coworker gave my presentation without my okay, acupuncture as team-building, and more

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

1. My coworker gave my presentation without my okay

I recently had to call out sick last minute, which meant I missed a brief presentation I was supposed to give as part of a larger meeting. I told the meeting organizer I wouldn’t be there, and they told me I could just present at our next meeting.

My colleague, who works with me on our small team, also attends these meetings. Unbeknownst to me, he gave my presentation at the meeting while I was out sick. I should mention that he was in no way involved with or very familiar with the work that I was presenting on. He followed up with an email to me later that day with some questions from the audience that I had anticipated and planned to address as part of my presentation if I had been there. How can I tell him that he shouldn’t have presented work that he didn’t do and wasn’t familiar with? He’s been at the company for less than a year and I think he’s still trying to prove his worth.

First, make sure that your boss didn’t ask your coworker to fill in for you or something like that. But assuming he just acted on his own, yeah, that is a huge overstep. You could say this to him: “I had arranged with Jane that I was going to give my presentation at the next meeting instead. I didn’t arrange for someone to fill in for me, because I wanted to give the presentation myself since I’m the person most familiar with that work. In the future, would you please check with me before stepping in on something like that, so that I have the opportunity to say that I’d prefer to handle it myself?” You could add, “That’s especially true with a project like this that you haven’t been involved with and wouldn’t be able to answer questions about.”

2. We’re supposed to try cupping and acupuncture as a team-building activity

My workplace is big on team-building and morale-boosting events. Normally the events are not bad and are something everyone can enjoy (everyone gets taken to lunch on company time/dime to a restaurant chosen from a list by all employees, motivational speakers who are actually interesting, an employee art display for individuals who like to draw or paint, etc.). The morale and working environment is good and I have never had any issues until now.

The newest activity my boss wants to do is for everyone to try both cupping and acupuncture. He is touting the health benefits of these “treatments.” How do I tell him I don’t believe in woo and no one is putting suction cups or needles anywhere near me? In my opinion, treatments like these are nothing more than snake oil and I refuse to have any part of them. I’m not the only one who feels this way either. Before this, everyone was always excited about the activities and events put on by the company, but most of the individuals I have talked to want nothing to do with this woo.

Are you required to participate, or “strongly encouraged to” even if it’s not technically required? If not, I’d just sit this one out. But if you’re discouraged from opting out, then say something like this: “I don’t feel comfortable participating in health treatments as a work activity, and as you probably know, alternative medicine in particular isn’t universally embraced. I’m hoping we can reconsider this event, or provide an alternative for people who aren’t comfortable with it.”

3. Inviting all coworkers except one to a personal party

I’m the manager of a small retail team, there are nine of us including myself, and we mostly get on really well. Recently we were struggling as we were understaffed and couldn’t find anyone suitable, so I took on the best candidate that had applied, let’s call her Sam. Even though she was far from ideal, we were really that desperate.

Although Sam’s performance hasn’t been great and she hasn’t integrated into the team at all, that’s not why I’m writing. Another of my team, Cat, has recently got engaged and is throwing an engagement party with her fiancé. Cat is excellent at her job, is well liked by everyone, and would like to invite the team, except for the fact that she cannot stand Sam and doesn’t want her there. I have a feeling I already know the answer, but is there a way to invite all but one of the team? (This isn’t a work event. It’s a personal event, but she’ll probably give out the invites when she sees us at work.)

Because it’s Cat’s own personal event outside of work, you can’t dictate who she does and doesn’t invite. But inviting everyone but one person is a pretty unkind act, and it has the potential to be a toxic act, by making Sam feel clearly excluded and making others feel that excluding Sam is now a thing that happens.

While Cat can invite anyone she wants to her private event and you can’t control that, you do have standing to point out the problem to her and ask her to consider handling it differently. You could, for example, say something to her like, “Inviting the entire team except one person is exclusionary and is the sort of thing that could impact the team dynamics here in a negative way. It will look like you deliberately singled out Sam, and that’s unkind, even if you don’t intend it that way. I’d ask you to take that into account when deciding how to handle your invitations.” And certainly if she proceeds with her plan, you can tell her she needs to keep it out of the office.

4. Explaining I was fired for ethical disobedience

I’m a college student, hopefully graduating in May. I’m in the middle of job applications, and there’s one issue I’m not sure how to handle. I was fired from a previous job for ethical disobedience. It made actual international news and is easy to find on Google (here’s an article about it), particularly since I have an uncommon name. I’m not embarrassed about what I did, but I’m concerned about what employers will think. On the one hand, that episode demonstrates my dedication to ethical behavior, on the other, it shows that I’m willing to disobey my boss if I think what they’re asking me to do is morally wrong and go to the press about it. How can I best explain this to possible employers and where? I feel like a cover letter is the best spot, but I’m not sure how to frame it as a positive.

First, kudos to you for what you did. (For anyone who can’t access the article because it’s behind a paywall, a commenter has summed it up here.) I don’t think this article is anything to worry about at all — you come across sympathetically and while some people might side with your old employer, plenty more will side with you, or at least not be terribly concerned by it. A lot of people in your shoes would choose to help a suffering animal (and that’s a good thing), and it’s not the kind of disregard for instructions that’s likely to translate into most office jobs, where you won’t typically be running into injured animals.

You don’t need to address this in your cover letter at all! It might come up in an interview, at which point you can answer questions about it, but it’s very unlikely that an employer would see this and choose not to interview you because of it. As for explaining it if you’re asked about it, you can say something very simple like, “I felt strongly that it was the right thing to do, and that Scout law backed that up.”

5. HR manager is pushing for me — what does that mean?

I applied for a director-level position several months ago and didn’t get it but was told I was highly considered (I took the bronze). I was disappointed but understood their reason.

The position became available again, very quickly. I re-applied, and the HR manager emailed me and said he was glad I was still interested, he was going to reach out to me, I just beat him to it. He called a week later just to check in and say no decisions have been made, hang tight.

Two weeks passed, he emails, says the team is busy, haven’t met yet (they have a big event this weekend). I promptly respond that I’m still interested, and asked that he pass along to the general manager some additional information. His response back was a thank-you and he said he was pushing for me.

I don’t expect to hear anything for another week, but when an HR manager says they are pushing for you, does that actually mean anything and what kind of push do they have? Are my odds better or is it just fluff?

It’s really the hiring manager’s call. The HR manager may have some influence, but ultimately it’s not his decision. “I’m pushing for you” can mean anything from “I think you are the best candidate and I’ve told the decision-maker that, but it’s out of my hands” to a more general “You seem like a nice person and I wish you all the best, but who knows if this job will pan out or not.”

I would try very hard not to read anything into any of this — you’re trying to interpret things that you’re just not going to be able to figure out either way from the outside. The best thing you can do in this case is to assume there’s no offer coming — and then if they do contact you with an offer, it’ll be a pleasant surprise.

{ 793 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Putting this up here so that hopefully people see it before leaving additional comments: Please don’t debate the benefits of cupping or acupuncture here; that’s not what the question is about and will derail us. Thank you.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      OP #2, since this is a medical treatment they want you to participate in (and boy, is that all kinds of messed up for a workplace event), I recommend framing your response in those terms. “I’m afraid I have medical reasons why I can’t participate in treatments that haven’t been authorized by my doctor.”

      I’m a massage therapist, incidentally, and I’m just as appalled by this as you are. Regardless of whether one would or would not choose to use these treatments for particular health care needs in other circumstances, nobody should be using ANY health care as a required work activity!!

      1. teclatrans*

        Yeah, have used plenty of “woo” approaches in my decades-long struggle to get back to health, including cupping and acupuncture, and I am a massage therapist, and I am just appalled at what’s being proposed. I don’t let just anybody work on me, I carefully vet therapists and practitioners based on people who know my particulars. Plus, medical treatment for the hell of it? What if it exacerbates an existing issue? People will have to disclose preexisting health issues…the potential legal liability in this activity has my chin on the floor.

        The irony in all this is that by treating acupuncture and cupping as a spa day activity, the boss too is treating it as woo. And if he has a practitioner or facility pushing him to bring in a group like this, then I wouldn’t want them to touch me, like, ever.

    2. London Bookworm*

      I think it’s also a red herring in this case. Whether you believe in their efficacy or not, these would be inappropriate as team-building activities.

      I don’t know a ton about cupping, but isn’t acupuncture generally done alone in a room? After telling the practitioner about your various health aliments? That seems like a serious violation of privacy, and not really allowing much opportunity for bonding.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        I have to agree with that the idea that it’s a red herring, these are not appropriate team building activities any more than any other medical treatment is.

        Next team-building activity group colonoscopy! Or maybe group pelvic exams/prostate exams.

          1. Observer*

            Blood donation is a bit different – but to be very honest, it’s a bit fraught and easy to overstep there, too.

            1. fposte*

              I agree with that (speaking as somebody whose blood they won’t take myself); just noting that there’s some medical stuff that’s crept in under the “pretty ordinary” umbrella.

              1. Say what, now?*

                Same, I can’t donate blood thanks to some places I’ve lived. My reason is easy to explain and not terribly personal but that won’t be the case for everyone. You wouldn’t want to just unearth some personal medical drama by creating an arena for lack of participation to be questioned.

            2. Artemesia*

              And it is embarrassing for people with any issues that bar blood donating. I remember giving blood at work a few decades ago at the height of the AIDS epidemic when I had been in the middle east which at that time had some sort of blood issues around parasitic bugs in the dessert and I had been in the dessert. If you had been there, you were barred from giving blood; I remember having to walk by all my co-workers after being rejected and feeling like without explaining why, I would be potentially gossiped about.

              Whether cupping is ‘woo’ or not and yeah I think so, but to each his own, it is entirely inappropriate for a group activity. And in fact it is less appropriate the less woo woo it is as it becomes then more of a medical treatment.

              1. Observer*

                And in fact it is less appropriate the less woo woo it is as it becomes then more of a medical treatment.

                I TOTALLY agree with you on your whole comment, but especially this!

          2. Kimberly*

            My former work did this and teams that had 100% got a prize. I can’t donate due to medical issues. There are also people that don’t for religious reasons. I pointed this out to our boss. It was decided that supporting the blood drive included providing goodies and juice for those donating. The person with religious reasons was fine donating food. With those changes, we had 100% participation.

            1. AMT*

              Sounds like a decent solution, but I would still feel weird about my coworkers knowing that I can’t give blood and possibly speculating about the reason. It would be really easy to get outed as gay or bisexual in such a situation.

              1. Chameleon*

                Well, I often get rejected from donating just because I tend to be on the borderline of anemic. I also got rejected once because I’d been to China within one year (malaria concerns). There are a lot of very valid reasons to be barred from donating so while I totally understand the concern, there is a whole lot of cover available too.

              2. Ugh*

                I 100% understand your concern and agree that it shouldn’t be part of team building or something that is rewarded at work.

                That said, I was in a community service fraternity in college that held two major multiweek long blood donation competition against another university each year. I’m severely afraid of needles and was never able to participate. No one ever questioned it or thought anything of it.

                But work is super different.

            2. One of the Sarahs*

              Wow, so if someone can’t because of things like medical conditions, sexuality etc, they have to pay cash? That seems really really unfair (I can’t give blood because of my medical condition, and would be really pissed off I had to buy things for colleagues – but even moreso if it was because of a discriminatory, non-medical reason like sexuality)

            3. Sled Dog Mama*

              This is awesome that work found a way that everyone could participate!

              Something I really liked from the blood drives in college (it’s been a while since I donated due to some medical issues so I don’t know if this still happens) was that when they take you into the cubicle and ask all the screening question at the end we were handed two barcodes the bags for the donated blood and a piece of paper and the screener would say “I’m going to step out, then you take one bar code stick it on the bag, the other and stick it on the paper, then come out. If we can used your donated blood put this sticker on the bag, if you know of any reason we shouldn’t use your blood for another person put this sticker on.”
              I asked and they told me it was because some people get that peer pressure to donate (especially in college) so it gives you that one final out to say don’t give my blood to another person but in a way that allows you to save face with anyone pressuring you.
              Obviously this doesn’t help those who can’t give for certain reasons but it does go a long way in help those who might be worried about their sexuality being outed.

              1. Ramona Flowers*

                I don’t love that! I can’t give blood because complex health issues mean they feel it’s a risk to ME. Why should I have to pay when others dont by virtue of good luck?

            4. TardyTardis*

              I have to explain that I got hepatitis A 0ver 30 years ago (food problem at the O Club) and that the Red Cross keeps throwing garlic and crucifixes at me (but will let me volunteer to handle the products if properly gowned and gloved due to some medical training). That usually lets me off the hook.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Not debating, but the fact that they are controversial contributes to how inappropriate this is. Imagine a spa day with hot stones/massages, etc. You might feel uncomfortable doing these activities around your coworkers…or not, depending on the people involved, and how the spa handled the activities. The nature of the controversy is part of what makes them inappropriate.

        It might help to focus on the fact that, even if you believe these are effective treatements/therapies, how often and where to have them done are still fairly personal decisions, and you might not want them done in front of coworkers. But I don’t think the question of efficacy is completely inconsequential.

        Although if you meant that we can safely ignore it because of all the *other* reasons that this is an inappropriate work activity, then I guess we’re in agreement!

        1. michelenyc*

          At one of my old jobs we did do a team massage afternoon at a spa and we all had our own private therapist in our own private room. I have a hard time believing that these procedures would not be done privately. With that said cupping and acupuncture should definitely not be a team building activity. They both require intensive conversations with the practitioners before you just jump right on in. At least that has been my experience.

          1. SpiderLadyCEO*

            Was this a team building activity or just a perk? Like, what was the thought process behind this? I’m genuinely curious.

            I would love it if my work paid for me to get a massage, though I think I would feel weird about it knowing my boss was one room over…

      3. tink*

        I’d think one would have to take their shirt off for cupping? I’ve usually seen it being done to the back and legs. Definitely not something I’d be ok doing in a room full of coworkers.

        1. paul*

          You’re damn well not getting me to disrobe in front of coworkers (and let’s be fair, they don’t want me to!).

      4. Case of the Mondays*

        Community Acupuncture is actually becoming very popular as a means of making the treatments more affordable to everyone. I go to a place that has 20 recliners in a big room and one practitioner walking around doing the treatments. You just whisper what treatment you are there for, she puts in the needles, gives you a blanket, and you waive her down when you are done. The room is full of white noise and is dimly lit like a spa.

        That said, still not a work event.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          Following up to the questions of undressing for the curious, community acupuncture is done on the arms/hands, scalp, legs at or below the knees, feet. You can wear a t-shirt and shorts or pants rolled up for it.

        2. SG*

          Regular acupuncture is also clothed, but you are alone in a room with a table, and the practitioner leaves and comes back. Community is in one room, with practitioner going from person to person. It began with drug detox back in the 1970s using ear acupuncture only, I believe. Whatever benefits are or aren’t derived from acupuncture, there is an ear point that stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and drops you into a state of lovely relaxation.

          But even if this was a room full of chairs and clothed coworkers with needles in their ears, it would be highly inappropriate.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I just got a visual of that and it made me laugh!

            But yeah poking needles into people is definitely not a work appropriate activity! I mean would they have team building piercing or tattoo parties?

    3. EC*

      I totally agree! I myself am deathly afraid of pointy objects like needles, so acupuncture is a huge no-go and OP’s boss is really being incredibly inappropriate.

      That said, I really think that OP should be more diplomatic than she has been in her letter when addressing this with her boss. I confess that as a Chinese person I was quite offended to see traditional Chinese medicine treatments disparaged as “snake oil” and “woo”. If the boss is Chinese too he may find those terms very upsetting!

      1. mreasy*

        Agreed. The activity is totally inappropriate as team-building, but the writer’s attitude rubbed me the wrong way. The reason to oppose this isn’t because a thousands-year-old medical system strikes you as “woo,” but because medical treatment isn’t teambuilding.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ll go so far as:
          • No medical treatments as team building
          • No skin puncture as team building
          • No bruising etc visible on your body after team building

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. It’s just so invasive.
            The bruising also covers a lot of other inappropriate team-building activities, such as paintball.

          2. mreasy*

            WAIT, does this mean I have to cancel the planned forced tattooing team-building event I’ve got planned? ;)

        2. Mike C.*

          It’s a perfectly fine term of art and a perfectly good reason not to participate. Calling something “woo” isn’t an arbitrary distinction given to practices that just aren’t well understood or are associated with specific ethnic groups, rather it specifically applies to well studied practices that when tested have shown little to no evidence of medical effectiveness.

          If a particular practice doesn’t show beneficial effects under repeated and peer reviewed double blind testing, why is it bad to have a name for that?

            1. Artemesia*

              You can believe that holding crystals and chanting cures cancer; I can believe that this is ridiculous and laugh about it. I can also laugh at flat earthers, those who reject climate science etc etc. Believing in ridiculous things does not entitle one to not hearing opinions that these are ridiculous things. And if you are right, what do you care that others thing it is ridiculous?

              1. Penny Lane*

                “You can believe that holding crystals and chanting cures cancer; I can believe that this is ridiculous and laugh about it. I can also laugh at flat earthers, those who reject climate science etc etc. Believing in ridiculous things does not entitle one to not hearing opinions that these are ridiculous things. And if you are right, what do you care that others thing it is ridiculous?”

                Spot on, Artemesia.

              2. Lena*

                Well by that logic no one should get offended by anything ever, because if they’re right, what does it matter?

                1. Mike C.*

                  This reminds me of the my first job when I was told not to talk about my undergrad thesis in evolution because I had a coworker who was a creationist.

                  They shouldn’t be offended because I’m not causing harm by pointing out that something hasn’t passed a double-blind study. If I point to someone and call them a fat@ss that is harmful because while they may be overweight it carries a lot of negative social connotations that are undeserved.

            2. Mike C.*

              Could you explain to me why it’s reasonable to be offended about categorizing practices that have shown little to no medical support for the claims of their practitioners? Hypotheses are experimentally invalided all the time, why is this suddenly an issue to be upset by or at worst something that borders on racism (see below)?

              1. Lena*

                The term itself is derogatory to the people who practice it traditionally. You don’t have to believe it (and in fact, I don’t), but you don’t need to refer to it in that manner.

                1. Barbara*

                  Let’s imagine that word was used towards Christian beliefs I am sure there will be much more reactions. I don’t share Christian beliefs but wouldn’t use such a derogatory term.

          1. Penny Lane*

            Because apparently your feelings about something trump science! I’m with Mike C on this one. The lack of critical scientific thinking in the US is atrocious (how many people don’t believe in global warming?!) and this is just a prime example.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              You and Mike are both kind of missing the point here.

              To use an analogy, I’m a birth doula. I’ve studied the scientific research regarding the dangers of epidural anaesthetic during childbirth and it’s not a close question. But I would never tell a pregnant woman who was choosing to have an epidural all about the birth complications which stem from epidurals… because it is THEIR body and THEIR choice what to do with that body. I don’t get a vote, and frankly, neither does science unless they want it to, because it’s *theirs*.

              This is the same situation. It is inappropriate to disparage, to someone’s face, the choices they make about their own body, because it is not your business what choices they make about their own body. It’s theirs. If you disagree with them about their choice, even if the evidence is solidly in favor of your position, you still ought to hold your tongue about it in their presence; because otherwise you’re not merely stating the facts, you’re sticking your nose into their business.

              This is, incidentally, *precisely* the same reason it is also wrong for a boss to expect their staff to get body treatments of any kind they don’t choose to. It’s not wrong because the treatment is “woo” — it’s wrong because the body is not the property of the boss! It’s the property of the individual, and it should be entirely their decision what, if anything, gets done to it.

              In the case of acupuncture, there is considerable scientific controversy about *what* the double-blind studies say; some say it’s more effective than placebo and some that it is not, and the proponents of each group of studies can point to flaws in the other’s methodology to argue that that’s the only reason their opponent got the results they did. Under those circumstances, it’s even wiser to tread carefully — but I wouldn’t care if every study ever done said I was correct about the effects of a given treatment on the human body; I still wouldn’t discuss the matter with somebody who had chosen to use it on their OWN body.

              1. Mike C.*

                A doctor would certainly tell a pregnant woman about the risks of such a medical procedure because that’s a fundamental part of medical ethics – you cannot have informed consent without it. To make claims that a medical practice does things that it does not actually do is grossly and fundamentally unethical.

                I’m not disagreeing with someone’s choice to go do it, I’m disagreeing with the idea that I must somehow hold these practices with the same esteem and respect as practices that have indeed been shown to work. I have said nothing about the people who chose to to have these procedures done to them, only to the practices themselves. I’ve been very, very explicit here.

          2. Elizabeth H.*

            “Woo” isn’t a term of art (???) or some kind of scientific categorization, it’s intended to be a derogatory phrase and I think it’s kind of disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

              1. Elizabeth H.*

                Sorry if you misunderstood what I meant. You wrote, “calling something ‘woo'” isn’t “an arbitrary distinction” but that it “specifically applies” to “well studied practices that when tested have shown little to no evidence of medical effectiveness. To me you’re pretty clearly saying that you feel like the term “woo” has a clear definition with objective meaning. That’s why I objected to your assertion that it’s a term that would be akin to a scientific categorization, something with a clear definition and objective meaning.

              2. LawBee*

                but you said “Woo” was a term of art – which it isn’t by any stretch of imagination. A term of art has a specific meaning in a profession or area. Calling practices one thinks are silly “woo” is the opposite of that.

            1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

              It’s not, like, an ethnic slur or anything. It’s a synonym for ‘pseudoscience’.

              Someone who believes that the moon landing was faked might be personally offended if I call them a “conspiracy theorist”, but that doesn’t make the term any less applicable.

          3. Can't talk now*

            I know nothing about cupping so I will confine my comment to acupuncture.

            Western medicine does recognize that acupuncture can benefit certain people with certain conditions but much like a drug it can have different effects in different people and some people receive more of a benefit than others do. I’m most certainly NOT asserting that acupuncture can cure anything and everything for anyone and everyone, but it has been shown to have a beneficial effect (even in people who don’t believe it works) for certain conditions.

          1. Anna*

            The OP isn’t in a professional setting, though. They wrote in to an advice blog. They aren’t going to their boss and telling them to keep their woo out of the workplace. They are asking for advice on how to not participate in an activity they personally find to be “woo” and how to phrase that pushback.

        3. Penny Lane*

          It’s a fallacy to assume that just because something has been around for thousands of years, it has merit / is proven somehow. Lots of useless folk treatments have existed for hundreds or thousands of years.

          1. Anion*

            “Traditional Chinese medicine,” if my memory is correct, was basically pushed by Mao as a way to further control the citizenry and prevent the encroach of the dreaded Western Medicine. It’s not still around because it worked so well, it’s still around because the people weren’t allowed to have anything better.

            And sorry, but we’re discussing a “system” that is not only scientifically unsound but destroying endangered species at an alarming rate.

            1. Nicole Maria*

              Ok but the actual Chinese person at the top of this thread said that the language felt offensive to her. Please just be considerate: it might be bunk to you but if someone considers it part of their cultural heritage, that’s not for you to decide if they can do that or not.

              1. Anion*

                And no one is saying she can’t consider it as part of her cultural heritage. Not one person is saying that. That’s fine. It doesn’t make that cultural heritage sacred, though, or automatically beyond reproach or worthy of approval; it doesn’t make it any less something a murderous dictator forced on people and it doesn’t make the endangered animals it kills any less dead.

                She can believe and say what she likes.

                As can I.

                P.S. I do not answer to you. I know this is difficult to accept, but what I say or think is not up to you. I do not have to run it by you for approval first, and I do not need to be scolded by you for repeating facts.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  Actually, if you are going to claim that you have the right to say anything you wish, whether or not other people are offended by it, then you either have to accept being scolded by anyone who wishes to say such things to *you*, whether or not you’re offended by it; or you are a hypocrite. Double standards are not okay. Either both you and the people scolding you have the right to say their piece despite their target finding their words deeply offensive, or neither of you do.

                2. Rose*

                  No one is asking you for approval. In fact, plenty of people in China don’t get cupping or acupuncture as a matter of personal preference. Maybe they also think it is “woo”. But they wouldn’t tell some their decision to do it is scientifically invalid and they are stupid because that’s not how polite society works, no matter where you are in the world.

                3. Nicole Maria*

                  You can believe exactly as you like, obviously, but what you need to consider is whether it needs to be said in this particular forum, and does it need to be said by you. Not everything in your brain needs to come out through your mouth (or in this case, keyboard). Again, it’s your choice, but it’s something to at least consider.

      2. Wintermute*

        I think that it’s important though, to consider that these things are not benign, some people are actively offended by them.

      3. Nicole Maria*

        I agree, I was about to say the same thing! You can state that you personally don’t want to participate in something without disparaging it as a whole.

        I’m an atheist and if someone mentioned visiting a church (separate from work, of course) I would never say something like “oh not that brainwashing b-s- again”, I’d just say “no thanks, not for me”. Or I might even go because it could be interesting.

        1. Wintermute*

          On the other hand if your (secular) company brought in a preacher to go around ministering to the staff (wasn’t there a letter about something like that way back?) you wouldn’t be outside your rights to say ‘hey, I find this pretty offensive’.

    4. MLB*

      Regardless of how the LW feels about cupping and acupuncture, it’s an inappropriate work activity. But LW seems super judgmental in the letter. It’s cool if she doesn’t believe in those things, but she needs to make sure that when she speaks to her boss that she doesn’t feel it’s appropriate and not that these activities are a bunch of hooey.

  2. Kendra*

    The article about the OP who was fired for ethical disobedience is behind a paywall – would someone be so kind as to summarize it?

    1. Ted Mosby*

      She was working at a Boy Scout camp and helped a hurt bald eagle that for some reason the Boy Scouts really didn’t want her to help or call wildlife rehab for.

      Truly weird. You did the right thing Eliana (or Jeremy?) and most employers won’t judge you for this.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP was an ecological director at a scout camp, was told about an injured raptor, and asked permission to go locate the bird. OP asked their boss for permission to find the bird and report the bird’s location to wildlife services, and their boss said OP would need approval from their grand boss to make the report but said nothing about OP hiking to find the bird. OP found a bald eagle in very bad condition, texted their boss for permission to call wildlife services or transport the animal, and they were told they were not allowed to do so and could be fired for it. Their grandboss called the local Wildlife Center for assistance in identifying the species and asked how they should proceed. Grandboss also checked with the game warden.

      Aware of the risks and consistent with the Wildlife Center and game warden’s comments, OP and their sibling carefully transported the animal to the Wildlife Center for care. When they returned to work, their grandboss dressed them down and told they’d exposed the Boy Scouts to a fine of $200K, that the game warden had wanted to arrest them, and fired them for insubordination. They do not appear to have broken any laws or protocols.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Btw, I think OP is a freaking champ. What they did was thoughtful, aware, and indicates integrity. I wouldn’t bring it up in the cover letter or worry about how to explain the incident.

        Anyone who would penalize you for following proper protocols to assist an injured animal probably makes coats from puppy skins and uses orphan tears as moisturizer.

        1. Blackcat*

          Not just a champ, but brave in more ways than one. A friend of mine works at a wildlife center and was there when a guy brought in a ball eagle that had been shot. The guy’s next stop was the ER, because even a hurt eagle is still super dangerous.

          1. This Daydreamer*

            I’m not surprised. Eagles are freaking HUGE and will happily use any of their sharp bits to rip any possible threat into non-sharp bits.

              1. Blackcat*

                And their beaks can easily cut off a finger.

                Don’t get in a fight with an eagle. You’ll lose.

                Unless you’re wearing lots of Kevlar. That was how they handled that bird. Kevlar gloves above the elbow, Kevlar vest, and police riot gear mask/helmet.

                They had a hell of a time domesticating it (it’s injuries were too severe for it to be releasable, so they had to train it to be a display animal). Sometimes raptors adapt well and quickly to captivity–they decide that having food brought to them is a pretty good deal. This guy seemed to understand that a person had shot it, and he held that against all of humanity.

                1. Candi*

                  There’s an old Encyclopedia Brown story where golden eagles were being shot for, apparently, kicks and thrills.

                  It happens, hurting things or doing dumb things for the adrenaline kick or the feeling of doing something forbidden. Coming down on the perp like a rock helps in some cases, in others explaining and invoking empathy works. There’s no magic solution for the peculiar thinking that processes such actions as acceptable.

        2. Elemeno P.*

          Absolutely. If anything, I think what the LW did shows that she is willing to stand up for what’s right even when under pressure from people above her.

          1. Jesmlet*

            Exactly. Team Bookbinders all the way. Anyone who isn’t going to want to hire you based off of that is probably a less ethical person who values obedience over morality and that’s not a place you’d be happy working anyway. The majority of people should see this as a plus.

          2. CarrieT*

            I disagree that it was a good judgement call. Putting yourself in danger (Eagles are strong and sharp!), disrupting the natural course in an ecosystem (I mean, all animals die eventually…), and leaving your post to do something against your supervisor’s instructions…it just doesn’t seem like the right call to me.

            1. OP #4*

              I’d worked at a nature center for several years handling raptors and I was off duty. If I’d known that it would need to be euthanized I would have left it, I regret stressing it out by transporting it, but I thought it could be rehabbed.

              1. CarrieT*

                Thank you for clarifying. Being off duty seems like an important point. That to me clarifies that it was more of your own personal judgement call, rather than something that may have been inadvertently representing the scouts.

              2. CarrieT*

                FWIW, knowing about this incident wouldn’t make me at all hesitant to interview you. If I was hiring you for a job related to conservation or wildlife, I’d want to have a conversation about it and hear your reasoning. But if it were for any other kind of job, I’d deem the incident irrelevant.

