my boss loves planning an elaborate holiday extravaganza … we all hate it

A reader writes:

We’re in a small office—about 15 people—scattered across the country, even though half are in one city and work from the main office. Those who work remotely come to the main office about once every six weeks, which works great because it allows for several days of in-person meetings, conversations, “whole office” meetings, etc. … except in December.

For years, our boss has spent hours, if not days, planning a long, elaborate holiday event for when we’re all together. Think getting to the office for breakfast together at 8 a.m., before leaving for some multihour “fun” team-building (hikes through the woods, escape rooms, arts and crafts, etc.), then a team lunch, then more team-building, sitting around in a big circle to open gifts, capped off by a holiday dinner. It’s exhausting, no one seems to really care, and even though everyone gets along fine, we’re coworkers and it’s A Lot. The boss loves this though—the activities are always things she enjoys—and hasn’t reacted well (snipping and pouting) when several people pushed back slightly a couple of years ago! We were all thinking 2020 would break the cycle but nope! Everything was just held outside.

Is it like getting an ugly sweater from your grandmother that you just have to try on, smile, thank her, and grin and bear it? Are we just stuck? Banning together doesn’t seem possible with this group and the boss pouts when she doesn’t get her way. Plans are already underway for this year’s Forced Fun and we’re all dreading it.

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

  • Giving alcohol to some of my direct reports but not others
  • We have to pay $75 to attend our holiday party
  • Employee’s vacation would block other people from taking time off
  • Giving gifts to your managers when they’re volunteers
  • Employers that close for two weeks over the holidays

You can read it here.

{ 170 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    Overthinking: We get the week between Christmas and New Years off because it’s ridiculously slow. We still get all the other major holidays and plenty of PTO and medical time.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I’ve seen this run the gamut, but I’ve never seen that this is the only two weeks staff ever gets off – that would really be outside the norm. I’ve seen:
      1) staff gets the two weeks off as vacation, and the rest of the PTO allotment is on the skimpy side (standard two weeks, or worse, two weeks combined PTO which I don’t consider generous but is a bit balanced out by the holiday leave).
      2) office is “closed” over the holidays but staff isn’t paid for that time – this stinks so I’m glad OP already knows that’s not the case here.
      3) office has otherwise normal/good PTO and the holidays is just an extra nice topper, which I hope is what OP gets.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Have seen a 4th iteration:

        Fairly skimpy overall PTO plus a two or three week Christmas shutdown. Early 00s for reference of timeframe.

        It was very quickly passed along to new hourly hires that you made certain to USE UP every second of your PTO by 11/30. You made sure you stashed OT pay worth a week’s base pay (trust me it was NOT an issue, you’d cover this by the third week of January typically) by then, plus whatever you wanted for the difference between unemployment max and your typical weekly pay. You filed for unemployment and got 2 of the 3 weeks at least partially covered. Completely permissible under our state’s rules.

        I happened to work someplace with option 3, husband had option 4. We typically had a VERY very VERY relaxing December.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Agreed from a financial perspective and having to figure out THAT much planning in early adulthood.

            Always gave props to the more experienced employees who made sure that new hires knew the best ways to handle this that they’d figured out instead of letting them flounder.

            The employer was the least crappy option in an area that was in a painful transition from manufacturing to service work. We’ve since left.

            1. Sloanicota*

              No employer should be expecting employees to use unemployment to stay afloat. That’s literally having all of society subsidize your crappy business practices. Apart from the fact that unemployment is not at all easy to navigate.

        1. KatEnigma*

          Yes. We had mandatory shut down that (even with union negotiations!) you had to use PTO for. Sometimes 2 weeks- one in December/January and another in July. New hires had 10 days PTO, and when you didn’t have PTO left when shut down rolled around, you filed for unemployment. This was also early 2000’s and HIGH UP on Fortune 100.

          Yes, everyone used up PTO by July 1. But we had a guarantee that the company would supplement to 95% of our pay for any weeks we took unemployment, so it wasn’t terrible, and paid Holidays were scattered throughout the year and not your typical 10. We also were paid well and most people didn’t suffer by losing the “waiting week”

        2. Rara Avis*

          Wow, my husband had to defend taking unemployment over the summer. He had a long-term sub gig that ended in June. The school didn’t hire him full-time, so he searched for a permanent job and didn’t find one. The school called him in the fall, needing subs — and the state tried to deny his unemployment on the grounds that he went back to the same school district and teachers shouldn’t expect to get paid over the summer. (Never mind that subs have hourly pay and no benefits, so he had nothing to tide him over the summer, and was actively job hunting during that time.)

          1. Turtlewings*

            “teachers shouldn’t expect to get paid over the summer” — um, what? I don’t think it was *required,* but every teacher I’ve ever known (including my sister and all her friends) opted to have their pay spread out to cover the summer so that they weren’t, y’know, left without income for months at a time. What a weird thing for them to say.

            1. K*

              I think they were saying if you had opted to only get paid during the school year (and therefore had a larger paycheck each month than teachers who opted for year-round pay – but in the end equal the same annual pay), that you shouldn’t be trying to get unemployment over the summer. Not the case for the poster here, but I could see that being their first assumption.

      2. Medusa*

        My previous (garbage) employer gave us a week off between Christmas and New Years and used that to justify taking away every SINGLE holiday after Easter

    2. Momma Bear*

      I agree. OP, see what they offer re: PTO, paid holidays, etc. Some companies that do this consider it a paid holiday like Thanksgiving Day and it doesn’t count against you.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Same. We’re technically “on call” that week in case something comes up, but all that means is you need to be in the city and reachable by phone.

    4. Love+to+WFH*

      Apple’s PTO number sounds decent, until you realize that they might shut down for Thanksgiving and then will for 2 weeks in December, and you have hardly any PTO left to use when _you_ want to use it.

    5. mcm*

      I think it’s a lot of companies’ response to the “everyone wants to take PTO during this time of year” problem that another of the LWs has. At least on our end, our company decided that the kindest way to resolve the “who gets the time off” question was to tell clients that we are not providing coverage that week (obviously not possible in all industries, but maybe more possible than you think — it is usually a super slow time of year anyway!). Saves managers a ton of headache, and definitely generates some employee goodwill.

    1. Gracely*

      Pizza delivery? With supplemental salad or gluten free pizza for possible dietary issues? Not ideal, but maybe better than nothing?

      But really, don’t sweat it. End of semester is bonkers.

      1. Momma Bear*

        To be honest, something simple like pizza and seasonal cookies would go over well here. Free food is free food.

