Poll

Should I pay the $50?

Yes
12 (37.5%)
No
18 (56.3%)
other
2 (6.3%)

Total Members Voted: 28

Author Topic: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?  (Read 8001 times)

Beric01

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Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« on: February 06, 2015, 01:20:13 PM »
So one of my co-workers is transferring to a different division of the company, after having been here for some time. The rest of the team (~10 people) wants to do something special for him. So my boss (who is kind of notorious for being cheap) has asked another one of my co-workers to solicit donations from us for a farewell party/cake/dinner. The cost is $50. I just received a very strongly-worded email (still using the word "please", of course) asking everyone to contribute, and I'm 100% certain that our donations are being tracked.

I'm the youngest person on my team by at least 15 years, and I'm certain also make significantly less money. This is almost 5% of my monthly spending (though of course I'm saving far more). I'm just not comfortable spending this amount of money.

So, what's the best way to get out of this expense? I know my manager has the budget for it - we're always under-budget in entertainment expenses - but I still seem to get several of these requests a year. Even though I could just flat-out reject the cost, I don't want to harm my career prospects as a young employee by being seen as hostile to the team.

EDIT: Update: So I talked with a different co-worker (who also seems to have a more similar perspective to me). She and I both agreed to say that we just couldn't make the dinner, and it looks like another co-worker is also out of town. We got an update that $10 is for the cake+gift and $40 for the dinner, so I will just contribute the $10 and pass on the dinner (I do have a legitimate excuse for that evening).

Thanks all for all the feedback/perspective! It sucks that this kind of stuff is part of working life, but that's why I'm trying to hit FI in my early 30's. :-)
« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 04:13:13 PM by Beric01 »

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2015, 01:22:25 PM »
$50 from you, or $50 from everybody as a whole?

Beric01

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2015, 01:24:25 PM »
$50 from each and every person. It's an expensive restaurant (which we were also given no opportunity to give feedback on). A lot of the other employees will order a lot of expensive drinks - I don't really drink, but separate checks don't seem to be an option.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2015, 01:25:58 PM »
I contribute $5 without fuss.  $50 is insane.  Just say no, that is too much money.  Give the guy a card on your own.

Yankuba

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2015, 01:30:14 PM »
It is the cost of being an adult and keeping people's opinion of you favorable. I cheaped out on a work lunch (I paid what I ate instead of the equally split amount) and people crucified me for it. It's not worth it - these are your colleagues and supervisors and their opinions of you can help or hurt you down the road. At least you're getting a nice dinner out of it - it would suck if it was a flat out gift.

Gone Fishing

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2015, 01:31:18 PM »
Wow, that would tick me off.  Maybe your grandmother is coming into town that day?

thepokercab

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2015, 01:32:48 PM »
That's a lot.  I've been in situations like this where folks have been asked to pitch in make $5 or $10 bucks for an office party; but $50 seems really excessive. 

Can you just opt out of the farewell party? I assume the reason that its $50 bucks is to also account for any food/beverage you'll eat?  Maybe you say something came up and you can't go, but you'll give $10 bucks for the cake or something? 


ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2015, 01:34:39 PM »
Damn. Sounds like you just remembered you have a colonoscopy that day. Nobody will mention it to you again.

(I would have a hard time lying about it, mostly joking. That is an unpleasant workplace situation.)

lostamonkey

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2015, 01:35:22 PM »
This is pretty much an unexpected tax. Just pay it and don't complain. Hopefully you'll get a good dinner.

When me and my coworkers go out to eat either my boss who owns the company pays or we get individual bills. We are all accountants and fairly cheap though.

mxt0133

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2015, 01:36:54 PM »
I would say that I am not comfortable contributing that amount and would be glad to contribute X (only if you even want to).  Emphasize that it's not because of any ill will towards the person and if there was any other way that you could contribute like volunteering to get the cake, organizing the dinner, ect.

Do not feel strong armed to have to contribute.  I understand the social pressure and the easy way is to just give money, but I am learning to assert my values over social pressure.  It can be done in a non-confrontational manner that can be acceptable to your and your peers.

ioseftavi

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2015, 01:37:48 PM »
Beric, that sucks ass, but I'd pay it and just move on.  Make it a point to have a modest spending week in other categories.  Don't grumble about the cost privately, don't rock the boat at 24 years old for the sake of $50.  Just feel a little bit of pride for the fact that you can pay it due to your sweet 'stash, mentally note the idiocy of office life, and move on.  Not worth another thought, and as far as "picking your battles", I'd say this one ain't worth it.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 01:39:27 PM by ioseftavi »

Yankuba

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2015, 01:38:12 PM »
Damn. Sounds like you just remembered you have a colonoscopy that day. Nobody will mention it to you again.

