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Workplace Like a Family?

For the past eighteen months I've been working for a very small company. The owner has this idealized notion of us as a kind of "family."

What that means is, apart from working really hard, we're expected to take part in a lot of after-hours team building-type stuff. Bar hopping. Dinners. Activities.

Participation isn't mandatory, but, like I said, it's a small organization and you can't really get out of doing things in a graceful way. Not participating tends to color the owner's opinion of you. You're not a team player. You're not one of the gang. Or, to put it another way, you're not part of the family. It's extremely cliquey.

I've seen people get fired for different reasons. Inevitably, though, they're the ones who didn't want to join in the fun. They don't get fired because of not wanting to attend a party or suchlike - but on some level it plays a part in their termination. How can it not?

Lately I find myself resenting the situation more and more. It just eats into my home life too much. I'm not sure what to do because, otherwise, it's a pretty good gig.

Do any of you have to deal with something like this? How common is it? Is it just a small company thing? If I don't enjoy it, am I better off just leaving or do I put up with it?

What say you?

by J. Brandtreply 6412/30/2012

It's bullshit, OP, but in these days they have you by the nuts because the economy sucks and the job market is horrible. It's easier to go along with the b.s.

by J. Brandtreply 103/03/2012

I've dealt with situations like that before, and it usually doesn't end well.

People will tend to take things way too personally. Any little (or big) disagreement outside of work will change the dynamics in the office. Professionalism quickly goes out the window. People will be let go for personal, rather than professional reasons.

The problem is, if you fall out, and are eventually let go because of it, you will have lost that job as a potential reference for future jobs. Your best bet is to find a new job and leave on good terms, then the past 18 months will not have been a black hole on your resume.

The other option is to do your best to stay on good terms with everyone, to participate. That will probably just make you miserable in the end, even if the actual work is good.

Sorry you've got to deal with that, it's not a good situation to be in.

by J. Brandtreply 203/03/2012

Is this an incestuous family that we're talking about?

by J. Brandtreply 303/03/2012

That's bullshit OP. People have lives and I'm wondering why your boss doesn't have one of his own. Clearly he's lacking a personal life if he's trying to create a "family" at work. People with kids could not participate in this silly nonsense at all. How do they? Does he even hire anyone that isn't a 20 something single? Because I certainly can't imagine anyone older, with a partner/family putting up with this crap.

I would suggest participating in about 25% of the after hours reindeer games, just enough not to draw attention to yourself. Blow off the rest with excuses: "can't, I'm taking a class, have a date, doc's appointment, etc.

Jeez, I don't even go to the once a year Christmas party.

by J. Brandtreply 403/03/2012

I quit my last job because I couldn't put up with all that shit anymore. All of the "teambuilding" shit was the worst. It had nothing to do with being better employees, but was a way to try to be nosey. For example, one of our teambuilding exercise themes was "Show and Tell", where we had to bring in something that was special to us and explain why. I swear, it was like being in fucking school again it was so damn childish.

Also, we'd have constant "team lunches" (that WE had to pay for out of pocket) where we had to spend two hours talking about personal things and we'd also have stupid ass potlucks so that all the fat fraus would have a reason to eat.

I don't want to be friends with my co-workers. Be civil and nice to eachother, sure. But I don't want to share personal details about my life with gossipy bitches and likewise, I don't give a shit about their private life.

I am SO glad to be out of that place! Let me do my work and leave me the fuck alone.

by J. Brandtreply 503/03/2012

For decades, I've used my elderly, sickly father as an excuse to avoid unwanted engagements at work & otherwise. If he were actually that old & that sick, he'd have been long since dead. But no one's keeping track, & I get points for being a dutiful child. If you don't have an old, sick person in your life, make one up -- nobody will want check up on you by meeting him/her, I can assure you.

by J. Brandtreply 603/03/2012

OP I've worked for places like this. Basically what you have is the owner has made his business his life so much so that he fails to see how others could feel differently. It's not going to get any better. The best you can do is lie about prior engagements that can get you out of going out. A night course in something is a good excuse.

by J. Brandtreply 703/03/2012

R6, someone in another thread said they made up a daughter for years at their job because they noticed mom's at their work got time off for anything kid related. Best thing I've read here in a long time.

by J. Brandtreply 803/03/2012


by J. Brandtreply 903/03/2012

I was a temp once in the mailroom of a large company for several months. It was great because people would look at you then avert their eyes: Temp + Gay = Nobody. I didn't have to say good morning, have a good evening/weekend/holiday, where are you going for lunch (none of your business), when's that baby due (who cares).

