Celebrate Me Gone!

by admin on May 7, 2014

My story is a short one, but one that I just knew I had to submit. I have a coworker whose last day at work is rapidly approaching. She posted on Facebook the other day that on her last day of work she is hosting a Farewell Potluck FOR HERSELF in the break room. She’s then been going around telling everyone to spread the word, requesting them to make fliers to post around the building, and even told me “Decorate the room up nice. I want my last day to be AMAZING.” I’m not sure if she is worried that nobody likes her enough to acknowledge her leaving or if she’s just that full of herself that she feels she deserves to have a party. Either way, I will not be feeding into her blatantly begging everyone to tell her just how much they will miss her. No need to reward the tacky! 0430-14

{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

Lis May 7, 2014 at 3:15 am

She might be going about it in an odd way, but I’d be inclined to see this charitably. When I left my last home town I didn’t have a leaving do, partly because I had a week between submitting a PhD thesis and making a big move, but also partly because I wasn’t convinced it would be anything other than a move to go ‘o hai folks, come act like you’re bothered I’m going’ – so your first suggestion for interpreting your colleague’s behaviour applied to me. (By the way, this was in a culture where organising events for your own milestone points was the norm, so maybe it’s different where you are) The thing is, when I went back to that town to graduate I did organise a bit of a do the evening after. Nothing fancy, just a trip to a pub that everyone could afford and find. And guess what, loads of people came, and they’d probably have come to a leaving party as well if I’d had the energy to think about it. So yes, your colleague may just be worrying that no-one will care/notice – maybe a bit of reassurance on that front will make her less hyper about making her mark.

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Skaramouche May 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm

I haven’t read the rest of the comments yet so it’s possible someone else said the same thing. However, I couldn’t help replying to you, Lis. She’s throwing a POTLUCK for herself. Meaning she is asking people to make/buy food so that she can be feted. I could be persuaded to take a charitable view if she was supplying the cake/munchies/whatever and just inviting everyone to come and say goodbye. But she wants her last day to be AMAZING? What is she? 5? :P
I guess I shouldn’t be so horribly sarcastic but I sense an entitlement to a good bye party on the part of this woman. If she’s afraid that no one will care and no one actually does, I’m sure there’s a reason for that. And that’s not the point anyway. Goodbye parties are thrown because the people left behind would like to celebrate the one leaving. Otherwise, if the one leaving wants to do something nice for the ones being left behind, he/she should provide the party. Asking to be celebrated by others is really, really tacky.

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AD May 8, 2014 at 9:09 am

I’m with you, Skaramouche. I make jokes about it being my birthday every year, but I would never ASK for a party. Tackiness aside, times are tight for almost everyone just now. You never know who you might be putting unreasonable pressure on, and making someone feel guilty because they want to comply and can’t is intolerable. OP is perfectly justified to ignore this.

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Margo May 7, 2014 at 5:00 am

It seems a bit off to me – my experience in work situations is that it’s more normal to either mark it yourself (e.g. it’s your birthday / last day / promotion so you bring in cookies or cakes for everyone) so you are technically hosting a celebration for yourself, but you are supplying the goodies OR it arranged by someone else in which case they arrange any treats or food, and the GoH may well not be officially told about it until the last minute.

I’ve also seen situations closer to what Lis described where the person who is leaving will suggest that everyone meets up for drinks / meal after work /. during lunch, but again, in my experience that has always required minimal effort from he attendees and while everywhere I’ve ever worked it has been normal for people to pay their own way, equally it has always been a fairly inexpensive option, and people have been free to decide whether to come or not.

For me, the big issue with OPs coworker is that she is demanding that people go to a lot of effort – bringing potluck dishes, even decorating a room. I would see it much more charitably if she had said “I’d like to have a bit of a get together on my last day – I’ll bring cookies but if anyone else felt like bringing stiff that would be fantastic”, or something along those lines, I would have given her a pass.

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MamaBird May 7, 2014 at 5:41 am

It’s pretty tacky to throw your own going away party. Is this something your workplace generally does when people leave, or did she just take it upon herself to go ahead and have a good-bye do?
I can see that she might be nervous about no one bothering that she’s leaving. It’s the worst. When I started in the working world, a friend and I were both interning at the same large company in different departments. After months of my co-workers and supervisors telling me what a great job I was doing, how friendly, efficient and dedicated I was, on the day I left they pretty much said “Oh, it’s your last day? Bye then.” My friend on the other hand, had a full blown party with cake, lunch and a parting gift organized by her co-workers. A little salt for the wound for me.

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The Elf May 7, 2014 at 8:09 am

Exactly. I’ve brought in baked goods to share on my last day before, but really, I don’t need much of an excuse to bake and share! To organize an all-out party is just too much.

