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October 18, 2012 5:44 PM   Subscribe

My coworker is having a birthday party and invited everyone except me I think. I don't "GET" this, but I would rather sort of have an explanation in my mind.... Is this just a thing about work friendships?

Five people from our office are invited. I have hung out with all 5 outside of work separately but not all together. We have a small office. It was weird because 1 of the 5 people came up to me during the day and said, "Are you going to X's party after work?" And then 2 of them were talking about it in the break room being like, "That's so nice that she invited us when we only really hung out that one time." And the other one is the girl's best friend and I know she's going and she didn't mention it.

I know, who cares right???? BUT. But, but but.

I don't know what the norms are for office/out of office parties and friendship so I thought I'd just ask about this. Part of me knows it doesn't matter.... but part of me is feels like this is some BS. I don't know.

That is all! Thank you!!!!!!
posted by kettleoffish to Human Relations (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have hung out with all 5 outside of work separately but not all together.

Have you ever hung out with the actual party person outside of work, though?
posted by elizardbits at 5:45 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's her party, she can invite whomever she wishes. She doesn't owe anybody any type of justification for her choices.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:47 PM on October 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

It's not second grade. You don't have to bring enough to share with everyone. Did *everyone* except you get invited, or just some people who aren't you? Maybe the person throwing the party just doesn't feel like she knows you very well. If you actually want to make a big deal about it, go ask, "why didn't you invite me to your party?" But that will sound as petty as you think it will.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:48 PM on October 18, 2012

I can't really help you get to the bottom of this, but I know "don't attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance" is a pretty good rule, and that responding with, "I can't make it" if someone asks you if you're going is probably better in the long run than, "I wasn't invited."
posted by alphanerd at 5:50 PM on October 18, 2012 [16 favorites]

I think it's normal to feel a little left out. If you'd like to spend more time with these people, throw your own party; if you don't really care, no big loss to you that you're not invited!
posted by sallybrown at 5:55 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are so many variables here; co-worker may think you wouldn't be interested (don't invite a teetotaler to a boozefest, etc.) or it may have been an oversight. You aren't good enough work friends that she just assumed you would hear through the grapevine and show up without an explicit invite, right? Because that is how some people do it.
posted by peacrow at 5:55 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

How were they invited? It may be deliberate, but it could be that the mechanics of the invitation were such that those five people were naturally included. For example, is it possible they are Facebook friends with her and you are not? Or, they could have all been in the same location when she started talking about the party and felt compelled to invite them.
posted by justkevin at 6:01 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

While I don't see this person having an obligation to invite everyone or even to not exclude just one, I think it is bullshit from a manners and collegial workplace standpoint to not invite you. Not much you can do unless you just want to show up anyway, so chalk it up to something innocent and move on.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:06 PM on October 18, 2012 [21 favorites]

Don't overthink this.

I have seen this happen for various actual reasons.

1) I went to a friend's birthday. She invited the majority of people she worked with, but deliberately excluded a couple.
2) Some family friends were having a party. Another mutual friend thought she wasn't invited, but had been and hadn't noticed.
3) I wasn't invited to a family friend's party -- invitation had gone to my parent's and it wasn't intentional.
4) My family had been invited to a friend's party, and the husband forgot to hand my dad the invitation.

So you can see in actual fact you could be being deliberately excluded, you could have been accidentally forgotten, or there could be a logistic or technological reason why you didn't receive your invitation even though it was supposed to be there. Don't overthink this. If it really bothers you, bring it up to the one who is having the party.

Also check your spam folder.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:07 PM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sometimes I like to party in ways that would get me fired if it was widely known around the office, and hence would only invite work people who I was absolutely 100% positive would give zero fucks about my behavior. Just a wild probably inaccurate guess: maybe she's a huge stoner/etc and has sussed out everyone else as OK with it, but is unsure about you?
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:28 PM on October 18, 2012 [18 favorites]

Do you know the person who threw the party?
posted by heyjude at 6:49 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, this would definitely hurt a little, but unfortunately such is life in an office - it's not always going to be pleasant, and people are going to exclude from time to time. Perhaps going forward you will have different expectations.

