Christmas Work Potluck

by admin on December 1, 2015

It’s Christmas potluck time at work. In years past, as I have morning time to spare, I go around and see what day would be best for everyone to be able to take advantage of it (as not everyone is here Monday through Friday), finalize it with a senior worker (mentioned later), and then put up a sign-up sheet. What happened next has pretty much appalled everyone except our supervisor, who has created the drama. I apologize in advance for the length, as there are a few details that need to be explained as I go. And I also have to be somewhat vague in certain aspects, in case this is found. Yay, deniability.

While going around asking about the best dates last week, the supervisor, who was within earshot at times, said nothing. And I didn’t ask this person, as they are there M-F, so I didn’t deem it necessary. Also, please be aware that this supervisor cannot be joked around with, as anyone who has tried has found that the supervisor is virtually always upset by some perceived insult or thinks they are being ridiculed in some way. It doesn’t even have to be a conversation that upsets them; an item out of place or an unusual object in sight is a direct affront to this person, and someone nearby will be blamed. There’s other similarly deranged behaviors, but that will suffice for this story.

Anyway, having narrowed the potluck day to a date a couple weeks from now, I went and made up the sign-up sheet and attached it to its usual spot, the time clock. (Somewhat pertaining to the topic; for those not familiar with potlucks, unlikely as it might be; the sign-up is, of course, so people can put their names down and what they’re going to be bringing. It’s unsaid that if you’re not going to be contributing something, then you really should not be partaking, though this is not strictly enforced. Sometimes delivery guys or other people who happen to come in will be invited to pick a bit of something. Hey, it’s Christmas, and there’s usually leftovers.)

Enter Drama! Later on that morning, I learned that the supervisor yanked the sign-up sheet from the time clock, went to the break room where they slammed it on the table and spat something about a private potluck, and the sheet could stay in the break room. The workers in the room at the time were baffled and angry, and informed a senior worker in our office as to what had occurred.

Now, the supervisor and I have had bad relations recently, and have had very rare interactions since; all of which are limited to work related issues, only. I thought that maybe this was the problem. That *I* had the nerve to make the sign-up sheet. (Please also note that this supervisor was in our office last year, and knew I have done this previously.) I learned, however, that the senior worker previously mentioned was approached by this supervisor prior to Thanksgiving about a potluck. The senior worker was led to understand that the supervisor was discussing having a potluck the day after Thanksgiving. This was, naturally, shot down, as everyone would have loads of post-Thanksgiving leftovers with which to snarf, and producing more food for a potluck was absurd. Whether that was the supervisors intention or not is a moot point now.

NOTE: No one knew about this prior proposal but this senior worker. The supervisor went to no one else about it. Yes, now I think you’re probably understanding, but probably not believing, what was actually going through this supervisors head.

This supervisor’s feelings were bruised, as we did not come to them to have them “take charge”, I guess, of this Christmas potluck, as they had proposed one a week or so earlier. If coordinating means group-picking a date and creating a sign-in sheet.

The senior worker has enough pull that they were able to move it near to where it was, though now, I swear to you, this supervisor will not allow this sign-in sheet to be on or around the time clock. So it is taped up in a hallway nearby where it is no doubt hoped by this supervisor, that few will see it. (This is failing, as word has spread about this childish and petty behavior. We’re having more participation and sign-ups earlier than normal than it ever had before, because of it.) We’re given to believe that this supervisor will probably not participate, as it is a “private” potluck in their mind. 1206-14

Merry Christmas, everyone!

{ 127 comments… read them below or add one }

Green123 December 1, 2015 at 3:41 am

Oh boy… I’m not even going to begin to comment on the Drama Llama…

However, in case this is helpful to OP and others, there is a wonderful online tool called Doodle (http://doodle.com/en_GB/) which allows you to find mutually-convenient dates for events and suchlike. Free, easy to use, saves lots of time! Might be useful for future events.

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Mary December 1, 2015 at 7:13 am

Doodle is exactly what I was thinking of mentioning! It’s what we use for work for meetings and it was just used to set the date for our Christmas party.

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AS December 1, 2015 at 8:45 am

You beat me to it… I was about to suggest doodle polls too.

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JAN December 1, 2015 at 1:59 pm

If many of these are hourly workers with a timeclock, the may not all have work email or access to such. Believe it or not, there are still facilities like this.

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Green123 December 2, 2015 at 8:30 am

It was a suggestion, JAN. Of course it’s not a solution for everyone, nor did I suggest it was compulsory to use!

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just4kicks December 1, 2015 at 4:53 am

I had the “pleasure” of putting together a Christmas pot luck when I worked at a radio station as the receptionist since everyone had to go past my desk to enter/leave the office.
What a huge pain in the butt that was!
After two years of trying to get a lunch together, and chasing after coworkers, the third year I took it upon myself (I had pretty easy going superiors) to change the potluck “lunch” into a cookie and coffee party.
It was much easier to put up a sign up sheet with just desserts (so that 45 people all didn’t show up with chocolate chip cookies) than trying to get a “meal” coordinated.
It turned out very well and more than one person, my boss included, said they would much prefer the cookie/cake/pie party in the future.
Maybe that might be a different way for your predicament, OP.
Good Luck to you and Merry Christmas! ๐Ÿ™‚

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just4kicks December 1, 2015 at 5:27 am

…after two HOLIDAYS in a row, trying to get a lunch together for EACH year’s Christmas…that should say
It didn’t take me two years to put a lunch together, but it seemed like it….. ๐Ÿ™‚

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A December 1, 2015 at 5:04 am

Seems to me you (organizer ) pointedly avoiding including supervisor in everyone by avoiding asking them about days when asking everyone else. So yes this is massive overreacting but at the same timekinda understand why supervisor feeling were hurt. You did exclude them.

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NilushaD December 1, 2015 at 8:08 am

I agree! The supervisor’s response definitely seems childish and inappropriate, however I don’t think the OP is entirely blameless here.

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Anna December 1, 2015 at 9:33 am

Agree–if you are going to go around asking convenient times, you need to ask everyone, not just the ones you decide need to be asked. That coupled with putting it near the time clock (and I assume that only lower-level employees, not supervisors and senior workers, use this) does seem like senior level people are trying to be excluded.

Of course, supervisor’s reaction to this minor thing is ridiculous, but OP does seem to be playing some office mindgames.

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manybellsdown December 1, 2015 at 10:32 am

I think the supervisor way overreacted, but yes, s/he should have been asked. Just because s/he normally works M-F doesn’t mean that s/he couldn’t have been taking a personal day that day, or had a meeting that couldn’t be moved.

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Jays December 1, 2015 at 6:15 pm

If the supervisor is known to take offense at silly things, and dislikes the OP, I can see why the OP would skip him or her IF the supervisor is well-known to only work certain days. Why poke the dragon?

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Miss-E December 1, 2015 at 5:25 pm

I may be wrong but it sounded to me like it wasn’t that the OP excluded ONLY this supervisory but rather that she doesn’t talk to anyone with a M-F schedule, only those who aren’t there every day. I imagine it takes much less time to hammer out a date if you only have to go up to a handful of people, rather than everyone.

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Becca December 2, 2015 at 11:42 am

I see the OPs thought process not asking M-F employees.

However, if we didn’t know the intention was skipping those folks. Imagine being a M-F employee (not just Sensitive Supervisor). You hear someone asking assorted employees about their schedules for a potluck.

It feels like they’re asking specific people and leaving you out. You don’t tend to go “Oh of course, I’m m-f, that’s why OP didn’t ask me too.”

We forget not everyone knows our intentions and only see what we present them with. So they jump to conclusions, often the worst ones because humans are emotional like that.

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tinny December 2, 2015 at 11:47 am

That was my understanding as well, only persons that did not work M-F were asked about their schedule so as to plan a day when the most people would be scheduled at work. Since it is a work event, planning the party for a day when everyone is scheduled to be there as opposed to asking every.single.person. if they plan to take a personal day seems the more appropriate way to go. As for asking him since it is known that he tends to act this way, that would only encourage this type of behavior. If someone throws a fit every time they feel a perceived slight and you start checking with them before proceeding with any and all plans, they will only become more demanding and argumentative.

