my office hid the Christmas party from us, hostess gifts at office parties, and other holiday questions

It’s five short answers to five short questions: the holiday questions edition. Here we go…

1. My home office hid their Christmas party from us

We just found out that our home office had a swanky Christmas party for their entire office and only select members of my branch office. The worst part of all of this, is that the people who were invited and attended from my office, kept it a secret from those who were not invited. Three out of the seven people in our office were not invited. The people who were invited were salaried and generally “higher up on the food chain” than the three of us non-invitees are. However, everyone at the other office was invited regardless of their position in the company. Oh, and their spouses were invited too.

We found out a couple days later, when it came out through the grapevine. One of those invited was our immediate supervisor / office manager, and he has never said a word. Should we call him on it? We really feel lousy that we weren’t invited, and it makes us feel like we’re not appreciated or valued as employees. Should we say something?

That’s lame and obnoxious, and especially silly since we’re only talking about an additional three people. I don’t know what your company was thinking — they missed a opportunity to build good will and instead created bad will.

You could certainly ask your manager about it (although don’t take the approach of “calling him out on it”; that’s overly adversarial). I’d say something like, “We were disappointed when we realized that the home office had a Christmas party and invited some people from our office but not all. Do you know what the thinking was?”

2. What gift can I give the awesome managers under me?

I am a store manager for a retail chain store. I supervise a team of six managers. I want to get them all a nice, thoughtful holiday present — the holidays are brutal on retail workers, and they all are awesome and have gone above and beyond. I especially want to show my appreciation because I while I was recently in a temporary position at another location, their interim supervisor was less than stellar, and it was a challenging few months for the managers here.

Things that are off the table: cash (our retailer already provides bonuses); time off (I wish!); wine (I’m unsure if everyone in the group drinks alcohol). I have already done several smaller gift/ gestures for the team to kick off the holiday season/ show my appreciation after I stepped back into the store– gift cards for coffee, brought in cookies, handwritten individual notes, a silly grab bag of holiday gifts.

Any ideas? A party is also off the table, as 1) we don’t have time for that during the holidays and 2) I’m not going to ask the staff to attend a party outside of work hours!

Do you know them well enough to pick out thoughtful, personalized gifts that would be different for each of them? If not, I’d go with gift certificates to a reasonably nice area restaurant, or delicious food in the break room while they work, or gift cards to places you know they like (these can be different for each person).

But that’s if you’re set on giving a “thing.” The nicest thing you could do, the thing that would likely be most appreciated, is to tell them each in clear and specific terms what they’re doing well at and how much you appreciate them and why, and ask them what you can do to make their lives easier (and then act on the feedback to whatever extent possible).

3. Do I need to bring a hostess gift to an office party at a partner’s home?

My company’s holiday party is this week. It is a fairly formal dinner normally held at a fancy restaurant, but this year it will be at the home of one of the firm’s partners. It will be catered though. I am having a disagreement with a friend over whether I need to bring something (like a bottle of wine, for example). I say no because it’s a work party that is 100% catered (and to be honest, if I had a choice I would rather not attend). My friend says I should treat it like a regular dinner party at someone’s house, in which case of course I wouldn’t show up empty-handed. My feeling is that this is different; if it were at a restaurant like last year I would be under no obligation to bring anything or pay for anything. What are your thoughts? For context, it is a small company (~16 employees plus spouses/significant others attending the party). I have been there for about a year and a half and am one of the most junior employees.

I agree with you that you’re not obligated to bring something … but I also agree with your friend that it would be a gracious thing to do. Yes, this is a work party and it’s being catered, but the partner hosting it is still opening her home to you, and so it’s a nice gesture to bring something — a bottle of wine, a box of fudge, or whatever. That said, it’s not the sort of thing that will raise eyebrows if you don’t. It’s more a question of whether you want to make a little extra effort to be particularly gracious — and either decision is fine.

4. Pushy assistant is trying to make us kick in cash for cards and gifts

I am the E.A. to a VP and do not work for or report to my boss’s boss’s E.A, who is very old-school and insists on birthday cards, coffee, cakes, parties, etc.

She is making the other assistants participate in a “holiday” party and calling it volunteering. When one of the assistants had to opt out, this woman bullied her, face to face, at the admin’s cubicle, into “volunteering” anyway. Her definition of not-mandatory and volunteer is different from the rest of the world.

This unpleasant woman wants everyone give $20 per person in cash to buy a present for *her* boss and cash for a gift for the custodian, whom I’ve never actually met before. She will not let anybody sign the Christmas cards that she got unless they give her cash. She also is soliciting face to face to do this. Nobody is given the chance to avoid her on this.

I am broke, the company has zero salary increases this year, I just had to fix plumbing in the house, my car needed repair, and I have enough stress trying to get food for the Christmas dinner and presents for family. I am vehemently opposed to buying gifts for the boss (it is currying-favor, brown-nosing, kissing up), not to mention he’s wealthy and wants-for-not! Also, my mother just died and I’m really not feeling it this year.

So, how do I politely say, “I’m not giving you money to kiss up to your boss or to a person who I’ve never even met before”? She always makes me feel like I’m the rude one, like I’m the jerk.

Say, “I’m sorry, it’s not in my budget.” If she continues to push, complain to your boss or hers.

5. Vacation time and pay when the office is closed

The organization where I work has a new policy that says that if the organization is closed for more than one day, employees have to use a vacation day or take an unpaid day after the first day of closing. This is certainly not fair, but is it illegal?

It’s legal to require you to use a vacation day for days that the office is closed. Whether the option of taking unpaid time for those days is legal depends on whether you’re exempt or non-exempt. If you’re non-exempt, it’s legal. But if you’re exempt, you must be paid your normal salary for any week in which you performed any work (so if they closed for a full week, they could do this; for less than week, they couldn’t).

