Disinvited: the only one not invited to the party

Question: (This question came in through the “Ask a Coach” section of this blog.)

My husband works for a state agency. When the agency decided against having alcohol at their Christmas party, several employees felt it wasn’t a party without alcohol. One of them rented a nearby site and sent out invitations to the “office Christmas party” via the office e-mail. The invitations asked employees to bring a potluck dish and drinks, including alcohol.

Two days before the party, the employee who sent out the invitations and rented the site sent a private message to my husband advising him it was “a private party” and only those who received invitations were to attend.

We didn’t receive one, despite the email sent to everyone else billing it as “the office Christmas party.”

I feel my husband is being ostracized by a co-worker from office-related functions.

Since this is a state agency, is this legal? Shouldn’t the agency supervisor advise the party giver that anyone hosting a party labeled as the “office Christmas party” needs to invite “the office”?


What’s your goal?

Do you want to attend a party where the host doesn’t want you?

Do you want an invitation that your husband can turn down?

Do you want this party squashed?

You’ve written on behalf of your husband. While we often want to do battle on behalf of our loved ones, it can make them feel supported—or embarrassed. How does your husband feel about your active interest? 

Since your husband works for a state agency, you or he can look at your state’s department of administration statutes. In most states, there’s a regulatory and statutory umbrella that applies to social events, including parties.

Your husband can alert his supervisor and ask which regulations apply. There may also be a designated ethics supervisor who can provide guidance for your husband, or he can contact your state’s ombudsman’s office.

Regulations aside, what’s the rest of the story? In the long run, this party may matter less than an unresolved conflict that’s festering.

Navigating Conflict contains some thoughts you might offer your husband. Here’s what I wrote in chapter 2:

When someone treats you poorly, do you let it go? Do you fear you might make things worse if you confront the situation? Or do you address problems when they first surface?

If addressing a conflict feels as risky as jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, consider what your hesitation costs you.

When you avoid conflict, it provides at most temporary relief. It fixes nothing.

Unaddressed conflict festers. It’s as if you discovered a package of rancid chicken and put it back in the fridge, hoping the chill temperatures will improve it. Soon, the smell infects everything else in the fridge.

Your husband’s coworker’s insult appears to be the iceberg’s tip. I’d urge him to investigate what led to the dis-invitation and let a party—at which you might catch the flu—go. If you’d like to check out Navigating Conflict, this link provides you a chance to “look inside,” https://amzn.to/3rCKoWj.

p.s. You might find tomorrow’s post, “Opening Your Mouth and Letting Words Fly” useful—it offers effective strategies for starting conflict discussions.

3 thoughts on “Disinvited: the only one not invited to the party

  1. I would say answer to the immediate question is that depending on who is funding the party, organizing it, and attending will determine whether it is a party controlled by the agency. If the agency is funding it, the supervisor is organizing it–or at least it is being organized with her/his/their authorization, and if it is being provided in lieu of the previously planned onsite party, then I would say you don’t even need to ask . . . just go. If any of those things are not in play, then I think it becomes more like a private party among coworkers, regardless of what they call it. However, as you indicated, this party sounds like the tip of the iceberg. The real priority to be addressed is what caused the coworker to want to exclude the husband? Was it personal or professional? Is it something that can be addressed directly between the coworkers or does it require a supervisor’s intervention?

  2. First of all, who would want to go to a “party” where they aren’t wanted???

    Secondly, perhaps the employee who sent out the invitations isn’t the only employee who would rather this person not attend the “party”.

    Thirdly, if I’m unable to get along with the workers or they are unwilling to get along with me (perhaps a clique) then I wouldn’t want to work there. Life is too short.

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