Not Sure about Attending a Face to Face Drinks Gathering After Work? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

It still will be months until my company invites us all back to work in the office, so until then, we are all WFH. I miss my work friends and the hallway conversations that helped us deal with situations on the fly. I definitely don’t miss the commute or having to make myself presentable every day. I’ve saved literally hundreds of dollars in dry cleaning fees!

A co-worker has invited me to a face to face, after work drinks gathering. I understand about ten people are going—some I know very well who seem sensible and some I don’t know at all. It is to take place indoors at a popular restaurant near work. The COVID-19 numbers in our town are going down and people seem to think it is safe to go out.

My parents live nearby, and I have been dropping off meals and running errands for them about three times a week. I go into their house, put groceries away, do some laundry, and hang out a little to keep them company. I’ve been very careful. I have no way of knowing if the people going to the meetup have been taking safety precautions, but when I asked if we would all be wearing masks my co-worker just laughed. I laughed too, but it seems like a red flag. I don’t feel comfortable grilling people on their behavior regarding the virus, partly because it seems judgy—but also, the topic has become so political in ways I don’t really understand or care about.

I would like to go, though, because I am going a little stir crazy. I like the idea of supporting the restaurant. Also, I value my work relationships and don’t want to be out of the loop. But I have my parents to think about. It all feels too risky to me.

Am I being ridiculous?

Nervous Nellie

Dear Nervous Nellie,

Although I feel invincible myself (with no evidence whatsoever, mind you), I have at-risk in-laws. Since a high priority is spending time with them, you can call me Nellie, too.

How it all got political is beyond me. All I care about is avoiding an error in judgment that could cause pain or suffering to someone I love. That’s what I am hearing from you. In fact, I hear that you are willing to sacrifice some fun and connecting time—and possibly even maintaining your edge at work—to keep your parents safe. That sounds like care and kindness to me, not ridiculousness.

Let’s consider some options.

  • You could call your friend and explain your situation. I have experienced a couple of events now where everyone who was going to meet in person talked through the rules of engagement before the event. All had to be willing to practice extreme safety for two weeks before the event and everyone got tested before the event. That may be overkill in this case, but I do think an in-person gathering needs some agreed-upon guidelines at this point in the evolution of the pandemic. If the majority are willing to just wing it, well, you have your answer. You don’t have to judge people who are willing to take risks, but you also don’t need to be one of them.
  • You could suggest/find an outdoor venue to replace the indoor venue, which could lower the risk of being exposed.
  • You could take your chances, attend the event, and have someone else tend to your parents’ needs for two weeks. Give yourself a little break from being so responsible.
  • You could decide to play it safe and ask your friends to FaceTime you into the gathering. I mean, that’s a drag, but it would be something. Just think, you wouldn’t need a designated driver!

Ultimately, you are allowed to have your concerns even if you are afraid that some people might hold it against you. You can share your concerns and what is true for you without criticizing or censuring anyone else. How others respond is up to them. I tend to think of choices in terms of potential future regrets. These hard, fraught times will pass (eventually—not nearly quickly enough), and your future self will be so much happier if you and your parents get through it all unharmed.

Follow your best judgment and, more importantly, your heart. You don’t have to call yourself names.

Love, Madeleine

About the Author

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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