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I’ve been with this company for almost two years now, and every now and then, they send all of their devs on an event of their choosing, with all expenses (except food related) paid by them. They have done this two times now, and the probability of doing it again is high, since that there have been some talking on sending the developers again to an event.

The first time they sent devs, to the event A, I refused to go. I wasn’t even there for a year, wasn’t involved on any of the conversation related to that event, and I had no familiarity with any of my co-workers, so I just said I didn’t wanted to go. Apart from that was in a different country, and I hate travelling long distances (I will talk more about this below).

The second time, was to event B, which was in the same city. Even though it was on a weekend, and I also wasn’t keen on going, I attended that event alongside my co-workers.

Now, there is the chance that they are sending devs to event C, which is in the same country but in a different city, and I already have my mind set: I don’t want to go.

Now the reasons I don’t want to go are:

I am an after-hours college student, studying computer science, and also working on IT. I work a lot of hours (almost as 9.5 hours, with working half my lunch break), and sometimes, as much as 11 hours (with overtime). This working schedule has already made me quit a lot college subjects, as there was no time to study for exams or time for work assignments (I almost had to work close to 3 AM to deliver said work).

So, it it is reasonable to me that I can use the time off-work to focus on college, and event C is scheduled at the end of the semester, which is the time that I have to deliver the final assignments for college subjects. Around that time I usually focus heavily on college, because I’m paying a lot to be there and I just can’t keep quitting or failing college subjects.

I’m shy, and therefore, I don’t socialize a lot with strangers, and usually feel like an outsider or out of my mind when going to said events. I also feel uncomfortable being in a room with a lot of people, and that only emphasises the fact that I can’t just start conversations with strangers. I also hate traveling long distances because of that, however, I don’t mind moving around my city. I just don’t want to go to another country or city without me feeling comfortable with that. Also this team talks about a lot of gossip (which I’m not interested on hearing it) about our team, and sometimes, about of specific members of the team. I don’t want to be apart of that.

The event is about a tech stack that I’m not interested in, but it’s within the company's interests. Even if I was keen on going, I would just feel numb and dumb about the event, since I can’t talk much about said stack, and it’s not really in my interests. Also, it’s outside my scope of work, as I was not hired to deal with that tech stack, even though my team leader and senior colleague are trying to get me to work with that. I keep avoiding because it is more responsibility for the same money. I have my work increased, but not my pay check.

I’ve talked to my team leader about a raise, and I’ve been told that it was already approved on budget, but probably would only see that increase early this year. This company pays below market and it’s no news that every job offer will pay more that what I currently earn.

That, alongside the overtime and quitting college subjects, has put me a lot of stress that I eventually started to look for new jobs, or almost quit college for once and for all. So yes, I start working with this tech stack as soon my raise is reflected on my pay check, and my team leader sort of knows about this (I didn’t specifically tackle this issue, I just said that work has made me quit college, and that I’m not interested on starting on said stack, to which he replied that, can't decrease the amount of work because of college, and eventually I had to get my hands on this stack.

So the questions are:

  • How do I politely decline the going to event C, without getting asked (for the second time) why I’m not going, or to be seen as a stranger to the rest of the team, or I’m I just overreacting.

  • And from a team-leader/manager point-of-view, how would this be seen, for someone that has college, and not interested in this particular tech stack.

EDIT: Thank you all for your replies. What I needed to see was how other people perceived this. I'm actually considering my standing, because of the comments, so thank you! I believe that, since the event spans during the weekend, it's fair that at least I get my weekend back during the next working week. During the event I will be attending on company's name, so I won't be able to get some of my assigmenfs done. However this will be a bit of painful negotiation, as they will see college as an excuse, not as something important to me.

Thanks again for the replies, it definitely made me reconsider the position I was taking.

