do we have to put on going-away festivities for a disliked coworker?

A reader writes:

Our manager sent out an email today notifying us that one of our employees has given his two weeks notice and will be leaving the company.

Last month, we had another coworker leave, which was very sad for us since she got along well with everyone and she contributed well to the company. We got her a card, took her out to lunch, and had a nice pleasant goodbye. This particular coworker, however, is not well liked, continually slacks off, and, in general, is not a good employee.

Are we obligated to treat him the same way as our previous coworker and get him a going-away card/lunch? If so, would it look bad if I were to opt out of going to the lunch and/or signing the card? I am not trying to be persnickety about this, but he has made much of my time here miserable in the last year or so and, honestly, I am glad to see him go. It is a huge relief that I can now come to work and not walk on egg shells around this person for fear that he will retaliate against me for something I say. How bad will it look if I quietly bow out of both activities if someone decides to do them?

Sure, you can bow out. This isn’t like grade school, where your mom is going to force you to treat all the kids in your class the same. You like some people, you don’t like others; that’s normal.

Don’t make a big deal about it though. Don’t go talk to the person circulating the card and solemnly explain why you won’t be signing it, and don’t make a big production of explaining why you’re not attending the lunch, if there is one. Just quietly don’t participate if you’d rather not.

And as for your coworkers, they’re not obligated to get a card or take this guy to lunch either, if they don’t want to. (Although leave that up to them. Don’t lobby them not to.)

That said, while it’s perfectly appropriate for you and your coworkers to either do something or not do something for this guy, the guidelines are different when it comes to your company and your manager. If your company or manager has a habit of throwing goodbye lunches or circulating cards when people leave, they should do the same for this guy. Not doing it would be equivalent of your fourth-grade teacher observing everyone’s birthday except for that one kid in the back who she can’t stand.  The company and your manager should adhere to a different standard than you and your coworkers in this regard, because it shouldn’t look like they play favorites with something so petty.

But you and your coworkers have no such obligations. If you don’t feel like taking him to lunch, don’t. And if your company or manager organizes a lunch, you can go or not go. It’s your call.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

      1. Kelly O*

        I have totally gone to a few going away parties where I was internally celebrating that I would not have to deal with Person X ever, ever, ever again.

    1. Cruciatus*

      That’s just what I was going to say! Don’t look at it as a goodbye for HIM, look at it as a celebration for you/the others. One day of playing nice and then he’s gone! Bake a “I’ll never have to see him again cake,” but just keep that part to yourself, that’s all!

      1. fposte*

        “If Heaven is pleased when a sinner ceases to sin
        If the devil is glad when another soul comes in
        If the Earth is glad to be rid of a knave
        Then everybody’s happy now Bill’s in his grave.”
        —Mike Cross, “Bill’s in His Grave”

    2. kimberly*

      I’m a nurse. Early in my career, I worked in a specialty Surgical ICU in a teaching hospital. This ICU was a little different than most I’ve worked in; there, all of the patients were on the same “service.” This means that the “service” resident took care of all of them — there weren’t any private physicians. It was a really high- acuity ICU, and a very tough rotation for them. They worked 24 hrs on/24 hrs off for a month, and then went on to some other rotation. This means that we would have two residents each month — one for the “odd” days and one for the “even” days.

      At some point, it became our habit to have a “goodbye” potluck on each resident’s last day. Ostensibly, it was to show our appreciation. However, not all residents are created equally … some months it was difficult to muster the enthusiasm to show them how much we appreciated them. I used to tell my co-workers that sometimes we were saying “goodbye, we’ll miss you.” Other times we were saying “I’m celebrating that I’ll never have to deal with you again.”

      They never knew the difference.

    3. Anonymous*

      One of my favorite sayings is “Everyone has the capacity to bring joy. Some in their arrivals and some in their departures.”

  1. Andy Lester*

    Don’t feel that you have to justify your non-attendance.

    If someone asks “Are you going to Bob’s party?”, simply respond, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to make it.” If he follows up with “Oh, why not?” reply with “I’m not going to be able to make it.” Keep repeating that answer until he goes away.