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. Ann Furthermore

    #1: That is so crappy. Way to make your employees feel appreciated. I agree with Alison that “calling” your boss on it isn’t the right thing to do. Chances are that he is not the one who made the decision about who to invite. Maybe he didn’t like that you weren’t invited, but felt obligated to attend, and didn’t say anything because he didn’t want you to feel bad. But definitely ask. If nothing else, your boss may be able to pass the message to whoever made the decision not to include everyone that trying to keep, it a secret didn’t work, and it’s a crummy way to treat people.

    #3: I would probably bring something small as a hostess gift. It means you’re thoughtful and gracious, and those are never bad things for people to think about you.

  2. BCW

    For #1, what exactly would you hope to accomplish by asking or “calling out” your boss on this? Chances are it wasn’t his decision, and he possibly had no say in it. Actually, even if he didn’t agree with it, it probably would have looked worse for him not to go. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the company was justified in any way, I just think you are upset at the wrong person. Its like when recently, one of my group of friends wasn’t invited to the wedding of the other one. Did I think it sucked that he wasn’t invited? Yes. I also knew he wasn’t invited, so I never brought the wedding up around him. But really, it wasn’t my call and there was nothing I could have done anyway. If he would have brought it up to me, what reaction could I possibly give to lessen his anger? None. Was I supposed to not go out of protest? I understand that he is the most senior person around you, and you may feel a little betrayed because maybe you feel he didn’t stand up for you, but since you don’t know how it went down, I don’t think its something that needs to be brought up

    1. Another English Major

      Agreed. There probably isn’t much he could’ve done. It’s not like he’s the one that excluded you and it might not have been his place to say anything about it. I think it would be worse if he did tell you about the party if he knew you weren’t invited.

      1. Zillah

        I agree. I can definitely understand where the OP is coming from, but at the same time, what does s/he expect the boss to have said?

        “OP, I just want to give you a heads up – there’s a holiday party, but you’re not invited. I disagree with the decision and tried to argue them out of it, but I couldn’t. Sorry.”

        That… just doesn’t seem feasible in most working relationships. It’s basically overtly defying his superiors, which is not a great thing to do, even when your superiors are jerks. I feel like it was a lose/lose.

        Or your boss could be a jerk. Either is possible. But I wouldn’t assume that just based on this.

        1. Jamie

          I was thinking this, too. I can see the OP being irked they weren’t invited, but that being the case the manager not bringing it up handled it properly.

          It would have been rude to talk about a party to which others weren’t invited, at least when it’s an event they were excluded from. I.e. It’s okay to discuss your sisters wedding with coworkers because there be no presumption of inclusion…but you wouldn’t discuss another coworkers wedding to which you were invited and they weren’t. That’s a mean girl move…the manager was just being kind here.

          1. some1

            “I.e. It’s okay to discuss your sisters wedding with coworkers because there be no presumption of inclusion…but you wouldn’t discuss another coworkers wedding to which you were invited and they weren’t. That’s a mean girl move…the manager was just being kind here.”

            + a million

        2. Chinook

          Add me to the ones that doesn’t recommend #1 approach her boss about this, but for another reason. It is possible that her immediate boss didn’t realize the 3 of them weren’t invited but thought they chose not to go. The people you should be disappointed with are the ones who controlled the guest list.

        3. fposte

          Right, especially since, as you point out, the manager may have tried to change the situation and really shouldn’t be yelled at.

          It’s not reasonable to yell at people for doing anything other than a straight out mutiny/refusal to attend, and that would be the effect.

        4. Roxy

          “OP, I just want to give you a heads up – there’s a holiday party, but you’re not invited. I disagree with the decision and tried to argue them out of it, but I couldn’t. Sorry.”

          Actually, I did have a conversation like that but not quite under the same circumstances. I was a long term temp a few years ago. I was there for nine months and knew many people. I found out there was a Christmas party…and it was for employees only. This firm had hired several contractors and none of them were invited, using the logic of “the contractor’s employer will give them a Christmas party.” If you are a self-employed contractor, this logic is absurd. And I have yet to see a temp agency give their clients a Christmas party. I think cost was behind it. Christmas parties can be very expensive…but not all employees attend. I was close to a co-worker who was on the planning committee and she went to bat for the contractors. And she was unable to change their minds. I was hurt (and feeling silly – didn’t anyone want to have me as their date so I could share in the fun? I got over it!) but there was nothing to do – I was not an employee. (Interestingly, another contractor who worked in a cubicle close to mine, did attend. Not sure if she attended as a “date” to an employee.) When I landed a permanent job six months later at a different place, and I was on the planning committee of the Christmas party, I made it a point to invite everyone. You don’t have to accept the invitation but please, feel invited, feel included.

    2. Kit M.

      Yes. When you’re invited to something and someone else is not, it’s polite not mention it to them.

    3. Anonymous

      I know if I was in this situation I would have to ask about it. I would just need someone to know I knew that I wasn’t invited. I would ask about it exactly the way Alison mentioned and in as non-confrontational a way as possible. Maybe the boss had no say in the matter, but maybe she also knows the reasoning and would be willing to share. Maybe the next time the party comes around the boss could say “Hey, you know that the people who were not invited last year were aware of it, right? Let’s include everyone this year.” It’s possible none of those things will happen, but I would feel better saying something (politely!) than stewing about it and always wondering “WTF was that about?”

      1. Hedonia

        I completely agree with this. What if it was an oversight? Not saying anything could lead the higher-ups to the false conclusion that they didn’t want to go.

  3. Ruffingit

    #4: I’m really sorry about your mother. That kind of loss on top of everything else has to be hard this time of year. My condolences to you.

    1. Jamie

      I am also so sorry about your mom. My thoughts are with you and your family.

