8 ways you’re annoying your coworkers during the holidays

The holidays at work can be jolly and festive, but they’re also full of opportunities to inadvertently be the office Scrooge. Here are eight common ways people alienate their coworkers at the holidays.

1. Pushing people to contribute to an expensive gift for the boss. Gifts in a workplace should flow down, not upwards, but too many stories abound about employees being pressured to contribute money for gifts for their managers. Often these gifts are pricey ones – more extravagant than what the employees will buy for those closer to them – which is especially inappropriate. Workers shouldn’t have to return their hard-earned money to the people who hired them.

2. Insisting on knowing why your coworker isn’t bringing a date to the holiday party. Your coworker might be going through a divorce or other break-up, dating someone they don’t think would enjoy attending someone else’s office social function, dating someone they’re not serious enough about to bring along, or not dating anyone at all. Regardless of the reason, it’s none of your business, and you will make people uncomfortable if you demand to know why they’re coming solo.

3. Claiming all the good vacation days for next year before anyone else does. If your office approves vacation days on a first-come, first-served basis, you might have the technical right to claim all most popular holidays in the upcoming year before anyone else does, but you can be sure that your coworkers notice that you do this and resent you for it.

4. In the office gift exchange, giving a gift of no value when every else is exchanging real gifts. You shouldn’t feel obligated to participate in an office gift exchange, but if you choose to, you should honor the customs of the exchange. If everyone else is exchanging nice trinkets, you should not give a gag gift like a bag or coal or a box of sawdust (real gifts people have reported receiving). You might think it’s funny, but you risk hurting the recipient’s feelings or making them resent the work they put into picking out something more thoughtful.

5. Giving an extravagant gift that’s well over the dollar limit set in your office. If your office sets a dollar limit on gifts, it’s there for a reason. If you significantly exceed it – for instance, giving a cashmere sweater or an iPod when the gift limit was $15 – you’ll make everyone else participating feel awkward.

6. Pressuring people who aren’t merry enough for you. Bugging people about why they’re not going to the holiday party or participating in Secret Santa – or worse, signing them up for Secret Santa without their permission – is a good way to alienate coworkers. Keep in mind that for every person who enjoys holiday rituals at work, there’s at least one more who doesn’t – and that’s especially at a time of year when budgets are often already stretched thin and people don’t want the office to become another holiday expense.

7. Offending people of different religions than you. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays, and even those who celebrate the same holidays as you might not celebrate them in the same ways. Don’t push people to celebrate in ways they’re not comfortable with.

8. Getting drunk at the office holiday party. While it might look an awful lot like a social function, the reality is that the office holiday party is still a business event. You’re there to mingle with coworkers and higher-ups, not to get drunk or otherwise act in a way that calls embarrassing attention to yourself. Raise your visibility by being smart and engaging, not by being the person who slurs Christmas songs from the top of a table or passes out in the bathroom.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 122 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Reading about the holidays is stressful. I’m sad for people who have all these things happen at work.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I saw some coal bubble gum in a little sack once. It was amusing.

      One time, a coworker gave me a tiny snack bag with mini-marshmallows in it and a poem stapled to it:

      You’ve been naughty, so here’s the scoop:
      All you get for Christmas is snowman poop!

    2. BN*

      I actually received coal from my Secret Santa in the 3rd grade. I am a pretty easygoing person, but it was difficult to find it hilarious in the moment. Try as I might, I kept feeling like she was trying to “tell” me something without actually confronting me, though I’m sure she simply thought it would be funny.

    3. KellyK*

      I think coal is a hilarious gag gift, but unless it’s a white elephant swap where silly gifts are expected, it’s kind of crappy to give in place of a real gift. (In a real gift exchange, a box of coal with a gift card at the bottom is just as fun.)

  2. fposte*

    An NPR piece this morning reported that the Senate has a Secret Santa gift exchange, instituted by Al Franken three years ago. A West Virginia senator did indeed give coal, but it was a pair of donkey and elephant statues in West Virginia coal.

    It all sounded pretty fun, actually.

      1. Anonymous*

        What if you are allergic to coal and your co-workers still give you a coal statue anyway? That’d be very demoralizing.

