our holiday party is mandatory, but I don’t want to be around unmasked coworkers

A reader writes:

My office is hybrid now, with each team in one day per week. I’m still being very vigilant about masking on the days that I’m in the office because my mom, who lives with me, is having chemo and is immunocompromised. So on the days I’m in the office, I’m careful to eat in my office with my door closed so that I’m not around anyone while I’m unmasked. However, we’re having a holiday party and we’ve recently been told that everyone will be required to come into the office that day. There will be eating and drinking so people will definitely be unmasked – indoors, for several hours without great ventilation, during a period when Covid cases are supposed to be surging. The idea of a mandatory party is weird enough already, but throw in the health risk and I’m really unhappy to be required to be there. What do I do?

I answer this question — and many others — over at New York Magazine today. You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

Should I give my boss a gift?
My boss wants an expensive gift!
My coworker gives me a gift every year – should I be reciprocating?
My company gives terrible gifts

{ 226 comments… read them below }

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      One of those week-long stomach bugs, since you don’t know if the party is going to be some super spreader event among your colleagues so you might want to skip in-person day the following week.

      1. WillowSunstar*

        I’d go with stomach bug with a fever, because that might be COVID, and you’re still waiting on the results of an official test. The nurse told you to stay home, which of course they should.

      2. Bt;dt*

        Get the stomach bug on Friday, recover over the weekend, but have to stay WFH all of next week to take care of your mom who is having chemo because she caught the bug from you.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Yep. Oh darn so sorry I am sick today, cough cough. Although stomach bug sounds good. Can you fake vomiting noises over the phone?

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          Halfway congealed Jello makes the best sound effects, and use a METAL trash can. If you can add nuts to the jello, they make satisfying little “undigested food hurled at speeds you don’t wanna think about”.

          Oh, and put your jello mixture in a Ziploc baggie, gallon-sized, cut a very small hole in the corner, and squeeze it convulsively at the proper and effective times.

          Explain to all and sundry that you had to attend a mandatory party some assh∆t came to with a stomach virus. That without masks even the food was contaminated. (This is true, BTW. If you DO wind up having mandatory workjoypartytime, DO wear your mask, but eat beforehand so the salad doesn’t wind up like the Jello in the first paragraph….)

          1. Betsy+Not+Elizabeth*

            Chuckling but some of y’all with these Rube Goldberg diabolical specifics (well road tested?) clearly weren’t raised by my mom, who lived and died by the law of superstitious karmic rebound.

            1. Kacihall*

              The closest I ever come to lying about being sick is if my head vaguely hurts or I’m avoiding something that will stress me out to the point I’ll get a migraine. Then I’ll say that i THINK I’m getting a migraine and can’t drive after I take my medicine or need to sleep.

              The last time I did this was January 6th last year, and I knew that SOMETHING was going to happen and my very political coworkers would approve of it and I would want to throw something at them (or get a migraine from keeping my mouth closed).
              If I lie, it comes true in some way shape or form. So never again!

          1. DJ Abbott*

            I do, and that’s fun to talk about, but it might be more effective to just say you have a stomach bug and then end the call by saying you have to rush to the restroom, and let their imaginations do the rest. :D

    3. Naomi*

      Yeah, my immediate thought was that while this person could push back on the whole party / the mandatory aspect / etc., the easiest solution here is going to be to call in sick that day.

      1. MeepMeep123*

        Yeah, there’s really no fighting the germ-spreaders anymore. Just do what you can to protect yourself and keep your family safe. Making it all about COVID safety or mandatory parties will just invite debate, and the person’s family safety shouldn’t be up for debate.

        I bet one could find a suitably disgusting sound recording of various stomach flu symptoms to play over the phone while calling in sick.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘Oh, no, I must have gotten food poisoning at a holiday party. I’ll have to stay home, you guys have fun…’

      I may or may not have used this excuse to avoid parties in the past. I have no problem using it for future parties, also.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        YES! Even when I had to work with people who scoffed at COVID stuff…they would absolutely stay away from me the time I said “I think it might be pink eye.” Even the covid-deniers are terrified of pink eye.

      2. Jessica Ganschen*

        I have plans to claim “probably-still-contagious strep throat” if anybody ever gets weirdly aggressive about me choosing to wear a mask on the bus/in stores/etc.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Someone made sheep noises at me back when masks were mandatory in the UK. I just ignored them, but I liked to imagine saying “would you like me to cough into your mouth, or would spitting at you suffice?” Thankfully that’s the only weirdness I’ve had about masks, even now when 99% of people aren’t bothering outside of medical settings.

      1. ferrina*

        If you’ve got kids, they can bring home the most terrible things (if you think it will help to play the kids card). There’s more than usual going around this year- my household hasn’t stopped sniffling since mid October.

        1. An SEO*

          My son was healthy for 3 whole days the entire month of November! A cold that morphed into bronchitis. Healthy for 3 days before getting an ear infection. The pediatrician’s office in my area (northeast us) looked like a war zone. The neighbors have the flu, another one of his friends has rsv. Pick something and *cough* you’re out!

        2. Felis alwayshungryis*

          The Southern Hemisphere winter has been absolutely brutal. It’s basically been a period of someone in the house being sick, and if not, someone either getting sick or just getting over being sick.

        3. allathian*

          I’m so sorry about what’s happening in your family and my heart goes out to everyone else who’s dealing with the same thing. Thankfully my son’s 13, so he’s old enough that he no longer gets sick as often. They aren’t masked at school anymore, and groups of kids mix freely (junior high, so they switch classrooms all the time and mix groups for some subjects), but they still wash or sanitize their hands before and after every lesson. I really hope that routine sticks for good!

          People have been WFH with kids at home for more than two years. Of *course* they’re going to be sicker more often when they start getting exposed to germs again. You can’t develop immunity to something you’ve never been exposed to, either “naturally” or through vaccines.

          COVID isn’t even the worst one out there, at least not for people who have been able to get the vaccines and who have been vaxxed, and who aren’t immunocompromised or living with people who are immunocompromised.

          I just think that it’s unrealistic at this point to expect everyone to live as if they were living with an immunocompromised person. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to require others to act against the best interests of their health or the health of a loved one. Everyone should be able to take the precautions that they feel are appropriate at this time without repercussions. If it means faking an illness to get out of an event you don’t feel is safe for you to attend, so be it.

    5. AAM’s site goes to the bottom of the page after I comment*

      I think in this case I wouldn’t try to get out of it ahead of time, to avoid calling attention to myself. I would just call in sick two days before (so that it’s not as obvious). Of course this assumes they have good sick leave policies.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Pro tip for dealing with suspicious manager: go home early the day before. I truly got food poisoning the day of a corporate party that I had organized, and took flack for weeks for skipping the event. And that from people who should have known I was eager because I had put in so much time on the planning.

