My team is going to have a lunch at a local restaurant tomorrow to celebrate our recent achievements. The team is myself, three coworkers and my boss. The problem is my boss has made racist and sexist remarks during work hours so I definitely do not want to get on a personal level with him. How can I avoid attending without causing an incident with HR? Being frank about the problem would probably cause future friction with my boss which I do not want to make worse than it already is.

  • 8
    And being spiteful isn't going to cause friction?
    – Telastyn
    Oct 9, 2013 at 15:02
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    If you really are afraid of friction/reprisal, you might want to reconsider posting this question from an account that doesn't have your full name and picture attached to it. Oct 9, 2013 at 17:50
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    Avoiding lunch is passive-aggressive and may not have the effect you want – you will come across as unfriendly, but it doesn't transmit any actual message to your boss or coworkers. If you are unhappy with someone and you don't tell that person, you are doing both of you a disservice. It's quite possible your boss doesn't realize the impact his words had. If you're concerned about reprisal, you should find an ombudsman (H.R. should have one) and discuss the situation with him/her.
    – kojiro
    Oct 9, 2013 at 18:06
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    @AndrewCoonce and a linkedin link in the profile! Oct 9, 2013 at 19:43
  • 9
    So if Obama thinks Putin is a dickhead, he should just toss international relations aside and avoid having a diplomatic meeting with him.
    – Kaz
    Oct 9, 2013 at 19:45

2 Answers 2


First of all, racist/sexist remarks in the workplace are red flags that ought to have you go to HR immediately, especially if it is a supervisor (rather than just a peer).

Avoiding a team celebration lunch (a textbook "team growth / building") activity is not your only real problem here.

Making excuses to not go is only delaying the inevitable : Your manager will soon flag you as a poor "team player" as from his perspective, you're appearing aloof and non-cohesive during team social gatherings.

Best case: He/she is eventually going to schedule a one-on-one to get to the bottom of this. You'd have to prepare for some awkwardness if you are going to let him know what is making you uncomfortable.

Worst case: He/she gets easily offended (adding poor emotional intelligence to his alleged racist/sexist character flaws) and starts to take it out on you passive-aggressively.

If you enjoy every other aspect of this job and think an apology would make your working for him comfortable again, I'd think it best to approach your manager and give him a chance to explain himself / correct this behavior.

The only other two options are HR directly (complicated but the right thing to do in many cases) or looking for a new position within or outside the organization.

  • 4
    This is the same advice of one of my coworkers as well, I guess it is just a really bad position to be in. As someone who has one side of the family being a minority I was tempted to simply resign but perhaps I need to have the courage to talk to HR to make sure future employees don't have to deal with the same situation. Oct 9, 2013 at 15:56

Going to a work lunch during working hours* is hardly "getting on a personal level", especially as there's going to be three other people there apart from you and your boss.

It's (max) two hours of your life; go, eat, come back, move on.

* giving due consideration to mandatory lunch breaks etc

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