do I really have to attend my office holiday party?

A reader writes:

I’ve recently gotten a job at a nice company and everything’s great, except this upcoming Christmas there’s a holiday party and, well, truthfully I don’t want to attend. It’s not because I dislike any of the people there, I’m just not really a social animal and I don’t really enjoy those sorts of events.

Firstly, can a company mandate its employees to attend social events of this nature that have absolutely no relevance to the employee’s work? I can understand if they require I attend, say, a work luncheon with an important client, or a business trip that included a bit of golf to get to know executives. Personally, I hate such events. And as a technical person I’m never asked to attend anyway, but I can understand why they might be mandated. Honestly the people that are asked to attend such things tend to enjoy them anyway. But a Christmas party? That occurs after hours, no less? Can they really get away with mandating attendance to something like that?

If they can, how much of a risk do I run declining anyway? Now, when I say I’m not going, I got… looks. As though I had committed some sort of social faux pas, which I very well might have but I didn’t know how to decline! I mean, people would come up to me and say,”So what did you get for the Yankee swap?” or “So what kind of beer are you taking to the holiday party?” And when I tell them I’m not going, they look at me reproachfully like I personally insulted them, and ask why not, or if I have anything else going on. I don’t have anything else going on, I just don’t wanna go! How do I say that in a way that doesn’t insult anybody?

Now, my boss hasn’t yet approached me about this, but I get the feeling he soon might. I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to decline and even if I was, how I’d go about doing it. I’ve “soft declined” by telling everyone else I wasn’t going, but from their reactions I get the idea that it’s not usually done. Please help me out here!

First, yes, it’s certainly legal for them to mandate your attendance at social events outside of normal work hours. If you’re non-exempt, you must be paid for that time unless the event is truly optional. But either way, they can require your attendance.

Now, as I’ve written here many times before, I’m a staunch opponent of making office parties and other social events mandatory. When an event is intended to be a morale-building treat, requiring attendance is counter to that aim. However, that’s advice for employers. On the employee side of things, you’re still left trying to figure out how to navigate this without negatively impacting the way you’re perceived.

I do think that it’s fine to bow out if doing so is no big deal at your company. In that case, you can simply say that you have a scheduling conflict and unbreakable plans that night. However, there are other companies where you’re really expected to attend and you’ll be penalized if you don’t. And even managers who claim the parties are  optional often do care at some level if you don’t show up — so if you’re sensing any pressure, it’s usually wise to assume that you should treat this as a professional obligation like any other.

(And I should note here that while I think this is BS much of the time, it’s a more reasonable expectation if you’re in a management role. The higher up you go, the more you’re expected to appear at these things, so that you don’t create the impression that you’re too important or simply don’t care to mingle with those under you.)

In any case, given what you’ve said about the reaction you’ve been getting, you should go. You don’t need to stay for the whole thing, though — show up, spend an hour there, maybe two, and then leave. Look at it like any other part of your job that you don’t love but which you do because it’s part of staying in good graces with your company — like attending a really boring all-staff meeting. At only a couple of hours a year, it’s actually far less onerous than most boring requirements of any given job. Plus, this happens to be your employer’s attempt to show you hospitality. In general, there’s an argument for accepting such an invitation from the people who sign your check, particularly when it’s only once a year.

Alternately, you can decide to bow out, but you should realize that there might be a cost to doing that — and I’d question whether it really makes sense to pay that cost just to avoid a few hours of eating cookies and listening to bad holiday music.

{ 251 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick

    OP, I’m an introvert and I SO hear you.

    How good is your relationship with your boss, and how politically savvy is he? If you have a good relationship, I’d just ask him point blank — “Parties are my Kryptonite, can I get away with not going or do I need to suck it up?” I’ve had a boss who was very sensitive to political goings-on, and he would tell me, “Yes, you can skip this one” or “Nope, upper management notices who doesn’t show up.”

    It does seem like you already have information from your coworkers that this party is part of the culture, which means most likely you should suck it up and attend for an hour or two, just because it’s not worth being memorable to your coworkers as grinchy. But who knows, if your boss is politically savvy, he may say, “Yeah, those guys in Accounting really love the party, but the higher-ups are cool with people not going.”

  2. Elizabeth West

    If you haven’t been there very long, not going could make you look like you don’t care about your new job. I know that sounds really stupid, but that might be what others are reacting to. At some workplaces, these things are a big deal even if attendance isn’t mandatory. I’d go for a little while. You can always slip out early, like Alison said.

    1. AB Normal

      +1

      I hate office parties, but will make a point to
      attend when I’m new to avoid looking like I want to keep my distance. It’s a small (or big) sacrifice to build relationships with your colleagues, and it’s never as bad as I anticipated.

      1. ScaredyCat

        ^ this.

        I’m also new in my current company, and this year’s Christmas Party was especially lavish too. But at the end, I went fully intending to slip out early.

        I’d say you can surely claim some sort of unavoidable commitment, and slip out after 2 hours.

    2. tcookson

      I agree that it’s more important to go if you’re new on the job, because you’re still setting people’s impressions of you. I’m not very comfortable at parties, either, so after attending my office’s holiday party for my first two years on the job, I reduced my attendance to every other year. People still have an impression that I do attend the parties, and I don’t have to always be at every single one of them.

  3. Chocolate Teapot

    The thing which springs to mind is whether the OP is still considered as a “new employee”. I seem to recall Alison has written posts in the past about making a good impression when starting a new job.

    I think the Put-in-an-appearance -briefly-then-leave-for-another-prior-engagement might be an option.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      Whoops, I missed the part where the OP is new (and therefore hasn’t had a longstanding enough relationship with his/her boss to ask the kind of question I referred to in my previous comment).

      Yeah, OP, I think you have to go. And it stinks that you have to BYOB! :(

      1. Becky B

        I agree about finding that person in the company of whom you can ask things such as, “Is this a political thing where I’ll shoot myself in the foot if I don’t go?” and get an honest response.

        And then plaster on that office smile if you need to go.

  4. Kristin

    I didn’t attend a company party and people were so weird about it. But it was a Friday night, far from home, and I didn’t want to attend. People FLEW IN from out of state. It was stupid.

    I got fired. I mean not because of that, but I think it made people think I wasn’t a team player.

  5. Liz

    I think this is one of those things where polite lying is absolutely appropriate.

    Just because you don’t want to go, doesn’t mean every conversation about it needs to focus on that – it’s a bit awkward and hard for people to understand… at least, much more so than “I’m sorry to miss it, but I have tickets to the ballet” or “unfortunately my parents will be in town that night.”

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      But don’t give a reason, because then they’ll judge whether that reason is good enough. Plus, then no lie is even needed. Just “I’m sorry to miss it, but I already had plans for that evening. I hope everyone has a great time, and please tell me about it on Monday.”

      1. Anon Accountant

        Exactly. In my experience, giving a reason for not attending opens up judgement from the other person. “You’re missing the party for THAT??!!”

        If choosing to not attend, I’d stick with basic “other plans that evening”.

        1. Ex Mrs Addams

          +1. No-one needs to know if those “plans” consist of watching Castle on dvd in your jimjams with lots of ice cream.

          1. Eric

            As an introvert, my plans more often than not are “watch Star Trek in my pajamas while drinking peppermint tea” but dammit those plans are IMPORTANT.

      2. Elise

        I agree. No one needs to know if your other plans are just drinking hot cocoa and watching episodes of Warehouse 13.

      3. Liz

        What’s the difference, though, between someone thinking your reason isn’t good enough and someone thinking you don’t have a reason at all? Anyone rude enough to say “You shouldn’t be missing the party for _____” is surely rude enough to give you endless grief if you don’t provide a reason. At least some people will operate correctly within the etiquette of polite excuses – it’s why they were invented.

        1. majigail

          True, but most people back off when they hear “Sorry I can’t attend.” When they hear, “I’m not attending,” it can sound harsh. If the OP comes across like other technical people I’ve known over the years, that small change in semantics will make all the difference.

        2. ThursdaysGeek

          Perhaps, but when you don’t give a reason and then deflect the conversation off of you and back on them, it doesn’t give as much of opening for them to ask for your reason. That certainly won’t work for some, but it does work for many: all those that also operate correctly within the etiquette of polite excuses.

          Plus, if you don’t give a reason, you don’t have to remember if you told most people you were going to the opera, but you used the parents visiting excuse for Bob, because he knows you hate opera. It makes it simpler.

          For the rude person who asks for a follow up reason, that can still be deflected by asking why they need to know, or making up a reason just for them. (In those cases, I prefer the ridiculous “the Pope already invited me to his party”, to point out that it really isn’t their business, but you can go the easy route and make up a believable lie too.)

      4. Elizabeth

        Definitely don’t give a reason. Miss Manners says that all you need to say is, “I’m not able to make it.” If people keep asking why, just keep repeating it, varying the language (and sounding slightly disappointed, so it doesn’t sound like you think such things aren’t worth your time).

        “What are you wearing to the party?”
        “Oh, unfortunately I have to miss it.”
        “Why? What are you doing?”
        “I have a prior engagement, so I’m not free that night. I hope you have a great time, though!”

        Only a truly nosy Nelly will keep prying if you keep blandly and politely shutting them down.

        1. Lindsay

          +1

          Reframing how you decline events could change the response you’re getting. So instead of “I’m not going,” you could say, “I’m unable to attend.” It’s not specific and it implies outside forces are keeping you from attending.

          When I was a teenager, one of the best things my mom did was when I was iffy about doing stuff with my friends, she’d say that I could tell them she wouldn’t let me go. So I wasn’t the bad friend saying I didn’t want to hang out, but my mom wouldn’t let me do it. It made it easier for me to say no knowing that my friends wouldn’t take it personally that I didn’t want to do that activity with them. So take this same concept (outside reason you can’t go) and apply it when you don’t want to attend something but have to give a reason.

          1. TheSnarkyB

            I think this is an important distinction. It sounds like the OP wants to be extra honest and just say “I’m not going” or “I won’t be there” whereas the white lie (or truth, depending on how you bend things) is “Unfortunately, I really can’t make it.” Not: “I can’t, I have to __(insert elaborate lie here).”

  6. What's the big deal?

    look, i don’t care how much of an introvert you are, its ridiculous to not go to the company’s Christmas party. its one of the things you have to do when you work with a group of people. Nobody is asking you to give a toast, or to dance in front of everybody. All you have to do is show up, eat, drink make polite conversation and move on with your life after an hour. I really don’t understand why introverts make such a big deal about this sort of occasion. Honestly, focusing on it and on how much you don’t wanna go makes it a bigger deal than it is.

    1. A Teacher

      You are clearly not an introvert. Yes, I’ve “sucked it up” a lot in life to sit in huge meetings, at staff luncheons, at back to school events, and even to go out with a large group of friends. Its draining, really draining to be in these situations, even if for only an hour.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        And I think it’s particularly galling because it’s presented as “a fun treat that you’ll enjoy.” So if you don’t feel that way about it, it’s easy to feel like you should be able to decline it — it’s allegedly there for your pleasure, after all.

        The key is to realize that it’s not strictly there for your pleasure. Think of it as a business function instead.

      2. fposte

        And I am an introvert, and I essentially agree with What’s the big. There are lots of parts of our jobs we don’t enjoy but are worth doing. This is one of them.

        1. jmkenrick

          Fellow introvert, and I agree as well. As Alison said, there is an argument to be made for accepting an invitation from the people who sign your paycheck…and there is an argument to be made for building friendly relationships (and seeming interested in) the people who you work with everyday. If this was a monthly party, that would be one thing – but an annual event that you only have to be at for 1-2 hours? Honestly, even if people weren’t reacting this way, I think it reflects well on you to go.

        2. A Teacher

          I’m not disagreeing that it is a part of you job, but it not something that you necessarily enjoy. That’s the part that got me about “what’s the big deal?” I don’t hate them–I like my co-workers, but I still find large social gatherings draining and like I’m always on but that’s just my experience as an introvert.

          1. Bea W

            I like small gatherings. I may even like big gatherings, but they are huge energy suckers for me. It’s literally exhausting, and when I have other socially exhausting things/obligations going on, it’s quite hard to find the energy to squeeze in one more. It’s hard to find that delicate balance over the holidays when everyone wants to have a party. I only have so much energy to expend before my inner Oscar the Grouch starts to take over, and that’s no fun for anyone. I want people to enjoy their party, rather than my potentially pooping on it.

            It’s not about hating. It’s about having the mental and physical energy, and time off the clock is my time. If I don’t have the get up and go to go to a party on my own time, I reserve the right to gracefully decline without being called “ridiculous”.

          1. TL

            But all introverts do hate social interaction!
            And all extroverts just can’t stand to be alone and need constant entertainment 24/7!

