my company won’t let spouses attend the holiday party

A reader writes:

Can a company require employees to attend the company holiday party without spouses? We start work at 8 a.m. and then will leave at noon to attend the holiday party. Can they really do say we can’t bring spouses?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • What kind of gift should I get my boss?
  • My new coworkers want me to pitch in to buy our manager a gift
  • Should I get my employees gifts?
  • and more

{ 147 comments… read them below }

    1. Marillenbaum*

      Exactly! Enjoy some snacks, chat a bit instead of answering emails, and then go home–it’s ideal! (Of course, I’m the sort of person who has parties during the daytime so I can put an end time on the invitation and have the evening to watch Netflix, so that could just be me)

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        You and me both :) I have to be “on” at work all day. When I go home, I want to shut off.

    2. Lehigh*

      I agree. Nothing better than getting paid to socialize. :-)

      And sometimes, nothing worse than socializing with difficult coworkers for free!

    3. Arya Snark*

      At my OldJob, the parties were unreal. It was a financial company and when we were doing really, really, well it would be an overnight trip to a resort with 5* accommodations, a gift basket, lift tickets, a fantastic meal, endless wine, drinks after dinner and breakfast the next day for employees and spouses. When we weren’t doing as well, we still had fantastic dinners with endless wine at the best restaurants and spouses were included for that too.
      At my new job, it’s an afternoon lunch for employees only and my spouse is so much happier!

    4. Artemesia*

      This. An evening party that doesn’t allow partners to attend is a bummer, but doing it during the work day is thoughtful and excluding extras totally appropriate.

      My boss had an annual holiday party at her home that was lavishly catered and to which retired employees as well as partners were invited. It was lovely and a highpoint of the year. One of the few things I miss about old southern city when I retired to big cold northern city.

  1. SnowyCold*

    Some folks love to bring their spouses…mine would rather stay home even if I wanted him there because he doesn’t know anyone and he finds that stressful and boring. Several of my past employers, it was free for the employee but anywhere from $15 to $30 for the spouse. Worrying if he is having a good time makes it stressful for me.

    It’s just easier and more manageable and cheaper to have it just be employees.

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      Yeah, I’m probably opening myself to a chorus of “but my husband LOVES my work parties/I love his!” here but it *can be* odd all-around, depending on the type of gathering. If it’s a lot about success stories over the last year and inside jokes and next year’s goals, etc., the date could feel left out. Or it changes the dynamic because the employees don’t want to leave the spouses out of the discussion, “Remember that company-wide email where everyone kept replying to all?”

      1. Temperance*

        I think this is one of those things. I mean, I don’t love work events, and I have a good friend in my industry who is my permanent plus-one to events for our industry, but it’s one of those things you do because you have to. I show up to Booth’s stuff to support him, and he does the same for me.

    2. Kathleen*

      I guess I can understand wanting one’s spouse at an evening party (I dislike evening work events, but I think having my husband there would make it worse – he’d just be sooooooo booooored), but I am puzzled by how indignant the OP is about no spouses at a day-time party held during the work week.

      He or she must have been to much more entertaining work parties than I have. :-) The ones I’ve been to have generally been fine, but I am 100 percent sure my husband hasn’t lost out by missing them.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        This. Why would your spouse want to (presumably) leave his or her own job, in the middle of the day, on a weekday, to eat with *your* coworkers?

        Couples are invited as a unit to evening work events in part because that’s an hour they would normally be together on their own time. That’s not the case on Thursday at 1, so that guideline doesn’t apply.

    3. Steph*

      Yeah, I totally don’t get it.
      My husband has to snooze clients all day long so would rather stick pins in his eye than come to a work party of mine and have to make weird small talk with my colleagues.
      However, I have (for the most part) been a stay at home mother for 5 years and would LOOOOOOOVE a night out with adults and andylt conversation and to meet all the people in his work life.
      Just goes to show how different people can be, doesn’t it?

  2. Office Manager*

    It’s a holiday party during lunch on a week day. It totally makes sense that it’s employees only.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, this seems about right. Party at work during work hours=no partners. Party offsite at night=leaving out partners would be weirder.

    2. Anion*


      One of my husband’s old jobs had a mandatory, no-guests holiday party during off-work time; *that* was scummy. (Especially since they claimed it was for budgetary reasons and then held it at a very swanky reception hall and hired KC and the Sunshine Band to play; uh, how about having it at a less expensive place and not paying fifty grand for the music, and then letting people bring their SOs?)