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Original Poster May 8, 2014 at 12:13 am

Where I work, we are a cohesive entity comprised of multiple departments. A company wide goodbye party is only held for members of management team.

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lkb May 7, 2014 at 5:48 am

Is “dick move” (re Lis’ post), really an appropriate term for an etiquette site?

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admin May 7, 2014 at 8:03 am

No, so I edited it out.

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lkb May 7, 2014 at 5:53 am

Wow! This is one way to really chew up any goodwill the hostess/guest of honor has left from her former employer. If she goes back to ask for a reference, it will be, “Who’s that? Oh yeah: The one that had the celebratory party on leaving here, posters and everything. If she’s so happy to be leaving….”

Throwing one’s own going-away party strongly implies she thinks she’s “all that and a bag of chips”. The day after she leaves, the company will go back to business as usual and within a week almost everyone will have forgotten she was there.

I’d say the OP is right on the money by not feeding the crazy, unless she was a close friend.

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essie May 7, 2014 at 5:53 am

I find it amusing that we have a party when people depart, sort of an “You’re leaving? Party time!”

If she bothers you any more about preparing for “her” party, mention that you’ve got a full workload right now…but if she can get your boss to approve it, you’d be more than happy to set the work aside and decorate the break room for her farewell party.

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noceleryplease May 7, 2014 at 7:27 am

I’d feel more charitable about this if she had said – I’m leaving, guys, and so I am going to have a party and provide pizza for everyone so you’ll know how much I will miss you all”

But she wants to have a party and is asking OTHER people to post fliers and decorate and provide food. NOPE.

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Lo May 7, 2014 at 8:05 am

Yes I was thinking this.

It would be really kind of her to say, hey I’d like to celebrate with you all before I leave and I’d like to buy pizza and bring cake or something like that. Asking people to bring food? That’s an abuse of good will.

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The Elf May 7, 2014 at 8:10 am

Yes, phrasing it that way would make all the difference.

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Shoebox May 7, 2014 at 11:35 am

Agreed. Trying to bully people into caring enough to throw you a farewell bash is beyond clueless (unless she actually realises that’s what she’s doing, in which case it’s just incredibly pathetic to the point of creepy).

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Mer May 7, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Yes indeed. It is very common practice here that the person leaving brings something to coworkers to enjoy (food related). The sentiment is bit more of a “hey, I’m leaving, but eat this cake and have a sweet memory of me, it was fun working with you”. That is the norm here, basically. Coworkers generally don’t throw party or bring food, but might chip in to have small gift for the leaving person. So had she provided the food, I would think nothing of this. But asking others to bring it? Not good.

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Mary May 7, 2014 at 8:06 am

I have seen exiting co-workers host a “happy hour” at a local establishment and invite the office to stop by for drinks and conversation. This has gone over well and a good time was had by all. It took place on neutral ground and the co-worker paid for 1 drink per person and some appetizers for the table. If she really wanted a going away party she would have to fund it 100% herself – as noceleryplease has stated.
I’ve never understood going away PARTIES. It seems so strange to celebrate someone leaving and sends the message “You’re leaving, YAY!!!” I asked one time if the cake was going to say “Go Away, (Name)” since it was a Going Away Party.

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Taragail May 7, 2014 at 10:23 am

I don’t think its the leaving, so much as the ‘Good luck with the next step of your life.’

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Cecilia May 7, 2014 at 8:20 am

I think she is being rude. She is throwing herself a party, yet she wants others to provide the food, decoration and advertise/market it. Maybe her need to feel important & special is the reason no one else has organized a farewell party for her.

I’m not crazy about parties of any kind (wedding/baby showers, birthday, etc.) at work because of what happened with MamaBird & her friend. We have had a couple of those type of incidents where I work because one person got a huge party and another person got a smaller/less extravagant party or was altogether forgotten.

The one incident that sticks out most is the baby shower incident. A male coworker and his wife were given a huge, and I do mean huge, baby shower with all the trimmings. A female coworker who was also pregnant at the same time received a *much* smaller party. Her feelings were hurt for weeks.

I know we should never expect parties, especially “showers”, but it was so in-your-face that I can understand why female coworker felt hurt.

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Library Diva May 7, 2014 at 10:29 am

No, it is hurtful to see such blatant unequal treatment. I remember a particularly distasteful story that appeared on here. The commenter worked with someone who was expecting a baby. Both halves of the couple were well-connected in the company (perhaps it was the owner’s son, married to the CFO’s daughter and one or both of them also held high positions in the company). The commenter described how her co-workers spent weeks sucking up. A committee to plan the shower was appointed and met weekly. Meanwhile, the pregnancy of a woman who held a lower position in the company (but a highly visible one, so everyone knew) went completely unacknowledged.