    1. Pamela G*

      I’ve seen this answer a lot, and I’m wondering if I’m being too sensitive? Because I’m a naturally friendly person, and if someone said ‘Oh, I can’t make Bob’s farewell tomorrow’ I would probably respond along the lines of ‘oh that’s a shame, how come?’ as a normal part of carrying on a conversation and showing friendly interest in their response. If they (however politely) said ‘I can’t make it’ again I would find it a bit of a snub. I’d probably hear ‘None of your business, actually.’ And while I think that’s a perfectly valid response to someone who’s pestering you to attend Bob’s lunch, it seems a little harsh to someone just making polite conversation. I’d probably say ‘Oh, okay then’ awkwardly and leave quickly, feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable. Anyone else out there know what I mean?

      1. Jara*

        I totally agree and would do the same, not because I really care if the person goes but because its just the basic flow of conversation and them not answering would offend me.

        1. twentymilehike*

          At my place of work, it’s common to just say, “I have an appointment.” I know a handful of us have regular appointments that are for some pretty personal things, or repetetive things we don’t need to keep talking about. And really, “appointment” could mean anything … like, I have an appointment with myself to have lunch without you. :)

        2. Jamie*

          Would it offend you if they said it was personal? Which is a nice way of saying it’s none of your business, also.

          People shouldn’t have to come up with a lie just to appease other people’s need for details. But by the same token if the reason I can’t go is because I have an appointment with my gynecologist/attorney I shouldn’t have to say that, either.

          IMO it’s the prying in the first place that is rude. Even Miss Manners advises just to keep repeating ‘I’m sorry, I just won’t be able to make it’ (paraquoted) as many times as you need to in order for the other person to get the hint and stop asking.

        3. Liz*

          I would like to think I would catch why they were interrupting the flow, but to be honest I would judge that person s a drama queen. So you didn’t like someone? You don’t have to like everyone, but why on earth would you feel the need to make sure other people know?

          Going to the party is one small gesture. Do it or don’t do it, but dont make it anyone else’s concern.

      2. Hari*

        +1. Especially since its so easy to say “Sorry I have a personal errand I that I need to run during lunch on that day” or some other excuse that doesn’t make the person feel snubbed. If someone asked you after the fact why you didn’t go, “Because I didn’t go”, would have the same effect. Of course no one needs to justify anything to anyone but as far as social politeness goes its just better to have an excuse ready. Anyone pestering beyond that and into your personal issue can be met with shortness, “its personal”.

      3. fposte*

        I can understand that you might be taken aback, but I also think that unless you know somebody really well, asking people why they can’t come to stuff can actually be rather intrusive, so the person asked that question is quite possibly taken aback as well. If people are skipping because of something going on in their life that they want to share, an “Oh, that’s too bad” will be enough to invite it.

      4. Elise*

        Friendly doesn’t have to mean nosy. Prying for more personal details than are offered can easily come across as the latter if someone has something private they do not want to share.

        To avoid making yourself feel awkward in the future you might want to just go with “oh that’s a shame” and leave out the “how come?” It shows friendliness while leaving out the nosy aspect. If someone wants you to know why, they won’t just say “sorry, I can’t make it.” They will say “sorry, I can’t because [insert reason].”

      5. Cassie*

        I am terribly thin-skinned and would be mortified if someone told me “it’s personal” or “none of your business” – to avoid this from happening, I almost never ask questions. Even if it’s just to be polite and make conversation, I stay away from anything remotely personal. If the person wants to share why they aren’t attending Bob’s lunch, they’ll say so.

        There’s one lady at work who will, while walking around later in the afternoon on the day of, ask people “oh, how come you didn’t go to the lunch?”. Believe me, those of us who choose not to attend absolutely HATE this. We didn’t go because we didn’t want to go. Instead, people have to make up excuses just so no one feels embarrassed.

        If someone asked me why I wasn’t attending something, I wouldn’t apologize. If you legitimately feel bad about not being able to attend an event for someone, go share that with that someone (sorry, I really wanted to attend your b-day lunch but I had to take my cat to the vet), not with the person organizing the event!

      6. Long Time Admin*

        ” If they (however politely) said ‘I can’t make it’ again I would find it a bit of a snub. I’d probably hear ‘None of your business, actually.’ ”

        Ummm, yeah, that’s the polite way of telling you to knock it off. Most people really don’t like being grilled by others once they answer the first question.

        When someone declines something, LEAVE IT ALONE! You don’t seem to understand how annoying it is when you keep asking and keep asking. You’re not being polite, you’re being a pest.

        Just say, ” sorry you won’t be there” and let it go.

  2. twentymilehike*

    I think it would also be dependent on the person’s reason for leaving. If this guy isn’t well-liked, and wan’t a great employee, it could be that he is leaving because the workplace wasn’t a good fit, or he didn’t like the job, or something of that nature.

