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In the past two weeks my colleagues have been exchanging a lot of Christmas and New Year's wishes and cards through the company e-mail system. I don't mind receiving such email, but I usually don't respond because "thank you, you too" doesn't seem useful. It doesn't seem like a response is called for.

On the other hand I don't send any kind of e-mails that are unnecessary because it feels unprofessional to me. Most of them are addressing all colleagues, copy-pasted and not very original. But enough of my coworkers send these messages that I wonder if I'm violating some unwritten rule or norm by not participating.

Is it generally expected that employees will send and reply to mass emailings of holiday greetings? Does it depend on culture, job title/function, size of company, something else? If the answer is "it depends", how do I find out if I'm expected to do so?

  • In my company, we have a "social" distribution list which is intended for things like this (or any non-business communications). People are free to opt out of it if they don't want to receive this sort of thing. – alroc Dec 29 '14 at 16:46
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    You would likely be hard pressed to find someone that is actually taking note of who sent "happy holiday's" emails vs those who didn't. It's just noise. Either participate or ignore it. – NotMe Jan 1 '15 at 21:00
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You are under no obligation to respond to unsolicited holiday cards, in any medium. Or you can simply answer "thanks, you too" or some variant, which is not inappropriate for the workplace. "Bah, humbug" or "stop clogging my mailbox" are a bad idea unless there is a company policy against incidental personal e-mail or broadly blasted e-mail and it's your responsibility to play traffic cop.

(I should note that there's a huge difference between sending something to the people you work with most closely and blasting any larger group. Managers sometimes transmit to everyone they're responsible for, and that's considered professionally acceptable. Mailing "the whole company", if you aren't in this sort of position, is likely to be a Career-Limiting Action. That doesn't mean every victim should complain -- that just clogs the network further -- but the network team is likely to take notice.)

If you're really tempted to complain to the sender's manager, roll two dice first (or otherwise generate a random number in the 0-10ish range) and send the gripe only if the number is "3". That will limit the response surge, while allowing one or two grumbles to get through... so they get corrected but hopefully not fired.

  • Kudos for the game-theoretic approach of the response to the issue. :'D – Leon Jun 6 '17 at 6:49
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In addition to the good answer by keshlam, I want to point out that you might be overanalysing this.

Nobody really keeps a score of who has replied to a Christmas card email and/or how many people have sent them Christmas card emails. I would find it highly surprising and unbelievably stupid if a colleague were thinking, "I sent this email to 20 colleagues, I have received 'Thanks, you too' from 7 of them. I have also received cards from 10 people. The only ones left out are Tom, Dick, and Harry."

However, I must mention that if you are always serious-faced at other times, then people might take notice of you not responding to their wishes, as in, "Hey, as expected, Jack doesn't bother with the Christmas greetings. He is always lost in his own world." If you are "social" enough with your colleagues at other times, I don't see this happening.

If I were in the situation though, I would have probably just stood up during an "off time" and wished Merry Christmas to everyone in office. That way, you convey your courteousness without having to reply to each email, and then people won't call you rude or unsocial.

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Don't be hard on yourself. It is OK not to respond as you are not obligated to like keshlam points out. On the other hand extending courtesy and not being hurtful to colleagues whom you work closely with is a good practice, as it helps build or keep rapport and working relationship with them. We are all people and we are wired to expect courtesy from fellow co-workers. You never know - your one "Thank You" note can make the day for someone else. Give it a try, Merry Christmas!!

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