do I have to go to my office’s holiday Zoom happy hour?

A reader writes:

Last year my company hosted a holiday Zoom “cocktail hour.” I didn’t attend since it was at 7 pm and at that time I am getting my kids ready for bed. I didn’t hear anything about it until mid-October this year. My boss emailed me directly and told me that the company is planning another cocktail hour for the holiday party this year, and it “looked bad” that I wasn’t there last year.

I’m not in a senior-level high position. I work as a finance analyst in accounting. My day is typically from 7:30-5ish. I told my boss that the time of the cocktail hour does not work with my family schedule. If I were to participate, I would have to be logged into my computer in my house in the evening, which is hard because we have a small house and my office is in the living room. It would be too distracting and, frankly, not enjoyable.

Is this worth fighting? I feel like this is a weird “requirement” they are asking of me.

I answer this question over at Slate today, as well as:

  • Can I get just some of my team members gifts?
  • Attending a rowdy holiday party when no one knows I’m pregnant
  • What should I do if my company holiday dinner seems unsafe?
  • Can our company close for the holidays for a week and make us use vacation time for it?
  • Why aren’t my contractors welcome at the holiday party?

Head over there to read it.

{ 345 comments… read them below }

  1. OrigCassandra*

    Re the cocktail hour: Alison’s too polite for this, but I’m not — super-tempting to give the kids permission (if they need it) for earsplitting screeches and other disruptions to Zoom cocktail hour.

    Unfortunately, given sexist divisions of household labor, this is scarier for a mom than a dad — moms will get blamed for bad kid behavior more than dads typically will — and in a workplace that sure seems pretty anti-parent, this may well feel too risky.

    Sure is what that place deserves, though.

    1. anonymouse*

      Your second paragraph nailed it. Either parent would get an eyeroll. She would get a blame one and he would get a poor guy one.

    2. DataGirl*

      I would be tempted to get the kids hopped up on sugar, give them a recorder and drum set, and let them practice ‘Let it Go’ on repeat, but you’re right that could backfire. I still think letting the kids be in the background for 30 minutes or so, then ducking out early to put them to bed would show LW is a team player and still get the point across about other obligations.

        1. Nina*

          A descant recorder, no, no, god no, those are only good if they’re being played very competently at the bottom of the garden and you’re on the street out front. A tenor or lower is good from the next room and much more forgiving of poor fingering or breath control, but I’ve yet to see a tenor recorder keyed for a child to play.
          An alto might be a nice compromise?

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          True story of, I swear, not malicious compliance, but honestly innocence: My children’s elementary school used to have a tradition where a kid would bring in treats for the entire class on his or her birthday. Right before my younger son’s 9th birthday, the school banned treats (for, admittedly, valid reasons such as possible allergies) and said to bring toys instead. I headed to the neighborhood dollar store to look for a toy that would be enjoyed by everyone in his 3rd grade class, that the store had enough of in stock. I swear I did not know anything about recorders at the time, other than my son brought one home from school once and seemed to enjoy it. (We had a large house at the time, so the recorder and I never entered into any conflict.) The store had a TON of them available. I bought enough for the whole class (20? 25?) and my son handed them out in class instead of treats. He came home that day telling us that “the kids loved the recorders, but the teacher, for some reason, didn’t.” To the teacher, if you are reading this, I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t know.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        I love this idea, but then the poor parent has to deal with said sugar-wilding kids, and that will ruin their night.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I think the host could easily mute the OP and the loud shenanigans wouldn’t really have the effect wanted. Much better to just have the kids sitting there watching like little angels (if at all possible) but definitely there witnessing the adult party. Then the mom or dad aren’t judged for their parenting either. If employers are going to be invading people’s homes on video, they can’t expect a private party.

    4. Not really a Waitress*

      If its a Zoom Party why not make it a family party. Give the kids mocktails, play holiday music, and of course, noise makers!

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Honestly, it might keep the rest of the staff awake for the happy hour! I’d be entertained for sure! Throw in a couple of dogs and cats and my day is made.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I agree with all of these ideas to make it disruptive with your kids. It will be fun for the kids and will be satisfying for you. Haha! :)

        A number of years ago, I worked for a large firm that pretty much took attendance at their company party. You had a check-in table where they gave you a bracelet for admission when they checked off your name. I can see where that would be a security measure, but this was also the sort of place that kept track of petty crap like that.

        So, definitely make it uncomfortable for your boss while enthusiastically attending this thing.

    5. un-pleased*

      The other possibility is that that LW has no idea what actually happened during last year’s Zoom, and is assuming things that are incorrect about it. There is no description in the letter about how it went, what people wore, etc.

      My company did this last year. Everyone came, including pets, kids and spouses. It was really fun and wild sometimes. People with younger kids could hop off if they needed to do bath time or whatever. There was no expectation that an evening event would not entail noise, etc.

      “Cocktail party” can mean a huge range of things in this context. Before she spends the political capital to try to get out of it or concoct one of these scenarios that will ultimately not reflect well on her, perhaps she could get some more info. Having this kind of event is not a marker of a “bad boss” without further information.

      1. Dona Florinda*

        OP is not questioning the appeal of the party, though, just that it is in conflict with their own home schedule, including kids’ bedtime. We should take OP at their word that they know they won’t have a good time, regardless of how fun the party can be for other parents.

      2. kevcat*

        OP said nothing about having a ‘bad boss’ or trolling the party with her kids, just that attending a work event at 7 p.m. doesn’t work for her. She’s asking for perspective on the potential cost of deciding not to attend, not her feelings about that decision.

      3. Aquawoman*

        Having an event is not bad management. Having a mandatory non-work Zoom event after hours is bad management. If they want people to be able to make it, make it during work hours. Making people prove their investment by making them do stuff that decreases their investment is bad management.

      4. Marion Ravenwood*

        My wider team did regular ‘happy hours’ on Zoom all through the last UK lockdown, including a Christmas one. We often had people’s kids/spouses/housemates/pets/parents etc making appearances and there was a roughly even split between drinkers and non-drinkers. Personally I found it was a really nice way for us all to keep in touch when we weren’t together in the office and from speaking to colleagues that seems to be the general consensus.

        However, these events were always done with the understanding that they weren’t mandatory and wouldn’t work for everyone’s schedule, even though we tried to make them as accommodating as we could. I think that’s what’s being missed here, and I’m willing to bet that OP wasn’t the only one who had to miss out on that party last year due to caring responsibilities or other commitments. But if they’re being singled out for not attending or it’s being held over their head somehow, then that’s poor form on the part of the manager.

    6. Kate*

      Yes to paragraph 2: this can come off differently according to gender; for Dad’s it’s “cute!” when a kid rolls through the background, for Mom’s it’s “she doesn’t know how to be professional.”

    7. middlemgmt*

      I did this when my SVP tried instituting mandatory “happy hour” at 4:30 on fridays at the beginning of the pandemic when everything was closed. my 3 year old was so wound up by then and so craving of my attention that i couldn’t have stopped her even if i tried, and husband already did his share of the care earlier in the day/week when i had actually important meetings and work. it was glorious. and the happy hours became “not mandatory” pretty quickly.

  2. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    I wouldn’t tell this LW to feed the kids a lot of sugar just before the Zoom cocktail hour, but I wouldn’t tell them not to, either.

    1. mcfizzle*

      And allow any/all pets to roam exceedingly freely. Maybe with some treats to make sure they go back and forth across repeatedly…

    2. Huttj*

      Note: sugar does not cause hyperactivity in kids. There was like 1 study on 1 kid in the 70s that suggested it, hasn’t been shown since, and a lot of it is confirmation bias.

      Kids are hyper often. Often more so when, you know, happy and active like at a party. Must be the cake.

      Things get ascribed to the sugar when it’s really just kids being kids.

      1. DataGirl*

        my personal experience with my own kids and working with kids was that sugar did indeed cause them to be more hyper.

      2. Kate*

        Well, getting wired and jittery after eating or drinking sugar totally happens in both kids and adults.

      3. Tracey*

        I’ve also read that sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity in kids. However, kids are extremely sensitive to caffeine and that will cause hyperactivity. Not that I’m suggesting caffeinating your kids at night, as that will most likely come back to haunt you, lol.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I think it’s more the food dye and additives in sweets and industrially manufactured cakes?

  3. Richard Hershberger*

    Quasi-mandatory virtual cocktail hour: This is the sort of hate read that keeps me coming back! Serious advice: Arrange ahead of time for the kids to break in about ten minutes in with some pressing-to-a-kid matter, the louder the better. Apologize that you have to mute and turn off the video to deal with this. If there is a scheduled end time to this horror show, come back in about three minutes beforehand. If not, simply don’t come back.

    1. Bayta Darrell*

      Yeah, I think that having the kid ask a very pressing kid question is less satisfying than screaming in the background (as others have suggested), but carries a much lower risk of her boss/coworkers judging her for having “out of control” children.

      1. CalypsoSummer*


        Something sort of like that?

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Sadly, I am given to understand that syrup of ipecac is out of fashion among medical professionals.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Codeine cough syrup is still a thing. I keep a bottle in my medicine cabinet. It’s just that nowadays it requires a prescription. My doctor is willing to give me one every couple of years, since he knows I’m not abusing it. It works great. It will stifle a cough that laughs at the over-the-counter stuff.

            1. Kiwi*

              I did not know codeine cough syrup still existed until I had COVID and my doctor prescribed some. I took it not realizing the contents at the beginning of my virtual workday (in hindsight, perhaps a sign I should have not said I could work), and woke up 12 hours later to a few panicked messages from my boss who knew I was sick and have asthma and was somewhat concerned I’d been hospitalized.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Especially if they can retch long and loudly (without harm to the child of course). That’s larn them to interrupt family time. You want my whole self at work, guess what?

    2. Generic Name*

      Seconded. I was going to suggest to log in to the “party” but carry on with your normal evening routine, either with spouse and kids obviously in the background doing their thing and/or you having to hop off to “tuck in” or “read a story” or any other time-sensitive kid-related chore. It’s very frustrating that even when management have kids themselves, those children are often teenagers or older, and they’ve apparently forgotten that bedtime is an all-hands-on-deck time of day for families with small children.

      1. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

        One of my best friends kids figured out when being potty trained that yelling “I did a poo!” derailed any conversation, so started doing it when he got told off. My friend and I kept joking we were going to start yelling it in meetings to avoid topics :)

      2. Run mad; don't faint*

        Or have them loudly quote one of the kids in the Baby Blues cartoon strip to their parents: “My poop is blue “

    3. Aerie*

      I did this so often last year when I was on a team that had after-hours cocktail hours. A quick text to my husband “Ready for kiddo to break in!” meant people got a quick wave from a cute kid and I apologized and used him as an excuse to log off for the night. My immediate supervisor had no problem with this strategy (she also hated that these events were scheduled after work) and I luckily never had pushback from anyone higher up!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Why “Ready for kiddo to break in!” remind me of college years, when, if I had a boring date visiting me in my dorm room (pre-cell phones), I’d excuse myself, pop into a room next door, and ask a friend living there to stop by my room five minutes later, going, “What are you doing sitting here? We are late for the thing! THE THING! Got to go now!” :)

  4. Susie*

    I definitely think the kids, dogs, cats, ghosts & whoever happens to be home should make an appearance at the Zoom cocktail hour. Kids streaking by semi-naked on the way to the bath, the cat who likes to lick the screen, the dog who likes to bark and the ghost who likes to stare at you intently. Maybe your boss will realize you don’t have to be at every single after-hours event to be a team player.

      1. ecnaseener*

        The beauty of a zoom event is that nobody else’s background can “ruin it” for you (unless you’re weirdly invested in what other people’s homes look like). You can just not look at screens you don’t want to look at, and the host can mute people with background noise.

        1. pancakes*

          Of course, but making noise (or asking the kids to make noise) intentionally in hopes of being muted or irritating people is a weird and bad idea. And a popular one here! Some commenters are clearly joking, but some seem a little more serious about the idea that if they’re not happy about attending a party, everyone else should experience a little unhappiness too.

          1. Bayta Darrell*

            I don’t think it’s that they want everyone to be unhappy. I think that they just want the boss to see that maybe when someone tells you they’re not coming to an after-work function, they have a good reason for it.

          2. LouLou*

            +1000. OP comes off as totally reasonable, but a lot of the “malicious compliance revenge time!!!!!!” comments do not. This is one situation where I really hope OP sticks to Alison’s advice and doesn’t venture into the comments.

            1. bluephone*

              Yeah, some of these suggestions are a good way to get OP shut out from any future promotions but in a “we don’t know what you’re talking about” way

          3. Susie*

            It’s satire.