    If I were him, having a going-away shindig would probably be so completely uncomfortable and awkward.

    1. Catherine*

      Even if he was well-liked, a party or big lunch might still be awkward. I get along pretty well with all my coworkers but I’m dreading a goodbye party when I eventually leave, because I really hate answering the “so why are you leaving?” questions. Better opportunities, blah blah blah…in reality, it’s because my workplace is dysfunctional and I’m never going to advance. But gotta put on the happy face for the party! Blerg.

      (I realize how self-centered and misanthropic this sounds, they just want to celebrate my new opportunity and wish me well. I’m just the type who prefers to stay in my cave.)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        This also sounds self-centered:
        they just want to celebrate my new opportunity and wish me well.

        Nope. They just want the company-paid lunch at their favorite BBQ place.

        (I’m just teasing you. . .)

      2. Jamie*

        I like how my company does it – they only do a company sponsored thing for retirements.

        A cake, very funny speeches from tptb (not kidding – last one was awesome. She had been here for 38 years and they did a slide show of her with the owners over the last 38 years…it was hysterical to see the change in people from the 70’s to the 2010’s. The polyester! The HAIR!! It was a really cool tribute.) I got teary as they thanked her for her service…and remembered specifics of why she was a good employee that went back decades.

        As cynical as I can be sometimes seeing that – it made me realize people do notice stuff and effort matters. And there was cake :).

        But if you’re just leaving for another opportunity and you gave proper notice the company will buy you your favorite lunch on your last day. They buy lunch for everyone a couple of times a week – so your last day you get to make the call. Last guy who left was a good guy so someone had t-shirts printed up with a goofy pic of him and a lot of the guys wore it the last hour he was here…so he kept seeing himself every time he turned around. He got his own shirt to take home.

        So lunch and a good reference if you aren’t retiring but are leaving on good terms. The rest is up to the individual co-workers.

      3. twentymilehike*

        in reality, it’s because my workplace is dysfunctional and I’m never going to advance

        EXACTLY. It’s bad enough I have to avoid telling my new coworkers how wacky you all are, now I have to pretend I’m sad I don’t have to work at the circus anymore? Like you don’t already know … LOL

        Do we work in the same office? :)

        1. Juana*

          I think I worked in that office too! When I left recently, I declined the offer of a team goodbye lunch because it was just going to be too awkward.

          1. Kelly O*

            There have been times I wanted to say “so that I don’t have to answer your stupid questions anymore.” Then smile just as brightly as I can, turn around and walk away whistling a happy tune.

            And then my husband, Jon Hamm, walks up and we speed away in our Porsche Panamera to our secluded mountain cottage…

      4. LMW*

        You could always respond the way my coworker did yesterday when I asked her where she was heading: “I’m not disclosing that at this time. I’m surprised people are asking.”

  3. Brett*

    I would still sign the card, just to be polite…unless the dislike is more personal in nature and not just that their work performance has been frustrating for you.

    1. HumbleOnion*

      This, totally. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t sign the card. It take 5 seconds & costs you nothing. Just write ‘Best wishes’, sign your name, and move on.

      1. Bridgette*

        Yep, sign a card – but don’t go to lunch. That’s money out of your pocket and an hour to hour and a half of your time. You can always use the “I already have lunch plans” excuse.

    2. Zee*

      I agree with this too. While people get on our nerves at varying degrees from time to time, two wrongs don’t make a right. Genuinely wish him the best and sign his card if one circulates. That way, he cannot say you were anything but courteous in his departure. Plus signing the card is free moneywise and less than a minute of your time.

    3. Amouse*

      That’s a good point. If you two knowingly don’t like each other or something personal has happened thenit might make total sense to to do the card or the lunch.

    4. K.*

      Co-sign, no pun intended. I don’t like everyone I’ve ever worked with either, but I can’t recall not signing a birthday or good-bye card. Writing “Good luck!” takes five seconds.

    5. Nodumbunny*

      I had a co-worker who refused to sign all cards – birthday, going away, etc. Granted I too found the place’s policy of a birthday card for every employee silly (fortunately a small place), but to refuse to sign? Why expend that much energy on the topic? of course, she turned out to be cuckoo in other ways….

      1. LJL*

        I worked with a person who would only sign a birthday/get-well/going-away etc. card if the person in question had signed the last group card addressed to him. I swear I don’t know how he kept track.

