do you really have to attend your office holiday party?

A reader writes:

I’ve recently gotten a job at a nice company and everything’s great, except this upcoming Christmas there’s a holiday party and, well, truthfully I don’t want to attend. It’s not because I dislike any of the people there. I’m just not really a social animal and I don’t really enjoy those sorts of events.

How much of a risk do I run if I decline? And how do I say that in a way that doesn’t insult anybody? My boss hasn’t yet approached me about this, but I get the feeling he soon might.

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 198 comments… read them below }

  1. Katniss*

    Can we talk about office parties where it’s “noticed” if you don’t attend, but that are held during office hours and are unpaid? Because that’s the situation where I am and it’s making me perhaps unreasonably angry, especially as this happens during our busiest time of year.

    1. HRChick*

      That’s not fair at all :( How is that a “celebration” if they make it extra work for you to attend?

      1. Programmer*

        Wasting someone’s time during peak season is unjustifiable. It becomes worse if it is unpaid burden. Attending such parties should not be compulsory.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        My guess is they have to charge their time or take it unpaid to attend. Is that correct Katniss?

    2. J.B.*

      Blech. I would tell my boss upfront about the issue, not go, and then respond to anyone who says anything afterward that I could not skip the pay during that time. Repeat ad nauseum.

      1. Katniss*

        That’s what I did last year! And it definitely wasn’t the best plan as far as “being a team player” goes, sadly.

        1. HRChick*

          I hate the “you’re not required to go, but it’ll be a reflection on your ability to be a team player if you do not.” Um, then I AM required to go and you have to pay me!

          1. Retail Lifer*

            THIS. Our work holiday party is tonight and I’m not interested in going, plus the Uber ride there and back will be too much money. We don’t technically HAVE to go, but my boss isn’t thrilled that a couple of us are declining.

    3. Blue Anne*

      Ours is during office hours as an “open house” for clients, so I’m assuming I get paid…. eesh.

      1. zora*

        wow, that is so lame…. if you are having a celebration, just have a freaking celebration! It’s not a party if you are working during the whole thing, ugh.

  2. Berry*

    Mmm, I’m not looking forward to going to my office holiday party this year but am for two reasons: despite the suckiness of my job my boss is nice, and it’s a 3 course lunch in the middle of the day so there’s really no way to get out of it because I would be at work otherwise! But I’m an office employee in a trade business and at least 20 years younger than my office coworkers who are all related to each other so that means 4 hours of awkward small talk for me.

      1. Berry*

        Oh it absolutely is. Last year it was the first hour was milling around with drinks while everyone was arriving (the restaurant is 30+ minutes from the office) and then the very slow meal (appetizers, pasta, meat, dessert).

        1. Mazzy*

          I totally get you. At mine, I’m not interested in the small talk. I’m just not. I’ve been listening to their travelling and home buying stories for long enough, I actually wouldn’t mind talking about work! I don’t know why they pretend it isn’t work or that it’s unpleasant to discuss work. All of the people at my table were mid level this year, so it’s not like anyone was working in the job just to pay the bills, we all chose the industry, which makes it all the more odd that it is considered a faux pas to talk shop. But please, tell me all about those vacations I can’t afford.

    1. catsAreCool*

      Where I work, a lot of the small talk ends up being about work, which is easier for me. Do any of your coworkers have hobbies you’re interested in?

  3. M*

    Our office has a Christmas party that is entirely optional if you work on-site, but they fly all the remote employees to the home office to attend. It’s a long party on a weekend night, and we have to travel on our time rather than company time. Major bummer for those of us who dread these events.

    1. Michele*

      What? If you are off site, you have to attend, but if you are on site you don’t? That seems crazy. And who the heck wants unnecessary travel around the holidays? That is a huge burden.

  4. AshK434*

    This is perfect timing. My holiday party is next Thursday and I can’t go because I don’t have a car and wouldn’t have any way to get to/from the restaurant where the festivities will be held. I’m new and haven’t really clicked with any of my coworkers so I don’t feel comfortable asking for a ride . I haven’t told my boss yet but I’m sure she won’t be please especially since I haven’t been able to attend other office parties due to scheduling conflicts. Oh well!

      1. AshK434*

        I’ve considered it but I don’t want to spend money to go to an event that I’m not that thrilled about.

    1. Retail Lifer*

      The Uber ride for me to get to my holiday party tonight is around $27 each way. I have a million reasons for not wanting to go but when I gave my boss that one he had to stop pushing me. I can’t get reimbursed for that and no one can tell me that I HAVE to spend close to $60 to get there.

    2. Anion*

      Perhaps carpooling with a co-worker would be a way to get to know them better?

      I’m totally not saying you should go, or ought to go, or anything like that. Just that it might be a way for you, as a newbie, to build a little more of a relationship with one or more co-workers–or at least that it might help to look at it that way, if you think your boss will be displeased by your non-attendance.

      Either way, be prepared for your boss to suggest that you look for a ride, or even to go around asking who’d be willing to give you one.

  5. Erin*

    I’m not attending mine because A) I legitimately have plans and B) I’m eight and a half months pregnant and I’d rather not be around a bunch of people drinking when I can’t drink.

  6. Michelle*

    Our office party was last night. People kept asking if I was coming. I have never in the 14 years I worked here gone to the holiday party. You think they would have figured out by now that I’m just not a work-party person. One of the newer people was SUPER excited about the party and wanted to know why I wasn’t coming. I told her that I had to wash my hair and watch Thursday Night Football. Her expression was priceless. (The Kansas City Chiefs won by 8 points and my hair is super shiny today).

    1. Cat*

      I think this is a good example of most people not paying much attention. I couldn’t tell you who at my office has skipped the party every year I’ve been here because I’m not taking a headcount.

    2. Michele*

      I have gone to my office work party once in the 14 years I have been here. Everyone kept talking about how much fun it was, but it was stuffy and awkward, and there was this weird jockeying for the table with the cool kids thing. Apparently, they have gotten worse and people have to sit through long speeches while the bar stops serving. I am not a work-party person either (I feel like we are kindred spirits), so I have no desire to go to another one.

  7. paul*

    Our office parties these days are on the clock, during business hours, and I’m happy as a clam about that. After hours or unpaid ones are largely bleh, particularly if you’re in a culture where you can’t say no without adverse consequences.

    1. zora*

      Me too. I’m glad I convinced my boss to just have a nice lunch out. We are a small satellite office, so it’s way cheaper to go out for lunch than throw a big party in house. I get a free lunch out of it, and it won’t take up any personal time. Win-win.

  8. introvert*

    my holiday party is about 90 min away from my house this year. i have a long commute as it is, but the party is much further away than my office because they’re accommodating 2 locations in my city (last year the party was closer to my office location, this year it’s closer to the other one).

    i am an introvert – i’m the typical introvert that has a dead battery after a long day on the phone and in meetings and talking to people at the office. i have a hard enough time just being “on” all day at work, let alone going to a party that far away from home that doesn’t start until much later in the evening. i want to be in my pajamas, with my family, at home. a party is not a special occasion for me, it’s a special kind of torture.

    i like my team and i like spending time with them at work. and usually i can generally muster up enough fake energy and smiles for a party if the stars have aligned to make it convenient for me (close enough to home that i can escape, i already have an outfit that i’m comfortable in, my friends are going, etc.), but this is so far outside of my comfort zone… i just can’t see myself going. i know i’m going to get some shit about it but i don’t think i’m going to let myself get swayed into it.

