Magazine article Workforce Management

Christmas Party Taking a Holiday amid Downturn

Magazine article Workforce Management

Christmas Party Taking a Holiday amid Downturn

Article excerpt


This year, the Grinch may not have stolen Christmas, but he definitely took the Christmas party.

Across the nation, companies are canceling annual end-of-the-year holiday bashes to cut costs, or in some cases just to blend in with the rest of a world that's too worried about money to feel like a party. The trend is having a ripple effect on caterers and event coordinators who say that calls canceling parties have spiked in the past few weeks.

Two annual holiday-party surveys back up anecdotal evidence that a record number of companies have dropped holiday parties this year - more even than in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist bombings - while others are scaling back how much they spend, what they serve or how many people they invite.

In its survey of 100 companies, outplacement consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. found that 23 percent of companies elected not to host a holiday party this year, compared with only 10 percent in 2007. New York executive search firm Battalia Winston Amrop found in its survey of 108 firms that 19 percent will forgo a party this year, the highest percentage in the poll's 20-year history.

And in a separate study of more than 1 ,200 executives by Towers Perrin, 58 percent of all organizations polled acknowledge they are somewhat or very likely to scale back this year's holiday party and other employee events to save money.

"People are scared," Battalia CEO Dale Winston says. "We do this survey because it's a way of calibrating die mood of the country, and we're just not in a celebratory mood."

Investment banks and financial institutions rocked by the mortgage industry crisis were some of the first to cancel celebrations, including Barclays and Morgan Stanley.

Barclays will sponsor parties for employees' children at several locations internationally, but it canceled other celebrations. Company executives issued a memo to employees stating that given the upheaval in the financial industry and in light of its Lehman Brothers acquisition, "it is not appropriate for us to do anything that might be seen as inappropriate by any of our stakeholders."

Publishing, news and entertainment companies dealing with tanking revenues and earnings have put the kibosh on once-lavish celebrations, including Viacom, ABC News and Hearst.

Holiday parties at Viacom were the stuff of legend, but this year, the media conglomerate that owns cable TV networks MTV, VHl, BET and CMT canceled all year-end festivities. Instead, employees will get two extra paid vacation days between December 22 and January 1. …

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