don’t make these 6 mistakes at work this month

Holidays at work can present some etiquette landmines if you’re not careful — like taking way too much interest in the date your coworker brought (or didn’t bring) to the office holiday party, or inadvertently assuming other people share your religious faith.

At U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about six mistakes that people often make at work this month, and how to avoid them. You can read it here.

{ 210 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Aphrodite

    My office’s party has been cancelled because the school is closed (due to the Thomas fire) but before that happened, the VP decided that because her husband’s band was playing at a local brewery that she’d hold it there and would pay for one round of drinks. It was scheduled to span three hours over anyone’s dinner time–and we would have had to pay, if we wanted to eat, for [ethnic cuisine I hate] food from food truck.

    How deaf can she be to decent behavior.

    Reply
    1. KK

      It sounds like a blessing in disguise (or not in disguise!) that it was cancelled. I’m so sorry you’re in an area affected by the Thomas fire.

      Reply
    2. Alice

      I hope you’re ok, what with the fire.

      About the party, if it were actually happening — I probably would have done, said hi to people, had the one free drink, and then headed out. Is there a reason to think that the VP expected you to stay for three hours?

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      1. Snark

        My old employer decided that Applebees was the place to have the Christmas party. Not my jam. I showed up, I said hi, and peaced out. No harm, no foul.

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    3. Snark

      I’m seriously failing to see how any of that crosses the line into indecency. If you’re in California, breweries and craft beer are pretty safe bets for a crowd-pleasing venue. Same for live music. Same for food trucks, which LA basically made A Thing. Now, you may not personally love any of those things for any number of reasons, but failing to take every possible idiosyncrasy into consideration when planning an event isn’t possible. That plan sounds like a reasonable bet for pleasing most of an office in SoCal.

      All that aside, though, god, I hope they get that fire under control soon – it’s a beast.

      Reply
        1. Snark

          Eeeeehhhhhh…..that particular detail is a little gauche, I guess. But if one’s husband happens to be in a band and is playing close to the holidays at a brewery, I can totally see Boss going “hey, that’d be perfect for the holiday party, it’ll be fun” without considering the optics. Which aren’t awful, just a little bit not great. And like I said, the rest of the picture sounds reasonable for an office party in the LA area.

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          1. Jesca

            I get what you are saying. I mean I always look at it like I’m not entitled to a holiday party, and I have also had to “chip in” with many of them (potlucks, own drinks, own food, etc.) I mean yeah it is a little tone deaf, but not like absolutely shocking.

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      1. WellRed

        It would be more pleasing if the company paid for it, rather than expecting the employees to. Also, see: mandatory/voluntary attendance at boss’s husband’s gig.

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        1. Snark

          One round of drinks on Boss seems like a reasonable payment arrangement. I’m certainly not expecting an open bar at a holiday party, and most work parties I’ve been to have been 100% pay your own tab.
          Addressed other point above.

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          1. paul

            Kind of depends on how optional it is; but even if it’s purely optional at an after hours party thing I do think the company should pay for the food.

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            1. Snark

              Interesting take. I’ve really never seen it done that way, aside from a “first round on Boss” arrangement. Actually, now that I think of it, I do remember an arrangement where the company paid for a spread of apps but you were on your own for entrees.

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              1. Kyrielle

                Every holiday party I’ve been to supplied the meal, except when it wasn’t scheduled at a meal-time. This is a three-hour Thing that goes across all dinner hours, per the LW, so there’s not even the excuse of “it’s late evening, we have dinner earlier and didn’t think about it” to excuse it.

                That said, yeah, I’d show up a little bit and leave early and leave it at that, because nothing is going to please everyone; what the LW is describing just happens to be a perfect match to only things that won’t please/suit me. (*Possibly* with the exception of the actual music. Not probably tho.)

                And as long as it’s optional, or as long as “show up and leave early” is okay, that’s…just something that didn’t work for someone. If you must go, and especially if you must go and must stay, I’d argue it’s become a Problem.

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              2. SignalLost

                I have never paid for anything at a work-sponsored holiday party, and that includes the year my incredibly cheap non-profit got us tickets to Teatro Zinzanni, which is not cheap. Maybe if you wanted more than one or two drinks, you’d have to pay, but I feel like this crosses into wedding territory – if you are planning an event for a meal time, feed the attendees that meal. I would be outraged to be expected to pay for my own meal at a holiday party.

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                1. Snark

                  But a wedding is a totally different kind of event – much more formal, always includes a meal, always at the host’s expense. At an informal, hangout-style holiday party? Like I said, I feel like it’s kind of nice if they cover a first round or a couple plates of nachos, but like I said – I’ve paid my way at holiday parties more than not. And a lot of employers’ parties are potlucks, which is basically that.

                2. SignalLost

                  @Snark – I don’t feel like we have info on whether this was a casual hangout or The Holiday Party – have I missed a clarification from the OP? Framing it as The Holiday Party, then expecting employees to pay for it, is not okay. I’m also sleeved by the idea her husband’s band is playing the venue, because that could run into conflict of interest – if the venue was only aware they had a great turnout, they might book the band more than they otherwise would, potentially causing the boss to profit off this. I don’t think that’s a huge malicious act on her part, but it doesn’t help me see this in a good light.

                  And I wasn’t mentioning weddings because they’re formal events; it’s a good rule of thumb that I’ve seen most often crop up around wedding etiquette that if you are taking a person’s meal time for a party, you feed them. (This is explicitly stated in Etiquette guides for all the brides and grooms out there who think all you really need is an ice cream truck. :) )

                3. Snark

                  “Framing it as The Holiday Party, then expecting employees to pay for it, is not okay.”

                  You’re not wrong…..but I think part of the framing is in the plan itself, and I think the nature of the event makes it pretty clear this is a holiday hangout, not The Holiday Party – whatever they call it. Like, if my buddy is like, “Wanna come over for some dumplings and beer,” I’m not even putting on my nice flip-flops before we wander over with the kid and a six pack. If the pleasure of my company is requested at 7pm at the residence of the grand poobah, I’m wearing a suit and I’m finding a babysitter.

                4. JanetM

                  I work for a state university which is not allowed to purchase food for employees (there are a few exceptions like retirement parties and all-day meetings, but definitely not for holiday parties).

