employee wants to bring a fired coworker to the holiday party

A reader writes:

We recently fired an employee, Doug, after a series of serious errors. We gave him extensive training and retraining, verbal and written feedback, and multiple warnings. We even simplified his work and left him with only the most basic work assignments possible but, in the end, his mistakes angered multiple clients and he simply did not possess the skills to perform his job.

We have another employee, Andy, who is friends with Doug. Andy invited Doug to be his guest at our company office party. We only know this because Doug emailed us to ask if it would be okay, and how he was looking forward to seeing everyone’s stunned reactions when he shows up at the party.

My gut response to this is NO WAY. Doug has been lying to his former coworkers about the circumstances of his departure, and saying that we fired him without any notice or giving him any opportunity to correct his errors. This has caused panic among some staff members, who I’ve had to reassure that we have a process for addressing job performance issues and that people generally aren’t fired without warning. Moreover, when we posted Doug’s job, we got “applications” from fake people whose resumes contained only profanity, such as, “F— you!” I suspect these emails are from Doug or Doug’s friends lashing out at us. I don’t want to expose 100+ people at our holiday shindig to this toxicity. Am I being reasonable to say no?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Advertising jobs I might not ultimately hire for
  • Christmas conduct that alienates colleagues
  • My employees went above and beyond while I was away

{ 198 comments… read them below }

  1. Kiwi*

    Hey Alison, I don’t know if you get any input on this but there’s an ad on that page that keeps the actual content covered up (in chrome on a samsung phone). Just wanted to let you know

      1. Cats and Bats Rule*

        Not necessarily. I missed all but the first line of one of the letters thanks to this ad.

      2. Karl Havoc*

        That’s how it’s supposed to work, but it didn’t on my phone. The same thing has happened to me with AAM columns on Inc a number of times before.

      3. Alice's Rabbit*

        Nope. I scrolled down, and was confused until I realized the ad covered all but 2 sentences of the question, as well as the beginning of Alison’s answer.

      4. pancakes*

        Same Nellie, it was fine for me with Chrome on an iPhone XR. Then a video popped up, but there’s an x in the upper right to close it.

    1. Zona the Great*

      When this happens, AAM asks us to please email her at alison[at]askamanager[dot]org with a screen shot of the offending advert.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      If you look just above the comment box, there’s a link to report problems with ads. There’s no guarantee Alison will see it if you post it as a comment.

      1. AnonToo*

        Thank you for pointing this out!

        There’ve been several ads lately I needed to report but I didn’t know where to do so.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t have any control over Inc.’s ads unfortunately but I’m reporting this to them so they know about it — thank you. (I’m assuming this is on their site, not mine, but let me know if I misunderstood that.)

      1. Loulou*

        Can’t speak for the above commenter, but I was having that problem on Inc., not AAM. Thanks for reporting it!

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Also had the problem at Inc – couldn’t read any of the last two letters or your responses.

    4. Leishycat*

      Came here to say this, it’s happened the last two times I’ve read her column on that site as well. Really makes me wish adblock extensions worked on mobile.

      1. AnonToo*

        Me too- I’ve had a number of issues with really intrusive ads on AAM. I now know how/where to report them, though!

        1. Mannequin*

          OMG I just figured out how to block the ads on here and *my life is now changed* (and the site doesn’t freeze/crash for me anymore!)

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        Don’t know about the iPhone (my last one was a 3GS) but on Android I use the Brave browser – it has privacy extensions and an ad blocker built-in. On AAM and some other sites I have the ad blocker deliberately turned off, on sites that give me grief it’s on (the default).

    1. L. Ron Jeremy*

      You’ll need security at your party to check invitations to keep Doug away.

      Just a word from someone who has been through this scenario before.

        1. CoveredinBees*

          I want to be someone’s guest when a party turns into a Leverage episode. Don’t actually want to work there, just watch it all go down.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Yeah – Doug sounds like a bit of a train wreck, you don’t need to invite him to the party (and definitely need to tell your current employee that Doug can’t be his guest at the event).
        Echoing the calls for checking invitations and maybe some “security” to escort Doug out if he attempts to crash the party.

        1. pancakes*

          The people who think it’s a good idea to invite someone who was fired to the work party seem at least trainwreck-curious, too!

  2. Prefer my pets*

    “Tell us you don’t actually value or want diversity without saying you don’t want diversity”

    I am sooooooooooo done with the everyone-is-Christian baseline in the US. And yes, I know with the current court it’s about to get 1000 times worse.

    1. OyHiOh*

      I managed to wring an apology out of a city coordinator just this week for such a everyone-is-Christian, we all eat, drink, and do the same things, problem.

      Coordinator had arranged a thank you luncheon for a particular group of volunteers, of which I was a part. Coordinator went with the cheapest catering option at the venue – one entree choice, Coordinator picks the entree, guests don’t know until they show up. The entree was . . . . . . pork tenderloin. It looked (and smelled!) lovely. However, I and another guest at my table are Jewish/don’t eat pork, and I’m pretty sure there were vegetarians in attendance as well.

      Considering that our city had just been in the news the very same week for some diversity and inclusion work we’re doing, it was a shockingly tone deaf choice on the Coordinator’s part. When I emailed with my problem, I specifically said that when all these small choices like what to eat put forward a specific point of view, those little choices make all the diversity and inclusion talk sound like window dressing, and that you/city staff don’t actually care to make these changes at all. I also pointed out that I went home and promptly downloaded my frustration on three people whom I’m not related to. Which means that three people besides myself may question if the city really wants our voices the next time they beg for citizen participation. I got an apology but I’m not holding my breath either.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        I feel like pork as an entrée option is just one of those things to avoid. Some of my in-laws are Adventists who don’t eat pork so I made sure to avoid it for my wedding menu (not to mention, many folks avoid it for health reasons).

