Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Dec 1, 2006

When the Boss likes Christmas More than you Do

It’s that time of year—time for awkward staff meetings that open with,” Would people prefer we have the Yankee Swap during work hours or after work?”

Here at the BWFS&SC we try not to take a position on whether co-workers should throw showers, potlucks, birthday sing-a-longs and secular humanist winter holiday festivals of lights. We rather think our attitude comes out in the way we advise you on getting through them.

When the enthusiasm comes from the Boss, this is especially awkward, and we will assume in this lecture that she knows it too, but genuinely believes
a) team-building exercises do indeed build teams
b) we’ve worked hard all year and ought to have some fun
c) people work better together when they occasionally play together
d) Christmas rituals are fun

Here then, as you have come to expect, Miss Bender’s Guide to Getting Through Office Holiday Celebrations Without Alienating the Boss for the Rest of the Year

General Tip: Know what you want and what you will compromise on. Don’t say it doesn’t matter if it does matter. But give in on the things that don’t matter. Because they really don’t.

Unfortunate Best Tip: Offer to help.
Standing by pouting never works in this situation.
Offer to Help does not have to mean setting up the punch bowl or playing Santa. It can be the kind of private sidebar that starts with “I’ve been thinking about what you said…” They love when you think about they said.

Like any other disagreement with the Boss, you can best make your case by agreeing that you want things to work out the best way possible, and you think your idea will either achieve that end directly, or prevent potential disaster.

Yankee swap
Miss Bender remembers well her first Yankee Swap, which appalled her Southern upbringing and confused her understanding of Christian giving. Twenty years in-country, though, have assimilated her to the Yankee Swap, known in other regions as Dirty Santa or (god help us) Chinese Auction. It is a gift grab/Let’s Make a Deal combination that results in players arguing over the “good gifts,” and begging to pawn off the “bad ones” (which sometimes the giver thought were “good”)

1. Keep the price low. You weren’t going to buy any of these people a gift anyway.
If the participants represent a range of ranks and salaries, here is your chance to remind the Boss of that-privately, of course.

2. Know your audience. This game can take twists that are not appropriate for mixed company.

Secret Santa
Don’t we all have enough projects?
This beloved treasure of sorority houses and freshman dorms everywhere has the same risk factor of the Valentine Shoebox. Someone’s feelings are going to get hurt. Here, names are drawn and the Giver (or "Santa”) surprises the Receiver with a gift each day until the grand unveiling party known as the Anticlimax. If you must…

1. Remember the price rule

2. Encourage people to write likes/dislikes on their name slip when it is drawn so you don’t give brittle to the nut-allergic.

3. Come up with a name for the Receiver. The most irritating factor of Secret Santas is that no one knows what to call the person whose name you drew.

Cube decorating
There are people who decorate their cubicles and people who don’t.

Of those who do, there are those who decorate for the holidays and those who don’t.
Of those who do, there are those who decorate in the same magnitude of any other holiday and those who think there is a prize.
This is bound to be your cubemate or your Boss.

1. Your cube is all you have that belongs to you in this frontier. Stand your ground. But always politely, and with a phrase that complements their own prowess while asserting your own wishes. “You have a real flair for that” can work.

2. Do not encroach when you decorate. Stay in your own holiday zone. This includes electrical cords, things that blink, and anything that sings a song, Ho-Hos or jingles.

Family dinner
The Boss can easily be encouraged to turn this into lunch. It’s cheaper, there is no transportation issue, and people are more likely to come. Just go. It’s like 20 minutes.

1. Sit by people you like.

Usually MissBender recommends mingling, but in this case, your movement is restricted. The advice is to limit your mingling to people you can tolerate. Like a wedding reception.

2. All other office party rules apply.

Crafts, Caroling, and Charitable Giving
The Company never assumes that you have other resources in your life, so they like to bring the charities and the life coaches and the dry cleaning to you.

It is a nice gesture. If it motivates you , enjoy it. Wear a scarf and a top hat.

Otherwise, this category is fairly easy to avoid at a large company, since there are always plenty of people who sign up.

1. Be in the audience. Attending the craft fair, or clapping for the carolers doesn’t cost anything and looks like involvement.

2. If you want to buy gifts for the Toy Box, or the Angel Tree, or the Community Chest, do it.

3. Don’t ask your co-workers if they did it, and never ever ask your employees if they did.

4. If you don’t want to do it, don’t. And don’t feel bad about it. Until this whole company visits your grandma in the Home, you don’t owe them these little indulgences.

Giving the boss a gift
Should you? Miss Bender advises against it, with very few exceptions.

1. The Boss can not afford to buy all her staff a gift. Don’t put her in that position.

2. Giving “up” creates competition among staff members and any reward you get in the coming year will be suspect

3. Exception: if the Boss is truly a personal friend. If you know the names of her children and her home address, drive over there and give it to her on your own time.

When you don’t celebrate Christmas
Well, who does? We celebrate Winter Gift-Giving. And it can be perfectly enjoyable.

If you follow a faith which does not include Christmas, (or which does include Christmas, but the hymn-singing candlelight family-only kind) you should spend the rest of the year demonstrating the same. If it is important to your spiritual integrity, you don’t keep it a big secret until you need it.

Happy New Year from the Faculty and Staff of the Business Women's Finishing School.
Weare closed Dec 25 because it is a federal holiday, not a religious one. Please write your Congressman if that irks you.

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