What Your Co-workers Really Think About Company Holiday Parties (Including the Moments They'd Rather Forget)

What do employees really think about Secret Santa gift exchanges, boozy holiday parties, and year-end bonuses?
Updated Dec. 8, 2023
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coworkers at holiday party

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'Tis the season for twinkling lights, festive tunes, and the annual office holiday party. As companies gear up for the year-end celebrations, FinanceBuzz conducted a survey to uncover how employees truly feel about all this mandatory merriment.

The results? Let's just say, it's a mixed bag of jolly and not-so-jolly revelations.

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The pressure to be present

First things first, the pressure is on! A whopping 70% of employees admitted feeling obligated to attend the company's holiday bash. For many, it seems attending is not just a social affair but an unwritten requirement.

But attending isn't the only expectation; more than a third (36%) have found themselves raising a glass of holiday cheer (the alcoholic kind), not out of pure joy, but due to a sense of obligation. 

Regrets, we've (almost) all had a few

Ah, the morning-after cringe—who hasn't woken up wondering if they still have a job? According to the survey, a whopping 63% of employees have regretted their conduct at a holiday party. Whether it's oversharing at the karaoke machine or "accidental" mistletoe mishaps, it seems many of us have a holiday party story we'd rather forget.

What tops the list of regrets? It's a tie between getting a bit too cozy with the punchbowl and speaking negatively about the workplace, both regrets that 31% of employees admit to. Beyond that, more than a quarter of workers say they regret making inappropriate jokes (28%) or flirting with someone they work with (26%) at a work-sponsored holiday party.

Secret Santa still rules

In the realm of traditional holiday activities, there's one that's loved more than all others — the Secret Santa exchange. More than two-thirds (67%) of employees confess their love for this gift-giving tradition.

On the flip side, group volunteering takes the bottom spot on the popularity scale. Only a fraction of employees (a mere 14%) find joy in mandatory volunteer activities.

Show us the money

Over half (52%) of employees are expecting to receive an end-of-year bonus. It appears that remote workers might be missing out on this holiday cash - just a little more than one-third (34%) of people working remotely expect a bonus this year.

Not surprisingly, a whopping 60% would be happy if their employer canceled the holiday party and gave them a bigger bonus this year.

The bottom line

Despite the pressures, the regrets, and the occasional overindulgence, the majority of workers still find joy in the annual office holiday party. It's a time to unwind, celebrate achievements, and let loose with coworkers.

Methodology: FinanceBuzz surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults in October 2023. Only those who indicated they had attended a work-sponsored holiday party in the past were asked questions relating to specific things they have done or seen at a work party. Only those who indicated they currently have a job were asked questions about bonuses. See the full survey results here.

Editor’s Note: Generative AI tools helped write this story.

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Author Details

Tracy Odell Tracy leads the editorial team at FinanceBuzz. Prior to joining the company in 2019, Tracy held leadership roles at Student Loan Hero, LendingTree, Meredith Corporation, and CafeMedia. She has over 20 years of content and brand experience across the personal finance, lifestyle, and parenting verticals.