Being deliberately excluded from work social event – how to resolve?
May 6, 2018 9:47 AM   Subscribe

My department (about 12 people), plus a few others, are all going on a group vacation abroad. I have deliberately been excluded, which makes me feel awful, and I don’t know what resolution I could get from the whole situation.

I really love my job, I’m at a brilliant point in my career, and I felt like I got on well with my colleagues. I work on my own mostly in a remote office, but visit head office and the rest of the team once a week. They made a big deal when I started at the company (2ish years ago) about how friendly and sociable everyone is, and how every year or so there’s a big group trip abroad, it’s a real highlight.

I genuinely liked all these people, visiting head office was a highlight, meetings were brilliant, and everyone is great!

I realised after a year that I wasn’t getting invited to social events, but didn’t mind too much, perhaps it was just a group of friends in the main office. Last year I went along on a group hiking trip for a week with about 15 people from work; I thought we had a great time, and I really enjoyed it. I can’t think of anything bad that happened, or if I upset or offended anyone. Again, it was mostly my department plus a few others.

This week though there’s a big group trip abroad, and I wasn’t invited – but everyone else in the department was, including colleagues from a different remote office. This isn’t a clique; this is about 20 people, my direct colleagues and my line manager, all going on a trip that had been talked about when I first started, and used to sell the job to me. My visits to head office the past few weeks have been excruciatingly awkward, as people excitedly talking about the trip were shushed while I was in the room.

Needless to say, I feel terrible. I've been in tears thinking about this. I feel as if a team I thought I got on with really well actually don’t like me. Do they all dislike me? Is it just one person and the others going along with it? Because I can’t say that I don’t get on with any of them, I have absolutely no idea who has a problem with me. Now I find my paranoid brain is just assuming they all hate me – how can I work with my manager if he can’t stand me? How can I go and work in head office when they all wish I wasn’t there, but are far too polite to say anything? Are they all nice to my face but complaining about me the minute I’m out of the room? I have no idea who likes me and who doesn’t.

Our team leader isn’t going – he loudly proclaimed that he wished he could, but can’t because of family commitments – and I am going to ask to have a talk with him later this week about how this has made me feel, except I honestly don’t know how I should be resolving this or what I can ask him to do.

Of course I don’t want people to be forced into inviting me along to things when they don’t want me there, or banning the regular group trips (how popular would that make me!), but I’m not sure exactly what I can do to resolve this situation? Are there any ideas? Or am I just completely overreacting?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (34 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I don’t think you’re overreacting. That sounds very upsetting. Since it’s a work sanctioned event, I would ask my boss directly if there was a reason I wasn’t invited.
posted by bluloo at 9:54 AM on May 6, 2018 [105 favorites]

That's really really horrible. I'm not surprised that you feel awful. It's mean of them not to have mentioned anything. It sounds like their planning is advanced, so I guess you've missed this one now. But yes, you should totally bring it up & ask directly & exactly what the reason was that you were not invited.

My guess is that it will turn out to be something completely impersonal, such as budgets or numbers. But it's still rotten of them not to have explained it clearly, to the extent that it's now embarrassing to have to ask. All I can say is that it will probably lead to even more awkwardness if you don't.

Once, I worked behind the scenes at a festival. It was very intense & consuming work, and in truth I didn't really enjoy it much - it took all the fun away from an event that previously I'd enjoyed attending. On the last day, one of the senior people put her head around the door of the room that I was clearing out, and said "We're all going out to lunch at [restaurant], to celebrate the end of the festival." What I heard was: we're all going, and you're not. So, I finished off tidying my room, then I locked the door on my way out of the otherwise empty building, and went home on my own. It took me literally years to understand that (albeit in an avoidant and ambiguous way - but, that was her style) she was actually inviting me along, not excluding me. I'm totally not saying that's happened here in your situation - but what I am saying is, you have to ask outright or you risk a whole lot of misunderstanding in a job that you love.
posted by rd45 at 10:03 AM on May 6, 2018 [18 favorites]

You're not overreacting. This would bother anyone.