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BMS December 2, 2015 at 4:51 pm

On the one hand I see your point. It would seem like an exclusion.

On the other hand, you reap what you sow. If you are so touchy, argumentative, and difficult to deal with that everyone is walking on eggshells around you all the time, then you can’t really be surprised that no one wants to discuss things with you. I have co-workers who are known to be so difficult, snooty, or otherwise obnoxious that we would hesitate to tell them the building is on fire, for fear of getting our heads bitten off.

I sit near where the packages are delivered for our department. If you have been pleasant to deal with, I’ll shoot you a quick email if I see you have a package that has arrived, even though it isn’t my job, particularly if it is something that needs prompt handling. But you, coworker who never responds to emails unless they want something, or who drops a crisis on me and then complains to my boss when I can’t work miracles at 4pm on a Friday afternoon? Yes you, the one who can never be bothered to lift a finger to help anyone unless you are being specifically compensated for it? The one who treats the admin staff like personal servants? Yeah, your box is going to be there until you decide to descend from your throne and visit the main office. And I’ve seen those folks’ boxes sit there for 2 weeks. We make sure everyone gets the email about department events. But we’re certainly not going to go crazy trying to make sure the problem children get an engraved invitation delivered by naked serving wenches.

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CW December 3, 2015 at 9:53 am

This is my favorite comment. The end.

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mark2 December 7, 2015 at 7:18 pm

In a work environment, work together no matter what –regardless of how much you dislike person. It’s something we should have all learned in kindergarten.

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Theox December 1, 2015 at 5:32 am

As I understand it, you never approached the supervisor about the potluck. I understand he works M-F, but shouldn’t you still have asked whether he wanted to participate or not? Crazy behaviour aside, seems to me he had good reason to believe he was being excluded.

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LadyV December 1, 2015 at 6:23 am

Interesting that you believe the supervisor is male. I automatically assumed female!

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Mary December 1, 2015 at 7:16 am

I don’t think the OP was asking about whether or not people wanted to participate, but instead was only asking what days they would be in the office.

This is where a program like Doodle would work well. One mass email with a few suggested dates and everyone votes for the ones that work best for them.

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CW December 1, 2015 at 7:41 am

I took it to mean that the OP did not specifically ask any employee that is typically there M-F because those people would be most likely be at the office no matter which day of the week it was.

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Tracy P December 1, 2015 at 7:53 am

Yeah, seems like the OP started the rudeness by seeming to purposefully exclude the supervisor. Did she not think to check to make sure he wouldn’t be on vacation. It just seems really stupid of the OP to not even check in with him, especially knowing his personality type. She pretty much shot herself in the foot there.

The OP pretty much comes across as one of the popular/mean girl types that is talking about a party in front of people that aren’t invited. Maybe she should switch to sending a mass email to everyone and getting responses for the date that way. Then she won’t skip people.

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Jays December 1, 2015 at 6:18 pm

Wow. Way overkill. If the supervisor is known to be like this (taking offense easily and disliking the OP) and is known to only work certain days/hours, it’s completely understandable to avoid (as I said earlier) poking the dragon.

I don’t have the foggiest idea why you’d call the OP “stupid” or “a mean girl type” and feel it’s completely uncalled for. ๐Ÿ™ (And, no, I’m not the OP.)

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Tracy P December 2, 2015 at 9:32 am

So you know your supervisor takes offense easily, so instead of maybe trying to get a good working relationship going, you think the OP should just ignore the supervisor and hope things just magically get better? No, the supervisor isn’t blameless, but the OP could try being the bigger person and talking to them.

I didn’t call the OP stupid, I said her action of not talking to the supervisor to maybe try to pave the way for things to go better was stupid.

As for the mean girl type, look at this from the supervisor’s perspective. They hear the OP asking others what time works best for them. Whether or not the OP talked to the other M-F workers doesn’t matter. The supervisor doesn’t know if that conversation didn’t happen or he just didn’t hear it. For all he knows, everyone but him was asked what time was best. And he’s supposed to be in charge?

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mark2 December 7, 2015 at 7:21 pm

We’re not in high school. Everyone works together in a grown up business. People aren’t left out, everyone hears what’s going on, the proper channels are traversed before having a party.

InTheEther December 1, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Or, you know, some people are excluded for good reason. And this is the faintest case of “exclusion” that I’ve heard of. OP went around and checked with those she knew had wonky schedules, to find a time when the most people would be available. Even so, you can bet a couple people still won’t be able to make it. Supervisor wasn’t the only one not asked (which would actually be mean girls). Why go to the guy who is extremely unlikely to be available and also likely to start a fight?

And no one is excluding him from participating. Seems like he’s mad her better planned potluck was approved when his wasn’t. Aka, toddler logic.

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InTheEther December 1, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Meant unlikely to be unavailable, not available

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Ai December 4, 2015 at 12:11 pm

1. If the supervisor is known for taking offense at the slightest thing everyday, then no. I’m not going to butter him up or try to have a good relationship. I’d avoid him cause he’s not professional nor logical. If he was my direct supervisor, then as soon as I could, I would transfer departments or just plain quit because walking around eggshells with someone who handles my timesheet is not healthy workplace environment.

2. The OP put up a sign up sheet in front of everyone which would imply this was an inclusive event. Not exclusive at all.

3. The supervisor, along with most of the employees, work an M-F schedule with the assumption that they would be there anyways. I agree an mass email would’ve been be better, but asking only the few employees with a varied schedule is not a sin.

Also, you may not have called her stupid, just said she did a stupid thing. Yeah that’s totally way better. I’m not the OP, but I would be pretty insulted if you said I did something stupid. Still uncalled for, along with assuming she is a ‘mean girl’ type based on one interaction with a difficult supervisor.

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Willynilly December 1, 2015 at 8:13 am

I don’t think the supervisor is so off base to think this is “private”. You made a point to publicly ask everyone else, in front of the supervisor, about the party, and purposely did not ask the supervisor. To add to that you say that you and the supervisor and you have a strained relationship and you avoid speaking aside from work related issues. Clearly you decided this potluck was not work-related and open your the whole office, thus purposely and publicly leaving the supervisor out.

I don’t think the supervisor’s reaction was appropriate, but I do think the hurt was understandable.

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Miss-E December 1, 2015 at 5:28 pm

It seems like the OP avoided asking anyone who was M-F, not just the supervisor. But, given the fact that the OP mentioned how sensitive this supervisor is, they (or perhaps said senior worker) should have said something to them directly, just to appease someone with a difficult nature.

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Willynilly December 1, 2015 at 10:12 pm

Does the supervisor know that only certain employees were asked? The OP tells us employees were asked about availability within earshot of the supervisor, was the supervisor also within earshot of hearing “only employees who don’t work M-F are being approached”?

In my opinion, based off of 25+ years of work experience, it’s basic office etiquette to consult with supervisors before planning an in-house event. Even if this event was approved by higher management, and even if difficult supervisor is not the OP’s supervisor, if any of the staff being asked to participate report to this supervisor then the supervisor should be given a heads up.

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abby December 1, 2015 at 8:17 am

So, if I understand this right, Supervisor approached Senior Worker about having a potluck specifically day after Thanksgiving. Senior Worker says he/she thinks that day isn’t good, and doesn’t suggest an alternate day, or doesn’t suggest that Supervisor ask around and come up with an alternate day, the idea is just tabled. In the meantime, OP and Senior Worker organize a potluck closer to Christmas and specifically don’t consult Supervisor and then put up an announcement.

Sorry, OP, but to someone who’s easily affronted, it’s pretty obvious this is going to be taken badly. Why didn’t the Senior Worker just suggest that Supervisor organize the Christmas potluck?