I never want to work in a fake-friends environment.

by J. Brandtreply 1003/03/2012

[quote] Because I certainly can't imagine anyone older, with a partner/family putting up with this crap.

In my experience, co-workers with a partner/kids are the major partipants.

by J. Brandtreply 1103/03/2012

My previous job was working for a small city in California. Everyone was so fucked up that council decided to bring in one of those happy clappy team building groups.

Everyone (but me), and because they were lifers and were glad to not have to "work" for two days. Fortunately, I had given my two weeks notice, but unfortunately I was still required to attend.

The two team building ninnies gassed on and on about how we are a "family". I'd finally had it, raised my hand and said that I had my own dysfunctional family, thank you very much, and I prefer to keep my professional relations cordial but distant. The ninnies were quite upset with me and told me I had "issues". I said, yes I do and they do not involve the workplace and my issues are none of your business. With that I got up and left the room. I mean, is council going to fire me?

by J. Brandtreply 1203/03/2012

Where I used to work, one of the supervisors would send out mass e-mails announcing "the newest member of our [ABC Company] Family is little [Madison Taylor Smith], born on .... -- mom & baby doing beautifully! A 'Congratulations [Jakki]!' cake will be served in the breakroom at noon!"

Since everyone hated management, these announcements caused grimaces even (especially?) among the new mother's pals -- way to start an innocent baby off on the wrong foot!

by J. Brandtreply 1303/03/2012

R12 Good for you!

by J. Brandtreply 1403/03/2012

Sounds exhausting OP.

by J. Brandtreply 1503/03/2012

When they forced this family stuff, teams, and personal intrusions in our lives, it was an attack on our digity as adults.

by J. Brandtreply 1603/03/2012

Ugh OP, I feel your pain. R2 had some good advice.

by J. Brandtreply 1703/03/2012

Been there done fired too.

by J. Brandtreply 1803/03/2012

I'm with R6, the only way out of letting the business monopolize your entire life is to invent a permanent excuse.

An elderly parent with dementia is ideal. If you have a partner (who is not covered by your medical insurance), you could invent a chronic disease for them; multiple sclerosis is good because the symptoms come and go, but never stop completely.

by J. Brandtreply 1903/03/2012

That's the problem, R11, he doesn't want to be a "major partipants."

by J. Brandtreply 2003/03/2012

Yeah, been there, done that. It's a pretty big deal in my (government) workplace that we all eat lunch together, have cake together etc on a regular basis. It took some getting used to, as I'm an introvert but I don't mind it that much now. Instead of working, I get to dick around, eat cake and gossip.

by J. Brandtreply 2103/03/2012

I'm a temp at a large company. It is the most gossipy place I ever worked. I am not applying for a full time job there. The environment is toxic and the people are annoying, immature and petty.

by J. Brandtreply 2203/03/2012

LOL @ R20

by J. Brandtreply 2303/03/2012

[quote]Where I used to work, one of the supervisors would send out mass e-mails announcing "the newest member of our [ABC Company] Family is little [Madison Taylor Smith], born on .... -- mom & baby doing beautifully! A 'Congratulations [Jakki]!' cake will be served in the breakroom at noon!"

Oh, dear. At EVERY place I've worked we've had this shit. SO cheesy.

by J. Brandtreply 2403/03/2012

Ewwww, god help those who have to experience the Zappos mindset. This is what they do to their employees, only it's a REQUIREMENT for the job. And we're talking about call center workers.

I feel for you, OP. Wish I had some good advice.

by J. Brandtreply 2503/03/2012

[quote]I was a temp once in the mailroom of a large company for several months. It was great because people would look at you then avert their eyes: Temp + Gay = Nobody. I didn't have to say good morning, have a good evening/weekend/holiday, where are you going for lunch (none of your business), when's that baby due (who cares).