              3. O-so-anon*

                My $0.02, (anon because work deals with wildlife issues — strict “do not interfere, ever” policy) maybe pitch it like that safety and respect for the environment will always come first and when making critical decisions and is not okay to leave an animal in pain, especially an endangered one.
                Also, maybe mention that you understood the potential consequences but have previous experience and saw the bigger issue but that could not convince a stubborn higher up. There’s no whistleblower protection service and in place so you proceeded. And you’re willing to work with old employer to amend their policies if asked.
                Maybe also

                (just off an overnight flight, this may not work for your industry, ymmv)

              4. Anon for this*

                If you apply for a job in the wildlife/nature center field, it might (maybe) come up during the interview.

                Different agencies and organizations can have varying policies regarding injured wildlife, from a strict “let nature take its course” to “collet and contact a staff licensed rehabilitate asap”. You will need to do some background work if this is the field that you want to go into. Knowing if the future employer leans one way or the other can help you to tailor your answer. “I worked at X facility and am experienced in handling raptors. From my visual assessment, it appeared the bird may have responded well to rehabilitation. Therefore, I safely collected it and trasported it directly to licensed Z, and notified Z in advance of the situation. Unfortunately, the bird was beyond assistance and was humanely put down.” If the job is with an organization that has a “no interference” policy, you’ll need to determine if that’s acceptable to you prior to the interview. With an organization like that, a simple addendum of “I understand your organization has a no interference policy, and can commit to following it.” would work well.

                In any other field, I don’t think you have to worry about it.

          3. Lindsay J*

            Yes. These are the type of people I need on my team and would 100% hire her in a heartbeat, even though my jobs have nothing to do with animals or ecology.

            I need someone who will thrown on the breaks if they see something incorrect happening, and that will stand by their decision even if people are trying to budge them in order to save on a budget line-item or prevent negative press.

      2. LouiseM*

        I would be glad to have this person join my team! At least I would know they wouldn’t be anything like the coworker from a few months ago who callously killed a cute ladybug that another coworker put on their plant…

        1. M*

          They didn’t kill it iirc. The coworker insisted on putting it there even though the LW was afraid of insects and asked them not to. Later the LW said they had killed it, but actually didn’t do anything to it.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            The ladybug wandered off. Rather than starve to death on the aphid-free plant where the coworker in whose office it was attempting to hibernate abandoned it.

        2. Temperance*

          Wow. I don’t think we read the same letter. Then again, I wouldn’t call any insect “cute”.

          1. Artemesia*

            And most things we call ladybugs are actually not and are actually very undesirable invaders; they bite too. The bug in question was almost certainly one of those. The Asian lady beetle, is invasive, aggressive, and will bite people. These are the ‘ladybugs’ that end up swarming around the insides of windows in huge numbers in the fall.

            1. Aunt Piddy*

              It’s *possible* that they can bite, but I’ve worked with bugs for years and I’ve never been bitten. Not even when they wintered in my grandmother’s house by the thousands. They also still eat aphids and other pests.

              As far as invasive species go, I’ll take Asian lady beetles over fire ants any day.

              1. Zynx*

                Asian beetles bite. I’ve had a couple fly into my face and bite me. I’ve been bitten other times, other places, too. Maybe I taste like an aphid.

              2. Rainy*

                I’m bitten by ladybug-shaped beetles on a regular basis. It’s reached the point that I hate them because I’ve been bitten so often.

              3. Candi*

                The tiny bright red and black “traditional” ladybugs almost never bite humans.

                The over four times as large, orange and black, Asian “ladybugs” that were introduced because some bonebrain thought the little ones weren’t doing a good enough job -the big ones bite, AND they smell.

        3. eplawyer*

          Look at this way #2 — if a business has a problem with you acting to help an injured animal, in disobedience of orders, do you really want to work for that company?

          Remember interviewing is a 2 way street.

      3. Snark*

        I’m guessing that the firing was motivated largely by a really amateur reading of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which defines “take” of an eagle as “to pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or disturb.” And maybe the director was employing the colloquial uses of those last two or three.

        But “disturb” is defined as: “to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, 1) injury to an eagle, 2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or 3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.”

        Clearly, assisting a badly injured one does not rise to that standard. Neither would this be eagle molestation (wow I just wrote THAT phrase) because that implies hassling it.

        1. Lynca*

          I hadn’t read the article but my first thought was “it’s another instance of misinterpreting the eagle protection act isn’t it?” And lo’ it was.

        2. Anon*

          I have worked with conservation wardens and licensed rehabilitators as someone who has found downed raptors on multiple occasions. I also work with APLIC (the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee), which looks for solutions to avoid and minimize bird electrocutions from power lines.
          The wording of the BGEPA does indeed forbid anyone except wildlife agency personnel and persons licensed to rehabilitate raptor to touch an eagle. You cannot touch a dead bird, its feathers (even if you find one on the ground), or a live or injured bird. It is against the law. However. Conservation wardens have the same discretionary authority as does any other law enforcement personnel. If you come across any injured protected wild animal and want to transport it to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, if you contact the warden (agency) and give them the details, they generally will allow you to do the collection and transport of the animal. If you take the injured animal directly to a licensed rehabilitator without contacting the warden, again, generally not an issue.
          If, however, you do not notify the warden and take an eagle or other protected wild animal to your house, or to “someone who’s good with animals”, or cause more harm to the animal while it is in your possession, then yeah, you’re gonna get a citation.

          1. LCL*

            Yes, the last eagle that tangled with our equipment sadly didn’t survive. As per policy we called the feds and they requested we bring the remains in. They sent someone from their field office to collect it within the hour.

      4. Hildegard Vonbingen*

        I’m a WaPo subscriber, so I read the article and the reader comments, which are overwhelmingly laudatory towards the two who helped the bald eagle and who were subsequently fired for it. The article makes it clear that no laws or regulations were violated, and the summaries of the articles posted above are accurate. The Scouts come off looking really bad in the article and get lambasted in the comments. I doubt the LW will face any kind of adverse reaction from potential employers over this. They’ll probably look heroic instead, which IMO they are.

      5. Ella*

        I wonder what the camp management’s reaction would have been if OP and their sib left the eagle there as per instructions, and then the eagle got picked up by some less experienced hiker and mauled by the bird. Seems like leaving the bird there (besides being cruel to the bird) was potentially dangerous to the humans in the vicinity.

      6. Candi*

        So did the game warden actually want to arrest the LW and kin, or did the boss just claim it? And if the warden did want to arrest them, what was the basis of arresting them? Since I can’t find anything they did that was specifically illegal according to what laws and regs I know/searched, and the LW being an experienced raptor handler is part of why in some areas it wouldn’t be.

    3. Linda C.*

      Two workers (sister and brother) at a boy scout camp on a boy scout reserve were alerted to a downed raptor by campers. On their day off they found the bird and IDed it as a bald eagle. Their employer told them to leave the bird there and not to contact the wildlife center. Instead they contacted the wildlife rehab center, properly captured the eagle and took it to the wildlife center. Their employer informed them that they might be fired over the incident and after they returned to the camp they were fired. There is some speculation in the article that there was a misapprehension about bald eagles being untouchable due to the endangered species act. The eagle was injured badly enough to require euthanasia.

    4. the anonymous translator*

      Open the link in incognito/private browsing mode and you won’t get blocked by the paywall (if you’ve already used up your 5 free WAPO articles for the month).

      1. the gold digger*

        Slightly OT – but your local paper may offer a joint subscription to the WaPo. We subscribe to our local paper (which is a USA Today affiliate – I don’t know if that matters) and our local paper login gives us free access to WaPo.

    5. MI Dawn*

      I can speak for the OP – very awesome person from an awesome family. If I was in a hiring position, I’d happily hire them! Hi OP!

    6. Serin*

      If the boss ordered them to leave the injured bird alone because he was hoping to avoid negative publicity … um … surprise!

    7. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

      OP if you see this, and I realize I’m just another voice in a malestorm of support, but I would KILL to have you working for me. If you were an applicant and I came across that article and realized it was you, I would immediately push you to the front of the line. You have shockingly high levels of empathy, self-direction, ethics and bravery. You’re worried about this harming your job chances? I run around all day looking for people like you to come work here. You are awesome, and will do awesomely at life.

  3. I do woo*

    As someone who uses homeopathy and sees a naturopath as my GP I do admit to being a little offended at acupuncture and cupping being called “woo”. It is fine not to do these but disparaging the beliefs of others doesn’t come across well.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      It’s great if you find those things helpful. Acupuncture worked brilliantly for me. But you know what? This isn’t the point of the letter.

      People have a wide range of perspectives on both traditional and alternative medicine, and they are all entitled to their views. Alison’s wording is great because it doesn’t actually express a negative opinion but just says something isn’t universally embraced.

      The letter writer is allowed to feel this way and is not attacking you personally.

      1. Jesmlet*

        I do think however that it’s helpful for OP to hear that the focus of her objection should be purely based on the type of activity it is and not on her opinion of its effectiveness. “I don’t believe in Eastern medicine” is most likely not going to be as effective as “I don’t think team activities should involve any medical procedures, alternative or otherwise”, both because the former can be interpreted as an insult to someone who feels strongly about its effectiveness (especially if the words ‘woo’ and/or ‘snake oil’ are used, not that I think OP would use them while raising this issue), and because the former is a personal statement and the latter is a broad one that applies to everyone and all activities in the future.

    2. MommyMD*

      I agree that the derogatory comments could have been left out and the gist of the letter the same. All OP needs to do is tell her manager she is not comfortable with it and is opting out. Long explanation not needed. I’m Western Med and we refer to acupuncture for chronic pain.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        My doctor performs acupuncture as one of his tools for helping chronic pain patients, and I’m a licensed massage therapist. But for this purpose, it doesn’t matter whether the techniques are medical care or quackery, since *neither* belongs as a mandated work activity.

      2. Observer*

        In fact, I’d argue that leaving out the derogatory comments strengthens the argument. Because if you take this stuff seriously it’s an even greater overstep. After all, who is going to ask people to take part in a group physical as a “bonding activity” ? Or “we’re doing medical history of each person as this month’s group activity.”

        Medical stuff is NOT an appropriate “group activity”.

        1. Stormfeather*

          Maybe they should hire on the previous boss that got brought up in one of yesterday’s letters, and just do a group tonsillectomy.

    3. LS*

      I think this comment shows that regardless of why the OP doesn’t want to participate, calling it “woo” is likely to offend the people who are interested, and not help with their argument. Additionally, I’m sure there were people who didn’t want to participate in other activities as well, and taking a general line to make it okay not to join any particular activity is likely to be relevant in the future and more supported by others.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I agree that it’s worth pushing back. As someone who’s done acupuncture and cupping, I wouldn’t refer to them as “woo” or “snake oil” when you bring it up with your boss. As Alison’s script suggests, I think emphasizing the “medicine” or “health care” part could be helpful. You don’t even have to get into a debate about the validity of alternative medicine.

    I can’t think of any group of employees who wants their company monitoring or mandating certain health interventions. And if the acupuncturists are licensed, as they are in my state, they’re required to maintain similar patient privacy and confidentiality standards as medical practices. Forcing participation is both wildly inappropriate and would likely undermine individual privacy.

    Like massages, chiropractors, or the flu vaccine, it’s ok for your boss to make services available. But it’s not ok to pressure anyone, to try to sell them on an intervention, or to require them to participate.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      And if anything someone thinking they’re legitimate medical treatments is even more reason not to do them at work. (I may or may not agree. That’s not the point.)

      You could also point out that nobody should do any treatment without advice from their doctor – even ones some people might consider woo.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I originally wrote about whether they were “medical” or not, but felt the comment was getting long. I think OP will be in a stronger position if they pretend it’s a medical intervention, just because framing it that way makes it clear how very not ok it is to force on people without having to debate whether it’s a legitimate therapeutic practice.

        Not only should people not dabble in alternative therapies without appropriate medical oversight, I would think the program were inappropriate even if it were mandatory massages. I mean, I love massages, but I’d feel weird getting a legit one at work, and immediately I can think of a dozen ways massages could be triggering or health-harmful to someone. The same holds for acupuncture, etc.

        1. HannahS*

          And as someone who, according to conventional medicine, should absolutely not get even legit massages (like, not even from a pain clinic), I’m with both of you. There’s no activity that involves any kind of health intervention with any degree of legitimacy that should be mandatory at work, because I don’t want my boss deciding to “help” me improve my life. Offer me an innocuous recreational activity, sure.

          1. Gen*

            Both my mom and I have had acupuncture once (on doctors advice, though a hospital acupuncturist) and we both ended up unable to work for several days as a result of severe bruising and pain. I would be absolutely livid if my employer wanted me to go through that again. Any medical procedure without access to your medical records could be extremely harmful, whether you believe in the benefits or not so just I think OP should just push back on those grounds

        2. Parenthetically*

          Well, even beyond that, lots of massage is pretty low-entry, especially for, say, a chair massage or other kinds of massage that a reputable therapist is going to be offering in a workplace context (we’ve had this a few times, blessedly, at my school). Acupuncture, OTOH, seems like it would have a pretty high bar for Stuff They Need To Know/Do Before Sticking Needles In You — FAR more than could be accommodated during a work day, I would think.

        3. Lora*

          Yes, this.

          There are any number of medical/health interventions which I prefer not to have done in the presence of colleagues. Although if my nearly all-male colleagues want to get a mammogram in solidarity, I guess that would be…interesting?

      2. Casuan*

        Definitely one should get advice from their physician before trying either acupuncture or cupping. Also, there are various forms of cupping & the physician might need to know which one would be applied.

        So… the proposed team-building activity will require the team members for to get permission from their physicians. Depending on the physician, this might be as simple as a phone call or it could involve an appointment.

        /begin sarcasm/
        Go, team.
        /end sarcasm/

    2. Undine*

      I have PT who does myofascial cupping, and I will say that it is more intimate than I would normally do at work. It does involve exposing more skin than you usually would. Also it can be very tiring, and after effects can include chills, nausea, insomnia, soreness, and headaches. In addition, there are medical contraindications for cupping, which you should not have to reveal. I think bringing up these issues allow you to be respectful towards your manager’s beliefs, while making it clear that it needs to be very voluntary.

    3. TL -*

      I’d frame it as, “While I’m glad you received an individual benefit, there’s no evidence supporting acupuncture and cupping work as medical treatments and I’m not interesting in exploring either, for any reasons. I’m really glad they’ve helped you, but it’s a little disconcerting that I’m receiving such pressure for what is ultimately a really personal decision. I know you’re trying to help, but it’s just not something I’m comfortable exploring or discussing.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think debating the validity of the treatment is the wrong tactic (i.e., I’d drop lime 1 of your script but keep all the other lines).

        OP has a stronger argument by saying that therapeutic treatments should be medically supervised and should not be mandated because the boss cannot (and should not) know his employees’ individual medical situation. Acupuncture and cupping can cause a great deal of harm if administered improperly, and it should be an individual choice whether someone opts into a treatment protocol.

        But generally, he needs to cut out the evangelizing, too.

        1. TL -*

          I have really strong feelings about dispensing that type of medical advice* and work isn’t the place to explore them, so I would be trying to mark myself as “not safe” to evangelize to, hence the first sentence. The OP can definitely take a more diplomatic route, though; depends on what they want from the interaction.

          *I have strong feelings about dispensing most medical advice, to be fair, but this brand in particular would be hard me to listen to while murmuring pleasantly noncommittal platitudes in response.

          1. Parenthetically*

            I think a statement about the lack of evidence for anything the speaker is passionate about and believes they’ve gotten personal benefits from (essential oils! amber necklaces! ice baths!) is only going to invite contradiction, which would make you a bigger target for evangelism on this topic as they try to change your mind. Better to say, “Hmm, how interesting! So glad it works for you!” or that it’s not your cup of tea, or you’re uncomfortable with X in the workplace, or whatever cheery and noncommittal boilerplate you normally rely on in situations like this.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          In fact there’s probably something in the employer’s liability insurance that makes this a hell no.

        3. Obelia*

          Yes! As someone who can’t have acupuncture due to a serious medical contraindication, the idea of this being done as a group work activity (and people expected to participate) alarms me a bit.

        4. Traffic_Spiral*

          Yeah, debating their validity is just going to side-track the issue, and maybe offend the boss (no one likes to be told that they believe in nonsense). Just say you don’t want to because it’s invasive and not compatible with your current health regimen.

        5. Trout 'Waver*

          I’m not debating the effectiveness of such things. But, some people (myself included) might object to including non-evidence based treatments under the same umbrella as evidence-based (controlled double-blind studied) medicine.

          Although I completely agree that the efficacy of such things is immaterial to the OP’s situation, they may object to the false equivalence.

          1. Observer*

            That’s true. But it really isn’t relevant here. The key issue here is that the boss is pushing what has to be seen as a medical intervention in an environment where it’s not appropriate.

            Either it’s evidence based, in which case you should be discussing it with your doctor not your boss. Or it’s not evidence based, in which case you should be discussing this (or not) with your doctor and not your boss.

            And if the boss thinks that this is NOT a medical intervention, then why would you push an activity that generally requires some level of undress, pointy needles (with their risk of infection), bruising etc.

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            There are controlled, double-blind studies showing acupuncture to be effective for certain conditions. You may think better of those which show results you like, but they do exist. Both the proponents of the studies showing significant difference from placebo and the proponents of the studies showing no significant different from placebo believe that the other side’s studies are flawed, and you are welcome to think that the studies which show what you don’t like are flawed too… but they exist, and they’ve been done to the same peer-reviewed methodological standards as the ones you cite.

        6. Antilles*

          +1 – debating the validity of the treatment is absolutely the wrong way to go.
          Bringing up the validity of the treatment is just going to completely sidetrack the whole discussion. Given that the boss (apparently) strongly believes in these alternative treatments, if you bring up the validity, he’ll assume *that* is the real source of your concerns and completely ignore anything else you say. “OP, I hear what you’re saying, but I think you just don’t understand how useful these treatments really are. Once we actually do this next Friday, you’ll get it.”

        7. Hildegard Vonbingen*

          Acupuncture is a “minimally invasive procedure.” As such it should not be done as a team building exercise or at the behest of anyone who isn’t the recipient’s medical practitioner (and even then, a patient could decline to undergo it).

          No need to characterize it as “woo” or any other judgement-laden descriptor. I think bringing this to the attention of the person who recommended it and accurately describing it as an invasive medical procedure should be enough to nip this idea in the bud. The employer may be exposing itself to legal liability if there are adverse outcomes. It’s just a very dumb idea, and it needs to be withdrawn. It clearly was not well thought out before it was put forward.

      2. Parenthetically*

        I really don’t think there’s any use getting into a debate with one’s boss about the evidence supporting acupuncture. I think OP needs to keep it on the topic of her discomfort with having health-related procedures at work, because her discomfort isn’t up for debate, whereas the usefulness of acupuncture very much is.

    4. Casuan*


      Seriously & most emphatically… no. In many areas, these proposed activities are medical procedures, not a visit to the salon. I know the OP didn’t mention “salon”; to me, that seems to be how this boss views these activities.

      Whether or not these treatments have benefits is not the point. The point is that people are being strongly encouraged to have physical procedures to be part of a group activity. I really don’t see the group aspect of this. Are you supposed to talk about it after? Bond over needles & cups?
      Where are these procedures to take place?

      The other problems I have with this include:
      As PCBH said there might be confidentiality concerns. And depending on licencing & reporting regulations, these sessions could become part of your medical record & history. If the sessions are privately paid, even if it’s by your employer, there could be legal complications with your own insurance.
      Those who perform these procedures need to be trained & certified. I would have serious doubts about any practitioner who is willing to do this as part of a team-building exercise.
      There are many pre-existing conditions that can be made worse by these treatments. Conversely, these treatments could help. Either way, your boss is putting his employees in the position of telling him why they’re opting out. One doesn’t need to be specific, of course, although still, this is beyond awkward.
      Any procedure that involves pricking the skin can technically be considered “surgical” because it can involve blood. With acupuncture, a misplaced needle can cause real damage. Cupping can cause bruising or even welts & depending on each person the effects can last for several days.

      Gotta say… for some reason this whole thing really vexes me because something like this shouldn’t be encouraged as a team-building exercise. To me, this boss might as well encourage everyone to do a team-building colonoscopy.

      OP2, please update us!

      ps: If you were to do this & if it requires paperwork, ask how the infos will be used. For me, the absolute red line is if I’m told I must give my social security number. I don’t mean to imply anything unethical, rather you really don’t need to get into any insurance wars.

      1. attie*

        Yeah, I was thinking “What’s next? For the second part of the afternoon, to accommodate the less woo-minded, you all troop to the GP’s office in a group to compare cholesterol values?” I’m sure the boss would love to have the office shell out for her acupuncture sessions, but something as sensitive as health and medical treatment should not be a teambuilding activity.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Why stop there? Plenty of people rave about the psychological, spiritual and emotional benefits of various psychoactive substances. Maybe the boss’s next plan will involve everybody smoking weed or taking mushrooms together.*

          * No, I’m not judging people who use recreational drugs – I’m fine with as a rule. I’m saying that to get your employees to do so as part of a team-building exercise is obviously Not On and neither is the acupuncture thing. Just before we have that particular argument.

          1. KarenT*

            I did once have a co-worker invite our team to her apartment to do mushrooms together. She was really excited about it and thought it would be great fun. (I also don’t care if people do recreational drugs but I’m certainly not sitting in a one bedroom apartment with 8 editors on shrooms)

            1. Cornflower Blue*

              …I would love to see the results of your editing WHILE on shrooms.

              I think the most invasive thing our office has ever done re: medicine was … nothing. Ever. I have worked in 3 places and none of them saw fit to demand we take part in medical things besides the pre-job-offer medical exam.

      2. EddieSherbert*

        I think you make a lot of great points here – this is totally how it seems to me too. The boss sees this as like… a spa day type thing when it’s not.

        Also, as someone who is absolutely terrified of needles, I don’t even know how I’d react if my boss told me I had to go get acupuncture. I’d probably be crying halfway through Alison’s scripts!

    5. Zip Silver*

      > I can’t think of any group of employees who wants their company monitoring or mandating certain health interventions

      Idk about that. I get $250 put into my HSA every year by my company as an incentive for getting a physical.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Providing an incentive to do something is not the same thing as mandating it. Monitoring is anither matter, and while I don’t know the legal definition of monitoring, I doubt that what your employer is doong constitutes that. Even if the $250 is still in your account at the end of the year, they have no way of knowing whether you actually got a physical or not. You could have paid for it yourself, for all they know. Likewise, I presume that that money, like all the other money in your HSA, could be used toward any health care costs, so if the money is spent, all that proves is that you utilized the services of a health care professional, filled some prescriptions, etc., at sone point during the year. Giving your employer any actual information about what health care services you utilized would be a massive no-no in the US, due to HIPAA. I have no knowledge of what the confidentiality laws or regulations in other companies, but I suspect this would be considered highly inappropriate in most other industrialized countries as well.

        1. Karen K*

          “Even if the $250 is still in your account at the end of the year, they have no way of knowing whether you actually got a physical or not.”

          If Zip Silver’s program works like the one at my hospital (we call it Works on Wellness), they are required to provide proof, usually in the shape of a form signed by your PCP (Primary Care Physician). The money is not used for the physical, it is a bonus for getting a physical.

          There are people who object, and do not participate, regardless of any bonus money, and that is their right.

        2. the gold digger*

          they have no way of knowing whether you actually got a physical or not.

          I have to get a signed note from my doctor. I hate it. But apparently, I can be bought for $180.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The issue to me is mandating v. incentivizing, as well as private v. public knowledge of your participation.

        You’re opting in, which indicates your participation is voluntary. I do the same with flu vaccine incentives—I appreciate having a free health service available. But I’d be livid if my employer mandated that all employees be vaccinated.

        And while you may report proof of your physical to HR, I bet you’re not forced to disclose it to all your coworkers.

        Those are pretty distinct conditions, imo.

      3. Totally Minnie*

        We get a financial incentive for getting a yearly checkup as well, but that’s me scheduling an appointment with my own doctor and going there without my boss in tow. I bring in a signed letter that says I’ve been to the doctor, but my employer has zero idea of what may or may not be going on in my body.

        If this is being pitched as a team building activity, that blurs the lines considerably. That’s showing up to a facility (I would hope that’s the plan, not bringing and acupuncturist into the conference room or something) that I did not select to see a practitioner I have no background with, and needing to disclose my private medical information with the possibility that my coworkers might overhear or my workplace might be given some paperwork that includes my medical details. Those are two completely different levels of workplace involvement in my medical care, and they shouldn’t be conflated.

    6. Ellen*

      I work in a hospital. You have two options: vaccinate or wear a face mask during flu season from the moment you walk in the door until the moment you leave. While they provide the masks, that kind of feels like pressure, but it is for a good reason (hospital).

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          When you are working with very young kids/babies who can’t vaccinate yet, people with weak immune systems, or people too old to vaccinate—then medical
          professionals NEED to tale these extra measures before caring for them.

          If they don’t, we get people like Typhoid Mary.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        That’s a reasonable policy when you are caring for vulnerable people. The last thing a hospital needs is one of their employees being Patient Zero for a flu epidemic.

      2. Observer*

        Well, most employees are not too thrilled about that. But they put up with it, because there is a clear and present danger. This is a fairly unique situation, in any case. You can’t extrapolate to other workplaces – or even to other issues at your workplace.

        Even at your hospital, it would inappropriate for the management to monitor anything but infectious diseases. How you manage you blood pressure, weight etc. is really not their business.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That still means you have an option, and healthcare delivery has distinct (and rational) norms. Notably, your employer doesn’t mandate vaccination—probably because they understand that some cannot take the vaccine for health (and religious) reasons. Instead, they’re requiring risk mitigation and allowing people their choice of mitigation.

        In OP’s case, there’s no business justification for the proposed intervention, there’s no alternative offered, and non-participation could have negative professional repercussions for OP.

    7. nonymous*

      If OP#2 has one of those bosses that doesn’t like dissent without a valid alternative (don’t just complain, come up with a solution!), perhaps suggest that the team-building event simply be an educational event (with free food) to learn about acupuncture/cupping and however it ties into their wellness plan? Honestly it could be a whole series: get the acupuncturist in one week, the EAP person in another week, the LTC person next, and so on. I mean, in an ideal company, HR/Benefits would handle this but if OP’s boss is filling a gap and educating staff on wellness benefits, that’s pretty awesome.

      Others have commented re: side effects and the importance of appropriate medical history, which makes it a poor choice for team building. Frankly, I’m not sure how acupuncture/cupping can be a team event – don’t the treatments take place within separate rooms?

  5. Sarah G*

    FYI for other readers, it’s only behind a paywall if you’ve reached your quota of free Washington Post articles per month (I think 20). But to summarize, the OP was working at a boy scout camp and attempted to rescue an injured bald eagle despite orders from above not to do so. The camp cited the orders were because of alleged laws that aren’t stated nor verified in the article. The OP was fired as a result of this action.

    1. Sherm*

      I’d hire you, too. And I notice that most of the comments in the article are solidly in your favor. I’m not worried for you at all!

    2. Kittymommy*

      Seriously, I’m not even a bird person, but you are amazing. Good for you both. I’d hire you because you followed you’re conscience.

    3. Beancounter in Texas*

      DITTO. If any employer doesn’t want to hire you because of your actions, then you probably don’t want to work for them anyway. Kudos to you!

    4. art.the.nerd*

      Re #3, Inviting all coworkers except one to a personal party”

      Is Letter Writer insane? It’s a private party, held outside of work hours and off work property. Cat can invite anyone she wants, and not invite anyone she doesn’t want. Has LW confused an engagement party with a grade-school exchange of Valentines Day cards?

      Assuming LW is Cat’s manager, it is legitimate for LW to direct LW not to distribute invitations at work.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 As Alison says I wouldn’t mention this unless you’re asked. If I was hiring, this would only make me feel positively towards you. I didn’t read it as you being willing to disobey your boss, so much as you being willing to risk your job to help another living creature that couldn’t speak for itself. You showed kindness and good critical thinking. Arguably if someone has an issue with this you probably don’t want to work for them anyway.

    1. Nonnon*

      My thoughts too. The kind of boss who would disapprove of you trying to help an injured animal is probably the kind of boss who winds up on here as a candidate for “Worst Boss.”

      1. CarrieT*

        Maybe I am totally off base here, but I thought that humans were not supposed to help or interfere with wild animals directly. It can be dangerous, disruptive, and a headache for anyone involved. If the animal is not causing danger to humans, isn’t it best to “let nature take it’s course,” as it were? I mean, birds die every second. Animals kill and eat other animals. How is it our place to try and rescue a single, dying wild animal?

        1. rldk*

          OP had been trained with raptors – she’s not just a random hiker. She thought the eagle could be rehabilitated, given treatment.

          Not interfering is legislated because of the risk to humans and to the animals themselves, not because of any ideals about upsetting the natural balance.

  7. Ted Mosby*

    OP 3 I don’t really agree with Alison on this one. If you’ve known 8 people for a long time and you’re friends and then someone new comes in that you don’t know or like, are you really not allowed to invite your old friends to parties? It’s not like she’s inviting 99/100 people. Just tell her the invites need to be handed out privately and they all shouldn’t be on social media. These are 4th grade rules of not inviting someone to a party.