I mean, I agree the day after Thanksgiving was a bad idea, but why not say, well, I think the day after Thanksgiving will have limited participation due to people taking it off or being burned out on cooking, but since we usually have a Christmas potluck anyways, why don’t you just organize that instead? Instead, the easily insulted Supervisor feels like his/her idea was declined just because of who presented it, and is mad.

Yeah, Supervisor overreacted and is not being very professional, but I am kind of side eyeing the whole department. This particular line in the OP- ” What happened next has pretty much appalled everyone except our supervisor, who has created the drama.” -leads me to believe the dept has spent some time discussing just how out of line Supervisor was, which is gossipy and does nothing to quell the drama. I’m thinking Supervisor is the butt of a lot of jokes amongst his/her underlings which probably results in him/her feeling more ostracized and then reacting poorly. It’s a vicious cycle.

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clairedelune December 1, 2015 at 1:41 pm

It doesn’t sound like OP new about the Day-After-Thanksgiving idea, though, or that Senior Worker was included in OP’s sign-up-sheet-arranging. I think it was just two people moving on parallel tracks and Senior Worker happened to be the only one who knew about both.

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abby December 2, 2015 at 8:23 am

But it sounds like the Christmas potluck is an annual tradition. Why wouldn’t Senior Worker suggest Supervisor switch the dates? And when OP told SW that a date had been chosen, why not give OP the heads up that Supervisor had brought up a potluck a week or two earlier? Especially in light of the falling out between OP and Supervisor.

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Matt December 1, 2015 at 8:25 am

Any decent supervisor would be happy their employees are undertaking team-building activities themselves. If my team organized something like this, I’d offer to make the main course and encourage them to attend. I make a killer slow-cooker brisket than can feed a crowd.

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Firecat December 1, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Would you be willing to share the recipe? I’m always looking for new slow cooker recipes!

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Matt December 1, 2015 at 3:12 pm

It’s just the one from the Pioneer Woman. (Google “Pioneer Woman Brisket” if you’re not familiar with her) Except I do it in a slow cooker for 8-10 hours instead of an oven for 40 min/lb. I serve it for parties on hamburger buns so you can eat it without utensils.

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Julie December 1, 2015 at 4:22 pm

Team-building should include the supervisor, however. I had a different impression of what happened BEFORE the OP noted about the bad blood between herself and the supervisor. It definitely sounds like OP was intentionally excluding the supervisor in the ”what is a good day” consultations.

OP says she didn’t deem it necessary to ask the supervisor about availability due to that person’s M-F status, but there is more behind this story than she is stating. It sounds like it a passive/aggressive scenario as she does state ”What happened next has pretty much appalled everyone” which says to me the entire office has discussed it, undoubtedly stopping conversation when the supervisor is near, which in itself is destructive to team-building, other than building alliances against the supervisor.

In situations I have witnessed in over 30 years of office life, OP potentially is the Drama Creator. She sounds at odds with the supervisor and seems to hold a lot of influence over the office since she can choose when to interview each person she deems necessary to the scheduling of the potluck and states ”everyone” is appalled, meaning she has spoken to everyone – and appalled? Wow, it hardly sounds appalling but a Drama Producer would find it so, I guess.

This is why I abhor potlucks, etc. Such events should be so minor to a business’s operations but instead they are used to create conflict and drama where none would exist if not for the needless creation of the event. OP says that no one is compelled to participate, but again, I seriously question how that plays out in the office.

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InTheEther December 1, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Yeah, if someone goes out of their way to be petty and spitefull they get talked about. That’s a good 80% of this site. People had to be told where the sheet was moved, leading to them asking why. Hence the story spreading. I will say again, some people are excluded for good reason and they only have themselves to blame.

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Shoegal December 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm

I’d like the recipe too!!! I need something that can feed a crowd and this sounds perfect.

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Michelle December 1, 2015 at 8:51 am

You never asked the supervisor about dates that would work for them. You also said that you & the supervisor “have had bad relations recently”. So, yes, you did actually exclude the supervisor and I can see why s/he would be upset.

Ripping down the sign-up sheet was rude but, supervisors have every right to decide where things are placed.

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Cleosia December 1, 2015 at 9:02 am

I don’t know about that. OP said they did the same thing last years and the Sup didn’t have a hissy fit about it then. Did the Sup suggest the “Private” potluck after the work altercation with the OP?

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Lerah99 December 1, 2015 at 9:39 am

I think you were in a no win situation.

If you’d asked the supervisor about available dates – there would be drama.
You didn’t ask the supervisor – there is still drama.
People who are drama tornadoes will always find some reason to clutch their pearls and be offended.

The best thing you can do is ignore it and just carry on as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.

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bern821 December 2, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Love this comment “clutch their pearls and be offended”! And I totally agree, sounds like this particular supervisor is ALWAYS looking to be offended, thereby causing drama.
Suggesting a pot luck for the day after Thanksgiving was really odd too – I’d almost think that date was suggested by supervisor BECAUSE it would be inconvenient for everyone else!

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stacey December 1, 2015 at 9:56 am

It’s a fairly small situation that just got out of hand with a little bit of rudeness on both sides in the aftermath of a more personal connection that went awry. The supervisor’s behavior is both objectionable and regrettable- but hardly a surprise given the history of overreacting. Drama, indeed! But occasioned by an etiquette breach on your part (deciding not to check in with that person as you did with everyone else).

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Wild Irish Rose December 1, 2015 at 10:02 am

At the risk of sounding like the Grammar Police, the use of “them” or “they” to refer to one individual is not only annoying just because it’s grammatically incorrect, it is also distracting and makes it very difficult to follow the thread of the story. It’s perfectly all right to use “he” and “him,” even if you’re referring to a female but don’t want to be quite so specific. Does no one bother to use the English language properly any more?

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jocelyn December 1, 2015 at 10:35 am

The English language is also an evolving language. We no longer use ‘thou’ for the second person singular. In the opinion of many persons, ‘they’ is evolving into the third person singular, gender indeterminate pronoun, as they find that the tradition of referring to females as males is no longer acceptable. You may not appreciate this practice, but it doesn’t necessarily come from ignorance or lack of education, or from an unwillingness to use the English language ‘properly’.

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Kirsten December 1, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Yorkshire people still use thee, but not thou.

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Wild Irish Rose December 1, 2015 at 2:39 pm

I get that English is an evolving language, but I disagree that the use of a plural pronoun to refer to a single individual is correct or acceptable. I still maintain that it’s ignorant and makes reading a story like the one submitted by OP difficult to follow.

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Tracy W December 1, 2015 at 9:49 pm

Yeah, it’s appalling the way uneducated illiterates like Henry James, T.S. Eliot and Oscar Wilde used “you” in place of the proper and correct “thee” and “thou”. It makes their works so hard to follow. I blame Hollywood.

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A different Tracy December 2, 2015 at 9:10 am

You are free to consider it ignorant, and many, many people are free to disagree with you.

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Willynilly December 1, 2015 at 10:44 am

Actually it is perfectly acceptable grammar, for the last 600 years or so, to use a singular “them”, “they” or “their” in general neutral sentences. It is more a matter or style to avoid such usage. Go ahead and Google it and find numerous grammar authorities giving the practice a thumbs up.

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Amanda H. December 1, 2015 at 4:27 pm

This exactly. I’m an English/Editing major, and all of my teachers not only approved of but taught “them/they/their” as a third-person gender-neutral pronoun in order to avoid using “he/him” for women, avoid using “it” (which is largely considered dehumanizing), and to avoid the clunkiness of “s/he” and “her/him.”

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Tanz December 3, 2015 at 2:18 am

When I was at University 20 years ago we were taught to use ‘they’ or ‘them’ instead of ‘s/he’ and to not ever use a possibly inaccurate gendered pronoun (we were told to never use ‘he’ or ‘she’for an imaginary person or person who’s gender we did not know, for example). And this was in communications and business papers. So I agree there does not seem to be a standard-English default for this.