While not having to join in all the shit would be great, it's the "you're nothing" attitude bullshit that keeps me from ever temping. Dealt with that shit back when I first got out of high school. Never again.

by J. Brandtreply 2603/03/2012

I hate this sort of shit and avoid it. One of the benefits of working for a large organisation is that I can show my face at these events and quickly slip away without being noticed.

by J. Brandtreply 2703/03/2012

Do they pay you for the bullshit?

Quit and sue for back pay.

by J. Brandtreply 2803/03/2012

Also, I find that the people who give so much of their time to this shit are the lazy asses who need to be seen to be filling their time productively.

by J. Brandtreply 2903/03/2012

[quote]If I don't enjoy it, am I better off just leaving or do I put up with it?

Of course you're better off leaving.

It sounds like a cult, not a workplace.

by J. Brandtreply 3003/03/2012


I had a similar situation and modified an actual personal family experience to get out of scads of team building after work bull shit.

Make up a profoundly intellectually disabled family member who you just have to tend to fairly often. Make it out so that you are the caregiver(s) relief. No one will question you. If need be, claim they just moved into town with your granny or whoever. I literally had a situation like that as a teenager with a family member who is no longer with us, so I bent the truth as an adult on that end and will go to Hell for it.

When you do just have to do the team building after work bull shit. Save all receipts and write the after work dinners and shit off on your taxes.

by J. Brandtreply 3103/03/2012

You need a Bunbury

by J. Brandtreply 3203/03/2012

Work chic is so 2007. Nobody gives a shit where or if you work these days I enjoy fucking with the young ones in my office who buy into the whole family thing. I like to frequently remind them of all the layoffs over the past few years. Family my arse, it's work, nothing more, nothing less. I keep my door closed all day and don't welcome coworkers unless they have a legitimate business reason to talk to me. Drastic, yes, but the whole I live for my job bullshit made me this way. I like to mock the young ones too. I tell them they should watch cnbc before they arrive each morning. I try to toss in " sustainable" in as many sentences as I can.

by J. Brandtreply 3303/03/2012

Don't blame this nonsense on young workers. There are a lot of older workers who push this BS.

by J. Brandtreply 3403/03/2012

[qiuote]I enjoy fucking with the young ones in my office who buy into the whole family thing. I like to frequently remind them of all the layoffs over the past few years.

You sound like a real charmer.

by J. Brandtreply 3503/03/2012

I hate the faux-family inflicted on us (just where are all your brothers and sisters after you get laid off?) but I also remember the early 80s, before all of that started happening and how, anyone bringing in a cake or something to celebrate a friends' birthday or baby, would look up and see a dozen so so people they'd never seen before scarfing down the cake.

So it seems the scarfers are now in charge, and the parties they make us give and attend are for their scarfing benefit.

by J. Brandtreply 3603/04/2012

Last year my company had one of those bullshit weekend retreat 'team building' things at some campsite-type thing in the middle of BFE nowhere in upstate NY. I couldn't go because I invented a fictional cousin who was getting married in Vermont that weekend. As Bar would say, it worked out well for me.

by J. Brandtreply 3703/04/2012

My co-worker posted 8 ultrasound photos on her bulletin board. I have never seen that before.

by J. Brandtreply 3803/04/2012

Sure, you're a "family" until management wants to shaft the employees, then you're suddenly a business again.

by J. Brandtreply 3903/04/2012

It's really easy to lose sight of the idea that work involves the exchange of money for labor. While team-building has it's place (during business hours on the company dime) the idea that you are automatically "family" with coworkers is deeply offensive to me.

by J. Brandtreply 4003/04/2012

Isn't this kind of what everyone wanted and now that it's here they don't like it?

I have my personal life and my professional life. Never the twain shall meet. They are not my friends, they are not my family, they are my colleagues. I do an occasional lunch(if someone higher in the food chain insists) and an occasional drink(same food chain philosophy) and the Holiday party as that's where the bonuses are handed out.

