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Top ten reasons CEO Scrooge is gone

By Elaine Varelas, 12/4/2006

Above: David Coffee returns for his 15th consecutive year as Ebenezer Scrooge, in the North Shore Music Theatre production of "A Christmas Carol." Photo by Paul Lyden.

Picture Ebenezer Scrooge as the CEO of your organization. It's enough to give HR managers nightmares. Instead of visions of sugarplums, HR managers would dream about massive layoffs and across-the-board pay cuts.

Let's imagine that Scrooge is the CEO of the fictional company Winter Wonderland, Inc. Or at least he was until the undesirable behaviors he displayed throughout the year hit a pinnacle at holiday time. His outrageous gaffes between Halloween and New Year's Day were too much for his employees to bear. Given a choice between a tactless CEO and a mass employee walkout, the Board asked for Scrooge's resignation.

With apologies to David Letterman, I've compiled my own "Top Ten" list of Scrooge's most egregious blunders that eventually lead to his resignation-and what he could have done to better spread the holiday cheer. You may recognize your company's leaders in some of this Scrooge-like behavior (I just hope one of them isn't you):

    10. He gave out tote bags with the company logo as employee gifts-Anything with a company logo, leftover from a trade show, or pulled out of the supply closet, does not constitute a gift. Other gift-giving no-nos include: exceeding the price limit for office gift exchanges (while it may seem generous, it makes everybody else feel inadequate); "naughty" presents; and re-gifting items from last year's Yankee swap.

    9. He hosted "Office Clean-up Day" for employees' children-If your organization is going to host a holiday event for employees or their children think music, food, fun, and gifts-not chores.

    8. He instituted a "No Vacation" policy for the last six weeks of the year-Although it can be difficult for organizations to grant time off when their fiscal year ends December 31st, company executives need to be flexible about employees' personal obligations during the holidays. If management can't close the office during the holidays, they could give vacation days, institute a telecommuting option, or allow employees to make up hours at off times.

    7. He strong-armed employees into giving to charity-his charity-Scrooge deducted a portion of all employee paychecks to make a contribution to his pet charity, The CEO Defense Fund. Company leaders should support employees in their charitable giving by offering time off to work with their favorite charity, or a corporate donation matching program. Conversely, they shouldn't force employees to support a corporate-sponsored charity.

    6. He recruited office personnel to do his holiday shopping after hours-Company executives, managers, and supervisors should not expect their employees to serve as personal shoppers during the holidays. Managers should select gifts for their department members on their own. They should also purchase these gifts themselves and not expense them to the company. If a manager is too "frugal" to spring for gifts for everybody, or if it's not possible to buy all employees gifts, a manager could expense a meal at a restaurant or have a meal catered or delivered.

    5. He insulted several employees' religious beliefs-Company leaders would be wise to keep all comments about Hanukah, Christmas, or Kwanza to themselves. They also shouldn't use the office as a forum to tout their own religion.

    4. He banned all signs of the holidays from the office-While employees should be spared having to hear "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" from the neighboring cubicle, they should be able to celebrate the holidays in more discreet ways at work. Hanging snowflakes at their work stations or bringing in baked goods to share puts employees in a festive mood without disrupting the work environment.

    3. He charged employees to attend the mandatory holiday party-Employees should never have to pay to attend an office party. They also shouldn't put up with a BYO gathering, where they are expected to bring the food, drink, and entertainment. If the organization can't afford an extravagant celebration at a fancy hotel, management could opt for a smaller scale affair at the office (as long as it isn't catered by the vending truck parked up the street).

    2. He substituted a stuffed bird for a stuffed envelope-In place of the expected holiday bonuses, Scrooge gave all employees turkeys while top executives received hefty payouts. Employees look forward to-and count on-year-end bonuses. If company executives forecast restricted finances for the end of the year, they should let employees know as early as possible. And if employees can't get bonuses, neither should company leaders. Giving turkeys is fine, but it's no replacement for a bonus. Nothing disappoints employees and kills morale more than expecting a paycheck and getting poultry.

    1. He dressed up as Santa and had employees sit on his lap-The use and misuse of alcohol at office holiday parties could fill up its own top ten list, but even if the boss is sober, he or she should never behave suggestively or put employees in a compromising position.

Do you recognize your management team in any of these scenarios? If you do, you still have time to help steer them away from making the same mistakes that Scrooge made. If you can help your CEO and company executives avoid these faux pas, you can ensure that your company employees-and you-will have Happy Holidays!

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