my team doesn’t want managers to hang out with them

A reader writes:

I manage a small tight-knit team. The people I’ve hired in the last two years socialize together quite a bit, which is great. The downside is they don’t invite me or the other managers; the junior members will hang out together and not invite the managers. The disappointing part of this is that this team has historically been very close and (we hoped) didn’t feel hierarchical. As we hire more people, I would prefer that the environment feel inclusive. It’s a little awkward when five people spent their weekend together and are talking about it and the remaining three weren’t invited.

Recently at a team dinner, one of them said to someone outside the department that “everyone went” to an event together. The person asked me if I had gone and I said, I hadn’t been invited. My team member said I wouldn’t have gone anyway.

The managers do have babies or life responsibilities that keep us from socializing together after hours. We also have more friends outside of work than most of the junior members so the likelihood of us participating is low. But we still would like to be asked and feel a little hurt to be left out while recognizing that the team should feel free to hang without being obligated to ask us to come. I guess they don’t want their managers to come along and that is tricky for us because we really encourage a “flat” culture and it’s put a small us vs. them vibe into the team.

I’m not exactly sure the best way to handle this or if there’s anything to handle at all.

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

{ 186 comments… read them below }

  1. EPLawyer*

    Managers should not be hanging out with their reports. You have to be businesslike no matter how much you want a flat culture.

    If you are still responsible for things like handing out work assignments and giving feedback/performance reviews you don’t have a flat culture anyway. You have a hierarchy.

    Can you imagine saying “Denise, I need you to show up to work on time, can you do that? Oh and btw, so looking forward to the spa day this weekend.” Or worse “Denise I am going to have to let you go. Is the spa day still on?”

        1. ecnaseener*

          “Denise, let’s schedule a spa day for this weekend! No, trust me, you’re really going to need it. Uh, I can’t tell you why until Friday.” :P

          1. A Simple Narwhal*

            Well maybe if she cut back on guacamole she could have afforded it, or the company could have afforded to keep her!

    1. Fluffy Fish*


      Congrats OP, welcome to being a manager. A magical land where you are not friends with your employees and you don’t hang out together. You handle being excluded by being thankful your employees have the sense you and the other managers are missing at the moment. Stop making it weird for your employees.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        100%. You should look elsewhere to fulfill your social needs than among your employees. You obviously can be friendly, but in general, your employees are not your friends. There’s a distinction.

      2. The Rafters*

        I heard a that my great great grandboss told my grandboss that she knew she’d made it when she was no longer invited to lunch. She apparently repeats that quote every time someone is promoted to *that* level.

    2. Over It*

      I once carpooled to an event with some friends. One of those friends brought a guest. An employee she’d encouraged to come and didn’t feel she could uninvite after firing her.

      It definitely could have more awkward than it was, but just the fact that she’d invited an employee at all to a purely social event with her friends was so weird to me.

      1. Bee*

        I can’t believe that person was like “yes, I would still like to attend this event with the person who fired me & a bunch of strangers.” I would have had something come up!

        1. Carol the happy elf.*

          Just after college, I was tasked with taking the new bookkeeper home after work, then it became “Since Betty is on your way to work, we need you to pick her up, too. It will only take an extra fifteen minutes or so each way.” Betty had a brand new car, and didn’t want to risk door dings in the parking lot.
          Betty was also in the process of losing a house to foreclosure- and they had bought that house from my college roommate’s parents.

          Then Betty kept putting off the annual audit that she didn’t know about. (Note to small-firm new hires- if they offer a financial audit before you take the books, take advantage of it. It’s a gold-plated CYA and you start with no blame sticking to you.)
          When they caught Betty writing checks to various companies with the same account number, guess who had to drive Betty and her extra shoes and her office plant home in my little beige VW bug??

          And when we got to her house, her new car was “stolen”. I still get hives remembering that part of the job….

        2. Michelle Smith*

          Probably overly worried about a negative reference or something like that, even though they’d probably get one anyway from being fired. So strange.

    3. Hamster Manager*

      Yes, I was very amused OP didn’t see the contradiction between “flat culture” and “junior reports.”

    4. Lea*

      I think some level of socializing with managers outside of work can be beneficial, a team building exercise, Christmas party, work trip dinners etc, but it’s still not going to be the same as socializing with people who aren’t managing you.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        I think we’re all agreed on that. No one is saying you can never encounter your supervisor outside of work. It’s also fine to have occasional informal activities. But trying to be full-fledged friends with your employees generally is to be avoided, and as a manager, you have to know where the line is.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          Yup. I have gone out to dinner with my reports while we were away at a conference…but met up with other folks I knew in the industry for after-dinner drinks and socializing because it would have been awkward tagging around with them all evening, even though we got along great.

        2. allathian*

          Yes, this.

          I’m not even saying after work socializing with a manager is always wrong. With a previous manager, we used to go for after work drinks a few times a year. Attendance was completely voluntary, everyone paid for themselves, and my manager always excused herself early. But it was usually she who suggested it.

          I have a good relationship with my manager, and we often go to lunch together as a group when we’re at the office. We can talk about a lot of things, including non-work stuff sometimes, but we aren’t friends or even work friends.

        3. londonedit*

          Absolutely. The way it usually works in my experience is that the managers will come to an event for an hour or so, buy a round of drinks and have a chat with people, and then leave everyone else to it.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, but I think you have to gague what’s the appropriate level.

        As an example, If something is official and organised by the company, I’ll try to go (e.g. Christmas Party, Summer BBQ / Quiz Night)

        If it’s work related (e.g. Janet is leaving, it’s proposed that everyone go to the pub at lunch time on her last day) I’ll normally go if I am available – the exception would be if I feel that the person leaving would be more comfortable if I were not there – so a few years ago when we had to make some people redundant (lay offs) I didn’t go to the lunch because I’m part of the group that made that decision to lay them off, and similarly, when someone who was subject to disciplinary process and who we had put onto a PIP left I didn’t go.
        I wouldn’t expect to be invited if it was a purely social thing organised by more junior members of staff and if invited I would consider going if it were the sort of event where I could realistically go for a short while and leave early, so I can socialise a bit but then leave people to let their hair down without their boss observing!

    5. Medium Sized Manager*

      This is one of the biggest reasons that the “we’re all equals! No hierarchy” bs commonly found in startups annoys me. Hierarchies are necessary to a degree when it comes to a business, and that is not a bad thing. It feels like a massive over-correction to bad managers who don’t listen to anybody’s feedback.

      1. Emily*

        Exactly. At the end of the day there needs to be someone who has the authority to make the final call.

        1. Andy*

          I had managers that I do consider friends. I did enjoyed socializing with them and so did other team members. I really really did not needed these managers put of room to feel good.

          That is not true of every manager. But those who I did not wanted in room sucked as managers too.

          If the people in a company don’t want managers in room to feel ok during socialization, very likely managerial culture in that company is just bad.

