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Holidays at the Office: No Spouses, More Booze

Tuesday, 16 Nov 2010 | 3:25 PM ET

Sure, CEOs made a boatload in 2010 as profits improved, but don't expect that to trickle down to the holiday office party. Take Wedbush. Please. An amazing article in the Los Angeles Times details the famous frugalityof the brokerage's co-founder, Ed Wedbush. "During the year-end holiday party season, Wedbush tells managers he will 'pay for the meat' but nothing else, according to current and former employees."

Hey, at least he's paying for the meat.

A survey by executive recruiting firm Amrop Battalia Winston says, "The worst holiday party slump in the past 22 years has been recorded in 2010, with only 79 percent of businesses conducting some type of holiday celebration." That's down from 2008 and 2009, in the worst of the recession, when the number was 81 percent. Actually, I'm kind of surprised it's as high as 79 percent.

Most parties will cost about the same this year as they did last year, though 28 percent of firms surveyed say they'll throw more modest get-togethers. That 28 percent is an improvement from the 49 percent which cut back last year.

Oh, by the way, this year, leave your spouse or significant other at home. Over two-thirds of the parties will be for "employees only".

For those not throwing parties, CEOs say it's not about the money (which means it's about the money). More than half of companies forgoing fun times say parties just don't fit the times.

"Those having holiday parties this year are much more optimistic about the year-ahead, while those not having parties are more pessimistic," says Amrop Battalia Winston CEO Dale Winston.

There's also a big drop in charitable activities like donating money, food, gifts or volunteering. In 2008, 74 percent of companies did something charitable. Last year, that fell to 66 percent. This year, it'll be less than half, 47 percent.

The good news: more companies will pay for alcohol at parties this year, 79 percent v. 73 percent last year. The bad news: "It's significantly below the survey high of 90 percent in 2000." Ah, 2000. How I miss you.

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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