      But during work hours? Spouse-free is fine.

  3. Malibu Stacey*

    “We start work at 8 a.m. and then will leave at noon to attend the holiday party. Can they really do say we can’t bring spouses?”

    Look at this way, if they *weren’t* having a holiday party, would you think it odd that your company wouldn’t allow your spouse to show up at noon and hang out in your cubicle for 5 hours?

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        True! But hopefully if those people were told their boyfriend needs to wrap up his visit they’d get why.

  4. Amber Rose*

    My spouse likes my current workplace events because my coworkers are huge nerds, which means he gets along with them really well.

    Previous ones, not so much. And I’m not invited to any of his, since they’re all catered staff lunch type things and it would be weird to have spouses hanging around during what is technically working hours.

  5. Arielle*

    Spouses are fine, no spouses are fine, the point where I get annoyed is when the company tries to legislate on the definition of a “spouse.” Say “significant others” and trust people to be adults who understand what that means.

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      I had a coworker who thought that meant “Mom” (who lived 2 hours away) because she was single.

      1. Becky*

        For my company, events that include significant others also explicitly include 1 guest for single individuals to be interpreted how you like. I’ve brought friends in the past.

        1. Mints*

          Yeah my current company says “Mints plus one guest” so people bring platonic friends, cousins, brothers

      2. Blue Anne*

        Oh man, I think that actually if I brought my 90 year old powerhouse grandma to our Christmas party, both colleagues and grandma would be psyched.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          And now I’m thinking of the money we could save on holiday party entertainment if I just invited my grandma over to be snarky and tell stories.

      3. Beancounter Eric*

        What’s wrong with taking Mom as your plus-one?…..weren’t there a couple of gentlemen who were up for an Academy Award several years ago who took their mothers?

        1. Koko*

          I think that’s a bit different. The Academy Awards are a major coveted event that many people can only dream of attending and there’s typically a wide range of acceptable guests – dates, friends, family members, Miley Cyrus once brought a homeless teen to an awards show and spoke about youth homelessness one stage. Those guys taking their moms was a sweet gesture.

          But an office holiday party usually more limited in who people bring and it’s way less glamorous and desirable to score an invitation than to the Academy Awards. It comes off very weird and codependent/immature to invite your mom to a work social in lieu of a date (or even a close friend) in a way that it doesn’t for a star-studded celebrity event where you are being honored. Not to say those people ARE weird or codependent/immature, but it comes off that way.

      4. the gold digger*

        We asked the new people in our group to introduce themselves, using two or three ppt slides, at a three-day meeting.

        Two of the new people showed their kids and spouses.

        The third new person, who was 21 at the time, still lived with her mom and dad and showed photos of them, her brother, and her dog. I thought it was really cute.

      5. all aboard the anon train*

        If it said “+1” or “and guest”, I think that’s fine. If the invite said “+ spouse/partner”, that’s just being tone deaf.

        Single people often get a lot of judgment if they’re allowed to bring a guest to an event and bring someone who isn’t a spouse or long-term partner. Or if they talk about their family instead of spouses. Or if they want to spend holidays with family or friends instead of the spouse they don’t have. And I could go on and on.

      6. Sketchee*

        At one company where my sister worked in a different department, they specifically invited our mother. It was done very appropriately and was a good cultural fit. At any other company I’ve worked with, this would be odd.

        1. sequitur*

          We had an employee who once brought his wife to a company party that spouses explicitly weren’t invited to (it was an evening event but a leaving party for a well-liked senior manager so less spouse-appropriate). His son also worked at our company, and his reasoning was that if she was married to an employee and she’d given birth to an employee it was ok for her to show up.

    2. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

      Our holiday party allows each employee to bring one adult guest. Some folks bring a friend, parent, sibling, or grown child instead of a spouse or partner. I suppose this could mean that the married couples we have could bring two additional people.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      OldExjob let us bring one adult guest. That meant adult, as in you could bring a friend, a spouse, someone you were dating, or your SO, but not your kid. Unless your kid was an adult, but I don’t recall anyone ever doing that.