        1. Jay*

          These days if I don’t know who specifically is attending I make sure to have one vegetarian entree and one chicken dish. I don’t serve pork for exactly that reason. I’m Jewish and while I eat pork a lot of my friends don’t.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            That’s why most airlines (if they still serve a meal at all) offer a choice of, invariably, chicken or (vegetarian) pasta. Nobody likes it much but it rarely offends either.
            (No, I’m not suggesting to let an airline cater your wedding )

        2. Delta Delta*

          I’ve known three different people with physiological sensitivities to pork. Not allergies, exactly (or maybe exactly, I’m not sure), but not able to digest something in pork. They don’t advertise it, they just don’t eat it.

          1. CoveredinBees*

            I’ve heard about this as a reaction to Lyme disease. Not trying to armchair diagnose, but I’ve definitely heard that this is a thing.

                1. thatjillgirl*

                  It’s not any, and it’s not related to disease/illness specifically. It’s a reaction to the tick saliva (alpha-gal syndrome). It’s caused primarily by lone star ticks in the U.S., but there’s reason to believe some other tick species may also cause it.

            1. sarlatova*

              There is a relatively new tick-borne illness known as Alpha-Gal Syndrome (worst superhero name ever?) It is a separate illness from Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It causes people to develop an allergy to mammal meat, and the reaction is usually delayed several hours after eating the meat. I have had it since 2018, and I would be PISSED if I were presented with pork and only pork at an event!

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I would never serve pork, nuts, or peanuts in a dish at an event. Too many people can’t eat them.

      2. SuperAdmin*

        As an admin this enrages me. It’s so not hard to ask people to let you know their dietary requirements/preferences. I keep a OneNote tab of my teams’ cant-eat foods (we have two halal, one who keeps kosher, one coeliac, and someone who is allergic to soya. You bet your ass I’ve managed to accommodate every single one of them every time we’ve been out).

        I’m so angry on your behalf, OyHiOh. It does not reflect well on a company if they can’t be inclusive of something as basic as dietary requirements.

        1. Meep*

          Yeah. My former manager’s wife had some very serious allergies. Diary, eggs, nuts, peanuts, and chocolate was all out. Last year at the Holiday Party, I made two types of chili (vegetarian and regular – despite no one being strictly vegetarian, my boss leans more towards vegetarian) and two types of cornbread (one with reg milk and one with coconut) just for her. I also have someone who cannot eat pineapple, another who is allergic to all things melon and avocado, and a third who simply does not like cucumbers.

          There are millions of options and workarounds.

          The only two I do not bother catering for was a former coworker with Crohn’s who for whatever reason loved aggravating it for time off work (I had a tussle with this man-child to stop leaving rotting food in the office – none of it Crohn’s friendly (nuts, white bread, red meat, lots of ham, half-eaten fast food just on his desk for days at a time…)) and my Toxic Coworker who claims to be “gluten-intolerant” and loves to announce such as she shoves no less than three helpings of gluten into her mouth before anyone has one.

          Those two I didn’t bother since they were just going to ignore the tasty allergen-friendly options I provided them for the things they supposedly shouldn’t be having. (For the record, the first one definitely has Crohn’s. The other coworker I am convinced is not actually gluten-intolerant.)

          1. StrikingFalcon*

            There’s not really a “Crohn’s diet.” Whatever issues you had with this person, there’s no one set of foods that people with Crohn’s should or shouldn’t be eating. Diet recommendations vary widely depending on what’s going on with the disease.

          2. KoiFeeder*

            Is he out of his mind? Intentionally aggravating Crohn’s is a great way to end up with a very unpleasant trip to the surgeon for a very unpleasant reason.

            (Though I’d note that a low-residue diet is good for when your intestines are rotting from the inside out and turning you into a human capri sun, and it does include white breads and red meats. The ham’s iffy, though, and the nuts are a hard no. And I’m certain that rotten food is decidedly not on the list.)

        2. OyHiOh*

          I’m an admin/office manager myself! The only saving grace is that the Coordinator in question is at the very beginning of their career and may learn something from this moment. It’s not easy to plan a luncheon on small-city budget, for 40+ people, but I’m familiar with the venue and they could have gone with a choice of chicken or vegetarian for about a buck more a plate and not risked othering people in the process.

          1. Bernice Clifton*

            Admin/office manager here too. That’s how I learned the best way to order food, too, all trial and error.

        3. Pants*

          Fellow admin lifer here, also with the info tabs. When I lived in California, accommodating everyone’s preferences was expected. When I moved to Texas and automatically did the same thing in my public accounting position, I was told at one job that “those people” will have to “fend for themselves.” Like… what?

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            The only time I’ve ever had a BREAKFAST without a vegetarian option was at a work training in Texas. The only breakfast option was scrambled eggs (totally fine) with bacon (not fine, and no, it isn’t vegetarian if you just pick out the meat.) I proceeded to: 1. Complain to the training coordinator and 2. Buy breakfast at the hotel cafe (which DID have some vegetarian options), which I then expensed.
            As an event coordinator myself, let me just say that not accommodating dietary requirements is 1. pathetic and 2. inexcusable.

          2. It's Growing!*

            Like… what? means that the affected person will just have to not eat what is served and hope that there is a salad or roll or something passes for a meal. I once was on a cross-Atlantic flight that didn’t have one thing on the tray that I could eat, not even the crackers (I’m lactose intolerant). I can take Lactaid to counter the lactose, but it’s a guessing game on how many tablets will counter the amount of lactose in any given food. Unfortunately, an under-estimation comes with consequences and an airplane is just not the place for experimentation. I was really grumpy and really hungry by the time we landed in SF. I now carry nuts for just such occasions. You’d be surprised at how many American menus do not offer even one entree that doesn’t have cheese, cream sauce, or a dollop of sour cream in it somewhere. Forget the dessert options (grumpy!!).

            1. BubbleTea*

              I paid a very large amount of money, relative to my means, as a student to attend a two day conference with lunch included. It was hosted at a posh hotel, although I stayed with a friend. I made sure to tell the conference organisers that I was vegan.

              On the first day I presented myself at the lunch queue and requested a vegan meal. 20 minutes later after a lot of fussing, I was presented with a bowl of undressed salad leaves.

              I was deeply unimpressed and very hungry.

