being forced to perform a team dance at the holiday party, and other questions about holidays at work

At New York Magazine today, I’ve tackled a whole round-up of questions about holidays at work, including:

  • Being required to chip in for a gift to your boss
  • Being forced to perform a team dance at the office holiday party (this needed to be bolded)
  • Sending a gift to someone who you hope will hire you
  • Skipping the boss’s holiday party
  • and more

You can read it here.

{ 225 comments… read them below }

  1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

    My leadership team did a group dance for us a couple of years ago. It was super cringe-worthty, but not nearly as bad as the rap they were required by the head of our facility then next year. I wasn’t there for that one but one of my co-workers recorded it on their phone and texted it to me.

    1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      Sorry, that should have been “the rap they were required to perform by the head of our facility.”

    2. Dancing Queen*

      I’d much rather watch the managers dance than be forced to dance with my team! Embarassing your managers seems much more tolerable.

      1. Elemeno P.*

        Yes, this. My old workplace had a departmental award ceremony that they combined with a talent show. Employees could perform if they wanted (there was always a long list or performers), and (most of) management did a choreographed, silly dance. Not every member of management participated, but most did, and sometimes people from other departments would join in. This was an entertainment venue, though, so most people had performance backgrounds and it was pretty normal.

        1. Dancing Queen*

          It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t “strongly suggested” – aka mandatory. Some people don’t enjoy the thought of being on stage and performing. Voluntary signups would be the best way!

      2. many bells down*

        One of the highlights of my husband’s office Christmas party is when the quiet, reserved, soft-spoken owner of the company raps “Baby Got Back” at the karaoke station. It’s hilarious because he’s so … I’d almost call him “demure” if that wasn’t so gendered.

        1. Gypo Nolan*

          Ugh; you’d think he’d be a little more sensitive to his female employees than to choose this particular song. I would be livid. I gather his status allows him to get away with it.

      1. Archie Goodwin*

        Better: jump out a window WHILE doing a team dance. Then convince everyone of how dangerous it is.

        (Note: please do not actually do this.)

              1. Student*

                Now I want to start a line of high-heel, steel-toe, non-slip work shoes. With a line of matching, fabulous, Elton-John styled safety glasses.

                For all your safety/performance needs. Also helps resolve those awkward drunk passes at the holiday party from one of the other letters – colleague makes a pass, you “accidentally” whap his knee/ankle/toes/offending hand with your fabulous carmine steel-toe stiletto with silver highlights.

                1. another Liz*

                  The Chenille Sisters are a kids musical act with a song called “Girl Shoes”. It’s about wanting pointy toed, thin soled, high heel girl shoes even though they’re bad for you. There’s so much opportunity for a parody with steel toe high heels.

      2. Snark*

        “For my talent show act, I’m going to demonstrate my mastery of the art of Parkour.” *Side-flips out the window, goes to sit alone in a nice dark pub and drink a beer*

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Or Blazing Saddles: “And now, for my next impression, Jesse Owens” *runs quickly off-camera*

    3. limenotapple*

      I feel very uncomfortable with the rapping part. I think that could go wrong in a hurry, for a variety of reasons.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I distinctly remember being mortified at having to perform some stupid multiplication rap in 3rd grade. I was 8. How do adults not know this is a terrible idea?

        1. hbc*

          Yeah, I’m glad that cell phones didn’t exist when my middle school science group sang about uranium to the tune of Faith No More’s Epic. I have no desire to relive that in front of my colleagues.

      2. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

        Not the least of which is that the majority of our employees are African-American, while our leadership team is…not. I have no idea what they were thinking!

          1. Snark*

            “The urban folk all like rap, right? They’ll love it!”

            *spoiler alert!*


            1. Femme d'Afrique*

              Well, I can’t speak for Americans, but personally, I would find this HILARIOUS! (To watch, of course, from a safe can’t-get-roped-into-this-insanity distance.)

              1. yasmara*

                My husband’s team at his old job performed a dance routine yearly at the company Christmas party (and yes, private company and it was A Christmas Party), to which spouses/significant others were invited….he’s no longer at that job.

    4. Anonynony*

      Wow, this brings back memories of when some of us had to perform a skit (which was videotaped), and sing for various meetings, and this was at MIT no less! I don’t understand why people feel the need for such things because unless the performers are professionals, you know it’s going to be incredibly embarrassing (for performers and audience). I am an introvert and no matter how hard I try to get out of my comfort zone, it’s always readily apparent I want to be somewhere else, doing something else!

      1. Anonygoose*

        I have had to do things like that as part of a JOB INTERVIEW at a restaurant. It was supposed to be a ‘fun group interview’ and we wound up having to make a skit with a song. Awful .

        And I did not get the job.

    5. Trig*

      Ahhhh you reminded me of the Christmas party at my partner’s old job where management chose to do the most awkward rap. (They had done an office-specific version of T’was the Night Before Christmas the previous year, which, while maybe a bit forced, at least wasn’t painful.) White baby boomers with French Canadian accents, ‘rapping’. Everyone at my table just stared at each other, wide-eyed, and had another drink.

      I feel a bit bad for letting my shock and cringing show, given that I was a guest… but it was unequivocally awful, and that shock was mirrored on everyone around me’s face.

      Given the “hip hop songs, but about Thanksgiving” YouTube compilation I witnessed the other day, there seems to be a certain swath of the population who thinks this stuff is hilarious and in good taste.

