How to get out of paying for a party
January 21, 2014 7:57 PM   Subscribe

I work in a professional field that requires the passing of a series of exams to become credentialed. These take place over several years and are considered to be very difficult, taking months of study. My workplace hosts a bi-annual party after work to celebrate those that have passed their exams. The party requires that people pay $85 towards the party per exam passed in the past 6 months and $20 if they have not passed an exam (The money is required regardless of whether you plan to attend). This can become quite costly (I once passed multiple exams and was shocked that the fee was cumulative). However, people are expected to pay. I don't really enjoy parties, and $85 is a lot of money to me and I'm wondering if there's a way for me to politely decline without causing problems at work (i.e. being the one guy out of 60 that isn't contributing). Compounding this is the fact that significant raises typically follow when someone passes an exam, so the excuse "I can't afford it" might not work so well.
posted by Proginoskes to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, either you can afford it or you can't afford it.

If you can afford it, you should pay in as a good faith gesture. I mean, do you like your job and your coworkers? Do you think these credentialing celebrations are a net good, even if you yourself don't enjoy going? Is it taking food out of your children's mouths?

If you can't afford it, then yes, you should tell the person who asks for your share that you can't afford it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:05 PM on January 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

As you describe it, footing the bill sounds like a noblesse oblige that you can't decline. Sorry.

Congratulations on passing your exam, though.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:06 PM on January 21, 2014 [10 favorites]

The only possibility that comes to mind is if you approach the organizer privately and ask if you can donate your party contribution to (insert industry- relevant charity here) instead. You'll still be out the money, but you'll avoid being That Guy.
posted by samthemander at 8:06 PM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Quite honestly, I really find it tacky when companies ask their employees to pay out of their own pocket for social celebrations that are for the benefit of the employees themselves. You'd think the companies would simply budget for the celebrations, especially when those expenses could be accounted for pre-tax rather than requiring employees to pay for the events with their own after-tax dollars.

BUT. Presumably your company sponsored you and paid for you to study for the exams and paid for the examination fees. The least you can do is put up a few dollars for your coworkers to celebrate, particularly when it results in you making significantly more money.

Alternately: find another company in the same industry which can take advantage of your skills and credentials but does not ask their employees for a biannual "social tax."
posted by deanc at 8:08 PM on January 21, 2014 [13 favorites]

I was with you until you said significant raises usually follow passing an exam.
This doesn't seem worth making waves over when you are already being compensated for passing the exam. Think of it as a tax on your raise.
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:17 PM on January 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

What's worse... losing $85, or dealing with annoyed coworkers?

The obvious answer is dealing with annoyed coworkers.

Believe me, I'm with you, and I would hate to have to pay for some sort of unappealing obligation like this. But there's just no way to get out of it smoothly. With "obligations" like this, people notice if you don't chip in or "participate." You don't want people to notice things like that, ever, in any workplace.

My coworkers insist on doing a $20 secret Santa every year, on top of having everyone chip in to buy the boss a present. I hate it and feel like it's perfunctory, and due to the nature of my work, the holidays are an extremely busy time for me. But not participating would raise a stink, no matter what excuse I give. So I spend fifteen minutes, go to Cost Plus, and just buy a bag of treats. Same goes for chipping in for someone's birthday present who I barely know. It's better to fork over ten bucks than be the schmuck who refuses to contribute (or thinks they are being sly by "forgetting" to pony up).

And with your raises factor, all hope is lost. Just deal with it, my friend.
posted by Old Man McKay at 8:28 PM on January 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think the only way to get out of paying is to work toward changing the policy itself and not getting yourself an exemption. That is, if more people are against the party and accompanying payments than are for it, then have a bunch of people talk to the manager to get the party eliminated. But I don't think it would be fair for you to benefit from the exams but be the only person who doesn't have to contribute. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 8:38 PM on January 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

$85? On a professional's salary? How much did the company invest in you to take refresher courses, take the test, off days to take the test, etc?

When I got my Professional Engineer license, they paid for my refresher course (only because I passed). And knocked me down to three days a week. Really, dude, take your lumps.
posted by notsnot at 8:38 PM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I certainly understand not wanting to pay for something you won't enjoy, but this is one of those things where social obligation outweighs personal convenience. I guarantee you two thirds of the people at these parties don't want to be there either, and they're the ones who'll be most annoyed at you if you bail.
posted by ook at 8:40 PM on January 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

You get out of it by refusing to pay. They can't make you. (Well, maybe they asked you to sign something in exchange for paying for training/test fees/study time but it seems unlikely) They very likely can fire you if you're in an employment at will state, but they might not.

As said above, though, you really ought to just pay it. Instead of thinking of it as a party fee just consider it your co-pay for the exam and part of your professional development costs. Raises aside, you're garnering a lot more personal options out of having the credential than $85 would normally pay for.

That said, I Nth all the above that I think this is kinda shitty. But I disagree that this is an optional event. This is a networking thing and you should think of it as you would a company party: it's non-optional optional and electing not to go is sending a "I'm not on the team" message. Personally I don't want to work in places like that, but you do. So decide if you want to continue to and, if so, go.
posted by phearlez at 8:52 PM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think He/she is saying its $85 per exam. Not just $85.
posted by gt2 at 8:56 PM on January 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

You are almost certain to become a social pariah at work, and even a professional pariah too, if you fail to make these payments.

