1. Friends,
    Lately I’ve been feeling bitter at work, and perhaps you all will offer some insight. I know this makes me sound like a “fun vacuum,” but I feel resentful when others in my department are thrown bridal/baby showers, birthday parties, given cards for deaths in the family, etc. When I was married earlier this year, a boss gave me a lovely picture frame. I thought that was the kindest gesture. When a male coworker got married last month, there was an entire departmental party for him during the workday – we were even given an hour off to attend, and asked (in several emails) to contribute to a gift card and decorations! This person is a friend of mine, and I don’t harbor ill will toward him, but I can’t help feeling jealous. An older coworker’s grandmother passed last week. Today, a sympathy card was passed around for her. My grandfather passed on a month or so ago, and nothing was said.

    I get along well with my coworkers, and I’ve never felt this was an intentional slight. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose milestones have been ignored. In the past, I’ve worked for companies where the policy was all or nothing (everyone gets a party/card, or no one gets a party/card). I prefer that policy. But I work here now. What is a professional way to handle this?
    I wish we could acknowledge everyone’s moments in a similar way, so no one is left out.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      I don’t blame you for feeling slighted. Unfortunately many bosses are inconsiderate when it comes to treating all their employees equally. I think work parties should be avoided in general because parties shouldn’t be part of the work day. I also think collective work gifts should be avoided, with the exception perhaps of when a family member of an employee dies or an employee is very sick then collections can be made for flowers. In those cases it should be purely voluntary with no request for donations. The bottom line is an employer shouldn’t create a precedence that he won’t be able to follow through with.

      As to what you should do about it, there’s really not much. You shouldn’t feel pressured to participate in work parties. You can always say you have work to do. Remember this for when you move up in the company so you can do better than your predecessor.

      • Thank you for commenting. I think work parties should be avoided in general because parties shouldn’t be part of the work day. I couldn’t agree more.

        My immediate boss is a quiet man who never participates in work parties, nor does he force me to do it (I avoid baby showers). Others in the department, however, will say things like, “You didn’t want to help make decorations for Sally’s party?” or in emails, “Not many people have contributed to Joe’s gift card. Remember to get your money to Jane so that she can purchase it before the party.”

        • Country Girl

          I completely agree that an “all or nothing” approach is best.

          A few weeks ago we had a rough week in our office and two coworkers lost immediate family members. Everyone in the office signed a card for employee 1 and our boss even sent an email saying ” (Office Manager) has just generously provided (employee 1 who lost her brother) with $260 worth of groceries and I feel we all need to chip in. I will take up collections and bring them to (office manager).” He even included employee 2 in the CC.. who had just lost his sister! When I asked other collegues what if anything was being done for employee 2 everyone seemed bewildered and their answer was “Well he is in a different place in his life.” or “He doesn’t need it as much as she does.” the whole thing was very strange to me and I certainly didn’t feel comfortable contributing what I could to a large gift that had already been given. (Here’s my $5 to donate to Office Manager, who chose to give a really expensive gift on her own..?)

          I wanted to have a chat with my boss asking him if we did something for one person if it could be done for all to keep some fairness in the office, but I wasn’t sure if that was my place. It seemed to be a touchy subject. Plus I agree completely that I don’t like being asked to give money at the work place. I don’t think it is professional. Most especially when things aren’t equal amongst employees.

          • Wow, CG. That would have upset me to no end. Do you know how Employee 2 feels about not receiving even a card? “He doesn’t need it as much” is quite an assumption.
            The coworker who received the elaborate shower at my place is a doctor (I am not) whose father is also a doctor (my father is not). My doctor friend is a nice guy, and I realize not all doctors make tons of money, but I’d be bent if I found out that others thought he needed gift cards and parties more than I did.

          • Winifred Rosenburg

            I agree that employees shouldn’t be *asked* to contribute. To clarify my previous statement about collections for situations like a death in the family, the way my last job handled it, which I thought was a good way of doing it, was they would pass around an envelope for so-and-so. The envelope was labled with initials of everyone who worked there. When one person was done with it, he would drop it on the desk of the next person and walk away so the person could wait until he reached a good stopping point in his work before attending to it. Then the person could contribute whatever he wanted or not contribute and check his initials to indicate he got his chance to contribute before passing it to the next person. That way no one needs to know how much if anything individuals contributed.