      2. Bridget*

        Not to mention, there ARE hierarchies whether you pretend there are or not. Someone makes decisions, someone controls the money, someone says yes or no, and someone can fire you.

  2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I guess they don’t want their managers to come along and that is tricky for us because we really encourage a “flat” culture and it’s put a small us vs. them vibe into the team.

    No, what’s put a small “us vs them vibe” into your team is the fact that you’re the ones who assign their work, sign their paychecks (functionally) and do their annual reviews. That’s part of being a manager – you don’t get to be buddy buddy with the team, because you’re the boss.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      And this is why, any time I’m involved in a promotion interview process where someone is being advanced on their current team, I will 100% ask if they have considered how they plan to handle the adjustment of shifting into a supervisory role over people who may have been their peers for quite some time. I don’t need them to tell me what changes they plan to make, I just want to know that they recognize that it will be an adjustment and that they’re at least thinking about it.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        That’s really smart, there have definitely been multiple letters here about issues coming up when someone is promoted above their peers. Some issues can’t always be avoided but a lot of good could come from some forethought.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I promoted one of my team members to replace a retiring team lead last year, and I did ask her about it in the interview process and she gave a fine answer. But she actually was just telling me last week, it was a bigger adjustment than she had expected and she was glad that I had specifically called it out for her as something to be mindful of, because she wasn’t sure she’d have thought about it the way she needed to on her own.

      2. Help Desk Peon*

        Yeah, I didn’t apply for my former boss’s position because no way did I want to take on supervising my former coworkers. They’ve been my friends for 15+ years and I don’t think any of us could make that adjustment.

    2. AnonInCanada*

      Not to mention the fact this manager wanting to be “buddy buddy” with their team members blurs the line between professional conduct on and off the clock. If one of the team, say, has one too many at the bar when manager is hanging around with them as a “chum,” will said manager be able to separate that off-the-clock bad behaviour come performance review time? No matter how much that manager consciously believes otherwise, subconsciously it’s going to affect how that team member is seen from a professional standpoint, at least to manager-turned-“pal.”

      Suck it up, manager. There’s a reason why your team doesn’t want to have you hang out with them after work. This is just one example as to why.

      1. ferrina*

        Or the reverse- one employee is a little more buttoned up, or just has a personality that isn’t fun for the manager. I’ve had managers that favored the people they enjoyed hanging out with more; those people got the better assignments, while the rest of us only got to work on those projects once they’d gone wrong and we needed to fix it.

        1. Pugetkayak*

          Yeah, you really have to check your biases in general. Of course there are people I just LIKE more on my team than others, but you always have to just be looking at the work. Of course, often you don’t like them because they are not doing their job properly, but I would say one of my very best employees is someone I don’t really like to even talk to, but I recognize how good they are. It would be hard to add in more of this kind of bias into the relationship.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          And I think it’s important to note that this can happen even if the manager is not consciously or intentionally doing it. Even if OP cares a lot about being fair and minimizing bias, they might not realize how much that outside socializing can impact work decisions. It’s along similar reasons to why the classic example of all the guys on the team going golfing or to a strip club together is exclusionary – people’s after-work social activities together do have an impact on exactly those types of things.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        There might be, but honestly I wouldn’t want to work there. The only thing worse than no one steering the ship is everyone trying to steer the ship in a different direction.

        1. Lily*

          This describes a place my husband worked. “Everyone is the boss” = no one was in charge and nothing got done. The lazy, incompetent, unreliable, unproductive employees had as much say in things as the hard-working, competent, reliable, productive employees.
          The place is now filled with lazy, incompetent employees, as the good employees (the ones other companies would actually want to hire) left.

        2. Jaydee*

          I can see a flat workplace existing in a very small, partnership type arrangement. Two or three attorneys decide to go into practice together and have no other employees or support staff. They divide up responsibilities for various things around the office. They’re equal partners in the profit and risk of the firm, they’re all involved in major decision-making, and no one is the boss of the others. That’s a pretty flat workplace.

          As soon as they bring on an associate attorney (not a partner) or hire a paralegal or switch from a contracted phone answering service to an actual in-office secretary/receptionist, the workplace is no longer flat. Somebody has to be the boss of the the employee(s). It could be all of the partners, but there is now a hierarchy between bosses and employees.

          Same goes for any other type of business. Two friends open a bakery together – that could be a flat workplace if they’re equal partners. When they start hiring on staff, it stops being flat.

          You can give employees more or less of a say in how the business is run. You can have more or fewer levels of management or middle management (e.g. just schedulers, groomers and managers versus schedulers, scheduler supervisor, groomer assistants, groomers, senior groomers, groomer team leads, and managers). But you can’t get rid of the hierarchy completely.

      2. Artemesia*

        Ones that pretend they are — i.e. the badly conceived holocracy fad, generally are just badly managed. I watched a promising startup go out of business because they refused to organize functionally and their most important function was recruiting clients and that was ‘everyone’s responsibility.’ As soon as others entered the business space they had been early providers in, and recruitment became more difficult, they rapidly tanked as they had no well organized recruitment process and expertise. Everything else was ‘everyone’s responsibility’ too and it mean no systematic way of doing many things and the daily reinvention of wheels.

        1. Rex Libris*

          Yep. In my experience, everything being “everyone’s responsibility” usually works out to everything is “someone else’s responsibility.”

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, it’s hard to imagine how it would work. Even as a teacher in Ireland, where my principal cannot now fire me (as I have the equivalent of a permanent contract) and does not supervise my work or give performance reviews, they still have power over things like my timetable and even sort of over redeployment if our school is over quota with staff (technically, they are meant to decide that based on seniority and school needs – like if the least senior teacher is one of only two teachers of a compulsory subject or has a qualification in teaching EFL and there are a number of students arriving from countries that do not speak English, they choose the second least senior – but in practice there is some leeway, for example, if two teachers are equal in seniority or if there is one teacher with a EFL qualification but few or no students who need support in that area. In the latter case, they could decide they need the qualification as that could change or they could decide it is superfluous). And if I were to apply for a post of responsibility, they would have input into that. Or if I wanted to take a career break or job share.

        Even if the principal doesn’t have the power over my job that a manager would have in the private sector, it’s still not equal.

        My school has a pretty “flat” culture. We all usually vote on things like school policies, what days off to take the following year, etc. But it’s only flat by comparison.

    3. Momma Bear*

      Flat culture really only works if the team is really small and equal. As soon as you start needing levels and mangers of any kind, that is out the window. You can have a laid-back and collaborative company but still not be “flat.”

      Also, I agree. Now that you’re the manager, you’re not a part of that level of the company. Go hang out with other managers.

    4. I am Emily's failing memory*

      Yeah, my department at work has fairly flat decision-making – that is, we give “junior” (such as they are) subject matter experts a pretty large amount of input and autonomy into decisions that will affect their daily work. We also have a reasonable amount of work-sponsored social opportunities and people managers are strongly encouraged to attend to build rapport with junior staff.

