I was told not to attend a former coworker’s retirement party

A reader writes:

I used to work for a health care organization that managed several hospitals and research institutes. I left the organization in 2012 to pursue another opportunity in another field. This month, a senior director in this organization is retiring. I will call her Sally. I heard from a current employee at the organization that a retirement tea party is being held for Sally. As a courtesy, I emailed the organizer of the tea party to say I would like to wish Sally well in person and give her my best at this function.

This is the reply I got from the tea party planner: “Thanks for the note and I am sure that Sally would like to hear from you and your well wishing. Due to security requirements and numbers, this event is for current employees of [company name].”

Is this reasonable? I am dumbfounded, as I saw in an earlier email from this woman who is planning the tea, that she asked people to circulate the invitation to others who Sally has worked with. I simply want to stop by, say my well wishes and wish her all the best on her retirement.

Do you think that this tea party planner just isn’t comfortable with former employees being there, even though it’s supposed to be a party for Sally? If that was the case, I would argue she should have made that clear when telling people about the event.

I have no idea, but I wouldn’t take it personally.

What I can tell you is that it’s absolutely true that some events like this are intended for current employees and not former ones. Obviously one extra person isn’t too hard to accommodate, but hey, some people are sticklers for rules. And it’s not totally crazy for the people hosting and/or paying not to want to deal with “Jane Smith came to Sally’s party last month, so why can’t former employees Apollo Warbucks and Percival Montblanc come to Lucinda’s this month?”

Regarding the fact that the invitation suggested inviting other people Sally has worked with, that could easily mean other employees. And sure, she didn’t spell out “NO FORMER EMPLOYEES, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD,” because it probably didn’t even occur to her to think about that, if their parties are usually just their coworkers.

Regardless, she’s told you it’s just an internal party, and that’s that. I wouldn’t spend any more time thinking about it — and definitely don’t sulk about it. File this away in the Not a Big Deal bucket.

And if you want to wish Sally well, there’s nothing stopping you from stopping by on your own at a different time or calling or emailing her with your well wishes.

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