                  For our division holiday party, the directors each contribute a fairly large sum (around $100, the last time I checked), attending employees contribute a moderate sum (I think it’s $10 or $12 this year), and employee plus-ones contribute a somewhat larger amount.

                  I’m in two departments, one of four people including me, and one of about a dozen people. The manager of the four-person department took us out to lunch today at a nice-casual place. My other department is going out to lunch together next week, also at a nice casual place, and we’ll each pay our own way.

                  I’ve worked here long enough that this feels perfectly normal to me.

                5. Specialk9

                  I didn’t realize there were companies that made you pay for a holiday spread, unless it was a potluck. But potlucks are usually arranged by coworkers, right?

              3. OlympiasEpiriot

                If it is a Holiday Party For the Office/Company, in my experience, it is the company who pays for a party.

                The firm I’m with used to do a kinda formal weekday lunch holiday thing at a local hotel ballroom just for employees where we heard about how the year went and what was predicted for next year, then, in an evening around then, in the office, there was a much less formal holiday thing where people brought their families, there were presents for the kids, and lots of buffet/dips/drinks for everyone. Both fully paid for by the firm.

                Now, we have an evening do at a hotel with the year past/to come for all employees+1 adult. Still paid for by firm.

                I have never been at a company where it was a company party but we paid for our food/drinks.

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              4. chomps84

                Private companies (both for and non-profit) will usually (and, in my opinion should always) pay for the company holiday party/hangout/whatever). But government offices often don’t or can’t (legally). I think it’s weird for a private company to not pay. I also think government entitites (e.g. offices, schools, etc) should be allowed to pay for a party for their employees, but hey, I don’t make the laws.

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        2. Sterling

          She said school as someone who works in education holiday events would typically be hosted by the supervisor because schools don’t pay for stuff like that. This is less a sponsored holiday party and more a co-worker gathering. Which is why it would be perfectly acceptable to skip it or to just drop in for a bit.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            Yeah, that’s my read on it too – this is more of an off-work get-together, come on down and chill sort of scenario. And if it’s a higher ed or school workplace, it’s very probable that the department doesn’t fund parties anyway.

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      2. JessaB

        Um if you are having a party that’s three hours across dinner and especially if you’re giving out booze (even one drink,) it’s outrageous to make people pay for their food. You don’t box people in at a party where they have to spend their own money to eat, and expect them to stay for three hours. Especially a party with very limited food choices. We’re not talking a venue with a decent menu, we’re talking ONE food truck and if anyone has any religious or other food issues, they can’t eat at all.

        That’s not a holiday celebration, that’s WORK. And I would not go if I were not being paid for it. I don’t drink, so I hope they have soft drinks, but I’m not going to pay for my own food or stay and listen if I don’t like the music either. If they insist on a very limited food truck menu, then they should at minimum give out vouchers for a standard meal. Food truck food is EXPENSIVE, this is not your childhood Sabrett Cart where you could get a full meal for a buck and a quarter (50 cent hot dog, 50 cent knish and a 25 cent can of pop.)

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        1. Snark

          I think where the disconnect is, you – and aphrodite – are taking this as a Party, where people have to come and stay for the entire Party, and the boss is the Host and must do Hosting, including provision of a full dinner, and it is a Work Event. And a lot of places in the country, that’s reasonable to expect from a work holiday party.

          My feeling is that this is way more…..California. Or Colorado. Or beach/mountain/college town in general, because this is really familiar to me from places like Boulder and working in academic departments, which it sounds like this is. My feeling is that this event is not intended to be more of an optional, informal hangout where you come and chill and have a beer and listen to a few songs and maybe get some food if you feel like it and hey I’ll pick up the first round, and maybe you stay half an hour or maybe you stay for three and whatever’s clever, dudes. It’s a get-together, not a Party.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            I’d be interested to know if Aphrodite is a transplant, because I can understand something like this getting way up the nose of someone accustomed to, and expecting, a more formal entertaining culture. And that set of expectations explains a lot about the indignant reaction it’s seeming to get.

            And correction, my sentence above should reads “My feeling is that this event IS intended to be…”

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            1. SignalLost

              I feel like Aphrodite has the best read on the situation of all of us, and has chosen “holiday party, no qualifiers” as the best descriptor of the event. And your opinion that California changes things is just nonsense. All of those work parties I referenced going to were in Seattle, and we are at least as casual as California is perceived to be.

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              1. Snark

                Wow, you’re being really dismissive and unpleasant all of a sudden. You really want that to be to be the tone here?

                I’m prepared to admit that this is probably more field-dependent than geography-dependent, but California does change things, and academia does change things. That’s not nonsense.

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          2. Optimistic Prime

            Yeah, I’m in Seattle and that doesn’t seem outrageous to me. If I didn’t want to eat from the food truck I’d eat before or after the event.

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        2. Alice

          But is someone boxing people in and expecting them to stay for three hours?

          I mean, if the boss is going to be pissy with people who don’t come, or who don’t stay the whole time, sure, that would be bad. But Aphrodite didn’t say that. Are we just assuming?

          Because I would be pretty grumpy about HAVING to stay for a three-hour period, even if there were free food and drink. But at every work part in my life, I’ve left when I wanted to.

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      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        The food truck and brewery aren’t the problem (although I would argue the brewery is not particularly inclusive). The problem is forcing people to attend your spouse’s musical gig, at their own cost, for hours on end. That’s not cool.

        Hope you’re ok, though, Aph—the fire looks as hellacious as the ones we had up here. :(

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        1. Snark

          Are people forced to attend, though? Like I keep saying, I think we’re seeing kind of a clash of assumptions here.

          And I disagree that breweries are not inclusive. My wife hates beer and doesn’t drink it, yet loves going to breweries – toss some cornhole, play some trivia, sit outside, kids running around.

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          1. SignalLost

            I have coworkers who absolutely would not go to a brewery for religious or health reasons. They’re more egregiously non-inclusive than other venues because alcohol is a common thing to proscribe from your life.

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            1. Snark

              Granted, but if that’s a factor, any venue that serves alcohol would be problematic. As venues that serve alcohol go, though, breweries tend to have a communal, relaxed vibe that is more inclusive than a lot of straight-up bars.