I think you have to be careful with workplace celebrations and do your best to treat everyone equally. My former workplace had a lovely tradition: as someone was preparing to depart, everyone would pick a day to go out to lunch at a place of the person’s choosing, and everyone would chip in for the person’s lunch. It worked very well.

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lakey May 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm

IF there are at work celebrations then they need to be standardized through a social committee. That helps to avoid the uneven treatment. We did this where I worked. If a death occurred in a coworker’s family, the social committee sent flowers. If there was a birthday, the birthday person brought a treat to share. If there was a pregnancy or wedding, there was a small shower party, where there were light refreshments and a gift that was bought with social committee money. Everyone chipped in an amount of money at the beginning of the year, something like $20 dollars to cover the costs of flowers or gifts, so you donated once and weren’t continually being hit up for money.

I also think that it would be just as good to not have celebrations through work, and have people do whatever they want on their own time away from the workplace. But if it is done at work it needs to be standardized.

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Cecilia May 7, 2014 at 7:38 pm

I floated the “social committee” idea at a staff meeting one time and was immediately shot down by several coworkers. They did not want to contribute their “hard-earned money so people would get married and have babies to get gifts”. Yeah, people are going to rush out to get married and procreate so they can get a bouquet of flowers and $50 sheet cake. Mind you, these are the same coworkers that would be first in line to get a plate at any shower/party that was happening.

I’m not against parties, per se. I just think if they are not going to be equal, such as the shower incident, that they should be done away from work, during nonwork hours. Oh, and don’t bring in your half-eaten blooming onion that you got at the party last night to “share”. Gross and rude!!

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ChicaLola May 7, 2014 at 8:37 am

I find it sad, that she would feel noone else would do this for her. I understand not wanting to reward her for being tacky….but what about just being nice? Obviously something is off with her, or she feels that badly about herself. There is no harm in at least attending.

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JeanLouiseFinch May 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm

The problem is that it is potluck, so if you attend, you should really bring something to share. As previous posters have said, it would be different if she was bringing the food. That would be more like a thank you/farewell gesture to her co-workers.

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ChicaLola May 8, 2014 at 8:00 am

True….and somehow I missed that it was a potluck :) I just feel bad….and hate for someone to feel that they aren’t appreciated, or would be missed :)

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ohboy May 7, 2014 at 3:20 pm

It might be that potlucks are the norm there too, so nothing tacking about adding on a “I’m leaving” to it. I’d try to be nice. I feel sad for folks when they have to throw their own parties, so I try to double up on nice then.

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Rosie B. May 7, 2014 at 6:30 pm

That’s true, but I feel like the best way to get people to be nice to you isn’t by saying, “I’m throwing a party in honor of myself that all of you are going to be paying for!” If this behavior is the norm for her I totally see why no one felt like throwing her a party. If I were in that situation I might attend the party if there was one, but I certainly wouldn’t buy or make anything for it.

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Cat May 7, 2014 at 8:45 am

I have had “farewell” parties given for me, but it is not something I ever expected or wanted. I would be highly insulted if they decided to have a party to celebrate my departure-after I had already departed.
I believe that I would simply stay out of this and tend to my work. It smacks too much of the person who demands a birthday party or who throws herself a shower. ‘We must celebrate the glory of me!”

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Jazzgirl205 May 7, 2014 at 9:04 am

Do the decorations as she asked and consider it an act of kindness. Yes, it’s tacky – so what? Would you rather use etiquette to hurt her feelings on her last day?

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Rosie B. May 7, 2014 at 6:37 pm

If it were me I wouldn’t feel obligated to do anything for her. I don’t think it would be hurtful to say something like, “Sorry, I’ve got a lot going on right now and I don’t think I’ll have time, but good luck with the move!” If it wasn’t too much trouble I might do it, but it would be my decision and I wouldn’t feel bad if I didn’t get around to it. I’d still make a point of taking time to say goodbye and wish her well, though.

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Rosie B. May 7, 2014 at 6:38 pm

(Addition to the above comment) If giving going-away parties was the norm around the office, though, I’d feel more obligated to contribute.

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Lenore May 8, 2014 at 6:59 am

But how it is appropriate for her to expect/demand people to foot the bill for a party she’s throwing? That is what a potluck is, after all.

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Pam May 8, 2014 at 2:46 pm

I think the problem is that too many nice people never speak up. No one says “it’s inappropriate to ask people to throw you a party”…. That’s why there are so many people who have no clue they’re being rude!! A person who’s feelings are hurt because they’ve heard the truth (preferably spoken in kindness) has been given an opportunity to grow and mature. We need more brave polite people :)

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Lynne May 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

I’ve had one farewell lunch that I was pretty much forced to attend. It was awkward. They didn’t like me, and I didn’t like them, but we were all forced to sit in a boardroom together eating bad fast food that the boss had sprung for. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but it was OBVIOUSLY just a “going through the motions” thing. They were not sorry to see me go, nor was I sad to be leaving such an abusive office. It happened thirteen years ago and it still sort of makes me scratch my head.