Fortunately I work in a midsize corporations that is very old style and formal. Takes the guess work out of everything. Including what I wear.

Of course we do have the copier class, mostly women, who go about their shower and birthday business but I nipped that in the bud. The very first time I was asked to contribute I took about thirty seconds to deal with it. I just said if it was important to me I would buy something on my own without participating in fundraising.

In five years, since I started after college, I've been promoted three times. Have my own office and an assistant. It seems I've only been rewarded for remaining a professional at work.

My advice for the OP would be consider participating part of your job description and play along or find something else ASAP if you can't tolerate it.

by J. Brandtreply 4103/04/2012

I can speak to this.

I worked for a company where we a group of us traveled together. We did everything together from breakfast to dinner, which was usually late. It was exhausting. I felt like I couldn't get the fuck away from them. It was explicitly said that if you didn't go along with "the group", you would be let go because the cohesiveness of "the group" was everything.

I hated it, especially the guy I reported to, who was a control freak ASSHOLE (hence the we HAVE to be together shit). Well eventually more and more people were added to "the group", including this one guy Mike who had bigger balls than me and simply refused to go along. If he felt like it, fine, but if wanted to do something else, he did. He got a lot of pressure from the asshole, but today, 7 years later, he has the asshole's job.

I left about 5 years ago and haven't looked back.

Bottom line OP is your work lie is your work life and your personal life is separate from that, and never again will I allow someone to not respect that.

You can stand up to it, like Mike did, or you can leave, like I did, but don't allow it. You can't get that time back, and what will you have to show for it? Time is precious - too precious to waste on control freaks.

by J. Brandtreply 4203/04/2012

Then you get the arrogant, just outta college types who think they're going to create the perfect posse of fun, cool co-workers. Frat Party 4-Ever! And they quickly try to eliminate anyone who's not invited to the party, usually by giving you the silent treatment.

It takes them years (sometimes forever) to learn that a workplace is not an extension of their living room.

by J. Brandtreply 4303/04/2012

There are plenty of 40 year olds who think work is an extension of their living rooms. They act like high schoolers.

by J. Brandtreply 4403/04/2012

I'm 45 and agree with the posters that say, "older" employees are as bad, maybe worse, with liking this "team-building", eating together, etc., stuff as are younger workers. Though the older ones ARE usually fraus in staff positions, and the younger ones, baby executives in professional positions.

BUT: I think, OP, you should take the advice of several posters and leave. It does sound almost like a cult. Crock of shit. If people get fired from a place like that, great; they can get unemployment. And in subsequent interviews, any place that's a real business, would probably understand why you would be glad to be out of there and not hold the termination against you.

OP, think of Nancy Reagan (in a whole different context!) and: "just say no."

by J. Brandtreply 4503/04/2012

If you are NOT a team building work-is-like-family person then GET OUT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It is the wrong corporate culture for you and you will make EVERYONE suffer.

You make life hell for those of us on the pot-luck committee when you constantly sign up for paper plates and napkins and plastic cutlery.

I am currently organizing a baby "sprinkle' for Erica in housing assistance, no shit, who has so much stuff from her last three pregnancies that we just wanted to throw a little party for her.

by J. Brandtreply 4603/04/2012

[quote]your work lie is your work life

I'm putting this on my bulletin board at work.

by J. Brandtreply 4703/04/2012

How do people usually celebrate a supervisor's bday? These fraus spent close to $150 on their supe's bday.

by J. Brandtreply 4803/04/2012

[quote] How do people usually celebrate a supervisor's bday?

We all go out to lunch. The other managers pay for the one whose birthday we are celebrating. We pay for our own.

That's the extent I am willing to spend additional time with my co-workers. I ignore all other events they schedule outside of working hours.

by J. Brandtreply 4903/04/2012

Lunch is understandable. These fraus gave the supe lunch and three other gifts!

by J. Brandtreply 5003/04/2012

A real family does not demand that you are there every moment of your life. This is not a workplace like a family, this is all about control.

