Bad Santas and party poopers out to stop Christmas fun, survey finds

Many IT managers have a "Scrooge mentality" when it comes to Christmas celebrations at work, with many organisations placing restrictions on work parties.

Many IT managers have a "Scrooge mentality" when it comes to Christmas celebrations at work, with many organisations placing restrictions on work parties.

A survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that although most firms organise Christmas parties, many pay only token amounts towards the cost.

At the same time, managers worry that high-spirited antics at Christmas celebrations increase the risk that companies will face tribunals or complaints under discrimination laws.

However, the number of IT departments holding parties has risen by from 67% to 78% since last year, with firms in London and the South West most likely to organise parties, and those in Scotland and East Anglia the least likely.

Of the organisations surveyed, 14% make no financial contribution to festivities, and 20% spend £20 a head or less. Construction firms are among the most generous, and local authorities spend the least, the survey of 468 IT managers revealed.

Behind the scenes, managers often have a negative view of Christmas celebrations. Thirty three per cent of managers expressed concern that parties would disrupt work, and 47% complained that the party season had become too long.

IT managers were particularly concerned that staff might behave inappropriately under the influence of alcohol, with 26% fearing that holding a party would lead to a rise in industrial tribunals.

Some 64% believed that their organisations might be forced to introduce codes of conduct for acceptable behaviour at work, and 68% said they think twice before agreeing to parties.

Many managers were sceptical about the value of office parties, with 61% describing the atmosphere as "forced". Twenty per cent said they only attend out of a sense of duty, and 10% insisted that Christmas parties were a waste of time.

The Scrooge mentality also extends to time off work, with only 20% of firms giving staff time off beyond their annual holiday entitlement. Some 14% of IT managers said they were expected to work overtime at Christmas, and 47% viewed Christmas as a business opportunity.

Despite the potential risks, the CMI advised firms to hold Christmas parties as a way of saying thank you to their staff.

"Look at it as a good opportunity for celebrating success. It is important for organisations to have policies and procedures in place to cover harassment, not just for Christmas, but any time of the year," said CMI spokeswoman Petra Wilson. "There are many different elements of discrimination, bullying and harassment. With alcohol, people can say things that can be taken too far."

Irrespective of their concerns, nearly 60% of IT managers agreed that Christmas parties could be a good way to boost team morale, and 73% said they were a good way to thank staff for their work during the year.

Thirty three per cent of managers said they let their hair down at Christmas parties, and 67% use them as an opportunity to meet people from across the organisation.

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