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mark December 1, 2015 at 10:48 am

Using he or her is fine until someone gets mad because you guessed wrong. (Don’t call me he I”M A GIRL.) I also find switching genders between paragraphs to be very off putting (first paragraph use feminine pronouns, next paragraph use masculine, rinse and repeat). So I use what is left “they” and “them” for singular entities. It sounds very natural to me now.

Perhaps you Grammar Police can get together and create a third person singular genderless pronoun for English. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Ty December 1, 2015 at 11:38 am

I teach grammar at the college level, and while other commenters have insisted that the singular usage of “they” is acceptable and approved by multitudinous grammar experts, I must respectfully disagree with the idea that this acceptance is universal. In general terms, the singular “they” is accepted in casual conversation, but in more formal mediums, this usage is regarded as incorrect. Just adding my two cents as a teacher!

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wren December 1, 2015 at 4:00 pm

I agree completely, FWIW. Former English teacher here.

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JenAnn December 1, 2015 at 4:16 pm

I agree, I don’t find it acceptable myself. However, I understand the OP was trying to be very non-specific and thus chose to go this route.

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Tracy W December 1, 2015 at 9:54 pm

I don’t think any English usage anywhere is ever regarded as acceptable by everyone. There’s a long history of self-appointed grammarians promulgating their personal preferences as absolute rules, or even worse, promulgating rules they don’t even follow themselves (famously Strunk & White disparaged the passive tense while themselves using it.) Thus trying to write in a way universally acceptable to every single other English speaker is not worth attempting.

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sarugani January 18, 2016 at 1:58 pm

You’re fighting a losing battle, there. The Washington Post has admitted the singular “they” into their Style Guide and it’s been voted Word of the Year 2015 by the American Dialect Society. Not that they’re the keepers of good English, but “they” is all we have after invented words like zie and hir as gender-neutral singular pronouns never really caught on in the mainstream.

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Arizona December 1, 2015 at 11:04 am

You’ll have to forgive the wikipedia source, but they/them as a singular pronoun is not only correct but fairly common (and growing!) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singular_they I also have to disagree that it’s distracting or makes it difficult to follow the story–it’s the same as any other pronoun. And personally I find it easier and more consistent than the use of he/she, s/he, (s)he, etc for a person whose gender you don’t know/don’t want to share.

“A reason for its use is that English has no dedicated singular personal pronoun of indeterminate gender.[5 Garner, Bryan A. (2003). Garner’s Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516191-5.] In some cases, its use can be explained by notional agreement because words like “everyone”, though singular in form, are plural in meaning.[6 Garner, Bryan A. (2003). Garner’s Modern American Usage. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-516191-5] Its use in formal English has increased in recent times with the trend toward gender-inclusive language,[4 Huddleston, Rodney; Pullum, Geoffrey (2002). The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-43146-8.] but it has been used by respected writers for centuries.[7 Merriam-Webster’s Concise Dictionary of English Usage. Penguin. 2002. ISBN 9780877796336.]”

Aaaaaaanyways, as for the submission… Common opinion wins. OP could have done some things that may have reduced the drama, such as making a point to include the Supervisor in the date planning. Senior Worker could have chosen a better way to handle Supervisor’s suggested potluck than “I don’t think that date will work” and nothing else. And Supervisor could stand to take a step back and realize that it’s just a work potluck and not worth causing drama over. I think more of the current situation falls on Senior Worker, as it really easily comes across as “your idea is no good, but THIS idea is great” (even though ‘THIS idea’ has been in place for years now and Supervisor should know that), but there are definitely a couple of steps OP could have taken to reduce the drama.

I will say, though, that at this point there’s nothing to really do but have fun. If Supervisor wants to get upset about it, they don’t have to participate. And if you extend the olive branch and they don’t take it, then it falls on them.

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Tracy W December 1, 2015 at 2:15 pm

“Man is a mammal who suckles his young.”
“The average American office worker has a set morning routine. He showers, shaves or pulls on his pantyhose in unvarying order.”

I doubt many native English speakers find these sentences perfectly all right.

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stacey December 1, 2015 at 8:26 pm

You can always alter the construction- “Man is a mammal whose young are suckled” or “an unvarying order of shower, shave and the putting on of pantyhose is maintained”. Awkward, but passable. So… in case you prefer to avoid taking sides in the Great Genderless Pronoun Gap….

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Tracy W December 2, 2015 at 4:41 am

Sure, we can alter the construction to avoid pronouns. But Wild Irish Rose’s claim was much stronger. To quote:

Itโ€™s perfectly all right to use โ€œheโ€ and โ€œhim,โ€ even if youโ€™re referring to a female but donโ€™t want to be quite so specific.

If Irish Rose’s claim was true then my sentences would be perfectly all right (at least in their use of pronouns), and no one reading them would be distracted by visions of some hairy biker dude suckling his young or American men heading off to the office en masse with pantyhose poking out of their trouser legs and you’d not have bothered suggesting a rewrite.

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Amanda H. December 3, 2015 at 5:55 pm

In addition to Tracy W’s comments, your sentence alteration also introduces the much-maligned passive voice, which itself would likely get marks taken off on college-level essays if nothing else.

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LadyV December 1, 2015 at 4:23 pm

My take on it was that the OP used “they” to avoid any hints as to the identity of the supervisor. OP (whose gender is also unknown, by the way) specifically said “I also to have to be somewhat vague in certain aspects” – this was one of those aspects.

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Miss-E December 1, 2015 at 5:31 pm

But…if the supervisor IS actually a man then the OP may be giving away too much information by using “him” or “he”. This way it isn’t clear what gender the supervisor is and it seems like OP would like to keep this one under the radar.

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Krissy N December 1, 2015 at 8:55 pm

I agree with the others that I don’t think it makes it difficult to read, and while I understand your objection, I’ve recently read (and I can’t recall where) about this becoming more acceptable and more wide-spread due to gender neutrality issues. The one that drives me crazy is when words that typically refer to groups of people are used to refer to a single person. For example, the word “troop”. The singular usage goes back a ways at this point, but I recall the very first time I saw a headline, “9 troops killed in Iraq,” or something to that effect. I was horrified as I wondered how many people were in each troop. I was “relieved” (relatively speaking) when I realized the headline referred to nine individuals, but as they were from various military branches, there was no clean word to describe them together, as all 9 weren’t soldiers, or airmen, or marines, etc.

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mark2 December 7, 2015 at 7:27 pm

And THIS discussion is why there are so many people in the world so easily offended by others.

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songbird December 1, 2015 at 10:08 am

Agreed, you should have spoken to the supervisor before putting up the sign up sheet. Your error doesn’t justify the drama, but I can understand the hurt feelings.

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Skaramouche December 1, 2015 at 10:28 am

Interesting take from one or two of you re: excluding supervisor but I wonder if this isn’t a case of seeing an insult where there wasn’t one. OP has openly admitted that she (assumption here :D) wasn’t on the best terms with said supervisor (S) but unless she went and personally asked every single other person if the time was convenient, S had no business expecting a personal invitation. I am, once again, making assumptions but based on the submission and my experience of potlucks, it was probably a question aimed at a group where anyone was free to say yes or no. It’s also possible that S didn’t want to speak directly to OP and could have passed a message through any number of people if the date was inconvenient. I don’t think that was the issue at all, though. I get the feeling that 1) S badly wanted to be “in charge” of the potluck without having to actually say so and 2) S wanted OP to have to approach him/her personally and took offence when that didn’t happen.
It’s a potluck, people…you look at the sign up sheet and if you want to attend, you sign yourself up!

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Emma December 1, 2015 at 10:44 am

I feel like everyone is ganging up on the OP for not talking to the supervisor, but from the letter it reads that she didn’t ask ANY of the M-F employees so the supervisor was not the only one ‘excluded’ from the discussion. Additionally, OP did not know supervisor had tried to organise a different potluck. It is not her fault that the other senior employee did not share this information. Presumably, OP did things the same way the year before and no one got upset over her procedures then. It seems silly for her to change something that worked before. IMO, supervisor’s behaviour is showing that he/she really doesn’t deserve to be supervising anyone.