      Please don’t worry about anyone else right now – just take care of yourself.

  4. Anonymous

    #1

    I want to work where you work so I have a perfect excuse for missing the christmas party, not being invited!! :)

  5. Name

    #1 is the shittiest thing I have ever heard. I assume you want to know if anyone stood up for the excluded people? What an awful way to express the Christmas spirit.

  6. Hope

    My company is owned by private equity (a nightmare in its own right) and one of the ways they plump the year end numbers is a shutdown from (this year) 12/20 to 1/2. Everyone but a skeletal crew is forced to take vacation or unpaid time off. It’s not as significant to those with more vacation or the financial means to forego a paycheck, and lord knows we all appreciate a break from the insanity, but it still grates.

  7. O

    On a random note, on the radio this morning were talking about whether to regift to your boss or not. All I wanted to do was call and say, you’re not supposed to give your boss gifts, period! :)

  8. plain jane

    #1 – that sucks. The only thing that springs out at me is:

    “The people who were invited were salaried and generally “higher up on the food chain” than the three of us non-invitees are. However, everyone at the other office was invited regardless of their position in the company. Oh, and their spouses were invited too.”

    My old office never invited the contract or hourly workers to the holiday party or other fun & catered events, those were limited to the staff (and sometimes included spouses). That being said, if they invited the contractors and hourly workers from the head office to the party, it seems extreme to not include an extra 3 (unless there would have been a cascade effect with other offices, much like starting to invite cousins and their +1 to a wedding).

    1. Michele

      I have been so fortunate when I have been a contractor that all the companies that I have worked for have always made sure to include us in parties and other team building!

      1. JM in England

        Michele, I have noticed the same thing too. I’m currently in a contract job and my team and the company seems to be very inclusive, regardless of whether you are a contractor or permanent employee. However, it is only in recent years that the tide for contractors has turned this way.

        Contrast this with another contract job I was in for a large multinational back in the late 90s. We had departmental meetings once a month and at one, TPTB announced a new scheme in which you could praise your coworkers and recommend them for rewards. Only at the end of the speech did they tell us it was for permanent staff only!

      2. FreeThinkerTX

        When I worked at Microsoft, they got sued for treating contractors like employees by inviting them to holiday parties and such, but then not giving them the pay / benefits / rights of actual employees. So – tada! – contractors were subsequently treated like second-class (and sometimes non-existent) citizens. As in, the managers and staff wouldn’t even speak to the contractors they were sharing cubicle and office space with.

        So there’s legal precedent for companies excluding contractors.

        1. Hedonia

          What?! That seems really bizarre! I wouldn’t think the employee classification vs. contractor would include holiday parties. That’s really interesting…

    1. fposte

      Alison doesn’t generally edit the OP’s posts, though, so noting corrections on the OP’s section ends up being more discouraging than helpful.

  9. JJ

    OP #1 here- I was so upset and hurt when i wrote the letter to AAM- I knew that our immediate manager wasn’t the decision maker in this, but he is the first person that we wanted to place the blame on because he’s in front of us every day and we were really upset. That being said, I finally said something to him- that was non confrontational, i just said that we found out about the party that we weren’t invited to, and that we were really disappointed. His jaw fell, and basically said that he felt that he (and the others) were invited only as an after thought.

    Kicker is, he’s also no longer our manager after 1/1 – the home office is now going to manage us remotely from their location, so they really made us feel like ugly stepchildren right off the bat. Our supervisor is a sales person and manager, and because we have had a recent management reorganization (cringe- groan), they feel they can do a better job from there, and force him to go out only focus on selling more. so he’s not really motivated to even stand up for us at this point. he didn’t even organize anything for our office at all for the holidays because he feels he’s a lame duck at this point- and why bother doing something nice for employees that aren’t even his.

    a few days after we found out about the secret party, our entire office received an email from this office stating that there was a mandatory Christmas luncheon (and pep-rally with new senior management) in this home office for everyone, and that we had to bring a covered dish and a $20 gift for an exchange. yippee.

    then yesterday – (the party is tomorrow) the 3 of us who weren’t invited to the nice party- were told that we have to be there 2 hours earlier than everyone else because we were getting our reviews by our new manager that has only met us once before. Did i mention that this home office is 2 hours away, so we have to leave at some ungodly hour of the morning.

    needless to say we are really anxious about tomorrow and feel completely devalued by our new management.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      OMG. I really hope everything goes well for you tomorrow. What an unbelievable big ball of stress to be dealing with.

    2. CAA

      Sounds like your old manager is not such a great guy either. If he’s the senior manager in the local office, and knew other offices were having company paid parties, then he should have done something nice for you too. Maybe not a party for such a small group, but at least he could have taken you all out to lunch.

      Depending on how your review goes, you might be able to say something then. Wait until the end, when hopefully the manager asks for any input or concerns you have, and then you could say something like “you know, it really hurt my feelings to not get an invitation for the holiday party here since our office didn’t have one.” You’ll probably find out that everyone thought your office was having its own party. You can’t bring this up if you have a more serious issue to talk about, or as part of a laundry list of grievances or in a way that seems to be speaking for the others.

      Also, if you’re not exempt, then you get paid for the excess travel time to the second office tomorrow since your appearance there is mandatory.

      1. BCW

        I don’t know that I’d judge the old manager harshly though. He just got demoted. You don’t know how that is affecting him emotionally and financially. Its easy to say what you think he should have done, but it wasn’t his fault these people weren’t invited, so it shouldn’t be on him to personally try to make up for it.

        1. CAA

          I am not suggesting that he spend money out of his own pocket. It’s his responsibility as their direct manager until the transition occurs, and as the office manager in that particular office, to make sure that people there aren’t overlooked. If he doesn’t have discretionary spending authority to cover a holiday lunch, then he should be going to his own manager at the other location to make that happen.

