Title says it all. We were not informed beforehand, not even about the party itself and now, 3 weeks later our manager says we have to pitch in with a little more than 5$. I am not upset because it's too much but because the lack of communication and I think it's generally a scummy and unprofessional move even outside of the workplace. I don't know the CEO himself, we shake hands on company parties but that's it. Should I grind my teeth and pay or stand up for myself and my beliefs and not pay?

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    – Neo
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 11:53

12 Answers 12


The situation is complicated. This is certainly something unprofessional that happened here. There can be unforeseen problems that needs to be handled, but communication is the key. No one should expect support from others in a workplace without providing a context first.

You mentioned your manager asked all of you to contribute towards the party fund out of the blue and without any prior communication regarding the "why" part.

Given that this is something that is happening for the first time, you should reach out to him and casually enquire about it in more details, something like:

Hey boss, I thought that was a company sponsored party and I did not receive any info about the contribution earlier. Was is supposed to be this way or is there something I'm missing?

If they acknowledge there is a problem, provide some details about what caused the problem and requests to contribute to cover up for this time, that can be seen as a genuine case of mistake and unintentional communication gap.

However, if you do not receive a response that explains the matters, I'd say do two things:

  1. Pay the amount (Avoid the clash now 1)
  2. Polish up your resume and start looking for another job. (Avoid future clashes, too)

Here, someone did not do their job well (make proper arrangements for the event), and when failed to achieve the goal (get the amount settled), they passed on the responsibility (have the amount collected) to someone else, without even feeling the need to communicate about the problem, in first place. Clear sign of poor management, communication skills/ policies and decision-making, you don't want to work for a management/ superior like that.

Rewards and gifts (yes, throwing a party for "someone" is a gift, let alone asking for the employees to pay for it) should flow down the hierarchy, not upwards.

[1]: Remember, I'm not saying to put up with the behavior, but IRL, it makes little sense to create a squabble with a clearly nonsensical superior / management for a one time payment of $5.

  • 134
    I think is a bit of an over-reaction to start looking for a new job, the OP has cited no pattern of mis-behaviour by management, and if this is the only issue in years and the OP is happy point to is overkill.
    – Naz
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 10:02
  • 48
    I'm not saying you said quit now, but the whole idea to recommend looking for a new job over potentially one incident is overkill, otherwise every answer to every confrontational question would be to look for another job.
    – Naz
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 10:10
  • 12
    Given the attitude shown in this case by management what else are they about to F**k up? plus 1...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 10:11
  • 21
    @Sourav Ghosh If it's one incident how on earth does it portray a clear picture? and are you saying this type of "bad leadership" is rare and will only ever happen to the OP in this company. If you left a company every time management did something stupid, would you ever be in a job more than 20 minutes. Life is to short to sweat the small stuff like $5.
    – Naz
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 10:44
  • 39
    @Naz Here at Workplace.SO every answer to confrontation is to look for a new job...
    – Moyli
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 15:26

The lack of prior communication may be because the organizers assumed the company would pay, but did not actually have the right authorizations and budget. After the party, when they found out they were not going to be reimbursed, the organizers started a campaign to get everyone to chip in.

You don't need to begin with a position on whether you are going to pay or not. You can start by asking your manager what is going on, and decide based on the response.

  • 13
    Or they might have had management authorization but then their lawyer noticed that a partially publicly funded company isn't allowed to hold free work events. Commented May 9, 2019 at 11:38
  • 3
    @Ivella The problem is that a surprise party for the CEO is not a valid business expense. So if the company paid for the party, the cost of the party would count as income for the CEO which he would then have pay taxes on.
    – MTilsted
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 13:31
  • 12
    @MTilsted, I don’t know what country you’re talking about, but I can’t imagine the cost of a party counting as income for one attendee.
    – prl
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 14:54
  • 4
    That's the reality at least for some European countries, Poland to name one. If you get anything extra (be it a party, surprise or not), a birthday gift or anything else like that, paid by the company it is considered your benefit and thus - the value is added to your annual income effecting in the recipient being liable of tax. If company wanted to be on a safe side and not cause additional cost, they would have to add some extra money that will cover the tax for the event value itself and the additional money. I haven't heard of such approach in the companies but it is used for lotteries
    – Ister
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 14:59
  • 5
    @Ister If a company organizes a social event with invitation of a large number of employees (as it seems to be the case here, the OP writes I don't know the CEO, we only shake hands at company parties), it hardly comes as a personal income (or expense, depending on your point of view) of the CEO. It's nothing more than providing free coffee at the office, or free pizza at a full-day company business meeting. And if it still cannot be considered the company's expense in Poland, than the Polish tax code is really screwed up.
    – yo'
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 16:56

Say no, politely and firmly. They're not likely to fire you over $5, and if they do you can consider that a good thing. You don't actually owe this money, and if you pay you've taught them that they can abuse you and you'll take it. It might be a small thing now, but the next time it will be a little bigger, and the next time a little bigger still, ad infinitum.

