our fundraiser lets us “pie a manager in the face”

A reader writes:

Where I work there, are a little over 100 employees with eight department managers. About five years ago, upper management decided to set up a committee comprised of one person from each department to plan activities and events for all employees throughout the year, such as charity fundraisers, the office holiday party, an ice cream day, etc.

One of the fundraising activities they’ve done the past few years is a “pie a manager in the face” charity fundraiser. The basic premise is that for each dollar you donate to the selected charity, you get to cast a vote for which department manager you think should get a pie in the face. The voting goes on for a week or so, and then the department manager who “won” gets a pie slapped into their face in front of everyone. This tends to be touted by the planning committee as a “get back at your boss” kind of thing.

I’ve always been very uncomfortable with this event and don’t participate in the voting (I still make a small donation to the charity) nor do I go to watch the pie-ing. It seems cruel to single out a manager as one who deserves to be punished for being a “bad manager” and it also seems tone deaf to imply that a pie in the face is a good way for employees to deal with managers they don’t like.

Obviously, my company is making this worse by framing this as revenge against your boss, but am I off-base to think that this whole concept is just a generally bad idea, no matter how it’s presented?

I think it depends on whether it plays out in a mean-spirited way or not. Is the pie in the face usually “won” by someone who’s widely disliked?

I can imagine this happening in a good-natured way where the “winners” are people who it’s clear would have fun with it, and where they’re seen as good sports, and where it doesn’t feel like an F-you to them.

I can also imagine it happening in a mean-spirited way, where people take the chance to punish managers they don’t like and where it promotes an us vs. them mindset that’s pretty unhealthy for any company and which definitely isn’t a mindset that the company itself should be promoting.

It sounds like your planning committee is framing it more as the latter, and that’s not great.

I also wonder if managers are allowed to opt out, and how that goes over if someone does. It’s not really okay to require people to take a pie in the face at work, even managers. It needs to be something people have enthusiastically opted in to. If every single manager there is happy to participate, then fine … but I have to wonder if some of them really don’t want a pie in the face but don’t feel like they can say that without being pegged as bad sports.

Basically, if it’s a healthy, happy, high-functioning company with enthusiastic pie recipients — fine. Anything else … no.

{ 255 comments… read them below }

      1. Anony McAnonFace*

        Yeah, we did this at our school for fundraisers, but the teachers always volunteered for it, so it was always the nice, fun teachers and we all had a good laugh about it later. This sounds like a recipe for disaster!

        1. AnnaBananna*

          I remember the baseball/junk tank for teachers, which on a hot summer day – we’re pretty much doing them a favor. A pie in the face for ‘Janet the micromanager’? I don’t really see this as paying out too well…

    1. Nic*

      I worked for video game company and during customer service week (we were all customer service) they let us sign up to pie our managers in the face. Pretty much every manager took one.

      It was done as a fun and lighthearted event, and managers were starting to pie each other by the time it was over. Certainly one of the stranger things of working at that very strange place.

    2. Pippa*

      I have never commented before but OMG this is my worst nightmare. I find the whole thing so humiliating, and I always wonder about the aftermath. Like the pie-in-the face is one moment. Then you have to scrape it out of your eyes, and walk to the bathroom, and maybe screw up all your makeup and hair if you’re a girl. Then what, walk around the whole day a relative mess? I would quit if I were a manager. Heck, I hate the whole thing so much I might quit as an employee. This and pranks in the office need to DIE immediately. It’s work, and what is fun for some people makes work downright evil for others.

      1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

        Plus in the moment:
        What if the pie-smasher is too aggressive and you get your nose smashed with the pie-pan?

    3. Jennifer Juniper*

      Some people could also have allergies to the pie crust or fillings. If the managers are required/pressured to be pied – NO.

  1. Harper the Other One*

    Yes, this is very dependent on the environment. I worked at a retail store where our summer social one year included a dunk tank. All of the managers/coordinators volunteered and there was no pressure to participate, and it was all very good natured and fun. There are plenty of other work environments I’ve been in where that would have been a super uncomfortable situation, though.

    1. Project Manager*

      I was actually thinking about a dunk tank in comparison. I can see my division doing that with the managers shouting silly and good-natured taunts as people attempt to hit the target. But the pie thing seems inherently more mean-spirited. Maybe because it is more personal/hands-on?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        My college had a fundraiser that let us dunk-tank the school president. Hey, he volunteered for it.

        1. Alanna*

          I was thinking of this as well – I used to work at a university where we had a “dunk the dean” dunk tank for the seniors, and it was all in good fun!

      2. tink*

        I think the pie would feel less mean-spirited if it was a rotation the way dunk tanks tend to be? Either a “vote for the pie order of these bosses” or “every year a different department boss is first to be pied” sort of thing.

      3. TootsNYC*

        yeah, as a manager, I totally would be OK w/ the dunk tank. I might even campaign for it. (though, dunk tanks are normally ongoing)

        The pie in the face is just more hostile. (that said, if I thought it were going to play out negatively, I’d be dropping off little cards on people’s desks that said things like, “Your mother wears army boots!” with a little pie picture and my name. Just to try to slant the voting toward someone who would take it in fun.

        There might be places where it’s a sort of popularity contest–I noticed at summer camp that only the popular counselors or campers got thrown in the lake at the end. And I still treasure the memory of the one year I got thrown in.

        1. Marshmallow*

          I don’t want to go off topic, but what does “your mother wears army boots” mean? The explanation I found when I googled it didn’t sound like a very kind thing to say (I’m not from the US and I’ve never heard the phrase before).

          1. Not So NewReader*

            It’s considered an example of a mean, random thing to say. Now, with women wearing all kinds of boots, the meaning is pretty lost. I guess at the time it meant your mother was not attractive or did not know how to dress??? Not sure.

            It could just be my opinion but now the comment seems to be an example of someone struggling to find something mean to say and this is the best they could come up with. The person is trying to be insulting and even fails at being insulting to the point of making themselves look foolish/silly.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              I believe it originated in the idea that having an unfeminine mother was a terrible thing, and that being in the Army made you unfeminine. But my whole life (I’m 36) I’ve heard it used as a generic “patently ridiculous” insult–the kind you would never take seriously. The kind of insult you’d mention as an example of an inherently stupid insult, I guess, because obviously nobody would take it seriously. Like barely one step better than “stupidhead.”

              (My mother did wear Army boots! Because she was in the Army.)

              1. Marshmallow*

                Thanks to you both! When I searched for the phrase, there didn’t seem to be much consensus on the meaning but a lot of the suggestions related to prostitution, which didn’t make much sense in this context!

      4. Pebbles*

        My office did this with four managers signed up to be dunked. They were all good sports since it was for charity and even campaigned to see who could raise the most for the charity!

        On a more embarrassing occasion, we did another charity fundraiser where we had two managers stand against a wall with bullseyes on their chests to be shot with Nerf guns. I still cringe at that one…

        Personally, I think OP’s pie throwing fundraiser is somewhere between those two.

        1. Free Meerkats*

          A former work group did paintball together one year. when the day was done, the plant manager stood in the field and basically said to use up the remaining ammo on him. Good thing he was wearing a cup…

      5. AnnaBananna*

        And its exactly that – division heads would be working a dunk tank equally + no voting folks off the island = a totally different message. Not just some a$$hat who everyone hates. I mean, is it just super awkward at OP’s fundraiser? Eek.

    2. Fiennes*

      At my grad school, the professors each made pledges of wild/obnoxious/gross things they would do if they won the donation contest. I like this, because it meant each professor only agreed to do something they were genuinely okay with. It was all very good-natured and winning was considered a badge of honor in the faculty.

      One year I attended, the winning professor had promised to kiss a pig. At the big final party, the pig was duly brought out. And he FRENCH-KISSED the thing. The groans of disgust were followed by cheers for the guy who had doubled down on his own gross bet.

      The pig seemed fine, FWIW.

      1. Daffy Duck*

        This is MUCH better than pie in the face! More interesting, much more positive spin, and doesn’t turn the workplace into a “peons vs. princes” environment.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          We did a kiss-a-pig challenge, too. It was kind of a hoot, really, but yes, the germane thing was that the kisser volunteered.

        1. Birch*

          This is where my mind went too….

          OP, if this is a Thing in your work culture and it weirds you out (it SUPER weirds me out, always has), feel free to continue making donations and opting out of the spectacle. It’s worth it to pay attention to any ill will or suspicion that the people getting pie-d are being pressured into it, but if it’s enjoyed by everyone involved, it’s not something you really have control over! And don’t let anyone pressure you to get more involved if you don’t want to. Everybody’s got their own jam.

    3. Persimmons*

      My job does a fundraiser dunk tank. You can pay per ball, or a large flat fee for “throw until you hit it”. Nobody was surprised that one manager raised an insane amout of money. People were putting out piles of cash to just walk up and slap the button repeatedly.

      He did not volunteer in years since.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Traditionally, in a dunk-tank situation, the person above the tank is supposed to call out insults and challenges, with the specific purpose of increasing the donations.

      2. TootsNYC*

        also, I’ve always seen it with an element of skill–you had to actually hit the target with a ball, or something.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      My organization did a dunk tank too. Managers were required to participate in the dunk tank at the after-work event. The only way out of it was to pay $100. A few people complained, but most of us tried to go along with it good-naturedly.

      The day-of was worse than I had imagined. The tank was gross with dirty, oily water and floating grass. Each manager had an amount of time scheduled (10 minutes, maybe, but it felt like forever) and employees paid to dunk managers over and over and over again. And as the event progressed the employees got more and more vengeful, hyping each other up and hollering taunts. I kept up a good attitude, but honestly it was pretty awful.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I thought of the dunk tank too – CurrentJob has it, as did OldJob. But 1) every manager gets a turn in the dunk tank, 2) there is no vote on who should be dunked. Also, 3) this typically happens on a hot summer day and the managers seem to enjoy the dunking.

    6. RoadsLady*

      We do this annually, but I also work in elementary education and it’s the KIDS who get to pie the principal, or dunk a teacher, or throw paint at a teacher, or what have you. It… fits. Everyone has fun with it.

    7. Kittymommy*

      My org does something like this every year and we do a dunk tank and pie in the face. With many participants. There is so much water and whipped cream flying it’s insane. I don’t think any of the”victims” gave ever taken insult and it raises a ton of money.

  2. nutella fitzgerald*

    Now I’m thinking about whether or not I would be amused by AAM changing the header to say “Pie a Manager” for April Fool’s Day. With the little AAM figure holding a pie, kind of like her seasonal cold-weather gear.

