on…a life threatening medical condition is NOT an eating quirk. A thousands-years old religious culture is NOT an eating quirk. Ugh.

      I agree with you that the needs of the few shouldn’t trump the fun of the many every time, but a regular work event that excludes a person on the basis of culture or medical conditions is, well, exclusionary.

    9. EPLawyer*

      So its better to say “Hey we are all having lunch together, but you can’t come because you are different.” Keeping Kosher is important to this person. It’s not a whim or a fancy, like changing clothes and hairstyles at lunch for the shock value. It’s their way of life. Would you exclude someone in a wheelchair because the office’s favorite restaurant is not wheelchair accessible? It’s the same thing.

      1. Roscoe*

        I think a better analogy would be if there were only 1 wheelchair accessible restaurant, and it was a 45 minute drive each way. This isn’t a situation where there are plenty of options. There is one option, which isn’t convenient.

        Not saying that they should NEVER go there. But I don’t think expecting people to either never go to lunch or always go that far is a fair compromise either.

    10. LTL*

      Copying and pasting my comment from above:

      So I will admit, my gut reaction reading the letter was “it’s unfair that the whole team has to give up on lunches for on colleague.”

      But I’m also a minority who knows what it’s like to feel on the outside, so I know dang better than that. And it seems that society is finally starting to pick up on the importance of inclusivity too.

      The issue with not being able to participate in activities due to your religion or [insert principles that are important to you but not reflected in the majority] is that there’s an implicit message of not belonging. Of course, no one is saying that and no one intends to convey that message. But it’s impossible not to, intentions aside. Minorities always have to live with “you’re different,” it plays out in so many subtle ways in our lives. A significant part of inclusivity is that instead of saying “if this person who’s different would be the same as everyone else, then they wouldn’t have to deal with the difficulties” from “if this person’s background was reflected in the majority culture, then they wouldn’t have to deal with difficulties.” It’s very easy to forget, or not even realize, that the society around you is catered to you when it’s always been catered to you and it’s your normal. Minorities do not have this privilege. They never will. Which underscores why inclusivity is so important.

      Presumably you’re saying that being kosher is the colleague’s choice because religion is a choice? Please consider how often a Christian (or a culturally Christian atheist or agnostic) needs to ask themselves, “should I change my religion to make my life easier?”

      1. Super Duper*

        Yes, thank you. This is what I was trying to express upthread but did not say nearly as eloquently!

    11. JSPA*

      You can resent what you in fact resent, between your own two ears. Thoughts are free. But that’s different from a company not accommodating a religious need.

      One’s an uncharitable thought; the other’s a discriminatory action.

    12. yala*

      I guess it’s an unpopular opinion because it singles one person out of company social events because of their religion.

    13. Dancing Otter*

      OP 1 said they all pay for their own meals when they go out. Why do you say they should pay for the kosher meal?

      Forty-five minutes away is an hour and a half round-trip, before you even consider time in the restaurant. I’ve never worked anywhere that would be okay with the staff disappearing for over two hours for a non-work-event lunch. M.a.y.b.e if they all gave up half their lunch for a week in advance and cleared it with the boss, but it would still be a bit much. So that particular place seems impractical.

      I agree that they shouldn’t have to give up the occasional group lunch, though. Ask the kosher-observant coworker to suggest somewhere //nearby//, or to choose the least objectionable of the available choices. I’ve been to group lunches where I couldn’t eat anything on the menu, and I didn’t throw a hissy fit.

    14. Nanani*

      Unfortunately in the real world where most of us live, this is not at all unpopular and is just run of the mill self-centered asshattery.

      LW is being a decent person and trying to accommodate a team member. Why is that bad?
      Why are you so triggered by diversity, UO?

    15. Batgirl*

      The idea that a food accommodation is a “quirk” is really obvious to me when restaurants put ONE thing on the menu for me to have, that won’t make me ill. Like “Here weirdo, count yourself lucky that you can eat here at all, outside your freak den!”
      It’s not the same problem as a religious diet, but I bet being made to feel like an “outlier” is very similar.
      Logic, people.. think: What even is the point of eating out together? It’s not to showcase normality and pride yourself on the fact that you are not the odd one out. That would be pointless. It’s supposed to be a way of uniting people and showing some knowledge of their preferences and giving them what makes them comfortable and happy.
      So, what if you can eat anything, anywhere? Yay for you. So could I at one time. I discovered that you never know when something is going to be ruled out for you health wise and it’s better to put yourself in those shoes than to assume it’s only an issue for the quirky.

    16. Cranky lizard*

      I’m in full agreement. I would not bother with a lunch that took 1.5 hours of travel to attend. I’d be entirely ok with everyone else going without me, but I’d choose to skip that event. Unless attending was paid for by the company (both food and a decrease in expected work output to account for the time). But it sounds like the employees are having to pick up the bill. If I am paying for the meal I want to enjoy it. I can take hitting the rotation of a place I don’t like (or can’t eat at), but if you want me constantly eating at a place I don’t like because of someone else I’ll choose to eat alone somewhere else.

      The simple reality is that there is no such thing as a perfectly inclusive event when you start to get different people together. There’s also a huge gulf between can do and will value. I attend events that I hate because it’s part of the job. But if your intent is to foster a sense of team or make me like my workplace, repeatedly having me do something I don’t enjoy (that you make me pay for!) is unlikely to be successful.

      It is also really hard to have team events without food. Food is a natural part of socialising in so many cultures. If the coworker is happy to eat different food to others, or not eat while others are, that will be pretty easy to manage. But if they feel left out or won’t be in the presence of other people not keeping their requirements, then you probably won’t find anything that works.

      As for other events, I’ve seen everything from bbq in the park, bubble soccer, bowling, high ropes courses, camping, coffee trips, walking groups, sports teams, ice cream in the park, group “cake”, pot lucks, zoo or museum days, board games, jigsaw puzzles, card games, laser tag, skirmish, art sessions, kayaking, hiking, bike rides, knitting days, book clubs, watching sports, movie events, beach trips, picnics, drinks, comedy shows. (Snacks or food before/after happen with all of these btw).

      None of these will suit everyone. Physical (dis)abilities, personal preference, skills all affect whether these are possible or enjoyable for each person. I think variety is the best option and accepting that there are people who will be a bit on the sidelines for everything (but not consistently the same person) is important. Mary might just have a soft drink at the restaurant you head to for a late lunch (she’ll eat before), Martha might cheer from the sidelines when you play soccer, Kate might hate art and find that excruciatingly boring, maybe Sarah can’t swim so she stays on land and reads a book while everyone heads off kayaking but thoroughly enjoys heading out to drinks with everyone after while Anne loves the kayaking but chooses to skip the pub because she hates crowded loud environments.

      FWIW I attend informal lunches where I can’t eat the food. I won’t all the time, but sometimes I’m fine with that. I go to food places with no food I like and stop elsewhere after because others really want to go somewhere (and then the next day I find another option with others rather than having the same disappointing meal a second time). I attend events I physically can’t do and enjoy the social aspects while firmly staying off the field. Not everyone is bothered by not being able to do everything.

  11. Red 5*

    Hey there LW 5! I’m a person with a chronic illness that flares up way more than once or twice a year, and if I let it get too bad it’ll take more than a day to recover. Plus a side effect is I get other “typical” illnesses more often.

    I mention this not as a competition but to tell you that you don’t need to disclose a thing at any point! If you are comfortable with an employer or supervisor, eventually you may mention it because you want to. But there are so, so, so many things that can “seem normal” one day and require a sick day the next. And any good boss will not care at all which one you are dealing with!

    I agree that it’s wise to wait because discrimination is a real thing, unfortunately. When I first started my current job I was incredibly tight lipped and gave very vague reasons when I needed time. But eventually I learned that my team cares about me as a whole person, including my illness, and I’m comfortable saying I’m having a flare. But that’s because it’s nice that they care and I chose to. There’s no obligation to give more information unless you need an accommodation and even then you only have to say a bare minimum.

    Best of luck with school and the job hunt that comes after. Life with chronic illness is a chore, but there’s a lot of us out there in the world making it work. : )

  12. Red 5*

    Also, LW #2 – Just talk to your employee. Don’t be combative or anything but mention that you all really enjoyed these lunches and because she’s a valued member of your team you want to know how she feels about it and what she’d like to do.

    She might suggest alternatives or help you figure out a plan (she knows way more about how to make her diet work than you do already, it’s not new information for her). But she may also tell you that she’d rather you stop worrying about it and that you’re assuming a problem that isn’t there because you would want to be included in a certain way.

    I know a lot of people with dietary restrictions and there’s no one way that people deal with them. Specifically I’m thinking of a friend who can’t eat at most restaurants who gets more upset at people trying to accommodate him than he does with just being told “we’re going to *restaurant* do you want to come?” If he can’t eat anything there but wants to hang out, he’ll go and order a drink or something and as long as nobody makes it awkward it’s not awkward. He’s also honestly fine with not going if he doesn’t want to, he feels far more singled out and bothered by obsessive attempts to include him.

    You don’t know how your employee feels until you ask! Maybe she’d like to join without getting food. Maybe she doesn’t actually care about not going. Maybe they’d all rather play board games or get catering. I know I would, restaurants are noisy and board games are fun.

    1. allathian*

      Very good points!

