Tuesday, November 13, 2007

You don't have to do it. But you have to do it.

I’ve been in the working world since I was 16 years old.

In the past I have worked at a fast-food restaurant (just one, but I worked there for years), a credit card company, a college, and for a small non-profit company. When I moved to Tennessee and took a job with the government, I noticed something quite interesting which had been previously unknown to me.

I call it: Voluntary Forced Participation.

The first government group I was with was comprised of about thirty people. There was one girl who was apparently the self-appointed social director. Every time anyone had a birthday she would send out an email requesting that everyone give her $5 so we could have a cake for this person. She would then go purchase a sheet cake at Wal-Mart and the entire group would stop their work for as long as a half hour to sit around and eat cake together.

I’m quick. It didn’t take me long to figure out that 30 people times $5 equals way more than that sheet cake you buy for $19.99 at Wal-Mart. Plus, in my never-ending quest to lose weight, I wasn’t interesting in eating cake with lard and sugar smeared all over it so I would just immediately delete the emails when they came in and then not partake when the blessed day came around. Not that I’m anti-social, mind you. I’m not. It’s just when I’m at work, I’m there to work. I talk and carry on a little bit, enough to get along, but mostly, its work. I’m only here to make money so I can afford my real life.

Soon after? I got the following email from the social director.

I know that some of you guys are new, but here is how things work around here. When it is someone’s birthday it is customary to give $5 so we can have cake. This is how we do it. This is how we’ve always done it. Everyone participates. Bring your $5 to me for Random Coworker #12’s birthday by 5pm today. Email me with questions.

-Social Director

PS: This is voluntary.

Wow. That sounds SO voluntary. She left out the part about, “We’ll talk smack about you if you don’t participate. Also, we might cut you in the parking lot.” Otherwise, the email was fairly complete.

Since this job was temporary and I had started working there about a month after my own birthday (and knew I wouldn’t still be there when my birthday rolled back around) I forwarded the email to my very cool boss with a note that said something like, “What the hell?”

That was the last we heard about that. Or it was the last I heard anyway. I got cut out of the email loop. I left the job soon after.

The project that I’m on now has, up until a few months ago, had a woman working for us who cooked elaborate meals for the entire group just because it was Tuesday. For her going away party we ordered pizza and she brought in six desserts that she had made herself. Needless to say this has not been a problem in the past.

Until I got an email about the Thanksgiving luncheon.

It will be Wednesday. Sign up by last Friday. Everyone bring a covered dish or something else you want to eat.

Last week was rough. I didn’t sign up. I don’t plan to participate.

So then I get this email:

I noticed you didn’t sign up to bring anything for the Thanksgiving luncheon. We still need someone to bring cups. I’ll sign you up for that.”

Um, no. You won’t.

I emailed back and said, “I don’t plan on participating. Please ask someone else to bring cups.”

So this morning? The individual sending the email marched down to my office to demand to know WHY I AM NOT PARTICIPATING. In this “voluntary” event.

I explained, nicely, that I have not been feeling well. I had to take a day off work last week because of my hoo-ha (didn’t mention that part) and all its related issues. My work does not stop just because I am not here. I have a lot going on and not enough time to finish it all. When I do eat, it’s in front of my desk while I’m working. I simply do not have the time or the inclination right now to stop work, walk down the hill, and eat with a bunch of people who, for the most part, dislike me.

I didn’t say all that. What I did say was very nice.

And she said, with a sigh so deep I’m sure her soul was pierced, “You just aren’t a team player.”

That’s me. Not a team player. Not a team player in this Dilbert cartoon of a life I seem to have stumbled into.

Seriously? It seems to me that by doing my work correctly and on time and not stirring up a bunch of gossipy crap all the time (prime example? The lady who deemed me "not a team player"? Called someone a f-ing bitch to her face last week. But she said the whole word) makes me more of a team player than not bringing cranberry sauce to some “holiday” party in which all the participants pretty much loathe one another and would probably not voluntarily spend time with about 96% of the room outside of work.

Don’t you?

Maybe it’s just me.

Either way, they still aren’t getting my $5.


Angie said...

You cracked me up. . . the first thing I faced upon walking into work this morning. . . ? Discussion about the upcoming Christmas party and whether to have it onsite (during the day) or offsite (in the evening).

I can't use the terminology that your co-worker used. . . it's a church! :)

Anonymous said...

Love the voluntary forced participation thing. In my ex-life when I was military wife, we called that "Mandatory Fun". Although it is actually mandatory, it's not really fun. And in my new life, it all costs money, too. Not my idea of a deal at all.

Good for you for standing up for yourself. I have seen plenty of e-mail about things like baby showers, birthdays, and parties, but I must admit I've never had someone so zealous that they actually come around and *demand* participation. Social director girl needs to chill!

Anonymous said...

Gah. Honestly - it's not just you. These kinds of things at work used to get right up my nose. Especially in places where, for the most part, the majority didn't even like each other.

And it was always some hopeful soul (who was bossy in a passive aggressive way, no less!) who really wanted everyone to just hold hands and stuff their faces together.

I would totally have told her that she was OUT of Line labelling 'me' (you) as 'not a team player'. You coulda (and I hope you do next time) responded by saying, 'No, I guess I'm not a team player when efforts are made to suck me into activities not actually related to my job.'

Or you could just tell her to suck it. Nicely, of course;).

Anonymous said...

At my last job, we did the whole pitch in money for this, that, and whatever else. It was rather annoying. Sure, it's fun to sit and eat and shoot the breeze for a while, but really? Why?

