Christmas tantrums, Hanukkah balls, and other workplace holiday disasters

I recently asked readers to share their weirdest or funniest stories related to holidays at the office, and from an annual Christmas tantrum-thrower to Hanukkah balls, you delivered. I’ve compiled my 10 favorites.

1. Christmas tantrum

“A woman who had worked at our office for more than twenty years pouted and threw tantrums like a child if she didn’t win a door prize at the annual Christmas dinner. Every time someone else’s name was randomly drawn, she would yell, ‘FIX!”’ or ‘CHEAT!’ or something similar. And one year, she just snatched a prize she really wanted from the table and told the person who won the prize, ‘I DESERVE this,’ and walked away with it.”

2. Most likely to kiss under mistletoe

“We had a people scavenger hunt based on self-volunteered random facts. The facts were pretty innocuous, but one girl used it as an opportunity to flirt with a coworker. Her facts about herself were ‘Won Most Flirtatious in High School,’ ‘Voted as Homecoming Queen,’ and ‘Most likely to kiss under mistletoe.’”

3. Holiday skit gone wrong

“I used to work for an organization that was dysfunctional in the extreme. Each Christmas, one particular program director, who thought he was an artist, would write a skit for some staff to perform. There were choreographed dances, original songs, and worst of all, the entire skit was meant to be a parody of a particular issue that had come up in the past year. In the right hands and with enthusiastic participation, this might have worked, but believe me when I say that all of the jokes and plot points were in the worst possible taste – mocked people, brought up sore points in a condescending way, made those acting in the skit the butt of jokes about themselves, made off-color jokes about senior staff members. It. was. excruciating.”

4. Hanukkah balls

“I am a Jewish 26-year-old. I’ve been on the job about a year, and I moved from a large city to a smaller suburb of New York City for this job. My family is not super religious but we certainly never celebrated Christmas growing up.

My boss, a usually nice lady, has taken it upon herself to educate me about Christmas this season. She is super into the holidays, which I appreciated for Halloween, but has been declaring to the whole office how this is ‘Jane’s First Christmas’ and taking that opportunity to spend well over $500 on Christmas decorations which she has strategically placed mostly around her and my office. She has bought me my own Christmas stocking and ornament which says ‘Jane’s first Christmas’ with a date and her signature on it. She has placed red velvet bows around anything they will stick to and she has replaced our office coffee K-cups with eggnog. She has put up lights in the hallways and decked my door with some kind of tinsel that keeps sticking to my clothes and following me home.

She keeps reminding me what ornaments are and is amazed when I told her that I know the words to some Christmas songs.

She also has invited me to her home for Christmas because ‘no one should celebrate their first Christmas by themselves.’ When I mentioned something about celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas, she went out and bought this Hanukkah inspired contraption, which was really just eight round traditional ornaments with a light in each of them. She said they were Hanukkah balls.”

5. Hands off the holiday decorations

“One of my coworkers got holiday decorations banned permanently after he found all the human and animal shaped decorations (elves, Santas, reindeer, etc.) in the office and arranged them in compromising positions late at night.”

6. Keep your mom away from the holiday party

“My coworker’s mother decided it was a good idea to join us for drinks at our holidays party. She the proceeded to tell me how long it took her son to find a job, how it was not what he wanted to do or was good at, and how his lack of self confidence was due to the way his father treated him for most of his life. I wished I would have heard what she later on told our CEO.”

7. When your boss is the grinch

“Our team of five went out for a Christmas lunch last year and my (admittedly crazy) boss made a show of giving everyone but me a gift ($100 gift card each) …and then she made a show of pointing out how she didn’t give me one.

8. Odd trophies

“I had a supervisor who was very unprofessional, and her being in her position was a bit of a scandal in the first place. Well, she decided to do an award ceremony during our holiday party, but instead of buying cheap trophies or printing out awards on paper, she went to all of the thrift stores in the area and bought a bunch of old Barbie dolls. She stripped them, spray painted them gold, and called them “trophies” that she presented to staff as an award. No printed certificate or anything to go with them, just nude, gold, spray painted Barbies.”