          I’ve been the senior manager in a satellite office that had one or two people from lots of different departments. So even though I manage development, it also fell to me to directly manage the receptionist and the VP’s (who was really the most senior manager, but traveled 80% of the time) assistant. It was also my job to make sure that the company didn’t forget my team or any of the people who reported to other teams when they passed out swag or funded office amenities or parties.

      2. Kat A.

        I don’t think she should say it hurt her feelings. That’s not the company’s concern. I think saying that it demoralized those who were not invited is a better way to present it. Perhaps add that treating employees this way does not motivate them to want to do better and more for the company. It also has an effect on the ones who were invited who now realize that this is how the company treats people.

    3. Zahra

      Wow. Way to motivate employees: do not invite them to the lavish, paid party (with door prizes, I assume) and invite them instead to a “party” in the office, with mandatory gift and food duties. On one hand, you’ve got the food paid and prizes offered by the company and, on the other hand, you’ve got to bring your own food and bring a gift, all from your won pocket.

      Is this party/pep talk for your office only or is it for the whole organization?

      Is there any way to push back on the food front? Make an argument of the short deadline and long commute preventing you from bringing anything.

      1. JJ

        OP#1 here- the day turned out to be more utterly miserable than we had anticipated. as soon as we arrived to the home office- we were all snatched up one by one for new manager to give us our reviews. it turned out that the things my current / exiting manager had no problem with, our new manager had a huge problem with. Needless to say, i got a terrible review from someone I’ve only met once or twice before and have never actually worked for. Even though I’ve been there for 9 years and always had glowing reviews, she gave me the impression that i wasn’t really “working out” and that i was not an ideal employee. needless to say, i was shocked and completely upset beyond words. I had no opportunity to defend myself and felt like i could have run out crying at any second. I had to keep it together and sit through an hour and a half pep rally with senior management (that involved both offices) and then a covered dish lunch (I brought my item and didn’t make homemade because i felt so much contempt about the whole thing to begin with) and then a 20+ person chinese auction gift exchange, and then a 2 hour ride home with coworkers. I came home and promptly cried my heart out with only my dog looking.

    4. Anonymous

      Oh my god. That’s horrid. :(

      I hope the new manager turns out to be great and you develop the kind of relationship where you can at some point give them feedback about what a horrible impression was made here! Ugh! Feel for you. :(

    5. some1

      “he didn’t even organize anything for our office at all for the holidays because he feels he’s a lame duck at this point- and why bother doing something nice for employees that aren’t even his.”

      I think your manager should suck it up, personally. You worked for him the majority of the year. Him getting demoted should not have bearing on his appreciation of his staff.

      When I worked for the a municipal government, our dept director was appointed by the mayor. After an election, the current mayor lost and it was assumed that the new mayor would appoint a new director (and he ultimately did). The sitting duck director still chipped in for the Christmas party and gave a speech thanking us for our hard work.

    6. Laura

      Wow. They’re doing a fantastic job of handling this change in the exact wrong way. It’s almost impressive.

      I’m sorry you have to deal with this.

    7. PoohBear McGriddles

      For the covered dish, I’d be sorely tempted to bring Minny’s Chocolate Pie.
      It really sounds like your management is about as clueless as they get. What better way to celebrate the holidays than being forced to after a performance review being performed by someone who barely knows you! I am sure y’all will be on cloud nine after that – especially after getting up at zero-dark-thirty to get there.
      I’m guessing you’re less upset about not being invited to the fancy party than you are about realizing what a fustercluck this organization is turning out to be.

    8. Anonymous

      I’d be so tempted to just saw I forgot the dish and the gift because I had to get up a whatever 0’hell clock to drive 2 hours to a meeting. And then when someone (and someone will) brings up the other party, innocently ask if they had forgotten to invite the rest of your office.

      Seriously, if either the included people or the excluded people to the good office party where of the same sex or same something else, I’d be having a talk with HR about possible discrimination going on. While it’s true management can include or exclude anyone they want from a company sponsored party, it can still be used to show discrimination.

  10. Observer

    #$ – Gifting issue: I completely understand, and if you can;t chip in, you can’t. But if you can come up with SOMETHING for the custodian, please try to do so. These guys tend to work very hard, and they also tend to get paid very poorly, so a little something is worth a lot. You should realize that even if you never met the guy, you meet his work every day.

    1. Julie

      I agree, but you might want to find a way to give your gift directly to the custodian. I don’t have to use much imagination to think that the assistant might put the majority of the money collected towards the gift for her manager.

      1. Riki

        Yes! OP, if you can spare anything for the custodian, give it to him yourself. This EA sounds shady. Why is she taking a collection for the custodian’s tip, anyway? This should be funded by the company.

        1. Observer

          It’s quite common for staff to chip in for a tip for the custodian (sometimes even when the company ALSO provides a tip.)

          1. Jamie

            I’ve never heard of this – I’ve only seen companies themselves do it.

            I only know our cleaning crew because I work late – the majority of my office would have no idea who they are or even how many come to clean.

            I am so glad I work for a company that doesn’t do collections.

    2. jmkenrick

      I agree. Office $$ collections for the boss’s boss seem weird, but a collection for the custodian (which I’m a bit ashamed to say I’ve never thought about) seems like it could be a really nice thing.

      That said, I don’t think anyone should be obligated; seems like something the company itself should do.

      And I’m very sorry to hear about your mother.

  11. Joey

    Alison,
    How is giving good feedback a gift? This is something I do all of the time. Giving it as a gift implies that either you don’t give regularly enough or that it shouldn’t be expected and is a treat. Granted I don’t give written feedback all of the time, but I certainly give regularly enough that it wouldn’t feel like a gift.