    1. Lovemyjob...truly!*

      i am an introvert – i’m the typical introvert that has a dead battery after a long day on the phone and in meetings and talking to people at the office. i have a hard enough time just being “on” all day at work, let alone going to a party that far away from home that doesn’t start until much later in the evening. i want to be in my pajamas, with my family, at home. a party is not a special occasion for me, it’s a special kind of torture.

      THIS! SO MUCH THIS! Last night on the way home from an after work appointment I snapped at my son, who snapped right back. (He and I are VERY alike!). Before I could apologize or snap back my husband said, “Son, be patient with mom…all she wants to do is go home, take her bra off, and have some chicken and stuffing for dinner.” I looked at him with all the love in my heart and said “You totally get me!”

      1. Michele*

        That is too funny, especially the part about him telling your son that you just want to take your bra off. Your husband is doing a good job of preparing your son to be a good husband.

        I am also an introvert and need time to unwind. The thought of being social then having to drive 90 minutes, especially in the dark, is just exhausting.

      2. The Strand*

        Don’t have kids yet but I am totally there with you, the bra comes off the minute I lock the door!

    2. Lora*

      Yes. Fellow introvert who runs out of social behavior by 6pm. And next week I have to go to a holiday party in heels and a dress, where, the CEO informed us, he expects us to bring our spouses and umfriends and significant others and what have you, because the party is really to thank them for putting up with our long hours.

      God, I hope he was joking at least a little bit. I’m firmly in the Single Crazy Cat Lady camp, and I do work with at least three people who ask very awkward questions and then do that “oh you’ll find someone someday!” and so forth for several uncomfortable minutes, even when I assure them that my cats and I are really very happy. I have a good collection of ways to shoot the nonsense down and you’d THINK it would work, but no.
      “I’d have brought one of the cats but they wouldn’t let me!”
      “I like being single, thanks”
      “Actually I was married and it sucked, I’m cool with staying single”
      “I’m not a misanthrope, I just hate people.”
      “I’m too old to get remarried, actually older than dirt, but I drink the blood of virgins every full moon, so, you know…”
      “This is awkward and I need to change the subject now. Hey, how about that sportsball team?”

      Please, extroverts, PLEASE: I have a great many hobbies I would love to talk about, can we talk about those? Talk about the food, the wine, the music surrounding us? Vacations? Where you got those cute shoes? Your holiday break plans?

      1. zora*

        Gah, why oh WHY do people have to dwell on relationship talk?! It’s so obnoxious. And I’m actually in a great relationship now, but maybe because I’ve been single so much, it’s just not something I ask people I don’t know, and I don’t make it a topic of conversation ever. It is so easy to find other things to talk about that are interesting, relationship talk can be so awkward!

  9. Smeagol*

    My small-ish organization (~20 FT, a handful of PT) has had a Christmas party every year, usually two weeks before Christmas. It is optional, but it is very much noticed when you don’t attend (i.e. two years ago, there was a surprise white elephant gift thing, and I ended up with a Cubs neckrest and fleece blanket that have been collecting dust. Even if I didn’t have something to do (I’m attending my partner’s simultaneous work Christmas party), I’d rather lay in bed watching videos on YouTube than attend.

    I have zero desire to interact with my co-workers away from the office. For me, it was awkward enough when I met up with some guys to watch hockey and a co-worker was the bartender.

    1. Michele*

      For small organizations like that, it is so much better to just have a catered office lunch or even potluck. Don’t make people give up their free time to be uncomfortable. Heck, our department does both, the catered lunch comes out of the department budget, and we also do a potluck/ugly sweater competition. I know that one of my direct reports enjoys working out during lunch, and I would never expect her to skip her workout for one of those functions.

      1. Smeagol*

        We actually do potlucks around once a month, and they’re immensely popular. Everyone brings something, and everyone gets to gorge on a lot of food.

        For me, my loathing comes from spending time outside of work eating bland catered food and having 1-2 drinks while making small talk with people I see maybe two times a year.

        I also am a “black sheep” in the office in that I make concerted efforts to avoid interacting with co-workers and spouses/family (I pro-actively block every single one of them on social media).

      2. Elizabeth West*

        OldExJob would have potlucks around the holidays, and everybody liked them. I preferred them to the formal, after-hours Christmas party because I did not want to go to a work thing outside of my (paid) hours. I went the first couple of years because free food, but I always got stuck at the boss’s table because I had no one to bring, and it was awkward as hell and NO. I was far from the only one who didn’t go.

        Another job before that, I skipped the party because it was some distance from where I lived, and the weather forecast was for ice that night. I had poor quality tires on my car and was very scared to drive in ice at night. Turned out the ice never came and I missed some drunken bash. Regardess of the fact that I don’t think it reflected well on me, I do not regret skipping that one in the least.

        Companies should just do it during work hours unless they can afford something really amazingly cool that anyone would want to attend.

    2. AnonyMeow*

      My organization is similar in size and I feel obligated to attend because I’m a manager of an even smaller satellite office that’s relatively isolated from the main branch. If I don’t attend, none of the people in my office will attend, and that becomes VERY noticeable. I totally feel you on having no desire to interact with coworkers outside of office hours, but I bite the bullet for a few hours. I wish they’d hold it during office hours, though, or at least get the damn thing started at 6 pm instead of 8:30 pm.

      1. Smeagol*

        I am fortunate in that I am a department of one, so my decisions in this regard have zero impact on other co-workers.

        What grinds my gears is that I am expected to have some lame excuse every time I don’t participate that I have to parrot to 20+ people. My lack of excitement for socializing is abundantly clear, despite the conspiracy to make me more sociable: I was moved from a windowless corner office to near the front desk despite my interacting with maybe two accountholders per week, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

        1. Zombii*

          Try this for a lame excuse and hopefully they’ll stop expecting one: “I wish I could come, but I don’t want to.”

  10. Murphy*

    Definitely depends on the party, and on your office culture.

    Mine is in the office during working hours, so it would be REALLY weird if I just sat at my desk and ignored the festivities 10 feet away. That being said, it’s schedule until 4:30 on a Friday, and I usually leave at 4. You can bet I’m not staying late on a Friday for some forced frivolity! (Last year’s party wasn’t bad at all, but not worth delaying my weekend for.)

    1. k*

      Ours is also during the work day so while not mandatory, it’s expected you’ll be there unless there is an urgent matter. That being said, we’re on the clock and while I’m not the most social person, pizza and some small talk is still a nice break from sitting at my desk. Some people really do get into it, and will come in even if they’re not working that day. To each their own, I suppose.

    2. Papyrus*

      Mine is during work hours also, but I’m not sure where it’s going to be. If the party is being held within the department, I pretty much have to go, because yeah it would be more weird and awkward to try and ignore it while it’s happening in the same room. If they have it in a conference room, I’ll probably skip it because it’s scheduled to be 5 hours, and that’s just waaaaay too much.

      I didn’t go last year, and even though it was because I took a vacation day (kind of not really on purpose) my absence was noticed by a few people. Even though they swear up and down that it’s an optional event, my office culture being as judgey and gossipy as it is, people are probably going to notice and comment if I don’t go this year but I can’t say I really care enough to go anyway.

    3. zora*

      Actually, when I was a temp at one job, they did make me stay at my desk while everyone else had a lunch with speeches and gifts 10 feet away. And they bungled telling me that, in addition, so there were two days of, “we’re having a party!” , “oh, wait, I don’t think we can let you come to the party.” “Oh, cool you can come!” “um, nevermind, no you can’t come.”