    2. Nesprin*

      Bless you.
      I have no less than 5 holiday parties I’m expected to attend in December (group, dept, section, division, whole institution) and I am less than thrilled with other groups who’ve decided that they need to add more events.

  2. Former+Young+Lady*

    Irate: Charging nonprofit staff and their partners $75 a head to attend the company holiday party is plain tacky. You throw the party you can afford to have; you don’t guilt-trip guests into funding your vision for you. (People with “clever” ideas about billing your wedding guests for their meals, this applies to the social realm as well.)

      1. Sloanicota*

        Cash bar doesn’t seem unreasonable to me for a nonprofit holiday party (especially during daytime) because in theory you don’t HAVE to drink – and that bar tab really adds up. Cash bar PLUS party ticket charge is really nuts tho.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          It also might help mitigate overdrinking (as we saw in the holiday party stories, drink tickets are good in theory but they can backfire)

        2. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I’d understand a cash bar at a place with no party ticket charge. If I’m being charged for my ticket I’d be irritated though. Don’t throw a bougie party if you can’t afford one. Do a small catered lunch or give everyone a few bonus hours of PTO and call it good.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Yep. I’ve had coworkers strongly opine that people should pay for their own alcohol, because otherwise non-drinkers (including pregnant or medicated people, people of certain religions, and people who have addictions) are subsidizing the drinkers. Although it didn’t immediately match my expectations of hospitality, and I do enjoy a festive cocktail, I was no longer annoyed by dry parties after that.

            1. John*

              I mean, that’s true of a huge number of things in the workplace and in society. Childfree people/people who aren’t having kids yet are massively subsidizing employees with children. People who eat less would be subsidizing people who eat more at the party, etc.
              It seems like a really petty thing to pick on.

              1. Tom*

                And the child free will be supported in their old age by the tax dollars of the children of those who chose to have said children.

          2. ferrina*

            Yep, I’m in this camp. I have no problem paying for alcohol at an otherwise free event, because that can add up fast for the host. Sometimes it’s either that of no alcohol at all. But if I’m paying, I get annoyed when they start coming up with new charges (also applies to airlines)

              1. Sloanicota*

                To be fair, having organized nonprofit events as fundraisers, it’s astonishing how fast the tab ends up in my expensive area if you rent exclusive use of any space, serve food, and need to have a bartender staffing (which is what you’re supposed to do if drinks are being served). Like with weddings, there’s sort of a premium on December office events around here and even if you try to be cheap, it gets pricey fast. But if you’re a nonprofit without a budget for a holiday party, just – don’t do any of these things!! You can’t afford it. Don’t try to offload it onto staff.

          3. Selina Luna*

            I work in a school in the United States. It would be truly weird to have alcohol at a work social for me. Indeed, I feel lucky because the staff luncheon is on a regular work-day, so we can leave with the kids on the last day before break. We have to get our animals vaccinated, so it works out well.

            1. Irish Teacher*

              This is so different from my experience. As a teacher in Ireland, I have never been to a work event that did not involve alcohol (unless you count the lunch time celebrations we have for people’s birthdays, etc). As I mentioned below, a colleague even brought in wine for everybody as a gift one time. And our Christmas and end-of-year parties are always to venues that involve drinking.

              Of course, the events aren’t organised or funded by the school, though it’s not unusual for the school to pay for a drink per person or something like that.

              Heck, the school I did my student teaching in had one particular teacher who would always argue for having the party in a city about 20 miles from the town he worked in, so he could get ridiculously drunk without much risk of being seen by any of the students. For the end of year party, there was a general attitude of “I’m not travelling 20 miles just so he can get drunk.”

              What is meant by a “staff Christmas party” really seems to differ by company, field, etc. I find all the experiences really interesting.

            2. Sloanicota*

              Yeah I’ve been very grateful to past orgs who have held the holiday party either over the regular workday lunch period or, even better, starting at 3 or something, with the option to leave at your normal time if you like.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I did a variant of the cash bar at my wedding – I paid for beer and wine, but not for liquor. If you had to do shots at a wedding reception, you were going to have to pay for it yourself.

        It also cut down on the number of shots done (and there were no really crazy drunk stories) at the reception. The after party at a nearby bar that I skipped, was apparently a whole nother story however.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Agreed (especially for nonprofit employees!). I’ve worked in nonprofits my entire career and they’ve never charged us for our holiday parties. Have some of them been staff only? Sure. Have some just been lunch during work hours? Absolutely! But I’d rather a simple, low-key party provided by the company to a fancy one I have to pay for.

      1. Smithy*

        Yeah – the “bad” nonprofit party can have its own charm in a way. Essentially a case where you’re just sympathetic to the team that had to plan a party with with an empty conference room and used swag and materials from events from the past 5 years. And sometimes amused with what they came up with.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I agree on the charm! Not to get religious on main, but the original spirit of the season was explicitly NOT about lux accommodations and swanky food, it was about making do with a weird setting and everybody chipping in.

          1. Smithy*

            The most popular “party” at my last nonprofit was a 4:30pm “Helps the Events Team Clean Their Closet”.

            They’d hold events with assorted swag, food, and alcohol – so in addition to people deciding if they wanted whatever lotion or key chains might be left over, there was also the game of “is this beer skunked/has the wine turned to vinegar”?

            We really can be an easy group to please provided attendance isn’t mandatory, the overall vibe is low key, and there’s a chance of going home with a string bracelet with branding two logos ago.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah that’s weird. That’s the cost of our nonprofit fundraising ticket, not an event you in theory *want* your staff to attend as a thank-you/morale booster. The wires have been crossed here. Even a small office budget for a few six packs for a party that’s held in the breakroom with potluck food would be better for the traditional purpose of a holiday party, which is celebrating together and building team cohesion.

    3. OP "Irate"*

      Word! This is my exact feeling. I’m glad the couple of replies I’ve seen so far agree with me. I truly felt insane when I saw the email go out. I sent Alison this question maybe a month ago–in the intervening time, my organization canceled the party because they could not get “critical mass” (40 people) to attend. Sad. (I wasn’t going to go!)

      I’m trying to stay pretty much anonymous, but we are teachers at a private school. Ain’t nobody got $150 to attend a work holiday party.

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        Yeah, they’d have to pay me $150 to go. Me paying them for the privilege of staying around work people even longer than my normal workday? Nah.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Hopefully they’ll realize they couldn’t get critical mass because of the ticket price and they’ll scale back next year!

      3. Momma Bear*

        Gee, I wonder why they couldn’t even get 40 people….

