A reader writes:
My husband’s boss and wife keep inviting us out to social events outside of work. My husband doesn’t want to refuse because he thinks it will affect his bonus, salary, etc. We moved to a new state for the job, so we cannot use “family” obligations as an excuse. The boss once said, “What else do they have to do?” in front of me when his wife asked if we could attend a charity event.
I don’t mind attending an event every once in a while, but they are becoming more frequent. How can I stop this trend?
It’s possible that your husband is right — there are some workplaces where this kind of thing is expected. But I’m curious to know why he thinks this is one of them. Is he simply assuming that turning down invitations from the boss will be bad for his career, or does he have some more concrete reason to believe that it will be? For all we know, the boss and his wife are issuing these frequent invitations because they figure you’re new in town and will appreciate having someone take you under their wing, or they simply like your company.
So first, I think your husband needs to try to get a better understanding of exactly what the ramifications are of not going to this stuff. How does he see colleagues handling it? Is there a trusted colleague with good judgment who he could ask about it?
In any case, if he does want to get out of more of these invitations, you or he can simply start saying no to most of the invitations. Accept a few of them, but turn down the others: “No, thank you, we have plans that night.” “No, thank you, we’re staying in that night.” “No, thank you, we set aside that time for projects around the house.” “No, thank you, we have dinner plans then.” “No, thank you.” You can offer a specific excuse, offer a vague excuse, or offer no excuse.
Or hell, he can blame it on you: “Jane has signed us up for a bunch of social events with the neighbors / book club / church / alumni group.”
Again, it’s probably good to accept a few of these things — and be warm and charming and appear to have a good time when you do — but there’s no reason you need to go to all of them.