Considering only raises, bonuses and promotions that will somehow elude you if you don't come across for these parties, they would be bargains at ten times the price.

You are essentially being initiated into a guild. It might help you to read a book or two about the history of your profession; I'd guess that entry was far more arduous and expensive in the early days and involved paying the existing members of your local subgroup what we would now regard as a substantial bribe, and that these fees are a vestigial survival of that customary payment.
posted by jamjam at 9:39 PM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this is a crummy thing for your company to do, but if you don't do it, you'll be worse off for it, because you'll be That Guy, or even worse, if others follow your example, you'll be The Reason We Don't Have a Party Any More.
If you need a "bright side" - at least you passed the exam(s). (And congratulations.) Think how much more grating it would be to have to pay even just $20 for a party you don't want to attend for an exam you'd flunked, knowing that you'll be forced to pay another $85, for another party, once you finally pass the exam.
And the cumulative fees thing is just tacky - I guess it's a way to scale the fees to the raise, though?
posted by gingerest at 10:16 PM on January 21, 2014

Not only can you not get out of paying, the party likely isn't really "optional" either. You pretty much have to go or it will reflect negatively on you at work.

It's more of a work obligation than a social obligation. Think of the money in the same way you would a licencing fee. You might even be able to take it off on your taxes.
posted by yohko at 10:44 PM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You knew this was coming before you took the exams, right? Maybe you missed an important detail (fees adding up), but it was standing policy, they didn't spring it on you suddenly. Since they probably invested time or money in getting you certified, and are giving you a raise for it, there's no way for you to get out of it gracefully.

It's a pretty dumb way of structuring your financial relationship with them - it would make more sense to, say, defer your raise for a month to quietly cover party costs - but that's how you have to think of it: you don't get a raise of $X, you get a raise of $X - party costs for the first month.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:01 PM on January 21, 2014

This is more about the people that don't pass than it is about the people that do pass.

Think about it this way:

If you don't pass, you get an awesome party for pocket change. If you do pass, you are going to be doing awesome professionally. How about pay $65 more than someone who didn't pass just to treat them to a good day.

So yeah, sometimes you're on top, and sometimes you're on the bottom. Seems like this setup is to support those who are not at the top.

You should consider contributing and looking at it this way.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:37 AM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

My husband used to be an actuary. It doesn't seem like a crowd you want to stand out in too much. And it's true that you get paid for your study time and such, so in the wash, this comes out as more of a minor irritation than anything else. Don't be too angsty about dropping $85 here and there on your way to a six-figure salary.

Mind, I think it's bizarre and a little shitty that they do that. I'm guessing they're trying to Make A Point, and I have no idea what that point could possibly be. They do not *need* your $85 to have a party, and this is something I have never heard of before in any industry. Unless the "pizza parties" the school made your parents pay for when you were in 4th grade count. Unfortunately, unless it's time to move on to another company (and depending on how many exams you've passed, that might be comparatively easy for you even In This Economy), you're probably just going to have to do it. Have a really expensive glass of wine or two, bring an interesting date, and spend the time snarking in the corner.
posted by Because at 1:35 AM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

How much does it cost to sit for each exam? Do you study in time that you could otherwise be working? It sounds like you may be actually making money on this arrangement.
posted by seesom at 5:00 AM on January 22, 2014

Just pay it.

One thing I suspect you left out is this: given the importance your job appears to give thse tests, and given that the credentials are given to you and not the company, my question is just how much time and resources has the company given you to pass the test. Did they give you days off? Buy you books? Send you to workshops? I think it is safe to assume they did some of these. Given this, $85 per improved CV and pay raise seems like a small price to pay.
posted by Spurious at 5:33 AM on January 22, 2014

I think this sounds really crappy, regardless of how much the company is paying for you to take these exams - presumably this is already a mutually beneficial setup for them as well as you. Then again, I'm pretty cynical about jobs where your obligations don't end after you're done with your actual work for the day (I'll hang out with my coworkers when I choose to, thank you). However, the reality is that this WILL affect your career opportunities in certain companies; I've taken a job where you can show you're a "team player" by doing your job well and being friendly at work without being forced to engage in things like this - and unfortunately I think that ultimately you're going to have to decide if you'd rather stick with the type of company you're in now, in which case you'll need to go along with these types of things if you want to continue to advance, or if you'd rather find a niche where this isn't an unofficial-official part of the gig.

If you decide to opt for the latter then hey, go ahead and let management know you won't be contributing to this "party" and know you're not a terrible person for doing so - I think sometimes these situations continue because everyone buys in to the attitude that they have to do it even if they don't want to - but realize that it can/probably will be a career limiting move at that particular company.
posted by DingoMutt at 6:55 AM on January 22, 2014

Careers are long and reputations travel. I would suck it up.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:58 AM on January 22, 2014

« Older Proactive synergies, moving forward   |   Every 3000 Miles We'll Screw You Over Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.