Office birthday luncheons: Do I have to attend?
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