I’m missing out on face time with the CEO because I don’t go on our monthly hikes

A reader writes:

My employer has been organizing monthly staff hikes on the weekend to promote employee wellness and as a means for introducing employees who work in various parts of the organization. These hikes are optional, and I have not received any pressure from my supervisor or colleagues to attend. In fact, they’re not well-attended overall, which has resulted in a small group of about 10 employees who have gotten a lot of face time with the head of our company and formed their own informal clique. Two of those individuals recently received significant promotions, and while I cannot prove it had anything to do with them spending weekends with the boss, it certainly seems that way considering that one was very underqualified and was hired after receiving a recommendation from him. I know this because the supervisor who promoted her confided in me that she’d been hesitant because of the employee’s lack of experience, but felt pressured since the recommendation came straight from the top of the company.

I tend to believe we get out of things what we’re willing to put into them, so I’m not typically one to complain about not receiving the perks of a function I chose not to attend. But the thing is, I’m not able to attend in this case. I’ve gotten out of shape since having children, and while I’ve recently started working out again, I am not at the fitness level to be able to complete the strenuous 5-6 mile hikes they’re choosing. It would also frankly be humiliating to meet colleagues for the first time while I’m struggling for air and not able to be the best version of myself.

The company has not been supplementing these hikes with a non-physically strenuous equivalent that people of all athletic and physical abilities could attend.

I tried gently making the company’s leadership, including our HR director, aware that there are people within our company who would be eager to attend a function that promoted a healthy lifestyle and internal networking but are being unintentionally excluded because of their physical fitness level or even physical limitations. (There are at least two people here in wheelchairs and others with disabilities that would limit their ability to participate.) They seemed receptive, expressing gratitude and shame that it hadn’t occurred to them. But then nothing changed. The hikes continue, and there’s no alternative outside of work equivalent for those of us who can’t hike with them.

Am I overreacting? I don’t want to be childish simply because I’m feeling left out. We generally have a great office culture, and these events are optional. It just seems to give an unfair advantage to the few who are physically fit. Is there anything else I can reasonably do to advocate for the rest of us, or should I just accept my fate as an outsider at this point?

You’re not overreacting. One hike a year where a small group of employees got extra face time with the CEO wouldn’t be such a big deal — although I’d still suggest they consider other events too so they weren’t constantly excluding non-hikers — but monthly is a lot. A small monthly social club with the CEO that just happens to shut out people by physical ability and has produced a promotion that can’t be explained any other way is … not good. Of course you feel weird about it.

And HR knows it’s a problem too, or at least they do now that you’ve pointed it out, which is why they responded the way they did when you talked to them.

My strong hunch is that HR pointed out the problems to the CEO and he doesn’t care; he likes the hikes (they might have even been his idea) and he’s not interested in stopping them.

Of course, he wouldn’t need to stop the hikes if he added in other ways for people to get face time with him. I’m admittedly hard-pressed to think of activities that would provide the same intensive bonding time as several hours of hiking in a small group every month provides, but the company has a responsibility to think it through and come up with options (or pull way back on the frequency, or at least have better firewalls where the CEO doesn’t pressure managers to promote unqualified people he hikes with).

You could go back to HR and ask what the plan is for responding to the concerns you raised. if you have coworkers who feel similarly shut out based on physical ability, you’ll have more power as a group.

How much you push it from there depends on how much capital you want to spend. There’s a decent risk that if the CEO ends up feeling pressured into stopping his hikes, he’ll resent whoever he perceives as responsible for that … which wouldn’t be a reasonable response but it might happen, particularly if he’s already demonstrated something about his stance by brushing off HR earlier (if indeed that’s what happened). So you’d want to factor that in when deciding how much you want to keep pushing it. But you’re not wrong.

Read an update to this letter

{ 348 comments… read them below }

  1. Matilda*

    This reminds me of a college professor who scheduled his office hours at an off-campus gym. You had to stop by his office beforehand for his guest pass, and then you could meet him there. What a bro-ey way of ensuring all your mentees are exactly like you, and signaling to everyone else that you are against diversity and inclusion.

    1. Myrin*

      How impractical – did you have to run on a treadmill next to him while discussing your ideas for your microbiology paper??

      1. Rose*

        Seriously! What on earth?? I love the gym but is a loud semi-public place with no desks, few chairs, no external monitors, etc ever going to be an efficient place to have office hours?

        I would be furious if I was paying $20-50k tuition and I was told in order to get the education I was paying for I’d need to leave the campus my tuition helped fund and go to a second, unrelated location.

        I wonder how the gym staff felt? I’d be very annoyed if people were using my gym as a library. No one likes an over-crowded gym, and the most annoying form of crowding is people not working out or paying attention to their surroundings.

    2. irianamistifi*

      uh… what if more than 1 person wanted to meet with him? Did he have guest passes for like 6 or 7 people at a time?

      This seems awful for a lot of reasons.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I had professors who did-not exactly this but who couldn’t interact with less than a full lecture hall, or only one (lesser, student) person they could outnumber 1 on 1.
        It seems that they didn’t have the mental bandwidth to work with 4 or 5 people who might have the same questions, and different ones that are related. (Saves time all around, but it cuts out the independent thinkers and non-sycophants, and leaves the Guru atop his mountain of wisdom and power.)

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I always wondered if the professor that had an entire screed on her syllabus complaining about how disrespectful it was to “scheme behind her back” (aka collaborate on a google doc with questions from the group and then have one person ask them all) realized how much more it said about her than about that particular incident.

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            …okay, so, obviously the professor in question is ridiculous. Still…scheming behind her back to…learn more effectively? While taking a class…?


            (The mind boggles)

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              After several years of us each asking separarely for X dates off and being told “it’s fine with me but check with your colleagues”, my colleagues and I decided to discuss our holiday plans amongst ourselves. We sorted it so there was coverage all summer, then were accused of forming a union.
              The next year, we did the same, but pretended not to. The whole process took much longer but we knew that all was well.

    3. soontoberetired*

      Our former CIO when just a technology manager would demand off site attendance on weekends for things like fishing, hikes, etc at a time when we did not have a good HR department. He managed to alienate a lot of people and high turnover. We were still small then, and he made it up thru the management and finally CIO as the company grew, all while he was alienating staff. Eventually this all caught up to him, but not soon enough. We lost good people because of his favoritism.

      this kind of exclusion is so bad for so many reasons. Even on a smaller level like managers doing happy hours instead of lunches for group bonding, also very common at my workplace. I finally ended up with a manager who did lunches instead.

    4. indefinite*

      I feel like variations of this are surprisingly common among the academics I know – they are so swamped with demands on their time that many of them jump at the chance to multitask with running/fitness and meeting with someone at the same time! I know I’ve had Zoom meetings where at least one of my colleagues is on a treadmill.

      1. annoyed at zoom exercise*

        Which is still awful. One of my colleagues is always on their treadmill during zoom meetings, even while they are talking, and it gives everyone motion sickness. It might not feel to the colleague like they’re swaying side to side, but at the amount of close-up that the camera provides it’s almost edge-to-edge of the screen.

          1. allathian*

            Or for shutting off incoming video! You can do that on Teams at least, I’m not sure about Zoom.

      2. Nanani*

        Well, at least you can still join the zoom meeting. If they required you to also be on a treadmill, that would be a problem for all the same reasons as OPs issue. Some people can’t treadmill!
        But multitasking isnt the problem – shutting people out by physical ability is.

      3. Chidi has a stomach ache*

        Concur. A pretty well-known senior scholar in my field was a marathon runner, and almost exclusively did his advising during groups runs with his (mostly male) students. It was a frustrating practice on a *lot* of levels.

      4. Mel2*

        I was the killjoy when my boss suggested doing a walk outside as we did our weekly meeting. Fortunately, I had to confidence to speak up and day that I physically could not take part (general health disability she was aware of), made worse by our campus being on a big hilly area. I maybe could have managed a brief walk on a completely flat tarmac, but that wasn’t what we had. My boss was a bit sad, but acknowledged that if the whole team could not take part it wouldn’t work.

    5. CommanderBanana*

      Exactly. My former executive director was notorious for doing things like this. Of course you could get face time with him – if you were ok with spending eight hours on a golf course! Oh, sorry, you’re a pumping mother? Don’t know how to play golf? Too bad, so sad, guess you won’t be getting a promotion!

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I would have been screwed there – I have hemiparesis, which means that I walk with a pronounced limp and a cane, and have only one usable hand. Even if I wanted to play golf, I literally can’t.

    6. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

      I would have felt so uncomfortable meeting one of my teachers at a gym. Ugh.

      1. ursula*

        This feels like a recipe for sexual harassment issues, on top of everything else. What a ridiculous person.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes. My ToxicBoss2 formed a group to participate in a marathon while representing the firm for publicity. One woman joined and several men. They were all invited to a group chat which also included some of the boss’s friends. Many nude photos were shared on the chat and the woman, unsurprisingly, dropped out.

      2. AFac*

        As a teacher, I would be equally uncomfortable meeting one of my students at a gym. I’m not extremely vain (I’m a woman of a certain age and size and I know it), but I also don’t want to have students interact with me at length while I am sweaty and dressed in exercise gear.

        I consider it one of the unfortunate things of using the university gym: sometimes I will run into my students. We either both pretend not to notice each other or just say ‘Hi’ and move on; I take my cue from them.

      3. JustaTech*

        When I worked in academia I took advantage of staff access to the giant (GIANT) undergrad gym (because I wasn’t that far off in age from the undergrads).

        It was never an issue until the time I was doing crunches on the mat and the PI of the lab next door to mine came over to chat. So he’s standing directly above me in very short running shorts (arrgh!). I jumped up from the mat just as fast as I could so I could look at his face while we talked. (No, he didn’t do it to be creepy or as a power play, he was both slightly oblivious and not my boss, so didn’t have any direct power over me.) Thankfully it only happened once, but I kept a sharp lookout for a few months after, just in case.

      1. SelinaKyle*

        I’m disabled and I have worked at a few places where all the activities excluded me and to be fair even when I was fit and able I wouldn’t want to join in those activities. Some people don’t think until it happens to them, ableism seems to be everywhere.
        My company are having a department event next week, bowling! My disability is due to a back injury so I can’t lift the ball.

        1. allathian*

          I have extremely poor coordination, and restricted mobility. Riding a bike is about the most complicated series of movements I’m capable of. I can swim, in the sense that I can stay afloat and won’t panic if I fall in the water, but I have very poor technique and I doubt that I could swim 150 meters breaststroke followed by 50 meters of backstroke these days, which is the minimum for being able to say that you can swim. I never learned to crawl, and after nearly drowning once when my PE teacher in middle school tried to force me to try, I got a free pass on that. In spite of being a rather poor swimmer, it was one of the few things I actually enjoyed doing in PE.

          Something like bowling, curling, or golf would be completely beyond my physical abilities, and I don’t think of myself as disabled generally. I can make my body do everything it absolutely needs to, even if stooping’s becoming a bit more uncomfortable than I’d like…

    7. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Wow, at least with my undergrad advisor it was the college gym so we all theoretically already had access. (I mostly delegated a friend of mine who was always in the gym anyway to track down my advisor if I needed to get in touch with him. This was not optimal for a variety of reasons, but mostly workable if I just needed a signature or something.)

  2. Littorally*

    Oooh, this kind of crap burns me up inside. All the more so because Alison is right — the CEO is probably going to be a pissy baby about this if HR manages to prevail, so the whole thing feels like a no-win scenario.

    1. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      Maybe a Glassdoor review saying that the CEO promotes only his hiking buddies.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        Only after the LW has left- something like that would be too easy to trace to the person who already complained on record.

    2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      The (polite) demand (not a request) should come from a (large) group, so that it’s not OP’s butt on the line. OP says that only a few people go on these hikes. If there are a lot of people who don’t go and feel the same as OP, they should band together. It’s much less likely that the CEO would be able to blow it off.

    3. Sleepy*

      Honestly, he probably knows exactly what he is doing and would not stop. I bet he thinks people who are fit and like to hike and get out in nature are better workers…more creative, etc., and has decided to reward that.

  3. Bogey*

    I find the italics a lot harder to read. Any chance of putting the letters in regular type? Thanks!

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        This is the first letter I saw today with the new design (!!!) and my first thought was “wow, this is so much easier to read!” Love the generally larger text as well. The site is looking cool!

      2. TBoT*

        I love this. I’ve always found the italics to be tricky to read and when I saw this non-italics post I was immediately so relieved!