      Our facilities manager was allowed to bring both his spouse and his parents, because his dad did some contracted work for the company. So technically the dad was invited as an employee along with his spouse, but they all sat together.

  6. Red 5*

    My company specifically says our holiday luncheon is for employees only. It’s also a fully catered meal with an open bar where they do yearly awards and the like.

    It makes perfect sense to me on logistical and financial levels to have it be employees only. We’re a large company, doubling that catering order would be an enormous ask, and they probably would have to cut back other things they do for us in order to manage it and I would MUCH rather have the extra paid day off at Christmas and a yearly bonus than have my spouse at a luncheon where all the speeches are about company specific stuff that spouses would barely care about.

    My spouse’s company is much smaller, and has an event in the evenings after work where spouses are invited (but not children, there’s other events for the full family at both offices). It’s much more casual and personal, and I’ve enjoyed going to it, so you can do either and have it be a great event. But either way makes perfect sense to me.

    1. Red 5*

      I forgot to mention, our luncheon is during work hours and we get paid for that time too even though we’re not “working.”

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        Yup, this is how all during work hours parties have worked for me, too. You can stay and work if you want, but if you go to the party you get paid.

        1. Cercis*

          When I worked for the municipality they decided we couldn’t have paid for xmas parties (you know, tax dollars and all that). So instead they decided we’d have a department xmas party at a nearby restaurant. It was a set menu with two choices – lemon shrimp and lemon caper fish and was $25/head. I asked if it was possible to deviate from the set menu and was (not surprisingly, I know) told it wasn’t because this was a special price. Not liking lemon as a savory and feeling like $25 was a bit much on a municipal employee salary (it was about 2 hours of take home pay, if not more), I declined. Now it was supposedly voluntary because we certainly weren’t going to be paid for this time, but you’d think I was the worst person in the world for refusing to attend.

          Other support staff expressed concern at the cost and their supervisors paid for them. I didn’t expect my supervisor to pay for me, but she was really pissy about it. Apparently my coworker and I were the only ones that didn’t come to the party and it made her look bad. Coworker got a pass because someone needed to stay and watch the front desk, but I didn’t get the same pass. Even though really there needed to be both of us there so that she could take a lunch and I could watch the desk during her lunch (which I did).

          I did point out that $25 was my budget for a night out with my husband and that I didn’t really want to forgo a night out with him for an office party. Apparently that made me gauche and “all about the money”. But the next year they decided to do an office potluck that helped a lot with the costs and front desk coverage.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Wait, so, you had to pay $25 to attend a party where you didn’t even get to choose what you’d eat?

            1. Cercis*

              Well we could choose between the two options, surely that was good enough right? As an adult picky eater, I try very hard not to draw attention to it, but to me that was just the icing on the cake – $25 AND I can only choose between two seafood dishes with lemon sauce? At an Italian restaurant? (Forgot to mention that part – I really love Italian food, but they chose the only two dishes that aren’t “typically Italian”.)

              I didn’t appreciate being the sacrificial lamb, but I’m glad that my “protest” made changes for my coworkers. Most of whom really appreciated it because they didn’t really like having to rely on their supervisor to pay for them and were uncomfortable admitting that they couldn’t go unless it was covered for them.

          2. Koko*

            I will never understand this thing that comes up where trying to be financially responsible is smeared as being “all about money.” Like, how dare you have a budget, or ask how much a job pays?

            1. Aud*

              There is a whole lot of privilege that goes into this attitude. I’ve found it almost always comes from someone who doesn’t have to worry about money. It’s very easy to say it’s only money when you have it.

          3. Leenie*

            It’s pretty odd that they didn’t do a more typical chicken/fish/veggie pasta choice instead of two seafood choices. I’d think that would actually be less expensive than a fish choice and a shrimp choice.

  7. Vladimir*

    The party question reminded me of a another question I wanted to ask here for some time. Would the following situation be legal in US: Company throws a party for employees + married spouses, but does not allow married same-sex spouses, because owners do not recognize same-sex marriages as marriage.
    This only a theoretical question, but I think situation might arise (and I would be suprised if it did not happen alraedy.
    Thanks in advance

    1. JD*

      I really don’t think this would ever arise. There are some stupid people out there but I find it difficult to believe any management would be THAT stupid.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Or if there were management that stupid, I imagine married gay workers would be quitting before Christmas.