    6. kittymommy*

      The only way you’re getting me to do the team dance at the parry in #1 is getting me drunk at the party in #5.

    7. Ghost Town*

      The assistant and associate deans, et al. in my old school used to perform as a not-terrible band complete with costumes and choreography at the yearly holiday party. That, the effusive words about how staff kept the school running plus the paltry-to-insulting yearly raises just made me roll my eyes. I never enjoyed it or thought it was particularly funny. It just felt like an attempt to cover the lack of compensation and autonomy staff were given through one yearly self-deprecating ribbing.

  2. Lynca*

    We had a group perform a team dance for a talent show we had at work. It was awkward to watch. They had props too. But they all volunteered to do it.

    I can’t imagine someone being forced to do it, let alone subjecting a party to it. I’d really push back as a group. If they find it fun they can do it by themselves.

        1. Lynca*

          I didn’t know they were going to perform a team dance. We had several people that are amatuer muscians (and are actually good) and that’s typically what went on.

        2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          When the theme of ‘Storks and Babies’ was suggested as our team costume theme (not quite as bad as it sounds, we do work in reproductive health) I wondered for a very long moment if I was going to develop a 24 hour vomiting virus on the morning of the party.

          They picked another theme, thank GOD.

        3. Else*

          Me too! I can’t even watch some movies and a LOT of tv – I just flee the room. I cannot imagine the cringe I’d feel if I had to watch or participate in something like this. I think my face would take weeks to uncrumple.

      1. Lynca*

        In my office it would was volunteer only. They finally stopped having talent shows once enough people moved on and they didn’t have anyone left to organize it or enjoy it.

      2. Life is Good*

        Yep, voluntold. I hate that kind of stuff. Once, at old dysfunctional company, the Queen Bee decided that we would sing and dance to Greased Lightning from Grease. These were very religious ladies and all I could think of was “have any of you actually read the lyrics?” It bombed mostly because we sucked at singing and dancing, but it was funny to see the looks on some of the faces when they realized what they were singing.

      1. Snark*

        That’s 130% of the maximum budget my spouse and I have set for Christmas presents for each other.

    1. NW Mossy*

      As someone who manages people, I’d be horrified at the thought of demanding a contribution to a gift for me, and the sticker price of this one is even more awful. And the hinting around about this or that expensive gee-gaw? That’s tacky even with family, much less people who are paid to interact with you.

      1. LeRainDrop*

        I agree! I am so appalled by this! I would definitely hold a firm line of not donating anything towards that owner’s “gift.” With something so egregious as this, I’d have to imagine there are other things wrong with that workplace, as well.

      2. PB*

        Agreed. I don’t think I’ve ever received a gift from anyone that would amount to a $60 contribution from every direct report. The idea of telling people they had to do this frankly makes me feel a bit ill. It’s so, so wrong.

      3. ss*

        As soon as that “it’s mandatory” was thrown at me, I’d be “noping” all over the place and if they threatened to take it from my check ahead of time I’d be lobbing back about federal the rules against docking pay for unauthorized expenses.

        1. Hey Nonnie*

          That’s the first thing I thought too — I wonder how legally okay this even is. It seems like it would run afoul of labor laws dictating how employees must be paid. How is this a job if I’m paying to work there?

      4. PlainJane*

        I saw the phrase, “gimme pig,” for the first time yesterday (thanks, Etiquette Hell). It describes this owner perfectly.

      1. Dancing Queen*

        Agreed! So disgusting!! $60 per person is RIDICULOUS. I wouldn’t even give $1 if it went directly to her to buy something nice. There’s a pack of gum I’d rather purchase.

        1. Snark*

          “Sorry, boss, but I can’t afford it because last time I was at Costco, I apparently picked up a family-size package of GODDAMN BANANA CRACKERS.”

          1. President Porpoise*

            Boss: ” But Costco lets you return Everything! So go return your $20 banana crackers, plus the $40 toddler diapers, and you should be god to go! Gotta potty train that kid sometime!”

      2. Ruffingit*

        Yeah, that is just so f&&ked up. Although I’ve worked for at least one person who would do this same kind of thing I have no doubt. Those people are out there sadly.

      3. Artemesia*

        The LW needs to be job searching now if they don’t plan to be extorted though. So many levels of wrong here.

      4. Liane*

        Is this the same woman that starred in the “My boss bought a gift for everyone on the team but me” post in one of Alison’s “Office Holiday Nightmares” collections? Because the update said that boss went to OP demanding to know, “Whyyyyyyy aren’t you chipping in for my good-bye gift?” which was $50 or $60 a victim–I mean employee, of course.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        Oops posted too soon.
        The only time I’ve ever spent that much on a gift (single or for everyone on my list) was when hubby wanted a special bumper for his off-road vehicle and it didn’t cost that much! And he didn’t get anything for his birthday or the next Christmas

      2. Alienor*

        The only person I’ve ever spent that much on was my own child, and even she doesn’t get a gift that big every year. No way in hell would I want to help fund the company owner’s new piece of jewelry!

    2. Ever the Lurker*

      I’m usually out a couple hundred bucks each holiday season between gifts for my bosses and fellow managers, and gifts for staff (my company does not provide staff gifts so management pays out of pocket for them). It sucks especially when money is tight.

