Ask Amy: Bullied colleague not ready to give

November 12, 2013 

Dear Amy: I work in a very small office setting (five employees). At Christmastime, token gifts have been exchanged (one person always gives tins of homemade cookies, another gives candles, etc., while another seems to find the smallest, most unattractive items she can find to give to me). I have always tried to make and give gifts that I have put some special thought and time into, which may appear to some as being cheap.

Over this past year, the relationships with these three employees have deteriorated significantly because I stood firm on a professional and ethical issue that exposed the business and myself to liability. Heated words were hurled at me by one colleague in particular, leaving me stunned. The other two were not happy and continually let me know so through body language and offhand comments. Our boss is completely supportive of my actions.

Several months later, the other employees and I talk as needed to keep the office running, but it's still tense. I feel that, now that they've shown their true colors, we should pass on the Christmas gift-giving this year.

Do I need to make an announcement that I'm not participating in any gift-giving, or simply not give them a gift when the time comes?

My wife says no announcement. The boss just wants everybody to get along.

What do you say, Amy?

— Ethical and unappreciated

Dear Ethical: I think the ethical thing to do is to continue to rise above other people's pettiness and rudeness and to remember that this upcoming holiday is supposed to be all about peace on earth and good will toward all people (including colleagues).

Evidently that's not the holiday you intend to celebrate this year; if so, then you need to imagine how you will feel when you receive gifts from others (no matter how cruddy) and you have no intention to participate. Perhaps you should head off this awkwardness and make a simple statement in advance: "Due to the tension in the office, I think it's best if I don't participate in the gift exchange this year."

Just know that if you do this, the situation at work has little hope of improving.

Dear Amy: "Frustrated Family" felt pressure to include a sister's abusive husband in holiday events, even though the couple were now separated.

I agreed with your advice, Amy. The sister is now separated from this jerk, and now the family gets to be separated from him, too.

— Fan

Dear Fan: Thank you.


You can contact Amy Dickinson via email at You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or "like" her on Facebook.

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