    My work friends are some of my closest friends and if my boss told me to exclude them from wedding activities I would straight up ignore her.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      But they’re not just friends. They’re workmates who are the only people on this team and OP is the manager.

      I assume that if you were inviting all but one of your workmates you wouldn’t hand those invites out at work.

    2. Anony*

      I think that the better way to address it would be to tell her not to hand out the invitations at work and refrain from talking about it at work. What happens at work is the boss’s business. Who is invited to the party is not.

      1. Casuan*

        This was my thought, too.
        The bride can invite whomever she wants & because it’s a private event the invitations should be privately sent, not handed out at work.
        If I were Sam, I’d feel awkward if I were invited because I don’t know the bride too well, although I know there are those who would want to go.

        1. Betsy*

          If I were Sam, I’d feel momentarily a little excluded, but then would rationalise it to myself. After all, if there’s a pre-existing friendship group and you’re a new hire then you wouldn’t really be expected to be invited to something as personal as an engagement party. I’ve worked at my job for eight months and wouldn’t be expected to be invited to anyone’s engagement party, not even the coworkers I’m closest to.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            That’s the reaction I would have too. But Sam is not you or me. Sam is someone who didn’t fit in with the team, doesn’t get along with anyone on the team, and doesn’t get along with Cat to the extent where Cat specifically does not want her at the party. Who knows how Sam will react.

            It just really shouldn’t be framed as a work party, and should not be discussed at work; like everyone else has suggested.

          2. Penny Lane*

            Like you couldn’t get to know someone in 8 months.

            This reminds me of the boss who failed to integrate a new member – who turned out to be a star – on their beer runs.
            It’s tacky and classless to invite 8 out of the 9 and everyone knows it.

          3. Editor Person*

            This happened to me at a previous job and that was my reaction. Subtle differences: I think the wedding plans and invites were already out when I was added to the team. But also I remember the bride telling me “I’m really sorry, you’re new” (or something, I don’t remember the phrasing, just that it was tactful and sincere). And from my end, I barely knew the team too, I wasn’t bummed to miss out on a wedding or the trappings involved.

        2. ainomiaka*

          and if I were Sam (and I have been in this situation at a previous job) I would have a very clear picture who they considered part of the team and who wasn’t.

          1. SignalLost*

            Also have been Sam. It’s very hurtful to be excluded, and it’s not possible to know from here whether Sam is “the problem” or employee groupthink is “the problem”. I think this needs to be strictly left out of the workplace, and it still bothers me.

            1. Kittyfish 76*

              Agree. I have also been Sam, then been included, then been Sam again (all within about 2 years, that place was toxic). And to this day, I occasionally think about it and feel sad about being excluded.

            2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              I’ve been the brand new employee invited to the personal event of a coworker I didn’t know, and believe me, I’d have rather not been invited. It was awkward as hell because I didn’t know anyone (and these people had worked together for years) and kept wondering why I’d been invited at all. And I wasn’t disliked or a bad employee, just new.
              And why should the bride ruin her own party by inviting someone she intensely dislikes, and already has to deal with at work?!?

      2. Irene Adler*


        However, how will Cat and the OP keep the remaining invitees from talking about the event at work (both before and after the party)?

        I was the one left out off the wedding invitation list. I wasn’t the new person though. The bride said to me, “Irene, I’m sorry but I can’t invite you to my wedding. See, you remind me too much of work. And on my special day, I don’t want to think about work things.” Gee, I thought, all the other guests from work whom you invited DON’T remind you of work? Later that day, I heard her on a rant, complaining about how she hates the sight of fat people. Ah, I thought, that’s why I wasn’t invited.

        Unfortunately, after the wedding, those who were invited all talked about it- the food, the dress, the ceremony, etc. All right in front of me. Apparently it was a very large and lavish event.

        Invite whom you wish. Just have the decency not to talk about the event at work. And that extends to those who were invited.

    3. Kc89*

      Yes, I agree.

      Hand the invitations out in private and try not to talk loudly about it in front of her (she will find out about it though) but it’s her own private party she can invite who she likes

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This just seems very elementary school Mean Girls to me. I don’t know how close Cat is with her coworkers. Maybe they’re blood siblings. But I think it’s reasonable to ask her not to stoke drama by purposefully excluding someone, either by being discreet about invites or by not inviting everyone from work sans Sam.

      Of course OP can’t mandate the guest list, but I think it’s ok (and may be necessary) to try to nip a potentially toxic dynamic in the bud.

      1. LouiseM*

        I disagree. It sounds like Sam is very new to the team and the rest of them have had more of a chance to bond. It’s not bullying to only invite people you’ve formed an actual relationship with. To me, it’s much more elementary school to have to invite “the whole class” just so nobody feels left out. And because we’re talking about adults and not children, Sam probably realizes she doesn’t share the same close relationship that the others do.

          1. TL -*

            Whereas I probably would be glad to be joining a workplace where people want to socialize out of hours and would look to developing similar relationships as my tenure there increased.

            Different strokes, that’s all.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              I’m on the side of why should the bride have to ruin her own party by inviting someone who is not a friend and she also dislikes?

          2. EddieSherbert*

            I agree with Ramona personally, but I think this one could back and forth all day – with good points from both viewpoints. I think it just comes down to which side Sam falls on (does she mind or not?) for how it affects the office (and that isn’t something anyone but Sam can know ahead of time, unfortunately!).

            Also, is OP invited as well? Because then it’s extra uncomfortable for Sam if literally her whole department and boss are going to this party that she’s not invited to. If OP is also invited, I think they should consider not going (sorry, OP!).

          1. Observer*

            I’m sure she does.

            Which means that if the invitations and party are discussed *in the office* Sam will know beyond doubt that she is OTHER. And is expected to STAY other. Let’s face it, Cat doesn’t want to invite her because she “can’t stand” her.

            Invite her or not. But if you don’t, keep it out of the office!

        1. Jenn*

          I agree with you LouiseM. The party isn’t a work event – it’s a personal celebration for Cat. She shouldn’t be made to invite the whole team.

        2. Antilles*

          The difference here is that Cat would be literally inviting everybody *except* Sam.
          It’d be one thing if she was only inviting a small percentage of the group – if it was only, say, 2-3 of the 9-member team, no, you don’t need to invite everybody. But once you get up to 7/9 or 8/9, leaving people out is a high-school esque move. At that point, leaving someone out is an explicit “I don’t like you”.
          This is especially true given that an engagement party isn’t like a wedding where each additional person is a direct cost of $25 or whatever. For this, once they’ve already arranged for food for Cat and her fiancee, non-work friends of both Cat/fiancee, siblings/cousins, and so on, inviting 8 co-workers instead of 7 is essentially zero cost (if it’s at a restaurant or other “everyone buys their own meal” venue, it’s *actually* zero cost).

          1. Jenn*

            It’s really not a high-school move – it’s inviting people she likes to her own personal celebration. Even if the cost were zero, it doesn’t matter. It’s Cat’s celebration and she can invite – or exclude – who she wants.

          2. Amber*

            Yes but ettiquette rules if you invite someone to an engagement party they should be invited to the wedding so it’s not the bosses place to comment on who this worker invites to her wedding whether it’s all or most of her team!

            1. JR*

              This is a great point. I thought Cat should just deal with it and invite her (though agreed that the OP shouldn’t require her to), until I remembered this – I definitely think she shouldn’t be expected to invite her to the wedding, which this would force.

        3. Luna*

          Except that it doesn’t sound like this is an issue of Sam just being new and Cat doesn’t know her well enough yet- the OP specifically says that Cat “cannot stand” Sam. That is pretty strong language to use.

          I don’t think OP can or should ask that Sam be invited, but invites and party talk should definitely be banned from the workplace.

          OP also says that Sam has not integrated into the team at all- this is the main thing that OP needs to focus on and be concerned about. OP, as the manager it is your job to integrate new team members. This does not mean they need to be friends outside of work, but it does mean that all of your employees should feel welcomed and like part of the team while at work. The fact that this has not happened with Sam and OP makes no indication that she realizes this is her responsibility to change is concerning.

      2. ainomiaka*

        it seems elementary school mean girls because it is. Excluding just one person is going to show and be found out, even if invitations aren’t delivered at work unless the poster here is going to have a large meeting with everyone but Sam or one on ones with everyone but Sam, which is going to look even more problematic.

      3. Tuxedo Cat*

        I think handing out the invitations discreetly and minimizing talking about the party is quite reasonable at work.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To be clear, it’s not that she’s not allowed. As I said in the answer, she can invite whoever she wants. But the manager does have standing to point out to her the impact that purposely excluding one person will have; what the employee does from there is up to her.

      1. MommyMD*

        Not necessarily. Manager could also say “it’s your private event, invite whomever you are comfortable with”. If there’s any scuttle at work, Manager can nip it in the bud stating it’s a personal matter and doesn’t belong in the workplace. Sometimes managers forget they do not have authority to control everything and this is one instance.

        1. Kate 2*

          But Cat IS bringing it into the workplace by handing out invitations there and inviting people from work.

      2. The Supreme Troll*

        Alison, I actually agree fully with what you wrote. I think the OP should stick firm that, if Cat is purposely going to be excluding the “one person” (who we all know who it is, obviously – and the OP should explicitly state this), then the invites will need to be given off-site, not at work. The OP should stick to that firmly – but, yes, beyond that, Cat has no obligation to reach out (off-site on personal time) and invite Sam to a personal party involving friends, family, and people that she likes.

      3. Fiennes*

        To me it sounds like the manager is pretty okay with excluding Sam—to the point that I feel like there’s already a bad dynamic in that office. We’re not given any objective reasons why Sam is hard to like/standoffish/etc. Of course, no one individual has to make a court case for liking or disliking another—but something about the tone of the letter makes me feel like this isn’t the first time Sam has been shut out. And while simply not inviting any one person at work to a social event might have little to no effect in a balanced, friendly workplace, it’s going to read differently in a place where one lone coworker is already the goat.

    6. MommyMD*

      I agree. And I would not expect to be invited as a new hire. If anything comes of it, OP can simply say ” I don’t know her that well”. Boss is way overboard. I’d like to uninvite her bc she will probably project an attitude. This is a private adult event, not kindergarten.

    7. OP#3*

      I have not, and would not, say who she should or should not invite to her own event, Cat and I spoke about it again yesterday and coincidentally, I said pretty much what Allison said, it’s nothing to do with work so invite who you feel you want there.

      Cat initially came to me for advice on how to handle it as she didn’t want there to be anything divisive or toxic at work, and I couldn’t see anyway that’s not going to happen so wrote in, just in case I hadn’t thought of anything.

      1. Anony*

        The fact that she actually asked you how to avoid making it toxic changes things. It is good that she cares about team dynamics and does not want to create a toxic environment.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Eh. The fact that she still wants to figure out a way to exclude one person makes me feel like Cat is not a great person.

          OP#3, I presume this event is not being held during your retail establishment’s normal operating hours. Because otherwise, you run into another issue of Sam potentially being excluded and forced to pick up the slack for everyone else.

          1. Eye of Sauron*

            Why, because Cat doesn’t like someone else? There was nothing to indicate that Cat wasn’t professional in her dealings with Sam. In fact with this update it seems the exact opposite.

            Adults get to choose who they socialize with. This shouldn’t be a big deal and it doesn’t make Cat a bad person.

          2. Jenn*

            Really? People are not required to like all of their coworkers or to want to hang out with them. Just because Cat doesn’t want to invite Sam to a personal celebration – not a work event – it doesn’t mean Cat is a bad person.

            1. The Supreme Troll*

              Still…Cat might be a jerk in real life; who knows. Nonetheless, Cat is not obligated at all to invite Sam to her engagement party, but for the very valid reasons that Alison has explained, Cat should not be passing out these invites at work, either.

            2. Lissa*

              Yeah, I think the fact that Cat actively dislikes Sam is making people see a mean girls situation and sympathize with Sam but I’m less sure. It could be but if Cat wants to only have her friends, that seems reasonable to me – we aren’t friends with everyone. I’m not sure if the solution here people want is “Sam is invited” or “Cat doesn’t invite all her coworkers” but either seems a bit odd. Personally I think just keeping it out of the workplace would be the best solution here.

          3. Naptime Enthusiast*

            I’m getting married soon and I considered inviting one of our new hires that I’ve known since college, but then I would also need to invite the other new hire so there isn’t favoritism, then my team lead, then probably my other cubemates….. and suddenly it’s half of my team and the other half is left out. For me, it was easier to say it is only coworkers that I no longer work directly with but still have very close ties to, but I also work in a huge department and have been on a lot of different teams over the years.

            It sounds like Cat does have close ties to the other 8 team members, which is why she wants to invite them, but wedding etiquette states that people shouldn’t be invited to pre-wedding gift-giving events like an engagement party if they’re not invited to the wedding itself, because it’s gift-grabby. And weddings are REALLY expensive to invite someone you don’t really like spending time with.

            I sympathize with Cat, it’s a no-win situation for her with Sam if she wants to invite all of the other coworkers she’s worked with for a long time.

            1. Kj*

              I tend to think this is why co-workers shouldn’t be invited to weddings at all, unless there is a clear friendship outside of work or work-adjacent activities (i.e. you get together for game nights on your own, not you play on the company softball team together). I considered, for a hot minute, inviting some of my coworkers to my wedding. But I didn’t hang out with any of them outside of work or after-work happy-hour like occasions. Then I realized I’d have to exclude some folks (small wedding) and I didn’t want to go through the drama. So I just said no co-workers and brought everyone a wedding favor when I returned. A coworker that got married shortly after I did invited co-workers and our boss and caused some drama- I heard about that wedding for months and not in a good way. I was glad I stayed well away.

              1. Naptime Enthusiast*

                I agree and am on the same page for my wedding planning, but there are also very clear “circles” of my work friends. The ones I am inviting have gone on international vacations with me and my fiance, or I regularly babysit for their kids, or some kind of connection like that beyond work lunches or after-work drinks. But we don’t know from OP’s letter if the other 8 people fall within that kind of circle with Cat, and Sam just does not. If it’s a very clear distinction like that, then I can’t blame Cat for wanting to invite her coworkers.

                1. Kj*

                  Yep, I agree. It is hard to tell from the letter if this distinction exists and I think it matters. If Cat hangs out with everyone outside of work except Sam, I could see it being OK. If not, it is not ok.

            2. Rachel*

              One thing no one seems to have considered is the likelihood that Sam wouldn’t even want to go to this party in the first place. Why would anyone want to hang out with and buy a gift for a chick they don’t like?

          4. LBK*

            I dunno, I think when it comes to wedding stuff you get to control what you want pretty strictly. It’s a special time and you want to be able to have good memories of sharing it with your friends, not awkward memories of sharing it with some random person from work that you didn’t like.

            1. grace*

              Yep. And while an engagement party is less intense than the actual wedding, you’re an adult and able to pick and choose who you want there — it’s one of the few awesome things about wedding planning. I think it’s lovely that she’s trying to minimize the potential for drama, and hope she considers mailing the invites to her friends rather than handing them out at work (with the added bonus of mail that isn’t bills!) but it’s ultimately her choice, and I’m glad OP recognizes that.

          5. Amber*

            It’s an engagement party not a backyard bbq! I would only want people there that had been involved in a positive way in my life for a significant amount of time or whom I was very close to.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Sure, but the etiquette rule for weddings is also that you invite in tiers — i.e., if you’re inviting all the cousins, you can’t exclude one. So you end up inviting that cousin you don’t really like because you do want the rest of your cousins here.

              I don’t actually think that rule has to apply here, but I’m pointing it out to note that I don’t think it’s true that it’s an outrage to have someone at your engagement party who you don’t especially love.

              And again, Cat invites to invite whoever she damn wants, but the OP gets to point out to her that it’s not a great move team-dynamics-wise.

              1. LBK*

                I dunno, I think those rules are softening as our culture in general softens on how strictly we adhere to wedding traditions. Couples are getting more focused on creating a special day for themselves rather than trying to please everyone else, and with that comes eschewing some of the old rules that they don’t think are a good fit for how they want their wedding to go, including who’s “supposed to be” invited.

                1. Ani are you okay*

                  A focus on it being the couple’s special day doesn’t make it any less hurtful to the one cousin who is not invited.

              2. Peggy*

                LOL, and that’s why we only invited our parents and siblings to our wedding. It was either no one, or 150 of our “closest” aunts, uncles, and cousins. Only about 10 of whom we’re close to, combined across both sides. So we chose no one!!

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Same here — very small family environment and a handful of very close friends. I had an aunt and a few cousins who are just negative and mean, and I didn’t want anyone telling me how fat / ugly I looked or criticizing the menu or making snide remarks about my mom or something.

          6. paul*

            Hard disagree. You’re not obligated to invite people you don’t like to a personal party.

            If she has a modicum of care–don’t waltz around the office handing out invites to everyone else in front of Sara–this isn’t being a bad person. This is choosing to invite people you actually like to a significant life event. Yes, there’s very much right and wrong ways to go about it, but simply not wanting someone at your party doesn’t make you bad.

          7. Jesmlet*

            It’s a personal event for people she is close to. She’s not excluding Sam. She’s just choosing not to give her a pity invite and pressure her to buy someone she barely knows an engagement present.

          8. Tuxedo Cat*

            Without knowing the issues with Sam, Cat could still be a crappy person or she could be reasonable. It’s hard to say.

            1. paul*

              Neither of them has to be crappy. There’s plenty of good and fine people out there I just don’t personally jell with and wouldn’t invite to a very personal event.

          9. Bloo*

            I’d absolutely want to figure out how to not invite a coworker I can’t stand to an intimate celebration without creating a toxic environment.
            Nice people do this all the time. All. The. Time. Even *to* other nice people.
            Want to have a run- of- the- mill dinner party but you can only afford to accommodate 12 people but have 50 friends/family? You’ll be figuring how to do that with as little hurt feelings as possible.
            This is an engagement party. It’s for people Cat is close to. This isn’t a matter of her and Sam not being closer, she can’t stand her. Cat is close to all the other members of her team.
            So Cats only options: 1) invite Sam or 2) send invites outside of work, don’t talk about it at work, assume the rest of your co-workers are grown-ups and will not purposely try to make Sam feel excluded, don’t post messages/ pics of the event on anything work-related.
            Option is more work but would be worth it to me.

      2. Purplesaurus*

        I’m sure you already are, but still keep an eye on how your employees are treating Sam otherwise, or how Sam is treating them. I know this isn’t why you wrote in, but you admit that Sam was not the best hire, and that can sometimes mess up otherwise good teams.

      3. Bridgette*

        If Sam had turned out to be an excellent employee, would Cat invite her to the party then?

        I agree with those who say she should not hand out invites at work (send them in mail) and try to limit talking about it around Sam since it’s really not polite to talk about a party around those who have not been invited. Sure, it’s Cat’s party and she should invite those she is close with and want to be there, but excluding a single team member is going to come off as mean-spirited. A little kindness goes a long way.

        Just to be clear: You do not have to be kind to people who intimidate, harass or otherwise make your life/work environment toxic. You do not have to be kind to those who creep on you or try to make you do things you don’t want to do. It seems to me that Sam’s only issues is that is had been bad at her job and new to the team.

      4. Bridgette*

        Would Sam be invited if her performance had been better and she had intergrated into the team?

        Since it is a non-work event and all but one employee is being invited, Cat should not hand out invitations at work (mail them) and the invitees should keep talking about the event at work to a minimum. A bit of kindness to a person whose only offense is not performing well at her job and being new to the team seems like the best route.

        1. Yvette*

          Exactly, if these people are close enough to her to be invited to an event such as this, (which would also seem to imply that they would be invited to the wedding itself) then Cat should have a way to contact them outside of work.

      5. Close Bracket*

        So, I’ve been Sam, not in the sense that Cat couldn’t stand me, but in the sense that Cat held a party that she invited our entire hobby group to except for me. The party was for her husband’s 50th birthday. Now, I was the most recent person to join the group and didn’t know her husband that well. I was a little hurt by not being invited, but I also get that there was no reason to invite me.

        I was extremely hurt by Cat telling me about the planning leading up to it and telling me about how the party went afterwards. It wasn’t just neutral details like, “I ordered a cake, and everyone had a good time.” That would also have been kind of weird. No, she told me about why she wanted to throw him a party, why she chose some of the things she included, how he reacted to it, emotional aspects. I have no idea why she thought I was the right person to confide in. She had closer friends who she should have bounced all this off.

        So just advise Cat not to be that person. She doesn’t have to invite anyone she doesn’t want to, but if somebody is not invited, don’t talk to them about it or bring it up in front of them.

    8. Kelly L.*

      This pretty much is 99/100, just scaled down. I think you can invite, say, 4 out of 10, but that 9 out of 10 is cliquish.

      1. SignalLost*

        Agree. Half is about my personal limit for selective invites out of a group. 2/3 to 3/4s is mandatory 100% invite, to me.

      2. PlainJane*

        Yep. Granted, you get to invite who you want to your party, but there’s no denying that this could have fallout at work, so it is (to some degree) the boss’ business. There’s really no way inviting 9 out of 10 people in your work group can look good. Were I the boss, I wouldn’t mandate (since I’d have no right to do so), but I’d point out the potential work impacts and if the person insisted on this course of action, insist that the event be kept as separate from work as possible. And right or wrong, I’d lose some respect for Cat.

    9. Runner*

      I agree — I was coming in to ask whether there wasn’t another potential issue for AAM to address here, which goes sort of to the office bullying that we saw a while ago with the Halloween costume meant to negatively impersonate a new employee (who left the organization, big surprise). If an employee “can’t stand” a new employee to the point she’s willing to let the office know AND deliberately exclude the employee to make her feel unwelcome and alienated, that seems an issue. Frankly just the “can’t stand” the new employee part seems worth a manager addressing as unprofessional and unacceptable (especially because it is leading directly to the employee attempting to further alienate the new employee by exclusion). The employee is free to invite or not invite whoever she wants to a personal party. But it us this active “can’t stand” attitude toward the new exmployee that is already unprofessional and I assure you alienating to the new employee, and the employee now wishes to take the alienation and exclusion one step further. It is bullying. I would wish the manager would curb the alienating behavior immediately and put consequences on any additional “cant stand” attitude toward the new employee at the office.

      1. Roscoe*

        Just because the boss knows that, doesn’t mean that Cat is treating Sam badly. If you a professional, you can easily hate someone personally and frankly not like working with them, and still be professional and courteous to them. Nothing in the letter states that they are treating Sam bad, just that personally, Cat doesn’t like her.

        1. Luna*

          But Cat is treating Sam badly by speaking so negatively about Sam to their manager. That’s not okay. Cat could have asked this question without using that kind of language about Sam.

          1. Academic Addie*

            From the OP’s comment:

            “Cat initially came to me for advice on how to handle it as she didn’t want there to be anything divisive or toxic at work, and I couldn’t see anyway that’s not going to happen so wrote in, just in case I hadn’t thought of anything.”

            I think Cat is doing the right thing, and something totally okay by asking for help with this.

            1. Clare*

              Yes, and in the OP’s letter she states that she knows that Cat “cannot stand” Sam. How does their manager know this? Because Cat apparently is open about sharing such negative personal views about a co-worker to their mutual manager.

      2. PlainJane*

        At the least, OP should delve into what’s behind the, “can’t stand,” comment and be on the lookout for alienating behavior and bullying. Maybe Sam is a poor performer or a not-very-nice person, and maybe she’s unable to do her best work, because she’s the only outsider in a tightly-knit clique. It’s the boss’ job to determine which situation is in play and address it appropriately.

    10. Ubergaladababa*

      9/10 is still pretty exclusionary. I like the “either invite less than half of the group, or everyone” rule. It’s much kinder than pointedly excluding just a couple people, while still respecting the host’s right to choose who they’re going to have. I think it comes from Carolyn Hax?

      1. Roscoe*

        I think that is fine for kids in schools. These are adults. No one is owed an invitation to something just by virtue of working at the same place.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          You aren’t owed an invitation and can’t go to HR to demand one. But HR, or your boss, can sit you down to talk about the exclusionary atmosphere you’re creating by selecting a few team members as the too-uncool-to-hang-with-us exiles. (This is VERY baboon troop dynamics, where no one is more concerned with maintaining the bottom layer of losers than the middle layer desperately trying not to slip down there.)

          1. Roscoe*

            I could agree with that in certain contexts. But not for something like an engagement party. This is supposed to be for the people you are close with, so they can celebrate with you. Not an everyone you’ve ever met thing. If my boss or HR tried to have a “sit down” about my engagement party, that is what is going to create issues.

            And also, if I was like 3 months into a job where everyone had worked together a year or more, I wouldn’t expect to be invited to something like this.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I would be able to understand the logic behind the decision, but that doesn’t mean it still wouldn’t hurt my feelings to be excluded.

              1. Foxtrot*

                Right, but dealing with those hurt feelings would be on you, not Cat. Things in life leave us with less-than-desirable feelings. Adults need to learn to handle rejection, whether it’s that cute person who doesn’t want to date you anymore or someone who seems cool who just doesn’t want to be your friend. Unless Cat is going around making a loud point that Sam is being excluded, this is just a life thing. If Cat is quietly and discreetly inviting her friends to things, it is what it is. This is especially true if she’s not getting in the way of Sam doing her job at work.
                We’ve all seen that Facebook picture or been asked by an invited of we’re going to a party we weren’t invited to. It hurts. It stinks. It can leave momentary bad feelings that Sam will need to deal with. But the only thing you can do in these situations is move past it and find people who do want to hang out with you.

            2. agmat*

              I wouldn’t even want the invitation in that scenario! I barely know someone and then get invited to a party where presumably I will only know other workmates (who I also don’t know well) *and* be expected to bring a gift? Noooo thank you.

              1. LBK*

                Yeah, I agree – I would feel weird being invited to a fairly intimate event like an engagement party by someone I didn’t know that well. I’m surprised how many people are saying their feelings would be hurt – do you actually *want* to attend an engagement party for someone who’s basically a stranger? And be expected to spend money to get them a gift?

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  No, I wouldn’t want to attend. But I also wouldn’t want to be the only person not invited.

                2. LBK*

                  So you just want the invite purely as a formality? C’mon. That seems pretty petty and more about you than them.

                3. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  Clearly you’ve never been the one who was ostracized before. It’s not fun in any situation, but especially when you’re forced to spend 1/3 of your life with the people doing the ostracizing.

                4. LBK*

                  Wow, that’s a whole lot of assumptions about me, thanks. I’ve been ostracized plenty, but I also know when to get over myself and realize that something is not about me and my hurt feelings. Wedding events are one of those times.

                  I can’t help but feel but there’s some massive projection going on here that’s making it impossible for you to think about the context of this specific situation.

                5. Jesmlet*

                  This “my hypothetical emotional response about X is vastly different from yours so you must never have experience X in real life before” thing that’s going on is really frustrating to me. I agree with LBK. I’d be full of anxiety at the idea of being invited to an intimate event for someone I wasn’t close to. I would not be hurt to find out I wasn’t invited, I would be relieved.

                6. Antilles*

                  It’s not an either/or situation here.
                  No, I would not particularly want to go to an engagement party where I’ll only know a handful of people, none of whom I’m close to.
                  But I would also be hurt knowing that I was specifically excluded, especially when it’s likely that co-workers will discuss it before and afterwards, unintentionally reminding me that I’m not part of their group.
                  These things are both 100% true, despite the fact that they’re not logically consistent.

                7. LBK*

                  Obviously you can’t control your emotions, but I think you have to recognize that they don’t really make sense and not let them affect you at work. Being coworkers is, on some level, an arbitrary association – it doesn’t entitle you to be a part of any group that’s not related to work. Framing it as “specifically being excluded” feels like hyperbole to me. I’m not “specifically excluding” my upstairs neighbor if I don’t invite her to a party, she just has no reason to be included because we’re not friends. The arbitrary grouping of us living in the same building doesn’t entitle her to space in my social circle.

                  No one has to be friends with you, ever. As much as people are saying that it’s a high school mean girl tactic to exclude one person, I think it’s also a high school petty teenager reaction to get upset because someone isn’t your friend.

                8. Lissa*

                  “This “my hypothetical emotional response about X is vastly different from yours so you must never have experience X in real life before” thing that’s going on is really frustrating to me.”

                  THANK YOU Jesmlet! I see this here all the time and it seems so out of line to me. Seriously, just because someone disagrees about how they would feel in a situation doesn’t mean they have never been in it. Not everyone in the world reacts the same way to being excluded, ostracized or not invited. Or to any event, really. I don’t understand why people believe there’s *any* event that everyone will react to the same.

                9. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  I’ve been that person, and it WAS weird and awkward. I’d much rather have not been invited!

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                Some people would roll their eyes at the invitation and decline.
                Some people would be grateful for the gesture of inclusion but decline, figuring it was a gesture.
                Some people would be thrilled at the gesture of inclusion and accept, relieved that they finally seem to be making some headway in this tight-knit group.

                We have no idea which one Sam is. OP is probably uncertain, as well.

                1. LBK*

                  And where you’re not sure how people will react, I think Cat doing the thing that makes her the happiest is the right move, because it’s her engagement party.

              3. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                Exactly! Even if I were friendly/cordial with my coworkers, I wouldn’t want to go for the same reasons!

            3. PlainJane*

              I agree that engagement parties are supposed to be for the people you’re close with, and that’s what seems a little off to me here: that she’s *that* close to all 9 of these co-workers, i.e. everyone but Sam. If she were inviting a couple of her closest work friends, that would seem perfectly fine. But she’s really best buds with all 9 of them? I agree with Falling Diphthong – talk with her about the exclusionary dynamics she’s creating, and not only with this event. I shudder at the thought of being the new person in a group like this.

