I don’t want to go on a company cruise — can I be required to work instead?

A reader writes:

I work for a private medical practice with 12 employees. My employer just decided (three weeks ago) to take all employees and their spouses on a cruise next week (company paid).

While I would have loved to attend, my husband and I just returned from a week-long pre-planned personal vacation, so my husband does not have additional PTO for this. I decided not to go alone, as I would not be comfortable doing so.

The cruise is Thursday to Monday, and my employer just informed me that since I was not going on the cruise, I would be required to work normal hours at the office. I am the only one not going, and therefore the only one who will be working three days that everyone else is on paid (and paid-for) vacation. I feel like I am being punished, but assume this is the employer’s prerogative?


And not only is this perfectly legal, I’d argue that there’s nothing too terrible about doing this.

Think of it this way: If they wanted to take everyone on a team-building trip to, say, an amusement part or on an overnight strategy retreat and you declined to go, you wouldn’t just get those days off. You’d be expected to continue to show up at work.

And yes, this is more like a “vacation,” but they’re almost certainly doing it for business reasons, not altruism: They’re assuming it will be a team-building thing. That’s why they’re not just giving everyone the week off to use as they sit fit, or giving everyone a certain amount of money to spend on whatever vacation they want.

It’s not punishing you to say that if you’re not going to attend this event, you should continue to work as normal. That’s pretty reasonable.

And sure, there might be some employers out there who would give you these three days off anyway (and that would be a really nice thing to do, and arguably one that could increase your loyalty to the company), but there’s certainly nothing wrong with the way they’re handling it.

{ 117 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    Totally normal that they’re telling you this. Your employer isn’t just giving everyone an extra three days of vacation out of the kindness of their hearts. They’re doing this cruise in hopes of building a stronger team and retaining employees. You don’t just get to bail on that and do whatever vacation you want — otherwise all employees could say, “Yeah, I’d rather be skiing in Vail/watching Judd Apatow movies at home/museum-hopping in London/etc.,” not just you, and the employer is no longer doing something with a business purpose.

    So, I’m not surprised at all that your employer is saying that if you’re not going to go along with the business purpose they have in mind for the cruise, you need to serve the business in another way (by showing up to work as usual). This is consistent with other companies I’ve worked at, who said that if you skipped the company day-long retreat/picnic, you either had to show up to the office or else burn a PTO day.

    1. Steve*

      And at least you get to go into work – often they will say something along the lines of “the office is closed and there’s no one there to let you in or lock up after you,” which forces you to take PTO, vacation, unpaid leave, etc.

    2. The IT Manager*

      This reminded of all those announcements I’ve heard before that if you didn’t attend the Christmas party or picnic (during work hours) that you had to be in the office.

    3. KarenT*

      This. I would find it strange if they let you just take the week off. That wouldn’t be fair to the people going on the cruise–I’m sure many of them would rather have the time off at home than on the boat.

  2. PEBCAK*

    Is anyone else going solo? I could see not wanting to be the only single, but I’m surprised that EVERYONE would have a spouse who is available for this on short notice.

    1. some1*

      I totally get your point, Pebcak, but as a woman who’s definitely old enough to be married (twice or three times) but never has been, it’s comments like “I can see why you don’t want to be the only single” can sting for people in my situation, like our lack of spouse is something we should be ashamed of.

      If you meant that you can see why the LW would not want to be the only person with a spouse not to bring them, I don’t necessarily agree it’d be a big deal, but not the same situation.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t think PEBCAK meant “single” as unmarried- I think it was “single” as in “everyone is on this cruise as part of a couple except me and I’ll feel like a fifth wheel”. It’s not quite the same as being the only person without a spouse who didn’t bring them – in that case, there might also be unmarried /unattached people attending solo.

        1. PEBCAK*

          Indeed. For example, I typically go diving on cruises, everyone has to have a buddy, which means it’s a pain to be the odd number, and that has NOTHING to do with relationship status. I’ve just never been on vacation with someone else who dives.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Agreed. There’s no way that everyone has a partner who can jump on a cruise on short notice when it’s not even their job/cruise. If they even have a partner, the partner may have a job of their own, health problems, dependents (babies < 6 months can't go on cruises at all, for instance), whatever. I would bet a lot of money that there will be unpartnered co-workers on the ship.

      I would recommend going if you can possibly manage/stand it. This kind of "team-building" thing is considered weirdly important at most companies. I don't get it, but it's how the game is played. If you care enough about your career to be writing to AAM, you probably care enough that you don't want to take the career hit of being viewed as "not a team player".