      It’s entirely possible that the observant employee would prefer that the rest of the group went to their usual restaurant without her than go to the kosher restaurant far away for her sake. Just make sure that she genuinely feels that way and there’s no subtle or unsubtle pressure on her to say that, if she’d actually appreciate an outing with the rest of the team to the kosher restaurant.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Or being willing to go along but eating before or after. I do know people with complicated food intolerances who don’t eat in restaurants, ever, because it’s not worth the risk. However, they were quite happy to periodically go along for the socializing.

        1. I Herd the Cats*

          I came on here to say this. I have a coworker who (due to serious food allergies and a couple of bad experiences) doesn’t eat restaurant food except at two places she’s deeply familiar with (which are near her home, not our office), but she’ll come along on group outings and have a coffee or soda, and has also sat there eating her own food that she brought. I know different restaurants have rules about not bringing in food, but depending on the place and the number of folks dining, they’ll let you do it. She’s discreet about it. I know this isn’t the perfect solution to “there’s only one kosher restaurant and it’s 45 minutes away” but there *is* no perfect solution — and if I were the outlier, I’d understand the problem and either skip the dining portion (or the entire event) or be willing to bring my own food. I wouldn’t want the entire team to stop eating out because of my food restrictions.

        2. Amey*

          I was going to suggest this too but I’m not familiar enough with kosher to know if even being in a non-kosher restaurant with other people eating could be a problem. But as someone with a severe allergy, there are times when I would totally love to just eat at my desk before and then go along to socialise in a restaurant that I don’t feel safe eating in. The main barrier is that the other people often feel incredibly uncomfortable around someone who isn’t eating. I wouldn’t suggest this as an option to her (as she might hate it and feel pressured to agree!) but if she genuinely suggests it as an option, I would take her at her word and tell everyone else not to be weird about it.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            As a side note: it depends on the person. (As all of this does!) However, a lot of Kosher restaurants provide takeaway meals. I’ve eaten with Orthodox relatives who bring these meals and utensils. It’s like getting Kosher meals on a plane– they come wrapped with disposable utensils.

    2. Cass*

      God, I really feel your friend on being uncomfortable with the well-meaning attempts to include. I would WAY rather just come along and order something if I can, and have only a drink if there’s nothing I can eat, than to field tons of questions about my very unusual restrictions that are so strange and hard to explain (and related to a condition so rare) that no one has ever heard of it and everyone has lots of questions. I realize it doesn’t work for all restrictions but… just tell me where we’re going and I’ll order something if I can, and if I can’t I’ll just get a drink. With friends and family I would be hurt if we went somewhere I can’t eat anything, but for a work event? I’m used to that, and faaaaar prefer it to the whole trip being geared around what I can and can’t eat.

        1. I Herd the Cats*

          I see you! Aaaannnnd, my son has an extremely rare genetic condition that we control (reasonably) well through diet, but occasionally he has an episode and we have to go to the closest ER for a highly specific emergency treatment available only in a hospital setting. The condition is rare enough that even the ER docs generally haven’t heard of it. We now carry a letter from the nationally-famous research hospital (with a pager number!) so they can stop wondering if we’re nuts and get on with it, because it’s life-threatening. LET ME TELL YOU how tired I am of people suggesting “solutions” to a problem they don’t understand, and I’m still working on the shorthand explanation to well-meaning people for why he can’t do certain things (go on a camping trip to a remote location, or go to an ice-cream shop as a special treat.)

  13. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – Please DO talk to your manager. You’ll probably need to do something yourself, though, too, to stand up for yourself. The co-irker is really crossing boundaries and is ghoulish in their persistence. I would tell them that you’re not going to discuss this painful situation and will appreciate that they respect your decision. As for the co-irker treating you like their report, I would push back on that – refer them to your manager if they’re trying to assign you work or trying to get you to update them on work that is not their business. Have a conversation with your manager to tell them that, now that you’re fully up to speed on the role, you are going to push back. Perhaps put it more in terms of “ensure we understand I am reporting to you, manager”, but do assert yourself with the manager and the co-irker.

    OP#4 – Don’t reject a fabulous offer if you get it. Just do your due diligence to make sure that the role and company really are great – you can do that and you should. In terms of your current position, try to give them as much notice as you can.

    OP#5 – don’t disclose what you don’t need to. What you’re describing as your needs are really pretty minor in terms of accommodations necessary, and I wouldn’t even mention that you have an illness. I would, however, check out company cultures carefully, and make sure that they have a good personal leave policy as part of their benefits package.
    OP#2 – ask your coworker if there are any restaurants that would work for her in the vicinity. If not, perhaps come up with some inclusive activities at lunch, and also have some regular restaurant meals. Perhaps speak to a couple restaurants to find out if they would allow your coworker to bring her own food, since the rest of the group are eating/paying for lunch. (I’m not sure if that would be allowed, but it’s worth exploring the option.)

    OP#3 – Your grandboss is oblivious to the reasons you’re leaving and just wants to keep your manager feeling confident about their management abilities. You don’t have any obligation to participate in that ego-stroking farce. Nor do you have any obligation to burn any bridges by pointing out that both grandboss and your manager are, in fact, a big part of the reason why you’re leaving. I would just ignore the request – lots of things get overlooked when someone gives 2 weeks notice. If asked directly, focus on what you’re moving towards (ie. great opportunity, amazing mandate, better compensation, cool company) rather than what you’re leaving behind.

    1. OP #1*

      Unfortunately, Flitwick generally favors Myrtle but occasionally will complain about her privately to me and other staff members. I’m going to start just standing up for myself, but I will also modify some of the scripts to help me loop Flitwick in if Myrtle does not respect the boundaries/script I use with her on this. Sadly, I think my employee’s death may just earn me enough “pity points” from Flitwick to get something approaching support.

      1. EPLawyer*

        UGH. Your boss complains to you about other reports. Soooooo unprofessional. No wonder Myrtle feels she can get away with it.

    2. Zombie Cow*

      Re #4: That PhD reached out to the recruiter and asked to be considered in the next hiring cycle. Reading these comments now, I wonder if they should have just accepted the offer, sigh.

  14. Larry Gossamer*

    LW #1 – consider going ahead and snapping at Myrtle if you need to. Maybe she needs a shock to get it into her system that she is overstepping boundaries and that that is unacceptable. When she is doing something so far over the line as continuing to pump you for information about your former direct report who just committed suicide … go ahead and let her have it. No one will blame you.

    1. cncx*

      yeah this is a situation where i think snapping would at least be understood by third parties.

      if someone closer to me had died, i surely wouldn’t want anyone also less close to me trying to drive the point home and sending “wow” late night messages and making OP think they would pump for info given the chance.

      Myrtle obviously has boundary issues that one harsh word won’t fix but it may fix her pushing that particular boundary with OP for this particular subject.

    2. Batgirl*

      It is a situation where you will be forgiven more and maybe OP wants to take advantage of that to deal with the Myrtle Problem. Snappiness would be a truthful response too – OP is very seriously affected both because it is a tragedy and because Myrtle is impervious to hints. I think if this was Myrtle’s first offence, or the situation were not so tragic, I would go with: “It feels like gossiping to talk about (person) so I am not going to – hope you understand”. But, at this juncture, and with Myrtle so oblivious to her big feet I might say “I am not going to gossip about a tragic suicide with you. Please stop asking”, and whatever ‘help’ or ‘sympathy’ Myrtle claims it is, I would just say “Yeah, I am still not going to, so let’s leave it there”. Maybe this strength would be too much for OP, but I think she should at least role play mentally being a bit shorter and sharper with this person; at least saying “no” to Myrtle a bit more, or “I am not going to do that” or “I am not talking about that at work, sorry” until Myrtle gets the message she has no power or clout with OP.

      1. Mockingjay*

        LW1, since Flitwick doesn’t seem to be much help, you’ll have to set boundaries yourself. Which might be easier than you think, since you two are peers now. It just takes a LOT of repetition.

        1) Don’t go to Myrtle with work “concerns” unless necessary. Send them to Flitwick instead. If you have to deal with her, use problem/solution that doesn’t give her room to critique or butt in. “Hey, about the teapot glaze shortage, I’ve located two new suppliers and am sending the quotes to Flitwick.”

        2) Unfollow or unfriend Myrtle on social media platforms and block her on your personal phone. “Oh, LinkedIn? Haven’t been on it lately, cutting back on social media these days.” “You sent me a text? Hmmm, didn’t come through. Cell service has been spotty lately. Since it’s work, best to send me an email so I’m sure to get it.” Establish a firm boundary between work and home.

        3) If she delves into your medical history/issues: “Myrtle, my health is a private matter. I’m not discussing it.” Walk away if you have to, to show that you really aren’t going to engage with her on these topics.

        Don’t explain, don’t justify. Make every interaction about work. Keep language blunt: “I’m not discussing that.” The Myrtles of this world twist interpretations of longer sentences.

        I’m sorry about your former employee.

    3. Nicotene*

      I also had a somewhat aggressive old woman self-impose herself as my “mentor” early in my career. I never asked her to mentor me, but she used the term several times. However, unfortunately she felt this gave her leeway to give me kind of hurtful personal feedback fairly often, which really undercut my confidence. It was my first job, so having a women in a position of respect harping on the way I dressed, spoke, and presented myself wasn’t as helpful as she seemed to think. Eventually I left that job and moved across the country to get away from her.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Nice comment, minus the ageist “old woman”. AAM really needs to do better than this, so many ageist references.

