I don’t want to be pied in the face for work

A reader writes:

I work in a medium-sized location of a small-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things business as one of the upper managers on site.

The site manager recently asked me to keep an idea on the books for sometime later this year: to do a donation drive with manager names on donation boxes. Donations would earn someone a ticket to pie that manager in the face.

To keep the peace after a long day when I was already exhausted, I said I would keep it in mind, but I would not participate, period. I was told “your name is going on a box.” I said, “If that’s the case, you can find a new X manager. I’m not getting pied in the face!”

I have received “exceeds expectations” on my performance reviews and have delivered miracles for this place for the years I have been there. I tolerated a dunking booth previously because I could change out of wet clothes. A pie to the face would mean an intolerable experience with sticky hair and skin for my day, and my commute is not short enough to make it remotely okay.

I think the choice to participate should be opt in, not opt out. The site manager isn’t my actual manager (I report to our corporate office) and my boss usually has my back. I worry that I sound a bit childish for having this line, but I don’t want this one to be crossed! I am not comfortable with people smashing a pie in my face, throwing a pie in my face, or anything to do with pie and my face if it isn’t me willingly eating a slice! Am I crazy for being willing to lose my job over this?

(I am looking to move on due to this site manager, as I just truly don’t believe our leadership styles are compatible. I have stayed to protect my team and finish out a few critical tasks while I job search, but I am hitting my limit. Pie in the face is the tip of the bonkers iceberg that is my daily life.)

Yeah, you do not need to be pied in the face if you don’t want to be pied in the face. Under no reasonable definition does it fall within “other duties as assigned.”

And you know, that would be true even if you sucked at your job! It pained me to see you justify the reasons you shouldn’t have to be pied, like your “exceeds expectations” evaluations and so forth. Even if you delivered no value whatsoever and were on the verge of being fired, you don’t need to agree to be pied in the face if you don’t want to.

And really, employees who sign up for these activities assume that managers are participating willingly. Anyone who’s not mildly sociopathic would be horrified to find out that what they thought was a fun morale-booster was actually a terrible experience for the person getting pied.

I’m curious whether the other managers who would be expected to participate would do it happily or feel like you do. It might be worth talking to some of them and taking a united stand that it’s Not Happening, or that it be opt-in.

I’m also curious how likely this is to even come up again. The site manager asked you to file the idea away for later in the year. Feel free to simply … not. You’re a manager too and they’re not your boss; you’re free to use your own judgment to decide this was an obvious joke and/or terrible judgment.

But if it does come up again, you can simply say no. “No, I’m not participating.” “No, we’re not going to require employees to be struck in the face — assaulted — against their will.” “No.” And you can enlist your own boss, who will almost certainly support that stance. Might you be seen as a party pooper if others are on board? Maybe. But who cares? Your no is your no.

And worst case scenario, if the event comes to fruition, you can decline to attend. You can’t be pied in the face when your face isn’t present.

(I write all this with a very specific brand of professional expertise on the topic, because for a job in my 20s I pied several public figures to protest animal abuse. No regrets, still proud of it. But public protest intended to result in criminal charges, which it did, is a very different thing than a workplace team-builder.)

That’s fashion designer Oscar de la Renta in the back. That’s his security team closing in on me.

{ 407 comments… read them below }

  1. Birb*

    This always seems to be more “fun” for the person who planned it and chose the recipients than the people who “get” to do the pie-ing. Are THEY also getting pied, or just making their own little personal pie “hit list”?

    The place I work does this by surprise about once a year, and it is typically said that only one person will get pied based on audience cheers… then they all get pied regardless.

    I’d assume I had the entire rest of the day off, there’s no way I’d be productive when I’m sticky and gross, but I also don’t have to take public transport or go anywhere directly after work.

    1. The Original K.*

      They made my team do the ice bucket challenge at work when that was a thing, and I wasn’t into it at all. My stipulation was that we do it at the end of the day so we could towel off and go home. I wouldn’t get pied in the face for any reason but there’s no WAY I’d do it and then work the rest of the day. Ridiculous.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’d probably be okay with getting pied or bucketed for charity or something, but I’m in agreement with it being an end-of-day activity. Although for people who have to take public transit, it might be a good idea to let them bring a change of clothes for the actual pie-ing event and give them time to clean up a bit before going home.

        And it absolutely should be opt-in. It’s unreasonable to expect people to get messed up and then have to continue working in an uncomfortable state.

        1. Grosser than you think*

          It isn’t just the pie-in-face part, it’s also the aftermath. I did the pie thing once, for charity, on a college campus half a mile from home. Students had fun, which was fine, but I admit being pissed off at the all-male senior administration (my bosses, but also my negotiating counterparts where I was the union president) who took a little too much glee in pieing me. The very oily whipped “cream” product made my face turn blotchy, bright red (ugh, in public) and of course my hair was a disgusting mess. A towel & change of clothes in the nearest washroom were not going to suffice. It was bad enough, walking the 1/2 mile home like that. There’s no way I’d have wanted to get in my car or on public transit after that. And I declined the invite to do it the following year.

          1. KTM*

            Same – I was having flashbacks to when I did this (willingly) for charity in college. It was a sunny day and I had to walk back to my dorm after. My hair smelled like spoiled milk for DAYS afterwards, regardless of the amount I washed and scrubbed. I would never do it again.

    2. LW*

      The request was for everyone in management to be taking part, but I agree that the idea is “fun” only for the people who find it fun or are planning to contribute funds to pie coworkers in the face.

      And the thought of surprise pie day makes me cringe, personally because I hate surprises like that, lol! I hope the people participating enjoy it at least…

      I still had to work after dunk tank day, so I generally assume I’d spend the day in dread and then be miserable. Thank you for the kind words and solidarity.

      1. Anon Again... Naturally*

        This has me getting uncomfortable flashbacks to my younger days working in a call center. Lots of ‘mandatory’ team building events, especially once I moved up in the ranks. The number of clothing items I had to buy or ruin for a specific ‘dress up day’ was outrageous. I usually recommend malicious compliance with these kind of things but I don’t see a way to do this with pies.

      2. renata ricotta*

        I am surprised to learn this is a thing that adults do with other adults. The only experiences I have ever had with dunking booths, someone getting pie-d, etc. were when I was in elementary school and it was the culmination of some sort of school-wide reading challenge or fundraiser or whatever. It’s irreverently delightful to be eight and see your cool young principal get dunked or pie-d. As an adult, I have zero interest in witnessing that happening to any of my colleagues, even if they were up for it.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, our beloved high school principal got pied in an assembly once, with his full and enthusiastic participation. That and an episode of The Brady Bunch was the last time I saw any adults do it, though.

      3. Twix*

        Yeah, I’m the kind of person who would happily be on the receiving end of something like this for charity, and I would absolutely go to bat for a colleague who was being pressured into it. Making something like this mandatory is just plain not okay.

        1. JSPA*


          Furthermore, once you think about how severe milk, fruit, nut and gluten allergies or scent sensitivities can be, I can’t even imagine how you could safely insist that a random group of people be on the receiving end of any flavor of real pie (nor most fake ones; shaving cream in the face would trigger my asthma, for sure).

          Plus, wasting food doesn’t really sit well with me, knowing how many people are currently food-insecure.

          If I knew people had been forced into participating, I might organize people to buy out all the tickets and then take the pies home (or share them around), rather than throwing them.

          P.S. I wonder if someone suggested it to the bad manager because they want to pie him, and he mistook it for fun&games, rather than a full-frontal insult?

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Sharing the pies to be eaten would be much better! Maybe raffle them off for charity.

      4. mreasy*

        It’s awful that you came down with a 24 hour illness the morning of the pie day and dunk tank day! Get well soon.

    3. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      What on earth could the possible justification be for a surprise pie in the face?

      1. Antilles*

        I would guess that it’s a surprise to the audience, but it’s *not* a surprise to the people on stage. Like it’s not publicly announced, but it is privately mentioned ahead of time.

        Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s entirely voluntary though because there’s probably plenty of peer pressure of “it’s our tradition” and “come on, be cool” and “it’ll be a good show for the employees” and blah blah blah.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      Wait, they pie people without telling them in advance so they can’t choose their clothing appropriately, and/or pack a change of clothes?!? What the heck? What if you were planning to run errands or go out to dinner directly after work?

      Please tell me you work somewhere that’s casual dress and most people wear company t-shirts or something.

      1. Birb*

        I’m a teacher, so they would call an assembly, hassle teachers in attendance to go up on stage, tell them whoever gets the most cheers gets pied, then pie everyone instead.

        I pointed out that if it really was just one person, there’d only be ONE pie, and sat it out every year since.

        1. Far North*

          The last two principals I worked for before I left teaching entirely did a version of this, but the pies were brought in *after* the teachers were brought up for Teacher Appreciation Week. I did not react well the first time. The second time it was attempted, I collected my students, and left the assembly. When I was questioned later, I cited the district’s anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies.

          I genuinely don’t understand the appeal of smashing things into someone else’s face.

          1. Humble Schoolmarm*

            Wait, you did it for teacher appreciation week!?! I might, very possibly, agree to this as part of a carnival/spirit week because while I don’t want a pie in the face, I know I have a relationship with my students where it would be more in the spirit of getting one over on the teachers in general and not a personal thing against Ms Schoolmarm. For teacher appreciation week? Nope! Give me baked goods, coffee and candy and I will consider myself appreciated.

    5. Dawnshadow*

      First off, I want to say that I totally support OP’s right to choose whether to get a pie in the face or not. She should be able to say no! They should be making this strictly voluntary.

      As someone who has experienced a planned pie in the face as a Scout leader, I wanted to say that when I experienced it, we all donned head-to-toe blue plastic smocks, plastic hair coverings like in a salon, and right afterwards we had access immediately to water, wipes, towels, etc. It did actually feel like a team building event and I really enjoyed it – but it was a volunteer organization, it was my own choice, and it was my own son (who was gentle with the pie!)

      So, so different than what is being described here.

    6. Butterfly Counter*

      I think that’s part of the point. The pie-ee is someone who “deserves” it by virtue of being in power. The pie-ers are those using mild violence to sublimate some of their aggravation against those who they deem are “mean” or the causes of their aggravation.

      I had volunteered to be pied as a professor. Students would have paid X amount of $$ to our department’s student club to raise money. Then students could pie me for, I guess, homework, exams, grading, or just to see me taken down a peg. I volunteered because no one else in my department was doing so. But then the pandemic intervened. *phew*

      For me, it would have been at the end of the day. I also guess they would have given me a trash bag to wear over my clothes. It still would not have been a fun drive home.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        I always turned this stuff down when I was a teacher or even admin staff supervising teachers (never seen it outside a school or college setting with managers, that’s weird). I said I get wanting to punch up. But I’ll only consider it truly punching up if I have the kind of money to hire a professional makeup artist/team to deal with the aftermath and actually get to call real shots. Our superintendent got a wardrobe and makeup stipend and 300K+ a year. At that level, maybe I’d be pied but not as a teacher or admin/ teaching manager making less than the median wage for folks with my level of experience and education. (And I do make way more now than teaching or school admin—schools and higher ed both suck at pay and never made me feel like a powerful authority figure!)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          May I just say… it boggles my mind that someone making $300k gets a wardrobe stipend.

        2. Teacher*

          What field do you work in now, and how did you make the transition? Asking as a tired teacher.

    7. mreasy*

      Wait sorry your workplace has a day where some group secretly conspires to pie other colleagues?? And you don’t know ahead of time? And there’s no opting out? Unless you literally work at a clown college that is beyond horrible. Also if you work at a clown college we’d all love to hear about it.

      1. Serenity*

        I pied my brother during a skit, but yes, we had literally just completed a course in clowning. He’s my older brother, so it was extra fun.

    8. tree frog*

      I think the “pie” is usually just a pie plate filled with shaving cream, which should hopefully mitigate the stickiness (although in a workplace that tries to strongarm people into getting pied, who knows). But many of us prefer not to get hit in the face at all while at work. Morale would be better served by the company buying pie for everyone.

    9. e271828*

      The “only one person will get pied basedon audience cheers” bit adds that extra soupçon of humiliation.

  2. Ann O'Nemity*

    Support for the LW! I don’t want to be pied in the face. I don’t want to be dunked in a dunk tank. I don’t want to be roasted. I don’t want to be publicly humiliated in any way in the name of “morale” or “charity.” Find some other way to get engagement. I’m not paid enough for this crap.

    1. Testing*

      Also, I don’t want to do this to my managers or see anyone else do this to them. If people genuinely feel the need for this, isn’t that a sign that something is wrong in the organizational culture?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Even the managers I’ve hated I wouldn’t want to do this to, because I’m not five and I don’t consider that a way to settle professional conflict.

        1. Alan*

          Yep. There are certainly managers that I’ve strongly disliked but I wouldn’t pie them in the face. That’s bizarre and stupid.

      2. Observer*

        If people genuinely feel the need for this, isn’t that a sign that something is wrong in the organizational culture?

        A bazillion percent!

      3. Beth*

        I’m with you on this. “Authority figure is in the dunk tank, buy throws to dunk them for charity!” was a feature of our middle school fairs, and sure, it was fun for 12 year olds to get to dunk their principal/science teacher/gym coach. But an adult workplace shouldn’t need to rely on what appeals to 12 year olds to build team morale!