      Most cruise ships have a pretty broad range of activities. You really may be able to find something you enjoy doing, even if you are not a "dance, drink and party" sort of person.

  3. Jamie*

    What a nightmare. I would contract any number of horrible diseases just for an excuse not to go…and who doesn’t love having the office all to themselves to get caught up and really get some work done. That’s my idea of a vacation.

    1. Wren*

      Me! I would hate it. I’m an extrovert and being alone all day in an empty office sounds like my idea of hell.

    2. Lee*

      Ha, long time lurker, rare poster here. Is it funny that I read your comment Jamie without looking at the name and my first thought was ‘I bet Jamie wrote that!’ This is not a criticism, I think you’re fantastic :)

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Me too! Absence makes the heart grow fonder. My husband’s co-worker is totally beside himself because hubby is “letting” me go on a cruise later this week without him. Um, he doesn’t “let” me do anything. It’s not 1950.

    2. Jessa*

      Exactly, I’m not sure why it’s so unacceptable to go without him. I mean if you never get to go anywhere that’d be different, but you just went on holiday together.

  4. alfie*

    As someone who is single currently, I’m feeling envious that they are letting the OP skip it. I am obligated to do these types of quasi-social work functions solo and I would much rather just go in to do my work!! Also, I am guessing at least some of the rest of the staff would spend that time differently if given the choice of how to spend several days of PTO. It’s really a work obligation.

    1. doreen*

      I’m married and I’m jealous ,too. When either my husband’s employer or mine have these events , there’s no choice involved- if we don’t have leave approved prior to the announcement, we must attend. Spouses are not invited- I suppose we could share a hotel room, but there are group meals and evening get-togethers where spouses would not be welcome. In one case, people who lived 10 minutes from the hotel were still required to stay at the hotel all week. At least mine are Mon- Fri. My husband’s are usually Friday evening to Sunday afternoon

      To the OP , think of it like an out-of-town training or conference. If you declined an opportunity to attend one of those, you wouldn’t expect to get the corresponding days off. The only difference here is that you are the only person not atending.

      1. Emily K*

        My company also does not allow family to attend staff retreats, nor for any employee not to stay at the retreat hotel even if they live very close by. One year we stayed at a pet-friendly resort (with doggy daycare and such) and employees were even told that nonetheless they weren’t allowed to bring their pets. All staff and only staff is the rule.

  5. Anonymous*

    I think OP will be missing out on a great opportunity to create better relationships with co-workers. I think she should go, it might not totally suck, but she’ll only know if she goes.

    1. Vicki*

      If she’s anything like me, (She’s not; she said she would have loved to attend) it would totally suck.

      Seriously? Trapped on a boat for three days with no way to get off or get away? No way.

      I don’t do team-building events I can’t control.

  6. Michele*

    I agree with everyone here! This is totally normal and not surprising that your employer would expect you to be in the office. I used to work for a large sportswear company and on a bonus day one year we were told there was a bowling outing. Being young and it being my first job out of college I assumed it was optional and thought I am going to skip it so I can go shopping. To my surprise I was told you either work, take PTO, or go bowling. I went bowling and had a great time. It was a great opportunity to get to know members from other teams and be out of the office. You are going to miss out on a lot in terms of building relationships and you should reconsider your choice to stay behind.

    1. SevenSixOne*

      I understand what you’re saying… but most people probably can find the time for a bowling outing that is (I assume) near work and only lasts a few hours, but a weeklong cruise to Far Far Away is a totally different thing– employees may not be able to arrange child care on such short notice

      1. SevenSixOne*

        whoops, hit Reply too soon. Anyway:

        I understand what you’re saying… but most people probably can find the time for a bowling outing that is (I assume) near work and only lasts a few hours, but a weeklong cruise to Far Far Away is a totally different thing– employees may not be able to arrange child care or reschedule their other obligations and routines on such short notice. Even though I agree the OP should definitely do her best to find a way to go, I think it’s absurd for her employer to assume that this is something every employee can just drop everything and do.

        1. Anonymous*

          That’s fine if you can’t go. But, if you can’t go then you’re sitting at work doing likely near nothing as I know of no position that can supply itself with work for even a couple days without the input of other work being done.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Lots can! The last few jobs I’ve had, I could have found plenty to do on my own for weeks, and maybe months, without getting work or input from anyone else.

            1. Anonymous*


              I’ve not had that pleasure. I could, of course, invent things to do, but sans direction I wouldn’t expect my manager to agree with how I spent my time.

