my boss keeps trying to get us all to hang out together after work — and we don’t want to

A reader writes:

Any tips on how to thwart after-work activities? Our boss keeps bringing up ideas for us to all have fun together in the evenings. No one, I mean no one, wants to do anything when quitting time arrives except bolt for the door and escape. This, coupled with some 25+ mile commutes for some of us, just makes us cringe when she brings this up. No, I don’t want to go to a bar/restaurant, or a baseball game, play bingo, or any other activity in the evenings. My commute eats up enough of my time.

I’ve already made up my mind to say “no, I have other plans” if this rears its ugly head again, and if my boss pushes it and tries to make it even semi-mandatory, I’m going to request time and a half pay, since I’m non-exempt and a work activity has taken me away from my home. That should end the discussion. I know some of my coworkers who live locally will go along to get along, but quite frankly, that’s on them and I have zero interest in any of it.

You know, enough people dislike this kind of thing that any manager who brings it up really needs to be attuned to signs that people aren’t into it.

It’s really the same thing as any social invitation — if you keep making social overtures to someone who keeps turning you down, you’re supposed to get that message after a couple of times trying. Throw in the power dynamic when it’s a manager doing the asking, and it’s really inappropriate to keep pushing.

If your manager were here to talk with us, I’d bet she’d point out that it’s not purely a social invitation — that there’s work benefit to getting together as a group for “fun,” that it makes your team more cohesive, blah blah blah. I happen to mostly disagree with this — there are lots of ways to make your team more cohesive that have nothing to do with bowling or happy hours, such as doing actual work together in the course of your normal jobs and ensuring you have a functional, healthy work culture. But even if she’s convinced that you need this kind of team bonding experience, there’s still no excuse for pressuring people to do it in the evenings. If it’s important enough to her to pressure people, it’s important enough to do it during the day, as part of your normal work hours. (And suddenly bowling seems less important, I’d bet!)

It’s not reasonable to ask people to give up their evenings for activities meant to benefit their employer, unless (a) it’s truly 100% optional, with no frowning or sad eyes or “needs to connect more with colleagues” on your next performance evaluation, (b) you’re paid for the time, or (c) it’s part of a job where it’s understood up-front that that’s part of the work.

So, ranting aside, what should you actually do here?

One option is to just keep turning down your manager’s suggestions, as in “Sorry, I have plans I can’t break” or “I have commitments most evenings after work.”

Another option though, if you’re up for it, would be to address it more broadly and say something like, “I’ve noticed you’ve made a few suggestions like this. I think a lot of us have long commutes and other commitments after work and just don’t really want to extend our work days like that.” Or even — if you have the right kind of relationship with her and a comfort with bluntness — something like this: “I think most of us want to keep work at work and not have social events outside of the office. Thanks for offering to put it together though!”

And if she continues after that, just keep turning things down. If she starts acting like there are penalties for doing that, then you’ll have to decide how strongly you feel about not going … but if it gets to that point, you’ll definitely want to have made her aware that not everyone is clamoring for the opportunity to play bingo with their coworkers.

{ 300 comments… read them below }

  1. inkly*

    It could also be recommended to the manager that these kinds of events be organized during the workday and setup as a team building activity. That way employees aren’t being asked to give up their personal time and the manager gets the activities she so wants.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      This is what I was thinking. Start small by ordering in lunch and have everyone eat together in a conference room. Maybe work your way up to a board game…

    2. Cookie*

      Agreed. We used to do a monthly long lunch (2 hour) at a restaurant for our team. That was a nice opportunity to bond without taking us away from our jobs for too long or keeping us late after work.

      1. Clarissa*

        My workplace does something similar. It is a good compromise to include those who have long commutes or have childcare worries after work. When our regional staff is in town for meetings and retreats we usually have a completely optional dinner, but it is made clear that anyone who can’t make it won’t be penalized.

      2. Hlyssande*

        I’m loving that my great grandboss implemented that for our local team. We rotate who gets to pick the place.

        1. MT*

          “great grandboss”

          I’m assuming you mean your boss’ boss’ boss, and I am so tickled.

      3. INTP*

        I like that as a solution. Many of my past employers have “treated” us to takeout lunch in the conference room, which also feels like punishment/extra work, because instead of getting to spend our lunches as we wish we lose our lunch breaks and have to stay in the conference room and eat takeout that we wouldn’t have chosen, while pretending to be gracious for the “treat.” At least with along lunch at a restaurant you get out of work a bit in return for giving up your lunch and you get out of the office so it doesn’t feel like a lunch meeting with no agenda.

        1. Anonyhippo*

          Yes. A working while unpaid lunch is punishment, not motivation.

          Also, the cheap fast food that they spring for is not really a “treat”. Nor does it take into consideration the wide range of special dietary restrictions or preferences in our diverse group of employees.

    3. Lucky*

      My team tried valiantly to schedule a monthly happy hour, but commute and family and other commitments meant we rarely had even 1/2 the team attend. We switched our happy hour to a coffee hour, walking to a local cafe to get coffee and treats and catch up. It’s been a great success – we usually get 90% of the team and have a “no shop talk” rule so we don’t spend the time talking about current projects.

    4. Fleur*

      This letter is so timely because we’ve been having the same issues at work, compounded by our “happy” hours getting scheduled until 10-11 PM.

      I’m going to suggest that they make these lunch/afternoon activities instead and continue turning down the horrendous late night invitations. Thankfully I have a good excuse in our city’s terrible public transportation system.

      1. SL #2*

        10-11 pm?!!?!!? I am all for post-work activities, provided that everyone is truly there because they want to be and not because they were forced into it, but we’re always done by 7 pm.

        1. AnonInSC*

          I misread a little that they started that late. But still – I don’t stay out that late unless it’s date night with my husband. And even then we rarely do b/c we are tired!

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      My thought exactly. Like if they normally get off at 5, knock off at 3:00 once in a while and have the activity then. I have some friends whose work places do this. One place even has beer and plays games in a game room. Then everyone goes home at normal time.

      1. MT*

        My SO’s department has a Friday social hour where everybody stops working at 4:00 and shares beer/hangs out for the last hour or so, really leaving on a more lax schedule when they’re ready to head home. I think it’s a nice thing to do.

    6. Sarianna*

      My team of 7 does this! Due to the nature of our work, we rarely actually work together, but with different teams composed of folks from several departments, so we decided we needed to do something to be a more cohesive team and see each other more often than the monthly updates-from-the-boss meetings. We committed to spending some fun time around each other, with a monthly activity organized by a team member (rotating).

      The organizer gets to set up something they enjoy to share with colleagues, we all get a couple hours midday to hang out and have fun on purpose, and we generally wrap up by eating lunch (brought from home) and whatever treats the organizer makes (we all do like to bake!). So far, we’ve played Pictionary, done a photo scavenger hunt around the area, and played Betrayal at House on the Hill (board game). I believe an upcoming one is a light hike. An added challenge for us is that one team member works remotely, so we’ve also designed activities that allow her to participate as well (usually via webcam/conference line)–even if it’s not the exact same thing (we’ll be Skyping on our simultaneous hike, I hear!)

      A mid-workday event schedule seemed to work well for us. Frankly, the other teams are a bit jealous of us–we have shared experiences and have worked together (not on work things) in spite of our disparate duties!

    7. zd*

      I had a similar situation, where a boss kept pushing for happy hours, and most staff were telling me quietly that they really didn’t want to do them anymore/had decided to stop drinking/didn’t like the bar atmosphere, etc.

      I tried to tell the boss without being harsh about it that people would prefer group lunches instead. That worked a couple of times, and staff were much happier about it. But then the bosses started bringing up happy hours again, Siiighh.. I gave up and just kept declining until I left the org.

      But it was definitely worth trying!

    8. Anonyhippo*

      To all managers out there, just to clarify:

      Your staff lunch hours that you turn into working while team-building/bonding times should be paid time. Or voluntary. Providing food should not exempt you from paying your staff during their ‘work’ times. And a working lunch is work.

      I have been a victim of this many times in the past. My lunch hour is unpaid. I do not want to spend it “working” while unpaid. Regardless of whether the food is free. One piece of pizza is not worth it to me. I need my unpaid lunch time to do personal business/detox from work/relax a little. A working lunch adds to my stress levels and workload. In effect, I end up working 9 hours while getting paid for 8.

    9. Vicki*

      Please, no. Please please, just, no.

      Many of us want to work at work. I don’t want to go bowling. I don’t want to play bingo at lunch. If I eat lunch with my co-workers, that’s by choice. For many people, lunch time is a half hour when they get out of the building and breathe.

      No. “Team building” activities should be work related. Work on a project together. Not a party, Not a softball game. Not a board game. Not lunch.

  2. My 2 Cents*

    Suggest that you all break off work an hour early and go to a happy hour near the office. You can socialize for an hour and those who want to stay longer can, those who need to leave can leave at the normal time.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I always hate those because I don’t want to eat anything right before dinner, and I can’t have a drink because I have to drive home. (And I worry about people “just having one drink” and then driving, which might be legal or not, depending, but is still risky behavior.)

      I don’t mean to be discouraging, I just think a work lunch might work better for most people.

      1. Bwmn*

        As long as the happy hour place isn’t a complete dive bar, there is usually be the option to order a tea/coffee/juice or other non-alcoholic beverage.

        Personally, I’m a bigger fan of being let out an hour early for such a happy hour event versus cutting into lunch that I can use for errands or decompressing in the middle of the day. So I do think that there is a mixed reaction to the benefits/downsides to happy hour or a lunch.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Well, it’s NOT in the least necessary for someone to drink alcohol just because the gathering is in a bar. There’s not some law of the land, or rule of etiquette, that requires it.
        Most bars sell sodas as well as mixed drinks or bottled beer.

        And, a person could use the same exact timing, and have everyone go to a coffee place.

        1. Alienor*

          True, but depending on your workplace and how the gathering is handled, there may be a lot of pressure to drink something alcoholic vs. not. At the last couple of official work events I’ve gone to, we’ve each been issued two drink tickets, and that’s fine – both times I’ve just given my tickets away to people who were thrilled to get them. But at the non-formal happy hours where people are buying their own drinks (and buying them for each other), there’s a cultural expectation that you’re all going to get drunk together, and it’s rude or weird not to. I’d much, much rather go out for coffee or lunch instead and eliminate any possibility of harassment.

          1. KarenD*

            I won’t be pressured into drinking alcohol – I just won’t. For most of my life I’ve been a teetotaler. I don’t call attention to the fact that I’ve ordered a Coke or ginger ale. It’s rarely posed any kind of problem.

            But going my my own sense of the crowd, I might order my soft drink in a highball glass with a twist, which makes it look very like a cocktail. Bartenders are usually very understanding and willing to help you out. One awesome bartender at a conference in Miami made me the most delicious alcohol-free mojitos for me, back when mojitos were still very much a Miami-only thing. They were so tasty I broke with my usual pattern (nursing one or maybe two all night) and drank 5 or 6. I’m sure some people were wondering how I could drink that much rum and not show any signs of being really inebriated.

            One other trick I’ve learned is to match my mood/behavior to the rest of the crowd. If people are getting animated and laughing loudly, I make sure I do that too.

            1. JessaB*

              Oh yes, ginger ale with a twist of something stuck in it looks like a cocktail. That or I just tell them I’m the designated driver. Heck in some bars, the DD gets free pop (just remember to tip like it’s booze for it, the bartender shouldn’t be out because you’re not drinking booze.)

            2. NJ Anon*

              Not only do I not drink but I refuse to pretend either. I don’t care if people think I’m drinking or not. What’s the point? You can’t have funtil without it? Saw a great tshirt years ago;
              Instant asshole, just add alcohol

              1. KarenD*

                My end goal is to not call attention what I’m drinking, one way or the other. Work-related events where one would stand out for the simple act of refusing alcohol are fortunately becoming increasingly rare — I can only think of one or two in the past year or so — but they are disproportionately high-stakes events.

