can you turn down a dinner invitation from your boss?

A reader writes:

What is your take on a manager who schedules a get-together at her place on a Saturday?

My husband’s boss scheduled a dinner over at her place, and we hesitantly said yes since we didn’t want to give a bad impression. She only invited a few people (her direct reports). That event ended up getting canceled due to bad weather, and now she has rescheduled it to a different weekend.

How do you suggest we handle this if we don’t want to go? We get really busy during weekends with lots of personal commitments, but we don’t want to send an obvious message that we don’t want to be there.

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 175 comments… read them below }

  1. Ad Astra*

    “Oh no! I’m sorry, I already have plans.”

    That has saved me from a thousand things I didn’t feel like doing. Watching Netflix alone with a pint of ice cream totally counts as plans.

    1. Kairi*

      +1000 I spend most of my weeknights driving around doing errands and seeing friends. I appreciate the minimal amount of time I have alone, even if it’s just watching Netflix.

    2. Kvaren*

      If I’m ever a manager I think I’m going to invite my staff to my house for Netflix and ice cream. And then celebrate in relief when no one shows up because they all decided to just stay home for Netflix and ice cream.

      Best team building event ever.

      1. Spooky*

        And Netflix just announced that syncing feature, which means you can now watch the same show at the same time as another person in a different location.

        We’re all going to team-build!…separately…in our own houses. Perfect.

        1. Liza*

          Ooh, thanks for mentioning that Netflix thing, Spooky! My sweetie is about to move away (for work) and now I have one more idea for long-distance date nights.

        1. Windchime*

          My friend has a shirt that says, “Introverts Unite! We’re here, We’re uncomfortable, and we want to go home.”

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      The only problem with that is when you get used to saying it so much that you come out with it before they’ve mention the date or time…

  2. Joy Mc*

    Even though this doesn’t fall into the husband’s official job requirements, it would be a bad move to turn down the invitation, like Alison said. Sometimes rubbing elbows with the boss after hours can be professionally rewarding. I would consider it a compliment that the boss wants to invite the employee and his wife to her private home and enjoy a meal with them. Suck it up and go with a smile on your face and gratitude in your heart, especially if you want your husband to grow in this organization.

    And let me say that according to my attentive viewing of Mad Men, it was apparently a very positive thing 60 years ago to be invited to your boss’ home. People even seemed to enjoy it. What is wrong with us nowadays? Out of pure self-interest, I will gladly attend dinners after-hours if it means I will be promoted or given more responsibility down the road.

      1. Evan Þ*

        Didn’t that happen in Little Women, too, while Meg (?) was in the middle of futilely trying to get the jelly to jell?

          1. NutellaNutterson*

            Well it’s not like you can say no to He Who Shall Not Be Named!

            While we’re at it, don’t those pesky Lannisters make non-optional invitations all the time, too?

            (Worst Dinner Party Ever.)

        1. kristinyc*

          Yes! It did happen with Meg. But she had kin of set herself up for it – she had told John that he was welcome to bring colleagues over any day, with no notice, because she wanted to be a gracious and welcoming wife. He didn’t do it for a long time, and the ONE time he does, she’s in the middle of trying to make currant jelly and the house was a mess and she was really mad. It was hilarious. I love that book.

        2. Merry and Bright*

          Yes, Meg’s husband brought his friend back home for dinner after she said he could do that whenever he liked!

      2. LJL*

        Gold Digger, is your blog now invitation only? If so , how can I request an invitation? Thanks!

      3. Artemesia*

        That is the theme of Mary Worth at this very moment. The ‘professor’ has invited his new director home for dinner tonight because ‘it is important for my job’ and his wife who has a gallery opening tomorrow is appalled because she is already going to be up all night getting ready for it.

        And all I could think when I saw this is ‘who the hell does this in 2015? And wouldn’t anyone be appalled if the new subordinate invited one for ‘tonight’ without checking with his wife?

        1. fposte*

          Ha–I’m a Comics Curmudgeon reader (probably you are too) and this came immediately to my mind.

      4. Red Rose*

        Yes, but on Bewitched, Sam could just wiggle her nose and presto, a fine company dinner is ready in her kitchen.

    1. NutellaNutterson*

      I… wouldn’t want to live my life by the lessons of Mad Men (particularly the first few seasons), except as a What-Not-To-Do guide.

      I’m pretty sure you didn’t mean it this way at all, but referencing Mad Men as the Good Old Days could lend the question “What is wrong with us nowadays?” implicit misogynist and racist meaning.

      People *seeming* to enjoy something has very little to do with how they actually feel. The wonderful thing about increased social awareness and freedom is that we can also take it upon ourselves to remember that not everyone feels like we do. Putting others into a situation where they have to pretend to feel like we do is exactly the opposite of being a good host.

      That’s where I really like Alison’s reminder for managers not to put this burden onto employees. For those who don’t mind, they’ll find other ways to be social. And for those that do mind, it’s obligation in the guise of generosity.

      1. fposte*

        Huh, I read her comment very differently. She’s right that it’s been pretty expected in some fields to socialize with your boss (and, by extension, with your reports), and I don’t think it’s pro-sexist just because was acceptable in the sixties–it seemed pretty clearly a comment about the absence of realizing this isn’t just about whether such an event would be fun.

        I get that people don’t necessarily want to spend the rest of their time with people they see every day at work, but it’s not regressive to suggest participating in such an event has its advantages and that you don’t want to dismiss them out of hand.

      2. Steve G*

        How are you taking the big leap of someone saying “what is wrong with us nowadays” as in “why does no one want to have an occasional (good) meal with their coworkers” to have anything to do with sexism and racism.

        When people ask “what is wrong with us nowadays” it also including things such as people not knowing how to cook, not knowing how to do basic repairs or upgrades on their homes, not reusing stuff and throwing things out/buying new stuff as opposed to using stuff until it breaks, being obsessed with their cell phones, having shorter attention spans because of all of the media we have, divorcing more frequently, a tendency towards oversharing and not keeping certain things private, and tolerating more vulgar language and “humor” in the media.

        Not everything is better now despite the arguable “social awareness” you cite.

        1. Kelly L.*

          The 50s were huge on processed food and disposable stuff, but that’s beside the point.

          It’s a frequent argument. “Everything was so much nicer Back Then!” Well, only if you were white, upper-class, and male. If you weren’t those things, you pretended to be happy because there could be negative consequences if you weren’t. A lot of it was a facade.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, but I didn’t see that argument in Joy Mc’s post.

            I’m not a fan of “how people have changed” stands in general myself, but they’re not necessarily all about how wonderful everything in the world was, and I don’t think it’s fair to extrapolate that. People who bitch that nobody has responded to wedding invitations really aren’t yearning to repeal women’s suffrage.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Eh, in my personal experience, they go together just often enough to get my antennae up. Not always, but often enough.