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                1. Optimistic Prime

                  Do they, though? Most of the holiday parties I have been to are in ‘bar venues’ in the sense that they have bars or alcohol provided.

                2. JamieS

                  I don’t know the exact statistics but I think it’s likely plenty of holiday parties aren’t hosted in a bar or brewery. I don’t think it’s very likely there’s no alcohol period at most after hour parties and if there’s a religious or health objection wouldn’t that apply if there’s any alcohol period not just if the main purpose of the venue is to sell alcohol? Especially if it’s a health concern. I know there are varying levels and people apply their beliefs in different ways but I mean just as a general rule.

                3. BananaPants

                  No, they don’t. Just about any sit-down restaurant in our area has a bar, and even some of the fast casual places (Moe’s, Noodles & Co, etc.) have a beer/wine license. You’d be hard pressed to find a venue that doesn’t serve alcohol.

                  Our holiday party is hosted on-site with a full bar. No one is forced or pressured to drink, and my Mormon and non-drinking Muslim colleagues have no problems merely being present in a place where alcohol is served.

      4. Dankar

        I would be pretty into that as the holiday party, as well. I mean, there are plenty of people who would rather do something else with that time, so it definitely shouldn’t be mandatory, but I’m all about brewery/food truck/live music. (And I’m no SoCal resident.)

        I’ve also paid my way at every holiday function that was held out of the office, so that doesn’t seem egregious to me.

        Better than a party where there’s no alcohol allowed, so all the people who went BYOB end up sneaking their empties home in the car to avoid maintenance looking through the bins and tattling. I’ve been to three of those and I foresee another in my future…

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      5. OlympiasEpiriot

        If it is a food truck, why can’t there be more than one food truck so people have a couple of choices? Seems odd to limit the situation.

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          1. OlympiasEpiriot

            Just pointing out that Aphrodite wrote “My office’s party has been cancelled…” This seems like an extremely slapdash “office’s party”. I hear your interpretations of various gettogethers, however, they clearly write “my office’s party”. I’m going with the assumption that this is an office party, whether or not it was happening at the office. Unless it normally is a potluck (no idea, description is missing), then the firm should pay for this and provide some semblance of selection/variety to assuage different dietary needs. Restaurants can do this. It is not foreign to them. Breweries that serve food are also restaurants. Even bringing in a food truck is making a choice on the part of the operation and I don’t think I’m out of line by expecting service from the service industry. That goes if it is LA or even Paris.

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            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              I think that’s the issue, though, that this isn’t an “office party” like the ones I’ve been to where the company rents out a whole venue or a party room or something. This is, “Everyone come to the brewery on X night.” Where I live, breweries and taprooms are very much A Thing where you can go and hang out and drink beer, but they don’t serve food, so they bring in a different food truck every night. Sometimes I like the truck, sometimes I don’t, sometimes we choose to go based on which truck will be there. One can also bring in takeout or even get pizza delivered to the taproom.

              In saying all this, I don’t think it’s the company that’s limiting the food– the company isn’t choosing the food, the brewery is. And if the company wants to hold its party at the brewery, then ok, but I really do think the company should provide (yes, a wide variety of) food.

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      6. Temperance

        Being forced to listen to someone’s band is just bad form. Being forced to pay for the privilege of doing so, under the guise of a holiday party, is ridiculous.

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      7. Artemesia

        You don’t hold a company party at dinner time and not feed people. Making it for her husband’s band gig makes it just worse. If she were buying a round of tacos as well as drinks –okay — but to expect people to pay for food at their company holiday party just sucks.

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      8. Magenta Sky

        I’ve never once been to a company party where I had to pay for food. I’m sure it happens, and perhaps it’s not even uncommon, but it seem awfully miserly to me.

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  2. BBBizAnalyst

    Or just prying in general. I choose not to spend the holidays with my toxic family and I wish people would stop prying as to why or pressuring me to change my mind. Some of us don’t have good feelings toward this time of the year and would prefer y’all leave us alone to enjoy the holidays the way we choose fit.

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    1. Snark

      I’ll never understand why people feel the need to crowbar their way into stuff like that. Like, sure, you may have a wonderful family, but we’ve all known many people with toxic ones, we all know how crazy people get at the holidays, and if someone says “I’m estranged from my family, so I won’t be with them this Christmas,” do you really need the gory details?

      Reply
      1. Falling Diphthong

        I blame all those Miracle of Christmas holiday movies, where the presence of enough evergreens will paper over any long-time differences with sincere reconciliation.

        I suspect they are written by the same people who enjoy the storyline “Character’s Dad walked out decades ago and they haven’t been in contact, but when Dad shows up, Character learns an important lesson about having the exact relationship Dad wants, on Dad’s terms, whenever Dad wants it.”

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        1. Marthooh

          Miracle of Christmas 2: Mean, gropey Uncle Drunk needs a kidney transplant. Local Amateur Theater puts on a production of “A Christmas Carol” and Character learns an important lesson about sharing.

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      2. Beckie

        I don’t even think you should get to the point where someone feels compelled to say “I’m estranged from my family.” Like, small talk is fine, but if it gets into grilling someone about their life choices, you’ve gone too far.

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    2. PB

      Oh, goodness, yes. Every time I take a few days off of work, my supervisor asks if I’m going to visit my family and points out that “It’s been a long time.” Yes. That’s intentional.

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    3. Anon non non

      Yep! I have serious issues with people I’m related to and am not going to subject myself to them just because a major holiday rolls around. Holidays aren’t going to make my cousins stop being racist scumbags or my sister less of a judgemental jerk about how I’m living my life. I am the only person in my office who doesn’t spend a lot of time with extended family. Last year I had a co-worker tell me that I should be ashamed that I am depriving my kids of those relationships. I told the same co-worker that unless she was willing to write me a check to cover the therapy my kids would need from sustained exposure to my family she could take her opinion and shove it.

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      1. Snark

        “Last year I had a co-worker tell me that I should be ashamed that I am depriving my kids of those relationships.”

        I literally cannot conceive of what makes people think being this much of a busybody is okay.

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        1. Rainy

          But faaaaamily. I’m pretty upfront about the fact that being raised in a Christian cult makes your upbringing rather dysfunctional, and even after your parents leave, well, they’re still the kind of people who would join a cult, soooooooooooooooooo…

          yeah.

