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Not really sure how to start with this so I'm just going to jump into the facts.

  • I must give 5 days notice before I take any annual leave
  • Annual leave is lost and payment is not given in lieu if you do not take it by the end of the year
  • I only have around 6 weeks left in which to take ~3 weeks of annual leave
  • I asked for annual leave off for next week, which was approved a week ago.
  • Boss is now forcing me to go to a 'team building exercise' on one of the days I would otherwise be on annual leave (which he approved).
  • The last 'team building exercise' was booked whilst I was on annual leave that he mandated I take so that I could not decline the e-mail and my place was booked without me being asked at all.

I have repeatedly made it clear to my boss that I am not comfortable joining 'social' events in work over the past 9 months by not going to friday lunchtime and after work drinks and not going to the last social event that my boss booked in my absence without asking me.

This next event is during work time but also during the holiday which I was approved to take. I am now being forced to go to that event. I was not given the option of staying off due to my holiday; I go to it or move the holiday to another week. The event is a week today.

I do not wish to attend this social event, just like the others; I am not a social person, I do not like feeling out of control, I am incredibly anxious about this and I feel like I am being manipulated into going.

Whilst I understand why my boss wants me to go, I have expressed my disinterest and anxiousness about it to the point where I have booked a holiday off and he is completely aware of how much of an anxious person I am.

My contract states that I am to undertake any reasonable extra duties. I do not consider rafting a 'reasonable extra duty' given that I am a programmer. I do not want to quit over this, although it may come to if I keep getting invited to these events which I have made very clear I am not comfortable with doing and do not fall within my job description. At this point I am not concerned with how people think of me as a person, only how they think of me as a professional.

How can I communicate with my boss that I do not want to go to this social event, as I already have time off work scheduled and approved?

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    I don't really see a question anywhere in this rant. – Joel Etherton Sep 2 '15 at 14:21
  • What country are you in? I believe in the UK at least if a leave request has been approved they can't force you to cancel it. – Dustybin80 Sep 2 '15 at 14:22
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    @notasocialperson what is your goal? Without a goal or objective it's really hard to answer this. A great option might be "quit" - but depending on your goal/objective, that might be a terrible option. – enderland Sep 2 '15 at 14:22
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    @EdHeal, "Why not go? You might enjoy it." Your response reminds me of a remark by a sports coach that went beyond being politically correct to being, in one observer's words, "the kind of remark that gets tenured professors fired." Said coach snapped that "a woman who is being raped should relax and enjoy it." The OP isn't literally being raped, but he is being coerced after he has kept on saying, "No... No... No... No..." – Christos Hayward Sep 2 '15 at 20:19
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    So have you actually told your boss you do not like going to social events? Not just hinted at it by not showing up to other events? Not showing up to other events, like mentioned in your post, does not mean your boss explicitly knows this about you. If you already have scheduled time off, then for me that is a valid excuse. As for the anxiousness, you might want to try to attend more social events since it sounds like you have social anxiety, and it will not get better by avoiding situations. Also if you need to, visit a therapist to get more advice on how to deal with anxiety. – ClosDesign Sep 2 '15 at 20:27
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Background - what in the world is your boss thinking?

I had previously written this as a comment, but I think it's worth expanding into an answer:

Part of me wonders if the reason the boss is so insistent on the OP going is because the boss feels the OP is not part of the team at all given the "I don't want to do things with the team, ever" attitude. Some bosses assume "team building" fixes these issues..

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Your boss probably thinks you hate the team/dislike everyone. People who go through efforts to not associate with a team generally have a poor reflection professionally (and personally). No one in a company wants to work with a lone ranger who never associates with other people. The only people who "get away" with this for a long time are people who are ridiculously good. Otherwise it starts to reflect poorly on them professionally.
  • Team dynamics are important. How your entire team functions is important to other people. You may not believe it affects you (we'll get to that later) but a good team has a cohesive team feeling. Each team gets there differently because everyone is different.
  • Your boss probably sees this as a problem to fix. It's likely that your attitude comes across as "I am too good for this team to go to this activity" and your boss probably wants to help you fix that.

I suspect part of the reason your boss is so insistent is that they feel you are antisocial and do not fit into the team fine (and perhaps even other members of the team feel this way, too).

Some bosses just assume that teambuilding/networking things are a magic fix to this problem. For some people, they are, for others.. well they aren't.

Background - what are people feeling?

Many people, especially technical people, like to think feelings don't exist.

Unfortunately...

I have repeatedly made it clear to my boss that I am not comfortable joining 'social' events in work over the past 9 months by not going to friday lunchtime and after work drinks and not going to the last social event that my boss booked in my absence without asking me.

Your boss probably feels this attitude makes it difficult for you to be a valuable member of the team. Depending on how extroverted or how much of a feeler your boss is, they may even feel this as a personal rejection. This is a real feeling they probably have.

