7 ways to wreck employee morale during the holidays

In many workplaces, the holiday season is prime time for initiatives meant to boost employee morale – bonuses, gift exchanges, and holiday parties, to name a few. But it’s easy to make missteps this month that can send morale plummeting downward – ironically, from the very things that managers intend to increase a sense of camaraderie and appreciation.

Here are seven ways to wreck morale during the holidays.

1. Making attendance at the company holiday party mandatory. Companies usually hold holiday parties to build employee morale—but if you make what should be a fun event mandatory under the guise of giving people a holiday treat, you’ll hurt morale, not build it. If the party is meant as a gift, you can’t turn it into an obligation, so don’t penalize people for not going – not even unofficially.

2. Being insensitive to religious differences. Nativity scenes in Reception, religious hymns at the office party, or simply assuming that everyone celebrates a particular holiday can quickly make some of your employees feel isolated or uncomfortable. (This can also happen when efforts to be inclusive go awry – such as putting Hanukkah ornaments on a Christmas tree.)

3. Pressuring or requiring people to participate in office gift exchanges. For every person who enjoys an annual office gift exchange, there’s at least one more who resents the expectation, especially at a time of year when budgets are often already stretched thin. Many people resent being expected to give up their hard-earned cash in the place they go to earn money, not spend it. Even worse…

4. Allowing people to be pressured to chip in for an expensive gift for the boss. Gifts in the workplace should flow downward, not upward (if they’re given at all), but many offices still expect workers to contribute to a present for the boss. If you’re a manager who suspects someone is taking up a collection for you, make it clear that they best gift employees can give you is doing a great job all year long – and that nothing else is necessary.

5. Giving employees gifts that they can’t use – or are even offended by. Bottles of wine or Christmas turkeys might seem like gifts that will be universally welcome – until you realize that you have recovering alcoholics and vegetarians on your staff. (And if you’re perplexed by what to give that will be universally loved, think along the lines of bonuses or extra time off. These never fail to please.)

6. Letting managers win the best gifts in a holiday party raffle or gift swap. If your VPs are walking out of the holiday party with big-ticket gifts or prizes (TVs, high-dollar gift cards, ski weekends) while lower-paid staff end up with mugs or other trinkets, expect morale to plummet and cynicism to reign.

7. Throwing an extravagant party while company finances are tight. If the company has recently laid off staff or cut back in other ways, holding a swanky holiday affair will demoralize employees faster than you can say “ice sculpture shaped like Justin Bieber.”

{ 289 comments… read them below }

  1. CollegeAdmin*

    Bottles of wine or Christmas turkeys might seem like gifts that will be universally welcome – until you realize that you have recovering alcoholics and vegetarians on your staff.

    At first I read this to mean recovering alcoholics and recovering vegetarians, and I was very confused.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      LOL – that just made me picture a 12-step group of recovering vegetarians acknowledging the higher power of bacon.

      On a more serious note, it might be hard to coordinate, but maybe a way to handle this would be to pick out something like 3-4 items of basically equivalent value. A turkey, a bottle of wine, maybe a fruit basket or something like that, and allow people to pick one in advance, so you know how many of each to order, with maybe a few extras. Send out an email with voting buttons and a firm deadline, and you’re good to go.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I used to use Survey Monkey, but lately I’ve come to favor Google Forms. I use Google Docs for so many other things that it’s great to have a form generate a spreadsheet that’s integrated with that.

      1. Eva R*

        The last company I worked for gave out gift cards to a local grocery store each year for $25. So everyone could get something for a nice holiday meal but we saved the hassle of trying to figure out what each person would like.

        My current company likes to give mandatory unpaid days off for the holidays- we have the holiday paid, but they have us take the day before or the day after, and if we want to get paid we have to take vacation. I know I should be grateful that this job is my first to offer PTO at all, but we’re being pressured to take more time off and given lots of “optional” days, which makes me feel like they are trying to tell us when we can use our paid time. It’s also 48 hours and we are expected to use it for illness, doctor’s appointments, etc. as well. It’s also been stressful for me because the company doesn’t let us know what days will be mandatory unpaid and what days will be “optional” until about a week ahead of time and rumors were flying around for over a month about us being given the entire week of christmas off without pay.

        It’s not the worst I’ve heard, though! I’ve had friends who got laid off at christmas with three kids and a baby on the way.

  2. Victoria Nonprofit*

    What do you (and commenters) think about giving the week between Christmas and New Years off? My current organization does it, and it’s a *huge* benefit to me (I celebrate Christmas, I always want that week off anyway, and having everyone off work at the same time is significantly more relaxing than taking time off when others are still zipping emails back and forth). But I can see a strong argument that it privileges Christians (or secularists who celebrate Christmas); I’m sure Muslim staff would prefer the extra paid vacation during Ramadan and so forth.

    As an aside, I really think more organizations should shut down for a week at some point during the year (in addition to giving standard or generous vacation benefits). It’s remarkable the effect it has on staff, and I would be shocked if it significantly affected work output (at least in the kind of organizations where I’ve worked; i.e., not in direct service or widget production, etc.). My last role gave a week off over the 4th of July holiday and it was dreamy.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      GOD, I WANT THIS BACK. And I’m an atheist.

      My company used to give us the week off, and took that away a couple of years ago. And it STINKS. Even though I’m not religious, Thanksgiving and Christmas are basically the two times either my family or my in-laws’ family can be together all at once. And when the office is open, even if it’s not busy, SOMEONE has to cover things, so someone else gets told “nope, so sorry, you can’t fly home for the holidays.” Lately I’ve been that person, and I hate it.

      (I recognize that there are many professions that can’t expect the usual American holidays off — but it’s one thing to know that going into your line of work, and another to enjoy the benefit for years and then have it taken away by upper management.)

      1. fposte*

        I think taking away a much-loved advantage belongs on the “how to wreck morale” list in its own right.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Yes! That’s how the July 4 week got started at my old role: They closed down the office for renovations over one July 4 week and found that it was going to be too painful to take that week back in the future. :)

      2. JCDC*

        Me too! I’m Jewish, and barely observant, but this was indeed a dreamy element at my last two jobs. It’s “re-charge” time at the end of the year with minimal obligations for me!

        In general, Christmas does get privileged, which can be frustrating when your holidays don’t follow the Gregorian calendar. But it is so deeply engrained in our culture, at least in the US, that I can’t fault a business for making decisions based around that reality. There should be more workplace flexibility for holidays that don’t take place in December, but that’s almost a separate conversation from the “should we be open during the period when almost no one wants to do business” discussion.

        1. TL*

          My company lets you work over the holidays and then bank that as “holiday time” – so you could, say, work the week over Christmas and then take that time off for Ramadan or Eid.

        2. LucyVP*

          Also Jewish, and I don’t celebrate Christmas but the reality is most Americans do, and for many industries productivity is low due to so many people on vacation. I would love for us to close the entire week.

    2. Kevin*

      I’m Jewish and I wouldn’t mind getting the entire week off. Having the office close and bonuses are such a universally appreciated perk that I would find it hard to really care what the reason is.

      I would only prefer it to close during another time because of the difficulties of traveling the last week of December but I understand that others get together and kids are off school.

        1. Anon*

          Unless they attend religious schools that don’t close on Christian holidays… yes, some religious schools are even open on Christmas day.

          1. LucyVP*

            or after-school activities.

            I had a dance teacher in high school who said nothing was more important than dance and that “Ballet should be your religion”. We had class on ALL holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        And depending on what business you’re in, many of your customers may have taken that week off too, which means everyone could be sitting around with nothing to do. Sometimes that’s a good week to get year-end or housekeeping/record keeping stuff done, but not always.

        1. Jamie*

          This – take the holiday and religious aspect totally off the table and it makes sense from a business perspective.

          This is a week, at least in my industry, most of our customers and vendors are closed. If you wanted to force a full staff there would be plenty of people in AR, purchasing, shipping, receiving who will literally have nothing to do.

          I work over this week every year and I love it, because I’m in here doing end of year and closing the books, final inventory control, IT maintenance and upgrades. I can work without users in the system and without a million interruptions. Besides my team there may be a handful of other people running skeleton crews of their own.

          I love this so much. I, and everyone who works, has every hour they put in over this week put in their accruals and can take it anytime over the rest of the year.

          Work 40 hours over shutdown and it’s an extra week during the year, or 5 long weekends, or whatever. Some people really do like working in a nearly empty office and being able to take the time when it will most benefit them.

          But while the reason it’s slow this time of year is Christmas and that’s a religious holiday is absolutely true, that is a reality right now and for some businesses there is no reason the AR admin or purchasing clerk should have to show up and pretend to work for 8 hours when there is literally nothing for them to do.

          So if I owned a business and let’s say I didn’t celebrate Christmas at all – I’m still not making people come in when there is nothing for them to do – you can’t make the trade where you’re shipping manager works that week when not one thing will come in or out of the building and instead take the time when it’s their holiday – because that’s not a zero sum game.

          Coming in when you’re not needed to bank the time for when you are doesn’t make sense. But people should be able to use their time for their own holiday celebrations – and work should always accommodate that when humanly possible.

          While every religions holidays are equally important (as well as secular times which are important to others) individually – they don’t have equal impact from a business standpoint.

          According to the New York Times 95% of American’s celebrate Christmas in some way – including 80% of non-Christians. That seemed high so I googled more and it’s pretty consistent that between 90-95% of us in the US do some kind of Christmas celebration.

          So as an employer you’ll have the vast majority of employees who want time off at this time of year. So they should totally accommodate those who don’t by letting them work and take the time when they like, if possible (which it’s not always).

          But in that it privileges Christians it also privileges the 80% of non-Christians who celebrate and want the time off. That’s over 90% of the population. So absolutely accommodate the 5-9% who don’t – but you don’t have to stay open at a time when 95% of your people want off just to do this.

          1. Lynn Whitehat*

            There is a difference between “celebrating in some fashion” and “wanting the whole week off”. We celebrate Christmas, but it’s a pretty low-key thing at home and definitely not something I need a whole week off for.

            At one job I had, there was a rule that all 4 of us could never take off at the same time, other than major holidays. Every year, I volunteered to work the “dead week” between Christmas and New Year’s in exchange for a week of skiing in mid-December. I was very popular.

