Social Question

Cupcake's avatar

Is there a polite way to decline a work party?

Asked by Cupcake (15492points) March 31st, 2016

TL, DR: I am having a going away party planned by someone who doesn’t really know me. I am too shy and have PTSD and really don’t want a party. I don’t want to seem ungrateful or rude. Is there any way to decline?

I will be leaving my job of 7+ years to move many states away to be a doctoral student. I have worked at this hospital for a total of 15+ years. During my time in this department, I have tremendously grown my position and have not only gained the trust and respect of many clinicians, but have also impacted clinical care and procedures through a variety of analyses and tracking of clinical outcomes.

I work almost completely independently and can go days without interacting with other people. I see my boss in the hallway every couple of months or so. We have no regularly scheduled meetings and he has taken on so much additional responsibility at work that I basically never ask him questions any more. There is another analyst and an administrative assistant with whom I interact every couple of months or so (I used to share an office with the AA, so we know each other very well). Otherwise, I basically have nothing to do with the rest of the division staff (mostly secretaries and research coordinators). Because of the divisive and frankly rude behavior of a few co-workers I stopped attending social work gatherings a couple of years ago.

I hear that someone in my department with whom I do not work is planning a work party. I very much wanted to avoid one. I do NOT like to be the center of attention and had hoped that perhaps my boss and I (and maybe a close co-worker or two) could eat lunch together as a going-away celebration.

Additionally, although most people at work do not know this, I have PTSD which has been triggered lately by the stress and unknowns of this upcoming move. I’m fine today, but it’s a bit unpredictable and I can’t always handle social interactions. At all. Like I can barely say hi to people some days.

Anyway, I am grateful that this coworker is thinking of me and wants to honor my leaving this job, but I absolutely do not want this party. And I don’t even know if I will be able to handle putting on a “happy face” on the day of the party.

Is there any way to get out of this??

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11 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, you can approach the planner and just say, “I heard you are putting together a going away party for me, but it would really be difficult for me and I wish you would not organize it. I will be overwhelmed with things as my move gets close, and I can’t afford the time of a party.”

stanleybmanly's avatar

I’m afraid you’re either going to have to face the individual responsible for planning your party, or if such a thing is too difficult for you emotionally, entrust the task to whomever supervises you both. The clearly critical fact is that every minute you delay in notifying either or both of these people, the larger will be the resulting disruption in sidetracking the celebration.

Cupcake's avatar

@stanleybmanly No one supervises us both. We work on completely different teams for different supervisors.

It’s being planned for the beginning of June… so I’m sure not much has been done yet, but I agree that I need to say something if I’m going to say something.

Cupcake's avatar

My husband says, “You have to go. Just suck it up.”

janbb's avatar

I know people who have declined going away parties and people who have planned their own. If it is not a close friend, I would just tell her something along the lines of what @zenvelo suggests although you could maybe say that you are quite shy and not comfortable socializing in a large group.

Maybe – if you are comfortable enough with it – set up a time when you will be in your office for people to come say goodbye on a one to one basis.

Jeruba's avatar

Ahhh, I sympathize. I worked for years at a small company that treated birthdays as big group events, along with all sorts of other occasions and sometimes even when there was no occasion at all. I always hated them, especially when my turn in the hot seat came around. I made a pact with a colleague who felt the same: we agreed never to let each other be blindsided by one of those things. The same custom prevailed in my small group within a much larger company. No matter what, I suffered with them, and I could look around the room and see who else was miserable too; the organizers were extroverts who were simply unconscious of those reactions.

Especially in an environment where the worst label you can acquire is “not a team player,” we introverts felt a heavy burden of obligation to go along.

The best thing my father-in-law ever did for me was to die the day before the annual company picnic so I could claim bereavement and not go.

I have to tell you this, though: I was so averse to the going-away events that when I left one job after 8 years to move out of state, I didn’t tell anyone but my boss. On my last day I took a small box of personal belongings and my potted plant and left without a word, saying good-bye to no one. It took me years, but I finally came to regret doing that. I liked some of those people a lot and probably hurt their feelings by creeping away as if I cared nothing for them or for my years there.

It also took me many more years to realize that the people who organize those things actually like them and expect other people to like them too. They don’t get that it’s torment for some of us. They’re trying to be nice and give pleasure.

Whoever told you about this plan might be your channel back to the source; otherwise, one of your close associates could deliver your message. Assume good intentions, but send word that a party would make you very uncomfortable. Say you have mixed feelings about leaving and would greatly prefer not to put them in the spotlight. Say you’d like instead to keep it all very low key for your own sake. You don’t need to offer more explanation than that.

Tell them you’ll bring treats on your last day; and then bring a large box of muffins or doughnuts or whatever your group’s favorite is, and put them in the break room. Add a card that you can prop up alongside, with a brief good-bye message on it.

Meanwhile, tell your boss or whomever you gave your notice to that you’d really enjoy a small lunch party earlier in your last week—not on your last day—to include just one or two others. They should treat you, of course, but to avoid awkwardness, you might offer, and then let them overrule you.

jca's avatar

I think the person organizing the party is going to try to convince you to go along with it. The people want a party and they want a reason for a party.

Tell the woman that you are very shy but will buy bagels (or donuts ) as a thank you for your coworkers being such great team members. Hopefully she heeds your wishes.

Jeruba's avatar

What was really amazing was that in my small-group situation, which was about 40 technical writers and editors in a huge company, we were practically all introverts—that’s the kind of solitary personality that does that kind of work—and still we wound up putting ourselves through this. Social pressure is a pretty powerful thing. I remember one group e-mail from our director that said “Mandatory fun. You WILL come to the ice-cream social at 3:00 and you WILL enjoy it.” Then he sent the managers around to flush out everybody who was hiding in their cubicles.

I wish you a comfortable way out of this, @Cupcake. Remember that if you give excuses (such as not enough time), you’re inviting a determined person to counter them. No one can counter “I prefer not to.” Remember Bartleby?

janbb's avatar

@Jeruba Yes, indeed I do.

jca's avatar

@Cupcake: Please return to this thread and post an update as to how things turn out with the party vs. no party issue.

The Update Lady

disquisitive's avatar

Don’t lie. Just say you do not want a going away party so please cease any plans for such an event. You don’t owe anyone a reason.

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