What Employees Don’t Like About the Holidays

Some people love the holiday season, while others really don’t. In fact, it seems that a growing number of people make comments like: “I hate the holidays!” (Maybe they are just more vocal about it.)

To find out more specifics, last year we sent out a survey to find out what about the holiday season employees don’t like partly for our own education, but also to see if there were practical ideas that when implemented could reduce employees’ irritation. And there are.

Over 1,200 of our readers completed our survey (within 24 hours of it being sent out!) On each of the first two questions, they were given a list of 15 items to choose from (the list was generated from focus group interviews), and the respondents could choose more than one item in response to the questions.  Here are the questions and the results:

Q1. What aspects of the holiday season do you DISLIKE the most?

  1. 51%  Fighting trafffic.
  2. 39% The extra expense of Christmas.
  3. 34%  Gaining weight
  4. 34%  Coming up with gift ideas for others.
  5. 31%  Expectations to buy others gifts.
  6. 28%  Coming up with gift ideas for myself.
  7. 26%  Busyness.

Q2. What don’t you like that happens at the workplace during the holidays? 

  1. 28%  Pressure to get year-end tasks done.
  2. 23%  “White elephant” gift exchanges.
  3. 22%  Expected to buy gifts for colleagues or supervisor.
  4. 21%  Required to participate in “Secret Santa” giving.
  5. 20%  Having to attend after hours holiday celebration.
  6. 18%  Having to work on holidays.
  7. 18%  Being required to bring food for holiday luncheon.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Some practical tips for employers and managers can be gleaned from the results:

  • Leave ample time for employees to work on the extra year end tasks and reports.
  • Don’t force your employees to participate in gift giving exchanges (explicitly or implicitly).
  • Be sensitive to scheduling issues and time requirements during the holidays.
  • If you are going to have a meal to celebrate, provide the food.

Additionally, we asked people to write and tell us examples of their worst holiday experience related to work. Over 500 individuals shared their stories and some were in the “You’ve got to be kidding me!!” category. Here are a couple samples:

-Attending a company holiday party where the electric company arrived to shut off the electricity for non-payment. (I wonder if the staff got paid?)

-Being told to wear an ugly sweater for the staff party, and being sent home to change – because my sweater was “too ugly”!

Click on this link Survey Stories to read more.

One thing I have observed (and learned through personal experience) is that a key component for having a relatively successful holiday celebration is to (ahead of time, and repeatedly) communicate clearly to staff about what they should expect (and not expect, if this year is different from prior years). Unmet expectations are the source of disappointment, so let people know what is going to happen. Cheers!

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply


Thanks for this. It made me laugh, because it’s TRUE! Yesterday we had one holiday party at work – an Ugly Sweater party. I don’t have an ugly sweater, because I don’t want to spend the money or take the time to buy something I don’t like! So, I was a bit out of place there. And tomorrow is another holiday party – a potluck! We’re expected to bring the food. I still haven’t decided what to bring. And I agree that food should be provided for the employees. It makes them feel more valued.


Ethics rules at our agency prohibit us from having Secret Santa gift exchanges at our workplace. While it would be awesome if our workplace provided food for employees, we aren’t able to use appropriated funds to purchase food, so we have to rely on volunteers if we want a holiday party.