December 14, 2017

It’s Okay to Say No to Your Company’s Holiday Party


The awareness of sexual harassment and gender bias in the workplace is at an all-time high. It seems that every day a new woman comes forward with a story of inappropriate behavior or harassment.

In light of the current moment, many companies and employees are reevaluating their upcoming holiday parties, which often give workers the chance to drink heavily and act in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.

Before writing this article, I reached out to a longtime friend of mine who works as an HR director. She laughingly told me that the busiest week in HR is always the week after the holiday party. Employees come in with complaints of sexual harassment and generally bad behavior. I could practically see her shaking her head through the phone.

What does this tell us?

It tells us that the holiday party can be a night of debauchery, drinking, and fun, but someone will always end up paying for it in the end. Perhaps this year, you, the employee, should be looking at the holiday party differently. You surely don’t want to set yourself up for a potentially bad situation. In our current climate, it is too dangerous. At the very least, you run the risk of becoming the office gossip on Monday. At worst, you could lose your job.

It is okay to say no to the holiday party this year — or any year. Make the decision that is best for you. Not every company throws the same kind of holiday celebration, but if you feel your company’s party will lead to a bad hangover and regrettable activities, it’s best not to go.

If you decide to skip the party this year, here are some things to consider:

1. Politely Decline

Say you are taking a rain check this year. It doesn’t mean you are not a team player, just that you would like to find another way to celebrate the holiday and your colleagues. Your professional reputation and relationships should prevail and be your legacy. Not attending the party may be the best choice for you.

2. Offer Up an Alternative Idea

Propose to management an alternative to the party that provides a healthy way to celebrate with your colleagues. For example, a holiday scavenger hunt or decorating competition could be just the fun team-building activity the office needs. You could even offer to organize the event to prove you are still an engaged and committed team member.

3. Be Your Own Host

Another way to celebrate with your “work family” is to host a Sunday brunch at your home. You could even make it a potluck event. This way, you can participate in a fun, celebratory event on your own terms.

At the end of the day, the choice to attend or not to attend will be yours. Do what is best for yourself. Don’t feel pressured by others who are pulling the “Awww, c’mon! It will be fun! Remember last year when you took that Jäger shot?” Be your authentic self and listen to your inner voice. If you feel uncomfortable, then opt out. Your job will still be there waiting for you to execute to the best of your abilities.

Holly Caplan is an award-winning manager and author of Surviving the Dick Clique: A Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World.

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Holly Caplan is an award-winning manager and author of "Surviving the Dick Clique: A Girl's Guide to Surviving the Male Dominated Corporate World."