        Plus, even in middle school it was obviously voluntary–the teachers who volunteered got really into it. We would have felt bad if they obviously didn’t want to be there. My middle school classmates weren’t known for their empathy, so OP’s boss having less of it than them is a big deal.

        1. A Teacher*

          High school teacher… told in front of the full student body (more than 1000 kids) that I got to be pied. I didn’t sign up for it nor did I enjoy it.

          1. AClownsWheelhouse*

            Yeah, this seems to happen a lot with teachers. As if y’all don’t deal with enough.

        2. Devious Planner*

          Can confirm: I work at a high school that occasionally has “pie a teacher” events or something similar. In all cases, the teachers are recruited as volunteers! Students ask around, and plenty of teachers say no!

      4. MigraineMonth*

        Some of us genuinely enjoy performing/being center of attention, even in a way that would be really embarrassing for others. Whether that’s off-key karaoke, getting pied in the face, or getting our heads shaved for charity, it’s fun for us.

        I hate anything that feels mean-spirited. If someone is being pressured to participate (like LW) or there is animosity being expressed with the selection of who gets pied, that means something is seriously wrong with the culture. I also don’t think roasts are ever appropriate at work. On the other hand, if the person in the dunk tank is joking around and looks like they’re having a good time, it doesn’t bother me.

        1. AClownsWheelhouse*

          This is exactly right — I need to know that the person doing the silly thing is just as happy as I would be doing the silly thing. Otherwise it’s just upsetting to watch.

        2. Yorick*

          IF my manager/manager’s manager would enjoy being pied in the face, I would enjoy doing it. It would feel like a fun playful thing for us to share. I actually wouldn’t want to pie my former manager who I hated. He doesn’t get to pretend like we’re bonding.

      5. tree frog*

        I like my manager and wouldn’t want to see her get nonconsensually pied in the face either. I guess it could be fun to see someone very uptight and straitlaced do something ridiculous like this, but only if they had fun doing it.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      My high school had a “kiss a cow” fundraiser where you put donations into boxes for your favorite teacher and the winner got to kiss a cow (we had cows on site at the farm next door and had a big agriculture program). But it was fun, and all of the teachers were down with kissing a cow! Because the cows are cute and sweet! I imagine that if there had been objections, the union would have told them to find something else!

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yeah they don’t typically like my exotic pets either but I really don’t care

            1. Moose*

              What exotic pets do you have that the health department doesn’t like? Just curious honestly.

      1. AnonForThis*

        My sister works in public health for a university that has a dairy/ag program, and she was one of a paid panel to taste cheese (they have a dairy products store on campus). She told me about it this weekend and quipped that with things being as they are, she wasn’t allowed to kiss any cows.

    3. LW*

      Agreed and thank you for the support. There are more ways to get people to participate in charity events that are work appropriate.

    4. lilsheba*

      1000000000000000 percent agree. I will never understand why corporate jobs STILL think this is an ok activity. It’s stupid, and humiliating, and should never take place again. Surely they an do something more mature?

    5. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Yes, this is absurd and unreasonable to expect even a high level a manager to tolerate this – or dunking which she did tolerate.

      The bright ideas bunch at this organisation need to stop being so juvenile

    6. No Pie.*

      Being unwillingly pied in the face is battery pure and simple. It’s not a job requirement and it is not a solution to social issues or anything else.

    7. Beth*

      I’d be willing to be pied in a good cause and in an atmosphere of good humour. Same with a dunk tank, as long as it was a warm day.

      But a roast would probably leave me suicidal.

      We all have our lines drawn somewhere, and those lines must be held if they aren’t respected.

  3. Space Needlepoint*

    I’ve had managers where I’ve had major problems, but a pie in the face or a dunking booth would not have solved. Not to mention that the manager would definitely notice who wanted to see them humiliated and could make them a target.

    Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but I can’t consider this “good fun.”

    1. MsM*

      I feel like the ones where it actually might feel cathartic would refuse to participate and feel zero shame about it. Feel free to channel their energy just this once, LW.

    2. NerdyKris*

      It’s not intended for managers people hate. Any sane company doing this would be doing it with well liked managers who are up to it. Nobody should be doing this in a situation where the employees are actually mad at the people being pied.

      It’s a comradery thing like teasing. It shouldn’t be used as an actual outlet for resentment.

      1. Zap R.*

        Is teasing really about camaraderie though? I feel like any time I’ve been genuinely bullied, “Teasing is good for you” and “That’s just the culture around here” has been used to excuse it.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          It is very specific to the circumstances. Teasing is certainly one way that some people, stereotypically men, bond. But it also can be a form of bullying. It depends on whether all parties involved are into it.

        2. Pizza Rat*

          I don’t consider teasing to be about camaraderie. I consider it mean and then you get blamed for “not being a good sport.” Yeah, that really builds bonds with your team.

          Anyone who tells you teasing is good for you just wants to be an arse and not have any consequences.

          1. Antilles*

            It very much depends on the dynamic and the people involved. If the team gets along well and it really is in good fun, then the teasing indeed can build bonds and bring people together. No different than how a married couple or friend group might have in-jokes that seem potentially mean to outsiders, but everybody in it knows it’s not serious.
            But if the group already has a shaky dynamic, then those exact same jokes can be hurtful, mean, and rude.

        3. Ace in the Hole*

          Teasing is often (but not always) about camaraderie. Good-natured teasing is a staple of friendly communication in many groups, to the point that failing to tease someone at all can come across as aloof or chilly.

          Unfortunately, this makes it very common for bullies to hide/excuse their behavior as friendly teasing.

          It’s also possible for someone with genuinely friendly intentions to accidentally upset someone – for example, by joking about something they didn’t realize was sensitive, or if the two parties have different cultural expectations about what types of teasing is appropriate. It’s very much a “know your audience” thing. Obviously when they find out it came across wrong they ought to apologize, but I think a lot of times people get defensive about it instead.

        4. tree frog*

          A lot of people like to claim they’re teasing when they’re actually just being mean, but I think there is a good faith version of teasing. But the key is that you have to know the person well enough to avoid saying anything that will actually bother them, and you have to back off when the other person isn’t into it. It should also be reciprocal. As an autistic person, teasing is something I wouldn’t be expected to understand, but it actually makes more sense to me than most social rituals.

        5. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Teasing is a trust exercise. The teasee has to trust that the teaser doesn’t really want to hurt him and will back off if he crosses the line.

          If the trust is there, the teasing reinforces it. When you trust someone and they live up to your trust, you trust them more. If the trust isn’t there to begin with, teasing just means someone gets hurt.

      2. Space Needlepoint*

        but why would you want to hit someone you like with a pie? That doesn’t make sense to me.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          The same reason people pull practical jokes or otherwise poke fun at people they like

          1. Space Needlepoint*

            Which is? This is a serious question. I do not understand how making someone the butt of a joke or humiliating them is a source of amusement.

            1. Nobby Nobbs*

              Because if they’re into it they’re making themself the butt of the joke and it’s not humiliating.

            2. Hlao-roo*

              I joke around with/poke fun at/lightly tease some of my friends (and they do the same to me). For us, it’s a way of saying “I understand your flaws, and I like you anyways.” Sometimes the butt of the joke is a friend, sometimes it’s me, and sometimes it’s our relationship.

              As an example, I’m a chronically early person and one of my friends is chronically late. When we meet up somewhere, I might joke “I’m shocked I arrived before you!” It’s not about humiliating anyone, it’s about subverting expectations (I’m pretending I’m surprised I arrived before my friend–a totally unsurprising scenario) and having a laugh.

            3. Irish Teacher.*

              I think when it’s done in genuine friendship/comradeship, the person who gets pied or pranked is sort of in on the joke. It’s not something I like myself because I tend to be a bit too literal for that sort of thing, I think (if that makes any sense). But I don’t think the people who volunteer to be pied find it humiliating.

              I guess it’s a bit like the ice bucket challenge, which people did voluntarily. Personally, I don’t get that either. I would not pour freezing cold water over myself, but a lot of people seemed to find it hilarious and did it willingly.

              1. blue rose*

                In case you missed it (it seems like you did), the ice bucket challenge wasn’t done for the humor/hilarity, it was for ALS awareness. People who did the ice bucket challenge and posted it online would then often donate to ALS research/medical support for people who currently had ALS and encourage others to do so as well. I actually found it rather cool, and heard a bunch of uplifting anecdotes from people with ALS saying stuff about how with the huge volume of attention on and money poured into this cause, suddenly support devices they’d been waiting years for became readily available, research was suddenly making tangible progress, etc. etc.

            4. New Jack Karyn*

              It all depends on how the recipient feels about it. Is the pranker or teaser reading the room accurately? Are they correct that the recipient is on board? If so, then ‘humiliation’ isn’t in play.

              I’m a high school teacher. While I do have a line students ought not cross, I’m okay with getting heckled a little. It shows that they’re comfortable with me.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Because it looks funny, makes a funny noise, is a little transgressive, harmless, and you think they’ll think it’s also funny? Plenty of people like physical humor. And plenty of people wouldn’t mind being hit with a pie (if they agreed beforehand and expected it).

          Heck, I do lots of activities with people I like that are far more violent than hitting them with a pie. Like deliberately body-slamming them at high speeds, pushing each other over into mud, or shooting each other with paintballs. Like many things, it’s only fun if everyone involved enthusiastically consents.

          1. Space Needlepoint*

            I truly don’t understand how this is funny in any way. If people consent, fine, let them have their definition of fun, but nobody should be forced into this, and nobody should give a hard time to anyone who doesn’t want to.

            1. Devious Planner*

              Of course, we are all in agreement that if somebody doesn’t want to participate, they shouldn’t have to. But some people do find this fun, because humor is subjective and people have different ways that they bond with others. That’s fine too. The human experience is varied!

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              I agree, no one should be forced or pressured into it. That’s why I specifically said it’s only fun if everyone involved enthusiastically consents.

          2. Frost*

            Volunteering to be the one who is pied or dunked can also demonstrate confidence in yourself or trust in the team — implicitly, “I’m so solid in my role that I can play at being in a weaker position without actually losing face” or “we have a strong enough relationship that it can include silliness/topsy-turviness/etc”.

        3. tree frog*

          Basically if you think they’ll have a fun reaction. I don’t think I would enjoy seeing someone get pied and being miserable about it even if I found them extremely annoying.

      3. Hudson*

        Yes, I do think there’s a way to do something like this in a way that’s fun. I can’t speak to pie-ing, but my first boss agreed to be in a dunk tank as part of a community street fair, and people paid ten dollars to get three chances to dunk him (or 25 dollars to guarantee dunk him). He agreed willingly, seemed to be having a blast, and community members loved the chance to dunk him (he was a well-liked state elected official). Actually, another local elected official in another state I worked in also took some time in a dunk tank in a community street fair. It can be a blast when both the person in the dunk tank and the people paying to try to dunk them are doing it in the spirit of fun.

      4. Observer*

        It’s a comradery thing like teasing.

        So it’s worth noting that “teasing” is not always “comradely”. And the minute you get to *physically* “teasing” someone, it stops being “comradely”.

        And let’s be real – anyone who is willing to *require* someone to submit to this is NOT being “comradely”. It’s definitely “give people a chance to express their discontent.” It’s like all the people who “tease” and then go all “Can’t you take a JOKE!!!!” on people who object.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, something like this *must* be volunteer-only opt-in-only with no consequences for saying no, to be reasonable.

          Also, you need to define ‘pie’ first. If it has tree nuts, I can’t take part. If it’s going to hurt because of the type of pie, I won’t. If I can tie my hair back and request lemon meringue, however….

      5. Venus*

        I had a well-loved senior manager who raised a lot of money at a dunking booth, and I’m pretty sure that he would have suggested it. On the day he had a huge grin and egged people to hit the target, and it was a lot of fun! He had obviously volunteered and was enjoying it, and that’s what matters.

        I enjoy watching the TV show TaskMaster and Greg teases Nick about being short, in part because Greg is freakishly tall. That’s a situation where teasing is done right, and they’re laughing with each other rather than at one another.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Right, a guy who is 6’8″ is teasing a guy who is 6’2″ about being short. It works because they’re both in on the joke and because neither is actually short.

          1. Baldrick*

            Wrong guy, sorry – Nick is 5’4″, and if you haven’t seen the outtake where Nick asks Greg for ‘uppies’ to get out of the watermelon inner tubes then I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    3. H*

      My manager volunteered to get pied in the face for a team-building thing a couple years ago (as a reward to the team for meeting a specific metric), and I was so uncomfortable even though he was in on the joke. I didn’t think it was fun or funny, and I wished I hadn’t been there. The team seemed evenly split between people who thought it was hilarious and people who wished it wasn’t happening.

    1. Anon Again... Naturally*

      Seriously! How cool is it that Alison not only pied Oscar de la Renta in the face, but has a picture of the event?