                If carrying around a highball glass with ginger ale and a twist in it means eliminating a potential distraction, I’m OK with that – eyes on the prize.

      3. INTP*

        Usually in my experience they’re okay with people that have soda or something instead of drinking. If the work culture is hard-partying it might be different but for the most part, you can say that you don’t like drinking on an empty stomach or get really sleepy after you drink and everyone will be fine with it.

        The drinking and driving does make me nervous though because most of my coworkers have 2+ drinks and then insist they can drive.

    2. Roscoe*

      Yeah, I think thats the best option. Close up shop a bit early, do a dinner/apps/happy hour thing. People can stay later if they want, if they don’t, no biggie. Boss gets the socialization, everyone else goes home on time. Win Win

    3. Christopher Tracy*

      This is what my old division did. I never went, but for people who did, they appreciated not having to stay too late downtown after work.

    4. SL #2*

      We did this a lot at my old job, which I actually really loved, but literally the entire office took public transit and the majority of us were the age where post-work happy hours are no big deal.

      We also do this at my new job about once a month and for team birthdays, which is also a nice balance for everyone and if you can’t make it, no harm no foul.

    5. Vicki*

      And what is the penalty for those who want to stay at the office and get work done or head home early and for once, beat the traffic?

  3. anon who needs a name*

    If she really wants to socialize, maybe suggest having team lunches during the work day or an afternoon break to have an event? Asking people to socialize outside of work is not fair, regardless of commute length. Sometimes people who live close to work or don’t have a long commute feel pressured into staying because they don’t have the “excuse” of a long commute (this happened to me when I was new to the workforce and lived in the city my office was in because I had a manager tell me that living a short subway trip away and not outside the city meant I had time to socialize after work).

  4. voyager1*

    I agree and understand with AAM and the LW except for one thing. Don’t ask to be paid for this, you will come off looking really bad IMHO. I have worked places that had active after work get togethers, I am not big on those either esp if it is drinking/bars. I always got out of this with “I really need to get home because the kids” and before kid/married life “I have already made plans” Nobody gave me any grief.

    I like what the posters said above about making these things team activies during the day or leave early.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      The point about wanting to be paid for it comes into play if there are penalties for not attending. At that point, you’re involving labor law because it becomes a work-required activity.

      1. Joseph*

        You might be technically right based on labor law, but I don’t see any way you could legitimately raise the issue without coming off as weird and/or pissing off your boss.

        Boss: “I’d like our group to go out for dinner and a drink tonight at SportsPub.”
        You: “Well on an hourly basis, I make $14, so it’ll cost you $21 for my time.”
        Boss: “What? It’s. Us. Watching. The. Ballgame. Why in the world would I pay you for that?”

        And it goes nowhere good from there…

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, I agree. I don’t see a way you can raise it without coming across as the unreasonable one.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agreed. However, the OP could say something like this: “You know, I understand that these are meant to be times for us to have fun together, but if it’s mandatory, we’d be in trouble with the law if we don’t pay people. I know it seems weird for a happy hour, but the law is really clear about that. So I think legally we have to ease up on how mandatory this is, assuming you don’t feel like paying people to drink beer.”

          1. Laura*

            Glad you suggested this wording, Alison. One of my previous managers was new to her job, and she tried to make a happy hour seem mandatory to the team. I said “So we’re getting paid, since this is mandatory, right?” That made her aware of what MANDATORY actually means, and guess what… we didn’t all have to attend happy hours if we didn’t want to.

            1. NJ Anon*

              Had a staff member ask our ceo if “mandatory” meant they had to go. Umm, yes, that’s what it means.

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          You totally missed the part where I brought up if the LW is being penalized for it. So what I’m thinking of a bit more like this.

          Boss (at performance review time): You’re not being a team player.
          LW: In what way? I’ve been doing X, Y, and Z to support my colleagues.
          Boss: You didn’t come to the dinner & drinks at SportsPub.
          LW: My understanding was that that wasn’t mandatory? I’m not able to make it to such things.
          Boss: You need to be part of the team. This dropped your rating for Team Player to a 2.
          LW: Whoa. If this is required as part of my job, doesn’t this raise an issue for my non-exempt status? I think we might want to check in with HR about that.

      2. SL #2*

        If it becomes a mandatory activity, then yes, the employee needs to be paid for their time according to labor law, but… well, as Joseph pointed out above, telling your boss that means risking goodwill and coming off as seriously tone-deaf. It’s a matter of if the employee is willing to take those risks.

        1. NJ Anon*

          I’ll take them every time. I have young children at home. I have an elderly parent at home. Already committed to babysitting my neighbors kids/dogs/etc. True story: 2 new staff wanted us to go to one of those drink-wine-and-paint deals. Not one person signed up. During the day? Fine. At night? No thanks!

      3. Bwmn*

        My experience with these is that they’re never mandatory on paper but more so “mandatory”, where not participating just ends up contributing to opinions.

        Where I used to work, about twice a year there was a “non-mandatory” learning field trip on one of our days off. We weren’t paid and the field trip usually took more than 8 hours. First step would be everyone needed to respond if they could make day A,B, or C. If you said all three days were unavailable, you would definitely be challenged to answer why repeatedly. After a day was chosen, if you then said something new came up – again harassment for why you didn’t save the date. Point being, not going for a reason like “I want to actually enjoy both days of my weekend” would have put you on a “bad” list. And if for some reason a bunch of people got food poisoning the night before, it was well known that we would hear about it.

        I worked at a nonprofit that provided a drop in clinic and these trips definitely put you in the position of saying “I don’t care about the people we serve”, because closing the office for a day would have meant a day less of service. And not going on the field trip meant you didn’t want to learn more about who we served.

        So yeah – I think legally mandatory (aka you didn’t show up to team bowling and therefore have one strike on your HR record) is one thing, but in my experience these end up being far more likely as “non-mandatory”.

  5. 12345678910112 do do do*

    My boss keeps doing this as well, but the activity is sitting around and smoking cigars. Nope. Unfortunately, my coworker/peer likes cigars and often joins, so I get less off-work face-time with our boss. I’m not sure what to do about that.

    1. K.*

      This reminds me of that Friends episode where Rachel pretended to be a smoker because her colleague and her boss were, and the colleague was getting good face time (and better assignments) during their smoke breaks.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Wow, how 1995 of them! (remember back then when every other bar was a cigar lounge? )

    3. TootsNYC*

      I worked at a place where the big cheese and a couple of other department heads came in from out of town once a week for the big deadline. They stayed in the same hotel.
      The other department-head person lived locally and went home when the work ended, late at night.

      The Big Cheese and the other department heads hung out at the bar in the hotel late at night. And when the time came to promote someone, they were the two who got the promotion. I think the third person would probably have been better–he certainly had tons more experience.

      But the Big Cheese knew the other two better; he’d had more time to hear their thoughts on the business.

    4. Laura*

      When I studied abroad, the director of my program encouraged everyone to hang out on the patio on nice evenings. He always noticed me skip these activities, and asked why. Well, I didn’t want to hang around him and the other smokers while they filled the air with cigar smoke. It was hazardous to my health since I have asthma.

      You could preemptively mention to your boss that you’d love to hang out outside of work, but that you are unable to join when there are cigars/cigarettes present. Hopefully that would jolt your boss into picking an activity that won’t harm others.

  6. AMT*

    The manager probably doesn’t realize that this is a privilege you give up when you’re a manager. I regularly organize happy hours with my peers, but if a supervisor did the same thing, we’d all feel pressured to accept. Even if we were comfortable saying no, we might be a little miffed about the ones who accepted getting more facetime with the person who controls raises and promotions.

    1. Roscoe*

      This is one of those things I don’t get. If you are invited to the social things, and you choose not to do them, its not fair to then complain that the people who did go are getting more facetime. You made the choice. Whether its a networking event, or a happy hour, or anything else. Many people are fine getting less face time if it means they go home on time. I’m often like that. But I’m not then going to get mad that people who choose the face time are getting things I’m not.

      1. Noah*

        That’s how I feel too. If you don’t want to go, then don’t go. However, you lose the right to complain about any relationship advantage I gain by hanging out with our coworkers and boss.

      2. Leatherwings*

        I don’t think it’s always as clear cut as a simple choice. This could disproportionately impact single parents, for instance, or folks without access to their own transportation. It’s not always a situation where someone CAN make the choice to attend, and good managers should be aware of that possibility without having to know details of any individual.

        1. AMT*

          Exactly. Also, when you’re a supervisor who organizes these things, you run the risk of giving your employees the impression that you make promotion/raise/whatever decisions based on your social relationships, even if you don’t. You promote Sharon over Jane and people might think it’s because Sharon loves your happy hours, even if Sharon is genuinely a better performer than Jane.

          1. NJ Anon*

            Agree 100%. Amount of “facetime” should have no beaing on your value to the company.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Or any parents. I have staff members with kids whose partners work odd hours or travel a lot or just do the morning drop-off while they do the afternoon pick-up. They are not able to hang out for an extra hour without a lot of pre-planning.

          1. Anna*

            Or people with pets, or anyone who has obligations that don’t make it easy to just not go home after work.

        3. Laura*

          It also impacts people who value a work-life balance, and who prefer to be private at work. Socializing with my boss is absolutely off the table for me.

          If things need to happen for work purposes, they need to happen AT WORK. End of story.

      3. the gold digger*

        But that’s just the point – it’s not social. It’s work. And it penalizes people who won’t or can’t play the game.

        It’s like saying, “Well if you want to play golf or to go to a topless bar with the execs, do it! Bob in Accounting plays golf on Saturdays with the CEO all the time!” while completely disregarding the facts that golf is really expensive and/or most women – or at least I – have no interest in hanging out with the guys looking at naked women.

        1. Crazy Dog Lady*

          +1 to this

          We have a global conference every year, and the head of our group organizes a golf outing the weekend before the conference. Only men seem to be invited, and it’s frustrating that they get extra networking time. If I were invited and chose not to go, that would be a different story, but it’s definitely not a social outing – it’s a work event.

        2. INTP*

          And golf can be just as sexist as strip clubs, too (or even more so, since afaik strip clubs always allow women, they just don’t appeal to most of us). Not sure how common it is currently but I know 10 years or so ago it was normal for clubs to have certain hours where women were allowed or forbidden so that the menfolk, having Important Things to Do, could avoid being held up by the slow, slow lady golfers.

      4. LBK*

        But facetime is a metric that’s not related to performance in any way. How you’re judged as an employee should have nothing to do with whether you’re willing/able to go to a bar after work. People aren’t saying “it’s unfair that I didn’t get credit for doing something I chose not to do,” people are saying “it’s unfair that something allegedly voluntary that’s not related to my job responsibilities and isn’t possible for everyone has such potential to influence my career”.

      5. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, not really. Part of being a manager is considering the impact of stuff like this, and not satisfying your own social needs at the expense of people on your team, not playing favorites or appearing to, not giving some people special access to you just because they like to golf too, etc.

        1. Roscoe*

          I don’t consider that satisfying your own social needs though. Its saying “Hey, does anyone want to go for happy hour after work, its been a long week”. Its not giving specific invites to specific people. ITs not playing favorites. Its a general invite that some people chose to do and others choose not to.

          1. LBK*

            It’s going to be extremely hard for most people to view an invitation like that from their boss as having no strings attached, and I think most managers aren’t as good as they think they are about separating their personal like for an employee (which would likely be fostered during an outing like that) from how good they actually are as a worker.

            1. Christopher Tracy*

              One of my divisional AVPs flat out told one of my coworkers that they promote the people they like. If they don’t like you, welp, guess you’re shit outta luck come review time.

          2. LBK*

            And FWIW, a happy hour invite might not explicitly be including or excluding people, but it’s very likely to exclude people who don’t drink (and post-work activities in general can exclude people for all kinds of reasons as others have mentioned above, like needing to pick kids up from daycare/school). Disparate impact is still important to consider here even if you think you’re being inclusive.

