update: my coworker is planning a “CEOs & Office Hoes” party

Remember the letter-writer last week whose coworker kept discussing his upcoming “CEOs & Office Hoes” party, to which she and other coworkers were invited? Here’s the update.

I just wanted to say thank you for answering my question and update on what happened. I didn’t actually get a chance to make use of your advice because talk of the party had quieted down a bit over the past few weeks, since I originally emailed you, and the party was this past weekend.

As well as my discomfort with it obviously being super demeaning to women, your and most of your reader’s responses made me realize that this was situation was an even more serious issue, particularly legally, than I had anticipated, and, as I mentioned originally, I didn’t want to get anybody into trouble. So, in the end, I thought it was better not to rock the boat for something that would be over and done with in a few days. I appreciated your advice though and read most of the comments also, and it was validating to hear that my judgement about this wasn’t off, and that it would have been worth speaking up over.

As was wondered, invitations were not issued on organization time or resources; the whole thing was organized via Facebook. The photos are predictably awful, including a couple that I was originally tagged in (apparently I was supposed to share the joke), of my fellow interns actually mocking our manager and a couple of other staff members we’ve done some work with, by captions like “X gone wild.” (Josh put up the photos so I have no idea whether that was the original intention, or just his ‘hilarious’ captioning skills.) Regardless, it’s definitely become clear to me that the respect I have for this nonprofit (which does really important work in an area that I’m really passionate about) and for my manager, and how willing she’s been to look out for us and help us learn, is obviously not totally shared.

I will be heeding your advice to break away from the intern clique, and am planning to get as much from the remaining month of my internship as I can, hopefully including forging connections that I can maintain, and that can help me going forward. Thank you again for taking the time to answer my question and for your readers sharing their thoughts also.

{ 92 comments… read them below }

  1. a*

    I am shocked that adults would behave this way, when we all know that social media is so accessible.

    1. The Real Ash*

      I am shocked that adults would behave this way

      Why? Everyone gets older, some of them just don’t grow up.

    2. Stephanie*

      Haha, no. People think they’re on top of Facebook’s ever-changing privacy settings and assume that repercussions from incriminating content will happen to them.

      My old roommate posts overly revealing details about his love life and work drama. Everyone once in a while, someone’s like “Er, should you really be posting this online?” “Pff, I have custom privacy settings.”

        1. Koko*

          Yep. I have custom privacy settings…because I just don’t care to share anything personal with the people I don’t know very well. But “personal” is still 100% acceptable content: “Really enjoying the project I’m working on this week,” “Happy Birthday, Friend!” “My softball team won our division!”

          Everyone else just gets funny cat pictures and op/eds that I reshare.

    3. fposte*

      I think people sometimes mistake the opinion of their immediate circle for the opinion of the world, and therefore genuinely don’t realize when something isn’t just daring but is genuinely problematic.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Oh yes, I’m dealing with some of this right now in another community, where a couple of people seem to have mistaken hideous bigotry for “humor.”

    4. majigail*

      I understand that these are college age interns. Legally, adults, but prone to some real boneheaded party moves.

    5. MM*

      I had a prior employer made a policy that place of employment was not to be listed on our Facebook accounts after some photos were posted by one of the young (stupid) managers at a party. Trashy dressed & drunk, they do not want the socialization.

      We could put our industry in, but not the company’s name. I do not blame them.

  2. Kay*

    Thanks for the update. I’m sorry it didn’t come in time for something to be done by management, but good for you for separating yourself from it. If it is discovered by management after the fact (fb pictures can come back to haunt you), at least you won’t be involved.

  3. Celeste*

    This probably won’t be the last time you have to deal with shenanigans like this, now that everybody wants to load pictures onto social media like it’s their job. It’s good that you can recognize how to keep yourself (and your career) above it.

  4. Clever Name*

    I would un-friend all of the people in the “intern clique”, if I were you. If nothing else, I believe you can set your privacy settings so only you can tag you in a photo. Tagging you in a photo might make it look to an outsider like you were involved.