    1. Becky B

      I read that as giving good feedback plus asking for their feedback–and acting on it. That would be a delightful “gift” for me, personally.

      Also, since they had had to deal with a less-than-stellar interim supervisor, morale could be in need of that extra “You’re doing great, and here’s how and why” nod.

    2. MaryMary

      The division head at my last company gave detailed feedback, often, to a wide range of people. Like, “Mary, you swivel too much in your chair at meetings. It looks unprofessional.” She would always say, “Feedback is a gift, and I am a giver!”

    3. Rayner

      Maybe a formal letter or something, that could used again in support of raises or improving a job in other ways (e.g. working from home, flexible hours), that kind of thing?

      That was I thought when I saw the feedback gift.

    4. Ask a Manager Post author

      Right, of course managers should be giving regular feedback on an ongoing basis. I meant doing it in a holiday context — like a card that talks about why you appreciate them — more focused on appreciation than feedback for feedback’s sake.

  12. Bean

    #1 – One of the owners of my boyfriend’s company has an exclusive Christmas party every year only for those he wants to invite…problem is, he will find someone “worthy” one year and then not invite them the next year, which makes them feel even worse than just not being invited at all in the first place.

      1. BCW

        Is having a B-list for a wedding tacky? I’ve never been married, but from what I hear, its pretty common. I know I’ve been on it before, and I wasn’t offended or anything. Now the people getting married didn’t come out and say it or anything, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. I understand that weddings have a budget and that sometimes you just can’t invite everyone you would like to have there. But if certain people can’t come, and you’ve already reserved a certain number, what is wrong with inviting those people that you didn’t have room for before?

        1. some1

          Just because something doesn’t offend you personally doesn’t mean it’s not rude or tacky. When I was an avid poster on Etiquette Hell, it was considered rude to host a party in your honor no ifs ands or buts.

          However, in my circle of friends, it is common to plan/host your birthdays (especially milestone birthdays like turning 30, and especially if one doesn’t have a significant other who would plan something like that), and I never get offended when one of my friends invites me to a bar/restaurant/their house for their birthday, assuming it’s not anything to expensive or inconvenient — and if it is I decline.

        2. Observer

          Yes, it’s common, but so is rudeness. Most people don’t like being effectively told “I’m not really interested in you, but since I don’t have anyone better, I settle for you.”

          1. LouG

            Yeah, if you told someone that, it’s rude. But doing wedding invites in this fashion does not need to be rude! I have a huge family, and am inviting family to the wedding. If family cannot come, I am able to invite more friends. Friends will still get an invitation at an appropriate time to accept or decline.

            1. BCW

              Thats exactly my point, I guess its how its handled. If the wedding is still 3 months out, and you now know you have an extra 20 spots, and some of your friends/coworkers/whatever who you didn’t have room for can now come, I see nothing wrong with this.

              I guess I shouldn’t be surprised with this group on this board. Some people find ways to be offended by anything. “Oh, I wasn’t your first person you sent the invitation to? You must not really want me there, but I’ll go and drink your free booze and eat your food, but I’ll secretly talk about you because of it”.

                1. BCW

                  Yes, it was a bit harsh. And in a way, I had buyers remorse after pressing submit because I don’t usually write stuff like that. But honestly, reading over some comments here over the last couple months, it really does seem that people get offended or angry over the most minuscule things. You can never please everyone, but based on the comments on here at times, you can’t do ANYTHING without someone taking it personally, especially when it comes to holiday stuff that is, usually, trying to bring cheer. You got a bad secret santa gift? Say thanks and suck it up. You can’t bring your girlfriend to your holiday party? Deal with it and learn to spend a few hours apart. The boss got everyone chocolate and you don’t like chocolate? Give it away.

                  But this wedding thing takes the cake (no pun intended), people are mad because there wasn’t enough room to invite everyone they wanted at first. Then spots open up and they can invite some of those people and they are somehow tacky for not wanting to lose money AND have some people they like there? I’ve said it before and I believe it. Some people just look for reasons to be offended.

                2. Joey

                  Eh. I understand the frustration. I mean just recently there were plenty of comments about people being offended by gifts and holiday decorations. Things that seem pretty benign to most people.

                3. A Bug!

                  I agree with fposte; I was surprised to see that comment coming from you because you usually show a great deal of respect even when you disagree. (Also, you’re not normally shy about disagreeing directly with comments, so I was further surprised that you felt any need to make a general comment on the topic.)

                  I’ll take your “buyer’s remorse” though – I know I’ve certainly made comments I probably wouldn’t have if I’d thought further about it.

                1. BCW

                  Harsh? Yes. I don’t think its unfair though. I’m betting some of the people complaining about the b-list invites still went and did just what I said. I could be wrong, but I bet I’m not

                2. Jamie

                  TBH your post said “some” people and I read “most” …so what I was responding to was unfair was a characterization of most people here you didn’t even make.

                  I’ll read all the words next time.

              1. Bea W

                (I read the follow-up, but easier to reply here) It’s not just here, and I think that part of the comment was unfair. Anywhere you go there will probably be someone who has something to complain about. That’s just due to people being individuals with different preferences, ideas, and experiences. In any discussion about anything you’re not going to get 100% agreement and sameness. The comments are going to run the gamut and the reactions to comments are going to do the same.

                There’s a also a difference between what people really think and what they do with what they really think. Not everyone who complains about something is being a bit whiny baby IRL about it. The person who hates his gift may act gracious to the giver, because it’s the right thing to do, but that doesn’t forfeit his right to his own opinion about the gift, and those opinions are what people share in their discussion comments. It doesn’t necessarily make them rude or whiny. It just makes them people with opinions.

                For all anyone knows many of these people perceived as complaining already suck it up, and having to suck it up can be frustrating. It’s doubly frustrating when you suck it up and then get criticized for also not buying into the philosophy or action they disagreed with or found offensive. If they had agreed with something, they wouldn’t have had to suck it up in the first place.