            1. Roscoe*

              I get what you are saying, but I still think EVERYTHING you do will exclude some people. A lunch outing will exclude people who exercise or like to run errands during lunch. I suppose closing the office early is good, but thats not always possible.

              Maybe I’ve just worked in different environments, but I’ve never had an email from the boss that was a general invitation for drinks after work that seemed like it had strings attached to it.

              1. LBK*

                I agree that it depends on the relationship with the manager and the environment. I haven’t really worked on a team like this either, but I surely believe they exist and are common.

                1. Laura*

                  Definitely. While I would never socialize with my boss or coworkers outside of work, my boyfriend has a very different relationship with his team. We actually went to brunch with his manager and his girlfriend recently, and it was nice because we managed to mostly stay away from work-related topics. His manager is actively trying to promote him to another division, so it wasn’t awkward or weird.

          3. Oryx*

            The problem comes when the nature of the date, time, activity, starts to exclude others by sheer nature of the date, time, activity, etc. Boss invites people to bar, but I can’t or don’t drink or I have to go pick up my kids or Boss invites people to a ball game and I hate baseball and don’t want to give up four hours of my evening for it.

            If it’s a one time thing, whatever. But if it’s a pattern and habitual and if Group A is always able to go and Group B is always unable to go, or can’t go as frequently, suddenly Group A has gotten more exposure to the boss and the playing field has become unbalanced simply because Group A has hung out with the boss more so when it’s time to give promotions or raises, the Boss might think they are being partial but because of these outings the people in Group A are going to be at the forefront of their mind. It might not be intentional, but it happens.

            1. Roscoe*

              This I agree with. I’d never suggest that ALL activities should be after work, but I think to say NONE of them should be either is a bit much.

                1. Roscoe*

                  I don’t think they’d lose anything per se, I think it just limits your options by a lot. Depending on the role, closing early may really not be as good for some (like sales) as others.

                2. Oryx*

                  But why do they have to do anything at all? Why can’t they just let people go back to their non-working lives after work? Why does “doing things with your co-workers outside of work” have to be a thing?

                3. AMT*

                  Re: both Roscoe’s and Oryx’s comments, I actually think doing things with your coworkers outside of work can be fun, but for this to be *actually* fun rather than “mandatory fun,” it really needs to be organized by peers informally, not by the higher-ups. I agree with Oryx that when it becomes a “thing” (and I’m reading that as “thing you feel obligated to do”), it starts to intrude on work-life balance. If OP’s coworkers loved happy hours, they’d organize one themselves without the manager’s insistence.

                4. E*

                  I think the all or nothing options place unnecessary limits on the company culture and the coworkers. The ultimate goal should be that there are group activities that folks aren’t pressured to attend if not essential to work, but that coworkers who want these activities can attend them. Like life outside of work, where you can opt out of a friend’s party (or should be able to) if you don’t feel comfortable attending or just have other plans. Non-mandatory work related events should be in the same category, your choice to attend or not.

                5. Jerry Vandesic*

                  The question here is whether stronger personal relationships help build stronger teams and professional relationships. For those who say “no,” it’s pretty simple to opt out. But if you, or others that you work with (including your boss), think think the answer is “yes,” then those who opt out could be at a professional disadvantage.

                  It probably doesn’t matter how stronger relationships are created. It could come from hitting the bar every Friday as a group, or it could come from helping out a colleague when they are faced with a deadline. There are lots of ways to achieve the goal, if that’s what you want. But cutting out some options is by definition limiting.

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I want to copy & paste this into an email and send it to my former boss.

          He had a hard time making friends, so we were constantly forced to be his social circle.

      6. JennG*

        This is the difference between reactive and proactive management though. A good manager might recognize that socializing gives advantages, and take advantage of that with his or her higher-ups, and try to eliminate bias in decision making.

        But a great manager will recognize that his/her job is to create an environment for people to succeed in their jobs in the fullest and actively create situations that contribute to that success. After-hours socializing has its occasional place in that perhaps. But deliberately fostering a situation that does not actually have anything to do with how well people really do their jobs and might impact on their success — “oh well, I don’t know Boss as well as Bob and Boss and Bob are always going out together so I probably shouldn’t mention that if we changed this aspect of Bob’s work we might make way more money…” — isn’t _excellent_ management. There are some exceptions depending on the job of course.

      7. INTP*

        It creates a work culture where you are required to spend a lot of time drinking (or whatever) with your boss to have a shot at a promotion. While it isn’t fair to resent the coworkers themselves for getting facetime, it’s also NOT unreasonable for people who prefer to spend their time outside work on their own or with family to be annoyed that their work culture is moving in the direction of requiring a lot of outside-work socializing instead of allowing people to make an adequately good impression during work hours alone. People still have a right to opinions and preferences about their work culture, especially when a new manager changes things suddenly. And this is true whether someone doesn’t join in the socializing because they have absolutely unavoidable obligations or health issues or they just don’t like to.

      8. Not So NewReader*

        It’s not the face time, it’s the promotions and perks that come up. Promotions and perks should be based on merit, not based on how well one befriends the boss.

        I can remember my husband talking about his boss told him he had to join a country club. While we both understood that some people enjoy golfing and get something out of it, neither one of us enjoys golf. Okay, we hated even thinking about golf. But the boss implied that my husband would make out better at his job if he joined a country club and went there in his spare time. My husband never did join the country club and he eventually left the job. The whole country club thing was the start of the end of the job.

    2. Whichsister*

      I read this post and all I could think of was the Dinner Party episode of “The Office.”. Hopefully the OP’s boss is not a Michael Scott devotee.

      1. zd*

        omg, that was so painful!! I’m cringing just THINKING about it, that was some great writing ;o)

        1. AMT*

          That was absolutely my favorite episode. It’s one of those episodes that you have to take period breaks from watching, because it’s just SO nightmarishly awkward.

          1. MaryinTexas*

            Is that the one where Jim and Pam have dinner with Michael and his boss/girlfriend?

            1. zd*

              yeah, Michael basically forces Pam and Jim to invite him over, with Jan, and Michael and Jan are super passive aggressively fighting the Whole. Time. Ok, now I’m cringing again! ;)

    3. Dynamic Beige*

      This. When my mother was promoted into management in the 80’s she went kind of more berserk with work. Read just about every management book there was available at the time — anyone remember the 5-Minute Manager? Tried to get me interested in reading them. Uh, nope. But that was one of the things she said, that now that she was managing her former peers, she couldn’t afford to have any of them as work friends because it would create an impression of partiality from her.

      I totally get that this manager wants a happy and cohesive team but… she really needs to find friends and socialise with her peers or people that are not connected with work. If she does her job well, then people will be happy (or as happy as can be). A bunch of happy hours aren’t going to make up for a manager who plays favourites or won’t get rid of the deadwood or won’t mentor/provide training for those who need or deserve it or hogs the best projects for herself.

      There should be a Management Best Practices cheatsheet that gets handed to everyone who becomes part of management.

      1. the gold digger*

        There is reason fraternization is not just discouraged in the military but forbidden. Human nature makes it almost impossible to remain impartial to someone with whom you have a relationship – and fraternizing with a subordinate – or the appearance of fraternization – adversely affects the functioning of a group.

  7. JustaTech*

    I had a PI (lab boss/professor) who wanted to have Journal Club (scientific paper dissecting meeting) at 5:30 on Fridays. “I’ll bring the beer!” he said, all cheerful. What he’s missed (possibly because he was new) was that no one was ever in the lab at 5:30 on Friday, that hardly any of us like beer, and that no one was very excited about spending more time with their coworkers. Thankfully our lab manager was able to dissuade him without having to say “no one wants to stay that late, you’d have to pay [me] overtime, and no one wants to hang out with you”.

    He was pretty disappointed, because the research center up the street did this every week. But there it started at 4, and was the whole center, with thousands of people.

  8. TechChick*

    I can understand having other obligations that make this a challenge but I also question a work culture that has everyone bolting for the door at 5pm on the dot. Maybe I’m biased because I enjoy the people I work with, but your complete aversion to spending a second longer with anyone makes it seem like there’s something bigger going on here.

    1. Leatherwings*

      I don’t think that’s the issue – I don’t see a spot where OP suggested that everyone bolts at exactly 5pm. It’s not about staying a little late sometimes to finish work, or hanging out in the kitchen for a few minutes at the end of the day to chat, it’s specifically about the pressure to interact with people socially after work by attending organized events.

      1. the gold digger*

        Even if they are bolting at 5, so what? I really like my boss and my co-workers – I for sure will keep in touch with my boss even after I am not working here any more, but I still do not want to hang out after work. I want to go home. After nine hours, I am done.

        1. Leatherwings*

          This too. Leaving when you’re allowed to leave doesn’t mean everyone is miserable for goodness sake.

          1. Anna*

            Yep. 99% of the time I leave at precisely 5pm. But I’ll also stop and get a drink with my boss and coworkers if I can. I like them all and enjoy spending a little bit of time with them, but I like being home with my husband and cats or going to my weekly game of DnD more.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Same – I have a long commute and a dog who needs to be walked and if I stay late it will just increase the amount of time it takes me to get home. I like my co-workers, I will gladly chat with them at a lunch or food day or company event, but when it’s time to leave I want to leave.

          1. (Another) B*

            Same here. I also don’t understand people who think if you leave at your scheduled time you’re not as “committed” to the job. I get in early, work hard, and leave on time. Often work on the way home also.

            1. Artemesia*

              Some people get a lot of work done in an 8 hour day and some people diddle around and work ate and still produce less.

              And re ‘late day care fees’ — it is not as if you can choose to leave the kid there late and ‘pay the cost.’ The fees are designed to be punitive because the day care is closing and the workers want to go home. They can’t put the kid out on the curb so they make it very expensive to not show up on time. Do it a few times and you will be thrown out of the day care.

              1. Emily*

                The day care workers want to go home . . . and their boss wants everybody to go bowling together ;)

              2. JustaTech*

                And if you’re chronically late picking your kids up you can get in real trouble. In some states there are laws about how many hours a day a kid can be in day care and (barring serious problems, like you were in a car crash) the day care might be required to call CPS for abandonment. Is it overkill? Maybe, but it’s the law.

        3. RVA Cat*

          This. Plus anybody who has kids in daycare, etc. needs to get them because those overtime fees are expensive.

          1. JMegan*

            The fees are $2 per kid per minute at my day care. I love my job, and I think the workplace has a great social culture. But I have to leave at exactly 4:45 every day, because no matter how much I enjoy my coworkers, none of them is going to cover my $20 fee if I’m five minutes late getting to the day care.

            1. WorkingParent*

              Exactly, and beyond that, if you pick your kid up late, they’re the sad one sitting there in the office waiting alone for you. So I both want to avoid the fees (and not get kicked out of a fantastic preschool) and don’t want to leave my child in the care of others when they are expecting me. Also, our fees are $10 per minute!

        4. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I want my staff to leave at 5pm on the dot! If they want to hang out and chat after, totally fine.

          But unless there is an emergency (i.e. something was squeezed into the production schedule) I want them to be able to leave on time.

        5. Emily*

          Right. I’m quite fond of my coworkers, and I’d like to get to know them better. Still, I’m often reluctant to do happy hour, or even lunch sometimes, even when the invitation is purely social, simply because we already spend ~40 hours in each other’s company every week (quarters are close enough that even though we work independently, it feels like we’re always together). It’s hard enough to find time for “friend friends” (as opposed to “work friends), for recreational pursuits, for things like laundry, grocery shopping, and, you know, sleep. I have to prioritize, and at the end of the day (literally), it’s up to me how I spend my time.

