Attending Alone: Frequenting business events solo

by epi on September 28, 2012

Q: My boss is the senior vice president of public affairs for our company.  Because of his position, he and his wife are asked to host numerous evening functions.  His wife is heading out of town for a time and will miss some of these functions.  Is it appropriate for him to go to them alone?  Also, does it matter whether the situation is business attire or a black tie event?

A: It is acceptable and appropriate for your boss to attend business functions without his wife.  The formality of the event doesn’t matter.  In fact, in many corporate settings, spouses and dates are not invited to evening functions simply to allow more business associates to be included on the guest list.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerry September 28, 2012 at 11:32 am

Not only is it acceptable for the boss to attend the events alone (EPI got this right), it is unacceptable for the OP to comment the matter. She should mind her own business.

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Just Laura September 28, 2012 at 11:38 am

But Jerry, how do we know the OP is a “she”?

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Jerry September 28, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I was attempting to follow the apparently new rule, which says that the default pro-noun should be feminine rather than masculine?

Ah, Laura, you know me too well. :-) I made an assumption that may not be well-founded. (I am curious, though, if your moderator status gives you any insight into the OP’s gender.)

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Just Laura September 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm

While I will not disagree that certain tones of letters tend to cause one to assume a certain gender (I’m guilty of this), I have no special knowledge of anything related to the OP. These questions are handled differently from the rest of the forum.

I find the topic of default pronouns interesting, mostly because English fails to provide us with an appropriate non-gendered pronoun for humans. Another topic for another day, I suppose. :)

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Jody September 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Jerry, you need to lighten up. How do you know it’s not a case where the OP’s boss was chatting to her and wondered if it was proper? I do concede that OP has no business telling her boss what’s proper and what’s not, but maybe the question was posed just as a matter of curiosity.

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Jerry September 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Jody: You asked How know it’s not a case where the OP’s boss was wondering whether it was proper for him to host an event (a black tie event, no less!) without his wife? I’ll take your question at face value and assume that you’re legitimately interested in me showing my work. (Why, though, do I still have this nagging feeling that you really want to show me up?)

Generally, a supervisor does not ask a subordinate about proper business etiquette. Here, though, we’ve got more than just a typical supervisor/subordinate situation: we’ve got a senior vice president of public affairs. Or, in other words, this is a senior executive in charge of interacting with the public on behalf of the company. Almost by virtue of his position, such a person has got to have superior knowledge of business etiquette. But, in the unusual case that a senior vice president of public affairs (who has presumably been to many many more business parties than his subordinate) did not know the appropriate etiquette for hosting, the senior vice president is going to ask one of his peers (perhaps at another company), or his boss whether he could host a party sans wife.

You also asked whether the OP posed the question as a matter of mere curiosity. This is possible. But more likely than not, the OP was seeking to catch her boss in a faux pas. Why? Well, can you think of a reason why a subordinate would research the etiquette of a supervisor’s actions if the subordinate did not suspect that her supervisor had made, or was about to make, an error? So my advice that the OP should not comment on the matter was excellent from an etiquette perspective (you don’t correct your other’s manners), and (for reasons that should be obvious) from a realpolitik perceptive.

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