sending our boss on a Christmas trip, being fair about time off around the holidays, and other holiday questions

I get lots of holiday-related questions at this time of year and thought I’d field a bunch of them all at once.

1. We’re supposed to contribute to send our boss on a Christmas trip

The company I work at has 200 employees. We get a Christmas bonus. Because it is the president who gives the bonus, the executive assistant asks each employee to contribute $10 toward a gift for the president, which is usually toward a trip. I don’t believe this is right. Your thoughts?

Y’all are supposed to send your company president on a trip? Nooooo. That’s totally inappropriate and, frankly, a little bit obscene.

That bonus isn’t coming out of the president’s own wallet; it’s a business expense. And in return, you’re supposed to send him on a trip? No.

Ideally, you’d let the assistant know that etiquette says that gifts in a workplace should flow downward, not upward. Show her this.

But if you’re not comfortable doing that (although I really hope people will get a lot more comfortable with this — it’s in everyone’s interests), then just say, “I’m sorry, it’s not in my budget this year.”

2. Being fair about time off around the holidays

We are a small office with 11 employees; the calendar time between Christmas & New Year’s is time that all would like to have off. How can we be fair about everyone having an opportunity to take this time? I don’t think first come, first serve will work. Draw straws?

I’ve had this question sitting in my inbox for a while, so the letter-writer has probably solved this problem by now (which I wanted to note so that people aren’t wondering why she’s waited so long to think about this). That said…

Explain to people ASAP that you’ll need at least X people in the office that week, and ask people to tell you right away if (a) they want that time off or (b) they’re willing to work it. Explain that if you’re not able to get enough coverage, you might need to deny some requests, but that you’ll do your best to avoid that happening. And then — this is key — offer incentives for the people who volunteer to work that week. If you can swing it, the best incentives are bonuses, holiday pay, or an extra vacation day. If you can’t swing those those, think about providing free lunch and other food that week and, if possible, let people leave early and dress casually. If you make it appealing enough to people, some people will volunteer to work those days.

If you don’t get enough voluntary coverage and you need to deny some time-off requests, it’s reasonable to go by seniority (as long as you’re not in a low turnover situation that would mean that some people never get the time off that want, year after year) or first come, first served (as long as you don’t let people fill up the prime December vacation slots in January).

3. Gifts for my employees

As a newer manager, I always appreciated when my bosses gave me gifts, and I’d like to do something for my team of 4-5 people. Last year, I gave each individual a small gift card and a bottle of wine. Is that reasonable? Any protocol you’d suggest managers follow? Unfortunately the big stuff (PTO and pay raises) is out of my hands!

Sure — as long as you know they all drink alcohol.

But if you really want to make an impression, write them each a note about what you appreciate working about them and their contributions this year. That’s likely to create warmer, fuzzier feelings. If you think about it, that makes sense. The gifts that leave people feeling the best are usually personal ones that the recipients can tell were picked out with real thought just for them. It’s hard to do that with colleagues sometimes, but a personal note hits those same buttons, and will carry a ton of weight because you’re their boss. It’s the kind of thing people will often keep for a long time.

4. How can we make sure people don’t feel pressured by our competitive food drive?

I’m currently one of the people in charge of organizing office fun activities. These mostly consist of optional activities like happy hours, potlucks, baking competitions, and general low-stakes opportunities for people to get to know upper management and people outside of those they work with most closely. There is, however, one “mandatory fun” event that we are charged with organizing: an “Office Olympics” competition (yes, like the one on The Office) which occurs during business hours and is our low-budget version of a holiday party. This is a many-year tradition that many people get really into, and actually is a lot of fun, despite being a huge productivity suck (though it’s on a mid-December Friday where not a lot of productive work is happening anyways…). All staff members, from the executive director down to the interns, are assigned to a team, and the only way to get out of participating is to be out of the office.

The competition consists of one day of silly games in the office, a lunch potluck, and an early dismissal to head to a bar, as well as a few “Olympic events” that last throughout the week. One of these is a food pantry donation drive where each team has historically gotten points for contributing the most money over the week, having the highest total donations on a given day, and having an average contribution of over $X amount per person. Donations are made online, and the only info anyone knows is the total $/team and average per person donation amount. People are very competitive about all events, this one included, to the point where teams are sometimes engaged in late-night donation wars and top executives throw in large sums of money to make sure their team comes out on top. Obviously this is for a good cause, but those of us in charge of planning this year are really trying to make sure no one feels pressured to give money they don’t have. One change we’re already making is offering points for actually volunteering at the food pantry. Do you (or readers) have ideas on ways to structure donation drives so that they encourage people to be generous without making people feel pressured? If it makes a difference, none of us organizing this are in a management position.

I know I’m constantly being a curmudgeon about stuff like this, but honestly, I’d dial the pressure for all of it waaaaayyy down.

I realize you may not have that within your control, but it’s really not an employer’s role to encourage employees to be generous with their outside-of-work time or with their money. If your workplace wants to encourage people to volunteer, the way to signal that is to let them use work time to do it. If that’s not an option, then your workplace is trying to be generous with time (and money) that it doesn’t have any legitimate claims to.

It’s of course fine to give people the opportunity to donate their money or time if they’d like to. Just don’t inadvertently make them feel obligated.

Instead, I’d recommend doing this:

1. State very clearly that donations are 100% optional and that no one should feel pressured to give.
2. Talk to managers about why that matters and how awful it can feel for someone with a tight budget to feel their work reputation may be impacted by how much/whether they give, and point out that they don’t know who on their team might be in that situation.
3. Intervene if you see inappropriate pressure tactics.

To be clear, charity is good and volunteering is good. It’s just not good to make people feel pressured by their workplace to do either one. (I know that you know that, letter-writer; I’m stating more as a general principle.)

5. Giving a gift to our board of directors

I work at a very small, independent school that’s incorporated as a not-for-profit educational organization. We have three co-directors who run the school day-to-day, and a board of directors (most of whom are very involved and hands-on).

I recently got an email from one of the directors asking for contributions for a small gift for the board. Is this appropriate? On the one hand, they aren’t really direct supervisors in the way the three co-directors are, and they do work hard on behalf of the school. On the other, they’re definitely up the chain of command from me, regardless of whether they have personal influence over my job. Any thoughts?

For the record, the email was not phrased in such a way that made me think that giving was mandatory. I’ve been unable to contribute to coworker gifts in the past and received zero judgement/backlash. I’m also in agreement with you about upward gift-giving and do not plan to give my supervisors presents, although I’ll probably bring in some cookies or something to share with everyone.

Nope, not appropriate because of the power dynamics, and board members worth their salt would feel uncomfortable getting a gift from the staff. Politely decline.

{ 362 comments… read them below }

  1. not so super-visor

    #2 — I’d love to be able to offer incentives to people who work that week or the prime days (Friday before Christmas, Monday after Christmas, Friday before NYE, Monday after NY off) but upper management has said absolutely no to extra PTO time or holiday pay for those days. They also won’t shell out for food/beverages, so anything like that would have to come out of my personal (meager) budget. The best that I can do is bring in some cookies and try to let people go if we’re slow.

    1. Mike C.

      Wait, Christmas and New Years are on a Sunday this year, are you not getting the Monday after as a paid holiday to begin with this year or are you speaking to generalized calendar?

    2. Marillenbaum

      That’s profoundly cruddy on their part. It leaves you in the lurch, and it’s bad for morale, especially since coverage is important.

    3. Katie the Fed

      Yeah, we can’t really offer those kinds of incentives either, but it somehow works. I do let people come in casual dress, and the lack of meetings I think is a big incentive.

      1. Shannon

        Sometimes, the lack of meetings plus lack of disruptions is nice. It can let you buckle down and power through some stuff. Or just enjoy getting a less stressful paycheck.

    4. paul

      Ouch. That’s really lousy Super :( Sorry.

      Relaxed atmosphere maybe? I’d say a potluck but that may be a stretch this time of year

    5. DCompliance

      I have been in a similar situation. It is really hard when you are not allowed to offer incentives.

    6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      The way we’ve worked around it is that people huddle up and figure out who gets what holidays off early on. For example, my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but our big “reunion” time is Thanksgiving. I have no problem working the winter holidays if someone will cover my November holidays. It’s imperfect, but it can sometimes take a little bit of the bite out if people feel that the system balances or is fair over the year.

      But your managers are definitely Scrooges, and they need their hearts (and wallets) to grow three sizes!

      1. Artemesia

        This is the perfect way to do it, not by seniority or first come first serve which rewards pushy and tends to stick the same people continuously with the worst choices. Volunteers, trade offs (Thanksgiving vs Christmas), preferences. Then if that doesn’t work, take turns, draw straws, whatever. Even ‘I can work Christmas week this year but want it off next year for a family trip.’ The whole focus should be on how to we let everyone get some of what they want and get the job done and it should be done collaboratively as much as possible.

      2. Lovemyjob...truly!

        My company does it this way too! If there are too many requests for one day my boss looks at last years calendar to see who got it off last year. A friend of mine requested the Friday after Thanksgiving off. So did most of her team. She got it off because 1) it was literally the only holiday day she asked for and 2) she hadn’t asked last year and all others did. She was thrilled because it meant that she could go to her sisters for the entire weekend. The woman who requested it off for Black Friday shopping didn’t get it off, but she did get the Monday after the weekend off. I guess she’s all about Cyber Monday too. :)

    7. MsCHX

      That sucks :/

      We close the week between Christmas and New Year’s at my current employer but at previous places I have done my best.

      Can you swing only requiring people there during “core hours” (assuming this is a traditional 9-5 place…) perhaps if people who do have to work only need to come in from 9-3 or something, that would go a long way. And even with a small budget maybe spring for pizza and soda? It’s the cheapest way to feed a lot of people!

        1. MsCHX

          Or even with the hours, if holidays are traditionally quiet, perhaps you can stagger folks so no one has to work more than 4 hours or something.

      1. Chinook

        If you do have shorter office hours that day, please ensure that everyone there gets to leave early. At the accounting firm I worked at, different supervisors let their people go early (some at noon, others a little later), but no one would officially close the office, so the poor receptionist was going to be left alone dealing with calls and walk-ins and no one to send them to. Two of us admins pointed this out to various partners and refused to leave until the office was closed because it wasn’t right (or safe) to leave the receptionist working when everyone else got a paid 1 to 4 hours off.

    8. TootsNYC

      I’ve never worked anywhere that incentives would be offered. But what I find happens (in -my- world) is that there are people who don’t want to burn those vacation days, because they’d rather be away on OTHER days.

      So I’d say: survey the team first. You may find out you’re OK.
      Also, maybe make sure everyone knows who requested; maybe one of the locals will say, “Oh, I see the person from out of town wants to travel this year to see family; she hasn’t been home in a couple of years, I know. So I’ll work this year so she can go.”

      If you have a stable workforce, consider a certain amount of turn-taking.
      Maybe you can say to someone, “if you work this year, I can guarantee you’ll have it off next year.”

      I’ve seen people fold in Easter and Thanksgiving, and if you get off around Thanksgiving, you don’t get off around Christmas (turn-taking). Sometimes people even split the “holiday period” to be around New Year’s (so, people take time after NY’s).

      I think another thing you could do is to say, “if you work these tough times earlier in the year, you earn points that mean you can get priority for time off at Christmas.”

    9. Mints

      I know this is complicated but my friend who works in a hospital gets a good system. They request one out of 4 holidays (I think? I couldn’t remember what they were…Christmas, Thanksgiving, possibly Easter / spring break, possibly 4th of July / summer break.) They get the whole week guaranteed off for their top priority and one other week off depending on requests. It involves some planning at the beginning of the year but it seems really fair.

  2. PEBCAK

    For #2, figure out the actual minimum coverage you can manage with. I often work that week (no kids, no out-of-town family), and our work slows down enough that we usually operate with only two people from a department of twelve. I know some businesses are different, and stuff really picks up, but I have also been in departments where the managers felt they needed one from each team in the office to be on the safe side, even when there wasn’t that much work to be done. If something time-sensitive comes up and I don’t know how to answer it, I know who I can call from a different team, but most of the routine stuff that happens, I can handle.

    1. credefad

      I realize this may not be an option, but if possible, but allow folks to work from home that week and/or flex their hours.

      1. SL #2

        Yes! Technically we are working between Christmas and New Year’s, but the actual expectation is that we check our inboxes remotely once a day and be done with it.

      2. Manic Pixie HR Girl

        THIS. I do not currently (nor did I previously) have a job where I could do this, however in the last couple years when I had to travel for the holidays due to a sick family member, this would have been my preference than to just taking PTO and sitting around all week.

