should I tell my coworkers I have hemorrhoids, all my interviewers were running late, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I tell my coworkers I have hemorrhoids?

This is a little gross, but something that would be really helpful to have some advice on. I have been in my role as an administrative assistant for about two years now. Around the time I started this job, I developed hemorrhoids (or more precisely, piles, as we all have hemorrhoids).

I called out sick eight or nine times the first year I worked here. It felt like a lot. The first few times I was out, people asked if I was feeling alright and were concerned. I always said I had a stomach bug, because I was obviously not sick with a cough/cold. As the year went on, people stopped asking me if I was feeling better, or smiled when they asked if I was feeling better. I imagine they thought I was playing hooky.

The issue I have cannot be fixed with surgery. I have really worked on my diet and as a result, have a lot less issues with my condition. I have only called out once in the past 4 months as a result of the condition. My question to you is, should I share my condition with coworkers? I have always been on the fence about how much I want to keep this to myself and how much I care about my reputation.

There is one other person in the office who calls out as much as I did the first year, but she has a condition that is less embarrassing/gross, and so we all know why she is out when she is out. I also want my manager to know why I called out so much that first year, in case I do decide to look for a new job in the future. I don’t want them to think I am a bad employee. What do you think about this?

Sharing that you’re dealing with hemorrhoids would be TMI, but I do think you could mention that you have a chronic health condition. The next time you’re out sick, you could say something like, “I have a chronic health condition that’s flaring up” or you could mention it in conversation another way. That’s the piece that people need to know, not the specifics of what the condition is.

In addition to that, if you wanted to, you could say something less off-the-cuff to your boss. For example: “I know I called out more than average in my first year here. I have a chronic health condition that was flaring up a lot that year. It’s now better under control, and I wanted to mention it so that you didn’t wonder why I was out so much previously. Going forward, I’m hoping that it won’t be an issue at all.” I don’t think you have to do this since it sounds like your absences have gone way down, but it’s an option if it would give you some peace of mind.

2. Is it a red flag if all your interviewers are running late?

I recently had three interviews with a company that I was very excited about, until the actual interview process. The first interview was on a Monday and by phone. They had instructed me that they would conference call me and asked for a number to reach me. They were 23 minutes late to call. I had planned this interview during my lunch break so that I could take the call away from my office and sat in my car waiting. At 20 minutes, I decided to give them another five and then call it good, but they made it within my additional five minute allowance. They apologized profusely saying a meeting ran late, so I let it go (we’ve all been there, meeting runs late and you know someone is waiting for you but the time to get up and walk out is not appropriate).

After the phone interview, I was invited to an in-person interview to be conducted by one of the phone interviewers and two other team members. They told me to plan for 1.5 hours – I was there for 2.5 hours because they were 45 minutes late to start. I sat in the conference room waiting that entire 45 minutes without anyone coming to check on me or ask me if I needed water or the restroom. There was no excuse when they finally arrived and they dove right in without again checking in on my wait. This to me was a bit of a red flag, two interviews and late – but I again put it aside just thinking perhaps the lateness is the one person who was present for both interviews. I wouldn’t be working with that person on a daily basis, so dropped it.

They asked me to come back for a “final” interview with three new people who I had not yet met, these being higher in rank, and informed me that I would have one hour with each – again, late. The first person was 10 minutes late, the second 15 minutes late, and the third 30 minutes late (this is on top of the lateness from the previous interview). The third one was the only one to offer an excuse and told me she needed to eat her lunch prior to meeting me because she wouldn’t have time after and had an afternoon full of important meetings that she needed to be on time to. What??? The meeting she had with me wasn’t important enough to be on time?

It really felt as though they did not see me as a priority – until they made an offer yesterday. I’m not sure how I feel about being there now. The interviews went fine and the job would be an advance from what I am doing now, but I’m just not sure – the interview process was a bit of downer. Are late interview starts a new trend? I’ve been at my current job for eight years, so maybe I am missing something.

Ten minutes, even 15 minutes late isn’t a big deal in this context. Annoying, yes, but not something I’d read much into, definitely not enough to turn down an offer over. The reality is that things sometimes run late, and interviews are widely treated as something people can be a little late to. That’s a double standard, yes, but it’s one that’s widely accepted. (And actually, in that day of three interviews, once the first person was late, it’s more understandable that the others were late too — they presumably plugged something else into the original time they’d planned for you, and weren’t sure when you’d be finished with the previous person and available for them. When that third person’s slot got bumped back, it’s very possible that it really did mess up her only ability to eat for the day.)

But the longer waits and the lack of any acknowledgement or apology would worry me more. Still not necessarily enough to turn down the offer over, but I’d take it as a flag to look really hard at what else you’ve learned about their culture and ways of operating. Have you seen evidence that aside from this, they’re really on top of things and operating at a high level? Or have you seen other evidence of disorganization/flakiness? Put this in the context of everything else you know, rather than in a vacuum.

3. My coworker got drunk and couldn’t work

I work in the guiding/outdoors industry. Part of my job is to take people out for recreational purposes, mostly hiking and camping. Most clients/participants bring alcohol to have around the campfire and we all take part on a drink or two.

My coworker is not a morning person and often times he gets up late, but it hasn’t been a big deal. Except for this last time where he was up until 2 a.m. drinking with one of the participants and they got severely intoxicated. I woke up early and made breakfast for everybody, but my partner didn’t get up in time to be ready to continue the trip, so I woke him up and since it was the last day of our trip, asked him to clean up camp and head out to the office.

I hate to be the bad guy, but I had to report his behavior and I think he might get fired. Did I do the right thing? I had talked to him already about getting up early and that didn’t change, so I brought it to my supervisor and they had a talk. I feel like his behavior was unacceptable and that even if you are off the clock, you are still responsible for your participants. Even if you want to drink, I feel like you are expected to show up in a timely manner and be functional. I really love the kid (he is 10 years junior than me) but is this tough love? Was I too harsh?

You did the right thing. Drinking so much that he couldn’t get up in time to continue the trip when his job is to be a trip guide is a really serious dereliction of duty. There’s not much that’s a more basic requirement than “be present and lucid when your job requires you to guide a group of people in the outdoors.”

If he gets fired, that’s a sign of how seriously the company takes this too — in which case not reporting it would have reflected really poorly on you if they ever found out about it. And if he does get fired, keep in mind that you didn’t get him fired; he did.

4. How to deal with coworkers who are annoying about Christmas

Through no fault of my own, I am serving a term on our organization’s Social Committee. It’s time to organize the annual “holiday” party, and it’s not sitting right with me. I could use some perspective!

In the first planning meeting, while discussing dates, I suggested we hold it in January, as people tend to have more free time then, plus “it’s less alienating for people who don’t celebrate Christmas.” That suggestion was quickly shot down.

The rest of the meeting was full of phrases like “Let’s go traditional with the food, since I like a traditional Christmas, I mean holiday” and “Oh we can’t do that because Christmas offends some people.”

I celebrate Christmas! I like Christmas! But I feel weird about celebrating Christmas at work. Not everyone celebrates, some people prefer to celebrate somberly or privately, and for some people, the last few months of the year in general bring up painful memories.

It really rubs me the wrong way that an event ostensibly organized as something fun for all employees can actually be a source of unhappiness and exclusion for anyone who doesn’t adhere to a particular (religious) custom. Is there anything I can do to promote a spirit of inclusion or is this just something we’re stuck with in modern-day America?

Ick, yeah. If you’re up for it, I would say this: “If we truly value a diverse staff and an inclusive workplace, this is the kind of thing that matters. No one here has said that Christmas offends people. The issue is that acting as if everyone celebrates Christmas can alienate people and make them feel invisible, and that’s at odds with our commitment to diversity and inclusivity. That’s it. Let’s please not set up straw men that aren’t actually in play here.”

5. I told my interviewer I have strep and he said to come in anyway

I have an interview in two hours. I was very excited about it. But I got strep throat. I contacted them first thing this morning and told them I was sick and asked to please reschedule, as I did not want to get anyone sick. He replied, “Just come at noon. There won’t be as many people here.” I was so shocked, I agreed. But I look like hell, and my head feels like a balloon. I can barely think or talk? What now?

Yeah, that’s not good. It sounds like he took you literally when you said you didn’t want to get anyone sick, rather than realizing that the subtext there was “I am too sick to come in regardless.” Ideally you would have corrected that impression on the spot and said something like, “With strep, I’m really too ill to come in at all today. Would you be open to rescheduling in a few days?”

But it’s not too late! Well, technically it is for you because now it’s been a few days, but in general in this situation it’s not too late, which hopefully will be helpful to anyone in this situation in the future: In this situation, you can call back and say, “I’m so sorry, but I’ve realized I’m too ill to come in today — germs aside, I feel very sick. Would you be open to rescheduling in a few days to give me some time to recover?”

{ 377 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, definitely go with “chronic health condition.” You can even say it’s generally well-managed but that it sometimes results in “flare ups” (you don’t have to, but you can in light of your concerns re: year 1 absences v. year 2 absences). Please oh please don’t tell your coworkers that you have hemorrhoids.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Here’s what I don’t get: won’t saying this now make the manager and everyone else realise ‘stomach bug’ was a lie?

      1. Not Australian*

        I’m not sure that’s actually ‘a lie’. Okay, piles and a stomach bug aren’t the same thing – but unless the employer’s being really pedantic (and if so there are other factors in play) they should accept that the LW just didn’t want to go into detail about their condition. That’s not a lie, that’s discretion – and it’s got to be better than oversharing about medical stuff.

      2. PollyQ*

        Not necessarily. First, they may not have been paying that much attention, and second, it can be passed off as a late diagnosis, i.e., she thought they were stomach bugs, but because of frequency, it turned out she has “chronic condition.”

        But mostly the first, I think.

        1. Gen*

          Yes that’s what I’d expect, especially since it’s been improving in terms of attendance people will likely think it’s been recognised and treated, if they remember at all. If the boss keeps a record of sick day reasons it might be worth mentioning it’s a chronic issue specifically but chances are they don’t.

        2. Myrin*

          Yeah, I think people in general vastly over-estimate how interested others are in the minutiae of their personal business – which makes sense since everyone is the centre of their own universe and also because even if there’s just a single person who obsessively catalogues everything about others they can find, that will overshadow everything else. But generally, I’d say people just don’t care that much.

        3. Triplestep*

          Yes, this. Frequent stomach bugs could be explained later as something that turned out to be chronic, with the added benefit that others really do not even want all the details!

          OP#1, I recently changed my diet to reduce inflammation, and people at work were more interested in what I was eating than why I was eating it. I think when people see you taking steps to resolve a health issue through diet (especially if you’re explaining it as a chronic digestive issue) they’ll attribute this to the earlier absenses if they stop to think about it at all.

        4. peachie*

          People with chronic conditions get stomach bugs. And colds. And health crises totally unrelated to their chronic condition.

          I have a chronic condition for which I once took FMLA and earlier this year I had a totally unrelated situation where I went temporarily blind and had to get surgery, but I also sometimes get a nasty cold or food poisoning or what have you just like anyone else. I’m glad my supervisor is so understanding about it, but it’s frustrating that I don’t really “get” to be sick because… I’ve used up my quota, I guess? (I WISH it worked like that!)

      3. FiveWheels*

        No – plenty of stomach bugs could be recurring. Also “stomach bug” is a standard way to describe any digestive system problem. People understand that and as a rule really don’t want to know details.

        1. Bookworm*

          Yeah. In fact, given that ‘stomach bug’ tends to cover all sorts of toilet-related unpleasantness, AND a number of digestive issues are chronic, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of OP’s colleagues already assumed that she has a chronic issue.

          1. Overeducated*

            For 8-9 absences over a year, I wouldn’t even assume that. My kid started day care last year and we were sick with random colds and stomach bugs for at least that many days. Somehow managed to only take 3 days SL, some telework, and some going to work when I shouldn’t have, but I wouldn’t even think twice about the LW being sick 8 days a year.

          2. Important Moi*

            With regard to 8 or 9 absences not being noticed, I think it depends on where you work. Here at my teapot place, folks have noticed I’m rarely sick, so much so that a few colleagues have suggested I take a sick day here and there just because.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              It probably also depends on how much sick time you get. My old job gave us 5 days — if you took 8 or 9, you’d have to use PTO, and it would definitely be noticed.

              People there also gossiped incessantly about each other and how much work everyone was doing or not doing. If that’s the OP’s workplace, people have noticed.

              Doesn’t mean Boss cares, or that OP should feel the need to justify to all her coworkers by spilling her medical history. Continuing to have better attendance will probably improve her optics with all but the grumpiest coworkers.

        2. Indoor Cat*

          Yep. To me, I hear “stomach bug” and assume “vomiting or diarrhea.” I don’t actually want the mental image of someone I know puking or pooping uncontrollably, and since the phrase stomach bug seems to relay that information without conjuring that image, it works well in my book.

      4. TL -*

        I think a lot of people would put stomach bug + vague medical condition together and come up with either embarrassing or none of my business, assuming the OP has an otherwise good reputation.

        1. OP1*

          I do have a good reputation otherwise. I think I will take Alison’s advice and give a more detailed but still vague explanation to my manager the next time I am out due to this/if I am out again due to this.

          1. TootsNYC*

            If you want a touch more detail, you can say, “It’s intestinal.” That’s automatically something people don’t want to know more about.

            But it’s nicely vague, and they can imagine that it’s just ulcers or something.

            Or for a somehow-less-gross-seeming, “It’s gastro-intestinal.” Somehow, including the “gastro” makes it seem more “innards” and less “poopy.”

          2. Turquoisecow*

            If you have a yearly performance review type thing, it might be worth it to mention then. Even though attendance shouldn’t be a factor, it might be worth it to say something to your boss at that point like “thanks for being understanding while I worked on some medical issues last year. I just want to assure you that I’ve got it better under control.” If you’re comfortable with your boss, you can give more detail, but I don’t think you have to.

      5. PB*

        I think there’s a difference between calling out sick with a legitimate medical issue and saying it’s a “stomach bug” versus calling out hung-over and calling it a “stomach bug.” Also, OP’s problem is still gastro-intestinal, so “stomach bug” is still fairly close, without straying into TMI territory. And, as others have pointed out, lots of stomach issues can be recurring. I know people who’ve thought they had an upset stomach, and were later diagnosed with ulcers.

      6. Temperance*

        I don’t think so. I caught norovirus at a work event, and I have chronic migraines and endometriosis that lead me to call off of work occasionally. Even people with chronic conditions can catch a garden-variety illness.

        1. starsaphire*

          This, absolutely.