      The main reason was ostensibly that they don’t buy gifts for temps, only permanent employees, but it would have been way less awkward to be at the lunch and then just not receive a gift, then to sit nearby all by myself, and have people walking by me every time they went to the bathroom avoiding eye contact. People make no sense.

  11. HRChick*

    I didn’t attend mine. (1) It’s a dry party (only half kidding) (2) It’s right after work, so to me it would just feel like a 11 hour work day (3) it’s good food, but not worth it to sit through all the longevity pin awards and other speeches.

    1. Mazzy*

      I wish my party had some structure like that. I hate the standing around making small talk. Especially when I can’t get some of the folks to answer work questions, I’m not in the mood for small talk with them.

  12. JM in England*

    A couple of my previous employers were definitely places where it was noticed if you didn’t attend their holiday party. Plus they seemed to have unoffical sanctions for non-attendees, such as not being perceived as a team player for example. Like some of the other commenters on this thread, I too am an introvert and find social situations very draining, especially in crowded venues with loud music. So it would seem at these workplaces that I was faced with an impossible choice………….

  13. Office Grinch*

    I totally sympathize with this LW – I am shy and work social things give me anxiety (I am either very formal or have no filter – there is no in between!) However, even if there is no concrete obligation to go, this is one of those social etiquette things where if you reject an invitation (in any context, not just work), you risk being seen as cold and standoffish. In a work situation, it’s the soft, social likeability factor that sometimes makes the difference between a promotion or no promotion, or being laid off/not laid off – so I would also take that into consideration.

  14. ilikeaskamanager*

    I wish companies would stop the office party thing and just give everyone a few hours of paid leave during December.

    1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      That would be the best gift in the world to me. Not lunch and stupid games they try to force us to play.

    2. Liane*

      Yes. Many years ago, Miss Manners wrote, “The ideal office holiday party starts with the boss saying, ‘Why don’t all of you take the rest of the day off'” and the essay also mentioned, “a little something extra in the paycheck.”

        1. Emi.*

          My uber-boss let everyone go four hours early before Thanksgiving, and my supervisor forwarded the email to us with the words “I HOPE YOU ALL SAW THIS.” She’s great. :)

      1. The Kurgen*

        Yes yes yes! ! ! I so wish my company would take the money they’re spending on our holiday party and gift it as bonuses this year. Much better than the affair they’ve planned. On a weekend night, no less. I work all week with these people. Do I have to spend my day off with them, too?

        1. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

          As someone that just planned a holiday party for a 230 employee company, that would mean bonuses of $30 for everyone. If we gave our staff $30 bonuses instead of a party I would bet people would complain that the bonuses were skimpy (we gave bonuses in addition to the party so this wouldn’t really happen here).

          I worked hard to get the costs down and try to please as many of our staff as I could at the same time.

          Thankfully it’s a culture here of if you enjoy this stuff go, if you don’t enjoy the stuff don’t go. The only people that got the stink eye on Monday were those who RSVP’d and we paid for that didn’t show up.

          1. MissGirl*

            Thank you for all your work. These comments have turned quite negative to parties. But for the most part they’re enjoyable things.

    3. Michelle*

      Yes! At our corporate office across town, the owner will actually let them go home early (paid!) the day before holidays. We have never gotten to go home early unless it’s snowing.

    4. FiveWheels*

      It’s a terrible gift though for people with a high workload. Extra hours to me would just mean double work later. I prefer a bonus ;-)

      Holiday parties are fine so long as they’re 100% optional. And “pleeeeaaasse come” is fine if the asker thinks the askee is super cool and fun to party with, but flat out terrible if Fun Is Mandatory.

  15. Persephone*

    I just got an email invitation from the dean’s assistant this morning about the party at her home after work hours on December 15. I had to restrain myself from groaning out loud. Don’t get me wrong; the party will be nice, catered and so on and apparently with a kind of Secret Santa (but with weird or odd “gifts”). I hate this kind of stuff since while I like my co-workers okay I do not want to socialize with any of them. Ever. I won’t drink since I have to drive. I am rather a minimalist in my life so I don’t have junk around my home I can bring.

    I just don’t want to do it so I am dreading it. And I don’t care it’s only two hours long. It’s not something I want to do.

    *starts kicking and screaming*

      1. Michelle*

        Good for you! While my coworkers are nice and we all get along, being at home reading a book in my PJ’s is much more appealing to me.

  16. saddesklunch*

    I just found out that my office party (which is tonight) is casino themed, which immediately made me think of a terrible prom theme. I’ve already RSVPed, so I would be a jerk for not attending, but I’m hoping to be in and out in under 2 hours. Here’s hoping we get a cool gift, at least.

    1. Cat*

      I’ve been to some fun casino-themed work parties where they give us fake money and set up games. It’s an enjoyable opportunity to play Vegas games without risking any actual money, and it’s an icebreaker for conversation.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      I firmly believe in the one hour social appearance: grab a drink and a canape, say chat for 5 minutes with people who should see you there (the boss, the office gossip), stand in a group of other people who are talking, check in with the people in your office you actually like who showed up, and then slip away to “freshen your drink” and just…never return (my gran always called it the Irish Goodbye).

      1. Orca*

        That’s my ideal goodbye. My partner’s family does…whatever the opposite of that would be and after you decide to leave you must stand around talking for another 15+ minutes. It is excruciating.

          1. OhNo*

            As someone raised in MN that is actually pretty accurate. You have to say goodbye to everyone, and god forbid one of them remembers, “just one quick thing I wanted to show you/pick your brain about/mention/ask you.”

            If anyone is stuck in a party full of those type of people this season, plan on sowing the seeds of your departure as soon as you arrive. Start every conversation with, “Can’t stay long, just stopped by to say hi to everyone.” It’s the only way to get out of there in a reasonable amount of time.

      2. Graciosa*

        I’ve seen this recommended as a strategy for large sit down company dinners.

        If you circulate during the cocktail hour, people believe you stayed for the whole thing. You would only see the 7 or so other people at your table after you’re seated, so everyone assumes you sat at another table.

        I might possible have done this on occasion, although it means you have to buy your own dinner that night and not expense it (avoiding evidence of not attending the scheduled dinner).

        Totally worth it.

      1. Rat in the Sugar*

        It actually should be fine. They’ve studied people with gambling problems, and find that our brains only light up when we play for actual money. While others with gambling issues may have a different experience, my own anecdata and what I know of that research suggests it will be fine as long as the money is fake or they only play for points. I have never felt that weird “why is there still money in my pocket gotta bet gotta bet gotta bet GOTTA BET” feeling when playing for points, only for cash.

  17. all aboard the anon train*

    Despite the issues I have with my company – they don’t sponsor a holiday party at all. Neither the company or my department hosts anything. So every year one of my coworkers organizes an ” end of the year party” at a bar on the same block as our office and everyone who goes chips in $5 if they can afford it for the bar to provide us with a bunch of apps (some of the managers are nice enough to contribute $20 to cover costs of people who may want to go but can’t part with the money). It’s completely optional, and the great thing is that we have several people who don’t drink, but there’s no pressure to drink if you want to attend, and no one cares if you go for five minutes, don’t go, or stay all night.

    I don’t mind these types of parties where no one cares what goes on since I’ve been at companies where you were expected to go (especially places that had Christmas parties in disguise as holiday parties). Attendance totally does depend on the attitude of the people hosting the party or the company.

    1. introvert*

      do you work for a company that starts with W in a town that starts with M, by any chance? :) This is what we did at my last job, and i was the person who organized it!

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        I do not! But it’s nice (I guess) to see that this is common in other places!