            I would guarantee that not many employees actually enjoy this type of thing but feel the need to attend because “appearance” is more important to the boss that if his employees are actually having fun/enjoy it. It would be more fun and enjoyable to let those who do like this type of event attend and not make comments or otherwise penalize the employees who opt out.

            1. pancakes*

              Satire of the similarly over-the-top comments people here make every time the topic of socializing comes up? I don’t think all of the comments on this theme are nearly that purposeful. I don’t disagree that the number of people who truly enjoy work parties is probably quite a bit smaller than the number of people who feel compelled to attend anyhow, though!

              1. Susie*

                I can’t speak for others, but my original comment was satire. I don’t have small children that need help bathing, dogs, cats or ghosts. There is a pet rooster who made a few appearances when we worked from home last year.

                I rarely attend after-hours events, and so far, it has never affected my standing or position at work. I can see from reading this site that my employer is very good in this aspect.

          4. hbc*

            Yeah, I don’t get why people are amping this up. Chances are that a Zoom cocktail party is not 100% open mic, no one mutes, everyone hears and sees everything affairs. Even if there was some expectation that you show up dressed for the Met Gala, everyone knows you’re in your home in the evening where you may live with other creatures great and small. Toddler shrieks, cat butts, and frazzled partners going by with the laundry basket are pretty much expected. Trying to make it worse would be both weird and ineffective.

            I mean, if the kids’ bedtime prep schedule is immovable and OP’s spouse is unable to take over most of those duties for that night, fine, bow out and take the hit rather than bringing the webcam in for bath time. But kids just being kids in the living room? Signing on late or off early to wrangle them? Seems unremarkable to me.

            1. Emma*

              I agree. I have attended several Zoom social events (work and otherwise) and they all had people muting when not speaking. The standard rule that any meeting with over 4 ppl should have everyone muted were followed.

              None of these things suggested seem reasonable or actually disruptive. It would be oddly rude to have random kids screaming-but it would also be rude to not be muted in the first place as the background noise of 20 unmuted people would be ridiculous.

              Log in, say hi, and then pop off the meeting when the kids need you (or mute and shut down video). I would suggest a festive photo so even when your video is off you have a smiling face and an appropriate festive picture.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                So work Zoom social events are basically meetings? One person speaking (probably the boss, probably about the quarterly results), everybody else listening? I’ve been to (and had ridiculous amounts of fun at) happy hours, this sounds like no happy hour I’ve been to. It is blatantly a staff meeting. Meaning it should be held during work hours and not two hours after work has ended.

                I do agree with the strategy in the last paragraph though. “When the kids need you” being about five minutes into the meeting, erm, happy hour.

            2. Kate*

              Just saying: single parents exist.

              Work parties held during non-work hours – that are therefore going to require childcare – are the pits.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Yes, precisely, which is why all the comments along these lines are so utterly pointless, other than as extremely repetitive jokes.

        1. Susie*

          Me, too! We worked remotely for the 3 months we were shut down last year (first time in my 20+ years that we ever worked from home) and the first few weeks were hilarious. Like my son walking by the camera flashing the peace sign on his way to feed his pet rooster and then walking by with the rooster sitting on his shoulder like a parrot and the other coworkers who kids/family/dogs would randomly appear or say something when that person just happened to be unmuted. And the weird camera angles, like the coworker who appeared upside down and no one could figure out why or help change the settings then all of sudden it fixed itself.

        2. Former Usher*

          Yep. If nothing else it’s evidence that my co-workers are real people and not automatons who return to their pods to charge overnight.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      My coworker’s two cats like to climb on her computer screen and bonk foreheads with her, which means that the camera is, uh, directly facing the eye of Sauron, to the general hilarity of everyone.

  5. Jean*

    I’m just trying to imagine my reaction if my boss told me that it “looked bad” that I didn’t attend a pointless virtual cocktail hour (10 months after the fact, no less). I would probably press him to elaborate. “Looked bad”? In what way? I’m so confused!

    1. SMH*

      My guess is someone higher than LW boss made a comment that not everyone attended last year and we need better/full participation. Boss is now reaching out to anyone who didn’t attend. At least that’s what would happen at my work.

      1. JB*

        Yeah, I’m betting a LOT of people didn’t show and now whoever came up with this cocktail hour idea is making a stink over it.

        1. Suzy Q*

          Also? This is unpaid time, my least favorite type of office mandatory activity, which I was forced to do a lot of at my last office. I did not like those people and being required to socialize without pay was torture.

          1. Kate*

            We’re giving you a big award, the awards dinner is in another state, we’re buying you a plane ticket and paying for your hotel room…but oh yeah, you’ll need to cover and catch up on your work for the 48 hours that you’re out of the office midweek, and you’ll also get up at 3am to catch that morning flight to get out here, and you’ll get in around 10pm the following night and need to be in the office the next morning. There’s a little per diem of course, but you’re going to be too exhausted and you’re staying downtown so it’s only going to just cover your expenses.

            It’s a HUGE honor to go to this dinner! Congratulations!

            I got this award twice, and I f*ing hated it, and this was when I only had a dog (hello boarding fees), and not a kid yet. But oh my, it would have looked terrible if I hadn’t gone to the awards dinner.

          2. handknit hat*

            Oof, yes. This right here. My previous role was semi-management* at a really dysfunctional company, and our unpaid presence required to be at the company holiday party that took up an entire Saturday afternoon. We even had to pay for our own tickets! I had a regular monthlong business trip that ended around that time, so I would try to beg off due to needing to recover from it. I always got such a guilt trip from my boss about it, too. I won’t go so far as to say that’s why I left the company, but I’m certainly glad I don’t have go to that stupid party anymore. It was getting progressively more depressing as the company continued to circle the drain, too.

            My current company doesn’t have ANY unpaid activities whatsoever beyond the occasional no-worries-if-you-can’t-make-it “hey, you guys want to grab a drink?” amongst colleagues, which I’m infinitely grateful for.

            *in that I asked my boss, “wait, am I a member of management?” and he responded with a shrug and “well, kind of.”

      2. CalypsoSummer*

        What I don’t see is how this is supposed to help people “bond.” Sit and look at your monitor screen and see the same people you see at any other online meeting? How festive. And how bondful.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          And we’re all sick of feeling drunk after clinking via the screen, but it’s too early to go to bed yet we’re not really up to getting anything useful done.

    2. Rayray*

      This stuck out to me too. They’re seriously still simmering about it almost a year later?? Good grief.

  6. CBB*

    I wouldn’t attend a Zoom happy hour either, but it’s incorrect to imply that your boss said it was a “requirement.”

    He said it “looked bad,” which is useful information in deciding whether or not to attend.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I thought Alison’s answer parsed that well: It’s not a “requirement” in the sense “you will be fired the next morning.” But it can be (and apparently here is) a “requirement” in the sense that you will burn significant political capital and be seen as not a team player, first up for lay-offs, etc.

      1. CBB*

        I agree — thinking of it in terms of “political capital” is the right was to parse the dilemma. Do you spend political capital to protect your free time, or do you suffer inconvenience to earn political capital?

        But I don’t think the boss is necessarily the bad guy here. Was he saying, “It will look bad with me” or “It will look bad with people above me”? If the former, then yes, he’s the bad guy. If the latter, it sounds like he was trying to give LW helpful information in deciding whether or not to attend.

    2. Observer*

      Legally, that can be a “requirement”. Such that if if something happens during the event, the employer could be liable, if someone gets hurt it could be something that workmans comp covers, and if someone is non-exempt it could turn into a problem with pay if someone went to the DOL.

      Basically, any time a boss is telling someone that “you need to do / attend X, or there will be consequences” it’s seen as potentially a requirement.

    3. BabyElephantWalk*

      Yeah. This is the boss letting you know that not attending has sent a message that you may not be aware of, and likely don’t want to send. They are informing you of how this if effecting your reputation at work.

      There’s definitely some nuance here – does it look bad to boss? Or higher ups commenting on it? If you have the sort of relationship where you feel comfortable asking, now’s a good time to. Are you just riding time and need a decent reference out of this job, or are you hoping to be here long term/move up?

      I’d also mention that how much employee input is used here is a factor. If everyone voted for Zoom and higher ups would have preferred in person, I would probably let that weigh heavily in favour of attending.

  7. Richard Hershberger*

    “Buying gifts for only some employees will look like favoritism”

    Indeed, this is pretty much the definition of favoritism. It would not necessarily extend to stuff like evaluations and raises and promotions, but the ones left out would not be crazy to wonder about this.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this is a case of “because I understand my motivations in treating equal people differently, it seems reasonable” when they would be perfectly capable of recognizing the unreasonableness in a more abstract context.

      OP, don’t do it. You could maybe make one exception for your personal assistant getting a bigger gift than the other 16. But this has a high risk of landing as “My position doesn’t allow me as much face time with the boss, and you can see the debilitating effect in my lack of Christmas present when Andrew and Sylvia and Clementine all got gifts.”

  8. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    So this unpaid work event, where OP has to provide a location and food and drinks…
    Let me get this straight, OP has to dress up in work clothes, find an appropriate drink and snack (cocktail hour, not get together, not a visit), commandeer the living room OR ELSE.
    Happy Freaking Holidays.

    1. mf*

      I know, right? Proof that these events are really for the employer/managers, never for the benefit of the employee.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I have been saying this for years. The Big Boss wants to cosplay Benevolent Patron. The employees are cast in the supporting roles. Mandatory attendance is pretty much the opposite of benevolence, but this is cosplay, not reality.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          Perhaps they could grab some soot-faced orphans from a nearby orphanage to sing plaintively while holding candles.

        2. LQ*

          It’s so much weirder when it’s not pushed by a Big Boss but by someone else. I work with someone who is 100% the party pusher. Luckily she’s got no significant influence and beyond, you want it so bad you do the work and order the food and all the rest there’s very little support from management other than paying for it and Big Boss DNGAF if people show up at all. But it’s so weird that sometimes random people push for it. I think your point stands but it’s not always bosses, sometimes it’s people with boss’s ears which is the worst of the set I think. At least with a boss it’s clear, they are the boss, they are demanding the thing. But when it’s a person with the boss’s ear and there is political pressure that way….so weird. and hard to parse.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Two suggestions:

      The pandemic has made it acceptable to occasionally have your work meetings sitting in front of your shower curtain. So take a beer into the bathroom, occasionally clearing out if someone else needs the space.

      ThataDad got pretty far replacing himself in the Zoom meeting with a bobblehead, since it would appear to nod along as other people talked.

    3. pancakes*

      I’m not a supporter of mandatory zoom hang-outs, but you’re making this sound a lot more involved than it needs to be. A presentable top (with pajama bottoms out of camera range, if need be) and a glass of seltzer would do. The point is to put in an appearance, not for everyone to watch one another eat something.

      1. WellRed*

        Agreed! This comment actually confused me. Where does it say they had to provide a location, food and drink?

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, just because it’s called “cocktail hour” doesn’t mean you need to have a cocktail. All that means is it’s casual. Have an adult beverage, sure. Or a cup of tea, glass of water, mug of hot chocolate, whatever makes you happy. Nobody is going to force you to drink or to eat anything; if anything, the upside of zoom is that most people will not notice what you’re drinking.

        2. Melly Melz*

          They’re saying “provide a location” meaning in OP’s house, so they can Zoom. You know, the thing most of us do every day.

      2. Colette*

        Yeah, exactly. Grab a beverage of your choice, put on a decent top, and sit in front of the computer for a few minutes. (You might even be able to make an on-camera appearance followed by turning the camera off an muting). Obviously, a work-hours event would be better, but it’s not really an outrageous request – and it’s less invasive than having to get dressed up, find a babysitter, pay for parking, etc. that an in-person event would require.

      3. BRR*

        Exactly. While I don’t agree with any sort of requirement for “fun” outside of work hours, I don’t think this is the biggest deal in the world. Unless it’s incredibly difficult for the LW to make arrangements for part of one night, it’s not the hill I would die on. Maybe it work to attend without video on and just do other things?

        1. BRR*

          And by not the biggest deal in the world, I mean a virtual happy hour seems somewhat manageable compared to a lo of other holiday “parties.”

        2. Washi*

          This is my feeling. I would be irritated by this as well…if it’s going to be a ZOOM happy hour why can’t it be during work hours??

          But OP makes it sound like it will be annoying and not fun to attend, not that it would require a herculean effort for her to make an appearance. To attend a pointless and inconvenient work event 1 time per year via zoom doesn’t seem like a hill to die on for me either. As others have pointed out, there are a lot of compromises: attend without video, pop in and out, let the kids appear briefly as part of your excuse for needing to leave, let your boss know you’ll be there a little late after putting the kids to bed, etc.