            2. some1*

              I used to work at a place that held the holiday party during work hours. One of my co-workers never went but he used the time to clean the office fridge.

            3. pizzapizza*

              Yup, I’m one of those that has enough work to keep me busy for weeks and weeks without input from anyone else.

          2. Anonymous*

            Man, I could. In fact I could catch up on all the work I am horribly behind on because people won’t stop bothering me…

              1. Emily K*

                I used to work for a boss who spent her summers at a second home. Even though she worked normal hours remotely all summer and the volume of her work output was as staggering as ever all summer, it amazed me how much less work she *assigned* me when she was out of town. Something about physically seeing me led to her dumping so many more little things on me every day the other nine months of the year.

  7. Anonymous*

    I definitely support scheming your way out of it due to “illness” or whatever. It’s unfair, presumptuous and obnoxious to think that “team building” means the same to everyone, as if all people are built the same way. If they cared about the team, then they would seek out how your unique team actually operates, what hinders efficiency, and working to remove those hindrances or work with the team as a whole to actually improve upon what already works if nothing is particularly lacking. Anything else is annoying.

    At my current place of employ, a series of “retention” policies have been put into place that more or less has turned out workplace into a childhood clubhouse. Professionally, I find this degrading. Underlying issues that have contributed to a bleeding of personnel have gone unresolved. Professionally, I find this insulting. Their next step? “Employee appreciation,” aka a weeklong series of social events that, not only grate me being an introvert, but again will continue to leave underlying issues unresolved. If it weren’t for my personal goal of being at a place for a little while given a spate of short-term gigs in my recent past, then I would have already been gone.

    1. TL*

      We have employee appreciation week here – completely optional, good fun, free food, and no pressure from the higher ups to skip work or skip the event.

      When done correctly, I think it is really nice.

      1. Anonymous*

        If that were made an option I wouldn’t mind it as much. It would still be a kind of excuse to ignore other issues but, as displayed here, there is a general social expectation to attend coupled with the general lack of willingness of one to push back on what one’s employer is telling them to do makes it an uncomfortable thing to turn down in the first place.

        1. TL*

          Oh, only about half of our employees show up to any particular event and there are a few who don’t go to anything at all. It’s no big and that’s nice.

          1. Emily K*

            My company is like this. There’s an annual budget for parties, but they’re generally held on site during work hours, and they’re completely optional so people who don’t care for parties or have too much work that day just stay at their desks working, or maybe stop by to pick up a small plate and a soft drink to take back to their desk. Some people come to every party, others come to none, but neither group of people is looked down on so long as they’re managing their workload and being generally agreeable to work with.

    2. fposte*

      Do you mean scheming your way out of the cruise? She’s already not going, and the employer was fine with that.

      1. Anonymous*

        I meant scheming from having to be in the office, period. I have a general disagreement with work practices that take employees to clearly recreational activities that have nothing to do with work yet that force nonparticipants to stay in the office to work if they don’t want to participate in something that’s obviously unrelated to work anyway other than a thinly veiled “team building” excuse which I addressed.

        1. dejavu2*

          I don’t think team building is unrelated to work. I used to have a job at a place where we were forced to go on a retreat, and not only was it a lot of fun, but it was a very real bonding experience with the other employees. It had a significant impact on our workplace and productivity.

          1. fposte*

            Agreed. They may have muddied things a little here by allowing people to bring spouses–hopefully the actual info is a little clearer that activities during the day are for employees only–but either they’re working on the cruise or they’re working in the office.

          2. Anonymous*

            When team building is actually team building that’s fine. However, excuses to go out and drink is NOT team building. That’s a social group who meets at bars. Following the OP, except if you don’t want to “hang,” you gotta stay in the office and work. In my experience, the vast majority of events like in the OP are more or less reasons to party. They do nothing to strengthen the inherent bonds that help a team function well to get a job done.

            1. Forrest*

              But you don’t know if this trip intends just going out and drinking.

              Additionally, weren’t you just saying that people shouldn’t define team building for other people?

              Finally, faking an illness would pull up some questions about the OP’s character in the employer’s mind. Sure, it could be coincidence that the person who wanted two days off is all of a sudden sick but I’m pretty sure the thought the the OP is faking will cross their minds.

  8. Ann O'Nemity*

    Can I just say that I hate the idea of a employee + spouse cruise? Especially one announced less than a month in advance! What about people who hate cruises? Single folks? Spouses’ PTO? Childcare?! Even the folks who have a spouse with PTO and covered childcare – is that really the way you want to be spending your spouses’ PTO time? On a work-related, possibly team-building cruise? This sounds horrible. And it’s not the same as a one day holiday party or picnic! This is much, much worse.