  18. Hilary Faye*

    I realize I’m probably in the minority on this site, but I genuinely enjoy my office holiday party! I always have a lot of fun and it’s been a great way to get to know my coworkers better and meet people from other divisions that I don’t work with that closely.

    1. Colorado*

      Yeah, I’m like this too. I’m an extrovert though so I like socializing. The only thing I don’t like to do is dress up, that part I could do without.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Me, too! The last good work holiday party I attended was years ago. Since it’s either been in-office, or there was one where it was offsite but … well it wasn’t a fun party, let’s just leave it at that. None at my current job this year, which is a little sad and surprising …

    3. Merida May*

      I’m really looking forward to mine! It’s during work hours and the big activity is a white elephant exchange that I sorely regretted not participating in last year.

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      I’m somewhere in the middle. I like office parties and socializing if it’s optional, but not if it’s required. And if I’m not required to buy a gift or bake something or dress up/participate in awkward games. I enjoy watching Yankee swaps and ugly sweater contests, but I don’t want to be required to participate.

      1. Emma*

        Yeah, this. Making it required makes it seem less like you actually care about me and are rewarding me, and more like you just want to puff your own ego or somesuch. That, and I feel less trapped and more like I can leave if I need to, so I am more likely to stay.

    5. Marillenbaum*

      I generally enjoy the office holiday party too! It’s a way to get to know my coworkers outside of work, which is a valuable reminder for when one of them is frustrating me (it’s good to find things I like about them).

    6. ChrysantheMumsTheWord*

      I worked for a company owned by Jehovah Witnesses for 10 years. You should SEE my holiday spirit at my new job this year! I was lucky enough to be able to plan our Christmas party at new job but unlucky enough that the date the CEO wanted the party I had already booked a weekend away.

    7. FiveWheels*

      Yep, I’m VERY introverted but I really enjoy our holiday party. I put on a performance of being a bit of a party animal, I basically go undercover as an extrovert, shhh, they’ll never know…

    8. Kittymommy*

      I like ours too. Granted it’s in the clock and during work hours, but is probably go even after work. This year we’re doing a catered luncheon (bring a dessert though for the two departments, about 20 people total, and some directors I’d other departments. We’re also doing a separate breakfast potluck just for us. The other departments ask do their holiday parties in the clock and around food and because I’d my ocular position, I am invited to these as well. You feed me and I will go (or there’s food involved at all).

  19. Francosie Renee*

    Interesting reading these comments as it seems that a number of people dislike these things. I for one cannot fathom why I am expected to celebrate holidays and birthdays at work. In my book, I go to work for the purpose of working. Célébrations are something I much prefer to share with my friends and family. The line between private and professionnal is becoming increasingly blurred, and I would like to see that trend reversed.

  20. Jane D'oh!*

    My position straddles multiple departments, and I’m invited to three evening parties being held at the same time, each in a different borough. Now I have to decide who to offend.

    1. Ama*

      I suppose you could make the case that since you can’t go to all of them you won’t go to any to avoid any accusations of bias? (That’s probably what I would do.)

  21. madge*

    I fondly recall the days of catered holiday parties, murder mystery dinners, etc. Where I work now is potluck. No thanks. I’m skipping, and not too worried about consequences since there have been no raises or promotions for anyone for most of the past five years.

  22. Eggnog Please*

    I work in a division of 150 people and have coordinated the holiday office party for the last 3 years…designing and sending invitations, tracking RSVP list, ordering and setting up food, decorating, clean-up, the works. The party is always held during the workday, at the large meeting area in our office, during a mealtime (breakfast or lunch). No other meetings are scheduled during the party time, and everyone gets paid to attend the party. Still, we have a small number of people who either don’t come, or act like it’s a real hardship to attend. I just want to give them a good, hard shake…I’m an introvert myself, but can manage to choose some food, eat it, and appear pleasant for 20 minutes….

    All I’m saying is somebody, somewhere please be grateful for the peons who have to plan these holiday parties….

    1. C Average*

      Honest question: why are you so invested in everyone coming, even if they know they’re not likely to have a good time? The holdouts are presumably somewhere else doing something else, not Eeyore-ing around the party entrance talking about how much they hate it.

      Maybe it IS a hardship to attend. Maybe they have severe social anxiety and chose a job where they don’t have to interact with people. Maybe they’re in recovery from an eating disorder or a drinking problem, and they’re uncomfortable when faced with a buffet or an open bar. Maybe they have difficult, private things going on in their lives that make small talk feel excruciating. Maybe they just put in their two weeks’ notice and feel weird socializing with their soon-to-be-ex-colleagues. Maybe they are finishing a huge, time-sensitive project and need every second.

      If there’s an invitation with an RSVP option, why is it a problem if some people decline?

      I get that party planning is a drag, but I assume you’re getting paid to do it. You’re not entitled to the gratitude of people who never asked for a holiday party and prefer not to attend one.

      1. Eggnog Please*

        My boss is the head of our division and part of my job duties including planning events. I really try hard to make it enjoyable — and be sensitive to all needs (no alcohol, not held on a weekend/evening, not held at a faraway location, no uncomfortable games, etc.). In this environment, we all work directly with the public, so it’s expected that everyone has decent people skills.

        You make some good points about why people may not want to come. I definitely would want to be sensitive to those things — like those planning to leave, or those who are experiencing personal hardship, or who have real difficulty with socializing, or who have medical issues.

        I guess the reason I’m so invested is that I feel like my boss judges my party planning abilities by the number of people who come… and whether they have a good time. Granted, we usually have a good number of people show up…but if people don’t come, it may appear that I’ve done a bad job creating an event for my co-workers to enjoy. And I really, truly want people to enjoy themselves.

        1. C Average*

          Thanks for answering. This makes sense–you want your event to be a success, you want your boss to see that you’ve done a good job, etc.

          I honestly enjoy holiday parties and generally choose to attend them, and I’ve planned a few of them, too. It really is hard to come up with an event that will please everyone.

          I think the thing that really grinds my gears, when I read letters and comments about this topic, is the invitations that are mandatory-not-mandatory–there’s an invitation with a yes or no option, there’s no language about employees being required to attend, but there’s a tacit expectation that they will and a judgment against them if they don’t. It feels coercive in a way that’s, to me, worse than flat-out making the event mandatory.

          1. paul*

            I get that, but you also have to wonder if people are always right when they think they’ll be judged. Goodness knows there’s been times I felt like I *had* to got o an event only to realize later that no one cared. I’m sure in some offices there really is that culture, but (speaking as someone who can be socially awkward and has a hard time with cues) I don’t think everyone that *thinks* they’d be judged really would be.

    2. Merida May*

      So much respect to you for this – it ain’t easy. In my previous office I was the sole member of the Party Planning Committee and had a split of people who loved the idea of parties but wanted very little involvement in the event planning and people, like you mention, who really disliked it and spent a lot of time at my desk complaining. I burned out very quickly in that role, I hope you have some people that assist you!

    3. paul*

      See, I can agree with this. I’m sympathetic to people that don’t like after hours parties and the like, but a party during the day with no expenses incurred by staff? Particularly in a place where you regularly work with people already? And they provide options for food allergies and the like? Just…ugh, chill out and relax.

      1. Anxious Introvert*

        Believe me, if “chill out and relax” was a possibility, I’d be all over it. It’s not. That party is going to give a me anxiety for days. It’s not worth it.

      2. a different Vicki*

        Small talk with coworkers is bigger stakes for some people than others, though. There are still plenty of places where a person can be fired for being in a same-sex relationship, for example, and it’s harder to chill out and relax if part of your attention is on pronouns and not using the partner’s real name.

