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Coworker Offering To Buy Me Lunch


Business and Professional Relationships Networking and maintaining a positive environment in the work place is important! Surviving the 9-to-5 within.

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Old 22nd December 2015, 3:19 PM   #1
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Coworker Offering To Buy Me Lunch

So there's this work colleague of mine who has a boyfriend. She joined our crew a year ago. Earlier this week she and I go on break at the same time and she offers to get me something for lunch. She has tried chatting me up sometimes in the last 4 months. Sometimes she is extra helpful to me. She even poked me in the back a few times.

Anyway I politely declined her offer for lunch mostly because I felt uncomfortable. I don't feel comfortable accepting lunch offers from a woman who already has a boyfriend or is married.

I don't really know what her motives are but because there's nothing in her behavior to disprove the possibility that she is trying to hit on me I figure it is best to play it safe than sorry by not accepting offers to buy me lunch. This way if it is later revealed that her motives were about hitting on me then I won't feel like I owe her something. Accepting a lunch invitation would make me feel like I owe her something.

If her motives are innocent then nobody gets hurt from declining a lunch invitation and it won't be a big deal that I declined. So I haven't lost anything really. Besides there's no reason for any coworkers whether male or female to buy me lunch when I have done just fine buying my own lunch all the years I have worked there. It is not like I can't afford it.

I haven't done anything on my end to encourage her interest in me if she is interested. I never initiate conversations. If anything I purposely make more of an effort to stick to business with her and not socialize and to keep contact limited to a professional context. This way I can discourage her with everything in my power. Again I don't know her motives but her actions are at minimum ambiguous.

If buying lunch for coworkers is something that she usually does then I wouldn't think anything of it. Buying lunch for a coworker is not a crime but when it is not their usual behavior then a reasonable person can't help to get suspicuous about their motives behind it.
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Old 22nd December 2015, 4:46 PM   #2
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Cheeseburgers?
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Old 22nd December 2015, 5:05 PM   #3
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Try a line I used to use on MW's:

"Will your husband be joining us?"

Ha, ha.

Then again, her boyfriend may be on the way out and she's grooming new opportunities. This is common. Up to you.
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Old 22nd December 2015, 5:35 PM   #4
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In an office environment it's really common for people go out for lunch and one to pick up the tab, without it having any risqué context.
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Old 22nd December 2015, 6:09 PM   #5
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I offer lunches to colleagues quite often, of both sexes. It's meant to allow you to network with people within the company and build relationships that will help in other ways in your career. It doesn't mean anything beyond that. So it is very possible for it to be quite innocent. In this specific case I don't think we have all the information to tell so you may have to make a judgment call. Just be careful not to insult, because if her intentions are to innocently foster new work relationships, your jumping to a potentially wrong conclusion could be as equally harmful if your business requires people to make connections to grow their own brand within the company.
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Old 22nd December 2015, 9:47 PM   #6
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I offer lunches to colleagues quite often, of both sexes. It's meant to allow you to network with people within the company and build relationships that will help in other ways in your career. It doesn't mean anything beyond that. So it is very possible for it to be quite innocent. In this specific case I don't think we have all the information to tell so you may have to make a judgment call. Just be careful not to insult, because if her intentions are to innocently foster new work relationships, your jumping to a potentially wrong conclusion could be as equally harmful if your business requires people to make connections to grow their own brand within the company.
Well with the kind of work I do it wouldn't be necessary to build networking relationships. I don't work for a big corporation. It is a very small private business. I don't think she would interpret my decline as an insult since I made up an excuse not to go.
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Old 22nd December 2015, 10:43 PM   #7
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If it makes you feel more comfortable, I don't think there's anything wrong with you declining her offers. Just say you brought a lunch already.
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Old 22nd December 2015, 10:58 PM   #8
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It's fairly common to have lunch with coworkers - if she had asked you out to dinner 1-on-1, that would be a bit more concerning. But lunch, meh.

And while men offering to treat women does often come with romantic connotations IMO, women offering to buy lunch for a man does not really come with the same connotations. Perhaps not very egalitarian but that has been my observation.
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Old 23rd December 2015, 12:46 AM   #9
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It's fairly common to have lunch with coworkers - if she had asked you out to dinner 1-on-1, that would be a bit more concerning. But lunch, meh.