    End rant.

    1. Lucy*

      Yep. I’d probably go myself and have my husband stay home.. if I’m not using my PTO and he has to use his, then that’s pretty much a lost vacation anyway because we won’t have the same amount of days to take off anymore.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        I would be annoyed if I had to go to some work-sponsored team-building “vacation” (fake-ation?)… but I would be SO PISSED if my HUSBAND’S company had some nonsense like that and I was expected to tag along.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Me too. If my husband came home and said, “Honey, I have a work trip and they expect you to come,” I’d be all, “It better be to f’ing PARIS, and I better not have to do anything except eat pain au chocolat and go to the Louvre.”

          (I still think the OP’s company is being perfectly normal in expecting her to work if she won’t go on the trip — but I do wish employers wouldn’t do “team-building” through enforced socializing. Especially on a boat, where you CAN’T get away from each other.)

          1. SevenSixOne*

            Totally. It’s one thing for the company to INVITE employees’ partners or families to a work trip; it’s quite another for the company to EXPECT employees to bring their partners/families, there’s a creepy undertone of “the company must know everything about you and make sure your personal life is Company Material!”

            I feel like employees’ families are under the microscope at the company picnic. I imagine that feeling would be even stronger on a company cruise.

    2. Anonymous*

      What about elder care or pet care? Those can be a bigger problem to get in short notice versus childcare.

      1. Andrea*

        No kidding. There’s pretty much no way my husband and I could both leave town at the same time—our dog and two cats are in great health, but they each have different foods and two have a (different) daily medication; they each eat twice per day and in separate rooms; and our dog gets walked five times per day (using a leash and a head collar that’s difficult to get on if you aren’t used to it); our toothless cat hates canned food so her kibble needs to be soaked in water 20 minutes before feeding time, etc. It’s not a big deal for us, but we work from home and are usually here; occasionally he travels for a day or so, but I can certainly take care of them myself and vice versa for him when I’m gone for some reason. But we have no one that we can depend on or trust to take care of them. I honestly wouldn’t let my own mother try to do it. We’ve always vacationed separately, anyway. So in the OP’s situation, I suppose I’d have to go on the cruise alone…though I find the very idea of a cruise sort of offensive and not at all fun-sounding…and I hate hot weather and beaches, and I avoid the sun (using long sleeves and pants and big hats and sunscreen), so yeah, this would pretty much be my nightmare. Even so, if every single person who works there was going and you are the only one, OP, well then, I’d probably go. I mean, maybe no one would think a thing of it if you were absent, but I’ve certainly worked at places where this would be A Big Deal.

        1. Nancie*

          Have you ever looked into having someone who works at your vet’s office critter-sit for you? My last cat-sitter was an assistant at the vet’s. She was wonderful, she could handle any sort of cat-care oddity I threw at her.

    3. some1*

      “What about people who hate cruises? Single folks? Spouses’ PTO? Childcare?!”

      or people who are in a long-term, living-together relationships but aren’t married.

    4. Anonymous*

      Agree. And I would never think of trying to get my husband to go on something like that either! I’m pretty sure he’d rather die. Plus he’s a bartender and doesn’t get PTO at all but that’s another issue.

  9. Poster formally known as Jane Doe*

    Personally, I agree with what others are saying in regards to still having work.

    I’d still go, sans spouse. I love him dearly and all that, but I’m independent, and its a good move for your career.

    Plus cruises are weirdly really fun!

  10. The Other Dawn*

    I agree with others that the OP should go if she’s able to. While team building stuff may suck in general, she might have fun. And if she skips too many of these things, she may begin to feel or be treated like the outsider in the office. Maybe it’s wrong, but people who routinely skip these types of things are viewed differently than those who show up most of the time.

    And I agree that making you work isn’t unusual. If our office had planned an event and people wanted to skip it, I’d tell them they have to work or take PTO.

  11. Allison*

    “forced fun” is kinda stupid, but a reality of the working world. Downside is that if you don’t participate in company parties, outings, dinners, etc., it makes you seem disengaged which could hurt your standing in the company. Typically when it’s time to promote someone or choose someone for a special project, it’s not uncommon for the manager to have a slight bias toward the employees they’ve bonded with outside the office. Lack of engagement won’t really get someone fired, but it could certainly come up if someone’s job was in jeopardy.