              The next day, after I made a complaint, I was given a proper vegan meal from the hotel’s menu. Turned out they could have fed me the day before, the conference servers just didn’t think to ask.

              1. BubbleTea*

                Oh and your mention of desserts reminds me of my favourite ever vegan meal offering. Everyone else was having chocolate torte or some such delicious decadence. I was given a small plate of fruit salad consisting of precisely seven chunks of fruit, including half a strawberry. Not even a whole one! I laughed until I cried. Other people at the table took photos. It was so bad.

                1. Fieldpoppy*

                  About 10 years ago, I was served an apple in that scenario. Not a cut up, artfully arranged apple. A whole apple on a plate lol.

                2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  At our annual meeting, held in France, where food is taken seriously, everyone was given a plate of meat and some delicious looking veg. I handed my plate back saying I was veggie. I waited until everyone else was finished, and they finally brought me a stone-cold soggy omelette without a single vegetable.
                  Then the year after that, it was the Dutch subsidiary’s turn to host the event. There I got a gorgeous blue cheese ice cream and rocket salad just for the starter, and a fabulous main course of stuffed aubergine and fluffy rice. The woman organising the catering specifically came to ask if the veggie options were ok and was pleased as punch when I told her the Dutch won hands down.

            2. JustaTech*

              Ugh, that reminds me of the time I was in charge of planning a fun event at work. I knew that some of my coworkers had very specific food requirements and so I was pretty specific that we needed vegetarian items and dairy free-items. What I didn’t specify was that at least some of the vegetarian items *also* needed to be dairy-free. So while most everyone was able to get plenty to eat my one coworker (who I was really and genuinely trying to make sure had a nice time) couldn’t find anything to eat but the crackers and fruit.

              I was so embarrassed and felt absolutely awful. My coworker just sort of shrugged like he expected it.

        4. Huttj*

          Yeah, my family has various food allergies, and sensitivities, and preferences (religious and otherwise).

          I am *well* used to reading labels.

        5. LittleMarshmallow*

          Thank you (and all the wonderful admins) for doing this! Our current admin staff is awesome and works hard to accommodate everyone’s dietary needs. We have a lady who is basically Autoimmune Protocol diet (which is a tough one). I have texture issues so I avoid meat that I didn’t cook myself (gristle) and they get me non-wooden coffee stirrers since just typing this is making my skin scrawl at the thought of a wooden one. We have vegetarians and occasionally a vegan will pass thru our ranks. The admins always work to accommodate! Our group is small so we also know each other’s needs and make sure if one of the engineers is ordering food that the needs are met too. This really should just be a common courtesy!

    2. Anon for This*

      My boss has a tendency to use “Christian” as an adjective meaning “good”, and it’s been amusing these last two years watching their increasing horror at the stuff the radical Christians are getting up to with covid.

      Yeah… that does not mean what you think it means.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I think it’s a big positive that your boss has been horrified, instead of cheering and defending the abovementioned stuff. There’s hope for them.

      2. Emotional Support Care’n*

        Oh that amuses me. I take an unholy glee in watching the horror in certain people’s eyes as they assume I’m some sort of super Christian because I can quote Bible verses and I’m so helpful and donate money and volunteer for things and blah blah blah. I’m against organized religion and especially US-based Christianity.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was surprised, to be honest. I don’t think I’ve worked anywhere that followed the “everyone-is-Christian” baseline in at least a decade. And a couple of groups I’m a member of have done January holiday parties, which was wonderful. I feel bad for LW3 being stuck in that cesspool of a workplace.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        Plus, January, depending on where you are, can be quite a gloomy month. It’s nice to have a celebration to break it up!

        1. Elle Woods*

          It is! Also, depending on the field you are in, January can be a slower time of year work-wise, so people are less frazzled than they are in November or December.

        2. Clisby*

          Yes! Plus, in January you’re not as likely to be conflicting with people’s family plans. I like Christmas, and celebrate Christmas, but to me it’s a family thing – nothing to do with work. A winter party with no religious connotations (but lights!) would suit me better.

        3. JustaTech*

          Not to mention venues are so much cheaper in January than December! Several times I’ve successfully pushed for a New Year’s party because we could have a mediocre party in December, or for the same budget we could have a nice party in January.

      2. Gumby*

        ITA – I have never been to a work “Christmas” party at any of my jobs. Mostly it has been holiday parties. And one job made our big annual party the company anniversary (in October IIRC) and the winter holiday party was maybe a potluck at lunch or something really low key. That is the approach I most appreciated because you know what even people who *do* celebrate Christmas don’t need? Another social obligation in December.

        Besides, if someone is that much of a stickler you can hold the party early in January and it is still a Christmas party since the Christmas season goes until Jan 5. (An argument I would only make to shoot down people being all ‘it must be called a Christmas party.’ I might also gift them with a specially prepared rant on what Advent is and how all of their December 15th Christmas parties are jumping the gun and please, let me out-Christian you on this topic you massively inconsiderate/rude co-worker. Thankfully, I am unaware of having any such co-workers.)

      3. Ellie*

        I don’t think its as simple as assuming ‘everyone-is-Christian’. I live in Australia, a multicultural society, ‘no-religion’ is the majority religion on our census and even church-going Christians are quite lax by global standards. And yet, there’s this assumption that Christmas is a part of the culture, you will get considerable push back for suggesting a ‘holiday party’ rather than a Christmas one. Its weird, and it must be alienating for those that don’t celebrate it, but its so entrenched. Its the same with Easter and ANZAC day, and until recently, Australia day, which its taken decades to change the narrative on.

      4. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        A New Year’s party sounds like a great idea! BTW, New Year’s Day used to be the day on which presents were exchanged and family parties were held. Today, of course, New Year’s Day is a holiday for most people, but you can always hold an office party on January 2. Just as the winter is starting to wear on people’s nerves, a cheerful party would be a lovely pick-me-up!

    4. Allegra*

      It’s the aggressive pseudo-victimization of “oh I mean HOLIDAYS” or “I forgot, we can’t celebrate Christmas anymore” that makes it worse, too. And it’s so hard to know when you might trigger that reaction, which for me at least is so much more awful than the microaggression of just being overlooked, so I personally err on the side of just not saying anything.

