Originally created 12/15/03

Business briefs



HOLIDAY CHEER: Business owners may be a little more generous with their gifts this holiday season.

Owners who send clients or customers gifts say they'll spend slightly more this month, with the average gift budget inching up 2 percent to $966, according to a semiannual survey of small businesses by American Express.

Cards and calendars continue to dominate the category, with fruit sent by 9 percent of the firms. Gift certificate popularity is soaring, doubling to 8 percent from last year.

The bigger the firm, the more generous owners may be.

Sixty percent of firms with revenue above $200,000 are likely to award bonuses, compared to 26 percent of smaller firms. More than half of the bigger firms had a a holiday party planned, compared to about a third of smaller ones. They're also more likely to give holiday gifts (40 percent versus 28 percent) and offer pay raises (27 percent versus 10 percent).

The 11-day telephone survey was based on a nationally representative sample of 787 small business owners/managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees.

PC PURCHASING: As new PCs are more powerful - is any new computer sluggish? - consumers appear to be getting the message: We all don't need the fastest or biggest machine in the store.

A survey of people who are shopping or recently bought a new computer found that most were not all that intrigued by the hard drive size or processing power, instead favoring the look, feel and brand of the machine.

In fact, the manufacturer was the most cited important consideration when choosing a PC, by 26 percent. Brand was followed by additional offers, price and multimedia devices such as a CD or DVD drive included. Just under a fifth of respondents cited those factors.

Only about 10 percent said hard drive space or memory was an issue in their decision - signs of savvy given the ease and low cost of adding both to modern computers.

The survey last month queried 500 people. It was conducted by InsightExpress, a Stamford, Conn.-based online market research firm.

TOXIC CO-WORKERS: Rare is the office or factory where all people and personalities mesh harmoniously. And the year-end holiday rituals and stresses can exacerbate that friction.

So, consider a few tips from a new book, "Toxic Co-Workers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job," an early holiday gift. The book was written by Alan Cavaiola, an associate professor of psychology at Monmouth University in New Jersey, and Neil J. Lavender, a psychologist in Tom River, N.J.

The authors say that some of your least-favorite bosses or co-workers may have obsessive compulsive personality disorder, marked by an unreasonable preoccupation with minute details, rules, order and organization. Such people often insist that others submit to his or her way of doing things and are excessively devoted to work and productivity to the exclusion of other activities.

Some advice:

- Don't expect to change these individuals.

- Stick to your own agenda, don't get waylaid by irrelevant details and complete tasks.

- Don't get stuck in their perfectionism. Remember to just keep trying your best.

- Don't get caught up in their workaholism. Set realistic limits and keep to them.