          I really hope people keep using euphemisms for this stuff, tbh. I have no problem interpreting “tummy bug” or “stomach flu” or “might be food poisoning” as “something better not described.” I don’t ever want to know any more about it than that.

          I also have no issue with “lady stuff” or “girl problems” as a general medical catch-all term either, fwiw. I don’t want to know or even imagine any more than that.

        2. LizB*

          Yep, and I’d be grateful that OP1 was thoughtful enough to spare me the details. I don’t care about the fact that it’s technically a lie if it a) has no negative consequences and b) lets me avoid hearing a play-by-play of someone’s unfortunate bathroom adventures.

        3. Harriet*

          Totally agree with this. I have celiac and called out once this year after being accidentally glutened, and I gave the reason as something vague along the lines of ‘stomach issues’. I have been unlucky with illness this year and that was my 4th day off, over 4 separate occasions, which triggered HR asking for a sickness review meeting which I had to provide a written statement for. I gave a detailed appraisal in it of exactly what happens when glutened (I stuck to the facts, but it was definitely what I’d normally consider TMI).

          My manager was very much in my court that she didn’t consider there to be any problem with my attendance. And HR haven’t bothered me since the list of symptoms that made me unable to come into work…

      7. Specialk9*

        Not at all. OP has the right to medical privacy.

        And when one is talking about problems in one’s nether regions especially, a discreet euphemism is both appropriate and appreciated. “I have blood and agony when I poop, and bits of my anal walls protrude through the anal sphincter” (or whatever) is so not office appropriate. “The lining of my uterus grew through the muscle and attached itself to other internal organs so now my period is heavy as an Amazon waterfall and excruciating” is also TMI at work.

        1. Life is Good*

          This cracks me up. Too bad some people in offices really will discuss their “medical issues” in such gory detail. Yuk.

      8. Lindsay J*

        I mean I can certainly see someone with something like Chrones or IBS or similar calling their condition a “stomach bug” if they did not want to disclose the fact that they have a chronic illness. To me, stomach bug conveys “I am spending a lot of time in the bathroom and it is unpleasant and I am unable to work like this” vs being an actual medical diagnosis.

        So I generally would not assume that she was lying. Just that she didn’t want to disclose that it was a chronic condition at the time. Or that she were in the process of getting diagnosed initially and thought she had a stomach bug at the time until they became more frequent or other symptoms cropped up leading to a diagnosis.

      9. Samiratou*

        Not necessarily. I think the use of “chronic condition” with “flare-up” and maybe a vague gesturing at the midsection might have people thinking something like Chrons or IBS or similar. I know I would say “Ah, I’m glad to hear it’s under better control now!” and change the subject because who really wants to hear about a coworker’s bowel troubles anymore than they would piles?

      10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think so. Why would it be automatically assumed to be a lie? Certainly folks with chronic illness “flare ups” also might come down with stomach bugs as well (and that doesn’t include all the chronic illnesses that can manifest with GI/stomach problems).

      11. Wintermute*

        what’s to say a chronic condition didn’t cause a stomach problem? I’d just assume they told me about the symptoms not the cause, that they have gallbladder trouble or Chrons Disease or any number of other medical conditions that can cause you stomach problems.

        I’m going to take people at their word, I’m not at work to play poopie police.

    2. Kyrielle*

      #1 – yes. And you can probably add, “chronic GI health issue” – if you’re worried they’ll think ‘stomach bug’ was a lie, that plus the now under control may lead them to assume you didn’t fully know what was going on and what was needed at first. (Hemorrhoids happen in part of the GI system, even though they’re not what most people are going to think of. And I promise you, no one wants to know details about GI issues.)

    3. Smiling*

      Just curious…would most companies just accept “chronic health condition”?

      I’ve worked in the same small business for a few years and the bosses always seem to want more details. In fact, one of the bosses will often ask what the symptoms are (especially if they cause recurring days off from work) and then suggest alternative medicines to deal with the issue on a long term basis.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        People sometimes feel like they have to explain just how ill they are in order to justify not coming to work, when – if your boss treats you like a functional adult – they really don’t need that detail because it makes no material difference*. If you’re not going to work, they need to know to arrange coverage or whatever, but WHY you’re not there (in the detailed which-end-is-it-coming-out-of sense) has nothing to do with anything.

        And suggesting ANY kind of medical advice to your employees when you’re not their actual physician is WAY out of line and many kinds of inappropriate!

        *I used to over explain, now I just text/email my boss a general ‘feel awful, not coming in’ and get a ‘k, feel better’ response in turn.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        Ugh no coffee yet, brain only half awake.

        If you look through Alison’s archives, there are probably lots of examples of wording she’s provided to others in re: intrusive bosses and wording on how to at least try to get around providing info that makes you uncomfortable to share (which is, frankly, a red flag – your medical history is not your employer’s business – even if your company was large enough for FMLA to apply, it doesn’t usually provide much detail on what the applicable condition is, just that a doctor confirms it exists).

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I suspect you may be suffering from “working at a small business” syndrome or “nosy boss-itis.”

        There are definitely bosses who are overly intrusive. But most employers should accept “chronic health condition” without grilling you. I’m sorry your boss is a dip about this. If my boss grilled me on my symptoms and suggested alternative medicines I would want to punch them in the face.

        1. Mabel*

          I have therapy every other week, and when I got a new boss, I had to ask for the time off. I didn’t want to go into details, but she asked – I forget exactly what she said – but she was concerned, not nosy. I said something similar to what Alison said, but it was much more awkward. I’m glad to have Alison’s wording for this sort of thing.

          1. Mabel*

            P. S. I’ve had hemorrhoids that were so painful, they kept me up at night, and I had to get lidocaine gel from my doctor. I hope the OP continues to feel better!

    4. Jade*

      Yes I second this. I worked with a supervisor who had a GI problem that she freely and frequently talked about, and I was icked out every time. Every time she brought it up, all I could think about was her on the toilet. TMI.

    5. Give Me Lidocaine*

      Haha, whoops, I once told my supervisor I had chronic hemorrhoids. Like OP#1, I was out or working from home (from the “bed desk”) so often that I felt I needed to explain why. I suppose, in retrospect, I didn’t need to name the condition. I also told a few friends in order to explain why I kept blowing them off (it’s not that I don’t like you! I just can’t move my body today!!) Everyone I told definitely reacted like, “ugh, TMI,” but without the explanation (or with a vague explanation) they seemed to assume I was lying.

      Having a condition that is embarrassing or taboo to talk about makes you feel so alienated and disconnected from people. I know that some people were grossed out by hearing the word “hemorrhoids,” but just saying it made me feel liberated in a weird way. Like, the taboo didn’t have power over me. I have a human body; so what?? However, I can see the argument that “hemorrhoid pride” should maybe be limited to my personal life, not the workplace.

      I later ended up adapting something like Alison’s advice when I ended up being out for 2 weeks following surgery. Since my supervisor already knew what was going on I noted that my surgery would hopefully resolve the issue (yay, so far it has!) With coworkers, I simply said, “I’m having minor surgery. I’m fine, just something I need to take care of.” I was proud of myself because when one coworker asked “Can I ask what for?” I said, “Actually, I’d prefer to keep that private.” It felt all kinds of wrong but it went over fine. Boundaries!

  2. AcademiaNut*

    I will say that I think having the holiday party in January is a brilliant idea. Even if you like office holiday parties and your employer holds a good one, December can get so insanely busy that it becomes a burden rather than a treat.

    1. Al Lo*

      The board of directors of my (non-profit) org hosts a holiday lunch for the staff every year… in January. We have a ton of programming in December and usually manage to do a staff potluck lunch together in December, but it’s nice to do our fancier holiday lunch (which is always really delicious) after the busyness.

      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        We do a Welcome to the New Year potluck on the first Friday after New Years Day. I like it because most people are in the office and it give a break from the post holiday catch up. Rumor has it that the tradition started because trying to do it in December was too hard to schedule.

        1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          I like the “Welcome to the New Year” idea. Every one has to deal with the new year in place and this a great way to start the year off. :)

          My previous company did their celebration in January because scheduling it in December was so hard (and expensive!). We all liked it because it was bright spot in a pretty boring month. One year we had a new manager who really wanted to move it to mid-December. The push back she got on that was so intense we kept it in January.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Oh yes on the expensive–if you have it at a venue rather than doing it at the office, it may cost more during the actual holiday season. That’s a very good consideration.

        2. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

          A New Year party sounded like a great idea to me. Maybe next year I will have built enough capital to suggest changing the date in enough time for people to absorb the idea (and will have all these success stories to add to my arsenal.)

    2. Engineer Girl*

      One of the associations I belong to does this. The party is so much more relaxed because people are relaxed. December is too overscheduled!

    3. Lizard*

      My husband’s former employer used to hold their “holiday” party in March, when they could get really good rates at event spaces. Knowing those folks, I’m sure it was much more about finances than diversity, but somehow I felt much less resentful about eating rubber chicken in March than I would have if I’d had to turn down other invitations to go to it during December.

      1. Bookworm*

        My former employer also used to do a January one, because we could get more bang for our buck and people were less likely to skip.

        It was great, I’m surprised it’s not more common.

    4. Desdemona*

      I realize my situation is a little different, but celebrating in January allows Christians whose religion regards the run-up to Christmas as a small Lent to participate, too. I’m no longer observant, but back when I was, and working for a company that all but took attendance at company parties, it was super uncomfortable for me to be celebrating during Advent. I made the mistake one year of suggesting having the party early in the new year, and at Easter, people were still taking pot shots at me for trying to impose my religion on everyone else, just for floating the idea. I had thought they’d appreciate that anyway, since it’s difficult to find a weekend when everyone is available during the month of December.

      1. Tau*

        Ugh, I’m sorry your coworkers were asses about that. The fact that not everyone who does celebrate Christmas celebrates the same way is also something that often gets missed with these things.

        1. Fiennes*

          “You want to move the party? You’re part of the ‘War on Christmas’!”

          “Um, actually I’m genuinely treating Christmas as a time of religious piety.”


          1. Specialk9*

            I don’t think there’s any way the win with people making aggressive ‘jokes’ about the war on Christmas, like this OP writes about.

            It’s the Schrödinger’s Cat of Christian Persecution in the West: simultaneously the most powerful political bloc by far, AND under constant persecution by the more powerful. It’s a lovingly nursed resentment, petted and crooned to daily, away from the light of reality.

            Though it’s such utterly human behavior that I imagine that swapping out the majority religion with any other religion would have the same results.

            1. AJ*

              Thing is though, the claim of “religious persecution” works. Some religions started with the persecution but it’s pretty universal across all of them now, simply because claiming it (in Western countries anyway) gets you special privileges and you can ignore certain laws.

    5. Tau*

      My old company used to have a New Year’s party in mid-January. It was fantastic – as you say, December is usually really busy anyway, but after a few weeks of work in January I found myself missing the holiday season and welcoming another event. And I’m someone who celebrates Christmas and enjoys office holiday parties.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        My company has held a Christmas Party in January before. I suggested that it was an orthodox Christmas party! Seriously though, the end of the year is a busy time, with work needing to be done before 31st December and whatever personal festivities there are. Plus, January is likely to be cheaper for an event.

        1. Not Australian*

          OTOH we once had a Christmas meal in early February – to accommodate a manager who had been in hospital over Christmas (our idea, not his) – and it fell very flat; it was a dreary time of year, and without the Christmas trimmings (crackers, decorations, cheesy music) it was just an ordinary meal out. Not an experiment to be repeated!

          1. eplawyer*

            See I would be excited for a party in February. By February I am so sick of winter I break out my robin egg’s blue linen suit just to give me some hope.

            On the other hand, I am a firm believer that all office holiday parties should be held no later than October 30. After that it is just too darn busy for people until you are into January.

            1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

              I am with you here! A few years ago we were hit by blizzard after blizzard in a really short period of time. I remember cleaning my car off in the middle of February and bursting into tears by the bleakness of my surroundings. It was awful. The day I saw a Robin (about six weeks later) I actually told everyone I came in contact with! It was so exciting because it meant spring. Believe it or not, there was still a giant, dirty pile of melting snow well into summer in my state. So yeah…winter parties are nice when it breaks up the bleakness.

              1. Xarcady*

                I must live in the same general area–I remember clearing my car off one morning and just as I was getting in the car to drive to work, the street plow came along and deposited a huge mound of snow at the end of the driveway. I wanted to go inside and call out of everything for the day, not just work.

                The company I was working for then had a big Presidents’ Day celebration, which they had never had before, just to cheer people up. Cherry pie baking contest, log cabin building contest (with Lincoln Logs), catered lunch, indoor badminton and other games–it was fun and got us all out of the mid-winter blues for a day at least.

                1. MissMaple*

                  That sounds like so much fun! I kinda want to plan one now for my friends/family. I’m really one of those people who is sick to death of winter by that time of year. I really think California gets in your blood and if you’ve spend any appreciable amount of time there, you can no longer tolerate winter in quite the same way when you move back east :)

            2. PlainJane*

              A church I attended years ago threw a beach party in February–put up volleyball nets, served cookout food, cranked up the heat, and suggested everyone wear Hawaiian shirts and shorts. It was wonderful and really helped counteract the bleakness of that last month or so of winter.

          2. The MTA took my baby away*

            Yeah, I used to work somewhere that switched from a December party to a January one and it was awful. The point of the party was to give us all a break during our horrendously busy period. It was this one night where we could relax, eat, drink, dance and blow off steam. By January, everyone’s stress levels were back to normal and the party was way less fun because no one needed to blow off steam.

            1. Annony For This One*

              We gave up office parties a couple years ago and started a winter weekend instead. It’s more expensive, but for our small group; more enjoyable. Every unit (i.e. family or couple) gets a basic room and either snowmobiles or skis on Saturday followed by dinner.
              Some people go, some don’t.

          3. Specialk9*

            I think a theme and some silliness would have helped – like someone wrote about having a polar bear themed party and everyone went nuts

          4. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

            It’s a tradition in my family to schedule holidays and birthdays whenever we can all be in the same place, so we’ve celebrated birthdays six months before/after, Easter in July, Christmas in August, and so on. We all think it’s fun and a little weird – I forget that not everyone is a weirdo. (I would never suggest Christmas in February, though. February is for being annoyed about Valentine’s Day.)

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        It seems like it would be nice to have a party mid-January, when things are starting to get a little boring and there’s not really any holidays (in the sense of a day off) to look forward to for a while.

      3. paul*

        In my ideal world it’d be late November, but that’s mostly selfish; I can get cheap hotel rooms early january in some of my favorite nearby places so I’m typically looking to take 3-4 days that month.

