• Robison Wells

A Pleasure or a Burden

A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite books of all time, and we all know the story I don't need to recap the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. We all know this.

But there's a line in there that I've been thinking about a lot recently, and it's when Old Scrooge visits his former employer where he worked as a young man--Old Mr. Fezziwig. On Christmas Eve, Fezziwig clears out the warehouse and sets up a ball where there will be, as he declares, "merriment the likes of which have never been seen before!"

Old Scrooge falls under the spell of the dancing and music, remembering how wonderful it all was when he worked there so many years ago.

The Ghost of Christmas Past, speaking of the wonder of it all, asks Scrooge in a mocking tone "What's so marvelous? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?"

And Scrooge replies with this--and this it the important bit that I've been thinking about all Christmas season-- "It isn't that. He's has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service a pleasure or a burden... The happiness he gives is as great a gift as if it cost a fortune."

Now, on this blog before I have praised my amazing boss, Kim, and the two managers who I have previously worked under, William and Matt. They are the type of people who "can make our service a pleasure or a burden." And, in my experience, the leadership does that.

But I'm not here to praise leadership at my company (though they're great). I'm here to say that every single one of us influences the lives of everyone else, and we each, whether we're a new associate or a senior VP, have the power to make one another's service a pleasure or a burden.

At my work we recently hired a new writer, Chris, and some of you may know that Chris is my brother-in-law. So when it came time to talk about this job to him, I wanted to lay out the facts as plainly and as bluntly as I could. I talked about times the job has been stressful. I've talked about times I've felt heavy with workload. But I can say that I have never worked with any person in my office who is anything but nice and genuine and sincere. There may be goals to meet and KPIs to live up to, and there may be days when the work feels a little too heavy, but I have never felt like anyone was tearing anyone else down.

This is a big deal. I've never experienced a work environment where there wasn't THAT GUY who you just hated to deal with, who was toxic to the work environment. Maybe you've run into that--I admit that I work in a very small bubble--but it appears to me that the people we work with, management or not, are making our service a pleasure, not a burden.

Later in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas Present and he's learning all the poor circumstances of those around him. Old Scrooge has a crack in his hardened exterior and says he would like to have helped some poor children he had seen, and this ghost mocks him, too, by throwing Scrooge's past words in his face about the needy.

"But," said the Spirit, "are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses? If they're poor they should go there."

Scrooge recognizes his folly, though he doesn't reply.

Then the Ghost of Christmas Present says the words that we should all have etched in our hearts. "My time on this planet is very brief. There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not here anymore."

I'm not trying to lay down guilt on anyone at this festive time of year. To quote a favorite Christmas song:

But pardon me if I have seemed

To take the tone of judgement

For I've no wish to come between

This day and your enjoyment

In a life of hardship and of earthly toil

There's a need for anything that frees us

So I bid you pleasure and I bid you cheer

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Let's go into 2022 trying to make the service of our fellow employees--whether you're a manager like Fezziwig or a clerk like Bob Cratchit--a pleasure and not a burden.

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