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ohboy May 7, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Ooo, had one of those once. I didn’t particularly hate leaving, but not close friends with anyone and it was a tiny office (think only 2 or 3) and the others weren’t working that day (we took turns), so they had to come in. The boss brought out one cupcake and the others stood there and stared at me. Ick.

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kingsrings May 8, 2014 at 5:42 pm

This would be my concern, too. Sometimes people leave a workplace for reasons that aren’t very good at all. I’ve been in that situation myself and have also witnessed co-workers experiencing this. Bad blood doesn’t make for a good setting for a farewell party, obviously. It’s a tricky situation all-around for a workplace to decide to have farewell parties or not because every leaving situation is different. I don’t know what the solution would be.

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Jen May 7, 2014 at 10:46 am

I worked with someone that I wouldn’t have any doubt would have totally done this when she left.

Except, in her case, she would be throwing her own party because no one cared for her and WOULD be celebrating her departure. ;-)

This would have been the cherry on top after being the cause of some very valuable employees leaving the firm because of her bad behavior and then turning around and giving notice just before the company’s busiest time period. All of which she is guilty.

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Amara May 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

I am torn about this. I do find it tacky for her to say “I’m organizing my own party but you have to do the decorating and supply the food.” And my inclination might be not to participate at all.

On the other hand, how hurtful will it be if everyone does that. To know you are leaving and that no one wants to join a going away party and formally say “good-bye, we wish you luck!” would be incredibly hurtful. It would certainly leave bitter feelings.

I suspect the best thing would be for her to supply the food–even just chips and soda would work–and not worry about decorations. But that’s something she apparently hasn’t thought of or doesn’t want to do. OP, has she been there a long time? How has she been as a co-worker? Is she well liked or despised?

If it came down to it for me, because I have a lot of painful memories of grammar and high school awfulness, I would probably bring something and attend and encourage fellow co-workers to do the same. Decorations? No, but bringing a dish isn’t a big deal and if it can give someone a good day, well then, why not?

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Brit May 8, 2014 at 3:41 am

That happened to a man at my work.

There was very good reason for it.

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SS May 7, 2014 at 11:06 am

I had a coworker like this. She was very toxic, rude to everyone and downright mean, sneaky, and backstabbing. She would sabotage other’s work to try to make herself look good but everyone was able to show documentation that pointed right back to the hostile coworker. After a year or so, she announced she was leaving and ran around to all the departments and informed that that there was going to be a going-away potluck for her and the theme was chocolate and everyone was expected to bring something. To be blunt, we treated it as a simple gimme request and we all agreed that we would not attend since none of us had been spared from her workplace toxicity. Her supervisor was well aware of the mood of the company so the supervisor pulled her aside and told her that she would rather take her out to lunch on her last day as a going-away treat so the two of them went to lunch instead since she knew no one would show up to the self-ordered party.

On another time, we had a vicious manager leave. He was known to stand and scream profanities at his employees for things that weren’t their fault until he could make them start crying. We are talking about screaming at 40-year-old professionals and calling them “f’ing incompetent b**ches” and much more horrible unprofessional behavior. This was an almost daily occurrence. We had many people quit because of him. When he finally left, they did have a party the week after he was gone, including inviting all of the people who had quit because of him to the party.

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Livvy17 May 7, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Yeeesh, sometimes when I read stories like this, I wonder where the heck was HR?? I don’t like the idea of company going away parties (except maybe retirement parties for employees of very long standing) or showers, or other kinds of get-togethers that 1) don’t have anything to do with the job, 2)have massive potential for hurting peoples feelings by turning the workplace into a High School popularity contest and 3)Really don’t have a payoff in terms of employee engagement, at least as far as I can tell.

Sorry to go off on a tangent – I just meant to say that in both of your cases, you’d hope that good HR would step in and help defuse / detoxify the work environment.

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Heather A May 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Just out curiosity, how is that neither of these people were actually fired for their behavior? Why were they allowed to stay until they decided to leave on their own while other employees suffered or left because they couldn’t take it any longer? Co-worker #1’s supervisor had documented proof of treachery and Co-worker #2 could very well have earned the company a huge lawsuit for a hostile work environment but no one did anything? Not trying to criticize you, SS, just intrigued as to why it was allowed to go on!

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AnaMaria May 7, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Workplace bullies know how to charm bosses into liking them. When I was waitressing, my coworkers would lock me in the walk-in freezer (while my tables sat waiting and their food sat in the kitchen getting cold), would log into the computer systems under my name and mess up my orders, and other things to make me look bad- and, somehow, it was all my fault that it was happening because the manager loved these other employees so much. Months after I escaped that place, I reconnected with a coworker and found she had also quit after being sexually assaulted by another employee and having a manager tell her she had lead him on. This isn’t just limited to college kids in a restaurant- it happens in offices, healthcare, education, what have you!