      At the same time, we are all still very clear on who outranks (and can overrule) who if there’s a disagreement, managers usually clear out of the happy hours after 1-2 hours, and we never go from happy hour to a second location with the junior staff.

      You can absolutely foster an inclusive culture where managers have a good rapport with direct reports, and where lower-level employees are given a lot of input into how things are done, without everyone having to treat each other as social peers and without managers giving the tone deaf impression they don’t realize how much power they still have even in a flat structure.

    5. Beth*

      This kind of thing has me seeing yellow flags when a company talks a lot about its “flat” culture. The ideal is nice–who doesn’t want a workplace where everyone can expect to be heard when they have something to contribute, no matter how junior they are?–and I’m sure there are places that do it well. But a lot of the time it just becomes an excuse for managers and executives to pretend not to see the power dynamics that benefit them. You can’t expect someone to respect your authority when it comes to hiring, firing, distributing work assignments, etc, and ALSO expect them to treat you as a peer when it comes to the fun stuff!

  3. Employee No. 24601*

    Oh boy! I’ve worked more than one place where managers specifically set up time for new employees to mingle with the team while they’re NOT around, recognizing that their presence changes the dynamic. That’s the way to be, imo. Hopefully this supervisor learned and grew from this reply

    1. Alanna*

      Yep. My office occasionally does happy hours for everybody in the organization who wants to come. One time I looked around, realized I was the highest-ranking person still there, and made an immediate exit. No matter how much you like your manager personally, the presence of management puts a damper on the situation.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yep, this is the way to do it. I can be the nicest person ever (I’m not), but I’m still the boss and it’s not relaxing or fun to have your boss around at a social gathering. Occasionally, my management team and I get invited to a staff happy hour, and, if we go at all, the standard protocol is one drink/appetizer, chat for maybe a half-hour, thank them for the invite, and leave them to their fun.

      1. SLG*

        Exactly. One of the best pieces of advice I ever saw for this situation was “Buy them a round of drinks and don’t stay.” (Originally for military officers who ran into their people in a bar, but applicable for managers too, if they have the financial wherewithal for said round of drinks.)

  4. The Person from the Resume*

    This is a messy letter. The LW seems to be feeling personally hurt and excluded (But we still would like to be asked and feel a little hurt to be left out while recognizing that the team should feel free to hang without being obligated to ask us to come), which she should not because as the manager she should know that it would be inappropriate for her to hang out with her employees all weekend.

    OTOH it sounds like the office employees minus managers are hanging out a whole heck of a lot in their non-work hours and while the LW should not force them to stop it’s definately has the potential to create a messy situation if a new employee doesn’t mesh with the group or simply has a baby or life responsibilities that they can’t hang out with the young singles all weekend and that starts affecting the office dynamics.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      The level of personal hurt here made me wonder if the LW had been promoted to management from that pool of more junior employees and was now struggling with what that transition meant for their relationships to the folks they’re now managing.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This is the core of it. LW feels like the cool kids are having fun without them. Good or bad, that’s the appropriate thing for the staff to be doing.

      If LW wants to have a “flatter” feel to the WORKPLACE, then LW can encourage flatter communication and include more casual moments during the work day. But staff should never be expected to manage the emotions of supervisors who “have more friends” and more outside responsibilities but still want to be included in the staffers’ fun.

    3. Clisby*

      I also found it a little odd that people seem to hang out on a team basis. I’m retired now, but rarely socialized with people because they were on my team – we tended to socialize based on who our work friends were (and at least in my case, that was never just people on my team.)

      1. TechWorker*

        Same here, but this might really vary depending on your office setup (Eg if fsr this is the only team in this location then there might not be other people around so much).

      2. The Person from the Resume*

        I found that happened when I just out of college and there were a number of other new hires who were also junior, single, and also just out of college. We didn’t know anyone in our new city and hung out together. I remained in the same organization and moved up and around for 15 years and as people got older, got married, and had kids that dynamic changed even of my job still had a cohort of people who had been with the company about as long as me and were the same age as me.

        I think that jobs that hires multiple young and single people (especially from away so that they move to a new town and don’t know anyone) will always have a bit of that.

        1. HiHello*

          That is how it has been for me. I am actually friends with people I work with. But it is because a lot of us are of similar age (mid to late 20s, maybe early 30s), a lot are single, some married/engaged but no kids, many of us actually moved for this job and ended up getting hired around the same time (there was a big hiring time). When you are an adult moving to a completely new city, it is much harder to make friends to I feel like becoming friends with coworkers is easy.

    4. Lea*

      It’s very messy because they want to be invited and then not come.

      Did they not consider that might be part of why they’re excluded? I don’t invite people to stuff anymore if they never come.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        If you’re talking about in general, and not specifically to OP’s situation of being a manager and invites with subordinates, I’d gently ask you to reconsider excluding people who say no all the time (unless they’ve indicated in some additional way they are bothered by the invites or want them to stop). I know I can be seen as “never” or at least very rarely responding “yes” to invitations. A lot of that is because I’m introverted and a lot of that is because I’m dealing with certain invisible disabilities that make evening/weekend social events hard. A full day of work is sometimes all I can manage before I have to go lay day. Sometimes I don’t even make it that long. I genuinely love my friends and I would hate for any one of them to stop inviting me out to things because they think I don’t want to come! The invite can be a nice way to say “hey, I’m still thinking about you and enjoy your company and hope you’ll come one day when you’re able.”

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          I have heard that. And I have friends who responded that they were grateful for the ask, but couldn’t do something because of reasons.

          But keep in mind that as the person asking when someone says “no” repeatedly that’s a repeated rejection. I am going to stop asking if someone never can come or is always too busy to come. It’s not always easy being the person doing the inviting. If someone with a really busy schedule wants to see me, they can issue an invite at the time that works for them.

    5. Moira Rose*

      I have been a nonmanager on a team of young “cool kids” while pregnant with my second baby, and the constant socialization that I simply could not take part in *was* very alienating.

  5. It's Sara not Sarah*

    Your manager is not your friend. The person who decides whether or not you have a job, whether or not you get a raise, etc. is not someone you want to or should hang out with outside of work. This is a transactional relationship.

  6. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Having a “flat” or non-hierarchical culture doesn’t mean “everyone socializes together outside of work” and I’m curious where that idea came from. Your boss is still your boss even in a flat work culture, which becomes really clear when there’s a problem with someone’s work.

    1. NeedRain47*

      flat work culture doesn’t really exist, IMO. Some is flatter than others but as you say, your boss is still your boss.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Agreed, it feels like wishful thinking from management who *think* they want more direct access to people (and vice versa) only to discover maybe there’s a reason middle management exists.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          You can keep the command chains really short, but that usually doesn’t survive any significant growth in the company. Otherwise you end up with the VP having 30+ direct reports.