        COVID was rough on a lot of companies and we downsized to a catered lunch vs a hotel dinner extravaganza. Which is fine with me. Unless I really thought my job hinged on attending, I’d just decline. Especially for people who need to factor in a hotel or childcare, that’s too much and certainly not a gift. They really need to think about optics and understand their audience.

        Re the cash bar others were talking about, I’m OK with that, or if they give drink tickets and beyond that you’re on your own. We used to do beer and wine only but if you wanted shots you could pay yourself.

      4. Cascadia*

        I am a teacher at a private school! Our PGA puts on a little holiday party for us – it’s after school, in the cafeteria, and there’s a buffet of appetizers and then the most amazing cookie buffet. They provide boxes and we are encouraged to take cookies home with us! It’s very casual and a nice little gathering.

      5. MEH Squared*

        I’d be irate right there with you, OP. This is ridiculous and no wonder they didn’t reach critical mass. Critical MESS, more like! What utter gall of your administration.

      6. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Wow, the audacity of your school to charge y’all for your holiday party, that’s just awful. Honestly, why throw a big deal holiday at all for a group of teachers? Just have holiday-themed snacks available in the break room or something like that, sheesh. Thanks for the update that they cancelled it – that is the best update that this story could have received.

        1. tessa*

          “…why throw a big deal holiday at all for a group of teachers? Just have holiday-themed snacks available in the break room or something like that, sheesh.”

          Seriously? I mean, yeah, no one should have to pay, but is the ‘why’ a serious question? Is there something about their profession that teachers don’t deserve a holiday party beyond cheezits in the break room?

          1. AcademiaNut*

            I work in a government job, and we’d have to bring our own cheezits, because my employer is legally prohibited from providing food for internal events.

      7. Chirpy*

        Yeah, when I worked at nonprofits, we just did a potluck lunch or went out for a nice lunch paid for by the director (depending on the year/job). The one time we had an actual party, it was at the office manager’s house.

      8. different seudonym*

        OMG. Honestly, if you were some kind of grants administrator with an obvious career ladder, and therefore a need for networky BS, then maaaaaaaaaaybe. But PRIVATE-SCHOOL TEACHERS? That is beyond gross and out of touch.

      9. Tin Cormorant*

        This is the first I’ve even *heard of* a company charging employees money to attend the holiday party. But then, maybe it’s more common in other industries? I’ve always worked in tech, where having a swanky holiday party is the company’s way of showing off how successful the company is. My favorite so far was the time my company rented out an entire very modern science museum and we got to eat sushi while watching tropical fish swim around in the aquarium section, among various other activities going on in the other parts of the museum.

        I’d hesitate to pay $150 for my husband and I to attend *any* event, let alone a company party that I’m expecting to be free as a way to thank the employees for working so hard.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          It’s very common in things like education, government and non-profits, where there either isn’t the budget to pay for it, or the employer is legally prohibited from paying for it. The first two tend to fall under the idea that any sort of perk for government employees is a mis-use of taxpayers funds (literally, I’ve worked at or visited places on three continents where they weren’t allowed to provide free coffee to employees). For non-profits, spending money on a party isn’t necessarily legally prohibited, but is often seen as a waste of donor money, because it’s not going to programs.

      10. Goldenrod*

        Literally the only way that I would pay $75 to go to a work event is if it were being held at the Obama White House with musical guest Jon Batiste.

      11. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        “…my organization canceled the party because they could not get ‘critical mass’ (40 people) to attend.”

        Gee whiz, I can’t imagine why they couldn’t get enough people to attend! Who would have ever imagined they wouldn’t all jump at the chance? /heavy sarcasm

        Seriously, I hope they learned something from this and decide to handle things a different way next year.

        I know if I was ever told I’d have to pay $75 to attend a company party ($150 if I wanted to bring my spousal unit!), I would definitely not attend, and I would NOT apologize for declining. Because that is utterly absurd.

      12. AbruptPenguin*

        Yeah, that’s ridiculous. Why would I pay to attend a party with coworkers in my free time? Even if it would be fun, it’s still a work activity and should be covered by the employer. I worked at a nonprofit that strongly encouraged employee attendance at the annual fundraising dinner, but we had to buy our own tickets (at a special “staff” rate). I thought that was pretty galling for an organization that badly underpaid us.

    4. BasketcaseNZ*

      I’m working in banking, as a contractor.
      For my wider team Christmas function, permanent staff get to attend free. Contractors have to pay $75.
      I don’t even know what that would cover. Like, there was genuinely no information about what food or drinks might be included in the cover charge.
      Even better, the party is organised by the EA to the head of the group celebrating together. At the bar her husband owns.

    5. Jay*

      This gives me strong “Keeping Out The Riff Raff” vibes.
      I’ve known a few people who have worked at some of the mass of private schools that have sprung up in the past couple of decades for political and ideological reasons and most of the people working there make almost nothing, in fact they often do worse even than most PUBLIC school teachers. But there were always a few members of the “management” team that were making bank. Looks like they are planning to have the upper crust of the school along with some VIP’s with the actually faculty priced out.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Don’t pay money to go to a party, especially not one that’s supposed to celebrate you. That’s tacky.

    I don’t care if your employer is a nonprofit. If they can’t afford a party, then don’t have one. Don’t make your staff pay.

  4. Jennifer Strange*

    I’m of the opinion that if your organization is making you pay to attend a party, then it’s 100% optional for everyone. (Granted, I think it should be 100% optional even if attendees don’t have to pay to attend)

    1. OP "Irate"*

      To my organization’s credit (something I don’t type super often) the party is definitely optional. They ended up canceling because they couldn’t get enough people to buy the tickets. (I was not going to go for that price). Had it been free attendance, with a cash bar, I would have gone!

  5. Elle*

    I worked in a non profit that would not pay for a holiday party but allowed the staff to plan one anyway. Several years ago it would have cost me over $150 dollars to go, plus drive two hours and a cash bar. I never went but many people did go.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Strange. I guess I’m aware of outside-of-work staff activities where coworkers went to do an activity together but it was completely optional and not work sponsored. I would not pay any amount of money to attend a staff holiday party. I usually have to talk myself into going even though it’s free!

      1. Elle*

        It was a very dysfunctional office with hands off management. They didn’t see a problem with it even though a number of employees did not have a lot of money.

