Over the years, readers have submitted a tremendous number of amusing stories about holidays at work. In lieu of any more posts today since it’s Thanksgiving, here are some of my favorites from the last 13 years.
1. The duet
“The organization I work for often holds its convention just a couple of weeks before Christmas, and several years ago, as part of the entertainment for the closing banquet, we had a quartet singing mostly Christmas songs. In the banquet room right next door, though, somebody was holding a very large and loud corporate Christmas party that included a very loud D.J. playing very loud music, none of it Christmassy, as far as I could tell.
And I do mean LOUD.
So this, I swear to God, is what it sounded like to those of us sitting closest to the wall that separated our sedate Christmas quartet performance from the very loud D.J. performance of ‘Brick House’ by the Commodores:
Quartet: ‘Oh, hooooooly niiiiight! The stars…’
DJ: ‘Owwww! She’s a brick…HOWWWWse, she’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out’
Quartet: ‘It is the niiiight of our dear savior’s…’
DJ: ‘Owwww! She’s a brick…HOWWWWWse, well put-together, everybody knows.’
Quartet: ‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for…’
DJ: ‘She’s a brick…HOWWWse, owwww, that lady stacked and that’s a fact…’
I love ‘Oh Holy Night,’ but come on, that was HILARIOUS.” (2019)
2. The come-hither pirate
“This wasn’t a White Elephant gift, but one a coworker who didn’t last so long gave to all the unpartnered women under 40: A studio portrait of himself, semi-80s background, with lasers, soft focus, standing, with his hand on his chin, a ‘come hither’ look, and his parrot on his shoulder.” (2018)
3. The grief poinsettia
“It was one of those lunchtime holiday parties where people sat in groups around round tables. At the center of each table was a poinsettia. The big boss/emcee announced that she realized that some in the crowd must have experienced hard times that year. She invited people to share their tales of woe, and whoever told the saddest story at each table would win the poinsettia. No one volunteered.” (2018)
4. The elf’s vice
“The dreaded Elf on a Shelf got passed around the different departments. At the end of the day, someone from the department that had it last would go to another department and pose the elf. For the most part, it was okay: cute poses with rubber duckies, a little bathroom humor (the elf pooping a Hershey’s Kiss), that sort of thing… until my department got it. He was snorting hot cocoa using a $1 bill besides a naked Barbie doll. I work in HR. The department that left it was Legal! I don’t work there anymore and I’ve banned Elf on a Shelf from my current job.” (2017)
5. The Christmas tantrum
“A woman who had worked at our office for more than twenty years pouted and threw tantrums like a child if she didn’t win a door prize at the annual Christmas dinner. Every time someone else’s name was randomly drawn, she would yell, ‘FIX!”’ or ‘CHEAT!’ or something similar. And one year, she just snatched a prize she really wanted from the table and told the person who won the prize, ‘I DESERVE this,’ and walked away with it.” (2014)
6. The flush
“It was my first holiday party at my office fresh out of undergrad, and with my hearty Irish heritage I am prone to 1) generally ferocious rosacea and 2) an especially vivid red flush after my first drink. I arrived to the party late because I’d walked form work (it was at a hotel conference room area), met with friends, and grabbed a glass of wine. Pretty much immediately after finishing the glass I got my customary alcohol flush.
One of my coworkers (the office front desk manager, so she’d been involved with the whole party, like ordering food, etc) had been drinking way too much at this point, and was already pretty drunk. We wound up in the bathroom washing our hands at the same time. ‘Oh my god, you’re so red,’ she said. I tried to play it off (‘haha yeah, this happens all the time, definitely not something I spend literal hundreds of dollars at dermatologists before I found out it was genetic’), and she goes, ‘Are you allergic to something? Are you having a reaction?’
I tried to tell her it was just my face but she lost her mind. She was positive I was allergic to something. I finally escaped but she kept finding me periodically over the span of probably the next half hour or so, and every time she got more freaked out that I was having an allergic reaction. Her reactions went from slightly worried but having too much fun to think about it to grabbing my cheeks and feeling my pulse. Finally I thought I lost her by hiding with some friends in a corner.
