To go or not to go?
June 1, 2009 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Invitation question: Should I attend my assistant's upcoming bridal shower and/or wedding... when it's clear that she does not like me?

My assistant (20 something female) is getting married. She's been planning forever and is enormously excited. I have received an invitation to her shower and a save-the-date pre-invitation to the actual wedding.

The problem- she seems to dislike me intensely.

I could go on and on about the backstory- her demeanor / behavior towards me and WHY I think that she doesn't like me... but that's a tangential topic for another day. Other than to say that it seemed to creep up gradually, no defining moment / big conflict or anything. Let's just take it as given.

(If it helps, I'm not the only one who thinks this. My boss recently witnessed her attitude towards me and was stunned- so much so that he went straight to her office to discuss it with her).

I'm quite sure that she only invited me because she thought she should. She is friends with several gals in the office and has invited all of them, so she might have feared that it would be career-damaging to exclude only her boss (me: 40 something female).

In the office, I try to remain professional and pleasant and focus on the work- she doesn't have to like me to be a good employee. But it is decidedly uncomfortable in 1 on 1 situations. Not to mention a wee bit hurtful.

So- should I go? To one, or to both? Or just send a card and gift?

There's the risk that if I do not go, she will feel snubbed and the chasm will widen. On the other hand, she might be relieved if I'm not there and uncomfortable if I am. I know that I would not be comfortable going to either.

My boss has weighed in that he thinks I should go, out of professional courtesy. Of course, he's already declined his invitation, so there's an example to follow.

If it matters... She's worked here about 8 months. She's not my administrative or personal assistant, she works under me in a department where I am the senior manager; there are about 30 people in the office altogether.

So. How big a deal this would be, go / don't go... Your thoughts are appreciated!
posted by GuffProof to Human Relations (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
disclaimer: I was raised by wolves. I'd skip the shower [offer a polite regrets rsvp] and attend the wedding if it's not a huge headache, buy a dull gift and consider it an absolutely not-necessary gracious olive branch (and/or favor to your boss) and otherwise put it out of your mind and don't think about it again.
posted by jessamyn at 3:26 PM on June 1, 2009 [16 favorites]

The suggestion of your boss trumps all else, IMHO.

Go and take full advantage of the open bar, if there is one.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:28 PM on June 1, 2009

You have a yoga retreat. Your mom wants all the kids to celebrate Rosh Hashanah together. Mix and match as appropriate.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:29 PM on June 1, 2009

I would skip the shower and the wedding, but still buy a gift off of the registry.
posted by Ostara at 3:31 PM on June 1, 2009

I don't think you're obligated to go -- especially since it's very clear, from the post, that you are not actually snubbing her. If you want to be courteous and make sure she doesn't take it the wrong way, why not send her a nice note?

You sound like a nice coworker / boss, and it's cool that you're taking the broader work situation into consideration. I think you can definitely skip the party, though, and not jeopardize a calm work environment.
posted by puckish at 3:32 PM on June 1, 2009

or, I guess, a gift? (I have no idea what wedding etiquette actually is)
posted by puckish at 3:33 PM on June 1, 2009

I think this is being overthought. You have only some control of what she thinks of you. Who knows, you may remind her of someone she disliked from high school years ago and it really has very little to do with you. Sometimes people just don't mesh.

There's likely more to the story here, though, as normally such strong mutual dislike doesn't arise out of nowhere. But overall, if you don't like the woman and sense you're only being invited out of courtesy, then don't go. You'd not enjoy yourself and spend the entire event(s) with a fake smile perched on your face. No one benefits from that. Politely decline both events as it sounds like that's where your heart is. Send a thoughtful gift and card. That's a professional and courteous response and I don't see how that would "widen the chasm" as you say. And even if it does, you'd have done nothing to warrant it, considering you'd've acknowledged her day(s) in a thoughtful manner. If you respond in a polite manner and she gets all worked up over it, that's more about her than about you.
posted by December at 3:34 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Skip it. Life is to short. But send a gift and give a plausible excuse.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:37 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make your excuses and don't go to the shower.

Buy her a nice gift.

See if you can find a way to wrangle an extra day off for her prior to her wedding.
posted by anastasiav at 3:39 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

If your boss had not said that you should go, I would say skip it and get a reasonably nice gift.