  6. Sloanicota*

    I thought the first one about the all-day extravaganza was a bit off – in my org, that’s our annual retreat, which is pretty bog standard in my experience. No, nobody enjoys it, but it’s still a “thing” and it doesn’t seem egregious to hold it in December and add a holiday lunch component, although typically ours are usually in the Fall. That letter didn’t ruffle my feathers like the one with the $75 ticket.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Sometimes the reason your coworkers are unwilling to push back as a group with you is that they don’t really mind the thing. At least not enough to spend any personal capital on it.

    2. Clefairy*

      Yeah, agreed. I actually think that sounds super fun and would look forward to it, but I’m also a major extrovert

    3. to varying degrees*

      Yeah, I mean most of it isn’t my sort of thing (I’m not known for my physical activity interest) but if my boss wants use/waste work time and my salary to do stuff like that, more power to her.

    4. chocolate lover*

      My team’s “retreat” (gotta love the way higher ed throws that term around) is next week and I’m trying to fortify myself. I like my coworkers but the all-day thing is exhausting. But thankfully it doesn’t include things like hikes! There have been “paint night” and bowling, which I enjoyed from the sidelines. I did get into an argument with a colleague one year when they started suggesting things like rope courses and trust falls and I flat out refused to do any activity that forced me to touch people or be touched by them. If I don’t already trust you as a colleague to get their work done, no fall/catch me event is going to make me trust you.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Agree – there are known issues with physical stuff on retreats because people of different abilities are protected under labor laws. But it seemed like OP’s main objection was the amount of fuss and the time wasted, and it didn’t seem out of the usual to me.

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Ohhhhh, no, trust falls are never a good idea among any people who are not the closest of close people. And I think they are actually really difficult to pull off, IIRC, so IMO they should only be performed by those who really know how to catch other people or fall in such a way as that they can be easily caught by someone else.

    5. ferrina*

      I don’t mind the annual retreat, even multi-day ones. But this isn’t really a retreat- a retreat usually has a work and information component, and you can duck out at certain points (optional activities, or because you have to work or “work”). But LW’s organization is so small that without built in breaks, any absence would be noted. Being in holiday mode for 10-12 hours is TOO MUCH. And for many people, being around even nice coworkers for 10-12 hours is too much.

    6. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I dunno, it seems like spending all day doing non-work stuff would be pretty frustrating if no one were into it except the person planning it. OP doesn’t mention that they find it stressful to be away from their work for the entire day but I’m wondering if they (OP and coworkers alike) can use that as an excuse to back out of the activities they’re not interested in. “Oh, I just received an email about the Smithers account, I really need to tackle that asap so I will have to back out of the hike through the woods, thanks anyway. I’ll see you at the soapmaking workshop.” Or could they also legitimately back out of the events they don’t want to do and just go to some of them, like, “I have found that I’m really not into soapmaking but I’ll join you for pin the tail on the llama” or whatever. I was going to suggest using a medical excuse like “I’m unable to hike outside in December because I have arthritis that is extremely aggravated by the cold” but I don’t think anyone should have to give any medical reason for not doing something, no is a full sentence.

      This all depends on how much the person is willing to weather the boss’ sulking, though.

      1. Sloanicota*

        -spending all day doing non-work stuff
        This is fascinating to me – all my jobs have had at least one day of garbage-y team building type junk, and some have had an overnight retreat, some with a little strategic planning type activity but mostly pure time wasting crud. I thought this was standard, like the annual skills-building conference that you don’t learn much at after the first time but causes all the inconvenience of work travel with no benefit. Yes, I am in nonprofit.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          My non-profit also has days like that but at least the skills-building conference and strategic planning days are ostensibly work-related. I personally find the strategic planning days to be mostly useless to me because I just do what I’m told and don’t have a whole lot of say in any of the planning nor do I honestly care what the plans are but since in theory I should care what the plans are I attend and don’t complain (much). I would probably feel otherwise if it were an activity that had nothing to do with our mission; we actually had a team-building exercise totally unrelated to our mission and I wasn’t thrilled with the idea and a few others also were not. But it was only a couple of hours one afternoon so I went and had an ok time. I would have been a LOT less thrilled if it had been an all-day affair.

        2. Russian in Texas*

          I have never worked in a job that did that. It’s a completely foreign thing to me.
          In my 20 years of working in an office type jobs I have never ones traveled for business, attended a conference, had a strategic planning meeting, or had a retreat.
          The most I’ve ever had was maybe 3 hours of some kind of training for a new software or something, done in a conference room.

    7. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      My feathers weren’t ruffled, I just had nightmares trying to imagine being ‘ on’ for an entire day, no breaks.

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

      I hate the retreat/holiday party combo — I don’t want to attend a “holiday” lunch ever (not my holiday, not my observance) but when it’s fraudulently passed off as the annual retreat, I have no option to avoid it. I guess I could demand that no decor, songs, gifts, etc. be included in the retreat, or make a show of leaving the room when it inevitably occurs, but it would just be better to have 2 separate events.

  7. Purple Cat*

    The people on the open thread complaining the company won’t pay for babysitters should be happy they don’t work for the company that straight-up charges for attendance.

  8. Forced vacation*

    Overthinking: I work at a government contractor of roughly 10,000 employees. We are closed for a week at Christmas and are in fact required to use vacation for it. Folks tend to be pretty salty about that. Overall it’s a good place to work though.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah that’s annoying because it’s not like that’s everybody’s holiday period. Especially crappy for the government.

      1. Captain Swan*

        I think Forced Vacation is a government contractor not an actual government employee which ate not the same thing.

        Still cruddy that they must use a week of leave between Christmas and New Years.

    2. EPlawyer*

      If you have 2 weeks vacation but one of them must be used between Christmas and New Year’s, you only have 1 week vacation.

      1. Bee*

        This was my situation at my last company, and I didn’t love it! My boss wasn’t very strict about that being 10 days, at least – if I wanted to take a Friday off here and there, that was fine, and the “week” between Christmas and New Year’s often looked more like a week and a half.

      2. Lucy P*

        We’re closed the day after Thanksgiving and people have to use vacation for that. Then we’re closed between Christmas and New Year’s, and people have to use 2-3 days of vacation depending on what days of the week things fall on. Strangely, more people complain more about the day after Thanksgiving than they do about the end of the year days. We only get 2 weeks of PTO a year.

        1. Miss Muffet*

          When I’ve worked at hospitals that make you use your PTO for major holidays, this end of the year is BRUTAL. You have to make sure you have banked days for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and MLK. And if you have a low years of service, you’re barely earning more than what you need to save for the holidays (and not enough to cover that many holidays in a short period of time). But being in admin, not front-line-care, I didn’t have a choice about working on those days. The office was essentially closed but we had to use PTO. I hated that system.

