I like many of my peers will bring my own lunch with me to work most days, perhaps going out to lunch once a week with friends or colleagues.

I have worked at many different jobs in my career thus far and have noticed the pattern that not only do I rarely ever see managers in the break room, I cannot recall a single manager that has ever brought in his own lunch. The most I have seen was perhaps a few snacks in the office.

Granted, managers tend to be in many meetings throughout the day, sometimes traveling a lot more if they are heavily involved in sales or clients so perhaps they just go out to eat for lunch everyday, however more than a few managers I have known openly admitted to me that they never eat lunch.

I wonder then, is this an unwritten rule for managers to forgo lunch or eat out every day once they accept that role, where they would be looked down on or frowned upon for bringing lunch into work?

Could it be also that the personality type that makes a great manager is less stressed about having regular meals throughout the day? I would have trouble functioning throughout the day without three square meals a day, and when I am called into noon meetings without a chance to eat I usually have a really tough time focusing.

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    Please alter the title along the lines of 'bring your own lunch fom home'. "Brown-bagging" means something entirely different in other territories! Commented Jul 10, 2012 at 19:23

3 Answers 3


An interesting observation. I've actually found much the opposite. Many of my managers (and management peers - as I am also a manager) brown bag. In fact, ever since I became a manager 5 years ago, I found that having a lunch break was even more critical than it was before, and that I did a disservice to myself and job performance if I didn't get myself at least 1/2 an hour, preferably a full hour, away from the work environment.

Here's a couple things that may make manager-lunchtime hard to observe:

  • For the most part, individual contributors become managers because they found creative ways of making hard logistical things work apparently seamlessly. One thing many have learned to do is make their lunchtime be a non-issue for those around them. So - if the meeting runs over lunch, they have a backup plan for later in the day. They tend to view availabilty as a high priority.

  • They operate on an alternate schedule. I found that the best schedule I could have made me - available but not always around my team, available but alternating with my upper management, sometimes completely alone. It means I often have staggered my hours so that if my upper management takes the "early shift", I take the "late shift" so someone is always around. Also - there's always some key person who can only meet at lunch, so it's not unusual for my "standard" lunch time to be much later than normal people. I work around that with a snack in the late morning.

  • I can't speak to planning ahead capability - but in many of my offices, it hasn't been management or employees in particular that where brownbaggers vs. restaraunt/cafeteria eaters. It's more a matter of frugality, capability to plan ahead, and food preference, as far as I can tell.

  • Managers are sensitive to morale and example setting. So they will try not to show favorites, or set a bad example. So... if they don't want to commit to having lunch with everyone and anyone, then they will have lunch only with their peers or alone.

  • Similiarly, managers may be sensitive to not wanting to crush the vibe. After all, if everyone's having a great time in the break room, until the manager comes in an is greeted with dead silence... well the manager is going to find another place to take a break.


One reason many managers seem to skip lunch or take their lunch outside of the lunch room is that when people see a manager they tend to bring up business. Everyone, even managers, need breaks from work. If a manager takes a lunch in the break room, far too often, that will just be a place where people know they can find you during lunch. Thus turning their break time into more work time. So this is most likely a somewhat, justifiably selfish decision.

To become a manager from a skilled position is about more than just your work habits. You need to demonstrate leadership and initiative. Often going beyond expectations. Generally managers that come out of the ranks take on project manager, or team lead roles prior to full management positions. But as far as extraneous qualities, like eating lunch, so long as your behavior does not negatively impact work or your coworkers then few employers are going to even consider those qualities.

  • You make good points. To become a manager is about more than just your work habits. You need to demonstrate leadership and initiative. There are so many bad managers out there that I stopped looking for what glimmer of leadership and initiative that they must have at one time had to get that position that I started studying their habits, interpersonal skills, and psychology to understand what got them that coveted position. If I can find common patterns and psychology, and typical emotional responses and emulate these then perhaps I will get noticed. Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 13:57
  • @maple_shaft - I have revised that sentence. Many managers come straight from business school, have management training but no real aptitude for it. Sadly it seems that there is a closing of the ranks once you break through into the ranks of manager where they will not allow one of their own to be cast out. even when they are bad at their job. Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 14:02
  • Ah ok I misunderstood what you were saying there, the last edit made it clear. Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 14:10

I think whether or not it happens really reflects whether the culture considers managers to be peers and in the position of organizing things or whether there is more of a view of them as primarily 'people' managers.

In the latter case ('people manager') it can be hard for a manager to be fun and friendly and down-to-earth, but then also acts as an authoritative manager who can discipline and dismiss.

I've worked for some really good managers who actually can do both. I've also worked for managers that fake it a bit to be 'chummy' (not so good) and I've had managers who were more aloof and less social.

So a lot of what you see will really depend on the company culture and industry and then also on the personality of individuals. The IT group in a financial consulting company will likely have different values and more formality and separation of management when compared to working at, say, Google where brown-bagging is probably required!

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