your workplace holiday disasters

Some of my favorite highlights from last week’s post asking people to share their real-life office-holiday-related debacles:

1. “This year, my HR department sent a mass email about the company holiday luncheon and ugly holiday sweater day. The clipart chosen to decorate this missive was chosen in haste and not closely examined. At first glance, it was a small image of a sweater with a snowman on it. Upon closer examination, though, the snowman had an extra carrot and two extra lumps of coal artfully arranged on its lower half. I did not expect to get snowman dick pics from HR! (In general, we are a sane, appropriate workplace where something like this would never happen on purpose.)”

2. “After having two prizes she liked stolen from her in our office game of Dirty Santa, a coworker happened upon my gift, a piece of novelty soap shaped like a slice of cake. (Not the world’s most inspired gift, but certainly within the bounds of office gift-giving.)

Coworker spent the rest of the lunch muttering things like ‘I don’t want this!’ and ‘what are we going to do about my situation?'”

3. “At my Old Job, my manager decided to give us all presents at Christmas for the first time ever after seeing other managers in our division give their employees small gifts (think gingerbread mix with a gingerbread man cookie cooker or a small cheese/sausage basket). Our gift was a small unbranded cellophane baggie with nine thumbtacks (three each of chartreuse green, bright orange, and fluorescent purple). Huh? Those thumbtacks were the only thing I left on my bulletin board when I departed.”

4. “Our Christmas party planning (once again) ended in tears over an argument about whether body-part-shaped gummy candy was an appropriate table decoration. It was apparently Halloween candy (think bloody zombie arms and legs).

For reasons which I dare not know, there is a small contingent of people in my department who all have strong personalities, strong opinions, and no chill. Everyone hates each other, but they all must be on the various party planning committees. Our fall potluck was simultaneously ‘sports jersey,’ ‘Halloween,’ and ‘Richard Nixon’-themed because I accidentally ended up in charge and did not have the energy to veto anything.”

5. “I was one of about 8 temps at a large company around the holidays. All of us wanted to be hired but there were only 3 positions available. We had been invited to celebrate the holiday with the department. It was a potluck thing, held at lunch, very casual with a Yankee Swap gift exchange. Only one temp participated in the swap. He brought an old, beat up and very well worn Coach bag. It still had its original box and protective bag though so people assumed the best of it. The woman who got it was disappointed when she saw that the leather was ripped, the lining was in shreds and there was even a melted mint inside of it.

Fast forward to about a week later when Yankee Swap temp wasn’t chosen for permanent position (unrelated to gift) and he and 4 others were released from the assignment. He flipped out and wanted his gift back! He made a HUGE scene and had to be escorted to his car. I really think he thought that his gift would buy his way into the job.”

6. “The year the club kid software developer INSISTED on everyone doing tequila shots, like ‘come on bro, it’s not cool if you don’t!’ — he saved his hardest pressure tactics for the CEO, who was like WTF. Same club kid tried getting down and dirty on the dance floor with a female high level exec, and then drunkenly knocked her over onto the floor.”

7. “I once had a coworker who lodged a complaint with her manager’s manager that her manager was making her take her hours to Christmas countdown (yes hours, not days) off a whiteboard that was needed for something else. Wasn’t even like it was the week before Christmas at that point, pretty sure it was at least a month before. She was getting up and changing it a few times a day.”

8. “One time I worked at a government agency where the head of HR was a reformed alcoholic who had found religion and was thus now very religious whilst also being teetotal. Every year before the party we’d get an email about how under employment law the party was an extension of the workplace and bad behaviour would not be tolerated, etc. etc. She wasn’t very well liked in the office for other reasons but no one hated her and often she didn’t come to the parties as she found them too rowdy.

The year her marriage broke up she came and got so drunk at the party she flashed her boobs over the metal railings of this rooftop bar we were at…..and because of the snow/light rain the side of one of her boobs fused to the railing (kinda like if you lick something frozen and your tongue gets stuck!). Seeing her two (female!) HR admins blowing on her boob to release it whilst shielding her modesty with scarves is a sight that will never leave me.”