The icing on the $20 cake for me was after I had my daughter. I received no flowers, no cards, no gifts from the schmucks I worked with. Even though EVERY other person who'd had a baby, gotten engaged, married, divorced or their nose pierced did.

I guess they didn't like me.


Ry said...

1. as soon as you said $5 each for a cake, I knew something wasn't right. I, too, get my cakes from Sam's Club (Wal-Mart's cousin) and knew they were cheap.

2. When Little Artist was in traditional school, they would send home a list of things for us to buy, bring in already cooked for Turkey day, then we would have to buy (again!) lunch with our kids!!!!!

Julie said...

Mandatory volunteering? That sucks butt.

Dreamer said...

Wow. It sounds like you have such a wonderful job! :-) Just kidding.

Have fun with your voluntary...involuntary....


frannie said...

they should just accept that you don't want to participate.

you should have told her to save that comment for the get together-- that way they would have something to talk about

Adventures in Baby Fat said...

I'm with you. We go out to dinner with my Jason's coworkers for their birthdays. Each member of his team donates $5.00. We don't go anywhere fancy. So, say we're at Red Robin. We all donate $5.00. His boss collects the money and gets $25.00 total. Dinner is usually $10.00 to $12.00. Why do we have to donate so much? It bothers me each and every time. Why am I paying for your dinner too? You're the boss. You make more money than we do. Gah!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I wanted to cheer at the end of that. Your work life sounds like an episode of The Office just waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

I was going to say what Kimberly said!!!! I was going to ask if you worked for Dunder-Miflin! The social lady sounds just like Angela! ha!!!!!

Anonymous said...

That's too funny. Good Lord! I loved those office parties, too. I'm glad you aren't a team player. I like you that way.

my4kids said...

That is one of the reasons I enjoyed being in the staffing department at amy last job. Since I could be at any one of the 26 clinics on any random day I didn't have to participate or chip in unless I wanted to and usually I wouldn't be there to do it anyway.

Kim said...

I would be so mad at that coworker. We have the pot luck things at my work, too and people can be pretty petty about it. I have always signed up for something like napkins or cups because I don't have the time to make something. Even if I DID have the time, I wouldn't want to waste it for something like that. lol

Birth Sister Doula Services said...

The lastest "voluntary" event we had was a baby shower for a former co-worker (he left our team and moved to another department a month ago, and was never one to socialize w/ his teammates) and his wife (who works for the same firm but in a different division, and isn't the least bit friendly to any of us). The invite said where they were registered, and that in addition to whatever you were purchasing off the registry, you were assigned a diaper size based on your last name and were to bring those as well. And if you didn't have time to shop, you could leave money with the organizer and it would be used to purchase items off their registry. WTF? I opted not to go. I haven't heard how much of a turnout there was, but I do know I wasn't the only one put off by the "invite".

Sarcasta-Mom said...

And this is why I adore reading your blog. If only you had called someone a douche, it would have been perfect. lol

At one of my last offices, the women were the nastiest bunch of two-faced snakes you've ever met. They'd pass the hat for every fund raiser their kids were in, every baby shower, birthday, and general fart that passed through the office. As a single mother, I didn't have money to give away to every event that occured, and boy was I called out for it. I think it's crap that that's allowed to go on in the work place. As if people don't feel bad enough about being broke on a daily basis....

Alpha Dude said...

You go, Girl!

Wenderina said...

So glad to hear there is someone else on my side. At my job its the baby showers (ugh). And don't forget the fundraisers for the kids. I like to support these, but with 400+ people in my building - most of whom are parents - it gets to be a bit much.

Guess I'm not a team player either. Cool.

velocibadgergirl said...

OK, you know me and you know I usually try to be all kumbaya and crap and see the best in people...so it pains me to ask this, but I have to:

What the flying fudgemonkeys is wrong with your coworkers?

For serious, Chick...your life is like one big episode of Punk'd without the chance to catch Ashton Kutcher off guard with a well-aimed crotchpunch. It's just weird. I have to wonder if the universe gives these people to you because it knows you will make the story hilarious.

velocibadgergirl said...

OH, and I saw a memo at work the other day...apparently our staff Christmas party (which just HAS to be at the country club, you know ((huge eyeroll)) ) is going to cost us $26 a person. So, for my husband and I to go, we have to drop $60 right at the height of Xmas shopping season. WTF?

Liz said...

What a crackup! We does those here at my work, but if you don't want to you don't got to...and the best part is you can still eat. That lady with the $5 per person for the cake has got a good scam going on, I've gotta start something up like that.

Edie said...

These people are strange! I've never heard of any of this being required in a work setting. It's always been voluntary where I work and even those who don't give money still participate.

CPA Mom said...

also bad? when you have a co-worker *cough* related to *cough* the boss who has a ZILLION home parties and you are expected to attend and/or order from each and every one.

Rachel (Crazy-Is) said...

I hate those things. Or how about when coworker A has a baby and you've worked in said job for about, oh, 2 hours and are expected to contribute to a gift and crap! And, of course, you seem like a bitch if you don't participate. Oh, well, though. I don't care.

Caffeine Court said...

Okay-so did you watch "The Office" last week? All about the cake issue!

I'm telling you, you have a calling in comedy writing.

My husband and I avoid "social work functions" like the plague.

SJINCO said...

Ohhh I hate work situations like this, they chap my hide. If someone doesn't want to participate, then fine - so be it! It's their choice! Newsflash - HELLO?!

I have a co-worker that has been bugging me for a week now to "donate" money to a charity cause (which I'm all for) however I've already donated - and I've told her this. Oh well, some people just don't get it.