First and foremost, happy holidays from our team! We hope you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season and get time to spend with those who matter most.
This month we thought it would be fitting to have a bit of fun with one of the best pieces of holiday literature of all time, Charles Dicken’s "A Christmas Carol". So how do you make a connection between 19th-century literature and modern-day business practices? For me, it was easy to examine the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge. As most of you know, Scrooge is an aging miser, running a business after the passing of a former partner Jacob Marley. Scrooge is a penny-pinching, miserable man who only values the dollar, often at the expense of others, especially his employees. In this blog, I wanted to look at the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, as if he were a manager today.
The Bad Manager vs. The Good
Most of us have all experienced a bad manager at some point in our careers. Scrooge is the poster boy for the person we don’t want to work for. Scrooge doesn’t respect his employees. He is often short, rude, and almost unbending on his policies. He has no respect for their personal situations. I can easily see how Bob Cratchit has a hard time even asking him for Christmas Day off.
It’s not until later in the story that Scrooge has the opportunity to reflect on his management practices via his first boss, Mr. Fezziwig. Mr. Fezziwig had treated Scrooge like a son, helping him learn the ropes of the business, as well as generously throwing parties for his friends and colleagues in good spirits.
My main takeaway from this experience is the importance of managers putting themselves in the shoes of their employees. We all know how we would like to be treated, but sometimes the stress and busyness of our own careers can blind us from thinking about how others are feeling. I think it is incredibly important for us all to be empathetic to others’ situations. The value of a great teacher in a management role is usually why a manager is in that position. Your job, like Mr. Fezziwig, is to share your knowledge and help that individual grow.
I realized the second lesson is being approachable to your team. Scrooge doesn’t take the time to value what his team says, how they feel, or consider that they have a life outside of work. You can’t get the best out of your team in this manner. Your job as the manager is to listen and be approachable, to get your team what they need to accomplish their goals. Scrooge clearly misses the mark here.
Investment or Resentment
A common theme throughout this tale is Scrooge’s ability to take cheap to the next level. One of my favorite scenes is from the Jim Henson rendition of A Muppet Christmas Carol. Bob Cratchit (played by Kermit) and the bookkeeping staff are freezing in the office and decide to ask Scrooge for an extra shovel full of coal for the fire. Scrooge then threatens to fire them.
While this scene is rather comical in this film, the sad truth is that some managers or owners do this in certain instances. By no means am I recommending that you threaten the health of your business with reckless or lavish spending, but when it comes to investing in your company or your people, skimping sometimes just won’t cut it. Can you imagine how much harder his staff would work throughout the busy holiday, or as Scrooge calls it “foreclosure” season, with a bit more comfort? What if Bob Cratchit could afford a few more comforts for Tiny Tim? Setting up your team to have the resources they need to produce for you and also so that they too can be financially successful will ensure that you attract, retain, and optimize the talent that you will need.
Scrooge has a reputation in the community for being wealthier than most, but people seeking help, or donations for the needy quickly learn that Scrooge is not interested in charitable giving. This was an incredible reminder that some of us may be blessed, yet others may not share the same fortune.
This instance in the story reminds me of the opportunity and obligation we all have to try and make a difference. Sure, most businesses exist to make money, and most employees go to work to make a paycheck, but at the end of the day, what we can give of ourselves whether that be time, money, or knowledge, is definitely the most rewarding gift we can give.
Scrooge sure is a nasty character and man, but what is a good story without a bit of redemption. By no means do I mean to suggest that anyone reading this may be Scrooge, but I thought what a great way to take some time to reflect on how we all manage. Scrooge was lucky that he had the chance for redemption. He gets the chance to feel joy, love, and compassion again; despite his years of unsavory actions. If you manage people, or even if you don’t, take a moment this holiday season to reflect on how you approach work or even life, it may allow you to become a better manager and colleague, and person.
Again, I’d like to wish everyone the happiest of holidays this year, and cheers to everyone becoming a better manager in 2022! As Tiny Tim said, God, bless us, everyone.