          1. Tazzy*

            Last year my medical office did a Zoom party in lieu of their traditional in-person holiday party. We had an entertainer booked and anyone that RSVP’d got a GrubHub gift card instead of a generic gift basket. I put together the banner for it as a cute little “Dinner and a Show on (admin and director)!”

            Was it the best use of my evening? No! But it was so low effort on my end to attend with a snack and drink on my couch.

    4. LouLou*

      This is such a needlessly dramatic way to frame the situation! OP is not being forced to host an event at their house. Dear lord.

      It should be totally fine for OP and anyone else not to attend because these events should be optional, but nobody is asking for a kidney here.

  9. Eric*

    For the zoom happy hour, you can also try being logged in, but with audio and video off. So you are there, but not there.

    1. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I was going to suggest this too. If the company is more than 10-15 people, it would barely be noticed.

  10. mf*

    I have a friend who got a jury summons when she had a 4-month that she was nursing. She was upset about it, but I told her not to worry–just bring the baby and make sure he’s *very* hungry right after you arrive. The minute he started screaming his head off, she’d get dismissed from jury duty. (This is what she did, and yes, it worked.)

    People hate screaming children, so why not use that to your advantage?

      1. turquoisecow*

        I’m not nursing but I have a one year old and all I had to do was check off that I am the primary caregiver for a young child and I was excused without question. My mom did the same when my siblings and I were young.

        I suppose I could have gotten my husband or one of the grandparents to watch the baby, and I’m sure many people do this, but it wasn’t necessary.

    1. A Feast of Fools*

      After the recent miscarriages of justice, I will never voluntarily get out of jury duty again.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I appreciate this nudge today. I’m on call all week for jury duty and have been feeling grumpy about it.

      2. Fed-o*

        It remains one of the best uses of my civic time. It was eye-opening about the realities and limitations of the legal system and made me–a federal news junkie–really devote more of my brain power to local and state elections and policies. Everyone should do it. Yes, it’s a pain, but it’s a price we sometimes pay for a participatory legal system. Take pride in your service, jurors.

  11. KHB*

    I say this as someone who hates Zoom team-building events with a passion: If your company were insisting on holding monthly or weekly Zoom events outside of work hours, that would be a hill worth dying on (or leaving over). But if it’s just this one cocktail hour a year, I’d suck it up and attend. Make other arrangements for the kids as best you can, and put in a good-faith show of attendance. No, you shouldn’t have to, but your manager is telling you that you do – and as far as managerial foibles go, a once-a-year event more tolerable than most.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is where I come down. Fantasize about all the other stuff. But if you want to keep some goodwill at this job–and that’s a normal thing to want–then try to put in a 30 minute appearance.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I would also make full use of the fact that no one knows if I am playing solitaire in another window.

    2. Firm Believer*

      Seriously. The comments here are way over the top. This is not slave labor, this is not an overnight trip, this is not employee abuse. It’s a happy hour. Such a low barrier to entry to meet the political requirements of the workplace. I’m certain it can be figured out.

      1. Observer*

        No, it’s not slave labor, but that’s a ridiculously low bar. It’s unreasonable, it’s bad management and it IS going to penalize people for stuff that really should not count.

        For some people this is actually NOT a “low barrier”. I’m lucky that I could do this easily, and could have done this without TOO much trouble when my kids were young. But in my first apartment? No way. I *might* have been able to make an appearance, and I probably could have made sure to have a proper background because I have a pretty good computer. But there is no way I could have kept it “professional” and “adults only.”

      2. CalypsoSummer*

        FB, just because it’s not an issue for you does not mean that other people are going to find it as smooth and trouble-free.

        1. LouLou*

          There’s a huge spectrum between “smooth and trouble free” and “so onerous I can’t possibly do it.” By OP’s own description this sounds mildly disruptive at worst. She still shouldn’t have to go, but some commenters here need to take it down a few notches.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, to a lot of people what the OP describes sounds like a lot more than mildly disruptive. I think that the people who need to take it down a notch are the people acting like the OP is making up difficulties that don’t exist to avoid doing something that they really should accept as part of the job.

            Sure, a lot of people wouldn’t find it difficult. I wouldn’t, at this point in my life. But plenty of people have described exactly why this would be extremely difficult. Telling them to “take it down a notch” is really unfairly dismissive.

            1. LouLou*

              All OP said is that zooming in from their living room would be “distracting and not enjoyable.” The people making up difficulties that don’t (necessarily) exist are, in fact, commenters here, not OP!

              All we know is what’s in the letter. From the letter, OP should follow Alison’s advice and put in a brief appearance rather than attempting to make a point.

              1. Observer*

                Oh, I agree that if they can, they should. Not because their employer is right. But because it’s probably not worth the workplace capital.

                But what the OP describes can be legitimately really problematic for a lot of people. But “It’s not something bad because it’s not slave labor” and “This can’t be more than mildly disruptive” is just over the top.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        If this was a production release, a support call, heck, even a kickoff meeting for a critical project where, for time zone and other reasons, everyone can only make it at seven pm, I would be in complete agreement with you. But it is none of those things. It is a happy(?) hour, that OP is expected to inconvenience her entire family, mess with the kids’ bedtime, and possibly put herself in an embarrassing situation for. How is any of that productive, helpful for OP or the team, I’m not even asking what part of the word HAPPY means all those things? To me it is a ridiculously unreasonable requirement for OP and OP’s family to participate in a non-value-added activity. In a healthy workplace, “this schedule does not work for my family” would’ve been enough for OP to be excused from the thing. If that’s what the political requirements of this workplace are, then it’s the workplace that “does not look good”. Oh, and if OP attends and the kids somehow appear in the background, what do you want to bet that OP will get an earful from the boss the next day about how THAT did not look good? You can’t win with unreasonable people.

      4. Make An Appearance*

        I scrolled way too far to find this comment. Dozens of previous comments are advocating for manufacturing chaos to protest a “distracting and not enjoyable” Zoom call. That’s just petulant and a massive overreaction to such a minor inconvenience. Boss says it looks bad that they didn’t join last year? That’s fine – log on this year, say hi & listen to whatever’s going on, and sign off with a smile 20m later. The concept of “making an appearance” is not new.

      5. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

        I think the comments section serves as equal parts advice / wish-fulfillment fantasy. I can’t imagine anyone doing what is suggested here and thinking it’ll serve their career well at all. Still, this is nothing compared to some of the other social media groups I’m in about the workplace.

    3. Observer*

      Mostly, I agree with you. But the whole Zoom thing makes it much harder.

      It’s generally much more difficult to make arrangements when you need to be in your home. I mean, what’s the OP supposed to do? Send them away from home for the evening? That’s ridiculous. In normal times, even if it’s hard to get a babysitter, if you have a spouse or SO in the picture, that person can generally pick up the slack for an evening. So it’s a lot closer to a realistic.

      1. KHB*

        The letter doesn’t read to me like this is such an insoluble problem (although it’s always possible that there are details that aren’t mentioned). It doesn’t say there’s not a spouse/SO in the picture, so that’s a place to start. Or if the kids are old enough to hang out semi-unsupervised, let them stay up late this one super-special day of the year and park them in front of a movie in the next room. Or invite a friend or relative over who can keep an eye on the kids for an hour and then hang out and commiserate with you for the rest of the evening. Or see if you can schedule a sleepover for the kids at a friend’s house. Or, or, or….

        It’s once a flipping year. Do the best you can.

        1. Colette*

          Or put them to bed at 6:30 instead of 7. Kids young enough to be going to bed at 7 probably aren’t great at understanding what time it is.

          1. Observer*

            I’m trying to find a polite response to this.

            The bottom line is that this is a ridiculous suggestion. Kids with a 7:00 bedtime most definitely CAN understand what time it is! And kids who actually don’t really know what time it is are the ones who are going to respond the most poorly to having their schedule disrupted.

            And that’s before the significant probability that bedtime routine comes far enough after supper / end of work day, that you can just shift everything a half an hour. That’s far from a given.

            1. I disagree*

              LOL this is a wild take. My four-year-old goes to bed at 7. She can kind of tell time (on a digital clock), I guess. I frequently put her to bed at 6:30 instead for various reasons – she’s tired, I’m tired, we have an early start the next day, or even – GASP! – I have an evening commitment. Sometimes it doesn’t work (sometimes bedtime doesn’t work no matter when it is and you spend 90 minutes getting glasses of water and saying “no it’s really time to sleep” for reasons known only to the Child Illuminati, who I firmly believe are the ones who issue these instructions), but you know, stuff happens.

              My kid is neurotypical, and I understand that for neurodivergent kids, a change in routine is much harder. But again, OP didn’t say anything about that.

              I think parents have been treated truly very badly by all aspects of society during the pandemic, and we are expected to take on a boatload of extra work for no pay and no recognition while people (some members of the commentariat should recognize themselves in what I’m about to say) complain that we get “perks” like parental leave and that we’re “put on a pedestal.” I think that the BS that parents catch perfectly mirrors the way that we so completely undervalue all caring work, for misogynist and classist reasons, throughout society.

              This is not that. This is a short, inconvenient appearance at a work function. It is limited in scope. It will mean one evening that is more difficult than others, but there’s no indication in the letter that it will be unmanageably difficult. And you know what? As a parent, I would love it if we could focus our culture change efforts on the stuff that ACTUALLY MATTERS, like constructing unpaid caring work as a form of actual work that is recognized in society, rather than doing this kind of “but what about,” “not everyone can have sandwiches” nonsense that makes parents look incompetent and inflexible, when in fact the very opposite is true.

          2. Hex Libris*

            Most kids’ bedtime routine is not a 5-minute affair. Bath time, tooth brushing, jammies, book reading — the list goes on. Sometimes they don’t go to sleep when their parents hope they will. And the very small kids who can’t tell time are usually the most sensitive to disruption because they are going off environmental cues and their biorhythms rather than clocks (ask any parent who deals with daylight savings).

            Basically this is not as practical as it sounds.

            1. Colette*

              Right. And that routine is what tells the kid it’s bed time. Maybe they won’t go to sleep right away, but if they’re in bed and quiet, the OP can do what she needs to do.

              1. Observer*

                No. That routine helps them wind down to actually get to bed. But their body clocks are set for whatever time they usually go to bed. Which means that if you skip a good chunk of the routine, kids are probably NOT going to be “in bed and quiet”.

                And again, given that the routine tends to take time, it’s not necessarily so easy to move it up.

              2. Forgot My Name Again*

                I have 2 kids (3yo and 6yo). That ‘if’ is carrying a lot of weight in your sentence there. FTR, we start bedtime at 7, and usually finish somewhere around 8:30-9.

              3. bluephone*

                My siblings and I must be freak children because if the rest of the comments are anything to go by, all little kids are obviously going to be wild hellions before, during, and after bedtime. I don’t know what black magic my parents did to make my siblings and I generally stay in bed/stay quiet for the night but apparently, we were the only 4 kids in the history of kids to ever do that, if the comments are anything to go by.
                Sorry everyone else’s kids are brats who can’t sit still, I guess?

          3. BabyElephantWalk*

            I’m not sure if you don’t have kids, or you just had easy kids … but even when they don’t understand bedtime, moving it up is often not an easy or manageable thing to do. I know plenty of kids who would have been up for hours later because of being put to bed early. Their circadian rhythms can be quite intense.

        2. Observer*

          It doesn’t say there’s not a spouse/SO in the picture, so that’s a place to start.

          That’s part of my point. When you are going out, the presence of an SO / spouse is often enough. When you are in the house, the fact that SO / Spouse is doing the actual work doesn’t really cover the whole situation if you don’t have a room with a door that you can shut people (ie the kids and their noise) out of.

          Or see if you can schedule a sleepover for the kids at a friend’s house

          Wow! You really think that even in NON-pandemic times, it’s reasonable to expect someone to send their young (7:00 bed time means little kids) away so you can take a non-productive meeting? Really?! I’m sorry, sending your kids away is only something you suggest for something that is a REALLY big deal. NOT something that adds no value except for stroking some egos.

          1. LouLou*

            LOL and “sending kids away” is a REALLY dramatic way to describe “arranging a sleepover, something many kids enjoy doing and do all the time.” If my parents only “sent me away” for things that were REALLY big deals then I’d never have had sleepovers and that would have been a bummer!

            1. LouLou*

              also you sound like you’re about to break your keyboard, ftr. When commenters say some of the comments here need to calm down they are talking about you!

                1. un-pleased*

                  You have a real tendency toward not letting things go and making the least favorable, least empathetic interpretation of other people’s comments. Sometimes when people tell us things about ourselves, it’s uncomfortable, but maybe you need a break. You’re not going to win any awards for this.