          2. Jenn*

            No where does the letter writer say that Cat is excluding Sam because Sam is uncool or that she wants to maintain a ‘layer of losers’ (what???). She doesn’t like her and that’s okay! Not everyone has to like everyone!

          3. Trout 'Waver*

            Baloney. If HR tried to sit me down like you’re suggesting, I find a new job ASAP. I will not work for a company that dictates who I socialize with.

      2. Jenn*

        So Cat shouldn’t invite all of her friends to her engagement party because some people might get their feelings hurt? Okay.

      3. paul*

        I’m OK with that for reoccuring office lunch get togethers and the like but when you’re talking about wedding parties or similar things, much less so. These aren’t common events and they’re much more personal IME.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      The rule from second grade classrooms, yet fully applicable to offices, is you invite less than half of you invite everyone.

      So if you have a team of 12 and you’re close friends with 2 or 3 other people, you can invite only them to a party. But you can’t invite 3/4 of the team and leave out the uncool 1/4 because cooties.

        1. Observer*

          he fact that these are adults makes this MORE important. Presumably, adults have learned how to to what they are supposed to do, not just what they WANT to do.

        2. Doreen*

          The rules for social events in general don’t disappear simply because some of the guests are coworkers. You shouldn’t invite 2 of your 3 siblings or 9 of your 10 cousins or 3 of the 4 people on your bowling team or 8 of a group of 10 friends without expecting some hurt feelings and social consequences (including the possibility that all 10 cousins will be mad at you for excluding one) and the same goes for inviting 9 of 10 coworkers. Cat can invite whoever she wants to , and the OP certainly shouldn’t discipline her over the invitations – but Cat should also realize that excluding Sam may not only affect her realionship with Sam but also with the invited co-workers.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            But Cat is inviting all her close friends. It appears that if any of the invited coworkers were not close friends, they would not have been invited. Just because there’s overlap between the two groups doesn’t mean Sam is entitled to attend.

      1. Jenn*

        “Cooties”, really? Let’s not infantilize Cat’s adult decision to only invite people she likes to her own engagement party. She’s allowed to not like someone and not everyone has to be invited to everything.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’d be okay with that if I were confident that Cat would do the inviting away from work, and everyone would follow the rule of not talking about your social plans in front of someone excluded from them. Experience with humans makes me put the odds of this at 50-50 at best.

          This likely isn’t something OP can directly affect, but she (and Alison) are right that it could affect the team and their work dynamic in a bad way.

          1. Antilles*

            Experience with humans makes me put the odds of this at 50-50 at best.
            I’m not even sure I’d put the odds that high, honestly.
            However, it’s very common for people to fail the etiquette rule about “not discussing group plans in front of people who weren’t invited” – especially in a situation like this where almost everybody is included so it’s very natural to not realize/briefly forget that “oh yeah, Sam’s not invited”.

        2. STG*

          Absolutely. Folks are also allowed to view her negatively as a result of that action as well. Nobody is stopping her from inviting whomever she wants.

    12. Observer*

      And it you brought that into the office, I’d straight up discipline you for it.

      Just because someone is new doesn’t make it ok to bully or ostracize them. You don’t need to be best buddies with all of your coworkers, but you DO need to treat them ALL with basic respect.

      These are not 4th grade rules. They are kindergarten rules. As in “the basic fundamental rules that make society work.”

      1. Foxtrot*

        There’s a big, huge difference between Cat bringing in an invitation to work, dangling it in front of Sam’s face, and saying “only cool people are coming to my party, nana boo boo”, and Sam merely finding out there was a party through the grapevine.
        Replace platonic relationships with romantic relationships and the idea of merely not being invited is bullying is littered with issues. I shouldn’t have to socialize with people because there would be one way hurt feelings. And I’m not a bully for declining a date, so why the idea that you’re a bully for politely and quietly declining a friendship? Should I be disciplined for not dating the guy down the hall because he didn’t like my “no”?

        1. Observer*

          A date is a SINGLE person interacting with a SINGLE person, with no reference to a GROUP. Leaving out a SINGLE person is absolutely exclusion. And it has no place in the workplace. Do what you want with your own invitations. But, the OP has standing to insist that if it’s going to be treated as a so called “purely personal event” that it stays out of the office. Completely. Because the minute it’s part of the office conversation, it becomes exclusion of a co-worker, not just a personal social event.

              1. Close Bracket*

                That has everything to do with everything! We’re talking about an engagement party! It’s not a casual, let’s-have-a-party party, it is to celebrate a specific event, an engagement, and the social contract doesn’t have any clauses about inviting people you don’t know well to celebrations in your personal life!

        2. Ainomiaka*

          Given that romantic relationships are approximately a billion times more likely to be closed than platonic ones I know one group/household/relationship where this could come up. And they actually all are in relationship with everyone in the group. This is not to say there are never individual dates, but person E saying “I want to date A B and C but not D” doesn’t happen. It’s considered hurtful and exclusionary. Much like here.

    13. TardyTardis*

      Just one caveat–if you are inviting people from work and excluding some of them, be quite careful about what you leave in the office copier. I have learned many, many interesting things about my office that way!

  8. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Jesus Haploid Christ!
    Doing stuff like that as team building is seriously misguided. Both cupping and acupuncture have been proven not to have any effect beyond placebo.
    And both can pose serious dangers. You have no idea how well the needles are sterilized and cupping can lead to massive bleeding for people on various blood thinners.

    Generally speaking I think it best to stay away from team building activities that require me to take off much of my clothes!

    1. Anony*

      That isn’t exactly true. Neither has been really studied in depth. They are not miraculous cure alls, but we cannot say definitively that they do nothing in all circumstances. Either way it is irrelevant. Medical treatments (regular or alternative) are not team building activities.

      1. fposte*

        Acupuncture has actually been studied pretty extensively. A study or two hints at performance beyond placebo but the effects have been tough to replicate.

        1. TL -*

          Yup. Well-designed studies have found that the effect is placebo; studies that have suggested otherwise are generally underpowered or poorly designed.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Some peer-reviewed, double-blind studied which adhere to standard scientific method show a significant difference from placebo. Some do not. Everyone whose personal, gut-level opinion is that acupuncture doesn’t work believes that the latter are “well-designed” and the former are “underpowered or poorly designed,” and everyone whose personal-gut level opinion is that acupuncture *does* work thinks exactly the opposite. The truth is that we don’t know, and honest scientists will tell you that we don’t know. But to say that the only double-blind, scientific studies out there show *any* one thing on this subject is simply disingenuous.

      2. Cherith Ponsonby*

        I know it’s not the point of the letter (and I agree that medical treatments shouldn’t be team building activities) but I think it’s important to note that “placebo” doesn’t mean “does nothing”. AFAIK there have been quite a few studies indicating that placebos can often have beneficial effects – even if you know they’re placebos.

        1. TL -*

          The placebo effect is strong enough for most doctors to support you trying something placebo based, assuming no excessive risk, but not strong enough for most to feel comfortable recommending something they believe is pure placebo. (But you know, personal preferences vary on this a lot.)

          1. Penny Lane*

            Right. Doctors “allow” (for lack of a better word) patients to use placebo treatments all the time, because the mind is a powerful thing. That doesn’t mean that they are saying that the said placebo actually works; it’s just that in many cases it’s no harm no foul. If you want to believe that drinking this tea or smelling this scent will perk you up, hey great – no harm will come from it and if the placebo effect works for you, terrific. If you want to believe that drinking this tea or smelling this scent will cure your cancer, no dice.

            Cherith -for something to be actually beneficial, it has to be shown to be MORE efficacious than a placebo treatment. Not equally efficacious.

            1. Cherith Ponsonby*

              I think we’re basically agreeing. I’m certainly not saying that the placebo effect can cure cancer – but if I take a sugar tablet and my tension headache goes away, that’s still a benefit, even if it’s not clinically beneficial. Perhaps I should have said “positive effects”.

    2. L*

      Nothing of the sort has been ‘proven’, making sweeping statements like that just shows your ignorance. The implication that these practices are somehow dirty is plainly racist.

      I say this as something who doesn’t subscribe to any form of alternative medicine.

      People should be allowed to opt out of these sorts of activities without having to justify it. You don’t need to dismiss an entire practice to back up your argument. If the OP didn’t want to participate in a baking class it’d be equally as relevant.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        I didn’t say that the practices are dirty.

        I said that acupuncture carries an infection risk if proper hygiene isn’t followed. This has been proven.

        1. Edina Monsoon*

          I think in the UK you can’t donate blood if you’ve had acupuncture in the last 6 months so I would be opting out for that reason alone.

        2. Jesmlet*

          So does going to a regular doctor and having your blood drawn. The way you phrase this makes it seem like you believe Eastern medicine practitioners are less likely to follow proper hygiene. General statements will suffice – no medical procedures as team building activities.

          1. Knitting Cat Lady*

            I’d use the same phrasing for tattoo parlours, cosmetologists, dental hygienists, etc.

            Anything involving sharp metal bits that have the possibility to pierce the body carries the risk of transmitting infections.

            Having strict licensing and intensive training brings this way down.

            However, acupuncture isn’t regulated at all in many states and countries.

            In those places (Germany among them) anyone can set up shop and start sticking needles into people.

            And that is a recipe for disaster.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              Yep, tattoo parlors, body piercing shops- it’s the fact you are getting poked with needles, and need to be damn careful with that kind of shit!

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        I’m really uncomfortable with calling people racist for statements like the one Knitting Cat Lady made.

    3. EddieSherbert*


      Can this just be a general rule of thumb? No team building activities that require stripping?!

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        Many acupuncture treatments don’t require removal of clothing, except socks and shoes (it’s common to put needles in feet/ankle locations).

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          That doesn’t work for cupping, though. That’s usually done on the back!

          And I really really really wouldn’t want to see any of my colleagues shirtless…

  9. Eliza Beth*

    OP 2, you and your colleagues should speak up if you are uncomfortable.

    I question your boss here too. What’s next, crystals or essential oils or some other kind of quackery? I would have a hard time taking him seriously if it was my boss.

      1. LS*

        Leeches are used in modern medicine to drain blood from damaged difficult/sensitive/small areas and help prevent blood clots. Quite common in plastic and micro surgery.

        1. Lena*

          Yup. Maggots are also still used for some purposes in modern ‘Western’ medicine.

          It’s amazing how easily people like to dismiss things just because it doesn’t fit in with certain preconceived notions.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Since my needle phobia extends to other skin penetration (ticks freak me out in the precise same way, except ticks don’t warn you they’re coming and nurses do) leeches and maggots are just as alarming.

          2. Penny Lane*

            Except the use of leeches in certain type of surgery has been studied and proven. So, it’s no longer “alternative medicine,” it’s just … medicine.

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              Not to mention, it’s historically part of western medicine. (Most “alternative” treatments come out of eastern medicine.)

              “Bleeding” is actually useful for some ailments. As is “taking the waters” (meaning sitting in mineral baths). But both were prescribed for many ailments they weren’t useful for, and yup, they failed at most of them, because they weren’t affecting anything related.

    1. Rose*

      Just an FYI that both cupping and acupuncture are very common and prevalent in traditional Chinese medicine. Crystals and essential oils aren’t as linked to a centuries old, deeply cultural practice as far as I’m aware. I get where you guys are coming from but know that in certain circumstances, calling TCM quackery and other derogatory terms might come off as a bit culturally/racially tone deaf (at the very least, frame it more sensitively if Chinese friends are around.)

      1. Jesmlet*

        Ditto on this. I don’t believe in cupping and I was extremely skeptical about acupuncture but my mother’s friend was an acupuncturist and it helped me a lot after a car accident messed up my back. My mother is Chinese and equating her culture’s medicine to “crystals or essential oils or some other kind of quackery” is highly offensive to me.

      2. Flowey*

        Many Chinese in the west, myself included, prefer to trust in clinical trial based medicine and the scientific method. It’s almost weirder for people to assume otherwise, and doesn’t seem like a valid reason to respect ‘alternative medicine’

        1. Jesmlet*

          I think it’s more of a “don’t yuck my yum” kinda thing. There’s no reason to be disrespectful so why do it?

    2. Close Bracket*

      I’m thinking if the acupuncture doesn’t go over well, OP2’s boss should try an engagement party as a team building activity.

  10. Magenta Sky*

    OP #2: There are two ways to view acupuncture here:

    Either it’s woo, of no medical value, but with real medical risks (a recent study found adverse effects (mostly minor ) in over 40% of acupuncture patients, with occasional serious side effects, like transmitting tuberculosis or hepatitis, or broken needles requiring surgery to remove – after it caused a serious abscess. (With a competent practitioner, the risks of serious side effects are very minimal, but since the profession isn’t regulated, there’s no way to tell how competent they are other than experience.)

    Or, it has medical value, in which case your boss is trying to coerce you into undergoing a medical procedure against your will (and which they are presumably not in any way qualified to recommend).

    In neither case is your boss’s behavior ethical or acceptable.

    Does your boss have a boss? Does the company have an HR department? Were it me, I’d be talking to someone who can shut it down, or looking for a new job.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Just a note that it’s regulated in some states :) But as you noted, it’s not ok to push it as team building in either scenario.

        1. HannahS*

          PCBH is letting us know that in some states acupuncturists are regulated, meaning that they have a predictable and consistent level of training, and so in some states it’s safe to assume that a given acupuncturist is competent in what they do. She is not insisting that Magenta Sky (or me or you) believe that acupuncture works, only that in some states you are unlikely to be subjected to serious medical risk by it. This is good to know.

          Catholic priests are also regulated. You can rely on any given Catholic priest to perform a Catholic baptism. If I was concerned that there were sham priests passing around infections by doing it wrong, I’d be glad to know that there are certified Catholic priests doing it safely, even though I’m Jewish and have serious issues with both the doctrine and practices of the Catholic church. If someone assured me that people who are becoming Catholic are not at risk of infection from the water, I would probably not go all “who cares, it’s all bunk anyway”, because it actually does matter whether or not people are safe.

          1. TL -*

            Oh lord, Catholic priests probably weren’t the best example of quality control! :)

            But your point is true -assuming a good regularity body (they vary) and adequate medical screening, there’s no reason to assume it’s an undue risk to see an acupuncturist.

            1. HannahS*

              I could have used a different one, but frankly I don’t know enough about any other hierarchical clergy that administer rites that most people are going to recognize. And yeah, I mean, there’s a point to be made that regulatory bodies do sometimes lie and cover things up, and that includes the hospital research ethics boards in the hospital where I’d one day love to work and do research, which knowingly approved drugs, which should not have been approved, for use during pregnancy. But having a regulatory body is going to say something on /average/ about the ability of a given practitioner to do follow the rules and practices of that field.

              1. TL -*

                Every field has its bad and good spots. Alternative medicine is a field where you should pay special attention to the quality of your regulatory body.

              2. TL -*

                (Also your hospital can’t approve any drugs for use if you’re in the USA; even for clinical trials the FDA has authority. Unless they were turning a blind eye to off-label use…)

                1. Red Reader*

                  Hospitals can use meds off-label, they just probably won’t get paid for them by insurance companies and can’t pass that charge along to the patient without the appropriate paperwork/consent authorization. And of course from an ethical standpoint they should have something supporting the off label use.

                  But I’m working with one of our clinics who is giving a patient an off-label med for their condition based on preliminary results from a study and in fact the drug manufacturer is providing the med for free because the patient’s condition is not one where the insurance company currently considers that drug a medically necessary treatment.

                2. TL -*

                  You’re right, sorry – I meant they were turning a blind eye to off-label use that was contraindicated by research, not that off-label use is not allowed to happen.

          2. Casuan*

            …only that in some states you are unlikely to be subjected to serious medical risk by it. This is good to know.

            If I correctly understand your meaning, I disagree.
            An amateur can cause real & serious damage.

            Oh! Although if you mean how TL phrased this point (being professionally regulated), then I agree.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Thanks, HannahS! That’s exactly my point. I’m not debating the validity of the treatment (which is truly not useful to OP or anyone else), just pointing out that the risks can vary by each state and its regulatory framework. Those regulatory frameworks can also affect whether or not it’s ethical/lawful for someone to deliver treatment as a “team building” activity.

    2. Is It Performance Art*

      If your boss truly believes that acupuncture and cupping have medical benefit, it might be effective to point out that they’re not safe for everyone and a responsible practitioner should decline to perform either on someone with a contraindicating condition. That’s especially true for cupping. If your boss really pushes this, it’s going to be very awkward (at a minimum) if someone has to sit it out because they have diabetes, are on blood thinners or have an immune deficiency.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        And in fact, in most states acupuncturists are regulated and cuppers are either regulated independently or as a branch of massage therapy… And in both cases, the standard code of ethics *does* require the therapist to get a health history first and refuse to perform the procedure on anyone with a medical contraindication.

    3. Pudding*

      If you’re going to make claims like that you need to cite your sources. Better yet take a closer look at the evidence and decide for yourself whether the results are valid.

      As a researcher I’m so tired of ‘studies’ that are so low quality they’re nothing more than a joke that then get quoted in the media because sensationalism sells.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          The current UK/USA “Vaccines cause autism” was actually a deliberately cynical move by a former doctor since struck off for ethical violations, because he was being paid to develop single vaccines for Measles, Mumps & Rubella, so creating a fake terror about the MMR vaccine would bring him a lot of money. That, plus a shitty response by the UK media where people with no medical/scientific expertise reported on it, with predictable results. With a side helping of the right wing press wanting to bash the NHS again.

          There have been various other vaccine panics, but it’s especially interesting that they tend to be very different in different countries, and the scares tend not to cross the language barriers (which is a clue in itself, as if there’s an issue with a widely used vaccine, we’d expect to see issues regardless of whether someone was English or French etc)

          1. Ellen Ripley*

            Do you have links to info on this? I’m doing some research on attitudes toward immunization for a class and would love to be able to read about this more.

            1. Close Bracket*

              Google “Wakefield vaccines.” The study was originally published in the Lancet, which is quite a respectable journal. Then the questions about the science started. Then the co-authors started to remove their names. Then the Lancet retracted it.

              Then Jenny McCarthy learned how to use the internet, and the rest is history.

            2. Boo Berry*

              If you google “Andrew Wakefield Fraud” it should lead you to quite a few well researched articles to varying scopes.

      1. Lora*


        Although sadly this does not preclude clinicians from knowing the difference between a good quality study and a crap one…And there’s a pretty big range of opinions *in China* on the traditional medicine, in no small part from the history of how it got a resurgence in the 1950s.

        I think of it a bit like how my granny used to give us this vile tasting herbal tea when we were sick as kids – it’s a traditional part of my culture to drink nasty herbal teas for illnesses, and I’d be miffed at anyone who said rude things about my granny, but really the only function the herbal tea served was determining if we were goldbricking: if you were REALLY sick, you would tolerate the nasty bitter herbal tea because you were too sick to protest, whereas if you were trying to get out of a history exam you’d suddenly be MUCH BETTER NOW! And much of the region where I grew up is quite impoverished and nasty vile tea is really all they can afford when they’re sick, regardless of whether or not it works. You can tell them all day long about science based medicine, they still can’t afford any.

        It’s seriously weird to have the quirks of your culture fetishized though, bitter weird tea and all. There’s a large socioeconomic class and political difference in how people will react, it’s just fraught with peril all around. Which is why, coming back to the subject at hand, this is a terrible idea for a team building exercise.

  11. Snow or sun? Or sleet?*

    What is the history between Cat and Sam? Since this is a personal event Cat should invite whomever she wants. I would not want my manager dictating to me about invitation rules for a non work event.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Huh. This view is strong in the comments today. If you don’t want your manager dictating you need to have the good sense not to express a wish to include all but one of your teammates.

      1. Roscoe*

        These are adults, not children. If 2 people don’t get along, the manager should make sure they can work together, but not butt into their personal goings on

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          A manager has a responsibility to ensure that all team members are treated equally in a work context though. And if Cat invites everyone except Sam, that is very likely going to create blowback that the manager has to deal with.

          1. LBK*

            If this were a more generic holiday party or something, I’d agree, but frankly I’d be telling Sam that she’s being childish and self-centered if she got upset about this – a wedding is about the couple, it’s not about you.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              Honestly? If I was the only person not invited to something, I wouldn’t say anything to my boss, but you can be damn sure I’d be job hunting because no one wants to be the odd man out.

              1. LBK*

                Are you serious? You would quit a job because you didn’t magically become close personal friends with everyone overnight, to the point that you warranted an invite to a very personal, intimate event? That is truly insane to me and if I were a coworker I honestly wouldn’t feel bad about it. My wedding is about me, it is not about you.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  I would quit a job because I was being actively ostracized and not welcomed by any of my coworkers. I’m not going to spend 1/3rd of my life around people who would treat me that way.

                2. LBK*

                  I don’t understand how you’re getting to “actively ostracized and not welcomed” from not being invited to one event that you’re not in any way entitled to attend or even really should attend even if you were invited. The same rules do not apply to wedding activities as other activities.

                3. Magenta Sky*

                  I wouldn’t quit because everyone else was invited and I wasn’t. That’s about the hostess.

                  I would, however, get pretty serious about job hunting if everyone else *accepted*, knowing one person was singled out. That’s about office culture.

                  If I were one of the coworkers who was invited, I’d decline.

                4. LBK*

                  I would, however, get pretty serious about job hunting if everyone else *accepted*, knowing one person was singled out. That’s about office culture.

                  What the hell? So I’m not allowed to go to a good friend’s engagement party – a special day that is about me sharing in their happiness – because it might hurt the feelings of a coworker? How selfish can you possibly be to expect that everyone stand in solidarity with you at the expense of getting to join in celebration with their loved one?

                5. Tuxedo Cat*

                  I kind of see both points. Being ostracized at work sucks- I’ve been there, because I had two coworkers (both were eventually fired) who ostracized me once they figured out I wasn’t willing to do their work for them.

                  However, I think there’s some underlying issue… Not being invited to the party seems like symptom of this underlying issue, not the cause.

              2. Roscoe*

                These are wedding festivities. That is a completely different layer. If they were going to lunch every week and not inviting one person, then it would make sense. With an engagement party, that just screams insecurity to want to look for a new job because someone you have only known a few months didn’t invite you to a party meant for friends and family.

                1. LBK*

                  Agreed. Honestly, even if they were being exclusionary in other ways, I don’t think you get to add this one to the list of evidence because I don’t think you have a reasonable expectation of being included like you would for a group lunch or happy hour.

                2. oranges & lemons*

                  I don’t know. I think this is a reasonable stance and if I were in Sam’s position I wouldn’t want a forced invitation, but I think the feelings of ostracism can run pretty deep. It’s hard to be the one person who’s left out of a group even if it is for logical reasons, and I would understand if Sam were hurt by it. In this case, I think the best compromise would be for Sam to not get invited but for everyone else to spare her feelings by keeping the event out of the workplace as much as possible.

            2. Academic Addie*

              Yep. Cat needs to not hand out invites at work. But Sam also needs to be professional and keep her feelings about not being invited to a colleague’s weddings out of work, too.

          2. Jesmlet*

            You said it yourself… “treated equally in a work context”. There’s nothing work related about an engagement party as long as Cat doesn’t hand out the invites at work. It seems like they’re friends outside of work anyway. The most the manager should do is just request that invitations aren’t handed out in front of Sam and ask that the event not be discussed during work hours.

      2. LBK*

        If I’m planning something as special as an engagement party, I’m not gonna be too concerned about it – this is one of those things that supersedes work relationships. I think it’s frankly one of the few times you’re perfectly justified in being a little selfish and doing things exactly how you want and not how anyone else wants, because it is truly about you and your fiance and no one else.

        1. Queen of the File*

          I agree… mostly. In Sam’s shoes, rationally I would recognize the person doesn’t have to invite me and I wouldn’t feel entitled to an invite or angry at Cam. But emotionally, my feelings would still be a bit hurt by being literally the only person not invited. It would have been a nice gesture to get an invite even if both of us recognize I’m probably not going to attend.

          We don’t know *why* Cat doesn’t like Sam though. It might be more than just time/unfamiliarity. For all we know there’s a good reason Cam doesn’t want Sam meeting her friends/family.

          1. LBK*

            I guess I just find that whole dance very fake, especially considering both sides understand what’s going on. But YMMV.

            1. Genny*

              Most etiquette is based on niceties/fake politeness. Does that mean you sometimes end up with dog and pony shows where someone gets invited for appearances’/niceness’ sake even though all parties know you don’t actually want them there? Yes, but it also means that society on the whole is at least more outwardly pleasant and conscientious of others’ feelings.

              1. LBK*

                Eh. I think the Real Housewives series have proven that’s highly possible to follow arbitrary social rules and still be nasty and hurtful, and putting a facade of “well at least I followed the proper etiquette” just gives people plausible deniability for their nastiness that they don’t deserve.

                1. Genny*

                  Well, yeah, but I doubt any serious purveyor of etiquette would say they’re doing it right. You invite Mary’s husband Joseph even if you can’t stand him because of an arbitrary social rule that says you invite both halves of a couple (kind of like the rule that says you don’t exclude one person from a social group). When he gets there, you put a big smile on your face and tell him how happy you are to see him (even if you have to grit your teeth to do it). If done correctly, the guest should never know that s/he wasn’t specifically wanted.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            We don’t know *why* Cat doesn’t like Sam though.

            For all we know, she caught her licking donuts on the counter at a donut shop…

        2. Starbuck*

          “because it is truly about you and your fiance and no one else.”

          Well, if that were the case, there would be no need to invite people to a party. But I agree that they’re definitely not obligated to invite the new person just for the sake of workplace morale- that’s up to the boss to manage. If boss is worried about someone being the odd one out, they could choose not to go.

    2. MommyMD*

      Nor I. But I wouldn’t discuss it at work. If manager came to me saying it may cause problems, I’d likely not want to invite manager. Sam is new. LW may not feel she has that kind of personal relationship with her. If I were new I would not expect to be invited. It’s not for manager to decide. It’s not a first grade class party.

    3. nonegiven*

      The only rules manager should dictate is the invitations need to be mailed, not passed out at work.

      1. Ainomiaka*

        Or discussed. Let’s be clear, it’s unlikely that the snubbed person won’t find out. And it is a snub. It’s true, the manager shouldn’t dictate who should be invited, but as someone that has been snubbed like this in the past you find out real quickly how not a real member of the team you are. This is going to go badly.

          1. ainomiaka*

            oh I agree. I’m not saying she needs her nose rubbed in it-the opposite. There’s no way this won’t feel like rubbing her nose in it. Unfortunately the person throwing the party didn’t write in and there’s not a whole lot the OP can do without overstepping.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              I think OP needs to look at the environment on the team and think about why they were “so desperate” to fill this position. The way she describes the place reminds me of the LW who created an exclusive atmosphere on her team and ended up getting fired along with her team.

        1. DaisyGrrl*

          Agreed. I worked in a job with this kind of dynamic before and it was very clear to me that I was not welcome and would never be welcome as a member of the team. It was incredibly hurtful and stressful to me (and I know my reaction is mine to deal with, but it’s reasonably foreseeable that someone will be hurt by this type of behavior).

          While I can appreciate that Cat doesn’t like Sam, it makes it really difficult for Sam to integrate into the team and has the very real potential to create a toxic environment within the workplace, especially for any new hires in the future.

          1. Roscoe*

            I think its taking it a bit too personally. This is an engagement party, not a happy hour or team lunch. This is a very personal thing. You shouldn’t be hurt because of this. I’ve had people I was decent friends with who I didn’t get invited to their wedding or any wedding festivities. I didn’t take it bad, because things like this are really meant for those closest to them.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              You started your comment by saying they are taking it too personally, and then go on to say it’s a very personal thing…

              1. LBK*

                I don’t see the contradiction – the point is that engagement parties aren’t generally broad invite events where it would be particularly rude to leave someone out. They’re meant to be more intimate, so if you don’t have an especially close relationship with the couple, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get invited.

                1. PlainJane*

                  But that’s part of why this seems weird to me. All 9 of the other employees have that close a relationship with the couple? I suppose it’s possible, but the more likely explanation is that she’s not confining invitations to people she’s extremely close to–but she’s excluding someone she doesn’t like.

              2. Roscoe*

                Yes, the engagement party is personal to the person engaged. That doesn’t mean you should take it personally if you aren’t invited to that event.

            2. Here Comes the Snide*

              This exactly. I’ve not made the cut to several weddings that other friends have because they’re just a little closer to the couple than I am. Weddings and all the related parties are hella expensive. I think it’s ruder to stick to inviting couples who are married or who live together but NOT couples that are just dating than what Cat is doing, but I’m not going to get bent out of shape over not getting that invite my boyfriend gets. Every person at one of these festivities costs money. You invite someone to the engagement party, you have to invite them to the wedding and then you’re looking at more money spent on someone you don’t even want there.

        2. Roscoe*

          Its hard to say don’t discuss something like that ever at work. I think its fine to say to not rub their nose in it, but you can’t just assume no one will talk about something that happened over the weekend.

          1. Ainomiaka*

            I was trying to point out that the issue is more than just when invitations are delivered. I should have been more clear.

        3. Reya*

          It’s not the same, but I remember a few weeks/months (I think) after I started a new job, someone on my team had a birthday.

          It was common within the department to pass around a card for everyone to sign, but for some reason that didn’t happen this time – instead, the rest of my team bought her individual cards and, in some cases, gifts. None of them told me they were doing this or gave me sort of heads-up, and it sucked – I only found out it was her birthday when suddenly everyone but me and the brand new guy who’d only been there a week or two was handing over cards. It was my first proper job and it made me feel incredibly excluded from the team.

