(Bloomberg) The economy is recovering, companies are spending more on benefits, employee satisfaction and retention are being monitored. And the holiday party is declining.
Could it be that people don't like it?
Of companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management, 65 per cent said they plan to hold an end-of-the-year gathering for their employees, down from 72 per cent in 2012. In 1998, 83 per cent of those surveyed threw parties. This year's participation rate is not as low as recession levels: in 2009, only 61 per cent of employers were planning soirees.
But, unlike in 2009, companies aren't opting out for financial reasons. This year, only 6 per cent of respondents cited budget constraints as a reason for cutting the party, down from 20 per cent in 2009, at the height of financial crisis austerity.
"Maybe they realized that nobody seems to be missing these," said Evren Esen, director of survey programs at the human resources group. Maybe companies that originally zeroed out the festivities as a cost-cutting measure sensed that few were moping around because they wouldn't get a chance to drink with their co-workers and bosses.
Employees have too much going on this time of year, said Cathy Coughlin, director of HR at Old Line Bank, of Bowie, Maryland, which has given up after about a decade of partying. It’s hard to find a central location for such a big gathering after work, Coughlin said, and "we didn't want to do something on the weekend that people felt obligated to attend and it would be an additional burden for employees during an already busy season."
It would be bad enough if the holiday party were just a tolerable duty. But it can be aggressively annoying and occasionally disastrous.
"I hope the actual explanation is 'because they're the worst,' " one colleague told me when I mentioned the survey results. Fast Company rounded up a healthy list of embarrassing stories. Inc. had to offer advice for creating "Office Holiday Parties Your Employees Want to Attend." The combination of co- workers and alcohol often encourages unfortunate antics and can result in wounded feelings, tattered reputations, and even HR action in the New Year.