9. “Years ago at a previous job, I had a horribly incompetent, arrogant boss. We didn’t get holiday bonuses or sent home early. Instead, he would take us out for a mandatory dinner (after work) where our SOs had to pay their own way and we all had to buy our own drinks. He made a huge production out of how awesome he was for buying us dinner and we were expected to fawn over him and tell him how wonderful he was in return. He also would give inappropriate ‘awards’ similar to Michael Scott’s, but this was before the Office was on the air.

To top it all off, we were all expected to pitch in and buy him a present. He would sulk and pout for weeks if he didn’t get one for Christmas and Boss’s Day. However, he would forget what we had given him and before long start talking about this crappy thing that someone had given him and how he had regifted it.”

10. “My company thought it would be cute to hire a Santa to sit at the entryway of the party for photo ops, and people were having a great time taking pictures with Santa. He looked very realistic and never dropped character, which was a little weird but manageable.

Manageable at least until he started hitting up the open bar, then started wandering around our party hitting on the ladies, still in costume and acting in character as Santa! They hired a different Santa next year, with the strict requirement that he NOT drink.”

{ 130 comments… read them below }

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I cannot believe I missed #8 the first time around. There are truly no words to convey my reaction.

      1. Epsilon Delta*

        I often share stories from this blog with my fiance and I can tell he’s playing along but really is thinking “ok here we go again…” Not today! Got a good laugh out of him on #8!

    2. Jess*

      The mental image from #8 is going to stick w/ me for awhile. It’s still cracking me up. Just awesome.

    3. Milton Waddams*

      She was an alcoholic who had done her best to sober up. Chances are when she fell off the wagon it wasn’t just a couple drinks.

      8 is absolutely tragic. An alcoholic who tried to turn her life around, but by being as strict with others as she tried to be with herself alienating everyone around her in the process — losing her spouse, losing her sobriety, and finally becoming a laughingstock. I’d worry about her stepping in front of a moving train… did things improve?

    4. Gaia*

      There is absolutely not enough alcohol in existence that would keep me from dying of humiliation if that was me in 8. I would just leave. And never come back. And leave that job off my resume. WTF.

    5. LSP*

      Yeah. That’s the one that caused me to laugh out loud in my extremely quiet, empty, post-Christmas office.

  1. FD*

    “What are we going to do about my situation?” is probably my favorite in terms of sheer audacity. It’s a gift exchange, not diplomatic negotiations.

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      Yep! I loved this. I would likely conspire with the rest of the team to ensure she got to keep it.

    2. Drew*

      “What ‘situation’ is that? You mean that you got a gift you didn’t like? I guess we could go back to kindergarten and teach you that sometimes you don’t get what you want…”

      This is why I should never be in HR.

      1. Artemesia*

        The odd thing is that while that is not a great gift, it is not beyond the pale either. I always lose the good stuff and end up with something I don’t want in yankee swaps; the earth continues to spin.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          And everyone knows you either trash or donate the bad gift, or store it away to contribute next year.

          My extended family has an annual family reunion where they do the white elephant game, and the same bad gifts show up every year.

          1. Artemesia*

            My SIL’s extended family in England does a huge get together and dirty Santa (I am guessing they don’t call it a Yankee Swap) and it was an odd mix of perfectly good and serious gifts and silly gag gifts. Seemed to work fine — those who got stuck with stupid gag gifts opened them and everyone played with them; those who got nice candies or similar, opened them up and people ate them and someone went home with the nice dish towels.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Damn! I’ve never seen this game played like that. And it should be! A couple I was friends with years ago, used to host Christmas parties with a lot of party games, including this one; but they got a couple of things wrong. Not only did everyone open their gifts on the first round, we were allowed an unlimited number of steals. So the game usually went like that: everyone opens gifts, all ten or twelve people take an intense liking to the same gift, and keep stealing it from one another until the hostess finally says she had enough and the game is over.

            1. drashizu*

              We did a White Elephant gift exchange where everyone had a number, and the gifts were handed out randomly to the people whose numbers were drawn while they were still wrapped.

              Then we played a sort of quiz/numbers game where if you got a question right you could draw a number, and had the option of switching gifts (or not) with the person whose number you drew — still without knowing what you had.

              Then after it was all over we unwrapped gifts & everyone showed what they ended up with. It was actually really fun and involved no hard feelings, since whose number you drew was almost purely random.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, cake soap wouldn’t be all that bad and I could use it. Or re-gift it. Or toss it. Whatever.

