my boss wants to hang out socially to improve our relationship

A reader writes:

I work at a small nonprofit. My department has a new supervisor this year, Jane. While she’s a lovely person, the transition to her management style has been … rough. She wants her hands in absolutely everything, and she wants to make almost every decision about every project. The department’s other full-time worker, Leah, and I were used to largely being left alone on projects, and they got done well and on time, so a lot of the things she’s trying to “fix” about us don’t really feel like problems. What feels like a problem is this:

Jane is part of a casual bowling team with some folks from other departments. She has decided Leah and I should join. I get the feeling that she thinks spending more time together as humans is going to reduce friction at work. I do not feel this way. Her supervision is an adjustment for me, yes, but I am working on making that adjustment, largely by liking my job less and making my peace with that. We might well be friends under different circumstances — we are all women around the same age and have similar interests — but I am simply not interested in committing to a weekly social activity with my boss.

Something I am willing to do is a monthly-at-best drink after work with everyone. Leah decided to arrange one of these. Then, thanks to conflicting schedules, it turned into “tag along to bowling!”

I went, because I felt backed into a corner. I had a fine time. And I have zero interest in doing it again. The work chatter has turned to how awesome bowling is, and when are you two coming back, you did great, weren’t we a great team, the team needs you, it’s nice to hang out with other departments. And Leah enthusiastically agrees that this was awesome and she’d love to do it every week — but aww, darn it, she has kids and dogs, gotta run, sorry! I, meanwhile, have politely demurred and made banal excuses for four weeks now — you know, the usual signifiers that I am not interested in this activity. I have outright said that I am too tired after work to do anything but go home (usually true). I have carefully avoided saying, “Maybe next time!” And I have stepped up the pleasant chat during work hours to reassure Jane I don’t hate her, even though it feels distracting from the work I’m apparently doing wrong.

I am afraid if I get more explicit about not wanting to be friends outside of work, it will chill the relationship even further. But I also wish she’d take the hint. Being friends would not warm the work relationship, it would complicate it. I’m not going to enjoy hearing “you format emails completely wrong” any better from someone I bowl with — in fact, I’d rather just format emails the way my exacting supervisor wants, and go the heck home after.

Am I being unreasonable? Other people don’t hang out with their bosses, right? How do I gently tell her that trying to include me in her social life is just making me feel awkward? Or am I wrong — does getting to know your boss better in neutral situations actually tend to improve a frustrating work dynamic? Should I suck it up and bowl every three weeks or so?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 228 comments… read them below }

  1. T2*

    No no no. Hanging out socially only muddies the boss employee relationship and needlessly injects complications into work.

    What happens if you tell an off color joke in your free time? Or if you say or do something to upset your boss. Keep work and your personal life completely and entirely separate if at all possible.

    1. T2*

      One additional thing.

      Friends can’t Singlehandedly remove your ability to provide for yourself and family
      Friends can’t demote you at work.
      Friends can’t write you up at work.
      Friends can’t report you to HR.

      If your “friend” can do any of these things, they are your work colleague and not your friend.

      1. Red Tape Producer*

        This times infinity!

        I had an ex-manager who had trouble making friends outside of work, so she decided her direct reports were going to be her non-work hour friends as well. It was awful. No person should have to decide between having to spend four hours at a crappy bar listening to someone complain about her on-and-off-again boyfriend or getting assigned the sh*tty SharePoint project to rename and organize 4,000+ historical emails.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          Hey Red Tape! You worked for them too?

          I was an onsite contractor and ex-client had no friends. They would invite all the office women to dinner, the employees always declined, so just the contractors would feel obligated to go. Client left her bag at home. That was my last dinner. I heard she did it multiple times, but I managed to have my work removed from her chain of command, so I stopped going.

    2. Important Moi*

      “…And Leah enthusiastically agrees that this was awesome and she’d love to do it every week — but aww, darn it, she has kids and dogs, gotta run, sorry! …”

      Yeah, I’m placing this at the top. It sounds like Letter Writer is single, childless and without pets. You know, the people who don’t have any family, friends, or any other acceptable obligations to miss things? You don’t have to feed in to that. Your time is valuable too. I hope I’m wrong.

      I would every so often have lunch, but say I had other obligations in the evening and can’t participate. I know many object to the white lie on this site, but real life doesn’t always work that way. Let me offer: bible study, atheists meetings, philosophical book club, a class, babysitting, tutoring, volunteering etc. None of which are looking for new members at this time. You get the idea.

      1. Sharbe*

        I am single and childless and don’t have a dog, but my introvert brain is overloaded by the end of the day and needs to be home by 6pm on work nights. It’s impossible to explain this to people so I usually make up something I have to do. It’s a lot kinder than “I’m sorry, co-workers, but I just spent 8 hours with all of you and I need a break.”

        1. annakarina1*

          Agreed. I’m also single, without kids, and have a cat, and by the end of the day, I am done with work and want to either do my own fun thing (working out, going to a social event, seeing a performance of some sort) or just chill at home. I’m not up for drinks with coworkers into the evening or doing anything else social after I’ve socially chatted with them throughout the work day.

      2. Amethystmoon*

        I’m also single, childless, and without pets, but it’s known at work that I do Toastmasters. So that can become a convenient excuse, especially since it’s spring speech contest season now. I agree — invent an obligation or actually find one that you would like to do. Single, childless, and petless people can have friends outside of work and do things with friends, if nothing else.

      3. Karo*

        I’ve always been a big fan of Alison’s point that “sitting on the couch watching Netflix” is a plan. Having time to sit and not do is a HUGE part of a healthy life (at least for me).

      4. Zennish*

        “Oh I’d love to, but I’ve just joined a cult, and with planetary conjunctions being what they are, I’m all tied up for the next few weeks…”

      5. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

        I think “I have a recurring commitment on most evenings” is not untrue here; the commitment is to her own self-care by recharging and taking private time.

    3. Mama Bear*

      I agree – it’s difficult to be friends and maintain that separation. It also doesn’t sound like this will fix the other issues OP has with the manager. I would not want to hang out. I would instead try to address things on a professional level and keep work at work. There are other ways to build morale that don’t involve after-work socializing. It is good if I get along with my coworkers, but it was not great to have my manger be my (long before hired) friend. I think we are all happier now that we have moved on to other opportunities. I think OP needs to give the boss a firm no and then change the subject.

  2. lkr209*

    If the bowling happens on certain days of the week, you can easily get away with telling a simple white lie here! “Oh, I’m so sorry, but I’ve already committed to driving my niece to her T-ball games after work on Wednesdays!” Don’t have a niece? That’s fine, your boss doesn’t know and doesn’t need to know! But giving a solid reason why you can’t attend will make her more likely to leave off if she doesn’t think you’re free anymore.

    1. T2*

      I am not sure lying, even white lies are a good solution. People have memories. And lies, even small ones burn people all the time.

      White lies might work if they were equals. But they aren’t. If found out there is a good chance that it blows up in their face.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Nah, white lies were made for these types of situations. The trick is to be good at it – if you are a crappy liar then don’t bother.

      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        I agree with you about lies. Especially lies that rely on ongoing deception. It won’t be long before OP inadvertently agrees to–let’s say–help a colleague by working late on a Wednesday, and boss goes: “Wait, what about your niece’s T-ball game?” Or worse, boss thinks that but never says anything.

    2. foolofgrace*

      I think you should keep it generic, as in “I have too much to do after work” or “I have family commitments after work,” rather than being specific. Because what happens when bowling night changes from Tuesday to Thursday? You’d have to think up another excuse.

      Say, do you happen to roll a lot of gutterballs? That might be one way to stay off the team. (just kidding)

      1. Ms. Norris.*

        Or, you can be like me (the worst bowler in the world) and release the bowl late. It made a beautiful arc, landed hard, and broke the ball return. I’ve been banned.
        Awe, I’m so bummed.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          I’m going to try to get banned from all the bowling allies in town. I absolutely hate bowling and for some reason everyone asks me to go. Even after my response was “I’d rather take a group visit to the gyno.”

        2. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

          Tip the shoe return person to “recognize” you and have you unceremoniously marched off the property, muttering “next time, we’re calling the police,” and extemporizing about ostrich-caused destruction. Best $50 you’ll ever spend.

    3. Senor Montoya*

      Don’t do it. There’s no guarantee that bowling will always and forever be on those days. There’s no guarantee that they wouldn’t CHANGE THE DAY SO THAT OP CAN ATTEND. (That’s a thing a group of nice people would do, trust me, I’ve seen it.) Don’t lie about it.

      Also, if you lie, you are going to have to remember the lie. It’s easier to remember the truth.

      “Bowling is not for me” or “I don’t want to mix my work and personal lives” are solid reasons.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      What others said. The same rule I used to use for online dating, also applies here: when you say no, never give a specific and tangible reason why. You think you are giving the other side a solid reason why you cannot bowl with/date them, but what they hear is “here’s what you need to change so I can bowl with or date you!”