            I really wish there was a better understanding of what those terms meant. :(

          2. Windchime

            No kidding. I am an introvert who just got home from a very fun and lively lunch with my team. I’ve worked with them all for over a year and we had a great time.

            But for me, these types of gatherings have an expiration date. There comes a time when it starts to be less fun, and then if I overstay, it starts to feel like an all-out assault on my senses. Like it’s just too much sensory input and I need some alone time.

            People sometimes find it hard to believe that I’m an introvert because I seem outgoing and I’m funny and like to interact. What they don’t realize is that I need many hours of alone time to be in peace and recharge in order to be happy and social the rest of the time.

            1. Ruffingit

              I’m the same. I like to think of myself as a hybrid of sorts. I can totally do the extravert thing for quite awhile, but then I reach my limit and I have to be alone and recharge. I also look forward to sitting in my jammies on Friday night with my husband, each of us doing our own thing side by side. Partying for hours does nothing for me and in fact would exhaust me emotionally.

              1. Jen in RO

                I’m the same. I’m very much looking forward to my ex-company’s party tonight, but if I had a party every week I’d be exhausted. However, for a new employee, I agree with the ‘suck it up and go’ advice. Leave early if you need to, but show up.

          3. LondonI

            I agree! There are introverts at my workplace (according to their Myers-Biggs test results, anyway) and they are perfectly able to participate in social occasions with their work colleagues. No, they’re not the last ones standing at the end of the night but they do seem to genuinely be able to enjoy a drink and conversation with colleagues that they like.
            One manager is definitely an introvert but she has even hosted a couple of social gatherings at her place. (Entirely her decision.)
            I can understand that it is more energy-expending for an introvert to be in social situations, but that doesn’t mean that these occasions can’t be enjoyed or that all introverts despise social engagements.
            FWIW, I’m neither introvert or extrovert.

        3. Anonymous

          Yeah. Either view it was work – go and practice pretending to enjoy it (which is a skill worth learning).

          Or don’t go. Say you have plans.

          That it.

        4. Bea W

          I don’t see these events as part of the job, especially when they are off hours and you’re not being paid. That’s a social event. It may be socially or politically wise to show up, but it’s not part of your job unless your job is organizing it or you do have to give a speech or a toast.

      3. CaliSusan

        I’m an introvert through and through, and I actually agree with What’s the big deal? I’ve had jobs that involve client meetings, dinners, parties, social functions, as well as all the other forced socialization parties with co-workers, and I suck it up and go — and usually have fun. It’s a few hours out of life, not worth the stress of “do I or don’t I?”

        1. Ashley

          I’m generally on the same page, but I don’t think it’s fair to assume that all introverts are the same. Your level of introversion might be different than mine, where you are able to suck it up and go, but for me it may feel like a much bigger deal. Maybe I have anxiety issues along with my introversion, which makes it harder. My point is just that everyone is different, so it’s not really fair to say “Well I can suck it up so you should too!”

          And for what it’s worth, the OP may not even be an introvert, but just really hates parties.

          1. jmkenrick

            That’s true – but if the problem is a serious social anxiety problem, it would be a different question. It was framed in much more of a “I just don’t like parties” way.

            1. Bea W

              It’s also fine to not like attending parties or not like certain types of parties, and it’s a legit reason to not want to attend one and to not attend one if you really do not have to for other reasons.

      4. TL

        I have a some introverted friends who really enjoy large social events, carefully selected and appropriately spaced out (one of them actually likes her company’s parties and she’s the most introverted person I know.)

        I don’t think it’s fair to automatically assume introverted people won’t enjoy a Christmas party; they’ll probably be more drained by it, as you point out, but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy it and/or consider it worthwhile.

        Anyways, OP, it sounds like it’s really important in your company culture. You should go for the first year or two, especially if your company only hosts a few social functions a year, while you’re still setting your persona in the company; then you can decide if you want to keep going.

        1. tcookson

          . . . especially if your company only hosts a few social functions a year . . .

          Yes; you’ve put your finger on the reason I felt compelled to go to the first two years of my company’s Christmas party. It is one of the very few social functions that my office hosts, so it is noticeable when somebody isn’t there. When I was setting my persona in the company, I didn’t feel comfortable with the message I’d be sending by skipping out. Now that I’m well-established, I feel like I have more leeway to take a year off every now and then. I still wouldn’t want to become known for always skipping out on it, so I make sure to attend at least every other year.

      5. What's the big deal?

        I honestly think that being an introvert should have nothing to do with it. If a person is able to go to a party with let’s say family or friends they will be able to endure 1 hour of being with their coworkers in a party setting. obviously without having to do anything else but mingle with a couple of people and eat (no big speeches, dancing, etc) the Christmas party which only happens once a year out of 365 should be bearable introvert or not. i don’t think the Christmas party should fall under the “i’m an introvert so I don’t want to go” excuse there are other social situations in which that excuse could be justified, this really isnt

        1. Anonymous

          As a very introverted person, I can endure the Christmas party, it will just make me sad, anxious and uncomfortable for several days beforehand, and exhausted and miserable for a few days after. So yes, technically you are right. I can endure it.

          I assume people throwing these parties would want more than me enduring it in silent misery though, so I prefer not to put myself through that.

          1. What's the big deal?

            that’s the whole point of what i’m saying dedicating so much time on how much you don’t want to go somewhere and wasting days before feeling uncomfortable and dreading what’s coming is honestly not worth it for 1 hour at the Christmas party. After it just move on with your llife

              1. Jamie

                This is what’s bothering me about this line of comments from what’s the big deal.

                I do think the OP should go for political reasons, but there is a dismissive quality about why it’s not a big deal that’s off putting. I don’t generally like parties, but I enjoy some and I’m definitely a social person…it’s the cultural assumption that this is treat for everyone that’s rude. And the OP wasn’t making a big deal out of it…she asked a question about the etiquette of bowing out and if it was advised – she didn’t say she was going to quit or sue if she had to go. That would be a big deal, this isn’t.

                On the macro level I wish companies would stop requiring employees to socialize as part of their jobs (except in positions where it’s part of the deal) and I wish they’d stop requiring people to give up their free time to go to parties and pretend they love them.

                But on the micro level…I get this is how things are done so one should go.

                Miss Manners advises that if you want to thank you employees at the end of year then expressing gratitude in words, cash, and some extra paid time off are universally appreciated. Stick with those.

            1. Social Introvert

              It seems like you think people can just control how they feel about these situations according to what you think ‘should’ be – this is not the case. If you felt hungry and I told you ‘what’s the big deal, you’ll eat in an hour, you’re not going to die, stop feeling that way,” would you be able to just stop your stomach from growling with that knowledge? What you’re saying is basically demanding that introverts change the reactions of their built in nervous system responses and simply choose to feel differently – not really a possible thing to do.

          2. misery?

            ” exhausted and miserable for a few days after. ”

            How can you function when going to an event like that will harm you for days?

            I’m fairly introverted and a party will exhaust me, but a night’s sleep will beat that.

            I wonder how you can function in life with such an extreme form of introversion.

            I can understand misery at the party, but those problems afterward sound so extreme I hope you are getting some medical attention.

            1. TL

              I’m not trying to Internet diagnose (at all!) but “sad, anxious,” during and “sad and miserable” after aren’t side effects of introversion. Maybe some kind of social anxiety or something? (completely not qualified to make a diagnosis, though)

            2. Bea W

              There are plenty of things that you can be perfectly okay avoiding or limiting in life. Maybe parties are a specific problem for one person, but other things aren’t. Just because someone has trouble with one thing, doesn’t necessarily generalize to all things, and it’s not necessarily something that is debilitating to the point of calling for medical attention to treat or cure it.

              If you know certain things make you exhausted or anxious to the point of feeling ill, you don’t do those things, and if not doing those things does not bother you, it’s generally not an issue. What would be an issue is if you found attending parties made you feel physically ill but you really wanted to be able to go to more parties. That’s when it becomes an issue that someone would want to get help with.

              Some people also have a more physical reaction to stress than others, and that is just the way they are and it won’t change. You have to know your body and take care of yourself. Failing to set those boundaries is bad for you and bad for people around you.

              People can and do live perfectly happy lives without attending many or any parties. If you don’t do something because you don’t like it, you don’t feel like you’re missing out.

              1. misery?

                “Some people also have a more physical reaction to stress than others, and that is just the way they are and it won’t change. ”

                My question is how do they survive daily life? Do they live somewhere very desolate with few people and work in a physically big office with few people.

                I spent some time in cities in in the US, Japan and China and from what anon153 describes, he/she would be incapcitated in those places. This seems to me to be introversion to the level of disability, and would be worth seeing a doctor about.

                And regarding the “it wont’ change” – I’d speculate it could with therapy or drugs.

                1. Rayner

                  No, introverts don’t restrict themselves to living in a small village in the middle of nowhere.

                  It’s about structure, and knowing what’s coming, understanding social rules and expectations.

                  Going into the office every day is very different to a company party – the first might require you to answer a phone all day but you can close your office door. Or you have strict hours of open door, closed door policy. Or you work in a place where you’re trusted to get along fine without constant feedback. You shut down at the end of the work day – say, five pm – and you leave. For some people, that’s how they cope, and they do just fine.

                  A company party can have loud music, require you to talk to LOTS of people, bring a gift, maybe some food, find a suitable (maybe even very dressy outfit), travel there and back, deal with pressures of eating food/not eating food (because weight stigma is a thing), maybe deal with drinking, talking to people they don’t know and senior management – all for a single evening, that may feel fraught with office politics, be around drunk people, or deal with people who think that it’s a party, and not have to conduct themselves appropriately.

                  It’s two very different scenarios – the first occurs every day so you become used to it and can correctly anticipate events that might happen – e.g. a meeting with your manager – and prepare for it. The other is not.

                  A Christmas party to someone who is extremely introverted, or someone who has anxiety/stress enough as it is in their own life, may feel like a version of the Hunger Games, without the training.

                  You may think you can suck it up. Good for you. Others don’t have that ability.

                2. Jamie

                  And regarding the “it wont’ change” – I’d speculate it could with therapy or drugs.

                  People should seek help if they have an issue which is limiting their lives. If changing in some way would make them happier or less stressed there is no shame in seeking professional help or medication when possible.

                  But for many people, even those who really do stress about these things, it’s not life limiting.

                  Everyone is different and have different aspects of life that are important to them. I work a lot – I’m on call 24/7 and I generally put in 50+ hours in the office and work some from home. Overall I love the balance I’ve struck. I like my job and enjoy my work…I don’t have hobbies or social groups so this is how I choose to spend my time.

                  If other people couldn’t handle working over 40 – be it because they have other commitments, or stress/burnout fears, or even just plain don’t feel like it no one would recommend getting professional help or meds to be able to do that. The advice would be to find a job where they don’t require more than 40 hours.

                  So if parties were a constant thing in their lives and their existence was less full for inability to participate then help is a good idea.

                  But like my example above, if someone were asked to work over 40 once or twice a year – the advice would like that to the party dreaders…make a plan and find a way to deal with it. If the issue is a couple of times a year and that’s the extent of the impact extensive psychological retooling is a little extreme.

                  I think part of the issue is those who just say to suck it up and it’s not a big deal – because what they are really saying that because it’s not a big deal to them it shouldn’t be to anyone.

                  If I said working my kind of hours isn’t a big deal to me (because it isn’t) so it shouldn’t be to anyone else…I would be a horrible manager and terrible person.

                  Some people truly believe being asked to work over 40 is an unreasonable request from an employer. Some people feel the same about attending parties on their off hours.

                  People have the right to feel what they feel about anything – and when it impacts their lives they have the choice to either fix how they feel or change their circumstances so they don’t have to deal with what, for them, is untenable.

                  But few people draw a line in the sand over what is a couple of days a year at best. Fewer seek professional help.

        2. Anonymous

          (Introverts don’t necessarily enjoy going to a party with family or friends, either…just sayin’.)

          1. Windchime

            Yes, this. There are times when I am in a social gathering and I’m having fun, but then I can just feel myself shutting down. I don’t want to talk anymore and I become tired of the noise and of the feeling that people are talking AT me. It’s hard to explain. I can do parties and gatherings, but I always feel better if I can leave when I want (rather than being stuck with someone else who is happy to stay for hours and hours).

            1. Ruffingit

              +1. I’m the same. Hence my not liking to carpool to social gatherings. I need to be able to leave when I want to leave.

              1. Becky B

                Oh god yes. Having even that semblance of control goes far to making me feel I can handle forced get-togethers, or even unforced get-togethers where I’m just not into it.

            2. Bea W

              +++++1

              At some point my brain just shuts down. I couldn’t socialize any more even if I wanted to. It’s like the circuit breaker gets overloaded and trips, and that is not entirely under my control.