    7. R*

      Re:expensive gift
      Me previous employer was like this, but it was owned by a couple so they came around and asked for $75 toward each of them on top of a $50 secret Santa. I went along the first year since I had icky been there 3 months but when I realized the toxicity after, i didn’t participate. (maybe I gave $1 to sign the card because the owners were petty. I can’t remember. ) the following year I burst out laughing when my cw asked and pointed out to her all of the negativity there that even she complains about. That she had been there 10 years without a raise. No one ever got raises. That while yes, they gave decent Xmas gifts, that kins of still benefits them to a degree with writing it off, etc.

      1. SemiAnon*

        If you tell them you have COVID, it may backfire when they assume you don’t need to mask/avoid people anymore because you’ve just had it, and it’s rare to catch it twice in a very short period. Stomach bug would be better.

  1. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Putting on my grinch hate – I hate this time of year (excluding update season). There’s so much to navigate, so many expectations, so much spending. It’s incredibly stressful and it brings out the worst in people, especially in a workplace environment where the professional consequences of even gently straining relationships can be crappy.

    1. turkey time*

      I want to love it. I want to be jolly. But it’s too much. It’s like everyone insists on making it too much, all while hating that it’s too much, and just…can’t see that if they lowered their expectations, we would all like it so much more??

      1. Coenobita*

        Right? Years ago I gave myself permission to decide on a year-by-year basis (or a holiday-by-holiday basis, really) how into celebrating anything I wanted to be. I’m Jewish but do enjoy a lot of the ancillary Christmas season stuff if I’m in the right frame of mind for it. Some years I go total bah humbug mode and some years I’m like, “heck yeah, neighborhood cookie swap! let’s go look at some lights!” The self permission to decide my own level of engagement feels really liberating somehow.

        Anyway, one thing I appreciate is that my employer offers a range of ways to participate socially in things (not just for holidays – I work in a field where warm, collaborative relationships with your colleagues is important so the social bonding stuff makes sense). There is a fairly standard off-site food-and-drink-and-maybe-karaoke party (not my thing, at least not this year) but also a chill “stop by at lunch if you want to make some paper snowflakes for the reception area” social hour (which I am legitimately excited for).

          1. allathian*

            I hear you. Thankfully my employer doesn’t punish people for opting out of truly optional activities. They say that they value collaboration and community building, but they still leave it up to each individual to decide how often they participate in such activities, if at all. I’m participating in our in-person team development days, which are mandatory unless you have a good reason to skip them, such as being immunocompromised or living with an immunocompromised person, or because you’re sick. I’ll also attend any birthday or retirement parties I’m invited to, and any celebratory events involving members of my own team, which are held in conjunction with the development days because we’re a distributed team and it wouldn’t make sense to visit the head office for just a party. But I skipped the holiday party this year.

            We’re still effectively hybrid (for the foreseeable future, and I’ve been hybrid before the term existed, since 2014), and they’re asking people who can do it safely to come to the office 4 days a month, but it depends a lot on the manager how much that’s actually tracked.

      1. Phillippe II*

        The Grinch doesn’t get a couch, that would be too much comfort. A straight back, hard wooden bench.

        1. Nesprin*

          Team #thegrinchbench.
          There are no less than 5 holiday parties (group, division, etc) at my company that I’m expected to make time for in the 3 weeks in December. All of them want baked goods or a gift or a donation.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Budge up, I’m joining you on the grinch sofa.

      Pretty much this year I’ve told my staff (of several different religions) that if they want a winter season party that I’ll pony up for part of the food or get another team to take over the calls if they want to do it at lunchtime. Otherwise, leave me out of it!

      I’m dealing with the anniversary of a good friends death due to covid and I’m out of spoons.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’m sorry for your loss. This time of year is unhappy for a lot of people, for some reason as a society we choose to gloss right over that and push cheer down everyone’s throats.

      2. Cj*

        This is off topic, but I don’t think to ask it unless Ive just read it. Where does the expression “out of spoons” come from? AAM is the only place I’ve ever seen it, and I can tell from the context what it means, but what’s the history behind it?

        I’m from the Midwest, and never hear it used here. Is it a regional thing?

        1. Anonny4*

          So far as I know it’s internet speak — someone came up with “spoons” as a metaphor for energy (so far as I know it originated either in the chronic illness or mental health space). The idea is everyone has a certain number of spoons, and people who are struggling with something either have fewer to begin with or have to use more over the course of the day and so run out sooner, or both together.

        2. Sarah in Boston*

          It comes from the spoon theory in Christine Miserandino’s “But You Don’t Look Sick”. It’s part of her analogy to explain how she lives with lupus to a friend. Link in the next comment.

        3. Office-issued square of sheet cake*

          It’s a very online thing, originally from tumblr I think? It’s a descriptive device to explain the limited energy someone with disabilities often has compared to someone who doesn’t. For example, you wake up every day with 200 spoons, and you have to turn in 20 spoons to get out of bed, 50 to make breakfast, etc… but someone with a disability only wakes up with 100 spoons. So they have to budget their “spoons” more carefully.

          Maybe someone else can explain why spoons became the metaphor for energy levels, that part I’m unsure of, but many people really identify with it, and you might even hear some people call themselves “spoonies” as a turn of phrase indicating “part of the disability community”

          1. Elsajeni*

            Someone has linked to the original essay it comes from above you, but the short version for those who don’t click through is, it was originally an analogy that the writer used in a face-to-face conversation, and spoons happened to be the object that was to hand to visually demonstrate what she was talking about. The weird journey of an off-the-cuff metaphor that happened to go viral!

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

      With you on the grinch hate (perfect)…mandatory “fun” is infuriatingly infantile anytime of year for me, but especially at this time of year. I’m more and more inclined to simply opt out of their “religious observance” couched as team building and just dare them to them give me the stink-eye over it.

    4. NeedRain47*

      Same! I don’t celebrate Christmas and suffer from the in-your-face-ness of “the holidays”. I’m so glad I work for public organizations that aren’t allowed to spend any of the public’s money on parties that I might have to attend. We’re having a department holiday snacks day next week and I’ll enjoy that, but it’s enough.

    5. Poffertjies!*

      I’ll join on the Grinch train. I hate the holiday season. The stress, the expectations, and I’m supposed to enjoy a dinner/holiday party with coworkers who make my job difficult. No thanks. My personal life is a mess right now and I don’t feel like faking the merriment.

    6. Joielle*

      Meeeeee too. Growing up it was always a source of drama and stress and I just don’t have happy memories and warm feelings associated with the holiday season. There’s so much pressure to make things *magical* and I just want to roll my eyes and then hide for two months.