      1. Zinnia*

        Yup. Forget party invitations, in more than half of US states it is legal to fire someone for being gay.

      2. Sue No-Name*

        But if a marriage is recognized in the eyes of the government, is there some way this could be some kind of bad faith action? Not discrimination but ignoring a legal contract based on an irrelevant dimension?

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          If they’re denying some sort of formal spousal benefit you might have some case, but given that they’re not legally obligated to invite anyone’s spouse to a holiday party, I’d be extremely surprised if isn’t completely legal to discriminate based on non-protected classes of spouses :-/

          1. Sue No-Name*

            Yeah sorry I realize parties are a frivolous case, but glad to hear that “denying some sort of formal spousal benefit” at least *may* be a type of action that wouldn’t be acceptable under a framework other than protected-class-discrimination.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Sexuality isn’t, but gender is. A company is inviting a lawsuit if it tries to say that only opposite-sex spouses are OK.

        Also, companies that operate in multiple states know it’s unwise to stick to ‘but it’s legal here’. Maybe it is in State A, but if you get sued in State B for discrimination, the last thing you want is for the person in State B to point out that management had an explicitly discriminatory policy about holiday parties. (This, btw, was most likely the reason for the ‘change of heart’ at Chik-Fil-A. They knew it wasn’t going to end well for their California locations if they loudly and openly proclaimed their discriminatory views.)

        However, I fully believe management at many companies would be exactly that stupid.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Hey, back in the day, same-sex spousal-equivalent people would be not invited because “only married couples”, and the fact that I wasn’t legally allowed to marry my partner was not considered.

      Life really has improved an awful lot in the last couple of decades. (At least for those of us in California, where I was born and have always lived.)

  8. J*

    On the topic of gifting upwards – I mentor someone through an official program at work. We are a big organization and she works in a different division that I have little contact with other than this program, though I am technically her superior. She is originally from another country where giving gifts to your boss is customary, and refusing gifts is extremely rude. When we most recently met, she gave me a small Christmas gift, which made me uncomfortable, but I didn’t know how to say no without appearing rude. Does anyone have any tips on how to address this? She is a recent grad, and we have spent a lot of time working on how she interacts with coworkers, avoiding get caught up in office drama, and addressing issues professionally with her peers. I’d like to also talk to her about not gifting up, I’m just not sure how to approach it in this context. Suggestions?

    1. Mananana*

      Why not just tell her directly? You can thank her (again) for her thoughtfulness, then just add it to the “how we do things here” album. It doesn’t have to be A BIG TALK, but a “Hey, the candle you gave me is quite lovely, and I appreciate it. However, here it’s not customary to give gifts to your supervisor.”

    2. Amy*

      I think just graciously say thank you. Seems like it was something small and not some grand present. You can always address it later on, but I don’ think the idea of gifts flowing down means YOU CANNOT EVER ACCEPT A GIFT FROM SOMEONE UNDER YOU!

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      If you’re in an official mentorship program, you are uniquely situated to address it. Nothing huge or anything, but you’re already coaching her on this kind of stuff.

      Just say that it made you slightly uncomfortable and explain why. Redirect her to writing a handwritten note or card if she feels the need to give a gift. Most managers like those better than gifts anyways.

      1. J*

        This is kind of what I’m hoping to do – I don’t want to make her feel bad about getting me something, but I want to make sure she understands that she shouldn’t be doing that for her managers/superiors in general. I guess waiting a little while is probably the key here. Thanks all for the responses!

    4. fposte*

      It’s also okay that the country you both are in right now has different rules; you don’t have to observe the rules of a country you’re not in.

    5. TootsNYC*

      I also think that a mentor is different from a boss.

      I don’t want to downplay your discomfort, though–I’d probably be a little uncomfortable too.

      But my vote would be to accept the gift, but then later, like a month later, have some time in which you talk about these norms.

  9. Mananana*

    Seems like the host should be able to set the invite list as they see fit. Especially when the event is held during the work day. (And add my hubs to the chorus of “no-interest-whatsoever-to-go-to-my-office-events”).

  10. ggg*

    It would be a pain in the butt logistically for my spouse and I to attend each other’s holiday parties. Also, neither is so amazingly fun that the uninvited spouse is really missing anything.

  11. nnn*

    Note to people reading from work: that page has an autoplay video with audio enabled that my adblocker didn’t block.