    6. FormerAuditor*

      I’m going to go against the flow here and say I didn’t like having a January party at all. Full disclosure, I do live in a predominantly Christian country so most people celebrate Christmas, but not for the religious aspect.

      We used to have two office parties – one with the entire office in November and one with the department in December. One year they decided to move the party for the whole office to January instead of November. Attendance seriously dropped and everyone who went agreed that it just wasn’t as fun. Everyone was also broke and tried after the Christmas season. Yes, it’s busy, but you get a bit of a rest after it. Having to gear up for another party was January was so unappealing.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I’m usually exhausted in January. The last thing I’d want would be a big work party (but, for the record, I don’t want them in December either).

      2. Dolorous Bread*

        I agree, honestly. Besides the time off work for the holidays, I’m really happy when holiday “season” is over. Having to go to a holiday event once it’s all done with would be annoying to me.

    7. Overeducated*

      This was the Soviet solution! Literally. Even today New Year’s is the more consumeristic secular holiday in much of the firmer USSR and Christmas is more religious, so you could say it worked for them. (I like it, myself.)

      1. MashaKasha*

        Hah, New Year is my favorite holiday, because that was what I grew up celebrating as a kid. Another holiday that I like is the Old New Year (New Year by the Julian calendar, January 14).

      2. starsaphire*

        This was a Dutch thing too; “Oude et Nieuw” (in the mid-late 20th century at least) was a bigger deal than Christmas. No idea if it’s still that way!

    8. Anonymous Poster*

      My office does their holiday party in January or February. It’s much cheaper to rent a place that time of year, and more people are able to make it than otherwise. I suppose it’s one of your-mileage-may-vary situations, but it’s reasonable to shift it away from that time of year.

      Maybe some phrasing like, “I celebrate Christmas and enjoy it too, but that time of year I’m spending a lot of time with my friends and family catching up and celebrating. I want to be able to celebrate with you all with just as much gusto – and by mid January all my family and friend events would have passed. It isn’t because I don’t like Christmas or anything, it’s simply because my, and I’m assuming some of your, schedules are simply hectic around that time of year.”

    9. Claire*

      I was coming in here to say the opposite! December can be so busy with both work and personal stuff that there’s something to be said for having an hour where you can put everything down and have some wine and cheese dip. (Although I am thinking of every office party I’ve had, which is both on-site and not mandatory. If there’s traveling involved and you’re strongly encouraged to be there, then January might make more sense).

      Also, for OP, it’s possible that the shooting down of January was related to budget allocations more than anything else.

      1. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

        In our case, it was definitely a combination of “that’s weird” and “I don’t think the Director would go for that.” Which is, in itself, part of the culture to overcome: the Director loves Christmas and wants a big tree and whatnot for the party.

    10. SaraV*

      To really flip the script, you could avoid the whole “religious holiday” vibe, and hold the huge annual party mid-August. I worked at Very Large Local Employer, and just our department (IT) was 200-250. We held a cookout/BBQ at an outdoor venue, which also had indoor facilities in case of rain/heat, and at least for our department, it went over well. Most people had taken their major vacations for the summer, so this acted as an end-of-summer fling.

      Note: The one “oops” I don’t think the people planning this took into account were those that were vegetarian/vegan. I was only there for two years when they did this, and I think they had vegetarian/vegan options the second year.

    11. MashaKasha*

      A local branch of a social org I belong to does this. No one is offended. And, honestly, to your point, it’s much easier on everyone to have the party in January than during the hectic holiday/year-end season.

    12. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m all for putting some festive stuff in the quiet lull of January. It can become a welcome tradition, not battling for time with dozens of other traditions.

      When my daughter was little, we had a crafts party for her friends every January. (The first one was intended to be before, but it’s such a busy season that there was no open time–so we turned the doldrums of January into a boon.) In hindsight, moving it to January had the incidental effect of making it a lot less Christmassy, which was good as a lot of her friends were Jewish.

    13. Katie*

      The young adult group at my CHURCH has their Christmas party in January! I’m all for post-holiday holiday parties.

    14. JulieBulie*

      Agree – if you don’t like snow, there’s not much about January that’s fun. It would be a great time for a party.

      In my opinion, the people on the party planning committee who are being inflexible are the real grinches.

    15. ThursdaysGeek*

      In addition, with so many holiday parties, including work parties for both myself and my spouse, we simply can’t go to them all. So one work party (at least) is skipped. If one (or both) were moved to early January, we would be more likely to attend both of them.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, consider if your job were in a different context. Would it be ok for someone to miss work, or to come to work hours late, because they had gone drinking with clients and were too hungover to wake up? In most situations, the answer is going to be no.

    The responsibility should be slightly heightened for his role in your industry, as well. He’s a trip lead for hiking/camping? His failure to be coherent negatively impacts your safety and clients’ safety. Additionally, being drunk/hungover on the job increases liability for your employer should anything go wrong on one of these trips.

    I don’t think you overstepped or did anything wrong by reporting the issue. He may dislike you for it, but he made his decisions, and now he has to deal with the (extremely foreseeable) consequences of those actions.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I want to echo this. When you are a trip leader there really isn’t such a thing as “off the clock” until you return your client safe and sound. Those that want to get ripped do it with their fellow guides after everyone has gone home.
      In addition, your coworkers behavior encourages irresponsible behavior among the clients. That risks safety for everyone.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        “When you are a trip leader there really isn’t such a thing as “off the clock” until you return your client safe and sound.”

        Yes, I came here to say exactly that. I’m the lead chaperone for outdoor ed trips for my school. While I’m chaperoning on those trips, I know I’m on call 24 hours a day. My colleagues and I give each other breaks, and of course I sleep – but I know that my break could be cut short or my sleep interrupted by an emergency, and it’d be on me to deal with it.

        I’ve also been a customer on several guided wilderness trips. While I have no objection to a guide having a hot toddy around the campfire (a key difference from when I chaperone children, when alcohol is obviously 100% off-limits!), I would be extremely upset if I found out the person I was paying to guide my party had become impaired through their own actions. There are good reasons guide companies regularly send two guides with a party of guests. OP, if you’d twisted your ankle on the hike out, your guests would have been guideless. Or if you’d woken up with strep like OP #5. Or if one of the guests had gotten injured, you would have had to decide between staying with the injured person and sending another guest on for help, or leaving the injured person. Sure, the odds of any of those things happening are low, but not zero. Honestly, I’m unimpressed with anyone who gets drunk to impairment in the wilderness. It wasn’t just unprofessional for your coworker to get drunk, it was dangerously unprofessional.

        1. blackcat*

          “I know that my break could be cut short or my sleep interrupted by an emergency, and it’d be on me to deal with it….It wasn’t just unprofessional for your coworker to get drunk, it was dangerously unprofessional.”


          Particularly with a camp fire still going, both leaders should be 100% prepared to deal with the relatively likely emergency of drunk customer fell into the fire.

          1. Snark*

            I’ve seen it. Drunk-ass guy tried to stomp out a raging campfire with his foot, lit his damnfool pants on fire.

            Thing is, on some level, that’s why they hired a guide. They want to be taken care of, looked after. You’re The Man. You got it under control. They don’t actually want you to get hammered with them, even if they’re pushing a full bottle of Knob Creek at you.

            1. blackcat*

              I have *non-drunkely* fallen into a campfire by tripping over someone when I was around 13. I was fine (small 2nd degree burns, slightly melted fleece jacket).

              I have since been the person to treat the burns of someone who leaned too far into the fire to get their smore good and melted, a 17 year old kid who thought it would be a good idea to play duck-duck-goose around a fire, and a drunken friend who was so drunk *he didn’t realize his pants were smoldering.*

              Fires, man. They’re dangerous. I get that getting hammered around a fire is totally something people do, but there really needs to be one non-hammered person monitoring the situation at all times.

              (And there are other, middle of the night “emergency” situations, too. I have awoken to a tree falling on my campsite, a grizzly bear playing basketball with my bear can, and an entire family of raccoons deciding that they needed to inspect–read: chew through–all of our gear.)

              1. FormerEmployee*

                “Fires, man. They’re dangerous. I get that getting hammered around a fire is totally something people do, but there really needs to be one non-hammered person monitoring the situation at all times.”

                Like having a designated driver. In this case, I guess you’d call them the designated pit (as in fire pit) crew.

              1. Snark*

                It’s lovely. For years, I only consumed it while in the backcountry, and made “no Knob Creek if there’s buildings” a personal tradition.

        2. Specialk9*

          Yeah, drunken guiding is super not cool. Your main job is to keep people safe. Getting drunk is so very much not ok.

          I took a weeklong wilderness survival course. The rule was no booze. By the end of the week, the guide had slightly relaxed it to share some of the homemade dandelion wine (a separate class he taught), but in small amounts and only after he had established we were responsible and respectful adults. Nobody got drunk, but we enjoyed the time around the campfire under the stars.

        3. Wintermute*

          See I was reading this more as “guide for tourists”, like the people that guide tour groups around major cities or on several-city tours (like the rhine river tours and whatnot
          . Then it makes sense how someone and a guest they are getting along well with could get blotto in the hotel bar and it wouldn’t be immediately obvious to everyone and completely beyond the pale. It would also explain how they could have left a note and moved on without him… you’re not going to leave a guy in the middle of the woods alone just because he’s sleeping in!

          1. Wintermute*

            I can’t edit, but I should clarify to say I mean in this case I’m not sure they were in the middle of nowhere, but might have been between legs of the trip or otherwise closer to civilization.

            You’re still a guide, and handling any safety, legal, medical or other situations competently, professionally and as they arise is your entire job, there’s no excuse to drinking at all, especially to excess, and more especially to that LEVEL of excess.

      2. Snark*

        Came here to say this, as a former rafting, climbing, and hiking guide. When you guide, your clients are substituting your judgment, experience, and expertise for your own. If you impair your own, everybody in the group is put at risk. Take a nip off a flask to be sociable? Sure. Get hammered? No. Hell no. Do that on your own time, and endanger only yourself. If you’re so hungover you forget to clip in a biner and a client dies, that’s blood on your hand.

        And I’ve got to say, I’d fire the guy for not waking up early, even if there was no drinking issue. Part of the job of guiding is bustling around behind the scenes, making coffee in the morning, checking out the weather, checking the gear, making sure the boats are aired up, seeing if the river rose overnight. If you’re not up before everybody, you’re neglecting those tasks.

        1. Specialk9*

          Exactly. The guide isn’t on vacation, they’re a combo of safety professionals and hosts. A good mental equivalent is: would I be ok with my kid’s camp counselor doing this? There is a vulnerability for people out in unfamiliar outdoor spaces that requires special care.

    2. Basically Useless*

      Also, you need to consider that he might have been reported by some of your hikers. Your staying quiet would not look good then.

      1. Bwmn*

        This is what I thought of. Fair enough, in the moment the hikers may have really enjoyed Guide #2’s drunken camp fire antics – but let’s say they noticed he wasn’t there in the morning and wanted to continue the fun storytelling. Just reporting back “Guide #2 was really wonderful, but then on the last day he just disappeared and we wondered why” could trigger a greater investigation that could still end up back with the OP.

        Now, if the employer comes back and gives you the impression that this kind of chumminess with guests is desired and these issues are the kind that are forgiven – then that also tells you something about who you work for. For better or worse.

    3. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      While touring a school, one of the activities was an evening out for prospective students. A student/guide got so drunk he was passed out in the street. The next day parents were furious because it did not reflect well on the institution.

    4. JaneB*

      I sometimes work field trips with undergraduates (who are adults, if young ones), and as part of the conduct statement we explicitly ask staff to sign it says that staff must be “in a condition to respond appropriately to an emergency at any time during the field trip” – essentially a glass of wine in the evening is fine, but getting drunk and being unable to function properly in the morning – or at 3am – is unacceptable. In that sort of work environment, you’re not REALLY off the clock until you deliver the clients back to base, even if you are having relaxation time.

      Sounds like a similar line is reasonable for your job, and framing it that way – my coworker deliberately made themselves unable to perform their duties during work time – might help you feel less awkward about it. They put you and their clients at risk – what if there was a fire, someone fell over a tent peg and knocked themselves out, someone had a heart attack, a bear wandered through – not being able to rely on your colleague could have had very serious consequences, so it’s important to report it.

    5. Matilda Jefferies*

      Agreed. You absolutely did the right thing here. And I wouldn’t even necessarily call it “tough love” – you were looking out for the safety of your clients. (And presumably also your own safety – I imagine if you had been injured, he would normally be the one to take care of you?)

      I am possibly the least outdoorsy person in the world, but I do have some experience living with a family member who couldn’t function due to their drinking. It’s not fun, and honestly the best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Try not to worry too much.

    6. sfigato*

      I am also of the belief that if you get drunk in a work context, than you have to human up and plough through your hangover. I’ve had several fruitful work discussions at 12am at a bar, but I’ve also a, been mindful of how much I was drinking and b, woken up at 6am regardless the next day and dealt with the fact that my head was full of angry bees and my stomach was angry at me.

      I also think that if you are the kind of person that has a hard time saying no to drinks numbers 3-15, you should acknowledge that and learn how to say no. The guide has a perfect excuse if some macho client is trying to pressure him into drinking, “I need to be sober enough to fight off the bears!” or something to that effect.

    7. Blue_eyes*

      Yep. As someone who has been a Wilderness First Responder and white water rafting guide, this is really not ok. As a guide, you need to be ready to respond to the guests at all times, at least in case of an emergency. And having at least two guides on a trip is standard for exactly the reasons others have stated – it’s a safety issue. If one guide is so drunk they can’t wake up in the morning, they are effectively useless. And just in general it’s not really advisable to voluntarily incapacitate yourself while in a wilderness setting. Conditions can change quickly and you need to be ready to respond.

    8. Cranky Dude*

      I read this question (#3) at work yesterday and had no time to reply, but I was steaming about it all night. Glad to see that others here were able to extend AAM’s remarks to include the health and safety of the *clients*. The backcountry is my happy place and we spend as much time as possible there (and nowhere near as much as we’d like). A little flask of Scotch is almost always in my pack, for a tiny dram before bed — sitting there in the dark, looking up at all the stars, it’s a wonderful feeling. But I wouldn’t get hammered because &$%^ happens out there and one needs to be able to respond, not lie there passed out in one’s sleeping bag. And I’m not any sort of guide — just a random old hiker dude. That guide needs to get fired and I’d probably fire the OP too for letting him get so drunk.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        I know it’s hypothetical, but please don’t blame the OP for this. It’s not on her to control anyone else’s drinking. And honestly, short of searching the other guide’s belongings to make sure she has found every possible bottle, she wouldn’t be able to do it anyway. People who drink are going to drink, regardless of what other people say or do. The other guide is the only person who is responsible for his behaviour.