One thing to do is to avoid hanging out with people in your office.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:52 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

It's a bummer to be left out, for sure, but we can't know if there was a reason or no reason. Maybe she didn't want to invite the WHOLE office and you happened to be the cutoff. Maybe she only wanted her close friend and the others heard about it. The important thing is to take the high road. Don't blow it out of proportion and be chill.
posted by amanda at 7:02 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm kind of shocked that the notion that she can do whatever she wants, 'cause it's her party, is being proposed as the mature point of view! Well, count me as an emotional-second-grader who thinks it's obnoxious to invite almost everyone from a certain defined group (workplace or pottery class or book club), and only exclude one or two.

If it was deliberate, it was rude. The "fewer than half, or all" rule is a good one, and meant to avoid just such situations like this, where it doesn't feel like a few closer friends were selected for inclusion, it feels like a few particularly disliked people were selected for exclusion. Of course, there's nothing you can do to fix the boorish behavior of others, and bringing it to their attention is just further boorishness. The best way to "get it" is just to acknowledge that there's some possibility that the host doesn't like you, but the fact that this was brought to your attention is not your fault. Everyone with a personality is disliked by some people.
posted by palliser at 7:04 PM on October 18, 2012 [26 favorites]

Like KokuRyu says, sometimes that's the bitter truth of office life- that the people you work with don't want to be your friend. Sometimes they don't like you, sometimes they don't have the energy to make new friends, and sometimes they just don't want to make new friends. You have to figure out if you're sad because you want to hang out with them specifically, or you're just sad to be excluded. If it's the former, you could always try to get people together at a bar or throw your own party. If it's the latter, you can be sad about it privately while you keep doing your work, and focus on ways to make friends outside of the office.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:10 PM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Like school, there are cliques and groups in offices too. There are planned happy hours where half the office trundles off to the bar at 5pm and the others are thinking, "Wait...there was a happy hour?" There are weekend BBQs where some are invited and others find out because of the Monday chatter.

I've been on both sides and I've learned to not let it bother me much when I'm on the outside of things. I'm at work to make money, not friends. The friends I do make are a fortunate byproduct.
posted by kimberussell at 7:14 PM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

You're not clear: was everyone invited, or just these 5 people, and "everyone" is an exaggeration? If it's everyone, that is a dick move for sure. But if it's just that five, maybe they are her five favourites, maybe there were limited spots, maybe they share the same interests that you don't, maybe they are all one gender that you're not, one age that you're not etc etc.

If it's just those five and you are not the only person not invited, I wouldn't sweat it; there's a gajillion reasons why that could be the case.
posted by smoke at 7:25 PM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Self-thrown birthday parties warrant even more benefit of the doubt than casual get-togethers, in my book. Inviting people to come to a birthday party often implies that guests will bring gifts and, even more often, that the host is trying to meld groups from all corners of her life: work, family, old friends, neighbors, etc. in a finite number.

She's not a close friend of yours. It's not a snub. For all you know the person who said "we only hung out that one time" was trying to make folks within earshot understand that there's some randomness to the guest list, or maybe she's a reliable designated driver, or maybe the host wants to set her up with her roommate (or recruit her to her place of worship) or any of a thousand other reasons. Shake this one off.
posted by argonauta at 7:49 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing to keep in mind is that a birthday party is different than a happy hour or other coworker-bonding activities. I think there's more reasons to exclude people without needing to justify it.

But on my team of six (based on what you wrote I'm assuming there's just six of you?*), once three of us hung out it generally seemed rude not to invite everyone. Being polite to coworkers who you see five days a week meant more to us than two hours every so often with one or two folks we didn't care for as much.

I'd chalk it up to an oversight, or the birthday girl assumed you wouldn't come for whatever reason, or she knew you wouldn't have fun. Some of the answers here are implying that it could be a deliberate exclusion and not be rude; maybe the hostess of this party didn't think it would make you feel left out though she probably should have realized that and tried to avoid it.