  • 2
    Depending on the jurisdiction, it may even be illegal to fire someone for refusing to pay the $5. (Of course, they can officially fire the OP for some other reason.) Commented May 9, 2019 at 19:35

Putting aside the legal and ethical problems, charging underlings, weeks later, for a party for a superior that, most likely, none of them wanted to throw or attend is just plain rude. It would be the same as asking guests at a wedding to pay for the wedding, after the wedding, and after gifts have been collected.

A well-mannered person does not respond to rudeness with rudeness, so the best response is: "I respectfully decline to contribute." This response says two things: you won't pay, and there is no obligation to pay.

That someone else at the C-level didn't open their wallet for this is baffling, and passing it on to the lower ranks is a terrible omen of things to come. Freshen your resume and keep one eye on the exit.


Was the company wrong? Yes. Is it worth the hassle? No.

Pick your battles. Most people have anyway more than enough battles to fight in their lives, that they don't have time or energy to fight each and every one of them. So, pick what matters.

Does $5 matter? Yes, you're in the right. Being in the right is not the same as getting good consequences out of the situation.

If you make every $5 into an issue that the management needs to handle, or to admit that they were in the wrong... one day there will be a serious issue, but by then they will be sick and tired of you, and they'll not listen. (You might be in the right in that issue, the actually significant one, as well... and it won't matter).

It's like a marriage. Pick your battles carefully. I'm not saying that you shouldn't fight for what you believe in... but only when it's significant enough to matter.

And if they keep doing stuff like that, and at some point you can't take it any longer, the only realistic reaction is to find another job, and give them your two weeks notice, with zero drama about it.

  • 2
    Solid advice. There are many things worth spending workplace capital on and this isn't one of them.
    – user98768
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 19:39
  • 1
    Saving $5 now, could cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars of future raises. Commented May 10, 2019 at 1:15

I think this greatly depends on your relationship with management and their style of leadership.

In a good working relationship, just ask them.

maybe they were as surprised as you when the Accounting people rejected their reimbursement request.

If the relationship is colder and more predatory I'd grit my teeth and pay up, $5 is not worth a clash with a psychotic manager.

But yeah it is a jerk move and for me a signal to maybe message some of my former recruiters.

  • 6
    "maybe they were as surprised as you when the Accounting people rejected their reimbursement request." This is exactly what I thought. The probably never had the intention to ask staff for contributions, but something went wrong after the fact and now this is the best way out. Somebody certainly f*cked up here, but raising a big fuss over a single incident worth $5 isn't worth the breath for a salaried employee.
    – xLeitix
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 13:54

What's always best in these circumstances is to gather similar complaints. If just you are complaining, no matter how justified you are, you look like a bit of a jackass and troublemaker, especially when your boss clearly didn't see a big issue with asking for this money.

If you come up to them with your $5 and say 'Hey, I and [My co-workers/the rest of the Apps team/Tom, Steve and Lisa]* are a little put out over being told we need to pay for this after-the-fact, we'd really appreciate if this kind of thing was handled differently next time. Anyways, no hard feelings, here's my share." you look mature, and like you're airing a grievance that most people have rather than just complaining for your own sake.

Now... If you're the only one who is bothered, then decide for yourself if you wanna be the loose nail that gets the hammer.

*: Use your best judgement and/or ask people if they want their names shared with the grievance.

  • 2
    People here always seems to forget the basic concept behind unions. I'm surprised to see that you're the only one thinking about taking a collective action.
    – GlorfSf
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 9:59
  • Plus, this solution carries legal protections - it's collective bargaining about work conditions, as soon as you make it about 'employees' and not 'you'. Commented May 10, 2019 at 12:38

Pay the five, it aint worth your job. What you gonna tell the next job, that you lost your job over five bucks?