  4. Sami*

    OP#4: I think a “holiday” celebration in January is a fantastic idea! December is so so so busy and full of various holidays. January blues are a real thing and it’d be nice to look forward to something low key at work for a usually dreary and long month.

    Signed: someone who’s birthday is in December and detests it because so many people are so busy.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      People don’t tend to want to go out much in January, even if it doesn’t involve spending much or any money.

      Signed: someone whose birthday is in January and would like to move it to, I don’t know, March.

      1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

        My Mum’s birthday is the 6th, on the 12th day of Christmas when everyone’s taking down the decorations and officially out of Part Mood. We now celebrate a second birthday like the Queen in summer.

      2. Helena*

        Yeah I’ve had years of people being too skint, or on a detox, and not coming out on my birthday in January.

        OP if you want to move the office party to January it’s not really a Christmas or holiday party any more. It’s just a work party, when people are short of cash, partied out, or trying to stick to new diets/Dry January resolutions etc. I’m not really surprised they weren’t in favour – it’s a rubbish idea! That’s not an excuse for people still being dicks about it several weeks on, but suggesting cancelling the Christmas party on the off-chance somebody was offended would have had a bit of side-eye from me as well.

        I work in a diverse industry, and my Hindu, Muslim and Jewish coworkers always come to the Christmas party. In fact the guy who organised it last year is Hindu. Marking a national holiday isn’t racist. I would feel very differently about a work prayer meeting or something else overtly religious, but Christmas is pretty secular in most places.

        1. MCL*

          This literally comes up as a comment every time the issue of holiday party/Christmas party comes up on AAM. It’s great that your non-Christian co-workers attend your party, but viewing Christmas is a secular holiday is a privileged viewpoint. Many people (Christians and non) absolutely do view it as a religious holiday, and will not be comfortable for a work event that clearly observes the holiday. Why not take that layer out by celebrating with your co-workers in a way that is truly inclusive? I can’t understand the insistence that since a lot of people view Xmas as secular, we should just ignore people who don’t and have a religious holiday at the center of the celebration anyway.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yup! I’ve been vocal about this – I’m Jewish, and I don’t appreciate being othered by a workplace playing lots of money for a special treat just for people of one religion.

            This feeling is exacerbated because you Christians have a tendency of horrifically murdering my people. Especially when you have managed to Other us especially effectively. So please excuse me for viewing Christmas parties as both disrespectful, and an existential threat.

              1. Specialk9*

                Fair enough, it was a strong statement.

                The sentiment – expressed more delicately – is relevant though.

                People think it’s just about people being snowflakes with too sensitive of feelings. But Jews know from millennia of cycles of oppression that once you start to get Othered, it could be the start of *yet another* pogrom cycle. We’re not being mean or delicate, we’re actually scared. Christmas As Normal is scary.

                1. Specialk9*

                  And since I see that I didn’t *actually* apologize in the above:

                  Helena, I apologize for sounding like I was attacking you. I was out of line.

                  Alison, sorry for bringing down the quality of your comments section. I’ll do better!

                2. FormerEmployee*

                  Specialk9: I wonder if you are feeling especially vulnerable at this time because some people were recently marching around in a Southern town chanting: “Jews will not replace us!”

                  And they were carrying torches.

                  And then there were the comments from you know who. (Hint: He lives in a really big White House.)

          2. Kate 2*

            And many people, Christian and non-Christian recognize it as secular. There are a few sects, the Puritans for one, who didn’t/don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s a holiday that originated with Pagans and got Christian-washed, and the way it is celebrated now has *nothing* to do with Jesus or God. The giant tree, giving gifts, and eating special foods are all ancient Pagan practices. And speaking as a non-Christian person practicing a minority religion I get really tired of people insisting that their view is the only legitimate one, that the facts and history of Christmas should be ignored for “feelings” that not everyone shares.

            1. MCL*

              I don’t understand why many people viewing it as a secular holiday invalidates my point? My point is that regardless of how many people think of it as a secular holiday, many other people DO view it as a religious holiday, and it alienates those who do not celebrate it, as well as those who do celebrate it but aren’t comfortable doing so at work.

            2. veggiewolf*

              “It’s a holiday that originated with Pagans and got Christian-washed, and the way it is celebrated now has *nothing* to do with Jesus or God.”

              Speaking as a Pagan, this is actually a common misconception. I don’t want to derail this any further, but I’m happy to post my sources in the open thread this weekend.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          If the Holiday Party MUST take place before Christmas, and feature Christmas theming, calling it not a religious celebration isn’t working as a fig leaf. (Typed as an agnostic who celebrates Christmas, but understands how some people really get tired of being told to Have A Merry Christmas, Or Else, But In A Strictly Secular Way.)

          I hadn’t considered everyone going on a diet. (So…. hold it three weeks into January, when that’s done?) The office holiday party isn’t supposed to cost anyone money. And it’s not unusual for ‘everyone get wasted’ to not be the theme anyhow.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Per my notes all over this post, I’m asking that we not rehash this debate here, which comes up every time Christmas does.

          Ultimately it doesn’t matter that some people celebrate Christmas in what they think of as a secular way because large numbers of non-Christians feel erased by treating symbols of Christmas as universal or secular things.

          There’s plenty of explanation of why many people don’t consider Christmas secular starting here if you’d like to read more about it:

      3. CoffeeLover*

        Honestly, having a “holiday” party in January would feel really weird to me. I’m out of the holiday mood by then and want to hunker down for the rest of winter. I’ve actually never heard of a holiday party happening in January. I’ve had them in December or even November, but never January. Personally, I think the optimal time is the first week of December.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Which is why moving some festivity into it, rather than forcing all warmth and light into the three weeks before the solstice even happens, makes so much sense.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              I disagree. I like having a period of intense festivity, and then in the post-New Year period, having some time to hunker down and turn inward: I go to bed early and eat a lot of soups. I could see maybe doing it in January if it’s a brief New Year party, held towards the end of the work day on a Friday, for instance: more a low-key, “Hey, haven’t really seen y’all, let’s catch up over some fancier coffee and maybe some cake”.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Even like one week after New Year? I mean, it’s funny how people get in the holiday mood so early, like now, but then are ready to run from the thought of it as soon as they ring in the new year. (Don’t mean you necessarily, just made me think)

          1. Dolorous Bread*

            I think the holiday season starting earlier and earlier contributes to New Year’s being a cutoff on that stuff. I’m sick of the holidays by then!

      4. sfigato*

        I have a january birthday, and I concur. I worked at a place that did january holiday parties and they were depressing and ill attended. Half the office is on a diet/not drinking/cutting out sugar/etc. and no one is in the mood to party or indulge.

        My current employer has a holiday party in early november, which I like much better. B

    2. Baska*

      It’s a shame America celebrates Thanksgiving in late November, because otherwise I’d say to do your holiday party in November! Get started with the partying early!

      1. Sam*

        My office doesn’t go quite so early as (American) Thanksgiving, but it’s usually right around Dec. 1. That actually works out pretty well – people aren’t tired of parties yet, our work is such that it is very easy to approach this as a end-of-year celebration rather than one for holidays, and it’s during the workday, which makes it fairly low-key. Unfortunately, none of this would help OP if the director insists on a more “traditional” Christmas-focused affair, but it’s worth giving Alison’s script a try. It would also be helpful if OP could find even one ally in the group.

    3. Liz2*

      It’s certainly become more popular, but I admit I dislike it. I prefer during the festive season to add to the excitement. In January people are tired, recovering, cutting back and just doesn’t have the same social buzz factor.

      To add to the other commenters, it continues with those of us who have Feb birthdays (who also then compete against VDay) when it’s colder in the North, darker, and people still recovering credit cards.

      1. a1*

        My Feb birthday always competes with the Super Bowl. And this year it is on on the Super Bowl (Feb 4), and I live in Minneapolis where the Super Bowl is happening. Yeah, people will really be celebrating my day this year. :-P

        1. Liane*

          Son’s birthday is 1/29, so sometimes the nearest weekend, a common time to have a party, is Superbowl weekend. I still think that a few parents declined/ignored invites for their kids because a couple Saturday hours at a child party would cut into prepping for their Bowl bash.

  5. Maybe?*

    For #5, aside from feeling terrible, strep is contagious until you’ve been on antibiotics for 24 hours. Last time I had strep I actually felt OK enough to work, but my NP said I wasn’t allowed to go in until the 24 hours had passed. That’s an additional layer to add to the reschedule request — “I’m so sorry, I have strep and my doctor advised me to avoid others for the next 24 hours”

    1. Green*

      For #5, saying “I am sick” and them responding “Come anyway” is about as much information about a bad working environment as you can get….

      1. Kerr*

        Truth. It’s a red flag waving and jumping up and down, saying “Don’t pick me!”
        You think this boss would be at all reasonable about sick days? “A bad cold? Pshaw, there’s a deadline and anyway Bob has the flu so we can all be sick together!”

        1. MashaKasha*

          OMG yes. “Why don’t you come in sick with a fever and barely able to talk, and give your germs to everyone that interviews you, because that’s how we do things around here! Work hard, play hard!” Nope.

      2. k.k*

        Yes a thousand times. This does not bode well for how they view sick days, personal days, work life balance, etc. It sounds like the type of place that would grill you for details any time you tried to take time off.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yup, this. If you can at all, cancel the interview outright, and explain why. They’ve just told you who they are.

    2. Jean Lamb*

      Sadly, coming in while sick was pretty normal behavior at my office when I was (oh, they *talked* a good game, but the rule was, ‘you can’t call in sick during month end, you can’t call in dead for year end’).

  6. Soupspoon McGee*

    #1, I think it’s fair to say you have a chronic condition that makes sitting difficult. Most people will assume you have a back problem.

    #4, your coworkers sound mean spirited and juvenile. I think your January idea is great.

  7. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    OP3 Alison is right, although many don’t see it. YOU did not get anyone fired – their decisions and unprofessional (and risky) behavior did. Coworker has to accept responsibility for their behavior, not you.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*


      I’m an amateur musician. Have been since my early teens.

      As a result I went to many orchestra camps. And it being Germany and the drinking age being 16 many people got drunk. A lot.

      The teachers had this attitude: ‘We don’t care what you do at night, as long as you’re able to play in the morning!’

      Same applies here.

      It’s okay to socialize with the customers. I’d even say it’s part of the job.

      But you have to be ready to do your job on time!

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I’d go one step further, and say that the guide should not be getting drunk, period. His responsibility to the job doesn’t stop at nightfall – if something happens during the night, he’s the guy in charge and needs to be able to respond. A beer at the campsite in the evening is reasonable, getting drunk is not.

        For the safety of the customers, it’s better that this behaviour be reported quickly so that someone responsible can be hired in his place.

        1. TL -*

          The guide really, really shouldn’t be getting drunk. (and shouldn’t be encouraging the customers to either! Intoxicated people don’t make the safest decisions.)

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          +1. As someone who recently did a guided-hike vacation, I’m mad at OP’s colleague on behalf of the other trip-goers. We as a group would not have had nearly as good an experience without *both* of our very competent guides, especially given the varying levels of physical fitness within the group. If one of them had been functioning at a lower level because he was drunk or hung over in the morning, I certainly would not have felt as safe and I’d have been pretty upset about that.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Our college choir director said the exact same thing to us when we went to D.C. for a tour–“I don’t care what you do tonight as long as you can sing two concerts tomorrow.” Singing Brahms’s A Song of Destiny with a hangover at 11 am in a high school music room is not fun. At least it wasn’t the Hallelujah Chorus! >_<

        We all recovered nicely, and at our evening concert with George Mason University's choir, we blew them away. :)

    2. Snark*

      Yessir. Natural consequences, my dude. They’re not hiring a guide to be their drinking buddy. They’re hiring you to be the steely-eyed badass who will guide them safely through the wilderness.

      And it’s important to realize that you can like someone personally, and feel sympathy for them, and still report dangerous behavior that could create a liability or kill someone. Has nothing to do with personal esteem.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. Also agreeing with what I think you said upthread about just being sober enough to do the practical early morning parts of the job. If I’m paying a bunch of money for a guide, based on promises about the guide making a hot breakfast and taking care of X, Y, Z practical tasks so I don’t have to, and I wind up taking on those tasks because the guide is wasted, I’m likely complaining. Certainly not recommending them or giving good reviews, which are often the bread and butter of these companies.

      2. Specialk9*

        “They’re hiring you to be the steely-eyed badass who will guide them safely through the wilderness.”


        1. Specialk9*

          Also, as a total non sequitur, does anyone else get bothered by the zombie shows where they’re camping on the ground? Walking Dead, they get swarmed and infected because *tents on the ground*. Argh. It’s too hard to sleep on top of the bus, or have hammocks up in the trees, or Robinson Crusoe nets up high?

  8. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – I would take it as a red flag because of the sheer number of incidents. You are seeing a pattern of over-scheduling.
    Companies that do this have these characteristics:
    * Always in crisis mode
    * unable to plan strategically because they are too busy fighting fires in crisis mode
    * expectations of you doing 10 hours or work in an 8 hour day
    * lots of rework due to improper planning up front
    * Valuing the person that solved last crisis Vs the person that quietly did their job well. Ironically, the person that solved the crisis is usually the one that created it by poor planning.

    Do you enjoy drama, late nights, and adrenaline rushes? Then work for this company.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      #2 happened to me with a part-time job. I drove there right after my regular job (almost an hour in traffic) arrived on time, they kept me waiting almost 45 minutes, I had a first interview, they asked me to hold on to meet a manager on duty… I waited 20 more minutes, interview #2, then could I be patient and meet with the store manager. So I waited another 20 minutes, finally met with him, and they offered me the job. If I hadn’t needed it I would have left, but I was desperate and they were quite busy (hardware store, beginning of May). The whole ordeal took a good two hours, for a cashier job!

      As I worked there I noticed they ALWAYS left interviewees waiting 30+ minutes. I would greet the candidate and tell HR their 2:30appt had arrived… and HR would mosey out to the front around 3:00 while the poor person got more and more anxious. It was aggravating, and really exemplified the whole attitude of the store in general.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Yeah, I once was kept waiting for 45 minutes by a woman who I could see the entire time. She was just sitting at her computer all the while. I had no idea it would be her who was going to be interviewing me. I took the job but that was pretty typical behavior for her. Very telling indeed.