      2. JennG*

        I didn’t either until I had kids. That time between work and bedtime (5:30-7:15 pm in my case, with a 45+min commute) is like this super precious golden hour time when I MIGHT get to see my kids and hear about their days. Or I might be 10 minutes later and have to rush them into pajamas and brush teeth.

      3. INTP*

        Yeah, and it’s almost impossibly awkward to leave these things after 30 minutes or less, and a little awkward to leave after less than an hour. So between the time spent going out of your way to get to a location and the time spent there, you’re looking at getting home 60-90 minutes later than usual.

        Granted, I need a little more sleep than most people, but for me to get a full night of sleep, enough downtime to calm down enough to fall asleep, and EITHER a workout OR time to cook a healthy dinner, that essentially takes all of my time outside of work. It’s not like I’d be sitting around at home watching TV instead or even socializing with other people, I’d be doing necessary daily chores/health things. Asking me to do something like that after work is asking me to sacrifice sleep and be really tired or skip my workout/cooking, and for others it might mean they get no time with their kids that evening or something else that’s important to them. I can handle that a couple of times a year with notice, but I’m not going to do it on a regular basis no matter how much I like my coworkers.

    2. K.*

      Not necessarily. If the OP is non-exempt and the employer doesn’t want to pay her overtime, she HAS to leave at the end of the day because she’s not getting paid to stay. She also mentions 25+ mile commutes each way for many of her colleagues, and with a commute like that, it’s possible that leaving a few minutes later will tack on an hour to the commute – seriously. I know a few folks who structure their days around making sure their long commutes aren’t made longer by traffic, which usually means coming in and leaving early (working 7:30 – 4:30, for example) to avoid gridlock; leaving at 5 or 6 means sitting still in traffic for an extra hour. There are lots of reasons not to want to prolong your work day that don’t point to a bad office culture. (But I also think not wanting to go is an excellent reason on its own.)

    3. Lily in NYC*

      There are plenty of reasons for this which aren’t nefarious. I rarely go to happy hours because they are always so far from my home and I have a long commute. And many people just don’t want to socialize with coworkers outside of the office even if they do like the people they work with. Lots of people have small children at home and would like to see them before bedtime. And as I get older, I am much less interested in hanging out with colleagues who are young enough to be my children. That doesn’t mean I don’t like them – it simply means my priorities have changed. There’s nothing bigger going on and I like my job and coworkers.

      1. esra*

        I’m only ten years older than most of my coworkers and I’m still like, you kids have a good time. Esra is going home to make dinner and curl up on the sofa with the cat.

        1. Kay J*

          I’m the same age as my coworkers and feel this way every time they want to party after job training or something. You guys have fun, I’ll be in the couch-sitting club.

      2. Laura*

        I’m only 22, but I don’t think it’s professional to spend time with coworkers outside of work. It could potentially harm my career, in fact, since my coworkers are all in my age group and prefer getting drunk after hours as a post-work activity.

    4. LQ*

      My workplace everyone leaves at 4:30. (We are all hourly.) With small exceptions we all get along very well. I like working with the people I work with. I really enjoy my job.

      And I REALLY like going home at 4:30 every day. Why is that wrong?

      1. Dot Warner*

        +1. I like what I do and I like the people I work with, but when the next shift comes in, I’m out of there so fast it’ll make your head spin. I’m tired, I have a long commute, and I need my beauty sleep!

    5. Government Worker*

      I think a lot of people self-select into a workplace where they can leave on the dot every day. There are a lot of people who want to leave exactly on time: parents who have to pick up their kids at daycare or after school, people who are really into a particular evening exercise class, who take commuter rail that only runs every 20+ minutes, who are taking classes in the evening towards a degree or certification, who volunteer for an evening shift at a food bank, who have an elderly dog who can’t be left longer before being walked, or who are just big on work/life balance and boundaries.

      During my last job search I had two offers, and chose the one with the ability to leave at 4:30 on the dot every day because I have young kids and I didn’t want to be stressed every day about getting to daycare before it closed.

      1. Sans*

        I always have self-selected into jobs with reasonable hours. It’s a priority with me. No matter how much I might like a job, I like the rest of my life more. I am working for money. It’s a very nice plus that I don’t dread coming here every morning, but I am working for money. If I could retire, I would.

        So there’s nothing wrong with leaving on the dot every day, if your job allows it.

    6. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I really like my coworkers; I consider a few of them good friends that I have friendships with outside of work. I still leave on time every day because I like my family more than my friends, plus hanging around the office late isn’t how I generally socialize with coworkers that I like anyway.

    7. Beancounter Eric*

      A couple of thoughts…first, manager needs to get over the idea of socializing with subordinates. Being friends with people you supervise complicates the $*&# out of things. Not saying “don’t be civil”, but the manager needs to recognize they are the boss, they are sometimes going to have to make unpopular decisions, and being “best buds” with their subordinates can make that difficult.

      As for leaving at close of business, might be the job is stressful, or these folks may have kids to be picked up from daycare, may volunteer, may go to school in the evenings, or perhaps, just perhaps might be they have picked up on the fact that there is more to life than work. Took a heart attack and stroke to convey that message to me.

      Frankly, I don’t want to be too close to the people I work with. I don’t want to know about their vacations, their kids, their hopes, dreams, professional goals. I want to come in, do good work, make money for my shareowners, and go home at something approximating normal business hours.

      1. MashaKasha*

        +1000 to all of this. I enjoy my job, but at the end of the day it’s an activity that pays my bills. Would I be doing the same work at the same place for free, or if I didn’t have bills to pay? – I’m afraid not. Then why the expectation that I should be falling over myself looking for excuses to stay at work an extra hour or two every day, just because it is so FUN! I don’t come there for fun. I come there because I have to, just like everybody else.

        There really is more to life than work. There are a ton of interesting things happening in my area every evening, that I would hate to miss because I had to be at a bar in a suburban office park in the forced company of my coworkers. And there are really not that many hours in the evening, so for those of us who have loved ones such as partners, kids etc at home, it is much better long-term to spend these measly 2-3 hours a day with these, most important people in their lives, instead of on “team-bonding” with whomever happens to be in their work group at the moment.

        Lastly, while I do have colleagues that I’ve known for many years and can trust with my life; in general, an office environment is a dog-eat-dog world. I can be, and have been, thrown under the bus by a random coworker at any moment for an extra 1% raise, or a slightly more interesting project, or to deflect from their own miserable performance, or what have you. I don’t trust most of my coworkers. I certainly don’t want to spend my evenings getting closer to them, which may give some of them ammunition to use against me later. Just no.

    8. Crazy Dog Lady*

      I do tend to bolt at 5, but it’s not because I dislike my colleagues – I am trying to catch a train that will get me home at a reasonable time. I like team building activities that take place during the day, but once it turns into a nighttime event – and they seem to be happening more frequently – I get frustrated at having no time at home, since it’s “mandatory fun”. :(

    9. NK*

      I enjoy the people I work with too (and the work itself), and when I was single and childless I was all for going to happy hour/trivia/etc once a week, if not more. But my family obligations (and quite frankly, my bedtime) have changed since then, and while I will attend the occasional happy hour, most of the time I just want to get home after work. I don’t think that’s indicative of a bad office culture.

    10. TuxedoCat*

      I’ll bite and say I don’t enjoy being around most of my coworkers. I do fine work, can work with them if need be (but thankfully do not have to most of the time), but I don’t want to spend my free time with them. They tried this kind of socializing after work, coming down from my boss.

      It was miserable and awkward, and it thankfully ended. Besides my dislike of most of my coworkers, we’re not the kind of office that’ll start random conversations with people. My actual work friends are ones I met through working on meaningful projects during the working hours.

    11. Lauren*

      I bolt for the door at 4:00 pm (my quit time) on the nose. Now I should also add that I do stay to finish stuff if I need to, but that’s not often. And it’s my judgment to choose to do that. My supervisor knows I work hard; she trusts me to manage my own time. But the fact is I do not want to spend one second more at work than I have to. It has nothing to do with “something bigger going on.”

    12. Allison*

      Going out for drinks isn’t “a second longer” it usually means staying in the area around the office for an extra half hour to an hour. And if someone typically goes straight from work to the bar with their friends anyway, maybe going to the bar with coworkers doesn’t really make a difference in their commute or impact their post-work parenting duties. But if someone needs to leave at 5 so they can get home before traffic gets insanely bad, or to pick up their kids, drive their kids to soccer practice or ballet class, or attend some other nightly or weekly commitment, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to leave at 5.

      If the work day ends at 5, there’s nothing wrong with people wanting to leave at 5 and there’s nothing wrong with leaving right at 5.

    13. Not So NewReader*

      People who have long commutes plus obligations at home are painfully aware of time frames. Their evenings are planned down to the minute, commute home, have dinner, do house work, prepare for work tomorrow, take care of kids/spouse/pets then go to bed.

      You are very fortunate to work in a nice place. If we factor in toxic work environment people most definitely will be out the door on time.

      A good boss will see to it that her people get out the door on time each night. A rule of thumb I like is “Take care of your people and they will take care of you.”

    14. NJ Anon*

      Yup, picking kids up from daycare, your boss who looks at you crooked for being 1 minute late, your calculus class, letting your dog out, etc. As my working mom with 5 kids once famously said, ” I work with you people 40 hours a a week! I’d really like to go home and see my family!”

    15. MashaKasha*

      But if they’re not bolting out the door at five PM, doesn’t that mean they have additional work to do after five PM? All the more reason not to spend that time on mandatory social activities, since they’ll then be behind on their work.

    16. JustaTech*

      Oh heavens, that lab was never empty at 5! Often you’d have a few people who stayed until 8. But we usually timed our experiments to avoid having to stay late on Friday. And some folks had kids, and some folks came in at 6 or 7. My boss didn’t have an office in the lab (he was a few floors up) and didn’t regularly work *in* the lab, so he didn’t really know anyone’s schedule.

      We also didn’t have any graduate students, who are usually the driving force behind Journal Club. (Although you’re right, that lab had a lot of issues. But it’s closed now.)

  9. Lily in NYC*

    How timely. My dept. is having yet another “mandatory fun” night tonight and I’m so fed up with them. This one includes an physical activity that requires a change of clothes. Not gonna happen. I’ve decided that Mandatory Fun Time (yes, that is the actual wording on the invite) is not mandatory for me and I’m blowing it off. And they all live near each other so everything they decide to do is in their borough, which is about an hour and 15 minutes from my home.

    1. Catalin*

      ICK! I totally empathize. Working in the DC area, you find that your coworkers are from all over the place OR they’re basically all in the same area but that’s the opposite direction from your home. Plus in the contracting world, you may live 25 miles east of your main office, but that’s an hour away from your company office(s). For me, the main office is closer (but still far) from my house. For most of the rest of the team, the company offices are closer.

      1. Dan*

        My employer organized a division outing to a Caps game last year. It was optional and you had to pay your own way, but considering tickets on stub hub were going for twice what we paid, I appreciated it.

        My division has 700 people in it, you can find 50 to go to a hockey game.

        1. MashaKasha*

          An OldJob did something like that, except it was free to us and we got tokens to use at the food stand. Anyone who wanted, got to take the second half of the day off to go watch a home team ball game as a group. This was actually a huge success! Our home team kind of sucks IMO, so no one really watched the game; instead, people from different groups, who hadn’t seen each other in weeks, were wandering from one row to another saying hi and catching up with one another. One of the few social work events that I can honestly say worked great for everyone. Of course it helped that 1) it was free, 2) it was during work hours, and 3) it was optional.

    2. Crazy Dog Lady*

      Are you me? We just had a “mandatory fun” night with a physical activity! And it was over an hour from my home. I sat out of the activity (and I’m glad, because several people were hurt the next day) and left the dinner as soon as it wrapped up. My company does seem to recognize that these are taxing and allow us to expense our Ubers home (so no waiting for the train), but it’s still obnoxious.