        Also, please consider the people who have a neurotic tendency to hoard knick-knacks, but are overcoming it with therapy. This sort of gift could cause a big set-back for them.

        Plus how can you be sure that a co-worker doesn’t have relative or friends who were killed in coal-mining accidents, or got cancer due to particulate pollution from coal? So the gift would dig up bad memories.

        I wish people were more thoughtful about gifts. That gift could be very thoughtless and demoralizing.

          1. Not Surprised*

            Not surprised. The comments on this site now seem to be that if someone hasn’t experienced something personally then it deserves to be mocked or dubbed with a sarcastic nickname. Reminds me of junior high. Sad.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              That happens pretty rarely, from what I see. Sure, it happens on occasion, but that’s to be expected in any large group of people. It’s hardly the norm here.

            2. Anonymous*

              I wrote the 12:24 comment above and was frankly aghast at the whining about inappropriate gifts in another recent thread. Thus the mockery. If someone gives you a gift you cannot use, you say “Thank you” and move on.

              I have received gifts I cannot use many many times and I have responded like that many times. And then discarded, re-gifted or even sold the gift.

              The annoyance and complaining about “inappropriate” gifts here, IMHO, deserves to be mocked. Take it, say thanks and then toss it.

              1. VintageLydia*

                I think bringing it into an another thread is uncalled for though, particularly to mock someone as you did here.

              2. Bea W*

                IMHO the snark above comes across as the whiniest of whines. This comment comes across as thinking that anyone who doesn’t share your experience and do as you do without complaining is beneath you and deserves ridicule.

                Maybe that’s you and you’re perfectly happy being that person, and you aren’t interested in learning about what other people experience or think and allowing them to challenge your own ideas. If that’s the case, you might think about taking your own advice, Say “Thank you” and move on.

                1. Anonymous*

                  “This comment comes across as thinking that anyone who doesn’t share your experience and do as you do without complaining is beneath you and deserves ridicule.”

                  I wouldn’t say they’re beneath me in general, but certainly in terms of attitudes toward receiving gifts their behavior is beneath mine (and others).

                  That’s my point.

                  And I hope it doesn’t come across as my ridiculing them in general (their overall person), but yes I am intentionally ridiculing the general behavior of complaining about gifts.

                  Again, that’s my point.

                  “whiniest of whines.” Oh, it was certainly whiney, but I don’t think it was at the level of “whiniest.” That top-level rarely has any humor or snark in it. I’d say it was one step down. Super-whiney but not the whiniest. YMMV though.

                  In any case, thanks for sharing your learning.

                2. Bea W*

                  Well, I meant compared to the other “whines” in the threads being discussed, not all whines ever. The things that came across the whiniest to me were the comments where people complained about people who they thought were complaining, which I also find ironic and kind of funny. As you say, YMMV.

                  I think there are better ways to say what one is thinking and still get the point across. in a discussion with people you don’t know well enough if they will find snark funny and not meant to offend or rude and insulting. Even though you say things I don’t agree with or find personally appealing in your reply, I had a much more understanding reaction to it as written in honest straight forward English than I did the snark, and that is my point. It matters how it’s said and who’s reading it. Again, YMMV.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Assuming this was directed specifically at thenoiseinspace because of the exchange she was having about this in the comments yesterday, then I agree — this is mean. (If I’m wrong and it wasn’t directed at her and was just general commentary inspired by yesterday’s discussion, then I’m off-base.) If indeed this was meanly intended, please don’t do that here.

            1. BCW*

              I think it was a bit sarcastic, but kind of true. It seems SO much on here is like you have to be mindful of every possibllity of an aversion (or addiction, allergic reaction, choice to not partake) that is out there. Sometimes its just like “ok, I got a gift I didn’t want. Big deal. Moving on”

              1. Anonymous*

                What BCW said: “ok, I got a gift I didn’t want. Big deal. Moving on”

                And my comment at 12:24 was intended at the tenor of the recent discussions, not a single person. If it fits what any particular person is complaining about (complaining about gifts to them!!!), then so be it.

                1. Anonymous*

                  One other thing @Not Surprised

                  “if someone hasn’t experienced something personally”

                  I’m not an alcoholic but my dad was, as were a number of members of his family. And I don’t drink, ever, in part because of that. So people give me wine what do I do? I say “Thank you” and don’t use it. It’s not that complicated.