        1. Janelle*

          Ugh worst interview I ever had. Set up by a client of mine with some woman I cannot recall her title. She had me sitting in the lobby for an hour and a half, walked up said nothing regarding making me wait, didn’t even introduce herself and barely gave me the time of day and a 10 min interview. Wanted to smack her upside the head. Just so rude.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      And it may be that your overall gut feeling is based on more than the pattern you’re aware of – it may feel like the lateness is the issue when it’s actually just one part of something that’s setting off your spidey senses.

      For me, the biggest problem would be the lack of basic courtesy. Keeping someone waiting for 45 minutes and then not offering them any water or anything like that? That’s the bit that bothered me most. It might seem like a tiny thing, but it’s really, really telling.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Also, even if something isn’t objectively a red flag, it’s okay to decide that it’s a red flag for you personally and nope out regardless.

        1. Specialk9*

          “Also, even if something isn’t objectively a red flag, it’s okay to decide that it’s a red flag for you personally and nope out regardless.”

          I wish I had known this truth bomb decades ago.

      2. Sadsack*

        I was most bothered by the person who decided to take her half hour lunch before coming in. You’re hungry, fine, eat some thing quickly when you know there is someone waiting for you.

    3. Mookie*

      Do you enjoy drama, late nights, and adrenaline rushes

      Is it weird that I do, but I don’t want to be paid for it?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Because you want to be able to choose when and where to enjoy your dramatic late-night adrenaline rush, instead of having it thrust upon you? Not weird.

    4. t*

      Engineer Girl is spot on. This happened at my horror story of an employer – every interviewer was significantly late – and those traits perfectly described the culture. It is an organization that was constantly chasing the current fire with no thought to a strategy or long term plan. Every day was an emergency at that place.

      The very next job, I walked into an actual crisis situation {where there was a major customer threatening to pull their business and months of late nights and weekends were worked to recover). Those interviewers were all on time despite the crisis that was occurring, and when the crisis was over, the workplace reverted back to healthier ways of working.

      I would run far far away from this company. Good luck!

    5. Overeducated*

      I agree. I got rejected after second interviews for two jobs at a nonprofit organization with a mission that’s central to my professional life. The first time, the hiring manager was late for the phone call and then rescheduled my in person interview twice in the 24 hours before. (It was 2 hours away and I had to request leave in advance at a job where coverage mattered, so I was really put off and wondered if she would be an unreasonable manager.) The second time, a different hiring manager asked several times if I was all right with night and weekend work for frequent events and deadlines and described their work as “very fast paced and intense.” I said yes but honestly that combined with a vague rumor I had heard about their culture a few years back all added up to red flags. I was shocked by how NOT upset I was to get rejected for this job that looked perfect on paper.

    6. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      +1000 to Engineer Girl

      I think the over scheduling pattern is a HUGE red flag. When people can never get to their scheduled meetings on time and treat that as if it’s normal — definitely no bueno.

      I worked for a company just like this, and interviews were the bane of our existence. I can’t tell you how many times I had a resume dumped on my desk because somebody else was too busy to attend an interview s/he’d been scheduled for, and I’d have to go in cold to interview someone. We’d leave interviewees to cool their heels for ages because nobody could get to them. That place was hell.

      I should have known not to work there when *I* was interviewing! I sat around for ages, and finally they sent someone in to talk to me… and it was his FIRST DAY. Like, he was the only person they could find to do interviews, everyone else was running around with their hair on fire. I should have run then.

    7. Kathleen Adams*

      I’m not sure I agree – except for the second one – the one where everybody was 45 minutes late, didn’t have anybody check on her or show her where the restroom was or *anything*. That was just flat-out rude and/or careless. The others sound basically OK to me.

      1. Lost in Time*


        Thank you all for these comments. I have decided to decline the offer. Last night I was thinking back on the interviews and no one seemed excited during the interview, the interview with the woman who I would be replacing ran late and they did not allow me to ask her any questions (though I did follow up by email – no reply yet) and I just get the sense that something is off. About 30 mins ago I got the written offer letter – my name is spelled wrong and the salary on the letter is $5,000 less than the verbal offer!!!!! Something with this company is a real miss (and mess).

        1. JulieBulie*

          WOW. Every single thing you’ve described about this place screams trouble and I’m sure it doesn’t get any better once you’re on the inside… especially when even the offer letter is an insult. I hope you have MUCH better luck the next place you interview with!

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Ugh, so sorry about that. But thank you for confirming all our instincts were right!

        3. Gazebo Slayer*

          WOW. The salary bait and switch. Yet another company that does that (I’ve had that fun experience too – though in my case I was informed of the lower pay AFTER I’d signed the offer).


    8. Trout 'Waver*

      It could be a time-of-year thing and not an indication of the company as a whole. Many industries are cyclical.

    9. Stranger than fiction*

      I gotta say, that’s what went through my mind as well. Although I agree with Alison that the 10 or 15 min wasn’t a huge deal, like you said, so many instances and lack of acknowledgement. And the general hurried/scattered impression.

    10. snorkellingfish*

      I once accepted an internship at a place where the owner was 45 minutes late to the interview, to the point where the next person to be interviewed was also waiting in the reception area with me. I could tell that the receptionist was stressed out by his lateness. He didn’t really give any explanation….

      And he was a wildly unprofessional boss, in a number of ways. It can absolutely be a red flag, especially if any other conduct gives you a feeling that they lack usual professional boundaries and/or empathy for their employees.

    11. TrainerGirl*

      You are so right! When I see “works well in a fast moving environment”, that says avoid like the plague, because they’ll kill you with work and expect you not to complain.

      That being said, I did have a similar experience with a company I ended up staying with for 14 years. When I went to meet with the recruiter, I found out that she’d left for the day. An admin assistant had me fill out the job application and then sent me to the location for the interview with the manager. She came and got me, sat me in her office and said she’d be right back. When she returned (30 minutes later), she looked at me in shock, because she’d forgotten I was there! I ended up barely having an interview, because she spent the whole time apologizing to me and letting me know that the company wasn’t that unprofessional and it was just a crazy day with an emergency. That was a good thing, because I found out later that woman was cray cray and probably wouldn’t have hired me under normal circumstances. But it got my foot in the door, so I can’t complain about it.

  9. MommyMD*

    The Dreaded Work Christmas Party. I’m going through this right now. I appreciate and like my colleagues but I have zero desire to spend an evening with them on a day off two weeks before Christmas.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m hoping Alison will post another ask the readers thread about this, because I have Stories.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      A party on a day off? That’s no good! Ours are always during work hours so there’s no reason not to go unless you feel like you have too much work to take the time away. It usually starts around 1 or 2 on a weekday and then people start leaving at like 4 so they actually then end up having free time because they would normally be at work until 5:30.

      1. Murphy*

        Yeah, my husband’s companies have usually rented a party space on a Saturday night for dinner, drinks, etc.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        My mother’s old office did theirs in the evening, but it was Utah and very much a “bring the whole family for a dinner on the company dime!” so there were always tons of small children and hot cocoa and stuff. The highlight was the year the two older male name partners (law firm) did a reenactment of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye doing the “Sisters, Sisters” song from White Christmas, complete with fans and sock garters. I was in my snarky college-student phase, and it still delighted the heck out of me.

    3. paul*

      ew, I hadn’t even thought about the after hours part of it.

      It’s my firm opinion that office parties, regardless of occasion, should be during work hours.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        I agree. And they should end in the early afternoon and everybody should get to go home early. Because some extra time off is one of the most precious gifts of all.

    4. Janelle*

      We have a very small office (just my boss and I) so now our holiday party consists of working a half day then going for a long lunch and drinks at our favorite restaurant. Works great.

  10. KK*

    As a non-Christian, non-US person, I will never understand this taboo around Christmas celebrations. I don’t get the feeling that a lot of office Christmas parties aren’t prayer sessions – so essentially it’s just eating and merrymaking…which sounds fun, regardless of your beliefs or lack thereof? European Christmas markets always bring me joy, and I don’t remember a single instance of going “boy, this giant festive marketplace with cookies and mulled wine sure makes me feel invisible”. It’s a secular cultural tradition more than anything else. I really don’t see the big deal.

    1. Myrin*

      I’m very sure the “non-US” part is key here – I can never identify with any discussions on here about Christmas or Easter or what-have-you celebrations in particular but also regarding the whole scope of religion in general (which is why I don’t take part in these discussions as a general rule – there’s literally nothing I can add to them with regards to a mostly American audience). It appears to me that Europeans – or at least people in my part of Europe, I wouldn’t want to speak for the whole continent – just view these topics differently fromt the get-go and it’s basically impossible to find a common denominator because the differing understandings are so alien to each other.

      1. Myrin*

        Ack, sorry Alison, we posted simultaneously! Maybe my comment can be viewed as a closing statement of sorts?

      2. Laura*

        Yes, agreeing with Myrin – this is so not a big deal in Europe, where we don’t have the War on Christmas or insistence that Santa is white, etc etc.

        1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

          As an American who has moved to Europe, my only comment is that yes, it is viewed very differently here in general. Not nearly as fraught.

    2. Student*

      Calling a Christmas celebration a secular tradition makes me wonder if you know what the word “secular” means. It literally means “not overtly or specifically religious”.

      Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Christian religion’s Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If you are celebrating Christmas, you are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, specifically – it is essentially the birthday-party for Christianity. While there are other holidays one might argue are more central to the religion, in my mind it is the most fundamentally, specifically Christian thing one can do. Things like “praying” and “going to church” and “being kind to others” are common across many beliefs, and not every Christian makes as big of a deal over the other Christian-specific holidays – but every Christian I’ve met has a fond Christmas story they like to tell.

      1. FiveWheels*

        My experience in the UK is that “Christmas” relates to the season and for most people is not religious. I’m an atheist, but grew up in a very Christian family and there was nothing remotely religious about Christmas to them. Lots of days, months, seasons etc have names such religious origins but that doesn’t make them religious.

        I’m not arguing that people should or shouldn’t think it’s religious – but to these non-US eyes it does look like the USA has a somewhat unique attitude to Christmas that doesn’t easily translate.

        (I’m Irish-British and I feel even more confused by USA celebrations of St Patrick’s Day)

        1. Myrin*

          I posted approximately the same thing above (which is why I think the discussion is bound to be fruitless at least between Americans and Europeans) but, at the risk of coming off as the comment police, Alison asked that we not rehash an old debate.

      2. KK*

        I do know very well what secular means, and I think this is an unnecessarily harsh comment, but I will respect Allison’s request. I think this is very much a cultural clash, so let’s just agree to disagree.

        1. Mookie*

          I think this is very much a cultural clash

          Well, yes, in the sense that you object to how (some) Americans try not to impose religious festivities on people who have no interest in them. I think you’d prefer to say we’re just wrong but, no, as you say, it varies across cultures. It seems you understand that just fine, you just don’t like it. Different things entirely.

          1. Myrin*

            Hey now, let’s not personally attack other commenters and also not continue a debate Alison explicitly doesn’t want.

  11. Augusta Sugarbean*

    #3 You aren’t the bad guy. This was a significant safety issue and you protected your clients. Also, it’d be a good idea to stop thinking of him as a “kid”. You aren’t doing him any favors by treating him as if he is your responsibility. And you *really* wouldn’t be doing him any favors by covering up drinking that impacts his work. You say yourself that he is your partner and your coworker. He’s an adult and responsible for himself and his actions.

  12. Em too*

    It may be worth mentioning to your manager just because once they see you as a frequent absentee it will likely take them longer than 4 months to register you are now taking fewer absences, unless you point it out.

  13. Myrin*

    OP #1, somewhat unrelated to the core of your question but FWIW, eight times in one year doesn’t seem like extremely much to me – that’s about once every seven weeks, which almost certainly wouldn’t register with me as your coworker. (Disclaimer: I’m not in the US where I feel stuff like this is viewed through a stricter lens.)

    1. k.k*

      It varies so much by office, but in general I’d say 8-9 times a year is considered a lot in US offices. I myself have a chronic issue that has resulted in me calling off 6-7 yearly. I’ve read quite a few articles and such on the topic since I was concerned that I looked bad, and most said that anything more than 1-2 sick days a year is excessive. Sadly many employers have a “play though the pain” mentality.

      1. Starbuck*

        I haven’t taken a sick day yet in my current job (2 years in) but the idea that people are only expected to take 1-2 per year offends me. Who are these robots?? What an inhumane way to treat your workers. Even 8-9 doesn’t seem like that much, that’s not even once a month!

        1. oranges & lemons*

          I only get 2 sick days a year, and this year I blew through them in the first week with a nasty stomach virus.

    2. Specialk9*

      I get 5 sick days total a year. I’m lucky to have flexibility and a boss who cares about output over hours… But only 5 total, for my sicknesses and my kids’.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Weird! This is such a difference in my career. I wouldn’t describe the places I’ve worked as pressure cookers, but 9 “sicks” a year really, really unusual. Maybe less so if it’s one big chunk and a couple of days here and there.

  14. Tealeaves*

    #4: Random thought but perhaps people want the holiday party in December precisely because it’s such a busy time of the year? So the ones that want to be there will be, and the rest have perfect excuses not to attend. Also they can get it over and done with before they go on their holiday vacations.

  15. Emma UK*

    OP1- A ton of people get hemorrhoids, you have nothing to feel embarrassed about. It’s a medical issue you have. Honestly it’s disappointing to see people pearl clutching about such a common thing. Do those people also pretend that they never have periods, use the bathroom, do the usual things that make one human.

    1. The Wall of Creativity*

      From now on, whenever I hear the expression “pearl clutching”, I’ll be reminded of OP1’s unfortunate predicament.

    2. Colette*

      I don’t think it’s pearl clutching to say that this is too personal to share with coworkers. It’s normal, yes, but there are lots of normal th8ngs that we don’t discuss at work.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yeah, I don’t think it’s pearl-clutching at all. Tell someone you have a cold, and now they’re thinking of your nose and throat. Tell someone you have hemorrhoids, and now they’re thinking about your butt. It’s TMI. I don’t want to think about my coworker’s butt.

    3. Mookie*

      The LW has repeatedly said that she’s worried about her reputation, and that goes both ways. She wants to explain why she was out so frequently so that her colleagues don’t think she was skiving, but she always wants to abide by normal professional boundaries. You can’t control other people’s squick; she’s trying not to give them too information if it’s reasonable to suspect that, while they may not find hemorrhoids themselves embarrassing, they may find talking about it at work uncomfortable. We know from experience here that, yes, many people don’t want to hear about menstruation and can become almost violently angry when the subject is brought up. It sucks, but that’s the reality.

    4. t*

      I think it comes down to the culture of your office and your relationship to your boss. As a manager, I’ve had people share very private medical issues with me. I don’t share that information, but it helps me understand an employee’s pattern of absences. If your manager is experienced and can handle confidentiality, you might privately confide in her so she can better support you.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        it helps me understand an employee’s pattern of absences.