  • 4
    A similar q&a workplace.stackexchange.com/q/93482/75821 – Solar Mike Jan 6 at 20:13
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    Did you tell your boss, *"Sorry I cannot come. I have a class to attend after work?" – Dan Jan 6 at 20:23
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    Have you tried to work less? – Bernhard Döbler Jan 6 at 21:05
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    @BernhardDöbler it's not about the work schedule, is about the balance between college and work. I don't mind doing all of those extra hours, i just don't want to go to the event. These extra hours come into play whenever i want to leave early for classes (one hour early or half hour early) or i'm late for work, my team leader understands that i work overtime, so trusts me with making my own work hours. I just don't want to go the the event, thats it, because will take time away from studying, and i dont feel confortable going. – Jonh Jan 6 at 21:35
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    Just wondering have you ever considered quitting and move to another job? Since you said "This company pays below market and it’s no news that every job offer will pay more that what I currently earn." Or focus on finish your college first? – Mukyuu Jan 7 at 8:53
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How do I politely decline the going to event C, without getting asked (for the second time) why I’m not going,

Politely decline and let the company know that you cannot attend because it interferes with your education.

This is a perfectly legitimate reason for not attending such an event and anyone who sees it as anything other than an employee trying to improve themselves is an unreasonable person. The fact that you cannot make it due to your school obligations has nothing to do with your interest in the particular stack and once again only an unreasonable person would jump to such a conclusion.

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    @A.I.Breveleri I agree with your first sentence, but not with the reasoning in the second sentence. It is good for the social standing of a shy/introvert person to endure at least some social interaction, yes. Having an at-least-neutral social standing is good for mental health, long-term. But (and that's a big but) it may not necessarily be good for their mental health in the short term -- especially because society in general won't accept that for social interaction on the scale hinted at by OP, some shy people would need days to recover their mental health. (Source: I am an introvert.) – orithena Jan 7 at 8:48
  • Agreed, provided that this company is outside of regular working hours. The other option is to ask for time in lieu. They can not make go to an out of hours event if it's not in your contract - however do consider that it may harm your standing within the company – Bee Jan 7 at 15:43
  • @Bee I also agree with you, and that's why I asked, however, I just don't want to go ahead and do everything that this company pays me for. They don't pay me weekends, and this event is happen also during a full week, at the end of the semester. I would be losing time to finish assignments knowing that I won't be getting those hours back during the week. I've tried that, the 2nd event was during weekends, and o tried to get the next Monday off, but it was sort of forgotten along the way. – Jonh Jan 9 at 1:06
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I agree with @sf02's answer that you should simply and politely decline to attend based on your previous education commitments.

However, I'd like to take the chance to point out that - apart from the educational/time constraints - I find your general attitude to the issue rather strange, and I suggest you should have a hard look at it.

Your company pays you to do a certain job. If the company/your supervisors tell you to use a tech stack it is well within their power to do so - after all they are paying you for your time and they get to decide how you spend that time, including which technology you should be using to provide value to their business.

  • I do not think it is reasonable for you to demand a pay raise simply because you think that an additional, new technology will mean "your work increased".

  • If the company is even paying you for your education that is a chance many other people would jump on. After all you can broaden your horizons, broaden your profile (and thus raise your value/employability), all on company time and budget. Note that even it you're not directly applying the new tech stack in your everyday work you will still in the long-term profit of having a broader and more diversified knowledge base.

  • I understand that you do not want to attend events which make you feel uncomfortable because of the social context. But I invite you to give some though on how you want to tackle this moving forward. What if the next time the event is during normal work hours during the week? You will hardly be able to decline, as it is well within a tech employees responsibility to attend conferences/courses if their employer asks them to. I'd wager you will have a hard time building a long time career in IT without being exposed to such events, so finding a strategy to cope with them that works for you is advisable rather than flat-out refusing to participate.

You are, of course, always within your rights to decline any kind of educational offers from your company or any events which make you feel uncomfortable (at least if during the weekends). This might mean having to quit a job - but even if not, keep in mind that this will not paint you in the best light for this employer, and they might stop seeing you as the long-term investment they see in other tech employees.