    2. Academic Librarian

      Yes, this. In one of my previous jobs, my manager insisted that 2 people from our department be in the office during the holidays, when 1.) The workload was so low this wasn’t necessary, and 2.) All of our positions were so specialized we really couldn’t cover for each other anyway, so the best we could do if someone called for a particular person was take a message they wouldn’t get until after they were back in the office.

    3. ali

      I’m the same – I actually enjoy working those weeks. We are also a department of 12, and there’s usually only two of us. I am cross-trained in everything the department does, so while I may not be able to actually do everyone else’s work, I can usually at least answer questions if they come up.

      My own work, online fundraising support for hundreds of non-profits, really is crazy busy the week between Christmas and New Year’s since it’s the busiest giving time of the year. It’s nice to be able to just sit and work on it and not be interrupted by coworkers or sales, and I can work on it from home on my own schedule.

      (I also have been known to do all of my spring cleaning during this time of year because there will always be a couple of days where all of the work is done or in “waiting on customer” status.)

      1. HoVertical

        Me, too. When I worked in state government, the Governor’s Tea was the big holiday event. But as individuals, we peons were allowed to go only every other year. XD

    4. Elizabeth West

      I used to work it at OldExJob –the plants were still open and I was expected to answer phones, etc. but it was usually SUPER slow because almost all our clients and many of our vendors were closed. So I always saved all my annual file purge stuff for that week. I could go into the file room and not be interrupted for hours. It was great.

    5. cncx

      yup, i have worked in a place where minimum coverage was down to a science. team of six, and the rule is one “butt in chair” and one available remotely the week between christmas and new year. Never been a problem, and there hasn’t been a need for full coverage in the time i worked there. The butt in chair person gets perks to make it worth their while, like wearing a hoodie or otherwise dressing down, free lunch, and working 5-6 hours instead of 8, and an extra day or two off in January. There is so little work the remote person has days where just checking email on their phone is sufficient, and if the remote person has to fire up their laptop or take a long call, they also get extra PTO.

    6. OhBehave

      OP 2 – If this ends up being your decision, please be careful of considering those with children above those who do not have kids (either in the home or none at all). Everyone needs time off.

  3. Ayla K

    THANK YOU for addressing #3, especially the mention of wine. At my last company, wine was a big part of the business and a nice bottle was always the prize for contests (Halloween costume contests, ugly sweater contest in February, service awards, recognition). I don’t drink, and even when I did drink I wasn’t a fan of wine. I like winning things, but I never put my full heart into anything because I knew I wouldn’t like the prize. A manager tried to give me a bottle to thank me for exceptional work on a tough project and I was miserable – I would have much preferred a handwritten note or something that they knew I actually liked and could appreciate.

    1. KHB

      Yeah, I was going to mention that even among people who drink alcohol, not everyone drinks wine. Some people (including me) have a bad reaction to it, and some people just prefer other things.

    2. Maxwell Edison

      Also, some people (like me) only like a certain kind of wine. I like my wine sweet, so a swanky bottle of cabernet would just sit in my hooch cabinet and gather dust.

            1. Why Don't We Do It in the Code

              I love merlot. (Didn’t see that movie and don’t care). But I’ll take your merlot. Although I’m sorry to hear that you think I’m on the wrong side of some limit.

      1. Marillenbaum

        This was basically the only thing my old boss did right. When we finished a major project two days early, he (knowing everyone on the team drank, and liked wine), said he wanted to treat us each to a bottle, and asked us to tell him what types we preferred. At the end of the week, we each came in to a bottle of our preferred beverage (Shiraz for me) with a bow on it.

    3. Temperance

      I regularly regift bottles of wine. I do drink, though, and I am completely understanding that for non-drinkers, having alcohol at home would be forbidden.

      I have chronic migraines, and while I LOVE a good bottle of red, it doesn’t love me back. I have dear friends who love red wine, so I pass it on to them or save for parties. (Of course, I buy myself a tiny gift around the same price as the wine, justifying it as saving myself some money. )

          1. Temperance

            It sadly doesn’t work for me. Plus … I just don’t think organic wine is as good as conventional.

          2. Hrovitnir

            Hmm, from what I can see, tannins are naturally occurring and are still going to be in organic wine – though you can look up low-tannin wine, which would be an interesting experiment. If you don’t have trouble with white wine, it’s not going to be sulfites causing headaches.

            Another thing I found was red wines contain a lot of histamines, which sounds like a long-shot for being the issue, and taking an anti-histamine with alcohol isn’t a great idea, but I thought that was interesting.

        1. Candi

          With migraine triggering, it may not be tannins or sulfites.

          Other foods on the migraine trigger list are cheddar cheese, chocolate, and seasoned meats. (Ask me why I know this…) Sulfites might be in the preservatives in the meats, but are unlikely to be in cheddar or chocolate. Soy foods, nuts and vinegars also show up on some lists when ‘food trigger migraine’ is Googled.

      1. Sydney

        I use it for cooking if I’m given a bottle of wine. Or I regift it. I don’t drink either. And I don’t like wine for some reason.

      2. INTP

        Yeah, I can’t drink beer because gluten, and I don’t really drink most liquors because one glass of wine gets me buzzed enough, but I wouldn’t mind receiving a thing of craft beer or nice liquor because it’s a free hostess gift or party contribution or bribe to my brother to help me move.

        But I still think it’s a bad idea as a gift because regifting doesn’t work for everyone. If someone’s of a religion or culture where drinking is not allowed, they might not have anyone to regift it to besides coworkers, which would be awkward. And if someone is an alcoholic, having it in their possession long enough to give away could be psychologically stressful.

        1. Gadfly

          My mother is still in UT, and although Salt Lake is a bit more liberal about such things than other counties, every year when a particular client gifted everyone they worked with with champagne she ended up with 2 to 5 bottles because many of her coworkers were strictly enough LDS with no one really to give it to and not wanting to be seen by their friends or family gifting it even. Because gifting it was almost as frowned upon as drinking it–and made people believe they were secret drinkers if they were seen associated with it in any way. Getting rid of it at the office was the best answer.

          1. Artemesia

            LOL Worked for her. But how insensitive does someone have to be to be giving champagne in Utah without at least knowing it would be welcome. One year I gave everyone on staff I needed to remember, a bottle of champagne — but before I did that I determined that each of them drank.

      3. Ayla K

        I know a lot of people suggest regifting in this thread, but about 90% of my friends do not drink wine, and the small number that do are so into it that I would only want to give them very good stuff (and I have no idea what’s good or not.) The few non-picky wine-drinkers in my life are borderline alcoholic so I don’t want to fuel that. It’s just 100% the wrong thing for me, frankly.

    4. aridite

      I take it you didn’t have anyone Muslim work at your firm!

      Everyone always assumes people can just take it home and regift. You can’t always.

      I also think a handwritten note is better than something “impersonal.”

      1. Crockadoodle

        I’ll be the grinch who prefers a thing over a handwritten note. A handwritten note in addition to a thing is nice, but just the note doesn’t feel like a gift. You could (and should!) tell me you appreciate my work any time of the year. Telling me that at the holidays and trying to pass it off as a gift sucks.

        1. Mel

          +1! And heck, just get to know your employees a bit more and come up with appropriate small things. I can see a $10 gift certificate to Amazon as being around the same price point and can go to anything!

        2. A Teacher

          You’re not the only one. Our boss just does something really simple-donuts, or tshirts for the staff or something small, but the thought is awesome.

        3. INTP

          I agree. A note just makes me feel awkward because I feel like I’m supposed to be all warm and fuzzy about it but in reality I want a thing instead. And a handwritten note is uncomfortably intimate to me in a workplace setting. The only people I get handwritten notes from are my grandparents.

        4. Princess Carolyn

          If all you’re going to give is some thoughtful words, you might want to at least spring for a nice card to write it in, yanno? I would totally appreciate a thoughtful note/card, but it wouldn’t feel like a real gift to me.

        5. Ayla K

          Oh, this wasn’t for the holidays! Just the wrap-up of a huge and exhausting project that I had poured my soul into. Around December, we all did receive gift cards along with a handwritten note from the manager which perfectly fulfilled practical + personal.

        6. Serin

          I don’t drink, and I do like getting gifts. My vote would be for a sincere note and an afternoon off!

        7. Moonsaults

          Also not to be a turd but if you have 4 or 5 direct reports, you should know them enough to understand that Suzie doesn’t drink and Sally isn’t big on chocolates. So it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to figure out something along with the heart felt note.

          I find gift giving extremely easy so I may just be clouded in my vision on that one.

        8. Emma

          Hell, when it comes to less personal gifting situations (i.e. not family or friends), I’d prefer cash or a small gift card. Giving things can be fraught for all the reasons people have discussed before, but cash or a generic gift card* can at least let you get something for yourself.

          I don’t really feel appreciated just by being given a note or verbal appreciation, with a few rare exceptions. Dunno why. I think partly it’s because words seem cheap (again, with some rare exceptions). I mean, I wouldn’t be an ass about it, and a few words of appreciation is certainly better than nothing, and I don’t generally expect actual gifts in the first place. But if you asked me my preference, it’d be for something useful, I guess.


          *I specify generic gift cards because dammit, if one more person gives me a Starbucks gift card I will scream, and probably ritually sacrifice it in the lobby. Not only do I not drink coffee, but I have tried various other drink and food offerings from various local Starbucks, and I find it all to be crap.

          More seriously, though, gift cards to specific places can run into the same problems as actual gifts – people may not like the restaurant, etc.

        9. Queen Anon

          Same here! Words are cheap – and besides, you should be telling your employees what you appreciate about them throughout the year. If you really want to give them something that everyone will appreciate, how about a bonus? A gift card? Cash? Something everyone can use, not booze (unless you’re 100% positive that all your employees will appreciate it) and not some tchotchkes that some people will love, some will hate, and the majority will put on a shelf while they wonder how long they have to keep it before they can give it to Goodwill. And not-not-not!!! something with the company logo that you give out to prospective clients. (Yes, it happens. It’s funny once.)

      2. fposte

        Regifting doesn’t have to mean taking it home, so I don’t see a teetotal home as a ban to regifting. It doesn’t even have to be to somebody you’d ordinarily give a gift–just hand it off to somebody at work who looks at it enviously.

      3. Artemesia

        Muslims, alcoholics, many fundamentalist Christians and to my surprise Budhists. I learned this one the hard way. I thought I knew a fair amount about religions and yet I did not know that not drinking alcohol was a fundamental pillar of Budhism.

        1. Jean aka the Recovering Packrat

          I didn’t know that either about Buddhism wanting its followers not to drink alcohol.
          Here’s one more reason (mine): A sensitive stomach. As in really sensitive, meaning “ingesting alcohol feels the same to me as swallowing a road resurfacing crew. I don’t miss drinking, but sometimes I feel like Little Miss Super-Sheltered Person. Seeking a cup of tea at a bar (because carbonated drinks don’t like me either) is not much fun.

        1. Kyrielle

          Yep. And if anyone is worried that giving cash or a generic gift card is too impersonal, add that note about why you appreciate the person / how helpful they are. The note will not feel like a cheap token when accompanying the gift card/cash, and in fact will have a lot of meaning paired that way. And the person will have money to spend, which is awesome.

    5. Anon for this - regular poster

      I second avoiding alcohol as gifts. My former fiance was a recovering alcoholic. I regularly received it as gifts, and so did he. It’s uncomfortable to have to secretly give it away to another coworker, or throw it away so I don’t take it home. It’s not something I would have told co-workers about either. A nice note goes a long way. Or cookies.

      1. No, please

        My ex was a recovered alcoholic and his boss thought it was hilarious to give him vodka for Christmas. Pretty rude, in my opinion.

        1. Gadfly

          Rude is an understatement. Bordering on hostile maybe even I the legal sense if you can argue it is a health condition. Definitely hostile in the generic sense of the word! That would drive me out of that department if not company as soon as I could escape. Because that sort of mean and petty ‘humor’ tends to show up other places.

          1. No, please

            I wouldn’t have handled it as well as him, that’s for sure! The guy making sure ex got the vodka every year was quite the drinker. We always re-gifted it to appropriate friends who had liquor cabinets.

            1. Gadfly

              Golden Rule run amuck? Gift unto others what you would have gifted to you regardless of interests, allergies, food restrictions, addictions or ability to use it?

              1. No, please

                Maybe so! We’d usually get a basket of sausages and cheese too. Ex was a vegetarian. At least the cash bonuses were generous.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  Who are these people that your ex worked with?? They honestly sound horrid.

            2. Moonsaults

              This reminds me when I was watching the Chris Farly awhile ago and they were talking about how his father refused to see that his son was an addict. “Nobody can tell me I cannot have a drink with my son!”

              It’s disgusting but some of those people honestly don’t “believe” in alcoholism and think others are just being “weak” or ruining their own fun, etc. *shivers*

        2. JMegan

          There’s a special place in hell for people like that, IMO. You don’t joke about somebody’s addiction.

