Planned an office party and now can't go. Am I a jerk?

OK, it’s kind of crazy for me to be posting something so petty, but this has been bothering me all day. A couple months ago, my boss asked for volunteers to plan this year’s ‘holiday’ party. I offered, solicited votes from our rather small company as to preferred dates, and chose the most popular date, even though it was the night before an industry conference 2 hrs away that I planned to attend- I figured I could just get up really early the next morning and drive to the conference. In any event, I planned the party at a local fancy venue and think it will be quite nice.

This week, however, my husband informed me that he’d really like to come along when I drive because the weather hs been very bad and because he wants to visit friends who live near the conference site. If he comes, our 5 kids come. If we take the whole family, there’s no way we can leave the day of- which means leaving the night before and skipping the party I planned. I don’t particularly care about missing it but my boss is now angry with me for not coming. Am I being a jerk?

You are telling me that you did all the organizing and so the party will go on. You are also telling me that it is not a work event abut a work related social event. You added that the reason that you are not going is because of family and work related events.

I do not think that you are a jerk, and I think that your boss even if frustrated should be a little bit more realistic with his/her expectations.

I agree with Cristiano, but … I don’t understand the part about your husband and kids. So you know that the weather will be dangerous, but your husband wants to have himself and all five children in the car with you so that you will be … safer? That doesn’t make sense.

You can always just say that you and your husband discussed it and the plans for the weekend. It would not work for you to attend the party and since you respect your husband and value your family, you are unable to attend. Play it soft, but make sure that message comes through.

No male boss will mess with that scenario. A woman that loves and respects her husband is respected by other men.

When you act with integrity, you should not be troubled and you are definately not a JERK.

It seems to me that your boss is acting immature by being angry because you will not be going.

The party will still go on, and your boss should be thankful that you did so much to get it going.

Yeah, I agree with what Faithfully has said regarding the male boss. I don’t think it’s safe to assume that he’ll be ok with the husband argument.

Maybe try explaining to your boss that you planned the party with the intention of attending, but there’s been some changes of plans which has caused you not to be able to go. Is there still some planning that needs to be done that your boss might be concerned about if you don’t attend? For example, a set up crew that you might have been a part of? You boss might just be concerned that you won’t be helping out any longer if there are still last minute things that need to be dealt with.

OK there is a big missing piece to this puzzle. You don’t say why your boss is upset. I see a couple of possibilities. Your holiday party might be considered to be a mandatory company event or your boss expects that there is more work to be done for this party and that you should be the one to do it.

If it’s the former then there is lots you need to learn about your company.

If it’s the latter then you would be wise to figure out what more it is that your boss expected of you.

This is not a matter of being a jerk. This is major company politics. There are plenty of options of how you handle this. Delegating is probably your best means of making both boss and husband happy. Naturally you need to factor in what is right for your family. But understand that this party will factor into your overall job performance rating. That’s just the way things are.

Actually, the boss is a female boss… which I think makes things worse sometimes… she’s very much a new age feminist kind of woman who doesn’t like to think of anyone telling her what to do.

Wrt the driving thing, if I go alone I have to leave early in the morning, before the roads have been plowed, and I have to take our small car that doesn’t deal well in the snow so my H and kids aren’t stranded without a car. Our other vehicle is an AWD van with snow tires, which is what we would drive if everyone went.

OK there is a big missing piece to this puzzle. You don’t say why your boss is upset. I see a couple of possibilities. Your holiday party might be considered to be a mandatory company event or your boss expects that there is more work to be done for this party and that you should be the one to do it.

Why? Good question. Wish I knew. She just acted all huffy and said she was disappointed with my decision. I have delegated all necessary tasks for the party to another person, and the only thing left to do basically is hand over the corporate credit card. It is not by any means a mandatory event- in fact, many people do not attend and I think maybe that is what is upsetting for her. She was hoping for a larger turnout.

With all due respect, I totally see your bosses point of view.

Please don’t take offense at the following it is just to show you the other side of the coin. If I was your boss I would be thinking ‘She went to all this work to plan a party and now she is not coming! What is up with that?’ It does come across as weird. And with all due respect it makes you look bad for several reasons

1-) Did she purposely plan it so she could easily get out of it?

2-) Did she just want to ruin everyone’s evening by planning something bad and then not attending

3-) I gave her all this company time to plan a party and now she won’t go. Had I know that ahead of time, I would have made her do company work and let someone else plan the party

4-) I need reliable employees. If she can’t come through on the more trivial things like office parties, how can I ever trust her with important work responsibilities.

It is a recession out there. Manager’s budgets are small. The few employees they can afford need to be the cream of the crop and work well. This does not make you look like a responsible person

Also, I find it odd that your husband knew about this all along. (I am assuming you told him) and now is changing your plans at the last minute. If I was you I would be feelings like my husband was sabotaging my career. I would tell him, ‘You knew about this for a while. You can’t all of a sudden change the plans and make me look bad at work. If you are that concerned about the wheather, I will take the car with snow tires and you and the kids will have to spend a weekend at home’

Unfortunately, even if you do go to the party, the damage is done with your boss. She will then think you are reliable and wishy washy.

You need to do some soul searching and if this pay check is something you can NOT afford to go without, you need to keep work commitments, even if they are social


On the one hand, it’s important to sent boundaries with your employer because many managers, especially when it comes to social events and telecommunications, seem to have no problem maintaining ridiculous expectations. The norm, in her mind, might be based upon other employees who bend over backwards to curry favor with her. It’s kind of sad when bosses don’t realize this (I say this as a boss).

