A reader writes:
I manage a small tight-knit team. The people I’ve hired in the last two years socialize together quite a bit, which is great. The downside is they don’t invite me or the other managers; the junior members will hang out together and not invite the managers. The disappointing part of this is that this team has historically been very close and (we hoped) didn’t feel hierarchical. As we hire more people, I would prefer that the environment feel inclusive. It’s a little awkward when five people spent their weekend together and are talking about it and the remaining three weren’t invited.
Recently at a team dinner, one of them said to someone outside the department that “everyone went” to an event together. The person asked me if I had gone and I said, I hadn’t been invited. My team member said I wouldn’t have gone anyway.
The managers do have babies or life responsibilities that keep us from socializing together after hours. We also have more friends outside of work than most of the junior members so the likelihood of us participating is low. But we still would like to be asked and feel a little hurt to be left out while recognizing that the team should feel free to hang without being obligated to ask us to come. I guess they don’t want their managers to come along and that is tricky for us because we really encourage a “flat” culture and it’s put a small us vs. them vibe into the team.
I’m not exactly sure the best way to handle this or if there’s anything to handle at all.
I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.