Economy's Latest Victim: The Holiday Office Party

A record number of companies have dropped holiday parties this year while others are scaling back how much they spend, what they serve and/or how many people they invite.

Everyone seems too worried about money to party, and no one wants to party on the heels of layoffs. This may help explain why caterers and event coordinators are struggling to keep banquet rooms booked with party-cancellations spiking in the past few weeks.

Across the nation, companies are in dire economic straits, tightening their belts and, at a time when some extra holiday cheer may be in order at many workplaces, canceling annual end-of-the-year holiday bashes.

No less than three new annual holiday-party surveys support that a record number of companies have dropped holiday parties this year while others are scaling back how much they spend, what they serve or how many people they invite.

According to executive search firm Battalia Winston Amrop's annual survey of 108 firms, company-sponsored holiday parties have hit a two-decade low, the 81 percent hosting parties even dropping below the 82 percent who celebrated during the 1991 recession. That is 19 percent of companies forgoing a holiday party this year, the highest percentage in the 20-year history of the recruitment firm's Annual Survey on Corporate Holiday Celebrations.

According to Battalia Winston's findings, 37 percent of companies say that their party has been either canceled or will be more modest because of the current economy. That is nearly double the amount affected by the economy last year (19 percent).

"The holiday mood is somber this year as concerns about the economy continue to impact companies and their employees — so much so that the number of parties has reached a historical low," Dale Winston, Battalia Winston CEO, said in a statement. "Over the past 20 years the number of holiday parties has always mirrored the health of the economy. This year we see how hard companies have been hit, especially in the financial and manufacturing industries where many companies have had to cancel parties altogether."

In its survey of 100 companies, outplacement consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. and Special Events magazine found that 23 percent of companies are electing not to host a holiday party this year, compared with only 10 percent in 2007.

Doing away with an end-of-the-year party, however, means workers won't have a chance to come together and recognize each other and the work they've done through particularly difficult times. "Where else but the office party can you find the CEO and the mailroom clerk bellied up to the bar together?" Monster.com points out.

Rather than eliminate the year-end party completely, some companies are keeping a close eye on costs and doing away with holiday frills.

In yet another study, by Towers Perrin, more than half of all organizations polled acknowledge they are cutting back on holiday festivities for employees. Of more than 1,200 executives polled in October, 58 percent of all companies acknowledged they are "somewhat" or "very likely" to scale back this year's holiday party and other employee events to save money.

"Only 4.3 percent of companies are increasing their party budgets this year, and by an average of only 5 percent, compared to 2007 when 38 percent allocated an average of 16 percent more for their parties," Special Events magazine reports. "Among the 13 percent planning to reduce party spending, the budget cuts averaged 53 percent."

To cut back on costs, many companies that are still having parties will not serve alcohol, according to Battalia Winston. Only 71 percent will offer alcoholic drinks this year, down from the survey-high 90 percent in 2000.

If you're lucky enough to be employed by a company that hasn't canceled the holiday party, knowing what to do and what not to do during the festivities could come in handy.

"The most important thing employees should always remember regarding office holiday parties is, regardless of where the party is held, it is an extension of the workplace and you need to behave accordingly," Lori Erickson, vice president of human resources at Monster.com, said in a statement last year. "And, of course, getting drunk and making a spectacle of yourself can haunt you long after the holidays are over."

Even if getting completely wrecked doesn't get you fired, it will surely leave a lasting impression on coworkers and the boss. Being the butt of jokes throughout the department or entire organization simply isn't worth that third or fourth or 12th drink.

For more rules of the office holiday party, see Monster.com's ...Biggest Office Holiday Party Pitfalls and Office Holiday Party Etiquette.

If your workplace holiday party has been sacrificed, will you miss it? If you are still having an office party, let us know. Here at IMT, we promise not to crash it but we would like to at least celebrate vicariously through our readers.

Resources

Holiday Parties Being Canceled, Scaled Down

KVVU.com/Las Vegas News, Dec. 1, 2008

Annual Survey on Corporate Holiday Celebrations

Battalia Winston, Oct. 28, 2008

Holiday Parties Face Cuts, Challenger Says

Special Events magazine/Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., Oct 29, 2008

Office Holiday Party Etiquette

by Susan Bryant

Monster.com

...The Economy is Forcing Companies to Evaluate Compensation and Incentive Plans

Towers Perrin, Nov. 7, 2008

Monster Reveals Biggest Office Holiday Party Pitfalls

Monster.com, Nov. 30, 2007



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