      3. BubbleTea*

        Would it be possible for the background of the page to be changed to slightly off-white? I’ve been reading about accessibility etc lately as I’m setting up my own website and bright white is quite straining for the eyes. There are tools online where you can check combinations of colours for accessibility to make sure there’s enough contrast etc.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          That’s a great recommendation and second it based on my own research around this issue.

        2. This is Artemesia*

          My husband is visually impaired and the solution here is on his own tech settings — you can set your computer up to give reverse color which makes reading easier etc..

        3. AnonInCanada*

          I was hoping maybe for a dark mode. White text on a black/dark grey background is much easier on the eyes IMHO.

        4. LV OD*

          I’m new to this site and this commenting group, but I would like to advise against this. I am an optometrist who specializes in low vision care, and high contrast text/background is utterly critical for most people with eye diseases. A huge percentage of ocular pathologies actually reduce contrast sensitivity, and gray on gray or even black on gray text can become nearly invisible to them. I’m sensitive to people who report that high contrast text causes them migraines or other ocular discomfort, but the blanket solution of low contrast text will exclude from accessibility a huge portion of my patient population. I’m not sure what the solution is other than allowing everyone to personally customize their fonts/background to their personal taste, but low contrast text is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Thank you…I now know I’m not imagining that effect.
            (I’m apparently in the unpleasant intersection in a Venn diagram: people whose migraines are exacerbated by high contrast screens… vs people whose eyes have trouble with low contrast text. I just fiddle with my device’s color modes depending on how my head and eyes are doing.)

        5. Mighty Midget*

          Also, please can the text be darker, it’s hard to read when it’s so pale. Thank you!

      4. FG*

        I haaaaate the grey text. For us older folks the more contrast, the better. Small text + grey font color is a deadly combination. I immediately felt like reading this question was a chore to endure, & I never even thought about readability on this site before.

        1. Zee*

          I agree. It was really a struggle to get through it. I think the indent is enough to differentiate between question & answer.

        2. Juneybug*

          I so agree! I have never had to use my reading glasses for this site but guess what I had to go locate to read my fav website…

        3. ZSD*

          I would also vote for something brighter than gray text. Maybe blue for the questions and black for the answers?

        4. Dancing Otter*

          Agree. The only text on the page now that’s easy to read is “Before you comment…”

      5. Yvette*

        Not quite enough distinction between question and response. Maybe indent question more and response font same but slightly larger?

      6. Sapientia*

        I really liked the old design, but I do see the advantages of not using italics and a bigger font. Thank you for trying to make the site more accessible for everyone.

        That said, I agree with one of the commenters on the weekend post that bigger spaces between the lines would make it easier to read. Funnily enough, it’s much better when typing comments (maybe because the font is smaller).

        Also want to add that right now the question is colored grey and thus has less contrast. Not sure if that could make it harder to read for some people.

        I’m using the browser Opera Touch on my android phone.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Changed the spacing this morning, but you might have to do a hard refresh/clear your cache to see the change. And noted on the contrast and working on that too.

          1. lost academic*

            The new format, though, means that the opening screen is entirely filled with the banner and none of the actual content of the first post, especially considering the outsized impact from the multiple ads. This is a problem both on Chrome on mobile and Chrome on a laptop screen. I’m sure it would be a little more readable on my giant desktop screens but still… the larger font is not actually helping me and I do have eyesight problems.

          2. Juneybug*

            Thank you Alison for listening to our suggestions and being so cool about it. I know you are trying something new, which takes its energy. Then on top of it, your fans have numerous suggestions, which takes even more energy. I hope you will be able to rest soon!

      7. Goody*

        I have to be honest, when I saw the new banner I got a little scared due to issues I’m still having with another website that overhauled its look 2 years ago and frankly refused to listen to its userbase when the trouble tickets started flooding in.

        So I am very much appreciative of your obvious attention to suggestions and concerns here over your new look.

        That said, yes, the lighter grey quote text is harder for me to read. Thanks!!

        1. Mim*

          I don’t know if you’re talking about Ravelry, but that’s the one I know about, and the timeline matches, so I’m just assuming. And yeah, as soon as I came to the AAM after a week or so away, and saw stuff was changing, I had a moment of dread that it was going to be the same disappointing fiasco. So relieved that it’s not. (Even as someone who doesn’t have visual/physical issues with using the new Rav site, the level of disappointment I feel about how they plowed on while ignoring feedback has really sullied the entire thing. What a freaking loss of trust and resources for such many people.)

      8. fantomina*

        @Alison, I noticed the accessibility updates– thank you! If you want to make a comprehensive accessibility update, I’d suggest doing an audit using something like WebAim. I saw some other commenters recommend their color contrast tool (which is excellent), but they have a whole set of guidelines for digital accessibility. I’d suggest the articles on Contrast and Color Accessibility, Typefaces and Fonts, and Text/Typographical Layout as a start here: https://webaim.org/articles/

        (also, incidentally, being able to embed links within the text is another accessibility best practice. You already do it in the letters and most of your site, and links are so uncommon in the comments that adding that functionality probably isn’t a priority, but I wanted to acknowledge it)

  4. JustAClarifier*

    I can’t reply to the top comment about the italics, but I’m a viz design specialist – I would highly recommend removing italics entirely and either bolding that section or choosing a different, dedicated font to differentiate. :)

    1. Xavier Desmond*

      Personally I would absolutely hate that and would rather do pretty much anything than an art class. Which proves the point that this sort of very specific regular work event is not generally a very good idea as it inevitably excludes people.

      1. irene adler*

        What about, once a month, establishing a dedicated one or two hour period – during the work hours – where folks can ‘drop in’ and talk with CEO? And, just so a subset of folks do not hog this time, establish a sign up list – and restrict visits to four or six a year per employee. Obviously logistics need to be tailored to the number of employees at the company- but allow everyone who wishes to talk with CEO ample opportunity to do so. Could even make this a meal- serve a continental breakfast or a buffet lunch.

        1. ABCYaBye*

          Great call. Inclusive. You’re getting the CEO’s full attention (probably). And within work hours so no one has to arrange child care, etc.

        2. This is Artemesia*

          These things always tend to dry up because they are not organic. It really does help to have another activity that people can do together and chat — even happy hours work better than designated ‘talk to the CEO time.’

          When I was a young teacher I was asked to join the bowling league which seemed stupid to me — ‘bowling?’ Really. Turns out that the networking involved in the bowling league was vital to the promotions within the district. Most of those moving up in management or getting plum central office offers were in the bowling league.

          I would be brainstorming activities that work for different people and some that can be done over lunch or during the work day but in my experience they need to be actual activities not just office hours.

          1. Sleepy*

            yup, this is why you join the sports team or trivia team or whatever at work. you make important connections that way. usually not a direct promotion track, but more you can get help when others can’t.

        3. Just Another Zebra*

          I think that could be a great solution. Do something like this one Friday afternoon a month. CEO is blocked off in “meetings” from 12pm to 5pm (or whatever makes sense) and have 1 hour time slots set up to discuss career goals, golf game, how bout those Yankees, or Kindergarten registration. That way each person feels rushed, the CEO isn’t overwhelmed by ALL THESE PEOPLE, and everyone gets some face time.

          1. Autumn*

            I was also thinking of some rotating events, maybe a mile hike in addition to the long hike, on ground that could be easily navigated on wheels, or a monthly cocktail/mocktail event, both of these have a caveat, if you go on the long hikes you are NOT to attend the alternatives. That way the clique won’t form around the CEO at the alternative events. It’s really too bad this CEO is so in need of a clue by four on this.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              One place I worked used to arrange short guided tours of local historical/natural sites that were accessible and then beverages and light snakes would be available. All the tours were accessible, including audio, since most were state/city/county sites that served the public. It is one of the few off work hours for work activities I enjoyed, mostly because I am a giant history and nature nerd.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                Ugh, typo. Light snacks, not snakes. And the tours were set up both in and out of work hours with the ones out of work open to friends/family. I forgot that sentence

                1. OlympiasEpiriot*

                  I kinda like the idea of light snakes.

                  Reminds me of those tubes of LEDs around a DJ booth.

                  But, it would be weird at a work event.

              2. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

                I am dying at the image of small, wiggly snakes being passed around on an hors d’oeuvres tray for guests to select and enjoy.

          2. mli25*

            My company’s CEO does this, but the sessions are 20 minutes twice a week, most weeks of the year (I think). You sign up yourself and it was a great chance to go into depth on my project and he could then put a face to my name (hopefully). I could ask him anything. There are also All-Hands meetings that allows for questions to be submitted in advance as well as asked real time. It feels equitable, which should be the goal

          3. Lizzianna*

            I wouldn’t do an hour and I wouldn’t make them one-on-one meetings. But I think it makes sense for the CEO to do office hours of some sort. I used to have a regional director who would do a coffee klatch in the cafeteria. He’d hang out drinking coffee for a couple hours a month, anyone who wanted to stop by could. That said, he was a very skilled conversationalist and was good at making sure everyone felt included, and tactfully shutting down people who were dominating the conversation or turning it into a complaint-fest (although he’d often follow up to see if they were legit complaints).

        4. My Useless 2 Cents*

          I would think this would just devolve into a business pitch or bitch session that the CEO would have to put up with. Not an actual conversation that springs up during an activity. Although a monthly breakfast or lunch that the CEO attends might provide some opportunities.

        5. Mockingjay*

          Our CEO does this periodically. It’s been very effective. I’m amazed at the wide range of topics that employees bring up. He answers very openly and follows-up on questions that he doesn’t have a ready response for. He does in person and web meetings so everyone – remote, on site, on travel – gets a chance at some point to talk with him personally.

          The company has grown so the meetings aren’t quite as frequent, but he and his C-suite are readily available to anyone. I do mean anyone. But we also have a great management chain so things rarely require escalation to his level.

        6. turquoisecow*

          That sounds really intimidating to me, especially at a larger company and as a relatively junior employee. I’d be okay talking to the CEO as part of an activity we were doing together but if I was expected to just show up at their office and … make small talk? Discuss my work, the specifics of he probably is largely unaware of? I would have no idea what to say.

          I think no specific activity is going to please everyone – some people don’t like physical activities, some don’t want mental activities, some don’t want to eat or drink in front of others, some don’t want to socialize with coworkers at all and hate networking – so the best bet is to have a variety of activities and hope that they please a majority of employees, and take suggestions for new activities from anyone who isn’t happy.

          1. EuropeanAnon*

            The “casual chat with the CEO” setup really only works if the CEO is good at making small talk with anyone and everyone. It’s a skill some people have and some just don’t. But it really should be the CEO driving the conversation in this case, especially with more junior employees.

            1. The Real Fran Fine*

              But it really should be the CEO driving the conversation in this case, especially with more junior employees.

              Yup. The execs who do this at my company always start the convo in case anyone’s too shy to speak up or doesn’t want to be first.

        7. Aitch Arr*

          We do something similar; a ‘Coffee with $CEO’. It used to be bi-monthly and in person, now it’s by Zoom, but still bi-monthly.

          HR runs a list of employees who were hired in the two months that the latest session covers (no matter the year) and then randomly picks 25 to invite, plus backups in case those folks can’t attend. Employees can submit their questions anonymously ahead of time (via SurveyMonkey) or bring questions to ask.

          It’s been a big hit.

      2. Avril Ludgateaux*

        There’s always going to be somebody whom it doesn’t appeal to. There’s no activity that everybody enjoys (and certainly there are people who don’t enjoy obligatory-but-not-strictly-mandatory after-hours socialization at all). But it’s a good example of an alternative, and a rotation of different activities could make sure everybody gets a chance.

        In addition to art class: pottery class, other various crafts, escape room/puzzle rooms, bowling, a BBQ or potluck picnic event hosted by the CEO, a museum or gallery visit, a trivia night, a Zoom game night, laser tag, an adult-focused arcade (aka barcade), an amusement park or state fair… there are loads of activities if you put your mind to it. Every single one will exclude somebody, but if you have a variety that you cycle through, the likelihood of everybody being able to participate in at least one goes up.

        I personally hate the idea of having to devote unpaid private time to perfunctory work-focused socialization for the sake of career growth, so I wouldn’t be against doing away without outside networking/schmoozing altogether, which I guess is the logical end of “well I hate that, why don’t we do this?” “Because I hate this, why don’t we do the other thing?” ad nauseum, ad infinitum, etc. etc.

        1. quill*

          At the very least, rotate the activities and make them shorter! I had great fun at a paint and sip (Boba, because we were on the clock) with one of my former bosses when it came to team bonding time, but I have enough experience with paint that I didn’t feel like I was going to look foolish. I’ve likewise had a good time at bowling, bocci, etc, but those events weren’t whole day affairs and there were people who did the “practice” rounds and didn’t bother competing. Point is, it can’t be all one thing, particularly one large time and fitness commitment, and be fair.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I’m so with you on your last paragraph. I don’t mind occasional socialising at work, it greases the wheels.. but as a must if you want a promotion? Hey what about promoting people who are good at their jobs?