    4. Teach*

      Yeah but see….. it’s not about YOU. So what that you plan the party? The people who dont go have made OTHER CHOICES. Simpletons like you who think that the whole world revolves around the cake and decorations you worked “so hard” on are the exact target of the original author’s message. YOU are the people everyone is tired of. Who in bloody blazes cares, as a full grown adult, if you stand around and eat a piece of sugary, gross, crusty cake with the same gaggle of scallywags you see every day, all day, all year. Whoever you are, re-examine your priorities and grow up a litte. Stop trying to guilt people into caring about stuff that doesn’t matter to them and have the dignity and integrity to leave others to their own choices. Merry Holidays. Btw… I WON’T be at the party. Ill be with my actual friends and my own family (most people’s reason for not wanting to go)

  23. WorkerBee 23*

    Oof, this is timely – my office holiday party is tomorrow evening & I am on the fence about whether to go or not. I’ve only been here for a few months so on one hand I feel obligated to go – especially to meet the staff at our other locations. On the other hand, I have massive social anxiety so I’d like to have a drink or two to take the edge off… but I’m afraid of having too many drinks. It’s a fine line, I guess! Apparently last year people got really, really drunk & it was kind of a spectacle. (My prior companies did not have an after-hours party so this is my first go-round with this sort of thing.) It may not matter in the end as my husband thinks he’s getting sick & I won’t go without him. (Again, anxiety!) This is such a first world problem to have.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      If it helps- when I was in that situation, I went and had one drink that I nursed for an hour, then switched to soda. That way judgy people weren’t doing the “have a beer!” thing at the beginning but I still didn’t go overboard. Planning ahead made a difference for me at least.

  24. NPOQueen*

    I have worked at places with Christmas parties both during the day and after work. I have always gone, even though I’m totally drained by the end of the day. The social aspect of it is just too important, and people will talk about it long into the new year. For the ones after work, I usually just say that I have plans and I can only stay for a short amount of time. That way I make an appearance, but I’m not obligated to stay long. The parties aren’t mandatory, but it is definitely noticed if you aren’t there, and unless your reason is, “I have a critical project and I will have to stay late,” you might as well just be there.

  25. C Average*

    Why do offices keep having these parties when so many people hate them, and when the people who don’t hate them probably wouldn’t really miss them if they went away?

    Despite being a bit of an introvert, I’ve frankly always enjoyed office holiday parties. I like an excuse to dress up, and it’s fun to have a drink and hang out with people I normally only talk to on IM. So I think it’s safe to call me pro-office party. But if the office didn’t have a party, I wouldn’t miss it or really care.

    Are there people out there who really, really want an office party and would be sad if there wasn’t one?

    If there are any passionate defenders of the office holiday party out there, will you speak up and tell us why you care so much?

    1. Cat*

      I’m socially anxious enough that I always dread our holiday party a little, but I’d miss it if it went away anyway. We do ours in the office and everyone brings their family, so it’s fun to see kids grow up, etc. And we invite people who left on good terms, so it’s a nice opportunity to catch up with former co-workers. I think it does bond us a bit as an organization and is worth doing. (Some people don’t attend and it’s never really noticed, though I think if a lawyer never came year after year–we’re a small law firm–that would eventually be noticed; I think that’s in the nature of making an effort for people who work for you.)

    2. NPOQueen*

      I don’t have to pay for lunch or dinner that day, I get to step away from my mundane work (December is always a lot of data work for me). I get to talk to new people, learn things about them that wouldn’t come up during a normal workday. It’s an excellent networking opportunity too. I’m an introvert and midday parties can throw me off for the rest of the day, but I’ve been able to deepen relationships with office parties. Especially if there’s alcohol involved. The benefit I get from having them outweighs the discomfort I feel from having to socialize.

    3. fposte*

      Because the people who enjoy them count too. This site skews seriously anti-party, and while it’s nice for people who feel like that to realize they’re not alone, it’s misleading about this stuff. Yes, there are people who like office parties and would be sad if there wasn’t one. I will speak for myself and for several colleagues–because we like each other and enjoy goofing around in an off-the-clock way but we’re not a going-out-drinking culture. I’m sad if I don’t get a chance to socialize once a year with people I like but who I pretty much only get to work with.

      1. hermit crab*

        Thanks for this. I agree with this part 100%: “I will speak for myself and for several colleagues–because we like each other and enjoy goofing around in an off-the-clock way but we’re not a going-out-drinking culture. I’m sad if I don’t get a chance to socialize once a year with people I like but who I pretty much only get to work with.” Sometimes I read the comments here and start to feel bad about being an extrovert. We’re not all monsters!

        (That said, this year’s company party is at an inconvenient location and the invite said “cocktail attire,” and I really just do not do that, particularly not in the winter. Usually when I drink cocktails I am sitting on the couch wearing leggings printed with multicolor fish, but I doubt my version of “cocktail attire” is what they are envisioning.)

        1. fposte*

          I’m not even an extrovert and I still like ours.

          It also pays off–not in a “dinner with the boss gets you promoted” way, but in a strengthening the human bonds way.

      2. JM60*

        Do you need an office holiday party to socialize with your co-workers? I would think that if that’s really important for both you and your co-workers, you’d probably find other ways of socializing with each other off-the-clock.

        1. fposte*

          It’s not more important than kids, physical limitations, etc., but it’s still important. And most of our office parties are within work hours, though I doubt they’re on the clock for non-exempt staff.

          It’s a bigger version of water cooler conversation and saying “Good morning.” Those things may not be official job responsibilities but if you duck them because they’re not, you’re going to have a harder time in the office, and people are going to answer my emails before yours :-).

    4. Party Animal*

      Our company Christmas party is a fancy dinner with drinks and dancing, and I really enjoy it every year. It’s nice to meet peoples’ spouses and put a face to the name, and it’s fun to get to know some people outside of a work context. Especially since we don’t often have time to socialize after work otherwise. It’s the one night a year that we “let our hair down”, so to speak.

      That being said, some people choose not to attend every year and it isn’t held against them. For some people, it’s just not their thing, and it’s awkward if someone obviously doesn’t want to be there.

  26. LSP*

    Last year was my first Christmas with the company, and they had a nice lunch out, on the clock, and let us all go home early afterwards.

    This year it’s a dinner, an hour and a half after our normal closing time. I live 30 minutes away, so it doesn’t make sense for me to go home afterwards. They are only doing it this way because there’s a directors meeting in the area with all the directors from our office in another state that will be happening the same week. This timing is meant to fit their schedule.

    Last year they had a directors meeting around the same time, and even though we all knew it was happening weeks in advance, they didn’t bother scheduling time for all of us to get together until the day before. I already had plans that I wasn’t inclined to break because my boss couldn’t be bothered to give us the courtesy of time to plan. I know some people weren’t pleased I missed it.

  27. AndersonDarling*

    For the shy and introverts-> I hated any kind of social event because I felt like I was on my own to navigate the deep party waters. Then I blurted out that I was too shy to go to the party when I was in a group of co-workers and a bunch spoke up about feeling the same way. We agreed to show up at the same time and to hang out together.
    Now wherever I work, I find the other introverts and make the same pact and then we can all go to the party and make sure we get recognized for attending. And we all actually have fun! Once we get there, it turns out to be okay.

  28. Archie Goodwin*

    I would have actually enjoyed my company party this year, but unfortunately had a conflict. People were understanding.

