do I need to organize social outings for my staff?

A reader writes:

I manage a staff of about 15 people who work from various locations, so there are many members of my team who won’t see each other if it’s not intentional. For our team to function well, it’s important that we communicate and collaborate. To that end, we have standing meetings, regular professional development sessions and occasional group trips to industry conferences, an orientation process that emphasizes getting to know the rest of the department, etc. … all specifically work-day activities.

Previously, I had a couple of staff members who initiated regular happy hours and other social activities, as well. I was grateful for them because when the work day ends, while I truly enjoy my colleagues, I can’t wait to go home to my family and read a book in the bath. I am also reluctant to be the organizer of happy hours because I don’t want to create “Ugh, I have to go out after work to make my boss happy” situations. That said, I know many people do like to socialize with coworkers. And when someone else organized a happy hour, I went for a drink when I could — it was fun and low-key. I realized recently, however, that after some normal turnover, the main “social directors” are gone and no one has stepped up to take their place. Do I need to take this on? Or can I just go home and lock the door behind me?

I answer this question — and two others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  •  My employee thinks “thanks” is positive feedback
  • Writing a LinkedIn recommendation for an employee who quit during our busiest time

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    For this first letter, even if a manager doesn’t organize them, do check in periodically to check that A) employees don’t feel they are mandatory and that there truly aren’t repercussions for not attending (such as missing out on info about projects) and B) that they aren’t all of one type. Happy hours are pretty alienating for a lot of people who don’t drink.

    1. Kowalski! Options!*

      This. And that employees that don’t attend are provided other opportunities to connect with managers and directors, too. Face-to-face time, whether IRL or online, shouldn’t be reliant on people’s willingness to go out.

    2. Jessica*

      But if they’re genuinely optional, non-work events that employees organize because they want to, are those employees obligated to also organize different things?

      I’m torn here, because I totally get why happy hour is not universal (and indeed nothing is), why it would be good to have a range of different stuff, and how even a private social thing among employees could have repercussions for work culture in ways the manager should care about.

      But on the other hand, if Julie McCoy is just inviting her coworkers to happy hour on her own initiative, I don’t see why management is entitled to assign her the duty of organizing further work-social things that she herself may have no interest in.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Ohh this is a very good point! Maybe everyone should be encouraged to design one activity per year or something? It’s so hard, my boss just organized a super physical activity and gave us almost zero details to try and surprise us, then he was upset when only a handful of people showed up. Yeah.. I guess there is no real way to make it work.

        1. Butter Bonanza*

          Oh, no. Please, no. I think I understand that you were brainstorming. But to assign a person to make assignments—just to ensure there’s some forced fun just in case someone might want that? Only if all parties are paid extra, given a healthy raise on top of that and if it’s in their contract. Ughhh

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Surprises are the worst. I remember once we had to go for our annual meeting in a city right on the border with Belgium. We were given zero information on what would happen. I asked whether we were going to Belgium “you’ll see when you get here”. I then pointed out that two of our colleagues were from a non-EU country, and would need to have their passport on them if we crossed the border from France, or risk being arrested as illegal immigrants, but they didn’t want to take their passport “just in case”. So then HR told them to bring their passports and surprise surprise no we didn’t cross the border. Absolutely infuriating.

      2. Chairman of the Bored*

        If I was organizing voluntary happy hours with my peers and my boss told me that I was therefore *also* obligated to schedule some other event I would just stop arranging things altogether.

        Somebody on the team doesn’t like happy hours? No problem, that’s perfectly understandable. That person is welcome to arrange whatever other thing they prefer. I’m not doing it.

        1. Calliope*

          Also at the work happy hours I’ve been to, they’re actually not really designed to punish non-drinkers. They’re always somewhere with food and non-alcoholic drinks and there’s always someone not drinking for one reason or another. And nobody gets drunk – were talking maybe two drinks max.

          If you’re someone for whom it’s difficult to be around alcohol at all, that’s still a problem. But most non-drinkers aren’t necessarily in that situation.

          1. Decidedly Me*

            Yup, non-drinker here and I’ve been to plenty of alcohol related get togethers. I don’t mind having water, a mocktail, whatever.