          1. Sitting Pretty*

            I think we might have been at PETA around the same era! I was 17-ish when I worked there. They once had me dress up as a giant head of broccoli and dance happily around in front of the White House alongside a couple of bedraggled turkeys limping on crutches to protest factory farming of Thanksgiving turkeys. Good times

          2. Mrs. Hawiggins*

            I’m loving the pie pieces still floating in the air. Do you remember what kind it was? :)

          3. mother_of_hedgehogs*

            I always read the Friday Good news with such admiration for the positive influence you have had on people’s lives- you’ve really helped so many navigate difficult waters, and made such a difference.

            And then this. I couldn’t respect you more. Well done you.

      1. Festively Dressed Earl*

        I think Alison secretly wanted to show off her great hair in the picture. Seriously coveting the bun.

        1. Schrodinger's Hat*

          Seriously, please share the secrets of how to make such a perfect bun.

    2. 1LFTW*

      I’m impressed with her aim! I’d need to be within arm’s length not to miss, and that’s on a good day.

  4. ScruffyInternHerder*

    I’m a little astounded that this type of thing exists outside of middle school. Maybe high school. And in those cases, typically the pie-ee has volunteered themselves for the role (ahem the school principal for example) because there’s not much like the opportunity to pie the principal in the face to get kids to do whatever thing.

    This is happening in an office somewhere? And a dunk tank was a previous insult-der-I-mean-moral-improving-activity?

        1. Zap R.*

          I remember on the first day of high school, all of us Grade Nines were terrified of being hazed and then it just…never happened?

          Granted, I was also told that in high school people would try to sell me crack cocaine in the bathroom.

    1. Jay (no, the other one)*

      We had a school carnival when I was in HS and one of the events was a bucket of water that got dumped on someone if you hit the target with a ball (that’s a ridiculous sentence. You get the idea). Both teachers and administrators sat under the bucket. The money went to charity, it was mid-June in a warm climate, they wore bathing suits, and it was very much opt-in. Great hilarity ensued. But that was in the 1970s at a particularly laid-back, hippie-ish high school where it was not unheard of for teachers to smoke various substances with students behind the school after hours – a very different climate from any place I’ve ever worked. I would neither want to be pie’d nor would I want to pie my boss. Either I’ve liked my bosses too much or I had issues with them that a pie in the face would not solve.

    2. Willow Sunstar*

      I have memories of doing this sort of thing for a church school fundraiser when I was in elementary. Some of the teachers got pied. We also had dunk tanks for the teachers. Seem to remember face painting being a thing too. But it was at an event intended for children and their families to attend, not professional adults.

    3. Brain the Brian*

      At my middle school growing up, several *kids* got pied every year. The pie-ees were selected by secret ballot, and we could all write in anyone — meaning that the kids at the bottom of social ladder “won” every year. Jesus, what an awful thing to do to kids.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        That’s horrible. When I read the first line, I assumed it was going to be a case of students volunteering for it, which would be one thing. People being chosen like that was simply organised bullying.

          1. Polly Hedron*

            This institutionalized bullying is of children bothers me more than anything else I’ve read on AAM.

    4. LW*

      My workplace is insane and is not even the most toxic of its kind. It very often feels like dealing with grown adults who have high school maturity level. I’m not anywhere special on the maturity spectrum, but I didn’t even enjoy things like this as a teenager. I think it’s something about the sticky that makes me want to gag lol.

      1. Moose*

        I’m not saying that you should do this but having been the person pied, it’s actually not sticky. It’s usually shaving cream. The worst part (for me anyway) is that I had to wash my hair twice to get it to stop feeling crunchy. But it wasn’t sticky at all.

        But still, you don’t need a reason to not want to do it. It can just be something you don’t want to do. “No,” is a perfectly reasonable response to anything involving your physical body that’s outside the bounds of regular work.

    5. HailRobonia*

      At risk of being “Debbie Downer” I want to point out that dunking booths have extremely racist origins. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunk_tank

      That’s not to say that modern uses of dunk tanks are racist, but it would certainly be worth keeping in mind for a company event.

      1. Madame Señora*

        The amount of things that turn out to be secretly racist are legion. First the ice cream truck song, now this.

    6. Dinwar*

      I could see it happening in the town I grew up in. Particularly with some of the priests and police chiefs I knew. But the person getting pied would be the person proposing the whole thing–meaning that they would be 100% on board with it. Same thing with where I live now. The police have a dunk booth, where you give donations and can dunk an officer. The officers getting dunked usually are razzing the folks throwing the balls and making it clear that they’re having a good time. Plus, it’s like a hundred degrees in the shade; I’ve seen people volunteer just for the relief from the heat!

    7. Moose*

      I was going to comment that I’ve fully volunteered to be the person getting pied in the face, but it was at a high school activity and honestly all in good fun. I can’t imagine trying to force someone to have that experience. It’s a very juvenile thing to want to do and therefore is appropriate in settings with juveniles and not when there aren’t.

      This whole thing would also have me looking for a new job.

    8. Project Maniac-ger*

      That was my first thought… this is happening outside of, uh like, church camp? I’m not sure I could physically pie a colleague in the face, even the worst ones. Definitely couldn’t do that to a manager. I would involuntarily start sobbing if someone did it to me even if I knew it was happening and was fully prepared. I have never understood the “be mean to people to build camaraderie” thing.

      I would sit through a thousand cheesey icebreakers to build camaraderie before I’d pie someone in the face.

    9. I AM a Lawyer*

      I’m so confused how this is even something that is ever done in any workplace.

    10. londonedit*

      When I was at primary school we’d have a school fete every year to raise money for the school/for charity, and as part of the fun and games there was always a set of stocks, which the teachers would take turns in, and us kids could pay 50p to throw wet sponges at them. But I’ve never seen something like that outside of a school fete.

      In Britain we have quite a tradition of doing stupid things to raise money for charity – dressing up in costumes to run the London Marathon, sitting in baths full of baked beans or custard, that sort of thing. But in the main it’s people choosing to do silly things *to themselves* so that people will sponsor them, rather than having something horrible done to them.

    11. ccsquared*

      Right? I’ve seen adults in dunk tanks for kids events, but it’s funny for kids because their concepts of authority and growing older are still forming, so getting to dunk or pie a teacher or other adult authority is really just silliness for them without much subtext.

      The kind of authority in the workplace and employees’ understanding of it is so different from that that I can’t find the humor in this. Maybe if it were a couple big personality types who volunteered and it were the kind of office culture with a sense of shared silliness, that would be fun, but I think you have to have those personalities/culture already; doing the activity the way described in this letter isn’t going to create that.

    1. AnonInCanada*

      Likewise. I knew Alison had a pretty rebellious past, but not like this!

      But I will say that pie looked good on his face :-D.

    2. Nobody Taught Me How To Hair*

      Sorry to be wired and off topic, but I’ve been trying to get my hair in a bun like the young rapscallion’s–anybody know how it’s done? it doesn’t look like the twist and wrap kind…

      1. AmberFox*

        To me, it looks like that it is the twist and wrap kind, but one you’re only going to achieve with long hair and a real tight twist. My hair’s pretty thick and I can only achieve that look when it’s down to lower back; thinner hair can get it done with less length.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, my hair was past mid-back at the time. Literally just twisted it into a rope and wrapped into a circle, then secured it with a scrunchie (yes, a scrunchie).

          1. bamcheeks*

            Haha, we have matching hair then, because this is exactly what I did and what it looked like!

          2. AmberFox*

            Having had hair that long, I can picture exactly what that scrunchie looked like. lol

          3. Ari Flynn*

            Mine is hip-length. (Also red!) I tie it into a full-on overhand knot, then coil.

        2. Festively Dressed Earl*

          Le sigh. I noticed the bun right away because I’ve always wanted my hair to do the same sleek/polished/elegant thing, but it’s frizzy and shoulder blade length. Not happening without magic.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Hm, my twist and wrap bun looked exactly like that when my hair was mid-back length. It doesn’t any more now it’s shoulder length and layered, because I don’t have the length to go around like that. But when it was long enough to make a 12″ solid cylinder, it absolutely did that!

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        It looks to me like the hair gets twisted in one long, straight strand, then wrapped around and turned into a bun. I hope that makes sense. Can’t quickly find a video that shows this.

      4. Nocturna*

        Whether your twist and wrap bun is going to look like that is going to depend a lot on your hair texture and thickness. (Ability to be held up with just a scrunchie is also going to depend on hair type; if you need more hold, bobby pins stuck inward will help a lot.)

      5. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        A good option for long-hairs to get a nice flat bun is a nautilus bun — make a ponytail, then make a loop from the base over your hand, THEN wind the rest around the loop below your hand and against your head. Then jam the loop down around the rest and put a stick through it, under the hair tie holding your ponytail in the middle.

        Signed, butt-length Merida hair. :)

    3. LW*

      I know, right? I feel honored to have my drama be the vehicle for such an awesome photo/reveal of expertise in the art of pie.

      For what it’s worth, Alison, I agree completely about the difference in doing something for true activism versus…whatever this is on my side. Team breaking?

  5. ILoveLllamas*

    Dunk tanks, pies in the face and other acts of “fun” humiliation have run their course. I think there are more fun activities (OR NONE) where employees can contribute to a charity. I don’t participate as a donor and I would never participate as a recipient of said “fun”. Stand your ground.

    1. High Score!*

      It’s not my thing either, but some people enjoy it – which is fine IF everyone is ok with it. My last manager was the first to volunteer to get dunked or pied and enjoyed it, even suggested those activities.
      It’s only ok and fun if everyone consents enthusiastically.

      1. Observer*

        It’s not my thing either, but some people enjoy it – which is fine IF everyone is ok with it.

        Only if *everyone* enjoys it, including the other people in the space. In most cases, I would say “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to participate” and that would be fine. But some things are overt enough, and problematic enough for bystanders to have no place in shared spaces without active consent of everyone.

        That’s why people have standing to sue regarding discrimination, even when they are not the direct target. It’s clear that having to listen to some jerk make comments about “those ***derogatory slur*** in Accounting” or “Those ***highly sexualized term*** in Admin wink, wink, nudge, nudge” is a problem for the people who are stuck in earshot.

        The same is true for this kind of thing.

        1. Socks*

          I really don’t think things like dunk tanks and pies in the face are harmful to bystanders in remotely the same way as witnessing discrimination???

      2. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

        It would be very difficult to truly ascertain meaningful enthusiasm. It would be very easy for people to feel they have to go along with it etc. And there is no benefit to it (!) that can’t be achieved a different way.

        It just seems all downside and risk.

        Also, the type of organisation that does this kind of thing seems like the kind of organisation that might not be great as judging enthusiasm and consent.

      3. Not my monkeys*

        I don’t know I’d require enthusiastic consent but certainly willing consent. I’ve been the recipient of a pie in the face as a fundraiser, which I agreed to entirely willingly. It related to some youth work I was doing, we had a few adults willing to take a pie (including the guy who suggested the idea, who took the first pie), and many kids eager to deliver a pie. One of the kids particularly wanted to put a pie in my face, and helped raise a nice sum to earn the chance to do it.

        If everyone is on board there’s no reason why it can’t go ahead and be fun for everyone. If someone doesn’t consent, or only notionally consents out of fear of losing their job, it’s not good.

        I’m not sure what our pies were actually made of. Once they were delivered we had what we needed on hand to clean ourselves up. The kids delivering the pies thought it was great.

    2. Achtung, Baby*

      I have been at company events where C-suite types volunteered to be in the dunk tank. But again – they VOLUNTEERED. Nobody forced them to do it.

      1. 1LFTW*

        Yeah, you scout for volunteers *before* announcing it to make sure somebody actually, genuinely wants to do it. If nobody volunteers, you decide on another event.

  6. Stuart Foote*

    I…don’t think it’s okay to assault people to protest things, even if the cause is justified and the intent is to raise awareness. Seems like a major blind spot on the internet is the idea that almost anything is justified if you agree with the cause, but were the tables turned the exact same act would be the worst thing in the world.

    1. online millenial*

      Getting pied in the face is (usually) about public humiliation, and there are plenty of despicable views that deserve it. Anita Bryant getting pied in the face was a way for queer people to say “we’re here, and eff you.” That one Nazi guy getting punched in the face basically ended his public/online presence. And yes, I would be upset if a public advocate for equal rights, reproductive healthcare, etc. got punched or pied, because those are good views to have! Not all opinions are created equal. Some are profoundly harmful, and those who publicly espouse them sometimes face consequences in the form of pie.

      None of which has anything to do with the LW’s situation: that’s a very juvenile approach to morale boosting. I don’t want to publicly humiliate my managers, and in a healthy work environment, that idea should be off-putting to everyone.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        “sometimes face consequences in the form of pie.”

        That’s the best thing I’ve read in a long time

      2. Stuart Foote*

        Unfortunately you are wrong about Richard Spencer’s online influence ending due to him getting punched…that was January 2017, and the infamous Unite the Right rally (which resulted in a death and many injuries) in Charlottesville was in August 2017. Spencer really only had a profile in the first place because the media took at interest in him due to his wealthy, educated background (which was highly irresponsible); now there are many, many other people with even more repugnant views out there.

