I’m missing out on a lunch break because I’m vegetarian, coworker calls his girlfriend during projects, and more

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

1. I’m missing out on a lunch break because I’m vegetarian

Once a month my office has an all-hands meeting that ends around 11:30, then my team has our monthly team meeting at 1:00. Most of the time people on my team will go out for a lunch that takes up the full time between the all-hands meeting and our team meeting. It isn’t a mandatory event or a “working lunch,” just a social gathering, but there’s no expectation that those who attend make up the time for the longer lunch (our standard lunch is 30 minutes). I’ve stopped attending because, as a vegetarian in “meat country,” I usually have a hard time finding anything to eat at restaurants in the area, and I’m not keen on sitting with a soda and watching others eat. The last two times, while others have gone to lunch, I have been given tasks to prepare for our team meeting “since [I’m] not going to lunch” and I’ve had to work through that full hour and a half (including my actual lunch) to complete them in time for the meeting. This seems rather unfair to me, as they all essentially get a free hour off. Should I be entitled to the same amount of “free” time as the rest of the team, or is this just an expected price to pay for choosing not to take part in socializing (even if the lack of available options to accommodate my diet is a significant factor in that choice)?

There are two places within the “reasonable lunch zone” that I could have a real, adult-sized meal, and I’ve suggested them several times, but they always lose the vote for where to have lunch (they usually go to the same barbecue chicken place every month). My team knows I’m vegetarian, but I don’t know if they realize that so many places have nothing vegetarian except maybe a kids’ grilled cheese. Our team director said she won’t get involved since it’s not an “official” outing, but she’s also the one assigning additional, time-sensitive tasks to me (specifically: preparing the agenda and materials for our meeting after lunch) through that time (and my normal lunch break) on these days since I’m not going out with the team.

Yeah, you’re getting a raw deal. It’s not that unusual to let people take a longer lunch for a team outing like this, even an unofficial one; the idea is that there are benefits to the group socializing. From that perspective, it makes sense that you’re not offered an extra-long lunch yourself when you’re not participating. But it’s unfair that the reason you’re not participating is because you can’t. And your manager sucks for saying she won’t get involved, when she’s piling assignments on you during that time.

When you talked to her about it, did you explicitly say, “I’m being assigned extra work that means I have to work through lunch while everyone else takes a 90-minute break, purely because I have dietary restrictions that mean I can’t go with them”? If you haven’t, point that out because otherwise she might think this is just about the restaurant choice and not about everyone else getting a long break while you get no break at all. But if that was part of the conversation you already had and she just doesn’t care, you might be stuck.

However, it sounds like you’ve haven’t clearly explained the problem to your team, and that’s worth trying: “Could we go to X or Y at least some of the time? I’d like to eat with you but there’s literally nothing on the menu I can eat at Z, which means I’m never able to join you.” If that doesn’t work, would you be open to bringing your own food on those days and joining them but eating whatever you brought from home? Not every restaurant will allow this, but often if you’re with a large group and explain there’s nothing you can eat on their menu, they’ll let you. That’s not ideal, obviously, but if your team won’t budge, it might be the least-bad option.

Otherwise, you could try announcing your own plans before your manager has the chance to assign you work — “I can’t eat anything at Z so I’m going to head over to X and will see you after.” And if she assigns you work anyway: “I need to eat lunch, but I’ll be back at 12.” You still won’t be getting the extra hour everyone else gets, which isn’t reasonable, but it might be the reality of it and at least you’ll get some lunch break, unlike the current situation.

2. Coworker calls his girlfriend during projects

I have a coworker who I work very closely with, Bob. Our work is very hands-on and sometimes involves the two of us sitting in a room together while we work for most of the day. Due to the nature of our jobs, sometimes there will be periods of 5-10 minutes where Bob has to sit and wait for me to finish doing something or vice versa. We often have other work we will do during this downtime, but we don’t always.

Occasionally while Bob is waiting during these short waiting periods, he will call his girlfriend. He doesn’t put her on speaker, but I can generally hear what they’re both saying due to the volume of his phone/the small size of the room. They will both talk in detail about their days and upcoming plans. I understand why Bob does this — there is not always a lot of other stuff to do during these periods of downtime. However, I sometimes feel like I’m intruding on these conversations. Even though I know Bob is choosing to make these calls in my presence, they feel to me like conversations I shouldn’t be part of.

Am I right to feel uncomfortable with this, and should I try to do something about it, or is it something I should just try to ignore?

It’s not inherently weird for someone to take a personal call in front of a coworker; people who share an office do that all the time because it’s unavoidable.

I suspect it feels a little different because you don’t normally share an office; you’re just sharing a space at that particular moment because you’re working on a project together.

Still, though, how “occasional” are these calls? If it’s a couple of times a week for five or 10 minutes, that’s not a big deal and you should try to ignore it. But if they’re more regular — like daily — and it’s interrupting your focus, it’s reasonable to say, “Would you mind taking that in the hallway so I can focus and finish this up?”

3. Wearing pimple patches at work

The post the other day about the manager who kept pointing out their staff member’s acne made me think of this question. Would there be any major red flags about wearing hydrocolloid patches at work? They have been useful to me when I have one or two pimples about to burst, and are the difference between having a painful blemish last for days versus nearly gone in a day. They have clear ones, but also I have seen stores carry fun sticker-like ones too.

I’ve been getting away with wearing them for years due to wearing a face mask almost all of the time (plus using clear ones). Would this be something that could be a big no-no? Or could it be considered as innocuous as wearing a band-aid on a face for a scratch or wound?

In theory they’re bandages so they should be okay. In reality, it’s office dependent. There are certainly offices where the clear ones would be fine, but there are also plenty (particularly in more conservative fields) where it would seem a little unprofessional. You’ve got to know your office, which I realize is not terribly helpful.

One thing to think about, though — hydrocolloid patches are designed to draw out whatever’s in the pimple and if they’re transparent, they can start looking pretty gross as the day goes on. The “icky stuff visibly trapped under this translucent patch” stage isn’t well-suited for work.

4. My coworker won’t stop doing my job

I returned from maternity leave to find out that my coworker just won’t give up my job duties and go back to his role prior to my leave. I’ve been back now since June and my management has discussed this with him. I have discussed with him frankly and directly. I thought that we had come to an understanding in August, but I found out that he is still doing my work duties behind my back — answering questions that should be forwarded to me or correcting errors in programming when people mention them. Basically just doing the duties because he knows how.

I’m baffled. He isn’t actively malicious in our day-to-day conversations. He isn’t a terrible person. But he’s undermining my job. I really don’t know what to do at this point. Do you have any suggestions?

This isn’t something you have the power to solve; it needs to come from someone with authority over him. Go back to your manager and plant this squarely in their lap: “I know you’ve told Carl he needs to stop doing things I’m responsible for like X and Y. However, since you spoke with him, he hasn’t stopped — (insert recent examples, preferably ones that caused problems). I’ve discussed it with him multiple times and nothing has changed. Can you help?”

You might be thinking you’ve already tried this — but your management might have no idea that their first talk with Carl didn’t solve the problem, and could be assuming everything’s fine now. Let them know that’s not the case and that you still need their help. (And do it now — don’t let it fester because it’s likely to get harder to fix the longer it’s allowed to go on.)

Read an update to this letter

5. Subject lines for a post-interview thank-you email

I’m probably overthinking this, but what do you put for a subject line when sending a post-interview thank-you email?

You are indeed overthinking it! Anything like “thank you” or “llama groomer role” or “thanks for your time Tuesday” or “a thought about your llama initiative” are all fine.

{ 374 comments… read them below }

  1. Cmdrshpard*

    To a certain extent you are choosing to not go to the lunches and give up that extra hour.

    Going with Alison’s advice if places won’t let you bring your own food, you can bring your lunch eat it quickly before hand and then go to the restaurant and “sitting with a soda and watching others eat.” I have had team lunches where people already ate and they just sat and socialized, or people were fasting for various reasons. Not having someone eat at a team lunch is pretty common I think.

    If the choice is 30 min lunch 1 hr of work or “sitting with a soda and watching others eat.” For 1.5 hrs to me the choice is clear. I doubt people are actually eating for that long anyways.

    I would guess it might be more like chat for 30 mins while people “decide what they want” put the orders in, actually eat for 30 minutes, then another 30 minutes of chatting while just sipping on drinks.

      1. JustSomeone*

        I think what @Cmdrshpard is suggesting is that the LW go to the team even if they are 100% disinterested in the actual “lunch” part, since the literal eating portion is bound to be just a small fraction of the 90 minute stint away from the office building connections with colleagues.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          When exactly is OP supposed to eat though if they are spending all that socializing time at a restaurant that doesn’t have food for her? This is extremely unreasonable that she gets no time to eat lunch while they get an extra long one. I think she should point this out to the boss and start saying something like “I won’t be able to join you at X restaurant so I’m going to head over to Y restaurant instead.” She can even extend an invitation for people to join her if she wants. But the boss seems to be forgetting (or ignoring) that she still needs to eat even if she is eating somewhere else.

          1. Becca*

            She could eat and then catch up with them. Would the boss then try to give her 30 (or whatever) minutes of work during the time she’s eating? Maybe, and that might be why the original person suggested eating fast so that the boss doesn’t see it as a period time that can be filled with work. But it’s worth suggesting. Is she even eating as it is? I assume she is while she’s working, but maybe she isn’t.

      2. JSP*

        It sounds like the OP doesn’t want to hang out with these kinda rude coworkers anyway. Maybe say to the boss “I’m happy to always be the one picked to work through the team lunch since someone’s gotta do it, could I leave early those days to make up the time? If not, could we rotate who owns the agenda for the 1pm meeting?”

        1. Cmdrshpard*

          If they didn’t I don’t think they would have suggested trying to go to other places. I don’t think hanging out is their top priority but they do want to partake at least somewhat, if only to avoid the extra work and have a longer break.

          Like it or not I think OP realizes that joining the team lunch can help build better work relationships even if they are superficial or fake.

    1. A Pinch of Salt*

      Ooo in that vein…

      Can OP eat a packed lunch at the office (or eat something somewhere else) and THEN join the group? Essentially joining at the point where EVERYONE is sipping on sodas and chatting?

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      LW could also get a dessert or something after eating quickly at work. Even barbecue places don’t usually put meat in the desserts.

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        But they might use gelatin or lard. Or the OP might not want a sugar bomb in the middle of the day.

        I am generally vegan-ish but flex vegetarian for family and work functions, but I can tell you as someone also in Meatlandia, that I have basically given up on going to any work function at a restaurant unless it is mandatory. Because it is uncomfortable, unfun, and I get to feel left out AND field all sorts of questions and advice about my dietary choices. It’s very othering. It suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          The one major upside to where I live now is that it’s no longer allergic me living in the middle of the largest fishing port in the region (yeah – I was never able to go out to eat when I lived there), it is a little easier to participate in the lunches out.

          But I also have a really good manager who would have squashed the always going to the same place where team members can’t eat. And both this manager and the one when I lived in fishing central never gave extra work to me for being the person stuck in the office because I couldn’t go to the restaurant everybody else picked that day.

      2. c_c*

        A lot of chicken places don’t have desert, and a lot of desserts aren’t vegetarian (lard in pie crust, gelatin in mousses and custards, etc.).

        I think people are assuming full menu style restaurants. There are a lot of places that specialize pretty heavily and you really can’t order anything that’s not the specialty (like a chicken place near where I used to work wouldn’t have been able to accommodate a request for any meat that wasn’t chicken either and the only side was fries that were cooked in the same oil as the chicken). I would sometimes join coworkers for lunch assuming whatever restaurant they picked would have at least *something* I could eat, but more than once it turned out there was literally zero I could consume from a place that wasn’t a beverage.

        When OP says there is nothing other than a kid’s menu grilled cheese, I think people are assuming she means for entrees, etc., but there are a quite large number of places where there literally would be nothing else. I think advice that doesn’t take her at her word is unlikely to be helpful.

    3. Erica*

      It doesn’t sound like OP is given any other time during the day when they *can* eat, though. It’s not “take your 30 minute lunch beforehand and then go not eat with your team, it’s “the normal time when you would get to take your lunch has been replaced by a choice between going hungry all day or drinking a soda while others eat.”

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        And let’s face it: it’s pretty crappy to never accommodate a coworker’s dietary needs. And create a situation where everyone else gets a restaurant meal made for them but one person has to brownbag it.

        1. She of Many Hats*

          Actually, brown-bagging it in front of her coworkers in the restaurant might actually drive home the fact they are excluding her from enjoying a meal together with her team. Seeing what she *has* to do in order to join them might emphasize their inhospitality towards her.

          1. Snell*

            I’d say it’s a coin toss whether the intended message gets through. Maybe LW’s discomfort will make the coworkers uncomfortable and lead to introspection, maybe they dismiss LW as the weird other and push LW out even more. In either case, LW would need a certain amount of nerve to subject themselves to public discomfort.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Or maybe they just cheerfully think, “Oh, good! LW has figured out a way to solve their restaurant problem and join us. Now we can file it under Dealt With and think no more about it.” That’s pretty common with people who don’t see any reason in the first place to regard your need as their problem to solve… as this group clearly hasn’t from the beginning.

      2. Cmdrshpard*

        I think OP could bring a sandwich or other quick heat/serve meal and eat it in 5/10 mins, likely while people are getting ready to go and just show up with the lady group. Even say I will be there in a few minutes don’t wait for me, then take 10 minutes to eat their home brought lunch and then go to the restaurant and join everyone else.

        Right now OP is getting assigned the work because they are not attending at all. I think it might change if they do start going.

      3. jojo*

        Take your half hour lunch were you usually do. Let some of that extra work be indone because you took your lunch. Do you get paid for your half hour lunch,? I do not get paid for mine.

    4. Sevenrider*

      I bring my lunch and either eat beforehand or bring it with me. For example, going to a chicken place I would take meatless chicken nuggets and a salad and fruit. I would absolutely not stay and work while others are out for a 90 minute lunch. Like others have said, go, get a drink, etc. and socialize with your team.

    5. JB (not in Houston)*

      I know some people with dietary restrictions are fine with this, but as someone who had to do this every week for years, it gets old just sitting there with a drink while everyone else eats. It gets old having to pack and bring your own food, that you had to make, pack, and take with you, while everyone else gets food that someone else made and brought to them. It gets old sitting there in a restaurant where you can’t eat knowing that there are restaurants where you could eat but your coworkers care so little about you that they won’t go there even occasionally. It’s one thing if these lunches were rare, but they are every month.

      1. Gnome*

        I also have dietary restrictions and, generally speaking, there only things I can eat out at any restaurant in a reasonable distance from my workplace is water and soda (typically not even fries or salad).

        It DOES get old. However, if OP only goes to every other one – or every third one, it’s 4-6 times a year. That would likely not get old and would be enough to make it so that the agenda and such gets done either on a rotation or by somebody before the first meeting. Moreover, they would get to develop some relationships… which might make people more open to going to one of the other places.

        That said, it’s also worth considering other options too. If the only restriction is vegetarian, OP could supplement the sipping and quick or brown bag lunch with appetizers or side dishes that are vegetarian (fresh rolls, salad, grilled veggies, etc.). No, it’s not the same — but I bet it would help reduce the overall stress on the situation. It’s usually also possible to ask for a “meal sized” appetizer or similar. Since there is a regular restaurant, it might help to call ahead and talk to the manager saying that their team comes regularly, and you’d like to be able to partake. They might work with you.

        1. Smithy*

          These are great suggestions – I will also add that one factor that might keep pulling the larger group to the chicken place is price and accommodation of a large group.

          I work in a part of town with a lot of office buildings and plenty of fast-casual lunch options that are counter service and then fancier restaurants. However there is a much smaller subset of restaurants that do table service, have large menus, can either easily seat groups of 8-10 or make those reservations last minute, service is both quick but not rushed, they have vegetarian/vegan/gluten free options and they easily split checks. It’s super inclusive but does mean for an entre and drink – your individual bill will be about $20-25.

          In many ways, the reason that place remains so popular is because of all of the reasons above and that is partially what we’re paying that extra $5-10. But it’s also not uncommon to hear someone go “I remember when lunch used to cost….” And the reality is there spots that are both cheaper and better, but never as inclusive.

          The OP’s group may have some junior colleagues and the chicken place may have a lunch deal that can’t be matched price wise. The service or seating at the other spots for a large group might be a struggle. That may not at all be true, but it may help the OP mentally factor in the balance with one disappointing lunch a month for the social benefits.

          1. Gnome*

            Great points about other reasons that might be the go-to restaurant!

            I’ll add couple ideas – the OP could pre-empt and say(maybe the day before or prior to the first meeting), “I’m going to X for lunch between the two meetings, anyone want to join me?” or even just invite one or two people. It might break up the group dynamic a bit. Bonus if she can say something like, “I heard their soup is excellent” or whatnot.

            Second one – suggest ordering IN something — especially if the weather is looking bad. “Hey, I know we usually go to BBQ Chicken Place, but it’s looking to be really cold/wet/snowy on Meeting Day — anyone want to order in?” That would give flexibility for what people order and from where and might be a nice change of pace, depending on personalities.

        2. jm*

          i second the suggestion about asking the restaurant to tweak their menu. speaking as a lifelong vegetarian in a family of meat and seafood lovers, many places are willing to whip something up, especially if they have advance notice.

      2. Cmdrshpard*

        I get how it can feel old, but once a month is only about 12 lunches a year, that is not the same as once a week (more?) for 48 times a year.

