So Much for the Office Holiday Party

Unlike Justine, a project manager I'll call Nate had mixed feelings about attending his employer's holiday soiree this month.

"They've rented out an entire nightclub," said Nate, who works for a technology company in the San Francisco Bay Area. "Only problem is, they just laid off a couple dozen of my co-workers. I'm sure they already knew they'd be letting some people go when they booked the room. It's disgusting."

But there are valid reasons for the holiday show to go on, said Richard Coughlan, associate professor of management at the University of Richmond.

"Significant change can really leave people wondering where the company is going," he explained. "For some people, that party is a big highlight. If you cancel it, certain employees will want to know what the justification is, even if there have been layoffs. This is one of those instances where you really can't overcommunicate."

A Tradition of One's Own

Bates, the executive coach, agrees that holiday parties do have a loftier purpose than simply reminding staff they're appreciated and getting them good and drunk.

"This year is different than last year," she said. "Many companies have completed their reorganization and restructuring. What they really need to do now is build camaraderie and connections among the people who are going to move the company forward. They also need to celebrate their successes because a lot of companies have had near-death experiences."

Although his firm hasn't had to cut back any staff or pay, Guy Roadruck, managing partner of MediaPlant, a small digital media agency in Seattle, shares that sentiment.

"One reason we made it through the recession so far is that we don't throw money around on stupid stuff," said Roadruck, whose firm holds its annual holiday festivities at a local bowling alley and pool hall -- somewhere he said "better fits our company identity."

"There's nothing wrong or embarrassing about companies that prefer to do the big bash," Roadruck added. "Just don't be dropping huge dollars on a Christmas party, then start handing out pink slips in January."

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist and former cubicle dweller. She is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube". For more information, see Anti9to5Guide.com.

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