          1. Jean aka the Recovering Packrat

            Tacky, tactless, dangerous, ignorant, cruel, and bullying behavior! I’m putting Satan on speed dial so I can book this creep’s special place in hell.

          1. No, please

            It was a printing press. I don’t want to name the place. I really could relay some other horrid things ex told me. The gifts were very tame compared to other sh!! that happened.

        3. Anon for this - regular poster

          That boss belongs in a special kind of hell. And big sympathies to you. It is not easy being with a recovering alcoholic.

        4. Moonsaults

          Yeah, we had an alcoholic at my former place of employment and they were absolute trash to him at times. Its beyond rude it’s dangerous.

    6. aridite

      On another thread, someone posted about giving employees a small survey about the types of gifts they enjoyed. You could ask employees if they wanted Option A, Option B, or Option C. As long as they are all of equal value, there’s no issue.

      I once worked at a firm where employees were asked to let the company know if they wanted wine, tickets to sportsball, 2 hours added to their PTO bank, etc. There were 4-5 options, all equivalent value. I took the PTO, but a majority of people chose sportsball.

    7. nonymous

      ++ on the comments here saying that the real gift your company is giving is stocking your hostess gift closet and saving you a shopping trip :-)

    8. Lily Rowan

      Meanwhile, I’m over here spying on my staff to see if a Starbucks gift card would actually be appreciated by everyone, or if someone would rather have Dunkin!

      1. Trig

        Ok, you win for thoughtful gift card giver! I know people who vastly prefer Timmies (Canadian Dunkin) to Starbucks, and a $10 Tim’s card goes a lot further than a $10 Starbucks card! (Me, I prefer like the locally roasted small business option, but hey, free coffee’s free coffee!)

        Of course, you never know if the Dunkin people would actually like a fancy Starbucks drink but are too practical/budget-conscious so usually opt for the cheaper coffee instead.

      2. Jean aka the Recovering Packrat

        Nice mental image of you using a periscope or other Official Spy Gear. It wasn’t so long ago that my then-elementary-school-aged son enjoyed using similar gadgets to Spy on Mom.

    9. Lovemyjob...truly!

      I don’t like drinking – it’s just never been my thing. I don’t like the taste of alcohol and honestly I’d rather have a good decadent dessert over a glass of wine any day. :) The sales reps in my office buy wine for the staff every year as a thank you and it’s been remarked on when I don’t grab a bottle. I know nothing about wine and don’t want it. Last year I finally took a bottle simply because they wouldn’t let up and I gave it to one of the people in my building that I was passably friendly with. She was thrilled because she was going to a party and needed a gift. So look at that! That bottle ended up being the property of at least 4 people that day. :)

    10. Mints

      I think a Starbucks gift card is the safest most universal option. It’s the gender neutral version of the SNL candle

      1. Kyrielle

        I give all of those to my husband. It’s not his favorite coffee, but he’ll drink it, and he can and sometimes does eat the pastries. If he weren’t willing to use them I would be hunting for someone to hand them off to – there’s nothing there I want (and very little I can have), even if it’s free.

      2. fishy

        To be honest, I wouldn’t be super thrilled with Starbucks – everything they sell, I either don’t like or can’t have due to dietary restrictions. But at least it would be easier to regift than wine. The only people I know who like wine are self-declared wine snobs who probably wouldn’t want any wine that my workplace might see fit to give me.

        1. Mints

          Yeah, I know “a gift everybody will love” is impossible, I just think a Starbucks gift card is faaairly popular and easier to regift than wine. Wine is more particular than I think people talk about it. Starbucks gift card in an actual card is good for those mail delivery / teacher / whatever type gifts.

    11. Nonprofit manager

      I like to make up small little gift bags for my team members during particularly rough/stressful times to thank them for their hard work. I put in things like a Starbucks card, candy, a book or magazine, other gift card and, yes even sometimes wine. But what I really try to do is match it to what I know they like. So the person who comes in to the office with SBs every morning gets the gift card, the guy who spends his weekends golfing gets Golf Digest magazine, the chocolate lover gets a small box of See’s. This does mean you have to know your staff as people and remember to the little things. I’ll include a card that says something like “Jane, you’ve worked so hard over the past three weeks landing up this new project. Without your vision and eye for detail, we never would have had this big win. Please put your feet up over the weekend and enjoy your success!”

      People seem to really like this approach – It shows I am paying attention to their individual likes and dislikes and recognizes their contributions but at the same time doesn’t get overly personal.

    12. DEJ

      I do drink and enjoy a nice glass of wine as well as wine tastings – but I live alone and prefer to drink socially, so bottles of wine too often sit around at my house. So yeah, there is so much more to it than just ‘do they drink and enjoy wine.’

  4. TheBeetsMotel

    #1 Is this the President’s idea, or the executive assistant’s? If it’s the President’s, he’d sour a lot less milk if he just kept a portion of money aside for himself so people didn’t see it in their bonus checks at all. DON’T GET ME WRONG, I think that would be a terrible idea and if anyone caught wind of it, a moral disaster – but if the request is coming from him, it boggles my mind that he wouldn’t be sneakier about it, is all.

    I susoect, though, that it’s coming from the exec. assistant in a misguided attempt to show appreciation (*cough* or suck up *cough*). Have no qualms about a firm no on that one, OP. That’s crazypants.

    1. Brett

      > if he just kept a portion of money aside for himself so people didn’t see it in their bonus checks at all

      But then he would have to pay taxes on it instead of his employees paying the taxes….

      1. Lillie Lane

        Ew, good point. This reminds me of the forced donations for the CEO ski trip a few years back. Like the president of the company can’t pay for his own trip. *eyeroll*

    2. Tequila Mockingbird

      My reaction to #1 is HELL NO. Are you fracking kidding me? I normally have a pretty high tolerance for workplace solicitations but this would make me livid.

      Honestly, the crankypants in me would probably reply to the Executive Assistant with “seriously? You want me to give back part of my bonus to chip in for boss’ *VACATION*?”

      Or, if you don’t want to go the snarky route, say something like, “I imagine most of us here are saving up for our own vacations, so we really can’t afford to give one to someone else.”

      Or, better yet, just ignore her email.

      1. Artemesia

        In these situations in my experience it is an over eager very suck uppy executive assistant who pushes these things out of a sense of odd big daddy worship or desire to shine.

    3. TootsNYC

      I’d be so tempted to tell the assistant, “Just tell him to take $10 off my bonus, if he thinks this gift is necessary. He’s in charge of the money here; surely he can figure out how to pay himself enough to take a trip.”

      Or, “I don’t give money to bosses; I just bring them some Christmas brownies.”

      1. Kelly L.

        Yes!

        I don’t know what the point is supposed to be of giving out, say, a $100 bonus and then clawing $10 of it back, instead of just giving a $90 bonus, which I as the employee would find a lot less annoying–I’d never know what I was missing, and I’d be like “hey, $90!”

        I guess it’s for the “optics” of the employees being so grateful that they turn around and tithe it back to the boss, but it’s not really a gift if it’s strongly pressured like that.

      2. AnonAnalyst

        Depending on what the wording was on the email from the EA and how hard that individual is pushing this, I might actually send a response to this effect. I wonder if laying it out in those terms will cut back some of the pressure to participate.

      3. TootsNYC

        “So this is, what, a 10% finder’s fee, or a commission? Oh wait–I know! We’re tithing. (I hadn’t realized he was God.)”

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      OP#1, has the EA/President confused your workplace for 12th century England? Because last I checked, serfs and vassals are no longer required to pay fealty gifts to their overlords :P

      (I know that’s snarky, but I find the idea of taxing employees to send the head honcho on a trip so beyond the pale that this was the closest analogy I could think of.)

      1. eplawyer

        I was going to say that I liked “people are probably saving for their own vacations and can’t afford to pay for someone else’s” was the best response. But I like this one better. Mostly because I can see the EA standing there gaping in confusion.

        P.S. None of the EAs here would do such a thing, I am sure so I am only pickig on this one.

    5. HRish Dude

      I’m pretty sure what you just suggested constitutes embezzlement, so definitely a moral disaster.

    6. Jean aka the Recovering Packrat

      Snarky fantasy here: Respond to the EA’s money-sucking email by saying “I’d be delighted to donate if you promise to change Boss’ itinerary to a one-way ticket.” Hitting “reply all” would be optional.

  5. BRR

    #2 One method that might work is to look at who took off at Thanksgiving. At my previous job my manager required coverage and if you asked for Thanksgiving off you had to work in December and vice versa.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Right – if there are multiple equally desirable days/holidays, you can ask folks to rank the days they want.

    2. EddieSherbert

      Agreed! My SO’s workplace does the rotating holiday thing – so if they work Thanksgiving, they don’t work Christmas/Christmas Eve.

      Also, they rotate yearly too – so if someone worked Christmas this year, they’d get “first dibs” on it next year.

      1. Elizabeth West

        This usually works fine for me, because my family rotates so I would only ask for one of them off anyway. Others at the OP’s company might be in a similar situation, or they might only want to take off a lot of time if they have to travel.

    3. nonymous

      yes, I’ve seen this approach at oldjob. After asking for volunteer signups (we got holiday pay + a floating holiday, plus it was shift work so very possible to have lunch/dinner with local fam before coming in), they would put a call out for those who wanted the day off. People who had the same holiday off or another major holiday in the same year were initially excluded, and priority was by who had worked the most holidays overall, which I thought was a nice way to credit seniority without letting it dominate.

    4. Sydney

      Or remember who worked each Christmas and give someone else the chance off. It’s not completely fair to do it by seniority because then the low ranking employees end up working every Christmas.

  6. HR U of Me

    For the food drive, make it about percent of participation, first, rather than the most given. And change up the awards (closest food donation to a holiday meal, most vegetarian, most boxes checked on the charity’s wish list, best for children, most green/Grinchy items etc.) to make it fun.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      It sounds like they’re giving money, not food items, though.

      Maybe it could be something like: senior leaders give money (and essentially compete amongst themselves for those prizes) and more junior folks can give money, time, or pantry donations?

      1. OP food drive

        yes, the food drive is entirely monetary and online. The org we give to is large and very well organized, and monetary donations go much farther than food donations. They buy/receive massive quantities in bulk and re-package them in manageable quantities for other organizations throughout the city (The group that volunteered repacked 12,000 pounds of fresh produce in 2.5 hours).

        We explicitly award points for average contribution/person over a low amount ($15 this year) instead of doing team participation rate because none of us (including the organizers) want to know who or even how many people did or did not donate. This way, one of the senior leaders (or other staff, some of whom purposefully save up all year to donate to this org) could conceivably earn a point for their team without anyone else needing to contribute at all. We’ve asked people not to announce when they donate so nobody can tie back changes to the team totals to individuals.

        1. TootsNYC

          It sounds like you’ve already done all you can on this front.
          Maybe just making sure it’s explicit each time the competition rolls around again.

    2. INTP

      I think that could be counterproductive, though. If it’s about percent of participation, then the team will become invested in getting every last person to donate and it will result in more pressure on individuals that might otherwise have been able to fly under the radar.

    3. TootsNYC

      I would say, DON’T make it about percentage of participation.

      That way lies pressure.

      In fact, I’d say make it anonymous by individual, but not by team. So that if someone doesn’t donate, nobody really knows. The team can still have the fun of competing, but the folks who aren’t going to put in a lot of money won’t be outed. Not in terms of amount, NOR in terms of participating.

      My experience has been that it’s possible for the “team spirit!!” competitive people to be OK w/ others on their team being only or mostly cheerleaders. (Sure, there will be jerks, but I’ve never really seen it; or, I’ve seen comments about “how little others are giving” be met with immediate shut-down by many other people.)

      Just don’t rub everybody’s noses in it.

      And I would say also perhaps make the competition include food AND money, so people without a lot of cash can still donate by bringing a litlte bit of stuff from their pantry.

  7. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

    #2: If you can’t recruit enough people to volunteer to work those days (by offering incentives of various sorts), then I think the fairest option is to rotate who gets to have those days off. You can give them out by seniority, but not allow someone who had the days off in the previous year to take them off the next year unless nobody else wants them.

    Year 1: Staff requests vacation days and they are given in order of seniority.
    Years 2 – going forward: Staff requests vacation days and they are given first to people who didn’t get them last year (in order of seniority within that group).

    Depending on the size of your team, how many folks must work those days, and who wants the days off, you may still have people who never get the days off. In that case, I’d add to the number of years you have to wait between having the days off.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl

      Yup, this. And some years it may not be an issue at all. I know in most of the places I’ve worked there have been very few situations where anyone needed to be denied time off. Typically it was really only the couple days surrounding the holiday that EVERYONE wanted, and even then there were generally a couple people willing to come in. (I’m usually one of them, unless I have to travel.)