      1. Elsajeni*

        Yes — only give a “solvable” reason (“Wednesdays don’t work for me,” “I can’t afford the membership fee,” etc.) if you are willing to have that reason solved! Even if you think it’s really unlikely that they would change the club schedule, waive the membership fee, whatever — it is so, so much better to just say “bowling isn’t really my thing, but thanks!” in the first place than to have to say “uhhh, gosh, that’s so kind but actually I ALSO have to… wash… my dog? every Thursday?” after someone has gone out of their way to try to accommodate you.

    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      If you need to give a while-lie reason, I think something very very general like “It was fun to join in once, but my schedule’s gotten so busy lately; I just don’t have time for another regular thing” would work best. That way even if the day moves, you’re still generically busy.

      1. Paulina*

        It doesn’t even seem like a lie. One evening a week, on a regular basis, is a significant grab for someone’s non-work time, and reshapes the week (blocking both other activities and general unwinding). Even if they’re not particularly busy.

    6. Essess*

      I strongly disagree with telling her any actual plans. It’s none of the boss’s business what your plans are or for OP to have to lie and come up with plans. It’s far more honest to just say that “my free time is already too full of other commitments so I cannot participate in any additional after-work activities. Being pressured to try to fit more into my limited free-time is really adding stress to my work.”

  3. Non-profiteer*

    I’m half joking, but is it possible that you were a really good bowler when you joined that one time, and she just really wants more good players on her team?

    1. tangerineRose*

      Maybe if LW shows up and throws gutter balls every time, the supervisor will stop asking about it :)

  4. Iluvtv*

    But have you had a direct conversation about her micromanaging? That seems to be the bigger issue.

    1. Not All*

      In all of human history, has any micromanager EVER admitted that they are the problem and then changed? I’ve had a couple who freely admitted they were micromanagers…but they absolutely weren’t going to change it & even bragged about it. Of course it may be a self-fulfilling prophesy…if you manage to drive off all your competent, self-starter staff through your micromanaging, the only people who have left are the ones who need that style to produce.

        1. What’s with Today, today?*

          My Grand boss freely admits it, and also acknowledges that’s why he won’t retire. He’s the owner, and he hired someone to take over the day-to-day for him , then ran the guy off because he micro-managed him, which, again, grand boss admits. I couldn’t work for him (he’s at another location). I answer to the VP.

        2. Mama Bear*

          Or if they do, there’s an excuse for it. That said, this is the bigger issue, not the bowling.

      1. MicroManagered*

        My current manager has a bad habit of listening to my phone calls from her cubicle (in earshot) and then either instant-messaging or hollering her input over the wall. A few times she’s even stood behind me and done it, to the point where my caller could hear her through the phone.

        In a one-on-one, she asked if I needed anything from her. And I said I did, as a matter of fact. I laid out what I just told you, and said it throws me off my game for her to interject on my phone calls or even to know she is listening. I said unless she hears me giving out blatantly wrong information and it’s critical to intervene, I don’t want her input until after I’ve hung up the phone. Even if I have to call someone back and tell them I misspoke, I will do that, but I needed her to stop jumping into my phone calls.

        I’d actually say it worked about 85%. She still does it, but mostly I think we have different ideas about what “blatantly wrong information and it’s critical to intervene” means. I meant if she hears me say “cut the green wire to stop the bomb” and it’s really “cut the red wire.” Her definition is a bit looser sometimes. But it did work and above all, FELT BETTER to address.

        1. Fikly*

          But you called out a specific behavior, not a general pattern of behavior you called micromanaging. Huge difference here.

        2. Kaaaaaren*

          Good for you for being so direct with your boss about her micromanaging! In my experience, micromanagers usually rule by fear and people (myself included) are too frightened of consequences to speak up.

        3. Sharbe*

          I had a manager who would hear only parts of work-related conversation, make assumptions that something nefarious or egregiously incompetent was taking place, and send out panicked emails to other managers that something nefarious or egregiously incompetent was going on. This caused said managers to run around and interrogate everyone, which would cause employees to not know what the heck was happening and why everyone was freaking out. Would take half a day for us to come to the conclusion that this manager misheard information, that everything was, in fact, in order, and that if she would have taken the time to ask the employees directly about the things she THOUGHT she overheard, it all could have been avoided. Nope, that would have been too easy. We learned never to talk about anything within earshot of her after that.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Most of the micromanagers I’ve met have said, repeatedly, “Oh, micromanagers are just the WORST. I’d never be like that.”

        1. Bagpuss*

          So true . The worst micro-manager I knew was 100% convinced that they excelled at their job and would offer (unsolicited) advice to other, more effective peers about how to ‘improve’. In their case, they didn’t trust their reports so saw saw anyone who did as weak.

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      While I agree that micromanaging is not a good management style, it is one that a new boss gets to decide. Sure OP can try to talk to the boss about it, but in my experience micro-managers have a hard time changing. Sometimes even if they really want to they can’t help but micro manage.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I agree a micromanager is unlikely to change, but I also think that a direct conversation can be useful in creating a process that works better for the OP and assuages the micromanager’s insecurity and need for control. Figure out what the boss needs, how she wants to be involved, when OP can be autonomous, etc. Sometimes simply sending a daily email update can satisfy a micromanager and prevent interference.

        1. Nonprofit Nancy*

          I have tried walling off a certain area of tasks and just sort of putting them in a black box – if it’s something the micromanaging boss doesn’t know a lot, sometimes they will just accept that one area of independence while they continue to nitpick everything else. Mixed results but it is something.

        2. andy*

          With a good manager, sure. With micromanage that tries to exercise control over your time out of work and is unwilling to listen that you dont want to do bowling? Probably not. This manager does not care about what employees say. Had she cared just a little bit, bowling issue would not exist.

    3. Old Cynic*

      LOL. I’m 62 years old and have been self-employed with a business partner for 23 years. After all this time, my partner still coaches me while I’m on the phone. Yes, it’s very distracting and disrespectful. I just laugh it off.

    4. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      I was thinking this as well. I would focus more in either providing feedback in the micromanaging, or started to look for a new job, etc.

  5. Leela*

    Oof OP, I’m sorry.

    I’d lean heavily on not being able to do things after work, I suspect that you if talk about bowling not being for you, suddenly it’s “let’s all go get coffee after work!” or “let’s go play board games!” or something and she’ll keep trying different angles because she thinks she just needs to find the thing you like.

    The one thing about your letter that I really wonder about is that it seems like you and your coworker hadn’t gotten feedback that you needed to change things, which makes me wonder if you have standing to bring this up to HR, grandboss, or anyone else, and ask about it.

    What you’re describing would massively get in the way of my work and demoralize me, and I guarantee you at my job (YMMV) that people in charge would want to know (not that you’re demoralized but that you feel like you’re having to retrain yourself to solve things that aren’t problems and losing time to align with goals that are just hers).
    And the fact that she wants a hand in every decision makes me feel like she’s a very weak manager, like she knows she can’t manage people so she just wants to do all the work herself and you’re only there because that’s physically impossible for her to do. I’d be really surprised if she was going to excel or be good for you, or the organization, without this getting smoothed out!

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I am assuming that Jane is being so hands-on just because she’s new and needs to learn what LW and her colleague do. But I’m also assuming that Jane has only been around for 2-3 months.

      Here’s my question: did Jane replace someone? Or has there never been a supervisor in this department? In other words, how big of a change is this?

      1. I am the OP*

        Jane has been here for just under 6 months at this point. The previous supervisor was much more hands-off. He liked being available to answer questions, but mostly giving us assignments and then checking them over when we were finished. If a particular project were high-stakes or very specific, he’d talk us through how he wanted it done in the beginning, and check in on progress once or twice a week. Jane prefers to talk through every step for all projects and check in multiple times a day- she has moved her desk from the management offices on another floor to the previously-empty cubicle next to ours for this purpose. So it’s a pretty big change for us, but we did receive regular feedback before.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          And has Jane BEEN a supervisor/manager before? She seems a little unclear on how it’s supposed to work.

          1. I am the OP*

            I don’t think she has been a manager with staff before, no. Her last position was “head” of a similar department elsewhere, but she was the only staff member in that department, doing all the work herself with occasional intern help. So her approach could be a holdover from that environment, or it could be that she’s actually seeing bad habits the old supervisor didn’t notice or care about. Hard to tell the difference from my position.

    2. Artemesia*

      On the other hand, people who have been in a position a long time are often the last ones to see the need for actually useful change. New people running things often mean the need to be open to change and to adjust; we have all been in places where hopeless inefficient or outdated procedures are ‘the way it is done here.’ So thinking about how you cope with a new boss and don’t immediately decide her attempt to involve herself and learn what is going on is hopeless micromanagement may be helpful framing. Maybe it is and is destructive; maybe it is her way of seeing how things are done and then making needed improvements.

      1. I am the OP*

        That’s a good way to think about it. I’m trying to stay open to the possibility that she’s streamlining our process in the long run, even though right now it feels like she’s unnecessarily bogging it down.