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abby December 1, 2015 at 11:09 am

I agree with you that the fact that the Supervisor wasn’t asked was not intentionally excluding him (or her), and that he or she is being very immature about it. People that look for reasons to be offended are definitely annoying.

However, this submission rubbed me the wrong way, particularly this part- “…as word has spread about this childish and petty behavior. Weโ€™re having more participation and sign-ups earlier than normal than it ever had before, because of it.” I mean, they’re gossiping about their boss and some are signing up for potluck merely to stick it to him/her. Yeah, I’ve complained about bosses too (though luckily not my current one), but I didn’t do it and then complain that someone ELSE was being a drama llama.

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Ergala December 1, 2015 at 2:37 pm

It seems as though the people that were in the breakroom with the supervisor had their outburst spread the news….not the OP. I imagine people asked where the sign up sheet was or where it went and soon the story spread. The supervisor could have asked for clarification about the event and whether it was private or office wide. If the OP said private they could have requested she keep the sign ups for out of work. That would have absolutely cleared up any misunderstanding in a professional polite manner. Ripping down the sheet and slamming it down in the breakroom while people are in there and yelling about how private functions should be in the breakroom and then refusing to allow it to even be by the time clock….yeah this person is a total drama llama. I’m sure if they had approached OP or the senior supervisor it could have been cleared up.

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abby December 2, 2015 at 8:26 am

I already said the Supervisor was being unprofessional. But watercooler talk about what a drama llama the supervisor is and then snickering over the popularity of the sign up sheet is in my opinion, adding to the drama.

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Dee December 1, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Emma – the other senior employee did not have to share the info re the previous potluck proposal; that info was with the supervisor, and OP would have known that info if he/she had consulted his/her supervisor. I’m not understanding how a work party could be planned WITHOUT the supervisor’s permission. That the supervisor is a right royal pain in the keester makes no difference in regard to the duties of those below him/her – they are still required to go to that supervisor for permission, or at least a heads-up, on broader workplace issues. Which is what the potluck is. Now that the supervisor has specifically NOT been apprised of the plans and has, indeed, been left out of the planning completely, I expect relations between the supervisor and OP will deteriorate further. The OP does not even know if the supervisor will be in the office the day they have planned for the potluck, because they haven’t checked. That is a deliberate action. Maybe this is all what OP wants and has planned for. We don’t know how the other workers would describe the office dynamics; perhaps it is the OP who is manipulative and deceitful. If only we could hear the story from the other workers’ point of view.

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Anonymouse December 1, 2015 at 7:00 pm

It’s possible that there is more than one supervisor. I have 2, and there’s only about 10 employees where I work. Maybe they got permission to have the potluck from someone else? I know that once I have permission to do something from Supervisor A, I typically don’t need to get Supervisor B to sign off on it too.

As well, depending on the size of the office, it’s likely that EVERYONE was asked. I imagine that OP targeted the people whose schedules vary, and skipped the people they knew worked M-F, such as Supervisor. At least, that’s how I would do it in OP’s situation.

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InTheEther December 1, 2015 at 7:20 pm

He’s a supervisor, not necisarily OPs supervisor. Based on the letter, I got the impression that he’s not that high on the totem pole and about lateral with the OP. I may be wrong, but it’s as likely as your scenario. Sounds like she went over his head entirely in this matter.

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Lacey December 1, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Your last line exactly. Supervisors are supposed to have superior people skills, or should be required to, at least (I know this doesn’t actually always happen in practice). Anyone that immature, with such poor control of their emotions, should not be in charge of anyone.

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Ai December 4, 2015 at 12:16 pm

P.O.D. The only thing the OP probably should’ve done was a Mass email to everyone in order to avoid, and even then I can easily imagine the supervisor being miffed that someone else was scheduling a potluck after theirs’ was rejected.

So no win situation for the OP. Unfortunate.

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Katie December 1, 2015 at 10:53 am

Gosh, I wouldn’t have asked the supervisor, either! They would have been offended whatever you did, so I really wouldn’t worry about it.

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Tracy P December 1, 2015 at 11:55 am

Not sure why people assume the supervisor would be offended by being asked what dates work best for them. Did I miss something in the OP?

It sounds like there are a lot of issues at this workplace – a strict supervisor, gossipy underlings, etc.

I think a lot of the drama could have been avoided if the OP had just touched base with the supervisor first. A supervisor’s job is to supervise. Instead the OP just goes on and assumes they are in charge of the office potluck without any say-so from higher up. Without even a heads up to the supervisor, it comes across as the OP trying to take over from the supervisor. It doesn’t matter that OP was in charge of the sign up sheet and whatever last year – you still check in with your higher ups.

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Annie December 2, 2015 at 11:43 am

Any decent supervisor would be thrilled to have one of their people take the initiative.

Supervisor’s reaction was ridiculous. Asking about people’s availability is not the same as an invitation. The sign-up is the invitation, and it was posted in public, and thus included everyone.

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bern821 December 2, 2015 at 5:51 pm

Agree 100%! Supervisors like this one make the workplace so miserable for everyone around and especially under them. Any supervisor who throws a public hissy fit (slamming down the sign-up sheet) should NOT be a supervisor.

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Becca December 1, 2015 at 11:32 am

I wonder if Supervisor was thinking everyone could bring in leftovers as their potluck contributions instead of a brand new dish. That is what we do at work, a celebration happens in a family and the next day the excess appears in the breakroom. So much Halloween candy, please make it stop!!!

Granted I’m in a rough and tumble kind of industry so these dudes live to eat anything, lol.

Or perhaps supervisor doesn’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving, having to work the day after. So the next day would have given them an opportunity to have a little quasi Thanksgiving ๐Ÿ™

I understand why they’re feelings were bruised there.

Over the top childish reaction still not appropriate but perhaps but your own issues with Supervisor to the side and see them as human not just a sensitive soul that is easily hurt. It sounds like a bit of office tension exploding and boiling over to me.

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Karen December 1, 2015 at 11:34 am

I find that the best way to schedule a date is to make sure that there is nothing major happening that day, and simply assign that date. You will never find a day that is convenient to EVERYONE, and you’ll just go nuts trying.

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Devin December 1, 2015 at 12:36 pm

I personally would have gone to the supervisor to go over any company events prior to planning. You never know if the department was planning on doing a catered lunch one day or host a holiday event. Just because someone was one way last year, doesn’t mean it’s going to get green lighted this year.
With that being said, I’m shocked that someone in a supervisory position would rip down a posting in such a passive aggressive way. If an unauthorized post was put up where I work, the supervisor who disapproved would go to the organizer/poster and either let them know this isn’t an approved work event or let them know the appropriate way to get it approved. The approval process is very informal, email the department supervisor or department head for larger events, and 99% of the time it is approved. Many times the department will chip in some money for the event (pick up the tab on a few appetizers or provide a main course for a pot-luck) to encourage participation.
If I were OP, I’d suck it up. Apologize for not getting approval for the event, and extend an olive branch. No one likes to pander to a drama llama, but its your career.

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Anonymouse December 1, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Just saying, there’s nothing to indicate OP didn’t get approval for the event. Just that they didn’t get approval from this particular supervisor. It’s entirely possible the potluck was OK’d by the manager or another supervisor…

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JD December 1, 2015 at 12:48 pm

If the supervisor was upset, why didn’t he/she go to the Senior Worker with whom the potluck situation had already been discussed and ask why a potluck had been shot down when the supervisor had suggested it, but now OP is organizing one? Why didn’t the senior worker privately mention that initial conversation to OP, once OP started organizing a potluck, knowing how volatile the supervisor is? OP didn’t know about that conversation at all until after the drama started. If, as I understood it, OP just asked those with variable schedules about their days in, then the supervisor wasn’t excluded any more than the other M-F employees. And as for asking the M-F group if anyone will be on vacation, well, close to the holidays, someone is bound to be on vacation, and you can’t suit everyone. As the organizer of many work potlucks, I’ve always had to pick a best-option day and go with it, knowing someone is probably going to miss it. Unless one works in a very small office, it’s bound to happen. The only thing I would have done differently if I was OP, since the OP and supervisor are on less than ideal terms, is to deliberately and very nicely ask the supervisor if that date suited him or her when asking others, even though the supervisor is there 5 days a week. I like to confuse them with kindness.