        Once a month is 1/20 working days or about 5%, I would consider that close to a rare occurrence, if not rare certainly uncommon.

        As someone else suggested OP could skip every other month so bring it to 1/20=2.5% or go out to eat a a place they can eat then join for the last 45/30 minutes to socialize with coworkers.

        1. Willow Pillow*

          If someone called out once a month, it wouldn’t be considered a rare occurrence… and at this point, it’s 100% of the lunches. Why can’t everyone else go to a LW-friendly restaurant every other month?

          1. yellow haired female*

            Per OP: “I’ve stopped attending because, as a vegetarian in “meat country,” I usually have a hard time finding anything to eat at restaurants in the area, and I’m not keen on sitting with a soda and watching others eat.”

            So according to OP, there aren’t vegetarian-friendly restaurants.

            1. yellow haired female*

              never mind, I misread… I now see that there are two she can go to. Yeah, there’s no excuse for not letting her pick at least some of the time.

      3. This Old House*

        I’ve had hard-to-accommodate dietary restrictions, and yeah, eating my sad backup PB&J in the car and then watching other people eat gets old – but it sounds like the current alternative is also getting old for OP. It’s also possible that actually showing up more often will shift the balance and convince the others to take OP’s needs into consideration sometimes.

        I don’t know how big the team is, but another way to approach it might be to ask them to change their method of choosing a lunch place. Say, “I get outvoted every time we decide where to go for lunch. Instead of ‘majority rules,’ could we rotate who picks the restaurant each month, so everyone is accommodated?”

    6. too many dogs*

      I agree. The point, I think, is the socializing, not necessarily the meal. Those who are assigning you work because you’re not coming along are not being fair; and they are not going to change. How do all these chores get done when you do go out to eat with the group? They’ll figure it out. Take your lunch with you, buy a drink from the restaurant, and enjoy visiting with the others.

    7. Scott Christian Simmons*

      I’ll be honest, if this is really an optional social event, I’d probably shut down my communication about it after my suggestions for venues being rebuffed a couple of times. It might then come up when everyone gets back to the office at 1 PM: “Hey, we didn’t see you at Redneck Ribs & Giblets. Did you get lost?” “Nope, as I’ve mentioned before, there’s nothing I can eat on their menu, so I just hopped over to Rabbit Food Ranch instead.” “Oh–if I’d known you weren’t going with the rest of us, I would have given you these work tasks to do.” “Shame I missed out on that opportunity.” Rinse and repeat next quarter. Unlikely that someone will remember that you don’t attend events at that restaurant if you just don’t bring it up again.

      If they don’t know ahead of time that you’re not coming, they can’t effectively punish you for your nonparticipation. And if it’s not technically mandatory, they will have trouble punishing you after the fact.

    8. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      oh here we go again, being vegetarian is a choice, so OP should suck it up.

      Some people flex it, for these people it’s more of a choice, but then they’ll simply eat the chicken at the usual place.

      For those of us who don’t flex it, no it’s not a choice. For me, a piece of meat is not food but part of a corpse of an animal, I cannot put it in my mouth because it’s extremely off-putting.

      It’s not a religion in that I don’t pray to a god, but I keep to my veggie diet as strictly as the strictest of Jews keeps kosher, and I demand the same respect for my diet as anyone gives to religion.

      1. Sam I Am*

        I do keep kosher, and I’ve been the person sipping a soda while everyone else eats, or eating my homemade sandwich from a Rubbermaid container while everyone else is served a fresh, hot meal. It sucks! And the coworkers are being inconsiderate. But I don’t think anyone in the comments has suggested that vegetarians aren’t sincere in their dietary restrictions or that OP doesn’t deserve to be accommodated. People are just offering potential ways for OP to get some benefit from the situation as it is.

  2. Eye roll*

    Lw1, you have my sympathy. I’ve had to turn down many a free meal with extra time away from the office because it was at some peanuts-on-the-table-shells-on-the-floor type of steakhouse (life-threatening nut allergy). It always sucks to learn your co-workers and bosses don’t actually value you and don’t actually care if they include you. I’ve glad I’ve left those jobs behind me.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      Were these people raised by wolves? I’ve been part of some excruciating restaurant-decision conversations due to people being too polite (“oooh, I don’t care, where do you want to go?” in circles forever), but at least the upside is that when someone does say clearly they don’t want to go somewhere, that place is definitely out.

      I can’t even imagine leaving a coworker behind like that regularly. Might it get annoying to be limited in restaurant choice every time? Maybe (though probably not as annoying as it is for the vegetarian/allergic person themself). But the social rules I’ve been brought up with are so ingrained in me that I couldn’t not follow them. Everyone getting something to eat is one of the most fundamental.

      1. BubbleTea*

        No, they definitely weren’t raised by wolves because wolves also make sure everyone can eat. There’s a hierarchy but no one gets left out.

        1. Caroline+Bowman*

          that’s true, but generally wolves differentiate between what is edible and what isn’t, rather than personal choices. Happily, humans have the ability to make those choices, and it’s really rude not to try and accommodate these.

          What’s not rude, but rather illegal and just plain unacceptably terrible, is excluding someone on the basis of something that is dangerous to them, such as an allergy.

          1. Observer*

            that’s true, but generally wolves differentiate between what is edible and what isn’t, rather than personal choices.

            Well, we don’t know why the OP is vegetarian. And we DO know that for @Eyeroll the issue is NOT a “personal choice.” And framing it as a personal choice is a huge part of the problem.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Hah! I thought of including an apology to wolves (they’re better pack animals than humans, often), but then thought that “here’s a hunk of meat for you!” would probably be considered sufficiently polite in wolf society.

      2. Manners please*

        I thought exactly the same! I remember once we were organising a team lunch and someone floated the idea of Five Guys (burger chain), but then someone pointed out that they fry their chips in peanut oil and someone else on the team had a peanut allergy so we all immediately picked a different option. The person with the allergy insisted that it wasn’t a big deal and they didn’t mind, but none of us were comfortable going to a place where he couldn’t eat.

        1. Hound Dog*

          Five Guys also has open containers of peanuts in their stores. They have big signs in the windows warning about it.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I respect those signs – it’s nice to not have to guess about potential allergy exposure.

            The person with a different food allergy

          2. DJ Abbott*

            The ones around here have stacks of industrial-size bags of peanuts right in the main dining room too.

        2. JustaTech*

          This is the way to do it!
          The closest sit-down restaurant to my work is a Thai place, and when there were people on our team with peanut allergies we just never went to the Thai place as a group, specifically because we didn’t want to risk our coworkers’ health.

          I know it’s easier for me because I work in a big city with a very diverse restaurant scene, but “a place where everyone can eat safely” shouldn’t be that hard.

        3. Zephy*

          Good on the team for accommodating Peanut Allergy. Five Guys has signs all over the place saying ALLERGICS BEWARE, THIS ROOM CONTAINS HELLA PEANUTS, so depending on how severe the allergy was, it might not have mattered that Peanut Allergy “didn’t mind,” just walking into the place might have been a problem for him.

      3. bamcheeks*

        Yes, and also — it’s still work? It’s not your birthday dinner! “Somewhere where everyone can eat” trumps “my absolutely favouritest restaurant where they do the most amazing chicken wings [and nothing else]”.

      4. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Best part: it was our corporate safety guy who frequently did this.

        He was absolutely not raised by wolves as there was no “protect the pack” instinct with that one. What creature is solitary and thinks to CYA first? That’s what raised him.

      5. HoHumDrum*

        Sometimes people perceive vegetarianism as a more optional thing and are less moved to adjust plans for that than they would for other kinds of dietary restriction.

        Which obviously vegetarianism IS optional compared to a nut allergy and not the same, but for many people it’s a deeply held belief and really can’t be put aside casually. I’ve definitely known people to express to me “Ugh, can’t you just eat the chicken today and make things easier? It’s not going to kill you” which no, I cannot and will not do that (which to be fair, some vegetarians are more casual about it and would just eat the chicken). But I’ve had people kind of roll their eyes and suggest vegetarianism is like an annoying choice they aren’t required to cater to vs a real dietary restriction. Especially in meat-dominated areas, IME. I don’t know if that describes LW’s coworkers at all, but it’s possible they don’t really “get” the level to which LW can’t participate, and view it as 100% optional she doesn’t eat with them so they don’t feel it’s on them to find a solution. Just saying that in case LW needs to be more clear and explicit about what the issue is when they push back.

        (not to get gross, but also IME a lot of meat eaters have no idea that if you’ve been veg for a long enough time meat will make you sick, which might be the way to go to gently explain to someone “No, I *really* can’t just eat the chicken”)

        1. Erica*

          Or for that matter, the grilled cheese that has almost certainly been prepared on a grill saturated with pork fat.

        2. doreen*

          I would never say “Can’t you just eat the chicken today” but I have some relatives who sometimes describe themselves as vegan/vegetarian who aren’t consistent. Before every holiday, I have to ask each of them whether they are eating meat at the moment because it might change between Thanksgiving and Christmas or maybe they eat cheese but only on pizza. I can understand if people who only know that sort of vegan/vegetarian do the “Can’t you just eat chicken?” ( IMO, they just shouldn’t call themselves vegan/vegetarian if it changes week to week or depending on the exact dish)

          1. HoHumDrum*

            Ehhh, I disagree with that. Those labels are just a way to easily describe your eating to others and being strict about them fails to understand that purpose.

            I say I’m vegetarian so you understand not to put bacon on my dish. There’s not a word to describe “So technically I’m pescatarian so I can eat fish but no chicken or red meat, but I’m kind of going towards veganism so I’ve stopped eating eggs and cow’s milk but haven’t given up cheese yet”. You wouldn’t want all that information anyways, who would? Just saying “I’m vegetarian” even if that’s not fully accurate is better for us both.

            If your relatives expect you to memorize their current diet needs that’s annoying. But as a vegetarian I know the difference between “Can you eat chicken though?” looking for clarity and “Can’t you just eat the chicken?” dismissing (accidentally or purposely) the vegetarianism. So that’s to say, if you’re ever genuinely just asking someone for clarity on what options are available to them then they should understand and appreciate that, and that’s very valid.

            1. doreen*

              Right, I don’t want or need all that information. But I’m not talking about “I eat fish but not chicken or red meat and cheese but not eggs.” That might not be strict, but it’s consistent. I’m talking about this week it’s no animal products and last week they were eating steak tartare and they might be eating beef again next week, or they won’t eat a meatless lasagne because of the cheese on Sunday but just had pizza with cheese on Saturday. Like I said, I would never say “Can’t you just eat chicken?” but I can understand why people might if they know people like my relatives.

          2. Clobberin’ Time*

            These are relatives who enjoy being catered to. BTDT. I recommend making one fully vegan dish and letting them figure out what they feel like eating, instead of treating you like a personal chef.

            1. Lydia*

              Agreed. The thing about being able to choose for yourself what you want to eat is that sometimes you have to be fully responsible for yourself. Speaking specifically of doreen’s situation, not the situation the OP is in, because that’s just annoying and rude.

          3. Artemesia*

            I well remember the girlfriend of my son years ago who was vegan and so I made sure the table always included several things she could eat and gave her a heads up ahead of time which dishes were ‘safe’ so she could unobtrusively eat what worked for her. Then we went out for dinner and she ordered and ate a hamburger.

            1. Missb*

              Ha! I’m not sure why I find this hilarious but I do.

              My son’s current gf is vegetarian but eats fish, doesn’t eat cheese except goat cheese, eggs are ok but butter isn’t and only drinks oat milk. I will bend over backwards and into a pretzel shape to meet her dietary needs, though I admit it’s challenging!

              I’m doing a large Christmas brunch this year and need to figure out how to make her a German pancake (which she loves) while also making a gluten free (with dairy) one for my SIL and “regular” ones for everyone else. I truly don’t mind.

              But if gf suddenly grabbed a piece of bacon I’d be laughing hysterically.

            2. Lydia*

              Even though there are those *what* moments sometimes, you still were considerate, and she learned something about you. That’s important.

          4. L.Miller*

            You reminded me of a long ago Christmas dinner.
            My brother and sister in law were eating a macrobiotic diet. She made sure I knew , very emphatically.
            I was hosting my fist married Christmas dinner for the in-laws. I made sure I had things the ones on the macrobiotic diet said they could eat.
            But I also made turkey and ham for everyone else.
            Well the pair who requested special dishes just about inhaled the meat!
            That was 40 years ago, so food challenges and serving foods have been around while.
            But I’ve always tried to accommodate over the years anyone who needs something special. I never want to be a bad host.

        3. Caroline+Bowman*

          I view any diet that isn’t medically required, such as for allergies or intolerances, as optional, because they… are?

          Saying that, I think this is besides the point. The OP is part of the team and should be considered when making lunch outing arrangements. There clearly are options that everyone can go for, where everyone can be accommodated. To endlessly not do so, AND to give them no lunch break AND extra work on top is just awful.

          Accommodating people’s reasonable dietary choices is part of what makes a decent society, and one’s work community is part of that. Excluding someone when there plainly are other, fairer choices is flat-out wrong.

          1. HoHumDrum*

            Yes, that’s what I said- vegetarianism IS optional.

            But a lot of meat eaters perceive that as meaning it’s reasonable to expect you to eat meat, or they view it as being an unreasonably picky eater and they don’t feel like they should be expected to acclimate that. Vegetarianism is usually not that level of optional- for me it’s more akin to a religious belief than a diet. Plus after going without meat for my whole life it is very likely to make me physically ill to consume it. But I have had people suggest to me that it is rude of me not to just relax and eat what everyone else is eating. I wonder if that’s the feeling LW’s coworkers have, and perhaps when LW takes Allison’s advice to talk to her coworkers, they may need to clarify more what their limits are.

            1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              People who say you are rude for not breaking a diet that’s akin to your religion are more than rude. I expect the word I need would be censored.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            To your first point, if your body isn’t used to eating meat it can still make you really sick. It won’t for everyone, but I always classify vegetarian as meat intolerant in my head because while some people will have a chicken cheat day, a lot can’t do that.

            But when you’re deep in meat country vegetarianism is rarer and less of an automatic accommodation. Which sucks, and you’re right the team is behaving terribly. But OP might have to be more assertive to get their point across.

            1. ThatGirl*

              I have a friend who’s been vegan for years, and on very rare occasions she will allow herself some dairy cheese (and she usually doesn’t fuss if there are trace amount of dairy milk in like, chocolate) but if she eats more than a tiny bit she absolutely pays for it physically.

          3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            Sure, but eating meat is at least as optional, and a lot of omnivores would object if all group meals were at vegetarian restaurants, maybe especially if it was always the same vegetarian restaurant.

            Almost everyone, whether or not they criticize other people as too picky, has things they won’t eat for non-medical reasons, a lot of which are just “this isn’t what I ate growing up.” Teriyaki-fried crickets, anyone?

          4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            No they are not.
            There are people who flex it, but those of us who don’t, might get sick if we eat meat, because after not eating it for 40 years, I no longer have the wherewithal to digest it properly.
            And meat disgusts me to the point that I’d probably throw up if I ate it by accident. I would try to throw up over the person responsible too.
            It’s like a religion to me. Would you say the same of someone keeping kosher?

        4. RabbitRabbit*

          Yup. As someone who has been vegetarian for decades and only in the last couple of years has slowly added fish (not shellfish), I have accidentally eaten meat like beef broth or chicken broth/fat/meat a number of times over the years and paid for it. It’s not optional for me.

        5. Emmy Noether*

          I can see that (and I’ve heard the “chicken isn’t meat” stories, and known vegetarians who make travel exceptions – which seems a practical choice btw). However, once the LW made it clear that this is a dealbreaker for them, and there’s a way to accomodate it, then that’s the thing to do.

          I have a coworker who won’t go to the (very westernized) Thai place near our work because he finds it too exotic for his palate. So we don’t go there when he’s in office, and only lightly tease him about it. That’s just the way it works.

          1. HoHumDrum*

            Great moments in vegetarian humor: that scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where Tula is telling her aunt that her (non-Greek) fiancé is vegetarian and her aunt responds by looking at them for a long moment then says, “That’s ok. I’ll make him lamb.” lmaooo

            But yes, truly sometimes things that feel very basic to us are very alien to another group, always worth making sure you’ve been as clear and explicit as possible at least once before assuming ill intent. I’ve unfortunately had experience with both- cluelessness and anti-veg sentiment, and I’ve found the cluelessness is both waaaay more common and also often much harder to crack than you’d think, as food is so integral to the fabric of people’s cultural lives they often don’t realize how non-ubiquitous their own food culture may be.

            1. My Cabbages!*

              I still recall with shame when I was younger and made dinner for a vegetarian colleague, only to have him ask “Um, is there anchovy in this sauce?”

              There was, and it hadn’t even crossed my mind that anchovies were actually meat. Poor guy was very gracious about it but I still feel awful.

              1. Relentlessly Socratic*

                I once accidentally fed my vegetarian BFF chicken broth (I was making, I dunno, lentils and automatically cooked with broth). I realized the next day when we were in a supermarket and I saw chicken broth. I stopped dead in my tracks and apologized up and down. Fortunately, she hadn’t been made ill by it and she forgave me. But this was probably 25 years ago and I remember this every time I’m cooking for someone with any food limitations. And I still feel bad about it.