      2. AMT*

        It’s a bit like saying America is a classless society. It’s code for “we ignore power dynamics and pretend that’s a legitimate way of fixing the problems that come with them.”

  7. KeepBoundaries*

    We all work remote. We have virtual team lunches once a month and we get together in person every quarter. During the in person quarterly event, I meet with teams for lunches. In the evenings many of the employees are meeting up for various activities and happy hours. I will usually attend happy hour for one drink and then I leave. As an executive in the company I don’t want those lines to blur, I need to keep their perspective of me as a leader. I don’t want to be too personal with them.

    1. Anonosaurus*

      This is what I do – I will go for one drink then leave, so that everyone can complain about the bosses :)

      I work in a small and pretty social office and while I do get invited to (and usually attend) work related social events (leaving parties, showers) I leave after the formal part rather than staying in the bar til whenever. For non work related socializing, I’m usually not invited and if I am, I decline. I get where OP was coming from as I’ve sometimes felt excluded or worried that co-workers didn’t like me, or simply had FOMO after hearing about a great party!. But actually, not being asked to these events is an indication that my boundaries are where they should be. Being friendly is not the same as being friends.

      I tend to feel worse about this stuff if my nonwork social life has gone a bit flat, so maybe that would have been something for OP to consider.

    2. ferrina*

      Exactly! You want them to feel familiar enough that they are comfortable with people coming forward with communications, but don’t want to encroach on their privacy of make them feel their employment is impacted by how likable you find them.

  8. Ellis Bell*

    OP, your direct report was complimenting you when they said you wouldn’t have gone anyway. The best bosses, 1) don’t expect social invites from their reports, 2) refuse them if they get them and 3) understand why it’s not a desirable state of affairs. The team member completely trusts you to not expect invitations, and to turn down offers whether the invitation came from cluelessness or brown-nosing; it was a compliment of your professionalism.

    1. Nopetopus*

      As a manager only a year into my new title, I was feeling a little sad about these necessary changes to the dynamic — I worked as an Individual Contributor for almost 3 years before my promotion, so I was genuinely work-friends with some of my coworkers who I now manage.

      Framing it in this way honestly made me smile, and I’ll be holding onto this comment for some of those sadder moments when I need the reminder that it’s worth it :)

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I think it is sad nevertheless! Necessary, but a bit bitter sweet. I’m sure the OP feels validated when they hear other managers feel this too.

      2. Alanna*

        It’s totally reasonable to be sad. A few years ago, I had a totally amazing boss — so amazing that we eventually were both promoted, and no longer worked directly together. We’d worked together closely for years, so he became my mentor and work friend — we talked all the time, would occasionally send each other snarky messages in meetings, got coffee weekly, he helped me think through some tough problems at work, etc. Then I got transferred into his department! He’s still a great boss, but instead of just appreciating my great boss, I now appreciate my great boss while missing my work friend. Which is silly because I had begged for this transfer. Point is: It happens, it’s the circle of life, but it’s totally reasonable for the shift to be difficult. It’s your behavior that matters, not your feelings.

    2. Lisa B*

      I’m going to juuuuust play a devil’s advocate for the OP to consider if there was anything else behind that “you wouldn’t have gone anyway.” Are you generally warm and friendly towards your team? Do you show interest in them as individual people? If so great, then Ellis Bell’s comment stands. But it could be worth considering if it was meant as a commentary about your interactions with your team in general.

      1. Moira Rose*

        I honestly think the most likely meaning of that comment was a semi-snide remark about older-than-20s people with domestic responsibilities. Nothing really to do with the LW’s personality.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        This is what I came here to say; I agree with Lisa B. I don’t think the employee was complimenting you at all! I think the employee was not at all impressed that you replied you had not been invited. That was kinda rude, or at least passive-aggressive, on your part and it tells me that there are other problems in the dynamics that you might not be noticing. At the very least, there could be a salary difference that makes going out with the managers awkward.

        My reaction was, “WTF, you expected us to invite you and now you are complaining about it to others. What a jerk!”

        1. Michelle Smith*

          This is a good point to consider too. In the future, a better response might be along the lines of “no, I wasn’t available but I am glad those who were had a great time” or “no, but my team all went and I think it’s great everyone is getting along so well.” Etc. Just something that doesn’t either suggest you were slighted by not receiving an invite but that also doesn’t chastise the other person for assuming the manager would be invited to a non-work social event with their subordinates.

  9. Lola*

    I remember my mom talking about this – she went from being a friendly colleauge to “the mean lady with the real office.” to 60 people (said with humor). How did she deal with it? Being friendly with other managers. It may not be an entirely team-based experience, but no, you largely can’t be friends with the people you manage. I ADORED my first boss – he was like a father figure to me and all around a wonderful person. I trusted him and learned so much from him. But there was a line there, and it was not crossed. We were not buddies.

    And what’s with “we also have more friends outside of work than most of the junior members” you don’t know that and that seems like a weird thing to pay attention to.

    1. bamcheeks*

      It is quite natural if the senior staff have been in the area longer and the junior staff are recent graduates who are more likely to have moved for the job, though, or whose college friends have left town for other jobs. My first job after university was like that: most of us had moved to the city for the job and didn’t have existing social networks, so we were very dependent on each other for socialising.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Hmm in some companies you talk more extensively about this stuff than others. If someone has just moved to the area and they’re young they could well have outright told OP this. It’s not unusual or embarrassing. There’s definitely companies where you never talk about who your social circle is, but that’s not everywhere.

  10. Thumbelina*

    “I’m not exactly sure the best way to handle this”

    The way to handle it is to work on your emotional regulation. One thing to examine is your belief that a non-hierarchical and inclusive culture means that managers hang with their reports socially outside of work hours. Others have pointed out why that’s not realistic, so examine that belief and ask yourself what a more realistic approach to creating a flat and inclusive workplace would look like. At the same time, work on owning and managing your hurt feelings in a way that does not place social expectations on your workplace.

  11. Pugetkayak*

    I can’t imagine wanting to spend the weekend with people from work, let alone my reports.
    We have a GREAT team, I love to work with them. We are not friends.

    1. Clown Eradicator*

      Yeah, kind of wish i was management level in the past so I didn’t have to say no to all of the MLM parties etc and it could be built in haha

    2. Lea*

      I hang out with my coworkers on travel mostly with very rare happy hours with others that mostly started after we wfh and don’t see each other anymore otherwise. It’s fun to talk about work outside of work occasionally. But we’re not doing this every week or anything!

    3. Michelle Smith*

      One of my best friends and indeed one of my only friends in my city is my former boss. But emphasis on former.

    4. ClaireW*

      Yeah I do wonder if the OP is in an field or location (or just personal habits) where they don’t really have friendships or social groups outside of work – so maybe they’re feeling like they’re missing out on this one potential source of friendship because they have no others.