  3. JokeyJules*

    I agree with Alison – intention is key.
    I high school we were allowed to dunk tank if we had the best attendance or some other parameter of good behavior. Everyone loved him and it was great fun.
    Then we got a new principal that nobody liked…so it stopped.

      1. Viola E.*

        I was thinking summer camp, too! I worked at a camp in which the kids could spend “points” to pie a counselor in the face at the end of the week. It was always the universally beloved counselors, who were fun in general and enthusiastic about getting pied, who “won.”

        In the workplace? I highly doubt it would be the universally beloved managers getting pied. Being fun and silly is not as desirable in a manager as in a camp counselor.

    1. LawLady*

      Yeah, I think this is fine and fun if it follows the golden comedy rule: don’t punch down, always punch up.

      If the butt of the pie-ing joke is popular, happy to play along, and in management, this sounds fun. If the butt of the joke is unpopular, not in on the joke, and/or not high up, this is gross.

      1. Indoor Cat*

        Actually, I think this logic is why some organizers think dunk-tanks or pie-in-the-face where managers can’t opt-out are okay. Because managers are inherently “up,” meaning they’re higher on the corporate ladder than the people they manage.

        But, imo, if comedy involves metaphorical punching (i.e. mockey, emotional harm, derision or insult), then it’s really not workplace appropriate. On tv or among friends, “punch up” can be a decent rule of thumb, but at work or school nobody should feel like they’re being punched; it’s not a great way to resolve problems of inequity in that context.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        And this is why I am not a big fan of these things. Unless people are very clear there is no way to know that everyone is getting dunked by their own choosing. It’s fine until it isn’t fine. And it’s a great way for the company to draw attention away from how much or how little the company itself is donating to the charity.

  4. Dino*

    We’ve done this kind of fundraiser at my college with professors instead of bosses. It’s always been optional for the professors and I can’t imagine how it would work otherwise. We also did it where it wasn’t by a vote: if you donated $3 you could personally pie one of the professors, or you could throw in a buck or two to help someone else pie them. I wonder if not making it a vote would take some of the meanness out? Or where you donate in a manager’s bucket and when they reach a certain total, they’ll get pied? I can see people then wanting to come back and donate more to another manager’s bucket to get more of them above the threshold.

  5. Just Employed Here*

    I guess this company only wants to hire / promote “fun” people into management. A lot of potentially great managers would self-select out of these jobs.

    1. BF50*

      Yes. That’s what I was thinking.

      If it’s not mean spirited, then it’s a popularity contest, which also isn’t great. Either the most hated or most loved manager selected.

      1. Cacwgrl*

        Yeah, that’s what it became the couple years we did it at Old Job. It was the corporate office and the largest geographical site doing a combined picnic. The rec committee liked to do it as a fundraiser for the local shelter. However, the least liked manager – who was a pretentious jerk – also had the largest employee segment. They happily pooled their money and this same manager was the rudest, most selfish person being served by the corporate office, so our group gladly paid in as well. However, the CEO/President knew the manager well enough that he always stepped up and insisted he take the pie because the bad manager always took offense, knowing it was done as more of a minor revenge. I eventually made them stop doing it and refocused their collaborative ways into a penny war, which worked out well enough and no one had to take a pie. But man I wish someone would have surprised the bad manager and pied him anyway, just on principle! He would have been LIVID!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This stuff amazes me. They all know that this guy has the contempt of the whole place. One would think the company could have just fired the bad manager. At some point it stops being about the bad manager and starts being about the bad execs that leave the bad boss in place.

          1. Cacwgrl*

            Agreed, this is one of several reasons why I don’t work there anymore. One thing I do know is that the customer that funneled millions in work to the company LOVED him and paid his labor bill. IDK why, but come to find out, the customer is as shady as they come and the whole project eventually fell apart.

    2. Whit in Ohio*

      Yeah, mean spirited or not, my dignity is extremely important to me. This would be an “if you try to force me to participate I’ll quit on the spot” BIG NO.

  6. animaniactoo*

    I’m going to have to say “no” even if it’s a really happy healthy company with enthusiastic pie recipients. Because there is just SO MUCH room for it to skew badly in here that I think it should be avoided at all costs. Particularly with the possibility that they’re not actually enthusiastic, they’re throwing themselves into it to avoid being seen as poor sports. That’s a hard no from me.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      I’m with you. Just so many reasons it could go badly and a there are a million other options to raise money and/or spirits.

      And even if they just have to poke fun at the managers they could do something like donate a dollar, make a manager wear a silly hat for the day or something like that.

    2. Nita*

      Yes. I don’t see how anyone, other than a toddler maybe, would actually want pie on their face. Maybe some people just “volunteer” because it’s a thing and someone is expected to do it, and they “mind less than others”. It still seems demeaning and unnecessary, and doesn’t go in the same sentence with happy healthy company.

      1. Belle8bete*

        A lot of people thing this is fun and funny and they are normal people….in fact toddlers would probably not enjoy it at all.

        I know most of us are introverts here with tendancies to keep to ourselves, but goodness! Full grown adults can participate in things that are silly at work if it is framed appropriately and folks have an out.

        1. Clare*

          I don’t think this is an introvert vs. extrovert issue. Plenty of people wouldn’t want to have a pie smashed in their face at work. There are other ways to have fun!

          1. Nita*

            I’m also thinking from the perspective of being the pie-thrower. I guess more people enjoy the chance of throwing the pie at someone, than of getting it thrown at them, but I can’t be the only one who hates the idea of tossing a pie at a fellow human being who’s done nothing to me. The only way I’d feel comfortable with that is, if they were tossing something right back and it was an all-out food fight!

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yeah, I’m not sure I’m seeing the connection between getting your energy from interactions with people and enjoying greasy food splattered all over your face.

        2. MLB*

          Yes you can participate in fun and silly things at work, but this type of thing reads bad idea any way you shape it to me. Even if the intentions are good, you’re going to have some bad vibes from some which can ultimately turn this into a mean spirited event.

      2. Forking great username*

        There is literally a game that’s entire purpose is to get pie in your face. I have seen adults play it several times. Believe the game is actually called Pie Face – came out a couple of years ago. So clearly there are people who genuinely find it to be funny.

        1. New Job So Much Better*

          Yes a relative set it up at her Thanksgiving dinner last year… I was glad we only stopped by to say hello.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        I have always harbored a secret desire to get either pied in the face or “slimed” a la 90’s kids’ shows. It always looked fun to me!

        But yeah, unless you’re at a really small place where you can be pretty certain of whether or not all the participants were actually enthusiastic or just putting on a show, I don’t know that this is the best idea. Save it for smaller groups, I think.

        1. Coffee or Tea*

          Can confirm getting slimed was fun! It was green pudding. (No I was not slimed on tv just at universal studios theme park as a kid)

    3. Wrenn*

      You know what? Me too. I’m not a fan of anything that puts people on the spot to be humiliated even if it’s “all in good fun”. Perhaps it’s because I’m the type of person who would absolutely HATE such a thing and it never, ever feels “in good fun” to me. It doesn’t appear to be voluntary, and if I were a manager at this company, I’d be dreading this activity.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Same. Even if the managers can opt out, I’d personally feel bad if I was the only one that did… and probably participate anyways.

        1. Seriously?*

          This only works as an opt in event where those participating is a minority. We did something like this in grad school where maybe five professors signed up out of over 100, and they were by far the best liked professors.

    4. gladfe*

      If my current company started this, I’m 99% sure it would turn into a neck-and-neck competition between the most beloved managers, much money would be raised, and everybody would have fun. But my concern is that if it went badly, it’d be really hard to course correct. Like, what do you do if you start suspecting the votes aren’t being cast in a friendly spirit? Cancel the competition and hope people don’t figure out it’s because widely-despised Lucinda was getting too many votes? (Around here, people absolutely would figure it out.) Stay the course and let Lucinda get hit with a pie in front of an angry mob? Privately encourage Lucinda to opt out because nobody likes her? I can’t see how you get put of it without making people’s working relationships worse.

      1. Indoor Cat*

        This is a good insight as well. If you mis-judge your company’s atmosphere, do you have a plan to fix it?

        I remember in middle school we did this, and it got weirdly gendered because the every single female admin and department head opted out. Our Vice Principal was a woman, and it was conspicuous that she wasn’t an option to be pie’d while the dude who was the head of the athletics department (so, lower-ranked, presumably) was. As an adolescent, I wasn’t sure of the reason– was it because students who really hated these particular administrators might win and do something nasty? Were the women just fragile and worried about ruining their makeup? Were they pressured by someone else not to?

        Even at that age it was noticeable, and since the adults only gave vague explanations (“Oh, Ms. H and Dr. L just didn’t feel like it,”) the way we filled in the gaps ended up being really sexist, in a way that made 13-y/o me super uncomfortable but unable to really explain why.

        Clearly our principal or whoever designed the fundraiser had no idea this was going to happen and had zero plans to re-adjust. I believe people when they say that there are schools where this goes really well! But since you can’t know for sure ahead of time how well it’s gonna go, you need a Plan B before you start,

        1. Nita*

          Fear of pie in hair. Especially if they had long hair.

          Seriously though, as a woman, I don’t feel particularly fragile, but I’d feel icky for some reason getting stuff thrown at me in public. I can’t put a finger on what’s bothering me. It’s something to do with a bunch of people just standing there laughing while someone does something vaguely violent at me, in public no less. And these feelings are ridiculous, because from the comments it looks like many people see pie throwing as very innocent and fun, but there I am. I do know at least a few guys that would see pie flinging as just horsing around, and would probably be happy to volunteer.

          Still, if all the male department heads signed up, that is weird. Not every guy would enjoy this, either, so I’d also wonder if they were getting pressured into it (and why only the men were getting pressured).

          1. Indoor Cat*

            It makes me wonder about whether or not the social groups of teachers were already gendered– like, did all the dudes hang out after work and the ladies chilled somewhere else? So the men peer-pressured each other into it and the women peer-pressured each other out of it? But, tbh, I have no idea. Also, to be fair, it’s possible that some men also opted-out and I just didn’t notice.

