are work parties really just … work?

I recorded a piece for the BBC about work parties: Why do some people dread them? Are they mandatory, even when no one says that? And if they are mandatory, are they really just … work?

It’s three minutes long and you can listen here (my segment is toward the end, starting at 49:27).

{ 133 comments… read them below }

  1. Jennifer*

    It depends on the party and the culture, I think. I like work parties because I’m getting paid to eat and hang out instead of having nose to the grindstone. We only have parties during work hours most of the time so it’s paid and kind of detox time by comparison. If they were mandatory off hours parties, though, that’s another story if you don’t enjoy that.

    The last work party I went to had a silent disco (everyone wears headphones and can select one of several channels to listen to), which was just awesome.

    1. KHB*

      It’s frustrating, though, if your workflow is on a fixed schedule, so now you have four and a half days to do five days worth of work because you have to block out half a day for a party.

      Fortunately, most of our parties are on site, and nobody really seems to care if you grab some food, chitchat for a few minutes, and then head back up to your office.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      Silent disco!!! I WANT THAT! I also want it to include many eras’ dance musics: charleston, waltz, virginia reel, 2-step, sock-hop, the hustle (lol).

      Oh, I’m dying. I want a silent disco with DANCE KREWS! Like on “America’s Best Dance Crews” which was way better than that singing idolatry competition thing. (My sister asked me to watch it so she’d have SOMEONE to talk it over with. I liked it well enough that I kept watching after she stopped.)

  2. Arts Admin 4 Life*

    As a parent, and someone who’s in an industry that already demands some work outside of 9-5 hours, I always appreciate parties are during office hours!

    1. CMart*

      As someone with the same description, I especially love the work parties that are essentially “let’s leave work early for an extended happy hour”.

      I will never turn down a sub sandwich and gourmet cookie catered luncheon to celebrate this or that, but a 3pm beer/wine/appetizer gathering is the bees knees.

  3. Amber Rose*

    I more or less like our parties. They aren’t during work hours, but the venues and food are usually really good, my coworkers are pretty cool folk to hang out with, and there’s an open bar so I don’t have to remember… the party games.

    I do not like the party games. But I can usually just go hide in the bathroom when they get too extreme.

  4. Geneva*

    I got in trouble for skipping a “voluntary” happy hour at my job. My boss’s exact words were that I needed to “show my team loyalty.” The next time I went, I caught him watching how I interacted with everyone. It was uncomfortable.

    In general though, I don’t mind work parties, but they make me extremely self conscious. I like a boundary between my “work life” and my real life, so I’m always negotiating how much of my authentic personality to show to make people feel like they know me, without actually letting them know ME, if that makes sense.

    1. CR*

      I had a boss like that. I had to pull the new hire aside and explain that he couldn’t really skip happy hour.

      1. pleaset*

        “My boss’s exact words were that I needed to “show my team loyalty.”’

        My principle is to make them say it like that at least. Not accept hints.

    2. What? Like it's hard?*

      Ugh. I hate “voluntary” events that are actually mandatory.

      At OldJob, voluntary events were just that: voluntary. Most of us went to the Xmas Party and Spring BBQ because they’re tradition. Everything else was optional. If you didn’t go, you were told you’ll be or you were missed, and then it’s the next conversation topic.

      At CurrentJob, voluntary events are mandatory. It’s a way for BigBoss to feel like he has control over everyone and the organization. I was publicly reprimanded because I said I wasn’t going to the voluntary event since I made other plans. That was my breaking point.

    3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

      This. I could never relax fully at work parties, especially at ToxicJob. I was always afraid of letting my guard down and saying something that could be used against me later.

      1. KayEss*

        One of the long-time employees at my most toxic job once pulled me and another new hire aside to tell us that the boss had a habit of encouraging people to drink and be super-casual at events outside of work, specifically as a strategy to get them to say things she could later hold against them.

    4. Nanani*

      That’s terrible. Mandatory fun is gross at best, and happy hours in particular have a dark history of being used for all sorts of discrimination – against people who don’t/can’t/won’t drink, against people with outside commitments (parents leap to mind) that make it a real hardship, against people who are targetted for haraassment with the alcohol as an excuse, etc.,- and values all the wrong things.

    5. The Doctor*

      The fact that you were reprimanded for not attending the party means that it would count as WORK under any and all U.S. labor laws. Were non-exempt employees paid overtime for attending?

  5. Kate Kane*

    As the person who has to plan them and then absolutely must attend, yep. They sure are! (And I’d say there are several in my office that also see it as work, despite not being in the same position I am.)

  6. RabbitRabbit*

    My department at work has a few parties a year. Typically they are scheduled for 4 hours, starting at noon, and usually involve free food and soft drinks in some kind of pub setting. Sitting around for 4 hours in some loud pub doesn’t appeal to a number of people, and upper management started getting mad when people would leave early. So as of a year ago, they required us to return to our workplace if we left early. My next-cube neighbor and I did just that, claiming ‘work work work so busy’ as the reason for leaving.

    What irritates me is that they’re doing all this in the name of ’employee engagement’ when that just makes me disengaged. My division (subset of the department) has one of the highest engagement rates in the entire institution of several thousand employees. I don’t want to go out with my colleagues. I want to do my job and go home when I’m done.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      (We can’t even really stay at work for longer and leave late to catch the last hour or two of the party, as the food runs out.)

