do we have to go to a dinner the boss canceled as punishment, then reinstated?

A reader writes:

My fiance’s boss invited all of his employees to dinner for tonight. However, my fiance and 1 other employee failed to respond to work alerts at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, so as punishment the boss cancel the dinner yesterday, but today, the boss has decided that the dinner is back on. I flew in from out of town to attend the dinner, but the initial cancellation ruined it for us. So would we be wrong to not attend? 

My fiance and I are going back and forth on whether or not we should go. He says it won’t jeopardize his job, but I know these things can be tests and he’s a new hire, having only been with the company for a month.

This boss is an immature fool, and probably an ass in general. Who cancels dinners as “punishment”? And then reinstates them? I feel like I might have seen this behavior in seventh grade. (Wait, I actually have a terrible feeling that I might have done this in seventh grade.)

I’d be on high alert for further evidence that this guy is a buffoon and has no clue how to manage a team of people.

In any case, if your fiance weren’t a new hire, he could just say that he made other plans once the dinner was canceled … but since he’s a new hire without a lot of standing yet, I’d suck it up and go. Besides, if this guy’s behavior so far is any guide, the dinner will undoubtedly give you fodder to laugh about later … which is a mindset your fiance might find he needs to adopt a lot at this job.

You can read an update to this post here.

{ 23 comments… read them below }

  1. yalm*

    It seems like canceling the dinner wasn’t the punishment. Reinstating it was.

    I’d say go. If alcohol is on the menu though, you might want to avoid it.

    OP, you mentioned that your fiance failed to respond to a work alerts at 3 AM. Are we to infer that 3 AM is an absurd time to get work alerts and respond to them or that your fiance’s job carries an expectation or requirement to respond to such requests? If the former, your fiance has some challenges ahead. If the latter, the dinner might offer a chance to make amends for a mistake.

  2. Charles*

    I suspect that after the boss cancelled dinner he realized that he might have to pay for part of it anyway – a non-refundable deposit perhaps? None of this excuses his jerky behaviour, of course. It just makes him seem like someone who acts without thinking; which means to be on the look out for more nonsense.

    However, I would go with an open mind; but, updated my resume.

  3. TaxManager*

    I think the letter writer’s instincts are right on. Any boss who withholds dinner as a punishment probably thinks it’s some kind of reward. Not showing up says that you don’t value the reward. Jerky bosses do not like to realize that you might not value the “rewards” they place value on, and that leads to bad things.

    Your fiance ought to suck it up, but start looking to see if he can get away from this ass. The sooner, the better.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, he sounds like the kind of boss fond of secret tests and unspoken conditions–I believe that’s your favorite kind, Mike :-).

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, I’m waiting for an update where we hear about how promotions are based off of the choice of wine served at dinner, with refusals to drink treated as a personal insult.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Based on previous experience, the choice of the wine served at dinner should always be that of the host (i.e. Boss in this case), or simply follow the recommendation of the Sommelier (if it’s that type of restaurant).

          1. Anonymous*

            Well, at the very least, you should make sure that the white wine comes back up with the fish.

      2. Piper*

        I worked for an idiot like this once. I’d say your fiance should start looking for a new job ASAP. These types of shenanigans are indicative of a very unhealthy work environment.

  4. Unknown Genius*

    Just go show face, my previous manager was horrible and I couldn’t stand her M-F, then she invited us over for dinner on weekend and I turned down – my biggest mistake. From then on she became a horrible mgr until I found another job.

    1. Mike C.*

      You’re looking at this the wrong way. It’s not your fault or “your mistake” as you put it. It’s your manager’s problem that they had anger management issues, not yours.

  5. Amy*

    Maybe this manager was a little tipsy when sending out a 3am invite? Who knows, then was still out of it and made a quick dumb decision.

    1. Amy*

      I left out some info for this to make more sense- I had a manger that would send out emails at 4 am with typos galore, or sometimes they’d be about attending a certain event he wanted us all to go to. Then he’d forget about it and just make lots of weird decisions about it- Turns out he liked to hit the bar at night and would drunk email us! He was let go for other reasons though.

    2. Anonymous*

      I didn’t read it as a 3am invite, but rather something else related to work that the OP’s fiance and colleague did not respond to in a timely fashion (as deemed by the boss).

  6. Another Emily*

    I think you should go for purely selfish reasons: so you can update us here. ;)

      1. Anonymous*

        Me, three!

        This guy sounds insane. I’d turn the new “invite” down and work on my resume instead!


  7. Under Stand*

    There is so much left out of the pre story! Is your fiancé a new hire but as a manager of a department? Was your fiancé supposed to be on call that night? Was this about an important system or project that your fiancé was responsible for and nobody else could answer the question or fix it? Was this something that made EVERYTHING stop until it was fixed? Any of those may explain why the manager was PO’ed. And if those are the case, I could see punishment. But if not, the manager is immature. Also, if it was true, the canceling the dinner was unprofessional and it is possible that the manager realized he had acted unprofessionally and is trying to make it up to the employees. I would say go and do not hold it against the manager. Everyone is a jerk at times, maybe this was the manager’s time to be a jerk. and maybe it was an isolated incident.

    Good luck with the dinner. I hope it went well.

  8. EngineerGirl*

    Uninviting someone to a party is just plain dysfunctional and unprofessional. You don’t do that, even if the fiance was supposed to be on call that night and somthing really bad happened. There are other ways to take care of such a thing – such as a written reprimand in a file, a reduced bonus, or a mention in a performance appraisal. That is the “normal” method.

    If the fiance wasn’t on call, then this sort of expecatation is unreasonable. Work alerts at 3 am? From someone that has only been on the job a month? Is this emergency services or IT? It better be really, really, bad. But if it is just another mini-crisis I would take that as a bad sign of a disorganized dysfunctional company.

    Normally, I’d say stick out the job for a year. In this case it might be wise to get out **now** while the reputation is intact. Because if the manager retaliates this much over a missed alert, they are going to do far more if the employee ever tries to leave.

  9. Chalky*

    It sucks but you have to go. And try and enjoy it. Your boss either has reasons you are not aware of or more probably you are right and he is an ass (whether or not he is fighting with that fact by essence of your situation – he is still an ass by nature of his actions which are only thing you can know for sure and a good manager should be self-aware in this way) – if he continues that type of behaviour, you may wish to confront it in non-personal way, or leave and find another job where you are more motivated.

    1. Mike C.*

      I’d love to hear some “reasons you are not aware of” that would justify this sort of decision on behalf of the boss.

      1. Jamie*

        I’m with Mike on this – I tried to think of a reason that could possibly justify it and am drawing a total blank.

        Oh – and because I can’t say it enough…dinners are not rewards. Raises, bonuses, and paid time off are rewards. End of PSA.

        1. Anonymous*

          Now what would be really funny is if the cancel/reinstatement emails were only 5 mins apart, but the boss had then been inundated with “Sorry, I’ve made other plans” responses….

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