          I’ve gotten some things that were one step above trash…honestly I’d rather get a really good gag gift. (Clean please, not like the poor person who got a sex toy in one of the other letters I’ve seen here!)

          1. Maebe*

            I was the only woman working at an office and ended up with anal beads and a book called “so you want to have anal sex” at the Christmas party. It was so weird. The guys had joked about inappropriate gifts, but I didn’t think anyone would since we brought our kids to the party. Clearly I was wrong.

            1. Kyrielle*

              …okay, I would go OFF if I got those at a party with kids. I wouldn’t be happy to get them in any party, let alone a workplace party, but a party with *kids*?

              So many shades of oh heck no.

    3. Rob Lowe can't read*

      Seriously. OP #2, I’m sorry if this situation made you feel bad in any way, but your story is hilarious.

    4. Mookie*

      I have literally been unable to forget this for more than ten or fifteen waking minutes since I first read it. People are complaining that I’ve told them it half a dozen times already, and in different accents (“sit-chee-ayshun” is a crowd favorite). I love and cherish “what are we going to do about my situation” and, if I were to have a tombstone, I would want this on it (and a handful of pepperoni). Like, “dead here. Let’s negotiate a compromise. I suggest zombiehood under the following conditions…”

    5. Liane*

      Rereading this post today, and I now know what to do about her situation–set her up with Trashed Coach Bag Guy!

    6. MashaKasha*

      Having a bar of soap in your possession is definitely an awful situation that needs to be addressed immediately. She can send the soap bar to me if that helps.

        1. Artemesia*

          I live in Chicago. It isn’t the freezing part that is hard to believe it is the whole package as it were. If it happened it is actually kind of tragic (though hilarious if you aren’t the poor crashing alcoholic).

          1. Tuesday*

            I’m investing WAY too much thought into this, but I found that one a little dubious, too, for various reasons. If it’s warm enough to be a rain/snow mix, is it really cold enough for a non-mucous-membrane body part to freeze to a railing? Could the HR admins really not think of a better way to remedy the situation? And who picks a rooftop bar for a Christmas party in a climate where it gets cold enough to snow (and freeze body parts) in December?

            So now I’ve spent my evening thinking, “What would I do if my boob was frozen to a metal rail?” This is a magical Christmas, indeed.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It is! You can get stuck to something even if the temperature is above freezing, although it’s a little harder to do without moisture acting as a binding agent. My impression is that the surface temp of a metal surface can often be colder than the air temperature. (Let’s just say I have seen too many body parts attach themselves to metal railings/posts when the weather was in the 40s).

              What seems to make a tongue stick is your saliva freezing and adhering to a rough/porous surface (your tongue); I imagine that any body moisture from other, once covered areas (underboob) could create similarly effective adhering conditions?

              1. Red*

                This is a rather gross contribution on my part, but boob sweat is a thing. There absolutely could have been moisture involved.

            2. SystemLady*

              Absolutely possible, especially in the Midwest, where it can be three temperatures at once depending on the wind level (it’s not just the forced wet convection, I swear), and cold and drunk is a common pastime.

              That weather’s also extremely dangerous to walk in. So much so I’m surprised the story isn’t that she tripped, her boobs landing on the railing and saving her a sprained wrist.

              (Merry abnormally warm Christmas to people who were also in the Midwest, glad to have been visiting and not hilariously slipping on icy weather)

      1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

        Eh, I gave myself a mild case of frostbite by putting a wet ice pack directly on my skin. The physics of #8 are believable.

    1. MWKate*

      I didn’t submit this – but it’s my workplace. Now I want to creep around seeing who else is reading and commenting on AAM.

  2. WellRed*

    I only logged on to AAM out of habit. I never expected the glorious gift of snowman dick pix and frozen boobs! A merry Christmas indeed!

    1. SC Anonibrarian*

      “God bless us, every one!” ;) Same here, I wasn’t even really expecting a post, and I get this glorious read!

    2. Anna*

      Same here! Waiting for my family to get themselves organized so we can open presents, and I am sitting here trying not to laugh because I don’t want to scandalize them with frozen boobs and snowman dick pics!! Lolololol!