      Like, I’m one of …maybe two? Jewish people on staff and there’s a Christmas tree up in my office lobby I’m solidly meh about. The department on the first floor seem to really enjoy decorating (their office is bedecked with a lot more stuff, the tree is the only thing in common spaces) and I don’t want to harsh their buzz. And it’s pretty and festive, and it doesn’t feel worth making a big deal about. But it’s also a tiny bummer reminder of having to use PTO for the high holidays every time I pass it.

      1. OyHiOh*

        I’m pretty sure I’m the only Jewish person in my building (several orgs and businesses lease in the building). The building manager has decorated for the season, but has confined the decorations to garland and poinsettia plants. Although I know the symbolism of poinsettia plants, they’re still live plants, bright and cheerful, and this is therefore an amount of decoration I can live with quite comfortably.

        1. Allegra*

          Agreed! I do enjoy greenery and poinsettias and generic white lights. That all helps make a gloomy month a little more cheerful, especially when it’s getting dark at 4pm. (And not for the workplace, because scent sensitivities, but I do love a nice pine candle at home.) It’s the tree specifically being in such a prominent place that rubs me the wrong way, I think.

      2. a thought*

        I think you bring up an excellent point – often parties/decor ends up being the focus of some of these initiatives/conversations but it would be more meaningful in many cases for companies to look at their infrastructure/calendars (like days off) and realize the ways those are impacting people.

        1. OyHiOh*

          Last week, I was in our employee handbook looking for something my boss needed, and noticed that right under our list of paid holidays off, is a note that any holidays on the list can be swapped for “religious” holidays of our choice. This is the first time in my entire working life that I have worked somewhere (including the US federal government) that allowed employees to make these kinds of choices without penalty.

          On the other hand, my partner was surprised by my surprise, and noted that the swap feature has been available in most of the spaces they’ve worked, for a few decades. My partner spent most of their working life in a major US east coast city. I’ve spent the entirety of my working life in US flyover country.

          1. jm*

            i live in a huge east coast city & i’ve never heard of using christmas as a floating religious holiday (but then i am nonprofit). that’s amazing.

            1. doreen*

              I’ve been on the East Coast all my life and I’ve never heard of that for “any holiday” . I’ve heard of jobs where certain holidays (like Columbus Day or Veterans Day ) are floating holidays and the office remains open but being able to swap any holiday doesn’t seem like it would work for a lot of jobs. It will work for some, but there are a lot of jobs where it just wouldn’t make sense for one or two people to work on Christmas or Labor Day.

              1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                We are fairly liberal, but floating holidays aren’t A Thing in Germany. We get the (paid!) public holidays the federal state prescribes (between 8 and 13 per year) and that’s it. If a holiday falls on a weekend, though luck.
                On the other hand, we have a federal minimum of 24 paid vacation days (many companies give 30) per year, so the relative importance of public holidays is less.

          2. Gumby*

            I worked somewhere that gave us 3 floating religious holidays. The only requirement was that you be the same religion for the whole year as far as taking holidays was concerned. I loved the policy even though I never used mine (because the major Christian holidays were either already off or fell on a Sunday and this was a M – F type workplace).

      3. Anon for This*

        I’m not religious, but my family treats Christmas as an excuse to decorate the house pretty, because while none of us are Christian, all of us like sparkly lights and gold/silver decorations. And Christmas trees smell wonderful.

        But forcing any form of celebration on people for whom actively not celebrating is a necessary part of the holiday or lack thereof is not good. Not everyone delights in the trappings of the holiday like I do.

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          I always draw some pics on our calendar whiteboard to represent the month. December always has as many December holiday symbols as I can think of and my annual Christmas Pentagram which all of my coworkers find amusing (not as amusing as I do but they all know I’m weird and that they are welcome to add to the holiday doodles-and often do).

      4. bookworm*

        Many years ago when I relatively new at a job, we had a new coworker starting in our office the monday after Thanksgiving whose prior role had been at a Jewish organization. Unbeknownst to me, our office building (which we didn’t control, as one of many tenants) put up an absurdly ostentatious Christmas display (trees, presents, etc) while people were out for Thanksgiving. I was SO irritated on my new coworker’s behalf that her first “welcome” to our organization was having to wade through a lobby that Christmas had thrown up all over. All made particularly galling because our office building was well known for being the home to lots of progressive nonprofits ostensibly working toward equity and inclusion.

    5. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I guess this is one of the few pros I get living in the southern hemisphere: December parties are End of Year parties in the corporate sphere. Sometimes there’s the occasional event organizer that dresses up as Santa, but is really rare unless there’s children involved.

    6. Beth*

      It drives me absolutely bugnuts. Even worse is when the loud dominant Christian majority whip out their victim cards and assume a tragic martyred stance the moment anyone suggests to them that they could be a little less exclusionary. DARVO all the way.

  3. quill*

    Okay, new rule of thumb: if someone proposes a “surprise” that sounds like the plot of a sitcom episode, don’t do it in real life.

  4. Selina Luna*

    Even if Doug had been a model former employee, I would hesitate to have a fired employee come to a holiday party. There’s just too much tension there.

    1. GrimaceCup*

      Yeah. Tension and a mood killer.

      I was on a Xmas planning committee and there was proposals to bring in two former coworkers as plus-ones. They had both left of their own accord but there was still a slightly bitter taste about both of their departures (bad timing, overall, among other things).

      The planning committee’s knee-jerk reaction was “Hell, no! They left! They can reconnect with former coworkers on their own time!” but I pointed out that we really truly couldn’t stop them from coming. They weren’t fired, and they still had their fan clubs (it felt like that) among some staff. We didn’t say no.

      But our initial reluctance was discovered and they ended up not showing. Not our finest moment, admittedly.

      1. Threeve*

        Why couldn’t you stop them from coming? A polite “we would prefer former employees not attend company events” seems like a totally reasonable response to me.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          One of the few scenarios I can think of would be the party being held on public property instead of private.

