asking for a big raise to take on a second role, employees held a party without asking us, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Can I ask for a big raise to take on a second role?

I’m a first-time manager, overseeing two staff members at a nonprofit. One of the staff members I supervise recently told me that she is applying for jobs, and I’m mentally preparing for the chance that she might receive an offer.

Should she be offered the job, my team will be down to two: myself and the other person I supervise. I’m considering suggesting to my boss that we not try to fill the position and I would offer to take the role on myself. Our program is part of a large non profit institution and it can take 2-3 months to bring on a new employee (I first interviewed for my job in February of this year and didn’t start until the end of April. The staff member who might leave is someone I hired and I interviewed her in May and she didn’t begin until July. Our program is in year three of a three-year grant. It wouldn’t be strategic (or really, intelligent) to begin the hiring process and possibly have someone start in March/April when the grant ends in September.

In addition to taking on more responsibility, I will also ask for increased pay. I would like to ask for $20K more to take on this additional work, but I’m concerned that that might be received negatively. If you were a manager and had an employee offer to take on an additional job but wants $20k more, would that be considered reasonable?

To offer more context, I’ve only been employed by this agency for eight months, it’s my second full-time job out of college, and I recently received a great end of the year review from my manager and because of the review, I’m eligible for (at least) a 2.5% merit increase.

I’d be way more concerned about your ability to do both jobs and — since you’re not likely to be able to do 100% of both jobs — what work would be cut out and what impact that would have. Rational managers won’t entertain the possibility that you could seriously do 100% of both jobs, so the conversation to have here is whether there are ways to seriously cut down the responsibilities of each and make them into one job for one person. If there’s a way to do that that doesn’t compromise the results that the work needs to get, then the next question would be what a fair salary is for that entirely new job. Since the work you’d be folding in is presumably lower level work than your current job, fair pay probably wouldn’t be your current salary plus $20K. It might be a lot closer to your current salary. It might even be the same as your current salary,

If it doesn’t make sense to do that, then I’d look at hiring a short-term person to finish out the last six months of the project.

2. My employees held a party without asking or involving us

My husband owns two companies and I help him manage those businesses. The companies employ about 20 people. We are very involved in the management and ownership of the business. Company 1 attempted to involve all the employees in both businesses in a holiday party. This party was refused by all but one employee in company 2. The excuses range from refusing to drive because it’s too far (a half hour drive that we drive this daily and so do many employees from company 1 who fill in and help out at company 2).

Without any consideration, company 2 decided to have holiday party during their lunch break. This took some planning and included a gift exchange, potluck, etc. No member of management including the owner who was present at the time was ever asked or invited to the party. No one asked us if it was okay to even host a party. Literally, the owner was sitting on the other side of the wall eating a PB&J when he realized a party was going on. He was not offered a plate of food or an invitation to sit with the staff or recognized in any way.

We only discovered this party at the time it took place. There were many attempts made to work out any scenario that would bring company 1 and company 2 staff together for our party. It’s usually a blast and everyone talks about how much fun the parties are years later.

I feel offended and I think the staff was sneaky. I can only imagine all the things they are doing behind my back, too. I feel fairly certain they are becoming a closed clique with obvious horrible manners. What should I do now? Just forget it and move on? It’s done… not sure there is anything that I can do.

You should not be offended over this! I know it can feel weird to be in your shoes, but they really weren’t sneaky; they shouldn’t need your okay to have a holiday party, and this doesn’t indicate they’re doing anything objectionable behind your back.

It’s pretty reasonable that they’d want to hold their own party with their own coworkers rather than attend a holiday party at a different business. Even though both businesses have the same owner, those aren’t their coworkers. You work with two companies, but they don’t.

If you see other evidence that they’re becoming problematically cliquish or bad-mannered in ways that impact the business, you should address those things. But this is not evidence of that.

3. Is it okay to contact my predecessor with questions about the job?

I just landed a year-long consulting contract with a nonprofit organization, where I will help them develop and implement a version 2.0 of an existing program they house. The problem is, the longtime and founding manager of this program is leaving the organization at the end of the year. We have one meeting scheduled prior to her departure, but I am worried there will inevitably be moments where I will really want (…need?) her insight.

Do you have recommendations regarding contacting an ex-employee for help concerning their old job? Is it a no-no? Is there a good way to approach it? (Such as emailing yes/no questions as a last resort, offering to buy her lunch or coffee, only reaching out if there is a crisis?).

Unless the organization is offering to pay her for her time, you really should avoid reaching out to her with questions more than once. You could ask her if she’s be open to doing a call with you after you’ve settled in and have had time to accumulate questions (and in a nonprofit context where she cares about the program, she probably will be), but it’s bad form to contact your predecessor repeatedly since she will no longer work there (and isn’t being paid to do the work anymore). That’s true even if there’s a crisis.

A good way to think about it: If any employee were suddenly to become utterly unreachable (hit by a bus, indulging in a sudden desire to live off the grid, or whatever it might be), the organization would find a way to go on. It would be less convenient than being able to contact the person, but things would go on. It’s the same thing here. When someone leaves and is off your payroll, it’s no longer cool to count on them and you have to find ways to carry on without them, even if it means dealing with a lot of inconvenience.

4. Declining an interview because of ethical issues with the company

I’m currently job seeking and an agent has contacted me through LinkedIn with a role that’s perfect for my skills and experience. The company itself is well located for me commuting-wise, pays well, is growing rapidly, and offers great benefits.

Unfortunately, the line of work this company is in is against everything I believe in. For the sake of argument, let’s say I’m an accountant (I’m not) and this company is a weapons manufacturer (it’s not, but I wouldn’t want to work for one of those either), so it’s not like my skills are industry-specific.

How can I let this agent know why I don’t want to be put forward for this role, in the most professional way possible, and without coming across as an overly-picky and judgmental little flower? I don’t want to put the agent off contacting me about other roles, but I don’t want to wind up interviewing with this company either — much less working for it.

This is a pretty normal thing, and if the recruiter is working for a company that works on something even a little controversial, they’re well aware that some candidates will select out because of that. That’s not being a judgmental flower; that’s just being a normal human. We all have places we wouldn’t be comfortable working unless we’re complete mercenaries.

So just be straightforward about it, while stressing that you’d still like to be considered for roles with other companies. For example: “Thanks so much for contacting me about this. A weapons manufacturer isn’t the right match for me, but I’d love to be considered for accounting roles at other companies if you have them.”

5. Tailoring your resume when applying for multiple positions at the same company

You’ve mentioned before that it’s good to tailor and optimize your resume for particular positions, but what about tailoring it and optimizing it to gain employment with a particular company in any number of possible capacities? Would this make the person be seen as a possible asset or make them come across as desperate and disingenuous?

It depends on how you tailor it. If you just tweak it a little bit, that’s fine. But if it reads like a whole different resume, that’s going to come across oddly if anyone happens to look at both applications. In that situation, I’d focus more on tailoring your cover letter.

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. Green*


    I had a recruiter set up a call with me to discuss a job opportunity in my line of work (legal), which sounded like a great opportunity, until they told me the company. It was a cigarette manufacturer. I had two grandparents die of smoking-related health problems, and I have asthma. I just was like “NOPE NOPE NOPE” (my more professional version was “To be honest, I’ve worked for a range of clients, but I just don’t think the tobacco industry is right for me.”) The recruiter knew it was a potential problem (which is why she’d sold the job hard and then revealed the company at the end, of course) and said she certainly understood. I just told her what kinds of jobs I would be interested in the future, thanked her for contacting me, and things ended on good terms. Most recruiters know when they’re pitching a job that is difficult to find the right match for, and they get it.

    1. neverjaunty*

      Especially since a good recruiter knows that it would be a bad match in the other direction, too. No sensible company wants to hire someone who is fundamentally opposed to its entire purpose.

    2. Laika*

      When I was in university I used our school employment board to find jobs over the summer. Tobacco companies used it to find summer students but were careful to avoid any mention at all of what they actually *did* until you actually got to the end of the in-person interview stage. Sure, they listed their company name, but they used the highest-level company name (think “Unilever” vs “Dove”) so it wasn’t immediately recognizable for what it was, especially for an unsuspecting university student who doesn’t do their research (ask me how I know!!).

    3. seejay*

      Yep, when I moved to a new city, I had to take a job under a contract with a company that manufactured lab equipment. As someone against animal testing, I was really leery at first when I was told it was a company that dealt with lab equipment and I had to ask questions and check into it. Unfortunately due to my constraints, I couldn’t be too picky but fortunately there was some hoops I could wiggle through to justify the 8 months I put in there without totally breaking my ethical beliefs (namely, I’m not against science in general and it’s also lab equipment in general and I was working on the web site for the company catalog, and they didn’t actually deal with testing or anything like that).

      It’s ok to not work for a company that goes against things you believe in, especially if you have options.

      1. The Great Gazoo*

        Hello, I’m the OP.

        I wound up pretty much following Alison’s advice, and although I haven’t got a new role yet I’m glad I did (to clarify, I’m currently on a fixed-term contract so I have the luxury of not having to rush into anything just yet). I did wind up having a preliminary phone discussion with the person who would’ve been my boss. He was lovely and did a good job of selling the atmosphere in the office (small, collegial, friendly, etc.). I was then invited to a formal interview, but I told the agent afterwards that I didn’t think I’d be able to give the company what they needed from the role.

        For what it’s worth, the firm’s fortunes are wholly aligned with environmental practices that I think are terrible but my current lack of long-term job security had made me wonder if I was putting principles before practicalities. But my husband had turned down a job on similar grounds early in our relationship — yep, with a tobacco company! — so he was supportive of me not taking a job that made me feel like a sell-out. I feel comfortable that I made the right decision for me.

        Thank you all for taking the time to share your responses. Merry Christmas!

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          My husband has a skill set that is often wanted by defense contractors (mainly an old programming language that defense is the only one still using!) He is always straight with recruiters that he’s not interested in any jobs that involve weapons or the military. His current company does make some components for naval ships, but that’s just a tiny part of the company, and not one he has any role in- and honestly, this company makes components for every industry!

          It’s not unprofessional to set boundaries to align with your morals. Recruiters would rather know this up front than waste everyone’s time going through the process, only to have you turn the job down in the end.

          Of course, there are recruiters who do try to push the boundaries, but AAM has well established that there are a lot of sleazy recruiters out there.

          1. Wendy*

            My dad as in a similar spot when I was a child (during the first Iraq war) and he sat us down and explained to us why he didn’t take the job. It’s one of the greatest life lessons he ever gave me.

        2. Beancounter in Texas*

          I had the same situation – my dream job… at an upscale strip club. I agreed to an interview, because I figured it couldn’t hurt to learn more, but then I cancelled because I didn’t want to fall in love with it and then try to explain to my super conservative mother (or the rest of my family) where my new job was located.

          I hope you find something awesome. Merry Christmas!

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Congrats, GG, and good luck! I’m glad things went smoothly and that your husband is supportive of trying to find work that doesn’t contravene your values/beliefs. :)

        4. the gold digger*

          I have a friend who was an HR director at Kraft before and after Philip Morris acquired them. She said that after the acquisition, it was really hard to recruit because people didn’t want to work for a cigarette company.

          (She also said she hated attending meetings at PM HQ. She would wear her dirtiest suits because she would reek of cigarette smoke – they had bowls of cigarettes in the meeting rooms – after she was done.)

          1. Other Duties as Assigned*

            I also knew someone who was with Kraft before and after the acquisition. I asked if he noticed any difference and he said that as soon as the takeover went through, ashtrays appeared on all the tables in the cafeteria.

    4. Thornus67*

      Hah. I’m an attorney and applied directly for an in house position with a Big Tobacco company. Two of the first five (possibly even the first two) questions asked whether I had ethical objections working for a cigarette company and whether I had any problems working in an environment with designated areas to smoke tobacco. I have a feeling most companies which deal in controversial (for whatever reason) goods and services ask similar questions.

      But then again, I directly sought out the job (not for the tobacco reasons but for the in house reasons) rather than a recruiter contacting me.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Re #4 – likewise – I worked for a company that was going to do clinical trials on a controversial drug – I asked if I could be excluded from involvement on ethical issues. They complied. Of course, when I began employment with them – they were NOT working on anything like that, so they had to acquiesce to my request.

        It’s a legitimate concern – if you remember, there was a letter from someone in here once, who applied for employment in a hospital but was part of the anti-vaxxer crowd. (EHHHHHNNN….) (buzzer time).

        Likewise, someone who is opposed to abortion – they tell you upfront what you’re going to be doing – if you don’t like it, apply elsewhere. Ditto working for a weapons/defense contractor – if you have personal ethical objections, don’t go forward with the process.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, it’s very common for people to have to take on some of the job functions of their coworkers/subordinates when that coworker leaves. This is especially true if you’re the manager/supervisor because it’s assumed that part of your supervisor role is picking up some of the functions of your direct report if needed. But it’s also very rare to be compensated to the tune of $20K for it (I don’t know your salary, but it likely falls in the range of 20-50% more than your current salary). In my experience, employers will often instead offer you a $1-5K bonus at year-end for going above and beyond, in part because it can be messy for them to increase your salary and then decrease it if they ultimately hire someone to fill your direct report’s position.

    As Alison noted, employers don’t expect that you can fully shine in both FTE positions at the same time, and to be honest, it would not be fair or responsible of your employer to ask you to carry that load for up to 9 months. It’s fantastic that you’re demonstrating initiative/leadership and are enthusiastic about filling future gaps, but even the most capable, thoughtful, hardworking workaholic would not be able to really thrive under those conditions. If I were your supervisor, I would worry that you weren’t getting enough time to recharge and stay connected to the non-work activities that make you happy.

    So if there’s any way to shorten the hiring process by hiring a temp for the remainder of the contract, I think that would be your best option. And if that’s impossible, the next best option is to meet with your supervisors to determine which tasks you’re going to keep and which you’ll need to jettison. Of course, there’s also the chance that your direct report finishes out the grant.

    Are there tasks your other direct report would be able to take on? It may be easier to spread out responsibilities if they’re divided between the two of you (although, again, not a good long-term solution). Regardless of how you decide to proceed, good luck, and please let us know how it goes!

