Author Topic: The haves and have-nots at the company party  (Read 12428 times)

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SCMagnolia

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The haves and have-nots at the company party
« on: August 26, 2013, 11:03:12 AM »
Our company work party was this weekend.  B/G – I work for a small, privately-owned company.  The company itself is nothing fancy – we’re in the construction industry.  Most of the people who work here work on jobsites, so we have a small, but nice and neat, no-nonsense office space.  The owners built the company from nothing and they’ve done very well.  They are very well-off.  The party was held at their “farm”.  They have a huge house, several barns, and a ton of property.

For the most part, the party was very nice.  They have a large picnic pavilion on their property and all the food was catered.  They have a beautiful pool for anyone who wanted to swim, a stocked trout pond for a fishing derby, horseback riding, and lots of activities and games for the kids and fireworks at the end of the evening. Clearly, they put a lot of time and money into planning the party.   It is nice that they have the space and such a beautiful setting to accommodate a party like this and I can understand them wanting to hold the party on their own property. 

What did not sit well with me and a few other co-workers was the attitude of “look what we have” that seemed to be underlying all the day’s activities.  Owner Lady told quite a few people of all the work they did on the house, how expensive it was to upgrade the house to the way she wanted it, and how she has professional decorators come in every season to decorate for holidays and such.  One of the day’s events was a hayride that should have been fun, but seemed more like a guided tour of the entire property, complete with stops here and there to show us where they plan to build another horse stable (“so we can buy more horses”) and a shooting range to use at next year’s picnic.  It was pointed out on several different stops where the property extends to and how they hold several of these kind of parties throughout the year.

I can appreciate that the owners have done well for themselves.  They are good people to work for, however none of us are ever going to have that kind of money to afford the kind of property they have with all the luxury upgrades.  It seemed in very poor taste to me that they seemed to be flaunting what their money has bought them.  Now Owner Lady is walking around the office just going on about how they had such a wonderful time hosting all of us this weekend, how they can’t wait to host next year’s event, and how she thinks she’s going to put a call in to her party people to start planning for next year.

GAG.  ::)  Several of us were really put off by the whole have/have-not environment that seemed to surround all the festivities and are not looking forward to an annual showing off of all the riches.  Since it is a very small company and the party is the company’s big “event” of the year, not attending would tend to be noticed and maybe a bit frowned-upon, but we’d all be more comfortable if the party was in a more neutral setting.  Can we somehow put a bug in someone's ear to have next year's party elsewhere?

White Lotus

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2013, 11:33:42 AM »
This isn't a money problem, it is am attitude problem, probably understandable under the circumstances, but not correct and not kind.
There are "looks" and comments that can be made when someone exhibits the etiquette sin of boasting.  I's start checking Miss Manners, especially the books.  Surely she has way to handle the nouveau rude.  I personally would go for the non-responsive look -- as if the speaker just said an inappropriate word -- and something like, "how nice for you," and bean dip. 

lowspark

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2013, 11:34:08 AM »
Are these people the kind who are always flaunting their material wealth? Are they always bragging about their latest acquisitions and expenditures? If so, they yeah, ugh. Not pretty and not nice.

But if not, then I tend to see this in a slightly different light. Not so much as bragging and flaunting but more along the lines of "I'm so thrilled at all this cool stuff and I want to show it off." Granted, she is sort of playing this to the wrong audience because I can see it as coming off sounding like, "Here's all the cool stuff we're buying off the backs of your labor."

But since you said they have several parties like this a year, I'm guessing she probably planned a similar party for her friends/social group and then just repeated the party for the employees without realizing how it would sound. Unless she's one who has displayed this insensitivity as part of her personality, I'd give this one faux pas a pass and just assume that her intentions were misplaced rather than intentionally malicious.

It sounds like the first time they've hosted this kind of party for the employees at their place. Maybe next time it won't be so much along those same lines since it won't be the first time everyone's seen it.

But honestly, regardless of any of that, I can't see saying anything at all to them about where they host a party. If they want to host it at McDonald's or at Chez Expensive or at their home or wherever, it's their call. They are hosting. You can go or not, you can be annoyed or disgusted or whatever, but you can't really say anything to them to make them think that their hospitality was somehow lacking.

