An HR Lesson in A Christmas Carol by Dickens

by Michael Haberman on December 24, 2013 · 1 comment


The title page from a 1920's copy of A Christmas Carol. A prized possession of mine.

The title page from a 1920’s copy of A Christmas Carol. A prized possession of mine.

One of my favorite books is A Christmas Carol. Most of us know it by the many movies that have been made, some well done, the others not so much. We all know the redemption message of Scrooge being turned from his miserly ways, miserly in both money and emotion, to become a man of goodwill and generosity. But I think beyond that message there are others that HR should take note of.

HR Lessons

There are a number of things that can be learned from this book that provide a valuable business lesson. These include:

  • Businesses were as vilified as much back then as they are now. Dickens was no fan of industrial business as is Michael Moore today. Why hasn’t the image changed in the 143 years since its publication on December 17th, 1843? What do we do in our business on a daily basis to contribute to this image?
  • Some businesses did know how to do the right thing. Mr. Fezziwig knew about employee engagement. He had happy employees who enjoyed working for him. Too bad Ebenezer didn’t remember that lesson.
  • Bob Cratchit embodied the kind of employee everyone would like to have, loyal, hardworking, ever-faithful and non-complaining. His interaction with Scrooge shows us low wages, demeaning interaction until such time as Scrooge alters his ways and then it is one of reward and recognition.
  • Issues in 1843 are much as they are today. We deal with wages, child labor, hard work, reward and recognition, interpersonal relationship and fairness.

A Christmas Carol has never been out of print since first published in 1843. It is credited with changing the tenor of the Christmas in England at the time. It continues to have that effect at Christmas time, though I think much of the message has been watered down by the many iterations of the story.

I think its meaning, as did Dickens, should go beyond the Christmas time. It is a lesson in how to conduct business all year round.

By the way, if anyone ever calls you a Scrooge you should have them clarify if that is pre-ghost visits or post-ghost. If the latter, it is a compliment.

Have a great Christmas Day tomorrow.

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