I just started a new job and I was sent an invite to a farewell lunch for a coworker on my team. I don't know the person and haven't talked to/seen him yet. The invite was sent through an email with everyone in the team on it and NOT specifically to me.

I don't know the correct etiquette to follow for whether I should accept or decline the invite, since I don't know the person at all.

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    Was the email sent by the member leaving or by a team lead? Is it a company event or a private event organised by the person leaving? Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 18:53
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    Can we rule out any chance you are his replacement?
    – John Wu
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 7:53
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    Is it lunch during a work day, so during your lunch break or on a day off? Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 8:49
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    Whose dime are we talking about? The company's or the guy leaving? Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 13:21

11 Answers 11


You were invited for a team event and you should go unless you are not available for official or personal reasons during that time. None of the reason can be "I do not know the person".

If you do not know him, this a chance for you to get to know him along with several other things about the company, culture and people.

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    Also a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues from your team, which is very valuable.
    – Junkrat
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 13:52
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    Also, people leaving tend to be more honest about how the work environment actually is, so the leaving person can be a goldmine of tips for navigating the corporate maze that office life can be :-)
    – Gertsen
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 14:08
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    This assumes it is an official team event organised by the company. Do we know that it is not an event organised by the ex-colleague? Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 18:55
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    On my first day at my current job (three years ago now) I received a similar email, someone was leaving after many years at the company. I went along and it was a great event and I got to know my team, other teams, the management - all in a friendly, relaxed environment. My advice: go along, it made the first week at the company very easy and pleasant! Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 20:39
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    @FrankHopkins To be honest it doesn't matter. Everyone else would be going, so there's no point of not going and sitting at the office doing nothing.
    – Nelson
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 2:04

Absolutely. While there's one person going to this lunch who isn't going to be around very long, there are going to be a lot of other people who are going to be important to know and work with in your job, and it's a good way to meet people.

You're likely to not be able to make the best of the networking opportunity, but even just having people know that you're the kind of person who goes to these sorts of gatherings will probably help your career, even though many of these people won't actually get to know you.


Free food. End of story.

Also, a chance to meet the rest of the team in an informal setting.

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    You don't know that it is free. Almost always in my experience (web development teams, UK) these things are arranged by one or more team members, there is no company contribution, and everyone pays for their own food. Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 9:02
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    I agree that you cant use "free food" as a reason to go because as Neil stated, you don't know if it's free or not. regardless of whether someones at the "wrong company", doesn't change the fact that they still might have to pay for their food.
    – Chillin'
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 10:16
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    It was a joke please.
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 16:52
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    If it is an outing then typically everyone pays for themselves except for the person leaving (the manager usually pays for them). If it is catered or a potluck style then yes, it is free (although the latter may require bringing a dish which is similar to paying). Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 18:17
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    I would go for the same reason. Free food! Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 0:09

This just sounds like a great opportunity to get to know your whole team; not just to wish someone farewell. Farewells are usually much more laid back than a typical lunch and you will be surprised at the stories that you get to hear.

Hiding behind the guise of "I don't know them" will paint a picture of you that you do not want to be painted.

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    I recently organized a small Leaving Do on two coworkers' last day with us, which coincided with the first day of their replacements. Everybody turned up (we made a point of being explicit about the new staff being invited), and we had a good time together, with the leaving and new staff engaging in conversations, and other coworkers from a different team were very welcoming to the new staff as well. Not all such events may be like this, but I wanted to give an example to support MonkeyZeus' answer
    – Xano
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 12:24

Personally I think at the end of the day it's entirely up to you. Don't feel obligated to go (you're not). Don't feel like you're not wanted either (you are!). Some folks go to meet people or network or get a free drink or bite, other's don't go because they can't or don't want to (it can potentially be and feel quite awkward if you're not very social). It's all perfectly fine for a casual farewell lunch. There will likely be more of them and sooner or later you'll likely find yourself going to hang out with some of the folks you know one way or another. So don't sweat it. Unless for some odd reason your manager tells you that you should be there, then make an effort. But that'd be unusual in my experience..

Not that it matters but for what it's worth I've been working at all levels for 30 years. Currently in senior management.


I don't know the correct etiquette to follow for whether I should accept or decline the invite, since I don't know the person at all.

You don't need to know the person, and in fact, this is your opportunity to meet them.

The invitation was sent to the team, you are a member of the team, unless you have a pressing personal or professional matter that would prevent you from going you should go.


It's understandable. But this is a team lunch, not just a few guys hitting the bar after work informally.

I would accept it, and then perhaps express any concerns to my manager. If you're concerned, ask if it's appropriate. More than likely he/she will say just as many already have that this is a teambuilding thing, and it's good for everyone to be there.

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    Even if it was just a few people hitting the bar after work, it'd still be totally appropriate to go - either the invite was a blanket invite to the team, or the OP was invited personally, both of which are good opportunities to get to know the other people who are staying, and don't require knowing the person being honored. Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 13:08
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    My point there is that if it was an informal "Hey...we're hitting the bar..." and the invite was not specifically given to the newbie, I'd personally be leery of just crashing the party. But it's different when it's a blanket invite to everyone.
    – Keith
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 13:12

Probably the correct thing to do is to go, but what the other answers are missing is that it depends on the culture of your country/industry/workplace.

If it's a team lunch, being paid for by the company, then almost certainly you should go. As other people have said, it's a good networking event with your colleagues who are staying.

One of the other alternatives is that the person who's leaving is buying everyone a round of drinks. (This is common in a couple of companies I've worked for.) Although they probably wouldn't mind buying you a drink, I guarantee it will make you feel awkward! (Whether you get included on the round, or refuse and say you'll get your own, it's going to be socially awkward for you. Some people wouldn't find it awkward, but by the very fact you've asked this question you're clearly not one of them.)

So, how to find out? Ask someone you trust at the company. This might be someone who was assigned to settle you in (show you where the kitchen is, tell you how to work the IT system), it might be your colleague who sits next to you, or it might be your manager. If you ask them "Should I go to this event? I don't know the person leaving and I don't want to put them out at their celebration", you'll find out very quickly what the culture is like at your company. And they won't be surprised by the question either, it's a very natural question to ask.

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    I would first ask my colleague if they are going, to test the waters & see what the reaction is like. If they say "No, the sales people always send these emails to everyone but developers never go" then you have your answer, if they are going then you can express any reservations you have about going yourself and ask their opinion.
    – Dragonel
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 18:36

Go, so that you can get to know the person. By doing so, you will end up making a connection. The bigger your network connection, the better.

Besides, you never know, you might just run into him one day. He might even help you get a job one day.


In this company, when someone leaves the secretary collects money for a leaving present. Then you sign a card as well. So go to the secretary (or whoever is responsible for this), cough up your share and sign.

Then you will be entitled to turn up.

Actually, since you are new no-one would bat an eyelid if you just came anyway. Just don't eat the whole buffet.


If it’s free lunch yes! otherwise just send a polite farewell by email.

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