            1. alienor*

              I don’t mind either, but I super mind being the target of awkward jokes and comments about it. It’s always only a couple of people who do this (usually the people who are known for being very heavy drinkers themselves) but it’s such a drag to see one of them coming and have to go “Oh hey Dick…yes it’s a Diet Coke…yes, Dick, I’m sure I don’t want a REAL drink, thanks for offering through.”

            2. Inkhorn*

              I wouldn’t mind either, if I didn’t loathe the smell of alcohol and if pub fumes didn’t leave me all brain-foggy. (So naturally I was born in a country that loves a drink…)

        2. Grace Poole*

          I’m the person in my workplace who often throws together happy hours for the group. People who don’t drink are absolutely invited and usually do come for a little bit. Often times other colleagues will say, “we should go hiking/have game hour at lunch/etc!” Sure, great, but *I’m* not going to plan that–the Slack channel is there and all yours, friend.

        3. Artemesia*

          And if someone said that to me as boss, I would say ‘ no one needs to attend the happy hour; if you would like a different kind of social activity outside of work, you need to design one and invite people. You might check around to see if anyone would be interested in a night out at the ball park (if you have minor league ball in your town, these are fun and cheap) or bowling or whatever.’

          Absolutely don’t burden the person already arranging the happy hour with it.

      3. Ihaveaheadache*

        Ah this hits home for me. I was voluntold to organize voluntary happy hours by a partner and then subsequently all other social activities like organizing outings to go to sporting events etc, fell on to me. That being said I was able to push the cost for these onto the firm so it wasn’t really private in the sense that people paid out of their own pockets. It was just annoying to have all this extra work dumped onto me in addition to managing a number of different client deliverables and projects.

        1. Artemesia*

          And this kind of work does not contribute to wards partnership, or promotion or raises most places which is run reason it is often dumped on women who are then ‘not productive enough’ or ‘committed enough’ for promotion.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        Kudos for the Love Boat reference. Next try to work in Fantasy Island as well.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          For those toxic positivity workplaces: “Smiles, everyone! SMILES!”

      5. turquoisecow*

        I think it depends on if there are negative consequences for not attending. Non-manager Julie wants to have a happy hour and Bob who’s a parent and needs to get home in the evening can never make it. Does Julie (and maybe other coworkers) freeze him out of important meetings or otherwise ostracize him? There’s ways coworkers can make life difficult for coworkers even if they’re not the boss.

        I think the manager in that situation needs to keep an eye on the social dynamics in the team. If Julie keeps having happy hours and the same five people keep going and they seem to have an exclusionary clique and Bob and others don’t attend, then that becomes a work issue. If Julie and some work friends want to go out drinking and Bob and Sally don’t go but they still collaborate and work together fine, then there’s no need for the manager to intervene.

    3. Jennifer Strange*

      I agree with this. It’s one thing if someone has been specifically tasked with creating social opportunities (either as part of or in addition to their job). But if this is just a “Hey, we should grab drinks after work this Friday!” then I don’t think that person needs to then be tasked with creating outings that fit all needs.

    4. anonymous73*

      “Forced fun” is never a good idea. If a manager wants their group to have face time, organize a lunch during a work day. At my jobs, it usually just went by word of mouth – “hey we’re heading to happy hour after work, come join us if you’d like.” If you don’t drink, there’s nothing wrong with trying to get some of your co-workers together for another activity. But the organization of any after work social activity should never be assigned to any particular person.

      1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

        Haha can you imagine if any picture uploaded from a mandatory work get-together was captioned with the hashtag #forcedfun ? :D

    5. Lily Rowan*

      It’s all tricky! My former boss always organized happy hours, and as far as I know she doesn’t drink, nor did a couple of others on the team. I said to her, you know, we could do something different for celebrations or whatever, and she always said no, people like happy hour. OK! There was food and non-alcoholic drinks, of course, but I always thought it was weird we never went for ice cream or something.

