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I have just started a job 4 days ago (hooray!). The model of my team is a "startup within a big corporation," so we work in a coworking space separate from the main campus, people are in and out a lot, and the environment is very casual.

Yesterday we got an email from the administrative assistant asking for our availability in two weeks' time for a "digital team celebration," which would be "a group outing, ½ day in the afternoon and a group dinner." (I believe that one of our counterparts from outside the US will also be in town for that week, so extra-big deal.) I responded that I take a class on Thursday nights, so I would prefer any other night. The class is a foreign language that I take for personal reasons, not related to work. It is very important to me and difficult to miss, and it is the only night of the week I'm regularly unavailable.

Unfortunately, today I got the calendar invite from the administrative assistant and it is set for a Thursday, 12 PM-8 PM. She said more details were forthcoming. My class is at 5:30 PM, very close to work.

Is there any way that I can gracefully do the half-day activity and skip the dinner part, which I imagine will be something like 5-8 PM? On the one hand, I am the new person. On the other hand, she asked for my availability and I did respond, so I feel like I did my due diligence. On the other hand, I shouldn't expect things to revolve around my schedule, since I am the least senior.

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    Congrats on the new job. Have you talked to your boss about your concerns yet? – Dan Pichelman Sep 20 '18 at 18:46
  • Thanks! I'm in sort of a weird situation where my direct boss is very senior (the head of IT!) and works on the main campus. She's currently traveling and so I haven't even met her in-person yet. She also has the reputation for being strict. =( I do have an HR person and a project manager onsite that I've had more facetime with. – user2370043 Sep 20 '18 at 18:48
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    I just checked her calendar--it looks like she might be back, but is at the main site. I will probably meet her fir the first time tomorrow. The event is two weeks from today. – user2370043 Sep 20 '18 at 19:06
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    Skip dinner to attend a class seem fair to me. – paparazzo Sep 20 '18 at 20:06
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    Unless I was being paid to attend the dinner, I'd be going to class... I have a rule that I don't do company events outside work hours, and it hasn't (apparently) held me back. – PeteCon Sep 21 '18 at 4:16
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Pros - Going to the whole event looks good and you get to know your colleagues in an informal setting. This will have rewards in the future - knowing people in the company

Cons - Missing one language lesson? Can you recover from this? I would imagine that you can.

I would go to the whole event. Perhaps ask the teacher to get some prep as to what will be covered in the missing lesson.

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Is there any way that I can gracefully do the half-day activity and skip the dinner part, which I imagine will be something like 5-8 PM?

First, be sure that skipping the activity is what you want, and that in no way you consider skipping the class instead in favor of the activity. However, being this basically your "welcome" dinner I'd suggest you consider attending the whole event.

If you are sure you can't/won't, then you should talk to your boss about this. You say your actual boss is outside of town, so you could wait for her to return (if it's before such date) or send an email instead.

Explain to her about this language course you have, and that it will interfere with the last part of the activity, and ask if you could leave earlier so you can go to class.

Most likely what you will miss is "just" the dinner, but the core activities it's likely you will be able to participate.

  • Thank you for your response. I do want to note that my arrival is not the direct cause of the outing/dinner, in case that wasn't clear. I am just scared of asking my boss for special concessions so soon in my time working, because of her strict reputation. – user2370043 Sep 20 '18 at 18:59
  • @user2370043 yeah I know it's not your arrival, but it's the first event you have been invited on this company... so, it's also quite important to assist... besides, as this is an Outing chances are it is not mandatory, thus why they asked for your availability and not made it obligatory (or at leas that is how you described it)... you even indicated beforehand that you can't so easily on Thursdays, so I wouldn't worry much, but again, I still would consider skipping only this class to go to the activity – DarkCygnus Sep 20 '18 at 19:09
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Depending on the size of the team, you may not be the only person unable to make it to the entire outing. Someone with kids would likely have to leave at the normal time to pick them up from daycare/school.

Go to your boss and explain the situation, just like you did here. If you are comfortable explaining the personal reason, then feel free to add a few sentences.

Most companies (and bosses) understand that any day they choose will inconvenience at least some people on the team. If the boss says things like

Everyone but you will be there the whole time

You'll probably have to suck it up and miss the class

On the other hand, if you here something like

A few others will have to leave early too

that is likely indicating you can go to the class with few if any professional repercussions.

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