        2. GrimaceCup*

          Because had it been different former employees as plus-0nes – much-loved retirees, the one who left us for a dream life in New York City, one who had been laid off strictly due to $$ reasons (not her work which was fine!) – we would have loved to have seen them and have them as plus-ones had it come up.

          But not these two as their popularity was with one crowd only and the rest of the staff were a touch cold about them for all sorts of reasons. But the committee was not a mean girl clique and an Xmas party is not an indicator of popularity. There was no *good* reason for them not to come.

        3. DataGirl*

          I worked for a place that always invited retirees to the annual holiday party (and put the cost of their attendance on the current employees, one of the many things that company did badly). You could argue that these people left, not retired, and people who didn’t retire weren’t usually invited, but if they showed up it might be hard to turn them away when there were 20 other former employees at the party.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            My company has an employee-organized “Christmas event” annually (although it was cancelled twice in a row due to Covid). Retirees and alumni are explicitly invited (many now work for clients or in academia).
            The company pays for the buffet, drinks are $2 or less (volunteers manning the bars). Works quite well and is as secular as it can get (unless you count beer as a religion).

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          That sounds like a policy that goes too far. The warm, friendly secretary who was there for 25 years and just retired in October can and should be invited, for example. And people who didn’t leave under any kind of cloud, but didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to everyone because of lockdown, would perhaps love to pop in too.

      2. CoveredinBees*

        Fired employees? Definitely not. Former employees? I’m ok with it. I worked at a place that went so far as to invite former employees who had left for other jobs (rather than fired or quit under rough circumstances). It’s worth noting that it was a small organization and the holiday party was a potluck in the conference room, nothing lavish.

    2. Grace Poole*

      I’m pretty sure that retired employees get invited to our annual staff picnic/holiday party, but I can’t imagine that people who left, either voluntarily or involuntarily, would want to come back to that.

      1. FrivYeti*

        I’ve been invited to one or two parties from places that I left, but only if I left on good terms with the whole staff. I can’t imagine going back to anywhere that I was either fired or left because of problems with bosses.

      2. generic_username*

        I went to the holiday party at my former job when it happened two weeks after my last day. I was still very close to my former bosses (the owners of the company) and thought it’d be nice to see all of my coworkers again and hear how things were going in my absence. I didn’t go again after that, but I do still occasionally visit them in the office

    3. Alice's Rabbit*

      Yeah, it’s one thing to invite a former coworker who left of their own accord, with an ideal transition out, who is universally liked and missed. I have been invited to barbecues and the like for several former jobs in that way (by former managers, no less).
      But someone who was fired? Not a good idea.

  5. Gigi*

    RE: Letter 1, I feel like there’s a potential problem with Andy as well. If he’s close enough to Doug to be bringing him, he has to know that Doug is about to cause some drama. Why is he facilitating that? At the very least, I’m calling his judgment into question.

    1. Jaybee*

      I’ve always wondered if Andy actually even invited him. From the letter, it sounds like they received an email from Doug claiming he had been invited. Given the other behavior associated with him (like the fake applications) and the fact that the letter says his email included what sounds like, frankly, some pot-stirring nonsense (‘won’t everyone be surprised to see me!’) I feel like there’s at least a possibility that Andy didn’t invite Doug at all, and Doug is just continuing to act out or, potentially, trying to actively get Andy in trouble.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        While I grant your theory accounts for all the facts in evidence, I would prefer something that logically leads to Doug crawling through air vents while dressed as an elf.

      2. Ellie*

        Yes, or Andy was asked by Doug and gave a vague, ‘I don’t think I’m allowed to’ kind of response, and this is Doug’s way of forcing his hand. I’d leave Andy well out of it unless he starts trouble on his own.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I was wondering why Doug was thoughtful enough to ask if it’s OK for him to come, based on his other behavior. It makes more sense that he actually wasn’t invited by Andy and is trying to cause trouble.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Oh yeah. I am giving Andy major side-eye, and edging over so any wild flailing won’t impact my nose.

      A bit fascinated that Andy was ready to stun everyone with The Doug Play, and Doug decided to warn management. It’s like Andy and Doug are following separate and uncoordinated Stick It To The Man Using Canapes scripts.

    3. Anonym*

      Yeah, it seems worthwhile to emphasize to Andy that insisting on bringing Doug will reflect badly on him – if the boss says don’t, don’t. And that’s without even getting into Doug’s level of troublesomeness.

    4. Bernice Clifton*

      As someone who has planned more work holiday and retirement parties than I can count, I actually give Andy credit for asking.

      Nothing like getting an RSVP email that says, “I’m having the walleye and my wife will have the chicken.” Me: “Yeah, your wife isn’t invited” or worse, just showing up for a sit-down meal.

      1. Allegra*

        Andy didn’t ask, though–they say they only know because *Doug* emailed. Which makes me think they should definitely set up a “tell us who your plus one is” system at the bare minimum.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        Sorry, the AAM holiday party will not be able to supply walleye due to cat-related incidents. All inquiries as to the subject will be routed to Sophie in HR.

    5. Annie E. Mouse*

      This is what I’m thinking. I once had a coworker that started dating a former coworker just after he was fired (ultimately for threating a third coworker.) Although she wasn’t stupid enough to try to bring him to a company sponsored event, she did bring him around to happy hours and lunches. It certainly called her judgment into question for a lot of people.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Have to throw in the outlier possibility that they’re dating. (Outlier because Doug sounds like the kind of human to have rubbed it in if that were the case.)

  6. Falling Diphthong*

    He was looking forward to seeing everyone’s stunned reactions.

    Unless you plan to stun everyone by handing each person a $10,000 check, this is a bad goal for the holiday work party.

    I am fascinated by the detail that OP knows because Doug (not Andy) emailed them to check if it would be okay. And in the email (which you only send if you know this might be a bad idea, right?) he talks about how his arrival will freak everyone out, rather than “would like to have a chance to catch up with my beloved co-workers” or something similarly low drama.

    1. Popinki*

      And unless you also want your employees to be stunned come tax time, the $10,000 check ain’t a good idea either :D

      1. JLP*

        Unless you upsize the check to cover taxes (bless my company for doing that with incentives and bonuses!)

