It’s much easier to say that a wedding is only for family and close friends, and to invite nobody from the office at all.
Q: A young friend of mine is getting married in a few months. She felt obligated to invite her immediate superior to the wedding. This superior went to their mutual over-superior and spilled the beans, telling her about the wedding and that she (the immediate superior) had been invited.
Now my friend feels caught between a rock and a hard place. Her invitation to her direct boss was made reluctantly, but she has more profoundly negative feelings about her boss’ boss. However, she feels she has no choice but to invite her too, fearing retaliation if she doesn’t. This may ruin a day she has been awaiting for many years.
I say she should take her chances and leave the boss’ boss out of it. And if that person makes my friend’s work life difficult as a result, then she a.) is crazy and malicious, and b.) may need to be reported to an even higher authority at the company. — Anonymous
A: Your friend’s mistake was inviting her immediate superior, however reluctantly. It’s much easier to say that a wedding is only for family and close friends, and to invite nobody from the office at all. Or, at most, to only invite the one or two obviously genuine work pals whom she socializes with anyway, and whose inclusion wouldn’t be questioned. The more she could position the decision as an across-the-board-policy, the better.
But it’s too late for that. My own initial instinct is similar to yours. A wedding is an important personal occasion. Don’t invite anybody whom you don’t want there, and let the chips fall where they may. Then again, it’s easy for us to say that, since we’re not the ones facing the potential consequences.
So instead of telling her what to do, just try to help your friend frame the decision. Most substantially: Why, precisely, might this ruin her wedding day? Is it that this boss’ mere presence will be bothersome? Or that she’s actually likely to do something obnoxious?
If it’s closer to the former, and it’s a big enough wedding, maybe it’s easier to just invite her and avoid her. (There will be other things to think about, after all, and maybe in a year her attendance will be forgotten.) If she’s notorious for causing drunken scenes, that’s different: Don’t invite anybody like that to your wedding.
Consider the “retaliation” possibilities the same way. Your friend could minimize potential trouble by minimizing workplace talk of the wedding itself: Don’t return to the office broadcasting glowing reports of the extra-special day. If the uninvited honcho signals interest, your friend could casually suggest an assumption that this boss was busy with more important obligations. Then she should change the subject, maybe by asking for some sort of totally unrelated work advice that somehow flatters the boss’ boss.
If it’s really true that this boss is so recklessly vindictive that she doesn’t get over this quickly, then perhaps some kind of collision was inevitable.
But help your friend take a step back and avoid making the most extreme decision based on the worst-case scenario. She should weigh the pros and cons, and imagine which decision, in the long run, she is most likely to regret the least.
Peer review: managing anonymous feedback
Q: Your response to the employee whose comments on an anonymous company survey were connected back to him should also have focused on the manager, who made a grave mistake by violating that anonymity. If word of this gets out, that manager will have destroyed the credibility of survey responses for many years to come.
I was once in a similar situation, and I just stopped responding to the annual surveys for several years. Management always encourages us to respond to these surveys, but I think they should be careful to not push too hard: A nonresponse conveys information, too. — Peter Heimann, New Brunswick, New Jersey
A: If the manager in that instance had asked for my views, I would have said something in line with what you’re saying: It’s a huge mistake to announce, “Hey I know this anonymous comment was from you. Can we talk about it a little more?” The manager should have found another way to follow up without revealing that the employee’s anonymity wasn’t really protected.
Then, more crucially, he should have promptly gone to whomever was in charge of the survey and pointed out its flaws. Those flaws may not have been limited to a design that made it possible to identify the supposedly anonymous.
Which brings us to your second, insightful point: An ignored survey can indeed send a message, too. Managers really need to ask: What kind of input are we seeking, and what are the best ways to get it?
Maybe the answer is more complicated than just redesigning the annual survey. After all, getting truly useful employee feedback shouldn’t be a once-a-year ritual. Spotting a problem with the company’s approach, a good manager could set the firm on a path to fixing it.