It truly will be just champagne wishes and caviar dreams for most employees at their holiday parties. Big corporations like Viacom, Hearst and ABC News, which used to book Hiltons and serve booze galore, have either canceled or scaled back party plans.

Now small businesses are following suit in scaling back on festivities, says the Associated Press. It's not primarily due to limited cash flow; some feel it's just not appropriate to party when pink slips are fast and furious.

According to a survey done by Battalia Winston Amrop, an executive search firm in New York, only 81% of businesses will have some type of holiday party this year, the lowest level in 20 years. Also, 37% say their party has been cancelled or scaled back, double the 19% of companies affected last year.
OK. So your company will probably still have some kind of party. Most HR departments and executives feel that canceling the party sends the sign that they don't care about employees, and they don't want to darken the gloom any more. Your chances of partying it up in style are good if you work in the healthcare or pharmaceutical business -- 85% of surveyed companies say the economy will have no impact on their party plans. But those of you working in financial services and manufacturing, brace yourselves -- 42% of companies in each industry are hosting either "modest" parties, or none at all. One way to cut back on holiday costs is, of course, putting a kibbosh on the liquor. Only 71% of companies will offer alcoholic drinks this year (down from a survey high of 90% in 2000).

It's been a few years since I worked for the Man, so I asked full-timer friends working here in California what their companies' holiday plans were. Most said the big change was that the party would be held in the offices instead of offsite. A runner-up was switching from a catered affair to an employee potluck. A few companies were going the giving route, either by hosting a Volunteer Day for workers to serve their favorite cause, or donating money earmarked for a party to a charity on employees' behalf.

Those who weren't crying over the loss of a holiday party were employees getting extra time off during the holidays as consolation. Remembering my company holiday parties of yore, when someone inevitable would always get too drunk and make a fool of him/herself in front of the higher-ups, extra paid vacation days is a no-brainer. That's way more exciting than sipping cheap wine under the fluorescent lights of Cubicleland.

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