  12. Anon for this*

    Honestly, the no-spouses rule may make single people (as well as people in relatively new and/or unstable relationships) a lot more comfortable. Whether explicitly or implicitly, family/marital status plays a big role in how people are perceived professionally, so it’s kind of refreshing when work events don’t unnecessarily place a huge spotlight on that.

    1. Kelsi*

      This! Even though I’m a professional and I’ve been in this job for almost a decade (and with the agency in other roles since I was 18!), when I’m at work gatherings where everyone brings their spouses, I suddenly feel like a kid intruding on an “adult” party as the conversation turns to kids and honey-do lists (and sometimes weird sexist “isn’t my manchild husband funny” stories which make me uncomfortable for other reasons!)

      My coworkers are mostly really interesting and cool people, and I’m sure their spouses are too, but when all the married folks have their spouses it creates a pretty uncomfortable dynamic for me.

      1. Anion*

        +1 to the sexism of the “manchild husband” stories. I hate that stuff. You know, I could tell cute stories about stuff my husband has messed up, sure, but that’s not only really patronizing and disrespectful, it opens the floor for him to tell stories of the stuff I’ve messed up. “Oh! My husband tried to do laundry and got suds all over the floor! Dummy! Lol!” [not a real story] could easily be followed by “Oh! My wife is incapable of opening a single jar without my help, and ran screaming from a spider! Ha! What a moron!”

      2. copy run start*

        This is why I sit with all the other young single employees. Much rather talk about video games and being broke than hearing someone degrade their spouse/children. There are a few couples that I know are lively and intriguing conversation, but they are the exceptions.

    2. JulieBulie*

      Yes. I am much more comfortable at an employees-only event.

      Although, I will admit that occasionally seeing a coworker out-of-context can be very illuminating. I remember a manager who was frosty and imperious with everyone except her own direct reports, and the other managers. But she brought her husband to a company event, and with him around she was like a totally different person.

      Having seen that side of her, I looked forward to seeing her at work again on Monday, but she was just as unpleasant as ever.

      1. K.*

        I had a coworker who was really lovely and nice but very shy – she spoke rarely and when she did, she spoke very quietly. She brought her husband to a work thing and it was amazing to see how open she was with him (though she still spoke very quietly, that was just her voice!). Her husband was a really gregarious, friendly guy and she was much more out of her shell with him. You could tell they were a great team.

    3. all aboard the anon train*

      The same goes for people who aren’t in “expected” relationships.

      I’ve experienced the “omg I didn’t know you were gay, you don’t act gay! answer all my questions about your sexuality!” when I’ve brought a girlfriend, and then the party becomes me explaining bisexuality or becoming the water cooler gossip for the next few weeks.

      A similar thing happened to a coworker in an interracial relationship.

      Some people want to avoid that entirely.

      1. Amy G. Golly*

        “Oh, how nice, you brought a friend!”

        Yeah, no. I’m so with you on this! Bisexual solidarity.

      2. Former Employee*

        “A similar thing happened to a coworker in an interracial relationship.”

        Did this happen recently?

        I can remember that someone where I worked at one time was simply aghast when they discovered that a woman in our area was married to someone of a different race. (I believe she found out because she saw him pick his wife up after work one day.) However, this occurred in the early 1970’s. Even back then, I thought it was worthy of a yawn.

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          Yeah, it happened last year. Interracial relationships still cause a lot of surprise for some people, in my experience.

  13. Hiring Mgr*

    Believe me, it’s much better this way. The spouse not being there gives you so many great excuses for having to leave early. “Wife just called—she’s down with the flu and the kids need to be picked up..SO sorry to have to cut out early”
    “Ah that was the wife…darn car broke down again, I’ve got to go get her from the dealer–hate to say but i’ve got to go!”
    …You get the idea.

    1. Goya*

      I’ve “locked my keys in my car” so many times that SO’s co-workers probably think I’m a total space cadet ;)

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I have a sister who “needs a ride home from the airport” pretty frequently, for similar reasons.

  14. Midwest*

    Can you convince my spouse’s workplace to not invite me? Because I loathe that stupid party. The meal and drinks are fine, but instead of letting us socialize like adults, the entire evening is sucked up with party games that are not my definition of a good time. It is not worth paying a babysitter for, believe me.