9. Holiday card misstep

“I very briefly worked at a law firm a few years ago, and my short time there included the holidays. A couple of weeks before Christmas, we all (about 15 employees) received a card with a prepaid Visa inside (about $25). The front of the card was a professional photograph of the managing partner with his wife and three children, standing in front of their enormous house out of state. One of the employees was his son from his prior marriage, who I am sure appreciated the beautiful photo of dad’s new family that did not include him.”

10. Holiday lies

“We had a fancy holiday dinner held at the boss’s house, and wine was served. My coworker’s husband takes it upon himself to get rip snorting drunk and tell the boss off for all the wrongs done to coworker. The problem? None of those things actually happened. Apparently, the coworker would go home and tell her husband a bunch of sob stories about fictional incidents at the office, to get sympathy about her horrible day. She quit soon after.”

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase’s blog.

{ 134 comments… read them below }

  1. Adam

    As I read through these I come across #s like 1, 7, and 10 and find myself wondering “I wish I could meet your parents so I could figure out what the hell went wrong”.

    Then I read #6 and become even more glad I routinely skip out on the office parties.

  2. Diet Coke Addict

    OMG, can we have an update from the Saga of the Hanukkah Balls because I am quite frantic to hear what happened next!

    1. Jessie

      That had to be the funniest one. The “gave $100 give cards to everyone but me” was the worst one. But “Jane’s first Christmas” was by far the best.

        1. fposte

          I was singing it to “O Christmas Tree.” Which I think is in the spirit of the Hanukkah Balls concept.

        2. AdAgencyChick

          I just hear it as Adam Sandler, with backup singers interjecting “balls!” at appropriate moments:

          Tell your friend Veronica
          It’s time for Hanukkah (balls!)
          So much funikkah
          To celebrate Hanukkah (balls)

          1. Jessilein

            Looove TMBG….now I’m singing it too!
            Are they a dot, or are they a speck?
            When they’re underwater do they get wet?
            Or does the water get them instead?
            Nobody knows, Hannukah Balls.

            1. Steve

              I’d just like to thank the two of you for ruining my afternoon by trapping that song in my head. Maybe if I sing it loudly and long enough I’ll get it out of my system (or someone will kill me)!

            2. HeyNonnyNonny

              Hannukah balls, Hannukah balls,
              Hanging on trees and decking the halls,
              what are they like, it’s not important,
              Hannukah balls, Hannukah balls.

              1. Daria

                If I get fired, I blame all of you. I am purple and my eyes are watering from suppressed laughter! Add me to the “we must know how this ends” list. I hope that we get an update on this OP!

                1. Andrew

                  Deck the Halls with Balls of Hanukkah
                  Fa-la-la-la Fa-la-la-la
                  Tis the Season to make all be jolly
                  with Eggnog beverage flavor folly
                  Fa-la-la-la Fa-la-la-la
                  Spin the Yuletide dreidel
                  Fa-la-la-la Fa-la-la-la
                  Balls of Hannukah, y’all!

      1. KerryOwl

        I’m waiting for an for an opportunity to say “look at the Hanukkah balls on this guy!”

        Hmm, although I guess if I say that in real life, no one will get it, since Hanukkah balls aren’t actually a thing. . . .

        1. Jillociraptor

          Though you will be able to quickly identify potential new friends. Sort the wheat from the chaff, there’s value in that.

          1. JustMy2cents

            Oh my goodness.. What district was Chaff from in the hunger games?.. I JUST made the connection! Separating the wheat from the chaff.. what is useful from expendable – worthless things, fodder, trash. And if you’ve seen the movie..