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SS May 8, 2014 at 2:42 am

It went on because he was the CEO and outranked the HR person. The HR person was one of the ones that was reduced to sobbing in his office during one of his vitriolic profanity laden tantrums.

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Heather A May 8, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Oh my goodness! Well, that’s certainly an untenable situation. :(

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gb May 8, 2014 at 7:27 pm

Companies that aren’t run by big corporates generally don’t have HR. Think small office, salon, firms, etc. Those tend to have bad behavior that’s overlooked or not dealt with properly. Most employees of those type put up with at least a certain amount of bad behavior because they don’t want to rock the boat. I’m not saying it’s right, but that’s how the world is.

Off topic, but I sawa lot of people who didn’t understand why HR want involved. I don’t know if op has HR at her place of work.

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Shoegal May 7, 2014 at 11:12 am

I suppose it is a nice thing to acknowledge a co worker’s leaving – I don’t know if an entire “party” is necessary, though. It is nice if everyone else who works there chooses to acknowledge it with a get together. Throwing it for yourself is quite tacky and doing in such a way as everyone else provides the “party” as in potluck, decorating is even tackier.

I married a long time employee at my workplace and there wasn’t really anything done for us – and I think that as companies get larger it isn’t necessary to go there anymore for everyone since there are so many employees who mark personal events in their lives during the time they work there including moving on.

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Ellex May 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

So before I cast the coworker into the fires of eHell, I would like to know who usually organizes these going away events.

I ask because I was the “party planner” at one of my old jobs (although it wasn’t such a huge to-do except for the end-of-year shindig). Because I was the party planner no one thought to organize something for my birthday, and of course one doesn’t host such events oneself…… and it hurt my feelings more than a little.

I don’t do that anymore because as much as I like organizing social gatherings I think it’s right up there with fetching coffee in terms of making it harder to be taken seriously in the workplace.

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Wendy May 8, 2014 at 2:42 am

I was going to ask this question myself I am the ‘social organiser’ at my work and we often have going away parties people seem to expect them, I would then be responsible for organising my own. Having said that these parties are funded from social club funds

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Stacey Frith-Smith May 7, 2014 at 11:49 am

It would save a lot of time, money and emotional distress if parties were held after hours, attended by those close enough to the honoree to care about the milestone and be invited, planned by those who care enough to assume the expense and obligations of hosting, and if work could just be about…work. People should not be made to give up their energy, time or money to these activities. If a company wishes to have anything from an annual picnic for employees to a retreat for key teams, they are free to plan and pay for it. If, furthermore, they want parties for the holidays, parties for those retiring or for those marking a milestone year of service, they can do so. It just seems to go awry when employees take upon themselves (or have foisted upon them by an unethical employer) the duty of celebrating personal milestones at work.

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Kimstu May 8, 2014 at 6:36 am

Hear, hear.

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The Elf May 8, 2014 at 7:06 am

I had to be the party planner one time. Event planning is harder than it sounds and I don’t blame people for avoiding that job when it’s usually added work on the daily grind. It’s nice for morale and team-building but it is hard to pull off, especially when you have a lot of people on restricted diets. (We always had to make sure there a kosher option, we had to make sure at least one food item was vegan, caf and decaf coffee, etc. It got complicated!) I was glad to pass the task on to someone else. Thankfully, we did the once-a-month-birthday thing for everyone whose birthday falls in that month, so I was never left out, and when I did leave that company they did have a little good-bye thing for me.

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The Elf May 8, 2014 at 11:42 am

Errrr, by “one time” I meant “one job” not one event! One job, lasting about a year, several events. Hated it.

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Dee May 7, 2014 at 11:52 am

OP – do you like this coworker? Do you want to participate in her party? Do you have the time to do so, at work or off? How does everyone else feel about this coworker and will your participating in this party make them hesitate about you? The answers to these questions will tell you if you should put in any effort. Sometimes the kindest thing to do for an unlikeable person is to not get their hopes up unnecessarily, and letting this party fizzle out before it happens may be inevitable. A decorated break room and a cancelled party would be doubly painful. Sometimes the best thing a person can do is to just keep one’s head down and not administer life support to a terminal relationship.

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Wild Irish Rose May 7, 2014 at 11:52 am

We had an employee where I work who had been out for several months with a medical issue. She works on my floor. When we heard that she would soon be returning to work, I suggested to the other people on my floor that we have treats or something to welcome her back. Two people responded that they didn’t like her, she was hateful and mean, etc., and that they would not be participating. In the end, only a couple of people brought something, but I could not believe the animosity exhibited by those two women. My feeling is that if you don’t want to participate in something like this, then don’t, but keep your opinions about people to yourself.