        In a way that “I have a chronic medical condition that flared up last year, but it’s more controlled now” doesn’t?

    5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

      Sure, it’s a bit silly to be so grossed out by a medical condition that you can’t mention it. But I don’t think the details are relevant.

      The OP could say that the issue they were having earlier turned out to be a chronic condition, and now they have been diagnosed and are getting treatment for it so they should have fewer sick days going forward. Because that’s what the OP is trying to convey: that they took more sick days than they usually would but now they won’t need them as often.

    6. Karo*

      The difference is that I don’t discuss those things at work. Yes, I poop and get my period and have sex and lead a normal life – but the closest I come to discussing that stuff at work is an occasional panicked “do you have a tampon?” to a co-worker I’m close with.

    7. fposte*

      In general, it’s not so much that they don’t pretend these things don’t happen as it’s TMI to give your co-workers detail that makes them think about your interior or private parts when they don’t want to. “I have a gyno appointment”–fine. “I have a lump on my vulva”–inadvisable. “I have Crohn’s”–fine. “I have several anal fissures”–inadvisable.

      1. Grits McGee*

        Not even limited to interiors- eg. “I have a skin infection” vs “I have an open sore that oozes pus the color of radioactive swamp goo and smells like death itself”

    8. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      Also keep in mind how prudish Americans are culturally compared to the UK, Emma. Any mention of goings-on “south of the Mason-Dixon line” is likely to result in some pearl-clutching here in the US. Best to be discreet.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It would be nice if one could comment on the differences between the two cultures without insulting one of them…

      2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

        Wait, so if I ever go and work in the UK, I can expect my co-workers to be talking openly about hemorrhoids* all the time?…Really?

        *well, haemorrhoids

    9. paul*

      No reason to be embarrassed, but no reason to share details.

      I don’t’ share details about what happens when my ulcers flair up but that doesn’t mean I’m ashamed. It just means my coworkers don’t want to be regaled by tales of puking.

  16. Wrench Turner*

    Campfire guide person don’t feel bad! It wasn’t you, really! I’ve had to do this exact thing before.
    While living in a small town, a ‘friend’ I made there was down on their luck and needed work. I was about to leave my position doing lightweight event production (microphones for lectures, turning the lights on and babysitting the auditorium, that sort of thing) for the community college and said I would train him to take over. First time he was shadowing me no problem. Second time, during an admittedly boring lecture, he whips out a tiny bottle of booze from his pocket and starts drinking. I was amused but told him he couldn’t do that. Third time he was late and stoned out of his mind. The event was already going and it was a tiny space so I couldn’t confront him without being a distraction and told him to just hang out on a computer. I went to my boss the next day and told her what was going on. He was immediately fired.

    He confronts me the day after saying “I thought I was your friend!” etc. I said I tried to help and he did it to himself. Get your act together and good luck. Many months later after I moved away he tried to find me on Facebook and I just blocked him. You did the right thing. They did not.

  17. MicroManagered*

    OP#4 I feel for you. I too got roped into the social committee in my last position. The gag on The Office about it being nonstop drama is a thing because it’s true.

    Similar to your experience of holiday-party planning, my toxic ex-manager outed me as an atheist to grandboss during a conversation where grandboss was complaining that they had to call it a “holiday” party and not a “Christmas” party because (grandboss thinks) “the atheists get offended if you say Christmas.” Spoiler alert: I had nothing to do with it! The company required calling it a holiday party. (Ugh, that still frosts me. I wish I’d been an AAM reader back then because I would’ve addressed it with my ex-manager so differently.)

    1. Triplestep*

      Ugh, this bothers me, too. I am a Jew, I know a lot of Jews and non-Christians, and I do not know anyone who is *offended* by Christmas or using the word Christmas instead of “Holiday”. I get that most people have the best of intentions when trying to be inclusive, but I think that the push for inclusivity during a time of year that is just not a big deal in every religion or culture has led to a great deal of misunderstanding. The assumption I am offended (which then breeds resentment) makes me sad.

      Yes, people who don’t celebrate Christmas can feel more “other” during Christmastime, but no work holiday party is really going to change that. OP#4, since your January idea has been shot down (too bad, that was a good suggestion) I think you can best serve this committee by enlightening others that “offense” is not what non-celebrants are likely feeling. Also, try to put the kibosh on any effort to blend other winter holidays in to the mix in an effort to try to be inclusive. (I had one workplace stretch their party theme to Chinese New Year, which fell mid-February that year.)

      1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego (formerly Floundering Mander)*

        I really hate that obnoxious myth that people who don’t celebrate Christmas have been waging some kind of war to get it taken away from those who do. Yes, some people who have a strong belief in the separation of church and state will object to having a religious display on government property, but very few are so gung-ho that they would object to individual employees saying “Merry Christmas” or mentioning the holiday at work.

        There’s a difference between inappropriate and offensive, and many people want to blur that line. For me personally I would object to, say, a nativity scene in the courthouse, because it’s not appropriate. But it’s not the slightest bit offensive. It’s just not the place for it.

        1. Specialk9*

          Exactly. Celebrate any holiday you want. But don’t spend lots of company money to honor people based on religion, unless you’re doing all of them. Duh?

        1. Halster*

          I think an end of the year party (tied more to New Years) is also a great idea. People are always just happy when the year is up, and that’s a great, non-religious thing to celebrate.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      My biggest thing with the “christmas” vs. “holiday” thing is that I stopped viewing christmas as a religious holiday a loooong time ago. It may have originated from religion, but when I think of christmas I think carols, decorations and presents – none of which scream christianity to me. It’s a cultural event, not a religious one. I’m not religious and I have friends that practice different religions (Islam, Buddhism, etc.), and we all like Christmas because it’s fun… I have the Michael Buble Christmas album on repeat for the entire month of December. That’s not to say EVERYONE loves Christmas, but most people don’t think twice about it. The only person I ever met that took issue with it was actually a Christian lady that was in a very strict sect(? – not sure that’s the right word), where they didn’t celebrate the “cultural Christmas” and only did the religious stuff. But even she didn’t complain about a Christmas tree in the office.

      I think as long as you don’t stop the Christmas party to say grace and read from the bible, you’re pretty much good to go as far as inclusion. Make sure you have food alternatives available for people with food restrictions and avoid any overly religious stuff. As far as timing goes, people are usually really busy around the end of December regardless of religion and it would make sense to move the party to the start of December or late November. Personally, I think it’s a bit strange to have a holiday party in January (as I commented above in another thread).

      1. Baska*

        I just want to point out that even though YOU might have stopped viewing Christmas as a religious holiday, does not mean that Christmas is in fact a non-religious holiday. Christmas carols are still full of references to the Christ Child and the Virgin Mary, for example. As a secular Jew, I don’t really have a problem going to Christmas parties, because I enjoy being with people who are celebrating, but it’s disingenuous to say “Christmas is secular.” It may be MORE secular than it was, but it’s still steeped in religion.

        If you want a secular mid-winter holiday, go for New Years. :)

        1. CoffeeLover*

          I agree that many people still view it as a religious holiday (usually those people are Christian). For what it’s worth, I think there are other examples of cultural holidays that are technically religious, but not really. The example that comes to mind immediately is Valentines Day. From Wikipedia: Valentines Day is a “feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus.” I’m not sure what teddy bears and chocolate hearts have anything to do with it. In the same way, I’m not sure what Santa Claus, Christmas trees and singing about Rudolf have to do with religion. Not to say there aren’t religious references as you pointed out, but those references make me think more about the history of the holiday than it being applicable to me today in the way I celebrate Christmas (all personal opinion of course). Plenty of other stuff has religious reference that we ignore if we wish to (ie, the Canadian anthem says “God keep our land glorious and free” in a country that’s very secular, but no one seems to mind singing it).

          1. Grits McGee*

            Several posters of many faiths have commented in the past that they do in fact view Christmas as a religious holiday.

        2. FormerEmployee*

          Thank you, Baska. I think that what happens is that people who are not religious are so used to the fun aspects of the holiday season that the secular and the religious start to seem as if they are all part of something called the “holiday season”. Snowmen are clearly secular. What about trees? Is a tree really a religious symbol or a traditional item? Some people get trees because they smell good and are a good way to decorate their home. Then we’re on to music. Again, some of it is seasonal and secular (think “Jingle Bells”, “Frosty The Snowman”, etc.), but some of it is quite religious (“Silent Night”, “Angels We Have Heard On High”, etc.). At this point, the lines have really blurred, but many people don’t see it because it has become all of a piece.

          The good thing is that while these people don’t “get” it, at least they don’t think there is some plot by the Grinch and his minions to “steal” Christmas.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Per my note above, I’m asking that we not rehash this debate here, which comes up every time Christmas does.

        Ultimately it doesn’t matter that some people celebrate Christmas in what they think of as a secular way because large numbers of non-Christians feel erased by treating symbols of Christmas as universal or secular things.

        There’s plenty of explanation of why many people don’t consider Christmas secular starting here if you’d like to read more about it:

      3. Jennifer Thneed*

        > and avoid any overly religious stuff

        No. Avoid ALL religious stuff. It is completely possible to have a party with lots of winter-themed decorations and not one single religious thing at all (except some of the common songs, as someone else mentions) and because snowy winters and xmas are so closely linked, it feels “christmasy” to the people who need it to.

    3. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

      Yes! My grandboss asked me to serve on this committee, and I’m 15 months new to the management team, so it’s important to me that I make substantive contributions (even though I LOATHE work party planning, but that’s a whole different thread) without stomping all over my own values re: inclusivity at work.

      I haven’t seen that episode of The Office, but if it involves three different factions among only a dozen people, with strong personalities on all sides, I would be living it.

  18. Narise*

    OP 1 Please do not share your specific diagnosis with anyone. I have an employee who reported to me for years and during that time I knew every thing that ever happened in her body. I did everything to stop her from sharing details with no luck. If you want to discuss the absences do so with your supervisor during your next one on one. Say ‘Looking back I realized I missed several days during my first year. I’m not someone who wants to miss work so this is not normal for me. Can you give me an idea of how this impacts my standing within the company?’ Chances are it’s not even thought about by anyone because it hasn’t been ongoing.
    OP4 Our company does a lunch early in December and then gives everyone the rest of the day off. The lunch does not have a theme we just go to a local hotel and sit and eat and then leave. No Christmas music just soft music in the background. It works for us and we have several people who do not celebrate Christmas.

    1. a1*

      Chances are it’s not even thought about by anyone because it hasn’t been ongoing.

      I also wondered about this. Do you know that everyone noticed/counted and was concerned or making assumptions? Or are your thinking they did because you were/are feeling self-conscious about it? 8 absences in 12 months isn’t really that much. I’m not sure I’d notice a colleague out 8 times. It might feel like a lot to you since you were counting and you were aware it’s your first year, etc.

  19. Roscoe*

    #3 This is a tough one for me. I guess the question is whether he was actually “on the clock” when he got drunk. I know some places treat those overnight things differently. I know this statement might be controversial, but I’ll say it anyway. This guy wouldn’t be the first person ever to need a sick day after a night of drinking. The only difference here is that you know WHY he was sick and couldn’t get up. If he had gotten food poisoning or just felt like crap, could you have made due without him? Would you have reported him to the boss for that as well? That’s not to say you shouldn’t have had a talk to him about it. I mean yeah, it was self inflicted, but he was sick and unable to get out of bed. I probably wouldn’t have gone to the boss right away if this was the first time (I’m not clear from the letter if it was though). However, if this is a pattern, then yeah I think it needed to happen.

    1. Liane*

      Yes he was On The Clock! Being a guide out in the field is 24/7 *as others have pointed out*. It is not like a security guard job where you relieve Guard 1 at X o’clock and Guard 3 shows up at Y o’clock to relieve you.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Liane’s perfectly correct point aside, most people don’t call out sick and say “Yeah, I got incredibly wasted last night so I can’t do the Kepler presentation in an hour. Bye.” They lie. Even if the company would scramble and cover the Kepler presentation or move it for your hand-of-fate violent stomach flu, people feel dramatically differently about scrambling to cover for your self-imposed hangover. So knowing why someone is unable to work at the last minute, and whether that is self-inflicted and was easily foreseen and avoided, makes a big difference in continuing to bother with them.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      In this case – a wilderness expedition – it’s a matter of safety. You don’t get drunk when you’re protecting people. You just don’t.

  20. KaraLynn*

    If you want to tell them you have hemmorrhoids, using the term “flaring up” will leave no question in their minds.

    1. nosy nelly*

      Eh, people use that phrase for all kinds of conditions (I can immediately think of psoriasis, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, colitis, but assume there are more). I don’t think it would really be so transparent.

    2. NeverNicky*

      I have multiple sclerosis and I use the term “flare up” to describe an exacerbation in any of my symptoms, none of which are haemorrhoids … I wouldn’t think it obvious at all.

    3. SarahTheEntwife*

      I’ve seen that phrase used for pretty much any chronic condition, even mental health issues.

    4. Perse's Mom*

      Only if you actually phrase it as ‘hemorrhoid flare-up.’ Otherwise, ‘flare up’ is increasingly commonly used for many other conditions.

  21. Honor Harrington*

    OP #3 – first, I commend you for stepping up and handling all the trip work on your own. That’s a big job!

    As an outdoor guide, you are responsible for the safety and welfare of your clients, whether they are experience or not. If your partner was so drunk he couldn’t perform his duties, then he couldn’t ensure the safety and well-being of your guests. What if a drunk guest stepped in the fire? What if a drunk guest got sprayed by a skunk at the groover? You can’t be in two places at one time, and you couldn’t handle the injured guest as well as care for the rest of them.

    I have taken multiple overnight guided trips (white-water rafting, hiking, kayaking) and I have had a drink or two with my guides around the fire. If I saw one of the guides so drunk he couldn’t perform his duties, I would never travel with your organization again. The quality of guides is what determines the quality of the trip.

    You did the right thing to report him. Not because he wasn’t pulling his weight, but because he put your clients and your business at risk with his behavior.

  22. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Should I tell my coworkers I have hemorrhoids?
    Absolutely not. If you must allude to ‘health condition” do so, but leave it there.

    2. Is it a red flag if all your interviewers are running late?
    Maybe. If they’re hiring you to fill an open spot, then I’d be less concerned since hopefully you will help. And if they were all in a meeting then that is also unavoidable. But I agree it’s rude. Still, my willingness to push back would depend on how much I needed the job.