    At my old company, where I worked for over five years, I never once went to the Christmas party, due largely to its distance from my house – it would have been an hour’s drive, minimum, either way each time. Didn’t seem to hurt me any, but then most of the people on my team didn’t go either, I don’t think, so we all felt pretty much the same way about it.

  29. Danae*

    The holiday party for my workplace is next week (according to the save the date email I got) and…I have yet to hear where and when it is. I accidentally got left off of the evite for the party last year, and it looks like that happened again this year. We’re all remote, so there’s no chance of bumping into someone and going “has the holiday party location been announced yet?”

    I probably wasn’t going to end up going, since I now live a long way away from the city the company is based in (and I’ve been snowed/iced in for four days now and we have more snow headed our way next week), but it’s weird to just not be invited.

  30. kc89*

    My old company had super fun holiday parties, people actually looked forward to it and ex-employees would always try to score the +1 from single guests because they knew how fun it was.

    I’m going to my first holiday party with my new company later this month and I don’t think it will be as fun, some of us have already make after party plans haha.

  31. Kobayashi*

    I’m right there with you. I despise parties, especially if there are lots of people I don’t know. My advice, especially since you are new — suck it up and go, at least for an hour. What I do in those situations is probably what every person who leans more toward the introvert side does: find one or two people you’re kind of friendly with and just hang around them and nod and occasionally interject something so it looks like you’re kind of in the conversation, and when that runs out, take a bathroom run, get some food, do some work on your phone (emails, etc.) LOL. Then when you’ve run it all out, say goodbye!

  32. Sue Wilson*

    I love my office holiday party (and I’m an introvert) because it’s always within walking distance and it’s free food (and leftovers which I got to take home) and I’m not wealthy, so a free meal is a plus. We also get off work two (paid) hours early for it. It lets me get to know my co-workers so that I don’t have to do as much chit-chat at work, but still not seem standoffish. And nobody cares if you go or don’t. The office manager hasn’t gone the last two years.

  33. IT Kat*

    Is anyone else getting the “you must sign in or create an account” page from the link…? I could create an account, I suppose, but I haven’t done so for previous INC. articles and just wonder if it’s something new.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They’ll ask that if you’re using an ad blocker or outside the U.S., after showing you a certain number of articles first. If you’re using an ad blocker, you can get around it by turning it off for them.

  34. Audiophile*

    My job is having two holiday parties. One is at a board member’s house but staff have been encouraged to attend and the other is at a restaurant.

    I kind of don’t want to go to either one. I don’t think the staff party is being covered, I think we’re all expected to pay for our own meals.

  35. BenAdminGeek*

    At OldJob the holiday party was in the caf and completely optional, which was really nice. I did have to explain every year to my team that since it was 5-9ish and completely optional, that did not mean staying for it made one eligible for OT, since one year someone submitted for the time because he didn’t want to go but thought it was required. We of course paid him because right or wrong he had believed he was “working.” Good times, good times.

  36. Purple Jello*

    Can you skip the holiday party? It depends on the company, and sometimes on the department. I’d say if you’re not sure, then if you can, stop in for an hour or so, be seen by whomever needs to see you, and then leave. Otherwise: you have previous commitment, or got sick (of thinking about it!) at the last minute.

    When I was young and broke, I looked at the company party as a paid (with free food!) night out. I considered it as part of the compensation for working for the company, and since I wasn’t paid much, I took whatever they offered.

    1. Bellatrix*

      I think that’s the right approach. Sure, I generally prefer to choose the people to have a night out… but I can make an exception for one evening a year. I’d like to be out with my friends that evening, but I’d also prefer to be in my bed most Monday mornings :) At the end of the day, I like my job and this is a part of the deal.

  37. Lisa*

    Alison, did you really mean to say that you think parties should be mandatory? I think you may have misstated: “For the record, I’m a staunch opponent of making office parties and other social events mandatory — whether officially or unofficially.”

  38. NW Mossy*

    My office party was supposed to be yesterday, but due to bad weather, we closed early and the party was rescheduled for today. As it happens, I’ve already committed to a holiday party at my neighbors’ tonight, so I had to give my regrets.

    Going to work parties is really not my favorite thing, because the big-deal ones typically happen after my workday ends (I work 6:30-3:30) and they generally mean that I won’t see my kids that day because they’re asleep when I leave and asleep when I come home. Much as I do enjoy my colleagues, I’ve seen them all day already and I’d rather get the time in to give the baby a hug and find out how the kindergartner’s school day went.

  39. Phoebe*

    I really don’t mind our holiday party. We hold it on a Friday afternoon during work hours. We close down the office at noon and all go to a really nice restaurant nearby that I never go to because it’s too expensive. The company pays for your meal and and everyone gets one drink ticket. We usually have to sit through about 30 minutes or so of Big Boss making a speech, but afterward he hands out bonuses and a few raffle prizes. We usually wrap it up by about 3:30 or 4 and everyone gets to go home a little early, but we get paid for the whole day.

  40. BenAdminGeek*

    Sidebar- Inc’s recommended article next to Alison’s is “5 Reasons Co-Workers Should Karaoke Together.” I’m guessing Alison did not write that one.

    1. Teach*

      What about an article entitled “5 Reasons Coworkers Should Focus On Work Like Grownups and Not On Juvenile Office Politics”? Who wants to write that one? Inc? Forbes? HBR?

  41. Nervous Accountant*

    Oh gosh I had no idea so many people hate holiday parties/work parties! :( :( :( I love mine and look forward to ours all the time! We have ours in the later part of the day, either we attend or we stay at work until the regular leaving time. I don’t see what’s unfair or wrong with that…. but it helps that most of us enjoy spending time with each other, and the party’s always held at a nice place w good

  42. Tiny_Tiger*

    The holiday parties at my company usually aren’t too bad but I won’t even try to deny that I’m typically the first one to leave. The always (every year since I’ve started) hold it on a week night, which is a drag in and of itself. And even if it wasn’t, I’ve already spent 8+ hours with these people during the day, it makes my commute home even longer, and I don’t find it relaxing at all. This year it’s even worse since I’m planning on putting in my notice next week and going to the party will most likely be horribly awkward, but it’ll be horribly awkward if I’m not there as well… It’s a no-win…

  43. Temperance*

    My firm holiday party is on a weeknight, and starts during working hours.

    So, every year, I swoop in, grab a large amount of shrimp, down a glass of wine, and then go back to my desk with even more shrimp and wine.

    My professional association parties are better for my career, FWIW.

  44. Suz*

    I know a lot of people prefer the party to be during the work day but I think my company’s parties were better when they used to have them in the evening. We have a catered luncheon but you still have your regular work on top of it. No one wants to have to stay late to get their work done so they don’t come to the party. Ours was a couple das ago. I had back to back meetings so I barely had time to grab a plate of food which I had to eat during my next meeting.

  45. Tobias Funke*

    I am that rare and unusual pokemon who wants my spouse to have a work holiday party I can go to! I am really good at putting on a cocktail dress and a matte lip, drinking two drinks, and making small talk with people I don’t care about. And there are only 4 people in my office and we’re only all there at the same time one day. We’re all going out to dinner tomorrow night for our party and I am super cool with that. But totally love the idea of a dress and a matte lip and small talk.

  46. Samantha*

    I feel so lucky with my current company. We do a potluck the week before Christmas where the company provides us honey baked hams and we bring in sides and then if you just want to grab food and go back to your desk that’s totally cool no one notices or cares. There’s a conference room for those who want to eat together but no one pays attention to who’s there.