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        (That’s your perfect excuse to head out again though? “Oh dear, the food has run out and I’m actually pretty hungry. Guess I’ll head home after all!”)

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Nah, that’s on you for not getting your work done on time/not eating while at work and then heading to the party late. Stay for Mandatory Fun!

    2. WellRed*

      What do you even do for four hours? That’s a long time to hang in a pub. You know, not drinking.

    3. WS*

      Oh, man, I would love it if we were allowed to leave the party early and go back to work! That would be fantastic!

  7. AnonEMoose*

    I don’t mind casual gatherings during the work day. And I think, if it’s going to be mandatory, it should be during working hours.

    But basically, I’ve enjoyed the type of work party where there’s food, maybe some board/card games laid out for people to play if they want to, and people can just relax and talk for a bit if they want to. A couple of times, my team has gotten in some snacks and pizza, and watched a movie in a conference room. That was nice.

    I don’t like the big, after-hours “not officially mandatory but it really is” sort of thing.

    1. Annoyed*

      Mandatory fun… How very much I don’t miss giving even more of my time, after hours, unpaid (because “voluntary”) to some soul sucking corporation.

      I never force staff to do stuff like this. No “office parties” either really. I will lots of time order in food for everyone and then take an impromptu break so people can unwind for a few (I have a business that makes that possible…intentionally) and be social…if they *want* to.

      There are only a few of us so no one is talking to anyone they don’t already know. In no case is anyone required to do any after hours crap though.

      Birthdays and Christmas I give a cash bonus as a percentage of salary. The only holiday we *must* decorate for is Halloween because c’mon(!!!) it’s Halloween, though anyone wanting to put up AND take down sh*t can decorate other holidays if they like. I’m cool like that.

      First employee has been here since 1998. Holy crap that’s 20 years! I just realized that. Now I need to lie down.

  8. Bend & Snap*

    I HAAAAAAAAAAAATE all work parties with the exception of parties/dinners that happen at conferences. But I do not want to go to a random work BBQ or happy hour at any time day.

    Working at a PR agency really soured me on forced fun and the day I got reprimanded for working instead of attending an ice cream social was the day I decided to go corporate.

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    If I’m satisfied at my job, then work parties aren’t work.

    But these days, I’m rarely happy at work. When I’m voluntold to go to events like this, I’m left wondering why there’s no money for raises and resources for me to do my job well yet my boss allocates money and his time for this stuff? He doesn’t even bother to respond to my emails!

    1. Bea*

      Ewwww! As someone who’s seen businesses struggle with cashflow, I wouldn’t handle this poor allocation of funds well either. It’s salt into wounds.

  10. Nervous Accountant*

    I love our work parties. Good food and free booze lol. And majority of my coworkers are fun people to talk to. Lots of good memories made.

  11. Peaches*

    Work parties are fun! In my case they are during work hours so there really isn’t an excuse not to go. Plus it’s great to get to know and interact with people in a more casual way. Food and fun on the company dime? Sign me up!

  12. McWhadden*

    Honestly, I know I’m in the vast minority on this site but I do like work parties. I wouldn’t want them every month or anything. But it’s nice to socialize with people from other departments. My department can be a little isolated. And I find it has genuine work advantages. It’s easier to call another department or find out what’s going on when I know people and they know me.

    Butttt I would definitely classify them as work. But it’s work I don’t mind.

    1. Oilpress*

      I agree with you. I think people who frequently opt out of these events, dislike their coworkers, and claim to be too busy/important for anything social are typically the difficult, self-centered people no one wants to work with. An inherent part of most jobs is the ability to interact with other people in a positive way. An hour or two with coworkers should not feel like too much of a struggle.

      1. MusicalChairs*

        This is pretty uncharitable! I really like my coworkers but I work pretty demanding hours and take work-life balance pretty seriously. As much as I enjoy the time I spend at work, I also like to spend time with my family/friends and spend time alone to recharge. Being judicious about where to allot my time to (especially the time where I have to be particularly “on” and professional, which I find a bit draining) doesn’t equate to being difficult or self-centered.

        I’d be willing to bet this isn’t a an uncommon outlook.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Same. I already spend more waking time with my coworkers than my children, and having different priorities doesn’t make me self-centered or difficult to work with. (Frankly, I am one of the primary recipients of “I know this isn’t your job, but…” calls at work because I have a reputation for being helpful and willing to take my time to make sure others have what they need to get things done.)

      2. Tony*

        Please don’t project your own feelings onto others, I work in banking where 11-12 hours a day is common. Some of my colleagues have family and I can understand why they would rather spend some time with them rather than a few more hours with the colleagues (including myself).

      3. pleaset*

        “dislike their coworkers, ”

        If you mean dislike as in actually feel antipathy toward them, you’re very wrong. At least in my case.

        I frequently avoid parties with even with my friends. I just don’t like big gatherings.

        I think in general you’r underestimating the extent to which some of us don’t like to be with groups of people in general – not because we dislike those people but because we prefer to be alone or in very small groups.

        “are typically the difficult, self-centered people no one wants to work with”
        Check yourself. You need to check yourself.

      4. Veridian HR*

        Or… We have lives and a work-life balance is important to us. Try not to be so judgmental.

  13. jk*

    What a great opportunity to be featured on BBC World Service!

    I agree with you on attending these things. Especially the huge once a year events. The other, more casual events can be more sporadic depending on your schedule. It’s a good idea to show your face occasionally!