      1. Stardust*

        At Exjob where I was a temp receptionist, we had a team building scavenger hunt at a zoo. I assumed I was staying at work to cover the phones and front desk so I didn’t bring a change of clothes to work. It was during part of the work day and pleasantly surprised that they wanted to include me. We were paid to leave mid morning and they just closed the department very early that day. I think we had a lunch and then split into two teams competing for winning the game. I had to get a change of clothes in the way to the zoo. I didn’t mind because 1) it was paid 2) it was during normal work hours 3) it was fun to get to know coworkers

      1. Laura*

        That would really get my goat. I don’t want coworkers to see me in ANYTHING but the professional attire I put on every day.

      2. Anna the Accounting Grad*

        My thoughts exactly. If presented with this type of “mandatory fun” my first instinct would probably be to invent some sort of weird medical issue that nobody wants to confirm. (Possibly involving my lower jaw being underfoot.)

      3. Not So NewReader*

        It’s not necessary. And it only causes more problems. I have no clue why bosses do not understand something that is so clear.

  10. Not Karen*

    My employer hosts a few after-work and weekend events (including bowling!) that work quite well for us. They are 100% optional, and although they may be intended as team-bonding activities, nobody takes them that seriously. Maybe it has to do with our super casual office.

  11. Joseph*

    Depending on how firmly your boss is set on the idea of get-togethers, you might need to just accept that he won’t stop asking. Also, if most of your co-workers typically show up (or even a few of them), you might want to consider accepting a few of the simple invites just to not be That Boring Guy. The trick is that people will be more accepting of hearing No if you’re not always saying it – so you accept “one drink at the pub” in order to build up credibility to dodge the truly horrible ones like “three-hour baseball game”.

    “No one, I mean no one, wants to do anything when quitting time arrives except bolt for the door and escape. This, coupled with some 25+ mile commutes for some of us, just makes us cringe when she brings this up. ”
    Maybe it’s based on the exact way your commute works, but when I had a 25-mile commute, I actually preferred to do stuff right after work:
    Option 1.) Leave at 5:00, sit in gridlock for an hour, arrive home at 6:00 exhausted from all the stop-and-go traffic.
    Option 2.) Stop by a sports bar/gym/whatever and relax for an hour or two. Traffic has dissipated, so the drive is both shorter and significantly less stressful. Get home later (6:30 or 7:00), but in a much better mood.

    1. LQ*

      I think we can trust that the OP has talked to their coworkers and is accurate in this even if your past has been different. I know that traffic can be a mess, but if no one at their workplace wants to do something after work because of commutes? Then just trust that it is the case.

    2. SL #2*

      I’m definitely Option 2 most of the time. Leave at 5:30, get home around 6:15… or stay at the gathering until about 7, get home around 7:20. I get home an hour later, but I’ve had food and a drink and basically don’t need to make dinner, and the drive itself is cut in half. But I’ve opted out of some activities before and the fact that I’ll go to certain things gives me cover for when I don’t want to do happy hour or whatever it may be.

      OP, are your coworkers adopting this strategy, or are they also saying no to all invites that come their way? Depending on what your coworkers are saying or doing, you may have the backing to push back against all social activities after work, or you might find yourself sticking out like a sore thumb.

    3. A Non E. Mouse*

      Option 2.) Stop by a sports bar/gym/whatever and relax for an hour or two. Traffic has dissipated, so the drive is both shorter and significantly less stressful. Get home later (6:30 or 7:00), but in a much better mood.

      Everyone has their own Life Algorithm; our commute is a well-choreographed dance of leaving work right on time, getting to the place where I leave my vehicle (we ride-share most days), getting the youngest picked up on time, then getting home in time to get back on the road to whatever activity we or one or more of our children have that evening. I cannot delay that even 5 unplanned minutes without risking the wheels coming off the whole deal, much less an hour.

      The mornings are worse, because more people are leaving the house at precise times. I often joke that to “Workout in the morning!” like those annoying articles suggest I’d have to just not even bother going to bed the night before – it’s already that packed and precise.

      We (my husband or I) do participate in some after-hours socializing, but we have to know well in advance because we had to bring a second vehicle that day, and we usually cannot BOTH participate, because of kids. We work at the same place, and I can think of once in the last year we both attended something directly after work, it involved getting a sitter and was planned a month in advance.

      It just gets infinitely more complicated with each additional issue – commute, daycare, transportation, etc.

    4. Crystal Vu*

      This still doesn’t work for people who have children to pick up from daycare or pets to feed/walk/medicate.

  12. Allisonthe5th*

    Agree with all of this. I have definitely been admonished for not attending Group Events outside of working hours at a couple of jobs now. My current organization hosts monthly company lunches, many team lunches, and then on top of it wants to do a big evening or weekend event. After working hours, I really want to be at home with my husband. Sometimes, at lunches I feel like I’m being visually scolded for being on my phone, but… if this is my lunch break, this is my chance to answer texts, personal emails, etc. that I have been too busy to address. I know I’m completely tone deaf about how this appears, but I have trouble making an effort to enjoy these things!

  13. ann perkins*

    I agree on the lunch suggestion. We do that at work for birthdays and on Monday we’re taking a new team member out for a welcome lunch. Although, we did just have a happy hour with New Boss and everyone seemed happy to attend, so I think in some cases people don’t mind. I do know those with longer commutes opted out and that was fine with New Boss, he just wanted to take us out and have the opportunity to get to know us in a less formal setting.

  14. addlady*

    Well, the good news is that it probably DOES make the team more cohesive. As in, everyone is closer because of how miserable they are.

    1. the gold digger*

      In my organizational behavior class, we learned that one way to handle a dysfunctional team is to unite them against a common enemy. Maybe that’s what this boss is trying to do.

      1. Chocolate lover*

        It certainly worked in one of my previous offices. We all bonded together against the boss.

  15. JennyFair*

    I think this is a consequence of all the TV sitcoms and dramas where everyone works with their group of best friends. But that’s a budgeting thing-if the main character has a different set of friends outside work than in, you have to pay twice as many regulars/guest stars. Ally McBeal isn’t meant to be real life. (And I say this as a person who has good friends met at past jobs. It can be nice, but it isn’t a requirement for a happy workplace.)

    1. some1*

      I wondered if the LW’s boss is maybe a new or new-ish manager who also really enjoys this kind of thing, and wishes her former bosses had organized more group activities.

      I’ve seen new supervisors do this with certain things (other examples, they had a previous sup who was always/incommunicado so they implement way too many team meetings, her old boss never acknowledged her birthday & now she goes all out for everyone’s birthday, etc) based on their own preferences and implement them without giving thought to necessity or the preference of the actual

  16. EJ*

    My fiance picks me up everyday from the train station. It’s an honest and great “excuse” for me! So when I get invited to things I really don’t want to do, I say “We share a car, so if I don’t make this train I won’t have a ride home”. It works because I work 25 miles away, so no one is going to offer to drive me home from the city to the suburbs… and It’s an everyday thing, so they can’t get mad!

    As for you — You can tell people you have various after- work actives. Like you’ve signed up and paid for a class at the gym back at home. Do you have a dog or cat or any pet? You can say “I need to be home to feed my pet.” Just make sure you keep it semi-legit if you are going to stretch the truth.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Orrrr,,, you promised to check in on your elderly or sick neighbor. Or you watch your sister’s kids….

  17. ThursdaysGeek*

    We just had a completely optional after hours work activity, and it went great. It was advertised at work and people who were interested could sign up. And last night I spent time with co-workers sorting oranges and plums for 2nd Harvest. We had fun, and everyone who was there wanted to be there. Our activity committee does a great job, and they’ve already gotten that positive feedback.

  18. L. Lou*

    I wonder if the boss is a millennial in that I read millennials equate work = social as being equal and don’t see the difference.

    1. Kasia*

      Let’s not make generalizations about millennials. I am one myself and I absolutely do not equate work with my social life.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep. And the “schmoozing golf outing/schmoozing bar drinking/schmoozing whatever” is an old, old thing.

        1. Alton*

          Yeah, I feel like every generation has had its iterations of this. The specific expectations and activities just vary.

        2. LBK*

          I think if anything it’s decreased in recent years. The classic strip club “meeting” isn’t nearly as socially acceptable as it used to be, and even the golf meeting is going away in many industries. Happy hours are absolutely big things, but I think they tend to be self-organized by interested employees the majority of the time.

      2. shep*

        This. I like the people I work with on the whole but I definitely don’t want to hang out with them after work.

      3. Artemesia*

        I am old and this was a thing when I was young. I enjoyed Friday nights at the bar when I was 22 and didn’t have kids and we also did night skiing in winter at a slope 90 minutes or so away. And I also enjoyed work outings like to baseball games and other sort of rare social events like that as well as the annual Christmas party at the boss’s house (she really did it up right and invited retired colleagues as well and so it was fun to catch up and a nice evening) At no point was any of this ‘mandatory’ although I would have felt it politic to be at the holiday party, I don’t sense there was any negative outcomes for not being there. And that is part of it. It is absolutely not mandatory, it is actually fun (and for those for whom it isn’t, then at least it is not mandatory).

        Work social events including weekly meetings at the bar are not a new thing. What has always made them pernicious is when they are gendered — men smoking cigars or the men’s golf outing etc etc or when they are in effect mandatory if you want to get ahead.

    2. justsomeone*

      Don’t believe anything you read on the internet about “millennials.” The majority of it is wrong, and insulting.

      1. Michelenyc*

        I am not even a millennial and find itinsulting & completely incorrect. There are many company cultures that push the whole socializing with your co-workers both at the office and outside. I know of at least 3 large companies outside Portland, Oregon that are big on this and you better play the game or you will see yourself out of a job. Yes it was annoying when I worked for one of them but I also learned a ton about office politics.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Boomers should know better. This was the same crap we listened to and we did not like it. I thought our generation was forward thinking, but some how that did not pan out in some ways. It’s embarrassing.

    3. Myrin*

      I mean, we’ve heard and talked about boundary-crossers and people who want to be best friends with everyone at work and thelike before on here, but I doubt that there are that many people who genuinely see work and social-time-that-is-not-work as one and the same.

    4. Aurion*

      A lot of the faults millennials are charged with are actually faults of youth and inexperience, not their generation. You’ll find different manifestations of the same faults with every generation when they were young. Don’t assume that the generations before–Boomers, Gen X, etc.–were faultless plaster saints in their youths.

      1. pope suburban*

        Bingo bango, as they say. In my experience, when it comes to work social events, my peers and I are not very hyped on them, because we’ve come of age in a gig economy in which companies don’t treat us terribly well. We don’t want to spend more time around these people, and would prefer better wages/hours/benefits in lieu of a bowling team or wine tasting. Though that is, of course, my tiny slice of the pie, and therefore only as useful as one wants to make it.

      2. anon for this*

        +100! I’m GenX, and when I started out, there was a version of the duck club in every office. There’s no way I can say with a straight face that millennials are worse at mixing work and social relations than we were.

    5. Alton*

      I’m a millennial, and the last thing I’m looking for at work is friends. If I hit it off with someone, great. And I’m friendly toward people at work. But I don’t expect work to provide social outlets for me and don’t expect coworkers to become good friends. And I’m an introvert–I don’t even do happy hour stuff with my actual friends that often unless it’s a one-on-one thing at a quiet cafe.

      Actually, I think my age contributes to this. I had a hard time finding a job in the bad economy and spent more time than I expected working in jobs like retail and sales, where managers don’t really care if you bond with others as long as you do your job well.

      1. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

        Yeah, I agree, and I don’t even think it’s about age: I think how established you were in your career when the economy crashed has an effect on how you see the employer’s role in your life–not even about whether you want a social life to emerge from work, but whether you assume “I have a job today” probably implies “I will have a job tomorrow” as long as you don’t do anything too egregious in the meantime. And therefore, whether you expect these people to be a part of your life in a year, or a week, or an hour from now.