    1. Amber*

      Agreed. I was promoted but still expected to do my old job because they weren’t going to back fill my position and received a 6% salary increase.

    2. Mike C.*

      I think we should be careful not to normalize the terrible practice of making an employee do the work of two or three people but only get a minor pay bump simply because it’s “industry standard” or whatever. I’m certainly not going to accept a few extra grand for taking on an extra 20% or more work.

      1. Lora*

        +1. Also, it’s a horrible lesson to teach your workers: “do twice the work without adequate compensation, sacrifice your personal life and hobbies, please, out of the goodness of your heart!” is the lesson you THINK you are modeling. What you are really teaching them is, “if you want truly adequate compensation for all the extra above and beyond efforts you put in, you are better off taking up a side job that will actually pay you for your time”.

        First job out of grad school was shocked, shocked! that we had so many professional engineers and scientists with side jobs doing landscaping services, building gadgets they commercialized to sell on Ebay, day trading, etc. We had an entry level biologist whose side gig was dealing in modern art and collectibles: he would finish his second shift work on the tissue cultures when the markets in Europe were just opening for business, do some online purchasing at the beginning of the auctions, set up the shipping arrangements, go to sleep, and wake up in time for the American markets to open their auctions, do his sales, then have lunch and come to work. He got some great stuff, too – early prints from Banksy and Shepard Fairey’s RISD days, the occasional small Damien Hirst piece.

        1. the gold digger*

          I am curious to know what industry this was, Lora. I work for an engineering company (that designs and manufactures material handling equipment) and the engineers are well compensated. It’s hard to get engineers in this part of the country and the pay reflects that. The younger engineers who have to be onsite for weeks at a time installing a new system are even paid OT, which is something I have never seen in a salaried, professional position before.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I could see Lora’s story happening in the Bay Area, where engineers are well-compensated (or at least industry competitive), but still not adequately compensated for the local cost of living.

            Although it also sounds like some of the second jobs may have been more for fun/interest than for survival?

            1. the gold digger*

              Yes, that’s why I was curious, Princess. I have a friend who has a PhD in EE from Berkeley and an excellent job. But he still creates and patents new products (at home, in the evening, on his own computer) because he likes doing it.

          2. Lora*

            Pharma manufacturing. Problem is simple supply:demand, everyone wants to cure cancer. Many fewer people want to make heavy equipment. I did a stint in equipment design and it paid about 20% more with a lot less emergency essential personnel “oh my god what does that horrible noise mean?!?” hours. However, I still wanna cure cancer…

        2. Jadelyn*

          We joke at my office that everyone has a “side hustle” of some kind. I’ve got one coworker that’s a realtor part-time, one that does taxes on nights/weekends during tax season, one that hawks essential oils as part of an MLM, I make and sell jewelry and paintings, etc. It’s a nonprofit. We don’t get paid for s***. So we have our side jobs.

      2. Purest Green*

        Agreed. Because this is how my terrible mind works, I was wondering if the OP saw the vacant position and thought more about the potential dollar signs than the actual work involved. And no judgement for that at all, but OP needs to think realistically about what she/he can handle as Allison suggested.

        1. Liz2*

          Just a small additional point that for small companies, an extra pair of hands sometimes makes all the difference. Someone gets a cold or has an accident or there’s an event to arrange- a warm body is worth more than an experience person doing two people’s work.

      3. Jenbug*

        Agreed. Companies need to stop taking advantage of their employees and pushing them to the breaking point by expecting one person to manage a workload that needs two (or even three) people to be handled properly.

      4. MrsCHX*


        Don’t work two jobs for no increase in pay. Heck, don’t work 1.3 jobs for no increase in pay…

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is not at all what I’m saying, but I appreciate the point and agree that no one should be expected to do more than 1 FTE worth of work, in the long-term, for the same money.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I once got a 10% bump for taking on my boss’s job, but definitely have never gotten anything for taking on lower-level work. And it’s absolutely true that a lot of things did not get done with one person compared to two.

    4. Bwmn*

      I agree with all of this – and the other thing I want to caution is that as this is a nonprofit and the OP has only been there for 8 eight months – I would be super hesitant.

      Nonprofits can really range in how they’d respond to something like this depending on what the project is, but it’s also not necessarily typical. There are obviously so many nonprofits that range from the super institutionalized like hospitals and universities and local grassroots organizations – and even within that you’ll see variations of something that ‘always’ happens here and ‘never’ happens there. But by and large, making a case for yourself for that kind of a raise isn’t done often – especially around a grant based program.

      If this is something that has happened elsewhere within the organization, then that’s obviously very different. But someone leaving and their position being absorbed by someone else – I’ve only seen raises of that level come when the person who’s left is more senior and not less. Additionally, it’s also only been for core positions and ones tied to grants.

      For what the OP is going through, if there’s 6 months left on a grant project and staffing does that take long, for a larger organization, it’d be far more common to see someone else internally be seconded or transferred to cover the remaining months. Or possibly the remaining 6 months on a grant project are the “winding down” period anyways and perhaps it gets evaluated as not needing that many people. If for some reason none of those are possible – that’s valuable to know. But important to know for sure that none of those things happening is an option.

    5. turquoisecow*

      In my experience (at my dysfunctional former employer) it was more likely that an employee at the same level took on tasks when someone left, rather than the manager. Unless the other direct report does work that’s waaay different from the person leaving, he/she is probably more familiar with the day-to-day than their supervisor is. It seems more likely to me that, presuming the other direct report is not already overworked, the work of the departing worker is more likely to be somewhat evenly divided between the remaining supervisor and coworker. In which case, both people should be appropriately rewarded, whether it be with higher salaries or lump-sum bonuses.

      1. Bwmn*

        Because this is such a common reaction (work is divided among those remaining) – if the OP is looking to go in and say “I will do all of Leaving Person’s work and thus deserve the pay increase” – the OP will really need to show prove that the remaining employee will not be taking on any additional work.

  3. an anon is an anon*

    #2: You’re going to ruin morale if you reprimand your employees for having a potluck party during their lunch break. I don’t see why they need permission for this? That seems a bit much. It’s like telling someone they need permission to bring in cupcakes for someone’s birthday or go out for lunch, because it’s sneaky to do it without approval from the owner. That type of control is not going to make a happy work environment.

    In my experience, most employee events don’t include managers because it’s awkward and less fun because there’s a power imbalance and you can’t really relax when the person in charge of your job is there. These parties are for the staff to have a break, not to recognize the owner. The best ones I’ve been to are parties where managers show up for a bit and then leave the staff to it. Most of the companies I’ve worked at have had employee potlucks or parties organized without inviting the manager/owner/department head/etc. or getting their approval. It’s pretty common and not at all sneaky or cliquey (and if the entire office did it, I don’t see how it’s cliquey anyway).

    And honestly, not wanting to drive a half hour to a party in a different office isn’t outrageous. I’d rather have a holiday party during work hours than have to travel for it, especially if it was to an office location I didn’t work at or where I didn’t know any of the colleagues.

    1. Momonga*

      Agreed. Also management should be grateful that the staff likes one another enough to HAVE a gathering.

      1. an anon is an anon*

        I know, that’s what stuck out to me, too! I think it’s a good thing that the staff of Office 2 wants to celebrate together.

    2. Fiona the Lurker*

      Absolutely. It seems like the manager’s just peeved about not being invited. IMHO the gracious way to deal with this is to tell the staff “I wish I’d known, I would have contributed [food item].” Then, next time this happens, hopefully they’ll be told – and they can follow through on the promise. Even so they should just show up at the start, eat something, wish everybody well, and retreat to a safe distance to avoid cramping the staff’s style.

      Management need to be generous about the small things wherever possible, because it makes the big things easier to negotiate when the time comes. Trying to decree how your staff celebrate anything at all is never going to go down well.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        To be blunt – trying to control celebrations to this level comes across as intrusive micromanaging control freak. That’s never going to win cooperation.

      2. Zip Silver*

        Every time we do a potluck management brings the main meat dish (since its usually the most expensive dish).

        I have to admit, I do enjoy showing off my meat smoking skills to all the non-Texans I work with.

        1. LBK*

          As a non-Texan who ate as much meat as I possibly could while I was in Texas last year, I would greatly appreciate this contribution to my New England holiday events.

      3. Grr*

        The manager is peeved that the environment is “cliquish” because he/she assumed that he/she was at the head of the clique, and has just discovered that he/she is actually not.

        Manager needs to leave junior high behind, methinks.

    3. Tau*

      This may be culture-specific, but one thing that would be a big issue here with wanting people to drive half an hour to the holiday party is that it means they can’t drink at the party, and that’s a big part of a celebratory dinner for a lot of folks. For our Christmas party, we were explicitly told that we’d be able to expense taxis.

      1. Kelly L.*

        The weather has also been hideous in much of the US in the last week or so, making a half-hour drive a much longer and more harrowing ordeal.

    4. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      Our employees arrange potlucks multi times a year without clearance. (IDK, maybe the first time someone says “let’s have a cinco de mayo potluck!” they ask their line manager but it’s never come to my attention that they’ve asked.)

      It’s usually not a surprise, unless I haven’t been paying attention to my all division emails, and I get that PBJ owner felt sad, but this is a really normal thing.

      FWIW, I think good manners would have invited the owner to a plate of food at some point. I’ll take one point away for manners but you can’t regulate manners, so let the whole thing go.

      1. BananaPants*

        A bunch of our engineering technicians and a few of the engineers have a holiday potluck EVERY year on the last day of work before our holiday shutdown. To my knowledge they’ve never cleared it with management or invited managers to come, and no one has their knickers in a twist over it.

        As Engineer Girl says, trying to micromanage a celebration is never going to go over well.

      2. fposte*

        Yup. And it’s not even “horrible manners”–it’s just slightly out of whack, like when you forget what order of go you’re in at a four-way stop. Nothing sinister is implied by it.

      3. an anon is an anon*

        Yeah, I think it would have been nice to invite the manager day-off, but I also think part of being a manager or owner means knowing a lot of your employees don’t want to socialize with you because you’re not on equal footing. It’s nothing sinister, but more that they want to eat their potluck food without having to worry about someone who controls their jobs being there.

        I’m still baffled by the cliquey comment because I don’t understand who OP1 thinks they’re being cliquey against? Company 1? The owner? It’d be a different story if half the employees in Company 2 held a party and didn’t invite the other half, but all the employees celebrating and not inviting the owner doesn’t make it cliquey imo. It’s just staff celebrating without their superiors around which is very, very normal.

      4. LQ*

        Well and if the manager is tucked away in and office that isn’t right next to where everyone is working, it can be surprisingly easy to think that hey someone else must have told him to stop by and have a plate, but no one did. (If it happens with calling an ambulance at an actual emergency, it happens with inviting people to grab a plate.)

        Our manager is right outside my cube where everyone gathers and we’ve occasionally forgotten him because the food time wave is up and down our isles. If it was on the other side of a wall I’d bet we’d forget 75% of the time.

        1. k*

          That’s a good point. It sounds like this was a fairly casual event, more something people just let each other know about vs. a formal invitation from a party planning committee. It’s very likely people just assumed the manager was aware of it and either couldn’t make it or chose not to attend.

          Like Alison said, unless there are other things going on that makes OP suspicious, this seems like no big deal in my eyes.

        2. rubyrose*

          Something else. It sounds like this owner spends time at both companies. Does he have a regular schedule of when he will be at which facility, or does it vary? The thought may have been “if manager is here during the potluck we will invite him over” and they did not realize he was there.

    5. Koko*

      Yes, I wanted to say something about the drive time, too. OP makes the remark that she drives the distance all the time so the employees shouldn’t have had a problem with it. That struck me as very unempathetic. Time is precious, especially with all the constant overscheduling and running around that have become normalized in our culture. An hour is valuable, and you have decided that being able to oversee both of your businesses in person is worth that cost to you. That doesn’t mean that something else (a party with people they don’t work with) is worth the same cost to someone else, who may have all kinds of different obligations that they factor in: a dog who needs to be let out, a kid who needs to be picked up somewhere, a shared transportation issue with their spouse needing the car, maybe they hate driving and don’t want to add yet more driving to their daily tally, maybe they can’t find childcare arrangements, maybe they just want to spend that time with their family and be home before their kid goes to bed. Maybe 100 things that are personal to their life. An hour round-trip drive is nothing to sneeze at.

      1. k*

        Plus it sounds like the other party was outside of business hours. Our office party was held during business hours in the building, so I was happy to attend and have a little fun. But as much as I like my coworkers, I don’t know that I’d go to something after hours, especially around the holidays when I have a lot going on. I suspect OP really enjoys the holiday party (and good for them if that’s the case!) but doesn’t realize that not everyone is going to be so stoked about it.

      2. an anon is an anon*

        Exactly. I don’t know where the OP’s offices are located, but I live and work in my city. The year my company decided to have a party outside the city because it was more convenient for the boss was the year I didn’t go. I don’t drive and a coworker who lives outside the city could have driven me to the party, but then I’d have no way to get back.

        If the issue with employees at Company 2 really was the drive, I don’t blame them for wanting a party on site. Transportation is such a hassle.

    6. Thornus67*

      ” These parties are for the staff to have a break, not to recognize the owner.”

      Oh, so my office’s practice of using the office holiday party solely to give gifts to the bosses and no one else is outside the norm? I had no idea.

      (Sarcasm about my office. I know it’s outside the norm. This year their son, who works here, went around soliciting contributions for their presents. He wanted $50 per person, per boss ($100 total). I gave $5 per, and hated doing that. And yesterday he made comments which, I might not have heard all of since he was in the office next to mine, which upon inference indicated that he was using the office to supplement his Christmas present to his parents.)

        1. Thornus67*

          It came out to a little under half of my gross daily rate. I don’t even know how the support staff could afford that except to guess that since three of the four support staff are related to them, it was part of their Christmas budget anyway.

      1. Mustache Cat*

        Oh my god! That is super unacceptable. I would contribute exactly nothing next year and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That is abhorrent and quasi-unethical, and I’m so sorry, Thornus. Is this a small company, or just one with really bad office culture?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ugh, I’m so sorry. I find it really overbearing when people apply their family culture/norms to the office, and this happens so much more frequently in small groups where everyone’s related. I can imagine that that pressure is frustrating and difficult :(

      3. an anon is an anon*

        I’m so sorry you have to deal with that! That’s awful.

