Gruff, unreasonable, and known to once make a co-worker cry, my spouse has been trying to make changes in his demeanor. He knows the way he acts could possibly get in the way of future advancement. In the past year, he’s become a very different guy. He’s made friends with co-workers (we’ve even invited a few over for dinner), goes to a monthly poker night, and has softened his tough-guy image.
Except in one arena: he hates going out to lunch with his co-workers. His team goes out to lunch as one big group about every two weeks. They pick a fancier restaurant than my spouse is comfortable with and tend to rack up a big bill that often includes alcohol. At the end of the meal, each person is expected to split the bill equally regardless of whether they ordered only a small plate or had three martinis plus an appetizer.
My penny-pinching partner is practically having bleeding ulcers over paying 30 bucks for a lunch that he didn’t really enjoy.
My spouse is a typical finance guy. He balances a budget, questions every single purchase, and is a reporting guru. He’s incredibly talented at his job. With a background in IT and two degrees in Finance, the guy is an asset to any organization. While he can run circles around most finance people, he’s lacking in the soft skills department.
He knows that things like team lunches are important. But he also feels like he’s putting more out there than he’s getting back. On my advice, he’s tried to get out of a few and only go once a month or less. It’s not like he has to be there for every lunch. But his manager made notice when he didn’t show up to an employee-funded softball game where each person was expected to shell out $50 to pay for the field, the equipment rental, and food.
The whole concept of regular, employee-paid team lunches is new to me. In all my jobs, the entire team typically only got to together when the boss was paying. Otherwise, people would break off into small groups of 2-4 to get lunch. I often make jokes with old co-workers than we once belonged to the best lunch club ever. There were 6 of us that all loved the same foods, loved to get away from the office for lunch, and got along so well that we regularly ate lunch together at least three times a week. Sure, we often split the bill but no one would have taken advantage of that by ordering three martinis and expecting everyone else to chip in for it.
I always know when it’s been “team lunch day” for my spouse. He comes home and complains about it. A lot. My advice to him was to only go once a month AND to learn how to cough over the money without resenting his team. I said to drive alone, leave lunch early, and give cash for “his share” before the bill came in. I didn’t believe it could be that big a deal, until he showed me an email sent from his controller where she told him that he owed her $15 after the bill was split equally. $15 dollars more than what he had already contributed which covered the cost of his meal plus tax and tip. Who does that??
While there certainly are no free lunches, my spouse is surely feeling like he’s personally subsidizing it for others.
So he’s asked me to ask all of you for advice. Should he just suck it up and fork over his wallet? Or is there a way in which he can approach the subject with his manager that doesn’t make him look like the resident jerk?