I don’t want to be pied in the face for work

A reader writes:

I work in a medium-sized location of a small-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things business as one of the upper managers on site.

The site manager recently asked me to keep an idea on the books for sometime later this year: to do a donation drive with manager names on donation boxes. Donations would earn someone a ticket to pie that manager in the face.

To keep the peace after a long day when I was already exhausted, I said I would keep it in mind, but I would not participate, period. I was told “your name is going on a box.” I said, “If that’s the case, you can find a new X manager. I’m not getting pied in the face!”

I have received “exceeds expectations” on my performance reviews and have delivered miracles for this place for the years I have been there. I tolerated a dunking booth previously because I could change out of wet clothes. A pie to the face would mean an intolerable experience with sticky hair and skin for my day, and my commute is not short enough to make it remotely okay.

I think the choice to participate should be opt in, not opt out. The site manager isn’t my actual manager (I report to our corporate office) and my boss usually has my back. I worry that I sound a bit childish for having this line, but I don’t want this one to be crossed! I am not comfortable with people smashing a pie in my face, throwing a pie in my face, or anything to do with pie and my face if it isn’t me willingly eating a slice! Am I crazy for being willing to lose my job over this?

(I am looking to move on due to this site manager, as I just truly don’t believe our leadership styles are compatible. I have stayed to protect my team and finish out a few critical tasks while I job search, but I am hitting my limit. Pie in the face is the tip of the bonkers iceberg that is my daily life.)

Yeah, you do not need to be pied in the face if you don’t want to be pied in the face. Under no reasonable definition does it fall within “other duties as assigned.”

And you know, that would be true even if you sucked at your job! It pained me to see you justify the reasons you shouldn’t have to be pied, like your “exceeds expectations” evaluations and so forth. Even if you delivered no value whatsoever and were on the verge of being fired, you don’t need to agree to be pied in the face if you don’t want to.

And really, employees who sign up for these activities assume that managers are participating willingly. Anyone who’s not mildly sociopathic would be horrified to find out that what they thought was a fun morale-booster was actually a terrible experience for the person getting pied.

I’m curious whether the other managers who would be expected to participate would do it happily or feel like you do. It might be worth talking to some of them and taking a united stand that it’s Not Happening, or that it be opt-in.

I’m also curious how likely this is to even come up again. The site manager asked you to file the idea away for later in the year. Feel free to simply … not. You’re a manager too and they’re not your boss; you’re free to use your own judgment to decide this was an obvious joke and/or terrible judgment.

But if it does come up again, you can simply say no. “No, I’m not participating.” “No, we’re not going to require employees to be struck in the face — assaulted — against their will.” “No.” And you can enlist your own boss, who will almost certainly support that stance. Might you be seen as a party pooper if others are on board? Maybe. But who cares? Your no is your no.

And worst case scenario, if the event comes to fruition, you can decline to attend. You can’t be pied in the face when your face isn’t present.

(I write all this with a very specific brand of professional expertise on the topic, because for a job in my 20s I pied several public figures to protest animal abuse. No regrets, still proud of it. But public protest intended to result in criminal charges, which it did, is a very different thing than a workplace team-builder.)

That’s fashion designer Oscar de la Renta in the back. That’s his security team closing in on me.

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