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A few months ago, the company I was working with, was on a shaky ground with our client. The client was unhappy with our performance, and decided to give our company a chance to make things amend. Since the client was very important, we went all out, even working on some weekends.

Today, the boss informed me and the team that we have received good news from our client. As a celebration, we will be going out to watch a sports game live on this weekend (Sunday). Here lies a few problems:

  • While the ticket was sponsored, the transportation was not. It is located in a rather remote place, and driving or taking the public transport to the event is a hassle.
    • By "hassle", I mean an approximate 2 hour drive. Alternatively, with public transport, it will probably take 3-4 hours, and might rack up close to a hundred dollars. The return trip is bound to be jammed as well, which might add a few more hours.
  • The team consists of me, my senior and the boss. Both me and my senior are not interested in the sports game.
  • I cannot be sure at the moment, but our boss could have purchased the tickets already.

I understand my boss's good intention, but for reasons mentioned above, I cannot help but to turn it down.

So, the question, how to turn down boss's gift for celebration after going through hard times?


In reference to another question titled How do I politely decline contributing to boss's Christmas present?, the question was about turning down a contribution for the boss. This question is about turning down a gift from the boss.


Update: Thank you everyone for your opinion. Firstly, I apologize if I offend anyone with what I have to say. I asked "how to turn down the boss's gift", not "should I take the boss's gift". Judging from this perspective, I believe @bethlakshmi's answer fits what I need. Nevertheless, I did not ignore other responses. Some of your comments are valid responses, which did influence how I handled the situation.

I fired an email to my boss, clarifying if he had bought the tickets. I also explained about the issue on the travel time, suggesting that we carpool if possible. Lastly, I suggested an alternative event which is more accessible for everyone. He has yet to reply at the moment.

However, if I am to go, I will try my best to enjoy myself throughout the day. It might not be my favorite sport, but it is not my most hated sport either.

For others who stumble upon the same problem, I hope you go through the discussions and comments in the answers. My course of action might not be the best for you, and as mentioned, these comments are valid and do make a point.

  • Is it really going to take a 2-hour drive plus a minimum 3-hour transit ride each way to attend this event? Seems like that wouldn't leave much time in the day for the actual event. – Dan C Mar 23 '15 at 16:14
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    @DanC I think the OP meant either 2 hrs driving or 3-4 hours on public transport. – mkennedy Mar 23 '15 at 16:29
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    Uhm, is car pooling not a common thing at your place? The place where I work, when we go for such team events which are far away from the office location, the boss volunteers to drive some of the team members, and some of the senior folks also volunteer if there are more number of people. – Masked Man Mar 23 '15 at 16:58
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    Your post reminds me how the king of Siam's gift of a white elephant would spell financial ruin or something close to financial ruin for the luckless recipient and his family. You couldn't get rid of the elephant - the king would be pissed at you and in those days, when a South East Asian king gets pissed at you, the king's overzealous minions made sure that you know that it really sucks to be be you. You couldn't put the elephant to work - after all, it's not just any old elephant, it's a ROYAL elephant. On the other hand, the elephant eats like - well, an elephant and it lives 75 years. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 23 '15 at 21:01
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    @VietnhiPhuvan - kill the elephant and make it look that it was some faction that you dislike, making the king dislike them as well? Two birds, one stone. – Davor Mar 24 '15 at 11:22
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Unless you have a very formal and remote relationship with your boss, it should be OK to point out the problems. I've seen whole company holiday parties get rescheduled in large companies when enough people complained or declined due to location problems.

The ideal way to deal with this is quickly, politely and with possible alternative solutions in mind. Some ideas:

  • Check in with the coworker as quickly as possible to figure out that you both are not interested.
  • On the same day or next day say "this really can't work for my family... here's why (drive is too long/expensive), I'm going to have to decline and (other guy) may have serious issues too."
  • Never volunteer for someone else - let the other person make their own apologies, but it's OK to say that you think the problem may be widespread (2/3 of the team)
  • Offer another option - "A get-together sounds great, what if we ... " -
    • If possible, gear it towards your interests but with a safe shareable venue. For example, most people may enjoy a common music venue, a movie, a sports game, a nice dinner out
    • Many times office mates have trouble agreeing over anything related to sexuality, politics, or particularly niche interests that only a small minority like. At least in Boston, I've also noticed that spicy food and sushi are similarly hard to congregate around.
    • If you feel short of ideas, at least give the parameters that would be better for you "if it wasn't a Sunday night, when I have to be up for work on Monday - Friday would be so much better!", or "if it wasn't so far on the South side of the city - I live far North, and this is a real problem for traffic".
  • It's reasonable to assume that it's OK to politely withdraw within the first 2-3 days of the announcement - most people have to check with their families, arrange childcare, cancel other commitments or figure out logistics.
  • If you've had more than a week's notice, canceling the week of makes you look like you couldn't plan well - you have to figure that for a desirable ticket, the purchase was made more than a week in advance.
  • Ask for what you really want - if you would have been happy with an offer to comp transportation, ask for that. However, if you're asking for $20 or less in a job that pays $50K US or more, you will look rather cheap - it's not unusual in some locations for employees to be expected to cover transportation and even parking, but the usual expectation is that the fun stuff will be close enough to the office that this fits in with the standard expectations of a normal daily commute.

