As a society, we tend to spend the majority of our waking hours at work. Americans have even adopted phrases like “work-wife” and “work-husband” to describe our co-workers who have become alternatives to our actual families. And with the holiday season approaching, there are sure to be bigger year-end projects, longer nights on the job, and, of course, holiday office parties.
As a mom working in the corporate world, my calendar is already bursting with holiday fun like ugly sweater parties, cookie-swapping parties, the school holiday choir concert, pictures with Santa, and holiday bake sales. So you’ll understand if I’m not exactly thrilled about squeezing an office party into my schedule.
You would think that because I have been working from home for quite a few years now, I would have successfully dodged the torturous bullet of office functions. Nope. I’m not that lucky. The hubs has already received a heads up about his company’s’ holiday dinner. And now, all we need is a tactful but firm way of saying “absolutely not.”
Before raising your pitch forks, you’ll be happy to know that we made an appearance at last year’s gala. But it is my opinion that if your office holds a corporate event at a buffet-style restaurant with the word “corral” in it, you should automatically be excused from all extracurricular work activities…forever. Of course, not everyone shares this view, which is why, this year, crafting the perfect holiday excuse was our first priority.
Though I have been blessed with a husband who prefers a cordial RSVP, politely declining an invitation has become a challenge. Admittedly, if it were up to me, I would just say no. I mean, why do people always feel the need to follow a “no” with a justification of the “no”?
I’ll tell you why. Because nowadays, if you don’t give a reason, people are nosey enough to ask for one. And some bosses are so dedicated to your attendance, they even come up with solutions to your elaborate excuses.
Example #1: Have Granny’s 70th birthday to attend? That’s okay! You can just come to the office party for a little while! (Disclaimer: This one can backfire, as my husband’s boss once refused to give him his holiday bonus for leaving the party early.)
Example #2: Have concert/game tickets on the same night? Worry not! Stop in for a quick bite to eat before the event! Those things never start on time anyway!
Example #3: Having oral surgery the morning of the party? No problem! We love seeing your face, no matter how swollen!
Some of you may be asking, “Why not tell the truth?”
When my husband attempted to respectfully decline this year’s shindig by straightforwardly saying, “I would really like to spend that time with my wife and kids,” his employer’s rebuttal was, “Well…bring them”!
I know what you’re thinking. This is a generous offer. But think about it. Bringing your spouse to a work soiree, where she gets to spend a night with your acquaintances making small talk, all while smiling with clenched teeth, quietly scolding your bored and uncomfortably dressed kids who are naturally misbehaving, is not a good idea. As all parents know, bored kids at a function that really should be “adults only” is not beneficial to anyone involved.
As you can see, finding ways to avoid a holiday office bash can become a full-time job. And I’m sure there are plenty of people who truly love the networking opportunities, free booze, and drunken karaoke duets that come along with an office party. And that’s fine. Really.
But during the holidays, when the majority of us are feeling overwhelmingly stretched too thin, I think it’s important to spend our free time AWAY from work, with the people who calm our hearts.
Even though your boss may feel slighted if you successfully find a way to escape the annual celebration, try not to feel bad too bad about it. Obligation should never play a role in determining how you spend your time. So, go ahead and enjoy this holiday season your way. No excuses.
*This piece was published on Sammiches and Psych Meds on December 16, 2016.