        1. Nicotene*

          Actually you’re right, I’m sorry, that was supposed to be old-ER woman. She was thirty years older than me at the time, which in some ways explained the power imbalance.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’ll be honest, even though the thought of working with a Myrtle gives me the hives, I kind of felt for her here… She doesn’t know that her texts are not welcome and that she needs to stop, because she was never told that or asked to stop. And I think it’s pretty clear that Myrtle does not read nonverbal clues or get hints well. You’ll be doing her a favor, OP. Not necessarily snapping, but firmly telling her in a way that leaves no room for interpretation.

    5. LCH*

      I think I agree. If she keeps bringing it up, use the language you used in your letter about not treating this as interesting gossip. You don’t find it entertaining and you don’t want to discuss such terrible event.

  15. Dan*


    “It’s actually pretty hard to find something a diverse group would like that doesn’t center around food. I mean, there’s stuff like bowling or board games — clearly my only two non-food ideas — but we are really, really conditioned to socialize with food.”

    I’m rather curious if there exists (m)any cultures where food is generally *not* considered a social activity.

    That said, the thing with social activities and work people is that I don’t go to work to socialize, I go to work to get paid. And in my line of work, we have to bill our time; anything not directly billable has to come out of personal time, either vacation or extra hours. I have to be honest, nothing drives me more crazy then needing to figure out how/when to work extra hours on account of “forced” work social activities. So in OP’s case where the coworker’s nearest acceptable restaurant is 45 minutes away… we’re talking what, a 2.5 hour lunch at a minimum? (I’m not driving that far for a 30 minute lunch. That’s eat and run, no thanks.) That kind of time out of my work day is a really big ask.

    1. Colette*

      There are many jobs where that’s not an issue. I assume if it was an issue in the OP’s case, she would have mentioned it.

      1. Dan*

        Maybe, but if OP’s team was willing to take that long of lunch, they would have done so. OP says they haven’t because of the distance.

        1. Metadata minion*

          Is that a billing/time issue, or just that driving 45 minutes each way is something most people find annoying in any context if it’s not for some sort of amazing special occasion? If I had any other option, I too would rather go somewhere closer, especially since I’d be awkwardly carpooling with coworkers. But in my office it wouldn’t be a *business* problem for our team to be gone that long a few times per year.

  16. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: oh mate, that’s a horrible situation to be in. My sincere sympathies.

    — Naively, I confided in her when I first began working here, and she has weaponized that trust to make disparaging remarks about my medical needs and personal life. —-

    Been there, done that and you are not at fault. It’s not a fault to initially trust someone and have that trust abused later, okay it’s their fault but not yours. I mentioned once, long ago, to a coworker at a new firm who seemed nice that I really hated how much my spinal injury hurt.

    She took that as an opening to tell me constantly to not be obese, try to get me to stop my meds, try yoga…etc.etc. Told her I didn’t need advice, it got worse. She started criticising my romantic situation, my house, my car, my political views. Eventually I just would delete emails from her with no response and have a loop of ‘yellow submarine’ run in my head every time she tried to berate me so I could ignore her.

    I don’t recommend this as a first action btw. What I should have done is what Allison said and saved my tactics for when/if she refused to back down.

    1. OP #1*

      Thank you for sharing your experience – it is helpful to hear that it wasn’t my mistake so much as an unfortunate situation. I’m sorry that you went through this yourself.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        No worries mate. I often remind myself that there are collosal bellends out there and how they choose to react to me is their fault, not mine :)

        I was 24 when that happened. Am now 40-ahemsomething and really got little patience for people like her. Good tip I found from one of my psychiatrists was to imagine a really silly voice saying the hurtful things and imagining that as my coworker. When I visualise the words coming out of a bowl of mashed potato it’s rather more ridiculous than hurtful.

      2. Nea*

        It’s not your mistake. Some people are just Like That. Mine was someone who tended to turn idle comments into big arguments. Down to the point where I casually mentioned there were a bunch of things I had to do on the weekend, including wash my sheets.

        Suddenly she challenges “Why don’t you have another set of sheets?” I basically sat there with my mouth open while she went on and on about sheets and when sheets go on sale blah blah blah before concluding, out loud to me, “I guess you just want that set clean.” Thanks, I needed you to set that straight for me!

        In your shoes I’d block her number and on LinkedIn – there’s no reason for her to contact you outside of work – and not hear anything she says to you that isn’t work related. When she tries, she gets a really noncommittal response – a toneless “Yes, I know” repeated as often as necessary worked well for me – and nothing else that isn’t work related.

        And then, if necessary, bring it up to Flitwick again. Not in a “She makes me crazed” way, but in “she is hindering my work by acting like my supervisor again, (fill in exampe) please tell her to stand down.” Flitwick may be stretched too thin for you to want to make this sound personal, but it’s their job to deal with hinderances to work.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Agreed on the blocking. When someone shows you how toxic they are: believe them. You generally can’t change them.

        2. Cat Tree*

          I know this wasn’t your main point, but I’m so confused about the sheets. People who have multiple sets still have to wash them in between uses. Does she throw them away when she changes them, or put dirty ones back on, or what? This is gonna bother me all day.

  17. Dan*


    Until you have a better offer in hand, it doesn’t exist and the question is moot or *purely* a hypothetical. (Sorry.) It’s too hard to know on the outside what your “actual” chances are, no matter how you feel about it.

    As for whether you leave your current company and burn that bridge… in this circumstance, assume you’ll burn the bridge, and ask yourself if it’s worth it. Sometimes, it most definitely is, and only you can decide that.

    I work for a well known (and *highly* regarded) company in my field. When I first took this job, I had offers on the table at other companies, and this place was dragging their feet making an offer. Would I have taken another offer while waiting for this place to make up their mind? You betcha. Would I burn that bridge? Damn straight I would. OTOH, would I risk burning a bridge at my current org? No way in hell.

  18. LDN Layabout*

    LW2: Another suggestion, for when the weather is nicer and if your location allows it, is having a picnic lunch where people can either pick up food, prepare their own etc. If there’s a park near some of the places people would want to pick up food from, it eliminates the issue of cold takeout.

    1. Green great dragon*

      Yes, this works very well for my team. Only hard part is having to go back into work after a lovely picnic in the sun…

      Also an opportunity for manager/company to provide something nice (fruit, snacks, coffee) to accompany whatever people have got for themselves.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Me: *sits out in sun with team*
        Me: *also walks back into office afterward, eyes don’t adjust fast enough, walks straight into the server room door*

        Happy memories :)

        1. Mockingjay*

          Me, at 20: *sits out in sun with team, with stylish sunglasses over contacts.*
          Me, at 40: *sits out in sun with team, with autodarkening glasses.* Walks into cubicle wall because glasses don’t lighten quickly enough when indoors.
          Me, at 50: *sits out in sun with team, with polarized lenses clipped on glasses.* Walks into door because glasses are smeared with thumbprints from clipping lenses on and off.
          Me, today: “hey, I can buy old people wraparound sunglasses that completely fit over my glasses!”

          I take my victories where I can these days. LOL

          1. EmmaPoet*

            I’ve been wearing old people wraparounds since I was about 20. I couldn’t afford prescription ones, and I grew to prefer the fitovers because when I drove it blocked the sun on the sides of my eyes as well. People have told me they’re ugly; watch me really, really not care.

    2. Momma Bear*

      Oh, great idea. We used to make trips outside to the food trucks and everyone got whatever they wanted. If you brought lunch, you could still join everyone in the courtyard.

  19. Retail Not Retail*

    Op4 – The morning of our first day in my service corps job, so before we’d officially started and were training and could leave with no repercussions, someone was offered an amazing job she’d applied for months before. Of course she took it with no harm no foul! Crazy timing.

    I wonder how the mental process changes when you’re in a “need a job any job” position, like post graduation. You take what pays something who responds the quickest but who knows how other employers are moving. I was desperate when I took this job (bitter that grocery store rejected me after 2 years away well forget you too) and after I got settled, my family was like, so you’re job hunting right? This isn’t appropriate work. (I’m not overqualified, I’m barely qualified as a breathing human with a diploma, but I do have higher degrees.)

    Also, I know plenty of people who took retail/food jobs for the fallow period before a timed employment and just didn’t reveal that during the interview.

    1. PT*

      “my family was like, so you’re job hunting right? This isn’t appropriate work.”

      That’s what I got through. the. whole. recession. I was like, do you realize I am lucky to have a job at all?

  20. RG*

    Ugh, the circumstances of letters #1 and 3 are annoying, especially as I go through my own grieving process. I know I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but there’s a difference between feeling sad and hoping a chat with a friend will cheer you up and being upset and talking to someone with the expectation that they’ll make you feel better. And it’s really grating and depressing to be that someone on the other side, especially when you’re going through your own sh*t too.

    On a somewhat lighter note, letter #2 has me mildly cringing at a young RG that decided to surprise a bunch of student volunteers with kolaches one unnecessarily early Saturday morning. My co-coordinator was Jewish, but I wasn’t sure if she kept kosher – I tried to buy enough without pork just in case. I didn’t even know there were other aspects to eating Kosher beyond pork and shellfish. I did learn that day a lot of breakfast meats in the US have pork – it really just ended up with me doubling up on the non-meat options for vegetarians.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If it helps, you have just taught me a new food to investigate. My knowledge of eastern European food is sadly lacking.

      1. UKDancer*

        Eastern European food is exceedingly tasty. I would definitely recommend exploring it. I’d start with the little dumplings (pierogi in Poland or varenyky in Ukraine) which are amazing with different fillings. I can also recommend beef or pork Goulash which is fantastically tasty and filling and not difficult to make.