          1. allathian*

            Depends on the kind of promotion. Or else it’s the Peter principle all over again. A mediocre employee who’s really interested in becoming a manager, and invested in developing their own people management skills, can be a much better manager than a stellar employee who absolutely doesn’t want to manage other people, but who took a promotion to people management because that was the only way to get recognition and a raise. In the worst case scenario, the company loses a stellar employee and gains a mediocre or bad manager.

      3. Butterfly Counter*


        I’m athletic. When I was 18, I mentioned to a friend that I suspected that everyone was probably good at one sport, they just needed to experiment to figure out which one. She disagreed, but admitted she felt the same way about musical instruments. Everyone was probably good at one of them. I disagreed because I’m just one step away from being tone deaf. We agreed that we were both wrong and people can be bad at things even when we’re pretty good at them.

        I did a fun, artsy cookie decorating class with a volunteer group this past summer. I was so frustrated and angry by the end, that I was NOT good company. Definitely not a situation I want to be in with a boss.

      4. Lydia*

        Right, but this is about accessibility, not preference. I understand you would strongly prefer not to do an art class, but the class is still accessible to you and doesn’t exclude you because you can’t participate.

    2. Bluebird*

      Love this suggestion. People will claim they aren’t good at art, but you don’t have to be to get the benefits.

    3. Angstrom*

      I suspect art class would have lot of people feeling that they can’t attend because “I’m not artistic”, “I can’t draw”, “I’m colorblind”, etc.
      There’s no single activity that’ll work for everyone. Maybe something different each month?

      1. The Real Fran Fine*

        I don’t understand why the CEO just doesn’t have an office hour and call it a day. Invite anyone who wants to to stop by his office for an hour or so to discuss anything they’re interested in – anyone, regardless of artistic skills or physical abilities – could do this.

        1. The Original K.*

          Agreed. Or a monthly breakfast (the option of choice at a previous job) or lunch or something similar. There doesn’t need to be a physical activity in order to get face time.

          1. The Real Fran Fine*

            Says who? People show up to office hours with execs at my company all the time and ask very good questions, follow it up after the fact with other personal outreach, and get promoted all the time.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          1) He is naive. He isn’t looking at this like it’s office hours. He is not seeing face time with him as a perk, he’s just hiking and inviting like minded people for fun.
          2) He’s exclusive. He thinks hiking is a critical part of his success, therefore, hikers will be successful. Those who don’t (there is no can’t in his mind) aren’t dedicated/committed.

            1. allathian*

              Agreed. Whatever he’s doing, he needs to realize that he’s providing some people with an opportunity to talk to him that others don’t get.

    4. EPLawyer*

      NOPE. Not everyone can draw or even likes to attempt it because they don’t want to show their poor skills to people they work with.

      Now as a sometime activity with opt out — sure. but there is no ONE activity that everyone can participate in. That’s why you need a variety. So one group is not always getting facetime with the CEO.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I was surprised when I finally got it through my head that some people just don’t want to try: cube decorating, cookie house building, art project activity, as well as baking, chili cook off, favorite appetizer contests, or final four, corn hole activities.
        Pretty much anything will have a group of
        no thank yous.
        I taught myself to accept it and walk away.

            1. The Real Fran Fine*

              I just heard this in Chuckie from Sons of Anarchy’s voice and can’t stop laughing, lol.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            LOL, I just don’t want to do any activities at work or with coworker.
            And I really don’t like doing things with my hands, like craft. I am not going to touch the dough for a cookie house building.
            And I never cook for others, if I can help it.
            Lawn games or sports are no go for me as well.
            Can I just, IDK, work instead?

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Yup, there are people who dislike everything. Even if they have ability at it, they just don’t like it, find it boring and don’t want to waste time on it. I was like that with the musical instrument mentioned above. We learnt the tin whistle at school, I did the bare minimum, never learnt any of the tunes, never practiced, played only when the teacher told me to, etc.

      2. Lydia*

        Right, but accessibility is not about preference. I’m not an artist, but I’ve done those paint and wine classes with my friends even though it’s not my first choice. I agree a variety of activities is the best option, but it would help people if they stopped conflating what they would rather do with what they actually have the physical and emotional ability to do.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I *am* an artist, but I do digital graphic design and haven’t taken a painting class since before I graduated a decade before the art & wine class. So I was thoroughly out of practice and embarrassed that my painting looked like I had zero experience painting. It was supposed to be a team-building exercise for a volunteer group, but the other folks at my table only wanted to talk shop with their coworkers and I wasn’t a disability services professional so they left me out of the conversation. Horrible experience and I’m never going to another one!

        2. allathian*

          Yes, I can see that. But in a competitive workplace environment, where it’s not psychologically safe for people to show that they’re really bad at something, lots of people are going to nope out of activities that they would be able to do in theory.

          There’s also a big difference between doing something you think you’re bad at with a group of friends you trust not to make fun of you, and with coworkers you fear may be silently judging you. This shouldn’t be an issue in a decent workplace, but it often is because people have mental hangups about things that can be just as debilitating as a physical disability.

          I’m a terrible singer and can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I won’t sing solo under any circumstances, but I’m willing to sing “Happy birthday” to my son, or to a friend in a group where I feel psychologically safe. But I’ll only silently mouth the words if we’re singing to celebrate a coworker. The fact that I can’t sing has absolutely no impact on my ability to do my job, and my coworkers are nice people who I’m certain wouldn’t think badly of me because I can’t sing. But there’s still a mental block of shame somewhere that means that I’m not willing to show myself in such a vulnerable position in front of my coworkers.

          I also have body image issues that mean that you won’t get me to exercise with my coworkers, at least not rigorously enough to need changing and showering afterwards (i.e. anything more than a brisk for me walk), under any circumstances.

    5. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I get the feeling that the CEO likes hiking which is why nothing changed when OP pushed back. Especially if they are choosing more strenuous trails. Anything we (or OP) could suggest as alternatives to the hiking are going to go over like a lead balloon.

      While talking with HR again (maybe not so gently) is the best course of action, OP would you be willing to offer up some less challenging and/or wheelchair friendly trails for consideration? I have found that highly physical people tend to be a little clueless as to why that *intermediate 5 mile trail* would be challenging to those not as physically active. (“It’s only that one sections that is difficult” or as I might put it “the middle four miles”) The added plus is that if the easier trails are rejected it only strengthens any discriminatory argument you might make.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        This is very, very true. I hike and walk a lot and am absolutely horrible at estimating difficulty or time for folks who want to do a hike/city walk.

      2. Lady Catherine du Bourgh*

        Yes, this is so true. What’s an “easy hike” to you is downright painful to some.

        I think low-stakes kind of activities that it’s not embarrassing to be bad at are best. Mini golf instead of regular golf, Pictionary instead of painting, things like that. In general, things that are going to get you out of breath are a bad idea for a team building exercise.

    6. Sharks Are Cool*

      See, I *AM* artistic and I would be annoyed by this—my art is personal to me and not exaaactly something I do to relax. It’s “work” to me, though work I’m much more passionate about than my day-job! So an art class would be art time when I wasn’t able to work on my OWN art, and as a bonus all my colleagues would tell me how talented I am and how they can’t even draw a stick figure, when, you know, it’s not like I’m magically able to draw well—it’s something I worked hard at and trained in.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, once at an in-service, we were asked to write a story and I was completely stuck, the person who has been making up stories since…well, I don’t know, I can’t remember a time before I did it. I think because I was trying to do it seriously and really, writing a quality short story in half an hour or whatever we had just wasn’t possible.

        I sort of feel that writing a poor story reflects on me in the way that drawing something that isn’t even recognisable as what it is supposed to be does not. I actually only put that together in my head now.

      2. Grammar Penguin*

        Yeah, this is what hiking is for me. My chance to be alone with the Whole World of Nature. It’s a renewal of the spirit and body. To be shared, rarely, with a close friend. When I hike, I avoid others on the trail, just a greeting as we pass. I get slightly annoyed when I cross the path of a group of people talking loud.
        Turn this into a networking event with boss and coworkers, including strangers? No thanks.

    7. KoiFeeder*

      Here’s a surprising way that intersects with disability- I am face-blind. You would not believe how many people have really strong opinions about self-portraits necessarily being the face.

    8. Internist*

      Definitely agree that not everyone likes art, but my team did a stamp-making class where the art studio provided templates for anyone to use who was having trouble coming up with ideas. That made it super low-stress for people who don’t consider themselves creative.

      But overall, the key is multiple types of activities. A hike one month, an art class the next month, a coffee hour after that. Ideally all during work hours.

  5. t-vex*

    I’m someone who would absolutely love going on long strenuous hikes and even I think this is ridiculous. I bet the CEO just wanted some hiking buddies.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yes. he clearly likes to hike so he came up with the idea for this bonding activity. If he liked D & D, he would say its a way to learn to work together as a group and exercise your brain. Which now that I think of it, sounds like a FANTASTIC team building exercise. Purely optional of course.

        1. i cast magic missile at the darkness*

          At a former job, a bunch of us in the office started a D&D campaign that ran weekly for several years. We would book a conference room for 6pm, bring in our books and dice and snacks, and anyone who wanted to stay a bit late was welcome to spectate. None of us were the CEO of course, but it was a really fun experience and a lot of great social connections were made that way. Highly recommend!

          1. Eat My Squirrel*

            Your username wins today for me.
            I honestly think a gaming club is a great idea. If I had more motivation I would start one at my work as a D&I initiative to help people use RPG’s to learn leadership skills.

          2. quill*

            That sounds great. Of course, this is me saying that without going into depth on the ways campaigns have devolved over the years for me… playing a giant bug that literally licked other party members clean worked great as an in-joke with friends, but isn’t something I’d do at the Work Campaign.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          Maybe to some.

          I have D&D-related bad memories because the players at my high school were really mean to me. D&D as well as Magic: The Gathering games were all very closely gate-kept by mean jerks. To this day, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          1. Omskivar*

            A lot of nerd communities, D&D included, are notorious for gate-keeping, especially in regards to women and minorities. I love D&D but I can’t blame anyone who had a bad experience and doesn’t want to give it another shot.

        3. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, because D&D is creative, but for different people in different ways, does not actually require any particular physical abilities, and can allow people to work together as a team on a low impact project. It can be played, with adaptations/interpreters by people who are blind and deaf as well as all kinds of physical disabilities.

          If you did D&D, though, I would encourage hiring an outsider to act as DM, because otherwise a power dynamic can develop. (“Don’t piss Geoffrey off or he’ll kill your 10th level Ranger out of spite.”)

      1. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

        If he liked D & D, he would say its a way to learn to work together as a group and exercise your brain.

        In this case, he wouldn’t be wrong.

      2. Cringing 24/7*

        I enjoy D&D, but I would literally rather fall down a mountain in a terrible hiking incident than play D&D with the coworkers I currently have. For me, that game is exclusively for friends or people I’d want to be friends with.

        1. quill*

          I do think it’s a lot easier to roll to haggle with the shopkeeper when the people watching aren’t going to watch you haggling with a supplier the next day.

        2. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

          Hard same. D&D isn’t fun if you aren’t playing with people you like and trust. The story will suck and you will have a bad time.

          1. Em*

            I run games for groups of strangers fairly regularly at conventions and conferences who want to provide some fun non-conference activities for their attendees, and it’s pretty easy to have fun; but strangers are a different kettle of fish than “people who know and might actively not like each other.” Trust is still required, but in that particular case the trust is in the DM and in the very clear conduct rules every player gets a written copy of. (And of course, odds are these people are not going to see each other again for at least a year, which helps.)

            Using it as a Networking Activity ™ isn’t too bad an idea, but you’d have to hire an outside DM who’d be neutral, and there would have to be some pretty strict limits.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Same! This is also a weekend thing, which excludes people who have other obligations (often women who are more likely to be responsible for child or elder care).

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I was a hiker when I was younger. Frankly, my favorite hikes were solo. These have safety concerns, but being absolutely alone on a northern Arizona mesa was glorious.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I would send my mother the latitude and longitude of where I was going, and when I expected to be back. In retrospect, this was not kind to her.

      3. Cringing 24/7*

        Exactly this. Every hobby that I love would be made approximately 54 times worse by having to do said activity with my coworkers.

      4. starfox*

        As a small woman without hiking friends, I would actually love this opportunity because I can’t safely hike alone, but I can’t ever get people to go with me!

        But like Alison said, no need to do away with the hikes, just allow everyone to have time with the CEO.

