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Home | Got a Minute | Bad bosses | No. 89 – Should I be forced to drag my wife and kids to my work Christmas party?

No. 89 – Should I be forced to drag my wife and kids to my work Christmas party?

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14 December 2022

My workplace, a family company, takes their annual Christmas party very seriously; a spouse and any children must come. If they don’t, questions get asked that make you feel like you are in the 1950s. I have teenage kids who, frankly, I am lucky to entice to come to anything let alone my work Christmas party. And my wife is a professional in a more senior role than me in an entirely different industry; she is busy and not that interested. The whole thing is just so awkward. I know my employer thinks they are being family-friendly, but they have taken it to extremes. Any suggestions?

I did chuckle at your letter – it sounds like a nightmare and one of those parties where you will have fun, whether you like it or not! There is no excuse for any part of your personal life – and that includes whether your fickle teenagers wish to join you at a work function or not – to be the cause of a tough conversation in your professional life. Heck, you shouldn’t have to go to the Christmas party if you don’t want to, let alone your wife.

It sounds like your company’s nightmare of Christmas festivities has just been ‘the way we do things here’ for as long as anyone can remember and no one has thought to question it. Is there someone you can speak to at work who can help rethink the whole thing? I am guessing it may need to be someone apart from the Christmas party organiser since they clearly haven’t noticed the massive issues themselves.

My only other suggestion is to really check your assumptions about what the consequences will be if you don’t bring your wife and kids – what will that actually mean? Could it be the thought of how you might upset the people you work with is worse than what will happen?

I left my last job three months ago and am now working in a new role at a new company and love it. The problem is, I still get calls from my former work colleagues asking me questions about how to do things, and I even had my old boss call about an issue they wanted to talk through. I was helpful initially, but now it is just annoying, and I want to move on. How can I make it clear it isn’t appropriate without burning any bridges?

You clearly left a big gap in your last workplace, but that is no reason you should need to keep helping them do their jobs. My suspicion is the calls will naturally stop soon, especially once a bit more time has passed and with the holiday break approaching. If they do call again, you could let it go to voicemail and then text back when you can and make clear you are busy in your current role and can’t take their call for the moment. Wish them all the very best and then leave it at that. I suspect you can find a polite way to make it clear you are putting up some boundaries without needing to burn any bridges at all.

My boss went on a management course and has come back with all these bizarre ideas that are driving us crazy. For example, every single morning we have to do an ice-breaker in the office to supposedly get us fired up for the day. He is so keen about it and thinks we love it when actually we all dread the morning “fire starters” and secretly conspire ways to be late to the office to miss them. The thought of having to go through another year of these is just too much. How do we find a way to tell him?

Your boss may be misguided (and I would dread having to do anything called a ‘fire starter’ every morning too) but I think you will find his heart is probably in the right place. I suspect you and your colleagues can chat together and come up with a way to let him know you love what he is trying to do but beg, literally beg him to throw water on the fire pit. Try to be light-hearted about it and let him know you appreciate him wanting to bring everyone together, and you can probably even let him know it has, actually, brought you altogether – just not in the way he intended. At the very least, see if you can negotiate for the fire to be lit just every so often, rather than every morning!

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