    I had a colleague, he was pretty new to the working world at the time, and all he did was complain about having to go to these things. Complaining is ok – in your head! It’s not good for bosses and colleagues yo hear you (and he wondered why he couldn’t get promoted!).

    I go for as long as I can and socialize with those I normally wouldn’t get the chance to talk to, then head home. I think if you show you’re making an active effort to meet new people it makes you look like a great employee and will improve your office reputation and visibility. Some people just sit with their department and don’t mingle. I think making an effort and stepping outside of your comfort zone in these forced social situations can be really beneficial to your career.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      > Some people just sit with their department and don’t mingle.

      Gah. At the lunch-reception after my sister’s wedding, we were all at tables divided by family, and people were glued in place. I figured that as a member of the nuclear family I had some social responsibilities, so before dessert was served I announced “Time to mingle” and went to sit at the table of my new BIL’s siblings and their spouses. We chatted, all was friendly, dessert came and I headed back to my table, and later heard very good reports of my behavior.

      … yeah. It was a work party, really. I did a good job of being a sister.

  14. Delta Delta*

    I think a midday work party – lunch or a little time in the afternoon to celebrate a birthday or something – that’s fine. You’re already there, you take a little break, have some food, have a laugh, and then that’s it. After hours work parties are the stuff of dread for me. They’re not mandatory except that they are. It’s all the same people you just spent all day with except now you’re wearing sweaters and somehow aren’t supposed to talk about work because it’s a party.

    1. Nita*

      “They’re not mandatory except that they are.” Yes! Frankly I just want to go home. I’m usually working long hours as it is in December, and there’s not much at the party that’s worth not seeing my kids that day. Only of course, the next day I get people asking how come they didn’t see me at the party.

      I’m glad it’s only the holiday party that’s after-hours – we have a couple of socials in the spring/fall that are during work hours, and a weekend summer picnic where everyone is welcome.

    2. Maddie*

      I think everyone just wants to go home after work and spend their off time with our personal people and endeavors. I never miss my work friends.

  15. Admin Amber*

    They suck so much. I don’t like attending them at any hour of the day. Also, having a party during MY lunch hour is just wrong. That is time to unwind and relax.

  16. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

    We only have one work party where I work, and it’s in December. It’s a potluck lunch, where it gets announced how much the organization raised from the staff for a local charity.

    So not only does it occur during the day, and screws up our work flow, but we have to cater it ourselves and we’re all pressured to give money to a charity not of our choosing. It stinks.

    1. Life is good*

      What a sucky “party”. And, I’ll bet your organization uses the donation news for marketing purposes!

  17. Hiring Mgr*

    I love my job and really like the people, and I’m in a leadership role, yet i often avoid these type of work parties. I’m not really sure why–I think once the workday is done I just want to go home. Sometimes I’ll go to my car and get high, then they become more bearable

      1. Kat in VA*

        I think you might be surprised how many folks use weed to take off the sharp edges. I mean folks like C-suites, doctors, bankers, government people…

        1. cheeky*

          I wouldn’t be surprised, it’s just not very smart to do at work or before a work function, unless you work in the cannabis industry.

          1. Kat in VA*

            It’s becoming more and more acceptable, just like alcohol is currently acceptable now. Most people wouldn’t bat an eye at someone grabbing a Jack & Coke at a work function that serves alcohol, and more and more people aren’t batting an eye at someone grabbing a quick hit in their car before sallying forth.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        No it’s fine.. Where I live it’s legal and pretty much the same as alcohol, which of course is standard fare at work functions. Of course YMMV, got to know your company culture, etc.

        1. 2horseygirls*

          Genuinely asking because I haven’t the first clue …. doesn’t the smoke cling to your clothes, the way a regular cigarette’s smoke would?

          I am highly sensitive to the smoke (as in drove past (as a paasenger) another vehicle that someone was smoking cannabis in, and had to pull over because I was nauseous and sick to my stomach less than a mile later), so if the smoke clings to clothes like a regular cigarette’s smoke, that is going to be a problem for me as far as interacting with you as a boss in the future :/

  18. Bea*

    I’ve thankfully only worked with one insufferable jerkwad who would sour me had I been there long enough. He complained about how my staffer would swoop in and scurry out of any lunches we did. He wanted everyone “involved”.

    However. She was busy AF and making her spend her lunch time socialising is stupid.

    Everywhere else BBQs or lunches are set up to either hangout or take your lunch to wherever you’re comfortable. It’s supposed to be an appreciation and casual environment to socialize if that’s what suits you.

    I “don’t do” games so I pity the fool who tries. I’m silly and outgoing now that my anxiety is in its box. I had a peculiar ED that I battled for 30 years that made eating with others impossible. So I don’t subscribe to forced interaction especially with food involved. “Everyone loves (free) food!” isn’t true. Sigh. Many of us suffer in silence when food is involved. Blargh.

    1. Arya Parya*

      I don’t do games either. There are always a few people very/too competitive, which makes me nervous to screw up if I’m on the same team. I do a solo sport for this reason.

      September through April was ‘fun’ for me food-wise. I’m lactose intolerant and was pregnant. Lots of things I couldn’t eat.

      1. Bea*

        I’m too competitive myself and come down way too hard if I mess up or end up feeling stupid. I also didn’t grow up playing some popular games and nobody explains things half the time!