      2. LBK

        I’ve already done it a few times since the post. Just sitting in my room and suddenly “HANUKKAH BALLS” and I start laughing. My cat doesn’t find it as funny.

      1. Renee

        He got a gift card. The rest of us discussed ours so we knew that we had all gotten the same amount, but he would routinely report things back to Dad so he was not included in the discussions. It’s possible his was for more but I wouldn’t count on it. Stepmom was heavily involved in that kind of office business.

    1. BRR

      I’m getting serious Dundee vibes. If I worked there I would seriously push to have the holiday party at a Chilis.

      1. TheExchequer

        Sounds like a truly awful version of The 12 Days of Christmas.

        On the 8th day of Christmas, my horrible work gave to me:
        8 golden barbies and Hanukkah balls
        7 awful door prizes
        6 forced carols
        5 STRANDS OF TINSEL (that’s falling apaarttt)
        4 Grinches grinning
        3 drunk coworkers
        2 upset clients
        and a single day of unpaid vacation!

          1. LBK

            I’m picturing a sad, slowly melting Barbie strapped to a menorah and laughing maniacally. Oh my goodness.

    2. Persephone Mulberry

      My eyes about bugged out of my head when I got to that one. Totally random open thread comment about gold barbie doll, followed up by the origin of the barbie doll story in a completely unrelated AAM/FastTrack post. What are the odds?!

      1. Anna

        Those two people need to find each other in that see of nuttiness so they’ll have some sanity to cling to.

        1. Persephone Mulberry

          If they’re both single and have anything in common besides reading AAM, we could have our first AAM love story!

      2. Folklorist

        Hah! Order of events: Alison had posted the open thread asking for holiday stories on Thursday, and I slavishly read all of the comments on Friday morning–including the Golden Barbie one. I’d actually had my last day at work (started a new job this week! Woo!) and went to my favorite bar for a celebratory drink, which is where I saw the guy with the Golden Barbie. It’s super-random, but not THAT random!

        1. Folklorist

          I looked across the bar. Saw a flash of gold. Our eyes met (mine and the Barbie’s).

          I dashed off a crazed message to the Open Thread, which I had been reading on my phone, and when I looked up, she was gone. A few minutes later, I saw that the guy who had been holding her, but no Barbie. Took another sip of my drink, plucked up my courage, grabbed my phone, and walked up to the guy and his group of friends.

          Me: “Excuse me, this is really awkward…but did I see you holding a naked gold Barbie before?”
          Him: Reaches into his jacket and pulls her out. “You mean THIS naked gold Barbie? I won her as an award at my annual company holiday retreat. I named her Cynthia.”
          Me: “…Have you ever heard of a blog called ‘Ask a Manager’? ”
          Him: “No!”
          Me: “Oh, well, you’re slightly internet-famous. Can I take your picture?”

          And thus, a legend was captured on pixels in the wild.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Oh that is just too funny. Did you write his story to Alison or did he?
            It would be cool if he became an AAM fan, too.

    3. Cath in Canada

      ZOMG!!! That’s amazing XD

      I kind of loved the gold barbie story the first time around, but I’d missed this follow-up comment which just makes the whole thing even more epic!

    4. Elkay

      I’d love confirmation from the OP that the sighted Barbie was one of theirs but equally I enjoy thinking that there are multiple people who believe that spray painting a Barbie and presenting it as a prize is a good idea.

      1. Woodward

        THIS. I want to know if it’s the same company giving these out as prizes or if it’s MULTIPLE companies! Oh my.

  3. Nanc

    I am so glad I’m in a tiny office where the Holiday party (because we’re 3 agnostics, 2 Jews and a Buddhist) is the boss taking us to lunch at a nice restaurant and giving us $50 cash.

    Wishing everyone a Christmas/Holiday party unworthy of making next year’s AAM Bad Holiday Parties list!

      1. Not So NewReader

        So 3 agnostics, 2 Jews and a Buddist walk into a bar, carrying Golden Barbies and Hanukkah Balls….