    2. ceiswyn*

      I love long strenuous hikes, and would skip these because they’re too short.

      And a TERRIBLE IDEA.

    3. Nanani*

      And he got them by pressuring people who can’t say no to him and/or want something from him. CEOs really don’t think like humans do they.

    4. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Ditto, except I’d rather go alone versus risking being with someone on a trail who doesn’t approach a hike the same way as I do.

      I wouldn’t use this as a work bonding activity.

  6. The one who wears too much black*

    I really wish equity and inclusion laws covered body sizes and shapes as well, and I am disappointed that USA laws don’t protect people based that portion of their physical appearance. This seems like such a good example for why the USA needs to include being fat as a protected class.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I’m a thin person and I have sciatica and trashed lower back discs and I couldn’t do a 5-6 mile hike.

        1. bee*

          I’m fat and could (but wouldn’t want to!)

          This is definitely more of an ableism/accessibility question, not really anything about size discrimination.

          1. Anon for this*

            Also fat. Also could. Also wouldn’t want to. Being capable of doing it doesn’t make me comfortable with being around people I know, sweating, in hiking clothes which are not at all flattering to my body. And I’m also avoiding extremely strenuous physical activity, because I really don’t want a repeat of injury that keeps me down long enough to go back out of shape again. Running, walking, and climbing stairs is fine. Hiking could lead to turning my ankle on a loose rock!

          2. allathian*

            I’m fat, and I could do it with a bit of training. Before the pandemic, I hiked up a 3,400 ft mountain with my husband and our son, who was 8 at the time. It’s not anything I’d want to do with my coworkers, though, and to do it again, I’d have to do some serious for me hill walking first, like we did that summer.

          3. allathian*

            I’m fat, and I could do it with a bit of training. Before the pandemic, I hiked up a 3,400 ft mountain with my husband and our son, who was 8 at the time. It’s not anything I’d want to do with my coworkers, though, and to do it again, I’d have to do some serious for me hill walking first, like we did that summer.

        2. quill*

          Yeah, 5 miles is my hard limit because my joints quit at about then. Keeping up with people, sweating? I probably would not make 4.

      2. many bells down*

        Yeah I have a heart condition. I’ve never been able to do a 5 mile hike, even when I was 95lbs soaking wet.

        1. Rainy*

          Asthma here. I can walk 5-6 miles easily on the flat, but if you add in elevation changes, I am pretty much trashed immediately. I also am prone to AMS (acute mountain sickness–basically, I get altitude sickness very badly) and any hike that long in my area is probably hiking up a mountain and can actually make me very, very ill.

      3. The one who wears too much black*

        Just to clarify, I am fat, and I am trying to empathize with the letter writer because I identified personally with their discomfort when they talked about envisioning being sweaty and out of breath with coworkers. I agree it wouldn’t solve the issue because laws don’t prevent people from choosing to behave differently. But I also am so wary of scapegoating wheelchair users and disabled people. LW doesn’t say they are those things, just uncomfortable with how their body would look and feel on this hike. That’s reasonable for them and still makes it ableist of the organization without pulling disability into the conversation.

        I’m sorry if I offended anyone and if my assumption seemed off topic, but this is where this question brought me, and I think it’s fair to talk about out biases and investigate why we have them. Clearly my bias was the read this as question of body size where other people took it differently, but that does not mean I’m wrong to bring fatness to this discussion because fatness does affect mobility, affects my view of work, and body shape and size are in this question.

        Thanks for the feedback on my own biases everyone, and I would ask you look at maybe why you all think this ISN’T a question where fatness could be considered.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Because OP doesn’t say that! “I am not at the fitness level to be able to complete the strenuous 5-6 mile hikes they’re choosing. It would also frankly be humiliating to meet colleagues for the first time while I’m struggling for air and not able to be the best version of myself.”

          That’s about fitness. That’s not about how her body looks, and it is about how her body feels but only insofar as physical ability. You are projecting your own discomfort in a way that is not relevant to the letter writer. Fatness might impact mobility but it also might not, it’s about physical ability and bringing it back to fatness pushes the conversation back towards a lot of stereotypes people are pushing to break past. It’s harmful.

        2. Littoraly*

          I would imagine it’s because more than a few of us are either a) fat people who are tired of being regarded as automatically disabled, or b) disabled people who are not fat.

          The stereotype of fat equating to can’t walk ten minutes without collapsing is a real thing and it can be extremely toxic. (Look at the whole concept of “skinnyfat” for poisonous correlations between weight and health!) Both the OP and Alison more accurately pinpointed who this policy excludes — people who can’t manage a 5-6mi hike. There was no need for you to come in and make it less accurate by twisting the conversation to be about weight rather than ability.

        3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Because the OP never mentioned her body, just her fitness level. Why would being fat be relevant? A ton of fat folks could absolutely kill a 5+ mile hike and still have enough left over for a 10+ miler. Anyone thinking that fitness is somehow related to fatness might want to stop and think again

        4. Anon all day*

          No, sorry, you made a comment that made a lot of assumptions, and you can’t turn that back on people who called out your assumptions. Simply put, fatness and lack of physical ability to do a hike are not connected, and assuming that it is is wrong.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      This wierdly off topic. “Fat” people can exercise, hike, bike, etc. I think you mean physical activity level. Skinny people can be too out of shape or injured or arthritic to engage in certain physical activity.

      1. The Real Fran Fine*


        I’m very thin and exercise regularly, and I couldn’t do a 5-6 mile hike every month either.

    2. Maggie*

      How is it an example of that exactly? OP a didn’t say anything about being overweight, just that she isn’t in shape enough to do the hike. I wouldn’t do it either because I get altitude sickness. Even if being fat were a protected class, it wouldn’t make an optional hike illegal or banned.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I live in an area with some hikes that include amazing views. Also some scary dropoffs. No matter the fitness level, there are some trails that should be avoided by anyone with balance problems. Once again, we run into the need for inclusivity.

      2. Ann Ominous*

        Right, exactly. Protecting fat people as a class would not solve this problem. Plenty of fat people can hike, plenty of skinny people can’t hike, plenty of other people can’t hike for reasons unrelated to shape/weight, and plenty of other people can but don’t want to.

      3. Lady_Lessa*

        Depending upon the ruggedness of the hike, even simple balance issues that don’t cause a problem most of the time, could prevent someone from doing that kind of hike.

        Or loose joints that cause your ankle to turn easily. I remember having missed an outdoor step (in the dark) and falling. Later that day, after my ankle swelled and changed color, I went to my doctor (the family practice clinic connected to a med school), many students came by and moved both ankles. Probably looser than most. (I didn’t mind, for how else are they to learn)

        1. DarthVelma*

          This. I’m in very good shape. I bike and even jog. But my doctor is adamant that I’m not supposed to jog downhill or on anything other than a treadmill because I blew out my ACL nearly 40 years ago. (Even though other ligaments and tendons and muscles have grown in weird ways to take up the slack, it’s still just too easy for my knee to twist in a weird way and going downhill or on uneven surfaces is more tricky for my balance.)

          So hiking through rough terrain, not happening.

      4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        If they are promoting from the hiking group, they are already violating all kinds of anti-discrimination laws, starting with the ADA.

    3. Arts Admin*

      I know others have said it but I have to add, fat people can hike! Lots of us do! Being fat indicates nothing about one’s health or fitness levels. Assuming what someone can or can’t do based on body size or shape is not helpful to anyone.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Well that was a nice reminder that people see me as fat before they see me as disabled. Grand.

    5. KRM*

      People of all sizes have all sorts of ability levels. Plenty of fat people can and will hike. Plenty of slim people won’t. The real problem is that this activity excludes 1-anyone with a disability that precludes them from physical activity, 2-people who don’t like to hike, 3-people who have alternate weekend plans of any kind, especially those who have others they need to ferry to activities/obligations. Being fat has very little to do with any of these.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I’ve known lots of skinny people with bad knees, bad backs, asthma, etc. Unwilling or unable to do 5 mile hikes is just that. (I might be willing to do it, but my body certainly isn’t able.)

        Same thing happens when cities push bicycling as an alternative to cars – it locks people like me out. I used to ride a bike regularly. Now I just fall off because my balance is shot, and it is upsetting.

        1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Three- or four-wheel bike? (I learned there was such a thing as an “adult-sized tricycle” when I had a housemate who had a balance problem.)

    6. Not Going to be Popular*

      I would so love an end to all the “employee wellness” crap, which is just a society accepted anti-fat campaign. They almost always push losing weight over actual fitness. And that isn’t even taking into account the rampant fat discrimination in the medical field. The insurance field has historically latched onto that bias to offer discounts that businesses can piggy back additional bias onto.

      And sorry, but the “I’m skinny but…” arguments are just as baseless as “But my best friend is black” arguments are to claims of racism.

      1. Cringing 24/7*

        This. If my employer really cared if I was “well” or not, they’d choose to make an affordable and INCLUSIVE insurance plan available to me.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        This times 1000000!!

        I get so tired of every “wellness” program pushing weight loss and exercise. No, I don’t want another damned diet so that I can gain it all back plus ten more pounds. No, I don’t want “exercises” that will aggravate my existing physical problems.

        I remember one time I thought “why not” and joined my co-workers regularly for a two block walk to the cafeteria, and back, five days a week. We were doing one of those company wide “steps” challenge things, and this was an easy way to get some steps in. Low impact, casual speed, doable even for me.

        After about a month I had to stop – I developed an extremely painful heel spur that I now have to wear special cushions for.

    7. Snow Globe*

      I don’t think that would make a difference here—OP says that there are employees who use wheelchairs at the company, and those people would definitely be covered by anti-discrimination laws. The problem is the CEO doesn’t think these hikes are causing adverse impact towards those who don’t participate.

  7. Avril Ludgateaux*

    As somebody who doesn’t drink and hates being in bars, how is this any different from the much more common after-work happy hour-type gatherings? Those are necessarily exclusive, too (not just of people who don’t drink, but people who have children or other caregiving obligations, people whose finances don’t allow participation, and so on), and on one hand they are voluntary after-hours socialization opportunities, but on the other hand they can have an effect on your career trajectory.

    Golf! Golf is another one, very typical in certain industries (medicine, business, finance, and law come to mind).

    1. calvin blick*

      I just got a text from my new(ish) boss asking me if I golf. Nope! Looks like I will be missing out on a number of networking events, and golfing is 100x more exclusionary than a hike.

      1. ursula*

        The cost of golf! Getting a set of clubs! It’s also profoundly beginner-unfriendly – you would not want to say “Sure, I’ve never done this before but I’ll rent some clubs and give it a try” in front of your boss who just wants to keep their foursome moving.

        1. calvin blick*

          Yeah, I had played four holes of golf in my entire life, and I would not want to make my boss watch me hook (or slice; not sure of the difference) 18 drives in a row and quadruple putt every hole.

          Plus, 18 holes of golf takes a really long time. It’s pretty much at least half your Saturday.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      I can enjoy golf, but golf takes too damn long. Like a whole half a day. I wish 9 holes was much more common than 18. Basically I wouldn’t mind playing golf, but for like an hour or two not 4 hours. But courses are not designed and don’t charge for that.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Mini golf. So you can learn how creatively your coworkers curse when they hit the blade of the windmill instead of going through (sadly few courses have the funky stuff anymore and are just funny shaped putting greens, I miss the windmills and clowns).

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          Top Golf is another great option! I am not a golfer by any stretch, but I still go once in while and have a good time.

          1. quill*

            Top golf was great but ooooh boy, when I went with work the workers were not prepared for an entire office of nerds.

            “Did you practice healthy conflict?”
            Nah we were arguing about the best statistical methods to guess how many holes the other groups could score.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        There is some evidence of an early version of golf where rather than counting strokes, it was a race around the course, from hole to hole all the way around. Gotta say, that would make for a much better spectator sport.

    3. Loulou*

      I think Alison has recommended varying social activities so they’re not always in bars, for exactly the reasons you mention!

      This does seem more exclusionary to me since a lot of people literally cannot access the venue, vs choosing not to (even for very legitimate reasons). There’s no hiking equivalent of ordering a seltzer and chatting for a few minutes (and yes, I realize that isn’t an option for everyone when it comes to happy hours, too!)

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, the “sameness” between a 5 mile hike and a work happy hour is that there are people who cannot participate and there are people who do not want to participate.

        The difference is that a happy hour is easier to participate in at different levels: order a soda and chat for a few minutes, have one drink and stay for an hour, close the bar down.

        With the hike, it’s a few hours of strenuous exertion or nothing. There’s no option for people who might be up for a 30 min/1 hour stroll around a mostly level path in the woods.