                2. Not Surprised*

                  @Anonymous: Glad to know that you’re the arbiter of what deserves to be publicly mocked.
                  I bow to your personal and moral superiority in all things (not).

                3. Anonymous*

                  @Not Surprised

                  “Glad to know that you’re the arbiter of what deserves to be publicly mocked.”

                  You’re welcome.

                  But to make sure we’re on the same page, I’m not the sole arbiter, just one person doing my best. Others can chime in as they like.

                4. BCW*

                  @notsurprised, why are you taking this sarcastic comment so personally. I don’t think anonymous was mocking a person, but mocking the fact that you can’t just give a gift without it offending, hurting, alienating, or whatever to someone. You know how many crappy gifts I got from relatives as a kid? A TON. But I learned then to say thank you and move on. Not to pout about it and then whine on an internet message board.

            2. Bea W*

              Even if it wasn’t directed at one particular person, it’s still mean, and the response confirms it was a snark about the discussion from yesterday’s thread.

          3. Bea W*

            Even before I scrolled down I thought, “I bet this is someone snarking about discussion on yesterday’s thread.”

  3. Chocolate Teapot*

    Well, it was our Office Secret Santa today, and I got a nice scarf. My recipient seemed happy, and the other gifts were things like scented candles, woolly scarves and gloves, ties and assorted bottles of wine and champagne. I didn’t spot anyone who seemed unhappy about their gift.

    1. danr*

      I participated in the Secret Santa in my office the first year I was there. When we drew the names, I gently reminded my office mates that aftershave would not be a good idea…. since I have a full beard. Being the only male in my group, I knew what the others instantly thought of and I was right.

    2. Bea W*

      We did Yankee Swap today. It was about 20 people, and after it was over people were free to trade with each other or do whatever, and people were thoughtful about their choices, stuck to the rules, and were good natured about it. We did it where you opened your gift before you could chose to swap it with someone else, so people who picked out things they couldn’t use (like a non-coffee drinker getting a coffee gift) opted to swap right off. So it was relaxed and fun. It’s a Yankee Swap. No one really expects to go home with something spectacular.

      Everyone was also asked to bring cookies or some kind of baked good to share. It did not have to be homemade. Lunch was provided. The cookies and things were our dessert and for people to take home.

      This is how I like office holidays – relaxed, unforced, people not being jerky and engaging in #6 on the list (which did remind me of yesterday’s thread) and completely non-religious.

      Our group is very diverse with people from different countries, religions, vegetarians, people with allergies, people with food issues, people who don’t drink alcohol. You name it, there’s probably one person in the group who has experienced it, and it’s really not that hard to have a good time without drama. It’s a matter of being aware and considerate, communicating openly, and not taking personal offense when someone politely speaks up about something that really is about them and not you.

      There’s no need to mock people or accuse them of being any number of holiday cheer baddies, and when people are free from worrying about that kind of thing, they tend to be more willing to accommodate each other, adjust, and try something different.

      Okay, off my soapbox. Today’s holiday party was a reminder of how awesome my current co-worker group can be, and that people are totally capable of not being jerks about touchy personal subjects that come up this time of year.

      1. LD*

        Lovely to hear you had a good experience and it’s also great that you have awesome coworkers who don’t go out of their way to create drama.

        1. Bea W*

          I wish more places were like this. I’ve worked with some doosies. I’m not a big Christmas/holiday celebration person. So the people around me can make it or break it. My personal suck-it-up threshold is pretty low this time of year.

  4. Yup*

    Hi #6! I see you, you pushy merry-maker, you. Stop trying to make my experience into your personal 24-7 Kringle wonderland, or else I’ll need to gag you with the twelve-foot wonky scarf I got in the Secret Santa exchange.

  5. Anonymous*

    At my last job, it was the CEO who got drunk at the holiday party. Like actually falling-down drunk, complete with slurred speeches about how much he loved everyone (despite the fact that he wasn’t very nice the rest of the time). Awkward!

    After years of this, someone finally reported it to the board and the CEO’s response was to cancel the holiday party entirely. I believe they now give everyone gift cards (I had left the company by this time).