    I’m an introvert, I’d rather curl up in bed and watch Doctor Who than party. Office parties are daunting as I never know who to talk to; with SPD, it’s nerve-wracking to socialize in a loud setting and going out to eat with colleagues is terrifying (certain food textures make me gag, but according to Corporette you must never make special requests when out to dine, lest you appear high maintenance and princess-y). But I go anyway because I know it’s important to foster positive relationships with the people I work with.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Totally agree, as a fellow introvert myself. I’d much rather be reading or petting my cats, but I know some things are just part of the job. I can either deal with it or go elsewhere.

      1. Ali*

        I went to visit my company’s office in NYC last month and I am introvert too. I found out the day or two before I was to head in that there would be seven of us on a group lunch, and I was definitely a little bit nervous about being in that big of a group. I talked to my boss beforehand and mentioned this, and he assured me that others in the group were pretty quiet too. For some reason, I’d assumed I was being thrown into a group of people who were loud and sociable all the time. When all was said and done, I actually enjoyed it, and now I’m moving to be closer to the office and better my prospects, which increases my chances of meeting people than I would if I just stayed back in my hometown and never considered any opportunities.

        This is compared to one of my last jobs, where I never did anything sociable, even skipped the XMAS party even though I’d only been there a couple weeks at the time. I felt like an outsider in that office, and honestly, if I had that job to do over again, I would’ve gone to the party and been more sociable with co-workers even though invitations didn’t go out that often for stuff.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          “I felt like an outsider in that office, and honestly, if I had that job to do over again, I would’ve gone to the party and been more sociable with co-workers even though invitations didn’t go out that often for stuff.”

          I did this years ago when I first started this job. I started in August. In December we had a Christmas dinner at a restaurant and I skipped it. I made up some lame excuse. I was the only person who didn’t go. I did that with a few other events, too. Although no one treated me differently in terms of my job, I got the feeling they thought of me as an outsider. And I felt like one. In my mind there was me, and then there was them. Make sense? So eventually I started saying “yes” and things turned around.

          As much as we all bitch about doing stuff like this and that we shouldn’t have to do it, yada, yada, yada…the reality is that it does affect how other people see us.

    2. Cat*

      I don’t think that was the point of that Corporette post, which I remember, I think – I think it was more that you shouldn’t be making a list of conditions on your dinner order 10 items long. But saying “no tomatoes, please” is certainly acceptable and people do this at nearly every business meal I’ve been to.

      1. TL*

        Plus, there are some people with legitimate reasons for being so demanding (food allergies), so I think it’s also about the attitude behind it.

        1. Julie*

          When I tell the waiter that I’m allergic to wheat, s/he is usually very helpful in finding something I can eat. However, I don’t want to make my allergy a topic of conversation for everyone at the table (it gets old quickly), so I try to do this quietly. I’d prefer to say nothing at all, but I’ve found that if I don’t tell them there’s an allergy, I sometimes end up inadvertently ordering and eating something that contains wheat. Any time I’m planning to go out (for work or not), I try to look at the menu online ahead of time and plan out my meal.

          (The third time I ordered the chicken burger with the gluten free bun from a neighborhood restaurant, the order taker said, “you know, the chicken burger has wheat in it.” Good to know! Would have been even better to know the first time I ordered that particular combination… I also don’t understand why anyone would choose to eat gluten/wheat free. It’s a pain in the butt, and there’s nothing wrong with gluten unless you’re allergic to it (IMO).) /end rant :)

      2. Trillian*

        Not having to eat gross food is one of the inalienable rights of adulthood. We must not surrender it without a fight.

  12. Katie the Fed*

    I gotta be honest – I’m totally baffled by the not being comfortable going alone.

    OP, can you explain?

    1. Cathy*

      Not the OP, but…

      I’m totally up for doing things on my own. However, if it’s a group function and EVERYONE else is paired up…yeah, that’s not the same thing and considerably less fun.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        Definitely. All the partnered people will probably spend most of their down time with their partner, so the one person who’s there solo will end up spending a lot of time alone or feeling like a fifth wheel tagging along with a couple.

      2. Laufey*

        But what are the odds of every single other person being paired up? Is everyone married? Is everyone’s spouse’s going? The OP can’t be the only person who would be going sans Signficant Other.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah that’s what I was thinking.

          And maybe because I’ve been happily unmarried for a while, but I don’t understand being uncomfortable without your SO to the point that you’ll make plans around their schedule.

            1. Twentymilehike*

              Not necessarily. My parents didn’t do a thing on their own for 40 years. They even worked together. When m mom passed away my dad couldn’t even go to the grocery store on his own. Some spouses are just really attached to one another.