    4. Cookies for Breakfast*

      This exactly. It doesn’t feel that different from happy-hour type gatherings. It sounds like this is the one and only “face time with the CEO” activity OP’s employer organises, and much in the same way, there are many workplaces where after-work drinks are the only employer-sponsored option to socialise.

      One potential difference I see is that after-work drinks are so common (at least on my side of the world), organisers may just not stop and think that what’s “custom” for most isn’t for everyone. That still doesn’t make the lack of alternatives ok. Stuff like hiking and golf feels a lot more deliberate, like the special interest of one or a few people with enough power to impose their preference. From there, the step to “you don’t advance professionally unless you’re the CEO’s hiking buddy” can be even shorter and even clearer to see.

    5. Agrajag*

      This is a portion of why, in my opinion, it may be a lost cause to try to include all employees with a single event. Certainly, event planners should try to be as inclusive as possible within each event (e.g. ensure there’s a non-alcoholic beer/cocktail/other “fun” drink option at happy hour; if you are going on a hike, select a wheelchair-accessible trail which is thereby presumably also accessible to strollers and people with a wider variety of mobilities). But also, these kind of “bonding” events shouldn’t be limited to one event type – rotating times of day, days of week, and activity types will give everyone the best shot to be able to attend something they’d actually enjoy.

      1. JustaTech*

        Right! The only “event” that includes all employees is work.
        So the logical thing is to have a variety of types of activities (that are actually varied and not ropes course this month and kayaking next month and 5 mile hike the month after that).

        Way back in the Before Times my husband’s company did “Game Day” where folks got to choose their type of games – running around in a field, or playing board games in the shade, or just hanging out, and you could cycle among the activities with how you were feeling.

        Did *everyone* enjoy it? Of course not. Was almost everyone able to find something they enjoyed? Yes. And the people who knew that they wouldn’t have fun didn’t have to go, nor were they penalized for not going. (It was also during the work day, so not taking personal time.)

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this is the way my employer does it, too. There’s always enough people who don’t want to go that those who do want to go can, without having to force anyone to stay behind for coverage.

    6. Spearmint*

      To me, the big issue is that the CEO is at these events, and he’s there the whole time. IME, happy hours are usually between peers only.

    7. Gnome*

      My boss has a great work-around. “Happy hour” is in our conference room. He supplies wine, beer, water, soda, and snacks. People mostly just chat. Some grab a glass of wine or beer. It’s all covered by overhead. Lots of people just hang around for a few minutes.

      He also reminds people to be safe with driving, etc.

    8. metadata minion*

      I think after-work drinks being the automatic work socialization activity is also hugely problematic.

      1. Lydia*

        Agreed, and I think that’s the problem here. Strenuous physical activity is not good, but every other option people have suggested that aren’t physically strenuous or don’t include alcohol have their detractors. The choice seems to be either not do anything with the CEO for team building or face time, or have a variety of activities so a variety of people get that face-to-face time. The most important thing is that as many people as possible can participate in a way that’s comfortable, and that includes people who don’t drink for whatever reasons.

    9. Jora Malli*

      I feel like the difference is that while I don’t enjoy being in a bar, I am physically capable of sitting at a table with my coworkers and sipping something non-alcoholic for an hour or so. I am not in any way physically capable of going on a six mile hike.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this is true for most people. But there are some employees who refuse to even enter premises where alcohol is served for religious reasons. Some sober alcoholics can’t even be in the same room with alcohol because the temptation to have “just that one drink” is so strong, so they resist temptation by avoiding situations where they could be tempted.

    10. Nanani*

      It’s not.. Those are all manifestations of the same problem – beign exclusionary of everyone outside one very narrow demographic. In this case, the focus is able-bodied-ness rather than say, maleness (think men-only golf courses or adult venues) or having access to golf equipment, but its the same problem.

    11. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I think the difference with happy hour is that bars, pubs and restaurants are open and accessible to those with mobility issues or other health issues. Even if one does not drink alcohol, there are plenty of other alternatives to drink or eat. The other factor is that a person need not stay very long or do much physically just to put in an appearance, so even those with “other obligations” might be able to go every once in awhile.

  8. calvin blick*

    Is it out of line for companies to have any optional events that allow for face time with the CEO? I can’t imagine any activities that would be accessible and of interest to everyone, especially ones that have positive externalities like increased employee health. Going to a brewery or bar would exclude employees that don’t drink, restaurants would be out because of dietary restrictions, any social event would potentially exclude introverts, etc.

    I think the bigger issue is that the CEO is promoting unqualified people (assuming LW is correct about that; maybe they are more qualified than she thinks), but that could just as easily come about due to face time at the office. It’s worth remembering that a good interpersonal relationship doesn’t always translate to promotions; the boss I had probably the best social relationship with (although we just chatted at the office; we didn’t really socialize outside the office) did absolutely nothing to advance my career. However, bosses who I had decent professional relationships but didn’t even have many water cooler talks with helped me quite a bit. So blame the CEO here, not the hikes.

    (One caveat is that if these hikes are truly non-accessible. There is a big difference between a hike along a nature trail and a strenuous hike over a mountain. The flip side is that in my experience most hikers are aware of other people’s physical limitations and are often not in amazing shape themselves, but just like going outside.)

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      It’s out of line for a company to continually exclude the same employees over and over again. If there was something every month that promoted healthy lifestyles and bonding, it could be a cooking class, a hike, even just a picnic for employees and families in a local park. But because it is a repeated strenuous physical activity that only limited number can participate in, it’s a problem.

    2. mreasy*

      Walking 5 miles flat is not accessible to a wide swath of people though. If CEO is desperate to bond, they need to establish as many opportunities for folks who can’t do the hikes, folks who can’t be in bars, folks who don’t have after-work hours, etc. That’s just being equitable. If CEO cannot do that they have to stop hiking with their colleagues!

      1. calvin blick*

        I’m sorry, this seems crazy to me and pushes into Harrison Bergeron territory. Literally anything the CEO does is going to exclude a fair number of people. So does the CEO have to do a rotation of different things every weekend to hopefully accommodate everyone? That just seems unrealistic to expect anyone to do that (I doubt any CEO’s are just going to stop hanging out entirely with their work friends), and also ignores the fact that the CEO could just cancel the company-organized hikes and just go hiking privately with his work buddies.

        Again, the issue is the CEO is letting these hikes (apparently) influence him to promote unqualified people, not that he is doing activities that not everyone can do. Because if this guy is going to hang out with his co-workers outside of work, some people are not going to be able to do whatever activity is selected.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Why does the rotation plan seem unrealistic? He’s the CEO & could easily get his EA to research & plan other ideas.

          You might consider re-reading your Vonnegut. Acknowledging people are different is not the equivalent of trying to make them all the same.

        2. not a doctor*

          If the company can’t come up with ANY alternative or additional activities that would be accommodating to more than like 10 people at a time, then they really should cancel the hikes. Yeah, the CEO will still go hiking with his buddies, but at least it won’t be sanctioned and organized by the company itself.

        3. Littorally*

          Why are you reaching so hard here? Are you the CEO in question by any chance?

          Look, it’s easy. Once a month, the way he’s currently doing now, the CEO has an interaction event with whatever staff would like to come. That event gets varied to minimize the number of people who are unable to attend.

          You don’t have to be in here throwing a tantrum and claiming that we want the CEO do be doing events every weekend or that people who can’t manage a 6-mile hike either don’t exist or don’t matter.

        4. ABCYaBye*

          Nothing that anyone is saying is disagreeing with you. The boss is the problem. But the boss’s chosen activity… a singular activity… is creating a larger problem. The boss needs someone to point out that someone who is in that select group of hikers just got a push from the boss for a promotion and that isn’t a good look at all for the business. The fact that there is just one of these activities available excludes a good number of workers. If there’s outside of the office things, it can’t just be hiking…or golf…or drinks…or ________.

          Also, bottom line, the boss shouldn’t be hanging out with employees like this. That’s how problems like this come up.

        5. Nephron*

          The issue is that the CEO cannot be friends with subordinates, this is standard for all employment situations and managers.

          The CEO needs to provide a variety and changing activities. This can be happy hours, hikes, book clubs, varying teams that work with CEO on projects, etc. Or the CEO needs to not be involved at all in promoting people. Because CEO socializing every month with the same 10 people is only going to exclude people and those 10 people are either going to get an unfair advantage or the appearance of it. This is going to damage recruiting and retaining people because non-hikers are going to leave to be able to progress.

        6. Richard Hershberger*

          If the point for the CEO is to get to know his employees, this is a terrible way to go about it. The best way would be to host a regular lunch with a rotating list of a reasonable number of invitees. Clearly his motivation is not to get to know his employees, but to have company while he enjoys his hobby. Dude! Join a hiking club!

          1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

            I agree about his motivation. He likes hiking. And now he has a group of regular hiking buddies from work. It’s not really about getting to know employees generally, since that is obviously not happening. This type of thing plays out in workplaces in various ways, and not just with physical pursuits like running, softball, golfing, etc. The one that kind of annoys me are the sports fans. When the CEO obviously hob-nobs with certain people who are fans of the same sports teams that he is. In my workplace, we even have the CEO sports buddy bonding occur in the middle of all-hands company meetings – sports jokes, sports analogies, references to last night’s game, inspirational sports-related clips, etc. And this is all male bonding, by the way, in my workplace that only has 1/3 female employees.

            But I have worked in two places that had mandatory small-group meetings with the CEO for all employees. Torture. I really don’t want awkward forced facetime with the CEO. LOL.

        7. Irish Teacher*

          I don’t think he has to do a rotation, but…more than one activity would be good. Even if it were something like the hike and then going for drinks somewhere after it was over and everybody is welcome to do the hike and go straight home afterwards or just come along and join for the drinks without doing the hike or take part in both.

          Would there still be some people who hate hiking AND pubs? Sure, but you could at least reduce the number of people likely to be excluded, especially if you did “hike and then a meet for drinks” one time and then “hike and coffee in a café” the next. The number of people who wouldn’t want to go to a café or for drinks or on a hike would be a lot smaller.

        8. Grammar Penguin*

          Work friends are usually peers, not subordinates. So, should the CEO even have any “work friends” outside of the C-suite? Probably not. He’s literally everyone’s boss.
          Anyway, this CEO hasn’t cancelled and met his work buddies outside of work. These are still company events with the explicit purpose of getting to spend time with the CEO for professional development. And they are sufficient to get at least one person fast-tracked to promotion over more qualified people. And they exclude people with disabilities.

          This looks like a good case for an ADA lawsuit.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      The problem is that the CEO is essentially socializing with some of the employees, but not providing equal access to all employees. Meanwhile, there is a very strong impression left that participating in the socialization events is critical to promotions / opportunities, and the optics of that are terrible. I think if you boil it down, it’s a failure of leadership.

      Also, while you had a good experience, it doesn’t mean that it is universal. There are a lot of people in management / leadership roles who DON’T get it that having a personal connection / shared interest is NOT a good qualification for promotions / opportunities.

      1. Can Can Cannot*

        The CEO would probably respond that they have an open door policy and that any employee can get face time with them if desired. While true, it probably doesn’t make the same connection that a regular multi-hour hike can create.

        1. quill*

          Yeah. There’s a level of effort together that the CEO probably doesn’t notice is influencing his view of the regular hikers as strong, resourceful, determined, etc.

          Impressions he would not have of the people huffing and puffing or sweating their way through if that was out of step with how easy the hike were for everyone else.

    4. ABCYaBye*

      If the activities varied, then there wouldn’t be anything out of line with a hike followed by a brewery trip followed by a cooking class. But in this case, the activity is just hiking. The CEO pushing for the promotion of one of the hikers shows how the extra face time allowed by the activity is the problem, as you say, but not varying the activities leads to that small clique having extra face time with the CEO.

      1. Iworktheretoo*

        I think I probably work at this company and I disagree with the way this is being framed by the OP. This isn’t anything official and isn’t anything more than the exec participating in fantasy football, a book reading group or going out for drinks after work. It’s not a work function and grew organically from a couple of folks getting together to hike. In fact the only real solution is barring the execs from doing anything after hours with employees – and that’s not the corporate culture here.

        Characterizing promotions and hiring decisions being made feom this isn’t accurate at all. In fact it’s disingenuous because that didn’t happen.

        1. Clobberin’ Time*

          No, the real solution is for the OP to stop using his hobby as a way of picking his favorites for promotion.

        2. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

          If that didn’t happen, maybe you actually work at a different company? It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s more than one place in the world where the CEO goes hiking and other people join him.

        3. Jora Malli*

          You have absolutely no way of knowing if you and OP work at the same company. Maybe they’re different companies and the hiking is working out fine at yours and terribly at OPs. That’s extremely possible.