      IF that is the case OP, your employees aren’t (and can’t be) responsible for you having a social life. It’s up toyou to find that outside of work, and be content enough that you don’t feel any desire to join your employees’ socialising time.

      Although the work culture does sound like one of “your coworkers are your social circle” and maybe that’s part of the problem.

  12. Aggretsuko*

    I feel bad for OP being left out when everyone else hung out together over the weekend, but….that’s boss life. I don’t think there’s a real fix for it unless you ask people to not say what they did over the weekend, and that’s probably not acceptable either.

    1. bamcheeks*

      The fix for it is to actively put effort into cultivating non-work socialising! Join a club, invite your friends over for a barbecue, start chatting to the other parents at the school gate!

      The “people I am senior to are having fun and I want them to include me” is a very real dynamic and it’s really common for new managers. Ive also seen people talk about it very seriously to newly qualified teachers: if you’re a 22yo teacher and you’ve moved to a new town for your first job, it’s pretty common to want to be mates with the older students and we used to counsel trainee teachers to watch out for it and to put some effort into keeping up with their long-distance friends and cultivating new friends so they don’t fall into that trap.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah, apparently most teachers got the same “what if the students walk into the pub I’m drinking in” instruction, that I did. The directions are: “Put down your drink and veer out the back door”. It’s not fair, but it’s sound advice. At least OP doesn’t have to go quite that far!

        1. HiHello*

          I was a Hall Director during grad school. I was not allowed to go to a bar that was right by campus because it was filled with undergrad students I was normally responsible for.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I don’t feel bad for OP at all, and I’m taking it a little personally (thank you previous toxic workplace). OP has lots of family and friends he spends time with and is the boss of these people AND he is whining that they don’t want him around.

  13. Keymaster of Gozer*

    It’s for the same reason that you don’t date your manager, or date your staff: you can be *friendly* as a manager but not do anything that crosses the line into a personal connection, be it friends or something more.

    Flat hierarchy is a nice concept that doesn’t exist outside of very small firms where each person has an equal stake in the business. It just can’t.

    (Although this is coming fro a terrifically antisocial person who really doesn’t do out of work socialising at all)

    1. ferrina*

      Agree on the flat hierarchy. I’ve found that usually when someone says “flat hierarchy”, what they mean is “unofficial unwritten hierarchy, usually built on politics and sometimes cronyism.”

      Hierarchy isn’t inherently bad. When there’s a stable hierarchy, you know who is responsible for looking out for you and ensuring what you have what you need, and you can send things up the ladder when it’s above your pay grade (i.e., none of the nonsense of ‘you’ll figure something out, even though you have neither the experience nor resources to be able to figure out a real solution’. Followed by being thrown under the bus when you are unable to do the impossible. Based on many true stories.).

  14. taco belle*

    One small company I worked specifically had an early professionals lunch every other month or so. We, the group of fellow early professionals, arranged the meetup and the restaurant, and the company funded it. I really appreciated that chance to relate to and bond with my coworkers without managerial oversight. Why would you not want to encourage your staff to support each other and communicate better?

  15. Myrin*

    What I find fascinating – and I really mean that! it’s not meant as a sarcastic dig! I really AM completely fascinated by this! – about this letter is that OP seems to lack any sort of awareness around favouritism and hierarchy. Like, she doesn’t even mention that she knows she’s the boss but isn’t sure how much socialising is required or appropriate or whatever; instead, she seems to be viewing this almost completely from a personal/social standpoint and not a work one. I really, truly wonder how that came to be given how she seems to have been in management for quite some time and also in a more “advanced” life stage at least than her junior employees (so not fresh out of school/naive in a way that could be explained by age).

    1. Madame X*

      Yes, this letter writer’s perspective that they should be invited to the happy hours also stood out as odd to me for the same reason. I wonder if the OP was promoted internally? It would make sense to me that they would feel excluded, if previously, they were invited when they were a team member. However, it doesn’t change Alison’s advice. They are now in a position of power as a manager, which places them outside of team camaraderie.

      1. Le Sigh*

        Or their last workplace that was super small (ie three people) or had an unhealthy dynamic where managers and staff blurred the line. I had one job that was deeply dysfunctional and I was young enough to realize it wasn’t great but not really see the depth of the issues at first. I eventually bailed but it took time to establish better habits and boundaries in my next job. If OP came from anything like that, it’s probably a big adjustment to work somewhere with those boundaries.

        1. Lea*

          Oh man, the place I worked at 22 all my 20something coworkers and the late twenties/early 30s bosses went out drinking together constantly.

          I wouldn’t do that now lol

    2. Poom*

      I think she’s coming at this as a person because….shock horror….managers are people too. They notice when they’re excluded from things and it’s entirely human to feel left out, even if you understand *why* you’re not included. I think the letter writer doesn’t acknowledge the dynamics you mentioned because they are (rightly or wrongly!) convinced those aren’t an issue in this flat team structure they’ve tried to build.

      1. Myrin*

        Huh? I hope I didn’t imply that I think managers aren’t people! But that’s why I didn’t say “as a person” but rather “from a personal standpoint”. Of course it’s human to feel left out but this OP doesn’t seem to understand why she’s not included, that’s what’s perplexing to me.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I think someone mentioned on here recently about an unwritten rules of life book, and I wonder if it cover this scenario. This feels like an unwritten rule of life! I suppose it’s just another way of saying that when you know, you know.

      1. Le Sigh*

        I actually think this speaks to the need for more companies to invest in management-specific training. I have no idea how much training this OP did or didn’t have, but so many places leave people to learn how to be a manager on the job and/or based on what you see from other managers in your work place. Managing staff is a separate skill and training tailored to that would go a long way in spelling out what it means to manage, how the relationships rules do or don’t change, how to have tough conversations, how to be equitable, etc. — all kinds of things that people may not realize and we just assume they’ll know.

  16. Apple Pharmer*

    Has OP invited the team out for a team lunch or social event…? Our organised dinner/drinks after successfully (or dismally) wrapping up a team wide project? Socialising can be an important part of team building but socialising goes both ways. If not, then they may have inadvertently set the tone that managers don’t socialise with reports

    1. Lea*

      Good question. I heard the ‘we are too busy to socialize’ parts and wondered if they turned down some early invitations and just didn’t get invited anymore after

  17. Sad but Rad*

    If you’re truly interested in “encouraging a flat culture” you need specific workplace policies and processes that actually even out (or eliminate) the hierarchy. Create a flat structure where job titles and responsibilities are based on what people do/the skills they bring without prioritizing some skills over others, involve all staff in spaces where organizational decisions are made, pay people the same salaries, etc. If you’re not doing that, it’s not flat! And that’s fine – most organizations aren’t going to actually be flat. But wanting people to “feel” like there’s no hierarchy without actually getting rid of it is asking them to ignore the power dynamics that structure their work.