        3. loxthebox

          IMO a big speech is easier than trying to mingle with strange coworkers (my company is made of several satellite offices). I can prepare for a big speech and then it’s over, whereas it’s much more difficult for me to mingle and I am quite awful at small talk. So I spend the next day or two analyzing my interactions with people and wondering how they came across.

          1. Bea W

            Same. Speeches and public performances are easy for me. Mingling for prolonged periods of time is hard. I don’t even spend any time analyzing my interactions. It is just hard in the moment where I am trying to mingle, and I can’t really describe how. It’s just difficult, they way lifting a heavy box is difficult.

          2. LondonI

            Yeah, I do find mingling with people I don’t know quite tiring. I much prefer gatherings where I know everyone.
            My husband (who is an extrovert through-and-through) enjoys meeting new people.

        4. Colette

          I’m an introvert, which means I need a certain amount of alone time to recharge. The amount of time depends on a bunch of things, including how draining the event was. A party where I was expected to make small talk with a bunch of strangers (or near strangers) would be far more draining than a get together with a couple of close friends.

          This time of year, though, it might not be “you can get together with friends therefore you can go to a work party”, it might be “you have to go to the work party so you won’t have the time/energy to get together with friends”.

          That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go to the work party if I believe it’s important to my career goals, just that there is a cost to that (and not going is an equally valid option, if I’m willing to accept the consequences).

          1. Marcy

            I totally agree- there can be trade offs. I just missed a family gathering because I couldn’t handle that along with going to my husband’s work’s Christmas dinner. They were scheduled for the same weekend and I just couldn’t do both and still be able to function at work the next week. I have to have my downtime.

          2. Bea W

            Exactly – this time of year for me is all about trade-offs. If I do this, I won’t have the energy to do that. If I want to stay sane I weigh all the options and decide which consequences I’m willing to accept for the invitations I will turn down.

        5. KellyK

          Honestly, not wanting to go isn’t an “excuse” that other people get to judge whether or not it’s good enough. You’re not the arbiter of how miserable other people need to be for how long, or whether they can build up good relationships with their coworkers and employer in other ways.

          If it really truly is a requirement of the job, then you should suck it up and go. But let’s not pretend that it’s not a stupid requirement. And let’s also not pretend that it’s fun and easy for everyone, when it’s very obviously not.

          Not to mention that a party with friends and family is a very different thing than a party with near strangers, or that ducking out after only an hour might be remarked upon too. (My husband and I left “early” from both of our work parties–pretty much right after the presentations–and it was two hours each. At mine, staying an hour might not have even gotten you to dinner.)

          1. What's the big deal?

            calling your coworkers near strangers is very extreme imo given that you work with them everyday. I’m not saying you should be best friends but 1 hour at a party chitchatting with people you are going to see everyday anyways is not going to kill anyone. going to the party is an unspoken requirement that’s something everyone need to accept and deal with it the best they can whereas it is deciding to just go for an hour or letting themselves get tortured by this minuscule event before and after or just not go and let’s face it look like an antisocial person

            1. Ashley

              Right, but it’s not about “deciding” whether to let it bother you or not. It’s quite literally an extreme expenditure of energy, both before and after, because introverts gain and spend energy differently than extroverts. It’s not quite as simple as just making a decision, it’s how you are wired and how you function. It’s difficult for some to understand, and it’s often misunderstood. It’s not like we enjoy torturing ourselves over whether to go or not, it’s just how we are wired.

            2. Colette

              Not everybody regularly works with several people, and the people you work with may not be people you’d enjoy spending time with. I work with one person in my city (and multiple people internationally). If she were someone I didn’t especially enjoy talking to, how much fun would a party be?

              (She’s great, and there are other people near me who I also get along well with, but I still chose not to go to my company’s party. Luckily, this isn’t a place where there’s pressure to go.)

              1. Bea W

                Company parties involve everyone in the company and sometimes spouses. Unless you work for a small business, it’s likely there will be many people at a company party who are total strangers.

                I work regularly with about 7 people in the office. I am acquainted with others, but they are still basically strangers except that I can identify who they are. There are about 1000 people who work in my building, plus 1000s of other people who work in other buildings. It’s a lot of strangers gathering in one place at one of our company parties. Even when I worked in companies of 150-200 employees, there were still a whole lot of strangers at those parties.

            3. Marcy

              Believe me, if it were possible to just turn off the feeling of dread before going and the exhaustion after then we would all do it. It isn’t something we are able to control any more than someone who feels lonely if they are by themselves for an extended period. Personally, I attend because the higher-ups obviously think it is something we should do, but if it were up to me, the parties would not happen. I already spend more time with my coworkers than with my own family so I resent losing more of my precious time on something as unnecessary as a party. I go to work to work and I want to be able to spend my personal time the way I choose, not on something I feel obligated to attend.

            4. KellyK

              Depends on the size of your company, how the party is set up, and a lot of other things, actually. The fact that coworkers you interact with every day are there doesn’t mean you’ll actually be sitting with them, or that there won’t be tons of near strangers that you’re supposed to interact with. At mine, for example, I tried to sit with a coworker that I actually know, but that table was full. So my table was me, my husband, and three people who work at a different office who I’d never met.

              No one’s saying it’s going to kill anyone. But you just keep going on about how it’s the tiniest little nothing that shouldn’t be hard for anyone, and that’s not actually true.

            5. Atlcharm

              Where is everyone getting an hour. Most company xmas parties are 4 hours plus! Not to mention this year my department is encouraging us all to hang out and bar hop AFTER the 4 hour party. And yes they look at you funny when you say you want to skip the bar festivities .

            6. Social Introvert

              It’s not going to kill you if I said it’s office tradition for me to slap you in the face, does that mean you have to choose to like it?

        6. Windchime

          I think if it’s a party that must be “endured”, then it doesn’t sound like much of a party and I can’t blame someone for not wanting to go, introvert or not.

      6. Bwmn

        I think that a lot of “what’s the big deal” comments from extroverts is because that even for most extroverts, work parties still don’t rank as “fun”. Perhaps it’s not as draining as for introverts, but with few exceptions, it’s not a true party.

        I am an extrovert, and at one job I had one of the tasks was to go to various embassy parties. They were held after work and I didn’t get paid extra, but had to go as part of my job. A lot of my coworkers would talk about how much fun I would have going to a fancy party – but in respect of “eat, drink, and be merry” – it definitely wasn’t that. I had to make sure I interacted with the right people, spoke on the right points, represented my organization, etc. But it was just part of the job. Some were enjoyable and some were complete agony, but all of it was just part of my job.

        I am an extrovert, so I enjoy seeking employment that involves these tasks, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not work.

      7. Another Teacher

        I’m a teacher too, h.s., and I’ve stopped going to the parties. People have gotten drunk, smoked weed and set off the fire alarms (yes the fire department came). Some people have actually had sex in the classrooms. Adultery is common place. And the next day, people pretend like nothing happened. People drive themselves home intoxicated. I would never in a million years go to one of these things and if it were required ( thank God it’s not!) I’d quit!

    2. VintageLydia

      You know, I’m fairly extrovert (I straddle the border but I genuinely enjoy most parties) and I’ve bowed out of going to company parties when I had no other plans because I just plain wasn’t up to it. It just felt like a good night to get a couple drinks with friends than cuddle at home with my SO and a good book. It’s not some personal failing to not want to hang out with people you already see 40+ hours a week, especially since not every company can seem to throw a decent party to begin with (see: every other post this past week.) The holidays are super busy and stressful for the best of us as it is. If someone wants one night to unwind or to spend it with family or whatever, it’s no skin off my back. Ain’t hurting me. Ain’t hurting you. Why do you care?

      1. Joey

        Here’s the thing though. It lots of work circles it will likely disadvantage you. Right or wrong, there’s a clear advantage to socializing with your company away from the office. That’s why as much as I’d rather do something else I look at office parties as opportunities. Opportunities to talk to big bosses you never see, opportunities to get to know managers other than your own. And opportunities to build stronger relationships with my coworkers. When I look at it that way its kind of hard to turn down those opportunities in exchange for an evening or two annually. Now if you’re willing to pass up those opportunities just be prepared that you’re choosing not to do what’s essentially extra credit.

        1. TL

          Yup. A caveat, though: An evening or two annually is a reasonable request, but if there’s social events happening frequently at your workplace, bowing out becomes much more understandable.

          1. Zillah

            I agree, and I’d also add another caveat: It’s only an opportunity/helpful to your career if you work that way. If you’re bad at small talk and feel uncomfortable about big, unstructured group parties, the sorts of “opportunities” being talked about probably aren’t really going to happen. And, while there are certainly ways to learn how to make small talk and fake being comfortable, it can be very difficult, and it’s completely valid for a person to say there’s just not enough of a payoff for the time and the effort that it would take.

        2. VintageLydia

          I realize that, and since the OP is a new employee she should probably go, but the tone of What’s the big deal’s comment and the general attack on introverts really put me off. If the OP hurts her career, it’s on her. Others in the comments were able to make that point without being combative.
          However What’s the made it sound like they are personally offended when people don’t want to go to what should be an optional event. And all I say to that is: So what. Less competition for the Big Wigs’ attention.

        3. What's the big deal?

          Exactly! I’ve been at my office for about 1.5 years and there’s always a lady who complains left and right 1 week before a party/luncheon/social activity that she has better things to do, she would rather work during this time, etc. She’s known as the person who never goes to any social gatherings. It honestly affects the way she’s seen around the office and a lot of people feel like they can’t approach her (maybe they think she’s cold or rude) and unfortunately her job requires help from people in the office (which she sometimes doesn’t get because of above stated reasons) I personally love her because we’ve worked together for all this time and i try to go to bat for her but there’s only so much i can do with a person who doesn’t help herself knowing this is an unspoken requirement working with people and living in a society

          1. Elizabeth West

            I’d say her complaining has more to do with how she is perceived, rather than her not attending. I’ve never worked anyplace where every person went to every social event and there were some who went to none. But they didn’t trumpet on about how they couldn’t or wouldn’t go.

            1. What's the big deal?

              that’s the thing now she’s known as oh X is probably not coming she always finds a way to not come to one of this things. Nobody is saying if there is a social event she should go to each.and.every.one I suggested to her to at least come to one like the Christmas party and yet there’s always an “excuse”. there’s really nothing i could do and i’m sad it affects her work but there’s really nothing else i can do to help her :(

              1. misery?

                I didn’t go to my organization’s party for years. But I didn’t complain about it or bring it up. I simply declined the invitation.

                If the attention is due to her talking it up, that’s on her. If it’s due to her not showing up, that’s the fault of others.

              2. Bea W

                It’s the constant complaining that is probably the most off-putting to people. Suggesting she pull back on the public complaining might be better advice. She can show up to one party, but if she still complains, it’s not going to help. It will be even worse for her is she goes to a party and complains about the party.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            If people find her unapproachable, cold, or rude, that’s not because she doesn’t go to office parties; it’s because of some other way she’s acting. Plenty of warm people with great relationships with the coworkers choose not to go to office parties, and people don’t find them unapproachable as a result.

          3. LondonI

            There is just one person like that in my office too. The problem is, the message that invariably comes across is: ‘I don’t like you people. I don’t want to spend anymore time with you than is strictly necessary.’
            Now, my boss doesn’t penalise her for not going to things and no one, as far as I can tell, gives her any grief for not going. HOWEVER, it’s not a wonderful message to convey, intentionally or not, as we’re a relatively small, tight-knit team otherwise.

        4. Bea W

          Everyone has to evaluate their own situation and what they are willing to accept as the result of going or not going. In my workplace, the relationships are built on working time, not at parties.

          Your workplace is obviously different if you feel like not attending those events would be passing up opportunities. The only thing I’m passing up by not attending company events no matter how big or small is free food and drink. So you do what you feel you need to do, and other people can do what they feel they need to do. There’s no blanket rule where everyone just has to accept sucking it up.

    3. Eric

      I don’t think it’s a big deal, but being at work for 8 hours is draining enough. As an introvert, every hour I have to push myself when I don’t feel like being social equals 2 hours of extra alone time, pretty much.

      1. Cat

        I get that, but in this type of situation, I think that’s mostly an argument for making sure to schedule a quiet day after the holiday party if you can rather than not going.

        1. KellyK

          Yeah, but it’s also an argument for people who plan this stuff to understand that, for some people, they really are asking a lot when they make holiday parties such a big deal that it will hurt your career if you don’t go. Because everybody’s busy during the holidays, it’s not like quiet Saturdays in December are a dime a dozen.