My first impression was that the trip ended up being all the people in the office who see each other day + everyone at the remote office who see each other everyday. In other words, you weren't having regular face time with anyone on the trip so they sort of forgot about you. But you said they used this trip to sell you on the job, so I'm confused about what this trip actually is. Is it an official work event? Particularly if people are talking about it openly? Is there anyone you're closest with who you would feel more comfortable asking? If not, if it's a work event, then I do think you can ask you can ask your boss. You might never get an answer that makes you feel better, but whatever you find out won't be worse than whatever scenarios you have in your mind, such as that everyone hates you.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:04 AM on May 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Ask your boss why you were not invited. Listen. Speculating doesn’t help.
posted by Kwadeng at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2018 [72 favorites]

Yeah, given that others from a different remote office were included, you are completely justified in feeling hurt and well within your rights to approach your team leader. I would set aside as much of the emotion as you can and come up with a script along the lines of, “I gather that the entire team was invited [bc you’ll want to confirm this!], including others with remote situations. I realize there could be a lot of explanations and wanted to check in on whether there is anything I should be aware of. I would have loved to have been included, and if there is any work-related reason that I wasn’t, I’d rather be told of it directly, especially if it’s something I can be working on.”
posted by LadyInWaiting at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2018 [51 favorites]

Ugh, I'm sorry, this is so unprofessional. This is really the downside of workplaces where people are friends outside of work - there's always going to be someone who is left out. The managers should be looking out for this - they can't force people to invite everyone, but they should at the very least not participate. But it's often a blind spot.

Is this an official work trip? It sounds like it's just that the workplace is really social and people plan things on their own with each other - that it's people who work together but not officially sanctioned.

If it is officially sanctioned, I would suggest just asking your line manager why you weren't invited.

If it's more of a work-adjacent thing, I think you'd want to bring it up with your manager, but in a slightly different way. I'm sure you're not the only one who's ever been excluded, and that's a real problem for team dynamics. So I would say something like "hey, this is a little awkward to bring up, but I am feeling a bit hurt that I was the only one not invited on the upcoming trip. Especially since people are always talking about it, and it is making me uncomfortable. Is there something we can do about this?" Make this your line manager's problem to solve, but in a polite way.

I do wonder if there's something going on here that you don't know about. Two possibilities come to mind:

1. People thought you were invited (or didn't realize you needed to be invited and thought you'd feel comfortable inviting yourself), sort of like rd45's experience. I have a lot of experience with workplace social dynamics (I work in a VERY social field) and this sort of thing is really common. People get tunnel vision in situations like this, and people can be excluded accidentally all the time.

2. There's some sort of dynamic you're unaware of, that's not about you. I once moved across the country for a job, and expected to at least make "work friends" at my new job. It was FIVE MONTHS before I was invited to my first happy hour. I knew people were hanging out and had no idea why I wasn't being invited. Fortunately, I had other friends in my new city, but it still sucked to be new to both the org and the city and be excluded. I found out later I had essentially replaced someone who had left the org on bad terms but was really beloved by a lot of people in the office. She still hung out with them all the time, and people thought it would be awkward to invite me. Or that by befriending me, they'd be disloyal to this other woman. I eventually made some friends in that office, but it took a while and I was never really part of the social scene. Not saying this exact scenario is going on with you, but just that there can be things going on you have no idea of.

Anyway, I'm sorry. It really sucks to feel like you're being excluded and have no idea why.
posted by lunasol at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

You're not overreacting, but based on how you wrote this, I'd guess that this was an oversight/misguided-but-not-personal thing, rather than some secret vote that excluded you because you're disliked. Like you wrote, this doesn't sound like a clique where only "insiders" are invited, and because you work remotely (it sounds like you are the only one at your location?) it seems plausible that 1) you haven't had enough facetime to be disliked to the point that you'd be the only person not invited, and 2) you were overlooked based on the fact that you are less visible than the others who are going. If I had to bet, whoever organized the trip forgot to include you initially out of some inattention to detail, and all the subsequent shushing is the result of nonconfrontational coworkers awkwardly trying to cover up his/her faux pas.

I write this as somebody who works in a small office, where we are all under one supervisor, but two people report equally to another supervisor as well (who is in a different location) and spend more time than the rest of us offsite working on this separate responsibilities. Even though we work side by side most of the time, these two people have been left out of some office activities just because people forget to include them/don't know if they have the authority to engage them in our activities without consulting their other supervisor/aren't sure whether or not they'll be in that day. It's not ideal, and better management would ensure they were invited to these activities even if they couldn't attend, but it's also totally not based on personality - they're both very well liked!