      Sometimes I do put a Christmas sweater on the dog though, which is fun.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I mean any opportunity to put a sweater on a dog. We’re trying a reindeer headband but he’s not super into it.

    7. Magenta+Sky*

      I’ve worked in retail for far too long. The holiday season for me is greed, narcissism, and “what’s in it for *me*?”

      I stopped doing Christmas years ago. The only decoration I have (which I don’t put up where other people can see it) is a Santa Claus doll nailed to a cross, with the caption “Santa Claus didn’t die for your sins.” (And I’m not the least bit religious, but I at least know the point of the holiday.)

        1. Magenta+Sky*

          As appropriate, perhaps, but not more, so far as I’m concerned.

          We don’t sell a million dollars worth of Easter decorations every year.

    8. Jessica Ganschen*

      Yuuup. I got a call from my temp agency liaison a couple weeks ago to check in on me like she does every month or so, and she mentioned that I should see how much PTO I have so I can take it for the holidays if I want. The thing is, I already used up all of my meager PTO in September and October for my holidays (and it wasn’t even enough to cover all of them). It’s not like I haven’t had to explain this to people before, and honestly, I’m not sure I ever told her I’m Jewish in the first place, but still, it stings.

    9. MEH Squared*

      I wan Team Grinch for most of my life. I hated the holidays with the passion and all the consumerism that went with them (especially Christmas).

      Weirdly, the older I get, the less I care. I don’t love the holidays and am not filled with holiday cheer, but I can ignore it for the most part and just pretend it isn’t happening. It helps that I work for myself from home and do all my shopping online, which cuts out 95% of the holiday crap being shoved in my face.

  2. online millenial*

    I had to opt out of my division’s holiday party for the same reasons–indoors, focused on food, mask requirements have been dropped. I don’t have any super high-risk people in my life, but I’ve gone this long without getting COVID. I sure as hell am not going to risk it so I can eat mediocre food with colleagues I barely talk to.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Our HR department wants a holiday party so that we get to know each other better and *will* talk to more people. This is — IMO — a thoroughly ridiculous notion, since the colleagues with whom I mostly work are based at offices in other countries anyway. *eyeroll*

    2. Inkhorn*

      Indoors, focussed on food, mask requirements have been dropped… Add isolation requirements have been dropped, company RAT policy has been dropped, and fourth wave, and you have all the reasons I’m skipping my work party this year. I want to spend the holiday shutdown relaxing, not sick with covid, recovering from covid, or worrying about whether I will recover from covid.

      1. allathian*

        I hear you. I managed to avoid Covid until the end of September this year. Thankfully when I got it, I recovered quickly. The month of exhaustion afterwards wasn’t fun, but thanks to vaccines and getting a milder omicron variant, I recovered about as fast as I usually do from a cold. Sure, the month of exhaustion afterwards wasn’t fun, but it didn’t even last long enough to count as long covid (3 months minimum).

        After that, my personal risk calculations changed. I’m no longer willing to take extraordinary measures to avoid getting it, but I will do what I can to protect others. Luckily I’m in a position to more or less isolate at home if I get any symptoms, so that’s what I do, and I’ll wear a mask when I have symptoms or I know I’ve been exposed because a family member is sick, and I can’t avoid going to an indoor public space. Sure, there’s the theoretical possibility that I could be an asymptomatic infectious carrier without knowing it, but for immunocompromised people, the safest option is to assume that everyone they meet is a potential carrier, and to act accordingly.

  3. Cyndi*

    The “my company gives terrible gifts” letter fascinates me because they’re terrible in a new and different way every year. Most likely it’s just that the responsibility is being dumped on someone who doesn’t have the time or energy to handle it well on top of their usual work, but the consistency is kind of impressive.

    1. Lily+Rowan*

      I wonder if they have gotten the feedback, so every year they try a different tack, but get it wrong every time!

    2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      If only cluelessness were confined to a few individuals. Alas, it’s pervasive, and seems to be especially prevalent (regarding the needs and desires of those lower in the food chain) the higher up you go.

    3. Lizzie*

      My company is like that too. Any gift we get, although we don’t get holiday or regular gifts, is usually cheap, and not anything anyone would want or need. I’ve gotten so many branded bags, all of which are poorly made, and ugly. I just use them to donate stuff in. Clothing I also donate.

      1. NeedRain47*

        We get reasonably nice branded stuff, which was exciting at first, but after five years it’s a lot. What if I don’t want my workplace literally embroidered on something I’m wearing or carrying every moment of my life.

        1. Antilles*

          I like branded shirts, because it means I always have a backup for what to wear to work; you can pretty much always get away with “company branded polo / dress shirt”.
          But for other merch, definitely agree that there’s a pretty clear limit how much you really need.

          1. Memo*

            This is something that works if the company isn’t buying the cheapest shirts and hats possible. My old boss would also inexplicably pick out the ugliest colors that didn’t match the company branding at all. One year the ladies got a hot pink zip up sweatshirt. The men got a nice dark blue. The sizing was unisex so it was not a flattering cut on most of the women (not that any of us wanted a hot pink sweatshirt anyway). Also, shrunk horribly in the wash and became a boxy crop cut. Which I guess is trendy now but wasn’t a decade ago.

      2. Cyndi*

        I used to work at a company that gave out custom t-shirts to commemorate major crises–while I was there we got a shirt for the time our mailroom received a package of mystery powder and we had to get locked down by SWAT, and another one after a weather emergency forced the office to close and we missed two or three days (unpaid). I found it wildly insulting and donated them both immediately.

        1. Bread Crimes*

          That’s weird, and I can see how it’s insulting, but I confess I mostly want to know what in the world they put on those shirts. “I survived non-anthrax”? “(Company Name) Snow Day 2019”?

          1. Cyndi*

            It was several years ago and I don’t remember exactly–but I remember they both said #CHICAGOSTRONG which gave them the overall vibe of shirts from some kind of major charity event.

        2. Dark Macadamia*

          I. Love. This. Absolutely terrible idea but I would get such a kick out of wearing my MAILROOM SWAT 2017 tee as a pajama top lol

        3. Kyrielle*

          I *still* have one t-shirt from a former employer, though I don’t wear it, I just keep it around because its existence delights me so much. The main office was moving and was basically down for a couple days while things got packed and moved.

          The t-shirt commemorating that asked, on the back, “Where the h*** is (City main office was in)?” Only, the swear was not in any way redacted.

          Nowhere I’ve worked since (including that place after it grew) would have done that, and it was probably a sign of some of the issues that they did, but I still love it.

      3. Memo*

        I don’t think I’ve ever received a corporate holiday gift that I actually liked or wanted. Many moons ago a manager tried to put me in charge of it. It was quickly moved to somebody else when my suggestion was “cash or a Visa gift card”. No one wants another coffee cup or sweatshirt with a logo on it, Ted!

