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The Importance of Lunch 475

theodp writes "I've been on teams that eat together every day,' writes Joel-on-Software Spolsky, 'and it's awesome. I've been on teams that don't, and lunch every day is, at best, lonely.' Spolsky is firmly in the camp that believes where and with whom we eat lunch is a much bigger deal than most people care to admit. 'There's a lot of stuff that's accidental about Fog Creek and Stack Exchange,' he concludes, 'but lunch is not one of them. Ten years ago Michael and I set out with the rather ambitious goal of making a great place to work. Eating together is a critical part of what it means to be human and what it means to have a humane workplace, and that's been a part of our values from day one.'"
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The Importance of Lunch

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  • Lunchbreaks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:25PM (#35975904)

    Personally... I'd rather spend that hour working and leave an hour earlier.

    Generally I'm at work to make money and not to make friends. I know every company does the rah-rah, we're awesome, "team-building", let's all be friends so we work better together. But I'd rather just be professional, get my work done, and spend my free time how I see fit.

  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:27PM (#35975928) Homepage Journal

    I once spoke to a CEO of a successful startup in Texas. He attributed a large part of their success to the fact that the team ate lunch together every day. They sold the company to a larger company for big bucks, success by some measure at least.

  • Re:Lunchbreaks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:29PM (#35975946)

    Teambuilding is fine when the rest of your team aren't cunts.

    When they are...well, let me put it this way. If I "had" to eat lunch with my direct co-worker here every day, I'd either put a bullet in his head or my own. It is bad enough that I have to work with a moron, the last thing I want to do is be sociable with a moron.

    We work together fine (which really means I handle that which is my responsibility, and he handles that which is his responsibility)...but a team we be not.

  • Extrovert (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:29PM (#35975954)

    Again with people forcing extrovert-ism on the world. Why can't people *in general* be accepting of introverts who like to, and gain their energy from, being alone? I find it is an excellent time to put my thoughts together and come up with new ideas while away from my desk.

  • Re:Lunchbreaks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:30PM (#35975966) Homepage Journal

    You make it sound like your work is a reality tv show ("I'm not here to make friends, I'm here to win.")

    If you don't think good personal relationships will make for a better team, then I'm glad you don't work with me.

  • Re:Lunchbreaks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tripleevenfall ( 1990004 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:33PM (#35976008)

    You can maintain good relationships with coworkers without having to go to happy hours and play lazer tag and drive go-karts with them.

    And, without being forced to basically make lunch into a meeting.

  • workers vs owners (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hazel Bergeron ( 2015538 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:33PM (#35976016) Journal

    If you want to make a "great place to work" in the sense that those you work with are more than resources to exploit, build a cooperative, partnership or mutual.

    If you want to throw bones to your more easily won over employees, safe in the knowledge that you can fire them whenever necessary, pontificate on the importance of eating lunch with them.

  • by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:34PM (#35976022)

    "I’ve been on teams that eat together every day, and it’s awesome."
    "...but you’ll also see a distressing number of loners eating by themselves..."
    " Maybe they’re reading a book or checking their email while they eat so they don’t look sad."
    "Maybe they genuinely don’t like people and they’re happy to eat alone. Or maybe they’re just telling you that."

    This is something I see a lot in workplaces: Extroverted people just not understanding the mind of introverted people. Honestly I'm surprised a person with experience in the tech field (I assume) is falling into this trap.

    Not everyone enjoys being around and talking to other people all day long. Maybe it's because they're shy, maybe it's because they don't like their co-workers, maybe it's because they have some kind of disorder, or maybe it's just their natural personality. I gotta be honest, there's no way I'd last at that place, because if my boss/coworkers were on my case every day to come eat with them, I'd be miserable. It's fine if the group wants to go out/gather once in a while, but not every day. Most days I just want to go have an hour where I can be left to myself and not have to talk to anyone else. Wonder how many otherwise good employees he's run off with this policy?

  • Re:Lunchbreaks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by negRo_slim ( 636783 ) <mils_orgen@hotmail.com> on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:36PM (#35976044) Homepage

    but what lunch time I do take, I like to have it quietly alone away from work and coworkers.