        My friends recently tried to make me do drinking games and I was grouchy the rest of the night. Adding alcohol doesn’t induce any chill factor on my side. I just turn further inward. Doh.

      2. only acting normal*

        I sometimes like playing games, and I don’t really mind winning or losing (because the point is to have fun, right?), but only with people who aren’t sore winners. Unfortunately way too many people get all “ha ha I beat you, IN YOUR FACE Looooooser!”, so yeah, mostly I don’t like playing.

  19. Aphrodite*

    The main work party is the holiday one, but sometimes there might be a “let’s have an after-work party. I work at a California community college in the adult education division, which is on a satellite campus. The interim VP likes to do an after-work party during the week during December. I loathe the idea. When I get home I AM home. I also don’t drink, even one, when I have to drive afterward.

    This year, I am working for a new boss and I love him! We actually love working together; he calls us the Dream Team because our personal and professional styles mesh so well. He loathes these things too. But as a manager he has to at least show up so that’s all he does. Spends maybe 30 minutes chatting, orders nothing and cheerily waves goodnight. I won’t do even that.

  20. H.C.*

    I haven’t been to my work’s parties in years since the only guests allowed are spouses & children. Consequently, childfree, unmarried employee like me stick out like a sore thumb, either individually or in the singles huddle.

    1. Earthwalker*

      This. In my case there is a spouse, waiting at home because he’ll have nothing to do with an earsplittingly loud event where there’s nothing to do but drink and shout small talk to people he doesn’t know. So I’m either there alone or in violation of the requirement to be present at a voluntary off-hours event. I’m more in favor of the occasional team lunch out – an hour or at the most two during the workday – where it’s quiet enough to converse.

  21. the gold digger*

    I attended a work party that started during work hours and didn’t end until 10:00 p.m., but it was probably the best work meeting I have ever attended in my life.

    My team was at corp HQ for the week. The director of the group we support held a cookout at his mom and dad’s cabin on a lake 40 minutes from town. Another team member drove everyone in the old school bus he has retrofitted to be a party bus. (Which means comfy sofas and two hammocks, in addition to some coolers and a good speaker system.) We got to the lake, met the director’s mom and dad, ate, hung out by the water, played with the neighbor’s cat, and had a great time.

    It helped that nobody talked about work and that I work with really great people with whom I am always happy to socialize. All team meetings should be at the lake is what I think.

    1. Positive Reframer*

      I doubt that would be great for everyone but the setting is nice, people have plenty of little places to escape to instead of being in a monotonous space. If things are too loud or crowded you just go down to the water.

  22. CleverGirl*

    OMG I just got back to my office from an “employee appreciation event” at my company. I decided it was actually an “employee hate event” in disguise.

    We were promised free t-shirts, live music, food trucks, drinks, dessert, lawn games. They ended up having like 8 food trucks come and park in a hot parking lot (I think there are like 4,000 – 5,000 employees at this place, although some of them are in satellite offices so not sure how many are at the main building. But thousands). We each got a food ticket, a drink ticket, and a dessert ticket. The event started at 11. I arrived at noon and they were out of t-shirts already. One of the food trucks ran out of food after we had stood in line for 20 mins and just closed so we had to go get in a different line. We ended up standing in line for 1.5 hours to get a taco. In a parking lot full of noisy food trucks on a sunny day that was 90 degrees and 70 percent humidity. The drink options we could get for the drink tickets were an 8oz bottle of water, or a mini can of soda. After an hour they ran out of everything but water and diet ginger ale. I felt like I was getting heat stroke. I know I got a sunburn. I would have just gone back to my office but at some point the “sunk cost fallacy” started, so I stuck it out. (Also I hadn’t brought a lunch because I knew the event was happening.) I regret having gone at all.

    At least I got a freaking snow cone.

    1. Bea*

      This sounds so pitiful! I hope you can soothe your sunburn quickly :(

      They were probably too cheap for any reliable food trucks to rally for their crappy “celebration” :(

    2. pcake*

      Wow, after reading this I’m so grateful I work at home! I’m so sorry you had to deal with this – and that your company organizers think 8 food trucks can feed thousands of people.

      What is “sunk cost fallacy”?

      1. Alton*

        Basically, you feel like you’ve already invested enough time/effort/money in something that it’s worth sticking with it so that you can get what you paid for (whether literally or in terms of time/effort).

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        Basically it’s the fear/belief that it doesn’t pay to get out of something unpleasant before the end, because you’ve already spent X amount of time/money/effort and therefore all of that previous stuff would have been “wasted.” What you’re not paying attention to is that you continue to waste that resource on something that remains unpleasant and it may well be better to just get out now.

        That resource that you already spent is the “sunk cost”; it just means something that you invested and can’t recover. The fallacy is when you are so hung up on that loss that rather than just cutting your losses and getting out, you want to ride out something that doesn’t appear to be changing.

        CleverGirl had been standing in line in the heat for lunch with thousands of people and could have just gotten out and back to her office, but her sunk cost of time/discomfort was bothering her and she wanted some kind of reward. For her additional time and discomfort, she gained a taco and snow cone, as well as sunburn.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Wow! I “guess/hope” they meant well by this, I mean it sounds sorta cool on paper. But talk about piss-poor planning!

    4. WellRed*

      This is why I don’t understand the food truck craze. They basically guarantee long waits in line. Fun!