As for how to resolve this, I agree that bringing it up with the team leader is the best idea. Don't assume it's because people dislike you; instead, just be frank and direct - this seems like a fun, team-building event, and even though you work remotely you are part of the team, so you've been wondering why you weren't included in this trip. That is a totally reasonable question and any manager should be invested in developing cohesion and morale among their entire unit.
posted by exutima at 10:28 AM on May 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

This isn’t a clique; this is about 20 people, my direct colleagues and my line manager, all going on a trip that had been talked about when I first started, and used to sell the job to me.
Discuss this with your boss. Why are you excluded from this trip when it was shared with you as a selling point? What changed?
posted by kbar1 at 10:29 AM on May 6, 2018 [41 favorites]

lots of good advice above. It sounds like this is something that has already impacted your morale (and possibly, totally understandably, your productivity/effectiveness at work? you know best.). So my two cents is the sooner you can schedule the chat with your team leader, the better. You are well within your rights to request an expedited meeting time, I wouldn't wait until Thursday or Friday if possible.

re: content of the talk. LadyInWaiting nails it- take as much of the emotion out as possible. However, I'll also put in a plug that it's also totally OK if you do get emotional in the actual meeting. Going in with a rational game plan, and a script, will help make it constructive - and it's also important (mostly for you, but also to some extent for your team leader's understanding of the organizational dynamics) that you are honest about the impact that this has had on you. If that means that you get teary, or need to take a second to compose yourself, do not beat yourself up about this. You are a human being and it sounds like a stressful situation that needs to be understood and resolved ASAP.

even if it's a true misunderstanding (missed invitation or something), these cliquey office dynamics need to be addressed when they impact team members' work well-being to this extent.

best of luck!
posted by seemoorglass at 10:30 AM on May 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

You are not overreacting and I am so sorry this is happening to you. This is not OK on so many levels.
I agree that you need to have the conversation—speculation will just make you even more anxious and sad. Even though you are feeling emotional about this (and obviously that is normal and OK) try your best to simply and calmly state the facts when you have the conversation.
Sending you a hug/hand squeeze/pat on the shoulder if you want them...
posted by bookmammal at 10:36 AM on May 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

The reason people are going out of their way to offer reasons this could be a coincidence or an accident is because the alternative — that they deliberately excluded you personally, not based on a misunderstanding, from a trip that was meant to include everyone there — is shockingly awful.

Just. I want to make sure and affirm that for you. Yeah, sure, ask around, and make sure there wasn't a misunderstanding. But if your current understanding of the situation turns out to be right, then that is horrifyingly cruel behavior on your coworkers' part. You have every right to be upset.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:48 AM on May 6, 2018 [25 favorites]

I'm so sorry - this sounds very painful.

That said - I think there is a large chance that no one realizes you were excluded. What if there was a invite in the main office that said RSVP by X day and you missed it since you were off site? I think there is a good chance everyone is shushing each other because they don't want you to feel uncomfortable that you're not going and they don't know you well enough to ask why you "decided" not to go. Alternately (and this has happened to me recently) in putting together the 23 names on the email about the trip someone forgot your name. In my case, I was the forgetter - I was mentally walking through the office adding names to the list and forgot someone because he'd been on vacation and I hadn't seen him recently.

If it were me, I'd go in and talk to your supervisor on Monday since this is obviously hurting you. I'd say, "I didn't receive an invitation for the trip this year. What happened?" in as neutral and non-confrontational of a way as you can, and listen to whatever they say. If they hem and haw and it becomes obvious that you were excluded, follow that thread. But I think there is a good chance they'll be very surprised to know you didn't get invited.
posted by arnicae at 10:53 AM on May 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Is it possible that there was a communication mishap and one person thought they invited you and the other(s) just didn't speak back to them about it?

I got excluded from an email that a organizer thought I was on. They didnt catch it until I contacted them about it.
posted by gregjunior at 10:57 AM on May 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Just n’thing that a deliberate exclusion is a BIG DEAL and would be a disciplinary/fireable offence at my last organisation.
posted by saucysault at 11:09 AM on May 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

Are you close to anyone in the organization, enough to ask them what happened? You may get a more honest answer from a friend than from your manager.
posted by basalganglia at 11:12 AM on May 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that you're actually not on an email alias where the invite went out and all of this was discussed? This happened to me in a job I had once. I was hired by one company (Company A) to work on site with their partner (Company B). I regularly fell through the cracks because I was different than all of the other folks like me.

For example - there were a number of people who worked with me (at Company A) and the team I was hired to work with (at Company B) that didn't work on site, and they all had a specific profile in the system at Company B. I didn't get on that email alias when I started, because I didn't come in the same way and wasn't given that specific profile in the system. I also did not work on site at Company A, so they had an email alias that I was also not added to, because I didn't on-board in the same way.

The result of this is that I did not get invited to any launch parties, holiday parties, etc, out of the gate. I will admit that for a while I felt very personally excluded, even though sometimes I would hear about them and ask and someone would say "oh no! did you not get an invite? let's get that fixed."

It wasn't until I got officially hired by Company B and switched jobs that I started getting emails inviting me to things on a specific alias, that it hit me like a ton of bricks that I just wasn't on the distribution list. Ah, modern times.