              1. fposte*

                Antennae I’m okay with; suggesting that there was implied racism I strongly disagreed with.

            2. Steve G*

              Yes to your last sentence. People read too much negativity into simple “this was better in the past” comments.

          2. Steve G*

            Mmmmmm I think the 50s was the golden era of the middle class in America, with huge amounts of (especially WWII Vet’s) being able to afford homes on a single income. I’m from NY and that’s when Queens was finished being built out and the suburbs were built. Blue collar workers were able to afford houses. Now a house costs 10X the US average salary, in an average area in Long Island. I would argue that NOW is era of the only being happy if you are upper class, not then. And again, I’m not sure why we have to discuss race in response to this letter, which was the point of my comment, or why you are pointing out white people in particular. Surely non-white people had been eating and having parties before the 21st century.

            1. Jubilance*

              Keep in mind that only White WWII veterans were able to take advantage of things like VA loans and the GI Bill. In fact, those laws were written specifically to exclude veterans of color, specifically Black veterans who had to return to a segregated America after fighting for their country. So no, the 50’s weren’t the height of middle class life for all of America.

              1. Steve G*

                Mmmm interesting point. I don’t fully understand though, I looked this up and it said blacks qualified for VA-backed loans, but banks didn’t want to grant them to blacks. I always thought VA loans came from the VA. I guess they were only backed by the VA? I didn’t know that.

                I would still say though that for specific areas that have historically been white it must have been a great time for the middle class. Remember, NYC was 90% white as recently as 1950. I can’t find a stat for Nassau County in Long Island but the area had historically been 95%+ white, because of the ethnic makeup of the immigrants coming at that time, not from racism. Now Long Island is about 25% non-white, and lots of people with dual income households still can’t afford or can barely afford to buy. I don’t see how the situation – here, at least – is preferable now. But now I am getting off course.

                1. Me*

                  Levittown in LI was built specifically for white veterans. The govt (the actual federal govt–this blew my mind) wouldn’t let blacks buy in because their presence would ‘lower property values.’

                  When I learned this–via a postwar history show on PBS some years ago, since confirmed elsewhere–suddenly all the stuff I’d considered to be pure paranoia on the part of the black community made complete sense. Even if the govt isn’t *now* actively keeping blacks out of certain neighborhoods, the fact that they did at one time would reasonably make one suspicious if one had been subject to such behavior or known people who were.

                  Much like the idea that ‘crack is a govt conspiracy’ isn’t so far-fetched when you think about Tuskeegee and the LSD experiments.

                2. Theresa*

                  This is not really related to anything, but regarding racism on Long Island in the 20th century: Long Island pretty much owes its existence to Robert Moses, who was incredibly classist and racist. For instance, the overpasses on all of the roads he designed (which were the ones you needed to get out here) were built so low that public buses couldn’t pass under, which was basically meant to keep black people out.

                  Regardless, I don’t see racist/sexist intent in the original comment, but I am glad to live in a world where everyone isn’t super enthused to have dinner with the boss. (That being said, I would probably just suck it up and go if it meant professional development, despite my extreme introversion.)

              2. BelindaGomez*

                Africa-American vets were not left out of the GI Bill, but the location made a big difference. Wikipedia:
                The bill greatly expanded the population of African Americans attending college and graduate school. In 1940, enrollment at Black colleges was 1.08% of total U.S. college enrollment. By 1950 it had increased to 3.6%. Additionally, the bill led to the passage of the Lanham Act of 1946, which provided for the federal funding of improvement and expansion of HBCUs. However, these gains were limited almost exclusively to the Northern states, with the educational and economic gap between white and black actually widening under the effects of the G.I. Bill.[7] With 79 percent of the black population located in southern states, the educational gains were limited to a small part of black America.[4]

            2. some1*

              Actually, no, the 1950s were not the Golden Era of America if you were black, gay, disabled or a white woman.

              1. Stranger than fiction*

                I think what Steve was trying to say is that it was a Golden Economy. This was the post war baby boom and the cost of living was so much better, that’s all

                1. steve g*

                  That’s what I meant! I did learn something about levittown! That is nuts.

                  Not sure what to make of the Robert moses comment though. Regardless of his ideas, I’m pretty sure buses (though not tractor trailers) can fit on the northern and southern state highways. And there was always the railroad to get east. I’d chalk him up to someone’s whose personal beliefs had little real impact on the world.

                  Now were getting way off topic though!

            3. Meadowsweet*

              Absolutely the golden era, with all the happy women who were now told that not only were they too silly to do anything like the jobs they’d done during the war (it’s much more important to look pretty and keep house!), and anyway they didn’t really do that much, and anyway a man needs the job so even if they weren’t too silly and needing to be pretty they wouldn’t be hired.

              1. Steve G*

                This is a pretty negative and sarcastic view of history. Most of the women in my grandparents’ generation who would have been in their late 20s-early 30s at that point and most seemed to be very happy, well-adjusted, worldly people. Not to start a whole discussion on that, but I think modern feminism likes to simplify history and for some reason make now (stressful, must work along with husband, pay for childcare, constantly work out with husband how to divide tasks, leading to fights…) seem much better than the past (families could support themselves on one income, roles were clear, which, if we are all equal, should be a good, thing, because then at least you don’t have to discuss who will do what to death….).

                1. PlainJane*

                  Allison is exactly right. People’s aspirations and talents don’t always track with their plumbing. Saying someone should keep house and raise kids because she has ovaries is a tiny bit like asking a candidate interviewing for a programming job what tree s/he would like to be. Let’s not assign roles based on irrelevant criteria.

                2. Amy UK*

                  I’d actually say if anyone is simplifying history, it’s you. To describe your grandparents as “worldly” people implies a definite level of privilege that you’re glossing over. Your grandparents were presumably not ethnic minorities in the US. Your grandfather presumably had a steady career that paid reasonably well. It’s easy to be happy and well adjusted when you have security.

                  And even assuming that your grandmother and her friends were happy as they were- who is to say they wouldn’t have been even happier with more choices? And likely the women who weren’t as lucky as them (assuming they had employed husbands who didn’t abuse them or control them) weren’t happy at all.

                  To claim ‘families could support themselves on one income’ is naive and rose tinted. A certain kind of middle class family with a benevolent mid-level career man at the helm could survive on one income. Plenty of families with one income lived in poverty. And even among men who could support a family, the wife and children had no option other than to suffer if the patriarch decided to spend the money on addictions, mistresses and general wastefulness.

                3. PlainJane*

                  Seconding what Amy UK said. My mother was born in 1928. Her dream was to be a scientist, but she was told women couldn’t do that and didn’t realize that wasn’t entirely true. So she did a couple years of business college and became a bookkeeper. There’s nothing wrong with being a bookkeeper, but that wasn’t what she wanted to do, and the only reason she didn’t get to at least try for what she wanted was because of her gender. No one can say whether or not she would have been happier or better off, but that isn’t the point. The point is that a very large class of people were denied options solely based on criteria that had nothing to do with their capabilities. That’s not simplifying history, and it isn’t sarcasm. It’s telling a group of people that their desires and dreams don’t matter, because they’re female.

