Employees' holiday wish list: Scrap the party, give cash

November 28, 2012: 12:19 PM ET

A scant 5% of workers in a new poll want to socialize with colleagues this holiday season, while 73% say they'd rather get a bonus.

FORTUNE -- Trying to decide how to thank your employees for their hard work over the past 12 months? Consider this: For the second year in a row, almost nobody wants to celebrate the season with a party, "even with an open bar."

That's according to career site Glassdoor's annual survey of more than 2,000 Americans with full-time jobs. Instead, cash tops the wish list for 73%, and the more people earn, the more they want a bonus. Over three quarters (77%) of employees with household income of $75,000 or above said they'd like a holiday sweetener in their pay, versus 67% of those earning less. And if you're considering giving people company stock instead of cash, think again: Only 9% said they'd welcome it.

Besides greenbacks, the most popular holiday handouts include paid time off that doesn't count against vacation, mentioned by 36%, grocery gift cards (29%), and permission to work from home in 2013 (13%). "If you manage a team, communicate holiday time-off policies early so that people have time to plan," suggests Rusty Rueff, a Glassdoor workplace advisor. A former head of global HR at PepsiCo (PEP), Rueff co-wrote a book called Talent Force: A Manifesto for the Human Side of Business. "If you're an employee wanting time off during the holidays, speak with your boss as soon as possible. First come, first served usually works."

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Whatever perks companies hand out for the holidays, Rueff adds, it's smart to make clear that those goodies are linked directly to specific results. "Did the company reach its annual goals in 2012? Did a particular team or department surpass expectations? It's essential to explain what made a perk possible," he says -- partly "so people understand their hard work is appreciated and recognized," but also "because it provides history and context in case next year isn't as good."

And speaking of next year, here's where the Glassdoor survey really gets interesting. Weirdly, 2% of those polled gave their top goal for 2013 as "helping to get boss/supervisor fired." But more important, after the holidays are over, bosses may want to brace themselves for a barrage of requests for more pay.

On average, about one in three employees (32%) say getting a raise is their top work-related goal in 2013. That varies by age. Among 18-to-34-year-olds, 40% plan to ask for salary hikes, compared to an average of 27% in all other age groups. It's worth noting that many workers apparently think they've already earned a bigger paycheck: Only 21% plan on striving for better evaluations from their bosses, and just 16% say they'll seek work-related training.

"As employment confidence gradually improves, it's no surprise to see employees focus on more money," Rueff notes. "Regardless of whether the economy is good or bad, take-home pay is always top of mind, and employees are sending a clear message that they want higher compensation -- not only during the holiday season, but next year too." And what will they do if it's not forthcoming? Alas, the survey doesn't say.

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About This Author
Anne Fisher
Anne Fisher
Contributor, Fortune

Anne Fisher has been writing "Ask Annie," a column on careers, for Fortune since 1996, helping readers navigate booms, recessions, changing industries, and changing ideas about what's appropriate in the workplace (and beyond). Anne is the author of two books, Wall Street Women (Knopf, 1990) and If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

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