          2. Bea W*

            Really excellent explaination. On the one hand, I don’t like or think it’s fair that one religion’s holiday be given special preference. On the other, with the number of people who actually recognize Dec 25 as a holiday it makes sense from a business perspective. It bothers me less if I look at it simply from a numbers perspective.

            1. Chinook*

              If it makes you feel better, it can suck to have a religious holiday tied to a cultural holiday. Spring Break being tied to Easter sucks when you have to spend half that time in Church while your friends are out having fun.

              1. Windchime*

                I have a friend who actually used to call Spring Break “Easter break” because apparently it was always during Easter week where she came from. But Spring Break here (Washington state) doesn’t usually have anything to do with Easter. I think it must be a regional thing.

                1. tcookson*

                  I’m in the south, and when I was in school, they used to schedule spring break with Easter Break; we would be off on Good Friday and then the whole rest of the following week. The schools have quit doing that now, and my kids get the week of Thanksgiving off instead. I guess they wanted to disconnect spring break from one group’s religious calendar.

            2. TychaBrahe*

              I went to a private secular school. Although the school was secular, it closed for Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. There’s no point in holding school when two-thirds of the students are Jewish and won’t attend those days.

          3. LJL*

            The best business argument I’ve seen yet. Nicely done. I’m sure someone will find that logic useful when making that case.

        2. Contessa*

          This is why I always work that week–I get all my organizational things done. None of the people to whom I need to speak are in their offices, so I can just leave voicemails and check the calls off the to-do list.

          I wouldn’t MIND if I had the week off (if it were paid), but I don’t mind working, either.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Me too, at Exjob. That’s when I did the bulk of my file storage work. The phones were quiet and I could work away from my desk with minimal interruption.

            This year, I’m only taking Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the following day. I have to cover the desk that Friday. Our clients will be open and so will we. No biggie, though. Since the ex will be busy prancing around with his new duck-faced twit, I won’t be missing anything that week. >:(

    3. squid*

      We’re closed for that week — but required to use 2.5 vacation days to cover the non-statutory-holiday hours. I have mixed feelings.

        1. doreen*

          In a way, a lot of workplaces that totally close down “make you use vacation days” . Maybe not in the sense of having them come out of your leave allotment , but plenty of them either offer fewer “choose your own vacation” days or none at all . For example, I had a job where we closed for the week between Christmas and New Year’s and we only got one additional week of vacation rather than the customary two and I know of businesses that close Christmas week and a week in the summer- and that’s everyone’s vacation ,whether they like it or not.

          1. Anonymous*

            Thats a horrible policy. I’ve never worked anywhere like that, but a lot of people don’t celebrate christmas.

            1. LJL*

              it’s not uncommon in some industries. In the coal mine where my father worked, the (union) miners had two weeks of vacation in the summer. During that time, no coal was produced and the time was devoted to maintenance and other jobs that couldn’t be done while the mine was running. Although he wasn’t a miner, he was required to take 1 week of vacation time during the miner’s vacation because there wasn’t enough work to justify his coming in. I’m pretty sure he burned his PTO for it too. In that context, it made sense to me.

        2. esra*

          When I worked at a large corporation that closed for the last two weeks of the year, they forced people to use vacation days for all the non-stat days. Goodbye vacation time.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Yeah, as I said earlier, the fact that kids are off at the end of the year is a strong argument for why that might be a good time to give employees an extra week of paid time off.

          But, c’mon. Of course giving time off around Christmas privileges people who celebrate Christmas. I do, so it’s great to have the time then to visit my family/do Christmas shopping/buy a tree/etc.etc.etc. If I didn’t celebrate Christmas that time is still a benefit, but I might prefer to have “extra” days over Passover, Ramadan, or some other time of the year.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit*

              Right. That’s how I celebrate Christmas. But lots of people don’t celebrate Christmas at all, and have no special desire to take the week between Christmas and New Years off.

              1. Bea W*

                I don’t know about anyone else, but when a company gives a free week off, I don’t care what time of year it is. It’s a week off, paid, in addition to my other PTO allowance. I use it to alternately sit on my butt and catch up on home chores. I use my PTO for time off when it matters most to me, and look at the week between Christmas and New Year’s as a bonus vacation for me to do whatever I want.

          1. Bea W*

            This is why I like “floating holiday” time. My work gives employees all the major national holidays off, plus 2 or 3 floating holidays where we can choose the dates that matter to us for religious or cultural reasons or birthdays (birthdays count).

    4. Clever Name*

      My husband works for a large manufacturing company, and they are closed for two weeks during the holidays. Everything shuts down. They shut down the production line, even. I’m sure they did some study about productivity years ago and discovered (not shockingly) that productivity plummets this time of year and it probably saves the company money to shut down and save power/gas rather than produce at a lowered output.

      I think it’s great, especially since our son has those weeks off as well.

    5. Jubilance*

      I used to work for a company/site that was shut down the week between Christmas and New Years day & it was holiday pay for us, no need to take PTO. If only I had stayed in that job & learned to like living in Florida *sigh*

    6. holly*

      i think it’s fantastic since business can be so slow at that time anyway (for the most part). excepting service industries. they always get the short end :(

      1. Windchime*

        Yep. I work at a healthcare organization, and people still get sick over the holidays so we are open and working.

    7. Eva R*

      Only if it’s paid.
      I’ve worked for places where we were given unpaid holidays off because most people were salaried or made a lot, and they forgot the admins and part timers who were stuck with a lower income for the month.

      I would love a free paid week off, though! I would get so many projects done around the house!

    8. Cassie*

      Our univ shuts down for about 8 days (depending on which day of the week Christmas is on), starting with the Monday of the week of Christmas and lasting until New Year’s Day. We have to go back on January 2nd (even if it’s a Friday).

      Officially, it’s to save money on electricity and such – it started back during our state’s major budget crisis. We do have to use our own vacation time (or comp time) or go without pay, though, for the days outside of Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.

  3. Yup*

    This is a great list from the company/management side.

    May I throw one in from the coworker angle? Nothing kills my holiday spirit faster than the self-appointed holiday cruise director who will accept nothing less than total immersion in a preschool-like environment of decorations and activities. Dude, I went to the party and did the gift exchange and brought in cookies and wore the ugly sweater. Can you please stop managing my fun and let me enjoy the holidays like an independent adult? I don’t need a daily activity calendar. /rant #yourgifttomeispeaceandquiet

    1. Anonymous*

      Oh I agree with this – my office manager has “decorated” all our (admin) pods with “extras” because obviously our own decorations weren’t enough!!

    2. some1*

      Thank you! I’m by no means a Scrooge, but apparently I’m the only woman on Earth who hates poinsettias — I just think they’re ugly.

      When I was a receptionist, one of my co-workers brought in a bunch an put one on my desk without even asking me!

          1. CAA*

            Just for useless trivia — those red things are actually bracts. The flowers are the teeny tiny little white or yellow things at the center of the bract. And if you think the highly cultivated ones are ugly, you should see the wild ones. The poinsettia in its natural state is a leggy weed.

      1. Contessa*

        They trigger my allergies. It would be immediately removed if someone put one on my desk. Same thing with flowers in the Spring/around Easter.

    3. Anne*

      And the opposite. I usually stick some paper snowflakes on our windows around Christmas. This year I haven’t had time to do it and everyone’s ribbing me about it. Argh.

  4. Hello Vino*

    I’d like to add pressuring or requiring people to contribute to toy/food drives to the list. A couple years ago, I worked in an office where certain people who would brag about what they contributed to the toy drive.

    1. Kimmiejo*

      Yes! This bugs me, too. Especially when the company hasn’t taken care of it’s employees. My company didn’t give out raises for several years, suspended the 401k match and had even done temporary pay cuts and mandatory unpaid time off. Then they decided to sponsor military families for Christmas and sent out multiple emails encouraging employees to donate money or gifts (no tax receipt would be provided). The holiday party was for these sponsored families and employees could come watch “Santa” give out the gifts if they wanted. Many of our own employees were struggling quite a bit, so it difficult to watch this kind of insensitivity take place.
      Also, our warehouse director decided this year to get in on the charitable act. The warehouse is located in a very poor area and the average employee makes about $12/hr. They received a 2% raise earlier in the year after 3 years of getting nothing. The director of the warehouse couldn’t understand why the toy bins weren’t filling up with donations from the employees? Many of these employees work 2 jobs to make ends meet. After taxes and insurance costs, it would take them 2-3 hours of work to pay for a $20 toy.
      I’m all for charitable giving, but companies need to be sensitive to what is going on with their own employees before taking on these types of activities.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        “Companies need to be sensitive to what is going on with their own employees before taking on these types of activities”. This exactly.

        Especially when there’s been wage freezes, pay cuts, and/or layoffs.

      2. Windchime*

        No kidding. Back in the day, I was too busy trying to figure out how to afford toys for my own kids. Nowdays, I can contribute to the donation bin but back when I was barely getting by, my own kids came first.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      My company emphasizes charitable giving/volunteering all year long, but you’re not required to do it. I do sometimes, like today when I gave $5 for charity to eat biscuits and gravy. :)

      If they made us do it, that would wear pretty thin after a while. Horrible Nonprofit job actually required us to donate to ITSELF. Yes, it’s true; everyone they hired had to make a contribution to the organization of at least $20. We ended up buying an ice machine for our floor, but it left me looking askance at their policies. I wish I’d known about that before I was hired; I would have declined the offer and saved myself a lot of grief later. :P

      1. holly*

        that is idiotic and a terrible fundraising plan. omg, i just found a white paper on why that’s a good plan. ::facepalm::

      2. esra*

        The non-profit I worked at tried an internal fundraising drive. It hit about 50% contributions. The management was really awful, so 40% of the people there didn’t contribute because there was no way to know where the money was going. The rest of us didn’t on principle. I don’t donate money to people I work for.

    3. Bea W*

      The other thing is that everyone and their mom is having a food/toy drive this time of year. You get assaulted from all sides for the same exact things.

      Bragging about what you donated to a toy drive or any other fundraiser is the epitome of tacky. People do this?!

    4. Kelly*

      The whole aspect of corporations having money to do charitable giving for positive PR/appear to be doing good for the communities while being too tight fisted to pay a living wage to their employees bugs me. They could be doing more good for the communities that they operate in if they paid a decent living wage to their employees so they didn’t have to be on welfare or government assistance. Wal-Mart and Target are the two that come mind. I think it’s a sad commentary when Wal-Mart employees are the beneficiaries of a food drive.