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t see why affordability should be the guiding principle in this scenario, but if an employer can afford to give $10k bonuses, surely it can cover the taxes as well to make the bonus a nice, round number.

            1. EmmaPoet*

              It’s a flat 22 percent federal withholding rate, so yeah, having to lose nearly a quarter of your bonus to taxes wouldn’t be fun.

            2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              I don’t see that. If there’s money for a $6754.68 bonus, that’s the bonus. Tax rates may differ (where I live, the income tax rate is progressive, from zero if your income is below about $15000 to 42% on your earnings over $120,000 or so). The company does not even know your personal tax rate as you may have other sources of income that drive the rate up (investments, rent on property you own, royalties, second job…)
              When I get my salary or bonus, the estimated tax and social security contribution is automatically deducted. When I send in my tax return, I usually get a refund but in one year I had to pay extra. So what –
              nothing is sure but death and taxes…

  7. Phony Genius*

    This can get a little more complicated if this is the kind of party that allows a “plus one.” I’m assuming it’s not, since the writer didn’t mention it.

    My only question is why the writer thought it would be unreasonable to say no.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      How is it more complicated?
      A company is allowed to say a specific person is not an acceptable “plus one”

    2. Jaybee*

      I don’t see why it would make it more complicated. ‘Plus one’ doesn’t mean ‘you can bring whoever you want and we can’t say boo about it’. I think a poorly-behaved ex-employee would be an easy no, right up there with, say, inviting someone that the business (or an employee) has a restraining order against.

    3. generic_username*

      My guess is that the company does allow a plus one and that’s why LW feels weird saying “no” when normally she wouldn’t say yes or no to an employee’s guest.

  8. Zona the Great*

    That’s enough, Sally. I celebrate Christmas but am aware that many others do not. I’m asking us to be inclusive so please stop with the snark.

    I just get direct with it in these situations. Sallys of the world taint others with their snark and I won’t have it.

    1. anonymous73*

      I also enjoy the direct approach. I find it ironic that they’re making fun of offending people with Christmas things, yet they are offended that OP would have the audacity to suggest having a party in January to be more inclusive.

    2. Trawna*

      I celebrate Xmas, and totally dislike December work parties for interfering with my time and my personal beliefs. I’m a fan of NO work parties, but if you must have one, January or February are perfect. And, cheaper for the company, too.

      1. Clisby*

        Exactly. And for heaven’s sake, if you just feel compelled to have a work party, have it at the office on work time.

    3. The New Normal*

      I get such a lovely dopamine rush when people around me expect me to join in on their assumption that all people are Christian and I get to smile and say I’m Hindu, was raised Hindu, and still attend a Hindu temple.

    1. DataGirl*

      I want to know too. Did he actually show up? Was there a spectacular scene where security escorted him out, or did they let him in and if so, how did he react. What about Andy? So many questions.

    2. shedubba*

      I seem to remember seeing an update, but I’m not in a position to find the original or the update in the archives right now.

    3. Splishy*

      The OP gave a small update and additional details in the original post, but not anything after the party, as far as I can find.

      OP #2 here.
      Doug has been told in no uncertain terms that he is not to attend the holiday party. I also discussed the matter with the head of human resources and the head of the company.

      The original post is from December 8, 2017. Search for “should I hang my degree in my office, employee invited a toxic guest to our holiday party, and more”. The OP’s reply is right a the bottom.

      I’ll post a direct link in a reply.

  9. Jean*

    Doug sounds like a giant, gaping a-hole. I would email back in no uncertain terms that he is not welcome and his attendance will be considered trespassing. THAT SHIT AIN’T CUTE.

  10. Lizzo*

    LW#4: You might consider writing a letter to those people who went above and beyond–it provides an opportunity to thoughtfully prepare, and therefore effectively articulate the positive difference that they made for you instead of trying to speak spontaneously. Then meet with them in person and read the letter to them. Then give them a copy of the letter and also give one to HR to keep in their file.
    Warning: the entire experience may cause you and/or your employee to cry. :-)

    1. Threeve*

      I’ll disagree. Expressing gratitude is one thing, but going into Big Emotions isn’t work appropriate.

    2. anonymous73*

      I was with you until you suggested reading the letter to them an giving a copy to HR (unless he company HR department keeps track of kudos for colleagues.) A letter of thanks is a kind gesture, and acknowledging that in person is great, but give them the letters and walk away. I would be mortified if someone did this for me.

  11. Jay*

    Please please please shut down the “War on Christmas” snark. I am old now (two weeks away from retirement) and no longer care what other people think so I speak up every.single.time. I’m Jewish. It helps a lot when people who celebrate Christmas push back so the snarkers can’t blame it all on us.

    I will always and forever be grateful to the hospital chaplain who stepped in when I was trying to explain to a well-meaning outreach coordinator that no, I did not want the poinsettia she had ordered for me. Outreach coordinator: But poinsettias don’t have anything to do with Christmas! Hospital chaplain (ordained Presbyterian minister): Yes, they do. They are a traditional symbol of Christ. The red leaves are often considered to symbolize Christ’s blood. If nothing else, they’re red and green and usually have a big red velvet bow on the pot – definitely Christmas.

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      Non-practicing Catholic here. I like to reply “All holidays matter” because it’s usually the same people who think you don’t care about any white people if you say you support BLM.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Oh, I’m so stealing this one!

        (Even better than my previous “What do you have against New Year’s?”)

    2. JohannaCabal*

      My favorite thing is to tell the War on Christmas people that a Christian sect, the Puritans, banned Christmas celebrations for a decade in England. Really messes with their heads.

      I’m one of those history people with too much knowledge, I guess.

      The other thing about Christmas is that it’s a holiday that has a lot of emphasis on family and tradition. This can be very sensitive for a lot of people, myself included. I have some not-so-pleasant memories of past Christmases and it’s nice to have work events that are just end-of-year or New Year’s celebrations.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      As a decidedly non-Christian (Wiccan, married to an atheist, my great grandmother was Jewish…) it really makes me laugh when people try to claim there’s some kind of ‘anti-Christmas’ thing going on. You only need to go into any store after November to know that’s not true!