          Seems silly in retrospect, but it’s horrible being left out.

    4. OP#3*

      As I said above, this isn’t about me saying who should or shouldn’t be invited but someone coming to me for advice on how to handle it because we have a good working relationship and that is what I’ve always told my team to do, whether the issue is work related or not.

      1. Oilpress*

        The small issue is this specific function. The larger, more important issue is the fact that your team isn’t cohesive. Is there a way you can fix that, or is the new person such an outcast that it will never work? Can you schedule a monthly team lunch?

      2. Beep*

        Yeah… Not to be incredibly rude, but if Sam isn’t good at her job, and isn’t melding well with the team… This party thing may not be a long standing issue. You may end up finding a more qualified candidate.

        And as for advice, like it has been said before, just ask Cat and the team not to make a big deal about the party (you can still make a big deal about the engagement) – meaning don’t talk about it in front of Sam.

        and if Sam does speak up and asks why she was excluded Cat could say something like – “Fergus and I have been together a really long time, meaning the whole team has met him numerous times and they have become friends as well. We chose to celebrate our engagement with the family and friends that have been with us through our relationship. I hope you can understand.”

      3. nonymous*

        My experience is that weddings (and the additional events surrounding them) are highly political and require a great deal of tact, grace, and the ability to pretend everything is wonderful on the part of the wedding couple. Without knowing more about Cat and the other staff relationships, I can’t say if she’s striving for an event list of guests who have bonded with her over many years or the events have space to include a couple polite-but-distant guests (which Sam sounds like she would qualify as). In the latter case, I’d say just invite Sam (maybe with a “no gift, presence only” wording) and make the best of it. Perhaps task a trusted friend to be Sam’s buddy at the event.

        If Cat is looking at this from a “only invite to engagement party people who will come to wedding” or “known for X years” perspective, it may be a reasonable compromise to invite Sam outside of work for coffee sometime. Frankly I think no good can come from pretending that Sam isn’t left out from this set of invites, but it’s probably better if Sam comes to the conclusion she dodged a bullet and that there is evidence Cat is trying to be friendly and develop a cordial relationship. If it peters out because they’re not a good fit, there will be fewer hard feelings because at least everyone tried.

        To OP#3 I would encourage you to practice management techniques that are inclusive. Frankly if there is already a cohesive team, it takes effort to engage in conversation that includes Sam (especially if she has a different affect or different interests) which may reduce the quality of convos temporarily for the existing group. Can you model that inclusion? Things like small group projects and taking turns at meetings and finding what makes Sam tick (does she do repetitive tasks without complaint? bond with a special type of difficult customer?) go a long way to promoting inclusiveness.

      4. soon 2be former fed*

        Unfortunately, I see an undercurrent of unkindness in the comments here. I don’t know what was expected of you, but the exclusion of one not well liked person , well, there is no way to handle it. People will talk about the event at work. Sam may well not want to attend, but her otherness will just be emphasized to her nonetheless. I hope she finds another job soon. She has feelings that matter too. And getting married does not give anyone a license to be unkind. I was bullied at my first job after college because the position I was hired into had been upgraded and now required a college degree. I was the first one hired with a degree, and the incumbents did not like it, boy were they jealous. They left nasty notes in my desk, just all manner of mean girl crap, from day one. Grown-ass women! I never had a chance. It was an excellent company, but I did a year and booked out of there. In my office, a person I worked closely with got married. We really liked each other and got along well, but she invited no one from our office to her wedding since she could not invite everyone and it was a wise decision. My office was much larger than yours too. Ugly situation here with no satisfactory resolution.

      5. PlainJane*

        Since she’s asking for your advice, maybe the advice is to not do what she’s planning to do. Either invite everyone or a couple of people to whom she’s closest. There’s just no way that inviting all but one member of a work group is going to be a positive thing.

    5. Liane*

      There seem to be a lot of commenters who don’t recall* the etiquette rule, “Don’t talk about your activity with or around people who aren’t invited,” which also covers issuing invites. It applies as much to adult wedding receptions and tailgate parties as it does to children’s birthday parties. So let Cat have her party — just tell her to not pass out invites or babble on about it at work. (My best Miss Manners tone) Surely, since you, Cat and everyone but Sam are such dear, dear friends outside the workplace you have cell numbers to group text and are devotedly following each other on assorted social media?
      *thanks Social Media (which I do use for a few things)

      PS: OP, the AAM archives have some great articles on why it is a bad idea for managers to be close friends with their reports. You might want to read a few of them before you decide whether to accept Cat’s invitation–or okay brewery runs while Sam minds the store.

      1. Eye of Sauron*

        Can we not jump to lumping the lw in with the ‘unmanager’. The only similarities between the two is both involve employees and managers. Everything else is miles apart.

      2. Academic Addie*

        “babble on”, “let Cat have her party”

        Yikes. Can we acknowledge here that Cat is probably an adult woman, and one who, from the OP’s description, sounds like she’s good at her job.

        The comments today have been super, super gross about assuming Cat is going on with brainless wedding twaddle, and being a general mean girl. Many women are married. I’d wager most married women didn’t use that event as an opportunity to inflict casual cruelty on those around them.

        1. Ainomiaka*

          I haven’t seen any comments assuming that Cat is “going on with brainless wedding twaddle.” I’m not sure where you are getting that. I’ve seen a lot recognizing the reality that it is unlikely that Sam won’t hear about the party and realize she’s being excluded. Which is a pretty realistic concern. And yes, most women do manage to not use their wedding to inflict casual cruelty on those around them. Which is why if Cat were the one writing in I would say the right thing to do is invite Sam. I’d suggest Cat follow that trend. Unfortunately the person that wrote in isn’t the one setting the guest list.

          1. Academic Addie*

            “I’m not sure where you are getting that.”

            From the comment I’m replying to that refers to Cat as babbling.

              1. Academic Addie*

                I’ve seen a few others referring to Cat as not wanting to catch Sam’s “cooties” and “elementary school Mean Girls”. That feels very gendered to me, I don’t like it, and I find it gross.

                1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Ding! I’m also bothered by the very gendered aspect of quite a few of the comments.

        2. Girlwithapearl*

          Yes. There’s an intense gendered undercurrent to these comments.

          I’m amazed by how many people are Feeling This. Cat choosing who she invites to her party is not about every time in elementary school you felt left out by the cool girls. Jesus.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I was the kid left out by *everyone* in elementary school, and I still think this is a bunch of BS.
            Cat can invite whoever she damn well pleases, and Sam is not entitled to an invitation just because they work together.

            1. soon 2be former fed*

              This sounds very harsh and unkind to me. It’s not a matter of entitlement, and of course Cat can invite whoever she wants to. It’s about being knd to another human being. I’m not seeing anything gendered about this. I wonder what Cat’s fance would say, invite or not?

  12. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 I would be really frustrated if someone did this. I’d like to think that if he was asked to fill in, he would have specifically mentioned that when he sent the questions – that’s what I would do – but perhaps that was a thoughtless oversight.

    How was he able to access the presentation? I’m guessing it had been sent to the meeting organiser or shared with people there, but am just curious.

    1. GM*

      Yep that was my thought too. How did he gain access to what should have been a limited-distribution presentation?
      My sympathies in droves for OP#1, especially if David wasn’t specifically asked to step in.

      1. Not a Blossom*

        I keep all of my work files on a shared drive that anyone can access and did the same at my old job, so it doesn’t strike me as odd that he could get the file. However, it is super odd that he would give the presentation unless someone asked him to do so.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        A quick note — the OP emailed me and asked me to remove the name used for the coworker in the letter. I can’t remove it from all the comments, but if anyone is reading this letter and wondering about this name that wasn’t in the letter, that’s why.

    2. Casuan*

      This is a communication issue & bad decisions on letting someone who wasn’t as well-prepped or qualified to make this presentation. Or if the decision was intentional, then OP1 should have been notified that her work was presented whilst she was away.

      1. Luna*

        But OP was notified, David emailed the OP that very same day. Since OP called out sick, there was no time for others to notify Op as this was not planned.

    3. Femme d'Afrique*

      The acupuncture letter has taken over the comments and yet I feel like this one is the really sticky question! I’d love to get an update, or to have the OP weigh in because it really, really matters whether David was asked to step in by a boss, or whether he took it upon himself to present. Option 1 would imply that there’s a communication problem between OP and the boss; Option 2 suggests something else altogether…

      1. Purplesaurus*

        And in either scenario, David did not present as well as OP would have, and I can understand the frustration despite the reason (though option 2 is way more problematic).

      2. Not a Blossom*

        “I told the meeting organizer I wouldn’t be there, and they told me I could just present at our next meeting.” This adds another layer. There could have been miscommunication between the meeting organizer and the boss. Or maybe David offered and the meeting planner gave him the OK. I’d definitely make sure none of that happened before talking to David.

    4. Luna*

      I disagree, without more details to say otherwise I don’t think this was an overstep by David. It sounds more like OP might be overly territorial here.

      The OP was supposed to present but cancelled at the last minute. Yes, OP had a good reason, but that doesn’t change the inconvenience to the other meeting attendees. The fact that David collected the questions to send to OP that same day shows that OP was still getting credit for being the project leader, that David wasn’t doing this behind OP’s back (when was David supposed to ask OP when there was no notice that OP wouldn’t be able to make it?), and that David had the sense to not try to answer questions that he didn’t know the answers to.

      I am definitely not advocating for people to show up to work sick, but OP in these situations it is not uncommon for one of three things to happen:

      1) The original presenter cannot make it, and arranges for a colleague or underling to give the presentation instead. The substitute doesn’t know all the details, but it isn’t that hard to read the basics off of the PowerPoint slides and handle any questions by following-up with the original presenter afterwards.
      2) The presenter cannot attend in person so instead calls in to the meeting and gives the presentation over the phone. OP, since it sounds like you are very invested in being the only one to present on this project this might be the best option to consider in the event this happens again.
      3) The presenter cannot attend and has no backup presenter and makes no effort to call in. Everyone comes to the meeting thinking they are finally going to hear about Project X, only to find out that is not the case. Cue annoyed grumbles all around, people feeling like their time is being wasted, maybe even a few knowing looks that say it’s no surprise Fergus didn’t show up.

      Situation 3 is almost always the worst option, and David stepping in stopped this from happening. There is also a very real possibility that someone asked David to do this, in which case OP risks looking bad if they criticize David for this.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        It sounds like this presentation was one small part of a regularly held meeting. In my office, it would be nothing that “Chad’s presentation on the use of logic chains in teapot modeling” at the staff meeting would be bumped by a month if Chad was out sick. It depends on the topic to me.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          +1 I also understood it as part of a bigger meeting and not a time-sensitive, main-purpose-of-the-meeting type thing. So not a big deal if it’s pushed back.

          And OP did say she talked to the meeting organizer, who said it was fine to push it back.

        2. Steph*

          See- I was just thinking the opposite, but because of timelines. When we did monthly work planning meetings at my old office, it was important to at least touch on everything so we had a good picture of what was going on in the month and could balance our workloads as a team. If Fergus were sick and we got to the spot on the meeting time I’d definitely stick my hand up and say ‘I know what he’s working on this month- he’s in the implementation stage of the new teapot painting training class. I think I remember him saying the pilot group is going to meet sometime in the third week of the month.’ As a team we’d discuss all the details all of us had, note it on the calendar, note follow up questions, then go to him to offer our support when he came back in.

          I can also see it being overstepping, though, if the purpose of the meeting isn’t ‘paint a picture of the group workload/events happening in this space over the coming weeks.’ To me the distinction is sort of ‘does the team need even partial information NOW in order to complete the point of the meeting,’ which it sounds like, in this case, it probably wasn’t.

          However, now that I have that work habit and have left that office, I’m a bit sympathetic to David, and I’ll look out and make sure I don’t make that mistake myself!

          1. J*

            Hi everyone- I’m the OP that submitted this question. Thank you all for your feedback! I’m really enjoying the varying perspectives. To answer a few questions:
            -The presentation slide deck had been shared as an attachment in the meeting invite, so everyone, including D, had access to it before the meeting
            -I’m about 95% sure his boss didn’t ask him to present this information. The meeting organizer, who is both my and D’s peer, is given full run of the meeting, so I assumed I was officially off the agenda when she gave the OK for me to present next month
            -The presentation was a small part of a larger, monthly meeting among internal people that all work on similar projects across departments (we’re a very large [20,000+] organization). The presentation was an update from my department, but the meeting would’ve gone on even without my presentation because everyone in the room gives a quick, less formal update at each of these meetings.

            1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

              “-I’m about 95% sure his boss didn’t ask him to present this information. The meeting organizer, who is both my and D’s peer, is given full run of the meeting, so I assumed I was officially off the agenda when she gave the OK for me to present next month”

              But someone must have given the floor over to David to speak at some point. I’m guessing he didn’t hip-check the moderator into the white board and grab the mic (metaphorically of course). This seems more a fail on the organizer for not running the meeting properly if David was allowed to speak out of turn on a subject he wasn’t scheduled to present.

            2. Nonprofit worker*

              Yeah, I would make sure what actually transpired before speaking with David. For example, if your boss told him to do it, it would be worth following up with your boss. “We had discussed that I would present this at the next meeting, what changed?” If it was David volunteering to do something that was a big overstep then you should follow up with him.

      2. Observer*

        Except that clearly, situation #3 is not what was happening. This was a meeting that was happening anyway AND the organizer clearly did NOT think that this was something that people had been waiting for with bated breath. Also, there was another meeting scheduled where this would be covered instead.

        And it is ALWAYS an overstep to step in and present about a project you have not worked on unless you have been asked to do so. Depending on the specifics it could be worse than an overstep, and misrepresent the project in ways that could be damaging. We don’t know if that’s the case here, but blanket “Do whatever it takes to do #3” is not really viable.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        but it isn’t that hard to read the basics off of the PowerPoint slides and handle any questions by following-up with the original presenter afterwards.

        This statement shows a serious misunderstanding of how presentations are done.

        You NEVER read PowerPoint slides. NEVER. Instead, you deliver a lecture and the PowerPoint slides have the main bullet points and any relevant pictures.

        The content of the lecture will contain way more information than the slides. This is why it’s important for the person doing the presentation to have decent knowledge of the subject matter.

        This is why it was so bad for the coworker to deliver the talk when the coworker didn’t even have basic knowledge. The coworker created confusion instead of clarification.

        The real issue was that coworker was utterly unqualified to give the talk. Coworker did not even have the basic knowledge of the subject matter. Coworker probably should have pushed back.

        At a minimum, this was bad judgement.

        1. Observer*

          To be honest, having sit through someone reading off a powerpoint is generally a MUCH bigger inconvenience than the presentation being put off. Especially when there is another scheduled meeting where the presentation will be done.

          As for the ” knowing looks that say it’s no surprise Fergus didn’t show up.” If that’s really an issue then either you are working with a bunch of catty individuals or the presenter has significant performance issues that have nothing to do with the presentation in question. And having someone read off a bunch of slides will do NOTHING to ameliorate either issue or keep people from snarking.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          I’m so glad you said that about reading off slides. Even the notes section isn’t going to cover my actual full notes.

        3. Jennifer Thneed*

          THANK YOU. I was going to say this: if you’re reading off the Powerpoint slides to the audience who is looking at those same slides, you’re doing it wrong. Plus it is so, SO dull for the people with good reading abilities. I have hated “Read to yourself silently while the teacher reads aloud” since at least 2nd grade.

          I have taught Powerpoint classes. It’s amazing how many people don’t use the Notes feature (which is where you put all the stuff you’re going to say aloud). It’s amazing how many people put WAY TOO MUCH info on each slide. (Tip: no more than 3 bullets, no more than 5 words per bullet. Powerpoint slides are the outline only.) I spent an hour of the class teaching people how to animate their text and coordinate it with music and all of that, and then spent 10 minutes explaining why they should use those tools only sparingly, if at all.

          As a final illustration, I used the Gettysburg address for a comparison. All 272 words fit on the slide, but it was way too much text. Then I showed a slide where I lost all the grammar and broke it into bullet points – still too much text. THEN I showed a slide the way it should be, (3 bullets, 5 words each, just hitting the highest points), with the actual text of the speech in the Notes area for the presenter to see.

      4. Jaguar*

        Yeah, I came here to say this. Some variation on this happens all the time:

        “Person X isn’t here to present on Subject A so it will be next week.”
        “Wait, what’s Subject A? Is this going to affect my Subject B?”
        And then someone who knows something about Subject A does what they can.

        OP1, you should really try to avoid assuming malice until the facts are in.

  13. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 I know it’s really frustrating but I wouldn’t hang your hopes on this. It might mean something or not – you just can’t know. It’s understandable to wish you could! Good luck!

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Also without being a jerk, it sounds like OP has pushed about as far as I would advise already on this job (anyone want to disagree with me?). I think she’s expressed sufficient interest at this point that the know she wants the job, and there’s not much more she can do here.

      1. OP #5*

        Hi Lil Fidget. You are not coming across as a jerk, I’ve had other people hint that I’ve probably pushed as far as I should. Nothing I haven’t heard. However, while I’ve expressed genuine interest in the position, I’ve also been respectful of their timeline and haven’t been following up. Aside from submitting my application to HR via email, any additional correspondences have been initiated by them, not me. HR has called me and then two weeks later sent an email (neither times did I reach out first). In my defense, this position requires someone that is persistent, able to follow up, network, passionate, able to hit the ground running – I’m trying to demonstrate that I have all these qualities without coming across annoying.

        I’ll also add, I have a very dynamic, borderline obsessive personality. I would much rather not get the position because I was too passionate and wanted it too badly, vs not saying anything and then suffering in the role when they see my personality. If they say that they don’t want to offer me the position because I expressed too much interest or came off too strong, then honestly as much as I want the position, it’s probably not the right cultural fit for me.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          You’re fine! I’ve heard this from other similar personality friends as well. At least one has said, “This is how I’m going to be once I’m hired, so they might as well know that up front.” That is reasonable! There may actually have been jobs I was interested in that I didn’t get because I didn’t show enough enthusiasm at the right moments.

          1. OP #5*

            Thanks! It can be hard to reign myself in at times – I want to show that I’m excited, I have ideas and ready to go. Hopefully over the next week or so I’ll hear something!

  14. RaccoonLady*

    For what it’s worth, I’m in the veterinary field and from my perspective, acupuncture (when done properly) can be a good way to manage chronic pain that has no apparent cause/when other treatments are not effective. There is a science behind the spots that you acupuncture and how you do it!
    That being said, it definitely doesn’t make sense as a work activity! I don’t think it would be beneficial to everyone involved, and it’s almost like going to get a group massage with your coworkers! This is just to say that you can probably leave your skepticism out of the debate and just emphasize that it’s an inappropriate activity to do with coworkers.

      1. Casuan*

        I seriously can not get over this proposal.

        Can someone please theorise for me…

        really, any theory will do; I can’t even

        :::feeling better now that’s out of my system:::
        sorry for shouting
        thanks for the outlet
        :::feeling sheepish:::

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I completely agree it is not appropriate. Since you are looking for a reason the manager thought it was appropriate, he/she is probably familiar with the community acupuncture model I discuss up-thread.

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        Actual in the hospitals I work in people do get flu shots at team meetings. But it’s in a private room you go to one at a time and it’s not the point of the meeting ;-)

      2. Natalie*

        An old tenant of mine used to do a flu shot clinic that they somehow turned into a semi-team building activity – they had donuts and such in the room where you sign your paperwork. The actual shots were in a totally different private area and administered by a nurse, but people would hang out and have a donut at least.

        1. PlainJane*

          At least you had a private area. At one old job (at an academic health center), flu shot clinics were cattle calls. I’m not needle-phobic, but I have very not-fond memories of the year the needle hit a nerve. The floor tilted upward, the room spun, and I had to sit with my head between my knees–in a hallway right outside the busiest coffee shop on that end of campus. I’m not sure which was worse–the physical misery or the embarrassment.

    1. Close Bracket*

      > There is a science behind the spots that you acupuncture

      No there’s not. Studies comparing acupuncture using traditional acupuncture points to both acupuncture using traditional points that are not indicated for the given condition and points that are not traditional for anything show no difference. You could literally poke someone anywhere and get the same results. Heck, you don’t even need to break the skin. Google “sham acupuncture.”

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        To the extent that acupuncture’s effects have been verified by peer-reviewed, double-blind studies — and for some conditions, they have — the loci are chiefly major nerve clusters close to the surface. The mechanism appears to be that intense stimulation of any nerve cluster will trigger the production of endorphins and some other chemicals which block pain receptors and have a few other mildly useful effects. This is a pretty limited range (it’s been demonstrated better than placebo for chronic pain and the studies go both ways on a couple of other conditions with a significant neurochemical component), but it’s still existent — and the locations used by modern physicians, while they are specific, do not necessarily correspond with those used in traditional Chinese version.

  15. HannahS*

    For#2, I would be absolutely thrilled if we could collectively keep the thread on this topic from devolving into a drawn-out argument on whether cupping and acupuncture are legitimate. That’s not the point; it’s not like any of us would feel it was fine if the boss was taking them out to see a physiotherapist or something. OP2, speak to your boss and say something like what Alison suggested. Remember that the term “health treatment” as used in the script can equally apply to things that you do or don’t see as health treatments. Try to keep it calm and matter of fact–you want to convey that you feel it’s wrong because it’s inappropriate, not because of your own distaste. Honestly, most work group activities that cause this level of distaste in people cause that strong of a reaction, in part, because they ARE really inappropriate.

    Also, unless your team is tiny and homogenous, I can promise you that there was someone who hated the motivational speaker (it would have been me but I would have said it was wonderful to be polite), has dietary restrictions to the point that restaurants are unsafe or unenjoyable (also sometimes me), and resented the art display (…not me, this time). It’s impossible to find group activities that everyone likes and participates in. Your boss missed the mark here, but it sounds like they’re trying to go for a diverse range of activities. I know you’re really upset about this (and I’m sympathetic), but you might catch more flies if you open with, “Boss, I’ve loved all of the group activities so far! I can really tell how thoughtful you are in trying to find a range of activities for us to explore. I have to tell you, though, I have some concerns about the newest suggestion.”

    1. Marcel*

      1) The OP of the second letter said that the restaurants are chosen from a list by all employees before the company takes them out

      2) I’m not sure how you could say you wouldn’t like the speaker when you don’t even know who the speaker was or what the topics were?

      3) Not sure how anyone can object to an art display when it’s meant to be a showcase of those who are artsy and not mandatory for all (for individuals who like to draw or paint according to OP)

      1. NeverGoingToFindAHome*

        Marcel, I think HannahS has a lot of fair points and is simply trying to say that not everyone is going to enjoy everything, which is a very reasonable assumption. I could address all of your points, but I’m going to stick to just the first one. I am someone who has a whole host of food allergies. Yes, the OP said the restaurants are chosen by the employees. But what if everyone says they want to go to “Pizza Palace” and I’m the lone person that can’t eat pizza (and usually can’t eat anything else on the menu, even with modifications). The restaurant is still “chosen” by the employees, but certain employees may still not be able to go/eat anything/enjoy it.

        1. Betsy*

          As a vegetarian, going out to lunch with coworkers is rarely fun. Usually you spend a lot of the time having to fake enthusiasm about the [insert kind of meat here] that that restaurant is famous for. Although, team lunches with everyone including high level bosses are rarely fun, anyway, because you need to try to eat elegantly while making awkward conversation and trying to figure out which meal to order that isn’t too expensive or large.

          1. Penny Lane*

            I find this interesting, because in my world people not eating meat is so incredibly common, and restaurants offer tons of non-meat choices, that it’s not remotely noteworthy if someone doesn’t eat meat, it hasn’t been “noteworthy” in 20 years, and no one seems to think of a meal as “incomplete” if there is no meat on it. What halfway decent restaurant doesn’t have pasta dishes, large entree salads, etc.?

            1. Kelly L.*

              There are restaurants in the US where the only thing reliably vegetarian is a bad salad with lettuce that’s probably been wilting since the 1970s, and even the vegetable sides have bacon hidden in them.

            2. Ktelzbeth*

              I wish I were in your world. . . :( In my part, it is still noteworthy and restaurants haven’t caught up.

        1. Casuan*

          I’m all for being a team, however when I have work to do I’d rather just get it done than to listen to a speaker. Otherwise, I’m spending the time resenting that I’m being compelled to team-build when I’m not feeling the love, or whatever it is I’m supposed to feel or think.
          The art thing sounds interesting although it’s a bit too show-&-tell for my tastes.
          All that said, coffee or a meal where we just hang & talk about hobbies are whatever… I’m okay-ish with that as long as one isn’t compelled to share.
          Rare is the team-building event where everyone is actually into it.

          flashback to the Murphy Brown episode where they went on a team-building retreat. I would have perfectly fit in on MB’s team.

        2. Mike C.*

          Motivational speakers suck – they’re everything fake about the working world but in your face about it.

          “Oh wow, you paid $50k to have a Sherpa drag your @ss up Everest? Then you turned it into a book deal and motivational speaker gig? Climb Annapurna in the winter if you want to inspire me.”

          1. Nonnon*

            I loathe motivational speakers with a passion. My secondary school had a bit of a thing for them, along with inspiration porn, and I spent so many hours thinking like, “sure yeah, you climbed Everest, but how is this going to help me with my issues of A-levels, festering mental illnesses, and unhealthy coping mechanisms?”

            (It didn’t. It did make me feel worse because like, here I am, having a horrible meltdown over not understanding something in my homework and there was some dude with like, 80 cancers running a marathon.)

            Mercifully, I’ve never had to endure a motivational speaker since leaving school.

            1. Starbuck*

              Right? We had a really bad one in high school that basically came to talk to us about gender roles (in a super hetero-normative way- like, girls want X, Y, Z, boys like A, B, C) and how to dutifully perform them and why we should set very traditional, abstinence-based boundaries for physical relationships. It was a huge load of BS. Nothing about safe practices was even hinted at. It was basically a fundamentalist Christian sermon, minus any explicit mention of religion. The money would have been better spent on qualified counselors.

    2. Anononon*

      I’m not really sure the point of the first part of your last paragraph? It just seems like trying to bash work activities. I mean, while a couple of people may not like a certain activity, it is possible for there to be work environments where the majority do like it/it is a positive part of the culture.

        1. Anononon*

          And a lot of people do? I trust the OP to know her workplace. I know at my workplace, at least a good majority of people enjoy the activities we do, and I’m happy to work in such a culture.

          It’s been noted before that the commenters here often skew anti work activities to some degree, but that’s not representative of all places

      1. grace*

        It seems like any time team activities come up here, they’re met with ‘not everyone actually enjoys that,’ which I think is less than helpful, especially for something like this, when OP has said they have been enjoyed and have tried to be as accessible and fun for everyone involved.

        It’s okay to say the manager missed the mark on this one without saying that all the rest of them have done the same, IMO.

      2. paul*

        I think it’s just pointing out that any one event is probably going to fall pretty flat for at least one team member.

        . Workshops or speakers on work related stuff (like, in our case, an explanation of medicaid changes that might impact our clients, or the state of CDBG funding) are one thing but stuff like motivational speakers or team lunches or whatever are going to leave some people flat.

        I’ll be honest; I’m one of those that kind of shrugs their shoulders. I’m usually not actively put out by it but I don’t really enjoy/get a lot out of them and don’t know that they help team cohesion all that much. But at least if you’re going to do them, try to vary what you do (which it seems like they are…just sometimes choosing really poorly).

        1. Perse's Mom*

          In my office, 90% of the bonding over these events is achieved by… how much we collectively dislike these events.

    3. EddieSherbert*

      Agreed that it’s basically impossible to find an activity everyone likes. But I think this a whole different GALAXY from a lunch you don’t want to do. This is a medical procedure being used as a team activity!

  16. LouiseM*

    #2 It’s disappointing hearing people dismiss “alternative” (to them, in their cultures!) treatments like cupping and acupuncture wholesale. You can have your own opinion about whether they work or not, but let’s not pretend like Western medicine is some neutral idea and that all that matters is whether something is “proven” by the US medical establishment. That’s a pretty narrow-minded view and I expect better from readers here.

    That said, it’s are really irrelevant to the question here. It doesn’t matter if they “work” medically or not–medical treatment is not an appropriate team building activity. I find Allison’s suggested script very strange for this reason. Why would you mention that alternative treatments in particular aren’t “universally embraced”? I’m guessing most of us here have “embraced” regular teeth cleanings and HIV testing, but I would still push back hard if my boss wanted my whole team to do them together.

    1. TL -*

      There is a difference between a treatment having a medical versus a personal or cultural value. Something is not inherently less valuable because it doesn’t have a medical benefit. It’s not even less beneficial if it results in an overall increase of quality of life for a person. But that doesn’t mean it’s an effective medical treatment.

      Also. There is a lot of really great biomedical research that comes out of countries that aren’t the USA. We produce a huge amount of it, but that’s mostly tied to the fact that we have the most funding for it. China, Japan, Europe, Australia, India and many other countries have all produced and are currently producing great science and/or great scientists.

    2. Xiaolun*

      First time commenter and agreed. I’m very disappointed in some of the readers. It also doesn’t escape my notice that it’s a traditional type of non-Western medicine; there is already some bias as to whether or not it’s ‘effective’ in medical studies. It also has a cultural component so it’s incredibly offensive to see people call something so integral to my culture “snake oil”, especially since both treatments have no negative side effects and there hasn’t been a lot of (good) research on either practice.