    Same here I've always enjoyed the solitude of a snack and a paper for my lunches, it never ceases to infuriate me when you become obligated to take part in company lunches/doughnut parties/etc, etc. I've had jobs seriously impacted by my lack of a desire to attend christmas parties or company birthday parties for people I don't even know.

    It's funny how you can be expected to put forth all this excitement, commitment and seeming loyalty towards companies that would just as soon lay you off if it was amiable for them.

  • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:38PM (#35976082)
    Is lunch with the team counted as on the clock? If not, the boss has no right to tell anybody with whom they should or should not eat.
  • Yay! Anecdotes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:39PM (#35976092)

    That's AWESOME!

    And if he had attributed the success to keeping a picture of a porcupine on his desk, would it be as relevant?

    The key point is that he sold the company to a larger company.
    He did not buy the larger company.

    It all comes down to how you define "success".

  • by turgid ( 580780 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:42PM (#35976136) Journal

    Where I work, a bunch of us sit together for lunch, from my team and people who used to be on the team but went to work on other things.

    Talking about work is banned. Lunch is a time to crack jokes, talk about hobbies, outside interest and to put the world to rights.

    Taking a complete break from work for half to one hour is very good for concentration and problem-solving. It's amazing how frequently seemingly difficult problems become easily solvable after a proper lunch break.

    Some people are fine with half an hour, but I need at least an hour and some strong coffee afterwards. For the last 20-30 minutes, I read the news and have a good laugh at the ranting on slashdot.

    Those social bonds formed at lunch time are important. It's easier to go and speak to those people about work matters later and get their advice when you're friendly with them and you know how their minds work.

    And it's just nice to have a few friends in the place.

  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @12:46PM (#35976186) Homepage

    There are introverted ways to enjoy a group lunch. Eating, listening, and perhaps occasionally participating in a discussion when it's relevant. A group lunch isn't a cocktail party, and just being at the table reminds people you are part of the team and keeps you informed on what other people are doing, having trouble with, etc. The information that gets revealed there can give you opportunities to be more helpful and needed in the team - which will contribute both to your own success and that of the group.

    I am in introvert who has learned the importance of lunch, among other things. Introversion doesn't need to become solipsism or self-absorption.

  • Who's this guy? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @01:01PM (#35976408) Homepage

    Joel-on-Software Spolsky promotes himself as an authority on software development, but he only runs a tiny company that makes applications for a relatively simple problem. It's still a tiny company, after over a decade of operation. I'd rather hear from the people who managed the software for Voyager. Or the vehicle stabilization system for a modern car. Or the radio inside the iPhone. (I know the guy who headed that team; he waited until the iPhone shipped, and then quit Apple in disgust with having to work for Steve Jobs.) Or the file system that keeps Google working even when machines fail.

  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @01:02PM (#35976430) Homepage

    Indeed. I don't like taking lunch because it means I have to stay here longer, but when I do take lunch, I don't want to have to bullshit and listen to idiotic stories from people who have nothing insightful, interesting or, often, even truthful to say. I don't care about their latest trip to Florida, or what new restaurant they discovered, or what the weather is like. And that's just from "normal" people. I also don't want to hear about your WoW character, or your latest raid, or what armor set you collected. FFS, I just want to read Slashdot in peace.

  • Re:Lunchbreaks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @01:02PM (#35976438)
    And those good friends could become a good job lead the next time you need one. While I can't stand when a company decides to bring in Team Building experts who's job it is to humiliate and belittle you by making you act like a 5 year old to make you feel like part of the team I do think healthy interaction with your coworkers makes working more enjoyable long term. Most of the replies I've read so far seem very angry. Maybe it's because they don't have any friends to have lunch with.
  • Re:Lunchbreaks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lonelytrail ( 1741524 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @01:13PM (#35976608)
    I think I must work with you. I'm not saying this IS you, but the people that I've met who hold this opinion "It is bad enough that I have to work with a moron" seem to feel that way about EVERYONE. If everyone is a moron and you are the only person worth a shit, then does that say that out of the entire human race, you (and all of the people like you) are the only ones who AREN'T morons? I mean, the lunch thing is only a small facet of a bigger deal, YOUR ATTITUDE is SHIT!!! I just had you kicked off my program and told the management I never wanted that HIGHLY capable, VERY strong technical person on my team again because his attitude was so bad it was negatively impacting the entire project.
  • Re:Exactly. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 29, 2011 @01:27PM (#35976790)