            1. steve g*

              Mmmm not really. You can’t make blanket statements like that. America has been 85-90 white until very recently. 90 percent of a population can’t have been privileged. White people worked in the coal mines, built the railroads, worked on farms…heck look at pictures of the lower east side ghettos circa 1900. all white.

              1. I'm a Little Teapot*

                I think you missed the “upper-class” part.

                Also, however much crap white people had to deal with – and for some it was a lot – they haven’t had to deal with some of the particular problems that people of color have faced, such as being excluded from many jobs and places to live, police harassment, the kind of assumptions that are often made about nonwhite people based on their race (white is assumed to = default), the threat of racially motivated violence if they step out of line, etc.

                A person can lack privilege in one way (being poor) and yet have it in another way (being white and thus not subjecr to racism). Or the other way around; someone can be a black celebrity who makes tons of money and never has to worry about the bills, but still gets followed by the store detective. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing, not an either-or, and it’s not a contest.

                1. Meadowsweet*

                  Actually, immigrants of any sort that weren’t of the proper English background (ie, not poor) faced a lot of the same issues anywhere that was already established. Think of the ‘No Irish’ signs all over the place. ‘XYZ Quarters’ don’t arise out of being welcomed with open arms.
                  So they headed West and ‘not of the right lineage’ grew into ‘not English-speaking (or Irish)’ and ‘not white’.

                2. Dynamic Beige*

                  @Meadowsweet — I recently learned that after the war there was a city up here that had “No English Need Apply” signs up everywhere. After the war there was a huge influx of immigrants from England and many of them chose that area, there were too many apparently. That was the first time I had ever heard of English being discriminated against like the Irish.

                3. Steve G*


                  I did miss that part, I just think that we as a society have been going first to race and gender as the explanation for things far too much, at least in the past year or so in the media (though not so much in real life). I just was trying to say that in this particular letter, it doesn’t fit. Though your points are taken, and I learned something about the town of Levitown (50 miles from where I grew up, but I have distant relatives from there, and so it hits close to home, because my mom’s parents were very poor and white and bought their house with a VA loan in the late 40s and the house appreciated in value, obviously, as it was in NY:-)), as well as the inequality in VA loans, which I never heard about either, despite reading a lot and trying to expose myself to a lot of things. Good night!

        2. Ad Astra*

          Divorcing more frequently isn’t really a “What is wrong with us nowadays” situation so much as a “What is legal and economically feasible for more people these days” situations. Past generations weren’t necessarily happier in their marriages or better at sticking things out; they simply were unable to get out of bad, often abusive relationships.

          Not everything is better now than it used to be, but by and large, most things are. Fewer people go hungry, fewer people die in their homes from heat stroke or hypothermia, fewer people are denied basic rights because of their race or gender, and more people have access to practically limitless information via the internet. These are better times indeed.

          1. Anx*


            The inability to get a credit card in the late sixties without her husband kept a family member’s neighbor in a relationship that ended up killing her.

            1. Today's Satan*

              I remember very clearly the police coming to our apartment in the early 70’s after yet another time my step-dad had beat my mom to a bloody pulp. The police were very apologetic, but said that since she was (A) his wife, and (B) still alive, there was nothing they could do. Please don’t ever try to tell me that things were better “back in the good ol’ days” when women were considered the property of their husbands.

              *(That last sentence is directed mostly to the world at large but slightly to Steve G, as well).

              1. Sparkling water*

                My grandfather was that way with my grandmother. The speeches at his funeral were rather interesting – the whole dichotomy of don’t speak ill of the dead versus what he was like was a difficult thing to get through. He was no longer violent though once he found AA so it was like he was two different people – the before and the after. Most people who spoke at the altar concluded he was going to hell though.

      3. Oui*

        I’m someone who would be at the absolute bottom of the pecking order in racial and gender terms if we somehow magically ended up in the 50s and I agree with the person above. I find it disheartening that everyone is so afraid of imposing on other people’s time and freedom that we don’t socialize the way we used to. Now everyone is an introvert or doesn’t want to feel obligated to connect with co-workers or wants the ability to back out of plans or something along those lines. One thing I really admired when I lived in Asia was the workplace cohesion. The social norm of absolutely having to go out with co-workers and match the boss drink for drink and attend many company parties was is completely bonkers from a Western perspective, but people seemed to care a lot more about their co-workers and derive greater satisfaction from work relationships. I don’t think we need to go full Japan or even back to the 60s type but there has to be some sort of happy medium between those and the pervasive idea that socializing with co-workers is a huge annoyance, imposition or burden, which I get from a LOT of the commenters on AAM.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I posted about this on another forum. I am sick of hearing people never wanting to leave their comfort zone. I agree that we should not put up with sexism, racism, homophobia or all sorts of other stuff but there is no inherit right to be comfortable all the time. Not very long ago it was encouraged to push yourself and leave your comfort zone. Being in your comfort zone all the time was seen as a detriment. Now we are expected to always accommodate everyone’s comfort zone. This question seems obvious to me. You were invited to socialize with your boss. You go. You deal. You be a grown up, if your only objection is I don’t wanna. If the boss is a pig or you have 100 food allergies (coming from someone who does) or you can’t afford a sitter, then we have something to talk about. If you just would rather do something more fun, you have to get over that. Sometimes we can’t put ourselves first.

          1. Steve G*

            I concur. I would also argue that sitting on the couch watching TV (as many people clearly state would be their preferred activity here) is not as enjoyable as doing things in the real world. If you go out and try to do stuff, you will have lots of dud-days, but at least the potential is there for something to happen.

            1. Brandy*

              This is why I am a grown up. As a child I haaad to do what was expected or I just couldn’t leave because I needed a ride. But now, Im in charge of me and my time.

            2. Kairi*

              As someone who enjoys watching TV, I think that’s unfair to say. It’s not something I do every day, so when I finally have the chance to after running around all week, I take the opportunity. If going out and trying new things makes you happy, then that’s your preference but not necessarily what other people find enjoyable.

            3. AnonEMoose*

              Maybe it isn’t as enjoyable for you. For me, when I’ve been working and dealing with people all day, being on my couch, with my laptop and one of the cats, in front of the TV, is AWESOME.

              And when I have time/energy outside of work, I want to spend that with my family or friends, on my volunteer commitments, and NOT with my coworkers, with whom I have already spent 40 hours. I like many of my coworkers, but 40 hours a week is enough, aside from the occasional coffee or lunch.

              1. Kairi*

                +1 Totally agree! My office does end of the quarter parties (from 4-6 pm), so it’s a non-intrusive way to get people to socialize without invading their personal time.