      I agree that it’s not a good choice for a team building exercise and it’s also very subjective to an individual’s comfort level (I, for one, would be THRILLED about a chair massage as a team building exercise… but I was also a theatre kid who grew up with backstage massage trains during rehearsals). Maybe the OP could suggest an Escape Room activity instead, but keeping the judgmental /’woo’ aspect out of the conversation.

      1. nonegiven*

        They can have negative side effects and so can western medical treatments. They are also contraindicated for people with conditions they may not want to reveal to boss or coworkers for a team building exercise.

      2. JustaTech*

        Cupping was practiced in Europe for hundreds of years. Cupping is still practiced as part of saunas in Finland (and other places I assume). It is very “Western”.

    3. Mad Baggins*

      I don’t see how pointing out that not everyone believes in acupuncture is different than telling a boss who wants to hold a religious activity that not everyone believes in a god. Not only is doing a medical thing together weird, it’s extra weird because not everyone thinks it is medical.

      1. L*

        Telling them not everyone believes in a god is fine. Dismissing religion wholesale as nonsense would be disrespectful.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think you can politely tell your boss that not everyone believes in the same thing, but you should probably steer clear of words like “woo” and “snake oi.l”

    4. Mike C.*

      First off, this whole “western” or “eastern” medicine is vaguely racist and rather ignorant of where so called western practices come from. It reeks of the sort of orientalism that we normally see with managerial obsessions with obeya rooms.

      While every culture practices medicine in some form or another, a significant influence of “western” medicine came from Persia during the European “dark ages”. Combine that with the fact that medical practices have much more to do with the relative wealth of a nation rather than hemisphere, the distinction between east and west is incredibly silly. Fundimental health practices like sanitation, floridation of water (when not naturally available), vaccinations and so on are found all over the world – one would never say that there is “eastern” or “western” clean drinking water, right? And if Im diagnosed with a form of cancer that requires the use of chemo, I’m going to be prescribed that chemo if I’m sitting in Japan or the United States. So this whole “eastern” vs “western” thing needs to stop.

      Furthermore, the talk of “narrow minds” is just incredibly insulting. AaM asked that we not debate it, but suffice it to say it’s an incredible cheap shot.

      1. Xiaolun*

        My mother is an acupuncturist, she practices traditional Chinese medicine, and she describes her work as someone who works with “Eastern medicine”. So, I’m not sure how you are getting racism out of it.

        It’s not orientalist to point out that there is a distinction between traditional Chinese medicine and western medicine; that it is commonly how it’s described in the field. Nowadays, it’s common for some people to use both types of treatments.

        My point was not that people should believe in acupuncture or cupping. If they don’t think they work, fine. However, people should be sensitive to the words that they are using when they are referring to major cultural practices to be ‘woo’ and ‘snake oil’. To me, that is highly problematic and errs more on racism than what you had described.

        I believe everyone is in agreement that health/medicine is not the appropriate team-building exercise.

        1. TL -*

          I don’t mind the term Eastern medicine (or TCM), but I have huge issues with the term Western medicine; plenty of non-western cultures (most, if not all) are involved in the development and practice of evidence-based medicine and the term is misleading.

        2. Mike C.*

          The orientalism comes directly into play when people start treating the “other” as some sort of mystical stereotype. The way your mother uses it is not what I’m talking about, folks who generalize and stereotype is, as though you can’t get an x-ray in China or that folks in “the east” don’t use the scientific method* when evaluating medical care.

          Furthermore, it’s not racist to point out that many traditional medical practices don’t stand up to peer-reviewed, double-blind studies. It’s not racist to then point to the serious ethical issues with promoting practices that lack medical value as having medical value. I would say the same things about acupuncture as I would about homeopathy, over-dosing on vitamin C to “cure a cold”, the ridiculousness of consuming the human placenta and so on.

          *Another thing generally credited to the European Enlightenment that had its roots in the Middle East much earlier.

          1. Elizabeth H.*

            But I don’t think that most people who use the terms “Traditional Chinese Medicine” or “Eastern medicine,” in this conversation here at least, are using it in an Orientalist way. As Xiaolun said, these are commonly used terms in the community of practitioners. I think that people who use, practice or appreciate these types of treatments recognize that they are traditional forms of treatment or medical practice and that they’re specifically characterized as such because they are very old and have been around for a long time, but are still practiced today (ayurveda for another example). My guess is that part of the reason these terms are used is that the cultural and historical body of knowledge that we associate as the heritage of “Western” or “scientific method” medicine doesn’t have comparable traditional medical practices that are still used today. (I don’t really hear about “traditional Greek medicine” or “traditional German medicine” that people use today.)

            1. Mike C.*

              Some are, some aren’t.

              I’m also counting those who are using the term “western” medicine, as though the techniques found in “in the west” were wholly developed and used only in the Americas or Europe. There’s a whole lot of problems with that sort of thinking.

          2. Penny Lane*

            “Furthermore, it’s not racist to point out that many traditional medical practices don’t stand up to peer-reviewed, double-blind studies. It’s not racist to then point to the serious ethical issues with promoting practices that lack medical value as having medical value. I would say the same things about acupuncture as I would about homeopathy, over-dosing on vitamin C to “cure a cold”, the ridiculousness of consuming the human placenta and so on.”

            You’re on a roll! I do think some people do think it’s “racist” to apply scientific rigor (equating it with “Western thinking”) to evaluating the efficacy of these practices, because they want to engage in the stereotype that Eastern = natural, mystical, efficacious in ways we don’t understand and Western = soulless, corporate.

            You are, of course, spot on that the same type of chemo you’d get in the US for a certain cancer is what you’d get if you were in Japan. Medical practitioners read / review studies conducted all over the globe ALL THE TIME. It’s pretty – well, unknowledgeable to think it’s all “if it doesn’t come out of the US it doesn’t count.”

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              I really disagree that the criticism is that what is “‘racist'” is applying scientific method to valuating efficacy of traditional medicinal practices such as acupuncture. I think this is kind of a straw man and honestly a really strange conclusion to draw. Mike C is the one who criticized the “Eastern medicine” terminology as racist and I don’t feel really clear on exactly what aspects he sees this in.

        3. Anon for med stuff*

          Thanks for speaking up. My Western fertility doctor highly recommends acupuncture in conjunction with her treatments. I had one procedure without acupuncture and found it painful. For the second, I had acupuncture right before and I experienced no pain at all. I really appreciate when practitioners can work and hand in hand like that. I’m really surprised to see so much hate towards it. Even my insurance company pays for acupuncture in certain circumstances. If it was pure snake oil, I doubt they’d be doing that.

          Also, I find it ironic at people saying it is so dangerous if done improperly. If sticking needle in the wrong spot can cause a problem, doesn’t it stand to reason that sticking a needle in the right spot could help?

          1. DCompliance*

            My fertility doctor mentioned it acupuncture. They didn’t say it was recommended for me, but something to look into. I believe there were studies done saying it can lead to higher success rates on IVF, but I don’t know the source of that study. I actually did a search on this page for the word fertility to see if anyone had brought this up!

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            Sticking a needle in anywhere can cause a problem, if the needle isn’t sterile or the person has a bleeding problem or some other contraindication. It doesn’t necessarily imply that “sticking a needle in the right spot could help,” any more than being kicked in the kneecap causing a bruise implies that being kicked someplace else could be beneficial.

            Mind you, I have read legitimate peer-reviewed double-blind studies which do support the hypothesis that acupuncture is effective to an extent for certain limited issues. So I’m not arguing that it *can’t* actually help. I’m only noting that your logic doesn’t follow.

            (P.S. My very western, very scientific pain management physician not only recommends acupuncture, he learned to use it, because the studies show it can be effective against some types of chronic pain. So I get to it from a very research-based perspective also.)

    5. Penny Lane*

      “It’s disappointing hearing people dismiss “alternative” (to them, in their cultures!) treatments like cupping and acupuncture wholesale. You can have your own opinion about whether they work or not, but let’s not pretend like Western medicine is some neutral idea and that all that matters is whether something is “proven” by the US medical establishment. That’s a pretty narrow-minded view and I expect better from readers here.”

      Are you familiar with scientific / medical research? It’s not confined to the US at all. Best practices come from research that takes place all over the globe, not just in the US.

      But yes, some of us believe in the principles of science, and we aren’t going to be apologetic about that.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        It is simply inaccurate that no peer-reviewed, properly designed scientific studies have supported the efficacy of acupuncture on limited conditions. You’re creating a false dichotomy: those who “believe in the principles of science” and therefore reject this technique, vs. those who do not, and are credulous of it. That’s the part which is offensive. Please stop mischaracterizing those who disagree with you.

        1. Mike C.*

          That research is very limited and very mixed. I would also point out that even if we allow that, many, many practitioners promise much more than is supported by the literature.

    6. Close Bracket*

      The implication that only the West studies scientific medicine is more racist than the observation that neither acupuncture nor cupping have much in the way of scientific support.

  17. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – first make sure your management didn’t ask him to present.
    If this was part of a customer presentation then the show must go on. It appears that your presentation was part of a larger one so that may be what happened.

    That said, maybe David volunteered to present in your place. Management may have assumed that he knew what he was talking about because he was in your group. Find out what happened.

    I’d ask a lot of questions before making any decisions. Start with your manager first. Then David. Why did David do it? How he answers is important.

    If he decided to do this on his own then it is a huge issue. I’d go to your manager and show him the confusion and extra work that occurred as the result of David’s actions.

    David should not be the point of contact for any questions. Do not give him the answers to pass on. He will either confuse the issue further or make it look like his work. Then it makes a bigger mess.

    One way to handle this is to schedule a follow up answer session with all the participants. Make up some more charts focusing on the confusion points and have them available. That way you’ll get credit for your knowledge and work.

    1. MommyMD*

      Yes. I would make very sure David was not asked to cover. That very well could have been the case. Could employer have thought LW was not prepared bc of the last minute call off on the day of the presentation? Another possibility.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah you can’t go in guns blazing on this one because there’s the potential for subtlety here – maybe the meeting organizer or anyone senior to David, if not your/his boss, said something that sounded like a suggestion that he do it. You could still be clear on why he should have declined, but you wouldn’t want to assume any bad intentions here – plus there’s the old canard, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    2. LQ*

      This question strikes me as odd because in my workplace it would be assumed that someone else would be able to step in an present for someone else. I’ve done it for coworkers, coworkers have done it for me. It is actually a bad thing when you can’t have someone else do that because that means you haven’t shared knowledge of the project enough for someone else to do it. (It also means you’re going to be stuck working on it forever and can never be promoted or moved to another area in a good way.) Often the work it takes to get leadership together in a place so that you can present to them is so onerous as to basically demand that 2 people be able to do it, or you drag yourself in. Because if your thing is important it needs to be presented, or it’s not important enough to matter. And when I’ve gotten questions on presenting someone else’s stuff I assume I’m responsible until the other person (who I trust, assuming I trust them…sometimes I haven’t…) says that they’ve got it. At which point I give a giant sigh of relief and pass it back to them. (And it’s never a credit grab around here, which might be another concern, but at least around here it isn’t the way that would work.)

      I’m saying this because maybe David came from an environment like that which is why he stepped in to do it.

        1. LQ*

          Entirely possible. I assume that’s true, but again especially if he’s from a different environment that would change that angle. I think a conversation about the culture difference is a good place to start and see if he’s genuinely trying to be helpful or is …a bad actor would be good here too. I would be horrified if I found out that someone thought I was trying to take credit for their work or anything like that, and would very much appreciate someone telling me that’s not how we do it around here.

          1. Lil Fidget*

            Well, OP doesn’t actually say that they felt David was trying to steal credit (and that might be a little petty / territorial of OP if that was the real objection). Their complaint was that David didn’t know anything about the topic and likely didn’t do a very good job presenting it, wasn’t able to answer (basic?) questions about it, etc.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Eh, I think the fact that the OP arranged to give the presentation at the next meeting means it’s not what you’re describing. I think this is really industry and work place specific. In my job, if I were giving a presentation, it would be hard for someone to step in for me at the last minute because they would have to hurriedly yet thoroughly read all the cases I’m discussing in the presentation (or do the legislative research if my presentation is statutory-based) so that they could be prepared to answer questions. It’s not a matter of hogging knowledge, it’s a matter of who has done the research. If they had time–if they were told a day or two before and could clear their schedule to do the reading–any of my coworkers could step in. But if they were told the day of, it would be hard for them to do so.

        1. LQ*

          I agree, I’m just wondering if David came from a workplace that was more like mine and hadn’t quite gotten that this isn’t how it works here, he might jump in and try. It absolutely sounds like the OP knows and has the culture right, I’m just saying that it’s possible David doesn’t yet. You might hope that by a year he would, but it’s possible he doesn’t know that piece yet.

      2. JC*

        Yep, this question also struck me as odd and the right protocol here must be industry-specific (or even office-specific). Where I work, depending on the presentation, it would be totally normal for someone else to give a presentation at a meeting if the original person was out sick. If was an internal-only, non-time-sensitive presentation, then yeah, we’d probably bump it for a later time. If there were external people involved, though, we’d 100% have someone else present, even if they weren’t familiar with the details like the original presenter would be.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Agree, it totally depends on the topic. Is this a passion project for OP or are they the recognized expert on this, and it’s not really time-sensitive? (also, as you say, is the audience mostly internal) – yes, that’s weird for David to have stepped up. In that case, I’m not even sure how he got the slides. Does fit with the fact that the organizer was totally fine with bumping it to next month though.

      3. always in email jail*

        I work in government, where there’s often not enough depth for multiple people to be prepared to present and answer questions on a project, especially if it can wait until the next meeting, so this would have bothered me a lot.
        I agree with others to make sure he wasn’t asked to present, but I would still be bothered as the person who was prepared to answer all the questions and now has to go back and clear up misunderstandings/confusion around the project or topic.

      4. Observer*

        In real life, though, that happens a lot. Say, when we moved to our new phone system, I was really the only person who could talk to our Board about it. (It was a big enough project that it was a topic in the presentation I did on our IT infrastructure.) I wasn’t hoarding information. The reality is that in my organization, I’m the only employee with the capacity. If I disappeared tomorrow, the documentation is there, but my replacement would have to spend a lot of time with some of our vendors to get up to speed.

        Is it idea? Of course not. Is is workable? Probably. In any case, it’s the reality.

      5. Penny Lane*

        It strikes me as odd, too, because unless it was a lunch-n-learn type of thing where I alone created the presentation (and it could be easily moved to the next month if I weren’t available), someone else on my team would generally know what was going on, be able to update the date, and collect the appropriate questions to pass back to me.

        The very fact that David collected the questions to send back to the OP says that he wasn’t trying to take credit, he was just trying to advance the project. If this were a pattern, I could see getting upset, but this seems like a one-off where maybe he overstepped a teeny bit AND the OP is getting more territorial than she needs to be.

    3. Luna*

      What confusion and extra work resulted because of this? It doesn’t sound like David was trying to take credit or pretending to know all the answers- that is why David emailed the questions to OP rather than trying to answer them himself. I am assuming that he must have told the other meeting attendees that he didn’t know the correct answers to their questions but that he would pass them along to OP. I don’t really see what is wrong with that.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Well, two things – if the project was in the development stage, and any decision-makers listened to a poorly presented version of it in which basic questions could not be answered, they may feel the project is unworthy of their support or even try to kill it (depends on the topic and how clear David was that he was just pinch hitting using somebody else’s slides and actually hadn’t worked on the project at all – but still, a bad first impression with impatient higher-ups is fatal in our office). Second, OP is probably going to now have to do something special to answer the questions David passed along, which they would have addressed in the moment, before the question was raised and left unresolved, if they’d done the presentation themselves.

    4. jk*


      OP should assert that she owns this and she should answer all questions. Not give them to him. This will boost his appearance when she should be getting the credit.

  18. Library Fairy*

    I am severely needle phobic. I have panic attacks when I see needles and have to be physically restrained and/or sedated to have blood work done.

    All this to say: being told we’d be doing acupuncture for team building would be my worst nightmare come to life. Sorry you’re in this situation OP! :(

    1. MommyMD*

      You are allowed to say no to having needles stuck in your body. No employer could enforce this. Short of health care providers required to get flu vaccines.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      Yes! I said this somewhere else to, but I’d be crying halfway through Alison’s script (like if the boss in any way tried to pressure me to do it after I said I didn’t want to. Even if it’s still technically optional. *cring*).

      I feel you, Library Fairy.

    3. Goya de la Mancha*

      #2 – I have a borderline phobia of needles/blood/etc. If given enough push back from the boss after asking to be excused from the exercises (which are entirely not appropriate for the work setting – ask me how I feel about workplace bio-metric screenings…I dare you ;) ), I would get my GP to sign off on “avoiding any treatments that would derail my current medical care plan”.

      I personally don’t think one should discount alternative medicines, even if it is just a placebo effect (the mind is a powerful thing). I currently utilize a treatment called Strain Counterstrain and would HIGHLY recommend it to EVERYONE. It borders on the “woo”, but seriously….feeling is believing.

    4. Bea*

      I finally got over my needles phobia. I landed in the ER a few times and I suddenly forgot to care. Still I don’t want them not just sticking me but STAYING INSIDE ME for any prolonged period. Nope nope nope, take my blood but take the needle out as soon as you’ve got what you’re there for, I say. Ick!!!

      If I were in chronic pain I could see trying the alternative to pain meds but I’m not, so stay away!

  19. Red Reader*

    Don’t “medical treatments” generally involve designating a condition to be treated? So, boss, what condition do you think I have that one of these options will benefit? :-P

      1. Peggy*

        I wouldn’t consider it nitpicking to say that the OP’s wording is harsh. “Woo” is pejorative and demeaning. The OP had one of those letters that I agreed with (work shouldn’t require you to do acupuncture or cupping as a team activity) but for all different reasons, and I actually bristled and felt offended by the OP’s word choices. The OP is VERY clear that he or she thinks anyone who believes differently than OP is a complete and total idiot, it’s dripping through every sentence. “Treatment” in quotes, the repeated use of the word “woo,” snake oil, etc. I googled to see what the official definition of woo was because it felt disparaging to me but I wasn’t positive of the origin. Everything I found basically said, “this is a word used to insult people and put down their views as meaningless and frivolous.” It’s basically like the scientific version of calling someone a “wittle snowflake” in a political debate.

        One of the MANY things I found online:
        “Woo” or “woowoo” is used everywhere as a catch-all pejorative for unorthodox metaphysical views, and the debate over anomalous phenomena is suffering for it. Debunkers’ heavy reliance on vaguely derogatory words like “woo” comes at the expense of more precise, critical terminology, and it’s confusing tongues in the debate over anomalistics. Although it’s meant as a general criticism of unscientific methodology, “woo” is often used as a substitute for better articulated critiques, leaving those whose work has been criticized with no way to respond to the attack, or even understand the controversy. Woo is not a scientific term, but a loaded, catch-all smear tossed around to tarnish the credibility of all minority beliefs in science. Woo, and all words like it, should be unwelcome in science journalism and debate.

        So, not nitpicking word choice to say this is harsh. I’ll co-sign that comment.

  20. Aes Sidhe*

    As someone who has used acupuncture to great benefit when traditional Western medicine repeatedly failed miserably with my health issues (the government research site PubMed has great resources on the use of TCM and other non-Western medicine if you’re curious, and I’m not going any further than that), I can’t imagine ever wanting to do this with my office. When I go to see my acupuncturist, it’s probably of the most relaxing experiences, and I meditate/fall asleep during the treatment. I can’t imagine waking up to find my boss and coworkers in the waiting room. It would just stress me out again to see them sitting there. I just want to go home and relax afterwards.

  21. formerly_academical*

    OP#1 If David gave the presentation on your boss’s request AND David made it clear before giving it that he was filling in and did not know much about it you should let go of any resentment toward him as that was the best he could do given the circumstances. If David took it upon himself to give the report I’d have a word with him mentioning that the scheduling of the presentation had already been moved forward and that his initiative was misplaced as the information was put across in the best way. I’d also be side eying him a little from now on, but that’s just me. Part of me is a little surprised that the organiser didn’t step in and double check with him if you’d changed the plan about presenting at the next meeting instead.

    OP#2 I would protest strongly about acupuncture/cupping as a team building exercise. I have no strong opinion either way about the merits or otherwise of acupuncture but I do have strong opinions about work crossing into the private realm so strongly. It’s just too intimate/invasive an activity. I wouldn’t do group massage with work colleagues either (well, I’m not up for group massage at all), nor would I attend a team building sweat lodge, and not a primal screaming session either.

    1. Luna*

      Part of what is missing here is who exactly the meeting organizer is that the OP spoke with. That could be a boss or higher up, or it could be the admin that schedules the meetings and sends out the agendas- in which case the person leading the meeting might not have been okay with the presentation just being cancelled.

  22. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    #4 – Just want to say thank you for doing what you did. Any employer would be lucky to have you. Good luck with your job search.

  23. formerly_academical*

    OP#4, I would not worry about it. Not only did you do the right thing but the Boy Scouts unfortunately come across very badly in the story. If it’s ever brought up you should proudly say that you understood the relevant regulations around the eagle and that it was unfortunate that somebody higher up in the chain was confused. (See, you’re not besmirching the whole organisation and not being blamey.) You did the right thing and broke now laws and would not hesitate to do the same thing again, though it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be in that situation again. Own your actions.

    Sometimes doing the right thing in an urgent situation will result in treading on toes. Often the anger from a higher up is covering ever embarrassment that they did not act, or did not fully understand the situation. I say this as someone who was shouted down, threatened with being fired, and put on probation for ordering operatives out of an unshored trench which collapsed less than half an hour later. I had no authority to do so on that particular site, technically speaking, but I wasn’t going to let someone humming and hawing about whether it technically needed to be shored when I could see it was unsafe. I think that Alison is correct. They misunderstood what endangered species means. The ire directed at you was a large part misdirected embarrassment.

    1. Casuan*

      Often the anger from a higher up is covering ever embarrassment that they did not act, or did not fully understand the situation.

      Often anger is simply hiding another emotion.
      Kudos for doing the right thing in your situation!

  24. lurker bee*

    OP 4: You’re good folks in the eyes of this Girl Scout. Wishing you all the best in your job search.

  25. Stephany*

    Feel good story: my husband rescued a juvenile bald eagle last year. It was curled up next to our rural dirt road, obviously dying. He brought it home in a laundry basket. It could barely move and passed bloody diarrhea all over our mudroom. We tracked down a wildlife biologist who took him in and saved his life.
    Public service announcement: the eagle had been poisoned by anticoagulant rodentcide. This poison is a powerful blood thinner and causes rodents to die from internal bleeding. Raptors eat the poisoned rodents and die the same death. Rodentcide poisoning is epidemic in raptors, so please, use traps or other methods whenever possible.
    The eagle received vitamin K injections and lived to fly again. We got to see footage of him being released in the wild, it was amazing.
    Incidentally, an ornitholgist told us that raptors are still protected by Federal law and should never be disturbed under any circumstances, even if they are dying. I’m glad we didn’t know and that the eagle was saved!
    The one downside to this feel good story: you cannot believe how bad eagle diarrhea smells. It’s indescribable. We had to burn the mudroom rug.

    1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

      What a wonderful story! Thank you for posting this. And kudos to you and your husband for helping to save a life (and putting up with the smell…I don’t know what eagle diarrhea smells like, but I can just imagine…).

  26. Thlayli*

    One point that no one else seems to have made – something in the article jumped out at me. Why are two twins in different years in college? After googling junior versus sophomore I see OP is ahead of her twin so this won’t be an issue for her. And I’m sure there’s a perfectly valid reason why her twin brother is a year behind, like taking a year out. But OP, just in case, I think you should advise your brother to make sure his resume/ cover letter makes clear why he is a year behind his twin sister since the article points that out for some reason.

    1. Thlayli*

      Also, I don’t think this has been addressed either; apologies if it has. While your attempt to save the bird was absolutely the right thing to do, I think employers will be more worried about the fact that you went to the press, than about the actual incident. I absolutely believe you were right to do so and your boss was wrong to fire you, but I am wondering if there was another way you could have addressed this rather then contacting the press. For example you could have appealed the firing to someone higher then the person who fired you. If you did make some attempt to do so, the article didn’t mention it. So I think you need to be prepared for questions from employers about whether contacting the press was the first or only response you had, or if you first attempted to get your job back through less public channels. And be able to explain why.
      It seems to me like the person who fired you misunderstood the law and believed he was doing the correct thing, and if I were hiring I’d be wondering whether you chose to go straight for public shaming of him and the organisation, or if you first attempted to appeal the decision though a less public route.

      1. DaisyGrrl*

        Agree with this point. If I were a hiring manager I’d be less concerned about the eagle rescue and subsequent firing and more concerned about going to the press as a seeming first response to the event. But then again, I work in an industry where going to the press about workplace issues is a very career-limiting move (and, depending on what you say, grounds for disciplinary action).

        OP, I would suggest being prepared to address this should it be raised in an interview.

    2. Knitting Cat Lady*

      The list of why this can be is long:

      One person skipped a grade, another was held back a year. One was slower to develop and started school late, another started school early.

      Various medical issues or accidents come to mind.

      I have a cousin who is 13 days older than I am. We started school the same year. I finished a year before her and finished university several years before her.

    3. lurker bee*

      Specific to college class standing in the U.S.: things like testing out of Freshman English, testing into upper-division foreign language or hitting a target AP score are ways high school students can enter freshman year of college as second-semester freshmen or sometimes even first-semester sophomores without having taken college classes for concurrent high school and college credit.

    4. Thlayli*

      Yeah I know there are a million reasons, I said in my comment that I’m sure there’s a good reason. My point is that it’s raising a question that employers will want answers to, that would not have been raised if this article wasn’t out there. So he needs to make sure he answers the question before it is asked.

      1. Kiwi*

        I don’t agree with this. If I was interviewing him and he said by the way, the news tells you i’m a year behind my twin sister, it’s because …, I’d be very surprised he raised it. Especially if it was a non-complimentary reason, such as being held back a year. If I cared why, I’d just ask.

        1. Femme d'Afrique*

          I’m not quite following, Thlayli: why would/should it matter to an employer why a twin graduated a year behind his sibling?

        2. Thlayli*

          I’m not suggesting he say it like that, just that he include in either his resume or cover letter an explanation of what he was up to for each year, avoiding gaps. It’s the same reason you avoid gaps in your employment history – so it doesn’t look like you have something to hide. Obviously if the gap was because he was held back a year or failed a year of college, he definitely shouldn’t mention it. The point is to let employers know that he wasn’t held back a year in school, and didn’t fail a year in college, and that instead he was off saving orphans in Rwanda or whatever he was actually doing.

          1. Anonny*

            But what if he was held back a year? So what? I’ve NEVER heard of something like that being a red flag to an employer or coming up in an interview.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I cannot imagine why any employer would care diddly divided by squat about someone’s year-to-year activities as a child.

              If kids are held back in the US, it’s usually at very early years, like kindergarten. It gives them a chance to mature a little more–at age 5, another year is a significant chunk of time. (Anecdotally, I know a parent who found this was a great thing for her second child, and really regretted it hadn’t happened with the first. The former found his groove and became a good student working and sometimes excelling at grade level, the latter continued to struggle.)

              1. Anonny*

                Your comment was more fleshed out and articulate than mine but that’s exactly what I was thinking. Agree wholeheartedly!

          2. Penny Lane*

            I have twins. They happen to have graduated college the same year, but there was a chance that they might not have, because one had a medical condition requiring a semester off. That twin was able to make it up in summer school and both graduated the same time — but so what? Why would one of my twins even mention anything at all about their twin on a resume or cover letter? Sorry, I think that’s odd.

          3. many bells down*

            One student took more units, one had an impacted major that took longer to get into, one couldn’t get required classes, one took a two semesters off to climb Kilimanjaro … there’s dozens of reasons why twins might not be in the same year. Just because they were born together doesn’t mean they follow identical life paths.

      2. Myrin*

        “My point is that it’s raising a question that employers will want answers to”
        Is that really the case? I’m not being sarcastic, but genuinely curious. Other than what I know from AAM, I basically don’t know anything about the realities of hiring both in the US and the UK, but it would honestly blow my mind if someone were asked about this here. Why would anyone pay attention to that?

        1. Thlayli*

          I would. Like I said I know there are a million reasons, but the first thing that popped into my mind was “did he fail a year in college or school?” Like I said, I’m not implying that he DID fail a year, I’m sure he had a perfectly good reason for taking a year out. But if employers google his name and find out that he is a wholeness year behind his twin in his education, I think they’re going to wonder why.

          Now I’m not American so maybe the culture is really different over there, but if I was hiring and I saw this article, I would be expecting something in the cover letter or resume along the lines of “during my gap year I gained experience in x” to explain the difference.

          It’s perfectly common to have a gap year in Europe, but it’s generally a good idea in a cover letter to make it look like you used that year gaining experience in something rather than wasting a year.

          1. Myrin*

            I see what you’re saying – I guess I just can’t wrap my head around it for cultural reasons; firstly because we need to list all our school dates on a CV anyway (so it becomes obvious pretty fast where the one extra year comes from, like “oh, he was already seven when he started school” or “oh, he went to secondary school for ten years instead of nine”) and secondly because you can’t “fail a year” at university here, so this whole idea is very alien to me. Still, thanks for explaining!

          2. Kelly L.*

            I don’t think it would seem all that weird in the US! I think people would assume gap year, or took a year off to work, or changed his major so he needed to fill in some different prerequisites.