      1. Bea*

        It depends on the offerings. The wait is generated by having cook to order options.

        In our area breweries are huge and rarely have a kitchen. So they’ll partner with various trucks. Some take forever. Others take a couple minutes. It’s all about the menu.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        Depends on the truck and the parking situation! My employer has been bringing in different food trucks once a week for a couple of months now and it’s mostly been pretty good – it’s fresh food (usually with at least one healthier option), a variety of cuisines, about the same cost as fast food or ordering in (per person), and the campus isn’t so crowded that it’s a huge wait.

      3. Polymer Phil*

        Most food truck operators don’t have a clue about running a business. They’re like “I’m good at cooking; I should open a food truck.” A food truck at a crowded event needs to have a short menu of things that can be served quickly. Otherwise, the line gets out of control quickly.

  23. Alton*

    For me it depends. I like parties that take place during the work day if they don’t require people to be off the clock, or if they fall during my lunch break (not too frequently, though, because I like having my lunch break for myself). As a non-exempt person in a mostly exempt office, it can be stressful if I don’t know what’s expected of me or if I feel singled out as the only person who has to watch the clock.

    Parties and happy hours after work can be nice occasionally, and sometimes I enjoy casual happy hours, but I find it stressful when there’s pressure to attend. Especially when I don’t drive and getting home in public transit after a certain hour can be a pain. I’m not a big party person in general, and I feel like I have to be “on” at work events, so I like to keep that stuff to a few times a year, max.

    1. Positive Reframer*

      Have you explicitly clarified with your boss or another hourly person? (I’m assuming that’s what you really mean by non-exempt) I’ve been that person and assumed that I would have to either not leave early when an early dismissal was announced or make up the hours some how so I could get a whole paycheck. Come to find out that they paid through the end of the day either way. When your boss is salaried and all the other people around you are it can totally pass them by that your hours are something you have to account for and manage.

  24. MissDisplaced*

    I think work parties can be fun and a nice time to socialize. But never for one minute should you let your guard down! These are still work functions and you must act accordingly. I do enjoy the office holiday party usually, and when I’m at trade shows, we usually go out in the evening for dinner or drinks to unwind.
    I’m not a terribly social person, but I manage fine with these. I do find it can be exhausting to be “on” for such a long time though. I also have learned not to drink too much (1-2 max) as I get too chatty. But watching the booze intake should be a given for anyone really!

    1. Sammie*

      Yes! I also like to minimise drinks (sometimes I pretend I don’t drink) because I feel I have keep my guard up. I also don’t mind the odd after-work event infrequently, otherwise it does get a bit exhausting.

  25. Merida Ann*

    Our holiday party is pretty decent each year – the supervisors pay/donate a certain amount per employee (government, so we’re not allowed to use any official money for it) and we purchase decorations, table supplies, and the entrees with that money, as well as gift cards for drawings. Sides and desserts are brought in as a potluck. We combine it with our quarterly staff update meeting, so we would be away from our regular tasks for most of that amount of time anyway. It’s very low key, non-mandatory, and free food!

    At one of our recent section meetings, we were trying to figure out who should take over as the chairperson for the planning committee (long story, but I’ve done it for 3 years and the person who would have otherwise taken it over just left our facility). We were starting to make some progress when one of our new employees started insisting that we don’t really need a party at all and totally derailed the conversation – when she has never even been to one of our parties! We actually have gotten really good feedback the last several years and it is well-received, we just need to figure out new logistics over who should run the party. It was really frustrating and actually felt really dismissive of the work that I’ve put into the party with the rest of our planning committee the last few years.

    I’m assuming she must have had bad experiences with office parties in the past, but I was really put off by her therefore assuming that there couldn’t be any benefit to our party (even though she’d never been to one of ours) and ignoring the fact that everyone else in the meeting said they liked the way the parties were done and how we have always gotten a good response. Plus, because of the conversation derail, we spent all our time trying to defend the very existence of the party and explaining how we do it and so we didn’t figure out the new chairperson yet.

    1. Bea*

      From comments around here, she may not have had a experience. She could just hate them no matter what.

      Is she being told she needs to provide money? That right there can trigger someone to give an automatic “no”. I’m turned off by any event that any money that isn’t my idea.

      1. MeridaAnn*

        Nope, no money from anyone except supervisors (which she’s not). Just show up to the normal all-staff meeting location (at our facility), eat food if you want to, and possibly win a gift card.

  26. The Sock Monkey*

    Whenever he have work parties during the day we aren’t allowed to charge them to our time sheet and have to make up the time. Government contractor.

    Not a fan for that reason. Holiday party is usually on a Friday night.

    1. JM60*

      If you’re required to attend those parties, then not allowing you to report that time as time worked is probably illegal.

  27. Earthwalker*

    I suggested a potluck for a team event once and my tech lead flatly vetoed it. She’d gotten food poisoning at a pot luck and was creeped out by the questionable food handling she’d seen at such events. Although I’ve always liked potlucks myself – particularly in a culturally diverse team where people cook their mom’s favorite dish, yum – I wondered after that how many people hate them for the risks of poor food handling.

    1. cheeky*

      Me. I’m one of those people. I hate potlucks- I don’t trust the cleanliness or food prep of my coworkers, and potlucks are rarely equitable. Some people bring in a 2-liter bottle of soda and some napkins, while other people lay out considerable effort and expense to bring in an actual dish. It’s usually cheaper and more fair for people just to chip in $5 or $10 and go in on catering.