            4. louche low life*

              Cable got too expensive for me so TV gave up on me. I lead a different life now because I started putting myself ‘out there’. Out walking, out taking community courses, out to a book club. Out meeting new people. It worked for me but I know it doesn’t work for everyone.

          2. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Oui and Case of the Mondays, that’s because you personally enjoy frequent socializing with coworkers that cuts into your free time. I have no problem with it if you do, but a lot of people don’t. Socializing with coworkers is great – as long as it is really, truly optional.

            A lot of people have coworkers they can’t stand – sometimes ones who are real jerks or downright abusive or harassing, as we can see in abundance in AAM letters – and have good reason to spend as little time with them as possible. Others have close relationships with their actual family and friends, or interests and activities they would much rather pursue in their limited free time. I have a part-time job and a freelance writing career on top of my full-time job, for instance, and I would be furious if my full-time job expected me to go out drinking with my boss every night. I’ll do that once in a while and enjoy it – my company has optional happy hours on a monthly basis and I do like to go to them – but it’s my choice.

            It’s strange to me that some extroverts, for all the time they spend socializing, lack the empathy to understand and respect that not everyone is the same and what is fun for one person may be terribly uncomfortable or just a boring chore for someone else. What you’re saying is that your desire to have all your coworkers at all your gatherings should trump their needs and desires, and that’s frankly not OK. I got mad at other kids if they couldn’t or didn’t want to play with me sometimes…when I was 6. It’s a view of other people as playthings rather than independent thinking beings.

            I’m glad that our society is becoming more respectful of individual differences, rather than insisting that everyone conform in the name of “leaving your comfort zone” or “being a team player.”

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think this is extrovert vs. introvert, though; I think people could stand to extend their comfort zones too, and I’m a big-time introvert. A statement like “people should be free to be themselves” suggests a rigidity when it comes to personality that just isn’t borne out by research, or by life.

              I’m not talking necessarily about this specific dinner–it was in another post, and the wench is fed–but discomfort generally. I think it’s the stealthy shadow problem behind the frightened-to-fail issue that so many young adults are grappling with. If you have experience with failing and surviving, failing isn’t such a daunting prospect; if you have experience with surviving social discomfort, it can be a less distressing prospect. And yes, some people have anxiety or other related disorders, but a big part of treatment for those is often developing experience of and tolerance for distress rather than letting it drive behavior. It’s a cognitive skill, not an immutable characteristic.

              And it’s a theme that comes up a lot here at AAM; a lot of people are really disturbed by even the prospect of being mildly uncomfortable in work situations. And that worries me, because that’s going to limit their possibilities and their options, and I don’t know if they’ve ever thought about developing their ability to tolerate it. I’m not saying people have to bungee jump just to face their demons or should never have cozy evenings at home, but “I’d be uncomfortable” is a factor, not a final reason to make a decision.

              1. Case of the Mondays*

                You just addressed something I was meaning to say. I suffer from anxiety at times. It was far worse in the past. I went to therapy. I did it because otherwise I was just going to stay home and be comfortable. I recognized I had to make myself do the uncomfortable things to get over it. Otherwise I was going to end up an agoraphobic afraid to leave my house. I refuse to let anxiety be an excuse to keep me from doing anything. Xanax and therapy got me to a point I rarely need them anymore.

            2. Case of the Mondays*

              Yeah, you totally read me wrong. I’d much rather be at home that at a party with my coworkers. When I’m there, I make the most of it. But, I consider it a part of my job and I go even if it isn’t my first choice of how to spend my evening.

          3. PlainJane*

            I agree with you in general, but I wonder if some of the problem is the nature of modern white-collar work (OK, now I really sound like the academic that I am). I used to be very social, including after work. But then work changed. Hours got longer, and most of my day became consumed with meetings. Now when I get off work, I’m exhausted and sick of interacting with people. I just want to go home and be alone for awhile. Plus, with email and IM encroaching on off hours (and just generally working more), I have less time with family. Once I spend time alone, spend time with family, and take care of the various chores and errands that modern American life requires, I don’t have a lot of free time left. All that said, I would go to the boss’ dinner, and I do socialize occasionally with co-workers. But I’m a heckuva lot less likely to look forward to it than I used to be – and that bugs me.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Well said. While I am sometimes stingey about my downtime, I agree we don’t make time for these interactions like we used to. I barely know my neighbors and in this area in general, if you don’t have kids playing with other kids in the neighborhood everyone generally keeps to themselves. That’s just another example of social norms having evolved/devolved, pick a side.
          Another example is people aren’t as frank or outspoken as they used to be which is why this blog is so often about how to be direct with your boss or coworker!

      4. Joy Mc*

        Ouch. I didn’t mean it that way at all. It seems like in general, across all racial, gender and economic barriers, people “got together” more often 60 years ago to socialize — as employees, as neighbors, as friends.

        I’m as guilty as everyone else of wanting to rush home, jump into my PJs and not commit to anything, but I think there’s value in sharing a meal with co-workers and bosses. Especially bosses. Especially when you’re hand-picked to participate, and especially when it’s at the boss’ home.

        But speaking of TV, I just re-watched the episode of the Office when Michael and Jan invite their favorites over to the condo for dinner, and I’m hoping OP’s husband’s supervisor isn’t anything like Michael Scott. :)

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          One of the things I remember from going to school in the early 70’s on a bus was that the older kids used to sing in groups in the back. Camp songs mainly, I guess (I never went to camp). Things like that “they built the ship Titanic to sail the ocean blue and they thought they had a ship that the water wouldn’t go through, but the Good Lord raised his hand and said the ship would never land, it was sad when the great ship went down” We never did that when we were the “big” kids. I think that when you don’t have technology, you have to get creative and learn to make your own fun, whereas now, it’s just “easier” to remain where you are and choose how you want to be entertained — none of which require the involvement of other people.

      5. Anna*

        I think you might have pulled a muscle in that stretch of logic. I read the post as once upon a time, being invited to dinner at your boss’s house was a pretty straight-forward endeavor. Now we tend to pick it apart and try to figure out how to negotiate the whole thing. Yes, back in Mad Men days there was racism and sexism, but sometimes we don’t need to go all “The Way We Never Were” when someone talks about that era.

    2. Shannon*

      What’s wrong with us? I spend 40+ hours a week with my co-workers. I’m legitimately not eager to spend my off duty time with them.

      That being said, yes, I’d go, simply because the benefits Alison mentions. Depending on the cultural expectations/ how much I thought I could get away with it/ frequency of the dinners, I wouldn’t go to all of them, though.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I KNOW. I can see that other coworkers love to go out together for dinner, drinks, whatever. But it just does not compute with me. There are a few rare and special exceptions of people whom I probably would have become friends with even if we met through some other form than work. But not many.

        But people look at you like you have three heads if you don’t want to go out drinking with them. In my mind, I’m, all, “I’m happy to leave you free to be your extroverted self! Why can’t you let me be free to be an introvert?” So annoying.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          PS, I practice what I preach. You will never see me invite my direct reports to anything but lunch or coffee, during working hours.