(I would have a hard time lying about it, mostly joking. That is an unpleasant workplace situation.)

That's actually a good strategy for getting out of work events. My office has expensive outings at night - I always tell people I have class that night or have to work on a paper for graduate school. But if the OP really doesn't want to spend the money he can schedule a vacation day.

PowerMustache

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2015, 01:45:21 PM »
This really depends on how your colleagues would react. Based on your description, it sounds like refusing could really damage your reputation at work, and that could have financial implications much larger than $50 by impacting future promotions, the references colleagues might give if you ever look for new work, etc. It could also just make work suck more now because you'd be ostracized.

It's easier to refuse friends because generally we can choose our friends. We can choose our work colleagues only to the extent that we are able to change jobs.

Based on that risk I'd say just pay the $50 and treat it as a tax, as lostamonkey says. It's one of the costs of working where you work. That cost makes it a less nice place to work and if I were you, it would make me consider looking for work elsewhere.

I would also consider a white lie as suggested by ShoulderThingThatGoesUp. If you can think up something believable that you need to do that day rather than attend the party that would also get you out of contributing the $$, it's an option.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2015, 01:51:34 PM »
I would also consider a white lie as suggested by ShoulderThingThatGoesUp. If you can think up something believable that you need to do that day rather than attend the party that would also get you out of contributing the $$, it's an option.

I was jesting when I said that; I would never do that myself. Lies are really hard to keep track of and getting caught in a lie at work is not worth $50.

NoraLenderbee

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2015, 01:52:01 PM »
$50? That's ridiculous. I make more than you and there's no way I'd just shrug and pay $50 for a work dinner. Boss is a jerk for expecting the employees to pay for *his* grand gesture.

I'd go for the white lie of a previous engagement to shave your grandmother's cat, and maybe give the coworker a modest gift separately. But it's a tough situation.

BlueHouse

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2015, 01:54:23 PM »
Wow, that would tick me off.  Maybe your grandmother is coming into town that day?
Yup, I'd say I was going out of town and I'd chip in $5 for a card.

JLee

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #16 on: February 06, 2015, 02:17:42 PM »
Some may say not paying is being hostile to the team, but I would counter that asking employees to pay $500 for a work-related expense is the company being hostile to the employees. That's a ridiculous request.

Beric01

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2015, 02:21:26 PM »
Unfortunately I seem to be getting 50/50 response each way, so it's not making it any easier. Man, this is a tough decision! :)

I added a poll.

Angie55

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2015, 02:28:07 PM »
I would skip it and make an excuse. But I'm not a person motivated by moving up the ladder. I also seem to always be on the giving end of donations and never on the receiving end.

So you each put in $50. What happens if the meal goes over/ under? Who keeps the money or puts in more?! Bosses should pay for the meal and either expense it or pay out of their own pocket. Gift/card/cake is reasonable to be donation based.


Kyle Schuant

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2015, 02:35:31 PM »
This shit is endless. In a large company, someone's always leaving, having a birthday, having an operation, had their father die, getting engaged or married, going on long service leave or whatever. It can happen every week. Endless. Then there's the social drinks of a little group of people, and the boss's attempt at making a team by having everyone go out and get drunk each month, or play paintball, or something. Endless.

Before I was self-employed, I just said no. If I really liked the person involved, I'd give my own gift or take them out for dinner, etc.

As PowerMustache said, this has a price. When I announced I was leaving, the most common reaction seemed to be relief. 3 people gave me chocolates, or whatever, and another 2 asked if they could come with me. The other 100 or so didn't care or were glad. And in my years there I never had any prospect of promotion. But I always expected to go out one day and be self-employed so I didn't care.

Zikoris

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2015, 02:41:33 PM »
I voted no. My limit on work things is around $5, and rarely. Come up with some reason you can't go. If you don't want to lie, make real plans for something that night and go with that.