        1. Ever the Lurker*

          Honestly it’s a pressure thing – opting out is Not Done here. I put in my notice a couple weeks ago so I won’t have to worry about it again, along with many other things!

    3. CA in CA*

      RIGHT???? I nearly fell out of my chair!! My siblings and I set a max each year of $50 for each niece/nephew and don’t buy gifts at all for each other, and those are people I would literally take a bullet for. I’m so grateful I’ve mastered the art of saying “lol no” at work in a way that doesn’t get me written up/fired/shunned.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        oh my goodness, my siblings/cousins and I (all high school through upper twenties without kids yet) literally just do a secret Santa. With a $25 limit. Which means I only get ONE sibling a $25 gift.

        There’s no way in hell I’d give $60 towards the owner of my company!!

        1. beanie beans*

          There’s a short list of people I will spend $60 on a gift for, and the owner of my company is far far far from that list. I swear the rest of the day I’m going to be shaking my head saying “Sixty dollars…”

      2. Marthooh*

        This answer + the team dance question have percolated together to create this idea:

        LW should suggest everyone getting together to perform an interpretive contemporary dance for the boss, to the song “Grenade” by Bruno Mars.

    4. Justme*

      Right? I know my boss makes about 2.5 times what I do. I could not imagine ponying up $60 for a gift, especially knowing 11 others did the same.

    5. SallyForth*

      Did anyone else have a series of stunning Tiffany watch ads interspersed through today’s questions? I was giggling to myself that perhaps the nasty manager was sending messages.

    6. babblemouth*

      The only person in the world that clears above $50 in my Christmas gift budget is my boyfriend. I’m certainly not going to spend more on my manager than I do on my mother.
      I’m having difficulties understanding what kind of person *expects* a gift that costs over $600 as a matter of course… and from people who are not relatives or friends too!

  3. Dancing-- NO NO NO*

    I attended the company Christmas party in horrible crippling pain, because that’s just what my body does some days (and yes, this was even after prescription painkiller). If they had forced me to dance, as opposed to sitting and chatting and pretending to be normal, I would have punched somebody. What a terrible (and very ableist) idea.

    1. Nea*

      In OP’s shoes, I’d lean hard on the abelism. The “But, but, but teeeeeaaaaaaam spirrrrrriiiiiit” pressure shouldn’t hold up against a doctor’s note. Especially if the doctor’s note was filed with HR.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If this organization had a decent HR department, that letter wouldn’t have been sent in the first place…

  4. AwkwardKaterpillar*

    I got called up to play hot potato wearing oven mitts with a giant light up snowball in front of everyone at our holiday party this year. Opting out wasn’t an option.

    In comparison to a team dance though, I’d happily play that stupid game again.

    Forced games and activities aren’t fun if people don’t have a choice.

    1. Beancounter Eric*

      Saw a piece the other day about a “Hot Potato” toy which shocks the person holding when time’s up.

      Just what the company holiday party/picnic/teambuilding event needs…..

  5. Archie Goodwin*

    I was forced to participate in a company video for our anniversary party a few years ago. It was silly, so not the worst thing in the world, but I really would have preferred not to do it. Dancing in front of people is one of my own ideas of hell.

    Right up there with the opera production I skipped to go to that party, so apparently I did end up coming out on top.

  6. H.C.*

    So my OldJOb’s flash mob dance isn’t an isolated incident (also, I was able to bow out by volunteering to take photos of the semi-choreographed performance instead—getting a cringe just thinking about the images).

    1. Dancing Queen*

      Yeah! Someone already beat me to it and signed up to film it from their phone. Wish I thought of that.

      1. Beancounter Eric*

        Assert you need a second camera angle, and should be recording.

        Official video for the internal website….or “Life at Universal Teapots”…

    2. A Teacher*

      Student assembly where staff was expected to dance in front of students or be called a “boobird” (we get called that a lot) and participate in other ways. I volunteered to live tweet it from the organization account of which I am a coach.

  7. AnotherAlison*

    Hmmm. . .I feel like my mother is running some of these companies because she shares the notion that you can force adults to participate in holiday festivities. Seriously. . .forced gift giving, dancing, attendance. . .

  8. finderskeepers*

    ” Every year, the boss and his spouse treat their employees and their spouses to a holiday dinner at a nice restaurant. ” If the event is outside business hours, strictly optional, why would it not be a social event? Would it make a difference if the event was at their house and not a restaurant?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The hours and venue aren’t what determine whether it’s work or social; it’s the purpose and the guest list that do. This is an event for employees, being put on because the company believes it will serve the business’s interests.

      1. finderskeepers*

        So if the party includes other friends and acquaintances of the owner outside of his company, then it would be a social gathering?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If it’s at their home and the majority of guests aren’t employees, then sure, that blurs the lines. In that case, employees should still think of it as at least partly a work event, but now you’re fielding both work event rules and social event rules. (So you might, for example, bring a bottle of wine or other small host/hostess gift. Not required, but in that context it would be fine to do.)

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          And it would also have to be completely optional, and your attendance would have zero impact on your job or your advancement. THAT is a social gathering. Anything else is a work function.

        3. Not a Morning Person*

          Is the boss expensing the cost of the party as a business event? Are any of the friends and acquaintances also customers?