Keep in mind that the boss is looking to build morale by getting everyone together to do something fun and not stressful - he really would have been better off checking in with you on what would be fun, but his intentions were to bring people together for something cool. Going off by yourself probably won't give the outcome he's looking for.. although saying "can we do this in a few weeks, after I've had some rest?" is also fair.

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    I would say this is the best answer. Unless you're working in a really unhealthy environment, you should be able to express your concerns to the gift giver. You should be able to give honest feedback while expressing genuine gratitude for the gesture, and hopefully work to come to a resolution with the employer. That resolution may in the end require going on the trip as is, but there are any number of compromises that may be made instead. See: Declining Boss's Invitation to Dinner on a Saturday – user29165 Mar 23 '15 at 21:30
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I don't think you should turn it down. Even though it's misguided, it's a gesture from your boss to say "Thank you". It may be that he has purchased the tickets personally, rather than as a work-sponsored event, and his choice may have been based on his ability to pay.

So it seems the issues at hand are to do with travel and interest (you're not missing something else or putting someone off to attend). So why don't you discuss with the senior and the boss ways to minimise the travel cost (car-pool, shared transport etc)? Interest-wise, try and get the boss to set the scene of the event. It's a good way to bond with the boss, and you may find yourself enjoying the event after all. (I hate sports myself, so I can sympathise, but I'd still go).

Take it in the spirit it was intended, and make the most of it. Doing so will help you more in the long term than dropping out.

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    I generally agree with this answer, though it assumes the tickets are already purchased. It probably can't hurt to ask if the boss has bought the tickets already. If the answer is no, then you can suggest an alternative. If the answer is yes, then your answer still applies. – David K Mar 23 '15 at 14:09
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    Yeah, usually if the "tickets" aren't bought, the boss will query what people want to do, if he's specific it's a done deal. He may also be deflated if his idea is shot down – The Wandering Dev Manager Mar 23 '15 at 15:13
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    I generally disagree with this answer, because it assumes that interest in a sporting event is negotiable, and ignores the problem presented entirely by saying "just do it anyway". Though a valid option, it doesn't really solve the problem as it has been laid out. It does offer good advice for the other points of the question, but doesn't address the fact that the asker isn't interested in the first place. – Zibbobz Mar 23 '15 at 18:26
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    @Zibbobz - the OP mentions the issues being the travel and the fact they are not interested in the sport. In fact it doesn't matter, sport, opera, nerfherding, it's the gesture which I recommend they take up. – The Wandering Dev Manager Mar 23 '15 at 18:54
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    There are any number of valid excuses for not wanting to go on an unpaid excursion with your boss and/or coworkers. Just because it was a gift, doesn't mean it should be accepted flat out (which could lead to similar gifts in the future!). You can express your appreciation and decline. It's short notice, it's unpaid, Sunday is a religious/family day, your weekend may already be booked, the transportation time is too great, etc. etc. If he politely declines and the boss insists, then would be the time to go with the flow. – user29165 Mar 23 '15 at 21:26
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Tell him that you have other things planned and that you just can't make it. Have your colleague say the same thing. Me being me, I'll add that I'd rather celebrate by paying off my sleep debt. Nothing like being able to sleep soundly after the job is done.

If the tickets have already been bought, your boss can reassign them to his personal friends or donate the tickets to a charity for a raffle. If the tickets have been bought and those tickets have your name on them, make sure you and your colleague tell your boss that it's uncool.

@Godzillarissa comments: "I am really glad there's an anwer to this question that isn't "Suck It Up", basically. You'd expect after weeks (and weekends) of working overtime there's a time where you wouldn't have to go out of your way (in your spare time) to make your boss happy."

My response: "Look at it this way: the boss owes the OP and the OP's colleague for working all this unpaid overtime and saving his managerial butt. They shouldn't be made to accept the thanks that the boss gives in whatever form the boss feels like giving - the boss should have had at least enough consideration to ask both the OP and the OP's colleague what they wanted, and given them some kind of a choice. The boss's behavior is exactly why so many of us Christmas gifts recipients crowd the "Returns" section of Macy's just after the Christmas holidays :)"

I personally prefer American Express gift cards as a token of gratitude. I can spend the money any way I want. My former boss gave me five AE $100 gift cards as prizes for winning five times in a weekly timesheet filling contest he was running for twelve weeks. My needs are absolutely minimal, so I had no use for these cards - I gave three to the intern who said he could use them to supplement his income and I gave the remaining two to my adoptive sister in Vancouver when she expressed a desire to have them.