But if your boss told you to go, then you should go.
posted by The World Famous at 3:40 PM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'd buy something from the registry for both events and politely decline due to a prior engagement. Anything beyond that is unnecessary, especially considering it's an office connection that ties you together.

Also, you sound like a really nice person to frame this in terms of her comfort/preference.
posted by vincele at 3:42 PM on June 1, 2009

Politely decline both events. I really don't see any reason for you to feel obligated to attend, as this is a very personal event and your relationship with her is strictly professional. Send a card; if you're feeling extra guilty/worried then send a gift too (this would be a really nice gesture, but not necessary in my opinion).

Also: she might actually be glad if some people don't come, because weddings are expensive and each guest means $$$. Then again, she shouldn't have invited you if she didn't actually want you to attend.
posted by Polychrome at 3:44 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I would skip both shower and wedding, since there seems to be more potential for tension (or tedium, at the very least) than mutual pleasantness and since your boss doesn't seem inclined to follow his own advice. I would also buy a (mid-priced) gift off the registry and include a note extending your best wishes. I also like anastasiav's idea of seeing if you can get her an extra day off before the shower.
posted by scody at 3:45 PM on June 1, 2009

You won't be able to attend, because you have other plans for those days. It doesn't matter if those other plans will be sitting at home staring at the wall--you have other plans for those days, and you're regretfully declining the invitation.

It's not rude to be unable to attend a social event when you have a schedule conflict. Send a nice card, order a nice gift from the registry, you're golden. If you want to go the extra mile, anastasiav's advice about cutting her some extra slack at work would be a very generous gesture to make.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:49 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you schedule some sort of legitimate conflict to the wedding date? That way, you could have other obligations, buy her a dull gift, and have an explanation.

Personally, I think you are very objective about the situation and I applaud that.

I don't think you are obligated to waste your precious personal time going through a charade.

If she doesn't like you, a time conflict and a ritual gift will probably settle the situation nicely. Your boss should understand.
posted by effluvia at 3:49 PM on June 1, 2009

She invited you out of courtesy, send a card and modest wedding gift out of courtesy. Don't feel bad skipping the evenets, just say you have other plans.

My boss has weighed in that he thinks I should go, out of professional courtesy. Of course, he's already declined his invitation, so there's an example to follow.

I wouldn't worry too much about following his advice...I bet he's just feeling a little guilty that he didn't even consider going.
posted by desuetude at 3:50 PM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

scody: " your boss doesn't seem inclined to follow his own advice"

That double-standard - combined with the fact that he's presuming to tell the questioner what they should do on their own time - suggests to me that it would be wise to humor him, if affordable.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:51 PM on June 1, 2009

If you want to improve your relationship, this is a great chance to do so, because by sending you these invites, she's opened the door to a not-strictly-business component. It could be the perfect time to say something like "It's very kind of you to invite me to these events even though things are a little tense between us sometimes. Maybe I should have said something earlier, but it would be great if we were better friends - would you like that as well?"

As always, there is no reason why adults can't deal conversationally with real issue like these - it just takes one party bold enough to start. I understand that your approach is to focus on the work, but it also seems that you'd be a little happier if things were different.

If you really don't care about the personal side of things, then just send a gift. Bear in mind, the bride might try and take it both ways: she'll be happy you're not there, but still consider you rude for not attending. Depending on her personality and the issue between you two, there may be no pleasing her.
posted by chudmonkey at 3:55 PM on June 1, 2009

I'm weighing in with a different perspective here: You are a senior manager in the department and, as such, have an obligation that extends beyond your personal wishes. In essence, I'm suggesting that you develop a personal "policy" about such events, if you haven't done so already.

Is it in keeping with your leadership image in the department that you attend significant life events for department members, if you are invited to do so? If so, or if you have already established a precedent, then you must go regardless of this employee's apparent feelings about you.

If, on the other hand, you keep a distance from the members of your department and routinely do not participate in their social activities, then you have a clear basis for declining the invitation.

To stay away because you think she would prefer you not attend her wedding is to give her power over your actions.