            Also, I would probably opt-out too, and I’m a woman, so…hmm…

            One thought that struck me is, we have one professor, a woman, who’s quadreplegic– this is at my University, not the middle school I went to– and I just had a weird gut reaction to imagining pie’ing her in the face. In a hypothetical situation where we did this in our college. Like, I would never want to do that. That’d feel awful. Even if she volunteered! I think I’ve really deeply internalized, “don’t hit someone smaller / weaker than you,” even if the “hitting” is really just throwing a pie and even if the context is a game rather than bullying. But then, if everyone had that reaction, it’d be obvious that we all felt odd about it because she’s disabled, and if we treat her differently because she’s disabled, isn’t that kind of able-ist?

            I wonder if many people feel that way about men “hitting” women with a pie as well? Like there’s this weird internal thing, where it *feels* too much like bullying even though it’s obviously different. I guess I’m saying, I don’t think your feelings are “ridiculous.” Or at least, I don’t think they’re that unusual. I think the “don’t bully weaker people!” / “I don’t want to be bullied by stronger people” gut feeling is a good thing, even if it’s not rational in the context of a consensual pie-throwing fundraiser. In most situations it *is* a rational instinct, so it’s hard to turn off in this unusual context.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            It could be that because women are taught to be inclusive that throwing pie at one person seems to exclude that person?

            Or it could be based on life experience. If a person had family or friends who were toxic/bullies/ just plain mean, it could be really hard to see the “fun” of everyone throwing something/anything at another person. It’s too easy to jump to imagining ourselves as the target and everyone throwing whatever at us. It hurt in the past, how could pies ever possibly be different.

          3. Lily*

            Thanks for articulating this; I feel the same way. There’s just something uncomfortable about imagining being singled out like this and having someone throw something at me while others laugh. I’m flinching just imagining it.

      2. Whit in Ohio*

        Also, what if you expect Lucinda to respond to getting pied by evaluating every employee in her department as low performing and refusing to approve any time off?

      3. Mad Baggins*

        I think you raise the most important point, which is, how do you evaluate if your company can/should do this in a fun way? And how do you course-correct if it’s starting to get mean?

    5. Whit in Ohio*

      Also, what if the one black manager is selected as the victim every year? Or even the first year? Lots of opportunity for this to be discrimination.

  7. Forking great username*

    My old job did this with no issues, so it is possible! The managers who participated had all opted in, there were other options employees could choose besides pie tickets (maybe suggests that to your employer?), and it was always just a funny good spirited thug that happened at the end of meetings. Are you sure this is really meant as a “bad manager” thing and not just a lighthearted one? The managers that opted into it at my job all had fun with it and the people who got enough tickets to pie a manager usually picked one they were very friendly with.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Yep, we recently had one of these and it was fine. There is one manager who seems to cause a lot of people grief, and he didn’t win. One of the good ol’ boys managers ended up getting pied, so I’d say it’s more of a popularity contest here than the manager people dislike. Or, people tend to vote for someone they think would be good-natured about it.

      I would add that I didn’t participate because I don’t really like the pie in the face concept in general, either, but if the managers and their staffs think it is fun, fine. Also not a huge fan of the particular charity chosen, but I am not fundamentally opposed to it, either. The company has moved to rotating causes each year, and I do like that.

      1. Forking great username*

        Yeah, I don’t love the charity aspect of it, since that can always raise the issue of which charity, people being pressured to donate, etc. When we did these pie events you earned tickets for hitting various job-related goals, not donating money.

      2. Rachael*

        You are right about my experiences in this kind of thing. I’ve seen this a couple of times in high school and every contest I’ve seen had a “winner” that everyone likes and was down for the challenge. people tend to vote for someone who they can heckle and joke around with before the contest and none of the teachers who nobody liked ever won…because what is fun about that? And they also framed it as a “revenge” against your teacher. It really is more of a popularity contest, like other commenters are saying.

    2. Secretary*

      Yeah I think this would be hilarious. Also “get back and your manager” is probably not something to be taken literally. I would probably vote for my manager I like then go to them and tell them I voted for them. It’s all in the tone.

    3. MagicToilet*

      Adding a voice for this going well. We’ve done this and dunk tank through voting, and it way always the most-loved (or the hardass-with-a-heart-of-gold-you-can’t-help-but-admire) that would get chosen.

      There was never any pressure for managers to participate. The managers that did always seemed to enjoy it.

    4. Beatrice*

      Ours was fun-spirited, too. The 3 highest-earning managers and the 3 lowest-earning all got pied. The scores were tallied and reported daily over the course of two weeks, and there was a lot of movement in the rankings. Fergus would donate $20 to his own jar, to move himself from 12th place to 8th, Jane would donate $20 to Bob’s jar to move him up into 3rd so she was 4th, Bob told his team that he’d shave his head and get pied if they also made sure Jane got pied, Jane told her team she’d get pied in a chicken suit if Fergus got pied, etc. There was a lot of trash-talking and stakes-raising, and it all happened in the context of a larger-scale fundraising event for a great cause that the company itself contributed to heavily.

    5. Shelby Drink the Juice*

      We did this where I worked before. I was an administrative assistant at the time and I put $10 on my boss. He was so lovely to me – a great friend. And as the boss he was great too, always nice and calm even when we were going to hell in a hand basket. I knew no one would put money on him, so I did. And I told everyone!

  8. Super Anon Today*

    We do something similar for fundraising, but it’s interdepartmental and whichever department raises the LEAST, their department heads get pie’d. It’s less targeted this way because there are many departments participating internally, and actually raises more money because department heads will donate a lot of money to the cause in order to save themselves. The planning teams in each department also advertise it this way, like “save Bob and July! Donate today!” If the planning team is open to this kind of setup, that may be a better option in the future.

    1. uranus wars*

      We have 2 competitive departments where I work and last year they did something like this but the WINNER got to pie their manager, it gave them incentive to win. The 2 managers spent a few weeks deciding what they’d be willing to do if they were the winning department. Everyone had a blast with it but we definitely left it up to the managers to come up with something they were both willing to do before everyone got behind it.

      I could see it going wrong, too, though. So I guess I could be talked either way on this one.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I like this idea because it puts lets pressure on the staff. The “keep Lucinda from getting pied” could end up like those food drives where people are pressured and it just gets out of control.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          That’s what it sounds like is happening here. I assume that “winning” means having the most amount of money.

    2. Totally Minnie*

      As a manager, I might quit over this. Getting a pie in the face because I have a small staff, or more of my staff have cash flow issues than the people in other departments is a seriously humiliating punishment and I would NOT be down for it.

      Now if the situation were different and TPTB were looking for volunteers to be pied for charitable purposes, I might volunteer. But the way this organization sets it up is punishment for something the actual department head has very little control over, and I am 100% not cool with it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I could see myself quitting over this. You know, we face challenges at work but those challenges are part of the work itself. This type of challenge is avoidable, there is no need.

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    This is my biggest pet peeve about workplace fundraising.

    Companies, if you want to donate to charity, then donate to charity out of your own funds. Don’t pressure employees to contribute individually. (I used to work at a charity, and EVERY charity makes it crystal clear to anyone how to donate. There’s no confusion.) Don’t make up cutsey gimmicks to get employees to donate. Don’t do this match-for-match (up to a certain amount of course) nonsense either. Don’t make people douse themselves in ice water or pay to wear jeans.

    If you’re going to donate, just do it with an amount that all higher ups can agree on and be done with it.

    1. Veggies are good for you*

      Don’t make up cutsey gimmicks to get employees to donate.

      Except as anyone who has raised money for charities knows, cutsey gimmicks help. Otherwise it’s just “eat your vegetables, kid.”

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        And that’s fine. I think it’s better if those come from the charity itself.

        Putting it in a work environment is what I object to.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        But wouldn’t your casual days be much more enjoyable if you didn’t have to pay for them? If your company just gave the charitable donation themselves and let people wear jeans once or twice a week?

    2. NW Mossy*

      I appreciate the matching contribution (my employer does $2 to my $1) because frankly, the charities I typically donate to are not ones that will ever get my employer’s attention as a recipient. They’re either too small, based in other parts of the country, supportive of issues too charged for a big employer, and/or all of the above. With the match, these organizations can benefit from corporate giving in a way that would inaccessible otherwise.

    3. OP*

      Agreed. I’ve long been annoyed that they have so many charity fundraisers throughout the year where the employees bear the brunt of coming up with most of the donations.

      Thankfully they’ve never been too terribly pushy about it. But there have been a few committee members over the years who try to use guilt trip tactics to get people to donate. I’ve had to use Alison’s advice on saying ‘no’ to people like that a few times.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        This might be a time to get on the committee and direct it toward a new event. Like the subversive wellness committee member who helped end the Reign of Terror, you, as a new member can come in with fresh ideas. Say that the pie thing has not become an annual milestone, but a played out thing that is actually stressing people out.

      2. Cat Herder*

        Robert Cormier, The Chocolate War (the book is waaaaay better than the movie). Fundraising at a Catholic high school. Chilling. I read it when I was in high school in the 70s.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I can imagine – I only read one book of his, fifteen years ago, and it’s still giving me occasional nightmares! “The Rag and Bone Shop”.

    4. AnotherAlison*

      I don’t oppose asking for individual contributions, as long as it isn’t high pressure or the donors get a fantastic reward that lower income employees are missing out on. (We used to get a month of free jeans Fridays and a catered lunch if you turned in your United Way form. I never did, just on principle that I got sick of the 20 emails and hour long presentation telling me to do it. But, things have changed here and I’ll do it if you leave me alone about it.)

      My company also did a food bank sorting and boxing thing last fall that gave people an opportunity to participate without giving money. . .but then I read someone’s article complaining about corporations doing that. It was a NFP leader asking corporations not to come volunteer for a day so that employees feel good about themselves, blah, blah, it’s disruptive for them, just send your money instead. I didn’t react well to that. I don’t love to volunteer anyway, so fine, I’ll stay home (and keep my money) if that’s how the NFPs really feel about us corporate types.

      1. LarsTheRealGirl*

        I don’t think it’s how they feel about “corporate types”, I think it’s the reality of their situation. They didn’t say “don’t come volunteer because we don’t like you”, they said “don’t come volunteer for a single day because it’s disruptive to our cause and makes it harder for us to function. if you really want to help, money helps.”

        The person receiving the donation (of money or time) needs to be able to dictate what’s helpful and what’s not. If you’re turning that into “well then I’m just not going to give money or time because you didn’t want it in the way I wanted to give it”…well, that’s pretty disingenuous charity.