    3. yala*

      Depending on our type of employment, some of us have to use our leave for about half of the 2-week Christmas vacation. Basically, whatever isn’t a state holiday, but is still a day where the campus itself is closed.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Well, lots of places I’ve worked have only offered Christmas day as a holiday – if you want to take any more time off during that period, that’s what your (presumably available, hopefully generous) PTO is for. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. I’ve also worked a few places that do this where you only get two weeks leave total, so if you want to take the week of Christmas, you only have one other week for the whole rest of the year, which I do not consider generous.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I do say this aware that there are plenty of jobs offer no paid leave of any type, which I think should be illegal.

        2. Bee*

          Yeah, I currently get Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, which meant my first year here when I didn’t have much leave I was working until 6PM on New Year’s Eve. (I can’t say that was a terribly productive day!)

          1. Sloanicota*

            Oh yeah you’re right of course, NY’s day is also a pretty standard holiday. And I think even the time I had to work that week, we may have gotten early dismissal on Christmas Eve/NY Eve – and hopefully there’s some weekend days in there – so it wasn’t awful. It would feel different if my jobs actually required the coverage, like if I was at a hospital or something, but it did feel kind of stupid just sitting at my desk re-reading old emails while the automatic lights kept turning off.

        3. ferrina*

          Yep, plenty of places I’ve worked did this, and I found this pretty reasonable. I was someone that liked working around the holidays, so this suited me really well.

          The last couple places have done even better- one would de facto close for a week without charging vacation. The manager would just tell you not to show up, and they’d make sure there was no work to do during that week (a practice I fully embraced when I became a manager).
          My current place just closes for that week, no vacation charged. It’s amazing

        4. ForcedPTO*

          Yes, no one is arguing about that. If someone chooses to take extra time off that’s their choice. The issue is when the company says you have to take the extra time off and use your limited PTO to do so whether you want to do that or not. It’s pretty crummy, especially for folks who don’t celebrate Christmas and who would prefer to take time off at other times of the year.

    4. Combinatorialist*

      My current job (government-adjacent) rounds up all the random holidays and moves them to the week between Christmas and New Years. So we don’t get President’s Day etc but we get the week of winter shutdown without using vacation. With manager’s approval, you can actually work that week and bank the holiday time for another day (or it even pays out once a year).

      However, our contractors can’t really work that week (because almost all of the people they work with our gone) and their companies don’t give them the time off. So they have to use vacation or not get paid.

    5. SpaceySteph*

      As a non-Christian, having to spend a week PTO on someone else’s holiday and not having enough leave for my own holidays would make me very salty indeed.

      When I worked for a large government contractor years ago, the week between Christmas and New Years was a paid week off (not PTO) but in trade we didn’t get 4 “lesser” federal holidays off, so we worked while our government customers in the same office were off and we were all kind of salty about that too.

    6. Tupac Coachella*

      My employer does something similar. People complained about having to use PTO when the office is closed. They tried staying open to allow people who didn’t want to use their PTO to work instead. Then people complained about feeling pressured to work even though we’re painfully slow that week (and for some people it was more than pressure, if we’re open someone has to be in their offices, even if no traffic is expected). I get the impression that they do it one way for a few years until people grumble enough, then switch it and repeat. It’s enough of a Thing that I’d been warned to save up some PTO within my first few weeks of working here, and I started in a summer. As of this year, about half of the closure is falls on paid holiday days and the other half requires PTO. Luckily we have a generous full time PTO policy, but I know our part timers and newer employees struggle with it sometimes.

    7. Laura1234*

      Yeah, that’s pretty bad. If I want to take time off at the end of the year, I want to take it the days I want, not just the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I’d much rather use my PTO in the summer when it’s warm.

  9. Rayray*

    I would never go to a company party that I had to pay for. I don’t even like after-hour work parties that much anyway even when it’s paid for me and a +1. If the company can’t afford a party they shouldn’t have one.

  10. SallyForth*

    Re someone hogging time off during the holidays
    My sister was a nurse and their vacation time was based on seniority. Their unit was highly skilled and many people were up to 6-8 weeks of vacation. The people in the unit agreed to unofficially not take more than two weeks at times when younger nurses had kids with school holidays so everyone had time off with kids.

    The sign up sheet (on paper 20 years ago) went around and everyone stuck to the unofficial rule. Then it got to the mid range employees, which included a married couple. The husband took 4 weeks in July and the wife 4 weeks in August, virtually blocking out the last available summer weeks to the three nurses below them.

    Someone tried to explain to them that although everyone understood they didn’t want to pay daycare, this was grossly unfair. The couple started quoting the contract and said the unit’s rule couldn’t be enforced. So, someone took the calendar and ripped it up and said they needed to start over. The senior nurses took every Christmas, Spring Break, and summer week. Of course this meant there was nothing available for the couple when their kids were out of school. Then my sister said “Want to try again doing it our way?”

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        I love even more the person who ripped up the calendar. That’s an Aliens 2 Ripley move (with slightly less lethal antagonists).

    1. Person from the Resume*

      A wind for solidarity and pushing back as a group against the husband and wife coworkers.

    2. Momma Bear*

      Wow, that was awfully entitled of them. I hope they came to their senses. I bet these are the same people who take the whole pie.

      When I had a job where coverage was required, we all put in our holiday time to the manager by mid-October. Then if there were conflicts, we negotiated. It was rare that the manager had to step in, but we also had agreements among ourselves like if I have Christmas Eve, I don’t also take Boxing Day. After a few years we hired someone who didn’t celebrate Christmas so he worked that whole week. I made sure to cover for him at other times as a sign of appreciation.

    3. Sloanicota*

      Seniority is really tough in orgs where people have long tenure; it basically means some people will never ever get first choice, while others get exactly what they want year after year. It’s not my favorite system, particularly as the better paid people tend to stay longer than the poorest paid. I like your sister’s reaction, although I want to believe there are fairer systems where the rules are fair to all, clear, and not dependent on professional courtesy.

      1. doreen*

        That depends a lot on the details – in the places where I worked , it was rare for someone to never get high enough on the list to get their choice Almost everyone would eventually get first choice – the exceptions were people who left after a short time ( for that job – in some jobs, five years would have been a short time) .And it was never an issue of better paid people staying longer and having preference over lower paid people – the picks went by job title so it doesn’t matter that the Teapot Specialist 2 with the least seniority has more seniority than the most senior Teapot Specialist 1. Those are two separate seniority lists

    4. doreen*

      Something similar happened at a job of mine – due to coverage, only half of the staff could be out at a time. So there was an informal agreement that half could be out the week f Christmas and the other half the week of New Years. Picks were based on seniority and without that agreement, people with seniority could have taken both weeks. The dividing line was between two people who had been very close friends before this incident . Cheryl had more seniority and chose Christmas week meaning that Isabel, with slightly less seniority was the first of the people who had no choice and had to take New Years. Big fights between Cheryl and Isabelle, who had a baby that Cheryl was godmother to. Finally, the people with the most seniority told them they could either stop fighting or neither one of them would get the time off.