On the other hand, she might have thought that with you in charge, the party was handled and she didn’t have to worry about it, and now that isn’t the case. She might just be feeling anxiety. Perhaps there is a cost attached and it is not justified if only a portion of the employees attend. Bosses usually have bosses of their own, people whose expectations they have to manage,and maybe this isn’t going to go over well.

Also, if lots of people aren’t going, she might be taking it a little personally, bosses do that. Maybe you should curry a little favor, eh? If she is a feminist as you said, you might want to take the opportunity to again say how sorry you are that you’ll be missing the fun, but thank her for maintaining a modern work environment in which women can achieve a sane work/life balance…they generally need to be reminded of that on a regular basis. I know mine does.

I totally agree with what you are saying. However, that is why one should be firm and say ‘no’ at the beginning. Trust me, I know what it is like to say no to extra events and pay the price career wise. However, once ‘yes’ is said, it is a different set of rules. BY not keeping the ‘yes’, trustworthyness is compromised

This is similar to what I was thinking as well.

You signed up to plan a party, you took on the responsibility. Your family needs to either not go with you to the conference OR make every effort possible to get you to the party if they do go along with you. Unless its a family emergency that would prevent you from attending the party, you signed up for the task, you should see it through to the best of your abilities. A husband suddenly wanting to go along to the conference to see friends, is not a family emergency, its a luxury.

Why can’t husband and kids jump in the car first thing in the morning with you and drive to the event? He can see his friends with the kids while you’re at the event…

You know… this conference that you’re going to over the weekend is work related as well right? It’s actually quite irresponsible of your boss to assume you should stay out late Friday night partying with the company and then getting up early the next morning to make a work conference in dangerous traffic.

I’d go back to your boss and ask her to help you make a decision.

Either go and manage the party and skip the conference.

Or go to the conference the night before… and skip the party that is already planned and ready for everyone.

You could say…: You know, it’s expected to be bad wheather. MY husband thought he’d do the driving, since our circumstances would either prevent me from taking a trustworthy car, or leaving him carless with the kids.

But I realize maybe it’s more important to you that I attend and manage the party and just skip this conference. But I’m sorry, I don’t feel safe driving the one car OR leaving it for my husband to cart my children around in while I’m gone. And if something happened to myself or my family, well, I’d never be able to cope with being pushed into doing something I don’t feel good about.

Here’s the thing. If you were injured driving to the conference, or your family because they were driving the weaker car… you would have NO recourse.

I’m always reminded of a story where a young man consitantly worked extreme hours. Because his boss was “disappointed and demanded” extra work. He worked the hours because he thought he’d get promoted… and if nothing NOT fired. Except he physically couldn’t keep up. His family encouraged him to tell the boss no, he couldn’t cont. to work such hours. But he was “dedicated”… So dedicated that he fell asleep at the wheel on his way home, crashed and died. His family sued the employer. That basically they bullied him into neglecting himself. And they LOST! The judge held that he should have known his own limits and exercised them.

Chances are if he refused to work the hours on grounds of WAY TOO MANY to safely function… and was fired, he could have sued for retaliation… and probably have won… And well, if nothing else be alive.

In the end, your circumstances are why I believe in becoming the employee that they really can’t do without. Really, anyone can be replaced. But I often hear how I’m replaced by AT LEAST 1 and half people when I leave! Or that it’s just “not the same.”

I’d go back to your boss and ask her to help you make a decision.

me too. i’d start with something like this, “can you give me some input? i think i havent navigated these two opposing tensions well…”

you agreed to plan a party that was going to cost the company good money and then changed your RSVP. that sends a signal to everyone that this expensive company endeavor isnt really worthwhile.

and maybe it’s not worthwhile. but you already invested time and energy.

get your boss in on the decision-making here. or simply just bite the bullet and have the kids ready to go in the early morning.

If your boss will be angry with you if you don’t go, then I’d advise going. You cannot get out of it. Look into finding someone to stay with the kids, or else tell hubby that this is going to be some adventure.

Having said that, my parents always used to take us (seven kids, two cars, 5 hour drive) on trips by leaving very early in the morning, because we were going somewhere very hot in mid-summer in a station wagon with no air conditioning. We’d basically get poured into the car at about 5 am, sleep in the back for a few hours, and then have a stop around 8 am for breakfast in a restaurant. This is the kind of thing you do, when you’re over a barrel.

You’re over a barrel. Go to the party, figure out how to work the rest of your life around it. Next time, though, you’ll know to tell your boss up front that the most popular day for the party is a day that you can’t make. Then your boss can decide which s/he wants worse: a day when the most employees can make it, or the day on which the main organizer can make it. Or, better yet, make it clear that the treatment you got this year cured you of any temptation to accept that particular honor until you were forced to take your turn again. If this doesn’t fall into the category of “no good deed shall go unpunished”, I don’t know what does!

Her boss is not irresponsible, the OP chose the date of the party

Any boss who gets mad when you tell her you can no longer attend a party is not the motherly type. Being asked to help make a decision that includes family commitment vs work is just going to anger the boss more. The boss will be thinking 'Not only can she not keep a commitment, she can’t even handle her own family.

I totally agree with this story. That is why the OP never should have said yes in the first place. But she did say yes and now for this one time she has to keep her commitment.

To the OP, I hope you see that my comments are coming from being in a lot of hot water at the office and knowing how hard a good job is to come by. I am assuming you really need your pay check and that is why I am so insistent you keep this commitment and in the future say no right away as oppose to taking on more than you can chew.

The way I see it, your husband is the who is not being supportive by putting you in this situation.


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