      4. Bunny Girl*

        That makes me really sad. I worked at a company that was lacking in a lot of areas but for Thanksgiving it gave everyone a turkey. At first I felt a little left out because I’m a vegetarian but I figured I would donate the turkey instead. Well at the last minute my boss pulled out a big beautiful box of fruits and vegetables. It fed me for a week. I was so happy.

        1. Memo*

          That is thoughtful! I do think that giving a whole turkey at Thanksgiving is one of the nicer gestures. Because if the recipient won’t eat it, at least it can be donated to a family in need.

          The places I’ve worked have mainly resorted to cheap branded clothing/mugs/hats.

          I did just remember that at my very first “real” job (which paid very little), the owner gave every employee a card with $300 cash in it. Now that was a good gift!

          1. Capybarely*

            The turkey is only a good “gift” if it’s given in time to actually prepare, too! I know someone who was given a frozen turkey on last Wednesday afternoon. That’s literally unusable for at least 2 more days!

          2. SemiAnon*

            A whole turkey is a tricky one, because of the perishability. A turkey is pretty big, so a lot of people won’t have the freezer space to store it (I’ve been in situations where I didn’t have *fridge* space for a turkey), so it means the thawing process begins the moment you get it. If you don’t need or want it, then you’ve got a very short period in which to give it to someone else, at a busy time of year. If you give it to people too early, it’ll go off before they can use it, too late, and they don’t have time to thaw it.

            I think it’d work if they made the offer well in advance and arranged delivery at a useful pre-arranged time, so that people didn’t get an unwanted turkey to deal with.

    4. sometimeswhy*

      I am not the LW but my company also give terrible gifts. One year it contained a champagne flute, a christmas tree ornament, two packets of nuts, and a woowoo meditation thing. We are a scientific organization, not everyone celebrates christmas, about half the people I work with are tee-total, and I had to throw away my whole box because someone in my home is allergic to nuts.

      I reached out to the people who did the organizing and let them know what happened, shared my other inclusivity concerns. They shrugged and told me it was okay to regift the stuff. I asked to be left off the next year’s distribution list and reminded them I didn’t want it when they reached out to confirm addresses. I got it anyway. It contained a sausage (everyone got sausage, even vegetarians and people with religious dietary restrictions) and nuts and a bunch of other stuff I didn’t see because, once again, I had to throw the whole box out.

      It’s so disappointing to have that degree of obliviousness forced upon you in a vague handwave toward morale building even/especially when you’ve explicitly asked to be left out for! safety! reasons!

    5. Butterfly Counter*

      My dad’s company did a huge Christmas family day that was surprisingly great. I remember one year, they rented out the entire theater so that families could watch the Little Mermaid (newly out at that time) and afterward, we were directed to a table of our gender and age range for a wrapped present. And I remember, as an 11 year old, being surprised at how bang-on they were for a pre-teen girl gift. (I sadly, don’t remember what it was exactly, but my younger brother and sister were similarly happy with their gifts as well.)

      Someone had to have done a LOT of research into what was cool for toys for kids of all ages and sexes.

    6. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes! “Well I guess clothing is out because people were so whiny about sizes. How about ham?” One year later “Well…”

  4. Brain the Brian*

    Our hybrid office’s holiday party is likewise mandatory — even for people who can’t come in person, who will be required to sit on camera and watch the festivities from afar (bonkers, IMO). I happen to have a medical appointment that will require me to leave early (I really do — I didn’t make this up as an excuse to get out of it!), which is getting me out of most of it. I’m also planning to mask the entire time and upgrade my usual KN95 to an N95.

    The funniest part? HR told us all that we would need to come in an extra day the week of the party if it didn’t fall on our usual day in the office, which my boss flatly vetoed for my department: “Don’t come in an extra day. Just show up the day of the party as if it’s your normal day in the office.” Love when my manager has sense.

    1. Selina Luna*

      My solution would be a printed picture of me looking mildly annoyed with crossed arms and a brown-colored beverage with ice taped to something the appropriate distance away so that it fills the camera.

    2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      Mandatory remote participation in a holiday party? Time for some malicious compliance!

      Loud music in the background, eating better food than the persons in the room, and a disco ball/strobe light if you can tolerate it. Even better if you can recruit fellow remoters to follow your example.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I have a coworker who lives in another state who would be the perfect person to do this so cheerfully that everyone would actually find it awesome. :D

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Not in this workplace, you wouldn’t. You would be shown the (virtual) door very quickly. Every year before the pandemic, we had a debate over whether the holiday party would even include alcohol.

          1. Magenta+Sky*

            Yeah, I don’t work there. And I’d still be tempted, if only as part of quitting, because I have no interest in working there.

            Our holiday lunches still include an open bar. I don’t drink, but those who do are grown ups, and we don’t have issues.

      2. Kind of a grinch*

        Not a strobe light, please, for the sake of any of your coworkers with epilepsy (and possibly other neurological conditions)

      3. Kind of a grinch*

        Not a strobe light, please, for the sake of other remote colleagues who might have epilepsy!

    3. Brain the Brian*

      I suppose I’ll also add that our HR lead seems to live by the notion of “If you’ll take the risk in your person life, you should be willing to take the risk at work!” which I find thoroughly ridiculous. I want to minimize the health risks I take at work so that I can do slightly riskier things with my loved ones without putting us all in danger! And this goes beyond Covid: I have a chronic condition with dangerous episodes that can be triggered by overly strenuous exercise and lack of sleep, and while I might be okay with a fun hike with friends, I certainly wouldn’t want to unnecessarily take the chance of overexerting myself at work and risk missing out on fun with my loved ones if that triggers an episode. Work and personal lives operate on different paradigms, and the notion that employees need to have exactly the same risk tolerance at work and home is misguided at best.

      1. Chocolate+lover*

        That HR lead is absurd. A work party is never going to be as important as my friends and loved ones. Sheesh.

      2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        Risks are rarely evaluated on their own, there’s almost always a benefit in the calculation. I will take a certain risk when the benefit properly balances it out, and avoid risks where it doesn’t.

        1. allathian*

          Oh yes, why is this so hard for some employers to understand?

          I’m skipping the holiday parties, but in my case it has nothing to do with Covid anymore. Just that I find big parties with people I don’t know at all or barely know exhausting, and don’t enjoy them in my personal life, either. When I’m at the office I’m pretty much up for small talk with anyone during our coffee breaks. I’d far rather get to know my coworkers for 15 minutes or so over a cup of coffee 4 days a month than attend a big party.