        1. Anon for this*

          You’re right about the media’s irresponsibility being the cause of Spencer’s profile. But – and I say this as a UTR car attack survivor, all too aware of the horror of those two days – while his influence (online and otherwise) didn’t end because of the punch, it did end most mainstream denial that he was a neo-Nazi. Which there had been a lot of before. It was a little fascinating to watch the discourse shift from “Is he a neo-Nazi or not?” to “Is it okay to punch a neo-Nazi or not?” with the latter carrying a presumption that the answer to the former was yes.

          We’re getting a bit far afield from the pies though. I think just about everyone in the comments section agrees that if you’re going to have a pie-ing event at work it needs to be something people on all ends actually want to do.

      3. Court*

        I still smile when I walk by the spot where Richard Spencer was punched in the face on live TV, and I’m pretty okay with what that says about me.

    2. 8675309!*

      And considering the organization it was with…yeah I’m not exactly impressed there :-/

      Like, there are other more effective ways to enact change. Stuff like pie throwing, public disruption, showing up naked, etc is akin to toddlers throwing tantrums.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Given that I wouldn’t have the right to vote without “public disruption,” I’m going to go ahead and say it’s warranted at times.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        As someone who engaged in these activities professionally, I can tell you that it’s about getting media coverage for an issue that otherwise was difficult to get coverage for. I’d throw a pie/go naked/unfurl a banner, and I’d have to talk about the stunt for one minute and then get to talk about animal abuse for the entire rest of the interview. We got a ton of animal abuse footage (on factory farms, fur farms, in labs, etc.) played on TV as a result of throwing those pies/going naked/etc., footage that never would have been shown widely otherwise. That was the whole point.

        1. the cat ears*

          I think the distinction you’re making is not “pie throwing is morally justified in these circumstances, because the target is bad enough, but not in others” – it’s more like “pie throwing should be understood as a shocking act because the goal is to publicly humiliate people, which I understand because I’ve intentionally used it to that end to further a political cause. And that’s not appropriate for work/OP shouldn’t have to subject themselves to it.” Do you think this is a fair reading? IMO making this primarily about morality and how good/bad the target is, is missing the more interesting point here about how pie throwing is used and understood.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Maybe a better analogy would be if at this job, your boss told you to throw a pie at someone and you didn’t want to. Would he be right to demand that you do it, or should he let it go

        2. I take tea*

          Sometimes stunts give you so much more visibility. I remember a feminist politician in Sweden, who burned a pretty large sum of money publically to draw attention to the wage gap. People were aghast with the waste of money, but she said it would have cost a lot more to buy ads, and it wouldn’t be half as effective.

      3. Reebee*

        Bringing attention to abuse is always good, no matter how it’s done.

        Think about it.

        1. Boof*

          Uhhh, no, for example, assaulting a child to bring attention to some kind of animal abuse problem would not be in any way ok.
          I’d say pieing eachother is ok, I’m pretty dubious at hurling pies at strangers who didn’t agree to participate is OK, but I’ll cautiously own that it depends a lot on the specifics. I’m thinking specifically about how some folks might throw red paint on strangers with fur coats; I think that’s terrible. Not because I support fur coats, but there’s a lot of reasons someone might temporarily be wearing something that looks like fur that in no way justifies having paint thrown on them.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            Yeah, I really think it depends on specifics. Yeah, throwing paint at anybody who looks like they might be wearing fur is definitely on the problematic end of the scale. On the other end of the scale, there are things like the Boston Tea Party and the actions of the Suffragettes, who engaged in tactics like this. So I wouldn’t be inclined to say it’s never right. (And of course, I live in a country that got its independence through armed rebellion, which is far more violent than pieing people so if I believe my country has the right to exist as an independent nation, I can’t really say assault in the pursuit of a political cause is always wrong.)

            We pretty much all draw the line somewhere. Actually, in Ireland at the moment, the debate is being had about picketing politicians houses. Recently, a group turned up in balaclavas outside a politician’s house (and since I don’t know how well-known this is outside Ireland, balaclavas would have associations with terrorism here, with organisations like the I.R.A.; the protest was not connected to those organisations and I’m not sure whether they meant to evoke that image or just used them for the same reason of concealing their identities, but it certainly added to the impression of menace, wearing something associated with militias) and started daubing slogans and so on. To me, that definitely crosses a line, though the weird thing is if it weren’t for the balaclavas, I’d be more on the fence. I think it was a combination of the resonance balaclavas have and perhaps even more so, the implication that they intended to do something illegal/something that would require their faces being covered. But it has opened a debate about where the line is.

            1. UKDancer*

              I think protesting at a company is fine but going to someone’s home is not. So I grew up near the US base at Menwith Hill during the late 1980s and a lot of women used to go along and chain themselves to the fence (at least one woman still does despite being in her 80s). I think that’s something i’m ok with, I mean it’s illegal but it’s something I find amusing and somewhat admirable.

              I think it’s very different going after individual people personally or showing up at their homes because that can affect other people like their family.

              So I don’t have a problem with picketing Parliament or writing to my MP but showing up at his home would be in my view the wrong side of the line.

              1. UKDancer*

                Also I’m uncomfortably reminded that 2 British MPs have been murdered in their constituency offices in the past 8 years, so where I draw the line on ambushing people is probably a different place from where I’d have drawn it before Jo Cox and David Amess were both killed in their surgeries.

            2. Jam on Toast*

              A few years ago, a local activist group left a coffin outside the house of our local mayor as part of a campaign in support of defunding the local police. The protesters were subsequently investigated for death threats against the mayor and their family. They claimed it was hyperbole, but I know if I was a public official and found a coffin outside my house — or a group of balaclava-clad demonstrators — I’d be deeply frightened.

              1. Boof*

                Yeaaaah, “oh I didn’t mean it like that!” isn’t a great excuse for being an asshole, or doing things that are easily interpreted as threatening bodily harm

            3. Boof*

              There’s some gray area; straight up “civil disobedience” I think is generally good, ie, protesting an unjust law/restriction by very obviously, calmly, publicly, nonviolently violating said restriction tends to draw a LOT of attention around the restriction.
              … I really wish physicians would be willing to do this for reproductive rights. I like to think I’d be willing to (am a physician) but it’s not my area of specialty (so far out of it that I should absolutely not be doing anything of the sort) + my state’s not one of the ones that have banned it; at best I could flagrantly help assist folks to abortions, which maybe I’ll really think about doing at some point. ABORTION CARAVAN ANYONE D:

          2. Mango Freak*

            Okay that first sentence was so unnecessary. I don’t think there’s ANY possibility that Reebee meant that, and suggesting as such kind of goes against the commenting guidelines. Especially when you had plenty of room to disagree with a REASONABLE interpretation of what Reebee likely meant.

            Throwing red paint on a fur coat and *assaulting a child* are not comparable acts, and I can’t imagine why you’d think you’re strengthening any kind of argument by equating them. The reasons you give for disapproving of the former don’t even have anything to do with the latter.

        2. 3.14+*

          Someone could still get injured – not from the pie itself but from the commotion. I could easily a see a situation where a security guard overreacts, or the pied person gets upset and maybe has a weapon. There are probably better ways to get the message across, just my 2 cenrts

      4. Ellis Bell*

        It was really interesting reading Emmeline Pankhurst’s account of trying to get change for female voting through respectable and well mannered channels. Everyone agreed with her but nothing happened.

      5. Dek*

        Matt Baum had a recent video about exactly how helpful public disruption was toward getting positive portrayals of queer people on television. It required a multi-tiered approach–a group of people to cause the disruption, a group of people to discuss the reasons for the disruption and the demands of the group, etc.

        But it *required* that disruption. Without the disruption, it was all too easy to ignore the people politely asking that queer people not be constantly portrayed in a negative way, or overlooked entirely.

        I’m not sure what change you think gets enacted without some kind of disruption, but changing entrenched policies usually requires some unignorable trouble.

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “but were the tables turned the exact same act would be the worst thing in the world.”

      Eh. I feel like a pie could be thrown at me on any city bus and I would only be mildly surprised. Certainly low stakes in terms of harm.

      And as was said, there were legal consequences, so it’s not like it was deemed “okay” in the grand scheme of things. If what you’re looking for is for her to feel shame about it, that’s not really anyone’s call but her’s.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Even if an ally did get egged or pied, it would still just call attention to the attention to issues at hand; people with right on their side don’t mind a spotlight and discussion. It’s not like they’re going to turn around and quit.

    4. Juicebox Hero*

      I agree with you. It seems hypocritical to say that pie-throwing is acceptable if the target is on the opposite side of a given issue from you, but then turn around and say that throwing pies at the unwilling is always wrong. It can’t be both.

      1. Anon21*

        You’re kind of ignoring that one person might deserve it for doing something bad, while the other person might not, because they’re just being selected because they are a manager! Willing/unwilling is not the only relevant dimension of concern when it comes to something that is embarrassing but not painful or injurious.

        1. Dinwar*

          “You’re kind of ignoring that one person might deserve it for doing something bad…”

          This is called vigilante justice and our criminal justice system was built to prevent this sort of thing. Sure, a pie in the face was seen as amusing in the past, but once you start thinking “This person deserves to be assaulted, thus I’m justified in committing assault” there really is no lower limit. I’ve seen how bad this can get, and these are some of the most terrifying moments of my life (and I’ve had my share of near-death experiences, including being shot and stalked by mountain lions multiple times).

          You can’t say “Oh, but this is different!” The logic is identical: You did a bad thing, and I’m now justified to do bad things to you. Once you accept that reasoning, there is NO limit on the bad things you will allow yourself to do to the Other. None. And not one of us is immune here.

          I’m not saying that the criminal justice system is perfect. But even a bad system is a lot better than the inevitable results of vigilante justice.

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            When Anita Bryant was pied in the face on TV you could go to jail for consensual gay sex. Not sure I’d lean on our criminal justice system as an upstanding arbiter of morality here.

            1. Dinwar*

              The justice system absolutely is not the arbiter of morality–in a liberal democracy it can’t be. And my point is absolutely not that the justice system does not need to be reformed–I’ve experienced police harassment, I’m very aware of the flaws in it.

              The issue isn’t whether the justice system is perfect or not. The issue is that vigilante justice is demonstrably and necessarily far, far worse.

              (Also note that Allison gave her reasoning, and it was not vigilante justice. It was civil disobedience. That’s an entirely different issue, one I’m more sympathetic with.)

              1. La Triviata*

                As a child of the ’60s, back then, most of us understood “civil disobedience” actions ran the risk of arrest, jail, possibly being beaten – we people did things fully understanding that there could be consequences.

              2. Dek*

                “The issue isn’t whether the justice system is perfect or not. The issue is that vigilante justice is demonstrably and necessarily far, far worse.”

                I don’t think that being pied in the face by a private citizen is worse than being imprisoned by the state for a consensual relationship among adults.

              3. Ellis Bell*

                A pie in the face is not “vigilante justice”, and it most certainly is a not a worse outcome than being jailed for being gay.

          2. Mango Freak*

            I think people shouldn’t face-pie public figures who agree with me on important issues. But that’s because I think they should *agree with me on important issues,* not because I think no one should ever use that method of protest.

            I think people should, generally, vote. I’m glad when they vote for pro-gay politicians, and mad when they vote for anti-gay politicians. Tools are neutral and should be assessed by the harm or good that they do.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        She doesn’t say it’s always wrong. She says it shouldn’t be required by your employer and can’t fall under your job description. She says it qualifies as assault. All those things are true, and it can be equally true that you’re fine with it qualifying as assault for xyz reasons and fine with facing the attached legal consequences. Nothing in the answer in contradictory.

      3. nnn*

        “public protest intended to result in criminal charges, which it did, is a very different thing than a workplace team-builder”

      4. Mango Freak*

        Huh? AAM did NOT say that “throwing pies at the unwilling is always wrong.” She said that LW didn’t need to agree to it if they didn’t want to, and implied that employers should not require it of employees (who aren’t typically expecting that as part of their job duties, I suppose).

        You can absolutely disagree with the practice as political protest, but there’s no hypocrisy within this post. Only context and nuance–context and nuance that Alison make explicit tbh.

      5. ecnaseener*

        I’m not sure how you got “acceptable” from “intended to result in criminal charges.” She’s not saying “everyone go pie people it’s totally fine,” she’s pointing out that it’s assault!

      6. Ellis Bell*

        OP is not a political or divisive figure on either side of a debate. They’re a civilian in a very professional not-public job. It’s absurd to compare their situation with those who are involved in civic rights.

      7. Dek*

        “if the target is on the opposite side of a given issue from you”

        That really does depend what the “opposite side” and the “given issue” is.

    5. Leenie*

      The pie in the face for animal rights thing took place in the 90’s – barely even internet era. I didn’t have internet at home until a year or two after that photo was taken. And I’m having trouble figuring out how the tables would be turned in this case. If fashion designers who used animal fur in their designs suddenly started throwing pies at animal rights activists, that would have been odd.

      I’m not saying I think this was good practice. But it happened before going viral was even a recognized thing. So I feel like the context of the era was a bit different than your comment supposes. It wasn’t something inspired or buoyed by online culture.