    4. How to deal with coworkers who are annoying about Christmas
    Option a: If your position grants you power, ignore everyone else and use it to do what you want.
    Option b: Leave the fight to someone else; concede that the weighting of diversity vs. tradition (or “how the company wants to present itself”) is a matter for people above your pay grade, and just go do your job.
    Option c: Make this your fight.

    Most employees would be better off with “b”.

  23. Christmas Carol*

    LW #1
    What would you do if you confided in your manager, she discussed it with her husband, and reported back, “My husband says that it’s no big deal, and after all he had them too and now look, he’s a university professor.”

  24. rosiebyanyothername*

    Religion in the office (and how it intersects with holidays) is always dicey. It’s always interesting watching coworkers attempt to find an unoffensive way of saying “but you LOOK Jewish” when I correct them after they wish me a happy Hanukkah.

    1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      Wow. See, that kind of thing right there is why I always say “happy holidays” to anyone whose religion I do not personally know beforehand.

      1. Liane*

        I am an observant Christian and when I did retail, my personal rule for December greetings for customers was if they talked about Christmas plans or had decorations/wrap or said “Merry Christmas,” I wished them “Merry Christmas “; if not, it was “Happy holidays.”

        Pro tip for customers: Don’t ask a retail employee, “I bet THEY make you say ‘Happy holidays,’ don’t they? Well you better tell me ‘Merry Christmas’!”

        1. Student*

          When I was in retail, I did it by date.

          Mid-November or any day in December? “Happy holidays!”

          Day before or of a specific holiday? “Happy !”

    2. strawberries and raspberries*

      Wow, I wonder if it was the same person who found out I’m Jewish and said, “But you’re so nice!” O_O

      1. rosiebyanyothername*

        I think the way their brain works is “dark curly hair + grew up in New Jersey = must be Jewish” but maybe I’m just guessing…

        1. FormerEmployee*

          I believe I’ve met at least one person who fits that description (curly hair + NJ) and they are Italian and Catholic.

          Note: I phrased it that way because you can be Italian and Jewish, something many people do know know.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            I know someone else who fits that description, only for her it was NYC. She said people were all the time assuming she was Jewish.

    3. CM*

      “you look Jewish,” lol. There have been quite a few times when a well-meaning person wished me a happy Dussehra or something and I’m like, “Um, let me Google that.” I’m not offended at all and think it’s kind of funny. But it’s a weird combination of making assumptions about people based on their race/looks (for me, the assumption is that I’m Hindu or Muslim) and going out of your way to be inclusive and acknowledge a holiday from another religion. I appreciate the effort, and at the same time, it’s a swing and a miss.

      Probably better to hold the holiday wishes until your coworker actually indicates in some way that they celebrate that holiday.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        You and me both, CM! See also: my postal carrier grilling me about my ethnicity because I simply MUST be Indian (and when I said no, going “ARE YOU SURE???”) before letting me know I needed to have a nameplate on my mailbox.

    4. Arielle*

      I have a good friend who gets that all the time because her first name is Rachel and she has really curly dark hair. However, her last name is very Spanish, as is she.

      1. FormerEmployee*

        People who say nasty things about Rachel Maddow direct a lot of their nastiness to her being Jewish, except for the fact that she isn’t. If you look her up, which I did, you find out that she describes her family as being “very, very Catholic”.

  25. Christine*

    3. My coworker got drunk and couldn’t work

    The being drunk was unacceptable, but one comment got my attention. “I feel like his behavior was unacceptable and that even if you are off the clock, you are still responsible for your participants.” The employees should be on the clock the entire time they are on the trip. They are not free to leave. I’m curious about that.

    1. Doodle*

      I think she probably means “not directly leading an activity at that moment.” I’ve done something similar to this, and there definitely is a difference between “I’m running this event” and “I’m back in my hotel room/tent but still on call for emergencies.”

      However — that doesn’t mean the co-worker’s behavior was acceptable! See above for many comments about how guides/chaperons need to be ready for problems at any moment. I just wanted to respond to the “on the clock”/”off the clock” thing. Hopefully if they are hourly employees, they are still being paid for those hours (or would be if they had to get up to deal with an issue.)

    2. paul*

      I think with guide work it’s usually paid per trip, but I’m not sure how all the legalities shake out.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Having a drink before you climb in for the last stretch of whitewater would be a no. Having a drink with dinner after camp was set up for the night would be okay.

      (My spouse and son went on a whitewater trip with a bunch of guys who were very hung over from a bachelor party. It makes it harder to follow instructions. (e.g. “Jump off the cliff in this position, in this direction.”) But you do regularly get dunked in icy water!)

  26. Bossy Magoo*

    #4: Our holiday party, held on a December evening, isn’t as well-attended as it used to be. My suggestion every year (and every year it gets poo-pooed) is to close the office for an afternoon and hold an off-site luncheon. If you don’t want to go to the luncheon, you can just take the afternoon off. But this way you get a nice festive free meal, no pressure to run back to your desk to check your email, and doesn’t occupy one of your December evenings.

    We’ve never done it. It appears I might be the only one in favor.

    1. Liane*

      In one of her books, Miss Manners described the ideal office holiday party as starting at lunch with the boss telling everyone to take the rest of the day off. She mentioned it had many advantages including, “not leaving the office littered with Styrofoam cups and personnel problems.”

      1. Zombeyonce*

        But if we didn’t have holiday parties, what scandalous acts would we gossip about in January? /s

    2. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

      I’ve seen a few other suggestions like this, and it sounds perfect. Count one more vote in your favor.

  27. Laura A.*

    3 out of 10 interviewers I had in the past were late (really late). That says something about responsibility and respecting other people’s time.

  28. Dust Bunny*

    Holiday party: Holidays parties should be inclusive, but, jeez, don’t wait until January. January is the holiday hangover month. Hold them during the build-up of excitement, even if it’s busier, not when everyone is bummed about having been single for yet another New Year and arguing with their kids about culling to make room for the new toys.

    1. Allison*

      “not when everyone is bummed about having been single for yet another New Year and arguing with their kids about culling to make room for the new toys.”

      That certainly sounds sucky, but I wouldn’t say “everyone” has that problem in January.

  29. animaniactoo*

    “People don’t get offended by Christmas. They get offended by people acting like everybody celebrates it or it’s the only one worth celebrating.” [pointed look]

  30. bohtie*

    OP #1, this is good advice, I wanted to just tell you that I feel ya. I’m dealing with an undiagnosed GI thing that flares up a lot, and my coworkers think I’m calling in hungover or something when in fact it’s “I literally threw up for 2 hours this morning.” I feel like it’s actually gotten worse since I began treatment – not the illness, but the perception of it — because now I’m generally much more functional but I still am going to have random days where things are bad and I’m late or out. Not to mention they’re often just before or after the weekend, since my flare-ups are heavily triggered by stress and changes in routine. Arg.

  31. nnn*

    Another thought for OP#1: as someone with no experience with hemorrhoids, I would find it completely uninformative if you told me you have hemorrhoids as an explanation for your absence. I have a vague idea of what hemorrhoids means, but I know nothing about how it relates to the need for sick days.

    Saying “a chronic medical condition that flares up sometimes” would be far more informative to me, and I can empathize with it because I also have a chronic medical condition that flares up sometimes.

    If your boss has experience with hemorrhoids, they will be able to empathize with hemorrhoids, but they will also be able to empathize with a chronic medical condition that flares up sometimes.

    If your boss has no experience with hemorrhoids, saying you have hemorrhoids may not add any useful information, but they might still be able to empathize with a chronic medical condition that flares up sometimes.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      And most people probably knows someone with a chronic medical condition that flares up sometimes, so it’s at least second-hand relatable.

  32. Allison*

    2) Honestly, it could be a sign of trouble to come. I’d wonder if people are either really disorganized, OR if the company as a whole values being “suuuuper busy” all the time. This was my last company. Lots of people overbooked, running late, always power walking around looking frazzled, huffing and puffing, barely time to eat lunch, and always saying “ohh my gosh, I’m just sooooo busy!” If you weren’t like that, people thought you weren’t working hard enough.

    3) You did the right thing by saying something. Not only was it irresponsible of him to get that drunk and stay up so late that he couldn’t do his job the next day, it sounds like you also had to pick up his slack and finish the trip doing a 2-person job by yourself. This is not something you let slide.

    4) I can see both sides of this as being valid. People here are already making some good cases for January. Personally, holiday stuff belongs in December, by January I’m sick of the color scheme and decorations and music, even New Years feels stale by then. Plus, the end of December may be busy for some departments, but my work slows down in December and picks up at the start of January. But if the holiday party was in January, I wouldn’t complain. Free food is free food, and free drinks are great!

    But I really hate this whole “aww, oh nooo, someone’s offended! we can’t Christmas anymore because people feel offended! are you offended? ohh boy, everyone gets offended now.” Offended has become a blanket term with negative connotations mean people use to shut others down. Let’s not use that, let’s be more specific. Christmas doesn’t “offend” people, but the dominance of the holiday during December does make people who don’t observe it feel alienated and ignored, whereas when done right, efforts to be inclusive make that time of year happy and fun for everyone!

    5) He may not have realized how bad strep is, some people who’ve never had it and/or have never taken care of someone with it think it’s just a bad sore throat, NOT a highly contagious and super miserable infection. I felt like I was gonna die the second time I had it – my fever was high, it was hot outside, I could barely talk, I was home alone and just getting up for water or food was a struggle.

    1. Science!*

      “But I really hate this whole “aww, oh nooo, someone’s offended! we can’t Christmas anymore because people feel offended! are you offended? ohh boy, everyone gets offended now.” Offended has become a blanket term with negative connotations mean people use to shut others down. Let’s not use that, let’s be more specific. Christmas doesn’t “offend” people, but the dominance of the holiday during December does make people who don’t observe it feel alienated and ignored, whereas when done right, efforts to be inclusive make that time of year happy and fun for everyone!”

      Thank you! People always assume that when a change like this is made that someone complained. But it’s also possible that someone in charge wanted to make the holidays more inclusive absent of a specific complaint.

    2. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

      Hi! Next question: what does “done right” look like? This looks like something I might be able to influence (and a good way for me to ignore my “gahhhhhh shut upppppp” feelings about some of my coworkers on the committee).

      1. Halster*

        I think focusing on a winter/end of the year theme is a good idea! So rather than red and green and elves and reindeer, which are all Christmas-related, having like, streamers, and a white/gold sparkling type theme, with snowflakes and whatever else.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      > I felt like I was gonna die the second time I had it

      Me too. The first time, I didn’t really realize how sick I had been until later, partly because I slept thru 18 hours of it. The second time, I was miserable but also I was really pissed off because I guess maybe I assumed that I would have immunity from it?

  33. Is it time to stop decorating?*

    Related to OP4’s post –
    After reading through the AAM Christmas related archives, I’ve been thinking about eliminating our office tradition of decorating for Christmas in order to be a more inclusive employer (we don’t currently have staff with a conflict with the decorations, but as was pointed out in a different post we don’t want to be in a position to stop the tradition in response to a new hire in the future). We typically have a Christmas tree, stockings with the staff names, and wreaths on the doors.

    Am I correct in understanding that at this point it is the appropriate decision to stop decorating for the holidays / Christmas? Is that the AAM community’s consensus?

    1. Q without U*

      I think so, yest. As a non-Christian, I would be thrilled to see the Christmas decorations in my office go, but I don’t want to make a stink and ask for it. If you think folks would miss the festive decorations, you could switch to decorating with non-holiday winter stuff – snowflakes, icicles, etc. There are a bunch of idea online for that kind of thing.

      1. nnn*

        Building on this, if you want to be really bold and inclusive, you could do spring, summer and fall decorations too.

        As an ex-Christian, I’m kind of…weary, I guess, of the whole “Christmas but not actually saying Christmas” thing – “seasonal” decorations and “holiday” parties that somehow happen just around Christmastime but never any other time. If you really want to decouple, decorations and celebrations shouldn’t only happen around the time of major Christian holidays.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          As a current Christian, I’m sick of the same holiday-but-not-Christmas songs and traditions too. My partner laughs at my strong negative reaction to ‘Carol of the Bells’. I’d love to see a more pluralistic society than a homogenized one. Rather than stripping out Christmas because non-Christians feel alienated, let’s bring in everyone else’s traditions too.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              I certainly not saying that people should be forced to share any portion of their religion or culture at work.

          1. Halster*

            Yeah, I don’t want my tradition at work either – not in the least because it’s not really easy for non-Muslims to celebrate Eid in a way that doesn’t seem like a weird parody (because the holiday is deeply religious, and all the celebrations are around prayer and ritual…)

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Building on this, if you want to be really bold and inclusive, you could do spring, summer and fall decorations too.

          I have a lit wreath on my front door year-round. Sometimes it’s berries, sometimes it’s faux dogwood, sometimes it’s faux fall leaves, and sometimes it’s greenery and ornaments. If you like lights, call ’em fairy lights instead of Christmas lights and leave them up!

    2. LizB*

      Like Q without U said, go with snowflakes, lights, and, sparkly things of all colors rather than tree, stockings, and wreaths. Your current decorations sound very Christmas-specific, which is easy to change while still being festive. As a non-Christian, I love it when my city puts string lights on the trees in the winter, because it brightens things up during a very dreary, low-sunlight time of year. If that’s the focus of your decorations, you should be fine.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like wreaths. Evergreens, and it’s normal to keep them around until the days are brighter and warmer.

    3. Student*

      Maybe what you should ask yourself is a series of questions. What is the goal of this office tradition? Who does it serve?

      What is it you like about putting up Christmas decorations? Do you like decorating? Because there are lots of ways to seasonally decorate an office.

      Do you like bringing people together to celebrate? Because if that’s your goal, you have two different reasonable options (and hey, do both if you want):
      (1) Have a personal, not job/work related, Christmas party with other people of your social choosing
      (2) Have an office party that is not themed for a specific religious holiday.

      Do you just like Christmas itself? Then it’s pretty much a religious / favored religious holiday thing, and you should probably knock it off at work if you want to be considerate to those of us who don’t like it. At minimum, scale it back substantially – decorate your own door. Don’t make stockings with other employee’s names on them. (I would politely accept such a thing, find it mildly annoying that you made assumptions on my religion, then throw it out discretely as soon as it was reasonable to do so without obvious social backlash / rudeness).

      Do you think this decoration will appeal to outsiders, like clients, in a way important to your business? Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. I certainly expect the local department stores will keep doing Christmas arrangements for as long as Christmas-related purchases bring them loads of profit, and I understand that, and I’m sure it’s smart marketing for them. As a non-Christian, I find it mildly annoying at businesses I go to that don’t sell anything vaguely Christmas-related, like a tire store or a dentist’s office, but it’d have to be really over-the-top to actually drive me, personally, off.