    1. The Real Ash*

      I concur. Not only should you untag yourself in all of these photos, but you should also unfriend everyone (or at least put them on Restricted in case you care about any work drama when they find out you unfriended them), ands et your privacy setting so that you are the only one who can tag yourself in photos.

    2. en pointe*

      You can’t prevent people from tagging you in photos. You can, however, set it so that you need to approve tags before they show up on your timeline, and you can un-tag yourself if you wish.

      OP, make sure you’ve untagged yourself from everything relevant.

      1. The Real Ash*

        This is incorrect. I’ll dig up the how-to in a moment and link it in a separate post.

          1. en pointe*

            Nah, all that does is prevent tagged posts from appearing on your own timeline, unfortunately. Alternatively, you can enable timeline review, so that you have to personally approve all tagged posts before they show up on your timeline.

            But despite both these options, the tag will still exist (unless you manually untag yourself) and is still visible on the original poster’s timeline, as well as newsfeed. Facebook’s a bitch.

            1. Koko*

              Exactly. You can only remove tags after they occur, and prevent them from showing up on your own personal facebook.com/yourpage. You can’t prevent people from adding your tag and having it visible to everyone in their news feeds or on facebook.com/yourfriendspage. It’s a bastard move they pulled a few years ago, and they sidestepped the outrage because people think “timeline approval” is the same thing as “tag approval.”

            2. RF*

              Does anyone know if you can be tagged in pictures even if you don’t have a Facebook account? I don’t have one, and I was hoping people could not tag me.

              1. Laura*

                They can’t tag it to your account, since you don’t have one, but they could add your name. When I post photos for the family of my kids (who, both being too young for grade school yet, definitely don’t have accounts), I can tag them with any name I want to type – full name, first name, nothing.

                But, those don’t link up to accounts and look quite as certainly relevant to specific people, at least, as the normal tags.

    3. majigail*

      I would not do this until after the internship is over. I think it would make the OP’s life harder during the time she’s there. After it’s done, unfriend away.

      1. Student*

        If the OP is tagged in photos that have been captioned to demean the manager, then she should absolutely unfriend and un-tag these. If the manager finds these, the OP and the whole crew could get extremely negative reviews and lock themselves out of this field.

        Honestly, if I was the OP, I would tell the manager about the demeaning captions that mention her explicitly so she can protect herself from professional repercussions, especially with customers and donors.

  5. Tinker*

    This is a thing to think of when the thought “well, nobody has complained” comes up, because this is a thing that happens. I’ve done it myself.

    One because, okay, I’m not necessarily always a nail-chewing pursuer of justice and righteousness who hangs all -ists from the nearest yardarm, sometimes I just want to engineer at things, okay? And making a deal over people I like doing things I don’t like kind of spoils the fun. And then two because I’ve certainly been told in great detail that nobody likes a party-pooper, and also sometimes people really do react poorly to someone raising a concern. So these things get calculated and… meh, whatever. I don’t do a bad “good sport”.

    On the other hand, this means that when someone else comes along on the market, they might seem to be offering the perk of “absence of this particular form of juvenile behavior” and… ooh, perhaps this is now a proposal that is more interesting to me.

    So there’s no complaint, there’s just maybe a bit of alienation and “Ooh, no, continuing to work for you? Ehhhhh I have to wash my hair. A lot. Sorry?” And as much as places tend to worry about finding the really good talent, I’m thinking that this is not the best outcome.

      1. the invisible one*

        An interesting thing about “no one has complained so it must be fine” is that sometimes lots of people think it’s not at all fine, but everybody else is ok with it so why be, as Tinker said, the party-pooper.

        Sometimes you are the only one. Sometimes you’re not, but lots of other people think they’re the only one, too, so they don’t say anything either. You can’t tell without speaking up, and risking actually being the only one, and getting “told in great detail that nobody likes a party-pooper”. (And, to complicate things, even if you’re not the only one, if being berated for speaking up happens quickly and strongly enough, all of those people who think they’re the only one may know now that there are two, but still may not say anything because they see that it will just get them attacked as well.)

        It’s called Pluralistic Ignorance, and it’s learned; that’s why the only person who said the emperor had no clothes was a young child.

        1. Dan*

          It’s called picking your battles. Some things are worth fighting for and some things are not.