    6. Observer*

      I…don’t think it’s okay to assault people to protest things, even if the cause is justified and the intent is to raise awareness

      That’s not really the point. The point is that there is a MAJOR difference between this and what the LW is describing. And that, outside of very narrow circumstances, this simply cannot be considered “harmless fun and games”. Which is why all the people involved knew going in that they could get arrested.

      1. Boof*

        Well, I guess it was literally assault at the time and was intended to be assault so…. yeah, nonconsentual pie to the face is assault then.

  7. Richard Hershberger*

    The idea of dunking or pieing a senior manager as a “fun morale-booster” seems very junior-high. At that age, dunking the principal is the height of delightfully transgressive. As a grown up? If my morale needs boosting, this won’t do it. Quite the contrary. It would be so utterly irrelevant to whatever it was depressing my morale that I would find it insulting, making everything worse.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      And, importantly, the principal AGREES to be dunked. It’s not fun if they don’t want to do it.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yes. When we were in primary school, our principal was “kidnapped” and ransomed for charity, but like…she was the principal. Nobody could make her do it if she didn’t want to. Plus, she was a nun, so it was kinda humorous to imagine a num in full habit being “kidnapped.”

        But either she herself or the students would have come up with the idea and if it was a bunch of 12 year olds who came up with it, it would be pretty easy for the principal to say no. And I suspect she at least encouraged it herself because I can’t imagine most primary school children in the 80s even daring to go to the principal with an idea like that (even though she was a very popular and not at all intimidating principal).

        1. just commentary*

          I think it being concentrated on a single person (of authority) makes it easier too. Having the opportunity to pick and focus on specific people out of a large group makes it much more likely to facilitate bullying or at least, more likely to reinforce power dynamics. When the targets are consenting and preselected down to the few people at the very top, it’s much easier for it to be some good natured “turning the tables” kind of fun.

        2. Dahlia*

          Our town is currently doing a little fundraiser for the school where local business owners and also our mayor are being “arrested” and asking people to raise money for “bail”. It’s cute and fun and… it’s for the school.

    2. TPS Reporter*

      how does it actually boost morale for the pie thrower? I certainly wouldn’t want to work harder to achieve manager status after such an event!

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I would assume it’s less about encouraging people to want manager status and more to make people think “hey, my manager is such a good sport; I want to work with them and don’t see them as a distant authority figure but as somebody who’s good fun and a good teammate.”

        I’m not sure it would work that way but I assume that is the intent?

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          David Rubenstein, the new owner of the Baltimore Orioles recently spent two innings as “Mr. Spash.” This is an Oriole peculiarity. There is a designated section in the stands for this. Mr. Splash is a guy wearing floaties like a toddler would wear in the pool, with a hose that he uses to spray the fans when the Orioles get an extra base hit. So Rubenstein came down the aisle to cheers and high fives.

          As marketing, it was a clear success. This is very much Rubenstein leaning into the “good sport” space, along with “just a fan like the rest of us.” On the other hand, much of his popularity as the new owner is that he isn’t the old owner. (I was OK with Peter Angelos, but then his failson took over.) We’ll see how long that lasts. On the gripping hand, the Orioles are good right now. Sign one or two young players to extensions and Rubenstein will own the city.

          Getting back on track, this is what these pie-throwing morale boosters are aiming for. I have my doubts. The scenarios aren’t really all that similar.

          1. TPS reporter*

            an owner is a very different example. they’re a public figure, very rich and in a position that only a few people could achieve. a fan having access to have fun with that kind of person is a whole world away from their direct manager who they work with every day and are in many cases helping that person grow into their own.

  8. SheLooksFamiliar*

    ‘Don’t be such a stick-in-the-mud, SheLooksFamiliar! It’s fun! Our employees love it! Don’t you have a sense of humor? You get to pie your boss in the face, too!’

    Nope. I didn’t find Three Stooges-type humor funny back when I was told I would get a pie in the face, and I don’t find it funny now. If someone loves pies in the face, whoopee cushions, joy buzzers, and dunk tanks, let them volunteer.

    1. Rex Libris*

      I didn’t think it was funny even when it was the Three Stooges doing it, and at least they were professional, paid face piers.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      I personally enjoy slapstick, because it’s actors doing a bit and no one is being forced into it or humiliated by it. Humiliating fundraisers, not so much.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yeah I like slapstick on the stage and in old films and sitcoms because everyone is acting and it’s not being forced on people. There’s nothing wrong with liking slapstick comedy.

        Forcing people to participate at work is not funny and humiliating and completely different.

  9. NotTheSameAaron*

    I went through this experience last month as part of a charity fundraiser. The ‘reward’ for raising the most funds was getting a pie in the face. I got the second place, ironically due to a big donation from a coworker who had said they would like to be pied in the face. Tip, if you have glasses take them off and close your eyes before. We were supposed to be provided big black garbage bags to prevent our clothes from getting smeared, but what we got was the small white bags instead. Make sure you get the big size, because the small ones just keep the mess from sliding down your shirt neck and paper towels can only get so much off.

  10. I edit everything*

    If the company wants to do a food drive by department/manager, they should let each manager choose their own motivating action. Clown manager might go with the pie, while less-pie-centric managers might do a half day off, bringing in lunch, casual day, or whatever they’re comfortable with that they know would encourage their team.

  11. Meg*

    Dont do it!!! Literally skipped Alison’s remarks to jump down here to tell my short story:

    In another life, I worked in retail at the big red circle. One incentive for getting the most credit card applications was that the highest getter would get to pie an exec in the face. The exec got his NOSE BROKEN from a very forceful pie (complete accident not intentional by the pie-er, but still).

  12. Lacey*

    I hate that employers think this is fun for anyone.
    It’s work, not an after school program.

    A friend of mine was one of the people who was supposed to “get” to pie a manager in the face. She was so stressed out that she told her supervisor ahead of time that she didn’t want to do it and asked that the supervisor just “forget” that she was supposed to and not call her name.

    Well, not only did the supervisor not forget to call her, she also hassled her about being a “stick in the mud” for not wanting to – in front of everyone.

    How is that a morale booster?

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Seriously. I can’t lie and say I’ve never fantasized about humiliating a bad boss before, but these were REALLY BAD bosses. And a pie in the face would be a very unsatisfying form of humiliation anyway. It’s barely one step above saying “Your zipper’s down. Hyuck, made ya look.”

      1. I have RBF*

        Yeah, the humiliations I have fantasized about for bad bosses have not been pies. Let out in the middle of the freeway with only shoes on? Yeah. Fired with no notice and perp walked to the door? Hell yeah. But pie? Nope.

    2. Pizza Rat*

      I once pied someone when I was in a comedic play in high school. After the run of the show, I let him do the same to me. There were laughs then and I didn’t mind–it was only fair.

    3. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Humor is, famously, subjective so yes — there are definitely people who think it’s funny (there’s literally a game for sale about this, google “Pie Face! Game”). It’s ok that not everyone thinks it’s funny!

    4. catsforbrains*

      Literal clown/performance artist here. I’ve taken shaving cream, whipped cream, cupcakes, and paint to the face and seen it done in a theater and outside of it. SO much depends on setup, timing, power dynamics, and consent.

      When it works well (for getting laughs, not for humiliating Oscar De La Renta – but I respect it ), you have an audience that’s been primed for chaos, not revenge. It’s funny to pie the highest status person in a room because it upends established power dynamics. It’s play, and everyone is equal in indignity.

      (FWIW, I’m not really a Three Stooges fan, but there are some Laurel and Hardy shorts I think do this pretty well.)

      As an audience member, you want to be able to experience that chaos and then return to an orderly world. It’s best when the person getting hit has a funny (not horrified!) reaction, which implies to me that they’re consenting and willing to play, and when there’s clear boundaries around the chaos – this is happening on stage and maybe an enthusiastic front row (so it’s not going to happen to you unless you’ve chosen to participate).

      The kind of charity pieing folks are describing is usually agonizing to watch. There’s the gross aggressive undercurrent, and the boundaries around the chaos aren’t thoughtful – I would feel so terrible for a coworker walking around with lemon meringue in their hair after a mid-day pieing – especially if that wasn’t a fun experience for them.

      tl;dr – Leave slapstick to the professionals. I thought the waffle party someone mentioned in the comments was a way chiller way of playing with office power dynamics.

    5. Dek*

      I’ve never really understood what was funny about Designated Pie-In-Face spaces. In media, it’s funny when it’s a surprise or something. If someone’s just sitting there, and you get to shove a tin of whipped cream into their face because This Is Where You Can Do That, and they’re, like, making eye contact the whole time…I don’t get it.

  13. Nebula*

    Really surprised a) that this is a thing b) that Alison herself has specific expertise here (great pic btw) and c) that there is *another* letter on this topic in the related section. Who’d have thought there was so much rich pie-in-the-face content at AAM?

  14. woops*

    i would be very clear – “i will not participate, and if someone assaults me by throwing or hitting me or touching me in any way related to this type of event i will be calling the authorities and pressing charges.

    1. H.Regalis*

      I don’t know that this would actually make it to court, even if they’re doing something that’s technically illegal. It’s such a minor thing in terms of criminal cases. I don’t think LW should have to participate in getting pied in the face, but I don’t think threatening to call the cops is a good way to handle this.

      1. Tio*

        Invoking the cops here is less about “this is a thing I actually think will happen and come true” and more of a shock tactic to show the company 1. that the LW is serious and 2. remind them that this is not ok in other contexts and how different this looks with vs without consent from the party. If the LW did indeed do this, then even fi it got to the point of calling the cops, it’d be less about who went to jail and more about them showing up and ruining the vibe, because even if the cops just left people are gonna be talking about it for ages, and the top management won’t want that.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I’m sorry, this is silly and the cops are not anyone’s personal security squad. There are several ways to make this not happen–don’t show up that day is one; don’t participate is another. Let’s save the police for actual problems.

          1. Prorata*

            Last time I checked, assault is an actual problem. And an unwanted pie in the face qualifies as assault.

            From the Jan 22 1999 New York Times:

            Probably no one who has ever gotten a pie in the face thinks the event was remotely funny. But those who find themselves taking creamy globs out of their eyes rarely, if ever, seek to bring the perpetrators to justice. Some no doubt fear that would only subject them to further ridicule for being humorless. But San Francisco’s Mayor, Willie Brown, had no such qualms when he pressed charges against the Biotic Baking Brigade, a protest group that pied him last November.

            The defendants, known as the Cherry Pie Three, wanted to express their dismay at Mr. Brown’s treatment of homeless people. They were charged with assault on a public official and misdemeanor battery. This week a jury found them guilty of battery — an unwanted touching — which could mean a sentence of up to six months in jail.

            It is easy to dismiss a whipped cream attack as more comedy than crime. But the jury, while not holding the defendants liable for assaulting an official, which would require intent to prevent the Mayor from carrying out his duties, decided that shoving a pie into anyone’s unconsenting face is illegal contact. That is a reasonable judgment.

            Pie-throwing has a long cinematic history, but off the stage or screen it is not behavior that anyone, including the pie-throwers, would want inflicted on himself. The protesters have freedom of speech to ridicule and mock politicians, but pie-hurling is a hostile physical encounter.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Just as an interesting note, the organization I was working for found that if young women threw the pies, we were charged with disorderly conduct.

              Men throwing them were more likely to be charged with assault.

              We were happy to use the patriarchy against itself in this case.

              1. Moose*

                Can I ask a weird question? Why are you saying “the organization” instead of the name? It’s on the pictures you linked elsewhere. Should we also avoid saying it?

          2. H.Regalis*

            Yeah, that’s my take too. This is not a good way to handle this. The police aren’t The Manager you call to arbitrate things. They may not even show up if you call them for this. It’s a ridiculous threat.

          3. Tio*

            If I showed up at an event without agreeing to get pied in the face and I got pied in the face, I would almost certainly call the cops. It’s still assault. It is a problem. Just because a pie may not hurt as much as a punch to the face, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.

              1. Tio*

                Which is still a police problem, and actually can vary by jurisdiction and subjective decision, as Allison mentioned above where the women were charged with disorderly conduct and the men with assault. Not sure what the point of this distinction is.

            1. metadata minion*

              If I did that, I’m pretty sure it would result in me getting laughed at by the cops in addition to by my coworkers, and not make anything better.

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              But that’s not at risk of happening here. This is something that has so far not gone further than someone saying “keep this in mind.” OP has *so* many options to make this not happen.

      2. Lizard the Second*

        But what if you pied the perpetrator back in the face? Would that be assault? Either they both are or neither is.

        1. Tio*

          That’s entirely untrue. It’s literally the entire basis of the concept of self defense.

  15. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    “OK, site manager. You can volunteer me for this, if I can spray you with a fire extinguisher at point-blank range and put up poster-sized photos of it all over the office. Deal?”

    In all seriousness, don’t overthink this. No means no. They can bluster all they want but they lack the authority to force you to do this.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      … please don’t suggest use of fire extinguishers as tools in pranks or humiliation, especially as a comparison point for other bad behavior. Using them on people can have lethal consequences. I think most of use prefer that any nonsense of this sort stays well short of that line.

  16. OMG*

    How about a ticket to eat a slice of pie with your manager? (Or a keto-friendly alternative to pie?) Less assault, more bonding. Same pie.

