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Executives are concerned that party behavior could get out of hand

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2001

HOLIDAY PARTY ALERT: It's been a stressful fall, with shock of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a deep economic slump, and that could trigger unusually heavy drinking at some company parties this holiday, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

''Human resource executives are concerned that party behavior could get out of hand if preventive measures are not in place to keep parties on an even keel,'' said John Challenger, chief executive officer of the Chicago-based firm.

What's the harm of a little overindulgence? Lots: It can lead to embarrassing exchanges and gestures, and may expose employers to lawsuits over accidents, fights or sexual harassment, even if the party isn't held at the office.

Companies can limit the number of alcoholic beverages each guest drinks by distributing tickets or hiring bartenders, Challenger suggested. They also may consider providing paid taxi service and hotel rooms for those who can't drive or persuading employees to volunteer to be designated drivers for the evening.

A good way to ward off misbehavior: Allow to bring their spouse or a date.

SCROOGE STRIKES: As Americans rein in spending this holiday season, bosses aren't as likely to be included on their gift lists, says Maritz Research Inc., a St. Louis-based marketing research firm.

A recent Maritz poll of 999 adults about holiday spending showed that 70 percent don't plan to give their boss a present this year.

''Americans are picking and choosing very carefully who they will spend their valuable holiday dollars on,'' said Phil Wiseman, Maritz's vice president of marketing. ''For most people, the boss just doesn't make the cut.''

But 38 percent said they plan to buy gifts for their colleagues. Of that number, 25 percent said they would spend $25 or less on their co-workers and 18 percent said they plan to budget between $75 and $100.

Wiseman said the harsh economic climate, terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan probably have led workers to demonstrate camaraderie at the office by giving holiday gifts to each other.

POWER OF 401(k)s: With the markets vacillating these days like the moods of a manic depressive, Americans may take some comfort in knowing their 401(k) deductions are nonetheless having a stabilizing effect.

More than $13 billion worth of salary deferrals move automatically into 401(k) and other retirement plans each month, says investment advisory firm Diversified Investment Advisors. That figure is expected to grow threefold over the next 10 years, as more employees start saving for their golden years.

That's good news for the long-term health of securities markets, says Tom Schlossberg, president of the Purchase, N.Y.-based company.

''One of the ancillary benefits of this source of constant cash flow will be the buoying of the stock market in the long run,'' he says. ''And as inflows for retirement savings grow, so will the dampening impact of this pool of money on market fluctuations. It's turning out to be a force for good in the market.''

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