      At Last Retail Job, corporate cut the associate morale/entertaining budget to next to nothing. This left no money for a holiday party. Instead, we were pressured to give money for a pillow drive for some group. I didn’t participate because I didn’t feel it was right to expect people getting paid not much above minimum wage to contribute.

  5. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. Nativity scenes in reception.

    In a non-scientific study, I have noticed the bulk of office Christmas trees tend to be decorated either traditionally (red baubles and stars) or modern trendy (white and silver) unless the company has gone for a corporate tree (e.g orange or turquoise if that’s the colour in the logo).

      1. AB*

        I worked for small family owned company in the deep south that had one of those big light-up nativity scenes in front of the building.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I’ve never a nativity on a reception desk, but I might expect to see one somewhere like a church office or on the counter of a Cathedral bookshop.

    1. Jamie*

      Ours just has white lights – no ornaments.

      Decorating a tree with ornaments is such a time consuming activity and taking them down is such a pita – odd that people go through the hassle for a work tree.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        If they’re decorating with ornaments, that means they have to remove them, which means TWO opportunities to not do work.

        1. Carrie in Scotland*

          Our tree went up in some downtime when the systems crashed – ours is mainly gold and red.

    2. Bea W*

      Two jobs ago, our office manager was the guy in charge of doing the holiday decorating. One year they wanted a real tree, and sent him out to get it…yup send the Jewish guy to pick out you Christmas tree. He ended up asking a friend of mine, who worked in another department, to come along to help him out because he had no idea what he was doing.

      1. Jamie*

        I would have selected on that was 18″ tall.

        I cannot even imagine how much of a pita a real tree is to deliver and set up.

      2. BausLady*

        This is by no means meant to be snarky, I am legitimately asking because I don’t know. I’m Jewish and I feel like I could still pick out a decent Christmas tree. Is there something special to look for when picking one out?

        Caveat: I grew up doing a little bit of everything, winter holiday wise (one parent each, Jewish and Christian) and we did often have a fake tree, so maybe I’m just not removed enough from the idea of Christmas trees to not get it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Really it all boils down to personal taste and the available space.
          My MIL liked branches far apart on her tree. It was easier to decorate she said.
          I like pudgy trees with dense branches. Yeah, a little harder to decorate but I like the look. One place I lived I could only make a skinny tree fit. oh-disappointing.
          Another place I lived had very high ceilings, you better believe I had the tallest tree I could manage.
          If your getting a live tree look for one that has been cut recently. Some sit around for along time. We had one tree split up the trunk. Yes, floor to ceiling split. We put it back together with hose clamps and life went on. A couple of my favorite ornaments got broken in the fall though.
          Take a minute to feel of the needles. Some are really sharp and it is almost painful to decorate the tree with bare hands.
          This is one of those things like clothes or food- everyone has their own favorite choices and there really is no wrong choice.

        2. Bea W*

          Not really, but that was his argument/complaint. Why sendthe Jewish guy out to pick the Christmas tree. Why would anyone think he’d know what he was doing out there? I think part of it was that it was a huge PIA, but he really just wasn’t sure if there were certain things he should look for, and that’s how he ended up asking my friend co-worker for advice. When picking out a tree for thr office, you want to get it right the first time. His boss was a person you did not want to piss off. He was not happy about that assignment. He managed an office of 200 people. Sending him Christmas tree shopping was not the best use of his time.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Speaking of Jews with Christmas trees … Can I just say that as a Jew, I’ve never had a Christmas tree but have always loved them, and I am so excited that one of the benefits of inter-marriage is that I get a tree this year? Or, ahem — my husband gets a tree, and it is in my living room? I would never have one on my own, but I adore it.

        I swear it even stopped one fight in its tracks because it made the room irresistibly cozy, which is not conducive to arguing.

        1. Jamie*

          I’m telling you – what some call Christmas Spirit is just the happy stupor caused by pretty lights!

          Just like you cannot be mad when looking at a Hello Kitty doll wearing a Santa hat you can’t argue where shiny things are twinkling. It’s science. :)

          I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and the vast majority of my friends were all Jewish I knew several who put up trees and did Christmas gifts in addition to Hanukkah. I knew more who didn’t, but it wasn’t that unusual. I remember being little and being surprised the first time I saw it but as it was explained to me some people choose to participate in the secular aspects of Christmas. In this area I think everyone should do exactly what they want to do, that which makes them happy, and no more.

          (And this Catholic has a dreidel on the piano every holiday season because I made it in 1st grade at school for my mom and she always put it out – and it’s a reminder of how freaking adorable I was with my bad writing and messy paint…and yes, I made it out of clay. :) – and no force on earth could get that lopsided thing to spin)

        2. Kristin*

          Haha! My best friend is Jewish and she loves Christmas decorations. They ARE cozy. It’s an opportunity to be tacky and shiny and pine-scented all at once.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            Chocolate Teapot’s Guide to Fresh Christmas Tree Selection

            Tree should be a bright green colour and have a nice pine smell. If it’s a funny dull green, or dingy brown, don’t bother.

            The needles should not fall off. Some varieties of tree do drop needles more than others, but if you shake the tree, it shouldn’t immediately go bald (see above).

            Try and choose a tree with a nice shape. Aim for a pyramid shape if you can.

            On getting your tree home, set it up in a stand and leave it a little while (a couple of hours is recommended) to settle into its true shape. You can then start decorating.

            Or you could just buy an artificial one and a pine scented candle/room freshener!

              1. Editor*

                Plus, the fir needles are not sharp like spruce needles are, and firs hold their needles better than pines. Worst tree I ever had to decorate was a blue spruce. It looked great, but we all had little red pinpricks on our hands and arms after decorating it.

                The limpest tree I ever had was a white pine. It’s a great landscape tree, but hang an ornament on a branch, and watch the branch go limp and the ornament slide off. Very discouraging.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Oooo- I am excited for you. Can you post a pic once you get the tree up?
          Have your cats seen a tree before?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I will post a picture on Friday’s open thread! The cats have not seen a tree until now. Olive immediately tried to climb it, but she’s learning she can’t do that. She has claimed the whole area under the tree to sleep in and won’t let the other cats go under there.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              You could decorate it with cat toys! Bright lights, feathers, and fuzzy mice all over the tree, and happy cats in and under the tree.

              I once decorated a tree with individually wrapped candies: chocolates, gum, and anything else small and wrapped. I was surprised when there was still a lot there when it was time to undecorate it.

              1. Kelly O*

                Trust me, it IS decorated with cat toys.

                We found Fisi curled up in the branches of ours just the other day, with a felt gingerbread man in her little paws. I wish I could have gotten a picture. (When she realized she was busted in the tree, she got down REAL quick.)


            2. Not So NewReader*

              Oh that is funny. Something new in her home and Olive has already laid claim. You have a little smarty on your hands!

            3. Windchime*

              My kitten was about 4 months old last year, and he spent all his time climbing the tree. I really didn’t do much to discourage it because he was so tiny. This year, he just likes to lie under it and look at the lights.

            4. Editor*

              Wire the top of the tree to something so the tree won’t tip over if the cats get in it. At one place we lived we centered the tree in front of a window, and we had a couple of cup hooks screwed in about six inches from the top of the window, close to the frame and hidden by the drapes. Wrap heavy wire around the trunk about a third of the way from the top and then secure the wire to the two hooks. This will stabilize the tree, but it means the drapes have to stay open.

              Don’t put catnip in a Christmas tree. Someone I knew did that and the cats toppled the tree almost immediately when all three or five or six climbed into it to get to the catnip. I wouldn’t put cat toys in a tree after hearing that story.

              And enjoy your tree. A couple of my Jewish friends call them Hannukah bushes.

          1. tcookson*

            My cat sleeps in the lower branches of our Christmas tree every year. Every morning we wake up and she’s sleeping in the same spot, and the branches are starting to get kind of mashed down now.

            Also, she loves to swat the ornaments off the tree and then bat them around the living room. If she can’t get one of the ornaments off easily, she’ll stand up on her hind legs and use both her front paws (with claws out) to puuulll the ornament as hard as she can. Cats are so cute when they stand on their hind legs!

          2. Elkay*

            None of my cats when I was growing up ever cared about the tree, given it a bit of a sniff then wandered off to sleep under a radiator. Cue me getting kittens of my own and a small fake tree with fibre optic lights and it’s like some sort of kitten crack when the lights are on, they ignore the branches but chew on the fibre optics.

        4. Joey*

          Hmm?! Will there be a stocking with Alison’s name? Will you be doing Christmas presents?

          Sorry, its interesting how these things are handled?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            He gives me Hanukkah presents, and I give him Christmas presents. His family seems to give me Christmas presents, which is fine with me (and I think they’re doing it to be inclusive and nice, not because they’re in denial).

            Stockings: We’re having people over on Christmas Eve and decided to do stockings for everyone, just for fun. Not sure if we’ll do stockings in upcoming years or not, but I guess I feel like if Christmas is going to be celebrated in our house, which it now is because of him, then I have no problem with having a stocking. I wouldn’t do this stuff otherwise, but I’m glad to join in the fun.

        5. Bea W*

          Christmas trees are wonderful with all their shiny lights and bobbles. There is something just soothing and warm and cozy about them.

          1. Rose*

            My husband is Muslim, and I am Christian. He has been great about Christmas, and though we don’t celebrate in the religious sense, he loves the tree, he is getting a stocking and goes out and buys us and the kids Christmas gifts. We celebrate his holidays too though I don’t fast for 30 days- lol! No way. But I buy him clothes on Eid (which is the tradition) and I try to make a big Indian feast for him too.

  6. Kelley*

    I just have to say that I love the sad office working in a Santa hat photo with the article. She looks so downtrodden!

  7. Anonymous*

    Also, manager’s taking time during the holidays but not letting employees take time off because someone has to there to “cover” if anything that comes up. Bonus points if this happens every holiday or every year.

    1. Anonymous*

      SO. MUCH. THIS.

      In my accounting world, this year’s holidays (Memorial Day, Independence day, Thanksgiving, etc.) have lined up perfectly with our month-end closes. My team has all had to work; my manager has been absent. Not just absent, but bragging about all the great Black Friday shopping she did, while we were stuck in the office closing the books.