      2. Cassie*

        I loathe signing cards – they’re always for people I don’t care for at work. With the exception of a b-day card our group signed for my boss. I refused to sign a card once (the person was going to a different dept). The card was routed to me a couple of times and I just passed it on to someone else. On the 3rd time someone asked me to sign, I told the person that I didn’t sign cards.

        In our office, not everyone gets a card, either for b-days or when they are leaving. I don’t like this – either everyone should get cards or no one should get cards or someone should buy a card and say “I have a card here if you want to sign”. But no one should be forced to sign a card.

        If I’m in a more generous mood (I am a real curmudgeon, aren’t I?!), I’d probably write something like “it won’t be the same without you!” for a coworker who was leaving. I’m not going to write “we’ll miss you” or anything that is untrue.

        1. Anonymous*

          What reaction did you get from the person when you said, “I don’t sign cards?”

          With all due respect, I find this a bit uppity. What’s the big deal about signing a card? You don’t even have to write a phrase or if you do, you can just write “Best Wishes” with your name. That wouldn’t fall into the untrue category unless you wish ill will on people. But really, what do you get accomplished or what do you gain by not signing a card? It takes 5 seconds of your time, and you probably spent more time passing that one particular card around and then getting interrupted when someone finally put it under your nose. Some things are worth more by rolling with the punches than to waste your energy loathing.

          1. Cassie*

            She was taken aback a bit (understandably). It’s not a big deal to sign card, and I know that, but when I’m working on a deadline, I hate getting bothered by non-work related matters. And again, I do know that it took more of my time to pass on the card 3 times (rather than just signing once).

            But for me, the bottom line still stands – anything forced is not good. There are some things in life we can’t not do (like pay taxes) or we have to do in order to get something else (do your work and you keep your job; don’t and you get fired). I don’t consider this one of those situations. It’s different for everybody and each person has to decide what they want to do. Is it rude? Yes. Does it matter in the whole scheme of things? No.

          2. Long Time Admin*

            People should not be pressured into doing anything they don’t want to, socially speaking.

            I say, don’t sign the card and don’t attend the lunch if you don’t want to.

            Everyone else, get your nose out of this guy’s business and get back to work.

  4. Catherine*

    LOL. Yes, very single-minded of me…it’s always about the free food…and where are these going away parties with free barbecue??? I’ve only been to the ones with crappy cupcakes and a cheese tray.

    1. Jamie*

      We get cake from the best bakery in Chicago and the lunch of your choice from the list of places in our menu book.

      I don’t know what our people would do if presented with a cheese tray.

        1. Jamie*

          Ha – well I don’t want to argue because it’s Friday and I’m all about peace today…there are many good bakeries in Chicago and the surrounding area. :)

          I actually don’t even know where they go, I just know it’s somewhere in the neighborhood and almost everything from there is great – and that’s saying something because I like hardly anything.

          We won’t even get into the best Italian beef in Chicago because everyone knows that’s Freddy’s…

          Yes it is lunchtime!

    2. AnotherAlison*

      In my first job, we went to a famous BBQ place every time someone left the department for another position or a new company. . .at the time, that meant lunches all the time. At my current job, my coworkers seriously never leave. One woman left because of her husband’s military transfer, one went back to med school, and both did get lunches. Even the intern got a lunch when she went back to school. Every occassion is an excuse for food around here.

        1. Amouse*

          What classifies a cupcake as crappy? It would have to be pretty bad for me to say it’s bad. aha. I will say though I’ve gotten quite spoiled with the cupcake place in my neighbourhood. When I tried a different place over the weekend it just wasn’t up to snuff” in my mind.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Can I admit that I’ve never had a fancy cupcake bakery cupcake? Of course I’ve had the grocery store bakery ones (most of those seem to fit the ‘crappy cupcake’ description), but never the ones from the trendy places.

            It’s weird because I am definitely a fan of all things cake-related.

            1. Catherine*

              I rarely have fancy bakery cupcakes, most of the ones we get are either homemade (from a box and can) or grocery store. Both methods can produce glorious results. I have also had fancy bakery cupcakes that have tasted like scrubber sponges topped with sidewalk chalk. It just depends on who is making them.

              1. Amouse*

                Yeah same. The place near me the only reason I will occasionally splurge on an over-priced cupcake is because it’s way better than anything I could probably make in my own and one of my favorites treats. It’s something about the lightness and fluffiness of the cupcakes and the frosting especially the red velvet, just delicious! But yes, the one I tried on vacation at a different chain over the weekend was the same price and just was not as good. I can see that with the store-bought cupcakes. Sometimes factory-made stuff just isn’t as good. It all depends.