          1. TL*

            I have a good friend that is about a year and a half into her marriage and they get upset if they’re parted for more than a day. She had to go on a work trip this summer for 4 days or so and it was the worst. thing. ever.

          2. fposte*

            I think some people feel really vulnerable, anxious, and self-conscious doing stuff on their own, to the point where it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy that they’ll be uncomfortable rather than having a good time.

            On the one hand, I bet it’s not going to matter who you came with for most of the day, because they’re likely to do employee-only activities for the majority of it. On the other, people who did bring family are likelier to default to heading back to them once they’re sprung. But I really don’t think everybody else would have a partner, because a large portion of people’s spouses are going to opt out of this, and even if solo travelers are the only ones who will talk to other solos I bet there will be plenty of them.

            1. Cat*

              Also, to be honest, I can think of worse things than kicking back on the deck of a ship with a book while my co-workers refuse to talk to me because they’re hanging out with their spouses. That doesn’t actually sound horrible at all.

              1. fposte*

                I’m totally with you on that–if I had to go on one of these things I’d count on being able to duck my co-workers once the bell rang–but I think most people who feel that way aren’t the folks uneasy about going on a cruise without a partner.

        2. AdminAnon*

          Obviously I can’t speak for the OP, but if my office did something like this then I would definitely be at risk of being the fifth wheel (or 29th wheel, or whatever the case may be). Everyone in my office IS married except for me (and one co-worker, whose wedding is on Saturday).

          Also, as someone who just spent the holiday weekend as a 5th wheel with my brother, his fiancee, and my parents….it is not fun. I ended up spending most of the weekend alone (which isn’t the worst thing–I actually enjoy being alone) while they were all couple-y.

      3. some1*

        “However, if it’s a group function and EVERYONE else is paired up…yeah, that’s not the same thing and considerably less fun.”

        But if the LW was single/divorced/widowed, and had no one to bring on the trip, this would still be true.

        1. Ornery PR*

          I’m guessing that the “not feeling comfortable” comes from the OP or the OP’s spouse being worried about the many opportunities for fraternization that present themselves on a cruise ship.

          1. TL*

            Most of the cruises’ activities take place out in public – I guess you could take someone back to your room but that would be a rather deliberate choice on both parties’ part.

        2. Tex*

          I don’t get the will-not-leave-spouse-behind syndrome of this LW or other people for that matter (besides a medical condition). Simplistically, if one is an introvert, then entertaining yourself during down time isn’t a problem. If one is an extrovert then a cruise sounds like fun.

          Also, this is a business trip with adults. It’s not like going to prom without a date.

          1. Richard*

            Keep in mind that they’re not just asking them to take time out of their working day to go on this cruise, but they’re asking them to take several consecutive days where they’re unlikely to be paid outside of their normal working hours to go on a company activity. It’s massively disruptive to their lives, and it’s completely unreasonable to chastise or punish an employee who doesn’t wish to attend.

            Not to mention that some people like being able to go home at the end of the working day and leave work behind; spending several consecutive days of company mandated ‘vacation’ with their coworkers where they can’t go home, is about as far away from a vacation as they can get. You, and the company might think that they’re doing them a favour by paying for them to go on a cruise, but some people might view being trapped on a boat with their colleagues and managers for several days as a really uncomfortable experience where they can never truly relax.

            Me? I’d be up for a cruise on the company dime, team-building stuff or not, but I can entirely understand why others might not be so keen.

    2. khilde*

      I don’t know where my comment will embed, but I’m answering the question of why someone wouldn’t want to go alone. One thing that came to mind for me is I wouldn’t want to go alone because I think of a cruise as a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, for various reasons. Like it’s not something I’d be likely to do/afford on my own, at least at this point in my life (and we live way up north so getting on a plane to get to a port is not something I’m too psyched to do very often! But that’s a total aside). So, anyway, I wouldn’t want to be alone because I’d want to experience it with my husband and have those good memories of that trip together. I am the type of person, though, that likes to experience things WITH other people. I can entertain myself just fine when I’m around the house or on a lazy weekend. But for an “experience,” I would hate to do that alone. A loved one for me makes it better.

      So that’s just another perspective on that question.