        1. Purple Dragon

          I’m laughing so hard I have tears streaming down my face !

          My boss is going to think I’ve finally lost it

  4. AVP

    The boss who replaced the office coffee k-cups with eggnog is hereby accused of a crime against humanity. She is sentenced to all of her employees taking very long coffee breaks to go outside and buy their own caffeine.

    1. Natalie

      Totally. Her weird obsession with her employee’s first Christmas is one thing, but I would literally mutiny a la The Bounty crew if someone replaced my coffee with eggnog.

      1. Stephanie

        Yes yes yes yes. And did I read it correctly and see k-cup egg nog? That is a gross and horrifying thought.

          1. Stephanie

            OldJob had a Flavia machine, presumably because it was cheaper and prevented employees from swiping k-cups for home. It was a low-rent Keurig–the coffee was tasteless brown water and the tea was too strong and came in a rainbow of radioactive waste colors. The Flavia made me long for a Keurig. I just became That Coworker and brought in my own French press and beans.

            1. Audiophile

              Ugh, annexed building at my job had a Flavia machine. I desperately tried to find a coffee that I liked, especially when I really NEEDED coffee.

              Thankfully, the main building has some hidden Keurig machines, and the Flavia machines are all gone.

      1. Allison

        Yikes, there’s a lot of us! Part of me thinks we need to pick clever nicknames and stick with them. Another part of me thinks we need to form an army.

  5. JMegan

    Hannukah balls!

    We also need an update on the BYOB axe-throwing party. Did everyone get home safely after that?

  6. Stephanie

    I’m torn as to whether Hanukkah balls or naked Barbie trophies is my favorite. I’m glad my holiday parties just consisted of bad booze and awkward conversations.

    I went to the Goodwill Clearance Center once (where all the discards from the regular Goodwill stores are sold in bulk by weight). Perhaps Barbie Trophy lady went there and bought a bunch of Barbies (it was something like 50 cents a pound for whatever).

    1. Hlyssande

      I love those places! There’s one in Minneapolis where I got a pair of brand new Tommy Hilfiger jeans with tags for probably around $2. Yes.

      A pound of barbies is a hilarious idea and I want to see it.

    2. No to Stella and Dot

      I don’t even want to imagine what you would find at the Goodwill Clearance Center (shudder). I’m frugal…but not that frugal.

      1. Stephanie

        Uh, it was a sight to see. I was in a different part of town and just looking for a Goodwill to drop some things off. The nearest one ended up being the Clearance Center, which I was not expecting. The bins are rotated out every two hours and I happened to arrive right during a bin switch. Management had to tell people to wait and then there was a frenzy. It was like one of those Black Friday sales…but with old Goodwill items. You needed workman’s gloves since some of the bins had broken glass or ceramics.

        All that being said, I don’t want to come across as too snobby or condescending as I’m aware that might be a way for people to get items at a cheap price. And I guess if I were craftier, it could have been a source for materials.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I don’t know if I felt worse for Jane or worse for the person who did not get the $100. Each situation has it own unique obnoxiousness about it.

  7. Gene

    “O Hanukah Balls,
    O Hanukah Balls,
    How clueless is your Creator!

    O Hanukah Balls,
    O Hanukah Balls,
    I’ll never hang you later!”

    1. Allison

      Most of my Barbirs were naked. Not because I wanted them nude, I wasn’t *that* weird, but I was too lazy to dress the ones I wasn’t using.

      1. Anlyn

        All my dolls were naked. I HATED anything up around my neck, and dolls had fancy, frilly, lacy clothes that rubbed against my skin and drove me nuts, so I would remove their clothes. It scandalized my grandmother…she would seriously gripe to my mother about letting me walk around with naked baby dolls.

        Sadly, my mother did not reply with “well, at least SHE isn’t naked”.

