Over the past few days, we’ve regaled you with telework stories that hopefully made you laugh. Today, we’ll help you overcome the story that makes you want to cry: the Office Scrooge.
For those of you who don’t know who Scrooge is (gasp!), let me enlighten you: “A Christmas Carol” is Charles Dickens’ Victorian novella about a cranky, bitter old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and his harrowing Christmas Eve experiences that transformed his heart from closed to joyfully open.
Channel your own Tiny Tim and listen to my story: “A Telecommuting Christmas Carol.”
The holiday season dawned bright across the world, with joyful office parties, cornucopias of gift baskets and ugly sweaters galore.
In one home office, out of the millions worldwide, there was no season of giving, no cookie sneaking. Not in Scrooge’s world. He scheduled a meeting at 4:30PM on Christmas Eve, gave his Secret Santa a lump of coal and droned unceasingly on conference call after conference call. Ignoring the farewells of “Happy Holidays” and “Happy New Year,” he hung up with a woeful “Bah, humbug.”
While crafting his thirtieth email, sent when he should’ve been spreading cheer via online shopping, his inbox dinged.
From: The Ghost of Office Past
Subject: Remember Mr. Fezziwig
With another “bah humbug,” a scornful Ebenezer opened the email. He was transported to his first job, where his first boss, Mr. Fezziwig, turned on his webcam, donned a jaunty holiday hat and smiled rosily from his own home office.
“This is your last meeting for the holiday. Your last meeting of the year. Now, turn on your out-of-office replies, turn off your smartphones and enjoy your families! You’ve earned it with an amazing year, and I’m so proud to have you all on my team.”
A relieved, happy young Scrooge boomed his own farewell wishes, turned off his own webcam and dropped his own holiday hat on the desk.
Scrooge scoffed. “How simple it was then! But now I’m the boss, and the work never stops!”
From: The Ghost of Office Present
Subject: Shh! Secret Holiday Party
Scrooge was transported into another online meeting, this time silently watching his own remote employees gathered together online without him.
“I know it hasn’t been easy this year,” said Bob Cratchet. “No, but you all have made this year a wonderful experience. Thank you for all your help and support since my son’s illness. I couldn’t ask for a better team. Happy holidays to you all,” said “Tiny” Tim Evans.
The team of six, from their home offices in Atlanta, London, San Francisco, Montreal, Austin and Sao Paolo, smiled within their webcam cubes, raised their glasses and toasted the holiday.
Scrooge grimaced. Tim’s son was sick? He hadn’t even known. No wonder he was missing his quota. Why didn’t he say anything? Why didn’t he ask for time off?
From: The Ghost of Office Yet to Come
Subject: One Year Later
Scrooge found himself in a conference room with his regional director and Bob Cratchet.
“I’m sorry, sir, but after my son’s death, and with Mr. Scrooge’s … feelings during this ordeal, I just can’t stay with the company,” Bob said. “I wish you would reconsider, Bob. Scrooge is no longer with the company, and you’ve been a leader of your team, the glue that kept everyone together, even with the travel cuts,” “Old” Joe Watkins said.
“Scrooge was good to me, Mr. Watkins. I just can’t afford to stay anymore,” Bob said.
What have I done? Scrooge thought. How could I have been so cold, so distant? How could I not have known? Or helped?
Scrooge awoke, staring at a blank computer screen. “I must change these shadows of what may be,” he whispered. He penned his last email of the night, and his last of the year.
From: Ebenezer Scrooge
Subject: Bah humbug
To you all, to my team, your hard work and diligence have meant the world to me this year. In a season of giving, I forgot to give. In a season of joy, I forgot to be joyful. In a season of thanks, I forgot to be thankful for each of you, who make my work and life worth living.
Here’s a small token of my thanks: no more emails for the rest of the year. No more painful conference calls in 2014. Let’s work together to make work worth working. Happy holidays!
To build a successful team, especially when you’re not in the office together every day, forging personal relationships is vital. Heart drives creativity, understanding drives loyalty and support drives team success. Turn on your webcam, Scrooge, and connect on a personal level with your team. And for you Bob Cratchets and Tiny Tims, remember that Scrooge is searching for meaning in his work, too. Put in the effort to reach out and understand his or her ghosts of past, present and future.
After all, as Dickens wrote in his timeless classic, “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”