                I also think a lot of the comments people make aren’t about someone taking it personally. I think they are just perceived that way. Disagreements don’t have to be personal. It’s not always about you. Insults are personal. When someone comments with just an insult and nothing else, I don’t think you can blame people for taking that personally and responding to it in a personal way.

                1. fposte

                  I’ll also note that in much of the country the weather sucks right now and people are kind of cranky.

                2. Mints

                  Completely agree with the “suck it up” part.
                  I’ve asked/seen a couple questions that were essentially “Boss is doing Thing that annoys me; is Thing normal?” And the response is sometimes, Yes it’s common but not good practice, or No that’s weird but not a big deal. And some comments are just “suck it up and here’s a story that’s ten times worse than your complaint and stop whining.” Those are really unhelpful when the person isn’t actually looking to act on it, just trying to get perspective. I suck it up all day!

          1. fposte

            I would differ slightly, and say it’s not tacky if nobody knows about it. Where it’s a problem is if you’re openly treating some people better than others at the event. If people’s invitation times vary slightly, that’s just one of those things, and guests are advised not to compare mailing dates.

            1. Jamie

              Yep – even Miss Manners says there is nothing wrong with it provided it’s done so no one could possibly tell which list they were on.

            2. Diet Coke Addict

              I concur. If some guests are invited in the first week of March and some don’t receive theirs until the end of March but they don’t require an RSVP until May….I don’t think that’s a big deal.

              Don’t do like my coworker is planning, which is to only invite half your guests to dinner, and the other half to the cash-bar reception portion of the evening. That part is tacky.

              1. VintageLydia

                The only people I know who did that were people who couldn’t afford the big reception for everyone. But usually it was only close family and friends who got the dinner reception, not half the guest list. I’m thinking people who are active in church so had to invite basically everyone PLUS the guests they really want there.

            3. Heather

              And change the RSVP date on the cards for the B-list people! I received an invite to a September wedding on, like, August 30, and the RSVP date was August 1. (And no, it didn’t get lost in the mail – the groom asked me for my address around August 15.)

              We had a B-list, but we printed our own RSVP cards and made a separate batch with a later reply date for those invites.

        3. Kelly L.

          I think it’s not uncommon to have a secret B list, but the trick is that no one should ever know they were on it, i.e. getting the invitation two days before the wedding when the RSVP date was three months ago (and is still printed on the invite), or showing up to the cake and punch reception to find bussers clearing away a lavish dinner that the “better” guests just finished eating.

            1. Jamie

              Yes – you can’t keep a secret B list in a work environment where everyone is in contact.

              But in planning a wedding if you really want to invite some friends from college but the extra people will push you into a pricey category for venue or food…then you get a lot of RSVPs from cousins saying they can’t make it then there is nothing wrong, imo, with inviting them later.

              No one will compare notes at the wedding about what date their invites arrived.

              But if we work together you don’t want to invite Jane who got her invitation in May and then send me one in July after you’ve gotten most of your responses back. Different circles.

            2. Kelly L.

              And that’s the problem with secrets and B lists. People can’t keep secrets and it does get out through the grapevine.

        4. Elizabeth West

          It’s very poor etiquette. You don’t invite people to the reception and not to the ceremony. If you don’t have the room/money, cut down on your guest list. To exclude people from one and not the other is rude. It looks like “Oh, you weren’t good enough for the REAL thing, but I want to have this secondary thing so I can still get gifts, etc.”

          Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. People acting like entitled jerks is common these days; that doesn’t make it okay.

          1. H. Vane

            You do if you’re Mormon. A combination of very limited seating, large families, and the inability of most of your guests to get into the venue often make it necessary. Not all exclusion is jerkiness.

          2. Jamie

            This is one of those things people have strong convictions about – I personally agree with Elizabeth – you don’t offer some guests more than others.

            You will get to see the wedding, and dinner…you can come to the wedding but we’re not going to feed you and if we let you in the reception it will be for the cash bar when you pay your own way. Ouch.

            I don’t judge other people, because I almost never care, but if it were me I have definite ideas of what you do and don’t do and there would be issues if someone was helping plan the wedding had different ideas.

            Just like I know a lot of people do dry weddings or cash bars…my family would take to that about as well as Frank Barone did at Robert’s wedding. If one of my kids were marrying someone who had a problem with an open bar…those are the issues which result in “what kind of people are they?” conversations which can create deep and lasting rifts.

            Compatibility for a couple in life views, morality, politics, spirituality, sex, money…all great things to make for a harmonious life….but not as important as seeing eye to eye on the way things are done. :)

            1. H. Vane

              Generally, I also agree with Elizabeth. The only point I was trying to make was there are sometimes circumstances that make it impossible to offer the same accomodations for all wedding guests. In my case, the fact that I had my wedding in a Mormon temple meant that four of my eight siblings were unable to attend, not to mention many other people that I love and care deeply about. My sister-in-law’s mother was unable to attend her wedding for the same reason. I would hate to think that there were people who felt that I had slighted them because I was only able to invite them to the reception because of the constraints that were placed on the actual ceremony.

              1. Ruffingit

                The thing is, you follow the social norms of the group you’re in. If the social norm accepted by Mormons is that not everyone attends the wedding (for whatever reason), then it’s OK because everyone within the group knows that is the social norm and apparently accepts it.

                As a general rule though, it’s tacky to invite someone to the wedding, but not the reception and/or invite some to a lavish reception and others to a cake/punch thing. You are basically telling people just how important they are to you. “You are important enough to attend the lavish reception with the awesome food. You, Person B List, are not. But you can come for cake/punch and please don’t forget to bring a wedding gift!” Tacky, tacky.