    2. Anon Two

      I would also make sure to incorporate other holidays. For example, I take two weeks off at Xmas every single year, so that I can go and see my family. I’m willing and happy to modify the dates (leave on Xmas Eve and come back in January, or leave in mid-December and come back on the 26th) so that my co-workers get time off at Xmas. However, I also work every single other holiday. If I worked every other holiday and then I was told to get in line over the Xmas holiday’s I’d probably be pretty upset.

      So if using this sort of system, I would definitely incorporate all the holiday’s into the matrix. Everyone has different priorities and so for one person having the preferred time during the summer holidays may be more important than having the full week of Xmas off.

      1. Emma

        Yeah, this. Also, consider holidays beyond the usual Christian/civic ones. I’d be totally happy to come in every Christmas and Thanksgiving if it meant I could always have Halloween and May 1 off.

    3. aridite

      I like the process where the year off alternates, starting with most senior and going down to the most junior.
      That way everyone gets time off.

      You can also have one junior person and one senior person be required to be on.

      That is, if I have

      Alfred = 10 years
      Betty = 7 years
      Carlos = 5 years
      Dani = 3 years
      Eri = 1.5 years
      Fela = 3 months

      And we need two people, I’m going to go to the group first and asking if anyone wants to work and offer a perk. If no one does, Fela and Betty are working this year. Then next year it’s Eri and Carlos. Then then next Alfred and Dani.

      This does NOT work if you have high-turnover or are constantly expanding your workforce. In those situations, however, anything “unfair” is a lot less likely to be noticed.

      1. sometimeswhy

        I do something sort of similar. I don’t generally have to worry about the winter holidays since we tend to not have a lot of folks taking time this time of year but we have a set up where two people with one important skill can’t be out at the same time for more than a couple days overlap between one’s departure and one’s return. Because of the way the skills develop, it ends up being largely along seniority lines. So Alfred and Betty can’t plan to be out at the same time but sometimes Dani and Eri can’t plan to be out at the same time either.

        We have almost no turnover and we’ve had luck in this self-regulating itself but as crosstraining happens and it’s less obvious, I’m totally keeping the rotating “one senior/one junior” thing in my pocket.

    4. paul

      That works pretty well. Whatever you do, do *not* go strict seniority all the time. My wife’s old manager used to do that, and it contributed to near constant churn for the newest third or so of staff since they got stuck with every lousy shift (she had to help train newcomers so she’d vent to me about it). If you have to work every major holiday, and cover the ugly overnight shifts no one else wants at other times, while the same two or three coworkers get every major holiday off and get the nicest shifts it can kill morale, particularly because you know it’ll never change until they die or retire.

      1. Temperance

        My jerkass former boss used to use the seniority system … because she was the most senior person. Can you tell that I still hate her?

        1. MsCHX

          My jerkass former boss would always give her pet the day after Thanksgiving off and she would take it off. Leaving me, the only other FT person, to always work the day after Thanksgiving. (the other 2 ppl in the department were PT and Friday wasn’t a normal work day for them anyway). Ugh. She was such a cow.

          1. Karo

            I was definitely thinking literal pet for a moment and couldn’t imagine why you’d have to give your dog the day off of work, even if it was the “office dog.”

            1. MsCHX

              Literally LOL’d! And then I almost made a comment about the woman sniffing her ass but decided against it. Or did I? Ha!

      2. Ama

        It can also get tricky if you are negotiating time off by department at a large employer that encourages transfers. My last job in academia, I transferred internally from a central admin department to a grad school. I had been at the university itself for six years, which was far longer than any of my new coworkers, but they had obviously been at the grad school for longer. So any suggestion of using seniority for holiday coverage was going to end up being unfair to someone, depending on which metric was chosen.

        1. Anonhippopotamus

          Seniority is the worst way to accomplish any conflict that I can think of. It’s unfair no matter how you look at it.

    5. Fish Microwaver

      I have volunteered to work the week between Xmas and NY. I hope to clear a backlog of non urgent work. I have been at my office for over 3 years and never had Christmas off. My manager said people who did not have Christmas off last year would have priority for their preferred dates. My request was pushed back a week to accommodate a new starter who had not even requested the time when I applied. Im very annoyed and don’t feel valued.

      1. Anonhippopotamus

        Maybe your manager thought that you didn’t mind since you volunteered last time. You should definitely take that up with your manager and tell them how you feel. It may be too late to change vacation this year if they have already been approved but there might be another way that you manager can make it right.

    6. Anonhippopotamus

      The best is really for the team to get together in advance of the holidays, once the boss determines that X number of people need to be working, with X number of people allowed to work from home, and discuss what everyone’s plans are.

      In a metropolis, everyone likely has different wants and needs. Having everyone discuss together negotiate (assuming you have a collaborative culture) means that the majority of people can be somewhat accommodated. For people who want/need to travel, some might be willing to go the week before Christmas, and some the week after. Locals might not mind working one of the harder days to cover if they can have most of the week off. Non-christians might not care when they get to go, as long as they have several consecutive days off. If people need to make concessions, they could be rewarded with first pick of their vacation week for the next year (excluding holiday periods).

      Going purely by seniority means that a few people get accommodated and the rest get screwed. The ONLY way that going by seniority makes sense is if the company is in some small town where everybody is originally from, and where everybody is of the same religious denomination and wants exactly the same days off. Then of course, you take turns the following years.

  8. HR U of Me

    For #1, it may just be that the admin has a working class frame of reference and just doesn’t know better, because it’s been a lifelong get-a-gift, give-a-gift at home, as well as sharing as a class value.

    1. Observer

      I don’t buy it. “Working class” people are not stupid, and they most definitely DO understand the difference between home and work – and the power disparities at play in the workplace.

    2. Elizabeth

      I don’t think that’s a working class thing specifically, though. A lot of people are raised in general that gift-giving should be reciprocal, and that gets turned on its head in the workplace. If you’re not aware of that (which most people aren’t, judging by the volume of letters AAM receives about gifting up!), it can be super confusing.

      1. nonymous

        It can also depend on micro-cultures. My mom wasn’t raised in the US and my dad was last employed in the ’70s so they both drilled into me very outdated models of workplace appropriateness. For them “gifting up” was the norm. And then in oldjob, a lot of my coworkers were Filipino, which has a huge gifting up cultural component. It’s definitely something I’ve had to unlearn as an adult.

    3. Emilia Bedelia

      “Working class” isn’t really relevant here. I think inexperience or unfamiliarity with workplace norms (not necessarily for class-based reasons) is more likely – a young white-collar worker is just as likely to think “it’s Christmas, so we should give the boss a present”, simply because they don’t really understand the issues surrounding power disparities and gift giving.

      Also,”get a gift, give a gift” is…. pretty common in any class? I was raised upper middle class and this sounds like the way things worked around my house. When I was growing up, I remember my parents buying presents for the mailman, my teachers, whoever. Frankly, if not for the wisdom of AAM, I would probably think that I should get something for my boss.

      1. fposte

        Though even in your own description it’s more complicated than “get a gift, give a gift”–your parents weren’t expecting gifts from the mailman and your teachers.

      2. Lily Rowan

        The mailman, teachers, etc., aren’t giving a gift back, though — so that’s explicitly not “get a gift, give a gift,” right?

        I am not touching the rest of this thread with a ten-foot pole.

    4. TheBeetsMotel

      Nope. The rules regarding gift-giving in a work environment just aren’t the same as at home. In the same way that dress code norms or interpersonal speech are well-established to be different at work than at home. Also, how does being working-class figure in, exactly?

      1. Gadfly

        Only thing I can think of is pride. I know in my working class upbringing there was a heavy emphasis on contributing back. Both for good solid community building reasons and for some problematic ‘so we don’t look poor’ reasons.

    5. Temperance

      I was raised working class, and you’re right … this isn’t really something you would culturally pick up if you weren’t exposed to the white collar world.

      1. Gadfly

        I even would argue there is a bit of a power play in the gifting back to establish a bit of equal footing/claiming a degree of peerhood (part of what I meant about pride in my answer above.) Kind of a way of saying gifts only flow down or across and I am not down, even down of the boss, in some sense.

        1. TootsNYC

          There might also be a feeling of “needing to bribe the person with power.” If you come from a background where you don’t feel that, as an employee, you have much power, you might feel obligated to do this.

            1. Observer

              Which is NOT a matter of “not knowing better” but a desire (possibly unspoken) of currying favor. Different thing.

              1. Temperance

                I can honestly see it as “not knowing better”. There are so many unspoken cultural workplace rules that kids in middle class families learn that are more or less cordoned off from the working class.

              2. TootsNYC

                I think the “knowing better” is a phrase that often feels critical.

                Maybe “not thinking they can push back” or “not realizing it’s not a ‘done’ thing.”

                1. Observer

                  “Not thinking they can push back” is a very different thing – and also often all too true. Sure, legally you can, but practically? How many ridiculous gifting up stories have we seen on AAM alone?

                  The question here is whether the EA is doing this at the behest of the boss, in which case her ability to push back is limited, or of her own, in which case she may not “know better.” But “working class” background wouldn’t have anything to do with that.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I’m not convinced this is a “working class” issue, but rather, a “new to working” issue. I have seen dozens of “white collar” workers who make this same mistake because they confuse personal relationship gift norms (e.g., gift exchange) for professional norms. And honestly, that’s a really easy mistake to make, especially if it’s reinforced by employees with greater tenure or seniority.

        1. Emma

          I think it’s a gifting culture issue. As in, there’s more than one version. Sometimes, gifting is meant to be top-down, a kind of way of redistributing wealth, and in that kind of culture gifting up is wrong because it’s taking from people with less power/money and giving it to people with more, which is precisely backwards. In other subcultures, gifting norms are more purely reciprocal, about maintaining a kind of social bond that puts you on (relatively) equal footing – gifting up/down rhetoric doesn’t really make sense to people who think that way. (And there are other gifting cultures, of course.)

          It’s funny, because for me personally I’m kind of in between the two. Philosophically and in my personal life I’m far more of the reciprocal social gifter, but I take it really badly when there’s even a whiff of unhealthy power dynamics in play, so I am generally dead set against gifting up in the workplace. But I’m not in other situations, like, say, churches, or people giving gifts to their teachers, etc.

      3. SL #2

        Yep. When I first started working, my parents, who were working-class/blue-collar/whatever term we’re using now, were constantly asking if I had started thinking about gifts for my bosses yet. If I didn’t have the AAM community, I probably would’ve started gifting up as well.

        1. Temperance

          Ugh yes. My parents are also convinced that any job that lets you work at home, ever, must be a scam.

    6. LBK

      We’ve seen questions like this frequently enough on AAM that I think it’s safe to say this kind of thing is not exclusive to any one kind of background, culture, etc.

  9. Loulou

    #4 – Our office recently organized an optional food drive contest. We went with a bingo format (square for each type of donation requested by the food bank). Participants would ask for a bingo sheet and bring in the items specified to complete a line. For every line they completed, their name went into a draw for a final prize. The draw itself was done at random, but the participant who contributed a significant amount of items had much better odds of winning. I think this could easily be adapted into a team format. Cash donations could be added as the middle square, so it’s not obligatory.

    1. Government Worker

      I like this a lot. You could have some sort of bingo game where the prize was points towards this silly Olympics thing.

      One other idea would be to set it up so that points in the other games = money donated by the company to the food bank. So the company would plan to give give up to $1000, say, to the food bank and the games would be structured such that the point totals for all teams combined would be close to but under that amount (and the company could announce after the fact that they were giving the whole amount anyway). The teams then get to compete for bragging rights but the money comes from the company. Personal donations to the food bank would be optional, or could earn participation points or something regardless of amount. You could probably do it with some generous senior executives contributing the money, too – I can see junior employees getting a kick out of competing to “force” the senior VP of their department to donate more money, all in good fun, depending on the personalities involved.

      1. nonymous

        I really like the idea of using company time to “earn” contributions. Even if the money comes from the board (and honestly for some boards, coming up with donations either out of their own trust funds or via personal relationships, is part of their duties) and not the company coffers, with the right media it is possible to encourage employees to donate just by raising awareness.

        For example, if the designated charity is a regional food bank, getting a guest speaker to talk about impact/need in the area might generate donations from employees who have budgeted to donate but had not previously considered this particular charity. Personally, it is very important to me to find charities that are leveraging my contributions in a way that has maximum impact and it can be hard it determine the competence of some groups.