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        2. Kathleen

          Exactly – but faaaaaaamily. My family’s fine, and part of my husband’s family is fine, but his parents? Nope, not fine at all. He isn’t estranged from them but he keeps his mother a long arm’s length away and until his dad died, he kept dear dad about two arms’ lengths away – and that works fine for him. They hurt him a lot, and he’s taken these steps to make sure they can’t hurt him that way again.

          But the number of people who feel qualified to say things like, “You’ll regret that when they’re gone” is truly *astounding*. Because no. He’ll regret that he didn’t have better parents – he does that now – but he definitely won’t regret not giving two of the most self-centered people I’ve known extra opportunities stomp around his life and over his feelings.

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    4. Dawn

      I am with you on this! I haven’t spoken to my mother in years, and everyone just preaches that you need to FORGIVE! Yeah well some things are unforgivable. Remember that the people that won’t let this go are being rude, you can be rude back.

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      1. anon24

        I’m a big believer in forgiveness, because forgiveness is about your own peace of mind, not the other person. But forgiveness does not mean forgetfulness. My MIL complained to my husband because while we play nice and get along, she and I do not have a close relationship. He told her that because of the horrible things she’s done to me in the past we will never have a close relationship. She basically said that since I claim to have to forgiven her I must prove it and become very close with her (translation, bow down to her wishes and allow her to control my life). Yet to this day she has never acknowledged (to me) what she did to me, or apologize (to me) for it. I have forgiven her, because being angry about something that happened in the past is not worth my time or energy. But I know that she has not changed, and I will not give her the opportunity to continue treating me like dirt.

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        1. the gold digger

          No! You do not have to forget! And that advice came to me from the pastor who married Primo and me. She knew about how awful his parents were and told me that I forgive them for myself but I was not required to spend time with them or ever to forget what they had done.

          (Among the highlights, they told Primo not to marry me and threatened to boycott our wedding, attending only when Primo told them I was pregnant, which I was at the time, and that if they ever wanted to see their grandchild – which I was not going to let happen anyhow – that they better show up to the wedding.)

          (And I ate bacon wrong.)

          You do not have to open yourself up to people who have hurt you. You don’t even have to be around them if you don’t want.

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          1. Artemesia

            Tell me how to eat bacon right as I fear I may err and ruin family relationships. My son’s in-laws are Jewish but they eat bacon and are no help here either.

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            1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

              Open mouth. Insert bacon. Chew and swallow.

              Any bits you may choose to cut off, or your preferences as to degree of crispiness or the things you serve it with, are entirely your choice and within the normal variation of bacon-eating behaviours.

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    5. Magenta Sky

      What I really wish is that people I barely know at work would stop inviting me to their house for Christmas (or Thanksgiving) dinner because my nearest family is 2,000 miles away. I have no desire to spend several hours with one person I barely know and a bunch of other people I have never met before and probably don’t want to know anyway.

      Thanks for the thought, but honestly, a good book is a better way to spend the day for me.

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      1. emmylou

        See, I actually love that and appreciate it — you don’t have to go, but I think the offer is nice. I can take or leave xmas (five of the last six years I was out of the country), but the year that I was living on the west coast i appreciated that my colleague invited me to her family xmas dinner. I went for a bike ride in the morning, went and ate other people’s turkey, got insights into their family dynamics, felt grateful for the gesture of inclusion, then went home and slept happily on my own. YMMV ;)

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      2. Optimistic Prime

        I think it’s sweet – it’s usually done out of a sense of concern – but I am also amused when people think that me being left alone with my thoughts, video games, books, and the Internet for a few days is somehow a bad thing.

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    6. Parenthetically

      Seriously. “We’re just having a quiet holiday at home like most years; my family and I aren’t close” merits a “that’s a bummer” at MOST, but I’d be more likely to respond with “Have fun!”

      Reply
  3. ZenJen

    Our holiday party is AT the office, employees only, near the end of the day. So it’s pretty sedate, but also feels more mandatory-ish, oh well.

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    1. Anonymous Poster

      That doesn’t sound quite so bad, because there isn’t this major to do finding sitters (if there are kids at home), you still have your evening free, and there aren’t major shenanigans that would go on. I suppose it could be nicer, but I do kind of like the parties at the office during the day because I like having my evenings still.

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    2. ClownBaby

      Ours is a holiday luncheon, during the workday. Employees who are able to go right at the start get to hear a little business review speech and enter a raffle, but it’s definitely more of a “stop in, make a plate of food, sit with someone you may not otherwise sit with, and leave to get back to work” thing.

      Before my time here, my office would do open bar holiday parties off-site and after hours, but people couldn’t handle the open bar responsibly. So they eliminated that and any sort of company outing. Makes me sad looking back at archived company pictures, I would’ve loved to be on the company softball team and gone to a few barbecues (though I am sure if they were ever required, I’d think differently).

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    3. KayEss

      Ours is right after a 9:00 AM staff meeting. Potluck lunch. Back to work after. And they only told us about it a week in advance.

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      1. SpaceySteph

        Overall that’s pretty good but if they want a potluck worth a damn out of me I need minimum 2 weekends notice.

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    4. BananaPants

      Ours is held right here at the office from 3-6 PM, with a ton of food and an open bar, employees only. It does feel sort of expected that one at least puts in an appearance, because most of us would still be working for the first hour or two of the party anyways. Employees often don’t stay the entire time, so it’s not weird to bail at 4 or 4:30.

      I like it this way – I don’t have to ask my husband to take the day off work to handle daycare/after school pickup (he works nights) or pay for a sitter. It’s a nice opportunity to get visibility to the higher-ups and to socialize with coworkers who aren’t on the same projects anymore. And oh, the food – carving, pasta, and mashed potato stations, crudite and dessert tables, and every form of hors d’oeuvre known to humankind. I’m already looking forward to the massive shrimp cocktail…

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  4. Construction Safety

    Holiday party. Ours was Saturday night. We arrived on time. The venue was dark. Called my boss, “Oh yeah, we cancelled because of the weather (yesterday). Sorry.”