            2. VintageLydia

              I personally believe if you can’t afford an open bar, then don’t have one at all. I knew I couldn’t afford a venue that had certain set charges for bartenders and overpriced drinks, so I found one where I could bring my own booze (that my dad was able to purchase duty-free on base) and hire my own bartender for less than half the cost PLUS I got to keep or give away the leftovers! I still have a bottle of gin from my wedding.
              Also no tip jars. I told my bartender he could accept tips, but we were going to tip him ourselves (150% of his normal Saturday night take at the popular bar he worked at) but no jars!

              1. fposte

                “Open” is confusing me a little, because it sounds unlimited, and I think it’s fine to have limited offerings. But I think you and Jamie and I are agreeing that the idea is that when you’re hosting people they don’t have to pay. (And I haaate the tip jars and applaud your plan!)

                1. VintageLydia

                  We bought enough that it was effectively unlimited (except one of the varieties of beer ran out–we had leftovers for everything else including garnishes and mixers.) But yes. Unless you are collecting money for charity guests shouldn’t have to pay a dime to attend any event.

                2. Jamie

                  Yes, open doesn’t mean anything you think of, like you would in a restaurant. Just making sure whatever liquor you’re providing is paid for by the hosts…as you would at a party in your home.

                  In my experience wine, beer, and basic mixed drinks are covered. Vodka tonic – reasonable. French martini – wouldn’t expect in most open bars at weddings.

              2. LV

                My BIL and SIL didn’t want an open bar at their wedding (teetotalers) but the reception venue insisted on a cash bar because they made a TON of money from booze and they were going to get it one way or another.

          3. LouG

            Maybe we are defining B-list differently. To me, a B-list is a group of people that you invite after the first “round” because you can now for whatever reason accommodate more people. After the invites go out the people on the “B-List” are not treated any differently than those on the “A-list”. I can see why you would think your definition of a B-list can be rude if you’re not letting a certain group of people have dinner or something.

            After planning a wedding myself though, seriously, I take everything with a grain of salt when it comes to other peoples weddings and the decisions they chose to make. It can be very hard to make sure that everyone’s feelings are not hurt, even if you really, really try.

            1. BCW

              I think me and you were on the same page when it came to B-list, which is why I was so surprised that people didn’t understand why that could come about.

          4. Anonymous

            This is a cultural thing, it’s totally normal and not viewed as rude in the UK to just be invited to the evening reception.

  13. some1

    #2 I worked retail for a few years and we always had our holiday party on a Sunday evening in January, since it was after the holidays at that’s the day our store closed the earliest. I worked in a small-staffed store like you and my manager just took us all out to dinner at a mid-range place like Applebee’s.

  14. not the typical gift question

    I hate to piggyback on a thread, but I have my own gift giving Q–I recently started at a new place. My coworkers chipped in to buy their boss a gift (for a non-holiday reason…..think wedding/baby/home). My coworker said if I want to, I can chip in , but she was very nice about it and said I don’t have to if I don’t want to, I’m brand new, etc. It’s not a large amount, it’s what I would spend on lunch for myself most days….at first I said no but then I thought it over and reconsidered…..did I mess up by refusing at first? I said no because..I had just started the week prior, and my coworker did seem very friendly and understanding that if I didn’t want to. sooo…idk?>

    1. Sydney

      You most likely didn’t mess up. If your coworker said it was voluntary, and she isn’t a terrible person, then she really meant voluntary. Now, if she’s a person who says one thing and means another, it’s possible you just failed her test, and she’ll curse you. But probably not.

      1. not the typical gift question

        she seems like a very awesome person. But I’m also (kind of) scared of nice people and very very wary of everyone now (too many bad experiences in the past).

  15. MR

    I want an update from No. 1, just to hear what kind of lame and backtracking excuse the manager and/or company comes up with.

      1. FreeThinkerTX

        Sadly, I’m with KLH on this. I work in software & tech sales, and when the dot com / tech bubble was bursting, I worked for a series of companies for whom removing the local sales manager was the first step in a path that led to bankruptcy or being bought out (and all remote office being shut down). They also did things like have home-office-only lavish celebrations, but bottom-of-the-barrell remote office things (similar to mandated potlucks and gift exchanges).

  16. KLH

    #4, you have ample reasons not to go along with this BS. Repeat what Alison wrote as needed, no elaborations. And she’s the rude one, not you!

  17. B

    #2 – Perhaps you could do a dinner or lunch after the holiday season has come to an end. They will understand why it is not around the holiday’s and still appreciate it. Or as AAM mentioned you could have a yummy lunch/dinner a couple of days leading up to and past Christmas. Or give them a gift card to places you know they like to eat at so they don’t have to worry about the money for that.

    #3 – I would suggest bringing a small box of cookies, fudge, flowers, etc. It is a little something that is appreciated and looks nice.

    #4 – If you can give the custodian something, even homemade cookies, that would be appreciated. As for the E.A. while I would like to tell you to tell her to stick it where the sun don’t shine, that wouldn’t be very holiday spirit nice. Instead tell her that you are unable to contribute and if she starts harassing you go straight to your boss and ask him how you should handle this. It is in now way shape or form proper for this EA to do that. And I agree the head boss does not need a gift.

    1. Gilby

      #4
      Agreed that cookies or something might be nice for the custodian. But I still would not feel obligated. You need to do what is right for you. The OP is ” not into it this year” and should not feel obligated to do anything she is not comforatble with.

      As far as the co-worker is concerened? OP, like AAM said and others, tell her a firm “I will not be particpating”. And go back to work.

      Not rudely, but firmly with no question in your voice or look in your face that looks like a she can argue back. You do not owe her any explanation on why.
      If she continues to push, tell her you have work to do and continue working and if needed go to your boss. You are not being a jerk to stand up for yourself if she is being rude to you.

