avoiding the company holiday party

A reader writes:

My employer has a holiday party every year. This year, I don’t really want to go. I feel like if I go, I’m accepting the “free dinner” when the company spends $ on company cars and other gifts instead of giving us health insurance. I don’t know a good excuse without hurting anyone’s feelings. What can I tell my manager?

Say you have to work at your second job to pay for your health insurance.

No. Say you have a scheduling conflict and unbreakable plans that night, maybe a family obligation. That’s assuming you’re looking for a tactful way to get out of it and that you’re not looking to make a statement (which I would advise doing only at your own risk).

{ 9 comments… read them below }

  1. Evil HR Lady*

    Can I just mention how much I hate after hours parties? Hate them.

    Fortunately, I have little kids so I *just can’t although I would love to*. I suppose reproducing before the party would be bad advice.

  2. HR Godess*

    Here are my thoughts, if you have a party after hours, you have to expect that people won’t be able to attend. I worked for a company that had parties after hours on a weekend and it was a blast (albeit I was considerably younger). The problem was that the amount of alcohol consumed by most was so shocking, as we the behavior, most of which I still think about today.

    I try to plan luncheon’s during business hours and still get complaints that people “don’t want to eat lunch with everyone because it’s considered their time”. I say give some sort of monetary gift, even if it’s $25 gift card to a store.

    The complaining really is a downer when you’re trying to put together something that 80 different people would like!

  3. Rebecca*

    Whatever excuse you decide on, be matter-of-fact and calm about it. If you’re nervous, people will know you made it up, or will at least think you’re not so sure about that other commitment.

  4. The Engineer*

    The Engineer’s boss has provided us all with tickets (employee and guest) to a Christmas play for this year’s party. The Engineer’s coworkers think this is great. The Engineer’s guest (wife) thinks this is great. For the Engineer, plays are like getting your fingernails pulled out with pliers. The Engineer wishes we didn’t have to “play” together and that he had just said “Thanks. I’d rather not.”

  5. Gingerale*

    I think Rebecca is correct.

    Engineer, I feel your pain.

    And I wish everybody had health insurance. Yes, I realize not all employers can offer it. But given the whole text of the initial post, I find it rude of the employer whose bad behavior inspires this story to offer a so-called free dinner. It’s almost literally a “let them eat cake” stance on the employer’s part. A meal on those terms would give me indigestion.

  6. Anonymous*

    Could be worse. We actually have a quarterly bonus based on our meeting of various metrics, one of which being attending so many hours of functions each quarter.

    I believe the military has a term for it, “Mandatory fun.” Don’t know if they’ll change the metric since our company is one of those that is cancelling all company parties.

  7. Lisa*

    I (like EHRL) have small children and also lots of reasons why “I’d love to but can’t.” When I do go, I leave at the earliest, most graceful and appropriate time and will be on my couch in my fleece PJs before the party even really got started.

  8. legal secretary*

    Thank you for bringing up this topic! I started a new job at a very small firm at the beginning of October. Within weeks of my arrival, talk began about the annual Christmas party (spouses included). It will be held at the home of the ONE employee I don’t particularly like (but I’ve kept that to myself and I’m getting along with everyone and making it work). In the meantime, I’ll be the only one there without a spouse (mine is currently deployed to Afghanistan) and quite frankly, although I do feel liked and very “accepted” as the newby so far, I do not feel that I know these people well enough yet to feel comfortable partying with them. I have no clue how to get out of going to this party gracefully. I am really horrible at lying, and because I do feel liked, I’m worried about disappointing the boss by not showing up. I guess I can only hope my son is sick that night — I really do not want to attend.

  9. class factotum*

    I worked at a company (Ryder, in Miami) years ago where the VP of one dept. had an after-hours Christmas party at his house. Spouses were not invited and the employees had to pay $25 to attend. Attendance was mandatory. Sheesh.

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