  • 17
    Seems simple enough: "my previous company's management was petty enough to fire me when I refused to pay them 5 dollars they weren't entitled to"
    – Bwmat
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 15:45
  • 4
    @Bwmat good luck with that
    – Tina_Sea
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 17:16

Leave the ego behind - that is what is troubled by this. (An ego is good and essential for everyone however too much is bad).

Determine how much you are paid. Lets say $10 an hour. How much time did you spend posting the question and working the answers? An hour perhaps?

Getting tied up in 'rights and wrongs' of such a small matter and going to principles and extrapolating one event to a point where you might need to get a new job are all potential futures. As are many other possibilities. However I would urge you to keep the size of the incident in mind and note that you have not said that this is a recurring pattern of actions

At this point your ego is going to also be offended by me saying this. Ah humans are complicated. So let me move on to the advice - I genuinely wish to help you:

The only thing that you cannot get back and that is limited in quantity and you cannot buy is the time in your life. The older you get the more you accept this and start to let go over what are ultimately trivial items that it's not worth worrying over.

Focus on the reality that $5 is 30 minutes of your $10 wage and let it go and use YOUR time better. File it away as a small signal of bad stuff but wait until you have several more before spending time thinking much about it.

Use that hour educating and training yourself for a better job that might pay say $10,000 more. Focus on the bigger goals in life is my advice and wish I had it 20 years ago.

  • Yes. Without any other data, this looks like someone underestimated what everyone needed to pay and discovered it later. OP doesn't mention that this is common in their workplace. There is absolutely no reason to make an issue of it. I like how you put that $5 in that context, btw.
    – user98768
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 21:14
  • 1
    A quick google seatch shows US minimum wages as $7.25 so that $5 might be the better part of OPs hourly wage, and the face this puts the onus on staff to pay for a surprise party organised by management isn't a good look, sets a bad precedence. It's not necessarily trivial Commented May 10, 2019 at 9:15
  • 1
    Good point @RappaportXXX I am guessing that the crowd around the CEO are probably not on minimum wage. they are probably closer to the $50 than $10. However there may be interns and new to workforce folks and it is a good point and so I updated my answer to show $10 an hour. Commented May 10, 2019 at 9:34
  • Updated the answer @PeterTaylor Commented May 10, 2019 at 10:35

There is a conflict of interest here. When "the company" throws a party someone has to authorize the expense. If the party was for you (maybe after a promotion or customer recognition or such) it might be your manager or manager's manager that authorizes the expense. When it's for the CEO there is no one above to sign off, and the CEO is signing for his own party. That's a conflict of interest. Imagine if he started to throw himself a party every week. That's clearly unacceptable, so the line is usually drawn at the beginning. If there is a good reason to throw the CEO a party the authorization has to come from the board of directors. Since this party was thrown by "the company" the CEO may have recognized the conflict of interest and blocked the expense.

Better communication of this fact would have been very beneficial.

It's $5. Be happy for the boss that something nice happened, and assume that those that organized the event have learned their lesson.

Edit: I re-read the question. OP says that he didn't even know about the party at the time. That means that he wasn't invited. In that case when the party was correctly disapproved, presumably by the CEO, the cost should have been requested to be recovered only amongst the attendees/invitees. However, that ship has sailed, he IS your CEO, so I still say put in the $5. The lesson was probably still learned.

  • I think you need to re-read the question yet again. OP says he wasn't informed in advance about the party. I read it as saying that OP attended the party. Commented May 10, 2019 at 10:24
  • @PeterTaylor "We were not informed beforehand, not even about the party itself" sounds to me like "we weren't informed about the party beforehand" so now "we are being asked to pay for a party we didn't even know about let alone attend". But the details of who knew what when aren't important. The point of my answer is that somebody has to pay for the party because the CEO can't sign off on his own party without board approval. That's the cause of the problem. How it's being handled is a mess, but the cause is pretty clear.
    – Sinc
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 13:10

The answer to this question is going to have to be found through personal search.

How badly do you need this job?

Do you have family to take care off? Debt to pay off? High bills? No savings?

If you can afford to do so, then speak up

If you're in a stable financial position (not related to the $5, but in case speaking up doesn't go well) where a job change wouldn't affect you (i.e. fired or feel pressured to resign), you should at least query why you are being asked to pay for this, as you can't recall any communication regarding payment before the party happened. It's possible you might have missed communications regarding this prior to the party. If this isn't the case then politely decline to contribute as you had not been informed prior to the event that there would be a fee to pay.