I have actually worked for a company run like a family. I didn't have to attend any outside of work company function. My boss called me at home when somebody got injured in a crime, around Sunday Midnight, just to tell me, not because he needed me to work. We could show up at the bosses cottage or not. He even lent the cottage to my mother once. I always got company Xmas presents that I wanted, because they knew me enough not to buy me generic stuff. Even 1 year after I left, they heard I bought a new car and insisted that I drop by and give everyone a ride.

That is a family company. Your example is about maximizing control and discipline. Anyone who does not obey, is fired. I have also unfortunately, worked for a boss like that. It was hell. The company Xmas party was the most depressing day of the season. Attendance was mandatory. Weekends at the ski resort, were also mandatory, particularly after the bosses wife left him. Everyone sat around and listened to him complain and ramble on about pure garbage, accomplishing nothing, hoping that he got it out of his system for a few months.

by J. Brandtreply 5103/04/2012

I think the bosses who insist upon building this sort of corporate culture never really graduated from college. Emotionally. Also, I think they are lonely people with shitty personalities and cannot make friends so they essentially force their employees to be their friends.

Tony Hseih is leading the charge in this "movement." He even wrote a fucking book about it.

by J. Brandtreply 5203/04/2012

Thank you R47. I mistyped that just for you.

by J. Brandtreply 5303/04/2012

What's with these frau supervisors that want to do all these bi-monthly "team lunches" and "teambuilding retreats" where we all "get to know eachother better"? I am so sick of all of this crap! I just want to work and go home. I don't want to be forced to be friends with co-workers. If I get to know someone well enough over time and we become friends, fine. But all this forcing people to hang out together is ridiculous.

And why is it that I always get a pathetic frau supervisor with no life that tries to make up for her unhappiness by getting in everyone's business and gossiping behind everyone's back? I'm so fed up with it. Just supervise and leave me alone. We are not friends and I don't want to hear stupid stories about how your husband lets you buy whatever you want or about what happend while you were walking the dog yesterday.

by J. Brandtreply 5412/29/2012

Once upon a time, hospitals were universally acknowledged as singular institutions that were not expected to be anything else but what they were. Because of its singularity the hospital was described in reassuringly undemocratic terms as "a world unto itself," with "its own way of doing things," while its singular nurse--who woke patients up to give them their sleeping pills--was heralded in jokes and movies as one of the all-time great pioneers of rugged individualism. But times have changed. Nowadays not even a mom-and-pop shop is comfortable with the idea of being a world unto itself, and people with their own way of doing things are packed off to management workshops to cure them of it. Above all, singularity is out. The goal of today's hospitals is typicality. Like every other institution in the country--insurance companies, banks, universities--they want to be what is known as a "microcosm of America."

Checking into a microcosm of America instead of a hospital is what made my "Hospital Experience" a hospital experience, as in "dining experience!" instead of a hospital stay, as in "She's resting comfortably."

Any institution wishing to be a microcosm of America must first have a huge workforce of females. This hospitals have, which gives them a second advantage: endless possibilities for confusion. The number of young American women named Pam and Debbi has reached critical mass, as have the number of American jobs in which surnames are never used. Pam and Debbi once were called "Nurse Smith" and "Nurse Jones," but nobody would dare call them that now because it sounds so cold and unfriendly, so when you need to tell one from the other you have to go out and play on the microcosm with them.

American microcosms celebrate the group, never the loner, and enshrine inclusiveness. Hence the wasteful duplication, repetition, and sheer exhaustion caused by our democratic compulsion to have too many cooks in the kitchen. Reciting the history of my swollen ankles to six different nurses was like making six different calls to Customer Service and never getting the same rep twice. In both cases, I had to tell the same story over and over from the beginning, which not only is guaranteed to produce discrepancies, but put me on the same intellectual level as the peasants in Charles Lamb's essay, who thought they had to burn down their barns every time they wanted cooked meat. Throw another microcosm on the barbie.

Nothing says American microcosm like distrust of the written word. Thinking to save time for all concerned, I wrote up my complete medical history but nobody connected with the hospital wanted to read it, and a couple of people seemed to think I was weird for writing it. They all wanted to hear me tell it "in your own words," as if written words were the work of some evil twin.