        2. Shannon*

          It’s not even necessarily an introvert verses extrovert thing – it’s a “I have a life outside of my job” thing. When I leave work, it’s not like I go into some little box where I change clothes and wait for the next day. People have other friends, social engagements and commitments outside of the time suck that is work. It doesn’t matter if you spend all of your time staring at the wall vacantly or running church socials.

          It is not emotionally healthy to let yourself be defined by and sink all your energy into one thing, whether that thing is for pay or not for pay. I’ve seen enough retirees who let themselves be defined by work absolutely flounder when they retired. They just didn’t know who they were outside of the office.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Ha, when I was like three years old I thought that the people we saw while out at a store just lied down there at night and went to sleep after the store closed.

          2. Jerry Vandesic*

            All that may be true, but participating in social activities with coworkers can reasonably put someone in a better position for career advancement. You need to go into this knowing that declining an invitation might hurt you professionally. As someone who looks on socializing with colleagues similarly to you, I have had to deal with this tradeoff throughout my career.

    3. TFS*

      I don’t know that everyone necessarily enjoyed it back then. I think they just drank a lot…

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Well that and “back then” most men had a stay at home wife who was all too eager to whip something up and play hostess. I think I know the intention of the statement though. Nowadays usually most households are dual income, people work a lot more it seems and/or are connected to work anyhow after hours via smart phone/email. It depends on industry I think, so if that’s the case hubby should go, if not the fact boss rescheduled is perfect excuse for having other plans

        1. Kelly L.*

          Hell, she wasn’t even eager, probably. She just acted eager because she didn’t have many other options.

        2. Shortie*

          This is a really important point about how life has changed. I don’t know that people are less willing to go outside their comfort zones. I wonder if it’s that we have more dual income (or at least more equal dual income) families, many people trying to squeeze in childcare and eldercare–often at the same time–on nights and weekends after working 40 hours per week, etc. The elderly are living longer then ever before, which is great, but it also makes caregiving more stressful and time more scarce.

          (Digressing for a moment: I always smile when elderly family members talk about what good care people took of the elderly back in the good old days. Excuse me, Grandma?! Your parents died in their 60’s while still very mobile and living alone. You never had to move them in. You are currently 90 and have needed round the clock care, including toileting and feeding, for a decade. Tell me again what a selfless caregiver you were. Lol.)*

          *I hope that didn’t sound mean. I am smiling as I type this…I find it an amusing if misguided perspective.

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            When my sister and I were kids we told our parents that they had better be nice to us because we got to pick their nursing home. It became a family joke but it’s true. Because our parents were only children, caring for their aging parents fell squarely on their shoulders. For many years they were doing that from 1200 miles away. So, that’s not easy. They don’t want us to have to do that. So, they’ve already remodeled their house to make it “old people friendly” (their term). And they have worked with their financial planner to have money ready for when they do need nursing care or what not. They know that they will not be moving in with either of us but we will make sure to pick out a really good assisted living/nursing home. We’ve already talked about it and both of them are still working full time and late 50s/early 60s. I appreciate that so much.

        3. davey1983*

          My grandmother was one of those house wives– she certainly was not all that eager to ‘whip something up and play hostess’. She hated it with a passion, and actually informed my grandfather at one point that he was to longer entertain guests at the house!

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Haha wow what a forward thinking lady my grandmothers were definitely the eager hostess type

    4. Biff*

      To be fair, dinner parties used to be a thing. They usually had a set concept of what would happen and how long it would take. Like dancing, the knowledge of how to do this has gone by the wayside. When someone hosts a dinner party, attendees may feel they don’t have the requisite knowledge to not screw up. It makes them uncomfortable.

      There’s nothing wrong with us, per se, we just don’t have the social scene that makes this common knowledge. And also, people forget that this was a white collar thing. In the present day a lot of our blue collar jobs now masquerade as white collar jobs, but that doesn’t mean people have the white collar experience or upbringing that makes them ready for this sort of thing.

      1. Steve G*

        It is interesting that you wrote “a lot of our blue collar jobs now masquerade as white collar jobs,” I’ve never thought of it like that, but it is kind of true. They all kind of blend together with our open floor plans and everyone doing their work into a computer, which gives less visibility as to how different the work people are doing actually is. I’ve noticed this divide quite a few times when trying to pick restaurants or meet up places, being on more of the “white collar” side, and finding that some people who work in offices are turned off by “formal” restaurants or don’t know what the dishes on the menu are so end up dragging us to a pub instead.

        1. Biff*

          I live in a place where “more exotic” food is considered better for work events. for me, trying to figure out the menu when I don’t know how to pronounce the words is a nightmare. Trying to figure out what to wear is even worse — you can usually tell the level of formality based on the dishes when it comes to american/continental food. I finally told my boss straight up that I just wasn’t coming.

          1. Kelly L.*

            You can still tell. Try the Internet–often a restaurant will have a website and you can tell by its design how fancy the place is. And if not, review sites will probably give at least a price range.

      2. louche low life*

        Dinner parties are still a thing. I know of several people who have dinner party ‘clubs’. It is usually 3 or 4 couples and they rotate homes. If it is your turn to host, you pick the theme and food. There is a bit of a competitive element with it and they pull put all the stops with recipe hunting and finding music to play that fits the theme. Sometimes you are even assigned to come in the ‘look’ of the party – say perhaps a French theme is going on and people wear silly beret’s. One club has it so that the next couple up is in charge of bringing the dessert to the party before theirs and the last couple who had hosted is responsible for the wine so the work is somewhat divided.

        There are even boxes of mystery dinner party games to buy and make your night to host something special. I did this one once –

    5. anonanonanon*

      Well, for one thing, not everyone has the time or means to attend an after-hours dinner at their boss’s house, and I don’t think socializing outside of a work setting should be what garners you more responsibility or a promotion.

      1. Sunflower*

        It’s not that going to the bosses house and ass-kissing directly leads to promotion. It’s just that it’s so much easier to form deeper, more authentic relationships with people outside of work and it will probably give you an edge. Esp if you’re in a job where relationship building is important.

        1. anonanonanon*

          But that privilege of forming a more authentic relationship still goes to the people who have the time and means to attend such an event. If someone doesn’t have a car and the boss lives in a remote area, they’re out of luck the same as if someone can’t go because they have children or a second job. I understand the idea in general, but it still seems to favor certain people and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          1. Cat*

            In theory, yeah, but I think in a given workplace, this may well not be an issue whatsoever and the boss can probably have a good idea of whether it is when she issues the invitation. (E.g., my boss, who lives a mile from the office, has invited all his staff plus kids plus SOs over for pizza. Nobody was excluded by means, though they may have been by inclination.)

