Q: What is the office protocol for having your boss round for dinner? I've just been promoted to manager and told my girlfriend that I thought it would be a great idea if I invited him and his wife round. She refuses to have them, saying people don't do that any more. But I think it would show how keen I am - plus, it could work to my advantage in the long run. Why is my girlfriend being so difficult about this?
A: Congratulations on being promoted to manager. Now fast-forward a few years and imagine that you've become the boss yourself. You promote a promising young man to become manager - and the first thing he does is invite you and your wife round to dinner. You've not had an out-of-office relationship before and your respective partners have never met. What's your reaction? And just as important, what does your wife think? 'Why have they asked us?' she says. 'Is he a creep or something?'
I very much doubt if there's such a thing as an office protocol - but as far as I know, the custom of relatively junior managers inviting their bosses and their partners to their homes for dinner exists mainly in sitcoms: where the inevitable unease, embarrassment and potential for catastrophe can be hilariously exploited.
It's not your girlfriend who's being difficult; it's you who's being dumb. Ambition is just fine, and best secured by achieving things. If you believe that your advancement is even modestly dependent on a good social relationship with your boss, you both underrate yourself and insult him.
The right time, if ever, to entertain your boss and his wife is a month or two after they've entertained you.
I hope for both your sakes that your girlfriend continues to give you such sensible counsel, and that you're sensible enough to heed it.