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by Abigail Van Buren

Pressure of Picking Good Gifts Turns Office Party Into a Chore

DEAR ABBY: I am an administrative assistant. Part of my job is to make the arrangements for our department Christmas party. Every year we go out in a group of about 15 people. I no longer wish to attend these events. Group settings make me nervous. In addition, we all have to buy gender-neutral gifts to exchange.

I have tried to talk with my boss about it, but he doesn't seem to understand. We have bi-monthly staff meetings, and after everyone is done with business, we always have discussion time for things other than work. Most of us have lunch together every day and talk then. We also have group birthday celebrations four times a year.

I get a sick feeling every time I think about going to this party, and then the headache of trying to choose a gift that won't be made fun of. (I am not good at it.) Last year I called in sick so I wouldn't have to attend. I have tried taking a personal day off, but then my boss gets mad at me. Should I be forced to go to this? -- NOT A GIFT PICKER IN ST. PAUL

DEAR NOT A GIFT PICKER: No, you shouldn't. Because you find these functions to be onerous, consider putting in a short appearance at the Christmas party and then "rushing off" because you have a "schedule conflict." As to your gift selection problem, at this time of year most people are inundated with catalogs with all sorts of offerings. Open a few, select any item in your price range and order it. Or consider a gift card. Problem solved.

Read more in: Work & School | Holidays & Celebrations