          In fact the only real solution is barring the execs from doing anything after hours with employees

          That’s actually a fine solution. CEOs probably shouldn’t be socializing with the people who report to them to this extent, because it can cause the exact problem the OP described.

        4. Lydia*

          Someone is having a reaction that might be called defensive.

          It’s you. You’re being really defensive. It’s unlikely you work at the same place the OP does, but it does sound like your CEO participates in an unwise activity on the weekends with a bunch of people they shouldn’t be friends with and one of those people is you.

    5. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      I think this is blurring the line a little bit between activities where some people literally can’t participate (like hiking if you use a wheelchair) and activities where some people would prefer not to participate ( like lunch if you don’t like socializing). Being an introvert is not like being in a wheelchair.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Right. Plenty of people would prefer not to socialize with the CEO – either because they don’t like socializing, don’t want to give up a weekend day, hell maybe they don’t like the CEO! But there’s a difference between “this will be awkward for me for a couple of hours but might gain me some political capital so I’ll do it” and “I physically cannot do it and am being shut out of opportunities because of that”

      2. Lydia*

        Yep! There’s a lot of conflation happening. “I don’t want to do that particular thing” is valid, but it’s not the same as “I cannot physically do that thing.” Some people are treating it equally and it absolutely is not.

        1. Lily Potter*

          Lydia, you’re absolutely right. So many people seem intent on pushing the “CEO is being ableist!” part that the “I just don’t wanna socialize/do that activity” part is getting missed. There are far, far more of the latter in this world than the former.

          Two jobs I’ve held (one Fortune 50, the other a medium sized startup) had after hours opportunities to socialize with co-workers, many unofficially sanctioned by management. They were technically optional, but attending really helped lubricate interactions during the work day if you put in the after-hours work. People you met and interacted with at the after hours events became your mentors and allies during the work day. Could you just be a worker bee, put in your 9-5, and get good reviews? Absolutely! But it was much harder to get promoted. Most tellingly, when structural reorgs happened, the “social” sorts usually got the newly created/not internally posted managerial positions. These folks put in the hours hiking, playing golf, fishing on weekends, and hours drinking in bars at night. They did this even if they weren’t good golfers or didn’t especially excel at hiking. They didn’t whine to management that they’d like to golf too, and during working hours if you don’t mind. They played the game and reaped the rewards. Were the rewards handed out fairly? Not always. But they were usually handed out to those who put in the time for them.

          Along the same lines, Prospect Gone Bad posts below that she’s having a devil of a time getting her WFH people to commit to showing up in person occasionally. Those folks will be the same ones bewildered in 18 months when they’re not promoted. There’s a whole generation of 20-somethings that aren’t understanding that there’s more to getting promoted than submitting all of your TPS reports on time. Sometimes you have to interact with the world and sometimes that has to be at an inconvenient time and/or doing an activity that’s not necessarily your favorite.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, and I think that it’s a really horrible way to run a business. Some people have other commitments that mean that they aren’t available for after-hours socializing very often, if at all. Should they be denied the opportunities for promotion on those grounds? I don’t think so. People who can’t attend after hours events because they have other commitments are women more often than not, so this practice is discriminatory as well as everything else. The only women who can succeed in that sort of environment are single, childfree ones, and even then they’re probably getting penalized for “failing at womanhood.” I consider all tech startups to be toxic until proven otherwise.

            Ableism is a thing. According to some statistics, 26 percent of all US adults have a disability of some kind, and many people have multiple disabilities. Granted, different disabilities affect people in different ways, but it’s not a negligible minority.

            1. Lily Potter*

              In my experience*, management positions aren’t granted to worker bees that sit at their computer all day (in-person or WFH). They’re given to people who, during the course of interaction with superiors, have revealed themselves to have an “it” quality. That “it” quality will be different from organization to organization….but if you’re a worker bee that doesn’t interact socially with others, it’s going to be harder for management to know whether you’ve got “it” or not. I am NOT knocking worker bees. I have been one, and know that business would not run without them! But no one says, “Hey you know Cheryl? The one who always gets the TPS reports out on time? Let’s make her a manager!” Cheryl gets promoted once the people above her learn that Cheryl has what “it” takes to be a fit for the next job up. At my two organizations, the best place for Cheryl to get herself “on the radar” for promotion was at social events, usually those held off-hours.

              As for a company “discriminating” against people that aren’t available after hours (mainly women): Both the companies I worked for WOULD discriminate against you if you insisted on punching out at 5 pm every day because – for better or for worse – that was not the workplace norm. You worked until the job got done, and at certain times of the year, that meant working late. Both organizations promoted EMPLOYEES (men and women) who were willing to arrange their lives such that working late and/or socializing at off-hours was possible. We had some new moms figure out how to make that work to stay on the promotion track and had some new dads that went on worker bee detail for a few years so that they didn’t have to do as much schmoozing after hours. People who got promotions, regardless of gender, generally had earned them by putting in the face time.

              *Obviously my experience at two organizations is not indicative of business as a whole. YMMV.

              1. The Tin Man*

                I’m a day late so you probably won’t see this but I think the disconnect here is that you are saying “this is how the world works” (per your personal experience, which you noted). Others are pointing out that this is a bad, shortsighted way to run a business. What you are describing is exactly the issue with “culture fit” usually meaning “has similar cultural and socioeconomic background with me or at least common interests”. Just because someone doesn’t “vibe” with upper management (having “it” in your wording) doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be a capable leader in the company.

                I think you’re also conflating people working expected hours in crunchtime versus participating is a completely random activity like hiking outside of work hours that has nothing whatsoever to do with the performing of the job itself.

                What I get from your posts is that it feels you are saying “Lean In, this is how things are” compared to me and many others saying “There are other, better, ways to do this”.

                I’m not going to fault someone for playing the game but I think we should all be trying to change the rules.

    6. Prospect Gone Bad*

      This is where I land and why I think CEO should do additional activities and switch them up, not just cancel one type or the other.

      I’m not seeing anyone mentioning WFH. This is all the flip side of that. If you never want to go to the office or wanted to move far away, you will be giving up facetime with people. Most people who like WFH say this isn’t a problem. Now other people getting facetime is suddenly a problem because it occurred on the weekend?

      As someone on a WFH team since covid, and seeing the reasons why people don’t ever want to meet, I am frustrated. I think a lot of it boils down to going 45 minutes somewhere when you stay home all the time feels like a big deal, even when it isn’t. I can’t keep life perpetually on hold because a few people have so many stories about why they can never ever meet (and my team is young and healthy so this has nothing to do with disabilities). At some point, the desire and willing less so actually go out and do things will be a concrete plus when it comes to a worker. At a certain point in your career, the onus can be on you to propose alternatives. I may not be CEO but I am almost the same age so a quick “hey can we try something else” will be well received. The big caveat is, will the same people find some other reason to not show up for the 5th time.

      1. ABCYaBye*

        You’re 100% on to something there. The boss’s activities need to vary. The boss needs to not be “friends” with members of the team. And the team needs to step up and say yes to alternatives. Because if you want the boss to change and do something different, you need to show that it is worthwhile that they did so.

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          “Because if you want the boss to change and do something different, you need to show that it is worthwhile that they did so.”

          This is part 2 of all of this. This is where it’s fallen apart IRL. Suddenly the people who couldn’t go to the first proposed thing have a cousin’s sister’s friend’s wedding on the alt date, or their 2 hours of annual community service is on both days we propose or they suddenly plan a trip and put in a PTO request for the day I was about to propose. I wish people who simply want to WFH and not see anyone would just own it and accept the consequences of not getting facetime and building relationships at this point instead of making other people jump through these hoops.

          1. allathian*

            Yes, I agree with you. I love WFH, and I’m very glad that we don’t have a set number of days when we have to go to the office. My employer is just asking employees not to isolate themselves completely at home, unless they have a medical reason to WFH permanently. Starting last spring, and before my summer vacation I went in about once a week or once every two weeks. I’ve been working for almost a month since then, and I haven’t been in yet, and nobody’s said anything about it. But we’re still in our vacation period, and about a third of our team is currently on vacation. But I fully expect to start going back about as often in September.

            Maybe you could ask those people who’re excusing themselves from every in-person event to help plan an event that they’d actually be willing to attend?

      2. Web Crawler*

        You know that “young and healthy” people can have invisible disabilities too, right? That’s not necessarily something you can assume

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          Come on, if I’ve been to a loud of strenuous activities with someone I can safely assume they can do another activity of the same intensity. My company is very liberal and inclusive and they’ve never gone this far with the “assume everyone has a disability” idea some comments here constantly push. It’s actually very impractical IRL to sit there guessing whether people are hiding invisible disabilities. Using this example, if someone has issues walking, you would have already seen it in the office.

          1. Invisibly Disabled*

            The converse of “assume all young people can do this thing” isn’t to assume all people have an invisible disability, like you stated. It’s “ask”.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            I don’t use my cane because people have tried to physically take it from me. That doesn’t mean that walking isn’t painful for me. I have been known to go on hikes despite that, but it takes me about 10 hours of slow ambling and no one else is going to enjoy that even before we get to the part where I sometimes pick up beetles and snakes.

          3. coffee*

            I walk fine but my usual walking pace is pretty slow – you wouldn’t really see it in the office, but I know from going on hikes with people that faster walkers get very frustrated at that pace, and I can’t really speed up AND go long distances. (It’s even worse now I’ve injured my back and am trying to rebuild my core muscles. I really can’t walk that fast. Also carrying heavy things can be a challenge, so it would be a trade-off between taking water to drink vs keeping the weight I’m carrying down, which sometimes comes down to “would I rather be thirsty or in pain”.)

            So, uh, there’s your invisible disability you wouldn’t know from seeing me walk around the office.

          4. allathian*

            Walking around the office on a flat floor, for no longer than a few hundred feet at a time, is not the same thing at all as hiking for miles on hilly and uneven ground, WTF?

            Your ableism is shining clearly here, and it ain’t pretty.

      3. Love to WFH*

        A coworker of mine who is young, and used to be healthy, is now 3 months into Long COVID with a whole constellation of health problems. Also, your “young and healthy” team probably have some family members who aren’t. They may also have health challenges that they choose not to tell you about.

        Finding alternatives to spending time together indoors during a pandemic is not “keeping life perpetually on hold”. It’s being sensible. My city is currently has the High Transmission Level and at High Community Level, and it’s only going to go up with all the schools opening right now.

        My employer recently had an optional in-person get together, indoors. The following week, a lot of people were sick, meetings were cancelled and work didn’t get done. Here’s hoping that none of those cases turn into Long COVID.

      4. prof*

        I mean…it’s not really putting my life on hold to keep working from home or not meet in person with work people. It’s an excellent life choice for me and not having to do absurd team bonding is a bonus. Just…can we just do our jobs and not try to be some bonded happy family?

        Also you don’t actually know the health/disability status of people because plenty of us don’t tell you about our issues because 1) it’s none of your business and 2) we.know we will face discrimination.

    7. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      It’s a lot easier for most introverts to go to a social event or nondrinkers to go to a bar than it is for people with physical limitations or family obligations to go on a 5 mile hike.

    8. Ellis Bell*

      I agree and think this is as much of a problem as bosses who promote their unqualified nephew. You’re going to end up with a layer of incompetents above you.

  9. Justin*

    I have a feeling that a CEO who thinks this way is going to find a way to have a clique no matter what, sadly.

    (But surely the company needs to build in a broader range of activities.)

  10. Bluebird*

    Can you go back to HR with the suggestion of a regular morning or afternoon coffee hour at a local accessible coffee shop? Basically everyone gets together to hang out casually, like happy hour without booze. It’s probably the most inclusive networking thing I’ve ever participated in. You could do it at the office too if necessary but having it at a coffee shop gives it more “fun” vibes, while still having it during the work day and somewhere most people can find something to eat/drink.

    1. Splendid Colors*

      Even my city councilmembers can do this so constituents can get face time in a casual situation.

  11. Cookies for Breakfast*

    Adding to Littorally’s comment above, here’s another thing that makes it feel like a no-win scenario: this one particular clique is already formed. If these people have had enough time to develop a close relationship and already found one clear interest in common, it might take a lot of time and effort for someone who was an “outsider” to become a steadier part of the group and start benefitting in the same way.

    All this while recognising that the OP is right, and Alison’s advice makes total sense. I spent many years at a workplace where HR was completely oblivious about how all company socials skewed towards heavy drinkers; socialising casually with colleagues got a lot easier and more fun once they started listening to feedback and diversifying activities. What didn’t get easier was bonding with the groups long-term employees had already formed: the feeling that certain people’s trust or attention was only gained by getting drunk with them never really left me.