        The cuisine tends to be hearty and a bit heavy but it’s wonderfully filling on a cold day. If you’re anywhere near London I can recommend a great Polish restaurant near South Kensington for after lockdown.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          And one thing people don’t expect, if you visit the Eastern European countries which tend Eastern Orthodox, is that there’s a reasonably decent amount of vegetarian/vegan food available due to the type/frequency of religious fasting practiced.

      2. RG*

        Happy exploring! I personally am not Eastern European though – I get my kolaches by way being a lifelong Texan.

  21. Policy Chick*

    On LW4 – I’m kinda in the same position, maybe folks can weigh in…I’m an attorney and I have a new job that is fairly tedious (document review). The pay is fine. Potentially new job is in my field of interest (or at least adjacent), is more interesting and I’ll actually gain some real experience. However the pay is about 10-15 percent lower (although opportunity for over time) and due to the federal contract, it’s not going to go up anytime soon.

    I’m torn about leaving Current Job within a few months of starting, because that just seems bad form; but New Job would be better for me. But the less money is enough less to sting. UGH.

    I guess this is a ‘go with your gut’ thing? Because only you are going to look after you, and for sure your employer isn’t.

    1. Llamalawyer*

      I feel like lawyer doc review jobs are expected to be temporary. It should not surprise anyone if you left to get a non-doc review lawyer job. This is also a circumstance is it being an opportunity for you to grow your career path- something that isn’t likely to happen at all in doc review. Doc review jobs suit certain needs, but aren’t the most fulfilling or reliable prospects for long term employment.

      1. Marny*

        Second this. I’m a lawyer and can attest to the fact that no one expects people to stay in doc review jobs any longer than necessary. Unless you were hired by the firm as an associate and the doc review portion is just the first step in their process (most firms do not do things this way), it’s not typically a job with built-in advancement opportunities and it’s a position with expected high turnover. You won’t burn bridges by leaving doc review even if you’re only there for a short time.

    2. kbrew*

      I work in e-discovery and litigation support, and doc review jobs are definitely considered temporary. Hiring attorneys for doc review is seen as transitory as attorneys move around between school and their career paths. Just want to note, though, that we do see a lot of attorneys stay long-term in other non-legal positions, such as project and review management (review management not actual doc review, but managing the electronic processes for dealing with discovery).

    3. Oh No She Di'int*

      From the standpoint of someone who hires, this is a great example of another reason not to give someone a position that you know will leave them underemployed.

      When hiring in my company, we often ask relevant staff members to weigh in on the candidates. They will frequently make comments like, “Oh let’s go with Jane! She’s so accomplished, she can do this job in her sleep!” Yeah, that’s a problem. People need to be challenged and interested in their jobs for it to work. Otherwise, I’m just paying to train someone who will sit down and start sending out their resume day one.

      1. Policy Chick*

        I did not ‘sit down and start sending out my resume day one’. New Job was one I applied to over a year ago.

        I also didn’t get paid while being trained, because there was no training at all. The company didn’t lose any money by hiring me, they made money. I’m paid 30-odd dollars for my work, and the company is paid 75-ish by the hiring agency. In fact I’m on a 90-day period where if I’m not performing up to the company’s standards they can let me go with no question.

        I appreciate the points you are making, but they do not apply to me – or many people.

  22. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Years ago a family tragedy made the national news. I quickly developed a sense for people who were offering genuine sympathy and those who were just trolling for sensational details. “I’m not discussing this.” was my response. Stated without a softening apology because the more dense persons saw that as an opening. Don’t be afraid to walk away if your colleague doesn’t leave this alone and certainly inform your boss if she refuses to let it go.

  23. Seeking Second Childhood*

    Every time Alison discusses boundaries I think of this line:
    “Good fences make good neighbors.”
    –Robert Frost, ‘Mending Wall’

    1. Josiah Bartlet*

      JOSH: Here he quotes Robert Frost. “Good fences make good neighbors.” Did he talk about that?

      DONNA: Yeah.

      JOSH: What did he say?

      DONNA: Basically, that if you stay within your personal space, you’ll end up getting along with everyone.

      JOSH: You had to study modern poetry.

      DONNA: Yes.

      JOSH: Is that what Frost meant?

      DONNA: No, he meant that boundaries are what alienate us from each other.

      JOSH: Why did he say “Good fences make good neighbors?”

      DONNA: He was being ironic.

  24. Christmas*

    My coworker’s father died unexpectedly recently. About a week afterward, another coworker “Chatty Kathy” returned from having Covid and rejoined us in the break room for lunch. She started asking our teammate about her dad’s death, but with a greasy tone was like it was juicy salacious gossip.

    She dove in with, “Soooooo! What happened to your Daaaaaad? Like, was he siiiiiick? Did he have something?? Or like, was it a freak accident? Like what haaaaaaappened?”

    I saw my friends jaw drop, so I cut in and gently but firmly stated that she probably didn’t want to talk about it. I change the subject to pop culture, and then I left a few minutes later. Evidently after I left, though, Chatty Kathy brought it back up *again* and pushed our coworker for details about how her dad died. I don’t know what the coworker said to shut it down, but Kathy has not joined us for lunch since! And that was like two months ago. Fine by me.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Holy Cthulhu what an absolute effing monster!

      Frankly I hope your coworker verbally tore her apart. Swearing in multiple languages optional.

    2. Jayne*

      When I went to counseling for grief, one of the things that stuck with me was that when people ask you about what happened, the question throws you back to the event and reopens the wound.

      Some people are grief vampires. They love to ask you about upsetting events and lap up your pain. If you doubt me, look up grief tourism aka dark tourism.

      The only thing to do to them is to starve them by refusing to talk to them. Gray rock method is what I use.

  25. I should really pick a name*

    LW #5
    When I get sick, I stay in bed for the day, and am often 100% recovered the next day. No one has ever indicated that they thought I was faking it. Of course, this depends on your office culture.

    1. Daisy-dog*

      It’s really only when I have colds that I might “look” sick the day after. When I was younger, I had killer menstrual cramps that would only strike on the first day of my period. Sometimes it would sneak up on me and I would actually look pale and sickly at work, but then totally fine the next day.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think that’s better, but it still misses the point. If you’re an MD, you’re very credentialed, but you don’t have the credentials it takes to drive a semi. If you’re an astronaut, you’re very credentialed, but you don’t have the necessary credentials to be a phlebotomist. To me, “overqualified” is appropriate when you have the basic skills/knowledge for the lower level job, but also for a higher level job in the same field (i.e., a JD applying to be a paralegal). A random PhD applying for an admin job in an unrelated field isn’t overcredentialed or overqualified, they’re just highly educated but not necessarily qualified for that job (I mean, I hope people aren’t saying any PhD can do any job that doesn’t require a degree!)

    2. AnonPi*

      I’ve come to use the term “differently qualified”, as in I have a lot of qualifications, they just don’t necessarily all line for this job.

  26. Silly goose*

    We keep strictly kosher and it really can be an issue at work. Here’s what we have come up with…

    For potlucks (which are a fun alternative to eating out) we obviously bring something kosher (and work with people to ensure we get to it before anyone has a chance to accidentally switch up serving utensils).

    We have had one person go to the far-away kosher restaurant for a bulk carry-out order a couple times. Note that if you do this, they may box or bag everything in such a way that you cannot check the order… And you shouldn’t open it until the kosher-keeping person is there.

    We will eat in advance and go to the restaurant and not eat, but still socialize. This requires our coworkers to not push us to try stuff or keep asking if we are sure we don’t want anything. Bonus if the place serves canned soda because I can have a drink (there are people who will not set foot into a non kosher establishment, which obviously, is not the case in our family, but I thought I’d mention it. I know an Ultra-Orthodox family that goes to Starbucks and buys some of the kosher pre-packaged items like KIND bars).

    Where we have worked, some really great coworkers have done things like learn what kosher symbols we accept for when they bring in treats (think holiday or post-project goodies). That is always super appreciated… But it can require a good bit of learning (and if you want to do that, DO NOT open ANYTHING).

    I agree with Alison that it could be good to talk to your coworker. They may have ideas or say “I appreciate it and don’t want to stop your fun, so go ahead without me” (and mean it). My coworkers have gotten used to the fact that I don’t go to the various lunches that occasionally pop up.

    1. Mungojulia*

      I had a colleague who kept strictly kosher and did the same thing, eat before/after and would order just a can of Coke, so that was going to be my suggestion (again, assuming the coworker is willing to enter a non kosher restaurant). They would also bring their own food for potlucks and/or stick with the pre-packaged snacks they already knew were suitable.

  27. T.*

    #4, apologize deeply, tell them you applied to dream job before applying to job you accepted and you “didn’t think you landed it” so you kept applying and took their offer. Express how surprised you were and grateful that they took you on so quickly when you needed it the most but you must go take dream job, after all, you paid for higher Ed for the sake of dream job. I did it once before and it didn’t sting too badly when I expressed my gratitude

  28. Roscoe*

    #2 I think this is one of those situations where the coworker needs to just understand that she won’t always be included. This probably won’t be popular, but everyone else shouldn’t have to miss out on going out with their coworkers because of one person. That isn’t to say there can’t be exceptions made occasionally (and it sounds like you may have to clear it with your boss since lunches would probably be twice as long). But if she will ONLY eat someplace that is 45 minutes away, I don’t think it would be fair to expect everyone else to do that as well. This is her choice (I’m not trying to debate whether religion is a choice or not, but my point is, this isn’t like a severe allergy) and it shouldn’t be forced on others.