        1. Indoor Cat*

          I see where you’re coming from, but can we be real for a second? People who are either impoverished or working class or lower-middle-class (I’ve been more than one of these), often feel a deep desire, internally, to give back to our community and help the struggling people here. Partly because our community is people we know and love personally; partly because we feel a sense of imbalance– that is, I’ve benefited from this food pantry or this domestic violence shelter, so now that I’m in a better place I want to help.

          But I can’t donate a lot of money. It’s embarrassing how high a percentage of my paycheck makes such a little impact. When I was in a worse, more shame-filled place, my counselor had to talk me out of giving literally half my paycheck per week away to groups in my community, because I felt like $X was what it it would take to “count” as a real, proper donation.

          She suggested that I volunteer instead. But at the time, it turned out I couldn’t volunteer anywhere given the limitations of my time imposed by my body and my work schedule. And that just felt…awful. Like I had nothing valuable to offer. Like the people who helped me were allowed to because they’re fundamentally better people than me. It took years of therapy to undo the mental connection where “Wealthy + Healthy = Better, More Virtuous, More Deserving of Love / Pride / Dignity.”

          I don’t think I could bring myself to go back to a specific shelter knowing that, now; the condescension and indignity is too painful. More painful, honestly, than the physical pain of sleeping outside, which fortunately I don’t have to do; as an Official Corporate Type, I have other options nowadays.

          Like, an NFP can dress it up in whatever language you want, but “don’t volunteer in this XYZ way” or “don’t donate less than abc dollars” or “don’t specify donations go towards the sub-programs that are meaningful to you specifically” is still going to make people feel like crap. People are going to hear, “We’re too good for your money / your time / your personal history.” It doesn’t matter how much PR spin you put on it.

          1. LarsTheRealGirl*

            But that’s really something you need to deal with personally without putting the onus on those that need help.

            If they’re saying “don’t come this day because it will disrupt our operations and make it MORE difficult to help people”, showing up that day anyways to make yourself feel better is helping you at the expense of hurting them. You’re making it about you. If you’re really trying to help and give back, it needs to be about them.

            1. Indoor Cat*

              “__If they’re saying “don’t come this day because it will disrupt our operations and make it MORE difficult to help people”, showing up that day anyways to make yourself feel better is helping you at the expense of hurting them.__”

              I mean, that’d be a relevant example if AnotherAlison or I did, um, anything like that at all. But that wasn’t what happened. AnotherAlison said she participated in “a sorting and boxing thing” that allowed people to volunteer without donating money and use her own free time to do something that genuinely needed to get done– things needed to get sorted and boxed.

              But apparently, and maybe I’m misreading AnotherAlison, the NFP wanted a greater time commitment from those willing to give away their physical labor for free. Sorry if I’m misunderstanding and they actually wanted to pay people to sort boxes for long periods of time– if that’s the case I’m actually all in favor. By all means, pay people for work. But, it seems like they wanted a greater time commitment than a day per month, but they didn’t want to pay for people’s labor even though the greater time commitment would mean less time available to do paid work (or to rest and rejuvenate; work can’t be your whole life, after all).

              In my experience, and [I think] AnotherAlison’s, it wasn’t just someone saying, “Oh, we’ve already got all the volunteers we need on Saturday; how about a different day?” they were literally saying, “We don’t value a day’s labor from you; unless you can commit to 20 hours a month [or whatever the number is], we’d rather you didn’t come at all.”

              Honestly, if you’re in an NFP that works with impoverished, financially struggling, or disabled people, I really hope your organization thinks about the message it sends to the people you help when you reject people who are like us as volunteers. Your good intentions of just wanting to keep things streamlined and organized don’t matter when your clients realize an org doesn’t respect us as people; instead they just pity us, which is why only able-bodied / middle class people are allowed to volunteer.

              I promise, when I was being helped by social services to get food and housing, seeing a disabled volunteer, or hearing from someone who used to be in my position and got out and seeing them being treated like an equally valued member of the team, would’ve helped me a great deal. I can’t imagine how I could’ve been harmed, even if that person wasn’t someone I ever saw again.

              So the argument that someone who wanted to give back after surviving and escaping from poverty and abuse, and doing that by helping me carry a bag of groceries that I couldn’t handle on my own and genuinely empathizing with my experience, was somehow trying to feel good at my expense, is frankly not only false, but harmfully so.

              You know what was harmful? Only slightly, but annoying so? Constantly being helped by clueless, middle class white college grads who clearly had zero idea what it took to make the calculation that, yes, I need to physically get up and get a ride somehow to the food shelf, and how emotionally draining that process is, and then if the bag is too heavy I need help with it, and how embarrassing it is if I need to take a break and sit in the middle of the aisle, and are they going to be decent about it or are they going to make a big thing of it? Are they going to comment on what’s in my bag, because they took a nutrition studies class and it’s a bad idea now to have a carb and a protein and artificial sugar in one meal?

              It’s just like. Exhausting. But hey, they made the time commitment! You can bet that those girls were literally there every single week! So reliable.

              Sometimes the whole concept of charity seems crap from all sides. Sometimes I want there to be a thing where everyone gets helped and everyone pitches in fairly, as much as they can muster, and nobody gets judged for needing more or helping more. So there’s no us (givers) or them (recipients), because everybody is both. But I’m not sure such a thing ever existed. And I don’t know if can be something we make exist in the future. Every suggestion for improvement is met with argument, no matter how small and no matter who it comes from, because nobody in charge of us has ever been a them, and none of them get the opportunity to become us. That’s just the way it is, right?

              I don’t know. I sucked it up and got the help I needed when things got bad. But I wish getting that help didn’t involve subsuming my own pride and dignity.

          2. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

            But it’s not about PR spin or condescension? Whenever I’ve seen those articles, it’s about the very frank reality of what donators THINK will help vs. what will actually help. It’s like when people go on service trips abroad to build wells or schools in impoverished areas, but then after they leave with that afterglow of pride and I Did Good Work, the residents have to tear it down or put in extra costs to fix amateur work.

            I get what you’re saying, but NFPs talking honestly about the ways in which outsiders don’t get their work isn’t specifically hurtful towards working class people or extra greedy, it’s about being honest and transparent.

            1. Indoor Cat*

              Hmm. I can definitely see your point regarding people barging in to volunteer in a community that’s not their own. That’s a real key difference, I think.

              Someone giving back to their own community knows the needs of the people in that community, sometimes more intimately that the non-community member leader with a degree in Non-Profit Studies. I think that’s a vital thing to remember, and many people overlook. But a bunch of people trying to feel good by going to someone else’s community and just doing whatever they feel like can definitely be destructive.

              So I definitely see the point there. But, I still think that in cases where all would-be volunteers are helping their own community, it’s important to organize in ways that don’t exclude community members who are less well off or whose talents and skills are less obvious. I don’t think it’s an either / or; it’s possible to be transparent about what needs are most pressing and also get those needs met by volunteers with limitations on their time or budget that are less than optimal.

      2. Polymer Phil*

        I’m a longtime volunteer with a nonprofit organization, and a lot of the frequent volunteers I work with first became involved during some one-day event their employer did years ago. I think any disruption caused is more than made up for by the great people we’ve recruited this way.

        1. LarsTheRealGirl*

          I think that can be true at certain places – and clearly is at yours – but I think a lot of places don’t see that return.

          Soup kitchens tend to be overwhelmed with volunteers on Thanksgiving or Christmas, and have to mobilize their own resources to help manage, train, etc. But then those people don’t return to help on the following Tuesday – when it really matters – or regularly, so that they’re not having to be managed as closely.

          I think this is the same as when clothing donation sites say things like “we really need more winter coats and gloves”. You can donate your entire summer wardrobe, but if they have no place to keep it, and no need for it right now, it’s not helpful.

          I would think most people would want to know that their help and charity is actually helpful, vs making themselves feel better while making other people’s lives harder.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            My organization does an annual food drive for the local food bank. When we were getting it set up, we asked the food bank manager what time of year would be best for them. We don’t want to collect a thousand pounds of food donations during a time when they already get bunches of donations and have nowhere to store the stuff we’re sending. We want to help them out when they need it, not just when it makes us feel good.

    5. Wrenn*

      I don’t like it much either. I understand the intention, but having been in a low paying position where I could pay my bills and only my bills, being prodded into donating to charity was uncomfortable. Especially when it was a competition where it was noticed how much or little everyone contributed.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Ding, ding, ding! We have the number one reason why workplace fundraising is terrible!

        That’s why employers should donate if they want to or not. But pressuring employees, who may not support the charity in question, isn’t a solution.

        Plus it’s extra shady if the employees donate through the employer. The employer gets a tax write off!

        1. Feline*

          I have read conflicting things about whether the company gets a write off or not from passing employee contributions along with their matching funds. Or simply passing along employee contributions and saying, “This is from AwesomeCo. Aren’t we great?”

          Either way, it’s not good for employees to be pressured to make charitable donations. My tiny act of resistance is a mail folder where I put all of the emails with the requests and reminders to donate. I can use it to look back over several years’ worth and calculate that on average we receive one every 4.2 days.

          1. Snarkus Aurelius*

            To get the tax write off, the individual would have to donate directly to the charity. At the end of the year, the tax forms go out from the charity, and you can note it on your taxes.

            But if employees are forced to give it to the company that puts it in one lump sum, then the write off goes toward the employer…for funds it didn’t originally donate.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              That’s why I always refuse to donate at the cash register. If the big retailer wants to donate, they can donate, instead of “allowing” me to donate a buck that gets funneled through them, and possibly nets them a tax deduction.

      2. EddieSherbert*


        My work does an annual charity event (that ALWAYS falls on my annual vacation after school lets out) and strongly pushes for 100% participation by either donating, volunteering, or doing the thing. There’s a giant board in the break room with ALL of our names on it indicating how we’re participating for the couple months leading up to it. And in the final monthly leading up to the event, HR sends you weekly emails if you haven’t signed up for anything and your manager brings it up in your weekly one-on-ones.

        It’s a great charity that I never want to do anything with ever because of how I get semi-publicly shamed every darn year because I’m not involved in this one event.

        1. MLB*

          All of that pressure would make me want to do nothing for it based on principle. I would set up rules for those emails to go to directly into my deleted items folder. And when my boss mentioned it in our 1 on 1 meetings, I’d remind him that I was hired to do my job and that being forced to participate in the charity was not part of my job.

    6. Libervermis*

      Totally with you here. I have been volunteering of my own volition since I was 10 years old and I have a “charitable donation” line item in my budget. I’m not interested in my workplace dictating my charitable activities and I’m especially not interested in any workplace taking the credit for employee donations. As a consumer my reaction to companies bragging about how much they donated to United Way or whatever is neutral to negative because I know it comes from employees rather than from profits or from upper management.

