my company throws A List and B List parties for employees

A reader writes:

I am a “peak period employee” of a large company. Although I have worked 1000+ hours per year for them every year for the last decade, employees of my status are not invited to the annual holiday party. This is reserved for full-time permanent employees, and is usually a very splashy affair: evening dress, wine, dancing, etc.

In 2009 the human resources department inaugurated a B-list party (my term, not their term). Employees not invited to the A-list party were invited to go to a local $9.99 buffet that features plastic bibs emblazoned with the slogan “Put on a Bib! Oink! Oink! Pig out on Ribs! Oink! Oink!” Several tepid speeches were given, and paper awards handed out to all.

I will not be attending this party next year, if it is given. Non-attendees of the 2009 B-list party were gently chastised for not showing up to claim their holiday thank-you certificate (not quite all A-list people got year-end cash bonuses, but most did. No B-listers ever get them, even when vastly outperforming A-listers at the same job in far fewer hours).

I find it difficult to believe that my company does not understand that having two separate but unequal parties is just rubbing salt in the wound. I will say something in our end-of-season job satisfaction survey about this, but are they really going to pay attention to an anonymous survey response? If I approach HR about this will I merely sound trite and whiny? How seriously would you take this as a manager?

Yeah, this is a weird (and rude) practice. It’s hard to imagine how someone thought this wouldn’t produce resentment, irritation, and mockery.

That said … I wouldn’t make a big deal of it, because there are bigger things to care about. Things like: Do you have a fair and effective manager? Are you given clear goals and expectations? Do you receive recognition for good work, and feedback about ways you can do better? Do you have the resources to do your job? How’s the pay? Do you like the people you work with?

Now, if these dual parties are representative of other poor treatment from the company, then that’s an issue … but in that case, you should be focusing on those bigger issues anyway. If they’re not, and it’s just some weird and misguided decision on their part, I’d let it go. Enjoy it for the piece of ridiculousness it is and don’t dwell on it too much beyond that.

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Is the OP writing about high school or a job? It sounds like the A-string and B-string of sports teams. Has the OP heard others talk about this in this manner because she doesn mention some get "gently chastised" if they don't go to the party? If this is the worse thing the company is doing and everything else is fine, why not go to the buffet and show some teamwork by celebrating with the others? It's just a couple of hours to see your colleagues on a non-work time and to socialize.

  2. evilbunnytoo*

    I don't think you should be "gently chastised" for not "being a team player" and spending your own money and taking off the clock time to go to a company event where they hand you a thank you note at the end. Especially when other employees are thanked more lavishly with parties and bonuses.

    This kind of "thank you" event is the worst kind of "thank you" because it shows exactly how little the company thinks of the B-list employees.

    Before the party, the B-list employees at least at some illusion that they were an appreciated part of the company.

    Now they know that the company doesn't care enough to even pay for the refreshments for a holiday party.

    Seriously, handing out the "thank you certificates" over punch and cookies would have been much better than asking employees to pay to be appreciated.

  3. Anonymous*

    I was wondering if OP's position is permanent part-time or a contract timesheet position. It makes a difference to some employers who consider their permanent employees as the "real" workers and the part-timers as the hired help. Perhaps it's not so much an "A" and "B" situation as a distinction between the full- versus part-time total contribution to the employer.

  4. Anonymous*

    I agree with Evilbunny: It's backhanded.

    I'll bet if enough "B List" employees just didn't show up, they'd drop this ridiculous exercise.

    It's very insulting.

  5. Anonymous*

    My question is, why are these extraordinary employees putting in 1,000+ hours each year, doing work that is allegedly better than the full-timers, and after multiple years the letter writer hasn't been considered for a full-time position? Perhaps he or she doesn't want one, but it seems like if the OP is 100% truthful and hasn't been offered a position, there is a larger problem at the company than separate holiday parties.

    In any case, I wouldn't attend the B-list party either. Perhaps they should just give the part-timers thank-you notes and Starbucks gift cards instead, or a paid day off to enjoy the holidays with their families, if the company doesn't want them at the "real" party.

