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Office Christmas Party: What Many People Think but are Afraid to Say

Updated on December 1, 2012

Before I begin, I would like to clear things up before everyone thinks I’m a scrooge. The day after Thanksgiving, I take out my Santa hat and wear it everywhere I go, walking with a spring in my step. Every time I go to a store, I drop my spare change, which I really can’t spare anymore but do it anyway, into the red bucket. I donate canned goods to the food bank but find that I might be visiting the food bank for myself this year. And up until two years ago, when money got tight, I always bought a toy for a tot and, sometimes, multiple toys for multiple tots.

Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year, and my favorite time of the year for that matter, but the one thing that rubs me the wrong way is when the workplace gets involved in Christmas.

I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way, but many people find it difficult to say no when they are asked to participate in some sort of holiday activity at work. Although I am not currently employed, I’ve never had any difficulty saying what many people want to say but can’t, which is, “I’m sorry. I can’t afford it.”

This opens up a window of opportunity for others to admit the same, and I have never been  the only one who does not participate in a holiday activity. If you are in agreement with me but find it difficult to say no, print this article and pin it to the bulletin board at work. Better yet, print up several copies and put it in everyone’s in-box.

Human Resources explains the I'm-allowed-to-steal-your-gift gift exchange


The Secret Santa Gift Exchange at Work

Although it’s nice to spread Christmas cheer, I find that a gift exchange at work is a waste of precious time and precious money during this season, and the only thing worse is the I’m-allowed-to-steal-your-gift gift exchange. Regardless of whether there is a $20.00 limit on the gift or no limit at all, this is money that I need to spend someplace else. It might be the $20.00 that I could have spent on that someone who gets knocked off of my Christmas list at the last minute simply because I couldn’t afford it.

What is much more practical, and much more in the spirit of giving, is having a food drive at your workplace. Instead of spending $20.00 on a coworker that you don’t know that well (and may not even like that well), everybody could bring in $20.00 worth of food for the nearest food bank. If the limit is higher or there are a lot of employees at the workplace, an even better idea is to adopt a family for Christmas. Nothing can make you feel better than knowing that you have helped a family have a Christmas during tough times when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to have one.

Gifts You Could Have Bought Your Kids If You Didn't Participate in Secret Santa

The Company Holiday Party

Perhaps I am one of the few people in the world who have been unlucky enough to be employed by companies that, no matter how much it is thriving, refuses to give out any sort of holiday bonus for its employees yet is willing to spend money on a party. This makes no sense to me whatsoever.

Sometimes the holiday party is during work hours, making it somewhat mandatory to attend, and the company has been, I suppose, kind enough to pay me to socialize with my coworkers, which is the way it should be. Sometimes the party is on a weekend. These are the parties I refuse to attend. The last thing I want to do during the busy holidays—or anytime, honestly—is socialize with the people that I work with, whom I have nothing in common with except work and, therefore, end up discussing work—without being paid.

In lieu of spending money on a holiday party, why can’t a company take the money it is planning to spend and divvy it up among the employees as a bonus? This gesture would make for much happier employees.

Things You Could Buy For Yourself If You Didn't Buy Your Boss a Gift

A Gift for the Boss(es)

Every year without fail, the office elves, aka the butt-kissers (you know it’s true), stroll up and down the aisles of the building collecting money to buy the boss a gift. Sometimes, based on my personal experience, this will often lead to the office elves making more than one trip down the aisles, because just a little bit more is needed to achieve the perfect gift.

To be brutally honest, the office elves are usually employees who are not very popular among their coworkers and are the ones who hand the gift directly to the boss to ensure that the boss knows that it was their idea and that they picked out the perfect gift. If you are reading this and happen to be one of the office elves, just stop it. Let me tell you why.

First of all, the majority of your coworkers don’t go to work because they like their boss. Most of us go to work because we need the money; otherwise, we wouldn’t be there. The most financially difficult time of the year is usually during the holidays, in which case, the last thing most of us want to do is spend money on our boss who makes, more likely than not, more money in one year than we could ever think of making in one year.

Secondly, I can’t remember the last time I had only one boss. Does anybody have one boss anymore? The more bosses you have, the more money you are expected to dish out for gifts. This is ridiculous.

The people I usually buy gifts for are people that I would have no problem extending a dinner invitation to, so if I wanted to buy a Christmas present for all of my bosses, I would wrap the gifts and invite the boss(es) over for Christmas dinner. Since I can’t remember ever having a boss(es) that I would invite over to my house for a Christmas feast, I can’t think of a time when it was appropriate to buy a gift for my boss(es). And while I am thankful for being employed, my gift to my boss(es) is being a loyal, honest (can you tell), and very hard worker.


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    • profile image

      Kathy 4 years ago

      I am coming from the other side of this. My husband and I are the owners of a small business (40 employees). We do not expect or even want gifts from our employees and really haven't gotten them very often and never showcase the gift to others. We throw a Holiday party each year and try to make it a fun event to socialize (casino night in our home, private bowling and games at the local game center, dinner and karaoke at a greenhouse in an arboretum). We have a wide range of people and have carefully tried to plan parties that will appeal to all of them. I put a lot of thought and planning into it and see it as a way to bond with employees. We are not looking to judge or find fault in our employees but do it as a way to have fun and say thank you. Also, if people can't come or choose not to, we are ok with that. You also have to understand that a Christmas bonus for all employees is not always realistic. I know that makes us sound like scrooges but we have business debt and have taken all the risk in keeping the company going. We usually spend anywhere from $30-70/person on the Holiday party. Would a $50 bonus really mean much? Isn't it better to open our home or plan a fun night out? Am I completely wasting my efforts here? We really want to create a good atmosphere and take opportunities to forget work and just socialize.

    • ew0054 profile image

      ew0054 5 years ago

      Couldn't agree more with these points. The Christmas party is nothing more than a ploy for managers to sit like spiders, waiting to catch someone with one-too-many drinks say the wrong thing. Then it's congratulations, you'll never get promoted or a raise again. All this behind a tax-deductable dinner that in no way benefits the employee. The company will gladly spend $1,000 per head on a tax-decudctable dinner but won't even stuff a $20 bill in an envelope with your paycheck that week. As for secret santa, I have only experienced widows and mothers whose kids moved out long ago to engage in this practice. I try to involve myself in such things as little as possible - zero is optimal.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 7 years ago from South Africa

      Deni, I’m so with you on this, but in my region a Christmas party at work, or beter known as a year-end-function, is still very much of a tradition. The results are also satisfying; it is an opportunity for employees and employers to bond. Those who do not attend normally have a good reason. I believe employees of large companies in the bigger cities don’t organize Christmas parties any more, but the offices in the company are probably still ending the year on a social note. The majority South Africans like to interact in this way with each other. Thanks for the interesting read.

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 7 years ago from california

      Okay, I'm two for two! Thanks for reading!

    • Jillian Barclay profile image

      Jillian Barclay 7 years ago from California, USA

      Don't think you will get many negative comments. You are so right on this! And I think it is a great idea to put this in everyone's inbox! It says what most people think, but are far too terrified to say? Have you ever noticed that when the boss is given "the perfect gift", the smiles are usually only on the faces of the boss and the kiss-ass? Everyone else has sort of a resigned look on their faces or the half smile, half frown look of disgust!

    • Deni Edwards profile image

      Deni Edwards 7 years ago from california

      Thanks for your comment on this hub, Deborah. I was hoping to get a positive response before a negative one!

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 7 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      This is a great hub. You are direct and to the point without being sarcastic or mean spirited. I do like the holidays, but I dislike mandatory gatherings with people I don't really like. Thanks for taking the time to write.