    In my experience, this is often due to those with institutional power being uncomfortable with having it or with the appearance of being powerful (this may be specific to my experiences working in “progressive” nonprofits). Ultimately, I’ve seen this really damage morale and lead to a toxic culture in a way that is totally counter to what the organization and managers say they’re trying to do. Just be honest about your place in the hierarchy and, ideally, use that power where you can to institute changes that your team says will feel supportive to them. That will encourage a positive culture much more than pretending the power dynamic doesn’t exist.

    1. bamcheeks*

      Completely agree with this. I also think that a comparatively flat hierarchy can exist in a small organisation where there’s rarely more than 2 layers of management about you, and your direct manager overwhelmingly has the power to say, “yes, do that” and “no, don’t do that”, rather than, “I don’t know, I’ll have to check with my manager”. Neither of which involves ignoring the existence of the hierarchy or getting invites to all the social activities!

    2. LtBarclay*

      Makes me thing of the essay “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” by Jo Freeman which was written about feminist groups, but really applies more broadly to all kinds of organizations, I think. Basically the people with the power push for these kinds of flat, structureless organizations (probably with the best of intentions) but they aren’t actually giving up any power.

      1. Rebel*

        Thanks for suggesting the Freeman essay, LtBarclay. Your summation reminds me of a former grandboss. I just found the essay online, and, as I read, I’ll be luxuriating in not having to work for her anymore. She was reeeaaallly into flattening everything around her.

  18. Mark*

    I agree 100% with Allison. Before I was in management, I hated having to socialize with managers outside of work. I am a big believer in boundaries. My opinion was “Although we are friendly, we are not friends, you are my boss.” Now that I am the boss, not only do I not mind that I am not invited to employee get-togethers outside of work hours, I prefer it.

  19. Kat*

    Managers should not be hanging out with reports. This is a normal division of social life. I don’t know too many people who genuinely want to hang out with their boss.

    1. Carol the happyelf*

      Teachers, students. Police, informants.
      Generals, corporals. Therapists, sufferers. Doctors, patients. Captains, crew. Kings, everybodyelse. Me, my staff. My boss, me. His boss, him.
      That separation is for the safety of the people who look up. Emotional, financial, social, mental.
      My boss took me (and my husband) to an extremely nice restaurant when my birthday, my 5-yr employment anniversary, and a promotion (with hefty raise) all fell in the same 3-week period. I had a great lunch catered for them the next Friday afternoon.
      I take my people out on their birthdays, and give them a letter of appreciation on company letterhead, and gift card or other token, non-taxable. Promotions mean everybody eats pizza in the break room, and once in a blue moon we go get pizza after work.
      Christmas parties exist, but they’re held during the workday. In the conference room. They give each other
      small gifts with a $10 limit, and I send presents to their homes.
      My boss gives me (bless him!!) a book of car wash tickets because I loathe a dirty car.
      I socialize with my personal circle, and work is wonderful, but not familial.
      Oh, and when someone gets a promotion for the first time, they get managent training, then transferred to another area, so the fraternization problems don’t kick in.

  20. Brian*

    “It was like having a tax inspector on your football team. You’re happy they’re there, but you don’t exactly want to have a beer with them afterwards.” –Gaiman/Pratchett, ‘Good Omens’

  21. Excel-sior*

    The thing is, as someone who isn’t a manager, when you do stuff with colleagues out of work, you want to be free to vent. Even in a good job.

    If you want to do things as a team (and thats entirely reasonable, in moderation) then it’s on you to organise something. But don’t expect it to be as free and easy as a typical evening out with your mates.

  22. ChrisZ*

    “It’s a little awkward when five people spent their weekend together and are talking about it and the remaining three weren’t invited”

    So there are 3 managers for only 5 people?

  23. Sunflower*

    I like going to team lunches/dinners with my boss, but yeah, it’s a whole different vibe just team members. Sometimes the team needs to vent or be a bit wild and they can’t do that with the boss right there listening.

  24. Sunny days are better*

    Honestly, I just can’t stop thinking about the accompanying photo with this post where the friends are sitting with their shoes on the couch.

    Get your dirty shoes off the couch!

    Especially you with the stilettos – you’re going to make holes in it too!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. If someone is hurt that the people they manage didn’t include them in a social gathering, that would give me real pause. One of the things we talk about with new managers, especially those promoted from the ranks, is the required separation and the inability to be friends with members of their team (friendly with them all, yes; friends, no).

  25. StellaBella*

    My grand boss is like this and at least a few times a year wants to have social events at her house and at any events we travel to for work too. She also leans on her employees for her need to vent about her boss including sharing her review with me and well ugh I am not a therapist. It is not great. Blurred lines make for unhappy teams esp for the lower enployees.

  26. Onward*

    LW, please watch the episode of Brooklyn 99 where Jake invites Captain Holt to their annual getaway weekend.

    People don’t invite the boss because they want to socialize and let off steam. They can’t do that when the boss is there, no matter how “tight knit” you think they are. You have authority over them, whether you’re comfortable enough to admit that or not.

    1. Tiny clay insects*

      Glad I wasn’t the only person thinking of this! “Ain’t no party like a Captain Holt party cuz a Captain Holt party is a total surprise to everyone!”

  27. irene adler*

    My first job after college, the entire shift would head for a local bar every Friday night (swing shift). That would be manager, supervisors and employees.

    This was about 20 people.

    As a newbie, I found it very awkward. Can’t ask about the supervisors or manager when they are right there.

    Then I discovered that the manager was personal friends with three of the employees. As in, infractions by these three were completely overlooked. However, infractions made by any other employees were immediately documented-with consequences meted out.

    This was greatly resented. And you sure couldn’t gripe about it at the Friday night bar sessions either.

  28. RagingADHD*

    I am kind of concerned that the LW thinks an inclusive workplace means that managers should be invited to hang out socially with their employees. Because that is not at all what inclusivity at work means. It’s entirely in left field.

    Alison hinted at potential diversity issues that might be flagged by having a pool of junior employees who are all quite similar in age, life stage, interests, etc. But I wonder if the LW has been educated on the real meaning & importance of equity and inclusion.

  29. GrooveBat*

    This is a timely question. I just got back from a week-long company meeting and was feeling bad that I didn’t socialize “enough” with my team at the group events. Now I don’t feel so bad!

  30. Monica Bing*

    Anyone else think of Chandler from Friends season 1? LOL

    I think it would be helpful if OP set up one team lunch on the company, but it shouldn’t be on a regular basis.

    1. PrettySticks*

      This is exactly what I thought of!
      “They still say you’re a great boss, but you’re not their friend anymore.” Such wisdom from Phoebe.

      Also, the “Bitch Session” episode of Newsradio. Which is not to say the OP’s team is necessarily complaining about them, but it also illustrates the inherent divide between a boss and their employees.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      “You know, now you’re more like, you know like, “Mr. Caring Boss”, “Mr.”, you know, “I’m one of you, Boss”, “Mr., I wanna be your buddy, Boss Man Bing”

  31. Pickaduck*

    Yeah work life in reality is not like a TV show where the ensemble hangs out together every living moment of the day, from owner to newest employee! Nor should it be. Can you imagine how messy that would be? Just live your own personal life and be a friendly and warm manager and leave it at that.