      I book the time off for winter solstice, the decorations I have on my desk are a slew of USB fairy lights that are there all winter…

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Usually there’s the halloween and 5th November stuff first – but yeah, I was taken aback when my embroidery magazine started doing xmas patterns in the August issue!

          Least lemme get my birthday out the way first! (Virgo)

          1. Bagpuss*

            I suspect i would need to start in august if i were going to try to embroider anything in time for december…. (I once knitted a baby cardigan _ it took me almost 9 months…)

          2. Policy Wonk*

            I hate the early release of Christmas stuff (ornaments in July? Really?) but give the embroidery magazine a pass – I’d have to to start in August to finish the item to give as a Christmas gift.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Oh this was their mini kits on the front of the magazine – 4 hours work maximum!

          3. Valancy Snaith*

            It isn’t new or unusual at all for crafting magazines/stores to start doing Christmas stuff in the summer, or even year-round. Many, many people who do involved projects begin them a few months in advance (or more) depending on the complexity thereof. I’ve seen this all my life.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I kinda explained that wrong: it’s mostly the little four hour job patterns and I really don’t need xmas ones of those in summer!

              Up till this year they’ve generally kept this to October issues first.

        2. parsley*

          I’ve seen Christmas stuff in July before; my normally very chill mother who loves Christmas was so irritated she went and complained to store management.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Absolutely! I have them strung up in my house all year round – because they do make living with major depressive disorder a bit more bearable.

          1. AnonToo*


            Total agreement on this.

            I grew up in a secular family that celebrated Christmas, but as an adult, I never felt the need to celebrate myself. I still had the pretty lights up all the time!

          2. littlehope (formerly Blue, there were two of us)*

            The one thing I uncomplicatedly love about Christmas is All The Pretty Lights. Took me a surprisingly long time to figure out that you’re allowed to cover your own spaces with them whenever you want!
            I’m an atheist Jew married to a Catholic, and my mum’s an atheist Jew married to an…atheist cultural Christian, I guess? And so was *her* mum, so growing up celebrating Christmas but in a slightly weird and sometimes emotionally confusing way is sort of a family tradition. Because we all *do* celebrate Christmas, in our own weird way but it’s definitely Christmas, and we enjoy it, but that doesn’t stop us from experiencing the Christmas Is Not For Everyone, Actually, And That’s Okay rage now and again!

    4. une autre Cassandra*

      Jay, I’m so sorry you and others have to keep dealing with this. I’m sorry you have to devote any amount of energy or brainspace to just existing without having a Christian holiday shoved in your face in spaces where it’s simply inappropriate.

    5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      A possible shutdown is to say “all holidays matter” then you get to watch them squirm as they realise that um… Oh.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        aaaand then I see that someone else already said that, ok, great minds think alike, or we saw the same meme going round, whatever! Have a good one everybody!

      2. Gracely*

        I don’t really like using that argument, because I feel like it just ends up validating crappy anti-BLM arguments.

        1. pancakes*

          I wouldn’t go quite so far as “validating,” but I don’t think it’s cute or funny to mimic crappy sloganeering.

  12. animaniactoo*

    On that first letter – I think a conversation with Andy is ALSO appropriate for why he thought this was a reasonable thing to do? Dollars to donuts, he’s been hearing Doug sob stories and thinks he’s helping poor Doug who was so unfairly treated at least get to participate in the “bonus” of the holiday party. Or subtly getting some of his own back, etc. And he should know very explicitly that Doug was by no means treated so unfairly.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      Yes, this was my thought. In fact, I feel better about Doug than Andy in this instance because Doug at least had the foresight to ask if it was appropriate. I would personally keep an eye on Andy for further unprofessional behavior.

  13. urguncle*

    I have been dropping hints that I want a January company outing/party for years and it has yet to happen. Everyone’s schedule is better! It’s cheaper! Sales isn’t stressing out waiting for that end of year contract signature, you can even use it to get people excited about goals in the new year! It hasn’t happened yet :(

    1. geek5508*

      Pre-COVID, my wife’s employer always had their “Snow Ball” in January. Of course, she works at a Jewish hospital…

      1. Let it Snow*

        I work for a Big 4 public accounting firm – we’ve always had a “Winter Party” in January, for going on 20 years now.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I celebrate Christmas and would have preferred a January dark-of-winter function even in my twenties. Especially then because I was many hours away from my hometown, and I usually had to decide whether I’d miss the employer festivities or miss the family festivities.
      (The one I ran, I at least talked them into doing it a week early. And then got a stomach bug and missed it anyway LMAO)

    3. Bagpuss*

      A club I was part of always used to have the/’Christmas’ party in January.
      Much easier to book, you don’t get stuck eating dry turkey, and the pubs and restaurants are quieter so the staff aren’t as run off their feet.
      I have been suggesting it for years at my current workplace but have yet to convince people.

    4. Celebrate them all*

      As long as it’s early enough in Jan and doesn’t conflict with Lunar New Year. I celebrate both but will more likely miss a late Jan holiday party then an early Dec one. For me, Christmas is celebrated locally with immediate family. Lunar Near Year is traveling across the globe to celebrate with extended family. Just be aware that having a Jan party doesn’t work for everyone’s holiday travel plans.

  14. WantonSeedStitch*

    I get so ticked off at people like the snarky coworkers in the second letter. The ENTITLEMENT they seem to feel to have their own traditions and culture celebrated in every possible space!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, those are the ones where I always want to just stare at them and say, “You DO realize that other people exist?”

    2. Pikachu*

      3 – I’m an atheist that enjoys secular Christmas with lights and presents. I usually put up a fake tree, but this year was just too busy and it felt like one more hassle I wasn’t going to bother with. Dragging it out of the closet, unfolding the branches, blah.