      1. Artemesia*

        grownups tend to enjoy a drink after work — those who don’t drink can snack and drink other drinks and socialize. Most of these I have attended both here and in France where Friday ‘apero’ is a real and pleasant thing with friends or associates do not involve people getting drunk. There are plenty of drink choices for people who don’t want to drink alcohol.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. I will happily nurse a lime and lemonade after work because I don’t drink much (largely because I resent the price pubs in London charge for inferior wine). I am happy spending time with my colleagues in a pub even though I will almost certainly have a soft drink.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          When I was pregnant I learned to my dismay that often there are surprisingly few drink choices without alcohol. Most of them are very sugary, and when I got gestational diabetes, my summer evening drink choices quickly reduced to two: sparkling water or still water. If I was lucky with a slice of lemon.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            I am someone who drinks, but I’m loving the trend, at least in the US, of having more interesting non-alcoholic options like shrubs, non-alcoholic liquers (a place near me makes non-alcoholic amaro and does a mean alcohol free espresso martini), even non-alcoholic gin/whiskey/rum etc (and now I want a Mariposa Milk from Bitter and Twisted in PHX). Sometimes I want the taste but at my age the real deal makes me too tired too fast.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        The 3 devout Mormons in my old office used to be the office happy hour organizers. They didn’t drink, but LOVED socializing after work, so they would find places close and select based on the quality of the food menu and the non-alcoholic beverage choice. Was pretty awesome because a place that can do a good shrub or mocktail can do an equally good cocktail and who is sad by a menu that is more than just your boring bar appetizers?

    6. L-squared*

      For question B, I think the problem is, if the manager has chosen to be hands off on the planning, they can’t really demand that they are not all of one type. That is kind of the trade off for her not wanting to do it. If she wants other types, she is welcome to organize other types. But happy hours are easy and take little planning, so if it turns people off, then they can put something else together or not go

  2. Chairman of the Bored*

    If somebody on the team wants this they can step up and put it together.

    Generally the people who *really* want to do social things this aren’t shy about arranging it. I’m this person on my team, and I have zero expectation that some random boss will take care of it if I decide not to.

    If nobody is asking for it or making it happen I’d say there’s no pressure on LW to force it.

  3. The Tin Man*

    I know it’s an old letter but #1 sounds like she is doing exactly what a boss should do. I love that she includes emphasizing getting to know the team during onboarding – my company does not always do a great job at that and it shows. We do not need outside-of-work social events, people at those would probably gravitate towards the people they already know! Unless I’m just projecting because I know that would be my default that I’d have to work to overcome.

    1. Esmeralda*

      Or also, only for people who can actually attend after work. Excludes people who have to catch a train, catch a bus, carpool, have to hit the road by X time or the commute is tripled, people who have to pick up a kid from school/day care, have obligations at home, do not have enough spoons to add on time at the end of the day…

  4. Maggie*

    I am quite concerned that my boss will react like OP #3… I will be giving 3 weeks notice this week and in my boss’ mind 6 months of the year are too busy to take vacation, leave etc… I wonder why I’m leaving….

    Anyways yes you are being petty OP3 – people have lives that don’t revolve around work and you should be happy you got two weeks notice

  5. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

    Can folks share onboarding activities that prioritizes getting to know other staff? I’d love to implement something like this!

    1. Janeric*

      My supervisor used to have a couple of our section meetings at a coffee shop after making a new hire, and have some less formal discussion at those — she also had us think of helpful process and reference documents that new hires could work on/own with lots of collaboration. (One thing was updating the contact list for the larger group, which was not popular but did involve making contact with every staff member to confirm names/numbers/title. (There was a lot of turnover and a lot of marriages so there was usually at least three updates — and we worked in the field so having a quick reference for a subject matter expert was essential.)

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      We do short, informal, one-on-one meetings for new folks with their supervisor and any coworkers they’ll be meeting with. These can be virtual or in-person, depending on comfort levels. In a smaller team, we may have a team lunch catered in or at a restaurant. We ask the existing team to do the outreach and welcome the new team member.

