Avoid the awkward office party. Employees prefer money.

Michelle Singletary on

"I don't have a student loan," wrote Jacquie Bokow from Maryland. "What if I had huge medical bills instead?" She suggested divvying up the $50,000 the company is spending among all of the employees.

Anne August from Massachusetts thought a lottery for employees with student loans "is blatantly discriminatory."

The word "unfair" came up a lot.

Megan from Indiana said her company held a holiday sweepstakes and gave out gift cards, with more than 100 employees getting $25 gift cards and six receiving $100 gift cards.

"Seeing six people getting $100 was really exciting," she wrote. "I was delighted to see a name I knew, and I was thinking about how she deserves it as a hardworking single mom with a heart of gold and great sense of humor."

But Megan admitted that not finding her name on the longer $25 winners' list "felt a little crummy."

She also didn't like limiting the giveaway to folks with education debt. "It doesn't quite seem fair that a 22-year-old first-year employee could be eligible for a benefit that a 45-year-old veteran employee with perhaps some medical debt isn't. Or even another 22-year-old first-year employee that busted her butt to work through college without getting a loan. Office politics could get snarky."


"I think it's a recipe for disaster," wrote Jeffrey, who added, "I really don't like office holiday parties. Frankly, canceling the holiday party would be gift enough for me."

Having read all the concerns, I'll walk back some of my enthusiasm. Perhaps a lottery for just a certain set of employees could cause resentment among the staff. But I'll leave you with this from reader Katie:

"If I were at the office holding the loans lottery and still had loans, I would like to believe that I'd have a charitable and cheerful attitude even if I wasn't one of the lucky selected winners. After all, can you be too upset over a prize you were never entitled to or that you could in no way work to improve your odds of receiving? A random raffle isn't based on merit. If you won, that's an amazing windfall, but if you didn't, you're not at any more of a loss and shouldn't feel slighted."


Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1301 K St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is Follow her on Twitter (@SingletaryM) or Facebook ( Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer's name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group



blog comments powered by Disqus

Social Connections


Cul de Sac Wizard of Id The Lockhorns Meaning of Lila Andy Capp Master Strokes: Golf Tips