Who Pays For Lunch When Going Out With Colleagues?





Have you ever been invited out for lunch or dinner or drinks with your colleagues and wondered if you should pay your own way of if you should let your colleague pay your way?

Well, I have some thoughts on that I’d like to share.


If your colleague is asking you out for lunch, drinks or dinner, this should be during your working hours or directly after your working hours. It’s considered a friendly outing, and you will pay your own way under 99% of the circumstances. You will pay for your own bill and you If your colleague is asking you out for lunch, drinks or dinner, this should be during your working hours or directly after your working hours. It’s considered a friendly outing, and you will pay your own way under 99% of the circumstances. You will pay for your own bill and you will pay for your own tips.


The only time your colleague may pay the tab or bill for you is if it’s a special occasion.

  • For instance, if it’s your birthday.
  • Maybe you got a promotion.
  • Maybe a new baby’s been born in your family.
  • Or, maybe some other kind of special occasion has happened for you.
Your colleague could offer to buy you lunch or drinks. So, what would you do in that circumstance?

Well, this is what I usually have done.


If it was my birthday, my colleague would say, “Hey Jennifer, ya wanna go out for a birthday lunch, I’ll treat you?”

I’ll say, “I’ll go out for lunch with you, but that’s ok, I can pay for myself.”
And, then, my colleague would say, “No, Jennifer, come on, it’s your birthday, ya know, let me just give ya a small treat. It’s not a big deal.”
And, I’ll say, “Well, I still would like to pay for myself, but I’m happy to go out to lunch with you, anyway and spend time with you.”
And, then my colleague would say, “No, come on, Jennifer, let me pay for you, I insist.” And, then after that, I would let them pay.

You don’t want to keep the “bargaining” going on back and forth, but if your colleague is gonna offer to pay, they would ask you in that first sentence itself when they invite you to lunch. That’s usually what’s happened with me.


The only other circumstance where colleagues or office will pay for your outing, your lunch, if it’s a ‘team building effort’ or it’s something your office is sponsoring. Your office is sponsoring some kind of retreat, or lunch, or outing of some kind, then the office will pay the bill. You might need to ask if your boss hasn’t told you what kind of things are accepted to be paid for on that tab. My understanding is 99% of things are paid for. Alcoholic beverages will not be paid for by most companies' tabs. That depends on the company you work for. If you don’t drink alcohol, then you don’t need to worry about that. These are just some of my thoughts about going out to work with your colleagues and who should pay.



For those working with Americans, living in the US or abroad, corporate communication coaching is available in person in Kochi, India or worldwide via the Internet or phone. For classroom style cultural sensitization programs, check out the choices for US culture training or contact Jennifer today.




Related Posts:  
How to talk with Americans    
Eating with American Colleagues 
What time is Lunch in US Offices?  

Video: How to respond to lunch and drink invitations from American coworkers, in a culturally appropriate way.  ©2010-2014 Jennifer Kumar  

This article is the intellectual property of Authentic Journeys Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. Copyright ©2012, Updated 2014, Jennifer Kumar. All Rights Reserved. Do not reprint without permission. 

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