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    It sounds to me like this is a social event with a thin veneer of a tech seminar stuck on to get it past accountants/tax rules. Forcing introverts to go to social events is a really bad idea (although regrettably common). – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jan 7 at 9:12
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    I cannot really judge the true nature of these events - but even if it is a social event I think it is advisable for also for introverts to find a strategy to deal with them in some way, otherwise career damage is unfortunately rather likely. (There are many questions with good answers on this topic on this Stack.) – fgysin reinstate Monica Jan 7 at 9:17
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    +1 for the 2nd bullet point - try to see a new tech stack as an opportunity rather than a burden. Learning a new skill does not inherently tie up with having more responsibility anyway, and worst-case is you have something else to put on your CV if you want to leave immediately after finishing college (and ideally not before - the flexibility they allow with your hours is not something you'll find at every company). – Heydiddly Jan 7 at 11:32
  • If the company/your supervisors tell you to use a tech stack it is well within their power to do so - Be careful with this assumption, lots of techies' employment includes (at least vague) descriptions of what will be worked on. Next to that is project hires, which are specific for a project. Both these cases might have a (vaguely) defined tech stack to go long with it (if not explicit, it could be implied or assumed from production projects). +1 for remainder though. :) Also: tech events usually crowded with other introverts, could be a chance (if not only extra knowledge). – rkeet Jan 7 at 14:15
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    @MartinBonnersupportsMonica "Forcing introverts to go to a social event" is one framing. Another is "giving introverts an opportunity for socialization.The "venner" of a tech seminar doesn't just affect accounting, it also means that attending don't have to constantly socialize, and can make it easier for introverts. – Acccumulation Jan 7 at 23:21
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Honestly the majority of your reasons for not wanting to attend are not very good. You have a lot of petty complaints and I wouldn't mention any of them if I were you, nor would I let them stop me from attending. Plenty of people have social anxiety, don't feel like traveling, etc. yet do so anyway.

As an introvert, I sympathize with you, but simply opting out of anything that makes you uncomfortable is not the answer. Learn to embrace it and see it as a learning experience. While it never goes away (in my experience) it does get easier and basic social skills are invaluable, if not necessary, in almost any role.

The one legitimate reason you have is your studies. It would certainly be reasonable to discuss this with someone and see what can be done, though I wouldn't begin the conversation by simply refusing to go.

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    One thing that I'm considering is either get back early than the rest of my team (because the event will span across weekend, and I really could use that time for college), so as soon as the event is done, I would be back, or to ask for days in the following working week. I believe it is a good trading point, but most likely it's not gonna happen, the negotiations will just sort of be forgotten. – Jonh Jan 9 at 1:25
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Yes, you may decline (probably). I'd argue a good boss and company leaves plenty of room for opting out of events. People have lives and should work to live, not live to work. Prior engagements happen all the time, and it isn't the duty of a boss to determine the merit of what you consider more important.

I would, however strongly encourage going or re-evaluating the premise.

Tech is a weird world, where school isn't critical (I've done it all, from networking, PCI/ HIPAA compliance/ auditing, racking servers, desktop support, software architecture, development, etc.). What tech has: Plenty of reasonably intelligent to incredibly smart technology oriented people with and without a degree. A degree means very little in this field most of the time. One of the worst tech people I ever worked at (just bad at tech, and really everything else) had a Masters in MIS. I've worked with another Masters holder who was AMAZING. Most companies have similar experience.

What tech needs, is people who can do the hard part of tech. Learn new technology on their own, or through company support functions. And where many people are going to school so they may get their foot in the door, you are already inside.

More importantly still are soft skills. Teambuilding of any type should be the one thing you never shrug off. Additionally being able to analyze a new stack or technology. Imagine the difference between if 10 years ago you had recommended AngularJs or Azure. Both were release in 2010. With one you'd be in a rough spot, another... Amazing notch in the belt.

