How Do I Say No To Food My Boss Offers?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about saying NO to a kind offer:

I work in a two person office and my boss is a wonderful, caring person. Unfortunately, she never brings her lunch–she orders out, and always includes soup or a sandwich for me (which she pays for) because she “hates to eat alone.” I don’t want to eat lunch because I feel full through the day. But, she won’t let me sit at the table and not eat, she insists I eat too.

If I leave it half-eaten, she puts it in the refrigerator as a left-over for the next day. I have tried telling her I’m not hungry or I’m watching my weight, or that I brought something from home or am going out to an early dinner, or a million other excuses. Nothing works! I can’t antagonize her–we are just two people who have to work together–and I’m 68 years old, so looking for another job is out of the question. I enjoy her but I don’t want to eat at lunch. She won’t take “no” for an answer, and I’m stumped!

Signed, Stumped and Stuffed!

Dear Stumped and Stuffed!:

I don’t think your boss sounds very wonderful and caring, she sounds needy and uncaring! Or maybe she feels you need her financial assistance to have enough food. Whatever her thought process, you must admit this is rather odd for someone to essentially force feed an employee and for the employee to go along with it! If you think she is a nice person, I think you will have to trust that she wouldn’t fire you over this issue nor would she be so angry or hurt she would treat you badly. But, you are the one who will need to stop the situation. I get the impression you don’t mind spending time with her, it’s the eating that bothers you. So don’t do it. Bring the lightest lunch from home that you can–broth, vegetable sticks, one fourth of a sandwich. Something that you can eat but that won’t be filling. Make it miniscule if you want, but bring it in a lunch bag and make it your official lunch and the only lunch you will eat. Don’t eat anything else but that, no matter what. Tell her early in the day, “I brought lunch so don’t order anything for me.” Keep saying that like a broken record if she insists. Put a smile on your face and say, “Helen! Now really, I have food and it makes me feel bad when you insist I eat something else.”Approach it from the idea that she is hurting your feelings or creating an unhealthy situation for you. Actually, she is!

Then, stick with it. Don’t ever, ever, ever touch food that she has bought for you, unless it’s a special event. But otherwise, remind yourself of what that food represents: Her forcing you to do something you don’t want to do. And you, giving in to her and letting her dominate you in an unhealthy way. If she is a nice person and you are a good employee, you will be able to do this successfully. You just have to sit back and look at it from the perspective of what you would tell a friend in the same situation. You would tell her to take a stand and not give in–that’s what you need to do. But, of course, you can do that in a caring way that is appreciative of your boss’s purchases for you over time. It’s just time for that to end.Best wishes. If you wish to do so, let us know what happens with this!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.