Just the same as you feel anxiety about social events, your boss probably feels a similar level of discomfort from someone being very cold/distant from them (and the team).

What can you do?

Ok, so all the above is really important context. When you systematically go out of your way to reject every activity resembling a social activity for your team, you need to take care in doing so.

If you talk about this subject with your boss, it is probably going to be an awkward and difficult conversation. What will probably happen is you say something like, "I feel like I'm fine on the team, I don't know why I need teambuilding activities" and your boss says, "everyone things you are really distant/cold, I'm trying to help you with that."

My guess is you don't want to talk through this with your boss from this perspective again (sharing your anxiety about such issues, wanting to avoid events because of that).

So what I would recommend doing is one of the following:

  • Make an effort to do some sort of social activities. Maybe every other lunch. This is part of being professional, you have to be able to work on a team and do things like this. It's a lot easier to turn down other activities like this if you do something with the team.
  • Ask for more advance notification. Some people just don't like planning in advance. So say, "I cannot make this, as it's a bit last minute and I already have preapproved vacation." and that's that. I've done that before when someone insisted on scheduling me for work when I was unable to, after a while I just told her, "I am not going to be here for this because I am unable to work as I previously told you."
  • Approach the HR/legal issues. This is probably a last resort, but you may have luck finding your company policy or relevant laws on this. This will definitely not put your relationship there on a good place, however.

Try to understand why your boss really is scheduling you for these activities, too. It's probably different than what your boss says as they may not even know. I suspect it's highly related to the above (unless your boss is just a jerk). You need to address those concerns when you talk about avoiding all these activities with your boss.

You also need to address how and why your boss feels it's ok to schedule a work activity that you need to go to during your approved time off work. In most companies this is a really bad thing for a manager to do. I would try to get an understanding of why your boss thinks this is ok.

And if your boss is just being a jerk, well then that's a good time to consider looking for a different job.

At this point I am not concerned with how people think of me as a person, only how they think of me as a professional

Just a note here: in the working world, these are very interrelated. It's difficult if not impossible to separate your professional image from your personal image.

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    Hi. OP here. decided not to hide behind a throwaway. I don't go on these lunches because it almost exclusively involves drinking alcohol around 12pm which I see as 1) unprofessional and 2) i do not drink alcohol. at all. the smell makes me sick, my mother was an alcohoic. My boss is aware of all of this. He is also aware I am very much an introvert and that I like to keep to myself, so much so that it has become a running joke in the company. Perhaps that is part of the culture to enjoy a piss up, but I do not. – Dan Pantry Sep 2 '15 at 17:59
  • I appreciate his sentiments, I do. Here's the issue: I work with two other colleagues in my team. That's it - that's the limit my project has of exposure with the other teams. I get along well with every other colleague in my team, however our project has only demanded i work with 2 other people, so those are the two people I actually work with. Thats the project I was hired to do. I do, however, make friends with the rest of the team, in the office. – Dan Pantry Sep 2 '15 at 18:01
  • I am, if possible, wanting to avoid the legal route. However I am definitely within my rights according to an earlier poster to refuse to go to this. I have a 1:1 with my boss tomorrow (which he was going to reschedule until after this 'team building exercise) in which I will address my concerns. I am not going to go in all guns blazing and threaten to quit but I am going to mention that I work well enough in a team without having to strap a lifejacket on instead of relaxing at home – Dan Pantry Sep 2 '15 at 18:07
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    @MattP I spoke with him today and he seemed much more understanding than I anticipated. He figured that due to some of the recent (not very recent) socials I had gone to I would be able to handle this, however I explained that it was a bit out of my comfort zone and whilst I appreciate its a disappointment to him, given the choice, I would rather not go. He said that I always had a choice (even though it was not phrased like that; much the opposite) and agreed to let me stay off. – Dan Pantry Sep 3 '15 at 18:01
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    @GrimmTheOpiner all the events the OP lists are during work hours, with one exception. – enderland Dec 1 '17 at 14:15
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Life and work is not fair but that is not fair.

You have holiday approved for next week that was approved last week and this week your boss is telling you to cancel your holiday for a team building event next week. On top of all that you have just 6 weeks to use up 3 weeks of holiday.

Either the team building event just came up or your boss approved the holiday with the team building event already conflicting with your holiday. Either way totally not fair.

I get this could cause rift with your boss but I would go to HR. Don't word it as you don't like social events. "I have an approved holiday."

It is not team building if it makes some team members uncomfortable. Many people may not like rafting - they may be afraid of water.

If it was not a holiday and a paid team building event then it can be required.

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    +1 for not bringing up with HR that you don't like social events, in the context of this complaint. It would be just as unacceptable to demand that a gregarious employee return for a team-building day - they may have important family commitments, non-refundable travel booked, etc. – Julia Hayward Sep 2 '15 at 15:19
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You are in an unfortunate situation. One thing you must get clear in your own head is what your actual question is and what you want. Which is more important to you:

  • I do not want to go on the social thing. I feel so strongly about it that I booked vacation as a way not to go on it.
  • I want to take my vacation as booked. I don't think the social thing is worth cancelling my vacation over.

