‘Tis the season for tax cuts, low unemployment and a nine-year bull market.
Try telling that to corporate America. Just 65% of companies say they’re planning a holiday bash this year, according to a new survey from the an executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas. That’s the lowest rate since 2009, when 62% of companies said they were planning an event despite the grips of the Great Recession.
“We have never seen so many companies report that they never have holiday parties,” Andrew Challenger, vice president, said. “The number could be due to several factors, including potential liability following the #MeToo movement.”
Fewer companies are providing alcohol. The #MeToo movement is very much on the minds of many workers.
Roughly 35% of the human resource officials from 150 companies said they never have holiday parties or were foregoing the get-together this year, up from 23% last year.
Last year, companies were spiking soiree plans amid the torrent of workplace sexual misconduct accusations against high-powered men like the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the ex-NBC anchor Matt Lauer.
Some 49% of companies said they’d serve alcohol this year, roughly the same percentage as last year, but that’s down from 62% in 2016. Alcohol can often get mixed up in misconduct allegations and cringe-worthy hijinx, like drunken colleagues dancing in a fountain.
However, Challenger said there could be other explanations for the holiday party’s decline in 2018, like a remote workforce or party plans for another time of year.
Another theory: Some companies may be concerned about global economic uncertainty. Adecco Group, a Swiss-based staffing company, said Tuesday that hiring had slowed in the fourth quarter of 2018, citing concerns about economic growth and concerns about trade wars.
Another theory: Some companies may be concerned about global economic uncertainty as hiring slows.
But worries about boundary-stepping behavior were very much on employers’ minds, Challenger said. Among the party-going companies, 58% said they’ve talked about the #MeToo movement with staff this year.
The #MeToo movement is very much on the minds of many workers. Last week, thousands of Google
workers walked off the job to protest a workplace culture that allegedly abets sexual harassers.
Still, many of the companies sticking with festivities are going to make it a bigger affair, the survey noted.
Nearly one quarter of these companies said they’ll spend more this year, which is up the almost 20% who said last year they’d be spending more. No companies said this year they were planning to trim their party budget.
Challenger said holiday parties, if done right, can be a good team-building moment. “Hopefully, for companies that are not having holiday get-togethers this year, they have other ways to recognize their people, so crucial to building morale and a positive culture,” he said.
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Andrew Keshner is a personal finance reporter based in New York.
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