          1. Bea W

            I’m working or otherwise have to be “on” 6 days a week. A Saturday party means I have to free up Sunday obligations and errands, and that’s really quite hard to achieve. I often work more than 40 hours a week, and some weeknights have other obligations. When I have more flexibility with my weekend time over the summer, it’s a lot easier to switch it up. December is a killer. Everyone and their mom likes to schedule up weekends for holiday stuff. Something has to give. I think last year I had 3 invitations on Dec 14 alone. Never mind trying to find a quiet day, until you can clone yourself, 2 of those invitations will have to be turned down.

    4. Nyxalinth

      I’m an introvert, and I do find these things fun, actually, but I do them on my own terms. If I’m able, (which means whatever I want it to mean, but usually comes down to can I get there and back under my own steam since I take public transportation and how far away is it and so on) I go, make the rounds, eat some food, do the gift exchange if there is one, eat and mingle a little more, then leave after an hour or so. This works for me, and I realize it might not work for others. I don’t usually feel drained until about two hours have gone by, but trust me when I say I’d rather be at home playing a game online or reading, instead.

      The issue about being able to get somewhere and back is because I’d rather not inconvenience anyone and because I learned the hard way once that people flake out sometimes.

    5. nwgal

      Thank you, Jesus! Your Righteous Comments have taught us all that 1) there is no cause too petty to suffer for. Not even office Christmas parties– which one poll I came across showed that the majority of people don’t even want to go to; and 2) any suffering short of your Bleeding On The Cross isn’t really suffering anyway, so we can Just Get Over It; and 3) Perfection is available to us all if we just want it badly enough. Willpower can overcome any shortcoming or personality quirk. As it clearly has for you. I mean, if you weren’t perfect, using your Patented Willpower Conquers All method, then lecturing the rest of us would be mere hypocrisy, wouldn’t it? But you’re Jesus! So, we can be sure that you have taken your own advice to achieve your perfection! Yay! Of course, some of us who have tried our best and still have fallen short may have to settle for sitting back and worshipping your Righteous Awesomeness.

  7. LizNYC

    OP, I feel you. I really do. Nothing sounds better to me on a Friday night than being in sweats, curled up on the sofa with a good book or TV.

    But you have to go. If the party is from 5-10, say to yourself you’ll stay half the time. Or if there’s a natural break (like dinner is served or the dessert tray is wheeled out), then you can leave. But if you don’t go, you won’t be seen as a “team player” and all that jazz. For some offices, this party stuff is uber-important.

    Also, as a new person, this is your chance to talk to people you wouldn’t normally and make some connections. Even if you do just talk about the weather and upcoming (or past) holiday plans the entire evening. After this party, more people will be inclined to think of you, say hi, and the like.

    TL;DR: Go. Set a “go home” time for yourself. The worst that happens is it’s a few hours of your life spent next to a punch bowl and so-so snacks.

    1. BadPlanning

      I agree with inwardly setting a time to leave. Agree with yourself that you’ll only need to spend X amount of time (enough to make a decent appearance). Say if it’s a 3 hour party, you will stay for 1 hour. You’ll arrive, take off your coat, have some munchies, use the restroom, chat about the weather. Boom! It’s an hour and you can go. “Oh gee, look at the time, I have to jet. I’ll see you guys on Monday!”

      I often dread going to a party and then have a great time when I get there. If I tell myself it’s okay to leave early, then I feel better about it.

      1. Bea W

        Absolutely, sometimes you can manage to take the pressure off yourself by setting clear boundaries like this in your head before hand. You can plan to stay for an hour, but if after an hour if you feel like staying you can always stay too.

        That’s my secret to surviving the obligatory Christmas rounds with family. Now I no longer get worked up about it because I have given myself permission for an out and made those plans for myself.

    2. Lynn Whitehat

      Yes. Unfortunately your co-workers have sent you clear signals that not attending will be seen as seriously uncool. Show up, talk to as many people as you can before your energy gives out, and slip out as soon as you can.

      At my first job out of college, I honestly thought the company Christmas party was like any other social invitation that I was free to attend or not attend based on my personal desire to go. So I didn’t go. I worked there ten years, attended the next nine Christmas parties, and never heard the end of it. I am like the Ghost of Office Holiday Parties Past. Leeeearn from my mistaaaaaakes! Gooooooo to the partyyyyyy!

      1. Windchime

        Reading all these comments makes me so, so happy for my company’s low-key party. It’s during the day, catered, and there are a few door prizes. Everyone is invited and we hope that most people can come, but attendance is NOT mandatory and nobody keeps track. And the CIO comes, but I can’t imagine sidling up to her and trying to have a career-enhancing conversation. She’s not there to talk shop; she is there to have her lunch and hand out prizes and have fun. Honestly, these required parties where people are all trying to climb the corporate ladder sound like hell to me.

        1. Ruffingit

          UGH, yeah I agree! I’m glad I don’t have any major ladder climbing expectations where I have to play the office politic games. Definitely hell on earth to me. Some people thrive in that kind of environment. I thrive when I’m in my sweats on the couch on Friday night.

          1. Bea W

            Amen. None of my close co-workers went to the party this year. Some of them love parties and love going out, just not corporate parties. No one is keeping score, not even when we have small group events. It actually makes me more likely to want to attend things, because without the pressure I’m less stressed and more able to enjoy the gathering without the pressure to schmooze.

  8. K-Anon

    I’m still surprised at exactly how big a topic this seems to be… I strongly feel that people should attend the office party and make a best effort to network and be pleasant to coworkers. I sincerely sympathize with people who hate this kind of thing, I personally don’t care for setting and generally focus my efforts on a few people I particularly like, after a little socializing. I also feel for people’s who’s company makes it more difficult, such as an off hours party, or one that requires some driving…

    But, all anxiety and etiquette aside, it’s simply good for your career to participate. It won’t make or break your reputation to a good boss, but making a sincere effort is the smart thing to do. (Which is why I think Alison consistently recommends it.)

    Alison hits on this, but I really want to stress it… You should do what will do you the most good for your career. Attend the party, make sure your boss sees you being sociable. Try to talk to other senior leaders briefly if you at all can.

    It would be great if we lived in a world where being awesome is enough, but the day I accepted that I had to be SEEN being awesome was a pivotal moment in my career.

  9. The New T

    +1

    I dont really see the big deal here, suck it up for a few hours, make small talk then leave. You’ll probably have fun in the process

  10. Work fatigue

    OP, I totally understand where you’re coming from. In your case, since you’re still relatively new to this job, I would echo the advice of other posters and advise you to make an appearance, and that you don’t have to stay for the whole time. You don’t want to close any doors toward a positive future at this company for yourself this early. If it’s an event where employees are invited to bring their families (including young kids), a safe bet is to take your cue from when the families with small children leave, and leave after that.

  11. thenoiseinspace

    As a fellow introvert, I feel your pain, OP. My strategy was always to stay in the kitchen helping prepare the food – I’d bring a dish or two with me, and then spend most of the night heating up food, refilling trays, making things look nice or cleaning up dishes. It works for me because there are generally fewer people in the kitchen (socializing with one or two people is much easier for me than with, say, 50) and you’re still being helpful, so people don’t see you as being a Scrooge. Plus, that way you can actively contribute to the party without worrying that you’ll make it awkward. You can also help carry the trays of food around – “would you like a piece of X?” is a nice icebreaker and it lets everyone see your face without the stress of making small talk. Of course, this only works if the party location has a kitchen. Just a suggestion! Good luck!

    1. Clever Name Goes Here

      This! I’m shy, awkward, and introverted… except when I have a task to take care of. It’s why coworkers often mistake me for extraverted. My friends who host parties know that the quickest way to make me comfortable is to put me to work in the kitchen. It works so well that I’ve started doing it at office social events, too.

      Even if the co-workers doing setup tell me that they don’t need any help, I still secretly assign myself a task — keeping the napkins stocked, collecting the empty cups that get left in odd places, making sure the snack trays look presentable. It gives me something to focus on besides my anxiety, which keeps me from gnawing on my scarf like a weirdo.

    2. Elizabeth West

      +1
      This is in line with my policy of offering to do the dishes when invited to someone’s family party or their house for a weekend. Willing dishwashers are always welcome.

  12. Kimberley

    I used to love the office holiday parties, but then I became a parent and now it’s more hassle than it’s worth. Either I go alone and face all of the questions about where my husband is, or I fork out a ton of money for a sitter. I’d much rather spend those precious hours with my son. The last 2 years I have not attended the holiday party (note: this is at a new job), but I have participated in the holiday potluck during the day.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Or if I have multiple events! We’re attending my company party, but we skipped his building company party. One of his managers often has people over to his house, and there is the main company party — both skipped. Then there was the church adult party, youth group party, and lots of other people would like us to come by for this and that. We could spend the entire season at parties, or we could choose one or two, and politely decline the rest.

        1. fposte

          I agree on a personal level but I disagree from a work standpoint, because attending your church group party doesn’t achieve the same thing for your workplace. If you’re in a work culture where attending the party is important and you’re new, like the OP, I wouldn’t skip this party on the grounds that you were going to your spouse’s.

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            Yeah, and partly the reason we’re chosing my company this year (besides probably better door prizes) is that I’m fairly new here, so the benefit is higher professionally for me. So, for the OP, I agree that does matter. Perhaps those parties can be skipped 0r attended sporatically in future years, when the job isn’t so new.

            1. fposte

              Yes, when you’ve got some mileage under your belt you can even outright say stuff like “I promised my SO we’d go to his this year, but he and I will both be at this one next year!” But right out of the gate, you don’t want to be the person who Never Shows.

  13. Anonymous

    As an introvert you really can’t win with this stuff. You stay home, everybody thinks you’re unsociable and a hermit and you hate your job. You go to the party, you’re too quiet, look uncomfortable, why aren’t you dancing?

    1. Joey

      Fake it. Introvert here. I have always found it unnecessary and really kind of boring to talk about nothin to people I barely know. But, relationships are important at work. In fact, when its a close call people will usually hire the person that has “energy.”

      Even if you don’t normally show your energy it’s not that difficult to fake it. That’s how lots of introverts get ahead. They basically fake being an extrovert in front of work people.

      1. Elle D

        Agreed. My trick has always been to think of a friend who thrives in these settings – my friend’s name is Casey, and she is great at working a room. When I have to go to a party like this, I “put on my Casey hat” and try my best to emulate the way she’d act if she were there. Sometimes it’s easier for me to be outgoing when I know you’re faking it than when I feel like I’m putting my true self out there. I wouldn’t recommend this in purely social settings (better to just be yourself!) but for work/networking events, this usually works for me.

        Another strategy I use in social and work situations is setting mini social goals for myself. I tell myself I’m not allowed to leave the party until I’ve hit a few of these goals . Things like meeting 3 new people, talking to the boss for 5 minutes, exchanging contact information with someone or even just getting through an hour. Sometimes by forcing myself to hit my mini-goals, I’ve tricked myself into having a good time, and even if I didn’t have fun I feel proud of myself for putting in the effort.

        1. Elle D

          That was supposed to say “Sometimes it’s easier for me to be outgoing when I know *I’m* faking it”. Oops.

        2. Eric

          I wish that worked for me. Faking being outgoing is more draining to me than if I ACTUALLY feel like being outgoing. And sometimes introverts do feel like being outgoing.

          1. Kelly L.

            When I fake being outgoing is usually when I stuff my foot in my mouth. I do a lot of nod-and-smile.

            1. Bea W

              What Eric and Kelly said. There are lots of things I can fake well. Being socially outgoing is not one of them. It also takes way more energy and thought for me than just going and sucking it up. My strategy is to grab some food or a drink (or a cup of anything even if you don’t drink it), find a seat or wander around by myself and not force anything. That works out okay. Sometimes you run into someone else who is basically doing the same, so you chat a bit and or not but you just look like you are socializing with someone nearby.

      2. Windchime

        But why should an introvert have to fake being an extrovert? That implies that it’s better to be an extrovert, right?

        1. Ruffingit

          Sadly, many workplaces think it is better to be an extravert. Actually, society in general seems to believe this as well. I don’t agree, but then I don’t agree with a lot of societal/workplace mores and norms.

        2. Cat

          I actually think it’s not about faking being an extrovert; nobody really cares about that or is likely to be analyzing it in the moment. It’s about faking a level of comfort, enthusiasm, and enjoying in the presence of whoever you’re with (whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert who’s not into it on that particular day or with that particular person). And the reason you do that is because that makes other people comfortable in turn; gives them positive feelings towards you; and benefits you going forward.

          1. Windchime

            Maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my career in IT, but I guess I just don’t get it. Being around people who are quiet or who aren’t trying to be the “life of the party” doesn’t make me uncomfortable one bit. In fact, I sat next to a coworker today at our department lunch who fits this description. He ate quietly while many of us chatted and laughed, and when we all got out our phones for a particular reason, he got his out and proudly showed me a picture of his granddaughter. No discomfort, no pressure.

