November 28, 2003
Not very festive
This article talks about how various cities have cut back or cut out holiday celebrations like tree-lighting ceremonies in recent years due to budget crunches. Houston, despite its own fiscal woes, hasn't done any such thing, but what I've noticed is the near death of the corporate holiday party. Back in the good old days of the late 90s, Tiffany and I would get to attend a couple of lavish parties, one thrown by each of our employers, usually at a local museum (the Natural Science Museum was the best, but the Museum of Fine Arts was good, too). They'd have live music, open bars, extensive buffets, and the chance to see your coworkers and their spouses all dressed up. I'd occasionally hear people complain about attending them, since they took up space on an already busy December calendar, but I always loved them.
Needless to say, this sort of thing cost a ton, and was one of the first things to go when the economy headed south. Does anyone still work for a company that throws a real holiday party, or are they as extinct as the dodo? I'm usually an optimist on things, but I fear that when we're back in a bull market this tradition will not get revived. Damn shame if you ask me.
(Side note: I'll bet the death of parties like these has also been a big hardship on museums' budgets, since the rental fees had to have been huge.)
Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 28, 2003 to Society and cultcha
My employer never throws me a lavish party, at this time of year or any other. That's the downside of being self-employed. :-) (My current client, however, is throwing a nice party for his employees, and was kind enough to invite me.)
I'll bet the death of parties like these has also been a big hardship on museums' budgets
You are correct that arts organizations, museums, musical ensembles etc. suffer greatly in this kind of economic climate. It was my misfortune to be on the board of such an org during the Reagan years. That org, a chamber ensemble, had the distinction of funding a higher percentage of its operating expenses from the gate than just about any other group in town. Like the museums, though, we had to get the rest from somewhere.
I always thought the Repub's really liked supporting the arts until I experienced that fiasco. One major oil corp. (I'll be nice and not say which) once replied to us something like, "For an organization with a budget the size of yours [i.e., very small], our maximum grant would be $100, and we're funding our arts grants at 1 percent this year..." One wonders that they even wasted the price of a stamp to tell us that. Yes, indeed, your favorite org's are suffering, you can bet on it.
It's ot just holiday parties. The summertime company picnic is another casualty. I first entered the professional workforce in 1987, and for almost all of the first dozen years there were the parties in December and in the summer. Since then...nada, nothing, zip, zilch. And I don't expect them to return when the economy improves. When was the last time corporations in general willingly gave back what they took away, even if the conditions which prompted the takeaway no longer exist?
Frankly, most businesses -- at least the large, publically traded ones -- have done a miserable job of investing in employee morale over the last decade or so, and particularly since the turn of this century. We can't do anything that might take .001 cent off of this quarter's earnings, can we?
For the first time in the six years I've been there we get no holiday party this year where I work.
In previous years we also had a catered buffet lunch sometime during Thanksgiving week. Even that is gone this year.
I'm almost embarrassed to say that my company is still very good about parties. We have a Christmas party at the CEO's house (which is amazing, even though he also invites Clarence Thomas), and although I was unable to attend, another person in top management hosts a Memorial Day picnic. It's a great place to work. We also have suites at FedEx Field and MCI Center that employees are allowed to use when the bosses aren't.
Hey, don't hate me because my company is generous to its employees. Hate me because I work for an HMO.