                Really it’s good if you don’t have an awesome cupcake store near you. $3.50 each (Canadian) is a little ridiculous.

                1. Amouse*

                  That was in response to both Catherine and AnotherAlison.I couldn’t find a good way to split up my comment.

  5. Jen in RO*

    I’m in a similar situation. Our team’s slacker was finally let go and his last day will be at the end of October. It’s customary for people who leave to invite the team out to lunch… we are really, really hoping he won’t invite us, because none of us (except maybe one person) wants to interact with him. Fingers crossed for no goodbye drink!

  6. Aimee*

    I would personally sign the card and go to the lunch. I’d be extremely happy that he left if I were you. Going makes you the bigger person. Like someone else said maybe the person knew they weren’t a good fit for the position and that’s why they acted the way they did. That’s still no excuse to mistreat coworkers.

    But go. You never know when you’ll run into this person again. Maybe they’ll end up working at a company you want to in the future. If your paths cross again they will remember you as being professional and nice.

    You never know what’s happening in people’s personal lives to make them act the way they do. That doesn’t mean you should be a door matt either. Showing kindness is always the best!

  7. Anonymous*

    I would take the high road in this case. Sign the card with something polite, like “I wish you well in your future endeavors,” or “Best Wishes!” When that employee sees the card, he might see that you didn’t sign it. You never know if you’ll run into him again and if he remembers that you didn’t sign his farewell card, you might be put in an awkward situation. For the lunch, see if others in your office are going. If you’re the only one not going, just go. Best to save face and be the bigger person.

    1. Kelly O*

      See, I don’t think it’s necessary to wish someone well or send them best wishes when you sign a card.

      We have plenty here at the office who simply sign their name to whatever card is being passed around – birthday, going away, new baby, anything – and I think that’s perfectly acceptable.

      While I understand being polite and taking the high road, I think you can do those things without leaving the wrong impression. (Because honestly I have some former coworkers who would be deal-breakers if I found out I would have to work with them again.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I agree. At Exjob, lots of people only signed their names. It was mostly men, and they seem to be less comfortable with endearments. Although they do like to tease—I got lots of good-natured crap on my cards and gave it back to them on theirs!

        I second your last bit. There are several people I wouldn’t like to work with again, but only one I truly hated. No way would I accept an offer if she worked there. She was past negative and into evil territory.

      2. Jamie*

        Am I the only one who wouldn’t notice who did or didn’t sign a card for me?

        I am so glad I don’t work in a card-happy environment – it sounds really complicated. As it is about twice a year someone shoves a card at me to sign and I do. I usually sign it in pink which is all the personality I can muster – I can’t be poignant on demand.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          And if I did notice that they didn’t sign, I’d assume they just weren’t around when the sneaky pass-around-the-card thing was happening rather than they had some grudge against me.

          1. Ellie H.*

            I am doing a sneaky pass-around-the-card thing right now. I hate it! If anyone fails to sign it, it definitely will be because of my reticence to interrupt them to sign a card, rather than a grudge toward the leaver . . . but who will know?

            1. Amouse*

              My boss went in for unexpected surgery over the weekend and I discovered the crazy amount of politics involved in doing a card/gift thing: Do I send it out to the whole company or only certain departments? Does everyone sign the card even if they don’t contribute to a gift? (My co-worker said no, I said yes because not everyone has money to give and it doesn’t mean they don’t wish her well). But then if they sign the card with the gift does it give the false impression they also gave the gift? Then how do I deal with keeping track of the money? Then who do I send thank yous to and will it make people feel guilty if I send the thank you to everyone even people who didn’t give money?

              I realized at a certain point I just couldn’t worry about all this stuff because I will not please everybody. It all worked out in the end. But wanting to do something thoughtful at work can sure be complicated. Granted partially only if you make it, like I was.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Money/gift plus card.
                What a minefield. Seems like it should be so simple.

                I finally landed on the idea that I would not sign the card if there was money/gift involved. It ticked off too many people if someone signed the card and did not add money.
                The kicker was I would get told “oh it is okay to sign the card and not put money in!” That was just not true. AT ALL.
                This got so confusing for me- I had to come up with a standard way of handling it.
                How do these things work into such a big deal…

                1. Amouse*

                  I know! So many social etiquette minefields and people with clashing views of what is and isn’t appropriate. It should be simple but it is so not.