      2. Leela*

        This is a good point! The impression I get from the letter is that she was being very micro-managery but it’s possible she’s just trying to learn what everything is and wasn’t trained well (I have found this to be unbelievably common for management). It doesn’t frame her in a great light that she’s trying to pressure her reports to go bowling with her, but she might be nervous about the change and how she’s coming off and (incorrectly) thinks thi sis a good way to offset that

  6. AmIACurmudgeon*

    Am I the only one who feels like work is already getting 50-60 hours a week of my life and they don’t get to take up more time outside of it?

    1. SusanB*

      Yep! I feel the exact same way. I work a lot. I also am divorced and I have my kids 50% of the week so I only have 2-3 nights a week where I can go to the gym, run errands or see friends I don’t see very often. My co-workers have lately started doing a Thursday night bar trivia night and I’m feeling strongly pressured to go. My time is limited. My funds are limited. I do not want to hang out with co-workers on one of the few nights I have entirely to myself spending my limited funds on bar food with people I already see 5 days a week. No no no.

    2. Jellyfish*

      Nope. A previous workplace had a similar dynamic as this, and I just didn’t want to deal. The events were popular because they picked something many of the people there genuinely enjoyed, but I had my own social life away from work and wanted no part in these gatherings.
      Unfortunately, I don’t think there was a “correct” way to push back. Increasingly, and maybe correctly, I was seen as a bad fit. I’ve since moved on, and I think everyone is better for it.

    3. Mockingjay*

      No, you’re not.

      After I put in a full day, I really don’t want to see my coworkers for the next 12 hours or so. It’s not that I don’t like them; they’re lovely people; but after hours events can stretch the workday to 10-12 hours. It’s tiring.

      If there’s only one thing I learned at ExToxicJob, it’s that organizing “fun” activities does NOT bond team members. Good management fosters strong bonds among the team.

      1. Circle of sadness*

        “If there’s only one thing I learned at ExToxicJob, it’s that organizing “fun” activities does NOT bond team members. Good management fosters strong bonds among the team.”

        Cosigned!

        1. Lying Over the Ocean*

          This. SO much this.

          Some of the folks on my team go out together to do fun stuff. We have strong bonds with each other. The events organized by management do not create strong bonds because (a) they are not voluntary, even if they’re presented that way, and (b) our grandboss often hosts them in her home, which is (as you might imagine) super comfortable to be forced to spend hours “hanging out” in.

    4. sofar*

      Same! Some people LOVE going out with coworkers, but I have enough friend/family/volunteer/hobby obligations to eat up my spare time. Plus, as an introvert, I need to decompress. When the higher-ups are in town, I’ll go to the post-work happy hour for 60 minutes and that’s IT.

      I once was on a team, where there was a lot of pressure to do after-work activities together like karaoke (gag) and even before-work activities together like morning yoga (gag). I made it very abundantly clear that I did not have time for that and that I had standing commitments both before and after work that I could not get out of, on my calendar, forever and ever.

      The easy solution for teams that feel the need to bond socially is doing it during work hours. Lunches. Happy hours from 3 to 5pm. Team-building activities during the day.

    5. pope suburban*

      Heck, they don’t even get that much of my time, but I don’t want to cede more. Most of my coworkers are perfectly lovely people, but a big plus of this job for me is the work/life balance (I am a bit underemployed, but paid fairly and slightly sub-full time on hours) it affords me. I like having a little more time to pursue hobbies or make appointments than I used to, and the job is sometimes intensely public-facing to the point that I end the day too wiped out to do more Peopling, even with nice folks. Plus I find I benefit greatly from a clear separation between work and social time, and I don’t intend to muddy that; it’s been weird before and I won’t do it again.

    6. Duck Duck Goose*

      +1000. I work to earn a paycheck to pay my bills so I can have a life with my wife. They don’t need ANYTHING else from me except a job well done.

    7. Rabbit Rabbit (not the original)*

      AmIACurmudgeon,
      I think that is a fair thing for OP to say.
      “Work already gets about 40 (or 50 or whatever) hours a week of my life, I have other things I want to do after work but I am happy to socialize more during work hours.”

    8. Uldi*

      Not at all. My internal reaction to such things is: Pay me. You want me to spend my off-work hours forming bonds to improve teamwork (as is the usual reason given)? Pay me. This is for improved productivity, which benefits the company far more than it directly benefits me. As such, pay me. Work is work, and play is play. Play aimed to enhance work is work, so pay me.

      To summarize: pay me, or stop trying to get me to attend work-related functions on my own time.

    9. Allonge*

      Nope! My boss started making noises about setting up a choir for our workplace. I love singing! I love singing together with others! And yet, my reaction was a (reasonably disguised) recoil of horror. No way I will ever voluntarily spend more time in work-related contexts.

      This is why a workplace gym always seemed like an especially elaborate mousetrap for me. Stay at work more? Really?

      1. Uldi*

        Oh, it absolutely is a trap. “Oh, you can’t stay until 9pm tonight because you need some work-out time? Just use our in-house gym. Take an hour to exercise and shower, then you can get right back to work!” Same thing for in-house daycare and cafeterias. They’re all there to keep you in the building as much as possible.

        1. tangerineRose*

          When I was about to graduate college, someone from Microsoft came to tell a bunch of us how great things were there. In at least 1 photo the person showed, I saw a sleeping bag under the cubicle, and the person said something about how people don’t want to leave. That was when I decided this was not a company I wanted to work for.

  7. HS Teacher*

    This is why, when I worked in corporate America, I made up a family. It gave me an easy excuse to opt out of mandatory fun.

    I haven’t had to do that in education, since most of my coworkers would rather just go home after work. We have the occasional happy hour, but it’s not required and no one criticizes you for not attending.

    1. Ms. Green Jeans*

      I’d at least have a phantom neighbor who needed my regular assistance.

      It shouldn’t even come to this kind of pressure, but it is an easy solution.

    2. Threeve*

      My thoughts immediately went to “old wrist injury that I actually aggravated a little that first time.” No more bowling ever.

      Then lots of after-work obligations, but maybe room for the (very) occasional happy hour to maintain a positive relationship.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oooh, this is good (and in my case, also accurate – used to be a league bowler, now my wrist probably wouldn’t allow me even if I wanted to!)

        1. Threeve*

          It’s also a good way to explain why LW was a little wishy-washy about it before. “I didn’t say anything at first, because I wasn’t sure if it was a one-time tweak, but I should play it safe.”

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This could very well be true. The last time I bowled in my 20s, I wrenched a finger badly on a bad release. No more bowling for me – I use a mouse for a living. Now I couldn’t go even if I wanted to, because of an unrepaired torn rotator cuff.
        So sorry, Jane!

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But why can’t you just be honest with people? Why do you have to make up fake families to get out of stuff? “I’ll pass it’s not my thing.” If you say no enough they’ll stop asking.

      1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        In some situations people are not good at taking “no” and not letting it impact their perception of you.

        Should you have to lie about having reasons to not/do something? Of course not. Is it problematic if people will treat you differently if they don’t like your reasons? Very much so.

        But most of the time in those situations the problematic people aren’t going to change, and you rely on them for something (promotions, paychecks, getting information in a timely manner etc…). So sure, yeah, you could just keep saying “I’ll pass, it’s not my thing” every week while your manager gets increasingly annoyed, gets chilly with you at work, starts giving better assignments to your colleagues, blah blah blah. You can use your imagination to think of the various ways “my boss or coworkers think I’m rude and aloof” can hurt one’s career.

        That might not matter to some people, but for a lot of others it isn’t worth fighting the good fight of being direct and hoping to buck the trend by example.

  8. Michelle*

    This is very timely. Just this morning in our weekly meeting, my boss (executive director) has invited all the managers, myself and the other admin (plus our spouses/SO’s) to an “appreciation” party at his new house. It’s on a Sunday, late in the evening (5-8pm) and I don’t want to go. I like my supervisor fine, but he has multiple dogs and cats and I’m allergic to certain types of cat hair and I’m scared of dogs because of a childhood attack. I don’t go around kicking cats and dogs, and I like looking at pictures of cats and dogs, but I don’t want to spend the evening on the run. He doesn’t put the animals away when people are around because other went to a party at his house last year said they cats and dogs were just wandering around, begging for food and one dog in particular jumped on people. I’m sure he was just wanting to be petted or get some human food but that would make me leave.

    Also, I really don’t have much in common with most of the managers. I am either several years older or younger than all of them and we don’t share the same interests. But my manager really, really wants me to go because I “never come to parties or get-togethers”. We have a warm, friendly relationship but I have no interest in going to a party to his house or spending a Sunday with people I have nothing in common with.

    So I’ll be checking the comments for ideas on how to decline without seeming standoffish.

    1. Threeve*

      I think bad allergies are plenty excuse! No decent manager would tell you to make yourself sick for the sake of socializing. Then suggest that you would be happy to join the next group lunch or happy hour.