I’m shy, and therefore, I don’t socialize a lot with strangers, and usually feel like an outsider

Welcome to being a younger professional! In some ways, this won't ever go away entirely but that's a good thing. If you have aspirations of ever being more than a front-line employee then you will have challenges like this forever. Learning to embrace it, learn new things and expand your social circle can only serve you well. Sticking to what you know will only hold you back.

So in short: Look at it this way:

  1. You have already entered a field people are trying to get into. That's a monumental first step.
  2. These trips don't have immediate concrete outcomes, but they are the type of experiences that will benefit you far more than you give them credit for.
  3. Seeing the forest through the trees, really is harder than it sounds.
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    The only way to get less socially awkward is to get used to being in social situations! I really like your answer. Sometimes the big picture context and understanding how others work in a less linear way is what introverts and especially IT people need. The more you can understand other humans is the best way to also get them to understand you. – Jennifer S Jan 7 at 15:48
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    @JenniferS Thanks, I saw a little of me in the question when I was starting out. I'd get softskill required things and think "not my problem". When I learned to embrace them I saw my career finally go where I wanted it it. – AthomSfere Jan 7 at 16:14
  • @AthomSfere Thanks for your reply, I'm starting to see this in a different perspective. While I'm sort of open to go, I would go if at lest I could get some time back (event spans on weekend). I agree when you wrote that degrees mean almost nothing, but the reason I went to get one was because I was feeling stuck, and college as taught me so many interesting stuff, completely out of my comfort zone. I'm a self taught dev, and college has thaught me structure and that I didn't had, which I put in practice at my job, and they actually noticed. – Jonh Jan 9 at 1:35
  • @Jonh then I would ask about that for sure! I know most of my bosses if I said "I'd love to do this, but I have a very full plate when I am not at work. Could I cover some of the time for this trip by leaving early on a few fridays?" I can't think of one that wouldn't try to make that work for me. – AthomSfere Jan 9 at 15:50
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Besides pointing out that it is the end of the semester and you have exams to prepare for, how about choosing an other event and propose to attend that one instead, as a replacement? Of course, if it is covered by the company training budget. Maybe related to your everyday work, or perhaps to that other technology. This might emphasize your will to learn, instead of slacking off the "work". And a gain: your colleagues would have attended the first event by then, and you can go to the second one and miss all the gossips from the coffee breaks.

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You have legitimate reasons for not attending due to your hours, so I would highlight this and point out it is not your preferred learning style. Highlight you are keen to learn the new stack and suggest a learning method that would suit you and explain why. Remember though good software development usually requires 70% talking 30% coding, so its alway worth getting to know your peers.

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  • I actually am, but I also want better conditions, otherwise I will keep getting deep in the stack, without proper recognition for it. I am willing to go, if they are willing to at least get me the weekend back, because the event spans over a weekend, and that time is precious to me. Thanks for your reply – Jonh Jan 9 at 1:47
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I don't think you can refuse to go. If your employer wants you to go, doing so is part of the work you are assigned to do, so you go.

What you can do, and I think you should, is argue against it, provided you do so in a constructive way. What I'd do is ask your boss for a meeting to discuss this, and in the meeting:

  • explain why going is a burden for you, considering your circumstances
  • explain why you feel the burden is greater than the benefits, not only to you but also to your employer
  • say that you'd really prefer not to go
  • ask what your boss considers the benefits of going, and ask what, if you weren't to go, you could do to compensate

So don't hide your problems with going, but leave the decision up to your boss (where it belongs), and avoid putting it as a negative; be as constructive and loyal as you consider feasible.

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  • Well, my contract doesn't cover that. They do this to sort of award the team. I get that, and I'm starting to consider my standing, but I believe that this puts me in a unfair position, because they don't consider that college is important to me. However I will try to negotiate something that benefits me, while also works for them. This will definitely not be easy, has they don't actually consider my college studies, because they will see it as sort of excuse. – Jonh Jan 9 at 1:41
  • I wouldn't assume that. – reinierpost Jan 9 at 12:03

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