    3. Artemesia*

      Me too. I figured hey it is Christmas morning, my cooking projects are under way, the stockings are filled awaiting the family — I’ll just dial up AAM — not expecting anything new. The boob and the railing is the most hilarious thing I have ever read.

    4. Mary V.*

      Oh yes, I loved the snowman dick pic story! In former “Dysfunctional Company”, someone from senior management would then send out a global email after like 6 hours and say something like “please do not open the email entitled ‘Ugly Holiday Sweater Day’ as it has been deemed malware by IT”. Malware indeed.

  3. neverjaunty*

    “Snowman Dick Pics” is going to be the name of my new thrashcore band.

    Also, mad props to #10’s Santa for staying in character.

    1. Mookie*

      I hope his unsolicited pick-up lines were jocular rather than creepy, although I can only think of the creepy possibilities: “ho, ho, HO?” and variations on the “Christmas” and “coming once a year” gag.

  4. K.*

    The boob story is my favorite. If that were me, once freed I’d put my shirt on, get in my car, drive off into the night and never return.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      It’s hilarious but I can help feeling sorry for the poor woman being so distraught at the breakdown of her marriage that she hit the liquor like that.

      1. Trillian*

        Since she was a non-drinker, it was probably a matter of the liquor hitting her. It may not have been that much.

        1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          If she was a former alcoholic falling off the wagon publicly like that she probably drank like she did before she was sober. I feel so sorry for that woman.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I had the same initial reaction, but after giving it a bit of thought I guesstimated that it was something like what Franzia Spritzer said.

    2. Elizabeth H.* Kids – the ‘official’ social movement of club kids, it was a New York City scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but now it’s kind of a catch all term for someone who is really into identifying with the “party scene” in a kind of immature way.

  5. Tim Tam Girl*

    ‘What are we going to do about my situation?’ is quite possibly the only good memory I’ll be taking with me out of 2016.

    1. Artemesia*

      But what ARE we going to be doing about our situation. (my daughter hand made dumpster fire ornaments to give people to commemorate 2016)

        1. Zombii*

          Handmade 2016 dumpster fire ornaments are a thing that’s going around on the internet right now. Google them, they’re adorable. :)

    2. Candi*

      There’s always Tim Tam Slams for comfort.

      (If y’all don’t know what that it, search it -you’re missing out!)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It sounds a little closer to the abject despair of a very distraught human :(

  6. Rob Lowe can't read*

    Honestly, the fall potluck at OP #4’s office sounds like a perfect storm of ridiculousness. I’d attend just to see what that actually looked like.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          You don’t. You bring something store-bought and tell everyone, “I am not a cook.”

          I’ll see myself out.

          1. Jean*

            Never mind my recipe. Yours is better.
            I’ll stop now before I get political. (I was raised by parents who are–massive understatement–_not_ Nixon fans.)

        2. Jean*

          Or you could bring in a dish of cottage cheese and ketchup just like RMN would eat for lunch.
          I tried it once. Good for the first mouthful, then blecchh!

          1. drashizu*

            Eurgh… I don’t get grossed out by most weird food combos, but I’m firmly of the opinion that ketchup should not be eaten with most things.

        3. Liane*

          Maybe something with all-organic ingredients? Some longstanding environmental legislation was first promulgated during his terms.

      1. SystemLady*

        How dare A Unique Idea That Popped Into MY Head be disrespected! Is about the image I’m getting.

        (I’m sure everybody has…ideas like this pop into their head every once in a while, I know I do. Blurting them out then passionately defending them, that’s another story!)

    1. aeldest*

      This is how I imagined the Nixon/Jersey/Halloween planning meeting.

      Cast of characters: Gretchen (OP #4), Jimmy, Vernon, and Lindsay.

      Gretchen: Okay, so what do we want to do for the Halloween potluck this year?

      Lindsay: I’d just like to say that I don’t think we should be having a Halloween party. It’s a pagan holiday. We should have a fall harvest potluck.

      Vernon: But with a sports theme, so we can all wear jerseys to work!

      Jimmy: A sports party? Pshhh, might as well have a Richard Nixon themed party! Why people insist on following and idolizing vulgar displays of physical prowess, I’ll never understand.