With that said, I believe the shower represents a different situation. In my experience, wedding showers are usually for friends and are necessarily much more casual affairs. Your presence at a wedding shower where other members of the department are attending would likely be intimidating. For the shower, especially if it is primarily (or exclusively) your employees, I would suggest sending a "meta-gift"; that is, something that may increase the enjoyment of all who attend. Perhaps a few bottles of champagne for toasting the bride-to-be?
posted by DrGail at 4:05 PM on June 1, 2009 [10 favorites]

I really really would not say this: "Maybe I should have said something earlier, but it would be great if we were better friends - would you like that as well?" (as suggested by chudmonkey above).

She's your direct underling, she can't really say no, and probably doesn't want to say yes. Don't put her or yourself in that position.

Instead, skip the shower, buy a boring gift, and attend the wedding only because your own boss said you should go (though I'm unclear as to why; perhaps he thinks it'll improve her behavior, which it might). If you want to use this invite as an opportunity to improve the relationship, then smile, be socially appropriate, and leave before your welcome is up.
posted by nat at 4:09 PM on June 1, 2009

**Thanks** everybody for the input. I really appreciate the different POV!

Just to throw this out there- I fully acknowledge that there are two people in this (work) relationship and that her current attitude must have come from somewhere. Although I try very hard not to be a "jerk boss", she is entitled to her side of the story and her reasons for disliking me may be perfectly valid.

After all, plenty of people do not like their boss!

But as that's not really the focus of my question, I didn't want to get too side-tracked in all of that. Just know that I do care about her as an employee and want the department to run as smoothly and effectively as possible. Thanks again!
posted by GuffProof at 4:13 PM on June 1, 2009

Small but polite wedding gift as a token of recognition, with a nice card and your regrets at being unable to attend. Wishing her all joy etc.
posted by Billegible at 4:24 PM on June 1, 2009

Ditto skip the events but do send a nice gift and card. I'd mention to your boss ahead of time how (major family event or other plans that would supercede you attending the wedding) have just come to your attention and of course, as much as you'd like to go, it is completely understandable why you couldn't possibly miss such events on your end.
posted by cestmoi15 at 5:15 PM on June 1, 2009

Nthing the gift and polite excuse. That is the best solution for both of you.
posted by Flood at 5:19 PM on June 1, 2009

You seem like a really nice person. I think DrGail is right: if you normally attend these sorts of things when invited by other people at her level, you should suck it up and go. If you don't or if this is the first time you've been invited to a like event (I'm talking about the shower here), by all means send a gift and a note wishing her every happiness on her day(s). If you go the note/gift route, be very gracious about it, like "I'm so happy for you and although I can't make it to your shower, I'll be thinking about you and hoping you have a wonderful day blah blah blah," and then make a point of asking her about it on the next day she's at work.

About the wedding, I don't know. I guess it kind of depends on what happens with the shower. If you bag the shower, I think you're safe bagging the wedding in a similar fashion. It would be very nice of you to arrange for an extra day off for her (like SUPER-BEST-BOSS-EVAR!! nice) either right before or right after her wedding, but I'd be careful about appearing to set a precedent.
posted by Maisie at 5:28 PM on June 1, 2009

Would you have fun at the shower? If so, go. It sounds like you're uncomfortable and wouldn't have fun, so, don't go. But it's perfectly fine to attend an event in honor of someone who isn't fond of, as long as you are polite. Not going? The standard form is to claim a previous engagement and send a gift.

Wedding? Who cares if she doesn't like you? If the gang's all there, and you'll have fun, go. You'll talk to her for maybe 2 minutes, tops. If there's gonna be dancing, wear really snazzy shoes.

You sound pretty defensive. She might respond better to a more aggressive management style, where she understands her job is to follow your lead. Sorry if that's too off-topic, but you sound so nice, and if she's that uncivil, well, the heck with her.
posted by theora55 at 5:38 PM on June 1, 2009

Respectfully decline. Send a small but thoughtful gift. Then sit down and think long and hard about whether you want to keep an assistant who does not have your best interests at heart, and proceed accordingly.
posted by davejay at 5:39 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dr Gail is right--You are a manager and a manager has professional responsibilities off schedule. There are many personal and professional downsides to not going--almost all upsides to attending the wedding and politely declining the shower--I wish Dr Gail had worked with me.
posted by rmhsinc at 5:45 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Be the human boss and give something thoughtful for the shower, don't show up, because it's a more intimate setting, so let her have her space, but give something that says you wish her well.

