Career Advice Dec 06 2011

Employees Say Humbug to Holiday Parties

By kelly eggers

Companies playing the Scrooge card on company holiday parties may have the right idea after all. Recent surveys show that most employees prefer to be without them.

Holiday parties have been on the decline for the past few seasons. In 2006, 95% of companies surveyed by New York City-based executive search firm Amrop Battalia Winston said they'd be hosting a company holiday party, compared with 74% in 2011.

More than half of those hosting parties this year said boosting employee morale is behind the decision to hold them. This mentality might be misguided, says Rusty Rueff, a career and workplace expert with Sausalito, Calif.-based workplace culture website Glassdoor.com.

Such parties are now viewed as irresponsible undertakings, says Rueff. A Glassdoor survey of more than 2,500 U.S. adults released today found that 72% of employees would prefer a cash bonus over other company perks this season. In fact, cash and other monetary or compensation-related perks like raises, additional paid time off, grocery cards or health insurance subsidies ranked significantly higher than holiday parties, which were preferred by only 4% of respondents.

"During tumultuous times, cash is king," Rueff says. "Until employees feel confident in their jobs, have cash in their pockets, can take care of the basics, and have enough time to take care of what needs to get done, everything else feels like fluff."

People want back the "basics" that were the pre-recession norm, Rueff says. If they don't feel those needs are being met, employees could grow irritated that company cash is being spent on holiday gatherings instead of helping staff make ends meet.

Companies that can't provide cash bonuses or pay raises should consider other perks. "What we found most surprising was that 32% of employees wanted additional paid time off that doesn't count toward their vacation days," says Rueff. "In the past, I don't think we would have seen that." The desire for more time off work is indicative of a hard driving culture that has required those surviving layoffs to work more just to keep their jobs.

"It's taking a toll on people," Rueff says. "It falls below cash or salaries, but extra time is now precious."

Write to Kelly Eggers



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