              2. Emmy Noether*

                The travel exceptions I was thinking of above were specifically for Japan, where it’s really hard to know as a tourist what is going to contain real dashi made with fish. (yes, it’s very possible to eat vegetarian in Japan, but you’ll have to specifically choose specialized restaurants). I think “flavor-giving trace ingredients in sauce”, such as anchovies, dashi, meat broth, fish sauce, etc. are probably the most common accidental meat for vegetarians. Followed by gelatin in desserts and lard in pie-type crusts.

            2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              I haven’t seen that film, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t find that scene at all funny. It’s been the story of my life far too often for that.

        6. Lenora Rose*

          Your last paragraph is actually the most essential: if you’ve been a vegetarian long enough, and not an on again-off again vegetarian, it can actually become hard to digest meat. This is less of an issue with visibly meaty dishes, but then a vegetarian might run into the sorts of people who make their vegetable soup with a chicken or beef base figuring no-one will know anyhow, and they’re going to prove it to that annoying person… who then throws up on their boots or spends the day in the bathroom. (And probably never speaks to them again)

        7. Librarian of SHIELD*

          And vegetarianism isn’t always optional. I’ve been reducing the amount of meat in my diet because I have some digestive problems and they tend to be worse when I eat meat. It’s not a true allergy, but it’s not optional either. I haven’t hit full vegetarian yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

        8. MigraineMonth*

          When I first became vegetarian, a friend’s mom asked why I couldn’t just pick the chicken pieces out of the chicken soup. It’s stuck with me for over a decade.

        9. Boof*

          I mean, to a certain extent it doesn’t matter if it’s a physical necessity or just a preference; if a group ALWAYS wants to go to a restaurant one person hates just because they don’t like it, it’s really polite to SOMETIMES let that other person choose. Between always letting the group pick (and then always excluding the one/few people with unusual tastes) vs having some kind of rotation schedule on who picks, I think the latter works much better for socialization/morale.

          1. HoHumDrum*

            I mean ideally yes, but IME sometimes in meat heavy food cultures being vegetarian is perceived as an active choice one makes that’s inherently a bit anti-social in nature and that often changes the mindset around accommodating that. So it’s helpful sometimes to be very clear about your limitations and be clear why- “I really can’t just eat wings with everyone else once a month, it will make me physically ill” is sometimes needed for people to recognize they’re being exclusive.

            1. Boof*

              I suppose, I think trying to choke down any food you really don’t like and/or aren’t used to is a recipe for real physical discomfort / GI distress – I still think just asking it as “I’d really like to go to X restaurant [twice a year] – can we make this happen for [january/july]”? ahead of time might get some more traction

      6. Eye roll*

        Possibly? Lol.

        There were multiple tantrums from two guys about how they could not “downgrade” and have the Friday lunch somewhere “cheaper” than a steakhouse, and this was clearly the best one, and how dare I ruin their job with my new-fangled allergy fad. And management said okay, steakhouse it is.

    2. Biscuit Baker*

      Eye Roll, this an important distinction; you CAN’T safely be surrounded by peanuts, but LW1 COULD safely be surrounded by meat, poultry and fish. They CHOOSE not to eat any of the above – it isn’t a matter of their safety, it’s their choice! Everyone has foods that they CHOOSE not to eat, but that doesn’t mean that they’d wind up in the hospital if they did eat them. Vegetarianism is a valid choice, but it shouldn’t be conflated or confused with food allergies.

      That being said, LW, don’t the restaurants your colleagues choose at least offer salads and side dishes that a vegetarian could enjoy? Perhaps you could eat the protein part of your lunch before or after you all go to the restaurant, and then have a side dish and salad once you’re there.

      And yes, the LW’s colleagues ARE being thoughtless by not at least trying one of the LW’s suggested restaurants. And who knows? If they did try it, they might find that they’ve got a new favorite place for lunch!

      1. Eye roll*

        I mean, sure. I was vegetarian for a few years. When I chose to stop, I was basically in the bathroom for most of the next day every time I added a little meat back into my diet. So, if LW chooses not to do that to themselves for a meal with people who appear to not actually care, that’s probably for the best.

        And plenty of meat-forward restaurants don’t have vegetarian sides. It’s cooked in lard or with broth and there is bacon here and there, or the “salad” is a lettuce leaf and cheese on a plate. If LW says there is nothing she can eat, it’s best to believe there is nothing she can eat.

      2. Nina*

        Vegetarian here.

        I chose not to eat meat because the human race’s current meat consumption habit has dire effects on our ability to continue living on this planet. Also, eating meat now makes me sick for two to three days. It’s more of an intolerance than an allergy or even a choice at this point.

        ‘Can’t you just get a side salad’ is not a good solution because a) workplace lunches shouldn’t be organized in such a way that anyone has to feel like a nuisance or a second-class citizen and b) meat-centric restaurants often/usually do things like putting bacon in salads without mentioning it in the menu and c) everyone can eat vegetarian/vegan food, not everyone can eat meat food, the ‘who should have to be flexible here’ is obvious, and it’s not the vegetarian.

        for what it’s worth, at my workplace we order pizza pretty often, and the order is one (1) meat pizza, and the other three to five veggie of some description. Slightly less than half the office is vegetarian, but we recognize that everyone can eat veggie pizza.

        1. londonedit*

          And I don’t eat meat because I don’t like it. Haven’t eaten any meat for nearly 30 years now. It wouldn’t be fair to, say, force someone who hated mushrooms to go to a restaurant where there were mushrooms in every dish, and then say ‘Oh, come on, it’s not an allergy so why don’t you just eat the mushrooms’. In the same way as it isn’t fair to say to a vegetarian ‘Oh, come on, can’t you just eat the chicken anyway’.

        2. Yellow+Flotsam*

          Personally I’ll put up with food I don’t like that is provided by my employer.

          But I’m not regularly spending my own money on food I don’t like in order to include a colleague who doesn’t want to spend money on food she doesn’t like.

          It’s an informal gathering of colleagues. If you’re heading somewhere I don’t like the food, I’d probably skip, just like the LW is. I’m happy to occasionally do the come and just watch everyone else eat, but I wouldn’t do that regularly.

          So while the LW’s preferred choices might be food that I could consume, if I don’t like it, or don’t like the price – I’d just go to the place that does food I like, alone if necessary.

          I’ve seen plenty of catered work lunches where they decide to do a heap of “dietary requirement friendly food” that isn’t popular – and everyone scatters to find food they like. Sufficient isn’t the only criteria for a meal!

  3. Raida*

    3. I’ve worn the foggy-clear ones, and the larger ones with microneedles. Nobody cares, but they might point out if it’s peeling up at the edges.

    If anyone were to make comments about my acne that wasn’t “Oh do they work well? that’s nice” then I’d just shut them down with “This is the best my skin can get, I’m happy to have a new tool to manage the breakouts I still get. Wish they’d been around as a teen!” and just repeat chirpily and firmly that it’s so good having these new options, they work so well. If someone’s dumb enough to suggest ways I could reduce my acne with diet, exercise, makeup, etc then “Hey yeah look I’m thirty-eight? I know. I’ve tried it. I’ve seen experts. I’m not interested unless you’re a dermatologist. And I don’t want anyone making comments on how bad my face looks right? cool.”
    but that’s because some people are rude :)

    1. StellaBella*

      I have never heard of these patches especially not bandages with micro needles, this is terrifying to me. You are a real badass!

      1. Raw Flour*

        They’re not really “needle” needles, they’re more like an array of tiny silicone points. Personally I didn’t get anything out of them that I don’t already get out of flat hydrocolloid patches, but YMMV. And while I’m not a dermatologist, as a layperson with adult acne I can recommend hydrocolloid patches.

      2. chorolet*

        I’ve used the micropoint patches! They don’t hurt at all, and they work wonders for my cystic acne. Any acne medication applied to the surface of my skin does absolutely nothing for my cystic acne, since the problem is beneath the surface. The micropoints pierce the skin just enough to get the acne medication where it needs to go, but not enough to hurt or draw blood.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Seconding. The micropoints aren’t going to be any different than flat bandages on acne that’s already come to a head, they’re for blind spots and cystic acne.

          1. COHikerGirl*

            Thirding. They have done wonders for my cystic acne as well. I am so glad I have found the patches…between hating how the acne looks and it being painful (at one point in my life, sleeping hurt my face because the cystic acne was so bad and just all over my face…the pillow hurt), the patches are miracles!

    2. Sandgroper*

      I’m not sure about these in most professional settings I’ve worked in Australia. They’d be out of touch in most environments I suspect, and I’m struggling to think of one where it’d be ‘ok’. A big part of this is (after doing some quick google research on them) it seems they only should be worn for six hours, with most recommended for overnight wearing – so why are you wearing them to the office?

      I wouldn’t say anything to a staff member of mine if they wore them (unless they were in a specific role that required a high level of professional appearance, where a pus filled sticker on their face would be inappropriate), but I would question their professional norms in a great many roles. Call centre work? Probably fine. Face to face client meetings with the public or other corporate clients? Questionable. Even in a climate where business casual is the norm? Yeah, no, not really professional even then.

      But it’s my opinion, and others may weigh in differently.

      1. Phryne*

        tmi warning, but the thing about ‘pus filled sticker on their face’ is that the alternative is not ‘nice smooth skin’, but ‘pus filled lump barely covered by skin’… just like the alternative to a band-aid in the face would be open wound in the face. People in face-to-face meetings do not get the option of simply not showing their face, so it is either the patch or the zit.

        Several of these patches are specifically marketed as suitable for wearing under make-up. I’d say a patch blended in with make-up is a lot less eye catching.

        1. Sandgroper*

          Well aware of pimples. Middle aged/PCOS hormonal acne is so much fun. And yes, an exploded zit on the face is unpleasant too, but it’s not likely that these zits are going to explode, and if they do the owner of said zits is likely to wash their face at some point in the day and carry on. How big and how many of these zits are there?!

          Generally though, I’ll stand by what I’ve said.

          I feel that this is skirting “grooming” to some extent. A clean face with zits is one thing, putting stickers on them to draw them out is fairly close to a mini face mask of types, ok so not that extreme, but where’s the line? Blended with makeup is probably ok, but if you can blend them well this question wouldn’t exist right?

          1. Observer*

            but it’s not likely that these zits are going to explode, and if they do the owner of said zits is likely to wash their face at some point in the day and carry on.

            They *probably* won’t explode in the minute, but the longer you wait to treat, the more likely you are to wind up with a nasty sore on your face. Because the pimple won’t just “go away” or be reabsorbed – they will result in what the OP calls a “painful blemish”. And those are generally noticeable and last for days.

            How big and how many of these zits are there?!

            I can’t speak to the OP’s zits, but having worked with someone who has cystic acne, I can tell you that some of these are quite big. And they can leave scarring – very noticeable scarring, in fact.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            I’ve got cystic acne. If I put makeup over them, what’s currently a dime-sized blind spot is going to become a quarter-sized, massively inflamed lump. And it’s never just one spot with cystic acne, it’s just that the majority of mine aren’t on my face proper, so it’s easier to slap a patch on the three or so spots that did develop.

            But, honestly, my trick has always been to put a bandaid over the patch. Still works, doesn’t show the patch, and honestly as clumsy as I am it’s not like there aren’t genuine bandaids to camouflage the patch hiding bandaids.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Okay so you meant putting make up over the patches and not the spots themselves. I don’t have anything to say on that due to the fact that make up = more and worse acne for me.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Seriously. Makeup gives me damn near a rash. It’s not a viable option for many with adult acne.

                1. KoiFeeder*

                  Yeah, my face swells up so much that I can’t open my eyes if I wear makeup, between the fragrances and the fad of putting coconut/almond oils in makeup. And that’s without the added acne!

      2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

        Sometimes you go to sleep without a pimple and wake up with a pimple. You can’t always get ahead of it, and waiting until the next night could mean it taking longer overall to resolve. There’s a point at which the sticker is most effective.

        I usually don’t wear them to the office because I find they get unpleasant under a mask, but zits can be painful, I certainly understand wanting to get rid of them ASAP.

      3. Tupac Coachella*

        I’ve actually asked myself this question, too. I eventually landed with Sandgroper that it’s too close to grooming for me personally to feel comfortable wearing a patch to the office. I wouldn’t say anything if I saw someone else wearing one, but I might perceive it as unprofessional along the same lines of visibly wet hair or forgetting to remove a clothing tag-not a huge deal, but not very put together. However, I have the occasional pimple/breakout, not painful cystic acne or the like. Seeing some of these responses have me rethinking whether there’s anything unprofessional about it at all, since it sounds like getting a patch on may be more of an immediate need for some people to keep their breakouts from getting out of control.

      4. Water Snake*

        ” it seems they only should be worn for six hours, with most recommended for overnight wearing”

        The depends on medicated vs hydrocolloidal. Medicated patches, which is what microneedle patches are, are typically only worn for several hours. A hydrocolloidal patch, which is what the question was about, can be worn for days.

    3. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      One of the many reasons I love Gen Z is that they’re helping shut down the stigma about this. The newer, younger-skewing patches are brightly colored and in fun shapes, like lime green stars. It’s less about trying to blend in with your skin or hide the blemishes and feel ashamed, and more about saying that it’s a necessary health treatment. Plus, it’s fun to have stickers on your face.

      1. curly sue*

        I’m immediately reminded of the 17th & 18th century black velvet beauty patches used to cover smallpox scars. Everything old really is new again!

    4. Bacu1a*

      I’ve worn the foggy clear ones to work pre-COVID and gotten away with it. I also think it was so early in the patches’ popularity that people didn’t know what they were and assumed it was a bandage.

      With the semi-clear ones, it’s harder to tell if it’s sucked anything out. I’ve only worn them during the day on my neck and maybe the lower part of my chin. I’ve never worn one on my forehead during the day, which might be too much for some offices.

    5. aliaranel*

      My acne tends to correlate with the area of my face that is covered by my mask, which I still wear. I have no qualms about wearing a patch under my mask. On the rare occasion when I have acne that isn’t otherwise covered by my face mask, my decision on whether or not to wear a patch depends on how likely I am to touch that spot by accident, and how tender/painful the spot is. I work in banking, which is a fairly conservative industry, and no one has said anything to me on the days I’ve worn a patch on a visible part of my face.

    6. Butterfly Counter*

      I’ve worn the yellow star patches. Ironically, on my skin tone, they are barely noticeable unless the zit is in the center of my face.

      I personally don’t wear them to work. But I do have the kind of job that it wouldn’t be a big deal if I did.

    7. Tib*

      I love those things, they’ve stopped a developing cystic zit dead in it’s tracks. I’ve also seen ones that you can supposedly apply makeup over. I don’t know what you’d use to spackle over the edges, but at least it would hide the icky stuff trapped underneath.

    8. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I’ve had to “call into work ugly” with some horrifying zits on my (then late 40’s) face. Like, that’s not what I want to blow WFH capital on! Now I’m 100% remote, and have been for years, but why is it that a bandage on the face has become equivalent to being the Elephant Man? I’m not here to be pretty at work.

      1. CatWoman*

        I love the matte patches on those bumps that are extremely painful but never come to a head. I find that they really reduce the pain and swelling. Being matte, they also somewhat camouflage the redness/shininess of the zit, making it less noticeable. I don’t see any way that this can be considered unprofessional. I’d rather take the attention away from what’s going on with my skin than have people staring at an angry looking zit that’s waving at them like a dang flag.

    9. MCMonkeyBean*

      I use the hydrocolloid ones sometimes but I also use some thinner medicated ones from Peter Thomas Roth sometimes. Those ones in particular are quite clear, and depending on how red the pimple is sometimes I think it is genuinely less noticeable if I have the patch on as it seems to hide the redness! I mean like if someone is right in your face talking with you one-on-one it’s visible of course, but I really think people just like walking by my desk would not notice at all.

      (Or maybe I’ve just convinced myself of that lol)

  4. Brain the Brian*

    “Since I can’t eat anything on Z’s menu, I’m going to head to X , and then I’ll see everyone back at the office for our 1pm meeting.” Then: “Oh, sorry — someone I knew happened to spot me at X, and I couldn’t turn down the chance to catch up with them for a bit.” Arrive back with *just* enough time to make the meeting — no earlier.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      Yes, or they don’t even have to bring up that they were somewhere else. “I’m going to out lunch, too,” so they don’t get the tasks. They don’t have to say they’re not going to the same place as everyone else. I doubt anyone will notice if LW just goes to a different restaurant that has food they can eat since they’re not ever at the restaurant everyone else goes to in the first place.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I was picturing this said to coworkers, but yes, no need to inform one’s manager about a lunch destination.

    2. EPLawyer*

      that was my thought. Since, according to the manager, it is not a formal lunch thing, then OP is free to take her 90 minute lunch elsewhere. It does not seem to be a requirement that ONLY going with the group gets the 90 minute lunch.

    3. cottagechick73*

      I also thought something along those lines. Walk with the coworkers out the door as they leave for lunch and then do your own thing until its time for the next meeting. No announcements or excuse making.

  5. Raida*

    1. “and I’ve had to work through that full hour and a half (including my actual lunch) to complete them in time for the meeting. ”

    Sorry, but no. You say “Hah, I’m not going out to lunch. I am still *having lunch* ~chuckle~, which part of this is necessary for the 1pm? This is really last-minute, but I’ll see what I can do and prioritise that.”
    and of course “Alright well that was not enough lead time, we’re just lucky today I had a little time. In future I’d say two day’s notice to slot it into my calendar. That sound good to you? Great.”
    Do not work through your lunch. Especially for last-minute ideas that “Oh LW can do it, they’re here.” You’re AREN’T AVAILABLE. You are available for a small amount of time, and will not be rushed or stressed by someone else’s assumption it’ll just magically “get done” while they are at lunch.