    6. Brandy*

      Ive tried the I have plans and was hit with “you come up with a date and we’ll do it”. Mine though was a work dinner at a restaurant. When Im off IM off. I get hit with the sense of dread. I have social anxiety and am ok with that and who I am and I am social enough at work. Also Im on a sensitive diet and IM picky. Ive mustered thru it a lot for work but still, please don’t put me in this situation. Im fine. Please don’t invite me, you’re welcome to not.

    7. KJR*

      My boss just bought a half a million dollar house, (and this is not in a high COL area) and I’m DYING for an invitation! My son has already been over to do some landscaping and he said it’s fabulous. So I guess I have the opposite problem as the OP! However, normally, I would hate the idea. I just want to see the house. :D

      1. Steve G*

        I would too! I went to a party at a former higher-ups house, and it was awesome! It was the type of house you never see in “real life,” but in maybe a made-for-tv move where you’re wondering the whole time how they afford such a big house. There were full walls of glass, and split levels, and few rooms, but the rooms that were there were 2-3X the size of a normal NYC apartment.

    8. Anyonymous*

      I would not like it for a couple of reasons:
      A. It takes me a while to warm up in social situations. I can’t just come right out of the gate as charming and witty as I will appear by the end of the night. I often come off as standoffish in new environments, but really, I’m just quietly assessing the situation. Will my boss’s spouse enjoy this joke? Where is the bathroom? Is there a child here that I need to humor for a bit? Are we all on our very best behavior or are we telling potentially risque stories?
      B. I’m an introvert and often at gatherings, even with people I know and like, I have to run off to the bathroom and hide for a bit to decompress from all the social interaction.
      B. I’m a vegetarian who doesn’t like eggplant or mushrooms, which is what most people prepare when they hear you’re a vegetarian. So that would be a portion of my dinner that goes untouched and potentially offends my host.

    9. Vicki*

      Any time advice includes the phrase “suck it up”, I see that as code for “do not, under any circumstances, do this”.

  3. Ms Information*

    I’m a fan of infrequent invitations to a boss’s house with no expectations that spouses/partners need come. So open houses, summer barbecues – low pressure. As an employee I’ve appreciated being offered hospitality by my bosses, and as a boss, I know that my employees have appreciated the same. (One report told me that I “have a lovely home”. I was touched because it’s a very modest bungalow with many undone tasks. From the point of view of a young apartment dweller though, it’s aspirational.) It’s always intriguing to see how the boss lives. :) As a spouse…I enjoy the out of work socializing with my husband’s offices less but we both suck it up from time to time. Infrequent is the key. Lunch time treat for the work team is the better approach if done often.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This – no expectations of spouses/partners. Please note that outside of work hours also means outside of child care hours, which means families having to get a babysitter. Or worse, having to bring a raging, sleepy toddler to the boss’s house….

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        When I was a kid, we were frequently left with a baby sitter so our parents could attend evening events. Now, none of my friends ever want to get a sitter expect for a wedding or a funeral. Are sitters just not a thing anymore? My theory is that back then, more moms stayed home so they enjoyed an evening out. Now, the kids are in daycare (which I’m 100% fine with) and the family feels guilty putting the kids with a sitter at night or on the weekend.

        1. Anyonymous*

          Sitters are also ridiculously expensive these days. I babysat two kids for eight hours a day, Monday through Friday for four summers while their mom worked. I made $20 a day. From what I understand, parents are lucky to find a babysitter for less than $20 an hour these days, so if you’re going to dinner and a movie, that could easily be a $100 babysitting fee on top of all the other costs.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            We pay 10/hr. I could get away with less but I like her a lot and we can afford it, but only occasionally.

        2. anonanonanon*

          What I gather from my friends and acquaintances with kids is that babysitters are expensive, people are wary about leaving their kids with strangers, and they’re even more wary of letting teenagers watch their kids.

        3. the_scientist*

          My mom was a SAHM mom for all of my childhood and my parents NEVER left us with a sitter. Ever. They were lucky enough that both sets of grandparents lived within driving distance, so the grandparents would come and watch us if my parents went out for the night, or we’d go to Grandma & Grandpa’s for the rare overnight. I think they simply weren’t comfortable leaving their kids with strangers, and there weren’t any teenagers in the neighbourhood looking for pocket money. My parents also didn’t attend church at the time, and all their friends had young kids, so they didn’t have readily available, known quantity babysitters. By the time I was a teenager, the neighbourhood had changed and the family social network was well established, so I did a lot of babysitting for neighbours (and we were *exceptionally* close with our neighbours, which is probably outside of the norm) and for young families in the church we went to.

          Very few of my coworkers with young children are willing to leave their kids with a babysitter, it seems. We live in a big city where it’s hard to get to know your neighbours, and all of their families live far away. I really think the era of having a trustworthy neighbourhood teenager to call up is a thing of the past, now.

        4. Clever Name*

          Us too when we were kids. My husband and I try to get out every so often, and yes, we hire a sitter. We usually use friends or coworker’s teen-aged kids. I think a major hurdle is the cost, on top of the cost of going out. Many families simply can’t afford it. We pay our sitters well, so that even if our son is not cooperative for bedtime, they still want to sit for us. :)

        5. Stranger than fiction*

          I think less people moved away and therefore had extended family to help or neighbors they were friends with. Also kids were more self reliant IMO I mean obvi they can’t stay home alone if they’re too young but it seems the schools give just as much homework to the parents these days whereas when I was a kid I did my homework myself I have no recollections of my parents helping except with algebra a bit later in high school.

      2. OhNo*

        Also a very important consideration. I like Ms Information’s suggestion of some kind of low-key, informal gathering like a barbecue better than some kind of dinner party, for exactly that reason: if you can’t get child care (or just can’t/don’t want to go for any reason), you can just “stop by” for a few minutes to make an appearance, then leave as quickly as you’d like. That’s perfect when you want to have a happy middle ground between out-of-work bonding and infringing on your employee’s off time.

    2. Not crummy*

      Not trying to be crummy, but isn’t “You have a lovely home” kind of the default comment to give a host? I’m sure the report was being nice but it doesn’t read to me as “I’m glad to be at your house, Boss.” (But I agree with your sentiment of not forcing families to attend.)

      1. Ms Information*

        Ha! I agree re the “you have a lovely home” comment not being inherently meaningful. It was a strangely old fashioned phrase coming from a young person, and one not raised in a North American family. I took it as sincere, especially as I used to be impressed by houses that had nice carpets after I moved out of my parents’ house and into cheap apartments.

        1. Ms Information*

          Not that I have nice carpets! But I do have some framed art and in house laundry – luxury!

