Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.
By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
August 3, 2016

Q: How can I politely turn down lunch invitations that I can’t afford from coworkers?

My colleagues invite me to lunch several times each week. I attempt to make excuses by mentioning I have a heavy workload or that I’ve already packed a lunch, but the fact is that I just don’t have the money to go out for lunch. I’m very budget-savvy and I pay attention to every penny, so it’s not as though I’m a careless spender — I just quite literally do not have the money, especially for spontaneous events. We work in a fairly upscale part of town, so even when I do have some extra cash, I can’t really afford anything within walking distance.

I really love my job and my colleagues and I don’t want to appear antisocial. I also understand that my coworkers make significantly more money than I do, so they may not realize that money is more of an object for me (I am fine working at the “bottom of the totem pole” since it provides experience that directly correlates to the skills I’m learning in my master’s program). My colleagues really seem to like me and I don’t want them to think the feeling is not reciprocal. I also don’t want them to become less comfortable working with me.

A: “My budget usually only allows for packed lunches from home, but if you ever get takeout and bring it back, I’d love to eat with you.”

Most people remember being on a tight salary at the start of their careers and will get it once you explain it.

If you can, though, look for other ways to make overtures — for example, if you usually eat your lunch in the park next to your office, you could invite someone to join you there. Or if you occasionally splurge on a takeout coffee or a cookie from the bakery downstairs or whatever, invite someone to go with you. That stuff isn’t strictly necessary, but if it’s an option, it’ll help reinforce that you want to be friendly.

Q: I’m being required to sing on camera for work

Each year, the government-funded organization that I work for has a roadshow which the government are invited to – it’s basically an excuse to showcase why our services are required and to encourage the government to financally support us. In the weeks leading up to this, we were persistently asked to record a speech in front of a camera about how fantastic it is to work for my employer. This would then be shown in a presentation. If we refused (which I did), we were pressured into holding up a piece of paper with something written on it and this would be shown in the presentation along with the videos.

I was very unhappy that I felt pressured and forced to take part in this – I felt mortified. That was several months ago. Recently someone in their wisdom has came up with the great idea that we could sing this cringey song in our individual teams! We are a very small team and I don’t know how to get out of this. Singing in public is my worst nightmare! They want to make a video of us singing this awful song and it will be done during office hours. I don’t want my face or voice to be used for any promotional or marketing reason. How can I get out of this?

A: “I don’t sing, and I’m not comfortable appearing on camera. I’d be glad to do other things to support the project behind the scenes, though. What else would be helpful?”

If they tell you this is required, say this: “I’m really not going to sing. Is there something else you’d like me to do, off-camera?”

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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