    Just got back from a lunch with my coworkers. I think that you should not just surround yourself with people like you, I have a veiled Muslim woman and a militant atheist who always eats pork in my group. The fact that we formed a social bond and help each other out is a HUGE plus.
    To all those that say: I'm at work to only make money and go home: You are spending 8h/day 5 days a week there. You should enjoy it, or you will be taking out frustration on your family which is not cool. The lunch should be a no work zone though. Talk about other stuff to socialize. IE. We all discovered we like different instruments in rock band. We have discussions on politics, current events, how to raise kids. It helps you respect your peers and trust them more.

  • Re:Lunchbreaks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @03:29PM (#35978386) Homepage Journal

    Face it, Pal. There are indeed at least ten morons for every one person who has a clue. Look around you. Your family. Your neighbors. Your coworkers. People you bump into. You can't always recognize them at first meeting, but as you get to know them, chances are they are idiots.

    Alright, now. Let me address those who are NOT complete idiots. I have different sets of experiences. I lived at sea for 5 years, for instance. I served in the military for 8 years, total. That's a big chunk of life, even at my age. I've worked construction for another big chunk of my life. I've drive truck for another big part of my life. Guess what? NO ONE at work shares any of those experiences. Their interests, their experiences, their lives are so different from my own - in general, I'm just not interested in much that they have to say.

    I socialize with my immediate boss, to some extent, because we happen to share some life experience. (She's an old broad, we remember a lot of the same things from our childhoods, despite growing up about 1500 miles apart.) I socialize to a limited extent with a few of the guys. I don't want to go out drinking with them, but we'll bullshit together. They have mostly lived a rougher life than the protected little weenies who work around us. We can find some stuff in common.

    The rest? I should socialize for the sake of being a nice guy? I mean, really. What do I have in common with some weenie who graduated from school twenty years after me, and has never done anythng but work production? I mean, nothing. No travel, no military, no scuba diving, no camping or exploring the outback of nowhere, nothing that I find exciting. Oh, I could talk tech with them - but they don't know tech from horse carriages. No common experience, nothing to talk about.

    I could probably build a bridge if I wanted to talk sports, but sports bore me to fucking tears. Women? Phhht. If there's nothing else to discuss, that even gets old after awhile.

    So, to hell with socializing. I'll be nice at work, and withhold my general contempt for all the do-nothings that I work with. And, I'll continue being my asocial self. Not antisocial, but asocial. I get enough companionship at home, thank you.

  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Friday April 29, 2011 @03:36PM (#35978482)

    In today's job market you should be more aware than ever that even in technical positions, it's often who you know, not what you know that gets you the job, that lets you keep the job, that keeps you over the cut-off line when there's layoffs, that has you in line for raises, that has you spearheading the neat new technologies, that has non-technical folks deferring to you.

    I know the idea of a code ninja who silently fixes problems with nary a word might seem romantic. I get it when people say they need personal time for introspection and analysis. There are many people out there who simply work better by themselves.

    Just keep in mind that your skills need to be exponentially better than those of your peers if you're going to stand out by product/efficiency/quality alone. The guy who keeps asking you for help and self-promotes his achievements is going to end up with a raise while your name is going to pop up at the budget meetings as a potential cut after several years of 'meets expectations' evaluations.

    So, do yourself a favor, find some quiet time and think about it.

  • Re:Lunchbreaks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Friday April 29, 2011 @04:42PM (#35979224) Homepage

    No common experience, nothing to talk about.

    There's your fallacy.

    You have lots to talk about with those people, precisely because of the experiences you don't have in common.

    There seems to be a lot of very boring people in this thread. By that I mean, they're only interested in spending time with others who share the same experiences, the same opinions, same political views, and have no interest in anyone who might have something different to say.

    If you don't want any exchanges with your coworkers other than the minimum transfer of data required to complete your job, that is your right. I have no issues with that.

    But don't pretend your attitude is due to some deficiency in those around you or a lack of common experience. You don't want to talk with the people you work with because of YOU, not because of them.

    I'll get off your lawn now.

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