    2. Michelle*

      Also, he knows that I’m not too fond of dogs and I’m allergic to certain types of cat hair but he’s sure that won’t be the case with his cats and his dogs are “good” dogs. I’m sure they are but I’m still scared and he isn’t sure what types of cats he has because they are mostly strays he took in.

      1. Wednesday*

        I feel comfortable stating that anyone who thinks their animals are “good” is a crappy owner with poorly-behaved animals. Actual good owners know that animals as a whole can be unpredictable, despite behavioral training, and don’t put the animal in a situation that involves multiple untested factors.

        Everyone I know with an actual good dog, including retired K9s, has a room that the dog “retires to” during large gatherings. Only with one or two known guests is the dog allowed in common areas.

        TL;DR: I would bet money I can’t afford to lose that these particular dogs are obnoxious and unruly. I would not go to this guy’s house.

        1. MayLou*

          I consider my dog to be a good dog, in that he tries his very best to do what he knows he is meant to do. However, he’s a fear-aggressive rescued street dog. He is 100% not safe to have a group of strangers in his home. Even having one friend round to visit requires multiple carefully planned meets outside the house on a calm walk, and then a very gentle introduction at home once he’s comfortable with them. Anyone who tells me they’re afraid of dogs would not meet my dog, full stop. Not safe or fair for anyone.

      2. Fikly*

        Everyone’s allergies are 100% unique to them. He has absolutely no way of knowing if you are allergic to his cats. There is no way of predicting if you are allergic to his cats without exposing you to them.

      3. Jules the 3rd*

        aaarrrggghhh. I have a dog and a cat and love everyone’s pets but just… argh on your behalf.

        Good pet owners (especially dog owners!) understand that not everyone wants to be besties with their pets, and that they should not force it. Your disinterest is totally valid and he should not push it!!!!

        Since he is, and is frustrated that you ‘never come’, you probably can’t address this without a little ‘standoffishness’, that you’d need to counter as you decline. Possible script:
        “Oh manager, thank you so much for the invitation. I an grateful that you want to spend time as a team outside of work! I can’t make it, though. Now about that [work topic]”
        Mgr: “You can’t make it? Why not?”
        You: “I just can’t, but it’s nice of you to want me to be there. I really feel appreciated.”
        Mgr: “It’s the cats, you could just take an allergy pill”
        You: “Thanks again, and what do you want to do about [work topic]?”

        – No explanation, because he’s already shown he’s not going to accept any explanation.
        – Effusive thanks (though reduce that with each repetition)
        – Pivot to work topic
        – Ignore his guesses / suggestions on how to make it work, just “thanks, and [pivot]”

        1. whingedrinking*

          This. The dog I aspire to have is a miniature dachshund. It’s hard for me to imagine someone being scared of something that’s as tall as your ankle and shaped like a sausage (not to mention routinely getting stuck in sweater sleeves because of their burrowing instinct). But if someone told me they were scared of dogs and didn’t want to meet my hypothetical puppy, I’d simply say “Okay” and move on. It’s the least personal thing possible.

          1. allathian*

            Dachshunds are actually the breed that’s most likely to bite people! That’s because they’re really hunting dogs with the instincts to match (the bigger ones can confront a badger in its den), but they’re often, especially the miniature and toy varieties, treated like they’re harmless chihuahuas. And even chihuahuas can bite if they feel threatened.

            1. whingedrinking*

              Small dogs in general can be quite nippy. I think it’s a combination of the fact that small dogs are more likely to feel threatened and defend themselves by biting, and that often people are a bit more lax on training them because they think they’re unlikely to seriously hurt anyone. It’s true that a chihuahua is unlikely to rip your throat out, but nobody wants to be bitten even by a tiny dog.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        Also, he knows that I’m not too fond of dogs and I’m allergic to certain types of cat hair but he’s sure that won’t be the case with his cats

        He’s a thoughtless jerk.

        “Oh, so your cats aren’t purebread Russian Blues? Because that’s the only cat hair I’m not allergic to. What a shame.”

          1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            A cat made out of pure bread might be the only type they’re not allergic to.

      5. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        I’m allergic to cats and dogs (very severely, in the case of cats, in that I literally break out in hives from petting them and my entire face will swell up if any dander touches it). Every allergist I’ve ever been to has said that an allergy to one animal is an allergy to all of that animal, and it doesn’t matter the hair length or breed or shedding potential or what-have-you, you treat it as if you had the same reaction to all of them. This is because cat allergies are mainly an allergy to a protein in their saliva, and while some cats might have less protein than others, you have no way of knowing that without testing it, and that’s certainly not going to happen at your friend’s dinner party.

        This saves me from “oh well MY cat is a Purebred No Dander Longhair so it’s fine!” conversations. I am allergic to All Cats, Yes Even Your Cat.

      6. Greige*

        Seriously, why do some people think they can dictate reality about other people’s allergies to suit their own convenience? Like, is there nothing disappointing in their lives they just have to live with? Choosing to have pets means accepting that a lot of people won’t be able to (safely or comfortably) visit. Even non-allergic people can’t have everything they want.

      7. Faith*

        Ugh. I am a huge cat person, but I would never, ever expect someone with allergies to cats to visit my house. Because allergies don’t care how good or sweet a person’s cat is. Unless they’re hairless, any cat hair is going to be a risk for someone with allergies (and even hairless cats still can cause problems). If I want to see my friends with cat allergies, we go to their place or to a restaurant/cafe. No matter how much I clean, even when I had just one cat, it just was too much risk.

        And it may be the case that his dog is “a good dog” but as someone else who went through a childhood attack, it doesn’t matter. Even good dogs get spooked; that’s what happened with the dog that attacked me.

        If at all possible, emphasize the allergy, say that you are really sorry that you can’t meet their cats/dog, but say you would be glad to show up to something held elsewhere in the future.

      8. Batgirl*

        “Sadly, it’s just impossible for me to be around animals.
        “What kind of cats?….Yep I’m allergic to that kind”.
        “Oh they’re good dogs? It would be nice if I wasn’t scared of them, then!”
        (Listen to his dismissive comments pleasantly)
        “Its such a shame I can’t go! Please know I appreciate you trying to make me feel welcome and reassure me! You dont have to keep doing that; I’ll survive!”

    3. Laura H.*

      I’d honestly list out the reasons you listed here (with perhaps leaning a bit more on the dander issue/ not mentioning its specifically cat dander that you have a reaction to, so as to avoid the inevitable “Oh they’re friendly” comeback, if they press for a reason.(I’m a dog person, but that apprehension/ fear is warranted!))

    4. Ms. Green Jeans*

      You can say that you enjoyed yourself last time except for the resulting allergies, and let your manager know you’d be more likely to attend if it was held in a location where you didn’t have to load up on Benadryl.

      I would also speak up when your manager says you never attend parties. You went last time, and surely you go to the occasional during-work hours events.

    5. Senor Montoya*

      Tell him the truth: you are extremely allergic to animal hair and dander and cannot attend.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Tell him the truth plus one: You’re allergic to cats *AND* you have a dog phobia because of a childhood attack. After that use Alison’s language – you’d be happy to go to during-work events, and the occasional after-work get-together at places without dogs & cats.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Also, if you are one of those who is inordinately sleepy for a day after taking Benadryl, you just OH so want to be on the ball on Monday.

      2. SimplyTheBest*

        From Michelle’s second comment, it sounds like he’s one of “those” pet owners who don’t believe their precious animal could ever be the problem.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      To be honest I think just saying that you’re highly allergic to cats seems like a perfectly valid reason to decline. My husband has a friends who can’t really hang out at our house because of his allergies. If he has multiple animals then he should understand that could be an issue!

    7. Blueberry*

      Dog owners always say theirs are “good dogs” even when the dog is climbing you. In your position I have made up a family obligation: ones involving children tends to be bulletproof. You *do* have to rememeber what you said in case anyone asks you about it on Monday morning.

      Good luck!

      1. whingedrinking*

        Dog owners always say theirs are “good dogs” even when the dog is climbing you.
        Truth. I was once knocked down by a black lab while I was walking home with my hands full of groceries, and the first words out of the owner’s mouth were, “I’m sorry, he’s never done that before” without a hint of shock or surprise in her voice. Maybe he’d never knocked over a total stranger before, but I’m willing to bet he was a regular jumper-on-people.

    8. Michelle*

      It’s strange that he’s so insistent this time. Normally I just say I have something else planned and he accepts that and we go on about business. If something is planned at work or just after work I occasionally go as a way to let people know that I’m sociable/not standoffish, but I just really don’t want to go to his house. As Fikly pointed out, he has no way of knowing if his cats will set off my allergies.

      Ugh. As much as I hate to, I may have to use my elderly mother as an excuse.

        1. Michelle*

          Maybe I’ll say I can’t make it, bring him a bottle of his favorite wine and a “Sorry I can’t make it, but please enjoy the wine !”. That way he can have his housewarming gift and I don’t have to give up a Sunday evening.

          P.S. This is his second new home in 2 years. He downsized, realized he downsized too much and had to buy a larger home. He says the never even unpacked all their stuff the first time.