  6. Ali*

    #6 is one of the reasons why I’m glad I work from home. Seriously. I hate some things about Christmas, and it’s bad enough that I have to listen to my family being all joyful and telling me not to complain about the holidays. I couldn’t deal with it at work.

    That said, I tend to wish I could work in an office so I could participate in Secret Santas, attend Christmas parties, etc. I miss out on not getting that stuff, and I get the impression my company’s culture is nothing like this. I haven’t been e-mailed to ask if I’ll get fancy gifts for my boss or anything like that.

      1. Ali*

        Ahhh I am about 2.5 hours away from NYC, so I will keep that in mind for next year! Thanks for mentioning that!

  7. TK*

    People pressure their co-workers about not bringing dates to holiday parties? I can’t imagine anything more annoying.

    1. Cat*

      There’s also the inverse, which is gossiping about the the date they chose to bring, whether it’s a different person than last year, and how serious they are about them.

    2. HM in Atlanta*

      It’s so much fun, especially if you can’t even find a fake date to go with you. At my last job, everyone brought spouses/significant others, and it was NOTICED if you went alone (not to mention exceedingly uncomfortable for me as the lone solo person at a table of 5 couples).

      Every year after that, I managed to have something I could use to avoid that travesty – usually tickets to something I could show to my boss to get out of the “commitment to attend” I apparently made by accepting the offer of employment.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh, me too. And I always ended up sitting at my boss’s table, which made it even more awkward.

        We’re having an at-work party on our floor here, so I can escape to my cube if it gets too jolly for me. I’m not really in a Christmas mood this year.

    3. j_e_tothedouble_n*

      At every full time job I’ve had, the ladies on my team/in my office would always try to set me up with someone. Because being single is a disease that must be cured, apparently!

      1. periwinkle*

        It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single co-worker in possession of a good holiday party invitation must be in want of a date.

        (and what the heck is “white soup”, anyway?)

    4. AdAgencyChick*

      I had no idea there are people who do this. Makes me glad my company doesn’t allow dates at all!

      1. j_e_tothedouble_n*

        There was this woman in my office who kept suggesting different single men for me. I told her (trying to jokingly get out of her suggestions) that I was defective and noone wanted me. This, not surprisingly, backfired. She thought I was being serious and that I had low self esteem. And she thus amped up her efforts. *sigh*

        She had this saying she always used, “There’s a lid for every pot.” I once, in response to this, told her to picture her kitchen and cabinets. Then I told her to picture all of her pots. Then I said, now picture the drawer where you keep all the lids. Then I asked her, “How many lids do you have versus how many pots?”. (It’s been my experience, just based on my mother’s/grandmother’s/aunt’s houses, that there is always a drawer full of lids that do not have partners in every kitchen)

        That shut her up for about a week. Then she was back at it again. At least I don’t work there anymore! (of course, now my current workplace ladies are doing it now too)

        1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

          My Gran used to say “every Jill has her Jack”, to which I would reply “weren’t they brother and sister?!”

          At least I never had to deal with that in the workplace though – my sympathies for that

          1. Jamie*

            Jack and Jill, the nursery rhyme, was based on a pair of illicit lovers…so I really hope they weren’t siblings.

            (The things I learn from Ricky Gervais)

    5. Bea W*

      There was a commenter on another thread who ended up being the defacto baby sitter. Apparently, it can get more annoying!

  8. NP*

    How about reacting with genuine shock and disbelief when hearing that your colleagues in neighboring cubicles don’t actually support your plan to play Christmas music through your speakers during a work day? In a government office building. And then whining to your colleague within earshot of the people who shot down your brilliant plan that “certain people” [points in our direction] complained.

    1. rlm*

      Oh yeah! A few years ago there was a lady on my team that insisted on playing Christmas music on her radio all day long. I couldn’t take listening to “Santa Baby” play one more time, so I just turned her radio off when she walked away. She was NOT happy (looking back it was a very passive-aggressive move), but she left it off after that.

      1. SevenSixOne*

        I’m always a little baffled by people who not only listen to Christmas music voluntarily but love it so much that they willingly listen to it all day every day for weeks before the holiday. I start feeling like IF I HEAR “SILVER BELLS” ONE MORE TIME I WILL SET THIS BUILDING ON FIRE AND NO JURY WOULD CONVICT ME around the first week of December.