        I’ve been to holiday parties where it’s all about patting upper management on the back and ignoring staff, but nothing to your extreme. Wow.

    7. Sunflower*

      It’s also possible if husband is running back and forth between both companies and not in the same office everyday, the group didn’t know he would be in

    8. Artemesia*

      The owner sounds like he was sulking sitting ‘on the other side of the wall’ eating his PBJ and ‘no one even fixed him a plate’ and yet this owner who was present on site didn’t think it important to arrange a holiday luncheon or party for these workers except to tag them on to a party at another facility.

      In terms of manners and consideration the owner fails more than the workers who organized a potluck on their own time.

      1. Kelly L.*

        And I know I’m a little hypersensitive to “fix them a plate” demands because I’ve seen people get really obnoxious about it in family settings–people with no physical limitations whatsoever who still want to get waited on because they’re the Most Important Family Member. But, yeah.

      2. EmmaLou*

        OP, I think the best thing your husband could have done was get up, go out to the party, wish everyone a very merry holiday season, if offered food, say, “Oh, everything looks great! You guys go ahead!” Then go back to work. If pressed, take some food, but just let the employees know that he wishes them well, hopes they have a good time and appreciates their hard work. As Alison says, often, gift flow downward. There’s really no recognition of the boss needed. What exactly did you mean by that? (I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m really just confused by the term in this context.)

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, are your companies very small/close-knit? I ask because what your employees are doing is very normal and not at all a personal attack on you or your husband (I assume he’s the sole owner and was the one eating the PBJ sandwich?). So I’m trying to determine if there’s a reason you think the culture of the two companies is different (or should be different) from other workplaces.

    I know it may feel slightly exclusive to you, but I actually think it’s a great sign that your staff are community-building together. It’s more likely that they gathered for just that reason—to come together one last time before the new year. And they sound like they did it very conscientiously in that they scheduled their party at a time when they would be “clocked out,” and it sounds like the absorbed all the costs. That’s not sneaky; it’s their attempt to create a time to enjoy each other’s company in a way that maximizes participation but also does not impose a burden on the company. If your husband had stated he was hosting a holiday party and they held a competing party, then the analysis could change. But given that the joint party was not going to happen, it’s reasonable for your employees to try to make up for that gap in a way that was not so expensive that it would impose an out-of-pocket financial burden on those employees. It’s also uncommon for employees to have to ask permission to have an event like this, and I would discourage you from trying to impose a permission-oriented process because ideally you want your employees to come together on their own to celebrate each other (as long as this does not overstep professional norms or exclude employees other than the owner).

    With respect to not including the owner, the truth is that the dynamic changes when the boss/owner is around, and there are any number of non-malicious reasons not to include him. They probably would have felt deeply uncomfortable asking him to participate in the potluck, etc., (1) because of the hierarchy/power differential, and (2) because they did all of this at their own expense and may have felt it was too informal/humble of a party to invite him.

    OP#4, I used to have a short-term (governmental) gig where legal recruiters were encouraged to cold call people in my position to recruit them to big law firms. I became a lawyer exclusively to do public interest work, and there are many massive law firms that represent companies that I’d sued or that had engaged in business practices that I found completely contrary to my personal ethos. So I was often fielding emails and phone calls in which I had to tell recruiters flat out (but politely) that I was not interested. It was important to me, however, to turn them down without badmouthing the lawyers who do work at those firms or the firms themselves.

    What I did, instead, was thank the recruiter for thinking of me, emphasize that I intended to return to public interest lawyering, and wish them luck in their recruiting process. I didn’t ask them to think of me in the future because usually legal recruiters work in very specific niches that don’t cross sectors.

    Are you open to leaving your current job? If not, you can easily tell them kindly and directly that you wish to stay with your current employer. But if you’d be willing to apply for a new job, I would:
    (1) thank the recruiter for reaching out to you;
    (2) explain that at this time you’re not looking to leave your current job, or alternately, say very obliquely that you’re committed to X which is not a good fit for Company Y;
    (3) state what kind of work/workplace you are interested in, should the opportunity arise; and
    (4) ask the recruiter to keep you in mind in the future if they find themselves recruiting for the kinds of jobs you’d be willing to take or the companies you’d be excited to work with.

    But first figure out the leaving part, because it might help short-cut these conversations/considerations as you go forward in your career.

    1. valereee*

      I was actually thinking that one reason not to invite the boss is that, well, you’ve already made things uncomfortable there — you (all but one of you) got brave this year and didn’t attend the annual combined party. You decide you’ll just do a potluck in the break room during lunch. It might feel WEIRD to “invite” the boss to that after having turned down his party, which (you can tell) has already offended him. You might even have had conversations about the whole thing…Should we have our own party? No, the boss is already pissed, that would really piss him off. Maybe we can just do something low-key, like a potluck. Should we invite OP to the potluck? Won’t he be more pissed if we don’t invite him? He’ll probably think we’re saying we’d rather have a potluck than go to his party…that’s even worse than not wanting the party in the first place. If we invite him to the potluck, he’ll definitely say something like ‘I thought none of you wanted a party this year.’

      1. Aunt Margie at Work*

        This is just where my mind went. And the LW’s response that it displayed “horrible manners” proves one or both WERE pissed that office two didn’t attend. I would go low key as well.
        (Honestly, I would expect my manager to take a hint and suggest that we do something in house instead. But hey, guess I’m rude and cliquey. Sorry, Allison. I’m piling on.)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, and the anger seems really disproportionate to me, which is why I find it so puzzling.

          Unless there’s a very good safety/regulatory reason for it (e.g., we work in a slaughterhouse and can’t expose people to potlucked food in the room where they were potlucking), I don’t understand why a low-key office party that includes all staff but the owner would trigger OP’s reaction. BUT, I also realize that we’re only seeing one sliver of the story, so maybe there’s other context that OP did not include that would explain how/why this escalated for OP + husband.

          1. k*

            I do hope OP will follow up to let us know if there were other things going on. If that was the case, I can totally see how this seemingly innocuous incident could be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

      2. AMPG*

        I think this is all true. The employees didn’t include the owners because they knew they’d get a bad reaction…which is clearly what happened. The way to fix it is to say, “I’m sorry you felt you couldn’t come to me to suggest a potluck, since I would’ve been happy to help with the cost/contribute a main dish. I’ll be working on facilitating communication between the management and the staff in the new year.”

        Ultimately, the problem is not that the staff is “sneaky” or “cliquish,” it’s that the owners/managers are shutting down the opportunity for honest communication. Fix that and you’ll fix the problem of not knowing what’s going on in your own company.

    2. Mephistopheles from the Contracts Department*

      OP 2 mentioned that there was a gift exchange at the potluck. Perhaps the reason they didn’t invite the owner was because they didn’t have a gift for him? He might not have been around when they passed around the Secret Santa list – or they may have felt that, as the owner, it would be awkward to include him because of the power differential. We’ve seen posts here in the past regarding gifting down instead of up, after all.

  5. krysb*

    #2 – Stop. Just stop. Allison’s advice here is spot on. I can’t tell if company 1 planned a party for itself, or it was an ownership decision. If it was an ownership decision, then it was inconsiderate to have a party for just company 1; if it was company 1’s decision, then you can’t get mad that company 2 made a similar decision. The two companies are separate; they either should have separate parties or one big party together in a place convenient to both sets of employees so it doesn’t look like you’re showing favoritism towards one company. Since no one in management or ownership bothered setting up a party for company #2, the employees simply took it into their own hands to celebrate together. It was during their lunch break, and, from what I can tell, they didn’t use company resources to throw the party. They put it together themselves on their own time. If you’re so offended that they had a party without you, your husband, and management, maybe y’all shouldn’t have excluded them. Inviting them to another company’s party is not being inclusive in any way, whatsoever.

      1. LCL*

        The owner was not being inconsiderate or exclusive. The owners tried to set up a party, the employees said no, then they set up their own party without telling the owners. I don’t think company 2 was trying to deliberately exclude the owners, but that’s what it looked like.

        The key to this is both businesses are really tiny-total employees are 20, if I read the OP correctly. With two small businesses/1 owner, it makes sense to hold a joint party. And it makes sense that the owner would expect to be invited. This is a totally different situation from a workgroup in a large company deciding to hold a holiday lunch. The employees of company 2 should have mentioned it to the owner, since the owner has an office on site so is probably there often. Alison is right, this shouldn’t be seen as a larger trend, but holding a holiday lunch and not inviting the owner who works on site is kind of a sh@#$% thing to do.

        1. valereee*

          It may make sense -to the owners- to hold a joint party, but very clearly it didn’t make sense for the employees of Company 2, since only 1 of them was willing to attend. And without knowing why the owner wasn’t invited (many different possibilities have been suggested, from not realizing no one had told him to assuming he wouldn’t be interested) we can’t assume the employees were doing anything intentionally hurtful.

        2. Kms1025*

          I so totally agree with you…anyone who has ever been “last pick” in a playground game, left out by peers when taking lunch orders, “forgotten” when arranging a happy hour pit-stop knows what this feels like. Just because someone is the boss doesn’t mean these folks have no feelings. They tried to arrange a big party. Half the people didn’t like it (which honestly seems slightly ungracious). Why couldn’t those employees at that point suggest a smaller potluck. Why would it have killed them to invite the boss? So not getting this and seems like something more is going on here?

          1. Zillah*

            Calling the employees “ungracious” for not being into an office holiday party is super, super problematic. If the holiday party is really supposed to just be fun, people shouldn’t be penalized for not being into the idea. That’s turning attending a larger holiday party offsite with people you don’t know into something mandatory, which defeats the purpose.

            Maybe you didn’t mean it that way, but “ungracious” is a really loaded term to be throwing around in the context of an optional office perk.

          2. GraceW*

            Considering that the boss is who pays these people, I think they could have walked next door and invited the guy to lunch. Ungracious is a mild term for this sort of behavior.

            1. Elise*

              It’s a two-way street though. The boss pays them and receives skilled work in return. They don’t “owe” the boss anything beyond that, especially since they were being invited to drive a half-hour each way for the pleasure of attending an outside of work hours event. They put together a potluck instead. As was stated up-thread, perhaps they noticed the offense taken when they turned down the other party and were hesitant to extend an invitation. Or it was an oversight. Either way, it’s quite unfair to assume the boss is owed anything beyond a good work ethic.

  6. KarenD*

    On No. 3: My ex was the director of development at a mid-sized nonprofit. He left (due to non-work reasons that made sense for him) during the middle of a major reorganization and pursuit of a big grant that would significantly shift the agency’s mission.

    Needless to say, the board and executive director were frantic. They worked out a deal that seemed eminently fair: He was retained on a consulting contract, with specified windows of availability (starting at a few hours every week, tapering down over the course of a few months). He got a retainer for that time and a clause saying that once he found a new job, they’d have to work around his hours there. Anything more was billed at a (purposefully) prohibitively expensive hourly rate. And it pretty much worked out as planned. Even at the beginning, the agency was reluctant to use its “free” hours on matters that staff thought they could figure out themselves. And they moved pretty expeditiously to fill Ex’s role, which was a deviation from this agency’s norm. They ended up terminating the consultancy early, which everyone regarded as a positive outcome, and aside from a few random and very brief phone calls (“You remember that locked cabinet that nobody ever opened? Perchance do you know where the key might be?”, etc.) it was all wrapped up very neatly.

    This surprised everyone including the agency itself. Having a formal agreement really seemed to help.

    1. KarenD*

      (Of course after I hit “post” I realized I was focusing more on the departing manager’s point of view than OP’s … but the reality is that it really did benefit both sides. The agency had the comfort of knowing that if they needed Ex, they had a right to contact him and were, in fact, paying him to be available — but not paying him very much, UNLESS they went over the time they’d contracted for.)

      1. Al Lo*

        I love this solution so much. It sounds like a great compromise that worked out in the best way possible. I could see something like this working at my job, whenever I choose to move on (which I have no current plans to do, but I’m sure will happen someday).

  7. RKB*

    I *slightly* disagree with #2 but only in the sense that they’re totally entitled to their own party – but it would’ve been a nice gesture to invite their boss. However I am obviously viewing this through the lens of my workplace culture. My coworkers and I regularly add our supervisors on email chains about outside-work activities (from escape rooms to brunch.) They rarely ever come, but the gesture is nice.

    I will say that I can’t speak for your employees, but it may be worth thinking about why they didn’t tell you about the party. I think it’s unusual they held a party in the office and didn’t tell you. Not because of their manners! But there seems to be an underlying reason *why* you weren’t informed.

    Of course, maybe in other places inviting your boss to a holiday party is déclassé. I’m interested to hear from the rest of the commentariat.

    1. MK*

      I agree that there is something “off” in not even offering something to the owner (and the managers) who was right there in the workplace; I don’t think they needed to ask permission or even to tell anyone, but while I understand they didn’t want management there at their party, it’s a bit weird to not even offer them something. Not make some big production about “recognising” them, just take a plate of cookies and chocolate around after at the end of lunchbreak. I mean, it’s Christmas! (Full disclosure, in my culture offering food is a very big and common and during holidays everyone is offering everyone treats, as in I am going to the jym in a while and there will be a plate of pastries available!)

      That being said, there might be a clue in the OP’s reaction. Reality check, people don’t refuse awesome parties that get talked about for years to avoid a 1/2 hour drive; consider that the workers of Company 2 didn’t have as good a time there. I notice the OP calls the Company 1 party “our party”; probably they were made to feel like guests there on sufferance instead of part of a team. And anyway, are they part of a team? How connected are the bussiness’ really, other than the ownership? Could there be a prefered status thing going on for the employees of Company 1?

      1. Miss Elaine E*

        I agree also. It’s always a bit offputting to be left out. Whether it’s as an employee or a business owner, it’s got to be disconcerting to find out that while I’m eating my lowly PB&J all of a sudden people are whooping it up on the other side of the wall. (It kind of smacks of playground behavior in elementary school — the one kid gets left out while the other kids have fun.)