  4. MashaKasha*

    I had a boss at OldOldJob who used to do that sort of thing – barbecue at her place on a Saturday in the summer, holiday get-together on a Friday night in December. I went twice and had a great time. But it was a rare case where almost everyone had worked closely together for years, and we did really feel like family. (It’s been close to ten years since I left that place, as did many others, and we still all get together twice a year and have a great time. I cannot say that about any of the other places I’ve worked.) None of us saw it as a chance to move up, an opportunity to get an “in” with the boss, or what have you. That said, she would not have held it against anyone who couldn’t make it. People have families, social obligations, and all other sorts of commitments on their weekends. I think it’s understood. Likewise it is understood that a weekend is our personal time, that we may or may not want to spend around our coworkers.

    1. So true.*

      I think so much of this depends on the team dynamics. It’s awful when 40 hours with many team members is more than enough time in your life; it’s ok to great when you can get out of your work element with a well functioning group.

      1. SherryD*

        Yes, exactly. It’s not that I don’t like backyard barbecues, and it’s not that I can’t free up a couple of hours in an evening… It’s that you literally have to pay me to spend time with some of these people.

  5. Bend & Snap*

    I would be soooo resentful of this event. Hands off my nights and weekends. I don’t get a lot of downtime and when it does come around I want to spend it on the couch, not with my coworkers.

    As an introvert, a weekend work event would kill any chance of fully recharging before Monday.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      I’m basically like this too but really how often do these things come up once or twice a year maybe?

      1. Anna*

        I kind of think the same thing. If it were not too much of an inconvenience, why not go? I get the idea that this your personal time, but do you have any idea of how many things I end up doing that I don’t want to for the groups I hang out with for fun?

  6. Techfool*

    You have to go cos you said you would previously
    One of my bosses had a summer bbq at his smallholding. He kept pigs and goats, and had tennis courts. So it can be fun!

    1. The IT Manager*

      No. With the change in date you can easily say that the new time doesn’t work for you. It’s not like anyone’s weekend can be expected to have same open and scheduled time every week.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      That was contingent upon the original date and time. Those have now changed so OP’s husband is no longer obligated.

      Although I think it would be smart to go.

    3. fposte*

      She couldn’t back out of it was the same date, it’s true, but she doesn’t have to be available for the new date. Acceptances are situational; a “Yes” for Saturday doesn’t bind you if it gets moved to Sunday, and a “yes” for a formal dinner on Saturday doesn’t bind you to attend if it changes into a preschooler’s birthday party.

  7. the_scientist*

    I think the date change gives you the out that you need, as in “sorry to miss it but we’ve got plans for that date”.

    Related, if you’re between the ages of say, 21 and 35, and you’re being pressed to come up with reasons for not attending something, and it’s a spring/summer/fall weekend, you could reasonably default to “sorry, I’ll be attending a wedding that day!” It seems like that’s what I do with 80% of my weekends nowadays, so even if I didn’t have a wedding on that specific day, it would ring pretty true.

  8. Ser Suli Ram Kikura*

    I thought Alison’s answer was very good, especially this:

    However, your husband should be aware that in some workplaces, you really are expected to attend things like this. Your husband hopefully has a sense of whether that’s the case here or not …

    Moreover, there can be real professional benefit to going to events like this, even when you don’t particularly want to. It’s likely that work will be discussed and bonds will be formed, and being there for that can be valuable in ways that are hard to predict. Your husband should at least factor that into whatever decision he makes, and it might be worth looking at it like any other work obligation, despite being on a weekend.

    It can be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation: if you successfully cancel out of it, you’re left wondering what you missed. And in some work environments, real business gets discussed at these kinds of affairs. I’ll usually bite the bullet if I have to – it’s only a few hours. And I know I sound like a chauvinist pig saying this, but sometimes it can reflect badly on a man if his wife doesn’t attend. It’s like, not everyone, but some bosses will hold a dinner party like this and they expect everyone to show up and they have preconceptions of how it will go (after dinner the wives will go out to the garden while the men go to the man-cave and shoot billiards and drink shots of expensive single malt, yadda yadda) and anything that’s not according to his notions is a bad thing. You show up sans wife, boss asks “Where’s Samantha tonight, Darren?”. Not good. My first wife’s father was an exec with a large company and he was exactly like this. And no, I didn’t work for him. *shudder*

    I went to college with a guy who was very serious about becoming a ‘mover and shaker’ and he dated women looking for the kinds of qualities that would make them successful at these kinds of social events.

    1. anonanonanon*

      And I know I sound like a chauvinist pig saying this, but sometimes it can reflect badly on a man if his wife doesn’t attend.

      It’s worse for single women. Sometimes you’re not even invited to these events or ignored completely.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I always resent being expected to show up to my husband’s work functions as some sort of accessory rather than a human being.

      1. Malissa*

        I think my husband’s old bosses breathed a sigh of relief when I didn’t show up. They’d give a bunch of numbers to the group at the beginning about how the business was doing. Often laced in these numbers was a real weak excuse for cutting costs/not giving raises/or what ever. One made conversation with me on day and looked a little surprised when I accurately told him that I thought is was interesting that they could do a million dollar construction project with out financing because the profits were so good from the rest of the company.
        Note that I didn’t think this was a bad thing, but they had been telling the employees their division wasn’t profitable, which wasn’t true at all.

    3. Biff*

      I have a close friend who’s ex boyfriend was a total nozzlehead who wanted to Pygmalion her into a Betty Draper knock-off. I wish he’d been honest about what he wanted instead of making her feel like a screw up. It would have been nicer if he’d just focused on finding a woman who just wanted to be what he needed (because there are women out there that want that!)

      So while yeah, your college acquaintance was probably a little slimy, at least he was honest!

      1. the_scientist*

        there’s definitely a certain class of guy (bro-y, white, fraternity member, upper-class upbringing, likes sailing/horses/golf/polo/skiing in Aspen, aspiring to a career in finance/law/consulting, family money but not old money) that is most definitely seeking out a particular breed of wife, even in the 21st century. In a lot of fields, it still really reflects poorly on men to not have a spouse that is social and fun and good at entertaining and all that stuff- there have definitely been discussions on AAM in the past about how in certain fields, the expectation is that people work 80 or more hours a week specifically because the default assumption is that there’s a stay-at-home wife (and it’s always a wife, never a husband or same-sex partner) shouldering 100% of the load at home.

        And totally, lots of women are still interested in that lifestyle- they’re often the women that make the PTAs and Jr League chapters and church groups and other volunteer organizations run.

        1. No name*

          Actually, in very time-demanding professions where this is the “norm”, having a support spouse who will deal with all household things is an important factor in the success of the spouse with the high-octane job.

          Women, generally, haven’t caught up to the idea yet – but if they’re looking for a career with long hours and high demands on their time, they should absolutely look for a support spouse. I don’t begrudge men in these professions their support spouse (though I do think it is a huge societal inequality issue that I dislike strongly). I just wish more women would think about the impact their spouse will have on their career before getting married.