          1. Migraine gal*

            Please don’t. As someone who suffers from migraines and is missing a pretty significant work thing for my spouse due to one…just please don’t encourage people to claim migraine. It’s hard enough for people to believe us as is.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          What about a strategically time call from the babysitter that happens to come just after you enjoy the meal but before you’re roped into playing games?

          “So sorry! Little Johnny’s not feeling well.”

  15. Colorado*

    Our company is having a Holiday lunch that includes a limo ride to a super, fancy restaurant for lunch at 11:30 am then we all get to go home afterwards. No spouses, a restaurant I’d never be able to afford, and a late afternoon off on a Friday. My kind of work party!!

  16. Mediamaven*

    I know this is an unpopular opinion here, but I think a hard and fast rule of not getting a small gift for a boss is not always appropriate in every situation. If a boss is generous year round with events, gifts, promotions etc, it can make them feel good to get a small token at the holidays. I don’t believe gifts should be expensive, but I’m not sure I understand the issue of everyone throwing in $5 towards a gift card for lunch or a bouquet of flowers or something. It seems like it really should depend on the office environment and culture. Any thoughts?

    1. Murphy*

      Eh…things like promotions aren’t products of your boss’s generosity though. That’s something you’ve earned through your work.

      I don’t think employees voluntarily contributing a few bucks for a small gift is the worst thing ever. There are just so many examples of it getting way out of hand though that I think it’s better to jus not.

      1. Artemesia*

        The problem is it slowly gets out of control especially if some suck up queen bee type admin is managing the office as if she were the managers office wife. I watched a modest birthday party each year morph into something where fine leather goods were given to the boss and money extorted from everyone to carry it off. Each year things got more elaborate and the money demands greater.

    2. Anon for This*

      I think it depends on the circumstances and it’s a truly a one off. For example, when my boss retires, we will chip in and buy him a going away present (he’s been with the organization for a couple of decades, and most of us have reported to him or worked with him for more than a decade). But, in general I think a nice note is more worthwhile than a gift.

      My current boss makes three times what I do. I’ve had previous bosses make anywhere from five to ten times what I make. I think a note of appreciation if your boss has gone above and beyond is nice, but I don’t think that buying a gift (even a token gift) is appropriate. Mind you I’m not a big fan of gift giving in the workplace in general.

    3. Blue Anne*

      My bosses give us things at all the holidays. Flowers on valentine’s day, a turkey at thanksgiving, a ham and another gift (last year was nice coffee beans) at Christmas, lots of dinners and a couple of massages during tax season. Very traditional, kind of paternalistic. It’s pretty nice.

      But… so? Why does that create more of an obligation? I’m not their friend. We have a cordial working relationship but I’m still an employee. I would be disturbed if they thought I should get them a little gift because I’d been promoted this year.

    4. Lehigh*

      Hmm. That makes a certain amount of sense, but I find that people generally don’t make gift-giving decisions like that. Most people always give or don’t give based on their own practices and categories – for instance, most of the people at my workplace are big on gifts, so they always want to chip in to get gifts for the boss (as well as giving tokens to coworkers – but nearly always smaller than the boss’s gift). The boss is not a gift giver. She has never indicated that this is important to her. But it’s just the way they were raised, or the rule they have in their head. It does feel a bit icky. In what other situation would you keep giving a gift to someone who never reciprocated (barring your children), if not to curry favor?

      I like Alison’s rule better. If you want to make a truly one-off exception, I think that could be fine though.

  17. Bad Candidate*

    We just had our holiday party, it was also a thing where we left at noon and no spouses were invited. But that didn’t stop the manager and someone else from bringing theirs.

    1. On Fire*

      Ours is coming up. We always do lunch potlucks, and one particular divisional director’s spouse usually shows up. I’m curious to see if they do again this year.

  18. agmat*

    Why, oh why, hasn’t my team received the memo that gifts flow down, not up?

    We already had a potluck and white elephant exchange planned, and then one person sends an email out asking for contributions to get our boss a framed art piece (with no mention of cost). She even included our two part timers. AFAIK, those two and I are the only ones who did not contribute because most everyone replied-all that they thought it was a great idea. I believe the contributions ended up being around $15 per person.

    My boss is great, but I just cannot get behind this being a yearly thing! So I am now the team Grinch.