          1. rlm*

            I think I would go clinically insane if I listened to Christmas music 6 months out of the year. Like SevenSixOne said, I can only listen to Silver Bells so many times before it becomes cloying.

  9. Cruella Da Boss*

    Anyone who has ever been #6 knows how long it takes to earn respect once again. Also, try not to be on cold medication and think that you can have one, small, glass of wine or you will find yourself as #6. And people will still talk about you every year at the company holiday party. Every. Year.

    1. Yup*

      I think it’s important, if you’re going to get lit at the office holiday party, to work in a place where there are other people who will really go for broke at the bar. That way, your participation goes relatively unnoticed. No one will remember the person who stole the poinsettia from the hotel lobby over the person who lost their pants or barfed under the buffet table. (And I have actually witnessed all three.)

      1. Jean*

        Lost pants at the company party? As Alison sometimes says, “what the hell?” I am truly speechless (well, aside from being able to type out this comment)!

        1. Collarbone High*

          Yup, you CANNOT leave us hanging like this. Lost their pants??I’m dying to hear the backstory of how that happened.

          1. Yup*

            Crazed holiday party held at a hotel in multiple suites, with many heavy drinkers + company culture of pranking. One guy who was a major prankster of others drank too much himself and passed out on a sofa, and his coworkers removed his pants (leaving him in his underwear, jacket/tie, and shoes/socks). And then hid them.

            His rage when he woke up sober and couldn’t find his keys was legendary.

  10. Kelly O*

    I actually had a bit of a discussion this morning with a person in my office who shall remain nameless. She decided to try and put together a secret Santa thing on Monday. Yes, this coming Monday. And have us all bring snacks or stuff like that.

    Then she acted all hurt when I said no, I didn’t really want to participate because I already have activities every day from Saturday through the holiday and really didn’t feel like I could add one more thing at the last minute.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong. Had we had more time to plan, I would have loved to participate. But you cannot throw something at someone less than a week ahead of time during an already-packed time of the year and expect people to jump in excitedly.

    (I’ll add this is the same person who started asking me about helping her with some paperwork. When I said okay, she then sprung that it needs to be done by December 31st and basically she wants me to give up part of my next two Saturdays. Clearly I am not a team player because I expressed hesitation since my stepdaughter is flying in for the holiday…)

    1. Ruffingit*

      You’re not a team player for not wanting to help with paperwork that is due in two weeks, but apparently co-worker is the best employee ever even though she waits until nearly the due date to ask for help. OK then…

      Amazing how people cannot see themselves at all. She’s got a lot of gall to accuse you of not being a team player when she can’t plan her way out of a paper bag.

      1. Kelly O*

        Yup. The kicker with this one is that she’s the reason another coworker had to come in on a scheduled vacation day – our payroll schedule got messed up because of her procrastination.

        So on Monday, our department of two will be busting it so that we don’t have to come in on Tuesday to wrap up. So I’d really rather have the whole day to focus.

        And I told her three months ago that I would be glad to help out with Big Project, but it suddenly became unimportant. Until, you know, two weeks beforehand when we realize it’s truly due. Poor planning on your part does not (have to) constitute an emergency on mine.

      1. Jamie*

        OMG I was totally about to post a comment about the cake lady and saw fposte beat me to it.

        It’s a little scary and pretty awesome that the cake lady is in the pantheon of wacky co-workers.

    2. Malissa*

      Oh I got suckered into secret santa this year. I like secret santa’s really I do. It started off with picking names. This is just for the women in the office. Okay good. The next day I’m told that we’ll exchange gifts over dinner on a Friday night. Nope, sorry that’s date night with the husband. How about doing lunch one day I suggest. I figured during working hours that would be great!
      No dice, people want to dress up to go out to dinner. Okay so they set a dinner. On a night I have another standing obligation. And with not enough time for me to go home and change. Yeah, I’ll be handing over my gift early in the day and not going.

  11. Rebecca*

    Thankfully we don’t have Secret Santa any longer. I was here for exactly 6 weeks when Secret Santa rolled around, and everyone gathered around the tree and nominated me to hand out the gifts (about 60 people in multiple offices) to see if I had learned everyone’s name yet.

