Holiday Office Party – Mad Men or MegaCorp?


‘Tis the season for the venerable holiday office party.  While December is a busy month at most companies with year-end looming, it is also a time to raise a glass of good cheer with your colleagues.  Folks at my MegaCorp are happily looking forward to the New Year.  There has not been much too celebrate lately with job layoffs, budget cuts and other unpleasantness spoiling the fourth quarter.  Yet, this week and next week we will have a number of holiday festivities to mark the holiday season.  Ours will definitely not be a Mad Men holiday blowout, but rather a low-key affair.

The Society for HR Professionals publishes an annual STUDY on End of Year/Holiday Office Parties that gives you a sense of how the holidays are celebrated in most workplaces.  Here are some of their statistics with comments on my experience over the years …

  • 65% of Companies have Holiday Parties – This number is down just a bit from 3 years ago (72%).  Almost every company I have worked for has had some kind of party, from very grand affairs to my current MegaCorp’s planned “pot luck lunch” where people are expected to bring a dish or pay $5 toward the meal.  While 92% of companies do NOT expect employees to pay for their Holiday Party, that is not the case at MegaCorp.
  • 80% of Parties cost the SAME as last year – It hasn’t been a great year for a lot of companies, so maybe this isn’t a surprise.  The most spectacular Holiday Party I ever went to was about 25 years ago.  Our British-owned MegaCorp hosted a sit-down white linen luncheon for 600+ people in a beautiful ballroom, had a live holiday greeting from our CEO in London (when satellites connections were still a big deal), and the stage curtains went up to reveal a full orchestra to perform.  It was, of course, criticized in business section of the local newspaper the next day.
  • 67% of Parties are held offsite (vs in the office) – with many of them (42%) held in the evening and a good number (59%) inviting spouses and significant others to attend.  These are the best kind of holiday parties – I’ve been to ones held in the party rooms of fancy hotels, art museums or at country clubs.  My DW likes to come to the parties and meet some of my colleagues (that she hears about when i talk about work).  My current MegaCorp is only doing the pot luck lunch this year.
  • 59% of Parties will serve alcohol – It’s hard to toast the end of the year with a root beer, but clearly companies are split on this.  I decided to host my team (about 55 people) to a Holiday Happy Hour next Monday afternoon, but will pay for it on my own dime.  We’ll share some wine & beer, with some non-alcohol selections for those that choose not to imbibe.
  • 60% of companies give out prizes/gifts at the holiday party – The best prize I ever got at a Holiday Party was a genuine NFL Football. We also have a white chocolate Pillsbury Doughboy in our freezer from a party in 1990.  I’m not sure how he ended up in our freezer, but he’s been patiently surveying the comings & goings of our frozen foods for 25 years.   I can’t remember too much other swag I’ve taken home from the Office gala.
  • 82% will include a charitable donation drive – This is up from 74% just three years ago.  Every MegaCorp I have worked for has included some kind of “giving tree” program a the Holidays.  My current MegaCorp has a toy drive, although I noticed our bin is stuck in the corner of our floor plan and still empty with a week left in the drive.  I’ll have to pick up some Legos to make my contribution.
  • 50% of companies have a holiday gift exchange – I’ve never been a big fan of organized gift exchanges at work.  Seems a little cheesy.  That said, I usually give out holiday bottles of Bailey’s Irish Cream to my direct reports, closest colleagues & boss on the last day I am in the office.  Giving out booze is a bit old-school these days, but I keep doing it.  At over $15 a bottle, this is a relatively expensive endeavor, but I’m not going to stop in my final year at work.

If these numbers and reflections seem a little ho-hum relative to the drunken Holiday Office Parties shown in movies and on TV, it could be that big multinational MegaCorps just aren’t where it’s at.  Our advertising agency partners tell riotous stories of bacchanalian celebrations that would make Mad Men blush.  These kind of holiday office parties are featured in this ARTICLE from last week’s Daily Mirror, that reports more than half of holiday office party goers report getting frisky with their colleagues.  Definitely not the kind of work party I’ve been to, but I guess they are all adults and can celebrate in whatever way makes them merry!

How does your company celebrate the holidays?

Image Credit: AMC

11 thoughts on “Holiday Office Party – Mad Men or MegaCorp?

  1. I work for a large company and it varies. One group I worked with rented out a hotel and band – drinks and dancing. This is what my husband’s company does. The last few years the unit I am in does a potluck at work at lunch time… so a big turkey and ham are supplied by the company and all the sides are brought in by the employees. Very, very, very tame 🙂 But, I am okay with that – I’ve never been comfortable drinking around my co-workers.


    1. Yes – too much to drink at the office party is sure to result in a memorable impression with your colleagues. 🙂


  2. LOL — thanks for the laugh about your frozen Pillsbury Doughboy. I think we need a picture! 🙂 I’m en route to my megacorp subsidiary HQ as we speak, and we’ll have our holiday party Friday night. Free alcohol, no giveaways, offsite, with charitable drive (that has been going on the past few weeks), no gift exchange. I used to love the parties when I was younger, but now that free booze isn’t such a novelty, I stand around wondering when I can leave without offending anyone. There is always loud music, so it’s hard to talk to people, and since I’m not inclined to dance in front of my colleagues, there is little else to do!


  3. My own MegaCorp used to throw extravagant parties in ballrooms at a fancy hotel, complete with booze, gambling tables, prizes, a DJ, and significant others. It ran the company $20k/yr. I know because I was on the planning committee. This year it has been cut and all we’re getting is a free lunch in our cafeteria, today, as a matter of fact. Oh, how I wish we were having a Mad Men style party at our office. There’s something captivating about the idea of getting smashed at the office, after hours. I suppose liability has kicked those types of parties to the curb. Interesting stats in this post!

    Happy Holidays!
    Mrs. Mad Money Monster


    1. Sounds like quite a downshift, but that’s the way it goes these days. I think once a company slows things down, it’s hard to ever go back.

      Liked by 1 person

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