    2. BCW*

      You know, I’m actually kind of ok with this one. I don’t think anyone, even a manager should have to work every holiday (or both holidays around now). If you have to be open, have a rotation so its not the same people constantly having off. But I don’t think just because someone is in management that they need to always miss out on family time.

      1. Editor*

        Sure, managers should get to be off for holidays. But a manager who says only three people can be off each day over a holiday (in a 30-person department), and takes two weeks off from before Christmas to after New Year’s every single year is being selfish. Either take alternate years off or loosen up the limit on the number of people who could be off at one time. It would have been possible to let as many as eight people be off at once, depending on their duties, and folks would have been happier.

        1. Rose*

          My boss takes every second Christmas off, so I find that very fair. This year she is covering the 27th so I can have it off. My sister lives 5 hours away and it would have been nearly impossible to leave Christmas Eve afternoon then get back to work the 27th. I just started the job 6 months ago, so I found this really nice. I don’t even have any vacation time accrued yet, not for another 6 months, but she is letting me use banked overtime and then whatever I can’t cover with overtime, she is letting me make it up after Christmas. Great gift indeed!

  8. TK*

    Just want to note that I have a Jewish coworker who brings in her own menorah ornaments and hangs them on our office Christmas tree herself! (Though she didn’t this year, probably because Hanukkah was already over by the time the tree was decorated.)

    1. Rachel*

      Please (PLEASE) don’t take that as a sign that any company should ever do that. There are plenty of Jews (myself included) who would be horribly offended to see Hannukkah ornaments on a Christmas tree. It’s one thing that your coworker does it herself, even if I am completely horrified by the concept.

      I recognize that the vast majority of Americans celebrate Christmas, and I accept that I will be immersed in Christmas decorations and music for a month straight whether I want to or not. But I don’t want anyone to try to “include” me with ornaments on the tree.

        1. TK*

          Yeah, I understand. I was pretty surprised by it myself. I just thought it was an interesting anecdote that was appropriate in context here. :)

  9. Anonymous*

    I can’t really use bottles of wine – don’t drink. So what? My boss gives them to me from time to time and I re-gift them. Giving something very unusual – perhaps gun ammunition or a gift certificate to a tanning salon could be annoying, but portable regiftables that many people like? Roll with it. Say thanks and re-gift later.

    1. Joey*

      Yeah, id hate to think people would be demoralized by a free turkey or a bottle of wine if their issues aren’t known. Either roll with it or say something. Don’t just be demoralized.

      1. VictoriaHR*

        If someone gets a gift that they themselves can’t use, they become unhappy. I’d like “aww … oh well!” but many many people would get up in arms about it.

        1. Jamie*

          No kidding. I posted recently about how one year people were given end of year 4 figure cash gift, in addition to their merit bonus and a lot of people complained loudly and a lot about that.

          That it should have been more, that new people shouldn’t have gotten the same as those who’ve been here longer…there were more complaints than gratitude.

          Bonuses based on merit and discussion and value were still given – but everyone on payroll also got a cash gift in 4 figures – same amount from the C level to newest machine operator and even the person there less than a week got one (was she surprised!)

          Here – here is over 1K above and beyond what you expected or earned…just for being an employee. You’d think if any scenario wold be complaint free it would be that…but no..

          Nothing surprises me anymore.

          1. Anonymous*

            I’m reminded of a story my mom tells of a wedding she went to where the dinner/reception was magnificent – some delightful hors d’oeuvres with oysters, some cheese things and some cured meats, plus crudites and roasted vegetables. Then a beautiful soup, several courses with beef, fish, duck and all sorts other stuff. On and on.

            Toward the end the wait staff comes out asking about coffee for dessert (signalling that the dinner is nearing an end) and someone blurts out “What?! No shrimp?!”

            1. Windchime*

              No kidding, I would be thrilled with a 4 figure bonus included in my check! We get a very, very small bonus where I work (I think mine will be around $50 this year). You won’t hear me complaining…..$50 is $50!

        2. thenoiseinspace*

          Well, it IS depressing to get a gift you can’t use. I’m allergic to alcohol, so instead of being a treat, it becomes “great, now I have to lug this thing around and figure out someone who will want it.” I know the giver has the best of intentions, but given that everyone I work with knows about my allergy, it’s pretty thoughtless.

          1. Anna*

            The problem is that if you start basing those decisions on things you may or may not know about, you would never stop. “She may be an alcoholic” “He may have high blood pressure” “One time I heard her say the word ‘diabetes’ so no sugar” on and on and on and on. While it would be great to have cash or time off gifts, not every place is going to do that. So people who don’t eat sugar, or don’t drink, or any number of a million things might need to concede this one and accept it in the spirit it was intended.

          2. Joey*

            Debbie downer. That’s one less gift you need to buy- and what most people would consider a good one at that.

            1. Bea W*

              The “Debbie downer” comment is just uncalled for. People celebrate in ways that are meaningful to them. It’s not a downer just because it’s not what floats your own boat. The holidays aren’t stressful enough without having co-workers and strangers judge your level of holiday cheer according to some arbitrary standard.

              When you give someone a gift, the point is that it is something they will enjoy or can at least make use of. Otherwise, it’s really not a gift, and in a case where you are aware of things like allergies, it’s really just thoughtless, not generous. In cases like this, it’s no longer a gift for the person who is getting it, it’s more of an ego boost for the giver, so they can feel like they were being all generous and full of Christmas spirit or whatever.

              When it’s something I just can’t use but was given with0ut the knowledge of an allergy and dislike or other issue, then I do take it in the spirit in which it is intended and move on, but I’d be just as happy not receiving anything or receiving only a card and a “Merry Christmas” or whatever. As someone who buys very few gifts, if any, for the holiday and shops early online for the ones I will give, giving me something with the thought that I can just regift it isn’t doing me any favors. That’s just what people like to tell themselves so they can feel okay. I’m find with taking it as a token of whatever goodness the gift giver thinks it is. I’m not fine with being expected to feel some appreciation or gratitude toward them for relieving me of some imagined gift-buying obligation.

              1. Joey*

                It is Debbie downer because there are certainly more positive things about giving and receiving gifts than negative ones. Choosing to focus on the negative is a choice.

                1. Bea W*

                  Personally ridiculing someone because you disagree with their comment rather than plainly explaining what positives you see is also a choice.

              2. fposte*

                “When you give someone a gift, the point is that it is something they will enjoy or can at least make use of.” I would differ–I’d say it’s something that you *hope* they will enjoy or at least make use of, and it’s no less a gift if you’re wrong; the idea is an interest in pleasing, not an attempt to enrich, and that’s still there even if it’s something that you don’t use.

                If people are being deliberately or consciously excluding, then that’s obviously no longer an intent to please, but if it’s just about not knowing that Jane can’t tolerate sulfites or Bob’s given up turkey, that doesn’t undermine the intent. And I speak as a non-drinker who’s passed along several bottles of wine over the years or just left ’em behind.

                1. Bea W*

                  That actually a better explaination of what I think. I hope it’s something the receiver would enjoy. When it’s just picking out something to give as a token because it is expected or customary, it loses the best part of giving for me, speaking on a personal level. It’s one of my least favorite Christmas things. I keep my mouth shut and go with the flow because other people enjoy it and it has meaning to them, but I’d be happy missing out and reserving my limited holiday energy for other things that are more meaningful to me.

                  Also, the sheer volume of gifts is just overwhelming. It’s not just one item. I love food and drink gifts but even I have to farm stuff out at Christmas, and everyone else I know is up to their eyeballs in goodies and wine.

              3. Anonymous*

                I didn’t make the Debbie Downer comment but think it is spot-on. You don’t have to be excited by a gift or even pleased by it. But if a gift actually makes you depressed (that is, is not just a neutral thing but a negative) you’ve got a problem.

                I think saying “Debbie Downer” isn’t quite ridicule – it’s descriptive. Or maybe it’s both.

              4. thenoiseinspace*

                Thank you, Bea!

                To clarify, if I had been a member of a large team and everyone had gotten the same present, that’s different, and obviously it’s totally fine. But when you have a small number of people (I was one of a team of 6) and you know that person has an allergy, well…

            2. TychaBrahe*

              It’s difficult to be positive about a gift your coworkers know could put you in the hospital or kill you.

              1. Anonymous*

                Bummer. Sucks to have co-workers trying to kill you like that. Particularly during the holidays. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if they were trying to take you out in rainy March, but recklessly and knowingly to send you to the hospital around Christmas/Chanukah/Kwaanza/Festivus is kind of cruel. For sure.

          3. Jamie*

            I can’t imagine getting depressed about a present, unless it was from someone with whom you have an intimate relationship.

            Work gifts are usually just tokens – and while it would be nice if everyone’s allergies or preferences were taken into account if you have a lot of reports to buy for that really does make it a much more work intensive project. It’s hard enough buying for people you know and love, much less people you work with if it has to be tailored.

            I’m not saying it can’t be done – I’ve gotten some very meaningful and personal gifts from a boss who has a knack for that kind of thing. But she wasn’t buying for 10-20 people. And you figure at work some people will know each other better than others – and personalized gifts could really highlight that.

            I just think sometimes people but too much stock and emotional investment in pleasure from a gift. Gifts rarely live up to those kind of expectations.

            Whatever people give me, if I don’t like it I appreciate the gesture and give it to someone who would enjoy it.

            Kind of like our office gives our grocery store gift cards for every holiday – it’s just a thing they do. They closed the one in my town – but I don’t expect my bosses to know or care that it’s inconvenient for me to use those cards or get me something else. I just give them to our receptionist who does shop there. She gets an extra couple of hundy a year in groceries and not that it’s quid pro quo, but then during the year when I need her to order lunches for one of my meetings she won’t order from the place with the pasta sauce that makes me sick or any place with crunchy chips.

            Small price to pay for not having to talk over 10 people crunching Jimmy John’s kettle chips while I try not to jump out of my skin.

            1. tcookson*

              . . . talk over 10 people crunching Jimmy John’s kettle chips while I try not to jump out of my skin.

              Jamie, sometimes I wonder if you and my director of IT are sisters. She jumps out of her skin about small noises, too. :-)

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I kind of understand that. But I guess I’m so used to getting dumb-ass gifts from family that I just shrug and re-gift or toss it on the garage sale pile. I’ve gotten weird gifts from workplaces too, and the same strategy applies.