  6. LBK*

    Controversial theme aside, the idea that they were mocking managers/coworkers at this thing is totally gross. Not that I haven’t shared in a good rant with a coworker at a party we were both at, but not in a mean way and not with photographic evidence…which also seems to imply that the mockery was for a physical aspect of this manager since it would’ve been recongizable by picture.

    1. Stephanie*

      Plus, if the manager’s in a protected class, I could see this going south quickly. I’m imagining some awful getup involving a wheelchair, black face, or a gray wig.

      1. LBK*

        Good point – I was thinking a physical disability, didn’t even occur to me that race or age could be mocked visually as well.

    2. en pointe*

      I read it as being sexual because of the ‘X gone wild’ bit. As in, it sounds like they’re captioning racy photos with their manager’s name, implying the ‘whore’ outfit/whatever is supposed to be her gone wild.

      Which would be horrifying, much more so to me than the actual party.

  7. SRMJ*

    I was just thinking about this letter…I might’ve gone (I’m a woman), dressed up in a fancy suit and carrying a garden hoe. Because hey fyi a-holes (the party throwers…not OP or responders) CEO doesn’t equal man.

    1. olympiasepiriot*

      Day late, dollar short here, but wanted to +1 this. Hope you’re still getting notifications.

  8. Katie the Fed*

    Yep, I definitely expected the pictures issues.

    OP – good for you for breaking away from this little cabal of bad judgment. It will serve you well.

    That stuff will almost certainly get back to your manager – stay far away from it and do your own thing.

    Also, you can disable tags of you from showing up. I do that.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Oh, and you might want to save screenshots of all of this, fwiw. I’m generally live-and-let-live but these guys sound SUPER obnoxious and it might not hurt to have screenshots on file in case they decide to gang up against you, 0r lie, or whatnot. The intern coordinator might be interested in them.

      1. BCW*

        Eh, save them for what? Blackmail? I seriously don’t think thats the best course of action here. I don’t see any reason they would want to gang up on her. This to me seems worse than the actual party. “I have bad pictures of you, so you better be nice to me”

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Nope, not blackmail. I wouldn’t tell anyone I had them. But if these people started to turn on me, I might anonymously drop them on a manager’s desk.

          That is if the manager doesn’t already have them.

          I don’t know for sure if I would, but it’s an option. They sound like a nasty bunch.

          1. en pointe*

            Why bother with anonymity? Wouldn’t it be fairly obvious who did it?

            I wouldn’t do this, but if I were going to, I’d probably want to go and explain that I was shocked by the pictures (I assume we’re talking about the mocking ones), and why I felt I had to bring it to their attention.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t really think through the scenarios all that well, beyond “this might be worth saving if this thing/these people blow up”

          2. EngineerGirl*

            I still wouldn’t do it then. But I would take screen shots just in case they try to drag me into it. Just as proof that I wasn’t there. The fact that they are claiming the OP was there (when she wasn’t) would be proof that they were willing to stretch the truth. And definitely untag.

        2. BCW*

          I feel like nothing in either letter alluded to them turning on her. I also have a problem with anonymously doing this. If you are going to try to get people in trouble, be an adult and own it. Doing thing anonymously is cowardly to me.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            we’ll agree to disagree on this.

            I’ve seen cliques like this turn very nasty. I’m not saying I would do something like this, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. Never hurts to be prepared.

            1. De Minimis*

              I agree, these sound like the type of people who might decide to do something like that. It’s not “blackmail,” it’s having a way to document what actually happened in case there’s an attempt to lie and cause trouble for the OP.

              1. en pointe*

                I think it depends on whether we’re talking about them turning on her in general, or in relation to this specific party.

                If it’s the latter, I’m totally on board with having photographic proof of what went down and who was on board. That’s just protecting your own ass.

                But, if it’s the former, I don’t think it would be the greatest idea to be anonymously dropping photos, on manager’s desks, because of unrelated personal conflict. A) they’d probably figure out she’s responsible and B) she could look a little self-interested/like she’s not acting in the best faith, if she only feels the need to bring this to their attention X amount of time later when she’s not getting on with her coworkers anymore. If I were the manager, I’d be wondering why, if the OP found this so morally repugnant, she didn’t come forward originally, particularly about the mocking.