        It would have been a nice gesture if someone would have said, “Hey boss, care to join us for some Christmas cookies?” It’s just common courtesy. And heck, this is the guy who pays you.

        (Please don’t misunderstand, I do agree with the general thrust of the comments.)

        1. Tau*

          My thoughts went along similar lines, honestly, but I don’t think this angle will be useful for OP to focus on. If the employees were the ones who’d written in, it would make sense to tell them “hey, completely ignoring your boss when he was physically right there was kind of rude”, but there’s really no way OP can address that without being inappropriate and probably doing real damage to morale.

          On the other hand, what I could see as a viable option is that next year, OP and her husband could offer to fund a similar Christmas party to the one they threw this year for Company #2 instead of inviting them to Company #1’s do. That’d help make the employees feel appreciated in the way they want to (since clearly, for whatever reason, Company #1’s Christmas party is not doing it for them) while the owner, as the one hosting the party, could make sure no one is left out.

        2. Susan*

          Is it possible that the employees didn’t even intend to exclude the owner? Maybe they all assumed he knew about it and would have attended if he wanted to. It doesn’t look like they sent out formal invitations to anyone, but just spread the word verbally, and maybe they all figured somebody would mention it to the owner but nobody actually did. Heck, maybe *they* were offended that the owner was sitting on the other side of the wall eating PB&J and didn’t even deign to make an appearance at their party. The OP is most likely reading way too much into it and taking offense where none was intended.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, or it was one of those situations where no particular person was in charge of the party so nobody felt enough ownership to do the invitation or even think about the possibility. With a pot luck, it’s common for everybody to be thinking at the “chips chips chips must remember to bring chips” level and nobody to really host.

          2. Koko*

            Yes, or do these employees frequently socialize at lunch while boss sits on the other side of the wall? It’s possible the employees feel that the party area is a casual gathering place where anyone is welcome, maybe where on normal days employees drop in to eat their lunches and chat with each other and leave when they’re ready to go back to work, and that boss hasn’t ever made a habit of having lunch with them in the past, so they just assume boss doesn’t do those things. We have an area like this in my office and nobody ever gets invited to eat lunch there, if you want company on your lunch it’s just where you go to eat with whoever else is taking their lunch at the time.

            OP says that owner was eating his PB&J on the other side of the wall, which makes me think that’s his customary place for eating his lunch, rather than in the common lunch area. If that’s the case, the Christmas lunch was just a slightly more done up and fuller-participation version of the overlapping/social lunches they have every day, and it didn’t occur to them that boss would feel differently about the Christmas potluck than he did about all their other lunches.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This was my impression, as well—more of a falling through the cracks than “obvious horrible manners” or an intentional dig at the owner. (But I do agree that it could be perceived as low-grade bad manners, and that’s a totally valid/reasonable perception.)

            The other aspect that raised the hairs on the back of my neck was OP stating that Owner was not “offered a plate.” My experience at potlucks is that no one will (a) fix you a plate, or (b) encourage you to take a plate, because your presence indicates that you’re totally allowed to take a plate without anyone giving you permission or making a big deal of it. If Owner had wandered over and felt kind of gobsmacked, then Owner could have easily asked if he could join.

    2. Dot Warner*

      Yeah, I thought it was a little rude to be having a party within earshot of someone who wasn’t invited. I can understand why they didn’t want to invite the boss, but maybe the party should have occurred after work or on a day when he wasn’t working.

      That said, I agree with RKB’s suggestion of thinking about why you weren’t informed. Is there someone on the staff that you have a good relationship with and could ask? (If not, that might be your answer…)

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I agree, what strikes me as the weirdness is that I get the impression LW2 and husband would have been happy to help put on and participate in a holiday party for company no. 2 (like not just invite to a joint party, their own party) when it became apparent that for whatever reason people didn’t want to have a joint party.

        Fwiw to me it does seem a little odd or at least not necessarily obvious that company 2 would want its own party. In a huge organization I can understand it but it sounds like the groups are pretty intertwined and especially that company 1 is quite participatory in company 2 (more than their both happening to be owned by the same guy). I can understand it seeming weird and hurtful if the owners felt like they were trying to have a holiday party for company 2 and rather than saying “joint party was great but we really want to do our own thing this year, just a low key thing like potluck” and having the owners throw in, they bowed out of any part of the party organization process without even saying they had or wanted to make a different plan instead?

        I think “obvious horrible manners” is a big jump and that concerns about cliqueishness could be either dismissed or taken seriously as a morale issue but I do think that the behavior of company 2 is a little odd and surprising.

        1. Zombii*

          Where are you getting the impression that the companies are intertwined? To me it sounded like the owners own two companies that are a half hour drive away from each other—they sometimes send people from company 1 to “help” at company 2 but that could be IT or accounting or some other role that they don’t have at company 2 due to the second company being smaller.

        2. valereee*

          Elizabeth, I don’t see any indication that OP2 and husband would have been happy to throw and participate in two parties, where are you getting that? They were offended by the fact that the Company 2 employees didn’t want to attend the combined party, which in their minds was always a blast. Clearly, it wasn’t a blast for Company 2 employees, who this year opted out for reasons OP2 found specious.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Elizabeth, I actually had the exact opposite read, so I’m really curious to figure out how we both came away with totally different impressions (which is reasonable!).

          My impression was that OP#2 was not supportive of Company 2 throwing a party because OP thought that Company 2 employees should have come to the “joint party” hosted by Company 1. The statements that gave me that impression were OP’s description framing Company 1’s invitation as inclusive/gracious, saying that Company 2 “refused to join” Company 1’s party, and then marginalizing Company 2’s concern about driving distance. Further, calling Company 2 “sneaky” and “cliquish” sounds like OP was hurt/upset by what seem to me like pretty reasonable constraints.

          I also don’t have any sense that Company 1 and 2 were intertwined, other than having the same owner…

        4. Artemesia*

          I didn’t sense they would be ‘happy’ to do a party for groups 2; if they were, when most indicated they were not coming, that would have kicked some informal party planning into action.

    3. KAZ2Y5*

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is strange all around. I wonder if the employees at location #2 asked to have their own party and were turned down? That is really the only reason I can imagine for not inviting the owner, especially when he is right there!

      1. Observer*

        I thin you are missing something. The folks at company 2 declined to participate – and the OP dismissed their reason because *they* drive 1/2 an hour every day! Thus, it’s not a valid reason in her estimation. Given that reality, and the fact that the OP thinks that he staff needs to have management permission to make a party ON THEIR OWN TIME, and it’s not surprising that they didn’t say anything to either of them.

          1. Zombii*

            The LW didn’t mention their own gender and there’s a general guideline for assigning LW pronouns on this site, so I wouldn’t default to assuming this is a subtle/thoughtless heteronormative insult. :)

        1. Temperance*

          I commute every single day for work, and when SEPTA is running well, I’m mostly okay with it. I tend not to go into the city otherwise, because I am burned out on travel. It’s so not the same thing.

      2. Koko*

        One possible reason for not inviting the owner when he was right there is that the employees didn’t see this as a “party” in their mind given that it was during their lunch break in the office. They saw it as more like a fancy break with some celebrations, and if the owner normally doesn’t come socialize with the group when they’re having their lunch break, they didn’t think it was weird that he didn’t come socialize with them today.

        As a parallel, every team in my building has their own unofficial socializing area. A cafeteria, a rarely-used conference room, an open area with seating, and that’s where everyone from that team goes to socializing. If you want to socialize over lunch, you bring your lunch there and sit with whoever else has showed up there. I can see this being, “Well, the only party option was half an hour away. Since we don’t have a real party to go to, let’s do a potluck for lunch on Wednesday.” And then the word just spreads organically and everyone who wants to can show up. Boss never comes to lunch, he always eats in his office, so he isn’t part of the chitchat and it just doesn’t occur to his employees that he would want to be part of the holiday potluck because he’s never part of their other lunch breaks.

    4. LBK*

      I think it’s slightly different to exclude a regular boss vs an owner (and owner’s wife, who I’d say for these purposes is basically an extension of the owner). Unless this is a tiny company where boss and owner are one and the same, there’s something about inviting the *owner* that forces things to feel a little more formal and less relaxed. You don’t have the same kind of closeness with an owner that you do with a coworker or manager that you work with every day (since the OP and her husband have 2 companies, I assume it’s impossible to be spending all day every day at company #2).

      If this was a formally organized event set at a time and place that the employees knew the owners would be around for and didn’t invite them, I can maybe see it being a little weird. But something like a potluck can easily snowball from one person saying they’re going to bring in lunch for the team on Friday, and then another person says they’ll bring in cookies, and then another person volunteers to put up decorations, and suddenly it becomes a party.

      1. KAZ2Y5*

        I got the impression this was a tiny company. With 20 employees total, that’s not very big to me. Don’t get me wrong, if I had to pick a side I would be on the side of company #2 employees. I guess I’m just really curious how it came about that the owner was eating PBJ sandwiches in the next room while the employees were having a party. Which is something we will probably never know….

        1. LBK*

          I think 20 people is enough that there’s probably at least one layer of management between the owners and the ICs. I imagine someone has to be handling day-to-day operations since as I said, the owner can’t possibly be present at both companies at once 9-5 M-F.

  8. Marzipan*

    #2, put the outrage down and back away slowly. You’re getting worked up because your employees had lunch together. At lunchtime. Why on earth should they have asked anyone’s permission to do so? You don’t own their fellow-feeling. So long as they didn’t trash the place, leave them be. You sound, I’m afraid, an awful lot like Ebenezer Scrooge.

    And yes, I know there was a party suggested elsewhere, with the other company, but they all told you they didn’t want to do that. It’s better, surely, that they do something they want to do than feel railroaded into going to a party they actually aren’t interested in?

    It is not sneaky or underhand for your employees to be friendly with one another. I’m sure they do indeed do all kinds of things without informing you (having coffee, perhaps; going to the cinema at the weekend; babysitting for one another), and this has no reflection whatever on their manners because again, their friendships aren’t yours.

    Have a lovely Christmas, #2. But make it ‘God bless us, every one’ rather than ‘Bah humbug’. You’ll enjoy it so much more.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – It looks like the employees of business #2 are more casual than #1. They chose a very unstructured and casual way to celebrate. This might indicate why they turned down the big party invitation. They don’t enjoy big parties! You say your parties “are a blast.” That’s your assessment. May I suggest that your employees value system might be different than yours? They may not think that your parties are fun.

    The big red flag is you are taking offense at this. Why are you taking this personally if this is a business thing? There should be some separation between the owners and the employees. By taking this personally you aren’t respecting professional boundaries.

    1. No Name Posts*

      My thought, too.

      I’m not a big fan of holiday office parties, but I think OP totally missed the boat by suggesting a joint party. It sends a message to business #2 that they are less valued than #1.

      It’s no surprise the employees didn’t invite the bosses. Hopefully, they – the bosses- will learn from this.

      For now, let it go.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Al Davis – general manager of the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, had this theory – that I apply to my own management and co-workers =

      “You only have to work with them during the day. You DON’T have to take them home with you at night.”

      (applied – because the Raiders were known for accepting rejects/social misfits/troublemakers on their roster – but as long as they showed up for practice and games and gave 100 percent, that was fine with Al.)

      If you accept that philosophy, then not being invited to the employee’s party, or a luncheon, or being included in the coffee klatch – you’ll do OK. You’ll get by with it.

      I have some co-workers who I love dearly. I have others who I respect highly for their capabilities, and work ethic, but frankly wouldn’t want to socialize with them. And I’m sure some of them feel the same about me. I have too much GOOD in my private life – at home and after work – to fret over that. When you’re an old geezer like me, you may think this way, too.

  10. TheLazyB*

    #2: if you felt strongly that there should be a party for both companies, maybe next year consider holding the party halfway between the two, rather than at the location of just one? Is it important, though, that both companies have a single party? How connected are they on a day to day basis?

    Also, in these circumstances if I was the owner I would’ve waited until it was winding down (so as not to cramp their style!) and stuck my head in to say ‘sounds like you’ve been having fun, merry Christmas’ with a gracious smile… For all you know the staff think it was really unfriendly that the owner didn’t do that!

    It might feel weird but unless you have reason to think it’s been done in a sneaky way for a sneaky reason (other than a feeling) it’s almost certainly not that.

    1. valereee*

      I’m wondering why OP2 and husband feel one combined party is a good idea in the first place. If employees at Company 1 are only occasionally going to Company 2 to help out or fill in, then they probably aren’t close friends — more like acquaintances — which means having a party together means a lot of conversations like, “So, you have two kids, is that right? Both still in high school?” Which isn’t the kind of party anyone enjoys. I’m seeing it as the bosses’ party — the bosses both work with both groups of people and likely know both groups well. They want to throw one big party for everyone, and they aren’t looking at it from their employees’ point of view and seeing that forced socializing with people you don’t know well, even when it means free food and booze, isn’t most people’s idea of fun. From the bosses’ point of view, having one big party is cheaper and more efficient and has the plus of encouraging the two groups to get to know one another better, but those things make it good for the boss, not necessarily the employees.

      1. arjumand*

        “From the bosses’ point of view, having one big party is cheaper and more efficient and has the plus of encouraging the two groups to get to know one another better, but those things make it good for the boss, not necessarily the employees.”

        Valereee, that’s the way I saw it, too. For years and years the employees at company 2 had to drive half an hour for a holiday party just because their bosses were too cheap to throw two separate parties, for two separate companies.
        This year they put their feet down, said a firm no to the joint shindig, and decided to have a pot-luck during their lunch break – hardly the Black and White Ball.
        They didn’t invite the owner, which was kind of rude (I would have at least brought over a plate of goodies), but they were probably expecting a sarcastic comment of the “But I thought you didn’t want a party” type.
        Maybe the employees should have made it clear that they didn’t want a combined party – but seeing as the owner’s partner / company manager wants to punish them for a lunch hour shindig, maybe they were right not to.

    2. Less anonymous than before*

      Also, in these circumstances if I was the owner I would’ve waited until it was winding down (so as not to cramp their style!) and stuck my head in to say ‘sounds like you’ve been having fun, merry Christmas’ with a gracious smile… For all you know the staff think it was really unfriendly that the owner didn’t do that!