    Cultivate that mindset LW

    1. Hekko*

      Right. Who was going to complete the task if everyone went to the long lunch? Was it always an intention to sacrifice someone’s lunch to have it done before the meeting? Or did some manager fail to plan to issue the task to some with enough time to actually do it?

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        In most companies it would be the manager who should be writing the agenda, creating materials to hand out etc for a monthly team meeting (and I think this must be the case here since it doesn’t seem like OP has to be the one to do it because of OPs role, just about availability). It seems to me that the manager has been slacking about this responsibility and is offloading work that isn’t even OPs to do, while the manager goes to lunch…

        I wonder if there are other elements of the manager’s role that she is slacking on as well.

        If the vegetarian diet is due to anything that’s a disability or religious belief etc the company could be in hot water here.

        The devil on my shoulder suggests declining the monthly team meeting since she doesn’t appear to be part of the team… that would be petty and passive aggressive though :) but it does seem to be a symptom of not being valued in the team as much as the others, because if she was the manager would take care of it. I wonder if OP is a bit of an “outsider” to this team in general.

        1. Allonge*

          In most companies it would be the manager who should be writing the agenda, creating materials to hand out etc for a monthly team meeting

          This totally depends on the meeting and the company setup and not universally true. We have plenty of meetings where the agenda is prepared based on contributions from the whole team and put together by an administrative assistant.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      They are being asked to prepare stuff for the afternoon’s meeting, so it is immediately time sensitive; it is very bizarre though. What would they do about these tasks if one day OP said “Actually, I could go for one of those grilled cheeses today?” I’m tempted to wonder if the tasks are either a management job she’s shifting on to him so she can kick back with the team, or if she’s punishing OP for being anti social. It’s completely amazing how often people think dietary requirements are anti social.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It wasn’t clear if the tasks are related to the all hands meeting, in that they are “generated” by that meeting and couldn’t be done in advance as they rely on information in the prior meeting. If OP is reading perhaps she can clarify?

        My other suggestion is to propose moving the team meeting to some later time.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        Better yet, what if OP wasn’t actually in work that day, removing the possibility of “Can you stay and do this instead, please?” Would manager do it herself in that situation or try and get someone else to stay?

    3. Susie*

      I felt a rush of anger reading that letter. OP has to make the agenda and print all the materials and doesn’t even get their normal 30 minute lunch? Nah, nope, hard no.

      If it was me, I’d duck out as early as possible for the next lunch and not be in the building to get assigned work. If asked, say you went to lunch, because that’s what you did.

      Your coworkers suck. We have people with dietary restrictions or preferences such as vegetarianism and you best bet when we order in, we order for them, too.

    4. Observer*

      Do not work through your lunch. Especially for last-minute ideas that “Oh LW can do it, they’re here.” You’re AREN’T AVAILABLE.

      This. 1,000 x 100%

  6. another allergy person that cant eat most things*

    LW1, you don’t even have to say where you are going for lunch… just leave when everybody is leaving and come back around the time other ppl arrive. If you are early, sit in your car and listen to music until ppl start arriving.

    If at all anyone asks, you mention “I’d love to join you all, the only thing that I can eat is kids grilled cheese so I ‘have to’ go elsewhere.”

    1. lostclone*

      LW3 – I believe there are pimple patches you can successfully wear under makeup. My sister certainly manages it, although apparently it took a bit of trial and error!

    2. Colette*

      This is bad advice.

      The team is being given more time for lunch because they are teambuilding, and the normal practice is that if there is a teambuilding event you aren’t going to, you have to work instead. So the OP should take her actual lunch, but she shouldn’t take the longer lunch.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I’d say it’s less official “team building” than just a team being social. If they were discussing work issues, that would be different, but this sounds like a fun lunch that they are excluding OP1 from.

        And, second, how would they know? If they’re gone for 90 minutes and she’s gone for 88 (giving a minute on either side), who are they to complain? And if they do, it’s a great time to let them know that they should all then go to the restaurant with full vegetarian meal options from then on.

        1. Colette*

          Although it’s not “official” teambuilding, they are getting the extra time because they are teambuilding.

          They’d know because the OP won’t show up at the restaurant, where the rest of the team is. It’s a very obvious way to cause problems for yourself.

          1. Butterfly Counter*

            Again, unless it’s officially considered team building, you can’t have different standards for who gets the time off, especially when you’re specifically excluding someone based on diet.

            I imagine the conversation going: “Are you coming to lunch OP1? We’re going to the Chicken Shack again!”
            OP1: “I will be going to lunch, yes.”

            They’d notice she’s not at THEIR lunch, but wouldn’t necessarily know that she wasn’t working the whole 90 minutes they were gone. If they made a stink that she wasn’t working for 90 minutes, she should make a stink right back about them excluding her AND not giving her a lunch break.

            Then, they could face their own favoritism and specifically spell out that they are punishing OP1 for not eating meat or they will pick a different gd restaurant next time.

            1. Colette*

              That’s not how the world works.

              Yes, she should get a lunch break – but she can’t unilaterally decide that it’s OK to take 3 times as long for lunch because others are doing so. And if her manager, who is expecting her to deliver work during that time, notices she’s not working at all while also not going to the lunch, that’s not going to work out well for the OP.

            2. Allonge*

              I would not do this. There may well be people who go to the lunch / teambuilding who would prefer an hour off! It’s more of a work thing than not.

              OP should of course be able to have lunch.

            3. Lenora Rose*

              I wouldn’t do this because of the risk of retaliation, and the greater risk any retaliation is seen as justified, but I also: would be inclined to remind her that I do get my REGULAR Lunch, and am not available to rush through 90 minutes of work in 60 minutes, and point out to my manager at least that this constant exclusion is probably detrimental to my career path, and ask her to find alternative ways to manage inclusion that don’t involve upending my entire diet.

              I am of the opinion that even being included twice in a year would go a long way to helping OP feel less resentment, but the firm “I can’t work through my lunch” should be a hard line.

  7. pcake*

    No. 1 – as a long-time vegetarian, in restaurants I have things like a baked potato with the toppings I like and a vegetable or a salad. Or a breakfast – scrambled egg beaters or eggs, hash browns and fruit. Other things found in regular restaurants include pizza or pasta with no meat, a cheese sandwich with fruit, a bean and cheese burrito (or better still, a cheese enchilada!). Steak houses often have a salad bar with filling foods (although not, last I checked, Outback).

    If these don’t feel like a full meal, they’re still filling and tasty, and they’d let you eat with the team without starving or sitting there with just a drink.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      While I appreciate that you’re just trying to give them some ideas, I’m pretty sure that OP1 can read a menu and, like most of us vegetarians, is quite experienced at cobbling together a meal based on what side dishes are available. If they say there’s nothing for them to eat at a given restaurant, I believe them.

      To me, it almost sounds like the team is passive-aggressively punishing them for daring to be vegetarian in meat country…

      1. Anonariffic*

        Yeah, I’m having flashbacks to walking into one of those hole in the wall specialty BBQ shacks with some of my coworkers- I’d checked the menu in advance and thought I could make a good meal out of side dishes, only to discover that every single vegetable in the building had been cooked with bacon and/or lard. The only thing on the entire menu that I could eat was the mac and cheese.

        Fortunately I worked with decent human beings who had no problem turning around and going to the diner down the block instead. LW1’s coworkers and manager are the real problem here, not the lack of dining options.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Yep. BBQ places & seafood restaurants can be the worst for vegetarians. Especially in meat country.

          I live in a pretty veg-friendly area, & I’ve been forced to eat crappy Mac & cheese from a box at a BBQ place. (We went for a team appreciation lunch. Didn’t feel that appreciated.)

        2. Cohort 1*

          I once neglected to bring my stash of nuts and raisins with me on a flight from London to LA. It was amazing. There wasn’t one available food from the airline that didn’t have some form of dairy in it, even the crackers. That was one very long and very hungry day. Believe me when I say that an airplane ride is not the place to go with, “Well there’s just a tiny amount of cheese/milk/yogurt/sour cream in it. It’ll probably be OK.”

      2. Green beans*

        Or they just like the BBQ chicken place and haven’t thought much about it beyond that.

        You don’t think about dietary restrictions until you’re managing them (and living with the consequences.) My work keeps on getting gluten free baked goods but never checks if the gf flour includes corn or nuts, both of which I’m allergic to, so I never eat them. And I think I’m the only gf person onsite. They also just completely forgot about gf stuff at the last onsite meal (except for, again, the baked goods for dessert) and when I asked, I was told “well X dish is probably your best bet” when X dish was one that commonly used flour for a thickener – it just didn’t have bread or pasta in it. The one time I requested a specific food item for the kitchen, they switched it out for a cheaper brand that I can’t eat.

        None of it is malicious. This is actually the most accommodating company I’ve ever worked at. We have a dedicated gf appliance and they stock a few snacks I can eat, including buying my preferred flavor for one. They have a list of my food allergies that they asked for during onboarding. They’re fairly consistent at providing good vegan/veg/nut-free options.

        But they still screw up regularly because the people who order food aren’t managing complex dietary needs. They don’t think about it every day and they definitely do not understand the intricate ins and outs for the things that aren’t super common. (And while I probably could sit down and educate them more, I just don’t care enough to. There’s usually a few different snacks I can eat; everyone knows that I need to check menus before I head out to restaurants; and I can always bring food from home.)

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          I agree that unless you’ve managed complex dietary needs you don’t get it. I have a family member who struggles as they have a couple of allergies and the most common substitute for one of them is their second allergy!
          However I don’t think being vegetarian is a complex dietary need. The fact that LW cannot join the team or eat anything and they go anyway regardless? And then their boss piles on them?
          They’re just selfish and actually quite rude to LW. OP definitely go and take your own lunch – even if it’s a take out sandwich or something from home.

          1. Green beans*

            They may not realize the OP is saying no because they can only eat a grilled cheese (which is a pretty normal lunch!) Or they may not realize OP can only eat a grilled cheese. If it’s a truly meat heavy culture/region, people can be surprisingly unfamiliar with vegetarianism and may not think about lard in the beans, bacon in the green beans, etc., etc. Just like when people order gf pizzas from the nice pizza shops – I’m sure as heck not eating anything from a place that throws flour in the air but they’re just thinking oh the pizza is gluten free so it’s safe.

            Now, if the OP has spelled out that they can only eat a kid’s grilled cheese sandwich and they would prefer to go somewhere with more options, and indeed here is an option OP is suggesting right then, then yes, coworkers are selfish and rude. As it is, I think they’re just unfamiliar and thoughtless about dietary restrictions (and honestly the vast majority of people are.)

            1. Emmy Noether*

              But if someone suggests restaurants they would eat and then opts out when you choose another one, you’d have to be pretty dang obtuse to not realize the restaurant you chose is probably a problem. Ditto if you see a coworker nursing a soda with no food and looking grumpy. I could see it happen once or twice due to miscommunication, but this has been happening several times.

              I do think OP should spell it out explicitly once to be really clear. There is a chance that these people are in fact just obtuse, or at least polite enough that they won’t openly and explicitly exclude someone.

              1. londonedit*

                I agree that people don’t understand the ins and outs of dietary requirements unless they’re used to dealing with them – I mentioned this on another post the other day, but my sister can’t eat gluten and dairy and people frequently do the ‘I made sure we had something you could eat – this says it’s vegan!’ thing and forget about the gluten, or vice versa. Frustratingly a lot of supermarket ‘free from’ ranges also do this – Marks & Spencer is one of the worst for having things in their ‘free from’ range that might be free from gluten but are made with butter, or that are free from milk but not wheat. So you have to check the packaging quite carefully, and if someone isn’t used to doing that they might just spot the ‘free from’ range, think brilliant that’ll be anyone with an allergy sorted, and buy stuff that doesn’t actually work for their guests’ specific requirements.

                I do think the OP should make sure that they’re clear on why they’re not going to lunch, though – if they haven’t already, they need to say ‘There is nothing on the menu at X that I can eat. If we can’t go to a restaurant that has something vegetarian on the menu, I won’t be able to join you’. And if they still insist on going to X, then the OP needs to start going out to get their own lunch so that they’re not available to do all the work while everyone else is out. Or, it might not be the most fun, but my sister is pretty adept at making sure she has enough emergency snacks and things she *can* eat (here in the UK the vast majority of pubs/cafes/restaurants have things on the menu for veggie/vegan, gluten free etc and the law is very hot on listing allergens on menus and packaging, but she can never be 100% sure there’ll be something she can eat) so what she’d probably do would be to explain there was nothing she could eat on the menu, then eat her own snacks beforehand/on the way, and go along to the restaurant and maybe just have a drink and a portion of chips or whatever.

              2. XF1013*

                I’m curious how many individuals in the lunch group realize that LW1 can’t eat there and feel bad, but don’t speak up because they don’t want to rock the boat. Groups can take on a momentum of their own, especially if there’s a loudmouth who pressures people to conform.

                LW1, are there one or two people within the group to whom you feel close? Perhaps you could remind them of your problem and invite them to eat elsewhere, away from the larger group.

            2. Sally*

              I’ve run into a large number of people who think that “meat” is beef and maybe pork, but that chicken is OK because it’s not “meat.” Uh, no.

              1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                I’ve noticed that for some Americans “vegetarian” means “someone who eats vegetables”, so they’ll heap veg on my plate, but can’t help but add some chicken too because… because they don’t count it as meat somehow?
                I actually saw “chicken supreme with veg” under the heading “vegetarian option” at a conference (at which point I decided not to go).

        2. Sandgroper*

          All of this, and then even if they get it all right… it’s amazing how often caterers screw up and there’s absolutely NOTHING that can be done in the moment. Then it’s a stand off of ‘well what can I eat’… I’ve been served a slice of tomato on a plate before. Yeah. Gluten free, awesome.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I went to a fancy conference at a hotel and when I told the catering staff I was vegan (which I had included on the form when booking, as requested) they went into a flap. Eventually I was served a bowl of undressed salad leaves with a single cherry tomato.

            I complained, and the next day the hotel chef came to talk to me. He was horrified because they had a full vegan menu and if someone had called down to the restaurant I could have had a proper meal. I got a delicious curry the second day!

            1. doreen*

              I don’t expect anyone to know the answer, but I’ve seen so many accounts where someone is served an undressed salad and I just don’t understand how a hotel/restaurant/catering venue has nothing to dress the salad with, especially when the other meals probably include a salad. It almost seems to be deliberate.

              1. Green beans*

                If they don’t have the ingredients list for the dressing, they likely just won’t serve it to people with a restricted diet. It’s not about having dressing or not – it’s does the specific dressing they have meet the dietary restrictions? You can’t tell by looking; you have to have the ingredients list.

                1. doreen*

                  That will be an issue with pre-made dressings, but I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant/catering venue that couldn’t provide cruets of oil and vinegar to dress a salad.

            2. Artemesia*

              Hotels are good at this. I had someone at a conference I was running who was vegan and then couldn’t eat the vegan meal they were served because it contained something else they couldn’t eat (beans as I recall). The hotel had frozen entries they could pull out and microwave and we were able to serve her a meal she could eat. The chef told me they had gluten free, vegetarian and vegan entries they could produce in situations where the regular choices didn’t work.

            3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

              That’s even worse than when I was at the company annual meeting and was served cold, undercooked omelette because they’d forgotten to cater for vegetarians. The others had some lovely side veg, like a gratin dauphinois, and ratatouille, and I would have gladly eaten that without the meat and gravy all over, but no, they had to punish me. The French colleagues all just shrugged, but the Dutch people were really shocked
              The next year, we were in the Netherlands for the meeting, and I was served such a wonderful meal I even took photos. The starter was a gorgeous salad with blue cheese ice cream, and it just got better and better.
              French gastronomy 0, Dutch 10.

        3. Aggretsuko*

          Right. I don’t have food allergies, but I have a few friends with them and I know darned well (as a non-foodie, non-cooking person) I’d screw up if I tried to make them a meal item, probably because I don’t know the secret code words for “has animal product in it” or “has dairy in it even though that looks like it’s dairy free.” I only get them products off godairyfree or the Trader Joe’s vegan-certified list, stuff like that.

          If I had food allergies, I would not trust my work to provide safe food for me unless someone else there had the same exact problem. Period. I’d have to figure out ahead of time what restaurants would be safe, at best.

      3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        I’ve been to those places and the problem is not so much eating just the sides as being surrounded by lots of meat. There is the sight, smell and sounds of watching others consume large amounts of meat with the piles of bones that can be unappetizing as well.

            1. MK*

              Places that aren’t entirely mear-based will still have a lot of meat and people eating it around you, so I am not sure how that would help.

              1. sb51*

                Some types of BBQ (and seafood) places are really heavy on the “dissection of entire animal carcasses by hand at the table”. It doesn’t bother me (as a lifelong vegetarian) but it is absolutely way more “meat in your face” even if you’re not eating it than most places; I know meat-eaters who don’t find that sort of place comfortable because they don’t like that strong of a visceral reminder that meat is meat. It’s not “people eating slabs of food with knife and fork” that happen to be meat.

        1. Port*

          Yeah, keeping kosher I’ve come to realize I have been using a “bacon quotient” in my head when I go to a place. If the menu has way too much bacon on it, I tend not to eat there/come back. Because it’s unappetizing to be around and also I get twitchy about contamination. (I realize this is not a frum version of keeping kosher.)

