When You’re Asked to Pay for ‘Mandatory Fun’ After Work

An anonymous person wrote to the New York Times’ Workologist column with the dilemma of being asked to attend events after work that this person also ends up having to contribute money towards:

I work for a financial firm, in a management position in the technology department. We are all expected to attend many “mandatory fun” events after work — for colleagues visiting from overseas, holiday gatherings or even for our higher-ups wanting to celebrate their promotions. Moreover, a small group of us managers is “invited” to help pay the costs for all others attending. This can mean shelling out $50 to $200 a shot for outings taking place once or twice a month.

The letter writer says that having to pay for these outings is a financial burden and was told by a boss that bringing this up as an issue might demonstrate an inability to be a team player. Isn’t this unfair?

The Workologist’s response isn’t quite what I was expecting. He essentially says: Being forced into this situation is almost cruel, but “your bosses probably mean well, and you do not want to come across as resisting on purely selfish grounds.” Maybe you can ask if you can contribute in a way that doesn’t require money, he suggests, like helping to organize the events! Or maybe you can start a dialogue about why the events shouldn’t be compulsory!


None of these suggestions are as sensible as the one proposition I was expecting? Which is: Holiday events and gatherings for colleagues visiting from overseas should be accounted for under a company’s overhead expenses and there should be a budget dedicated to this. Employees who are asked to pay for these events should be able to expense the costs or use a company credit card to pay for them. This seems like it would be a reasonable thing to suggest without the anxiety of feeling like you’re being selfish or not a team player.

I’ve been to “mandatory fun” events in previous jobs where a manager would do something like give a bartender [x] amount of company dollars for drinks, and after that money was spent, it would be up to individual employees to pay for their own drinks if they wanted any more. It would have been ridiculous to expect a small group of employees to personally foot the bill for everyone else (and I would have felt uncomfortable knowing one of my colleagues was personally paying for my drink—or being that person!). Anyway, expense accounts exist for a reason.

Or perhaps there is an even better solution to this! What has been your experience with work-related “mandatory fun” events?

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