          1. Faith*

            The fact that it’s a new house is probably part of it. He wants to show it off (and get housewarming gifts). I think this is a good approach.

  9. IEanon*

    Nothing but commiseration, OP. I could have written your first two paragraphs, particularly this bit: “Her supervision is an adjustment for me, yes, but I am working on making that adjustment, largely by liking my job less and making my peace with that.”

    It’s such a hard transition to make, from being a largely independent problem-solver to micromanaged. Avoid out-of-office socializing at all costs. The less time you get away from your supervisor, the more likely you’ll be to chafe at her management. Honestly, her proposal to socialize outside of work feels designed to increase the friction in the office!

    1. Ms. FS*

      Me too, commiserating! I’ve been working for a micromanager for a couple of years now and its slowly demoralized me to the point of mental health breakdown. She also is very demanding and work is stressful with a lot of stakeholders with high expectations and complaints, so I often times never feel like I doing anything right and paranoid about doing things wrong. The adjustment of liking one’s job to not liking one’s job has manifested in a much deeper level of disengagement for me. It makes me sad sometimes because I really like being engaged in my job, it makes it easier to ride the highs and lows.

  10. Lauren*

    Eat lunch with her. 2x a week. Make it part of your job now. Or walking meetings, like exercise at lunch and walk around. Just the 3 of you. It would also get Leah involved since those pesky children are a problem with her scheduling after work anyway. It’s managing up, but in a way that you won’t hate.

    Anyone else consider making up a kid to be able to get out of stuff like this? My former coworkers would say gloat ‘got to go and relieve the babysitter’ while I’m stuck for hours more at the company events cause I according to my boss at the time ‘have nothing going on’.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was once at my kids’ school event where, all of a sudden, several hours into the event, every volunteer parent that was present at the event suddenly needed to go home and let the dog out. I didn’t need to let my dog out, but didn’t want to be the only one left, so I also said “I’ve got to let my dog out too” and went shopping.

      Come to think of it, a dog (real or imaginary) is a great excuse to get out of work events. You cannot stay out late, because the dog is hungry and also needs to go outside. You got a friend to dogsit that one time you went bowling with Jane, but it was a one-time favor and the friend cannot do it for you again.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wouldn’t invent a pet or child…but I’d sure talk to the neighbors about being their pet-sitter who feeds the Finicky Tropical Pet when they’re unable to get back to town at the exact time the FTP needs to be pampered.

  11. Artemesia*

    A lifetime ago I was a teacher and noticed that my department chair and many of my senior colleagues joined a district bowling league. I thought it stupid and a waste of time. Bowling? Seriously? Over the years I noticed that the people who did this were the people who got promoted to Vice Principal etc etc i.e. it was excellent political positioning and networking. The movers and shakers bowled — they knew what was happening — they knew when new positions were opening up — they mentored and sponsored each other. I am not suggesting that someone who doesn’t want to bowl do it or that one is compelled to socialize outside work. But it may well be, that this, like golfing with the boss has real payoff in potential for networking and advancement.

    1. Smithy*

      Another thing I picked up on is that this new boss feels like there is a distinct benefit in their department socializing more with other departments. While the LW may feel like this isn’t a point of friction, I do wonder if Jane has either been directly told she needs to improve relations between departments or it’s just from her previous experience that those relationships are helpful for their work.

      It may be that Jane is so stoked about the bowling team because she is actively looking to make social friends in addition to work networking – nonprofits have that in spades. But the potential that she’s looking to either repair a relationship or has identified this as a key networking group for professional advancement is worth flagging.

    2. Minimax*

      Bowling is awesome! Nothing else to report.

      But yeah, sadly sometimes outside of work mad men style socializing is still required.

    3. Massmatt*

      This is why Alison has said very strongly that work related social activities (especially when they involve a boss or managers) need to be open to all, otherwise you wind up with the proverbial boys club.

      The finance industry is notorious for deal making over golf, I know people who hated to play but took up the game nonetheless in order to get the opportunity to socialize with the decision makers.

  12. Buttons*

    What about having a lunch together once a week? Even if that is a bagged lunch and you all sit together in a conference room? I don’t want to do anything after work with anyone, let alone with coworkers. I want to be at home with my husband and my animals. But I don’t mind a coffee or a lunch get together.

    1. Miss May*

      Oh goodness. Every WEEK? That’d be a lot for someone like me. I can just imagine some super awkward interactions for an hour.

  13. Jennifer*

    Sigh. This is one of my pet peeves. When everything is going well so the powers that be have to create problems so they have something to solve.

    I think having lunch together every so often is a good compromise. This way, you don’t give up your social time after work.

    1. Morning Glory*

      Well, it sounds like everything is not going well, so I don’t think Jane is off-base on wanting to improve her relationship with the OP.

      But, mandatory bowling is not how to do that, of course.

      1. Jennifer*

        “The department’s other full-time worker, Leah, and I were used to largely being left alone on projects, and they got done well and on time, so a lot of the things she’s trying to “fix” about us don’t really feel like problems.”

        This is the passage I was referring to.

  14. Viette*

    Just want to extend my sympathies to the OP. I’ve always been good at being cordial/friendly but clear about “friendly vs. friendship” boundaries with my supervisors. I had a supervisor once, who was closer to my age than they were to their peers’ ages, who flat out told me that if I wasn’t going to be friends — actual friends! hang out at the house, go to a bar, F R I E N D S — with them, I was welcome to transfer off their team*.

    With that bias in mind, I kinda disagree with Alison here, because I think that people who think being friends at work is a solution to awkwardness are not inclined to know when to stop. Yes, building a comfortable relationship with your boss is totally helpful at work, but this boss? This woman? I doubt it! OP, she’s already behaving super inappropriately by badgering you both all the time about hanging out and going to bowling. She can’t take a hint. She isn’t going to get better because you get to know her better. What are you going to do if she decides you are in fact friends, and then thinks you friend-broke-up with her?

    *I got a third-party supervisor, who knows the FRIENDS TIME supervisor well, to literally take them aside and tell them they had to stop right now. I don’t think most people’s workplaces have that kind of third-party supervisor person to step in.

  15. bmj*

    ugh, i am having a similar time with my new boss (less than 6 months). i’m trying hard, but this person likes to ‘grab a coffee’ and ‘take a walk’ and endless pop-ins and meetings. it makes me insane and i have no time they’ve suggested a team outing (i manage 3 people and this person manages me and another senior person with no DR’s so we’re 6 total) and I’ve tried to gently dissuade them by pointing out that i know my team and i really don’t think they want to do that. they just want to come in, do their work, and go home. maybe a group lunch at a salad place but that’s about the extent. boss is still bent on this idea. i feel like all of boss’s ideas come from a place of things they think make them look ‘supervisorly’ when they talk to our VP, like “look at me and how i’m LEADING”. i wish they would just focus on the work. instead of taking things off my plate by doing the high level strategy stuff, they are just deep in the micromanaging weeds.

  16. Miss May*

    If you want a white lie, you could certainly say that you can’t do bowling because of health reasons. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but simply saying something along the lines of, “oh, my shoulder get really sore from bowling, I can’t!”

    1. Senor Montoya*

      “Oh that’s a shame! Well, you know we’re really bowling just for the beer and cheer, so don’t feel bad about not being able to bowl! Join us anyway!”

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Uhhh, good point. I retract my previous comment where I was agreeing with a commenter about a fake wrist injury.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          LOL. I just know lots of extremely nice extroverts who will try very hard to make it possible for you to not feel “left out.”

  17. Richard Hershberger*

    Just an observation about this sort of mandatory fun. I think a lot of managerial types correctly observe that employees that function really well together often also socialize together outside of work. They conclude that the socializing is the reason the group functions well. They have the direction of causation reversed.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      I feel like this only applies to younger employees. Once you get older, you start having things like family and other obligations to crop up. The day shrinks.

      1. annakarina1*

        I’ve thought that when reading social media of writers at younger-aimed media sites like Buzzfeed and Gizmodo. A majority of the staffers are in their twenties or early thirties, and they come off as people who socialize with drinks long after work, date each other, are connected on social media, and mix their professional and personal life into one thing. Some of the Jezebel writers go on vacation with each other, while Buzzfeed plays Cupid by matching up their employees to date each other through YouTube entertainment videos.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          LOL, when I read all this, it sounds exhausting. I just want to get home and watch the latest bad Netflix Original Programming on my couch.

          1. annakarina1*

            Yeah, like one Jezebel post mentioned how the boss and two of the staff writers all went on vacation to Puerto Rico, and I thought “That’s too much, I wouldn’t want to go on vacation with my boss.”

            And Buzzfeed had this whole long game going to hook up two of their writers, two attractive young people in their late twenties, by pairing them up in silly videos, then making them go on a date together, and they eventually became a couple. It’s all cute, but I also thought, “Man, all that is going to suck if/when you break up and you have all these public reminders of when corporate tried to make you be a couple for social media clicks, plus still having to work with your ex.”