      One of my teams also takes the on-boarding checklist and divvies it up between the team, so the new person gets to spend a little time one-on-one with each of their new coworkers. That particular team has people who have an interest or expertise in particular part of their job, so we put the new person with the SME for that job function. Those sessions are part training and part getting-to-know-you.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      My team goes out for lunch together during the week that a new hire starts (at least we did when we weren’t remote).
      It does a pretty solid job of the basic “hi, this is who I am”

      1. Antilles*

        Agreed. Lunch tends to work really well since by definition, it’s during the working day, and you therefore avoid interfering with people’s personal time.

    4. Decidedly Me*

      We’re fully remote, but we make sure we have a variety of team members host training sessions, so they aren’t just getting to know one or two people during training (there’s chit chat time available during these). There are several casual 1-1s scheduled with key folks and everyone is set up with a buddy/mentor on the team. We also encourage folks to post in a team Slack channel vs using DMs.

    5. Velawciraptor*

      We generally do a “new guy lunch” during a new employee’s first week. Everyone who wants to goes out to lunch and the boss picks up the tab for the new person.

      We also regularly hire attorneys right out of law school, so we try to get them into the office to meet people before they start (usu. while they’re settling in and studying for the Bar). We’ll do lunch so they can start getting to know people.

      And when we make an offer to someone from out of town, we try to put them in touch with people in the office who can be helpful with questions about local things. And if they come to town while looking for housing or anything ahead of their start date, we always make them welcome in the office and, again, do lunch if possible.

      A lot of this boils down to “feed people.” But shared meals are a pretty good means of bonding.

    6. Esmeralda*

      I ask my mentees to observe student appointments led by every other staff member, discuss with them questions to ask about the appt, and then I remind the rest of the staff to be ready to talk about XYZ with the newbie.

      I direct my mentees to take questions about student issues to the other staff, not just me – I suggest that they ask two different people for each issue.

      In other words, not separate activities, but as a piece of their training.

      I also encourage my mentees to show up to weekly staff meetings five minutes early so they can participate in the socializing before the meeting.

    7. allathian*

      Onboarding in my team includes meetings with other team members to learn what they do for the team. They’re usually an hour long, so there’s plenty of time for less formal chit chat as well. It’s been very well received, all of our recent hires have given very positive feedback on the onboarding. This was especially important when we were 100% WFH, our team expaded from 14 to 21 people, and since June 2021 we’ve hired 13 new people, because some employees left for other jobs and a couple employees have retired.

  6. MedGal*

    We have a culture team within our team (4-5 out of a te of 30) that plans a variety of events. No one has to attend but the option is there. Some are in person and some are virtual.

  7. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    it really depends on the culture of the office and where people are commuting from and childcare.

    I have so many coworkers that bolt out the door at quitting time due to childcare/after-school care. I have just as many who live significantly enough out of town that staying late for an after-work social event is a big thing to consider.

    My workplace is big on events during the workday and I really enjoy these because it’s a nice break from the routine, they’re announced well in advance so you can plan ahead and everyone can still leave on time at the end of the workday. My favourite was the fundraising bingo we held in our atrium one year, during lunch time.

    1. Jellyfish*

      A former job used to hold cookouts once a month or so. The bosses at our branch office would do all the shopping and prep work, and anyone interested and available would come eat lunch together. Those were great for team building and getting to know each other, happened during work hours, and didn’t disrupt either the work or people’s outside schedules.

      However, the corporate office was a big fan of after-hours events and tried to organize them about once a quarter. I very, very grudgingly attended one per year because it looked good to have high participation. My time outside work is my own, and I deeply resent any kind of mandatory fun that makes me give up my evenings or a day off to be with coworkers.

    2. QA Peon*

      Our “wellness committee” is hosting walks and bike rides at lunch times. Some are just around the block, but they also go to the local farmer’s market or a place that does healthy smoothies.

    3. allathian*

      Our birthday celebrations and retirement parties are always held during work hours, and whenever possible during our biannual development days to ensure that the whole team gets a chance to celebrate. Members of our team are currently working in 5 different offices.

      Before the pandemic, we used to have a Christmas party. (Yes, it was called that, but I work for the government in a country with two state churches, Lutheran and Orthodox, so there’s no separation of church and state. Church membership is going down, though, and while members of the Lutheran church account for about 70 percent of the population, many of whom are members more or less out of habit even if they don’t believe in God and never attend any services, the second biggest group is “unaffiliated”.)