          • Country Girl

            I can only imagine, if it were me, how hurt I would feel to not only receive no card, but to instead receive an email requesting I pitch in money for another employee in the exact same position.

            I don’t quite agree that one should need to be close friends with everyone at work in order to somehow earn better parties or treatment. Personal assumptions on the amount of support/celebration other coworkers need or deserve should have no place in the office, and an “everyone or no one” rule would serve take those out of the equation. (This is the reason why children must bring a valentine for each child in the class or no one at all.)

            I know we’ve shared on this site before but I like the idea of a small (and consistant) something for everyone; be it a card or 15 minute party with snacks. It doesn’t help team building or office morale to celebrate or support one employee with gusto and do next-to-nothing for another. It builds unnecesary resentment amongst collegues. A little something for everyone in the office, and then if others want to celebrate further, as you say, they are free to do so outside of work hours.

  2. Elizabeth

    Hi Laura,
    Who’s organizing the sympathy cards and office wedding showers? Is it a single volunteer who just does it for his/her friends, or is there an official committee? If it is a single person, you might bring it up to HR or the head honcho that perhaps the office has gotten large enough that an official committee is now needed to appropriately acknowledge these kinds of milestones.

    • Any person may take it upon himself or herself to do this. For coworker’s groomshower (is that a word?) it was a different coworker organizing/emailing us than the person who bought the sympathy card and passed it around. Still another person organized the last couple birthday events. I never mind a person going out of his/her way for a friend, but perhaps outside of work would be better? I dislike being pressed to give money for gift cards knowing that I will never be a recipient of even a Hallmark card.
      The other issue might be that my particular office in the department is all male, except for me.

      • Elizabeth

        Gotcha. I know it can be tough to be the odd (wo)man out. I slightly disagree with Winnifred and would actually encourage you to participate in these events whether you think them proper or not. It sounds as though your office (like the world, unfortunately) does not operate according to evenly applied rules but rather on the basis of the strength of personal relationships. As you said, they aren’t passing around sympathy cards or holding showers to snub you. Rather than alienate yourself from your colleagues, attending these functions would be beneficial to your career and would help elevate your social presence in the minds of your coworkers. It sounds like you don’t yet have the level of camaraderie that would lead some work friends to do the same for you, and you can only change that by being more social with them. (Of course, there may be many barriers to your doing so, but I don’t know the situation.)

        • Ah, I understand. I am one of those people who loves to socialize with coworkers, but I prefer it be done outside of the office (and several of us do get together on a regular basis). However, you raise a good point in that I should make appearances to remind them that I’m a happy team player.

  3. susan

    Due to medical reasons on am on a soft diet for 2 weeks. I have a small birthday party to go to and was wondering etiquette what to do. Do I take a chance and hope some of the food prepared will be soft. I know it is beyond rude to bring your own food to eat- but in this case is it okay? Although the hostess is close I don’t want her to have to prepare anything else..
    For another option: I will bring a dish add to the meal, could I bring two dishes that I could share and eat as well??

    • I’m a little confused on the sort of party this is. If guests are bringing food (as for a pot-luck), then it wouldn’t be rude to bring your own food. The dish you bring could be something enjoyable and soft for you (banana pudding, for instance). If this is not that sort of party, then why not eat before you go? That way you can still enjoy yourself, without sacrificing your diet.

      However, if this is a formal dinner party, personally, I would RSVP that I am unable to attend. If you are asked about your absence, just attribute it to the complicated nature of your temporary diet.

    • Alicia

      If this is a potluck. I would bring your dish something that is soft yet has broad appeal that you could make a meal out of if need be. If not potluck I would ask the hostess if you could bring something that meets your diet restrictions and had broad appeal yet could be a whole meal. The one exception would be a large formal dinner party. But I can see a say squash bisque having great appeal and yet being soft diet friendly.

  4. mrs. p.

    a distant cousin and her husband are coming over this evening to see our home, then we are all going out to a restaurant to eat. my question is, when they get here should i offer a glass of wine and some cheese and crackers before we go to dinner? after returning to our house after dinner, i plan on offering coffee, tea, wine, and a light dessert.
    we barely know this couple but would like to get to know them better.

    • Winifred Rosenburg

      If you want to, that would be a wonderful idea! The minimum would be offering them something to drink, but it doesn’t have to be wine.

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