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  5. Kristine

    What about coworkers with good intentions who become downright pushy in their attempts to play “matchmaker” between employees and a treat? Overheard last Friday:
    Matchmaker: “[Name], do you want this cupcake?”
    Name: “No, thank you.”
    Matchmaker: “Are you sure?”
    Name: “Yes, I’m sure.”
    Matchmaker: “Are you double-sure?”
    At this point I called out from my desk, “Hey, let’s respect people’s choices!” However, Matchmaker did not hear me and moved on to another potential mate for the cupcake. [Name] later overshared with me that she had diabetes, and I felt irritated that this employee felt she had to give an excuse when Matchmaker was not listening to her. Last year about this time I was also put on the spot and embarrassed by an entire department for my multiple refusals to eat a sugary treat. Do people think this behavior is “nice”? I think it’s rude. (We have people with varying dietary issues working here as well, but I don’t think anyone should have to share that or have it teased out of them.)

    Reply
    1. Rainy

      When I was in undergrad I had a really lovely boss and also a serious corn allergy (which I’ve since grown out of, thank god, being allergic to corn in the US is the worst–the stuff is everywhere), and one day she brought cookies in. I had a really firm no homemade baked goods go in my mouth policy at the time, due to allergies, but she REEEEEALLY wanted me to try one. I took a bite of one, began to chew and she said “They’re so light, right?! Guess what the secret ingredient is?” I shrugged, still chewing, and she said happily “CORN STAAAA—OH MY GOD”. She and I stared at each other for a moment in horror and then I suavely leaned under her desk and spat half-masticated cookie into her wastebasket.

      She did not ever pressure me to try anything again.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Yep I had this happen at a potlatch with a quiche Lorraine made by a coworker, I was like “Yo Joel you left the mustard OUT right?” had the fork halfway to my mouth when he literally grabbed it out of my hand turning red as a beet and went “OMG I forgot.” I wanted to know if he was just stupid or trying to kill me. I worked there ten years and reminded him every holiday and he NEVER remembered to leave it out. I stopped asking.

        Reply
        1. Elemeno P.

          I have a pork allergy and the same thing happened to me with potluck dishes, with the exception of one awesome team that always remembered and made me a substitute thing. Everybody else would forget.

          Luckily, being a pescatarian has severely cut down on the number of “Just Beef I Swear” dishes with surprise bacon.

          Reply
          1. Rainy

            Haha I have a chicken and turkey allergy! *Weird protein allergy high 5!*

            Yeah, at the staff meeting birthday celebration for my birthday month (I always and only ask for cheese, because cheese is safe for me) there were muffins, and I ate half a muffin because what could possibly be in a pumpkin spice muffin? Soy flour, it turns out. Soy flour can be in a pumpkin spice muffin. I had to go home with a serious migraine 40 minutes later.

            Reply
            1. L

              My relative just had a severe allergy attack due to peanut butter being an ingredient in pumpkin bread… PEANUT BUTTER. Who does that!??!

              Reply
              1. nonymous

                pb (or nutella!) works really well if you’re short on volume of banana or pumpkin puree called for in the bread recipe. Although nut allergies are commonplace enough that it should be advertised.

                Reply
              2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

                Reminds me of a horror story I read once where a woman died after eating chili that had peanut butter in it as a thickener. This despite her carefully explaining that she was deadly allergic and the staff assuring her that there was nothing in restaurant that would contain any peanuts.

                For myself, I can see using nut butter in pumpkin bread, but I wouldn’t bring it to work!

                Reply
    2. All Hail Queen Sally

      Ugh! I am a diabetic and I HATE when people try to pressure me to eat something I can’t. Some simply will not take no as an answer.

      Reply
    3. I Can't Eat That

      As a 40-something with orthodontics, I have had a few people double down on insisting I try something that I’m not allowed to have. Not often, maybe twice in the past two years.

      It’s funny because people try to approach it from the “being naughty” angle, as in Oh, the doctor will never know if you sneak a few pieces of popcorn. Can you imagine trying to “tempt” a teenager with braces in the same way? No one would do that.

      Reply
    4. K.

      People really need to leave other people alone about food. I have a serious (like, Epi-Pen, anaphylactic shock) allergy to peanuts and some tree nuts and people are always trying to get me to eat stuff with nuts in it. “But peanut butter is so good! How can you resist a peanut butter cup?” Really easily, as it turns out, because peanut butter is literally poisonous to me!

      Reply
    5. OlympiasEpiriot

      Gawd, I hate food-eating pressure.

      I love entertaining and I love having everyone be happy and so I provide a big selection of things (I always ask guests for their allergies and hates…I’m happy to accommodate). Sometimes I order from a a couple of different restaurants in addition to what I make for my bigger parties. I also manage to separate things and label them for anything that could be problematic. It really isn’t that difficult guys!!

      I even have the vegan, GF, kosher table. I really like to know everyone can relax.

      And, guess what, if someone brings something for themselves, or doesn’t eat something I made — even if it was with that specific person in mind — I really don’t mind. See above…I like everyone to know they can relax.

      Reply
    6. Magenta Sky

      I get that a lot of people are reluctant to talk about stuff like diabetes at work, but I’m all about effective, efficient communications. So everybody here knows I’m diabetic, and they know better than to offer me sugary stuff. I also skip the yoga stuff, because some of what they do would put my arthritic should and hip in traction.

      It helps a lot that I work with grown up. That is apparently a luxury not everyone has.

      Reply
      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        I’m flabbergasted by the stuff people encounter at work and write about here. I mean, what if I just don’t feel like eating the cupcake or the popcorn or whatever? There doesn’t have to be a reason, I just don’t want to do it. I don’t understand why people interpret that as some kind of threat or criticism.

        Reply
  6. WellRed

    My office Christmas party is coming up. I will be bringing my own snacks because, despite my asking, the planner can’t wrap her head around the idea that some of us would like something healthy, non-fried and non-greasy. (At least, I don’t have food allergies).

    Reply
    1. Snark

      Yeah, when it comes time for potlucks and stuff, I usually like to be the guy rolling in with some hummus and flatbread, or goat cheese and toasts, or something otherwise savory, reasonably light, and not either a) slathered in frosting or b) fried, composed largely of cheese, or both.

      Reply
        1. paul

          To get good ones, IME, you have to make rather than buy them. And I think a lot of people have only seen the purchased ones.

          Reply
        2. WellRed

          To be clear, this is a casual, catered event at a restaurant. The fact that the planner specifically asks about food needs, and then disregards, is what vexes me. It’s not like I am asking for lobsters and champagne.