      I attended the Chrismas parties every year until our son was born, after that I’ve sometimes done it, although I’ve mostly skipped it. I’d be happy to go to dinner and maybe see a show, but I don’t want to go on a 6-hour cruise where some coworkers drink so much they can’t walk straight and throw up on the floor by 6 pm ever again. They had a Christmas party last year, the first since Christmas 2019, but attendance was so low that I don’t know if they’re doing anything this year.

  8. Lea*

    On the first letter, the only time I want a boss to arrange something is on a meeting on travel with people you never see in person, I think it’s nice to have one night where some sort of dinner is planned. That seems appropriate and not having one does sometimes feel like a slight? A minor one though. But Not regular happy hour or anything!

    I do appreciate off hours face time on those rare occasions.

    On the second one I amDYING at the thought of sending an email to my boss where someone has replied ‘thanks’

    1. Sunshine's Eschatology*

      What’s so funny to me about #2 is that in my office, also a very thanks-heavy environment, we often use “Thanks!” as a shorthand for “Thanks in advance for working on this task.” I love the thought of spinning a preemptive “Thanks!” like “See, my work is so great that Joe is completely confident that I will perform this task to my usual high and excellent standards! Go me!”

      1. binge eating cereal*

        My sister is mid-management at a Fortune 100 company. Her auto-signature is:


        This guy would forward literally every email ever from her.

        (I do want to tell her to change her autosig. You don’t have to thank everyone just for corresponding with you.)

        1. Sunshine's Eschatology*

          Oh man, on the other hand, having it as part of your auto-signature means you don’t have to spend the extra few nervous seconds going, “Is this something I should say thanks for? Better to err on the side of thanks, right? But is it weird? Ah screw it, we always say it.” Or maybe that’s just me, doing what we lawyers do best and overthinking it!!

  9. oranges*

    OP#3 is being petty, but they may be overthinking it too.

    LinkedIn is designed to encourage engagement and interaction. If someone sent me a personal email requesting a recommendation, I’d feel obligated to respond with *something*. But if it’s just a LinkedIn recommendation request, they likely clicked a few buttons and LinkedIn generated the rest. I wouldn’t feel too much guilt ignoring that if you don’t feel compelled to respond. They don’t carry much weight anyway.

    1. Annony*

      Yep. I actually would ignore all recommendation requests that come through LinkedIn. They aren’t worth the time to write and apparently aren’t important enough to the person asking to even make a personal request. If it were a letter of recommendation for a job it would be completely different.

  10. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    I know this is a reprint of an old letter, and in light of it probably being written pre-pandemic, I even wonder at the logistics on this if 15 people worked in various locations and never saw each other during their normal work day. It doesn’t sound like virtual events were a thing at that time — happy hours at a bar — so how possible was it for the whole group to really get together? Or is it possible it was just a small group in one location? Since the boss rarely attended, I wonder if they are misinterpreting how important these were to the whole team. All this to say, either a small group is still getting together (+ or – the coworkers who have left) but not inviting the boss anymore; or whoever is left, they don’t want to get together now that Jane and Fergus are gone. No need to take what appears like an organic casual thing and make it a scheduled Event.

  11. Zach*

    I’ve had really great experiences with managers at my current job and how they schedule happy hours/fun events- they are extremely good about messaging (and putting in the invite) that these events are “NOT MANDATORY FUN” and that they realize everyone’s got stuff to do and they won’t think any more or less of anyone attending or not attending.

    Personally, that makes me not worry at all about attending these events. That said, I am a person that does quite enjoy happy hours, so on average I probably make about 50% of them. For people that never go, maybe there’s anxiety I’m not aware of, but to me the disclaimer in the event invite has always been reassuring for times where I’m on the fence about going.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I’m one that doesn’t really enjoy happy hours, because I’m not much of a drinker. One beer or glass of wine is enough, and there is a big difference between what I enjoy and want to talk about and what others do.

      Am I disappointed that our girl’s night out was cancelled due to scheduling issues, yes slightly. But I recognize some of the problems because most of the women have children.