            1. Cat

              Well, but that seems like reasonable social behavior to me. He joined you; he participated where comfortable; he shared something in his life where he was comfortable. I don’t think anyone is saying someone has to pretend to be the life of the party or super gregarious or crazy talkative; just that even if you don’t actually want to socially interact with your co-workers, sometimes it’s worth doing so. (Like, maybe the guy didn’t actually care on a personal level if you, in particular, saw the picture of his granddaughter; that’s okay.)

    2. TL

      I’m super extroverted (I usually have to be sick or too tired to drive safely before I turn down a chance to socialize) and I’ve definitely been that person at a party standing awkwardly in a corner, too quiet, not dancing.

      Social skills are learned – and, of course, nobody’s going to fit into every social group – but they’re not a special benefit that only extroverts get. We just tend to be better with them because we use them more, that’s all.

      1. Joline

        I agree with this.

        I feel sometimes being introverted and being shy or awkward are considered as being the same thing. And as far as my understanding goes – they aren’t.

        I’m an introvert but I’m definitely not shy. I can go to the occasional social occasion, dance up a storm, chatter away with a group of strangers, speeches in front of crowds – no problem (though it admittedly took practice). But then I want to have a day where I hang out at home and don’t interact with anyone to recharge.

        There’s definitely different levels of introversion and a lot of people are naturally more shy and I’m not trying to diminish how difficult that can be – it just always makes me a bit wary when people use introvert interchangeably with shyness or a lack of social skills. Introversion has more to do – as people note above – whether you get drained or energized from social situations and being around other people.

        1. VintageLydia

          Hubby is introverted and outgoing. I’m extroverted and shy. It’s more common than people think.

        2. AnonEMoose

          This is basically where I sit. I willingly spend a 4-day weekend stuffed into a hotel with 6,000 geeks at a science fiction convention every year. And I have a blast each and every time. I hang out with friends, sometimes I dance, and I talk to people I don’t know.

          However, there are two caveats that make it possible for me to enjoy the convention: 1) I must have a hotel room to retreat to when I need 30 minutes of peace and quiet. 2) I must have at least one, preferably two, days afterward to recharge.

          I’m an introvert, but I am not shy. It’s just that I can only handle so much time around people, even people I love dearly, before I need to recharge.

          Work parties are a different story. I’ll be blunt and say that for the most part I’d rather NOT be noticed by the bigwigs. I’m currently about as high as I can go here without going into management (I’d rather chew off my own arm).

          My immediate coworkers know that I’m happy to hit the coffee shop or go to lunch with them, and I happily participate in potlucks. I also bring in baked goods. But after hours stuff? No thanks. I like my coworkers, but 40 hours a week is enough.

        3. Lindsay J

          Yeah, I’m an extrovert who suffered from social anxiety for years. For a long time I thought I was an introvert because I found social situations stressful – I was always afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing, or that I was secretly a burden on everybody who were all only pretending to like having me around.

          However, now that my social anxiety is gone I’ve found that I really can’t go for a long period of time without socializing before I feel antsy and miserable. I’m definitely an extravert and looking back I always was one, I just had anxiety issues in the way.

    3. Emma

      If it’s BYOB, and you’re a beer aficionado, bring a particularly good brew and use it to make small talk. Much like food, I’ve found beer to be a neutral people-pleasing topic of conversation. “Hey, I hope you get the chance to try the Black Butte Porter I brought. If you like smokey brews, you might enjoy it.”

      I say this as an introvert who has sometimes really doesn’t want to go out, sometimes really does, and sometimes behaves at odds with those desires because it’s good for my career (e.g., take the opportunity to meet and mingle with coworkers and management at an event) or good for my personal goals (e.g., sit out a last-minute invite to hang out with friends because I swore to myself that I’d practice guitar).

  14. Kimberlee, Esq.

    I agree with what others have been saying about attending because it appears to be the culture of the company.

    I worry, however, that damage has already been done. If you were a veteran employee, or even had been there for a single holiday party before, it would be different. But you’re saying you don’t want to go because you don’t like “those sorts of events.”

    So you’ve been telling your colleagues that you’re not interested in attending a party that you have no idea about. You have very little indication of what the party will actually be like. Not only are you unwilling to give an extra hour to getting to know your colleagues, you’re basically telling them you are unwilling to give it even the slightest chance.

    I’m an introvert too, and I get that these events aren’t for everyone. But if a new employee refused to come to our holiday party, without having any idea of what the party were actually like… well, I might be a bit wounded. Of course, it wouldn’t impact anything professionally if I could help it, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t remember it.

    1. Anon

      I agree with this. I’m a shy introvert too and the thought of socializing with coworkers often seems more like torture to me than a fun time.

      However, the company pays $$$ to put on these events to essentially appreciate their staff. If you go around telling everyone you don’t care, you aren’t going to go to the party you sound spoiled and ungrateful. You are essentially telling everyone their party and company isn’t worth it to you – which frankly, makes you sound like a snob.

      You don’t know if you will have a good time or not, so you should go to it with an open mind. It’s only one evening and who knows, maybe you will grow a little and actually enjoy yourself. If not, you can sit at home the rest of the weekend to recover.

    2. Zed

      I agree, Kimberlee. I find it a little sad because, from what the OP has described, her co-workers have been making a specific attempt to make her feel welcome. From the OP: “I mean, people would come up to me and say, ‘So what did you get for the Yankee swap?’ or ‘So what kind of beer are you taking to the holiday party?'”

      OP, every time someone asks you a question like this, they are trying to include you. They are saying, “You are new, and I am showing an interest in you and whether or not you attend our party.” They are saying, “I look forward to seeing you there.”

      I am an introvert with social anxiety, and I completely understand why you would not want to go to a big work function, but please do not shoot yourself in the foot over a couple of hours of your time.

    3. LeeD

      Some damage may have already been done, but at this point it could be easily undone. All it would take is approaching those who already sought you out about the party and saying, “Good news! I will be able to attend the party after all! Since this will be my first time, [what kind of swap items do people usually bring/what kinds of beer is popular/should I bring food/etc]?”

  15. Meh.

    Like anything else, you have to weigh the cost against the benefit. I, personally, love parties but hate work obligations, so I feel you.

    I think it depends what you want to get out of this job. If you’re someone that just wants to do a good job and go home, who doesn’t care much about bonding or making friends with coworkers, and who doesn’t care about playing the political game and moving up the ladder, it might be worth it to skip it. (It’s your life and your priorities.) I’d make up an excuse of other plans though, not just say you don’t want to go.

  16. HR lady

    I’m an introvert, too, and I get the reluctance to go. But I agree with the other commenters — it’s a little more important for you to go because your new, and you can just go for an hour or so and then not have to worry about not going.

    I’ll also add that there really can be benefits to attending these parties – door prizes, of course, but also sometimes things happen at parties that everyone talks about later, and this way you won’t miss it. “Were you there when Julie’s boyfriend proposed to her at the party?”

    Moreover, I actually do like to meet coworkers’ spouses because then I can associate a face with a name when coworkers talk about their spouses later.

  17. MissDisplaced

    Yeah. You do need to go.
    I’m not social either, and find these sorts of things hard, but I make myself do it. If you’re lucky, you can put in the appearance and bow out somewhat early. If not, try not to fuss. You never know, you just might enjoy it. At the very least, it shows your interest in meeting your new coworkers.

  18. EM

    I know this is a little off-topic, but it really kind of annoys me when people start using “introvert” as an equivalent to anti-social.

    I’m technically an introvert and being one does NOT mean you are unsocial or don’t enjoy being around people. It simply means that you recharge your internal energy by having quiet time — alone or possibly with your spouse/close family, whereas extroverts gain energy from being around lots of people.

    Now, perhaps you have some social anxiety going on or simply ARE anti-social — but please don’t lump “introverts” into that category. I am more than capable of attending parties, making small talk, having engaging conversations with others, and even enjoy it.

    Afterwards, I just need some downtime and I might feel a bit overwhelmed if within a short time period I am expected to attend many social events.

    I think work holiday parties aren’t a big deal unless there is some egregious extenuating circumstances — like you absolutely can’t stand your co-workers, you hate your company, etc.

      1. Joey

        I get the confusion . Lots of dictionaries including merriam Websters includes shy as part of the definition.

      2. ThursdaysGeek

        I wish I knew how to categorize myself. Sometimes being in a group is draining, and I’m recharged by being alone. Sometimes being alone is draining, and I’m recharged by being in a crowd. I don’t mind being the center of attention, but I’m very private and don’t share myself with others. I don’t get stage fright, but sometimes I have to steel myself first before making a phone call. So I’m a private, out-going, shy intro/extrovert? Or perhaps even common labels are just generalizations.

        1. TL

          You, like most people, are a mix of introvert and extrovert. :) And have different comfort levels around different people.
          And probably depend heavily on body language cues, meaning that phone calls are more stressful than in-person conversations. (At least, that’s how it is for me.) That’s pretty normal, I feel.

          Common labels are just generalizations. I’m super extroverted but I’m not a big fan of huge crowds indoors and even I reach a point where all I want is to hide in my apartment. I have no problems speaking in front of crowds of any size, but I don’t seek out the attention of strangers and am not particularly fond of being around people who do. Very few people fit perfectly into labels like extro/introvert or exhibitionist/shy and retiring.

          So, no worries!

    1. Joline

      Oh, excellent. I suppose I didn’t need to type something similar out above – didn’t read all the way through the comments.

      But I agree so hard with what you say…introversion and shyness/anxiety/being anti-social are not interchangeable terms.

    2. Eric

      Yes to this.

      For me, it’s less about CAN I do it (yes, I can) and more about “is this how I want to spend my energy?” because usually doing something social that I wouldn’t do otherwise means that I turn down social invitations that I actually would WANT to do.

      So yes, I will go to the holiday party, but no, I won’t be in the coworker crew going out for Friday drinks every week, because I’d rather go out with a friend on Saturday.

    3. Natalie

      Excellent point. I am an introvert and I love parties. I just make sure I have a solid block of time the day after to hang out alone.

    4. KellyK

      Yeah, that’s a good point. I think introversion all by itself *does* make it harder to deal with social functions because they’re draining, but it doesn’t necessarily make them unpleasant or mean that you’ll be miserable while you’re there. It just means that what for some people is “just” a couple hours at a party can turn into a quiet day to recover on top of the party itself.

      (I personally find them nice in small doses, but also highly stressful, but I also have the trifecta of introversion, shyness, and actual anxiety disorder, so it’s not just the introversion, but the whole combination.)

    5. Sarah

      YES!

      I am an introvert and am totally excited for my office holiday party tomorrow (and also excited that my only other plans for the weekend is dinner out on Friday with my boyfriend).

  19. Ann Furthermore

    Another introvert here chiming in. Given the choice, I would rather not go to these things. But there are benefits to going. Make an appearance, make sure the key people see you (like your boss, director, VP, etc), engage in a bit of idle chit-chat and then make a quiet exit at an opportune moment.

    What people will remember is that you attended, not that you left early. And even if you’re asked why you’re leaving early, you can just say you need to get home to let the dog out, or that the sitter needs to be home by a certain time, or even that your spouse’s Christmas party is on the same night, so you’re going home to take care of the kids while he or she attends the other party. Or anything else other than, “I hate parties, and I’ve been counting the minutes to when I could leave since I arrived.” There are all sorts of reasons, true or not, that should deflect any further interrogation.

    Now, all that being said, I do usually find a reason not to attend the annual holiday potluck that my division has each year. Not because I hate social gatherings (although I do) but because they do a white elephant gift exchange, and I absolutely abhor those. Especially in a work setting….what is hilarious to you might be really offensive to someone else. Or if you bring in what you think is the tackiest Christmas decoration you’ve ever seen, and someone else gushes over how lovely it is, well, that’s awkward. It’s a minefield that I just avoid altogether and risk being labeled as anti-social.

  20. Lisa

    If you’re non-exempt, you must be paid for that time unless the event is truly optional.

    Does this ever really happen? Getting looks basically is making it not optional, so prob a gray area.

    1. majigail

      If something outside of work is truly required, I tell my employees and I pay them to be there. It’s the right thing to do, even thought I have had many grumble about having to report hours for being at a party. (I have good people!)
      But I’m very clear that when they are not going to be paid for something, for instance, our weekend staff are invited to come in to celebrate a birthday of a day time staff member at lunch during the week, that’s totally optional… just an invitation to be a part of something that they would miss otherwise.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.

      Even truly optional parties can have consequences for not attending. Especially in this case, when the looks are coming from her co-workers, who have no power over whether OP is paid for the party or not.

      Even your boss looking askew at you is fine. What this means is that if you would face termination or discipline for not attending, along the lines of if you did not complete a required task for work, then it would be required, and a non-exempt person would need to be paid.