What's your relationship with the person leaving like? I could see participating if you're really good friends with them, otherwise forget it.

randommadness

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2015, 02:47:28 PM »
I agree with all the points presented.

Honestly my approach would be to actually go buy a Good Luck card, sign your good wishes, and then give it to your boss along with the white lie.

Hey I can't make it to the dinner this (whenever) due to helping ole Random Madness move, that idiot, but I went ahead and got a card for our group to sign and it'd be great if you presented it at the dinner <boss man>

Still out $5 for a card but you made a gesture your boss might appreciate.

I initially thought, add a starbucks gift card or something, but then they can hang you for "not being enough" etc.,

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #22 on: February 06, 2015, 03:04:07 PM »
$50?  The coworker is changing divisions, not leaving entirely. 

Is it during work hours or after work?  If it's after work, apologize and say you have commitments.  If it's during work, consider planning a vacation day that happens to conveniently happen on the same day they schedule the event.  Skip the event and give a token amount to cover whatever gift they're giving this person.  Don't voice your opinion on it, don't ask how much you owe, just be apologetic about missing the event and hand the $5-$20 (depending on what they're giving the person) to the coordinator.

I understand the boss not paying for a party for someone leaving the group, but expecting individuals to cough up $50 is a bit over the top.  Typically in larger groups, I've seen a few requests a year for a more reasonable $10.  If you're getting several $50 requests a year, maybe you need to consider getting out of this group.  Missing once or twice with good excuses is understandable, but it will likely impact how your boss views you if you consistently skip out on these things.

RapmasterD

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #23 on: February 06, 2015, 03:10:19 PM »
A FEW RANDOM THOUGHTS:

1) How many times per year does this happen? If it's rampant, then NO. Otherwise, suck it up.

2) You're the youngest person on the team by at least 15 years. You can either choose to determine that as such, you're a victim, "Goddamn it, I don't make nearly as much as my colleagues!" Or you can choose to determine that you're talented and lucky, "Man, when I'm THEIR age, I'm gonna be kicking ass and taking names! Or I'll be f'ing on the sidelines cuz I'll have made my stache."

3) You may want to consider psychologically budgeting $200 per year for this type of stuff, as annoying as it is.

4) Fitting in and being part of a team makes a definitive difference in one's compensation over time, not to mention positive networking opportunities, which can land you in an even better opportunity than you're already in.

5) Be pragmatic. Do you want to win (don't spend the fitty) in order to more likely lose? Or lose (spend the fitty) in order to more likely win?

6) Another way of looking at this is to pay it forward. Imagine that YOU'RE that person in 5-15 years. As the recipient of a $250 gift when I had a recent death in my family, I have to tell you it felt great. And along the way I've probably provided a few thousand dollars for these types of co-worker gifts...a pittance over a 30 year working career.

CLOSING: Let it go. Do the right thing. Be nice. Be giving. The second you look at this as a TAX, the game is over. Lose the accounting ledger. Tell yourself you're a giving person, and just do it.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 03:16:46 PM by RapmasterD »

NumberJohnny5

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #24 on: February 06, 2015, 03:12:57 PM »
Is the $50 going mainly/solely to the dinner? You could skip the dinner. Problem solved. I'll let you figure out how to skip it.

Is a portion going to a going away present? Figure out how much that is, and give that. If you have something important to do that night, but still chip in your half for the gift...I don't think there'd be much ill will. I could be wrong, you know your workplace dynamics better than I do.

If there'd be serious ill-will, I'd suck it up and pay. Unless you have another job already lined up, in which case...um...you already have an excuse to not attend the going away party, right? And btw, since YOU'RE going away, don't YOU get a party/present? :)

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #25 on: February 06, 2015, 03:31:02 PM »
Personally - I wouldn't give a Fuck and not pay the $50. I might consider it if I really liked the guest of honor. How about asking your boss for a loan from petty cash. Maybe he'll get the message. Or maybe even suggest that the company foot the bill. What does the entertainment budget look like?

Capsu78

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #26 on: February 06, 2015, 03:33:16 PM »
"It is the cost of being an adult and keeping people's opinion of you favorable. I cheaped out on a work lunch (I paid what I ate instead of the equally split amount) and people crucified me for it. It's not worth it - these are your colleagues and supervisors and their opinions of you can help or hurt you down the road. "

+1  All throughout my career my wife and I participated in office celebrations - networking outside the office is an investment in yourself, even if they are coworkers. Had a peer who refused... he ended up the topic of conversation more times than not and had to go into his shell post party when folks talked about who did what at the event.  When he went for a leadership position, he was shocked that people thought he wasn't much of a team player.