    They do a picnic in the late summer instead of a Christmas party which is also extremely optional. This year it was at the zoo so the company bought tickets for you and your family and then you had the day to wander around the zoo and then there was a 2 hour window to get some catered food at a special area and then you were free to do what you wanted to again.

  47. Emma*

    You know one major reason why I think office holiday parties should be voluntary, and not in the “we’ll notice if you don’t attend” way? A lot of time, they’re very Christian, either implicitly or sometimes even explicitly. (Literally the only place I’ve worked where the holiday party wasn’t at least generically Christmas-y was a pagan store.) And I know some people don’t get why this can be bothersome, but sometimes even secular Christmas-y stuff works my last damn nerve. And sometimes the questioning about why I don’t want to go can get invasive – just let me do my work/sub for the front desk/stay home, don’t make me decide between being evasive (which you’ll catch ’cause I’m bad at it) or bringing up my minority religion (one plenty of people, at least in my area, are uncomfortable with) in the workplace.

    If you’re going to insist on one at least try to make it truly secular, please? Unless you are absolutely sure it’s not going to bother anyone.

    1. Graciosa*

      This surprised me a bit – maybe because I’ve worked only at large companies? Back in the day when there were significant holiday parties, it was just a formal evening event at a hotel with expensive food and parting gifts (I still have a Lenox vase from one of these). No caroling, references to Christmas, or speeches.

      In most cost-conscious recent years, we’ve had anything from holiday pot lucks to afternoons at a bar to an evening bowling. I think one year I did go to a mystery dinner sponsored by my employer.

      Am I missing the offensive elements? I suppose the fact that these occur in December might be an issue for some people, but I tend to regard them as “end of year” parties even if they are labeled “holiday” or come with “seasons greetings.”

      1. Emma*

        Yeah, that stuff’s fine. It’s either my area (in the South, not a big city) or the fact that I’ve mostly worked at small-to-medium sized companies, or both.

        It’s just – and I do think this is an area thing – in my experience a lot of people really don’t seem to get that no, Christmas trees and carols are still, y’know, implicitly Christian, and inviting everyone to the staff Christmas party and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas isn’t actually a generic greeting. I have met too many people who think that simply not saying the name Jesus means it’s secular enough, but it really isn’t. It’s something that’s bothering me more as years go by, too – I don’t know if I’m just losing my patience for this kind of religious sleight of hand, or what.

        The mystery dinner thing actually sounds pretty cool, and man, I wish any of my employers had taken me bowling. (Though the last time I went, I did almost brain someone with a bowling ball, so it’s probably safer all ’round.)

        1. paul*

          Carols I get, but trees? There’s no Christian iconography there to a lot of people, both Christian and not (unless there’s Christian themed ornaments).

            1. paul*

              Whereas I konw more than a few Christians that won’t display/use them since they’re pagan in origin…and I know a lot of non-Christians that use them in decorations because they don’t consider them religious.

          1. Blossom*

            I’m with you on the trees. They have nothing to do with Christmas as a religious feast, it’s a relatively recent addition to the festive season which actually feels pretty pagan, if anything (in the loose sense of connecting with nature and the seasons). It’s like Father Christmas , sprouts and roast potatoes, exchanging presents… Part of the annual winter festivities that we call Christmas since that is historically the festival that it coincides with in the West. But all things that you can imagine a real fundamentalist insisting are not “true” Christmas.
            (personally, I love all of it! Hurrah for brightening up midwinter)

            1. FDRT*

              They’re still “Christmas trees”, explicitly associated with the celebration of Christmas. It’s all part of the package that is Christmas in contemporary culture. So, no thank you.

            2. Mookie*

              I don’t want to go down a wormhole of sandwiches-people-cannot-eat, but the generic “pagan” / Green Man thing is still Eurocentric, and Christianity is the world religion that most effectively cannibalized and incorporated lot of “pre-Christian” Eurasian culture, so that stuff generally still feels “Christmas-y” and alien to someone who isn’t Christian, especially when performed thousands of miles away from the idealized woodland, rustic setting one envisions (ditto the common notion of a BCE Bethlehem).

  48. Lemon Zinger*

    Thankfully, my workplace doesn’t do holiday parties, since we’re a nonprofit and don’t have enough money to pay staff well, let alone throw a big bash.

    My SO’s employer is a “fun” company and his work group recently went out for a FIVE HOUR party that included food, drinks, and a movie. All unpaid, all during the day. I tried to explain to him why this is such a stupid idea (he is hourly so missing work really does matter) but he didn’t get it.

    I’m having some of my closest coworker friends over tomorrow for a little get-together, but I was selective about keeping it quiet and not inviting management.

  49. Lady Julian*

    I *hate* our company’s holiday party. We’re a college, and so we have two: one with students, one with faculty & their kids. Both are dinners/banquets with a speech after; there’s no alcohol. I’m not really good at small talk, so having to sit at a table dressed up and cold and chat for forty-five minutes over fancy food that’s not that good is *not* my idea of a good time. The whole thing lasts 2-4 hours, during one of the busiest times of the year.

    About two years ago, I stopped going. No regrets.

    1. Mrs. T. Potts*

      I work for a college too. We have two parties, also: one for our department that is in the middle of the workday and the other, which is college-wide and hosted by the president.
      I think it’s kind of ridiculous to have a lunchtime party, when we all have to go back to work after the event. Also, unlike 99% of the people in my department, my shift starts at noon, when the party starts. So I have no appetitite for lunch, because I just finished breakfast. Then there are silly games we have to play, (think bridal shower), put together by this woman who loves to organize the party. The food service at our school is bad so nothing to look forward to there.
      I’ve never gone to the presidential reception.
      I wish I could get out of the party, but I’d have to take my own PTO to do so.

    2. Teach*

      10 points for you Lady Julian. You did what you wanted and did not cave to social pressure enforced by twits obsessed with pageantry and photo ops for Facebook.

  50. Tim*

    My workplace does their holiday party in January and for some reason nobody has any idea what’s happening this year. I feel like this is normally sorted out by now? The person who usually organizes things just sent out a survey and apparently an open bar is now something that is up for vote, which is unacceptable!! But I’m on vacation this week and it’s hard to manage my open bar campaign from overseas so I’m afraid we will do something with expensive drinks and then what is even the point.

    All I want from my company for Christmas is a night of unlimited alcohol. Even my terrible boss is entirely tolerable if we are both drunk.

  51. Susan*

    Hah, our holiday party was tonight. I went to a movie with a friend.

    I find them awkward if you don’t have a +1 to talk to before politely leaving.

  52. Blossom*

    I’d love a potluck. As I work in the nonprofit sector, the organisation doesn’t pay for any parties, which I don’t have a problem with. However, there’s still a virtually-mandatory team lunch where everyone is expected to buy themselves a three course meal (plus drinks), as well as a ticketed (but thankfully less mandatory) all staff party. Since salaries are not especially high in this sector, it surprises me that this is never a consideration. Perhaps next year I’ll suggest an alternative…

    1. paul*

      See, on the clock paid for parties are great; requiring people to buy expensive tickets *isn’t*. Is there any chance of raising that with people? “Hey, as you know we don’t make tons and this is a fairly large outlay”

    2. Michele*

      It might be my Midwestern roots, but I like a good potluck. We have one in our department a couple times a year, and they are always popular.

      1. Teach*

        We’ll get you a butter churn and a hand-made quilt raffle going as well. You’ll be in hog heaven. Corn stalk decorations for the wall?