                2. anon for this one lmao*

                  Seconding un-pleased’s comment above. You often have valuable contributions on this site but the way that you aggressively litigate points like this all over the comment section until everyone else gives up frequently makes this a quite unwelcoming place to post.

            2. Observer*

              Really? It’s a perfectly factual description. Now if a kid WANTS to go somewhere, that’s fine. And I would hope that parents don’t decide to ship a kid off on a sleepover that the kid had no interest in.

              Keep in mind that kids whose bedtime is in the 7:00 range are young. We’re not talking teenagers, or even 10-11 year old kids who might be interested in this, or who might even have asked about going to Friend’s house for a sleepover. So, yeah that’s what we are talking about.

              1. Nancy*

                It was one of multiple suggestions. If it doesn’t work for LW then she doesn’t have to choose. My parents arranged sleepovers for me at grandma’s house when they needed to when I was that age. It’s how I became close to her, so it does work for some people.

                Here’s what you do LW:
                Turn on the computer, choose a background, log on, say hi to the boss, mute unless someone says something to you, log off after 10-15 min. Done.

          2. KHB*

            Obviously, if someone’s personal situation is such that an evening Zoom happy hour is Absolutely Impossible, that changes the calculus. But that’s not the situation described in the letter – all LW says in the letter is that this isn’t how she’d normally be spending her time, and it’s not how she’d prefer to spend her time. In which case, probably the easiest way out of this is to just resign herself to having an unpleasant/inconvenient 30-60 minutes, and get it over with.

            Your comments are really veering into “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory.

            1. Observer*

              No, it’s not. I’m not the one suggesting arranging a “sleepover” for kids who are way young for that. That’s not “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory – That’s ridiculous on the face of it.

              I am not say, nor have I said anywhere, that the OP CANNOT do it or that they should make a major stand on the issue. What I am responding to is the number of people who insist that this cannot be a major imposition, that it’s totally reasonable of the employer to insist and unreasonable for any employee to find this a real burden, and / or make ridiculous suggestions about how the matter should be handled.

              1. KHB*

                We don’t know the ages of the kids. All we know is that their bedtime routine starts during the 7:00 hour (or at least, it did last year – and they’re a year older now than they were then).

                There’s a lot we don’t know about the situation (ages of the kids, availability of spouse/SO/friends/family, exact size and layout of the house, length and complexity of the planned holiday Zoom…). That’s why people have been making a variety of suggestions for how LW might make this work. Any one of them might be unworkable with LW’s particular situation, but others might be.

                LW doesn’t say that the Zoom would be a “major imposition” or a “real burden.” She says that it “does not work with [her] family schedule” (not that the family schedule can’t be changed for one day) and that it would be “distracting” and “not enjoyable.” I’m not saying that an evening Zoom happy hour couldn’t possibly be a major imposition for anyone – just that it doesn’t seem to be one for LW, based on what she says.

      2. hbc*

        Zoom makes it harder if you have to replicate the environment of an actual office cocktail party, which is maybe where the disconnect is coming for a lot of people. I see people talking about Kid Free, as if someone is going to yell at you for having minors at the party. There’s a comment about having to find the right kind of snacks, as if anyone is going to notice that you’re having your dinner or your toddler’s leftover Cheerios or nothing at all.

        I mean, put some water in a small glass, stick a bit of scrap crayon as garnish on the rim, and call it a martini–that plus being good with your mute-fu would put you in the top 10% of attendees, if anyone cared. Seems like a lot less work than the old in-person mandatory happy hours.

        1. Observer*

          Zoom makes it harder if you need to even somewhat replicate an adult environment.

          Forget the snacks etc. You are right that you can put anything in a glass, put something on a plate and call it a day. No one can really tell.

          There are two potential problems. The first is what’s going on behind you. If you’re sitting in the main room of your house and all of the kid traffic is going through there, and it’s not especially quiet that’s going to show up in the happy hour. Which I personally wouldn’t care about, but I also wouldn’t care if someone didn’t show up in the first place either. But, people who think it “doesn’t look good” for someone to not show up are more likely to react negatively to the normal interruptions of a bedtime routine going on behind the OP. Now, if the OP knows that that’s not going to be a problem, that makes things a LOT easier.

          The other potential issue is what the conversation will be like. You don’t have to be a highly rowdy or inappropriate group to get into conversations that aren’t really kid appropriate. It’s not going to be a problem with every office. And you can use headphones rather than the computer’s speakers where it would be a problem. So I don’t think it has to be a total deal breaker. But again, it’s an issue that simply would not come up if the “happy hour” were not on zoom.

          Obviously this is specific to a few types of situations. For someone who has a big enough house / apartment with ability to shut a door? Zoom is definitely going to be easier. But that’s not what’s under discussion in this case.

          1. pancakes*

            The letter writer didn’t specify that they have no doors in their house. They said it’s a small house, not that it’s a studio apartment. They also didn’t specify that their kids’ bedtimes are etched in stone and the kids will have wailing meltdowns if bedtime is delayed by half an hour, which you also somehow seem to be taking for granted.

    4. ThatGirl*

      My new-as-of-January company’s Christmas party is a week from Friday, and it’s virtual again this year, though not as late as the one in the letter (it’s from 3-5 so clearly intended to be the end of the workday). since I am new, I am being told there is a participation element for new hires – we have to sing (just a few lines of a Christmas/holiday song, in a group). This is not something I’m excessively looking forward to and I’m honestly a little zoomed out – at least at in-person events you can walk around talking to people or go hide in a corner. BUT. It’s a new job, people seem really into the traditions, and it’s once a year. So I’ll grin and bear it.

    5. Office Lobster DJ*

      Agreed, KHB. This is where I land, too. For 30-60 minutes once a year, I would not personally turn it into a Thing. (That includes encouraging the kids to run wild just to make a point — fun as it is to fantasize about, I don’t think the takeaway would be the intended one.)

      Make your best attempt to show up and be engaged/act glad for 30 minutes or so, then wish everyone well and log off. Heck, 15-20 minutes might be sufficient for some gatherings.

      1. Observer*

        I do think all of the “get your kids riled up” comments are more wish fulfillment fantasies than real, serious advice.

        I also think that while the employer / manager is pretty cruddy, it’s probably best for the OP to just do their best with it. I doubt it’s worth spending the political capital on.

  12. My monkies, my circus*

    The Zoom happy hour would humiliate me, no overstatement. I’m a mom of 5 young kids in a small home, and I work extremely hard to be seen as competent and put together at work. My (judgy, in this instance) superiors looking into a typical evening in my living room would have me mortified. Maybe I’m too emotionally close to this, but I see this requirement as bordering on cruel.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Absolutely no judgement, I think your reaction is in line with a lot of people’s. I don’t have kids but I have a pretty chaotic life and I spend a lot of energy seeming on top of things at work, often to the detriment of being on top of things personally. I try to keep my home and work lives very separate and a zoom holiday party in my living room would feel super invasive, even if no one was screaming in the background.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I have never used one of the virtual backgrounds, and the ones I have seen are terrible, but I would definitely go that route here.

      1. Lady Ann*

        Unfortunately the virtual backgrounds only really work if you have some kind of solid-color background already.

      2. Observer*

        The virtual background gets rid of the static stuff behind you. But what do you do about the kids who are having an argument about who gets the last jelly donut, or who took a bath first, or who pinched who, or whatever it is they argue about? What do you do about about kid who comes wailing into the room “MAAAAAA. Shnooky took my binky!” or “I want a drink!” Or the toddler who ran away while OtherParent was trying to diaper them. Or any of the other myriad things that happen when you have 5 young kids in a small house with their bed time routine disrupted.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Virtual backgrounds actually work pretty well on people walking behind you, too. If they stop and stare at the camera, that’s a different story, but mine has filtered out my husband coming in the door behind me.

          And, in the spirit of the holidays, you could make your background festive/wintery.

          1. CalypsoSummer*

            Yes, but does a Festive Background filter out the nekkid baby streaking into the living room and hiding behind Mom or deciding to climb into her lap, or the fights, or the little one wailing about his binky having been took by Shnooky?

            1. pancakes*

              Maybe, maybe not, but what’s the worst that happens if it doesn’t? Most people are well aware that kids aren’t just smaller adults. Saying something along the lines of, “Sorry everyone, you’ll have to excuse me so I can deal with this” should be fine in those circumstances.

              1. Claire*

                The worst thing that happens, especially if you’re a woman, is that people typecast you into “scattered mom of little kids” rather than “put together professional.”

                1. Kate*


                  It’s so cute when toddler goes through Dad’s background, but when a toddler goes through Mom’s background? Hm, she doesn’t have it together.

                  This is absolutely a thing.

              2. Observer*

                Maybe, maybe not, but what’s the worst that happens if it doesn’t?

                In a REASONABLE workplace? Nothing. Everyone laughs and Mom gets off the call to take care of Escapee from Bath-land.

                But this workplace is not so reasonable. Which means that the OP is likely to get judged for “not having it together” or being “unprofessional”.

                1. Office Lobster DJ*

                  Agree on the double standard/judgement issue, but let’s not forget that if a workplace is the type that would judge OP for a kid breaking through a virtual background, they would most definitely also judge OP for skipping the gathering entirely due to kids. It’s a lose/lose.

          2. Observer*

            The backgrounds don’t get rid of the noise, though.

            And it doesn’t deal with some of the other scenarios.

            1. bluephone*

              Look, some people just can’t have sandwiches, okay? Sometimes life is unfair that way.

              Honestly, I hope the LW stopped reading this after like the 10th histrionic comment and decided to just go to the Zoom for 15 minutes because that would have been far easier/less time-consuming than anything else suggested on this page–and they wouldn’t have to have this conversation again with their boss next year.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Honestly, talking about a bad look, OP’s manager, intentionally or not, comes off as assuming everyone on their team is high-income, upper-middle-class, and wanting to penalize those that are not. Some of the comments are no better. Oh just send the kids to another room. (what other room? OP wouldn’t be working out of the living room if she lived in a mansion full of spare rooms to send the kids to.) Oh, send them off with a nanny. Oh this is but one time a year. A lot of bootstrappy comments on here today! My children are adults living on their own, and I am comfortably by myself in a place where I have a home office set up, and even I’m getting angry.

      And what I find the most infuriating is that, one, it is absolutely unnecessary for literally anyone that OP participate in this activity. Two, the activity’s purpose appears to be raising morale, of all employees, including OP. How is it that the activity accomplishes the exact opposite of the goal it was designed for, but the OP somehow is the one to blame? It’s not on her to make this inane requirement work. Feedback is a gift, or it would be in a normal office. In a normal office, OP’s “this does not work with my schedule” would’ve been met with a “thank you” and “what else can we do to make OP and others like her feel happier and appreciated as our employee during this holiday season?”

      (FTR, out of all ideas suggested here, I like the one of logging on for literally five seconds, saying you’re going to be “in and out” due to family responsibilities, and then muting and turning the camera off for the duration of the thing. Oh, it already ended? Oh and I was just about to pop back in! How sad! Oh well, next year!)

      1. LouLou*

        Where are you getting “a mansion full of spare rooms” from??? OP said: my office is in my living room. They did not say: my kids and I live in a one-room apartment and they sleep in my living room/office. My guess is they would have mentioned if this was the case!!

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          There is no earthly reason for the office to be in a living room, that the rest of the family uses to play, watch tv etc, other than that no other room in the house is available. Most likely due to every other room in the house being someone’s bedroom.

          1. LouLou*

            Right….read what you wrote again and think about it…when people were suggesting that OP put the kids in “another room” they were most likely envisioning the “someone’s bedroom” you just mentioned…

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Um, people were suggesting to put the kids in front of a TV in… a bedroom? which again, not every family has a TV with cable/streaming access in every bedroom. Both for financial reasons and for reasons of not wanting to have a TV screen in a bedroom.

              To be fair, this is the kids’ bedtime, so they would be in a bedroom anyway. Hopefully everything goes smoothly and they go straight to bed without needing OP to tuck them in. I mean, it’s a happy! hour! something that can make or break OP’s career, for reasons! I’m sure OP’s young children will understand.

              1. LouLou*

                Good lord. Surely for every suggestion you can think of a reason it wouldn’t work for somebody, but there’s a reason this site has a rule against “not everyone can eat sandwiches” comments.

                Consider that OP’s circumstances are likely not unique (probably not even unique *at their company”) and they will likely be able to log in to say hello for a few minutes. Nothing about their letter indicated that they thought otherwise, that’s fanfiction on the part of a few vocal commenters here.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Considering that OP’s circumstances are likely not unique “at their company”, this happy hour should have never been mandatory. Period, end of.

