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Holiday Cutbacks Squashing Your Employees’ Spirit?

We’re smack-dab in the middle of holidayness, surrounded by tinsel, lights, spiked eggnog, trees on tops of cars, bad sweaters, gift exchanges, parties, non-stop playing of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”…did I mention spiked eggnog?

Unfortunately, despite all of our holiday fun, the reality of recent headlines is a bit sobering. The recent news of a Wal-Mart employee death, for example, is news that I’m still reeling over, and real company cutbacks are not as funny – or as easy a decision – as this:

Many companies are cutting back on the often costly end-of-the-year perks and commemorations of the season, such as bonus amounts, employee gifts, and lavish company bashes, according to a recent survey conducted among more than 3,000 hiring managers and HR professionals.

The results on fourth-quarter giving reveal where employers are cutting corners most:

Don’t Count on It

  • One-third (34 percent) of employers planning to give holiday bonuses will pay out the same amounts or less this year than in past years
  • Of those employers decreasing bonuses, more than half (54 percent) plan to decrease by at least 10 percent
  • A whopping seventy-four percent of employers decreasing bonuses will lower amounts up to 25 percent

Wrap it Up

  • One-third (29 percent) of employers planning to give gifts to employees say they will spend the same or less this year than in the past

B.Y.O.P. (Bring Your Own Party)

  • Seventeen percent of employers plan to cut back on the celebrations this holiday season

Despite these sobering numbers, it is vital that both employers and the employees working for them keep a few things in mind. “The current economic state and its repercussions may be causing anxiety in the office, but it is important for employees to try to remain positive,” says Rosemary Haefner, VP of human resources for

Haefner adds, “Cost-cutting on bonuses, parties and other holiday perks is often a cautionary measure in challenging times. Employers are doing their best to clearly communicate cutbacks to employees to ensure the reasons behind trimming are understood by all levels within the organization.”

Haefner offers the following advice for workers encountering holiday cutbacks:

  1. Factor possible cutbacks into your budget. If you’re anticipating a bonus this season, be sure to budget accordingly so that you can handle your financial obligations if your bonus is eliminated.
  2. Donate your time. While companies may not have the budgets to throw a holiday party this year, employees can suggest charity work as an alternative. That way, co-workers can get into the holiday spirit by helping others and giving back to their community.
  3. Make connections. Use the time you would have spend at a holiday party to attend a local professional networking event of seminar with a few colleagues. By doing so, you can build your professional network and socialize at the same time.
  4. Don’t lose your holiday spirit. Even if your company holiday party is cancelled, it doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate the season with co-workers. Plan a low-key celebration in the office such as a potluck or set up a gathering outside of work for your own holiday party.

On my team here at CB, for example, we’re having a potluck lunch tomorrow and getting in the spirit of the holidays with some spirits afterwards. It’s definitely scaled down from other company celebrations I’ve taken part in, but the important thing is that we’re spending some quality time together, away from the stress and busyness of our 9-to-5 lives.

I know that some of you indicated on our survey on The Hiring Site that you’re doing away with the holiday party this year as well. What else are you cutting back on this holiday season? And what are you doing to modify or replace the company holiday traditions of years past? I would love to get your thoughts on this one.

Despite our trying times, by finding new, creative and low-budget ways to signify the season, you will likely also be helping your employees feel a little less Scrooged – and a little more spirited – this year.

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.


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