Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Deck The Halls–Or Else.

At the beginning of the holiday season I wrote about not being a party-pooper at work and I encouraged everyone to make an effort to enjoy the festivities.  I heard from many people who agreed and some who didn’t. Even those who had another view were unanimous that they didn’t mind a few cookies and some decorations here and there. One man said he had been inspired to help coworkers put up the decorations and he found he enjoyed it far more than he thought he would.  Their disagreement was more with the idea of forcing people to participate in things that seemed to be outside the scope of workplace camaraderie. I agree with them on that topic!

Happy Hour events.  In some workplaces a weekly or monthly “happy hour” get-together is routine and a fun activity for many. However, not everyone wants to drink alcohol, be with those who do or be in a bar or similar place, even if no one is having alcoholic drinks. Many people need to get home and be with their families. Some know they have alcohol, smoking or sexual temptations and they try to avoid situations that lead to those things. Some can’t afford drinks and snacks every Friday afternoon or even once a month. Many have told me that happy hour times tend to be gossip times in which remarks are made about those who aren’t there. As a result, they don’t want to go but also are fearful about not being present! 

If your office has a regular happy hour, make sure everyone knows it is optional. Don’t let anyone who is absent become the target of remarks. If there are problems with anyone about work it should be handled openly at work. Whateever your role in the workplace, you can stop that kind of conversation. Keep the Happy Hour happy and don’t let anyone drive home if there is even a mild concern about sobriety.

Group and spouses functions after work or on weekends. Some employees enjoy participating in all-group events such as movies, bowling, sports or other activities that happen after work or on weekends. Usually spouses are invited to these and that seems to make people view them more positively.  However, there should not be even a vague hint that it has anything to do with work success. Example: “You don’t have to attend, but I see it as a way to decide if you want to keep being part of our team or not.”   In the real-life situation, the threat was obvious and even though the manager didn’t have that level of authority, the employee knuckled under.  

Company parties and picnics.  I think these should be appreciated by employees rather than avoided, but they still should not be used to judge the quality of the employee on the job and should not be mandatory. (Often those who opt out would not have added much anyway, because of their negative view of everything, so don’t push it!)

Charitable giving or activities: I’ve always supported food drives, Toys for Tots, The United Way, The Combined Campaign, school volunteerism and similar activities, but I resented the few times when it was made a requirement not a choice–most people I know feel the same way. So, before your business, group or division adopts a school, supports a program or has a blood drive, make sure there is an understanding among organizers that participation is voluntary and no strong-arm tactics will be allowed. 

Your role: If you are a manager or supervisor speak up to represent the employees in your group when it seems there is inappropriate pressure being put on to participate in any activity or function that should be voluntary. If you are the one who came up with an idea for a function, charity or progam, take your ego out of it. Getting 100% participation doesn’t mean you have 100% support. It may actually mean 100% of the employees resent being badgered into participating. 

If you are an employe who feels pressured, think about whether you really must participate or is it just that you don’t want to say no? What will happen if you don’t take part? Often the idea of intimidation is mostly in the mind of the employee. They could courteously say no without repercussion, but they would rather sigh heavily and do something they don’t enjoy. Decide and do it or not, of your own free will.

Bottom line: We still have a work week to go before Christmas.  Enjoy the season and encourage those you work with to relax, smile and enjoy it too–without implying, “Or else.”

December 19th, 2010 Posted by | Food, Fitness, Fun, Life and Work | 8 comments


  1. We have Adopt a Street. You can be late to work and make mistakes and no one will say anything, but if you miss your scheduled Adopt a Street work you get called in and counseled about not being a team player. Last year it was mentioned on a few people’s performance evals and they all went into HR and got it changed, but it shouldn’t have been mentioned in the first place. Common sense seems lacking sometimes, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Wiseacre | December 20, 2010

  2. Forcing people is why I don’t like Christmas parties and similar things. But, this year I’ve tried to get with the program more and you’d be proud of me. One thing I’ve figured out is that some people go way overboard and that makes everyone else resist it. We have a few people who can make a full time job out of putting together cake and coffee. I know there is work to it but it gets ridiculous after awhile.

    Comment by Mike | December 20, 2010

  3. Ahhhhh, someone finally said it….we shouldn’t have to be badgered about United Way. I give to two charities and to other relief funds during the year. I prefer to give to them directly without UW taking their cut, but if I don’t at least give the minimal amount I’m treated like a selfish, mean person by several people at work. No one should have to donate their salary and have a record kept of it at work. Thanks for saying it!

    Comment by Apaloosa | December 20, 2010

  4. I put most of this on higher level executives because they’re the ones who get off on leading their employees to be so community minded it can hit the papers. In my company, volunteer work is like a required second job. Some people love it but whether you do or not, you have to do it or else. Maybe they wouldn’t do anything if you said no, but I don’t want to be the one to test it.

    Comment by Chris P. | December 20, 2010

  5. Greetings of the Season, Tina! Even in a church the administrative staff sometimes argue about what level of decorations, parties, gift-giving and so on should take place during December.

    Instead of a staff luncheon, for the last three years we have had a catering company set up a lunch for us and people can come in and out as they wish. We found it to be no more expensive and in some ways more festive, since the caterers make the table look pretty.

    Other than that, we limit most things so as not to appear to be taking a month away from work!

    You would appreciate the irony of this….we have a new youthful employee who is not (yet!) a Christian and who made tentative remarks indicating she didn’t want to be surrounded by Christian Christmas decor. We explained why we will not ever secularize our office decorations and she acquiesed immediately. Her testing of us was perfect because it gave us a chance to tell the Christmas story and it’s significance to every human since the time of Jesus’s birth and forever in the future.

    You have our love and prayers all year, but especially in this Holy Season. I don’t care that I don’t know the exact date Jesus was born. I’m just glad he was. Any time of year is a good time to celebrate! Blessings, Don R.

    Comment by Don R. | December 22, 2010

  6. I’m glad I like to enjoy life, holidays, parties and being with nice people. I’m glad I like to share and to give charitably. I’m glad I’m not so pessimistic and negative as some people seem to be!

    Comment by Santa's Elf | December 22, 2010

  7. My opinion: Remember in The Christmas Carol, how the young Ebeneezer Scrooge didn’t want to attend the office party but his boss, Mr. Fezziwig, made him stop working and take part in the festivities? I think all employees should at least be present at whole-group activities where time and money has been spent to bring everyone together. I don’t consider it voluntary because it is one of the many ways to develop people into a cohesive group and some people never participate voluntarily in anything. To be crass, no one is being docked time or money to attend and it won’t kill them to do it.

    Comment by Holly | December 22, 2010

  8. I can see both sides. I’m probably lucky to work where we all get along and everyone feels the same way about parties and such. I like everything we do for the holidays, but I don’t think we ever stop working because of it. It’s just fun and a nice break. Merry Christmas and I hope to see you again next year if you get up this way.

    Comment by E. P. | December 22, 2010

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