          Reply
    2. many bells down

      Mr. Bells’ party was Saturday, and although they make a point of saying that there are vegetarian and gluten-free food options … they don’t actually label ingredients on anything. So my husband, who has celiac disease, has to guess which food items he can eat.

      Reply
      1. Tuesday Next

        My favourite is when they order kosher, vegetarian food and then unpack it onto the tray with the pigs-in-a-blanket and bacon-wrapped chicken legs.

        Reply
  7. Amber Rose

    Our office party has historically had an open bar. Everyone gets drunk. It makes for some awkwardness, let me tell you.

    I send out the meeting minutes in a company email every week, would it be out of place to add a little *X days until the holidays* note at the bottom? I usually sign off Happy Monday, but I don’t know, I feel like I should try and mix things up a bit sometimes.

    Reply
    1. Rainy

      I think I’d prefer not, if it were me–“X days until the holidays” seems like a slightly spackled-over Christmas thing.

      Reply
      1. Legalchef

        yup. because, which holiday? they aren’t all the same number of days away. maybe just a “happy holidays” catch-all.

        Reply
        1. Amber Rose

          Well, the holiday that we get a week off for, basically. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, we’re still closed for a week, which is cause for celebration in my books. ;)

          Reply
      2. Nolan

        To expand on that a bit, Hanukkah starts tomorrow, the Prophet’s Birthday was on the 1st, Christmas is the 25th, and Kwanzaa starts on the 26th. So any countdown will necessarily require a specific target date, excluding all the others. Unless your whole office closes and you can count down to that day, I’d skip it.

        Reply
    2. Sienna B.

      What about a catch-all like “Happy Holidays!” Personally, the holidays drum up a lot of sadness and anxiety for me, so seeing a countdown until that time frame would fast-track my holiday blues.

      Reply
    3. Beancounter Eric

      Depends on the crowd….

      I might do X days, hours, etc. until Winter Solstice (Astronomy is one of my hobbies), Y days until New Years….. but X days until the Holidays can be a problem for some.

      Reply
      1. Legalchef

        I think one of the points Alison was making in the article is that you don’t always know who “the crowd” is, even if you think you do.

        Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        One of the hills to die on examples was the employee whose commandeered Hours to Christmas countdown whiteboard was taken because they needed to write work stuff on it. (In November.)

        Reply
            1. Oryx

              But you’re already doing that if you have an X days until holidays, right? I understand that Christmas and your office closure align, so that by putting “holidays” you aren’t highlighting the whole “office closed” part, but holidays is less inclusive and, regardless, you’re still advertising the whole “This is how many days we lave left until we don’t work.”

              So maybe don’t put anything.

              Reply
    4. Yorick

      You can’t count down to the “holidays” unless you have multiple countdowns listed. That seems obviously a Christmas message but somehow even worse because it’s trying not to be. Either do a countdown to Christmas (which you probably shouldn’t do) or leave it off entirely.

      Reply
    5. SpaceySteph

      Agree with others about “what holiday” and “don’t you mean Christmas?”

      I would say though that if your entire company is closed for the week between Christmas and New Years you could do a “X days until Holiday Break” and that wouldn’t be out of line. But only if you’re really all the way closed– if some front office people or retail people or whatever have to work then that just comes off as a whole different kind of offensive.

      Reply
    6. SignalLost

      EducationWorld lists 11 major December/winter holidays, and I know there are many more. Which one were you thinking of? Hanukkah starts tomorrow, but Three Kings Day is January 6.

      Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        No specific holiday in mind, just the generic “we are closed for several days” holiday which OK, realistically is Christmas but also realistically, even people not celebrating Christmas are getting all those days off.

        Reply
    7. Falling Diphthong

      I think possible reactions include “X days? Oh god oh god, I haven’t shopped and I should have mailed. I am a bad person…” and “X days until the day everyone reminds me I am estranged from my family.” Embrace the mundaneness of repetition!

      *Also this is not a workable use of “the holidays”, unless you are going to include the countdown to all of them. December 26th is the festival marking the anniversary of Zoro-Aster’s death, for example. There’s a separate one for the solstice.

      Reply
    8. Catabodua

      Don’t.

      Besides, no one is reading the minutes. True story, the guy who sent out minutes for one of our meetings added horribly inappropriate items in each week on the version that got emailed (there was also an “official” version that was saved on a shared drive, they were not included in that one). As in, “then the group stripped naked and ran around the table” or something like that in each one.

      No one noticed for YEARS.

      Reply
      1. paul

        I feel that way about reports I prepare for our funders and partners sometimes :/

        “We can identify XYZ gaps in services, ABC common barriers among low income individuals”….but I really doubt it ever gets read.

        Reply
        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

          I managed to work “the principle of least astonishment” (AKA the “no sh!t, Sherlock” principle) into my PhD thesis. Nobody commented.

          Reply
    9. Lehigh

      I think if the office is closed for a stretch you could use the start of that as the “holidays” you’re counting down to and be fine.

      Reply
    10. JessaB

      Yeh there are over 29 holidays for various groups and religions that fall between US Thanksgiving and Eastern Orthodox Christmas, so which ones? I’d be more likely to put “x days before holiday party,” or in the case of the Japanese company I worked for “x days until we’re closed for New Years,” New Years was more important to them, but Christmas was a big deal in New York for Americans, so they usually closed the 23d to the 2nd. Or as soon as we finished the giant “new year is coming we clean out the office,” thing. We all got paid for it, didn’t have to take PTO, but man it’s like massive spring cleaning but in the winter.

      Reply
  8. Not Today Satan

    “Assuming others share your faith (or lack of faith)”

    I had an uncomfortable experience at a work happy hour last week. I’m a Christian and involved in my church. I avoid religious topics at work, but if it’s relevant (e.g. someone asks me my plans for the night) I don’t hide it either. At happy hour, a woman started trash talking Christians. Often in these situations, I just ignore it or change the subject, but since the other two people in the conversation know I’m religious, I was afraid I’d look like a coward if I didn’t say anything.

    So when she said something about someone going to church every Sunday with a shudder, I said with a smile and a shrug, “I go to church every Sunday.” She doubled down and criticized Christians for political actions that they have taken. I said she is justified in this climate to have that preconception but that I am liberal and so is my church. The conversation ended after that I think.