  12. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Find more activities or the CEO should hike without coworkers and underlings. Find other friends, dude.

    The optics are SO bad. You’re already wondering about this promotion and if you are, others are too and will be watching the promoted fellow’s closely to see if he fails or succeeds.

    Never mind physical fitness: what if you have elder care, family time, a 2nd job, or are introverted, etc. This activity cuts out a lot of people who could benefit with some time with the CEO, if desired.

    (I often wonder about those who smoke with the President of where I am. Do they get more consideration when they ask for things vs those who don’t smoke at all and therefore almost never see the president?)

    1. Love to WFH*

      I once worked at a company where the CEO smoked. He also tended to lie about how great things were going. The other smokers were sometimes told things like “We’re adding a bonus program, and it will probably be 50% of your salary next year!” (He didn’t add a bonus program.)

      My manager once came to me, very unhappy, to say that the CEO had met the guy that I’d hired recently, and after chatting with him over a cigarette, considered him a loser. He wanted us to fire the guy. We did not. In fact, that guy outlasted the CEO. Turns out that it’s safer to lie to your employees that it is to lie to Wall Street analysts.

    2. Grammar Penguin*

      Separate but related issue with the CEO is the way he reached down multiple levels to pressure OP’s manager to promote his hiking buddy to a role that’s beyond them over actually qualified internal candidates.
      He’s micromanaging and undermining the hiring manager. He’s hurting the company by putting people in jobs they’re not qualified for. He’s wrecking general morale by creating a situation where advancement depends more on schmoozing with the boss than achievement. He limits the opportunity to schmooze to the able-bodied.

      And since HR knows, and knows it’s a problem, presumably he has been made aware of the potential for legal liability yet the hiking continues. No alternative activity, no attempt to disconnect the hikes from the company, they’re still company events.
      Ianal, but this looks like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  13. not a doctor*

    Ughhhh I hate this so much. (Not you, OP, but the position you’ve been put in!) Because yes, I’d bet money that this guy will resent anyone he perceives as having “ruined his fun,” and may even resent the people who turn up at any alternative event that gets created, because they’re the reason said fun got ruined whether or not they were personally responsible. Obviously that’s kind of the worst-case scenario, and I hope it’s not true, but… I worry.

    Still, this can’t keep going the way it is. It’s blatantly and harmfully ableist, and I think that’s your strongest argument for putting a stop to it. I’d normally be reluctant to encourage you to target people with visible physical disabilities, but… IF you already have good relationships with any of them, or if they’ve openly and positively indicated they’re open to discussions like this, or if you have VERY GOOD reason to believe they’re bothered by the situation or receptive to the idea of pushing back (more reason than “they use a wheelchair”)… you might try something like this:

    “I wanted to talk to you about the CEO’s monthly hikes. I know we’re not pressured into them, but speaking only for myself, I feel it’s become a valuable networking opportunity that’s increasingly limited to people who match a specific physical type. I’m especially concerned about how this could affect people with disabilities at the company, but I don’t want to overstep. Can I ask how you feel about it?”

    1. Delta Delta*

      Meanwhile, the wheelchair users (and people not in wheelchairs but who don’t want to hike) might really enjoy some sort of outdoor activity that isn’t hiking, but it sounds like things like that may be overlooked.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        And instead of brainstorming for them, ask them! I realize they aren’t here so the commenters are brainstorming to be helpful but the OP/CEO/EA/HR/whoever has influence here could just ask people what activities they might like and work them into the rotation.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          I absolutely agree that surveying the employees on what activities they would want to participate in is the best course of action for something like this.

    2. Battlby the Blogger*

      As a wheelchair user I am careful of how, when and where I spend my work ‘capital’ for inclusiveness. My answer to the question above would be:

      ” I would judge this situation as a lost cause and refuse to participate in a group or single approach. This is a CEO problem since he WANTS to do this activity with work ‘friends’ You will not find a solution that makes the CEO AND excluded workers happy. If he wanted to be inclusive, he would have made the effort. Bringing it up will only antagonize him and scapegoat the wheelchair users as the ones who ruined his fun.”
      Whether or not I continued working there depends on how bad I needed the job or wanted a promotion.

  14. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    [“…there are people within our company who would be eager to attend a function that promoted a healthy lifestyle and internal networking but are being unintentionally excluded because of their physical fitness level or even physical limitations.….”]

    It’s NOT “unintentional” at all. As the CEO, he clearly knows that he’s excluding “certain people” and specifically planned to exclude those individuals.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Or at least planned to reward people who fall into a “healthy lifestyle” that he promotes. This is why wellness plans at work are often so fraught.

    2. Nanani*

      Yep. It’s pure abelism, as well as excluding people who don’t have time for hikes because of other obligations (like childcare).

  15. Liz*

    Did anyone mention that these are also on weekends?
    That in addition to the issues raised, it means that employees need to give up their weekends (find childcare, etc) in order to attend and thus get promoted.
    Are employees paid for their time (Im guessing no)

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      Yeah, the weekend thing was mentioned above as being another problem with this situation. These little informal meetups with the CEO should definitely be happening during work hours.

    2. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Childcare is an interesting one. Who wants to bet that the people who go on these hikes are almost exclusively men?

  16. ABCYaBye*

    The optics of someone from that group getting a promotion are bad, and even worse if it is someone who is underqualified. I think you’re not the only one who is recognizing how bad this is, LW, and it would be worthwhile to quietly build a community who can go to HR together. You don’t need to be front and center on this.

  17. HIPAA-Potamus*

    Where I work, we have monthly Zoom “leader rounding” meetings. Ask anything, judgment free (well, the intent is there.) I know it’s not an activity, but honestly, no one agrees upon anything these days.

  18. Beboots*

    I work at a tourist site where hiking is very common – we have access to nearly 100km of hiking trails within a 15 minute drive. That being said, when I try to coordinate optional bonding activities outside of work time for staff, I’m aware that everyone on my team has differing physical abilities. A few other ideas that I’ve done that get some good bonding time that have worked well for different folks:
    1) Going berry picking in summer (can go out for an hour together, have a group activity, get lovely free food out of it). In our case this is wild harvesting of easily identifiable berries (wild blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), not a u-pick. Outdoors, but we usually only have to walk and crouch in like a less than 500m radius.

    2) Outdoor potluck picnics / campfires at a scenic outdoor location. We’ve even paired it with birdwatching for those who are interested. Our work has a stash of binoculars for programming purposes and we’re fine with loaning them to our staff for a few hours.

    These two ideas would allow for some access to potentially the same beautiful natural area that the hiking group takes part in, but may be more accessible for people of differing abilities? I find having an activity to do together helps promote conversation but also good moments of quiet where you can step back a bit and it’s not awkward.

    1. quill*

      I’m seconding the picnic, since it’s easier to bring your own food to that. Berry picking sounds like a good idea if everyone has the knowledge (I’m hearing shades of my grandmother telling me to stop eating them, they’re for the pie!)

      1. allathian*

        Yes, especially if there are berries that grow on bushes, like raspberries or blackberries, to pick. For some, crouching to pick berries is difficult if not impossible. I can do it for half an hour or so, before I get so uncomfortable that I have to stop. I can pick raspberries or currants for hours.

  19. Irishgal*

    Something similar happened in my company. They started gym classes at 6.30am which the ceo went to. Over a period of about 12 months, the majority of the people going to those classes were promoted to senior roles. I genuinely don’t think it was intentional and the majority were well deserved, it was just that they got face time with him, it opened doors for them so he got to know them and their work. Not all of them remained successful in their roles though which does make me think the personal connection helped.
    I noted my observations a few times but nothing changed and then Covid happened and gym classes haven’t returned.
    I think you need to make peace with it as these types of things can eat you up. Forcing something else won’t have the same effect as the ceo will just be fulfilling another duty and therefore not pay the same attention as when doing something he enjoys.

  20. PleaseNo*

    Be careful of approaching HR. I went through something similar, though my restriction is from a car accident (and I used to run marathons!). There were only 7 of us in the office, and I was newbie. I first approached my boss about his “hikes” and “camping” with coworkers and asked for something _I_ could do. He said he’d reconsider the group activities. Nothing changed, he just didn’t tell the office as a whole that they were still going on (the other regulars knew and would still show up). So I talked to HR. He stopped doing them. Then I started getting harsher evaluations. I was called out more for things he didn’t need to know before, but suddenly did now.
    It was retaliation, but hard-to-prove retaliation. He left for another location — thank you Air Force (I am a civilian in it, he was military and so were about half of my coworkers). His new guy? He asks people to go to the gym with him where they buddy up. Sigh.
    I hope you have more people in your office so if you do go the formal route it can’t be pinned to you!

      1. PleaseNo*

        lol. Well, I’ve had lots of therapy where we were working on giving myself a voice. It didn’t work out that time (lots of other impacts I have not included). With the new guy as my boss, who had buddy-buddy time with others, I just accepted my situation, and left as soon as I could!
        I thought my friends were speaking in hyperbole about the military being a boys’ club still, but… it’s hard to refute that now that I worked with them so closely for many years.

        1. Anonymous platypus*

          Not excusing it, but since military have PT requirements/tests, it’s a little more understandable that this happens, since they all have to workout.

          Saying this as an out of shape civilian in a military environment.

  21. Lily Potter*

    Those suggesting drop-in office hours, cooking classes, etc are missing the real benefit of the hikes fir employees. The CEO is seeing the same 10 people on an on-going basis. Of course he’s going to get to know those people in-depth as individuals. It’s regular face time while engaging in an endorphin-producing, enjoyable activity. Of COURSE relationships are going to be built. One-off cooking classes and dropping during office hours will not produce the same kind of closeness between the CEO and individual employees.

    1. Nanani*

      And you seem to have missed that this closeness IS the problem.
      It’s not okay that some people have this close bond with CEO that other people cannot, not dont want to, CANNOT, get because they are unable (not unwilling, Unable) to go on the hikes.

      This is exactly the same problem that happy hours, meetings at adult venues, golf days etc have.

      1. Lily Potter*

        I missed nothing – nowhere did I say that this situation is ideal, or even okay. What I stated is that it’s understandable that employees who get regular face time with the boss while doing an enjoyable activity are going to bond with the boss. Emphasis on “regular” here ……any time you put people together on a regular basis, they’re likely to bond in one way or another. The boss is especially likely to bond with people with whom he shares an interest. Forced alternative activities that the boss thinks of as an obligation just aren’t going to pack the same “punch”. It comes down to how the CEO wants to spend his time; I’d imagine that HR telling him that he has to make himself available for cooking classes each month isn’t going to go over well. As Ellis Bell writes below: “…the real problem is that the CEO doesn’t give a hoot about providing equitable access to him and avoiding cliques and favouritism. He likes the set up just fine.”

        1. Nanani*

          He shouldn’t be building special relationships with any clique at all – suggesting alternate acitivities doesn’t fix that. You’re hardly the only one to be like “what if THIS instead of hiking” but all of these miss the point.

          CEO face time – and the perks that come with it- should not be dependent on any extracurricular at all.

    2. The Real Fran Fine*

      Who says office hours, or even the cooking classes, would be or should be one-offs? Office hours can be bi-weekly or even monthly (my company’s execs toggle between those two cadences), like hiking, for a few hours with interested employees dropping by as needed/wanted. The CEO could allow them to discuss whatever topic(s) they want, work-related or not. People who are interested in using this as an opportunity to network with him for advancement opportunities will show up regularly and others who aren’t will naturally opt-out. But doing something like this allows for more people to opt-in, especially if it’s during the work day, and is less exclusionary than choosing a physical activity.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I think the real problem is that the CEO doesn’t give a hoot about providing equitable access to him and avoiding cliques and favouritism. He likes the set up just fine.

  22. JHC*

    This is discriminatory on the basis of physical ability, as OP and Alison both noted. But it also excludes parents and other caregivers who may have weekend responsibilities; religious people whose services may conflict with the hikes; and probably other protected groups that I’m not thinking of right now.

    1. Skytext*

      That’s what I was coming here to say—it doesn’t matter what the activity is, having it on Saturday is going to exclude people who have other obligations.

    2. Rob aka Mediancat*

      It’s also discriminatory for some of those whose disabilities are nonphysical. I have GAD, for instance, and this would be stressful and unpleasant for me (though I could do it if forced to), but I’m at the mild end of that list. For a lot of other folks, just because they could physically do it doesn’t mean they could actually do it.