      1. KellyK

        Yeah. It’s pretty crappy of your boss to judge you on something without making it an actual requirement (like not just telling you how many pieces of flair they want you to wear already), but perfectly legal.

        1. Cat

          I would change this slightly. It’s crappy of your boss to judge you on irrelevant things that aren’t involved in your job like going to the holiday party. But your boss is always going to making judgments about things that aren’t specifically required and is always going to have a holistic impression of you and your work that doesn’t boil down to specific metrics based on particular requirements. Part of the reason to go to holiday parties for a lot of people (and yeah, there are countervailing reasons that can also be persuasive) is to help build that holistic impression. When people get a general vibe that you are friendly and enthusiastic about being with them, they’re going to be more positively inclined towards you more generally. (And there are other ways of fostering that than just holiday party attendance, of course.) Some people are better at separating those kind of diffuse impressions from verifiable performance than others, of course; but I think most people will be subconsciously factoring it in to some extent or another and that just is what it is, I think, rather than right or wrong.

          1. KellyK

            Yeah, that’s a good point, and “holistic impression” is a good way of putting it. I don’t object to things like whether you go to the party (or how you act when you’re there) being part of your boss’s general impression of you. How could it not be?

            But in several of these threads, people have commented about being dinged on their performance review or losing out on bonuses and having lack of attendance at parties being specifically mentioned. I think in those cases, their bosses were clearly treating it like a specific requirement, rather than a general piece of a holistic impression.

  21. C-suite Diva

    ”So what did you get for the Yankee swap?” or “So what kind of beer are you taking to the holiday party?”

    This … doesn’t sound like much of a party. I’m more than happy to gather with friends and family, bring a gift and my own alcohol. But for work? Seems like the company is breaking a lot of the party rules.

  22. Jake

    I always go to my first company party. After that, I only go if

    a. I want to.

    or

    b. The repercussions for not going are worse that the actual act of going.

    I go to the first one because it is impossible to know anything about a and b without having gone to one in the past.

      1. Zillah

        I would argue that no, it’s not hard.

        Many offices only have parties once a year. After your first party, you have the chance to observe whether someone didn’t turn up and how it’s taken, how people act during the party, and how (and how much) people talk about the party after the fact. You also have a full year to get to know your coworkers better and to become better acquainted with office politics, which gives you information in general and will help you correctly interpret their reactions if you say that you’re not sure if you’re going when the next party rolls around.

        All of that will give you a pretty clear idea of whether there are serious repercussions for not going.

  23. mel

    I feel uncomfortable anytime I am away from home so I usually opt out of the parties (unless my boss has changed the schedule ensuring I’m available to even go to the party, at which point I would feel too guilty to opt out).

    But at the very first party after a recent hiring? Perhaps the “looks” are because you’re rejecting them before even giving a chance? If I have to go, I usually arrive at the start, hide in a corner with a plate of food, and then take off at a time that would seem reasonable for a weeknight (gotta wake up tomorrow is a valid excuse).

    My coworkers are the type to stick with their friends and reject all others, but maybe yours are really inclusive to new people? The appearance that you automatically think they won’t and thus won’t even try would definitely attract some looks.

  24. Anonymous

    I’ve always looked at the company holiday party as 1) a networking event with the higher ups in my company – and sometimes coworkers’ spouses/SOs, and 2) free food from the company that I don’t have to prepare.

    I wouldn’t elect to miss the first party at a new company without a really good reason that I’m prepared to broadcast: even if it’s not company policy to require attendance, people notice if you’re not there, and some will hold it against you, even if it’s not company policy. It would be more work for you to break your colleagues of the impression that you’re not a team player or don’t want to interact with others, than to just go to the party for a couple of hours. Look at it as professional investment for your career.

    At this point, I’d suggest the OP advises coworkers that there have been a change in plans (“the commitment was actually for a different time/night”), and it looks like you’ll be able to make it to the party for a couple of hours. No need to explain what your previous plans were.

  25. The IT Manager

    This is what was called “mandatory fun” in the Air Force. It was mandatory; it usually wasn’t fun because if it were actually fun it would not have to be mandatory.

    Don’t know if LW has to go, but from she wrote it sounds like going would go a long way to bonding with her new colleagues.

  26. De Minimis

    I’ve skipped stuff at a previous job and it undoubtedly did give the impression that I wasn’t interested in being engaged in the workplace [which to be fair, was probably true.] I’ve since decided that companies that have a lot of expectations about attending outside events are just not a fit for me. My current job seems more reasonable, all our events happen during the workday.

    If I were in a situation where I had to attend something like this, I’d just resolve to show up, make sure that I was seen by whomever was in charge of making sure people attended, then leave as soon as was practical.

  27. Jen at ModernHypatia

    Introvert here. I think the issue with parties is two-fold. A single party, yeah, people can just work out how to cope generally – but most people have more than one complicated social event. (Thanksgiving, family parties, parties for social or hobby groups, work, family Christmas or New Year’s celebrations.) For people for whom being social is not recharging, that’s a lot of things to adapt to and sometimes not a lot of recharging time.

    In terms of a larger party, the things I’ve found help are:

    1) Be clear about how much time I need to be there (and whether there are circumstances where skipping it would be more okay – like a combination of distance from the party to home and the weather.)

    2) Be clear in my head about what I wanted to accomplish. (“I really want to talk to X and Y, who I never get to see, I need to say hi to [appropriate higher level person], and if I get a chance, I’d love to talk about [less work-related topics – often books, in my case, but maybe TV shows or a mutual hobby] with [some other people].”) Having a plan helped me feel like I wasn’t totally lost in the sea of people.

    (I’m also short – 5 foot – and crowds of standing height adults are just tiring no matter what, because I’m constantly seeing people’s elbows or shoulders and making sure they don’t take a step backwards onto me accidentally.)

    3) Related to above, get to the party, see if I can accomplish any of my goals, and if not, go plant myself somewhere friendly and engaging where I can people watch (and people can find me) but I’m not in the middle of everything. Near the entrance door works, or if there’s a spot near the food or bathrooms that has good traffic flow but isn’t too crowded. It’s a good way to be friendly without feeling I have to talk to everyone, or keep moving. Try again on my goals after 20-30 minutes if people haven’t found me.

    (Chances are pretty good that in this kind of situation, someone will wander up, and we’ll chat, but it’ll be a more controlled and less chaotic experience. Also less tiring.)

    4) Having someone to talk about it with afterward (possibly with commentary on the party location, food, etc.) helps too – being able to talk it out helps me deal with the next big party better.

    (I am glad that at my current place of work, the party involves 12 people, good food, and we’re in the building and done in an hour. Much more manageable.)

  28. CupcakeGurl

    In my first “real” job after college, I attended work events, including the annual company picnic and Christmas party. The picnic was so incredibly uncomfortable for me that I decided never to attend again. Basically, it was a family event and being a young, single girl at the time, it was awkward. Plus, for some reason, since everyone’s spouses/kids were there, it added to the weirdness.

    Anyway, I decided to go to our company’s Christmas party that year and ended up having a good time. It was pretty low-key affair.

    The following year, right before the holidays, the company decided to layoff people and cut salaries of the people who got to keep their jobs. For some reason unknown to me, they decided to have a big, splashy, expensive Christmas party. I was appalled that they would choose to spend a good bit of money on a party on something like that, so I decided not to go. I didn’t make a big deal about it – I just declined and said “I have other plans that evening.”

    I’m at a different company now and I try to go to social events that are “necessary.” I may not enjoy them but my group makes me feel bad for not going. Our company holiday party was last week and I didn’t go because it was a.) on a weekend night b.) several hours away and c.) we had to pay for our own drinks and only appetizers were served. I heard they had a low turnout.

    1. Ruffingit

      No surprise they had a low turnout when they staged the party several hours away (WTF?) AND they made people pay for their own drinks plus they only served appetizers? Why would anyone bother traveling for something like that? You can eat appetizers and drink beer at home.

  29. Brett

    The hard part here really is figuring out how important the event is, and your manager is going to be the best resource. We have an event here every year where we honor employees who died in the line of duty for any agency in our county. This involves standing outside at attention while all 70+ names are read, which can easily take over an hour.

    As you can imagine, missing this your first year is not optional no matter what your job title.

    Knee injuries, broken legs, weight problems, multiple sclerosis, colds, flu, whatever it is you get crutches, canes, even a wheelchair or chair if you have to and absolutely cannot stand, and somehow you get out there in whatever weather and listen to all the names. For us, it is the _duty_ of your manager to make absolutely sure you understand the critical importance of attending the memorial service your first year.

    A Christmas party is probably lower in significance than a formal memorial service like that, but it might not be for your company. Your manager should be the one who can make sure you know how significance and just how much you should be involved. Once you find out, you have to suck it up and bear through it.

  30. Andrea

    Alison, this response was almost perfect. It would have been better if you had also included a small paragraph at the end specifying that although employees pretty much do have to suck it up and go to the office party, their SOs certainly do not need to attend and really ought to stay home. If you had done that, I could have forwarded this post to my husband with a SEE I TOLD YOU AND NOW AAM AGREES subject line. It’s not too late to edit your response, though! I would really appreciate it; thank you so much.

      1. KellyK

        My rule is if you make me go to yours, you have to go to mine. (Though our companies seem to schedule them on the same day, so it’s usually, “Which one are we going to this year?”)

        1. CAA

          The one that serves the best dinner! We have actually hit both parties in the same night, leaving one right after dinner and showing up a bit late to the other.

          My new job does a pot-luck during a workday this week and an actual party in January. I’m waiting to see what the turnout for that is like, though I have had a couple remote people asking if they can fly in at company expense and work in the office for a week before or after the party. We’re in a vacation spot with warm winters, so I suspect it’s as much that as a real desire to attend the party.

          1. KellyK

            Good plan! (I think hubby’s company wins that one. Bigger buffet with a lot more selection, and it was open right when the party started so there was no awkward waiting around at the table before your table was allowed to go up like there was with mine.)

      2. hamster

        Really? At my husbands workplace, there is a santa with gifts for kids, and every-one’s spouse/SO is invited and comes, even if just for ah hour of so. It’s part of the family values/solidarity the company is promoting. I’m not saying is mandatory, but it definitely makes a good impression to show up / eat the food/ pick the gift if have kids, talk a bit about the weather/cars/ sporting event/books whatever and then go home. It is rather nice. Since my husband is a recent employee, the company owner specifically wanted to talk to me and my husband, in an effort to “get-to-know” and make us feel included.

    1. Joey

      What?! You have no interest in putting names and stories with faces? If nothing else I go to my wife’s social work stuff for the pure entertainment of watching all of characters in action and being able to picture them the next time she vents about something. Its real reality tv.

      And I’m cheap so free food is always a draw.

  31. Sandrine

    I’m as extroverted as one could be.

    I love my coworkers as much as one can love them (and they’re the only thing keeping me sane at this job) .

    I went to the party this year. NEVER AGAIN.

    It wasn’t a requirement, no. But quite frankly ? Sure, there was food, decent music, and I got to take a pic with the 2nd in command “big boss” (missed the big big boss though) who’s a lovely woman who spoke to various employees during the party. Ok, sure. That was neat.

    But then… there’s the fact that peeps get a little drunk. And the fact that you realize some people may use those parties to “pick up chicks” (and the reverse). And all similar stuff so…

    NEVER.AGAIN.

    Yeah. Not worth the hassle, really. Reputation or not. People don’t get to judge why you wouldn’t want to be at such a party.

      1. Zillah

        I can think of a lot of people, particularly during the holiday season. I loathe watching other people do awkward, embarrassing things, especially when I generally respect them.

        1. Sandrine

          Well, it’s not even that I watched, to be honest… even through I did see one of the superversors almost twerking and moving her behind around (kinda “sexy” dancing, but boy was she good at it, for real) .

          Two of my female friends gave me accounts of the night, and even though one of them was actually my ride, the whole thing gave me the shivers.

          Given the comments about the photographers seen in other comments though, next time I might actually go just to be seen and get a picture taken and then I’m OUT.

          Good thing the party was actually on the work premises, so I didn’t have to go far to find it.

  32. Parfait

    The thing that is galling about the company party is that everyone acts like it will be a big treat. It seldom is. Just be clear in your mind that it’s a mandatory work event, NOT an optional fun party; make sure that your manager and her manager see you there; and make the best of it as you would any other required work event outside of normal hours.

    Then go home and recuperate in fuzzy pants.

    1. Anonymous

      Everyone? If your company is like mine, I doubt it. Loud people do. People who don’t like it keep quiet. So there’s an observation bias right there.

  33. Anonymous

    I can understand that there are many valid reasons why someone wouldn’t want to go to a holiday party, but if it’s that “expected” at your company, you should go. Forget about “can they make me” and “I shouldn’t be forced.” There are social and cultural norms at play, and you need to respect them especially since you’re new. It’s the same reason you follow the general dress code even when it’s not written – you want to fit in and be seen as a team player.