          I really, really don’t enjoy big weddings where I barely know anyone, such as when I went as my husband’s +1 to my MIL’s goddaughter’s wedding with 200+ guests. I’d met the bride twice and the groom once before the wedding, and the only other people I knew were members of our extended family. I attended for my husband’s sake and spent most of the time at the reception talking to people I already knew. Thankfully the couple had sensible seating arrangements because everyone was seated with at least someone they knew.

      3. Antilles*

        our HR lead seems to live by the notion of “If you’ll take the risk in your person life, you should be willing to take the risk at work!”
        As a safety manager, I had to chuckle at this because a lot of people have a much more relaxed version of safety at home than they have in the office. All because you’re willing to take a risk in your personal life of, idk, using a knife as a screwdriver, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to take that risk here.

      4. Brain the Brian*

        Also: she once asked me why I was okay sometimes unmasking to eat lunch at my cubicle but not at this party. Well, I sit near exactly two people, and my entire half of the floor is otherwise usually empty on my day in-office… versus 80 people in a small conference room. Different situations, folks.

      5. nightengale*

        Also some of us are not taking those risks in our personal life. I am not eating indoors with groups of people outside work.

    4. Cj*

      Why on earth do companies even give these parties if it’s not to show appreciation to their employees? And how much appreciation does it show to make it mandatory for people who don’t want to be there?

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Our HR department has very openly said that we are having this holiday party so that we “get to know each other better.” No appreciation necessary, apparently.

    5. Aggretsuko*

      Hah, if it falls on my day in office, I am told I have to change my day, because I live in town and most people don’t and then they have to house them in the office for the rest of the day because they’re not allowed a half hour to drive home again.

  5. Richard Hershberger*

    Ah, the return of mandatory fun! Its absence was a silver lining to the pandemic. Make an appearance then slip out the back was my strategy for company parties for years. Make sure your boss and your boss’s boss sees you, perhaps with a moment of idle chit chat, and that usually is all that is necessary. Fully masking would be an interesting twist.

    1. UKDancer*

      That’s always been my approach as well. I go, I make sure I speak to my team and my boss. Then I smile and say something to the uber boss and slip quietly away to answer an urgent email. It makes it clear that I’m present so everyone is happy.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Which is precisely why it’s insane that where is *should* be optional, companies are still requiring attendance or even having large gatherings in the first place. If we want to make places like schools safer, we should be minimizing transmission in the communities surrounding them. Sigh — I digress.

      1. Powerpants*

        Proper masking works. I have been in person at a school since we returned to school in Sept of 2020 and have never gotten Covid.

        1. Loulou*

          Do you not realize how big a role luck has played? Plenty of people have also “properly” masked and still gotten sick.

        2. MeepMeep123*

          Emphasis on “proper”. I managed to get something very suspiciously like COVID at the pharmacy where I went for my vaccination, despite wearing a KN95. I know better now, but the long-term sequelae of the whatever-it-was are still with me.

    1. to varying degrees*

      Maybe they should be. Trying to please that many people must be exhausting and if someone thinks they can do it better, go ahead.

      1. Enai*

        The solution is money. Give people the amount you’d pay for the gifts in currency. Use gift cards for popular stores that are actually in the area if you must, but money is best.

  6. ThursdaysGeek*

    Company gifts of hoodies that don’t fit, hams to vegetarian employees, gift cards to a non-local restaurant – those are great. What might they come up with this year? How far off can a company gift be?

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

      I was partial to the comments section story of the year-end corporate gift of a fire blanket…every year for several years…as though people are going to need more than one, if ever. The series of posts were at the end of September this year.

  7. PsychNurse*

    I know your position that gifts should flow downstream. My question is the inverse of the letter writer’s— I am an intern in a graduate program. I have a preceptor (she has been assigned to teach me during a semester-long clinical rotation) and she has been excellent. The university pays her a small fee, but not much, for taking a student. She has been great, and has gone beyond her requirements to be sure I learn. Is it appropriate for me to give her a gift? She’s sort of my boss (I definitely do have to do what she tells me to) and sort of my teacher.

    1. PsychNurse*

      Oops I just realized maybe I’m not supposed to ask questions here. I was hoping to hear from commentors but sorry if I did it wrong.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yes, I second the suggestion for a hand-written card that says how much you appreciate her as a preceptor. It’s a thoughtful gift that she will appreciate, and it doesn’t cost you (much) money so it avoids breaking the don’t-give-gifts-to-your-boss “rule.”

    2. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

      I am not Alison (obv) but what I’d do would be to give her a holiday or thank-you card with a note inside it (write out the note elsewhere, and when you’re satisfied, print if necessary and copy it into the card, to avoid typos and cross-outs) expressing your gratitude. She can keep it as a happy memento but it doesn’t involve cash value so it doesn’t push the line.

    3. NeedRain47*

      You could probably get her a gift when you finish the program and she’s not your preceptor anymore. At that point she’d be a professional contact/colleague and no longer your boss/teacher.

    4. Preceptor Pearl*

      As a preceptor, I would never expect a gift from learners. It’s been awhile since I was a student but I remember how tight money can be! However, I do love receiving cards and even keep a box of cards and notes I have received from learners over the years on my desk. When I’m having a not so great day, I will pick one or two out and reread them. Those words are a gift that keeps on giving!

    5. Nesprin*

      A thank you note ccd to her PI/dept head/whoever might write her a rec letter and maybe 5$ to the local coffee shop.

    6. Worked in IT forever*

      Or maybe along with a card, a small donation in her name, if you know what cause she particularly cares about?

    7. Sara without an H*

      What would be appropriate (and much appreciated) would be a thoughtfully worded card, expressing your thanks for all that you’ve learned from her.

      Trust me, any educator will treasure a card like that, much more than any gift.

    8. Plumeria*

      I think you are fine to get her a thoughtful gift that is within your budget at the end of your time with her. This is not a boss who you will have a continuing relationship, so there is no concern about setting an expectation of regular gifting. There also are not other coworkers, so there is no concern about setting an inadvertent example that others would want to follow. Go forth and gift, if that would make you happy!

  8. Poppy*

    I really wish I didn’t have to attend my work holiday party on my day off. It’s a tiny business and it will be Noticed if I decline because they really want to socialize with me. I just don’t feel the same way about spending hours at a restaurant I didn’t choose with a wild band of conspiracy theorists and people recommending Reiki and herbs to me.

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Accept the invite and then get “sick.” I feel like lying is OK in situations where someone else has trampled professional boundaries by requiring you to come to a mandatory work party on your day off. “But we really want to socialize with you” isn’t a good enough justification.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      I got a meeitng request for a luncheon on my remote day. The last one they had was also on a remote day and it was noticed that I wasn’t there. I don’t want to have to go to this one. I would be more likely to suck it up if the restaurant we go to had anything that I would eat.