            1. Jamie*

              Okay – not Christmas related but this triggered a memory…

              My mom had a sister who…saw the world differently. She was what they used to refer to as eccentric – the kind of person where you rarely know what they are talking about but always super excited and stuff makes sense to them.

              So she sends my mom a “for nothing present” – that’s what we call it in my family when you see something perfect for someone and send it unexpected – not for a holiday or anything.

              So my mom gets this gift with a card that says “saw these and thought of you!!” Opens the box and …

              Toenail clippers which were hand painted with a Hawaiian themed pineapple.

              I have never before or since seen anyone so completely befuddled by a gift. My mom was not known for unkempt toenails, nor pineapples, nor Hawaiian themes.

              She kept them for the rest of her life and every once in a while would wonder aloud about what the heck about those damn clippers screaming “Jamie’s Mom’s Name” to Aunt Eccentric.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Oh my GAWD!

                That is exactly the kind of stuff we get from Parent; she buys stuff that appeals to her all the time, and then you get boxes of beautifully wrapped (and sometimes expensive) CRAP.

            2. JoAnna*

              My aunt once gave my sister and I a Ziploc bag full of half-used perfume. I was the one who opened it, and my befuddlement must have shown on my face, because she said, brightly, “I know you two like perfume!”

              Well, yeah, we do… but we like perfume that we pick up ourselves and ISN’T SECONDHAND.

          5. Anonymous*

            If it’s really so hard for you to figure out how to give it away, you can throw it away when you get home, or even put it in the trash partway home. So you only have it lug it on one commute.

            Wine. What a chore. So depressing. Such a thoughtless give. Moan. Moan.

          6. BCW*

            At that point though, it becomes where you have to give everyone individualized gifts to avoid that. I don’t drink coffee, but I wouldn’t be upset about getting a Starbuck’s gift card.

            1. Anonymous*

              I got a Starbucks card for some occassion at work once. Didn’t use it since I don’t go there much. Was too lazy to re-gift it. So I forgot about it. It’s probably still in my desk.

              Oh, and I said “Thanks” when given it.

              That’s how mature people deal with work gifts. Say thanks, and use it, re-gift it or toss it. Don’t get offended that it’s not quite right.

          7. SevenSixOne*

            If everyone is getting the same thing, I handle this situation by removing the anything that identifies it as mine, then “accidentally” leave it in a common area and hope someone claims finders keepers.

        3. Bea W*

          The demoralizing part is getting a gift you can’t use while most people around you are enjoying a gift they can use. Not fun.

          1. De Minimis*

            For me if it’s something I can re-gift, that’s appreciated almost as much as a gift I can use. One less thing for me to buy, so it’s almost like getting cash.

            1. Bea W*

              I just hate regifting in general, and I do little shopping this time of year. Whatever I’m buying, I’ve already bought it because holiday season shopping is a surefire way to bring on the panic attacks I otherwise never have anymore. So for me, it’s just another object that will clutter up my house until I can donate it or something.

              At least with food and drink gifts, it’s easy. Those I bring to gatherings or leave them for sharing in the office, but it’s not doing me any favors or saving me any money out of my own pocket. It’s definitely not like getting cash. Cash would be awesome even if I just used it to buy gifts for other people. Gift certificates are great for this.

      2. Editor*

        But Joey, I come from a family where there’s very little drinking and married into one that’s similar, and our close friends aren’t drinkers, either. There’s no one I give gifts to regularly who is into wine or spirits, other than one of the younger kids who is into beer and uninterested in wine. So if I have to give someone a gift, it’s not like I can skip shopping and regift the wine to a recipient who’d be happy to have it. We aren’t opposed to drinking, it just isn’t something we do often.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      Even if you don’t drink it, cooking with it is an option, too. Lots of recipes call for wine, and it’s generally better to use a bottle that’s at least drinkable.

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        I don’t drink wine (or cook much) or champagne and here I am with bottle each which I can’t use and it is a shame because its an appreciation thing but how can I turn around and go “sorry I don’t like wine/champagne” the young man in our office who doesn’t drink much didn’t get wine but because I do drink I have got some even though I hate the stuff.

          1. Kelly O*

            Joey, I’ll be on the “accepts all unwanted alcohol, coffee, and chocolate” waiting list with you.

      2. Bea W*

        When you’re an alcoholic in recovery, you don’t want it and you don’t keep it in the house, period. It’s very different from someone who just doesn’t care for wine but might be able to use it to cook or take home for a family member who does like wine.

        Everyday cooking generally doesn’t call for wine, so really the only people who can use it for cooking are people who are really into cooking.

        1. Jamie*

          I agree that if you don’t know whether or not people are in recovery it’s a bad gift…but I use wine in cooking all the time and I’m not really into cooking at all.

          I’d consider myself an intermediate not even good cook…and my spaghetti sauce, mushroom soup, a million chicken recipes all call for wine. Which is a pain because we don’t drink wine so we get it just for that.

          1. Bea W*

            I’m am totally puzzled by this. Mushroom soup calls for wine? Standard chicken dishes like you would make at home for a regular meal? Maybe it’s a regional thing? I can’t recall many of the recipes in either the family or my own cookbooks calling for wine. I don’t know anyone who regularly cooks with wine except for a couple people who are really into cooking or have fancy dishes they like to make for special occasions or Italians. Most people (outside of the Italians) don’t make their own spaghetti sauce. It comes in jars…or worse, cans. Definitely not standard Yankee fare – things that get cooked in wine.

            1. Anonymous*

              I use wine in lots of things – and so does my Yankee stepma! I wonder if that’s one of those family things. I also don’t cook with salt, since my mother didn’t. I’ve grown to understand that most people do cook with salt. Strange but true!

              1. Bea W*

                People cook with a lot of salt. I don’t care for it. I prefer to salt my food after the fact, and often I don’t have to because chances are one or more of the ingredients already has more than enough salt in it already.

                Took me 12 years to go through a container of salt.

            2. Jamie*

              Wild Cream of Mushroom soup – Ina Garten’s recipe. It is soooo good.

              Bonus, it works fabulously as a base for Chicken Tetrazzini, just thicken it up with a little parm.

              And we were a sauce out of the jar family for years (Ragu v Prego was our long running argument) until I made my own and now they whine when I open a jar. It’s so easy to do and I make a couple of giant stock pots at a time so once it’s all loaded in the freezer we’re set for a couple of months.

              Funny thing is the first time I did that my dh was changing the furnace filters, so now every time he changes them he reminds me it’s time to replentish the sauce stock.

              And chicken, either casseroles or sauces…a lot of them call for wine. Thing is I don’t know a thing about wine, so when it calls for certain kinds (dry, whatever) I just default or red or white. I can’t taste the difference in wines while drinking them, I can’t imagine it would be easier once in a sauce.

              Although I do have a bottle of unopened KISS wine in my kitchen which will never see a bottle opener. :)

              1. Bea W*

                Wow. I’m learning a lot here actually. A casserole is the last place I would have expected a need for wine.

                1. Jamie*

                  You don’t taste it, it’s weird, because it does something good to the flavor but it doesn’t taste like wine. I hate the taste of wine – so I used to always leave it out thinking it would ruin food but it doesn’t – it becomes something else.

          2. Elizabeth*

            Dry vermouth. It is just dry white wine, and it stays good for a much longer time if you don’t use it up immediately.

            (Oh, and try sauteing mushrooms with soy sauce & dry vermouth. The umami bomb that results is amazing.)

          3. AnonEMoose*

            I have a great (and fairly quick and easy) recipe for chicken in a red wine sauce. I use wine for other dishes, too, like sometimes if I’m making a chicken and rice casserole, I’ll throw a little white wine in just for a flavor boost. Or if you’re browning meat for a stew or something, you can use wine to “deglaze” the pan afterwards and then add it to the stew so that you get all the flavor from those browned (not burnt) bits on the bottom of the pan.

          4. Anna*

            But that goes back to how are you supposed to know and when does it stop? Do you not give candy because that person, who doesn’t talk about health issues because it’s personal, might not eat sugar? At that point you’re just guessing. I can’t imagine someone in recovery holding it against their company for gifting a bottle of wine if the person has never told anyone they’re in recovery.

        2. Bean*

          Bea, I’m curious what you would do if given a bottle of wine?

          At my work, they have not been able to afford bonuses so they give a bottle of wine instead. The smart thing we do here is have one for everybody on a table on the last day before Christmas break and there is an announcement about it, so if somebody does not drink wine then they do not have to take it and no one will know…it’s just a nice gesture on behalf of the company.

          It will be impossible to please everyone…when they used to get bonuses they would complain that their bonus the last year was $500 higher.

          1. Bea W*

            Drink it. :D Even better if I have an occasion to share it since I hardly ever just drink wine alone at home.

            I don’t have a personal issue with wine, and enjoy it as a gift but I understand where people are coming from there. It’s tough. I like the table idea. If it were a gift I would not use, I’d much rather just leave it on the table for someone else to take. Maybe someone would enjoy the extra. It avoids an awkward situation and feels less waste-y to me. It doesn’t put the onus on the recipient to find a home for an unwanted gift. It saves face for people who don’t want to appear ungrateful when receiving a gift they don’t want or turns out to be personally inappropriate.

            I don’t get complaining about bonuses, because it’s a *bonus* extra cash you didn’t otherwise have, but oddly people do this. Maybe they’d rather have the wine.

          2. TeaBQ*

            I’m not Bea but as someone who can’t drink alcohol I’ll toss in my two cents.

            When I am given a bottle of wine at work I take it in the spirit (ha) it was intended and try to regift if I can. I get that it’s the thought that counts and not everybody knows I can’t drink alcohol.

            That being said, I also do not think it is unreasonable *for work events* to keep in mind that not everybody drinks. It’s all well and good to say “Well people need to speak up” but there’s a second A in AA for a reason. Also not everyone is as comfortable talking about their health issues as I am (I can’t drink b/c of medications I take).

            Yes, it is on those of us who do not drink for whatever reason to understand where others are coming from when they give alcohol with good intentions. But at the same time work events should have enough diversity in what they offer that everyone is included at some point.