    Lastly, it's one of my pet peeves when companies chide people for not being "team players" if they choose to skip out on events that require them to use their own time and vehicles to do something that is not work. If an event is held for "fun" and "team-building," why would the company WANT someone there who resents spending the time and will have no fun and like their team less as a result? Let people who want to socialize with coworkers outside of work hours do so, but let those that don't save their energy for work.

  6. Anonymous*

    "why not go to the buffet and show some teamwork by celebrating with the others?"

    Because the OP has enough human dignity that they don't want to take whatever the company gives them and say "oh thank you Master for your table scraps" while they're doing it?

    I used to work for a company that did this very thing. We finally boycotted. No one RSVP'd and no one showed up to the B List party. Next day, managers interrogated us one by one about our "insubordination" and about how badly we had "embarrassed" them. Some people cracked and apologized to the managers for not attending, but most of us basically blew them off.

    It didn't get us equal treatment, but it did end the B list parties and most of the management's other fake "appreciation" gestures. The OP will have to decide for him/herself if this'd be worth trying.

  7. De Minimis*

    I would bet anything that this is a union workplace and the b-list people are "casual" employees with little or no chance of ever becoming permanent full-timers. I used to work in one of those workplaces, and we had a lot of "long-term" casuals who indeed did work harder and probably were just as good as the full-timers, but the way the system was set up made it near impossible for them to be promoted, although managers often would claim that if they worked hard enough they might have a shot at it. Never happened.

    They usually did not do these type of lame events, so I'm guessing it is not my former employer. I would not complain [most likely there isn't much they could do even if they wanted to] but neither would I attend the event, so long as "gentle chastising" didn't translate into "We don't want you coming back after your current stint is over." It stinks, but I would just take what I could from the job and hopefully build on it for another job somewhere else.

  8. Anonymous*

    Anon 2:42 = Great way to take my sentence out of context. If you'd read it carefully, you would have taken into consideration what I had written leading up to the sentence you so cleverly took out. You clearly missed the point I was getting at, and that was comparing her feelings to the rest of the "B-employees." Is she in the majority or minority? I'm suspicious of that, especially when she claims ownership of the A and B categories of the different employees; it just sounds very high school clique-ish. I'd like to hear if anyone else from that company share her feelings in this situation.

    Furthermore, if you'd look, my answer somewhat mirrors AAM's last paragraph.

    If the OP is in the minority, and it bothers her this much to write in, then she has a few options – 1. ignore the parties, 2. seek within to up her status to the lavish party employee sector, or 3. seek employment elsewhere.

    But like what AAM says, if there is a little piece of a bigger problem, then the OP should write back and explain – it'll clear the haze around the true environment of her workplace.

  9. Anonymous*

    Most companies plan parties by establishing a 'per head' cost. For a lavish party that may be perhaps $300/person. Those A-listers who work many more hours, some without pay, will perhaps recoup the cost of their attendance in two or three hours of work. It could take the B-listers almost a week to recoup the expenses. In reality what happens is the A-listers contribute more to the cost of the party than the B-listers to 'make up' the difference in their earnings.

    For the A-listers, that party IS part of their bonus. Why should they sacrifice part of their bonus for people who haven't contributed to the profitability? Part-time surge-only workers are no different than someone who was just hired a month or two before the year-end. They don't get bonuses either, because they didn't contribute to the profits.

    So I have to ask, if OP were one of the A-listers, how would s/he feel about all of the B-listers draining their bonus pool? I'm guessing the attitude would be quite a bit different.

  10. Anonymous*

    How can we assume that the B listers are not contributing to the profitability of the company? And that the A listers work unpaid hours and will handily make back the party cost in two or three hours of work?

    Even if that were the case, I don't see how it justifies the A listers being jerks about it like they are in the OP's letter — pretending that the B listers are so stupid they have no idea they're (officially!) on the B list… and that the B listers would actually be happier with a demeaning and fake gesture of respect than with nothing.

  11. Anonymous*

    I�d be careful in making statements that allege that part-time �B-list� employees don�t contribute to an organization�s profits. The OP stated that s/he works 1000+ hours a year but isn�t classified as a full-time employee. I wouldn�t consider employees that log 1000+ hours a year to be �surge employees�. Without more information I would have to say that there are the full-time exempt/non-exempt employees and the part-time non-exempt employees at the organization. The full-timers are considered what the OP calls the �A-list� employees and the part-timers are considered �B-list� employees.