    2. Bea*

      My mom has potlucks at work frequently. She says participation is high and well received.

      I understand being wary but tbh flat out refusing to let others do one because of one horrible experience is stupid. It’s fine to opt out but don’t punish others. She’s welcome to not join in and let folks know her woes.

    3. Quickbeam*

      X 1000. I refuse to participate in pot lucks and I really hate them. I had a coworker joke that this was the occasion where everyone cleans out the old food at the bottom of their freezer to get rid of it. Plus crockpots of steaming death sitting around all day. No thanks.

    4. That Lady*

      I personally hate potlucks because I can’t afford to participate in them and the social pressure that goes along with it.

  28. annejumps*

    We actually had a pretty fun right-after-work party to celebrate important events a few weeks ago, with karaoke and beer and wine and snacks, but right as I walked in the DJ was playing “Ice Ice Baby” and it gave me a full-body flashback to sixth-grade dances from which I never fully recovered.

  29. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I’m usually the one who plans all things work party-related, so yes, for me it’s work. I actually do really like the process of planning them but by the time the actual party comes along, I’m kind of done with it, you know?

  30. 653-CXK*

    When I began with my previous company, we would have off-campus breakfasts for the yearly meeting, and the CEO would announce good surprises. Our holiday companies were off-campus and people could actually drink, and then get the rest of the day off.

    Fast forward to when I left. The last party I attended had plenty of food, but the excitement was sucked out thanks to toxic management. We were also expected to go back to our desks (or hoteling stations) to work. One Christmas party, the speech by the VP sounded like she had to say it because her boss was there. This same VP got so sick and tired of the whining and complaints that she told the managers, “do whatever you want.” (She also ranted about Hawaiian pizza and other things.)

    To sum it up: if you have a fun company, you won’t mind the parties. If you have a toxic, controlling, miserable environment, no amount of forced fun is going to change that.

  31. 653-CXK*

    When I began with my previous company, we would have off-campus breakfasts for the yearly meeting, and the CEO would announce good surprises. Our holiday companies were off-campus and people could actually drink, and then get the rest of the day off.

    Fast forward to when I left. The last party I attended had plenty of food, but there was zero excitement. We were also expected to go back to our desks (or hoteling stations) to work. One Christmas party, the speech by the VP sounded like she had to say it because her boss was there. This same VP got so sick and tired of the whining and complaints that she told the managers, “do whatever you want.” (She also ranted about Hawaiian pizza and other things.)

    To sum it up: if you have a fun company, you won’t mind the parties. If you have a toxic, controlling, miserable environment, no amount of forced fun is going to change that.

    1. 653-CXK*

      Sorry for the double post – I thought the AAM “dirty word” checker was holding the previous post for “the excitement sucked out” for review, and I redid the post. Sentiment is the same.

  32. Quickbeam*

    I hate work parties. I am the one with my hand up: “ is it mandatory?”. I’m already there, working, 50 hours a week. I don’t drink so watching my colleagues get hammered is excruciating.

  33. KayEss*

    My most toxic job ever (so far, knock on wood) was with a small business where the owner–I eventually realized, in hindsight–had a pattern of making bizarre, grand gestures of magnanimity toward her employees and then being resentful that we didn’t sufficiently debase ourselves before her in appreciation.

    One of these grand gestures of magnanimity was hosting an annual summer barbecue for employees and their families, at her home. I wasn’t thrilled with that concept, but didn’t find it surprising for a small, tight-knit office. What threw me was how, after the date had been announced, the long-time employees began openly strategizing and sharing their survival tips with us newbies: do NOT under any circumstances arrive early (she’d recruit you for her last-minute set-up scramble… and then blame you for anything that went wrong because of her lack of preparation), have a good excuse prepared to leave as soon as possible, make your exit with a group if you can manage it (she’d be less likely to notice you leaving if you were in a group)… it went on and on.

    I was laid off shortly before the party date, so I didn’t even wind up experiencing the full horror show, but it has colored my perception of office events ever since.

  34. What are your thought on this?*

    This past December, I was back then a 4-month employee at my workplace. About a couple of weeks before the workplace “Holiday Party” some random coworker approached me saying in casual friendly manner something like “Our ‘Holiday Party’ is coming up in a couple of weeks, we all get off work 2 hrs early because of the party, can’t wait to see you there! Bye!” or whatever. My response an unenthusiastic “Um, okay” as truth be told I absolutely DESPISE any kind of “Social” / “Gathering” event I don’t care what it’s for or who’s gonna be there. So come day of party (held on ground floor of workplace building), while everyone else heading to the party I just left and went straight home. A few days later I was asked to meet with the department manager and supervisor, and the HR manager was also with them. They said something like “It has been brought to our attention that you were not seen at the ‘Holiday Party’ ” I then responded “I’m not into parties so I just went home” They looked startled and told me “You were let off work early only for the party, not for you to go home” I said to them (admittedly in sarcastic tone) “I didn’t know the party was mandatory” They then told me “You were to either go to the party or continue working you regular hours, no one gave you permission to go home” Luckily in the end they only gave me stern warning about “This should never happen again” and whatever but the whole thing still pisses me off. And no I’m not at that workplace anymore. But don’t y’all think it’s unfair of them that my only 2 choices are go to party or continue working regular hours? I mean if I’m gonna be unproductive for a couple of hours, I might as well just be unproductive at home!! Or at least somewhere other than a work “party” or home!!