      Good point!

  11. VA anon*

    OP #4 – If you’re not interested, for whatever reason, you’re not obligated to even respond to recruiters who cold contact you.

    1. Less anonymous than before*

      They did mention wanting to be considered for other opportunities with this recruiter and didn’t want to burn the bridge by declining this one based on not wanting to work with this particular company and also wanted to make it known that they didn’t want consideration for future roles in this/similar orgs, but wanted consideration for other roles at other orgs.

  12. Anon3*

    I go to bat for my group everyday and try to be fair and supportive. I would be hurt if they had a party right in my face and excluded me, it’s just plain old bad manners. What would it cost to invite them? Maybe next year the owners will decide to shut down, and the jerk employees can have a big party at the unemployment office, what a bunch of in grates!

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      I think you have to measure your expectations for the amount of gratitude you get from employees for just doing your job. If you’re a manager, it’s your literal job to be fair & supportive and to go to bat for your employees. If you expect an overage of gratitude for that, you’ll be disappointed a lot.

      IMO, a healthy employee/employer transaction should start out with the same amount of gratitude on both sides. The employee is grateful to have a job and the employer is grateful to have someone to do the job. Everybody is grateful and one isn’t more grateful than the other. Amounts of gratitude get pushed up and down depending on what happens next (low salary or benefits, points away on the employee side, poor attendance or performance, points away from the employer’s gratitude) but *basically* if everyone remains grateful on both sides and treat each other thusly, that’s the sweet spot.

      With all that happens in work day, do you really take major or any gratitude points away for a plate of pot luck food on one day of the year? I can’t see that.

      1. Anon3*

        Yes. Because every action causes a reaction, so if they say by their actions, you are my boss and nothing more, he then he has to adjust his feelings and accept that. It changes the dynamic of the relationship.

    2. MK*

      Because of course the only reason the owners keep the bussiness open is to provide jobs for the employees, it’s not as if they are making money off it! Then again maybe next the employees will be working for someone who won’t expect “recognition” for offering a fair salary for their work and leave them alone to manage their Christmas celebration.

      I find the very concept of gratitude baffling in a professional context. It’s a bussiness transaction “work for money”, not a favor anyone does someone else. If either party goes above and beyond, then, sure, some appreciation should be shown, but being fair and supportive is your job, not something you deserve thanks for.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*


        I actually like the concept of gratitude, A LOT, in a professional context. It’s the social grease that keeps my wheels turning throughout my work life and it’s foundationial to my approach with my employees, my vendors, my customers and the company owners. It’s probably what gets me up in the morning, living in world with gratitude.

        I write thank you emails to my best vendors at the close of every year. There’s a lot of “no, no, thank you”, “no, no, thank YOU” back and forth.

        Gotta have warmth, keeps me going.

        1. MK*

          Hmm, what you discribe doesn’t sound like gratitude to me, but appreciation of other people’s role and influence in your life, work and not. Maybe I define gratitude differently and we are saying the same thing with different words,.

          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            Sounds like we are. I think you were reacting to the “be grateful you have a job!” line of thinking which I agree I can’t grok. I just love gratitude generally. Like, when I walk in a Wawa to get coffee and think “I’m so grateful Wawa exists and look at the nice coffee lady, thank you coffee lady”.

            (I can be quite a witch the other way around though, it’s not like I’m a pollyanna who walks around eternally grateful or anything)

            1. Temperance*

              You have given me something to think about, and for that I am honestly grateful. I’ve been in a funk these past few days, but you speak my language (Wawa).

              1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

                I wonder how many times the coffee lady at Wawa hears “you are my favorite person on earth!” The one in my Wawa smiles all the time as she’s filling the coffee pots of joy.

        2. Meg*

          I just wrote a thank you note to the boss of an assistant whose work for me was invaluable (I work in a different department and she’s not my assistant) copying her. While doing the work for me is part of her job, I think it is important that she know how much I valued her assistance. I know my note just made her day and benefitted her professionally. I think that’s the kind of gratitude that is appropriate – not the you should be grateful for a job comment above.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            This is it, precisely! I like having opportunities to express my appreciation in a way that makes life better for the person who did the thing. At one of my first jobs, I had a good interaction with a customer, who went out of their way to tell my boss I was a good employee; it really made a difference to 16-year-old me, and that’s the kind of person I want to be now.

        3. Tobias Funke*

          Thank you! I had been wanting to recognize somehow one of my favorite professionals with whom I have many mutual clients and I didn’t know what to say so after I read your comment I finally just emailed him this morning and said “thank you for all that you do to support our clients’ success” and so on.

    3. Mike C.*

      Excuse me? Do you understand how spiteful that sounds? “My fee-fees were hurt so I’m going to burn a giant pile of my own money tI put the people who wronged me out of work”.

      That’s incredibly vile.

      1. Zombii*

        I appreciate that they didn’t fantasize about the employees being fired but jumped straight to the business being shut down. That is some scorched-earth style retribution.

        1. Anon3*

          I stand by what I said. When my boss hired me, I’d been unemployed for several months and terrified of losing my home, or getting into an accident and not having health insurance. He could have chosen to hire any number of other people, but nope, he chose me. To bring him a plate of food, is a big no brainer in my book.

      2. Anon3*

        Not spiteful, just trying to get people to understand where they would be without the “boss”. At any rate many companies are sending work overseas anyway.. so won’t be a problem soon :)

          1. Anon3*

            maybe not but it chaps my hide when people can’t show a bit of appreciation for their jobs or the people who provide them. Jobs going overseas is a growing problem, giving a man a plate of food could go a bit of ways if he has to decide to keep the jobs here, because he feels a connection to the people, or send them overseas because they are nothing more than resources.

              1. Anon3*

                No I’m not amused about people losing their jobs. I’m just making the point that if you can do something super simple to keep your job, you should do it. Most don’t miss their water until the well runs dry.

                1. GraceW*

                  You’re correct, I think. The owner of a small business takes a lot of risks that employees don’t always notice.

    4. BananaPants*

      The owners are paying their employees to work, not to be their friends – it’s a business transaction, not doing favors. It would be exceedingly spiteful, and likely a bad business decision, to shut down Company #2 just to get back at those employees for having a potluck during their lunch hour.

      1. Artemesia*

        The attitude does explain why they had a potluck on their lunch hour though without inviting the sulking boss.

    5. Lora*

      Imma give you some important free advice here:
      1. The world doesn’t owe you or me a damn thing. Not. A. Thing. It is better to give with your whole heart as a gift, and be pleasantly surprised if and when it comes back to you, than to expect stuff from other people. Cause otherwise you’re gonna be super disappointed all the time and that ain’t no way to go through life.
      2. You have to pay people to do things they would not volunteer to do on their own out of the goodness of their hearts. This is the nature of capitalism. If you are running a business with the intention of making money, then you will make lots and lots of money if and only if you learn how to separate your personal feelings from the business goings-on. This goes for all sorts of feelings: leave your feelings about race/gender/sex/religion/politics at the door, and you will make $$$$ very efficiently.
      2a corollary: you can base a business off of feelings and let feelings influence your business decisions, as long as you recognize that the inefficiency they cause is an acceptable cost. Just, you know, FYI you’re still losing $$$ on it.
      3. Also, to quote Stephanie Millhouse, one of the girls in my 7th grade class: Ohmigawd, not everyone, like, DESERVES a pool party invite, Daaaaaaaad, like, ohhhhmigawd. It’s cool though because Steph’s acne was just as bad as mine the next year and she ended up going to rehab in 11th grade while I went to college early, so, you know, karma and all that.

    6. valereee*

      Anon3, I think nearly all employees would really rather NOT have the boss at their party. It doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike him or think he’s a bad boss. You just can never relax and be totally yourself in front of your boss, and a party isn’t really much fun if you can’t relax. It’s one of the things bosses have to learn to deal with: you may very well have a friendly relationship with your employees, but you have too much power over them to actually be their friend. (And, honestly, if I knew my boss would punish me for not inviting him to a party, I’d REALLY worry what he’d do if I got too drunk at the party.)

    7. LBK*

      Do you find it rude for kids to have parties and not invite their parents? Probably not, because no one wants parents around ruining the vibe of a party. That doesn’t mean you don’t love and appreciate your mom, but you don’t really want to hang out with her when you’re trying to relax and be with your friends.

      It’s a similar thing here. No matter how great you are as a boss and how close you get to your employees, you will always still be the boss, and if employees want to kick back they’re not going to want you around.

    8. Tobias Funke*

      Business owners only own businesses out of the goodness of their hearts to provide jobs to lowly peons.


    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Anon3, it sounds like you’re doing your best to do a good job as a manager. Hopefully everyone is striving to do a good job, otherwise we end up in “what you want, a cookie!?” territory (i.e., seeking approval/validation for doing a job that we’re already expected to do). Why would your non-inclusion in a party trigger such a strong level of anger for you?

      1. Anon3*

        Because offering the person who allows you to pay your bills a plate of food is such an easy thing to do. Why wouldn’t you??

    10. Less anonymous than before*

      Employees, who are keeping the business running by coming to work every day and doing their job, and are thusly compensated for their contribution by way of a paycheck should be grateful?? I think Alison makes a point here to remind us all that employment/employers are in a MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL relationship.

      This anger is way out of left field and very very odd. I feel sorry for anyone who works under you.

      Also, the word is ingrate. It’s one word.

      1. Anon3*

        It’s not anger, in addition one of my people had the opportunity to leave and they choose to stay, and no one else has left, so I think they like me. I don’t know… and yes I know the word is ingrate.

  13. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – sounds really awkward for you! Would it make things easier for next year if you arranged with both offices to have some time set aside for an in-hours party – still low-key, and let them arrange it themselves, but make it known they have some extra time on (day)? That way you’re involved, employees at both sites are happy and good feelings all round :-)

  14. valereee*

    OP#2, you were offended by their obvious disinterest in attending the party you’d intended to be a treat for them and their decision to instead hold a potluck on their lunch break. I know you find the combined party a blast, and that employees mention these great parties to you years later, but since you’re the boss OF COURSE that’s what you’ll hear. They don’t want to say directly to you, “Why do we always have to go to a combined party with people we barely know just so the bosses of our two companies get to hold one party instead of two? We’d rather have our own party with the people we work with every day.” So instead this year they said it indirectly. Be GRATEFUL they found this indirect way to tell you what they really wanted. Otherwise you would never have known, and every year you would have been thinking, “What a great treat I’m giving my employees!” when they’re all thinking, “Not again. Oh, well, suck it up, it’s only once a year and it makes the boss happy.”

  15. Grits McGee*

    OP2- It might also be helpful to remember that a fun party for one person is an excruciating chore for another. (If you need an illustration, just read any of the holiday party threads that come up at AAM!) I don’t think the employees at Company 2 were having their party at you. Many people would rather have a low-key office lunch than an after-hours blowout. And, if you and management have been enthusiastic proponents of the traditional, after-hours party that may have played a role in why the lunch bunch didn’t extend an invitation.

    That said, I completely understand feeling somewhat hurt and blindsided by a secret party. But in your situation, there’s nothing to be gained by thinking of your employees as sneaks. The goal of having a Christmas party is to build relationships among your team, build morale, and show your appreciation of your employees, right? (If it isn’t, that might be a clue as to why Company 2 decided to do their own thing.) Fiona the Lurker has really good advice at the top- this is clearly what Company 2 wants, and it costs you nothing (literally!) to follow their lead.

  16. Murphy*

    #2, as someone who, while not the boss, was the only person in the office not invited to an employee breakfast yesterday, while sitting within earshot and eyesight, it was probably a bit rude of them not to have invited the owner to have a bite while he was sitting right there. But as others have said, I don’t see why they would have needed your permission to hold a potluck on their lunch break.

    1. valereee*

      Murphy, but that’s different! You’re not the boss. Unless there’s something to the story you’re not telling us, your coworkers were being jerks.

      1. Murphy*

        No, that’s it. It just didn’t occur to anyone to invite me, which is almost worse.

        I know it’s different…just feeling a bit sensitive this morning.

        1. valereee*

          Murphy, I’m sorry your coworkers are jerks. This time you were probably so shocked that you didn’t say anything, but I think the next time it happened I’d have something planned to say to them. Like, “Hey, I know you guys weren’t intending to be rude and probably just didn’t realize I’d be interested, but that looks and smells delicious, and I’d love to be included next time. I make a mean sausage casserole!” And if they have the brass balls to say, “Oh, it’s just for us, you aren’t invited,” you can say with puzzlement, “Are you saying you DID intend to be rude by making me the only person left out? But why would you do that?”

          1. Murphy*

            There had been a breakfast the week before, but that one was definitely for one particular work group, so that was fine. But this time, it was literally everybody and I didn’t know until I wandered to the kitchen to get myself a snack (from my own food). At that time someone did ask me to grab a plate. At first I said no, because I didn’t bring anything (and honestly I was just so hurt, I really wanted to just disappear). But she insisted there was plenty of food. And then she named all the people she told about the breakfast and asked to spread the word, which to me was just like “these are all the people who could have invited you, but didn’t.” When I sat down someone else said “Oh, you changed your mind and decided to join us.” !!! I said “I’d have been here earlier if I’d been invited…” They were pretty much wrapping up at that point, so I only stayed for 10 minutes before going back to my desk.

            Anyway, sorry to start a tangent. I’ll get over it. It’s just still fresh and I’m pretty hurt. I appreciate everybody’s sympathy and advice!

            1. valereee*

              So the problem wasn’t that you were actively excluded but that no one specifically thought to -ensure- everyone knew, and you don’t have a close enough relationship with any one person to have made it inevitable you’d know if everyone else did. I’m guessing they’re as mortified as you are and that next time you’ll get multiple invitations.

            2. CM*

              Oh no! It sounds like they did intend for everyone to be invited, and it was probably one of those things where everybody assumed that somebody had invited you… but of course it stings.

              1. AMPG*

                Somewhat off-topic, but I know someone who was never told that one of her friends had died because everyone else in the group assumed that someone else had told her. It was pre-social media and she was off the grid for some reason at the time it happened, and so the news never made it to her. It wasn’t until several months later when she complained to one of them that Dead Friend was ignoring her emails that the dots were connected.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Murphy, I’m so sorry you had this experience—I can see how it would make you feel as though you were not valued.