Well, I mean, you can, but if you''re worried about the repercussions of not going, imagine the repercussions of sending that kind of message to them.

And anyway, yeah, I think it's rude to hint at them to change their venue.

Sharnita

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2013, 12:14:41 PM »
It sounds like ypu see it as showing off and they see it as shzring. I tend to lean in tjeir direction. You have.been able to use some of these things at your parties. It isn't like you hear abput it at work but guarddogs and hired security keep you off thererty. Some of the talk is about you enjoying it as well. I'd gocis on that. There are plenty of emlpoyers who would give no thought to that.

*inviteseller

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2013, 12:24:56 PM »
If they were taking people who asked around for the grand tour, then it is not bragging, but taking all your employees on a "Look what we have" tour complete with the cost of everything is just bragging and so off putting IMO.  I am happy when someone who works hard achieves something great, but I think it is tacky to put it in everyone's faces..especially the people who work for you. 

Winterlight

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2013, 12:26:43 PM »
This isn't a money problem, it is am attitude problem, probably understandable under the circumstances, but not correct and not kind.
There are "looks" and comments that can be made when someone exhibits the etiquette sin of boasting.  I's start checking Miss Manners, especially the books.  Surely she has way to handle the nouveau rude.  I personally would go for the non-responsive look -- as if the speaker just said an inappropriate word -- and something like, "how nice for you," and bean dip.

I'd be careful with that, personally- it's a bad idea to criticize the boss, especially in front of other people.
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Twik

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2013, 12:32:27 PM »
Yes, this is a no-win situation. You can't complain to the boss, even as this sort of thing is devastating to company morale - "They've got a nine-hole golf course, and we're working unpaid evenings and weekends because they won't hire us an assistant to help out!"
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SCMagnolia

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2013, 12:43:01 PM »
I kind of figured there's no getting around this for next year.  I'm hoping they'll take the approach that Lowspark mentioned and think that since everyone saw the place this year, they won't feel compelled to show everything off again.  Either that, or maybe one of us will develop some mental telepathy skills!  We were all doing okay until Owner Lady was talking about the professional decorators and the hayride of how much they spent.

Owner Guy isn't so much the problem.  He's pretty down to earth.  He's usually on a jobsite and you normally can't tell him from the average worker.  Half the time, the people that contract with us don't know he's the owner or don't believe it.  Owner Lady is the issue.  She likes to name-drop wherever she can.  If her car is in the shop, she won't tell the receptionist to let her know if the garage calls about her car - it's "let me know when the Mercedes dealer calls."  Like none of us know she drives a Mercedes.  We're in a rural area and the winters can be rough, so her husband bought her a 4WD something or other that is NOT a Mercedes. She was in a snit for days over it because it "looks like every other car in a parking lot."   I think for Owner Guy, it was a "let's have everyone over and throw a party" deal and for her it was a "what a great opportunity to brag about my stuff" deal. 

I guess we can hope she got it out of her system.

DaDancingPsych

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2013, 01:16:21 PM »
I agree that this is not something you can really do, other than make it a mental game every year. Each time she mentions their money in some form, make a check mark. Can you beat last year's record?   :P

I am a have-not, but I wonder if this is a case of class differences. Maybe she does not know how to interact with her guests on a social level, so talking about her life (and her money) is the only thing she knows. Maybe she thought that the tour style hayride was more entertaining than just a regular ride. I have witnessed many hosts trying too hard to make things fun when people have a way of doing it themselves. You provide the wagon and they tend to provide the good time!

Even if she is a stuck-up have-it-all, it might be wiser to view her in a more gracious light. There really is no good produced by getting irritated and I really can't think of a way to stop her that would not potentially effect your job.

kitchcat

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2013, 01:31:19 PM »
Personally, I would not have been bothered. I love anything related to home improvement, despite the fact that I don't own a home. Where I'm from, it's not uncommon to give first time guests a tour of their home. It doesn't come across as overly showy to me. It's like walking through a home decorators magazine! My city even has an annual house tour where wealthier home owners open their houses to guests for a guided tour and the ticket proceeds go to charity. It's a very popular event.
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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2013, 01:34:02 PM »
This is a couple who built up a sucessful business that is allowing them to have a lifestyle they may have never expected to enjoy. I don't fault them for giving a guided tour of the property, but it is a poor showing to discuss the cost. She sounds like someone who hasn't quite learned how to be gracious about her wealth.

