Sunday, August 1, 2010

Should I Attend Employees' Special Events and Functions?

I need a little advice!! Where do I even begin?

Many might say (including myself) that I am not the "typical woman". Whatever that means-but it has been told to me over and over throughout my life and so now I am convinced that I don't fit into the stereotypical female box.

I feel that as a result, this has caused me many problems sometimes in my work place. I work primarily with women in an office setting, and many of the other employees that I oversee throughout the institution tend to be women. And for years I have heard over and over again that people are intimidated by me because I often don't relate to them much.

I go to work to WORK. Not to ask about my employees' children, dating practices, personal life, or anything else for that matter. I don't go to work to stand and chat about shoes, makeup, clothes, haircuts and all of that non-work stuff. And frankly I don't like people butting their nose into my personal business, asking me personal questions that should be reserved for people who are my close friends.

My boss is a male who is married but does not have children, while I am not married and I do not have children. I have asked him if women inquire about him not having children and he said that they don't. I asked him if they inquire about his personal life and he said that they don't except when they ask him about where he travels on his vacations.

However, people tend to want to know everything about me. My office staff want to know when I will ever get married. When will I have a baby? Why don't I want to have a baby? What kind of eyeshadow is that, because it looks pretty? Those are cute shoes-where did you get them? Tell me more about your boyfriend?  Did you lose a couple of pounds? Are you tired? Why don't you wear that blue shirt again? In fact, I wrote about it a couple of months ago here.

My secretary and my clerk are the two who circle around me the most wanting to know everything about me. My clerk is a hairdresser, and she constantly wants to cut my hair, straighten my hair for important events, and so on. I come into my office sometimes and I find foofoo things in there like pretty pictures, little ceramic things, pictures, and cute plants because apparently they want to make the office really pretty. Whenever there is a special function, they want all of us to wear the same color and have even wanted to go shopping with me to help me pick out an outfit. Uh!

It's taken me a couple of years to realize that they are just mama bears trying to show me that they care about me, so I have allowed them to put their cute little flowers and all over my office. It's harder for me to tolerate when they want to shove down my throat that they want me to know personal questions about me, like when I ever want to have children.

I am the type of manager where I am not your friend and I don't want to get too close to my employees. I have had to train myself to actually learn about if they have kids and such because apparently that is important to them. But I definitely don't want to go to their kids' birthday parties, a candle party and other events. I was burned a long time ago and I realized that if I get too close to the people that I work with, that it is harder to hold them accountable in the event that I need to, because they think that I am their friend.

My work life is my work life and my private life is my private life. I try not to mix the two as much as possible. Last year it was really hard for me to write up an employee that I was really close to, and as a result all hell broke lose. So I have made a commitment to not get to close to anyone.

But lately, I have been invited increasingly to people's important events. To me that does signify that some of the staff members and teachers are feeling less intimidated by me. But on the other hand, I hate such crap. I hate birthday parties, kid parties (hell no!), weddings, ESPECIALLY baby showers, etc. I hate them! I'm trying to figure out if people just invite me to be polite, or if it's really important for me to be there. Because according to my secretary, it's really important that I be there because it will make people want to follow me more. Uh. Is this true???

A couple of weeks ago one of the teachers in the district invited me to her wedding. I didn't want to go. I HATE HATE HATE weddings. I was going to wiggle out of it, but when I texted her she exhibited anxiety that I might not attend and begged me to please come to the reception. So I went-which I hated, but I pretended to have a good time.

Yesterday I got a baby shower announcement for another teacher in the district. I'm really conflicted because I HATE baby showers, and actually try to avoid them at all costs. My boyfriend is suggesting that I go to the shower, since this teacher has done some work for me in the past when I have needed extra help. I'm of the persuasion that she got paid to do it, so get the hell over it. Not to mention that he would never have to go to a baby shower so what the hell does he know?

In this case I am conflicted. Is it true that if people are going to look up to me as a good leader that I have to go to these important types of events for them? Or, would it be okay to just send a card and possibly a gift? Honestly, I work my ass off like crazy and it doesn't really appeal to me to go and waste a couple of hours of my life with people from work doing something that I really don't want to do.

I don't really want to do any of this, but if it is something that motivates people to follow my vision more then maybe I have to? I don't know. I was reading a book the other day about leadership and it said to care about your employees if you want them to be loyal to you, but does that include having to go to their personal events? And at what point does me going to their personal event cross the border between being a mentor or boss and moving into friend territory?


Meghan Harvey said...

Really great post that poses a great question. Personally, when I was working in an office I had a few co-workers who I was close with and we attended many functions for one another (wedding, b-days, showers, etc.). But we were friends, and were all on the same level professionally. We didn't answer to one another or anything.
Etiquette (as I was told at the time) forced me to also invite my boss (a woman) to such events as well. I hated it. I was never interested in spending time with her out of work. It wasn't that I liked or didn't like her, it just made me uncomfortable. Luckily it always appeared that she felt the same way because she always politely declined.
The happy medium for all of our departments was that whenever someone was getting married or having a baby, etc. the office would have a small shower for the event. My boss always attended these (in the conference room) with a polite gift and card. That was more than good enough for me.

LATER as the owner of a daycare I ran out of my home, I was ALWAYS invited to b-day parties and family events by the people I did daycare for and I always said no. I did not like crossing the line between business and friendship, because it posed to many potential risks. I don't like crossing that line, regardless of what side I'm on, so I agree with you. Say you've got other plans, send a gift and a card and leave it at that.

Admin said...

@Meghan When I was a teacher I always invited co-worker that I was close to, but they were on my same level also as you mentioned. But I would also go to my students' functions when I was invited, and I feel that it paved the way to fostering deep relationships with the parents and the community.

I was wondering if people are inviting me because they are being respectful since I am their boss, as you mentioned.

It starts to get to the point where if I attend one, I will have to attend them all-so I guess that I am going to have to just send gifts. But these damn gifts are starting to get expensive considering that the number of people that I oversee are increasing. I'm spending tons of money on people that I don't even know, especially with all the women who are having babies!

Anonymous said...

I work with a woman who does not like social events. She's made it very plain that, while she enjoys working with us, her time not at work is her time. She's not very forthcoming about her personal life either. And...everyone is fine with it; that's just how she is.

Maybe you could do the same; state up front that you don't go to functions; you don't enjoy them and it's not your thing. People will still ask you (because they don't want you to be upset that everyone else was invited and you weren't), but they'll get over it and it will be OK. You are not obligated to give a gift; a card of congratulations is sufficient for a big milestone such as a wedding or birth.

Soma Sengupta said...

If you start attending these events, you might find that all your time is taken up with them. If you attend one person's event and not others, you risk offending those you don't attend. Enough! Think up good excuses, but don't go. No one should be so emotionally fragile that they get upset if you don't attend their event. You work hard enough. Tghe rest of life should be yours.