    2. Cat Lover*

      My office does things twice a year or so during work hours in the office- we block time off. Little things making gingerbread houses during the holidays or decorating for Halloween (I work in a doctor’s office and kids love it).

  12. Jennifer Strange*

    I agree with this. It’s one thing if someone has been specifically tasked with creating social opportunities (either as part of or in addition to their job). But if this is just a “Hey, we should grab drinks after work this Friday!” then I don’t think that person needs to then be tasked with creating outings that fit all needs.

  13. Flora*

    “How do I explain that “thanks” and even “great, thanks” does not mean “well done,” in as effective and kind a way as possible?”

    I have only ever used ‘great, thanks’ once in my professional life, and it represented a fury-induced surrendering of professional communication norms; I was basically saying ‘you’re useless, eff you,’ before flouncing off to my boss’s office to vent/discuss how to proceed. It’s possible that LW’s problem employee is misinterpreting more than LW imagined.

    1. Everything Bagel*

      I’ve used great, thanks quite a bit. But I actually mean it. I hope it wasn’t taken as sarcasm because it certainly wasn’t meant that way.

      1. Anonym*

        Yeah, I use it pretty regularly in the way Alison describes. The “great” is reacting to the information (thing is complete!) and the “thanks” is the acknowledgement of the person’s effort. But, uh, not a review of their performance. Hope that OP got through to the employee eventually.

      2. Lana Kane*

        This is highly context dependent; the tenor of the conversation is important. If the conversation was a standard one then there’s no reason to read it sarcastically.

        Now, if it was in response to “I can’t do this task because I plan to be asleep at my desk”, then yeah, “Great, thanks” takes on a different meaning!

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        For me it’s a standard email response, but the meaning is “You have met the deadline and the next team can start their part (great) and I acknowledge receipt of this (thanks).” Usually the person sending the email has not so much as glanced at the piece I sent them and “great, thanks” means Precisely Nothing about its quality or lack thereof. I could have uploaded a photo of my cat to the server for all the emailer knows.

      4. Reality.Bites*

        What I don’t get is that even a sincere, “Great job” from a co-worker on an ordinary task isn’t a commendation

        1. Vio*

          it’s a tricky one because it can be a truly sincere compliment that it was done well. but it’s so commonly used as “you have done a tolerable job and I am acknowledging receipt of your work” that it doesn’t always carry the weight it may be intended to. especially since it doesn’t make clear what about it made it great, it’s very easy to dismiss as empty praise

    2. LittleMarshmallow*

      In a place I previously worked “ok great” was the professional version of eff you. Haha. I just can’t fathom sending an email to my manager where someone responded to me with Thanks in an email… he’s got better things to do than be expected to file some frivolous standard politeness as “feedback”.

      Maybe manager could consider soliciting real feedback from the people he works with and sharing that with him. Our managers do that at mid and year end review time, but it can be done informally or off review schedule if needed.

      Also might be good to explain that real feedback is specific not a general “thanks”. If it’s not specific it’s not feedback, it’s likely just standard politeness.

  14. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    I had a Karl, he thought he was a star doing half the work of others on the team and got mad at me because I had to keep talking to him about how people kept telling me they couldn’t find him (one time, for hours, on a deadline day). Because I didn’t track everyone else’s time as closely (because I didn’t have to!). I don’t have a lot of hope for the Karls.

  15. Tirving*

    OP #1 If the team wanted to still get together after work, they’d make arrangements themselves. A manager doing so, kindof gives the vibe that *ugh you have to go. I’ve felt the pressure in the past when the sales manager planned ” fun team building” outings to bars, pool halls, and once to go-cart racing ( where due to the overly competative nature of the sales team, 1 person went home with a broken arm and another with a cracked sternum after a go cart pile-up!)

    1. Artemesia*

      I don’t think it is true that if ‘they wanted to’ they would. In my social life and in my professional life, there have always been a few people who make these things happen and everyone who participates enjoys them. I am not talking about boss planned high pressure fun – -but just casual social events like a theater trip, ball game, or happy hour. In my social life I am one of 3 people who tend to organize events for over a dozen who love doing these things but don’t take initiative. When I was a working professional, there were just a handful of people who did the heavy lifting on organizing events but lots of people enjoyed them.