        1. OP food drive

          Alas, we are a public agency, so we have no ability to donate “from the company”– it’s part of the reason we do this silly Olympics thing in the first place– we have virtually no money available to throw a holiday party. The money we have consists mainly of squirreled-away “taster fees” from baking contests, any leftover cash from what people throw in to cover bar tabs during happy hours (senior folks generally throw in a bit extra every time they attend), and ~$300 total from our executives’ own pockets. I’m hesitant to pressure them for more money that would be donated in such a public way (this time of year is expensive, even if you are an executive!) I suppose we could ask them to do that instead of chipping in for the party, but then we’d have almost no budget to work with for the party. That $300 currently goes toward an entree for the potluck lunch and appetizers at the happy hour.

          I really like the bingo idea, it sounds fun. You’re right, though, it is a regional food bank, and they encourage monetary donations. They can buy in *very* large quantities and can get double or triple the amount of food from a monetary donation vs people donating cans they bought at the supermarket. But maybe there’s still a way to make it work. And to your point about raising awareness, you’re absolutely right! Several folks in the group that went to volunteer were so impressed at how well it was run that they said they were planning on donating more. Bringing in a speaker is a great idea.

          1. Colette

            I’m sure the food bank can get a better deal than individuals can – but it’s important not to let efficeiency get in the way of people participating. Your goal is to have a fun event that everyone is included in, not to help the food bank get maximum value for their dollar.

            I think you’ve put a lot of effort into making people feel included, but I don’t think adding some food donation events would be a bad idea.

          2. Temperance

            I’d probably rather have a party than donate the party money to charity, FWIW. I’ve been to a ton of charity events with guest speakers, and they’re …. really boring. If I could attend a fun party vs. a charity talk, I’d do the party any time. I think it would be really crap for morale to get rid of the party.

            I used to run the United Way campaign at my workplace, so I have Opinions on what works and what doesn’t.

  10. Viktoria

    In our small company (5 employees) we usually just put down our vacation days on the shared calendar- we only need to talk to the boss if someone else is already out those days. We have 3 people in one office and 2 in another- different time zones- so we basically just need 1 person to work in each office around the holidays when it’s slow, for phone coverage, etc.

    However, last year my coworker in my office claimed the whole week between Christmas and New Year’s. While she was entitled to do so, it sucked for me because I ended up having to work the whole week while my family was in town. It was fine, but my boss changed the policy this year and said that no one could just claim those days. Instead, a month or 6 weeks ago we sat down together (first just me and my coworker, and then our boss checked in as well) and planned who would work which days. I think it has worked out well- we both have 2 consecutive days off abutting the Christmas weekend, and New Year’s weekend too. It helps that he basically gave us 2 additional vacation days to use that week, as well. This works for us because we are so small, but it could work for OP as well if coverage needs to be shared between only a few employees.

    1. Candi

      Your boss is awesome for figuring out a constructive way to handle someone getting grabby with time off.

    1. NW Mossy

      A while back, I was discussing this concept with a friend and he told a fantastic story about mandatory fun at his company. He had a new co-worker who’d moved to the US from a Communist country, and an invite went around for some you-must-attend-this-fun-thing function. When the appointed time came around, new colleague swings by and says “It’s time to go to the party meeting now.”

      As a sucker for inadvertent wordplay, I now refer to all workplace socializing as “party meetings.”

      1. Emi.

        Wait, did the coworker mean “party-slash-meeting” or was he being sarcastic, or did he actually think it was a Party thing?

        1. NW Mossy

          As my friend told the story, he meant party/meeting, but later they all realize the second possibility of Party meeting and got a laugh out of it.

      2. Parenthetically

        Yep, party meetings, definitely a thing. Especially fun when you’re the sole admin for a staff of 20 and have to do 100% of the arrangements for catering and shopping and decorations and music and then find someone to cover your desk so you can “take two hours off” to attend the Mandatory Happy Fun Times that you also have to clean up after.

      3. Darkitect

        Love it! We just had our annual Holiday party and the organizers sent a Powerpoint agenda. Fun times ahead!!!

        1. AnonAnalyst

          I thought my company was the only one that did this. I’m also going to start referring to the event as “the annual party meeting.” It’s apt.

        2. Trig

          Haha, we had a multi-page PDF document complete with graphics and a FAQ. I proof-read it for my colleague, so that makes a grand total of one person who read the whole thing.

          (Hey, I’m not the one who put the writers in charge of planning the party-meeting.)

    2. Kix

      Amen to that. When, exactly, did workplaces morph into sorority/fraternity houses? All the enforced fun and togetherness is more exhausting than working the unpaid overtime to catch up on the work I was unable to get done because of the enforced fun and togetherness.

  11. Merida May

    #2 – I’d love to know what has been done for coverage in previous years for this. That week is such a popular time for time off requests so there must be some precedence that has been established, unless the point of the question was to establish a new procedure because the old way of doing things isn’t working. Without knowing what kind of office this is or how busy you anticipate being I think, generally, it’s a good idea to know what a skeleton crew would look like number wise for your office and go from there. Next, could you get a ‘wish list’ with everyone’s preferred dates to see where the conflicts are? If everyone wants the entire week this probably won’t be especially helpful, but if you find there are people who are only asking for a few days out of that week it could be the starting point for a workable schedule.

  12. CMT

    Re #2, This isn’t the same as an office setting, but I loved volunteering for Christmas Day when I was a barista because of the incentives. I got paid time and a half for the whole day, the boss let me take home either a six-pack or bottle of wine, and because I was the only one working the tips were great. If you can swing incentives, you might get enough volunteers that no vacation requests need to be denied.

    1. EJ

      Same! I was a barista for a few years in my early 20s… I always volunteered to work Christmas on the open (5am) – mid morning/noon shift. My biggest reason was we got to keep tips for the day, rather than pool them at the end of the week, and on Christmas people were more generous! Also because my family and I do “family stuff” and gift opening on Christmas Eve, so it allowed my co-workers with kids to enjoy the morning!

    2. Princess Carolyn

      I started my career working for newspapers, which obviously have to be staffed 365 days a year. We covered a football team that traditionally played on Thanksgiving, so pretty much the whole staff had to work that day, and I always ended up working Good Friday and Easter every year. I spent most holidays alone since I didn’t have any family in town. Some holiday pay would have made that a thousand times less awful.

    3. krysb

      I worked Christmas eve and day last year simply because of project deadlines. When the company president found out, he gave me a $50 gift card.

  13. Sami

    For OP#4- “Donations are made online, and the only info anyone knows is the total $/team and average per person donation amount.”

    So people know how much (even if it’s an average over time) their coworkers and bosses donate? That’s horrifying.

    1. fposte

      It’s collective, though; I don’t know that it’s hugely different from saying “This department raised $1,426 for charity!”

    2. TootsNYC

      They could probably figure it out themselves. Nobody knows how much each individual gave; maybe the boss gave it all, or half or it, or only 1/3.

    3. Lily Rowan

      “Average per person” I assume means that you know Department X has 10 people and collectively gave $100, so $10 average per person. (But maybe the boss gave the whole $100.)

    4. Em too

      I think it means average donation for the team (ie team total/number on team) not average donation for each person (person total/years donated).

  14. Observer

    #1 I would love to ask the Admin “Are you seriously saying that we should pay off or bribe the CEO to give us raises?”

    I know that doing that is only doable if you are on your way out and don’t care about burning a bridge. But, seriously?! Give the guy a gift because he gave bonuses? That’s a classic example of why the etiquette is that gifts flow downward.

    1. Tequila Mockingbird

      Exactly. The boss’ leadership is already appreciated through his corner office, sign on the door, and fat paycheck. He does not need to siphon $10 from each of his employees’ bonuses on top of that. That’s just gross.

  15. Dan

    #4

    “Do you (or readers) have ideas on ways to structure donation drives so that they encourage people to be generous without making people feel pressured?”

    No, you can’t encourage generosity without pressure… depending on how you define “generosity.” If you just advertise “whatever you can give is appreciated”, is that generous? If not, and you want to encourage more than that, then that’s pressure.

    I will tell you that if I worked at a place that made that much hoopla every year over a donation drive, it will be one of the things that I look forward to not having to do again when I quit. I’m not saying I’d quit over it, but when weighing pros and cons about moving on, it certainly would be in the con column.

    FWIW, I’ve never been a fan of work place charity drives. Part of this comes from working in Los Angeles for a now-defunct division of Raytheon. These jobs were not well paying (most of them were in the $11-$12/hr range) and some of my coworkers had their kids on state welfare. Yet, the company would “encourage” 100% participation in a United Way drive, to the point where they would hunt you down for the form if you didn’t turn it in. That was just so tone deaf — did they really expect people who had kids on welfare to donate to charity?

    1. Trig

      Yeah, I’m not big on workplace charity drives. I already have planned monthly giving to organizations who I know do good work in areas I care about (including our local food bank). I don’t need to give to my company to give to United Way to give to who-knows-what charities after they take their bit off the top. So those asks would annoy me.

      I get that a low-pressure one might induce people who want to give but just ‘never got around to it’ and that’s good, but I think it’s hard to do it in a low-key way. More than an email or two and you start getting annoying.

      My great big company does an annual giving event where they match some donations and they let employees volunteer during work hours as part of a ‘team’ during that week. It’s a good initiative, totally voluntary, and we only get about two corporate broadcast emails. I think it’s a good approach, but I can see how a particular office culture might get all gung-ho about being one of those teams and collecting money and so on. I guess it really depends on the individual office.

    2. AcademiaNut

      I can actually think of a couple.

      The employer designates several charities, and agrees to match employee donations. If an employee is somewhat interested in donating, doubling their contribution can be an incentive.

      The employer offers perks or accommodation in return for participation. For example – an employee can take a work day per year to devote to volunteer work in the community. Or there is an employer-organized volunteer option during work hours. They don’t have to participate if they don’t want to, but the employer is willing to back them if they do

    3. Emma

      Yeah, I prefer to pick my charities. I also worked for a while quite a distance from where I lived, and I wanted any donations I made to things like food banks to go to my local one. (It’s just a general rule of thumb I have; I figure if I live somewhere I should do something to help that place specifically.)

  16. Lillie Lane

    #4 – Also, please make it very clear to the food pantry that the *employees* of Company X are making the donation, NOT Company X itself. Nothing irks me more than seeing a company take credit for the volunteer hours and donations made by employees (or customers) out of their own time and pockets.

  17. Tennessee INFP

    #2 – I know this doesn’t apply to all work situations – but why don’t more companies offer the week between Christmas and New Year’s off? I worked at a company once that did that and it was a HUGE perk to the job. I stayed there at a lower salary longer than I normally would because it was so nice not to have to use vacation time during the holidays.

    I’m at a company now that we literally sit at our computer all day that week and surf the internet because NONE of the companies we do business with are open and it’s a slow time of year . It would only be 4 extra days to give employees off this year when they’re not accomplishing anything anyway, and as I said before, a huge perk.

    1. Dan

      Cost. Even better question is why companies don’t give the Friday after Thanksgiving off as well.

      I don’t actually take much vacation around the holidays, so given the choice, I’d rather have the option to take my vacation when I want. I get four weeks vacation — if the choice was “4 weeks PTO, xmas-NY is a work wee” or “3 weeks PTO, you get xmas week off”, I’ll take the former. But I also work in an environment where we don’t fight for time off, so this is purely personal choice.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl

        Day after Thanksgiving abundantly more difficult to staff than time at Christmas. Above I mentioned I have rarely seen issues around the holidays, and I should amend that to say *Christmas* holiday. This one is almost always a battle.

      2. Anon Two

        Not every company requires that you use your PTO though.

        My last two employers have closed between Xmas and New Years, and it was always on top of a very generous PTO allowance.

        1. Jessesgirl72

          I’ve had it that I got those weeks as paid holidays.

          But my dad used to have to take it as a lay off and it counted as “waiting weeks” for unemployment. :P

      3. ThatGirl

        I’m really grateful Black Friday is a company holiday here, for sure.

        My husband works for a university and they have the option to close offices during the week between Christmas and NY – so his does, but they have to use PTO for it. (They all have a pretty good amount of PTO, though.)

      4. Jessesgirl72

        When companies shut down that week, they normally cite cost as the reason. It’s cheaper to close the building than to continue to heat and light it for a handful of people who aren’t doing any work.

      5. Elizabeth West

        NewExJob’s didn’t because we were open if our clients (banks) were open. Many many people took off anyway though, especially if they were traveling. As I said before, my family alternates a big gathering between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. So I would always work if I wasn’t going anywhere. And when I was skating, I would want to stay here and practice for the Christmas show.

    2. Mike C.

      We do that here. Folks who do work are usually performing really important mission critical stuff or are performing stuff that can only be done while everyone is away. Even then, volunteers are asked for, you’re paid normal rates plus the rate for paid vacation and so on.