    Anyway, the whole thing was uncomfortable. I have zero interest in softening Christianity’s image when I’m at work, but I felt sort of forced to in that situation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time someone said a negative comment about Christian faith to me at work. I totally understand that in many/most contexts it’s the opposite way around, but in my context (big Northeast city, staff dominated by liberals) secular people insulting religious people is pretty common, and it’s not okay.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Poster

      Yeah, I’ve run into this too as a Christian working in a technical/scientific field. TIt’s not okay to go around bashing anyone in a work environment that’s not politically or activist affiliated. That is, if I were working for Human Rights Campaign I’d expect some comments on religion and politics and in my opinion that’s fair game, but in a telecom business or federal agency? No, insulting peoples’ deeply held beliefs, religious, political, and otherwise, is not okay.

      Reply
    2. Snark

      I always keep the topic tiers in mind. Religion is a tier 2 topic. It’s suitable only for my friends and family, and coworkers get tier 1 topics. How ’bout them sportsballers, eh?

      Reply
      1. Magenta Sky

        I don’t discuss religion or politics with my own family. And we all agree on everything that’s important to any of us.

        Reply
    3. sfigato

      I am an agnostic who works in Liberal City in Liberal Industry where everyone assumes everyone else is an athiest. It makes me a little crazy. Don’t poop on peoples’ faith. Don’t assume everyone around you is or isn’t a christian/jew/musim/athiest. Don’t assume that all christians/athiests/jews/muslims have the same beliefs, practices, or manifest their faith in the same way. and athiests, by assuming everyone who believes in god is a big dumb dumb, you are being just as obnoxious and crumby as the hardcore fundies that you rail against.

      Reply
      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

        +100000000

        I really don’t like the “all religion is just stupid superstition and everyone who has a faith is an idiot” line of criticism that I hear from some atheists (not all of them, of course). Religion might not be logical or “provable” in an empirical sense but as an archaeologist and anthropologist I am well aware that religion, ritual, and ideas about the supernatural have been an integral part of human societies all over the world for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. I’m quite agnostic but religion is valuable to people for many reasons and it is not irrational or stupid to follow one. In any case, humans aren’t particularly logical so the argument that being religious is illogical is not very relevant.

        Reply
    4. Elizabeth West

      I was raised Catholid and I’m not an atheist, but I don’t belong to any church anymore. I get mad when atheists I know jeer at people who believe in “a sky fairy,” as they like to put it. I’m like, If you would get upset when someone attacks you for being an atheist, don’t lower yourself to that standard. It’s hypocritical AF.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        I can guarantee you that freethinkers are MUCH more likely to be the target of discrimination and proselytizing than Christians or other religious people It doesn’t make it right for an atheist to disparage a believer — but the other way round is totally common and I have lived in communities where it is considered a sign of immorality.

        Reply
        1. Not Today Satan

          Please don’t turn this into a “who has it worse?” debate. I specifically stated that this phenomenon is specific to my social and geographical location.

          Reply
        2. Cedrus Libani

          That very much depends on locale. Where I am (in the deep-blue heart of the coastal tech bubble), it’s not unusual for people to assume that everyone within earshot is an atheist. And even at work, they might be pretty vocal about their prejudices in that area.

          (Yes, where believers are the majority, they’re often jerks about it, but…personally, I think we non-believers can and should hold ourselves to higher standards.)

          Reply
  9. Wannabe Disney Princess

    Oh, man. On Friday, I got GRILLED by a coworker (who’s actually retired so is a former coworker) on why I’ve never had a boyfriend at the Christmas party, what’s wrong with me that guys don’t like me, why I’m such a pain in the ass, etc. It was terrible.

    Reply
    1. Snark

      That’s one of those scenarios where “wow” is a full sentence. Followed directly by “Welp, you’re really off base here, I’m going to refresh my drink.”

      Reply
      1. Wannabe Disney Princess

        Oh, when I didn’t budge on any of the information (because it’s none of his damn business) and tried to focus back on my food, he insulted my work ethic.

        Add this to the MANY list of reasons why an open bar at a company Christmas party is a bad idea.

        Reply
          1. JulieBulie

            Yeah, you can spill your drink on a jerk and don’t have to pay for a new one.

            I’ve never spilled a drink on anyone in my life (not on purpose, anyway), but I might make a rare exception in this case.

            Reply
      2. Aurion

        I’d upgrade that to an icy “you’re being really rude” and avoid that guy like the plague for the rest of the night.

        Reply
      1. Rainy

        My favourite iterations of this all happened to me right after my first husband died.

        Wanna make someone really uncomfortable? Respond to “Why don’t I ever see you with a date?!” with “Well, my husband died six months ago, but if it makes you feel better I guess I could bring his urn next time.”

        Reply
        1. Elemeno P.

          I’ve always been a big fan of responding similarly to probing questions about my dad, so +100 for being hilarious in an awkward situation (and my condolences).

          Reply
        2. SignalLost

          “My boyfriend is spending the holiday with his wife.” (We are poly. I have no shame in making asshats uncomfortable with that.)

          Reply
    2. All Hail Queen Sally

      I have never taken a date to a work function. Never wanted to introduce someone I actually liked to the office crazies.

      Reply
        1. JulieBulie

          Is she an anthropologist?

          I’d love to see a PBS special examining the office holiday party from the point of view of an observer from another planet.

          Reply
    3. sunshyne84

      I had someone comment on how I hadn’t had a boyfriend the whole time we had been working together. It was very odd and very surprising that anyone paid that much attention to me, even though it wasn’t exactly true I just never cared to go on and on about whoever I’m dating. That’s something I’d share with friends outside of work.

      Reply
      1. Temperance

        I once had a very awkward conversation with a former coworker when she decided to minister to me about how we singles should “love ourselves” and she kissed her own hand and invited me to do the same.

        I’m married! I wear rings! I just honestly don’t talk about Booth at work that much unless it’s relevant, because I hate those kinds of women who define themselves by who they are married to.

        Reply
        1. Magenta Sky

          I would have been utterly incapable of refraining from asking if she was telling me to masturbate more. Especially with the kissing the hand bit. I mean, really, how suggestive can you get?