            I’m not even saying said diversity has to be at the exact same event. I’m just saying if one company sponsored event is a happy hour, maybe another is an ice cream social, maybe another is getting to leave work a couple of hours early, maybe another is lunch bought for everyone, maybe another is company sweatshirts, etc.

            It is actually not hard to find a way to include everyone in the aggregate and if your company is big enough, IMO you should be trying to anticipate the things that are common enough without needing to be told someone has that need (unable to drink, needing to keep kosher, diabetics, vegans, etc.)

            The problem is when this isn’t done and again and again something happens that’s a benefit or fun thing for your co-workers and isn’t for you. At which point it can be demoralizing, which goes to the heart of AAM’s original article.

        3. Loose Seal*

          Bea, people in recovery are responsible for their own recovery. Receiving a bottle of wine as a gift may cause someone to want it out of their house so it’s not tempting but, realistically, those in recovery know that this is the time of year that is full of lots and lots of triggers — celebrations and eggnog and fruitcake that’s been marinating all year in brandy.

          1. Bea W*

            Absolutely true, but you wouldn’t give a bottle of wine as a gift to that person any more than you’d offer a former smoker a pack of cigarrettes. There’s certainly the argument that in a company/group gift situation it’s not intentional, but why take the chance of excluding people from gifts when there are so many other options that aren’t food or drink. Even without having to wonder if any employees are alcoholics, there are so many allergies, diets, and food and drink preferences that no matter what, you’re bound to exclude someone. Gift cards and certificates are one choice that is less likely to be unintentionally problematic and easy to get in bulk. I think there are better choices over food and drink as company wide gifts.

          2. Windchime*

            Exactly. I’m not a big wine drinker (although I do love a good chardonnay), so if that was the company gift and I didn’t want it, I would probably just offer mine up to a co-worker. Pretty easy.

          3. tcookson*

            I recently worked a reception at one of my boss’s house, and part of that deal is that I take home part of the leftover wine and beer for myself (wine) and my husband (beer).

            Well, I forgot that just a couple days before, my husband had confessed that he thought his drinking might be becoming a problem for him, so I took the post-reception wine and beer, as usual, and put it in the trunk of my car. Then I remembered that I couldn’t bring it home, so I started trying to get rid of it to other people at work (on the sly, as I had already told my boss when she asked that, yes, my husband had enjoyed the beer very much).

            So in going around offering wine and beer to my coworkers, I had three people confess to me that they were recovering alcoholics and not to tell anyone. I felt bad about offering it to them then, and on looking back I do remember them drinking tea or soda at various events where everyone else was drinking wine, beer, Woodford Reserve bourbon (boss 1) or Grey Goose vodka (boss 2) — but I had never noted that or thought anything of it.

            Anyway, I finally found a coworker who wanted the alcohol and who wasn’t in recovery or informally attempting to quit, but I had to ask almost ten people.

    3. TK*

      I’m amused by your creativity in coming up with “unusual” gifts. A gift certificate to a tanning salon certainly seems like a supremely inappropriate gift for an employee in almost any context!

      1. AJ*

        Believe it or not this actually happens. I once received a gift certificate to a tanning salon as a promotional gift for signing an apartment lease. I’m black, and don’t go tanning. Ever.

        Unfortunately I couldn’t think of anyone to give it to, so it ended up in the trash. Receiving this as a gift didn’t bother me, but I did think it was pretty thoughtless and a waste of money.

        1. some1*

          I’m Caucasian and extremely pale. Not only have/would I burn in a tanning booth in less than 10 minutes, if I got it as a present I’d think it was a PA way to tell me to get a tan.

          1. Windchime*

            Same here. I’m white and I have never been to a tanning salon. I don’t want to look like a piece of dried-out leather. Thanks anyway. This is another gift that I would either offer to a co-worker or perhaps just toss. But I would do my best to be gracious and polite to the person who gave it to me.

      2. Kelly O*

        Yeah, I kind of wonder about the tanning bed thing. Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like skin cancer, right?

    4. Mints*

      I don’t see wine as generic as other people do. I think chocolate is a better generic gift, or fruit basket if it’s a larger gift. It’d be easier for me to regift candy than wine.

      1. TL*

        I don’t like fruits and I’m allergic to most candies; they’d be harder for me to discretely get rid of than a bottle of wine, as normally I share food overages with my coworkers.

        Whatever you pick, there’s always somebody who can’t/won’t use it. Except money.

        1. Mints*

          Cash bonus is definitely better!
          I dislike the social conventions where token gifts are expected for people (coworkers) I don’t know well. I still think candy/desserts are easier to share or regift, though.
          However, for people close to me, I really enjoy gift giving. I’m like Leslie Knope, I want to give the BEST presents

          1. Bea W*

            Me too. I don’t participate unless held at gunpoint. I enjoy finding gifts for people I know well or finding gifts that I know someone will really enjoy, but I’m not a fan of the token gift giving as a social convention. It feels fake to me when I do it, and I sure don’t want to give someone a gift they won’t like or would possibly be a problem for them. That defeats the point of giving in my mind, which is to do something kind for the recipient. It just sucks all the joy out of giving for me.

    5. Contessa*

      I won a bottle of wine at an office event the day I told my coworkers I was pregnant. Oh, well. I just drank it when the baby was a month old :) (and spent the months in between staring at it longingly)

      I would just re-gift anything I didn’t want. It’s something I didn’t pay for anyway, so I can’t really get mad about not liking it.

    6. Eva R*

      I can see it if you can’t use it, but have you ever had an addiction or compulsive self destructive behavior?
      Handing a recovering alcoholic a bottle of wine and a day off work at a stressful time is not like handing a vegetarian a free turkey, it’s like handing an anorexic person a weight watchers membership or a person who just quit smoking a pack of cigarettes.

    7. Cassie*

      I got a bottle of wine from a professor (actually, two professors each gave me a bottle of wine) – one was a re-gift and the other’s was a leftover from a party he had. I don’t drink. I don’t know people who drink, aside from the professor who had a party. I don’t know what to do with them.

      I’m not upset about getting them but it is a little bothersome that I have to find someone to give them to.

  10. MissDisplaced*

    I used to work for a place that gave everyone a free turkey at Christmas. While the thought was nice, I had a single-person household and had little use for it. PLUS getting the truck of turkeys to the workplace was a huge hassle. For two years running I gave my turkey to a fellow employee. It would’ve been so much better to just do a grocery gift card or something!

    1. Anonymous*

      That sounds really annoying. So people were carrying huge turkeys onto the bus/subway? A grocery gift card would have made more sense.

      1. Jamie*

        At a previous workplace I made that very argument. We gave out giant hams or turkeys – employees choice – and the majority of the people in the plant took public transportation…no dice.

        I was accused of trying to ruin the magic of Christmas.

        My heart never did grow three sizes that day.

        1. Joey*

          We did vouchers for free turkeys for this very reason. Basically a coupon (butterball if I remember correctly).

          1. tcookson*

            That’s what my husband’s company gives. It’s a free coupon from a certain local grocery for a free turkey up to $20. I can usually get my turkey for the value of the coupon; only a couple of times have I exceeded the limit and had to chip in a dollar or two of my own. I look forward to that turkey coupon every year, too!

        2. Mints*

          My current commute is a 1.5mi walk then train ride. And I am kind of giggling at how ridiculous I would look power walking with a turkey under one arm, then jam packed on the train butt-to-butt with a stranger, trying to stuff a turkey in my backpack.
          Yes, gift card is much much better

      2. Bea W*

        That’s what my mom’s work did. She’d get her turkey at work and bring it home with her. Luckily she drove. It would really suck carrying home a 10-20 lb frozen carcass on the bus.

        1. anonintheUK*

          The global accounting firm I worked for at 1 Jan 00 gave all its employees champagne. Delivered, by courier, to their home addresses on a weekday., thus mostly ending up in the courier company’s office 5 miles out of town on a business park.

          Our department admin manager collected up everyone’s missed delivery cards and drove to the courier office.

        2. Carrie in Scotland*

          My boyfriend & I just carried our real christmas tree home over the weekend – 2.5 miles (we don’t have a car or want to pay for delivery when we are both at work all day). Didn’t see too many stares, I don’t think!!

    2. Gjest*

      I’m single and would be totally happy with a free turkey. You can cook it then freeze a bunch. Invite a group of friends over for a turkey dinner (especially if you and some friends aren’t travelling). Give it to whoever is cooking Christmas dinner this year. Donate it to a soup kitchen/shelter.

      And if I didn’t drink wine, I am sure I could find an opportunity to give it away. Regift it for Christmas, or, it doesn’t go bad, I’d save it for the next time I was invited to a dinner.

      Maybe it’s the years of being a poor student, but I am happy with free food/drink of any kind!

        1. tcookson*

          I almost feel kind of sorry for all the bosses out there hoping to please their employees with a gift that they hope will be appreciated, and what a landmine it is for them.

          I gave my boss #1 a bottle of Spanish wine last year because I had seen someone else give him that at a reception at his home the year before and thought he liked it. Then I found out from a casual remark of his several months later that he is not a wine drinker (apparently bourbon is his exclusive drink of choice) and I felt a little sheepish that I had missed the mark. Also, he is a good actor and a sweet guy, because he received the bottle of wine that I gave him with apparently-genuine delight.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      We had the same thing at Exjob for Thanksgiving–a certificate for a free turkey. I gave mine to a coworker who regularly had a large gathering of people to feed. I can’t eat a whole turkey by myself, and I don’t like it anyway.

      1. Judy*

        The Butterball certificate we get is actually a check for $15. You can use it at any grocery store as money or just deposit it.

        1. De Minimis*

          A previous employer used to give us a gift card for a local grocery store, but they kept running into problems with it.
          The employer wanted a situation where they would get their money back for any unused cards, and most stores understandably did not want to do that. The one grocery store that agreed to it went out of business, so that was the beginning of the end for the policy–they offered cards for one specialty store the following year, but the prices were high to where employees couldn’t get very much with their gift cards. I think they quit trying after that.

          1. Anonymous*

            I don’t see why they can’t just give normal gift cards to a mainstream chain. I’m sure the vast majority of the employees will make use of it in very short order!

            1. tcookson*

              My husband’s company’s turkey gift certificate is to a local grocery that I never shop at except to get my annual company turkey. They have given a gift certificate from that store for at least the nearly-twenty years that my husband has worked there; I think they are trying to support local business instead of giving their business to a national chain.