  53. babblemouth*

    Ours is optional, and is usually pretty fun, so that’s not a problem. That being said, it took place just last night, and a few of us DID notice that the managers that are constantly talking about how important team work is, and how good it is that we’re one big happy family… didn’t show up. I’ll be side-eyeing them on Monday, not because I find anything particularly wrong with not wanting to come, but because they haven’t really been walking the talk.

    1. Graciosa*

      Eh – you don’t know that they didn’t have a genuine conflict with a child’s school event / spouse’s party / other pre-existing obligation / sudden medical emergency.

      If this is an annual tradition (lots of speeches and never any attendance) I too would be annoyed at the hypocrisy. Once or twice, I’d cut them some slack.

  54. alexalapitica*

    Dear Lord some of you need to get a grip. It’s an office party, not a death march. If you can’t politely socialize with people you see 40 hours a week for an extra hour, you need help. It is really not that serious.

    1. ace*

      not everyone is good at being around people
      accept that just like how other people have to accept that the world is full of extroverts who don’t understand introverts, shy people, eccentrics etc,
      (‘extrovert’ is considered the ‘norm’).

  55. BananaKarenina*

    I have two holiday parties, on the same day. Working as a librarian for two elementary schools, our staff parties are held on the last day before winter vacation. Though it will be awkward as a new staff member making small talk with faculty who’ve known each other for years, I like that both events are very low-key and come as you please. Plus, I have an excuse to spend limited time at the parties after a full day with kids.

  56. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    At a prior job, I never went to the offsite evening holiday party, and rarely went to the other “voluntary” office parties/activities. Did I get dinged? Was it held against me? Yes sir, you bet it was, and it was a named deficiency in my performance review. I wasn’t demonstrating buy-in to the corporate culture, and I wasn’t validating the fun rewards generously provided by my employer. I was informed that I was missing out on the “bonding” experiences at these parties that would lead to better working relationships with my co-workers. I knew that I would be held accountable for not proving how fun my workplace was. I didn’t make excuses for why I didn’t attend. And I didn’t explain that I have social anxiety disorder. I didn’t explain that just showing up at an office party was enough to give me a panic attack. Yes, I am an extreme introvert, have zero interest in hanging out after hours with co-workers, and value my personal time.

    Instead of forcing myself into going to these panic-inducing parties and slogging through the weeks of dread and anxiety that preceded these parties, I decided to simply accept the consequences of not attending. And there were consequences, but none that were truly fatal. (detrimental to career, maybe, but not fatal).

    You may feel pressured and forced to do these office social activities, but the employment relationship is a voluntary business arrangement between employer and you, the employee. You don’t have to do whatever your employer tells you to do. It’s not the military. You are not a child. You have a choice and free will. If you do not want to go the office party, then don’t go… but be prepared to accept the possible consequences to your raise and/or future promotion prospects if you are perceived to be a misanthrope and not a team player. The consequences, if any, depend on your particular workplace culture, of course. Unfortunately, these days, corporations place high priority on proving what a fun workplace they have–what a cool, special culture it is–through posting photos and tidbits from office social events on social media. If you, as an employee, don’t support and legitimize these corporate culture assertions, be prepared to get the corporate stink-eye.

    1. Teach*

      There’s a name for a place like that Bob…. it’s called a CULT. Good for you for middle-fingering the establishment who indeed use social media and pictures of shiny happy minions to justify the complete lack of interest in their company for anything other than a paycheck. Such ego and pompousness in these leaders. How dare they think I’d be into them for more than money. They don’t care about my family or I. Why should I care about their company? Because they’re paying me? Naw. I’ll go work for myself…. which is what I did. Reading these comments is like reading the shrill wailings of prisoners rattling their cage doors in futility as the jailer walks by grinning and sharpening his knife while he tightens their chains.

  57. Debra*

    I’m not going to my company’s holiday party. It’s at 5:00, so right freakin’ after work, extending my day by three or four hours. I am not a social butterfly. They are charging us $35.00 per plate. I’m sure my absence will be noted, but I just can’t bring myself to care. I’d rather go home and wrap presents or make cookies.

    1. Teach*

      Your company charges you?! You can’t force someone to buy a dinner. What kind of pompous idiots run the place you work at? I am so glad I work for myself. My holiday party is 3 shots of bourbon and an ice cold beer from my jacuzzi while listening to relaxing music. Join me next year. I’ll only charge you $15.

  58. ace*

    My parents always told me to go to office party or holiday party in order to be in good terms with the company. They had to drive 1 or 2 (depending on traffic) hour to Orange County (California) to attend the yearly holiday party (of course they hated it, especially the fake stuff). We’ll see what happens, but considering that I didn’t ever go to any events or parties in university, I doubt I’m going to go to office/holiday parties (unless they are during the work hour). I’ m a great team player when it comes down to getting stuff done but when it comes to everything outside of that, leave me alone with ‘fun days’.

    I concur with Mr. Bob Dobalina’s post. Good comment … it is true there might be consequences involved. But how can one live life freely if one will be bogged down by the worries of consequences? Forget about them and be your own…

  59. Teach*

    When we stop caring about what other people think, we set ourselves free. You have a choice: go or don’t go. Choose what you want. Life is too short to agonize over stuff like this and you cannot control people’s reactions anyways so you may as well do what makes you happy.

  60. Unappreciated*

    I’ve not attended a single party. I have been with this place for several years now. I never got the impression they care about me at all really. I’m off site at one of their customers locations. Even that party I skipped the first one/not formally invited. Each year I get a bit bolder in my no RSVP. They just want the revenue I generate. Can’t wait to just walk out one day (thrown out works too); if I don’t die from a heart attack/stroke first.

  61. Sunshine1718*

    I suffer from chronic pain and never know when I’ll have a good day or a bad day. Most days, it’s enough to make the long drive home after working 7am-330pm. I’ve been with my company many years and have always attended. This year the party is at 2pm, downtown DC, in the opposite direction of my commute. HR will say I can metro and godhelpme walk to the restaurant, like that’s convenient for someone like me? I “look” fine on the outside, but have a host of ailments. My co-workers only know about two of them. Thinking about declining has had me anxious for weeks now. I recall last year, being told there was parking when it was inconvenient and I had to pay for it. I went to the function because it was ten minutes from work. I sat at a table and a few people stopped by. I ducked out after an hour and I don’t think anyone noticed. My employer is the best in the world and I don’t want to let him down, but he might understand. I still get the sideways glances on my bad days when I’m not feeling well. My co-workers just can’t relate, which is all the more reason I don’t want to be around them at a party. I’m in a top position in my company, doing what others don’t have the ability to do. I think the work ethic, expertise and dedication will make up for not attending this year. But I’m still struggling with RSVPing “No.”

    1. Sunshine1718*

      It’s Sunshine here, following up! I ended up NOT going to the office holiday party. My manager told the boss I wasn’t up to it mainly because of chronic pain, long days and everything was opposite direction of my commute home. My manager understood and said the CEO felt sorry for me because I couldn’t make it. So….these people understood and it made me feel so relieved! I got an annual bonus, a holiday gift choice and best of all…FOUR months later in March 2018 I received the highest review out of anyone in my dept bec of my strong work ethic! I work for really good people. If you don’t you owe it to yourself to look for a family friendly company, where they understand that life happens. You are worth it!

  62. Marcia*

    I just received news my brother has cancer. It has been a week since receiving the devistating news and i don’t want to go to our office party. We are being bused to our corporate office 2 hours away, so making an appearance and ducking out is not an option. Would it look bad if I don’t go. I have been with the company less than a year, and want to be a team player, but just not ready for the small talk and acting jolly.

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