With wages stagnant, one 2010 survey found, many employees said they would rather receive money or gifts than stand around in awkward circles drinking —although only 23 percent of the companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said they would offer non-performance-based year-end gifts.
Best-case scenario, nobody drinks too much and everybody is pleasant to the people they already spend too much time with. Which they could do any day at the office with the people they spend too much time with. Those who do like socializing with co- workers don't need an occasion. More companies are offering alcohol in the office — kegerators are now a fixture of the start-up office cliché.
When the economy contracted, many once-lavish parties retreated to office break rooms. In 2012, with memories of the recession still raw, Wall Street took its parties underground. In a better economy, you'd think companies would want to flaunt their increased profits with blowouts.
Maybe it's the optics. Cash-rich Silicon Valley companies last year tried (and failed) to keep their parties understated, Bloomberg Businessweek reported, fearing criticism for profligate spending.
As the Society's data show, most employers are still throwing the holiday party. As for the decline, it's possible that more companies are simply shifting away from big bashes, leaving end-of-the-year celebrations to individual departments.
Or maybe they just aren't seeing the ROI.
"Companies are always looking for how they can better maximize their benefits," said the Society's Esen. "They look at them strategically. What do employees value? Maybe they can use that money to do something else that would be more beneficial."
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