Q. I started a new job 3 months ago and desperately want to impress my colleagues and fit into the team culture. Everyone is participating in a Secret Santa gift exchange, but money is tight since I just moved and am providing for my family. I don’t want to come across as cheap or antisocial by not participating, but how can I politely explain I can’t swing a nice gift right now? – Irene, 27
A. Your colleagues are most likely well-intended. There’s a lot of strife in the world right now, so they may be trying to bring a little levity into the workplace. Sounds like you might WANT to participate. Is it possible to do that without spending any money (or very little)? Can you suggest everyone make their gift or keep it under $10? (Creativity becomes the fun!) Or, you could make a batch of cookies and provide a handwritten note that expresses how much you value your colleague and add sentimental wishes for 2024. 🎁
If those options don’t work for you, be upfront: “I love the camaraderie that the gift exchange brings into the office. Unfortunately, I’m not able to participate this year. Thank you for understanding.”
Most colleagues will understand, especially since you just relocated. Focus on continuing to make positive connections at work. There will be other opportunities to bond with the team.
Q. I work retail, so my hours have been insane leading up to the holidays – early mornings, late nights, barely any days off. I’m exhausted! I’ll soon be traveling out of state for a few activity-filled days with family. And my friends want me to join our annual holiday bar crawl, too. I’m stressed trying to juggle it all. How can I say “no” to some things and enjoy my holiday time without offending anyone? – Alanna, 31
A. Time is our most finite resource, so it’s important to safeguard it when you can. With so many extra hours at work, your health is also something to protect – especially if you want to enjoy your holiday by feeling your best.
Letting friends know you will miss a holiday tradition is uncomfortable, but you can do it by being direct and loving: “I’ve been working an intense schedule this month and I’m simply exhausted. As much as I would love to celebrate with all of you for the bar crawl, I need to stay home and take care of myself. Rest and good health are at the top of my holiday list this year. Hope you all have a blast – save me the funny stories!” 😌
As for family visits, see if you can build in some downtime for yourself amidst the activities. Take occasional breaks, go for walks alone, and nap when needed. And don’t hesitate to say no to extras that don’t excite you. Keep the focus on quality time with loved ones. You can protect your energy with some thoughtful boundaries while still celebrating meaningfully.
Just make sure to be upfront. People can only know your limits if you communicate them. Say no without guilt, knowing it means saying yes to what matters most – your health and happiness. The holidays are no time to run yourself ragged.
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