These two things are not the same.

I think, based on some information towards the end of your question, that the first case is true. If so, I have to tell you that your boss has said loud and clear "too bad, you're going." Your boss keeps booking you on these things, you keep not going (and, I hope, telling your boss it's deliberate and not just that something came up or you have to get home to feed the cat) and yet your feelings are not being respected. They are not going to be respected. Ever. You ask how to communicate to your boss that you don't want to, but clearly you have communicated that and your boss doesn't care. You have to decide whether to just stay away, and take whatever consequences that brings you, or to be steamrollered by a boss who thinks your anxiety on this matter is not relevant. We can't help you decide that.

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    Part of me wonders if the reason the boss is so insistent on the OP going is because the boss feels the OP is not part of the team at all given the "I don't want to do things with the team, ever" attitude. Some bosses assume "team building" fixes these issues.. – enderland Sep 2 '15 at 16:42
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How can I communicate with my boss that I do not want to go to this social event, as I already have time off work scheduled and approved?

It sounds like you've already told him this and he's responded that it doesn't matter what you want you want you still have to go. If you feel you haven't impressed upon him the strength of your feelings on the subject I would suggest you go back to him and say this again.

Failing that I think the best hope you have is from the gov.uk website

Although employers can refuse to give leave at a certain time, they can’t refuse to let workers take the leave at all.

It says on the website that the company can't stop you taking your three weeks before the end of the holiday year. Therefore you should discuss with him straight away how he will accommodate your remaining three weeks of holiday.

An employer can refuse a leave request but they must give as much notice as the amount of leave requested, eg 2 weeks’ notice if the leave requested was 2 weeks.

How much notice is he giving you for this change? I thought that approved holiday couldn't be changed but there is no advice to this effect on the government website however an employer still has to give you reasonable notice of change.

You might at the end of the day just be out of luck. It sounds like your employer believes these events are important and it is important that everyone attends. If you enjoy working there then you might just have to learn to adapt to that workplace culture.

uk gov link

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In the UK you're unlikely to be summarily fired for not attending a team-building event on a day booked as annual leave. At least, provided you've been there at least 2 years. Clearly what your boss should have done is refused the leave at the point you booked it, saying that this event is essential and so leave cannot be given.

As such, I think you can afford to assert that you have some choice here, and you are going to choose not to go to the event. You "communicate with your boss that you do not want to go to this social event" by saying you don't intend to go. This is what conveys that you're serious. It's not up to your manager whether you go, it's up to them what the consequences are for not going. They're very unlikely to fire you on the spot just for saying you don't intend to go. They might threaten to fire you if you don't show up (in which case at least you know where you stand), and they might try to get you into some kind of ongoing "plan" to involve you in more social events in future. You can judge them by what they decide.

Since you're willing to quit over this (albeit you'd prefer not to), your position is reasonably strong. Talk it out, and if the measures are not to your liking then you can walk. If this really is a hard requirement for the role, "must go rafting", then they've learned a lesson to put it in the job description, and you need to find a job that doesn't involve rafting. If it's not a hard requirement then hopefully you can reach an agreement with your boss under which you don't do it.

Beware that if you're not taking part in "team-building events" in general, then your relationships with others in the company will be scrutinised, because it's something your boss evidently thinks is really important and that you aren't visibly doing. That doesn't necessarily mean your boss won't accommodate you, but it's certainly a worrying sign because you'll never make this boss entirely comfortable about your role in the team. The fact that you only have to engage with two colleagues isn't really relevant if your boss prefers the whole team to go out on the lash together and can't see past your choice not to join in. There are plenty of bosses for whom showing up and cheerfully doing your work is enough, but this boss isn't one of them.

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First step: Talk to HR and confirm what the policy is regarding approving and declining vacations. It doesn't matter why you don't want to go - it's that you have a vacation booked (and it never hurts to arrange to have a commitment that day - going out of town, tickets to something, basically anything that makes it an actual issue beyond "I had that day off") and your boss is cancelling it.

Best case, policy says you're in the clear, you give your regrets that you'll be away that day. (Be aware that it's entirely possible that your boss will simply rebook the event for when you're back.)

Worst case, for policy or technicalities, your boss is allowed to cancel your leave. Again, ignoring the "you don't wanna go" aspect - then you need to talk to your boss about rescheduling that day (plus compensation for any arrangements you've made).

To touch quickly on the "I don't like those events" - as long as they're doing it over regular work hours, I suspect you don't have a lot of wiggle room. They know you don't like to go, they think it's important enough to pay you to do that instead of actual work. Best to just grin and bear it.

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