      1. allathian*

        Indeed, or that there wouldn’t be a price to pay the following week. If I had to go on a 5-mile hike with my coworkers on a Saturday, I would probably be able to do it physically, but I’d also be sore for several days afterwards, which would affect my productivity the following week, and I might even have to call in sick on Monday.

  23. Libraryland*

    I work in higher educator and my grand-boss use to get all the bros in our division to join him on Tough Mudders. Anyone could join the group so it wasn’t exclusionary, right? Right?! Dude still can’t think of a question to ask me on the rare occasions that our paths cross besides, “So how’s your son?” (I’m a mom on my off hours). Grrrrr.

  24. For the love of decency*

    What about a healthy meal cooking class? If the CEO is serious about the health aspect of this activity maybe this would appeal to them. Hiring a chef or enrolling in a class is pretty easy and would provide some face time plus added time as you eat the meal.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      HA! What about the gluten-free people, the vegans, the keto people… a cooking class is possibly more controversial than a hike! And I am taking the p!ss, it actually is a good idea but people are too particular, either by choice or for medical reasons, for this to work.

    2. Maggie*

      Excludes people with food allergies. Everything is going to exclude someone, which is why rotating different activities is a smart idea.

  25. fine-tipped pen aficionado*

    Gonna throw out my hot take that social events for work are bullshit and any benefit the workers or company might derive for them is wildly offset by all of the negative stuff that goes along with it. Can we please just come to work, do our jobs, and then go spend time with the people we actually choose?

    1. Yes And*

      I agree with you to a large extent, and I’m a big proponent of work/life separation. But there are shades of gray. In my field (nonprofit theater), attending opening night parties and the like is widely considered one of the perks of the job. It’s worth noting in the context of this letter that nobody is getting (or missing) face time with the boss by attending (or skipping) those events, because the boss is spending the entire evening with donors.

    2. Mophie*

      There are a lot of people who feel this way. I imagine there are others who feel the exact opposite and enjoy social events and the camraderie they bring. I, for one, couldn’t be in a workplace where people wouldn’t mind getting a drink after work, or some other activity. I have left jobs because the environment was too stuffy. It takes all kinds and if you want to retain talent, you probably need to appeal to both types of people.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Hello, a person who enjoys the occasional work social event checking in here! Especially when I am new(er) to a company or team, a happy hour/bowling night/volunteer activity gives me a chance to get to know my coworkers a bit better in a non-work setting. When I know my coworkers better, I feel friendlier toward them and enjoy working with them in the office more. Social events can also be a good way for me to get to know people outside my team whom I don’t normally interact with in day-to-day work, but maybe in the future I’ll need something from them/they’ll need something from me and the pre-existing relationship smooths that along.

        All that said, I do think that work social events should be: occasional (no more than once a quarter), optional, and a variety of activities (so most people will find at least one option palatable).

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. When I started my current job, I attended every event that my office organized. That said, I skipped the ones that required travel to other offices even then, because I was, and am, introverted enough that the concept of spending a Friday and a Saturday in the company of my coworkers, including sharing a hotel room, makes me anxious.

          Now that I’ve been there for 15 years, I don’t attend any events after work, either. Or rather, I skipped the Christmas party last year, and the two-day sports & culture days recently.

          We have a lot of new hires, though, so depending on the Covid situation in the fall, I might be willing to do something with my coworkers after work. That said, I hate wearing a mask. I will if it’s absolutely necessary, i.e. on public transit last year and in the spring, or for a medical appointment, or if someone I’m talking to is more careful about Covid than I am and asks me to, regardless of the reason. But wearing a mask completely ruins all of the benefits of socializing in person for me, so then I’d probably prefer to skip it altogether if at all possible. (There’s currently no mask mandate or strong recommendation to use them in my area.)

          When I’m at the office, I’m happy to go to lunch and spend my coffee breaks with my coworkers. I find that that gives me most of the social interaction I need at work. We also have 15-minute optional virtual coffee breaks on Teams 3 times a week, and I really enjoy those, partly because I’m not in back-to-back meetings all day.

    3. Spicy Tuna*

      100% this! I am self employed now, but I always avoided out of office socializing with co-workers. I don’t even want to eat lunch with co-workers. Is it too much to ask for a few minutes of alone time?

    4. Maggie*

      I really disagree that any benefit is offset by all the “negatives” as a general statement. Maybe for you personally, but that’s not true for everyone or even most people. I’ve socialized with co workers after work at every job I’ve had. The “work sanctioned” events have been plentiful and I’ve enjoyed the majority of them. I like doing things like going out to eat, going for drinks, going to tourist attractions, and doing things like bowling or go karts. Yep I have food allergies, sometimes I don’t drink, so on an so forth. But I enjoy doing these things. And I like the people I work with now and at previous jobs. I definitely feel this CEO should take a second look at these hikes and his promoting practices, and offer other activities, and I don’t think he’s in the right, but there are plenty of people who genuinely enjoy getting together with people and doing things after work. I mean, look around – the world is full of people out doing stuff in groups. Some people do enjoy this.

    5. McS*

      Social events organized by the boss or around the boss’s preferences are entirety different than ones organized by IC level employees. The latter are a nice way to build comraderie and actually reduce people being left out of more casually organized activities in an environment where young people who moved for the job are always looking for new friends. The former are problematic in so many ways. As a manager, it’s a good idea to limit the duration of your attendance even at the latter type of event. Just the first round at happy hour, or do the bbq, but not the hike before it. That way no one gets that much extra face time and they get some time to complain about me too!

  26. Mophie*

    While I agree 5-6 mile hikes are too much, what is the solution for a CEO who wants activities to get to know employees outside of work? Anything that’s optional, or outside of work hours is going to have the same issue. Some people aren’t going to be able to/want to go. And those who do go, will probably get some advantage because of the face time. So even if you’re not excluding because of physical limitations, you probably end up excluding for something else.

    Is the answer just not to have activities like this at all? Because that seems a shame.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I think the answer is to not just have ONE activity. Yeah, you’d still have the issue about people who have childcare responsibilities, etc, but even doing something like “we’re going for a hike next weekend and then meeting in such a café for coffee afterwards. Feel free to come on the hike with us and/or join us for coffee, whatever suits you.”

      Or have a monthly work activity but a different one each month and try to keep them as general as possible – nothing that requires expensive equipment or a high level of physical fitness or talent at one particular thing – like go bowling one week, to a café or pub for a meal the next, yoga the next, trip to the beach the next, maybe a walk the next, maybe an online gaming marathon the next or board games. Yeah, some of those things might exclude some people, but most are open to a lot of people and the odds are most people would find SOMETHING they could take part in.

      There shouldn’t be the same advantage if you are doing something with the CEO this week but next week he’s doing something with a group that doesn’t interest you, so different people get access to him each week.

      Heck, even just alternating the hikes with something like a “board games and coffee” evening would give a variety of people access to him and would balance things out a bit. There’s probably no way of making things perfect, but there are ways of reducing the inequality.

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      1. Have some activities during work hours, like lunches out attended and paid for by the CEO.
      2. Vary the activities and times they happen, so everyone has the opportunity to attend at least every other activity.
      3. Make sure there is adequate opportunity for face time with every employee during the work day. There is nothing stopping a CEO from having 20 minute informal chats with their employees.

      There are a ton of options, and usually the employees can brainstorm them together for what works for them.

    3. one L lana*

      I honestly don’t know if a CEO should be getting to know employees outside work. I am not one of those “I just want to do my work and go home” types — I really value work relationships, I’ve made good friends at the office, I even had multiple coworkers (one of whom was my former manager) at my wedding. I think it’s good for companies to provide some opportunities for people to get to know one another, and to make them as accessible as possible.

      At the same time, one of the weirdest things about becoming a more senior manager was looking around at a happy hour one day, realizing I was the highest-ranking person still there, and hightailing it out of there as soon as I could so that people could talk without a boss around.

      The CEO is everyone’s boss. He can be personable and friendly, but he really shouldn’t be getting to know people outside work, imo.

    4. JustaTech*

      It’s ok if some people don’t want to go! But it should be their *choice*, rather than something imposed on them by the choice of activity.
      Like, I have a coworker who has no interest in socializing with the rest of us ever, under any circumstances. He’s a perfectly nice guy and does his job well, he just doesn’t want to socialize. Which is totally fine!

      The issue is when the “face time with the CEO” activity excludes people who *want* to engage in the socialization. That’s where the “variety of activities” is useful, because people who want to go are less likely to be excluded.

  27. Spicy Tuna*

    I love hiking, I am quite active and physically fit, and I would go nowhere near a group hike with a CEO! This is wrong! Hiking with coworkers, especially higher-ups, would zap all of the enjoyment out of a hike, especially on a weekend!

    I could see this being appropriate as a one time group activity as part of something more inclusive (like a company picnic), but on a regular basis…. NO WAY

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Essentially they are working, because the unsaid thing is they’re getting something out of it.

  28. Miss Suzie*

    At my previous job, our department had a yearly all day canoe trip. If you did not go, you were required to work that day. The people who were disabled and also all the Indian women never went on the trip. Everyone else got the day off from work. Totally not fair.

    1. allathian*

      My employer organizes an annual sports & culture event on a Friday & Saturday. Friday is a workday, Saturday isn’t.

      I’ve never gone, but I’ve also never begrudged my coworkers who do go that they get to do something other than work for a workday and still get paid.

  29. Not Nancy*

    It’s not the same as monthly hikes and this might not work in a large organization but a former CEO hosted a monthly lunch with about 10 employees from various departments. The group changed each month and the invitation asked about dietary restrictions. The lunches were held in one of the conference rooms to keep an informal atmosphere. Most everyone enjoyed them.

  30. Sunny days are better*

    I used to work at a company that did this:
    The CEO would take about 10 people out for lunch once a month. There was an online sign up sheet with the months and which restaurant it would be held at. You signed up, and they would randomly pick people each month. It gave everyone a chance for a little face time with the CEO and a nice meal on the company dime.

  31. Tea*

    A tabletop RPG like dungeons and dragons would provide a very similar intensive hours long small group bonding experience without the physical intensity.

    Now sit with how weird it would be to have the CEO’s D&D game influence people’s jobs. And think about how maybe this CEO needs to go fishing in a different social pool for hiking buddies.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, but the DM would have to be someone who doesn’t work at the company, or else things could get really weird…

  32. Office Manager*

    Is this the kind of thing that can be quietly reported to some kind of ADA association?

  33. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    Yeah, this is BAD. Maybe it did start off innocently enough, but it has now turned into something of a quid pro quo as those who hike are essentially WORKING on the weekends and being with the CEO, and you bet your boots they’re getting promotions because of it.

    It’s a modern version of the golf club.

  34. Super Cat Librarian*

    I think this was said above, but if you’re in any sort of position to suggest something, I second the rec for mini golf. It’s not physically strenuous at all, and in my area, mini golf places often have ice cream and/or places to hang out and eat if you don’t play. At my old job we used to do team building at mini golf. For the record, I hate mini golf. I think it’s so boring and I don’t like being in the sun. But at least there was also ice cream!

  35. Fitness to lead*

    I think the most important information here is that underqualified people are getting promoted, and in fact you have a CEO with poor judgment on staffing. What else does the CEO have poor judgment on? How many other people at the company are where they are because of other kinds of favoritism (alumni of same school, family, family friends, neighbors, etc.) And what effect are these underqualified people having on the organization? This would concern me the most. A mismanaged company might mean I’ll be laid off. I’d also consider lowering my personal estimate of value the equity that it part of my compensation.

  36. Tracy*

    This is SO tone deaf on your CEO’s part. At my last job our CEO was friendly with a couple of the exec; they camped together etc. The other exec and I were left out. Add to that the coffees and the beers we didn’t get invited to, and you have a recipe for a hugely divided team. When the ‘B Team’ (as I called us) mentioned anything he got super defensive. Do take this up with HR again, but don’t be surprised if it goes nowhere.

  37. Edelweiss*

    Whilst I agree the regularity of this single activity with no alternatives is a problem, I think this is quite an American perspective. As a northern European, organising outdoor trips that require a reasonable (but accessible for most people) level of fitness is super common – and indeed, spending time with colleagues in the outdoors is considered an important part of a healthy working culture. Excluding people with disabilities is clearly an issue, so everywhere I’ve worked had a rotating cast of activities which would be accessible to all, but I would definitely be sad if the US idea that everything has to be open to everyone at all times starts to permeate into European working culture.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Except it sounds like these particular hikes (5-6 miles of intense hiking) are not accessible for most people.

  38. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Nothing particularly constructive to add. Just echoing Alison that this is not cool and you are being totally reasonable recognizing this is a problem.

    Sorry CEO bro, if you’re in charge, work is not the place to find a friend group for hobbies.

Comments are closed.