    2. SignalLost*

      Well, for one, in this letter, it isn’t suggested that the party is optional, and this kind of thing is often not seen that way by organizers. For two, the boss remembered that the LW hadn’t attended last year, strongly suggesting to me that even if he claims this party is optional it’s actually “optional”, and LW is in the running for a promotion that not attending this party, with a petty boss, could jeopardize., reinforcing that it’s not really optional after all.

      1. SignalLost*

        Oops, I misread which one you were responding to. I was thinking of the one the boss has in their home.

      2. Artemesia*

        If I were in the running for promotion there is no way I would not make an appearance at the boss’s party especially after cutting it the year before. ‘I have a family conflict tonight, but I just didn’t want to miss this’ can be voiced when thanking the host before leaving. Or if the party is huge, sneaking out might work.

  9. Oxford Common Sense*

    I know of another enforced flash mob dance… not at my work, but at the job of someone very close to me. They were okay-ish with it; I would have been mortified.

    1. SignalLost*

      I’ll be honest – if I get into the program I’m applying to, I look forward to choreographing mine and forest fires, violent resistance efforts, the Halifax explosion, and “fake news”.

      1. Snark*

        I’m trying to think of how I would choreograph the effects of global warming on alpine ecosystems. My first thought is it’d just be a chaotic and one-sided kung-fu fight, and honestly, I think that’s my final answer.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          I would LOVE to see that.

          I have been shown some of these by enthusiastic academics. My old supervisor is particularly enthused. That is… not me.

        2. As Close As Breakfast*

          Pretty sure my thesis dance choreography on the effect of hydrogen on the mechanical properties of nickel titanium would have ended up a sort of deranged/confused/trapped mime… thing. So maybe less of a dance and more of a dramatic physical interpretation? Definitely an emotional roller coaster for the audience though. They’d laugh… they’d cry… they’d pass me with no corrections whatsoever…

      2. Emi.*

        Can we do undergrad theses too? “Here’s Some Math, Now Vaccinate Your Freaking Children: The Musical.”

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Thank you. I shared this link with a friend who is preparing to defend her thesis this week.

  10. Sled dog mama*

    Ugh, the team dance thing is giving me flashbacks to the video my company did earlier this year. Professionally produced video of people at work dancing, they came around to each department and filmed everyone dancing. Then the finished video was posted to YouTube. I called in that day and still shutter when it gets brought up.
    If my job had anything to do with dancing, video production or even marketing I might see this differently but I picked my career so I could be out of sight.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        It was billed as marketing…..on YouTube.
        Seriously who thinks “oh this hospital has a great video of its staff dancing on YouTube, I’ll go there!”

        1. Snark*

          “Ms. Dog Mama, you’re going to be just fine. The blood loss has slowed, and we’re getting close to the hospital. Just hang in there. Stay with us.”

          “Take me…” *gasps, groans* “Take me to the one….with the dancing administrative staff….” *wheeze*

    1. the gold digger*

      At my OldJob, they wanted to make a video of everyone singing and dancing to “Happy” to show to the new CEO.

      The new CEO is a retired Army general.

      I am thinking this video might be part of what has led to the subsequent bloodbath and enormous layoffs since he started.

      1. Snark*

        Having made the acquaintance of several generals in the course of my work, it’s my guess that most of them – even the most jovial of them – would want to fire that video and everyone responsible for it out of a howitzer.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is right up there with putting your resume on the inside of the lid of a box of donuts. If you have to use cheap marketing gimmicks to sell your goods or services, I’m immediately inclined to think that your reputation in your industry is for crap, and you are desperate to drum up business that isn’t based on reputation, reviews, or word of mouth.

    3. Windchime*

      Ha, I wonder if your employer is owned by the same company that bought my old workplace. Lots of rah, rah, rah and spending time on silly things like music videos. The owner is into the Three Musketeers and sometimes even dresses like one. Yeah. That guy.

  11. a different Vicki*

    I am not a llama, but if that $60/employee toward a “gift” for the boss really is mandatory, that sounds like a pay cut, which at least should be reflected in the OP’s taxes: if her actual pay that week is $250, the company shouldn’t be telling the IRS it was $310. (I suspect minimum wage laws might also be relevant, but we don’t have enough information to figure that out.)

      1. WellRed*

        We used to have a company “extortion” card go around for us to sign and chip in for a boss gift. The office manager used to actually send an email around saying we should be so grateful to Big Wig for our jobs, blah, blah. Fortunately, that has gone long by the wayside.

        1. Anonygoose*

          Ugh, yeah this year someone on our team decided we should get a couple gifts for the higher-ups – and rather than doing the whole anonymous put-what-you-can-in-an-envelope thing, she sent out an email saying we should all contribute $20. Nobody pushed back, everyone did it, but I have never heard so many complaints. One of the supervisors started 2 weeks ago, and she also decided to get a gift for our supervisor who has been on Mat leave since early January (as well as the person who has been covering her).

    1. k.k*

      I’m wondering if they’re saying it in a “everyone’s doing it so just do it too” way, and haven’t really thought about what “mandatory” really means. I feel like if someone flat out asked, “What if I don’t participate? Will my wages be garnished? Will I be fired?…” they might be met with stammering and backtracking.