        I graduated in 2008; I probably would not have had a clear and upward trajectory at any point, since my skill set isn’t that kind of thing, but that economic environment definitely taught me not to look on the workplace as a spot to plant roots. People both a few years ahead and a few years behind me are probably less paranoid. (That said, I actually love my work now. I may be jaded, but I can still be happy!)

        1. MashaKasha*

          I’m many years ahead, but completely agree about not planting roots. I’ve seen too many companies shut down, or people let go out of the blue for no apparent reason. I once had a friend tell me “every day, I walk into the office knowing full well that I might be escorted out of it before the day is over”. That was way before 2008 and my friend was already very established in his career, in a relatively high level of management, etc. Not only that, but your coworkers aren’t going to be around either. In my six years at OldJob, I had six direct supervisors and our division went through three or four CEOs. I am all for networking, because you never know when you may need to use your connections to find new work. But treating work as your “home away from home” (gawd I hate that phrase) and your coworkers as your second family, I agree, that’s just silly.

    6. TuxedoCat*

      Most millennials are of many different mentalities, like Gen Xers, Baby Boomers…

    7. Preux*

      Depending on which article you read, millenials either socialize too much at work (and can’t separate work life from social life) or don’t socialize /enough/ at work and (gasp) treat their job like just a job rather than their entire reason for existence. You’ll find the same dichotomy about our attitudes towards careers – apparently we’re all either snubbing honest work in favor of searching for our ‘calling’, or we’re all spending too much time in pay-the-bills jobs rather than having the courage to chase our dreams. Depending who you ask.

      Just saying, if people are going to try and paint an entire generation with a broad brush, I feel like there should at least be some agreement on what color we’re being painted, here.

  19. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

    As a manager, I just don’t get this. At all. Our small office is social and we’re always sharing food, celebrating birthdays and all but the enforced fun feels awkward and inappropriate.

    Our only team social activities are our annual holiday lunch (staff picks the place, I pay) and white elephant gift exchange (max $5). Oh, and when someone leaves the organization (i.e. our AmeriCorps members), we’ve done a “shut the office at 4:30pm and go to the watering hole down the street for a drink” thing a few times. That’s entirely optional and the place we go has fancy craft sodas and affordable snacks so it’s appropriate for everyone on our team.

    That’s about it. Everything else seems just weird.

    1. Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

      @Glam: question for you. As a manager, how would you feel if one of your direct report did NOT invite you to their big b’day bash (but did invite other co-workers)? Would you take offense or hold it against the person?
      I’m asking because I’m sort of in this position and I want to get an opinion from a manager. thanks in advance.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not Glam, but I’ll butt in and say that a manager holding that against an employee would be incredibly childish and have a fundamental misunderstanding of their role and of power dynamics.

        1. Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

          Thanks AAM. Do you think it’s wrong of me not to invite my manager?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Hmmm, context matters so I’d want to know more. But we’re getting pretty far off topic, so feel free to email it in as a question!

        2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          My co-workers and I would sometimes go out for drinks after work, but we didn’t invite out boss because we wanted to be able to talk/bitch about work without her chastising us for being negative and not appreciating everything the company did for us (her usual response whenever we brought issues to her attention). We always made it a point to keep it quiet though, because we knew she’d feel slighted about being left out.

          On night we went out for margaritas and one of my coworkers posted a picture of the get-together on Facebook. Boss, who was FB friends with her for some reason saw the picture and was LIVID. The next day she called my co-worker into her office and berated her for 30 minutes on the subject of how awful we were for not inviting her. I tried to talk my co-worker into going to HR, but she was afraid of retaliation.

          It was reason #2322526515044 why I no longer work for that person. If there was a wrong way to respond to a professional situation she would inevitably gravitate towards it. Her managerial instincts were the worst of any supervisor I’ve ever worked for.

          1. Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

            @CS. Yeah, this is somewhat like the situation I’m finding myself in with the B’day party. There’s one former co-worker that I would like to invite, but she is SUPER close to my manager (who I don’t really want to invite). If I invite former co-worker, there is no way manager would not find out about it. Of course, if it came up, I suppose I could use the defense that I don’t believe in socializing with managers outside of work (which is true). and besides, I want my co-workers to have a good time (and not have to worry about the manager seeing them in a different light.

      2. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

        Sorry for the delayed response but I was … socializing with my former staff members.

        I wouldn’t be offended in the slightest! I’m not inviting my staff to my birthday parties either. My deputy’s kid is being married this summer and I’m not offended that I’m not invited to the wedding. We went for coffee the other day and I got all of the fun planning details (wedding, flowers, dress, honeymoon) and I ooh’d and aah’d and after the wedding I’ll happily hear the fun details and then we’ll get back to work.

        1. Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

          @ Glam–Thanks for the perspective. and no need to apologize for socializing with former staff memebers…I do it all the time. LOL

  20. shep*

    My first boss scheduled us all to work on the same day at the same time for several hours. We all got there, looking confused and realizing there was nothing for us to do. She’d hired a van and took us bowling/to eat bar food.

    It was a nice gesture and we got paid for that time…but I think all of us would’ve MUCH preferred the time off instead of being forced to “have fun” together.

    1. Aurion*

      Eh, I’d be much more amenable to such a gesture if it’s during my regular work time since I have to be there anyway. But I take it from “scheduled” you meant that y’all are shift workers, so yeah, that’s a little harder.

      1. shep*

        Yeah, this was while I was still in graduate school and working as a part-time tutor. I ended up being there a LOT, though, because of my flexibility. I coveted my free time because I was also a full-time student. A lot of the staff were full-time teachers and also displeased that their evening was being taken up on a school night.

        For the past few years, I’ve been in a salaried office position, and I’d be fine with an activity scheduled during work hours.

        1. shep*

          (Or mostly fine. My office has a great wellness program that I utilize to go to the gym during lunch, so I’d be a little put out if my workout schedule were thrown off with semi-regularity because of said activities. But I digress a bit!)

  21. Quiet*

    I think your boss is trying to do a Nice Thing, and you can meet him/her in the middle. Suggest a monthly team lunch, outside the office. Or, go out for lunch to celebrate birthdays. That way it isn’t such a huge imposition on people’s schedules, and you’re still getting some face time away from work.

  22. Sharkey*

    I’m sure not every worker and every work place the same, but I had a boss who did these kinds of outings during the work day and even then at least half the group still hated them to the point where people would use PTO to avoid them. There was often a sentiment of “just leave me alone, I have work to do”. For some, I’m sure it’s a needed break but for others it’s not a lot of fun to force socialization and then you go back to work and you’re now behind on top of it. It may be a bit of an introvert vs extrovert bit, I don’t know, but I am not a fan of suggesting that group outings happen even during the work day. There are ways of developing team work and camaraderie in natural, organic ways which are far more effective. This is not to discount the advice Alison gave, just to give voice that even during the day, these events may not be welcome among some.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m glad I’m not the only curmudgeon saying “Don’t try to take up my lunch time, dang it.”

    2. Aurion*

      I think it heavily depends on the nature of the work. I am a textbook introvert, and socializing exhausts me, but social events once in a while during the work day sounds like a good break for me. That said, I’m in a job where there aren’t any daily deadlines. I have rush work to do for sure, but if we take two hours off in the middle of the day, the vast majority of my work can wait until tomorrow with no worries.

      But in a previous job, I had tight, daily deadlines of “X needs to be produced” every day, on top of sudden rush requests for the same. That means taking off for two hours in the middle of the day makes my other six hours completely insane (and often I’d have to run back in the middle of the two hour break to baby my samples). Working shift work means they often scheduled their fun social activities during my work hours, and people with my shift had to have a separate fun activity scheduled on a different day than the rest of the group, which defeated the purpose of networking and socializing.

      Socializing with colleagues rests on many factors: decent relationships with your colleagues, enough energy to socialize, reliable transportation, no previous commitments, etc. It’s not quite as simple as it is on face value. That said, I do think it’s worth doing on an occasional basis provided the above factors are taken into consideration.

    3. Christopher Tracy*

      I’m taking PTO on the day of my division’s anniversary outing in three weeks. I just…don’t feel like being at work these days or spending time with my coworkers. So I’m actually taking the whole week of July 11 off and using that time to rest and write. That’s a much better use of my time.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      All I can think of is that bosses hope if people are actually friends with each other they will get along better as a group. Sorry, I have friends I would never work with and they probably feel the same about me. People can like each other and still not work well together. If the goal is to work well together, why not just focus on what it takes to help the employees to do the task at hand?

  23. Anonymosity*

    My new team has had dinners where we all go out in the evening and schmooze and the company picks up the tab. It’s not mandatory, though. I’ve gone because hey, free food in pretty decent places (one place I fell in love with!), and it’s face time when my boss is here. If I were busy/didn’t feel like it, etc., it wouldn’t be tragic for me to skip one. But it’s still work time, not fun time. It’s not the same as going out with my meetup group or a bunch of friends. I probably wouldn’t socialize with them otherwise, not because I don’t like them–I do–but because frankly, we really don’t have all that much in common.

    People have so much going on in their personal lives. If you’re going to have regular team-building activities, it’s better to do them during work hours. Our dinners don’t happen often, so it’s easy to schedule and we have plenty of notice, but if they were weekly activities, I’d have to pass on a lot of them. I have stuff to do!

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      I probably wouldn’t socialize with them otherwise, not because I don’t like them–I do–but because frankly, we really don’t have all that much in common.

      This. I have nothing in common with my coworkers, and very little in common with most everyone at my company. Therefore, I’m not really interested in hanging out with most of these people on my own time.

  24. Ever and Anon*

    Is the rest of OP’s team as righteously indignant at Boss’s suggestions as he is? Is this something a cheerful “no, sorry! My evenings are busy!” can’t fix?

    It sounds to me like these evening events haven’t ever actually occurred, and Boss is trying different suggestions to make it happen *once*.

    I agree that after three attempts met unenthusiastically, Boss should stop trying. But from the brief description in the letter, it does not seem that boss is being particularly pressuring or threatening.

    1. Roscoe*

      Exactly, it doesn’t seem that this is in any way mandatory, just an effort to try to get people to do something after work once.

    2. zd*

      That seems a bit harsh.
      Some people have a hard time saying “no” to a boss, even if it’s a perfectly reasonable thing, and a “no thanks” would be appropriate. The OP is clearly uncomfortable saying no and is looking for support to do that, there is no need to be rude about it.

      1. Roscoe*

        What is harsh about this? Ever and Anon commented on how she read the letter. she isn’t saying she is crazy, just that she seems a bit indignant, which she does.

  25. De Minimis*

    Generally at my work they do everything like this during the workday [like an extended lunch at a local restaurant on the company card] but there is no getting out of it.

    Think there is more of a push for it to go beyond things like meals and moving into “team building,” which makes me cringe. I’ve avoided private sector jobs precisely to get away from that kind of thinking, but there doesn’t seem to be any escape.

  26. Mae*

    I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate here and venture to say you sound bitter and resentful. What’s the underlying issue here? Are you (rather, is everyone) unhappy, and do you suspect your boss is trying to boost morale? Separately, why can’t you agree to go to these things once in a blue moon while making it clear from the get-go that you cannot all the time? Your vehement opposition to these events can make you come across as the “outcast” who views your fellow colleagues as social security numbers and your job as a sole paycheck. Your desire to go down the route of “I will go if you pay me,” is anger-fuel that will put you in a bad light should you act upon it. Don’t get me wrong- I totally hear you- and don’t like to be pressured into these things, either. But it’s also about picking your battles. Just go- not every time- but would once in a blue moon really interfere in the overall grand scheme of your life?

    1. Leatherwings*

      I think this is totally unfair. I can’t even express how unfair this is. People deserve to have lives outside of work, and portraying people who don’t want to miss their lives outside of work as resentful or an outcast only perpetuates the idea that these kind of social outings (which, if you read the comments, are broadly hated by lots of people) are no problem.