              Fwiw, it sounds like your coworkers fully intended to include you, but because they relied on the grapevine, your invite slipped through the cracks. I promise that your coworker was trying to be warm and inclusive by insisting you join, and I have a feeling she’s mortified by the oversight… which is why she listed everyone she told. I think her intention in doing that was to let you know that they did think of you and intended to include/invite you, not that “here’s a list of everyone who purposefully did not invite you.” But I know it doesn’t feel that way right now, and I’m sorry :(

      2. Jenbug*

        I still think it was rude of the employees not to invite the boss if they knew he was there. But I don’t think there was anything inappropriate about them deciding to throw the party without “approval”.

  17. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    I’m really surprised at the reactions for the potluck thing.

    I mean, even here in France you don’t get to just organize something without management’s approval when it’s on the premises, it has to be cleared by someone.

    So o_o …

    1. valereee*

      SandrineSmiles, you mean if you and a couple of friends decided to each bring in a casserole and share them at lunch time during your break, you’d have to get someone’s permission first? That seems very weird. I literally can’t imagine any boss I’ve ever had caring about that.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yeah, I actually see this as a sign of a positive culture; the employees like and care about eachother enough that they want to have a little celebration together, and have the initiative to just do it.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, this is a good point. Independence and initiative in your employees is a good thing. Group cohesion and identity are good things. Company B don’t want to always go to the in-laws for Christmas; sometimes they want to stay home.

      2. Murphy*

        Yeah, I’m not sure where you would end up drawing the line between “a few people are getting together” and “organizing an event.”

    2. Lora*

      I am interested to hear more about this! Non-US food related and work related things are fascinating to me, and it’s one of those things that sort of flies beneath people’s notice when travelers ask what to expect. I think it’s hard for people to explain because if it’s your life you don’t immediately think of it as unusual or something you’d have to warn someone about, but it’s such a learning curve when you’re in another country.

      Like, in the US you don’t get a lot of time to eat lunch if it’s just you at your desk, you might eat a sandwich or skip altogether and just nibble on coffee-and, but if you are Hosting A Business Lunch then the expectations are very different: you’re supposed to either go to a restaurant or order in pizza or “lunch boxes” from Panera that have a sandwich-chips/potato salad/pasta salad-soda-cookies, or have an actual meal in a conference room. When I was doing a bunch of work in Germany, they thought it was a big deal to order in what we considered to be nothing more than a couple of crackers with cheese and a slice of ham, and a few bottles of mineral water. This is basically what Americans would consider a sick joke, especially considering that we were all grumpy and jet-lagged. In South America they didn’t do breakfast. Coffee, mayyyyybe a little tiny bread roll with spread, but basically coffee. Lunch was eh, grab an empanada/taco or two from the food truck if you MUST, but mostly you saved up all your hungry for dinner and then ate a huge slab of beef and overcooked vegetables with a vat of red wine. I wish someone would have warned me, because I would have prepared by buying myself snacks and fruit I could stuff in my work bag so I wouldn’t feel distracted by low blood sugar all day, but nobody explains that kind of thing.

      1. an anon is an anon*

        I think lunch times in the US varies a lot by company culture. I’ve been in the sit-at-your-desk-and-quickly-eat-a-sandwich environment and in environments where no one cared if you ate at your desk or took an hour and a half lunch. And lunch in different countries probably varies a lot by company culture, as well.

        1. Lora*

          The meals that were the main meal were like, two days’ worth of meals all concentrated into one long alcohol-fueled three-hour Trial By Asada, followed by midnight snacks of pastries.

          I still prefer the US method of breaking it up into smaller meals with the occasional afternoon snack. I feel ill with that much heavy food sitting like a lead weight in my stomach, and lots of non-US hotels make you share a bathroom. It’s some getting used to, and the thing about business travel is that by the time you are acclimated, it’s time to go home.

      2. turquoisecow*

        I hate, hate, HATE eating lunch at my desk. Why? Because you end up working through lunch. Either you have so much to do that you’re working, or someone comes by while you have a sandwich stuffed in your mouth and something personal on your screen (or a book opened in front of you) to ask a work question, and you can’t say “No, come back in an hour,” or something like that, so you end up putting aside your food and book and answering their question. And then what? Do you deduct that ten minutes from your lunch time, or what? And what if you’re required to punch in and out for lunch? Now it looks like you’ve taken a longer lunch, but you haven’t, you were just interrupted 18 times in the middle. At my last job, I literally would go and eat in my car (there was no real break room to sit in) just to get away from my desk.

        I can’t imagine not really eating lunch at work, either, because I’d be starving to death by like, 3:30.

      3. Marcela*

        It always amazes me how different South America is from South America, for in my country lunch is the most important meal of the day. And, btw, we do not have tacos.

        1. Lora*

          Arepas / tacos / some kind of small pieces of meat in a flatbread with seasoning and probably sauce on it, the likelihood of food poisoning being in direct proportion to the number of chain restaurants bearing the same name. USA tacos are not what most Mexicans would consider tacos either, they are “spicy meat in a flatbread-type thing with orange cheese, salsa and iceberg lettuce” and bear only minimal geometrical resemblance to an actual taco you would buy in Oaxaca. Heck, they only minimally resemble tacos you can get in Texas.

          I feel like work-lunch vs real lunch are different things though: in most of Argentina if it’s a regular day, lunch is indeed the most important meal, especially if it’s Sunday – everything shuts down for hours – but in Buenos Aires on a work day you cram down a sandwich pretty quickly and get back to it. It’s kind of similar here, a regular non-busy lunch involves salad, sandwich or maybe pizza, fried potatoes, a sweet, some kind of non-alcoholic drink which is not water (usually soda), but if it’s a busy work day you skip a lot of that and eat whatever you can scrounge from a vending machine (candy, chips) or a packet of instant soup. In Germany, breakfast was the most important meal, and there was yogurt, fresh cheese, aged cheese, several kinds of bread and pastries, fruit juice, meat (not just sausages and bacon but also sliced roast pork or beef), hot cereal, muesli, coffee etc. and people really lingered over it. No real lunch so much as a snack, and then after work everyone ate a ton of food at the biergarten. Italy, it was dinner as the main meal (oh god…so much food…) and we had what they considered a “small” lunch of three courses but we sat down at a restaurant for it – a sandwich eaten on the run was considered a snack, and breakfast was a thing with Nutella on it. It didn’t seem to matter what, it was just a thing with Nutella on and a tiny doll size cup of pure caffeine.

          In Venezuela things were just…messy? I guess? so I don’t really know what they do when there isn’t a massive shortage of things in general. We brought a lot of our own stuff and the company flew us home weekends if we were staying more than a week. We sort of smuggled food in our luggage…

    3. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      That’s interesting.

      At our size, around 100 for my division, we don’t have an employee activity committee, which I guess you could have. Employee celebrations just sort of erupt on their own, I think that’s cool. Management > employee appreciation events are different.

      If the events were overly distracting or exclusive of some employees or caused disagreements, that would require intervention (sigh), but employee events without management having to DO or say anything? Awesome!

    4. LBK*

      I mean, if you’re booking out a meeting hall and bringing in a bartender and a caterer, yeah, you should probably run that by your boss first. But for a bunch of people to just bring in their own food to share with others? I don’t see why you’d need to ask management for approval.

        1. valereee*

          Exactly…uh, you want to bring in food to share and gifts to exchange with all your coworkers, and you want to do it on your break in the place specifically reserved for your off-the-clock use? Why in the world would any reasonable boss require permission?

  18. (different) Rebecca*

    OP3, I totally agree with AAM. It depends on why they left and how much you need them to do afterward. I left a warehouse job to go to college, and a few weeks later got a panicked call to fill in for a week. I *may* have laughed in my ex-bosses ear and hung up. I had class, so first off, no. And they were abusive while I was there and never recognized how much work I did around the place until I was gone, so secondly, NO. I’d have done a sit-down with my replacement, once, but they never bothered to replace me so I felt no obligation at all…

  19. DCompliance*

    OP2- I am curious about two things. You said there were a range of excuses. What were the other excuses besides distance? Also, what attempts were made to bring the companies together? Perhaps the reasons as to why company one had their own party are in these answers.

    1. fposte*

      I’m also wondering if “together” always means “at company A.”

      OP, I’m also wondering how your husband, who is the one who has actual ownership and the one who was there, feels. Are you guys in the same page about this, or is it possible that you’re the one who’s really upset, and it’s driven by love for your spouse who you would like to see given more credit? If the latter, that’s another reason to talk yourself down–nobody’s going to love him like you do, and if the owner would be okay with this on his own, that’s a good sign that it really is okay.

      1. Murphy*

        I was thinking that too. If it does make sense to have a joint party, it should alternate whether it’s closer to Company A or Company B.

        1. ceiswyn*

          And if the reason it doesn’t is that Company B is smaller, then my suspicion is that there’s a tendency for Company B employees to feel a bit sidelined in favour of Company A.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Very much this. I worked at an organization with two offices that were fairly far apart, but they always had massive work-related activities at Office A (which coincidentally had fewer staff). For Office B to participate, we had to find some place to stay overnight, and organization did not offer to cover that cost (although they did encourage Office A to invite us to stay at their homes/apartments with them). Office B constantly asked if we could host at least one event and if major (non-development) events requiring all-staff participation could be held halfway between. The one year we did meet halfway, Office A complained incessantly and denigrated Office B’s geographic area, and it led to Office B opting out of all Office A events.

            1. valereee*

              I find it outrageous that a company would expect you to travel for a work-related activity and not put you up. And almost worse, to recognize the problem and think it was okay to solve it by asking others to invite you to stay! UGH! The last thing I want after a workday is to be the houseguest of someone who was coerced into hosting me!

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                There were many bad things about this organization that only became apparent when I was an employee (but also there were some red flags I ignored when I was an intern because I was bright-eyed and so passionate/excited about the organization’s work). To date, it’s the only job I ever quit.

  20. MW*

    With regards to OP#2, how normal is it for a spouse to be involved in a company their partner owns? My professional experience is mostly with larger companies, and I’m not very familiar with this sort of practice. I have a friend who works at a photography studio run by a husband and wife, but she is the only employee so the size of the business has an impact.

    Personally, I find it odd to hear about a spouse that “helps manage” with a business (as OP#2 puts it). From the sounds of things it’s an unofficial position (he/she doesn’t have a title, a salary, direct reports, etc.) If that were the case, as an employee it would make me uncomfortable- but like I said, my experience is narrow, and I know there are things in my industry that would make people uncomfortable that I just accept. Is this sort of situation all normal and acceptable in other companies/cultures?

    1. Anonymously*

      My parents owned their own business for a while. It was a sports/entertainment kind of thing- think motocross kind of stuff. My dad did most of the day-to-day running of events, but my mom held one of the most important jobs in the control tower on race days. Mom did most of the bookkeeping and paperwork on off days, but dad always helped her. So for me, that seemed totally normal! I don’t think it’s unusual at all in a smaller family business environment.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      OP2’s husband is running not one but two small businesses at the same time. I shudder. Throw in a layer of “family business” and jeepers.

    3. Xarcady*

      I’ve worked for two family-owned businesses.

      In one, the owner/president’s husband was the VP and head of Sales. In the other, the owner/president’s grandchild was in the Sales department, and the VP’s daughter was the office manager.

      My take on family-owned businesses is that family members get involved to the extent they want to be involved. “Helping manage” could mean doing the books, ordering the supplies, or going out cold calling, being the office manager, or just about anything else.

  21. Lora*

    OP3, I am only giggling because yesterday I got a frantic text from a colleague at ExJob, who was morally certain that I had, 10 months ago, borrowed a huge plastic container from him and never returned and now he couldn’t find it. It was actually in the warehouse and someone else had taken it without asking and put it back in the wrong place, in the end, but the thing was big enough that even if I’d wanted to take it home, I wouldn’t have been able to fit it in a car (much less on the bike I rode to work there!), and also so cheap that I told him if it would make him feel better he could have one from the warehouse of NewJob provided he was willing to drive an hour to collect it (he wasn’t). He’d been running around with another engineer for four hours searching for a $20 plastic bin when he could have just used his corporate card at Lowe’s for 15 minutes.

    The short answer is No. No you cannot. Unless you want them to chuckle kindly and wish you the very best of luck.

  22. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: I think this was handled weirdly all around. It was weird to presume that Company2 employees would happily be guests at the Company1 party, but it’s also weird for Company2 to hold their own event on company premises during the workday without running it by someone first. (This isn’t overtly bad behavior, but it does make me think that Company2 actively didn’t want the owners to know about it.) I assume that the Company1 party happened after hours…which again raises the question of why Company1 employees got preferential treatment. The more you go on and on about the “legendary” awesome Company1 parties, the more Company2 is going to wonder why you’re not affording them equal perks.

    1. LQ*

      We hold potlucks all the time without asking. At some point in the distant past someone asked, but no one is running it all the way up the flagpole here every time someone wants to do something. Or even the day I brought in popcorn, a coworker brought in gingerbread, and someone else brought in pie. It looked like a celebration, but they were all pretty random. Just coincidence. (And that was earlier this month.) If every time someone wanted to bring in doughnuts they had to ask for special permission that would be super weird to me. And I work some place that has a lot of weird rules.
      Also I bought in doughnuts today because it is the day of the year we have the least people so I bring each person their favorite. Does that make it a holiday party?

  23. valereee*

    Stellaaaaa, why in the world should employees need to run it by anyone if they want to bring in casseroles to share and gifts to exchange on their lunch break in the break room?

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Listen, I know that Alison and the commenters here tend to take the viewpoint that employees should be given lots of freedom, but I’m not gonna act like I don’t think it’s a bit inappropriate to presumptively use the space someone else owns to host your own social event. It would be one thing if they all went out for dinner after work. Instead, they had the lunch at work when they knew their boss would be there.

      I’m not going to take this any further, but my Small Business Spidey Sense is starting to pick up on a lot of the personality and management issues that tend to crop up in these companies.