  34. CAndy

    I hate these things too, but a work Christmas party means a lot to some people… I think it’s good for your credibility to just stick your head round the door for a while.

    Buy a few people a drink, be a good guy for a couple of hours.

    It’s one of these things that could mean there’s someone who pops up in a casual discussion over lunch and says, “You know, I always liked him, he told me a funny story/bought me a drink last Christmas/it was nice of him to look in last year even though he had that thing to do”.

  35. BookWorm

    See, I’m contemplating not going to my office party as well…but have slightly different reasons for this. While I’m an introvert, I would happily go but for a few small issues:
    1. I have to work a full day the day of the party.
    2. The party itself is not in the office (I would go then regardless of whether I had worked all day, because I’m already there and would just have to stick it out for a few hours), and not necessarily in a safe area of town AND I’d have to pay a $10 entrance fee that does not include food or drinks-not paying $4 for a hot dog!
    3. The party will have no networking component whatsoever, it’s literally just going to be all of the people I work with every day. That’s it.

    I just told people politely when I was asked that I was sorry to miss it, but had a prior commitment I couldn’t get out of.

    1. CAndy

      Re: point 3

      It’s not necessarily a great networking opportunity, it’s just a way to show you’re interested and that you care. As I said above, it’s important to think about what people might be saying when you’re not there. Ie, gossiping over lunch.

      1. CAndy

        As an introvert myself I’ve noticed a few must-dos that help me not to appear like I’m aloof and don’t care.

        1. BookWorm

          Oh, that’s definitely the least of the issues! I totally get what you mean about being a team-player and bonding outside of the office with people you see every day. To me, it’s just a perfect storm of different things: the money I’d have to spend, sketchy location, combined with working the entire day anyway made me not want to attend.

  36. Shannon

    Several years ago I spent quite a bit of time at the holiday party talking to a new hire. We didn’t interact much work wise but we’d chat in the halls if we ran into each other, in the office kitchen, etc, probably a lot more then we would have if it hadn’t been for that initial conversation at the party.

    New hire has risen in the ranks a lot and is now the company president. Not a bad person to be on a friendly, first name basis with. My boss has complained that he doesn’t answer her emails, but when she’s off and I email him I get a reply.

  37. A Bug!

    OP, if you decide to go, I have a couple of tips, from one shy introvert to another.

    First, if the party’s big enough, make sure you seek out your boss and each of your coworkers (or most of them) at some point while you’re there, and make small talk with them. Don’t let yourself spend too much time on your own, aside from fetching drinks or snacks.

    Two, while you’re there, you wear your Happy Face. Your golden rule for the night is “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Not even jokingly, sarcasm included.

    This is to ensure that everybody you work with will remember you were there. More importantly, they’ll remember that you were pleasant and enjoyed yourself and that you wanted to be there, even if you had to leave early.

    If you let your attitude or words signal to others that you didn’t want to be there, the result won’t be any better than if you didn’t go at all.

  38. AB Normal

    Here’s what I think is a good rule of thumb: if you can answer “yes” to the questions below, it’s not going to be a big deal to miss a work party.

    1) Have you been working for long enough in your current job to have already established a rapport with your colleagues and people from other departments, which you get to see and help from time to time?

    2) Did the company or your manager communicate that attendance is optional, and is it indeed considered normal for people to skip the party?

    3) Are you OK with someone else potentially less competent, but more organizationally savvy and with good networking within the organization, being promoted over you, or receiving more attractive opportunities?

    If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, I’d seriously consider going to the party, because humans have an irrational side, and “being liked” is at least (if not more) important than “being competent” when it’s time to promote / decide who stays during a layoff / assign the best projects / etc.

    If we want to thrive in the work environment, there are some sacrifices we all have to make. In my experience, you don’t need to become intimate friends with coworkers, but it makes a huge difference to get to know them enough so they feel comfortable to ask for help. And going to an office party or happy hour from time to time, even if you don’t stay long, helps send the message that you are approachable, opening the opportunity for connections to happen, even if not right there at the party.

    For example, in my previous job, an assistant admin asked me for help when she was having trouble writing an important email that would go to the executive board. The reason she knew to ask is because we established a friendly relationship after meeting during an office barbecue. We started to take coffee breaks together, and she learned that even though English is my second language, my professional writing is very good. Because we got to know each other relatively well, she didn’t hesitate to ask me to review her text, knowing I’d be discreet rather than let the rest of the office know she was struggling.

    Then, when she moved to another business unit, she learned that the director was going to start hiring people with my profile, and immediately let me know, offering to bring my resume to the director, with whom she also had a good relationship. I ended up accepting an external offer, but our relationship clearly opened doors for me within that company, even though I was in a much more senior position than hers.

    1. Innie the Introvert

      So true about “being liked” over “being competent” for most managers, AB Normal.

      Your manager wants to see your shiny, happy face at the party. Showing up lets the manager know you’re a team player and supporting your manager. Managers want to show their bosses they have a happy, well-functioning team. (Even if it is all merely an illusion.)

      You have to suck it up and go, especially as a newbie…unless like AB N says, you basically see your job as a job, and don’t have any long-term aspirations with the company or your manager.

  39. Area51

    Fellow introvert and socially-anxious person here.
    Just show up. Seriously. Just do it.
    Follow the “at least” two drink/three person/30 minute protocol for introverts’ party attendance.

    For an in-office party, be there at least 30 minutes.
    Have at least two drinks, alcoholic (drink responsibly, of course…) or non-alcoholic.
    Chat with at least three people:
    – Optimally, your manager. Can’t find him/her? Your manager’s manager. Prove to your chain of command that you can attend parties.
    – Somebody you know and are comfortable with.
    – Somebody you don’t know but want to, or should know, in the context of your job.

    Bonus points if the photographer takes your picture, proving you were at the party! :)

    1. Jamie

      Yes – the discomfort of attending things we dread notwithstanding, having tips to get through makes it so much easier and mine are similar to yours…because I feel better with a plan, like a mental checklist.

      For me I make sure I greet and make contact with all the obligatory people right away – check that off the list.

      Then make the rounds of being seen and short small talk with a number or list of people in different cliques so if people compare notes someone will vouch for my presence and delightful nature.

      Having a set time – so if I’m having fun I can stay but if not it’s a reasonable amount of time and I can do anything if I have an endgame in mind.

      And have an escape clause. If it’s truly a nightmare and you need out sooner you know you can gracefully exit. I always have one and I’ve never had to use it, just knowing it’s there is enough. And don’t make it anything horrible that people will ask about later.

      Say you have an emergency call and have to go because your sister is in the hospital is horrible – because people will ask about her and it’s a lie you have to maintain (and I’m superstitious enough I don’t lie about injury or illness regarding others.)

      Saying you had a call and have to leave because your daughter’s ride home from work has car trouble and she can’t get a hold of her dad is gold. It’s something any reasonable person would understand leaving for, you can’t leave her stranded while you party, but nothing tragic so they won’t think twice about it after the fact.

      Again – I’ve never had to use mine, but having an escape clause in your back pocket can help.

      And a more general musing about this topic, I’ve been thinking about it because every time it comes up we seem to talk about the difference between introversion and social anxiety. I don’t have an anxiety disorder, at least I don’t think so, but I do have a degree of social anxiety in some situations.

      For me my introversion is why I feel put upon when forced to do something draining I’ll hate – and resent my loss of time with my tv and couch…kind of like when the kids aren’t home and I have to bring in groceries by myself. It doesn’t make me anxious – it just sucks having spend time doing something I don’t want to do.

      The anxiety part is different – that has nothing to do with being introverted. That’s the discomfort of not knowing what to say to people I don’t know well, and trying not to appear bored (because, I’ll admit it, small talk with strangers often bored me), and putting on a face of engagement. It’s not crippling, I can do it, but I have had a few times in my life where it was particularly bad and I was so anxious I had to consciously remind myself to breathe…so I can see for people who have serious anxiety issues this can be a terrifying problem.

      And there is no correlation at all between being comfortable and confident in a work related or speaking situation and mingling at a party. I have zero anxiety meeting with strangers at work, be it a third party audit or giving an important speech to my entire company. Even when the conversation veers away from work it’s fine because I know my role – I’m in my wheelhouse.

      But even company cook-outs make me somewhat anxious. I go, but the same people I really like and have excellent professional rapport with make me nervous when it comes to grabbing a burger, deciding which table to sit at, how much to mingle. I have to mingle…because the people I’m closest to personally are the owners and some others from the front office – so if I cloister there it makes me look like I separate myself from the factory. But if I head to a table with operators I wonder if I’m ruing their fun because do they want the lead auditor at their table?

      So I plan and navigate according to plan. I don’t have to do that with work stuff because I just inherently know how to act and I have a much better grasp on how I’m being perceived.

      Worst time ever was a work party when I was new – only a couple weeks – into a promotion to corporate. I wasn’t new to the company but in this place there was a huge social chasm between plant and corporate and I hadn’t bridged it yet. Then to make it worse there were assigned seats and I was at a table with both owners, their families, and some other Exec Directors with whom I had never worked. I kid you not the conversation was about one director’s 100K coin collection and what it costs to insure, another directors problem finding a competent mechanic for his classic Jag…because the dealer for his current Jag is great with his new one, but not the older model…and the owner found it really frustrating keeping on the remodeling the second kitchen in his vacation home from out of state.

      Seeing as my only “coin collection” is a coffee can with change in it that we take to the machine when it gets full to exchange for paper money, and at the time I was driving a 10 year old Subaru and didn’t know where I was going to find the cash to get the muffler fixed, and I only have one kitchen in my home…and only have one home…I didn’t have a lot to add to the conversation.

      So they can be that bad. But most aren’t and yes – after that my anxiety outweighed my annoyance…but a couple of normal years at a better company later and the meter reset in my head to lower levels of stress.

  40. Cassie

    Thankfully our holiday luncheon is not mandatory – some people may notice who didn’t show up (I notice things like that) but it’s not like you’ll get brownie points deducted. I normally go anyway – this is pretty much the one event each year that I attend, but even more so since my boss is currently the boss of the dept. Since he has to show up, I have to show up. There was one time where I left after an hour (the event is about 2 hours) and when he got back, he commented on how I left early.

    I would absolutely hate it if the event was in the evening or on the weekend – I don’t have a way to get to work after regular hours (I carpool with people who work elsewhere). I get the importance of showing up for a bit, but if it’s inconvenient, I’d seriously consider forgoing it.

  41. Graciosa

    I really appreciated the comments about introversion being tied to energy levels – so true. I would like to add that socializing is a skill you develop with practice, and it is an essential one in most careers. I wish I had understood this earlier – now I simply manage my energy levels and ensure I have some down time while still meeting the (often unspoken) expectations of the business world.

    One thing I like about the Sims games is that they require a certain number of friends or level of relationships with your boss and co-workers in order to advance in your career. The first time I encountered this, I thought it was very odd – before I realized that this is much more true to life than I had previously admitted. Your relationships at work are key to your success. You need to be seen as someone who is pleasant, friendly, and helpful to others in order to succeed in the work place.

    OP, the message you send by refusing to attend the office party is that you are none of these. I’m not trying to convince you this is either accurate or fair, but you do have to deal with it. You seem to want to find a way to avoid both the party and the consequences for failing to attend; since you can’t, you need to make your choice accordingly and live with it.

  42. Mike

    The simple answer is that not going to company functions is career limiting. You will find yourself passed over. It might be hard to accept, but that’s life.

  43. Bobby

    Why should I attend my office Christmas Party?

    I only work for the company I don’t have to socialise with you.
    And I don’t like parties which is my choice ( I prefer a quiet drink/meal with people I know) and you like parties which is your choice and why can`t you leave me alone during office hours and just enjoy yourself at the party? Each to their own I say!

  44. AnonK

    A couple days late to this one but wanted to share my thoughts.

    As an employee, I don’t always enjoy these events myself. But, like you, I have felt the social pressure before and after I didn’t go. Now, I suck it up and do it. As a matter of fact, I actually had a good time at my holiday party this year. Not how I would volunteer my Friday night normally, but I let down my guard and got to know some coworkers better who I really didn’t like much before the party.

    As a manager, I get so angry when someone doesn’t come. Yeah, I know that contradicts what I stated above. But here is where I’m coming from. I worked for a company for a number of years that made the managers pay for the holiday parties. If you think you get pressure to go to the party, you don’t even want to know the pressure you got to fund it! Not saying I agreed with the practice, but it is what it is. I have a certain level of appreciation for the amount of money and effort that goes into arranging one of these. So when I have been strong armed to contribute $300 or more at this time of year, and see my team blow it off, I get pretty annoyed at how ungrateful they are being.