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Trying to match up their employees to date each other with videos?! That’s…. actually kind of horrifying. I don’t care what industry you’re in or how young and hip you are, that’s grossly inappropriate!

      2. Alienor*

        I think so too. When I was in my 20s, almost all my friends were at my then-job and we hung out daily after we got off work, but that changed fast when people started getting married and having kids. Now my daughter’s grown up and in theory I have lots of time to socialize with coworkers again, but everyone my age is tired after work and just wants to go home (including me). I overhear the 25-year-olds making plans and think “have fun with that.”

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          In my 20s my social life was almost entirely based on the Society for Creative Anachronism. Yes, I was a total nerd. On the one hand, the SCA gave me an outlet, including friendships that still stand decades later. On the other hand, the fact that I was such a nerd, working in non-nerd jobs, meant that I have little in common with my co-workers. I have mellowed and expanded in my advanced youth. I am more likely to socialize, or even make real-word friendships, through work now than I was in my 20s. I am still a nerd, but less narrowly focused on my nerdiness.

    2. mf*

      Yes, very good point. All the people who I socialize with outside of work are people I enjoyed working with first. I socialize with them BECAUSE they are pleasant to work with.

      Similarly, Jane seems to think she win over the OP by socializing with. In reality, what Jane really needs to do is be a good boss–not her friend!

  18. Senor Montoya*

    I disagree with your gentle push for the OP to do some low key socializing with her boss, Alison. Friendliness, yes, but if the OP does not want to be friends and does not want to spend time with anyone from work, after work, that’s reasonable. Sociable activities *at work* are fine if they are voluntary, short, and do not eat into employees’ lunch/break time.

    I got a new supervisor last year and have attended several after work/weekend events to which everyone in the office was invited (truly voluntary), along with spouses/partners/buddies because I’m ok with this sort of thing. I had a great time, I really like my boss, I think they are a very good manager, and, if they were not my boss, I’d absolutely be socializing with them.

    Eventually I’ll retire or move to another position and then we can be friends. Til then: friendly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I’m on record here for 13+ years as saying this kind of obligatory outside-of-work socializing is BS, and staunchly advocating against managers ever pressuring anyone to do it. But the reality is that sometimes it does help your career and it’s in your interests to do a little of it. I didn’t tell the OP to join the bowling league — I said experiment with some social stuff a few times and see if it feels worth it (and stop if not).

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Sure, I agree that it can help your career and OP should take that into consideration. The issue is not the bowling league, the issue is ANY socializing outside of work hours. If the OP doesn’t want to do that (sounds like OP doesn’t want to do that with anyone, but especially not Jane), then that’s a reasonable position.

        It does seem that the OP has two issues: one is Jane’s continuing to insist on socializing and the other — to my mind, the more significant one — is that OP and Leah have lost a lot of autonomy and independence in doing their work, and it sounds like *that* problem is making the socializing problem feel worse.

        1. Fikly*

          Not wanting to do that is reasonable. It should not have work consequences.

          Regardless, it may. That be how it works, no matter how much we don’t like it. We all have to learn to deal with reality.

  19. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    So she’s knee deep in your job and now she want to tell you what to with your personal time as well? Awful woman. Sorry OP.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I think calling her an “awful woman” is a bit much. She doesn’t sound like someone I’d want to work for, but even the OP doesn’t think she’s an awful person, and she’s the one who works for her.

      1. Kaaaaaren*

        I also think calling her an “awful woman” is a bit much, but I think Peter Piper’s basic summary of the situation — the OP’s boss is micromanaging her at work AND ALSO wants to manage how she spends her time away from work — is essentially correct. And, ironically, OP would have a much better relationship with her boss if her boss took her boot off of OP’s neck a little bit, on work matters as well as badgering her about bowling or whatever.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Peter Piper’s summary of what’s happening might be correct, but it doesn’t make the OP’s manager an awful person. It’s easy to express sympathy for the OP without name calling the manager, who even the OP doesn’t think of as a bad person. I can’t tell from your comment (which doesn’t really address anything I said?) if you’re basically saying Peter Piper’s comment is fine. If so, we’ll have to disagree. I don’t think we gain anything from going from “these facts show this manager probably isn’t great at managing” straight to “therefore the manager is a bad person,” and I think we lose a lot from that kind of thinking.

          1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            I wasn’t expecting such earnest responses to a post which was intended to be a little facetious and not a serious commentary on the situation. It was only 2 lines long after all.

            Sure, the OP says her boss is a “lovely person” and then describes her as micromanaging (I’ll make all the decisions from now on*), nitpicky (format your emails THIS way!*), overbearing (I’ve decided we’re all going bowling*), and not really hearing what people are saying (I’m going to disregard your awkward excuses not to join*).

            * Paraphrasing

          2. Kaaaaaren*

            I specifically said calling her “awful” is a bit much. It’s the first things I typed. The OP can think he’s a nice person, and maybe she is, but I would argue she’s probably not all that “lovely,” actually. A lovely person to work for doesn’t micromanage and nitpick to the extent the OP says her boss does. A lovely person to spend time with doesn’t badger people about hanging out and refuse to take pretty clear hints that the others aren’t interested. But, saying she’s “AWFUL” is a lot (as I specifically said). She’s probably a nice enough person with evidently poor management skills and likely poor interpersonal skills. If she wants a better rapport with her direct reports, she can start by backing way off, at work and also on her demands for them to hang out outside of work.

  20. Wow.*

    I feel your pain. Our director thought we may like our new manager more if we spent more time with her (ie, all of us coming into the office once per week). What this actually did was convince me that if I had to deal with her face-to-face every day, I would one day rage quit. Unfortunately, my coworker did quit. Fortunately, the weekly bonding time eventually stopped. Bad manager is still a bad manager.

    1. C in the Hood*

      Yeah. What I’m seeing here is that Jane is so invasive at the office that OP really doesn’t want another ounce of her outside of the office. I think that’s what the real problem is.

      1. Kaaaaaren*

        Yep. Ironically, if the boss backed off a little, on work matters as well as about the bowling thing, the OP would probably like her more.

  21. Stitch*

    Just reading this thinking “oooooh noooo”!

    But realistically you’re going to need to duck a bit. I don’t think she’s going to let it go and given her other issues I don’t think she’ll take it well if you’re blunt. So keep working on excuses.

    And maybe job hunt or see if you can transfer. She sounds exhausting.

  22. Lily in NYC*

    This is what “little white lies” were made for. I had a boss who brought his obnoxious kid in every Wednesday at 4:30 and he’d dump her on me – I worked early hours and that was my normal time to go home. The child was rude as heck. My boss knew I played piano so I made something up about my lessons being switched to Wednesdays right after work. I haven’t taken lessons since I was in my 20s!

  23. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    “I’m sorry, bowling’s not my thing. Have fun tonight! See you tomorrow!”

    Repeat ad nauseam.

  24. Midwest Manager*

    Due to a terrible situation at a former job, when I started in this position 20 yrs ago, the first time I was invited to do something social outside work, I said with a smile “I prefer to keep my work and professional life separate; I had an issue with a past boss and I just find this works better for me.” Over the course of 20 yrs, I ‘ve flexed that for the occasional going-away drinks gathering, and I organize the dept holiday event every year and go to that, but everything else–baby showers, parties, this gathering or that—I don’t attend and everyone knows that about me, and I don’t believe it’s hurt my career at all. If asked, I just tell people that it would be detrimental to my effectiveness if people believed I would favor person X over person Y because I socialized with them.

  25. Senor Montoya*

    I tell you what would be better than friends-type get togethers or socializing get togethers: a monthly meeting where OP and Jane go over current projects, bring up issues, discuss work goals. That’s a good way to build a professional relationship AND it could help with the day-to-day irritation by giving OP a place and time to address the micro-managing.

  26. Laura H.*

    I don’t quite grasp the friend vs. friendly concept. As in while I probably would note a major overstep, I don’t think I’d register a creeping over a slow amount of time on my end. (Disclaimer, I’m not a manager, but I’m a naturally friendly sort, so I do want to be as fair as I can to everyone I come into professional or volunteer contact with.)

    But yea completely agree that a forced social activity is immensely less fun, even if it’s one you like.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      Friend, is, you know, a friend. A person who you are intimate with. People who know your life, who support you, who you can trust, etc.
      Friendly is being warm and polite and nice to people. But not close enough to be a friend.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Friends are the people you’d make a point of continuing to spend time with even if you weren’t working together.

    2. pamplemousse*

      To me it’s about degrees of intimacy. I’m friendly with my bosses and my direct reports — we chat about personal things (“my whole family has the flu,” “I just bought a house, want to see a picture?” “happy to work late next week since the mother-in-law is in town, lol”). We interact regularly and warmly, and could easily get a drink or coffee together and talk about non-work stuff, but typically don’t choose to spend time together outside the office. If my direct reports move onto a new manager, or if one of my managers left, we wouldn’t play this role in one another’s lives anymore.