      If no one has stood up to her and has” no choice ” she obviously knows it works to push and be obnoxious.
      Be strong and push back. You might be surprised that others might follow your lead.

      I am so sorry to hear about your mom.

  18. AVP

    Oh, I’m glad to see the answer to #5! My boss decided to close the office from Dec 23rd to Jan 2nd, but didn’t particularly say whether we should be running payroll during that time or not. I was planning to do it anyway, since an unplanned, unpaid holiday break would be a disaster. Knowing that two out of three of us are exempt and will certainly be getting plenty of phone calls and emails over the break gives me the reasoning to argue for this if I need to.

    Sometimes I really wish I worked for a real company that thought this stuff through!

  19. Ursula

    Alison, in the case of #5, if there is an exempt employee that has vacation time available, couldn’t the company require that this time be used for the office closure? The employee would still be getting paid for the full week, it would just come out of his or her vacation time. If the employee has no time off accrued, must the company pay at the regular rate (as long as she worked at least part of the week)?

    (I hope this makes sense. )

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes. Usually in these cases they tell people to take PTO for the time. If someone doesn’t have accrued leave, that’s when it becomes a problem. If they’re non-exempt, they’ll have them take the time unpaid. But if they’re exempt, they need to get their normal salary for that week as long as they worked some part of it.

      1. Hope

        So I am exempt, as are all my work team members. We were told the company is doing a shutdown from 12/23 to 1/2 and our options were to take vacation or unpaid days. If they do a shutdown (leaving a skeletal crew to cover emergencies, but shutting down production), does that affect the legality of the situation?

    2. A Bug!

      My understanding of Alison’s answer is that yes, that is legal. The question is whether it’s legal to offer exempt people the option of taking the days unpaid.

      My $0.02 on this is that the arrangement described in the letter is perfectly acceptable (assuming non-exempt employees). This is how my office is set up. When the office is closed, I am given the option of taking the day unpaid or using a vacation day. I like this arrangement and I am happy to be given the choice.

      1. OP #5

        Hi there – I am the OP on this one. First, thank you for answering our question. Most of us here are exempt. We all work for a large state university’s foundation. I guess I just want to say that although this is legal, I really think this is quite awful for office morale. We or our neighbors, for instance, were all affected greatly by Hurricane Sandy last year and we were all horrified that the university was open the day after and that we were forced to take vacation time to clean our homes (if we had one left), help our neighbors, etc. I found it appalling that the state university (oh I am giving it away now, aren’t I?) was only concerned with money lost during this time of great distress for so many (and by the way, the entire state was under a state of emergency during that time). Morale is low as it is for many reasons already, and this is just adding insult to injury. Thanks again!

      2. Aerin

        My company does this as well and we have mostly non-exempt employees. The crap thing about it is they require everyone to save 5 days of vacation in case of a shut down so for those of us who only get 40 hours of vacation per year we effectively have NO vacation days. So in reality we have to work for 3 years before we get 10 hours of vacation we can use. This is a relatively new policy and people are furious about it. about 200 people now have no vacation hours that they can use in 2015.

  20. Z

    First, OP #1, I’m so sorry that your home office excluded you.

    Second, I read the headline to that letter and thought that somebody’s office manager had decided it would be fun to make people guess where the holiday party was. “We’re having a nice luncheon at a fancy restaurant…But you have to figure out where it is!”

    1. A Bug!

      That makes me want to have a treasure map party. All the invitees get a treasure map to the venue, and if they can find it, then they can go to the party.

      A treasure map with riddles and invisible ink clues.

      But not for a work event. Because that would be ridiculous.

  21. AR

    #2 – if your managers have to to keep keys on them while at work, get them nice keychains that can attach to a belt loop. I got them for my managers and they were a hit!

    1. MandyBabs

      I love the key chain or lanyards idea. I had a friend who worked for the government and since everyone has ID badges, she got Vera Bradley lanyards as an outlet to hand out.

      But I have to share a GREAT gift that just happened in my office. While I haven’t been always impressed by our ED, this I thought was quite classy. We’re a small (and poor) non profit, and she bought the office a fancy Keurig – hot & cold! – to replace the gross coffee pot. Thought it was quite generous and way to make the office environment friendly.

      1. A Bug!

        What makes Keurig environmentally friendly? Aren’t the K-cups made from non-biodegradable plastic? And since there’s the foil top as well as coffee grounds inside, they’re not recyclable in many city recycling programs. Wouldn’t the waste-per-cup be much higher with a Keurig than a drip?

        1. MandyBabs

          To clarify – I meant that the coffee system was a gift to staff and a way to brighten up the office spirit.

          As far as the actual environmental impact versus “office environment” (aka feelings), I did not know that about K cups. However, we’re really hurting for funds right now – and morale – so our ED is actually purchasing the K cups herself.

          I just felt the gift was a nice overall gesture for her to attempt to connect with us and the state of the organization. It was Top-to-Bottom as far as gift giving goes and was a shared treat for staff.

          1. A Bug!

            Oh! I parsed it wrong! I read it as “make the office environment-friendly”, not “make the office-environment friendly.”

            Thank you for the clarification! Sorry about my confusion.

          1. Cassie

            There are also re-usable K-cups where you just fill the container with ground coffee and dump out when finished brewing. We had one of those but people kept accidentally throwing it away.

  22. VictoriaHR

    I’d just like to throw out there that local crafters are always a wonderful source of unique gifts. I am a soapmaker and I sell my stuff at local craft shows and a monthly indoor farmer’s market. Last weekend I was selling, and we were expecting tons of people, and only a few trickled in. The amazing things that were laid out on the crafters’ tables that didn’t get bought were in the hundreds. So just throwing local crafts out there as a good gift idea.

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