    1. XF1013*

      Yes! This whole thing strikes me as a waste of pie. Surely sharing pie together would boost everyone’s morale more than humiliating someone with a pie.

      1. Office Plant Queen*

        I think it’s usually an empty pie shell filled with whipped cream, so it’s soft and slightly less likely to stain. But still, I would rather share a pie than pie a manager in the face. Some people do genuinely have fun with this kind of thing, but I don’t think I would even if I were close with my manager or any other managers at my company! I also have embarrassingly bad aim lol

        1. ThatGirl*

          yeah, sometimes it’s just a pie tin full of whipped cream – most people don’t want to waste a perfectly good pie.

      2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        Not to be too pedantic, but usually in these situations, the “pie” is a pie plate filled with whip cream, so you’re not ruining a good pie and there’s less likelihood of inhaling a cherry or being allergic to strawberries, etc.

      3. Safety First*

        A million years ago, my dad was one of two owners of a business. On his birthday, they surprised him with a pie to the face. He is a good sport and a kidder, so it was well received. His associate was … none of those things. So on his birthday, they did not pie him, and instead served pie with a face drawn on it – face in the pie instead of pie in the face!

  17. Zap R.*

    Firstly, I love that you pied Oscar de la Renta.

    Secondly, I hate the “Donate enough and you get to humiliate an authority figure” approach to charity. It’s such a weirdly mean-spirited thing to tack on to something that’s primarily about kindness and community.

  18. Failed manager*

    Hi I was a bad manager. My team would have enjoyed doing this to me. However I am woman in tech/engineering. I would not stop wondering if some of the glee would gone into the realm of misogyny. Public service announcement for HR and leadership, events like this could have a chilling effect of under represented groups wanting to go into leadership or management.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Eugh, yes, especially with (Sorry for the image) the woman’s face covered in a gooey substance.

  19. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    Assaulting your boss – except to certain kinds of people. The whole humiliate your boss as a morale boost is actually pretty telling about the workplace culture. Here is your chance to be violent against your boss.

    1. Ashley*

      If this does happen I hope they put it on their socials and website because it does speak highly of workplace culture. And that is a place I would not want to be.
      This does remind me of a time a group wanted to do paintball as a team building exercise but I had to explain the problems if an unpopular was overly targeted by co-workers. (On top of all the other issues of injuries, gun use, athleticism required, etc.)

  20. No Tribble At All*

    Did you have to practice your pie-throwing skills? Was there a secret, league-of-assassins style training grounds where 20-something women threw pies at moving targets? Did the pie have filling, or was it just cool whip in a graham cracker crust? (Was it a vegan filling since it was an animal rights org?)

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        I just am so amused that it was tofu whipped cream. I appreciate the ethical consistency.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          That is was tofu whipped cream (of course!) is just the non-dairy whipped topping on the whole story.

  21. theothermadeline*

    I think my favorite thing about Alison’s pie picture is that is almost certainly a Hairigami in her hair, and it’s hitting my nostalgia button hard

  22. Bibliothecarial*

    We did the pie in the face at OldJob and it went well – but there were some major differences!
    1. OldJob was a center for adults with learning disabilities. They were the only ones who got to do the pie throwing.
    2. The pies were really whipped cream on a plate.
    3. Most importantly, the managers who cooked up the idea were the ones who got pied. I was technically management but much lower paid and lower hierarchy. They didn’t even ask me cause it would have been a power imbalance. I think some other staff volunteered though because they really like whipped cream.

    What OP is talking about is different. Nobody should be forced to pie at work.

  23. AnonInCanada*

    Whatever happened to making managers wear a funny hat or some tacky costume no one would be caught dead in to raise money for charity? Maybe OP can present that as an option. Because I’m with OP: the only way I want a pie anywhere near my face is if it’s going in my mouth one piece at a time.

  24. Taura*

    People are throwing actual pies?! Not just filling an aluminum pie tin with whipped cream and throwing that?!

    I wouldn’t be on board with pie throwing regardless but at least disposable pie tin full of whipped cream is less likely to do actual damage.

  25. H.Regalis*

    You don’t sound childish, but site manager may call you every name in the book to get you to go along with this. Be prepared for that.

    However, as you said, they’re not your boss, and you said both that your actual boss has your back and you’re willing to leave over this, so the site manager doesn’t have a stick to poke you with.

  26. IveBeenaWalk*

    WAIT are USA pie-in-face events usually real pie? In the UK these are usually just a load of shaving foam on a plate – which I personally would still not want to participate in, but is a lot less gross than what seems to be being suggested here.

    1. Phony Genius*

      Yes, the one time I ever saw a pie-in-the-face event for charity, the pies were made with shaving cream, which made cleanup much easier. If they’re using any food product, they’re doing it wrong. (And I once saw a baseball player get hit with an apple pie in celebration after winning a game.)

      (None of this information is intended to change any of the advice above.)

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I’m in the US and the few times I’ve seen a pie-in-the-face events, it’s been either whipped cream or shaving cream in a disposable pie tin (those flexible metal ones).

    3. LW*

      I’ve never had the misfortune to participate but I have major squick about getting certain things on me or in my hair. Even a plate of whipped cream or shaving cream would cross that line for me, on top of someone throwing it or smashing it in my face. I think I’ve seen mostly whipped cream on some form of crust or pie tin, but I’ve never been into this sort of thing.

  27. SparklingBlue*

    If this was Nickelodeon, this would make sense, but in a typical office? Just no.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      If I recall properly, it’d be gunky chunky green slop, not pie….

      No seriously, was there actual pie-slinging in the era of “YCDTOT” through about “DD” on Nickelodeon, because I honestly do not remember!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah there was several DD challenges involved pie throwing (pretty sure that was the whipped cream in a pie tin variety)

    2. SparklingBlue*

      What Would You Do? was also famous for finding any and every reason to hit someone with a pie, and Wild and Crazy Kids involved more than a few games featuring pies.

  28. Veryanon*

    There are so many better ways to boost morale. Managers need to remember that they are employees too, and it’s never okay to force one of your employees to be publicly humiliated as part of their job.

  29. Lark*

    The whole point of pieing someone in the face as a political gesture is that it is uncomfortable, embarrassing and just generally throws business off. This does not strike me as a good set of goals for building morale at the office.

    In a weird way it reminds me of that whole sit-com “ha ha of course husbands and wives hate each other SO MUCH but that’s not a PROBLEM it’s just NORMAL to live with someone you hate” trope. It’s not normal – if work is so horrible or a manager is so abusive that it’s funny to see them get messed up and humiliated, then it’s union time, not company-sponsored-pie time. It just feels like a way to normalize the idea that work is awful and everyone resents their manager and that’s just an unchangeable truth.

  30. MissBliss*

    I’ve done a pie-ing fundraiser at work and we have pie-ing as a major carnival prize at the summer camp I volunteer with. In both cases, the pie-ees identify themselves; no one is forced to do it. LW is right that it’s kind of gross and you want to be able to shower right away.

  31. HigherEd Boundaries*

    I’ve been pied in the face at work. I work in higher education, and it was a fundraiser for our culturally-based fraternities and sororities. I volunteered to do it because I knew many students would have loved to pie me in the face and help raise a lot of money, which it did. But it was my choice to do it. We took precautions, I wore goggles, a shower cap and a rain poncho. I still ended up with whipped cream in my hair and had to use a shower at the rec center to get everything out.

    1. Kc*

      Ha, must be a Higher Ed thing! I’ve been pied in the face many times by a student (just whipped cream in a pie pan, done by someone who knew not to hit too hard) and I think it’s a lot of fun. But I also don’t take myself very seriously and it would be AWFUL to have this happen if I wasn’t the one instigating the whole thing.

  32. Hiring Mgr*

    I actually think this would be fun, and have done a dunk tank thing myself, but of course that’s assuming everyone participating is completely on board with it.

  33. theletter*

    I’m struggling a little bit with the idea of a donation drive with a reward of exacting revenge – what or who is exactly benefitting from this drive?

    If the company wants to raise money for a cause, usually the cause leaders in that cause have specific and fun ways to accomplish that (like cookies! Or corporate fun runs!).

    If the company wants to use a cause as a team building event, then they should look at corporate group volunteering opportunities. There’s plenty of help-build-a-house/clean-a-park/pack-and-organize-shipment events that could easily accomplish this.

    1. ccsquared*

      It sounds like it’s a donation drive, but they are just collecting donations in different bins. I’ve seen this done before as a contest between floors or teams, so as long as they’re collecting items and delivering them according to the organization’s instructions, it’s probably fine. When companies I’ve worked at have done a contest like this, though, it’s typically a fun treat for the winning team, not which manager you want to see pied in the face.

  34. Observer*

    But public protest intended to result in criminal charges, which it did, is a very different thing than a workplace team-builder

    Ya think?!?

    Alison, thanks for calling this out. The site manager is framing is as “fun”, but the fact is that it’s not fun, and it is not *intended* to be “fun” for the person getting the pie in their face.

    LW, you have a lot of leverage here. This guy is not your manager, so you can just say no. And then refuse to discuss it with him any further. Now, if you didn’t have a great track record or your boss were the type to not have your back, you might still wind up with some pressure. But under the circumstances, it’s hard to believe that your boss is going to try to make you do this.

  35. Thomas*

    This is “No is a complete sentence” territory. You don’t need to justify not wanting a pie in the face.

    That said, surely *of course* anywhere doing this has a shower for cleanup.

    1. LW*

      No is a complete sentence and one I repeat all too often. We also work in a place devoid of any kind of public showers (such as gyms, etc) and do not have a shower on location. I’ve checked the gym situation before for lunchtime workouts. So it just feels like one of those things.

      1. catsforbrains*

        If this turns out to be completely unavoidable, would it be possible to ask to be pied with shaving cream instead of pie or whipped cream? It’s equally messy but cleans up much, MUCH easier. You’ll be able to smell it but at least you won’t be sticky and greasy for the rest of the day.

        1. LW*

          It is a kind idea and I will recommend this if/when it continues to come up. I, however, will quit then and there if the choice is being pied or being pied (shaving cream version). I also have some scent sensitivities so I’d prefer not to. I’m willing to die on a couple of hills and this is one of them!

  36. Medico*

    Yeah, no, absolutely something that no good manager would encourage and I don’t think you’d be alone in not wanting to participate.

    Showing my vintage somewhat, this all reminds me of a story from Skippy’s List where he was ordered to provide a pie for people to bid on (iirc) to pie an officer with as part of a Mandatory Fun exercise. He went and bought a whole frozen squid, put it in a pie dish, covered it with cream, and told the person in charge of the auction about it. Apparently it was a hotly bid upon pie.

  37. Alice Simpson*

    I hate the food waste as much as anything.

    I always thought locking managers in ‘jail’ and then they have to fundraise to make their bail was an OK option. ‘Jail’ is usually just a boardroom or something – perhaps with some cutout bars on the door for authenticity.

    1. UKDancer*

      One company I worked in had a really good one where a fairly visible and reasonably well liked senior manager was “murdered” and we were put in teams to investigate who did it, look at the clues and question the “suspects” who were some of the other senior managers. The team with the best solution won a box of Quality Street. It was one of the better team activities I’ve done. Some fun at management’s expense but nobody got humiliated.

  38. Astronaut Barbie*

    Not only do you have a right to no be pied in the face in front of coworkers, but think about the people who would post it on social media. I think you have double the right not to let this be put out there publicly for internet eternity!

  39. Pitt & Penguins*

    Uh, do we not agree to this contest, and then rig the results so that the Site Manager wins? You think pie in the face is funny, you get pie in the face!

  40. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    I think lobbing foodstuffs at despicable people (there’s a fine tradition in the UK for politicians getting pelted) is legally off but morally ok with me.

    But at work? Nahh. Even if you think your manager is a collosal dingbat with the brains of an orange cat you don’t get to hurl stuff at them. Abuse isn’t team building. It’s hazing.

    1. Good Enough For Government Work*

      All of this. A painless public humiliation for morally terrible public figures? By all means!

      In the workplace? HELL NO

  41. SALC*

    As a fun morale booster I had a team where once a year they put on a waffle breakfast after the all-hands meeting and the managers had to do the work so you had some managers running the waffle irons and making sure toppings are restocked appropriately.

    It was fun to see the managers doing something nice and a different way of taking care of people, taking it seriously or being silly if they want (one or two finding the most ridiculous apron they could manage) and there were enough managers that they could do different jobs so they didn’t HAVE to actually cook and serve food if they’re not comfortable with it.

    Morale boosters can be fun for everyone and not encourage being mean to managers. If the company really wants to boost morale they can have the lender and C-suite volunteer to get pied.

    1. Michelle Smith*

      Oh I actually love this breakfast idea! It seems like a wholesome activity and it would be easy for me to opt out of eating the food if I didn’t feel like taking extra medication that day to make it work. Even if I were in the manager shoes, I could definitely restock and it wouldn’t require me to learn how to make waffles (a food I don’t normally eat). I could see this going over extremely well at my workplace.

    2. LW*

      We frequently serve at holiday meals and other events for appreciation, and as much as I hate doing food service (I did my time!!!) I will always try to take a shift to participate in something like that. I would never say it’s fun for me, but I also get why some people like it or find it meaningful.

