Recently some co-workers have fallen out of line with our standards for completing a well-documented task and need to be reminded of their duties and responsibility when completing said task. The manager has scheduled a meeting to reprimand us.

While I am hardly perfect (and should be invited to the next "paperwork on time" chew-out meeting) this scheduled meeting is about two very specific instances that I was not involved with.

I understand the manager has invited everyone to avoid singling people out and also reduce the likelihood of having to repeat themselves in future. I also know that when I am directly confronted in this manner I get less excited about my job and start to wonder about what the other guy is getting away with, despite all efforts to do the contrary.

Should I be asking to excuse myself, given this information?

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    You're getting paid for the time. Might as well go for the experience. If nothing else it will be a data point about handling a work-related situation. – Joel B Oct 1 '14 at 16:13
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    A good boss would label the meeting "lessons learned and process improvement" rather than announcing his primary intent is to vent his spleen. There's no excuse for bosses abusing the proles. – Carl Witthoft Oct 1 '14 at 17:06
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    "I understand the manager has invited everyone to avoid singling people out" Then why should you be singled out to not go? – senschen Dec 21 '16 at 15:22


If your boss invited you to the meeting, then your boss wants you there. Maybe because your boss doesn't want you to use the "but I wasn't at that meeting about what I was responsible for" excuse. Maybe your boss wants the team to work better as a team. Maybe your boss wants everyone to know so that people that perhaps turned a blind eye to the bad work (you?) stop letting that crap go. Maybe your boss wants you there so you can remember what the boss' wrath is like so you don't screw up.

Who knows.

But to try and get out of it now is just asking for the boss to turn their wrath on you.

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    @ByronP: It's sort of the point. There are a lot of scenarios where there is a terrific reason for the boss expecting you to be at the meeting. There are very few "maybe" cases where it's reasonable to ask for an excusal. – Joel Etherton Sep 29 '14 at 19:01
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    @aseq - not in any company I've ever worked... – Telastyn Sep 30 '14 at 1:34
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    @aseq while there are surely some meetings where you can tune out and surf the net, I really wouldn't recommend anyone try it in a meeting which has been specifically called to "chew out" people for failing to maintain high enough standards of quality work! – Carson63000 Sep 30 '14 at 4:35
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    @aseq - No it is not. It is rude to the people running the meeting, a waste of your employers money and a waste of your time. Either look into ways of politely excusing yourself or interact with the meeting. In this case a "chew out" meeting browsing the net on your phone is basically sticking a big old red sign over you head screaming that you are not covered by the same rules as everyone else. – mlk Sep 30 '14 at 9:32
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    How do we know that the OP's opinion that he is not part of the target of the chew out is even valid? If he were to try to get out of it, the first thing he would need to do, BEFORE trying to get out of it, is get a clear indication from the boss whether this is the case. And honestly that's a waste of everyone's time - it's asking the boss to show "favour", and wasting the boss's time with distractions about who is coming to their meeting! You might think you're an important employee, but is it really worth wasting a second of effort on this? Just go... – GreenAsJade Sep 30 '14 at 10:02

No. By doing so you are saying one of two things to the person who invited you to it:

  • I know something you don't know (in this case, your reaction to being included in criticism, which you think is very different from most people's and which I presume you believe your boss is unaware of, or possibly your level of involvement with the incidents.) This will lead to the need to discuss these things with your boss, who would be foolish to change course based on half a sentence from you, which in turn will lead to having the meeting in advance with you one on one. As a boss, I never want to do that.
  • I know your job better than you so even though we have the same information, I'm making a different decision and I think you should do things my way. I have to tell you that as a boss I am rarely happy to get this, and even more so when it's about the chew-out meeting, as you call it.

Go to the meeting and stand with your team. Listen to the new rule, or the reinforcing of the old rule. Learn perhaps how you were more involved than you think in those incidents. Be prepared to support your team-mates when they explain why the rules are onerous, or to rebut their arguments and point out you're able to follow the rules. Stop thinking this meeting is about you somehow, and stop trying to get out of it. This is part of teamwork and part of being a team. Witness what happens to the people who are criticized - so you can learn what you want to avoid for yourself, so you can support them if they start to stray from the path again, so you know what not to make jokes about, so you understand when they start doing things differently than they did before.

