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Topic: What would you do?

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Subject: What would you do?
Date Posted: 10/31/2010 8:28 AM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2007
Posts: 43
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This is likely a story you've heard many times before but I would appreciate any suggetions or comments you could share.

I work for the largest employer in the US.  At a recent meeting, our supervisor told our staff that we had been chosen by our higher management to organize a Christmas party for the enitire department.  Supervisor had earlier informed a few members of our staff of this assignment and quickly turned the floor over to them to share their ideas for the party planning which includes having the party in our office during the work day.  Supervisor then says "Is everybody okay with this plan?"

I spoke up and calmly said that I thought it was important that this be voluntary. I said that as individuals we have the right to choose for ourselves which holidays we will celebrate--or not celebrate-- and the manner in which we celebrate.  I said that it bothered me that this was imposed upon us.  Supervisor then launched into "we need to be team players; we need to do something nice for [higher management]."  I said that I'd speak to him more about it after the meeting.

It is important to me to defend and assert my employee/individual rights, even without the support of my supervisor.  While I respect the rights of others to be involved in this, I admit that I find it a little disturbing that each of them has swallowed this whole-- without acknowledging that this is as much an infringement upon their rights as it is upon mine.  Although one co-worker did approach me after the meeting to tell me that she was glad that I had shared my opinion in such an assertive manner, another co-worker referred to my dissent as "getting in front of an oncoming train." 

I choose not to participate in the planning nor to attend the party.  But because the party is being held on a work day, in the conference room directly next  to my office, I cannot be away from it without removing myself from the office.  I am not confident that my supervisor will not try to pressure or manipulate me into going along with this as the holiday approaches.

What would you do?



Date Posted: 10/31/2010 7:10 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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First of all, way to stand up for yourself! It's hard to stand up to things like this, especially at Christmas.

It sounds like they were just trying to plan something fun but were extremely thoughtless as to how other people might feel (of course there is no excuse for that). I would say your options are:

1) Just stay in your office and if anyone tries to cajole you into going, say somehting like, "I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't celebrate Christmas. Thanks anyway."

2) Stay in your office and shut the door and maybe have on headphones or something to block out the noise. The approach is a little more stand-off-ish, but it would get the point across.

3) If it will distract you to the point of your being completely offended or miserable, ask your supervisor if you can work from home that day (assuming you have that ability). That's the most extreme approach, I think. But you should have the freedom to take that route, since most employers have a policy against discriminating based on religion.

Regardless, it might be a good idea to put in a request to your supervisors that next year, if they absolutely must have a party, can they please call the party a "Holiday Party", and also request that they have it maybe earlier in the month (or at any rate, not so close to Christmas Day) out of respect for other religions/belief systems.

Best of luck! Christmas can be an awkward time of year for aethiest and agnostics. I hope it works out!

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 11:48 PM ET
Member Since: 4/27/2006
Posts: 11,071
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Christmas long ago quit bothering me I only have snowmen and Santa Claus no mangers most people are into xmas for varying reasons.1 religion 2 reason to party 3 Gifts Christmas is a materialist nightmare Im baraged by it before halloween is over.It seem impossible to exscape so I treat it for what it is mostly  a reason to buy gifts and see my family. I/m suprised ur work is having a party during office hours if you have an HR dept I would discuss it with them.A party is not work related.Best of luck!

Date Posted: 11/1/2010 2:10 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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You don't happen to have an outpost of the ACLU around, do you?

Date Posted: 11/4/2010 5:50 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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Hi Kelly,

I just had another thought - you could request that the party not be on company property. Our office has a holiday party every year, but it is always after work hours at either a restaurant, or at the manager's house. That would be much more appropriate, I would think,  and certainly a reasonable request.

Date Posted: 11/5/2010 11:42 AM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2007
Posts: 43
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Thanks for all of your responses!

Melva S. -- I appreciate your thoughtful words of support!  Although I have not yet been approached by the party planners with an assigned task, I plan to politely decline if I am asked to do anything directly related to the party.

Bonnie A. -- No, I am not aware of any ACLU outposts in my area.  I could look into it though if this situation becomes messy.

I won't be bringing up the subject again with Supervisor because there really isn't anything more to add to what I said at the meeting and he doesn't seem to have any questions about it.  I plan to quietly go about my business and simply inform Supervisor as I leave on the day before the party that I won't be in tomorrow and am taking a sick day. 

Date Posted: 11/5/2010 3:30 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2009
Posts: 611
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Kelly, I sympathize with you and your situation. I was subjected to it countless times myself.  Our office had a penchant for celebrations and really went ape at holiday time. My manager always asked me if I wanted to participate and I usually declined. I simply stated my reasons and she was okay with it. When the gathering happened I either stayed at my desk and just kept working or I chose to take some time off.   My coworkers were kind; however, I don't think they could really comprehend my different point of view.