    Bonus is that his gift to us is a polished rock. I like it, but he’d be making them anyway as his hobby.

    1. agmat*

      Edit to say he did respond that it was totally unexpected and not necessary, but I’m curious whether he’ll put the hard kibosh on the idea next year.

    2. Anonygoose*

      Yeah, a couple people on my team thought it’d be great to give our two supervisors gifts, and sent around an email asking for $20(!) from everyone so we could get the two supervisors each $100 gift card to a steakhouse. $20 from everyone turned out to be $40 too much money, so the woman who was collecting was going to divide it up and return it to everyone, which everyone was happy about, because I think 90% of our team thought $20 was way too much.

      Then another member of our team took the money and bought 2 bottles of wine for a supervisor who has been on mat leave since January. Half of our team has only been here since June or later. Complaints abounded. I’ve never been so convinced that gifts seriously need to flow downward.

      1. agmat*

        My coworker on a different team told me she had been asked to contribute for basketball tickets for their boss. $50 a person!! I told her to push back hard, that’s just insane.

        1. Artemesia*

          The pay structure in many organizations is very top heavy and it is ridiculous that those at the bottom have to cough up huge amounts for lavish gifts for those already much better paid.

    3. Blue Anne*

      Yeah. In my office we do a secret santa (fine) AND everyone has Christmas stockings, and everyone puts something in the Christmas stockings (ehhhh I’d prefer to do one or the other). Okay. But then an email went out suggesting that we all put in $25 towards restaurant gift cards for our bosses. You know, I might spend $25 on a Christmas present for my fiance this year, but beyond that…

      I mean they were pretty gracious when I said no. But I thought Christmas was already a financially stretched time for people, why on Earth… argh.

    4. NewBoss2016*

      People over here at current job refuse to get that memo. We sent the CEO’s family to a ski resort (no, not the infamous letter–there are apparently multiple companies who think that is a good idea) a couple years ago. At the time, I had never in my life been able to afford go on a real vacation myself. Yeah, I think he is a wonderful person who deserves a lot of credit. No, I don’t want to send his family on vacation when they can afford to go multiple times a year without employee contributions. Now, the highest management level collects money to donate to a charity in CEO’s name, but they brow-beat you until you have donated, and keep tabs on names and dollar amounts of the contribution. I have been protesting heavily, but seem to be the only one who thinks it is bat guano insane.

  19. Struck by Lightning*

    Am I the only person who found the spouses question so bizarre that the only thing I could come up with is LW being a “Pence practicer”?

    1. Observer*

      I also found it bizarre. But not even a Pence practitioner, because the party is not being alone with another person of the opposite sex. Besides, what does the OP do at work?

  20. Birch*

    I think most spouses/significant others don’t really want to go to your Christmas party! Meeting colleagues is kind of nice if it’s people you like and hang out with outside of work, but no one really wants to stand around with bad food and cheap wine making smalltalk with Fergus who everyone knows has a weird thing about the coffee maker. Even worse if there’s games involved. I don’t understand why anyone would even assume that spouses would be welcome at all for a party during the day–what about their jobs?

  21. Green Goose*

    Years ago when I was working at a branch of a large corporation, the Head Quarters held a mandatory Christmas party with no plus ones. With all the branches together, there were probably about 150-200 people in attendance so there would be no way to accommodate significant others. One guy at my branch, Fergus, was nice but never socialized with the rest of us and it was known that he spent all of his non-work time with his GF. I had seen her waiting for him at our office at times but we had never exchanged any words with each other.

    When the holiday party came up I heard through the grapevine that Fergus’s GF was very unhappy that 1) he was going to this party and 2) she could not come. At the actual event, which was across the city, we all ended up having a surprisingly nice time. There were fun games among the branches, and lots of food. When it ended, I took out my phone and noticed that I had a text from an unknown number. It was a message from Fergus’s GF asking me why I had sat next to Fergus at the party. My other coworkers had messages too, all saying sort of crazy things, and some of them referring to herself as Fergus’s “ex GF”, she even messaged our manager! She apparently was way more possessive than anyone had realized and she had copied our numbers out of Fergus’s phone at some point in time, and then came across the city to spy on the event.

    We were all weirded out, and Fergus who was nice and very shy seemed extremely embarrassed by her behaviour but sadly he did not break up with her over it, which just made him even more anti-social at the office afterwards because everyone knew what a nut his GF was. I still tell that story at dinner parties sometimes because it was just so over-the-top.