    While I think catering or delivery is fine occasionally, I also get wanting to leave the office for lunch and not just eat in the conference room or whatever. I think if she doesn’t get that, its kind of selfish on her part.

    1. LDF*

      You’re making a lot of assumptions about the coworker. There is zero indication she has made any kind of stink about not being included or even asked to go to a kosher restaurant. It’s the rest of the team that doesn’t want to exclude her. She isn’t forcing anything on anyone, she’s existing. That you jump straight to she’s being selfish for “not eating outside kosher restaurants” is an impulse you should examine.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      So many assumptions! We don’t actually know that there’s no kosher restaurant closer, we only know that the LW thinks that’s true. For all we know, the employee hates that restaurant and wouldn’t eat there anyway. The problem here is that LW is aware of an issue and is trying to problem-solve without talking to the known expert. (I agree with a poster above that this employee isn’t responsible for educating people about their religion and culture in general, but this isn’t really a case of that. This is just a case of asking “what are your preferences for addressing this situation?”.)

      1. Roscoe*

        Well as far as what we know about the restaurant, I’m going based on what OP wrote. I assume she knows. But I’m taking her at her word.

    3. Allegra*

      People who keep kosher are, believe me, already VERY aware that they will not always be included. This letter was written by someone proactively trying TO include them. There is no indication they’ve even asked for anything different, and there’s no suggestion anything is being “forced” on the rest of the team. In response to the idea of “everyone else” not having to “miss out”, HannahS’s comment below really gets to the heart of it.

  29. MissDisplaced*

    4. Should I leave my job of six weeks for a much better offer?
    If you get the job and it pays significantly more, take it! I’ve had this situation happen to me, and I was glad I took the higher paying job because hey, I desperately needed that income! Sometimes the fates hand you inconvenient timing during job searches where you’re offered something better much later after accepting something else.
    Not sure why employees get such a bad rap for this because companies release newly hired employees before their 90 day period all the time.

    #2 Kosher
    I don’t have any great advice here other than to ask the coworker if they have any suggestions.
    Like OP’s situation, I don’t think there are any kosher restaurants nearby our office within 30-40 miles either. It’s never come up, but I’d also want to at least try to find a way to accommodate people or provide some options. I’d probably suggest a caterer who would deliver somewhat further away, but definitely ask coworker what they think.

  30. Isabelle*

    I agree that OP #1 really needs to inform the manager, even if she doesn’t want the manager to take any action for now.
    Once OP starts standing up to Myrtle, it’s very likely that she won’t like it and will retaliate against OP and try to make her look bad. I’ve dealt with a Myrtle, this is the kind of person who can turn extremely vicious.
    OP needs to both stand up to Myrtle and cover herself by keeping the manager in the loop.

    1. LilyP*

      Yes, please don’t think your boss is “too busy” for this. I am also a boss juggling a lot of priorities but if one of my direct reports was being harassed over a tragic death dealing with that would immediately jump to #1 on my priority list.

  31. Gone Girl*

    LW4: the stakes weren’t nearly as high, but I had something similar happen a couple years ago. I had applied to work at an agency I had my heart set on for forever, but they were taking a long time to get back to me, and I had been over a year without a job. I couldn’t keep waiting for an offer to materialize, so I took an hourly food job to keep me afloat. Literally 2 weeks in, I get a call from the agency for a contract role that I couldn’t pass up. I told my boss who was – rightfully – a bit disappointed, especially because there was a busy season coming up they needed help with. We were able to compromise on a later start date so I could help out, but honestly, I would still consider that bridge burned. In my case it didn’t affect my networks or career trajectory, but something to keep in mind if this is a sector/business you may have run-ins with in the future.

  32. Not trying to be rude, just good at it*

    I often sell food near Lakewood, NJ. It is the home of many very religious Jewish people who are very strict with their diets. Even though my equipment is certified kosher, and my condiments are kosher, my favorite customer from the area has told me, “Your condiments are kosher, just not kosher enough for us.”

    They buy my food, they just take it plain and add their own condiments later.

    Also, kosher food is usually much more expensive than non-kosher food and it would probably be cost prohibitive to have a kosher meal catered for the group.

  33. HannahS*

    For LW2: As a kosher-keeping person myself (though not as strict as your colleague), I agree that asking her is the best way to go.

    However, I do want to raise the thought that sometimes, being inclusive means not doing things that used to be “fun for everyone,” because now “everyone” includes a more diverse group. Like, the old white lawyers did genuinely all enjoy golfing together–it was a fun way to get outside and play a chill game, they got a beer after at the clubhouse, it was a chance to team-build and socialize! Everyone really liked it! Except, you know, golf is really expensive, and making it a requirement of “face-time” with your boss is exclusionary to people who don’t play golf, which, broadly, means people who aren’t white men. So the golf had to go, and teams needed to find more inclusive ways to hang out, even though the senior partner didn’t stop bellyaching about how much more fun the team was before all the women got there until he retired last year. Sometimes, being inclusive means you don’t get to have what you enjoyed before, whether that’s pork-a-palooza, booze-soaked lunches, group meals, golf, or ski trips. In this case, since we’re talking about meals that occur a few times a year, sure, maybe it can still happen. But there’s also a real possibility that you all might have to make the “sacrifice” of getting catering in the conference room with a special order for your Jewish colleague, in order to make all of your team members feel included.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I think this is a really good way to think about it. I think this sort of situation can be very revealing of where people consciously or unconsciously draw the line – for example, I think most people commenting here would quite easily understand why golf trips can be exclusionary (I believe there was actually a letter a while ago about exactly that!). And I would imagine that that’s quite easy for most people here to grasp because I don’t think many old white lawyers who love golf read AAM, so the notion of no more golf trips is not especially upsetting for most of us. But when something more relatable might be affected, like team lunches at a favourite restaurant, suddenly quite a few people are very upset about people imposing on others and don’t you know that religion is a choice? It’s interesting. If you care about inclusivity, that can’t only apply so long as it never encroaches on things that you like.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        Yes, this. I am often a bit surprised at how often the notion that religion is a choice and therefore it isn’t that important to accommodate it comes up in comments here.

    2. AGD*

      I’m also Jewish and totally agree with this. Throwing in more numbers means the greatest common factor goes down and might be no higher than 1, but it also means…well, look at the range of numbers on your team! Need a prime number above 30 and below 40? Need someone to be in the office all day on December 25? If you’ve made space for those outside the mainstream, you’ll have access to those with complementary skills/perspectives/needs.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      However, I do want to raise the thought that sometimes, being inclusive means not doing things that used to be “fun for everyone,” because now “everyone” includes a more diverse group.

      That’s such a good point!

    4. Smithy*

      This response hits.

      I was on some team planning committee for a summer event. We came up with bowling because we thought we were being savvy by not doing something outside because of weather/heat/etc. Turns out, ended up as a an activity that seemed to put a lot of people on the spot for disclosing assorted injuries. Next year they did baseball, weather wasn’t great – but it was far more inclusive.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        I’m not surprised that a number of people had to sayno to bowling during to injury-related issues. Bowling may not look all that strenuous, but it makes demands on various body parts (back, knees, hips, the arm you bowl with). I haven’t bowled in decades, but I’m pretty sure my knees would not tolerate it all well these days.

        There’s also the fact that I can’t bowl for shit and would be extremely embarrassed to do it in front of my colleagues. I might use my knees for an excuse (because admitting what an abysmal bowler I am would also be extremely embarrassing), but one way or another, I’d be looking for a way to get out of it.

    5. Nanani*

      Well said!

      Anyone who insists that the status quo should continue and the differnt person needs to just deal with exclusion is showing their ass – in this thread more than at LW2’s workplace.

      1. HannahS*

        Thanks, yeah. There’s a lot of, “But…what if I don’t WANT to? What if I really enjoy [thing]?” And it’s like…well, you can be exclude people based on their religion, ability, health status, or orientation, or you can not. It’s up to you! But you can’t build and inclusive workplace without including people, which often means structural change.

    6. Nia*

      Except coworker can attend these lunches? I’ve gone to plenty of work lunches and not eaten. So can coworker. Or coworker can bring their own food to them.

    7. Anon Lawyer*

      I mean, I get it – but an occasional team lunch is basically the most inclusive activity anyone can think of. Sometimes you actually can’t do one thing that accommodates absolutely everything and it’s ok to make sure everyone is accommodated SOME of the time instead of everyone ALL of the time. Like, there’s a lot of daylight between “lunch” and “expensive golf outings” even if neither is inclusive to everyone all of the time.

      1. Anon Lawyer*

        (And to be clear my answer would be different if these were booze-soaked or “pork-a-palooza” lunches but doesn’t sound like that’s the case.)

      2. HannahS*

        I wonder why you think that “team lunch is basically the most inclusive activity anyone can think of.” What about “Everyone brings their lunch and we do a trivia in the boardroom?” Or “We’ll order in for everyone and get a kosher meal for Rachel?” My point is that throwing our collective arms up and going, “But THIS minority can’t be included,” in the face of actual suggestions of how she could be included is…not actually inclusive. Not every activity will be enjoyed or attended by everyone, but this is a workplace, and I believe workplaces can expend effort to make most activities accessible to everyone. I mean, it may seem silly to you, but for this employee, eating at a non-kosher restaurant is as off-limits as golf is to you and I.