NOT SO. Fifteen minutes later I’m over at the table pondering which cake slice to take when this woman appears with an epi-pen clutched precariously in her fist, pulls me around by my shoulder, and tries to LIFT MY DRESS UP to get to my thigh!! I’m scrambling away, she’s too drunk (thank god) to actually be effective at stabbing me with adrenaline I DON’T NEED, and worst of all because she got me by surprise she hoisted a decent bit of my dress up and all my colleagues saw least a good portion of my cheeks, framed tastefully by the the red velvet and vanilla cake options on the dessert table behind me.
My company handled it really well – called a car for her to go home, followed up with me then and there, and had separate meetings with us on Monday, as the party was on a Friday evening. Her intentions were honestly good (if not soaked in alcohol) and given the weekend I was beginning to find it funny that I’d effectively mooned all the higher ups and they had to be professional about it, so in the end I think she just went through some sensitivity training. She was also MORTIFIED, apologized nonstop for the next week, etc. I’m no longer at that job but what an intro to the world of Corporate Christmas Parties.” (2018)
7. The Christmas carols
“At my first job out of college, I worked at a small transport-related company of about 50 employees that was privately owned by a couple … One year, Wife Owner, who fancied herself an artist and would often sing in the office (her voice wasn’t terrible but it was still really weird), decided we should make a CD of employees singing Christmas carols. Keep in mind that we did not have a bunch of moonlighting Broadway extras working there. I felt pressured to be on the CD and ended having to drive 25 miles on the weekend (unpaid) to a recording studio. I did draw the line at doing any solos and only signed up for the multi-voice songs, where I desperately tried not to stand out. Fortunately, I got accepted into grad school after that and never had to witness any further embarrassing company gifts. Apparently, the gift ploy worked in a sense, as I have run into people from the same industry who laughingly remember this company despite the fact that 10+ years later, they are no longer in business.” (2017)
8. The reply-all
“My organization hosts an annual Christmas party where staff, spouses, volunteers, and board members are all invited. We get an email sent out when tickets are available so that we know when to go ahead and get them.
A few years ago, one of the board members accidentally hit Reply All to the ticket announcement email and asked the organizer to ensure that he wasn’t seated with our volunteer firefighters, since he was stuck at their table the year before and none of them wanted to talk to him. Within a minute, someone else had hit Reply All again saying that he would be honored to be seated with those firefighters, as they’re willing to risk their lives to keep our community safe. A few other emails went flying back and forth congratulating the firefighters for their hard work, and the board member soon sent out an apology email.
To make things even more awkward, one of the people making a speech at the company Christmas party did take a few minutes to commend our volunteer firefighters. I’m sure the board member couldn’t have looked any more uncomfortable as the rest of the room toasted them.” (2018)
9. The swingers
“In my mid-20s, I worked in a fairly conservative accounting department (think government contractor engineering firm) but we had a couple of strange characters. I’d been warned about one mid-50s accounts payable lady, that she was ‘Very Social.’ She wasn’t popular in the department, but was nice enough at work, so I didn’t think anything of it.
Being the youngest and lowest rank in the department, my husband and I were seated at the ‘accounting outcasts’ table, which included Very Social and her husband. The whole party was super-swanky. Very Social and her husband were good company, complimentary, and didn’t ping ANY of my warning systems…
…right up until she learned that my husband was a welder. Then she let out a delighted squeal and asked him to build her custom steel people-sized cages, with brackets for harness hooks. She also let us know they were VERY interested in having us over try out their other “equipment” for additional Christmas Merriment.
That Christmas I learned ‘Very Social’ = Unabashedly Enthusiastic Swingers into BDSM.”
This follow-up added further details:
“We turned her down, and she was still very nice. She even hand-quilted a baby blanket for my second child.