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abby December 1, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I agree, I think Senior Worker kind of caused this situation. It sounds to me like Supervisor brought it up to Senior Worker, and Senior Worker unilaterally decided everyone would not be interested in doing it that day. So, the Supervisor gets the potluck idea shot down, and then all the sudden two weeks later OP (with whom Supervisor had a falling out) has organized a Christmas potluck with no input from Supervisor. Not a big deal to most people, but Supervisor looks for reasons to be offended.

I can’t imagine why Senior Worker didn’t just tell Supervisor that his or her idea was a good one but maybe instead of Black Friday, it would be better to have it a few weeks later.

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Lisa December 1, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Talk about first world problems!

1. Suck it up
2. Go to supervisor, apologize if you offended
3. Ask if he would like for you to discontinue the potluck or go ahead with it
4. Case closed

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Miss-E December 1, 2015 at 5:33 pm

And if supervisor says “cancel it” then nobody gets to enjoy a potluck. All because one person’s knickers are in a twist over a perceived slight?

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Lisa December 2, 2015 at 9:43 am

If he is the supervisor, then yes.

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Dee December 2, 2015 at 12:28 pm

Then the potluck is cancelled for this year, maybe even for forever. They’re all at that place to work, not to socialize. Potlucks aren’t required or even necessarily wanted, particularly if it comes with such drama. Nothing prevents people from having potlucks their way AFTER work.

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Sonya December 2, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Yes, this is a first world problem, but since we live in a first world country, and therefore have first world problems, those are the problems that we’re discussing. *I’m tired of being shamed for having first world problems, personally! Grateful that that’s all they are, but that phrase “first world problems” just seems to minimize whatever the problem is. If you think that something isn’t a big deal, just say so.

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Calli Arcale December 1, 2015 at 1:02 pm

Personally, I would have asked the supervisor. If there’s gonna be drama either way, it might as well be drama where you have done the right thing by the standards of business etiquette. Supervisors do have the right to allow or disallow these sorts of gatherings at most companies, and so it would be unusual for a supervisor to not be consulted. I realize you felt that supervisor was already in the loop, but I think a formal communication with supervisor would cover your butt better. I tend to do such things via e-mail so that there is a paper chain as well.

Our office does a holiday potluck every year. It is typically organized by the administrative assistants. And to those wondering how much organization a potluck takes, well, there is choosing a date, finding a suitable room, arranging sufficient power strips for any crock pots, making sure there’s enough table and sitting space, probably bringing the paper plates and flatware . . . . Not to mention making sure that the things people sign up to bring cover the basic essentials of a meal. You can’t have everybody bringing a crock pot full of meatballs. It just doesn’t work.

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LadyV December 1, 2015 at 5:54 pm

My office also has a potluck every December. The date is at the discretion of the division director, although his assistant does do her best to find a day that works for as many people as possible. Because it is coming from the director, no approval by supervisors is required. It sounds like the situation is similar here. In the past, OP has had the scheduling approved by Senior Worker, who is apparently higher up on the org chart than Supervisor, and that’s been sufficient approval.

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Calli Arcale December 2, 2015 at 3:01 pm

Good point about Senior Worker likely having authority over Supervisor; in that case, though, it would feel to Supervisor as if OP has gone over his/her head, and many organizations frown on that. In mine, you are allowed to “skip level”, but you’d usually be expected to go to your direct manager first for most things.

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Suomynona December 2, 2015 at 9:01 am

My department does a potluck nearly every month. Plates and flatware and serving utensils are provided by the company, we keep those on hand at all times. There’s a standard area that nobody else uses that we set up on. One long table, and one we used to take from another department (which, again, nobody was using, and now it belongs to our department). Everyone takes their food and eats at their desk, or we block off a meeting room for an hour if people want to go sit down. We keep power strips along with the other supplies. And on the sign up sheet we break things down: main dishes, side dishes, condiments, desserts, and other.

Yes, we may have it down to an art because of how often we do it, but it doesn’t necessarily take as much work as you make it out to be. Usually the people running the sign up sheet are the last to sign up so they can fill in the holes of what’s needed. And if you get two or three people to agree to clean up afterwards, it’s hardly a chore. We regularly have about 18 people participate, so it’s not like we’re a tiny insular group, but a handful of us clean everything quite nicely in about ten minutes!

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Calli Arcale December 2, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Well, it’s easy when you do it on a monthly basis, because pretty much everything is already in place. When it’s just done annually, it’s more work because the standing arrangements don’t exist and you have to create them. And size matters. My company is a bit more than 18. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Our potluck is in a couple of weeks, and we can expect to have several hundred people.

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iwadasn December 1, 2015 at 1:05 pm

It seems to me that the supervisor felt he was excluded from this “private potluck” because you yourself excluded him. Yes, his behavior was petty and over the top, but when he saw and heard you going around asking people what days worked best for them and you deliberately did not ask him, he most likely saw your behavior as petty and childish too. In fact, as you mention that you’ve had bad interactions in the past, he’s probably interpreting your behavior in the exact same way you’re interpreting his: “An employee who I’ve had bad relations with in the past planned an office pot luck, inviting people right in front of me but deliberately ignoring me. Let’s send her to E-Hell for her vindictive, cliquish behavior.”

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Kate December 2, 2015 at 11:51 am

Except OP wasn’t excluding Supervisor. She was only asking people with variable work schedules, the non Monday to Friday crowd about dates.

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iwadasn December 2, 2015 at 12:50 pm

OP said she went around to “see what day would be best for everyone,” but she didn’t ask “this person” (the supervisor) even though he was within earshot. It sure sounds like he was the only one she didn’t ask.

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Politrix December 1, 2015 at 1:49 pm

I may be in the minority here, but shouldn’t a supervisor be informed of ANY goings-on in a department? S/he is, after all, the supervisor — the one who knows when clients may be visiting the office, or if a huge project will be coming in shortly (and who has to manage the workload), and, IMHO, should be consulted about anything involving his/her department during business hours. Potlucks and parties are nice to have, but at my job, work is work; and if you’re too afraid to approach your supervisor (i.e., your superior) about a potluck, it’s probably best to do your socializing outside of the office.

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Miss-E December 1, 2015 at 5:35 pm

It’s not clear what kind of business this is. If it’s some kind of retail then “supervisor” may just mean “one who handles things on shift”, not necessarily anyone with serious power.

Ie: I worked at Starbucks where “supervisor” meant the person who had keys and locked the door at night. You wouldn’t consult every Starbucks supervisor about a potluck.

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LadyV December 1, 2015 at 5:56 pm

That depends. Sometimes a supervisor isn’t over an entire department/division – so you would need to get approval from ALL supervisors whose employees would be involved. As I stated in another post, the date for our annual potluck is chosen by the division director – who has 3 program managers and 6 supervisors under him.

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Amara December 1, 2015 at 2:43 pm

This sounds like a very dysfunctional workplace and not just because of the supervisor. May I suggest that a few apologies all around wouldn’t hurt and following those up with kind words in all communications might help to heal some wounds?

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Dear! December 1, 2015 at 3:15 pm

I hate petty situations, like this one. Sure, the OP could have asked if the supervisor was going to be in office, like always, and this could have possibly been seen as an insult to the supervisor. However, I get so tired of people taking offense to the most minor incidences in the office. If I were the senior staff member, I would have politely told the supervisor to, in office speak, “get over it.”

If this were an annual event, and the mechanics were well known, then the supervisor is being petty and childish. They knew full well that it was not a “private” event. It is so tiring to have to deal with childish office antics. There should be an expectation for a certain level of maturity in the work place, and adults should be expected to act with a certain level of maturity.