      1. Sloanicota*

        These stories really bum me out because the workplace should have incentivized people to come if they really needed and valued the coverage, not made employees battle it out because “someone has to do it.” I would definitely consider working holidays or parts of holidays for the right amount of overtime, but I’m not going to do it out of guilt alone.

        1. doreen*

          That’s not going to happen at most jobs that really require coverage. Sometimes people might get extra pay for the actual holiday but there are awful lot of jobs where people ought to expect to work holidays or holiday weeks – the people I was talking about had every legal holiday off all year ( there was a whole separate division that worked nights, weekends and holidays) and were fighting about who would get the entire week of Christmas off and who would get the entire week of New Years off . Both of which were weeks that only required using four vacation days.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Yeah I worked in a 24/7 coverage job and while the holiday itself received extra pay for all 3 shifts, the whole week did not. We also got a catered lunch for all 3 shifts on the day of Christmas and Thanksgiving, but nothing for the rest of the week.
            The worst was being on-call for those holidays though because you couldn’t travel or plan anything too big in case you ended up called in, but also didn’t really get the perks. My last year in that job I got called in at 1am on 12/24. Bleh.

  11. KHB*

    Flummoxed: Can you just ask your employee what kind of gift they’d appreciate? If they’re new and you haven’t had a chance to get to know them yet, just be open about that: “I like to get my team a little something for the holidays (no need to reciprocate, of course – gifts here flow down, not up), and a lot of my gifts tend to be adult-beverage-related. Do you have a drink of choice? If not, is there something else you’d like? I’d really like to be able to get you something you’d appreciate.”

    1. Flummoxed*

      There were two problems with that in my end

      1. I like it to be a surprise/I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations. I asked someone once and they answered with a $50 bottle when the budget I was working with was about half that.

      2. I don’t want this newer employee to feel pressured to come up with an alcoholic beverage if they don’t drink. Our office has a bit of a drinking culture (not in work, but frequent happy hours etc) so I don’t want him to feel like he has to join in or like he has to lie.

      1. KHB*

        On 1: Could you tweak my wording to make it clear that you’re asking for a class of beverage/other (like “craft beer” or “cocktails” or “red wines” or whatever), not a specific item? Then you can maintain at least some element of surprise, and also pick out something that’s within your budget.

        On 2: As a nondrinker myself, I’d be 100% comfortable saying “I don’t drink alcohol, but I love gourmet tea.” I guess there might be some nondrinkers in the world who are more self-conscious about navigating drinking culture – but this isn’t high school, where you have to worry about unduly peer-pressuring people to drink just to keep up with the cool kids. You should be able to trust grown-ups to say “no” to drinking if they don’t want to drink. (And I think my wording makes clear that “alcohol” and “something else” are both acceptable answers.)

      2. Ellen Ripley*

        Why don’t you say to your employee what you said here? Ask then if there’s someone they’d like for a gift, mention the budget, and that your other employees are getting X and Y alcohol gifts, but no need to feel limited to alcohol?

        I don’t think the fact that you like to surprise people should factor in here. It should be about giving your employee a gift that they want (and this is coming from someone who also loves to surprise people!).

        And this is only temporary, next year when you know this employee better you can likely give them a surprise gift.

        1. Ellen Ripley*

          Ask them if there’s something they’d like for a gift, mention the budget, and that your other employees are getting X and Y alcohol gifts, but no need to feel limited to alcohol.

          Fixed the typos.

    2. Goldenrod*

      My boss is awesome and also a non-drinker (he is in recovery). He just asked me flat out if I drank alcohol? When I said yes, he gave me a bottle of champagne for x-mas, which I loved.

      I really liked that he asked, even though I do drink – because I have friends who don’t, and I thought it was considerate to ask.

  12. Not really a Waitress*

    Forced Fun. Every year I make my kids get a picture with Santa. This started when they were babies. They are now 24, 22 and 19. Yesterday we went and got their picture with Santa. They did go through a phase in late elementary school/jr high when they pushed back but they realize in the grand scheme of things it was all I wanted, and it didn’t really cost them anything . Now we look back and talk about those days fondly. What they wore. What they told Santa they wanted. We met some introducing people in lines. They have learned to just humor mom.

    Overall, if you are happy with your workplace, and this is the one thing that just drives you nuts, is it worth it. Is your boss reasonable enough the rest of the year that you all can humor her for one day?

      1. MEH Squared*

        Agreed. Especially not with the physical activities component and it being all day long. That’s too much.

      2. Jedi Beth*

        Yeah, there’s a huge gap between forcing your kids to spend an hour getting a photo and forcing the adults whose paychecks you sign to spend a full day doing activities that they hate. Pretending the gap isn’t huge is even worse.

    1. Amber Rose*

      I would normally agree with you, but there’s not a force on earth that would get me to humor someone trying to force me to take hikes through the woods. It sounds like these team building exercises can be pretty physical, and that’s a pretty different story as far as humoring goes than a five minute photo.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Nod. If you grizzle at your brother because of too much togetherness and stimulation you can just apologize, but if coworkers fight about who got them lost in the forest it’s a lot more fraught

        2. Amber Rose*

          There’s that, but I think the point was more “can you endure this one day of annoyance for the sake of 364 days of keeping a good workplace/decent boss” and if it really was just a photo or a dinner or something, I’d say that’s a fair point. In terms of social currency, I could put up with pretending to like one annoying thing on one day a year for an otherwise great job and great boss.

          But this isn’t one annoying thing, it’s a full and exhausting day of things that sound honestly torturous.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        The whole thing screams emotional manipulation to me. I don’t want that in any section of my life.

        1. Gracely*

          For real. Family who try to do stuff like that are family I make excuses to not spend time with.

    2. ferrina*

      I get the principle, but there are nuances. My mom also made me do the Santa pictures, and it became a tradition of whining (while also helping mom find the place that had the best Santa that year). Some things are like that- little quirks that in the end, help you feel a part of something.