      1. LBK*

        I mean yeah, technically someone else owns it, but it’s still their office space that they use every day. It’s not like they commandeered some part of the building that they don’t normally have access to. And I think you’re exaggerating a little calling it a “social event” – it’s just lunch, not a formal party with +1s and all.

        It just feels overly possessive and draconian to position it like this was an improper use of privately owned space and that the workers only have access to it by the good graces of their employer. They were already all there for work anyway.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I just don’t think that people are entitled to do whatever they want at work as long as they’re not strictly breaking any rules. As I said upthread though, there’s weirdness on both sides of this thing. Company2 isn’t unjustified in doing what they did, and I understand how power dynamics may prevent them from speaking up in more on-the-level ways, but I’m catching a big whiff of passive aggression on their end (they didn’t tell their boss that they were holding a group lunch on a day he was there. They didn’t have to tell him, but I think OP2 should think long and hard about what message her husband’s employees are sending him). Which is fair; sometimes being passive-aggressive is the only “safe” way to express disapproval or get a point across. But I’m not going to act like I think Company2’s manner of solving the problem is the platonic ideal of conflict resolution or healthy workplace communication, because it isn’t.

          1. LBK*

            I just think you’re reading too much intention into their actions without us having enough background to justify it. The OP doesn’t have any info about how formally this was organized or how purposefully she and her husband were excluded, she’s just making assumptions that they did it on purpose because they don’t like her. Unless there’s additional context/history that would show this being part of a pattern of tension or passive aggressiveness from the staff, it’s not nearly egregious enough to stand on its own as evidence that there’s a problem the OP should look into.

            I don’t think people are entitled to do whatever they want as long as they’re not breaking rules either. But bringing in some food to share with your coworkers doesn’t even come close to abusing the “no explicit rule against it” loophole in my view. I actually think it would be *more* awkward if they’d organized a dinner somewhere else together, because that would mean it was very formally planned, a restaurant was chosen, a reservation was made, etc. A potluck in the office could easily have snowballed out of a couple people just feeling some holiday cheer and wanting to bring in food (which happens often around this time of year – two of my coworkers that like baking have been bringing in cookies all week).

          2. Less anonymous than before*

            So, no one is allowed to bring in donuts, cupcakes, or left over cookies to work and leave them in the break room / lunch room and if several people take a break at the same time, or if there is a universal lunch time in the business and everyone is in the lunch room at the same time, if they partake in the gifted cupcakes or shared fruit tray or whatnot, they are being abusive to property that isn’t their own?

            Noted. No cupcakes guys!

            1. 14 years*

              But one person bringing in a treat for anyone is different than a whole office working together to make a (presumably rare) special lunch happen.

            2. Stellaaaaa*

              I honestly would cursorily ask before bringing any one-off snacks into the office. Food always requires someone to step in and do a little extra cleanup, and it can get in the way of the workflow if people are running to the break room more than usual. Some companies aren’t cool with employees eating finger foods while handling merchandise or money.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Really? That’s extremely unusual, so I think the take-away for you is that your experience is a real outlier on this and this isn’t how offices normally work.

                1. Stellaaaaa*

                  My experience is often colored by 10+ years of experience at small businesses, which most people here do not have. It’s not out of this particular norm for small business owners to have an odd sense of propriety about these issues, and since the OP’s email dovetails with this, I’m responding through that lens.

              2. Ceiswyn*

                Stellaaaaa: Speaking as someone who also has 10+ years of experience at small businesses (what on earth made you assume you’re unique in that, amongst THIS diverse commentariat?) I have never worked at a company where anyone expected you to ask before bringing in snacks. And definitely nowhere where the managers weren’t cool about cookies!

                If that is the culture in the places you’ve worked, then that is really unusual. And are you SURE tgose are your employers’ opinions, and not just yours?

                1. Less anonymous than before*

                  I’d have to second this, Ceiswyn. I have worked in large and in small businesses, and never, in my 18+ years of being in the workforce (I’m including my teenage years) have I ever had a manager or a boss who had an issue with food being brought in/left for others/shared amongst one another etc. Not ever. I’ve had some experiences where office culture was largely based around sharing of snacks and food and having food brought in for every meeting etc, and I’ve worked others where it wasn’t as common, but never frowned upon. Especially as adults, I think we are old enough to know not to touch merchandise (if we work in a retail setting – which I haven’t since I was a teenager, but even then food was shared) with sticky fingers…

              3. Observer*

                Seriously? The organization I work at was quite small when I started there. It would never have occurred to ANYONE to ask before bringing food into the office. Wow!

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, this is what I’m trying to get at – they used a room they have free access to during work hours for its intended purpose, or at least a purpose tangential to its main one (eating). Presumably they don’t have to ask for manager approval every time they eat in the break room. That doesn’t seem like entitlement to me, it seems completely logical.

        2. LCL*

          It wasn’t just lunch. According to OP, it was a potluck and gift exchange and etc and took some planning. It would have been a courtesy to tell boss. Here, management and etc will be told about parties and sometimes it is clear that you are being told as a courtesy but aren’t really invited. The best way to handle those type of invites is to say you are busy but will drop by at a specific time. Formalities are observed, nobody is snubbed, everyone is informed, people know when manager will be coming by.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think that’s an over-read. If you have a potluck, and you also have a gift exchange, that doesn’t transform the potluck into “much more intense event.”

          2. an anon is an anon*

            “Some planning” could be as simple as people putting their names down in a spreadsheet saying what they’re bringing. And a gift exchange usually means putting your name in and showing up with a gift. That’s what “potluck and Yankee swap planning” at my company parties involves and it takes like five minutes.

            1. LQ*

              Yeah, we had a lot of people who brought food and gifts yesterday. Nothing formal. But the last day before they were gone. So there was a lot of stuff in the office. You sure didn’t need to bring your own lunch. And lots of gifts. But no one formally did anything. There was zero planning and it happened.

          3. Less anonymous than before*

            People informally exchange gifts all the time around this time of year though. Even with “secret santa” type exchanges, i don’t think they have to loop in the owner of the organization to do such things? Do you? It just so happened that while they were eating in the lunch room off the clock on their lunch break, they also took that time to exchange gifts with their co-workers who they wanted to exchange gifts with and who they likely wont see over the holiday weekend….

            I don’t think it’s this big deal that it’s being made out to be.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is so interesting, Stellaaaaa, because it would never occur to me to ask permission to have a potluck with my coworkers in our break/lunch-room. I think it’s because I would never think of it as “company space for company-approved things only,” because, well, it’s a break/lunch-room. I mean, even if it were on the office floor it wouldn’t seem strange to me.

        So it’s really interesting to hear another perspective on this, especially because you’ve framed it as “something not done right, even though it’s not expressly forbidden.”

        I will say, though, that it’s entirely possible the employees didn’t invite the owner because (a) they thought Owner would react very badly (which seems true if Owner shares OP’s feelings/reaction); or (b) they had no idea that Owner was going to be in that day at the time the potluck was going down (because it sounds like Owner bounces between both company offices). It is entirely possible that Company 2 employees are sending a message, but it’s also really possible that there was no sinister intent.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          I think there was probably an overt group-thought process that involved deliberately not telling the boss. Not in a malicious way or anything, but it’s extremely strange and suspect to me that a whole group of people discussed bringing in food and exchanging gifts only when their boss wasn’t around to overhear, and that he wasn’t even told about it while it was going on. The employees know that the boss is really into his holiday parties. You don’t tell your party-happy boss that you’re having a party in his office?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thanks so much for following up. I’ve been trying to figure out where my thought process departs, and I think it might be that we have really different ideas of who an office belongs to. I mean, of course owner rents/owns the building, but in my mind, the people who work at a company are also co-tenants (not in the legal sense, metaphorically) of that space. So it feels less like a “throwing a party at your parents’ house” situation to me, which is probably why I feel so differently.

  24. Lizketeer*


    When I applied to internships at a very large company with a wide variety of role options, I basically had 3 versions of my resume but they all looked the same at first glance. The frame work (previous job titles/time, education, etc) was all the same, but I changed what went under each job a bit. Version 1 made sure to have all social media experience listed first, and version 2 had web development listed first. Same content, just prioritized differently. At the time I didn’t know if each application went to a different recruiter, so this was my way of customizing but also not seeming like 3 different people if it was a single recruiter

  25. Katie the Fed*

    #2 – I think it’s just lovely that your employees have such camaraderie and work together so well they that they pulled this off. Maybe try looking at it that way. I’d love if my employees got along this well!

  26. animaniactoo*

    OP2 – You sound like you’re veering dangerously close to being a “look for a dis, find a dis” kind of person. Maybe that’s not true and there’s a lot more context here that isn’t crossing over, or this is just something you were particularly invested in and are hurt by how it played out. That happens sometimes when our expectations rely on somebody else’s cooperation, and if so, try to avoid that, because it’s setting yourself up to be hurt if they don’t want to do what you want them to do. If they don’t want to do it, that’s not necessarily because they don’t like or respect you, a lot of times it’s just because they value different things or have a different priority right at that moment, and that’s okay.

    It doesn’t mean you’re of *no* or “very low” value to them – just that this is not a particular way that they want to express it or partake in what you have to offer, so it’s important to reign in the hurt and remember that you might not particularly want to go golfing (or whatever) either that they so enjoy.

    I think you would benefit a lot by pulling back and doing a couple of things.

    1) Convert “excuses” to “reasons” in your head. They may sound like excuses to you, but they may be valid reasons in the heads of the people who are offering them to you. It would benefit you to accept them as such at face value.

    2) Find the benefit of the doubt. Instead of looking at it from the perspective of what you would like or wanted to give them, think about it from their perspective – what GOOD reasons might there be that they would prefer what they did, to what you were offering? Can you find a way to support that? Side benefit, they’ll feel more appreciated because you are giving them the freedom to do what makes them happiest.

    Yeah, sometimes we accept less happy versions of things in the name of making someone else happy and showing appreciation… but I think it’s important to note here that an employee holiday celebration is primarily supposed to be about owners/managers showing appreciation for the employees who keep the business running. So in this case, the dynamic runs more towards what they would appreciate having than what you as owners would appreciate and want to give.

    1. animaniactoo*

      fwiw: I knew of someone who moved because their 20 minute commute was too far to drive. That sounds insane to me as somebody whose commute takes 40+ minutes via public transpo, but hey. That’s where he was at. And one of my sisters will not drive anywhere that’s more than 5 minutes away. She’s got her license and all, but she hates driving. Literally hates it. So she’ll do it if she absolutely has to, but very limitedly.

      1. Artemesia*

        We organized our life during our career to not have more than a 15 minutes commute (and for me it was not more than 20 minutes when I was dropping a kid at daycare and one at school while my husband walked to his workplace). I realize that is not an option for everyone. One of my kids and his spouse have horrifying commutes in the LA area and they pretty much have no choice about it if they want the jobs they have. But it can nevertheless be pretty important to people.

    2. valereee*

      Actually, I’m going to disagree that you should what seem to you to clearly be “excuses” as valid reasons. You need to find the reason BEHIND the excuse rather than accepting the excuse itself as a valid reason. People give excuses for not accepting invitations because they don’t want to attend, but they don’t feel comfortable telling you that.

      If you accept what feels like an excuse as a valid reason, you might try to solve the problem the wrong way. For instance, if the reason behind the excuse is that people really want their own party in their own location with their own coworkers, and the excuse they give you is that the drive is too far, if you accept that excuse as a valid reason you might try to fix things by holding a combined party in a location halfway between the two companies, or offering to reimburse taxis. Which wouldn’t solve the problem at all.

      1. animaniactoo*

        That’s when you stop and ask “What would work for you?” rather than continuing to toss ideas at someone. There’s a reason they don’t feel comfortable telling you the reason at that point. Partly it’s on them, but hey… stop trying to force it, accept that maybe they have OTHER valid reason why what you want to do doesn’t work for them, and start asking what would work from their standpoint. And that works whether their reasons are excuses or reasons. By assuming that they’re reasons rather than excuses, you leave the possibility open that something can be worked out without any ill-will or dismissiveness about “excuses”; and it turns you away from seeing people as a cliquish bunch who are sneaking around behind your back vs making arrangements for what works for them that they didn’t think needed your buy-in for it to happen.

    3. Artemesia*

      If the ‘reasons’ are ‘excuses’ than the real reason is that THEY DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS and the parties are not a ‘blast’ for them. And likely that they feel like a third wheel at someone else’s party.

  27. Uyulala*

    #5 – Is anyone else reading the question different? AAM may have more info, but with just that question, I am reading it as the writer sending 1 application that shows skills in a lot of unrelated areas. Sort of like a general “I want to work at your company” app rather than applying to a specific position.

    1. MrsCHX*

      That could happen too. There’s a multinational company based here in my city that I dreamed of working for for years. I applied for a few different positions there over a couple of years – I was qualified for them but they were all a bit different…

  28. MrsCHX*

    OP#2 please understand how you’ll come off if you mention this holiday celebration with any whiff of annoyance. Please don’t do it!

    I live 5.5 miles from work and seriously don’t travel more than 20 minutes from my home/work sphere for much of anything. I’m spoiled. And if all but 1 persond declined a joint party that’s a real indication that they don’t want to do it. Vs your assertion that it’s happened before and everyone loved it.

    OP#1 I would suggest not going in with a set number but start the discussion with 1) what duties you and the 2nd employee will split and 2) negotiating an increase in pay commensurate with those duties.

  29. Mockingjay*

    #3: I’ve been contacted multiple times by colleagues and managers after I have left certain positions. “Where’s this?” “How do we do process X?” “Can you give John a call and explain how to…?” I had one program beg me to return after 4 days.

    I found these contacts irritating. I left for good reasons; the work I had been doing was underappreciated, and I was doing the work of multiple people. I also left on professional terms: every process was documented, every file was clearly labeled on the server, and all my tasks were completed and closed out before leaving. If you had read these materials and listened to me when I explained the transition, you wouldn’t have needed to call me. And if you really needed me that much, why didn’t you show me while I was there?

    LW #3, during your meeting with the departing employee, ask for all the documentation you can get. Ask to be shown databases, reports, and other applicable information. Ask who the SMEs and the Go-To people are on the staff. Pick her brain dry before she leaves.