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Brit May 8, 2014 at 3:43 am

You asked them. They explained why they didn’t want to. They didn’t say it to her face or use it against her, I don’t see the problem.

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Calli Arcale May 7, 2014 at 12:06 pm

The only time we’ve had on-site going-away parties has been when it was due to retirement after a long career with the company. Sometimes this incorporates the passing of the core — we have a piece of core memory (old form of computer data storage; I’ve never even worked with it myself, but the company used to manufacture it) that is held by the person at this campus with the most service years. So at the going-away party, the core will be passed along to the next most senior employee. (“Senior” in terms of years; our executives are all too young to qualify.)

Otherwise, going-away parties are strictly outside affairs done off property thrown by the immediate friends of the departing individual. We had a big RIF a few years ago where one of our most wonderful managers (who has himself since retired, alas) hosted an event at a local bar. Buy your own drink, but appetizers provided, and anyone who wishes can chip in however much they like to the appetizer fund. He was prepared to pay the full amount if needed, but at this company, nobody would’ve let him. ;-) Otherwise, it’s usually a thing where immediate colleagues go out to lunch and chip in for the cost of the outgoing employee’s meal. Many employees actually decline such events; it depends on how long they’ve been there and the circumstances of their departure and their own personal feelings about being the center of attention.

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Robin May 7, 2014 at 12:15 pm

We have had a few going away parties for staff, then lay-offs and buyouts made our department very small. When former colleague volunteered to be laid off, I am sure she expected a send-off. It would have fell on me to do the organizing. Someone from another department asked if we were doing anything for her, I said I never even had coffee with her, certainly wasn’t going to make a party, she was one of the worst people I have ever worked with, I still have ptsd from her…

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JD May 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

I noticed that the employee didn’t seem to be asking for food to be brought — perhaps she is providing it? However, asking others to decorate and post flyers is a bit over the top. Has she cleared this with management? I think that management must be on board with this before anyone starts hanging decorations! Has she offered to provide the decorations? If she’s not providing the food, not providing the decorations, and not done the inviting, then SHE isn’t giving a party, she’s just organizing one, and for that, you need consenting participants. Why does she want her last day to be AMAZING, anyway? She’s leaving the place, for heaven’s sake.
I’m of the mind that organized parties at work for personal things (weddings, births, etc.) and flowers or such for deaths are best not done at all, unless corporate, not co-workers, does them, and applies the policy equally. I’ve seen the results of unequal treatment, and I’ve been the one expected by my co-workers to organize and put on these shindigs, as though I have so little to do, all the extra work should be no problem for me (an incorrect assumption, by the way, and yes, I’ve refused more than once to be the organizer.) I may sound like a grouch, but I have a busy job and I’m not the social secretary for these people, like them as much as I do.
And as I’ve written before, and others here have noted, it stings to be on the wrong end of unequal treatment. I’ve written in before that I was asked by a manager to order flowers from the company for the death of the father of one of my co-workers. I explained I would be out for the next two days — my sister-in-law had died and my husband and I were organizing her service. He told me to just order the flowers for the co-worker before I left work, and he’d deal with the invoice when it came. There were no flowers from the company at my sister-in-law’s service. Imagine that.

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Margaret May 7, 2014 at 3:14 pm

She called it a farewell potluck, so yes, people are asked to bring food. I missed it the first time I read it through.

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Cecilia May 7, 2014 at 7:52 pm

I feel your pain, JD. My offical title is “executive assistant”, so sending flower arrangements when coworkers have deaths in the family falls to me. When my stepfather (of 20+ years, always referred to him as “Dad” so as far as these people knew, he was my biological dad) passed away, not a single flower, card, email, text, voicemail, nada. Yeah, I was super p*ssed but never said a word.

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Saucygirl May 8, 2014 at 6:18 am

My husband use to work for his families company. When my husbands grandfather (his dad’s – the boss -dad) passed away the employees wanted to send a care basket and flowers to the boss. They asked my husband to chip in $20. Yup, they not only did not acknowledge that it was his grandfather who died, but they wanted him to pay money to send something to “the family”

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JD May 8, 2014 at 10:58 am

Ah, so you got it too! You have my sympathy!

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JWH May 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

I’ve been in a few workplaces where they throw those going-away shindigs. I never cared for them, and on those occasions when one was done for me, I was distinctly uncomfortable being the center of attention.

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lakey May 7, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Depending on the custom where you live and work, it might be okay to have your own celebration. The problem is TELLING others to decorate, put out flyers, and bring food.

I’ve known people who celebrate their own birthdays, or whatever by bringing in treats for everyone. They didn’t tell others to do any work.

