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2009: the Year of the Kinder, Gentler Office Party

Miami, FL, December 25, 2009 --( With the clock winding down on the holiday office party season, 2009 will be remembered as the year that companies dialed down the extravagance and upped their goodwill quotient, according to executive coach and personal branding company The Usheroff Institute.

A poll of companies by The Usheroff Institute about changes to the year-end office party ritual shows that, as companies become increasingly aware of their corporate image, they are dropping activities that might be viewed as frivolous or spendthrift. As a result, gone are the endless crantinis and five-star dining of yesteryear, to be replaced by charitable gift-wrapping, in-house potluck meals and employee recognition rewards. And they let employees call the shots about what type of party they wanted.

“The combination of all the financial scandals, the miserable economy, and the fact that so many people are hurting has put the boots to the conventional holiday party, at least for now,” CEO Roz Usheroff says.

“Companies are making their year-end parties ‘mean’ something this year. They are making the statement: This is who we are, this is part of our brand. And for most of them, they want to be seen as frugal, accountable, and as nice guys who are banking goodwill dividends by recognizing important contributions and helping the needy.”

Usheroff, whose latest book, “Taking The Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times and Beyond” has just been published, says the most common change among companies this year was the ‘staycation,’ moving the offsite celebration back to the office, saving money and showing restraint. With the money they saved, companies used their events to celebrate corporate successes, recognize employee contributions and even bringing back employee bonuses.

When left to their own devices, Usheroff says, employees typically chose a half-day party with a potluck lunch, followed by wrapping gifts and delivering them to charities.

Some companies are keeping their off-site black-tie dinners intact, Usheroff said, but it would be hard to recognize them from 10 years ago.

“One senior executive told me his company’s event this year was a short cocktail party on a Monday night at an art gallery with one free drink ticket per person. Monday night? One free drink? You can tell what the message they are sending is.”

So will the pendulum ever swing back to the old days?

“When things improve I think you’ll see things loosening up a bit again,” Usheroff says. “But once things like charities and in-house parties become ingrained, and people realize they like doing these things, it will be hard to turn back the clock.”

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Roz Usheroff

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The Usheroff Institute
Roz Usheroff
1 (800) 844-2206

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