          1. curly sue*

            I do the same, honestly. And there have been many occasions where it’s just been simpler to call myself vegetarian than to open the giant can of worms that is explaining kashrut. Because no-one ever just says “oh, okay, let’s go here instead,” unless they’re already Jewish or have Jewish family.

            Instead I have to brace for an interrogation on kashrut, and how it works, and whether that means I can’t eat *near* pigs, or do I know that my jeans are likely made of mixed fibres (with a snicker at ‘catching me out’ on something they learned from a Buzzfeed-style list of ‘wacky Old Testament rules’) and how can I say I keep kosher when I’m obviously a religious hypocrite, and on and on.

            So, to reference another thread here today, some self-professed ‘vegetarians’ who bring chicken sandwiches for their own lunches are probably just trying to avoid having those conversations again (and again, and again).

            1. Talvi*

              This is exactly what I do, too. It’s much simpler to just say I’m vegetarian than explain the precise level of kashrut that I observe. (Will I happily eat kosher chicken or beef? Yes! Do I live in an area with exactly 0 kosher restaurants (and 0 kosher butchers, for that matter)? Also yes. “Vegetarian” covers the bases.)

            2. Aggretsuko*

              This reminds me of a former coworker of mine (Muslim) who said, “I’m vegetarian but I eat meat,” and we cracked up laughing. She meant halal meat, of course, but that sounded hilarious.

      4. Erica*

        Having flashbacks to a long late night drive across South Florida. I wanted to stop at Starbucks (shoutout to Starbucks for reliably having something vegetarian!) but I was overruled and we ended up at Boston Market. I thought “oh I’ll just order sides of vegetables” but… all of them were soaked in grease, and cooked to the consistency of mush, as if they were somehow being punished for the crime of not being chicken. No salad, nothing fresh. Technically they were vegetarian options, but so unappealing and unhealthy, I just said I’d wait till Tampa to eat. “Meat country” is a thing.

        1. whingedrinking*

          No kidding. I have a friend I’ve known for twenty years, and until about five years ago she was a vegetarian without a driver’s license. Then she relocated to a smaller town in a more conservative part of the country, and within months she’d bought a car and started eating meat, because life was basically impossible otherwise.

      5. pcake*

        While I realize the OP can read a menu, I’ve been surprised by the number of my friends who are vegetarian and feel sad or resentful to the extent that they aren’t willing to try anything or sometimes don’t even look at the menu.

        The coworkers may well be jerks – it definitely sounds like they are – and if I didn’t want to hang out with them, I’d have told them I’m going out to lunch and gone. But just wanted to throw it out there in case…

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          If by “try anything” you mean “try something that might have meat in”, no way.

          I do look at the menu, I turn it upside down and inside out but sometimes, there’s just nothing I can eat. And you can get sick of always asking for a dish “but leave the bacon off”, or trying to get creative by combining starters and sides until you reach an amount that won’t leave me hungry.

          And an interesting side note: I’ve noticed that at the restaurants where there are real, tasty, nutritious veggie options among the main dishes, the people with me who order meat and fish really really enjoy their meal too, like everyone’s scraped every last crumb and soaked up every last drop of sauce with their bread and you barely need to put the plate in the dishwasher for it to look clean.

    2. Kella*

      Commenters are generally expected to take the letter writers at their word, so we’re offering advice from the assumption that the restaurants these lunches are being held at don’t have vegetarian options for OP 1.

    3. John Smith*

      I don’t know wht it’s like in the US, but in the UK, most independant restaurants I’ve been to will happily knock something up for you that’s not on the menu if you ask nicely (and flash a fiver as a tip). Maybe call ahead and ask if a veggie option could be made? Otherwise, as others have said, just leave work and return when everyone else does – no explanation required.

      1. Green beans*

        A BBQ chicken place may not have anything vegetarian to make. But yeah, you can always call ahead and politely ask if they could make a veg meal for you! (If they have grilled cheese, that’s at least a start. You can make a pretty nice grilled cheese lunch.)

        1. BubbleTea*

          I’d be pretty uncomfortable asking for something off menu at a meat restaurant. I’d be fairly certain they’d cooked it on things that are normally used for meat and I wouldn’t be able to eat it (psychologically). Somewhere that routinely does veggie food will have a separate prep area.

      2. Tau*

        In all honesty, I’d be temped not to call ahead. Have that negotiation at the restaurant in front of all your coworkers. Make it awkward for them. Really drive home the fact that they have insisted on going somewhere where you can’t eat anything. Make them watch you leave if the answer is nope, there’s nothing you can eat. At the moment OP is courteously absenting herself so they don’t have to see the consequences of their decisions and face the fact that they’re excluding a teammate. But I’m vegetarian myself who hasn’t had to deal with this as I live in a very veggie friendly place, and I am incensed on OP’s behalf.

        1. Perfectly Particular*

          For a vegetarian in meat country, there is a high risk that this would just make the coworkers roll their eyes and label her as difficult/attention-seeking. This may also be why there is no consideration given for places with veggie options. (But seriously – how hard would it be to go to a pasta place every now and again?).

          Calling ahead or bringing her own lunch without making a fuss about it will be the safest way for OP to get the social benefit, not have extra work dumped on her, and not be further alienated.

          1. Lizard*

            This. Making a scene at the restaurant is highly likely to backfire against OP & just isn’t the best way to handle this. Bringing a lunch, or eating something before would work better… so would discussing what’s up with the consistent lunch choices with individual members of their team before the group heads out. If the boss doesn’t care, it might be easier to chip away at the resistence 1:1 with friendly co-workers.

        2. BethDH*

          A lot of BBQ restaurants in my area you order (and pay) at the counter then someone delivers them to your table. That was honestly what made them so good for groups!
          Of course, we did find ones that had lots of vegetarian options. It was North Carolina, so there were ones that cooked everything in pork fat, but there were also plenty that had jackfruit barbecue and some vegetarian sides, plus of course biscuits and hush puppies — still a limited selection compared to meat eaters, but at least the vegetarians and those with restrictions against pork had options that weren’t totally othering.

        3. Hound Dog*

          Yeah, it’s pretty obvious you’ve never been a vegetarian in Meat Country. This approach will get you labeled as a troublemaker, another uppity vegetarian, a holier than thou upstart, etc etc etc. The odds of her coworkers being uncomfortable are slim to none. The odds of them further ostracizing her are about 98%.

          1. Bunny Girl*

            Even I think it’s pretty holier than thou and I’ve been a vegetarian for 15 years. Some places don’t serve vegetarian friendly meals. It’s just a fact. They aren’t doing it at you. Some regions just aren’t vegetarian friendly. It’s annoying and can make eating out difficult. But it’s just a thing, you know? You don’t need to be a jerk about it.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Yep. Shoot, some cuisines aren’t amenable. I’ve struggled with this in very traditional Chinese restaurants (i.e. not catering to USians). Dried pork, oyster sauce, dried shrimp, are considered spices, not meats, so if there is nothing “Buddist” or “Monk’s” on the menu I’m eating a bowl of rice.

            2. Becca*

              The restaurant may not be doing it at them, but the coworkers always choosing places OP can’t eat certainly seem to be. If clarifying works, then great! But though it’s not my style being a jerk to people being jerks to you isn’t holier than thou (the restaurant could get caught in the crossfire if it’s actually done in a jerky way, but I was more imagining OP being pleasant to them but in a way that’s passive aggressive to the coworkers).
              That said, I agree that it’s more likely to be further alienating than to help.

      3. Sandgroper*

        I’ve found this approach works well. I’m a coeliac (no gluten) and anaphylactic to sesame… ringing a head is the norm because a lot of places use sesame dukka or oil in dishes, it’s amazing where you find it! Toss in the ‘it’s not a fad, it’s actual coeliac’ and suddenly kitchens pay attention and help you wade through the menu/prepare something properly. Ringing ahead for large group meals makes a huge difference to their willingness to help. If you lob in at the last minute with something they don’t have time to prepare, but if you give them a heads up (something that sounds very likely with this situation) they can prepare ahead of time for you when they aren’t busy.

      4. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. A former coworker of mine is vegan and anytime we went to a restaurant as a group, she would check the menu ahead of time. If she didn’t see anything she could eat, she’d either call ahead or tell them she’s vegan when she got there. The restaurant would always make up a special vegan meal that wasn’t on the menu.

      5. sb51*

        There are absolutely still parts of the US that are “meat country”. And in meat country, if you ask for something vegetarian at a chicken BBQ place, you will often just get a confused look and “we have…chicken?” because a lot of people still think “vegetarian” = fish or chicken is fine. (No, I don’t get it either.)

        Also if you’re in meat country, the odds that your coworkers will be asses about vegetarianism are much, much higher, unfortunately. Even just ordering a vegetarian option at a meat-centric place that HAS a vegetarian option can be met with scorn or just general “why on earth would you do that to yourself?” curiosity, which even when well-meant is exhausting. And ordering anything special is seen as rude.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Chicago got its start as meat country (and don’t get me wrong, we still love our meat) but as a large city, there are also a lot of vegetarian, vegan and other specialized diet options available.

          Which is why it made me laugh that for YEARS, at local hot dog chain Portillo’s, the fish sandwich was listed under “vegetarian options”.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            That’s because what they really meant was “appropriate for Lent.” – Signed, Vegetarian & Lapsed Catholic

            1. This Old House*

              In my experience, Catholics just don’t categorize fish as “meat.” Even my mostly non-practicing family, who were always fine with accommodating my vegetarian friend’s diet, and went out of their way to have good vegetarian options available for him, had to ask over and over “Do you eat fish?” He was baffled that they had to ask when they KNEW he was vegetarian, and they just, somewhere deep in their brains, did not have “fish” under the category of “meat.”

        2. Syzygy*

          That’s happened to me! I was once taken to a barbecue place in Texas for a business dinner with a group. I’m a vegetarian. There was a limited menu and literally nothing for me to eat except white bread. Even the pies for dessert were made with lard. (And yes, when I asked if there was anything vegetarian at all, I was told ‘chicken!’)
          The local host was embarrassed because he’d never considered that not everyone eats meat. I told him that it was worth it for the company and the experience (which it was, as a one time thing! It was a very colorful local place. And I knew I could get room service once I was back in my hotel!)

    4. Lizzianna*

      This is really regional.

      I live in California near the coast, and can figure out something to eat just about everywhere.

      It gets substantially harder when I get into more rural parts of the state. I remember a BBQ restaurant where all the sides were cooked with bacon and/or made with chicken or beef stock. Literally, the only thing I could eat was a salad with the meat taken off. It was sad iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, and ranch dressing.

      I can usually find something at a diner (if I’m willing to ignore that anything from the grill was probably cooked in bacon grease) or Mexican places, but more traditional restaurants look at me like I have two heads when I try to figure out what I can eat.

    5. Observer*

      as a long-time vegetarian, in restaurants I have things like a baked potato with the toppings I like and a vegetable or a salad

      This is one of the most unexpected and strange responses that I’ve seen so far.

      The OP is a competent adult who explicitly says that they can’t find something other than soda or sometimes a “kids’ grilled cheese”. I am sure that if the places people have been choosing had these options, they would have explored them.

      What makes you assume that they haven’t?

  8. YesImTheAskewPolice*

    LW1, that sounds annoying! Maybe the others don’t fully realize that you consistently can’t attend, and spelling out how the lunches always ended up at restaurant B for x times now and you couldn’t attend might help?

    If that doesn’t work, might it be possible to join (and announce your intentions beforehand) the others after your own 30 min lunch for dessert? That way you could still socialize and would not be available for other tasks as well.

  9. Ellis Bell*

    OP I’d probably do one of the following if a chat doesn’t get you anywhere: 1) Bring your own food. As someone else with dietary requirements, I’m pretty sure you’ve already thought of this and probably felt pretty awkward (and resentful) about doing it and “making a fuss”. I think you should be a bit more pointed though, and you can pull it off if you do so cheerfully. Call the restaurant ahead of time, and if they’re reluctant, agree to order a fancy drink or dessert to go with what you bring. You’re then in the position of saying to staff: “Oh yeah, there’s nothing here on the main menu I can order, but I’m looking forward to the souffle.” Just say that cheerfully while it sinks in with the more aware that they’re not providing you with the right restaurants. Let the restaurant be aware that vegetarians exist too! The number two option would be to show up, claim a seat at the restaurant and look at the menu, shake your head and say: “I’ll be back, I just want to grab some real protein and I’ll be back for a drink” You could do this before eating, or after eating one of the starter size options they give vegetarians. Good luck with your manager though, she sounds like a dud.

    1. Green beans*

      Must restaurants don’t let you bring your own food in the USA and I think actually can’t from a health code perspective.

      There’s nuance to this – most don’t care if you bring in food for your child. I’ve snuck chips into a Mexican restaurant. However, most will care a lot if you bring in a whole lunch.

        1. Cmdrshpard*

          Partially regional, but there is also what is against health code, or things you are supposed to do for health code, and then there is things that actually happen.

          So even in places where you have done it/seen it it might have been against the health code, but they did it anyways. Or staff person 1 is fine with it and allows it’s bit staff person.m 2 does not.

        2. doreen*

          Probably not regional but it might depend on circumstances. For example, they may allow it for one person in a party of twenty but not a party of four. Or they may allow it if some of the group are regular customers but not for a group they’ve never seen before. It’s not something I’d count on.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        You can’t do it in the UK either, but it can be powerful to say: “Ok, what do you offer (dietary requirement) that is a full meal and not just a granola bar” and if they say “nothing” or “salad” you say “OK, my team is meeting here so I’m bringing x; I can cover wait service/avoid nuts/just work with me here”. It’s not foolproof but you’d have to be pretty poor on customer relations to say no.

      2. Rosemary*

        My former coworker kept kosher and would always bring a kosher meal with her to team meals – she never, ever had a problem. Most restaurants are fine if it is due to a dietary reason vs. just wanting to eat something else/not liking what is on the menu. That said, if the restaurant does in fact have some vegetarian options (even if very few/not appealing to LW) there may be more of an issue – because that falls more into the territory of just not liking the options.

      3. squid*

        Most places say that it’s not allowed, but in my experience they’ve never kicked us out for just bringing something in and doing it anyway so long as everyone else in the group is eating. My youngest brother had a severe allergy as a kid which meant he could essentially never eat any restaurant or packaged food and no amount of calling ahead would have helped (it was corn, which is… in everything and often labeled under words that the average person will not recognize).

        We always had to bring him a small meal and after explaining that he had dietary restrictions that prevented him from eating anything there, nobody ever actually complained. (It’s not like it would have meant they’d make more money, it would have meant our entire group would have to leave.) We even got away with bringing him his own snacks to movie theaters because there wouldn’t be anything he could have.

        The only time we ever had a problem was a home ec teacher in school who got unreasonably upset that he could not eat anything they made in class and tried to lower his grade for not being able to taste what he was making. (This did not go well for her.)

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      As another vegetarian, I agree that showing up and making things a little bit awkward is the best way to lightly shame people into changing. If OP really wants to be a part of these lunches, they should go and eat a side/drink and cheerfully say “Well there’s nothing else here I can eat but I wanted to spend time with you all”. Bonus points for coming back to the office and eating a packed lunch after, again visibly – “Since we went to Meat Palace, I have to eat something after since there’s nothing for me to eat there”. I’ve done this with work lunches and personal friend things and IMO it is much more effective than just not going.

      Just being very honest, OP’s presence (or lack thereof) is just not a problem for the coworkers. They don’t have to cater to OP because OP isn’t there. It is literally out of sight, out of mind. If OP wants to be a part of these lunches, showing up and not eating will make a bigger statement than not going at all.
      It is extremely awkward to sit next to someone who is not eating, especially if they are aggressively pleasant about how they are excited to be a part of the lunch and how it’s nice to be included. Even if there are a few assholes who don’t care, it will likely stick out to at least a few people who can stick up for OP in picking a place with better vegetarian options. I stress that OP should be friendly and not bitter – the point isn’t to show up out of spite, the idea here is to be such a pleasant addition to the lunch that the coworkers naturally start thinking about accommodating them.

      Now if OP does not actually want to go to the lunches, none of this applies (because it is awkward and uncomfortable! that’s the point!). They should take their long lunch break and make it the boss’s problem.

      1. c_c*

        Unfortunately, in places that are meat-centric this is often unlikely to result in people feeling shame. A lot of people see this as an invitation to taunt vegetarians with mooing while eating a burger, talking about how carrots scream when you pull them out of the ground, etc. It might work for some groups but for others it’s likely to just make OP the target of people who want to convince her why it’s “stupid” to be vegetarian and them confirm their ideas of preachy vegetarians who can’t just shut up and eat normal food.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          People definitely can suck, but this would be a separate issue than the one OP raised. If OP suspects this additional issue could happen, it may even be worth flushing it out in order to deal with it. You just can’t mock people at work like that and defend it. Personally I’m always ready to respond to “Oh are you allergic to LOADS of things” or “Oooh is it a trendy diet” with just more and more aggressive cheerfulness until they get bored, but it’s definitely an option to just say “Eh, digs about my diet aren’t as funny as you think” or to discuss people’s unprofessionalism with management.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          Ok, the possibility that it won’t work for OP definitely means they shouldn’t try it and should just proceed as they have been then, which will certainly result in a different result this time. (/s)

          If OP goes to lunch and discovers that their coworkers are, in fact, extreme assholes to vegetarians, then that’s good to know. But the letter just says that they “get outvoted every time” and “I don’t know if they realize I can’t eat anything”. If OP is just suggesting options for people to vote on and not clarifying that they actually cannot eat anything at the chicken place, their coworkers may very well may be excluding them unintentionally. Of course to be “democratic” they want to vote on a lunch option, and if people aren’t aware that OP can’t eat at other places, why would they consider it?