  32. Poom*

    I don’t know that there is a productive way to address it but I think it’s valid to note that the group who hang out together have created their own micro-team that is a subgroup of the wider staffing team and maybe that should be named. When they talk about ‘everyone came’ they really mean everyone in the micro-team came…..which isn’t the same thing. I don’t know many people who socialise with their managers out of choice, but that doesn’t mean a little awareness can’t be introduced all the same. From what LW is saying it is creating a growing division (with the implication being that wasn’t really a thing before) and at the end of the day everyone who works there, managers and all, are people.

  33. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

    The manager who wants to hang out with their subordinate reminds me of a scene in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore”. Sir Joseph Porter, Lord of the Admiralty, goes aboard the ship Pinafore and launches into a speech proclaiming the equality of all the crewmen and officers aboard, which pleases the crewmen. After he’s out of earshot, an exasperated sailor exclaims “He’s on a wrong tack, and so are you. He means well but he don’t know. When people have to obey other people’s orders, equality’s out of the question.”

    LW, you cannot be pals with your reports and you shouldn’t try to be. They have to obey YOUR orders and that’s the way it should be! You can be an excellent manager but you can’t be be their bar-hopping buddy.

    Instead of trying to be something you can’t, why not see about going for coffee with the other managers – your peers in the company hierarchy? As long as none of you is in a position of power over any of the others, this should be fine.

  34. Samwise*

    I mean this to be as kind as possible, but…no matter how flat your org chart is, unless everyone is on the same level, it is not perfectly flat and you sound … naive, if not disengenuous, when you point to the flat org chart as a reason why the junior folks should feel comfortable socializing with you and the other managers.

    You have managers and BELOW them are junior employees. That’s not flat. That’s a hierarchy.

    If you would like to occasionally socialize with your junior employees, arrange a low key OPTIONAL get-together or event where you make all the arrangements and pay for everything and make it easy for people to attend or not. You can also find opportunities for short, low key socializing. For instance, my office mates are walkers — my boss will join a group walk during the work day, and he does not talk about any work stuff at all while on the walk unless directly asked.

  35. higheredadmin*

    I managed a very close knit team at a not-for-profit for several years, and during that time one person on the team got married. Unsurprisingly, she invited her co-workers as they were all close. I would politely ask her about her wedding, just to be friendly, and in the run up to the big day she blurted out in our regular meeting that I wasn’t invited. I was like – first, never expected to be because I am your boss and that would be weird; second, I hate weddings so you are doing me a favor. Happy to simply look at photos later. (Extra, relevant info is that she was an event planner, so of course put a huge amount of work into her wedding planning so was very proud of it.)

    1. Moira Rose*

      I think it’s fine to invite your boss to your wedding if you want, just in case someone is reading this and feeling self-conscious about their choice to do that. But it’s also fine to not invite them! Happy hours should be junior staff only, but a formal event like a wedding can withstand a boss’ presence.

      1. higheredadmin*

        Fair. But I think looking at the OP’s question, no boss should be upset about not being invited to a staff-member’s wedding. It is their happy day to host as they please.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          Exactly! I was just talking with one of my staff last week about her wedding, and I thought I could tell that maybe she was feeling weird about it, like I was angling for an invite. Nope. Just trying to be supportive. So, this week, I’m going to casually mention that I don’t like to attend weddings, just in case she’s worried about it.

      2. allathian*

        It really depends on the relationships. I think it’s okay for a manager to invite the team to a happy hour, as long as the relationship is genuinely such that employees can decline the invitation without any consequences. But a manager angling for an invite when employees decide to go for after work drinks isn’t a good look.

        I don’t particularly enjoy weddings, especially big ones, and I definitely would expect a wedding to be on the larger side if coworkers (and managers) are invited. The only wedding I’ve attended where coworkers were also invited was a friend’s wedding, and her then-manager wasn’t invited or if they were, declined the invitation.

  36. Lilas*

    “Flat Culture” just seems like such rank BS to me. It says, your manager still has power over you, but is uncomfortable with that power, so you have to perform constant emotional labor to make them feel like they don’t have it.

  37. pretty anon for this*

    I worked somewhere a few years ago where two teams were being merged. I happened to be on one of the teams and friendly with the other team. I suggested a team happy hour for everyone to get to know each other (we were still somewhat distinct from each other but were expected to refer to ourselves as one team, etc). I pre-emptively emailed my supervisor to let her know I was planning it in case she heard about it and explained that we were planning to do this without management presence so that people could get to know each other with less inhibitions. She very passive aggressively let me know that she felt very left out and excluded and unhappy about it but “do what you think is best.” So I did it, without her or the other team’s boss, and we had a great time and I didn’t feel bad about it :D

    In other words, I feel vindicated by this post lol

  38. TechWorker*

    I come from a company with (mostly but not entirely historical) boundary issues in this area. I once lived with my direct manager for 6 weeks (don’t ask) and there’s definitely multiple cases where someone is out-of-work friends with their manager. One of my second line reports is my age and I do occasionally socialise in groups where he is there too.. which I will take some judgement for, but it happens maybe once or twice a year, so not like we’re best mates. Mostly I avoid hanging out with my reports except at work social events.

    On the other side of that, I was a bit disappointed with the seating plan for work Christmas dinner when I was sat with a table full of people who report to me… it was fine and nice and everything but a) I talk to them all the time already and b) I would have been able to relax a little more on a table with other people…

  39. jane's nemesis*

    FYI, the OP commented on the original post pretty extensively as “BigLeaf”. They were a little defensive but seemed like they were hearing some of what people were saying. Also, considering how much they were getting roasted, they could have been a lot MORE defensive, imo.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Thanks for this – I went back and read it.

      What really struck me is they kept saying over and over that in their industry and employer its not normal for managers to be excluded.

      I admit having the strong urge to gently shake them and say “THATS DISFUNCTIONAL. IT SHOULD BE NORMAL”

      Just because something, in this case managers and staff hanging out socially is “normal” at your employer or in your industry, doesn’t mean its not wildly problematic and wrong. Literally why industries known for being toxic are toxic (looking at you restaurant industry).

  40. Maple Bar*

    I am not trying to be unkind to the LW when I say this but there really is a certain kind of manager who seems to expect their employees to… Personally care for their boss? I mean like caretaking care, maintenance care. They seem to be scrutinizing the whole relationship through a lens of social etiquette that doesn’t exist. “I’m providing and hostingthis work for my employees, and they didn’t even bring me a bottle of wine or send a thank you card!” They see employees who simply do their job well as a ripoff, because what they really find important is a social aspect that does not exist.