    2. SignalLost*

      I am merely a llama fancier, but I suspect that since the money isn’t being withheld from OP’s paycheck it’s fine, because theoretically that money could have been earned jointly with her spouse, or come from her Etsy shop sales, or been gambling proceeds, or come from illegal drug dealing. IOW, if the money comes from the OP, rather than from the paycheck, it isn’t legally a guarantee that the money came from the company in the first place.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Heh. One of my thoughts about that letter is that, if I were the OP, I would love to say “Well, if it’s required, go ahead and dock my pay”, and then turn around and sue them, because that’s daring them to document their stupidity.

      2. partypants*

        I have passed on the Santa swap two years in a row now and everyone has me pegged as a non-team-player and grinch. They say ‘oh it’s only like $25 and it’s fun’ and stuff like that.
        I currently have $46.80 in the bank, need a new gps, need a new computer, and haven’t paid my cable/phone/internet in 2 months becasue we are so poorly paid. I haven’t done any kind of gift giving that required money of any kind in years; why would I buy something for my boss who makes literally 4 1/2 times what I make?

        1. Liane*

          At a previous just-above-minimum-wage temp job, there was a Secret Santa where the gifts were “Minimum $25” Or so the signs said. But when I was asked, a kind, “Sorry, not in my budget, I wish it was.” I added the last because it was true for that workplace, since I liked a lot of the folks there.

          As for the OP’s Boss’s gift, if it’s that mandatory, I suggest 60 cents. Or 6 cents.

        2. SignalLost*

          Yeah, my workplace is doing a Giving Tree for kids in the community which is great and all, but these are the same people who told us we don’t get raises this year because they’re already paying median (for their skewed definition of what we do; I promise they are not paying median for what we really do). At least it’s the kind of thing that management will be all over, because we aren’t getting the overtime I expected and I had put off paying some bills this fall to deal with things like car repairs.

          I really need a new job.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            We participated in a similar giving tree type thing this year through work and I was kinda surprised that some of the requests were fairly large ticket. The kid we ended up with wanted one of those Leapfrog Learnypad things (not it’s real name but I called it that jokingly so many times that I forget the real name) … which it’s not an iPad or anything, but it was almost $100!

          2. Cassie*

            OMG, are you me? We are paid around the 40th percentile, and a large number of this year’s tree tags asked for video game systems and mp3 players. They were careful to use generic terms instead of brand names, but come on!

  12. Broadcastlady*

    Drunkenness at the holiday party…

    Years ago I was dating a really good looking, charismatic guy who accompanied me to our office Christmas party. Hundreds of people there, as I worked for a global media conglomerate at the time (I’m back in a small market now, my happy place). Anyway, the HR director was a horrible person whom everyone called The Queen, and we assumed she had to have dirty pics of the boss never to get fired, but I digress. The Queen was quite drunk, and a smoker. My beau also smoked, and they kept meeting up in the smoking lounge area. By night’s end, The Queen was in love with my date and had spent a good portion of the evening talking to us. Two weeks later when bonuses were given out (handed out by her, in her office), she told me to tell my Beau hello for her, she’d so enjoyed him. My bonus was $350 more than the rest of the employees in my division (mine was $750, the rest got $400). I never revealed the amount of mine, but when everyone started happily talking about the team bonus, I thought, “Wow.” We broke up soon after, but I still think he had something to do with that bonus. The Queen was anything but fair.

  13. WellRed*

    Dear Companies, Managers and Office Party Planners: I don’t want to play silly games, I don’t want to dance (forced or voluntarily), I sure as heck don’t want to watch a bunch of pasty middle middle managers perform skits or rap, and I don’t want to be forced to buy a gift for the boss. I do want decent food and a cocktail or two at a location reasonably convenient to the majority.
    Thank you.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I just recall my last company Christmas party when I watched some of my coworkers dancing. It made the next workday interesting to say the least.

    2. paul*

      You wouldn’t think it’s complicated; give me brisket, bourbon and cheesecake during the workday, let me hide alone in a cubby, and I’m happy. that’s a party, ok?

      1. Snark*

        I wouldn’t mind a few like-minded folks around a small table, but otherwise, that sounds like a helluva good party in my books.

    3. k.k*

      You’d be surprised how many people do want silly games. But our party is in the office and during the work day. So I’m happy to sit there, munch on a cookie, watch the weirdly cutthroat round of musical chairs, and then get back to my office. Now if you ask me to participate, or try to get me to do this when you’re not paying me, that’s a whole other ballgame.

    4. RabbitRabbit*

      Got the latter but for the last few years, we have been instructed that if we do not remain at the (afternoon) party location for the entire time (4 hours!) we have to go back to work. It is a-OK to arrive later if you are stuck in a meeting. I enjoy food and drink (no open bar, but we can buy our own), but not for 4 hours in a noisy pub where I can’t hear a thing.

      This year, they cut it down to 3 hours and the end time was a nice early-out for the afternoon, so that’s something, at least.

    5. SallyForth*

      My husband used to work at a really easy going tech company. Everyone wanted to go to the Christmas party because taxi rides home were arranged, the food was so good, the speeches short, and the party gift was a beautiful tree ornament from a nature series. (Think famous local artist $50 a pop) The owners were not Christian but they figured everyone has a tree. People built their ornament collections each year.

      The same company, when they were bought out, gave their work study students between $1000 and $5000 each depending on how long they had been there. Staff got between 1 and 2.5 times annual salary. People were weeping when they got their cheques. They just had no idea.

      Ahhhh, the good old days.