      People certainly should pick their battles, but it seems pretty clear from the letter that OP has picked this battle, and that’s ok.

      Your response carries a whole lot of assumptions; you don’t know the situation and making sweeping judgements about how vehemently angry the OP is may discourage people from writing in. Please don’t do that.

      1. Myrin*

        Additionally, OP isn’t going to be an “outcast” in her office if – as per her letter – literally no one wants to attend these things. That would actually make the boss the enthusiastic outcast.

      2. Mae*

        I think you might have misunderstood where I was coming from. I was making no assumptions and even acknowledged that I heard the OP and also don’t like feeling obligated… which is why I suggested OP agree to go but make it clear it cannot happen all the time because of said life outside work. However, is once in awhile really asking too much? To be fair, others commented that OP should not feel entitled to receive compensation. To me, that is indicating his/her opposition and that going is a burden. Won’t exactly paint him/her in a positive light if acted upon, as I said.

        I also agree with you that employees shouldn’t be castigated for not being able to go to these things. I was simply making the point that it can likely come across that way because, unfortunately, life’s not fair.

        When I say pick battles, I meant compromise. It’s good form to show up once, in my experience, but set clear expectations. That’s all.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Is going once in awhile too much? I don’t know OP, so I can only answer maybe. You are clearly implying that the answer is “no, that’s not too much.” That’s a totally unfair assumption.

          OP asked what to do IF their boss starts really pushing this or implies that it’s mandatory. Maybe good advice in that case is to compromise, but I really don’t understand why that needed to be accompanied by calling OP bitter, resentful and angry. It’s the tone, not necessarily the content of your comment that seemed unnecessary.

          1. Mae*

            I was speaking in the overall grand scheme of things in general, everyone’s personal lives aside. No, I do not think once every few months (or whatever the frequency would be) is unreasonable IN GENERAL. My bitter/resentful/angry interpretation came from various lines I can quote in the original post, but I don’t want to stir the pot any more. I apologize if I came across as harsh and unfair, but to be fair to me, I did take into account both sides.

          2. Jerry Vandesic*

            These kinds of things, even if not specifically mandatory, can impact your professional growth. Promotions, raises, and being assigned to plum projects are often very subjective, so a manager can have a lot of latitude. I’ve been in organizations where a good fraction (but not all) of the people who did well were those that embraced team events outside of work. Some argued that it was unfair, while others said it reflected the desire to build teams that had strong relationships.

      3. LCL*

        It’s not unfair. The OP totally has the right to decide how to spend their off time, and not go to this stuff. Other people totally have the right to be put off by aggressive anti socialization. Speaking as someone who believes my worst personality traits are rooted in my anti socialization upbringing, the OP kinda made me mad, even though I agree with OP.

        1. Leatherwings*

          Seriously? I’m shocked that calling a letter writer bitter and resentful is considered okay by some.

          Being put off by someone not wanting to socialize outside of work hours is unfair. C’mon, you expect everyone you work with to have the availability and desire to go out with you?

          This is really off-putting to me as someone with severe social anxiety. When I go to these things, I have panic attacks. My friend has to pick up her kid, and a coworker of mine has to catch a bus that stops running at 7pm. Calling that “aggressive anti-socializing” is… not the most empathetic.

          1. TuxedoCat*

            I’d also add that the sheer financial cost can make this problematic for some workers… Without knowing the OP’s salary and expenses, it might not be financially comfortable to spend money out. Some people really can’t afford to spend money on a beer. I’ve definitely been to after work social hours where you are looked at funny if you aren’t spending any money.

            Not to mention if the activity is heading to a bar, some people are recovering alcoholics and don’t want to be around drinking. I’ve been friends with some folks like that.

            1. Mae*

              Well, I agree it would be inappropriate to insist on a happy hour and expect the employees to pay. Generally, the supervisor organizing it or the company card will pick up the tab. I like what the others suggested as alternatives- lunch ideas or leaving work an hour early. Bowling is also another activity idea. Unfortunately, though, it’s also unfair to ask a company to be cognizant of those who have social anxiety disorder or (recovering) alcoholism. Without violating HIPAA or privacy laws, or simply singling people out, it’s impossible to always come to a neutral definition of what a “happy hour” should be. Its name alone implies a bar. When I do make the choice to go to these things, and know I have to drive afterwards, I’ll have a club soda. No questions asked.

          1. Mae*

            And the “aggressive anti-socialization” observation of LCL is likely due to the OP’s desire to demand compensation for these events should this escalate. Overly adversarial IMO.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          This is interesting, if OP has the right to go home and other people have the right to be put off by “anti-social” behavior, then it sounds like a stand-off,without any answer. Since OP says that no one wants to go to these outside events, then this particular setting is clear cut. The boss needs to look for ways to accomplish her goals within working hours. It can be done, it’s not impossible. If she pushes these events on her crew, things will not go well for her.

    2. Roscoe*

      It did seem a little more harsh than needed. Especially for something that is clearly coming from a good natured place. There are so many people I know that wish their company would do something like this once in while, instead of just treating people like cogs. Then there is this one where no one wants to do anything. It seems you can never please everyone.

      And yes, I get that PTO is the end all reward that everyone likes, it doesn’t have the intended affect.

    3. Alton*

      I wonder if some of the problem is that the OP (and the rest of the team) are worried about a precedent being set where they’re expected to do things like this semi-regularly or on the spur of the moment. Or they feel like the suggestions being made show a lack of regard for known limitations or preferences. The pay thing makes me wonder if the OP is non-exempt, which can be a real concern. When you’re non-exempt, it can be awkward to feel like you’re being asked to do quasi-work-related things in your off time. People can be defensive about guarding their time because it’s something that can be an issue in some workplaces.

      I agree that it may not be a bad idea to do these things occasionally. The ideal solution might be to work out a compromise. If meeting after work is a hardship for a lot of people, for example, suggest a team lunch during the work day instead. But I don’t think the OP should be obligated to go if they really don’t want to.

    4. Cookie*

      Being peer pressured into doing something you don’t want to do even once in a blue moon is once too often.

    5. Alice*

      Whether or not going occasionally would interfere with your life – is there a reason you suspect that these events are going to become mandatory with this boss? What’s wrong with continuing to say “no thanks”?

    6. zd*

      Also: what is wrong with seeing your job as a paycheck??? I do my work, and in exchange I get a paycheck. That’s the deal. Your wording implies there is something wrong with that. I don’t slack off and spend my day blowing off work, I do my best to contribute to the bottom line from 9 to 5. That is all I am obligated to do in exchange for the money I need to live. What am I supposed to view my job as?

  27. Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

    @ OP: As others have posted, if your boss wants to facilitate team building, there are ways of doing that during office hours. For example, a group lunch or breakfast in the office or depending upon how big your group is, a lunch at a restaurant. I remember at my old job, one of the managers had a BBQ at her home. I really didn’t want to go because: A. it was on a Sunday and B. I did not particularly like this manager. However, my immediate supervisor kind of made it seem like we “had” to go. I really took offense. Having to be told what I “had” to do on my day off. Grrr!!

  28. Employment Lawyer*

    You might simply try to coordinate things on a regular basis–most folks can put on a happyface for a spring and a fall get-together, especially if the business is paying. The promise of a future planned event will give you the ability to brush off other options without sounding rude, and the lower frequency should be workable.

  29. Nethwen*

    Slightly off topic, but I had to smile at 25 miles being considered a long commute. Around here, 25 miles is a short to average commute and that’s not even going 60 mph most of the way. Personal amusement aside, even when I lived 3 blocks from work, I didn’t want to do things socially outside of work hours.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Well, people have different ideas of long, but my commute is 30 miles and if I were to leave at 4:30 it could easily take me 90 minutes to get home, on highways. It’s not so much the distance as the time. (I leave at 3:30 and depending on the season, weather and day of the week, it takes me between 40 and 75 minutes most days.)

      1. shep*

        Likewise! I feel lucky to have the flexibility to leave at 3:30, but my city is notorious for its traffic problems, and is also a college town. Even in the summer (like now), it can take me anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour to get home.

        (I would love love love to find a reasonably priced place in the city, but until my graduate loans are paid off, and very likely even after, that’s not going to happen anytime soon unless I somehow become wildly wealthy.)

      1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

        So true. Google Maps puts my last paying job less than ten miles from me, and getting there in 45 minutes was EXCEPTIONALLY good time. Normal travel time was about an hour — and, because of the location, inevitably it took a bit longer between mid-November and New Year’s. And as these things go, both ends of my commute gave me options. Some parts of the city only have one subway line (if that).

        As you said, it isn’t the distance, but how long it takes to travel it.

  30. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I once worked in an office like this – where our (very capable) boss thought we would get along better if we had social events… but … some of us could not handle Sunday morning breakfasts, etc.

    I finally sat with her – we had three twenty-something single folks – she was around 30, I was pushing 40 and had a pre-teen (and a wife), another was a young Mom around 30, another an early 40-something with a family as well.

    We all worked well together. But I convinced her – when work is through, we have different priorities. She said that she wanted me to fit in with the 20-somethings, yet I had to convince HER that I have too much going on in my life to schlepp into town for Friday night darts, or Sunday breakfast at the trendy deli. We get along. We work together. But we have different lives and different interests.

    She respected that.

  31. OP Here!*

    Hi, I just popped in to check the comments. Thank you so much!

    I should have pointed out in my original post that there are a few of us who do get together, after work, about 4 times a year (current and former coworkers), but never with our manager. Once we met later in the evening at a restaurant, and while we were waiting to be seated, she headed out, and we all hid behind other patrons so she wouldn’t spot us.

    You would think that after multiple times of bringing up the idea that all of us should go do something after work, and receiving blank stares and people stammering about family, kid’s sporting events, other plans, she’d get the hint, but alas, a week or so will go by, and she raises the issue again.

    Someone suggested taking the afternoon to do an activity, as a compromise, but when she checked with her boss, we were only allowed to be out of the office for 1 hour, with an additional 15 minutes travel time to the activity and back. Remember, we’re all non-exempt, and the company doesn’t want to pay us for not working. Plus, the budget for the activity is pretty small, I was told $150 for our entire group of 20 people, so that limits the choices.

    Someone asked about deeper resentments, etc., and I thought about that. I guess if I felt valued, wasn’t so overworked, or maybe had an opportunity for a merit increase or even a cost of living increase, I might feel a bit differently, but this is just a job. It’s not a career, nor does it have potential to be one. I do what I’m told, in the time allotted, and I go home.

    I am actively job searching, but my area is a pretty high poverty region of the rust belt , with few decent paying jobs. At least I get a decent paycheck here, so that’s what I hold on to. I am hopeful to move on, but for now, I just have to soldier through and make the best of it.

    I love AAM because I’m able to see there are sane workplaces out there, and I’ve gotten so many hints on how to handle workplace issues, ask good questions, and I do try to make our work environment better by focusing on process improvement. I might not be able to escape right away, but I can use this time to sharpen my skills and make things easier for myself and coworkers while I’m at it.

    Thanks again for all the comments!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If she’s bringing it up that frequently, are you up for addressing it more broadly, like I suggest in the second-to-last paragraph of the post?

      1. OP Here!*

        Absolutely! I may even try to memorize those exact words, and practice saying it out loud so it doesn’t sound rehearsed.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      I was on your side, OP, until this update. Maybe I missed something in the original letter, but you guys sound kind of mean. You do get together a couple times/year but you just don’t want your boss to join you. How about you just invite her the next time you guys do this? Get it on the books even if it is months away and she will stop asking. Hiding when she walks by is just mean girl behavior.

      1. Rana*

        Oh, I think that’s a bit unfair. I think it’s perfectly normal that a group of employees might want to socialize without their boss present, especially if a bit of the conversation is expected to entail venting about said boss. While the hiding is a bit immature, the boss seems like the type who’d invite herself to the gathering, and then how do you say no?