      2. Kelly L.

        Somehow we always ended up with more Barbies than clothes. Maybe the clothes got lost more easily, or maybe it’s just that some clothes didn’t fit some “plots,” like if we were playing princesses, we couldn’t use the 1980s rock star clothes and vice versa. Sometimes to get more “people” into the plot, my sisters and I would make a rule that dolls couldn’t layer. So a doll could be wearing a t-shirt and shorts, but not a sweater over it, because some other doll could be wearing that sweater and we could have more characters in the story. We might have been strange children.

      3. not my real nickname

        I dated a guy with two young daughters who would always play Barbies and dress the Barbies all sorts of ways but the Ken doll was always naked. I gave them some Ken clothes for Christmas and they looked at me as if I had two heads. They just couldn’t fathom why Ken needed (in my eyes) clothes.

  8. AB

    My neighbor (possibly their kids) spray painted a bunch of barbies a light greenish gray, taped them to sticks and then stuck them all over his yard. Some of them sported red “blood” dripping from their mouths. These were their Halloween decorations… zombie barbies. There had to be 20-30 of them in a tiny little yard.

    On a vaguely related note, my parents cleaned out their attic last year and found case full of naked barbies. They were my barbies from when I was a kid. My parents seriously questioned why they had such an unhinged child, but the simple explanation was the case was too small to fit them all if they were wearing their floofy dresses.

    1. Elizabeth West

      I just recently got rid of mine–I’d been hanging onto them for years, thinking I’d do something with them. Now that I’ve read this zombie Barbie and the spray-painted award thing, I’m seriously regretting that decision.

      1. AB

        You can apparently buy them by the pound at Goodwill Clearance centers… think of all the fun barbie crafts! Gold barbies for Oscar-season, zombie barbies, barbies stuck in cakes (I never understood those barbie cakes), you could create barbie tableaux for your cubicle (they could be like the office version of elf on the shelf)…

        1. Windchime

          Or you could crochet big lavendar skirts for them and put them over the roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, like you used to see at Grandma’s house back in the ’70’s.

    2. Monodon monoceros

      I had some neighbours once who had all sorts of baby doll heads (yep, only heads) on the spikes of their pickets fence. Made it real easy to give directions to my house “yes it’s the blue house next to the green house with the creepy doll heads on the fence”. This was year round, by the way, not just Halloween.

      1. AB

        That’s awesome! The town I used to live in was constantly being used in movies and TV shows (seriously, all the time). One time they wanted to film this big horror film. They were looking for “scary” older houses that looked abandoned or dilapidated. They decided to use a coworkers house. She had a bunch of weird stuff in her yard like broken dolls, etc that were her “art”. The movie company actually had to clean up her yard and paint her house a bit because it was too run down and creepy for the horror film.

        1. Monodon monoceros

          They were actually really nice, if a bit quirky. And adults with no kids. Always wondered where they got all the doll heads.

    3. Suz

      AB, do you live in MN? If so, I’m your neighbor with the zombie barbies.

      I took the legs off some of them and turned them into leg lamps for christmas.

  9. A Jane

    Ah, poor Miss Mistletoe. I think that evening at the after-work holiday party, she ended up getting plastered and crying on the sidewalk. She was always good for dramatic story.

  10. Jessie

    I could imagine the golden barbie dolls. I think the barbies were probably some misguided craft attempt at a “humorous mock-Oscar”.

    My current boss is really nice and goes out of his way to try to do team-building type things. His ideas tend to miss the mark a little bit, though. I could almost see him doing something like that.

    Although, he did get us all axe handles with our names engraved on them to keep on our desk. That was pretty awesome.

    1. Interviewer

      Agreed, I think that manager was going for an Oscar-type statuette.

      Either that, or her favorite Bond film is Goldfinger.

  11. EE

    I thought there was going to be a formal ball thrown for Hannukkah based on the title.
    But Jane’s First Christmas made for even better content!

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