  14. ZK*

    $60?! Oh hell no. Christmas is hard enough on a lot of people without forcing them to give money they don’t actually have to their boss! If boss wants an expensive pair of earring she can buy them herself. Meanwhile, I’ll buy some groceries for my family or pay the gas bill.

  15. Curious Cat*

    #6 gift for an intern: I was recently the intern in this situation! I worked in my university’s press office for 2 years as a student intern. My boss, who I was very close with and consider to be my mentor (she taught me everything I know about writing), gave me an incredibly thoughtful gift on my last day with them — my very own AP Stylebook. I wasn’t expecting it, but it was very sweet and such a useful gift. I have my Stylebook at my current job and use it almost every day!

      1. Curious Cat*

        It really was! Made all the better by being something I could actually use on a daily basis.

        1. Sara without an H*

          A gift that the recipient actually likes and can use? What a radical concept! Your boss sounds wonderful.

  16. Cheddarcheese*

    Please don’t give someone a $5 gift card to Amazon or Target. It wouldn’t cover shipping or the time/gas it would take me to get to a physical Target store. A $5 Starbucks card is maybe okay. I feel like the least amount you can put on a gift card is $10 to make it even worth it.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Huh. And I’d rather have either of the first two. There’s a Target within 2 miles of our office, and I often order from Amazon and could apply the balance toward that (or get a Kindle book or two, to read in the app/on my computer).

      Starbucks produces nothing I want to buy (and very little I can consume safely), so I’d just hand that gift card to my husband and feel like I got, effectively, nothing. I’d feel more-appreciated with the Starbucks card than the time I got one of the 20-year-anniversary pens that marketing had leftover (and it didn’t even write), but that’s about it.

    2. k8*

      This may not be true for everything, but there’s enough stuff on Amazon with free shipping that I wouldn’t think it was a big deal.

    3. Karo*

      I think that’s just a matter of preference. I do most of my grocery shopping at Target or Amazon; $5 isn’t a lot, but it’s money I can use. OTOH the only time I go to Starbucks is if I’m stopping at the one in Target.

      And that’s why the key to Alison’s advice was to make sure it’s something the person would/could use.

    4. Anonygoose*

      I think the idea with something generic like Amazon or Target is that you’ll probably be buying stuff there anyways, not making a special trip…

    5. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      My last workplace two jobs past, our manager gave everyone a $20 gift certificate to a high end spa. Even the guys got one. I checked out the spa, the cheapest treatment was around $50 and it was something that I would never use. So it was pretty worthless all around.

      1. Someone else*

        Betcha the company asked the spa to donate the gcs, and that’s why the amounts were too small to be useful. I doubt the company actually paid for those.

  17. Kyrielle*

    I think that forced dance sounds like it’s a VERY good team building exercise.

    The employees are coming together as a team, bonded by their loathing of the idea….

  18. Kiki*

    My husband’s company holiday party is coming up. My husband’s boss and I take dance classes at the same studio. I’d bet money that he’s going to ask me to perform with him at the party. Not sure if that’s better or worse than a team dance.

    My company’s holiday party was last weekend (spouses not invited) and thankfully the worst that happened was one person needing a cab called for them. I spent most of the evening drinking wine and chatting with the office gossip.

  19. irritable vowel*

    #5 (Can I skip my boss’s holiday party) – I think you should go, since you’re up for a promotion. If you don’t go, and for whatever reason don’t end up getting the promotion, you’re always going to wonder if it was because you didn’t go to the party. Fortunately, at this time of year it’s totally understandable that people have multiple commitments in an evening, so I would do what Alison suggests and put in an appearance (make sure you talk to the boss and their spouse/partner, and anyone else for whom it seems important they should know you were there), then make your excuses and leave. That’s really going to go a long way towards establishing you as someone who’s engaged with the company and is willing to show up to something that isn’t mandatory – both qualities that can only help you land the promotion!

  20. PC*

    This year, my company had a conference where the SVP of marketing and his team dressed up and did a silly video. They played the video and had to go onstage in costume in front of hundreds. This year was superheros and one of the costumes was a bit skimpy. Awkward.

  21. Anon (for all the good it may do me)*

    A forced group dance (less than 10 people, so no way to hide in the back).
    20-30 mins to learn the dance, without music (this was going to be “spontaneous”, so we didn’t have a song picked out).
    The dance floor of the party at the end of a professional conference.
    Yes, this happened to me. I was conscripted by my research group/advisor. The part that makes this so much worse is that it wasn’t just coworkers watching, it was people from other universities. People I might have wanted to get a job with. Oh, and the dance was videotaped and posted to Facebook. With tags to the people in the video.

    1. Snark*

      The whole situation would make me want to light myself on fire, but, really, are there any more chilling words in the English language than “No, it needs to be spontaneous!” Has anything good ever followed those words?

      1. Anon (for all the good it may do me)*

        I’m pretty sure that nothing good has ever followed those words. Certainly the dance that followed was not good.

    2. WellRed*

      “People I might have wanted to get a job with. Oh, and the dance was videotaped and posted to Facebook. With tags to the people in the video.”

      I am sorry, but I cannot stop laughing.

  22. Party Bummer*

    Skipping the boss’s holiday party: I am skipping two company parties this year, both within the next week. I know I am going to get hassled about it, but I just totaled my car and I simply cannot spare the time, energy, or money.