      I’ve also made actual friends at work. We hang out and participate in shared interests. I don’t worry about whether I’m coming off as professional if we interact outside the office. I’ve introduced them to my other friends. They know personal stuff about me I wouldn’t share at the office. If one of us left the job, our friendship would change (work friendships are situational) but the connection we have would not.

      It can be hard to tell! I was a little hurt the first time I had a supervisor change jobs and we suddenly no longer really talked; I’d thought she genuinely liked me. Now, having done this to former direct reports, I realize she probably did, but “person I have to interact with every day and generally like, so it’s easy to be friendly and personable together” and “actual friend I choose to interact with every day” are two very different categories.

    3. aebhel*

      A friend is someone I willingly spend social time with because I enjoy their company. ‘Friendly’ is chatting with my coworkers in the break room.

    4. Senor Montoya*

      Friendly with my supervisor: stop at their office to chat sociably a couple times a week.
      Friends with my supervisor: go out for drinks after work.

      Friendly with my supervisor: get into an intense discussion about why Cats is so terrible.
      Friends with my supervisor: go see Cats together.

      Friendly with my supervisor: walk over to the campus coffee shop and chat about low-level office issues
      Friends with my supervisor: go for brunch on Saturday.

      Friendly with my supervisor: share info about good summer camps
      Friends with my supervisor: drive supervisor’s kid to summer camp

    5. James*

      I’m friends with a colleague. We’ve been to each other’s houses, we’ve done activities together, my wife calls her up to complain when I’m being a jerk.

      I’m friendly with most of my colleagues. I listen to them talk about their personal lives, occasionally share humorous stories about mine, but when I leave work I never find myself asking “I wonder if John would want to go out for a drink tomorrow”.

      Basically, it’s about setting boundaries. A friend has more involvement in my personal life than a colleague at work. The boundaries need adjusted periodically, as relationships change.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      Friendly happens at work. Friends happens outside of work. There’s some overlap, but basically, once you make after-work plans beyond “the whole office is going to happy hour,” you’ve crossed the line into friends.

  27. Ann O'Nemity*

    “I get the feeling that she thinks spending more time together as humans is going to reduce friction at work. I do not feel this way. Her supervision is an adjustment for me, yes, but I am working on making that adjustment, largely by liking my job less and making my peace with that.”

    Maybe Jane will stop trying to socialize if there’s less strain in the workplace. What friction is Jane picking up on? Is the OP visibly unhappy or annoyed? Do Jane and OP regularly disagree about the work? Maybe the OP can take additional steps to smooth things over.

  28. kittymommy*

    I’ll admit I sometimes hang out with my boss(es) both current ones and ones I have had in the past. It’s not all the time (mainly for a specific event, like a concert) and it’s not all of them. It’s more the ones that I have a similar personality to and are ones that are capable of separating work me from non-work me( and work them vs. non-work them). It doesn’t sound like your boss is capable of this, that for me would be an automatic no to outside work stuff.

  29. Llellayena*

    Anyone else having a problem with the Cut’s website crashing? I had to close and return to the site four times before I finished the article.

  30. CatPerson*

    I don’t really understand all of the suggestions for white lies when all you really have to say is “I don’t like to bowl.”

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      But I mean, the bowling is not really the issue, and framing it that way might just lead to weekly invites to do something else. The white lies are to avoid saying the truth, which is “I don’t like you and don’t want to increase the amount of time together.” And when the person in question is your boss I’d say go for a white lie on that one!

    2. Antilles*

      No worries! You can still come and hang out with us! None of us particularly care too much about the bowlign either, it’s just an excuse to meet up for drinks!
      -Signed, someone has tried the “I don’t like to bowl” argument

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          You are probably a reasonable person who would accept that answer! The problem is that some unreasonable people would see it as a personal rejection of them, and this boss sounds like she might be one of those.

  31. Blue Eagle*

    Here is a different take on the issue. Your boss isn’t saying she wants to be “friends” and “include you in her social life”, she is asking you to participate in an after work activity with co-workers from your organization. Yes, her nagging you is bad. But look at it from another side. There are co-workers from other departments who also bowl in this group. If you bowl occasionally (say, once a month), you will get to know those other co-workers in a non-work setting – – that may come in handy if you ever need something from them in a work setting.
    My old company had a golf league and I participated with my boss as my partner (but that’s a whole other discussion that was quite fun!), but the best thing was meeting people from other areas of the company that I normally had no exposure to. Then when needing to contact one of them for something, it was much easier having already made a contact.
    Of course, if you actively dislike bowling, then I wouldn’t suggest “sucking it up” and doing it. And bowling once a month might actually improve things with your boss (just as long as it is only bowling and only once a month and doesn’t start morphing into an actual “social” hanging out by wanting to do all kinds of other things with you).

    1. Nonprofit Nancy*

      Yeah the social events are tough, since as others have noted this really *can* lead to better inside information and sometimes (I would argue moreso in poorly run places) even things like promotions etc. Like if OP needs to take a transfer to get away from Jane, more office schmoozing may help with that. You certainly wouldn’t need to commit to weekly bowling to get the benefits though.

    2. Smithy*

      If Jane were the one writing in, I do think that being more explicit about opportunities as networking or team-building can be helpful in letting staff make more informed decisions on whether or not to participate.

      I’ve been on a team that heard the news “when our team shows up late to interdepartmental happy hours, it reflects badly on all of us and gives the impression that we think we’re better than our colleagues”. Direct news like that gives teams concrete information on how to proceed. And also for Directors to help direct reports prioritize responsibilities accordingly.

      While this bowling event may be truly social with zero professional impact….I struggle to believe the balance is that simple.

    3. Just. No.*

      You can ask me to spend unpaid time with my boss and coworkers, but I am free to say no and the no should be respected. Maybe I want to go home and paint. Maybe I want to go home and sew. Maybe I have my own social life, and don’t feel like spending time with my boss and people from other departments instead of with my highly valued friends. Maybe I have a deep need to recharge my batteries and have lots of peaceful alone time. It doesn’t really matter what my reasons are, I’m not obligated to hang out with the Pun Derived from Our Company Name Team. “Hey, I want you to come do this thing on your own time with people from work AND I WILL KEEP PESTERING YOU UNTIL I GET MY WAY” is not a perspective, it’s an annoying and intrusive problem.

  32. Jedi Squirrel*

    I was really disappointed when Captain Picard started playing poker with the officers.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Yeah, it’s super lonely at the top *for a reason*. Col. Joe Bishop understands this.

      1. James*

        I’ll bite. :D

        The military is different. Especially on a ship, you can’t get away from work–it’s literally not possible. You can only socialize with other people on the ship, and if you’re the captain that means that you can only socialize with those below you in rank. Historically this has been addressed by dividing the armed forces into officers and enlisted, and allowing the members much greater leeway to mingle with other members within their group than they have between groups. No one would bat an eye at a private and a corporal playing poker, despite the corporal technically outranking the private. Among officers there have historically (I can’t speak to the modern military, never been my area of interest) been greater social distances between ranks–a midshipman isn’t going to be best buddies with the captain–but there’s still greater latitude for socializing. Playing cards has historically been a perfectly acceptable social behavior within the group of officers. It’d be weird for a midshipman to be invited to play with the captain, but only mildly so (especially if the midship was good at cards and the captain knew it).

        The key difference is ability to get away. An officer on a ship cannot usually leave. A worker in an office, however, can. So the rules have to be somewhat different between the groups.

  33. Oh No She Di'int*

    One aspect that hasn’t been touched on: OP sounds like a front-line, individual contributor in the organization. I wonder if the advice changes as one moves up the corporate hierarchy?

    For example, I imagine that at the Director level, one would expect to attend these kinds of extracurricular activities, and in fact you might worry about your position in the company if you don’t get invited.

  34. juliebulie*

    I have two types of replies to this sort of thing:

    1. I’m so sorry, I just hate bowling. It’s fun maybe once every ten years but that’s it. (If that is the only objection.)
    2. I’m so sorry, but I just can’t. (If it isn’t just about bowling.) Repeat as necessary, stubbornly, to all inquiries (such as “why not?”), in just such a way that there can be no mistaking that you’re not going to bowl with them again.

    Jane is the one with the problem, not you. Don’t make this a problem for yourself.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I really do hate bowling, after ten years of being on several different leagues. I must’ve overdone it in the past.

      Real talk, do y’all know that bowling leagues have no windows and no way of letting the outside air in? most of these places have not been aired out in years. I imagine that, if I had to spend 2-3 hours inside one now, my migraine would kick right off after, oh, 30 minutes in the stuffy building. So that can be used as another reason why you cannot go bowling, OP!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I meant, of course, that bowling alleys have no windows. Silly me.

  35. introverted af*

    I think if this was me, I would try drinks again, but then if you’re told bowling is afterwards anyway say something like, “Oh, I have to…(pick up my friend from the airport/other reasonable location, go meet another friend for dinner, go to my XYZ interest club, go let out my neighbor’s dog, etc).” Don’t let them plan around you by telling them beforehand, just go for drinks and have an excuse for when you need to leave. You can even announce it when you get there for drinks, or after people have ordered the first round – you’re politely telling them you have an end time, but also likely not giving them enough time to reschedule bowling and not inventing a reason that they’re going to ask about in the future and get caught on your lies.

