As soon as the former editor and his wife entered our apartment, my husband blurted out that our bathroom door was broken. I’m so ashamed. The giant of British journalism wasn’t even offered a drink. But then I remembered it could be worse. Earlier in the day, when I broached the idea of canceling dinner after the sliding door derailed, my partner suggested we nail a sheet as a temporary entrance to the only toilet in our house. Thankfully he was persuaded against the plan and by night the door, while barely usable, could be dragged far enough along the floor to retain some modesty. I think things can only get better from there.
It was a surreal time. Our baby is three months old and we are barely sleeping. I had no intention of hosting a dinner party in our two-bedroom apartment during maternity leave, and how the invitation came about, or why I thought it was a good idea, is a blur. I just remember panicking and calling my saintly mother, who not only brought appetizers (pea and potato puff pastry masala pinwheels, served with her coriander and mango chilli chutney) but also gave the baby a bath, And try to get him to bed. We are trying to be good hosts downstairs.
Months later, when I told colleagues about the night, they were stunned—not just at the door, but because we had agreed to host the night in the first place. Why would I put myself in a situation with such huge potential for failure?
The best explanation I got was that I thought it would be a good thing for someone to get me started in journalism. Meanwhile, TV tells me that treating your boss to dinner is a ritual for struggling white-collar employees, or at least a good joke.exist mad Men, secretary Joan orchestrates an elaborate storm to impress her doctor husband’s boss, but it turns out she’s not as great of a surgeon as she thought.exist The SimpsonsIn the film, Principal Skinner invites Superintendent Chalmers home for a barbecue, but the barbecue is so bad that he has to pass off Krusty Burger’s fast food as his own.
But when I started asking around, I had a hard time finding anyone who truly embodied the TV trope. A recently retired investment banker in London told me he had never heard of this practice. One senior oil executive—who I have known for many years and who has risen to the top of a public company—said he was hosted in the homes of country managers when he traveled overseas, but never by employees when he returned home. Headquarters.
Of the people I could potentially reach, only Atul Sood, CEO of Kitchen United, a ghost kitchen company in California, got through. “Throughout my career, I have had bosses and employees come to my home for dinner, drinks or coffee . . . this has helped me build lasting relationships and deep friendships,” he messaged me on LinkedIn. “I’m happy and proud that I’ve taken some steps [consider] is a risk and wants more people – at all levels of the company – to do it. “
Jacqueline Whitmore, Business Etiquette Expert An expert in Palm Beach, Fla., told me that asking your boss to dinner probably dates back to a specific place and time: small towns in America, especially in the South, where for decades — painting with a broad brush — men’s entire Careers are spent in the same company, the wife tends to stay at home, and the house is larger. Even then, “usually it’s the C-suite who invites the boss…” said Whitmore. . Lower level supervisors or employees will not invite the CEO”.
She added that it would be more common to meet in public places. Certain personalities are better suited to it than others. “Entertaining can be expensive, intimidating, and you need the right space.” That’s still the case today, from the United States to Japan, where it’s common for top-level employees to host social events at restaurants or izakayas.
I called my mother-in-law, who had lived on the other side of Florida in Tallahassee for 40 years. She told me that every boss she had in her career had come over for dinner multiple times. One of the patients even recuperated at her home after surgery because his house was unsuitable. “He was there for five days,” she told me. “But it doesn’t look weird.”
She told me that this condition is still common among her peers (although there is no recovery component) and that it seems to be driven largely by community connections rather than a desire to succeed at work. In fact, if I look at the idea of asking your boss for dinner from my perspective as a managing editor at the Financial Times, it’s no surprise that this trend has fallen by the wayside. Younger workers have missed out on benefits enjoyed by previous generations, such as job security and generous pensions, and they have different views on how much time to give to their employers.
Today’s office workers, in particular, view loyalty differently and are looking for a better work-life balance. Quite simply, hosting your boss is just more work. It’s also expensive and increasingly impractical: the rise of urban living, which is so costly, has led to people often sharing smaller homes. Inviting your manager to a dingy one-bedroom apartment, or a house shared with three depraved friends, will certainly do more harm than good.
“Younger generations, Gen Z and even Millennials don’t socialize with coworkers the way Baby Boomers or Gen Xers do. They’re more interested in hanging out with good friends,” Whittemore said. The pandemic has further altered these intergenerational workplace relationships. “A lot of young people don’t want to go back to the office. They like the flexibility of going to yoga at 3 p.m. and walking the dog at 9 a.m.,” she explains, adding that the company didn’t hire her to invite managers to dinner, but To teach junior employees the basics of “how to interact with your boss.” .
While HR departments are trying to make certain aspects of work life less formal — no ties required, ping pong tables in basements, dogs allowed in the office — there’s also a parallel shift toward drawing boundaries. and prevent invasion of personal privacy. After decades of promoting workaholism and celebrating hustle culture.
The borders are carefully monitored for other reasons as well. The increasing number of women entering the workforce and taking on leadership positions is changing the nature of employee-manager relationships and transforming workplace culture. Issues such as how to cultivate relationships and how to socialize with colleagues are more carefully considered. Can a deal be made on Thursday night drinks? Can you follow your employees on Instagram? Can you treat junior employees to lunch? Should a person accept a dinner invitation to a subordinate’s home?
Research shows that building social connections with organizations improves salary negotiation outcomes, so involving more formal processes in career development is a good thing, especially for women who tend to miss out on networking opportunities.
I called Thomas Roulet, associate professor of organizational theory at the University of Cambridge, and he told me that before, it made sense for bosses looking to “generate engagement and build motivation” to have meals at employees’ homes. But managers need to be able to maintain enough distance to be able to provide feedback and guidance, especially when work isn’t going well, Roulet said. “Many bosses and their employees end up falling into the ‘friendship trap,'” he explains. “Bosses become fearful of leadership and limits that could jeopardize friendships, while employees are more likely to take it personally if they receive negative feedback.”
What reason is there to mourn a social institution? Is this too stressful for the owner and maybe unfair? I can think of one. The rise of multinational corporations, expanding workforces and remote working means cultivating relationships has become more difficult. An American friend who once worked in American politics said: “If you invite your boss over for dinner, you are likely to become friends with them. If you come to my house, it means that I like you and want to hang out with you.” .” She told me that this had rarely happened in her career.
If you’re considering inviting your boss to dinner, it probably means you work in a place where face-to-face interaction still reigns supreme—and that’s what you expect. After talking to my mother-in-law in Tallahassee, I had the whim of calling her local library, reasoning that my pursuit of answers might fall squarely within the job scope of the person who answered the phone. Twenty-one-year-old Sarah Crandall answered my call and told me that she had recently invited her father’s boss to dinner after Hurricane Idalia devastated the state. She said he advised them on how to move a fallen tree, and her mother hosted a dinner party (even though the power was still out) because they “just wanted to say thank you.”
In my house, as we feasted on butternut squash, Goan coffee, paneer makani and basmati rice, I felt proud that we not only made it through the process intact, but actually enjoyed it. After weeks of being on the freshman rollercoaster, it was nice to have a grown-up night. There was laughter, no awkward pauses, many glasses of wine, and second portions. Would I have enjoyed the evening as much if our dinner guests were still the bosses? I have no idea. Will he agree? Probably not.
Still, it worked. I think they feel the same way. Not that I asked.
Anjli Raval is a managing editor at the Financial Times
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