      1. The teapots are on fire*

        I was going to suggest something more like this, but if you already do that, it seems like you’re doing your part to be team-y. You could write some alternative activity on your box if you want to, (like “LW brings you coffee every day for a week”) if you WANT to support the drive in a way that’s not awful for you, but I fully support your right to decline to be assaulted with sticky pastry and nope out of the whole thing. Some parties NEED to be pooped.

        If you DID put an alternative on your box, it would be interesting to see if your box raised more funds than the pie-face boxes.

        1. LW*

          Not a terrible idea, doing something not humiliating but engaging all the same. This workplace and the industry as a whole has a very warped way of treating managers/salaried employees with regards to expectations for our time and existence. Unfortunately for everyone around me, I don’t exist to serve my job, my job exists to fund my pets’ lavish lives.

    3. Our Business Is Rejoicing*

      My former employer did this for many years (except it was pancakes) for our United Way kickoff event. For $5 to United Way, you got to eat your fill of usually six or seven different varieties of pancakes cooked by our CEO and other senior management (usually with assistance from some of their staff). It was always a hit. You voted at the end for whose you liked best, and that $5 plastic trophy was highly coveted by the winner.

  42. Your Social Work Friend*

    Work places I have seen this successfully done: elementary school and a volunteer organization.

    This feels a little strange to me in this context. I’ve done it at my job where the kids raise money and get to pie a volunteering staff members . . . because throwing a pie tin of whipped cream at a teacher is something kids like. I’ve done it to friends for charity, but I would have been appalled if they were pressured into it. I can’t imagine wanting to do it to my boss (most days).

    No is a complete sentence.

  43. Czhorat*

    I somehow didn’t expect the closing lines of this one; way to go Alison!

    On topic, this is the old saw about “laughing with” vs “laughing at” – if you aren’t laughing about getting pied in the face, then they’re laughing AT you, not with you. That’s not OK on the job. “Other duties as assigned” is “answer the office phone” or “quality check the budget report” not “get publicly humiliated/assaulted at a carnival”/

  44. Elodie*

    Not about the letter, but it gave me a giggle to think that if the “You may also like…” links were selected automatically vs. manually, the second link was probably picked for the word magpie.

    1. Czhorat*

      I didn’t click the link, but I choose to believe that the coworker in question is a literal bird.

      Please do not tell me otherwise.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        You need to read the Wayward Children series that Alison mentioned a while back, if you haven’t already. Somebody in it has a boss that is a literal magpie.

  45. Small mind*

    Why don’t companies get it – to boost morale, don’t give people enforced fun. Give people more time off.

    1. Czhorat*

      This is something we’ve talked about before, and there IS an argument for team-building experiences over money; a few extra dollars will often be forgotten in the long-run, while a well-run (or spectactuarly poorly run) event can create a memory and a connection.

      Is it one-size fits all? No. Does it sometimes work?


      1. Small mind*

        A few extra dollars might be forgotten, but perhaps you should consider renumerating your staff correctly and giving them benefits. Trust me, they’ll remember that fondly. Dare I say, renumeration is certainly a better ‘memory’ or ‘connection’ than a day of enforced fun.

      2. metadata minion*

        This works best, I think, in situations where people are already being paid well. If I can make a good salary at company A or B, and the job duties and such are also analogous, heck yeah I’m going to pick the one with board game nights. I like my coworkers! I like doing stuff with them so long as it’s not mandatory.

    2. LW*

      You speak my language. I always say people only want money and time off because, well, I only want money and time off. What most people find “fun” is not for me. I don’t make people do things I think are “fun”. That street does not always go two ways, though it should.

  46. Jamtoday*

    My kiddo’s preschool had a “pie the school director” booth at their end of year carnival. Only students could throw pies. It was a big hit because it’s humor level matches that of a 3-5 year old. I cannot imagine this happening in a professional workplace.

  47. Michelle Smith*

    Might I suggest you reconsider your letter? Is it truly childish to not want to have pie in your face? Or is it childish to insist someone participate in that activity against their will? I’d argue it’s much more the latter than the former.

    1. LW*

      That’s a fair stance, thank you. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out if I’m being the reasonable one or not.

  48. Constance Lloyd*

    For what it’s worth, injuries which occur as the result of an overzealous, work sanctioned, pie to face incident can open the company up to potential worker’s comp liability in the US. In case your simple “No” isn’t respected and you would like to push back with another angle.

    1. actual cat herder*

      also, you don’t know which employees are already struggling with disability – a surprise pie to the face would probably cause me to melt down and have to go home for the day, that’s not even taking into account my very physical neck injury that could get aggravated – and i’m one person. many people do not disclose disability at work.

      1. Constance Lloyd*

        Yes! And to be clear, a simple No should be enough, no explanation needed. But when bosses make it clear they don’t care about people, sometimes you can get them to back off by making them care about money.

  49. NotBatman*

    And my admiration for Alison Green grew three sizes that day.

    What an awesome act of self-sacrifice in the name of a public good. We should all have that level of chutzpah.

  50. A Teacher*

    I teach high school and was at an assembly in front of the entire student body when they announced the teachers that had been chosen from all the votes to get a pie in the face. None of us had been asked (football coach, basketball coach, popular English Teacher, myself and a few others). We all played along and then said the admin team later “WTF” you need to check with us prior to pulling this crap. It hasn’t been done again to staff. I would not volunteer for it either.

  51. Jules the 3rd*

    Your site manager is trying to run a power trip. If they persist, reminding them that there are potential HR and legal implications is the right way to go. Bullies can be deflected by reminding them of actual consequences from bigger authorities.

    And I say this as someone who was voluntarily pie’d and thought it was hilarious. You do not have to do anything so far outside the norms unless you want to.

    1. LW*

      I do plan to keep putting my foot down. One would think most people would find higher authorities intimidating, but I’ve had to stand my ground on some absolutely absurd ideas before and will continue to do so. This one made me feel crazy because it felt so “small” compared to the other things I deemed worthy of throwing the gauntlet.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        It’s not small, it’s personal.

        The site manager is trying to force you into something that involves contact and reduction of your professional demeanor. That makes it extra ‘fun’ for them, and extra painful for you.

        Good for you on holding firm. Invoking authority is just one tactic to make it less fun for them and end the pushing faster.

        I’m currently guiding my teenager through ‘jokes that really don’t hurt someone’, like Gen X me using Gen Alpha slang at him, or his regular rick rolls. This has required a lot of thought about what *does* hurt people, and why anyone would play the hurtful jokes. The main things we’ve come up with are thoughtlessness or power trip / dominance / enhancing social status at the cost of someone else. The pie’ing reeks of power trip.

  52. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    Not that I’d ever *want* to pie someone in the face, but if I participated in something that I thought was in the spirit of fun for everyone and it turned out not to be, I’d be horrified.

  53. RogueTrainer*

    Both pie-in-the-face events I did were in college or grad school- one was Pie A CA, with willing participants, to raise money for charity, and one was Pie A Professor, also with willing participants. The second also had a dunk tank with professors, grad students, and undergrads, all volunteers. It was planned in advance, emails went out requesting participants, and it was $1 a turn, not a pre-planned box-stuffing campaign to make it obvious who people wanted to humiliate. It was fun, but both events were also not work day events; they were end-of-semester things, after grades were mostly final and where participants could also leave and change and wash up and not have to GO BACK TO WORK right after. I can’t imagine having that kind of event at my current job, even with a relatively relaxed atmosphere. It would not feel right or safe to Pie a VP or my supervisor, because even in good fun, they control things like my evaluations and raises. I wouldn’t want to participate, period, even as someone being invited to throw a pie or witness it.

  54. Householder*

    I’m uncertain why something actually designed to undermine mutual respect and dignity is supposed to boost morale. That any employee would participate and that an unwilling manager would feel pressured to be on the receiving end makes me kind of sad for both.

    1. Future*

      If done right, the person getting pied is a well-liked and/or respected superior and is enthusiastically volunteering for a bit of fun and steam-blowing-off. It’s not humiliating if it’s done in a spirit of fun and consent for all parties; it can build trust between a superior and their underlings because they know the superior doesn’t take themselves too seriously, is willing to put themselves in a “ridiculous” position, etc.

      But it absolutely must be voluntary and the right dynamic, and it’s eminently reasonable for someone not to want it done for any reason. What’s happening here is gross.

    2. Pita Chips*

      The comments appear to be evenly split on whether it is or can be fun.

      I’m happy that I see so many people saying that nobody should be forced into this.

  55. BellyButton*

    I hate things like this. I would never participate in either side. I don’t find it funny or fun or even silly. What’s next are they going to ask all the admins to raise money with a kissing booth?? It is all very outdated. They can do better.

  56. LW*

    Thanks all for the kind words and support. As nice as it would be for this to be “forgotten” I wrote this knowing that this person remembers things like this and will constantly follow up on them. If it does wind up happening I will probably just need to plan some tactical time off, since I have enough anxiety about getting stealth pied anyway because I’m the fun police. I really appreciate knowing I’m not off on this one, though!

    1. AClownsWheelhouse*

      Having anxiety around this doesn’t make you the “fun police.” Take it from someone who loves this stuff and has willingly been pied: I am totally on your side.

      1. LW*

        I appreciate that very much. My fun police remark is very much related to my actual work, hence why I know there would be motive to introduce my face to the pie tin.

  57. Terry B*

    No. Assaulting someone to get publicity for your political views is not OK. Not regretting it reveals something about you, not about your actions.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thank you, I am proud of what standing up for animals without a voice, and being willing to take the legal consequences, says about me.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        I respect those who stand up for what they believe in and are willing to take the consequences for their acts.


        1. Constance Lloyd*

          Some people seem to discuss “getting publicity for your political views” as if it’s akin to cheering for a sports team rather than advocating for life changing policy reform. Baffling.

      2. 3.14+*

        I realize it’s just a pie or whipped cream but I’d still be worried people could get unintentionally injured – it’s still a projectile, and who knows if the security team would overreact, someone tries to duck and trips and falls etc..

  58. Who But Jason*

    “The site manager recently asked me to keep an idea on the books for sometime later this year…I am looking to move on due to this site manager, as I just truly don’t believe our leadership styles are compatible. I have stayed to protect my team and finish out a few critical tasks while I job search”

    I mean, it kind of sounds like this situation is already 90 percent solved? It’s something that *may* happen in the future (and who knows what might change between now and then, in terms of this idea) *and* you’re planning to move on before then anyway. So why expend mental energy worrying about it? What’s the worst that can happen–your boss physically restrains you whiles someone hits you with a pie? That’s definitely kidnapping and assault, then. And also is crazy because it wouldn’t happen. So stop worrying about it and instead focus on doing what you’ve already been doing–job hunting.

    1. LW*

      I worry because this person does not let things go, and it will not just float away into the void. My area of work also is one that has a very tough job market right now, and I’m trying to shift out of this industry, so I tend to be cautious when it comes to estimating time.

      1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

        LW, it is perfectly reasonable to choose not to get hit in the face by an object. Repeat this to yourself as often as needed. Even if you know something is coming (e.g., eyedrops from an opthalmologist), you are still going to have an unpleasant physical reaction. Your body literally wants to protect itself and will respond accordingly.

        Do not let this manager warp societal norms. I’m not a lawyer but it would be interesting to see what protections you might have and keep that in mind.

        Please update us.

  59. UpstateDownstate*

    That pie in the face photo is the best!

    Many moons ago I worked for an art dealer who had a terrible reputation. While walking back to work from a fancy lunch he was ‘pie’d’ by a disgruntled client.

    He wasn’t fazed at all and just kept walking. With pie all over his Hermes jacket. Love it!

    1. La Triviata*

      I heard a story about an ad manager who had a notoriously foul temper and one artist, before venturing into his office, would toss in a steak. In the general direction of his desk, so no assault or physical damage.

  60. Katerina*

    As a Cub Scout, my nephew refused to take part in a “Pie Your Den Leader” event even though he had made enough money in the fundraiser to be eligible. He found the activity mean and disrespectful to his very kind leader who gave so much to the scouts. I wish more adults had his wisdom and empathy.

  61. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m reminded of Butch’s girlfriend in Pulp Fiction who said something like “any time is a good time for pie”. That would be a great catchprase as you’re about to launch the pie at the target.

  62. AClownsWheelhouse*

    I’ve performed as a clown and (happily) been pied in the face in front of large audiences. Favorite thing I’ve ever done. But I hate hate HATE the premise of these office fundraisers, or any other scenario where there is not enthusiastic consent.

    A pie in the face is humiliation. That’s the whole point of it. And being that can be a huge emotional ask for anyone in any setting, but especially when office dynamics are involved.

    Being laughed *at* also hits very differently if you have insecurities, a history of being bullied, or are part of a marginalized group. I had a Black boss who thankfully flat-out said no to the “mandatory” management participation in our office’s event; they didn’t give a reason, but the fact they would’ve been forced to do this for the entertainment of an entirely white audience wasn’t lost on me.

    Yes, it can also be entirely joyful. There are a lot of folks who’ve always secretly wanted to be pied, or have no issue with looking foolish in front of others, so for them it’s all in good fun.

