The Working Lunch

The uninitiated rookie in the corporate world is unequal to the task of understanding the basics of what a working lunch entails. It could take years, even decades, to master the nuances and exploit the potential of this concept.

On the face of it, the term ‘working lunch’ could be mistaken to simply mean a way for the busy executives to continue working while they incidentally take care of keeping their biological engine refueled. On closer observation, it would become clear that nothing is farther from the truth. For the sake of clarity, it should be mentioned here that the act of two (or more) executives unobtrusively munching away on their sandwiches while discussing the terms of their proposal to a client does not constitute a working lunch. If it is not visible to the larger audience in the office, it fails the test.

A working lunch just does not happen – it is always carefully planned, many times weeks ahead of time. It is as much a part of any meeting agenda as the official topic of discussion itself. It needs to be carefully timed and scheduled after taking into consideration various people who will be arriving late for the meeting (obviously, flying in from another city/country) and those who will be leaving early (for the same reason, in reverse). The duration of the working lunch cannot be seen to be excessive – the ideal duration is zero minutes – though in reality it can be extended as long as it takes to finish all tete-a-tete’s that invariably start during a working lunch.

The menu for a working lunch cannot be taken lightly either. Secretaries and executive assistants are known to have lost their jobs (or received promotions) on their ability to pick the right items and flavors. The menu should, simultaneously, be tasty, healthy, sumptuous, nutritious and exhibit other characteristics to dispel any doubts of being commonplace. ‘Unhealthy’ drinks such as Coke should be included so as to enable executives to pick tonic water and green tea.

What happens during these working lunches makes an interesting study. Discussion regarding lunch starts right at the beginning of the meeting when important presentations are halted to review the lunch menu that is circulated. Significant time is spent on asking for items, such as specific salad dressings, that are not on the menu. Finally, the secretary walks away with a lunch order that has very little in common with the original menu. Fulfilling this order keeps many staff members in the office busy the whole morning as they head out in different directions to various restaurants.

After much anticipation, and sometimes nail-biting wait times, lunch arrives. Executives open their presents, sorry lunch boxes, and take a satisfying bite, making all the hard work of listening to various presentations worthwhile. Various topics, quite unrelated to the meeting or the business on hand are initiated and the ensuing discussions continue long after the scheduled lunch break is over. The beauty of the situation is that, as all the executives are still technically in the meeting, everything looks official and ‘business as usual’ to the outside world!

In today’s world of virtual working, working lunches are a great way of getting executives into the office. However, if you look at the overall gain/loss of productivity of the people involved (don’t forget all the administrative staff working hard to make these lunches happen), especially as compared to going out to a nearby restaurant, you might well be in for a surprise!


4 thoughts on “The Working Lunch

  1. Raghu,

    Your article is both an eye-opener and eye-shut thingy…let me ‘attempt’ to explain…

    While I see the topic under the radar of discussion is pertinent/intriguing (thanks to YOUR take on professional ethic/behavior), I always assumed ‘Working Out lunche(s)’, if any, only comprised of people living in the same latitude/longitude as regards to the (BWMHAHAHA) ‘Initiator’.

    To be honest, (forgive my being an ‘elite ignoramus’, but…) I have never heard of people participating in such forums involving folks across the globe. That is what I said was an eye-opener. In the world that we live with teleconferencing and other advanced technologies, this maneuver, if still existent seems to be orthodox and ancient tactic/ploy/? that defeats the very purpose of the need for the congregation…

    I love the irony, and I do ‘feel’ the frustration, but…all said and done, I enjoyed every word of what you wrote….and hence this dumb epilog from your old subordinate/friend…Sir-Ji!

  2. “‘Unhealthy’ drinks such as Coke should be included so as to enable executives to pick tonic water and green tea.” — haha, love it! You forgot the obligatory spread of cookies and desserts!

  3. Dear Raghupathy,

    The Blog is really interesting and exposes some of the Reality of the situations in Corporate Life!

    In Singapore and SE Asia, we call this as “Lunch Through Meeting” although it is slowing disappearing due to Budget issues and virtual office concepts. My opinion to this is that NOTHING much is achieved at the Lunch thru meeting time, but, it serves the organiser to HOLD and keep all executives BEFORE and AFTER the LUNCH to make a continued productive session. This is my experience seen at Wafer fab foundries and in companies where technical issues are being discussed with detailed analysis reports, statistical validation reports, etc.

    However, what I had seen is that even after such technique of holding people, executives smartly disappear in the middle of the meeting with mobile calls (Private or official? only they know) and will like you share your BLOG if you have made any.

    Wishing you and your family a Very happy and Prosperous New Year 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s