      Matching donations is fine with me, offering PTO specifically (and optionally) for volunteer/pro bono work is fine with me. If a company puts *company* money where their mouth is I’m impressed, otherwise keep it out of the workplace.

    7. TIFF*

      I hate the idea to donate to wear jeans… my company did this but no one told me donations were mandatory. I got slapped with a $120 bill after my first year because that was deemed the going rate!
      Never participated in jean day after that, sure $10\month isn’t much but it is too much when you can’t make ends meet.
      Donating is a very personal and touchy subject. Any events should be around donations itself – like top fundraisers get their name in a raffle or a day off.

        1. Forking great username*

          Yeah when my company did this they just bought a stack of paper plates and cans of cool whip.

        2. not really a lurker anymore*

          My kids school did whip cream too.

          The athletic director seems to take the brunt of the fund raising “bonuses” – he’s been pied, had water dumped on him, dressed up in multiple silly costumes. The district stopped letting them use a dunk tank a few years ago.

          Someone got duct taped to a wall this year – I think it was the principal. He promptly fell off as the kids didn’t use anywhere near enough tape to keep him on a wall. I’m hoping this one won’t be repeated.

      1. Eliza*

        Yeah. Maybe this is just my own weird personal thing, but I was raised to never, ever waste food, so the idea of deliberately wasting it for a “fun” event is a complete mood-killer for me. (My maternal grandparents grew up in starvation-level poverty and had ongoing health problems in adulthood because of it, so that’s probably part of the reason it was such a big deal in my family.)

    1. WeNamedTheDogIndiana*

      I maintain that nothing will ever top or be so well-deserved as Anita Bryant’s pie in the face, and we should stop trying.

  10. Roscoe*

    As Alison said, this really varies.

    We had a thing like that when I was a teacher, and a teacher would get pied. The teacher who “won” was usually someone well liked who the kids thought would be fun, it wasn’t used as vengence. But I guess I could see that being an option

  11. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

    We (the teachers and principal) used to do this as a fundraising award for a charity of our students’ choice when I taught high school. The teachers got to “opt in” to join being pied in the face.

    Personally, I always signed up. The students knew I tend to be a bit straight-laced and uptight – so getting a pie thrown at me and seeing that I thought it was funny was good for all of us. (The other good time was my annual winning “Ugly Christmas Sweater” that I wired with lights myself….handsewn tinsel pom poms…..the world’s worst hand appliqued Christmas tree made of felt and whatever I was for Halloween)

    I’d feel differently if we couldn’t opt out – and the students would have been bothered, too. For all that we were an urban alternative education school that was chronically underfunded, the teachers and students respected and cared for each other.

    1. Birch*

      Love the ugly Christmas sweater! I had a professor in college who was well known for being really prim–straight out of American Gothic, complete with all-black loose clothing and tight bun. The upperclassmen in the program would tell the younger ones about the last day in class when she would “really let her hair down” and leave them to wonder how fun and crazy it got. Well, she would literally let her waist-length hair down just for that one day a year!

      But seriously, the mutual knowledge that it’s all opt-in is so important for these things. There’s no room for suspicion or being unsure whether someone really wants to participate–that just erodes trust.

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

    I think it’s done in good fun, even if it’s billed tongue-in-cheek as a “get back”. On my university campus we have lots of similar contests that the faculty and administration participate in — dunk tank during Club Day manned by a dean or popular faculty member, Pie in the Face, Kiss a Pig — seriously the little piggy is the cutest thing EVER, I would love to kiss her. These are all done in fun and totally opt in by the “victims”.

  13. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    This is a good answer, Alison. Tone is so important in stuff like this, and can make a whole world of difference in whether it looks like a fun and morale-building event or whether it’s public shaming o’clock.

    My company does this, for the record, and it’s treated in a very lighthearted, fun way; the managers themselves participate quite a bit and treat it like something of a joking rivalry, where getting a lot of money used as votes against them is a badge of pride, but then also whipping up folks to donate “against” other managers is also a pastime.

  14. Cassandra*

    In general I’m not a fan of cringe humor, humor that can come at someone’s expense… and this question opens a larger question to me of whether such humor can ever be work-appropriate.

    I would argue no, and that causes me to hard pass on pie-ing or dunk tanking anyone at work.

    (Personally, I would absolutely leave a managerial position over this. I’m fat. The extra edge to pie-in-the-face humor can safely be left as an exercise for AAM readers, I trust.)

    1. Wrenn*

      I agree. I don’t think this type of thing is appropriate in any work setting, and I’m okay with being “no fun”. Thing is, this sort of activity ISN’T fun for me. I am not having fun. I am cringing and wishing I could vanish. That’s a big part of the problem. Often, it isn’t fun for everyone. It’s fun for the most vocal/most powerful people involved.

      I wouldn’t quit over such a thing, but I’d probably make it a point to be very sick and not be able to attend the “festivities”.

  15. kallisti*

    My spouse’s company has an incentive where if the employees get a perfect score on a secret shopper report, they get to choose a manager who has to wear their uniform and run a register for a shift. For every sequential month their score is perfect, it goes one up the chain — so the first month, they vote on a regular manager, the second month, it’s the first assistant, then the GM, then the regional manager, and then I think there’s a pizza party or something.

    I have never been prouder of my husband (a first assistant) then when one of his staff told me it was wasted on him, since he takes a register so often anyway.

    The point, though, is that it drives me (and my spouse) batty. Doing the front-line customer service work shouldn’t been seen as ridiculous or silly or degrading for management to do. It’s the same motivation behind this pie thing, I think — let’s make the manager do something unpleasant because we don’t like them — but with a whole extra level of division and classism.

    1. Bea*

      It doesn’t have to be viewed like an unpleasant task. I’ve known enough cashiers who enjoy what they do. It’s about them being put on show and in front of the general public. To struggle. Because the longer you’re away from the front lines, the harder dealing with a POS and customers can be.

      I’ve has owners who still pull chain or fill in on job sites. They get teased by how slow they are. It goes so many ways and they know damn well their crew is damn good at making hard work look like any one can do it.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I could see that as a positive thing, if it is not framed as being degrading for the manager. It gives them better insight into what the staff on the registers are dealing with, especially if they wear a uniform that doesn’t indicate they are management.
      It might be better if it were part of the regular programme rather than a reward for good results, but having the staff member get to choose could also be a really good thing, as they probably have the clearest idea of which managers have unrealistic expectations of staff.
      But yes, if it is framed as the manager getting forced to do something ‘beneath’ them then it’s not a good way of achieving that.

      1. pope suburban*

        Agreed. I’ve had a number of otherwise perfectly lovely managers in my life who had been out of the front-line stuff so long, they didn’t have an accurate picture of what my day-to-day looked like. Getting a refresher would probably have helped them a lot.

    3. Nita*

      Agreed with Bagpuss – that experience could definitely be a good thing, especially for those who did not start out “on the ground”, though it would really help if it wasn’t framed as a punishment. Also, your husband sounds like an awesome manager!

  16. Bea*

    This is the kind of thing I can see happening in a lot of places I’ve been involved in. It’s all jovial good fun but with 100+ employees that makes things less of a small group where it’s easier to know the personalities involved. I can see why others are cautious or uncomfortable about it.

    We’re usually the jokesters. I’ve dressed up in stupid costumes during events. I’ll jump in a dunk tank or take a pie for charity.

  17. Sunflower*

    This seems like a lot of worry over something minor. I’ve worked in many companies where we had similar fundraisers (once it was water balloons, another it was ‘duct tape your boss to the wall’.) In my experience, it isn’t the truly bad managers who get voted in, but the ones who are the most fun, because they’re the ones encouraging their employees to vote for them. There’s often a spirit of camaraderie about these things.

    Don’t participate if you don’t want to, obviously, but don’t begrudge people having some harmless fun. Sometimes a pie is just a pie.

  18. neverjaunty*

    In the imaginary perfect corporate culture Alison mentions, there wouldn’t BE a pie-your-manager contest. The whole point of a pie in the face is mild humiliation. People don’t feel the need to take bosses down a notch when their relationship with management is good.

    1. Lucy*

      Well….this is sort of what I was thinking, except not an imaginary corporate culture, just a particularly good one. Where I work, bosses tend to treat us like adults and listen to concerns respectfully. It’s not an egalitarian utopia (there is a hierarchy) but something like this contest just would feel really tonally off and not ‘fit’.

  19. samiratou*

    My company does a slightly similar thing (well, one department does) for “Pi/e Day” on March 14, except that people nominate those they would like to see pied, the nominees then pick a charity for donations. In reality everyone who gets nominated gets pied regardless of amount raised for charity, but it’s all in good fun and someone could turn down a nomination, and both peers and managers can be nominated. I think I’ve seen as high as director get pied, but not the VP…

  20. Naomi*

    My high school did this with math teachers on Pi Day! But the teachers volunteered to be pied, and it wasn’t an unpopularity contest–some of the teachers who were pied were very well-liked, precisely because they were the sort of people who could take the whole thing in a humorous spirit. If the person being pied is actually humiliated by the experience, it stops being all in good fun and becomes toxic.

    1. Secretary*

      Yep, one fundraiser when I was in high school, the Vice Principal allowed some seniors to slowly duct tape him to the wall (you could pay like a dollar to put a piece of tape on him). At the end of the day they removed the stool from under his feet while everyone applauded. He went from being well liked to EXTREMELY well liked.

    2. PizzaDog*

      Same here. One of my favourite teachers always volunteered (still does, from what I see on Facebook), it’s all very good natured.

  21. OP*

    After reading Alison’s response it made me realize something: back when this event was first started, the company was actually a fairly happy and healthy work environment for employees. Since then we’ve been bought out which came with a lot of layoffs. The general work environment has decreased in quality because of that. This has probably had a change in tone of this particular fundraiser that I hadn’t realized until just now.

    FWIW I’m actually on the employee planning committee this year (not by my choice) and considered trying to change this event to something else. However, it has always been the highest donation generating fundraiser, so there’s not much chance it will go away.
    Some members of the committee floated the idea of opening up voting to all employees, not just managers. I took a firm stance against that and it didn’t get any traction, thankfully

    1. J.B.*

      Yeah, I can see that being an issue. Maybe suggest some alternative options (even if they don’t get taken up, suggest them) like some silly hat to wear? Or at least suggest extra time off as an option for the winner – positive motivation instead of negative.

