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A junior staffer is sabotaging our office holiday party

The question

I'm organizing my company's Christmas party this year and I'm getting a lot of flak from a junior staff member who refuses to help. He says it's a made-up holiday that does nothing but promote the self-importance of Christians and the capitalist ideal. Did I mention we work in advertising? We're also leaving attendance up to each employee. So far he's sabotaged our choice venue by pretending to book it when he didn't - now he's offering to have a friend of his cater it at an impossibly low cost. We can't make him participate, but he's obsessed with throwing gum into the works. Can I penalize his behaviour as an employee even though it's a volunteer effort?

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The answer

Mr. Junior Scroogie is proving himself to be a bit of a point-misser, I think.

I mean, really: Company Christmas parties are more about the company than about Christmas - are more a corporate than a religious celebration, in other words.

Really, it's more of an "end of year" thing than a Christmas thing. The idea being: to express solidarity; to toast another year spent sniffing around the maze, trying to find that elusive piece of cheese; to boost morale; to present your colleagues with a (carefully managed, people, please) taste of one's out-of-office self; and to remind each other that after another year of vicious backstabbing, double-crossing, put-downs, one-upmanship, and favour-currying, you all still have a few shreds of humanity left in your souls.

So what's so bad about that?

With regard to the extracurricular nature of it all, well, companies are full of "volunteer" tasks that are in reality mandatory. Your staffer should perform this particular one cheerfully. I mean, it's a party. It's not like you're asking him to pick up your dry cleaning.

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You have specifically charged this guy with a company-related task and he has proven himself to be incompetent, recalcitrant and counter-productive. That's not a good thing to be, in these shaky economic times, especially in an industry as shaky as advertising.

I don't think you need to "penalize" your squawking flunky. A few words to the wise would do the trick, I should think. Something to the effect that the task he's been given is for the greater good of the company, and his colleagues, and of course you, his boss. But if he's not interested in that sort of thing, you could replace him with someone who is more enthusiastic, and (you may openly hint) has a brighter, longer future with the company ...

If that doesn't persuade him to straighten up and fly right, well, I have a friend who's looking for work in advertising right now. She's very smart and talented.

I can have her call you if you like. Set up a meet 'n' greet.

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