                  I am not even sure how I feel about a lot of the comments on this post. I get it that most of us commenters are past the age when we had young children, tight living conditions, and limited finances, but one would think a bit of empathy might be helpful?

                2. LouLou*

                  Nobody here thinks this event should be mandatory! OP’s company is not posting here! And frankly, I think the fact that you assume a) nobody commenting here has limited finances/living space and b) that nobody with such limitations could arrange to attend a zoom happy hour for 15 minutes says WAY more about you than any commenters here.

      2. Claire*

        Thank you! I agree putting in a little bit of face time (pun intended) at the beginning and end is the easiest way to go, but a lot of “just do xyz, no big deal!” comments miss that it’s very common to have space/caregiving restraints.

      3. pancakes*

        My goodness, you make it sound as if everyone but the “upper middle-class” lives in a hovel heaving with feral children. I get that people don’t want to take their coworkers on a tour of their home, and I don’t either, but I don’t think it’s at all helpful to speak as if very, very normal constraints on space and resources are mortifying. The catastrophizing that is happening in some of these comments doesn’t need to be more normalized than it already is.

        1. LouLou*

          This! The assumption that we all have spare rooms so can’t possibly understand what it MEANS to be SO underprivileged your office is in your living room? You’re telling on yourself with those comments….

          1. Cactus*

            Seriously. My office is in my bedroom and my parter’s is in our combined living/dining room, which is also our third roommate’s quasi-office/gaming zone, and connects to the kitchen (no door). Yet I am well aware that other people’s homes are laid out differently, which might mean that some of these suggestions could work for people who aren’t me.

    4. BabaYaga*

      Then maybe it’s time to get some competence in zoom usage, they have something like backgrounds and muting. After two years of WFH you should be fluent in that. Nobody says that zoom afterparties are fun, but the vocabulary you are using is so over the top – humiliating! cruel! – that it’s impossible to take you seriously at all.

  13. Eldritch Office Worker*

    “Especially in this job market” is such a silver bullet right now. I’ve been using it to great success.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’ve mainly been compiling articles and dropping anecdotes about inflation, and the great resignation, and how hard hiring is, and planting seeds (if not making outright statements) that we need to be competitive and also focus on retention because if people leave there’s no guarantee we can replace them in a timely manner with a qualified person.

        So we just upgraded our benefits package, and are doing an industry salary analysis with intention to up all salary bands, and next year COL raises are 4%. I of course don’t take full credit for that but I know the prodding helped.

        1. irene adler*

          Good job!

          The CEO here (very small company) has indicated that the owners are trying to cut his salary to the point that folks at Home Depot earn more. Makes it hard to ask for anything.

          Somehow I just don’t think this is entirely accurate.

  14. TheSockMonkey*

    Just want to say ugh. Uggghhh. My company did a virtual “party” last year that was so boring. Apparently others liked it? Or they are lying and saying they liked it? They are supposed to have one this year too and I don’t want to go.

    With that being said, sign in and have a technical issue with your camera.

    1. Meep*

      I wish my anti-vax coworker was bright enough to do a Zoom holiday party. Alas, this is the same woman who insisted I come into the office through the entire pandemic for her vanity (I stopped picking up the phone before 8, during lunch, and after 5 and she could no longer trap me in the conference room from 10 to 3 to prattle on about her life).

      They probably liked it because they could pay half attention to the obnoxious speeches while playing video games.

    2. NeutralJanet*

      Right? I’ve gone to a few Zoom “happy hours” and they just…aren’t fun. I am a person who generally enjoys in-person happy hours, but I find it very hard to see the point of a Zoom party, where you can’t really talk to anyone.

      1. Purple Princess*

        Yeah, zoom parties are just weird. The nature of the platform means only one person can talk at a time, so there’s no way to really mingle, you just listen to other people having a conversation. It’s really awkward and definitely not fun.

        1. generic_username*

          I feel like they only work if there are under 10 people, or if you have a large group, you need a an emcee and some sort of event that people watch. My work has done trivia through a polling platform, a virtual cooking/cocktail lesson from a member or staff, and some “interviews” about some people’s interesting side hobbies (all of those participants volunteered beforehand. Examples: one person who was a stand-up comedian before retiring and joining our staff, one person who runs ultra-marathons, two people who are in bands that perform locally, etc…)

        2. DataSci*

          The ones that I’ve been to that worked have either been small groups – like 6-8 people – or had breakout rooms. I attended a Zoom wedding that did the breakout room thing well – the couple had initial breakout rooms organized so people who knew each other would be in a room together, like tables at an in-person reception, and then let us move between rooms to “mingle” as we wanted.

    3. generic_username*

      I enjoy my virtual work happy hours, but they’re fully optional and I’ve ducked out of the ones that I just didn’t feel like doing. Also though, this year I’m more burnt out of zoom and virtual interactions so I doubt I’ll do any.

    4. I take tea*

      I’m a person that actually likes social Zoom happenings at work, as as I’m an extrovert person with nice colleagues that I genuinally like chatting with. It’s at least a chance to get some interaction that reminds me that we are not just work machines. I would still be annoyed to be told that I have to participate in the evening. We usually have those in the afternoon and I can’t imagine anybody saying anything to the people who don’t participate. I’m sorry OP has unreasonable bosses.

  15. mlem*

    “if employers really want full participation, they should schedule these events during the workday”


    Also, I want to take a moment to appreciate Alison’s “rather than just silently judging you like most managers who suck in this way would do.”

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      Yeah, I am thinking of the manager from a couple of weeks ago who was trying to give her employee hints about her wet hair – at least this manager was clear and direct.

      1. allathian*

        Nah. Better to have clear expectations so the employee can decide for herself if she wants to spend the political capital and skip the event or not.

  16. Meep*

    Ah. Tis the season for office politics.

    Last year, my anti-vax coworker wanted an in-person Christmas party. She was very upset when I didn’t attend as my husband had a kidney stone. Like I am glad I missed COVID-fest a week after you were going around telling EVERYONE a contractor’s flu was COVID without a test, but I didn’t plan this medical emergency!

    This year, I made sure to be “traveling”.

  17. Stitch*

    I think this sucks. My kid is 2 and has a bedtime of 7:30. What I would do is out my kid in PJs slightly early, log in, introduce kiddo and then say “Okay guys, I’ve gotta go read Little Blue Truck multiple times! Have fun!” You “participated” and it gets the message across.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Little Blue Truck is a good book! It’s up there with Jamberry in my list of favorites.

    2. madge*

      Yup! I’d be tempted to ask the team, “who wants to listen to “Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site” four times in a row?” Guaranteed to get a laugh, some sympathy, and a hearty farewell.

    3. TheSockMonkey*

      Yes, last year they told us family was invited to the zoom event and I just alternated which kid was on my lap

  18. anonymous73*

    My company did a virtual happy hour last year (I don’t remember the occasion but I got laid off at the end of October so I know it wasn’t for the holidays). Anyway, I didn’t attend because I didn’t want to – I spend all day working, and I’m not going to attend something that will require to be logged onto my computer for another 30 minutes/hour/whatever length of time that’s cutting into my “me” time. Not to mention, how does that even work when you have a big group? You’re talking all over each other, or you’re listening to some big wig ramble on about nonsense. Going to a bar for happy hour to socialize, or even gathering in a conference room away from desks and work is different. My boss made a comment about it and asked why I wasn’t there – I just said that I didn’t think it was mandatory. I personally could give zero shits about optics. If it’s not mandatory and I don’t want to do something, I’m simply not going to do it. My work speaks for itself, and if some unreasonable manager dings me for it, I’m okay with that. I don’t participate in forced fun…unless it is actually mandatory.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Large group talking over each other: My church held last year’s annual congregational meeting via Zoom. It actually worked pretty well. The person running it could have everyone muted but the designated speaker, and we German Lutherans have an instinctive respect for Robert’s Rules of Order. But that is a formal meeting with an agenda we were collectively eager to get through as quickly as possible. I have no idea how this would work for a “social” occasion. Or rather, I know how it would work for me: I would keep quiet and do something else in another window. I suspect that there would be a couple of big talkers monopolizing the audio and everyone else doing the same thing as me.

  19. RagingADHD*

    No, this isn’t worth fighting.

    Log on, point the camera at the couch (or not into the middle of the room), get a beverage of your choice, wave, and make chitchat for 5 minutes or less.

    Then say (and post in the chat) that you’ll be in and out because you’re putting the kids to bed.

    Then go about your business and pop in occasionally to say hi to whoever is on.

    I guarantee you won’t be the only one doing this. And if your boss is not a complete wierdo, they think it looked bad for you not to participate last year because this is such a low effort situation that to make a point of skipping it just screams “can’t be bothered,” and “finds minimal effort too difficult,” or possibly “lacks a sense of proportion.”

    None of which are good impressions to make at work.

    1. Generic Name*

      And be sure to stay unmuted so they all get an audio treat of what bedtime with small children sounds like (not quiet). ;)

    2. Observer*

      this is such a low effort situation that to make a point of skipping it just screams “can’t be bothered,” and “finds minimal effort too difficult,” or possibly “lacks a sense of proportion.”

      Firstly, the one who “lacks a sense of proportion” here is the boss, not the OP. Dinging someone for not attending something like this is just ridiculous. You’re upset that someone “can’t be bothered” about events that have absolutely no effect on their work? Why? Why SHOULD someone put in even “minimal effort” into an event that is, at best, disruptive and non-enjoyable on the one hand, and add absolutely zero value on the other.

      Also, it is not necessarily a “low effort endeavor”. Depending on the set up it may not be so easy to point the camera at a spot that’s not going to include whatever else is going on. And it’s not going to be so easy to keep the background sound effects to “professional” and / or “work group appropriate”.

      1. Colette*

        Use mute. Seriously, that’s unlikely to be a big deal.

        I agree this should be truly optional, but it’s not, so the OP’s choice is to find a way to make it work or accept that she will pay a professional price for not going.

        1. Observer*

          What the OP should do is one thing. You are unfortunately right about what the OP should probably do.

          What a reasonable attitude is, is another question. And it was the attitude being expressed that I was responding to.

    3. Nanani*

      Nah, that’s more effort than the situation deserves.
      Work doesn’t get more hour out of OPs life without pay.

      You claim it’s “low effort” but seem to recognize that it does, in fact, require a camera and internet and space. A lot of us only have those in limited quantities.

      Boss is wrong, LW can push back, and repercutions are unlikely to matter since nobody who isn’t grandfathered in since decades ago is getting a gold watch and a pension anymore – they will leave this company by the time things like “put in face time at zoom party” matters. If ever.

    4. Hex Libris*

      It’s not especially low effort to rearrange your family’s evening routine to accommodate an in-home work event. this is extra true if your home doesn’t lend itself to being able to isolate yourself, or if your kids are too little to understand that you aren’t available even though you’re right there.

      I don’t really know where you’re getting “making a point of skipping it” as opposed to “not attending something she didn’t realize was informally mandatory,” but I don’t agree that employers should feel entitled to make unpaid demands on employees’ non-work time and then get huffy if employees aren’t delighted.

  20. The Wall Of Creativity*

    Re the contractors, it depends on exactly how their contracts work (at least 8n t(e U.K. bu5 quite possibly also across the pond).

    If they effectively work as employees and pay tax like employees (in U.K. speak they’re “inside IR35”) then they have a case for being invited to the Christmas do. Then again, they have a case for getting holidays and health insurance cover but probably don’t get these either. I don’t see how anybody would like to work like this.

    If, instead, they’re acting as consultants through their own limited companies (“outside IR 35” in U.K. speak) then they definitely shouldn’t be invited to the Christmas party, attending the Christmas party is one of those things that makes you look like an employee rather than a consultant. If the taxman gets wind that an outside IR 35 contractor is treated like an employee, he’s going to view the contracting arrangement as tax evasion and the mince pies are going to hit the fan.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but in the US, it depends on the company’s policies and state and local laws whether part-time employees and/or contractors get benefits. An invite to the Christmas party isn’t considered a tax-adjacent workplace benefit the way paid holidays, health insurance, a retirement plan, company vehicle, etc. would be. Spouses of employees are often invited. You could invite anyone you want.

      I’m guessing it’s because they’re part-time and thus the company—or perhaps just the OP’s manager—sees them as lesser beings.

      1. The Wall Of Creativity*

        Yes – all could be very different in the US.

        Just to clear up one thing about the U.K. though, it’s not about whether the contractor should pay tax on the value of the Christmas party, it’s about whether the contractor is an employee in disguise and how much tax the contractor is paying on ALL his income.

        Case 1: If he’s an employee, he should be paying income tax and national insurance on all the “wages” he receives and the company should be paying employer’s national insurance.