    This is a true story. It was stressful.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Our exchange was about 15-20 people, so that’s a nice size for everything to gather round the (beautifully decorated by me) office Christmas tree and open their presents.

    1. Bea W*

      Oh dear. Not only am I bad with names, I also have some level of facial blindness. That would not be a festive activity!

    2. Finny*

      As someone who is faceblind, such a scenario is one of my nightmares. (I have worked at Current Job for just over six years, now, and I still do not recognize the vast majority of my coworkers, sadly.) Other Nightmare is having to identify someone out of a police line up or work with a police artist to describe an alleged criminal.

  12. AdAgencyChick*

    #8, oh, I don’t know that I find drunken coworkers annoying. I prefer to grab some popcorn, watch the show, and know that if I observe the right people being inappropriate, it’s just job security for me!

    1. Stacie*

      Seriously, that’s the BEST PART of the holiday party. I was sad we had to leave early this year before the shenanigans began.

    2. A Bug!*

      It really depends on the people! With the right people, I agree with you that holiday parties can produce some good stories for later.

      With the wrong people, not so much, and it’s not always easy to tell who those are until it’s too late.

  13. VintageLydia*

    Also avoid being the drunk spouse. You never know when you’ll be asked to play ping pong on the same team as the owner and flail like an idiot as a result. >.>

    At least I didn’t hit anybody with the ping pong or fling the paddle across the room accidentally.

    I’ll just pretend this didn’t happen last week…

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Been there. I went to a boyfriend’s company party a long, long time ago. I only had one glass of champagne and was knocked on my butt (failed to eat anything beforehand). I get very silly and friendly when I’m toasted. Never again did I touch alcohol at any company party since.

      1. VintageLydia*

        Thankfully I’m pretty sure the he was at least tipsy himself, as well as most everyone else (it was a casino themed party with an open bar, and the ping pong incident happened at the after party) but still–no excuses. Sober me knows better. Drunk me likes shots.

        At least I remembered to ask him about his kids and stuff we talked about at another event so I wasn’t a total tool.

        1. VintageLydia*

          ((Though I didn’t order the shots! One of the other employees did. Even drunk me knows that ordering them at a company party is a bad idea!))

  14. Wonderlander*

    (So this may not be the best place/post to ask this question, but I’ll try it anyway)

    I have a co-worker who substitutes the words “thank you” with “okay”. As in,
    1) Receptionist: “Co-worker, you have a delivery at the front desk. Don’t worry, I signed for it and it will be here when you get a moment to come by”
    Co-Worker: “Okay”
    2) Or “Hey co-worker, here’s that file you asked me for!”
    Co-Worker: “Okay”
    3) Or Client “I sent you the form filled out that you emailed to me”
    Co-Worker: “Okay”

    This absolutely drives me insane! And it’s not just a simple, quick okay said with a smile – it’s a long, drawn out ooooooookay said completely deadpan. Maybe I’m just a southern belle who says Please and Thank You like it’s going out of style, but seriously…. the word okay is NOT a substitute for a thank you! Her thank yous are very very rare. She does this to co-workers, the receptionist, clients, and even the bosses. Am I crazy that this bothers me? Any advice on how I could gently remind her that ok is NOT a substitute for a thank you?

    1. Cruella Da Boss*

      Try responding with “You Are Welcomed!” whenever you get an “okay.” Maybe that will bring it to her attention.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I saw this a little late, but I try to keep comment threads on topic so it doesn’t turn into a free for all. But you can always save it for an open thread (this Friday) or email it to me if you want it considered for its own post.

  15. Wonderlander*

    I tried that once and she did give a deadpan, monotone “thank you”…. so maybe if I do it enough she will learn? She’s not a young, 20-something who just doesnt know the ropes. She’s in her 50s, and has been in this career for her entire life.

  16. Ann Furthermore*

    #1 – I know it’s been discussed here many times but it still blows my mind that people are pressured to contribute money for expensive gifts for managers. My boss is a coffee lover, so each year each of us pitch in $5 to get her a gift card for the Starbuck’s kiosk in the cafeteria. It’s a small gesture to let her know we appreciate her. And we do…she puts up with alot of BS from many different people, and is a great buffer between us and upper management.