      The nuance is in what is a quirk and what is a burden. And you can’t always tell from the outside- there’s physical differences, neurological differences, historical associations, etc. that can turn a “minor” thing into a major issue. I’m ADHD, and I have awful memories about my mom scolding me about that “easy” thing that I just couldn’t do because my brain didn’t work like hers. And while you should be able to tell your mom about these things, you usually don’t want your boss to know (and your boss shouldn’t need to know).

      Making things opt-in instead of opt-out means that co-workers get to keep their privacy and not deal with something that is absolutely horrible for them. Will you have some people that would have enjoyed had they been made to go? Sure. But that’s not worth imposing on the people that would be harmed.

    3. SpaceySteph*

      This is an odd take especially for workplaces. Your kids were children and their wants, needs, and perspectives were going to change over time. The workplace in question is (presumably) full of grown adults who know what they like and what they don’t, who know their own energy levels and physical abilities, and who don’t owe anyone nostalgia. I can confidently say I will not look back on work holiday traditions fondly enough to warrant being forced into doing them. I also don’t owe my management any “humoring” them on a personal level.

    4. Nesprin*

      There is an enormous difference between your kids and your company’s employees.

      Humoring mom, who’ll be your mom for the rest of your life, is non-synonymous with humoring a boss who pays you for your work 23% of your week, 50 weeks a year, for typically 2-4 yrs.

    5. Modesty Poncho*

      Okay. My mom loves taking family photos even though all three of us kids really hate having to stop what we’re doing and find a stranger to take the picture for us, waiting around for mom to find someone, posing awkwardly, etc. I have bad associations with staged photos and I have none in my house, and don’t take pictures of myself very often. It never became a fun joke, and has always been and remains something we sigh about, something we put up with but know that our relationship could be so much better if our wishes about things like this could be respected.

      I get your point but this stuff doesn’t always work out and you can’t just assume it will, especially in a work context.

    6. Laura1234*

      Super weird to force your adult children to go see Santa. I hope they aren’t sitting on his lap, at least.

  13. Brain the Brian*

    Re holiday coverage: I also encourage the LW to set up a system that doesn’t force employees to choose *either* the week before or the week after Christmas. That forces anyone who wants to take a trip to be traveling *on* the holiday, which is a particularly miserable experience even if you’re not celebrating yourself. Instead, consider a system that allows people to sign up for time off *centered on* a holiday — or, perhaps, one that aligns with school breaks in your area.

    1. Samwise*

      Travelling on the holiday is often pretty good. If you’re flying, the tickets are cheaper, the airport is less busy, the airplane is less crowded.

      I mean, flying on Christmas when you celebrate Christmas can be rough emotionally, but otherwise it’s not miserable, in my experience.

      1. Meep*

        Back when my cousins were kids and my aunt and uncle were together, we would celebrate with my grandparents on Christmas Eve and they would fly out Christmas morning to see my cousins because it was cheap and easy. My grandmother was also more mobile. Now that they are scattered across the country and grown, it is my uncle and one or two of the girls flying in on Christmas Day.

    2. doreen*

      Maybe- Christmas and New Years are on Sundays this year and a lot of companies will observe the holidays on Monday so someone could take vacation the week before Christmas and fly back home on Monday or take the week after and travel Saturday. My guess is that what the LW actually means for years when Christmas is a weekday is either the M-F week that contains Christmas or the one that contains New Years.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Your point about this year’s unique schedule is well-taken. I think this is a further argument for a system that accounts for yearly variation in the holiday schedule and helps distribute holidays fairly.

    3. Laura1234*

      Yeah, traveling on the holiday is great. There were several years where I always flew home to visit my parents on Thanksgiving morning and it was great. Airfare was a little cheaper and there were fewer flights to the airport was emptier. Also, sometimes the airline gave us mini cheesecakes!

  14. Momma Bear*

    RE the all day thing, honestly I’d be emotionally exhausted from it. Starting with getting there at 8 to begin the holiday marathon. If it’s something where you can skip out part of the day, I would consider doing so. “I’m sorry, but I need to take my llama to the vet. I’ll probably be able to join you for lunch!”

  15. doreen*

    As far as the holiday party with the $75 tickets goes – this

    The company agrees we can have a holiday party if we (the workers) fund it. So in essence, they’re really not throwing one, right?

    makes a difference to me. It doesn’t seem the company is throwing the party and charging for tickets – it’s more like every party/bus trip I’ve seen at my government jobs which are planned and funded by the employees. It’s a little weird that the company would even mention a party that they aren’t funding but I suppose that could be because historically the company has thrown parties.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Yeah, this isn’t so much charging $75 as “if you want a party, you can organize it and this is what everyone will have to contribute, up to you.”

      1. Sloanicota*

        It sounded to me like one employee (or committee) had gone off the rails with their “dream bash” or something. I did once work at an org that had no holiday party and the coworkers usually gathered at a nearby watering hole around the holidays, where everybody bought their own drinks or bought one for a friend. It was totally optional. It cost nothing except what an individual chose to pay themselves. Who is planning a $75 ticket party??

        1. doreen*

          People at my job were known to plan parties with tickets as high as $90 and held in venues where people have weddings. With a DJ, and never on Friday or Saturday night as that costs more than a Wednesday or Thursday. They weren’t even always Christmas parties – some were retirement parties. People generally didn’t bring spouses/partners/plus ones no matter how much or how little the tickets cost. Oh, and pretty often it was the lowest paid people planning the party and therefore choosing how much it cost.

  16. cosmicgorilla*

    Wondering if the PTO questioner is applying for a job at my company as this is our exact set-up.

    Some days of that 2 week period are weekends, so not relevant.
    Some days of that 2 week period are company holidays, so do not count against your PTO balance.
    And then you do end up needing to take a few days of PTO. Usually 3.

    The whole 2 weeks off is really nice because you don’t come back to 10,000 emails and a lot of unfinished work. You can really take the 2 weeks off and not worry about what’s going on while you’re not there.

    I think our PTO policy is generous, and having to submit a few days doesn’t bother me, but I know it can be problematic for folks that do (or need to) make full use of their PTO days. I have sympathy for these folks. But I also think managers would work with you if you had a need to take some extra days.

    Sometimes they have decided certain countries need to close for longer, and that leads to more PTO days being taken. I’m not sure if that’s because of needing to get the PTO liability off the books? It doesn’t make those employees happy, which I definitely understand.

    1. Sloanicota*

      This seems totally normal to me, as long as the overall pool of PTO is at least two weeks. That’s just letting the employee choose how to prioritize their leave.