        1. Smithy*

          I think a very critical part of these activities when they are flagged as being less inclusive than previously thought is to take a step and ask the question of why is it being done.

          Is it really because of the food or the golf? Or is it about having more time to connect personally with colleagues/have the chance for more face time with senior leadership? And so when that value is called out, to try and find a way to preserve a liked activity over being inclusive is problematic. Right now there’s a team member who’s kosher, but the next team member may have a allergies, and the one after that a super tight budget that doesn’t allow for the traditional work lunches.

          Also, post COVID, it’s likely that most surviving restaurants will have significantly upgraded their pick-up/delivery options. So even if your office is in the midst of a fun food area, arranging for pick-up or delivery may be a whole lot easier. Just book a conference room once a month, and carry forth!

          1. Willis*

            I really agree with this. If team members value getting out of the office or going to a certain local restaurant, they could do that during their lunch hour any other day of the year. For team activities, where the goal is connecting with coworkers, doing something that everyone can participate in should be valued higher than eating in a restaurant, if there’s none that meets everyone’s needs. Get catering/order takeout or all bring in lunches and do an activity together! You’re not being asked to do this every day, just a few days a year so your coworker can be included. It’s not that hard…

          2. Zelda*

            “Is it really because of the food or the golf? Or is it about having more time to connect personally with colleagues/have the chance for more face time with senior leadership? And so when that value is called out, to try and find a way to preserve a liked activity over being inclusive is problematic. ”

            This is the money quote right here. You look around at the team you have, and you say: This Is Us. What would be a good activity for us to spend a little time together?

  34. A Library Person*

    OP #4: If it helps, I did something similar, though the specific circumstances are slightly different. As my username suggests, I work in libraries, and I had been applying for the better part of a year after a post-graduation position came to a close. The hiring process can be slower than molasses in certain areas of librarianship (*cough* academia) and I took a part-time job in a slightly different area of libraries than the one I preferred and had most of my professional training in despite having some applications still in at other places. Well, one of those places ended up getting back to me eventually and I left given that it was full-time, higher paying, and more in line with my anticipated career trajectory. I got a gentle ribbing from the other place (a “shortest tenure” award that is among my personal treasures) but I still have excellent professional relationships with everyone there. I had accepted that position in good faith, as I couldn’t count on the other applications coming through for me at the time, and everyone understood that.

    What’s important is that you can’t count on the other position to come through and that you accepted your current position with the expectation/intention of staying in it for a while barring unforeseen toxicity or something like that (which it seems like you did from your letter). People may or may not be nice about it, but from what you’ve described here I don’t think they will personally hold it against you unless they are particularly vindictive.

  35. Mary Anne Spier*

    OP2, we did a movie day once. This would be contingent upon your team having similar taste, but that was a pretty fun, low stakes outing.

    1. Roscoe*

      But I don’t think they are looking for an “outing” just to socialize during work hours.

      Even at places where I liked my coworkers, going to a movie with them isn’t something I’d be excited about. But everyone eats lunch. Its a way to socialize during the workday that doesn’t put any out of work commitments in

  36. CatPerson*

    LW1: Both parties are responsible for reasonable accommodations. 1.5 hours of travel for a 1 hour team lunch is not reasonable to expect (most companies would not tolerate regular 3-hour lunches). I suggest this: if there are 5 people on the team, for example, 1 of 5 meals can/should be accommodated via eat-in–Kosher can bring her own food and teammates can carry out or do as they please. But if she can’t join the team for lunch at a a non-kosher restaurant, shouldn’t they be free to eat without her 4/5 times? Forcing a kosher option, which basically prohibits the others from lunching out, is not any more fair then expecting her always to eat with them.

    1. LTL*

      The situation you’ve described basically amounts to “the colleague who keeps kosher can participate 1/5 of the time and everyone else can participate all the time.”

      Presumably, people on the team can still go out for lunch with each other. OP is describing specifically putting together a team lunch as the manager. The point of those is to bring everyone on the team together. If the kosher-keeping colleague can’t come, it kind of takes away from the whole point.

      I’ve also made notes on inclusivity above but I’m too tired to repeat them. Feel free to look at the above comment threads on this argument, a lot of people chimed in.

      1. Nia*

        Why can’t the kosher eating colleague come? They can bring their own food or not eat but there’s absolutely nothing stopping them from coming.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          I don’t know about where you live, but in my area, most restaurants kind of frown on people bringing in their own food. Just saying.

          1. Nia*

            I cannot imagine any restuarant around here kicking out a group because one member of it brought their own food, especially if the situation was explained. But even if every restuarant around here did do that it still wouldn’t change my answer, the coworker can go and not eat.

          2. Antilles*

            Restaurants may complain about this as a general policy, but they usually back off really quickly once you explain the situation.

          3. UKDancer*

            Yes definitely not welcomed in restaurants I’ve been to. I think the only exception I’ve seen is when someone wants baby food warming up.

          4. SoloKid*

            I don’t know of any lunch spots in my corporate area that would kick out a large group of regulars because of one person that needs an accommodation.

            1. Antilles*

              Can confirm. I mentioned in a separate thread above that I had a colleague who similarly strict kosher as the OP’s company. My colleague would bring her lunch to non-kosher restaurants; she would just explain to the server as we sat down and it was never once an issue.

          5. Rusty Shackelford*

            There are restaurants that consider “10 paying customers and one who brings their own food” preferable to “10 customers who don’t walk in our door,” if you explain the situation.

        2. LTL*

          She absolutely can, and this is actually a great alternative that some commentators suggested above.

          However, that was clearly not CatPerson’s intention with their comment and I responded accordingly.

          1. CatPerson*

            That is not my intention. If I had a food restriction that more or less prevents me from eating out, I would certainly not expect my co-workers to never eat out, which is what the LW said they were doing. LW already said that they were tired of only eating in conference rooms, they want to get out of the building. If I knew that my co-workers wouldn’t go out to lunch together because I couldn’t go with them, I would be mortified. I said that they can accommodate an inside lunch at times. Catering? Um, no, I would not want to pay for catering for an ordinary casual lunch, either, and expecting that from the co-workers is not reasonable.

            1. LTL*

              I was referring to the intent in your comment of “it’s okay to schedule team lunches which exclude the colleague.” That’s the point I’m fighting against. Nia’s reply was with regards to something else.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I’m surprised they there are so many comments on this post basically saying to leave out the coworker most of the time because it’s hard to accommodate. I’m glad I don’t work with the people making these comments!

  37. Spicy Tuna*

    LW #2 – I think you can continue to have these lunches wherever you want because they are not company-sponsored events. Everyone is paying their own way. It’s her choice to attend or not. If the company is sponsoring a catered lunch or event, then yes, this employee needs to be accommodated, 100%.

    I am vegetarian because the smell, taste and texture of meat is nauseating to me. There was one of those Brazilian rodizio restaurants near the office and people would like to go there for lunch periodically. I was always invited, and I always declined because even though there was a salad bar available, I found the smell inside unbearable. My choice.

    Life is about trade offs and choices. We make decisions about how we live our lives and must live with the consequences. Life does not owe us an accommodation.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      And if the entire group chose to go there for a little team-building gathering, you wouldn’t feel the slightest bit excluded?

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        If it’s a company sponsored thing, then she needs to be accommodated. Otherwise, no. I’ve gone to team-building events where there were no veg options on the menu and I just didn’t eat. Again…. my choice. Once, my office treated everyone to lunch at a place where there was a wood burning oven and I knew that it would smell like meat. I said I’d stay in the office and cover the phones for everyone.

        Being vegetarian or participating in a religion is optional. This is not like a disability.

        1. LTL*

          Forgive my directness, but are you white and culturally Christian?

          Your choice to be a vegetarian is not the same thing as a religious dietary restriction. Not at all.

          1. Spicy Tuna*

            I’m culturally atheist. A religious dietary restriction is no different than choosing to be vegan or veg. It’s a choice. There is no place for religion in the public sphere.

            1. HannahS*

              “Jews shouldn’t exist in public spaces.” There, I fixed it for you. I’m sure you protest just as loudly that Americans get Christmas and Easter off, and that hospitals and banks put up Christmas trees in their lobbies.

              1. Oh No She Di'int*

                Exactly. And the fact is that the mainstream has its particular restrictions and habits around eating accommodated all the time. Even those of someone who is “culturally atheist”. It’s just that because it’s the mainstream that being accommodated, such accommodations are probably invisible to you.

                For example, most North American restaurants probably won’t serve dog meat. That’s a specific accommodation to adhere to a specific set of eating norms. Also, most will allow men and women to eat together. Again, a specific accommodation. This isn’t a judgment on the rightness or wrongness of those accommodations–just pointing out that they do indeed exist.

            2. LTL*

              Asking if someone is culturally Christian is different from asking what their religious beliefs are. Having a Christian background or heritage comes with privilege, even if you (and your family) aren’t Christians.

              1. Spicy Tuna*

                Was raised atheist. Did not have a christmas tree or participate in any culturally christian activities

                1. Batgirl*

                  Okay, but it’s unlikely your family were the subject of anti semitism… Which is what people mean by a cultural advantage.

        2. my name is she-devil*

          Sure, participating in a religion is optional… if you’re an atheist/agnostic.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      I think your situation is a little different though, because your team CAN choose restaurants you can eat at without a major inconvenience. OP’s team doesn’t have that option without driving a long way away.