    #3 – You would think people would have enough sense not to claim all the good vacation days, or be embarrassed by it, but I’m sure there are plenty of clueless nitwits out there who do it with no thought to anyone else.

    I got married about 6 months after I started my job, and then we took our honeymoon 6 months after that. We went to Australia, so we wanted to be there in the spring. The best dates for it were the last 2 weeks of November, which meant that my 2 counter parts would probably be out of luck to take time off around Thanksgiving. So before I booked anything, I told them what I wanted to do, and then told them I would not take any time off at all during December or January, and leave that time for them. It all worked out just fine, and they appreciated me asking before I made any official plans.

    1. Kelly O*

      See, I can get on board with five bucks to Starbucks, especially if the job is stressful and/or boss puts up with tons of crap. The whole idea of being a buffer for employees makes ALL the difference to me. I’ve happily chipped in for a gift for a boss who stuck up for me, and have occasionally chipped in more than suggested.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Exactly. It’s a little thing to say thank you. And my boss is a pretty frugal person in general, so anything extravagant would probably make her feel very awkward.

    2. Jessa*

      That’s how you work holiday times, you get with people and you don’t take ALL of it yourself. That’s reasonable.

      Also I agree with 5 bucks is fair to Starbucks as long as any new people get enough notice to put it aside if they’re flat broke, and if someone is, nobody gives them the stink eye.

  17. Lia*

    Oh, #3 was in full force at my last job. In 5 years, I never got to take off either the 24th or the 26th, because the other 2 in my department grabbed them first. I was usually out of luck on days attached to 3 day weekends, too.

  18. BCW*

    The thing with #3, there was a post on here not too long ago about the same people having to work each holiday, and how if its first come first serve. People in the comments chimed in that, essentially, you snooze you lose, and if you wanted days off, you should have requested them early. I feel like you are screwed either way. You do it too early, then supposedly you are annoying people. Wait too long and you are out of luck. I don’t really know a good way to handle it though. Most of my jobs essentially closed (or at least my department did) around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we never had that. However, while I think the same people shouldn’t have to work every holiday, I don’t think people should be looked down on for planning ahead either.

    1. Elsajeni*

      I think the main thing is to avoid claiming EVERY holiday, or ALWAYS claiming one particular holiday that lots of other people want. If I have to work Christmas every year because I’m always the last person to put in a leave request, then, yeah, that’s on me — I can start trying to get it in earlier, or I can just deal with working Christmas, but I can’t really justify blaming my co-workers for planning ahead and wanting the holidays off. But if I have to work Christmas every year because Wakeen always gets his leave request in at 8 a.m. on the very first day and asks for every major holiday off, I’m going to start getting a little ticked off at Wakeen for never giving anyone else a chance.

      1. BCW*

        Thats fair, but what exactly is an ample amount of time? I mean, yeah if he has an email to the boss at 8am on the first day, then I get that. But how long does someone have to wait to give other people a chance? I think part of this falls on management to work out a fair rotation, but if they choose not to do that, then you shouldn’t get mad at people for playing with the rules they were given.

    2. Parfait*

      I have a coworker who manages to always get a week off at Christmas every year. She manages this by requesting the week before Xmas one year, and the week after the next year. That way our algorithm always sees that she didn’t have those exact days off last year and so she gets approved.

      It is pretty ballsy, but she gets away with it.

    3. Jessa*

      Good companies however make it a rule and don’t let the same person get all three (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s,) unless they’re closed for it. Most companies I worked with that had “get all your time at the beginning of the year,” prohibited asking for more than one of those times until everyone had their first round pick.

      1. tcookson*

        My husband’s company has a whole complicated process whereby everyone has to turn in their vacation choices for the upcoming year by then end of this year (which they all just did). They have to list their dates off in order of preference, and then the HR team sorts through all the requests and grants them in order of the requestors’ seniority. They try to assign everyone their first choices whenever possible, but if more than one person wants the same week off, seniority rules.

        1. Professional Merchandiser*

          I used to work at the phone company as an operator, and unless you were taking all your vacation at one time (if you had 4 weeks of vacation and wanted to take it all together, ok.) But if you wanted to split it up, you could choose ONE WEEK, then they rotated through all the employees in the office and then came back around. Of course, the most senior people still got Christmas week usually, but it was more fair than having people with top seniority hog all the good weeks.