    Both groups contribute to the operating success of the organization, if they didn�t they wouldn�t work there. The organization treats each group differently as far as the end of the year parties go. This is unfortunate but not uncommon. Organizations often treat different groups of employees differently without taking into consideration that it takes the entire team to be successful.

    Treat your employees like you would expect to be treated in their situation or like you feel you deserve to be treated. Don�t forget that everyone that works there contributes to the success of the organization and if you�re working for an organization where management doesn�t believe that, and it bothers you, then look for employment elsewhere. Organizational fit is one of the most important indicators of success.

    Personally, if I was on the �B-list� I probably just wouldn�t go to the party. If my manager asked me why I didn�t attend I would inform them that I had a previous commitment elsewhere and wasn�t currently financially situated to afford the expense of the party (if it was a situation where they expected you to pay for your own meal). Remember these are part-time employees, it's not unreasonalbe to think they have a second job that would prevent them from attending an off-hours non-mandatory party.

  12. Anonymous*

    Anon @ 1:51:

    Why are the A-listers being 'jerks' about this? They didn't ask to have separate parties. They didn't ask to be put on a particular list. They are just going with what HR set up.

    And likely, the A-listers were 'gently chastised' as well for not attending.

  13. Lulu*

    If there is no real penalty for not attending the B-list party (it sounds like there isn't, aside from being chastisted), I wouldn't go at all. I'm not going to spend that $10.

    I don't know if speaking up will do anything, other than getting management mad. I know that if I was one of the A-listers, I'd probably say something. I don't like when people get excluded at work. If it were up to me, I'd do away with most of the social events at work (hah!) – but I definitely would not create a situation like this. Regardless if someone is a full-time employee or a part-time employee (or student employee, as we have some of those).

  14. De Minimis*

    A lot of the time in these "tiered" work environments the "A-list" resents the existence of the "B-list" jobs. At my old job we felt like management should just create more "A-list" jobs. The b-list was there to save money for the company since they could get a lot of work out of them and not have to pay as much in wages [and no benefits at all.] So the chance of any solidarity between the groups is probably nil.

  15. Ask a Manager*

    De Minimus, I just want to say that I love your name. I only recently learned the phrase earlier this year, and have been using it constantly, so I was delighted when you started commenting here!

  16. Anonymous*

    This is seriously the most childish, jealous and ungrateful thing I've seen hit this forum.

    If you don't want to go, don't go and deal with the horrors of 'gentle chastising'. Mostly, could you stop whining? You don't get to pick how you're recognized any more than how you're disciplined.

    Free food, recognition, a night out and they still find something to b&m about. unreal.

  17. De Minimis*

    Thanks AAM! For those who don't know, it's a legal term, often used by tax people. Basically means, "things of no consequence." Often used for minor discrepancies, etc.

  18. smith17*

    My guess is that the company hosts a party for the full time ('A' list) employees.
    Then someone in HR said "hey that's not fair – we should have a party for the contract staff" – "but we haven't got a budget for it".
    So they arranged a pay-your-own-way party for the 'B list' and made some paper awards – again because there is no budget for the contract staff. Someone probably thought they were doing the right thing.
    I'm not an apologist for the company, but again my guess is that they can't afford (or don't wish) to fund a party for all the part time/contract staff, some of whom may only work for a short time. So instead of trying to decide which of the 'peak period' employees qualify for invitation to the big splash, they just invite the permanent full timers. But as someone else said, we really don't know the full story here.

  19. Lau@corridorkitchen*

    I can’t believe no one raised the possibility of toning down the ‘lavishness’ of the A-list party to include everyone. Or making everyone purchase their ticket.

    This kind of behaviour speaks volumes about the company and what it thinks of its workers, and I’m not at all surprised the OP is offended. These kind of functions are about everyone getting together and celebrating the company they work for. Companies are made up of people, and the feelings of all these people need to be taken into account.

    To be frank, I think this kind of behaviour is terrible PR for the company and thus a really stupid business decision.

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