        Case 2: If he’s a genuine external contractor, what he “receives” is actually received by his limited company. The limited company will pay corporation tax on its profits. When the contractor takes dividends out of the company he pays income tax on these.

        The contractor generally ends up paying less tax in case 2. But if he’s an employee (in disguise) and putting everything through his limited company, he’s defrauding the taxman by pretending he’s a genuine external contractor and paying case 2 tax when he should have been paying tax 1.

        So the threat from the taxman isn’t that the contractor might have to pay tax on the value of the Christmas party. It’s that the taxman finds out the contractor was at the party and infers that the contractor is really an employee, in which case he’ll want to claw back all the tax the contractor has saved over the years by paying case 2 tax when he should have been paying case 1 tax. A much bigger risk.

        Which is why, in the U.K., any contractors putting business through their limited companies will steer clear of anything that makes them look like employees.

        1. David*

          The way I understood Elizabeth West’s comment, it wasn’t about the value of the party or the tax on that value at all. I thought it was just saying that, in the US, the mere fact that someone attended a company’s Christmas party typically would not be considered evidence that the person is an employee of that company (although it could depend on the company and/or the location).

          From your comment, it sounds like things are different in the UK.

      2. hbc*

        I think it’s about the totality of the treatment, in practice if not by the letter of the law. If you invite the contractors to the otherwise-only-employees-and-their-families event but otherwise keep things nice and separate, the government isn’t likely to come down on you. If you’re already skirting the line with things like requiring them to work to your schedule, log their time in the same place as employees, and giving them business cards, allowing them to attend the employee party is risky.

        1. The Wall Of Creativity*

          Apologies to Elizabeth if I misinterpreted her comment.

          David and hbc – yes, whether someone’s seen as an employee in disguise depends on a lot more than whether they went to the Christmas party. But the U.K. taxman is like a dog with a bone when it comes to taking in individual contractors. Any smart contractor operating through a limited company will collect and record anything that he could use at a later date as evidence that he’s not an employee and block (and record the blocking of) anything that the taxman could use as evidence that he is an employee. It would be madness for a limited company contractor in the U.K. to attend the Christmas party. Even if the Christmas party doesn’t prove employment, it can still be enough to get the taxman on your case, maybe take you to court. Even if you end up exonerated, that’s an expensive process.

  21. What's in a name?*

    FYI, all people over 18 are eligible for the booster if they are six months past their second dose (or two months past the J&J single dose). At least in the US.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. This is a recent development, so many people may not have gotten the word. Just this morning I signed up for a booster on Thursday through the county department of health.

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        We are still a bit behind on boosters in canada because our second doses were later than yours. I’m not eligible for a few weeks and I was an early second doser.

    2. Spencer Hastings*

      Yeah, that’s the difference between Thanksgiving and Christmas that they were referring to. Some states (e.g. CA, MA) opened it up to everyone earlier, but I for one didn’t become eligible in my state until November 19, when the CDC made the general recommendation. And even if I’d gotten the booster that day (not likely — the earliest appointment I could get was early next week), that was less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I got mine shortly before that since I hit six months on November 1 and I used to smoke. They said that makes you vulnerable.

    4. Third or Nothing!*

      Just got mine last Wednesday! I miiiiiiight have scheduled it the day before Thanksgiving on purpose just to avoid going to my in-laws’ house and having to watch everyone eat all the food I’m allergic to while I nibble on a sad dry piece of turkey.

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      It’s like a work conference call but you’re supposed to drink and discuss non-work things.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      In the first few months of the pandemic when most of us stayed home, this was a way for people to touch base with humans not living in their house. Like, at 7 pm the Smiths, Woos, and Klauses would all sign onto Zoom with their beverage of choice and chat for an hour, just like they did when they would gather in person at the Smiths for a dinner party. Recall that at this point the nation’s dogs were like “This is the fourth walk today, what is wrong with these people? Nap! Maybe chew on something.”

      Like many virtual things, it fell into “Not nearly as good as in-person, but helps when that is not an option.” I would expect them to be much rarer now.

      1. allathian*

        Or not, given that many places are heading for full lockdowns again because of delta, and potentially omicron.

  22. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Got told last week that I really ‘should’ attend the office xmas party this year given that I’m a) the boss and b) didn’t show up last year.

    Am currently off work due to grief (losing a friend to Covid) and believe me I’m really tempted to answer back that I’m really not in the mood the party.

    I’ll probably just beg off with a migraine though. It’s a handy excuse.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      (Btw have got out of zoom ‘after work drinks’ with the same reason. I do get a lot of migraines so nobody really raises an eye at me claiming another. Additionally, I’m an ex-alcoholic. I don’t really go in for drinks anymore)

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      If you want to mix it up, fake stomach flu always works too. There is no one who wants to be around someone with the stomach flu.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Unfortunately I work with a lot of people who believe that any woman complaining of stomach upset must be pregnant! (I have a phobia of pregnancy and really don’t need that conversation)

  23. A Simple Narwhal*

    I agree with everyone’s comments on the zoom cocktail hour, plus I just don’t get why some companies start events so late in the evening? Unless your work goes until 7, it seems extra lousy to have to give up even more of your time in the evening, since are you really going to decompress/get anything done in the 1-2 hours in between, knowing you have to sign back on to work?

    It’s one thing to do an annoying/not fun event during the workday, it’s another if they’re stealing your personal time. Pre-covid our last two holiday parties didn’t start until 6/6:30, and it was incredibly frustrating to have to stick around doing nothing. I (and a lot of others) commuted into the downtown office, meaning we couldn’t go home and come back, and the gap was just long enough that you really couldn’t do anything. Knowing the trains left increasingly less frequently after 6 made me want to make my rounds and leave as soon as possible. I probably would have stayed longer or at the very least enjoyed myself more if the party had started earlier or (gasp!) taken place during the workday.

    1. Claire*

      My husband’s company started their zoom happy hours 30 minutes before the end of the work day so people could come to the beginning without rearranging schedules and then stay as long as worked for them. I really liked that set up.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, my employer does the same. We have very flexible hours, but most people do put in their hours between 6 am and 6 pm. When I WFH I tend to work 7 am to 3 pm most days, although I can take multiple shorter and longer (unpaid) breaks during the day, so I can usually stop working before 5 pm even when we’re particularly busy. Work events often start around 3.30 pm.

  24. EPLawyer*

    For the one who doesn’t want to drink at the holiday party — can we PLEASE normalize someone saying No to alchol just once. No one should have to explain why they aren’t drinking or have to fend off multiple attempts to get them to drink. No thank you should be a sufficient response if someone chooses not to drink.

    As for 1 – I’m a little surprised Alison didn’t suggest pushing back as a group. I’m guessing SEVEN p.m., more than 2 hours AFTER the normal work day is not workable for a lot of people. I mean 5 p.m. that extends the work day is bad enough for a happy hour. But to have people have to re-engage with work 2 hours later is just not cool.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Thank you for this. I don’t drink booze at all, and requiring me to do anything social or work past 5pm requires me to rejuggle my medication schedule for that day (past 6pm I’m not judged able to drive due to one of my meds).

      I’m okay with a lunchtime coffee/tea social hour.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        Question … if you are the boss, don’t you have any say in when the event happens during the day?
        Our 2019 and previous parties were in the evening, but that’s because the graduate students organized them, and insisted on “after-hours”.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Sadly no. These things are arranged by the head of IT for the company – my immediate boss – and she says these are the times/events requested by the staff. So if I try and push back on it I’m either pissing her off or pissing off my staff.

    2. Bernice Clifton*

      It’s definitely important not to question or pressure a coworker about drinking, but the read that I get from this particular letter is that normally that LW *would* be drinking at this party or has at this party in the past, so it’s more like a coworker who knows that you eat at McDonalds every day asking why you have a Burger King bag on your desk.

      1. generic_username*

        That was the read I got too. Like, LW isn’t worried they’ll push her to drink, but more that people will notice she isn’t drinking and she doesn’t know how to explain it. Alison’s suggestion of a club soda with lime will work just fine to prevent people from noticing

    3. ecnaseener*

      Pushing back to who? The manager can’t cancel or reschedule the party, and they’re not framing it as a requirement, just saying it looks bad not to go.

      You could talk to whoever’s in charge of planning the party and ask for it to happen during the workday, but I can’t imagine they’d reschedule this year’s party – if anything they’d make the change next year. (Which would still be a win!) I think you’d have better luck framing that as a request / preference, rather than as “pushback” on something that’s not an official requirement.

    4. Hermione Danger*

      Our org. is completely remote, and we’ve got people in every US time zone except Alaska/Hawaii. When we have a party, either somebody has to start a couple of hours after work so others can start right after work, or somebody starts at 2 PM but has to go back to work after.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      My usual excuse is that I drove myself. Couldn’t use that for a Zoom party, however. But if I don’t feel like drinking, then lay off me; I’m not twenty anymore and it messes with my sleep and makes me feel like shit the next day.

  25. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    I really don’t get this “It looks bad” when someone doesn’t show up at a party.

    Like, not everyone has the opening in their schedule. Not everyone enjoys it. And if someone is not there, I’m merely sad they missed out on the fun (if it was had). It certainly doesn’t look bad…to me. It’s an odd thing to be controlling/micromanaging over.

    I had someone on my team who showed up to nothing unless it was critical to her job. Anything social, she booked the day off once she knew about it. And we all shrugged it off, stating, well that’s Quiettella for ya.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’ve been so fortunate that, in my 25 years working in corporate America, I’ve never encountered that. I had a coworker at my first job tell us a story of how she’d wrangled her husband into a suit and to her work party, telling him that “they’ll fire me if you don’t go”, but I wrote it off as her being a new immigrant, new to the corporate world, and overly paranoid about how it operated. Never in my own experience. I’ve been to many work parties that were honestly fun, have no idea who could and couldn’t make it, and those that could not make it were certainly not penalized for it later. It is so wild to me. I’ve never had a first-hand experience of a non-value-added activity being made so critical for everyone to attend. Like you said, it is an odd thing to be controlling/micromanaging over. It screams “not normal” to me and honestly I am so saddened that to a lot of the commenters, it does seem normal and expected. I get it that corporate America doesn’t make a lot of sense overall, but a mandatory Zoom party, that’s next level.

      1. allathian*

        I’m not in the US, but I haven’t come across this, either. Granted, I’ve been working for my current employer for nearly 15 years now, and when I started, I was keen to participate in office parties. I was dating my husband by then, but he worked in another town, which meant that I had only myself to please if I wanted to attend work social events on a weekday, or even after work drinks on a Friday, because he traveled after work, and that usually meant that he arrived around 9 or 10 pm most times.

        It’s only as I’ve hit middle age that I’ve realized that I don’t usually want to attend my employer’s holiday parties, and I’ve skipped them. I haven’t heard any flak about that for years. A previous manager wondered why I never wanted to attend company wellness days, because my coworker always did. These centered around various kinds of physical exertion, from soccer and basketball to more leisurely pursuits like boules and croquet. I would’ve been able to handle the latter physically, but the idea of spending two days with my coworkers, including a late dinner where most people would drink and some would get drunk, not to mention traveling for hours by train or plane, just didn’t appeal at all. My then-manager really didn’t understand why I didn’t want to participate, but at least there were no professional consequences for me because I opted out. The last event was in summer 2019, and I don’t know if they’ll ever be back, and personally I don’t care either way.

  26. Me*

    Well since gifting boss was planning on showing favoritism via gifts, I think the gifting boss needs to do a self check and see if he isn’t already favoring the employees he sees daily. It may feel natural since you do see them more you may for example be on friendlier terms, but you absolutely cannot favor certain employees and really need to actively counteract the appearance off.

    I’m not saying they’re a terrible boss, terrible bosses generally don’t ask if they might be doing something wrong, just that they need to evaluate and perhaps makes some changes. Could be something as simple as more frequent face to faces with the other staff.

    But yes, Alison’s suggestion of a group gift is the perfect way to handle this.

    1. Girl GM*


      The “terrible boss” who wrote the original letter here and I just wanted to clarify a few points:
      1. I’m a girl and not a dude. It sucks you automatically assumed a GM would be male.
      2. I don’t think I’m a terrible boss and I don’t think my staff would say I’m a terrible boss.
      3. The team I manage are not all desk employees. They include janitorial and mechanical personnel. So facetime with them isn’t as easy as just walked to another building and strolling around cubicles. I also respect their lunch hour enough to not walk down there and interrupt (as we all know how much it sucks to have the boss at the lunch table).
      4. However you may want to spin it, my intent is not to show favoritism. If I wanted to do that – I would have gone to the client and fought for raises and bonuses for only the people I see daily v. the entire staff. But the reality is, there are 3 employees who literally make my job easier and allow me to go home at a reasonable hour each night.