            2. De Minimis*

              None of us ever understood that either, I doubt there would have been any unused cards had they decided to give a gift card for Wal-Mart.

              The first store they used had a single location in our city, and I imagine the unused cards were from employees that probably lived too far away to make it convenient [many employees lived in other cities and towns, and one person even lived out of state.]

              The second store was a similar situation, but with higher prices and an even less convenient location/hours. I remember I didn’t use my card that year–I worked nights and had a hard time getting there when they were open.

    4. Hooptie*

      I am also single. Luckily, our company gives us the option of donating our turkeys to the local food pantry. We just send an email to the program coordinator and the company delivers all of the donated turkeys in one fell swoop.

      If I don’t have a lot of cash during the holiday season, at least donating my turkey makes me feel like a gave a little back. And I really don’t mind not ‘getting’ a holiday gift. I’ve also donated Walmart and grocery store gift cards to the food pantry if I’m not going to use them right away. They are always grateful for it.

  11. BadPlanning*

    My office does none of the things on the list. So I guess that’s good.

    We fall down when we don’t plan holiday coverage. Last year I got stuck coming in on a vacation day simply because I was the last of the people left in the office when we scrambled for coverage between Christmas and New Years. (I did take the vacation day in the next year). This year we’re doing a better job of planning ahead.

  12. Ebenezer*

    #1 Company gives out annual holiday gifts and makes a big production of giving higher value gifts to executive team.
    #2 Company decides to add a couple big ticket gifts to the office gift exchange, and the boss ends up with one.
    #3 In the same week as #1 and #2, the compensation structure is changed, resulting in pay cuts for many employees.

    1. Shannon313*

      Ugh. Our controller wins a big prize anytime things are available for a raffle. I can see accepting once, but I would gracefully decline to enter in the future. I agree that upper management should be ineligible (& here the controller is part of the exec board).

      1. Anna*

        That used to happen at Old Job. The person in charge of the raffle always managed to walk away with some sweet prizes. Hm.

  13. VW*

    I would add:
    Giving a holiday gift (a physical object, not a monetary bonus)–and then charging employees the tax on it. My last company did this, except they didn’t tell you up front! You’d just find out later when you got your next paycheck. (One of the many, many things wrong with that company…)

    1. Judy*

      Our company “grosses up” when you get an award. So if you get a “spot award” of $150, your paycheck shows that you were paid an extra $42 that was put into withholding, and your income is increased by $192 ($150 + 150*.28).

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It made news here that employees were not to be receiving cash, etc without taxes being accounted for in the paycheck. We almost did not need an explanation because it was such a big flap in headlines.

      Really? The government needed that tax on my $50 that badly?
      (Shaking my head.)

    3. CAA*

      I was shocked when this happened to me the first time I got a big award at “really huge multi-national”. I went from proud to demoralized really fast when I realized I’d just paid $100 in taxes for a personalized Tiffany clock, that no matter how pretty it was, I would never have bought for myself.

      I was young and had my paycheck carefully split between the “saving to buy a house” account and the checking account, so it was even worse when I had to transfer money out of the house account to cover that month’s expenses.

      I did explain the situation to my manager, and I give her a lot of credit for understanding and making sure it never happened again. All future awards to everyone at that branch office were either $$ or object + $$.

      1. VW*

        One of my coworkers was in a tight money situation and nearly cried when she found the tax money missing from her paycheck. It wasn’t a lot to me, but for some people, even a few bucks makes a difference.

  14. Vee*

    When I was little, my father’s company always gave turkeys or hams, but they were distributed right before Christmas, after we had already bought our ham for the holiday.

    It became a tradition to take it to the church rectory to donate it to a needy family in the parish. Even though I was very young, I still remember how happy I felt on those trips.

  15. David*

    If you’re a manager, cut out early the day before a holiday but don’t tell your staff to do the same (only talking an hour or two…and no actual coverage is required). Even better, take the day off. When every other manager lets his or her staff go early as a nicety, don’t be around to offer the same perk to your staff…or delegate that to someone else.

  16. Aswin Kini MK*

    I just loved your sentence in point no 7:
    “If the company has recently laid off staff or cut back in other ways, holding a swanky holiday affair will demoralize employees faster than you can say “ice sculpture shaped like Justin Bieber.”

    Just laughed hard after reading the part regarding Justin Bieber :P

  17. Ed*

    We do raffles at our end-of-year meeting and give away really nice stuff like TVs, iMacs, iPads, etc. I have to admit it sort of ticks me off when I see managers winning. I know for a fact that they get that kind of stuff all year. Plus, they are the only ones who bonus. When all of our raises were cut last year, they still bonused. If one of them even mentions a new tech toy, they get one a week later. I’m not complaining because we’re an IT company so that’s a perk of management but I do think they should withdraw from the raffle or pass it on to a direct report. Winning a $2500 iMac is a pretty big deal for someone that makes $40K a year. That is most likely something you would never be able to buy at this point in your career.

    On another note, it really bothers me when the same people win multiple years. When you win an A-level prize, it should be noted so you’re not in the drawing the following year(s). We ask people not to take big gifts two years in a row on the honor system but it would be better if they were just removed.

    And as others have said, I’m an atheist but love having off Xmas week. First, a week off with pay is a week off regardless of the reason. Second, my family is not religious but we still gather that week, eat tons of food and buy presents for the kids. And I actually don’t care if the office looks like Santa’s workshop but please don’t make me participate in anything. The problem is most people can’t help themselves when they get caught up in the spirit of the holiday. I’m not looking to spoil anyone’s holiday but respect the fact that not everyone shares your beliefs.

    1. Joey*

      Atheists that look like they’re celebrating Xmas? This would confuse the hell out of me if I were your manager.

      1. Ed*

        How am I celebrating Xmas? While my family isn’t “religious” in the strictest sense, I am the only atheist so the rest of them do celebrate Xmas to an extent. And the average child is celebrating getting presents, not Xmas. I have no issue with spoiling my nieces and nephews. As I said, I have no issues with any holiday celebrations as long as I’m not forced to participate.

        1. Joey*

          If I worked with you and knew you were gathering with family/friends to feast around Xmas and bought presents Id assume you celebrate Xmas even if you said you were atheist. To most people that’s celebrating. Church and prayers aren’t required to celebrate.

        2. Evan*

          That reminds me of a C. S. Lewis essay where he said there’re actually two holidays called Christmas, one religious and one secular – and it’s quite confusing to some people how they’re both celebrated on the same day! :)

        3. TL*

          Yeah, my family’s all atheist/agnostic (except for my poor mother) and we’ve always managed to celebrate Christmas without putting any Christ in it.

      2. Jamie*

        Agreed. I totally think all participation should be optional, but if you talk about how you do gifts for the kids and family comes in from out of town…a reasonable assumption from an outsider would be that you celebrate Christmas.

        Plenty of atheists I know celebrate the secular aspects of the holiday – and there is nothing wrong with that – but if you talk about exchanging gifts at home one can’t expect work to think you’d have a moral objection to getting a gift at work.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit*

        … why would you even be thinking about how or whether an employee celebrates Christmas?

        1. tcookson*

          You can celebrate Christmas and Easter both as secular holidays — I know we always did in my family. My parents never went to church, but I grew up going to church with neighbors. But we never went on Christmas or Easter — we had huge family gatherings that were about eating, exchanging gifts, and having huge Easter-egg hunts with all the cousins — no religion at all.

      4. Bea W*

        Christmas in the US has distinctly secular and religious parts. There are basically two Christmases – the religious one and then the cultural/secular one. Even the religious parts are not wholly Christian but borrowed from pagan religions. Pagan winter celebrations look a whole lot like Christmas minus Jesus. Santa Claus is not a religious figure and has nothing to do with the religious holiday of Christmas. I know some atheists and people who identify with other religions who will do some Christmas time activities, often because they have family and friends who are celebrating or even just because it’s fun for them, and while they won’t really want to participate in the religious parts, there’s a whole lot about the holiday that is neither religious nor exclusively Christian. I no longer assume anyone taking place in secular Christmas-like activities is religious, has a Christian background, or is even specifically doing those things to celebrate Christmas. People do them because they are fun.

        To quote my dad, “Christmas is a commercial holiday.” No matter how you feel about it as a religious holiday, the commercial portions has taken a lot of it over.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I am going to be nitpicky here but: It’s true that Santa is not a religious figure, but he’s a cultural one associated with a religious holiday. Hence, you won’t see most Jews (not all, but most) with Santa stuff in their homes. It’s a cultural association with a religious holiday. I say this only because I’ve been frustrated in the past when talking to people who seem not to realize that no, Christmas-themed stuff is not appropriate for most non-Christians, no matter how secular and non-religious it might feel to you.

            1. Bea W*

              Not exclusively. Many of the traditions and stories we associated with Christmas celebration go back to pre-Christianity and the pagan celebration of Yule, and that includes the Santa Claus figure. Saint Nicholas is specific to Christianity (disclaimer: Not all Christian denominations recognize or revere St. Nicholas or recognize Saints beyond the 12 apostles).

              The name Santa Claus does supposedly derive from the Dutch “Sinterklaas” or Saint Nicholas. American Santa Claus is based in the story of Saint Nicholas but also “Father Christmas” from English folklore. While he started out as a figure connected with religion, commercialization has changed this, and Santa Claus has become much more of a secular gift giving figure who seems to be able to transcend at least some religious boundaries. As I’ve mentioned, there are churches in mainstream Protestantism that do not regard Santa Claus as part of the religious Christmas. So I guess it all depends on where you’re coming from.

              I’m born and raised Congregationalist. Santa Claus is a cultural folklore, not a religious figure. It’s easy for me to make the leap from religious Santa to secular Santa. He’s always been a secular holiday trapping to me. I find it hard to think of him as a religious figure.

              As an interesting aside, Saint Nicholas has his own day of recognition, usually celebrated Dec 5 or 6 in some European countries, and this is the day which gifts are exchanged in some countries, not Christmas day. I was surprised to hear this. It sounded so odd. In America we have wedded the two, Christmas and Saint Nicholas.

                1. Kelly O*

                  Dude, I am dragging out Krampus at some point in the future. It’s awesome.

                  I would get one of those stupid elves for the shelf if I could just come up with odd ways for Krampus to torment it. (see Acuff, Jon and the llamas Barry and White.)

