Ask LH: What Should I Discuss With My Boss During Pub Lunches?

Dear Lifehacker, What should I do if I have an unplanned pub lunch with my boss? How can I best take advantage of this time? What topics should I bring up, and which ones should I avoid? I’ve had lunch with him before but I always walk away feeling like I should have used the time better. Any suggestions? Thanks, Meal Deal

Pub lunch picture from Shutterstock

Dear MD,

Most unplanned workplace lunches are purely social engagements. If your boss wanted to nut out problems or brainstorm initiatives, you would have presumably received a brief beforehand.

In fact, he might not want to “talk shop” at all. Your boss might simply be treating the team to a lazy pub lunch — in that scenario, bombarding him with questions and/or suggestions could actually prove irritating!

Instead of using these meals to covertly boost your career, treat them as an opportunity to get to know your boss better. Talk about shared interests. Discuss recent holiday destinations. Basically, just relax and treat it like a friendly lunch (which it is.)

If you’re not a natural conversationalist, this guide might be worth a look: it contains eight questions that will help to improve your relationship with your boss. You can find plenty of additional relationship-building tips here.

It’s not just about building rapport either; interacting socially with your boss can also lead to improvements in your own productivity. A recent study found that people who spend time interacting with their direct leader are significantly more inspired, engaged, innovative and intrinsically motivated than those who don’t.

If the conversation flows towards work, find out which issues he sees as important and any problem areas that might need addressing. You can then file this information away and try to come up with a solution on your own initiative.

Naturally, you should also use this opportunity to broach any concerns you have about the company; be they major or minor. Just be aware that a noisy pub probably isn’t the best place to discuss thorny workplace issues.


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