      In 10 years of retirement in a new city I have a couple of dozen friends we do things with as a couple or individually. We’d pretty much have none of this if I did not take initiative to follow up when we meet new people. Most social groups are like this — a few people keep things organized and moving along.

  16. NeedQuietTime*

    Oh man, I feel this letter. I’m in education, which is a different beast than corporate, but I’m the department chair and it recently came up that some of the department members want more “bonding events.” Truthfully, I get enough of my department throughout the school day and have no desire for more bonding. One of them in particular (in fact, the one who said she wants more bonding events!) is incredibly draining to be around as she talks about herself constantly. I sometimes find myself eating lunch alone in my office just for a few minutes of peace. I go to happy hours and social events with a mixed group of other teachers…but it’s as a group of friends, not an official work group. I make sure that we do a Christmas lunch and end of the year lunch as a department, but truthfully I don’t really want any more so I just keep avoiding organizing anything else.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Well, that’s the problem. She wants more captive audiences. Let her organize the bonding events. If no one shows up, then so be it.

    2. Artemesia*

      We had a wonderful faculty room, one place I worked, and it was fun to get lunch and chat and then the world’s biggest bore moved in and dominated every conversation — soon everyone was eating outside or in their classroom or standing up in a corner somewhere.

  17. Richard Hershberger*

    I think LW1 is a variant on the common direction of causation fallacy. Mandatory fun often is based on the observation that employees that function well together often also socialize together. The cargo cult reasoning is that if you force them to socialize together, this will cause them to function together better.

    So what we have here is a situation where the team formerly spontaneously socialized, but now they don’t. This might be a sign of an underlying problem, but the LW seems to believe that it is just a matter of that socializing wasn’t quite so spontaneous, and the people instigating it are gone. If this is the case, as seems likely, then there is no problem to fix. If there is something deeper, then organizing happy hours won’t fix it. The notion that it would reversed the direction of causation.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think a lot of people fall in the bucket “I would enjoy showing up if someone else does all the organizing, but will not be moved to organize anything myself.”

      1. UKDancer*

        I definitely fall into this category. I don’t hugely want to go to happy hour / social events and I’d certainly not organise one. That said if someone else organises them I’ll show up for half an hour and probably quite enjoy it.

  18. Lana Kane*

    “He forwards emails to me that read simply “thanks” with notes asking me to take note of the evidence of his fantastic work.”

    This made me laugh in that wide-eyed “This is hilarious and also WTF” way.

  19. Decidedly Me*

    I’ve had a few Karls and it never went well with them.

    One thought any non-negative statement was praise, while also telling me that they never received positive feedback, only negative, yet also had no clue that they weren’t doing well. Don’t ask me how all of those could be true at once!

    Another who asked that their CSAT be updated if a customer said anything nice (“thanks!” included), but didn’t actually leave a rating for the conversation. To be clear, they had no reason to fear repercussion if these weren’t counted. Their CSAT was typically high and we’re not strict “perfect or else!” folks – all ratings are taken in context.

  20. Anon for This*

    I agree with OP1 that the boss should not be organizing outside of work hours social events for the staff. It does feel mandatory if the boss organizes it.

    One of the best social events we ever had at my office was a coffee and bagels event in the morning. This was after a long, difficult slog at work, and people needed a chance to relax. We had a variety of things to accommodate various diets, and beyond an initial thank you speech from the boss it was just a chance to talk to co-workers. It really set a positive tone going forward, didn’t get into issues like those who don’t drink, have to get to daycare, etc.

  21. anti social socialite*

    I’m a curmudgeon; I hate work events. If I wanted to see anyone outside work, I would (and have!) make the effort to make plans on my own.

    It’s also incredibly awkward to find ways to bow out. So kudos to LW#1 for recognizing that they shouldn’t be mandatory nor should anyone face any repercussions for not attending.

  22. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

    Tempted to start doing a Karl where I work, the Guacamole Bob of feedback

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