    I’m sure someone will disagree with this, but this is me, showing complete honesty from both sides of the argument.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      But why think of them as being ungrateful when they haven’t asked for and don’t want or enjoy the thing being offered to them? If I offer you a bag of, say, potatoes and you don’t like potatoes, it wouldn’t be reasonable for me to feel you were ungrateful if you declined it.

      If you’re doing things that people enjoy and benefit from, and they don’t appreciate those things, then sure, they’re ungrateful. But it doesn’t seem to apply here.

  45. Rebecca@TakeThisJobOrShoveIt.com

    If you really don’t want to attend the party then just make a good excuse. But to tell you, company gatherings like that are important. You must also try attending some time, maybe next year. Because through socializing we develop more of our personality and we gain more confidence. Come think of it.

  46. Working Girl

    I agree with not going to the Christmas party with a prior engagement as a reason. People will want to know what it is so be ready with an answer – you are out of town, your spouses party is the same night across town, you have the flu, etc.. Wish them all a great time and don’t bring it up again and stay away from office talk about it. Don’t reply to emails about the party. Drop a box of chocolates in the staff room as a contribution on the following day of the party. Do ask how it went. I don’t enjoy watching people get drunk and foolish and I don’t enjoy drinking which is also a party must. No offence to others, just would prefer to stay away. If you must go = go late and leave early on your way to another event you have planned for a quite get away. Don’t go and make it known you are not drinking or you will end up driving the rest of the drunk employees home. It is always interesting through what people say when they are drunk, lol.

  47. Layla

    What about employees of different faiths? All company morale building parties seem to be only one: Christmas parties. Many of our employees are devout Jewish, Muslim, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc who for religious convictions do not feel comfortable at holiday parties, because ours are extremely Christmas oriented. They are then excluded for not being team players, which they tend to win all the awards for best employees and team players consistently.

  48. Not Going To This Year's Party

    As this year’s Christmas season rolls around, I made it clear from the beginning that I would not be attending. When I got pressure from management, I quickly shot back with, I am an alcoholic and cannot attend functions at a bar. (I work for the evil mouse corporation and they treat their employees horribly, despite what you may hear.)

    Alcoholism is a disability and a protected class and they cannot fire you for not attending, as you can sue big time.

    Now mind you, I hate my job and the people I work with are some of the most disgusting, dishonest people I have ever met, so if I got fired, I wouldn’t mind. So take that in account.

  49. Who cares

    I skipped my Christmas party for a third year in a row last weekend.

    I went the first year I started at this company, but I realized the christmas party was formal, which I hate.
    Every other company I worked at had non formal christmas parties, I always attended and felt more comfortable being able to wear jeans and casual attire.

    I’ve had people ask me every year, and I actually have had plans each year, I don’t care if a friends birthday party constitutes a good excuse, but I’d rather spend time with friends I only see every few months rather than work colleagues I see every day.

  50. foo

    for the love of god , these parties are the worst. When Judy in accounts husband asks me to explain what I do, I cringe. Mandatory and dodge after dinner. I love the hunger games analogy.

  51. Teresa

    This year I have dealt with serious bullying over not attending a party one of my co-workers threw. It was not even a “company” party and to be honest it was created under the guise of bashing our boss. I am an introvert and had no intentions of attending. You would not believe the crap I have endured. Now they are having a Christmas party at the same co-workers house but the boss is catering it. I wonder if it wouldn’t have been easier to attend than deal with the bullying but part of me wonders why the hell you would be so mean to someone you wanted to party with? Can’t figure that one out. It’s a real head-scratcher. Introverts unite! Just kidding, let’s just keep to ourselves.

  52. Tim

    I’m in the same boat. I have an office holiday part at my boss’s house. I really don’t enjoy parties, and don’t want to go. I know my boss and co-workers wouldn’t necessarily be angry at me for not attending, but at the same time I think they remember these things. When it comes that time of year to promote people and give raises, who would you rather promote with all thing being equal:
    Tim-
    Hard worker, smart, etc.

    Jim-
    Hard work, smart, etc. but also social and attends company parties

    Obviously, Jim may be the better candidate for a promotion because he shows a willingness to be a part of the team and join in team events. Whereas Tim may seem more standoffish.

  53. Edd

    I never attend work”social events” unless it’s for charity, and I work for one of worlds biggest companies.
    My stated reason for non-attendance is along the lines of, “there are people in work who I have no interest in sharing my social time with”.
    I spend 24/7 face to face with these people, the last thing I want to do is spend MY time with them too.
    Work is work, social life is social life, NEVER mix the 2.
    Call me anti-social if you like…..I am!
    I have also stated that as a reason.
    Still in my job, still earning promotions, and by January it’s all forgotten anyway, you will sit there listening to everyone complain and moan about each others behavior and conduct at the party. No biggie.

  54. Harvey

    I hate social events, I always have. I am not a drinker, smoker or love to slaughter an innocent cow for the BBQ. I just don’t like being around lots of people in one place.

    I avoided my last work xmas party. My wife couldn’t go and like h3ll i was going on my own, so I made it seem like i was going and actually drove there and just sat in my car for a while before going to a local take out for dinner. There are about 80 people in my company and I associate with maybe 15 in my work, I would’ve been very uncomfortable going, so I didnt.

    I have since avoided two other morning teas, one which wasn’t even attended by the organiser!

    I really hate the social aspect that comes with having a job, why do people have the need to inanely chat about boring topics such as how drunk were they last weekend.

    My position doesn’t really have a position above it so the promotion prospects are not even worth worrying about. I was done with all the social rubbish at high school.

  55. David

    Not going, never have (whether I’m new or not) never will, and I don’t care. People don’t get to tell me what to do when they’re not paying me.

  56. will

    Theoretically, I dun think it will effectively improve anything, well they always tag non-attender as anti-social.

  57. wallflower

    Imminent after work office party coming up and I’m agonising over my “thank you but I won’t make it” reply again this year only because of I feel bad for the organiser and office host – who if they had the choice would also bow out gracefully, or offer employees another end of year celebration instead of this party which management decrees as a celebration. End of year holiday parties feel so old fashioned – to me anyhow. I’ve been at this company for nearly 15 years and after 7 stopped going to the annual end of year after hours drinking-holiday party. Why can’t companies have a brief holiday gathering during a lunch hour, hot catered snacks, dinner or amazon vouchers for employees and their +1’s to enjoy at their leisure – I know for a fact this would be cheaper than what is ultimately spent. I get to socialise every day in the lunch room with my delightful coworkers and enjoy their awesome company, so I can’t see how I can be tagged as anti-social if I choose not to attend an hour or two of an end of year office party. If a company places this much emphasis on an annual party attendance, I’m not sure it’s a company I’d want to work for. Yes I’m an introvert, but there are lots of parties and dinners I go to and enjoy, but a mandatory office party should not be one of them. My work, dedication, loyalty and enjoyment of my co-workers during office hours every day should speak for itself, and not and hour or two trying to hear my co-workers over loud music and way too expensive eats making tipsy small talk.

  58. Not going this year either!

    After years of not going, it is not a big deal. By Jan 1, everyone forgets about the office party. Remember, you are an adult and if the party is on your time, then there is no requirement to go. I commute 3 hours a day and to be expected to go out after work, “party” with a bunch of people I dislike or barely know, well it is just not going to happen. My job is a means to give me enjoyment outside of work. I do not work because I want to hang around an office.

  59. Hypnotist Collector

    I’m struggling with this right now. My company has a big party on a Saturday night. I commute 30+ miles each way already, by bus, and I can’t drive comfortably at night, so I’d have to create some crazy patchwork of bus/cab on a wintry night on a weekend. They offer us discounts at a local hotel but I don’t really want to spend a lot of money to attend this party. I also don’t have a date while most of my colleagues are married and will bring their spouses. I RSVPd no (they wanted an answer this week), but I’m feeling like I’ll be penalized for it.

  60. Mike

    What if my Christmas party was organized by 25 year olds and we are suppose to dress up 70s disco style like Saturday night fever…. Last years was a small room 1920s dress up and grilled cheese sandwiches… I’m 37 and really don’t have time for this crap… I can’t even get a decent meal at these things do I still have to go?

  61. Not Interested

    The events that I’ve been to at my current company are deemed some kind of reward (apparently to compensate for the slights, put-downs, lack of positive reinforcement, and general ignoring done the rest of the year). I would be delusional to think that going will improve my standing with a close-minded management that pigeonholes all of the employees and rarely changes its mind toward a better opinion of them.

  62. Chris

    I just hate the concept of it. The company doesn’t want to spend money, but feels it has to. The employee doesn’t want to go to the function but feels they have to. So, the people that are true to themselves won’t go. And then will be looked down upon for not participating in the function that no one wants to go to and the company doesn’t want to pay for.

    I truly wish someone at Harvard would do a study to ‘discover’ that office parties are poor investments, then all the corporations read the study, and stop doing them. A year without an office party is like a year without a performance review. Pure joy! :)

    1. Bwmn

      I totally get a) lots of people hate all office socializing and b) lots of office holiday parties are poorly planned and nearly impossible to have fun at regardless of your thoughts on point A.

      However, I used to work somewhere that had a pretty strong “no celebrations of any kind ever for anything” vibe. When someone left they could bring in food to say goodbye, but literally one employee was screamed at in the middle of the office for bringing in a birthday cake for a colleague. And don’t even think of formal or informal staff happy hours.

      Even though my previous jobs were never big on socializing, this was noticeably “anti” socializing – and it was an overall vibe that was noticed negatively. There were lots of things about that workplace that contributed to that vibe (see screaming at employees in front of other staff), but the reality is that there are lots of coworkers who enjoy variations on socializing with their coworkers. Maybe it’s not the holiday party specifically, but I do think that it can present an official tone of “we support celebrating/socialize together”.

      My current office’s holiday party is never on my list of favorites, but I do enjoy that our office does have a friendly atmosphere. So if that holiday party study is ever commissioned, enough representatives like myself and it’s going to throw those results.

  63. Dash

    INTJ here. There will be dancing. I really do not want to dance. Everybody is bringing someone. The only characters I’d enjoy accompanying me are fictional. There will be alcohol, but no wine. I really do not want to drink. We’ll be packed in limousine, “peer pressured” to socialize. Yeah… But no. I will do it so no feelings are hurt. There is a little chemistry between HR and me. Cannot figure out why this recurs. I neither want to dance nor want drink hard alcohol. It will not be one of those events I can just observe and figure what person will say what next; you know, the fun stuff. I would rather be buiding my business tech at home, with Return of the Jedi on the LED and sipping a hot cup of Earl Grey. No spying permitted. I will end up going, however. I really need an indubitible excuse to get out of it. If not inferred, I am male. Any ideas absolutely welcome and appreciated!

    1. Bwmn

      As the original AAM letter said – if you feel you will not be penalized then just say “unfortunately due to a previous commitment I can’t attend”. I will say this, as part of our last office retreat, our organization got baseball tickets afterwards. I had said very early that I wasn’t able to go (had out of town plans/requested vacation time months in advanced) – but the day of, it was very clear that while I would not be penalized for not going, I was put on the spot to discuss exactly why. I was the only person not to go and it really stood out. Had I not had a genuine conflict I felt comfortable discussing – I really don’t know if there would have been another way out of it.

      If where you work this will be a big obvious looked at deal, going may honestly be the path of least resistance. Coming up with a white lie will likely be a lot more effort than it’s worth. You could say something like you’re having blood work done early the next morning (provided the party isn’t on a Saturday night) – so can’t eat/drink anything after X time – but that will likely just draw more attention.

  64. JohnK67

    For people with social anxiety (like myself), going to office parties is agonizing. It’s like someone with an intense fear of flying trying to go on a flight. I use to never go when it was on Saturday nights but then they moved it to Friday night after work and I have gone to a few of those, because I felt obligated, but I never enjoy it.

    1. Bwmn

      Social anxiety, fear of flying, fear of public speaking – I think that lots of people often do understand how intense that can be. And understand seeking out professions or a daily life that avoids such fear as much as possible.

      However, when it comes to office holiday parties – I still think that this is no more of an unreasonable expectation than asking staff to be available to fly once a year or make a presentation at a staff/board/team meeting. For someone truly seeking employment in a context where you have 100% certainty of never engaging in public speaking, never flying or never attending any office party/event/social gathering – it’s possible but will also likely limit professional opportunities. So I think part of the attitude in the response of “yeah, just go”, it’s not that people are insensitive to social anxiety – but rather that the office party request being made of most offices isn’t unreasonable.

      As I said in my original comment on this article – at most office parties, even among extroverts without social anxiety – office parties are rarely loved or looked forward to. But it is just something that’s done.

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