Question: “Our department acknowledges birthdays by taking the birthday person
out to lunch. The person gets to choose where to eat and the entire
department leaves for an hour-and-a- half, at least. The problems that
I have are: I have to surrender my lunchtime; the company doesn’t foot
the bill; I have various food that I cannot eat; we take turns driving
in groups, which means I have to put extra gas in the car if it’s my
turn to drive. I am beyond busy with no slack time. I would rather
decline these excursions and acknowledge the person’s birthday directly
on my own. How can I tactfully decline without appearing unsociable and
not part of the group?” — Anonymous, Los Angeles
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