    1. Karo*

      Totaling your car feels like a pretty viable excuse. I’d imagine you’d be pretty stressed, without transport, and possible aching from the wreck. Anyone who hassles you can just eff right off, for lack of anything work-appropriate to say here.

      (I hope you’re okay!!)

  23. selina kyle*

    My last job had us all film a video of us dancing. It wasn’t TOO bad in actuality (I am very self-conscious about my dancing though and really never wanted to see it) but it really highlighted to me how much they focused on looking like a company that is so fun to work for and exciting rather than actually providing new/exciting opportunities for employees.
    The funniest part remains that I left the job before the quarterly meeting, so I never had to watch the video.

  24. Jules the First*

    It was bad enough to discover that going to NewJob’s team’s Christmas lunch comes with a mandatory (and undisclosed) commitment to the team Secret Santa… I’m currently coping with the horrifying knowledge that NewJob’s Christmas party is fancy dress (ie costumes required) and that costumes are supposed to be team-coordinated…

    I’m blessedly (genuinely) busy this year already, but I can already see my calendar filling up in Decembers for all eternity!

  25. Emi.*

    “I’m sorry, I can’t contribute to the boss’s gift. I already spent all my money on avocado toast.”

  26. partypants*

    What about Secret Santa exchanges where the boss is participating?
    I loathe these to begin with (toss in a good old yankee swap with it and it really becomes a clusterf*ck) and when I brought up that it WAS gifting the boss, I was told that it wasn’t since everyone as involved and the CEO was just part of the staff involved.

    1. Curious Cat*

      I actually really love white elephant gift swaps (assuming it’s the same as a yankee swap)! I think the premise around them is fine to include bosses in, since they’re generally supposed to be small/gag gifts and everyone is swapping around gifts constantly and it’s not just specifically giving the boss one gift. We’re doing one this year w/ both our team leads involved.

      1. OverboilingTeapot*

        I’m always down for a white elephant. I’ve never contributed anything to one that wasn’t an unwanted regift, so it’s not like I’m out any money. I’m actually a little sad my work isn’t doing one this year, because I have a pair of pink fuzzy earmuffs that are actually headphones AND a set of cat butt magnets that are just dying for me to offload them on somebody in a white elephant exchange.

        1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

          My best white elephant gift was a 5lb box of pistachios. I took it off our priest and I felt no guilt.

    2. Victoria, Please*

      I think the boss participating in an SS exchange where he or she follows the same rules is fine. It’s not anything special for them, and they’re giving too.

      Now personally I don’t at all enjoy SS’s so I refuse to organize them for my team. But if someone else gets enthusiastic and organizes it, I stick a smile on and contribute a thoughtful little present as assigned. And I coo over the present I receive…even when it clearly comes from the dollar store and has dead batteries.

    3. zora*

      My boss threw this idea out there last year when we were talking about what to do for the holidays. I got the impression she really was brainstorming, and she mentioned a few different things, but one of them was “What about a Secret Santa?” There are a total of 6 people in our office, so it’s hard to do if it’s not mandatory, which I have an issue with, plus the added awkwardness of gifting up, plus a few of our folks are remote and travel in for the holiday activity.

      I hoped she would just forget about it, but when she mentioned it again a couple of weeks later, I managed to have the presence of mind to sound casual, with a “Oh, I thought that would be kind of complicated since people are traveling in, it didn’t seem like the best thing for this group.” And she was like “Oh, true, ok!” and clearly wasn’t wedded to the idea, thank goodness! I was pretty new at that point and wasn’t super excited about having to get into the gifting up thing, so I’m glad I made it seem like no big deal and it wasn’t.

  27. k.k*

    Intern gift – As an intern, I would have been perfectly happy with a $5-10 gift card. When you’re not expecting anything, any little something feels thoughtful.

    If you’re not sure where to get the gift card to, just keep an eye out for where they get their morning coffee, or take their lunch break. Even if the card isn’t going to cover their whole purchase, it won’t go to waste if it’s somewhere they go all the time.

    1. WellRed*

      I got my coworker a gift card ti Cumberland Farms (gas station/convenience store) because she had a thing for their soda fountain and taquitos. She was thrilled!

  28. JD*

    In order to get me to perform a dance/song/rap/etc in front of coworkers you would have to tranquilize me, use sticks to hold my lips stiff, put me on a dolly or something to stand me up, use tooth picks to keep my eyes open and have someone move my lips . Just, NO!!!!

    Imagine Jim Carey in Bruce Almighty throwing a tantrum in his bed since he didn’t want to wake up. This would be me on the floor.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yep. There’s a certain amount of alcohol that would make me willing to perform in front of coworkers. Unfortunately, it is more than the amount that simply makes me pass out.

  29. aebhel*

    $60??? For a boss? I’m not even spending that much on my spouse, and we’re pretty comfortable, money-wise. This is absolutely insane. I mean, $5 would be kinda tacky, but $60? Good grief.

  30. MsChanandlerBong*

    As someone with a chronic illness that causes joint pain, muscle pain, nerve pain, and balance problems, a forced dance would be my worst nightmare. Yeah, I COULD just say that my illness prevents me from participating, but I shouldn’t have to do that. When I started volunteering at the local hospital, they made everyone at orientation stand up, introduce themselves, and then do a little dance. But they didn’t tell us beforehand–they just told us right before the introductions started, so I had no opportunity to say that I’ve had back surgery four times and was in excruciating pain from a lupus flare and didn’t want to do it. I ended up doing it because I also didn’t want to disclose to a room full of strangers that I have these issues.