      I’ve found this in a lot of different places, but you can be closed for an extended amount of time and your clients won’t suffer – many of them will often be closed as well. If you have people come in as normal, you’re likely not getting all that much productivity out of them anyway. Things are going to be slow with folks out, clients/suppliers aren’t always going to be available and so on.

      So you can pay them to come in an do little to no work, or you can pay them to stay home, get no work done and have a everyone come back in refreshed and in high spirits.

    3. Meg

      My family member who has a terrible holiday schedule works at a hospital. Hospitals can’t close. Another friend is a minister. Churches don’t really have a lot of choice – in some ways its their busiest time of the year. Most places that can’t just close for that week are establishments that are busy that time of year: retail places, restaurants, etc.

      My office is officially closed between Christmas and New Years, but some staff still have to work – payroll, accounts payable, because at the end of the day, the bills have to get paid.

    4. TootsNYC

      I’ve now worked at two companies that have said, “Oh, forget it–let’s just shut down between those holidays.”

      At both places, most people take the days off, and the people who are left aren’t all the productive. I used to regularly work those days, since I celebrate the holidays locally, and it was EXCRUCIATING to be in the office.

    5. AdAgencyChick

      I’m certain that ad agencies (who often used to be closed that week, especially since almost all of our clients take that time off) do it not because they think they’ll make more money in December, but because they’ll make more money the rest of the year if employees are forced to burn PTO for those days. Those days taken in December are days you can’t take in February, July, etc.

    6. Persephone

      The community college I work at (in California) offers a four-day Thanksgiving weekend, and Christmas Eve through the first workday after January 1 off, about 8+ days. We also get quite a few other holidays plus generous vacation and sick time. Higher educations sucks at times, especially with the pay, but the benefits are fantastic!

    7. Trig

      My company shuts down that week, and only ‘critical’ people are allowed to work. I don’t think there are all that many critical people, and it was always a very slow week anyway. But we have to take vacation days for it! It’s no big deal for me, because I typically take that week off anyway (family scattered around the continent). But for people who would rather work it and take their vacation at other times, it’s very frustrating!

      They cite the reason as cost – less power used is the surface consideration, but the main concern is that people weren’t taking their PTO predictably and were just letting it accrue, then taking a whole bunch of at once or leaving the company and having to get it paid out. So the initiative in theory results in more predictable payroll stuff.

  18. Anon Two

    #4 — that entire day comes across as hell on earth to me. Mind you I hate those forced social activities that I typically have to contribute to (by making a dish, or donating my time).

    And keep in mind that you are asking employee’s not only to donate time and money to charity, but also donate time and money to creating a dish for a potluck. I would see if you can dial the entire day back if at all possible. Because while there maybe many people who love the day and get competitive, I would bet that there are many people who dread the day, dread the whole idea.

    1. Blue Moon

      I soooo agree. A level of Hell is what it sounds like to me too. We had a food drive here and it was competitive by points for each type of food that was it. We didn’t have to do anything but bring in food. And no one knew who donated or didn’t.

    2. CMT

      It is very true that lots of people don’t like these kinds of events and they should never be mandatory, which people are very quick to remind others of on this site. But I just want to throw out there that I like these kinds of things, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, so they’re not universally terrible.

      1. Anon Two

        I’m not a fan of social activities at work, but I get that some people do like them.

        What I dislike is when the social activities require employees to donate time or money outside of work hours. For example, I’ve worked for multiple employers that have a holiday lunch, but it’s catered by the employee’s rather than by the employer. I feel that sort of thing compounds the situation. If employers want to do social activities then I think they should be expected to pay for them.

        1. Purest Green

          Our workplace switched this year from an employee-driven potluck to employee-driven catering. The catering is certainly an improvement considering the pressure is off to buy, make, and bring something, but we’re still paying $10 each to have a mandatory holiday party during work hours.

          1. Jessesgirl72

            I used to work with a group that was a heavy mix of older women, along with some older men and then a lot of 20somethings (me and my peers) The ones who organized it had certain standards for the potlucks, that they didn’t want us mucking up- and there are only so many people who can bring plates, ice and chips, so we were given a choice of either bringing something or donating toward the cost of a dish the organizers wanted to bring, in addition to their own contributions. That way the ones who wanted to cook, could, and the others could donate $5, and we’d have higher quality food than something bought at the grocery store deli section. It was the smoothest and most pleasant work potluck system I have ever seen, and people loved them so much that we’d hold them monthly.

            But, of course they weren’t mandatory- not even in an implied way. And the ladies weren’t shy about saying No to the occasional would-be mooches who chose not to participate, but thought they were going to grab up the leftovers. They were politely, but firmly, told that allowing them to take leftovers wasn’t fair to those of us who had paid or made something.

              1. Jessesgirl72

                The only challenge was in convincing them that, despite being young enough to be their daughter or granddaughter, I could actually cook. They kept asking the first couple times if I was SURE I didn’t just want to give some money? But then they realized I could be trusted to cook, and started making requests that I make something again.

          2. PlainJane

            At one of my former jobs, people could choose to bring a dish or contribute to catering. We could also choose to skip the event entirely, and a few people did, but most folks attended and seemed to have a good time. Decorating was also done on a volunteer basis, so those who wanted to hang decorations on company time could do so. It seemed to work well.

            1. AnonAnalyst

              We did something like this at one of my former jobs, too. We had an annual potluck, and the rule was that you had to bring something to participate – whether that was food, money (for drinks and paper plates, stuff our company didn’t normally stock in the kitchen), or labor (set up and clean up) – but the event was not mandatory.

              I think everyone participated during the years I worked there, and it seemed like people looked forward to the event every year. Keeping it low-key and giving people a variety of ways to get involved seemed to make it feel like less of a burden on the employees, whereas requiring everyone to bring food would probably have been more of a turn-off.

      2. SL #2

        Me too! You’re not the only one on this site, at least. But I also recognize that I’m at an age and have a personality type where I also enjoy things like open offices, social events at work or with coworkers, potlucks, etc. and that not everyone is the same way or has the same feelings about it.

      3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Me too. I always feel like I have to defend these kinds of things because otherwise all the comments are super negative. :)

      4. Emma

        Which is cool. It really is the pressure to participate that makes these kinds of thing not good, in my book. I mean, I may not like any given activities, but if I am not being forced to participate (even just by implicit social pressure), it’s no skin off my nose. Also, frankly, I’d be far less reluctant to participate in workplace social stuff if I was sure it wasn’t mandatory. I am a contrary creature, what can I say.

    3. Violet Fox

      I’d find a way to be somewhere else, anywhere else that day. It just sounds like way too much, but then again that ontop of all of the other organized social office activities, I very much would not be a good fit for that place.

    4. Anon Accountant

      Yes I like this. Make it 1 or 2 activities or a company paid for lunch and a non competitive, anonymous food drive or such.

    5. INTP

      I agree. I know this wasn’t the point of the question, and don’t want to participate in a pile-on, but is there ANY possible way that you can restructure the participation options? Some people are really into it but the people that aren’t probably feel forced to be silent about it.

      For example, you could give an option to either be a competitor on a team or participate as an organizer/facilitator – help set up the games and refreshments, keep score, explain the rules, cheer for their coworkers, etc. That way, the teams are self-selected groups of competitive people. The non-competitive people aren’t feeling pressured and miserable and the competitive people don’t have to deal with the people on their teams who don’t care about winning and have other people to worry about the routine details of the day. It could be more enjoyable for everyone that way. Not necessarily fun for everyone – if you want that to happen you can’t make it officially or unofficially mandatory – but less like middle school gym class where you’re either being yelled at by the teacher for not participating or yelled at by the competitive people on your team for getting in the way of the better athletes.

      If most people are truly into the Olympics thing, then you won’t have too many people opting out of the competition and you won’t be overburdened by organizers. If most people do opt out and you have more organizers than competitors, well, that’s something you really needed to know so you can rethink the event for next year.

      As it is, I don’t think there is any way to make people not feel pressured on the food drive. The super competitive people on the teams are going to pressure everyone to help win regardless of what you tell them about respecting everyone’s finances.

      1. Grits McGee

        This- In college as an RA we had about 2 weeks of mandatory fun competitions as part of our training. It was meant as a way to build trust and teamwork, but it had the opposite affect when I had to face screaming coworkers who took “Housing Bylaw Jeopardy” waaaay too seriously. It was really upsetting and made it difficult to work with the screamers afterwards (or trust my supervisors since they didn’t rein it in). I was a superstar RA, but I ended up not coming back for the next school year.

        1. Grits McGee

          I should add- if I’d had the option cheer from the sidelines rather than play dodgeball or compete in the talent show instead of being in the direct line of fire, that would have really lessened how upsetting the whole experience was.

          1. INTP

            Yeah, I’d have no problem with this Olympics happening if I had the opportunity to be on the decorating committee or something with no consequences to my career. But I’m one of those annoying people who says “Let’s just not keep score and play for fun” about party games. Put me with Mr. Says the Trivial Pursuit Card is Wrong and Mrs. Head Explodes if she Doesn’t Win Monopoly and we will literally have lost respect for each other by the end of the day.

      2. OP food drive

        Yeah… unfortunately we don’t have a lot of control over whether or not we plan this. In fact the term “mandatory fun” refers at least as much to the fact that *we’re* mandated to organize it than to participation being mandatory. I actually was somewhat annoyed about participating when it happened last year only a couple months after I started working there. We’ve tried to take some small steps toward making participation feel less forced, but people with authority have very strong opinions about it. People were mad at us because we decided not to make shuffleboard an event this year. You should have been there when someone suggested changing up team membership. At least we made it so that people aren’t forced to be team captains against their will anymore…

        Many in our office have a schedule where they can take every other friday off, so it’s fairly easy for those who choose to say “oh, darn. I won’t be there this year” (admittedly it’s hard to do this in your first year). Others (not many) just don’t respond to emails or are either legitimately or not “busy” with a pressing project. A couple people who consistently didn’t participate are no longer assigned to a team (I’m assuming they were asked first?).

        1. INTP

          Ah, sounds like upper management is very (and misguidedly) invested in it being mandatory and competitive for some reason, even though a large portion of employees clearly aren’t into it. In that case you’re doing all you can do by trying to make it feel less high-pressure in subtle ways. I’m still stumped on how to make the competitive charity donating feel lower-pressure, unless the bosses would allow it to be a silent auction-type competition where you don’t see each other’s donations until the winner is selected. Telling people not to share whether and how much they donated is a great idea, I’m just not sure how many of them are truly following that if the competition gets that intense.

    6. Permanent project manager

      As someone who really did not have the time to prepare for a work potluck this week, nor the time to attend one, and felt forced to do it anyway — I so agree. I am not anti-workplace fun, but I really don’t enjoy workplace potlucks. A weekend potluck with friends is one thing, but potlucks in the middle of the work day are a big burden IMO. I don’t keep ingredients for potluck-y type meals around the house so it required an extra trip to the store, it’s a pain to prepare a full dish before work while I’m also trying to get little kids ready for daycare and school, plus all the schlepping of stuff and keeping an eye on the crockpot while working. I like my coworkers fine and don’t mind spending time with them, but a catered lunch would’ve been so much nicer and less stressful.

      1. Violet Fox

        There is also the whole thing with food allergies. Where I work we have one person with celiac, one person allergic to bananas, another allergic to shellfish, someone else who doesn’t eat pork or shellfish for religious reasons, a couple of people who are mostly vegetarian (as in some meat but not much).

        These are just the ones I know about in my section, not the department as a whole.

  19. Bow Ties Are Cool

    #4 While I appreciate that you’re trying to find an alternate way for folks to contribute to the charity drive, my very first thought was of all the people I know/have known in my life who are/were short on money for a reason that also made them short on time: kids, aging parents, personal/family health issues, fixer-upper house, etc. Making sure that everything truly is anonymous and low-pressure is the nicest thing you can do for people. The holidays are stressful enough when you’re broke and/or overloaded.

  20. paul

    We kind of split the time off; half of us take take the week before Christmas off, half the week after. Adjust depending on the days it falls on–since it falls on a weekend this year, we’re closed the preceding Friday and following Monday, and I’m off that whole following week (through new years). 1/2 my coworkers are off the week leading into the Christmas holiday, so they’re off something like the 16th to the 27th, depending on how many days they wanted to use.

    Yeah, we’d all *love* to take the whole stretch from Christmas to new years off but it just won’t work and most reasonable adults know that.

    1. paul

      I want an edit feature: We’ve done it this way for 5-6 years now and it works really well. We’ll ask who prefers which chunk of time and usually everyone, or very nearly everyone gets what they want.

      We did have an issue one year where someone with *tons* of accrued PTO took off Thanksgiving to New Years, but we’ve put policies in place limiting vacation days to no more than 10 or 15 (I forget exactly) used at once after that.

