December 18, 2009
The company holiday party: Morale booster or budget buster?
Much has been written about whether employers should let the holiday party show go on this year.
In November, MSNBC journalist Allison Linn wrote about whether companies bailed out by taxpayer dollars had a moral obligation to tone down their holiday party. In December, Forbes declared, "Expensive extravagances are out. Lunch in the conference room is in."
I had no trouble finding workers who approved of their employer's decision to downsize or cancel this year's holiday festivities. "It's obnoxious to break the bank on one lousy party when we've had so many cutbacks this year," was the general consensus.
But for some embittered employees who've endured more than one round of layoffs and salary shaves since 2007, even a bare bones potluck in the break room was too much.
"Keep your forced holiday cheer to yourself," was their sentiment. "I just want to do my work, collect my cropped paycheck, and get as far away from this place at the end of the day as possible."
Despite this year's economic turbulence, a small sampling of companies decided to go a bit more lavish than their 2008 holiday shindig. According to the annual survey conducted by executive search firm Battalia Winston Amrop, one percent of leading U.S. businesses polled kicked their holiday party up a notch this year.
Bainbridge-based startup mywedding.com is one of those companies. Each holiday season, the seven-year-old organization throws its employees a theme wedding, complete with catering, flowers, wedding cake, and DJ. (This year's theme: the seventies.)
"We try to outdo ourselves every year," co-founder Eric Bernal said of the affair, which cost the firm $12,000 in 2008. "It's a way for us to give back to the employees and a great way to bond as a company. When things like that get cut, it sends a bad message to employees. They may think that they're not valued or not appreciated."
Readers, how does your own employer rate? Did your company strike the right balance between holiday morale boost and budget appropriateness this year? Or did your holiday soiree (or lack thereof) leave a bad taste in your mouth?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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