  31. sooo anon*

    So the dance is bringing back memories…

    Last year, Oldjob could not continue their usual tradition of sending out a cute Christmas greeting video from one of the in-house artists. What they opted to do instead was corral everyone in the office, force them to sing a cutesy rendition of a Christmas song, filmed it…

    …and they sent this to all their clients.

    Those of us lucky enough to be working on a client site watched it in fascinated horror after being alerted to it by the client contact who’d received it and gone “WTF?!”, thanking our lucky stars we were a safe distance from the office on that day. One guy said that he’d give this video as his reason for quitting in any future exit interview. I think it’s a pretty solid one myself.

  32. Master Bean Counter*

    So if there is forced dancing is there also an open bar? That could make it better in ways that nobody wants to remember. You could encourage that annoying coworker to get very drunk and stumble their way through the dance performance. Two birds, one stone.
    But really since it’s wrong to throw a drunken coworker under the bus I’d opt for the ankle brace/ace bandage option. “Sorry I slipped on some ice this morning and twisted my ankle. Nothing major, just won’t be able to stand or dance much for 48 hours.”
    Also if you get hurt performing the dance, is that covered by workman’s comp?

    1. MommyMD*

      All it takes is one employee dramatically laying on the floor shouting my back my back and the stupid mandatory dance show will cease.

  33. Old Cynic*

    I once worked for a company (about 75 employees) where a collection was taken up every Christmas to get a gift for the owners/company. The gift always revolved around the lunchroom. The company provided a fridge, oven and dishwasher. Over the 5 years I was there, the employees chipped in to buy a microwave, a set of pots and pans, cutlery, a knife set and a picnic table for the patio.

    (on a snarky note for reference, this company had $100 million annual revenue, the owners personally owned the building we were in and the rent was continually adjusted to keep profits and, therefore, the profit sharing down.)

  34. OverboilingTeapot*

    “I’m a Jehovah’s Witness from the town in Footloose. I do not gift. I do not dance.”

  35. Lora*

    Oh, wow. So, I teach beginner and intermediate level dance as a hobby, and occasionally we get someone dropping in for a lesson or two who states that they intend to do a special dance at a wedding or party or whatever kinda event. WITHOUT FAIL, they are not good. Or one of the couple is good and the other is downright terrible. They all think they are good though. I blame Dancing With The Stars and all those TV things, because the only way you can become even mediocre as a dancer in less than a week is to dance literally 8 hours/day, and if you don’t have the physical stamina for it, you can easily get badly injured. I try to discourage this sort of nonsense in general, because either people are not good (at least, not good enough to perform in front of someone videotaping for YouTube) and end up embarrassed or they get frustrated with a lack of progress.

    I know there are plenty of teachers who will take on any stupid project for the money though, and I apologize for them.

  36. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    My department once had to rewrite a popular holiday song and sing it for our VP. There were even solo parts. It was one of the dumbest things we were “strongly advised” to participate in.

  37. Aphrodite*

    Dance? At a work party? No way in hell.

    However, I don’t consider this a lot better. I work in higher education. Our VP has decided that she wants our division’s holiday party to run from 5:30-9:30 pm on a Thursday night at a local brewery. She’ll buy the first round but if you want to eat you have to buy the food from a food truck.

    (1) I hate beer.
    (2) I’m hate wasting money.
    (3) I hate bars.
    (4) I hate food trucks.
    (5) I really, really, REALLY hate the ethnic food that this food truck serves.

    Oh, and did I mention that the bar she chose just happens to be the one her husband’s band is playing at that night? I hate live music that hurts my ears and threatens to bust my eardrums. And that I am often in bed and asleep by 8:00 pm because my body loves to get up at 4:00 or 4:30? (Yes, I am a morning person.)

    1. Bagpuss*

      Is going at 5.30 for the first half hour or so a possibility? Get a soft drink mingle briefly, then leave.

      If leaving early would be frowned on, could you get a friend to phone you so that you “have” to leave early to deal with an emergency? (if asked later then the vague “yes, there was a but of a family emergency but fortunately all sorted now”. You don’t have to tell them that the ’emergency’was that you were going to get *really* cranky if you didn’t get out of there….

    2. Snark*

      Honestly, though, it’s not an unreasonable assumption that people would enjoy such an event. Very few people actually enjoy dancing at work parties. But at least here in Colorado, and most college towns I’ve ever been to, this would not only be an acceptable venue for a party, but it would be enthusiastically attended by most of the office. Obviously not everyone can eat sandwiches, but this is not an unreasonable imposition the way mandatory dancing and public performance would be.

  38. Tealeaves*

    We had to do a team dance one year for our company party. It was fun until the team leader pressured us to clear our schedule for rehearsals (which were held outside of work time). To him, the performance was more important than anything else, including night classes, family time, and medical appointments. We weren’t even competing for a prize…

  39. MarshaMarshaMarsha*

    Thank you for giving me an out as to not contributing for a gift towards my boss. She is a mean person with an ugly heart. She has a bad management style and she is cruel. One of the girls in the office suggested that we all pitch in to get her something “to show how much we appreciate her”, which I thought was really disingenuous because concerns have been expressed about her management style. Happy Holidays, everyone.

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