Data entry, people cages, nipple clamps, hand-embroidered baby quilts. She was very well-rounded for an accountant.” (2019)
10. The Christmas countdown
“I once had a coworker who lodged a complaint with her manager’s manager that her manager was making her take her hours to Christmas countdown (yes hours, not days) off a whiteboard that was needed for something else. Wasn’t even like it was the week before Christmas at that point, pretty sure it was at least a month before. She was getting up and changing it a few times a day.” (2016)
11. The sex toy
“A Christmas party I was at had a Secret Santa … and one of the ‘presents’ was a huge dildo which, as most attendees were utterly plastered, was thrown around and, eventually, somehow stuck to the ceiling and wouldn’t budge despite various things being thrown at it.
Most people thought this was OK, but it wasn’t as we had not hired the venue exclusively and families with children were present. So a colleague and I got a ladder and eventually pry the thing off the 13-foot-high ceiling.
All Christmas celebrations were banned for the remainder of the eight years I was on the project.”
In response to a question about why it stuck there:
“We found out when I got to the top of the ladder. The ceiling had evidently been painted recently with gloss paint and was not fully dry. It was just tacky enough to hold the dildo (I cannot believe I am writing sentences like this :)” (2019)
12. Hanukkah balls
“I am a Jewish 26-year-old. I’ve been on the job about a year, and I moved from a large city to a smaller suburb of New York City for this job. My family is not super religious but we certainly never celebrated Christmas growing up.
My boss, a usually nice lady, has taken it upon herself to educate me about Christmas this season. She is super into the holidays, which I appreciated for Halloween, but has been declaring to the whole office how this is ‘Jane’s First Christmas’ and taking that opportunity to spend well over $500 on Christmas decorations which she has strategically placed mostly around her and my office. She has bought me my own Christmas stocking and ornament which says ‘Jane’s first Christmas’ with a date and her signature on it. She has placed red velvet bows around anything they will stick to and she has replaced our office coffee K-cups with eggnog. She has put up lights in the hallways and decked my door with some kind of tinsel that keeps sticking to my clothes and following me home.
She keeps reminding me what ornaments are and is amazed when I told her that I know the words to some Christmas songs.
She also has invited me to her home for Christmas because ‘no one should celebrate their first Christmas by themselves.’ When I mentioned something about celebrating Hanukkah instead of Christmas, she went out and bought this Hanukkah inspired contraption, which was really just eight round traditional ornaments with a light in each of them. She said they were Hanukkah balls.” (2014)
13. The strong opinions
“Our Christmas party planning (once again) ended in tears over an argument about whether body-part-shaped gummy candy was an appropriate table decoration. It was apparently Halloween candy (think bloody zombie arms and legs).
For reasons which I dare not know, there is a small contingent of people in my department who all have strong personalities, strong opinions, and no chill. Everyone hates each other, but they all must be on the various party planning committees. Our fall potluck was simultaneously ‘sports jersey,’ ‘Halloween,’ and ‘Richard Nixon’-themed because I accidentally ended up in charge and did not have the energy to veto anything.” (2016)
14. The club kid
“The year the club kid software developer INSISTED on everyone doing tequila shots, like ‘come on bro, it’s not cool if you don’t!’ — he saved his hardest pressure tactics for the CEO, who was like WTF. Same club kid tried getting down and dirty on the dance floor with a female high level exec, and then drunkenly knocked her over onto the floor.” (2016)
15. The frozen boobs
“One time I worked at a government agency where the head of HR was a reformed alcoholic who had found religion and was thus now very religious whilst also being teetotal. Every year before the party we’d get an email about how under employment law the party was an extension of the workplace and bad behaviour would not be tolerated, etc. etc. She wasn’t very well liked in the office for other reasons but no one hated her and often she didn’t come to the parties as she found them too rowdy.
The year her marriage broke up she came and got so drunk at the party she flashed her boobs over the metal railings of this rooftop bar we were at…..and because of the snow/light rain the side of one of her boobs fused to the railing (kinda like if you lick something frozen and your tongue gets stuck!). Seeing her two (female!) HR admins blowing on her boob to release it whilst shielding her modesty with scarves is a sight that will never leave me.” (2016)
the Christmas tantrum, the dirty elf, and other tales of holidays at work was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.