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Companies short on festive spirit


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Christmas lights in Trafalgar Square -- but British office workers are not getting into the party spirit.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The ghost of Mr. Scrooge haunts the streets of London this month with the office Christmas party season set to be quieter than ever, according to new research.

Just 61 percent of British companies are planning parties this December, compared with 86 percent two years ago, a survey of almost 4,000 managers by the Chartered Management Institute revealed.

And with less than half of those surveyed saying they enjoy celebrating Christmas with colleagues and many also complaining about the disruption caused by the holiday season, it seems that the "Bah, Humbug!" spirit is alive and well.

But there is better news for employees working for smaller businesses, with 68 percent of companies employing less than 250 people willing to host parties and 21 percent of them prepared to take clients out for Christmas lunches.

Smaller companies are also more likely to foot the bill, with 78 percent making some contribution to the cost compared with just 51 percent of bigger organizations.

To be fair to those in charge, it may be true that company employees are as wary of seasonal festivities as their superiors, with one in 10 managers blaming a "lack of enthusiasm" for their failure to organize an office party.

For some workers that lack of enthusiasm may actually prove to be a good career move. The Guardian newspaper reported that 7.3 million Britons are likely to experience a "career-crashing moment" amid the dangerous party mix of high spirits, hot gossip and heavy drinking.

And last week Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA)and trade unions warned office party-goers to steer clear of traditional Christmas pranks such as dancing on desks or photocopying body parts.

"Resist the temptation to photocopy parts of your anatomy," said RoSPA. "If the copier breaks, you'll have Christmas with glass in painful places."

"Dancing on desks could do them and you a lot of damage. Likewise, the boardroom table is meant for weighty documents, not overweight executives."

Managers were also urged to avoid putting up mistletoe at parties in case it encouraged sexual harassment.

"Keep a close eye on those who may drink too much," the organization continued.

"Alcohol makes some people aggressive rather than friendly. The party will be spoiled if it ends in a punch-up or harassment complaint."

Few managers believe either that Christmas improves office morale with 35 percent complaining the holidays are disruptive and 47 percent suggesting that they drag on too long.

And with more than 60 percent of staff taking four or more days off work, a third of managers found staff shortages an additional Christmas hassle.

"The idea that Christmas creates pressure and tension in the workplace is worrying, particularly as it has traditionally been seen as a time to reward staff for the hard work they do during the year," said Petra Cook, head of policy at the Chartered Management Institute.

"It's important that instead of focusing on what people don't want to do, managers take the time to find out what their staff want. After all, environments where the emphasis is on 'all work and no play' are unlikely to be energetic and productive."


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