          I just think that *based on the letter* it’s much more likely that OP is experiencing clueless and unintentional exclusion rather than deliberate asshole behavior. In my own personal experience as a vegetarian, I have never encountered anyone as blatantly rude to me as you describe, even in traditional “meat country” areas. Data point of 1, of course, but I think it’s a disservice to the OP to act like everyone is always openly rude to vegetarians and that they have no hope of being included.

  10. MK*

    To be frank, if the alternative was to work an extra 1,5 hours, I would go to lunch even if I couldn’t eat anything.

    1. I need a new name...*

      Even if I popped somewhere else for the first 30minutes to get some decent food and then joined them for the rest, that would be preferred.

    2. Ashloo*

      Yeah, I would absolutely go and just get a drink. Eat a sandwich in my car fast first and round it out with snack later if possible.

    3. Sunflower*

      Me too. I’d eat my lunch, then go and order a drink and/or a side dish if they have an option the OP can eat (like if they have a baked potato). I’m not giving up extra time off if my coworkers are not.

  11. philmar*

    LW3: I think this counts as “grooming” and if you wouldn’t brush your hair or apply your makeup at your desk, you shouldn’t wear a pimple patch. Unless you work in a sweatpants/wet hair laidback environment, it’s too much of a glimpse behind the curtain of your work persona.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree. There’s a difference between someone sitting at their desk sticking pimple patches on in front of a mirror, which would definitely count as ‘grooming’ and wouldn’t be appropriate for the office, and someone who puts on one of these little patches at home and happens to wear it to work. I don’t think there’s an inherent problem with wearing one of the little round patches to the office, they’re pretty unobtrusive – a couple of people might think ‘oh, she’s got something stuck to her face’ but with any luck no one would actually mention it. But the OP would definitely want to make sure they have a quick look in the mirror when they go to the loo, just in case the patch is peeling off or looking a little gross or whatever.

          1. londonedit*

            But the OP wouldn’t be sitting there at their desk applying patches to their face like a face mask, they’d just be wearing a little pimple patch to work. To me it’s much more akin to wearing a plaster on a cut.

          2. Unimpressed*

            Then you have a really weird interpretation of this, and are being unreasonable. Perhaps merely through ignorance, if you have no experience of these patches. It’s a bandage for a skin problem – do you have a problem with someone applying a Band-Aid to a paper cut on their fingertip too? It’s not very visible or noticeable, it isn’t being applied in the office, it isn’t something that needs to be removed after 20 minutes, and it isn’t cosmetic. So its really nothing like a face mask at all – your frame of reference is inaccurate and thus unhelpful.

          3. Qwerty*

            That was my initial thought but then I did some research and now I’m on team patch. Turns out they are super subtle. You just might need to change it (in the bathroom) partway through the day if it starts to peel off or absorb face gunk.

            Honestly it looks less noticable than the type of zit it is meant to cover.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Yep, unless you are standing right in front of me a patch is definitely less noticeable than my pimple most of the time because it hides the redness.

          4. OyHiOh*

            I convinced my teen son to use the patches on a particularly awful breakout but only after he saw his sister use them and realized they very nearly disappear on the skin. It’s not a clay mask or even a sheet mask. It’s essentially a medicated band aid for a lesion on your skin.

          5. Observer*

            To me it’s like doing a clay mask or one of those disposable facial masks at your desk.

            The OP is not DOING anything. And there is a major difference between a small patch, which is like a bandaid, and a full face mask.

          6. yellow haired female*

            Do you know what pimple patches are? I could see your point if someone were applying them at their desk…. but coming in with one applied already is nothing like “doing a clay mask.”

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This is where I fall – and I’d rather that patch (but not a clear one) than having my coworker feel uncomfortable all day long because their skin decided to betray them.

    1. Phryne*

      I would absolutely brush my hair and apply make-up at work if that was needed. I also cycle to work with wet hair, much better than a hairdryer. I don’t have a ‘work persona’, whatever that is supposed to be. My workplace is not a theatre and I am not a puppet.

      1. philmar*

        I mean… I behave differently at work than I do outside of work. That’s what I mean as a work persona. There is a set of qualities I want to emphasize about myself at work, and I don’t think that means I’m being a puppet because I want to look organized and put-together at work while my house is mess.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Quick hairbrush and make up job IN THE BATHROOM, okay. And by quick, I mean do not spread out and occupy the entire counter for 20 minutes. Brushing your hair and doing your make up at your desk – no. Your coworkers do not need to see you doing this.

        Acting in a professional manner is not “theatre” and it is not being a “puppet.”

      3. Parakeet*

        I work in very casual environments and have definitely cycled to workplaces with wet hair, but if I’m onsite, I don’t walk around in my underwear even if it’s a hot summer day (which I would do at home). I swear less at work meetings, whether onsite or remote, than in personal life (though my current workplace might be the most swearing-friendly I’ve had, at least on my team), and make more of an effort to contribute at a meeting even if I don’t feel like talking that day than I would in my private life. If I have a Zoom meeting for work I pop the portable screen onto my chair so that you can’t see that there’s a week’s worth of laundry piled on my bed that I need to get around to sorting. Those are pretty basic things because I do work in quite a casual environment, but they’re all part of “work persona” in that they involve me behaving differently with coworkers than I would if I were just hanging out in my home. Does the pimple patch fall into this category? I don’t have strong opinions there – but none of this is puppetry.

      4. yellow haired female*

        Not gonna lie, I’m pro-pimple patch, but I’d be really grossed out by a coworker brushing hair at their desk because of how much loose hair is going to get everywhere. The bathroom? Fine. But in any common place? Please don’t.

        1. Phryne*

          I don’t actually, I have hair that requires very little brushing. I mostly brush it with my fingers.

    2. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

      By that logic, if LW had a gaping wound, should they not wear a band aid over it because that’s too personal?

        1. Um No*

          Applying proper treatment to legitimate medical conditions or injuries, just because one happens to be “wearing” those marks in the workplace, is grooming and therefore inappropriate for work? Got it. I’ll remember that next time the industrial slicer at work breaks and cuts my finger. I’ll just bleed all over the workstation instead of washing it out and committing the unforgivable sin of bandaging it. Can’t have any unprofessional behavior outside the home like *checks notes* not getting unhygienic blood everywhere!

      1. WellRed*

        I don’t have an opinion about zit patches bu a gaping wound is a medical issue so the comparison is a bit of a stretch.

        1. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

          A zit patch *is* basically a band aid, though. For something that is actually a medical problem. One of the circular band aids they give you for blood draws is actually bigger than a zit patch.

        2. Phryne*

          I have cystic acne, for me skin care is a medical issue. And now that I have found out about these patches, I will start using them.

    3. Sylvan*

      I agree. This question was asked in the open thread and I said I didn’t think you could wear hydrocolloids at work. I have acne, and I’d like to use hydrocolloids during the day, but skincare products are used privately.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes and no?
        Like, I wear sunscreen at work, but no one can tell because it absorbs into my skin and isn’t visible. And if I was wearing a tinted sunscreen, then it would be visible, but would count as “makeup” and therefore be an acceptable skincare product for people to see.

        At the same time, of course the vast majority of people can’t get away with wearing a foaming clay mask at work (though those are much shorter term than these patches).
        Or maybe a better analogy is applying lotion: it’s usually fine to put (unscented) lotion on your hands at your desk, but not your legs. Or chapstick vs lipstick.

        For me personally I would say that the question is how obtrusive is the patch (and how obtrusive is the zit). Personally I don’t care, but I work in the sciences, so we’re not really known for our attention to appearance (and we are known for caring about covering open wounds for safety reasons). But for client-facing industries I have to assume the standards are different.

    4. Critical Rolls*

      It isn’t “grooming” any more than a small bandaid on a scratch would be. It’s a passive treatment for a small medical issue — a clogged pore. I think the patch should be as neutral as possible, as I would expect a bandaid would be in the same circumstances. But no, it isn’t grooming.

    5. Samwise*

      Wearing a medicated patch is NOT grooming. If I have a cut on my face and put antibiotic ointment and a bandaid on it, that’s not grooming. I don’t see how wearing a medicated patch for a medical condition (acne, pimples) is grooming myself.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        And there are many grooming things that are perfectly acceptable at work. Like putting on hand lotion or straightening one’s clothes or fixing an earring or watchband. Having on a tiny patch is far less obtrusive than even those (unless one is picking or poking at it during the day and if so, DON’T).

    6. kiki*

      I feel like this one is a bit more complex because it’s not just grooming. Depending on the pimple and pimple patch, it’s a treatment and it’s a cover for a visible skin issue. To cover an especially gnarly boil (I don’t want to get into that time of my life), I wore a bandaid over it on my face with treatment cream under it, both to spare my coworkers the sight of my boil and to try and help it heal faster. It wasn’t an ideal work look, but I also don’t think anyone considered it unprofessional. To a certain extent, a pimple patch could be similar to that.

      1. Madtown Maven*

        And for the hydrocolloid patches: if the patch has really worked well and gets ‘full’ during the day, one could have extra patches available and just change it to a fresh one. Ick factor issue solved.

    7. Curmudgeon in California*

      If guys can wear bandaids over their shaving cuts then a gal can wear patches over their pimples.

      Neither are active “grooming”. That take is nonsense.

    8. yellow haired female*

      I can understand that a pimple patch might be seen as unprofessional, but I don’t see how on earth it’s considered “grooming” in the same way that brushing your hair is. Especially when the alternative is showing off an oozy, painful zit….

  12. StellaBella*

    The bigger issue that Alison notes in LW1’s question is being left out and treated less fairly than others. Asserting yourself LW1 and using some of the suggestions here to ensure you are included and not missing social capital building time is key but also taking that time for a lunch elsewhere is fine too, but maybe not as inclusive. Good luck!

    1. StellaBella*

      I also just thought – OP – if you are working this extra hour do you qualify for overtime or extra pay or something?

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        My guess is OP is salary so OT does not apply.
        But even if they are hourly they are not working an extra hour compared to their normal schedule. If they work through lunch they might be working an extra 30 mins. OT only matters if you work more/less than 40 hrs in a week, not if your coworkers get to work for 39 hrs but get paid for 40.

    2. Agent Diane*


      Like most vegetarians, OP1 probably already knows the many ways to navigate being someone with different dietary needs to others. I’ve spent decades asserting myself to ensure I get vegetarian options.

      OP1 needs advice on the work impact of her team deliberately excluding her, and her manager supporting that exclusion. I’d speak to the manager again, as per Alison’s advice. The manager is responsible for team culture, and her team are excluding someone repeatedly and persistently.

  13. Sandgroper*

    OP 4 where is he getting access to the job tasks from?

    If it’s a central email/queue system can you set up some auto rules to filter them out for yourself? If it’s telephone escalations from a call centre can you get the call centre routing fixed up/clarified? If it’s that you share a phone line with this guy then can you be a bit quicker on the phone for a while? If it’s that the word isn’t out about his job vs your job can you ask your manager to forward something out explaining the difference in the job roles and have that circulated?

    1. LW4 - Tempest*

      Thanks for your comments. He is getting access to the jobs because other coworkers have been dealing with him directly so when they emailed him, instead of forwarding the emails to me, he has just helped them.

      We do not have a centralized email group or queue, these requests are supposed to be sent to me directly. I have received a few emails from people who think I’ve come back to do his job, and I have forwarded them to him. As we’re supposed to do.

      I think your suggestion about having the job roles announced by my manager is a good idea. I just thought it would be clear when I returned what would happen.

      1. I need a new name...*

        I think taking it to your manager now is the best idea.

        But I am surprised there was no clear announcement of your return/job roles was made when you came back. They probably assumed it would naturally go back as it was too, but that just doesn’t really happen smoothly. Info will filter out unevenly about who’s back and who’s doing what.

        You also would have been fine, I think, to send your own email when you returned, like ‘Hi I’m back, I’ll be resuming my role as X and I’ll be the point of contact for Y going forward. Thanks to coworker for doing such a great job while I was on leave and I’m looking forward to getting stuck back in’ or whatever tone is appropriate for your workplace.

        1. ferrina*

          Yes, definitely talk to your manager. I can see where you wouldn’t have initially sent an email- I don’t think I did when I got back from leave. And it makes sense to assume that once he was told that you were back, he’d give you back the responsibilities he was covering (and most people are delighted to hand you back the responsibilities!)

          But now that he’s not and it’s been several months- get the manager involved. Have them send out a wide message either through email or by spreading the word at meetings or however is the best way to make big announcements. Make it clear what people should do. At the same time, the guy that won’t give back your job should be addressed and be clearly told that he should forward those requests to you from now on.

      2. BethDH*

        Oh, I can totally imagine how this has stayed a thing. He should be passing them to you, but if he’s a people pleaser and not just trying to horn in on your job, he’s going to feel like he’s essentially telling them no.
        And people get in habits easily, so you really need a reminder from management (or from you, with tour supervisor’s approval) reminding them that you are the primary contact on x, y, and z requests.
        Then ask him for help in a really directed way! Make it explicit if you haven’t already. “Joe, I’ve noticed people aren’t remembering to come to me about x. Can you forward those to me and remind them?”
        This, of course, only works if this really is coworkers who haven’t been told exactly what’s going on and how to handle it. To you it feels obvious, but for example when I returned from mat leave I didn’t take on all my old roles right away because some projects had been on full stop while I was out and I got those going again while we had coverage on the responsive stuff.

        1. Cassandra Mortmain*

          Yeah, when I first read the question I thought this was weird antisocial behavior but now I’m realizing it’s happened to me — especially if there were other changes during someone’s leave. People lock into whatever process they did most recently and may not realize that someone was only handling a task, supervising a direct report, etc. on an interim basis.

        2. thatlibrarylady*

          I’m a Carl. I get a lot of job satisfaction from helping and if I can help, I generally do. Not really sure what’s going on specifically with your Carl, but it might be really helpful to thank him for the interim work but explain why it is not helpful for him to continue. He might just be seeing it as, I have this skill now and can take some of the burden off by answering this question. But I think that is all still under the purview of his manager. There may be other underlying things the manager can help with. Is he not feeling challenged or satisfied in his current role and can his manager focus on what skills he can work on to get a different job that suits him better?

      3. mother_of_hedgehogs*

        LW4- are you sure that there isn’t a little “white knight” sexism going on here? It stood out to me that this is happening after your return from maternity leave. I could be off base, but it’s something to consider, because it’s not a good look for the company.

      4. Working Hypothesis*

        If there are a handful of specific people who repeatedly make this mistake, it might be wise to have a direct conversation with them, too. “Hey, I know that Wakeen covered the llama spa services department while I was gone, but I just wanted to make sure you knew that I’m back on all that stuff now that I’ve returned to work. Wakeen has gone back to working with the llama coat winterization program, where he’d been before my absence. So please bring all spa services stuff to me, okay? It’s important that I stay in the loop, and Wakeen has his own work to do.”

  14. Simone*

    LW 1
    I’ve been vegetarian for years and I have never skipped going out for an office meal/event because of food choices . Like Allison said, the reason that they are allowed to take an hour and a half is for bonding, spending time together etc. The food doesn’t particularly matter. With that in mind I think it’s totally reasonable to point out to the group you can’t eat anything and maybe every couple of weeks you go to the place you suggested versus the barbecue place, but vegetarian is different (you CAN eat grilled cheese or Mac and cheese) rather than a life-threatening shellfish allergy if you group wanted to go to a seafood place.

    If It were me I would suggest directly that the group goes somewhere you can eat, and see if that bbq place will let you bring in your own food etc but I would also settle for soda and some sides sometimes and enjoy spending an hour out of the office with coworkers.

    Also in my experience, there’s always somebody on a diet, fasting or they plan to eat at their desk later etc. so I don’t think it would be that weird for you not to eat!

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I think the OP used the grilled cheese as the example of the only thing on the menu and it is on the kids menu, so it’s going to be small. So it’s not going to be an adult portion size so she is not going to feel full.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Easy answer! Order 2 of them. (Or just ask the waiter how big they are, and if OP should order 2 of them.)

        1. Cordelia*

          yes, or start a discussion with the waiter with that – “you have a grilled cheese sandwich on the menu, could you make me a bigger one, is there anything else I could have, what about a salad? could you add any veg in the sandwich? any chips?” – either they get a decent-sized meal, or they don’t and their coworkers become aware of the problem and volunteer to go somewhere different next time. I’m a longterm vegan and this is what I would do/have done. Of course, this is for work events – I’d expect family and friends to look for somewhere I can enjoy the meal, but for a work team building thing, the food isn’t the main point.

  15. Squidlet*

    OP1, having been the “non-eater” on many similar occasions, I sympathise.

    Looking at the menu, discussing the options, ordering, eating, talking about the food, take up most of the time and people’s attention. That’s excluding the awkwardness of explaining multiple times that you aren’t eating, aren’t ordering, no thanks quite sure, then twiddling your thumbs while everyone else actually eats… it really isn’t great.

    I’d suggest contacting the restaurant beforehand, and ask them if they can put something together for you. They surely must serve their meat dishes with salads and sides that could be combined to make a decent meal? You might have to look at their and make suggestions but most places would be open to this. If they aren’t, then tell them you’ll have to bring your own meal. It will be difficult for them to refuse to feed you AND refuse to let you bring your own food.