    2. Grits McGee*

      Oy vey on the voting to pie normal employees. Good on you OP for nipping that one in the bud.

    3. Wrenn*

      I think this is why this sort of thing is so tricky. It can be all in good fun, everyone is having a good time, it’s silly and enjoyable…….. but it can easily become fun only for some people. With the right atmosphere and group of people, it can be great. Change that though, and the “fun” nosedives.

    4. MagicToilet*

      That makes a lot of sense. In work environments that have been positive, I’ve always looked forward to these kind of fun events. But in bad environments, I’ve dreaded them.

      These kinds of things can’t improve morale when there’s real issues bringing everyone down.

      Good job on taking a stance against regular employees getting pied. As is said: you can punch up, not down.

    5. Bea*

      I’m pissy now that you say they’re laying off people but still going about business like nothing is wrong. This is a fun event for a functional organization but with these details takes the wind out of my sails.

      You shouldn’t be asking people to donate when job security has been rocked either. Wtf.

    6. animaniactoo*

      Yeah, that’s the kind of thing I was afraid of too – it USED to be fine, but now it’s not and how do you indicate that without publicly declaring that your company morale has gone to the dogs?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I’d look over the numbers. While this may be the highest money making event, is it increasing or decreasing each year? Are the other events decreasing as this one increases? Does it take more and more people to make a little more money each year? Do you feel you have to start advertising it earlier and earlier or you will not surpass last year’s total?

        Can employees afford it? For example are the employees making 20k a year and expected to donate $50 per pie.
        What’s the undercurrent in the culture? Are there more and more eye rolls at the mention of the event?

        What is the company’s goal with donating to this particular charity? Does the goal make sense anymore?
        What is the reputation of the charity involved? Has it been under scrutiny lately?

        Asking a series of practical questions might help people to think through what they are doing and why they are doing it. It might have been a bunch of fun 10 years ago, but is it still having the same benefit today?

    7. Shelby Drink the Juice*

      Well that sucks about the culture. Layoffs never bode for happy morale and I can see why this event has changed to the negative.

      As a member of the committee try suggesting other things. One thing we did at a previous employer was sell Valentines and cupcakes. Each cupcake was $1 and you got to fill out a workplace appropriate Valentine (Your work is A+, etc nothing lovey dovey). You need volunteers to make cupcakes, but with a box mix and frosting it’s not too expensive. We also did a day where we sold hotdogs and brats for a $1 and add chips and a Anne’s soda for another $1 thing. We were able to raise a lot, because people like me would just donate the cupcakes or hotdogs.

      Do you have assigned parking? We’d get those with “good” spots to raffle theirs off for a day or week.

  22. Aitch Arr*

    They do this at my son’s camp, but the annual ‘pie-ee’ is the Camp Manager. My son is 11.

    They also do a dunk tank with the counselors as the ‘dunk-ees’. (Not to be confused with Dunkies.)

    I can’t imagine this at a corporate level.

    1. Squeeble*

      Yeah, it reminds me of end-of-the-year events at my school when I was younger. For a company, it seems…weird.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        Same – the closest I’ve ever got to this was primary school summer fetes, where we paid to throw wet sponges at the teachers and other staff (who were all volunteers). That was the 90s though so I’m not sure if it happens much these days…

  23. The Person from the Resume*


    20+ years ago in college I was a victim of such a “fun” fundraiser for an organization. I did not take it well. I don’t believe it was done in a malicious manor (rather good-naturedly). I wasn’t beloved, for sure, but I wasn’t hated either. Honestly I had long forgotten about it until this post brought it back to my mind so it wasn’t a traumatically embarrassing event. But my personality at the time could not take good-naturedly. I was being singled out for attention (which I hated) and embarrassed in front my peers. It was hurtful.

    Especially with the “revenge” tone of the publicity, this is a terrible idea. I think some people could take a pie well (even encourage people on to vote for them to raise money), but not all people especially with the framing that the managers are getting it because they are not liked.

    I feel like a dunk tank is a different tone especially if someone chooses to sit in it (rather than being picked from all managers), but there’s too much possibility for someone tossing the balls to seem to too much like revenge instead of fun.

  24. I'll think of a clever name later...maybe.*

    My old job did this and it was all done in fun. The person who got the most votes always did a dramatic reaction when they were announced. One year the manager who won (the year of the hanging chad) demanded a recount and asked who in the crowd came from Florida. Another year a pregnant manager lost and volunteered to take the place of the person who won because she had “a craving for pie.” The guy who won that year decided to let her share the honor that year. She came dressed as Pac-Man. LOL!

  25. Jen RO*

    I am not American, so the concept of pieing someone is something I just know from cartoons, so this may be influencing my opinion… but this idea strikes me as very… juvenile? As a manager I would absolutely hate it and as an employee I wouldn’t want to see the managers getting a pie to the face. Just… why?

    1. fposte*

      It’s definitely juvenile, but that’s the genre. Not that this has any effect on your view, but in reality the “pie” usually ends up being a pie tin full of shaving cream, not an actual pie.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        Ugh! A pie tin of edible whipped cream, I hope. That way they can lick it off their lips and pretend to eat it.

        1. fposte*

          I think shaving cream holds its shape longer and may be cheaper, but I just went down a rabbit hole of kids having skin irritation from shaving cream pies in the face, so that’s another reason to go for whipped cream.

          1. Bea*

            It’s cheaper for sure. But stings the eyes and if ingested is no good! It’s your face, it should be edible!

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      Not shaving cream I hope — whipping cream! But again, not actual pie. I learned the hard way that actual pie kind of hurts.

  26. Hello Sweetie*

    My work place has a company picnic every year that includes a dunk tank. Only higher level managers are in the tank and it’s opt-in (I think it’s the same 3-4 people every year). But pie-in-the-face seems meaner, especially if it’s not opt-in. If it’s a very congenial environment it could work, but sometimes it’s hard to see all the dynamics, and someone could take it very badly.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I’m not understanding the dunk-tank thing. But then, the only time I’ve been around one, it was a very hot day and we were lining up to be the one getting dunked. (I’m pretty sure I got dunked. I’m pretty sure the water was gross.)

  27. OP*

    For clarification, to the best of my knowledge the managers do have the option to opt-out. However, knowing the social dynamics of this place, I would not be at all surprised to find out that it’s not *really* an option.

    1. Belle8bete*

      The fake opt out option is cruddy. It takes special effort to make it clear to people that they really can opt out!

    2. Normally a Lurker*

      This is the part that makes it hard.

      First off, managers should “opt in”

      At my Fortune 500 finical firm, there are quite a few managers who would DEF opt into something like this for charity (including the 2nd and 3rd in command). And that’s great. And it would be therefore fun BC we know they volunteered to be voted for.

      But opt-out (and not even a real opt out) makes this icky for me.

  28. Belle8bete*

    In education or camp settings (anything that works with youth) this is not unusual and hopefully run appropriately so as not to turn into hazing (which it can…).

    It is maybe a bit unusual for other industries (but I’ve always been in the Arts/education so I wouldn’t know). It depends on your workplace. It also depends on whether you make people agree to get pie’d on the spot or in private (making it clear that “it is totally fine to not do this! No pressure at all!”).

    I think folks forget that there are many different work places with different work cultures. They are different, but can still be functional! Sometimes I see blanket statements against things that really are fine and dandy in certain settings. I know that many of us are introverts or avoid team building or work related fun, but that’s us! Others feel differently (and as long as there is choice and thoughtfulness given) then that’s totally okay…

  29. Rebecca in Dallas*

    I’ve been pied in the face at work and I was NOT happy.

    When I was a retail manager, my store was forced to fundraise for a non-profit (it’s a common one, not one I particularly like to support but I usually just kept my head down and threw in a few dollars every year). My store manager thought it would be a fun idea to let people donate $5 to pie any manager in the face. He did not clear this with the managers ahead of time, he brought it up at our monthly store-wide meeting and it was to happen then and there. There wasn’t a winner, people could just choose who they wanted for $5, one associate chose me. It wasn’t supposed to be a mean-spirited thing and the associate who chose me was one I got along with, but I honestly was not happy. This was in the morning before our store opened, so I had to wash my face (I hadn’t brought back-up makeup for face wash with me, I hadn’t expected to get a pie in the f**king face), so I had to just rinse off my face and hairline and then head to a nearby store to get some face wash. I have super sensitive skin, so of course I broke out in a mild rash.

    I already had a bad taste in my mouth about the charity and its fundraising tactics, this didn’t help. It also didn’t help my relationship with my store manager.

    1. Bea*

      Omg this is awful. I wonder if the associate thought you were in on it and that’s why they were like “yeah! I choose you!!” Now that’s malicious on the side of the ass who decided to spring it on everyone.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas*

        Oh, she absolutely thought that! She didn’t have any ill-will at all, I totally blame my store manager.

        Ugh, thinking about it made me mad all over again! I’m so glad I’m not at that company any more.

    2. OP*

      Wow, that was ridiculous that your manager to think everyone would just automatically be okay with that.

  30. Lisa Babs*

    They did this at the dance camp I went to when I was 12. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. I believe It was framed and getting back at the instructor that made you work hard and was hard on you (not necessarily didn’t like). But I never understood it. Even at 12. So I agree with the OP that I wouldn’t even watch it.

    But even though I never liked it…. most people (kids and adults) seem to love it and think its hilarious.

    1. Belle8bete*

      I have a problem with “let’s get back at the teacher who makes us work…you know because that’s what you should be doing in dance class”

      Ugh messed up.

  31. Bagpuss*

    I would be quite uncomfortable with this, and even if it is possible for managers to opt out I can see there could be problems with them coming under pressure to ‘opt in’
    If you don’t think you have the pull to stop it, I would try to change it so that the potential pie-ees are all volunteers and people get to vote on a ballot of volunteers, so that no-one gets forced into being pie’d if they are not comfortable with it.

    I recall something similar one year when I was in school, where the victims were staff members but they all volunteered, and it was only 4 or 5 people (out of a staff of about 10 times that number, so I’m fairly sure that no-one was coerced or would have been pressured to volunteer in order to fit in)

  32. Jane*

    I think it would be way better to structure this as having the most senior manager/owner/whatever you call your top person be the one to get a pie in the face, and then people can donate by buying “tickets” to be the one to actually do the pie-ing, like a raffle. That seems a lot more fun-spirited than the “let’s see who is hated most” game this could turn into.

