Next time you need to strategize with a coworker or have a one-on-one with the boss, skip the conference room and arrange an outside venue. Meeting professional contacts outside the office “offers an opportunity to connect with them more deeply, fostering the development of a stronger relationship that can pave the way for more successful collaboration and communication,” says Marybeth G. Cale, public relations and executive/personal coach at Cale Communications. The “conversation tends to move into personal areas and both parties gain more knowledge about one another,” she adds.
When You’re Having a Strategy Session
Go to dinner. When you want to capture your team’s attention and have a more creative session, book a dinner out to feed those minds. “It offers more time to have a meaningful dialogue in a relaxed setting,” says Cale. (Think of all the distractions that come up day-to-day in the office.)
You don’t need a private room for a small group (fewer than six), but it’s always a good idea to assign someone to take notes so you don’t forget those excellent points by dessert.
Who pays? Put this type of meal on the company credit card.
When You’re Interviewing a Possible New Hire
Arrange a breakfast. “There are times when the nature of a meeting is sensitive — like meeting a possible candidate for a position that hasn’t been announced — where it is more discreet to host the meeting outside the office,” says Valorie Burton, founder of The Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute and author of Successful Women Think Differently. That’s when a breakfast appointment — held before office hours so as not to raise suspicion from your colleagues or theirs — is ideal.
It’s up to you whether this meeting requires a coffee and a scone or a more elaborate meal.
Who pays? If you work for a company and are hiring someone on their behalf, expense it or use the company card.
When You’re Reviewing an Action Plan With a Peer or Supervisor
Grab a midday coffee. “If the meeting is designed to review a few agenda items or focus on one particular component of an action plan with a peer or supervisor, getting together for coffee at a diner or café works well,” Cale says. The bustle of this kind of venue sends the message that this will be short and efficient, and you won’t be interrupted by colleagues or phone calls.
Who pays? Pick up the tab if it’s a subordinate. Take the lead with buying a coffee for the boss, but be ready to acquiesce if she insists.
When You’re Voicing Concerns
Book lunch at a restaurant. Whether you’re providing constructive criticism, breaking tough news, or need to work out some kind of conflict, a more formal lunch meeting held during work hours is best, since it blocks out a longer period of uninterrupted time than a coffee break.
Lauren Zander, co-founder and chairman of Handel Group®, an international corporate consulting and private coaching company, finds the strength lies in the setting: “The benefit is that it takes you out of the context of business. It's more social, more intimate, more like a natural relationship and not a transaction of work and pay,” she says. And unlike a dinner meeting, both participants are likely to stay sober.
Who pays? When it’s time for a sensitive meeting, Zander recommends taking great care in the location — and choose a place where you’re comfortable picking up the bill, since you made the overture.
When You’re Collaborating With a Subordinate
Move down to the office cafeteria. When you’re working with an assistant or employee on a project, it’s often a good idea to take it away from your desk, says Leslie Yalof Garfield, a Pace Law School professor who also frequently works with law students, judges, lawyers, and legal educators on ways to improve communication.
“Meeting in one's office communicates a certain power dynamic,” says Garfield. "So when planning a meeting or interaction, I first think about whether it will benefit from sitting at a neutral table or side by side, where the power dynamic seems a bit less evident."
Who pays? Garfield recommends paying for your employee in the company cafeteria. Don’t have a cafeteria or prefer not to pick up the tab? Consider prearranging a paper bag lunch in an unused conference room or snack room instead.
When You Want to Get to Know a New Colleague Better
Meet up for happy hour. If you’re trying to build a relationship with someone, planning something outside of work “tends to strengthen the personal bond and send the message that you really want to get to know that person,” says Cale.
Who pays? Offer to pick up the tab, but with this critical caveat: Limit the number of alcoholic beverages by saying, “Let me buy you a drink,” and make sure the newbie knows that you’re not staying out late — or running up a hefty tab. “Nobody wants to be put in a position where they have to deal with an inebriated colleague — or even worse, a client or boss who has clearly overindulged in margaritas,” says Cale.