          Reply
    4. Cassie

      Maybe it’s because I work in a field that involves IP, but I’ve never worked at a company that allowed a plus one at company parties. It’s always been employees only. I know it happens, but I can’t imagine bringing my spouse to a work party.

      Reply
    5. LizB

      I know this person is no longer your coworker, but would this be something you could feasibly go to management or HR about? “Why don’t guys like you, is it because you’re such a pain in the ass” seems super gendered to me (on top of being just absurdly rude). I totally understand if you don’t want to escalate it, but I feel like those kinds of remarks should get a current employee a severe talking-to, and a retired employee uninvited from future parties.

      Reply
      1. Wannabe Disney Princess

        Oh, he’s horribly sexist. He used to tell me to smile all the time. Tried (and failed) to humiliate me in front of the office because I have “Resting B*tch Face”. It always just got waved away as “Oh, that’s just Fergus!”

        I usually avoid him and it’s fine. Obviously that didn’t pan out this time.

        Reply
    6. Artemesia

      Of course one should never be defensive in such situations but the urge to say ‘do you think I would want to expose someone I love to a person like you?’ is sort of on the tip of my tongue here. Followed by laughter.

      Reply
    7. Magenta Sky

      “Because I’m afraid if I brought a significant other to a work party, someone would be offensive to them by being overly nosy about our private life.”

      Reply
  10. Anonymous Poster

    My employer has a holiday lunch a couple weeks before Christmas, where alcohol is served, and we’re reminded to watch our intake if we have afternoon meetings or a drive as part of our commute. It’s a very nice gesture to be during the day so we don’t have to suck down an evening during what is, at least for me, a very busy time of year.

    Our actual holiday party is usually in January or February. That’s because it tends to be a lot less busy time of year for folks to come out if they choose, it is purely voluntary, and the open bar is available to anyone along with food being served. It’s very nice! Also, that time of year it’s a lot cheaper to rent a venue, so we can have a nicer party than we might otherwise expect. My employer is also conscientious enough to consider peoples’ dietary needs (gluten free, vegetarian, kosher, and halal options are labeled and provided), and there really is no pressure to attend. I’ve really lucked out with my employer, and am very fortunate to be working where I am.

    Reply
    1. CatCat

      Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?

      Reply
  11. Big Fat Meanie

    While we’re at it, please please please cool it on the diet talk at work. Some people view it as a way to bond, under the assumption that “we can all stand to eat better,” but it can seriously trigger people prone to disordered eating.

    Reply
    1. OhNo

      Ugh, the new year always seems to bring on a spate of diet talk at my work. My direct coworkers are lovely and don’t do it much, but walking into the break room is like walking across a minefield.

      Reply
  12. Temperance

    I work with people of many different faiths (and no faith, like me). I wish that I could put up a sign in my office saying “telling your colleagues that you’re praying for them is weird and offensive when they haven’t asked for it”, but I think that would be mean.

    Also, stop asking JWs why they don’t come to holiday parties, and if you see one of your JW coworkers with a plate of food at a party, stay the heck out of it because it is Not Your Business.

    Reply
    1. all aboard the anon train

      I’ve gotten so much pushback, irl and online, for saying I find it uncomfortable when someone says they’re praying for me or when someone asks me to pray for them. And when I’ve said, “I’ll keep you/them in my thoughts”, I’ve gotten pushback on that, too!

      I know it’s often genuinely well meant, but it still comes off as someone trying to push their views and preferences onto me.

      Reply
    2. Big Fat Meanie

      Honestly, I don’t even like it when people telling me they’re sending me “good vibes.” I’m into some spiritual woo and whatnot, but I don’t like the “vibes” stuff. It makes me feel weird all over. But I don’t know how to explain it to people without hurting their feelings.

      Reply
  13. AlwhoisthatAl

    Definitely don’t do the religion thing. Taking a date and claiming it over the top of other older religious festivals is something that’s been done for thousands of years, so Mid Winter is not any particular religious holiday per se. It’s actually various Holy Days spread out over that time. So Happy Holidays is probably more accurate.
    Like the Egyptian Feast of Horus which was on Dec 25th, then the Romans extended Saturnalia to end on December 25th then Pope Julius I in 350 AD declared December 25 as the official date of Jesus’s birth. 3 separate Holy Days on the same Day and even then a lot of this is supposition.

    The main thing is to view it as a holiday, a time to rest and relax and do what you like best.

    Reply
    1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

      How about a countdown to:
      Jolly Winterval?
      Festive Free Time?
      Grand Days Off?
      Terrific Time Away?

      I don’t think I would say anything about the holidays though, myself. I’m sure there are plenty of other ways that people are aware that it’s X days until everyone gets a three day weekend or whatever.

      Reply
  14. Nervous Accountant

    Since gifts were mentioned in the original post, would it be awfully inappropriate to ask for ideas here re #2?

    FWIW, I think our office does holidays well. Since working here, my seasonal depression is gone, and no one has made those mistakes listed in the post. (Okay maybe aside from #6)…

    Reply
  15. Elizabeth West

    If your coworker is dressed up for some reason, don’t say, “GOT A JOB INTERVIEW??? HYUCK HYUCK!”

    I did that once a long time ago, and the person said, “No, a funeral.” >_<

    Reply
    1. JulieBulie

      Someone jokingly asked me once if I was going to a funeral (because I was wearing black), and I had to reply, “no – I already went.”

      Reply
    2. Big Fat Meanie

      I’ve had to take time off to travel home from Sunday funerals, and I’d tell people I was going somewhere, but not really wanting to tell them why because, I dunno, it felt too personal to talk about. But then they’d be all “Oooh, Canada? That sounds like SO. MUCH. FUN! Have a great time!” And I’m thinking “well crap, now I either have to smile and suck it up, or tell them why I’m going . . .”

      Reply
  16. Safely Retired

    If everyone follows your advice, we’ll have a lot less to read here. Trying to put yourself out of a job?

    No, I guess your pretty safe, people being what they are. (We are!).

    Reply
  17. Basically Useless

    I work night audit at a hotel. People getting drunk out of their minds at Christmas parties is a huge hatred of mine. We used to put up a gingerbread house in the lobby during the holidays. We stopped because the holiday party drunks destroyed them. Noise complaints is another huge hatred.

    Reply

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