  9. Kotow*

    I think a stomach issue is the way to go to get out of the mandatory party. It’s the universal illness that nobody wants to get, so everyone just assumes you’re telling the truth when you say you have it!

  10. kiki*

    It blows my mind that year after year there are more bosses demanding extravagant gifts from their staff! It demonstrates such a lack of understanding about work dynamics. Especially expecting staff to chip in $60 each! That’s a huge gift, in my book– more than I spend on some family members!

    1. southernfried*

      What in the world? Bosses demanding gifts and putting a price tag on it? I must live in Mayberry, because I have never heard of such a thing!

      1. Poppy*

        My last toxic boss did this. He would have a tantrum if the staff didn’t pitch in for a Christmas and birthday present for him. Our Christmas presents from him were company branded fleeces (basically a uniform) and once a $25 gift card to a clothing store. Often we were forced to contribute more than what he gave us. I tried to push back once with wording I learned here and got reamed out by the office manager.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Wow. That’s some entitled BS on their part. Glad you’re not working there any more.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      And 12 x $60 is a huge amount of money for a gift for one person. I can’t get past that.

      Incredibly tempting to reply to whoever comes round to fetch it, “[Owner] knows I don’t get paid enough for that.”

      1. Summer*

        This letter seriously pissed me off! The absolute nerve of the owner to demand $60 from each employee and for the manager to say that it’s mandatory? Hard pass. Fire me then because I wouldn’t contribute just on principle alone.

        I think this also hits a nerve because my husband must contribute to an expensive gift for his boss who is also the owner. I have told him for years that gifts flow down, not up and it’s so wrong that they are expected to just kowtow to her demands. But she’s also an unreasonable shrew who would make life miserable so it’s easier to just go along with it. I could write a book about the stuff she’s pulled, it’s all so nutty. The only reason he stays is that the money is too good to go elsewhere, at least for now. The plan is for him to eventually open his own shop so, hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later!

  11. mlem*

    My work-group’s annual party is not, strictly speaking, mandatory; but I’m a senior team member and my longstanding Covid caution is “only” that I can’t afford to wind up with Long Covid or “lesser” cognitive effects. But it’s only two hours long, so I’ll be eating beforehand (outdoors or in my car) and then masking for the gathering itself.

    (I don’t trust the air circulation metrics for my company enough to be convinced that going into an office and closing the door is enough for me to unmask and eat/drink safely. None of our offices or meeting rooms have windows, and the air’s gotta come from somewhere.)

  12. Emily*

    Saying you can’t safely attend invites an argument about how you can just mask, the windows will be open, everyone is vaccinated, whatever. Not worth having. Just go with the stomach bug. If they argue, “I don’t want to share the symptoms specifically, but it’s really better for me to be home,” or whatnot, is unlikely to continue the conversation.

    1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

      Exactly. “I don’t want to gross you out with details, but it will be better for all of us if I keep my germs to myself”

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, stomach bug or food poisoning should be able to just be that, without symptom description. If they demand symptoms, though? Get graphic about the explosive diarrhea and vomiting, ask what’s best to drink to re-hydrate that won’t just come back up, etc.

  13. Amorphous Eldritch Horror*

    I wonder what side of the legal/retaliation line it would fall on if the boss who wants $60 per employee for her gift fired the employees who didn’t fork it over.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      They’d almost certainly manufacture another reason. However I actually don’t think this is illegal. Not in most states anyway, I can’t speak for California, but illegal retaliation typical involves protected classes and I don’t *think* this would land in that area.

      But I am in HR not law. I wouldn’t stand for this as HR but that’s more because of common sense ethical practice than legal protection.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Oh! Yes you can just regular law vs employment law, absolutely. I get so caught up in the workplace context I sometimes think I’d have to google “is it legal for my employer to murder me”.

          But yes there is legal precedent that threats of firing you can are extortion, particularly if there is also a demand for money.

  14. Anonymouse*

    In response to the gift card question, an addendum. Many people think that figuring out a store that someone actually likes is too difficult, and in this case default to an Amazon gift card because “you can get everything there!” While that is mostly true, and many would enjoy such a gift, I would like to remind anyone considering this that some people try to avoid Amazon as much as possible for ethical reasons. It can be disheartening to come out of the holiday season with a good amount of money to spend at a place that I would prefer to spend no money at all. Better options are a short conversation to figure out any local businesses they frequent, or a Visa gift card! (This is coming from another self-proclaimed Grinch, so sorry if it comes across as ungrateful. I appreciate any gift and accept gratefully, however just something to think about for anyone looking for a default option.)

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Visa gift cards often have fees attached to them. Like a purchase fee and a dormancy fee. So they’re not always the best idea either.

      1. mlem*

        Or the first use is easy, but later uses don’t go through unless the balance and the purchase price match precisely. My company gave out cards that did this for some demented reason. So if you give them, you also have to tell the recipient, “Actually, DO spend this all in one place!”

        1. Manic+Pixie+HR+Girl*

          The way I get around this, is I convert it to a gift card for a store I will use. Though my husband and I ended up with a lot of these stupid things (which got eaten up by dormancy fees) before I figured out that hack.

      2. CLC*

        I’ve always heard this about visa gift cards, but I’ve both purchased them to give to others and used them myself and not seen any fees.

        1. KRM*

          Fees happen on purchase, and if you don’t use them for a set period of time (card dependent). The problem with the VISA/MC gift cards is that if you end up with $6.57 left, in order to use that, you have to have the cashier subtract 6.57 from your purchase total, and then use the card at the end on the 6.57 remaining. This is a huge pain for everyone, so most people don’t do it (which is what they’re counting on, so that they claim that dormant amount in ‘fees’ after the grace period). My recommendation is either to spend it all in one place immediately, or buy another GC with it to a place that you will use (I tend to get Target or Amazon or grocery GCs if I get one of these cards). The rules make more sense and you won’t be leaving $$ on the card because it’s too difficult to use.

    2. Temperance*

      The Visa ones often have huge fees, though. I’ve seen some that take $5.95/month away from the total until they’re empty.

      I always recommend Wawa or Sheetz to anyone in their service area. Or a local lunch spot that everyone hits!

      1. Anonymouse*

        Usually that $5.95 starts a year or two after purchase, but you’re right that they can have fees associated. Your suggestions are great ones! I love Sheetz, and QT is another good one.

        1. KRM*

          It’s usually six months, or a shorter period of “non-use” after making the first purchase. Regardless, they make small amounts such a pain to use that they just collect all the remaining in those fees after people give up on using them.

      2. Magenta+Sky*

        Dormancy fees are not legal unless the card hasn’t been used for a year or more, and the conditions, amount and frequency (which cannot be more than once a month) of the fee has to be disclosed *on the card*. Any other fees must also be disclosed, and the issuer has to have a toll free number to call for details.