                2. Mander*

                  I can’t imagine the pettiness of protesting that so-and-so signed a “get well soon” card but didn’t contribute any money to an accompanying gift. Or even keeping track of who contributed. This just seems insane to me, somehow.

        2. Sparky629*

          I still haven’t opened the birthday card that I received on my birthday from 2011. It’s in my desk drawer because I no longer have birthdays. ;-)

            1. Sparky629*

              It was a card from work so I’m pretty sure there’s no money in there. :-) But I did get to choose lunch for the monthly staff luncheon.
              Besides, I’ll take food over money any day of the week.

              1. Amouse*

                There could be a gift card in there too! Imagine the awesome surprise you’ll get if you discover that when you eventually open it.

                1. Katie*

                  I made this mistake, actually. I was leaving for school, and everyone had chipped in to get me a pretty sizable Target gift card. I opened it months later and felt like a heel for ignoring it. That workplace was full of such great people.

  8. some1*

    This is why I’ve always been more of a fan of Goodbye Parties as an after-work Happy Hour vs. a lunch. The one former co-workers had for me was an absolute blast. Also, for those that don’t want to attend, it’s a lot easier to avoid a Happy Hour than lunch during the work day or a cake & punch Good-bye in the break room.

  9. Amouse*

    OK first I’m trying to be more diligent about proofreading my comments so hopefully this isn’t garbled:

    I think it largely depends on your company’s culture. If you are going to be singled out in any way for not doing it or it will impact your relationships with the co-workers who are still there I’d say just sign. Actually I’d say just sign the card in any case. You can just put your signature there. People do that at my work.

    With regards to the meal out if it’s during lunch and you have a small team it might really stand out if you don’t go. Some people may not care about how this looks but if everyone else is going and not just a small group and you don’t go your co-workers may wonder if you really like them or would act the same way if they left. On the other hand if it’s outside of work hours it becomes far easier to make an excuse not to go. But like others have said it won’t kill you to go have lunch and you’re free to secretly celebrate this person leaving.

    It’s funny this comes up because at my former office one of the team leaders used to have a “no celebration” policy because “We don’t celebrate people leaving”. Her team would secretly arrange cake etc. anyway. When I left that job to move out of province I really appreciated being treated to lunch. Some people that came weren’t in my immediate department so that meant a lot to me.

    1. Student*

      I agree with this.

      Some offices have traditions associated with leaving employees. If that’s how your office operates, just consider this as a particularly boring meeting, sign the card, and suffer through the lunch gracefully.

      If your office doesn’t normally do something organized, then you can ignore the occasion safely. My office regularly has several organized send-offs for employees – here, your participation or lack thereof would be noted and remarked upon.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. I tend to agree with this also.
      My thinking is put it all in a peaceful place.

      Barest minimum just sign your name on the card.

      If you can use a buddy system- go to the lunch with a favorite coworker. Sit together and enjoy your lunch.

      Maybe I am thinking in terms of karma. But it just seems so much easier to put the tension to rest. I know some of my coworkers have “not liked me the best.” But when they signed my card or said “hey, good luck” it really seemed to put all that noise behind us.
      I remember how they made me feel a bit better- a closure type of thing I guess.

  10. Bridgette*

    This reminds me of something about to happen in my office – Bosses’ Day. The department’s main admin assistant sent us all an email reminding us to sign a card for the director. I like him alright and I don’t mind signing a card, but now it’s going to be awkward for all of the other bosses – the managers. I don’t like my manager and I don’t want to get him a card or anything. Also I think Bosses’ Day is stupid and I don’t want to celebrate it on principle. But anyway, how would all you wonderful people handle this in your office? Sign the card and be done with it? Take the boss out to lunch? Awkwardly ignore the whole thing?

    1. Jamie*

      You’re the first person I’ve ever heard of that had an office where Bosses Day was acknowledged.

      People do that?

      1. Bridgette*

        Dear god yes. There is one manager among the handful that is the clear favorite and her employees get her flowers and cakes, and she takes pictures of it and sends it around the office, making it way worse for those of us who don’t get our managers anything.

        1. Jamie*

          I am positive that if I did something like this for my bosses there would be a meeting about how to nicely tell me to never, ever do that again.

          They would be so embarrassed. Although it might prompt them to make up for the last 4 sys admin days where I got nothin’…

          Just kidding. Someone made me cookies for that day once and I was embarrassed, too. I thought it was sweet, but the Receptionist got upset because nothing was ever done on AA day and it became a whole thing.