      1. cosmicgorilla*

        The problem comes because you don’t have a choice in how you use those 3 days. You’re given PTO, but then it’s taken right back from you. So were you “really” given those days to begin with?

        Then again, we do have 3 weeks of PTO days, plus a couple of floating holidays, plus time off for volunteering (which can include your kid’s school events)…

        1. Sloanicota*

          Ah, I see what you’re saying. The closure is mandatory, I missed that part; so you’re *required* to use leave, even though it’s only a small amount. You’re right, that’s not my preference.

          1. doreen*

            I think this is sort of a framing issue and I don’t understand why employers don’t see that. I worked at a college once- not an instructor. We got two weeks vacation and were paid for the three weeks the building was closed. Nobody minded- but I guarantee there would have been a problem if we had gotten five weeks of vacation and needed to use vacation time for the 3 weeks of shutdowns.

  17. Phillippe II*

    I have never had a holiday party paid for by my employer, and I’m retiring in {checks} 116 days. Of course, I’ve worked for various government entities since graduating from high school. At best, managers would cover the main protein for the potluck – which isn’t great now that I’m a manager…

    But $75pp? Nope.

      1. Phillippe II*

        That was something that Georgia did a while back, I think it was on her Twitter feed. I asked for permission to use it and she graciously said yes.

  18. nora*

    I once worked for a very small company which leave policy was “we close for two weeks at Christmas.” I didn’t last long for a lot of reasons (being female, primarily) so thankfully it didn’t matter to me. They are somehow still in business 15 or so years later. I assume this is because rather than update their policies they fire anyone who complains and lie to the unemployment office about it.

  19. Decidedly Me*

    Frustrated (employee hogging EOY time): We typically have a first come first served policy for PTO, except for the end of the year (Thanksgiving always work out on its own due to having people from several countries).

    For EOY, everyone’s requested dates are collected at once and then a schedule is made, trying to be as fair as possible. We look at how much time someone has taken that year already, what people’s highest preferences are within their requested days, etc.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I like the one where you can at least pick either one holiday or the other (usually Thanksgiving/Christmas, pick one, and Memorial Day/Fourth of July, pick one, and be sure of getting it, or at least getting the other if you don’t get your preferred day. I extra like when the company offers incentive pay for unpopular days. I dislike the seniority-based ones where you can never get either holiday off forever.

  20. Kyrielle*

    Re the last one, LW, do make sure you confirm it! For a while a place I was working at changed it so they closed the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, but unless you were actively on-call those weeks (in which case you didn’t need to), you had to use your vacation time or take it unpaid. That was 7 days a year, and new hires only got 2 weeks of vacation time! There was a lot of outrage and complaints when they switched to that policy, but it still held for 3-4 years before they stopped doing it again. (I forget what the reason was. They stopped closing those weeks, too.)

  21. Jenga*

    Re: Employee’s vacation would block other people from taking time off

    In January, send an email to all staff outlining vacation policies for the year, eg. if there are any “all hands on deck” weeks that aren’t allowed to be taken off, maximum amount you can take at one time, if that maximum is reduced at higher demand times of year, how requests will be handled, who gets priority, etc.

    In May as summer approaches, send out a reminder email. “As we approach summer, I know many of you will be looking to take some time off. I just wanted to remind you of our policies….”

    In late September or early October, send out another reminder email. “Just want to remind everyone to use up whatever vacation time you have left. You can only carry X days over into next year. In addition, Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up, which are popular times of year to request. I just want to remind you of our policies….”

  22. Danielle*

    Charging people to attend their work holiday party seems SO. FREAKING. WEIRD. to me. And I’m in academia where weird is par for the course!

    1. BubbleTea*

      That’s about the amount I budget for six months of fun spending. I would never spend that on a work party.

  23. Irish Teacher*

    As somebody who does not drink, I would be really grateful to an employer that made a point of getting me something else if they weren’t sure. I wouldn’t expect it – drink is kind of a default gift – but I would think it pretty thoughtful if somebody bothered to find out or realised they weren’t sure and gave a gift they felt more confident I would like. (Last year, a colleague brought in wine for the staff and gave candles to a few of us who they knew didn’t drink, which was really sweet of her. It wasn’t for Christmas and honestly, she had no reason to get anybody anything.)

  24. MentalEngineer*

    Definitely ask how this works, as there’s a pretty wide spectrum that you’re seeing in the comments! I’ll add one more variation. My workplace closes 12/24-1/1 every year as paid leave without charging PTO. (This year, where Christmas Eve and New Years’ Day are both weekends, we’re closed 12/23-1/2 so that we always get 7 work days off.) We then get 8 paid holidays throughout the rest of the year, and 17, 22, or 27 days of additional PTO based on seniority with partial rollover.

    I’m a unionized employee of a union, which definitely plays a role here, but workplaces like this do exist and I hope the one in your letter turns out to be one of them!

  25. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Hell, I can tell weirder holiday party and summer outing stories – but, I’ll restrict it to two.

    At one place I worked, the director had a budget for a holiday party. So she held it at her house – BUT ONLY “DIRECT” REPORTS (and a few selected non-directs) were invited! Now that’s what you call a morale builder! A holiday office party where only half the employees were invited.

    Another place – there was no summer outing. Somebody thought it would be a good idea to have one – so it was scheduled for an amusement park – 100 MILES FROM THE OFFICE and employees had to pay a pricely sum for tickets. The event was cancelled due to lack of interest.

  26. no one reads this far*

    To the LW looking at the job potentially closed for the holidays: I’d make sure who is eligible. I work in a hybrid office/manufacturing plant and the messaging from the client service reps is we’ll be closed from Christmas through New Year’s Day but what it actually means is that most of the office staff will be out at least one of those weeks (so don’t expect an answer from us) BUT the manufacturing lines will still be running.

    I should add, the people taking time off have to use PTO which makes it slightly less sketchy.

  27. ForcedPTO*

    Huh. Every company I’ve interviewed at or had friends work at with a mandatory close in December makes you use PTO for it, some to the point where they only give you six other days off for the year. A couple even do that with PTO that combines vacation and sick time so you are unlikely to get any time off at all if you need some sick time. It’s awful and ridiculous. So please make sure you check.

  28. Michelle Smith*

    When I worked for the government, our holiday party cost $75-80 for me ($80 at my first office and $75 at my second). I did not attend.

    For what it’s worth though, the second office had a sliding scale. If you made up to $40k you paid a certain amount, up to $60k a little higher, and so on. This may be something to suggest if the holiday party price is too expensive for employees lower on the totem pole to even consider attending.

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