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  Yeah, actually I agree. I don’t really have a specific scenario in mind. My thinking is more that this party and/or these people seem like something that could blow up further and it might not be a terrible idea to have a record.

  9. NutellaNutterson*

    Please lock down facebook asap, as others have said. The clique might notice, but if you’re not tagged in anything, don’t comment on those folks posts, and in person are politely non-committal about all of this, at the very least you won’t be seen as endorsing what happened.

    Pro-tip from a friend – use the acquaintances category for the folks you don’t want to share things with on FB, but for whom it’d be too much of a dustup to unfriend and block. Then make your posts all friends except acquaintances.

    This is a great opportunity to revamp your own professional image, too – think about what sort of experiences and connections you want this internship to provide, and put your energy into those areas.

    1. De Minimis*

      Even better, maybe start a policy of “I don’t connect with co-workers on Facebook.”

      1. Chris*

        I have taken the “I don’t connect with co-workers on Facebook” approach, but it is definitely contrary to the culture in my office and it has resulted in some resentment from co-workers.

        1. De Minimis*

          I don’t have mine public, so I generally use the excuse that, “Oh, I’m not really on there that much…..” There isn’t a lot of pressure to add people on Facebook at my work, but I do use that excuse a lot with distant family and/or people from my hometown.

          This one former co-worker keeps bugging me on Facebook and LinkedIn, and I just ignore his requests.

  10. Hedgehog*

    Am I the only one who’s disappointed the OP didn’t bring this to management’s attention? I get that the timing wasn’t ideal and I’m not suggesting the OP show them the fb pictures, but “not wanting to get anyone in trouble” is a really weak excuse for not addressing such problematic behavior. Especially when considering the fact that the OP wants to make good connections and likes the organization and manager. If I caught wind that something like this had happened at my organization, I would be very concerned that no one had brought it to my attention– it would be like they condoned the behavior even if they didn’t actively participate.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I think this is really dependent on the organization. If you’re new, you don’t want management to think you’re a snitch or suck-up. And she didn’t necessarily know it was going to go off the rails to this extent (although many of us expected it would).

      That being said, like I said above I might be inclined to take some screenshots and give them to management, depending on how things proceed with this group.

    2. jmkenrick*

      “If I caught wind that something like this had happened at my organization, I would be very concerned that no one had brought it to my attention– it would be like they condoned the behavior even if they didn’t actively participate.”

      I take your point – but I also feel like this is the sort of thing that’s really easy to intellectually recognize that someone should report, but it’s hard to actually be that person when you’re in the situation. Culturally, we don’t have a very flattering view of people “snitch” on others, and especially if you’re young or new the workforce, you might be used to not having your view being given a ton of weight (which is fair) and you might feel insecure in the legitimacy of your complaints.

    3. Sunflower*

      I think OP made the right call. She noted that a lot of the talk had died down so at that point, I’m not sure the manager’s could have even done anything.

    4. ClaireS*

      I had the same thought. Then I remembered a few times where I’ve witnessed inappropriate behaviour and did nothing for a wide variety of reasons- repercussions (it was a boss), uncertainty with what to do and who to talk to (I was young) and uncertainty on the culture of the office (I was new). It’s a really tough position to be in. I recognize it’s best for all to report it but I can also sympathize with the fear surrounding that conversation.

    5. Stephanie*

      Well, especially since the planning and party happened outside of work, the OP could look like she’s a snoop who’s overly concerned with other people’s personal lives. Plus, as an intern, she’s at the bottom of the totem pole and might not want to rock the boat in case she needs a recommendation or reference. She may also not have been at the organization long enough to know how to report it and save face.

    6. BCW*

      See, I think that is a bit of a problem. As I mentioned before, should you go to your boss because your co-worker was a strip club over the weekend? Because they are smoking weed? Would you go to your boss because you happened to be around people who, on their personal time, bashed the boss? The only thing I think could be ok is talking about it at work, and even then, its the extent of how much its being talked about.