Hopefully this is all a misunderstanding; if it continues to irk you I'd approach the party thrower after the event and politely work it out. Maybe you aren't liked by a clique for whatever reason, and in that case, you can do some soul-searching or shrug it off.

*If your office has say, 12 folks or more, I would say you not being invited isn't rude or weird, just typical office relations.
posted by thesocietyfor at 7:50 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Initially I thought that you were the only person not invited, but from reading your question, that doesn't seem to be the case. I think it's totally okay to feel left out, but it doesn't seem like she's targeted you for exclusion. Office friendships are weird, and friendships with other women are sometimes weird too. If you haven't hung out with all the invitees together, maybe the party girl just assumed you wouldn't be interested in attending.

(And I know that this isn't the place to share mean girl party stories, but I will say that during my first semester at college, our mean girl RA invited all the girls on the floor to her birthday party...except me. Luckily, I think things like this are hilarious and I wouldn't have gone to her birthday party anyway, but yeah. People do weird things without considering how their actions might make others feel.)
posted by easy, lucky, free at 8:58 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all! Yes, it seems the consensus is... drumroll please... this was some BS.

I am SORRY.... I don't even know why I asked this question, except to establish some boundaries around the whole thing. This seriously does not matter.

I do not mourn not being invited to this work party but I do mourn not being invited to Juliet Banana's work parties.
posted by kettleoffish at 11:52 PM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

As long as the invitations were issued outside work --- private phone calls or emails, for instance, not posted on the breakroom bulletin board! --- then it's fine to exclude some coworkers but invite others. What WAS uncool was the person who brought it up to you at work.

Example: a couple years ago one of my coworkers was getting married, and had invited about half the office, including a couple of them as her bridesmaids & maid of honor. That's fine; what WASN'T fine was the extended, day after day after day work stopping for them to have yet more discussions of her wedding gown, the bridesmaid dresses, the party favors..... all over and around and past those of us clearly NOT invited.

Look, folks are welcome to have any kind of outside-work event they want with whatever guest list they chose, but you're not allowed to rub it in the faces of those not attending. So: the party planner in your case wasn't wrong, the person who brought it up to you was.
posted by easily confused at 1:35 AM on October 19, 2012 [4 favorites]

What palliser said, also, this is why we don't socialize with our colleagues.

I get that this isn't second grade, absolutely; but humans are sensitized to rejection. If you get rejected by enough people it is a threat to your survival, and in the workplace it's a fact that people not liking you can be a threat to your continued employment. I mean obviously it would have to be a long sequence of events between Gladys from Accounts not inviting you to go bowling, and your being fired and escorted out of the building in disgrace. But as someone once put it on the green, the brain doesn't always take notice of how objectively important something is.

tl;dr it's not strictly rational to be worried about being excluded from a colleague's birthday party, but it taps into the same fears as public speaking (I will make a fool of myself! And be banished in disgrace!).

But there you are, if you don't socialize with your colleagues, and if people who have work friends keep the socializing well away from the workplace, then second-grade-type conflicts and emotions don't get brought into the workplace to begin with.
posted by tel3path at 3:05 AM on October 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Work friendships are strange and pretty tenuous even if you do hang out outside of work once in a while. All I can say is that if you were deliberately excluded, there might be a reason for it that doesn't mean she dislikes you and for the sake of your office happiness and your head, it might do some good to chalk it up to reasons unknown and go forward with your friendship without dwelling on it. Maybe space is a factor. Maybe she's considering how everyone will interact with other guests. You never know.

One of my closest office friends (meaning we had lunch together every day) invited people from work she didn't even really like to her kid's birthday party, but did not invite me. I was hurt at the time because she knew I thought her kid was great and would have happily gone, but it turned out that she only invited other people who had kids as well because she thought the rest of us would get bored. We continued to be good work friends and talk once in a while now that I've left the job.
posted by houndsoflove at 3:58 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

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