Hold the Champagne

With cutbacks and layoffs hitting the optical industry hard, it looks as though most companies have scaled back plans for year-end holiday celebrations, according to interviews with some leading optical companies, in addition to feedback collected from this month’s Light Work Poll, Happy Holidays 2001?

Thirty-seven percent of those who have responded to the poll say that they don’t expect their companies to have a holiday party for them this year. Only 15 percent of respondents said their company did nothing for the holidays last year.

It comes as little surprise that companies would be loath to spend heavily on parties, given the scale of cutbacks and layoffs in the industry.

But to put things in perspective, some companies have never celebrated the holidays with their employees. Take Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) as a prime example. According to a spokesperson, the company has never spent money on holiday celebrations and this year will be no different.

Even those companies that still plan to deck the halls seem to be trimming expenses on such celebrations. Last year, some optical networking employees could expect a black-tie affair, complete with a full dinner and open bar. This year, it looks as though employees are more likely to don fuzzy Santa hats from Wal-Mart and eat cheese cubes in the company snack room.

Forty percent of respondents say that last year their company spent between $21 and $100 per person for some sort of holiday celebration. Only 24 percent say they expect such a party this year. Eighteen percent say that their company spent between $101 and $200 per head for their party last year. Only 6 percent say they expect their company to spend that much on their party this year.

Last year, 8 percent say their company spent less than $20 per person on their party. This year, three times as many people, or 25 percent, say they expect to wassail at less than $20 per.

Some companies are still going ahead with big holiday parties. Corvis Corp. (Nasdaq: CORV), which recently laid off about 300 employees and announced a new restructuring plan, says it still plans to have a semi-formal holiday party for its 1,200 current employees at the Baltimore Convention Center (see Corvis Stock Slips on Q3 Report). Last year, the company had a similar party for its 1,452 employees at a local hotel. Likewise, Unisphere Networks Inc., which has more employees than last year (820 employees now vs. 700 at the end of 2000), plans to have a dinner event at a local hotel.

Sycamore Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMR), which recently laid off about 25 percent of its staff, says that celebrations this year will definitely be “different” from last year (see Sycamore Enters Crisis Mode). A company spokesperson would not discuss the details. But one might expect the holiday celebration to be dialed back when many former co-workers are still looking for jobs.

— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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Byte_Me 12/4/2012 | 11:07:16 PM
re: Hold the Champagne I really have to give it to you Harvey, you are definitely true to the Star Trek character whose name you've taken.

Let me start by saying that the Lucent spokesperson quoted in the article is just not being honest. Every year from 1985 on (first as AT&T, then Lucent), I attended a company Christmas party. While it's true that there wasn't one big party, there were always parties on a smaller scale down to, and including one at the group or department level. I suppose it could be said that there weren't any parties the last few years at Lucent since they began using the term "team building events" for those little get-togethers.

Semantics ... It's a delightful little game.

I'm afraid that I do have to take issue with your comment about how it's wrong for companies to waste money on holiday celebrations. Giving a very small payback to the people who've been working 60 to 80 hours a week seems like the decent thing to do.

How is that wrong and yet it's okay for Richie to spend $24 billion to buy a company from his childhood friend Mory? And to forgo the nasty little non-compete clause in the purchase contract so that Mory could leave a short time later and start a new company? A company that Richie just happened to end up part owner in? And a company that, according to the SEC filing for their IPO, employed quite a few Lucent employees such as Dan Stanzione (who just happened to be the president of Bell Labs at the time)?

If you want to talk about things that are wrong and that are a waste of the stockholders money, a cheesy little holiday party is not the place to start. That stench you smell is coming from New Jersey.
glex 12/4/2012 | 7:27:14 PM
re: Hold the Champagne To my surprise our company is having holiday dinner party at a country club. Cost to employee -nothing. Perception to most of the employees - keep the money and hire more help so we keep on track with our deliverables. Is it a nice gesture? Sure. Could the money have been better spent. Definitely.

zipple 12/4/2012 | 7:27:11 PM
re: Hold the Champagne The heavy drinking at parties this year will be for a different reason than last year. :)
optical 12/4/2012 | 7:27:08 PM
re: Hold the Champagne My company is having a party and I wish it wasn't because no one wants to go. We spent 70 to 80 hours a week with our co-workers. I would much rather spent a saturday evening with my family. My point is that I think this is all a waste of time and money during these times of long hours and limited funds. Do I sound like I'm whining becasue i think I am. Sorry.
94086l 12/4/2012 | 7:27:05 PM
re: Hold the Champagne Optical,

Don't feel you are alone. I agree with you. However, these parties are usually organized by useless overheads in the companies. Furthermore, scrupolous high ranking managers and senior managers with big ego like to find out more personal information about the down trodden employees so that they can be squeezed more and made work harder for the same money in future.

people don't like me for telling the truth...
--usual cynic.
bluey 12/4/2012 | 7:27:02 PM
re: Hold the Champagne 80 hour weeks? Whatever for? They promising you're gonna be a zillionaire? Dream on.
optical 12/4/2012 | 7:27:01 PM
re: Hold the Champagne

I read your note and you are correct. I'm going in to quit right now. I won't make "zillions " as you said and i wouldn't have to go to the x-mas party. I'm quitting.... thanks for making me see the light!
HarveyMudd 12/4/2012 | 7:26:56 PM
re: Hold the Champagne It is wrong for companies to waste VC or shareholders money on holiday celebrations. For a company of the size of Lucent, it would millions of dollars of wasted money.
ajo2 12/4/2012 | 7:26:52 PM
re: Hold the Champagne > It is wrong for companies to waste VC or
> shareholders money on holiday celebrations.
> For a company of the size of Lucent, it would
> millions of dollars of wasted money.

Oh please do tell us, Mr Mud, why exactly is it wrong? How much of a drain is it really?

What else would you prevent them from doing? Can they have a party any other time of the year, or just not during the holidays? Would you prohibit them from providing gift matching to colleges? How about straight out donations to charity? 9/11 fund?

Oh please do tell, Mr duM. Tell us your opinion. You must think it is important because you spout something about nearly every article on Light Reading.

As for 'optical', the amount of money it would save the company to not have a small party wouldn't pay for even ONE day of salary for a decent sized startup. If you want to spend time with your family, do so! Nobody keeps attendance at these things.
Twistall 12/4/2012 | 7:26:24 PM
re: Hold the Champagne ajo2: I can't believe you're responding to H.M. Did your big brother tease you a lot when you were a kid?

My 2 cents: Why do employees think stockholders owe them a little extra? Ya does yer work, ya gets yer pay. Or maybe the pool table in the coffee room really makes those 80 hr weeks seem worthwhile. Maybe if corporations weren't so generous with stockholders' money, the stockholders might have a little to be generous with themselves.

And as far as no one keeping attendance goes, don't fool yourself. The "holiday" party, like the company picnic, is a time honored management tool used to check out the wives, identify the drunks, and just generally reinforce the social pecking order.

If you want to party, why not do it with friends, on your own dime?
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