The farm is her new toy and like an excited kid she wants to show it off to her friends and part of that is telling them how "special" it is. Hopefully, by next year she'll have a new toy and something else to show off.

As others have suggested make a mental game of it and next year when she is showing off her new Arabian horses smile and respond to her like you would a child showing you their "My Little Pony" collection.

ladyknight1

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2013, 02:32:47 PM »
You could turn the number of times wealth, cost, or money is mentioned into a drinking game with your like minded co-workers. Off the clock of course.

DH used to work at one of the poshest country clubs on the planet. It was nice to meet the people like your owner gentlemen, and not so nice to be treated as one of the help by the people like your owner lady.

LadyL

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2013, 02:41:51 PM »

The farm is her new toy and like an excited kid she wants to show it off to her friends and part of that is telling them how "special" it is.


OP, if it's any consolation, the description above pretty much encapsulates how people who come from "old money" probably see your "new money" bosses. Tacky displays of lavish wealth - think a floor length mink and diamonds to go grocery shopping - are a stereotypical nouveau riche phenomenon. Acting that way, in my understanding, won't earn you many friends at the country club. In the U.S. at least, old money usually means those who come from a very British influenced cultural set (think WASPy "stiff upper lip" types) where talking explicitly about money is the ultimate in vulgarity.

So these people may have the misguided notion that the company party is their chance to finally impress people with what they've got. But obviously you're not impressed. I'm left feeling some degree of fremdschamen for this couple, who seem to majorly lack self awareness.

mspallaton

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2013, 02:53:01 PM »
I think it is worth trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, even if it is annoying.  Everything else you've shared about them makes me believe that this is a sign of obliviousness and not malice.

I'm supporting myself and my family now, but when I was growing up, I watched my parents move from the have-not to the have category and make some of these same mistakes.  My mother got a job offer than unexpectedly led to a jump in personal wealth and they made the decision to buy a nice house and some nice things because they were able to for the first time.  They would invite long time friends over to visit and while people would visit once or twice, they stopped being available as frequently.  I didn't notice it at the time (being a teenager and being that my family lived several thousand miles away so trips to visit were expensive), but we later found out it was because of the way they acted.

Without realizing how it would be perceived, my parents would show off electronics or items they had bought.  They didn't talk about price (they knew not to do that), but what caused the friction was along the same lines.  OldFriend and Dad spent years talking about top-of-the-line stereo and now Dad has stereo and shows OldFriend out of genuine excitement.  OldFriend is put off because he sees it as rubbing in the financial success.

After a while, a very good friend of my mom's called her and spoke with genuine concern.  Basically saying, we don't want to come see you because you're acting like a [non-eHell-approved-word] and we miss the old you.  My folks were shaken, having not even realized what they were doing.  My mom had made enough to retire on (if you live reasonably) and decided it was time to get out of that environment so they sold the house, moved back to HomeState and into a more reasonably sized place.  They still like certain nice things, but they are careful not to talk about them with people who can't afford similar stuff unless it is brought up by the other person and even then they do not discuss the price.

I share the story because they were never intending to make anyone uncomfortable and have always believed that money and character are not necessarily the same thing.  It occurs to me that your hosts may have naively thought that sharing the fun things they have at their farm would just be "neat" or "fun" for the employees, rather than realizing that with financial success may bring a responsibility to be more cautious in talking about what you have.

yokozbornak

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Re: The haves and have-nots at the company party
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2013, 03:06:48 PM »
Honestly, OP, I think you are the one with the attitude problem. It sounds like they are generous employers who are kind enough to invite their employees to their home, feed them well, and allow them to enjoy the wonderful things they own.

If you find them off-putting, you can always get another job or skip the party next year.  I don't think it's fair to accept their hospitality and then roll your eyes at them behind their back because they are wealthy and you aren't.  Choose to be happy for them that they have found financial success to the point that they can hire and pay employees.