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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Bah-Humbug » Bah-Humbug


Don - December 6, 2006

Two of my sons were just in “Scrooge the Musical”. They did a fantastic job but listening to old Mr. Scrooge got me thinking.

Mr. Scrooge complained about the fairness of his employee taking a whole day off and expecting to get paid for it. “Some reason for picking a man’s pocket.” It isn’t just the fairness as an employer of having to pay employees for time and days they don’t work, it’s more than that.

At Christmas employees expect some kind of Christmas party – paid for by the employer. They expect a Christmas gift and or a healthy Christmas bonus – paid by the employer.

As an employer I’m rather put off by these expectations. Why should I have to provide a party, or gifts or bonuses? I don’t have Christmas parties for people who are not part of my social group or friends. I certainly don’t give gifts or money to non-friends or non-relatives (except for the Tree of Sharing, Secret Santa and other donations I CHOOSE to make).

It will cost us well over $1,000 for this stuff this year, and that’s a lot for a small business like us. I’d rather spend that on myself – or on other deserving people – Bah Humbug!!!


  1. Think of it as an investment in happy employees. It’s a perq. If the market doesn’t require you to pay Christmas bonuses, then don’t! More power to you. My employees, however, might leave for other law firms if I didn’t give them what other similar firms do.

    In fact, I think money spent on “frivolous” perqs are dollar-for-dollar better investments in happy employees than an equal amount of money in salary, putting tax issues aside. I think my employees appreciate having me pay for their gym membership more than they would appreciate a $50/month raise.

    Comment by gst — December 6, 2006 @ 6:17 pm

  2. I don’t care about a Christmas party, but a bonus is a must for happy employees. Do you give vacation time, sick leave or health insurance? Employers give a Christmas bonus for the same reason, to help employees enjoy their job. I’ve had fellow employees quit after not getting a Christmas bonus, not because they needed the small check, but because they felt it was a sign of how the company was going to treat them in the future. I can say every type of Christmas bonus I’ve received, from $50 to $2000 has been greatly appreciated.

    Comment by jjohnsen — December 6, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

  3. So why do you pay them at all?

    My guess: if you didn’t pay them, they wouldn’t work for you.

    Giving them various “benefits” at Christmas should perhaps be seen as just another form of compensation. And a form that has the advantage that neither you nor your employee must pay income or payroll tax on it. So suck it up.

    P.S.: for a really interesting take on Scrooge, see here:

    Comment by ed johnson — December 6, 2006 @ 10:46 pm

  4. I like the consistency between this post, where Brother Clifton complains about his businesses spending money on others, and The Mormon Cheap Mentality, where he complained about people not spending money at his businesses.

    The past few years I’ve been a tax eating federal employee. Congress never appropriated any parties for us, so those things are paid out of the employees’ pockets. It gets annoying being asked to put up $10, $20, $30 here and there for retirement parties, Christmas parties, and summer crab feasts. I end up skipping most of them. If I want to spend money on a nice meal, I’d rather get a babysitter and take my wife out instead of hanging out at with the people I work with all day.

    Comment by John Mansfield — December 7, 2006 @ 6:32 am

  5. I can’t remember ever working anywhere that gave out Christmas bonuses. I did have a really nice boss at one job who gave us Christmas gifts—one year an mp3 player, another year a portable dvd player.

    We just had our company Christmas party at my current job, at a bowling alley. It was fun and fostered a feeling of comradery among all us employees. You enjoy your job so much more when the people you work with are your friends.

    Comment by Susan M — December 7, 2006 @ 7:49 am

  6. At my last job my boss gave us a coupon for a dinner and a broadway show that we’d all go to, to be determined after the holidays. It never happened. The following year she did the exact same thing and it never happened again.

    At my current job we all get together at a bar for our holiday party and drink all night. You can imagine how much fun I have.

    Comment by Rusty — December 7, 2006 @ 8:02 am

  7. Move to Israel or to a predominantly Muslim country. Then December 25th becomes a day just like any other and you don’t have to worry about all that Christmas nonsense.

    Comment by danithew — December 7, 2006 @ 8:20 am

  8. Everyone got smashed at our bowling party, I just left before it happened.

    Comment by Susan M — December 7, 2006 @ 10:49 am

  9. John, I appreciate the point you make, I do complain about cheap Mormons not spending more at my theater and then I complain – being cheap. Part of that is my point, business is way down at the theater, yet the expectation of the employees are the same.

    It’s the expectant attitude that gets me more than the money. This year if Christmas parties and bonuses were based on profit sharing the theater employees would all get coal – no that’s too expensive now – a lump of dirt!

    I do provide parties, gifts and bonuses – I do look at them as perqs as gst suggests and there is something to be said about the employees becoming friends and better workers. It’s just too bad for me that they expect it!

    Comment by Don Clifton — December 7, 2006 @ 11:19 am

  10. Rusty, you just gave me a great idea. I’ll give all the theater employees in Utah a free veil and tiara from our bridal store in Spokane, that they have to come and pick out $200+ value. And then I’ll give all our bridal store employees a VIP pass to the theater in Utah allowing them free admissions and free snack bar at least a $200+ value.

    Both groups get valuable gifts….that they will never use!


    Comment by Don Clifton — December 7, 2006 @ 11:23 am

  11. I agree with gst. I work at a media dev company in downtown Seattle. We have “Free Bagel Thurdays”, gym memberships, telecommuting, xbox tournaments, etc, and in return, we are flexible as well. If a project needs to be worked on all night, we do it. If we need to work on some some projects on weekends, that’s fine. The little perks go a long way towards happy employees, and happy employees make successful businesses, or at least happy customers.

    Comment by Chad — December 7, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

  12. Do something because you appreciate their dedication and hard work, or do nothing and show how you REALLY feel. Something nice can be done for less than a big party, a nice box of chocolates, a movie rental card, etc..
    Either way, don’t do something lame and half azz and expect them to fall all over themselves thanking you. When you do something with no effort, it shows and it says more than some mass produced holiday card could ever make up for. Not that I’m bitter or anything…

    Comment by mo mommy — December 7, 2006 @ 9:26 pm

  13. Our firm Christmas party is tonight. This year: Dinner at Morton’s. Next year: bear-baiting.

    Comment by gst — December 9, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

  14. Spoken like a typical small businessman who sees employees chiefly as a liability.

    Well, you can be grateful that you aren’t in Europe running a business where your employees would expect to receive 14 monthly salaries, five weeks of vacation and where the employer contribution to social security is 21% of gross pay.

    If others’ misfortune isn’t good enough compensation for handing out real money to your employees, then fire ‘em all and hire undocumented Mexicans. Assuming nothing has changed in the five years since I worked in Utah county, there will be tons of them and they will all be glad for whatever minimum wage you pay them.

    Comment by Peter — December 10, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

  15. Peter, you’re right – undocumented Mexicans are probably the way to go….they’d probably work harder too!

    Comment by Don Clifton — December 11, 2006 @ 11:35 am

  16. I think that you underestimate the average employee. I know, I for one don’t expect anykind of gift, party or anything else for anytype of holiday. That being said, I also understand that people have to work on holidays, so I don’t even expect it off unless I am lucky enough to schedule vacation during that time.

    My current employer gave out turkeys to all of the employees. A nice gesture. If you wanted to you could look at the amount of money that you might spemd on employees as an investment. I would certainly recommend either working for my current company or using the services that we offer.

    I don’t really even like holidays….

    Comment by Jared — December 12, 2006 @ 1:53 pm

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