          When two people marry and both want to go full-out in their career, a career conflict down the the line is inevitable. There are lots of ways to handle that. It’s way, way easier to handle it if it’s something you’ve already discussed and agreed on. I wanted a career where I could devote long hours to it and move my family around as needed for it. I made that clear when I was seriously dating. My husband knew he was signing on to be a support spouse, that I would likely make more money long-term than he would, and that his career path is well-suited to moving whenever and wherever I need him to do so while mine is location-dependent. I deliberately avoided dating men in my same career field because I didn’t want the inevitable show-down over who’s career is more important.

          1. the_scientist*

            This is such a great point! And you’re right, it still sucks that the societal default is that the woman will be the support spouse, but there are lots of men playing that role so their wives can excel at their careers- Sheryl Sandberg has spoken openly about her husband’s support of her career and how her achievements would not have been possible without his unwavering support and assistance.

            Before I met my significant other I did a fair bit of online dating, and most of my online dating adventures took place in a military town. I made the decision early on that I wasn’t going to date military guys because I was not willing to play the role of support spouse in that way- my career is not portable enough to survive the frequent moves that are a major part of military life.

            1. BeenThere*

              Yes, this is why I never pursued a relationship with my dear friend from high school. He was going into the Navy and I needed someone to be around on a regular basis, this I knew at eighteen year old and still holds true.

      2. Ser Suli Ram Kikura*

        … your college acquaintance was probably a little slimy, at least he was honest!

        Errrr … you’ll think I’m making this up, but I swear I’m not: he died about 10 years ago, under questionable circumstances in Thailand.

    4. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      This post makes it sound as if women don’t even exist in this person’s workforce…

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I actually related to the post with substituted genders. I worked for a law firm that was very much trying to be one big happy family. I’m female. My husband was expected to attend events with me. Those were nights and weekends though and didn’t interfere with his job. I likewise went to some of his work events on nights and weekends that didn’t interfere with my job. It certainly took some of the sting out of losing more free time. Plus there was always amazing food, plenty of booze, and usually an overnight accommodation thrown in.

  9. Sunflower*

    This is really something that varies by industry/field/job. My friend’s fiance is in finance and she was telling my other friend and I that her fiance’s boss invited a bunch of people to a dinner party on a Saturday night at his house. She was incredibly freaked out and confused. But in his job, this is totally normal. Sometimes these dinners are really more like networking events and you will get majorly dinged if you don’t go. I work in event planning and it’s very important to keep good relationships with vendors. I am always getting invited to stuff and even though I don’t want to go 95% of the time, I know the benefit is going to pay off. Tomorrow I have to go to a dinner party. I really really don’t want to go and I have a million things I have to do that will just have to wait but I know it will look good to my boss and it’s a small price to pay for the points it will put in my book.

    I don’t necessarily see anything wrong with this. Sometimes it’s easy to view people you work with as just their job. Taking both yourself and that person out of that element can really change how you view about each other and can do amazing things for building relationships. I 10000% have better relationships with vendors and clients I’ve socialized with outside of work. This probably isn’t important in every job and by no means should anyone have to do it all the time but I’ve always found the benefits to outweigh the drawbacks.

  10. Menacia*

    I personally do not like the whole mixing business with pleasure. I certainly depends on the people involved, but I’ve found it to better for the relationship to remain professional. I’m not unfriendly, quite the opposite, but I do feel some distance is required when working closely with others. I don’t want to know too much about them, and vice versa…and these outings sometimes turn into TMI, especially if the alcohol is flowing.

    1. Brooke*

      “and these outings sometimes turn into TMI, especially if the alcohol is flowing.”

      Sometimes that information can be really, REALLY useful.

    2. Anon for This*

      My boss likes to plan social events, drink too much, and badmouth the people who aren’t “fun” and didn’t come. So of course we all go, but it’s because we are afraid not to go.

  11. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    A friend of mine was recently invited to her boss’s kid’s birthday party. It was a Saturday afternoon and she felt obligated to go. UGH.

    1. BananaPants*

      Oh hell no. I don’t even like going to kid birthday parties for children in our extended family. No way in hell would I go to my boss’ kid’s birthday party.

  12. Cat*

    Honestly, I’m pro-dinner at the boss’s house, assuming the boss is a reasonably socially astute person who does it in a way that preserves boundaries and allows for an opt out. I’m introverted and socially anxious and I always dread these things, but inviting someone into your home is a really important social signal and probably always will be. It says a lot of things that lunch during the work day doesn’t about trust and hospitality and I think is the kind of thing that goes a long way towards creating meaningful relationships – which do help get work done better.

  13. Brooke*

    I usually hate these sort of invitations but am always glad I went. Even if I didn’t have a terribly good time, it’s good face time. Usually I have a better time than expected.

  14. Cheddar2.0*

    Maybe I’m an odd one out, but I really love when my husband’s boss has dinner events. It probably because he’s only in town a couple times a year and buys really expensive steaks and beer and grills out at his fancy hotel. :D It’s a great chance to hang out and hear stories about their industry and eat wonderful food. My work has zero, absolutely zero cross over into personal life (due to the industry and personalities of my coworkers), so I enjoy that my husband’s has a bit and I can participate.

  15. Shortie*

    Agree with Alison’s response here, and I would add for any managers who are getting ideas :-) that “proceeding with care” means to really, really try to do this stuff during work hours, if at all (to me, anyway). A lot of otherwise great bosses think they are proceeding with care because they asked and nobody minds, or everyone had a good time last time, or you never put pressure on people to attend…but the thing is, a lot of employees will tell you it is okay even if it is not (and even if you think they are totally okay being open with you), or they will act like they’re having fun even if they’re not, or they will feel pressured even if you say no pressure and mean it.

    Others have probably said this, but I haven’t had a chance to read all comments yet.

  16. esra*

    Blergh, I have so many dietary restrictions, I hate these events. Cocktail party or bust, if you must.

  17. Sue Wilson*

    I have a real problem with the inevitable inequity these outside-work things cause but
    a) I will always go to work things, no matter how stupid I think they are
    b) I will go to any event with free food, introvert though I am.

    1. Blurgle*

      My problem with the inequity is that

      a) I can’t eat any of that free food, introvert or not, because no job on Earth is worth the risk of death by anaphylactic shock, and
      b) I intensely resent being held back at work because I’m not willing to take a chance on my life and eat in a restaurant or at a boss’s or co-worker’s house.

  18. Dee Smith*

    My boss wanted to take me to lunch during work hours right before the holidays. Not a business lunch but to say thank you for doing a good job. I was his secretary in a public school district. He had a reputation.(nuff said) and I just didn’t feel comfortable going. Besides in a public school district it is not the norm for a boss to take a secretary out to lunch. If anything, a small gift card to a local eatery or chipping in with other bosses for an office party to thank the staff. The invitation was for the end of the week. I asked him if I could let him know because I have been very busy running errands during my lunch hour. I hoped he’d get the hint the first time. He mentioned it again at the end of the week and I explained again that I’m busy running errands….hint taken.

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