    But that needs to be a choice. Nobody is wrong or overreacting to have a visceral panicked reaction to being told they’re expected to do this.

    If anyone reading this DOES get roped into holding these types of events, my advice:
    -Approach potential participants individually before announcing anything and get their take on it. If even the most affable colleagues are reluctant, just scrap it.
    -Don’t volun-tell or force anyone. Aside from the obvious reasons, it will be very clear day-of that they’re not having a good time, and that isn’t fun for everyone else to watch.
    -You don’t need to pie every manager. If it’s a “who will get pied” competition, you only need 2 willing participants to create a faux rivalry.
    -I’m a big fan of using shaving cream (non-menthol) because it dries immediately and stays where you put it. No splatters, no drips, no stains. 10 minutes later, you’re as good as new.
    -If you’re using whipped cream on a plate, shake the can well and don’t dispense it until right beforehand because it will melt.
    -If you’re using a real pie, lemon meringue does not stick and chocolate of any sort is not worth the cleanup.
    -If you’re using ponchos and goggles, that’s great, but nobody ever remembers to cover SHOES. Or just take them off.
    -If you’re not using shaving cream, pie is going to get everywhere behind and beside the victim. You’d be amazed how far it can travel. Prepare accordingly.
    -Safety isn’t talked about enough. People throwing the pies get excited in the moment and use more force than necessary. Nobody should use more than their fingertips to shove it into someone’s face.
    -And if you’re the person on the receiving end: the way most people deliver a pie, it will go up your nose, I guarantee it.

  63. Looper*

    As an employee who has been subjected to witnessing this sort of thing at multiple companies and organizations: this does nothing to boost morale and actually makes it worse.
    These types of activities highlight the office cliqués, waste an inordinate amount of time both in the lead up and the day of the event, and are generally annoying to everyone but the one team whose manager came up with the idea in the first place.
    LW, I strongly support you doing whatever you can to spare yourself from this pointless experience.

  64. MicroManagered*

    I love how Alison drops “one time I hit Oscar de la Renta in the face with a pie to protest animal abuse” like it’s no big thing. Made my day!!

  65. Andre*

    As a corporate event planner, I get all sorts of requests especially for employee engagement events…. bowling events, picnics, scavenger hunts and so forth. I tend to stay away from things that have an obvious potential for liability which, for me, pies to the face do. I’ll admit it’s fun to watch for some reason but I’m not sure I’d agree that it has a place in a corporate setting. I’d side with the original poster who didn’t want to be involved with it – no one should force anyone to participate in a way that makes them cringe. I also noticed someone talking about leadership serving breakfast – that’s a really good one. I like pie baking contests and Hween costume contests … those tend to get good engagement and you don’t need everyone to participate to make it a fun event.

  66. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    I took a break from a stressful workload, hoping to find something “outrageous” on Ask a Manager. This letter exceeded my expectations. Good lord, I would despise doing such a thing. I’m still traumatized by dodgeball in elementary school and I’m in my 50s.

    1. LW*

      I’m sorry the workload is stressful today, but at least the absurdity of my day-to-day awaited you. Solidarity in our despising Mandatory Fun!

  67. I wanna hearrrrrrr the story!*

    Ok Alison, you must tell the story of pieing Oscar de la Renta in the face!!!

  68. Abogado Avocado*

    Wow! Humiliating employees with what amounts to assault is team-building? Since when?

    Once upon a time I read books about the great team atmosphere at Southwest Airlines. Preparing breakfast for new team members? Cross-training employees at everything but being a pilot? A company-wide Halloween Party at their Love Field offices? Yes, yes, and yes. Pie-ing employees in the face? No.

    LW, this other manager is a bully who gets his jollies humiliating people. You are right to say, no, you won’t put up with his nonsense.

    1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

      I’m glad you used the term “assault” because that’s exactly what it’s going to feel like to the physical body, even if one has consented, i.e., been steamrolled.

      1. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

        FWIW it’s a pleasant rush to the body which has consented enthusiastically. Like so many things.

  69. ReallyBadPerson*

    This is so horrible I can’t believe it’s a thing outside of a school carnival or some other event where people volunteer to be pied or dunked. I would just nope right out of being assaulted at my workplace. Surely it isn’t in your job description and they can’t fire you for not letting someone hurt/humiliate you?

    1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

      Yeah, I would really start digging into federal (or nationwide; not sure where LW is) and local employment protections. This is bananas.

    2. LW*

      I don’t think one could be fired for this, per se, but the environment is very political. Being a non participant or buzzkill even about stupid little things can create problems. I exist professionally to be the buzzkill and the confidence in the enjoyment of this is what made me question my grip on reality lol. I do have plans to put my foot down on making it opt in, I just wanted a reality check to make sure I’m not crazy for thinking opt in was normal.

      1. HonorBox*

        LW, I think I’d mention that there are safety concerns. Someone could unintentionally get a bit aggressive, and then the workplace has a weird workman’s comp claim to deal with.

        1. LW*

          I will certainly be detailing the risks; I’m very aware of them. There have been previous interactions due to my role that had me primed for knowing that even citing logical things like safety or the law does not always work and I just have to really put a hard no on things to keep things from happening. I was having a hard time because I started questioning if it was actually that serious, y’know?

          1. Really?*

            Do you have an HR department? Can’t believe they would sanction something like this! Just thinking of all the risks makes me cringe.

        2. Anne Shirley Blythe*

          Absolutely true. This made me recall a “silly string in the eye” incident at a former employer after a CEO change. The new CEO loved “team-building” exercises and “energetic and enthusiastic” employees. :/

          1. Nightengale*

            I had an asthma episode from a medical school professor spraying silly string at students in the first few rows. . . .fortunately my reaction was 10 minutes of coughing and not anything more serious.

  70. Raisin Walking to the Moon*

    At my school, pie-ing for charity is opt-in and we have enough enthusiastic participants that it’s always a successful event. People who don’t opt-in may have a dairy allergy, a religious aversion to cow products, a personal aversion to animal products, skin sensitivity, or they just don’t want to get dirty in general or specifically at work.
    Definitely push back on mandatory or opt-out scenarios!

  71. Orora*

    “No, we’re not going to require employees to be struck in the face — assaulted — against their will.”

    This is the line for me — it’s assault. If you wouldn’t expect your employees to take a punch or a slap or a kick (and YOU SHOULDN’T), don’t expect them to take a pie in the face.

    WTF is wrong with this site manager?

  72. HonorBox*

    This is something that sounds absolutely awful. I’d agree wholeheartedly that something like this should be opt-in. And by the sounds of it, anyone who contributes to that manager’s donation box gets a ticket. So it isn’t just a single pie in the face, but could be many. There’s the issue of stickiness and cleanliness, but also an issue with safety. What if an employee, even unintentionally, gets a little aggressive and hurts a manager? A tooth could get cracked, someone could end up with some type of eye trauma, a nose could get broken. So there’s a safety issue in play too.

    I’ve seen schools do this with the principal or teachers opting in. But kids love that kind of stuff. Are employees going to get a charge out of donating just so they can pie a manager? Probably not the right ones…

    It reminds me of a convenience store that I stopped at regularly in the morning to get coffee. There were signs up from time to time asking customers to help them reach their goal of selling ________ items (cookies, sandwiches, etc.) and then their reward was their manager being pied or having to dress up. I constantly thought, “I don’t care one single bit if you meet an arbitrary goal and certainly don’t care that the manager has to do something to pay it off.

  73. Chirpy*

    From the employee side: a former manager was all gung ho for pieing managers in the face as a “reward” for employees. (I have no idea what the other managers thought about it, but it seems telling that they never did it again after he left.) I always felt really, really uncomfortable about the whole thing and actually actively tried to do poorly on the metric they were using to determine the “winner” so I wouldn’t have to do it.

    Like, it’s one thing if the person is promoting it for themselves to get pied for charity (and honestly, I still wouldn’t participate, I don’t like the idea of smashing something in anyone’s face) but anything physical/ embarrassing like that that isn’t 100% welcome by the recipient should just be a very hard no.

  74. TKC*

    I was on an AmeriCorps team that worked in a school right out of college. We had a Pi Day event that included a lot of pie, and a game where kids got to pick the member of our team who got pied (the kids widely loved us, so it was all in fun. It was more fun than it sounds typing it out).

    One of my teammates really didn’t want to. So she just… didn’t get on stage so nobody cheered for her and she was not at risk of pie-ing. It simply wasn’t that hard to get buy-in from people who didn’t mind and give the people who did an easy out.

    The fact that a bunch of early-career twenty year olds figured this out without drama, but this actual professional workplace can’t is kind of amazing.

  75. Person from the Resume*

    There are many things wrong with this. In order to get a lot of money, donations, etc the person getting pied needs to be well-known usually in position of power. And it might be good-natured (as if joking with friends) but it can also just be plain mean, vindictive, sticking it to the boss, the mean teacher, etc.

    I encourages a us against them mentality and employees getting revenge by a pie in the face. It’s a terrible idea as a fundraiser in any context but especially work.

  76. Anonforthis12131415*

    This happened to me as well! I can’t remember all of them, but in addition to pie, was also expected to shared intimate details of my childhood for a “know your management team” trivia game and was put in the running to wear an elf suit. No one ever asked if I wanted to participate.

    Turns out, “No,” is indeed a complete sentence – even in a house of bananapants bees where the expectation was that management should “take one for the team” regardless – apparently the desire to not be assaulted with pie is expected to disappear when taking on a management role? (It does not.)

    Stay strong, OP!

    1. TheBunny*

      In their defense (and I’m more joking here than anything) did they really need to ask to have a pretty good idea as to the consensus on the elf suit?

  77. Bunny*

    I am autistic and I hate these things. I don’t the noise, the chaos, the fury that will come out (and I work with chaos, noise, and fury for a living; why do you want MORE) and I don’t like being accused of not being a team player when I don’t want to do these things. If you want to show appreciation, please pay people real money or give them time off or something they want.

    I’m a manager now, and have my own team, and I tell them it’s ok to do their work and go home and they are fabulous for just doing that, thanks for everything, here is your vacation.

    1. LW*

      Agreed, completely. I do a lot for the broader team that is work relevant and meaningful. Getting humiliated for the enjoyment of others is not that. I’ve made almost my entirely management philosophy off of the idea that I will not do to my team the things that were done to me. Turns out you can be very productive as a team when you just focus on the work, approve time off when it’s requested as often as you can, and support people where they need you. I’m generally not a team building activities type outside of treating people to birthday lunch with the group.

  78. Court*

    I actually did participate in a pie-in-your-face activity (with whipped cream only) as part of a past job. Several important distinctions here, though:
    –we worked in a school and this was for a family fun fest
    –every pie-ee opted in
    –the pie-ers were kids (with the pie-ee being the primary driver of the pie plate on their own face, to avoid any over-enthusiasm or questionable motor skills)
    –it was outdoors with t-shirts worn
    –despite these mitigating factors, we decided against repeating the concept because whipped cream on a sunny July day got REAL gross. Even the slime version the next year wasn’t as bad. And pro-tip: if you also have a dunk tank, any dunking should happen before anyone is pied or no one is gonna want to get in that water…

  79. Anita Brake*

    I am an elementary school teacher in a public school, and even for a fundraiser I would NEVER agree to be pied in the face. Heck, I wouldn’t even do a dunk tank! For me there’s just this undertone of ridiculing people, and I just can’t get behind that. Nope. Nada. Not happening. Stand strong!

  80. Dawn*

    I have a slight tweak to this concept.

    You can still hold the drive, but the site manager who suggested this is the only name in the draw; they get one pie per X dollars donated.

    I bet you’d crush past drives handily.

  81. not a team player*

    They tried this where i once worked. The plan fell apart when i told them that anyone hitting me with an object would have an arrest warrant for assault placed against them, and that would not be a morale booster.

  82. TheBunny*

    OP…do you work at a literal circus? Dunk tanks? Pies to the face…what time are the clowns showing up? Wait. They arrived with the people who thought up this idea.

    I would have been out at dunk tank. This being your line isn’t even a little unreasonable.

  83. Working Class Lady*

    Honestly, this doesn’t really sit well with me, for many of the reasons listed above (having to work then drive / take public transport home with sticky hair & face, gluten/nut/dairy allergies, skin or eye issues, etc).

    I just don’t like the idea. It feels icky, even at the end of the day. Why not have people volunteer to make or bring pies or cookies for a bake sale instead as a fundraiser?

  84. 1 Non Blone*

    As someone who has both been pied and pied others as an event at work, I agree that you shouldn’t do it. While my piecing was relatively innocuous, my boss got pied so much that he had to go in for ear problems because so much whip cream had been absolutely smashed into his ear canal.

  85. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    Forcing employees to be publicly humiliated is terrible from both a moral and morale standpoint. And that’s before you get into the fact that some of us were bullied as children and could go into fight-or-flight mode when publicly humiliated. I have a few suggestions as to exactly where this site manager should put his donation box, but they would probably get this comment deleted.

    On another note, Alison, that photo of you post-pie throw is *incredible*. In keeping with today’s topic, I sincerely hope it’s displayed prominently on your wall!

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