You can look into the whistle-blowing policy in your company as well; being required to pay for something like this could actually be illegal in your country/state (it is in the UK).

Otherwise say nothing and pay the $5

If you need the job and if job hunting, interviewing and changing jobs is not an option, then "swallow the frog" and pay up. As unsavory as it is, sometimes we have to do things we don't like.

  • 1
    He's talking about $5. The "stability of the financial situation" really doesn't matter here
    – Hilmar
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 12:22
  • 2
    @Hilmar I don't mean the stability to pay $5, the stability to stand up for himself and risk having to move jobs (due to bad environment after the confrontation) Commented May 9, 2019 at 12:42
  • 3
    Immediately jumping to the OP being unemployed based on his decision seems a bit harsh. There are so many ways this could be talked through. If you consider every confrontation to be a possible way to get fired, you'll never get a decent relationship with your employer.
    – Reaces
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 14:14
  • 1
    Not a bad answer but could use some cleanup to make it easier to follow. I'm guessing that might be why it's been downvoted while very similar answers have been upvoted.
    – bob
    Commented May 9, 2019 at 18:09
  • @Reaces not necessarily meaning he will be fired, it is obviously still a possibility. It is more about the work environment factor. If you stand up for yourself and you are now viewed as confrontational because of it, it might alter the way people interact with you and therefore be better for yourself to change jobs...not jumping straight into being fired... Commented May 10, 2019 at 9:19

You don't say, but this answer is assuming you are in the US. The chief question here is

  • How willing are you to be fired over this?

If your answer is

  1. Not at all. Then pay the $5.
  2. A little bit. Email the CEO and ask why you are being asked to chip in and not the person or persons who organized the party.
  3. Somewhat. Email HR and complain.
  4. Don't care if you're fired. Call the state department of labor and ask if you are required to pay something like this.
  5. Already have another job offer that you are accepting. Just say no.

The truth is that even if you can't be fired specifically for this, you can still be fired. If you're that person, the one who complains, then they can wait until you give them some justification and fire you. Unless you are perfect, they will eventually find that justification if they are patient. So anything other than quietly paying the $5 can get you fired.

Emailing the CEO is probably the next least risky. Because what it sounds like to me is that the CEO thought that the party was too expensive to be a business expense. If that's the CEO's position, the CEO might well agree that it shouldn't be an involuntary attendee expense either. The person or persons who actually organized the party should pay. Or they can quit. But it's also possible that the CEO has a different perspective. Perhaps those people are critical employees whereas you are potentially expendable.

HR is a bit riskier. That makes it official. And the official method can be getting rid of the nail that sticks out by hammering it down. Or by oiling the squeaky wheel. But are you willing to risk the hammer treatment in hopes of getting the oil? Further, this can annoy your manager who will have to make other keep or not decisions in the future.

Getting the government involved means that it is possible that the company goes out of business. Or they stay in business but retaliate against you. Or just lay you off because they had to downsize to handle the government complaint.

Saying no is confrontational. You could be fired over it directly (even if you might be able to then appeal the firing). So don't do this unless you want to be fired.

If you decide to pay the $5, you could still ask your manager how this happened and what they are doing to see that it doesn't happen again. But if your manager blows off your question, you're still paying so you might as well let it go at that point.

  • I would worry that emailing the CEO to ask if you have to pay for the CEO's party is a dangerous move; it might make you persona non grata to the CEO, and could constitute a very severe form of "going over your boss' head". I would not do this--better to just quit if you're considering this. I'd probably put contacting HR as a close second. I don't think that will look good to contact HR over $5. I strongly think being asked to pay is not cool even though it's $5, but I think escalating this in any way above your direct boss is very dangerous career-wise.
    – bob
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 15:24
  • Note: if you do move jobs over the $5, I would not state that as the reason; better to talk generically about goodness of fit. Quitting over $5 would come off as a major red flag in a hiring situation.
    – bob
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 15:25
  • In order of least risk to greatest I'd put it as: (1) pay the money; (2) ask your boss about it; (3) complain to your boss; (4) say no to your boss; (5) complain to HR; (6) talk to CEO. Talking to a government agency would be highest risk IF it caused problems for the company or came back on them; but if they silently ignore you then it is risk free. Impossible to know for sure. #5 and 6 are (in my opinion) far too risky unless you know the CEO and/or HR person really well and are sure (100%) that it will go over well.
    – bob
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 15:29

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