            1. Betsy*

              It seems absolutely normal to me too. So many students change degrees after a year that it doesn’t mean much at all. I would never hold it against someone for enrolling in law and deciding they were more suited to psychology, or wanting to take a gap year to travel or just get some work experience between high school and university. Failing all one’s subjects at university is quite uncommon. I say that as an academic adviser.

              1. TL -*

                There are countries where graduating behind the rest of your class might be a Big Deal; the US’s system is fairly unique from what I understand.

              2. Goya de la Mancha*

                I know this is meant to be serious…but all I can think of is the line in Tommy Boy:

                Tommy: Hey, you know a lot of people go to college for seven years.
                Richard: I know. They’re called doctors.

          3. TL -*

            The USA university system is different enough that it wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. I was classified as a junior my sophomore year and and as a senior my junior year – I could have graduated a semester early. Many people I knew took an extra semester to an extra year or two to graduate; plenty others take time off to work.

            Our system is in general much more flexible than others; this really wouldn’t be a big deal and definitely would be a waste of space to address in a cover letter.

            1. SG*

              And what if someone took a gap year? This honestly seems like such a weird thing to perceive as a glaring disparity. If I had even noticed this, I would have immediately assumed that they…weren’t the same person? Had different interests and paths?

            2. many bells down*

              I had the opposite happen – I had to drop several classes my second year, so my third year of college I still only had enough units to be considered a sophomore instead of a junior.

          4. Anonny*

            I failed my first year of college but now I have a 6 figure job. This is really odd… He very well may have failed a year, and it could’ve been for a thousand reasons that are completely irrelevant to a future job search.

            For me, I got raped by my roommate’s friend and then I got mono. The fallout of the sexual assault was bad enough (drinking, depression, etc) but then getting seriously physically ill on top of it, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. I was also away from home for the first time, felt scared to tell my family, and instead of dropping out in time to rescue my grades, I ended up with incompletes for first semester and just plain old failures for second semester. It was a wasted year and no one has ever asked me about it in my entire life.

            Trust me when I say it’s never come up in an interview. No one cares about my GPA, my year of graduation, how long it took me to finish school, or what I did with my time off. Not even my first job out of college.

          5. Falling Diphthong*

            I’m American and this wouldn’t be remotely surprising. I would assume he took a year off (if he and twin are in college) or was held back at a young age (if they are in high school) if I gave it the slightest thought.

          6. Lora*

            Nah, this is very normal here. People take a year off to work to save money to pay for tuition, people change majors or career plans, they take time off to work in the family business, they have health issues, whatever, there’s all kinds of reasons.

          7. fposte*

            In the U.S. nobody is going to care, and it would be weird for an applicant to bring it up unless it’s in connection with something high impact like, say, living on the space station when they were eighteen. Traveling the year before college wouldn’t rise to that. It would be especially weird if the track variance related to their sibling and not them–it would be really tonally off to talk about your sister’s skipping a grade, say, in your own job interview.

            1. Reba*

              A gap year on the space station — a dream I never knew I had!

              (But is it actually a year? Since you age more slowly in space this could further complicate the timeline. Actually, maybe that could explain the twin asynchrony, like Mark and Scott Kelly!)

          8. Elizabeth H.*

            Huh? I took a year off and worked etc. before I went to college and it has zero bearing whatsoever on my work history and resume. I usually kind of forget about it it even if I’m talking to someone about college in a social setting. I find it really weird that you would suggest bringing this up. It is so irrelevant to pretty much everything that could possibly matter.

          9. Observer*

            That assumes a gap year. But seriously? Almost any other comment on the matter in a cover letter about it would come off as SO strange that it would do more harm than good. And, to be honest, if an employer were so worried about that that it would really affect their decision as to whether to even interview or screen the person, I would be extremely worried about working for them. Way too invested in irrelevant details.

        2. Doreen*

          I don’t think it will raise an issue. Not because I don’t think anyone would ever be curious, but because I don’t think that someone interviewing the OP or her brother a year or two or three after the events is going to read or remember the articles in enough detail to remember both that they are twins and that one was a year behind the other in college. Not to mention that there are a million possible reasons for the discrepancy and failing all or most of his classes for a year is possibly the least likely reason. (I suspect the most likely reason is because they didn’t take the exact same number of credits each semester – it took me 5 years to get a BS but I was a full-time student each semester. Because “full-time” meant at least 12 credits per semester but graduating in 4 years required 15-16 credits each semester )

        3. Oxford Coma*

          I would specifically avoid asking the question, honestly. The people I’ve known who were held back had extensive medical issues (multiple surgeries for a heart valve, reconstruction after a car accident, pneumonia that collapsed a lung) and I would be afraid that the interviewee would end up disclosing detailed health information to answer the question.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I really don’t think this a thing that employers are going to care about or ask about. There are a million reasons why someone might be in a different year than their twin. It’s not likely to be a thing. Thayli, if I recall correctly, you’re not in the U.S., so it might just be a cultural difference.

      4. OP #4*

        Hey, I know this whole thread is meant with good intentions, but discussing possible reasons my brother is a year behind me / I’m a year ahead is not what my question is about and makes me uncomfortable. We’re different people, and we’ve proceeded with school at different rates. There are perfectly good reasons, but they’re also private. I’d really appreciate it if there weren’t any more discussion of how my brother and I compare and possible reasons. Thank you.

    5. anonagain*

      I don’t think this is a realistic worry and I don’t think he needs to preemptively address it.

      My resume shows that I attended a university but didn’t graduate and then transferred to a different university where I did graduate. The dates also show a gap in between. No one has ever asked me about it and I have gotten interviews and jobs.

      I don’t know what purpose asking someone why they are graduating after their twin would serve other than to satisfy the interviewer’s curiosity. If they have a question about his academic credentials/performance, they can just ask directly. (It’s also totally possible to get a job even if you failed a year of college.)

      I also think most reasonable people will realize that they are interviewing an individual, not half of a pair. Just because they are twins, doesn’t suddenly make it acceptable to ask them to compare their resumes.

      1. Femme d'Afrique*

        That’s exactly what rubbed me the wrong way about this, thank you! It came across to me as an interviewer asking the equivalent of “why aren’t you more like your sister?” (I know that exact wording wasn’t used, but that’s what sounded so “off” to me.)

        Basically, I think if an employer requires a certain degree then they’re not going to get into the minutiae of why it took 5 instead of 4 years to attain (and if he was held back, so what? He still got the degree, right?). Obviously if it’s taken longer than that (a 4 year degree taking 9, for instance) then it might raise some questions, but an extra year doesn’t raise any flags with me.

    6. Big Person*

      I can’t even fathom why a potential employer would even know that one or the other of them even HAS a twin, much less know that one or the other was ahead or behind! It doesn’t strike me as something they would put on their resume or cover letter. Yes, the potential employer might know the person and therefore that they have a twin, but really, are they going to ask about that?

      1. Penny Lane*

        As a mother of twins, I can’t fathom it either. My twins (who are boy/girl, and who live in different cities) don’t announce their twin-dom. Their colleagues might know (just from small talk) that he has a sister / she has a brother, and *maybe* to particularly close co-workers it might come out that said sibling happens to be a twin. But no one expects them to have gone to the same college, or done the same extracurriculars, or gone into the same fields, and no one is keeping score as to when they graduated.

    7. Close Bracket*

      Fraternal twins, which they obviously are, can be born several months apart. One twin could have made the cut off to enter kindergarten while the other didn’t. This is rarer than taking more time to finish college, but I think asking why twins aren’t at the same level enters some dicey territory that potentially might not be your business. Evaluate candidates on their own merits, not as compared to their siblings.

  27. Femme d'Afrique*

    Without debating the benefits/non-“woo”ness of acupuncture and cupping, I’m gobsmacked that an employer would even consider asking employees to submit themselves to something so invasive! I mean, we’ve seen opposition to other team building activities like marathons, hiking etc which would have put people in the uncomfortable position of revealing otherwise-hidden health issues, but this is beyond the pale.

    1. London Bookworm*

      I agree. I actually think the ‘validity’ of these treatments is a red herring. Whether you believe in their efficacy or not, they’re inappropriate as team-building activities.

      1. Femme d'Afrique*

        Precisely. It’s one thing to ask people to do something WITH their bodies, like hike etc, it’s quite another to even request that they do something TO their bodies, regardless of whether or not that “something” will be beneficial. I’m amazed someone not only thought this was a good idea but then actually said it out loud.

    2. Arjay*

      Framing these activities as team building is too invasive and frankly rather odd. But my employer makes available a lot of medical services like blood donation, mobile mammograms, onsite biometric screenings and flu shots. On the non-medical side, they arrange for dry cleaning pickup, a mobile barber, and occasionally food trucks. Those things can build morale by making it easy and convenient for employees to receive these services if desired.

  28. Nonnon*

    I’m not sure what ‘cupping’ is (my brain is dredging up something I learned as a kid about Ancient Roman treatment for poisoning involving putting a heated metal cup on the affected area and was apparently very painful) but given how common needle phobias are, I would think acupuncture is less ‘team building’ and more ‘risk of distressing your employees’.

    … Unless your idea of ‘team building’ is ‘trauma bonding’, in which case may I suggest a trip to the hands-on tarantula exhibit?

    1. Thlayli*

      I think cupping is basically that. You out a heated cup on the skin and as it cools it sucks out the skin – like a reverse massage. i Can also imagine the change in pressure might be enough to suck the poison out of a wound. Using metal cups would probably get too hot and hurt the patient though – I don’t know what type of cups they use in modern cupping but I’ve never heard anyone say it was painful.

      1. Nonnon*

        It’s probably either because of the different uses (drawing out poison/infection might need more heat) or because we have discovered materials that conduct heat more gently, whereas Romans didn’t have those options.

      2. Kelly L.*


        And I keep thinking about how the context where I’ve seen this done was pretty NSFW! (Some people do it for…recreational purposes.) Even if you’re doing it therapeutically, I think you have to be a lot more naked than I want to be in front of my co-workers.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        When I’ve seen cupping done, it’s usually on the same level as a massage, and glass cups were used. I wasn’t the one actually experiencing the cupping (I was at a demo event) but the person who was the recipient of the demo said that it didn’t hurt, just felt like gentle pressure, and was relaxing similarly to a massage.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Cupping involves giant hickeys, as I understand it.

      I have a needle phobia. Group tattoos, group piercings, group acupuncture: no. (I will allow that the “flu shot in a private room followed by a lot of doughnuts” might be okay.)

  29. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    Several workplaces ago it was decided to have a blood drive as a team building exercise. I can’t donate because of health reasons. I’d have to be wrung like a sponge to get any blood from me. That’s between me and my doctor and the two suggested activities are the same scenario. I don’t want to explain personal health issues to anyone in my office. We had a cheerleader who wouldn’t take no for an answer and I’m sure a few people donated under duress which is the opposite of team building.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Ugh. That’s terrible. Especially for people who have conditions that make their blood unusable.

    2. mreasy*

      This is so frustrating. I am a blood donor and will send around a single staff email when our local drive is coming up again, but there are SO MANY reasons not to donate blood, including just not wanting to! People who “won’t take no for an answer” only turn off potential donors to the whole idea. Ugh.

      1. Betsy*

        So many people might not meet the criteria too. In many countries that includes gay men, but it could also people with illnesses, people under a certain weight or people who recently got a tattoo. These are all things people might not want to have to disclose to their coworkers.

      2. Temperance*

        I can confirm that the woman who runs our office drive is so disliked for her tactics that people are put off from donating.

        For example, in addition to harassing individuals who she wants to donate, she also pressured secretaries to schedule their bosses.

    3. Temperance*

      That makes me so angry. I don’t think that workplaces should ever host blood drives, and this is why.

      The wacko who runs the one in my office “asked” me 7 times to donate before I told her that I medically can’t to shut her up.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I know someone who is so adamant about blood donation that he donates plasma every week and got some kind of recognition for it. How do I know this? He mentioned it extensively the two times I attended events where he was present, and he certainly evangelizes it. (Seriously, it’s like his hobby.) I physically cannot give blood (my veins collapsed when I tried) and I was recently diagnosed with a condition that makes my blood less than ideal for donation. As with most situations, those hyper-evangelists would be better off with a gentler approach; I have no problem with blood and would be happy to volunteer at a drive, but I won’t do it if I’m surrounded by people who shame others into donating blood.

      2. TL -*

        I’ve worked for hospitals who host blood drives/blood centers but they were very, very low pressure – I was always just informed with a reminder that it was paid time for donation + recovery.

      3. Anon Accountant*

        I worked at a place where a woman badgered people and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She was asked to stop but wouldn’t. Finally I snapped and said “if you ask one more time I’m asking HR to talk to your supervisor about this. Stop this harassment now”. (Was 22 and just didn’t care at the time. She was very obnoxious about her tactics).

        1. Penny Lane*

          I see nothing wrong with snapping like that to someone who just doesn’t take no for an answer. Well done.

      4. PlainJane*

        I love it when workplaces host blood drives (yay for convenience), but there should never, ever be anything more than a single announcement with a link to make an appointment. No pressure, no commenting, no competitions between departments, nothing. Treat it the way you would mobile mammography or similar convenience services.

    4. Erin*

      I don’t do blood. I appreciate people who donate. but for me, even having blood drawn at the doctors office I’m dizzy light headed and sick feeling. I’d say no way!

    5. LBK*

      Yikes, what a great way to deeply offend all the gay men on your team (or force closeted ones to out themselves).

      1. TL -*

        Just to be clear, your reasons for being rejected for donation should be completely confidential. There’s a whole laundry list of questions (travel, tattoos, recent illnesses) and there’s physical requirements (iron counts, temperature, heart rate) that all have to be met. If you don’t meet one, that’s between you and the medical personnel doing your intake and nobody else.

        And while you should never have to explain why you didn’t meet the requirements to anyone, you can always say your iron was a tad too low or you had symptoms of a minor cold over the weekend.

        1. fposte*

          I was thinking about this–my blood center even had a confidential box you could check to say “Don’t use my blood” if you felt you had to be seen to be giving but thought your blood shouldn’t be shared.

        2. LBK*

          It still puts closeted men (or just men who aren’t out at work but are otherwise out) in a very precarious and uncomfortable situation for no good reason. Moreover, I just find it fairly stinging how blindly people tend to push blood drives without realizing the grossly outdated and homophobic restrictions on them. I’m out at work but it’s still not fun to have to say to coworkers “Actually, gay men can’t donate blood, so no, I’m not participating.” (I understand that’s an oversimplification of the restrictions but generally speaking that’s the impact.)

          I just don’t like how they get pushed as some kind of fun charity event – if companies want to host them at their offices, fine, I guess, but I don’t need cheery email blasts reminding me of how far we still have to go to overcome stigmas like that.

          1. fposte*

            I think this is a really good point; we talk periodically about the fact that most events can’t be completely inclusive, but it’s worth considering that some exclusions have more potential cost than others.

            1. LBK*

              Right – it’s one thing to plan an event that you don’t realize someone isn’t physically able to participate in due to invisible disability, food allergy, etc. It’s another to plan an event that someone is legally barred from participating in and that could present a minefield for them to navigate if they’re one of the people affected.

    6. nonymous*

      There are so many ways to help with a blood drive besides donating blood! Advertising the event, coordinating space, passing out cookies and monitoring for adverse reactions, getting donations, preliminary intake (there’s a qualified individual that does the screening, but someone needs to pass out forms/ipads at check in).

      Although all of those volunteer efforts are a much bigger commitment than the 45minutes to actually donate blood, so the cynic in me says that’s why donating is emphasized.

  30. Casca*

    Re: #2, what if it’s a mental health and wellbeing activity? That’s a health/medical thing but employers have few qualms pushing those.
    Example: Our company has just hired someone to deliver a Mandatory session on mindfulness and stress thinking, and an output of the session is for every individual to have a personal wellness plan
    Seems well-intentioned but misguided to me

    1. TL -*

      The mindfulness/stress thinking wouldn’t bother me – and the personal wellness plan would make me roll my eyes but as long as I could get away with something nondescript and work-related, like “I will take a walk during lunch and do breathing exercises when I’m frustrated” I would be okay.

      If they wanted group therapy, that’s way over the line, but usually mindfulness/stress thinking are about managing stress that (presumably) comes from your workplace, and so remain fairly professional.

      If the acupuncture were being touted as a mental health/wellbeing activity, it would be more on the level of your boss wanting to get a group massage – still way inappropriate but not getting into the whole medical territory.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        The *mandatory* mindfulness/stress thinking thing would make me downright furious. My stress management practices are well-honed and not my boss’ business.

        I wouldn’t care if it were offered, but mandatory is really galling.

        1. mrs__peel*

          “My stress management practices are well-honed and not my boss’ business”

          Hear, hear! (opens bag of salt and vinegar Kettle chips, watches “Escape to the Country” on Netflix with my dog)

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I would draw the line at, “This physically touches me” vs. “I have to sit and listen.” The former is a no-no for me except under certain circumstances, the second I’m a little more receptive to, especially if there are snacks.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Mindfulness and stress thinking aren’t inherently tied to mental health treatments and can benefit anyone regardless of their personal health status. It’s no different than having a nutritionist talk about general healthy eating guidelines or offering yoga classes.

      If a company tried to insist that everyone talk to a therapist, that would be pushing a health/medical thing.

    4. Lily*

      If someone tried to get me into a lection about meditation (which mindfulness is essentially), I would make a real stink. There are contraindications to that kind of thing, too, most of them are acute psychiatric illnesses, and you never know who struggles with what.

      1. Casca*

        I thought it might be upsetting to people who have psychiatric illness, but I didn’t realise it was actually a contraindication!

  31. Roscoe*

    For #3, I know this will probably be unpopular, but I believe you should stay out of it. The only thing I MAY ask is that she not give out invitations at work. I don’t know why she can’t stand Sam. Maybe its logical, maybe its not. However, this is an engagement party, something extremely personal. If she has grown very close with everyone else, I don’t think its fair to ask her to invite someone she really doesn’t care for. Yes, it may cause some hurt feelings on Sam’s part, but maybe Sam can’t stand her either and wouldn’t want to feel obligated to go. But I just don’t think for something completely un-related to work its something you should do. This would be different if Cat was organizing a happy hour for everyone right after work, but this is her engagement.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      I agree with most of what you’re saying, Roscoe, except that OP#3 needs to be firm that Cat is not allowed to give the invites at work; she’ll need to make arrangements to do this off-site. However Cat chooses to do so, but they cannot be provided at work. The OP has authority (and a moral responsibility) to make sure that one employee isn’t being shunned or being treated as a “lesser member” of, what I think, is a pretty small work team. Discussing the engagement party openly, giving out the invites there…etc. could possibly even make Sam feel that she is being discriminated against.

      1. Roscoe*

        Sure, and I’m fine with saying “please don’t hand out invitations at work”. But that doesn’t mean she can’t invite her friends that she works with.

        1. LBK*

          Agreed. I think it’s fine to request that she be tactful about it, but I don’t think she’s even remotely obligated to invite Sam.

    2. Arjay*

      I agree. As the manager, I think I’d choose not to attend the party though. I wouldn’t want to look like I belonged to the clique that didn’t care for Sam.

      1. PlainJane*

        Yes. This is an important point. She can invite whomever she wishes, but as the manager, you don’t have to endorse this kind of exclusion.

  32. Cordoba*

    “How do I tell him I don’t believe in woo and no one is putting suction cups or needles anywhere near me”?

    In this case I would be very inclined to just go with:

    “I don’t believe in woo and no one is putting suction cups or needles anywhere near me.”

    I would be very surprised if the boss or anybody else cares enough to push it at all after that.

  33. natural*

    Oh gosh guys, am I a terrible person? For #4, I don’t have a problem with what they did, and it sounds like they definitely shouldn’t have been fired over it because they weren’t breaking any laws. But on the whole, to me, it just sounds like their actions are… silly? Wild animals die in nature all the time. It’s just part of life. And dead animals should be eaten by whatever, because that’s how the food chain works. I mean, I don’t think I’d hold it against them in hiring because they weren’t working at the time (if they left work to do this, I wouldn’t like that), but I don’t think it’d be a huge bump in their favor either. I might worry they would let their emotions run the show and not be able to make hard decisions. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing in some jobs!

    1. Chriama*

      What I don’t understand is why they were told not to contact the wildlife office. Surely they would be the best judge of what is and isn’t appropriate or legal?

      1. WeevilWobble*

        The Grandboss contacted wildlife services so there was no reason for the LW to be involved any longer.

        1. fposte*

          There’s a little muddling in there, I think; they were told not to call the wildlife rehab center. The grandboss called the county and the game warden, which are different entities.

          I don’t think it’s a difference that matters hugely to the point except for what seems to be grandboss’s, um, stretched truth that the game warden wanted to arrest the OP.

      2. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

        Considering that bald eagles are protected, my best bet is that camp authorities wanted to be extra cautious to avoid any legal repercussions.

          1. fposte*

            They did call it in, though, so I can see this point in theory–the expert opinion will be sought by your superior, and you’re expected to abide by it rather than calling a different resource yourself.

            It’s just that the validity of this point in practice is hampered by the fact that they apparently, ahem, gravely misunderstood the experts they called it in to.

            1. Observer*

              Actually, they only called it in AFTER the OP did their thing. The original instruction was to NOT call anyone. That’s just not legitimate.

              1. fposte*

                To me it’s not clear from the article when they actually made the calls, or when they realized the OP was in fact transporting the eagle. However, given that the game warden was apparently closed on Sunday and the county may have been as well, it’s quite possible that you’re right and they only called after knowing what the OP was doing.

                1. fposte*

                  To be clear, I think the OP’s bosses fired her because they were mad she disobeyed a poorly given order, which they then attempted to justify with smoke and mirrors. If they’d behaved more scrupulously I could see it as a regrettable but not un-righteous firing for insubordination, but in their position I’d have said, “You know what, we blew this one; in general you shouldn’t disobey orders, but we messed up here so we’ll all just move along.”

    2. WeevilWobble*

      They transported an eagle after wildlife services had been contacted. I would have been furious too. That’s incredibly dangerous for both the humans and the bird. Wildlife services were already aware. They say it was consistent with their procesures but no way they were qualified to do this in a way that wouldn’t possibly cause more damage to the bird.

      It shouldn’t be held against them but they absolutely deserved to be fired. If not they would just be teaching kids to disregard commands and make dangerous choice.

      1. fposte*

        Wildlife services told her “that if she could safely capture the eagle, she should do so and bring it to the center, located about 45 miles away.” It sounds like she was following their guidance there, and if the services had felt it created more risk for the bird they’d have given different advice.

        1. JoJo*

          So instead of doing their job, the OP spent several hours doing something they’d been specifically told not to do? I’d have fired the OP too.

          1. fposte*

            I’m not saying firing was an inherently unacceptable response; I’m just clarifying that they did, in fact, operate with and not against the advice of raptor experts. This is not Yellowstone tourists packing a bison calf into their SUV.

            1. fposte*

              BTW, while I think your point is legitimate, it seems pretty clear that a big aspect of the supervisors’ proscription and the sibs’ firing was that the scouting admins were wrongly convinced, despite apparent expert input, that this action was illegal. I doubt it helped the situation when it became clear that the sibs were more au fait with the law than the bosses were.

          2. Elizabeth H.*

            I wouldn’t really characterize it as something OP had been specifically told not to do in the big scheme of things (as opposed to the narrow scheme of things, w/in the context of Scout job). I think that in the circumstance of a seriously injured wild animal, the wildlife rehabilitation center (which specifically told OP & sibling to capture and bring in the injured animal if possible) is a higher authority than your employer who doesn’t have any background in working with wildlife. I think most people would assume that a reasonable employer would acknowledge the expertise of the wildlife rehabilitation center in this matter.

      2. OP #4*

        Hi, I tried to contact the game wardens but their office is closed on Sundays. I also had several years of experience handling and caring for injured raptors, including caring for a bald eagle.

    3. OP #4*

      Hi, some explanation: I was on my day off and there was a reasonable case that the bird could be rehabilitated. Those both factored into my decision. If I’d been on duty, I would have followed orders, and if I’d thought there wasn’t hope for rehab I’d have let nature take its course. I still feel pretty bad about making it’s last few hours more stressful than necessary.

  34. Oxford Coma*

    You were fired by the Boy Scouts for trying to save the symbol of America? People are going to be tripping over themselves to hire you for the optics alone.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      Let’s not get crazy here. Unless the LW is going into animal conservation this won’t help or hurt the job hunt much. I doubt it’ll hurt at all. But there’s really not a smooth way for a company to hire her and then use her past actions as awesome optics for them.

      1. schnauzerfan*

        I can certainly see some employers NOT hiring OP because {reasons} but the good news is they probably are people/organizations OP would want to work for.

      2. Oxford Coma*

        …I’m a little flabbergasted that you interpreted that literally. Guess I need to tag everything with /s

  35. Sandra Stout*

    LW3: do not allow invitations to ne given out at work, unless the whole point is to et Sam know that she isn’t invited.

  36. Excel Hellion*

    Re #3: I’ve been “Sam” in the past. It sucks. In a workplace where these sorts of invitations were commonplace, the folks who were kind and included everyone always got a gift & card from me, sent with another coworker who was attending. I knew as well as anyone that I was only included to be polite and did appreciate the gesture (even though I know actually attending would have been awkward and thus always had prior plans).

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      I definitely see where you’re coming from. And, whether the invitations you got were from the heart, or it was something that your teammates reluctantly felt that they had to give you (sorry about that), it was great that you appreciated their coming forward. Hopefully, you’re in a more inclusive, caring team now.

    2. Roja*

      This makes me think of something I’ve been wondering. Most of the comments are assuming Sam would want to go. I’m assuming that if Cat dislikes her that much, even if she’s remained perfectly professional, Sam probably still has figured it out. Who wants to go to a party when you know the host doesn’t want you there? I think it’s far more likely that even if Sam were invited, she would have conveniently placed prior plans that evening.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Yeah, that reminds me of Exjob when my 30th and my Bitch eating Crackers Cruella’s 60th fell in the same year. The invitation was sent out for my 30th meal to the whole team including Cruella, and when my coworker trying to confirm numbers asked her, she declined on the grounds that I didn’t organise her a 60th party. But it’s like you said, Cruella wouldn’t have wanted me there, I wouldn’t have wanted to go, I also wouldn’t have wanted to organise a party I had no intention of going to.

        (She hadn’t told anyone about her 60th until two days beforehand, and no one expected her to want a party because she always made a big point of declining social events. Once I knew she’d said that I did feel a bit guilty, but because I only knew about it while actually at my meal, it was too late to cancel.)

      2. LadyKelvin*

        Its totally possible that Cat is able to be professional enough that Sam has no idea. Case in point: I have a coworker whom I cannot stand. Everytime he opens his mouth I want to punch him in the face. But I’m always professional and polite and make sure I do not exclude him from “team” events, so I always invite him to lunch, etc. Friday we had a Pau Hana (happy hour-type thing) at our house which was part social part work, where we invited everyone on my team plus some other friends of ours. He came and stayed about an hour longer than everyone else, clearly he had no idea that I had hoped he wouldn’t come at all. He even had plans for the evening, his parents were in town visiting, and he decided to come over anyways.

      1. Excel Hellion*

        Yep… I don’t consider myself the most socially adept person by a long stretch, but I’ve always felt it’s pretty obvious which sort of invitation it is, based on my existing relationship with the host. “Sorry, I’ve already got plans that day, thanks for the invitation!” + card and small gift when appropriate allows everyone to save face as necessary.

        1. Lissa*

          Gah! Whereas for me, the idea that some invitations are for politeness sake, and not meant to be taken, is just as bad as not being invited, with a side of “now I have to figure out what to do about this.” I think there’s a fair amount of disagreement on this point, though, and IMO neither camp is “wrong”.

          My preference is “if you don’t actually want me there, please don’t invite me.” But others would rather the invitation be made. I don’t know that there’s a way to solve/fix the divide.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Yeah, what drives me crazy is when someone expects me to read their mind and act accordingly. I can’t read minds! Just don’t invite me unless you want me there.

  37. Lynca*

    OP #1- We have presentations we have to give periodically and I agree you should also find out whether or not your boss asked them to fill in. I have been on both ends: giving a presentation that was not mine and having someone else give my presentation.

    In my office it would be that our boss asked them to do the presentation. But we usually add the disclaimer that OP couldn’t be here to give the presentation, they are the SME, and we will make sure she gets your questions. Some of our presentations have to be given during specific meetings whether or not the person supposed to be giving it is there.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      Your office seems to be handling this situation correctly. And I appreciate that the disclaimer is being used, so that an unavoidable, excused absence doesn’t become a reason for the “presentation creator” to miss out on the credit/recognition that she rightfully earned by the hard work that she put into her project.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      Also a younger person (or even someone coming from a different office culture) might not realize why it’s not okay with OP, so it might take a little word to David so that he understands the issue from OP’s perspective. This was an interesting letter, I thought. In some offices, this might look like OP was being – as another commenter called it, “territorial,” while depending on the topic and the culture this may be a bad overstep by a naive or even undermining colleague.

      1. LQ*

        When I read this letter I was a little taken aback by how ‘territorial’ the OP was because in my office that would be the sign of a not great coworker. I can 100% see myself leaving here and going somewhere else and assuming that of course someone would jump in and take over my presentation, or more to the point here, jumping in for someone else to try to be helpful because that’s what I have done here and it has been very successful for me (and them). I think it is a good thing (and very good for me to keep in mind!) to be aware that this might vary from workplace to workplace, and if David is new he might be carrying it in from somewhere else. Also if this is where “credit” is given for a project then it makes a lot more sense.