  33. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

    My employer does a pie fundraiser like this as part of a much larger campaign – it’s just one event in a whole month of fundraising for a particular cause (it’s an industry-wide fundraiser). It’s a very light-hearted event, and many managers participate. Anyone can pay $5 or $10 to pie whichever manager is on the docket, and they have 4-5 up at a time. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of joking around with your team when your leader is up. They’ll auction off the higher levels – someone paid nearly $1k to pie the CEO this year. Or rather, said she would pay $1k if someone else actually put the pie in his face.

  34. BlueWolf*

    We’ve done this at my workplace, but the people getting pie’d volunteer to participate I think, and they actually get competitive trying to be the “winner”. So tone is definitely key.

  35. Peter the Bubblehead*

    It’s a tradition in the US Navy to celebrate ‘Half-Way Night’ at the mid-point of a (usually six month long) deployment.

    One of the traditions during Half-Way Night is the auctioning of cream pies, with the auction winner getting to choose who among the crew is going to receive it. Quite often, it is the department heads and the division officers who wind up receiving the pie in the face in front of everyone on crew’s mess.

    Two of the three captains I served on deployments with were disappointed when no one among the crew seemed willing to buy a pie for them. In one case the cooks had to hastily create an extra pie just so the captain would not be disappointed. (The other wound up being the final recipient of the dozen pies that were auctioned.)

    If done in good fun and received in the same way, a pie in the face isn’t always a bad thing and can be a morale boost.

  36. ginger ale for all*

    My mother’s work back in the 80’s had a fund raiser where all the manager’s were ‘jailed’ and they had to call on people to make bail money to get them out. I greatly enjoyed telling all my friends that my mom was in jail and my dad had to go and bail her out. This was a charity thing runs by the nuns and my mother loved it. She got to sit in a paper mache jail and read magazines and chat with her other managers.

    One charity thing that I remember that turned in to be a mean spirited one was one at my college dorm where they had jars out with all the resident advisors names on them. You would put in coins as a negative vote and paper money as a positive vote and then they would balance out the jars at the end of the night to see how the negative and positive scores would total. So if you had 100 pennies and one dollar bill you would have a zero score. If you had 150 dimes and one dollar, you had -50 score. I remember that there was a particularly nasty RA that no one liked and it became a thing to go and get coins and pour them into the jar when she was on shift at the desk in front of the jars. I was in line one time to do it with the crowd and am guilty of it myself. I was very happy that the college housing people started taking our complaints about her seriously after seeing how much her score was not in line with the other RA’s. The incident that pushed me into getting a couple of rolls of coins was when the fire alarm in my room went off and it would not turn off on a Friday night. No one was in my room when it first went off and no one could turn it off. Since it was a Friday night, we had to get the RA to call it in to be fixed but she wouldn’t do it and said it wasn’t an emergency and it would have to wait until Monday morning. And if I was to have broken it, I would have been charged for the replacement and a damage fee so it rang all night long until the next shift RA came in and said it was indeed an emergency and called it in to be fixed.

    1. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      There is a local charity where I live that does the jail bailout thing as a yearly fundraiser, and it always goes very well! People seem to like it a lot.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      Yup, that’s a good example of how you need to solicit feedback in a way that doesn’t just turn into a hatefest. Your complaints against that RA were really serious, it’s terrible that nobody acted on them until a fundraiser!

    3. Bea*

      Jail bailout is still a thing. We always got calls asking to join.

      I loath it sadly. My memory goes back to the one time my brother was an idiot and got put in holding for stupid behavior. Nobody was hurt, they were on school grounds after hours. Slapped with trespassing. My dad’s response was “I don’t bail people out” and hung up on him. So bail money is no joke to me, sigh.

  37. Goya de la Mancha*

    I think that intention and personality of the “winning” manager is big. My current supervisor would roll with the punches and think it was a silly/fun thing to do. The person who was here before her? Oh dear Lord, heads would roll. I would akin it to school charity drives that we had back in the day. If we raised a certain amount then principal would shave their head/beard, wear a costume all day, or some other various form of ridiculousness. It was usually all good fun – were there a few people who were doing it just because they didn’t like the person? Absolutely, but the “winner” was OK with it, and money was raised for a good cause.

  38. Lemon Sherbet*

    I think this could be a lot of fun if all the managers were involved and you used that Pie Face game where you take turns turning a crank until someone gets the pie in the face. There could even be a bracket situation, where one person walks away with a clean face afterwards, having beaten all the other managers (and then duly gets his/her own pie in the face, so all’s fair).

  39. Nanani*

    I remember doing something like this in high school, and it was definitely the “enthusiastic good sports” mindset. The winning teachers, as best I can recall, were the well-liked ones, who had interesting class projects and/or coached sports and/or were approachable etc.

    Trying to transfer that to work instead of school, and managers instead of teachers, just doesn’t fit right. There’s a fundamental difference in nature of the institutions. I don’t think I’d be comfortable with participating either.

  40. WonderCootie*

    My boss (our department chair) was the one that came up with the idea for our department. Of course, we’re a bunch of nerds, so we did it as a Pi Day event. The department chair was the only one getting pied, and he’s goofy enough that he was really excited about it. All the money went to our grad student association.

  41. Jadelyn*

    My org does a pie-ing thing at the annual employee picnic – but it’s always specifically our President and EVP, they volunteer for it willingly, there’s no voting or anything. That’s where I feel like the OP’s example gets into potential trouble – by voting, it becomes a popularity contest and the whole vibe is different. Whereas at my org, it’s always the top two guys at the company, both of whom have been here since it was founded and they think it’s hilarious. I think it was actually their idea originally.

  42. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    When I was in college, we had a similar contest = “The Big Screw” — penny a vote – and it was a fun thing. One history prof won it – was so proud and happy – and in his obituary some 30 years later it was mentioned.

    Problem was, a couple faculty members were all upset over this, so the contest was a one-time thing. Unfortunately.

  43. ragazza*

    Do you work at my company?? We started doing this last year. I couldn’t tell if I was happy or disappointed that my toxic boss wasn’t in the same office as me. I definitely wouldn’t have been throwing a pie at his face for the fun of it.

  44. I think we worked at the same place*

    I worked for many years at a company whose locations boasted 8 managers and around 100 people. The pie a manager thing has been around for a long time and yes, it totally comes down to the location’s “personality” as it were. I worked at locations where it was tremendous inter-department fun and others where it was just lame. At least, IME, it was never mean spirited, though one year loss prevention did get their panties in a twist because they weren’t 100% sure the pie had been paid for before being used.

  45. Yorick*

    At my job they did a pie in the face thing, but there were only a few managers available to throw pie at. My guess is they broadly asked managers to volunteer to be one of the pie targets. In my imagination, they specified they were looking for 6 people, which would make it obvious that there’s no pressure to do it.

  46. A username for this site*

    OP: Have you tried mentioning the worker’s comp issues with this?

    What if someone is wearing contacts? What if the pie pan cuts someone? If you’re using a food pie (custard, whipped cream) what if the person has a medical allergy or religious/moral dietary restriction to what’s in the pie, ex: kosher, vegan, lactose-intolerant? If you’re using a shaving cream pie, what if it gets in someone’s eye and burns them? What if they’re allergic to the shaving cream, or have a reaction to shaving cream? What if someone slips on spilled pie, or flinches and trips when the pie is being thrown at them?

    Having to explain, “We are paying for a visit to the worker’s comp doctor because someone thought a good fundraiser was assaulting people with pies,” is not going to go over well to the insurance company. It’s not a mandatory workplace activity and it’s not particularly professional, either.

    1. Yorick*

      It’s not a surprise, though. The person can take out their contact and disclose allergies. It’s really not some kind of safety hazard to do a pie in the face contest. They do it in elementary schools.

      Maybe this isn’t something that’s common where you are, but it is super common in some places, not at all something that regular people would consider “assaulting people with pie.”

      1. Triple Anon*

        Also PTSD. Someone might not react well to having things thrown at their face.

        It is super common, but the potential complications need to be taken into account.

        1. Yorick*

          But a person can opt out for health reasons, even if it’s generally expected that managers participate. The contest isn’t to raise money to ambush a manager with pie.

    2. Bea*

      Most companies do things that could end up with a workers comp claim. It’s why insurance is a thing.

      I guess we should throw out our BBQ grill because there could be a burn and what have you.

      This is the mentality that strips all extra activities out of the work place. Thankfully many take chances.

      Workers comp only goes up if you hit a threshold or someone is hospitalised, loses days of work etc. If there is a freak pie accident, heaven forbid, at least it’s one for the company history books.

    3. OP*

      They do have the person wear safety goggles to protect their eyes. But yes, all the other points are valid. I’m not sure if they’ve considered those or not.

  47. Triple Anon*

    I think voting for one manager to get pie’d is a problem waiting to happen. If this becomes a tradition, someone will eventually feel wronged by it. You can’t always tell if people are having fun or if they’re just pretending to because of the pressure. It would be better if all the managers could volunteer to get pie’d. It should be an opt-in kind of thing. And the ones who opt out should be asked to do something similar to support the event, like helping to clean up or being featured in another activity.

  48. MicroManagered*

    I sincerely hope OP is overthinking it and that the pie in the face is a) optional to the “winner” and b) the “get back at your manager thing” is tongue-in-cheek. My office’s culture is such that it’s perfectly normal to joke about how tough your boss is, etc. Something like this would be more like a popularity contest.

  49. Duffman*

    They did this once at my old office and it turned very mean spirited. Also one of the managers started running to avoid the person trying to throw the pie and the person who was chasing her slipped in pie that had already been thrown and broke her leg.

    It was a marvelous time.

  50. Bekx*

    My boyfriend’s office does this. His boss got pie’d this year and…it was definitely on the side of malicious. She had a few openings in her department and had a lot of internal candidates apply for it that she passed over (for reasons that are kind of valid but not major dealbreakers). There were a LOT of hard feelings over that…soooo she got chosen for the pie.

    My boyfriend is new to his job and that’s how he found out just how disliked his boss is.

  51. LGC*

    So, based off the letter and your follow up comment, this reads as forced fun to me.

    As a lot of people noted, the idea could be fine if it wasn’t malicious. I mean, I’d be up for being in the manager’s position at your job (at least once). But the way your job presents it as a way to embarrass your manager is bad, plus the fact that this is opt out (so by default they have to do it). It signals that they see the managers as not that valuable – that they’re okay with them being put in awkward situations in public for everyone’s enjoyment.