Because they distrusted my written words, I retaliated by distrusting their spoken ones. I decided they were probing, trying to find a pattern, a recurrence, making an illness out of something that wasn't. I found myself getting wary, then downright sneaky. "Don't tell them you get sleepy every afternoon, else they'll want to test you for narcolepsy," I warned myself. "For God's sake don't tell them how depressed you've been ... And if they mention sex, say 'I had it once years ago but it went away and never came back.'"

I hadn't talked so much since my last book tour! I was talking myself to ... death?

That's when I decided to draw up some emergency instructions in case I had a heart attack before I was discharged from Microcosms of America Memorial. I asked the nurse for some paper, and lo and behold, she delivered the coup de grace.

"You can take it up to the Hospitality Center," she said. "They have volunteers there who can help you with the wording."

Now that Jack Kevorkian has been sprung from jail, the voluntary-euthanasia movement will get, shall we say, a second wind. I confess I am in favor of having a legalized suicide service just a phone call away, but what is more of a microcosm of America than the computerized [phone] menu?

by J. Brandtreply 5512/30/2012

R55, you are wonderful! So you're an author, with a book tour? Cool! Love to hear/read more...

by J. Brandtreply 5612/30/2012

I didn't play that game, OP, and I was one of the first to go when the layoffs came. People who play the game at least a little bit are less likely to be fired/laid off.

When I took a new job, I hit the ground running, and dealt with a new home and a brand new relationship all in the course of a few months, and by the time I'd noticed I hadn't socialized as much as I should have, the Powers That Be laid me off.

It was the financial downtown that was the main reason I was laid off, but my point is: If people don't see you, know you, know your story and know what you do, then you seem to be more dispensable to them....

You have to play the game to a certain degree. You need not go to every single event, but especially if it's a smaller/independent company, and the managers/CEO's/owners are people you could potentially interact with either in office or at an event, then find a few things that either interest you - or don't fill you with dread - and participate.

Before I worked for the company where I got laid off (a fairly big company, but with small microcosms inside of it) I worked at a company of about 200. I was in the executive department and saw board members and the president every day. I didn't do things like the company picnic, but I did try to do events on site, and contributing to The United Way was pretty much mandatory, as was attending ice cream socials and goodbye parties. Pick a few, hold your nose, and jump in.

by J. Brandtreply 5712/30/2012

What r39 said

by J. Brandtreply 5812/30/2012

At work, I'm friendly, reliable, and will pitch in on a project. I have a good professional reputation...and then I go live the rest of my life. And my company respects that, thank goodness. We have excellent perks and benefits, better than I've ever had before, not because of some kind of false sense of "family" but every one of them is designed to take away distractions, so you can spend more time at work, WORKING.

I've been in the "we're a family, we have to LIVE this job" jobs, and I've been in "we're a good corporation that will reward you for your work" jobs, and I much prefer the latter.

by J. Brandtreply 5912/30/2012


by J. Brandtreply 6012/30/2012

[quote]Also, we'd have constant "team lunches" (that WE had to pay for out of pocket) where we had to spend two hours talking about personal things

It sounds like my acting classes in college, where we'd sit around in a circle and start talking about personal stuff, until we were all blubbering. So fake, and so useless.

by J. Brandtreply 6112/30/2012

but you said you'd take care of the mac and cheese. now what the hell am I supposed to do???

by J. Brandtreply 6212/30/2012

I work for a company like this. The CEO was a party frat boy in college and even though he's now in the social security age bracket, he still wants us to gather together a few times a year and drink our asses off with him. It's not that bad as our company has offices in 3 different cities so we don't see each other that often so it's sort of nice when we do get together to have a nice boozy dinner (he pays and we always eat/drink very well). I do hate the frau lunches/parties, etc. though. Where do these women have time to think up this bullshit? I couldn't take doing it on a daily basis that's for sure-and wouldn't. Once a quarter or so, I can live with.

by J. Brandtreply 6312/30/2012

[quote]Also, we'd have constant "team lunches" (that WE had to pay for out of pocket) where we had to spend two hours talking about personal things.

Sounds like a cult. Don't they call that "auditing" in clamspeak?

by J. Brandtreply 6412/30/2012
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