        1. Lil Fidget*

          It can definitely be a profile-raising opportunity for David, and somewhat at OP’s expense, which I also think is why it’s a wee bit uncomfortable. “Since poor OP is out sick (and at my very corporate office there’s a slight ding against somebody who is out sick when needed, even though we KNOW it’s stupid – but we’re supposed to all be so strong and live-to-work-y that we wouldn’t miss something important), I will jump in and save the day by presenting on this higher level topic!” In this case, though, if David did a bad job and didn’t really know what he was talking about, that would likely be visible to our audience too, so the profile-raising wouldn’t really be a good thing.

    3. essEss*

      If your presentation was on the planned agenda, it is also possible that some people attended that meeting specifically to hear your presentation so it would have wasted their time to have shown up and discover that you aren’t presenting after all and so your coworker stepped in on the fly.

  38. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    Regarding letter #2: No. just no. You should not use your leverage as manager to tell an employee who to invite to a private party. Definitely people shouldn’t talk about said party in front of Sam, that’s just good manners. But even suggesting she should be invited just because she happens to work with the OP is insulting to the OP. This isn’t kindergarten valentines.

  39. Jenn*

    I’m seeing a lot of Geek Social Fallacies in the response to OP #3. Ostracizers Are Evil!! Friends Do Everything Together!!!!

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think it’s the same thing. Friend groups aren’t closed, finite, and mandatory for eight hours a day. Being the single person left out tends to have a big personal effect–we get letters and comments about that all the time–and there’s a high chance it’s going to affect the OP’s workplace. (Interestingly, somebody upthread thinks the balance goes the other way in the comments, so I guess it’s a matter of perspective.)

      OP, I don’t know how close you are with Cat, but one possibility is that you don’t go to the wedding. Bosses at weddings can get a little weird anyway, and that’s one way to break up the pattern.

    2. Liane*

      Also shades of a Boss Social Fallacy: It is GOOD to be BFFs with some/all reports! It will make you a better leader, really!

    3. Ohhowthecamera*

      This. There is a lot of vilifying Cat in the comments here, and I’m not sure it’s entirely fair. Cat MIGHT be a clique-y mean girl type who just doesn’t like Sam because Sam is new and doesn’t quite blend with the team. That’s super possible.

      It’s also possible that Cat tried to get along with Sam for weeks/months after she started and it hasn’t worked out. It’s possible Sam is hard to get along with. It’s possible they have very different personalities and Sam doesn’t like Cat, either.

      It’s possible that Sam has tried her hardest to get her coworkers to like her and has failed because they are excluding her on purpose. It’s possible Sam is just shy or introverted and the rest of the team, Cat included are really outgoing.

      It’s also possible Sam said or did something that made Cat uncomfortable or uneasy. (I have s coworker I am very friendly to at work, because we’re on a team and I’m an adult and a professional, who I would never want to hang out with socially, let alone invite to something personal. Not because I’ve randomly decided he’s not a cool kid, but because I have heard him make a handful of micro aggression level comments about women and the queer community that make me really uncomfortable. It’s nothing harassing, or that is an HR issue, but a series of off hand comments that, honestly make me unsure he would actually like me either, if he knew anything about my personal life. I’m not accusing Sam of being that person, I’m just saying we don’t what kind of person Sam is.)

      We have absolutely no idea of Sam or Cat’s personalities from this letter, and just because Cat has the social power here, does not mean she is being cliquey or exclusive. She might be. She might not be. There could be a whole host of interactions that OP, as manager, hasn’t seen. Maybe Cat is a mean girl who is condescending and cold to Sam. Maybe Sam is abrasive and has alienated the rest of the team.

      We don’t know either of their sides here, we have s brief 3rd party perspective. It’s not a lot to go on. Regardless, Cat should not hand out her invitations at work, and an effort should be made to not talk about it in front of Sam- but I don’t think there is enough to go on to assume fault, here.

      1. Lissa*

        Yup, this is one of those Rorschach test questions where people put themselves into the position of whoever they immediately sympathize most with, I think. But we don’t actually have enough information to know what it is.

      2. tangerineRose*

        This has been bothering me too. I have had a few co-workers who I always treat decently but who I just don’t like, generally because the person is rude or obnoxious or never even tries to pull their own weight at work. When I read this, I was picturing Sam as being like one of those co-workers.

      3. Kathleen_A*

        I so agree. Only two things are clear, at least to me, and they are that Cat needs to cut out the wedding talk at work and definitely to cease and desist on things like handing out invitations.

        And I think it’s a very bad idea to invite everybody except Sam. That just seems very cutting and unkind to me. But Cat certainly has that right, so if she’s determined, she and her coworkers – all of them – must be very discreet about this. Unless Sam has done something so awful that she deserves shunning and that puts her beyond the social pale, she should not come to realize that everybody but her was invited. That’s just not right.

  40. Sualah*

    OP3 – Are you going to be going to the party? It’s Cat’s party to invite, or not, whoever she wants, of course. But even if the whole team was going, I’m not sure it’s a good look as a manager to attend, and I’d definitely say you can’t attend if one person is left out.

  41. Corky's wife Bonnie*

    OP#3, early in my career I was in a similar boat as Sam. I started brand new at this dress shop and all the employees had worked together for years and were like a family. One of the employees was getting married, and everyone in the shop was invited except for me. I did not expect to be invited because I was only there around 5 months. What was very awkward though, is that the wedding is ALL they talked about prior to the event and afterwards. Even half of all the business meetings were talk of this wedding. So, during lunch I had nothing to contribute (even tried to change the subject but it always reverted back), during the business meetings I had to sit there uncomfortably and twiddle my thumbs until we got down to business. Perhaps you could just advise your employee to keep the party talk down at work? I would have never even known about this wedding if they had just talked about it after hours or with one-on-one chit-chat.

    1. Reba*

      Thanks for sharing first-hand perspective on the situation!

      Weddings can become such a conversational vortex.

  42. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Definitely check with your manager first because they could be the actual culprit on this one but if not then a calm conversation with the guy is the way to go. It sucks to have had your presentation hijacked like that but I think a “that’s no how we do things here” would go much better than “how dare you”.
    #2-No, just no. While I recently had needling done for the first time to loosen muscles after an injury (and it worked like some crazy magic), this is not ok as a group bonding activity. So, not ok. Push back as Alison suggested but I would avoid the woo and snake oil comments. It’s not professional.
    #3-Cat does not have to invite Sam to her party. Cat should not be told to do so. Cat should not issues invitations at work. Full stop. Yes, Sam is being excluded on purpose. That’s ok. You generally don’t invite people you don’t like to your parties. Will Sam get her feelings hurt because you know she’ll find out? Yes. OP your responsibility is that it doesn’t impact work.
    #4-I don’t think you’ve got much to worry about in getting a job. You’ve got a great answer to “tell me about a time when you had to make a hard decision, what happened and what would you do differently”. Be honest in what happened but no need to go overboard.
    #5-I wish we all could say that this means you have this job in the bag. It doesn’t. Maybe it does mean you have a lock on the role. That’s going to depend a TON on the company and the role the HR manager plays. Don’t read too much into it and good luck.

    1. OP #5*

      Thanks TotesMaGotes – I tend to have an obsessive personality, I need to keep my mind busy or I start to analyze everything. There have been positive signs – HR saying they wanted to reach out to me but I did first, HR calling/emailing me to tell me they have no updates but wanted to keep me informed, HR saying they are pushing for me. I guess the missing link is the relationship between the HR manager and the hiring manager. If the hiring manager values HR’s opinion on candidates (and HR is truly pushing for me) or if it really doesn’t matter what HR says. Ideally, I feel like I interview strong, I’ve researched the position as well as their current work, I just need to get in the door. Hopefully the HR manager has enough weight to get me in for an interview and I can take it from there. At least the feedback I received last time is that I was well liked, impressed during the interview, there was just one skill I was lacking (I didn’t have enough industry connections) but I feel if I had the opportunity to overcome that objection I would have nailed it. For now, waiting patiently, hopefully in another two weeks I’ll have more of an idea.

  43. Jam Today*

    What is up with people in office environments thinking that *anything* that involves someone touching or manipulating a person’s body is at all appropriate for “team building”? Its presumptuous beyond reason to think that a person’s coworkers are all as into being touched (or stuck with needles or for god’s sake having their skin burned and interstitial fluid bursting through cell matrices). NO TOUCHING.

  44. Lena*

    Are you sure Sam even wants to be invited to this shindig? If she clashes with th rest of the team she’d probably prefer not to get an invitation and then feel obligated to go, or to get a lukewarm read-between-the-lines invite that would be awkward in all directions.

  45. Adlib*

    I think Alison’s advice to OP #3 is great. If I were Cat, I’d invite everyone and just cross my fingers that Sam doesn’t come. She might, but it’s probably easier than having to tip-toe around giving out private invites and then trying not to talk about it at work. On a related note, this happens in non-work situations a lot, and it sucks, but it’s life. I had a group of friends that got together for a mutual friend’s birthday party, and I wasn’t invited. I met up with some of those friends before the party, and they second-hand invited me, but I know better than to crash a party I wasn’t originally invited to (source: I’ve had party crashers like this before).

    #1 – No additional advice to give, but I’m irritated on your behalf. I could see this happening to me with some of the coworkers I have, and I think this would wreck my week.

    1. Beep*

      If it were happy hour or a Halloween party, then yes, it would be kindest to invite everyone – they might even hit it off! But engagement parties are a different thing. It is very personal and it is about you AND your partner and the relationship you have together. If these coworkers are good friends, and hang out outside of work – then they have definitely met the fiance and are probably friends with them as well.

      When I got engaged i would have found it really weird to invite, or have my (now) husband invite a bunch of people that I had never met and vice versa.

      1. Amanda*

        Yes, this. Not to mention that engagement parties, in addition to being very personal, are also expensive.

        1. nonymous*

          But even if Cat has this loooong involved personal history with everyone on her guest list (and obviously not with Sam), the kind thing to do is to address in in some way. Either do the courtesy invite, or if that’s not possible, find some way of saying “it’s not you Sam, this is about my personal situation”. I mean maybe Sam is a really awful human being, there’s a huge values clash, a poor personality fit, or this is just the “storming” phase. A quick “hey, I realized we haven’t had a chance to get to know each other – do you want to grab tea?” can smooth a lot of hurt feelings.

          1. Amanda*

            I agree that it’s kind to address it, but I don’t necessarily think that it’s unkind not to, and I disagree that someone should be put in the position of saying “it’s not you it’s me” (which I don’t think is necessarily kind, it would make me feel even more intentionally excluded tbh), OR being forced by their boss (which, as Alison says, she can’t actually do) to invite someone they don’t like to their engagement party. If it were a “let’s all grab drinks and celebrate” kind of thing, then yes, everyone should expect to be invited. But this is a highly personal, not-work-related event.

            I think that the engaged employee should not do any inviting at work under any circumstances, and that OP should have a conversation with her about limiting talk about it in the office.

            Maybe a nice gesture along the lines you’re thinking would actually be an informal “we’re all going to grab a drink/dinner/lunch/whatever to celebrate her engagement!” so there is some acknowledgment of the event where everyone is included.

  46. Technical_Kitty*

    For OP#3, I’d say have a talk with the engaged employee about keeping discussion about the party and it’s guest list out of work. But it is not okay to pressure or guilt an employee to either have someone they actively dislike attend their engagement party. I wasn’t sure what AAM was suggesting exactly that you talk to her about.

    If I had a manager who used their position to try interfere in my personal life in this way I’d be looking for a new job.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      From my understanding, Alison was telling OP#3 not to be so obvious about not inviting Sam to Cat’s engagement party. Rightfully so, because, in such a small team environment, Sam could start to feel that she is not an equal team member, and that she is somehow “lesser” than the rest (and I thought that Sam could even possibly feel that she is being discriminated against). Plus, if the snub is so obvious, other team members could feel that that is OK, and possibly start excluding Sam from other events (maybe even work-related), down the line.

      I don’t think Alison suggested that OP#3 should try to get Cat to be friends with Sam outside of work, or anything else along those lines. Just that Sam is treated professionally and with civility amongst her teammates.

      1. Amanda*

        I think Alison’s advice was to ask the engaged employee to “reconsider” her inviting strategy, because she goes on to say that if that isn’t effective to ask her to keep it out of the workplace. I definitely read it as asking her to consider inviting Sam.

  47. nnn*

    The weird thing about medical treatments as a work activity is it assumes that everyone needs those treatments!

    Some people might not need them. It’s possible that they might be detrimental to some people. People who would benefit most from them may well be pursuing them already – with their own course of treatment from their own provider, which could very well be disrupted by having to do more treatments as a work activity.

    So it’s this weird combination of assumptions that everyone would benefit from it, but not to such an extent that they’d need an organized, supervised course of treatment, *and* no one to whom it would be beneficial would have already thought to be pursing treatment independently, *and* it couldn’t possibly be medically unsuitable for anyone.

    Now that I type all that out, it occurs to me that the person who planned this activity doesn’t see it as a medical treatment. They see it as recreational. Which is another perspective LW could use to push back if the person who planned the activity says they take it seriously – it isn’t really appropriate for the employer to be pressuring employees to casually and recreationally take medical treatment without a proper clinical consultation and professional guidance.

  48. Observer*

    #4 – I think that the fact that the story is in the news works in your favor. So often the problem is that an employer can’t tell if you are being a drama lama, or if there is more to the story that changes everything. This way it’s all out there, and it’s not just your piece of the story.

    The other thing here is that your bosses were being both unreasonable and surprisingly ignorant. Your behavior, on the other hand, was reasonable, thoughtful and did not create ANY sort of risk for the organization. So any potential employer who wants to consider themselves as “reasonable” is going to be inclined to your side, especially since they don’t have any reason to worry that “your” ethical and moral stand will endanger the organization.

  49. Allison*

    Hey LW #4 — I suspect this will get buried, but I used to be your counselor at FONZ Camp — you do have a very distinct name! I don’t know if you’ll remember me, but my name is Allison and I was with FONZ from 2010-2015. I’m really impressed by did for the eagle, and I would be shocked if it were ever held against you in a job search, especially for environment-related jobs.

  50. Kristine*

    #4 – It’s rare to have a reason to be fired for which one can – I don’t want to say “brag” but I think you should state what you did and give your reasons with pride. Kudos to you. You don’t want to work with any other employers who disagree with your actions.

  51. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I’ve probably been Sam dozens of times in the past few years, unbeknownst to myself. My workplace is pretty cliquish. I started out being part of the cool kids group and getting invites to all the parties. Then I don’t really know what happened, I was in a relationship with a pretty controlling, possessive man for two years, which caused me to turn down a bunch of invites, because he wanted me to be somewhere else at the time of the event and I couldn’t make it. Maybe because of that, or maybe my coworkers just wised up to my general uncoolness, but after Mr. Possessive and I broke up 4-5 years ago, I noticed I wasn’t getting any invites anymore. I’m aware of at least a graduation party and a housewarming party that people talked about at work later, that I was not invited to. I do not care. I do not feel excluded. I have a good relationship with some of my coworkers, a civil relationship with all, and a full life outside of work. I honestly do not have the time or the money to continue being part of the coworker parties, so it’s a bit of a relief to no longer be invited. Though it did feel a bit hurtful at first. And these are people I’ve known for ten years and used to be close with. Sam’s coworkers are people she has known for 9 months and has never gotten along with. She probably does not even expect or want an invite! And Cat definitely does not owe her one. Just wanted to address the comments stating that this is the “Mean girls” dynamic and will be incredibly demoralizing to Sam, and that Cat needs to either invite everyone, or to strike half of her coworkers off her list (what even?)

    I honestly think if everyone keeps the discussion of the party out of the workplace, that the party won’t affect the work dynamic in a negative way.

    I also think it *can* affect the work dynamic in a negative way if Cat does invite Sam to the party, Sam comes to the party where she doesn’t like the hostess and the hostess doesn’t like her, and she either doesn’t get along with or doesn’t know anybody else, and things just proceed to get awkward at the party to the point where they spill into work.

  52. J*

    I submitted Q1 and just want to say thanks for the advice! I’m about 95% sure he did this without being asked by his boss. I understand that I was out sick and thus not as easy to reach, but a quick note beforehand to ask “hey do you want me to present for you?” could have been sufficient!

  53. Amber Rose*

    Slightly off topic: I enjoyed acupuncture way more than I thought I would, and it helped me a LOT following a bad car accident. Maybe it’s real, maybe it was a placebo effect, but either way I felt GOOD after.

    More on topic: the decision to go through with it was one that took place after a long conversation with my massage therapist, during which we discussed my progress with recovery and my issues with pain. It wasn’t made lightly by either of us, because whether you think it’s woo or not, it’s still poking a lot of sharp objects into your body.

    I would never, ever do it without the same lengthy discussion. I certainly wouldn’t do it as part of some work activity. I don’t think that’s very appropriate. Imagine being told that everyone needed to see a doctor for a physical and that they were turning it into a team building exercise. Awful, right?

    So don’t call it woo. Just point out that medical treatments are supposed to be a decision between you and the professional, which makes this not a very appropriate team building exercise.

  54. Lady Phoenix*

    I know the term “snake oil”, but how did the term “woo” come to be.

    And yeah, OP #2, I would not refer to those methods as either words because these procedures DO have a cultural and historical reverence. It would be the same as telling a Muslim that Allah is fake or telling a Budhist that their beliefs are “new age hippie crap” or something.

    When you push back on these, DO NOT talk about how you find these procedures to be “fake”, but rather how you feel these are medical procedures and you don’t wish to bond over intimate medical procedures—especially ones that require removing clothes (depending on areas, accupuncture requires stripping).

    1. Amber Rose*

      I’m hearing it in my head as the noise people make when they are mocking paranormal stuff. “Wooo, I’m a scary ghooooost!”

      Probably not accurate though. xD

      1. Natalie*

        Nope, it’s pretty much that. The etymology isn’t precisely known but that’s the most likely candidate.

    2. Close Bracket*

      Well, no, more like telling a Muslim or a Pentecostal that faith healing is crap. Qi and the medical practices that claim to manipulate it are not the same thing.

  55. Professional Shopper*

    For #3: one thing the manager can do is make sure the Sam doesn’t end up working a long solo shift because everyone else is off at the engagement party (if it even falls during work hours).

  56. Bagpuss*

    #1 I agree with the recommendation to check first with your boss, but then speak to him to explain that it would be better not to step in in future unless you specifically request him to. Depending on how soon the next meting is, you could also let people know that you will be reviewing the presentation and answering any questions at the next meeting.

    #2 I’d push back -avoid terms like ‘woo’ or ‘snake oil’. Your boss presumably thinks that there is benefit in these activities so opening showing scorn for them is likely to put your bosses back up without achieving anything useful. I’d suggest instead that the activities are not really appropriate for a work activity, because they might put people in an uncomfortable position of having ti disclose medical information, plus neither are really activities you can do as a team, and many people would feel uncomfortable having physical treatments in a work context. That way, you get to raise objections without openly criticising Boss’s beliefs about the benefits!
    Being able to offer alternatives might help – could you, or the others who are unhappy, suggest something which you would all see as positive? Maybe think about whether there is anything non-intrusive but related to health or well being which might be welcome – (perhaps a speaker, who could talk about stress reliving techniques for the workplace, or something like that)

    #3 I think as manager, you can tell Cat not to give out the invitations at work and to keep discussion of the party to a minimum at work. She is free to invite whomever she wants but if she and the other team members are talking about it constantly and Sam is left out it becomes much harder for Sam to be integrated into the team, it’s not helpful from a business perspective (and you can frame it that was when you speak to Cat)

    #4. Don’t include it in your cover letter, be prepared to answer questions if asked, as people may google your name before interviewing. In particularly, be prepared for questions about how you might handle things differently if you were in a similar situation now (e.g. contact the park ranger directly. / ask the rehab centre to speak to your boss to confirm the advice they gave you / ask them whether they can send anyone out etc.
    I think the potential negative might be not about your attempt to save an injured bird, but the fact that you overrode your employers instructions – there are lots of situations in a work environment where you might be given an instruction which you think is wrong, because you won’t always have all the information your employer has about why you can or can’t do something, or do it in the way you want to, so I would think about how that applies to your experience and how you can show a potential employer that they wouldn’t need to worry about you being a loose cannon any time you didn’t agree with / understand the underlying reasons for an instruction. It sounds as though you did the right thing, but there are potential issues about how you did it.

  57. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Re: Acupuncture activity. My first thought was that there was feedback regarding lunch and other food-centric activities. People may have commented that they want something “healthier,” but they weren’t specifice. So instead of something active like bean bag toss championship or those literal building things as a group (like marshmallow/pretzel towers), this popped into boss’ head.

  58. Amanda*

    OP #3 – I was in a similar position to Sam at my last job. I had started a couple months before and other folks had worked together for years and were also very friendly outside of work. I wasn’t disliked (to my knowledge!), but I certainly did not have the same relationship everyone else did. A coworker got married and pretty much everyone I worked with was invited. I was not, which I totally understood — weddings, showers, etc. are usually really big special landmark events, and I did not expect to be invited to the wedding of a relatively new coworker with whom I had no personal relationship.

    To be honest, I would be very upset if my manager implicated that I needed to reconsider my invitations to a really personal event like this. I do, however, think OP is well within limits and even should ask that their employee not distribute invites at work.

  59. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    #2. It’s fascinating how often this general question gets asked: My employer/team/boss want me to do [X] social activity or non-work team-building activity but I don’t want to. What do I do?

    You may politely decline to do any such non-work activity. Doesn’t matter what it is: acupuncture, rock climbing, the company softball team, the Christmas party, the blindfolded trust fall—whatever mundane or downright squirrelly thing your employer can come up with. You may say no, politely. Perhaps there will be ramifications for you, if you say no. Perhaps you won’t be seen as a team player, or as fitting in to the corporate culture. Or perhaps no one will care, But you can still say no.

    1. LBK*

      Perhaps there will be ramifications for you, if you say no. Perhaps you won’t be seen as a team player, or as fitting in to the corporate culture.

      Well, I think that’s why people ask the question – because it isn’t just as simple as saying no. You’re correct that you *can* always just say no, but that doesn’t mean saying no is always the best course of action, or one that can be taken easily without consideration for the consequences.

      1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

        Yes, LBK, I agree that every situation is different, including the workplace, the employee and the possible consequences. I was trying to address the general perceived pressure of having to say yes to this type of non-work request.

        1. Observer*

          Well, if the consequences are harsh enough, you really can’t say no. There is a reason why this comes up so often in advice to employers. It’s often put as in the context of whether you have to pay your employees for a supposedly optional / social / team building activity. If you say that it’s optional but “strongly encourage it” you almost always need to pay any non-exempt employee. Because it is not voluntary and effectively being considered a requirement.

          And, people should NOT have to accept workplace consequences for not taking part in unrelated activities, even if they are called “team building”.

  60. Dame Judi Brunch*

    Op #4, what strikes me is you independently contacted the wildlife center. (They wouldn’t have advised you to do anything illegal. I hope they are up to date on what can and can’t be done!) Your boss was out of line. I think you’re fine and can be proud of yourself!

  61. Jules*

    Boy that gave me an unpleasant flashback on my presentation on how I saved the company $50,000. When I got back from my vacation, I was asked on the fly one day to present what I did. I did it and the audience was stone cold. Only to find out later that my presentation was already given by a co-worker in an earlier session. She took my presentation because as a team, she had nothing to present. I did not appreciate it at all. Never again.

  62. OP #4*

    Thank you all for the reassurance and advice. I’ve never applied for jobs before and wasn’t sure how much of an issue this would be, particularly since I worked there for so long but don’t have a reference from it.

  63. FYI*

    I’d suggest the acupuncture OP do away with the disdainful and blistering tone (“no one wants anything to do with woo”) before approaching the boss. If you don’t want to do it, fine, but — man, the way you’re scoffing at it sounds pretty abrasive.

  64. AlwhoisthatAl*

    I do Deep Tissue Massage as a qualified Therapist. When I get a set of locked muscles due to my work, I get Acupuncture to relieve the problem (It’s the old issue of not being able to massage yourself!). It works very well for me as it works directly on the nerves and muscles. So for me it’s an ancient tried and tested method of muscle relief which has helped me a lot. What twists my tail is the modern New Age use of it to cure things like smoking and for weight loss. I believe that’s a load of rubbish.
    So I would totally push back on this – Acupuncture for a muscular/skeletal issue – yes, absolutely. As some sort of New Age Bollocks to make you feel better – No, a thousand times no.
    Same for cupping, although the benefits are far far less well-recorded and to mention them in the same sentence is worrying

  65. Mobuy*

    In my opinion no workplace should do acupuncture or cupping as a morale-building activity. I’ve found colonoscopies to be MUCH more effective for that purpose.

  66. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    OP #3 – one of the things about the workplace – it’s not junior high, and planning a social event and excluding one person is extremely junior-highish. Somehow I’m thinking of Daria Morgendorfer’s younger sister and the fashion club at Lawndale High.

    Seriously – after 45 years in the workplace I’ve learned three things….

    1) I definitely don’t like some of the people I have to work with.
    2) Some definitely don’t like me.
    3) I’ve survived and thrived when I manage to swallow my pride, or others swallow theirs, and we work together as a work team to accomplish a work task.

    Now, pulling an action like this – might make the excluder feel great! Oh boy! But – although they’re not saying so, many of the team members will view this action as petty – and will further destroy any relationship with the excluded one. Perhaps that’s what’s wanted here, but it doesn’t make sense.

    Using what is designed to be a joyous event to deliberately burn bridges with a co-worker seems childish to me.

    And a manager – although it’s a private event, your intervention – and a reminder of the damage that can be caused – or continued – IS your business.

  67. Noah*

    No sure I agree re OP1. We don’t really have enough info. It’s good that OP made arrangements with the meeting organizer, but that person isn’t necessarily the best person to focus on content for a meeting. Coworker who works closely with OP might be a good person to assess that. He was there and perhaps he determined that the topic should be covered because it was highly relevant to the meeting. Did OP inform Coworker that she would be giving the presentation at a different time? If not, it was quite possibly a very sensible thing for him to step up and give the presentation. OP probably bears at least some responsibly for not communicating here.

  68. Nicole Maria*

    My first thought re: the acupuncture/cupping thing is, “Why are they so resistant? If you don’t believe that it works, why not just do it, since to you, the outcome should be the same if you do or don’t.”

    But after reading the response and the comments I realized how inappropriate it is to have medical treatments as work outings, regardless of their perceived efficacy, so thank you to everyone for adjusting my perspective on that.

    1. Amanda*

      Also even if they were not medical treatments, they are really personal and invasive. If someone suggested we all get massages together as an office I would be absolutely mortified, and would not participate.

      1. Nicole Maria*

        Well hopefully the massages would be in separate rooms. ;) No, but more seriously, my old work offered on-site chair massages for a while and it was wonderful. But that was on a purely opt-in basis, and if it made someone uncomfortable (or they just didn’t want to do it for whatever reason) it was exceedingly easy to not participate, and that’s the main difference as to what made that appropriate.

  69. Buu*

    OP 3 – Perhaps you can organise a different work event separately to the engagement and invite everyone including Sam. It sends out the the signal that you value her and see her as part of the team even if she does feel left out of the engagement party. I think the problem here is Sam is seen as an outsider, and there are people on your team who actively dislike her. If you were understaffed and the replacement is struggling, then people may still feel overworked and resent Sam for not relieving them of their heavy workload. Is Sam making an effort? Are your other staff helping her when she struggles?
    Perhaps something as simple as an optional fundraising activity, or lunch together might get people talking? Sam herself may opt out which won’t solve your team bonding issues but will at least allow a social out for not inviting her to the engagement.

  70. Globetrotta*

    As a person with an uncommon name who tattled pretty publically on a whole state when told we were not allowed to say certain words, I wouldn’t put it on my resume or cover letter. But when it came up in my last job interview, I didn’t shy away from it either. I made a decision before giving my interview that I didn’t want to work for an employer that would see this as a problem for them.

  71. LadyPhoenix*

    LW #3: Cat should be discreete. Do not discuss about inviting everyone one the team [except Sam] at work, do not discuss party plans in front of Sam, and if Cat and Sam are FB buddies then keep the party pics to a minimum or don’t show huge group ones where the entire team was invited [except Sam].

    It absolutely SUCKS being that one person out and either picked last or not picked at all. Especially if they rub it in your face.

  72. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Buu – it won’t allow a “social out”. Sam isn’t liked, they’re using this as an event to make an aggressive rejection of Sam. Having an event – such as this – won’t fix that. It might make things worse.

  73. Cornflower Blue*

    I’m really surprised that acupuncture is offered as an option given how many people have problems with needles. I myself am utterly terrified of them, even when it’s someone else being pierced, so there’s no way I could attend a retreat with acupuncture.

    (This also means I’ll never get the tattoo I want so badly but oh well.)

    Maybe add that a lot of people have mild needle phobias when you’re using Allison’s script?

    And to bald eagle rescuer: GOOD ON YA. I’ve had to rescue crows before, never eagles, and it hurts like heck if they don’t make it but your instinct to do good and help a suffering creature is commendable. I don’t see any reasonable employer holding it against you and if they do, they’re probably not a place you’d feel ethically comfortable in.

  74. Oilpress*

    OP#1 – If someone else can talk about the topic then they should. You work for an organization, not the other way around. If the team can get something done without you then that’s what they should do. The organization takes priority.

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