        Not to say violations don’t occur, even by very large companies, but that doesn’t make it legal, and enough complaints will eventually get action by the authorities. (IIRC, Subway got hammered over expired gift cards.)

    3. Sparkle llama*

      I do live and work in Minnesota which has an above average excitement about Target (founded and headquartered here), but that seems to be a common gift card for situations where it needs to be generic. You can use it to treat yourself to something or get groceries and household essentials. They certainly aren’t without faults but are much better than Amazon in my opinion.

    4. drinking Mello Yello*

      When my company gives out gift cards (for holidays, doing well, etc.), they use this service (forgot the website name :/) that lets you choose from a fairly wide selection of gift cards for different store/restaurants/etc. Like, The Company gives everyone $50 in Gift Card Money, and you choose to get $25 in Restaurant A gift card, $15 in Store B gift card, and $10 in Streaming Service C gift card, or whatever. Doing something like that seems to guarantee the most amount of satisfaction overall when dealing with a lot of gift recipients.

  15. CLC*

    Even before the covid pandemic, it should have been perfectly acceptable to avoid office social events around the holidays for any reason, but especially to avoid catching viral infections and especially if you have a cancer patient family member living with you. The holiday season is when everything spreads and it has honestly grossed me out for many years before covid.

    If covid didn’t exist, I would say ask directly for an exemption from the mandatory party on the grounds of your mother’s condition. Plenty of people avoid unnecessary human contact when a family member is ill, had major surgery, etc. Unfortunately the context of covid seems to have had this really weird and counterintuitive effect that a request like this could be seen as…disingenuous or even ridiculous to a lot of people, probably including the type of boss that makes office parties mandatory. In this case I would definitely do as others have said and pretend that you plan to go. If there is a calendar invitation or a headcount RSVP, accept it. Then you come down with something at the last minute. If you don’t feel comfortable faking illness, I find that house-related emergencies, especially related to plumbing, are a good option.

  16. No Holiday Parties for Me*

    Honestly, it seems like asking in advance to be excused from the holiday party and, if denied (or made to feel bad for bringing it up), then having a “stomach illness” on the same day is going to be seen as “too convenient” at best and actually, downright suspicious. Perhaps call one’s judgment or even overall honesty into question. I’d not say anything at all, then get “sick” the day of.

  17. ZSD*

    Let’s guess what other terrible gifts this company will come up with!
    -Just a big pile of spaghetti
    -A cat (one for every employee, regardless of allergies)
    -Bell Biv Devoe T-shirt
    -A small tree, with a requirement that you submit a photo proving you’ve planted it somewhere in your lawn (or apartment)

    1. turkey time*

      I wanted this to be real. Well, I mean, I know the last one is. But I really would like someone to just hand over a big pile of spaghetti. Honestly I’ll take a cat, too, but it has to live at the office.

    2. mlem*

      – A cat (one for all employees to time-share)
      – Gift cards to Hooters or a spa, with the company assuming who should get which
      – Scent diffusers

        1. mlem*

          I suspect Clueless Corp would give her the spa card “because girls love spas” in this particular scenario, and she’d have to swap cards with a guy who prefers spas to Hooters.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I still want to know if they went through with that idea. If they did what became of the poor turtles.

    3. Bexy+Bexerson*

      I’d honestly love a big pile of spaghetti and a Bel Biv DeVoe t-shirt…as long as the spaghetti isn’t laced with poisooooooooonnnnnnnnnnnn.

    4. The Eye of Argon*

      I’m diabetic and allergic to tomatoes so spaghetti would be out for me, and I already have 4 cats, although one more wouldn’t add to the chaos that much, but I’d love a Bel Biv Devoe t-shirt.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        I feel like there’s an equation where the chaos instilled by additional cats, dogs, human children all under the same roof peaks at some number and then either increases at a low linear rate or actually decreases at an inversely exponential rate. (From families I’m well acquainted with, I think the numbers for kids are “3” and “6” as the points of peak chaos and “eh, what’s one more” chaos respectively).

        Is four cats peak chaos?

        Totally down for a BBD tee shirt myself :)

        1. Ness*

          There was actually a study that showed that parents with 3 kids are more stressed than those with any other number. This seems to be accurate among the families I know.

          That’s one reason we decided to stick with 2…

    5. ZSD*

      Okay, this discussion has shown me that Alison needs to amend her list of the best holiday gifts for staff. Apparently, what people really want are money, time off, and Bell Biv Devoe shirts.

      1. mlem*

        A sculpture of the boss. (Nude installation-sized or mass-market action-figure sized, though, that’s the question …)

        1. Llama face!*

          Oooh, yes that would be even better. I vote action figure-sized because that’s all the better to keep on your desk so you can see it every single day.

  18. Money > Gifts*

    I just received my cutting board that’s a Christmas gift from my company (along with choosing some little gift basket thing). I came to this company through acquisition. We used to get $100 for every full year of service. I’d be getting an $1,100 check this year. Guess which I’d rather have.

    It’s depressing.

  19. GlamorousNonprofiteer*

    I don’t care for “enforced fun” activities and as we’ve transitioned to a fully remote/virtual organization, we get to have a virtual gathering. Since I’m the boss, I’m sending treats to their homes (having cleverly taken notes on food/drinks preferences throughout the year) and we’ll do a quick “cheers” and best wishes for the new year. Oh, and I’ll be direct depositing bonuses (because we crushed our goals) so they get that and a few extra days of PTO to use at their discretion.

    1. RJ*

      Applause to you for being a boss who knows how to properly thank their staff. No wonder they’ve crushed their goals.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I did something similar last year when Omicron was surging – it was very successful.

      This year people seem to want a party. Sigh.

    3. Llama face!*

      Can I come work for you? ;) I’m only half joking- I will need a job come next fall when I finish my schooling and permanent remote work is on my wishlist. You sound like a great boss!

  20. Janeric*

    This is not strictly relevant, but the engineering department at my last job had a holiday gift tradition of everyone bringing in a $15 gift card, putting the gift cards in a big bowl, and then everyone drawing one. After the drawing people are free to trade cards as they’d like. It was SO low drama as compared to the elaborate theatrics my section used, I love it.

    This is the same group who has a “bagel breakfast team-building activity” that is several boxes of bagels and schmears and beverages; feel free to stop by and chat with upper management or just take a bagel to your cube.

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

      On the surface, this sounds reasonable and I’m glad it was something you enjoyed, but the idea of swapping one $15 gift card for another $15 gift card is just Theater of the Absurd to me. I get it, that’s it’s the thought, or gift giving tradition, or whatnot, but last year I proposed to my small group of coworkers who usually do this sort of thing that we just take a $20 bill from our right pocket, stick it in our left pocket, wish each other a happy holiday and call it even. I’d always rather just have the cash. The others agreed.

