Wall Street celebrations remain muted


I suggested recently that holiday parties were poised to make a minor comeback in 2012, but they were not likely to reach the heights of ostentation seen before the financial crisis.

Now that the party season is over, it appears that there was indeed lots of downsizing, which is fitting given the waves of layoffs that employees are facing. It's hard to celebrate wholeheartedly with colleagues in these times.

Surveying the end of year parties, the New York Times noted that "intimate group gatherings, paid for out of pocket by department heads and managing directors, are the new norm. With tighter budgets and dwindling salaries, investment bankers in the bulge bracket can hardly count on dinner, let alone top-shelf liquor. Smaller holiday gatherings mean more face time with superiors and less opportunity to let loose. A Morgan Stanley financial adviser in Los Angeles described the new, austere conditions as 'stiff and boring.' "

While many banks have laid down the law about parties, alternative investment firms have been looser. In any case, attendance at parties does have advantages.

"The downsized gatherings present new challenges to Wall Streeters, particularly younger employees at investment banks. Some have realized that because of budgetary pressures, financial modeling skills won't necessarily guarantee them continued employment or a big year-end bonus. With this in mind, small holiday parties can be an opportunity to impress their bosses with their social panache."

If all else fails in your job, keep on schmoozing. It can work wonders.

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