  13. Sourire*

    Okay, so this has nothing to do with advice, but I’m insanely curious – just what exactly is “paid for” in this context? Cruises are cheap when you look at the base fare, however all of that extra crap adds up quickly. Are you expected to go to “happy hour” type things at the bar where the drinks are insanely expensive? If you are going to be doing shore tours together, are those paid for? Transportation to/from the pier? Etc etc etc

    I know, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and all that, but OP might actually be saving themselves a good deal of money by just staying home. Money that could be used for a vacation AWAY from work that they actually want to take.

    1. Cathy*

      Well, if the gift horse needs major dental work, you’ll be happy you looked in the mouth. I worked for a company that did a long weekend to a resort area ~100 miles away that was “paid for” by the company.

      Company paid for three days/two nights and ONE meal. Plus $50 credit at the spa (too bad the cheapest spa treatment was $120). After gas to drive out there and restaurant meals (no fridge/sink/microwave in rooms) for the weekend, I was out several hundred dollars for the “company” event. And team building, my hiney, everyone went to get drunk by the pool.

    2. Brett*

      Any time I see one of these types of retreats or working vacations, I wonder what kind of kickback the owner or the person booking the trips got out of the deal. (And are they really reporting the cash value of those kickbacks on their taxes.)

    3. nomnomnomynous*

      The only one of these forced fun trips I’ve ever been on left me several hundred in the hole. It adds up fast– drinks here, a cab ride there, a show at some other place, tip after tip after tip after tip…

      “Well, you don’t have to go to every event!”

      Maybe not, but if the whole point of these things is to see and be seen, sitting out more than one or two events is pointless at best and could actually damage your reputation at worst.

      “Well, compared to what you would have paid for this trip if the company hadn’t picked up the tab–”

      Noooope! I never in a million years would have chosen a vacation like this trip, so that argument is invalid.

    4. shellbell*

      My spouse went on a cruise with her company. They paid for plane ticket to departure city, cruise, and they hosted a few free happy hours. The rest of the time people paid for their own booze. If you wanted an excursion, you paid.

  14. Anna*

    I think some people are overthinking this a bit. If the OP can go alone, she should. If you don’t want tomatoes, don’t order tomatoes, the opposite of being an introvert is not partying til you drop, and while it may not be completely altruistic, the offer is generous. Other people are going and chances are they have children, pets, etc and yet, they’ve managed to figure it out. Maybe their kids are going with them. (Kids can go on cruises, you know.)

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Yeah, I agree. It sounds well-intentioned to me, and unless there was a really extenuating circumstance, I’d make every effort to go.

      But, this blog has also opened my eyes to how much some people REALLY detest mandatory or quasi-mandatory fun. As a manager, I try to keep that in mind when I want to plan team activities.

      1. Joey*

        Or how much you really need to screen for this stuff when its an expectation.

        How would people take that kind of feedback when getting turned down? we went with someone who doesn’t detest going with co workers on a company paid cruise.

        1. Tinker*

          If that’s the hill they wanted to die on, so be it. I’d wonder quite a lot about their priorities, and be most profoundly glad that their priorities were not my problem. They’d also likely become legendary among my friends.

          Which would not really be their problem either. It’s a win-win.

      2. Manda*

        The thing is, people have very different definitions of what fun is. If I was expected to go with coworkers to a sporting event I’d be bored out of my mind. Most people would happily go. Not everyone’s idea of fun includes a cruise.

      3. Richard*

        As a manager, I’d say that while it’s important to try and make events as inclusive as possible, to make sure that it’s not mandatory, and be understanding when employees say that they’d rather not attend.

        You might argue that if they’re not joining in these team-building exercises, that they’re not being team players, but I’d say that kind of judgement needs to come from how they actually interact with their teams when they’re working, not from mandated team building sessions.

        If they’re really not a good fit for the team, that’ll soon become apparent in their work, and that’s the only time that they should potentially be reviewed, and the only thing you should be measuring upon – not because they didn’t want to go on a company camping trip.

        1. annie*

          I also think there are nuances too – frankly I always think it is a little silly when people here complain about having to go to a casual Christmas party, as stopping by for a cookie and a candy cane for a few minutes really isn’t going to kill anyone. A whole vacation, yeah, I can see that as being awful, but an hour for a meal or holiday cake, I say suck it up.

      4. Anonymous*

        It seemed well intentioned to me, too. This post just made me realize how difficult a lot of people are. When did, “Thanks for the gesture, but this won’t work for my schedule on such short notice. What are my other options?” become too hard?

  15. Brett*

    This could be worse. A KIPP teacher I know was given three days notice by her school that she had to go on an all expenses paid out of state school trip. The school presented it like it was a reward vacation for being a quality teacher. But she was concerned because she has knee and back problems. The trip she was assigned?