  21. Ripley's Believe It

    #3 – Alison’s advice is perfect. One of the smallest Christmas bonuses I ever got was inside a Christmas card with a personalized note from the CEO about his appreciation for my work, etc. I kept that card on my fridge for a looooong time, well past the holidays. It made me feel good every day.

  22. Dan

    #2

    AAM is so, so right. You have a situation where not all time off is created equal, and there is heavier demand than you can really accommodate.

    So, if you want to be “fair”, and I support that, you need to change the demand for that week. You have two choices: Make it “cost” the employee more, or make people want to work it. The former might be charging time off at a premium, such as 1.5 days of vacation for time off that week. I don’t support that, but it’s technically an option.

    AAM is right on the other hand — sweeten the pot and make people want to work. They’ll love you for that, much more so than they ever would by charging extra time off.

    If you can’t sweeten the pot or otherwise incentivize people to work, there really is nothing else that you can do, unless you have long term employees and rotate time off.

    1. aridite

      Absolutely.

      If it has to be “enforced,” there is no “fair” way to do it. At least there’s no way to do it that everyone will agree is fair.

      No matter what system you choose, someone will be unhappy. So the OP may have to ask, whom am I willing to make unhappy? Or, can I spread around the unhappiness?

      1. Jessesgirl72

        Whenever I hear “that’s not fair”- I think “Fair to whom?”

        The best you can do is to mitigate the unhappiness as best you can.

          1. Candi

            “Fair is where you go to see the pigs race, my lady.”

            -Branoic, The Black Raven

            You can try your darnedest to treat everyone equally, but sometimes it just doesn’t fall out that way, and it can be because of an outside factor you have to deal with whether you will or no.

    2. INTP

      I agree that you need to change demand somehow, but I feel like adding incentives to work would be better for morale than disincentivizing NOT working. I’d feel a bit ripped off if I took a job with, say, 15 vacation days, and found out that it would actually only be 12 or 13 days if I took my vacation during the most common weeks for vacation-taking – I think this is a policy you would need to have started at the time of hiring people. On the other hand, no one will be bothered by the opportunity to earn more vacation days or get shorter hours and free lunch the 24th-1st.

  23. Regular Comment Not Wanting to Out My Work to OP 5

    #5: There might be conflict of interest with the board – a supposedly neutral party – accepting gifts of monetary value from school employees, contractors, or vendors. Perhaps your charter document can guide you, the agreement with your authorizor, or general school policies. I suggest you bring that up to the board member soliciting gifts.

  24. NW Mossy

    While this obviously doesn’t work for every manager, part of how I handle this with my team is by working those desirable days myself. I actually prefer it because it makes for a a quiet period where I can do a lot of forward planning for the upcoming year, and the optics of “hey, my boss is willing to be here” helps soften the blow for those that end up working.

  25. Crazy Dog Lady

    #1 – A few years ago, one of my colleagues suggested getting a gift for our boss. I knew the etiquette rules that Alison cited in the past, but figured it would be fine to get her a small gift if the rest of the team members agreed. Our boss had always gotten us nice small gifts at the holidays. My colleague said he had some ideas and that he would circulate them to the rest of our four-person team.

    What he ended up sending around was, to me, inappropriate. He suggested that we buy our boss and her family tickets to a sporting event that would run us at least $75+ per person, since our boss had mentioned to him that they wanted to attend one. Um…no. That was way more than I wanted to spend (I was thinking about $10-$15 per person) and frankly, my boss and her husband are millionaires and we are not. I don’t like to make assumptions about other people’s financial situation, but they could easily afford to attend a game without our having to buy them tickets. $75 was way more than what she spent on us, and the whole thing made me uncomfortable.

    I ended up replying all and saying that was out of my budget, and the rest of my team quickly agreed. The next year, I pointed out the etiquette rules and once again, the rest of the team was happy to agree. So my point is, if you speak up, you’re likely going to have a chorus backing you up. Office gift giving really is the worst….

    1. Jessesgirl72

      In life, not just the workplace, people fear they are all alone and don’t speak up. Most of the time, it just takes one brave person to put an end to the worst things like that.

    2. Crazy Dog Lady

      I feel like I’ve spent so much time worrying about upsetting others when it comes to stuff like this, when in reality, many people felt the same way I did. It’s definitely comforting!

      1. Jessesgirl72

        This is something that comes with age and maturity, I think. I remember watching Oprah in my 20’s and she and all these women would talk about how they really came into their own and were more comfortable in their skin after 30 and then after 40, and I’d roll my eyes and thought I already was.

        But then I turned 30 and 40, and I realize how right they were. I care a lot more about doing what I think is the right thing, and very little about what other people think about whatever it is. I say things that needs to be said- as kindly as possible, but I say them.

        Now, sometimes I go get tired of being the one left to be “the bad guy” and wish others would speak up too, but someone has to do it, and I realize most of the time, that ends up being me. It’s tedious, but better than putting up with things that are just wrong, for fear of offending someone.

  26. SheLooksFamiliar

    About the food drive in #4 – I think the people who think up these contests mean well, and agree that participation should be voluntary. It’s just not the company’s place to force generosity. But there’s another reason why this kind of thing gets to me.

    It’s a sad reality, but some of our colleagues may very well need the support they are being pressured to give others. I know several families who have struggled to make ends meet for various reasons – they aren’t spendthrifts or anything like that, but victims of circumstance. A spouse or single parent lost a job, someone was hospitalized, they had a family emergency that drained savings, and so on. These folks relied on their local food pantries or their church, even when they were able to begin rebuilding. They have a hard enough time dealing with their own frustrations and fears, and understand more than most how even $5 can make a difference. If they had it to spare, they would! Add the special kind of sadness holidays can bring, and throw in a ‘friendly’ office competition…it’s just needless pain and frustration to people who are really trying to keep it together.

    Sorry for being maudlin, but this has been on my mind of late.

    1. aridite

      You can’t always tell either. I had a friend who drove a Mercedes she inherited from her father but couldn’t afford to feed herself.

      1. Gadfly

        And there is both pride hiding it and genuine and legitimate fears of poverty stigma to avoid sharing such reasons and to try to look better off than you are.

        In the culture I was raised in, the primary faith community was both incredibly caring and well meaning and tried to be generous in their way (which unfortunately included thinking church programs could replace public ones) AND also be living that success indicated goodness and that generally poverty indicated either a moral failure or God testing you. *facepalm*

        1. Gadfly

          Ugh–apologizing in general for autocorrect typos (still training a new phone) and fatfingering typos.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar

          Tell me about it! Many years ago I had to move out of my parent’s house to escape their severe abuse. Paying my tuition, getting an apartment with roommates, replacing the clothes and furniture I couldn’t take with me, working 2 part time jobs…it was tough. Paying for car insurance meant I couldn’t eat more than once a day for a while.

          Things got so bad I finally went to the church I had attended all my life to ask for food from their pantry. By then my parents had told their side of the story, and I was sent away. Since I was a willful, lying, disrespectful child, and since my sainted parents had thrown me out of the house – a lie – I didn’t deserve any help. I swear one of the sweet, grandmotherly church ladies smirked at me as I left.

          1. Crazy Dog Lady

            I am so sorry that happened to you. You did not deserve that, and shame on those people for turning you away.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar

              Thank you both for the kind words. Things got harder before they got better, and I’m oddly grateful for the experience I had. Life is more comfortable now, and I will never take it for granted. And I will never assume things about people and their means to live.

      2. Parenthetically

        I read a longform piece a few years ago about the woman who drove up to a foodbank in her Mercedes — very touching, and such a good reminder not to judge by external appearances.

    2. INTP

      That’s a good point. I would imagine it would be incredibly demoralizing to feel even any minimal amount of pressure to donate to a service when you’re in need of it yourself.

  27. aridite

    AAM,

    Could you maybe do a thread on holiday gifting where we could all discuss dos and dont’s, share horror stories, tell the best gift ever story, etc.? Or encourage this as a weekend OT topic?

    I know you are getting concerned about derailing and thread explosion with OT topics, but it seems people enjoy discussing this.

  28. Bee Eye LL

    #2 – Half the people in my department started off in other departments so the seniority thing is debatable. Instead, we just do a first-come, first-served method. We start telling people as far back as August to start thinking about holiday vacations and remind everyone that we need to have at least a few people available. So far, it hasn’t been a problem. Some people like to take off while others like to come in since it will be so slow they can sort of kick back at their desk.

  29. Lady Montworth (née Janice in Accounting)

    #4: What about allowing employees to volunteer at the food bank during the workday? It would allow them to participate without cutting into personal time that they might not be able to spare this time of year, and volunteering with your coworkers is a great way to team-build.

    1. AnonAnalyst

      This is what I was wondering. OP, since it sounds like a strong voice in keeping the event going is the management team, could you suggest this as a way to make the event more accessible to everyone and encourage more participation?

      1. OP food drive

        I think that’s a great idea for next year! (alas, you have to reserve volunteer spots about 3 months in advance…)

    2. Jessesgirl72

      One of the big companies in our area does things like that a couple times a year, and they get a lot of good news coverage for it.

  30. Mel

    #2: I’m Jewish, and I’m always happy to work around Christmas. I’m not bothered at all by it, and my only concern is whether public transit is running. And while I do prefer to be off on New Year, I’d again be fine working that day if needed. That said, it would be awesome to have incentives too!

  31. Callalilly

    #2: Depending on the type of workplace it would seem fare to close for the holidays. At every office I’ve worked for we’ve closed (or at least closed the admin portion) from Christmas Eve day until just after New Years day. It is a huge benefit for everyone to get some much needed time off for Christmas. Exceptions are given for individuals who don’t have enough vacation time and do not want to go X days without pay.

  32. TotesMaGoats

    #2-I’ve always felt that my obligation as a manager was to do my best to help out my staff who were underpaid and generally overworked. We got all the major holidays and closed xmas to ny, so it was the day before each of those breaks that were prime. My assistant director and I would each work one of those Pre-holiday days and then essentially grant all time off requests to the point of working by ourselves if needed. I couldn’t give raises so, this was what I could do.

  33. Corky's wife Bonnie

    #3, I really like Allison’s answer, could you throw lunch into that as well? I know for myself, it’s always awesome at this crazy holiday season when I don’t have to worry about packing up a lunch. Doesn’t have to be out, could be in the office, then hand everyone their envelopes with the nice note at dessert. I would appreciate that way more than a present.

  34. ShoeRuiner

    I am totally on board with gifts flowing down, not up, but what about a card? I was thinking about giving holiday cards to everyone I work with, including managers. Would that make anyone uncomfortable?

      1. TootsNYC

        In fact, cards are more than fine.

        I try to be a good boss, and I often tell my team about how much I like their work and value them, etc. (so the note I include w/ my Christmas presents to them is hard to write bcs it feels redundant).

        But I don’t get that kind of feedback from them. I’d love it, it would make me feel so good! (that is, if there -is- positive feedback to give)

        1. paul

          It’s hard to give that feedback without the fear of coming across as a brown noser, at least for me.

  35. Newish Reader

    #2: I really recommend Alison’s suggestion of checking to see who is willing to work around the holidays. I host Thanksgiving dinner at my house and appreciate being able to take time that week to prepare. But I’m willing to work the days leading up to Christmas (we are one of the lucky places closed between Christmas and New Year’s) and allow my coworkers to take that time. If it works out that enough people are willing to work to provide the necessary coverage, problem solved without creating morale issues.

  36. Rusty Shackelford

    #1: “Because it is the president who gives the bonus…”

    Unless the president is the owner of the company, isn’t that like Michael Scott saying he paid for Phyllis’s wedding?

  37. ali

    #5 – I’m board chair of an organization with a staff of 8. I would feel absolutely awful if I were given any sort of gift from the staff. I feel bad every time they send me a thank you card for my donations and time, because while I appreciate the gesture, it’s not something I like the development team spending time or resources on – I need their focus on our not as committed donors.

    However, if the case is that the board member(s) receiving the gift are getting the gift because it’s the end of their service with the organization, I can see how it could be appropriate. That gift should be coming from the rest of the board though, and not the staff (I could see maybe the CEO being involved in this, but not using money from their own pocket to do it).

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      You are kind of recognize that staff resources are stretched. Good board members are SO valuable though – and worth at least the “thanks” that larger donors receive.

      I completely agree about not giving a gift to the board, but I do think that a holiday thank-you card is a nice gesture. All of the staff and sign it (ideally adding a few personal notes) and drop it in the mail. Board members know they are noticed and appreciated, but without the ickiness of receiving a gift.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        I think cards are often appropriate and ok; I think Alison noted this upthread in the comments, as well. But still, there should not be an expectation that the staff will write thank you’s to the Board. Ideally these notes should come from the Exec Director, the exec. leadership team, or whichever staff is responsible for and has the closest relationship with the Board.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Same (as a director on a nonprofit board). I would be horrified if our staff gifted up. We usually spend our December board meeting writing thank you notes to our staff, not planning how the staff can thank us.