Have you told anybody explicitly that you didn't get an invite? If I never said anything people would have just assumed I didn't like *them* and didn't want to go on their outings. That could also explain why they didn't/don't want to talk about it in front of you.

There are many ways in which this is absolutely not personal. But I can understand why you're hurt!
posted by pazazygeek at 11:25 AM on May 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Is it possible that, since so many members of your team are going to be out of the office, that they needed someone to "hold down the fort" for your department and take care of work things while everyone else was gone? And they left you holding the bag because you're the newest, or whatever? It doesn't make it any less shitty that they would do that on the sly rather than coming to you, explaining the situation and offering you something to make it up to you. But at least it's an alternative to feeling like you simply weren't wanted along.

Several years ago when I was working in reception at my company, one afternoon I and the other receptionist watched everyone else in our department including our manager verrrry casually stroll out the front door one by one, over the course of half an hour or so, in jeans and Cubs jerseys. Nobody said a word to either of us as to where they were going or even a good-bye. But we could see there was a limo parked off to the side of the parking lot that everyone was milling around. Apparently there was a team outing to a Cubs game, and they did not invite us along because it was a work day for the rest of the company and the front desk still needed to be covered. (And they didn't feel it would be fair to pick one of us to go and not the other.)

Either way, it is a shitty thing to exclude someone and I am really sorry you are going through this. I don't think you are overreacting at all, but I agree with suggestions above to talk to your team lead and get some clarification.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:27 AM on May 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

My visits to head office the past few weeks have been excruciatingly awkward, as people excitedly talking about the trip were shushed while I was in the room.

For whatever reason, people know you weren't invited and are trying to spare your feelings (thanks for nothing, people).

Our team leader isn’t going – he loudly proclaimed that he wished he could, but can’t because of family commitments

This sounds to me like a hamfisted attempt to let you know you're not the only one not going and won't be the only one still back at the ranch. I think it might be a matter of attributing things to stupidity rather than malice - possibly because you weren't in the habit of going to the socials, people may have assumed it wasn't going to be something you would be interested in doing, or someone was charged with asking you and forgot and then it was too late, or they only had a fixed number of places and didn't factor you in etc.

Whatever the reason, I would personally feel absolutely mortified and extremely upset, as you do, and would be having the same feelings of exclusion you describe. How awful for you.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 11:36 AM on May 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

Maybe someone needs to stay working, and you were chosen? And because you were chosen because you are not around as much, or some other imperfect reason, everyone feels a bit guilty about it all, so therefore the hushed tones?
posted by MountainDaisy at 11:41 AM on May 6, 2018

Appalling is definitely the word. And unprofessional, not to mention high-school. Fubar High School, senior class.

If they're shushing when you're around, it's not an oversight.

I'm kind of wondering if someone managed to wrangle an extra non-co-worker (gf/bf/so/kid) onto the trip, taking your place, and I'm sure there's a word beyond appalling that I'm not thinking of right now.

Absolutely ask your superior, and mention that this was "used to sell the job to me". But you're right: Then what? Anything that results in a change of plans will not help your situation in the long run. I think I might ask for compensation, actually.

I'm so angry for you.
posted by sageleaf at 11:44 AM on May 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

[This is a followup from the asker.]
that's a stunning amount of great feedback. I feel a lot less like I am over-reacting and this is a serious thing I can legitimately be upset about - thank you all
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:20 PM on May 6, 2018 [27 favorites]

Wow, your coworkers really dropped the ball.

I haven't read all the comments but just to make sure it gets said:
No matter WHY it happened, exactly, they screwed up big time, and it's not on you.

There is absolutely no reason for you to second-guess yourself here. No "maybe they secretly dislike me" stuff. Even IF they secretly disliked you (which is doubtful), you just don't do stuff like that. You don't invite 100% of the staff minus one person to anything, period, unless the reason one person can't go is explicitly stated (for example, one person has to stay to cover the phones) and it's explained beforehand.

Please don't feel bad *about yourself* here. They showed bad judgement, or yes, maybe they forgot before it was too late, but it's on them.

I'd go to the manager and talk about it but absolutely NOT in any "am I doing something wrong" kind of way. Just "so this situation created a really awkward team dynamic, can you tell me what happened" kind of way.

Hugs to you (if you want them). Keep your head high and treat yourself to something fun!
posted by M. at 12:23 PM on May 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

If they're shushing when you're around, it's not an oversight.

No matter WHY it happened, exactly, they screwed up big time, and it's not on you.