      2. Amouse*

        My office does Administrative Professional Day. HR delivers a Thank You card they’ve signed and a gift card for around 15 dollars at Starbucks or similar place. I still can’t believe this year my co-worker said “I hope this isn’t for coffee. Ugh I don’t drink coffee!” as she was opening her card. To me this is an incredibly generous thing they do for us and I’m happy to receive any acknowledgement at all. I’m pretty sure we don’t do bosses’ day but HR might and we just don’t know about it.

        1. Bridgette*

          I like the way your HR does it. That seems fair to me. The thing I don’t like about these types of holidays is that there would have to be one for every type of job so people wouldn’t feel left out, and it creates too much awkwardness. And then there is that coworker of yours… I think that individuals should be appreciated individually, not with holidays. It’s kinda like making a company wide policy instead of dealing with the one problem person, no?

          1. Amouse*

            I think it depends on the industry and culture. For my company it works because we basically have a lot of admin people and then we have a lot of scientists and technically specialized people. The departments are spread across a pretty large space so it isn’t like an admin person gets card and the scientist is right beside them and gets upset because they aren’t also celebrated. In environments where many people with different types of jobs are working close together i could see it causing tension unless all jobs were celebrated equally. We do birthdays in much smaller groups. The company-wide cards etc tend to be when someone is leaving, retiring, very sick or had someone like a parent pass away. People are never forced to sign cards and so many people sign it would I think be hard to tell who didn’t sign. There are also doughnuts and a short get together for new employees usually monthly. Come to think of it, this is a lot of celebrations!

            My co-worker’s a bit of an anomaly. She’s just generally picky so I take her complaints with a grain of salt haha.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              See, I always thought celebrating Admin Day was almost a backhanded compliment. My company is engineering-oriented, so it’s similar to your place with the scientists. It seemed like if you *really* thought that admins “had the most important job around here” then they wouldn’t need a special day. If Dan the scientist puts in an extra effort getting that patent through the submittal process, he gets recognized by his team in an appropriate and course-of-business type way, but with administration, it seems like they don’t know what you all really do so we’ll just say you work very hard and no one appreciates you. Here are some flowers!

              (I’m not an administrative assistant, but I have had both types of recognition. One boss is always doing the Alison-and-X are doing a great job at all they do. Thanks so much! This bugs me. Another boss stops in and says, “That blobbity blob report was exactly what I needed. Great job. Thanks.” I love that.)

              1. AnotherAlison*

                I guess I should quit being a jerk & just appreciate any thank-yous that I do get : ) (And be thankful that I don’t get chewed out like people who do work that matters to the P/L).

              2. twentymilehike*

                I always thought celebrating Admin Day was almost a backhanded compliment

                hahahahahha! So funny you say that … it especially feels that way when you remember that it used to be called “secretaries day” … I rarely hear anyone use the term “secretary” anymore to describe their jobs, but I can’t figure out how it got to be such an insult to be called a secretary. Sometimes I get called that, but only by super old-school men that could be dad. Or grandfather.

                It’s so old school that I have know idea if I’m spelling secretary correctly and I’m way too Friday-ed out to look it up.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Well for corn’s sake, she can regift it if it’s for coffee. Or buy pastries or something. Sheesh. My office used to give us certificates for turkey every year at Thanksgiving. Now I live alone, don’t like turkey and even if I did, I can’t eat a whole bird by myself. I ended up giving it to another coworker who had extra mouths to feed each year. She was very grateful and I didn’t feel like I’d wasted it.

      3. Elizabeth*

        One year, we bought cupcakes & a card, but our boss figured out what we were doing before we got the card started going around.

        She begged us not to sign the card but let her have it blank, because she had forgotten about it and needed something to give her boss! We let her have the card, because the gift of making her look good to her boss was better than getting card herself.

      4. Aimee*

        My husband’s department does it. His employees will get him a little something (usually a card, something comic book/super hero related, and a Starbucks gift card). He will also be expected to chip in for a gift for his boss. It’s never a lot, but it irks me.

        Of course, they celebrate everyone’s birthday too, and he occasionally will buy donuts for his team when they’ve been working really hard, and I often complain that I feel like he’s constantly asking me for cash to donate to something (I handle our finances and he pretty much never has cash unless I give it to him. It’s a huge joke between us, but it tends to work well for us). :)

        Next week is employee appreciation week or something in his department, and I was grumbling at him because he HAD to bring in donuts for his team one morning (I was half joking though – it’s $20 at the most, and his team does work really hard). They were able to get the company to pay for it though. Yay!