      But, point taken. I’m foregoing gifts to ensure nothing is seen as favoritism.

  27. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    You know, in any job, you have to make REASONABLE sacrifices from time to time.

    I am with the people who say = make an appearance, then get the kids to bed, then come back to the party if it’s still going on. These things are important for office/company morale. Sometimes the “I haftas” outweigh the “I don’wannas”.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      …oh and as far as alcohol – if you’re on Zoom, no one knows or cares if you’re drinking Coca-Cola or ginger ale or Perrier water. You don’t have to drink booze in a Zoom session.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      These things are important to office politics, but office morale? How? Whose morale is improved by forcing someone to participate who would rather be anywhere else? Especially in a Zoom format, where the more people participating, the worse the experience?

      This is, I think, an example of misunderstanding causality. Members of a group with high morale will tend to have warm fuzzy feelings about one another, which might lead to their socializing together outside of work. This doesn’t work in the opposite direction. Forced socialization will not induce warm fuzzies leading to higher morale.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Richard, I love your posts. Seriously.

        I doubt our office morale would be improved by a seriously zonked-out-on-meds/hates socialising after hours/famously sarcastic IT geek logging on. I’d rather be playing Diablo.

    3. Observer*

      These things are important for office/company morale

      Why? You say this as a fact, but I’ve yet to see evidence that when people “have” to show up, it actually improves morale.

      Sometimes the “I haftas” outweigh the “I don’wannas”.

      True but not really relevant. For one thing, WHY is this a “hafta”? Hand-waving around “morale” doesn’t really cut it, especially since the OP’s role is not supervisory or anything like that. For another, the OP’s issue are really not just “don’t wanna”. I’m finding that the dismissiveness around the OP’s issue very irksome. And it’s extraordinarily disrespectful.

      I do agree that the OP does need to figure out some way to show their face. But it’s really not reasonable to assume that it’s actually not a big deal.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        What really irks me is that these events are billed as being for my morale, yet whether or not I will enjoy them somehow disappears from the equation. Yes, being an adult means sometimes doing something you don’t want to do and sucking it up. But don’t tell me I am having fun and should be grateful.

      2. Waiting on the bus*

        Ehhh, it can be good for morale. Our company has two offices, one in a high CoL metropole and one in a rural low CoL area. Most of management and the C-suite work in the metropolitan office. Due to the difference in CoL, the metropolitan office has higher wages, even for roles that exist in both offices.

        There is a LOT of drama and unhappiness over the wages and the fact that management is at the metropolitan offices. There were some bad apples in the rural office that really poisened the well and pushed a second-class narrative for their office. They’ve since been fired and the mood overall has improved again, but there’s still a sentiment of the metropolitan office being the “elite” vs. the “worker bees at the rural office” that runs through the rural office.

        Events like virtual happy hour or the virtual Christmas party are usually well attended by the colleagues from the rural office and it is noted when a large number of people from the metropolitan office aren’t there. And then it potentially becomes “the metropolitan office is too good for the party” in the minds of some. So to keep the peace it’s expected for the metropolitan office to show up for these sort of things.

        Obviously, it sometimes really isn’t possible to show up for everything and as far as I’m aware, no one is dinged when they can’t make it. But the metropolitan office is definitely expected to show in an effort to keep up morale.

        1. Observer*

          So, it’s actually NOT good for the morale of the Metro staff for them to show up. No one should pretend otherwise.

          Now, in this particular case there is some argument to be made that Metro staff should show up anyway, but that kind of situation is not all that common. Furthermore, even in a situation where it’s important for management to show up, that wouldn’t apply to someone like the OP, who is not management.

          1. Waiting on the bus*

            The metro staff is 60 people vs. 220 people in the other office. So for company morale overall it is better if some of the 60 people suffer through a few events a year. God knows I’m one of them. But it’s not like the whole metro staff is vehemently against socialising with the other office either. Most enjoy these events anyway.

            Even if you’re not management it can be good to show your face at these office events. You’re also part of a department that might benefit from being seen at these things. Especially when it’s on Zoom, where you can beg off early fairly easily. And OP has a perfect excuse with the kids too.

    4. doreen*

      Whether it’s “good for morale” or not depends a lot on the specifics. Social events at my job ( either during or after work hours) are never initiated by management – they are initiated by the staff, even if a manager is sending out the information. And if staff members don’t attend , they don’t get the side-eye. But if I as a manager don’t attend a social event planned by the staff, it will definitely hurt morale. There will be murmurs of “His own manager didn’t go to his retirement party” or “Doreen thinks she’s too good to come to our Christmas party” and so on.

    5. Nanani*

      Nope. LW makes a reasonable sacrifice -for the money they are paid-.
      Anything else is overreach, no matter how minor it seems from the outside. And to a parent of small children, work reaching to grab extra hours is not minor.

      Don’t go. Be vocal about why. Encourage your peers to also not go if they are feeling similarly.
      Let the crap die.

  28. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    “My office announced it’s closing for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, since so many people take time off then anyway. Great! But then they announced that we’ll need to use our PTO for that week…”

    I worked at a place like that. I actually called the Ministry of Labour to ask about it and yeah, it’s legal (“You’re not working, so they don’t have to pay you.”) and if you didn’t have enough vacation time, you were out of luck and not paid.

    The company did provide one day paid without using PTO during that break…for every province except Quebec. Quebec got two days paid without using PTO. When asked about it, they pointed out it was because Ontario got an additional statutory holiday that Quebec didn’t.

    Since that’s by law and not from our vacation bank, I failed to see why Ontarians had to be out an extra day of vacation time because Quebec didn’t have the same number of statutory holidays.

    1. Heffalump*

      My current and previous employers both close between Christmas and New Year’s. At my previous employer you could take that week as PTO, unpaid leave, or some combination of the two. My current employer pays us for that week without requiring us to use PTO. It’s a pretty good deal.

    2. hbc*

      Wouldn’t that basically be that the Quebecois get stiffed every other year compared to Ontarians, and this one year there was equality?

      1. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        Equality how? Stiffed because they live in a different province province and don’t share the stat holiday?

        Ontarians get one day paid by the company. Quebecers get two, which means that the staff in Ontario use up more PTO, because of their location. Ontarians cannot control the stat holiday schedule. Ideally, you should be able to control when you take your vacation days but you can’t completely because of the shutdown where you are forced to use up precious vacation days, especially for the younger staff who start with only with two weeks vacation but could lose 3 to five days during that break or go unpaid.

        For years, I worked Nov 11 because it’s not a holiday in Ontario (or Quebec) but it’s a holiday in many other provinces. I didn’t feel stiffed but felt sad that working meant I was missing out on special events on that day unless I took the day off.

        1. hbc*

          I don’t know typical Canadian leave, but if the employees in Ontario get 11 statutory holidays and 20 PTO days in a normal year, and employees in Quebec get 10 statutory holidays and 20 PTO days in a normal year, that’s unequal. They’re unequal in a way that is 100% justifiable and not the “fault” of the company, but they’re still working one more day in Quebec for the same pay.

          It was the same total number of paid days off last year (11+21 versus 10+22). It might be unfair in the sense of getting more PTO, but it also could be fair in the sense of all employees getting the same total paid time off. Casting that as them somehow getting ahead isn’t particularly sympathetic.

    3. WS*

      Yeah, my brother’s workplace has a mandatory holiday between Christmas and New Year’s Day but the difference is that they’re told about it from the start so they know it’s coming. No last minute surprises. Would it be better as paid leave? Sure, but it’s okay this way. And this year we have Monday and Tuesday as public holidays, so they only need to use three days on it.

  29. Boadicea*

    My pet got seriously ill and I had to take him to the vet’s the morning of our afternoon holiday party a couple of years ago (he only lived another couple of weeks, and he was my best friend). Despite the stress and panic and lack of adequate transportation, I of course put in a very apologetic email to the party organizer, explaining in full why I could no longer go. I did get back in time to work, so continued working all afternoon, since only contractors were at the party so all the FTE’s were still in the office.

    A couple of days later, my manager told me not to ever do it again, even though I explained the situation and he sympathized (I know he was acting on instructions from above but still). Like, if my beloved pet happened to require urgent treatment again on the exact same day as your ridiculous Christmas party, then of course I will not attend your damned party. I also later found out that one of the older male employees, with whom I shared a manager, had not attended the party “because he didn’t want to” for years!

    1. Susie*

      So your pet was supposed to lay around in pain for hours so you could attend some work party? That’s completely ridiculous and unreasonable.

  30. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    I swear a letter from an employee whose boss did the differential gift giving has been sent to AAM before. The feelings engendered by being left out of the gift giving were not positive.

  31. Thursdaysgeek*

    Another explanation for the contractors at the work party: boss is a rule follower and doesn’t play politics very well. If the rules are ‘no contractors’ but other management has been bending that rule for years, a manager that is a rule follower will still exclude contractors.

  32. Not really a Waitress*

    My childless boss (I am his 2nd in command) has been trying to have a group outing for months. He scheduled it, and sent the calendar invite. It was for a Saturday night. I actually already had rsvped for a dinner party and I declined the invite. So he asked me to get with the team and determine a date. We said not a Saturday. It would be very easy for us all to be out of the building on a weekday afternoon.

    I am a single parent, my kids are college aged – 2 are away at school but not far, and my daughter lives at home but we do a lot of things on the weekend. Plus, I have put in a lot of extra hours and the last thing I want to do is give work part of my weekend. Not to mention one of our team members has 2 children under the age of 8 so she would need to make arrangements as well. So he rescheduled it… for a Saturday. It came back to me through someone else that he said if I wanted I could bring my daughter. Guess what, my daughter doesn’t want to hang out with my work on a Saturday either!

    I originally responded with a maybe, but changed it to No last week when my alma mater football team clinched going into the conference championship game which is on Saturday.

    I am nothing if not consistent with my priorities.

    1. irene adler*

      “the last thing I want to do is give work part of my weekend”
      For me, this is my core issue.
      I spend 40 (or more) hours EVERY week with co-workers. I do not want to spend any additional time with them. They are all very nice people but I have a limit here.

      1. Why isn't it Friday?*

        Agreed! My office has a holiday party every year at noon on a Friday. We have the party and then they give us the rest of the day off. It is lovely and much appreciated.

  33. Sunflower*

    My office closed a few days due to snowmagedeon (I don’t remember the year). Everyone was happy to stay home, but then they announced we have to use our vacation days. We were all pissed off since the whole state was closed by the order of the government! The company building was closed! We didn’t have a choice to go in and work even if we wanted to. But we couldn’t do anything about it.

    So I have no advice but just want to sympathize.

    1. I'm In The Office Today*

      Yeah, this kind of thing is why I don’t use all my vacation days. We got freebies once when we were shut down for smoke a few years ago, but usually it’s all your vacation time. You gotta save some in reserve if you can.

  34. Coffee Cup*

    Eh, I think I will be alone in this in the comments here, but ONE cocktail hour per year at 7pm? I would say it’s not worth fighting against…

    1. Firm Believer*

      You are not alone. I feel like this is such a small ask. Probably shouldn’t start as late as 7 but there’s little benefit to pushing back on something this benign.

      1. Jamie Starr*

        Yeah, I don’t really get all the outrage about this. It would be worse if you were working from home and had to go to an in-person event, but a Zoom cocktail seems fairly low on the effort scale, even considering juggling bedtime. What would this person do if they had a personal engagement for 7pm on a weeknight? They should handle the bedtime situation the same way would for that.

        1. turquoisecow*

          Yeah I get that parents of small children don’t go out on weeknights often, but surely they occasionally have to move bedtime around or alter the routine or something due to social obligations or whatever. This doesn’t even require leaving the house. Pop on for a few minutes and pop off and you’ll have fulfilled the obligation. Not a big honking deal.

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, OCCASIONALLY is the operative word. Because most of the time is most definitely CAN be a “big honking deal.”

            Sure, I don’t think the OP is well served by advice to make this the thing they take a stand on. But it’s seriously dismissive to claim that it’s just a very minor inconvenience.

            1. Moxie*

              “occasionally” refers to the event. it is by definition occasional- one occasion, to be exact. and that’s not a big deal. i’m not sure why you’re all over this thread trying to drudge up every possible reason why it could be a huge deal, but honestly it’s grating and unhelpful

      2. CalypsoSummer*

        It’s a small ask for some people. It’s not a problem. No big deal.

        It’s a pretty honking big deal for others. It is a problem. Neither quick nor easy, at all.

        Seriously, you might want to bear that in mind. Money, time, space, energy, level of effort — the amount available varies from person to person, and if you personally have no problem with an extra demand for one of the variable commodities, that’s great! But that “no problem” is not universal.