And while men offering to treat women does often come with romantic connotations IMO, women offering to buy lunch for a man does not really come with the same connotations. Perhaps not very egalitarian but that has been my observation.
Well what about her offer to buy me lunch in light of the other things I mentioned about her behavior? Should I just ignore everything else too like the touching on my back and attempts to chat me up and write those off as playful teasing? Is it also common for coworkers to poke each other in the back? I have never had a reason to touch any of my coworkers even the one I have been romantically interested in.
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Old 23rd December 2015, 2:15 AM   #10
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Just ignore it and go on like you have been. Eventually she will realize you're not interested in lunch or friendship and she'll back off. Don't feel bad about it either, you don't owe her anything.
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Old 23rd December 2015, 2:50 AM   #11
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Well what about her offer to buy me lunch in light of the other things I mentioned about her behavior? Should I just ignore everything else too like the touching on my back and attempts to chat me up and write those off as playful teasing? Is it also common for coworkers to poke each other in the back? I have never had a reason to touch any of my coworkers even the one I have been romantically interested in.
My boss has bought me lunch before, said he'd got his allowance from his wife & wanted to shout me! Hahaha! It doesn't mean anything beyond us being workmates and having lunch together. We make all sorts of trade jokes that would sound totally inappropriate to anyone else (we test for bacterial infection so we offer to look at each other's "genitals" etc) but it's all the spirit of fun & making our time at work less monotonous.
We often have shared lunches and morning teas, which we all enjoy as we have a multitude of cultures. I feel sorry for you if you have to wonder about the motives of a kind gesture at work.
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Old 23rd December 2015, 4:53 AM   #12
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My boss has bought me lunch before, said he'd got his allowance from his wife & wanted to shout me! Hahaha! It doesn't mean anything beyond us being workmates and having lunch together. We make all sorts of trade jokes that would sound totally inappropriate to anyone else (we test for bacterial infection so we offer to look at each other's "genitals" etc) but it's all the spirit of fun & making our time at work less monotonous.
We often have shared lunches and morning teas, which we all enjoy as we have a multitude of cultures. I feel sorry for you if you have to wonder about the motives of a kind gesture at work.
I don't think it's fair to say you feel sorry for the OP because of how he feels. It all depends on context. I've had coworkers buy me lunch or chat me up and there was never a doubt in my mind that it was completely innocent and platonic but I've also had similar interactions and offers that I knew were anything but innocent although the true intent was unspoken. It sounds like the OP is getting a vibe from this coworker that her intentions are not purely professional and innocent and he would be the best judge of that.

OP I say just be friendly with the coworker but in a professional way. You don't have to accept her offers for lunch and you can keep your interactions with her light.
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Old 23rd December 2015, 10:01 AM   #13
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Only time will tell. It seems like some of you don't consider the possibility that many work affairs start out innocently as just buying lunch. If someone is trying to seduce you they don't necessarily start off with grabbing your genitals or jumping you in the office. It can start out as innocent as just an exclusive activity of eating lunch together. If I were trying to seduce someone I would be looking for an excuse to spend time with that coworker on a break or something.

So while a coworker may have innocent intentions it is not always easy to tell if they really have another agenda and are trying to start out with something innocent as an excuse to get closer to you. So only time will tell. But I have all my basis covered just in case the worst case scenario comes to pass and her boyfriend finds out about it through the grapevine. I can explain to him that I did everything to discourage her.

If you suspect someone is trying to seduce you into an affair and you want no part of it then you gotta discourage it in the early stages while things still appear to be innocent. I would feel more comfortable going to lunch or a coffee if she were inviting a few other work colleagues to go. If it is a group activity then there would be no reason to wonder about her motives.

Last edited by Prancer; 23rd December 2015 at 10:05 AM..
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Old 23rd December 2015, 10:08 AM   #14
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So far, your evidence for her possibly grooming you for an affair is:

an offer to pick up something for you for lunch
making a few conversational overtures over a period of four months
being helpful
"poking your back" on occasion

I'd say it's equivocal at best. If even that.

Your posts make you seem like a person with very rigid and narrow views of the world. So I doubt her behaviour is nearly as nefarious as you do.

It also sounds like you have put a great deal of thought into this. Are you conflicted because you are attracted to her? If she did not have a boyfriend, how would you respond?

In any event, you can be polite but make it clear you're not interested in being friendly. Hopefully she will get the message.
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Old 23rd December 2015, 10:15 AM   #15
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So far, your evidence for her possibly grooming you for an affair is:

an offer to pick up something for you for lunch
making a few conversational overtures over a period of four months
being helpful
"poking your back" on occasion

I'd say it's equivocal at best. If even that.

Your posts make you seem like a person with very rigid and narrow views of the world. So I doubt her behaviour is nearly as nefarious as you do.

It also sounds like you have put a great deal of thought into this. Are you conflicted because you are attracted to her? If she did not have a boyfriend, how would you respond?

In any event, you can be polite but make it clear you're not interested in being friendly. Hopefully she will get the message.
Are you asking these questions rhetorically or are you really looking for an answer to these questions? It doesn't sound like you really want me to answer because you already think you are convinced of what the answers are. Just the way in which you asked makes it sound like you think you have the ending all figured out.

As for putting alot of thought into it? That's just a natural part of my personality to think hard when it comes to every situation in life and not just with work or dating or getting a read out on the intents of others. So I don't take it as a flaw to put alot of thought into anything. It is better to think too much than to think too little. Are you suggesting I shouldn't think before acting? There's a reason God gave us brains and we only use 2% of our brain power at best. Until we get anywhere near 50% of brain power use I'm really not going to put any credence into someone telling me that I think too much. We don't think enough as it is.

Last edited by Prancer; 23rd December 2015 at 10:25 AM..
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