  34. Kyrielle*

    OP #3 – everything that Alison said. (And if he doesn’t get fired, and has never had a so-drunk-he-could-not-work-the-next-morning issue reported, it may be precisely because you reported it as soon as it happened once and before it was a pattern. This is severe enough it might result in firing anyway, but if he instead gets a final warning and told to never do it again, the fact that he only had a chance to do it once may be what gets him that. What can be a final warning as a one-off, even if tied to a related but less-horrible pattern, is a firing offense if it’s a pattern…sometimes even if the employer didn’t know about it after the first instance.)

    But this is reasonable to be fired over, and honestly, better to learn that sooner than later also. This keeps you in good standing with the company also. You covered well, it sounds like, as far as the client experience – but still, if they noticed and complained to the company, he would have been (and will be) in the same situation he will be in because of your report, and you would have been in a much worse one if you hadn’t reported it.

    You did what you need to. It’s not fun when we know something is going to have consequences, but – it has consequences for a reason, and they come from *his actions*, not yours. Yours made the company aware, but there are lots of other ways they also could have become aware, and you also have a duty to them and to clients. You did the right thing, by all those measures.

  35. Meg*

    OP1: I had major issue with hemorrhoids a few years ago that was fortunately able to be cleared up with surgery. I trusted my boss, so I brought in a note when I visited the doc. Under no circumstances did I disclose to my coworkers. If you did need to disclose, I think any reasonable person would be understanding if said “I previously said stomach bug because I was too embarassed to say the truth”.

    No doubt someone else has suggested you get FMLA coverage for your condition, should that be appropriate for your workplace. It may provide peace of mind that you don’t have to disclose your condition but that there is a on-record reason for your absence in case management gets concerned.

    As a fellow sufferer – my deepest sympathies.

  36. AFRC*

    OP#4 – I just wanted say that I love this sentence: “Through no fault of my own, I am serving a term on our organization’s Social Committee.” Good luck dealing with the rest of the committee!

    1. Is it time to stop decorating?*

      agree! This is EXACTLY how I’ve felt every time I’ve been drafted onto a “fun” committee!

    2. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

      EXACTLY. But my grandboss asked me to do it (HIS boss, the big boss, is the one who got the committee going a few years ago), both grandboss and my boss know how much I hate it, and now it’s become kind of a thing to see a) how much of it I can take while b) still being a contributing member. There is no shortage of shouting about it (me) or mocking me (them).

    3. Adjuncts Anonymous*

      I not only have to serve a term on the End of Semester Celebration, I have to chair the committee and end up spending a fair amount of my own cash on it. There is NO budget for it at the community college, but my boss really wants it. She and the administrative assistant kick in a little money for food and supplies, but I end up spending a lot more. I feel really icky asking co-workers trying to live on adjunct wages to kick in their money, and we aren’t allowed to accept money from students for that. (My husband at least makes a decent salary.)

      On the other hand, it is unambiguously NOT a Christmas party! As an ESL program, we have students of many different religions. Secondly, my boss herself belongs to the Nation of Islam. So, at least I don’t have LW #4’s problem.

  37. Science!*

    I have such feelings about #4. Because the timing is just too perfect for something I was going to talk about on the Friday open work thread: how it feels to be the Non-Christian when your co-workers complain that they can’t celebrate Christmas at work.

    Yesterday I went to the break area to use the microwave and two of my co-workers were complaining about holiday restrictions such as no lights*, and no christmas trees. And they kept talking about how people are “offended” by christmas celebrations and were really bothered that they couldn’t have traditional decorations and celebrations. But from my end I felt very uncomfortable. Not because I object to celebrating Christmas, but that I felt like my presence is objected to. That because my workplace has tried to be open and welcoming to all faiths and cultures somehow I’ve ruined Christmas for everyone else. And I wanted to say snarky things, and remind them that not everyone is Christian (they might not remember that about me). I also wanted to mention that it’s really hard to find non-christmas decorations in stores, and non-Christmas holiday cards. So as annoying as it is for them to not have a Christmas tree at work, at least they can decorate to their hearts content at home. I didn’t say anything because my department is really gossipy and I didn’t want people thinking that I was the reason no one is allowed Christmas trees.

    So my point of my comment is not to say that celebrating Christmas is bad, it’s that the way people talk about inclusivity can really alienate those of us who are only asking for acknowledgment that we exist too. Using words like “oh we can’t do that, someone might get offended” make me feel like I should just shut up.

    * the issue with hanging christmas lights was not about them being christmas lights but that the lights themselves are considered a safety hazard in the lab.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      So as annoying as it is for them to not have a Christmas tree at work, at least they can decorate to their hearts content at home.

      When our annual Christmas luncheon became a holiday luncheon, some people got so upset that “you’re taking Christmas away from me.” Um, no. You can Christmas all you want. You can paint your house red and green, you can put lights all over your yard, you can have a 15-ft decorated tree, you can wear Christmas sweaters from Halloween until Groundhog Day. You don’t get to pretend Christmas is being “taken away from you” just because you aren’t doing it at work. That’s just as ridiculous as saying “I don’t get to have sex any more” or “I can’t drink, someone might get offended” just because you’re not allowed to drink or have sex in the office.

      1. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

        If it wouldn’t be an egregious HR issue, I would print out your comment and post it all over the building.

    2. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

      THIS. Thank you for so eloquently stating why that righteous indignation builds up inside me when I hear people talking like that (I have that empathy problem where I feel outrage on behalf of people who aren’t in the room, so sometimes I am protective of fictional people I have created). I guess in this instance I can say: I see you, and I don’t think you’re ruining anything, and I would like to make work a more pleasant place for you, and also: those break room people are mean and I hope they get coal in their stockings.

  38. Esme Squalor*

    Sorry, I don’t know how this comment ended up down here. I posted it in the thread above that had a comedic verse about hemorrhoids that wasn’t very good, or likely to be helpful to the letter writer.

  39. Esme Squalor*

    Oops, looks like that thread was deleted while I was posting. Alison, please feel free to delete my comment as well, since it’s now extremely off-topic.

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    On #4, I’m Jewish but that’s irrelevant here. What matters is that I’ve successfully avoided going to my company’s holiday party for nine consecutive years! Wish me luck as I go for the perfeet 10..

  41. OfficeGrinch*

    UGH, holiday celebrations! In addition to the MONTH of “holiday” cough cough “Christmas” festivities, which is enough to turn me into a massive Grinch, our office social committee has now decided to have a MONTH of Halloween activities… including movie lunches, caramel apples in the break room, and constant emails about the “fun” activities they have planned. I just don’t understand why people feel the need to have kindergarten classroom festivities for a workplace of adults. Am I a no-fun monster or does that seem like a huge waste of time/resources?

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      I love that kind of thing, but at heart I am basically a giant four-year-old. And I much prefer it if it isn’t something official or required (whether literally or by office culture pressure).

  42. LW#4 aka Scrooge*

    Yay! Thanks for answering my question. AAM commenters are the best! I’m looking forward to everyone’s horror stories and advice.

    At this point in the planning process, the date is set for December. This is a non-mandatory lunchtime party that employees pay to attend (under $10). Lots of people who work here look forward to this party, so even though it’s on campus and people pay for a portion of the meal, they still enjoy getting together.

    Even though the date is set, I have plenty of opportunity to suggest a theme, menu, activities, decorations, and so on. If you fine people have suggestions for ways to make this a fun, inclusive thing that isn’t just “Christmas Disguised as ‘Holiday,'” I would love to hear them.

    1. Halster*

      I think just a “Thank You for All Your Hard Work This Year” theme makes sense! The end of the year is a great marking point for employees. So just having a “great job everyone” theme with traditionally celebratory stuff (balloons, bright colors, streamers, etc) could be fun!

    2. Jewish anon*

      I’m not sure what your work is, but at my old job, Christmas used to be a huge crunch time. If yours is also like that, I think you could make it as simple as a “We Need a Break” party and decorate in a somewhat generic but still fun way. I also like a “Thank You” party.

  43. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    I see that there’s an update for LW #2, and that organization was disorganized in other ways and she decided not to take the job. But I wanted to make a comment that might be relevant to others in a similar situation:

    If the organization has a “late culture,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t operate a high level, or are disorganized or flaky. It’s a real cultural difference (across national and ethnic lines of difference, but also just across organizations), and what you need decide is whether it’s something you’re comfortable working with.

    My current division’s culture runs late. I’m not a late person, and I do struggle with it. But I also respect the choice that my colleagues are making: they are putting a higher value on staying in a conversation/meeting/session/etc. until it is complete than on leaving at a set time to start a new conversation/meeting/session.

  44. Halster*

    Op 4: I appreciate you trying!! I am Muslim, I would definitely have appreciated a January celebration, and honestly, it’s really annoying having everyone shove Christmas down your throat…

  45. Student*

    OP #3 – I had an experience very similar to this, and I deeply regret not reporting the guy who couldn’t get into work. In my case, I let peer pressure and fear of being the messenger who gets shot hold me back from reporting it, and I feel like an idiot now for not stepping up and being the adult in the room.

    Our drunk who couldn’t wake up in time was our team lead on an off-site project, nominally leading about a half-dozen people, including me. It was rather spectacular; he went on some bender one night, fell asleep with his phone off, didn’t set an alarm, never told any of us which hotel he was in, and had decided to changed hotels nightly. So, he no-shows one morning. We can’t reach him on his cell. We don’t know what hotel he’s in that night, only that it was constantly changing. So we phone random hotels until we get the right one and have them ring us to his room. He was clearly still asleep when we rang him. He gets his butt out of bed and gets ready to come in – only to lock himself out of his rental car in his haste (he’s also in the middle of checking out of his hotel, for his nightly hotel-change). So one of us had to go drive out to pick him up. He eventually gets in to work more than an hour and a half late.

    The client at this off-site project was livid, and while the rest of the team tried to make up for his absence and the absence of the guy who had to go get him, it impacted the morning’s work. I had heard the client was about ready to kick him off-site, and had to be talked down from it by the client’s second-in-command. It certainly made my company look bad, and it undermined the guy’s standing with those of us “working” for him. We treated him as a joke for the rest of the project and immediately stopped treating him like a team lead. He was junior to virtually everyone on “his” team, so he made an uphill struggle much worse on himself.

    I had hoped the client would complain to our project manager back at company headquarters, but it turns out he did not. The rest of the team talked about what we should tell the project manager, and decided on nothing. I was in favor of speaking to the project manager about it, but I let the rest of the team talk me down. They felt it wouldn’t go over well, since we were supposed to report to this guy who’d screwed up and we’d be going over his head, and since he’s apparently a favorite of the project manager (whom I had never worked with before). They also told me this guy had done the same thing on other projects (?!) and never been held to account for it (?!?!?!). At that point, I figured that if I was the lone complainer tattling on the project manager’s favorite, that it was more likely to cause me problems than get taken seriously.

    I still hate myself for not reporting it, though. I should’ve at least given the project manager a chance to do the right thing. Now, guy who can’t get up in time for work because of benders has a comfy position here, with a track to management through clueless project manager. Meanwhile, I’m job searching, as are several of my colleagues who worked on this team.

  46. AnonymousBird*

    To the LW with the Christmas party: when they say they would like “traditional” food, try saying “latkes and sufganiyot are traditional at this time of year for people who celebrate Hanukkah. Do we plan on serving that as well?” I just wanted to applaud you for standing up for those who don’t celebrate Christmas, even though you do personally. As a Jew, I often feel very excluded and out of place around December. My old company had an extremely non-denominational holiday party. Everyone enjoyed it. No one was mad they weren’t focusing on Christmas. It can be done!

  47. Sarah*

    Regarding # 5
    I had strep throat a few weeks ago. I woke up the morning of my interview, struggled to get out of bed, got dressed and realize if I walked out the door I would most likely pass out. I felt terrible. I called the interviewer and it was early so I had to leave a voicemail. I told them I would call back later to ask to reschedule due to feeling very sick and I called later to reschedule. I reached out about 2-3 times that week and left a voicemail twice. They never responded to my calls-before they were very responsive. It still bothers me. Somewhere along the line, I feel like interviewers have lost their humanity. I know I’m not entitled to having my interview re-scheduled but to simply not respond to any of my calls.

  48. a different Vicki*

    LW 3: One of the reasons to have two guides on a trip like this is so they can cover for each other. That doesn’t excuse what the other guy did: It makes it worse, because it meant there would have been no backup if you had been injured or come down with a fever while he had put himself out of commission.

  49. Wintermute*

    #3– You did the right thing. Consider it this way, while it’s a complete myth that you “need to hit rock bottom” in order to overcome alcoholism, there is very often an inciting incident when you realize that your relationship with alcohol is not a healthy one: a DUI arrest, a humiliating incident at a work or family function (we’ve seen a few people ask for advice here that realized they were an alcoholic after an incident at a work party!), losing a relationship, having a serious medical issue or complication… And losing a job, along with all the insecurity and anxiety it brings is very high on the list.

    Some therapists say that losing a job is the second most likely to result in someone voluntarily seeking treatment (first being a life-threatening medical issue resulting from alcohol use, including those resulting from a DUI car crash), more than even a divorce or breakup!

    You didn’t just protect yourself (which you did) and your company (which you also did), AND the people that you are guiding (which were also placed at risk by his reckless behavior, at least if you’re in a position where ‘guide’ includes handling safety and legal matters, from your letter I’m thinking more “guide for foreign tourists” than “kayaking guide”)– you might have literally saved his life.

  50. Kira*

    I’ve worked in the outdoor rec industry for a long time. Good guides create immersive customer experiences, and a lot of times that includes drinking around the fire (or activity specific equivalent). Often, part of what we sell is a window into the alternate life – the opportunity for a client to feel what it might have been like to live the “ski bum” life or whatever it may be. While I am not alone amongst my colleagues in regularly going to bed by 7:30, the outdoor rec industry certainly has a well earned reputation for knowing how to party hard, and I’m sure I’ve done my part to help earn this over the years.

    That said, the cardinal rule is this: Working hard comes before partying hard. If you can’t wake up, rally, and do your damn job with a smile on your face, you do not belong anywhere near a party.

    And if you’re on a multi-day trip, you should expect to sober up, rally, and do your damn job at any moment.

  51. Trudy Scrumptious*

    OP 4: I know this is about 4 months too late, but my mother used to work at a hospital that would have a “Hearts and Holly” dance in late January or February. It acknowledged the “Holiday” celebration, but its timing was for exactly the reasons you suggested to the planning committee. Perhaps that would work for future years.

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