        1. Firm Believer*

          What could possibly make this a “big honking deal?” I get it’s more inconvenient for some people but a big honkin deal? In very few situations can I see this being true.

            1. Jamie Starr*

              If logging onto a Zoom for a few minutes is a “big honking deal” it makes me wonder how a parent (single or not) would deal with something more severe, like a sick child, car break down, etc. To call this a big deal seems disproportionate in the grand scheme of things that could be much worse/more serious. Honestly, this kind of (over)reaction from parents is what gives them a bad name in the work world.

            2. pancakes*

              My mom was a single mom until she married my stepdad when I was 5 or 6, and very young when she had me. 21 going on 22. I have memories of a couple occasions where childcare (mostly my grandmother) fell through and she had to do thinks like bring me to her college class, where everyone said hi to me and got me set up with a desk and some markers so I could color quietly while class went on. It is a disservice to actual big honkin’ deals to say that taking 15 minutes out of the day to log into a zoom event from one’s living room is a big honkin’ deal.

    2. BRR*

      I’m with you. Annoying? Yes. Inconvenient? Yes. Should it be optional? Absolutely. But to me, it’s not the hill to die on. Sometimes at work you just need to suck it up. (Unless the LW has circumstances where there is absolutely no way to make it work).

    3. Nanani*

      It’s not a big deal for you, it is a big deal for LW. They have young kids and its at their bedtime.
      Take LW at their word.

    4. 1.0*

      It really isn’t. Log on, say hi (you don’t even need to put your camera on!), and that’s really it – showing up at all is the point, you can bail early or put yourself on mute/off camera. It’s annoying, but the histrionics in the comments section is really taking this next level.

  35. Dahlia*

    “Alternately, holding a drink that looks like alcohol will keep most people satisfied, and seltzer with lime looks just like a Gin and Tonic”

    Depending on formality, basically any drink will do. The last one I went to had plastic cups and people were happy as long as you had a cup with *something* in it.

    1. Liz3*

      When I was at uni I used to just drink the mixers like the coke or the raspberry. The colour is useful to obscure whether or not there is anything else in there too.

  36. Bookworm*

    Re: Zoom happy hour–I get it. I don’t have excuses like kids, etc. but I’ve never seen the point to going to these things because I’ve found it never matters and resent that it’s considered “required” for a job. So just sending you sympathy! And maybe I also wouldn’t hold it against you if your kids were creating chaos during the happy hour, although that might make bedtime harder. Good luck!

  37. Mim*

    I’d be so tempted to dress up my kid (possibly in whatever the kid thinks is fancy — could be a wee suit or could be their Elsa dress!), give them a juice box and plate of oreos, and plop them in front of the computer for the zoom cocktail hour. Kid would probably be entertained, co-workers would probably be entertained, and management can deal with it.

    But I’m also at a DGAF, burn bridges if necessary point of existence right now. So this isn’t necessarily advice. Just… daydreams.

    1. Gganbu*

      I love the idea of switching places with the kids, especially if it means OP gets to collapse into bed at 7:30pm!

  38. yala*

    Yeah, we loose about a week’s worth of leave every winter holiday. This year, it’s more because of the days Christmas and New Years are. (We work shorter hours on Friday and longer hours the rest of the week, so when one of our Official Days Off falls on a Friday, less of those 80 hrs come from our holiday leave, and more come from our annual)

    They do make that very clear during the interviewing process, so it’s not a surprise, but it’s still not exactly fun. Tho fortunately with the past two years, I’ve got a nice chunk of annual leave saved up.

  39. lilsheba*

    Ugh I refuse to do this kind of thing, I find it ridiculous. It has no impact on my work. A couple years ago I was pressured to come in to the office on my day off, for a “formal” catered lunch. I said no. And the world didn’t cave in! Amazing.

    1. Melly Melz*

      It may have an impact on your work if you don’t go, and it will definitely have an impact on your job itself.

      1. Nanani*

        It might, but only if you have a weirdly vindictive manager AND you are actively trying to climb up in this specific company.
        Most of us don’t have guaranteed employment up the ladder to retirement, so one manager being displeased that you didn’t attend a few parties actually doesn’t impede your career, since your career is highly unlikely to be entirely within this company.

        Be the change you want to see in the world and push back against work encroachment on the rest of your life.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I really like this comment. OP says she’s closer to the bottom of the ladder than the top. More likely than not, the only way for OP to move up is by changing jobs anyway.

          I am really struggling with understanding the many “it might impact your work” I am seeing in this comment section, because to me, if it happens, that’s a red flag and a sign of an utterly unreasonable manager. A manager that is unreasonable enough to do damage to OP’s work standing for not logging into an after-hours Zoom happy hour, is probably also someone who is unreasonable enough to have it “have an impact on OP’s work” if she doesn’t stay on camera long enough, is distracted from the happy hour by kids running into the living room, etc. I am not understanding why so many people think it is important to win an illogical person over, when you can’t. They are illogical. There is nothing you can do.

          Luckily, there’s no indication of OP’s boss being that bad. OP already told the boss that the happy hour will not work with her schedule. The letter does not say anything about the boss pushing back. For all we know, boss might have been more understanding than the commenters, and is fine with OP not calling in if it does not work with the schedule. Not only is it worth bringing it to the management’s attention that there are people in OP’s workplace who cannot do the 7:00 “fun” call, it has already been brought to their attention. I think that, if the boss does not push back and say “well, then make it work”, then OP certainly should not call in, since she already said she can’t.

  40. HotSauce*

    I was one of the people who didn’t get a gift from my manager one year. He just gave small things to a couple of the employees who worked on especially difficult projects that year, but it really killed my morality for awhile.

    1. Girl GM*

      OP here – I really appreciate the feedback. That is genuinely where I was coming from (there are projects I work on with specific employees – this was not because these people are my “favorites”). But, I’ve gotten the hint and won’t do it.

  41. Kgulo*

    To the newly pregnant person: if you still want to go to the party, I have some fake drinking advice for you. I found out I was pregnant right before two friend weddings/bachelorette parties. I knew my friends would know immediately if I didn’t drink. So I faked it. Here’s how you do it: start with making friends with the bartender. Tell them you are going to order a “gin and tonic” (or vodka cranberry or cocktail of choice), and ask them to give you seltzer in a cocktail glass with a garnish. You can also try to order your drinks without anyone else around. If you keep a drink in your hand most of the night, no one is going to notice anything.

    1. Hex Libris*

      I have ordered a “rum and Coke, hold the rum” before. The bartender puts it in the booze glass instead of the soda glass and problem solved.

    2. raktajino*

      This is the best route, honestly. Plus, some bartenders like making mocktails and you might get something much tastier than plain seltzer!

      If you get called on it, metronidazole is an antibiotic that clashes strongly with alcohol. The combo, uh, has emetic properties. Even bitters or beer-battered fish can set it off. Nothing like bringing up bodily functions and gnarly infections to derail and gross out a nosy coworker bugging you about not drinking enough.

    3. Taxidermybobcat*

      A fake moscow mule, with gingerale and lime twist in the fancy cup, looks super convincing (see: fancy cup) and also has the added benefit of ginger soothing the tummy. Recently employed this tactic at a wedding myself, for same reasons.

  42. Betty (the other betty)*

    Re: Zoom Happy Hour

    Log in. Say hi as a few other people come in. Then put yourself on mute. After 1o minutes type in the chat, “I’m going to eat something so turning my video off.” Or say, “I have to go put the kids to bed, be back soon.” Smile, wave, turn off video.

    Stick around the computer if you want, but otherwise just pop back in towards the end of the time to wave goodbye and sign off.


  43. CommanderBanana*

    Also, unless they are doing something like sending you one of those fancy cocktail kits, it’s a lot of chutzpah to demand you do a virtual event where you’re not getting fed (or watered, for that matter) after hours.

  44. Anon-mama*

    I feel if a company really needs to close for that week, allow the handful of those who didn’t already take off work from home. Or just pay for those five days. Or bake in the five days to the PTO bank–ie, you start at 3 weeks, being mindful that 5 should be for the shutdown, leaving you with the standard (American) two weeks for the other 11 months.

    What you don’t do: make employees try to figure out how to use just 5 days for rest/vacation for an entire year. Especially if you have such miserly policies as: you must use vacation for a sick kid or car accident without injury (true, infuriating story), never your sick leave; or it’s by the hour as there’s no flex time/personal hours for letting the plumber in.

    In this job market, just give them the days paid.

    1. Miss Chanadler Bong*

      I sent Alison an almost identical letter to that one, so the sucky practice must not be all that uncommon!

      Basically my company has a large IT project going on and they’re not accepting any orders that week because of the project. So if you’re not working tbe project, you’re expected to take off and use your PTO (or take it unpaid).

      A couple of people have filed for exceptions (my teammate did because we have essential reporting; I did not because I had planned to be off that week anyway).

      I think it’s a sucky practice. I think they should just give everyone the week off and those who have to work should get additional PTO.

  45. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Re: forced PTO

    It seems like in the pandemic gifted world of WFH and tele-setups, people who want to work when their office is closed (be it for holidays or weather events) should be allowed to work remotely. Maybe those who don’t want to use PTO should push as a group for continuing to work on their projects remotely the Christmas to New Year week?

  46. Nanani*

    Happy Hour LW – I’d encourage you to be the change you want to see in the world and not go. Tell them why (kids! Life responsibilities!) and tell your peers, encouraging them to do the same if they are as unenthused as you are.

    Unless you get the sense that the manager is actually vindictive, it’s not worth it.

  47. sofar*

    Looks like LW is not getting out of this cocktail party. If it’s just a “drink and chat” happy hour, I say log on and deal with kid stuff as it comes up, no matter how much it disturbs other participants. If partner needs help wrangling the kids into bed, you type, “Sorry, kid bedtime!” in the chat, mute yourself, and walk away. Pop your camera back on every once in a while, nod as if engaged, and then go back to kid bath time. Guaranteed others will be doing so, too.

    If this cocktail hour involves complicated team games (ugh), you do exactly the same. My company once tried to plan a complicated virtual escape room that started at 7 p.m. Teams were randomly assigned, the parents all dropped out for bedtime duty at 7:30, leaving some participants completely alone on their team, and it was … not the fun the organizer had planned on. The next time we did it, the escape room was during work hours. And THIS is how we effect change!

  48. QAPeon (formerly HelpDeskPeon)*

    A coworker has a picture he took of himself with his web cam, and he makes it his zoom background. Just do that and mute yourself – if it’s a big enough zoom call, no one is likely to notice, and if they do you can note you had some issues with it “freezing up” – so strange, but then you seldom use zoom at that time of day.

  49. Here we go again*

    I’d be more embarrassed of my co workers drinking and saying stupid things on zoom where my kid can hear than I would be of my kid and dogs. Big deal my son has a some loud toys and my dogs bark. I wouldn’t want my kid to hear some things that would come out of some of my co workers mouths especially during cocktail hour.

  50. I'm In The Office Today*

    So I have a fun one related to this…

    We’re having Mandatory Office Party, indoors with food, everyone has to come. Including my boss’s boss, who I found out got a religious exemption for vaccination. I’m…not thrilled at the idea of us all eating together for hours when she won’t get the shots. Added bonus: we’re going to have Team Building all together afterwards, and another shared indoors group meal after that. I was hoping she’d go out of town again, as she goes out of town constantly, but nope, she’s gonna be here in person to eat! She keeps her mask on while at work all day, but I’m reasonably expecting that goes out the window at Mandatory Office Party.

    I don’t think this is safe for her or us, but dear god, I canNOT say anything, she’s in charge of me, I would so get in trouble. And if I say “nope, not gonna eat today, gonna keep my mask on all day without food consumption,” I’d probably get in trouble for that too.

    1. Kate*

      I’m so sorry; that’s appalling. This would be one of those times where I would likely fudge it.

      Say how much you’re looking forward to event in the weeks before. Be sure to mention the day before: “look forward to seeing you tomorrow!” and then on the day of, at the last second you have a malady or migraine and sadly have to bow out.

    2. allathian*

      Ugh, I’m sorry. Even so, not eating for a whole day doesn’t sound like a healthy option, either. This is one of those times I’d be really tempted call in sick on the day.

  51. ceiswyn*

    I’ve worked at a couple of places that required me to use some of my PTO due to office closure over Christmas. In both cases this was a long-standing policy, and in neither case did they mention it when we were discussing benefits before I joined.
    In both cases, the place was a corporate hellhole with processes and software that actively hindered people in doing their job foisted upon them from above, and where the executives clearly didn’t couldn’t give a bent ha’penny for staff wellbeing.
    These days, I take it as a red flag to move on.

Comments are closed.