      Bagels and schmear sounds great though!

      1. Julia*

        I’m imagining $15 gift cards to different stores. So you could trade a book store gift card for a movie theater gift card.

        1. Magenta+Sky*

          I’d end up with the one I brought, because it would be the only one for a place I shop at. Which is back to “what’s the point?”

  21. Quickbeam*

    A few years ago, my start up arm of a large company had a mandatory Christmas party. On a day with a severe blizzard. It was at an out of the way restaurant. I needed this job and in hindsight it helped fund my retirement.

    Anyhoo, my cube mate was terrified of driving in snow and her anxiety was through the roof when we left for the party. She honked at me as she made the turn off to go home, mouthing “I can’t do it”. She knew it would be an issue so she quit the next day for a remote position.

  22. PastaLover*

    The best (not just money or time off) gift I’ve gotten from a company was a gift card (I think $100-200) to a privately owned small business grocery shop that was down the street from the office. Some people used it to splurge on fancy charcuterie meats and cheeses, or on potted plants at their greenhouse, or on lunches at their café/deli which sold excellent coffees, soups and sandwiches. It was also nice because if you wanted/needed to you could also just buy regular grocery products there (at reasonable prices) and it was supporting a local small business.

  23. Aggretsuko*

    I have two mandatory eating parties (breakfast ones) for work, so….I just have to suck it up. I’ve given up on fighting the indoor eating battle these days (especially in winter) because you just can’t win that one. At least one of the venues has a good air filter in there, I can’t speak to the public restaurant one. I have the mask on except for actual food consumption, as did a few other people at the last mandatory eating party.

    I would tell OP to keep the mask on and not eat or drink for hours, but I don’t know if her work would throw shit fits over that.

  24. Lucy P*

    This reminds me of a headline I saw the other day: “No, you don’t have to be “fun” at work, French court rules”. It was a good bit different in that the case was about work parties that involved promiscuity and excessive alcoholism.

    Still, we shouldn’t have to go to work parties because the powers that be will feel better just ’cause we’re there.

    1. Magenta+Sky*

      That particular case was a lot more extreme than “you have to be fun at work.” The employer in question was a stereotype of “party bro” types, and the events in question were drunken – *very* drunken – parties with sexual overtones. In some US states, it could have ended with criminal charges.

    2. Plumeria*

      Took me a bit to parse that correctly. I was wondering if “French court rules” was some kind of shorthand for Louis XIV style fetes.

  25. Alice*

    OP, I hope that your health and your mom’s health remain good through the holiday season. And I even hope that your colleagues don’t get sick (although it took a moment of deep breathing exercises before I could reach that sentiment) even though they are jerks. Good luck.

  26. Flash Packet*

    My company, my department, and my “sibling” departments (different areas of accounting and finance) are all having holiday events this week, weekend, and next week.

    I will be attending just the one for my immediate department. We’re doing Painting With a Twist and then lunch at a Tex-Mex restaurant.

    I will be doing the same thing I’ve done since people started returning to the office, complete with Team Lunches at a restaurant: Wear an N95 mask the entire time I am indoors and get my food to go. I get to enjoy everyone’s company without breathing in their lung juice. Win-win.

    1. allathian*

      Advantages of living in a climate that’s hot enough to eat outdoors year round. Not an option for me, I’m afraid, as we usually have snow/slush/freezing conditions from about late November/early December to late April. Normally it’s comfortable enough to eat outdoors from about early June to mid-September, depending on your temperature tolerances. It’s very rarely too *hot* to eat outdoors, at least if you sit in the shade.

      We were very lucky to have an unusually mild fall season in 2020, when it was warm enough to sit outdoors and eat or at least have a cup of hot coffee in late October, which is what I did then with my parents and in-laws, when none of us were comfortable eating indoors except with immediate family members.

      I’ve lost count of the number of vaccinations my elderly relatives have had, and all of them are comfortable eating indoors, so that’s what we do. All of them have also managed to avoid getting Covid so far. Granted, neither my in-laws nor my parents eat indoors in public spaces, just at home with people who have had all the shots our health authorities recommend for their respective age groups (3 for my husband and me, 2 for our son), and who only visit when all of us are symptom free.

      1. Indoor Cat*

        Flash Packet didn’t say anything about eating outdoors, though. Not sure where you’re getting that. Getting your food to go just means you’re not eating it at the restaurant, not that you’re sitting outside chowing down.

  27. Copyright Economist*

    My government department (Canada) is having a virtual holiday party with lunch and games. It is not mandatory. I’m a little surprised that other places are mandating in-person parties; it just seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  28. You're Darn Right I'm Employee of the Quarter*

    We have a holiday luncheon at my work next week, during normal business hours. It is “mandatory” in the sense that if you are not there, you are expected to be either actively working or using vacation/sick time. In other words, you cannot just skip the party and go home since no one else is working either. But at least there are options if you do not want to attend for whatever reason.

  29. eeeek*

    Oh, my. If I were required to attend a holiday party against my express needs, I would be very tempted to use a sharpie to annotate my mask: “I am required by my employer to be here. I am not required to eat, drink, or have ‘fun’ while I am here.” I am very good at scowling from a corner.

    1. allathian*

      Malicious compliance FTW. That said, an employer that’s stupid enough to require attendance at a holiday party is likely to write up someone for that for “not being a team player”…

  30. Anon+for+This*

    For many years, my old company used to give out birthday gifts. We always waited for the first birthday of the year to see what the gift would be. One year it was a nice throw, another year a first aid kit (the good kind that come in a metal box).

    Since we all got the same “gift of the year” they were never items of clothing or anything but neutral, practical items.

  31. lilsheba*

    We are dealing with something similar. My husband’s work (he works in a warehouse) is having their first holiday potluck since the pandemic started. We both had covid last January which wasn’t fun but made for a couple of weeks of hell with congestion and no energy. Then 3 weeks ago we both got RSV. Which in my case is worse, I’m having the worst congestion of my life and I had to go on prednisone to get this to start healing up finally. Because of that I really don’t want to get sick again and I am immuno compromised anyway due to several factors. I’ve asked my husband not to participate in this, with all those people around breathing and touching everything and no masks or gloves? NO. I do NOT want to get this illness again. Luckily it’s not mandatory because really that’s kind of nuts. There is some talk of having people use gloves at least which is good but there is still the masking issue.

  32. Nate*

    Regarding the second-to-last one at the link (about a coworker getting OP a gift), if the coworker DOES expect a gift in return, I’d just say “I’m sorry, but I don’t have a large gift-buying budget and I need to save it for my family. If you’d rather not get me a gift then, I’d understand.”

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