    I do hope you can work something out!

    1. Squidlet*

      Something I’ve done in the past is tell the group I’ll meet them for a drink and dessert, and then eat something and go halfway their meal.

    2. irene adler*

      Yes- I’ve had good luck with contacting the restaurant beforehand and asking them if they might prepare something I could eat. Restaurants have been receptive to this-without exception.
      At the monthly professional organization meeting I attend, the venue offers a rice pasta with marinara sauce for anyone requesting something either vegetarian or gluten free. It’s a big serving too.

    3. A Magician*

      BBQ restaurants and steakhouses frequently have a vegetarian dish that is not on the menu. It’s not always a *good* dish, but it’s def worth asking.

  16. DJ Abbott*

    #1, there’s probably a way to put together a meal at the BBQ restaurant. For example, order two or three of the kids grilled cheese sandwiches and a side dish. Or make a meal of a few side dishes like potatoes, bread, cooked vegetables or a salad.
    It’s not ideal, but it would make it possible for you to participate and get the social break.

    1. Fives*

      30-year vegetarian here. The problem is that a lot of times the veggies and sides are made with meat, broth, etc. LE1 has probably looked at the sides and can’t eat them.

    2. Common sense*

      It is time to stop speculating about what the BBQ place does or does not offer. OP should get on the phone with the manager of the restaurant and ask whether there are, in fact, any vegetarian options. She has not done that — all she says is “so many places have nothing vegetarian except maybe a kids’ grilled cheese.” That does not say anything about this particular place.

      If there truly are not (and most places have something to avoid the “vegetarian veto”), then she should ask whether she can bring something.

      This is not rocket science. Instead of speculating, pick up the damn phone.

  17. OTGet*

    #1. The real issue is the co-workers, isn’t it? You have told them about your restrictions, offered alternatives, and yet… they don’t accommodate you? This is unkind, and it’s hard to call out that sort of unkindness professionally.

    #5. Just sent five (1) thank you emails yesterday with the subject line “Thank You.” Good luck!

    1. Sally*

      That’s what I have a hard time with. I know I’d feel unappreciated and resentful if my colleagues continually opted for a restaurant I couldn’t eat at. As long as they KNEW about my restrictions and just didn’t seem to care. I think it’s really difficult to be the “weirdo” and insist on a restaurant i could eat at when I already felt like they didn’t care about accommodating everyone.

      1. Common sense*

        These people like going out for BBQ. It is part of the fun. They are going to resent LW if she vetoes the place more than once or twice per year.

        1. Hen in a Windstorm*

          Going out to eat and getting an extra long lunch is the fun part. I doubt that they all only eat BBQ 3 meals a day 365 a year. Surely they sometimes go to other restaurants. How is going to another restaurant sometimes “not fun”? You seem like you’re projecting.

        2. Hannah L*

          Why is the desire of OP’s coworkers to eat at a BBQ restaurant more important than the ability for OP to actually participate? And sure, OP can bring her own lunch as others suggested but is it really bonding if one person is alienated every single time? That doesn’t sound like a good way to encourage camaraderie. It sounds like a good way to ensure one person is resentful while the rest of the group gets to have fun at the expense of OP.

  18. Luna*

    LW1 – Take your lunch! Even if they give you time sensitive assignments for the team meeting after that lunch, you are still entitled to *your* lunch break. Take it, and if those time sensitive things don’t get done, well, that happens. You have a right to have lunch, even if it isn’t as long as that of the others. If they want things done, assign more than one person to do it. Especially if it feels like it’s ‘punishment’ for you somehow having the audacity to not eat meat. (I am a vegetarian myself, I can understand the annoyance of everyone always wanting meat, meat, meat and I’m here thinking I’d be totally okay with mac’n’cheese or a vegetarian curry.)

    I know I’m focusing on you getting a break instead of the ostracizing and longer breaks the others get, but focus on how their behavior (and that of your manager!) affects you and your work, including not getting your legally-entitled lunch break.
    Always good to focus on how things affect you, your work, and, in correlation, how the office gets run well because of other’s behavior instead of how it’s not fair or how you feel about it.

  19. bamcheeks*

    LW1, what I’m not clear about here is your priority. There’s a whole bunch of annoying stuff happening here, and I’m not really sure which bit you most want to solve.

    – everyone goes to the two restaurants where you can definitely eat, you get to go out, eat and socialise with the rest of the team
    – you don’t go out and eat, but you still get a proper lunch break eating your own food and your boss doesn’t give you any extra work
    – you don’t go for lunch, you do the extra work but you get to leave at 3pm after the meeting because you’ve really done your day.

    This sounds very, very annoying, and I do get why you are feeling resentful on multiple levels! But I also think it’s turning into a bit of “and a NOTHER thing” situation, and that’s making it harder to go to your manager with a proactive frame of mind. Sometimes things feel a lot easier to address if you can figure out your A, B and C preferred solutions.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I agree with this. What do you want?

      I do wonder too if the LW was going to join lunch who would do the “90 minutes of tasks to prepare for our team meeting.” Would the boss stay behind and do them? Maybe it’s a “feature” for the boss that the team picks a place a that the LW can’t eat at so she stays behind.

      Doesn’t matter. What does the LW want?
      If it’s just not to miss her 30 min lunch that day, there’s one solution including taking lunch as normal and letting the prep work be incomplete.

      If it’s to be included in the team there’s ways to try to get them to pick a place that LW can eat by being explicit (yeah, that has most potential for rejection so it’s can cause anxiety) or by joining them and bringing her own food or joining them after she’s eaten a vegatarian lunch somewhere else.

      What does the LW want?

  20. Your Computer Guy*

    LW1: Maybe you can be first out the gate with lunch place plans. As soon as the big meeting is over and people are filtering back, declare (cheerfully and at an enhanced volume) that you’re going to Option A or Option B for lunch if anyone wants to join you.
    When whoever prefers bbq pushes back and says “no we’re going to Option Q” just maintain that cheerfulness and say there’s nothing there for you so you’ll be at Options A or B and if anyone is craving dishes X or Y from those places you will see them there.
    And then book it out to the parking lot.

    You get lunch, others might feel freed from the group pressure, and you won’t be left standing there to get the extra work dumped on you.

    As a fellow vegetarian, I feel you.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I like this approach, if for no other reason then it short stops the boss dumping all the extra work between the meetings on your shoulders.

      (And a quick bbq place can be convenient for larger groups because you order at a counter and then grab your own table – but maybe that’s also going to make it easier to bring in your own external food as well.)

  21. LeftOut*

    Her co-workers and manager suck.

    I’m having a similar problem, but my boss gets lunches delivered to the office. We actually have 2 offices and I’m in the 2nd building and have to drive 10 minutes to the main office just to join these company provided lunches that I’ve repeatedly told them I can’t eat because I have a dairy ALLERGY.

    The lunch is always pizza. When they ask why I’m not eating I say “again (for the 100th time) there is milk in the pizza dough, even though it’s a vegetarian pizza” so I sit there starving for an hour watching everyone else eat.

    Last week it just happened to be on my birthday so it made me extra emotional to be left out.

    I’m trying to muster the courage to say to the boss I’m not gonna to sit there anymore and leave for a restaurant. I don’t get time with the group and I’ll have to pay for my own “team lunch” but at least I can eat.

    1. WellRed*

      Stop waiting and speak out. Does the boss have some sort of assistant who is more likely to be placing the orders? Try talking to them. Got hUman resources? Mention the need for an accommodation due to dairy allergy (and have solutions at the ready). You’ve got this!

      1. WellRed*

        Small point. I assume you also can’t eat cheese? In which case, saying that you can’t eat anything with cheese might – might- register more than discussing pizza dough ingredients. Cheese is front and center on pizza.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Then they’ll order cheeseless pizza that still has dairy in the dough. And I’m guessing they don’t live somewhere with proper pizza that doesn’t use dairy in the dough.

          This really stinks. And I think we need to acknowledge that being left out when it comes to food gets to a very basic hurtful emotion. It’s fundamental to being human to share meals, & it can be painful to be left out of it. (And that much worse if, like the OP, you’re forced to do extra work like the office Cinderella.)

          1. ThatGirl*

            Dairy in pizza dough?? I’m not saying that’s impossible, mind you, but I’ve never heard of such a thing.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              Neither have I, but I will not doubt the depths of depravity that pizzerias in some parts of the country will go to. (I used to live in one of these areas.)

            1. Aggretsuko*

              Dairy is in almost all foods by default, one way or another.

              I can say from the people I know who can’t eat dairy that in this town, they have ONE pizza restaurant that will accommodate with vegan pizza or leave off the cheese and use a clean cutter here.

    2. ABCYaBYE*

      Please LeftOut, say something! This isn’t “I don’t like pizza.” This is an allergy! Side note: if someone doesn’t like pizza and the workplace always gets pizza, that’s crappy too.
      You can’t eat it. The dough has milk, sure. But pizzas all have cheese. Tell them you need (not want) to have something else included so you can actually eat, too. This isn’t about someone being a picky eater. This is a medical need. A diabetic would have a right to ask for unsweetened beverages to be included when the group always gets sweet tea and lemonade. This is the exact same thing.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Do you know about these lunches in advance?

      If so, as soon as it’s announced, email whoever handles the food to request a cheeseless pizza or some other alternative that you can eat. You might have more success when they get that immediate reminder.

      1. Sylvan*


        And if you haven’t said that you have a dairy allergy and not lactose intolerance, be REALLY CLEAR.

        Some lactose intolerant people say they’re “allergic to milk,” but lactose intolerant people have looser dietary restrictions and eating dairy is nowhere near as bad for us.

          1. Sylvan*

            Right? I can eat plenty of dairy products that don’t contain much lactose, and my worst case scenario is, um, not anaphylaxis.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              But you definitely don’t want to use the bathroom after us.


              Can do cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and ultra pasteurized milk (weird I know) but GTFO of my way, this is the danger zone, if anything is made with milk or cream that isn’t ultra pasteurized

    4. doreen*

      Have you asked the restaurant if there is milk in the dough? I say that because I’ve never seen a recipe for pizza dough that uses milk – I’m sure there are some but pizza dough is not something like a croissant which you can assume has dairy in the dough.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yeah, every pizza dough recipe I know is vegan. But don’t some pizza delivery chains put garlic butter on the crust?

            1. ThatGirl*

              Papa John’s includes a garlic dipping sauce (which may or may not have any dairy in it; I think it’s just soybean oil) with their pizza; not sure if they have a crust with it brushed on.

      2. UKDancer*

        The recipe I use for pizza dough has a little milk in it, but I’m sure there are other recipes without it.

      3. ThatGirl*

        Same – it’s almost always just flour, water and yeast. Not that it’s impossible, but … that’s a weird one to me.

    5. Bernice Clifton*

      I’ve been in admin roles my entire life so it’s usually my job to order group food orders like this. I would recommend finding a restaurant that delivers that has a reasonably priced meal that you can eat. Email the ordering person and explain that you are allergic to pizza, so they can they order this meal for you.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. If this happened twice to me, I would have gone to this approach and now that food delivery is so common, it is even easier. ‘I can’t eat the pizza you are ordering; please order the #2 vegetarian lunch from Chez Meatless to be delivered when the rest of the food is ordered.’

    6. Cedar Fever*

      Does the person doing the ordering know to order *vegan* rather than *vegetarian*? Check into this, and also check into whether they can order wings or something without dough. Sometimes it’s easier if you come with a solution in hand, so get a hold of a menu from this pizza place, find some options that you can eat, and have the conversation with an air of “Of course, you want to include me, so here is how you can do so!”

    7. Luna*

      I enjoy pizza as much as the next person, but if it’s daily? Even I’d get sick and tired of that as my lunch.

      You could also be really blunt with how your allergy reacts, “Boss, I told you I have a dairy allergy. If I eat this pizza, I will go into anaphylaxis/vomit up a storm, and I will leave work. And then you’ll be short-staffed.” Like, do you really want to run the risk here, boss?

  22. Chesster*

    #3- if there is a question of the ick factor, why not wear a face mask on top? Just because it isn’t required doesn’t mean you can’t :)

  23. Workerbee*

    OP #1: Your manager sucks. Both for not setting an accommodating tone with your team, and for assigning YOU work during your own entire legit lunch + more. This a known monthly meeting, so why is she herself not prepared with the necessary materials before the actual day, let alone 90 minutes beforehand? Eat lunch beforehand or unapologetically bring it along to your team’s escape lunch.

    I’ve been in a situation before where officially we get a half hour lunch, but a group would go out for an hour and a half once a month and the boss said nothing about it. There is some power in groups, even when everyone has to know it’s more of a social event. Hell, people used to say “Let’s discuss work for 5 minutes to make this legitimate.”

    OP #3: Wear the patch. As we continue to be in a majority society where marketing has bamboozled us into believing that anything less than unnatural perfection on skin (and of course other aspects) is the one true state of being, with advantages given to those who mimic that, then people are going to have to put up with the means to that end. Plus, as you say, it makes a difference to your well-being.

  24. ABCYaBYE*

    LW1 – I’ve been the guy at the table who doesn’t eat and it sucks big time. Your coworkers are being obtuse and not inclusive. That’s a really crappy thing.

    The larger part of the letter that annoys the heck out of me is that you’re being assigned additional tasks during that lunchtime that everyone else is taking. Your manager needs to cut that sh*t out. I think it is worth a very direct conversation with them about the timing of the meetings. Forgetting the part of lunch that includes you being excluded from having many choices for just a second, I think it is imperative that they understand that these “must do” tasks are coming up and that’s putting someone in a position to have to prep for the next meeting. Because you’ve not gone to lunch with the group, that’s falling on you and you’re not getting your legally-given lunch break. If someone is obligated to prep for those meetings there should be ample opportunity to do so and still have the chance to get their lunch break. You can then point out that the group ALWAYS chooses a restaurant at which you have very few options, so you’re the one stuck in the office pulling together all of the information necessary. Ask them what would happen if you just decided to go and have a soda, or dessert or a grilled cheese? No one would be there to prep for the next meeting. It seems like the timing is way off on these meetings and there should be more time between them if there’s that much that needs to be done between them. If anyone is running two nearly consecutive meetings and there’s prep work following the first that needs to be done for the second, that’s really poor planning and may lead to poor execution in the second.

    Or just go. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way, but perhaps just sucking it up a couple of times and eating the grilled cheese and getting the same 90 minutes as everyone else will show how ridiculous the timing is. I’m not saying you need to be miserable at lunch, but I think leaving the office empty with no one to cover the “must do” tasks between meetings will highlight how ridiculous the setup is.

  25. Dust Bunny*

    #3 nobody at my office would care. If I were worried about grossing someone out I might put an actual band-aid over it and claim that one of my cats hooked me, but I wouldn’t actually need to do that.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      Yeah, that’s my solution. And it’s not like I don’t regularly need bandaids on my face, even without cats.

  26. Radish Queen*

    LW1 – I am so sorry you’re being excluded and on top of that overworked!!

    I wonder who would do these tasks if you were also out on the 90 minute lunch? I can see how the team likes this bbq joint and see it as a favorite (and I also understand that it’s very unlikely they will prepare a true vegetarian *meal* for you) so don’t see the need to change it up

    Maybe also suggest ordering lunch in for the team? that way you can order from someplace that is veg friendly, and everyone would stick to a 45-60min lunch in the office, allowing for the whole team to put material together (I’m thinking it’s printing documents, setting out folders etc)

    Lastly, as others have said, it is wild to me that your team director doesn’t have an agenda for her meeting!!! That is just lazy and poor management. If you’re in charge of creating the agenda could you add a section “Discuss Inclusive Team Social Options”? (only slightly joking).

  27. Evolve*

    I am curious if the vegetarian is a female and most of the others are male. The boss is female and unwilling up step in. LW is asked to do secretarial prep work for the meeting. If the vegetarian goes to lunch with them, how does this get done? I may be projecting my own experiences.

    1. Qwerty*

      I think the gender component would be more related to how we’re socialized to deal with issues. For example, I have a shellfish intolerance and am lactose intolerant.

      Boyfriend – Completely surprised everytime it comes up. Vaguely remembers it as me not liking shellfish, not being unable to eat it. Sees me taking dairy pills constantly, hears me mentions lactose stuff every couple weeks, and its still news to him. (He’s actually great, please don’t judge him, I just find it funny)

      Female coworker – After I declined oysters ONCE she made sure every server knew I couldn’t have shellfish, even after I explained small cross contamination is fine. Double checked with the server on everything I ordered – even my pie came with the label “shellfish allergy”! She keeps it in mind when we pick restaurants in the future. I think she’s more vigilent than I am

      On the flip side, when it comes to advocating for ourselves, women are conditioned to not make waves even if it means missing out on lunch or sitting there drinking a soda feeling hungry.

        1. Risha*

          Yeah for real, it doesn’t always have to come down to man vs woman. It could also be all women in LW1’s job because women are really mean to each other but it’s hardly ever mentioned. My husband has remembered every single thing I told him I don’t like and makes sure it’s not in my take out orders. I have a couple female friends who cannot remember my dislikes and just keep serving it to me. If your boyfriend/husband can’t remember things you’re actually allergic/intolerant to, that’s a big problem in my opinion and has nothing to do with being a man. It’s not caring enough to remember and could cause problems since he can’t seem to get it right.

          LW1, you got some great suggestions from Alison and the commenters. I don’t have anything else to add, but please make sure you take your lunch too. Don’t let the manager force you to work thru your lunch while everyone else gets to take a full 90 minutes.