          1. we're basically gods*

            My cat doesn’t seem to care unless I’ve been gone overnight– normally I get home and have to call him several times before he crawls out from underneath the couch and wakes up. But he still makes for a good excuse if I don’t feel comfortable just saying that I need to go home! (“I have to feed the cat” is, in my playbook, the adult version of “My mom says I have to come home”)

            1. RussianInTexas*

              I have 3 cats, and I give them all treats when I get home (they all like different treats, and no, not spoiled at ALL), and one is Strong and Silent, one is a Tiny and Squeaky Voice, and the 3rd is super noisy yowly screechy one. He is lucky he is cute, he never shuts up.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      Or even just, “I’m so sorry, I just can’t! Have a great time! See you tomorrow!”

      You do not need to have a specific reason. You do not need to make up a lie about needing to do this or that (because a few days from now, someone’s going to ask you So where’d you go for dinner the other night? then you are going to make up another lie…) As long as you are cheerful about it, you have met the etiquette requirements.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        In fact, providing a specific reason just gives them something to argue against. Don’t provide a “problem” that they can “fix.”

  36. SK*

    Yikes yikes yikes. This reminds me of when I outlined a clear work problem I was having with a coworker (not doing her work when she said she would) and he suggested we should all do some after work socializing as a team as a solution. I can’t remember his response when I replied that I had, in fact, hung out with this coworker outside of work before so this was clearly not a ‘personality conflict’ as he was trying to argue. I ended up leaving that job maybe two months later, so unfortunately no good advice to impart from that situation.

  37. Smithy*

    A very good “I can’t bowl” white lie is if you have back troubles. I was once a year work activity that was bowling, and it resulted in lots of very angry feedback about how exclusionary and awful bowling was because it meant so many people felt the need to disclose injuries/illness to coworkers.

    I am very pro-work networking is a necessary evil. However. Tweaking your lower back is a great way to call off bowling forever.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      I have a permanent back injury. My team is going bowling tomorrow as a team-building activity (during work hours, though, so we get paid for it). I plan to sit and watch with the others who don’t bowl.

  38. Law Student*

    I liked the mention of building rapport during the workday and would love to see that expanded a bit more. I think it would be helpful for both those who dont like after work socializing and those who dont have the capacity to commit to the time.

  39. RussianInTexas*

    I hate my current work place, but one good thing here is, no one cares about team building, or socializing after work, or anything. I am not being sarcastic. I hate stuff like that.
    My actual coworkers are mostly nice people, but the job is terrible, and in general, I spend enough time with them as is.

    1. Midwest Manager*

      I’ve told my current supervisor and Grandboss repeatedly that the day I have to do a trust fall is the day I quit.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh, lord, no, no trust fall, I have a bad back and I just KNOW someone’s going to fail to catch me.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OMG, a thousand times yes! Oddly, my previous workplace was a very social one, with multiple cliques and friend groups, happy hours, group lunches, parties on weekends (!!!) and yes I was at one point “in” a clique or two and was invited to alll the parties (and hosted a couple). I fell out of the work clique after I’d disappeared into a relationship for two years – he wanted to hang out every weekend, but only with his friends or as a couple, never with any of mine – after he ended things, I realized that Work Clique was now doing things without me and I was not being invited anymore. Was sad about it at the time, but now I look back at it like “How did I manage to spend so much of my free time hanging with coworkers? what was wrong with me?” Current workplace does maybe two happy hours a year, and no weekend parties that I know of. And it feels amazing. So much free time and energy for other things! I mostly enjoy the workplace and really like the people I work with, but there’s no way I could do the weekend parties or even Thursday bowling with the work crowd anymore.

  40. Essess*

    I strongly disagree with telling her any actual plans. It’s none of the boss’s business what your plans are or for OP to have to lie and come up with plans. It’s far more honest to just say that “my free time is already too full of other commitments so I cannot participate in any additional after-work activities. Being pressured to try to fit more into my limited free-time is really adding stress to my work.”

  41. Office Grunt*

    God I have nightmares about this.

    At a prior job, I decided to meet up on a Friday for drinks with friends from one of my extracurriculars. A co-worker (who all of us knew, and was actually a reference for me getting that job) joined, and brought someone along…one of the directors I reported to (the co-worker reported to the other director). I think I said something about it being awkward, and I had to explain to the director (who is a lawyer!) why this was.

    So glad I no longer work at that dysfunctional hellhole.

  42. Assistant Manager*

    Uggggh no!!

    I’ve been invited out by my team, and I’ve turned it down by basically thanking them for including me, but letting them know that things start getting too muddied when a manager starts hanging out socially with the team. Plus, what if they want the space to vent about me or other managers in our department?

    It’s sweet to be included, but I tell them flat out that it’s a “me” thing. I don’t friend coworkers on Facebook because I need the space to vent about work or yell about politics or what have you. I don’t mind adding them on Instagram because it’s all public and pretty mundane, but only if I’m added first (which has only happened with one former peer). I’m certainly not pushing for that in any way.

  43. bikes*

    My vote is for demurring vaguely.

    “Oh, I can’t; I’ve been feeling over-scheduled lately.”

    “There’s just a ton going on with me after work.”

    I think it’s really important not to outright lie. Somehow, it sucks away at your dignity to be making up wrist injuries and the like.

  44. Vanilla Latte with an Xtra Shot*

    I have the opposite problem – my direct reports love to hang out socially! I’ve worked really hard to draw the boundaries.

    Something I’ve learned is that different people have different needs when it comes to levels of socialization at work. Me, I need very little socialization at work because I get it from plenty of other sources. My direct reports really thrive on having an active work social life.

  45. From That Guy*

    Dicey situation. Allison’s script for turning it down is good, on point. Just keep shutting it down until you get to the point of making it clear it is a complete and utter no go!! As another commenter noted, you have a bigger issue here, her micromanaging. I am afraid this is causing you more grief and stress then you are aware of or want to admit to at this time. If you are fine with it, terrific, I take back my comment. In a nutshell; stay firm and shut this down (the constant invites). I am sorry you have to deal with this and I hope she eventually gives up. The less contact you have with this person the better. Peace.

  46. Sleve McDichael*

    One of the most freeing things I have learned as an adult (from Captain Awkward, I think) is that two perfectly nice people can not like each other and there is nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to feel guilty if you and another person don’t click. So long as you continue to be warm and polite, nothing is wrong. That’s just life. I hope you manage to escape any more bowling.

  47. Much Ado About Nothing*

    This reminds me of Yosemite Sam and bugs bunny facing off with walls and cannons.

    On the one side, there’s your boss who is quite convinced in her idea to improve things and create a working relationship via personal connection. On the other side, there’s you who is equally committed to a working relationship via professional boundaries. Both reasonable solutions, really. You can argue that your boss’s way is weird (and I think it is) but if you were a huge, huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and she was a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright, watching Cats might just be wonderfur (seee what I did there!)

    Except that neither of you seem open to the other. So there’s really four ways that this can go (butchering Pascal’s wager).
    1. You can both insist on your way and not give in. Hold firm, die on that hill.
    2. You can give in and go her way.
    3. She can give in and do things your way.
    4. You can both compromise a little and meet halfway.

    But the one option that doesn’t exist is the one where she is being 100% unreasonable, unfair, and unrealistic and you are being 100% reasonable, right, and rational.

    I think Alison gave very fair advise really…I just wanted to make the Cats and wonderfur comment.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I love this comment. And I think you actually meant Andrew Lloyd Webber. :-)

  48. Much Ado About Nothing*

    Well fart! I meant Andrew Lloyd Webber but I have a FLW print on my desk and well…pooh

  49. Annie*

    I got a bit hung up on bowling. All the other stuff, too because I like to keep my work life separate.

    But bowling? I have repetitive stress shoulder issues. If she makes it so bowling is a work thing, can you claim the sore shoulder under workers comp? Is Jane prepared to handle and not react to your shoulder is killing you crankiness or reduction of use in your dominant hand productivity loss?

  50. Impy*

    It seems to me that the real issue here is that your boss sucks. She micromanages you, unnecessarily, and thinks that being BFFs will make you ok with being micromanaged. I’ve had a couple of bosses like that and I find it baffling. A) don’t expect to be friends with subordinates b) you really can’t expect it when you’re actively making your subordinates’ lives miserable c) your friendship is not going to alleviate your subordinates misery.

    You simply cannot expect someone to go bowling with you when you are treating them like they are an incompetent moron.

  51. Impy*

    I don’t get why some bosses do that. Why do they think their friendship is adequate compensation for making you professionally miserable?

    I had a boss take an important account off me – for no real reason – then try to talk to me about her new manicure.

    Why on earth would you expect a subordinate to give a rats ass about your nails after you’ve treated them badly? Or in this case, why would you think bowling is going to make up for micromanaging your employee and making her feel miserable?

    I just don’t get it.

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