The movie “Office Space” comes to mind.

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Angie December 1, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I don’t understand why the OP didn’t go immediately to the supervisor once alerted to the problem by the senior coworker. Whether they intended to exclude the supervisor or it was an accident (I tend to believe that the OP enjoyed ignoring the supervisor while talking to the rest of the office…calling your supervisor’s actions “deranged” is certainly indicative of the OP’s strong animosity towards her supervisor), the supervisor found it inappropriate and the OP needed to make the proper amends. The OP could have said “Supervisor, I am sorry that I didn’t consult you about the office potluck. It was an oversight on my part. I just thought I would take charge of it so that you didn’t have to be worried about such a trivial thing. It sounds like you have some concerns about the potluck. How can we make this work for everyone?” Sneaking the sign up sheet around the corner is just passive aggressive and trying to get the entire office to gang up on the supervisor is likely to backfire. The company wants the supervisor in charge for some reason and making life more difficult for them, no matter how “justified” you feel you are in making life difficult for them, just makes you look bad.

I could tell horrible boss stories that would make your hair stand on end, but I never would deliberately antagonize one or encourage others to do so. You never know when a scapegoat will be necessary and you would be first in line.

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InTheEther December 1, 2015 at 8:14 pm

Depending on the person, that could just be adding gas to the fire. Some people are mollified by a simple apology and realize that it isn’t an issue to get upset about. The type of person who likes having a problem with everything (the type the supervisor is described as) will only take it as encouragement to continue because he wants you to crawl through broken glass for forgiveness, otherwise he doesn’t get his endorphin high.

I’ve met plenty of people where the best option is to just let them be mad and go on with your day.

I don’t see how the OP is making life difficult for anyone. The sheet was placed where it could be easily reached, but not where the Sup was throwing a hissy about it not being. And yes, people are thinking poorly of him, but that’s a result of his actions rather than OP’s.

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Angie December 2, 2015 at 10:59 am

I disagree that it is all the supervisor’s actions. We only have the OP’s perceptions of what happened and apparently what everyone is spreading around as truth. The hyperbole OP uses in her description of events can be a bit over the top.

Let’s see this from the supervisor’s point of view. He/she suggests a potluck to senior worker to try to improve department morale. Senior worker shuts it down with no further discussion. A few days/weeks later, department worker starts going around asking people, but not the supervisor when they want to have a party, even though supervisor was right there and could have been checked with by a quick “Hey, would this work for you?” Instead OP is running around (when possibly he/she should have been doing their job), party planning. OP puts sign up sheet near time clock which may or may not give the impression that it is an exclusive party (which was started when OP only asked certain people if the date was okay…it was obvious to OP that she was asking people who aren’t there M-F, but perhaps supervisor didn’t see the pattern in OP’s head) Just another slap in the face to the supervisor by the OP about how much OP doesn’t like the supervisor. We only have the OP’s version of events that the supervisor has a hair-trigger temper. If you have ever tried to supervise a group of people who act like junior high school children, it can get very frustrating, especially when dealing with the ringleader. OP isn’t doing anyone any favors by gloating about how many people are signing up and encouraging the rest of the office to gossip.

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InTheEther December 2, 2015 at 7:46 pm

Okay, lets really break down how far you’re having to go to make the OP the bad guy.

1st: This senior worker shot the sup’s idea down, had nothing to do with the OP
2nd: I’m just really not sure how a sign up sheet by the time clock could indicate a private party. May just be me.
3rd: Maybe the sup could feel bad if he decided he was the only one not being asked, but he had plenty of opportunity to speak up and ask the OP questions. Like a reasonable person.
4th: You make the assumption the OP is lieing about the sup being a generally miserable person.
5th: You are also making the shaky assumption that the sup is completely blameless, and that there is a juvenile conspiracy in the office, headed by the OP, to needle him. Rather than people generally disliking him because his personality sucks.
6th: OP has mentioned here that his attempts to destroy the potluck have backfired, you are using some manipulative wording (in fairness, likely unintentionally) to make it sound like OP is going through the halls at work cackling in triumph.
7th: Last assumption on your part, you assume with no evidence that OP is encouraging the office to gossip. Rather than talk spreading since his actions were pretty public.

Considering how many assumptions I just listed, and that the issue would’ve never gotten to this point had the sup actually talked to the OP like a reasonable person instead of stewing and then throwing a hissy, do you really have any reason to be chastising the OP?

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Angie December 4, 2015 at 11:38 am

I’m not making any assumptions that anyone is blameless. I think they both made some mistakes in the whole situation.
1. The timeclock sign up sheet. If the supervisors don’t normally use the timeclock (as they may be on salary), it isn’t in a place that makes it APPEAR that all are invited (not reality, but appearing so). We have hourly and salaried employees where I work and if you put something by the time clock, I would never see it–it isn’t anywhere near where I am and I have no reason to go to where it is located. A more public board or public place would have been a better place if OP wanted everyone to feel included.
2. The converse of the supervisor asking the OP about the party is true. If the supervisor is nearby, why wouldn’t the OP ask them? The supervisor may have not wanted to be rude “So, am I invited to this?” gets akward if it was just the hourly employees. My boss knows we have events after hours but he feels that it isn’t his place to always attend, so that we don’t feel judged by out of work activities. He only comes when given an invitation.
3. I didn’t say that the OP is lying about the supervisor being a generally rotten person. However, the word choice in the whole piece is very slanted and we only have the OP’s word that all of these horrible things have happened before and no idea what the OP and other workers in the office might have done to create this hostile environment. There are two sides to every story and when people use words like “deranged” which is pretty harsh and gloats about how other people are on the OP’s side, it makes me wonder what the other side of the story actually is. It usually takes two sides to make a conflict so bad that you have to be curt and only discuss official business. I’m not holding either side blameless (and you are assuming I am, as I said I didn’t think it was ALL the supervisor’s fault….not that I think the supervisor is blameless)

4. The OP is cackling in triumph “(This is failing, as word has spread about this childish and petty behavior. Weโ€™re having more participation and sign-ups earlier than normal than it ever had before, because of it.)” That’s how I read what the OP said. Your mileage may differ.

5. I didn’t assume that the OP is encouraging the gossip. The gossip is happening and given the attitude the OP has towards the supervisor, it would be likely that the OP is helping to spread the gossip (hey, they sent it to an etiquette website).

You assumed a lot into what I wrote, which was merely that there were two sides of this story and we didn’t have the supervisor’s side. I was merely trying to suggest, having been a supervisor for much of my life, that there might be another side other than to say the supervisor was a deranged nut. Could they have handled it better? Sure. Could the OP? Sure. But, since the supervisor is the supervisor, it would be in the OP’s best interest to make amends.

Amanda H. December 3, 2015 at 8:02 pm

In addition to what InTheEther said, you also miss a couple things from the OP’s letter:

1. OP explains in the first paragraph that she was arranging things because, just as in years past, she has time in the morning to spare. She’s not shirking work duties do organize this.
2. OP also explained that she’d been the one to arrange the potluck in years past, and Supervisor has been present for at least one of those, and thus it’s not unreasonable to believe that Supervisor was familiar with the fact that OP has previously arranged the potlucks, as OP mentioned.
3. The time clock is the sign-up sheet’s customary location each year, as OP once again explains. Supervisor took umbrage with it for some reason this year, despite it occupying that location the previous year, and it is Supervisor who’s insisting the potluck is a “private” event (but no where does Supervisor or OP or anyone insinuate that the sign-up sheet itself indicates a private party).
4. OP didn’t “sneak” the sign-up around the corner. Senior Worker had enough pull in the office to get the sign-up sheet put back as close to the time clock as they could manage without Supervisor pitching a fit about its placement.