    You get glimpses of it in what they are upset by and the language they used to describe it. We see letters every so often where someone feels their employees are “taking advantage” of them or “walking all over them” because they, for example, don’t give a thank you card for a bonus, or because they were not heaped with gratitude after allowing someone to take a couple sick days or something. I’m getting a bit of this from claiming that these employees are creating an “us vs them” mentality. And it’s like, no, you are feeling riled up that it’s you vs them because you feel slighted. I promise you that the rest of these folks do not see it this way.

  41. DJ*

    Totally get it that non management staff may feel uncomfortable asking managers to social events. And need to respect that.
    But do note the comment didn’t think she would come. Best way is to arrange the occasional social staff event ie a team lunch or drinks, invite to a party or barbecue. This indicates interest without pushing in.
    Yes agree that could cause issues if some yet to join staff members are excluded because their family ages cultural etc are different

  42. Rebel*

    It’s called workplace boundaries, and your team is right to not want to hang out with you routinely. An after-work happy hour get-together a couple of times a year? Sure; otherwise, they need to be free of you, and with good reason.

    Boundaries. It’s just that straightforward.

  43. Morgan Hazelwood*

    Invite them!

    They might be having stuff with a sub-group of your team, so invite the whole team to lunches or happy hours (that don’t conflict with any regularly scheduled stuff you know they have. You don’t want it to turn into a popularity contest you might lose).

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      Managers inviting junior employees out is a mine field. The power imbalance may mean some people feel they can’t decline. For those who do decline, they may feel resentful of people who didn’t, or start to suspect people who hang socially with managers as brown nosing or currying favor or trying to get unfair advantages.

      This isn’t school, it isn’t a neighborhood social group. It’s work. The employees are maintaining the appropriate boundaries by not socializing with managers. The managers should not try to bulldoze over those boundaries by flexing their own invitations and taking things too far the other way.

    2. FYI*

      That is the whole point to NOT doing it. No one should feel like they’re in a popularity contest at work. Also, there is no way to know if a happy hour conflicts with an employee’s plans, because staff shouldn’t have to tell their manager what they’re doing after work. Some people don’t drink and have absolutely zero desire to go to a bar. Happy hours organized by the manager can put that person at a disadvantage.

  44. 1-800-BrownCow*

    OP, we used to have an HR manager set-up socializing events after work and only invite certain people. It was an “open invitation” to anyone who wanted to attend, but it sure made things awkward for everyone. Many people who weren’t on the original invite email refused to attend since they felt like an after thought and there were some very uncomfortable, awkward moments when HR manager had a bit much to drink and would say too much or get a bit inappropriate. When my former manager left the company and I was put in as interim leader until he was replaced (which I applied for and later was promoted), many of us attended an event for the manager leaving. I got pulled aside by a co-workers wife and was “informed” how I better treat her husband, who was new to my team, if I ended up promoted. I heard from her all about how smart and gifted he is and how he needed to be utilized more. I wasn’t a manager yet, but wow, did that feel uncomfortable and I definitely see why people say not mingle with your staff outside of work unless it’s a work related event. Honestly, as much as you may feel that nothing bad can come from it, the fact your team doesn’t socialize with managers is a good thing.

  45. Pink Candyfloss*

    Your job is to manage. Your job is not to hang out with your employees socially.

    What you are upset about are healthy workplace boundaries, and maybe you would benefit from doing a deep dive with an unbiased professional to try to figure out why these boundaries are upsetting you.

  46. Metzengerstein*

    What if the manager and direct report are socializing on the clock almost every day, like talking about their personal lives? Or has someone else written in regarding that situation?

  47. baffled*

    I like my new manager. I like my coworkers. I do not like that my manager and one coworker seems to be joined at the hip, both on and off the clock.
    I’m appalled that no one in admin seems to think this is a problem, even after the friendship was mentioned in a fired employee’s lawsuit.
    We’re talking all-day coffee chats & shopping trips, dinners out, and even a few weekend sleepovers.
    I just count my blessings that none of this is negatively affecting me.

  48. Cat's Paw for Cats*

    There really is no such thing as flat culture. Someone has hiring and firing and supervising authority in all institutions. And by the way, it isn’t staff’s job to provide their managers with social intercourse. They have their own lives.

  49. Ginger Cat Lady*

    “We have a flat culture” and
    “How do I micromanage social events I’m not invited to”
    are in direct contradiction to each other.
    The only thing that needs managing here is your feelings of FOMO.
    You’re their manager, you cannot be their buddy. That’s not how managing people works.

  50. Andy*

    I had a manager ask me, in my exit interview, after he asked me to resign, why I didn’t invite him to join my coworkers and me for lunch more often! I didn’t have the courage to tell him that (1) he was frequently the topic of conversation because (2) he used shame and humiliation as management tools and (3) was utterly incompetent at management, having been promoted because he was the most willing of us to completely eschew a social life.

    The audacity of him to pretend we were friendly when he spent nearly all of my time making my circumstances measurably worse, then to ask about it in an exit interview!

  51. Jam Today*

    Welcome to “management”, that’s what the money is for. You get paid more money than your reports (sometimes significantly so) in exchange for not being one of the worker bees who spends their happy hours with their colleagues complaining about management.

  52. FYI*

    A very, very difficult issue for me right now. Our director hired his best friend (they still take vacations together, socialize, gossip about others on the team, etc.). Friend is of course getting a promotion — to a position he is not at all qualified for and which will mess up my work. Good times.
    Nothing can be done about it. No way to flag it without looking like the jerk.

    1. River*

      Ugh. Low-key favoritism. I hate that. I am currently going through that myself. There’s this sort of “performative socialization” that I have been noticing with the higher ups. Say the “right things” or kiss their butt and your chances of being promoted increase. It doesn’t matter if you work hard or prove yourself hard enough or have longevity with the company. I know the game. As long as you “hover” around these select people, stroke their ego, make them laugh, you know…you will always be in their mind for future opportunities. Play the game.

  53. StressedButOkay*

    It’s human nature to want to be included and to feel hurt when you’re not but this isn’t a group of friends who are excluding you. Being a manager, even if you are trying to create a ‘flat’ culture, means you can’t be friends with the people you manage. It stinks when those people might be folks you would normally form friendships with! But, ultimately, there has to be a line that managers can’t cross or you risk setting up a toxic environment.

  54. River*

    It’s lonely at the top sometimes isn’t it? I think you need to work on disconnecting yourself from being their buddy to being their manager. It sucks. There is a way to be their friend and still retain that level of respect to where they recognize you as their superior. I’ve learned that it’s not healthy to fraternize with your direct reports. This can cause thoughts and feelings of favoritism, unfairness, toxicity, and not to mention possible HR ramifications that come with this. It’s a slippery slope. Plus I can see if staff see you as their equal, there’s the possibility that they may try and take advantage of that. You never know. There’s a whole rabbithole one can go down with this topic. I think the cons outweigh the pros on this topic unfortunately.

Comments are closed.