Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bullies and Business Dinners

I'm packing my bags for the next business trip and wanted to share this with you. 

Man: Do you have a boyfriend?
Me: No.
Man: Are you dating anyone?
Me: No.
Man: Yep, see vegan lifestyle – hard to deal with.

This conversation took place around a table with seven colleagues at one of the first business dinners I attended after I became a vegan. I was tired and at a home-style Italian restaurant in Santa Monica that made all of their pasta with eggs. The server was wonderful and accommodated my needs with some tasty soups and other dishes. I responded to the comment above with: “I’m actually a very easy person to get along with.” And it diffused the train wreck of comments that could have taken place.

To put it into perspective, two months into being a vegan I traveled for business from Maine to Tennessee to Boston to California back to Boston and back to Maine in a matter of three weeks. Not only was I adjusting to the diet, but I was also tired and grumpy, and up to my nose in projects.

Business dinner after business dinner, I was challenged and asked repeatedly about my change to a vegan diet. I replied courteously to their questions and never preached my opinion about veganism in a forceful manner. While the majority of people were very encouraging and positive about my choice, others took a fairly negative stance and their comments were starting to take their toll.

One day, after I caught up on sleep, I re-grouped and thought, “I don’t do this for anyone but myself.” An obvious statement, but in the middle of projects and neon Post-it notes and airport layovers and design classes, I didn’t have time to really think.

Now I prep for business dinners. 

Once a restaurant is chosen I look at the menu, I call ahead, I talk with the chef, I do what I have to… but I refuse to miss a business dinner. I’m eager to be a participant not because it’s almost positive the company will pick up the tab. Yes, that’s a nice perk – however the real reason is that in professional environments, some of the strongest connections are made outside of the office. 

You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or out of place because you’re a vegan. And I would encourage you to make it to every business dinner possible at the start of your career. Even if your boss’s favorite restaurant is Billy Bob’s Steak House down town, suck it up and get an unappetizing excuse for a salad. Eat when you get home. Your career is important, and there’s nothing like face time with your fellow employees.

In the future maybe your boss will take your lifestyle choices into account and ask for some vegan-friendly restaurant suggestions. I know things around here have improved leaps and bounds. However, when you’re working your way up the corporate ladder, know that the tiny sacrifices that you make now will help build your success in the future.



  1. This is a great blog for me. When I worked in an office, I was constantly assaulted with questions, criticisms, stupid made-up "I love meat" songs and "Guess what PETA stands for? People eating tasty animals, HAR!" jokes. The barrage of negativity was enough to give me a break down one day. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Stay strong!

  2. Hey! Thanks for commenting on my post. I love your blog and glad I found it (or you found me rather!) I just came back from a holiday weekend that was organised by the social club in the office and I feel so drained having to ask the chef to make adjustments each time. And the most tiring part is to sit on a table of meat eaters all talking about how nice this meat is, how nice the confit duck is, giving recipes about animals blablablah...
    It's sometimes nice to read about other vegans experiences out there and your case is probably a little bit more difficult than mine! But hang in there, you're right, we don't do this for anyone but ourselves and I get a lot of motivation from that alone.

    It's true what you are saying about your career but sometimes I just want to be with like-minded people. I totally understand people who quit their job to go and work only for the animals in a rescue centre somewhere. But then I realise, part of this veganism process is also to discover and reconnect with ourselves in this 'hostile' (if I may say) environment of meat-eaters. It's what we chose to experience. Every time I feel low in confidence or my choice of being vegan, I remind myself this is my experience and I feel good about it. No ones gonna bring me down. :)
    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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