  22. cheeky*

    I am always surprised by all the people who get upset when their spouses aren’t invited. I truly don’t understand why. Why would your spouse want to go? Why does it matter?

    1. Jen RO*

      I am always surprised at the concept of work parties with spouses! I didn’t know they were a thing.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I’ve only ever worked at places where the holiday party was a lunch event during the workday, so the only time I’ve ever seen someone with their spouse at the party was when we had a married couple on staff.

    2. Anion*

      Some of us like to spend time with our spouses?

      It doesn’t bother me/makes total sense that spouses aren’t invited to a during-work-hours event, but outside of work hours? Yeah, that’s annoying for both my husband and me. You’re requiring him to spend extra, unpaid time away from his family, and that’s crappy.

      (It’s not that we don’t both do things/socialize without each other, it’s the fact that it’s work, and it’s required, that’s the problem. Same as any other unpaid work event during off hours; that’s our time to spend together if we wish.)

    3. Gloucesterina*

      I’m also puzzled by the concept of a “work party.” They don’t really exist in my current context though there were modest employee potluck versions in my previous job–now it’s more “hey there’s a bag of candy out the day before Halloween”!

  23. Incantanto*

    As a spouseless person, and one of only two single people on my company, I am so glad we don’t bring spouses to work holiday parties.

    1. Totally Minnie*

      I am so, so with you on this. 95% of the time, I love being single in my 30’s. But at events when people are with their spouses or SO’s and I’m one of the only people not paired off? I feel like such an outsider.

  24. Observer*

    On the party question, I don’t even understand what you are asking. Why would you think that your employer would be required to invite spouses, even to an after work party, much less one held during work hours?

    1. Ainomiaka*

      Eh, I think it’s. . . ungenerous to not invite spouses to an evening party, though I agree not required. I wouldn’t make a fuss about it, but I would feel that the company could have been nice to the employees and didn’t.
      I agree wirh ypu that the situation is totally different during work hours. Then it seems more like simple practical issues would make it employees only.

  25. Bea*

    My partner is a saint and goes with me only so I’m not awkward all alone. Other than last year when he was out of town and didn’t save me from tequila shots.

    If it’s in the middle of the day, most spouses I know couldn’t make it. Much nicer to make it for employees only that way.

  26. Anon for today*

    Our university has switched since the new president came in from afternoon holiday parties for all staff to dinners in early January that would require people to stay until 8ish and deal with the commute home afterwards. I’m sure it’s a great way to save money. Daytime parties are totally the way to go.

  27. Aeon*

    At my last job, holiday parties were a nice, expensive dinner. It happened after business hours, and people had a LOT of feelings about spouses not being invited. It was a very big deal to people. My favorite holiday party story from those years was when a new-ish hire was giving me a lot of pushback about wanting his spouse at the party and was not taking no for an answer. I said that if he had a problem with he policy, he could take it to the boss. He never did, so I thought the matter was settled-until he showed up with his spouse at the party. She was the only spouse there and seemed really pleased with herself for her husband having pushed the issue. It was seen as a pretty career limiting move on the part of the new hire. He was talked about by colleagues and bosses for months for pulling that stunt.

  28. Former Employee*

    I know this is off-topic, but I can’t help thinking that the current tax plan is equivalent to the situation in the office where everyone is supposed to chip in and buy a nice gift for the boss who makes $$$$$ for every $ you earn.

  29. Liza*

    I’ve worked at small, medium and large law firms in NYC over the years, and to the extent that the holiday parties were in the evening, and almost all of them were, spouses were not invited. Nor would I have expected them to be. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my day to day work colleagues, and those that I didn’t work with frequently, outside of the office.

  30. CanCan*

    The question shouldn’t be “can they NOT LET us bring spouses” but rather: Can the company decide whether or not they want to INVITE a certain group of non-employees. Obviously yes. For any party, a person who isn’t invited can’t come.

    A Christmas party is, by default, an employee perk. Nothing to do with spouses. I’ve only attended one party where spouses were invited (medium/smallish sized law firm; actually large law firm for the size of the city I was in). Other law firms (small), a government department, and large IT company I worked for all had employee-only parties. Personally, I prefer it that way.

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