    1. cheeky*

      I think you should have worked. I’m not surprised you were reprimanded for that because you weren’t actually getting time off to leave, but to spend your time at the party instead of work. That’s on you.

      1. What are your thought on this?*

        No one told me I wasn’t allowed to go home instead of “partying”, they didn’t tell me until days after the fact. It’s TOTALLY UNFAIR that going home instead of “partying” wasn’t an option, that the only 2 options were “partying” or continue working, both being extremely undesirable. I feel we should’ve also been given the option of leaving to go home or wherever, instead of “partying” or working (I would’ve been the only employee staying behind to work)

        1. CleverGirl*

          I find working in general extremely undesirable, but I don’t just go home whenever I want.

          Your “TOTALLY UNFAIR” plea sounds rather entitled. It was only 2 hours and presumably there was food. It’s not going to kill you to show up and pretend to get along with your coworkers for a couple hours. You might have even been able to sneak out early. Also seeing as how you had only been in the job 4 months, it probably would have been pretty beneficial to build better relationships with your coworkers and get to know more people. I understand feeling it was unfair that you got reprimanded when you weren’t explicitly told that the party was mandatory, but I don’t think it was hugely unfair to not let you go home early.

          1. Empty Sky*

            Agreed. I think the poster was out of line with professional norms on this one. I have worked at some places that had regular social events in the same afternoon time slot, sometimes with varying departments and/or teams making use of it. Each week people would make individual decisions to go or not to go based on how involved they were with the particular department or project, their current workload, and other factors of their choice. The ones that didn’t go stayed at work for their regular hours. In no case did anyone decide to leave work early unless they were actually attending the event.

    2. Jennifer*

      I would have pretended I was feeling sick while getting ready and texted a co-worker or two (and maybe the supervisor) saying you are dizzy and sick and just can’t make it. I agree, you should not be forced to attend but I can see why HR would be upset that you went home instead of attending, since the time off was given specifically to attend.

    3. Lynn Whitehat*

      I mean, yeah. The managers aren’t thinking of it as time “being unproductive”. They’re thinking of it as a different kind of work, working on building relationships between departments or whatever. So if you can’t stand the party-work, I don’t think it’s unreasonable of them to say they at least want you to do your regular work.

      Sometimes you can split the difference. Go to the party, make a point of seeing and being seen by everyone who matters, and leave early.

    4. CleverGirl*

      I don’t actually think it’s unreasonable to expect you to work if you don’t want to attend the party. Think of the party as just another useless meeting you have to go to that lasts 2 hours. You can’t just skip meeting you know will be useless and go home, especially if upper management will be there. Same goes for the party. You can sometimes get out of meetings if you are busy and have too much work to do and aren’t really needed, but you can’t say “Oh I didn’t want to go to that meeting so I went home.”

  35. What are your thought on this?*

    No one told me it was a mandatory party, And we all clocked out beforehand, so either way I wouldn’t have gotten paid anyway. If I’m not getting paid to be unproductive at work (or unproductive at a so-called work “party”) then I can just as easily not get paid to be unproductive at home!! Or somewhere other than work or home!!

    1. Ohyeah*

      If you stayed and worked, you would have clocked back in. I am not surprised you were reprimanded for leaving.

      1. What are your thought on this?*

        No one told me I wasn’t allowed to go home instead of “partying”, they didn’t tell me until days after the fact. It’s TOTALLY UNFAIR that going home instead of “partying” wasn’t an option, that the only 2 options were “partying” or continue working, both being extremely undesirable. I feel we should’ve also been given the option of leaving to go home or wherever, instead of “partying” or working (I would’ve been the only employee staying behind to work)

        1. only acting normal*

          Really the permission given was to clock out early *in order to go to the party*, same as permission any other time: it’s granted for a specific reason. But that was implied rather than explicit. I think you were wrong to leave, but they could have handled telling you that with a lighter touch in the circumstances.
          (Also, assuming you’re all paid only when on the clock, I’m also side-eyeing them scheduling the party during work hours and making people clock out).

          1. DArcy*

            They should have explained better, but there’s absolutely nothing unfair about it, and repeatedly screaming in all caps about it is. . . highly inappropriate, to say the least.

            1. What are your thought on this?*

              Capitalizing only 1 – 2 words in a whole paragraph is NOT “repeatedly screaming in all caps”. It’s YOU who’s being “highly inappropriate” not me

              1. 2horseygirls*

                Online etiquette includes the use of capital letters = speaking loudly or emphatically if in person.

                As my husband likes to tell me, asking the same question multiple times in a slightly different manner is not going to get a different answer than tbe one he already gave me ;)

                I use AAM as my go-to for the majority of my workplace questions, and greatly appreciate the feedback and perspectives received by all commenters, even (or especially, depending on the circumstances) feedback that does not align with my own, because it is enlightening me to a blind spot, or to perspectives heretofore not considered.

                Was the communication from the company in your situation handled extremely poorly? Yes.

                Was it a less than ideal set of options? Perhaps.

                Was it unreasonable? No.

                Was it a profesional learning moment to tuck away for reference, and not worth getting indignant on someone for their own personal opinion about it (that you asked for) long after the fact? Absolutely.

