Fussy About Food

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Whether you work in a corporate set up or in a casual office with bean bag chairs and where shorts are an accepted dress code, there are certain matters that you shouldn’t take lightly. And, having good lunchtime etiquette is one of them! Dev Goswami tells you more

Lunch is a well-deserved break in the  middle of a busy work day for most of us. It’s that time of day when you forget about all your pending deadlines and spend a little time indulging in idle chatter, reading a book or simply browsing through social media feeds. But, while your boss may not care much about what you do during your lunch hour, you can be certain that your every move affects how your colleagues perceive you. If you don’t want to be the sort of girl people conveniently forget to invite to lunch at a restaurant close by, you need to follow these rules. Suhasini Ahluwalia Mehta, a personal image coach and corporate trainer, helps us out with a few great tips.

Conversational Mishaps
When it comes to talking with your colleagues at lunch, it is important to remember that you’re doing it to pass the time and take a break from work. You’re not in the parliament or in the middle of a television debate, discussing matters of national importance. Getting into arguments with your colleagues over subjects such as politics and religion is only going to lead to simmering tension. Leave those topics for a drunken discussion with your friends or for a spirited blog post. Suhasini recommends that you talk about hobbies, films, a good article that you may have come across, sports (but don’t get too competitive!) or an interesting book you read.

Including Everyone
Remember to include everyone in your conversation — avoid talking to a friend about the fantastic deal you came across when you were browsing for dresses, unless you think that everyone at your lunch table will be interested in the topic. Suhasini explains, “It’s important to have a conversations that everyone can contribute to. For example, don’t share cooking tips or recipes during lunch unless you know that everyone at your table cooks or would be interested in a conversation about cooking.” Also, remember that even when it comes to talking about work, it shouldn’t be so specific that only a few people at your table respond to you, with others unable to fathom what you’re talking about.

The Lone Wolf
Every office has a colleague who prefers eating alone and everyone has days when they’d rather eat at their desk. In such cases, Suhasini tells us, you should not be offended by that and let them be. If you’re the one who wants to eat alone, Suhasini recommends that you politely pass the message on to your colleagues. If you need to, you can say that you have a meeting and need to eat quickly or simply that you want to catch up on some reading. However, she also tells us that you should make sure to clean your desk when you’re done eating. She adds, “If your workspace is surrounded by several other desks in a closed, centrally air-conditioned space, try to avoid eating at your desk, as your food may leave behind unpleasant odours. If you must, make sure that the area is adequately aired after you’re done eating.” Another point to remember is not to throw leftovers in the bin by your desk — it will stink. Get it cleared on a regular basis or use the dustbin in the pantry.

Stay In Character
Yes, lunch is a relaxing time, which allows you to take a break from work. But you’re still a professional, and you need to behave like one. Suhasini tells us that talking about your personal problems is a strict no-no. She explains, “Don’t cultivate the habit of making fun of your in-laws or complaining about your personal life in front of your colleagues. Also, respect other people’s food preferences and avoid cracking jokes about being vegetarian.” She also adds that you should refrain from criticising other people’s food — it’s good etiquette to compliment them but very bad manners to do the opposite. If you don’t like a particular food item, keep it to yourself and politely refuse it the next time it is passed around. If someone refuses your food (Suhasini tells us that it is good manners to offer your food to your colleagues at least once), don’t insist that they take a bite or feel offended. There’s another, lighter point that Suhasini tells us about, as she signs off. She says, “If your office has arranged a lunch buffet, don’t criticise the food!” We whole-heartedly agree! Your office is paying for your lunch — most of us don’t get that!

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