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Jane May 7, 2014 at 2:40 pm

It’s common where I come from for people to host their own going-away. I read nothing in the post about her asking anyone else to bring food, and we don’t know the full conversation that was had about decorating the room. What she’s doing seems perfectly ordinary to me and she appears to be a cheerful, upbeat kind of person who saw an opportunity for people to party and have fun and is trying to make it happen. Perhaps this is a case in which culture alters the supposed norms of etiquette?

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ohboy May 7, 2014 at 3:27 pm

well, it’s a potluck OP said, so everyone would have to bring food.

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MamaToreen May 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

She asked for a potluck, which means everyone brings a dish

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Anonymous May 7, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Would it be rude just to ignore the gimme behaviour, and continue with life as usual at work as if it wasn’t happening? I’m not advocating a Cut Direct, because that’s just for legitimately toxic people, but what if the OP were to engage with her co-worker normally when she’s being reasonable, but pretend she doesn’t exist/she isn’t saying anything when she starts in with this “everyone has to throw me a going-away party” nonsense?

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Rosie B. May 7, 2014 at 6:50 pm

What’s interesting to me is that she just assumed no one would be acknowledging her last day. I know many offices have everyone sign a card when an employee leaves or take the person out to lunch or something, but it’s often a surprise. All I can assume is that she wanted to be 100% sure something would happen.

I’m with everyone else: there’s nothing wrong with her throwing a party for herself if she provided the food and decorations, but asking or telling everyone else to contribute is wrong. I think it would have even been okay to say something like, “I’ll be bringing soft drinks and appetizers; if anyone wants to bring anything else feel free!” but making people provide a full meal is a bit entitled on her part. My general rule of thumb for potlucks is that they’re fine if the event isn’t for one specific person (holiday party, graduation party, etc.) or if they’re being thrown in honor of someone other than the host (like a surprise party), but throwing a potluck for oneself is rude.

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hakayama May 7, 2014 at 7:59 pm

Choose one or more terms that describe the “departing” worker:
A. crowd funding B. gimme piggism
C. entitlement D. arrested mental/emotional development

Since times immemorial, one’s own celebratory feasts had/have been hosted by the individuals in question, from royalty down to humble folks.
To tell people “make a party for me”, for whatever occasion, is downright tacky and pitiful. It would be tempting to make an etiquette book a going away present for that … person in need of guidance.

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NostalgicGal May 7, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Only time a going away was held in my honor…
I was usually the one to sort out and instigate the goodbye parties or showers or whatever else in the department so.. I knew very well what was going on, I developed a blind eye and deaf ear, and smiled nicely when the break time half a sheet cake got set out and the card and small gift certificate was presented. It was a lot less than I’d usually managed to put together for others, but; it was the thought that counted. I didn’t really even want it; but knew they’d do something.

That said, anybody who goes around trying to get others to whip one up for them so ‘they can have a AMAZING last day’, I’d develop a doctor appointment that was that afternoon and be gone…

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Pipkin81 May 8, 2014 at 12:31 am

At my last place of work the head chef was leaving – he wasn’t sacked but he did hand in his notice immediately after ‘accidentally’ breaking a waitress’s arm. He put up posters all over the place with his photo on asking customers to meet him for goodbye drinks. They all knew why he was leaving and not a lot of people had time for him before this incident.

The posters had to be removed when certain ones had been ‘edited’.

Karma came when he was at his next job and whilst chasing a young waiter through the bar he tripped and fell, he broke his own arm and nose.

I’ve never been one for having leaving dos, I’ve gone out for a few drinks with soon to be ex colleagues but have always said that I didn’t want a big thing and certainly no whip arounds, I don’t like people being out on the spot for seeming to be stingy – I work in a an environment where most people are on minimum wage (£3 odd to £6.57 in the uk, living wage is £7.50)

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SML May 8, 2014 at 3:52 am

I worked for a company years ago and our office admin happened to be my roommate too. She was leaving to pursue something else and, while we were all happy and excited for her, no one was sad to see her go because she was pretty awful at her job. A couple of weeks before she left, she asked me to make sure that her goodbye gift was a give certificate to a specific store and even told me the amount that she expected and that I should get on it for her. When she left she left things in a horrific state. She had basically just not worked for quite a while and I wound up spending a solid week getting things in order. Not only were things not filed or processed, she had left a physical mess that was appalling. And to top it off, she refused to provide me with any work passwords so it was just that much harder to clean up after her. When I mentioned the idea of a gift to my co workers they laughed and all firmly declined. I spent weeks having to diplomatically say that no, there was no gift coming for her.
And the real kicker? When things weren’t going so well at her new job she honestly thought that we would hire her back.