    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I am vegetarian because the smell, taste and texture of meat is nauseating to me. There was one of those Brazilian rodizio restaurants near the office and people would like to go there for lunch periodically. I was always invited, and I always declined because even though there was a salad bar available, I found the smell inside unbearable. My choice.

      I’ve been there and can commiserate. My allergy is mushrooms, and there have been several very nice, very expensive French and Italian restaurants I’ve had to walk out of and never return to because the aroma was so strong and the ingredient so pervasive that I couldn’t even stand in the foyer without having to fight back the urge to vomit.

      I don’t feel excluded that family and friends still patronize them. I feel lucky that I can opt out.

  38. Dust Bunny*

    Awful bosses: It sounds like your boss and grandboss know that they’re terrible but are hoping you won’t spill the beans to the public/leave a bad review on Glassdoor/etc. Not that you can’t tell them whatever placates them and do that, anyway, of course, but if they were reasonable people they wouldn’t be terrible bosses in the first place.

    1. WorkerBee*

      I left a place that was toxic last year. My boss was terrible and the grandboss was the enabler and devoted to protecting my boss come hell or high water. Grandboss appreciated my work but would not go against my supervisor who had friends in high places. Everyone in our section knew the place was sickening toxic and that my boss with a big problem. I tried to leave on a high note and thanked grandboss for the opportunity. My boss wasn’t there the day I left and I think that was on purpose– hurt feelings and embarrassment. Everyone knew how poorly I had been treated.

  39. Kate*

    Socializing with food or beverages in a work environment makes a lot of sense to me because you have control over the pacing of the event. Want to end the situation? Eat faster/order a smaller coffee/get your food to go/etc. It’s way more socially acceptable to control your personal end point and skip out – or, if you’re really enjoying yourself, linger and get dessert, have a second drink at a happy hour, etc. If we’re going to a restaurant (assuming we drive separately), if things are going off the rails, I can stand up and announce I need to get back for an early meeting and take my food with me. If we’re bowling or playing a board game, I can’t leave in the middle without disrupting a group activity. Food allows you to exert flexibility and express your own preferences.

    1. Kate*

      (To be clear – I am NOT advocating, have lunches out anyways even if it excludes a colleague. Merely reflecting on why food is so common a work socializing event, and why I actually like that! But food can happy in many ways.)

      1. Game averse*

        Very much agreed on the way food as an event activity tends to allow for more individual control.

        Also, having food be a significant part of an event simplifies the issue of participation. Everybody eats, or can at least go through the motions without calling attention to themselves. You don’t have to worry about someone standing aside awkwardly, conspicuously left out if they don’t want to bowl, don’t know how to play euchre, hate board games, dislike what happens when some people are taking the trivia game more seriously than others, etc.

  40. Blue Eagle*

    #2 – I have an honest question. When it says the employee cannot eat in a non-Kosher restaurant does that mean the employee cannot eat the food prepared by the kitchen in a non-Kosher restaurant or can literally not eat in the restaurant? I’m wondering if another possibility can be (with the restaurant approval, of course) that the employee bring an outside Kosher meal and necessary accoutrements into the non-Kosher restaurant to consume it?

    #4 The word I’ve seen used in government statistics is “underemployed” (i.e. the person is taking a job that has lesser qualification requirements and pays less than a job at the maximum level the person would be qualified for) rather than “overqualified” (which as pointed out earlier actually means they have more experience in that realm – say 10 years of experience in the same job that only requires one year).

    1. Metadata minion*

      #2 — either could apply depending on the employee’s particular style/strictness of kashrut.

    2. Ali + Nino*

      Re #2 good question! as I explained in another comment above, in many cases someone keeping kosher can bring their own food to a nonkosher establishment but in some situations will choose not to do so to prevent others from mistakenly suing that the restaurant is kosher.

    3. OP#2*

      I think she can eat at the restaurant – she did have a glass of water at a retirement lunch once (company event outside of my control where accommodations were just not going to happen) and seemed ok, so I am guessing eating there (probably with a paper plate?) would be ok.

      I’ve always felt a bit weird about suggesting she bring food to a restaurant, but I think she’d be ok with it if the restaurant was… have people done that? Is that a thing you can do?

  41. CW*

    OP#4 – If it is a great position and better for your career, go for it. I had a similar experience a few years ago, though under different circumstances. I, too, left after around 6 weeks – and that job did not pay well too. So what did I do? I left and deleted that job out of my resume and my LinkedIn. It has NOT haunted me to this day. Six weeks is not significant that you need to tell any future employer about it. It sounds like you really want this position, so I will say take it. Do not sell yourself short.

  42. TootsNYC*

    “I’m very upset about this and would prefer not to discuss it or receive texts about it. Thanks for understanding.”
    I wouldn’t tell someone like Myrtle “I’m very upset about this.”
    She will absolutely weaponize that.

    I’d say something way less dramatic. and if it can be something that draws a boundary, even better.
    “I don’t consider this to be an appropriate topic for office conversation, and would prefer not to….”

    or “This is not the kind of thing I wish to discuss with people at work, and I’d prefer not to…”

    1. Me*

      Agreed. I did not like the suggested language at all. “I do not want to discuss this, please do not bring it up again” is sufficient.

      I wouldn’t use softer language at all like stating a preference or thought on what’s appropriate. It invites steamrollers like Myrtle to push right past them. Firm and to the point is best here.

  43. J.B.*

    LW3 – I wonder if the grand boss is pushing you to act like the supervisor is no big deal to make herself feel better about not having responded. Like it can’t be that bad and she won’t have to take action, you’re just moving on. Good luck, and don’t say anything you don’t want to say!

  44. CityGal*

    Regarding question #5, I had a supervisor who turned hostile and started to demand a doctor’s note for the occasional sick day. I was able to get an appointment once on short notice. I was already having problems with my boss and out of nowhere, she demanded that I bring in a doctor’s note. I had earned an ample amount of leave and did not agree that I needed to bring in a doctor’s note for what amounted to two hours of leave. Long story short, I ended up filing a complaint with HR and I’m no longer working there. I’ve heard of doctor’s notes being required after three days of being sick. I would have been happy to explain things more to my boss but due to the bad culture, I was uncomfortable.

  45. Fionaa*

    Can she bring her own food (with her own plastic plate/utensils if need be) to the restaurant? If it’s a big group paying for a big meal, I can’t imagine a restaurant wouldn’t accommodate one single person eating outside food due to their dietary restrictions. To avoid any awkwardness, you could call ahead to the restaurant to explain the scenario. You would want to clear it with the kosher employee first, but to me, that seems like the easiest solution. I’ve done something similar before when I was on a restricted diet and it didn’t bother me.

  46. Squirrel*

    #1 I just learned a new phrase that works on difficult people and have to share:
    “When you say that it sounds like you were thinking…”
    And then you fill in the blank.
    “…you were thinking I would want to talk about this.”
    “…that i somehow didn’t see that article. ”

    I like it because it’s nonconfrontational. There’s no judgement or emotion. Most difficult people will deflect or try to change the subject. That is fine. You have put them on notice that you see their behavior and will bring it to their attention as needed. The phrase may have to be repeated a few times, but most difficult people will tire of not getting what they want from you and move on.

  47. ScienceMommy*

    Hi OP#2,

    If you plan outings in advance, could you give the employee a heads up that you were all going to have a special lunch, so they could get something at a Kosher restaurant the day before and bring it in for the lunch? And if they bring the receipt, you could comp the employee for the meal? Essentially the employee would have to do a little extra work in ordering a meal for themselves from a kosher restaurant the day before, but if you pay for it, and they can still join in, I personally would be ok with that if this were me. Now I’m not sure if this would work if you were all going out to another restaurant, but if you were ordering somewhere and having food delivered and eating at the workplace, this should work fine.

  48. cannondale*

    #3 Please note that if your new job or anything else you take on in the next couple of years requires a background check, there could be flags from the six-week job if they describe you as “ineligible for rehire”. Not insurmountable, but a potential adverse effect of burning a bridge in this way.

    1. Momma Bear*

      #3 – I once said flat out that I left b/c of a manager and once did not. It depends on the job and the professional relationships you want to/need to keep. I would not, however, have been pleased to be told to tell anyone a lie about why I left. I will refrain from trashing someone on the way out. That doesn’t mean I will soothe their feelings by lying about them being a problem. If they cared about my feelings, I wouldn’t be leaving so….Grandboss can deal with Boss now. You’re gone.

  49. Petula*

    Re: Kosher dining:

    I had a coworker who only ate at kosher restaurants when we went out. When we did group lunches with her, we would go to a local vegetarian Indian place. The nearby Jewish community had worked with the restaurant to get kosher certification, since their cuisine was already almost kosher, so it was a popular place to go.

    All of which is to say, maybe one of your closer restaurants can get kosher certification, and would be interested if they knew you were looking for that kind of place.

    Of course discuss with your employee first, as Alison notes — don’t do this work without confirming that it’s useful and wanted — but that’s something to consider.

    1. Silly goose*

      Excellent point to discuss with employee first… I could imagine someone doing that only to find out the person also happens to be allergic to curry or something!