          1. Professional Merchandiser*

            Oh, and they also rotated major holidays so the same people didn’t have to work all holidays.

    4. Bea W*

      Where my mother worked (a hospital) they rotated major holidays. If you worked Thanksgiving, you would get Christmas off. Then the next year you’d get Thanksgiving off and work Christmas. It kept things fair, and people were able to plan in advance.

      1. Jamie*

        My mom was a nurse and her hospital did the same. But in our case we always spent Christmas Eve with her and Christmas Day with our dad – so she always volunteered for Christmas Day no matter what else she worked.

        Made her a super popular person that week in December.

  19. JoAnna*

    We did a white elephant exchange at our office party this year, and my gift ended up being a box full of vintage children’s Christmas books. I was THRILLED because I have five young children! Two of the books even incorporated two of my kids’ names.

    1. Jean*

      You have five young children and you also work outside the home? I salute you and respect you! Here is my holiday gift to you: Whenever you need reassurance during the rest of the season or at any time in the coming year, say to yourself: “I am totally awesome because I have five young children and I also work outside the home.” No snark intended here; I’m completely serious in my admiration. Yes, we all have different strengths, but DH and I knew we had maxed out with our first and only child. Thankfully said child is a very nice person. Anyway, kudos and I’ll stop going on and on and on.

      1. JoAnna*

        Thank you! My oldest is 8 (almost 9) and my youngest is two months, so it does get pretty taxing at times, especially with the long commute (42 miles one way). My dream is to be a stay-at-home-mom someday, but it’s never been financially feasible (I make enough, even after factoring in the costs of daycare, gas, etc. to make working financially worthwhile). I also work for a pretty great company, have a supportive manager, and can work from home 1-2 days a week. So, I’m very lucky in that regard.

        I really appreciate the kind words. :)

    2. BCW*

      Thats an interesting example. I’ve done white elephants, and once I got a bunch of classic movies on VHS (this was about 10 years ago, so I did still have a VCR). The person spent no money on it, but I very much enjoyed that, probably more than I would have a starbuck’s gift card or something. Its like just because Jane doesn’t like the gift, doesn’t mean Jim wouldn’t. In your example, I wouldn’t necessarily want the kids books, but I couldn’t see myself getting upset about it.

  20. Chris80*

    Loosely related to #6, but I work in a library & have a coworker that has been spontaneously singing Christmas carols (loudly) every work day since Thanksgiving. I’m not anti-Christmas whatsoever, but I just can’t be THAT merry.

  21. Brett*

    #3 If you think first come first serve sucks, seniority based gets really awful. While people have some pause about taking all the holidays with first come first serve, there are no qualms about it with seniority based. The guy with first seniority my first 5 years had 5 selection weeks and he would automatically take Christmas, the week after Christmas,Thanksgiving, Labor Day week and Memorial Day week.

    1. tcookson*

      That stinks. My husband’s company does it by seniority, but they don’t just let the most senior people choose all the good weeks right off the bat like that. They have a deadline for everyone to submit their first, second, third, etc. choices for weeks off. The high-seniority guys are most likely to get their first choice, but it still gives the lower-seniority guys a chance to at least get their second choice before all the good weeks are gone. My husband has been their almost twenty years, and he is still pretty low in seniority. He sometimes tries to game the system by putting his real first-choice week as his second- or third choice, but some weeks are just more popular with the high-seniority guys, so that doesn’t always work. Opening weeks of hunting seasons are always popular.

  22. Parfait*

    I have a colleague (a manager of a department that is not mine) who used to constantly harass those of us who are not merry enough for her. Last year, very few people signed up for Secret Santa or the stocking decorating contest or the ornament decorating contest or the cubicle decorating contest and she was roaming around whining to everyone who would listen about how “We TRYYY so HAARD to do something NICE for people, and then nobody cares!”

    Well then, perhaps you didn’t do something that was actually nice for people.

    When she started leaning on me specifically to do that stuff I shut her down and complained to my manager. As a non-Christian, that borders on harassment. Please, feel free to enjoy your holiday however you want, but don’t get miffed with me that I don’t.

    Maybe that’s why we’re not doing any of those things this year, I’m not sure.

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