                1. What are your thought on this?*

                  I asked a WORKPLACE QUESTION regarding the given topic heading, not grammar advice. I’m being “indignant” about being given UNSOLICITED grammar advice that I didn’t ask for and didn’t want. So NO THANKS. Okay I’m done with you people now

  36. Angeldrac*

    My husband and I are total chalk and cheese on this one.
    Me: community nurse, constant heavy workload, hardly ever get to see my colleagues except when rushing in and out the door. I work part time and am a mother to three small people the rest of the week. I love work parties because I finally get to actually socialize with my colleagues and have (yay!) a bit of adult time. But we pay for it all ourselves.
    Husband: Works very long hours in commercial law, has “social” events at least once a week where he is expected to network and schmooze execs and clients. He detests them because he then has to spend more time away from his family, make-up lost time in the office, and doesn’t actually enjoy the so-called socializing. But they are all paid for by his company and are are quite fancy-pants.

  37. Katie K*

    I think work parties are an extension of work. As a manager I handle frequent face-to-face contact with my direct reports daily and my managers. I have to be high-energy during the week the majority of the time while managing people issues. In my department it is extremely important to be positive even if everything is going downhill. A work party or work social event is an extension of work and it is exhausting to keep the smile pasted on for people that I spent all my energy on during the week. I avoid work social events if I can because I just want to return home to recover from the circus of the working week.

  38. WS*

    My small business had a vote on whether we would like an office party or whether we would spend the same amount on staff bonuses. Only two people voted for bonuses, because there are only two introverts.

  39. Metie*

    I work for a government agency and we have a holiday potluck for our division. It’s during work hours (lunch time) and it’s a fun way to see people that we don’t usually talk to. (About 40 people are invited and about 30 show up.) Instead of assigning items based on last names (e.g. If your last name starts with A-G, bring a main dish), we just say, “Show up. Bring food.” There is an optional sign-up list. I tell people that if everyone bring potato chips, we will all eat potato chips. So far, we’ve had a variety of delicious food. (Everything from international delicacies to KFC.) People who don’t like potlucks (or who don’t like office parties) just say something like, “I’m sorry that I’m not able to come.”

  40. Bess, the dinosaur*

    Are work parties really just . . . work? Yes.

    But a conditional “yes.” I’m old enough to remember when work parties were an “extra” event that employers were supposed to provide at least once a year. And there were other smaller celebrations such as retirement parties or gatherings for a co-worker who was getting married or who had a new child, or luncheons for someone who was leaving for another job. Those get-togethers were kind of an obligation but the expectations were relatively low, because people were expected to come to work to, well …. work, instead of socialize. Which had an upside and a downside.

    But back then, we weren’t expected to be continually happy at work; in fact, there was a general understanding that some duties and tasks suck, regardless of how much you liked your coworkers. Yet we managed to get work done, despite our unhappiness. I’m not sure how we managed that, but somehow we soldiered on. Now that the idea has taken over that socializing with your coworkers is necessary for a productive workplace, social gatherings have become an essential part of “team building,” whatever “a team” is interpreted to be–including “fun” activities that people must pay for. “Escape rooms” and bungee jumping, and whatever.

    So I guess I’ve become a lumbering dinosaur, despite my best intentions.

  41. Nana*

    Worked in small office (8 people). Xmas ‘party’ after-hours w liquor and cookies. I don’t drink, and don’t need extra calories. Sat around for an hour, trying to make small talk. Next week, NYE ‘party’ — same deal. I looked boss (CEO) in the eye and said, “I stayed late last week”, and left. Didn’t last too much longer at that place.

    1. Bess, the dinosaur*

      Liquor and cookies. Not a good combination for those of us who are watching our sugar intake or who don’t drink. What bugs me is the assumption that socializing is now a work requirement, and that your level of interest in socializing with coworkers is directly related to your level of interest in work. Which is not the case with me, but then again, I am a dinosaur (as my niece likes to remind me).

  42. Cat Herder*

    For several years our boss has bought lunch for the staff during very busy, high stress project. It’s been great — hang out with your colleagues if you want, or take the food back to your office. Until this year. We got the food. But we had been working on a “visioning” statement (don’t start me on that!). Email went around: if you’d like to work on the visioning statement during lunch, please join in!

    Where do you suppose the totally voluntary visioning group was set up?

    Why yes, in the same room with the food! So now it was impossible to hang out with your colleagues for lunch, and anyone who just picked up food and left got the stink eye.

  43. The Doctor*

    I’m thinking about legal implications. If attendance at a “voluntary” party is actually mandatory and employees who don’t attend are docked pay or otherwise punished, then the party is actually work. Don’t non-exempt employees have to be paid overtime for attending? Doesn’t the employer become liable for any injuries that either occur at the party or result from activities during the party?

  44. Frinkfrink*

    Years back I worked in a college at a university where the dean got concerned that people weren’t interacting with others in different departments of the college, so instituted a mandatory monthly lunch that was catered with mediocre food, where everyone ended up sitting with the members of their department and didn’t interact with anyone else.

    My supervisor’s opinion and policy, and mine when he left and I got promoted to his position, was that if it was mandatory to attend it was work and therefore we were allowed our lunch hour afterward, so we’d show up, suffer through the lunch, and afterward go out for an hour to the bookstore, for a walk, or whatever.

  45. Bookworm*

    I see them as work, in a slightly different way. I really have no interest in socializing with most of my co-workers and find socializing exhausting, period, unless it’s with friends.

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