    So OP, I think your instincts in this particular instance are good. I don’t know if you have standing to speak up right now since this isn’t an event directed at you in particular (if you ever became a manager, then yes), but given all the information I’d continue to stay clear.

  52. e271828*

    “It’s all in good fun. Be a good team member. That didn’t really hurt! Why are you taking this so seriously? We’re just kidding. You chose to make this happen.” This is the language of bullying.

    Any event structured around violence and humiliation, even ritualized and theoretically devoid of animosity—dunk tanks, pie-in-the-face, whatever—has no place in the workplace. There will always be pressure to conform. Money—the participants’ livelihoods—is an inextricable part of this.

    And yes, if the company—employer, bank, grocery store, giant multinational conglomerate—wants to give to charity, they can do that and bask in the kudos. They have the money, more than their employees do.

  53. voluptuousfire*

    Am I the only one who is thinking of the movie Grease where at the end of the movie the students can throw pies at the teachers as part of the end of year carnival? Profits went towards the teachers retirement fund, of course!

    1. Mary*

      Haha, I was just about to post this! Maybe it’s just a plot to find out who the best pitchers are for the company baseball team!

  54. ManderGimlet*

    I’ve found that these, even when framed as a “get back at your boss” thing, usually are dominated by beloved managers and no one is exacting any real revenge. Tbh, the bigger issues have always been that the departments with truly despised leadership have the lowest participation and the events become focused to the point of exclusive on the “party department”. People who don’t like their boss would rather see them disciplined/fired, throwing a pie in their face (that essentially you are paying for) just means you have to interact with them and work harder to hide your contempt.

  55. Anonymosity*

    Eh, we did something like this at Exjob, and it was voluntary and hilarious. Like Alison said, it depends on the spirit in which it’s done.
    One class also did this at my high school and pie’d the principal, who was actually very popular. He was a good sport.

  56. Alienor*

    My company’s done this a couple of times in the past, as well as a dunk tank once, but it was with senior executives (directors and VPs) rather than lower-level managers. It worked out OK because it was on a volunteer basis, and the people who volunteered were the gregarious “prankster party guy” types whom you would expect to do an activity like that. But, I can definitely see it getting weird if it were framed as a chance to get back at someone you hated and they were pressured to do it.

  57. nep*

    My part-time workplace does this.
    I for one think it’s ridiculous but there you go–to each his/her own. In our case, the times I’ve seen it anyway, it’s always in a spirit of fun and laughs. I just think it’s silly. I reckon some people like it so…

    1. nep*

      (Of course it’s silly–by definition it’s silly. Meant to be. I just mean it’s not silly in an interesting, novel sort of way. Overdone.)

  58. azvlr*

    This letter brought back memories of a fundraiser when I was a young sailor at my first command. Anyone could fund a pie in the face for either the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer or department heads. Once enough money was raised, the “winner” would get a phone call in the middle of the night that simple said, “You’re next.” This was a much simpler era, I guess.
    Our CO was not well liked. Each month, the entire command had to stand inspection in dress blues and there was an accompanying awards ceremony. In one such instance, the ceremony was outside in the rain. One fellow enlisted sailor had a broken ankle. Her cast softened in the rain and she had to endure more healing time because her bones shifted (Like why was she even made to stand?!) The Sailor of the Month awards became really meaningless and demotivating (we were such a small command that the same people kept getting them over and over.)
    We just got three new very young Ensigns fresh from college and OTC when the next monthly inspection came. As the CO droned on an on (facing the whole command), this very tiny, very timid female officer crept up behind him, stretched as tall as she could and hit him square in the face with a pie (she was terrified!). He was NOT HAPPY, but also knew that he would lose what little respect he had if he let it show too much. The entire 200+ enlisted and officers completely lost all military bearing and had an enormous laugh.
    All that to say, it was great for morale, but on the other hand it was at someone’s expense. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t recommend it unless I knew they would be a good sport about it.

  59. Indie*

    I don’t know why but I get turned off so much by the average fundraiser. If it’s a homeless person in the street, I get out my purse so easily but it’s the polar opposite if I have to watch someone get pied. Same thing with ‘I am biking, climbing, shaving my head so you’ll donate!’ I honestly don’t see the connection there and I have to overcome an eyeroll in order to help. I raised a bunch of money by reading tarot cards at one company’s event, so I know the gimmicks work, I just find most of the ideas exasperatingly cliched and dull but most importantly, completely irrelevant to the aim of persuasion. Why do I care that you’re fun running this weekend? Why does no one fundraise with lemonade on a hot day, or by picking up everyone some lunch to order for a fee? Give people the excuse of charity to splurge on something. If you’re trying to persuade people, persuade people.

  60. LizM*

    Ugh. (1) I hate anyone/anything touching my face, with very few exceptions (I know this because I have a toddler with no concept of personal space, and I find it really upsetting to have things shoved near my eyes), and (2) I hate being put on the spot and having to pretend I’m enjoying something everyone else thinks is funny. So my heart rate went up just reading about this.

    I can see how some people would find this super funny, especially to watch, and how it would geniunely be in good fun in some office cultures, but just, ugh. If I couldn’t opt out, I’d find a reason to be out of the office that day.

  61. Wren*

    I think I’d have the same reservations as the OP, unless this was the kind of workplace where a good proportion of managers thought it was fun and, like, made it fun by campaigning to “win.”

    1. Wren*

      um, and by campaigning, I mean like a silly popularity contest, but by being awful and provoking people to want to pie them out of spite.

  62. The Doctor*

    I can see some managers turning around and punishing anyone who “pies” or dunks them.

  63. Shelby Drink the Juice*

    I worked on a program that did a pie in the face as a fundraiser. We had a big BIG year, and the company donated $0 for our successful event parties. We did a pie in the face, but first we asked each senior manager if they’d be willing to participate along with our program manager. It was ultimately a tie between the guy that came up with the idea that was such a stressful few months (but success) and the manager of the most demanding team. All in good fun though and lots of laughing from everyone. And we were able to raise funds for a great celebratory party.

    I know another program raised funds for charity via senior managers and the one that raised the least money got a pie (along with his boss in good fun). It motivated the managers to think outside the box to get donations – raffling off their awesome parking spot for instance. Again they agreed to participate.

    And really like the senior manager over a demanding team probably knew they’d vote for him. Not that people wanted to leave the team or anything, the event was HUGE for the industry, but as a funny “we went through so much crap” thing.

  64. Catherine*

    We did this in my high school and even though it was a well-intentioned opt-in process, it was malicious in practice. The popular, well-liked teachers would sign up… but so would the very unpopular ones who were trying to improve their perception as hip and approachable. This meant that people usually focused on embarrassing the uncool teachers, who had to pretend to be good sports about the whole thing. It was particularly bad for the choir director, who visibly hated the whole experience, but signed up every time because she hoped it would help her get along with her students better.

  65. I Love Thank You Notes*

    There are so many ways to make this fun for everyone and to have the managers that could get pied be active participants and actually encourage people to donate. It sounds like your office is making it feel mean, when really it should be more of a contest of which manager is well-liked, or which one is the most passionate about the charity. Maybe you could get on the committee next year and help turn it around a bit?

  66. JamieS*

    Sounds like OP is taking this too seriously. It’s very unlike anybody with an ounce of sense is going to throw pie at a manager who wouldn’t appreciate the intended humor of it so the managers involved are almost definitely on board, the “revenge on your manager” is most likely tongue in cheek, and if a company was low brow enough to bully employees via “fundraising” they’d realistically target people who are lower in the hierarchy than department managers.

  67. Jemima Bond*

    Fwiw I think voting for your least favourite manager in order to publicly humiliate them is ridiculous and a terrible idea. But then this might be one of those oft-mentioned “cultural differences” because I also think that about an adult bringing slime into the office (see short answers later today) or people bringing non-service dogs to work (see various letters passim). But I get the impression that on the US this sort of thing might actually be ok so maybe I’m a bit strait-laced…

  68. martini*

    My old company did this, and it was always the most popular managers who ‘won’ in the end, they took it with good grace and humour and it was a good time for everyone.

  69. Q*

    My company does this as well, but it’s a large company with 25 managers for my department alone. The context is different and it doesn’t feel like someone is being singled out, although there are some people who aren’t managers who I’d love to sign up. It’s corny but not mean spirited.

  70. P-dub*

    I agree with Alison’s reply. I actually initiated a similar ‘pie in the face’ contest at my job to help the department with funding (to allow events and team building since corporate does not provide a budget.)

    Since it’s inception, the competition has been repeated the last four years with some variance (slime vs a pie, you get the picture.)) Employees get excited about the event, and the department has a “casual day” the day of the event. Each ‘pied’ supervisor has been a great sport, and there are never any hard feelings.

  71. Jane*

    I’ve seen this done well and badly before. I was pied by pupils when I was a teacher as part of a charity week but I’d been asked beforehand, and just thought of it as my turn that year and a bit of fun. I think it was pupils who liked me that were involved. But at University there was a fundraising week where anyone could nominate anyone else for a surprise pieing (with shaving foam) and some were pretty unhappy about that and it was discontinued after complaints.

    I think the key thing is whether it’s voluntary and free from peer pressure.

  72. Mark T*

    We had an event like this at my workplace, more than a few years ago. Across the whole organization, we had maybe 30-40 people who were considered “managers” for the sake of the fundraiser (it was a big company.) The “pies” were pie tins filled with a modest amount of whipped cream – no crust or fruit or anything unduly messy. It all *started* as good, wholesome fun, but we had a notoriously unpopular manager in the ranks. He wound up getting (without exaggeration) well over a hundred of those pies thrown at him; over half the proceeds of the whole fundraiser were on his account. It was a dollar a throw, but I saw one guy hand over a $20 bill to the cashier and politely but very firmly declare that he didn’t want change, he just wanted all 20 pies.

    The manager on the receiving end of all this put on his “good sport” face about it, but it wound up being dreadfully awkward for everyone involved. (Except 20-pie-guy – I think it was very cathartic for him.) We never ran another event like that, thankfully – I don’t think I’d have quit if we’d had another one, but I certainly would have burned a vacation day to skip it.

  73. Belle8bete*

    My father in law’s Boy Scout troop has a thing where you can pie (or I think the person smashes their own face into the pie themselves) a troop leader. The leader brings a form that says they are okay with this and if they aren’t my father in law is the sacrificial pie lamb.

    There’s a lot of work to make sure it isn’t a form of hazing.

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