Go to the wedding, give something thoughtful, hang around for the reception if things are going well and call it a day. Sleep well knowing you did your best and don't take any shit off her at work.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:53 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Does your boss know something you don't, confidentially, after having had a talk with her about her attitude toward you? Maybe he's nudging you to go for a reason.
posted by ctmf at 6:12 PM on June 1, 2009

Depending on whether or not you want to improve your relationship with her, or whether or not you want to shell out $100+ for attending her wedding, you can choose to go or not go. Have a good excuse (and don't mess up by saying something else about your weekend at work after the event), and definitely send a gift.

Going to the shower might be more awkward but you'd get to know her better, and it's quicker - couple of hours and you're done. Going to the wedding is more expensive for you, for her, and you won't get to talk to her much. But it's more fun if you have someone to bring with you who you want to drink with, and have to interact less with her. Not going to either is also OK.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 6:55 PM on June 1, 2009

Don't go. I have a clueless boss who shows up at parties - even for people he personally fired! - and ruins it for everyone. Don't be that guy. Even if you are awesome and she's mistaken somehow about you, don't be the boss at the party that people wish wasn't there.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:00 PM on June 1, 2009

One more time: thanks, all!!

You have really helped clarify for me. I hadn't really compared / contrasted the two events.

I see it now, a bridal shower really is more personal and friend-centric. Having your boss there-someone you don't know very well at all, much less socialize with- does not seem compatible with making toiletpaper wedding dresses and opening naughty honeymoon gifts.

I think I will spare us both the embarrassment and send polite regrets, along with a sincere card and gift. I would have felt guilty / dodgy doing that before, but your responses have put that to rest. I appreciate that.

I also agree that attending the wedding itself would probably be my responsibility (duty?) as manager. I think that was what my boss was getting at. If my attendance amounts to a show of respect and helps improve things in the office, it's what I should do.

But, come the day, if it turns out I do not attend, I'll feel better about that too.

Thanks for all of the nice personal comments. It's difficult, when trying to be a friendly and fair and supportive boss, to be perceived as just the opposite. Sorry I sounded defensive! I want her to be happy and satisfied on the job- so I'll keep trying. To a point. Those of you who suggested I consider whether my assistant really should be my assistant... I hear you. Her work is good (overall) and I hope to be able to salvage this. But we'll see!
posted by GuffProof at 8:30 PM on June 1, 2009

dude, if you're not friends with her, why go to her wedding? professional courtesy my ass. professional courtesy does not include weddings of co-workers. if you were friends, it's a different story.

you should absolutely give her a card/gift for the wedding. fuck the shower. it's just a way to get more presents.

but you are under no obligation to go to her wedding just because you're both employed by the same company.

fyi, the same goes for baby showers, confirmations, funerals, etc.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:17 PM on June 1, 2009

She invited you because your her boss. You dont have to actually go if you dont want her. Just keep in mind she invited you and move on .
posted by majortom1981 at 5:23 AM on June 2, 2009

But, come the day, if it turns out I do not attend, I'll feel better about that too.

Just making sure that you'll attend the wedding if you send a positive RSVP. I'm sure you know this, but just in case: it would horribly rude for you to RSVP that you're coming then not show on the day of the wedding, so make sure you make your decision in advance. FWIW, I think you're making the right call on skipping the shower and attending the wedding.
posted by robinpME at 5:35 AM on June 2, 2009

Totally the right call--no on the shower, but thoughtful gift sent with sincere regrets...yes on the wedding and reception, you can leave once the cake has been cut.
posted by agentwills at 7:45 AM on June 2, 2009

As robinpME says, if you send a response saying you'll attend the wedding, deciding the day of the event not to go is pretty bad form. Not sure if that's what you meant by your "come the day" comment.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:32 AM on June 2, 2009

RE: the RSVP.... oh yes! I wouldn't say yes and then no-show. I just meant that when I actually decide....

posted by GuffProof at 12:06 PM on June 2, 2009

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