        I work for the same company, and we try to ignore everything in my group. We might celebrate the really special occasions (the ones that don’t happen often – baby showers, wedding showers), but we don’t celebrate birthdays/bosses’ day/etc. I have one coworker who always asks me to make her cupcakes for her birthday every year, and since I really enjoy making cupcakes (and being able to make someone else take them so I don’t end up eating more than 1), I usually am more than happy to do that. But she only asks because she knows I enjoy it. :)

      5. Natalie*

        One of my managers did it once for our old boss, probably because he saw it on a calendar and decided we must get Old Boss a card. Old Boss refused to let us celebrate our birthday, so I’m sure the card made her uncomfortable.

        I resisted the urge to write “every day is Bosses’ Day!” on the card, even though my old boss probably would have thought it was funny.

    2. Heather*

      Yeah no – don’t take the boss out for lunch.

      If anything I would bring some home baking (which will probably incite a flurry of comments) but I would not be taking my boss for lunch.

      it just upsets the whole dynamic of the boss/employee relationship.

  11. Steve G*

    Unless you really hate eachother have a celebration. It’ll be a catharsis for both you of. For me, anyway, I did this at 2 past jobs where I had tense relationships with a few people. The last, well, dinners and drinks were so fun because we could both make jokes about eachother and pretend to to want to talk to eachother again:-). But at least we could have fun with it.

  12. Cassie*

    Are we so sure that the coworker leaving will want to have a farewell lunch? When my then-supervisor left for a different department, she was clear that she didn’t want a party. A group of 4 of us went to lunch with her instead.

    I wouldn’t want a party (either for b-day or if I was leaving) that was attended by people I don’t particularly like. If there was a party in my honor, I’d want to pick and choose who could attend or at least decide who should not be allowed to attend. :) I’m not a big fan of everyone pretending to be one big happy family during parties and holidays but talk smack about each other during the rest of the time.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      ” I’m not a big fan of everyone pretending to be one big happy family during parties and holidays but talk smack about each other during the rest of the time.”

      Ditto. I would rather be treated with baseline respect year round that have a couple of times per year where we all pretend we are best buds.

  13. anon-2*

    Wow, this is unbelieveable. The response on this one.

    I’ve been in the position where, yeah, I’ve had to go to going-away parties, 25th anniversary parties, and the like for people I didn’t especially care for. And you know what? I had a good time. It was a gathering of my co-workers, including the guy or gal leaving. I appreciated the time because it led to a peaceable separation.

    You never know if you’re going to run into that person some years down the road.

    Once – when I was working in one of the worst jobs of my long career – I was, effectively being fired. I found another job within days, with a better career, with a better company, and with a LOT more money. When I resigned, there was ANGER, because they had begun the firing process — and within 72 hours , it turned out to be the greatest thing that ever happened in my career.

    “No going away party, SEE?” — yeah, probably just as well, because in that place, I wouldn’t have wanted to go myself. The place was so bad, and so unprofessional, I couldn’t wait to get away from there.

  14. BCW*

    Wow, some people are really a bit much. We have all had people who we don’t care for at work, but the fact that a whole thread is dealing with signing a card seems a bit much. Its 5 seconds, what could someone have done that is that bad that your 5 seconds is not worth signing a card? I will say I can understand the not going to lunch thing, especially if the money is coming out of your pocket and not work paid, however if you are the ONLY person not to go, I think that makes you look very petty to the co-workers who you will be working with going forward.

  15. OP*

    OP here. Thanks for all the comments (even the kinda negative ones). Quick update: the employee ended up walking out and not finishing up the two weeks, so my question was kinda moot anyway. No card, no lunch. For the people who thought I was being petty–that was really not my intent. I am not that kind of person. Without going into too many details about the back story, this person really made my life miserable to the point where I wanted to get lawyers involved. Had it just been a coworker I did not click with, of course I would have signed. But this particular person made me physically ill to show up at work most days. To have been forced to go to a lunch to support them would have been a slap in the face. And yes, if I ever found out he was working at a future place of employment, I would not take the job, it was that bad.

    Anyway, thanks for all the responses (and funny tangents)! I love this blog and was surprised Allison published my question. It helped to know some people out there understood what I was feeling. Take care!

  16. Jeff Justice*

    We plan on buying party favors for a disliked employee leaving us. After all, he’s leaving. Isn’t that something to celebrate?

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