 After work events are one of the things I actually miss being RE.  It was "work hard, play hard" for a good number of years.

Murse

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #27 on: February 06, 2015, 04:05:32 PM »
Cost of doing business, do it and enjoy the crap out of the dinner. I would not sabotage future promotion opportunities/raises by getting yourself viewed as antisocial/cheap.

phillyvalue

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #28 on: February 06, 2015, 04:09:53 PM »
It sounds like the $50 is just paying for your cost of the dinner, so it's not as if you are being asked to spend $50 on a gift/etc for the person. $50 is not that much for a nice dinner out, so just treat it like an occasional nice dinner at a restaurant.

Beric01

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #29 on: February 06, 2015, 04:12:41 PM »
Update: So I talked with a different co-worker (who also seems to have a more similar perspective to me). She and I both agreed to say that we just couldn't make the dinner, and it looks like another co-worker is also out of town. We got an update that $10 is for the cake+gift and $40 for the dinner, so I will just contribute the $10 and pass on the dinner (I do have a legitimate excuse for that evening).

Thanks all for all the feedback/perspective! It sucks that this kind of stuff is part of working life, but that's why I'm trying to hit FI in my early 30's. :-)

Villanelle

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #30 on: February 06, 2015, 04:15:19 PM »
It depends.  Do you want to promote in this company?  Do you plan to say there a while?  If so, pay the $50.

You've mentioned in the past some issued with making social connections.  While there's nothing *wrong* with not paying, it's the type of behavior that leads to social isolation.  You are saying, "I am not one of you" and people will listen.  If you truly want to change your social situation, consider $50 the cost of doing so, as this type of thing really is part of the social contract that goes with working in a group environment.   

And I like the earlier suggestion of budgeting $150-$200 for this type of thing, as this probably isn't the last time.  Having i budgeted might make it slightly less mentally painful when it happens. 

(I see that while I was typing, the situation seems to have mostly resolved itself!)

Beric01

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #31 on: February 06, 2015, 04:22:30 PM »
It depends.  Do you want to promote in this company?  Do you plan to say there a while?  If so, pay the $50.

You've mentioned in the past some issued with making social connections.  While there's nothing *wrong* with not paying, it's the type of behavior that leads to social isolation.  You are saying, "I am not one of you" and people will listen.  If you truly want to change your social situation, consider $50 the cost of doing so, as this type of thing really is part of the social contract that goes with working in a group environment.   

And I like the earlier suggestion of budgeting $150-$200 for this type of thing, as this probably isn't the last time.  Having i budgeted might make it slightly less mentally painful when it happens. 

(I see that while I was typing, the situation seems to have mostly resolved itself!)

Thanks! Yeah, I do view socialization as a necessary activity at work, but as my co-worker and I were discussing, it's pretty bad that this event is a triple whammy:
  • On personal, not company time (a lunch would have been better)
  • Required to pay out of our own pockets
  • Cost is $50 - not cheap.

That's ultimately why we decided to pass.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #32 on: February 06, 2015, 08:33:09 PM »
I think you did the right thing. You can't skip ALL this kind of thing, but I think you can be selective. An advice columnist that I really like, Carolyn Hax, advises seeing this kind of thing as just part of the necessities of having a job--like keeping one's hair trimmed and maintaining a professional wardrobe. So sometimes you suck it up--when it's cheaper :-).

iris lily

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Re: Avoiding "required" office spending pressure?
« Reply #33 on: February 06, 2015, 08:49:31 PM »
I'll give my standard reply to this kind of post:

1) Your boss is a schlub for allowing this; for actually organizing and requiring it, he is a jerk.

2) It is completely unnecessary to give gifts to coworkers for any reason.

3) If the employer want to recognize an employee, the employer needs to cough up the money.

And $50 is RIDICULOUS! insane. don't do it.

I wil be retiring in a few weeks from a job where I've supervised 25+ people, mostly women. Women like getting all busy with little giftees and occasion marking stuff, and I just tamp that shit down. My rule is: There is NO passing of the hat in my department for employee giftees. Staff are always free to give their own gift but they may not solicit others. The end.