Of all the etiquette quandaries, this one is the source of much contention. It is a simple enough question: “When you are out to eat with co-workers, clients or colleagues, who picks up the check?” The answer depends on the circumstances, and there is no “one size fits all” solution. Here are a few possible scenarios to review:
The Invitee Rule
The protocol to a lunch or dinner invitation is this: if you extend the request, you are covering the bill and the gratuity. Simple enough, but here is where things are often murky—not every invitation is an offer. For example, there is a difference between co-workers deciding to grab a bite and a colleague offering to host you for your birthday. As a general etiquette rule, be prepared by carrying cash or a credit card and do not expect a free plate unless you are attending for a purpose.
The Boss/Employee Rule
If your boss joins you, it is generally considered good etiquette that they pay for the meal. A word of warning, however, not every employer feels the same way. I had a former boss who NEVER picked up the check!
The Client Lunch
It should go without saying that if you are taking a client or potential client out to lunch, you are in charge of everything associated with the meal, from beginning to end. It is not only good manners but a token of appreciation for their time.
The “Can You Bring Me Something Back?” Request
Workplace veterans are rightfully wary of telling anyone when they head out to grab a bite. Let the office know where you are going, and you have got a new job title: delivery person. Of course, it is not always an inconvenience to pick something up for a hungry co-worker. Just watch out for the ‘I’ll get you next time’ crowd—politely insist they give you cash and be sure to bring back their exact change and a receipt.
Does Gender Matter?
No. In business, both men and women are equal partners. Gender should matter about as much as the color of your socks. Treat each other as equals, regardless of whether you wear lace-up oxfords or a great pair of high heels.
For more of my dining etiquette tips, check out The Art of a Mannerly Business Meal on The Huffington Post.