      I am SHOCKED at how many people in my life somehow feel personally victimized by my lack of tree. I’ve gotten a range of texts about being a bah humbug scrooge. My mom straight up told me it was just sad, as though she doesn’t know I’m in the middle of a divorce, I just moved, got two new freelance clients, and things are just hectic (and I live hours from my family! Nobody will be here to see it anyway!). Exactly zero people I have gotten these messages from are Christians at all. Some people are just bizarrely committed to this holiday.

      Oh, and at the store today I saw a Hanukkah Santa. Yep. Santa wearing blue sequins holding a Happy Hanukkah banner. I don’t even know how to process that one.

      1. thatjillgirl*

        It really is strange how some people react if you don’t love Christmas in exactly the same ways they do. I always want to ask them why they care so much.

  15. Ashley*

    I live in Michigan so the Oxford school shooting is fresh in my mind. It would anger me as a manager if I found out that an employee was inviting a former employee who left on bad terms. It sounds as if it’s known that the termination was not amicable. I would have a serious conversation about how concerned I am regarding Andy’s lack of judgment.

  16. Lady_Lessa*

    I celebrate Christmas, but frankly I love the idea of a January party. Makes planning and scheduling easier.

  17. Ashley*

    My husband and I are not religious and don’t celebrate Christmas. My immediate family is religious but also don’t celebrate Christmas. Im not bother by people saying Merry Christmas and I just go alone with all the “are you finished shopping” type of small talk around Christmas time so most coworkers and acquaintances are not aware that I don’t celebrate.

    The only thing that annoys me is when people assume I celebrate Christmas AND that I’m bothered by those that acknowledge other holidays around this time of year. Awhile back I had a coworker who gleefully showed me her operation merry Christmas bracelet and how she’s doing her part to preserve “merry Christmas”. She then said she knew it was safe (yes, safe) to tell me Merry Christmas. I gave her big smile and told her thanks I don’t celebrate Christmas but I really appreciate the sentiment. That wiped the goofy smile off her face. I only mention that I don’t celebrate when people make gross comments like that.

  18. Ashley*

    My husband and I are not religious and don’t celebrate Christmas. My immediate family is religious but also don’t celebrate Christmas. Im not bother by people saying Merry Christmas and I just go alone with all the “are you finished shopping” type of small talk around Christmas time so most coworkers and acquaintances are not aware that I don’t celebrate.
    only thing that annoys me is when people assume I celebrate Christmas AND that I’m bothered by those that acknowledge other holidays around this time of year. Awhile back I had a coworker who gleefully showed me her operation merry Christmas bracelet and how she’s doing her part to preserve “merry Christmas”. She then said she knew it was safe (yes, safe) to tell me Merry Christmas. I gave her big smile and told her thanks I don’t celebrate Christmas but I really appreciate the sentiment. That wiped the goofy smile off her face. I only mention that I don’t celebrate when people make gross comments like that.

  19. Melissa*

    I worked at a company where the President/CEO went through a nasty divorce. My co-worker was best friends with the now ex-wife. So she invited her to the company Christmas party as her +1. They sat at the table next to the CEO and his brand new wife. It was SO AWKWARD.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Why did your co-worker think it was a good idea to bring the ex of the CEO to the company party?

      1. pancakes*

        I’m also wondering why the ex would accept the invitation! Unless, of course, they have nothing better to do than wallow in awkwardness.

  20. Rigamaroll*

    I love the idea of a January celebration as well! I also celebrate Christmas- December is full of gatherings with various family members, I do not want to miss family time to go be with coworkers (nothing against my coworkers).
    It makes so much more sense!

    1. Clisby*

      Exactly. When it comes to people I’d want to celebrate Christmas with, co-workers (unless we were friends outside of work) would be at the absolute bottom of the list. Brighten up January/February with a work party!

  21. I'm just here for the cats*

    For the last one, I would do the heartfelt conversation and then a gift card to someplace for lunch. Or maybe take them out for lunch to show appreciation.

  22. LifeBeforeCorona*

    Andy sounds like a pot-stirrer. He knows bringing Doug to the party is a provocation and a fudge you to Doug’s former bosses. He may need a one on one about appropriate behaviour. That’s only if he would actually listen.

  23. Spicy Tuna*

    I grew up in an atheist household (my parents have been atheist since at least 1963 when they got married in a civil ceremony). My mother in particular is hyper alert to any displays of public theism. Growing up, December was my least favorite month because no matter the type of celebration or decoration, be it for Christmas, Hannukah, or “winter solstice”, she would vehemently protest it.

    I am an atheist as an adult. While I am not nearly as bothered by religion and public displays of same as my mother, holiday celebrations are triggering for me! I would definitely appreciate it if a company I worked for had a “thank you” or “year end” type of celebration in January when it was completely divorced from any type of holiday association.

  24. stitchinthyme*

    The holiday party one is insane. A few years ago my company decided to start having its parties in January because 1) it’s way cheaper, and 2) everyone’s way less busy than they are in December. (They’ve never called it a “Christmas party” but a “holiday party”, and there’s never been much controversy about that.) Of course there wasn’t one last year and won’t be one this year due to Covid.

    It’s nice to work for a sane company.

  25. thatjillgirl*

    I kind of love the idea of a January party instead of a December one. We have a dinner out for the whole staff in December, and it does kind of devolve into a “Christmas party” for us because everyone currently on our team either celebrates Christmas or is Christmas-celebrating-adjacent, so to speak. But ostensibly, it’s supposed to be an end-of-the-year thank you for the team, and there’s no reason it can’t be in January. And actually January might be nicer, since it’s a little less hectic for most people and it can be kind of a dark and chilly month in need of some livening up (in the northern hemisphere, anyway).

  26. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    I used to work in wines & spirits distribution – having any kind of pre-Christmas event simply wasn’t going to happen, so we always had our annual party in January.

    Less good was the expectation that we would all clear our diaries on the appointed date to attend, but that’s another letter…..

  27. Anonymous Bosch*

    While Christmas is not part of my culture or heritage, I never minded the office decorations or the parties. Most offices are so bland that I appreciated it when color was added. And if my company wanted to give me time off and free food, that was all good too.

    Now, if anyone had set up a manger with a recording of “We Three Kings of Orient Are” playing, that would have been a different matter.

Comments are closed.