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My team is divided into to two groups. The techs and the coordinators. The coordinators are required to stay up to an hour later than the last tech. Tonight we have a team dinner that starts at 6. The techs will all leave to arrive at 6, the coordinators must stay until 6 so we'll arrive for dinner at least 25 minutes late. Out of the 4 coordinators, 1 has already decided she isn't going because she doesn't feel well. The other 3, including myself, are undecided due to the fact that we either have children that need to be picked up, a long travel home, or have other plans. Plus we just are not feeling the "team" vibe. I must mention that most of our team doesn't get along and feel the dinner is forced.

Would if be wrong if the 3 of us showed up for dinner, had drinks with the team and ordered our food to go?

Based on the comments here is some additional information: 1. I am asking for others opinion per the request of the 3 team members. 2. The time conflict is well known as it comes up every time there is a team dinner planned. We (the coordinators have mentioned this several times and have even asked that we be allowed to leave early to attend but are told we need to stay and arrive late) 3. The invite for dinner was sent 1 week ago.

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    This is an opinion-based question which depends on your company culture and cultural background in general. I don't think that we can provide good advise here. My personal opinion would be that it would be inappropriate to get the company to pay for a teambuilding meal which doesn't serve any teambuilding purpose (because you eat it alone), but that's just my personal opinion. – Philipp Mar 4 at 14:16
  • Can you bring this up with your coworkers or supervisors? Perhaps plans could be changed in a way that accommodates everyone. After all, it's a little silly to have a "team building" event that people aren't really able to take advantage of (or interested in). – dwizum Mar 4 at 14:18
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    i don't think that's offtopic. but the Q should be "what is professional way to X". What are you trying to achieve, OP? Is this dinner paid-for by company? Do you want to never have these dinners? Are you afraid that skipping dinner as a large group will look bad? How long ago was this dinner scheduled, why you didn't bring up your scheduling conflicts? – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Mar 4 at 14:26
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    @SZCZERZOKŁY i think there is definitely professional issue with that the coordinators team didn't bring up scheduling and other issues until 24hrs before dinner and walk out as a larger (50%!) subgroup – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Mar 4 at 14:31
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    Plus we just are not feeling the "team" vibe. I must mention that most of our team doesn't get along and feel the dinner is forced. That only proves the necessity for team building exercises. This only makes your attendance more important. The whole point of a team building exercise is to develop the "team vibe" as you put it. Yes, it is forced, because it needs to be forced to see any kind of change. – TheBatman Mar 4 at 15:28
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No, that would widely be regarded as unprofessional.

You have legitimate gripes and needs. Not showing up en masse to the dinner and providing feedback that ‘the scheduling doesn’t include us so we’re not attending’ is also fine if you want to press it. Though declining ahead of time and not right at the time of the event would be the most professional way to go.

Showing up and ordering food to go, however, will be seen as some mix of greedy and passive-aggressive. The team meal is for team building; either participate or don’t.

The first scenario has a chance of focusing the Management Eye of Sauron onto the disparity and larger problem. The second scenario will just focus it on the coordinators. It’s a bad play for a meal that’ll be cold by the time you get home and your family won’t share in anyway.

Solving Your Real Problem

This time, skip it or don't, but if you want to change the behavior in the future get all the coordinators on the same page to back you, and go to whoever does the scheduling, and talk to them at length.

Say, "Look - after hours events are a challenge for people as it is, with kids and commute and all. They should be for building up the team, which is an important goal. The way they are constructed right now, though, makes the coordinators feel like second class citizens. The last time we were all sitting here talking to each other not able to leave and the hour getting later, we just wanted to go home instead of dragging in to a fun time already underway and hurry through our meal so we can get home. I think you see how that might make people resent the event and team instead of enjoy them, which is the opposite of what we want to happen. The coordinators don't really want to attend these any more unless our needs are taken into account as well in their scheduling. How can we make that happen so we can use these opportunities to build the team up more effectively?"

Have a suggested solution in hand like "Let's do them over lunch" or "We need to do them at 6:30 for everyone or 6 for everyone." Discuss.

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    +1 for "Either participate or don't". – Kaz Mar 4 at 15:04
  • Showing up and ordering food to go, however, will be seen as some mix of greedy and passive-aggressive. I feel like that's opinion-based, or at least context-based. The OP did state that they'd hang out for drinks, at least - it's not like they're going to grab and run. I've had office meet-ups where people did exactly that (showed up a bit late, had a drink with the team, took some food to go) and no one faulted them for it. – dwizum Mar 4 at 15:07
  • You may not have faulted them. But in my experience it's likely someone else did, even if silently. (Unless it's a full group of early-20-year-olds who don't really get all the social norms yet or something.) – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Mar 4 at 19:22
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Would if be wrong if the 3 of us showed up for dinner, had drinks with the team and ordered our food to go?

While "wrong" is perhaps a strong word I'd say it isn't really advised, I totally understand wanting to bail when you aren't feeling the team "vibe" as you put it. Believe me, I've been there, done that!

The thing is showing up and ordering to-go risks coming across as a really unsubtle passive-aggressive dig, particularly if three of you do so.

We're hungry, we want to eat the food from this establishment, but we literally can't stand to eat around you. Bye!

I doubt you're the only ones aware of the lack of cohesion between the two halves of the team so when the 3 coordinators take collective action it's likely to be noticed.

A better compromise if you feel like you want to make a nod towards having the team outing but don't want to stay for dinner is probably to say you will go for drinks and then leave before dinner, everyone can cite their reasons (other plans etc) - they're all valid, reasonable reasons and it will be a bit more natural.

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Would if be wrong if the 3 of us showed up for dinner, had drinks with the team and ordered our food to go?

Yes, that would be wrong. And it would be a passive-aggressive way to say "we don't like being with you". Don't be that person.

If you don't want to stay for dinner, fix yourself a meal at home or go to a restaurant and pay for your own meal.

And if the meeting isn't required and you don't want to go, just don't go.

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Ultimately, we can't accurately predict if you "can" do this or not. Some people may be offended by it, others may not care. If you feel like you know your team well enough to know if they'll care or not, you can make your own decision. But since you're here asking this question, we can probably assume you're unsure of what to do! For what it's worth, I've been at (semi-official) after work drinks/dinner events a few times where some people showed up late and/or ordered food to go instead of eating with the group. No one got their feelings hurt, but your results may be different.

That said, I think the thing that makes the most sense is to separate the current decision from the problem(s) you're facing:

  • If you aren't feeling the team vibe, maybe it's time to bring that up to your supervisor. Or just take your own steps: why aren't you feeling the vibe? Are there root issues causing you to feel that way? Are there things you can change, or specific problems you can address, that would help the team feel more cohesive?
  • If team activities are being scheduled when some staff can't attend (why start the dinner at 6 PM if part of the team isn't even off work yet?) maybe you can directly address the scheduling conflict. This can be as simple as,

Hey everyone, can we agree to meet at 6:30 instead?

Or even,

Hey, since some of us aren't off work yet, maybe the people who arrive at dinner early can grab a drink and relax for a while, then we can plan on sitting down at the table once we're all there?

Or just suggest the very thing you're asking about here,

Dan has to pick up his kids and Sally has a ball game tonight, so some of us won't be able to stay long - maybe we can hang out for a few minutes and take some food to go?

Ultimately, rather than trying to guess at if this will be okay or not, it may make more sense to just address the issues ahead of time and find out for yourself. Then, instead of taking our word for whether or not this will be okay, you'll be able to make your own decision based on your circumstances.

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