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just4kicks May 8, 2014 at 6:02 am

This sort of thing happened at a large retail store I worked at year’s ago. An assistant manager was being promoted to manager at a store in another town, she was very well liked by everyone and was a great boss. The same day, another employee whom no one liked (very gossipy, rude, and always spreading false rumors) was quitting and it was her last day also. They held a huge farewell party in the break room with a large cake and buffet and decorations for the departing assistant manager ONLY. I didn’t like the gossip lady who was leaving, but I do admit I, and several other employees, felt badly for her when she walked into the party and realized it was all for the assistant manager, ONLY her name was on the cake, not the gossip lady. She was very embarrassed and hurt and pretty much fled in tears. Now, she did bring all this on herself by being a rude busybody….but I felt so sorry for her when she realized no one gave a hoot if SHE was leaving. It was sad.

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just4kicks May 8, 2014 at 6:31 am

…And, I must say my post is in reply to many of the other stories posted here, not the original post. Management threw the going away party, not the gal who was leaving. My apologies for any confusion.

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Anonymous May 8, 2014 at 8:38 am

Person In need of Guidance………..PIG, right? Clever. Still, I’d stick with ignoring the whole thing, because buying this woman an etiquette book would probably be taken as “rude” by her (and technically, it is rude to point out other people’s rudeness), and then she’d get upset, and then HR would get upset with the OP, because of that “squeaky wheel gets the grease” rule. Feigning obliviousness would probably get you in much less trouble, if any at all.

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Anonymous May 8, 2014 at 11:58 am

P.S., As for the co-worker’s last day, I think that that’d be a good day to either find a reason not to come into work (illness, waiting for repair person, appointment that takes you away from the office, task that’d be better done from home), or if you can’t do that, stay in your office all day, and put on headphones under the guise of “really wanting to focus on XYZ.” That way, if an upset occurs over the co-worker’s expectations (that will probably be met grudgingly, or not at all), it’ll be obvious that you had nothing to do with it, because you were either at home, or plugged into your iPod so you could work without distractions.

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Enna May 10, 2014 at 5:51 am

Shame we don’t know more about the woman’s character- is she very naive? Some people are and need a little push in the right direction. However if she is being entittled then I would really avoid the situation.

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Anonymous May 10, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Oh, I have another story: Years ago, I worked as a summer student in my parents’ office, for two consecutive summers. The other people there were nice, but I didn’t really fit in all that well, because I was still in university, and I was quite introverted, and right-brained, and the others were all the “soccer mom” type–literally, in many cases. So, our conversations would be along the lines of “How’s university?” “Good. How’s soccer?” “Good,” and that would be the end of it. Anyway, I did my job, and I tried to get along with everyone, but in my parents’ eyes, it was never good enough, and this was the source of a lot of contention. At the end of one summer, my mom said that, “Normally, we’d have a little going-away do for someone who’s leaving, but we didn’t do it for you, because of your AWFUL BEHAVIOUR. Nobody wants you around.” I told her that I wouldn’t have wanted it, and I would have found it embarrassing, to which she told me that “That’s just what’s done, and you have to be gracious,” except it wasn’t happening, which was a huge relief to me. So, my “punishment” for being a “bad” employee was to NOT have a going-away thing with cake (that I wouldn’t have wanted anyway) before leaving. At the end of my second summer, they gave me flowers, but I left them at home after writing a thank-you e-mail, because it was the day I was leaving for university again, I had a ton of stuff to pack in the car, and the flowers wouldn’t have survived the journey. This made me “ungrateful” as well. But anyway, I guess you could say that I was in the opposite position of the OP’s co-worker–I didn’t want any fuss made over me, but I couldn’t think of any polite way to say so.

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Janet May 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

I had a going away get together at a local sports bar/grill place when I went from 1 office in 1 city to another job in a different city in the same company many years ago. I invited all in my office group/department. Most people came, and understood they were to buy their own food and drink as I did, enjoy each others company, and a few co-workers did buy me a drink. One co-worker was nice enough to take me to work, to the party then home as she was pregnant at the time. I did go from the 1 office to the other under good circumstances though. Everyone had a good time.

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Angel May 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm

I once went to the most awkward going away party ever for a boss I had who was just awful. Because of the fact that she had been at the company so long–we had cake and coffee for her in the cafeteria, gave her flowers. One of my co-workers who she had treated particularly horribly attended the party and basically stood up the whole time–stayed a very short amount of time but was very gracious I thought under the circumstances. At the very end of the day when awful boss was finally gone, the co-worker actually started sobbing in relief. Most people thought it was because she felt bad that the boss she had worked for so many years was leaving, but a handful of us in the department knew the truth. Suffice it to say I have never experienced anything like this in my entire life. And when I moved over to the next department (within same company) my new boss was just as bad :-( Fortunately I left that company about a year later. It was a much happier and less emotionally charged occasion.

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