  50. Jack Russell Terrier*

    They’ve just begun to say that hangry is physiological. As someone who gets hangry this is not a newsflash. I’ve learnt what my body is telling me and make it clear that – a snack will not do, we need to sit down and eat a proper meal within half an hour or I will become an uncontrollable monster, which is just awful for all of us. It’s no fun feeling out of control – and certainly not fun being on the receiving end. I’ve known my husband for 11 years and he’s seen my hangry once. He vividly remembers it .

    1. Empress Matilda*

      It absolutely is. I’m in my 40’s and my mother remembers filling out forms for summer camp with notes like “if Matilda starts to get crabby, please give her something to eat right away.”

      This was long before we had the word hangry, of course! But even without the word, some people have been making that connection since *gasp* the twentieth century. :)

      1. Loraine*

        And then promtly ignore it, because if you ignore it hard enough it’s just going to go away, and then once again being pikachu-faced when the crab scuttles back into their hole being extra crabby at also being prevented from taking care of their own food needs.

  51. Empress Matilda*

    OP1, I’m so sorry for your loss – and for the insensitive way that Myrtle is behaving. You shouldn’t have to deal with that, on top of everything else.

    I just want to say that as a manager, I would absolutely want to know about this situation, and I would tell Myrtle to knock it off immediately. I’d hate to think that someone would avoid telling me something like this, because they’re worried that I’m too busy!

    In any case, please use the scripts that Alison and others have suggested. And if you need someone else to tell Myrtle to go pound sand, I’m sure there are several of us on this thread who would be happy to volunteer. Good luck.

  52. AndreaC*

    LW 5: This may be a moot point if you already know where you’d be working, but keep in mind that many part-time jobs may not have sick days as part of their benefits, so you should ask the question of what happens when you need to take a day off. Also, depending on the number of hours you work per year, you won’t be covered by FMLA, so if your supervisor begins to have a problem with your absences, then you wouldn’t have that protection to back you up.

  53. MissFinance*

    #5 I too have chronic conditions. I personally don’t share until after I’m hired, and how much you share I’d say it depends on your level of trust in your boss and how much you need to share. For instance, I tell my boss I get chronic migraine and I have asthma. That way, my boss asks those in my immediate seating range not to wear strong perfumes which can trigger both, or if I have to excuse myself randomly to use my nebulizer, it doesn’t raise eyebrows, but the majority of my coworkers didn’t know precovid (now they know I have something chronic because I’m still full time from home while some of them have come back to the office.). How much you trust your boss counts too. My boss knows a lot more than previous bosses because I trust him a good bit.

  54. Starbuck*

    #4, I really wouldn’t worry about it. If you get the better offer, take it and go. Will the first company be upset to lose someone they hired so soon? Definitely. But unless they expressed worry that you’d leave soon and then you made them a bunch of promises about how super committed you were to the position, they’ll get over it because it’s pretty understandable why you would do it. I can’t imagine it hurting your reputation in the broader industry.

    1. Zombie Cow*

      My thoughts exactly. It’s like some breakups, the breakupee is upset, but both are better off in the end, it may not be obvious until way into the future.

  55. DKMA*

    I once managed someone who kept strictly kosher (he also strictly adhered to the Sabbath which required some flexibility on early departures for travel when bad weather threated to delay flights potentially past Friday sundown).

    He often brought his own food into other restaurants. In retrospect, this was probably not something those restaurants appreciated, but we checked ahead of time and they were fine with it.

    Are there things like food trucks in the area, or restaurants with nice places to bring take-out to outside? Then your employee could bring a kosher meal (you could order delivery for him from one of the 45 minute away restaurants) and everyone else could eat fresh food from the closer take-out and get the eating out feeling.

  56. EchoGirl*

    Regarding LW2, this bit jumped out at me: while we do (kosher) packaged breakfast pastries instead sometimes for birthdays now, none of us are really breakfast pastry people so we’re all fairly sick of that

    I’m wondering why LW’s office has jumped to breakfast pastries specifically rather than other types of kosher treats, as I’m extremely skeptical that breakfast pastries are the only available kosher option. There are other types of prepackaged treats that can be kosher, there are mainstream bakery brands that are kosher, some grocery store bakeries will even have kosher cakes or cupcakes. This is the one place where I feel like LW could stand to do a little more research, as they may be missing some of the options available to them based on some kind of misconception — this, unlike some of the other questions, isn’t a question that relies on the coworker’s personal practices (certified kosher is kosher by any standard), so it’s something LW could do a little of the legwork on rather than needing a lot of input from the coworker.

    1. OP#2*

      I probably didn’t word that very well… we do a lot of Entenmann’s (thank goodness for Entenmann’s!) which is not always breakfast-y, and one of us lives in the more kosher-restaurant-dense part of our metro area (i.e. 45 minutes away) and will bring cupcakes, etc., on her way to work. We do tend to eat them at breakfast sort of time, but the more accurate way to state the issue would be that as a lot of us are trying to eat relatively healthy, we’re just really not pastry people in general.

      1. EchoGirl*

        Okay, that does make more sense. I was thinking you were, like, foregoing birthday cakes in favor of breakfast pastries, and my immediate reaction (as someone who’s been at a variety of angles to the kosher thing) was “why would that be the only/obvious alternative?”

  57. K.K.*

    Re #3. Here are some things that worked for us.

    1. Food courts, or anywhere that has seating that doesn’t belong to the restaurant, allow everyone to bring or buy food as they prefer and then eat together.

    2. Some restaurants will allow a Kosher member of a larger party to bring in their own food. Or, in some cases you can even get a Kosher meal delivered to the restaurant and stored (sealed) in their fridge. This is what we did for the 10% of guests at our wedding who kept kosher, and the restaurant had no issue with it provided adequate warning (about a week). For a few times a year this should be feasible.

    3. We’ve had good luck with BBQ potluck type things, twice a summer after work at a nearby park. Many packaged foods like chips and cookies and sodas are Kosher if sealed, and self-packaged fruits like oranges and bananas are too. So the Kosher employee can partially partake of the potluck (if they want to) while bringing their own main dish. Everyone can socialize over food without eating from the same kitchen.

  58. Jessica*

    LW2: as many have suggested if ask you co-worker about kosher accommodation options you may be pleasantly surprised at the options and workarounds.

    But also, asking can have humorous results when people are making uncommunicated assumptions

    At one of my old jobs we had a tradition of going out for lunches where beer featured heavily, although some coworkers who didn’t drink would order soda instead. A halal-keeping Muslim man joined our team – he would not go out for lunch if alcohol was involved.

    My other coworkers (who knew nothing about halal except it sounded like kosher but “Jessica drinks beer” – except I didn’t actually keep kosher anyways) were totally weirded out but wanted to be inclusive, so his supervisor asked him where we could go for lunch (other than fast food) and then came griping to me about his unreasonableness when he suggested Red Lobster because:
    1) The RL was a half hour drive away and
    2) The RL was licensed so whaaaat? (my coworkers had assumed his issue was “cant go anywhere licensed”)
    3) She thought it was weird and obstructive that there was only a single restaurant in the entire (large) city he said he could eat at

    So I offered to ask him (outlier to outlier ) about his restaurant requirements, because I knew something had gone astray. It turned out that his alcohol rule was “nobody in my dining party can be drinking alcohol” and also – because he was a little oblivious – when his supervisor had asked him about restaurants he had misunderstood and assumed she was just asking him to suggest his favourite restaurant for the next outing.

    I thought it was all pretty darn funny once we had sorted out this misunderstanding, and the team lunches resumed but with everyone skipping the booze, so that we could all go, and we started exploring more nearby options than the pub next door which was an unexpected bonus of more interesting food as well.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think your last point about exploring variety is so important too. Whenever I’ve been looking at options with a halal or kosher friend, I usually come across wonderful new foods. When I had to change my diet drastically, that experience helped me; again I’ve discovered some very new and delicious things as well as easy workarounds. Just ask! People who have to navigate this stuff know how to do so. People who dismiss this as too hard, or as people just being outliers, live a very narrow existence I think.

  59. Melissa*

    Letter #5

    I too have an chronic illness with occasional flareups. If you qualify for FMLA it’s worth filling out the paperwork with your HR department. It will cover those occasional sick days even if you are out of paid leave days

  60. The Engineer*

    LW #4
    I had two positions while looking for work more in line with my goals and training where both supervisors had the attitude of “Cool! We get an Engineer!”

    I had relevant related skills and experience so I came up to productive speed quickly. Both supervisors surprised me when they offered the job. Both expressed that they knew I wouldn’t be there long, but were thrilled to get me while they could. I learned new things from both and appreciated having a job. Nice to have those who can see the positive in a short term engagement with an ‘overqualified’ employee.

    1. Zombie Cow*

      @The Engineer, my managers know that I will not be there long, and are supportive of that. But I was hoping to get at least 6 mths into the job before I moved on. I did cave and rejected the better offer for “personal reasons” but asked to be considered at the next hiring round in 6 mths. I am now interviewing for a similar role for a different company that reached out (ironically a week after I rejected the last one) because the comments here seemed supportive of me taking on a PhD-level role despite having to burn bridges. We’ll see…

  61. Sange*

    LW2, I once had a very close coworker who was strictly kosher – her observance didn’t even permit drinking from glasses in our company kitchen! We usually went to eat at an all-kosher restaurant when work was picking up the tab, but the kosher joints were too $$ for typical coworker lunches. We either planned some takeout days, or all went out for non-kosher food when our coworker wasn’t available anyway. Her observance meant she worked remotely or half days many Fridays, so it worked out easily without having to exclude her.

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