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    I'm really glad there's an anwer to this question that isn't "Suck It Up", basically. You'd expect after weeks (and weekends) of working overtime there's a time where you wouldn't have to go out of your way (in your spare time) to make your boss happy. – Godzillarissa Mar 23 '15 at 15:10
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    @Godzillarissa Look at it this way: the boss owes the OP and the OP's colleague for working all this unpaid overtime and saving his managerial butt. They shouldn't be made to accept the thanks that the boss gives in whatever form the boss feels like giving - the boss should have had at least enough consideration to ask both the OP and the OP's colleague what they wanted, and given them some kind of a choice. The boss's behavior is exactly why so many of us Christmas gifts recipients crowd the "Returns" section of Macy's just after the Christmas holidays :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 23 '15 at 20:48
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    @CreationEdge I always have plans - sitting around and vegging out is still a plan. You may not like my plan, you may declare that my plan is not a plan but I couldn't care less. It's MY plan, I call it a plan and for anything that affects my personal lfe, I am the ultimate authority. Therefore, it's a plan – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 24 '15 at 10:21
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    @Jay I have told people they wasted their money on giving Christmas gifts to me, while acknowledging their good intentions. Your giving gifts is pointless if all you care about is what you want to give and you have no respect for the recipient's desires and preferences. To put it in plain English, the boss was gifting himself and not the OP nor the OP's colleague. They put in the unpaid overtime. Now, you want them to take more time out of their personal lives and put in for this charade and travesty, too? Re-read the post: the OP's colleague doesn't want to go either - no convincing needed. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 24 '15 at 13:57
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    @VietnhiPhuvan I can respect that you may always have "plans" and may honestly allot time to veg, but that's not something most people actively plan to do. It's also not a good excuse if your boss asks what those plans are, because it just creates another scenario. I just don't get the aversion to approaching the boss to come to a resolution. – user29165 Mar 24 '15 at 14:46
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This depends a lot on the personality of the boss. But if only 2 of you (besides the boss) were invited, you can't just quietly slip out with no one noticing. Unless there is a real problem, I would just go along to avoid offending the boss. He's trying to do something nice, and he might be offended if you turn him down.

Furthermore, a small group event like this can help turn you into one of the boss's trusted resources, instead of just another employee. It could really help to further your career.

How much of a "hassle" is the transportation? If you mean it's a 45-minute drive or would cost you a couple of dollars you'd rather not spend, then I'd just eat it. If he's expecting you to pay hundreds of dollars for a plane ticket, that's a different story.

Hey, I don't like to go to company parties or events of almost any sort either. Most of the time I'd rather stay home and play a video game or read a book. But I've gone to lots of company events that I found totally boring just to keep the boss happy or to be friendly to co-workers. I've gone to events at church or gone along with a girlfriend, etc, for the same reason -- it's not something that I want to do particularly, but it's something that the people around me want me to do with them. That's just how real life is. Sometimes you have to go to social events that bore you just to keep up the social face and keep the people around you happy.

  • By "hassle", I mean an approximate 2 hour drive, and probably 3-4 hours with public transport, which might rack up close to a hundred dollars. I'll add it to the question later. – user33500 Mar 23 '15 at 13:47
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This is a good challenge for you because it is giving you a chance to assert boundaries.

If you don't want to go, thank the boss for the kind gesture and tell him that it is nice to be appreciated, but then tell him that you have other plans and cannot go. Do not justify, elaborate or explain, even when asked. And go solo, not with your co-worker. The boss has to understand a boundary, which is that the time outside work is yours, your money is yours. You may lose schmoozing opportunities because of this, but you'll never be tacitly expected to use your personal time for work-related schmoozing.

However, this may be a good time to build rapport with your boss which could pay off in better projects or promotions over the next few years. It may well be worth the personal costs (your time, money, and less time with your family) this time. You have to decide what is more important for you, your personal time or the benefits of schmoozing. It's your choice and your life.

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    If saving your boss's managerial butt is not enough to build rapport with the boss, then I don't care to want to have anything to do with this individual. I disagree with your answer but I am still upvoting it to cancel out whoever downvoted it - it's a legit answer and quite a few people see it your way. Personally, I'll do what it takes to get us including the boss out of a pinch, but Hell will freeze over before I kiss up to him. A "thank you" that I am compelled to take is not a "thank you". Aside of that, I suspect that the boss was really gifting himself not the OP and the OP's colleague – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 24 '15 at 10:17
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Just decline the offer.

This is a non-work-related off-hours event that your boss has invited you to. You aren't obligated to go just because your boss bought tickets. Politely decline, and maybe offer an apology for not letting him know sooner.

If you want to be especially nice, offer to compensate for the cost of the seats, since sporting tickets can be expensive. And if you're worried that it will be taken poorly, approach your boss with your co-worker so that he doesn't see it as a personal affront by you.

You might also consider attending the event, as others have suggested, to spend some time building rapport with your boss and co-worker. You could follow it up by offering to pick the next social event, or if you really dislike it after giving it a try, simply decline the offer immediately next time, and simply explain that it's not the sort of thing you like.

Being a co-worker or boss doesn't mean you can't enjoy social time together with a person, but it doesn't mean you have to spend your personal time with them either. Though it's polite if you're going to decline to let them know sooner rather than later.

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