If for some reason you are punished for the behaviour of others, or if your motivation suffers strongly after the meeting, then ask for a one on one with your boss to deal with those consequences. That's far more appropriate than asking to be excused in advance because you believe those consequences will occur.

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    These are excellent points, but there was no rule mentioned. These people volunteered for a on-call rotation and are not answering their phones/emails (dual alert system). – user13014 Sep 29 '14 at 18:48
  • @ByronP - In that case I think you should tell your boss that there is no way you are attending the meeting because you are not the problem. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Sep 29 '14 at 19:11
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    @ByronP you're being very detailed oriented. Perhaps the new rule is going to be "if you're going to sign up for this rotation, be sure to answer your phone" or "if you're not going to be able to answer your phone, be sure to get yourself off the rotation for that evening/weekend" - it's even possible the boss will cancel the on call thing or make it mandatory or pretty well anything. You need to be at the meeting so you can hear that, right? And so you can be part of your team. And so you can demonstrate that you think your boss is actually qualified to decide who is at meetings. Right? – Kate Gregory Sep 29 '14 at 19:15

It's probably a bad idea, politically and practically, to skip the collective beating. You don't want to alienate your coworkers. Everyone knows what the score is and that you're not implicated. The coworkers might even appreciate that you share the collective beating with them. You don't want to come across to your boss like you're superior.

In the practical sense, you should own your emotional response, and your productivity, so you might as well learn how to either zone out or surreptitiously get productive work or reading done. Think about what you'll have for lunch. Think about what color paint to buy for your walls. Try to name all the countries in Africa in reverse order. Try to figure out what pressures the managers are under and how to please them. Or who to throw under the bus when the going gets tough.

Having said that, I have had several coworkers who frequently seemed to schedule doctor/dentist appts/home deliveries/teacher conferences/etc. on 'convenient' occasions.

So figure out what the most culturally appropriate response is.


Now, I'm not 'most people' and wouldn't be able to just shrug off my emotional response to what I see as being extensively accused unfairly. Then again I fail to see why that sort of boss behaviour needs to be the norm.

No, don't leave the meeting. For the reasons given above. In the hierarchical sense, you'd be undermining your boss, and no boss can afford to be ignored.

However.. mentally escaping instead is at best unproductive. Most likely it will lead to build-up of stress and depression, which is also things that are bad for the workplace.

So ask.

"I agree that this thing you're talking about is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs; are you saying that I, personally, have done something wrong? If so, I'd like to know what, so that I can correct them."

Me, I take things personally. Sometimes I'll discover that the accusation I heard wasn't in fact what was meant, but rather some unfortunate phrasing combined with my own unfortunate listening. Other times the accusation is fully intended. At least this way, it'll be cleared up - fairly nonaggressively, too.

If this happens often and there's no way to deal with it, don't leave the meetings.. apply for other jobs.

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    Note that we only have the OP's opinion and prediction that this is a "chew-out meeting". As others have pointed out, there may be a perfectly productive discussion which needs having in light of recent events. If the manager is not good at handling such situations then, yes, there may be other things to consider about that professional relationship, but that's a completely different question. – IMSoP Oct 1 '14 at 0:21

I think one should always be open with other fellow employees. If the meeting is not related to your field then you should ask the meeting organizer to excuse him with a reason.

If the reason is simply that the meeting is going on top of your head then say it. It will let others to decide whether you are necessary in the meeting or not. If you are necessary, then they will explain the way in which you can understand.

This will definitely work in companies where every employee (even boss) are treated as equal and where we can feel equality in the environment.


Sure, it's appropriate. Your productivity and morale goes down when you get yelled at about things you can't control. All of a sudden when you hear your boss yell you think "Who cares, I'm tuning you out" instead of "This might be something I can control or gain value from".

That said - take care to ask in the right way. The boss won't like it, and the other people being yelled for nothing at won't like it. Not always the way to gain influence.

I've been in the "chew out" meetings before, invariably they're for something I have no control over, my blood pressure rises and my hands shake the rest of the day. My production drops well under half, and my morale is even worse.

Maybe they want you in the meeting because the employees not answering their phones are getting kicked off rotation and now you're being voluntold.

  • Hopefully, the boss will get the idea that these types of meetings are a bad idea. – user8365 Sep 30 '14 at 13:15

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