I'm an introvert and an atheist. A tough combination in our society. You get sick of always having to explain yourself. The corporate world, especially, is by nature very social and conformist.  Stay true to yourself Kelly! It eventually gets easier to go against the flow. It was tough at first when I stopped celebrating Xmas, but now its pretty painless. As far as Xmas goes, I just  reached a point where I asked myself why I was doing it. I'm not religious. I don't accept manipulation by commercial forces. I don't want to continually go into debt in December in order to dig myself out by June then go right back into debt again. I hate shopping and crowds. I'm not materialistic. So on and so forth...My kids were grown up when I announced my withdrawal from holiday participation. They were very upset (still are), but I just can't do it anymore. I know there are a lot of people like us, so I feel I must stand up for those who are too timid to do so.

Date Posted: 11/6/2010 10:03 PM ET
Member Since: 4/27/2006
Posts: 11,071
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Yes I to am an introvert and have had hurdles all through life with it(everyone is so social these days) this is the only internet site I post on.I wish I could remove myself from the Farce of xmas but I have 3 kids who are grown and 2 grandchildren and I just cant do it but my heart hasnt been in it since my kids figured out there was no Santa then all the fun goes away. Thank you for standing up for all of us who wish we could .

Date Posted: 11/18/2010 11:21 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2008
Posts: 497
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Just wondering, if it had been themed "end of the year party" if you would have been okay with it. Or is it the party that's a problem?

As you work for the largest employer in the US -- the govt'? -- I have to believe there is a fairly large population of non-Christians in your workplace. I don't know about infringement of rights. Sounds more like cluelessness to me. Plus people who have probably had a very stressful year and would like to have a party.

As the party is being held on a work day, I don't see why you wouldn't be able to step out while it's being held. Although, I don't know the political ramifications of something like this where you work.

I will say that as a pretty hard core atheist, the idea of the ACLU for something like this makes me cringe. I think we need to pick battles, and in all honesty, I don't think an office christmas party is the one I want to fight. Too many other large battles looming.

I think it's great you spoke up for yourself; obviously there are others who feel the same way. Maybe you can suggest an alternative that would better suit the silent masses?

Date Posted: 11/21/2010 10:26 AM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2007
Posts: 43
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Ann, an end-of-year party celebrating a job well done would have been much more acceptable to me.

My problem is that my higher management (as representatives of my govt) told me that I must organize the celebration of a religious holiday.

As an alternative, I would suggest that those who would like to have a Christmas party organize it themselves, hold it offsite or at some other appropriate venue, and that employee attendance be voluntary.


Date Posted: 12/7/2010 4:06 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 1,976
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They cannot force you to celebrate a religious holiday - it's called freedom of religion (or from religion).  I used to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses; they do not celebrate Christmas, Easter or other religious holidays.  My employer wanted me to say "Merry Christmas" when I answered the phone.  I politely declined.  Long story short: they called the labor board, found out I couldn't be forced (or terminated because of it) and life went on.

Date Posted: 1/23/2011 8:33 PM ET
Member Since: 1/8/2011
Posts: 7
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Jesus was born in October anyways, not December. :D

Date Posted: 3/5/2011 12:17 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2011
Posts: 420
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What are your sources for the October birthday? That looks like a very useful piece of information if I can back it up with facts.

Date Posted: 1/27/2015 6:51 PM ET
Member Since: 6/21/2006
Posts: 9
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Unless they are planning to have a prayer session, I would just consider it a party and enjoy myself.

Date Posted: 8/25/2015 10:29 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2014
Posts: 2,793
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I wandered into a old thread.  I would like to say I don't know what it's like for the OP. I like Christmas but agree with the comment about commercialism, buying stuff and debt.  It's hard for me to say what I would do in your shoes. A lot of people love football but  I don't like football. 

I manage to get thru football season every year.  I don't have to like football and I don't have crusade for my right to not like foot ball.  I think it's better to let other people enjoy their "thing" than to have to feel infringed upon.  So I would apply the same thing to the Christmas Season.  

Work Christmas parties are really PARTIES sometimes with gifts and/or Bonus check for employees.  It's a way of saying thank you for your service!  I would try to not be unhappy about Christmas and if someone asks, tell them you don't celebrate it.  Be proud of who you are, embrace whatever position you take and don't rain on someone else's parade. 

Date Posted: 8/26/2015 7:36 AM ET
Member Since: 2/28/2009
Posts: 914
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As an atheists and someone who really does not go to or enjoy any parties or large celebrations, I dread the upcoming christmas season. Every year I am asked why I don't celebrate the occasion and what kind of religion I have.  Not in a hostile way at all, but people really don 't get it that you can be an atheist and still be a good person.  

I am saying each to their own, but many people will look at me wary and more suspicious after they find out about my 'heathen' soul.

One just has to laugh.