      1. jmkenrick*

        If your co-worker can morph into a strip club, I think that might be worth noting. ;)

      2. majigail*

        I agree, this was a party, not organized at work, not a formal or informal work function. I’d bet Josh’s other drunk friends were invited too. If one of my employees came to me before the fact to say that another was having a really stupidly named party, there’s not much that’s going to happen other than me thinking less of the party thrower.
        Now putting pictures of the party where people are mocking me, the manager, at a party I wasn’t even at, then I care.

      3. Anon 1*

        I wouldn’t tell a boss on my co-worker smoking weed, but in this case the facts are much different. The party involved multiple co-workers, an inappropriate office themed party, and the potential to imitate other co-workers in less than flattering ways (or make other employees feel uncomfortable). In this situation it seems to have turned out ok. But, I used to work at a very large organization where a group of individuals had an outside party and it involved making fun of a particular co-worker. Something really bad happened at this party which was the catalyst for a multi-million lawsuit (which the organization lost) and a lot of bad press. That situation was more than enough to make me overly cautious parties just like this.

        1. BCW*

          Without knowing the details of what happened in your situation, its hard for me to really agree. I mean, me and some co-workers could just end up at happy hour and make fun of someone in our office. I don’t think the boss needs to be made aware of that. I’m not saying there isn’t a line, but to just say that “This party is bad, I’m telling the boss” is a bit much as well.

        2. Anonsie*

          What are the odds or something like that happening, though? I’ve never worked somewhere reporting this would be met with anything other than a stare. Though everyone I’ve worked with would have find it gross, they also wouldn’t find it actionable or even a sort of need-to-know thing. I doubt anyone would be surprised to learn this about any of these folks, either.

        3. Koko*

          I feel like there are some significant steps glossed over between “making fun of a co-worker” and “something really bad happened” (assault? disfiguring injury? drug overdose?? I’m dying to know) that are maybe relevant here. Making fun of people is crappy, but it’s not like, a Crisco-greased sloped from “making fun of coworkers” to “multi-billion dollar liability.”

            1. Anon 1*

              There were some significant steps glossed over on purpose. I don’t want to out my former employer. I can say there wasn’t any violence, drugs, alcohol…just pure bad judgment and a very poor sense of humor. Unfortunately it was egregious enough that it served as a smoking gun for a law suit, resulting in a very costly settlement.

              Moral of the story: NY Times rule. Don’t do, say anything you would be embarrassed to see on the front page of the NY Times. And if your co-workers are too dumb to be embarrassed, you may want to speak up to legal before they too something stupid.

              1. Belinda Gomez-Maldonado*

                Like Bill Clinton. If you’re going to live your life in fear of the NYT front page, you may as well move into a cave right now.

    7. Student*

      The interns put the name of a manager on the captions of these photos, if I understand the OP. That instantly makes it the manager’s business. If I were this manager, I would be horrified to find out about something like this and never trust any staff member who had seen it and not felt like it was worth reporting to me. This has become rather direct and clear cut sexual harassment of a manager, and the OP needs to run in the correct direction at this point.

      1. BCW*

        I don’t see how this qualifies as sexual harassment. Aside from that though, yes its on FB, but unless they were saying “Jane Smith from ABC corp” I don’t know that you need to tell the manager. Back to my point above, if people are just trash talking their managers at a bar, would you go run and tell the boss then?

        1. EngineerGirl*

          If they are portraying a female manager as a ho then it is definitely sexual harassment.

          1. en pointe*

            Yeah, if they’re captioning sexualised photos of a “CEOs and Office Hoes” party with the names of managers, then I don’t see how this WOULDN’T qualify as sexual harassment.

          2. BCW*

            Yes, it could be. Or it could be one of the male CEOs who they were referring to. The letter doesn’t specify, so lets not jump to the sexual harassment stuff. The letter is vague on purpose, but with that people are making leaps that I’m not ready to make. Upthread someone assumed they were mocking a disability, now people are assuming they were calling a manager a ho, when it could be just as simple as Manger Bill drinks out of this kind of mug, and they filled it with whiskey and the caption was Bill Gone Wild.