    [Note: In regard to recent Toxic ExJob (see: Meeting Minutes Saga!), Intrepid Colleague is doing well and has not needed to contact me for anything. There’s been some changes there which have improved the work environment. I’m still glad I am here at New Job. Much better fit!]

    1. Mustache Cat*

      Oh god, I am in so much sympathy for your pain. I left an incredibly detailed folder for my successor with documents filled with every single process, situation, and contact, along with informal suggestions for managing relationships and a detailed month-to-month schedule of work for the next year. Two months into my new job, I’m getting texts and messages…

      1. Artemesia*

        I hope you are responding with “it has been awhile and I am not sure, why don’t you check the folder I left with the documentation of our processes.” And then stop responding at all.

        1. Mustache Cat*

          Haha, I didn’t word it very clearly, I started (and stopped) getting texts two months into my new job, which was five months ago.

    2. Liz2*

      I always say “I’d love to answer that, but my consulting fee is $100 an hour.” Or I would if anyone actually called me about stuff after I left a job.

  30. Zahra*

    OP 2, I get it. It sucks when you try to do something nice to people and they reject it. It sucks even more when they do an alternate version of that someting nice without giving you a “by the way, we’re doing a potluck in the office, feel free to come by and grab something”. It’s hard to not think “but why didn’t you want my nice thing that was so much nicer than this?”

    However, just like when you take it upon yourself to help people, you need to make sure that your “something nice” is something they actually want to participate in. I sense that company 2 (C2) employees often help out company 1 (C1). How is their workload affected by this? Can they accomplish all the tasks that are attributed to them at C2? Do C1 employee reciprocate by helping at C2? Do you, as the owner, make it clear that you appreciate all the help they provide to C1 (verbal is nice, additional PTO or a raise is better)? How often are you in each location?

    How many events are at C1 instead of at C2? Are C1 employees the ones whose suggestions are taken into consideration when planning said party? Is the holiday party one that they have to pay to attend?

    What I’m getting at is that they may be feeling like they are a secondary consideration and not valued to the same extent as C1 employees are. If that’s the case, I suggest, for next year, to a) hold the party at C2’s location or somewhere close to it (turnabout is fair play and all that and you should actually alternate or find a midway point for the party to occur) and b) ask C2 employees what their ideal holiday party/summer BBQ/etc. would look like. For all the rest, you need to take a hard look at what has been happening in general and how you can make C2 employees feel valued to the same level as C1 employees.

    And if you think I’m wrong after thinking about all of these questions and trying to see the situation through the perspective I’m suggesting, feel free to disregard this.

    1. Less anonymous than before*

      Also all of this!! I meant to add in my thoughts about perhaps the employees at the company who threw their own soiree have some negative feelings towards the other company and that it might be worth looking into. Well said.

    2. Bretley*

      The OP included in the letter, “…many employees from company 1 who fill in and help out at company 2.” Not the other way around.

      They also wrote, “There were many attempts made to work out any scenario that would bring company 1 and company 2 staff together for our party.” It’s unclear if these attempts were made before or after the employees at company 2 declined the offer to go to company 1’s location for a party, and if those attempts included meeting mid-way or closer to/at company 1, but many commenters here appear to have skipped over these two points in the original letter.

      1. Zahra*

        Oops, I read that the other way around. Still, it’s worth checking if there are any negative feelings around the party and between both companies’ employees.

  31. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

    #4 *raises hand sheepishly* I once ghosted on an interview at a company when I found out they manufactured semiautomatics.

    I also seriously considered quitting when a former employer had me work on a consulting project for a right-wing economic policy org diametrically opposed to my beliefs. I interviewed elsewhere, but didn’t get the job and didn’t have savings, unfortunately. If I were a better person, I would have left anyway.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Not leaving a job because you don’t have the financial means does not make you less of a good person! I think integrity is super important, but I also think it’s important to have food/shelter/security. You did your best in difficult circumstances by even looking for other jobs; please don’t beat yourself up for not leaving!

  32. Less anonymous than before*

    #2 – Don’t Poop The Party I think it’s normal for a staff of a business to arrange a party to have with one another and it was held off the clock and I’m assuming the management in the business were aware, just not your husband the owner? If I am reading this correctly, then it is not abnormal.

    However, if it is really important to you/your husband the owner, to have and celebrate holiday parties with the staff then perhaps this will be something you can arrange in advance next year? Instead of asking everyone from one location to drive to the other maybe you can find a neutral location that’s halfway between both and throw a soiree for both of the staff groups together.

    I used to work for a very large corporation that had several holiday parties per region and lumped together nearby offices for one soiree. They were held in a banquet hall of a hotel and the holiday parties were a big deal. Several course meals served by waitstaff, drinks, a DJ, and raffles where staff won big ticket items, including televisions and such and vacations. It was a lot of fun and not everyone knew one another, hell, even people in my building didn’t all know one another. So I don’t think you have to only have a party at the location where everyone knows each other. But maybe making it a neutral location and hosting/covering the food/entertainment yourselves if it’s important to you.

    Otherwise don’t begrudge them for wanting to host a potluck together.

    1. Less anonymous than before*

      Okay – an addendum –
      I reread the letter, I do think it is slightly odd that direct management in Company 2 wasn’t involved in their lunch break gift exchange and potluck and I wonder why? In any place I’ve personally worked, the direct management was always involved but maybe not upper management in any close sort of way. At Large Corporation all levels of management were at the annual holiday party, but upper level/c-level mangement were present to direct their appreciation to us, and to hand out awards and accolades. But they also enjoyed the festivities.

      1. an anon is an anon*

        My take was that if there are 10 employees at Company 2, management was probably involved in the party, but not the owner. There’s likely some form of management other than just the owner for that many employees, even if it’s just an office manager.

  33. Paradoxically*

    Not to pile on OP#2, but, distance to a party is a perfectly valid reason not to want to attend. I commute about a half-hour to work, and I attended our holiday party, but it was scheduled right after work in the same area. It costs me 1-2 gallons of gas to get to work and back daily, not to mention the non-paid time. I would be very reluctant to make the same drive not to get paid. Figure in possible other costs like party clothes, babysitters, and you’re asking for quite a sacrifice for people to spend recreational time with 1) people they already see every day, and 2) bunch of strangers from another company. Perhaps if you paid them to attend, or, reimbursed for travel costs, there would be more interest?

  34. Less anonymous than before*

    #5 —

    Are you applying for actual open positions or just sending a resume that shows you can work in anything that’s avail and would like to be picked for any opening?

    If it’s the latter that doesn’t sound like a good idea. If, however you qualify for 2 or 3 different currently open positions then you should, as Alison said, tailor your cover letter to those particular positions.

    But if you’re just sending a resume and cover letter that says you are Jack of All Trades Just Hire Me For Anything You Have Open that would be seen as out of touch and would probably get you ignored entirely. Don’t do that!

    1. OP5*

      They were all Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, All of the above positions. I lightly tweaked the resume to line up more with what they were looking for exactly in terms of the job description-requirements and tailored cover letters for each position. But I’m doubting if this much trouble was really worth the effort, as I was only interviewed for one position (out of four applications) that I didn’t end up getting. They ended up going with someone else who unfortunately didn’t work out. Rather than starting another search or contacting one of the runner ups, they simply realized that they really didn’t need to hire someone else for the position, and instead opted to just have existing employees perform the duties in addition to what they were already doing.

  35. Less anonymous than before*

    Another thought about LW#2 —

    It’s possible that the employees had this informal lunch potluck together and their office manager or manager or whatnot knew and so it was assumed by the employees that the manager of day-to-day things would loop in owner since they probably have direct contact with him more regularly that the other employees.

    Also, it’s possible, as someone else mentioned that since owner is back and forth they may not have known or assumed he would be there during their lunch off-the-clock social hour.

  36. Sarah*

    I think it’s very easy for management/owners and staff/employees to each end up in their own separate bubbles where each misunderstands or misinterprets the other’s actions. It sounds like the owners wanted all their employees to have a great holiday party, which is a happy sentiment. The employees at company #2 just weren’t interested in the joint party and probably didn’t know how to politely tell their bosses that without offending them, since clearly the bosses were really excited about the joint party and think it’s a fun event. In order to not offend the owners, they decided to do their own low-key party on their free time, and I can see how they would’ve felt really awkward about telling their bosses about it.

    I think perhaps that the OP just needs to think about the power dynamic – that s/he is the boss, so the employees are going to be afraid of offending them – and think about what the employees want instead of what the OP wants for the employees. Ideally, the employees would’ve said up front, “Thanks for the invite to the party at company #1, but we would really like to have our own celebration.” That would have avoided a lot of the hurt feelings. The question is, why didn’t they say that? That’s where the power dynamic comes in. Were you and your husband really pushing the party at company #1? Did perhaps the employees feel like they couldn’t say they weren’t interested in going, that it would displease you if they said that? If you think that might be the case, then I would advise you to think about how to create an environment where your employees feel safe speaking up about what they want.

    If you’re concerned about them being “sneaky” (which kind of makes them sound like children), I would again think about what kind of communication you are fostering with your employees. How can you create a work place where your employees will talk to you about their concerns and ideas? If you sense they are starting to be covert in their discussions about things, that’s most likely an indicator that they don’t feel comfortable bringing up things that you might disagree with. All employees want to feel like they have some input in how things function at their workplace; it makes people more invested and motivated.

    It sounds like the OP really wants their employees to be happy, but they are just misdirecting that desire by wanting the employees to do things the owner thinks will make them happy, instead of finding out what they actually want. The good thing is that is a relatively easy thing to fix: just start asking them and listening to them. Good luck!

  37. A Non E. Mouse*

    OP#2 – I think you could use this as a lesson for next year; for example our company has scheduled potluck “snack” days around holiday time.

    The Powers That Be send out a note that such-and-such day is designated for it, and each department kind of sets up their own spread.

    It can be a real blast – people bring in “special” dishes, and you can visit other departments for a slice of someone’s famous apple pie, or a bit of that cheese ball in accounting that’s to die for. Productivity plummets for the day because of Food Comas, but it really does help build relationships with coworkers.

    They’ve also hosted chili cook-offs, with different people bringing in different recipes, and the rest of us bringing in a needed supply on a sign-up basis – so X number of people brought in shredded cheese, X number signed up for and brought disposable bowls, X number brought corn chips, etc. Management provided a few things, plus the prizes (best chili overall, best non-beef, etc.). They weren’t huge, just gift certs if I remember right, but it was fun to taste and vote.

    I think initiating an activity of this kind can make help employee/management relations, especially if the company springs for the main dish – like providing the grill, hot dogs and buns, and it being a potluck for sides.

  38. Rebecca*

    OP#1, I’d tread very lightly here. You may well end up with a double workload with no increase in salary, with a fast track to burnout as a bonus. I was the victim of a doubled workload at my old job. Allegedly, I was going to back up a coworker who was going on maternity leave, only someone else quit, the pregnant coworker moved to another role, and “surprise!”, in one day I went from learning to back her up to taking on most of her work, on top of my already full workload. My compensation was an increase of 50 cents per hour. For over 2 1/2 years I struggled with this, my manager wouldn’t listen, and so I found another job and quit.

    The bottom line is – don’t do this. I think you can ask how the work will be divided *if* the other person leaves, but I would not volunteer to take it all on.

    1. valereee*

      I had the same concern…what you basically seem to be saying is, “I have excess capacity. If you pay me 20% more, I’ll use that excess capacity to do the work of this other person (who must have had excess capacity too if you think you can do what she was doing AND what you were doing). If the other employee leaves and it makes no sense to replace her, why not hire a temp?

  39. previous poster*

    #2 : I posted a question earlier in the week about my staff having a holiday party at lunch and not inviting me, but inviting other members of management. I decided to act as if it was no big deal and not address it and this seems to have been the right bet. I have had amazing 1 on 1 check ins this week thanks to some tips from the Lighthouse blog. It turned out to be (so far) a non-issue and I hope your situation will be the same.

  40. Norman*

    I think there’s one point that might support a very small sliver of OP2’s question: If there were employees from company 1 “helping out” at company 2 (which according to LW is a thing that happens) on the day of company 2’s holiday party, it would have been quite rude of company 2’s employees to exclude that person

  41. Happy Cynic*

    #2: “I can only imagine all the things they are doing behind my back, too. ”

    I’m not usually a “dude” person, but… Dude. DUDE.

    OP, is it possible that… um, that employees at these businesses *actively dislike* your management style? I say this in the hopes that if there’s some difficult perspective to be gained here, that you are able to do so. In my experience, people who make comments like the above, and several others in your letter – might be left out of a party for reasons that they’re just blind to.

    On “refusal”, also known as saying “no thank you”: maybe they didn’t want to drive home after holiday party drinking? Maybe they just wanted to have one time off from driving a commute? You seem really stung by their declining, but you’ve offered no range of reasons, and it doesn’t sound like you took any time to sit people down and gently ask.

    The way you’ve framed almost everything in the letter – that employees are sneaky, that they’re doing things behind your back – makes me think there are some deep-seated trust issues happening at this company. I wonder if this translates into micromanagement, which turns into employees resenting that, which turns into mgmt being paranoid and micromanaging even more … which ends up at them not giving a s*** about some party they don’t want to go to.

    Jeez, they just had a potluck on their break, and suddenly they’re – what, fudging time sheets? Embezzling?

    In my experience (seven years’ total at two different businesses), working at a place where family members are employed or heavily involved is a giant red flag – and so is this letter. OP, I think you should take a long look at this situation.

    Good luck.

  42. OP5*

    The extra effort in tailoring my resume really didn’t pan out in this case. I applied for four positions and quickly received canned rejection letters for three of them without being interviewed. I would have been perfect for any of them, but apparently whoever was making the decision didn’t see it that way. The position I was interviewed for also resulted in a rejection letter, but in this case the hiring manager admitted that I was merely being interviewed to meet a quota and that the position at the location where I had applied had already been filled. She said “she’d keep me in mind for similar positions at other locations.” But the rejection letter proved that was a lie. I partially blame the phone screener as I had to reschedule twice because she “had something come up.” both times, this pushed back my phone screen which pushed back my interview. Perhaps had I been phone screened and interviewed sooner I would have had better odds of getting the job.

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