Christmas bonus or Christmas party?

By Stew

table setting

I changed jobs a couple of years ago. For the most part, I am happy with the change. The new job is better for my family and I like our new location better. However, it has become clear to me that “Corporation B” is not as good at strategic planning and cost benefit analysis among other things as “Corporation A”. I am a little nervous about how this will affect my job in the long term, and I thought I would share one small example of this kind of thinking.

Corporation A always gave a Christmas bonus. Even when they had a tough year, the top executives at the company found a way to give a little extra income to all employees. We also had a Christmas dinner – but no frills – simple entertainment, a venue on the grounds of the company and a caterer that sponsored the meal for free due to a vendor relationship with our company. The meal was simple, but we always enjoyed the atmosphere and spending casual time with fellow employees. The food was served cafeterias style and our dinnerware was average. After the dinner, we all stayed to help clean up and were handed a bonus check on the way out the door. In my ten years working at that company, my bonus ranged from $150 to $400. Ironically, the biggest bonus came in the year where I was working at my lowest level. Bonuses were the same for every single full-time employee, regardless of rank.

Here is the math: Free meal, very few waitstaff, free venue, simple entertainment. I think that Company A spent about $2,000 for our Christmas dinner and usually handed out checks for $200 to approximately 150 employees. Total cost: $32,000.

I have worked at Company B for over two years and they do things differently. Every Christmas, the put on a big catered dinner. The food is great – Mrs. Stew had salmon and I had prime rib. Gourmet salad, dinner rolls, cheese cake and all of the trimmings. We ate off of china, drank from crystal glasses and held cloth napkins on our laps. Our beverages were poured by waitstaff and the venue was a large and well-furnished community fine arts center. Both years, Company B brought in outstanding entertainment. Last year was a well-known comedian and this year we had a great bluegrass band. At the end of the meal, we left the mess to the servers and walked to get our checked coats.

Not a bonus check to be seen.

Let me do some math. Fancy venue: $2,000 (just guessing here). Gourmet, catered meal for Mrs. Stew and me: $45 a plate, so $90 total. Top-of-the-line entertainment: $10,ooo. There were about 200 employees in attendance, so the grand total cost for Company B is around $30,000.

A fancy dinner is nice. Mrs. Stew and I really appreciated the gesture and a chance to get out without the kids even though we had to spend $25 on babysitting. However, I think Company B would get a lot more “bang for the buck” if they scaled back on the Christmas party and found a way to give a Christmas bonus.

What do you think?

Article by Stew

Photo by Collin Anderson


13 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Christmas bonus or Christmas party?”

  1. Melissa Says:

    If I were you, I’d prefer a bonus instead of an elaborate party.

    However the reality is that most companies this year cannot afford to do either activity as they struggle just to keep the employees they have. If we were talking about my company I would rather they save the expense and potentially someone’s job next year. And if we were on solid financial ground then I would rather my company donate the money they would normally spend on a party to a local charity that would help take care of those people in my community who are struggling to keep their homes and feel their families. A bonus would be nice, but I’d be alright without it. My neighbor, however, could use really use the extra help right now.

  2. Evan Says:

    I 1000% would rather the money. That being said, and depending on the age and experience of those that are considered the powers that be…they may have already learned that the party is a better way to go.

  3. Melissa Says:

    My husband’s company gave bonuses every year as long as he can remember (30+ years) The bonus was equal to one month’s salary for each employee, so this was a MAJOR deal for most people. That’s how most people paid for Christmas. They also gave an elaborate party for their employees, complete with catered dinner and lots of gifts given out in unique ways (through games and drawings and such). One year we got a Playstation2, another year a complete set of pots and pans, etc.

    Two years ago, they scaled back and the bonuses were eliminated. People understood because the economy was not good, it was tough but we handled it. The party was scaled back but not eliminated.

    Last year, no bonus, no party–we ended up going to one of the employees’ homes and having a potluck style dinner.

    This year–we were shocked and surprised that he got a bonus. Out of nowhere, and the economy in our area is still not great. Still a small party, but the consensus with all of the employees is that no one cares one bit about the party, the bonus is the key. Even if it were $100 and not a month’s salary, everyone would rather take the bonus.

  4. dramon Says:

    Priority should be:
    – Save jobs
    – Bonus Cash
    – Party

    I have done the organization for the big parties and they are a lot of work for a couple of hours of enjoyment.

  5. Craig Says:

    I would much rather have the money. You can always have your own party with co-workers at a place everyone decides to meet up at one night. The money means much more than a party.

  6. Jeff Says:

    In theory, I’d rather have the bonus. In reality, it kind of depends on how big the check is. A $100 bonus isn’t really $100 in my pocket; it’s more like $60 once you take out taxes and other deductions (which is how it works at my company). Plus, spending $100 per employee on a meal doesn’t mean they can spend $100 per employee on bonuses. There are other administrative, printing, and mailing fees to be covered in that money. There is a point where it just isn’t worth it to send out the check. That amount is going to vary by company. The effect on morale is going to vary by amount as well. If your bonus works out to $30-60 take home pay, I know a lot of people who would actually have lower morale after seeing that. In those cases, a dinner might be more in the company’s favor, morale-wise.

    In my case, I haven’t had a raise since 2008 (salary freezes) and one bonus since 2003. We have an employee club ($1/month) that subsidizes our holiday meal, which is a buffet style catered meal on styrofoam plates with plastic utensils in our cafeteria. I might get a bonus this year, but it likely won’t come in until after Christmas if I do. And I work for a huge company. It’s somewhat darkly amusing to me that small companies are frequently more able to provide bonuses and parties.

  7. micki Says:

    definitely the bonus…not a big fan of big expensive parties, much prefer the simple ones where you get to hang with your work buddies. but if i have to choose between bonus and party, i will pick the bonus every time :)

  8. Cat Says:

    I’d much rather have the cash, but my company can top it all: last year there were no bonuses and no Christmas party. They never announced they weren’t having a party and wouldn’t answer yes or no. 2 weeks AFTER when we would’ve had the Christmas party, they announced that they had donated the money to charity instead, without telling us what charity or how much or anything. Family owned businesses….

  9. BeachBetty Says:

    Be thankful if you get either. Where I work, which is a branch of the US government, there is no party of any type and the bonuses are only given to management, as their reward for cutting jobs and generally making us “workers” miserable.

  10. Zella Says:

    Bonuses are tied to performance– totally independent of Christmas where I work, and honestly, I’m happy with that. Raises are also tied to performance.

    I’d rather do without the party or that they scale it back and donate to the food bank or some other charity instead.

  11. Financial Samurai Says:

    I want all you can eat Toro belly and filet mignon! And then afterwards, a nice 6 month salary bonus will do.

    You’ve got to tell your boss it’s a bull market!

  12. Rina Says:

    Give me the money. Seriously. There are going to be 45625634536 ‘nice’ dinners this holiday season – I can use the cold hard cash far more than yet another waistline expanding meal.

  13. Mike Says:

    Most people would prefer the money. However, the company also tries to gather their employe and create an affiliation to the company at the same time. So they may think their nice dinner is a better “investment”.

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