I Just Work Here

Just say 'no' to office holiday obligations

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Ho-ho-holiday cheer in the office

Feeling a little underwhelmed with your workplace's Secret Santa shenanigans? Feel free to say "no" -- but don't burn bridges, our experts say. (Walter B. McKenzie / The Image Bank / Getty Images / August 15, 2007)

•Will I feel duped, swindled or had?

•What do I have to give up to do this?

"By answering these questions, you're setting up some emotional and physical boundaries," Newman said. "You're reserving some time for yourself and getting your priorities straight so you're not succumbing to all the holiday 'shoulds' — I should do this, I should do that."

Jacqueline Whitmore, author of "Poised For Success" and the founder of EtiquetteExpert.com, said it's key to be honest when you're declining a co-worker's request, and keep your reasons short and sweet.

"I don't advocate going into the woes of what your problems or reasons are, but I do think, for example with a donation request, you can say, 'This is a really difficult year for me to chip in,'" Whitmore said. "You're saying 'no' without going into a long explanation as to why."

If you have family plans around the same time as the office party, just say so and move on. If you have other charities you donate to, tell the person collecting at work and thank them for asking.

But Whitmore does warn against being totally uninvolved with workplace holiday festivities.

"If you don't want to participate just because you don't want to participate, that's a bad attitude to have," she said. "I believe you should participate in work-related things to the degree that you can because it shows you're a team player."

So approach the holidays with an open mind. Be selective about what you take part in, try not to dodge everything, but don't be afraid to turn down activities you know you'll find annoying.

There is nothing wrong with an honest and well-placed "no."

And remember, you can always bring in Aunt Vivian's fruitcake as your contribution to the holiday office party. Unless you're already using it to get rid of the neighborhood squirrels.

TALK TO REX: Ask workplace questions — anonymously or by name — and share stories with Rex Huppke at ijustworkhere@tribune.com, like Rex on Facebook at facebook.com/rexworkshere and find more at chicagotribune.com/ijustworkhere.
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