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Avoid the awkward office party. Employees prefer money.

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- In the era of sexual harassment, a lot of office parties will be different. At least we should hope they are.

No sexual innuendo. No leaning in too close after partaking of generously poured drinks provided at an open bar. No pressuring a fellow colleague -- male or female -- for a chance at romance.

But here's another reason the holiday party isn't always well received. Employees consider the cost and conclude that they would rather the company take the money and give it to them instead.

Ninety percent of workers would prefer a bonus or extra vacation days over a holiday party, according to a poll this year by the staffing firm Randstad US.

During a recent online discussion, a reader wrote: "I work for a social services agency. This year, there is no expensive holiday party. We have thousands of employees, so [in previous years] it wasn't lavish, but it was expensive. Instead, [this year] eligible employees sent in their information and management will draw 10 names. Those winners will get $5,000 paid directly toward their student loans. Since most people hated the party, nobody will miss it. Plus, some people will get a really nice gift!"

I thought this was a wonderful idea given the great impact it could have on those selected. Others in the forum weighed in, and a debate ensued.

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A reader named Kathleen thought it was a fantastic idea, too. "I was fortunate to not have student loans (went to state school when it was really cheap and had parents who paid), so I would not be eligible, but would be so excited for those who are facing massive student loan debt to win a chunk of money that would help pay that down," she wrote. "This seems so in the spirit of the holidays and would make such a difference."

Alas, we were in the minority.

"Much as I hate debt and empathize with the crippling debt young adults are saddled with nowadays, only employees with loans are even eligible to vie for the prize," Marilyn wrote. "Older employees, those who never went to college, those with parents that saved, get nothing. Not even a shot at the prize. It's basically implying that only some employees are valued."

Others shared similar views.

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