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Angie December 4, 2015 at 11:46 am

I understand the OP says that they are arranging things because they had extra time. However, to a supervisor who is watching you like a hawk because of previous conflict, that might not be the best time to be playing office social secretary. They were being paid to work, not be the party planner and what work wasn’t getting done because they were planning the party?
Also, just because someone has done something in years past doesn’t mean that they get carte blanche to do it again. Perhaps last year OP’s involvement was limited to posting the sign up sheet and just asking people in the break room over various lunches what was a good time and not wandering around during work hours. Perhaps the supervisor didn’t know where the post of the signup sheet was last time and didn’t realize that this was the customary place. It is never good to assume anything when dealing with office politics and an especially touchy boss.
I also think senior worker is partly complicit in this. Instead of speaking up and trying to find a solution that would make everyone happy, senior worker doesn’t share what he or she knows and it makes for a mess at work.
Whether we like them or not or think they are wonderful or the worst boss ever, there is a level of respect we have to give those who are in positions of power above us because someone has decided, for better or worse, that they deserve that position. If people choose to ignore the fact someone is a supervisor and act of their own interests, they need to be aware that things may go awry and need to take some responsibility for what happened, regardless of intent.

NostalgicGal December 1, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Supervisor fired volley A, with senior worker. Bad timing so dropped. Next round comes up with the dates changed, adding OP in the works. I think volley B should have been fired with Supervisor in on it, like Sup, S worker, and OP in same place at same time.

After that it got snidely petty and childish.

One place I worked at as ‘one step above the masses’ but two steps below ‘department boss’ meant I had a lot to sort. We handled file foldered papers and microfilm copies stored in flat sheet carriers. They had us on an upper floor and weightwise literally started to buckle the building so they revamped most of the basement and sent us down there on cast concrete floor. We didn’t have a break room or coffeemaker for about 3 months. (they finally plumbed us a coffeemaker but not a breakroom, closest one was third floor-first two were subleased to other clients). The wars over the coffee hogs….. we would actually have to take a run up to the third floor breakroom, fill 2 airpots then start new brews and bring the coffee down. A few chronics would drink until they sloshed and never go get any. Even I who didn’t drink coffee would go make a few trips a day to try to make peace. I finally put down a sign sheet, but. It wasn’t to go up and GET but to log after you fetched that you GOT. Some said I refuse to sign to go up on turn and get, and I’m signing sheet with two airpots and said NO, you sign if you went up and (I hold up both pots) got. OH. It did bring us peace as it could be looked at, yeah Brad had like 8 cups but he went up 3 times. The only other issue about a month after the coffeemaker got plumbed in bags of coffee were disappearing. We heard someone’s squeakcrinkle purse on the way out one night and she got looked into, five bags. No, a benefit of working there wasn’t getting to take free coffee home. After she left our employment….

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Miss-E December 1, 2015 at 5:38 pm

I don’t think the OP intentionally ignored the supervisor, sounds like they skipped anyone who was a M-F worker, likely for the convenience of not having to ask every. Single. Employee. But, given that OP already knew the supervisor was the whiny type, they probably should have sent senior employee to do some lip service “Oh, Supervisor, I’ve been thinking about your potluck idea since last week and I think we should try and do one before Christmas, it was such a great idea! We’re thinking of doing it on this date, what do you think? Sound good?”

Should it be necessary? Nope. But sometimes you have to coddle the troublemakers so that things go more smoothly overall.

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Kate December 2, 2015 at 12:00 pm

OP didn’t know about the earlier potluck suggestion.

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Rosie December 1, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Seems like a case of assumptions and bad communication, with dramatic behavior by all parties, not just an etiquette issue. Just because the Supervisor worked in the same office last year and may have been aware of OP organizing the office potluck, probably shouldn’t have been interpreted by the OP as a blank check to go ahead and organize a Christmas potluck without coordinating with the Supervisor. Maybe the Supervisor didn’t notice last year, or had wanted to do things differently this year, hence their efforts to try to organize a different potluck. Now, it’s not OP’s fault that neither the supervisor nor the senior worker who knew about the earlier potluck never told her, but she might have found out if she had asked before simply assuming that she could/should organize the potluck again. And I can understand that the OP probably thinks she is doing the office a favor by doing the work of organizing the potluck; I don’t mean to diminish her contribution and spirit, but part of organizing is coordinating with your supervisor!

As for the Supervisor, they really blew it here as a way to relate to their employees and build camaraderie. Maybe they wanted to have a different potluck or wanted to be consulted, but a good supervisor would ask around and find out that the OP always does this and most people enjoy it. The Supervisor should have supported the essentially harmless holiday tradition that predated their tenure, and spoken to the OP respectfully if there was a need for modifications, such as changing the date or having it outside of work hours.

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Anonymouse December 3, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Honestly, why do you assume OP did not have permission to organize the potluck? Even a small office can have multiple tiers of management. I work with 10 other people, but still have 2 direct supervisors. In my old office, there were 7 (5 shift supers, an assistant manager, and the manager).
You don’t know what the OP’s office looks like, and it’s clear in the submission that a lack of approval is not the likely cause of the drama…

Just because THIS supervisor doesn’t want OP to plan the potluck does not mean it was “interpreted as a blank check to go ahead.” It seems to me that you, and other commenters who have said the same things, are the ones making assumptions… not the OP.

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Julia Houston December 1, 2015 at 8:19 pm

Best advice: start typing up your resume.

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Krissy N December 1, 2015 at 9:22 pm

I could be reading way more into this than is there, but to me the phrase “bad relations” suggests a relationship of a very personal nature, not a workplace feud, particularly since the OP follows up with the fact that their limited interactions are related to work ONLY now. (To me) That phrasing implies a romantic connection (and subsequent falling out), and if they’ve agreed to be cordial at work and the supervisor then overhears the OP asking around about availability, and then isn’t asked, I can see how the supervisor might think the OP is being exclusionary. Factor in the additional info (about the previous attempt at a pot luck) and I can see bruised feelings for sure. I don’t agree with the way the supervisor responded, but I’m taking the whole story with a grain of salt as the OP clearly is biased against the supervisor – could be for good reason, but makes me wish we could hear the other side of this story.

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Elizabeth December 2, 2015 at 11:47 am

And OP notes that interactions are not confined to work-related exchanges, suggesting that previously they were not. This is adding to the drama somehow.

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Elizabeth December 2, 2015 at 11:46 am

Other commenters noted that asking dates and times of some and not others may send a message of exclusion and this is possible, especially when dealing with a highl sensitive person. This could/should have been avoided by asking all to weigh in on timing.

But overall, Organizer and Supervisor are both making way too big of a deal about this. It is a casual, communal lunch, not a World Summit. Let it go!

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BagLady December 2, 2015 at 11:14 pm

I don’t get why the supervisor thinks posting the sign-up for (what s/he believes is) a “private” potluck in the break room is more appropriate than posting it by the time clock. In a lot of workplaces, not everyone punches the time clock (and supervisors are more likely to be non-punchers), but in theory everyone uses the break room.

I think OP saw a way out of engaging with supervisor, who sounds like the type to jump down her throat for asking what time it is, by running the potluck plan by the part-timers only. That was a mistake — she should have asked everyone, part- and full-timers alike, what days were best for them. Unless she works in a retail environment where time off is not allowed during the holidays, it’s a safe bet that some full-timers will be taking days off here and there — to accommodate holiday plans, or use up PTO that must be taken by year’s end, or both.

That doesn’t excuse supervisor throwing a childish tantrum. But like so many workplace problems, this is one that could have been avoided by better communication on all sides. Personally, though, I would not want to work for someone who forced me into a “walking on eggshells” communication style. I would rather spend my time doing my actual job than obsessing over how to word things to avoid upsetting a prickly pear of a boss.

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Cat December 4, 2015 at 7:01 pm

We had a secretary decide she was going to be in charge of our potluck. Everyone was told that each of us had to bring a dish large enough to feed forty people and that anyone who did not bring a dish that large would have to pay twenty dollars to eat.
We didn’t have forty people on staff and few of our employees could afford to feed forty people during a holiday.
If I wanted to pay twenty dollars for a meal, I’d go out to eat.

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