        2. Hen in a Windstorm*

          Or people other than you have different experiences. It isn’t a statistical survey. You seem to be trying really hard to make gender irrelevant here.

  28. HR Friend*

    “My team knows I’m vegetarian, but I don’t know if they realize that so many places have nothing vegetarian except maybe a kids’ grilled cheese. Our team director said she won’t get involved..”

    It sound like you’ve told your director about this, but have not explicitly told your team? You’ve “suggested” veggie friendly restaurants, but haven’t said “hey, team, I can’t eat anything at Nando’s, can we do Panera instead?” If they say no, then yeah, they’re jerks, but it doesn’t sound like you’ve done this yet.

  29. Art3mis*

    LW4 – I can relate. I had a sort of similar situation recently. “Carla” had been with our company about a month longer than me, and decided that the role was “too much” so management moved her into another role in the department and she transitioned two of her clients to me. One of her clients kept cc’ing her on emails though, and she would butt in and sometimes just do the things the client asked. She said she was trying to help me out and do me a favor. She eventually put in her notice because even the new role was too much and she felt like she was being overworked. I don’t understand how someone who is being overworked has time to do someone else’s job. She’s gone now, so my situation resolved itself, but if she’d stayed on I would have had to say something to her or my manager about it. I hope you have a speedy resolution as well.

  30. AnonMurphy*

    LW 1, I am not saying that you’re NOT getting a raw deal, nor am I assuming you haven’t tried most things.

    Have you contacted the BBQ joint directly and told them you’re a vegetarian with nothing to eat on the menu? It’s entirely possible that they can make an alternate or something of that sort (or they might confirm that you never, ever, ever want to eat there). Just suggesting because this is a tactic that both my sister (with celiac) and myself (with other sensitivities) have used, especially when going to conferences or large group events where the normal buffet won’t work; some places will be willing to work with you.

  31. Tesuji*


    Feels there’s a lot to unpack here.

    The restaurant selection thing is pretty straightforward: The LW is out of step with the company’s culture. Can’t tell if it’s a group of coworkers who are baffled by the idea that not everyone likes to eat what they do, or they’d be willing to adjust for some dietary restrictions (but dislike vegetarians), or they’d be willing to adjust for some coworkers (but they just don’t like OP enough to do so), but the end result is simply that the coworkers are completely okay with excluding OP from a team lunch and management doesn’t care.

    That’s… not something you can fix by finding a really nice salad place and trying to steer the conversation in that direction. Honestly, I’d wonder about how excluded OP is from the team in general, since this sounds more like a symptom of a deeper issue than an independent issue.

    This sounds to me more like a sign to be looking for a new job that would be a better fit, as opposed to a fixable issue.

    The rest is a mixed bag: OP should definitely push back on taking their normal 30-minute lunch, but I’m completely okay with the company giving an extra hour for team-building socialization.

    Yeah, it might seem unfair that the company defines “hanging out with your coworkers for an hour” as work time, but (a) that seems well within their rights, and (b) this is far far better than if the “not mandatory but highly recommended” team-building socialization was after hours on your own time.

    I’m 100% okay with the manager’s “Hey, no requirement to come hang out with your coworkers for an hour during the workday, but if you’re not going to, here’s an hour’s worth of work for you.” There shouldn’t be any extra work as a penalty for not wanting to hang out, but not only am I okay with the idea of a company baking optional team-building socialization into a workday (with the other option being to just spend that time doing work as normal), but I think it’s actively a good thing.

    The ‘not taking any lunch at all’ part is clearly wrong, of course, though it’s unclear to me whether the manager realizes that OP won’t be able to take any lunch with the tasks assigned to them, or what would happen if OP pushed back on that part.

    (I’ll note that I have dietary restrictions as well, and I well understand how much it sucks to have to deal with situations where the only thing you can really eat is a sub-par salad. The worst is when well-meaning co-workers try to make something that they think fits your restrictions, and you have to weigh gambling on their being competent vs. coming across as an AH by asking a bunch of questions. You’d be amazed at how many people think that certain stuff just doesn’t count for purposes of restrictions, like chicken stock or fish sauce.)

  32. Observer*

    #1 – Vegetarian. I haven’t read all of the comments, so forgive me if I’m asking something that you have already answered.

    Alison’s advice is excellent. But, if nothing changes, I wondering about something.

    What do you normally do if you get tasks that would normally force you to skip lunch? If you can push back on that kind of thing in general, then you can definitely do that in this context. If it’s just never come up, then I think you have standing to push back on this kind of thing. Either go to lunch before you start on the task, even though it’s a bit on the early side or tell your supervisor that you won’t have time to finish.

    I agree with Alison that when you talk to your boss, you need to be very clear about this piece. She “can’t” (or doesn’t WANT) to do anything about the food choice? Not great, but ok. But she can’t penalize for it, either. Expecting you to work is one thing. Effectively taking away your lunch break is another thing – and that definitely goes too far.

    Two related questions. Why are you vegetarian. If it’s part of your religious tradition or belief system, this could be a problem for your employer, because it turns it into an issue of religious discrimination. Not so much the issue of where people go to lunch, but the fact that you are having your lunch essentially taken away.

    The other question is whether you are non-exempt. If you are non-expempt, is the lunch work being properly recorded? Many automated systems automatically deduct 1/2 hour (or whatever the standard lunch break is) rather than making people clock in and out. If that’s happening and you are actually working through lunch that presents a legal problem.

    Now, I am NOT suggesting that you jump to suing or even obliquely threatening to do that. But if your supervisor has some sense, and has decent enough training from HR to recognize the issues, she should realize that this kind of thing makes the company vulnerable. Because while you would not sue (and I really mean that – in isolation this is not something to sue over, as out of line as it is), if someone else does, or they file a DOL complaint, the fact that this is happening could easily be a a factor in how this plays out.

  33. Nopity Nope*

    LW#1, I feel you. When visiting home, we went to a bbq restaurant because “They have a salad bar, you’ll be fine!” only to find that every. single. item. on the salad bar had meat added. Even the LETTUCE was sprinkled with bacon bits.

    I’d advise you to be a bit more vocal when the voting happens. “They know I’m vegetarian “ doesn’t necessarily mean they have it top of mind when deciding on a lunch spot. When it’s time for the next vote, pipe up early and cheerfully say “There is nothing on the menu I can eat at Restaurant X, let’s do Restaurant Y or Z!” I bet your team isn’t making the connection in the moment, so a cheerful reminder can do the trick.

    Alternately, it might be worth calling the restaurant to see if they can modify something for you. For example, a pasta dish that could easily have the chicken omitted. If they are unable/unwilling, I’d very pleasantly explain that my team has lunch there often, and since the restaurant doesn’t offer anything that fits my dietary restrictions, “It’s okay if I bring something with me to eat, isn’t it?” With the tone of expecting that of course it’s fine. Next time you’re there, a quick heads-up to the waitstaff that you called and spoke to Fergus about the situation, and calmly pull out your sandwich, everything just matter of fact, replying with a cheerful reminder that you’re vegetarian to your teammates who ask what’s up, etc.

  34. Qwerty*

    This is the important statement: “I don’t know if they realize that so many places have nothing vegetarian”

    People with dietary restrictions need to advocate for themselves and be extremely clear/direct. (I say this as one!). Vaguely knowing you are vegetarian really doesn’t ping on their radar. In that moment, they are thinking/talking about where they want to eat and many people have a misconception that salad qualifies as meal (and that non-meat salads are always available). Make it clear before the vote that you can only eat at 2 of the options. Make it clear the reason you don’t join is because you can’t eat there. Right now they likely just think that you aren’t into the team lunches. If they love the BBQ place, call and ask about bringing your own food so that can stay in the rotation – it also puts a spotlight on your needs if you bring tupperware to the team outing.

    Things to say
    – I wish I could join, but Franks Meat Buffet doesn’t have vegetarian options so there’s nothing I can eat.
    – Salad is not a filling meal, so that won’t work for me. (If someone tries, but they have salad! Unless you actually like salad)
    – Only A and B in the area have vegetarian meals for me (Before the vote is cast)
    – Hey Bob, I’d really like to join the team lunch tomorrow. I’m vegetarian and usually don’t have any options at the places chosen – can you help me out? (where Bob is an organizer, super social, or just vocal. Basically, plant the seed early)

  35. Sloanicota*

    #4 – This is a tough one. To be honest, this coworker may have legitimately realized they prefer your role to their own and they may need to job search! Perhaps they’re ready to move on. There’s not a lot OP can do other than clearly indicate it’s inappropriate to take over your tasks. It’s hard to be the role that fills in for these interim periods because you grow and stretch and then – you need to squeeze back into your own spot.

  36. to varying degrees*

    LW#1 – do your coworkers even know that there isn’t anything for you to eat at the restaurants, because it doesn’t sound like you have actually told them this? Vegetarianism can mean different things to different people. Of my friends who are vegetarians this is the spectrum: no fish vs. fish is fine; no eggs vs eggs are fine; no actual meat but sauces with meat broth are okay; no red meat but the occasional poultry is fine. It’s very possible they have no clue that you can’t find anything to eat and just think you don’t really want to go.

  37. Ama*

    I would suggest OP4 check with Carl and make sure he understands that even if a senior colleague asks him something, if it’s a question that OP4 should be handling now she’s back, the correct response is to forward the email to her. I’ve had situations where my direct reports were doing things senior colleagues were asking them to do because they assumed the senior colleague wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t part of the report’s job duties — only the senior colleague was actually asking the wrong department and should have been redirected.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      As a currently junior person who sometimes gets these requests – I cheerful tone say “I don’t have full access to do that, but I’ll get this over to Jane who can get this done for you” or even just, “sure thing, let me get this over to Jane because she handles XYZ task.”

    2. blood orange*

      This is a great point. It could also easily be that he feels awkward turning people away when it’s something simple, or just something he knows how to do. He may not be thinking of the negative ramifications to OP, and some people are uncomfortable redirecting someone away from them.

      I disagree that OP should go to Carl again, though. It’s time for Carl’s manager to step in and make this a clear directive to Carl.

  38. urguncle*

    For LW 5, since I’m usually sending it from a personal email address, I usually either respond to the invitation (if it was sent to the interviewers), or put my name and job title at the top. I know I can have several candidates that I see in a week and while I would love to remember what everyone was doing off the very top of my head, it helps to have a reminder (Oh! This was Patrick Johnson for the Llama Groomer job, he was great!).

  39. Delta Delta*

    #1 – “I can do this while everyone else gets a lunch break. Since you’ve asked me to work through my lunch break to prepare for this meeting I’ll be leaving at 3:30.”

  40. Minimal Pear*

    This post made me laugh because I’m sitting at work right now with a pimple patch in a very visible place and it didn’t occur to me that it might be inappropriate. (Casual workplace.)

  41. She of Many Hats*

    LW 1 — Most replies seem to focus on the team members not making space for non-carnivores. While she’s disappointed not to join them, I don’t get the sense she’s outraged about it.

    I’m more concerned that the LW’s manager is penalizing her for being vegetarian by adding additional duties to the point the manager is effective denying her a legally (? several states still don’t have laws about breaks) required lunch break much less the fact that the rest of the team is essentially getting an extra hour of PTO that she doesn’t due to her dietary restriction which *might* be unintentional medical-based discrimination.

  42. Van Wilder*

    #2 – here’s my non-confrontational and possibly manipulative solution:
    Say “sure- I just have to run to the bank/drugstore first – I’ll meet you there.” Then drive to a park and eat a sandwich in peace and quiet for 30 minutes, then go meet them at the restaurant as they finish up their meal.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      It shouldn’t be! But it very often is. Remember that letter where that horrible person distributed photos of a coworker’s colostomy pump? That shouldn’t have had any professional repercussions for her coworker- but it did.

      I don’t have any solutions for this. People just suck, I guess.

  43. Semi-retired admin*

    As a fellow vegetarian, I think going a couple of times and either not eating, or struggling to find something suitable may help drive the message to your co-workers. They will feel uncomfortable (hopefully) and (again, hopefully) be more considerate in the future. I’ve been vegetarian for almost 25 years, it was far less common back then. At a staff lunch where we each had a custom box meal paid for by the company, someone helped themselves to the only vegetarian box (ordered specifically for me) because it “sounded good”. I made a show of heading out to a sandwich place to get my own lunch and returning to the group with it. The unintentional culprit felt awful, and no one ate my solitary vegetarian meal again.

    1. Baby Yoda*

      We hear about that happening so often, they need to mark the box with your name and not just ‘veggie” option.

    2. Wen Moon*

      That was inconsiderate of the person. Though unless they were being intentionally rude, I’d just be direct with the culprit in that moment.

  44. Hannah L*

    Commenters keep saying the point is bonding not the lunch but how can you bond with people who refuse to change what restaurant they go to in order for everyone to be able to eat? OP can go and either have a drink they were previously doing or maybe call ahead and hope that there’s something the restaurant can do but I can’t imagine feeling like part of a team if I had to do that every single time. It sounds very alienating.

    The problem isn’t just not being able to eat, it sounds like the bigger problem is that OP’s coworkers are unwilling to occasionally not eat at a BBQ restaurant which is far more ridiculous than OP wanting to be able to participate in the same way everyone else gets to participate.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      That’s definitely a problem, and the biggest one involved. But it’s one that OP is probably not going to be able to fix, except to get a different job.

      They’ve already tried talking to the people, who have made very clear that their own enjoyment of specific types of foods is more important to them than OP’s being able to attend.

      That won’t change if OP finds a way to participate. They’ll still be the same people who blithely left OP behind every time while they went for barbecue. Nor will it help significantly if OP can talk the boss into showing some leadership for a change and making them pick an inclusive restaurant. They’ll just resent OP for making them change it… and so it’s not going to be any fun to go out with them in the first place. Or, probably, to work with them.

      What all of this says to me is that the likely price of staying at that job and still getting along with one’s colleagues is going to be to find a way to join them on their terms. That doesn’t mean OP is in any way obligated to do this; only that *if* they want to stay at that job and get along with their colleagues, that may be the answer they’re stuck with.

      If they are willing to consider looking for work someplace which places a greater value on inclusivity, they can probably actually solve the problem of currently having colleagues who care less about OP than they do about their BBQ. But I’m not seeing another way to fix that particular piece of the whole situation.

      1. Hannah L*

        Your third paragraph makes a good point that I hadn’t considered. You’re right, the damage is done and if I were in OP’s shoes I’d still have a sour taste in my mouth even if they started including me. Unless it came with a big apology and an acknowledgement they were being thoughtless (unlikely, given their actions up until this point).

        This is one of those things that on the surface seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but after a while wears you down. It’s very demoralizing! And maybe for some it’d be easy to brush off, but I’m very much a “it’s the principle!” type person.

  45. Emily S.*

    Regarding thank-you emails after interviews, I use the subject line Interview Follow-Up. In my view, this better describes what the email is actually about. It is a chance to restate your case on why you’re a good fit for the job, and make all the other points Alison has written about.

  46. Chilipepper Attitude*

    OP #1, I’m vegan. I’d be very irked by the lack of time off too so I’d just take it.

    I’d bring my lunch, drive myself to the restaurant, look at the menu, and say, oh, nothing vegan (or vegetarian for the OP) and either pull out my lunch and eat it right there or say to the group, I’ll just pop out to a place with options for me, see you at the office! 2 hours is plenty of time to accomplish a drive to 2 restaurants.

    You might also consider asking the server off they can make something for you. You might be surprised!

  47. AG*

    I’m pretty surprised by the response to #2. The way I’m reading the letter, Bob isn’t *taking* calls from his girlfriend (which would be understandable), he is *making* calls to entertain himself for the 5-10 minutes of downtime. And since OP says “they will both talk in detail about their days and upcoming plans,” it seems a lot more like chit chat than logistics or a quick question, which I agree would be sort of uncomfortable to be privy to. I can’t tell how often the OP works with Bob, but my personal tolerance threshold for this would be wayyy below 10 minutes multiple times per week. I think saying “hey, would you mind taking that in the hallway?” next time he does this is completely appropriate. Hopefully Bob will take the hint after being asked a time or two.

    1. Moths*

      Agreed. My level of tolerance for someone making a personal call to chat because they’re bored while we’re in a small shared space together working on something would be very low. I think after just a couple of times of it happening, I would be at my limit and would start asking him to take the calls elsewhere every time it happened. If his partner is calling him and he’s answering and confirming a few things, I would be a little more tolerant, but would probably still ask him to take it elsewhere after it happened a few times.

  48. Lizard*

    #1: I feel this & have been there. Since your manager seems to be a jerk, have you tried getting in front of the problem by chatting about this with co-workers? I mean individually, well before lunch even happens. Sometimes direct appeals to individuals work better than trying to convince an entire group to change course in the moment.

    BTW, your manager is a piece of work IMO. The whole assigning “must do” tasks right before the call feels like poor management on her part… really, like she’s passing her work off to you so that she too can go out to lunch. That kind of thing would have me looking for another job.

  49. H3llifIknow*

    This has probably been said by others since I’m late to the party, but why on earth doesn’t the vegetarian just take off at the same time as the others and do his/her own thing? If the company is sanctioning an extra long lunch hour on those days, there is no reason they shouldn’t also take advantage of it and reap the benefits of some extra down time. I see no need to announce “Hey since they’re going to X, I’m going to Y, but I’m only taking the usual 30 min.” Nope. Either everyone gets that bonus lunch or nobody does.

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