        One of the things about being a boss is that you have to accept that you are no longer friends with your employees. If this is something that you can’t handle, you shouldn’t be a boss.

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          I agree. I don’t expect my team to invite me when they go out for drinks after work or go rock climbing on a Saturday afternoon. Sometimes they do invite me, and if I am able I try to go (not to the rock climbing, though). But I’m their boss and that dynamic means that they don’t treat me like a friend.

        2. Christopher Tracy*

          + 100

          I like my supervisor, but I wouldn’t want her hanging out with me and my friends outside of work either.

      2. LBK*

        I don’t think most people want to hang out with their boss, especially if it’s with coworkers because complaining about the boss or the company is often the core of post-work office hangouts.

        I’m reminded of the Brooklyn 99 ep where they have a secret party away from Holt after Jake feels guilted into inviting him on the employee-only retreat. No matter how much you like your boss, they’re still the boss, and sometimes you just don’t want them around.

      3. Rocky*

        Ha. My awesome team gets together all. the. time. without me. I know because I see all the Facebook photos. They don’t invite me for, presumably, the same reason I don’t invite my boss to social gatherings: they don’t want to hang out with their boss. They especially don’t want to get drunk in front of their boss, or bitch about work in front of their boss. It never occurs to me to take this personally.

      4. OP Here!*

        No, not mean girl behavior at all, but please understand our manager is one of those “we’re family” managers, and thinks we should all be friends, regardless of age, background, interests, etc. The group that meets several times a year is very similar in interests and activities outside of work, and even the former coworkers stay in touch through social media and other activities. And no, we don’t want our work manager sitting in during after work, non work activities. It’s not just me! I wish my coworkers could chime in or you could spend a week in our office. I think you’d know exactly how we feel.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Yes, she’s thinking “we’re family”, but it’s the kind of family where you’re all thinking “just wait until I’m eighteen and I can move out”.

      5. Anonyhippo*

        Just because some of us choose to socialize with our friends (that happen to be coworkers) does not automatically mean we want to socialize with our bosses. There’s a huge power differential and you have to watch everything you say and do. That is the opposite of relaxing.

        1. Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks*

          It’s so funny, but there was a “Flintstones” episode (of all things) where Barney became Fred’s boss (because it was discovered that Barney was the nephew of Mr. Slate–owner of the quarry where Fred worked). Needless to say, this caused tension in the friendship. Anyway, Barney had asked Fred if he wanted to do something after work. Well Fred’s response was something like this: “Look, you are my boss. I work for you for 8 hours. Therefore, I don’t want to see you or spend time with you during my off hours” (that’s not exactly what he said, put that was the gist of it). Gotta love those classic cartoons. LOL

      6. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t think OP sounds mean, she does not want to spend off work hours doing work. That is not mean. Only OP knows the thinking behind the hiding. It sounded to me like they had no other plan so they hid. I am not persuaded that there is a pattern of meanness here.

        I think OP has the classic problem of a person asks repeatedly for x, gets turned down repeatedly and still does not take the hint. Speaking directly is the cure. I’d be curious to know why she keeps asking for this.

        You know, OP, I have had bosses get stuck on something. They just will not let go of it. Finally, I get sick of dancing around the topic and I just ask why is this Thing so important.
        Sometimes I find out something I did not know and that changes how I view the situation.
        Sometimes I can convince the boss that there is an easier way to accomplish the same thing.
        Sometimes the boss has no idea why, either. That one is a little tough to work through. You might be able to convince her to try one of the suggestions for activities during the workday, that you see mentioned here, as a compromise.

      7. NJ Anon*

        Please, this isn’t high school. If we go out, we would not want her there either. It would be so awkward.

      8. Roscoe*

        Yeah, the hiding when she walks by is the part that put me off too. I get not wanting to hang out with your boss. I have NO desire to hang out with mine outside of work. However, if some of us were at a bar, and he happened to walk in, I just can’t see hiding behind a plant so he doesn’t notice us. That just seems extremely juvenile (and like the plot of a bad 90s sitcom)

    3. Tacocat*

      Hi OP! Based on this reply, it seems to me like it still might be nice to use (or suggest) the afternoon activity compromise. I understand not wanting to attend, and especially not feel obligated to attend, work social events at night. However, giving your boss benefit of the doubt, they might think this would be fun activity that could compensate for some of your work’s limitations. There are plenty of people who view work social activities as a perk and/or a good way to foster positive things like engagement and team building and I would hope that this is where your boss is coming from, not just trying to do this for their own benefit. All that being said, it’s totally legitimate to not spend non work hours on this and to make it non mandatory. My workplace does engagement activities, but they are 1) usually during the day 2) Optional (completely so if they are at night) 3) funded by organization. To keep things really optional, you can even suggest for the afternoon activity that people can either attend or keep working. Also, with the low amount budgeted for it, you can advocate for something very low key to keep costs low. If you plan one activity, hopefully your boss feels like they are building a better team/providing a nice perk some people really appreciate and hopefully it’s fun for most (or better than a normal hour of working).

    4. Girasol*

      You don’t have to have resentments to go home on time. Marriage, kids, yoga class, volunteering at the food bank…there are lots of reasons to leave behind really wonderful lovable coworkers right at quitting time.

    5. silence*

      You mention she has a budget, there may be a use it or lose it policy to explain the pushiness but mandatory fun still isn’t fun. If part of her evaluation depends on organizing $150 worth of fun for her team perhaps see what in work hours activity you can get away with. Breakfast danishes / take away lunch.

  32. C Average*

    In my experience, people who are thrown together in close proximity and have an inclination to be friends will figure out a way to be friends. Once you’re past the toddler stage, you don’t need your mom to facilitate playdates with people you already see all the time.

    Managers, if you’re looking at your team and wondering why they aren’t choosing to hang out together outside of work, it’s probably because they don’t like each other enough to devote free time to hanging out together.

    Forcing people who are already meh about each other to spend more time together probably isn’t going to make them feel less meh and more enthusiastic about each other.

    If they want to become friends, they’ll become friends. If they don’t seem inclined to become friends but they work effectively together, thank your lucky stars that you manage grown-ups who have figured out how to cooperate and collaborate with people who might not be their types. Leave the playdate management to the parents of toddlers, where it belongs.

    1. Artemesia*

      Good point. During the years I was working most of our social life revolved around work friends. I had two close colleagues that very first year who shared an office corridor with me and also had toddler sons and so the three of us and their wives and my husband often got together with our boys and when I was pregnant with my daughter, one of them was the person who took care of our son when we went to the hospital for the birth. It was a natural process — we had similar interests and family interests. When you work hard and have a family, there is not a huge amount of time for a complex social life on top of that and for us at least work acquaintances became in some cases adult friends.

      But this happened for us and others naturally not by jamming people with no interests together for mandatory fun.

    2. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

      Yeah, true. The work friends I’m friends with are my friends… because they’re my friends. Much like the rest of my friends. Also, little is less conducive to affection than the constant awareness that at any moment your boss could leap out from behind a bush and demand you all go have fun together, right this instant. I’m sure the constant pushing is making everything a million times worse.

      I will admit that while I will kvetch about it beforehand, going out for an evening with the boss and some colleagues once in a while has been good for my work relationships–and fun!–but I work remotely, so it is a very different dynamic: these aren’t people I see all day, every day. Also, the boss pays, I genuinely like him and my coworkers, and I don’t hafta if I don’t wanna.

  33. Lauren*

    Here’s the thing (for me): I am paid to do the college’s work for 40 hours per week Monday through Friday from 7:30-4:00. I do. I work hard. I do excellent work. I smile, I am polite, I mostly like my co-workers. But before 7:30 am? NO. After 4:00 pm ? NO. During my official lunch break? NO. On weekends and holidays? NO. *insert shrieking* No! No! No! I will not socialize with anyone from work at any time for any reason to do anything. And that doesn’t make me angry, bitter, a bad employee, or anything else. It simply means I have my life divided into work time and personal time–with the Great Wall separating them–and I will not tear down that wall ever. It’s essential for my health and my well being that “my” time stay just that.

    1. AFT123*

      I am in your camp as well. I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to just plain not want to blur those lines. Many people have listed very valid reasons they couldn’t participate in these outings, however I wanted to reiterate that it is okay just not want to and not be penalized for it. I can think of an excuse if really needed, but really, nobody should even have to justify how they spend their time away from their employer. If they say no, let that be the end of it.

  34. Fifty and Forward*

    I think it’s part of a larger trend in the workplace. Doing good work, making small talk, and going home to your life is passe. Nowadays companies have this bizarre fixation on open offices, daily meetings, and the expectation that coworkers should be the best of friends. All of which will lead to an office Shangri-La filled with rainbows, unicorns, and leprechauns. Or so they would like to believe.

    Good for you for sticking to your guns. Personal relationships with coworkers should develop naturally, if it all. It is not something that should ever be forced on your staff. Shame on your manager for the willful ignorance.

  35. I'm not a lawyer, but ...*

    Back in the days of the 3 martini lunch I had a boss like this. Clients were often invited as well. HRs solution was to pay me (the only non-exempt staff member) double time for the first hour, triple time for the next, quadruple for the third, etc, so I stopped minding it TOO much, and he cut it back to quarterly. Win/win. I still miss that job.

  36. burnout*

    OP – after re-reading your original post, and your follow up here in the comments, I think what you are saying is that your manager is just trying to get the team to be social together. This isn’t about work at all. She just wants everyone to be friendly and hang out after work sometimes.

    Sounds great in theory but the reality is most co-workers are happy to be co-workers and nothing more.

    Alison’s advice is spot on. And if she doesn’t take the hint, just keep saying no.

  37. SusanIvanova*

    My take on these is that they should arise organically or they shouldn’t happen at all – enforced “team building” exercises don’t build teams, they build resentment, but if people on the team decide to go out to movies, or use a conference room for D&D night, that’s fine.

    1. zd*

      Omg, this was what I kept trying to explain to management at my former workplace. They would be rude and antisocial on the most basic level to all the staff for months on end. And many of the staff had formed friendships and went for coffee shop breaks together, hung out on the weekends, etc. And then in a senior staff meeting a couple of times a year one of the management would blurt out: “We need to create some COMMUNITY around here!!!” It was so hard to be diplomatic at talking them down from more forced happy hours no one wanted, when I really wanted to say: “There IS Community, just no one wants any of you to be a part of it!” Gah!

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Rather than trying to create a community, good leaders create environments where communities can sprout.

        1. zd*

          Well put! And unfortunately, bad leaders have a hard time hearing this and understanding it… so, sometimes there’s just nothing you can do.

  38. I'm The Boss, Applesauce!*

    A previous boss thought it would be a great idea to propose we (all women) go to his house one weekend for a pool party. Ew, no.

      1. Anna the Accounting Grad*

        You like your breathing habit. If your company (“boss”) does not like your breathing habit, they might find you’ve summoned a Bigger Fish.

  39. Girasol*

    Somehow this whole thread reminds me of that wonderful British youtube comparing consensual sex to having tea: “Maybe you make them a cup of tea but they don’t want to drink it. You definitely should not force them to drink it.” Shouldn’t the same apply to off-hours “mandatory fun?”

    (The youtube: )

  40. Vicki*

    I attended a Lunch & Learn session a few days ago. The presenter told about a situation he’d been brought in to consult on that sounded eerily similar.

    The manager (Gina) brought him in to coach and “fix” the employee (Jane). Gina was CEO of the company; Jane was CFO. Jane wanted to do her job (which she was good at) and go home at the end of the day, Gina wanted the “team” to go out for drinks every afternoon and insisted that Jane was Not A Team Player.

    The presenter said he suggested that perhaps Gina might also benefit from some coaching. Apparently, the story is still unfolding so we don’t know how it ends yet, but the presenter (coach) isn’t betting on Jane’s longterm tenure with that company,

Comments are closed.