7 Steps to Take the Villain Out of Business: A Lesson from Scrooge

by Michael Haberman on December 20, 2012 · 0 comments


Business does not have to have an evil component to it.

When I was in college I had no desire to be in the “business” world. I wanted to be an academic. I thought it was “nobler” than the base business world. Today I have been in business about 30 years. Through that time I have learned that there are far fewer villains in the business world than we are lead to believe. Here are some tips for taking the villain out of business; it is a lesson from Scrooge.

Christmas Carol

One of my favorite activities at Christmas time is to read Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of redemption, A Christmas Carol. It is an early example of vilifying business and it got me thinking how often we vilify business in our literature, our movies, and our cartoons. Yet think of how many people you know in business and ask how many are really “evil.” In my experience I have never met anyone I would consider evil. Well there was there was that one Executive VP, but he is the exception.

In A Christmas Carol Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge is the personification of “the evil business person”. He mistreats his one employee, Bob Cratchit, and is unkind to his nephew and others that cross his path. Yet early on, when faced with the visage of his own former boss, Fezziwig, he defends him to the first ghost’s remarks that he is not worthy of praise because of the small amount of money spent by saying “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.” And in making that speech Scrooge begins to realize the error of his ways and his redemption starts.

Lesson in the words

In that small speech Scrooge gives us a lesson in how employees should be treated. He shows us the way in how to take the villain out of business. So here are my tips, taken from Dickens and Scrooge on how to be a good employer:

  1. Remember the power of your words. People do value what you think of them or are “harmed” by what you say.
  2. Use praise meaningfully and probably more often than you currently do.
  3. Be honest. Many people are like me and I hate to be lied to.
  4. Be respectful. I don’t mind you telling me my work needs improvement as long as you are not telling me I am a jerk while doing it.
  5. Realize you don’t know everything. You can learn something from everybody.
  6. Don’t be a miser. Yes I realize you may not be able to afford bonuses or raises and in tough times expenses must be watched. But don’t do it to the detriment of someone being able to do their job more effectively. Cratchit would have worked better if he had been able to burn more than one chunk of coal for warmth.
  7. Lastly, dance and sing once in a while. People enjoy some fun.

If we all work toward this perhaps we can put evil out of the workplace on a daily basis and Scott Adams will receive fewer suggestions for another Dilbert cartoon.

Photo credit: Borrowed from Wikipedia.

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