          1. Bea W*

            Yes, Santa is associated with Christmas the religious holiday and for some people Santa = Saint Nicholas, which I assume to have some religious connection, but when you’re sitting in church, their not preaching and singing hymns about Santa Claus. That’s what I meant to convey. He’s more of a cultural icon than a religious one, and that’s pretty clear to people who spend much time in church over December. You can get through all of the Advent and Christmas season without hearing a word about Santa in church. It’s not part of the religious teaching. Christmas trees -while you will find them in some churches, also not part of the religious teaching. There are some churches and some clergy who would rather not have any hint of Santa Claus in any church activities at all. It’s akin to putting Hanukkah ornaments on a Christmas tree for those people.

            I don’t know many Jews who do Santa stuff, and those I do know are in religiously mixed families. I assume this is because Santa is closely associated with Christmas, but even as a non-Christmas figure, Santa is not associated with Jewish culture and folklore the way he is other non-Jewish European cultures (I say European here just because I am not sure if there is a Santa equivalent in other regions. There are many versions of “Santa” throughout European cultures.) That’s the impression I have gotten anyway. Jewish people, please correct me if I’m wrong.

            I do know people of other faiths (not Christian or Jewish) or who are agnostic or atheist who enjoy the non-religious activities, and that’s pretty much Santa and gifts, secular or non-Christiany decorations and carols, and as someone who is involved in church, I do make the mental separation between the Biblical content and the non-Biblical content, and Santa is definitely not in the Bible. Neither are Christmas trees. These are cultural traditions that existed outside of Christianity, and while they may have been incorporated into Christmas celebrations, they are not Christian religious symbols.

          2. ThursdaysGeek*

            Yeah, and even the word “christmas” is religious. And x-mas as well — both point to the word ‘christ’. I want to be careful to not carelessly offend my co-workers in my celebration of the season, because much of the underlying framework is very religious, and of mostly one religion.

    2. Jamie*

      I agree management and people on the higher end of the payscale should opt for lesser gifts in these kind of situations.

      I am not a wealthy person and there is no way I would grab an iPad or TV or whatever and let someone who makes $10 an hour get the box of Frango mints.

      I would be ashamed of myself.

  18. Anna*

    I would offer the flip of #7. If you’ve been through some lean years, during one of the many staff gatherings that are held throughout the year, actually scrounge up some cash for each of your sites so they don’t have to do yet ANOTHER potluck. Food isn’t that expensive; pay for a catered lunch, or lavish desserts. It won’t break the bank and it makes employees feel like you actually do care especially since you’re not giving bonuses and even raises are iffy.

  19. LittleT*

    I agree with this list of items and have experienced each of these in various workplaces over the years.

    Last year, I had the following happen to me. I work as 1 of 2 admin assistants in a 30-person team. My coworker and I each have a split of about 15 people to support and we primarily support those specific people, but are also the backups to each other for any absences or vacations.

    One of her team members comes to me on Dec 24 and says, “Where is Admin1?”
    I explain that she’s away on vacation, but I’m happy to help him. He says, “Oh, I have a gift for her.” and he clearly has a wrapped Christmas gift in his hand. He then says he’ll be away so why don’t I give her the gift when she returns? I suggest he could hold it in his office until they are both back in the office, but he says, “No, you can just give it to her, from me, when she gets back”.

    Talk about tacky! I had supported him quite a bit that year and then he is clearly only giving a gift to HER and not me as well, but I’m supposed to not think anything is weird about that?

    I smiled and said, sure, I’ll give to Admin1 when she returns. He then walked away as if nothing awkward had occurred! What an insensitive jerk!!

      1. LittleT*

        The upper management did give something to both of us, but I thought it was a little bit in poor taste to ask me to give her a gift that he could have given her himself. Since we both had worked with him, and me quite a bit more than usual, it seemed to call out that only SHE was getting something, not me.

        1. Hooptie*

          That’s kind of what I thought. Throughout my entire career I’ve seen executives gift their own assistants but no one else’s. What some will do is bring in a food gift for all to share, but I really think common protocol is not to expect gifts from someone that you aren’t assigned to.

          On the flip side, I’m sure your counterpart helped your folks at times too so I wouldn’t expect a gift from her people.

          And since you are counterparts, I found nothing wrong with him asking you to hand the gift to her when she came back from vacation. Maybe he didn’t want to make it seem like an afterthought or make a big deal out of a gift that was received after the actual holiday?

    1. Kit M.*

      Honestly, your second to last paragraph came out of nowhere to me — I didn’t see a problem at all and thought your story was going somewhere else. You know exactly why he gave her a gift and not you, so even if you think he made a bad judgment call, I can’t see taking it personally.

      1. This is why we can't have nice things*

        Ditto. That story, and others on this page, suggest to me the “problem” with management giving gifts is that somehow someone will find a way to be offended or disappointed.

      2. Cassie*

        I’m in a slightly different situation where I work directly for one person whereas my coworkers work for the collective (faculty members). There are some faculty members who will give gifts to all of those staff members and I’ll be honest – I feel a tad bit left out when I’m sitting right there listening to the gifts getting passed around. At the same time, I know that our roles are not the same. It wouldn’t make sense for those profs to give me anything because I don’t actively work for them.

        That being said, one of those profs did give me some chocolates this year. I was quite surprised. Maybe the prof had some leftovers or felt bad.

  20. ChristineSW*

    holding a swanky holiday affair will demoralize employees faster than you can say “ice sculpture shaped like Justin Bieber.”

    LOL!! That alone could damage employee morale!

  21. Anon.E.Mouse for this*

    I have one that isn’t demoralizing, but is a HUGE waste of time. My husband is a member of the executive team and they are required to spend hours and hours signing holiday cards for ALL of the employees. As if a card personally signed by six executives is going to do anything to boost anyone’s morale.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Some people might like that… I think I would. Not trying to diminish your point but am hoping that there are people that appreciate the time your hubby spent doing that.

    2. CAA*

      My company did this too. This is my first year here, and I got a Thanksgiving card signed by all the execs. I thought it was a little odd but nice.

      I also thought that I could have shown them how to do this much faster by using our color scanner and color printer …

    3. Ruffingit*

      I agree with you that it wouldn’t boost my morale at all because I would know they just spent a ton of time writing their signature. That means nothing to me personally. If they’d included a personal note to me, then sure. Otherwise, I know they just sat that and signed all day. That is a waste of their time as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Anonymous*

        I think some people like it because it shows that the execs cared about the employees (in general) to spend a whole day signing cards.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I suppose, but to me that doesn’t say they care. It says they’re doing something they feel obligated to do and I frankly think it’s a huge waste of their time. But that’s me. YMMV.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m sure that’s their thinking, but I would imagine that most employees look to much more substantive things to figure out if their management cares about them — fair pay, good benefits, what the culture’s like, etc. Spending a day signing cards isn’t going to impact that either way (but it will use up a day of expensively-compensated time).

          1. Ruffingit*

            That is my thinking. I don’t sit there going “Oh, how nice, the exec who has no idea who I am put his signature on this card…” I think “Wow, what a huge waste of his time and the company is paying his large salary for him to do this??”

    4. Cassie*

      My boss is signing a bunch of Christmas cards himself (maybe a couple hundred?). I almost asked if he wanted me to help him, since I have his signature down pat :)

  22. Anonie*

    #6 Just happened at out Christmas party. A person that makes six figures got a Kindle in a raffle and another person who makes considerably less got a DVD! not a DVD player a DVD!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Nothing raises the morale in an office more than for someone to win a Kindle who could afford to buy the Kindle 50 times over and then some. Sorry that happened. What a shame, really. And amazing that the six-figure person doesn’t apparently see the problem in this.

      1. Hooptie*

        “And amazing that the six-figure person doesn’t apparently see the problem in this.”

        This x1000. I don’t make a lot of money (nowhere close to six figures), but if my name were drawn for an expensive gift I would seriously consider putting it back in the draw. I’m a manager, not an exec, but it still doesn’t seem right to keep it somehow.

        I’d much rather see an hourly employee get it and make their day/year/whatever.

  23. jesicka309*

    We haven’t received it yet, but i’ve heard on the grapevine that our company Christmas gift is a safety first aid kit.

    Yay. Who doesn’t want bandaids and gauze for Christmas? How festive.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Is the gauze red and green? Do the tweezers have an angel engraved on them? Seriously, this is just a crappy “gift” to give to your employees.

  24. SondraF*

    How many companies do give out gifts? Mine is horrible – we get a free turkey at Thanksgiving, but Christmas is always miserly. You’ve got the directors and above getting the big, expensive steak dinners out with their VPs, and then… nothing for the people who support them. On my team of 6, the 2 who do the grunt work get nothing – no thank you cards, no gift cards, no Christmas party, not even corporate branded something from those they support. Its depressing and sad, especially when the other 4 forget themselves and yap about the laughs they had at the expensive dinner and the little, fairly expensive gift that their senior exec gave out (last year one was a $99 digital pedometer). Yes, I work for jerks (but not for much longer). Big morale killer!

    Given the number of layoffs since October and the large number of potlucks in the building this year, I suspect folks were told to tone it back/have no budget.

  25. Ginger*

    Here’s a way my employee morale is being brought to -1000000 this holiday season. My boss decided to point out everything she does not like about me or that I have done wrong in the past 5 years I’ve been with the company. Unfortunately this didn’t happen at a one-on-one meeting; but it has been going on everyday for the past 2 weeks. I

    Out of about 10 employees, I was the only one with the holiday spirit. Needless to say, my boss killed it by crushing my spirit over and over again. I hope she doesn’t come today so I have time to get myself back together and enjoy my life’s greatest accomplishments and blessings.

  26. Ginger*

    Oh and I forgot another one! One of our vendors sent a basket for the office. Our boss took it home to share it with her family. Did I mention she’s filthy rich?

  27. Expat*

    What about the fact that other companies in other countries do not close for that week? Also I have worked for a BIG US company and Payroll did not get Christmas or New Years off

  28. Working Girl*

    Add to the list – Inviting people to your mansion for the Christmas party when unable to give raises due to the economy or after lowering peoples salaries. No employee wants to see the lavish mansion that the boss lives in when the boss is poor mouthing at work. Save the mansion for your friends, your employees really don’t want to see how great they made you when you don’t pass along the wealth.

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