            I’ll agree that if they said “Jane the manager is a ho” it would qualify as sexual harassment, but without more information, I’m not going to make that assumption

      2. EngineerGirl*

        I’m thinking more about this. If the female manager was portrayed in any way sexually, and in an demeaning way, then it is sexual harassment. It is illegal. It puts the OP in a bad place. If the manager finds out the OP knew about this and didn’t report it then trust is gone. OP, sexual harassment does not need to happen at work for it to be harassment. It can involve a bunch of coworkers off campus. If your organization has ethics policies you may be obligated to report it.
        You don’t want to get Josh in trouble. Fine. He gets away with this and then repeats it at his next job. Against maybe a female co-worker next time? This behavior will only grow worse with time.

        1. Anon.*

          Like others are saying, sexual harassment is about perception. Those employees being mocked could also claim defamation of character. If HR got hold of these pictures through FB or any other means, the company may feel obligated to get rid of any interns who are in the pictures if not all of them, so that they are not in any way associated with the event, or look like they condone that sort of behavior (even the OP who felt socially pressured to attend). If they learn about the party, and the internship is through a college, at the very least the college will hear about it and would likely share the pictures, and something will be said. The OP will be guilty by association and it could affect her reputation by the college and internship. I imagine some politically incorrect behavior is tolerated from interns, but this is really above and beyond. Maybe employees won’t ever learn of this event, but only time will tell. I’m sure these guys will learn the hard way what the boundaries are at work. Really, the worst thing is, for purposes of reputation, is to post the pictures on FB.

          Also, sexual harassment does not have to happen at work. My former neighbor growing up (who makes some really bad decisions) decided it was a good idea to drunk text a coworker after work hours for a hookup or something. The recipient told her manager, and you can bet the texter got fired.

          OT, but I’ve certainly boozed it up with co-workers, talked smart about other co-workers and managers, and so on, but you need to be pretty selective about who you share your real feelings with and who you associate with. When I’m invited to a HH or something by a co-worker when I know it’s just to complain or try and get information out of me, I often say I’m busy, even if I’ll just be busy watching TV and petting the cat.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            Which is why the OP may need to report it. Only they know how far this falls within inappropriate.

  11. BCW*

    I was one of the ones who defended the party (and people) the first time. While I maintain that its their right to do what they want in their personal time (especially since the invitations weren’t given at work) I think its a HUGE problem that they not only tagged the person who wasn’t there in what were inappropriate pictures, but that they blatantly bashed their boss and other co-workers online. I have bashed PLENTY of co-workers when I was out. And even “vague-booked” about co-workers. But this shows a serious lack of forethought. Now maybe they added, tagged, and captioned while drunk, but that should really have been taken down immediately.

    1. en pointe*

      I agree with all of this. The party = whatever (to me, I’m aware that’s not the popular opinion, and that there were some legal implications).

      But the mocking manager and coworkers in photographs, particularly if it was sexual in nature, which it sounds like it may have been, is shockingly vile. It could be really, really damaging to the people involved if it goes anywhere else.

    2. LBK*

      Agreed. Initial situation = eh, questionable but not horrible. The result = definitely 100% stupid.

    3. Us, Too*

      Yes, the facebook activity subsequent to the party strikes me as the actions of someone about to be removed (via their own idiocy) from the professional “gene pool” Darwin award style.

  12. Weasel007*

    Untag yourself from the photos asap. You don’t anything like this associated with you.

  13. Intrigued*

    Another reason I’m glad I deleted my FB account last month. NOTHING good comes of mixing Facebook and coworkers. Absolutely nothing.

    1. Joey*

      One of the reasons I am not a fan of Facebook. Way too many people trying to pretend they’re someone else and way too many people over sharing.

        1. Rana*

          Eh, it’s not a Facebook problem. It’s a “humans are often stupid” problem. Facebook makes it easier, true, to share the stupidity, but it’s not like groups of people weren’t using earlier technology to do equally stupid things, and one can use FB just as easily to network, offer support, communicate with family, etc. I don’t have stupid stuff like this in my Facebook feed for the very simple reason that I don’t have people like this among my friends.

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