    Take 45 sixth graders on a week long 20 mile trip down the Havasupai Trail all the way down to Mooney Falls. This included a 7 hour bus ride each way too.

    Take a moment to google image “Havasupai Trail chains”.

    When she declined, they docked her PTO for all of the days (even though the trip was after the end of the contract year) and then fined her $1,000.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t think they can deduct money from your paycheck without your authorization – but that’s not the same as saying you can’t be fined. One possible outcome of disciplinary action at my employer is a fine. It’s not deducted from your paycheck unless you authorize it- but failing to pay the fine either by payroll deduction or by writing your own check can result in a separate disciplinary action. Generally people pay the fine because a $300 fine is less painful than a 3 week suspension.

          1. doreen*

            The most recent case I know of is someone who was fined $300 for excessive absences/lateness (two or three times a week for a couple of months) . Other situations that have resulted in fines and/or replacement fees are the loss of various equipment when it wasn’t properly safeguarded. For example, I wouldn’t be fined or even face disciplinary action if my cellphone was snatched out of my hand but I might be if it was stolen out of my parked car or left on my desk overnight. ( Yes, I could file a police report saying it was snatched out of my hand. But the penalties for that far exceed the possible fine, so it doesn’t tend to happen)

  16. Manda*

    I think expecting people to go on vacation-like trips that aren’t exactly business trips is just stupid. I’m pretty sure I would not take a job knowing that travel would be involved. If business trips weren’t normally something I had to do, and I was suddenly expected to go on a trip for work, I’d be pissed. I am a homebody and very introverted. Traveling is not something I want to do a lot of in my life. I have zero interest in going on a cruise. I have no issues with being in a small boat on a lake, but there’s something unnerving about being trapped on a huge boat on the ocean for days. I can think of so many reasons why it’s inconsiderate to impose this sort of trip on someone, especially on short notice. Maybe you don’t like to travel. Maybe your spouse can’t take the time off. Maybe you can’t get someone to watch your kids or pets. Maybe you just don’t want to leave them. Maybe you have a sick relative. Maybe you have a family party scheduled. Maybe you’re in the middle of a home renovation. Maybe you don’t want to spend money on all the extra things that aren’t paid for and whatever you need to buy before going away. I see no reason a team building event can’t take place in your hometown instead of interrupting people’s lives like this.

    That being said, I’d probably be quite content working completely alone for a few days.

    1. doreen*

      “I see no reason a team building event can’t take place in your hometown instead of interrupting people’s lives like this.” Depends on how far-flung the team is. The one at my employer was in large part specifically so we could actually meet those people across the entire state that we constantly communicated with. (There was also a lot of training, but that could have been done regionally) Someone’s life was going to get interrupted or else the NYC and Buffalo managers would never meet the Albany managers. I actually found this event and similar voluntary ones to be useful- there really is a different relationship when you’ve spent a week with someone in training, team building exercises and at meals rather than just being two disembodied voices speaking on the phone every couple of days for years.

      1. Manda*

        What you’ve described sounds like more of a business trip than a vacation-like team building event, but I’m sure definitions vary. I can understand the point of a trip like that. It’s a little different from rounding up a team that all work in the same office anyway and just taking them some place else to mingle. I hope you got a reasonable amount of warning though.

  17. Richard*

    Yep, this is perfectly normal, and shouldn’t be considered a punishment.

    Imagine if your company said that they were going to pay for you to take a cruise, but that they wouldn’t be paying you for the duration, or that you were required to take it out of your paid vacation time because it’s not ‘real’ work. You’d be livid, right? They’d be taking money out of your pocket because they arbitrarily decided that you were taking people on vacation. I’m pretty sure it’d be questionable in terms of legality too.

    That’s the reason that they’re willing to pay you to go on this cruise – it’s a company mandated activity, it’ll likely have some events dictated by the company, whether they be team-building, or whatever, and therefore it’s considered work time. If you decide not to go, then that’s your choice (though it sounds as though you have a perfectly reasonable excuse to not attend), but they’re still paying you for ‘work’ time, so asking you to go to work as normal isn’t unreasonable at all.

  18. Anonymous*

    As an introvert, the idea of being stuck on a ship with my coworkers makes my skin crawl. If I were the OP, I’d take the time alone at the office to do some job hunting.

  19. Brett*

    I just realized this is a weekend cruise.

    Is the OP being required to work extra weekend days because the rest of the office is “working”? (e.g. three days = Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
    If that is the case, then that certainly does seem like punishment.

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