      Gretchen: I think we’re getting a little off track here. How about if we have a Halloween potluck, but people can dress up in jerseys for their costumes if they’d like?

      Jimmy: Are you kidding me? You’re actually entertaining this moron’s idea? His suggestion has no more merit than mine! You know what, I move that we SHOULD have a Richard Nixon themed potluck!

      Lindsay: I’ll second that, if it means it won’t be Halloween themed!

      [2 hours of bickering later]

      Gretchen: Fine. I wash my hands of this.

  7. Christmas Boobs > Hanukkah Balls*

    Looks like the story of Hanukkah balls has been replaced as the top holiday disaster of all time!

    1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      Did everyone get the same colors? If so, I’m loving the image of making up those baggies so meticulously.

  8. kimberly*

    #8 reminded me of a something that happened to a Kindergarten teacher at my school. One of her kids gave her a purse that looked like a woman’s breast. She thanks the child and puts it back in the bag so it will stay safe and be easy to carry out. She did warn the principal.

    When we came back from break, the school voicemail, teacher’s email, and principal’s email was full of complaints from two households (Moms were sisters) that got more and more hysterical because their complaints weren’t answered during break. They get handled diplomatically (it was out of the teacher’s control, handled quickly and quietly, we don’t check e-mail/voicemail over the holiday). Then a week later the parents who bought the purse (because 5 yo rarely do their own shopping) to start complaining that the teacher was insulting the child because she wasn’t using it daily – in a Kindergarten classroom.

    1. Tuesday*

      Did the complaining parents think the teacher had intentionally showcased a boob-purse in front of her Kindergarten class? And were the parents who bought the thing completely oblivious to what it was?

      1. SystemLady*

        Maybe she’s an advocate for breastfeeding rights and happens to also be really, really misguided??

      2. SusanIvanova*

        I feel sorry for the kids whose moms freaked out. I doubt they came home shouting “Teacher got a purse that looked like a boobie!” and even if they did mix that into the babble of “what did you do today?” most parents would think the kids had an active imagination, and at most it was vaguely boobie-shaped. Did these parents hear that and grill the kids for details?

    2. Zombii*

      I am stuck on “looked like a woman’s breast.” Um. How “looked like”/intentional vs incidental? (Blame this on the fact that I have spent too much time on Etsy falling down the rabbit hole of meticulously crocheted anatomical-themed accessories.)

    3. Observer*

      What?! The sisters who complained are a bit nuts, but the parents who bought this things are just on another planet. Poor kid!

  9. Lissa*

    I was so entertained by this that I had to go back and read the original thread! I want updates on so many of those situations. Like the gay commenter who was harassed when he showed up with his husband but they were making him go anyway — UGH. And on a lighter note the one about the intern who got super drunk, behaved inappropriately and then almost got dropped off in the wrong apartment — did he come to this year’s party? did he drink again? I want to know!

    (was nice for this non-Christmas celebrator to have something fun to read today, too! Thanks Alison.)

  10. Dr. Doll*

    After reading all of these I am feeling a little better about my utter lack of interest in planning holiday anything for my team. (I do treat us all to lunch or drinks a few times a year after big pushes.)

  11. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

    My heart…actually gasping for breath over the thumbtacks in a baggie…just,what??

      1. Mookie*

        The only related food-item I can think of is pot-infused Hello Dolly bars from the film Dick. A more general “presidential” one would be interesting, though: pretzels, Billy Beer, pizza served with a knife and fork, really huge taco salads, turnip (for what), Mary Todd Lincoln cake, potatoe.

  12. SadieMae*

    The HR admins in #8 really went above and beyond the call of duty. I think they should get to list their help as an accomplishment on future resumes. They could make it sound nice and professional: “Removed extraneous tissues from building structure, utilizing a self-generated application of warmed carbon dioxide.”

  13. Carynz*

    They make me think of one year at Very Old Job where an executive dressed like Santa and wanted female employees to SIT ON HIS LAP to get their Christmas bonus checks. OMG.

  14. The Rat-Catcher*

    I’m a year late, but….

    “Our fall potluck was simultaneously ‘sports jersey,’ ‘Halloween,’ and ‘Richard Nixon’-themed because I accidentally ended up in charge and did not have the energy to veto anything.”

    BRB dying

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