      In my opinion, even service-oriented gifts are too much. At most, a card is appropriate, and even then, only staff who work closely with the board should be responsible for writing those cards and the org. should pay for the stationery/postage. For significant anniversaries (e.g., 10 years+ board service), our Board pays for a plaque or other similar gift out of pocket, with more financially secure Board members contributing a greater share than financially insecure Board members (because we have community representatives, this is a significant issue). But the entire thinks it’s horrifying to divert funds from the organization to pay for Board gifts—as opposed to letting those funds go towards meeting the needs of our service communities—and we would also be horrified at the thought of staff being hit up for money to give us gifts.

  38. Barney Barnaby

    #2:
    You can give preference to those who only want one or two of those days off (rather than the entire week); preference to those who worked Thanksgiving or the day before Labor Day; or track this year-to-year, and give preference to those who were stuck working the previous year.

    #4:
    Instead of having points for per-person donations, highest overall donations, and high average donations, have points ONLY for percent participation (regardless of dollar amount). So if the entire team donates (even a dollar), the team would get the full amount of available points. People who want to be generous will be generous. People whose budgets are stretched thin won’t feel pressured by their co-workers.

  39. Critter

    #4 – It’s really nice that the company does that, but…it seems like a lot. I couldn’t even finish reading the letter. It made me want to take a nap.

    1. OP food drive

      Tell me about it! organizing this, as well as trying to get my actual work done is exhausting!

  40. TootsNYC

    #3: that’s what I do–the gift card is the real gift, but I personally like to get an object when I get a present, so that’s also what I like to give along with it.

    I used to try to find a “toy” (on the theory that everyone should get a toy at Christmas, even grownups); Lego stocking stuffers were my favorite.

    But I don’t feel like that would really fit the personalities I’ve had working for me for the last few years. I’ve done small food gifts, and once I did personalized stationery (I made it on my printer at home using blank correspondence cards).
    And some years I gave everyone something I knew they could use at the office–a shawl, or something like that.

    I’m looking for ideas for this year–I don’t want to spend a lot; these are just supposed to be tokens. And I like to give pretty much the same thing to everyone (it’s a small team, so it’s not as hard to find something). I’ve got 2 guys this year, and there aren’t as many options usually.

    I thought about getting a three-pack of Sugru and giving everyone a packet (to fix their charger cords, or something).

    Any other suggestions?

    1. Mints

      I love toys as gifts. For this I like mini games like dice games (Zombie Dice) or Bananagrams, or Word A Round. Also I saw what was basically glittery silly putty labeled as brainstorming goop or something which I kind of want for myself.

      Also, mugs? Those are pretty universal and there’s infinity designs

  41. LaSalleUGirl

    #5 — You mention that you work at an independent school. Could you suggest that students make (say) Christmas ornaments in art class and give the board those as gifts? That feels different to me than donating towards a purchased gift (and, if you’re on the board of a non-for-profit school, seems like the kind of thing you’d appreciate).

    1. CM

      Yes, I have served on a board like this, and while it would be nice to get some sort of note, card, or token of appreciation, I would not want anybody to spend money on it. I think a card saying how much you/the co-directors appreciate their hard work, and maybe pointing to concrete ways that their work has helped the school over the past year, would be perfect.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger

      Yes, as a teacher at an independent school this was my thinking, too. For example, each class could work together to make a card for one board member, telling them what they appreciate about their school.

  42. pgrmmgr

    #2: regarding time off, is it certain or assumed that this is the week everyone wants, and is there a policy issue (ie, all time off expires 12/31) that makes it too popular?

    I’ve always worked in offices where around 1/2 of us are in that week. In my field, not everyone travels for the holiday, not everyone has kids who are out of school and needs supervision, and I’ve always enjoyed coming in on those quiet weeks, and taking my vacations when destinations are less busy.

    I do know an office where taking time off before the holidays is popular (and I have done it to have time to get ready) – encouraging that as an option may help alliviate the issue.

  43. Zip Silver

    2 – the way I’m handling it is that everybody is getting one day off that I blacked out the week for requests, and I’m giving everybody 1 day off that week and I’ll (the only exempt person, whose family lives 1400 miles away) be there every day. I’ll do my vacation time later in January.

  44. kimberly

    I think often it is the assistants not the bosses that are pushing for the staff to give presents. I have several family members that were not pleased when they found out this was happening and put a stop to it. In once case it wasn’t a group present but the executives were put in the “hat” with the others for secret santa and didn’t find out until the last minute. (Oddly the new office manager and her best friends some how all got the executives as their secret santas and basically got money because the executives had 1 day to get something.)

    My family member had one of the warehouse guys as his secret santa. The poor warehouse guy apparently was in knots about what to get the senior VP. He ended up getting an Atari 2600 (this was the late 70s) for my family member’s kids. Family member felt like he was stealing the warehouse guy’s kids presents (their kids were in the same ballpark as far as ages). Mysteriously an Atari 2600 and some games appeared on the warehouse guy’s doorstep a few days later.

    If I remember right the office manager got her rear fired over some other issues that basically boiled down to office people are better than warehouse people and not treating people correctly. Apparently she missed the fact that the owner, President, and VP had all started out in warehouse/roughneck/ranch hand type jobs. The VP in that warehouse.

    1. TootsNYC

      The one inappropriate gift-giving thing at work was the idea of the subordinate. One of my colleagues said, “It’s Boss’s birthday; let’s pitch in and get her a nice necklace.” Everybody freaked, and the idea was dropped.

      Me, I’ve explicitly said to people on my team: Gifts flow down, not up.

      (The first time I gave gifts to my team at this job, one of the guys went out and bought me cocoa, bcs he thought suddenly we were on a reciprocal status for gifts. I felt bad, and the next year I made a statement in early December about it.)

      1. AdAgencyChick

        This happened to me too. I bought a gift for my direct report, and he hurriedly bought me one the next day, even though I told him not to.

        I have a feeling “gifts flow down, not up” has to be said early in December, so that people have time to get used to the idea!

        1. AnonAnalyst

          I admit to doing this early in my career (sorry, past managers!) My thought process once they gave me a gift was something like, “CRAP, I didn’t realize Boss was buying me something! I have to get a gift ASAP, otherwise this will be bad.”

          I really would have appreciated someone telling me this ahead of time!

          1. Lovemyjob...truly!

            The whole reciprocal gift giving is weird to me. I will often give my friends / family gifts for no other reason than just because. I’ve been the recipient of just because gifts too. Some are given at odd times of the year, most around the holiday. My husband gets SO weird about gifts. He reminds me of Sheldon in the episode of the Big Bang Theory where Penny gives him the napkin that’s autographed by Leonard Nimoy. He’s always trying to run out and get someone a gift because they bought him something. Last year a co-worker brought donuts and coffee for the whole office one morning in December and my husband was ready to use a credit card to buy lunch for everyone that same day. (I do the bill paying so he gave me the courtesy of a call prior to making the offer at which point I was able to talk him back off the ledge! I talked him into making cookies that night and bringing them in the next day.)

            BUT…I don’t give gifts to my boss or to my co-workers because of this very thing.

            1. Elizabeth West

              Well technically, a gift is something you give with no expectation of anything in return. Otherwise, it’s an exchange. You’re never really obligated to do it back. I don’t know where this came from either.

  45. Is it Friday Yet?

    OP #2 and any other managers in this position, I have really appreciated my managers who asked for our holiday time off requests in early November. As long as you’re transparent about how the office needs x amount of coverage, but you will do your best to accommodate everyone’s requests, they should be understanding.

    1. SpaceySteph

      November? That’d be way too late for me. My oldjob did it in September, a thing which I was always grateful for in terms of both managing family expectations and bargain hunting for plane tickets.

      1. MoinMoin

        Agreed. At least 2 months prior- that gives you two weeks to plan before hitting the sweet spot of 6 weeks for travel prices- and even that is cutting close in my opinion.

        1. Is it Friday Yet?

          2 months would be even nicer. In my position, we didn’t get very much time off at the holidays, so plane tickets generally weren’t an issue. Usually it was one day after Christmas or one day before Thanksgiving, etc.

  46. SpaceySteph

    For #2… My oldjob was a 24/7/365 sort with stagnant seniority but they did this well. They asked for people to rank their choices 1/2/3 between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Then they also kept track of who had worked the holidays for the past couple years.
    Someone who was very new and had never worked a holiday before was pretty much guaranteed to get assigned one, but they got the one they most preferred to work. Then they looked for longer timers who hadn’t worked the holidays in a few years (so seniority doesn’t get you off the hook permanently but it does get you some years off) and assigned those by most preferred to work. I worked 3 of the 5 Christmasses I was there for, with Christmas being my preferred holiday to work. I never got assigned a non-preferred holiday, and averaging every other year seems pretty fair to me.

  47. MoinMoin

    #1 The aspect of this I dislike the most is that everyone is paying taxes on their bonuses and then turning around and paying for a tax-free bonus for the boss. In either scenario- the boss is approving the company bonuses or the boss is owner and technically paying for the bonuses- this aspect really doesn’t sit well with me.

  48. Lovemyjob...truly!

    #1 reminds me of a story my mom told me. The company she works for was trying to plan a company event on a scaled back budget. They held a meeting which my mom attended as an admin solely to take minutes – all other attendees were higher ups. The owner of the company states that he wants this to be a smaller event and he names a budget (substantial, but definitely smaller than the previous year). One senior VP pulls out her phone, starts scrolling through photos and says that she just saw this amazing ski resort upstate and they could get rooms for everyone and their families and have a ski weekend. The owner stops her to say that it sounded expensive to send the whole company and their families to a ski resort for a weekend. The senior VP was stunned and says “Oh, I wasn’t thinking about inviting them. Just us here in this room, minus her” and points to my mom.

    To say my mom was pissed would be an understatement of epic proportions. She did say that the owner immediately rejected her idea and stated that they wouldn’t be holding an event of any kind if it wasn’t available for everyone in the company. He also said he wasn’t in the habit of financing his VP’s vacations on the company dime. I know that the VP is no longer there, but I can’t recall how long she was there. My mother loathed her.

      1. Lovemyjob...truly!

        LOL! My response when she called and told me was “Shut up! No she didn’t say that! Did she know people could hear her talking???”

        My mom has a lot of crazy weird stories. She works in the home office for a major senior assisted living facility. She says that when people are asked to visit the communities they’re representing they often ask if they have to do it because “old people freak them out”. That one blows my mind! Why work for a company that supports the elderly if you have no intention of interacting with the elderly!?! She has a story about one woman who was fresh out of college who got fired during a visit to a community because she kept crying when the old people looked at her. Apparently she said that she felt like they were jealous of her good skin. That one also garnered a “SHUT UP! Nu-Uh!?! Tell me that did not really happen!” response from me.

  49. Dust Bunny

    #2: Make sure the same people aren’t getting pick of the holidays off. I don’t mind working Christmas since my family does Christmas at New Year’s, but I used to work a job where a few people always managed to get the same holidays off and the rest of us got stuck. And I got stuck more because I don’t have a husband to accommodate and there are no children in my immediate family; surely I didn’t have anything else I’d rather do than work, right? If Employees A, B, and C get Christmas this year, Employees X, Y, Z, F, and M get first right of refusal next year.

  50. Clever Name

    #4- I normally don’t mind potlucks/competitions/happy hours etc. at my current company. We’re even doing a similar “competitive giving” event this year. However, we can opt-out, and it’s no big deal. (I actually think that this type of event should be opt-in, but I wasn’t asked my opinion.) People shouldn’t have to work from home to avoid the “Office Olympics”.

    I also agree with Alison on the volunteering. If you want people to volunteer, the best incentive is to provide time on the clock to do so. Improving our community is important to my company, and everyone is allotted 2 hours a month paid volunteer time. I usually use it a couple of times a year for stuff at my son’s school, and I’ll be using my December hours to volunteer at the local “Santa Shop” to distribute toys to families in need.

  51. Elizabeth

    My Husband who works for a company with over 200 employees started a voluntary food-drive for the local YMCA Christmas baskets. By the end of the second day of the drive, less food was in the bin than when he started (we put a some of our own donations in the bin to get it started).

    Some companies stink. We’re just hoping it was someone who might have really needed the food that day.

    1. Observer

      It’s quite possible that the food went to someone who really needed it. If you noticed, more than one person mentioned that one of the reasons not to pressure people to give is that you don’t always know whether the people you are pressuring give are people who actually need the services of the organizations you want to give to.

      Unless you know the finances of everyone who works there, don’t make any assumptions about whether people need the food.

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