I came to say these things. It's possible that somebody was supposed to make sure you were invited, and by the time the others realized that this person had either dropped the ball or deliberately excluded you, the plans were far along and nobody felt like they could fix it, or feared that doing so would throw the "organizer" under the bus. Cowardly, but understandable. (Sort of.)

Definitely talk to your boss about it, in an non-apologetic way. You deserve an explanation for what happened. And don't feel obligated to smooth things over for your co-workers, either. Any smoothing should come from them.
posted by rpfields at 12:51 PM on May 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I agree with Martha My Dear Prudence that your boss is very aware of what's going on, and may even have chosen not to go because you weren't invited.

Which would mean he won't be surprised when you approach him about it.

However, he may not be willing to tell you so if he believes the reason you were excluded boils down to some kind of race/ethnic/sexual orientation/religious/political prejudice, and if he waffles, that's the conclusion I'd tend to draw.
posted by jamjam at 12:52 PM on May 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

Is there anything in writing? Are there terms of employment that state that every so often employees go on a trip together for team building or whatever paid for by the company?
posted by Fukiyama at 2:09 PM on May 6, 2018

No matter what the reason is that you were excluded, your coworkers messed up and you're not wrong to feel hurt. But I don't think you have enough information to draw any conclusions about the reason, yet. I wouldn't assume that it's because people dislike you. As other people have pointed out, there are alternative explanations.

I agree that you should ask your boss. Since it was one of the things that was advertised to you as part of the job, you have a reason to ask that doesn't make it seeem like it's ~personal drama.~ And from your post it seems like you have an okay relationship with him?

"Hey, Bob. Something's been bothering me. I thought based on what I was told when I was recruited that I would be going on the trip, so I was surprised when I wasn't invited. Do you know why?"

I wouldn't make any assumptions about the reason until you hear what your boss has to say. There might be a mundane, non-personal reason that no one handled well. Or he might be avoidant, in which case you can see if he drops any clues.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:34 PM on May 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

You should definitely ask what's going on. I am puzzled by your use of the term "invited" which is more of a social way to talk about a work trip than a professional one. You say your colleagues were invited but you were not invited. What does this mean? Normally for a work trip, (paid for by the company, right?) no one is "invited" people are assigned.
posted by Gnella at 2:47 PM on May 6, 2018 [7 favorites]

Just to add another speculative possibility, I had experience of being bafflingly (and heartbreakingly) excluded from all workplace socialising in a previous role. I worked partly offsite and was the newest member of an already well-formed team. I couldn't work out what I had done to be excluded, and it hurt.

Turns out that one toxic member of the team had decided that she had didn't like me (I later learnt she had a history of doing this to other people- always to women who she was worried would steal her "niche" in the organisation). She told others not to invite me, with vague insinuations that it was for their own good. The others were slightly confused but didn't know me enough to fight her on it, or thought they weren't privy to important information, and went along with it. The others on the team were quite nice people who I always got along quite well with.

When I finally found out what was going on, the bullying wasn't upsetting because I realised it was led by a single toxic person. However, it was really disappointing to realise that nice people never bothered investigating or standing up against my obvious ostracism.
posted by hotcoroner at 1:23 AM on May 7, 2018 [5 favorites]

nth-ing you have to ask your boss. I can't even reconcile all the facts as you've presented them. If they are all true, this is jaw droppingly unprofessional and cruel. You need to know the underlying reasons. Ask your boss.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 4:32 AM on May 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yes, ask your boss. And please update the rest of us once you find out.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 5:05 AM on May 7, 2018 [19 favorites]

I'm sorry you're feeling so bad about this. If it were me, I wouldn't say a bloody word. I would not bring this up with your boss. Don't give them the satisfaction of knowing you feel bad about it. I'm gob-smacked by this behavior. It's just sounds so high-schoolish.

Plan your own holiday. Do you really want to spend time with people you work with?
posted by james33 at 7:55 AM on May 7, 2018

I'm so sorry and regardless of deliberate or fuckup, it's hurtful. Please do follow up with us, either way, and also I would like to buy you a nice glass of wine.
posted by cyndigo at 2:26 PM on May 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

Of course your upset!

Excluding someone from meetings or celebrations is a sign of workplace harrassment. It sounds like otherwise you have had a good relationship with your colleagues, and you aren't sure about the future dynamic. My advise is to document what has happened in a journal or google doc. Two reasons 1- it helps you straighten out your feelings and the facts. 2- if it does become a terrible place for you, you have documentation to use in the future.
posted by Gor-ella at 12:06 PM on May 8, 2018

Any followup on this?
posted by blueberry at 2:26 PM on May 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

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