This post, a coworker prayed for my fiancé’s death so we didn’t invite her to our wedding … and now there is drama , was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.
A reader writes:
My fiancé, “Ted,” has worked for 10 years on a small, very close-knit team, all of whom seem to get along exceptionally well. All the team members and spouses/partners socialize outside of work together as well, and we consider them all to be close friends. We thought they felt the same.
A few months ago, on the way to a work event, Ted and his coworker/best friend “Bob” were involved in a serious car accident and were rushed to the ER. Everyone waited anxiously for hours as they both underwent surgery. Thankfully, they both recovered.
When Ted returned to work, a team member, “Sally,” told him she had a confession to make. She said that while they had been in surgery, she prayed that if God had to let one of them die, she hoped it would be him. (WTF?!?)
Ted was shocked and asked why. He said she gushed on and on about what a “saint” Bob is. (Her examples were that Bob gives her great advice on her struggling marriage and has loaned her money when she was in a tight spot.) She finished by saying, “No disrespect to you, but Bob is in a class by himself. You have to admit you can’t measure up to that” and walked away.
Ted was truly devastated to learn that she felt this way, but he tried to attribute it to the stress of the situation and did his best to put it behind him. He never told anyone else on the team what she said and tried to continue on at work as if nothing had happened, but his relationship with Sally hasn’t recovered. He is still deeply wounded by her comments.
Although Ted appears to be a confident person, underneath he is fairly insecure. He truly thought Sally was a good friend. So in addition to causing him a lot of pain, this has also rattled his confidence. Now he’s wondering if all his team members secretly feel the way she does. Ted and Sally have always seemed to have a warm, cordial relationship and he can’t understand why she would say such a hurtful thing. Ted is now constantly measuring himself against Bob and questioning why he isn’t as “good.”
I suggested that perhaps Sally has a crush on Bob or feels closer to him for reasons that have nothing to do with Ted. But he is convinced that thinks she sees him as a “second tier” man and worries that others do too.
Our wedding is coming up soon and the venue strictly limits the number of guests. When it was time to send out invitations, Ted invited the rest of the team and their spouses but did not invite Sally and her husband. I expressed my concern that this would cause more problems, but he replied that since we could only have a limited numbers of guests, he’d prefer to spend our special day with another pair of close friends who “genuinely love and appreciate” us rather than a woman with whom his relationship is now severely strained.
Two weeks ago, I got a call from another team member, “Alice,” asking me if I had forgotten to send an invitation to Sally. I explained that because the venue is small, we simply couldn’t invite everyone.
Alice then told Ted that if we didn’t invite Sally, she and the other women on the team wouldn’t attend either. Ted told her that since the invitations have already gone out, there is no way to add Sally and her husband now unless we “uninvited” two other guests, which we can not do.
Now all the women on the team, including Sally, are freezing Ted out. They refuse to speak to him except when forced to, which is really starting to adversely impact the collaborative work the team does and hampering Ted’s ability to do his job. The men on the team have sided with Ted, saying they feel we have the right to invite (or not invite) whomever we want to our own wedding. This has caused an even further rift in the team.
Everyone is questioning Ted about why we didn’t invite Sally, but he doesn’t feel it’s his place to explain why he doesn’t want her to attend and just keeps repeating that the decision was due to the venue size limitations.
The manager of the team works at another site, and because the team has previously worked so well together, has historically been fairly hands-off, and is oblivious to what is happening now. But if the work continues to suffer, she’s going to notice and ask what’s going on.
What, if anything, should Ted do? Should he preemptively go to the manger to give her a heads/up, or will that make it even worse to be seen as “tattling”? Is there anything he can do to “fix” this on the team, before it erodes their work product even more?
I did weaken and called the venue, who grudgingly said they would be willing to accommodate one more couple. Should we break down and invite Sally to the wedding for the sake of harmony at work?
What a mess.
I completely understand why you wouldn’t want Sally at your wedding! She prayed your fiancé would die. Maybe not exactly … but pretty close to it. And then for some reason, she felt the need to tell him. Why?! She should have kept it to herself; there was no need to inform Ted and if she hadn’t, presumably life at work would have just gone on as before. So Sally sounds like a bit of a nut.
I’m not a fan of pressuring people into wedding invitations, but you also can’t exclude one person from a tight-knit group and expect that not to send a message and cause drama. You’ve got to either invite the whole group, or invite fewer of them so you’re not leaving out just one person, or leave out the one person and accept that it’s going to be A Thing. You and Ted chose the latter option but are hoping it won’t cause drama, and that’s not realistic.
It’s especially not going to happen when no one knows why Ted is upset with Sally. From what they can see, they had a close, tight-knit group of work friends and now Ted has randomly and hurtfully decided to exclude one person for no reason.
I get that he’s trying to blame it on the venue size, but that doesn’t really work when you’ve excluded one person from a “tier” of wedding guests. It wouldn’t work if he had excluded one uncle or one niece, and it doesn’t work when you exclude one of a very close team of colleagues. People are going to read something into it and be hurt.
The drama that it’s causing is pretty excessive — coworkers freezing him out and refusing to speak to him except when forced, to the point that it’s affecting their work, is a weirdly intense reaction (as well as inappropriate and unprofessional). That’s likely a sign that the boundaries on this team were messed up before any of this happened, and that’s why the wedding invitations are functioning as a bomb rather than more like an exploding soda can.
And again, in theory you should be able to invite whoever you want to your wedding and exclude anyone you don’t want there. And you can! You just can’t do it without consequence, and that’s what you’re seeing now.
As for what to do, if Ted wants to stick to his decision, he’s probably better off just being matter-of-fact about why: “Normally we would have loved to have the whole group, but when Bob and I were in the hospital Sally told me she prayed for me to die if one of us had to. So we’re not asking her to celebrate our wedding with us.” Then at least people would have context. It will probably cause a different kind of drama, but if Ted can stay matter-of-fact about it (“it is what it is and we can still work together fine, but it didn’t make sense to ask her to be at the wedding”) it’s probably a better option than the drama of No One Knows Why Ted Did Such an Unkind Thing.
Frankly, it might also be an opportunity to clear the air with Sally. It sounds like she might have no idea why Ted didn’t invite her. He could sit down with her and say, “I’m sorry this has gotten so out-of-hand. I should have spoken to you earlier. I was really hurt by what you said to me after Bob’s and my accident. I’d thought we were close friends, and I haven’t been able to get past you telling me that you prayed I’d die if one of us had to. It’s why we didn’t ask you to be at our wedding, but I’m realizing that I should have talked with you about it earlier.”
It’s possible that conversation could move things to a much better place. Maybe Sally didn’t realize how her remark came across and maybe she’ll be mortified in hindsight. Maybe it’ll turn out she was addled by painkillers when they talked and this is the latest in her long and embarrassing list of discoveries of things she said that day. Maybe they’ll have the sort of conversation that will make Ted happy to extend a wedding invitation to her. Who knows. But looking at where things stand now, not talking to her about it seems like the worse option. And just giving in and inviting her without having that conversation first doesn’t seem likely to fix things at this point.