Lunch Taboos You Should Break

You’re REALLY busy. No time for lunch. Better to grab some almonds and a diet coke and work through. The time you save at lunch gets you home sooner to your family. I’m with you. 

In fact when I was pregnant, my assistant announced she had blocked 30 minutes for me every day to walk to the cafeteria for lunch. I was allowed to move the appointment, but not delete it, for the sake of the baby.

Oh sure, I do business lunches, with an agenda and a purpose. And my sales team used to share that whenever I had something serious to talk about I invited them for a pumpkin latte. When sales started to dip, I would get a pre-emptive call: “I’ve already started scouting out the nearest Starbucks. I know you’ll want to talk.”

So I was surprised when a former colleague invited me to lunch. In all the years we worked together (in the same building) we hadn’t gone to lunch. Now he was at another company. I thought, he must need help. I’d better make the time.

What I Learned At Lunch

We met for lunch and I waited for the agenda to emerge. There was none. We got caught up on our careers and families. We talked about leadership and engagement, culture, common business challenges, hopes, disappointments.
And then he shared:

“You know the biggest difference between the 2 cultures? At my new company going to lunch is encouraged. Our entire culture is built on relationships. We have an open invitation to invite anyone from any other department to lunch, just to get to know them. No agenda required. And we can expense it.”

I laughed. My finance guy would never have allowed that (he was my finance guy). “Yup,” he admitted. As he picked up the check, I vowed to treat the next time. I got back to my office and looked and my calendar. Who could use a nice salad?

Posted in Communication and tagged , , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. Great story Karin! I often power through lunch myself. But, our work is all about relationships! We should all take a lesson from your friend here. Who knows what could happen?

    P.S. I would love a salad! 😉

  2. Hi Karin,

    I moved my team to a home based environment about 5 years ago,. Although there have been many benefits to transitioning my team to working 100% remotely, lunch time was not one of them.

    Granted, the few who live close to each other continue to meet occasionally for lunch, the tendency to eat at one’s desk when working from home is strong. I would say it is even more important for your remote workers to break away at lunchtime – whether it to meet a colleague from work or to take a walk around the block.

    Thank you for a great post.

  3. Very awesome story your friend shared, “Culture by way of Lunch”. Just goes to show there are many creative ways to energize the work day. Face time can lift our spirits and spark ideas, personal and professional. Throw in that bonus salad and we are moving mountains! Sweet post Karin (no pun intended, I don’t mean dessert). Have a great weekend all!

    • Alma so agree… You are the only commenter I’ve actually had lunch with. Besides for the fact that I ate way to much… it was just delightful 😉 Thank you.

  4. Thanks, This doesn’t work quite as well in a non profit environment. We all watch our nickles carefully. And we have no budget for lunches. If we do it, it’s on my dime.
    We mostly bring our lunch.
    That said the point about relationship building is a good one.
    I try to accomplish that by simply having social conversations during the week, where i try to find out what’s going on in people’s lives.


  5. Thank you for sharing this. I am sometimes hesitant to take a lunch away from my computer- will it look like I am not working hard enough? What if I don’t get everything done because of it? My culture advocates we take a lunch, yet I still find it challenging to do. I have to constantly remind myself that if I coach people on taking their well-being seriously, then I have to model that behavior and lead from actions!

    Thanks for the reminder, and I am so glad I took a lunch with a few coworkers today!

    Danielle Elizabeth Aaronson

  6. I love hearing about great examples of smart culture. It can be inspirational. Terrific stuff.

    Many years ago during a study tour we were hosting as part of a national quality award win we had achieved, I used the term ‘internal customers’ and was asked what that meant. I explained our process mapping used the term to instill a sense of ‘service’ between internal departments up and down a process flow. eg, you are my customer and I value you, or I’m your customer and I this is not working for me, lets talk.

    The questioner still looked bemused but hopefully he’d pass the concept on.

    • Dallas, the idea of internal customers is key to many of the team’s I’ve led… if you don’t think of someone as your customer… there’s big trouble.

  7. Whenever I traveled to see people my team around the country, I always tried to take each individual to dinner or lunch and rarely did I expense it in. Worth every penny. (that’s not to say I didn’t expense it when I could!)

    When I come back to the USA and to DC Metro Karin… I’m taking you to lunch and it’s on me.


  8. It’s amazing what comes out when we “break bread” with others.

    The whole idea of business lunches has gotten hijacked by expense reports, tighter work schedules, agendas, shameless politicking…how refreshing to get back into the habit of actually sharing a meal and good conversation with a colleague.

    Great post!

  9. Karin,

    Thank you for sharing your story! It resonated! There are so many days I have not taken lunch with people I really cared about, because I was so busy. I told myself that switching gears from work to social and back to work interrupted my focus. The reality was I needed the mental break, the relationships, and the fuel.

    I love the vision of the company your former colleague now works for. Expense lunches so you can build relationships. Awesome!

  10. Karin,

    A fantastic reminder to make time for relationships and conversations that matter. I benefited greatly from working on a team that valued those informal spheres of influence, including team dinners, team builders, NYC scavenger hunts….gelling as a team requires these times. I firmly believe results follow relationships

  11. Great article! A former co-worker and I identified quite a few months back that we didn’t really ever talk unless something work-related came up because things in the office had become so busy (aka we had not been making time for these types of important things). We decided to start scheduling lunch with each other every month and attempt to leave the building for them. We have been successful so far, and there was only one occasion where we ate in the cafeteria, and it worked out well because a co-worker from another office was in town and joined us. I am so glad we decided to schedule these (yes, we have had to reschedule but try not to cancel). We both really look forward to our lunch time together and to catching up!

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